July 2015: In a Nutshell.

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Deerfield, Mass. July 2015.

First and foremost, I’m so proud to say that this is my 300th post here at “Legally Redhead!” It’s been a couple of years since I started this blog with nothing more than just a slightly vague idea of what I wanted it to be about and how I wanted it to look- and it’s blossomed into such a fun and fulfilling project for me. Over the course of these past 300 posts I have met and networked with so many interesting people and have made so many new friends- both near and far- and I have gotten to experience new things and travel to new places. “Legally Redhead” has truly played a crucial part in opening my eyes and mind to all sorts of adventures and possibilities!

From a business perspective, “Legally Redhead” has enabled me to form strong partnerships with different brands and companies that I otherwise would have missed out on had I not taken the initiative to begin this blogging journey- and I’m truly thankful to the representatives of those brands/companies that continue to support and encourage me and who continue to promote my content.

But mostly I’m thankful to those of you who follow my blog or even just casually read it from time to time, and who communicate with me through the comments/social media/e-mail/etc. or share my posts with your friends and/or followers. Connecting with all of you is what makes this worth it for me and keeps me going- even when I hit that occasional slump of writer’s block from time to time or get overwhelmed at work and am unable to post for a bit while I catch up at my office.

Deerfield, Mass. July 2015.

Deerfield, Mass. July 2015.

From the bottom of my heart- thank you all so much! Here’s to another 300 posts!

I also want to say HAPPY FIRST DAY OF CAMP to my fellow “Wet Hot American Summer” enthusiasts and Netflix subscribers who have no doubt already started marathoning the mini-series as soon as it launched today. I’m anxiously waiting ’til after I leave work this afternoon to head home, close my blinds, make some popcorn- and get started. I’m so excited to see Gene and his talking can of vegetables again- and I promise everyone I will refrain from incessantly quoting the series all day, every day.

What can I say about July? It was a beautiful, often scorching hot month that I spent most of outdoors at backyard BBQs, bonfires, and the beach. When I wasn’t slathering on SPF like my life depended on it- I was following the San Diego Comic-Con feeds (and inwardly shrieking at all things “Walking Dead”-related) and preparing for the upcoming craziness of a jam-packed August. Earlier this month, my best friend Sean headed to Spain for a month-long study abroad program through his college (and he returns home tomorrow!) while another friend moved back to the area after nearly a year living and working in Upstate New York! It’s truly been a fast-moving few weeks- and it isn’t going to be slowing down anytime soon.

Deerfield, Mass. July 2015.

Deerfield, Mass. July 2015.

To kick off August, I’ll be heading to Boston Comic-Con this weekend (in my full Agent Carter costume, which I will happily share photos of as soon as possible!) to meet the lovely Hayley Atwell and the man, the myth, and the legend himself- Stan Lee! I’ll also be reuniting with my longtime friend and absolutely brilliant lighting designer, Steven, as he heads into town for a stop at the House of Blues with the always wonderful Mr. Brandon Flowers (I’ll be sharing photos from the show, too!)

Even though August marks the winding down and near-end of the Summer season, I’ll still be sharing some of my favorite hot weather-friendly recipes and my “Battle of the Beaches” post that compares Hampton Beach in New Hampshire to Old Orchard Beach in Maine for others like me that love the ocean and the boardwalk no matter what time of year it is. I had initially wanted to have it up in July, but I’m still making some final edits and changes (plus, it gives me a reason to head to the beaches- again- for a couple of days for “research purposes”!)

Also in August? The “Walker Stalker” convention returns to Boston for it’s second year to thrill other ‘Walking Dead’ fans like me in the area. I can’t wait to see some familiar faces and meet some new ones- too!

I’m so excited for these coming weeks and to close out Summer 2015 in style!

xox

Deerfield, Mass. July 2015.

Deerfield, Mass. July 2015.

Deerfield, Mass. July 2015.

Deerfield, Mass. July 2015.

Ipsy Bag: July 2015 Review.

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To round up my July subscription box/bag reviews, I wanted to end with Ipsy. Over the past few months, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with the company- who I’ve been subscribed to for roughly two years now. For every decent product I receive, I tend to get double the amount in disappointing or poor-quality samples. I’ve mentioned in the past (more than once, I’m sure,) that for $10 a month, I do not expect to be blown away over and over again- but I like diversity in brands and in the types of products/samples I’m given- and despite the fact that I re-take the preferences quiz and satisfaction review surveys fairly often in an attempt to mix it up a little- I still get the same products by the same brands and with the same results.

Last month, after another disappointing bag- I had said I would give Ipsy one more chance to keep me interested before I opted to continue with my subscription or try something else. This was a similar “three strike” rule I had adhered to back when I was subscribed to BeautyArmy, and I never regretted canceling that subscription after giving them multiple chances to get it right.

July’s bag, a multi-colored and pretty Summery pattern, contained one full-sized product and four decently sized samples. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best as I tried each of them!

What I Received:

Eau Thermale Avène Cleanance Gel Soapless Cleanser

tarte deluxe Amazonian clay waterproof bronzer

Be A Bombshell Cosmetics Lip Balm in “French Kiss” (*Full Size!*)

Octavio Molina Hair La Playa Salt Spray

City Color Cosmetics HD Powder

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Product # 1: Eau Thermale Avène Cleanance Gel Soapless Cleanser ($20)

I had to do a little research online before I tried this cleanser since there wasn’t a lot of information written on the small bottle or on Ipsy’s website. When I think “soapless cleanser,” I think of cleansing oils- which can be hit or miss for me and my sensitive skin. Fortunately, this product worked just like a regular face wash- including lathering up nicely- but without the parabens. I did like the way this cleanser made my skin feel, and any tightness following my rinsing it off my face was quickly resolved with a lightweight moisturizer and daily SPF. I think the only downside to this cleanser is the fragrance. This wash smells really, really strong- like straight-up perfume- and can be overpowering and worrisome to those like me who are prone to bad reactions or break-outs, especially when it comes to added or artificial fragrances.

Would I Purchase?: Maybe. So far, I haven’t experienced any horrific reactions or painful blemishes with this cleanser- despite it’s potent scent- and it does make my skin feel clean (although a little tight/dry) after each use, but I’m not 100% sold on it yet and I don’t know if this is something I would necessarily re-purchase right away when I already use cleansers that not only thoroughly clean my face, but condition it, too.

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Product # 2: tarte deluxe Amazonian clay waterproof bronzer ($30)

I’ve said it before and I will happily say it again- I love tarte Cosmetics. I love their products, their pigmentation, and their packaging. Although applying bronzer on my skin type (see: pasty) is like playing “will it turn me orange?” Russian roulette- this product went on smoothly and gave me a subtle hint of natural-looking sun-kissed color without appearing like it was caked on. It was easy to blend with the golden-hued blush I’ve been using as of late to give me a healthy glow, and a little goes a long way- so I know this sample will carry me through the end of the Summer!

Would I Purchase?: Yes! tarte has done it again. I really love this bronzer. It’s light, easy to apply, even easier to blend- and stays in place all day without making me look like an Oompa Loompa. While this sample will last me quite a while, I would definitely consider re-purchasing a full-sized compact next Spring/Summer when I want to look like a golden goddess without having to actually tan!

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Product # 3: Be A Bombshell Cosmetics Lip Balm in “French Kiss” ($14)

Ipsy, we need to have a heart-to-heart about your somewhat excessive use of ‘Be A Bombshell Cosmetics’ products. I’m not saying that it’s a terrible brand or that all of their products are bad. I’ve received a few that I’ve enjoyed in the past, and their price points are pretty reasonable- but not everything I’ve tried has been particularly high in quality, and I’d like to get through just one month (or two) without finding another lipstick or eye shadow from them in my bag when I open it. Part of the reason I signed up with Ipsy to begin with was to try new brands and new products- so to continually receive things from ‘Be A Bombshell’ over and over is a bit frustrating.

This balm unfortunately falls under the aforementioned “not particularly high in quality” category. The color, a baby pink- was not flattering with my complexion at all- and the formula was more waxy in texture than it was softening and hydrating. I noticed small, thin flakes of balm after each application that just sort of rested on top of my lips (similar to pieces of dry skin for lack of a better example) rather than rubbing in smoothly. Overall, it was a let down.

Would I Purchase?: No. I’m better off just using regular or tinted chap stick than I am using this balm. The not-pale-friendly-at-all color aside, this product didn’t moisturize or even stay on my lips for a long time before it all but slid off- and is definitely not worth the $14.

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Product # 4: Octavio Molina Hair La Playa Salt Spray ($15.50)

When it comes to sea salt sprays, I pay special attention to the ingredients. There are certain brands that, while drying (when used without proper conditioners or other hydrating styling products,) are color-safe for my red curls- and vice versa. This spray, with an unusual fragrance that isn’t “beachy” like other brands- has pretty much every ingredient possible in it to fade my red to orange in no time at all- which is why I waited to try this product until I was just a few days shy of getting a color touch-up at my salon to see how it made my hair look and feel.

This spray, while already being harmful to my color- is also extremely drying. I tried this product in my hair both on it’s own, as well as with a rich curl-cream- and my hair was left dry, frizzy, and crunchy both times. I think I’ll scrap this product and stick to the sea salt sprays that I’ve grown accustomed to over the years, instead.

Would I Purchase?: No. Between the color-compromising ingredients, the overly drying finish, and the fragrance I wasn’t really keen on- this product was a dud for me. It might work better for those who have virgin hair, but steer clear if your hair is color-treated or highlighted (or if it’s prone to frizz or split ends!)

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Product # 5: City Color Cosmetics HD Powder ($5.99)

I’ve been using a Laura Mercier finishing powder for a really long time now. It’s lightweight, keeps my makeup in place, and helps hide blemishes and imperfections. I’ve been running low on my current jar as of late, so this sample of transparent powder arrived at a good time so that I could try it for a few days and compare it with what I’ve been used to.

I don’t know if it’s just the style or size of the sample, but this product was kind of difficult to shake loose. Even though it’s advertised as a “high definition” powder- it isn’t ground as fine as my Laura Mercier one, which made the application process a bit difficult in terms of getting the product on my brush and applied evenly to my skin.

The powder doesn’t discolor my fair skin and hasn’t caused any kind of breakouts or reaction- which is nice- but it didn’t do much in regards to keeping my makeup in place. After a few hours, I noticed that my pores were still visible and that some of my foundation had started to run- which never happens with my LM powder. This powder was, unfortunately, another bust in the bag.

Would I Purchase?: No. At $5.99 for a full-sized tub, this powder would seem like a steal to most- but it’s a pain to get the product out of the container and only holds makeup in place for a short amount of time before it all but vanishes and shine returns to more oily areas. I’ll be sticking with my Laura Mercier powder and re-purchasing another full-sized container of that, instead.

With one of the products out of the five I received being a big win for me, and another still having me on the fence as to whether or not I’d commit to re-purchasing a full-sized bottle- that leaves three unsatisfactory samples/products.

Ipsy, it’s been a lot of fun- it really, really has- but I think I need a break. I can’t go through another month of Be A Bombshell or hair care/styling products that I simply can’t use.

I’m going to be canceling my subscription over the next day or so. That’s not to say I won’t return to Ipsy eventually, but like BeautyArmy’s downfall way back when- the company needs to really focus more on the quality of what they’re sending subscribers as opposed to arranging samples for pretty photos on Instagram and hoping we won’t notice it’s the same products every month.

I’ve got another subscription service I’ll be checking out for August- so I’m hoping that’s a more fun review to write!

xx

GLOSSYBOX: July 2015 Review.

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The second of my three monthly subscription service reviews goes to GlossyBox (my Ipsy review will be up on the blog tomorrow morning!) which included four full-sized products and one deluxe sample, which exceeded the $21 per month fee for the service. That by itself was enough to impress me- but of course- I had to review each product at length to determine whether or not July 2015’s GlossyBox was up to par with the fun red, white and blue/patriotic-inspired box I had received around this time last year!

WHAT I RECEIVED:

Naked Lips Organic Lip Balm (*Full Size!*)

Hey Honey “I Peel Good” Biomimetic Creamy Honey Peel Cream

Kueshi Anticellulite Booster (*Full Size!*)

Face Stockholm Lip Liner in “Fall” (*Full Size!*)

SESHA Skin Therapy Rejuvenating Anti-Wrinkle Mask (*Full Size!*)

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Product # 1: Naked Lips Organic Lip Balm ($5.50)

There are certain products that are so simple and self-explanatory that it’s hard to write a thorough review of them that extends beyond just a couple of sentences. Chap stick is one of those products- and I’m not going to waste anyone’s time, including my own- by attempting to write a long-winded and whimsical review of this. It’s not necessary, because we all know what it does and how it works.

Here’s all  you need to know about this clear Naked Lips balm: it’s organic, it smells like peppermint, and it keeps your lips soft and smooth for a long time. That’s about it.

Would I Purchase?: Maybe. The other problem with reviewing chap stick is that there’s never really been anything “wow!” worthy about it that would make me want to run out and re-purchase it immediately or order it online in bulk. This product works well enough, is reasonably priced considering it’s natural and organic ingredients- and can/will come in handy for someone like me who tends to misplace tubes of this stuff on a regular basis. If I saw this product while I was out and about- I’d probably pick one up just to keep in my purse as a backup.

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Product # 2: Hey Honey “I Peel Good” Biomimetic Creamy Honey Peel Cream ($59)

July’s GlossyBox included what was my second sample of a “Hey Honey!” product, and unlike the silk serum I had received back in April’s Ipsy Bag– I actually saw and felt noticeable results with this peel. I’ve been using a small amount of this product every few days, continuously massaging it into my skin for about 3-5 minutes before I rinse it off- and my skin looks smoother, feels softer, and blemishes/pores are noticeably diminished. There’s been no weird reactions or irritation since I implemented this into my weekly skincare regimen- and best of all? It actually smells like honey!

Would I Purchase?: Yes! I’ve really been enjoying this product, from it’s thin consistency, to it’s sweet fragrance- and most importantly- to the results I’ve been seeing when I use it. Although the $59 price tag is slightly intimidating at first glance, a little goes a long way with this peel and it’s not something that has to (or should be) used every day- so one full-sized tube should last for quite a while!

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Product # 3: Kueshi Anticellulite Booster ($22)

Alright, ladies and gentlemen- let me just cut straight through the B.S. right now. Most people- if not all- have cellulite and/or stretch marks. The visibility of said cellulite varies from person to person, but it’s there and it’s nothing to be ashamed of and shouldn’t serve as some sort of indication as to whether someone is “in shape” or not. Skinny people get cellulite. Fitness buffs get cellulite. It happens- and I’ve always been skeptical of creams, lotions, or washes that boldly (and falsely) state that they can get rid of cellulite just with daily applications. No. That’s not how it works.

A healthy diet and fitness regimen can help tone and tighten the body, and regular exfoliation and moisturizing can help hydrate and replenish the skin- but there is no miracle cure for cellulite and stretch marks. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, everyone.

I used this lotion knowing fully well that I wouldn’t see any mind-blowing results, which helped prevent any major disappointment. It was lightweight, absorbed quickly into my skin, and didn’t really have a strong fragrance. It softened my skin- but that’s pretty much it. Exactly what I expected.

Would I Purchase?: No.  Don’t be scammed by the “anti-cellulite” aspect of this lotion. Is it a good moisturizer? Sure. Are there cheaper ones out there that do the exact same thing as this one? Yep. Will it diminish the appearance of cellulite and stretch marks? Not at all. Save your money and invest in a regular daily moisturizer to slather all over yourself. This one just isn’t worth the money.

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Product # 4: Face Stockholm Lip Liner in “Fall” ($17)

I feel like a bit of a broken record when I say how much I dislike “hard” pencils, be it eyeliner or lip liner, because I really do say it all the time. I’m a fan of softer pencils or gel liners, since they don’t feel quite like a Medieval torture device when I use them. I wasn’t exactly thrilled when I saw this hard penciled lip liner- both because of it’s texture and because of it’s darker brown shade (called “Fall”, which of course is more suitable for the Autumn months.) Regardless, I decided to try this product- paired with a clear lip gloss to diffuse the color a bit- to see if it was worth a re-purchase.

Like most hard pencil liners- this product was a pain (literally) to apply. It didn’t go on smoothly and required multiple do-overs in certain areas to get the color to show a bit more. Once I had my lips lined, filled, and sealed with my gloss- I went about my daily activities (including drinking a coffee!) and was pleased that it didn’t smudge or come off on everything. It actually lasted for quite some time before I needed to do a touch-up, which was impressive- but the hassle of the application process by itself was enough to keep me away.

Would I Purchase?: No. While the longevity of this liner was nice and the bolder, brown color would look lovely in the chillier months when my darker, heavier clothes re-emerge from the back of my closet- I did NOT like the way it applied at all. If this came in a softer formula, perhaps in a twist-up tube with a crayon-like consistency- I’d be sold- but this is yet another hard pencil that I’ll be passing on.

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Product # 5: SESHA Skin Therapy Rejuvenating Anti-Wrinkle Mask ($9 per mask)

In October of last year, I had received a different mask from SESHA that I had really liked despite the fact that it’s proportions were twice the size of my head. SESHA apparently didn’t read my review, because this mask- with an anti-wrinkle formula this time around- was still pretty big when I tried to rest it on my face. The consistency of the gel that coated this product was similar to the brightening one I’d previously received, so I had an idea of what to expect when I went to lay down to hold the mask in place for 15-30 minutes (45 minutes since I ended up falling asleep with it on!)

When I peeled the mask off, my skin was soft, smooth and felt a bit tighter overall. Fine lines and wrinkles aren’t really a concern for me right now since my skin hasn’t reached the “mature” stage just yet- but I did like the way it looked and felt long after I’d used this mask!

Would I Purchase?: Maybe. With my age and skin type, I think I’ll stick to SESHA’s skin brightening masks for the time being- but this will definitely be something I’d look towards when I feel it’s time for me to switch from preventative skin care products to repairing/anti-aging ones!

Oh dear. With only one product out of the five I received in July’s GlossyBox being a definitive “yes!” to re-purchasing, I have to say I was a bit disappointed with this month’s assortment of items. The mask and the lip balm, while nice- didn’t “wow!” me the way the honey peel did- and the liner and lotion were beyond underwhelming.

Given GlossyBox’s track record of quality, especially in recent months as they’ve re-vamped their brand and drastically improved their shipping methods- July’s blasé box was surprising.

I’m hoping there’s a better selection of products in August!

xx

Loot Crate: July 2015.

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When it comes to my monthly subscription service reviews, I usually reserve the best- Loot Crate- for last, but this month, while I’m still using up the last of the samples I received in July’s GlossyBox and Ipsy Bag- I decided to write up the review and share what I received in Loot Crate’s first sequel box, “Heroes 2!”

“Heroes” is a tough theme to take on- because there are just SO many to choose from- and I’m not surprised Loot Crate revisited it to include more characters and items from across the wide range of comics, movies, games, and television. While “Heroes 2″ seemed to be comprised mostly of DC-Universe toys and trinkets- I was still quite pleased while I rifled through the box.

Here’s what I got!

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I always start off my Loot Crate reviews with the two items I receive every month- the collector’s pin and the monthly mini-magazine. By now, those of you who read my reviews know that the mini-mag contains fan-photos, puzzles, interviews, articles, and a break-down of everything included in the box. July’s magazine, with Wonder Woman front and center (as she should be!) featured a break-down of the history of Batman and Wonder Woman’s history and relationship and an interview with Jon Schnepp, the creator of the documentary The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened?

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I love getting anything related to “The Legend of Zelda” in my Loot Crate because it almost always goes to my best friend, Sean, who is the biggest LoZ fan I know. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Sean wear any type of wristband, ever- but I think even he could make an exception for this terrycloth one with the Triforce emblem on it.

While Sean gets the wristband- I am absolutely keeping this Star Trek vanilla-scented air freshener, shaped like the Vulcan salute, for myself. Live long and prosper, indeed!

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When it comes to Batman, I much prefer the villains than I do the actual hero. (That being said, “Suicide Squad” looks like it’s going to be awesome.) Even still, my favorite item in July’s Loot Crate was the multi-purpose Batman key chain that acts as screwdrivers and a bottle opener in one. It’s shaped like and looks to be about as heavy as the little throwing-star style weapons that Batman uses to capture the bad guys, too- so even though it’s not listed as an actual use on the packaging- there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be throwing this at one of my friends in the future. (Just kidding!)

And please pardon the unusual photo of the really cute cartoon-style Batman figurine. I left it in it’s packaging because I plan on gifting it to a friend of mine who is a big fan of the franchise. The figurine comes with a dry-erase style marker so that you can write in your own phrases/words in the speech bubble behind Batman.

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I was really impressed that Loot Crate included a hard-cover book about unusual, short-lived, and scrapped superheroes throughout comic book history in July’s box. I love interesting reads like this (because some of the heroes/villains make you wonder what on Earth people were thinking when they came up with the idea!) and I know my guests will, too. This book will be finding a home on my coffee table for any visitors to peek through once I’m finished reading it!

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I was worried Wonder Woman wouldn’t make an appearance in July’s Loot Crate apart from the cover of the mini-magazine, but I was pleasantly surprised when I unrolled this “Rosie the Riveter” style poster that was neatly tucked inside the box, My bedroom (and most of my home, really) is pretty much Geek HQ- filled with “Walking Dead” and Captain America stuff from wall to wall- but I can always, ALWAYS find a place for something like this. I love it!

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July’s “Digital Loot” was an exclusive download for the game “Brawlhalla”, which I’ve admittedly never heard of until now. I don’t think I’ll get much use out of it- so if anyone would like the code- please let me know and I’ll pass it along!

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The inside of July’s Loot Crate!

Overall, I was really happy with July’s “Heroes” sequel. I received a lot of really cool stuff that I can find room for, and a couple of really great gifts for friends. I’m sure there will be a “Heroes III” crate somewhere down the line, and I’ll probably enjoy that one, too!

I haven’t received the e-mail confirming what August’s Loot Crate theme will be- but it should be arriving anytime now. ‘Til then- my July GlossyBox and Ipsy reviews will be up shortly!

xx

Backyard BBQ

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BackyardBBQJuly20151

Good morning! Although today has some somber undertones (today marks three years since my father passed away,) I’m planning to spend the afternoon- graciously freed up by my boss who gave me the day off- with my mother so that neither one of us has to be alone right now. I know my dad would want us to have fun together today- so we’ll be doing some shopping and going out for dinner in-between what I’m sure will be a few tears and plenty of reminiscing.

This past weekend was purely about having silly fun, however- when a group of friends and I spent Saturday afternoon and well into Sunday morning having a backyard BBQ at the waterfront home of our friend’s boyfriend. We all brought a little something to eat (and boy, did I eat so. much. food.) listened to music, made a big slip & slide out of a huge tarp, some dish soap, and a sprinkler- and lit a campfire as the sun began to set.

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My friend Stef had brought her projector, and using an ironed sheet and some extension cords- she managed to rig up a big screen movie theater for us on the back deck so that we could watch terrible horror movies on Netflix (my specialty!) while roasting marshmallows on the fire and passing the bug spray to one another.

I really hope to have more nights like that in the coming weeks. It’s one of my favorite things about the Summer- just laid-back, inexpensive fun with good friends, good food, and a few drinks.

With July underway and 2015 being more than halfway over, I like to re-visit the resolutions I’ve made for myself for the year and map my progress as I move forward through the Summer. It’s a great way to stay focused and refresh yourself on your goals and aspirations for the year so that you don’t give up!

While I’ve definitely been getting into better shape, am far more organized in most aspects of my life than I was prior to New Years- and have low-key been researching different houses and condos in and around the San Diego area for a potential move- I have yet to complete my Route 66 road trip. I have it mapped out, I have the finances (mostly) planned- it’s just a matter of making the time!

I still have a few months left to do it, so I’m not completely discouraged- but I’ve come up with a couple of backup plans for some long-distance vacation destinations should I have to postpone the great cross-country journey until next Summer or Fall when work isn’t so busy. I’ve been eyeing a week in New Orleans this fall, for example- and although I’d like to save a trip to Hawaii to commemorate my turning 30- my wanderlust is kicking in a little, so I have a feeling I might be checking that out sooner than later!

Overall, though- I’d say I’ve made some really great progress with what I set out to accomplish this year. Now that I’ve reflected and have seen how far I’ve come in just a few short months- I’m ready to continue working towards achieving most- if not all- of my resolutions again.

‘Til next time!

xx

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Inspired By: Penny Lane

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Cameron Crowe’s cinematic love letter to one of the greatest eras in rock n’ roll, “Almost Famous”, was released in 2000. I was 14 at the time, and although I grew up with much of the music that comprised the film’s outstanding soundtrack- I didn’t actually see the movie until my early twenties. As endearing as William Miller, the main protagonist played by Patrick Fugit was, and as seductive and sincere as Billy Crudup’s portrayal of Russell Hammond- the lead guitarist in the film’s fictional band, Stillwater, turned out to be- it was Kate Hudson’s character, Penny Lane, who really stole the show.

With a 1970s backdrop (and the fashion to match) Penny is the leader of the “Band Aids,” a group of women who travel with various bands and their crews and in Penny Lane’s own words, “inspire the music.” Although they vehemently deny being groupies- there’s plenty of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll debauchery going on behind the scenes. Penny and Russell are in love with each other, although neither one will admit it to the other- but Russell’s growing ego and on/off again girlfriend back home complicates things. William is a witness to the shows, the fights, the antics, and even some of the tender moments as he grows and matures while on tour with Stillwater- and writes it all for Rolling Stone’s cover story about the band.

In my early twenties, I could relate to Penny. Not just because she had curly hair like me or because she lived in the city I can’t wait to make my home- San Diego- but because she had fallen madly in love with an up and coming musician who was too proud (and maybe a little bit too selfish) to admit that he cared for her as deeply as she cared for him until it was too late and she had jet-set off to Morocco to start a new life on her own. As someone who once got mixed up with my own up and coming musician for a few years- seeing Penny’s struggles, with the highs and the lows of the rocker and touring lifestyle- resonated with me. She was a mix of strength and vulnerability, charm and compassion- and I will always and forever covet her shearling coat.

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Wearing this peasant-style top reminds me of a scene in the movie where Penny is dancing to music no one else can hear in an empty auditorium following a Stillwater show. She’s twirling and gliding across the floor barefoot, and it’s the most serene and peaceful we see her. I paired the top with a comfortable pair of denim capris and sneakers- also inspired by another scene in the movie where Penny is sporting a similar ensemble as she listens to William accidentally confess that Russell (after a moment of hesitation) has traded Penny and the other Band Aids to the band Humble Pie in exchange for $50 and  a case of beer. It’s a sharp contrast to the auditorium scene- and it’s also the first time we see Penny’s confident front crack- if only for a moment.

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Some of you may remember my sunglasses from my Practical Festival Wear post a couple of months ago, and although they’re a bit rounder than Penny’s were in the movie, they make me feel like shouting “it’s all happening!” whenever I put them on, anyway.

My makeup was easy. Penny is effortlessly beautiful. She doesn’t need a sharp cat eye or a bold lip to be alluring. She looks natural and radiant in her simplicity. Although the Polaroid effects make it hard to tell- I wore nothing more than a matte-finish foundation, a light pink shimmer blush on the apples of my cheeks, a bit of highlighter around my brow bone, mascara, and a clear lip balm. Quick and easy!

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And finally, to complete my ensemble(s)- I’ve owned this replica Stillwater t-shirt- complete with out-of-focus goodness ($14.99 HERE)– for quite some time, and occasionally like to wear it out and about on my more casual days. I love when other “Almost Famous” fans recognize it. Although I don’t recall ever seeing Penny sporting the t-shirt of her most beloved band- I’d like to think she owned a couple.

I’d also like to think that Penny and Russell eventually had their happy ending. It didn’t happen for me and my own musician all those years ago- but I want to believe true love exists!

Side note: I’m aware my little white Kia isn’t as fabulous as a tour bus named Doris, but it’s how I get around and “tour” the country!

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xox

Quick Eats: Patriotic Cobbler.

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Happy Independence Day, America! Although the sky is looking depressingly cloudy today- I’m hoping it clears up by tonight so I can get an unobstructed view of some fireworks after a family cookout later on this afternoon. I did commemorate this National holiday by doing the most American thing I could think of last night- seeing “Magic Mike: XXL” in the theater with some friends (and it was really, really fun,) but I also wanted to bake or cook something with some red, white, and blue elements in it to offer up to visitors over the next couple of days.

Last year on the Fourth of July, I had whipped up a simple recipe with some strawberry and blueberry fruit bowls and smoothies. This year, using the same ingredients but taking it a step further- I created what I consider to be a very patriotic mixed berry cobbler that was easy to make in no time at all- and it tastes amazing!

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YOU WILL NEED:

* 9×13″ baking pan

* 1/3 cup of butter

* 1 1/2 cups of flour

* 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar

* 1 1/2 cups of milk

* 2 teaspoons of baking powder

* 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon

* 1/2 teaspoons of salt

* 5 cups of chopped strawberries and whole blueberries

* 1/3 cup of chopped nuts (any of your choosing! I used walnuts with the one I baked.)

* 1/3 cup of brown sugar

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OKAY, HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

1. Preheat your oven to 375°F and add the 1/3 cup of butter to your baking pan. Place the pan in the oven to melt the butter.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, granulated sugar, milk, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir/whisk the mixture until it is smooth and thin in texture and there are no lumps.

3. Once the butter has melted in the baking pan, retrieve the pan from the oven and pour the batter inside of it. DO NOT STIR. Some of the butter will pool along the edges and top of the batter- and that’s a good thing. That’s what you want!

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4. Sprinkle the strawberries and blueberries evenly over the batter and butter. Once you have the fruit where you want it- sprinkle the chopped nuts and brown sugar on top.

5. Bake the mixture for 45-50 minutes or until the top crust is a nice golden color.

6. Serve by itself or with a scoop of ice cream on top.

7. Enjoy!

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One of these cobblers can serve quite a few people, depending on how big a scoop they take, and what I really love about this recipe- apart from how delicious it tastes- is that you can substitute the strawberries and blueberries for other types of fruit and it will still come out great!

I’m actually going to grab a serving before I get ready to head out for the day’s festivities.

Have a great Fourth of July, everyone!

xx

June 2015: In a Nutshell.

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Where does the time go? It feels like I was launched out of a cannon at the beginning of the month and have been hurdling forward ever since! June was crazy, hectic, and most certainly a blast- although I did fall behind on my posts just a little bit. Now that I’ve got a couple of quiet days ahead of me before Fourth of July weekend, I’ve been playing catching up.

I thought I’d be writing this from San Diego right now- but with my work schedule, current case load, and friends moving to and from the area in recent weeks- I’ve been grounded here on the East Coast for the time being. I’ll be returning to SoCal soon, though!

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I didn’t spend all of June in Massachusetts sitting behind my desk or helping friends pack/unpack their belongings, though. A considerable amount of time was spent hanging around NYC, too. A few weeks ago I had my aura read in Chinatown, and last weekend a group of friends and I caught an early morning train into Grand Central Station to give one of our own a nearly 16-hour tour of some of the city’s most famous landmarks since he had never been to NYC before and was itching to go. We started in Times Square, made our way to Radio City Music Hall, then Rockefeller Center, Central Park (where our friend had his first authentic pretzel cart experience,) One World Trade Center, the 9/11 Memorial, Battery Park, Wall Street- and then worked our way to Brooklyn before we caught an evening subway back to Grand Central. We did it all on foot- and I’m pretty sure I’m still sore from it!

The only two landmarks we couldn’t make it to were the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island, which were closed by the time we made it to where the ferries were- and the top of the Empire State Building. The weather was rainy and foggy the entire time we were there- so much, in fact- that we couldn’t see the top of most of the skyscrapers! With visibility being next to zero- we all collectively decided to head back on a sunnier day to finish the tour properly.

June2015InANutshell2The 9/11 Memorial especially stood out to me. The last time I was down by where the Twin Towers once stood was in the Spring of 2002- and there was nothing left. It was both horrifying and heartbreaking. Now, over a decade later- and this beautiful memorial stands in it’s place. It’s truly something to behold. While I was there, I leaned that a white rose is placed on name plates to commemorate victims’ birthdays- which I thought was so touching (because everyone deserves to be recognized and remembered- especially on their birthday.) It happened to be Martin N. DeMeo’s birthday while I was in the area, and I snapped a photo of his rose.

I haven’t checked out the 9/11 Museum yet, but the memorial itself was worth the trip.

So what’s in store for July? More travel, of course (and not just to NYC this time!) some fashion and recipe posts I’ve been meaning to put up for a couple of weeks now, a head-to-head breakdown of Hampton Beach v. Old Orchard Beach, the usual subscription box reviews- and maybe a good old fashioned camping trip (weather permitting!)

And while I may not physically be at San Diego Comic-Con in the coming days- I’m very much there in spirit (and my spirit just happens to be cosplaying!) I might be writing up a couple of posts about upcoming projects that are displayed/revealed there based on the panels and press releases that are provided to those of us not in attendance. I’m really looking forward to seeing the new trailer for the sixth season of “The Walking Dead” and anything pertaining to Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight!”

July is the prelude to what might be my busiest and most exciting month yet- August- but we’ll get to that when the time comes!

Until then- I’m ready to slow things down a bit and enjoy all the fun July has to offer!

xx

Ipsy Bag: June 2015 Review.

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The last of June’s subscription services to arrive was this month’s Ipsy bag. The theme, “Swim Into Beauty,” was a nod to the hot Summer months. Everything came packaged in a black, waterproof bag that felt as though it was made from bathing suit material. As someone who spends a significant amount of time at the beach during the Summer, it’s nice to have something I can carry my keys and my phone in when I head to the water and not have to worry about things getting splashed and ruined!

The products, which were a mix of long-lasting makeup and skin care, were tied into the beach/poolside-ready theme.

What I Received:

LAVANILA LABORATORIES The Healthy Body Butter in “Pure Vanilla”

tre’StiQue Mini Shadow Crayon in “Kona Coffee”

J. Cat Beauty Liptitude Hydrating Lip Stain in “Blow Your Mind” (*Full Size!*)

Smashbox Cosmetics Photo Finish Foundation Primer

IT Cosmetics Brow Power Universal Eyebrow Pencil (*Full Size!*)

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Product # 1: LAVANILA LABORATORIES The Healthy Body Butter in “Pure Vanilla” ($19)

I’m not quite sure how it happened, but upon going to use this sample for the first time- it seems that there was only a small amount of product in the tube. It wasn’t even half full (and believe me, I shook and squeezed it in every conceivable way to be 100% positive!) I could only get enough body butter to cover one of my legs and that was it. Needless to say, I was disappointed, since I had hoped to write a more thorough review. All I can really say about the amount of product I was able to use is that it smells strongly of vanilla, and the scent lingered on my skin overnight- and that while it did not absorb easily by any means- once it did, it left my skin (including dryer areas around my knee) very, very soft. There was no greasy residue or sticky feeling left behind.

Would I Purchase?: Maybe. I won’t let the aforementioned packaging issue push me away entirely from this body butter. It smells really nice and it hydrated the skin I was able to apply it to, which is really all I ask from a product like this. The only thing I’m on the fence about is the amount of time it took to absorb into my skin. I like lightweight lotions and creams that don’t require a lot of effort to apply since I’m usually rushing between work and home, etc.- so this might be better reserved for those days where I’m able to relax and pamper myself without being in a hurry.

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Product # 2: tre’StiQue Mini Shadow Crayon in “Kona Coffee” ($26)

Because it’s Summer, I’ve been wearing a lot of golds, aqua tones, and corals on my eyes and lips. When I first saw this shadow stick, I was a bit concerned about how dark the color looked but still intrigued at how it applied. The pencil- soft to the touch and highly pigmented- did appear very dark on my lids, and did NOT blend easily- which was a bit frustrating. The photo above shows the “Kona Coffee” shade on my eyes after I blended it to the best of my ability. As you can probably see, it looks a bit uneven and patchy. The only upside to this product was it’s longevity. The shadow didn’t budge, crease, or flake all day and well into the evening.

Would I Purchase?: No. As much as I appreciated the pigmentation and how long this shadow lasted on my lids, applying it was nothing short of a hassle. Once it was on, it was on- and it couldn’t be evened out or blended without using other products and utilizing a lot of time. For that reason alone, I’ll have to pass and stick with the shadows I’ve been using regularly that are much easier to apply and last just as long.

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Product # 3: J. Cat Beauty Liptitude Hydrating Lip Stain in “Blow Your Mind” ($5.99)

At first glance of the bottle, this lip stain seemed bright, fun, and perfect for the Summer. Although the applicator was an odd shape, which made working the product around my lips to achieve an even look a little awkward- the stain itself was VERY rich and pigmented. A little goes a long way, and it didn’t take much to make my mouth pop with a vibrant pink/peach color. Like it’s name indicates- this stain was in no way drying, and it lasted a very, very long time before it required a touch-up.

All of those perks are great, but the one downside to this stain was how messy it was. Because of the rich/thick consistency of this product, it came off on pretty much everything- my coffee mug, my breakfast/lunch,  my fingertips when I accidentally grazed my lips, my teeth, etc. and it seemed that whatever it touched- it would NOT come off of. If you wear this stain, you have to be extremely careful not to transfer any of it onto your skin or clothes!

Would I Purchase?: No. Don’t get me wrong, the pigmentation, the bright color, and the longevity are all great- but this product was entirely too messy for my tastes. I like my lip stains to be lightweight, and this one was heavy and came off in thick globs on anything and everything it came in contact with. It was almost like having wet paint on my mouth. I’ll just continue using my Summer stand-bys of balms and glosses.

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Product # 4: Smashbox Cosmetics Photo Finish Foundation Primer ($36)

In my skincare and makeup regimen, I’ve never really had a need for a foundation primer. In the Summer I use BB creams, and when I require more coverage- the long-wear foundation I use has a primer already added to it- so I typically gloss over this additional step. Even still, I’ve heard great things about this oil-free Smashbox primer from multiple sources, and decided to give it a try to see if it made any difference in how long it could hold my makeup in place and keep me looking fresh.

Firstly, I really liked the texture of this foundation primer. It was lightweight, almost “fluffy” feeling (if that makes sense) and it absorbed very quickly into my skin without making me look shiny. It also kept my foundation in place all day. No touch-ups were necessary at all. That’s a great thing.

The bad news is that this primer- despite being oil-free- made me break out really bad all over my face. After using a deep cleansing mask and a harsher facial scrub for a couple of days- my skin returned to normal. I wanted to be absolutely sure the bad reaction was the result of this product, so I applied it- and only the primer- to my face again. Sure enough, the same thing happened- and I had to scrap what was left in the tube while I cleared my skin up from the painful blemishes once more.

Would I Purchase?: No. While this may be an excellent foundation primer to those looking for all-day wear, I can’t use it. I don’t know exactly what it is that is causing such an adverse reaction, but I have to stay away from it. If anyone has any recommendations for other, similar primers- but won’t cause such bad breakouts- please let me know!

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Product # 5: IT Cosmetics Brow Power Universal Eyebrow Pencil ($12)

Eyebrow products are tricky for me, because I’m fortunate enough to have brows that never seem to get too bushy and have a natural and noticeable arch to them. Even when I let them grow out for a few weeks, they sustain the arch and require a minimum amount of waxing/plucking around the edges. I rarely use pencils on them and only swipe a clear gel formula over a couple of stray hairs now and then until I can find the time to visit the spa. That’s really all I do for brow maintenance.

I decided to go for a darker brow look using this taupe twist-up pencil, which was thin enough to be very precise but not too thin where it would crumble or snap on contact. A little bit went a long way, and my brows looked fuller and darker with only a couple of light sweeps. I liked that a lot- and the other half of the pencil served as a mascara-like wand to comb everything into place. I liked that, too. While I don’t think I’d use this product every day, it’s a good thing to have on hand!

Would I Purchase?: Yes! This is definitely a product I would keep in my makeup bag for those days between waxings where my brows require just a little touching up or when I want them to look a darker and more defined. The pencil isn’t flimsy and the brush is very helpful at keeping hairs in place. The color is universal, too. It’s not too light and not too dark- so it’s perfect on me.

Oh dear. June’s Ipsy bag has found itself in the same territory as last month’s bag. I wasn’t impressed. At all. Sure, the bag itself is great and I liked the full-sized eyebrow pencil very much- but the lip stain was a mess (literally), the shadow stick was a pain, the primer broke me out- and then there was the issue with the barely filled body butter tube.

I don’t want to complain about a $10 a month service, because things could be a lot worse in terms of quality and quantity- but Ipsy has found itself in a slump as of late. They continue to stick with the same brands (some of which just aren’t good no matter what they send out,) the same type of products, or samples that are just poor quality overall. I understand I’m not paying a fortune for the bag every month- and that there are services that are FAR more expensive out there- but I’d like just a little more effort to keep me interested. Please!

I’m going to see how July’s bag compares to the last couple I’ve received and go from there. Here’s hoping it’s an improvement.

xx

Loot Crate: June 2015.

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The second subscription box to arrive at my door this month was my personal favorite- Loot Crate! This month’s theme, “CYBER,” was perfectly timed with July 1st’s release of the new ‘Terminator’ movie (which I will absolutely be seeing since I’m a sucker for the franchise,) and the box included multiple collectibles, t-shirts, and gifts I will be passing onto friends.

Let me show you what I received!

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Up first are the usual items- my monthly collector’s pin and mini-magazine. June’s issue featured a pretty great interview with Sam Esmail, who is the creator and executive producer of USA’s upcoming hacker drama, “Mr. Robot” (I’ve seen advertisements all over the place recently and it looks really interesting!) and a Q&A with one of my celebrity crushes, Zachary Levi- among puzzles, subscriber photos, and item break-downs. I think the “CYBER” mini-magazine may have been one of my most favorites to flip though!

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The first, most noticeable item in June’s Loot Crate was this 1/2 scale replica of the Terminator endo skull. I really loved the “Terminator” movies as a kid, and have toughed it through the more recent films that have made the story more convoluted than necessary (I believe in seeing things through to the end once you start them!) but I thought this replica was pretty neat and incredibly detailed. I’m sure I can find a spot for it somewhere!

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I get pouches every month with my Ipsy subscription, and they’ve always proven to be useful in storing makeup, money, odds and ends, etc.- but none of those pouches have ever been glow-in-the-dark before, so right away I liked this circuit patterned bag. I’ve already found a use for it in my bathroom where it’s currently holding some of my smaller toiletries and beauty samples.

I haven’t worn patches on my clothing or bags in a long time, so this Future Replicant Corporate Logo patch might not necessarily find a permanent place with me, but I’d love to pass it along to someone who would have a use for it! It’s a decent size and looks pretty bad ass.

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The second “Terminator” related collectible in June’s Loot Crate was this brain chip key chain. I believe I’ve mentioned before that I collect key chains- from when I travel, or from different movies and television shows- so this fit very nicely with the collection I’ve built so far. I actually love this so much that I think it’s going to find a home on my current key ring with my car and office keys. It’s definitely a conversation piece.

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While I do play some computer games from time to time, they don’t require an external mouse- so I don’t think I have a need for this 10″ x 12″ Borderlands gaming pad anytime soon. It’s good quality, and the description in the mini-mag says it’s designed to improve precision and responsiveness of your mouse movements during game play, so I’ll be passing this along to one of my gamer friends to use!

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Summer is here, which means it’s water gun and NERF weapon season for those of us who never quite grew out of that aspect of our childhood. What better way to prepare yourself than by getting some aiming/firing practice with these Battlestar Galactica target posters? Simply tape or tack these to the wall, load up your NERF gun (or in my case, your NERF crossbow,) and perfect your shot so that you can decimate your friends when the time is right and they least expect it.

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San Diego Comic-Con is swiftly approaching, and as attendees prepare their costumes or comfortable walking shoes and studios and vendors prepare to showcase their upcoming work- those of us who can’t make it this year can still live vicariously through panel feeds or social media posts- and with little gifts like these stickers from Nerd HQ. I plan on sharing these with my niece, since there are a couple on the sheet that I like!

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The last item in June’s “CYBER” crate was this fitted Optimus Prime t-shirt. Loot Crate shirts are hit or miss for me in terms of whether or not I’d wear them outside the house. Despite every shirt I’ve received being soft and comfortable- sometimes the designs aren’t exactly my style and for that reason I reserve them for sleepwear or when I’m just lounging around. I actually love the retro look of this shirt and would happily wear this out and about. I’m more of a Megatron fan, personally- but this will do nicely.

Overall, I really enjoyed the “CYBER” crate. There was a great assortment of items that fit the theme nicely and quite a few things I’ll be keeping/using! My favorite things were by far the “Terminator” collectibles, and they have me all pumped up to see the new movie this coming week!

July’s theme, recently revealed to be a sequel to the “HEROES” crate- will hopefully be as fun as this month’s was!