Loot Crate: February 2015.

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Rounding out my subscription services for February, and the last to arrive in the mail following the most recent snowstorm, was my (personal favorite box,) Loot Crate. February’s theme was “Play,” a nod to all things gaming- be it video games, board games, card games, etc. Right away, I saw one item that I was thrilled about (I’ll get to that in a bit!) but the entire crate was packed full of fun stuff.

I wouldn’t expect anything less!

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First up were the usual items included in every month’s box- the collector’s pin and the mini-magazine. February’s edition included pages of fan photos and a breakdown of each item inside the crate, as well as a pretty good article explaining why co-op gaming is actually healthy for people and helpful in building lasting relationships (my best friend Sean and I can attest to this, having learned to rely on each other’s skills during hours-long “Resident Evil 6″ sessions,) and a fun picture graph depicting various video gaming controllers throughout the years. Oh, Intellivision. How I miss you.

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The first item in the box, tucked away in a black velvet pouch, was this pair of ceramic “Rock, Paper, Scissors” dice from Loot Crate Labs. Having received a 20-sided die in a Loot Crate last year, I thought this was a pretty unique addition to this month’s crate as opposed to just including a regular pair from a board game (or another 20-sided die.) Each side is printed with an orange picture depicting- you guessed it- rock, paper, or scissors, and will definitely get some use the next time my friends (or my niece) and I need to kill a little time.

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The aforementioned item that I was really excited to receive was this deck of “SUPERFIGHT” cards. I’d read about the game online a while back, but until now- I hadn’t had the chance to play it. The premise of the game is essentially a way to debate your friends about which superhero/villain would win a fight in certain situations. I love a good argument from time to time (all in good fun, of course-) so I’m really looking forward to breaking this out at the next party and letting the bloodbath commence.

The one item I received in February’s crate that I couldn’t quite figure out how it fit into the “Play” theme was this mechanical larvae from HexBug that moves and scuttles around on flat surfaces. I’m still trying to figure it out- but until I do- I’ll be gifting this to my niece. I’m sure she’ll get a kick out of it!

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I’m always on the prowl for a page-turner to flip through, so when I saw this novel- “Ready Player One,” I was really looking forward to diving in and giving it a read. A synopsis, via Amazon:

“In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. 

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.”

According to Loot Crate’s mini-magazine, this book is going to be made into a feature film soon. The story sounds really interesting- so I’ll be sitting down and starting this within the next couple of weeks!

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I’ve got myself a pretty big collection of POP! Vinyl figurines from Funko, raging from “The Walking Dead” to Disney and Marvel characters. They’ve all found spots on my shelves and in various spaces around my bedroom (and kitchen,) Munnys are similar styled figurines, and this one- which came with a set of washable markers- gives me the opportunity to design and create my very own!

Like the HexBug, I think this particular item would be a great activity to share with my niece- who is very artistic- and will no doubt enjoy drawing and coloring on this figurine over and over.

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Pac-Man will always, ALWAYS- withstand the test of time. Even now, after all these years- it’s still fun (and stressful) to play- and has anyone seen those recent Bud Light commercials where they set up a human Pac-Man game using amazing costumes and lights? It aired during the Super Bowl and I thought it was so awesome (even though Bud Light is pretty terrible.) I really love this deconstructed Pac-Man poster, drawn by Manny Peters- and although I’m not 100% sure I have a place to put it right now- I have a friend I know who would LOVE this in his house!

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Finally, February’s “Digital Loot” was this voucher to unlock an exclusive ship/spacecraft in the online “Firefly” game. I’m not sure I’ll get around to playing it anytime soon, but this will be nice to have on hand if I do! (But if anyone who plays the game would like the code, just let me know and I’d be happy to pass it on to you!)

Overall, I thought February’s Loot Crate was well put together and included a little something for everyone. I can’t wait to play the “SUPERFIGHT” card game with friends and jump into the book I received- and it’s always nice to get little things that I can give to and share with others.

I’ve already been notified that March’s theme will be “Covert,” which has me just as excited as I was back when I had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of October’s horror-themed box. I’m still coming off of an “Agent Carter” high following Tuesday night’s season finale, and am preparing to create a Black Widow costume for the 2015 comic convention circuit (I’ll write about that soon!) so I am ALL about spies, secret agents, double agents, etc. I can’t wait to receive it and share it with you all!

GLOSSYBOX: February 2015 Review.

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February marked the second month in a row that I’ve received my GlossyBox earlier than expected- even with the snowstorms slowing down mail delivery to a crawl! I was thrilled, especially when I saw the cute, Valentine’s Day themed design of the box’s exterior and all the pink and red products packed away inside. While February’s Ipsy Bag consisted primarily of makeup products, GlossyBox covered the bath/shower end of the spectrum this month- featuring a body wash, a bar of soap, and a shampoo.

With the products being a mix of both full-sized and deluxe sample sized, I was impressed right away with the overall value of February’s box- but of course, I had to see if I’d actually like everything I was sent.

What I Received:

Julep Nail Polish in “Hartleigh” (*Full Size!*)

Teadora Nourishing Beauty Bar

Royal Apothic Tinties Lip Butter in Pink (*Full Size!*)

Unwash Bio-Cleansing Conditioner

RITUALS Yogi Flow Indian Rose & Sweet Almond Oil Foaming Shower Gel (*Full Size!*)

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Product # 1: Julep Nail Polish in “Hartleigh” ($14)

I’ve always been a sucker for a little bit of sparkle, be it in my jewelry, my clothing, or my makeup- so when I saw this glitter-packed lacquer from Julep (with tiny heart-shaped pieces mixed into it-) I couldn’t wait to try it out despite Valentine’s Day being over and done with. This formula can be used by itself (as pictured above- where I applied two coats,) or as a top coat over other polish. While it dried quickly and has yet to chip or smudge, this lacquer was actually kind of a pain to apply. As glittery as it looks in the bottle, the sparkle doesn’t transfer onto nails quite as well without a lot of dabbing and re-dipping into the container.

Would I Purchase?: No. I really like the overall formula of Julep polishes, which are long-lasting and richly pigmented- but I don’t think I’d run out to re-purchase another full-sized bottle of “Hartleigh” right away- not only because this one will undoubtedly last me a long time, but because applying it was a a bit of a hassle. I think I’ll stick to some of the other available colors that glide on smoother, instead.

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Product # 2: Teadora Nourishing Beauty Bar ($5 – $12)

Upon opening February’s GlossyBox, I immediately smelled the sweet floral fragrance from this travel-sized bar soap from Teadora with ingredients derived from Brazilian rainforests. Although I’ve been quite content with my all-natural and locally produced soaps throughout the past couple of years, I really liked how clean and firm this bar made my skin feel. I wasn’t left with any residue on my skin and more importantly- I wasn’t left feeling dry and/or itchy after I’d rinsed and dried off. As strong as the fragrance of this soap was in the box, nearly enveloping everything packaged around it- the scent didn’t linger on me for too long- fading a short time after I’d gone about my day- which was a bit of a shame because it smelled really fresh and clean.

Would I Purchase?: Maybe. In all honesty, I don’t see myself running out to scoop up multiple bars of this soap because I absolutely HAVE to have it or anything. I liked it well enough. It cleansed my skin, wasn’t over-drying. and smelled nice- and I think if I came across this while I was traveling, I’d purchase a couple since they would come in handy as opposed to lugging around bottles of body wash in my bag(s). Plus, they’d make everything in my luggage smell nice, too!

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Product # 3: Royal Apothic Tinties Lip Butter in “Pink” ($14)

I was nearly ready to bury my head in my hands when I saw yet another pink gloss in a beauty box, but the cute tin it came in almost won me over all on it’s own. This lightweight balm- a bubblegum hue with buildable coverage- hydrated and softened my lips significantly after it was applied, but the longevity- as is the case with most balms- left a lot to be desired since it faded within the hour and multiple re-applications were necessary. I think this product is great for a quick-fix if your lips are dry and you need a pop of color on the go, but if you want something that lasts a lot longer than just an hour or so at the most- then you’re better off looking elsewhere.

Would I Purchase?: No.  While I definitely appreciated the soft, buttery feel of this balm- and the unique packaging- I need color and results that will last longer than what I got from this product.

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Product # 4: Unwash Bio-Cleansing Conditioner ($34.95)

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this “cleansing conditioner,” which I used to replace my shampoo like the directions instructed me to do. This product was lightweight, didn’t seem to have much of a fragrance (not one that I could really detect, anyway,) and didn’t lather up like my usual shampoo when I attempted to massage it into my scalp and down to the ends of my hair- but oh what a difference I felt when I combed and rinsed it through! Not only did my hair feel squeaky clean- not stripped dry- but this product softened and untangled my curls dramatically. I usually dislike shampoos/shampoo substitutes that don’t lather up on my hair, but this was great- and after looking into the product a little more- it turns out it’s actually great for my color-treated curls!

Would I Purchase?: Yes! I’d actually pick up a full-sized tube of this product for when I travel, since it acts as a richly hydrating shampoo that both thoroughly cleanses and conditions my hair in a matter of minutes and would help save some space in my suitcase. I love that it’s free of harmful, drying, and color-fading ingredients and truly makes my hair look and feel fantastic.

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Product # 5: RITUALS Yogi Flow Indian Rose & Sweet Almond Oil Foaming Shower Gel ($15)

My favorite product included in February’s GlossyBox was this rich and heavenly scented body wash from RITUALS. Packaged in a shaving gel style aerosol can, this product foams on contact with the skin and lathers up nicely when water hits it. After massaging it over my skin and rinsing, it leaves my body moisturized, ridiculously soft- and lightly fragranced for hours. I’ve found myself getting addicted to how it makes my skin feel, the way it smells, and it’s mess-free application. No soapy residue is left behind in my shower!

Would I Purchase?: Yes! This is such a lovely and luxurious body wash. I’d definitely re-purchase another bottle(s) in the future, and will probably pick some up for a few of my friends, too!

February’s GlossyBox was split right down the middle- with two products I really liked, two I didn’t much care for, and one that I wasn’t swayed either way by. Overall, however- with the value of the box taken into consideration and it’s presentation- I was quite impressed. There have been months in the past where I’ve almost considered canceling my subscription because of shipping issues or just the lackluster quality of what I’d been receiving at the time- but lately GlossyBox has been knocking it out of the park with their product selections and greatly improved shipping, and I’m really hoping they continue with that tradition in the coming months!

Ipsy Bag: February 2015 Review.

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One of the more concerning things about my area being hit with non-stop snowstorms in recent weeks is that it can, and has, caused a delay with some of my mail. Important bills, tax documents, packages, etc. often arrive later than expected due to inclement weather- but when the sky opens up and the roads are (briefly) clear- everything arrives all at once- leaving me with a lot of stuff to open!

February’s Ipsy Bag was just one of those things- showing up in my postbox earlier this week. The month’s theme, “IpsyLOVE,” inspired by Valentine’s Day, included mostly makeup packaged up in a cute pink, white, and silver bag that I’ll be passing along to my niece the next time I see her.

What I Received:

ModelCo BLUSH Cheek Powder in “Peach Bellini”

Rob Scheppy for ‘Tini Beauty Eyeshadow in “Pearl Fizz”

GLAMGLOW BRIGHTMUD Eye Treatment

City Color Cosmetics Creamy Lip Stain in “Flirtini” (*Full Size!*)

Mitchell and Peach Fine Radiance Face Oil

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Product # 1: ModelCo BLUSH Cheek Powder in “Peach Bellini” ($22)

It could just be me and the fact that I’m up to my neck in snow (literally. The snowbanks outside my door currently reach my neck,) but it seems a little early and unseasonal to start dipping into the coral and peach shades of makeup- which I usually reserve for the Spring and Summer months. Even still, I was curious about this matte, pressed powder blush, which appeared almost orange in it’s packaging. Despite it’s high pigmentation, the blush didn’t look nearly as tangerine-toned on my cheeks once I applied it. After a couple of sweeps with my brush, the finished color was a natural and neutral soft peach-tone that complimented my fair skin and didn’t give me the appearance of looking overly made-up. I really liked this product, and plan on giving it more use once the weather warms up and my makeup and wardrobe color palettes are integrated with brighter, fresher shades.

Would I Purchase?: Yes! Another great thing about this blush is that a little goes a long way- so even though I received a deluxe sample size instead of a full-sized compact- it will still last me a very long time. When I do need to replenish, however- I plan on purchasing a full-sized “Peach Bellini.” It was a lovely shade and I was really impressed with it’s quality.

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Product # 2: Rob Scheppy for ‘Tini Beauty Eyeshadow in “Pearl Fizz” ($39.50)

A while back, I had voiced my annoyances with beauty subscription services’ overdoing it with rose-hued lipsticks and glosses and the same boring, bland pink nail polishes. Sadly, I feel that champagne-toned eye shadows are about to join them in the “so sick of receiving these” product pile. Enough already! I understand that universally flattering shades are the go-to when curating collections and boxes, but you have to mix it up- just a little- from time to time. Case in point: “Pearl Fizz,” which is just one of the four shimmery shades included in makeup artist Rob Scheppy’s palette designed for ‘Tini Beauty.

The shadow itself applied easily enough- but despite it’s name- was so close to my natural skin tone that it was barely noticeable, even when I tried using it as a highlighter. Even worse, despite using a primer prior to applying this shadow, was that by the end of the day it looked as though it had faded and creased anyway- leaving me overall disappointed with it.

Would I Purchase?: No. From the unremarkable color to it’s lack of staying power- this shadow was a bust for me. The full-sized palette also includes four matte shades- and I’m curious to know if they had more impressive pigmentation and longevity than what I got from “Pearl Fizz,” so if anyone reading this has tried them- please feel free to weigh in on this in the comments!

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Product # 3: GLAMGLOW BRIGHTMUD Eye Treatment ($69)

I’m a big fan of GLAMGLOW, as the masks I’ve owned and the samples I’ve tried over the past couple of years have given my skin really great, noticeable results. I turn to their “SuperMud Clearing Treatment” when my pores are in dire need of a deep cleansing and their “YouthMud TingleExfoliate Treatment” when my skin looks or feels a little dull- but I’ve never actually gotten around to trying their eye treatment- which I’d also heard great things about.

February’s Ipsy Bag came with two samples of “BrightMud Eye Treatment,” both packaged separately like contact lens cases and labeled with “right eye” and “left eye.” The product itself, brownish in color, gel-like in consistency- and cool to the touch- is tapped on under and around the eyes and left on for three minutes before being gently wiped off to brighten, tighten, and reduce the appearance of dark circles and puffiness. It was easy enough to apply without making a mess, and almost immediately I could feel a cool, tingling sensation (that wasn’t uncomfortable or painful,) as I let it set. When it came time to dab the gel off, the area around my eyes DID look brighter and felt softer- which can come in handy after long days at the office where I spend most of my time reading. Not bad for just three minutes!

Would I Purchase?: Yes! GLAMGLOW has done it again. I really liked the lightweight feel, the hassle-free application, and the results I saw from these eye treatments- which only take a few minutes to use. I’ll definitely be picking up a full-sized box of in the future to bring with me to my office or when I travel to keep my eyes looking and feeling great.

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Product # 4: City Color Cosmetics Creamy Lip Stain in “Flirtini” ($4.99)

To call this raspberry-toned lip color a “stain” isn’t exactly accurate or doing it justice. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I went to apply it for the first time, but the highly pigmented pop of color, the semi-addictive feeling it left on my lips after it had dried to a matte finish (like velvet!) or the HOURS of smudge and fade-proof wear easily surpassed any and all of my expectations. Even more fantastic is the price point. At just under $5 per tube, this “stain” from City Color Cosmetics might easily be one of the most pleasant surprise finds I’ve discovered in a beauty subscription service.

Would I Purchase?: Yes! This was a great product overall. The pigmentation, the long-lasting (and non-drying) formula, and the price tag. It looks like CCC is currently out of stock on most of the other available shades on their website, which isn’t surprising- but I’ll be keeping an eye out to purchase a few more colors when they’re available again.

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Product # 5: Mitchell and Peach Fine Radiance Face Oil ($42)

By now, most people have heard/read about, or even tried the benefits of oil-cleansing their skin- myself being one of them. As someone who has typically oily skin, the idea of putting MORE oil on my face was a little unsettling at first- but with the right ingredients, the right literature, and the right application- it can do wonders for your complexion!

This radiance oil from Mitchell and Peach is loaded with anti-oxidants, vitamins, and nutrients (and also contains traces of nuts- so please be mindful if you have allergies!) that absorb quickly into the skin and leave it feeling soft and smooth. I’ve been using a few drops prior to moisturizing in the morning and at night, and I’ve noticed that my skin’s overall texture has improved- which is especially important considering the sub-zero temperatures outside!

Would I Purchase?: Yes! Although the $42 price tag is a little bit steep, a little goes a long way with this oil- so having to frequently re-purchase bottle after bottle wouldn’t necessarily be a concern when used sparingly. I liked the quick-absorption, the natural fragrance, and the results I’ve been seeing since I started using this product- so I think I’d be fine with splurging on a full-sized bottle in the future!

With the exception of the eye-shadow sample I received, February’s Ipsy bag was a huge success. I was introduced to some awesome products that I’m looking forward to using/re-purchasing the full-sized versions. With January’s bag being a good one, as well- and now this month’s- I’m hoping Ipsy can continue their streak of great sample selections into March!

The Cabin Fever Chronicles

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Blizzard Brunch! 2/15/15

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Good afternoon and Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day (and belated Galentine’s Day to all my fellow fabulous females out there!) It should come no surprise at this point, but yesterday saw another snowstorm hit New England. As a result, today is seeing another city-wide shut-down in effect while emergency crews attempt to clear roadways and side streets for what feels like the hundredth time in the past few weeks. The silver lining in the aftermath of this most recent storm- the sun is out right now!- is unfortunately overshadowed by the fact that there are 45 MPH winds whipping violently outside, causing the (current) “Feels Like” temperature to be a staggering -17°F.

Maybe it’s just because I’m finally starting to crack under longstanding cabin fever (I’ve been mostly confined to only two locations- my home and my office- within the past week,) but the non-stop snow, the frigid temperatures- the undeniable inconvenience these storms have caused so many- is starting to become less depressing and more comical, really. If anything, the resulting memes and funny photos I’ve been seeing posted and shared on social media in recent days have helped keep my spirits up. You can say a lot about New Englanders (and specifically, Bostonians-) we’re not the most levelheaded and cautious of drivers, for example- or our sports teams take priority over nearly everything else going on in the world, and our accents are cause for numerous parodies- but at least we have good senses of humor about things.

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Beat Hotel. Om nom nom. 2/13/15

Prior to the storm, I did manage to venture out on Friday night to slip and slide on the iced over sidewalks and have dinner and a couple of drinks with my dear friend Evan at Beat Hotel in Harvard Square. Nothing warms me up more than live jazz bands and amazing food (I highly recommend the Mahi Mahi fish tacos!) so it was a nice way to break up the routine I’ve fallen into as of late. If you’re ever in Cambridge and looking for a great meal in a lovely setting with phenomenal live music- the Beat Hotel is your place.

The only regrettable part to last night’s storm- for me, anyway- is that it caused me to miss the evening’s events at StyleWeek Northeast due to unsafe driving conditions. I had been looking forward to seeing the latest designs from Angelica Timas and Shalyn Webber, among others- but I’m hoping I’ll be able to catch another event soon once Mother Nature decides to show us a little bit of mercy.

In somewhat fashion related, but mostly blog-centric news- at the end of January I had mentioned in my “In a Nutshell” post that I had hoped to start sharing some of my favorite pieces and ensembles again beginning this month (it’s been forever and a day since I’ve made a “Closet Crushes” post!) and I still have every intention of doing it- but the very idea of standing outdoors and attempting to pose with the wind howling outside the way it is right now is enough to make me shiver where I sit and pull my blankets around me a little tighter. I’m really going to try to pull a couple of posts off within the next week or so!

Until then, I’ll be having another long, hot soak in the tub this evening in preparation for tonight’s “The Walking Dinner,” where I prepare a meal to munch on while the new episode of “The Walking Dead” airs. Here’s hoping the power doesn’t go out!

Stay warm out there, everyone!

xx

Snowed-In Spa Day

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I don’t know how much more of this snow I can take, you guys. It seems like since I returned home from my weekend getaway to San Diego near the end of last month- it has just been one catastrophic snowstorm after another. The most recent one has all but crippled the city of Boston- resulting in our subway system and commuter rails shutting down as of last night, multiple flight cancellations, state-wide school closures and driving/parking bans while emergency cleanup teams scramble to clear the roads and get rid of snowbanks that have gotten to be dangerously high with all the accumulation over the past couple of weeks.

And we’re still expecting more snow later on this week!

Our Governor has declared a state of emergency across Massachusetts- which means that with the exception of taking my dog out or going outside to shovel- I’ve mostly been confined to home (I don’t think I’ve worked a Monday or a Tuesday since before I left for California. The storms keep happening on the same days!)

Now, I love playing video games or binge-watching shows and movies on Netflix as much as the next person- and Sunday night’s return of “The Walking Dead” helped to momentarily distract me from going stir-crazy- but I like being outdoors. I like hiking. I like being able to get in my car and go for a ride somewhere, anywhere- and not being able to for days at a time has me going just the teeniest, tiniest bit bonkers.

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To try and take the cabin fever edge off, I had myself a “Stay At Home Spa Day” with some of the newest additions to my bath products collection, as well as some leftover stuff from the holidays. The pampering consisted of a 15 minute manicure to touch up my digits and a long, hot soak in the tub with February’s NYLON Magazine (featuring the wonderful Anna Kendrick on the cover!) and the most recent bath truffle from Fortune Cookie Soap’s “Game of Thrones” inspired collection – “Joffrey Dies at the End,” which was wonderful- and made me smell like a pastry.

I definitely felt more relaxed by the time I was done. Relaxed enough to face another impending storm, anyway- although I think I might need to stock up on more bath bombs/melts as soon as possible to hold me over until Spring.

If Spring ever gets here, of course!

Unmasking My Winter Hair Care!

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Last July, I had shared four affordable hair care products that I relied on to get me through New England’s hotter, more humid months. Since I have the two “C’s” of hair types- curly and color-treated- the products had to be both safe to use with my red highlights and hydrating enough to penetrate my curls to tame frizz and keep them moisturized- even in the most stifling of heat waves.

Now that we’re in the middle of one of the snowiest, coldest winters in recent memory- I have to do a little bit more than rely solely on Moroccan and Argan oil-infused conditioners and leave-in sprays. This time of year, I turn to masks to keep my hair healthy, shiny, and manageable through snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures- which can do a number on my curls between hiding my scalp under hats and going in and out of the cold and the heat in my place/office/car/etc.

Of course, great hair masks don’t need to cost a small fortune, and while many D.I.Y. beauty buffs swear on making their own from common household ingredients (the classic mayonnaise and egg mask, for example,) I opt for mess-free- and nicer smelling- products that give me just as good results.

Here are four masks I’ve been loving so far this winter, ranked by how much time it takes to use them!

The Quick Fix/In A Rush Masks:

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Suave Professionals Moroccan Infusion “Deep Conditioning Shine Mask”

This is actually the mask I use most often, typically every 2-3 days in the early mornings while I’m getting ready for work during the week. When I first initially purchased a tube of this sweet-smelling and lightweight mask, it was because my local pharmacy was out of stock of my daily conditioner (also from Suave) and I just wanted something to help keep my hair soft and strong until they replenished. I ended up really loving the results I achieved- my hair was noticeably shinier and easy to comb through and style after I’d rinsed it out- and you can’t beat how easy it is to use. You simply wash your hair, apply the mask, and leave it in for 5 minutes before rinsing (I usually opt to leave it in for 10 minutes if I’m not in a hurry, and go about my normal showering routine while I wait for it to set.)

Best of all is the price. I’m all for the occasional shopping spree or splurge (you have to treat yourself once in a while, after all,) but maintaining healthy hair and skin shouldn’t have to deplete your bank account- and when you have as much hair on your head as I do, and tend to go through products more often because of it- that can happen on an alarmingly regular basis. This Suave mask is mess-free, gives me great results, and is fairly and more than reasonably priced.

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OGX Renewing Argan Oil of Morocco “Intense Moisturizing Treatment”

For a few dollars more, I also occasionally pick up tubs of this Argan oil- packed mask from OGX that can be applied and combed through wet or damp hair, left on for 5-10 minutes (and covered with a shower cap for enhanced results,) and then rinsed out in the shower. I use this particular mask once or twice a week- depending on how my hair looks and feels- and usually concentrate on applying it to the ends of my hair to prevent split-ends and breakage.

Like the Suave mask, this product smells lovely and leaves my hair soft and manageable in no time at all. It’s also fairly priced and can be conveniently found in most markets and drug stores/pharmacies.

The Color-Reviving Mask:

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Biolage by Matrix “Color Bloom Mask”

I’ve recently started using Biolage’s ColorLast Shampoo a couple times a week, and I’m loving it so far. The formula is really gentle, so it doesn’t fade or strip my reds or dry out my hair- but it still leaves my curls feeling squeaky clean (not greasy.) I decided to pair that product with this mask, usually saving it for when I’m about due for a salon visit or when I feel like my color is starting to look a little dull. I apply this product all over my hair while it’s damp, and tuck it under a shower cap for about 15-20 minutes before rinsing it out. Once dry, my hair is soft and my reds look brighter and more revitalized.

Price wise, this mask sells for about $22+, which isn’t horrible at all- but does distinguish it as the most expensive one out of the four I’m using on a regular basis. For that reason, I only break this product out once or twice a month as needed.

The Multi-Task Mask:

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Kelapo Individually Wrapped Coconut Oil Packets

Coconut oil makes another appearance on my hair care list, this time in the form of individual packets for easier application. I save this type of mask for 1-2 times per month, and usually for those days where my hair is in desperate need of some TLC (after coloring, or post-flat-ironing, for example,) and when I have plenty of time to just leave it on to sink into my hair for a couple of hours before I rinse it out.

I like to warm up one of these packets, tear it open, and apply it to my hair from roots to ends while it’s damp before I wrap my hair in plastic wrap and hold it in place with a warm, fuzzy shower cap. From there, I can do various tasks/chores around my home: laundry, cleaning, catching up on e-mails (or Netflix,) etc. for a few hours- and then hop in the shower and rinse away. My hair is left revived, soft, shiny, and most importantly- healthy.

And there you have it- my four essential hair masks for winter. It’s actually snowing again right now, so I think I’m going to go get the shovel ready and figure out which one of these products I’ll be reaching for when I get back inside.

If you have any must-have winter hair care/beauty products you love and want to share- leave a comment! I’d love to read about them!

xx

Quick Eats: Buffalo Chicken Dip

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Wow. That’s really all I can say about Sunday night’s nail-biter between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks. Just wow. Despite living in Massachusetts, it’s well known among my circle of friends that I’m not the biggest Patriots fan (it has nothing to do with the team or the coaching staff- who I’ve grown to admire and respect throughout the years- but more with the often overwhelming, aggressive, and obnoxious behavior of some of their more vocal die-hard fans that all but ruin the fun for myself and others.)

Regardless, even though I had been low-key hoping the Seahawks would be victorious- I have to give credit where credit is due. The Pats played their hearts out and earned that win. I’m happy for them, and happy for their fans. I’d even go as far as showing my appreciation at the duck boat parade scheduled in the city for tomorrow morning, as is the tradition whenever one of our sports teams wins a championship- but with the recent blizzard 2.0 blanketing Boston shortly after the game came to an end and my having to be at work- it looks like I’ll have to live vicariously through my friends’ Instagram and Twitter photos. Have fun, everybody!

For the actual Super Bowl, my friend Stef had a bunch of us over her apartment to watch the game, eat some snacks, and have a couple of beers while we cheered and jeered touchdowns, interceptions, Katy Perry’s halftime show- and that really, really awful Nationwide commercial (seriously. What WAS that?) Not wanting to show up to the get together empty-handed, I put together a dish of one of my favorite, easiest, and quickest party recipes to make- buffalo chicken dip.

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YOU WILL NEED:

* Baking dish/pan

* 1 package (8 oz.) of cream cheese

* 10 oz. boneless white chicken (some people use chicken in a can, but that sounds a little gross to me- so I opted to purchase a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from my local deli and carve that up instead. Whatever is left over can be used to make chicken salad, sandwiches, etc.!)

* 1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce

* 1/2 cup blue cheese (or ranch, depending on preference,) dressing

* 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

* Tortilla chips, crackers, or celery/carrot sticks to use for dipping

OKAY, HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

2. Spread the package of cream cheese into your un-greased baking dish/pan.

3. Layer the boneless chicken, the 1/2 cup of buffalo wing sauce, and the 1/2 cup of blue cheese (or ranch) dressing on top of the spread cream cheese. Depending on what particular degree of flavor you’re looking for- you can add or deduct any of the ingredients to make the dip spicier or more mild.

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4. Sprinkle the 2 cups of Monterey Jack cheese on top of everything.

5. Cook uncovered in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese on top is completely melted.

6. Let the dip cool for a 10-15 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips, crackers, or celery/carrot sticks.

7. Dig in and enjoy!

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Overall I think the dip was a success (it was nearly gone by the time the game ended!) and it’s something that can be made again in no time at all before (or even during) the next party, too- be it sports-related or not!

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January 2015: In a Nutshell.

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January20151If January was any indication as to how the rest of 2015 may go- then I’m more than satisfied and excited for it! (and I really hope I’m not jinxing myself by writing that.) I had said at the end of 2014 that I hoped to slow down and enjoy more this coming year- and I didn’t waste any time in doing that this past month. From ringing in the new year in a beautiful and romantic bed & breakfast in Salem, spending a rainy afternoon in a gorgeous library in New York City, to having a fun (and impossibly geeky!) Marvel-centric birthday- and my recent post-birthday weekend in my beloved San Diego.

To close out the month following my return from the West Coast, I spent a couple of very lazy days with Sean at the apartment while we waited out one of the worst, most intense and record-shattering blizzards to ever hit the Northeast. With nearly three feet of snow accumulating along roads, sidewalks- and burying my car over the course of nearly 48 hours- there was little more we could do apart from play plenty of “Resident Evil 6,” keep the ‘Game of Thrones’ votive candles lit in case we lost power- and try to channel a little piece of San Diego by having ourselves a taco night while we watched the flakes fall outside.

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Having successfully been able to shovel out my car and return to the outside world (and my office) as usual- I’ve started making plans for February- and preparing projects and posts for the blog! I’m hoping to do some more traveling, attend a couple of upcoming events in the New England area, shine a spotlight on some of my favorite local spots, share some pieces from my wardrobe- as well as my winter hair care regimen- and get ready for the return of “The Walking Dead!”

Of course, I’ll be kicking off this coming month with tomorrow night’s Super Bowl (complete with a party at my friends’ place to watch the game,) so I’m sure I’ll have a couple of semi-unhealthy recipe posts coming up shortly, too!

xx

Loot Crate: January 2015.

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I was born in the mid-80’s, and with two older brothers- it didn’t take long for my childhood to revolve around over-the-top Saturday morning cartoons, sugary breakfast cereals, and video game consoles with poorly pixelated characters and scenery. As kids, my brothers and I pretty much fought on a regular basis over who got to play the Intellivision in our living room after dinner- which gradually transitioned into fighting over the Nintendo console (and then the Sega Genesis, and so on.)

When Loot Crate first announced it’s January theme- “Rewind,” a nod to those happy, simpler times- I was really, really excited to see what they’d put together. I fully and shamelessly get nostalgic now and then- so I thought an assortment of items that were throwbacks to when I was a kid would be a lot of fun and a great way to kick of another year of being a Loot Crate subscriber.

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First up were the usual items: the monthly collector’s pin and the mini-magazine that detailed the contents of the crate, fan photos, and a glimpse into the Mega-Crate that a lucky subscriber can win. January’s magazine also included an article highlighting the lengthy and successful history of Nintendo, and re-visited the spectacularly cheesy ‘Voltron’ cartoon.

Not only that, but the back of the magazine itself could be bent and folded to form a bond-paper replica of the classic Nintendo controller!

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I love many things, two of which are ‘Star Wars’ and Loot Crate’s exclusive comic books. January’s box combined the two in the form of issue #001 of the Star Wars comic which features Han Solo and Chewbacca looking ready for a space shoot-out on the cover. I try to be as careful as possible when removing the comics from their packaging to read them- and this will be no exception. If the cover art is anything to go by, the illustrations in this book will be beautiful.

For the artists, aspiring comic book writers, or regular fans like me out there, this month’s crate also included this nifty little notebook with 60 pages of panels and stencils for dialogue/thought bubbles, etc. to create your very own comic book (or just doodle inappropriate cartoons like I tend to do from time to time.) I’m actually really excited to bring this with me the next time I travel- since it’ll give me something to do to pass the time and get my creativity flowing on the plane/train/etc. to my destination.

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I also received a second Loot Crate exclusive this month- this one being this classic game cartridge figurine. After some quick assembly and positioning, this little guy has found a happy home up on one of my shelves- and I admittedly almost blew air into him to remove any dust like the good old days of desperately trying to get my Nintendo games to work properly. Ah, memories.

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I love when Loot Crate sends subscribers t-shirts, because nine times out of ten- the fabric is so, so soft- the cut is really form-fitting- and the design is pretty cool. The shirt that came in January’s box was just that, featuring an elaborate blueprint of Voltron on the front of it’s lightweight and comfortable material. I’m looking forward to the warmer weather so I can wear this one out and about!

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Perhaps my favorite item in January’s crate was this black and white Space Invaders-inspired tie from Black Tie Geek! What I liked best- apart from it’s really cute design- is that it’s unisex and can be worn in a variety of ways. It doesn’t have to go just around the neck, which is great for someone like me who enjoys wrapping my hair up with scarves and bands on more casual and carefree days. I’m looking forward to wearing this one very, very soon!

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And finally, a couple of years ago at Boston Comic-Con, I was given a pair of novelty pixel frames, which- while fun- didn’t really serve a purpose other than decorative (I’m actually wearing them in my current profile photo on here!) I’ve only worn them a couple of times since receiving them, and they’re presently tucked away with my other accessories that don’t get much use.

I have a feeling I’ll get more wear out of these orange and similar shaped sunglasses (with UV protection!) since they actually serve a purpose- and don’t look half bad on me- if I do say so myself.

Overall I was- as usual- pretty happy with my Loot Crate. I loved the mix of items that I received and the theme was a nice way to revisit iconic figures and trends of the 80’s (without the shoulder pads or teased out hair.) I’ve already been told the theme of February’s crate (“Play,” as in board games and such,) so I’m once again really excited to see what’s just ahead for this subscription service!

GLOSSYBOX: January 2015 Review.

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Much to my shock (and delight,) my January GlossyBox actually arrived a few days before I flew out to California last week as opposed to showing up during the last couple of days of the current month/first few days of the following month. For packing purposes, this was great- because I could just take the (mostly) travel-sized products with me in my luggage and try them on the road! Best of all, January’s GlossyBox included a cleanser, toner, and serum- which meant I didn’t have to pack all of my full-sized products from home.

I don’t know if more prompt shipping is a 2015 resolution for GlossyBox, but I certainly hope it is!

What I Received:

Teeez Trend Cosmetics Beautiful Flat Stiff Brush (*Full Size!*)

VICHY Purete Thermale 3-In-1 One Step Cleanser

Kueshi Revitalizing Face Toner (*Full Size!*)

Skin&Co Roma Truffle Therapy Serum

Lollipops Eye Pencil in “Goodbye Moon” (*Full Size!*)

Products I Didn’t Use:

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Teeez Trend Cosmetics Beautiful Flat Stiff Brush ($23.50)

Why Not?: In my recent review of January’s Ipsy bag, I had also received a makeup brush, and opted to gift it to a friend who is currently replacing her brush collection since I had received an entirely new set of my own for Christmas. Although I loved the design on the handle of this natural-hair brush, I don’t really have a use for it right now and would hate to only try it once or twice for the sake of a review instead of passing it forward to someone who needs it or who would appreciate it more.

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Product # 1: VICHY Purete Thermale 3-In-1 One Step Cleanser ($19.50)

I’ve heard of facial cleansers that doubled as makeup removers and vice versa, but never a cleanser that worked as a makeup remover AND a toner. When I think toner, I think of the cool, tingling sensation that comes when I swipe some over my face with a cotton ball. This alcohol-free formula, which can be used with or without water- left my face feeling soft, clean, and comfortable- and helped gently remove excess makeup that I may have otherwise missed with just a regular cleansing pad (or with only my facial soap) without drying out my skin or causing any type of bad reaction. It’s an interesting product that really came in handy while I was traveling because of it’s multiple purposes.

Would I Purchase?: Yes! I like a product that saves me a little time and space in my bag/shower by doing more than one thing. I used this cleanser twice a day, every day while I was in California- and my skin continued to feel and look fantastic. I’d definitely purchase a full-sized tube of this in the future- especially for when I travel again!

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Product # 2: Kueshi Revitalizing Face Toner ($13.50)

See, THIS is the type of product I think about when it comes to contemplating toner. This not-harsh-at-all pink liquid ended up being a lifesaver while I was on vacation (and again when I was snowed in during the recent blizzard.) My skin, after being on an airplane for a few hours and adjusting to changing climates- tends to get a little crazy- either producing too much oil (and making me look shiny all over,) or not enough oil (and making me look dry and patchy.) This toner evens out the skin’s texture and tone, hydrating dry areas while absorbing excess oil in slicker ones. My skin felt refreshed for hours after use- and the product itself reminded me of candy with the way it was scented- although that could have just been my imagination.

Would I Purchase?: Yes! I loved this product, and was so tempted to carry it around in my purse to use for when I was done working out or walking in the warm San Diego sun. It evened out my complexion and the overall feel of my skin without stripping it the way some other, harsher toners tend to do. I’m absolutely going to purchase another bottle of this when I’m done with the full-sized one I was lucky to receive this month!

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Product # 3: Skin&Co Roma Truffle Therapy Serum ($80)

In February of last year, I had received a sample of this very same lightweight serum in my GlossyBox and had enjoyed it very much. Nearly a year later, and my feelings haven’t changed at all. This product still makes my skin feel soft, smooth- and it still smells like a delicious dessert. Although I have yet to see a considerable difference in the brightness of my skin or any noticeable changes as far as the anti-aging aspects go from just the serum by itself- it’s still a great warm-up to my daily moisturizers.

Would I Purchase?: Yes! Although I still feel the price tag on this product is a little outrageous, it really is a great serum that gives phenomenal results- and when I’m ready for my next big splurge- I’ll be picking up a full-sized bottle of this.

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Product # 4: Lollipops Eye Pencil in “Goodbye Moon” ($14)

Between the unique packaging and the unconventional name of this retractable black eyeliner, I was eager to try this product to see how it stacked up against the (also retractable) liner I had received in January’s Ipsy bag. I had finished giving myself a fine-lined cat-eye on one eye, noticing that the pencil was considerably softer and more pigmented than it’s Ipsy competition- but when I went to apply the same look to my other eye- the tip broke off. I twisted the liner up slightly and went to try again- but it broke once more- and then one more time. When I did finally finish applying the liner to my other eye, it had come out thicker and more uneven due to the repetitive breakage and consequent uneven tip. I was so frustrated that I ended up just removing the liner from my eyes all together.

Would I Purchase?: No. Despite it’s pretty packaging, this liner was pretty much a disaster from the second the tip first broke until I eventually called it quits. I liked the pigmentation and how soft it felt when applying pre-breakage, but I’ll be sticking with more reliable formulas from now on when I want a dark, dramatic cat-eye.

With the exception of the eyeliner, January’s GlossyBox was pretty great. I loved the skin care products- and even though I will be giving away the brush I received- the overall value and quality of nearly everything in the box was impressive.

With the on-time shipping and great assortment of products, I’m having a good feeling in the direction GlossyBox is taking this year. I hope they keep up the great work!