Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Amoda Tea December 2014 Review

Box: Amoda Tea
Price: $18/month, including shipping
Ships to: North America
What’s inside: 4 different teas (~3 cups each), tea filters

Woo hoo! My favourite tea subscription, Amoda Tea, is back after a short hiatus. They've made some changes to the subscription since I last reviewed them. The price has been upped from $12 to $18 a month including shipping. Instead of 3 teas with enough to make 5-7 cups, they now give out 4 teas, each at least 3 cups worth. They also include paper tea filters and a link to a playlist to sip tea to, which I think is cute. This month they also added a small pastry from Sweet Petite, though I don't know if this will be a recurring thing.

The pastry itself was very, very spongey. It was an odd texture I can't quite describe. It was sweet but not very flavourful. I didn't mind it but I probably wouldn't purchase it if I had the choice. 

The packaging on the teas has changed somewhat, with a papery brown instead of a plastic white sticker. The information cards were also paper instead of a nice cardstock like before. I assume the changes are to save a little money where possible to keep the business sustainable. It's not a huge detriment, especially when the tea descriptions and steeping instructions can also be found online.

Ball & Chain by Indie Tea || Oolong
Ingredients: Se Chung oolong, medjool dates, marigolds; all organic
Se Chung oolong simply means that it originates from a certain area of China. There are different varieties of Se Chung, but Amoda tells me that this particular one has a natural sweetness and roasted, nutty flavour. This certainly tastes like oolong, but also very different due to the medjool dates. It adds a nice dimension and I do enjoy this.

Celebration Medley by Sloane Tea || Rooibos
Ingredients: Red rooibos, apple, orange, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, rose
I am always down from some rooibos tea. The apple taste was very distinct in this, and overwhelmed the rest of the flavours. This could just be from luck of the draw -- perhaps there were just too many apple pieces in the scoop I steeped. Not bad if you like apple, though.
Wild Woman by Tay Tea || Black
Ingredients: Ceylon tea, wild blueberries, black currants, hibiscus, elderberries, corn flower petals; all organic
Of all the tea categories, black is my favourite. I also love the addition of blueberries and corn flower to teas. This tea was very aromatic, but the actual taste of berry was subtle. A nice, understated tea, but overall I felt it was a little unforgettable.
Ginger Cream by Aromatica Fine Teas || Black
Ingredients: Assam black tea, vanilla bean, ginger pieces, natural flavour
This really reminds me of my favourite tea I've received from Amoda, Caramel Toffee. I'm not sure why -- Caramel Toffee was a black tea-like oolong with hazelnut and caramel, whereas this... is not anything like that. It's not super sweet as Caramel Toffee is, but gives a sweet and spicy taste. Apparently, this is also the most caffeinated tea of the box. I like this!

Overall, these teas didn't "wow" me, but I'm so happy to have them. I don't really have any great tea vendors in my area, and shipping to Canada can get out of hand, especially when it's for teas I'm not sure I like. I also get bored of teas easily and like a lot of variety. Amoda gives this to me and that's what I wanted. I'm glad this lovely Canadian subscription is back. 

Monday, 29 December 2014

Baroque Cosmetics Pressed Palettes (+blush) Review (Swatches included)

During Black Friday, I went a little indie-crazy. One store I hit on my shopping spree was Baroque Cosmetics, which currently sells vegan & cruelty-free eyeshadows and blushes. Themed collections include those inspired by Studio Ghibli movies, the French Revolution, and Skyrim. There is also a newly-released Kingdom Hearts collection. Along with loose shadows and blushes, Baroque offers small pressed palettes, either custom made or limited edition. The store caught my eye with it's well-designed website and beautiful, vivid colours. I'm a huge sucker for deep, shimmery tones. The obvious historical feel pulled me in as well. I grabbed a custom palette and one limited edition Holiday 2014 palette in "Sparkly".

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Memebox F/W Natural Makeup Review

Box Overview
Box: Memebox (Referral link)
Price: Varies -- typically $23 plus shipping
Ships to: United States, Canada, and over 40 other countries -- check here
What's inside: Korean beauty products. Specifics for each box may be found on their website.

LadyKin Close Up Decuple Shimmering Primer Full Size || Value: $9.90
Beneficial ingredients of note: some plant extracts which may provide antioxidant properties
Detrimental ingredients of note: the same plant ingredients may cause irritation in some, wine extract (halfway through list)
This primer is supposed to be colourless, but was clearly pink on my skin. It was super shimmery, bordering on sparkly, and I can't imagine how this is "natural" in any way, shape, or form. It feels nice enough on the skin but I don't know how I will ever find a way to use it. On me, it's far too pink to be any sort of primer or even highlighter.

Leporem Perfect Whitening Blemish Balm Full Size || Value: $23 (according to card)
Beneficial ingredients of note: N/A
Detrimental ingredients of note: N/A
I didn't open this at all. Almost every single Memebox BB cream I've received to date has been too light for me (NC25ish, Missha #27). Looking at other reviews it seems that this cream is quite light, enough that I can't even bother trying it out. A face three shades lighter than my body =/= natural.

ddung lipstick in DL11 Elegance Beige Full Size || Value: $9.95
Beneficial ingredients of note: N/A
Detrimental ingredients of note: N/A
I was optimistic about this lipstick when I swatched it (see below); it ended up being a nice muted pink instead of a brown nude colour that I absolutely can't pull off. The first time I tried a lip swatch seemed to turn out well, but ever since then the formula has not played nice with me at all. It goes on super patchy and accentuates all of my lip lines. It also smells/tastes strongly of wax. I haven't tried applying this with a lip brush yet, but I can't help but feel any payoff would not be worth my time.

DD'ell Stay Forever Gel Eye Pencil in 04 Espresso Full Size || Value: $14 (according to card)
Beneficial ingredients of note: N/A
Detrimental ingredients of note: N/A
That's more like it! I do have a brown eye pencil, but no gel ones at the moment. This is a nice addition to my collection. It swatched smoothly and while it gives some time to smudge or correct, after it sets it has good staying power. It has just a tiny amount of shimmer to it, but not enough for me to say it's not "natural makeup" looking.

Tony Moly Delight Circle Lens Mascara in 03 Clear Circle Full Size || Value: $2.50
Beneficial ingredients of note:
argan oil, green tea extract
Detrimental ingredients of note
: denatured alcohol (third ingredient, presumably for fast drying)  
Another item actually fitting in with the "natural" theme, this mascara is actually completely clear. I've yet to crack this open, but from what I understand this can be used for various purposes like as an under- or top-coat for other mascaras, to hold a curl without using other mascaras, or as an alternative to eyebrow wax to tame those stray hairs. I'm glad to have something like this just in case.
Mustaev Color Powder Starline Opal Full Size || Value: $22 (according to card)
Beneficial ingredients of note: none
Detrimental ingredients of note: none
There's no way this is $22, and if it is, it can't be worth it. This is a beautiful shimmering, sparkly, almost disco-esque loose powder that can be used on the eyes or as a highlighter... but there's no way such a small jar is $22, right? And regardless, it doesn't belong in a natural makeup box. It's one of my favourite items here, though. My only complaint is that the powder gets absolutely everywhere -- opening the jar almost guarantees that you'll get powder on your fingers. It's also difficult to remove. 

Top to bottom: LadyKin primer, ddung lipstick, DD'ell eye pencil, Mustaev powder
In total, I received an estimated $70 worth of product, more or less. I highly doubt some of the prices Memebox gives on the cards, as they are prone to highly inflating prices both on cards and in their own shop. I will only really get use out of the powder, pencil, and maybe the mascara, and I would only count a few items as fitting the theme of "natural". I have mixed feelings about this box, but I think it's better than some of the other makeup boxes Memebox has released.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Ipsy December 2014 Review

Box: Ipsy (Referral link)
Price: $10/month, $110/year; $4.95 shipping to Canada
Ships to: North America
What’s inside: Various beauty product samples and full size products, very roughly personalized

This month's bag is a nice rectangular vinyl-like bag, perfect size for a small purse or even as a pencil case for those of us still in school. The ipsy heart tag is thankfully removable. Thanks, ipsy! 

Beauty Without Cruelty AHA 3% Facial Cleanser 60mL/2fl oz || Value: $2.80
Beneficial ingredients of note: aloe leaf juice (second ingredient), geranium rose oil, cucumber extract
Detrimental ingredients of note: sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate (surfactant) (third ingredient), lavender extract
While I enjoy the fact that Ipsy actually seemed to pick something from my interests, I have never found cleansers with active ingredients to be all that... effective. The only exception being benzoyl peroxide, which to my knowledge can do quite a bit of work within a few minutes. I do not expect a 3% AHA to help much as far as acne reduction, though. My skin really loves aloe so I'm glad it's a large proportion of this cleanser. Paula's Choice tells me that sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate is a surfactant which may be drying and irritating if used in large amounts, so be careful! I'm happy with my Cerave Foaming Cleanser so I'll be adding this to the swap list.

Swissco Electroplated Eyelash Curler || Value: $5
I've been needing a new eyelash curler for ages. Unfortunately, I just splurged on a very expensive Shu Uemura eyelash curler! This got here before the SU one did, so I've been using it anyway. It's a nice curler compared to my VERY old one, and actually curls my lashes. I did some comparison with the SU curler and there is a difference in how well they curl my stick-straight lashes. Sometimes money does get better quality, I suppose! That's not to say this is a bad curler by any means, especially for the price. It's also my favourite colour! Too bad the purple is already flaking off after only a few days of use. 

tarte deluxe lights, camera, lashes 4-in-1 mascara 3mL/0.10oz || Value: $10
Beneficial ingredients of note: none
Detrimental ingredients of note: alcohol denat (presumably for quick drying)
$10 for a little mascara sample, my goodness. I know tarte is an expensive brand, but seeing the value of little samples really puts it into perspective. At least mascara lasts a long time! I've yet to open this but I've heard really great things about this mascara. I've also heard that the sample size is, for whatever reason, better than the full size! Maybe some small change in formulation to make up for lack of product?


Pixi by Petra Fairy Dust in Brightening Bare (medium nude sheen) Full Size || Value: $15.50
Beneficial ingredients of note: none
Detrimental ingredients of note: none
This is a loose powder with a hard, round, foamy applicator. I found the applicator very difficult to use to pack on colour; I would recommend a brush if you want to get the same opacity in the swatch below. This is a lovely shimmery nude. I only wish the packaging was better. I also wouldn't say it's worth $15, not at all. You can get similar shades for cheaper elsewhere (indies, anyone?) for sure.

NYX Cosmetics Butter Lip Balm in Lady Fingers (mauve) Full Size || Value: $4
Beneficial ingredients of note: mineral oil (first ingredient), shea butter, sunflower seed oil
Detrimental ingredients of note: fragrance (near end of list)

I think the only place that carries NYX around me is Rexall and maybe the newer Target, so I'm always happy to receive NYX items. I'm not sure how most people in the US feel about getting a drugstore item, though. Anyway, ipsy describes this colour as mauve when it's very clearly a sheer hot pink. I did find it suitably moisturizing and it did add noticeable colour to my lips. I would compare the colour and feel to a Tony Moly Bunny Gloss. However, it smelled very strongly of fake cherry, despite the name. This was rather disappointing to me because the Creme Brulee butter gloss I got in a previous ipsy smelled like heaven. 

Top: Fairy Dust, Bottom: Butter Lip Balm
This month I received about $35 in product, though the majority of that comes from the fact that tarte and pixi are incredibly pricey brands. Still, I will use just about everything in this bag and I'm optimistic about ipsy's latest bags -- tarte and NYX are well loved brands and I'm happy to see them more often. I'd say this month was a win for me!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

7 Possets Perfume Samples Review - Candy Thong, Ergot, Flossing, Huile of Fortune, Mud and Passion, Over the Rhine, Victory

What's this? A non-box review? Dang right it is, and about time! I get all sorts of stuff in the mail to unbox, but rarely do I review non-subscription items. But hey, with my dwindling list of boxes I subscribe to, I may as well provide some reviews on everything else I receive, right?

So what exactly are we looking at here? Lemme tell you: indie perfumes. I've only just gotten into indie companies as of late, and I'm in love. I love supporting small business, and I love the creativity and love each product gets. I'm totally new at both indies and perfumes, so please bare with me! My nose is not experienced at all.

These samples are from Possets Perfume, I think (see below). I picked these up on a thread at Reddit's Indie Makeup and More, a wonderful community!

Let's get to smelling!  All samples are slightly less than a milliliter. These reviews are in order of how I tried them.

Candy Thong by Possets || Full size: $12.50

Vulgar, vulgar, vulgar! I set about making THE most candy, sticky, sweet and irredeemable fragrance in history and I must say I outdid myself. Sweet creamy caramel with lots of butter is put together with a busty musk for staying power and a very very very light tweak of flowers and lemon drops wayyyyy off in the distance so they don't interfere with the dirty stuff going on down here but add a bit of "gravitas" so the whole blend does not fly away. The strange thing is that Candy Thong dries down to a very pretty and classy fragrance after all of the youthful flings and things. Art imitates life here. A very very very good scent!
Initial reaction: Very sweet, like sugar cookie batter. A little deeper and fuller than the kind of thing you can smell a mile away from Bath and Body Works. Sometimes I get a hit of grassiness.
20 minutes later: It's mellowed out. You can still tell it's sweet, but more of the muskiness comes through. The potency of the scent itself also fades.
1 hour later (and one accidental hand wash): I can still smell it, but it's very faint. I only applied a tiny bit so it's my fault for washing my hands. But the scent now distinctly reminds me, of all things, of MUAC's Lactic Acid Peel. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I can't really describe it.
Overall impression: I know this is going to turn off so many people in my life. I love it. Probably won't get much use, but mmm. Sugar.

Ergot by Possets || Full size: N/A, limited edition
Warm wheat scent from the sun, a sparkle of an invading virus (which is a touch of wine in this case) blended with a comforting bakery scent and a bit of sugar frosting.
I'm pretty sure this is from Possets, though the label says BPAL, which to my knowledge would stand for Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. It is possible that someone decanted (split a personally-bought full size into samples for others) this and mislabeled it. 
Initial reaction: Like incense. What's up with that? A bit fruity. 
45 minutes later: There's the wheat. And mask. Still sort of smells like incense, though?
Later: the smell begins to fade, alternating between wheat and something musky. I asked a friend and they told me it smelled like an inappropriate area. Erm, alright then.
Overall impression: I liked it, and one other person I asked said it didn't smell like nether regions at all, haha. I guess I'll just have to not wear it around that one friend!

Flossing by Possets || Full size: $12.50
A pretty, dear and yet spicy little blend. Flossing is named after the dainty stitching put on many corsets to keep the stays in place. A comforting blend of gingery peppery small vanilla and wood, Flossing is very cheery and is like being the Queen in a Sewing Bee! This is a marvelous everyday perfume which can lift your spirits immensely. Highly recommended as a first Posset for the persnickety or those who want to try Possets but are diffident about it. Characteristics: foody, vanilla, sensous, feminine, scent locket.
Initial reaction: Oh no, is this going to smell like old lady on me?
30 minutes later: Wait, is this Ergot? Smells just like the initial incense of Ergot, but sweeter. Sorta woodsy.
45 minutes later: Less woodsy/musky/incensey, more sweet.
1 hour later: There's the vanilla! I've never smelled a perfume that hits the vanilla note without being overly citrus-y or sweet. Mm.
Much later: I can't stop smelling myself. I smell like vanilla. Please help, people are looking at me
Overall impression: Vanilla. Yes. Please.

Huile of Fortune by Possets || Full size: $12.50
Seven carefully chosen ambers, put right with a bit of sage, a small amount of suave moss, and fern and a bit of vetiver which is handles with a deft and gentle hand. Dry but haunting, unisex and sure to gather you compliments. Very well mannered and suitable for either day or evening. A winner which I have worked very hard on and am quite proud of.
Initial reaction: More incense? What is going on?
10 minutes later: Oh. I see what happened. As it turns out, it seems Huile of Fortune somehow rubbed off on all the other scents prior. All the amber notes, to me, smell like incense.
Later: This scent, as evident by how it's too stubborn to leave the other scents alone, did not budge. It stayed for ages, although it did fade somewhat. I didn't notice any changes after the dry down.
Overall impression: No thank you. Too witchy for me, on top of reminding me of the incense my family uses to mourn. It'd be nice during the fall for other people, just not for me.

Mud and Passion by Possets || Full size: $12.50
Mud and Passion? Of course! This is a very lazy summer scent. This one should remind you of a field out in Mississippi in the heat of the noonday sun in May before it gets so hot and humid that you can't stand yourself anymore. Melon, drying grasses and volatile leaved plants rub up against each other and conjure up that sort of a summer. A little known side of Mississippi which is otherwise famous for deep fried foods, magnolias, and a good deal of river culture. Real nice rendition of the New Old South. Fruity, musky.
Initial reaction: Woah. Jolly Ranchers and dirt. Why does this smell like fake cherries to me?
20 minutes later: The grass and plants are coming out more. I still can't get any sort of melon scent from this, though. It's fruity, but not in a way I like.
Overall impression: Not for me! Nothing else to say, really.

Over the Rhine by Possets || Full size: $12.50
Over-the-Rhine is Possets' first all out oriental spicy mix, a blend of the comfortable and the challenging, the familiar with those things we are hard wired to enjoy. Over-the-Rhine really is a picture of how I view this section of town, and if I can paint it with scent instead of with paint, this is what it would be like. OTR doesn't smell like this, this is the scent portrait of the essence of the place. Characteristics: spicy, warm, unisex, resinous, oriental.
Initial reaction: Oh no. Oh no I don't like this at all. Eugh. Smells like rancid tea and spice.
10 minutes later: Oh my god it smells exactly like every oriental foods store I've ever been to. I don't know how I feel about this. It's so much like home and yet this is the last thing I want to smell like!
45 minutes later:  It smells the same as before. Wow this is weird.
Overall impression: Possets has got oriental spot-on. That's a neutral statement. I always have friends tell me I smell "Asian" (because I am), so I can't wait to show them this -- but I definitely am not going to use this as a signature scent.

Victory by Possets || Full size: $12.50
This is a simple and straightforward fragrance which concentrates on fighting fatigue while keeping you alert and motivated to get to the next level. Thyme and sage, lemongrass and light camphor, a bit of rosemary, and the lightest hint of white sharp amber to keep it all knit together without being dulling.
Initial reaction: Smells like generic department store cologne.
10 minutes later: Wow, this smell really faded. I can't smell it unless I put my wrist right up to my face -- and I put on more than I did with the other scents, too.
Some indeterminate time later: Smells... like clean laundry. Exactly like clean laundry.
Overall impression: Not something I would buy, but I can't complain about smelling like clean laundry. I wish it had just a bit more presence, though. A good unisex scent.

I am overjoyed with the experience of indie perfumes, and I have several coming to me in the future! I hope that my nose gets more experienced over time so that I can provide a better review for you all. I'm not sure if Possets quite works for me -- it seems like my skin just soaks them up within an hour, and although I can still smell them over the course of a day, it is only if I put my wrist right up to my face. Still, it's a good first foray for me into indie perfumes and perfumes in general, and I can't wait to experience more. 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Memebox Minibox #3 Retro Review

What? Another retro review, from back when I had a horrible camera and a box whose items I'm almost done? You betcha. Here I am with a fabulous Minibox from Memebox from the summer.  These were $15 for a handful of sample and deluxe-sample products. I had no idea what theme it was going to be, and it seems the theme was tea!

Box Overview
Box: Memebox (Referral link)
Price: Varies -- typically $23 plus shipping
Ships to: United States, Canada, and over 40 other countries -- check here
What's inside: Korean beauty products. Specifics for each box may be found on their website.

illi Cleansing Oil and Foam Set 15mL/.5oz each + 3 samples each (2mL/0.6oz?) || Value: about $4 (based on card)
Beneficial ingredients of note: N/A
Detrimental ingredients of note: N/A
I can't seem to find the ingredients for this, though I feel fairly certain that I deemed it suitable for my skin when I read the packaging? Perhaps I'm imagining things. What I do know, though, is that this set is/was one of my most favourite things I've ever received from Memebox. The two little bottles are a fantastic size for traveling and a little goes a long way with these babies. I was able to use the pouches three times each. The bottles I used on vacation. They're still half full; I'm hoarding them for the next time I spend a night away from home. They're very easy to use, clean my make up off nicely, and don't leave my skin feeling tight. Next time I use them I'll try and see if I can find the original box so I can translate the ingredients. This may be HG status if the list is good!

A. True Darjeeling First Anti-Wrinkle Cream 10mL/.34oz || Value: $9.20 (based on card)
Beneficial ingredients of note: black tea leaf water (first ingredient), macadamia oil (third ingredient), black tea leaf extract (halfway through list)
Detrimental ingredients of note: a few plant extracts which could be irritating (rehmannia glutinosa root, eclipta prostrata, japanese mugwort, licorice) (halfway through list), fragrance (last ingredient)
Nothing too offensive about this cream. I don't have wrinkles so I can't say I've seen this have much effect, nor do I feel the need to use it very often. It smells fresh. I appreciate A. True for having its touted active ingredient as the first ingredient, unlike some other companies whose advertised ingredient shows up halfway down the list.

A. True Darjeeling Black Tea First Anti-Wrinkle Essence 2mL/.07oz x 5 || Value: $12.50 (based on card)
Beneficial ingredients of note: black tea leaf water (first ingredient), sodium hyaluronate (first half of list), black tea leaf extract
Detrimental ingredients of note: papaya extract (halfway through list), some plant extracts that may cause irritation (sophora japonica, rehmannia chinensis) (last half of list), fragrance (last ingredient)
Oh! I never actually realized that this was much different than the anti-wrinkle cream. This essence has sodium hyaluronate, a fantastic ingredient which helps replenish the naturally occurring hyaluronic acid in the skin. Papaya extract may or may not help with brightening due to its enzymes, but from what I understand research is limited and there is a chance of irritation.

A. True Real Black Tea True Active Essence 30mL/1oz || Value: $8.50 (according to card)
Beneficial ingredients of note: saccharomyces/xylnum/black tea ferment (first ingredient), niacinamide (fourth ingredient), white tea leaf extract (first half of list), shea butter (halfway through list)
Detrimental ingredients of note: fragrance (last ingredient)
This essence is really, really great. I'm halfway through and I've stopped using it because I'm scared to finish it! It's watery but a little thick at the same time. I find it calms my skin down nicely, gives it a glow, and hydrates my skin. I even notice my redness going down. If only it wasn't (supposedly) $51...! 


Compagnie Colonial Early Grey Superieur Full Size x 2 || Estimated value: $3
Memebox included some tea! Earl Grey is one of my favourite types of tea. This was super cute of them to include. I appreciate that the bags are filled with relatively unbroken tea leaves; it's clear that this is higher quality than most grocery store brands. It tasted good, but no better than any other loose leaf Earl Grey.

This box was $15 and I got over double in value. This is probably my favourite box I've gotten from memebox, even though all the items but one are from the same brand, which is a usual pet peeve of mine. But this box introduced me to two great brands with products I really enjoy, and with a theme I love (tea!). Unfortunately, Memebox no longer sells Miniboxes. This is just a flash back to better days.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Amoda Tea is BACK!

Box: Amoda Tea
Price: $18/month, including shipping
Ships to: North America
What’s inside: 4 different teas (3 cups each), tea filters 

Some of you may have remembered one of my favourite Canadian subscription boxes, Amoda Tea. Check out my previous blog posts about this sub here! I really love this company -- I even had a personal phone call with one of the owners, Darryl McIvor, to discuss what I liked about the company and learn about where they were heading. 

They ended up shutting down their subscription service a few months ago to focus on their storefront, which carries a variety of teas from several companies, many of which are local or ethically source from other countries. Though I know the quality of the teas is generally great, the thing keeping me from pulling the trigger on their regular store was the shipping costs. 

But now they're back! Here are differences between the old box and the new:
  • 4 different teas, instead of 3
  • Each tea sample makes about 3 cups, instead of 5-7
  • Tea filters are included with the box -- no need for your own strainer
  • A tea-sipping playlist is included with their usual tea-tasting notes and steeping instructions
  • $6 increase in price, from $12 to $18
So, do I think the price increase is worth it? Somewhat. Before, the box was incredibly great value, with 15-21 cups of tea for $12 -- less than a dollar a cup. Now, it is 12 cups for $18, $1.50 per cup. This is still not unreasonable, considering how much it can cost to buy loose leaf tea elsewhere, much less a good curation from a wide variety of companies -- plus shipping.

Am I going to resubscribe? I'm pretty sure I will. I'm moving things around in my budget and I do believe I'll be able to re-subscribe! With a cold winter coming, I can't wait. 

If you'd like to try out Amoda Tea's new box, use code WELCOMEBACK to nab your December box for $12.  

If you're not ready to commit to a monthly subscription, try out their single Tasting Boxes! I recommend the Must Haves, which contains Duchess' First Love, a tea I've reviewed in the past. Rainy Days contains one of my favourite sweet teas of all time, Caramel Toffee.

Happy tea drinking!

Monday, 17 November 2014

Ipsy November 2014 Review

Box: Ipsy (Referral link)
Price: $10/month, $110/year; $4.95 shipping to Canada
Ships to: North America
What’s inside: Various beauty product samples and full size products, very roughly personalized

This month's Ipsy features a glittery silver bag. The bag itself is actually coated in plastic so there's no fallout nor that gross sandpaper feeling. It's not my style though... but how about the products?

be delectable from Cake Beauty ultra nourishing hand cream in Coconut and Cream 60mL/2fl oz || Value: $6
Beneficial ingredients of note: glycerin (second ingredient), coconut oil (halfway through list), shea butter (halfway through list), coconut extract (last half of list), aloe juice (last half of list)
Detrimental ingredients of note: fragrance (first half of list; 9th ingredient)
I don't usually list glycerin as a beneficial ingredient even though it is, because it's so commonplace in any skin care item. The fact that I did is because this hand cream doesn't have much else going for it. There is more fragrance in this than coconut oil or shea butter! I could smell this through the packaging. Luckily, I got one of my favourite scents ever -- super sweet coconut. That alone is enough to make me use this, but not as intended. By my standards, this is not a hand cream, but a fragrance. It is ridiculous how strongly this smells. If I ever want to smell like coconut (which I do, all the time), I will use this. But only a little bit.

Beneficial ingredients of note: bentonite (second ingredient), witch hazel water (fourth ingredient), kaolin, niacinamide
Detrimental ingredients of note: plenty of potentially irritating botanicals, including lavender extract; fragrance (second last ingredient)
Oh, Glamglow. This is my first Glamglow product because I've hesitated to dig a hole in my pocket. $20 for this little sample! A lot of people really love this brand, but many argue that you can make the same at home without the added preservatives, botanicals, and fragrance. I agree, but there's something about the brand name which makes me so curious! I don't think I'll ever splurge on it myself, but I'm glad that I can try it now. I'm saving this mask-type cleanser for a pampering day.

Starlooks Gem Eye Pencil in Ultra Orchid Full size || Value: $17
Beneficial ingredients of note: none
Detrimental ingredients of note: none
I'm still a newbie to Starlooks, so while some are tired of this brand, I am absolutely not. I've been thinking about getting into coloured eye liners lately, and I got my favourite colour -- a deep purple. It's faintly shimmery, maybe with a hint of glitter. I can't wait to gather up the courage to try wearing it out. 

 J. Cat Beauty Wonder Lip Paint in Mad Splatter || Value: $4.99
Beneficial ingredients of note: none
Detrimental ingredients of note: parfum (second last ingredient)
This is my first lip tar, and such an affordable one! Others I've seen, such as the famous OCC lip tars, are quite expensive, even as samples. A tiny dot of this managed to produce the swatch below, which means this will last me just about forever. It will be great practice for me to decide on whether I'd like more of the same.

Be a Bombshell Eye Base in Submissive Full size? || Value: $14?
Beneficial ingredients of note: None
Detrimental ingredients of note: None
With nothing to compare it to, and no weights listed on the BaB website, I have no idea if this is full size or not! This is 0.09 oz, or 2.55 g. There have been a lot of complaints about this company concerning quality control. The mascara from a few months ago in particular was pretty rancid, if I remember correctly. This eye base seems totally fine in quality and its colour -- a subtle, shimmery taupe-brown -- is a good neutral. The fact that it comes from a company I'm not a fan of is clouding my opinions, though. I'm not sure if I will use this yet, since I have plenty of neutrals already.

Top to bottom: BaB, Starlooks, J. Cat
When I swiped this swatch with a finger before completely dry, the eye base proved itself to have zero staying power. I'm worried about how well it would stay on my eyes, which are quite oily. There was shimmery goodness all over my arm that would move everywhere, but not come off. It was basically gone after a quick hand wash. The eye pencil stayed very well; there was some smudging with my finger but it proved to be decently waterproof. The lip paint, after initial smudging due to not being dry, had incredible staining. After three hand washes and a shower, I could still see where I swatched it. I am very impressed with it, though I haven't used it on my lips yet.

Ipsy can be up or down for me, and this bag manages to be a bit of both. I am over the moon with the Glamglow, Starlooks, and J. Cat, as they are products I've been thinking of trying for ages and/or in colours I enjoy. The hand cream, while terrible ingredients wise, is one of my favourite scents. The eye base is rather disappointing though could technically get used, and the bag isn't going to be used at all. I paid $15 and got $62 worth of items; most coming from the Glamglow. Even without the dubiously full-sized eye base, I got over double what I paid for. So far, this bunny is sticking with Ipsy. Here's to next month!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Golden Tote October 2014 Review

A little late to the punch (when am I not?), but I decided to try and actually wear the items from my Golden Tote before reviewing! So here goes!

Box: Golden Tote (Referral link)
Price: $49 (1 chosen item + 1-2 surprise items), $149 (2 chosen items + 3-5 surprise items), ($25 flat rate international shipping)
Ships to: International
What’s inside: Clothing

October's tote partnered up with Keep A Breast to bring a special bag as well as a small gift, with proceeds going to the organization. I thought that was very kind of them and I'm always glad to help support breast cancer research, because it has affected my family quite a bit.

This month, I got a $149 tote and two add-ons, which is what I'll start with!

Merrick for Golden Tote Swing Dress in Teal (XXS) (cut+sew) || Value: $35
This dress refused to photograph. It is not quite a teal; I would call it more a deep (but not dark) cobalt blue. This is super comfortable; heavy enough for fall but light enough for a cool spring day. I did find that it wasn't flattering on me without a belt. It's just a touch too big on me in that way, but it looks great once belted. I was eying this since they released the initial colours in the summer, and I'm so glad I finally have my hands on it.

Vegan Leather Moto Jacket (S) (Thread Supply) || Value: $75
I was a bit worried that this would me too large for me, as I normally wear XS -- but this is pretty much perfect on me! A little roomy but that is what I wanted, in order to layer underneath. The arms are a touch long, but that's because I'm pretty short (5'0). This vegan leather jacket doesn't smell at all, and comes with a fabric hood that can be rolled up and zipped into the jacket. It has a little metal buckle at the collar if you decide to zip and button it up all the way. The lining is polyester, which is the only thing I didn't care for in this jacket. Otherwise, it's perfect and I expect to wear this very often.

Next, my two chosen items for the tote:

A-Line Swing Dress in Blue (XS) (Skies are Blue) || Value: $35 (original $46)
I was initially so-so about this dress, and only really picked it because I wasn't sure what else to get. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this dress is a slightly heavier polyester/spandex mix, making it very comfortable yet warm enough to wear on a fall day. Unlike the Merrick, I found that this looks fine unbelted as well. It's super versatile, as I can wear it with or without leggings and/or a belt, and the sleeves look nice both down and rolled up.  

Jetsetter Jacket in Beige (S) (Skies are Blue) || Value: $50
This faux-suede jacket felt really nice, and draped wonderfully and comfortably. Unfortunately, it was just too long on me, and I didn't feel like it was worth taking to a tailor. I've since sold it to someone on the wonderful Golden Tote Trading Group on Facebook. Absolutely wonderful quality, just not my size.

Now come the surprises! This month, I got four.

Southwestern Cardigan in Jewel (XS) (cut+sew) || Estimated value: $40?
Okay. This is absolutely beautiful in colour, flattering in cut, and super comfortable on. Except... the very first request in my comments was no tribal. I know that many Native American people are uncomfortable with the tribal print trend and in support of them, I refuse to wear tribal print that is not made by them. Regardless of my political affiliations, it's disappointing that my stylist chose this. There were multiple other surprises to choose from! I wish this came in a plain colour or pattern, because I really do want to wear it. The pattern is beautiful, but for things that other people hold special in their culture I prefer the "look, don't touch" approach, myself. This is up for trade/sale.

I hung the bracelet from Keep a Breast in this photo, because it is similarly tribal. I'm glad I somewhat donated to the organization, but this bracelet will not go to use.

Elbow Patch Dress (S) (Fantastic Fawn) || Estimated value: $30?
I actually really liked this, but it isn't my usual style and I know it wouldn't get used as often as I would like. It's also a little too curve-hugging for me to be completely comfortable, and the elbow patches are just a touch too low on my arms to look good. This is also up for trade/sale.

Blouse in Blue (S) (Naked Zebra) || Estimated value: $40?
I couldn't really come up with a name for this shirt, nor could I find it on the Naked Zebra website. Most of the clothing on their website runs $45 and up, but I wouldn't personally value it at that. This shirt is very flow-y, with a button-up back. The back is a bit longer than the front and is somewhat translucent; the front has an extra layer to cover up. Again, this is a bit big on me and not flattering, though others make it look great. I wish I got the teal colour!

Cowl Neck Sweater in Ivory (S) (Le Lis) || Value: $30?
I saw this in the spoiler images before the sale and knew it was totally my sort of style, and requested it. The knit on this sweater is nice, but it's done in a way that is very, um, loose. That is, I wouldn't recommend this for cool weather, because the wind goes right through it -- you can see your skin if you pull on the fabric slightly, and most bras would probably peek through if not a neutral colour. The waist and bottom of the shirt also leave much to be desired -- it's not fitted at all and is actually very unflattering on me if I don't have it tucked in the front. I also find this to be incredibly fragile -- I wore it for a day and found that the slightest point would catch on the fabric and pull little threads off, even my hangnails. Still, I like it. But I don't feel like it's going to last a long time.

Overall, I paid $254 including international shipping, and received maybe $335 worth of clothing. I love my two extra items and both my picked items (though one just didn't fit right), but my surprises were really disappointing to me. Luckily, the GT Trading Group is wonderful and there is almost always someone looking for any item I don't care for!

I still recommend Golden Tote, though not as much for people who are XS and petite because many of their items just do not cater to that population. They are very good at pointing out items in the boutique that are suitable for XS buyers, and they do note length on most items, so keep an eye out for those. The models themselves are typically 5'9-6'0, as well. Good luck tote-ing!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Whimseybox August 2014 Review

If you've read my last post about Whimseybox, you'll know that they've suddenly gone completely quiet. No e-mails, no responses from customer service, no social media posts. Their last Facebook post as of writing is September 9th, and they haven't even bothered to delete the complaints on their page. There have been reports about unauthorized charges to people who have already contacted Whimseybox about cancelling their subscription.

Anyway, here's the August box. I got this box in the first week of October. I got my July box so late that I didn't even bother reviewing it, even though it was a nice enough box (polymer clay jewelry).

Box Overview
Box: Whimseybox (Referral link for $5 off your subscription, if you really want to)
Price: $15/month, $45/3 months, $90/6 months, $165/yearly ($13.75 per box); $5 shipping surcharge per month to Canada
Ships to: US and Canada
What's inside: A monthly craft project with all/most of the supplies to make it, an art print, and the occasional extra.

The project included is a Pajaki, a paper chandelier of Polish origin. The name translates to "spider" so I don't recommend Googling it if you have arachnophobia! The kit includes a bunch of straws, a pack of cotton balls, a bunch of paper cupcake liners, a tiny paint brush, a palette of cheap watercolours, a ribbon, two metal rings (one large, one small), a needle, and some thick paper with circles of various sizes printed on it. While I realize that the lure of craft boxes is not the item value but the curation of them, I always liked that Whimseybox would include some things that I wouldn't, you know, have lying around my house. Compounded with the shipping and overall terrible service, this was just a massive disappointment. The only thing I can say is that I do like the art print on the card this month.

I've tried to cancel my subscription and it is still "pending". I think that I will be contacting my credit card company soon, as my subscription renews in November. I highly suggest you do the same.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Memebox Special Zero Cosmetics Review

When I saw that Memebox had a box dedicated to goodies formulated without harmful additives, I jumped on it. No alcohol, no sulfates? Count me in! This box shipped in early August.

Box Overview
Box: Memebox (Referral link)
Price: Varies -- typically $23 plus shipping
Ships to: United States, Canada, and over 40 other countries -- check here
What's inside: Korean beauty products. Specifics for each box may be found on their website.
Coupon: Use XW6C for $5 off your order!

Benton Snail Bee High Content Steam Cream Full size || Value: $18
Beneficial ingredients of note: snail secretion filtrate (first ingredient), sodium hyaluronate, niacinamide, bee venom, argan oil, urea, willow bark extract
Detrimental ingredients of note: none

The famous/now partially infamous Benton. Say what you want about Benton, but I have not personally been harmed by their products. There have been reports of some sort contamination in some products (their aloe toner and their essence), but it appears that has been dealt with. Regardless, you should always been carefully checking and patch testing your products.

Anyway, I only have good things to say about this cream. It's a heavy texture not greasy. I like that they've changed the packaging -- it used to be in a jar container, which is less sanitary. The ingredients list is nothing short of stellar. The bottom line is that this cream leaves my skin feeling good. I already have another one as a back up.

Para recipe Bombee Soap Full size || Value: $13 (according to Memebox)
Beneficial ingredients of note: propolis, honey extracts, jojoba oil
Detrimental ingredients of note: citron seed oil
No sign of an ingredients list on this soap; I've used what Memebox provided me with. I'm always weary about bar soaps since the pH is far too high for my skin. I've yet to open this one, and may gift it to a friend. Otherwise, I would only use it on the body. It smells sweet from the outside of the packaging, which is great -- but keep it away from the naughty bits, alright?

Innerface Shy Blossom Soothing Serum Full size || Value: $36
Beneficial ingredients of note: aloe, hyaluronic acid, tea tree water, sweet almond, evening primrose, olive oil
Detrimental ingredients of note: lavender oil, orange extract
No dice on the ingredients list for this one. I've yet to use this serum more that a few times. It looks like a cream (it's opaque white when dispensed), but applies like a lightweight gel in my opinion. It's refreshing, but I haven't used it enough to get any sort of benefit.

Nature's Friend SaeHaneul Eye & Nourishing Cream Full size || Value: $25
Beneficial ingredients of note: many vegetable/herb extracts, jojoba oil
Detrimental ingredients of note: N/A
I wasn't able to find a good ingredients list for this, and the box has gone missing so I can't attempt to translate! I haven't used this eye cream much since I am trying to use up my other ones, but when I did use it there were no negative side effects.

Easydew Fresh Mild Sun Block SPF50+ PA+++ 7mL/0.24oz || Value: ~$2.38
Beneficial ingredients of note: ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate 7.5%, titanium dioxide 4.25%, ethylhexyl salicylate 2%, octocrylene 2%
Detrimental ingredients of note: alcohol denat (near end of list), fragrance (last ingredient)
Wait, I thought there wasn't supposed to be any alcohol in this box! Oh well. It's almost a given for the majority sunscreens that alcohol will be somewhere in the ingredients list. Most have it near the top of the list, so kudos to this one. It's both a chemical and physical sunscreen, and it's nothing special. There is a white cast. It reminds me of most American sunscreens.

All Nature Organic Mask Sheet Full size x 4 || Value: $6 x 4? (according to Memebox)
Beneficial ingredients of note: aloe, sodium hyaluronate, centella asiatica extract, ginkgo biloba extract, + the ingredient listed on the front (broccoli, blueberry, blackbean, houttuynia cordata)
Detrimental ingredients of note: N/A
DISCLAIMER: The ingredients above were translated by me. I cannot guarantee that the ingredients are 100% accurate nor in the correct order. This is not a full translation of the ingredients lists for any of the masks.
I was pretty amazed that Memebox managed to fit four masks in this box. They are sheet masks that are apparently >50% organic extracts. I used the blueberry one so far, it was nothing super special. I did not see anything that pointed to alcohol on the ingredients lists, so they get thumbs ups anyway. As for what houttuynia cordata is? It's a common Vietnamese herb, found in Asia. People usually describe it as tasting fishy. Apparently, it has antibacterial properties. I'm interested to see if the mask works.

If these values are presumed to be correct, this means that this box -- which I got for $23 plus shipping -- was a whopping $120. Even counting all four masks as $6 collectively, that is still a value of $100. My only complaint is that I will not personally use these items to their full extent, sans the Benton cream and the masks. The rest are just sort of extra items that are alright, but not something I am going to go ga-ga over and use every day. Yet I still get my money's worth if I look at the value based purely on the cream and masks, plus shipping! Good job, Memebox.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Ipsy October 2014 Review

Another month, another Ipsy -- and I feel like the craze has died down a bit? Maybe it's just me, but I feel like left and right people have been dropping Ipsy for boxes that aren't subscriptions -- for instance, Golden Tote or Memebox (referral links). It may be that these services give a bit more semblance of choice, or more bang for your buck. Still, Ipsy is a nice pick-me-up in the mail, since I don't have to sign for it! 

Box: Ipsy (Referral link)
Price: $10/month, $110/year; $4.95 shipping to Canada
Ships to: North America
What’s inside: Various beauty product samples and full size products, very roughly personalized

Look at the bag this month. It's teal. I love teal. It's made of a durable plastic with a fabric lining. It doesn't seem like it will hold a whole bunch (for example, it didn't hold the wipes along with the other products), but... it's teal. Regardless of how the items turn out, I'm A-OK with Ipsy this month.

City Color Be Matte Lipstick in Cappuccino Full Size || Value: $5
Beneficial ingredients of note: mineral oil (first ingredient)
Detrimental ingredients of note: none
I'm pretty sure nude lipsticks are the bane of my existence. They always make me look washed out and unkept. I've yet to find one for me. This lipstick looks less brown and muted than other nudes I've seen, but until I see swatches on people with similar skin tones as me, I'm not taking my chances -- this goes directly into the trade/gift bin.

Jesse's Girl Mineralized Baked Shadow Powder in Esmeralda Full Size || Value: $3.99
Beneficial ingredients of note: mineral oil
Detrimental ingredients of note: none
This shadow has some beautiful packaging. It is physically raised in a dome shape to give an even more planetary look to it. Yet I was also pretty disappointed with this colour, as other colours available (Plum Frost, Rosemary Frost, Ocean Breeze, Graphite Frost, Kiwi Shine) seemed so much more vibrant and beautiful. I was pleasantly surprised, though. Here, some swatches (primer is Bellapierre Make-up Base):

The pictures really don't do it justice. It's a bit of a mix of white, light gold, reddish brown, and taupe (thanks to the mix of the two). It even seems a bit green at some angles. It's a difficult colour to place, even in the pan. Though it is pigmented enough to use without primer (the colour just doesn't show up well on my skin), primer is definitely suggested to get the most out of this shadow. I'm generally pleased with this, though I'm not sure how I'm going to work this into any looks.

Skyn Iceland Mini Glacial Cleansing Cloths 5 Cloths || Value: ~$5
Beneficial ingredients of note: sodium lauroamphoacetate, aloe juice (seventh ingredient), various fruit, vegetable, and flower extracts, jojoba oil, willow bark extract
Detrimental ingredients of note: some citrus enzymes (end of list), parfum (last ingredient)
I'm just not a fan of facial wipes. I will use them as a pre-wash before my double cleanse, effectively washing my face three times... if I counted them as washing my face. To be honest, I find facial wipes useless. These wipes, which use sodium lauroamphoacetate (a very gentle cleansing ingredient) are somewhat unique to other wipes I've used in that they actually have a soapy texture to them, instead of being seeped with liquid. I used one wipe on my arm in ten circular motions to try and get off the eyeshadow.

Can you still see the eyeshadow gleam? I can. The wipe effectively pushed the produce all along my arm. It took another 10-20 wipes to clean the swipe of eyeshadow off, and there's still some leftover particles. I can't say I'm super impressed with it's cleaning power. However, it felt very refreshing and light.

KISS iENVYbyKISS Lashes in Au Naturale 02 Full Size || Value: $2.99
Beneficial ingredients of note: N/A
Detrimental ingredients of note: N/A
What am I supposed to say about this? They're fake lashes. I don't wear them. It's kind of creepy that they use real human hair, when you think about it, but it also makes sense. It comes with its own glue, which is nice. I'm not going to use this.

Figs & Rouge Hand Cream in Rose Berry Full Size || Value: ~$6.30
Beneficial ingredients of note: shea butter (fourth ingredient), cocoa nut butter (halfway through list), algae (last half of list), ginseng root extract (last half of list)
Detrimental ingredients of note: parfum (halfway through list)
I was sad that I didn't get the other scent option for this hand cream, Mango Tangerine! I guess it's for the better, since I like to avoid citrus extracts. This cream actually smelled quite nice, too -- neither the rose nor the berry scent overwhelmed the other, and the smell wasn't overwhelming in general. I was surprised at how quickly this soaked in. It was basically like putting water on my hands. Unfortunately, it still leaves quite a residue on my keyboard, phone, etc. It will be a perfect hand cream for work.

This month's Ipsy contained four full sized products and one travel sized product for a total of approximately $23. I paid $15 for this, so the value is underwhelming when not considering the bag, which is at least $10. I love the bag, and that makes this month worth it to me. Otherwise, I'm not overly impressed by any of the products. I'm not using the lipstick nor the eyelashes, and the wipes will be relegated to wiping off swatches I make for reviews. The eyeshadow is nice but difficult for a eye-makeup newbie like me to handle, and the hand cream is good but doesn't overcome the rest of the products.

It seems that I too am falling out of love with monthly subscription services. No plans to cancel Ipsy yet, but we will see what the future holds in store.