Birchbox Vs Ipsy: May 2014

BoxesI know this is super late in the month, but was sick all last week and it seemed like it took forever for my Ipsy to arrive! But better late than never, amirite? For those of you who don’t know about either of box subscriptions, Birchbox and Ipsy are both beauty subscriptions for $10 a month. Birchbox tends to feature smaller sample sizes that are often more higher end brands and incorporates more of a variety than just beauty. (Lifestyle, skin care, etc)  Ipsy features more full size-luxury size samples of often times more drugstore-lower end brands. Ipsy tends to favor strictly beauty options, but has recently surprised me with some great skincare samples! I will include my referral links down below!

Okay, that said, let’s get to the box battle!


First Up: Bichbox
birchbox

Brands: Marcelle, Supergoop!, Pixi, Nexxus, SmartyPants  |  Box Value: $18

For the past couple of boxes, I have been truly unimpressed with Birchbox. Everything I received seemed like freebies I could get by asking any Sephora employee for a sample to try. It was very discouraging–especially since it was of things that really weren’t hitting it for me! So I didn’t even look forward to the itty bitty tests Birchbox was providing! This box was happily a step up from what it has been–and actually had a full sized item! (GASP! For once!!) Though I must admit that after this box, my 6 month subscription ended and I chose not to continue it. I was really hoping it would blow my mind for me to keep it, but it didn’t. Let’s look at the products:

birchbox2Case in point of freebies you could get at Sephora: the Nexxus Color Hair Trio. Honestly, for a color hair care product, this sample would in no way tell me if it could do what it says. So I had to base the product on a one wash trial–and that didn’t even hold up for just cleanliness standards. I couldn’t wash out the serum very well with the shampoo/conditioner and my hair ended up being super greasy and weighed down, definitely not my cup of tea. I have very thin hair, so I don’t know if that was a factor, but still…

Though on a happy note, the second product pictured was the full size item of pixi’s shea butter lip balm. Now, I have recently fallen in love with pixi products, (mostly because I’m a target-a-holic) so I was extremely excited to see this in my Birchbox! (especially since I usually get pixi products in Ipsy) And that excitement didn’t fade when I tried it! The color payoff is AWESOME and it LASTS–all the while keeping my lips feeling amazing. (Gotta love hydration!)  Here’s a preview of the color–it looks a little purple-y in that picture, but it’s really a more bright/bold pink which I am in love with!
birchboxtest

birchbox1Most of the other samples were too small for me to see if I would actually like them–the vitamins only had 2 in the sample which didn’t taste all that great and were gummy…not a fan of that. And the sunscreen MIGHT cover my face like…once. So I guess I can save that for a day out adventuring.

Though those didn’t hit the mark, I LOVED the BB cream. It was actually a decently full tube, so I have already gotten a few used out of it and it leaves my skin glowy and smooth. PERF for summer, amirite? (Goodbye cream foundation, hello bb cream!) Now when all is said and done, I will say the one good thing that Birchbox has is a really decent point system (if you can find it and you actually get new featured products vs old ones which always seemed to be my lot in life…) and I was able to review a couple of items in my birchbox to gain some points which I finally could redeem! (Every 100 points = $10 to spend in the Birchbox store) So as a fare-thee-well to Birchbox, I used my $10 on the Marcelle BB cream. (Still cost me $17! It was indeed a splurge, but I forsee it being a go to this summer!)

Don’t get me wrong, Birchbox may still be for you. I just couldn’t see myself renewing at this point. Maybe in the future…But if you would like to check it out now, try this link: https://www.birchbox.com/invite/follypops (PS Birchbox also has a really great referral point system!)


 Next up to bat: Ipsy

ipsy

Brands: Avene, Balanced Guru, Boo-Boo Cover Up, Pacifica, Hang Ten,  |   Box Value: $48.50

Okay, like I said before, Ipsy has more full sized-luxury sized products that prove to be a total bang for your buck! And this month didn’t disappoint! I’m so excited to gush, so let’s get to it:
ipsy2So, at first glance I was not really excited about the Avene Thermal Spring Water spray. Water in a can? Doesn’t sound appealing even with “healing attributes”. (It’s supposed to be good for your skin after say a sunburn or dry effects..) Though I tried it and I have to retract my first thoughts. It’s actually pretty nice and kind of acts like a refreshing toner (which I’m all about…don’t even get me started on my LUSH obsession) so I mark this product as a win.

Then there’s the Hang Ten sample…I mean, once again, it’s sunscreen. I appreciate the try but I wish it was specifically face sunscreen or a moisturizing tinted sunscreen for the face. Since it is neither, I see it as only so-so, BUT the sample size is much more generous than Birchbox’s was, so not all is lost. Speaking of good sample sizes, hello hair oil! The Balanced Guru sample was a full on travel size version (I know, I checked!) and will probably last me an entire year before I’m even close to done! (Hair oil goes a long way for me. Re: thin hair) The biggest downfall: I’m not a huge fan of the lemon grass smell, but I can probably get past that if I mix it with another product.

ipsy1

 Once again, here’s what I’m talking about–full size!! Horay!! So I’m going to be honest, I laughed when I saw the name of the Boo-Boo Cover-Up, but I instantly felt stupid when I used it. I LOVE this stuff. It’s a little thicker so it really covers up the troubled areas and it’s a nice smooth consistency. Oh, and get this, it’s made in Canada. (Which maybe explains why it’s on the pricier side?) I like trying things from other countries!

The pacifica eyeshadow duo (which I can’t find on their site, but it has to be a full sized product if not a really hefty luxury sample) was not particularly of colors that I use too often and to be honest, didn’t have that great of a color build up. But if I can’t use them, I know a couple people who can and who would appreciate the decent sized product. View thecolors here:

ipsytest

Last, but not least, my favorite thing about Ipsy is that when all is said and done, you get a reusable makeup bag with every one. This month’s was a cute “green” themed burlap bag. I loved it especially since it fit more products than past ones so I could stuff more in it for my purse! (I use them as on the go makeup bags!)

ipsy3

 Ipsy also has a point system, but it takes a little more to achieve their 1000 points for a product goal. (Though they recently upped some of the point earning by giving you facebook sharing points, points for “created looks” and of course referrals.)

Another downside: they choose the 1000 pt product for you, so you can’t just shop for them like with Birchbox. Ipsy usually changes them every month though, so once you have the necessary amount, just hold out for when something you love comes along! If you’re intersted in trying Ipsy, here’s a link you might find helpful! http://www.ipsy.com/r/1lri


The Verdict

 This was surprisingly more tough than I thought it would be mostly because Birchbox gave me 2 really great products that I am in love with currently. BUT, I have to give it to Ipsy. Ipsy gave me a bunch of wonderfully sized products to use that I was even surprised to find that I liked, plus the value is just so hard to beat! What about you? Do you think you would have ruled the other way? Or if you are a subscriber, what did you get in your bags/boxes? I’d be happy to hear!! Also, if you have any subscription services you think I would like to try, let me know!

~xo

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Health Kicks: Cauliflower Crust Pizza Review

Okay so recently I have been trying to train myself to live a healthier lifestyle. (Especially with the dreaded swimsuit season fast approaching.) So I’ve really been looking at what I eat, what I do for activities, and what products I’ve been using. I want to feel like a superhero-athlete-model 100% of the time (I want to feel like I can conquer the world and look like an absolute badass doing it) and that outcome takes a lot of daily choices that I need to start making.

One of which is healthier eating. I never really considered my appetite one that was outlandishly bad for me, I LOVE veggies and incorporate them in every meal, but I have a ton of junk food indulgences that I need to stop. (Midnight drunk food trips to halel stands?…erm…guilty…) I mean, I enjoy stuff that is good for me, why not just stick with that? I realize that sometimes they don’t seem as exciting if I’ve had the same meals over and over again–so it’s time for me to be adventurous and branch out from the overdone stirfrys and salads.

Thus leads me to the DUN DUN DUNNNNN: Cauliflower Crust Pizza! (I don’t know why I added the ‘dun dun dunnn’ it’s actually not menacing at all…) I have been hearing about this dish a lot and thought I would give it to go. I mean, I love cauliflower, I love pizza…so why not? I was a little worried the prep would be a little too crazy for me to handle on a work night, but it actually turned out better than I thought! Here’s what  Idid:

Step One: Gather ingredients
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Pictured above: bite sized mozzarella balls, grape tomatoes, cauliflower head (1/2), minced garlic, parmesan grated cheese, large egg (1), parchment paper. (Not pictured, spices I used: crushed red pepper,  balsamic vinegar, onion powder, olive oil, dried basil, fresh basil, dried oregano, black pepper, salt.)

 NOTE: This first attempt was a huge improvisation/test, so I did not follow the recipe 100% like I should have. (Recipe I kind of followed here.) Second Note: I don’t have a ton of time to make multiple grocery stops during my week, so a lot of these ingredients are just things I had in my fridge and not gourmet/fresh… (i.e. garlic, parmesan…) I also didn’t have the shredded mozzarella cheese, which I will explain later on why I regret that.  (And yes, I was too lazy to shred the little mozzarella balls. Girl had to sleep and couldn’t waste all night on this!)  While I got everything I needed, I set the oven to 425 degrees to heat up!


Step Two: Sauté some garlic & tomatoes
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Remember how I said I didn’t follow the recipe 100%? Yeah, this step was part of that. Instead of tomato sauce, I decided I just wanted to sauté some grape tomatoes with garlic & seasoning. No regrets with this choice. If you’d like to replicate what I did, in a small pan combine: 2 tbsp olive oil, some halved grape tomatoes (eyeball it…I think I did like 10 or so, but the more the merrier!), 1 tbsp minced garlic (or maybe more. I love garlic…thus my fantasy of marrying Damon Salvatore from Vampire Diaries could never be… #heartbreak), 1.5 tbsp balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with dried basil, dried oregano, pepper, salt, onion powder, and red pepper flakes. Set your heat to medium and stir frequently. When the tomatoes become a little tender, put them to the side. (Don’t worry, they’ll be heated up again later when you pop this all in the oven.)


Step Three: Make dat crust!

mixture4

This step actually had me the most worried for time constraints! But then I realized my magical blender actually had a chop function! OH HAPPY DAY! Never again shall I pine for a food processor because this baby DID THE TRICK! So after I cut my 1/2 head of cauliflower into florets (keeping most of the stalk because waste not, want not–amirite?) I chopped them babies up in mr. magicblender until they were a fine crumble. Then I popped these delightful crumbles into the microwave for a bit.

NOTE: This next part holds my biggest regrets for this recipe, so heed my wisdom and learn!

In a medium mixing bowl, I combined the warmed crumbles, a pre-whisked egg, and grated parmesan. I also sprinkled in some pepper and salt by sight for seasoning.  What I did not have/combine is the shredded mozzarella–which I regret because that one thing would have served as better glue to hold the crust together. (Instead I ended up with kind of a flaky mess of a crust as an outcome–ah well, we’re not all perfect on our first try, are we?) Once your satisfied with your mixing skills, set the “dough” aside while you lay out some parchment paper on a baking sheet. Then gently spray that sheet with some cooking spray. I did not have cooking spray so I drizzled a tsp of olive oil on the sheet and spread it thin. (MY SECOND REGRET! The olive oil actually ended up probably moistening the crust far more than I would have liked. And I wanted it crunchy! Try and get some cooking spray if you can or your crust might be just as soggy as mine!)

Once your pan is set up, spoon on your “dough” and pat it down so it forms a thin-ish crust. Pop that sucker in the oven until it is golden brown. The longest part of this step was just waiting for things to heat! Not a pain at all!


Step Four: Top it off

Close-up-tomatoes

Once your crust is nice and golden, take it out and spread all your toppings on. I cut up some fresh basil, mozzarella bites, and some additional grape tomatoes to add to my tomato-balsamic-garlic mixture on top. I added a dash of more seasoning (red crushed pepper, oregano, grated parm, salt, pepper) to the top before popping this mouth watering morsel back in the oven to get all melty.

After a short period of time: WAH-LAH! Your healthier pizza alternative is complete!

final

Now, like I said, when I did it, it didn’t turn out perfect. It actually fell apart a little so I was forced to eat it with a fork. (SIGH!) But the taste–the taste was absolutely delicious! I didn’t miss the carb-y crust at all. And the fresh combination not only filled me but didn’t make me feel like a gross, greasy troll after consuming it. WIN! In short, I would so (and will) make it again!! (This time following the recipe a little more closely!)

So what do you think? Will you try this recipe? If you did, how did it come out for you? Leave a comment to this! Or if you have a healthier dish than this for me to try, please let me know!

xo~

Folly Ventures: Burlington, VT

A random corner of the states, I know–but one that is near and dear to my heart: Burlington, Vermont. I went recently for a weekend escape from the busy city life and fell in love with the small charmingly eccentric town all over again. It is the perfect mix of social events, a creative community, boutiques, healthy living and friendly personalities. (If only it were not so far away, I would go there much more frequently!)

Now where to go and what to do in this town can vary based on your likes as well as the time of year. However, if you are there for the summer or any time of year, you MUST hit up Church Street.
churchst

Church Street is the lively heart of Burlington and houses all the cutest boutiques (with great unique buys for clothes, accessories, and home goods! I ended up grabbing a couple of wonderful artist crafted jewelry pieces from Zinnia’s. LOVE that store! Affordable & adorable, two of my favorite qualities!), street performers, delicious restaurants and fun nightlife. Oh and one of the best features of Vermont? Their strong belief in supporting local business. A majority of products sold and food served are locally made or grown. Some of my favorite restaurants that do this are on streets just off of the main church street stretch:

1.) The Farmhouse Tap & Grill The menu is american at heart and hosts a bunch of dishes prepared with ingredients from local farms. I’ve had their burgers and toast points (with some of the freshest cheese and honey I’ve had at a restaurant). Excellent and savory, to say the least! Though the most attention The Farm House gets is for its extensive craft brew list. The prices aren’t too far fetched but a little on the pricier side.

2.) Flatbread Now, I know this italian-ish restaurant is technically a chain, but I still love it and it too has an emphasis on using local farms for ingredients. I’m not positive if the menu is slightly different at each location for food, but I am sure the drink menu is–another craft beer bar can be found here. The best part about this restaurant? Large portions you can share with big parties–and all the flatbreads are amazing!!

3.) El Corjito Interestingly enough, this place is owned by the same people who own The Farmhouse, so it too has the farm to table concept. This taqueria is so good it usually draws a line that goes out the door and has a pretty lengthy wait. But the wait is worth it! Especially for the margaritas. I had one and am now in love! I have to learn how to replicate them ASAP!

So those are 3 of MANY places to eat downtown. You really could go anywhere and have a great meal, but those are some of my favorites!

burlylake

Ignoring the gluttony urge, there are plenty of active things to do in Burlington to burn off the calories. There are extensive walking/biking trails that run alongside Lake Champlain, a couple of beaches to enjoy a swim when the weather is warm, plenty of hiking trails (my favorites are the ones by Red Rocks where you can watch daredevils jump of 40-70 ft cliffs), segway tours, and a number of grassy knolls to have a game of frisbee or two. I personally love strolling along to the galleries scattered around town and looking at all the neat local art!

Or if you want to spend a day driving around, there are several breweries in the area (Vermont has the highest number of breweries per capita! My favorite is Magic Hat–very cool designs!), Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory, The Teddy Bear Factory, the Shelburne Museum, nearby mountain trails to hike, and local wineries in Shelburne and the Champlain Islands.

If you do decide to drive out of town, be sure to make it back to Burlington for the nightlife! It thrives with live music and bustling bars–I always have an excellent time whether I’m drinking cheap beers at What Ales You or lounging with a martini at Red Square as I listen to a local band.  Ahhh Burlington, just thinking about you, makes me yearn to return right now! You are forever in my heart.

~xoxo