Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: Neutrogena Cosmetics

I am not a morning person.

If there is one detail about me that you remember, it should probably be that.

That being said, I am always looking for products that make my morning routine as quick and painless as possible. This is my third time being part of a Neutrogena campaign for BzzAgent - the first time around I fell in love with their cosmetics, especially the eye liner, and the second time my hands got a second life with the Norwegian formula hand lotion.

Once again I got the chance to try out some Neutrogena cosmetics and I was super psyched for the opportunity. This time my BzzKit included:

  • Neutrogena® MoistureSmooth Color Sticks for sheer, shiny color that continuously conditions lips
  • Neutrogena® Healthy Lengths Mascara for 100% longer looking lashes
  • Neutrogena® Crease Proof Eye Shadows for 12-hour wear that instantly revives and brightens eyes (2 Shades)

My Ractions:
I love eye shadow but throughout the day it tends to fall and irritate my contact lenses. The crease proof eye shadow not only lasts all through work - so at least 8 hours - but it also doesn't clump and is extremely easy to apply. The whole process takes under a minute from start to perfect. I usually just have to blend it at the edges with my finger for a flawless look.

The MoistureSmooth lip color is really fun. I got a nice light pink shade and it's also really easy to put on. The color doesn't stay all day, but it usually lasts longer than my first cup of coffee which is nice. Plus, the re-apply takes like no time.

Unfortunately, the mascara doesn't really stand out to me. It works great, don't get me wrong, but there's nothing about it that differentiates it from about a thousand other mascara formulas out there - or the dozens that I've personally tried. Although, ff you're in the market for a decent brand of mascara, the Neutrogena one is definitely worth adding to your collection.

I received this product from BzzAgent for free. My opinions are my own. For more information on Campaigns like this one, please visit bzzagent.com.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: Playtex Secrets Bra (Style #4823)




March 17, 2013

I just received my BzzKit with my Playtex Secrets bra yesterday, and I'm pretty excited to try it out. I haven't done a lot of product testing that actually involved wearing something so when I got this opportunity, I jumped right on it. (Or, I guess clicked right on it, since the invitation had to be accepted by clicking a button..)

My first thoughts when I tried it on was that it might be too much bra for me. I may have big boobs, but I'm super petite and have a small-ish frame, so I usually prefer something that has a little less coverage so I don't feel like I'm drowning in undergarments.  Also, the "comfort strap" style that might be pined over by someone of an older generation doesn't fit very well with my 27 year-old style. I definitely wouldn't be able to wear this in the summer with a strappy dress or quite a few of my tank tops. On the other hand, 10 months out of the year I'm a teacher and that still leaves plenty of wardrobe options where the Playtex Secrets bra would be an extremely functional option.

The bra is in the balconette style which is something new to me. I can't wait to see how it wears.

**
10 days later..

Now that I've had a chance to wear it a few times I can see both the pros and cons of the bra.

Pros: The bra provided excellent coverage. There is no room for spillover and everything pretty much stays right where it's supposed to. The wider back creates a smoothing effect and makes tops/dresses lay flat without any of the usual bra lines. This bra is extremely supportive and eliminates the need for layering in many cases.

Cons: The bra seems to hold in heat. This may be a result of the material or just because there is a lot of it. Either way, it doesn't seem like it would be a productive option for warmer weather. The coverage is a bit excessive for petite women. Also, even though it's part of the sexy fit collection, it's not very attractive and colors seem to be limited.

Conclusion: The Playtex Secrets bra is extremely functional but not altogether practical for all year use. I was happy with the coverage but I stand by my first impression that it might be too much bra for me. It was a bit overwhelming and sweat provoking. I won't be getting rid of it anytime soon because I loved how smooth it made my back, but it's definitely a daytime bra because there's nothing particular cute or sexy about it.

I received this product from BzzAgent for free. My opinions are my own. For more information on Campaigns like this one, please visit bzzagent.com.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review: Birchbox (March)



The thing I love most about Birchbox, besides the price tag, is that it lets me try out products before I buy them. Essentially the monthly box gives you a small selection of beauty products in larger than normal sample sizes. It's a great way to preview new products before you decide to splurge on the full-size option.

For only $10 a month you get usually between 4-5 items curated by the Birchbox team. This is my fourth month getting the box and I still think it's fully worth it. Before the box ships I get an e-mail with a link to a sneak peek video that gives me some idea of what to expect. There's usually one or two things that they talk about that don't end of in my box and I like being able to guess which items will turn up when my box finally arrives. The sneak peak gives me a pretty good idea of some of the bigger items I'll get, but there's always a few surprises which I like.

Below is the sneak peak for the March box:



This month I got:

 
 

My Reactions:
  • Madwell for Birchbox - I was pretty excited about the emery board because besides being adorably floral patterned, I was in desperate need of a new one. I am constantly changing my nail polish color and reshaping my nails, so this will definitely come in handy.
  • Make - The Make products both came in a very cute re-closeable bag which is a great place to store them until I try them out. It's a great way to isolate them from the make-up that I use on a regular basis and serves a reminder that they're there - the other option being that they get lost in the endless supply of make-up that I've seemed to accumulate.
  • Whish - Even though the shaving cream is completely practical, I don't tend to use it. I shave mostly in the shower and just rely on the water and body wash. I'll use it, don't get me wrong, but that's where my relationship with the brand will probably end.
  • Oscar Blandi - I love thickening products. I feel like the longer my hair gets, the thinner it feels. The Oscar Blandi hair lift will be used up in no time! Also, it's definitely a product that I'm looking for, so it might be one of the things I end up buying afterwards.
Another month of great scores with Birchbox. I can't wait to see what comes in April!

Do you subscribe to Birchbox or any related monthly boxes? Let me know!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: Pink Fancy Box (February)

As I mentioned in my last Fancy Box review, I broke down and ordered one of the A+ Fancy Boxes curated by Pink. It seemed like a no brainer when I saw a $25 off promo code on my favorite subscription box review site - My Subscription Addiction.

No, it's not because I'm ├╝ber cheap (hold all the Jew jokes) - I was hesitant before because I had already seen the overlap between the regular Fancy Box and the Ashton Kutcher curated box. Considering the stuff inside the boxes, although fun and sometimes useful, are altogether unnecessary bonuses - I didn't really want to pay for the same thing twice.

I had a good feeling and was dying (in a very non-literal sense obviously) to see how Pink'd out it was. Unfortunately, the box was a complete disappointment. Instead of the 5-6 items that I had come to expect, there were only 4 things in this box. This might have been fine, except that a) the box cost $9 more than my regular Fancy Box, and b) they were not that interesting or particularly useful.

 
Since I was home with what my assistant called the flu (I just called it a severe cold), the shirt was the most practical item in the box. It was really soft and fit perfectly. However, my t-shirt drawer is already overflowing and since I only wear them to bed or gym, has limited use. Also, the Ace bottle opener looked pretty cool - except I absolutely did not need another bottle opener. Now, if it was a corkscrew (like the fun parrot shaped one that came in my March PopSugar Must Have box) that would have been another story. 
 
When I first saw the cards (saw not read), I thought the third item was daisy-covered nylons which seemed like something I might wear given the right outfit - but, sadly no. Instead I found a set of crayons dubbed "body art paint." Although I tend to write important things on my hands from time to time, I don't usually doodle on myself. And then there was the "Atlas of Remote Islands," which frankly I just don't understand how that was even an option.
 
On top of the tangible items, there was also a "gift code" for $20 to use at CanvasPop.com. It's a nice gesture, but I already checked and almost everything will cost you additional money once you add shipping and handling.
 
Nothing in this box was particularly interesting to me and they definitely didn't scream "Pink picked me special for you!" For the 21 dollars and change I paid, I can't complain too much - especially because I spent all 3 "flu" inflicted days enjoying the comfort of the vintage-soft shirt - but I did immediately cancel my subscription for the Pink Fancy Box. Better luck with Coco Rocha!
 
Item Breakdown:
  • Beautiful Tee - $24
  • Ace Bottle Opener - $20
  • Body Art Paint - $20
  • Atlas Of Remote Islands - $30
Total - $94
 
The value is great, too bad the products weren't something that appealed to me more.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Beautiful Creatures: How Did The Movie Stand Up To The Book; Or, Why The Film Should Be Renamed 'Beautiful Disaster'



How did the movie Beautiful Creatures stand up to the book? To simply say 'it didn't' would be an injustice to fans of the series.

Within the first five minutes of the film I considered both walking out and/or asking in a very unfriendly way for a refund. As the characters that I had been introduced to in the novels were reintroduced to me on the screen, I began to wonder if I had misunderstood the basis of the movie. It quickly became clear to me that the screenwriter had not read the same source material that I had, and to say that he took creative liberties would be like saying Hurricane Katrina was just a minor disturbance in the NOLA night life.

I'm sure, or at least I'd like to believe so, that I'm in good company when I say that I sat there mildly horrified and extremely confused as what unfolded on screen bastardized the world created by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. I left the theater fairly certain that I had read the wrong book. Either that, or I was intoxicated, because clearly what I had just seen was not the Beautiful Creatures that I had read. A thought that occurred only seconds before remembering that I had already promised a co-worker that I would come back and see the movie with her, assuring her earlier that day with: "I definitely will want to see this one more than once."

From the Southern accents that were overdone to a point where they became almost comedic to the combining/elimination of key characters to the complete disregard for the original story, I can only be sure that the movie was loosely based on some parts of the book series - and then placed somewhat out of order.



Without completely over analyzing for you a movie that missed the mark by several large continents at the very least, let me run down a few of the elements that were missing or ignored and ultimately led to this enormous fail - starting with Ethan making his own eggs.

  • Where was Marian? Or, more appropriately where was the real Amma? The most obvious error in judgement was combining the characters of Amma and Marian. In the book, Amma is a seer. She is also Ethan's housekeeper/nanny/maternal figure. As the series goes on, Amma takes on an added importance that cannot be duplicated or combined with that of another character. She is the catalyst for a series of events that transforms the entire story. Equally important, but in an altogether different way, is the guidance that Ethan gets from Marian. Marian is his deceased mother's best friend and colleague. She uses her unique knowledge as a Keeper to guide Ethan with his Caster-related dilemmas. Both of these characters are essential in the three remaining books - Beautiful Darkness, Beautiful Chaos, and Beautiful Redemption.

  • Macon has a heart - and then the movie crushed it. Yes, if you read the book you already know that Lena's uncle, Macon Ravenwood's one true love was Ethan's mother, Lila Evers. However, this is a book two revelation that comes as part of a bigger storyline - a revelation which has now been stripped of its proper placement and butchered without so much as adding anything to the movie itself.

  • Why reinvent the wheel? Not only were the big things too much to keep intact, apparently so were the details. Lena's necklace is supposed to be a chunky eye-sore that she never took off. Caster eyes are always green. Macon is an incubus - not a caster - who can't go out in the daylight and uses his dog, Boo Radley, to keep tabs on things. Larkin is really a dark caster. Ridley has long blonde hair with pink streaks and sucks on lollipops all day long. Ethan's father is a shut in. Uncle Abner loves 'Wild Turkey' whiskey and lemon meringue pie. Any of this ringing a bell? Well, if you didn't read the book it wouldn't since none of it made the cut. Some of these details could have easily been included without any extra work.

After now seeing the movie not once, but twice, I have very few positive thoughts to offer. Besides the aforementioned problems with the content, the film itself was disjointed, overacted, poorly cast and just plain, unforgivingly bad. The only thing that it unquestionably has going for it is that it looks good visually. The Director of Photography should be commended for the stellar shots and I'm sure there's a location scout or two that deserve a high five. Unfortunately, audiences will forgive a film that is shot poorly in exchange for a compelling story, not the other way around. The story literally felt as if someone had read the back cover and decided to write a screenplay about it. I'm not sure exactly where the disconnect took place, but if this was supposed to be based on the novel of the same name, 'Beautiful Disaster' would have been a more appropriate title.

I hope that someone, somewhere learns from this mistake and decides in a couple of years to start back at the drawing board. This book was written for cinematic release and required very few changes to have been a success, and if done the right way absolutely could be one in the future. Take heed, fans of book series will swarm behind the finished product if it even feels like you tried to give them what they want.



For more in the way of an official review of the film, check out Jonathan Lack's (Denver Post Columnist) via We Got This Covered. My favorite quote from his review is "For the record, Beautiful Creatures only gets a full star because it is the lowest our review system will allow me to assign. "

*Update: Furthermore, there was no kelting, sixteen moons song, crossword puzzles, or red hots..

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Review: Fancy Box (February)



One of the nice things about being young, single, and fully employed is a somewhat disposable income. I've recently become addicted to monthly subscription boxes and one of my favorites is the Fancy Box.

When I first signed up there was only one box available and you could customize it by choosing from several categories to fill it with (Men's, Women's, Kids, Pets, Home, Gadgets, Media, Sports & Outdoors, Workspace). I chose women's, home, gadgets, and media. However, if workspace had been a choice at the beginning, I would have added that too.
The Fancy now offers some more creative options for its' boxes including a gourmet food box and what they call A+ boxes, which basically means it's been curated by a celebrity. The growing list of celebs include Ashton Kutcher, Pink, and Coco Rocha.

This is my third month getting the regular Fancy Box - but I did cave and order the Pink one which should come later this month (?) - and it is my favorite one so far!  

The box is basically filled with stuff that I would never buy because it's all sold at completely inflated prices, but for $30 a box (I think prices have went up since I originally signed up, due to popularity) I am loving the value. Each box comes with $80+ of fun products. Even if there's one thing that might not fit my personality, it's always a fun "just because" gift to give someone.


Everything in this box is something that I can use, and even a couple that I had a legit need for. The chord organizer is perfect for my messy desk and with the impending snow storm blowing into the Chicago-area as I type, I'm sure the scarf will come in handy. Plus, and this might sound odd, I don't own an ice cube tray.

I priced the items in my February Fancy Box and came up with ---

Hot Chocolate on a Stick by Popbar - $3
Cold Fish Ice Cube Tray by Gama-Go - $15
Homemade Cookie Stamper - $15
iHM63 Speaker by iHome - $25
Cordies - $15
Chunky Knit Infinity Scarf - $16

-- bringing the grand total to a whopping $89.

Check out Fancy Box and let me know what you think!