Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Subscription Services - monthly goody boxes

One of the best things about not having children is that you have spare money (that the rest of you have to spend on your lovely children) to spend on yourself. Recently, I used some of that money to try out some monthly subscription services. I decided to just subscribe, and then pair down based upon my experiences.

I have already written about a few boxes . . . (specificially Birchbox, Umba - here and here, and Blissmo Box.) I thought that rather than continue to write about them monthly, I'd photograph a few boxes and do a side by side comparison to give you a better feel for what service offers what.

I'll start with a couple of boxes I have elected not to continue . . . First, the Whimsey Box. This is a $15 per month service. Below are the March and April boxes.

Something I liked is that the boxes sent are wonderful reusable storage boxes. 

This box included an Elmer's Glue stick, Scrapbook paper, two Sharpies, lace trim, and magnets (in the plastic pouch.) 

The April box included Americana paint, two American stencils, and stencil brushes, a 4" x 4" canvas, and yarn.

While the products in the Whimsey Box were all good quality, I just felt they were too random for me. There are many online challenges to make projects with the items in each box, but that is really not where I'm at in my creative journey, and the items were a bit too basic for my skill set to feel challenging. (I don't mean that to be arrogant - I just already have tons of Sharpie markers, and Stencil brushes, and paint . . . so these aren't new items to me as they may be to some people.)

I would recommend the Whimsey Boxes to anyone who is a new crafter, or wants to expand their crafting experience to try new things.

The next box I have cancelled is Umba Box. The cost of this service is $26. per month.

I received some interesting items through this service - and they were often things I liked, but rarely anything I needed. Above is the April 2012 box that featured a Tea Towel by Kristina of Tina Produce, Fleur de Sel Caramel's by Nicole of the Caramel Jar (unbelievably delicious, btw), and a letterpressed notebook by Kim of Paper Lovely.

What I liked about the service was reading the stories of the artists, and how they came to create their products. In the end, however, because I usually gave the items away, or had no use for them, it was just not worth the cost to me.

I also tried, and cancelled, Beauty Box 5. This is a $12. per month service.

This month my Box included:
• Freeman Beauty Facial Scrub in Pink Grapefruit
• Supergoop Sunscreen Wipe SPF
• pur-lisse Daily Moisturizer Normal/Dry skin tone
• LA Fresh Waterproof Makeup Remover wipe• True Natural: Advance Lift & Firm Serum

First, these are all good brands, and good products. Ultimately, I just felt like the size of the samples, and the range of products was not worth the cost of the box. I think I have been spoiled by some of the other services that offer much better value.

Now, onto boxes I continue to receive . . . Blissmobox. This box costs $19.00 plus $3 shipping, per month. Below are two boxes I received in March and April.  The top box is the March, Spring into Beauty box.

This box included Olie Biologique Argon Oil, Neutragena NaturalsNight Cream, and Lauren Brook Organic Lip Scrub.

The April box included Dermae Tropical Solutions Anti-aging Eye Cream,  Episencial's Soothing cream, SanRe Organic Skincare 100% Organic ChocolateLips Moisturizer, and Wembe Loofah Soap.

Overall, the Blissmo boxes tend to include about $25.00 - $30.00 in value, but what is equally important, is that they include products that are of interest to me. I often find products in it that I use on a daily basis, but if I can't I can always find someone to give it to, because the products are good quality.

Another favorite box is Birchbox. Birchbox is just $10 per month, and is arguably the best value in subscription boxes available. Below are the March/April boxes. The March box was curated by Teen Vogue, and contained a fun group of products, including:

Essie Luxeffects glittery nail polish, Kate Spade New York Twirl fragrance sample, Kerastase Elixir Ultime (hair oil), and a fun Twistband hair tie.

The April box included Harvey Prince Yogini fragrance, Juice Beauty Oil-free Moisturizer, Wei Black Soy Instant Lifting Face Treatment Pad, and Zoya nail polish. 

Next is the Sample Society, in association with Allure Magazine. This service is $15.00 per month. 

The March box included Ren Glycolactic Skin Renewal Peel Mask, Oscar de la Renta Esprit d’Oscar Eau de Parfum Deluxe Mini Roller Ball, Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant, Fekkai Advanced Glossing Cream, and Skyn Iceland Icelandic Relief Eye Pen. With the exception of the perfume (which I am very strange about), I have used and enjoy every one of thee products!

Each box also includes a $15.00 gift code against a $50.00 purchase of any full size product from the web site.

The April Box included Oscar Blandi Jamine Oil Serum, Boscia Purifying Cleansing Gel, DDF Amplifying Elixir, Myrad Hybrids Skin-Perfecting Primer (for acne and shine control), and By Terry Creme de Rose. Again, I love every product in the box. 

Each box includes a small bound booklet with information on products, and tips on specific beauty needs from Allure magazine.

Next, is the Julep Maven program. Julep allows you to try the program for just a penny, so it is worth the risk! The monthly cost (after your first box) is $19.99. Each box includes at least two polishes, plus other products. 

I am something of a nail polish junky . . . more on that later . . . so getting polish in the mail every month is great fun to me! Once you are a member, you also get 20% off all products plus free shipping in the Maven Boutique. 

When you start, you take a style profile that tells them what colors to send you, etc. I am impressed with the quality of the polish, as well as the other products. It isn't inexpensive, but, for now, I'm really enjoying it!

The New Beauty Testtube, The Ultimate Product Sampling Program is the most expensive subscription service I tried, at $29.95 (plus shipping), but the box only goes out four times a year. This box includes deluxe and full-size product samples.

This Moroccan Oil is a great product, and a good example of the full-size samples.

Included with the box is a full size beauty magazine focusing on products, and this magazine style book explaining each product, the brand, and how it is used. By far, it is the most information sent out of any of the sampling programs.

I'm on the fence as to how long I will stay with this program. I like being sent full-size products to test, and I am pleased with the quality of the brands I've been sent, but it is a lot of money.

I have tried two other boxes, that I did not photograph. The first is The Look Bag. It is $10 per month. I have only received it for one month, and although the site says I have a recurring account, I was not charged for May or June's boxes, and I did not receive them. The site only has a phone number for customer service. I barely have time to deal with my own business calls during other business' hours, so calling them is probably not going to happen! 

Finally, I have recently tried GlossyBox USA. This has been a hugely popular program in the UK, and just opened to US participants. It is $21.00 per month. I have just received my first box, which included Amore Pacific Moisture Bound Refreshing Hydra Gel, Burberry Beauty Lip Mist Natural Sheer Lipstick (Copper), Marvis Whitening Toothpaste, Phyto Hydrating Mask for Dry Hair, and Zoya nail polish. With the exception of the nail polish, all of the samples were smaller than full size, and are European brands. 

What I liked is that the products are one's that I would not normally try, because they aren't necessarily sold locally (with the exception of the nail polish, obviously), but I'm not sure about the value. I will give the box another month to decide whether I will continue it.

So, that's my review of the subscription kits. Are there any out there I haven't mentioned? There are a few that I haven't tried - but mostly because many of the services have a lot of negative press on the internet. What I look for in the boxes is a value greater than what I'm paying, products I will actually use, and exposure to new products that I might not come into contact with at my usual stores. YMMV.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Living Room Redo

Last October, I moved to a guest house on my sister's property, after my Brother-in-law passed away unexpectedly. Prior to my moving in, it had been used as a guest house (hence the name), and had been decorated for family visits. Since that time, I have been decorating it with a combination of my things, and things that were already in the house. Here are some photos from the before / after.



I used the same coffee table and side table in the room, but I painted them cream to brighten up the room. In previous posts, I have shown painting the lamps, and creating the lamp shades. Both chairs, and the rug, came from The couch/daybed is from Ballard Designs in weathered white.

For the sake of truth . . . this is what the couch usually looks like. Jake and Talullah think it belongs to them.

This house doesn't really have an "entry", but I wanted to create a space where visitors could hang coats . . . 

The monogram piece is from this shop on Etsy. I simply spray-painted it Robin's Egg Blue, and tied a ribbon to it. I originally bought it for my door, but I found that I like it hanging there!

The suitcase on the bottom holds all my candles, and tarts. (Love me some Scentsy!) I bought an old gray suitcase on eBay and spray painted it the same color as the  monogram. I added the chandelier and swirl designs using white vinyl and my Silhouette Cameo. I have a love/hate relationship with the Cameo, as I find that  it often doesn't cut the piece all the way through, or the piece becomes skewed while I'm cutting. I am sure that is is user error, but I've yet to find the answer to my issues. The worst part, is that you have to ruin so much vinyl while trying to figure it all out!

This shows the hardware on the suitcase taped off for painting. Just remove the tape once the paint is dry, and that's it!

If you look at the mantel on the original photo, you will see that I've kept the cross and the center candle holder from the original house. I have actually painted the candle holder cream since this photo was taken. I have flameless candles on timers to come on in the evening. I'm surprised how much I enjoy those flameless candles!

You might recognize the wreath from this post.

This is the before on the wall with the TV . . .

And here is the after . . . 

This wall has been a challenge . . . and I'm not sure I'm done . . .but here is how it came together so far . . .

Originally, I purchased the fireplace for the wall, but as I was ordering, I got confused and ordered the wrong one. (This is what happens when you decide to order something at 3 AM.) It was clearly way too small for the wall, and for the TV. This wall is very narrow, so I didn't have a lot of room to work with. At this angle, the pieces on the end look wider than the wall, but actually they line up perfectly.

The two towers on the outside were white linen towers (meant for a bathroom), that I found on Amazon for less than $100 each. Because they were white, I had to paint them cream to match the fireplace, but since they came unassembled, it was easy to do. You can see, if you look carefully, that I painted the back of the bottom cabinet the same Robin's Egg blue color that I've used on other pieces in the room.
I found the dress picture at Kirklands in OKC. Because the room has cathedral ceilings on that side, I am thinking about adding more art to draw the eye up the wall.

The only wall I have yet to redo is this one . . . This rolltop table came in the house, and I've not moved it.

I recently found these wings, and I'm thinking about centering the roll-top on the wall and using the wings over it . .. stay tuned for more on that! 

 Sorry I've been MIA lately. The good news is that I have lots of new things to share!


shabby creek cottage
Funky Junk's Sat Nite Special

The Shabby Nest