Sunday, December 29, 2013

Soy Protein Review

I am by no means a fitness guru, but I do consider myself to be fitness-aware.  While I don't always make the best choices as far as food, I know that protein is an important part of a balanced diet because it provides satiety, promotes a healthy immune system, and helps with muscle building.  Soy is a great source of protein and it's not only for those with meatless diets!

An on-the-go lifestyle may not always lead itself to having time to prepare protein-based meals, but the four soy bars that I am reviewing today are a great option for anyone to throw in their bag and take with them.  Soy protein is plant-based and boasts many health benefits.  I already mentioned promoting muscle growth, and it can also help preserve lean body mass during weight loss.  A blend of soy, whey, and casein may also prolong muscle building after exercise and increase recovery time, compared to whey alone.

The first two options are from Nogii, gluten-free bars by Elisabeth Hasselback.  I tried the "Nuts About Berries" and "Chocolate Coconut," both of which were very good.  The Nuts About Berries was a paleo bar and my favorite of the four I sampled.  It reminded me of eating a natural fruit snack and was packed with flavor (I could pick out strawberry the most).  The Chocolate Coconut bar had a high-protein formula and tasted just like a chocolate candy bar.  I would love to take both of these flavors with me to work to eat as quick breakfasts.

I also tried the iSatori Eat Smart bar in "Chocolate Peanut Caramel Crunch" and the Now Energy Bar in "White Chocolate, Fruit, and Nut."  Sometimes with soy-based bars I find that they have a grainy texture, but that was definitely not the case with these.  The Eat Smart bar was coated in chocolate and was really delicious.  It didn't have that "health food" taste at all.  The Now Energy Bar most resembled a granola bar of the four, and the white chocolate flavor was light but very good.

I also received this "Powered by Soy Protein" exercise kit, complete with a pedometer, jump rope, and hand grip.  The pedometer will be put to good use, as will the jump rope.  The hand grip is new to me, but I'm willing to give it a try!

Bottom Line: These bars have me convinced that soy is a viable and delicious form of protein.  Each had a distinctive flavor that I really enjoyed, and I would encourage everyone who is looking to power their lifestyle in a healthy way to give any of these four bars a try!

*Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Coyne PR.

See more photos of the bars after the "read more."

Friday, December 27, 2013

Zoya Tomoko Giveaway!

I have an extra bottle of Zoya Tomoko and I wanted to do a post-holidays giveaway since I haven't had one in a while.  This gorgeous shade is from the Fall 2013 Pixie Dust collection and is a Zoya fan favorite!

Zoya is my favorite nail polish brand because they're Big 5 free, vegan-friendly, and cruelty-free.  They're also just an amazing polish!  The formula is made for the natural nail, and it's the smoothest and most long-wearing polish I've ever used.  The Pixie Dust polishes are textured, but if you use them with a base coat (especially Zoya's Anchor) they remove pretty easily.  Tomoko is a beautiful light gold, and I know whoever wins her will love her!

This sweepstakes begins today, 27 December 2013, and ends on 10 January 2014 at 12:00 AM EST.  Entrants must be US residents aged 18+.  See Terms & Conditions at the bottom of the Rafflecopter for full rules and details.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.

New Tie Subscription: Root Bizzle!

Root Bizzle is a new monthly tip subscription service that will help you to sharpen your style.  They have a variety of ties to choose from and will ship them straight to your door for only $25 a month.

Root Bizzle has a direct relationship with a century-old tie manufacturer, resulting in you receiving a great price on a 100% silk, Italian-designed necktie.  A tie collector is known as a Grabatologist, and you can easily become one with Root Bizzle's service!

They offer Business, Whimsical, and Skinny ties.  The Business ties are 3 1/4" width, 100% silk, with wovens and prints in traditional designs and colors that pair well with classic dress shirts.  The Whimsical ties are the same width as the Business kinds, but have digital prints with a casual and relaxed attitude.  The Skinny ties are for the youthful and fashion-conscious, with a 2 3/4-3" width, fashion colors and designs, and youthful fabrications (knits, wovens, prints).  They pair well with dress and sport shirts, as well as fitted suits and sport coats.

Singing up with Root Bizzle is easy: just choose your desired size (58 or 63") and style, give them your address, and complete your payment.  Ties are shipped on or around the 15th of each month and arrive via USPS.
  • Use code Grabatologist for 50% off your first month!
Bottom Line: Root Bizzle is a great service for fashion-conscious guys who want to have nice ties but aren't as into shopping for them.  With many styles to choose from and high-quality manufacturing, the $25 a month price is a steal!

*Disclaimer: This post was written for Root Bizzle.  No monetary or product compensation was received.  Post contains affiliate links.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

December Square Hue Review

The last Square Hue box received was March's O'Hue Collection, and then after that box I put my subscription on hold.  I was very impressed by Square Hue's polishes, I just have so many already that I figured I would only choose to receive a box every few months or so.

Quite a bit of time has passed since March, but I decided to finally reactive my subscription with December's collection because it was New York City-themed.  I live in Western NY, but I've always wanted to live in NYC.  I figured I'd love whatever colors they included, and I was hoping for some dark, vampy polishes for winter.  What was actually sent was only so-so, but I still enjoy Square Hue because their polishes are cruelty-free, big-3 free, and a portion of their proceeds are donated to charity.

Each collection contains three .50 oz bottles, which is the same size as most other nail polishes you'd find in stores.  Square Hue's polishes have a great formula: they glide on very smoothly and are usually opaque after two coats.  This month's colors were as follows:

  • Broadway, a sheer pearl shade that I feel looks best over another polish.  This one was just a little bit streaky upon application for me.
  • Times Square, a gorgeous silver holo -- my favorite of the bunch!
  • Fifth Avenue, a classic red creme.

To be completely honest, I didn't love this collection as much as I was hoping I would.  I love Times Square, but the other two are underwhelming to me.  I don't care for Broadway at all, and I already have a bunch of reds so I didn't need another like Fifth Avenue.  But that is the chance you take with Square Hue, since you never know what the colors are going to be.  I still really like this subscription a lot and will ship another box in the future, and I'll probably either swap Broadway and Fifth Avenue or give them to a friend.

Bottom Line: If you're a nail polish addict like me, I definitely recommend Square Hue.  If you're okay with not knowing what shades you're going to receive ahead of time, I think you'll be very happy with the formula and quality of these polishes.  For more information on how the subscription works, please check out my first review.

*Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Les Cinq Amandes Review

Les Cinq Amandes creates special candy for sweet celebrations, and I was lucky enough to review some of their most delicious treats!

Les Cinq Amandes came to be in 2007, but the creators have been making candies for their friends and family since 1988.  The business is operated by three generations of women, and they aim to cultivate what they call "the art of the five senses" with their confections.  The shapes, colors, textures, and flavors of all of their creations join together for one unforgettable experience!

The English translation of "Les Cinq Amandes" is "The Five Almonds."  In the mid-17th century, European aristocrats celebrating weddings and other special occasions would offer their guests five confectionery almonds, which symbolized wishes for happiness, health, wealth, longevity, and fertility.  Today, Les Cinq Amandes is continuing that tradition with their innovative flavors and colorful dragées.

Originally I thought that I would be reviewing the dragées only, since Les Cinq Amandes requested that those reviewing send them a color palette preference for a custom baguette.  I chose Purple, French Blue, and Light Green because I've always liked how the colors looked together.  The dragées I received were entirely chocolate, which I prefer over the almond variety.  The chocolate tasted like dark chocolate to me, and the candy shells had a nice crunch.  I thought these were really great to snack on!

I was pleasantly surprised to find a variety of other treats in my package, including the caramels and other dragées pictured above.  The caramel candies are called a Cupidon, and they were definitely my favorite of the bunch!  The darker ones had more of a chocolate flavor, while the lighter ones had a wonderfully rich and milky caramel flavor.  Both were absolutely delicious.  The little green candies I can only assume are other varieties of dragées.  I think the bigger ones are the Almond Mondes, and the smaller ones may be the Petite Pistachios?  Les Cinq Amandes did include an informational brochure with my package, but I can't find it at the moment so it may have had the names of the items on it.

When I opened up this pretty little box I was so excited to find that it contained a Tiramisu Seduction mix, because tiramisu is one of my all-time favorite desserts!  The description on the website states that they smaller pieces are crunchy praline covered in dark chocolate, but some of the pieces were also more oblong, so I'm not sure if they had a different flavor or not.  It all kind of tasted the same (but delicious) to me.
  • Check out the Les Cinq Amandes website to view their full line of candies
  • Use coupon code HOLIDAY10 for 10% off of your entire order!
  • Connect with Les Cinq Amandes on Facebook and Twitter
Bottom Line: Les Cinq Amandes offers exquisite chocolates and treats for any occasion and I highly recommend checking them out.  I was very pleased with all of the candies I sampled, and I love that there are so many options for customization available.

*Disclaimer: This post is powered by Brand Backer.  I received no monetary compensation.

More photos can be viewed after the "read more!"

Monday, December 16, 2013

December Little Black Bag Review

There once was a time when I was buying a Little Black Bag every month, sometimes more than one a month, but those days are long gone.  Now I only open if there's a bag I must have, and even then I hesitate because the site is just not what it used to be.  But no one wants to read about my gripes, especially because they're the same ones that most other frequent users of the site have.  Anyway, I did open a bag for December and I'm really happy with what I got.

All together this LBB cost me $93.17, which is way more than I have ever spent on that site.  The reason why I was so happy with my items and why it cost so much was because I added three items to my bag outright instead of trying to trade for them, which is not something I do often.  But hey, I worked hard for my Christmas bonus and I wanted to treat myself!

The item I opened with was the Deux Lux Luna Tote ($140) in black, and the bundle cost $55.90 after shipping.  It's no secret that I'm obsessed with Deux Lux, and I've gained an appreciation for sequins from the brand.  I liked that this tote was fun and sparkly but not overly-obnoxious.  It's a large tote (19" x 7" x 15"), so it's perfect for carrying all of my miscellaneous things to and from work.  I'm also going to use it when I go out of town on the weekends to see my boyfriend.  I have a bunch of Deux Lux's smaller totes, but I'm glad I was able to snag this large one.  It was getting a lot of great offers (I originally opened with the purple one), but I wasn't ready to trade it for anything.

Next up is the Steve Madden Basket Weave Infinity Scarf ($32).  I opened my bag during the "buy a bag, get a bag free promo," knowing full well that I was going to get one of the hideous bags that LBB was desperate to get rid of (it ended up being the Big Buddha Heylon Tote, in all its blue faux-snakeskin glory), but I was okay with that because I figured I could trade down for something I really wanted.  Luckily I was able to get this scarf, which is really pretty in person.  It's a bit poufy, but I just twist it a bit when I wear it so it protrudes less.

I had had my eye on the ncLA Dead End Gorgeous ($16) nail polish for a while but hadn't been successful in trading for it, but at the very end of my trading period someone accepted my offer of a Cargo eyeshadow.  I was a bit disappointed with it once I got it, though, because it's a bit too dark for me.  I would have preferred if the glitter was more apparent without light shining directly on it.  I think I'm going to end up trading this to someone in the LBB Traders group for a different cosmetic item.

I love this Nutcracker Designs Brown Frosted Leaf Candleholder ($14)!  I actually haven't burned anything in it yet, but I think it'll end up giving off a beautiful effect, what with the shiny interior.  It's bigger than I envisioned, and it's the perfect size for one of my many Bath & Body Works mini candles to fit inside.

And now for the add-to-bag items...first up is the Mata Traders Gatsby Necklace ($28), which I added for $6.09.  This was another item I loved but was never able to trade for, so when LBB put a bunch of items on sale for Black Friday I quickly snatched it up.  I couldn't argue with the cheap price, and I'm glad I bought it because it's really beautiful in person.  Mata Traders makes great jewelry, and I love them even more because they're a fair-trade company.

I also added the Deux Lux Glitter Empire Card Case ($35) for no reason other than I really wanted it.  It cost me $15.74 to add, and I didn't think that was too outrageous of a price at all.  I was previously keeping a Vera Bradley 3-in-1 Wristlet in my purse for when I wanted to go somewhere and just take my license and debit cards, but it was too large at times and I wanted something smaller.  This is perfect for the job, and I love the spike on it!

My last item was the Goose Creek Candle Co Glass Pumpkin Candle ($24), which cost me $15.44 to add to my bag.  I love all things pumpkin and I'm also a candle hoarder, so I really wanted to get my hands on one of the Goose Creek pumpkin candles (either this one or the large jar that wasn't shaped like a pumpkin).  This popped back into the gallery toward the ending of my trading period and I snatched it up.  It smells delicious and the jar is really pretty.  It's also a hefty candle at 26 oz, so it will last me quite a while.

Bottom Line: I think that if you really want a few specific things from the LBB gallery, it's best to open with a single item and then just add the other things you want to your bag (that is, if your budget allows).  It's not something I often do, but I had a little extra money this time around so it was less frustrating to just add to bag instead of trying to trade.  I wish LBB could be like it used to be, but unfortunately I don't think those days will ever return.  Either way, it can still be a good deal if there's something on the site that you really want!

*Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.

Check out a few more photos of my items after the "read more."

Sunday, December 15, 2013

December Birchbox Review

I always take a peek on the Birchbox website before I get my box to see what the contents will be, and when I looked for this month I wasn't sure how I felt about the assortment.  After receiving the box, though, I'm happy with what I got!

December's theme was Holiday 2013, appropriately so.  The informational card talks about celebration, being around family, and the overall excitement of the season.  I usually don't see a huge correlation between the themes and the products in my boxes, but that doesn't bother me.  I like that they made an extra effort to make this month's packaging fun and festive (see more photos at the end of the post).

  • Emily's Chocolates Milk Chocolate Fortune Cookies ($1.19) - This was my lifestyle extra for the month and it was really yummy.  I saw some other reviews where people received treats that I 'd want to try more than these cookies, but it was still a fun extra and I'm all about anything chocolate!
  • Number 4 Non Aerosol Hairspray ($4.50) - This is the product I liked least this month, but simply because I don't use hairspray.  The reviews on the Birchbox site are positive, and I like that this is vegan and environmentally-friendly, but I probably won't use it often.
  • Birchbox Digimate (value unknown) - This was included to celebrate the launch of the Birchbox app.  It sticks to the back of your phone and can be removed to clean the screen.  I'm obsessive about having a clean phone screen, so I'll put this to good use.

  • BeeKind Body Lotion ($1.80) - Another thing I'm obsessive about is moisturizing, especially in the winter.  I hate having dry hands so I always have a travel-sized lotion with me, and I'm always happy to have more.  This one has a lemon-y scent that smells wonderful, and the texture is nice and smooth.  A portion of the proceeds supports honey bee and sustainable pollination research, which is also really cool.
  • Secret Agent Beauty Nourishing & Plumping Lip Gloss (value unknown) - I'm not sure of the value on this because there's no weight listed on the tube, but a full-sized gloss retails for $18.  I have a ton of lip glosses, but I was really interested in trying this one because I've seen them on Little Black Bag but I was never able to trade for one.  The shade is Foreign Intelligence Flirt, a pink/mauve that's very flattering.  My favorite aspect is that it contains peppermint, so you get that refreshing tingly feeling upon application.
  • betty&ko The Betty Polish (value unknown) - I didn't even know what this sample was until I looked at the informational card because it has absolutely zero markings on the container.  A full-sized polish retails for $65 and contains 3.4 oz, so this sample probably has a decent value.  I haven't tried this yet, but it has a warm vanilla scent that I love.  I'll probably use it once a week or so for facial exfoliation.

Bottom Line: I'm not sure of the total value of my box this month, but I'm sure it was more than the $10.80 I paid to receive it.  I haven't yet gotten a Birchbox that I didn't enjoy since I resubscribed, and I'm really happy that they're including a better variety of samples for me.

*Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.

More photos after the "read more!"

Friday, December 13, 2013

STEAMCREAM Thalia Tin Review

Last month I reviewed the STEAMCREAM Noir tin, which I absolutely loved, so when I was offered another tin to review I was more than happy to oblige!

STEAMCREAM is a handmade, all-in-one vegan moisturizer from the UK.  They use a unique steam process that fuses the ingredients together, resulting in a product that doesn't just sit on top of your skin, but really absorbs to deeply moisturize.  It can be used on the face or the body, and is gentle enough to use on infants as well.  I use this mainly on my face after cleansing in the morning and night because I how light the texture is.  I have sensitive but oily skin, and STEAMCREAM moisturizes without irritating my skin or exacerbating my sebum problem.

I love that STEAMCREAM is vegan, cruelty-free, and made with natural ingredients; but I also love that the cream comes in limited edition tins in a variety of designs!  The Thalia tin, as you can see, is red and white with a flower pattern.  Some of the designs that are currently in their design gallery that I also like are the "Light From Space," "Eau De Vie," and "Suruga."  There are tons of designs to choose from, but once they're sold out they're gone for good, so be sure to grab the ones you like!

Bottom Line: Part of the allure of STEAMCREAM for me is that they're packaged in so many fun designs, but I also really love that it's a potent, effective product that's cruelty-free and vegan.  They're a great stocking stuffer for the holidays!

*Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post.  I received no monetary compensation.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Studio Gear Cosmetics Holiday Smokey Eye Palette Review and Swatches

The Studio Gear Cosmetics brand was new to me prior to this review.  I was interested in reviewing their Holiday Smokey Eye Palette because I thought the eyeshadow shades were really pretty, and I had read good things about them from other reviews.

The palette's packaging consists simply of an outer sleeve, pictured above.  The actual palette cover is a simple black, white, and gray, which I was actually a little disappointed in.  Overall the packaging isn't too big of a deal to me, but I think it would have been fun if they kept the design consistent with the bokeh lighting on the outer sleeve, especially for a holiday product.

The palette contains four eyeshadows and one blush, which could also double as an eyeshadow if you wanted it to.  The shades are (going clockwise from top left): Platinum, Frost, Glimmer, and Coal, and the blush is Snowy Glow.  Well, at least, that's how they're listed on the inner flap (pictured below).  I think this is mislabeled, though, and that the order should actually be: Platinum, Coal, Glimmer, and Frost.  This caused me a brief moment of confusion when trying to recreate the look they have on the inner flap, but I'm pretty certain I'm correct in thinking that it was mislabeled.

I think this look is perfect for a holiday party, or really for any night out.  It's a little too dark for my work routine, but I had fun playing around with the different shadows when trying to recreate this.  My eyes are monolids, so shading in the crease doesn't work quite as well for me, but I can definitely adapt it to fit my eye shape.

Here are swatches of the eyeshadows without primer (I neglected to swatch the blush, sorry!).  As you can see, they aren't very pigmented, which I found to be very disappointing.  Their texture was very chalky, and I had to build up the swatches with three or four swipes of the shadow.  Applying these with my brushes was almost pointless since they barely picked up any color.  Applying them with my fingers worked better for pigmentation, but then of course you lose the precision of a brush.  Overall, I was not pleased with these shadows.

  • Purchase a Holiday Smokey Eye Palette on the Studio Gear website (currently on sale for $25).  Use code SGHOLIDAY for 10% off; this coupon never expires.
  • The palette will also be available at select ULTA locations starting this month!
  • Enter the Studio Gear Cosmetics "Holiday Hottie" contest to win even more free makeup!

Bottom Line: I wouldn't say I loved this palette, but I wouldn't completely disregard it, either.  I think it's a good starter palette for people who are just getting into makeup, and it has fun colors to play around with.  I do wish that the shadows had a smoother texture and more pigmentation.

*Disclaimer: This post is powered by BrandBacker

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cruelty-Free Holiday Shopping With The Leaping Bunny!

I love how easy online shopping is, but I like to get the best deals and sometimes it can be too tedious to hunt around a bunch of different places to try to find that one perfect gift.  Luckily, Leaping Bunny puts together a list of fantastic sales around this time each year, making it easy to find tons of cruelty-free specials!

Their list of 93 different cruelty-free (and many all-natural, organic, and vegan) brands contains coupons for everything from free shipping to percentages off to free gifts with purchase.  Some of my favorites on the list include Andalou Naturals, Keeki Pure and Simple, and and Stark Skincare (to name just a few).

This guide is a great way to take advantage of holiday deals while supporting fantastic cruelty-free companies!

*Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cyber Monday Deal: Free Wantable Box!

Now through Tuesday, 12/3 at 6pm CST, new subscribers to Wantable will get their second box free!  Your account will automatically be credited with $36 after you subscribe, so no coupon code is necessary.  The credit may take up to three business days to appear, so don't panic if you don't see it right away.

This offer is valid on Wantable's makeup, intimates, accessories, and holiday boxes.  If you purchase the specialty holiday box, your free box (and all boxes thereafter) will be a makeup box.  I think this is a great deal, as I was very impressed with the Wantable Makeup Box I received in October (click here for the review).

  • Click here to take advantage of this free box deal!

*Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post.  Post contains referral links.