Wednesday, September 07, 2016

July 2015 Birchbox plus amazing points haul

So because of how infrequently I was updating for a while, I've fallen over a year behind in reviewing my Birchboxes. So basically what I'm going to do is go ahead and do this one because I'd already set up part of the post, and then next week I'll post about why I'm feeling a little less likely to actually catch up. I might just start up on next month's box reviewing it again, I might not. I'll explain more later.

My birthday month #birchbox is so pretty!

A photo posted by Elizabeth (@onegirlsreviews) on

This box overall was mostly just okay, as excited as I was about it when I received it, most of that was because of the really gorgeous box design. The items inside didn't leave as much of an impression.

MDSolarSciences Mineral Creme SPF 50 Sunscreen: I really disliked this sunscreen, it didn't work well with my skin at all. It had a weird texture (I guess because of the "mineral" aspect) and it felt really powdery and strange, plus I'm pale and it made it way worse. It's ridiculously expensive. I have no idea why Birchbox continually pushes this idea that the more you pay for sunscreen the better it is. You know what I want my sunscreen to do? Protect my skin. You know what does that without all these bells and whistles that do nothing extra? Drugstore brands. Not a single fancy sunscreen I have sampled has done more than smell nice. It doesn't feel less greasy, and it doesn't stop it from burning when it gets in your eye.

Stila Look at Me Liquid Lipstick: In this box, I got the bright red that I think is called Beso. This is actually quite a nice product, it's got a finish that's unlike anything else I already owned and it's very bright and bold. It's not an everyday look for me, but it's fun and I like it and it really does last a very long time. Somewhere in another box I also got the Bella color, which is pink. It is VERY VERY PINK. It is clown car pink. It is beyond the pinkest pink you can imagine and it's terrible. I've seen pictures online of women managing to pull it off but I have a hard time imagining it in real life. So mind the shade if you order this, but it is a really nice lip color.

Joer Luminizing Moisture Tint: I've probably mentioned before that I can't do any tinted moisturizers because I'm too pale and they don't come in enough shades. This one is a rare product that does come in enough shades for pale girls, so hooray for that. But at the same time it just didn't work for me at all. I don't want things that are "luminizing" or in other words, shiny. When they say they add a subtle glow, they mean there's sparkles, and sparkles don't work for my work environment and generally don't work for me. I also didn't like the texture.

Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic Sprtizer: I really wanted to love this one, for a lot of reasons. I like the Liz Earle face wash that I have (a birthday present from I believe the year previous to this box) and I really wanted to switch to using a spray for my toner because I hate swiping it on every day and using cotton balls for it (I tried reusable cotton rounds but it didn't really work as well for me for toner). But the nozzle got gunked up pretty quickly, which was disappointing, and in the end I just don't like spraying my face with this kind of product. Largely because it doesn't really go on evenly and you still have to swipe it with a cotton ball or something to really make it work, so at that point, why did you spray it? Plus how do you avoid getting it in your eyes? It's awkward. So sad it didn't work for me, other people might have better luck. As a toner, it worked really well and I liked it, but the gimmick didn't work for me.

Amika Un.Done Texture Spray: This actually is one of the problems I'm having with Birchbox right now. There's a fair amount of hair products, which is okay, but they're almost all entirely geared towards dealing with heat styling or trying to get huge hair. Amika's stuff smells great, but in the end first I'm over aerosol anything, and second, my hair does not need any help being big and "tousled" looking. If I want to get that kind of look, less is more for me. And despite my profile on the site, I keep getting this kind of thing. It left a residue on my hair that I didn't want, and generally isn't something I'm interested in at all.

R+Co Atlantis Moisturizing Shampoo and
Conditioner: See, more hair products and honestly meh. I don't remember anything about these other than not being impressed. It takes a lot for me to think shampoo is really any different from any other shampoo and these didn't do it. They weren't bad, just not that great either.

Now a slightly depressing look back as a preview to my next Birchbox post:

I did not pay a single penny for all of this because @birchbox has the best points program hands down.

A photo posted by Elizabeth (@onegirlsreviews) on

This picture is an entire order that I got for free with Birchbox points because I'd been hoarding them for a while and had like $60 worth at the time. For a quick review of the stuff in the picture, the Soap not Radio shower gel smells wonderful and I love their entire line of shower gels. The water bottle became a new favorite very quickly, though it can be a bit hard to use because it's real effort to get the water through the straw. The Paula's Choice face wash is fantastic, and if Birchbox hadn't stopped carrying it right around when I bought it, I'd still be using it (I'll probably switch back after I stop buying as much from Birchbox). The Klorane eye patches are a favorite that I was restocking, and they're really great if you put them in the fridge before you use them. Very relaxing. The Fake Up stick from Benefit I haven't used much since I bought it because I stopped wearing as much concealer and decided people can get over my under-eye circles.

But as I said, this is kind of a preview for what my next post about Birchbox will be about: a few months ago they gutted their points program and ruined it. It's a shell of what it used to be, and in general this kind of haul will not exist again. It's depressing because I used to fill out surveys for other brands and tell them that they needed to make their points system more like Birchbox because I've found almost no other loyalty points program that was worth bothering with.

Now Birchbox's really isn't either. And that's kind of a sad day.

But more on that next week.

The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves

Years ago, I reviewed the first series of the television series Vera. I had quite a few nice things to say about it, and I've kept up with the show over the years and gotten a few other people to watch it too. It's remained a very good show, and I love the fact that the characters have really grown over the years it's been going. You can see the effects of the things that came before. Especially with Vera, she's almost a different person than she was in the first series, but in a very good way.

So since I'd caught up with the show and there was a year before new episodes, I thought I'd pick up the first book in the series. Which I ran into a snag with because it's oddly hard to get in the U.S., but I found a used copy eventually. What's upsetting is that I like to buy series of books together to get matching covers and it looks like that will be really difficult with this one, but that's an aside.

Anyway, it took me a while after I bought it to finally get around to reading it and it was not at all what I expected. Vera doesn't even show up until about a third of the way through the book. I'd waited so long to read it that I'd forgotten entirely about what happened in the episode (a few things came back as I read but not many) and so that was good, I could get caught up in the mystery. As somebody that reads a lot of mysteries, a few plot points were predictable but it was still put together in a way that made it a good story. When I reviewed the show I mentioned that it doesn't fall into the trope of treating the important clue in a way that marks it as the important clue (either by giving it too much or too little screen time). The book does hit that trope a couple times, but I'm not sure how it could have changed that given the format.

There are a few things that I think are interesting, especially as somebody who came in from watching the show first. Vera's character doesn't have much to recommend her in the book really, though she's very interesting and good at her job, the author goes almost out of her way to talk about how unattractive the detective is (which gets old honestly) and how other characters are a bit repulsed by her. I think if I didn't have Brenda Blethyn's portrayal so firmly in my head that might have changed the way I viewed her.

The book actually focuses on the women who are affected by the murder case, by using their points of view to explore some of the same events and so you get multiple ways of describing the same characters. That works really well, even if there were some characters I wasn't as interested in, and a few things that still felt a bit underdeveloped or out of left field.

I was intrigued that DS Joe Ashworth is barely a character here, when he's so important in the series, but maybe that happens in later books. Or maybe he was beefed up for the show, I'm not complaining.

Either way, the book is good, and worth a read. It'll get you through the waiting for the new series of Vera. I can't wait to read the second one.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Captain America: Civil War

If I'm being honest, the moment they announced that the third Captain America movie would be "Civil War" I lost every shred of interest I had in it. Which is really sad because in the Marvel films, Captain America has been my favorite. Partially because of how amazing Peggy Carter was in the first movie, but also just because I really enjoyed the character and Chris Evans' portrayal of him. Which surprised me because in the comics, he's not my favorite.

But the Civil War storyline in general was one I found boring, and in the context of the Marvel movies it seemed even more boring. It also seemed to be playing into some fan-interpretation weirdness with the characters that I just didn't see in the movies. Ramping up to the release, absolutely nothing made me interested in it again. The trailers, the posters, the marketing hype, nothing drew me in. It still looked boring. I ended up going to see it because my husband wanted to and I figured well, it probably wasn't going to be BAD, just mostly uninteresting. Kind of like Age of Ultron (which I found kind of tedious despite some great moments).

Reading this you probably think I hate the Marvel movies but the thing is I really don't. I enjoy them quite a bit, and it's revitalized some stories that I'd gotten tired with in the comic books. There's a lot of great stuff in the MCU, and the casting is so pitch perfect that it lets a lot of other things slide.

Anyway, so Civil War the movie. The movie didn't really end up winning me over. The way I put it to people is that it's the second best Avengers movie, as Black Panther 0.5 it's wonderful. It's even got a few scenes that serve as a great Spider-Man reboot and made me want to finally get around to watching Ant Man. But it was not just the worst Captain America movie, it's very far below the quality of the first two to the point where I don't think it's worth considering it part of the same series.

It only just barely continues Steve's story, and it twists his character in ways that make no sense except when you think that the Marvel Execs said "we need X to happen" so well, they made X happen. Steve has plenty of faults, but lack of clear communication haven't been on that list until this movie (insubordination, sure, but he says what he means and elaborates on it well usually). Which is infuriating to me because his point of view isn't wrong. The Russo brothers have said that they didn't want either side to be right, which I think comes across actually as a cop-out, but the other thing is that in order to do that they basically had to make Steve have a good point of view and then support it with absolutely nonsensical actions. They've also been saddled with a storyline that has an enormous amount of historical context regarding the efficacy of peacekeeping forces/the UN and ignore that context so thoroughly you wonder if it doesn't exist in their timeline.

The whole thing comes across less as a "life is complicated and these people have complicated problems to figure out" and more "we wanted interpersonal conflict so everybody stopped talking to each other and acted like five year old's so we could make things go boom and have a cool poster."

There were amusing bits to be sure, and some great lines. The acting as always was great. But unless they go and put together a "Here, just watch Black Panther's scenes and let the rest fade from your mind" version of it, I probably won't bother watching it again.

Well, they can include Falcon being snarky to Bucky, that was fun too.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Dreaming Tree Soapworks

I've risen from the dead! I know, this blog has fallen behind on my schedule but I want to get back into the habit so here we are just jumping right back into the swing of things.

I stumbled on Dreaming Tree Soapworks because another indie brand I like had a sample of their soaps and a coupon in my order once. And I'll be honest with you, I can't at all recall which one. Geek Chic Cosmetics maybe?

Anyway, I checked out their offerings and ordered some stuff to use the coupon and fell in love.

At first I was a bit cautious because to be honest, I just don't go for solid soaps and that's the main offering at Dreaming Tree. I've probably talked about it before, they're just not my thing. But if they're your thing, the samples I've had are fantastic, and I always end up using them up. The smell is always heavenly, and the sample I have right now (Every Flavor Beans) has this subtle shimmer to it that's really fabulous.

I go for a couple other things on their website, some of them you can see in my Instagram photo above.

Velvet Dream Scrub: To just call this a sugar scrub is under selling it. I don't even know how to say how fantastic this scrub is. I've tried scrubs from numerous national brand names, and none of them come close to the Velvet Dream scrub. It really does the job, it feels wonderful while you're using it, and leaves my skin super soft and smelling wonderful. She recently changed her formula a bit, and because I had some already I only just started using a sample of the new formula. It's in a scent called Bombadil, and was a surprise sample in my last order. It's just as wonderful, and the scent is SO good. I can't stand to get sugar scrubs anywhere else anymore, they just don't hold up.

Silken Reverie Luxury Lotion: This lotion is wonderful, it is easy to rub into your skin and feels great, it's super moisturizing. But that's not the main selling point here, the main point is that it smells wonderful and the smell lingers in just the right way. I have a bottle of Fires at Midnight, which is one of the best scents I've ever smelled in a bath product in my life, and I love using it because of how long it lasts without being overpowering or too much when you first use it. The only problem I have is that I wish she sold travel versions or smaller bottles, because I keep lotion in my purse and would love to have her stuff there too instead of whatever small sample I've gotten from Birchbox lately.

Magic Stick Body Balm: I got this because I was looking for something that might function kind of like the Julep foot recovery stick that I didn't like that much (bad package design) and I love it. I go for Pure of Heart, though I tried Yeti Foot first. I just like it being unscented, plus several of the scents have lavender (a scent I don't go for, long story) or patchouli which generally doesn't work on me. Nothing against them, just not my style. Pure of Heart is fantastic though, love it.

Mad Madam Mym's Bath Bubblers: I've only tried one of these, and I'm still really new to using bath bombs and haven't decided really what I think of them in general. The one I tried smelled lovely, and I'll probably try one again at some point. If you like bath bombs I'm sure you'll like them.

She's also included some of her soy melt samples in my orders before, and I did quite like them. I just have so much scented wax right now that it'll be ten years before I need any more, otherwise I'd fill up on those right now. Her scent formulas are just so wonderful, I've tried so many and they've been wonderful. I think there was only one I didn't love, and it was just not for me because I'm picky.

Be sure to sign up for her newsletter, she does sales pretty regularly and over on Facebook she will ask for input and advice on what scents people want in upcoming collections. The customer service is also great, there was a recent delay with shipping some orders that was entirely out of her control, and she more than made it up to those of us that were affected. I'm a fan for life.