Top 8 Christmas Flicks.

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With my holiday shopping done (finally!) and a pre-Christmas Sunday dinner with some of my family wrapping up a few hours ago, I’m preparing to unwind for the evening before I begin what will be a short work-week tomorrow morning by watching a couple of my favorite classic Christmas movies. Back in June, I compiled a short list of some of my favorite Summer-centric films that never fail to entertain me and get me into the seasonal spirit- and with us being right in the middle of the most celebrated season of all- just days away from Christmas- I thought I’d put together another list of my favorite Holiday movies.

Now, it wasn’t easy- there are SO many Christmas movies I love and cherish, but I narrowed it down to the ones that I will stop and watch- no matter how far along the movie is when I tune in- and watch until the end, over and over- and never get tired of them.

‘Tis the season- and here are my Top 8 Christmas Flicks!

NationalLampoonsChristmasVacation1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

“And why is the carpet wet, Todd?”

“I don’t KNOW, Margo!”

Of all the Christmas movies I adore, ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ is by far my favorite. Not only does it ALWAYS make me laugh- pretty much every scene, really- but I think nearly everyone at some point can relate to the chaos that ensues when Clark Griswold tries to put together the perfect ol’ fashioned family Christmas for his family. Struggling to get the lights on the exterior of the house to work? Bickering in-laws? Unexpected visits from the more eccentric (and kinda’ gross) family members? Being subscribed to a Jelly of the Month Club in lieu of a Christmas bonus? Squirrels hiding in the Christmas Tree? We’ve all been there in one way or another.

AChristmasStory2. A Christmas Story (1983)

You would think that a movie that gets aired 24 hours straight from Christmas Eve through the end of Christmas Day would get tiresome after a while, but that isn’t the case with “A Christmas Story.” Like Clark Griswold’s mishaps and meltdowns- Ralphie’s quest to get a coveted Red Ryder B.B. gun for Christmas despite his teacher, his mother, and a mall Santa telling him he’ll shoot his eye out is hilarious and stands the test of time.

From the Old Man’s “Major Award,” and the triple-dog-dare by the iced over flagpole, to the bunny pajamas from Hell and Ralphie’s Life Buoy soap punishment- 24 hours never seems like enough time to view this movie. Also? Visiting Ralphie’s house is on my to-do list.

HomeAlone3. Home Alone (1990)

Christmas just isn’t Christmas without watching Kevin McCallister set traps and outsmart two bumbling, idiot thieves while learning about the importance of family. While I’m also a fan of “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,” (although Child Protective Services really should have intervened and investigated Kevin’s parents after that one,) but nothing will top the original.

Watching Marv shriek in pure terror as Buzz’s tarantula crawls across his face will always be one of my favorite moments from when I watched this movie with my family when I was a kid- but as I get older- I find myself tearing up (in a good way) when Kevin’s neighbor, Old Man Marley, reunites with his son and his granddaughter while Kevin looks on from his window as the snow falls. It gets me every time.

TheHoliday4. The Holiday (2006)

I’m not one for romantic comedies, but “The Holiday” really touches me on a personal level because I connect so much with the character, Iris, played by Kate Winslet. The movie, for those who haven’t seen it or heard of it- follows two women, strangers to each other and frustrated with the complications and disappointments in their love lives- who agree to swap homes for two weeks around Christmastime on an Airbnb style website. Iris ends up in Los Angeles while Cameron Diaz’s character- Amanda- ends up in Surrey, England. Predictably, both women find love, as well as inner-strength while they’re visiting abroad- just in time for Christmas.

A little cliché, sure- but the movie delivers strong performances from Winslet, Diaz, Jude Law, Jack Black- and some really great, poignant lines from the late, great Eli Wallach.

MuppetChristmasCarol5. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

I think I’ve seen every possible version of “A Christmas Carol” that has ever been made- but my favorite will always and forever be the one with the Muppets, because they just make everything infinitely better. No disrespect to Bill Murray or Patrick Stewart, who did phenomenal jobs in their roles in their interpretations of this story- but with catchy, thoughtful musical numbers and a Tiny Tim frog with a little crutch that will melt even the iciest of hearts- this is a must-watch for me every year.

And my absolute favorite part of this movie is watching the regal, classy Michael Caine’s (Scrooge) banter with my two favorite Muppets- Statler and Waldorf- who play Ebenezer’s ghostly former associates. It’s the BEST.

WhiteChristmas6. White Christmas (1954)

The oldest movie on this list is also the one that many consider to be the most classic. “White Christmas” reminds me of many things- mostly Christmas Eves or Christmas Days spent visiting at my grandparents’ house when I was a kid and listening to Bing Crosby holiday records playing from their living room. This movie was almost always playing on a television set somewhere in their home, and I would almost always sit down- bundle up in blankets- and watch intently as Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye sang and danced their hearts out to save a pitiful inn somewhere in Vermont.

While the story itself might not exactly withstand the test of time, there’s plenty of lovely musical numbers and a much-needed happy ending for all of the characters to keep even the most cynical of viewers entertained and feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

5d4f6f42276b16734fb60709e674e63382730ab57. The Santa Clause (1994)

Before inspiring a couple of unnecessary sequels (and I think may have inspired “Christmas with the Kranks,” which was also unnecessary) that I never had any interest in seeing, there was simply the first “The Santa Clause,” which my parents took me to see in theaters when I was younger . Putting aside the fact that Scott Calvin (Tim Allen,) who gradually and reluctantly transforms into Santa Clause after accidentally killing the original man in the red suit- had the most irritating, whiny son on Earth- the story was, at the time, really unique for a Christmas movie and had plenty of silly jokes for kids and even more “adult” jokes geared towards the grown-ups- which I didn’t get until another viewing when I was much, much older.

NightmareBeforeChristmas8. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

My favorite thing about “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” apart from the animation and the music- is that this movie has the distinction of being both a Halloween movie, AND a Christmas movie. It’s a great combination of creepy and festive. The best scene, following Jack Skellington’s twisted take on delivering presents for Santa Clause, is when the toys come to life and proceed to terrify the living hell out of the human children who received them. The little boy screaming while the gigantic toy snake devours his Christmas tree never fails to get me to laugh- and songs like “Making Christmas,” “What’s This?” and “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” deserve a spot on a lot of holiday playlists.

I love to watch this movie in October, and then again around this time of year because whether it’s Halloween or Christmas- I always feel festive.

And that’s it! Eight of my all-time favorite Christmas movies- a blend of comedies, classics, and childhood memories. Not included are annual specials like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” or the animated version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” since I consider those separate from full-length feature films- but I always make a point to watch those every year, too!

And if anyone wants to share their favorite holiday movies, too- feel free!

xx

Ipsy Bag: December 2014 Review.

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I had said it in my last couple of beauty box posts, but from my own, personal experience- it seems that November and December are typically the months where subscription services pull out all the stops to impress and dazzle their customers to coincide with the holidays and New Year’s Eve. Products are usually full-sized, high-end, or limited edition- and give subscribers just enough incentive to stick around for another year. Those are the boxes I look forward to the most (apart from Loot Crate’s October box, now!) so I was really excited to receive the final Ipsy bag of 2014, themed “Thinking of You,” which was a sweet nod to the subscribers.

The bag itself, a sleek black pouch with a pink, plastic heart-shaped “Ipsy” charm- was really cute- and all but one product was able to fit inside of it.

What I Received:

Swissco Electroplated Eyelash Curler (*Full Size!*)

tarte deluxe “lights, camera, lashes” 4-in-1 mascara

Pixi by Petra Fairy Dust in “Brightening Bare” (*Full Size!*)

Coolway Boost Repair Treatment

NYX Cosmetics Butter Lip Balm in “Red Velvet” (*Full Size!*)

Now, right away there were two products included in the bag that I didn’t use, so let me just get those out of the way real quick.

Products I Didn’t Use:

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Swissco Electroplated Eyelash Curler ($5)

I have been blessed by the powers that be with what I consider to be good eyebrows (although I admit that I’m a tad overdue for a wax,) and long, naturally curly eyelashes that seem to match my naturally curly hair. For that reason- I’ve never really needed an eyelash curler- just a few coats of mascara to get my eyes to look dramatic. Also, I’ve been rubbish each and every time I’ve tried to use one properly just out of my own curiosity. For that reason, this purple curler will be gifted as a stocking stuffer this Christmas!

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tarte deluxe “lights, camera, lashes” 4-in-1 mascara ($20)

I’m a big fan of tarte mascaras, and have actually received a sample of this very same formula in the past- which I loved. Because I’m familiar enough with the brand and the mascara to the point where I would absolutely buy a full-sized tube of this in the future, I decided not to waste this sample on myself, and am instead pairing it up with the aforementioned eyelash curler from Swissco as a cute little gift for someone who might be interested in trying this formula for themselves!

And now, moving onto the products I DID try/review:

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Product # 1: Pixi by Petra Fairy Dust in “Brightening Bare” ($10)

Okay, so here’s the thing- I feel like I may have asked “what is this?” and “why is this happening?” out loud each time I tried applying this semi-loose, but sorta’ damp powder to my eyes before I gave up completely. The small, rounded applicator is in no way convenient, and had to be dipped back into the tube multiple times in an attempt to get enough product on the tip to actually cover my lid area. The texture and consistency of the shadow itself is bizarre- almost like a chalky, sandy feeling- and at first I thought it was one of those “applies wet – dries to a powder finish” type of products. Unfortunately, when applied wet or dry (and I did try both recommended methods-) this shadow flaked EVERYWHERE. It was a disaster.

Color-wise, I wasn’t a fan of the shade. It didn’t show up much once it was blended- and the shadow didn’t last very long at all before it began to crease and flake off as the day wore on. I was disappointed from start to finish.

Would I Purchase?: No. I’ll stick to my usual cream and powder shadows from my current makeup collection. Between the messy, often confusing application process- all the way to the lack of staying power once I had the shadow (kind of) where I wanted it- this is a product I would steer clear from.

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Product # 2: Coolway Boost Repair Treatment ($29.95)

As someone with curly, color-treated hair- I have to take special care of my locks- especially in the winter when the cold dries out more than just my skin. Weekly deep repair hair masks are life savers for me, since they replenish the moisture and strengthen my curls with each application. I was eager to try this color-safe treatment, which is also free of harmful chemicals and toxic additives. The first thing I noticed was how nice this product smelled- like a combination of mint and cologne- if that makes any sense. I just really enjoyed the fragrance.

The container said to use this product generously from my roots to the ends of my hair- which I did- and consequently was only able to get two uses out of the tube. Application wise, the product spread easily enough through my hair and didn’t cause any bizarre reactions for the few minutes I left it on before rinsing it out as directed- but unfortunately- I didn’t see or feel any dramatic results. My hair looked and felt the same as it did prior to using the mask. Whether more than two uses are required to obtain any noticeable results is still up for debate- but I wasn’t blown away by this.

Would I Purchase?: No. I have hair masks that I use regularly that give me nearly instantaneous results (and I’ll do a post on them soon!) for a fraction of the $29.95 price tacked onto this particular product. While the fragrance is pleasant and the texture of the mask is nice enough- it wasn’t exactly a “must-have” product that I’d consider purchasing.

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Product # 3: NYX Cosmetics Butter Lip Balm in “Red Velvet” ($4)

I’ve heard good things about NYX’s Butter Lip Balms in recent months, but had yet to try one for myself- so when I received a full-sized tube in a bright, bold red- I was pretty excited! Like the name suggests, this balm glides on the lips like butter- instantly softening and smoothing- which was lovely. However- the shade wasn’t as flattering as I would have hoped. It looked more like an orange/red against my fair complexion- and it didn’t last long at all before the color bled outwards to the edges of my lips and had to be reapplied quite a few times to prevent my lips from looking like they were severely chapped. I would have been disappointed if it didn’t feel so nice when I applied it!

Would I Purchase?: Maybe. I think I’d consider picking up one of these butter balms in a more neutral, nearly nude shade so I could get all the benefits of it’s hydration perks without feeling self-conscious about having to constantly re-apply the color to keep it looking fresh. It really does feel divine on the lips- I just wish it would last longer!

With two products I couldn’t/didn’t use, two products I didn’t care for- and one product I’m still a little on the fence about- December’s Ipsy bag was, unfortunately, one of my least favorite to date. It’s a shame, with it being the end of the year and all- but nearly everything in the bag was a let down! Has it deterred me from continuing my subscription with Ipsy through 2015? No- but I really hope that with the new year, the company branches out a little more to incorporate more brands and different types of products to keep myself and others interested and satisfied. A lot of products and shades I received in 2014 felt repetitive after a while- so I’d really like to see Ipsy make some changes and not be afraid to take a few risks now and then.

I can’t wait to see how December’s GlossyBox compares when I receive it!

xx

“Walking in a Winter Wonderland…”

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Sometimes, in the midst of the chaos that comes with wrapping up cases for the end of the year at the office and wrapping up Christmas presents (assuming you didn’t wait until recently to even start your shopping like, say, me- for example-) it can be easy to overlook the little happenings in the city that make Christmastime in Boston so beautiful. The lights on the trees in the Common, or the storefronts on Newbury Street being decorated to the nines, or hearing children laughing and shrieking as they glide across the seasonal skating rink at the frog pond.

Despite my busy work schedule and attempting to finish the last of my Christmas shopping (I should be done by tomorrow!) I’ve found little things to keep myself from becoming a regular Grinch under pressure and keep my festive, Cindy Lou Who attitude, instead. One thing being my above-pictured red and green manicure (holding a peppermint mocha, of course,) that always gets me in the holiday spirit whenever I look down at my digits.

And as usual, I made a point to pick up some warm, cozy, thermal and flannel pajamas while I was out at the shops, too! Christmas just isn’t Christmas without thermal, fleece, and/or flannel pajamas.

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And no evening in warm, cozy, flannel and/or thermal pajamas is complete without a lovely smelling candle burning. I’ve been loving the “Hot Buttered Rum” ones from Bath and Body Works as of late. It’s deliciously Christmas-y and comforting with the distinction of not smelling like peppermint or pine. I highly recommend it to you candle lovers out there!

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With only a couple of things left to pick up for friends and family for the holidays, it looks like I’ll be free this coming weekend to enjoy more seasonal scenery. I’ve been thinking of heading to Newport, Rhode Island- like I did last year around this time- or out to Western Massachusetts- or maybe even both!

I’ll just have to see where the rest of this week takes me!

“The Walking Ginger-Dead”

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“The Walking Dead” mid-season finale aired a little more than a week ago, thus beginning the show’s brief hiatus until it’s return in February- and I’m already going through withdrawals. My Sunday nights feel empty and meaningless now, and I find myself curling up in the fetal position- and weeping- when I’m not checking off the days on the calendar until the show comes back (not really, but you know what I mean. I can’t wait for the second half of the season!)

Luckily, I have the upcoming holidays to distract me during the first few weeks of Michonne deprivation. I also have this “Walking Ginger-Dead” cookie kit I picked up in Western Massachusetts a couple of weeks ago to give me my walker fix with a semi-festive (and more delicious) twist. I haven’t made actual Christmas cookies in a couple of years, and it’s been even longer than that since I’ve baked and decorated gingerbread men- so I was excited to give this box full of slightly-morbid fun a try. I even included one of my numerous Daryl Dixon FUNKO figurines to help out while I snapped some photos of the process and finished cookies.

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The kit comes with everything: the gingerbread mix, four “walker” molds, white frosting mix, red and black icing, and a bag of multi-colored candy balls for decorating. I only had to scrounge up a minimal amount of supplies on my own (water, butter and honey.)

From there, it was just a matter of mixing the gingerbread, letting it settle and harden in the fridge for twenty minutes, and rolling it flat to make the molds. My Daryl figurine was there to keep a watchful eye on things.

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After the shapes were cut from the dough and stuck on a baking sheet, I only had to heat them up in the oven for about 10-15 minutes to get them warm and solid enough for decorating. As always- Daryl stayed vigilant.

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Now, I’m no artist, and the decorating process was messy, to say the least- but I personally think the cookies came out rather (and unexpectedly) cute once the icing had dried. It’s hard to make gingerbread men look gory and scary- but I did my best!

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The box made a total of ten cookies, and the entire process- mixing, baking, AND decorating- took just under an hour to complete. It was a lot of fun. Maybe not the most Christmas-y confection I could have whipped up, but fun nonetheless! Best of all? The cookies are delicious- although it felt a little weird biting into them when it’s usually the walkers biting into people.

If you’re in the mood to bake some unconventional gingerbread men of your own, or if you’re just as big a “Walking Dead” fan as I am and need something tasty to get you through the hiatus- you can purchase your own “The Walking Ginger-Dead” kit at Amazon for $11.25 by CLICKING HERE!

Thanks for the help, Daryl!

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GLOSSYBOX: November 2014 Review.

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As the end of the year approaches, monthly subscription services almost always kick it up a notch for the holidays- offering more luxurious, high-end (and often full-sized) products, limited edition merchandise, multiple promotions and special offers. It’s exciting, especially when the value of what’s in the boxes can be worth more than what you spent on the subscription fee. I always look forward to November and December’s Ipsy Bags and GlossyBoxes (and this will be my first year receiving December’s Loot Crate!)

November’s GlossyBox arrived at my door not too long ago, and I’ve been using the products that were included on a regular basis. With skin care, hair care, nail polish, and bath products covered- I’m ready to share my thoughts!

What I Received:

Juice Beauty Green Apple Age Defy Moisturizer

12 Benefits Instant Healthy Hair Treatment

So Susan Cosmetics Universal Blush (*Full Size!*)

Kneipp Lavender Balancing Herbal Bath

O.P.I “Pink Outside the GLOSSYBOX” Nail Lacquer (*Full Size!*)

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Product # 1: Juice Beauty Green Apple Age Defy Moisturizer ($45)

I’m a big fan of green apple-flavored or scented anything, really. Candies, perfumes (DKNY’s “Be Delicious” being my favorite,) body lotions, hair care products, etc. Even in the Fall, you can sometimes catch me tying up my hair with my green apple printed scarf that I’ve had for years and years. It was only a matter of time before the sweet, citrus-y fragrance infiltrated my skin care regimen, too. Juice Beauty, an organic and cruelty-free skin care company based out of California, has combined natural fruit juices and anti-aging antioxidants to form this lightweight night and day moisturizer.

While it does have the faintest of citrus scents upon application- the product sinks into the skin effortlessly and doesn’t leave behind any sort of residue (and didn’t cause any kind of adverse reaction on my skin!) I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now and my skin does feel softer and smoother- although the brightness and anti-aging perks have yet to be seen. All in all, it’s an average moisturizer that keeps skin hydrated- but the $45 price tag is a little obscene.

Would I Purchase?: Maybe. This was an “okay” moisturizer, but it didn’t necessarily blow me away to where I would deliberately seek it out while replenishing my skin care. It did a good enough job moisturizing my skin without making me look or feel greasy and shiny- but in my opinion, it’s quality does not warrant such a costly price. It’s not awful- but it’s not extraordinary, either.

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Product # 2: 12 Benefits Instant Healthy Hair Treatment ($20)

This product honestly had me at the “spritz and go” part of it’s description. It’s been well established that I have curly, often unruly hair that I rarely flat-iron and straighten with irons and heat. I like to run Moroccan oil through my curls and let them air dry while I apply my makeup and pack up my purse for the day- as I find my hair is soft, shiny, and manageable by the time I’m out the door. It’s a simple system that has worked well for me for months, but I liked all the benefits of this sweet-smelling spray that were listed on GlossyBox’s product card (and on the bottle!) and decided to give it a try.

While this spray didn’t add a particular amount of shine to my curls, it did make them soft and de-tangled. It also kept my frizz to a minimum and didn’t compromise my reds. My hair was smooth and thankfully free of any type of residue or “stiffness” that I can often get with other leave-in treatments. I was impressed!

Would I Purchase?: Yes! I’m always on the prowl for hair care that is fast and easy to use in my morning routine and won’t make my hair look or feel crunchy or weighed down with product. This spray was convenient and did a great job at keeping my curls refreshed and tamed. I’d absolutely purchase a full-sized bottle in the future to use by itself or mix with my Moroccan oil for added shine.

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Product # 3: So Susan Cosmetics Universal Blush ($27.95)

Now that Autumn is over and done, I’ve transitioned my everyday makeup to better suit the colder season. My blush, which was previously a more copper tone on my skin- complimented my nude matte lipsticks and brown and gold eyeshadows through Halloween and Thanksgiving. Now, my cheeks are looking a little rosier alongside my pink/red lip colors and plum and green eye palettes. I liked the look of this blush when I first saw it in my November GlossyBox. It seemed to have a warm rose tone that would compliment nearly every complexion. Once applied, it was more of a subtly-sheen pink that gave my pale cheeks a beautiful, natural-looking glow. I’ve been wearing it non-stop since I’ve started using it- and I don’t see myself switching to a different blush anytime soon!

Would I Purchase?: Yes! I am absolutely head over heels in love with this blush and the natural looking flush it gives me. The product itself is packed with Buriti Fruit Oil that supposedly heals and nourishes skin. I can’t say for certain if that worked out for me or not, but the color alone was enough to sell me on this blush and I would definitely re-purchase this in the future once I run out of the full-sized one GlossyBox so generously provided for me!

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Product # 4: Kneipp Lavender Balancing Herbal Bath ($20)

I am very much a hot shower kind of gal. Long soaks in the tub are a rarity, mostly because of my schedule or because I find it hard to get myself to relax long enough to truly enjoy one without interruption or distraction. I decided to give this lavender scented oil a chance, though, after reading that it was designed to combat mental fatigue and nerves. I waited until I could put aside a substantial amount of time (which happened to be after a day spent Christmas shopping, go figure-) to rest my eyes and mind in some hot water up to my neck.

First things first- the oil turned the water in the tub a shocking shade of blue, which I didn’t expect, but it smelled strong (and divine!) and once I had settled in I could feel myself relaxing in no time at all. I stayed still in the tub, soaking the oil in, for a good 15-20 minutes before I showered and prepared to bundle up in my fleece pajamas. I noticed that my skin was not only lightly fragranced with the lavender smell, which was nice- especially at bed time- but that it was super soft, too!

Would I Purchase?: Yes! I’m planning on purchasing a full-sized bottle of this concentrated oil for myself now that I’ve vowed to take more “me” time every so often to use it, but I think this would be a great gift for anyone looking for a nice, easy way to unwind and relax in the tub, too. A little goes a long way and this stuff works amazingly well!

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Product # 5: O.P.I “Pink Outside the GLOSSYBOX” Nail Lacquer ($9.50)

Not too long ago, I voiced a complaint about the multiple variations of the too-safe-for-my-liking lipsticks and lip glosses I frequently received in beauty subscription services. I wanted companies to mix it up a little- to take some risks and give subscribers something unique and daring to break up the monotony of the pink/rose tones that seemed to be plaguing their every box and bag. I think the same thing can be said in terms of nail polish. I get such a thrill when I receive a bright, bold, glittery or textured lacquer for my nails- and while I enjoy a soft, pretty pink from time to time- like the lipsticks/glosses- it can get repetitive and boring after a while.

Needless to say, I was underwhelmed when I first saw this pale pink bottle of O.P.I.- the color being a limited edition solely made for GlossyBox subscribers, which was admittedly kind of cool. Ever a fan of the company itself, I knew the application and longevity of the formula would be just fine- and it was. After two coats I had a slightly translucent pink on my tips that was pretty, albeit not very seasonal looking. I wasn’t dazzled, however.

Would I Purchase?: No. Not only is this shade limited edition, so I don’t think I could re-purchase it in the future even if I wanted to, but the color was safe and dare I say it- dull. I actually own a couple of different variations of this shade, so re-purchasing this particular one won’t be necessary.

With three products that I was thrilled with and two I wasn’t exactly head-over-heels in love with- November’s GlossyBox was still good, but could have used a little improvement. With December’s box already rumored to be a high value collection for the end of the year, I’m hoping it will make up for the mediocre moisturizer and lackluster lacquer I received last month! We’ll just have to wait and see!

November 2014: In a Nutshell.

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How on Earth is it already the end of November? It feels like just days ago I was bidding a fond farewell to October and getting ready to travel into NYC for Halloween, and now here I am- bundled up in fleece blankets- preparing for December! I couldn’t think of a better way to end the month, however- what with tonight being the 4th annual “Friendsgiving” at my friends’ apartment and the mid-season finale of “The Walking Dead” (prayer circle for Carol!)

In contrast to this time last year, this past month has been considerably busier- what with settling cases for the end of the year at work, organizing the office, prepping plenty of posts for the blog, and getting ready for the holidays. I’ve barely had time to stop and take a breath for more than a few minutes at a time- which probably explains why November has flown by so fast.

Busyness aside, November did have it’s fun moments- with what little down time I could find being spent with family, friends, or on my own while out getting some fresh air and taking in some rural scenery. We’ve been getting snow on and off for the past few days, too- which has helped me get into a festive state of mind. I’m ready to start decorating for Christmas, write out holiday cards, bake some cookies and pick out some presents!

Of course, while I’m excited for Christmas, I’ll also be starting to wrap up 2014 and preparing to welcome 2015 over the next few weeks, too. I’ve already began piecing together my end of the year summary and drafting my resolutions in an attempt to stay one step ahead of the game- so we’ll see how it goes.

December will most certainly be hectic, for sure- but I’m looking forward to it!

xx

Giving Thanks.

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I come from a big family- with plenty of aunts, uncles, and way too many cousins to count (seriously. I lost count. There’s just so many of them.) Some of my fondest memories- especially around the holidays- are of nearly all of my relatives crowding into my parents’ home for Thanksgiving and the weekend before Christmas for huge dinners and festive parties that extended well beyond my childhood bedtime. Although I can recall only some of the conversations and jokes I’d overheard at those gatherings, I vividly remember sneaking food from the kitchen with my cousins before it had been officially “served,” much to my mother’s dismay- and sitting next to our Christmas tree with my grandfather while we listened to the classic holiday albums my father would play on our old stereo.

As I got older, those gatherings became less and less crowded. Some relatives moved, others became so busy with careers or raising their own families, some simply didn’t get along anymore, and others sadly passed away. It’s all a part of life and the trials and tribulations of family, of course- and although Thanksgiving and Christmas are still a blast to celebrate with the family that still live in the vicinity of where I grew up and whom I still see on a regular basis- I haven’t really had a big festive get together in a long time.

All that changed yesterday, however- when I celebrated Thanksgiving with my mother, aunt, uncle, cousins- and for the first time in eight years- both of my older brothers, their wives, and my niece! My mother’s house was filled with people, food, and conversation- and reminded me of those family gatherings I looked forward to so much when I was a kid. At one point, my brother’s best friend, and who is also a dear family friend I hadn’t seen in years- stopped by, too- which made an already wonderful evening even better.

In a year where I am thankful for so many things and have been blessed in countless ways, I think the thing I’m most thankful for is that my family, once scattered and estranged- are back together again. It feels wonderful, like a hole in my heart has been filled. I wish my dad could be here to be a part of it- more than anything- but I’m sure he’s pleased, wherever he is.

When I wasn’t stuffing my face with the feast that was big enough to feed a small army, or making the above-pictured chocolate truffle with my niece for dessert, I was getting into the Christmas spirit (without participating in the 3 a.m. Black Friday insanity,) by compiling a little playlist of some of my favorite holiday songs from when I was a kid. Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Nat “King” Cole, and others- they’re all on it!

Side note: Even though my parents were pretty lax on my Catholic upbringing- I think the more religion-themed Christmas songs are my favorite. I’ve never understood why. I just think they’re more beautiful than, say, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

Anyway- feel free to give it a listen! I’m off to eat leftovers (and will probably be eating them for another week and a half!)

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xx

Loot Crate: November 2014.

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It feels like I was just starting to get over the greatness that was October’s Loot Crate when November’s box showed up at my door. When I saw this month’s theme, “BATTLE,” I immediately thought back to the days of highly competitive (and highly emotional) ‘Mortal Kombat’ tournaments my older brother and I would have on our Sega Genesis in my parents’ living room, and to the days where Sean would mercilessly kick my ass (and then mercilessly mock me,) while we played ‘Tekken’ on rainy afternoons during Summer vacations when we were kids.

While the “BATTLE” box sadly didn’t include anything ‘Mortal Kombat’ or ‘Tekken’ related, it did have a few cool things inside of it- some of which I’ll be gifting to friends.

Let’s take a look!

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As usual, November’s crate included it’s mini-magazine and collector’s pin with the “BATTLE” theme printed on it. Inside the magazine were the expected games, puzzles, and a break-down of what was featured in the box and what had been up for grabs in the coveted monthly ‘Epic Mega Crate’ that subscribers can enter to win with each theme.

The magazine also featured a Q&A with the creators of ‘Assassin’s Creed’ and an article by Keri Honea detailing the evolution of the ‘Halo’ franchise, which was a pretty good read for anyone who plays the game or has been catching up with the comic and/or novel series.

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I enjoy the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ games. The story throughout the series can be a bit convoluted and tiresome at times, much like the ‘Resident Evil’ franchise where things are lazily tied together and really make no sense the more you think about them- but the game play and graphics are incredible and that’s enough to keep me entertained and hanging on for more. This metal “Unity Coin,” which features the seal of the Assassins on one side and a space to etch your name on the other- will be going to my friend Mike, who is a big fan of the games and will undoubtedly appreciate this little token to add to his “Man Town” room in his house!

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Also being gifted is this cute little Mega Man helmet replica with a supporting display stand. I received the green helmet, one of four available colors- and will be passing it on to one of two friends I know of who will enjoy this little nostalgic memento!

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I’ve mentioned it in a past Loot Crate review, but I have a few fond memories of completely decimating my ex-boyfriend on his XBox whenever he’d challenge me to play ‘Halo 2′ with him. I’m fairly certain the cry of “ASHLEY! STOP TAKING THE F*CKING SWORD! STOP CHASING ME!” happened so often that his neighbors had to have been concerned about what was happening behind closed doors.

I digress, this little Halo figurine from Mega Bloks, complete with it’s own weapon and drop ship- cracked me up. I wasn’t sure as to whether or not I’d gift this toy or keep it for myself, but the more I look at it, the more I think I can find a place for it with all my other little trinkets.

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When Sean and I weren’t beating the hell out of each other or trying to sabotage one another by reaching over to grab the other person’s controller mid-game play in ‘Tekken,’ we opted for ‘Street Fighter.’ Admittedly, I wasn’t as into SF as I was other fighting franchises (‘Mortal Kombat’ will always be my favorite,) but it was still a good time and this Ryu headband gave me a good laugh when I unraveled it from it’s packaging. Would I wear it on a regular basis or out in public? Probably not- but it was still fun to throw on to take a photo. HADOUKEN!

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Ah, yes- the age old question: “which is better- pirates or ninjas?” I remember getting into a full-blown debate about this in high school once with my friend John. I was all for pirates, while John kept attempting to counter my points with his ninja-appreciation. To this day, I don’t think the issue has ever been resolved, but now, with the help of this soft fitted t-shirt- I think the answer can be a little bit of both. Meshing a ninja with a pirate (Ninjate? Piranja?) by using words often associated with each- I love the design of this tee and I can’t wait to wear it- possibly to my high school reunion where John and I can finish the debate once and for all.

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Lastly, November’s crate featured a couple of digital bonuses- some free content from Archie (yes!) and a percentage off of the “Lichdom: Battlemage” game currently on Stream.

And as the box Loot Crate arrived in indicated, both the box and the mini-magazine doubled as something else. The box, which could be bent to look like a diorama of sorts, offered the scenery- while the back cover of the MiniMag had perforated cut-outs of Mega Man and Ryu in various battle poses so that you could set them up to create a fight scene of your own. I’m saving that project for my niece, who will get a kick out of it for sure.

While “BATTLE” wasn’t necessarily my favorite box I’ve received to date, I still enjoyed opening it up and checking everything out. I’ve got a few little gifts for friends and a comfortable t-shirt to wear when I’m lounging around- so it wasn’t a complete miss this month!

Ipsy Bag: November 2014 Review.

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When Ipsy began releasing teases and spoilers for their November bag, “Girl Meets Glitter,” I was a little worried. I won’t deny that I love all things shiny and sparkly (my father used to call me a “crow” because of how glittery my handbags, dresses, shoes, and jewelry were/are,) but I haven’t worn makeup with a significant amount of sparkle in it since Jr. High- back when tube tops and thong straps peeking over low rise jeans were in style. I know- horrifying, right? I’ve hid so many photos over the years from those troubling times that I hope will NEVER see the light of day.

I digress. While the actual Ipsy bag itself was nothing short of a sparkly, prism explosion- the products inside were surprisingly free of glitter overload. With makeup products comprising most of the bag, I’ve been trying them out over the past few days and have finally reached a verdict on each!

What I Received:

Be A Bombshell Cosmetics Eye Base in “Submissive” (*Full Size!*)

J. Cat Beauty Wonder Lip Paint in “Red Potion” (*Full Size!*)

Elizabeth Mott you’re so FINE Eyeliner in “Glitterati” (*Full Size!*)

Marc Anthony Oil of Morocco Argan Oil Volume Shine Hairspray

TEMPTU S/B Highlighter in “Pink Pearl”

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Product # 1: Be A Bombshell Cosmetics Eye Base in “Submissive” ($14)

In past GlossyBox reviews, I’ve joked that the subscription service had a torrid relationship with Bvlgari considering how often I received their products. In Ipsy’s case, they have a solid bond with Be A Bombshell Cosmetics. I think I’ve tried each of their products in the time I’ve been subscribed to Ipsy- from lipsticks to blushes to eye shadows to mascaras. Some products have been hits, and others have been misses. This creamy primer, which applied easily and dried to a brassy, metallic finish- started off with so much potential. I thought for sure it would be a color that was beautiful enough on it’s own that I wouldn’t need to apply shadow over it.

Unfortunately, this product didn’t last at all. Within a couple of hours, both by itself and with powder shadow blended over it- this primer had faded and crumbled in the crease of my eyes. Multiple re-applications were necessary throughout the day to keep my eyes looking fresh, which was a shame considering how beautiful the color was by itself.

Would I Purchase?: No. Had the color of this primer lasted longer, I’d have probably been sold on it- because it really is a lovely metallic on the lids- but the longevity is beyond disappointing and that’s enough to make me stick with my usual Urban Decay Primer Potions and toss this one in the rubbish bin.

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Product # 2: J. Cat Beauty Wonder Lip Paint in “Red Potion” ($4.99)

In September’s GlossyBox, I had received a full-sized tube of  OCC Lip Tar that I had liked despite how drying it was. When I saw this tube of J.Cat Lip Paint (which had unfortunately leaked a little bit in it’s packaging,) I immediately drew comparisons to the OCC product. The shade, “Red Potion,” started off looking like an almost plum hue- but it’s red tones deepened as it dried. This Lip Paint wasn’t a matte finish, and it wasn’t as drying as the OCC Lip Tar. In terms of longetivity, this product did last for hours without fading- and when it eventually did- it left behind a nice, subtle stain. I was impressed- especially considering the $4.99 price point.

Would I Purchase?: Yes! “Red Potion” is a long-lasting, comfortable, and festive shade that’s perfect for the upcoming holidays, and with the quality and reasonable cost of these paints, I would love to try more in some of the other available shades.

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Product # 3: Elizabeth Mott you’re so FINE Eyeliner in “Glitterati” ($17.99)

Oh, liquid liner- we meet again. I’ve had quite a few disastrous experiences when it comes to liquid liners I’ve received in past beauty boxes- usually preferring gel liners or soft pencils, instead. This waterproof liner, a basic black with a sparkly twist- not only applied easier than I thought it would (it’s ultra fine brush and long handle definitely helped,) but it lasted all day without smudging, flaking, or fading. I was pleasantly surprised! Also, the amount of glitter in the formula isn’t over-the-top and it doesn’t cause any irritation along the lash line. It’s just a hint of sparkle that’s eye-catching under certain lighting.

Would I Purchase?: Yes! I think if I ever decide to make the commitment to liquid liners, this Elizabeth Mott formula is a good place to start. The only downside to this liner is that it only comes in two shades- black, and ‘Glitterati,’ which as described- is black with sparkle. That minor setback aside, this really is a great, long-lasting liner.

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Product # 4: Marc Anthony Oil of Morocco Argan Oil Volume Shine Hairspray ($8.29)

Not that long ago, I was raving about how much I’ve come to love Moroccan Argan oil in my hair. It softens, it smooths, it conditions- and it’s color-safe. Naturally, someone would take those benefits and put them in aerosol spray that shoots out so hard from the canister that it can be compared to an air rifle. As you can probably guess, I’m not a fan of “hard” hairsprays- the ones that come out with such force no matter how gently you press down on the button. They always make my curls crunchy, stiff, and usually leave behind some sort of flaky residue after they’ve dried. This spray was unfortunately no exception. After a few uses- each time hoping there would be some redeeming quality to this product- there was no change. My hair felt stiff to the touch, and even looked dull after a few spritzes. The only good thing about this spray was that it smelled nice, but that’s unfortunately not enough for me.

Would I Purchase?: No. I’ll stick to my actual oils instead of relying on aerosols to get the desired results I like so much. This spray, like the much dreaded dry shampoos that sometimes turn up in GlossyBox or other Ipsy bags, was sadly just a dud for me.

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Product # 5: TEMPTU S/B Highlighter in “Pink Pearl” ($27.50)

I’ve been getting a lot of use out of recently received cream highlighers as of late, so I was a little unsure of what to make out of this little tube of liquid illuminator- which can be mixed with foundation or applied on it’s own along cheekbones and brow bones. Although it looks pearly white at first, this product actually has a fairly good amount of pink to it once it’s applied and blended. The result was a lightweight, non-greasy, and natural looking glow to my skin that lasted from early morning until the late afternoon. I really liked the color, the finish, and how long this highlighter lasts. You don’t have to worry about it running down your cheeks or fading too fast. You can just dab it on and go!

Would I Purchase?: Yes! I think once I’ve used up the last of my cream highlighters, which I do love, I’ll be purchasing a full-sized bottle of this TEMPTU one. A little goes a long way and it really does add an amazing finish to any makeup look- be it natural or dramatic.

With the exception of the hairspray and the eye shadow base, I enjoyed November’s Ipsy Bag. The products were good quality and the pouch will definitely come in handy around the holidays when it’s time to break out the party dresses and sparkly jewelry. I’m curious to see if Ipsy will pull out all the stops for their December bag- since most subscription services go all out for the end of the year!

“The Forest of Talking Trees…”

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I love the outdoors as much as the next person, but hiking in the woods in the middle of Spring or Summer is not my idea of an enjoyable time. The heat. The bugs. Sweating. The bugs. Pollen. The bugs. Even though I’m not a fan of the cold I’d much rather get my climbing cardio on in the colder months where I know I won’t get eaten alive by mosquitos or risk running into a spider (or a nest of spiders- which may or may not be an irrational fear of mine.)

This past Saturday had perfect weather for such an excursion. I headed out to Western Massachusetts with a hot cup of coffee and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” soundtrack (so good!) on my iPod where I tromped through leaves and over snow to catch the beginning of the late afternoon sunset. There were a few other people wandering the trails, too- some with dogs that were awfully friendly and others with kids that were even friendlier. I had my camera with me, and snapped the above photos before it began getting too dark outside and I started back towards where I’d parked my car.

It was a beautiful ending to the day- made even more so after the fact with a quick stop in downtown Northampton before I eventually headed back home. I’d like to head back within the coming weeks to get a few more photos, preferably earlier in the day while I have the sunlight on my side- and before the snow gets here!

xx