Tuesday, May 26, 2015

May 2014 Birchbox

So going back a year to my May 2014 Birchbox! This was one jam packed box, but I definitely have to say it also had the one product I have hated the most from all my boxes I've gotten.

Caldrea Body Lotion and Caldrea Body Wash: I remember very little about this particular sample, oops, sorry! I don't remember them being bad, just not memorable either.

CoTZ Face Natural Skin Tone SPF 40: My skin is super pale, and as I've mentioned before, anything with any sort of tint isn't going to work for me, so this one was on that list too. It was just too dark to work for me so ah well.

Nexxus Pre-Wash Primer: This is the product I mentioned that is the worst thing I've gotten in any Birchbox. I want to be nice most of the time, I try not to be too negative but this was awful. It was horrible, and I can't for the life of me figure out who let this thing out into the market. I understand what the point is, when you color your hair there's a delicate game you play with wanting your hair clean and pretty but also not washing out your color. But I'm sorry, this stuff basically coated my hair in oil (like I need help with that) and then nothing got through and did anything for it. I realize they think that's the point but it was so gross. I let it go a couple hours before I used my regular shampoo to wash it twice more to make it look presentable again, and then it was still only okay. Ugh, so terrible.

Nexxus Color Assure Vibrancy Retention Shampoo and
Nexxus Color Assure Vibrancy Retention Conditioner: I'll never know how well these two worked because I used them along with the primer and it was so awful. Obviously they did nothing to get rid of the oil residue of the primer, since they aren't supposed to.

Pixi Beauty Shea Butter Lip Balm: Change of pace though, another winner! I ended up getting all three colors of this later one because it was really awesome. It's very moisturizing, and the color is fun. All in all, it's great and a good product to keep around for when you want some color but not to go through a whole lipstick routine.

Greenleaf Candle: I've kind of gotten away from candles in general lately because I've started using Scentsy products instead. But this candle smelled very nice, and I was very happy to get it. Especially because not long after this came in the mail my power went out and I realized it's a good idea to keep a candle around anyway.

So this box had a lot in it, but not too much that was memorable in a good way, except the Pixi Lip Balm which I absolutely recommend. Remember, if you want to give Birchbox a try please consider using my referral link!

Friday, May 22, 2015

April 2014 Birchbox

Oh no, I somehow managed to skip over my April and May boxes in the rush to talk about June apparently! Or I just got May and March confused like I frequently do. But here we are still in my Birchbox Throwback, let's talk about April 2014!

This month's box was themed for "rainy days" and it was so perfect because it arrived on rainy day. And I'm actually writing this review after a dreary rainy day, so obviously I'm back in the right mindset for it. The box itself was pretty good, had a couple great discoveries, some not so much, and as always lots of cute themed stuff. One thing Birchbox does well is their themeing, each month the box is very well put together. These ladies know what they're doing.

Gilchrist & Soames Spa Therapy Body Wash: Okay, this was the gold star for me in this box. I really loved this body wash, and it's high on the list of what I'm going to splurge on when I finally use up my cheaper body wash that I stocked up on a year ago and need to finish before I can spend money. I liked the smell, it worked really well, and it just felt great. The right amount of lather, just all around a really good product. I've since become a fan of this brand, even if their prices are sometimes a little high for me.

Sumita Color Contrast Eyeliner: I can't remember which color eyeliner I got in this box, except that it was kind of purple. This was my first experiment with colored eye liners, and while I thought it went on well and was easy to use, at the end of the day my major problem was it didn't matter how much eye makeup remover I used, or how hard I scrubbed, I still looked like I had a black eye whenever I tried to remove it. And I didn't have the best of luck with it staying put, so the dark purple just ended up making me look bruised. The eyeliner itself was probably great (except it was a bit smudgey), but the color didn't work for me.

KIND Healthy Grain Bars: The bar I got was pumpkin seeds with sea salt, which I expected to really not like. I'm not a big fan of pumpkin, and while I've liked quite a few sea salt flavored things lately, usually those words are followed by "caramel." I almost gave this bar away without trying it, but I did and I'm glad because it was actually pretty good. I learned that pumpkin seeds don't really taste like pumpkin, at least not what I'm used to. I have started buying more KIND products now that I had this and liked it, though they have been hit or miss since then.

Color Club Gala's Gems in Gold Struck: I got some Color Club polish in a previous box and if you read that review you'll see I was generally unimpressed with it. Since I wasn't sure if it was the fact that it was a metallic polish I was willing to give the company another try, but this polish was also a more metallic finish and so to be perfectly honest I ended up trading it without opening it so I could get a better swap out of it. The color also wasn't my style anyway.

Davines OI/Shampoo and Davines OI/Conditioner: Since I jumped the gun and went out of order, my previously reviewed June box was actually the second time I got a Davine's set of products. I don't mind getting multiples from the same company though, and these were different offerings from the brand than my other box. That said, I wasn't overly impressed, or even upset about them. They were fine, just completely fine. All the shampoo and conditioner samples I've gotten in my Birchboxes and there's still been only one I might think about getting once in a while instead of my current cheap brand. Shampoo has definitely not been a thing where I've been convinced to go higher end.

So, all in all, it was a pretty good box, no giant standouts but my introduction to a few good brands that I liked and want to try more from. Which is the entire point after all. You may have noticed one of my common themes is that I'm actually really cheap when it comes to things like beauty products, and Birchbox doesn't always go for stuff that's in my typical price range. So on the one hand, that's great because I get to try stuff I would never pick up on my own because of the price. Plus, with their points system if I find something I love I can splurge for it later. But the problem is, sometimes I feel like there's a long line of stuff that's just proving to me that my cheap ways are good because the expensive stuff isn't that much more impressive.

All that being said, I still adore Birchbox because it lets me have that trial and error to figure that out through actually using products and not just guessing that something might be better because it's expensive.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology - Exhibit Review

I thought I'd do something a bit different and talk about an exhibit here in D.C. that I recently went to visit. I've lived in the city almost a decade now, and I've been to the Smithsonian Museums multiple times, and several other places around town (The Newseum, the Museum of Crime and Punishment, and so on). But I had yet to visit the National Geographic Museum, partially because there's an entry fee for their exhibits and with so many free Smithsonian museums around, you really have to have a good reason to spend money to get in the door of a place here.

But earlier this month I found out that they were going to be hosting an exhibit called Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archaeology, which I'd actually heard of a while back and wanted to see it so I was glad it was coming here to D.C. That made it easy to buy the tickets, though I'll get into the price point in a few minutes.

Going into the Indiana Jones exhibit, I knew that there were some video portions because a professor from my grad school helped create them. But when the guy at the desk asked if we wanted the "video walkthrough" I had no idea what he meant. I've seen museums offer audio tour supplements for an extra fee, but this actually not only comes with the price of the exhibit but it's an integral part of the experience.

It becomes clear very quickly when you start out how this exhibit is very different from what I'm used to. The little video tablet walks you through how to use it (that's what video is playing in the picture) and basically instead of lengthy signage all over the items on display, there's a short description and a number. You type in the number onto the tablet, and it starts either an audio description or a supplementary video. This means that unlike a lot of other exhibits where there's a ton of overlapping sound and some things get very hard to hear, you're listening to your own headphones and watching the videos at your own pace. There's not as much sitting through the second half of the video then seeing the beginning as it loops back around.

I have two very distinct opinions about this. The first is that it was amazing, and really innovative. I actually know a slight bit more than the average person about exhibit design, since members of my family have worked at art museums, and I thought this was just ingenious. What a great way to bring in multimedia without being too overwhelming with it, and let each museum patron move at their own pace. Not to mention how easy it makes it for you to tailor the experience to your own desires. And I imagine that eventually they could use this for metrics data to see which videos are the most popular, and which parts of the exhibit people weren't paying as much attention to.

The only major problem this brought into the situation though is that it made everything take MUCH longer. I can skim/read a descriptive plaque in a few seconds, but when the audio is being read by someone I have to take the full 90 seconds that they're devoting to it and go at their pace and not mine. In a few parts of the exhibit, that started to really bother me, especially because I'm not the most healthy person and there just simply weren't enough benches and places to sit throughout the space. If you're going to make it take almost a full two minutes at every single item, then people need to sit down more often. Not because they are lazy, but because you need to think about your patrons who are disabled but aren't in wheelchairs.

The other issue was that the video/audio created bottlenecks at certain points. The start of the exhibit was actually kind of difficult to get through because we happened to walk in at the same time as several other people and we were all watching the same videos at first. It wasn't until I decided to skip a description that that pack of people finally was offset enough that we weren't bumping into each other. Basically in the end, I didn't listen to many of the audio parts because they were all pretty lengthy and I was getting tired, but I did watch all of the videos (except for one I apparently missed because my mom mentioned it and I hadn't seen that one, still no idea how I didn't see it).

The videos were great because they included behind the scenes footage, animations, and really fascinating extra knowledge. And I'm sure the audio had all kinds of extra info too, but I don't even really like listening to audio books so it just wasn't catching my attention. The videos held me more, and that could just be me (I am a filmmaker after all).

The exhibit was done in release order for the films, moving from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Temple of Doom, then Last Crusade and Crystal Skull. Each film was followed by a section on the science of archaeology that explained how something that Dr. Jones did in the film is also done in the field, while also debunking a few things that a real archaeologist wouldn't do. My favorite connection was after the display about Last Crusade, the exhibit had artifacts and real life examples of scientists using the context of the artifact to "decode" it's meaning and use, like how Indy "decodes" the grail to determine which is the correct one.

Each film was represented by a few costumes, some of the prop artifacts, concept art, marketing materials, and a few looping video clips (some of the only looping video in the exhibit, it was silent unless you typed in the number on your tablet, and it would then play the looped sound synced up to what was airing at the moment. It was a neat feat of technology). The costumes were fantastic, and the choice of which props and concept art was perfectly curated. The "artifacts" they had on display were exactly the ones I wanted to see, from the Ark of the Covenant to the Sankara Stones to the Cross of Coronado. And yeah, okay, there was some cool stuff from The Crystal Skull in there too.

The videos had a lot of making of stuff, and information that even as a big fan of Spielberg's films, I had never heard before. It was well worth the visit, and just the Indiana Jones exhibit would have been worth the ticket price for sure. There's also a lot of great branded merchandise in the shop, and for the price of admission you get to see their other current exhibit, Monsterfish. We didn't spend as much time at Monsterfish because we were pretty exhausted from the wonderful but time consuming exhibit, but it was also really well done. There were a lot of interactive elements that I think kids would enjoy, and a great opening video. I know I went on about looping videos, but they're not bad when sparingly used and this exhibit did them right.

The only thing that gives me pause about the whole thing is that we paid $15 for the entry fee, and while I have no problems paying that for the Indiana Jones exhibit, and I highly recommend it, until this week that entry fee only included Monsterfish, which was cool but not worth that much (I think the fee was only $11 at that point, but still too much). When this set of exhibits closes, will the entry fee still be worth it? I really don't know. It seems to me like it could be really hit or miss on the value, so maybe I'll keep an eye out for exhibit reviews before I go back there for anything new.

And if that's what you're doing then I'll just say again that the Indiana Jones exhibit is absolutely worth the price of admission, you should go.