Birchbox – February 2012

My February Birchbox came and after reviewing all the products I have to say I am feeling a little… flat (pun intended). But truthfully this month’s theme seems to be “flat” beauty products, if you can believe that: eye make-up wipes, powder puffs, and eyeliner strips:

My February 2012 Birchbox Contained:

1. BENTA BERRY G-1 Moisturizing Face Cream ($22 for 30 ml). My favorite product this month! I do love this moisturizer, it is so very french in scent, is so clean and soft on the skin and lasts quite a while. I will absolutely be getting a full-size of this wonderful moisturizer.

2. Eye Rock Designer Liner ($13 for two sets of liners). I have a confession: I haven’t tried these out yet. Designer liner doesn’t feel appropriate for the office so I will have to wait for a special occasion to rock these cat-eye liner strips. I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted on how these turn out.

3. colorescience pro® Pressed Mineral Foundation ($50 for 0.42 oz). I brought this Puff on my road trip with Mom to see my sister at Indiana University this weekend and it was a life-saver. The little is full of about 3-4 days of mineral make-up which you can layer for additional coverage. I used this in place of my usual concealer (which I forgot) and powder and it worked really well and lasted +12 hours. Very impressed with this little puff!

4. LA FRESH® Eco Beauty Waterproof Makeup Remover – Pouch of 24 ($9.99 for one pouch of 24 wipes). These were also a life-saver on my road trip when I was running around but they weren’t really a stand-out from other makeup removers I’ve tried. I still had to moisturize after using these even though the package says it will condition your skin after use.

EXTRA: I received two extras this month (1) a hot pink heart-shaped nail file board and (2) six free songs from Green River Ordinance.

Ashley

Past Birchboxes:

January 2011.

December 2011.

November 2011.

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A Tiffany Surprise

Last Tuesday Ian and I had a lovely Valentine’s Day complete with delicious salmon and chocolate-covered strawberries. We exchanged sweet gifts and just enjoyed a relaxing evening in.

So you can imagine my surprise when last Friday I received a few little blue boxes:

Bravo, Ian. I never saw it coming! He bought me a lovely set of rose gold and diamond jewelry which are the most breathtaking pieces I have ever seen. My first pieces of Tiffany jewelry and I can’t help but be incredibly impressed with the craftsmanship of each piece (and those lovely blue boxes).

Gentlemen, if you ever want to truly surprise a girl, give her a gift when she least expects it.

And for those of you who are still awaiting your first little blue box, I hope you receive yours very soon!

Ashley

My January Birchbox

It… finally… came. Sadly my “January” box didn’t arrive until January 30th and the last few days I have been test driving the products so unfortunately this post comes a few days into February. But I have to say, it was worth the wait this month.

My January 2012 Birchbox Contained:

1. Juicy Couture – Viva La Juicy – 3.4 oz. This perfume smells delicious but since I already found my signature scent, I suspect I’ll be sticking with my signature scent from Jo Malone.

2. stila Smudge Stick Waterproof Eye Liner. I had a lovely brown eyeliner from stila which I used all-up (and I’m not sure why I didn’t buy another). stila has a great eyeliner formula – however the color I got from Birchbox this month was ‘peacock’, a bright teal blue which I just don’t see myself wearing. But Birchbox has a neutral-looking brown on the website and I think I would really love that.

3. BORGHESE CuraForte Moisture Intensifier. This is an interesting product meant to boost your moisturizer however so far I have not experienced any real moisture boosts since using it. Maybe I’m using it wrong? Has anyone tried this?

4. Jouer Body Butter. This body butter smells divine – so mature and sophisticated and the formula is silky but not slimy. I really enjoy this stuff!

5. LÄRABAR Mini Bars. Each bar has nine ingredients max and no ‘icky’ ingredients. And this month I happened to get a flavor I would have never tried on my own but am so glad I did – Coconut Cream Pie. Confession: I am not a huge fan of coconut, especially coconut texture. But this little bar was smooth, not overly chewy and the taste took me to a beach in the tropics – so summer-y and delicious!

EXTRA: A small Birchbox magnet for the fridge (and matches my hot pink kitchen perfectly!).

Am I too scared of colored eyeliner? Does anyone have any thoughts for wearing colored eyeliner after Halloween?

Ashley

Past Birchboxes:

November 2011.

December 2011.

Discovering Your Signature Scent

There is something so intimate and personal about finding your “scent”. For a while I went through a phase where I only wore Chanel Chance, then only Calvin Klein Euphoria. And while I think these scents are fabulous, I always felt like I had never found my “scent”.

Luckily, one weekend my mother and I were running some errands in Nordstroms and I happened upon the Jo Malone fragrance counter. I remembered loving Jo Malone when I smelt it in London back in August but didn’t actually purchase anything. After a few moments playing around at the counter, we learned that you can combine Jo Malone scents to make your own ‘scent’ – there’s even a combining menu online (http://www.jomalone.com/FragranceCombining/index.tmpl?CATEGORY_ID=CATEGORY22654 so fun)!

My fragrance combination:

Vintage Gardenia and Orange Blossom – sweet yet sophisticated, understated but still powerful.

I loved all the boxes my bottles were wrapped in too (and if you buy on Jo Malone, they do free shipping… I am a sucker for free shipping). I’ve placed my two bottles on a shelf in the bedroom with a childhood pictures of my dad and they look so sophisticated. And wasn’t my dad a little charmer with his patterned bow-tie?

But all said and done, it is very exciting to have discovered a scent I feel is truly me.

What’s your signature scent?

Ashley

What’s in My Make-Up Bag

Seeing what a woman keeps in her make-up bag is like being let into a secret back room of her personality. It’s the invisible arsenal she depends on to present her image of herself to the world. Sydney, over at The Daybook, just did this (http://www.thedaybookblog.com/2012/01/mama-beauty.html) and I couldn’t help but be inspired to do my own version.

My kit is the result of a long journey involving years of poor decisions (I used to have a thing for bronze eyeliner, oh the shame) which taught me the golden rule: less is more. Generally, I focus on highlighting one feature – either my eyes or lips and keep the rest as simple and natural as possible.

My favorite products have evolved over the years but I feel I have finally found a core set of cosmetics which I can turn to everyday. Typically I turn to products which multi-task the most and that can be layered to create a dramatic look if necessary.

Starting at the top and then moving clockwise:

1:: Bobbi Brown Sheer Finish Loose Powder in Pale Yellow ($35 at bobbibrowncosmetics.com). This is the best loose powder I have ever found – it helps my make-up stay put for hours and is very sheer and clean-feeling.

2:: a generic Eyebrown brush (usually under $1 at most Walgreens). Even though I have very thin and light eyebrows, I still need to keep them groomed. This little brush works like magic after I apply my eyebrow mascara – just wait a minute for the mascara to set and then swipe it through your eyebrows to soften and polish the look.

3:: blinc Mascara in Black ($24 at birchbox.com). This is the most expensive mascara I have ever tried but I really love it. All of the blinc mascaras have ‘tube technology’ which coats your lashed in a tube and which come off in the shower with a little soap and water. It’s so much less messy than normal mascara (and less harsh than waterproof mascaras) and it’s actually fun to slide off your mascara at night. Weird but worth a try if you’re looking for an innovative beauty splurge.

4:: Cargo Eyeliner in black. This isn’t actually made anymore as far as I can tell but any well-formulate black eyeliner can really emphasize your eyes. I love a demure cat-eye for work – it looks wonderful and still professional.

5:: Bobbi Brown Eyebrow Mascara in Brown. This, unfortunately, is also no longer available but a good eyebrow mascara can help you shape your brows and fill in sparse spaces without looking theatrical.

6:: Physician’s Formula Gentle Cover Concealer Stick in Fair ($6 at the Physcian’s Formula website). This concealer is a fabulous all-purpose which swipes on cleanly. I always blend this in around my under-eye area with my ring finger (gives the least amount of pressure) and it stays on all day. And let’s be honest – you can’t beat the price!

7:: Maybelline Dream Mousse Blush in a shade no longer available but very similar to the #25 Pink Frosting shade (about $7 at Walgreens). A bright pink shade in a sheer formula looks so flattering on every skin-type and this formula is easy to use and blend.

8:: Pür Minerals 4-in-1 Pressed Mineral Foundation with SPF 15 in Light ($25 at birchbox.com). I received a sample of this in my July Birchbox and have been obsessed since. This sheer formula have be built-up to cover just about anything and it lasts all day (not to mention the added SPF protection).

What do you keep in your make-up bag?

Ashley

Losing Weight & My AeroPilates Home Studio Rebounder

AeroPilates 4 Corded Home Studio Rebounder, available on QVC.com

Since it is the start of 2012, I have been thinking about getting healthy quite a bit. Last January, I weighed my heaviest ever as a result of lots of unhealthy eating and drinking after my father passed away. When I stepped on the scale I remember thinking that I would never be able to overcome the weight gain. But, luckily, I decided to try to get healthy and lose some weight despite my skepticism and I am soooo glad that I did. In 2011, I dropped two dress sizes and over 15 lbs, I ran my first 5K and my BMI dropped down from ‘overweight’ to ‘normal’. I actually weigh less now than I did when I was 13.

For those of you out there who are starting a weight loss journey – stick with it! Reaching a healthy goal weight is one of the most satisfying lifevestments you can do for yourself. That said, it is important to reach your goals in a healthy and sustainable way. I had a goal of losing 1 lb every two weeks – I didn’t reach that goal last year but as your body fat percentage drops, losing more weight gets more difficult.

While my regime was a mixture of both exercise and nutrition, I found that my body responded much more to nutrition changes than any amount of exercise.

5 Tips for Keeping Your Eating Healthy

1. Drink LOTS of water. This is key! I carry a re-useable water bottle with me everywhere.

2. Eat your fruits & vegetables. For those of you who aren’t used to incorporating fruits and vegetables into your diet 5 times a day, start by setting smaller goals. Last January I had a goal of two servings of fruits and vegetables a day, then in February I upped this to three servings and in March, four servings per day. This may sound slow but it gave me time to plan and adjust to my new lifestyle.

3. Make sure you eat lean protein. I find that the more protein I incorporate into my diet, the better I feel. Lean cuts of protein and seafood are all healthy sources of protein that you should incorporate into every meal. If you are a vegetarian incorporate lots of legumes and soy into your diet.

4. Drink tea. I have an enormous sweet tooth… or I did until last year. If you have one too, the best practice I found was to pause before grabbing a sweet and instead drink a cup of tea. If I still wanted the sweet after the tea, then I ate it but often I found that the tea filled me up and I no longer wanted that piece of chocolate.

5. Experiment. Healthy websites everywhere tell you to eat a large breakfast. While I agree with eating breakfast everyday, I often consume most of my daily calories at dinner when we go out with friends so I had to adjust this advice. I find if I have a small-ish breakfast and lunch, it helps me off-set the slightly unhealthy but realistic habit I have of going out for dinner or snacking after work. So my advice: experiment with what works for you and your lifestyle. I did everything healthy websites told me to do such as eat five meals a day, eat a big breakfast, etc but once I found what worked for me, the weight came off much easier.

The AeroPilates Home Studio Rebounder

But that said, nutrition is only half the battle. Losing weight will happen faster and show more if you tone and exercise your body properly. When I was young, I was extremely inflexible – though I was in gymnastics for three years, I was never able to do the splits. As I got older, my breast grew in and my posture started to worsen. Last January I decided that a good exercise regime for me would be to work on increasing my core strength (with additional leg and arm workouts) so I did some research and discovered pilates. Pilates is extremely useful for increasing core strength and also helps with flexibility and all-over toning. My mother had purchased an Aeropilates rebounder on QVC a few months earlier so I decided to give it a try. After one workout I was completely hooked! You can get a full-body workout with the potential to up the resistance with the tension cords. After using this machine a month, I was able to touch my toes for the first time in over a decade and I started to see some ab definition. A plus: the workouts are about stretching and resistance so I hardly even sweat but still get a killer workout.

Currently QVC has the 4-cord home studio pilates rebounder priced on clearance at $333.36 but the great thing about QVC is that they offer easy-pay and you can get the rebounder for 4-payment installations of $84.34. It sounds like a lot, but it’s less than the annual price of most gyms (at least here in Chicago) and mine has lasted through countless uses. My mom’s has lasted over two years now without any problems too.

The videos that come with the AeroPilates are good but are taped with a weird pace. What I do is watch the workouts until I have them memorized and now I can do my full workout at my own pace (with higher resistance) without the videos. The nice thing is that AeroPilates makes several levels of tapes so once you have worked through the Level 1 workout enough, you can buy Level 2 and Level 3 DVDs which change-up the workout and increase the intensity.

What are your tips and tricks for getting healthy in the new year?

Ashley

My December Birchbox

My December Birchbox finally came in the mail yesterday. Apparently there was a delay with their distribution supply company and I was awarded Birchbox points for the wait. I can’t help but appreciate when companies take initiative to please their customers like that. So many times I have felt like my business didn’t mean anything to a particular company. Usually I solve this by “voting with my dollars” as Ian would say and just not shop with that company again. I was so surprised that Birchbox took initiative to email me about why my box had been delayed and to award me points for the wait.

Thank you Birchbox for having class!

As I have said before, I adore Birchbox. I have found several of my favorite beauty and lifestyle products through their service and I really enjoy getting a small box of goodies each month. When I saw my December box in my post-Christmas mail pile, I was very excited to see what I would get.

 My December 2011 Birchbox Contained:

1. Benefit The POREfessional ($29 for full-size). Despite Benefit being a popular beauty brand, this is the first product I have ever tried from them. The POREfessional is meant to act as pore-minimizing primer. When I put it on it when on cleanly like velvet and helped my concealer go on very easily. I’m always in the market for a good primer and this one may very well make it to my make-up bag.

2. Harvey Prince Yogini – 8.8 ml ($26 for full-size). The scent was so-so. Yogini is supposed to be a more sophisticated ‘new-age’ scent. While I like the concept, the scent didn’t live up to its promise. But then again I have never enjoyed Harvey Prince scents so if you are a fan you may enjoy this.

3. Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse® OR Multi-Usage Dry Oil Shimmer 50 ml ($40 for 50 ml). This stuff was fun – a dry oil with a subtle gold shimmer which is perfect for a night out or a tropical vacation. However since I do not often go out to gold-shimmer appropriate events so I’ll just save the trial-size for my next tropical vacation (here’s wishing).

4. Jouer Moisturizing Lip Gloss ($20 for full-size). This was a nice formula and a pretty pink color but didn’t seem to last very long. I’m going to give it a few more test runs but I’ll likely be sticking with my regular lip gloss.

5. Showstoppers® Designer Fashion Tape in Nude/Black ($9.99 for a full pack). This stuff is INCREDIBLY handy to have. Fashion tape is extremely useful not just for fixing cleavage problems but also for keeping shoulder straps in place. I love to have these around for special events.

6. EBOOST Orange Natural Energy Booster. Very similar to the Vita-C stuff I already drink. And it never hurts to have more Vitamin C in your diet!

Ashley