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Writer’s Shelf: The Ice Maiden’s Tale Launch!

When the impossible suddenly becomes possible, you have no choice but to call it a miracle.  And for a very long time, it seemed impossible that my little book, The Ice Maiden’s Tale, would ever get published, but it turns out today is a day for miracles.
Stacks of Books
You can now buy my middle-grade, fairy tale, adventure novel, “The Ice Maiden’s Tale”, on Amazon! Kindle and print copies are available.

Audrey Hepburn said, “If I’m honest I have to tell you I still read fairy-tales and I like them best of all.”

There is a wonder and magic in fairy tales that no other kind of story can capture.  When you hear the words “Once upon a time…” it’s a promise that there’s an amazing adventure about to come and that whatever monsters you face can be beaten, and no matter how dark the path seems it can still lead you to a happy ending.  Fairy tales aren’t just for children.  Fairy tales are for everyone.

So if you’re with me and Audrey, I think you’ll love “The Ice Maiden’s Tale.”  It’s got adventure, monsters, magic, romance and tons of surprises.
Pick up a copy and tell me what you think!

I’ve also got a swanky author page over at Goodreads.  I’d love to see your reviews and answer any questions.

THE BACKSTORY

LATEST NEWS: For the Latest News on The Ice Maiden’s Tale.

INSPIRATION: Some of my Inspiration for The Ice Maiden’s Tale.

GOODREADS: The Ice Maiden’s Tale on Goodreads.

If you review children’s books and are interested in reviewing mine, drop me a line about your blog/vlog/zine.

There’s No Crying in Baseball

I’ve tried to start writing this post countless times over the past few months. I’ve struggled with where to start, but I think the best way is with a heartfelt apology for my disappearance.  If it had been a planned hiatus I would have done a much better job of keeping you updated, but I’ve just been lost under the avalanche of life and struggling to dig myself out.  In any case, I am so sorry for my unexplained absence and I have greatly missed writing to you all.

Starting a new life is like cleaning out that closet full of junk.  You had it all crammed in there, and now it’s all over your floor, and you’ve got broken things and new things, and you’ve got to dig through it, toss stuff, and find a better way to pack in what you need.  I’m still working on the latter.

This blog started as a hobby to justify my unhealthy obsession with subscription boxes, and I honestly never expected anyone would want to read it.  But a lot of you did, and companies wanted me to write about them and I was so humbled by it all and very grateful.

I’ve thought about whether I could continue this blog with my limited time, and realized that I can’t do it the same way I’ve done it before.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t do it at all.  So rather than quitting, I’m working to adapt and I’m hoping you’ll stick around for it. Enough teary revelations because

And this metaphor is actually literal, because I’m one of 10 featured authors at the Author Celebration  on August 7th at Somerset Patriots’ TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, NJ.  It’s part of the Central NJ paper’s summer reading program, and I’ll be there to discuss “The Ice Maiden’s Tale”.
If any of you are in the mythical Central NJ hood please come by.

Since I’ve been gone, tons has gone down in the sub box world.  Popsugar went from monthly to quarterly, Stitchfix added on plus sizes and I’ve been trying out some new things (hello FabFitFun)!  I’m hoping to jump back into the box posts soon with some more streamlined reviews.

I’ve also done a ton of work on my 1976 timewarp house – if you can name it, I’ve painted it.  So there should be before and afters headed your way.

I hope you’ve been doing well all this time and I can’t wait to catch up with you soon.

Dispatch: Series One -“On the Run” Mystery Box

Okay so let’ start kick off this first post since forever with a huge apology to my readers and the wonderful folks who send me boxes to review.  It’s been oh so quiet here, because I’ve been oh so overwhelmed.  I started my great new job, but my days are super long and I haven’t quite yet figured out how to juggle them with this blog. (If you’ve got tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments!) Meanwhile, I’m working on it  and I hope to be able to find a good balance.

Now let’s get to the reason why you show up – the box reviews.  And today I’ve got one of the most unique I’ve ever featured: a monthly mystery box.  I know, you’re thinking “you have mystery boxes all the time”, but this isn’t the kind with surprise gifts.  Instead, you get to channel your inner Sherlock and solve a mystery.  Intrigued? I was too.

The folks at Breakout, who came up with those funky escape room games, started a monthly subscription box called Dispatch.  The boxes chronicle a mystery and send you a box of clues that lead you to online resources that can help you solve the crime.  Each mystery lasts less than a year and each box costs $24.99.

Series One is called “On the Run” and is described as follows:
“Murder, romance, scandal—this story has it all. Once you open your delivery, you’ll find yourself entangled in the strange disappearance of your closest childhood friend, who also happens to be suspected of killing his wife, a well-known heiress.”

 I’ve gotten two boxes in this mystery series.

BOX #1
Box #1 introduces us to the mystery.  Our childhood best friend is accused of murdering his wealthy wife on their honeymoon.
We’ve got a notebook, lots of cool little details like magazine clippings, a napkin with a handwritten note and a set of invitations.  You can follow the clues to Instagram accounts, websites and you can even RSVP for the wedding reception using the info on the invite.
  We’ve also been given a resource, “The Bailey Detective Agency” that we can contact for help.  Pretty cool, right?

BOX #2
 
For our second box brings us more clues that focuses on the deceased’s wealthy family’s interest in a mine and it’s subsequent mysterious collapse We’ve got letters, autopsy reports, a mysterious token and lots of paper shreds.

The materials even have details like coffee and blood stains.

Verdict: Hit!
I love the care that went into putting this subscription together.  A real handwritten napkin, Instagram accounts and websites, letters, email responses and a helpline.  There’s so much detail that makes this fun.  I think this might be a great gift for that retiree who loves mystery books or even a teen who enjoys puzzles.  The one thing I do wish, is that the mystery was more group friendly.  You have to read a long notebook and lots of lengthy materials, so it just doesn’t lend itself well to working with a group. Maybe in addition to the notebook, we could get a link to a online vlog that discusses the contents.  I think that would open this up to being a fun family or group activity. It could be a different spin on a murder mystery dinner party.  Unfortunately, as currently constructed, I feel like it works best as a solo activity.

How would you feel about solving a mystery via a sub box?
Fun? Or not worth the hassle?

BACKSTORY
Dispatch is a monthly subscription-based mystery that tests your detective skills each month with a new delivery of clues.

After subscribing to Dispatch, you will receive your first package in the mail. These physical items serve as an introduction to the story and draw you into this online/offline mystery. After that, you will receive an additional box each month with more items that further explain the story.

Your first box will be shipped immediately. Your 2nd box will be shipped one month later and future boxes around that same date each month.

Each story lasts for less than a year before a new story begins. You can cancel at any time.

COST: $24.99 per month

Author Event – The Book Garden for Small Business Saturday!

This upcoming weekend, on November 25, 2017, I’ve got my very first author event!

The oh so adorable The Book Garden in Frenchtown, NJ will be hosting a special event for Small Business Saturday, featuring local authors!
How perfect that my little fairy tale adventure gets it’s very first bookstore event in a charming Victorian-esque Mom and Pop bookshop.  I couldn’t have written a more appropriate setting.

I’ll be there from 11:30 AM to 3 PM, to chat and sign copies of “The Ice Maiden’s Tale”.  If you’re in the area, please come by!
There will be both children and adult authors to meet with, plus lots of amazing books and super cute gifts. You can start your Christmas shopping and support local authors and small businesses.

The Book GardenDate: Saturday, November 25, 2017
Time: 11:30 AM – 3:00 PM
Location: 28 Bridge Street, Frenchtown, NJ 08825

Stephen King said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic”, so what more magical a place than an indie bookstore?
What better Christmas gift than giving someone a gateway into new worlds and new friends and new adventures?

If you’re in the Frenchtown neighborhood, I’d love to meet and chat with you.  If you’re elsewhere, you can grab a copy of “The Ice Maiden’s Tale” on Amazon in print, ebook and on Kindle Unlimited. If you are so awesome as to buy a copy from any source and leave an Amazon review, this author would be so eternally grateful.

In the meantime, have an awesome Thanksgiving and I promise I’ll be updating soon with lots more fun posts.

July 2017 Orangeglad & 10% off Coupon Code!

To kick off my last week before I head back to the old/new grind, I thought I’d focus on something sweet with my July review of Orangeglad, a monthly artisan dessert subscription.

If you’d like to try out one for yourself use my code ST10 for 10% off your order.

Lovely packaging as usual:

CC Made – Berkley, California
About the Company:
“’As a currency trader, brokers took us to the most amazing restaurants.  It opened up a whole new world for me.’  Cassandra Chen recalls. ‘ I realized that, even though my family’s expectation was that I would stay in my successful professional career, it just wasn’t for me.  On a whim, and wearing a skirt and heels, Cassandra walked into Vertigo Restaurant and asked for a job in the kitchen.  She w shored on the spot and told to ‘stage’ (kitchen lingo for ‘trail after the cook and work the line’). She had found her calling.  Manuel was born to Peruvian/American parents.  When he was 22, he worked at the Highlands Bar and Grill, where he learned about gourmet food and fell in love with wine.  With Kermit Lynch’s encourage, he moved out to California and worked for josh Jensen at Calera Wines deepening his love for the art of winemaking.  Later, under the tutelage of master sommelier Larry Stone, Manuel passed his level 1 exam.  In 1997, Cassandra and Manuel’s paths crossed.  They were both working for Traci des Jardis at the newly opened restaurant Jardiniere.  Through moving on from the restaurant, getting married, and having kids, their love for food never waned.  With Cassandra’s experience in the pastry kitchens, they started a line of caramel product and thus CC made was born.
Toasted Sesame Seeds with Nori Sea Salt Brittle

(2 oz Bag: $3.50)
Description: “Roasted organic sesame seeds with bright sea taste of nori and sea salt dusted on top,, this brittle will bring a whole new meaning to reinvented snacks.
Verdict: Nice!
Brittles aren’t really my favorite treats, but this had an appealing flavor that wasn’t overly sweet.  The sesame/nori addition made it feel sophisticated.  I think it would be an interesting addition to a fruit/cheese/nut dessert plate.

Potato Chips with Cracked Salt Pepper Brittle
(2 oz Bag: $3.50)
Description: “Potato chip combined with buttery brittle and topped with cracked black pepper, the perfect harmony of savory and sweet will make your taste buds dance.”
Verdict:
Not for me
The pepper on these treats came through quite clearly and they are much more savory than you’d anticipate in a brittle.  I just didn’t like the chip aspect, which is purely subjective.  I’m sure someone else would probably love these.
Classic Artisanal Popcorn
(3 oz Bag: $5.00)
Description: “Handcrafted to perfection, Cassandra and Manuel wanted to make something that was hard to find on the market – a really flavorful and quality caramel.  What they learned was that to develop a deep rich flavor form the simple ingredients of just sugar and water required an open flame, patience, and perfect timing.  This is the reason why mass manufactured caramels lacked the depth of flavor that they were craving, so they had to create ones that satisfy their standards for gourmet popcorn.
Verdict: Love!
I adore caramel popcorn and this one had a lovely, deep caramel flavor and a really nice texture.  The caramel wasn’t too thick or thin and the popcorn had a nice crunch.  My favorite item in the box!

McTavish Shortbread – Portland, Oregon
About the Company:
“McTavish Shortbread is baked daily in Portland, Oregon using old world techniques and recipes handed down through generations.  They use only all natural ingredients with no added preservatives.  They are a family owned company that takes pride in producing consistent, high quality melt-in-your-mouth, tastes like your Scottish Grandmother baked it-SHORTBREAD!  Their promise is to deliver handmade goodness to cookie lovers everywhere because everyone deserves a really good cookie!
Scottie Dog Shortbread
(Estimated Retail: $1.32)
Ice Cream Sprinkle Shortbread
(Estimated Retail: $1.32)

Description: “Using an age-old Scottish recipe, McTavish Shortbread bakes deliciously rich, traditional shortbread, perfect for summer!”

Verdict:
Hit!
This sub *really* loves to include shortbread cookies.  Typically, I like them but they aren’t my favorite cookie or dessert and not something I actively seek out.  However, these were delicious and probably some of the best shortbread I’ve had.  I couldn’t find these exact cookies on the McTavish site, nor can you buy them individually so I estimated the price based on the cost of a dozen of their seasonal shortbread.

OVERALL
Verdict: Great products, not great value
Let’s start with the good stuff.  I thought this box was well curated and the treats all felt like sophisticated spins on classics.  As usual, they were packed really nicely and even though not everything was to my taste, I could tell they were excellent quality.  Now the bad part, the value is just too low for a monthly sub.  I receive this box free in order to review it, but if I’d paid for it, it would have cost $25. After doing the math, I come up with an estimated value of only $14.64 for the included items.  That includes my estimate on the individual cookies and without shipping and packaging.  I appreciate that these treats would be pricey for us to purchase and have shipped individually, but I feel like we need to be closer to the $20 value mark to justify this as a monthly box.  Right now, with this price point and value, I’d say that this is a sub more suited for gift giving.  It’s great for folks you don’t know super well or who don’t need anything else taking up space in their house.  As a gift, paying a little more isn’t quite as daunting as shelling it out every month just for yourself.

What type of value do you expect from a sub box versus what you paid for it?

THE BACKSTORY
Orangeglad is an “artisan dessert box that sends handcrafted, unique and exclusive desserts each month. Eat delicious treats created by local artisan chefs throughout the country, and learn about the amazing people behind each item.”

Single Portion Box: 5 Deluxe Sized Treats
Curated from around the country
Makes 1-2 people happy
Cost: $25 per month (shipping included)

Double Portion Box: 10 Deluxe Sized Treats
Curated from around the country
Makes 3-4 people happy
Cost: $40 per month (shipping included)

Managing your account is easy. If you want a break, you can cancel or skip at anytime, with absolutely no hassle.

Coupon Codes: Use code ST10 for 10% off your orders

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Orglamix Glam Box: July 2017 – Beat the Heat + 25% Off

So yesterday I spent my day making my 70s bathroom wallpaper my bitch.   I managed to get it all off and only burn myself *once*.  I call that a win.  So today, before I head out to paint my basement bar a gorgeous shade of blue, I’ve got a review of one of my favorite subscriptions.

The July Orglamix Glam Box had a “Beat the Heat” theme, which is kind of ironic, considering I’m posting this in November and it’s been stupidly hot lately, so it’s still appropriate.

Here’s how Orglamix describes the box: “Don’t sweat your summer look. These beauty products will keep you sexy when it’s scorching outside.  We like it when things get a little seamy, but sticky is another story.  It’s hard to feel flirty when your guy can see his reflection on your forehead and your mascara’s creeping toward your chin.  So we talked to some glamorous real women and found solutions to keep you as gorgeous during the dog days of summer as you are during the rest of the year.  With these items, your look will have no problem surviving the heat…or another hot encounter.”
If you’d like to try out a box of vegan, cruelty free natural beauty products for yourself use the coupon code VEGAN to save 25%.

Hyaluronic Acid Serum
(Estimated Retail: $32.00)
Description: ”Hyaluronic acid is an essential in any healthy skincare regimen (especially as you get older) – and we deliver it in a simple, silky formula.
Verdict:
Serums are a great way to give your skin a little extra treatment.  I’ve used Orglamix’s serums in the past and I’ve found them to be hydrating and they never irritate my skin. I like that this focuses a bit on anti-aging and that this doubles as a primer.

Neroli Floral Essence Setting Spray
(Estimated Retail: $15.00)
Description: “This mist helps keep your makeup from creasing, caking, fading, or sliding around for 12 hours.  Orange Blossom is soothing and toning.  It balances oil and brightens the skin…A few spritzes instantly revives and refreshes makeup, giving skin a much-needed pick-me-up during a steamy day.”
Verdict: Hit!
Setting sprays are perfect fit for a summer box.  I always worry about what types of ingredients are in some of them, so I love this natural option that includes orange blossom ( a favorite scent of mine).

Healthy Bronze Glow Bronzer
(Estimated Retail: $18.00)
Description: “The ideal illuminator is a cross between a blush and a highlighter. You want something subtle that adds warmth to your skin but isn’t overly sparkly.”
Verdict: Too glittery for me
For bronzers, I prefer more matte finishes.  This one is definitely glittery.  I’ll pass this along to a friend who will probably use it more than I will.

Heat Wave – Natural Eyeshadow
(Estimated Retail: $12.50)
Description: The biggest eye makeup trend of Summer 2017 = Red. For a fresh-faced look, keep the color on your upper lids only so that it’s concentrated along the crease and gradually softens as it reaches your brow bone. Or make it smokey. And for something that’s a little more sultry, try a crimson shade on top, and bring it along the lower lashline to frame the eyes completely.”
Verdict: Love!
This is one of those natural shades that looks like you’re just in awesome lighting. I can see using this in a variety of ways and it’s my favorite item in the box.

Citrus Splash Sugar Balm Body Scrub
(Estimated Retail: $12.00)
Description: Don’t let a little scaly skin distract from how cute your new bathing suit is. Instead, stock your shower with a body scrub to remove those pesky dead cells before you hit the beach. (Insider tip: the exfoliator is a self-tan fanatic’s secret weapon for sloughing off flaky skin so that body bronzers sink in evenly.) But not just any handful of granules will do.  Buff away dead and dehydrated skin with Sugar Balm Body Scrub. A little bit sultry, a little bit sweet, the latest scent oozes glamour. Apricot, mandarin, grapefruit and freesia mingle with rose, grapefruit flower and jasmine notes, with a base of musk, sandalwood and cashmeran.”
Verdict: Hit!
Between the hard water at my house and the fact that I spend a lot of time covered in paint, this scrub is perfect.  I’m a huge fan of citrus scents and I think a body scrub fits the theme perfectly.

OVERALL

Verdict:
Hit!
I receive this for free in order to review it, but the regular cost is $29 and the estimated retail value came out to $89.50.  To start, I think Orglamix nailed the theme.  These were practical, but sexy items that were all great for summer.  Even though I won’t use the bronzer, I’m still really happy with the box and it’s value.  I think $29 for a serum, setting spray, eyeshadow and scrub that are all natural, vegan and cruelty free is amazing. I love the creativity and the fun that is always in my Orglamix box.  You can really tell they enjoy making these products and putting these boxes together.

How important is it to you that your makeup is natural and cruelty free?

I’ve got Orglamix pics for my latest box coming up on Instagram, so be sure to follow me there!

 THE BACKSTORY
Orglamix delivers healthy beauty delivered to your door every month.

Healthy, natural beauty, doesn’t have to be boring! When you sign up for Orglamix, every month you will receive a 4-6 expertly curated, healthy beauty products, non-toxic cosmetics, natural & sustainable, cruelty-free goods + a $10.00 Gift Card to orglamix.com. For every box sold, we donate a meal to orphaned children in need.

Cost:
Month to Month: $29.00
6 Month Prepay: $169.00
12 Month Prepay: $289.00

Coupons: USE CODE VEGAN – FOR 25% OFF YOUR FIRST BOX
Each Month comes with a $10 gift card for the Orlgamix.com site.

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Play by Sephora: July 2017

We’re continuing the push through my backlog of reviews with my July Play by Sephora subscription.  I do post lots of sneak peeks on my Instagram, so follow me there if you want to see the boxes before I post my review.

July’s theme was “Beauty Staycation” – which is actually sort of where I’m at right now since my break before my new job starts.  Of course, the “beauty” part is more about my house than me, but it still works.
Now to the box!

Bobbi BrownEye Opening Mascara
(Full Size: $30.00)
Description: “Long-wearing mascara visibly thickness, curls, and lifts lashes with a carbon-black formula.”
Verdict: Anti-climactic
So many black mascaras, so little time.  I didn’t find anything extraordinary about this mascara although I did like the brush, which was on the larger side. Still, there’s nothing about this mascara that would be worth $30.  I also don’t think it fits in a “beauty staycation”.  That implies different treatments and pampering, and mascara is not in that category.

Fresh Rose Face Mask
(1 oz: $25.00)
Description: “Hydrating and toning gel mask refreshes tired, dull skin with a calming infusion of pure rosewater and rose petals.
Verdict: Love!
I’ve always liked the Fresh brand and a rose mask sounds perfect for a “beauty staycation”.  I’m excited to try this one out once I’m not covered in paint.

Briogeo Rosarco Milk™ Reparative Leave-In Conditioning Spray
(Full Size: $20.00)
Description: “Ultra-light leave-in conditioning spray delivers non-greasy moisture without weighing down hair.”
Verdict: Like
I’ve tried Briogeo products before and haven’t been blown away, but haven’t disliked them either.  My hair is a wreck thanks to the hard water we have at the new house, so I’m happy to try any hair treatment that might help.

Tarte Color Splash Lipstick – Rainforest of the Sea™ in “Set Sail”
(Full Size: $21.00)
Description: “Long-lasting yet moisture-rich lipstick softens and smooths lips while providing full-coverage color.”
Verdict: Love!
They describe this shade as a “dark nude” and it is lovely.  It’s a great every day color for when you want to look put together, but not like you’re wearing too much makeup.  The consistency did seem a little softer than most lipsticks, which is a bit of a problem with this small tube, but I’m sure it’s not an issue with the normal size.

CaudalieVine[Activ] Glow Activating Anti-Wrinkle Serum
(1 oz: $52.00)
Description:”Highly concentrated pollution protection serum reveals a youthful glow while helping to visibly smooth fine lines.”
Verdict: Like
Caudalie is a great brand and since it costs $52 for an ounce, I’m happy to be able to try it out.  I also like that you can use it under your makeup.

This Month’s Perfume Pick:
CLEAN Reserve Sueded Oud
(3.4 oz $95.00)
Description: “This creamy and sophisticated scent puts a new twist on a traditional heavy oud fragrance with its light, fresh notes.
Verdict: Not for me
Definitely appreciate the idea of a lighter fresher floral, but this is still too strong for me.

OVERALL
Verdict: Hit!
I loved the lipstick and the rose mask, and except for the perfume,(which I always write off anyway) I’ll use everything in this box.  I loved the theme of a “beauty staycation” but I felt like they didn’t really embrace it. Rather than lipstick and mascara which are more for going out, I think we should have seen more treatments and masks.  Still, for only $10.69, I think this was a great box.  If you’re looking for a budget friendly beauty box, Sephora is at the top of my list.

Have you ever had a “beauty staycation”?
What did you do?

THE BACKSTORY
Each month Play by Sephora, will send you 5 deluxe samples handpicked from their shelves (plus a fragrance bonus) – all in a collectible bag.
Cost: $10 per month (plus any applicable tax)
Bonus:  Each month you’ll get an included card that you can bring to Sephora for an extra 50 bonus points for any Purchase.  These points are part of Sephora’s VIB program and can be traded in for an assortment of samples.

 

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Popsugar: July 2017 Must Have + November & Neiman Marcus LE Box Spoilers!

Happy Halloween!  The scariest thing I have going on today is how far behind I am in my boxes.  As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve got the next few weeks to catch up on my blogging, so today, we’re going back a bit to my July Popsugar review, but I’ve also got a bunch of great spoilers for November and for the uber luxe Neiman Marcus box. Before we get to the goods, I wanted to mention a new feature Popsugar has added.  Subscribers now have the option of adding on additional items at a discount from featured brands.  They’ve included makeup from Smith & Cult and accessories like socks.  Next month, I’ll actually remember to get more details to share.

Now enough chatter, let’s get to the boxes!

MUST HAVE X NEIMAN MARCUS BOX SPOILERS
Must Have x Neiman Marcus
Description: “We’ve teamed up with Neiman Marcus to give you a covetable box filled with treats ideal for gifting or for keeping all to yourself. This box is filled with over $750 worth of luxurious items you need for the holidays from sparkling home decor to beauty gifts that will make you glow.   Select between gold or silver hues to get a box shining with your preferred color delivered right to your door. Each box will contain all of the same items, but the color of 5 of the 9 products will vary based on your metallic preference.“
Cost: $250.00
Boxes will be shipped by November 27.

We’ve got two spoilers and both seem worthy of such a high priced box.  This time around, Popsugar is letting you choose between silver and gold themes for your fancy pants Neiman Marcus box.  YSL is a lovely makeup brand that feels luxurious and I like that the jewelry sets are both glamorous and understated.  You can easily wear them year-round.  Currently, my budget is a bit too tight for this box, but if you have the funds, you may want to give it a chance.

NOVEMBER MUST HAVE SPOILERS
NOVEMBER BOX

So we’ve got Anna Faris’ new book showing up in our November boxes.  I’m not quite sure how I feel about that.  I’m not much of nonfiction reader, and celebrity memoir/self-help type things are usually at the bottom of my book pile.  Still, I’ll try to keep an open mind.

JULY MUST HAVE BOX
Ocean Tribe by Turkish-T Kilim Towel

(Suggested Retail: $49.00)
Description: “Whether you’re enjoying a concert or having a picnic, this chic towel will become one of your most used accessories. It’s made of 100% Turkish cotton, so you and your loved ones can enjoy the sun-filled forecast comfortably.”
Verdict: Love!
Popsugar has given towels like this out in the past and they are so lovely.  This one is a perfect match for the little blue bathroom in my new house.

Supergoop!® Super Power Sunscreen Mousse SPF 50
(Suggested Retail: $19.00)
Description: Don’t forget to stay protected while soaking up the sun! This new whipped formula from Supergoop! is filled with moisturizing ingredients and antioxidant-packed blue sea kale and has SPF 50 so your skin will stay safe and hydrated.”
Verdict:
Like
I’m not a big fan of Supergoop!, however I do need a high spdf and I’ve never tried a “mousse” sunblock before so I’m happy to test this one out.

ban.dō Sip Sip Tumbler
(Suggested Retail: $14.00)
Description: ”’ Consider sipping on your favorite fruity drink (or cocktail) with a brightly hued tumbler adorned with a cute saying: “free refills.” Hydrating while unwinding on your new Turkish-T towel guarantees a great mood.”
Verdict: Gift
I have so many different kinds of water bottles and reusable cups thanks to my subscription box addiction so I’m going to gift this to a friend.

Tarte Cosmetics Lights, Camera, Splashes™ Waterproof Mascara
(Suggested Retail: $23.00)
Description:  “Ensure that your lashes stay volumized and lengthened through your active schedule with an incredible mascara that won’t budge.”
Verdict: Anti-climactic
If you subscribe to beauty and lifestyle boxes, you will get plenty of black mascara so this is pretty “eh” on the interesting scale, however Tarte is a good, sturdy brand and waterproof mascara is perfect for a July box.  I think what would have been more interesting is if we’d seen a blue mascara.

SISTERS OF LOS ANGELES California Fireplace Matchesa
(Suggested Retail: $10.00)
Description: “A warm night around a BBQ or a bonfire is a sure way to make lasting memories. These superlong matches come in a colorful case to match your stylish decor and make late-night gathering for feasting on s’mores even easier.”
Verdict: Hit!
I’ve got two fireplaces so these will definitely come in handy.

Snyder’s of Hanover® Wholey Cheese! Smoked Gouda
(Suggested Retail: $3.69)
Description: Pass around this bag of baked crackers and prepared to be wowed! The crackers taste like gouda and are made without artificial flavors. It’s obvious these crackers were baked with cheesy passion and love! Share with friends, or keep them all to yourself (we won’t judge).”
Verdict: Like
These crackers were tasty and a nice alternative to fried snacks.

OVERALL:
Verdict: Like
Now this wasn’t the most exciting box, since reusable cups/bottles and mascara are sub box staples, but I thought it fit the July theme really well.  The estimated retail on this came out a little low at $118.69.  I paid $42.70, and I loved the towel and will use nearly all the other items, but I do feel like, the box could have used a little something else to round it out.  Maybe a smores related treat to tie into the summer and the matches?  Or perhaps a spf lip balm? In any case, I’m not disappointed, but I’d like to see more creativity and a slightly higher value in future boxes.

I’ve got lots more box reviews coming up including a mystery game box!

If you want sneak previews of the box contents, be sure to follow me on Instagram!

What were your fave items from your summer boxes?

THE BACKSTORY
Popsugar is a women’s lifestyle subscription that delivers a monthly box of fun, full-size products hand-selected by Popsugar editors.

In addition to Popsugar’s monthly must have boxes, they have some seasonal special edition boxes that contain uber luxe items.  The price tag on these boxes is higher, but the products you receive are high end.

They also have featured monthly products at a discount that are available as add-ons to your box.

Popsugar Must Have Pricing:
Monthly – $39.95
3 Months – $109.85
6 Months – $214.70
12 Months – $404.40

Coupon Codes:  REFER5 = $5 off site wide
POPSUGAR10 = $10 off a 3 month subscription to Must Have

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Writer’s Shelf: On Changing Your Story

I’ll be the first to admit my story wasn’t always a happy one, (although most often pretty funny), so I’d been working for a very long time to change it.  And strangely enough, it seemed like on my 37th birthday, my fairy godmother woke up from a very long bender, looked around and said, “I’ve got a *lot* of work to do. Hold my beer.” And somehow, like the breaking of a curse, all my saved up wishes started coming true.
Dickens said, Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.”
And that’s exactly what I finally got: my own home.  A very strange, but charming house, that needed me just as much as I needed it.  I’ve always wanted to buy a home and fix it up, so the avocado carpet, blue toilet and yellow countertops were all screaming out my name.  Hopefully when I’m done it will be more fairy tale cottage and less disco.  I’ll be posting my home renovations over here.

Now like most writers, I have to have a day job because I haven’t yet learned how to live without things like food and electricity.  But I’ve spent the past 15 years of my life filling out government forms in a windowless basement, so I feel like I can only go up from there.  I managed to snag a new job with more money, less stress and its above ground!  My last day at work was the day before my 38th birthday, because there is no better gift than lack of responsibility.  I’ve got a couple weeks to get my house together and catch up on my sub box reviews before I start my new job, so you’ll finally be seeing all that awesome content I’ve been promising you.
And lastly, the wish possibly closest to my heart: getting published. The Ice Maiden’s Tale, a story that started almost a lifetime ago, was released on May 30, 2017, and not only is it up for sale online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but it’s finally in a brick and mortar store!  On my 38th birthday, The Book Garden in Frenchtown, New Jersey, added my book to their shelves.  They’ve also asked me to join them on Small Business Saturday on November 25, 2017, along with some other authors.   So you can catch me at The Book Garden from 11:30 to 3 PM, to chat and sign books.  I’ve added a handy dandy events page to the blog, for easy reference. I’ve also gotten some amazing reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, a great interview with Author Julie Whitley, and some awesome blog reviews over at Le Coeur de l’Artiste and Bookworm for Kids, plus a cool BookStop page over at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators site.  It’s been busy and wonderful.
So to say it’s been a crazy year, seems to be an understatement.  But for once, it’s been the good kind of crazy. While I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of work I need to do, I wouldn’t change a thing, and I feel like I learned something very important. What I hadn’t realized in all these years of trying and falling short, or killing myself to *almost* make it, is that somewhere along the way I’d stopped actually believing it would change.  I still kept trying, but I didn’t *really* think it was going to lead anywhere.   But somehow, I did what I never thought I could:  I changed my whole world.  So just because things have always gone the way they’ve always gone, doesn’t mean they will continue that way.  If I can change my story, you can change yours.  So take a minute to dust off those old dreams, and start letting out your saved up wishes.  You’d be surprised where they might take you.


THE BACKSTORY
BUY THE ICE MAIDEN’S TALE!
Visit my Author Page on Amazon!

LATEST NEWS: For the Latest News on The Ice Maiden’s Tale.

EVENTS: For the Latest Book Related Events

INSPIRATION: Some of my Inspiration for The Ice Maiden’s Tale.

GOODREADS: The Ice Maiden’s Tale on Goodreads.

If you review children’s books and are interested in reviewing mine, drop me a line about your blog/vlog/zine.

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Product Reviews: Kbeauty Haul from Althea!

Okay this post has been a very very long time in the making, but it’s a lot of fun so hopefully worth the wait.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while you know that I am obsessed with Korean beauty products.  They come in adorable packaging and have ingredients that sound like they belong in a witch’s cauldron (bee venom or snail mucus anyone?) and they solve problems I didn’t even know I had (like angry scalp!).

You can imagine my excitement when the awesome folks over at Althea offered me a $100 gift card to go on a shopping spree and try out their products.
Who is Althea you ask?
They are a beauty retailer that offers authentic products shipped straight from Korea, including a wide variety of Korean beauty items including skincare, makeup, hair products and more.  They also offer limited edition themed boxes for individual purchase.  They have free shipping to the US on purchases over $50, but international shipping costs will vary.

After I managed to calm myself down, I made a spreadsheet (as one does before a shopping spree) and tried to figure out the things I’d love to try and the things I thought you guys would be interested in seeing.

One of the great things about Kbeauty and Althea is that there are tons of great products at really affordable price points.  Koreans have very intense skincare routines with lots of products involved so it makes sense that they want a wide variety of affordable options.  I also found the Althea site to be a lot of fun to navigate with separate sections for items that are new or trendy.

My order arrived quickly and in lovely packaging.  Now onto my choices!

The Black Liquid Liner
Blingsome – Tinted Brush Liner
(Retail Price: $5.75)
Description: “With 0.01 mm brush, draw from thick to detailed eye lines. With deep and rich black color, make vivid eye lines!  Film coating that prevents from erasing and smudges!  Doesn’t erase from running water but tepid water can clean all!”
Verdict: Smudged on me
Black liquid liner is a staple Kbeauty product and a must have for most beauty mavens.  As someone with hooded eyes I’m always looking for smudge-proof liners.  The pros on this are that it is a rich deep black shade and goes on incredibly easily. Unfortunately for me it smudged a lot.  I tried it first without eye primer and that was a disaster.  I tried it later with a primer and it faired much better, but it didn’t hold up to an entire day of wear.  I have oily hooded lids, so this might work out just fine for someone with less smudging issues.  The color saturation and the brush were wonderful and at only $5.75, it’s worth taking a chance on.

The Eye Shadow Palette
Etude House – Play Color Eyes Cherry Blossom
(Retail Price: $21.40)
Description: “Romantic Pink Color Shades  A shadow palette delivering various makeup looks with romantic and lovely point colors and natural shade colors. Soft & Silky Texture Highly adhesive soft texture delivers vivid color and helps pearls last all day without cracking or settling into fine lines.  Purpose: The 10-color eye shadow palette colors your eyes with pink color resembling cherry blossoms dancing in spring.”
Verdict: Leans warm but quite pretty
An eye shadow palette like “cherry blossoms dancing in spring”?  Sold!  These shadows went on easily and had a nice color saturation.  I found the colors leaned warm so a lot of them ended up turning more orange on me, but the shades were still wearable.  I think this palette would be a great fit for folks with neutral or warm undertones.  The packaging was lovely and I appreciate that it is plastic rather than cardboard, as the plastic holds up much better to wear.

The Cushion Compact
Beauty People – ABSOLUTE LOFTY GIRL CUSHION FOUNDATION in Cover Beige
(Retail Price: $23.00)
Description: “Spherical Powder for Perfect Coverage!  Micro cover powder seamlessly hides acne and hyperpigmentation for clearer complexion. Propolis extract increases lasting power and adherence, for perfect fit to skin.  Special 3 layered sealing system for Cushion foundation container.  Automatically seals to prevent air inflow and evaporation of contents.  Brightening, Anti-Wrinkle, UV Protection.”
Verdict: Only the coolest packaging ever
Cushion Compacts are a trend from Kbeauty that crossed over to the US in recent years so I knew I had to include one on the list.  Once I saw the packaging on the Absolute Lofty Girl Cushion Foundation I had to have it.  It is the coolest looking compact ever and I’m already trying to figure out what I can use it for once I finish the foundation in it.  As a really pale, cool/pink undertoned redhead, I was concerned everything would be too warm or yellow for me. I opted for the “cover beige” which looked more light and pink.  Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much.  I figured it probably wouldn’t work and I’d have to mix it with something else to wear it.  Shockingly it blended right into my skin tone.  I wore it without any problems.  It’s a light coverage, goes on smoothly and didn’t look strange on me at all.   Definitely a win!

The Hair Product
Piolang – Raspberry Hair Vinegar
(Retail Price: $7.00)
Description: “Acid balanced for hair and scalp.  Raspberry Vinegar 25,000mg!”
Verdict: Like!
I haven’t had a chance to try out too many Korean hair products so I wanted to add one to the list.  I always hear folks raving about using Apple Cider Vinegar as a hair rinse, so I figured I’d try out this specially formulated raspberry hair vinegar.  Since moving to my new house, my hair has sort of freaked out at our water situation (low water pressure & hard water) so it’s difficult for me to gauge how effective hair products are for me at the moment.  I can say this has a really nice smell and the packaging makes it easy to apply.  It seemed to give my hair a bit more softness and shine, but I’ll need to keep using it and see how it works over time.  If you dig vinegar hair treatments, definitely consider this so you can smell like berries instead of like pasta salad.

The Cleanser
Aritaum Poyan Lip & Eye Remover
(Retail Price: $8.00)
Description: “Slathering oil onto your face at the end of a long day may sound counterintuitive, but let us tell you, it’s one of the best cleaning methods around! Aritaum’s Poyan Lip & Eye Remover is a fantastic contender for K-Beauty’s double cleansing method and removes all traces of makeup while prepping the skin for a foam cleanser. This hydrating remover is made with gentle ingredients too, so it won’t irritate your delicate eyes while you’re gently rubbing that mascara away.”
Verdict: N/A
I haven’t had a chance to use this one yet so I can’t give you a verdict, but oil cleansers are my go to for makeup removal and they are a staple in Korean beauty.  If you haven’t tried one, I highly recommend them.  They remove even the most hardcore makeup without much fuss.  Definitely give an oil cleanser a try.

The Multi-Tasker
Skinfood Fresh Fruit Lip & Cheek Trio in Plum
(Retail Price: $7.25)
Description: They say all good things come in threes right? We’ll do one better: Skinfood’s Fresh Fruit Lip & Cheek Trio kit comes in three colours that have double the use! Choose from an array of colours which offer rich pigmentation in a creamy formula that’s easy to blend out and leaves a dewy finish on the cheeks or lips. Great for traveling, this convenient little kit comes with a metal casing that protects the products from annoying dent marks, making this perfect to throw into your bag or purse. Did we mention that we also love the subtle fruity fragrance this trio has? Yum!”
Verdict: Love!
I wanted to choose a multi-tasking product and since I adore cream blushes I thought I’d try one of these skin food trios.  The plum shades really appealed to me and I have to say this is my fave item from my haul.  The colors are easy to blend and look incredibly natural on me – both as cheek and lip shades.  Normally when you get a multi-tasking makeup product it’s good at one thing and not so great at the other, but this looks works well for both uses.  If you’re doing some shopping on Althea, I recommend trying one of these out.  At only $7.25 it’s a great buy.

The Snail Product
Pure Smile Snail Scalp Hair Care – Shampoo + Treatment
(Retail Price: $10.75)
Description: “Unclog and remove impurities on hair.  Treat scalp for healthy, silk-smooth hair.”
Verdict: Like
I have some really weird fascination with products that have snail products in them so I needed to include one in my haul.  My hair and scalp have been in atrocious shape so I thought I’d give this product set a try.  It has a pleasant scent and the texture is a touch slimy but it rinses out easily.  At first it made my hair feel a bit coarser, but after using it again it softened up. I felt like it also didn’t create as much buildup in my hair as other shampoos and conditioners.  I’ll need to keep using it to see if it makes a difference over time.

The Pore Product
Nella – Pore Jelly Pop Blackhead Remover
(Retail Price: $13.50)
Description: “The blackhead eraser that removes all blackheads!  Use the Blackhead Remover Jelly Brush to achieve silky smooth skin!”
Verdict: N/A
Korean beauty advertisers really really talk about your pores a lot, and they have a ton of products to help you clean them out and make them disappear so I wanted to include some kind of funky pore product in this haul.  Cue the “blackhead remover jellybrush”.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to use this one yet, but the brush has a really cool texture and at the very least will be fun to use.

The Eye Primer
ABBAMART – 4 Ur Eyes Brightner & Primer
(Retail Price: $9.50)
Description: “Long lasting eye makeup with brightened eye parts.”
Verdict: Good for the price
As I’ve mentioned I have a huge problem with eye makeup migrating all over my face.  Even the most “waterproof” of formulas will smudge if I don’t use a primer, so I figured I’d add one to my haul.  This one intrigued me because it included a brightener.  I tried products with and without this primer in order to gauge how well it worked.  It definitely worked better than using no primer at all, but I don’t find it to be quite as effective as some of the higher end brands I’ve tried.  The brightener isn’t bad, but I find that the applicator puts out too much product and then it’s difficult to blend, but if you use the right amount it blends in quite nicely. Overall, for less than $10 this is a good buy.

 The Lip Tint
Etude House – Dear Darling Water Gel Tint in Dracula Red
(Retail Price: $3.90)
Description: “Be Etude House’s darling with their Dear Darling Water Gel Tint! Thanks to this pigmented, moisturizing formula, your lips will be left with a tint that lasts all day without drying them out. Infused with pomegranate and soapberry extracts, this product helps to nourish the lips too for a fresh, kiss-ready pout. Pucker up!”
Verdict: Hit!
A lip tint in a Kbeauty haul was a must.  Unfortunately they didn’t really have swatches of the red shades, but for a less than $4 I could engage in a bit of whimsy, so I opted for “Dracula Red.”  The tint has a huge color payoff and as you wear it, it does fade  and ends up as a more understated red.  This was a fun addition to my haul.

OVERALL
Verdict:
 Love!
While I’m familiar with Memebox, Althea’s site was completely new to me and I really enjoyed getting to explore it and try new products.  I spent just slightly over my $100 spree, adding $9.15 from my own pocket to cover this haul.  I received a ton of products for that price and none of them irritated my skin and I found all of them to be of excellent quality.  Part of what I think makes the Kbeauty craze so popular is that they offer a ton of quality items in lower pricepoints.  I feel like their drugstore priced makeup is just leaps and bounds ahead of what we have here in the US.  They also have unique ingredients and adorable packaging that adds a bit more fun to the usual beauty shopping.  The shipping was fast and everything was packed nicely.  I wouldn’t hesitate to order from them again and if you’re interested in trying out some Korean beauty products, I’d definitely recommend them as a source.

Have you or would you ever try Korean Beauty Products?
Why or why not?

THE BACKSTORY
Althea where Beauty meets Korea.  Althea is a beauty retailer that offers authentic beauty products shipped straight from Korea to the US including skincare, makeup, hair products and more.  They also offer limited edition themed boxes for individual purchase.

Shipping: Free Shipping from Korea to the US on purchases over $50
(International Shipping Costs will vary.)

 

Play by Sephora: June 2017

Okay folks, I know it’s been awhile, but so much has been going on this year and so much to catch you up on.  I got a new day job!  One that is more money, has better benefits, windows, less stress and an opportunity for advancement! Unfortunately, I’m still finishing out my old one with hardcore deadlines and crazy business that all happens at the end of September/beginning of October.  Soon, I’ll be free and that will give me more time to get you all caught up on cool stuff like a Kbeauty haul, a mystery game sub box, house renovations, and so much more.  I do post lots of sneak peeks on my Instagram, so you can see what’s in my sub boxes in real time.

I’ve also been promoting my debut novel, The Ice Maiden’s Tale.  I’ve gotten some really fabulous blog reviews and just had an awesome interview with Julie Whitley on her blog.  If you’ve read the book or just love fairy tale stories, I’d love to chat with you.

So now I’m just going to dive into the enormous backlog of boxes and go with my June Play by Sephora subscription.
June’s theme was “Summer Starters” (which is totally appropriate since it’s like 80 degrees today in NYC) – “Whether you’re sweating in the city or cooling by the pool, kick off your season of sunshine with these warm weather must-haves.”

Benefit CosmeticsThe POREfessional Face Prime
(Full Size: $31.00)
Description: “Silky, lightweight face primer minimizes pores and smooth s skin for a flawless soft-focus finish.”
Verdict: Anti-climactic
I lost count long ago of how many times I’ve gotten this as a sample.  It’s a nice product, but I’ve tried it a ton of times already.

First Aid BeautyHello FAB Coconut Skin Smoothie Priming Moisturizer
(1.7 oz: $28.00)
Description: “Ultra-hydrating priming moisturizer features electrolyte-packed coconut water plus micro-pearls for a subtle dewy glow.
Verdict: Love!
I love the First Aid beauty brand so I’m always up for trying a new product from them.

Ouai Rose Hair & Body Oil
(Full Size: $32.00)
Description: “Quick-absorbing blend of nutrient-rich oils from around the world replenishes hair and skin plus adds moisture and illuminates.”
Verdict: Hit!
Ouai is a brand that I’ve gotten in boxes before and I’ve really enjoyed their products.  I’m going to use this to try to tame some of my frizz.  Hopefully it will work!

Kat Von DEverlasting Liquid Lipstick in K-Dub
(Full Size: $20.00)
Description: “Long-lasting, high-pigment liquid lipstick with a creamy formula glides on smoothly like gloss but leaves a matte finish.”
Verdict: Like
If this had been another shade it would have been a love.  I adore Kat Von D’s eyeliner and I own and use some of her eyeshadows.  I’m not sure if I can pull off this bright fuchsia shade, but I’m happy to get a chance to test out the formula.

IGK Rich Kid Coconut Oil Gel
(5 oz: $29.00)
Description:”Lightweight coconut oil—infused hair styling gel softens and hydrates hair for effortless undone looks.”
Verdict: Hope you’re not allergic to coconut
This is the second coconut product in this bag and I’m thinking maybe having two products with similar ingredients in the same month might not be the best idea. In any case, I like getting new hair products because I have no idea how to style my hair and can use all the help I can get.  We’ll see if this helps me look less like I just rolled out of bed and stuck my finger in an electrical socket.

This Month’s Perfume Pick:
Yves Saint Laurent – Black Opium
(1.6 oz $91.00)
Description: “A modern and intoxicating scent with rich notes of coffee, sweet vanilla, and delicate white flowers.”
(Sorry I’m missing a pic, but for some reason the ones I took were all blurry.)
Verdict: Perfect if I want to knock out myself and take an elevator full of people with me.
I appreciate it when a perfume gives itself a name that makes it obvious it will simply kill people who are sensitive to scents (remember Dior’s “Poison”?).  You hear the words “Black Opium” and you know what you’re getting.  It smells like a migraine, the kind where you lock yourself in a dark room for days, put ice on your head, and hope not to puke on your sheets. Sniff at your own risk.

OVERALL
Verdict:
Hit!
Despite the boring POREfessional primer and the death by perfume, I really enjoyed this box.  It had a lot of great brands that and gave me a chance to try out some new offerings.  The only real fault I found was it having two coconut products, but that shouldn’t be a problem for most folks.

If you’re looking to try out some high end beauty but don’t want to commit to the high price tags, consider the Sephora sub. For only $10 a month, you get a good amount of product and a nice variety.

How do you feel about the “coconut oil” beauty trend?
Is it a great natural inclusion or has it become an over-used beauty buzzword?

THE BACKSTORY
Each month Play by Sephora, will send you 5 deluxe samples handpicked from their shelves (plus a fragrance bonus) – all in a collectible bag.

Cost: $10 per month (plus any applicable tax)
Bonus:  Each month you’ll get an included card that you can bring to Sephora for an extra 50 bonus points for any Purchase.  These points are part of Sephora’s VIB program and can be traded in for an assortment of samples.

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