I'm sorry if you all are sick of this subject, but I have to tell you:

My complimentary May Little Black Box arrived today, and I am NOT disappointed. On its strength, LBB has pulled slightly ahead of Divalicious in the battle for my sample-box favorite.

The best things (all of which are small giftable except the last one):


  • A pair of antiqued copper dragonfly earrings and a 15% off coupon (in a cute embellished box) from Rose's Eclectic Garden.

  • A 2 oz bottle of pomegranate car freshener spray and a 15% off coupon code (nicely packaged in a linen bag) from Bath and Body Bliss.

  • A really cute recycled glass bottle bud vase from Kitty Hawke.

  • A sample (Possette) of Dark Sweet Crude perfume from Possets.

Other good things:

Duplicates/things I loved less:

This box did what it was supposed to do. Not only did it give me some great treats, but it introduced me to at least three companies I now want to check out (Strawberry Hedgehog, Melissa's Handcrafted Soap, and Intentions). Win!

Kimberlee, you are an excellent business woman. Sending me this free box did indeed get me back on board with LBB. See you next month!!

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Sweet Delight Divalicious Sample Box Review

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Sweet Delight Divalicious Sample Box contentsDid somebody say everything's better from Canada? In this case, they may be right. What you see here is the contents of May's Sweet Delight Divalicious Sample Box--the equivalent, more or less, of the Little Black Box here in the U.S.

The Divalicious box costs $25 Canadian ($21.59 U.S. ATM), shipping included. This seems like an almost unreasonably good price to me, especially since the box I received indicates that the sender paid $11.15 to ship it to me. The LBB is $20 US shipping included, so not a big price difference. One area in which they do differ is that the LBB is a monthly venture, while the Divalicious box is only every other month.

So, how do they compare? You can see my reviews of the past three LBBs here, here, and here. Compare it to:

The contents of the May Sweet Delight Divalicious Box:


  • A gorgeous pair of earrings (somewhat like these) from Risky Beads. Very giftable, though honestly I think I'm going to have to keep them. Also, a free shipping code.

  • A black and white beaded necklace, also giftable, from Roxy's Rox.

  • From The Soap Farm, a package of five small guest soaps and a tube of sport lip balm.

  • A cute iron-on wool felt patch of a bird from East Coast Kitsch.

  • From my much-loved Heaven & Earth Essentials, a sample of White Chocolate Latte Whipped Sugar Scrub, sample of Ailes D'Ange perfume oil, and $5 off coupon code/

  • From Reviyve, a sample of lemon essential oil shower gel, a sample of mineral skin care detox cleansing gel, a sample of brown sugar scrub/mineral mask combo, and a 10% off coupon code.

  • From Handmade Natural Beauty, a tube of strawberry lip balm, a sample cranberry almond lotion bar, and a 10% off coupon code.

  • A full sized bar of milk chocolate soap from Good Enough to Eat Soap. Again, likely giftable.

  • Two lavender soy tea lights and a 20% off coupon code from Kimdles Homemade Soy Candles.

  • A sample bottle of Natural Belly Oil from Natural Creation.

  • From Crystal Lights, two Fuzzy Navel scented tea lights and two Clean Cotton scented tea lights.

  • A Fresh Cut Grass soap sample from Natural Madison.

  • From Agua Cate & Co., four skin care samples: facial exfoliating cream, hydrating facial cream, rejuvenating eye treatment, and soothing facial lotion.

Not a bad haul for $20ish, right? I am particularly jazzed about the really nice earrings, the skin care samples from Agua Cate & Co., and the lavender soy tea lights. All of the packaging was really nice, and there was no worthless extra stuff in the box to piss me off, which was nice.

I am still very excited to receive my complimentary May LBB and see what it has in store for me, but as of right now, Divalicious is the front-runner in this contest. I'm definitely getting on their sale list for July!

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Postcard from vacation

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Do you miss me?

We're having a wonderful vacation. And I am getting all the hot men:

mark and grace

grace and beck

We still have a week left! Talk to you later!

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Why online is better: Sephora

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This weekend, I visited my first brick and mortar Sephora store. I have been ordering from them online for several months, so I was happy to check out the real deal.

Disappointing!

In one way, it was fun--I got to see things and browse in a way that you can't really do online. But it ended up being more expensive than it would have been had I bought it online, or at least I got less for the same amount of money. Observe:

At the store, I purchased the following:
Benefit Silky-Finish Lipstick in Dessert First, $18
Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in 1999, $16
LORAC Eye Shadow/Liner in Midnight Sparkle, $16
Smashbox Photo Finish Light Foundation Primer, $36
Smashbox Bionic Mascara in Jet Black, $19
Subtotal: $105
Tax: $8.66
Total: $113.66

The cashier added one sample to my bag, a small vial of j'adore by Dior fragrance.

Now, what if I had made this same order online?

The subtotal would be the same: $105. There would have been no shipping cost, as shipping is free for orders greater than $50. Then I could have picked three samples from among the ones being offered right now, which include the j'adore I got, but also fragrance samples from Donna Karan, DKNY Men, Yves Saint Laurent, Sean John, Lolita Lempicka, Escada, and Ralph Lauren; as well as a tinted moisturizer sample from Stila, a brow powder sample from Anastasia, a sample of Laura Geller Spackle, and a sample of Kinerase Extreme Face-Lift.

Then I could have used a coupon code. The ones available currently aren't that great (no percentages off), but even right now I could have gotten a DuWop Prime Venom sample; Sephora Brand Birthday Vanilla Cupcake Bath & Shower Bubbles; a sample of Bare Escentuals Buxom Lash Mascara; a travel sized Smashbox Photo Finish Primer; or a DiorShow mini mascara.

I also could have gotten 4% cash back from my purchase via eBates. And added the $100 I spent to my Beauty Points account, which I believe is accumulating to get some kind of free treats.

So...I would have ended up spending 4% less ($100.80 rather than $105), gotten two more small samples of my choice besides the j'adore, and gotten a nice large sample like Dior mascara.

Yep. Going with online from now on.

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April Little Black Box

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April LBBI am sad to say that April's Little Black Box will likely be my last for awhile.

It's not that the contents are bad--in fact, I think it's the most substantial of the three LBBs I have received. But, there are a lot of duplicates, and given that, for me, the whole point is introduction to new products, that is disappointing.

This month's new offerings were:


  • From SBS Teas, a sample of chai tea soap, an almond biscotti tea sachet, a 15% off coupon, and a small Dove chocolate

  • From Pegg Macko Designs, a very cool collage-style thank you card

  • A hairpin decorated with a cloth rosebud and a 10% discount coupon from Kitty Hawke

  • A crocheted face scrubber and a 15% off coupon from Jodi's Craft Emporium (there were two of these from other companies in February's box)

  • A blackberry apple soap sample from The Soap Seduction

  • A lemongrass wax burner melt from Silver City Scentsations

  • A pair of green fused glass earrings and a free shipping coupon from Penny Glass Girl

Duplicates from previous months were:

See my issue?

To answer a question I've had before, I'd say you could get 3-4 small gifts from this sample package. Three of the four pairs of earrings would work as a gift (and the fourth pair, the ones from On Beyond Zebra, would likely work for a child's gift). The Ceylon Tea sugar scrub and Heaven and Earth Essentials products are also big enough samples to give as gifts without feeling cheap.

All in all, though, I'm disappointed. These are small, sample products. If the LBB doesn't introduce me to fabulous new companies, it's not really worth my time or money. So, I think I'll give it a few months before I order again and see if there are new participants on board.

Addendum: After giving it a bit of thought, I emailed this review of the April LBB, as well as my thoughts on the March and February boxes, to the LBB owner, Kimberlee. Kimberlee said that she was sorry I was disappointed and that I may have received a leftover March box by mistake for April, explaining all the duplication. She then asked for my address so that she could send me the May box free of charge. That is excellent customer service, and I couldn't be happier. So, stay tuned--turns out that I will be telling you all about May's offering!

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Pointy faced guest

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Look who picked our yard as a vacation spot?
Our pointy-faced guest

She even brought the kids!
Mama with babies

Mama with babies

For some reason, I am guessing that her run-in with the all-canine welcoming committee is going to convince her to seek a more habitable environment.

At least I hope so. Ew.

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2009 Goal Progress Report, Week 18-19

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Another two-week update. I can't seem to get it together to remember to do these posts every Friday. To keep myself honest, I am going to check in here on all 13 goals:

#1: Read one book per week.
I gave up on Wicked and am about to start another audio book, but I can't remember which one. I'm still reading Under the Banner of Heaven. Slowly. Haven't had much time.

#2: Watch one movie per week.
Watched two movies on DVD--Vera Drake and Oliver Stone's W.. W. was about what I expected--interesting and funny, and good acting by Josh Brolin, but ultimately full of pretty cheap shots. Vera Drake was start-to-finish excellent.

#3: Take at least one overseas trip
Sadly, if this happens in 2009 it is going to have to be towards the end of the year, as we have a packed schedule through September. This may have to roll forward and become a 2010 goal.

#4: Improve my eating habits.
This is where I need to be putting my focus now, but I haven't been, and it is to my detriment. It would definitely be easier if my stress level weren't so high right now.

#5: Exercise regularly.
I am averaging one gym trip a week right now, which is better than 0, but isn't sufficient. This is the other thing I really need to be working on.

#6: Pay off my credit cards.
Check.

#7: Save at least $100/month.
This goal has been amended to $1,000/month. Hasn't happened yet for May, but it will as soon as my next freelance check comes in (should be early next week).

#8: Learn a new craft.
I haven't picked the cross stitch back up in weeks, just due to being busy, but I did order some beautiful silk thread from Ebay that has me wanting to. I'm planning to take stuff with me over vacation (leaving next Thursday!) and hopefully do some of it then.

#9: Journal and blog regularly.
Ug. Journaling is a total fail. I don't even know where the journal is. Blogging I am trying to keep up with, but I'm not getting more than 1-2 decent posts a week right now, which is not enough to feel like I'm meeting this goal. I'm having a lot of blogger's block, where I can't think of anything worth writing about. Who wants to read yet another post about how busy I am or what makeup I like, you know?

#10: Sell our house and move.
This is becoming a reality. Right now, M. and I are trying to decide if we need to apply for a small home equity loan to do the work we need to do on the house before listing it. It's something we've sort of put off deciding until after his defense and our trip, but we should have a decision made and be starting to put a plan into work by the end of this month, with a target move date of late August.

#11: Practice cooking.
Total fail. Haven't even though about it. This one is kind of back-burnered for the summer, I think, since Mark is home during the day and therefore can cook and I am still working overtime.

#12: Make my home more livable.
This has fallen by the wayside for the last few weeks with both Mark and I being so busy, but will come crashing back to priority status as of tonight, since his parents are coming into town tomorrow. Nothing like impending (not)in-laws to make you clean up!

#13: Build my freelance resume.
Nothing less than resounding success here. I am doing freelance grant writing, at a professional level, and have as much work as I can handle right now. I am going to have to make some decisions in the near-mid future about what direction I want to go with this and how dedicated to it I can really be, but right now I am focused on getting much needed experience, and it's happening.

Not a bad show, I don't think.

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Makeup makeup makeup!!

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It has been a bit since I've made a makeup post, and I am still having a good old time playing around with the paint, so I thought we were due for another one.

The biggest lesson I have learned so far is this: expensive makeup really *is* better than the cheap stuff. Goes on better, lasts longer, looks better, doesn't make me break out. There are areas where the cheaper alternative is just fine, but this doesn't seem to be one of them. So I'm focusing mainly on "high end" makeup these days.

Foundation/Tinted Moisturizer
I still don't wear foundation, but I have found a new tinted moisturizer to love. Clinique Moisture Sheer Tint SPF 15 in Neutral. Sheer but complete converage, looks dewy rather than matte, protects me from the sun, and feels good on. It's expensive ($27 a bottle), but I use very little, so the tube should last me at least a few months.

Powder
I have to go with Clinique here, too. Specifically, the Almost Powder Makeup SPF 15 in Light. Used with the tinted moisturizer, it gives me a really natural looking base. It doesn't look like I have a bunch of makeup on, just like I have really nice skin. I also like that it is another layer of SPF. Again, it's not cheap ($22.50 for the compact), but I can't imagine it lasting less than a year.

Blush
I've already told you how much I love Nars' Orgasm, but there now another blush in my makeup tray. It's Lancome's Blush Subtil in Cedar Rose. It's a wonderful super-light formula that looks really natural and actually absorbs oil rather than adding to the issue. I really love the color, too--it is maybe a little ligher than the Orgasm, making me look less flushed and more like I've had a bit of sun. Again, expensive ($29.50), but going to last a long time.

Mascara
I am still not 100% satisifed in the mascara department. On the recommendation of a friend, I am most recently using Lancome's Definicils in Deep Black. It's not bad--better than anything else I've tried--but it's not perfect. I'm still getting clumps and my lashes aren't as stand out as I'd like. I'm not sure it is worth $24 a tube, especially if I am supposed to throw the tube out every 4 months.

The other high-end mascara that has been repeatedly recommended to me is Christian Dior's Diorshow, so I will likely try that next.

Eyeliner/shadow
This is the one area where I haven't yet tried anything high end, but as sensitive as my eyes seem to be, I think I probably ought to. My favorite thing that I have tried is the ColorSticks Eye Crayon by Jane. I'd love to find a higher quality version of that. I love the way it goes on and looks...for about two hours. Then it wears off. Plus I don't love the color selection. Anybody have a recommendation?

Lipstick/lipgloss
I'm still partial to Clinique's Black Honey, but I want something lighter colored for the summer. Since I liked the Buxom Big & Healthy Lip Polish so much, I tried Bare Escentuals' Buxom Babes Diamond Lips collection. I hate it. The colors don't work for me at all, they are far too glittery and sticky, and the applicators are not the same as in the full sized version. Total fail.

I was pleasantly surprised by a sample Lancome sent me of their Color Fever Shine lipstick. The color they sent--Tempt Me--doesn't work for me at all, but I like the way it feels on my lips and the way it's not too shiny or sticky but it's not matte or dry either. So I may try that in another color. It's $25/tube. (Incidentally, they also sent a sample of their Color Design Lip Color in All Done Up, and it was truly horrendous--made me look about 90. Mauve is just a no.)

The other thing I need to find is some decent brushes that aren't incredibly expensive. I'd just need a powder blush and a blush brush. The ones I have are leaving little synthetic fibers all over my face, and it's irritating.

As a (probably comical) "frugal" end note to this extremely silly post, I have to recommend that you NEVER pay full price for makeup. There is always a discount code for Sephora, beauty.com, Lancome, Clinique, etc. Wait until you see a good one. Never pay for shipping, always get lots of free samples. Also, use Ebates. Sephora in particular gives like 8-9% back, I think. If you are going to be spending cash on this stuff, might as well make it as little as possible. Still going to be more than drugstore makeup, but if I'm going to put stuff on my face all day most days, I think it's worth paying more.

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Date night!

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Mark and Grace on date nightI haven't told you this yet, but Mark turned in his dissertation last week. He still has to do his oral defense (a week from tomorrow), but he's more or less done. In celebration of that fact, we went to a very nice dinner last night at a local restaurant, Zoot. Aren't we cute? Our sweet neighbor, Mary, took a few pictures of us before we left.

The menu at Zoot was very nice. I actually thought it looked a little bit tame when reading it, but the execution of every single thing we had was so good that really, I think the menu is just understated. The room is comfortable and casual and they have a great outdoor space. The waitstaff was wonderful--very friendly, and our waitress brought Mark a free glass of wine after she saw me "reprimanding" him for stealing too much of mine. If you live in central Austin, Zoot is pretty far out (it's on Bee Caves), but it is a nice drive and really lovely out there.

For the curious, this is what we had:
First Course
Mark: Charcuterie and chicken liver pate with chopped tapenade and tarragon mustard
Adami "Garbel" Prosecco, Colbertado, Italy
Me: Grilled curry stuffed quail with pickled mango salad
2006 Domaine Adele Rouze, Loire Valley

Second Course
Mark: Chilled fennel soup
Me: Spinach salad with spicy fried garbanzo beans, marinated pequillo peppers, and sherry vinagrette
2006 Chateau Benoit, Muller Thurgau, Oregon

Third Course
Mark: Grilled ahi with potatoes dauphine, frisse, green beans, and poached egg
Light Oregon pinot noir
Me: Rack of lamb with sweet potato and purple potato gratin and garlic mustard greens
Heavy Oregon pinot noir

Dessert
We split honey cheesecake with burnt sugar and gingerbread crust and lemon-thyme sauce
Coffee

While everything was great, the standouts for me were my curry stuffed quail and the Oregno pinot I had, which I cannot for the life of me remember the name of (that was the wine of which our waitress so kindly brought us an extra glass). The lamb was also prepared perfectly. The ony things I didn't care for were my greens (and that's just a matter of taste--Mark loved them) and the cheesecake crust (same thing). There were really no weak spots in the service or the food.

Another boon was a tip I got to go over to restaurant.com and pick up a gift certificate to cover part of the meal. I paid $5 ($10 with a 50% off code of MOTHER) for a $25 certificate, printed it out from my home printer, and used it with absolutely no issues. $20 off the meal with very very little trouble. As several of our other favorite restaurants locally are listed on the site as well, it's definitely something I will use again.

All in all, it was a really lovely date night. If you are local, I definitely recommend Zoot. Also, for vegetarians, there is a veggie tasting menu, called the "Farmer's Menu," that sounds fantastic.

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An open letter to President Obama

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Dear Mr. President,

I know it is early in your administration to be asking you for favors, and up until now I have done my very best not to expect too much from you. You've inherited quite the mess, and the last few months have only added to it. Though I haven't agreed with everything you've done so far, I've understood why you did most of it, and have been trying very hard to remain hopeful and keep my desires to myself.

However, I heard some news this morning that forces me to break my silence and ask you to prove your advocates right and your detractors wrong in a decision you will soon be making.

Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter is retiring in June. This leaves a vacancy on the court for you to fill. Of all of the many decisions you will make during your presidency, this will likely be one of the most important and long-lasting. As a law professor, I'm sure you know just how vital it is not to mess this one up.

You'll be getting a lot of advice, from all sides, about how to best fill this position. You'll hear calls to be bipartisan (ignore them). You'll be hearing about the importance of a justice who will support X or Y reading of the constitution. You'll have a team to vet the credientials of any possible candidates. It will all be very complicated.

In comparison, what I am going to ask you to do is simple. There is only one criterion by which I don't trust you to choose the next justice, and it is that criterion I must insist you fill.

The next justice has to be a woman.

There are nine justice on the court. One of them shares the gender of half of the country's population. Over the entire history of the Court, there have been 110 justices; 2 have been women. It is far past time for the highest court in the land to better represent us.

As the country's first Black president, you know a little something about the importance of minority representation in goverment. As the man who defeated the most serious female presidential contender in our history, you know a little something about the importance of gender representation in goverment.

I am hoping that means you get it--you understand the importance, both symbolic and literal, of putting a woman on the court. And I'm expecting you to get it. I helped get you elected. So far, I am not at all sorry I did so. However, if you make some lame excuse about identity politics and appoint yet another man to fill this position, we are going to have a serious problem.

Your hopeful contituent,

Grace

P.S. If you are interested, you can read the post I wrote the last time I was failed on this issue.

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