Freedom Japanese Market: April 2017 + Special Offer

Today I’ve got a really fun post I’ve been saving.  The wonderful folks from Freedom Japanese Market sent me their April snack box to review.  It’s got all sorts of fun and unique treats straight from Japan.  Plus if you mention Subscription Therapy, in your order notes, you can receive a free bonus candy in your first box!

Freedom Japanese Market sends you a monthly box of treats shipped fresh from Japan.  Most of the items are sold exclusively in Japan and boxes contain some limited edition snacks and candies that are only in Japanese stores for a month or two.  About a pound of candy and snacks are packed into each box and an itemized list with pictures is included in each box.

This adorable box was left out by my mailbox which my neighbors thankfully picked up before any of the local wildlife could get to it.

Inside we have a colorful snack guide plus an adorable origami sword.  Because these snacks aren’t available in the US, I’m not going to be pricing them out.

Now to the snacks!

Ume Paper
“Pickled plum in paper thin form – sweet and sour!”
Verdict:  Where’s the sweet?
Death people, this tasted like death.  Like if a Stephen King book turned into a fruit roll-up.

Mix Fruit Mochi
“Mini apple and pineapple flavored piece of sweet mocha (rice cakes).”
Verdict: Adorable!
I haven’t had a chance to try these yet, but they look adorable and apple and pineapple sound great.

Premium Umaibo
“Mozzarella and camembert cheese flavored puffed corn.”
  A cheese doodle on steroids
Imagine a cheese doodle made with stronger cheese.  Like almost but not quite stinky cheese.  Not bad, but nothing I’d go searching for.

Shimi Choco Corn
“Cute star-shaped crispy corn puffs coated in strawberry chocolate.”
  The strawberry is a lie.
I was so excited for these because no one loves artificial strawberry flavor like I do, but there was this strange sort of texture after eating these.  I can’t really explain it but it was so unpleasant and the strawberry taste was just odd. These were disappointing.

UFO Ramune
“Ramune flavored hard candy in four flavors: yogurt, peach, apple, and cider.”
  Sounds interesting
I didn’t get to try these but “yogurt” flavored hard candy sounds intriguing.  It can be either horrific or amazing, there really isn’t an in-between.

Description: “Beef consommé flavored ring shaped potato crisps are fun to play with and eat!”
Verdict:  Hamburger Magic
I had no idea what Beef consommé tastes like, but apparently it tastes like a hamburger.  Like a hamburger with ketchup and pickles on it and everything.  These little potato straws were like you took a hamburger happy meal and magically shoved it into an itty bitty crisp.  This was my favorite item in the box.

Teriyaki Umaibo
Description: “Teriyaki burger flavored tube of puffed corn.”
Verdict:  Beefy cheese doodle
Another ginormous cheese doodle.  I’m not sure I would have guessed this was “burger” if I wasn’t told.  The taste was savory but without being immediately identifiable (if that makes sense).

Caplico Mini
Description: “Strawberry flavored aerated chocolate shaped like a mini ice cream cone!”
Verdict:  Wafer-y goodness
This strawberry treat made up for the other one.  It was like a wafer cookie with lots of extra filling.

Pizza Umaibo
Description: “Pizza flavored tube of puffed corn”
This cheese doodle had that sort of sharp pizza flavor.  Not bad, but not something I’d look to eat again.

Description: “Ramen chips flavored like champon, a Nagasaki noodle dish made of seafood and veggies.”
Verdict:  Mostly non-distinct
I try all these treats without reading the card first, because I figure that will give me the most honest impression.  I was worried this one would have fish in it based solely on the angry face and the little prawn.  I’d eat one chip and it would be a pretty bland then I’d try another and it would have a faint taste of fish.  They were interesting but didn’t live up to the exclamation point in the name.

Kabuki Cracker
Description: “These delicious rice crackers are stamped with famous kabuki emblems.”
Verdict:  Crunchy and bland
I passed these over to my boyfriend and his verdict was that they were crunchy and pretty bland which is kind of a theme with a lot of the rice based Japanese snacks.

Description: “Mini grape flavored chocolate balls in cute animal packaging!”
Verdict:  Look at that face!!
I didn’t even try these but I love them. Look at that cute little face.  I don’t know if it’s a koala bear or some kind of alien hybrid animal, but I love it.  Packaging wins me over every time.

Caramel Corn
Description: “A seasonal exclusive!  Sweet rare cheesecake flavored curls of puffed corn.”
Verdict:  Lightly sweet
These corn puffs were very delicately sweetened and I thought they were a nice treat.  They almost reminded me of a lighter version of the honey flavored Chex Mix.

Chewing Straw Candy
Description: “Straw-shaped grape flavored gummy candy.”
Verdict:  Not quite for me
Normally gummies win me over, but I’m not a huge fan of sweet and sour gummies and these had that cloying sweet and bitingly sour thing going on.  But someone who enjoys those types of gummies would probably love this.


Now, this box normally costs $24.99, which seems fair to me for a box shipped from Japan with this many treats. I think this would make a fun gift for a teen or even someone away at college.  Even if the treats aren’t quite suited to our Western palates, they are a lot of fun to try out.  I always enjoy learning about different foods and cultures, even if at the end of the day they aren’t something I fall in love with.  The packaging on this sub is adorable and I thought there was a good variety of sweet/salty/sour.  The one improvement I could see with this box is that we received three Umaibos, but maybe instead we could have gotten  one or two and a different type of snack.

I think this is a really fun sub and if you love Japanese snacks or fun unique food items, you may want to give it a try.

Have you ever tried snacks from other countries?
If so, what did you think of them?

Freedom Japanese Market sends you a box of treats shipped fresh from Japan.  Most of the items are sold exclusively in Japan and contain some limited edition snacks and candies that are only in Japanese stores for a month or two.  About a pound of candy and snacks are packed into each box and an itemized list with pictures is included in each box, so you don’t have to read Japanese.

Club members can buy additional boxes and send them (to other addresses) as gifts or gift subscriptions.

Puchi Pack – $14.99 per month:
(For a small taste of Japan)
★ 5 to 8 full size and sample snacks
★ 1 handmade origami
★ English content list with pictures
Original Pack – $24.99 per month:
(The perfect box of treats from the land of the rising sun)
★ 12 to 16 full size and sample snacks
★ 1 handmade origami
★ English content list with pictures
★ Includes DIY Candy Kit
Family Pack – $45.99 per month: (Snacks for the whole family)
★ 24 to 32 full size and sample snacks
★ 1 handmade origami
★ English content list with pictures
★ Includes DIY Candy Kit
★ Double the snacks without double the price

Discounts: You can create a 1, 3, 6 and 12 month renewable plan (longer plans have larger discounts) that will fit your needs.
Special Offers: If you mention Subscription Therapy, in your order notes, you can receive a free bonus candy in your first box!

Free Shipping Worldwide
You can cancel at any time without fees or penalties.

Orglamix Glam Box: March 2017 Tropical Getaway + 25% Off

Things have been hella busy over here.  My new book, “The Ice Maiden’s Tale” is being released on Tuesday, May 30th!  I swear to you all I still don’t really believe it.  I’m spending the long weekend trying to get caught up on all my writing and on the never-ending renovation of my time warp house, but today I’ve carved out some time to get back to my boxes.

To kick off the Memorial Day weekend I’ve got the March Orglamix Glam Box with its “Tropical Getaway” theme.  “Spring break is around the corner and it’s time to get beach-ready for your getaway!  Whether you’re planning a spring fling with a beau, a tropical adventure with the girls, or a virtual vacation get your glow on with these head-to-toe tropical beauty favorites.”

Sounds perfect as we head into summer.  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%.

Pineapple + Papaya Brighten Instant Glow Mask
(Estimated Retail: $38.00)
Description: ”A brightening mask featuring pineapple and papaya enzymes to naturally illuminate, smooth, and exfoliate skin for an instant glow. Illuminate and energize skin with natural enzymes.  This exfoliating mask features tropical enzymes, aloe, and glycerin to brighten and exfoliate naturally, giving skin a fresh new glow.  Continual use provides increased radiance, softness, and a brightened appearance.”
Verdict: Hit!
I like that this is an exfoliating mask that you just need to massage into your face.  No hard work here, just apply it at night or wear under your moisturizer in the day.  The fruit ingredients also definitely fit the tropical theme.

Monoi de Tahiti oil

(Estimated Retail: $28.00)
Description: “A beauty oil for an aromatic, sun-kissed sheen.  Monoi de Tahiti oil conjures the luxury and tradition of French Polynesia.  The bud of the tiare flower is soaked in the finest coconut oil and then blended for a translucent chocolate shimmer.  The lightly tinted formula has tiny gold flecks that make skin look smooth and luminous.  Try it on arms, legs, and shoulders—and rub ab it on dry strands to keep them hydrated and shiny.”
Verdict: Gift
The moment I got this I thought of a friend who would love it.  I’m adding it to her birthday gift.

Tiare Mahoi Bath bomb

(Estimated Retail: $5.00)
Description: “…This bath bomb feature an intoxicating blend of Tiare.  This bath bomb creates a beautiful bath art leaving the bath water a beautiful pink.” “
Verdict: Like!
I can’t wait to finish my renovations and be able to use my bathtub.  I can be all fancy pants while I bathe in pink water filled with Tahitian flowers.  It can help distract me from the fact that my bathtub is 1970s yellow.

Tropical Getaway – Solid Perfume

(Estimated Retail: $9.00)
Description: ”Devastatingly feminine, dangerously flirtatious, – this blend of white flowers hsolud be a controlled substance. FI you love gardenia, you need to own this – it is so incredibly fresh and true that it smells like you just pined a newly cut gardenia in your hair.  Lush, but clean.  A swipe of this perfume will have people leaning in when they speak to you!”
Verdict: Love!
Orlgamix solid perfumes are pretty much the only scents I get in subscription boxes that I can wear.  They are always fresh and natural smelling and for once I can have a variety of perfumes at my disposal.  I can’t stress enough how awesome solid perfumes are.  Not only are they ace for travel, but I keep one in my commuter bag to use for emergencies. Get stuck next to someone on the bus who smells like sardines and wet dog, put a little solid perfume on your upper lip.  It can be a lifesaver.

Coconut Colada – Natural Eyeshadow

(Estimated Retail: $12.50)
Description: ”A soft shimmer eye shadow that softly illuminates lids.  This eyeshadow radiates an unusual alchemy combining the classic, neutral beige notes with war golden accords of fiery sunrise – scattering of gold, vermillion and peach to create a voluptuously gorgeous color.  This shimmering composition will become your go to favorite to astonish and captivate for all-over lid color, highlighting smudging and more.  This intoxicating shade is a sexy blend, inspired by lingering hours spend by the seaside.”
Verdict: Love
This is such a great neutral everyday shade that gives a sun-kissed, candlelight type glow.  Really easy for anyone to wear and perfect for summer outings when you want just a touch of color.


To start, the value on this box is amazing.  I receive this for free in order to review it, but the regular cost is $29 and the estimated retail comes out to $92.50.  Taking these type of items out of a sub box context and putting them into a boutique that would feature natural and cruelty free beauty products, you’d spend so much more than $29 to get half of what you do in this one box.

As for the items included, I thought they fit the tropical theme perfectly.  They had a nice variety of skincare, scents and makeup and I think they’d appeal to a wide variety of subscribers.  More than any sub I receive, I think Orglamix does a great job of nailing their themes and making them fit the season.

What types of beauty products do you like to use in the summer?

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 For every box sold, we donate a meal to orphaned children in need.

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

Each Month comes with a $10 gift card for the site.

Whisk & Flour October 2016: Matcha White Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

So apparently being a big giant ball of stress can result in you catching the plague yet again.  I find myself once again best friends with a bottle of NyQuil, so today I decided to add some sugar to make my medicine go down.  The awesome folks at Whisk & Flour sent me a baking box to review.  For reference, I love baking.  I have a giant cabinet full of different cookie cutters and baking pans.  I even have a 90th anniversary cherry red Kitchen Aid.  So you can imagine I was super excited to try a monthly baking box.

A little about Whisk & Flour:
“Whisk & Flour was founded by Donna Doktorcik with the belief that artisanal baking should be within reach for everyone.  The Whisk & Flour team has focused on bringing unique recipes and ingredients to everyone. We love hunting down creative ingredients and creating yummy treats for everyone to share!”

How It Works:
Whisk & Flour curates recipes with artisanal ingredients like matcha, candied ginger, dulce de leche.  No fancy equipment or techniques required.

You sign up for monthly deliveries.  (First box ships the 15th of the following mont h and you can cancel at any time).

They send all the dry ingredients pre-measured along with a recipe card and easy to follow instructions.  You provide the butter and eggs.  Every few months they will include a Baking accessory.

The cost is $28 per month. Delivery is free and they use eco-friendly packaging.

A cute little box arrives with an adorable label:
box-label open-box-1
I can’t wait to see what recipe I’ve got…and then…
Matcha?  Cookies?
I’ll admit I was immediately disappointed.  Green tea tastes like medicine to me and this wasn’t what I was expecting.  I had anticipated a recipe to match the season – some Fall flavors like cinnamon or ginger.  But I had to give it a chance.
ingredient-bag ingredients gift
The box was packaged adorably and the ingredients came in a cute little sack that I’m going to reuse to hold some cookie cutters.  All the ingredients had lovely labels and were pre-measured.  Included was a half-sheet pan silpat.  Silpats are great for baking and I already own the full size, however,  I was confused by this inclusion.  You couldn’t use this for the included recipe as it makes too many cookies. (You need a regular size sheet pan).  I also feel like a half sheet pan size is not something everyone would own.  Silpats are great, baking accessories are awesome, but this one didn’t quite make sense to me in this box.

So now it’s time to start the actually baking.
creaming dry-ingredients
For this recipe I needed to provide 5 Tbsp of butter and 1 egg yolk.  We cream together butter and the included powder sugar and sift together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
mixing adding-chips
We add in the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, then fold in the white chocolate chips.
matcha-log sliced
We shape the dough into a square log and refrigerate for 1 hour.  The chilled log gets sliced and the cookies get put on a baking sheet with a mat and baked in a 300 degree oven for 18 to 20 minutes.
baked-cookies cooling
They get removed from the oven and chill on a baking rack.
And when I’m done this is the finished product:
So what did these taste like?  Delicious buttery cookies with the faintest hint of basement.  Seriously, I can’t get past the Matcha taste.  For me it took away from what should have been a delicious cookie.  Don’t’ get me wrong they still got eaten, because there’s still butter and sugar goodness.  Unfortunately, I thought the Matcha detracted from the cookie rather than enhanced it.

Lots of Potential.
I’m going to start with the positive.  I love the idea of this sub and how everything is so nicely packed and pre-measured.  I also appreciate the approach with the artisanal ingredients, but I wish they had matched the season more.  I think at this time of year we should see maple, cinnamon, ginger and more Autumnal flavors.  I also think that $28 a box is steep, if you’re not getting an accessory every month. I think the box should include a small accessory to use in the provided recipe.  For example, maybe maple butter cookies with a maple leaf cookie cutter, or maybe a cake slicer to make a lemon layer cake in the Spring, or specialty sprinkles for cupcakes and so on.  Even though the Matcha wasn’t a fit for my palate, Whisk & Flour has a ton of great looking recipes on their site that I think I would have loved.

What types of treats would you want a baking subscription to include?

Each month Whisk & Flour sends a beautiful recipe card with step-by-step instructions, all the shelf-stable ingredients pre-measured, and some fun facts about the recipe you are making. Plus, they add baking accessory every few months as a bonus! You bake, {maybe share}, and definitely enjoy!

Monthly Cost: $28 per month
And shipping is always free!

Popsugar: July 2016 + A September Spoiler & a Giveaway!

It’s Popsugar time and today I’ve got my review of their July Box, a Spoiler for September plus my Giveaway to win your very own July Orglamix Glam Box.  Check out my Orlgamix Review to score yourself an awesome box of natural vegan beauty products.

First let’s start with a spoiler:
September 2016 Popsugar Must Have 2016 Spoiler
Jack and Lucy Bi-coastal Hat
This reminds me a lot of the hat Rachel Zoe sent out last year.  I’ll have to compare the two when my September box arrives.

Now let’s get to the
June Must Have Box
open-box-1 open-box-2

Sachajuan Hair in the Sun

(Suggested Retail: $32)
Description: “Keep your hair color vibrant during long days in the sun with this UV-filter formula which owont’ wash out in the pool or ocean.  It’ll protect your strands from damaging UV rays until you shampoo it off.”
Verdict: On the Fence
I think this is an intriguing idea and Sachajuan is a great brand, but for me I don’t feel like the sun damages my hair, I actually think it improves it a bit.  It makes my red a bit brighter and more fiery (my skin, on the other hand, needs 18 layers of SPF 100).  Maybe this is for color-treated hair?  I’m not really sure.

House of Pom Emoji Cocktail Napkins

(Suggested Retail: $25.00)
Description: ”Our exclusive cocktail napkins, designed with House of Pom, capture trhe Summer experience in a language everyone can speak – emoji!  Serving up icy-cold drinks has never bee so #instagrammable.”
These aren’t my style but I do like the idea of an embroidered cocktail napkin.  I’m going to gift these to a friend.

Michael Stars Porcelain Skinny Scarf in White

(Suggested Retail: $30.00)
Description: ”Say “goodbye” to the statement necklace and “hello” to your latest it-accessory: the skinny scarf.  Dress it up or down by wrapping, knotting, or simply draping it atop your favorite Summer ensembles – or stepping up your headband game!”
Verdict: Okay
Am I just fashionably challenged, or is a skinny scarf pointless in the summer?  A bigger scarf you can turn into a shawl if the air conditioning gets too high, but a skinny scarf is just going to make you hotter in the sun and not actually do anything to keep you warmer when the AC is turned up.  I’m just going to reserve this for Fall.

Pintrill Pineapple Pin
(Suggested Retail: $12.00)
Description: “What better way to pin your skinny scarf into place that with a cute pin?  Our editors are obsessed with pins and pineapples lately, and this adorable bauble is the perfect way to steal the trend for yourself!.”
Verdict: Umm…Did we go back to middle school?
So for some reason I can’t find my picture of the pin, but this is a tiny tiny pin – like dime sized.  I actually love brooches and think they are highly under-utilized in modern fashion, but this is like a pin you get free for participating in a middle school spelling bee.  I totally don’t get this.

Sunnylife Inflatable Swan Drink Holder
(Suggested Retail: $18.00)
Description: “We can’t all have a butler deliver chilled drinks by the pool, but we can have the next best thing: a swan.  Float up to four beverages with this playful blow-up toy, so you never have to leave the water!  No pool? No problem – the swan is just as much fun and functional on any table.”
Verdict: Not for a duckling
I don’t have a pool nor do I go to the pool or beach regularly. (Who am I kidding I don’t even have a dishwasher or an oven with a door that stays shut.)  And what is the point of putting this on a table with drinks in it?  Why do I want to make it that much harder to drink a beer?  This is clearly suited for someone with a better life than mine.  I guess I’m just a duckling in a world of swans.  In any case, my friend has a pool and the giant inflatable “Mommy” Swan so she can have a matching baby swan to carry booze.

European Wax Center – Oh My Brow! Brow Highlighter in Pearl

(Suggested Retail: $19.00)
Description: “This highlighting illuminator is a jack-of-of-all-trades for your beauty bag—you can instantly life your brows by blending it along your brow bone, widen eyes by applying it on your inner corners, add glow to your cheekbones or add a romantic touch to your lips by dabbing above your cupid’s bow..”
Verdict: Like
I didn’t swatch this because I currently have a bunch of brow products in my box and I’d like to finish some before I open up a new one. Illuminators can be a subtle way to add a nice glow to your complexion. I haven’t tried this brand before so it will be fun to experiment with a new product.

Joe Chips Classic Sea Salt Retro Potato Chips

(Suggested retail value: $1.49)
Description: “Just like the truck in the logo, these kettle chips are an all-American classic.  Get the old-school crunch you carve as you enjoy your lunch (or afternoon snack!) In style.”
I tend to give snacks to my boyfriend so he can feel like he too participates in these boxes.  I asked if these chips tasted “retro”.  He said they didn’t, but were still good.


Trove Gift Card
“Treat yourself to Tove’s on-trend customizable jewelry with a special gift of $20 – there’s something for everyone in this chic collection!”
As usual, I don’t consider gift cards that require you to spend extra money to use as actual box items.

Verdict: Not for me
This box cost me $42.75 and the only items that really suited me were the brow highlighter and the $1.49 bag of chips.  This box felt a lot younger and less sophisticated than others I’ve received from Popsugar and the choices seemed oddly specific.  Like how many people really have use for a beverage pool float?  Sure, you can give it to someone else, but most folks actually want the items to use for themselves.  And their suggestion of using it on a table is stupid unless you are a small child or in college.  Supposedly the retail value on this was $137.49, but I’m just not seeing it.  I’m hoping my Fall boxes (including the Limited Edition box) make up for this lackluster summer one.

Be sure to come back for more Popsugar reviews including the Fall Limited Edition box.

What did you think of this July box?  Was I too hard on Popsugar?


One lucky reader will win their very own July 2016 Orglamix Glam Box!
This contest is now closed.  Thank you to everyone for participating!
I’ll announce the winner a soon as I’ve confirmed a mailing address!

Orglamix July 2016
I like to keep things really simple over here at Subscription Therapy.
So the rules are straightforward:
1.  You need to have a mailing address in the US (Sorry international peeps!)
2.  Just leave a comment on the Orglamix Blog Post between today and midnight (EST) September 12th.

To keep up with all my Reviews, Spoilers & Giveaways consider following Subscription Therapy on Twitter, Pinterest & Instagram.
And if you’re as intrigued by Orglamix as I am, you can keep up with all their vegan beautifulness on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Popsugar Mini Pricing:
(Features 2 Full Size Items)
Monthly – $18.95

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


July 2016 Chococurb Nano & 10% off Coupon Code!

I’ve got something special to combat the Mondays – a chocolate subscription!  Yes, that’s right, it’s like a Willy Wonka-o-gram!  Someone will send fancy pants chocolate right to your house every month.  (I swear sometimes subscription boxes do God’s work.)

The wonderful folks at Chococurb sent me their July Nano box to review for you all plus an awesome coupon code for 10% off your order, just use the code THERAPY (valid through 9/16/16.)

“Chococurb partners with the best chocolate makers in the world…and will help you discover, enjoy and learn more about one of life’s greatest pleasures.”

I had no idea I needed help enjoying chocolate, but who knows maybe I just haven’t been trying hard enough.

Chococurb offers several subscription options with a discount for prepaying (for more detail, jump down to “The Backstory”).    Today’s Chococurb Nano box, costs $10 for a monthly sub and offers five small-to-medium sized items.  Chococurb also offers the option to buy your favorite products from their online chocolate shop.

A large Styrofoam box arrives and I’m wondering just how much chocolate is in this bad boy.
I open it and inside is a cute little package nestled in some cooling packs.
Chococurb Nano Wrapped
Inside the cute blue box, we’ve got more wrapping!  Getting to this chocolate is a lot of work.
Once I open it up, we’ve got some adorable little bars inside.

Birthday Cake Batter
Seattle Chocolates – Birthday Cake Batter

(2.5 oz Bar: $3.50)
Description: “Seattle Chocolates created this wonderful treat, which tastes like vanilla frosted yellow cake. With colorful confetti pieces mixed into the milk chocolate, it’s even more exciting!”.
Verdict:  Hit!
I love birthday cake batter treats, so it must have been a moment of insanity (or true love) when I gave this one to my boyfriend.

Ethereal Confections

Verdict: Hit!
I couldn’t find this exact bar, but Chococurb does offer one for sale with Macadamia nuts, raspberry and lime kaffir.

Menakao Chocolate – 44% Milk Chocolate with Madagascan Vanilla

(Bar: $7.99)
Description: “Similar to coffee beans, the ones for cacao obtain many unique characteristics based on where they are cultivated. This might explain how every bar by Menakao has a unique taste of its own. With notes of vanilla and butter, this caramel-esque bar exemplifies the acidic and fruity flavors that distinguish Madagascan cocoa.”
Verdict:  Miss
This one had such lovely packaging that I was super excited for it, but sadly it tasted a bit bitter to me. I’m sure someone else would enjoy it, but it just wasn’t to my taste.

TCHO – Mokaccino + Blue Bottle Coffee Bar

(2 Oz Bar: $5.95)
Description: “Warm, roasted nuttiness and complex, dried fruit notes from freshly roasted Blue Bottle coffee blend seamlessly with the dense caramel and cocoa notes in our SeriousMilk chocolate. Named Best Flavored Milk Chocolate in America by the International Chocolate Awards.”
Verdict:  Hit!
I loved the flavor on this one – just the right mix of coffee and chocolate.

Noire Gingembre
Chocolat Dolfin – Noire Gingembre

(Estimated Retail Bar size 2.47 oz. Bar $5.99)
Verdict:  Like
This may be the fanciest sounding thing I’ve ever eaten.  Chococurb’s store didn’t include this flavor, but they have some other options including a Pear & Almond one that sounds ah-may-zing.  I’m not a huge fan of ginger mixed with chocolate, so this bar wasn’t my favorite but it was still quite lovely.

Chococurb July 2016
There’s something about getting a box of chocolate that brings a smile to your face.  This is a tiny box of chocolates, but I think the unique, high quality offerings match the $10 pricetag.  The nano box option offers you a way to indulge in a monthly treat without going overboard, and it makes a great little gift for someone you love that’s got a sweet tooth.

I also appreciate that Chococurb offers the option to purchase most of the items from their online store.  So many times you fall in love with a unique confection from a sub box and then just can’t find it anywhere.  The one thing I’d love to see added to this sub is an info card that lists all the chocolates included with a description of the flavors.  The included card gave me info about Chococurb, but I had to do some searching on their site to find out about the chocolates themselves.

Would you ever sign up for a chocolate subscription?
Why or why not?

Chococurb partners with the best chocolate makers in the world to deliver you a monthly box of high quality chocolates.

There are several subscription options:
Chococurb: Five to seven personally selected, extraordinary chocolate treats.
Cost: 1 Month $35; 6 Month $99; 1 Year $180

Chococurb Mini: Three gourmet chocolate products.
Cost: 1 Month $20; 6 Month $57; 1 Year $108

Chococurb Nano: Five small-to-medium sized items.
1 Month $10; 6 Month $54; 1 Year $96

Coupon Codes: Use code THERAPY for 10% off you orders through 09/16/16

You can buy more of your favorites from the Chococurb online shop.

Subscriptions ship on the 14th of each month and auto-renew at the end of their respective period, unless canceled.  Chococurb nano does not include personalization.

Marley Spoon: Bucatini Puttanesca with Shrimp & Fried Chicken Sandwiches Plus $30 Coupon Code

It’s Tuesdays with Marley as I head back to the kitchen for a review of my weekly Marley Spoon subscription boxIf you’d like to try it out yourself, use the coupon code COOKSMART for $30 off.

Now to start there is some big news over at Marley Spoon –
“Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon have come together to bring Martha’s celebrated recipes and smart cooking techniques to your kitchen. Delivered and designed with easy weeknight cooking in mind, recipes reflect Martha’s love for seasonal ingredients and delicious flavors.”

I absolutely love Martha Stewart.  I mean she built an empire teaching people how to to do stuff like make candles out of hazelnuts.  An EMPIRE.  That’s a level of genius I can’t begin to understand.  Plus she went to jail, came out and ended up more successful.  That’s just a level of badassery that you can’t help but admire.

I actually also love most of her recipes – although I’ve found the online ones to be much more accurate than the cookbooks.  So save your money and just go to her website.

In any case, I’m excited (can’t you tell) to see what changes Martha brings to the recipes.  I’m hoping it’s less chopping coriander seeds and more one pot cooking.

My meal plan is for a weekly delivery of 2 meals (2 portions each), which costs $48.
Bucatini Puttanesca with Shrimp
I’ve never made a puttanesca and I loved Shrimp so I figured I’d try this out even though olives aren’t my most favorite thing.
Shrimp Puttanesca Recipe

Our usual fresh ingredients:
Shrimp Ingredients
This is a pretty straightforward recipe.

Olives capers
We prep our capers, olives and garlic.
While the pasta boils, we sauté some shrimp with garlic amd crushed red pepper flake in some olive oil.
Shrimp cooking
We take out the shrimp and make some sauce by adding our canned tomatoes, breaking them up and adding in our chopped ingredients.
To finish we add pasta and reserved pasta water to the pan, return the cooked shrimp to it and add in oregano leaves we picked from their stems.  (It’s just not a Marley Spoon recipe if we don’t pick tiny leaves off of herbs).
In Pan
The finished product looks like this:
Shrimp Puttanesca
Taste: Not for me
The shrimp was fresh and the ingredients were lovely, but the finished dish was just too briny and olive-y for my taste.  I think Puttanesca is supposed to taste this way so the recipe was successful, it’s just my personal palate doesn’t agree with it.  This was quite easy to make and I’m sure someone who loves briny flavors would enjoy this.  As a note, if you leave it in the fridge, it gets hella strong.  I ended up just eating the shrimp out of the leftovers because the pasta was just too much for me.
Portion Size: Generous
Good for Entertaining?: For someone who really loves olive flavors it would be a nice dish to serve family style or at a dinner party.

Fried Chicken Sandwiches with Root Vegetable Fries
Who can say no to Fried Chicken?
Fried Chicken Recipe

More fresh ingredients:
Fried Chicken Ingredients
So first I had to prep my ingredients, which led me to realizing that I need to sharpen my knives.
Prepped Veggie Fries
While the vegetables roasted, I made the sauce for the sandwiches.
Sauce - Chicken
Then it was the fun that is breading chicken.  I was a little too generous with one breast, so the other had a bit less coating.
Cooking Chicken Chicken Draining
I fried it up and while some breading fell off, I still thought they looked pretty good.

Then it was time to build our sandwiches.
Now I love potato bread, but these buns were kind of sad and tiny – especially in comparison to the chicken.  I think we needed rolls that were a bit bigger.
Sad Buns
When all was said and done, here’s what we ended up with:
Fried Chicken Sandwich
Taste: Hit!
These were tasty and the mayonnaise sauce had a lovely dill flavor.  I loved the root vegetable fries and I thought they were a nice alternative for traditional potato fries.  The only real downside was that the bun was a bit small.
Portion Size: Good
Good for Entertaining?: Yes, for a fun laid back menu.
I’d do a take on chicken cordon bleu by adding swiss cheese, ham and mustard (in lieu of the herbed mayo and pickles).  For the veggie fries, I’d add in some sweet potatoes and serve them with some homemade ranch sauce for dipping.  As an appetizer, I’d do some kind of flavored popcorn mix with nuts and Bourbon mint Iced Tea for a cocktail.  For dessert I think I’d go with a Strawberry Tiramisu.

I didn’t care for the taste of the shrimp recipe but that’s more about me and less about the ingredients.  I liked that it was an easy recipe that you could actually complete on a weeknight.  The chicken was delicious and I’ll definitely be trying out root veggie fries with other dishes.  All the ingredients were fresh and I feel like I learned something new, which is my goal with this sub, so I’m taking this one as a win.

Have you ever tried a fresh meal subscription service?  If so, what did you think?

Marley Spoon creates delicious, easy to follow recipes.
They deliver fresh, pre-portioned ingredients and you select your recipes from their changing weekly menu.

They are dedicated to sourcing organic and sustainable whenever possible. Building relationships with environmentally aware farms and producers ensures that the highest quality ingredients arrive at your door each week.

Using trusted delivery partners, your Marley Spoon boxes come insulated and chilled, staying cool for 30 hours! After delivery, all the ingredients are guaranteed to stay fresh for up to 4 days – allowing you to decide when to cook.

Marley’s Spoon donates any leftover ingredients to City Harvest. City Harvest exists to end hunger in communities throughout New York City through food rescue and distribution, education, and other practical, innovative solutions.

Each week you’ll automatically receive great dishes, but as a flexible subscription, you can skip a week or pause your subscription anytime. You can also change delivery frequency, recipes, and the number of portions you’d like to receive.

Marley’ Spoon delivers to the mid Atlantic and New England regions: most of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, and Washington D.C.

Monthly Cost:
Varies by number of servings and number of meals.
Check here for the configuration of your choice


The Story of Perfume box by Harvey Prince Organics: February 2016 & Promotion!

Today I’ve got something totally outside the box for me (pun intended): A perfume subscription! The wonderful folks from Harvey Prince Organics sent me their February The Story of Perfume box to review for you guys. They are also offering a special promotion for free mini perfume rollers (just pay for shipping). Jump down below for all the details.

Now the name Harvey Prince Organics might be familiar to some of you since they have popped up in a lot of Birchboxes. I’ve tried a few of their products and enjoyed them, so I was excited to see what their own box sub would have to offer.

Now first a little about what this sub includes:

To start 100% of their products are cruelty free, vegan & gluten free!

“Each monthly box comes with two private blend, luxe Harvey Prince perfumes available only in The Story of Perfume. These exclusive 7ml roller ball fragrances are made of only the finest essential oils & highest-quality natural ingredients.”

Fresh French Bergamot. Dewy Bulgarian Rose. Sensual Australian Sandalwood. Lush Italian Lemon. Sweet Japanese Sakura. Rich Assamese Oud. Spicy Kashmiri Saffron. These are just some of the notes our private blend fragrances in The Story of Perfume may contain!

Each box also has two samples from our best-selling bath, hair, & body lines. Ranging in size from 15ml to 30ml, you may receive our color-safe shampoo & conditioner, skin-softening body butter, or exfoliating shower gel, among other customer faves!

Lastly, The Story of Perfume contains two 2ml samples of our most popular luxury fragrances for women from our best-selling line of perfumes. From sweet to spicy, sensual to soothing, these perfumes will make you smell beautiful & feel happy!”

The cost of this sub is $22 a month, with a discount for purchasing a year’s subscription.

If you’re a regular reader you know I’m super sensitive to perfumes and super picky, so I’ll do my best to evaluate these on a larger scale and how I think they’d appeal to most folks.

I love love LOVE (did I say love) the style of their box. The packaging is so fairy tale appealing that it feels like a gift. They’ve already scored points with me and I haven’t even opened it up yet.
Package Box
Open Box Open Box 2

Mysore Sandalwood
(7mL: $30.00)
Description: “…the scent of sweet cardamom, spicy cumin, soft clary sage, dewy rose, and soothing chamomile danced with deep cypress, clean musk, warm amber, and Mysore sandalwood notes”
Verdict: For folks that like musky, woodsy scents
I’m not a fan of musky scents and this one is a bit on the stronger side, but it’s not overpowering and I feel like it would appeal to ladies who don’t want something super sweet or floral. If you want to try this for yourself, you can get it home just for the cost of shipping. Add it to your cart and use the code EXOTICINDIA.

Kashmiri Saffron
Kashmiri Saffron
(7mL: $30.00)
Description: “Spicy!
Verdict: For the ladies that like unusual scents.
I couldn’t find this one on the website so I’m guessing it’s sold out, but I’m sure if you shoot Harvey Prince an email they will let you know if it becomes available again.  I thought this was a really unique scent and I think it will appeal to the folks that like to experiment with their beauty products.

Sincerely Body Cream
Sincerely Body Cream
(.05 oz 3.00)
Description: An intensely moisturizing and deeply nourishing blend of Shea butter and sweet almond oil, combined with extracts of French bergamot and South African freesia, Sincerely Body Cream brings out your body’s natural luster, giving you silky smooth skin all day long. Infused with Harvey Prince Sincerely perfume.”
Verdict: A sweet floral
This was a touch too floral for me personally, but I think a lot of ladies would really like this scent. I’ve tried Harvey Prince’s other body creams and found them to be quite moisturizing so I’m sure a lot of subscribers would dig this.

Eau Divine
Eau So Divine
(8.8ml: $23.00)
Description: Delicate Japanese lily, Intoxicating Moroccan Jasmine & sweet Iris softly release into the air. Warm Madagascar Vanilla, deep Indian Patchouli, Sensual Dry Woods & Clean Musk stir you with their aromatic intensity.
Verdict: Floral Musk
This is a floral musk that I think would appeal to ladies who like very feminine scents. Personally it’s not quite to my taste (I’m very anti-Patchouli) but I think this would appeal to folks that that have a bit of a bohemian sensibility.

(8.8ml: $23.00)
Description: Notes: Indonesian Clove Bud, Australian Sandalwood, Moroccan Rose, French Bergamot, Indian Tuberose, Japanese Orange Flower, Lebanese Cedarwood, Turkish Cyclamen, South African Freesia.”
Verdict: A sweet floral
This is the same scent as the lotion and I appreciate that we got two different types of items in the same scent so subscribers could layer them. As I mentioned earlier I think this is a solid scent that will appeal to a lot of women.

Keravegan Hair Masque
(1 oz: $3.00)
Description: Our 100% formaldehyde-free hair smoothing therapy. Transform your tresses with our nourishing and hydrating Keravegan hair masque. Made with the best organic Argan, Coconut and Sweet Almond oils + blended with Shea Butter, Papaya, Lemon and Mandarin extracts, Keravegan moisturizes and softens your hair, bringing out its natural brilliance from root to tip. Sulfate-Free + Paraben-Free.”
Verdict: My favorite item!
This is my favorite item in the box. The perfume on this product was noticeable but not overpowering and it didn’t’ stick with my hair endlessly like some over-scented hair products can do. It left my hair soft and not weighed down.

Harvey Prince March 2016
The first thing I was impressed with (besides the gorgeous packaging) was that none of these scents had that strong synthetic give-me-a-headache-immediately issue. While a lot of the fragrances weren’t my taste, I could tell the perfumes were high quality. Each of the 7mL roller balls normally costs $30, so for $22.00 you two of them plus a wide variety of samples. I think that’s a great value. If you know someone who loves perfumes or is really into vegan/cruelty free/gluten free beauty this might be the sub for them.

You can get can get the Mysore Sandalwood mini roller for FREE by using the code EXOTICINDIA.   All you have to do is pay for shipping.  Just add it to your cart and apply the code!

“Each monthly box comes with two private blend, luxe Harvey Prince perfumes available only in The Story of Perfume. These exclusive 7ml roller ball fragrances are made of only the finest essential oils & highest-quality natural ingredients.”

Each box also has two samples from our best-selling bath, hair, & body lines. Ranging in size from 15ml to 30ml, you may receive our color-safe shampoo & conditioner, skin-softening body butter, or exfoliating shower gel, among other customer faves!

Lastly, The Story of Perfume contains two 2ml samples of our most popular luxury fragrances for women from our best-selling line of perfumes. From sweet to spicy, sensual to soothing, these perfumes will make you smell beautiful & feel happy!”

Cost: $22 a month, with a discount for purchasing a year’s subscription.

Peaches & Petals: February 2015, March Spoiler & 50% Off Coupon Code!

Today I’ve got another fun lifestyle box from Peaches & Petals. They kindly sent me their February box to review along with a great coupon code. If you’re a first time subscriber, you can use the code PEACHTHERAPY for 50% off your first month’s box, when you purchase a monthly subscription. (Gift subscriptions are excluded.).

For Februrary the theme falls in with Valentine’s day with a “how sweet it is”.

Let’s Jump In.

We start with our large, lovely, logoed box.
Love Themed Throw Pillow Cover (suggested retail: $???)
Description: “Show a little love to your favorite furniture piece with this darling decorative pillow cover! Has a linen feel and look to it complete with a hidden zipper so you can wash it too! We’re in love!
Verdict: Like
This item was the spoiler from last month and I actually love the design and color. It’s got a “love” theme but not too overly sweet. The only reason this is a “like” instead of a “hit” is because the print on the pillow has some weird spots where it looks like the ink ran or is blotchy. I can’t tell if it’s a purposeful part of the design or an accident. If it’s the former I wish it ran through it more consistently throughout the graphic. In any case, the colors match perfectly with my décor and I’ll most likely be using this in my bedroom. Swapping out covers on your throw pillows is a great, low cost way to decorate for the seasons, so I think including this was a great idea.

Sugar Sweet Soy Candle
(suggested retail: $10)
Description: “Love is in the air and so is the delightful aroma of this clean burning candle!
Verdict: Like
As the name implies the scent of this candle is quite sweet, but it’s not overbearing and doesn’t give me a headache like so many other fragrances. Soy candles are great and this one is a nice size.

Salt & pepper
Love Birds Salt & Pepper Shakers
(suggested retail: .99)
Description: “Whether nestled beak-to-beak in the box or standing cheek-to-cheek on your tabletop these chic love birds salt and pepper shakers inspire love with every meal!”
Verdict: Miss
These are quite small and in google searching it looks me like they are really designed to be wedding favors. Now I’ve seen tiny salt and pepper shaker like these in bulk sets so that at holiday meals you can put them at each place setting, or have them in different spots on long tables, but one set of itty bitty salt and pepper shakers just isn’t practical. I do love the idea of having a love themed serving/home item, but I think there were much better choices.

Shower Mochi
Sugar Scrub Shower Mochi
from Slightly Melted
(suggested retail: $3.90)
Description: These sugar scrubs will leave your skin feeling soft and renewed! We absolutely adore the Orange Dreamsicle and Cotton Candy scents.”
Verdict: Love!
Included with this was coupon code for 25% off at the Slightly Melted Etsy shop, use code sweetpeaches25 for 25% off. These smell amazing and I love that we’re getting introduced to a new brand. The Slightly Melted shop specializes in luxurious handmade sugar scrubs as well as salt scrubs, bubble bars and body balms and this is hands down my favorite item in the box.

Lip Smackers
Yummy Lip Balm or Gloss
(suggested retail: $5.76)
Description: Treat your lips to a delicious flavored balm/gloss to keep them kissable and smooth!
Verdict: Like/Gift
How did they know Samoas are my favorite Girl Scout cookie? In the interest of my sanity and ever growing lip product collection, I’ll be giving this one to my niece (who happens to actually be a Girl Scout). I had trouble finding this exact version (it seems to mostly be included in sets) so I found a different flavor and based the retail on that.

Sweet Surprise!

Description: This special item will vary from box to box. A great way to “share the Love” and show off the special item you received.
Verdict: Miss
This is a freebie so it’s less disappointing that it feels a bit juvenile and dollar-store-esque. If the coloring of it were a bit less drab it might be a bit more appealing. I’ll be giving this to that same Girl Scout niece to either use for decoration or reuse the canvas for her art projects.

Peaches & Petals February 2016
So to start, I thought the “sweet” theme of the box was seasonally appropriate and I thought each item fit in very well. I received this box for free, but it retails for $19.99. Now the canvas was a freebie and I couldn’t find a cost for the pillow cover. Excluding those items, my total already comes out to $20.65. I’d say the pillow cover was worth at least $10, so the value of the box has well exceeded what we paid, so it’s thumbs up on that area.

Now to the actual items – I thought there was a lot creativity in the curation, but I think there’s room for improvement in the execution. I loved the sugar scrubs from the Etsy company and I’d love to see the box have more items like them. We can grab items from Target ourselves, but we might not be familiar with all the great products from smaller companies. I appreciated the focus on home décor items, but I’d like to see a more practical spin on them. If I were in charge I would have swapped out the shakers and the pillow for a set of cloth napkins with a similar design. Ideally, I’d  like the candle and lip product to come from Etsy sellers instead.

Even with some of the minor problems, I thought this was a solid box and one of the few companies that really works hard at sticking to a theme.

For March, the theme is #livelifeincolor. That’s a very broad area so it should be exciting to see what we get. Makeup? Art?

: New Subscribers can use PEACHTHERAPY for 50% off your first month’s box when you order a monthly subscription (this excludes gift subscriptions).

Peaches and Petals is a member based monthly subscription service that hand-curates each box with items that exemplify the woman who’s not afraid of adventure. She’s open-minded, free-spirited, and loves relentlessly. Each box is delivered monthly.”

“Each month’s box will vary with different items all to tickle your senses. We love hand-selecting items in beauty and fashion accessories. Items could be trendy accessories and jewelry like scarves, hats, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, watches, new beauty products like dry shampoos, eye makeup remover, shades of nail polish, eyeshadow and blush, pampering products like mud masks, skin restoring gels/creams, and who knows, we could be really adventurous the next month! Each box will contain 3-5 items and some months we may feel super excited and throw in an additional item!”

Cost: Each month costs $19.99 and there are options for gift subscriptions and prepaying 3, 6 or 12 month subs.

(Some box items are also available for individual purchase in the Peach Shop! Sign up for an account for access.)

Birchbox: November 2015

It’s time to get caught up on my backlog of Birchboxes, so today I’ve got my review of the November 2015 box including my Birchbox plus item.

Every month Birchbox includes items you can add on to your box for an additional fee. In November, I opted to grab a pair of Baublebar earrings to go with my regular subscription.

Check out the box I received:
Big BoxOpen Big Box
I know they have standard boxes, but really couldn’t we have cut this one down a bit?
Anyway here’s what my gigantic box contained:
with Plus

BB Plus
Baublebar Ear Jackets

(Cost: $26.75)
I loved the vintage deco feel to these so I nabbed them as a little gift to myself.

Another pretty box reveals:
Birchbox Open Birchbox 1 Open BB 2

Cartier Eau De Cartier Goutte de Rose Eau de Toilette spray

(1.7 oz.: $67.00)
Description: As delightful as dew on a freshly picked bloom, this xscent blends rose, vanilla nd amber notes.”
Verdict: Enough with the old lady perfumes
I’m not much of a perfume person and I really wish Birchbox would stop sending them to me – or at the very least let me put in a preference that I could get fresh or fruity scents instead of these heavy florals.

LOC First Kiss First Kiss Swatch
LOC Vibrant Matte Lipstick in First Kiss
(LOC Complete Collection for Lips: $18.00)
Description: From Birchbox’s new brand: A soft, flexible lipstick with shades curated by YouTube beauty star Tati Westbrook.”
Verdict: A little too Oompa Loompa for me
I chose this as my sample because it was supposed to be a nude and I am desperately searching for a good one. Not sure if you can tell in this swatch but it goes awfully orange on me. I really hate these “neutral sets that look great on everyone” crap. Makeup is rarely ever truly neutral. How about you just make a cool/blue undertoned set and a warm/yellow undertoned set and let us choose the crap that actually works for us? Sorry for the rant but sometimes it’s hard to be a cool undertoned girl in a warm undertoned world. 😉

MAKE Skin Illuminator

(Retail Value: $34.00)
Description: ”Park skin-correcting base and part highlighter, this illuminator has the perfect amount of sheer, pearlescent glimmer.”
Verdict: Hit!
Finally a product I want to use. I didn’t get a chance to swatch this one, but I did try it out later and I liked that it had a more subtle shimmer to it.

Hair Oil
Number 4™ Fluoro5 Elixer Restore & Repair Oil

(Retail Value: $26.00)
Description: ”This strand –saving elixir gives drab, dull hair a coveted movie star shine.
Verdict: Wow, Hair Oil I’ve never gotten this before
I really don’t believe there is a single women’s subscription box that hasn’t sent me hair oil at some point. It’s sort of be some “it” product for haircare the past year and a half or so. Since this comes in a plastic bottle (instead of a little glass tube) I’m going to set aside this sample for travel. But seriously how much hair oil can a person use? I don’t think I’m going to need to buy any for at least a few years.

Curl Creme
PARLOR® by Jeff Chastain Touchable Curl Cream

(Full Size: $26.00)
Description: “This innovative formula combines the silky texture of a serum with the light hold of a cream.”
Verdict: Like
Despite listing my hair as “wavy” on my Birchbox profile I rarely get items specifically for curly/wavy hair so I’m happy try out this cream. This is also a generous size for a sample.

Birchbox November 2015 & Plus

Verdict:  A bit disappointing
I liked the earrings of course, since I picked them out, but I’m super disappointed to get another perfume and that the LOC lipstick leans so warm. I paid $10.70 for the box and I received $5.00 of Birchbox credit after reviewing the items, so it’s a decent value when you consider that I liked two of the products. I really want Birchbox to step up their customization of profiles so they can send us products that we are more likely to use and enjoy. If you insist on sending us scents, let us indicate which types of scents we like. If you’re going to send us makeup, let us tell you if we are cool or warm toned, and if we have any favorite or hated colors. You have a profile area, start using it to your advantage and ours.

How do your Birchboxes measure up against your actual preferences?

Birchbox subscriptions cost $10 per month or $110 per year (Women’s Sub)
$20 per month or $195 per year (Men’s Sub)

Points System:
Whenever you buy something at Birchbox they give you Birchbox points. $1.00 = 1 Birchbox Point.
Each 100 Birchbox reward points can be redeemed for $10.00.
You can also earn points by reviewing the samples they send you (10 points per sample) and referring/subscribing friends.

WRITER’S SHELF: The Popsugar Reading Challenge 2015 & 2016!

Okay people, I’ll lay it out for you – I didn’t complete the Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge in it’s entirety. I just wasn’t strategic enough and chose 500 plus page books I ended up hated for slots that should have held fun page turners. I won’t make that mistake again with our brand new Popsugar Reading Challenge for 2016. (Click here for a printable list).
Our categories, dear comrades:

A book based on a fairy tale
A National Book Award Winner
A YA Bestseller
A book you haven’t read since high school
A book set in your home state
A book translated into English
A romance set in the future
A book set in Europe
A book that’s under 150 pages
A New York Times bestseller
A book that’s becoming a movie this year
A book recommended by someone you just met
A self-improvement book
A book you can finish in a day
A book written by a celebrity
A political memoir
A book at least 100 years older than you
A book that’s more than 600 pages
A book from Oprah’s Book Club
A science-fiction novel
A book recommended by a family member
A graphic Novel
A book that is published in 2016
A book with a protagonist who has your occupation
A book that takes place during Summer
A book and it’s prequel
A murder mystery
A book written by a comedian
A dystopian novel
A book with a blue cover
A book of poetry
The first book you see in a bookstore
A classic from the 20th century
A book from the library
A book about a road trip
A book about a culture you’re unfamiliar with
A satirical book
A book that takes place on an island
A book that’s guaranteed to bring you joy

The 2016 categories are pretty daunting to me, but I’ve learned from this years literary missteps and am determined to complete (God help me).

Now I still have a few books I did manage to finish in 2015 so let’s take a looksee.

Book #20
Heart Shaped Box

Popsugar Slot: “A book that scares you”
Heart-Shaped Box: A Novel
by Joe Hill
I’d heard a lot of positive buzz about this horror novel and I was intrigued to see if Stephen King’s son could step up to the challenge of writing horror with the ghost of his father looming large. Speaking of ghosts, I found the one in this story to be quite scary and Joe Hill did an amazing job of making me identify with the main characters and rooting for them to survive. Overall the book was well written and had some really lovely descriptions about music. My only small qualm was that the pacing felt a bit off in some places, but it was so minor that it really didn’t impact an otherwise great book.
“All the world is made of music. We are all strings on a lyre. We resonate. We sing together.”
It doesn’t matter how scary your villain or “big bad” is – the reader needs to care about what happens to the main character. They need to feel their pain, their injustices, their insecurities, and most of all what they want the most. If you do that successfully, any danger will seem terrifying.
This will be an unexpected choice, but “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman was the most terrifying story I’ve ever read. You watch a woman go slowly insane and over time she starts to see people moving inside the yellow wallpaper in her room.   She’s been locked because of her “condition” which was basically just being a woman in a time when women had as many rights as a piece of furniture. It’s painful and visceral and something everyone should read.

Book #21
The Invisible MAn
Popsugar Slot: “A book more than 100 years old”
The Invisible Man
by H.G. Wells
I’d always wanted to read this book but never actually got around to doing it. I feel like I learned so much. Putting aside the danger an invisible man could pose, there’s actually a ton of comedic potential. I don’t know why it never occurred to me, but if the guy’s not trying to kill you, his making stuff float around and people trip over themselves is pretty funny. Now onto the big question, was the Invisible Man a psychotic douche before he turned invisible, or did the invisibility drive him to it? It’s a question for the ages, but my vote is once a douche, always a douche.
“Great and strange ideas transcending experience often have less effect upon men and women than smaller, more tangible considerations.”
Things can be both funny and terrifying, and that combination can be quite entertaining to write about.
“Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens is one of my favorite books. It’s the original soap opera and the image of Miss Havisham with her ragged wedding dress and dust covered banquet table is one of my most vivid literary recollections. It’s worth the page count, trust me.

Book #22
Why Not ME
Popsugar Slot: “A nonfiction book”
Why Not Me?
by Mindy Kaling
I got this book in a Popsugar sub box and while I’d never seen “The Mindy Project”, I’d found Mindy’s persona to be fun and intriguing so I thought this would be a funny read. Turns out Mindy and I have a lot in common: our age, hatred of weddings and writing aspirations. Generally I enjoyed her style and point of view, although like many super successful people I’ve known there are moments were you know they’ve lost the ability to truly understand the “everyman/woman” plight. It brought to mind a grad school event where a really successful writer a few years ahead of me was asked what her biggest challenges were. She said something along the lines of dealing with all the hassle of travel for the book tours. She was clearly in a different place and league than most of the people there. I got that same vibe from certain parts of this book – Mindy kept saying “I’m just like you” and I kept feeling “Oh honey, you so are not, but I appreciate the attempt”. On the bright side, it inspired me to watch Mindy’s show which turned into my latest Hulu addiction.
“I will leave you with one last piece of advice, which is: If you’ve got it, flaunt it. And if you don’t got it? Flaunt it. ‘Cause what are we even doing here if we’re not flaunting it?””
Remember your audience. They want to identify with you, not feel a huge distance between their place in the world and yours.
I really don’t read much Nonfiction since it goes against my deepest impulse to escape to imaginary places and hang out with imaginary people, but if I have to choose one, “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote is a compelling nonfiction read.  (As a bonus it will make you sound well read if you discuss it at parties.)
Book #23
Lost & Found
Popsugar Slot: “A book with Antonyms in the Title”
Lost and Found (Lost & Found Book 1)
by Nicole Williams
I’m going to be honest here, I chose this book because it fit the slot and was free on Amazon. This is a YA romance and for most of the book it’s just painful to read. The instant attraction between our protagonist, Rowen Sterling (yes that’s her name, and no this isn’t a fantasy book) and her “cowboy” is unearned, particularly since she is one of the most unlikeable narrators I’ve come across in a long time. The voice here also feels exactly like an adult writing as a teenager. Rowen always knows her motivations and why she behaves the way she does. It’s like half her brain is a therapist and the other half is an angsty teenager – you know those two voices you most want to read in a romance novel. The book does pick up toward the end and there are some lovely descriptive passages but the characters are poorly drawn and the plot nearly nonexistent.
“I didn’t let myself hope either. That was the real poison that put the vacant expression in so many people’s eyes.”
Unlikeable narrators don’t work well in the romance genre. You don’t like them and you have no idea why anyone else would either.
I got nothing. It was hard enough for me to find one book with Antonyms so you’ll have to come up with this one on your own.

Book #24
Popsugar Slot: “A book written by someone under 30”
Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek (A Memoir)
by Maya Van Wagenen
When I saw the premise for this story I was super intrigued. A teenager picked up a vintage book on how to be popular and decided to follow the antiquated rules to see if it would work for her today (pearls, anyone?). I imagined lots of ridiculous adventures, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a very touching memoir. Maya’s inability to fit in at her mostly Hispanic school because she wasn’t Hispanic enough felt so similar to my own high school problems that I was instantly drawn in. Maya’s personal struggles are set against the harsh realities of going to school in a border town that faces so much crime and poverty. It’s an engaging and beautifully written book.
“”I wanted popularity; I wanted other people to like me. But it turns out most people are waiting to be discovered too.”
The stories hidden inside and around the one you are telling can often be the most compelling.
“The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath. Yes it’s dark, but also deeply moving and written before Sylvia turned 30.

Book #25

Popsugar Slot: “A book set during Christmas”
There’s Something About Christmas
by Debbie Macomber
Since it was Christmas, I figured why not go all in and find something frilly and sugary and full of empty calories – cue the schmaltzy Christmas romance. And this one, was all about fruitcake. Yes, you read that right. Fruitcake as a metaphor for life. How could I say no? What elevates a trashy or syrupy sweet romance to something worth reading is the chemistry between your lead characters and sadly these two had none. Oliver’s dialogue to Emma felt really creepy, as she kept turning him down for dates and he kept telling her she wanted him. I kept envisioning that scenario in real life and me advising Emma to get a restraining order. There was no interaction or explanation for why playboy-esque Oliver suddenly wanted Emma but he just did, because..? Even if you love romances, heck because you love romances, skip this one.
“Have you noticed that people either love fruitcake or hate it?” she said companionably. “There doesn’t’ seem to be any middle ground.””
You can have a character fall inexplicably in love with another, but it has to be earned in some way. It can’t just be there without anything to make it work.
“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. This is my absolute favorite story of all. It has the best opening line in all of literature and it’s overarching story of redemption has been mirrored in so many subsequent tales.

My Full 2015 Popsugar Reading List

Book #1 A book based on or turned into a TV show Outlander Gabaldon, Diana
Book #2 A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet Every Day Levithan, David
Book #3 A book with a number in the title Room 702 Benjamin, Ann
Book #4 A book of short stories Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Three Stories Capote, Truman
Book #5 A book with magic A Darker Shade of Magic Schwab, V.E.
Book #6 A memoir As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride Elwes, Cary; Layden, Joe
Book #7 A book at the bottom of your to-read list Bel Canto Patchett, Ann
Book #8 A book that came out the year you were born The Neverending Story Ende, Michael
Book #9 A Pulitzer Prize-winning book Middlesex Eugenides, Jeffrey
Book #10 A book with nonhuman characters End of Days (Penryn & the End of Days Series) Ee, Susan
Book #11 A trilogy The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (The Mara Dyer Trilogy Book 1) Hodkin, Michelle
Book #12 A trilogy The Evolution of Mara Dyer (The Mara Dyer Trilogy Book 2) Hodkin, Michelle
Book #13 A trilogy The Retribution of Mara Dyer (The Mara Dyer Trilogy Book 3) Hodkin, Michelle
Book #14 A book you can finish in a day The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: A Novel Haddon, Mark
Book #15 A graphical Novel Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened Brosh, Allie
Book #16 A book with a one-word title Ticker Mantchev, Lisa
Book #17 A book by an author you’ve never read before Doll Bones Black, Holly
Book #18 A book that became a movie Paper Towns Green, John
Book #19 A Classic Romance Persuasion Eyre, Jane
Book #20 A book that scares you Heart-Shaped Box: A Novel Hill, Joe
Book #21 A book more than 100 years old The Invisible Man Wells, H.G.
Book #22 A nonfiction book Why Not Me? Kaling, Mindy
Book#23 A book with antonyms in the title Lost and Found (Lost & Found Book 1) Williams, Nicole
Book#24 A book written by someone under 30 Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek (A Memoir) Wagenen, Maya Van
Book #25 A book set during Christmas There’s Something About Christmas Macomber, Debbie

Overall, I read 25 books and 8,763 pages. Not the best showing I must admit, but this was my first attempt trying to adjust my reading habits to match the categories so I think I’ll have a much better time in 2016.

How about you? Did you complete the Popsugar 2015 challenge or did you flounder like I did?

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