Monday, June 30, 2014

Mani Monday: Essie's Fashion Playground

This one one falls under "YouTube Made Me Buy It" because I wouldn't have given it a second glance until after I watched a few reviews of Essie's Spring 2014 collection.  This is Fashion Playground, which they describe as, "Fun and games just met their match. this plucky pistachio green with subtle shimmer flirts with forever and plays for keeps."

Green of any shade is normally not my thing but this is the prettiest pastel shade and what makes it a hit with me is the shimmer.  It's just barely visible in the bottle, and only faint traces can be seen on the nail but it's what prevents the color from being flat and really pulls everything together for one of the loveliest colors in my collection.  I've been pleasantly surprised by how often I reach for this to wear.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Birchbox Mystery Sample Pack or Great I, Got 2 Foil Packs

When I ordered my fabulous Modern Mermaid Limited Edition Birchbox, full review here, my order qualified for a free Mystery Sample Pack.  This is what I got, two foil packs.  This is 2 for 2 on the thumbs down for the Mystery Sample Pack for me.  My first one came with one dried up, unusable sample and this one is equally underwhelming.  So yes, it was free for me, but they are also sold for $10.  So let me say once and for all, do not, not ever, order and pay for one of these!


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Shutterfly: Choose from 3 Free Gifts this Weekend Only

View the entire collection of cards.

This weekend Shutterfly is offering three free gifts, using the code FREEBIE.  I picked the magnet and only had to pay shipping.  Offer ends June 29 at 11:59 P.M. PT so hurry up and get yours!


Friday, June 27, 2014

Green Kid Crafts Discovery Box #4: Dinosaurs

*Not Recommended

I signed up for a three month subscription for Green Kid Crafts when they were recently on Living Social and I have pretty mixed feeling about it.  At the time of sign up, I thought it would be nice to have some quick pre-made crafts show up during the summer months.  The company states on their website that subscribers can expect:
  • 3-4 award winning Creativity and STEM Science Kits (science, technology, engineering, and math) designed by experts to build confidence, flex creativity, and make kids smarter. Look Inside a box to learn more.
  • All materials and instructions, along with some fun extras!
  • An exciting new theme, think Outer Space, Kitchen Science, Nocturnal Animals, Backyard Science, Ocean, and Mad Scientist.
  • Included free for subscribers: Exclusive online collection of additional activities, reading lists, games, puzzles, and more each month, all centered about the monthly theme!
It's also supposed to use natural and sustainable materials for the crafting supplies.  We got our first box and it is not the regular current box.  Other subscribers received the June Interesting Insects Discovery Box.

I did eventually find at the very end of their FAQ, that "Fan Favorites" or previously released boxes are sent with deal vouchers. I've heard that some companies send older or leftover boxes to customers when they sign up through flash sites so it wasn't a total surprise, although I did wish they had clearly disclosed this possibility on their deal listing.  I had to hunt on their website for this information, after being surprised by an older box, and I just don't think it's the way to make the best first impression on new customers.

Since I had seen pictures of Discovery Box #4: Dinosaurs before, it looked familiar.  I decided I wasn't going to let myself get upset about getting an older kit because their past boxes looked cool enough to get me to sign up in the first place.  Also, since only new customers could use the Living Social voucher it's not like we had tried any of their previous boxes anyway.  Looking on the bright side, my nearly 3 year old loves dinosaurs so the theme was spot on.  A little snack was also included and my daughter did enjoy them quite a bit.

Included in our box along with the three individually wrapped crafts was an information card.  It lists an Activity Guide but it was not physically included.  You have to get your "free" copy by following a link listed on the back.  I am not sure how they decided upon the stated $5.95 value, but I consider it an extra cost for me since I have to use my own paper and ink to print it.  Perhaps this how they help make their box "green".    I'm thinking that this is the "Exclusive online collection of additional activities" mentioned in their description.


Dinosaur Tail

I thought this was a pretty neat idea, kids love play acting but I had some issues with the project right away.  First of all the shapes are loose, mostly white, FOAM hearts.  So while under their FAQ about materials they say they always avoid craft foams, this must be one of the cases in which they do not.

While my son probably doesn't care that the variety of colors is lacking, I thought it definitely looked like leftover supplies were used and really so many white ones?  The sample craft looks much cuter and I'm wondering if the original kid included sticky felt shapes.  Plus I'd have thought the orange foam would be pre-cut and ready to go.

Dino Fossil and Sculpture

I'm not sure if this is supposed to count as one or two crafts since enough paper pulp clay is included to do both a fossil and sculpture.  Right away do you notice something missing?  Yep, no noodles.

This pretty much makes the box a fail for me, since the whole reason I liked the concept of a kid's craft subscription was because everything is supposed to be included.  I could contact customer service but having to do so for the very first box?  Not impressive since it's not like I'm going to ask them to actually send me a handful of pasta when I can just go get it out of our pantry.

At least this project, and the one above, both came with nicely printed directions.  These cards are double sided on thick glossy card with instructions on one side and more dino fun crafting ideas or facts about dinosaurs on the back.

Prehistoric Pet

So far two out of three of the projects have had issues.  Will number three be without? Sadly no.  The instruction sheet is printed out on what looks to be computer paper and cut down to size.  There is no additional information or activities on the back because this is blank.

Now this looked like the most little kid friendly project.  You simply use the cork to stamp onto the wooden dino.  I'll admit it's a cute idea.  However, you cannot recreate the sample project because that one has more colors, as a mini four colored stamp pad is shown in the materials on the individual kit listing.  It's a small point but still, that and the cheaply printed on direction sheet would seem to mark this as a box they decided to finish off with whatever was on hand and then still forgot the pasta!

Good Value versus Cost?

I paid $37 for 3 months with an extra $13.50 for shipping for a total of $50.50 or $16.84 a month.  Since we got three kits in Discover Box #4 that breaks down to $5.61 per craft and upon reflection on what you get along with the price of convenience, I think it's high.  Maybe it's because I am a crafty person myself and regularly haunt the craft store, but I don't think it's a good value and that's even if everything had been a depicted.  Plus, I don't really know how "green" the crafts were.  You basically have to take their word that the supplies are.  It's hard to verify and since their company has "Green" in the name I wish this had been more apparent.

I also think it would be much better for Green Kid Crafts to have sent a completely different kit than one which differs from the originally depicted.  This looks sloppy, maybe they are hoping their customers won't notice the differences?  There was no mention on any of the paperwork that contents may vary and just that one little inclusion would've made a big difference in my overall satisfaction.

If purchased separately this particular box costs $24.95 and in my opinion that is very overpriced.  I did note that in the description it once again lists a Discover More Booklet being included and not in a way that implies you must print it yourself.

Purchasing through Living Social

I noticed that customers with a Living Social voucher had to pay shipping for their "subscription", even though they highlight free shipping on their subscription page.  Yes, I realize I got a "deal" but Green Kid Crafts actually ran their own 40% sale for Father's Day.  Let's look at that deal scenario for a similar 3 month term.

A three month subscription is regularly $19.95 a month for a total of $59.85, remember that this way you get free shipping so there is no additional cost.  Now if you were able to take advantage of their 40% sale you could purchase a 3 month subscription for $35.91, a savings of $29.94, or $11.97 a month and that is a fair price.

Now if customers signing up this way can get the current new monthly boxes, I wish Green Kid Crafts would not have opted to send older ones to those who began using their service through Living Social.  I mean really, did you want to turn me into a regular subscriber or not.  It appears, not.

Bottom Line

I will continue receiving Green Kid Crafts Discovery Boxes for the next two months because I have already prepaid for them, but no longer, and I would not recommend it.  The fact that I got older boxes and the price per box is not being counted against them, they have fulfilled the requirements I signed up under.  I'm not happy about it but those issues are because I did not do enough research, although I will reiterate I think that "Fan Favorites" are sent should have been clearly marked on the Living Social Page.  This would have been more transparent on their part and I think a better business practice.

I will not be continuing with the service because for me, it's not a good value per project and because pieces were either missing or different, and because the packaging changed in quality throughout the same box.  If you've tried Green Kid Crafts, please share your experience.  I'd love to know what you thought of it.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

TLC Book Tour: Millie Fierce Sleeps Out

*Review Copy Provided

One of the best parts of being a kindergarten teacher was all the wonderful children's book I got to read and share with my students.  There are always a few titles you know from the second you preview it, that it'll be a big hit with the kids.  Millie Fierce Sleeps Out by Jane Manning is one of those.

Book Description:

Little girls can be strong and fierce and brave—and sometimes their ferocity is just the thing they need to save the day.

Millie is strong. Millie is fierce. But Millie has learned to keep her fierceness in check. And since she’s been sweet all summer long, Millie gets to have a sleepout with her friends. One where she promises to be well behaved. But things don't go as Millie planned, and our fierce little heroine is not happy. Still, she tries her best to keep her fierceness inside. But when the scary dog from next door howls at the girls' tent, Millie's ferocity saves them all!

A perfect addition to a bookshelf filled with Fancy Nancy, Eliose, Olivia, and Ladybug Girl.

The vibrant watercolor illustrations set the stage and perfectly match the exuberance of the title character and what a character Millie is!  I love that her individuality is celebrated and how the story shows that something we struggle with can turn out to be an asset.  That being able to be strong and getting fierce is sometimes necessary and a good thing.  It's a story kids can relate to as many have trouble controlling themselves, adults too at times!

On top of that, I really appreciated just how well written the book is.  It's full of little gems and text that doesn't talk down to kid but rather introduces them to a variety of very descriptive phrases such as "hair frizzed itself into a magnificent tangle" or "packed her fierceness away as tightly as a rolled tent", lines like that really give children something to think about and are what makes this an exciting story for young kids.

Besides kindergarten, I also taught special education for a few years and had students with emotional issues.  I was always looking for good books that could get us talking about conflict resolution and peer interaction and Millie Fierce lends itself to that well too.  I can think of a lot of interesting ways to use this title in the classroom.

My seven year old daughter liked it because, "It's about a girl who's been trying to be really good and she does it all summer.  So her mom lets her have a sleep out in the back yard and I've always wanted to do that.  When her friends come over there are issues and she tries really hard to keep it together, and her friend throws away the gummy worms!  I'd be super mad about that.

"At the same time there is a monster outside, but it turns out to be a dog.  So she lets herself go and gets really fierce and chases it away.  Then her friends get a new bag of gummy worms and they all end up having a fun time after all. It's a good book because everyone feels like crazy once in awhile.  Sometimes you don't get along with your friends but it all turns out well in the end  And the pictures are really good, I mean you can even see the shadows of the girls on my favorite page."

It's safe to say that although the recommended age range is 3-5 years, Millie Fierce Sleeps Out is still a compelling book for older children.  My struggling reader really enjoyed it and was very proud that she could read it herself, especially since it does have challenging vocabulary.

Jane Manning is the illustrator of dozens of children’s books, including Little Goblins Ten by Pamela Jane, Drip Drop by Sarah Weeks, Cindy Ellen by Susan Lowell, and the New York Times Bestselling The Witch Who Was Afraid of Witches by Alice Low. She wrote and illustrated 2008?s Cat Nights (Greenwillow).
Many of Jane’s books have appeared in Scholastic Book Clubs and ALA “Pick of the Lists”. She’s won several awards for her work, including Parenting Magazine’s Reading Magic Award for Drip Drop, and The Western Writers of America Storyteller Award for Cindy Ellen.

Jane lives in Deep River, Connecticut with Tim, Tatiana, Nellie, Ziggy, and Shep. She is usually very well behaved, but every once in a while, Jane turns fierce, just like Millie.

Learn more about Manning's series at the official Millie Fierce website.
Millie Fierce Sleeps Out
List Price: $16.99
Hardcover: 32 Pages
Publisher: Philomel

Available at booksellers such as Barnes & Noble and Amazon,  This post is part of a book tour on behalf of Millie Fierce Sleeps Out, organized by TLC Book Tours.  For the full schedule see this post.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Citrus Lane June 2014

*Referral Link

Our June Citrus Lane box came awhile ago, but for one reason or another I have not had much time to blog.  My best friend is back in town for the summer and my oldest is out of school so it feels like our days are packed!  This month was quite a hit however, so I wanted to make sure I shared it.  If you're here from Unpack the Box or Mommy Splurge, then welcome & thanks for visiting via their monthly Share Your Subscription Linky!

Subscribers got an email last month and we got to pick one of three designs for this wet bag by Bumkins (similar for $14.95).  This has a light blue background and cute Mickey Mouses all over it.  I love that it's machine washable, and I know it will be super handy.  My little guy has been to known to need the occasional full outfit change while out and about and this can be folded up really small so it's already in my bag.

This is our second puzzle from Citrus Lane and this is only our fourth box so at first I was kind of indifferent to seeing this on the description card.  That Mini Shaped Puzzle from Crocodile Creek ($8.99) shows a monkey design, so I was much happier when we unpacked it from our box and found we had gotten the Dozer Mini Puzzle.

It's the perfect size for little hands and the number of pieces isn't overwhelming.  Since he is really into vehicles LB loves this, and loves is probably an understatement, obsessed might be a better description.  So glad we got a design that matches his interests.  Plus, upon reflection I do acknowledge that it is pretty different from the Petit Collage, which had five mini puzzles with different numbers of pieces.

Both of my kids have occasional eczema flair ups so I was pleased to see this tube of Peaceful Bubbles from Episencial ($6.49 for 3.4fl oz).  Both love bubble baths and this is gentle and non-irritating, neither experienced any issues after we used it.  I do wish it was a little less expensive because I could see us going through a bottle fast, but it's on par with other similar natural products.  Plus, I really like the packaging, which I know is totally not important but I think that little blueberry is so cute.

We received a set of 12 Duo Tip Markers by Creativity for Kids last month, but I was still happy to see this Pet Pals Coloring ARTivity Book ($7.99) from them. It has more of their excellent markers, which can be stored in the top container, and a mini coloring book all attached to a back cover.  It's perfect for travel.

The simple line drawings are printed onto thick premium paper, and have enough detail to be interesting but not so much that younger kids will be frustrated.  The nicer the normal paper will help prevent bleeding through when coloring.  I like how the pages are single sided so you could draw on the backside and perforated at the top, making it easy to tear out your child's mini masterpieces.  I continue to be impressed by Faber Castell's Creativity for Kids line!

All in all, this has been my favorite Citrus Lane box to date!  I think they provided a great variety this month and we'll get a lot of use out of it all.  Besides the main items, we also got two Mighty 4 Bars by Plum Organics, shown in top photo.  My little guy loved the squeezable pouches we got him as a toddler and he ate those two bars up right away.  So literally, right up to the last bite, this month was perfect!


Monday, June 23, 2014

Mani Monday: Julep's Elisa

I've been searching for the perfect shade of pastel purple nail color and picked this soft wisteria color Elisa with a buy one get one free coupon.  The visible shimmer in the bottle is barely noticeable on the nail and it also takes on a bluish cast in certain light.  It's not my perfect purple but it's still a very interesting shade and fun to wear!


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ipsy, June 2014

*Referral Link

My Ipsy bag arrived last week, but for one reason or another I didn't get around to working on the review until today.  Thankfully, my little guy still naps so that frees up a little time for blogging.  This month's bag design is by Rebecca Minkoff and it's not ipsy branded, unlike previous months.  The pineapple print is fun!

Marc Anthony Dream Waves Beach Spray, Full Size $6.99: I love texturing sprays like these.  They help amplify and control my natural waves.  This also smells really nice.

NYX Butter Gloss in Eclair, Full Size $5: The sneak peeks revealed that everyone could expect one of these in their bags.  They are very popular with YouTubers so I was really looking forward to checking it out.  This shade is pretty neutral on me, but I can tell why people love them so much.  They have a pleasant sweet smell, minimal stickiness, and are priced right.  I will definitely pick up a few more in other colors.

clariSEA Sea Salt Solutions Rapid Detox Charcoal Exfoliant, Full Size $18: I love facial scrubs, because blackheads have always been a problem for me.  Unfortunately, I'm having some seasonal allergy issues which means itchy eyes and usually sensitive skin.  I need to wait until things calm down before introducing a new skin product.  I'm really looking forward to this as I like how other charcoal products I've used performed.

Jesse's Girl Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner, Full Size $6.99: I've been needing a new liquid eyeliner and this is my preferred color.  Score!  This is another product I'll be happy to try once the allergy season is over.  I've never tried Jesse's Girl so hopefully it'll be great!

Laneige BB Cushion, Full Size $34: My friend with very sensitive skin just was telling me about this brand and we were looking at the Target display, so it even though I'd have preferred more than a single use sample, I was still happy to see this arrive.  I like how they provide each of their shades in the sample so you can try each one before deciding if a full sized product is worth the money.  I've never used one of these cushion type foundations so this is high on my list to try in a week or so when my skin has returned to normal.

I'm really happy with my June Ipsy, once again the value for the $10 price is great!  The lip gloss and eyeliner more than cover the subscription cost and I have already tried and love the Beach Waves Spray.  I'm looking forward to trying the other two samples so I definitely think this is a very successful month for me!  Fellow subscribers, what did you think of your June ipsy bag?

If you'd like to subscribe to ipsy, please consider using my referral link, I'd really appreciate it and love you forever :)  But really, if you're reading this, I already do!  BTW, I've heard that if you use a referral link, anyone's and not just mine, and then share on Facebook you can skip the wait list and start with the next month's glam bag!


Monday, June 16, 2014

Mani Monday: Julep's Saaya

I've been surprised how into peach and orange nail colors I am this season.  Saaya came in my May Julep Maven box and this golden apricot shimmer is so lovely on.  It's more pastel than I expected, making it perfect for spring, but is also a great summer color.  I'm really enjoying it and it just keeps looking better as my hands get a little tanned.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Birchbox Limited Edition Box: Modern Mermaid

I was trying to resist getting the latest limited edition Bircbbox, Modern Mermaid since it's $44 and I don't need any of it.  Then I realized I had $30 dollars in points through their rewards system and it would only be $14 out of pocket and it shipped free!  This video totally sold me on it.

In fact, if I had known my June Birchbox would show up so early in the month it would've only cost me $4 out of pocket. I ordered it the day before my box came so I couldn't get my samples reviewed and offset them against the purchase price.   That doesn't bother me too much as there is always stuff in the Birchbox shop I want so those points will get used eventually.  The set of Ruffian nail polish retails for $26.50 alone so it was worth it to me to cash in my points and paying the difference.

I was so excited by how quickly it arrived on my door step!  I ordered it on late at night on the 9th and it came on the 12th so I only had to wait 2 days!  It was packaged in a specially designed shipping box that had the same blue wave pattern as the inner box, shown above.  It's so pretty, I am definitely going to have to find a way to reuse it!  It would be a cool container to keep a mini book about a trip to the lake and a few small souvenirs.

It was love at first sight!  After the disappointing June Birchbox earlier in the week, this made everything better.  It's proof that Birchbox's review/reward system is the best around!  So much good stuff!  Let's check it all out.

Captain Blankenship Mermaid Mane Sea Salt Spray, full size $24: We received 2 oz., which is a half size bottle and it's perfectly sized for travel.  This adds texture and beach waves to your hair, since I already have naturally wavy hair this help give them extra oomph.  I can't lie though, the "lovely beachy rose smell" is a bit strong at first, but it does dissipate over time and I like how this spray works so I can overlook it.

Atelier Cologne C├ędrat Enivrant Cologne Absolue, $105 for 100ml:  Described as, "While citrus ingredients have long been used in the making of fine cologne, few scents capture the intricacy of their tart-yet-bitter aroma. This fragrance celebrates citrus in all its forms, from the sour sweetness of lime to the sharp, rindy smell of Calabrian bergamot. If your favorite things in life come with a dash of citrus—like the twist of lime in a gin and tonic—this scent will strike a chord."

It also has,"Vibrant top notes: cedrat from Morocco, lime from Mexico, and bitter bergamot from Calabria. Heart notes of mint and juniper add some complexity, while grassy base notes of elemi and Haitian vetiver round out the fruity aroma."

That's a lot detail and all I know is, this is one fabulous scent and I can't believe I actually like a real perfume!  I normally only like lemon or lemon scents so it probably helps that this is essentially a souped up version of my basic citrus scents.  It's really awesome and so nice and light!  I'm really enjoying the travel sized spray a lot.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Lash Genius Waterproof Topcoat, full size $21: I have been hearing so so much about this brand but it's usually about their brow products.  I think this is a pretty genius idea.  Basically, it makes any mascara waterproof when you coat your lashes with this after.  This is sample is the perfect size to use this summer on the few times I could use waterproof mascara like when we go to the beach or pool.  I'd say it's definitely a deluxe size, the only issue I think I might have is that since it's clear I may not know if I've covered all my lashes or not!

Vasanti Kajal Extreme Eye Pencil, full size $18: This was the only item I was a little "meh" about before I got my box.  I was kinda like, okay a blue eyeliner not too exciting and I may not even use it.  Then it arrived and it's gorgeous!  It's a darker shade than the Chella one I got back in March so I find it a lot more usable. Plus it's easier to apply, goes on so smoothly, and I know this is not the only brand to include a sharpener but it's the first pencil I've ever gotten with one and I love that!  There's also a handy dandy smudger on the other side of the stick.

RUFFIAN The Endless Summer Collection, full size $26.50: Okay let's be real these are the real reason this box when from want to must have.  You know, cause I need more nail polish.  Honestly, I liked the Ruffian polish I got in my very first Birchbox so much that I knew these would be great quality and I don't even normally like metallic colors that much.

I really wanted Endless Love, above left, after seeing the preview video but it's $11 when purchased individually.  As I mentioned at the beginning since I used my Birchbox points to cover most of this box it only cost me $14.  Getting the whole Modern Mermaid box for $3 more than just one polish was definitely the way to go.

I love these polishes as a set, not only is each shade a Birchbox exclusive but they fit this limited edition box's them perfectly.  Blue Lagoon is exactly the shade I've been looking for, it's not a pastel but also not dark, which I associate with fall or winter.  Sahara is a metallic nude and super pretty.  I love how it's a nude but isn't boring or flat, and of course since it's reminiscent of sand it goes well in this trio!  I find all three to be swoon worthy!

COOLA Liplux SPF 30 Original Formula, full size $12: I was completely unprepared for how much I like this product.  I thought I'd pass it along to either my daughter or my husband, both of whom are much more likely to burn this summer.  So is my little guy for that matter, but there's no way he'd ever let me get this stuff on him anyway.  I thought that since I have plenty of lip products with SPF 10 or 15 in them and they work just fine, what makes this worth $12?

Ohmygooodness, it's great, like really great, and I'm lip balm junkie so it takes a lot to get me think a untinted lip product is worth my time.  I normally only wear untinted lip balm overnight, because no one's going to see me anyway.  I love the scent, the texture, and how it's practically edible so I don't have to worry about ingesting yucky stuff.

Stephanie Johnson Mermaid Round Snap Mirror, $22: This is so pretty and I love the mermaid tail inspired embossed design.  The shimmery material takes on a different look depending on the light and it's a full compact type size so it's larger than the other mirrors I normally carry.  It's quite a fun accessory but I don't know if it's truly worth the full price.  However, since I have it, I do love it.  It's the perfect addition to this mermaid themed limited edition box.

Here is one thing I did notice, the description on Birchbox mentions that it's a double sided mirror, but the one included in the box only has one.  At first I thought perhaps this is a sample version of the mirror and the $22 version has both?  But no, the official product picture looks just like mine.

Overall, I think this is a really well curated box with a good variety of products.  All of the items tie in with the Modern Mermaid theme, none of them even seem like a little bit of a stretch. They really are well matched.  

The products include both practical and fun items, and it's well packed with nine items if you include the nail polishes individually.  That averages out to about $4.89 a piece so it's a good value when you think of the cost that way and an even better one when you really consider the higher end products with better the normal ingredients in them.  I didn't do a cost break down for the sizes included within but other bloggers have and they come up with an estimated value of $110-$115 versus the $44 retail price.

This Modern Mermaid Limited Edition Box is still currently available and I think it's a really worthwhile purchase and more than worth the $44.  I still can't believe my out of pocket was $14 with my Birchbox points redemption, that feels like quite a deal!  I can't stress enough how important it is for Birchbox subscribers to review their samples each month.  It really does pay off, literally.

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