Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sugar 'n Spice VoxBox

By now I'm sure you're all familiar with Influenster.  If not, it's a website which basically rewards you for reviewing products by...sending you free stuff!!  Something I LOVE about Influenster is that the boxes are really amazing and they're totally free.  Yes, free.  You don't have to give out tons of your personal information or take a million surveys or anything special really for them. All you have to do is review products you already love and you get a chance to review new products which you may or may not love! So this month I received a Sugar 'n Spice VoxBox.  The kitties of course came around to investigate! 

Here's what it looked like when I opened it.  I'm so excited for this one because it isn't all beauty products so I can try out lots of new things!  You can also see here that Influenster doesn't mess around. These are full sized items not little sample packets. There are a few things in here which I've been really wanting to try for awhile but haven't gotten around to! Win!  So let's break it down by item!!

This is Vaseline Spray and Go lotion and Dickinson's Witch Hazel towelettes.  The Vaseline I was SO SO excited for. I keep seeing commercials for it and I'm super curious! If you're on Vine, you can catch a little video of me testing it out soon! It smells really good but it's not an overpowering scent.  It's fresh and clean.  I was concerned about the grease factor but it's not lying, it doesn't have a greasy finish.  It's actually REALLY easy to use. You just spray it on like suncream and then rub it in. It absorbs really quickly. I was also worried that a spray wouldn't moisturize very effectively but it feels like lotion. It's light but you feel moisturized but not greasy.  It's not a fine mist like I expected but more like a suncream spray.  It does need to be rubbed in you can't just spray and go.  I'm not entirely sure what the purpose of it is.  I feel like lotion is just as convenient but maybe for places that are hard to reach?

The Dickinson's towelettes are a hit/miss for me.  I LOVE that they are individually packaged so you can use them without worrying that the rest of the pack will dry out. You can also throw them in your bag on the go.  BUT they smell just awful.  Like vinegar or something. I'm sure they probably smell like witch hazel but I haven't used any in ages so it's hard to say!  They did a great job cleaning my face without over-drying but you can't use them to remove eye makeup and the smell is enough to turn me off to them. :(

Colgate Optic White products!  I actually needed a new toothbrush so this is perfect timing.  I prefer natural toothpastes but I'm curious to see how this one works! Haven't tested them out yet but hubby says the toothpaste is tasty!  I'll definitely update when I've had a chance to fully try these!

I did a seriously in-depth review of the Nectresse packets on this blog already so I won't go into that one! But I got a 40 pack of them and they will be getting put to use!  The last item was this Belvita pack of four breakfast cookies.  These are REALLY tasty and I was worried they wouldn't be. They smell and taste just like a honey Teddy Graham.  I ate them for breakfast this morning and they actually were pretty filling.  They kept me full until around lunch time.  I don't know how I feel about the cost of them but if you're already buying breakfast this will probably be no worse and potentially better on your budget. $3.69 will net you a five day supply!:)

Did you get a Sugar 'n Spice box? What was your favorite part?

I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

Glossy Box: January 2013

Well I'm obviously a little behind on this!! This is from January! But in my defense I didn't receive this Glossybox until mid-February so I'm a LITTLE less behind. :P  When it came, Aoife of course had to investigate it. She was very excited to get into this one for some reason!

The packaging on these is very nice! The box is still cardboard, like my Birchboxes but it's a heavy cardboard and it's covered in plastic-y material.  This is great for wow factor but essentially it's useless. I can't really ship in the box because it's unnecessarily heavy although I could use them for gifts to others later I suppose.  I did feel it added value to the box but I also don't like throwing my money away on packaging so it's a negligible point. Also like my Birchbox it had a little card inside outlining what was in the box and everything was neatly wrapped up with tissue paper.

And now for the inside!  The important stuff, right?  I was actually pretty impressed with this box.  When I joined Birchbox I got an "introductory box" which was basically a box crammed full of awesome to make you excited about joining. There is no introductory Glossybox. Just whatever is up for the month.  This box was the Man Repeller Box so named for it's collaboration with, you guessed it, The Man Repeller!  It had THREE full sized items in it and most of the box was pretty stellar. So here's the breakdown!

1. Le Metier De Beaute Replenishing Daily Solution – 3 mL Value $19.23
Still haven't tried this one but I keep meaning to.  Supposedly it nourishes, moisturizes AND detoxifies and for the price...it had better!!

2. Fresh Umbrian Clay Mattifying Serum – 5 mL – Value $5.95
Another one I haven't tried yet.  What does it do? Well it's supposed to tone and hydrate while minimizing the appearance of pores and controlling shine. It is also proven to provide 24-hour antioxidant protection. I'm actually excited to try this out because my face gets pretty shiny during the day. 

3. Estee Lauder Sumptuous Lash Multiplying Volume Mascara – .1 oz Value $9.25
This one is another I haven't tried. Bad me. I hate to open mascara's when I have others in use though. It just gives them the chance to go bad. My go-to mascara of the moment is Buxom brand. I've tried literally HUNDREDS of them.  So here's hoping it's awesome enough to beat that one.

4. Sebastian Professional Potion No. 9 – 1.7 oz Value $6.33
I actually tried this almost immediately. It smells super yummy and clean and it did a decent job controlling my frizz. I think it's meant for shorter hair though and I don't see myself buying it after my sample is gone.

5. OPI Liquid Sand Nail Lacquer in Can’t Let Go – FULL SIZE! Value $9
I actually already had this one!! I didn't love it but it was my favorite of the Mariah Carey Liquid Sand colors. It was nice to get a polish too, because I'm a polish lover!!

6. Tarte Glamazon Pure Performance 12 Hour Lipstick – FULL SIZE! Value $26

This was our favorite part of the box! I am OBSESSED with red lipstick lately. I have tons of them but none in this particular shade. I love that it's bright but still totally wearable.  I also loved how smoothly it went on. Even though it felt silky on my lips it still lasts for hours so it's definitely a win!

 Looks pretty good, no?


 Our least favorite part of the box. 
7. Narciso Rodriguez for her Eau de Toilette Spray – 1 mL Value $1.44
Have I mentioned lately how I hate perfume samples?! Grrr...I have SO SO SO many. But...I'll let them slide on this one because the rest of the box made up for it.  I won't wear this scent though. It's not really very me and it smells kind of old. :/

Well there you have it. Were you impressed with the Glossybox or did you prefer the Birchbox?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tastes just like the real thing...

Well loves, today I got an Influenster VoxBox (more on that later!) and inside was this box of Nectresse sugar packets.  Now, I've acutally received samples of Nectresse before and, like most of the sugar subs I recieve, it went right into my "I'll-try-you-when-I'm-really-desprerate" box.   In the first place, I'm not a big sugar consumer.  Between myself and my husband, a 5lb bag of standard white sugar lasts between 6 and 8 months in my home.  Occasionally longer and most of the use of it is generally reserved for when others visit us and want something sweet.  My personal sweetener of choice is raw honey but as I'm trying to start slowly veganizing my life, perhaps it's time to start looking at some alternatives.  This bag of Stevia in the Raw and the packet of Pyure Stevia sweetener were things I've been holding onto but haven't really gotten around to using.  

Here we have a picture of all the different sweeteners in a nice little line.  From the bottom, we have: white sugar, Stevia in the Raw, Pyure Stevia and Nectresse.  Each were portioned to equal the sweetness level of 2 teaspoons white sugar.  Off the bat you can see that the Nectresse and the white sugar share the most similar texture; granulated. The Stevia in the raw is almost powder like and it's very light. Even though it measures just like sugar the pile seems larger becuase it's make up of fluffy balls which remind me a bit of styrofoam.  The Pyure brand Stevia is a fine powder.  Now, I've obviously used sugar before and I know what it tastes like.  I've also used Stevia in the Raw for desserts.  While I don't mind it for that purpose I find that for everyday things, like tea for example, the aftertaste is evident.  I made the mistake with a Pyure packet once of assuming packs for packs and after stirring two of them into a cup of tea I had to throw it out. It was completely undrinkable.  It does not measure the same as sugar, despite being stevia.  Looking at the two now, I'm guessing this is for texture reasons.  So now let's face them off, shall we?

Up first is the Stevia in the Raw vs. Granulated White Sugar.  So how do they stack up?

Texture:  The sugar is a fine granule while the Stevia has a flaked or sort of ball like appearance.  It's reminiscent of fake snow. The Stevia is also MUCH lighter than the sugar.

Color:  They're both white but while the Stevia is opaque the sugar is transluscent.

Dissolvability:  The Stevia dissolved much more quickly.

Health factor: The Stevia is fat, calorie, and sodium free. In fact it's basically made of nothing. The package lists it as natural, organic, and made of natural cane turbinado sugar.  Apparently it is a renewable crop with minimal environmental impact. It's sweeter than sugar, so less can be used and thus less grown. It is also vegan. So how does white sugar stack up? There are 16 calories in a teaspoon of white sugar. So out the gate it's a loser on the health front. It also has no fat or sodium though. To me, caloric intake is only half the battle and I don't mind sometimes to eat more calories vs eating something with a lower nutritional content.  This is sugar though, so let's get on with the environmental impact! According to a 2004 WWF article, sugar may be responsible for more biodiversity loss than any other crop, due to its destruction of habitat to make way for plantations, its intensive use of water for irrigation, its heavy use of agricultural chemicals, and the polluted wastewater that is routinely discharged in the sugar production process. Ouch. White sugar is also not always vegan.  That white color you see is often the result of bone char.  :/ Ew.

Taste:  So on the taste front I'm going with sugar.  Obviously, I like it the best of all these or I wouldn't go to so much trouble to find a substitute!  The Stevia in the raw has an odd sweetness to it followed by a slight bitter after taste.  It's great for baking or places where a sweetness is needed but the flavor will be masked. I definitely wouldn't use it in drinks though.

Alright here we have Nectresse and Pyure brand Stevia.  We've been through the whole Stevia thing before. This is not different in composition from the Stevia in the Raw, it's just different texturally so let's put it head to head against the Nectresse.

Texture: The Nectresse is granulated, like real sugar. The Stevia is a fine powder.

Color: The Nectresse is a little orange-y and is translucent like sugar. The Stevia is white.
Dissolvability: The Stevia dissolved much faster with this as well but it's a powder so that's expected. I found that the Nectresse dissolved very similar to real sugar.

Health Factor: Both are calorie, fat and sodium free. Nectresse is actually made from Monk Fruit so, like Stevia, it's plant based and completely natural. It's not made of chemicals like some other sweeteners. It is also gluten free and as a bonus, the monk fruit it's made from has been used in Asian medicine for years (so it's kind of healthy?). I can't find any evidence that it's not vegan but I'm not 100% certain it is either. There are no non-vegan ingredients but for safety's sake we'll call it a maybe. 

Taste: The Pyure Stevia is disgusting. Non-edible. Even IN things I couldn't do it. I don't know if it's the difference in brand or the difference in texture but while the Stevia in the Raw has a sweetness up front and a bitterness after, it's cousin Pyure is all bitter. Yuck.  The Nectresse was a pleasant surprise. It really does taste VERY similar to sugar. It is a bit more sweet. It's kind of like a pixie stick at first! But there is literally NO aftertaste.

Final thoughts: If you're looking for a healthier version of sugar, then Nectresse will be your new best friend. I found it by FAR the most sugar-like and it's also supposedly great for baking, which Stevia is kind of a fail at.  Health wise, it may even be better for you than the Stevia since recent studies have linked Stevia to having a mutagenic effect inside the body.  It was even banned in the US in the early 1990's.  The monk fruit in Nectresse has been used for many years in Asian medicine BUT that doesn't mean there aren't side effects that we may find out about with it later as well.  On the other hand, it's other contents: molasses, sugar (a SMALL amount), and sugar alcohol are all things I recognize.  Myself, I think I'll stick with honey for now! But Nectresse would definitely be my second in line! :)

Have you tried any of these? What did you think?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Week in review...

Well that face pretty much sums up my week.  It's been long and not so awesome.  The one day I was looking forward to was Thursday because it was meant to be my day off.  So much for that. After three phone interviews, an impromptu face to face interview and an hour an a half of phone training my day was pretty much shot.   In some happy news though...

I'm now a rep for Deborah Lippmann! I'm super excited about this because I love the brand but I also got this super kit of stuff to try out and see how I like it.  So far I've tried the cuticle remover, oil and hand cream. You can read about my thoughts on them on my other blog BUT if you've followed me on here you'll already know that I always carry these Stripper on the Go mits with me. They literally remove ten fingers of GLITTER polish in one go. Fab.

I also spotted THIS epicness in a store recently. Did anyone else fall totally in love with Rock Hudson as a child? Just look at his ken doll. Isn't it the dreamiest thing? I really, really need this.  Pillow Talk was also my favorite Doris Day/Rock Hudson film.  BUT...at $80 for the set I think I'm just going to keep this picture as a reminder!! :)

This is how Eoghan sleeps in my bed. Sprawled out in the middle...

...and this is how Aoife sleeps. On the pillow. *sigh* I made a 'bed' for Aoife out of an old blanket and she's been reluctantly sleeping on it.  This week I'm buying her a real kitty bed with the hopes that she'll start sleeping on it and retire from our bed. Too much kitty fur. If it works out...Eoghan is next!

I'm still on a smoothie kick. I'm working on trying new things and one of those things is bananas. I really, really dislike bananas. BUT they're good for you and they're pretty cheap and they're easy to use in smoothies because they thicken it up. I managed to eat a whole bunch of them this week. Yay for being a grown up!! This is a banana peanut butter smoothie.  It wasn't my favorite because the banana was really evident BUT it was totally easy. One banana, some ice, a splash of almond milk and two tablespoons of PB2. 

The end of my stressful week was definitely better than the beginning! I thought I was going to have to work the dreaded 4AM Sunday shift this week BUT on the suggestion of a co-worker I texted a friend and he's covering it for me. Win. :) Then near the end of my shift I got a delivery of flowers from my husband. DOUBLE WIN. :) I hope you all had a great week! Do you have big plans for St. Patricks Day?

Monday, March 11, 2013

10 Minute Corn Chowder with Garlic Cashew Cream

This is one of those recipes I make when I'm in between grocery runs! It only has a few ingredients and it's so easy and quick to make.  You can play around with it and add to it as you like but this is the basic recipe.  The cashew cream was something I whipped up as a little extra treat and it's just as good without it.  If you decide you'd like to do the cream you'll need to prep the cashews a day in advance. I normally just have it on hand since it's a great way to add a creamy taste to vegan meals.  On with the recipe!

You'll need:
One can white/gold corn (16oz)
One large potato
One medium onion
2T butter
1/2T Galic Powder
1T Bacon Salt
1t Celery Root Flakes

Chop the potatoes and put them in a pot of salted, boiling water for about ten minutes or until they are soft.  While they're cooking, you can put together the rest of the soup.  Chop the onions and melt the butter in a medium saucepan. I used Earth Balance vegan butter but you can use whatever you normally do.  Add the onions to the butter and cook a few minutes until they begin to soften and look translucent.  Then add the Bacon Salt, Garlic Powder, Celery Root Flakes and the corn.  Cook over medium heat until it's hot (but try not to boil it!) and then transfer the whole thing to a blender and blend until smooth.  Return it to the pot on low heat and add salt and pepper to taste. When the potatoes have softened, drain them and add them to the corn mixture.  Eat. :)  It doesn't get easier than that does it? 

For the thick cashew cream:
Soak 2 cups of whole, shelled, raw cashews in cold water overnight..  Be sure they are fully covered by the water.  After 24 hours, drain them and then add them to a blender.  Pulse while adding in fresh cold water. Add  the water slowly and stop when you reach the consistency desired. A thick cashew cream should have the consistency of whipped cream or soft cream cheese. You can continue to add for a standard cashew cream which can be used in recipes in place of milk or cream.

Note: Some people like to blend the potatoes into the mix so that the whole thing is a smooth puree.  I prefer a little texture to mine so that's why I add the potatoes after but you can do it either way you choose.  I also always use a white/yellow corn mix so that it's a little sweeter.  To make the cashew cream simply mix up the pre-made cashew cream with a bit of garlic to taste and then add to the top. :)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Quick Bites...

Today was a super lazy Sunday!  It was time change here and we lost an hour. That's super lame and it always makes me really tired!!  It was also really nice out for a change which makes the kitties extra lazy!! I mostly stayed in and relaxed.  I also have some really super vegan and vegetarian recipes coming up soon!  But in the mean time, here's a little TASTE of my day!!

I snagged some Garlic Sourdough bread on quick sale at the international market and I made good use of it today!  Breakfast was toasted slices with Irish butter, steak fried mushrooms and two eggs. I learned an amazing egg trick the other day for making your over easy eggs gorgeous like these ones!

I had a mid morning snack of Nutella Banana smoothie. :) Yum and super duper easy.

Lunch was such a throw away. I wasn't feeling super ambitious. I used my bread again but this time I grilled it and then added some fried potatoes, lettuce and cheese and then a little bit of Bacon Salt. Then I had some lentil crackers with Snofrisk and some sliced strawberrys.  I'm really working on adding more fruit to my diet!

For dinner I had this mix of quinoa, kale, onions and mushrooms.  I'm pretty proud of this meal price wise because it was practically free.  The quinoa came in an Eco Emi box, the mushrooms were closeout at the market, the onions and spices I had on hand and the kale was .69.  Win. 

What did you eat today?