March Birchbox Review

I am so excited to review my March Birchbox.  This month totally made me feel pampered.  While not everything was a hit (it never is), I did have a ton of fun trying out each product this month.  The theme for March was creativity, and this month certainly inspired me to renew my subscription since April is my last gift box!  Let’s check it out.

March Birchbox

  1. Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser (full size:  $25.50):  This facial cleanser is two steps.  First you take the product and massage it into your skin.  Then you take the muslin cloth, soak it in hot water, and gently wipe off the cleanser.  At first I was skeptical.  How is a muslin cloth any different from my washcloth?  But it actually was.  I felt like I was polishing or buffing my skin.  Almost a gentle exfoliation without a “grit” feeling.  I spent two week alternating this and my usual cleanser, and I honestly didn’t see that much of a difference.  However, I had fun sampling this.  The hot cloth made me think that this is why men enjoy a hot shave.
  2. Roloxin Lift Revitalizing Facial Masque Treatment (full size:  set of 10, $110):  HOLY SMOKES.  This is the most expensive sample I’ve been sent to date.  And, they sent me two treatments.  That alone made this month’s box feel amazingly worth the $10.  Basically, you massage the packet before opening it to “activate” the ingredients.  Then you apply the masque to a clean, damp face and let dry for 7-10 minutes.  Then you wash it off.  Honestly I didn’t want to try this at first because I felt like I should save it for a special occasion.  According to the material, it reduces the look of wrinkles and pores, and lasts up to 24 hours.  I didn’t want to waste it on a day when no one would see me!  But, eventually I used it, reasoning that I needed to try it out so I could review it.  Besides, there were two.  I could absolutely save the second one for that special occasion.  In the past, I’ve had some issues with some face masques.  One memorable time in high school, my face was lobster red for hours after using one because I was allergic to the mango extract in it (which I had no idea about prior to this).  So, I prepared to be disappointed and….I wasn’t.  Oh my gosh.  I felt like I looked like a touched up photo of myself.  My skin was radiant and smooth. However, at that price, I could never justify this.  I might, though, go in with others to purchase a set before, say, a wedding.
  3. Jelly Pong Pong GLOW GETTER Highlighter (full size:  $14):  I am so glad there is a card that comes every month that gives a rundown of each product because I totally thought this was nail polish when I first opened it.  The bottle looks like a polish sample, and it even has the same lid/brush thing going on.  But, this is not nail polish.  Nope.  It’s a highlighter meant to give a pearlescent shimmer wherever applied.  In the past, I’ve had some issues with these types of products due to my pale skin.  Usually there’s too much bronzer in them and the application is a bit too noticeable.  That was not the case with this, though.  It actually adds just a soft shimmer that I can see making for an excellent “dewy” look when layered with a soft pink blush.  The application, in my opinion, is still odd, but the product is decent.  Will I buy this?  Probably not, but mostly because this sample will last me forever.
  4. Elite Therapeutics Rosemary Eucalyptus Body Creme (full size:  $19):  This smells AMAZING.  I’ve used this MANY times since this box came, and each time I put it on, I feel like I am at a spa.  The creme is super thick and does a great job hydrating skin.  My March seemed extra dry, but this helped a lot.  Once my current lotion runs out, this is absolutely in the running to be the replacement.
  5. It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Product (full size:  $18):  This is on of the few products I was actually familiar with prior to this sample.  That doesn’t normally happen for me.  I’ve seen my mom use this before.  I’ve got to say, that while this is a decent product, it really isn’t a 10 for me.  More like a 7.  I have other products I like more, so this one was a no for me.  However, I will keep using this sample until it runs out.

So that was March!  Another awesome Birchbox.  Think you want to try out Birchbox?  Use my referral code.  I can’t wait for my April box to get here!

 

February Darbysmart DIY Box

I am SO BEHIND on these boxes!  I feel like I never get to them until the next one is arriving at my doorstep.  So, here we are, end of March, and I am finally reviewing my February box.  To be fair, though, these boxes ship on the 17th and usually arrive at my door around the 23rd, so it really has been only a month.  Right?  Ugh, I’m trying to justify myself.  So sorry.

February Darbysmart Box

Review

This month I got materials to take a platter like plate and add some stenciling to it.  The box contained the plate, two bottles of paint (turquoise and black), a foam brush, sticky stencils in the alphabet and some flower pattern, and some hot chocolate on a stick.  When I saw the hot chocolate, I was SUPER convinced that this was a food platter of some sort.  But when I went to the DIY directions, I found out it was actually meant to hold jewelry?  Odd.  Though, to be fair, I guess it can be whatever I want it to be.

Personally, I thought the flower and leaf patterns were ugly, so I stuck with the letters.  Since this project isn’t really the sort of thing I would keep, I decided to make it for my mother-in-law.  She had showed me something she wanted to make that was all about family, so I decided to put “friends” and “family” on the long sides of the platter and “fun” on the short sides.

The process was super simple.  Since the stencil letters were stick on, i just arranged them until I was happy with the placement, and then used the foam brush to apply the paint.  Once the paint was on, I removed the stencils and let dry.  I repeated this for each word.  (Dry time was only 3 or so minutes.)  When the brush went outside the stencil area, I used a Q-tip to clean up the errant paint, and that seemed to work pretty well.  Once all the lettering was done, into the oven it went.  30 minutes later I was done.

I think I would have enjoyed this project more if I had gotten the smaller, round dishes that were shown in the directions as those are something I might have kept and used.  I also wish the stencils had been a little more….interesting?  I’m not sure what the right word is here.  I guess I wish they had been more my style.  But, obviously they are someone’s style, so there’s that.

While everything was in the oven, I made my hot chocolate and drank it, thinking about how I now need to buy some bubble wrap so I can ship this to the MIL.  Was I excited about this project?  Not really.  I did like that this definitely felt like my money’s worth of product, though.

Guinness Truffles

On the same day that I made the key lime tarts, I also went for these Guinness truffles. I was in a dessert zone, so I went ahead and made both (partially because I wanted to make sure I got to the truffles before we drank all the Guinness).  For this you will need:

  • Guinness
  • Semi-sweet chocolate
  • Butter
  • Pretzels

Check out the full recipe here,or my pin on my Just Desserts board.

guinness truffles

Review

I have made truffles before, so I was pretty confident that the process would be a simple one, and I was right.  Besides letting the mixture cool in the refrigerator, the longest part was waiting for the Guinness to reduce.  Mine took FOREVER, but your mileage may vary.  This recipe is simple, straightforward, and requires few ingredients and will make approximately 16 truffles.  However, I wish I had made mine smaller, because I simply couldn’t eat an entire truffle because it was so rich. If you did smaller truffles, I could easily see this recipe making 2-3 dozen depending on how small you went.

The flavor is good, but not quite what I was hoping for.  I thought that I could taste the Guinness right at the end of the flavor, but my husband disagreed.  He thought that he could taste bitterness at the end, but that it wasn’t necessarily the Guinness itself.  It might just be the small bite of the semi-sweet chocolate.  That tends to be a problem for me with Guinness flavored things-it’s just so hard to get that taste.  I once made Guinness cheesecake and we didn’t really taste it there either.

For me this was a bust.  The truffles were so rich that their size made them difficult for me to finish, the Guinness flavor was more of a whisper, and you absolutely should NOT roll them in the exterior pretzels until right before serving.  Those pretzel chunks definitely lost their crunch.  I’m not saying this is a bad recipe by any means, it’s just not what I was hoping it would be.

Key Lime Tarts

Last time I was at the grocery store, I needed two limes.  Of course my store couldn’t carry regular limes, all they had was a bag of key limes.  So, I picked them up and used a handful of them for whatever I was making.  But that didn’t use all of them, so I went hunting for a recipe.  Key lime tarts seemed like the perfect option for our increasingly awesome Spring weather.  For these tarts you will need:

  • Limes
  • Graham crackers
  • Sweetened, condensed milk
  • Butter
  • Sugar

For the full recipe click here.  Or, check out my pin on my Just Desserts board.

Key Lime Tarts

Review

As usual, I halved the recipe.  This time, though, it was because I accidentally bought only one can of the condensed milk instead of two.  The recipe doesn’t actually say how many it makes (or I missed it), but the full batch will make 2 dozen, so I ended up with 1 dozen.  This recipe was very easy to follow, which is a good thing because I will totally be making these again (and a full batch at that).

These were quick and simple to make, and delicious.  There is tons of lime flavor in them, but they aren’t so tart it hurts.  These were a huge hit with my husband.  I also made a chocolate based dessert (which I’ll be writing up in a week or two), and this was the hands down favorite.  Without needing to ask, he told me he wouldn’t mind if I made these again.  Win!

These mini-pies are perfect for entertaining or just for you.  They won’t take up too much of your time, and they pack a flavorful punch.  Impress your friends and family by making these little treats!

Parmesan Crusted Salmon

The salmon crusade continues!  Parmesan anything is a weakness of mine, so trying this out was a no brainer for me.  I love buttered bread with Parmesan, so this had to be just as good, but with salmon.  Right?  For this you will need:

  • Salmon
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Bread crumbs
  • Seasoning

Get the full recipe here, or check out my pin on my Yum board.

parmesan salmon

Review

This recipe was super simple and delicious.  A keeper FOR SURE.  Prep took me all of 10 minutes, and, at the end, both the husband and I were sold:  this was a keeper!  What’s nice about this recipe is that you can change it up by using different spices.  The second time I made this, I mixed a little cayenne pepper into my bread crumbs in order to give everything a bit of a kick.  Plus, even my lame grocery store carries all these ingredients, so I know yours will too.

Verdict?  What are you waiting for?  Get out there and make this delicious salmon tonight!  I bet you have everything already in your refrigerator!

Chicken Corn Chowder

I don’t know about where you are, but here, we are getting some excellent Spring weather.  It’s also strange to realize that “Spring weather” for me now means daily highs in the low 70s.  even though it’s warming up, the mornings and nights here are still very crisp, and I can still get away with hot soup for dinner.  For this soup, you will need:

  • Chicken
  • Broth
  • Peppers
  • Corn
  • Half and Half.

Get the full recipe here, or check out my pin on my Yum board.

Chicken Corn Chowder

Review

You know how I am always halving recipes?  I TOTALLY wish I had done that with this one.  I will probably be having soup for lunch for the next two weeks.  But, at least that soup is actually pretty good.  Mine didn’t turn out as creamy as it was supposed to because I used soy milk instead of half and half, mostly because I don’t know what the non-milk equivalent of half and half is (feel free to let me know in the comments).

Overall, I thought this recipe had good flavor and was super easy to make.  I used only 1 jalapeno, and that tasted fine to me.  A little kick, but not too much spice.  Mostly, I wasn’t sure how it would taste at the end, so I erred on the side of mild.  I could have put in the second jalapeno and been fine.  Will I make this again?  Well, certainly not any time soon.  The weather is getting too nice to have hot soup for dinner much longer, and I have enough to last the rest of the month.  However, I can see myself making this again in the fall.  Hopefully I will remember to halve the recipe then!

A Crafting “Now What?”

Sometimes I see a picture online and I wonder to myself if I can recreate whatever it is that I am seeing.  And that’s what led me to try and make this deer head.  (This isn’t the image I saw, this is the one I made.)

deer

Basically, I traced a deer head onto vellum (I didn’t have any tracing paper).  Then, I cut some colorful magazine pages into strips and glued them onto the vellum, going well over the lines so I would have complete coverage.  Then I flipped the paper over and used the original tracing lines to cut out the deer head.  Once it was cut, I “sealed” it with modge podge.  And then…..what?  No, really, what was there to do?  I loved how it looked, but I had nothing to do with it.  The process was fun, but I had no use for the final product.

Eventually I decided to put it on a canvas that I had painted to look like wood, but that didn’t really work out for me.  Turns out, the vellum I had refused to stick to anything with any of the adhesives I had.  I have stronger stuff now that I think would work, but it literally peeled off the canvas the three times I tried to glue it down.

So, do you have any projects that you have started and didn’t know what to do with them when you finished?  Do you have any suggestions for those of us that have finished projects but nothing to do with them?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Homemade Granola Bars

Now that the weather is more Spring-like, it’s time to get back to hiking. When hiking, it’s important to bring food and water, and granola can be a nice option.  So, when I saw this recipe for homemade granola bars, I saved it for warmer weather that finally came.  For this recipe you will need:

  • Oats
  • Honey
  • Brown Sugar
  • Nuts

Check out the full recipe here, or my pin on my Yum board.

granola bars

Review

As usual, I halved the recipe.  This was partially because I was just testing, partially because there are only two of us, and largely because I didn’t have 7 cups of oats.  And, let me say, I am glad I halved it because even 3.5 cups of oats is still a lot of oats.

This recipe was fraught with little problems I didn’t expect.  First, I don’t own a rimmed baking sheet, so I “made” a rim by rolling up the foil I used to line it.  However, in order to do that, I needed to use two pieces of foil, which created a seam that the oats loved to slide under.  Also, I broke my rim when I poured the toasted oats back into the bowl to mix with the honey sugar mixture, and so I had to remake it.  Of course, none of this is the recipe’s fault, but it did cause problems for me.

In the end I found the result just okay.  However, I have a sneaking suspicion that my oats were starting to go stale, so this could be entirely my fault.  I think I would have liked them better with some more “stuff” in them.  Maybe some additional nuts or some dried cranberries.  Also, I might not have halved the sugar/honey mix totally right because some of the bars fell apart.  I think that would be due to not enough sticking agent.

Will I make this again?  Maybe.  However, I have since found another granola bar recipe, so I will probably give that one a try first.  This one isn’t bad by any means, but I like trying out new things.

February Birchbox Review

Another month, another awesome Birchbox!  I just got an email saying my March box is on its way, which means just one more month and my gift subscription will run out.  If my March box is as awesome as the past few months have been, you better believe I’ll be renewing!  So, let’s take a look at what I got in February!

feb birchbox

  1. Number 4 Super Comb Prep & Protect (Full size:  $32):  Basically, this is a leave in conditioner that is supposed to help protect color as well as strengthen and nourish the hair.  While it does seem to do those things, and didn’t interfere with my styling, I didn’t like how it made my hair feel.  Every time I washed my hair after using this, it didn’t feel clean.  It felt heavy, and it felt like each strand was coated in something that was weighing it down (even though it didn’t look like it).  Once I stopped using the spray, it took an additional three washes before my hair felt “normal” again.  While It does what it says it will, I did not like how my hair felt when I used it, so this was a “no” for me.
  2. Harvey Prince Hello (Full size:  $55):  Another perfume sample.  It doesn’t smell bad, but it wasn’t really “my” scent either.  It is light, with a hint of citrus and flowers (which, in theory is right up my alley), but it just didn’t feel like something I would wear.  Since I rarely wear perfume as is, I won’t be purchasing this.  That said, while it’s not right for me, I can think of several people I think it would be right for.  I’ll probably send this sample one of their ways since it won’t get any use otherwise.
  3. Sumita Color Contrast Eye Liner (Full size:  $11-$21):  This eye liner was AMAZING.  it goes on super smooth and comes in amazing colors.  Mine was blue, and WOW was it blue.  When I took it off, the cotton ball was bright, crayon blue.  I loved it.  It was an awesome pop of color that was easy to apply and felt great on my lids.  I would absolutely consider buying this.
  4. Cynthia Rowley Beauty Creamy Lip Stain in Heartthrob (Full size:  $20):  Another win!  This stain was a great color-bold and flirty.  It went really well with my skin tone.  Also, it stayed put and didn’t wear off quickly.  Once this sample is used up, I WILL be purchasing.  I highly recommend this one!
  5. Gilchrist & Soames Spa Therapy Body Lotion  (Full size:  $15):  When I first put some of this lotion in my palm, I wasn’t sure that this was going to be a hit with me.  It felt thin and even a bit watery.  After last month’s thick, creamy lotion, I really didn’t think this would cut it.  However, I was totally wrong.  This lotion was light, but it also didn’t leave me feeling greasy.  It was perfect for my hands, neck, and even face because it didn’t feel heavy and it absorbed quickly.  So while I still love the Tocca, I can see a world in which I would use both of these.

So there you go!  February was another hit!  Like I say every month, even when I don’t love everything I get, I love trying new things and learning what products do and don’t work for me.  I would never try a $20 lip stain on a whim, so getting these samples is amazing. Now I know that it would be $20 well spent on a product I would totally use and love.  If you haven’t had a chance, check out my previous reviews (Nov, Dec, Jan).

Think you want to try Birchbox yourself?  Use my referral link!  A just $10 a month, it is totally worth it!

Blackberry Salmon

I’ve been trying to incorporate salmon into my dinner menu at least once a week.  I’m still working on that low-cholesterol thing, though I’ve mostly got the small things down (soy milk instead of 2%, whole wheat whenever I can, oats and leafy greens-you get the idea).  And while I have that part down, I still worry about getting bored with the same meals over and over again.  So it’s nice that I have found so many salmon recipes to help change things up.  For this recipe you will need:

  • Salmon
  • Blackberries
  • Blackberry jam
  • Garlic

Check out the original recipe here, or my pin on my Yum board.

blackberry salmon

Review

As you know, my grocery store experience is…odd.  So when I saw fresh blackberries, I REALLY wanted to use them in something because I didn’t know when I would see them again, and I LOVE blackberries.  Luckily, this salmon recipe was just waiting for me.  And it was SO GOOD.  Of course, I am predisposed to like blackberry things in general, but I have made this a whopping four times since the first time.

The taste of the blackberries pairs well with the salmon, and it is full of flavor.  Plus,, I personally thought that it smelled really good while I was cooking, and did not mind that the smell permeated the entire kitchen.  Would I make this again?  Obviously I already have, and you should give it a try too!