Sephora Play! June 2017

This month’s Sephora Play! arrived last week on June 10th, but I’m running a little behind this month!  I think this is the earliest I’ve ever received a Play box and it completely surprised me since I hadn’t even received the shipping email (the email came after the box had arrived).  My box variant this month was #042 and the theme was, “Your Summer Starters.”  Again, not really much of a theme – there’s nothing with SPF or anything that really says summer to me, but these themes are always kind of nebulous and not really followed with the product selection.  The bag design is back to that awful cartoonish design that I’m just not into.

  • Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick – 6.6 mL / $20 – (Product is 3 mL, value of $9.09 by volume)  The color I received is “K-Dub” which is described as a bold fuchsia.  I absolutely love Kat Von D, but this color is completely unwearable.  Between this and that awful brown lip crayon from last month.. Sephora, are you drunk?!  They keep sending the world’s most unwearable colors!  This shows up as a neon hot pink on me, and it’s awful.  I’m not sure anyone could hear me over that lip color, it’s so loud and awful.  I tried layering other colored glosses on top, but it’s just such a bizarre shade and doesn’t play well with others.  The formula is great – velvety and smooth without being too drying –  but the color makes it a garbage toss.
  • Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium – 1.6 oz / $91 – (Product is .04 oz, value of $2.28 by volume)  The scent is described as having notes of coffee, orange blossom, cedarwood, and patchouli which is FINALLY a win for the type of scents I like.  It’s not at all floral, but musky and rich, and I really dig this.  Again, probably not enough to buy the full size since YSL tests on animals, but enough to use up the sample here in short order.
  • Ouai Rose Hair & Body Oil – 3 oz / $32 – (Product is .28 oz, value of $2.99 by volume)  Wow.  A hair oil that actually contains oils, no silicones, and a product from Ouai that isn’t incredibly over-scented!  The first ingredient is Sunflower seed oil, followed by a bunch of other oils, but there is still one troubling ingredient, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, which was shown in a study this year to potentially damage human DNA and cause genome mutations, so that kind of ruins the product for me since I don’t need a UV-B blocker in my hair products anyway, and especially not one that can potentially cause cancer.  The company is cruelty free, but apparently that doesn’t extend to using dangerous, damaging ingredients.
  • Benefit The POREfessional Face Primer – .75 oz / $31 – (Product is .1 oz, value of $4.13 by volume)  It’s a silicone based primer.  Ehh.  It’s really expensive for a silicone primer that’s like all the other silicone primers, and I’m just not into them since I don’t really use primers or foundation basically ever.  I also don’t have a problem with large pores, so this is a miss for me.  Also, the company engages in animal testing since they sell in China, so I refuse to buy anything from this company.
  • IGK Rich Kid Coconut Oil Gel – 5 oz / $27 – (Product is .5 oz, value of $2.70 by volume)  I was so excited about this at first since this is a cruelty free company and coconut hair oil gel?  Sounds like me!  Unfortunately, the product list contains a bunch of silicones and acrylates in between the excellent oils, so this is a pass since I don’t use silicones on my hair (I do a low/no shampoo routine and since silicones and acrylates build up in your hair and I don’t use products with SLS/ALS to scour them out, I can’t use silicones either).  I’m completely bummed – this product would’ve been spot on perfect without the silicones or acrylates, but, as it is, it’s a pass for me.
  • First Aid Beauty Coconut Skin Smoothie Priming Moisturizer – 1.7 oz / $28 – (Product is .34 oz, value of $5.60 by volume)  It’s another silicone based primer, but this one has more fruit extracts in it.  So, two primers in this box.  Yay?  This one is a little better of a match since it’s a moisturizer/primer in one, but the company changed their policy recently and are now not really cruelty free, so it’s not something I’d buy (the company refuses to certify that their ingredients aren’t tested on animals, but the end product isn’t tested on animals, so it’s a grey area).

The total value for this month came to $26.79 which is definitely the lowest value box I’ve ever received from Sephora.  I mean, the cost is only $10.60 per month including tax, so the value of the products still exceeds the cost, but personally, this box was very nearly a complete waste this month.  Another awful, unwearable lip color, TWO hair products I can’t use, TWO boring primers, and the only thing I think I’m keeping and using is the perfume.  The duplicate products are getting annoying too – it would be great if we could even things out and have a variety of products in each box instead of two primers or three highlighters in the same month.  This is also my 12th month of Sephora Play! and I have to admit that the last three boxes (this one included) have been terrible misses for what I’m interested in, and even worse misses according to my profile for this box.  Sephora, I want you to do better.  I know you can.  Otherwise, I’m going to have to call it quits.

Vegan Cuts Cosmic Beauty Haul

Vegan Cuts has had some neat specials recently and one of them was this Cosmic Beauty Haul featuring 17 beauty items for $45 which was a really great value.  It’s not part of the regular monthly subscription, but is a special one-off promotion.  There may be some available still if you click the link here.  I’m just going to list the items and values here without reviews since there are a lot of items and it’s too much to try them all right away and report back with honest impressions of them all.

  • Yes to Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Facial Wipes – 30 wipes / $5.99 – (Full Size Product)
  • NCLA Nail Wraps – 1 set / $16 – (Full Size Product)
  • Briogeo Rosarco Milk – 1.75 oz / $9.00 – (Travel Size Product)
  • Eden Peppermint Tea Tree Shampoo – 8 oz / $8.99 – (Product is 2 oz, value of $2.25 by volume)
  • DermOrganic Intensive Hair Repair Masque – 3 oz / $6.99 – (Product is 2 oz, value of $4.66 by volume)
  • The All Natural Face Lip Gloss – .43 oz / $4.60 – (Full Size Product) Color is “Frosted Berries”
  • Nubian Heritage Patchouli & Buriti Soap – 5 oz / $4.99 – (Full Size Product)
  • Goddess Garden Bright Eyes – .5 oz / $17.99 – (Full Size Product)
  • Herbal Transdermal Deep Pore Mineral Toner – 8 oz / $15 – (Product is 2 oz, value of $3.75)
  • Gleam Lip Radiance – 5 g / $12 – (Full Size Product) Color is, “Uncontrollable”
  • DeVita Soft Lines – 1 pencil / $14.95 – (Full Size Product) Color is, “Absolute Obsidian”
  • Clarisea Deep Pore Detox Activated Charcoal Exfoliating Mask – 2 oz / $14 – (Product is 1 oz, value of $7 by volume)
  • Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Day Cream – 1.7 oz / $24.95 – (Product is .4 oz, value of $5.87 by volume)
  • Terre Mere Large Angled Contour Brush – 1 brush / $32 – (Full Size Product)
  • Modish Polish – .45 oz / $12 – (Full Size Product)  Color is, “Control Freak”
  • The Ariel Company Cupid Lip Scrub – .3 oz / $9 – (Full Size Product)
  • Vegan Cuts Cosmic Beauty Bag – $10?

The total value comes out to $172.05 by my calculations.  The advertised value was over $190, so it’s a little bit off, but still an incredible deal for the $45 cost.  I wasn’t sure how to account for the value of the bag, so I may be a little low on that, plus the Gleam Lip Radiance was on sale at half off since it’s a discontinued/clearance item, so depending on how you count those (full retail vs current price), you’d get closer to the $190 advertised value.  Either way, the value comes out to almost 4 times the cost, and that bag is pretty cute, so it’s totally worth it in my book!  The big winners for me are the hair masque since it looks like it’s perfect for my curly hair, the nail polish, bag, and Briogeo Rosarco Milk (already a favorite!).  I love these special one-off boxes as a neat treat-yourself sort of thing, and it’s nice to get a selection of products without subscribing to a regular monthly box.  While I do subscribe to Vegan Cuts Beauty Box, these are products I hadn’t yet seen since I’ve only gotten one box from them so far, so this was great since it had old favorites and brands that were new to me.

Stitch Fix June 2017

This is now my fourth Stitch Fix!  I did put in a request this month for a summery maxi dress and cardigan, and of course, Lana delivered.  As usual, she wrote me a little note about the pieces included.

Hi Melissa!  Hope you had a great holiday weekend.  The way you paired that yellow skirt with that denim shirt looks so fabulous on you.  I see you are looking for a summer maxi dress, and I know you like polka dots, so I chose for you the Gilli Knit Maxi Dress which also has that empire waist you love.  Layer it with the white crochet cardigan and pair with your favorite sandals for a stylish look perfect for your next summer event.  I spotted the Beauport Off The Shoulder dress on your Pinterest board, so I also included it today.  It has that vintage vibe you can rock with a fun colored head scarf and some wedges.  I also chose the Brixon Ivy lace overlay blouse for you which you can pair with your black Makers skinny jeans for a night out with your husband.  Enjoy and please let me know if you have any summer requests next time!  XO Lana

LOL it’s always good to know you’re on the right track with styling ideas when your Stitch Fix stylist compliments you on your pairing choices!  I didn’t mention it last month, but the fact that these clothes come to my door and I can dig through my closet for things to pair them with is probably one of the greatest things about the service.  Say you go out shopping.  You find a few tops you think might work with pants or skirts you have at home.  You bring them home, find out that they just don’t jive with the colors and pieces you already have, and after you have them on again at home, you end up going all the way back to the store to return them.  It’s a hassle and wastes gas and time.  With Stitch Fix, I get to play around with the clothes I have in my closet and the only gas I’m using is a stop at the post office while I’m out running other errands anyway.  I’m much more certain of the pieces I keep from Stitch Fix than I have ever been with brick-and-mortar store-bought clothes!

Okay, so this month’s fix.  When I opened the box and saw what was inside, I thought uh oh, this is going to be another 5-piece-winner box, because everything looked so perfect.  And, it is all perfect in theory, but there are some fit issues, and I’m having trouble justifying keeping everything when the fit isn’t that great.  I’d love to say, oh sure, I’ll just hem or alter these pieces to make them work, but knowing how busy things are getting, it’s not going to happen in time to wear them before the end of summer, so I need to be a little more picky about fit this time around.  Photos are inside again since it’s raining .. AGAIN.  Or STILL.  I’m not quite sure which one it is anymore!

Item: Brixon Ivy Willard Lace Overlay Blouse
Cost:
$54
Paired With: 
Makers Lianne Skinny Jean (last month’s Fix), sandals (mine), cardigan (mine)
BLUE!  Blue is my favorite color, and this is such a pretty shade of blue.  The top is sleeveless so adjusting my preferences worked to get me sleeveless tops.  I’m still going to toss a cardigan over them since I don’t like my arms, but it’s nice to have the flexibility to go either way.  This really does go nicely with the jeans from last month, and the lace detail at the top is really cute.  I honestly don’t have too many nice tops like this – during the summer, I find it’s easier to throw on a dress and cardi, so it’s nice to fill in that style gap in my wardrobe with tops that can really be worn any season.  It is a little sheer so I do have a cami on underneath.  The fabric is polyester in the front with a black rayon/spandex blend for the back and is made in China.  This is definitely a keeper.

Item: 41Hawthorn Carla Crochet Detail Blouse
Cost:
$58
Paired With: 
Makers Lianne Skinny Jean (last month’s Fix), sandals (mine), cardigan (mine)
I think we have another winner of a top!  This pretty green top is really sheer so I do have a cami on underneath.  This top is sleeveless as well and the crochet detail runs around the outside edge of the arm openings to the back.  I paired this with a cardigan again because, cardigan.  It fits nicely and drapes well too.  The fabric is 100% polyester and is made in China.  This one is a keeper too.

Item: Gilli Grace Knit Maxi Dress
Cost:
$74
Paired With: 
Michel Studio Calantha Crochet Detail Cardigan (this month’s fix), wedges (mine)
Oh boy.  I LOVE the idea of this dress, and I did ask for a maxi dress this month.  The polka dots, neckline, empire waist – it’s all perfect.  But.. once I put it on?  It just doesn’t work for me.  For the photo, I dragged out the 4″ high ankle-breaker wedges, and you can’t even see them because the dress is so long (or I’m so short).  The top is HUGE and gapes at the arm openings around the bust, but then it’s just a little too snug through the lower abdomen.  Usually dresses with an empire waist open up so that the hip sizing is free and open, but this was pretty fitted straight down to the top of my thighs where the skirt finally started to open up.  If I sized up so I had more room through the middle, it would be MUCH too large in the bust.  The fabric is problematic too – it’s a polyester/spandex knit with a viscose/spandex lining that only goes to about knee-length.  It’s one of those stretchy, jumpy, bouncy fabric blends that doesn’t drape nicely and shows off every last lump and bump, especially the ones in my midsection (you can’t tell in a straight-on photo, but the side view, even with shapewear, just .. no).  It kills me because this is GORGEOUS, but I’m awful with crazy high heels like that, and it’s just a little too form fitting through the middle for me to feel comfortable.  I might have been able to take up the skirt at the empire waist, but the lining is sewn to the dress at the waist seam which would mean separating the two so that I don’t shorten the lining too far, and it’s just too much work.  I would’ve absolutely kept this if it was a cotton blend and if it wasn’t as fitted through the middle, but with the fabric and fit issues, I’m going to have to pass.  It’s really a shame because this is spot on a great dress and the style idea is a match to what I like to wear, but the fabric and fit issues make it a return, unfortunately!

Item: Michel Studio Calantha Crochet Detail Cardigan
Cost:
$54
Paired With: 
Jeans, flats, black top (all mine)
I did ask for a cardigan, and Lana delivered!  I didn’t quite like this paired with the dress, so I tried something different, and I’m still not sure I like the sleeves.  The crochet detail at the edge of the sleeves is super cute, but the sleeves are way too wide and a weird inbetween length.  The sleeves don’t taper down along the arm but stay the same width the whole way, and the length falls between 3/4 and full length.  The crop length of the body is perfect (Hi, I’m short), but overall I think this may be a little too big.  I could probably exchange for a size smaller, but .. those sleeves just aren’t doing it for me.. the extra sleeve fabric doesn’t hang nicely and there’s so much extra fabric on the arms that I don’t think it looks terribly flattering either.  There’s a seam that runs under the arm and down the side, so it would be fairly easy to take that in to a shape I like, but for $54, I’m not feeling like doing so much extra work to dramatically alter a cardigan.  The fabric is a visocose/polyester/spandex blend, made in Cambodia.  I’m kind of 50/50 on this right now, but probably leaning just a little to the return side of things.

Item: Beauport Isabell Off The Shoulder Dress
Cost:
$78
Paired With: 
Flats (mine)
I did have this on my Pinterest board!  That big buffalo check seems to be everywhere this season, and I just love it.  The dress is a nice weight woven rayon with a polyester lining, made in the Philippines.  I included that second picture because man this is sized SO big that you might be able to fit a second me inside the dress.  The waist is elastic, but when I had it on, the elastic wasn’t even stretched at all around my waist – it was just hanging loose.  This is a 2x, and I think going down to the 1x wouldn’t be enough (it was REALLY loose in the top/waist), but it’s not available in standard sizing, or at least, the website is showing those sizes as out of stock.  I really wish they posted size charts for the different brands online because that would make it so much easier to tell if the smaller size would fit or not.  I may try the exchange anyway though because I do like the dress between the print and fabric, and did I mention it has POCKETS?!  I’m a sucker for pockets on a dress.  The verdict is still out – I may try to email support to see if they can tell me the waist measurement on the 1x before making my final decision.  (also, say hello to my weird tan lines [hi, weird tan lines!] – some dummy forgot sunblock earlier in the season and got a little sun-roasted wearing something with a different neckline.  oops!)

The total cost of all five items comes to $318.  If I kept all five, the 25% discount brings the box down to $218.50 after taking off the styling fee credit.  I’m definitely keeping those two tops, but the maxi dress is going back, and the cardigan and other dress may be going back too, but I’m going to take a day to confer with friends (and probably Instagram) and think on it.  It’s nice that I get a few days to think it over and decide whether or not I want to keep the pieces I’m not sure about.  For the record, too, all the pieces were the same size, but none of them fit at all the same – the last dress was about two sizes too big and the maxi dress was probably just a size too small in the bottom half.  Both tops were a good fit, but then the cardigan was too big.  I feel like Goldilocks and the three dresses with clothes sometimes – I could pull three dresses the same size from different brands, but one is too big, one is too small, and every once in a while, one is just right.  I’ll be sure to update the post once I do decide, and if you have any thoughts about any of the pieces, I’d love to hear from you!  In case you’re thinking about trying Stitch Fix and want to give me a little love, here’s my referral link!

EDIT 13 June 2017: I contacted customer service regarding that last dress.  They didn’t have the exact measurements on that specific dress, but they were able to tell me that generally, sizing runs about 4″ different in the waist on plus sizes, and if the exchange didn’t work out, they could email me a return label to return the dress at no cost to me.  That’s a really generous exchange/return policy, so I went for the exchange.  The smaller size actually fits rather well!  It’s still a little big in the top, but not so much that it looks like it’s hanging off me like the size I was originally sent.  Clothes sizing, how does it even work?!  It still boggles my mind how wildly different clothes sizes can be across manufacturers and even within ‘fit’ styles for a single manufacturer (one company makes 5 different ‘fits’ of jeans all with slightly different waist/hip/rise ratios).  *sigh*

One Local Summer 2017 – Meal 6

Meal 6 in week 9!  I actually cooked this on Saturday right after the farmers market, having come home with my head full of ideas thanks to the kind folks at North Star Orchard.  You see, I was gushing over how pretty the rainbow chard was and how versatile the leafy green is since it’s the best of celery and spinach in one plant, plus, THOSE COLORS.  We chatted for a bit about the myriad of ways to use this gem of a plant, and how great is it that farmers take the time to extol the virtues of their vegetables and offer recipe ideas and cooking advice?!  Well, a quiche is just one of the ways to use chard, so the second I got home, I set out to make a late breakfast for myself.  I like using recipes since I need a good guide when I cook, so I found this one that included a cornmeal and flour crust for the quiche.  I replaced the shortening with lard, because lard, and again instead of milk, I used goat’s milk yogurt.  Chard replaced the spinach, and I sautéed the chopped stems with spring garlic, garlic scapes, and scallions.  Instead of swiss cheese, I used blue cheese fresh from my first Collective Creamery cheese CSA pickup.  I cheated a little and just pressed the crust into the pie dish instead of rolling it out, saving myself the trouble of washing the rolling pin and mat, but that worked out just fine since the crust came out nice and crispy, and the dark roasted cornmeal I used kicked the flavor of the whole thing up a notch.  On the side are three asparagus spears wrapped in culatello, topped with a bit of Red Cat cheese (because always cheese), and a wee little fried quail egg.  The bowl in the back contains fresh strawberries drizzled with our own honey, and I’m not ashamed to say I polished off a whole pint of strawberries in one sitting because they were FANTASTIC.  There’s also a mug of non-local (but absolutely necessary) cold brew coffee.  I also now have a whole bunch of quiche leftovers, so there’s breakfast for the week!

Ingredients:
Asparagus – Hill Creek Farm
Eggs (Quail and Chicken) – Deep Roots Valley Farm
Cheese (Red Cat & Blue) – Birchrun Hills
Whole Wheat Pastry Flour – Mill at Anselma
Dark Roasted Cornmeal – Mill at Anselma
Lard – M&M Creek Valley Farm
Goat’s Milk Yogurt – Shellbark Hollow Farm
Rainbow Chard – North Star Orchard
Culatello – Countrytime Farm
Garlic – Charlestown Farm
Scallions – Jack’s Farm
Garlic Scapes – Jack’s Farm
Strawberries – Jack’s Farm
Honey – Our Beehives
Non Local – Salt, pepper, olive oil

Espionage Cosmetics Nexus – June 2017

Another round of Espionage Cosmetics Nexus arrived last week!  I’ve been getting a little behind here, so this is just going up now, but it did arrive right on schedule!  This month’s theme was, “They See Me Trollin’” so I had a pretty good idea of what one of the wraps would be, and I knew it would be a fun theme no matter what!  I love all the crazy places this subscription goes with themes and you really never know what those geniuses at Espionage Cosmetics will think up next!

  • Trololol – A glossy nail wrap with a glow in the dark feature that you can see here.  It’s pretty hilarious, all the detail they fit on these little nail wraps!  Anyone who’s been on the internet .. ever .. would be able to recognize exactly what’s going on here and have a good laugh.  TOO FUNNY.
  • Beware The Troll – Another glossy nail wrap featuring that famous troll under the bridge in the “Three Billy Goats Gruff” story.  I definitely remember this from my childhood!  Our drive out to visit the grandparents involved crossing a toll bridge over a river, and I remember nicknaming it the “Troll Bridge” after we heard the story.

Voting is an easy choice for me this month since while I love Beware The Troll, Trololol is just too funny to not win my vote!  As usual, the value of the two wraps comes out to $20 and exceeds the cost of the month-to-month subscription of $15.  But, getting first crack at new designs and being a part of voting for the winner of the two is one of the big perks of this subscription.  I don’t think I’ve seen an announcement for next month’s theme yet, but I’m sure it’s going to be awesome!