Thursday, May 28, 2015

July 2014 Birchbox

If I recall correctly, July of 2014 was the first time they let you choose a sample for your Birchbox, and I've really enjoyed that extra perk, though sometimes I think about maybe just saying "surprise me" instead. I'll get into that in later boxes, in this box there was no question for me on what to pick.

A photo posted by Elizabeth (@onegirlsreviews) on

Hello Body Cream: I'd been excited about this product since I realized it existed, especially after how much I enjoyed the Hello perfume in my June box. The body cream smelled just as lovely, if not maybe slightly better actually. It was a great lotion, you didn't have to use much to get a really great feel on your skin. I love the entire Hello line, though I have to admit they're a bit costly. Though Harvey Prince is constantly having sales if you subscribe to their mailing list.

Ruffian Nail Lacquer - Ambrosia: This was the sample I chose, which is probably no surprise since I've talked before about how much I love Ruffian's products and wrote a tutorial for their "signature" look a while back too. I'd been wanting some of the new colors for a long time, but I couldn't convince myself to spend the money because I had so much nail polish already. But then came the choice to get the color I wanted most in my box? Yes please. This color is absolutely beautiful, I'm still so happy I have it. Especially now that it looks like it's not available anymore.

Ruffian Dressing Room Nail Lacquer Remover Towelettes: I can't actually remember if I've talked about these on the blog before or not, or if this was even the first time I'd gotten them. But either way, I'll just say I LOVE these. I ended up buying a pack shortly after I got this one, because they work so well. I've tried other nail polish remover towelettes before (namely Julep's) and they've been basically rubbish (yup, Julep's middle range quality strikes again). So I wasn't expecting much the first time I opened one of these. But seriously, it works. It's actually bigger and has enough stuff to really remove all ten nails worth of polish. Honest. And they really do smell better than normal.

suki exfoliat foaming cleanser: This cleanser was okay, I wasn't overly impressed really. The lemon smell reminded me of a furniture cleaner or something, it just wasn't a smell I associate with face wash. It was a little more harsh than my sensitive skin can usually take, and the sugar dissolved way before it could actually do anything. And at $33, I've definitely gotten far better products from Etsy that cost less.

Marcelle New Age 8 in 1 Power Serum: I don't know what to say about this that I haven't said about every other serum I've reviewed. Meh, it does something, not sure what, it's better to use this with my moisturizer than not, but I'm still too cheap to think $34 an ounce is a price I'm willing to pay for something that's just "eh, I guess it's doing something" when I can get something cheaper that is about the same effect at The Body Shop.

Coastal Scents Revealed 2 Palette: I'd been tempted to buy this palette a few times actually, or the first Revealed palette, but I convinced myself not to because I have several eyeshadow palettes right now from BH Cosmetics and they're fantastic and will take me forever to use up. So I was thrilled to get a chance to try this without having to spend the money. I got the "ballerina" set of colors, which were four very nice, subtle neutral shades. I loved them, the colors are great and I got really good coverage out of them. I definitely liked them enough that I'm even more tempted by the full sized palette now, and will probably cave and get one of them next time I order with points.

One of the other things that came with this Birchbox was a year's subscription to Women's Health Magazine. Like, an actual free subscription where you didn't have to remember to cancel later or anything, just fill out a quick card and drop it in the mail. I definitely am not one to say no to something like that.

So now that it's been about a year, my review of Women's Health Magazine is that it is a seriously weird mix of actual, good, scientifically backed advice and really bonkers woo woo stuff, plus some body positivity sprinkled over fat shaming. I mean, I guess it's as mixed up as most women's emotions on those topics? It was a decent distraction for the last year, and if I could renew it for less than $5 I might think about continuing to get it, but honestly I got very little out of it. Also, it's more than a little heteronormative (which is not a word I use often for various reasons). But it was very, very full of the "how to please your man in bed" stuff and a bit too much focus on losing weight to look good to get a man (which is eight kinds of problems in one) and I can't recall seeing one mention in the entire year of women who are lesbians, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, nothing. I'm not saying every issue of every magazine every time needs to include everybody always, but they don't really make an effort.

I am currently trying to get healthier, and I did pick up a couple tips from them over the last year. But for the most part I found it the same old crap I've been trying to reject, with a lot of fat shaming and "lose weight no matter what" and "only skinny people are attractive" kind of feel. So I won't be renewing.

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.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

June 2014 Birchbox

Time for another flashback Birchbox review! This time we're going to the way back, June 2014. Like May of 2014, it was mostly not that phenomenal but one really great item that makes up for it.

Perlier Intensive Nurturing Body Balm Shea Almond: This body balm worked well, but there was something about the Shea Almond scent that I just didn't like. I ended up giving this away because it just didn't work on me, and I had so much lotion at this point there was no reason to keep something I didn't love. But a lot of people loved the smell, so maybe it was just me.

Harvey Prince Hello: This is the gold star for this box. I'd heard a lot of good things about this perfume from other blogs, and so I was really excited to get to try it. It smells so fantastic! I really love it, and it works great on me. This also started my Harvey Prince addiction, I had no idea that they had so many fantastic fragrances. But this is definitely a favorite, and a great find.

Caudalie Polyphenol C15 Anti-Wrinkle Defense Serum: This serum and I didn't really get along. It was a bit more liquid than I'm used to serums being, but the big thing for me was that it made my face a bit too far onto the oily side. It was generally okay, on another type of skin it's probably fantastic, but for me it was just alright.

Davines Love Smoothing Shampoo: I remember liking the scent of this shampoo, but honestly I don't remember much else about it. It was nice, my hair was nice after I used it, but it wasn't significantly better than my grocery store purchased shampoo. I do really like the packaging though, there's something about the sort of simplified bottle and label that's fun.

Davines Love Soothing Conditioner: When this sample went out I kept seeing people saying that the size of the foil packet was too small, and Birchbox has actually stopped really doing these kind of packets all that much in their boxes. Which part of me thinks is just silly, I mean it's a sample/discovery box. But I do also dislike these packets because it's actually way too much for me to use at one time and so I have to figure out how to make sure the open one doesn't fall over and spill and waste a bunch of product. Anyway, the conditioner was much like the shampoo, nice but not revolutionary or anything.

Davines OI All in One Milk: This leave in product was nice, smelled good, but was a little more product than I like leaving on my hair. Maybe I used too much, but I decided to stick with my No. 4 Comb and Protect that has done me so well so far.

Cynthia Rowley Beauty Creamy Lip Stain in Sugar: I do really like this lip stain quite a bit, I actually just used it yesterday. It's a good long lasting lip color, though it's a bit liquid-y, I guess that's what you get with a stain. The color is nice, kind of bright, but fun in general. I'm a fan, I might buy some more shades one day when I'm not drowning in lipsticks.

I did love the getaway theme for this Birchbox, and in general it was another fun one, even if only one of the products was a hit. If you think Birchbox sounds great, then please remember to try my referral link!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

March 2014 Birchbox

Going back to talking about my old Birchboxes again! I've fallen more than a year behind once more, I'll try to get better about this soon.

Looking back to March of 2014, it wasn't the best box but there was at least one gold star.

Vasanti Brighten Up! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator: Honestly, I remember almost nothing about this product. It wasn't bad, or I would remember that. So it did the job, it worked okay, the price isn't bad for this kind of product (which is to say I think it's expensive but most people probably wouldn't). But I don't remember it being a miracle worker either.

Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango: I really love when Birchbox includes something delicious and sweet. Though in this case, I'm not actually a fan of fruit filled chocolate stuff. As I've gotten older I've definitely become a bigger fan of dark chocolate (isn't that the way it usually goes? I'm sure it's something with changing/dying tastebuds as you grow) but I did like this. Not enough to go out and buy it, but enough to actually at least recommend it to people who like these particular flavors.

Might Leaf Tea Samples: Confession time, I don't like tea. At all. You can't even convince me to give tea a try in the interest of giving a good review. I don't get upset when I get tea bags in my Birchbox like some people, but I give the tea away immediately. I think this particular set went to a coworker. There's no shortage of people I know who will take the tea off my hands, but I won't ever be able to give you a tea review. Sorry!

COOLA Face SPF 30 Unscented Matte Tint: I don't dislike the COOLA brand products, but I do think they're rather overpriced for what they are. I've never really had them perform significantly better than any other sunscreen I've had, and in the case of the matte tint, it really felt odd on my face and I wasn't entirely a fan of the texture. That said, my best friend loves the texture, so your mileage may vary. This was the first COOLA sunscreen that I got and I wasn't overly thrilled with it. It wasn't bad, but for the price I expected more.

Air Repair Rescue Balm All-Purpose Skin Salve and Lip Balm: I actually got this Birchbox the day after I got back to the U.S. from a trip abroad, so I was very eager to try the Air Repair Rescue Balm because I definitely had dried out on the plane. I did like it, it worked well, and it did the job it said it was going to do. It was slightly better than just using straight up Vaseline (my go to when lotion isn't getting the job done) but I don't know price wise if it was far and away worth the price jump over Vaseline. Still, I wasn't upset when I got another tube as one of my two free samples with a later order.

Curl Keeper Original Curl Keeper: This is the gold star product in this box. I expected not to like it, for one because my hair is more wavy than corkscrew curly, so I just didn't think it really was going to do anything for me. I've tried so many different types of products to try to keep the wave and curl in my hair, and they either don't work or they leave a layer of crunch and/or residue that is just not worth it. So I was very reluctant to try it.

I loved it so much I bought a bottle before my sample ran out, and I keep a bottle in reserve now too. This stuff did exactly what I wanted it to, it started to really accent and preserve the natural wave my hair gets from air drying, it gives it a bit of body and shape, and it does not leave my hair feeling crunchy or like any product is in it at all. I did notice some of the reviews say that it leaves their hair feeling stiff and I can tell you that if it is, you're using too much of it. This isn't like other products where you have to slather it to see results, less is more for sure. I guess it might take some trial and error or something, but because I was hesitant to use it I think I used less than normal anyway and discovered the right balance fairly quickly. I am so much happier with my hair now because of this product. Seriously, I love it so much. This is why I subscribe to Birchbox, because I find things like this that totally change everything for me.

So this wasn't really a thrill of a box, but the discovery of Curl Keeper made it all worth it. The point is to find amazing new things, and it definitely fulfilled that promise.

If you think Birchbox looks cool, then please consider using my referral link when you sign up!