Top 15 Sub Box Items of 2015

So it’s time for me to pick my favorite 15 items from all of my 2015 Sub boxes. This was epically hard and I swear I started with twice as many awesome items that I had to painfully work through. There were so many great things that just couldn’t make the cut. I’ve broken down the list for you by month.

BorealisBorealis Swatch
Orbital Eyeshadow – Borealis:
(Retail $18.00/Maven Price: $14.40)
from Julep Maven: January 2015 – The Chrysalis Collection – Modern Beauty
Possibly my most favorite eyeshadow ever. It’s a smoky eye for dummies and the peacock shimmer on it is amazing.

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream
(Suggested Retail: $30.00)
from the Popsugar: January 2015
This product does exactly what it says it will and is unscented. It’s great for both men and women as well as folks with sensitive skin. Since I tried this I’ve recommended it to tons of my friends.

Cutting Board
ACME Party Box Company
Bamboo Heart Cutting Board & Cheese Knife
(Suggested Retail: $32.00)
from Popsugar: February 2015
This set was so adorable and I regularly pull out this cutting board to slice fruit.

Rings Necklace
Three Gold Rings Necklace
from Amanda Deer Jewelry
(Retail: $32.00)
from Fair Ivy: March 2015
I found myself reaching for this necklace all the time. It’s so simple, lovely and great for layering. I got lots of compliments on it.

Multipurpose Pro Tools Oval Brush by Harry Josh
(Estimated Retail: $40.00)
from the Nina Garcia Quarterly (#NGQ05): April 2015
The saving grace of my last Nina Garcia box. This is a great brush and I love the mint shade. It sits out on my bedroom dresser.

CupSpoon Close
Handmade Mug & Spoon from White Peach Pottery (Retail: $32.00+)
from Fair Ivy: April 2015
I adore handmade ceramics and this mug and spoon set is so lovely. It sits out on display on my kitchen shelves.

Bracelet Bracelet on Wrist
Miansai Modern Screw Cuff:
(Estimated Retail: $200.00)
from the Rachel Zoe Box of Style: April 2015
This is my favorite item of all for 2015. It’s classic and somehow edgy and conservative at the same time. It’s great quality and I really want the exact same one in a rose gold finish.

Bracelet On Wrist
Silver Chalcedony Bracelet from Simply Lovely Handmade
(Retail: $???)
from Fair Ivy: May 2015
I love the delicateness of this bracelet and how well it layers with other pieces I have. The pink stone is also right on trend for 2016.

Oribe Aprés Beach Wave and Shine Spray (Full Size: $39.00)
from Birchbox: July 2015
Oribe products are always amazing and since I wear my hair wavy, this was a great product for me.

Mineral Peel
O.R.G. Skincare Mineral Face Peel
(Retail: $44.00)
From Rachel Zoe Box of Style: Summer 2015
I was concerned about spraying a peel directly into my face, but this didn’t irritate my skin at all and (I know this sounds gross) it really peeled off all the dead skin. I tried this with my best friend and she was amazed. Seriously, my favorite peel ever.

Watch Case Watch Watch Close
Cluse La Bohéme Rose Gold Watch with dual straps:
(Estimated Retail: $132.00)
from the Rachel Zoe Box of Style: Fall 2015
I don’t own many watches and this one is so lovely and classic. The rose gold on this is epic and the changeable straps make it so versatile. I know I’ll have and use this piece forever.

Gummy Bears
Albanese 12 Flavor Gummy Bears 7.5 oz
(Estimated Retail: $2.19)
from the Treat Chest Candy Club: August 2015 Box
Yes, gummy bears are on this list. Because they are the best damn gummy bears in the world. They were so good I ordered my boyfriend and I a giant 1 lb bag of them.

Savvy Sleepers Luxury Satin Pillowcase
(Suggested Retail: $36.00)
from Popsugar: October 2015 & a New Limited Edition Holiday Box!
This pillowcase was so soft and comfy, that I used the coupon code in the box to buy some more for my bed.


Jewelry Box 2 Jewelry Box Open
Swing Design Nova Blue Mist Jewelry Box (Suggested Retail: $36.00)
from the Popsugar: December 2015 & A Promotion Fail
I am a sucker for Mint and this box was perfectly sized to hold all kinds of goodies. I have two of them and they live on each end table on the sides of my bed.

Hairpin 1Hairpin Close
Lelet NY Swarovski Crystal Hair Pin
(Retail: $98.00)
from the Rachel Zoe Box of Style: Winter 2015
This is gorgeous and has an heirloom feel to it. So beautiful.

It was fun to look back and see which items I ended up falling in love with and which ones I adored from the start. Overall, my favorite subscription box for the year was the Rachel Zoe Box of Style. I received so many amazing things from that subscription and if I could only choose one to keep, it would be Rachel’s, hands down.

So that’s what we got in 2015, but what do I want to see in 2016?

Watercolor Eyeshadows: Enough with the neutral palettes, we have a ton of them. How about some pastels? I’d love to see some fun watercolor shades in blues, greens and pinks. Give us something that we might not already have in our makeup bag.

Practical Luxury: Full sizes of Fancy Shampoo, Conditioner, Bodywash—even deodorant. We get tons of masks and styling items, but I’d love to try out the pricier every day products. If I fall in love with one, I’d probably splurge on it regularly.

Unique Polish Finishes: We get a lot of cremé, glitter and shimmer polishes but there are a lot of other finishes out there. How about more holographics, jellies and duochromes this year?

Tools: I want to see more styling tools. I’d fall over to get a Mason Pearson brush or comb, a fabulous curling wand, or a great Blush brush.

Rose Gold:
We saw rose gold jewelry pop up in a lot of 2015 boxes, but it’s still on trend and most women don’t have a ton of it in their jewelry collection. Send us more please.

Moonstone: I love moonstone and it shines with both Pantone colors of the year (baby pink and blue). It’s gorgeous and mystical and I’d love to see it pop up in some jewelry.

I’d love to see more seasoning and spice blends (particularly salt free ones). Oils are great too—basically less snacks and more cooking items.

Bagged Lunches: Those of us who bring our lunch to work or school are always on the lookout for new boxes, bags or other gadgets that make it easier and more fun to pack a lunch. Cool Bento boxes, insulated containers and thermos are all welcome.

High End Cleaners: Cleaning isn’t glamourous but it’s a fact of life and I’d love to see high end cleaners in boxes. Eco-friendly countertop cleaners, fancy scrub brushes or specialty laundry detergents would all be some great practical additions.

So what’s your wish list for sub box items in 2016?

Nina Garcia Quarterly (#NGQ05): April 2015

I’ve been procrastinating on this review because the end of a love affair is always hard. Picture it: Fall 2013, and a fashion box with a glam grunge theme shows up at my door. It was like Nina knew *exactly* what I wanted. Friends, I fell hard and fast.

Then, a box of Nina’s favorite things shows up in March 2014. It’s not as tightly curated as the last one, and has a few odd items, but it was still a great and I was feeling secure in my decision to spend $100 every couple months for Nina.

Things took a turn in July 2014, when I got a box so strange, so odd, that I couldn’t believe it was Nina Garcia. It started with a baseball cap to commemorate the World Cup and ended with a tiny rubber shoe. Yes, a tiny rubber shoe. I didn’t think I could get past the betrayal, but I held on, hoping things would improve.

And they did, slightly, in November 2014, when we got a humdrum box that included yet another hat: This one featuring the word “Ballin” across the front. Where was the excitement? Where was the cutting edge style? Still, Nina had improved from our last disastrous encounter, so I was going to give her one more chance to see if there was still a spark left.

So that brings us to April 2015. The box that would decide if Nina and I still had a future together.
BoxOpen Box 1
I received an email saying that the “theme is Luxe Hair Care – “Nina’s favorite products for sleek, gorgeous hair every day”. But this was a fashion box! That couldn’t mean it would be *all* hair products, right? I mean it must be that most of the items are hair related and or maybe just have a big ticket styling tool. It’s not like they’d charge me $100 and then just send me a billion hair products? Right? RIGHT?
CardsOpen Box 2

Yeah, I know.
I should have seen it coming.
But when you once shared something beautiful with someone you always hold too tightly to the memory.

So yeah this is a box of hair stuff. And no, there’s not a curling iron or a blow dryer to be seen.

Shu Uemura’s The Volume Maker:
(Estimated Retail: $48.00)
Nina’s Description: “When I know I’m going to be on camera, I use Shu Uemura’s the Volume Maker,so that I can achieve the perfect amount of volume. It not only keeps my hair looking totally glamorous, but it looks beautiful just sitting on the shelf.”
Verdict: Hit!
Shu Uemura is a super fancy pants brand and this product does give you great volume. It has a brush applicator and if you apply a bit to your roots it gives you some great lift. This is the type of product I expect in a box at this price point so this was a good choice.

Serge Normant’s Dream Big Instant Volumizing Spray (1.8 oz):
(Estimated Retail: $15.00)
Nina’s Description: “Another product I use to maximize volume is Serge Normant’s Dream Big Instant Volumizing Spray because sometimes a girl just needs to have options in the volume department. This product will keep your style going strong without any sticky strands. Serge is a close friend and one of my favorite hairdressers. He has styled the hair of Sara Jessica Parker, Julia Roberts and is responsible for the hair gracing many of our covers at Marie Claire.”
Verdict: Like, but a bit redundant
Yes, yes you want “options” in the volume department, but this is a one time box. Maybe the curation should focus on more variety and less duplication. That being said, I actually really like this product and received it in Birchbox’s LE Vanity box which is still available for purchase. The Vanity box is fabulous and actually costs less than this one. It features hair products (including something from Shu Uemura) along with a plethora of beauty, skincare and lifestyle items. If you’ve got Birchbox points you’re saving up, that would be a great splurge.

Frederic Fekkai PRX Reparatives Intensive Fortifying Mask (1.69 oz):
(Estimated Retail: $8.00)
Nina’s Description: “Frederic Fekkai is another one of my dear friends in the industry , and has been one of my salons of choice for many years. I trust him with my color, cut, and all around haircare. He has styled the locks of many famous women, including model Claudia Schiffer and powerhouse Hillary Clinton. Additionally, he produces a line of luxury hair products, one of which is his PRX Reparatives Intestive fortifying mask. I’ll use it if my hair is too exhausted, has been colored too many times, or I’m getting ready for summer (like I’m doing now)….”
Verdict: Eh
Don’t get me wrong, Fekkai is a great brand, but you can find his products everywhere (including Target). I think there are more interesting brand for hair masks and that a Fekkai shampoo & conditioner set would have been a better choice from this brand.

Philip Kingsley’s Elasticizer (40 ml):
(Estimated Retail: $15.00)
Nina’s Description: “Philip Kingsley, the guru of growing strong hair, produces a special product called the Elasticizer, which was originally formulated for Adurey Hepburn. It’s a miracle product that does it all. When I have a big event and need to get my hair in shape quickly, this is my go to..”
Verdict: Love!
This saved Audrey Hepburn’s hair! Sign me up! This is the type of product I want in a $100 fashion box that decided to feature all hair products. This is also a treatment you use before shampooing which adds to the uniqueness of it. This one is definitely a win.

Sachajuan’s Hair Repair (100 ml):
(Estimated Retail: $18.00)
Nina’s Description: “What I love about the next brand, Sachajuan, is that their products contain what they call ‘Ocean Silk Technology’. This is a combination of ocean algae used to add moisture and shine to hair. I appreciate their thoughtful and simplistic approach to haircare and I like knowing that every ingredient in the product as a role. I use Sachajuan’s Hair repair when I travel, or in season when my hair gets especially frizzy. This is my tried and true product.”
Verdict: Like, but getting overwhelmed
This is brand I’ve received in LE boxes from Popsugar and Birchbox and I really do like their products. My problem is that at this point I’m getting overwhelmed with the amount of treatments/masks. While I know they are different, it’s hard to know which one to start using. This is a subscription box, not the hair care aisle of Sephora. This is supposed to be a tight curation, not everything Nina’s ever used. Sometimes less is more.

RedKen’s Pillow Proof Blow Dry Express Primer (5.7 oz):
(Estimated Retail: $22.00):
Nina’s Description: “Before I blow dry my hair, I’ll use Redken’s Pillow Proof Blow Dry Express primer. Redken is another industry staple and their area of expertise is hair proteins. They developed products composed of the same proteins as hair, so that each strand could be strengthened and repaired from inside out. This particular product does it all—it protects my hair form the heat of styling toosl, majorly cuts down on my drying time, and keeps my style for a full 24 hours. This is my protector of choice when I know I have a long day ahead of me.”
Verdict: Expected
I don’t blow dry my hair too frequently, but I expected a blow dry product to be included. It’s not particularly exciting but it makes sense in the box. I haven’t tried much Redken but I don’t consider it to be too high end or luxurious. I just feel like if I can find the product at CVS it doesn’t belong in a $100 box strictly devoted to hair products.

Redken Sealer
Extreme Length Sealer by Redken (1.7 oz):
(Estimated Retail: $24.00)
Nina’s Description: “ I’ll use the Extreme Length Sealer by Redken when I need long hair fast—like when I’m prepping for Project Runway or a major event.”
Verdict: More Redken and More Treatments!
This item is a problem because not all subscribers have or want long hair. In addition, this is part of a length system by Redken so it seems like to get the best effect you’d need the shampoo and “primer”. There’s already plenty of treatments and a Redken item in this box. This slot would have been much better filled with some type of styling tool.

L’Oreal’s Smooth Intense Ultimate Straight Perfecting Balm:
(Estimated Retail: $5.97)
Nina’s Description: “ L’Oreal’s smooth intense ultimate straight perfecting balm goes on prior to any sort of heat usage to help keep my hair straight and frizz free all day long. It’s another perfect product for those particularly packed days and a brand that I’ve come to trust over the years.”
Verdict: In case you can’t go to CVS yourself
Yes Nina, thank you so much for introducing us to L’oreal. I’d never heard of it before. I have nothing against drugstore brands – I have and use plenty of them, including L’oreal. BUT THEY DO NOT BELONG IN A $100 BOX!

Multipurpose Pro Tools Oval Brush by Harry Josh
(Estimated Retail: $40.00)
Nina’s Description: “ I use my Multipurpose pro tools oval brush by Harry Josh on my hair every day, wet or dry. I knew Harry Josh before his career as a hairstylist, when he was a casting director for Mac Jacobs and Louis Vuitton. I was thrilled when he came out with his line of hair care. Given his background working with world-renowned brands, I knew I was going to get a quality tool that topped the list of both function and style.”
Verdict: FINALLY!
Our first (and only) tool in this box. This is what I expect from a $100 box featuring hair products: a well made, lovely looking hair brush. Most ladies can go out and splurge on a styling product or mask for $15, but most don’t have an arsenal of high end hair styling tools. This brush seems quite sturdy and I love the color. It’s the best thing in the box.

Living Proof
Night Cap Overnight Perfector by Living Proof (118 ml):
(Estimated Retail: $28.00)
Nina’s Description: “Before bed, there is one final product I use: Nigh Cap overnight perfector by Living proof. The only thing you have to do is apply it to your hair before heading to bed, and one application will give you 5 days worth of benefits, through shampoos and all. I’ll use this right before fashion week or when I have a long stretch of filming ahead of me.”
Verdict: MOAR Treatments
Have you lost track of the number of hair treatments we have now? I know I have. Living Proof is another great brand but we’ve already been through like a million treatments. How about something more practical – styling tools, shampoos/conditioners – something to help offset the ridiculousness of $100 all on hair products, some of which come from the drugstore.

Hair Accessory
Carved Birchwood Hairpin by Masterpeace:
(Estimated Retail: $???)
Nina’s Description: “To seal this box with a kiss, I have added the Carved Birch Wood Hairpin by Masterpeace. Each piece in the Russian luxury accessories line is handcrafted and you can turn to this on days when you want to put all your hair up, or in a half pony tail…it was handmade exclusively for my Quarterly box….”
Verdict: At least it’s not a hair treatment
I’m glad to see something in here that isn’t a hair treatment, unfortunately this isn’t my style and it doesn’t quite feel “sleek” to me.  It also can’t be used by the folks with short hair. A headband would have been a better choice since everyone would be able to use it. Still it’s a nice change of pace and it’s an item exclusively made for this box.

Also included are a bunch inserts about the products and a 20% off card for GHD products that expired by the time we received the box (did I mention that Quarterly boxes are notorious for arriving late?). Quarterly  sent subscribers an email saying they extended the date of the coupon. Sadly now that I’ve spent $100 on hair treatments I have no money to buy anything else hair related until the Fall.

Nina Garcia April 2015 Quarterly

Verdict: Technically has a great value, but a fail on practicality and logic

Individually most of these items are really great.   Unfortunately this is a box, and the name of the game is curation. It’s also important to note that this is a $100 fashion and style box. This is a lot of money for only hair products – many of which are not even close to “luxury”. As a subscriber, I expected this box to either have a mix of fashion and hair items or be heavy on styling tools. It had neither. Technically the retail value is $223.97 (excluding the wooden hair tie) but this box has only one styling tool and is full of repetitive items. A better option would have been to have one really luxurious item (like a nice blow dryer), two treatments and the brush.

So my final letter to Nina:

Dear Nina,
I’m sorry to tell you but I’ve found someone else.
Rachel Zoe truly understands me.
She offers spoilers of the high end item in her box, always arrives on time and has a crazy tight curation.
She’s shown me everything that a $100 quarterly subscription should be, so I’m moving on.

Best of luck with your boxes and please, stay away from the hats.

Much love,
Subscription Therapy

Nina Garcia Quarterly (#NGQ04): November 2014

So if you are an avid reader here, you may remember my last Nina Garcia Quarterly review, the box so epically bad that it inspired me to write a poem about the tiny black rubber shoe it included. In homage to that box, I’ve decided to rate my Fall Nina Garcia box, with a new “tiny rubber shoe” rating. Worst = 1 tiny black rubber shoe, Best = 5 tiny rubber black shoes.


Now you may think this review is super late, but this box that was supposed to arrive in October, but showed up in late November. I have to admit it was a bit of a bummer since you kind of want a Fall Fashion Box to show up at the start of the season.
Open Box 1

Now enough chitcat, let’s put on our judgy pants, bust out the little rubber shoes and keep our fingers crossed there won’t be another #$#%# hat in this one….
Open Box 2 Cards


Ballin’ Hat by Brian Lichtenberg: (Estimated Retail: $48.00)
Nina’s Description: “Brian’s pieces are playful and adored by the fashion set. This hat will keep you cool and stylish all season long.”
Tiny Black Shoe Rating: -10 shoes
Yes, that is a knit hat with the word “Ballin” on it. Okay, just think about what your day would be like if you walked down the street with the word “Ballin” on your fucking forehead. I can’t even…. There are a million awesome hats out there, why does Nina keep picking out hats with crap written on them that most women would rather be caught dead than wear? Seriously?

Pantone Mug:
(Estimated Retail: $15.00)
Nina’s Description: “Whether you are a coffee, tea, or hot chocolate drinker, the winter is a time for hot beverages to keep you warm. I find that having a stylish go to mug makes the experience even better”
Tiny Black Shoe Rating: 2 shoes
What, oh, what’s that? Sorry, I was so bored I fell asleep. Now there is nothing wrong with a mug, but it’s pretty uninspiring. The fashion-y aspect of this makes it suited to the box but it’s just not interesting enough, imho. I also think it’s pretty funny that the Panteone color on the label doesn’t match the color painted on the mug even though they are supposed to be the same very specific shade.

Comb 2Comb
Sweater Comb by the Laundress
(Estimated Retail: $18.00)
Nina’s Description: “It removes pills and keeps everything looking renewed and refereshed season afters season. I even use it on wool coats and scarves.”
Tiny Black Shoe Rating: 5 shoes!
I know that a sweater comb doesn’t scream out excitement, but this is incredibly practical and is something I  didn’t know existed. I have that little vacuum shaver thingy that you use for pills but that really lessens the life of your knits. This looks like a less abrasive alternative and I’m totally digging it.

EarringsEarrings Close
Rue Gembon Earrings:
(Estimated Retail: $65.00)
Nina’s Description: “These earrings are a versatile accessory in that you can wear them to both the office and out to dinner or a party. They are also a good way to show your personal accessory style when you are all bundled up..”
Tiny Black Shoe Rating: 8 shoes!
I love, love, love these earrings. You can actually wear them several ways since the pearl piece is separate and can be removed. So you can wear the pearls piece either in front of your lobe (or behind) or just wear the studs. That’s a lot of looks for one small earring. I agree with Nina that these can easily be dressed up or down and I love the way they lay on the ear – almost like a cool ear cuff. This is exactly the kind of thing I expect from Nina and I wish more items showed this type of sophistication and practicality. This also came with a coupon code for the Rue Gembon site. I couldn’t find these exact earrings, but I linked to ones that are very similar.

Nude’s Progenius Treatment Oil:
(Estimated Retail: $39.00)
Nina’s Description: “ …is made of plant oils containing omegas, but is free from parabens, sulfates, phthalates, mineral oil, or petrochemicals…”
Tiny Black Shoe Rating: 5 shoes!
I’ve really gotten into cleansing and face oils in the last year or so, so I always welcome trying out new products, especially all natural ones. I think this is a perfect beauty item to include in a Fall/Winter box so Nina definitely chose well with this.

RGB Cosmetics Polish in Oxblood
(Estimated Retail: $18.00):
Nina’s Description: “ …As the season change, so does our nail color. To keep your nail game on point, I have included a chic, wintry polish.…”
Tiny Black Shoe Rating: 3 shoes!
Okay you know I love polish and you know I love dark reds, but I had to knock off a couple shoe points because this looks very very similar to the polish Nina sent in last year’s fall box. I know it’s a different brand, but I think it’s still way too similar. I think other folks got different shades so this might just be an issue with my box. The polish seems quite nice though.

Deux Lux Cross-Body Handbag
(Estimated Retail: $75.00):
Nina’s Description: “ This cross body satchel is right on trend with its fringe and is a super fun, lightweight piece to tote your goods around town. A seasonal handbag is a great way to update your look and make your wardrobe feel fresh…”
Tiny Black Shoe Rating: 2 shoes
Okay so I agree with Nina on a lot of points here and I’m 100% behind the *idea* of this bag. The problem for me is the execution. This is a “vegan leather” bag which pretty much means pleather. I actually own a lot of vegan leather bags and I love them, but this particular color, in this fabrication, with all that fringe just looks (as Nina would say) “inexpensive”. I think in another color or with less fringe or something it might be better, but this just looks a bit Forever 21 for my taste. Perhaps if the fringe was shorter or finer, but this just isn’t sophisticated enough. I would have wanted to use this at the start of the fall season, so getting it in November just seems a bit on the late side. I couldn’t find this exact bag on the site, so I linked to a similar one. This one has a different strap and different colors, but you can already see how much nicer and more expensive that makes the bag look.

Full Box

Was this a perfect box? No.
Was it well curated with thought put into most of the selections? Yes.
The only truly horrific item is the Ballin hat.  While a knit hat is appropriate for Fall/Winter, it’s only that particular beanie I take issue with (and there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type.) While I didn’t love the bag or mug, they fit perfectly with this type of sub and I can easily see other folks loving them.

With using similar priced items to the ones that I couldn’t find exact matches for, this box came out to a retail value of $278.00. I paid $100 for it and got a few items I love, a couple I really like and a few I’ll give away, so I definitely think I got my money’s worth.  Nina had a lot to make up for with her last box, and while this isn’t the roaring success of the 2013 Fall box, it’s a huge improvement over the mess we saw in July.

Theoretically our next box should come in March and I’m excited to see what shows up for spring.

What did you think of this box? Would it be worth the $100 to you?

Andrew Zimmern Quarterly Box (#ZIM03): July 2014

So I’ve been putting off my review of the Andrew Zimmern Quarterly box since I was already dealing with the abysmal failure of my Nina Garcia Quarterly box. Let’s just say that this quarter, my Quarterly subs are no bueno. Like seriously no bueno, like what the !$#%@#% were you thinking, no bueno.

So before I get into this ridiculous box, let me ask you what you might expect from a sub box from Andrew Zimmern? Weird Food Items? Travel doodads? Cool gadgets to create aforementioned weird food? Because that’s what comes to my mind. His first box featured products from Spain, his second highlighted Asia, so where would this box take us?

Open Box

So as usual this box comes the the nicely put together Quarterly letter from the curator. Andrew Zimmern invites us to go on a road trip with him and says, “these days, I hit the road with my wife riding shotgun, our son in the back seat, belting out tunes and stopping for greasy burgers and shakes on our way to our cabin northern Minnesota.”

Oh an all American road trip! Sounds great! … There are so many cool and interesting directions we can go with this, and sadly we took a wrong turn—a lot of wrong turns.

North Cap
(Estimated Retail: $17.00)
Description: “When I’m on the road, I rely on ball caps as much for style as I do for sun protection, especially on the top of my head…”
Verdict: Another @%#$%#@%@# baseball hat.
Especially on the top of your head? Where the hell else are you wearing a baseball cap? This isn’t travel! This isn’t food! I hate to break it to these Quarterly curators but their personal memories don’t always translate to us. It’s great that you wear baseball hats for style and sun protection on roadtrips but for most us (especially the ladies) roadtrips do not equal ball caps. Nor do ball caps equal a food or travel subscription. If we wanted an Andrew Zimmern’s favorite stuff box, then we’d subscribe to it. You said food and travel. FOOD AND TRAVEL. Okay, okay I’m okay. I’m just tired of baseball hats and little rubber shoes.

Historic Park Sticker
(Estimated Retail: $2.00)
Description: “…road trips are indeed as much about the journey as they are the destination. It’s a time for being weird souvenirs (case in point: the historic park stickers I’ve included)..”
I agree with Zimmern’s sentiments, but are Historic Park Stickers really “weird souvenirs”? I’m thinking more like a hoola dancer dashboard girl or some kind of Elvis backscratcher or a Tshirt that says “I saw the world’s largest rubber band ball and all I got was this shirt”. In the category of “weird souvenirs” this doesn’t really break the top 10. Having said that, I know I can do something fun and crafty with the sticker itself it and the idea behind its inclusion is solid so I’m giving this a “like” verdict.

Pearson’s Salted Nut Rolls and Necco Wafers
(Estimated Retail: 99¢ each Nut Roll; 18¢ each roll)
Description: Along with the souvenirs, Zimmern says that road trips should have “guilt free snack” so he included his favorite candies.
Verdict: Sigh
Really? Of all the candies to ever candy, your favorite one is a Necco Wafer? They are like colored pieces of chalk. (And for the record I found an extra nut roll in the packaging later, so there were in fact 2 nut rolls in the box, despite only one in the photograph). Again, this isn’t an “Andrew Zimmern’s favorites” box – its’ supposed to be a travel/food sub with a roadtrip theme. How about some interesting, unusual snacks instead?

Lamb Jerky
Border Springs Farms Smoked Lamb Jerky
(Estimated Retail: $8.00)
Verdict: Okay so maybe I take that back…
Description: “Jerky is the ultimate road trip food….”
Nothing says driving cross country like dried pieces of meat. But I’ll give him a point and say that jerky makes sense for a roadtrip snack. I am not a jerky aficionado so I passed this along to my boyfriend who loves jerky, so he could give a review. “This jerky tastes like poop. Seriously, this is the worst jerky I’ve ever eaten—make sure you write that down.” He only managed one piece so we had to toss the rest. This would have scored some points if the jerky was palatable—but sadly another loser.  I couldn’t find it on the Border Springs online shop, so I’m just estimating it at $8.00

(Estimated Retail: $11.97)
Description: “Hours in the car always leads to great conversation, which is why I love Hypertheticals—Chuck Klosterman’s 50-question deck of cards that claims to lead to insane conversations….”
Okay, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t’ really need cards to help me have an insane conversation. Any moment I want one I can just call my mother and listen to her misinterpret something she saw on Dr. Oz.  And as for people I willingly spend time with, my friends are entertaining enough on their own (sometimes too entertaining).

Barnacle from Ilovehandles
(Estimated Retail: $4.95)
Not sure
Description: “What road trip would be complete without music? I’m a music fanatic and there’s no better place to crank it than driving with the windows down on a hot summer day.” He mentions you can follow is favorite driving songs on Spotify and continues “and play it from your smart device. In fact, you can use the Barnacle form Ilovehandles to stick your phone to the dashboard…….”
I guess I don’t know why I need this barnacle thing. Why do I need my phone on the dashboard? I  plug it into my sound system and then just leave it on the seat rest. I’m sure I’ll get creative and figure out something else to stick to the barancle, but right now I’m just not feeling it.

Full Box

Good idea, very poor execution.

I agree with a lot of the ideas Andrew Zimmern brought out: quirky souvenirs, guilty pleasure snacks, music and games for the car, but none of his choices really worked for me. It felt way too much like Andrew Zimmern indulging his own favorite items and not enough like Andrew Zimmern picking out things that we as subscribers would enjoy.

I paid $50 for this box and my estimated retail value (with just a guess at the jerky) came out to $44.80. In addition to the actual retail value being too low on this box, the usefulness and appeal of the items just wasn’t there. In comparison to his last boxes, this one seems to come completely out of left field. The others featured a destination and foods/items that jived with it. This one was a hodge-podge of random stuff, that I doubt most subscribers would enjoy.

Coupling this disastrous box with the fact that I started a diet that really limits the types of food I can eat, I decided to cancel this one.

I’d love to hear what you thought of this box? Did it adequately capture the Road Trip theme? Is this what you’d expect from a Food and Travel sub?

Nina Garcia Quarterly (#NGQ03): July 2014 (An ode to a tiny rubber shoe)

So friends, this was supposed to be one of the four times a year when I get super excited because my favorite subscription box shows up at my door: the Nina Garcia box from Quarterly. If you’re a beauty or fashion enthusiast (or a Project Runway fan) then you know who Nina is. Her first box (Fall 2013) had a “glam grunge” theme and to date is my favorite sub box that I’ve ever received. Her last one in March, was a bit more of a hodge podge, but that was expected since it was a “favorite things” box. It had a couple misses, but overall was quite excellent. I’m giving you this background so you know where we’re coming from and that way maybe you can tell me how we ended up with this July box.

I tried to think of many themes for this box and the one that features most prominently in my mind is: “What the #$&*%#&* Nina?” I usually don’t give you my overall opinion so early on in my review, but you need to prepare yourself. Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Open Box 1 Open Box 2
So where should we start…I know with one of my oh so favorite items…

Muito Cool Baseball Cap: (Estimated Retail: $55.00)
Nina’s Description: I worked with SP϶NGLISH to design this custom Muito Cool baseball cap for you. As one of the coolest accessories for this summer, it is not only perfect for the moment, but will also serve as memento of the 2014 World Cup for years to come.”
Verdict: What the @&*#$&(!
Cool – I do not think it means what you think it means.
You know what all the fashion and beauty obsessed ladies who are willing to fork over $100 for a beauty sub, want? A baseball hat. And not just any baseball hat. One to commemorate the World Cup. It’s what every American woman dreams of receiving. We spend all that time doing our hair and all that money on hair products just so we can shove it all under an ugly hat. This is the same brand featured in the last NG box, only that shirt was a million times better designed and infinitely more useful. Putting aside that we didn’t need a repeat of this brand so quickly, this item is just absurd. There were so many other fashionable options if you really needed a “memento of the 2014 World Cup” like a sophisticated charm bracelet with a removable World Cup charm or maybe you just don’t need to bring sports into this box at all. Maybe.

Let’s move on to another winner…

Koku Pouch: (Estimated Retail: $108.95)
Nina’s Description: “The other accessory that every fashionista must have every summer is a go-to bag. Whenever this item of year hits, I set aside my usual lady-like purses and opt for a lightweight clutch. One of my personal favorites is a Koku pouch that doubles as a summer clutch. All of Koku’s products are handmade in Greece. This clutch…features raffia fringe and a plexiglass decoration—giving it an unparalleled summery feel”
Verdict: Seriously?
Nina says ‘Unparalled summery feel” I say “dollar store reject.” I cannot express to you enough how much cheaper this looks in person. It’s like something you put together from odds and ends of the Luau aisle of Party City. I couldn’t find my exact version so I linked to a similar pouch with a plexiglass decoration and raffia. The linked one is much more attractive than mine, but if you’re willing to pay over a $100 for either one, I have some land in Florida I want to sell you.

Oh, so what’s our next high end fashion, oh so unique find?

Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration SPF 30 (Estimated Retail: $10.79)
Nina’s Description:“Of course with the onset of summer, most of us go through ha change of routine and encounter new priorities. At the top of my list is protecting my skin. For that purpose I have included Hawaiian tropic silk hydration spf 30. Its classic Hawaiian Tropics scent evokes the feeling of summer and its broad spectrum protection will keep your skin safe, helping you stay worry-free.”
Verdict: Sigh, are we even trying anymore?
I’m going to put aside the fact that SPF 30 is really not high enough for a lot of folks and point out that you can pick this up at any drugstore. Hell, you can probably pick this up at a gas station. I highly doubt that Nina is spraying herself with this sunblock. If we’d gotten a luxury brand or even a new emerging one, sunblock would have been a great addition. Because of the low SPF I won’t be able to use this.

Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray: (Retail: $21.50)
Nina’s Description: “It acts like a dry shampoo in that it absorbs oil at the roots, but adds volume and texture to your hair. It gives it a ‘just done look, and will keep your style looking fresh for a couple of days….”
Hit! (Finally)
I actually have a big can of this courtesy of the Popsugar Neiman Marcus box. It works amazingly well for updos and this travel size is perfect for summer. It’s just the thing for keeping your hair looking fabulous during an August wedding and the small size is great for traveling. Finally, something I can actually use!

Shave Cream
Organic Shave Gel by Surya Brasil (Estimated Retail: $20.39)
Nina’s Description:“ incredible, vegan, organic shave gel by Surya Brasil. Your legs will be super smooth, and you can rest easy knowing that it doesn’t contain any GMOs and is cruelty free.”
Verdict: Hit!
A useful product from an interesting new brand. Hot Damn! A shave gel is perfect in a summer box and I’m excited to try out this new company that has vegan products. Progress, we’re making progress!

Joico K-Pak Intense Hydrator (Estimated Retail: $16.00)
Nina’s Description:“It will moisturize and calm your hair, making it healthier, shinier and just overall more manageable when styling.”
Verdict: Like
A hair moisturizer isn’t super exciting, but it seems useful and this is another new brand for me. I’ll try adding to my hair routine once or twice a week.

LipstickLipstick Swatch
ck One Lipstick in Entice: ($8.97)
Nina’s Description: “No summer look is complete without a bright lip and nail—‘tis the season for bold, intense, saturated colors!.”
Verdict: Hit!
I actually really love this shade and the color stayed put for a surprisingly long time. I’ve never tried any ck One beauty products so it was nice to add this to my collection.

Polish Polish Swatch
Formula X Nail Lacquer in Push the Limits (Retail: $10.50)
Nina’s Description:“No summer look is complete without a bright lip and nail—‘tis the season for bold, intense, saturated colors!..”
Despite my plethora of polish, I don’t have any of the Formula X so it’s nice to try this one out. I tend to favor blue reds, while this one is an orange. I don’t have anything like it so it’s a nice addition to my giant polish hoard. The color applied smoothly and I think the shade will be fabulous for pedicures.

Palm Tree Print Clutch by Print All over Me (Retail: $20.00)
Nina’s Description:“It’s summery pattern makes it the perfect pouch to hold all of your summer essentials.”
What is this trend with calling pouches, clutches? This is a pouch. It is a cute and lovely pouch, but it is not a clutch. I don’t ever see people walking around with these things as bags. They are what you put your makeup in and then in turn throw into your actual bag. So putting that aside, this isn’t a bad pouch, but the Popsugar Summer LE Box had a much nicer one that is very similar. I’ll be gifting this one since there are only so many ocean printed pouches that I can use at a time. This is yet another editorial choice I just don’t understand. Nina already included that hideous, I mean quirky “clutch”. Why not do a tote bag instead? There are plenty available from Print All Over Me. I couldn’t find any pouches on the site, but it’s very hard to navigate. Their tote bags cost $28.00, so I’ll estimate this at $20, since I would think a tote bag would cost more that a medium pouch.

Red Flower Italian Blood Orange Refreshing Hand & Face Towelette
(Sample Estimated Retail: .71; Estimated Retail: 7 pack/$5.00)
Nina’s Description:To freshen up when you are on the go…”
Like, but…
Really, just one towelette? Maybe you could have omitted the terrible baseball cap so we could have a couple of these instead. I like this item, I think it’s a great addition, but just one seems very stingy to me. This is what I expect in a Birchbox sample, not in a $100 box. And a 7 pack is only $5.00 so it’s not like the uber expensive Revive sample from last time…

Gift Card
OtterBox Brazilian Pop! Symmetry Series Phone Case (For iPhone 5/5s or GALAXY s5)
(Estimated Retail: $49.95)
Nina’s Description:“…your device deserves an upgrade in the accessory department too! In the spirit of Brazil and summer, I worked with OtterBox to design this protective case inspired by Brazilian street art.”
I have an Iphone 5 so I was one of the folks who could actually use the gift card for a case. (Apparently you don’t need a case if you don’t own an Iphone or a Galaxy). The design is bright and cheerful but I just don’t love it. I did redeem it so I may just pass it along to someone else or save it for when I want to take my super hardcore case off my Iphone.

Desk Ornament from Melissa (Retail: ???)
Nina’s Description:“I have also included a desk ornament from the Brazilian shoe designer Melissa. Melissa creates vegan, rubber shoes and has collaborated with designers such a Vivienne Westwood, and architect Zaha Hadid. On the shelf at home or on your desk at work this little shoe is the perfect item for the fashion obsessed.”
Somewhere there is a sad doll, searching, just searching for her missing shoe.

I don’t even know where to start. Really, this is a tiny rubber shoe. One tiny rubber shoe. It’s more like the beginning of a sad beatnik poem, than a “desk ornament”. Does Nina really keep this on her desk? My desk only has things I can use or things I adore. And I can’t imagine adoring one miniature rubber shoe. Maybe I’m missing something? Maybe fashionistas all over the world truly believe this is the perfect desk accessory? Maybe I’m out of touch? Maybe I should quit being a blogger and roam around the world visiting shoe stores until I can fully appreciate the craftsmanship of this tiny piece of art. Wait, it has inspired me! Here it is, an ode to the tiny rubber shoe:

So much depends upon,
a black rubber shoe,
wrapped in tissue paper
beside a red polish.

Headphones 1 Headphones 2
In-Ear Headphones from Frends (Retail: $99.00)
Nina’s Description:“There’s no better way to get you in the mood for summer than with some great music. That’s why I’ve chosen to include these super chic white, in ear headphones decorated with a gold wire overlay from Frends. These beauties are so pretty that they almost look lik ea piece of jewelry—why shouldn’t your tech gear be super stylish?”
Finally! A big ticket item that actually feels like Nina Garcia would use. These headphones are so pretty and while I have a bunch of earbuds these are the nicest. I’d never splurge on these myself, but am so excited to try them out. If you love them, they are available on Birchbox so you can hoard your points to get them.

Vanilla Orchid & Almond Classic Candle by Nest (Retail:12.00)
Nina’s Description:“I absolutely adore these candles and the summery scents are incredible..”.
I would have loved this in another scent. This one is way too strong and it’s not summery at all. I noticed others got scents like “orange blossom” and I would have infinitely preferred that.  I own a Nest candle I adore that came in that Popsugar Neiman Marcus Box which also had the Oribe spray. Except that box had larger sizes of both items. I find it very odd that Nina would include two items that were already packaged together in another box. It just seems poor planning to me. I would have held off and included the Nest candle in the Fall box and left the Oribe spray in this one. She just set herself up for a comparison where her box was going to look worse.

Full Box
I sit alone in the corner, sobbing, clutching a tiny black rubber shoe to my chest…

Oh Nina, what happened here? Did someone hold your dog hostage and demand you include that hideous “clutch” and baseball cap? I don’t understand this box. It leads me to (gasp!) question your taste level. I cannot imagine you running around with that yellow raffia clutch and spraying yourself down with Hawaiian Tropics sunblock while wearing a baseball cap. As you so often ask on project runway – who is the woman you’re designing for? Would the woman who wears that baseball cap also be the one who needs a super pricey texturizing hair spray?

Theoretically this box is valued at $$455.76 (excluding the shoe and with my estimated cost on the pouch), but that’s with items like the shark clutch priced at over a $100. I paid $100, and there were a few items I liked (like the pricey headphones), but I can’t shake the disappointment I feel. In my opinion, I didn’t get what I signed up for. Nina is known for being chic and sophisticated and only a few items in this box fit that profile.

I am not canceling since I have faith that Nina will turn it all around and offer us a fabulous Fall box, but if it comes with a tiny rubber hat, I’m out.

What did you think of this box and what would you do with one tiny black rubber shoe?

Andrew Zimmern Quarterly Box (#ZIM02): March 2014

So when I filled out a survey about my Nina Garcia Quarterly box, the folks at Quarterly gave me a $10 coupon so I decided to put it toward trying out another of their offerings. (Don’t worry I still have my Nina Garcia subscription which they can pry out of my cold, dead hands).

There are tons of curators at Quarterly – some I recognize and some I don’t, along with different price points for boxes. I decided to try to pick something totally different than anything in my current box lineup, but I still wanted a celebrity I was familiar with. I settled on the Andrew Zimmern Box that costs $50.00 per quarter. Andrew Zimmern is listed as “Television,Food, and Travel Guy”. He hosts that “weird foods” travel show where he goes around the world eating stuff like turtle penis. He states on his quarterly page, “I love food. What I love even more is food with a story.”
Oh exciting, food that will tell me stories which hopefully won’t just be stuff like (that was a lot of calories go get your ass to the gym). My guess is this box should include food items from around the world with some travel items thrown in. I love cooking and trying new cuisines. I just hope there won’t be too much dried penis or goat’s blood or scary crap. I’m actually really open to most foods and have no food allergies, but there are some things that are never going in my mouth and most of them are what Andrew Zimmern regularly eats on his TV show.  This is only the second Andrew Zimmern box and the first had a Spain/Paella theme which I would have loved so I’m hoping this one is great as well.

Enough chatter and let’s get to it!
BoxOpen Box

As usual with the Quarterly boxes we get a lovely letter explaining the choices. Andrew writes, “Replicating Asian foods at home might seem a tricky feat. Lucky for you, I’ve done the work of sourcing the best stuff so you don’t have to.” So Asian is our theme. My small refrigerator is 75% Asian condiments right now so I’m guessing I’m going to like most of what’s in here.

Verdant Tea: Master Han’s Looseleaf 2004 Shu Pu’er & Master Han’s Wild Picked Yunnan Black
(Estimated Retail: these teas are currently sold out, but prices seem to range from $6.50 to $15.75)
Description: “Master Han wild-picks his tea in the Qianjiazhai region of the Mt. Ailao national forest preserve in the primeval tea forest of Yunnan.”
Verdict: Like
There are primeval tea forests? See, that right there just made me want to drink this tea. It sounds like the real world equivalent of drinking unicorn tears from Narnia. I’ve been slowly trying to get into tea so this will be something fun to try that I would never in a million years have picked for myself.

Rain and Other South Sea Stories by W. Somerset Maugham:
(Estimated Retail: $4.46)
Description: “W. Somerset Maugham led many lives, including that of a doctor in London’s slums, a successful playwright and novelist, an agent for British Intelligence during World War I, and a world traveler. In 1917, he took the first of many voyages to the Pacific Islands and the Far East, where his keen sense of observation found inspiration for some of his finest writing.
Rain and Other South Sea Stories features one of Maugham’s most famous tales, concerning the clash between a missionary and a prostitute.”

Verdict: Hit
My reading choices tend to steer toward the trashy (to distract me from my awful commute) interspersed with notable literary works I never got around to reading so that I can remember how to actually string proper sentences together. I don’t read many short stories so I probably wouldn’t have picked this up on my own, but I will read it. I really love the idea of this box including books and stories about exotic locales. It makes it stand apart from other food boxes.

 Drinking Vinegar
Thai Basil Pok Pok Som
(Estimated Retail: $15.00)
On the Fence
Description: Drinking Vinegar in Thai Basil flavor
So we knew there had to be at least one weird thing in here and it looks like the Drinking vinegar is it. Apparently you can use this with soda water or in cocktails? To be honest I find the idea of drinking vinegar repulsive, but I’m thinking of trying to use this in cocktails to replace bitters (after all doesn’t booze make everything taste better?) We’ll see how my experiments fare, but until then I’m on the fence about this one.

Fish Sauce
Red Boat Fish Sauce(2.7 oz):
(Estimated Retail: $6.95)
Description: “Red Boat premium fish sauce…is made using traditional chemical-free fermentation methods, a unique two hundred year-old artisanal process using only the freshest cá cơm (black anchovy), salted minutes after leaving the sea then aged for over a year in traditional wooden barrels. Red Boat anchovies are sourced exclusively from the crystal clear waters off the Phu Quoc island archipelago. Red Boat is pure, 100% all natural first press “extra virgin” Vietnamese fish sauce. Made from only two ingredients it is free from added water, MSG, and preservatives.”
Verdict: Hit!
Despite living in a metropolitan area finding fish sauce was an annoying task. For some reason the grocery store would keep eleventy million other Asian sauces, but not fish sauce. I’d have to make a special trip just to get any old fish sauce, nevermind this fancy pants version. I love to try cooking Asian dishes so this will give me an excuse to give homemade Pad Thai another shot.

Soy Sauce
Blue Grass Soy Sauce (100 mL)
(Retail: $5.50)
Verdict: Love!
Description: “Our soy sauce is microbrewed in small batches using only whole Kentucky grown Non-GMO soybeans, soft red winter wheat, and the purest limestone filtered Kentucky spring water. We ferment and age the soy bean mash in re-purposed bourbon barrels. It’s smoky and brothy with hints of oak and a mild sweetness reminiscent of fine Kentucky bourbon.”
I use soy sauce all the time and I’ve never tried one that’s “microbrewed in small batches”. I’m going to need to find a super special recipe for this. I’m thinking some kind of steak dish. It also came with a recipe for “The Sauce” which I guess isn’t referring to “hitting the sauce” but just a generic sauce you can use on any grilled meat.

Thai Chili Peppers
Season with Spice Thai Red Chili Peppers (.25 oz/7 grams)
(Retail: $4.49)
Description: “A simple to use, must-have spice for cooking Asian dishes – notably Sichuan & Southeast Asian – our whole, dried Thai Red Chili Peppers give a spicy kick to stir-fries, noodles dishes, and soups.”
I have this great Chinese Takeout Cookbook that calls for dried chili peppers in a lot of the dishes so I’m sure I’ll put these to good use.

Full Box
Most of the ingredients included in this are familiar to me but are unique brands I wouldn’t have known to try or seek out. With the exception of the drinking vinegar (which may be awesome, or a disaster, or an awesome disaster), I know I will use all of them. It’s also fun to get a new book that I wouldn’t have picked up on my own but that I can probably learn a little something from. The cost of this box was $50.00 but with my coupon, I only paid $40. Without knowing the cost of the tea I can’t give a full estimate on this box, but I think it’s probably just about at the $50.00 price tag without including shipping costs on each of the ingredients.
I think this box is great for inspiring new recipes and I’m most likely going to keep it for at least one more quarter.

What did you think of the items? Do you cook Asian dishes frequently? Have you ever heard of drinking vinegar?

Nina Garcia Quarterly Box: March 2014 (#NGQ02)

Okay peeps, it’s that time again.  That oh so special time of year when the Nina Garcia Quarterly box shows up on my doorstep!  This is only the second box in the subscription and yet it’s at the top of my favorites list.   Quarterly is a service that offers quarterly subscriptions curated by all kinds of interesting folks who send select items in their special area of expertise.  Nina Garcia of course is a “Style Expert” and this is a fashion and beauty focused subscription.

BoxOpen Box 1

I was super excited to see what the theme of the box would be. Nina Garcia invites us to celebrate her fifth anniversary with Marie Claire and the arrival of spring.   So it turns out it is a “celebration box that includes a mixture of accessories, beauty products and home items”.

Once again the first thing in the box is a lovely letter from Nina describing her items and why she’s chosen them.  The inclusion of personal and detailed letters from the curator are a feature that make Quarterly stand out from a lot of the other boxes.  The letters make these boxes feel extra special and like the curator took time and care putting the box together.

Open Box II
Okay, okay enough backstory, let’s get into this box!  Drumroll, please…

TshirtMuy Cool T-shirt by SpƎnglish: (Estimated Retail: $55.00)
Nina’s Description:  This oversize tee can be worn dressed down with jeans and stylish sneakers, or dressed up with a skirt and blazer.”
Verdict: Love!
This is a special edition T-shirt created especially for Quarterly subscribers and includes Nina’s signature on the tag.  I was incredibly surprised to find a sized item in the box since Quarterly doesn’t ask for that info.  Amazingly the shirt came in a size I can wear (large) and I think it will fit great.  I love the flared cut and because it can be worn “oversized” it will probably fit a lot of the smaller folks as well.  I do think including this was a gamble since it won’t fit everyone, but for me personally I love it.  Because this is a special edition, I’m estimating the value based on the only women’s tee available on the SpƎnglish site.

Sterling Silver Shark Tooth Necklace by Sara Beltran:  (Retail: $100.00)
Verdict: Miss
Nina’s Description:  “It’s an incredibly versatile piece—you can wear it alone, or mix it up with other necklaces to create a bolder statement.  Its happy and brightly colored cord will seamlessly transition from spring into summer and the silver shark tooth gives it a trendy edge.”
My first instinct was that this looked cheap and sort of dated.  Color me shocked to find out it actually costs $100.00.  I like the daintiness of it, but the shark tooth just doesn’t feel fashion forward.  I do think it might be cute layered with some other pieces, so I’ll give that a shot.  If the pendant had been something that felt a little more fresh I would have adored this item.

Nail Polish
O.P.I “Greenade” Polish (Estimated Retail: $9.00)
Nina’s Description: “As with clothing and accessories, nail polish also changes from season to season.”
Verdict: Miss
This is another exclusive item for Nina’s Quarterly subscribers.  You all know I love polish and O.P.I is the first brand I really started using.  I like their polish, but this shade will in no way work for me.  I think this bright yellowish green is  a really hard color for a lot of folks to pull off.   I also don’t get a Nina Garcia vibe from it.  It’s not a color I imagine her wearing—even in spring.  I’m sure someone else will enjoy it though so I’ll probably trade this one out.  Since this is another exclusive I based the value on regular O.P.I. polishes.

C Wonder Delicate Skull Cuff:
 (Retail: $34.00)
Nina’s Description: “This fun bangle can be worn alone or stacked with other bracelts you wn to create a signature look.”
I don’t know about you but for me “skulls” do not scream out springtime (or celebration).  If this had come in a fall or winter box, I’d probably like it, but I’m looking for birds and flowers right now, not skulls and shark tooths.   It kind of looks like something I could pick up from a discount accessory place.  After googling, it seems like other folks got different styles, so I may have just been unlucky.  I may try it out with some other bracelets (like my hot pink gorjana and griffin from a long ago popsugar box) and see if I can “spring” it up.

ReVive’s Moisturizing Renewal Serum : (Retail: $??? Full Size: $235.00)
Nina’s Description:  “I wanted to include some of my favorite beauty products that turn back the clock for my skin.  Apply..every night and you will wake up feeling naturally refreshed with dewy skin.”
Verdict: Love!
So throughout my boxes I am quickly accumulating a billion serums, but I love trying out uber fancy pants expensive products so I’m excited to give this one a shot.  I hope I don’t love it too much because $235 for one beauty product is not going to happen.

Wallet Wallet Open
Wallet from Charming Charlie(Retail: $15.00)
Nina’s Description:  “The radiant floral print will be the perfect finishing touch and pop of color for all your spring outfits.”
After this never-ending winter, I’ve been craving florals so this cheerful wallet was a nice addition.  It is extremely practical with lots of slots for cards and the hardware has a rose gold color that is really nice.  I don’t know if the fabric on the wallet will stand up over time, but it’s an extremely affordable piece so if it lasts for just a season I’m fine with that.

LAFCO “Fleurs de Baies” soap (Retail: $17.00)
Nina’s Description:  “The scent leaves subtle floral notes on your skin without being overwhelming, and the packaging is beautiful.”
This is a lovely soap and Nina is right the packaging is beautiful, but the scent is just not for me.  I’m super picky and sensitive about scents and this one is too reminiscent of heavy old lady flower perfumes.  I’m going to gift this to someone who will love it and appreciate it.

Tom Ford’s “Jasmine Rouge” Perfume (Retail: Freebie/Sample; Retail – 1.7. oz: $210.00 )
Nina’s Description:  “…Jasmine Rouge as another way to get your floral fix…this scent is lovely and I like the finish.”
So like I said fragrances for me are problematic.  I hated this one.  It was too strong and overpowering.  I think a lighter floral would have been better for spring.  Despite my perfume pickiness, I do think spring is the perfect time to pick out a new fragrance so including one was a good idea.

Laura Mercier Bonne Mine Compact (Retail: $48.00)
Nina’s Description:  “…contains neutral colors for blending, to give your skin a fresh spring glow.  Additionally..100% of the proceeds to go toward the Laura Mercier Ovarian Cancer Fund, which is a cause close to my heart.”
I adore Laura Mercier and use her products regularly.  I’ve been eying plenty of cream cheek products for spring but luckily haven’t committed yet.  This product looks like it will work well with my skin tone and I’m going to have fun trying it out.  The best part is not only does this palette make you pretty and the proceeds go to charity, so this is officially my favorite item in the box.

Donkey Co. Tea Bag (Retail: €$7.95; USD $10.97)
Nina’s Description:  “Donkey Co. makes absolutely adorable tea bags and in honor of my 5th anniversary at Marie Claire, they created a Nina Garcia 5th Anniversary Marie Claire Special Edition of their Pret-A-porter.”
So now I can have morning tea with Nina Garcia!  Well, sort of it.  It’s a fun little whimsical addition and I’m trying to broaden my tea horizons so I’m going to give this one a shot.  Since this is special edition, I based my prices on similar tea bags from their site.

X Pen Ballpoint Pen (Retail: $??? Estimate: $8.00)
Graphic Image Pocket Notes Notebook:(Retail: $36.00)
Nina’s Description:  “This X-pen ballpoint pen is both functional and fashionable—an accessory that works with any outfit.  The graphic image pocket notes notebook is the perfect size (and weight!) to carry around with you on a daily basis.  I think there is something classic about taking handwritten notes and keeping a personal touch.”
These guys were packaged together so I figured I’d review them that way.   I hoard blank notebooks so this is right up my alley and I love high quality pens. For spring I had planned to re-organize my workbag and these items will be my new go-to pad and pen.  I couldn’t find the retail value of the pen so I’m estimating it at $8.00.

Happy Chic By Jonathan Adler (Retail:12.00)
Nina’s Description:  “The modern design on this Happy Chic by Jonathan Adler picture frame makes it perfect for holding some of your fondest memories.
I guess this item was included because Nina is the “resident style voice at JC Penney” and they want us to know they have low budget Jonathan Adler items.  Problem is this one is boring and the quality on it is pretty cheap. It looks like something you’d get on sale at Target.  Don’t let the Jonathan Adler name on this fool you, you could spend the same amount at TJ Maxx for a similar but much better quality frame.  I think other folks got different designs, which I may have liked more than this one.

Philosophy’s Time in a Bottle Serum (Retail:74.00)
Nina’s Description:  “For long lasting beauty, start your morning with philosophy’s time in a bottle serum.  Its impressive cocktail of antioxidants will protect and perfect your skin.  I use it on a daily basis to keep my skin healthy and smooth.”
Another serum?  So I guess we have learned that serums are really important and this is Nina’s day serum.  It’s been a long time since I tried a Philosophy product so it will be nice to revisit the brand.  Although at this point  I’m going to need to create a spreadsheet to figure out when to use all the serums I have now accumulated.

Marie Claire
Marie Claire Magazine & Fausto Puglisi Collage (Retail:4.99; Freebie?)
Nina’s Description:  “one of the most special items in the box is the illustrated Fausto Puglisis Collage which he create din celebration of my 4th year at Marie Claire.  I adore Fausto’s runway collections.”.
We all know there will be Marie Claire in the box and I always enjoy reading the magazine.  I understand the idea behind the collage and it’s a nice thought, but it’s not particularly attractive and I don’t know many people who would want to put this up on their wall.  Sadly, it will most likely end up in the recycle bin.  So sorry, Nina.

Full Box

The tshirt, notebook/pen and cheek palette made this box for me.  Unfortunately, there were also a lot of misses, but the value on this is so high that overall it was still an uber fabulous box.  I paid $100 for this and received about $420.00 worth of items even excluding the cost of the two sample items.

While I do love this box, I found her first one to be much more cohesive and on trend.   Perhaps the nature of the “anniversary” and “my favorite things” pushed this box into being less thematic and more random.  I had been hoping for an amazing spring fashion box and I did get some great items for spring, but this box had quite a few things that felt out of place for the season.

I’m interested to see if the next box is more thematic (like the fall) or more eclectic like this one.  And as usual I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

If you’re interested in the celebrity boxes at Quarterly, check back soon because I should be receiving the Andrew Zimmern box shortly!

Which box did you like better?  The November box or this one and why?

Nina Garcia Quarterly Box – November 2013

When I opened my mailbox and found a jury duty summons there was only one thing that could make me feel better.  The fact that it was sitting on top of my Nina Garcia Quarterly box.  Quarterly is a service that offers quarterly subscriptions curated by all kinds of interesting folks who send select items in their special area of expertise.  Nina Garcia is listed a “Style Expert” so this is a fashion and beauty focused subscription and November 2013 is the launch of its first box.
I was a little perturbed by the size of the package.  It just didn’t seem big enough for a $100 subscription, but I’m not going to panic because I trust Nina.

First ImpressionThe first thing I find when I open it up is the nicest descriptive info I’ve gotten from any of my boxes.  It’s a long letter from Nina detailing all the items and why they were chosen.

CardsNina writes, “For my first box, I’ve handpicked products from this season that reflect what’s happening in fashion today: hot brands, wardrobe staples, beauty essentials and up-and-coming designers.”  She goes on to explain that she’s connected the items with an underlying theme: Glam Grunge.

Okay people, this is going to be good.

The first item is:
Leather Cuff
Leather Dual Cone Cuff by Baublebar:
(Estimated Retail: $32.00)
Verdict: Love!
This item is exclusive for Nina’s first Quarterly mailing. She writes that it “strikes that perfect balance between polish and edge”.  Okay one, how cool is to have something that only the other folks smart enough to subscribe to Nina’s box will get and 2. This thing is just badass.  What I also love about it is that it has 3 rows of snaps, so whether you have a larger wrist or a freakishly small one like I do, it will fit you.  This item also came with a Baublebar coupon for $15 off of any order of $30+.  Because this is an exclusive, I’m basing the retail on a somewhat similar studded bracelet on the Baublebar Site.

Ear Cuff
Jack Vartanian Ear Cuff:
  (Retail: ????)
Verdict: Love!
The ear cuff trend is everywhere and I think it looks pretty damn cool, but I’ve been on the fence as to whether I could pull it off.  But now that Nina Garcia has given me permission I am totally ready to rock this.  It’s so dainty but edgy, and its subtle enough to make that touch of punk seem effortless.  Now I googled trying to find a retail price only to discover that Jack Vartanian is super fancy – as in jewelry at Barneys with price tags in the thousands of dollars.  This might not be gold and diamonds, but I’m betting the retail on costume jewelry from this caliber of designer is quite high.

Faux Fur Stole by Adrienne Landau
(Estimated Retail: $39.90)
How did Nina know that I’ve been pinning fur scarves to my Pinterest board for the last two months?  This little stole is quite soft and has an easy Velcro closure.  It’s small so it can add just a touch of fur without overwhelming your outfit.  Plus it’s warm, which is helpful for facing NYC winters.  This is yet another item made exclusively for Nina (clearly everyone loves Nina or she’s got a safety deposit box chock full of incriminating photos).  So this is another one where it’s difficult to pinpoint a retail value.  Adrienne has products in stores from Saks Fifth Avenue to HSN.  Since this stole is faux we’ll estimate the price to be on par with this piece she has on HSN.

Too Faced La Créme Color Drenched Lip Cream in Teddy Berry:
  (Retail: $21.00)
Verdict: Love!
Nina chose four different shades of plum lipstick and included a different one in each box.  Mine seems to be a little on the lighter side, but I think it will complement my skin tone really well.  I’ve never tried any Too Faced cosmetics so I can’t wait to give this one a whirl.

Essie Polish in Shearling Darling:
(Retail: $8.50)
Verdict: Hit!
I am a sucker for dark red polishes and this is a lovely shade of burgundy.  I only own one Essie polish, so this will help build my collection.

Pearl+ Luxury Soap: (Retail: $6.00)
This is a detox soap comprised of crushed pearl and charcoal.  It sounds fascinating but I am really sensitive to smells and this one is just too strong.  It’s definitely a manly type soap (think musk and cologne).  I think I will be adding this one to the gift pile.

Open Kit
VBeauté It Kit Anti Age Skin Care System:
(Retail: $99.00)
Verdict: Love!
Okay so the cost of this little kit pretty much covered the entire box.  It is an anti-aging skin care system and this little clutch is designed to be TSA friendly.  I have to say this is the most luxe travel skincare set I have ever seen.  Included with this was a coupon code for $25 off of a $75+ at I am unfamiliar with this brand, but if their product is half as good as their packaging I will love it.

December 2013 Marie Claire Magazine:
(Retail: $3.99)
Verdict: Hit!
We all knew this would be in here.  I don’t subscribe to this magazine, so it’s nice to get a free copy.

Full Box

Amazing.  Badass.  Awesome.
I had high hopes for this subscription and it more than exceeded them.  I paid $100 for this box.  Without including the Jack Vartanian ear cuff or the coupons,  my estimated retail is already at $200.00.  I love nearly everything, and with the exception of the soap I will use it all myself.  It’s clear that Nina had a lot of input and took a lot of care with this box.  I also adore that she gave all the items a theme.  I have to say I think this is my favorite subscription box to date.  Brava Nina!

There is just one downside to this box.  I have to wait a few months until the next one.

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