July Birchbox Review

My poor July Birchbox went through quite the ordeal to get to me.  It made it all the way to Flagstaff (a town about an hour away from me) before it was inexplicably sent to Massachusetts.  My box went from about 70 miles from me to 2500 miles from me.  SO STRANGE.  It took a bit, but customer service was super nice, and a replacement box was mailed out.  I’ve had my replacement for about a week now, so I’ve had a chance to try out everything, though not as much as I would have liked.

July Birchbox

  1. amika un.Done texture Spray (Full Size:  $24):  Last month I got the amika dry shampoo.  I like this brand because it’s meant for curly hair.  I’ve tried this spray about three times now.  It isn’t great for me on its own, but it works well at helping produce defined curls when I use it as part of a series of products in my hair.  It’s an aerosol, which I’m not a huge fan of because that usually means product gets everywhere.  Which it did.  In my mouth.  It doesn’t taste very good, and it was hard to get the taste out of my mouth.  Bottom line:  it’s a decent product, but not the right addition for me.
  2. stila look at me liquid lipstick trio (Set of 3, $20):  This product was my sample choice.  Basically we had 3 color options (bright pink, classic red, bright coral), and I went for the red because I’ve been dying to find a really red lip color.  This stain went on super smooth with lots of saturated color.  The finish is matte, and I was all about the bold red lips it gave me.  I did have a bit of color transfer onto glasses, but I think that’s more on me not using the product completely right than anything else.  I would totally buy this, but I’m just not sure about the other two colors.  I guess I’ll see if I like them if I follow through on the purchase.
  3. COOLA Face SPF 30 Unscented Matte Tint (Full size:  $36):  SPF is very important to me because I have very fair skin that burns easily.  I don’t usually wear an SPF with a tint, but I’m not opposed to them either.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t the tinted SPF for me.  It felt gritty when I put it on, and the tint didn’t seem to do anything for me.  (It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good either.)  I can certainly see how this works for some people, but I am not those people.  This was a miss for me.
  4. Vasanti Cosmetics BrightenUp! Enzymatic Face Rejuvenator (Full Size:  $34):  This face scrub was surprisingly deceptive.  It went on gritty and almost felt like a fine sandpaper on my skin, and I really needed to be aggressive with my rinsing to get it all off my face.  After my first use, I was positive I hated it.  However, I always try the products multiple times (unless I have an allergic reaction), and I found that each time I used this, I liked it more and more.  My face really did look glowing and smooth after every use.  I was all out of my Suki scrub, so I went ahead and ordered this along with the foaming face cleanser so I can alternate using them.  Would I buy this product?  Obviously.  I already did.
  5. Marcelle BB Cream Golden Glow (Full size:  $27):  After my experience with my last BB cream (where I turned bright red), I was wary about giving this one a try.  However, I didn’t need to be so concerned because this one didn’t cause an allergic reaction.  It went on smoothly and did a decent job evening out my skin tone.  I tend to have some blotchy redness on my face, and this helped with that.  When combined with the BrightenUp!, I felt like my skin look picture ready.  Would I buy this?  Maybe.  I actually don’t care too much about the red splotches I sometimes have, but it’s nice to know I have options (besides foundation) to deal with that.

Overall, I’d say this month’s box was a HUGE success.  I haven’t been able to try everything as much as I’d normally have before writing my review, but the trajectory of my box was out of my control.  I found one product I bought, a lip stain I loved, and a BB cream I’m considering.  Wins all around!

Want to get your own monthly set of samples for just $10 a month?  Check out Birchbox with my referral link.

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Blackened Tilapia

I’m at it again with the tilapia.  I bought a large bag of it, and it’s been a great value!  I’ve been trying to have fish twice a week, and this has lasted almost three weeks!  I will certainly be buying more tilapia, so it’s very important I get a bank of good recipes.  Up today?  Blackened tilapia.  For this recipe, you will need:

  • Tilapia
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Onion powder
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Garlic powder

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

Blackened Tilapia

Review

The rub packed quite the punch, but it was, sadly, once again on top of the fish and not intermingling with the fish.  That seems to be a theme with my tilapia recipes.  However, just because the flavor sat on top, doesn’t mean that it was a bust.  Because the rub is on both sides of the fish, I never got a mouthful that didn’t have the flavor of the rub, so it wasn’t flavorless.  I’m wondering if I could have modified this recipe by making a marinate with the rub that the fish sat in or 30 or so minutes prior to putting the spice mixture on before placing it in the oven.  That might help the flavor penetrate more.  This is something I’ll have to try, because I do plan on making this one again.

Swiss Steak

I don’t know why I do this to myself, but I keep picking out slow cooker recipes that have a bunch of pre-cooking prior to throwing everything into the pot.  My favorite part about using the slow cooker is that it is supposed to be little effort and easy clean up for me.  That’s never the case with something like today’s swiss steak.  For this you will need:

  • Steak
  • Mushrooms
  • Red Wine
  • Onions
  • Chicken Stock
  • Flour

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

Swiss Steak

Review

While there was plenty of prep work for this one, it was nice that it could all be done in one pan so there was less clean up.  I’m still a little annoyed at myself for picking something that had prep work before throwing it in the slow cooker, but that’s on me.  Anyway, overall, this recipe was underwhelming.  Even though there’re plenty of items that should add flavor, this was very, very bland.  It could have benefited from some peppercorns or some other spice.  It smelled amazing all day, so it was a real let down to not have the flavor the smell seemed to be promising.

Will I make this again?  No.  There’s too much work for it to get a second try.  I’d still have to prep everything before it went into the slow cooker, and on top of that I would need to play around with seasonings to add some much needed flavor.  I’ll pass on making this again and find something new to try out and potentially be disappointed by.  I’d rather be let down by something new than something I’ve tried before.

Greek Chicken Bake

I’m a fan of recipes that basically boil down to throw everything in a pan and bake.  That’s what drew me to this Greek chicken recipe.  (Of course, Feta cheese was also a pretty big draw for me.)  I’m a fan of the flavors that are in this recipe, so I was ready to give them a try all together.  For this you will need:

  • Chicken
  • Tomatoes
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Green onions
  • Feta Cheese

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

Greek Chicken Bake

Review

This was disappointing, but not necessarily a “never again” recipe.  My problem with this recipe was that there was all this delicious goodness in what I poured on top of the chicken, but the chicken itself was kind of tasteless.  I think, though, that this has a simple solution.  I think that if I modified the recipe to chunk the chicken instead of leaving full breasts it would allow the flavors to mingle better and be absorbed into the chicken on a deeper level.  The idea is that there will be more surface area for the flavors to penetrate, thus an overall tastier experience.

As far as ingredients go, I was good except for the Greek seasoning that the recipe called for.  I couldn’t find anything that was labeled as such, or even anything that was remotely close.  In the end, I picked up a garlic and herb seasoning mix and hoped for the best.  I think it went fine, but I’m curious how much better the final product might have been with the proper seasoning.

Will I make this again?  Yes.  If for no other reason than I want to know if it is possible to add some flavor to that chicken, which was the real letdown of this recipe.

Lavender Lemonade

I love lavender.  It’s such a fun, subtle flavor.  So the other day when I read for a recipe that called for lavender simple syrup, my life was changed.  How had I never thought of this?  Off to the kitchen!

Today I’m going to share how to make lavender simple syrup and how to mix the syrup with lemonade to get a delightful summer drink!  For this you will need:

  • Lemons
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Lavender

Lavender Lemonade

Process

Simple Syrup

  1. Measure out one cup of water, one cup of sugar, and one tablespoon of lavender.  Add all ingredients to a saucepan.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring regularly.
  3. Make sure the lavender has been well mixed in and let steep for 30 minutes.
  4. Strain out the lavender.  Your simple syrup is ready!

Lemonade

  1. Juice several lemons.  I just juiced a bag and stored the juice until I was ready for it.
  2. In a glass, mix together a ratio of one part simple syrup, one part lemon juice, and 4 parts water.  For me, I made one glass with 2 oz syrup, 2 oz juice, and 8 oz water.
  3. Stir well, otherwise the parts will layer (see picture).
  4. Add some ice (if that’s your thing) and enjoy!

This process is easy and makes for a great summertime drink!  I hope you enjoy it.  Let me know if you come up with some fun uses for your lavender syrup!

Fun Friday: Fabrics on Etsy

It’s been forever since I’ve done a Fun Friday.  Last night I was thinking about my next quilt (which is crazy because I’m still working on the top for my current quilt), and I jumped onto Etsy to look at the offerings. So today’s post is all about fabrics on Etsy!

Living in a tiny town means I don’t have access to many fabrics.  Even when I drive to “the big town,” I really only have box stores to choose from.  Sometimes those places just don’t have the color/pattern/quality you’re looking for.  Etsy to the rescue!  I used Etsy to purchase about half the fabrics I used on my brother’s quilt, and was super happy with the results.  All the fabrics came to me clean, the advertised size, and undamaged-all things I was concerned about with my first time ordering.

Here are a few of the listings I’ve been loving as I think about my next quilt.

Maker by Art Gallery Fabrics - MKR-2885- Make Embroidery Pretty

Source

I’m a fan of lines (which is an odd thing to say), so I enjoyed this fabric because of the color changing lines and how it looks home-made but well done.  Usually I love bold colors (which you shall soon see), but I can see this being the showcase of a more subdued quilt.

SALE! 1/2 Yard Bundle- Little Ark By Carina Gardner For Riley Blake Designs

Source

I love blues and greens, and this set is the perfect mix of curves and lines with that color combination.  I like the coordination of this set.  Each piece stands well on its own, but they all belong together, too.

Folk Song by Anna Maria Horner -  FQ Bundle

Source

I told you I love bold colors, and this set sure does scream bold!  The colors are vibrant and saturated; the patterns striking.  Something about this set makes me feel like it’s luxurious and an extravagance.

So there you go!  Three fabric sets on Etsy that I’m loving right now.  Do you buy fabric on Etsy?  I’d love to hear about what you’ve bought and what you made!

Greek Chicken and Lemon Rice

Back in my hometown there’s this restaurant that isn’t great, but was always open late, had small-budget friendly prices, and had the best lemon rice soup in town.  (To be fair, I’m not sure anyone else even sold lemon rice soup.)  It wasn’t something I always wanted, but when you wanted it, you wanted it.  I’ve never tried to make lemon rice soup, but when I saw this recipe, I had hoped it would capture a lot of the same flavors.  For this you will need:

  • Chicken thighs
  • Rice
  • Lemons
  • Spices
  • Chicken broth

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

Greek Chicken with Lemon RIce

Review

This recipe falls into the “glad I tried it” category.  It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t hard, it just wasn’t me.  The ingredients are easy to procure; the directions easy to follow.  It does take some time for everything to marinade and cook, but that just means planning ahead prior to cooking.  I felt like there was too much liquid in the recipe, so if I were to do this again I would cut that down.  It was almost like I was making lemon rice soup instead of just lemon rice.  But the flavors were bold and exactly what you expect when reading the recipe.  No false advertising here!

This recipe was a great date with someone I had zero chemistry with.  Everything went super well.  Everything tasted just fine.  There were no problems during our time together.  It just wasn’t right.  I’m sorry Greek chicken with lemon rice; it’s not you, it’s me.

Final Darbysmart Box

This one has been sitting in my to-do pile for a while now.  I just kept putting it off because I was so sad that the subscription box wasn’t what I had hoped it would be.  I was also a little bit wary of this project because it’s one my husband had tried over a year ago as a gift for me, and he wasn’t all that successful.  Finally, though, I sat down and took the time to do it (which is actually very little time at all).  Here’s my review of my final Darbysmart subscription box.

Final Darbysmart Box

Review

Materials

This box had two 1/4 inch pieces of plywood with holes drilled into the sides, a few print outs on paper, some leather cord for tying the two boards (and any interior pages) together, a foam brush, and the Modge Podge brand transfer medium.  The plywood was the same quality as what you get at the hardware store, and the picture sets were specific to Father’s Day since the craft was intended to be for that if you wished.  (You could print your own pictures for this also, but make sure to follow the directions and use the right type of printer.)

Process

The process here is pretty straightforward and easy to follow.  You trim your paper to the size of your wood piece, slather the medium all over the picture (a nice heavy coat), stick the image onto the wood (image side down, of course), smooth it out, and leave it alone.  Depending on the humidity of where you are, you should leave it for 24-48 hours.  Even though I live in a very dry place, I didn’t want to take any chances, so I waited the full 48.  Once the waiting is done, you take a wet cloth and rub of the paper backing to reveal the picture beneath.  (This is a kind of messy process.)

Problems

I’m not sure if I didn’t do a good job with the initial sticking down, or if I was rubbing too hard, but the image started rubbing off too during the final step.  Once I realized what was happening, I tried very hard to stop the spread of the destroyed image.  It mostly seemed to happen around the edges.  When positioning the image, you only get one shot at it because it sticks like crazy to the wood, so a skewed image is also a potential problem.  Mine turned out a little off kilter, but I don’t think it’s terribly obvious.

Final Product

When it was done, I was annoyed by the final product because it wasn’t something I felt I could give to someone else.  It was too messed up and there’s no way to fix that once it happens.  I’m not against the project itself, but these are the same issues my husband had back when he tried it.  If you know of a way to keep this from happening, I’d be interested to hear.  I’m willing to give this project another try, but I need to do some trouble shooting before I’d consider it.

Cinnamon Roll Smoothie

For a while, I was super into making smoothies.  I would come up with a list of five different recipes and try a different one everyday.  Then I backed way off after a string of disappointments.  Now I’m back on the smoothie train, (as noted by Monday’s post), and it’s time to try one that tastes like my favorite breakfast food:  the cinnamon roll.  For this recipe you will need:

  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Brown Sugar
  • Oats
  • Cinnamon
  • Banana

Check out the full recipe here or my pin on my Drinks on Me board.

Cinnamon Roll Smoothie

Review

Here’s the good news:  This drink was super tasty.  I enjoyed all of it.  Often times I find that banana can be overpowering in smoothies, but this one had a nice balance.  Here’s the bad news:  it didn’t taste like a cinnamon roll.  Not even close.  It maybe tasted like a cinnamon roll in the same way your perfume has “hints of gardenia” in it.  So, while I was disappointed that it didn’t actually taste like I was expecting it to, it actually was a very delicious drink and I would absolutely make it again.  Just, you know, not with the assumption it’s going to taste like one of my favorite breakfast foods.

Vanilla Mint Smoothie

I’ve mentioned before that sometimes things are super expensive out here, more so than I would expect.  Mint is one of those items.  I love mint, both in food and as a plant (even if it does sort of take over wherever it is planted).  So, I decided I needed to grow my own mint so I could have it whenever I wanted.  I put it in a planter all by itself in hopes it would spread out and take over.  Now it’s time to use it!  For this smoothie you will need:

  • Mint
  • Spinach
  • Coconut milk
  • Vanilla
  • Banana

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

Vanilla Mint Smoothie

Review

This smoothie is made in two parts to give it a layered look, also, one part is vanilla and the other part is mint.  I tried the pour over method to get the green to settle on top of the white, but it just didn’t happen for me.  After I took the picture and my first few sips, I just mixed it all together.  The drink itself was easy enough, though it was annoying to have to mix two sets of ingredients.  I did the white part first so I wouldn’t need to clean in between blends.

Overall this recipe was just okay.  It wasn’t anything special, and you will have coconut milk left over that needs to be stored.  Not a big deal if you decide to make this again tomorrow, but something to be aware of.  I probably won’t make this recipe again (not when that thin mint smoothie exists), but I do think that it has an audience that just isn’t me.  Maybe it’s you?  I think that this recipe is perfect for someone that regularly buys chia seeds.  I didn’t put them in mine because I simply couldn’t find them and didn’t want to order them online.  If that’s you, give this one a try!