Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 2015: Month in Review (Hits and Misses)

As we did last month, I wanted to do a review of the hits and misses for subscription boxes for February. There were utter disasters again, as well as lots of amazing arrivals and new subscriptions.


As I did in January, I think it's better to start with the constructive so you can end on a positive note. Some of these are seriously bad and others were just not fits for me personally, although sadly I have to say I've seen less of just meh items than outright terrible business this month. I have noticed that you can get a fairly good sense of the quality of a subscription box by the service via email or on social media. The more active and engaged the company is, the more likely your box will really be what you expected and the more the products will be higher quality. Companies who seem to be interested in just jumping on a bandwagon of where they think they money is, or those who are far more interested in being huge, tend to place customers at the bottom of their priorities and it shows not only in their interactions but also in the way they put together the boxes and select products. Some are beginning to feel like a cardboard box full of nothing but ads.

Goal Check-In: February

Here's a recap of how we did on our goals for the month of February:

Little Miss Boxy:

My biggest goal has been an overall purging and decluttering. I shared photos of where I was a month ago and was hoping to share a bunch of pictures from right now. However, I ended up coming down with something mid-month, plus work was super busy, so I don't feel all that happy with the minimal progress I made. To be fair, I am still in the process of working on other things and we definitely have made progress. I still wish it was more. This is the den from the same location. It's hard to tell much in the picture, but we cleaned everything out on the tables and in the entertainment center, as well as moved items around. It's a lot more organized, although not with the Girl Scout Cookies on my husband's end table (yes, the one with the Minion!).

Resilience Box Review from Both Boxy and Crafty: February 2015

We both seek out companies and boxes that give back, are natural, promote mental and physical well-being, and also are cruelty-free. For Boxy, this has been a way of life for many years, although for Crafty, this process is new. When we were approached by Resilience Box to review their new subscription box, we were both really excited to give them a try.

Resilience Box is new to the subscription box world. We both love the concept behind it. This is a company by a woman, designed to help promote awareness of illnesses that afflict women in all walks of life. They also support non-GMO products and companies run by women in an effort to celebrate women who have beaten the odds in this world. We are both so happy to support women who aim to inspire others!

This month's theme is women's heart health. The box includes a huge tote bag that is quite sturdy and also reminds you to care for yourself. Boxy was very excited for this, because she likes tote bags and especially bigger ones.

Everything came very well packages, with little individual surprises inside and even a personally addressed card. It's hard not to love a company that takes the extra time to do something like this for customers!

The whole box was full of helpful and healthy items.

We each received the super soft, V-neck Resilience shirt, which is red to represent the theme. It's fitted and stylish, which is nice since it does cater towards women. Crafty models hers here, although she found it a bit tight in the chest. However, the box does encourage health and working out, so the shirt is an added incentive! Boxy tends to prefer her shirts giant, although come summer, this will be a nice bonus. It was also nicely wrapped in its own box, which is such a sweet touch.

Also included was a booklet on women and heart health. Crafty really loves this, because she works in the medical field and can use it both personally and professionally. What's nice for us, too, is that we can both check with each other on some of the tips. Boxy is always on Crafty about her smoking habit, and Crafty has to frequently remind Boxy about her stress levels. Here are valuable tips for us both that also help us support one another. As women, we need to remember that we can be affected by heart attacks as well as men, and in fact, it's a huge cause of death for women, too. There is some really great and helpful information in this little book, such as the warning signs of a heart attack, ways to keep the stress down, and even suggestions for heart-healthy exercises.

We each got the bar of handmade soap in cherry, and it smells wonderful! As soon as the box was opened, it filled the air! Crafty received a tube of mint green tea and Boxy got a naturally made pencil. These are great bonus items. The tea is healthy and helps burn fat and improve brain function, and the pencil is natural and useful!

Resilience Box also included a bunch of snacks, but their packaging was awesome! The items were tucked into pockets inside a travel pouch that you can tie up in a compact roll before workouts or during the work day. This is a brilliant concept and it's really convenient. We will make use of these for sure. In fact, Boxy loves that it just helps her cabinets be a little less overwhelming! :)

All the bars were natural and non-GMO. Crafty has tried the one from Two Moms; it was excellent and only contained nuts and grains. She will be putting the little roll to good use by stashing some bars in the pockets and tossing it in her bag for when she needs a boost or one of the kids is "starving" when out running errands. Boxy is thrilled, because her husband loves bars for work and all of these are perfect flavor- and ingredient-wise. The Santa Barbara bars in particular are already a favorite.

Overall, this box was fantastic! The one thing though that makes it even better, too, is how kind and helpful the people at Resilience Box have been. They not only provided this box to both of us for review, but they are also communicative via email, as well as on social media. They genuinely make an effort to know people with whom they interact and that says a lot to us. A company that wants to know its customers and provide them with the best information and product that they can is always one we want to see thrive. Customer service is so very important to us both and Resilience box has it in spades! To top it off, the box is something everyone can enjoy, and their entire purpose is something we should all get behind. Nothing like empowerment through health, a little shopping, and kindness!

Phone Case of the Month Review: February 2015

I just recently upgraded my cell phone to the iPhone 6 Plus, so Phone Case of the Month could not have come at a better time! I love that you can edit your account whenever you like and I was able to get a case scheduled for my new phone. 

This image, of a lake and mountain, comes with a quote about embracing your opportunities from Oh, the Places You'll Go. I really like that Phone Case of the Month always sends a little motivational quote and the artwork is really nice. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

UrthBox Review: February 2015

I signed up for UrthBox when I found a deal online because I wanted to try it but it was a bit pricey. However, they certainly load up these boxes! Unfortunately, I debated vegan or not, because I'm not vegan and I don't mind cheese or dairy. When I asked, I was told it was really rare to get anything like jerky or meat. Of course, I ended up getting five sticks, so that kind of sucked. It's gluten-free, though, so I will send it to my sister. Maybe she likes jerky.

I didn't get everything in the pictures, because it was honestly too much! However, I have several of the items here.

Crafty's Rainbow Loom Bracelet Creations

First attempt 
A month or so back, Boxy sent me a picture of a Rainbow Loom Steampunk bracelet that she really liked. I tried to find a tutorial that I could use to make it because I am not great at making my own designs. Well, just last week the creator put out a tutorial on YouTube.

Loom all set up and ready 
Artisan Loom is responsible for the design, as well as the tutorial. However, I played around with the colors and charms a bit. The first one I made I wasn't sure I loved. The beads within the flowers were too big and the flowers were too close to the charm. Although Boxy said it was nice, I just wasn't happy with it. Ultimately it would be hers and if she liked it, I could have stopped there and mailed it to her. However, I really wanted her to LOVE it. To me, this version was just "meh" and that wouldn't cut it. 

So I tried again and had a few runs with bands breaking and trouble getting the pattern right. After I tried two more times, I completed one today. Right away, I sent a picture to Boxy, who was very pleased. Instead of "it's nice," I got "that is awesome." This made me very happy because I wanted it to be perfect for her. I always love making things for other people.

Nerd Block Classic Review: February 2015

The challenge with subscription boxes, especially geek subscription boxes, is that you can't please everyone. I absolutely loved last month's Nerd Block, despite having some issues with them customer service wise, but this month's was kind of a dud. This month's Jr. box was great, though, oddly enough. However, in the last month, I've seen some real changes from Nerd Block, especially in the area of customer service. I don't know if they're aware of the nonsense from Voldemort, or if they just really are getting over growing pains, but I think they should be applauded for actually listening to customers. Especially geeks, since we can be a surly bunch. ;) 

I don't think, however, that this box was nearly as bad as everyone seems to think it was. The biggest fail, really, is that the theme was kind of dumb. Exclusives don't matter when things feel sort of just tossed in. I would have preferred something a little more cohesive. 

The first item was the first issue of Marvel's Star Wars. I would be a lot more excited if I hadn't gotten this last month with another cover from Loot Crate. Both covers are exclusive alternates, but honestly, with the random stamps on them, they lose value and even my comics collector husband (who's been collecting for 35 years) doesn't care about variants. Not a bad item, and since not everyone subscribes to both, it's good that they are also getting this out, but for us, it was just okay. 

MixCups Review: February 2015

They're not environmentally friendly, but Keurig coffee makers are useful, especially when you're like me and are the only coffee drinker in the house. Making a whole pot is usually useless so I find the one cup machines helpful. Getting the K-cups can be expensive, and you are limited in trying many varieties, though, because it's hard to spend $10 or more if you aren't sure you'll like a flavor.

That's where MixCups comes in. They have several plans, including decaf and tea plans if you prefer those, and their most popular options are either a 10 cup or 30 cup box. I started with the ten, which is one of each flavor (five flavored and five not, although you can get only nonflavored if you like). However, I went through those fast so I signed up for 30. I still have a few left over from last month, but I also have several of my own boxes I got for Christmas in the cabinet. This is a good option for me, because you still get the ten flavors, but three of each. Again, if you hate a flavor, you're only stuck with those three cups rather than a box.

Another thing I like is that you are introduced to different brewers and these are usually companies you wouldn't find in regular stores. I love the companies I've gotten and I get excited now when I see new cups from them.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Escape Monthly Review: February 2015 (Nashville)

I was so impressed with Escape Monthly last month and couldn't wait for this box. I think it's really all about personal preference with a box like this, because I like food. However, if you're looking for something special or particular to a location, rather than items from local artisans, you may end up not enjoying it. I did, however. A lot!

All of Escape Monthly's boxes come with a foldout brochure for an info card. It looks like the kind of travel brochure you get in hotel lobbies on vacation and I love that added touch. You also get a travel guide to each location. Although this is probably a hit or miss for most people, since if you have no intention of visiting the area it ends up just being useless, I think it's nice to learn more about each area. I will especially love this for areas I either plan to visit soon or ones I know well.

Game Box Monthly Review: February 2015

I personally emailed Brian at Game Box Monthly immediately after opening this box just to compliment him on how awesome this was. This is a straightforward subscription box that sends you games each month based on what you own/report having, as well as partnerships with game developers. I love video games - a lot. However, I also really enjoy playing tabletop games, and it's slowly becoming a dying art now that everything is digital.

For a while now, I've heard about how awesome of a game Love Letter is and I actually almost bought it last week because it was on sale. I decided to wait specifically because I knew this box and my Awesome Pack are coming, and I still have a game from last month to play from Awesome Pack. I figured I would get Love Letter over the summer when my husband was home from school and we had more time together. So when I opened the box and found it inside, I was beyond excited!

Body Merry's Cellulite Defense Gel-Cream and Hyaluronic Dew Serum: Product Review by Crafty

Body Merry's products are taking over my bathroom and I am okay with this! A month or so ago, I reviewed two of Body Merry's products and I was very pleased with not only the results but also the quality of the products. So when they offered me a chance to review additional products, I jumped at the chance!

This month I took on Cellulite Defense Gel-Cream. I won't deny that I, like most women who have given birth to three children, have had a weight problem that fluctuates. This, combined with getting older, means I admit that I have cellulite. The main areas where I notice it are on my backside and upper thighs, which seems to be pretty typical.

The other product was Hyaluronic Dew Serum, which helps to replace the moisture that is lost as we age. I have had a terrible problem with dry skin, especially on my face, for YEARS. It is something that started when I was in my late teens and has continued. This time of year is perfect for trying a product like this because the cold weather, as well having the heat on nonstop, means I dry out even quicker.

Nibblr Box Review: February 26

This is probably the least exciting Nibblr Box I've had, but they've been so good consistently that it's just a fluke, I'm sure. I did mark the snacks as either hate or like so I won't get some of them again thankfully.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My Geeky Goodies Review: February 2015

For all the hype that a certain geek subscription box gets (let's call it Voldemort from now on), I find it disappointing that people are suckered into a less than top quality geek subscription box. There are so many better options. Nerd Block is a big one, although it can be expensive, but there are also tons of other boxes. For two months, I have been so happy with My Geeky Goodies. Last month, this was on my top five list and I loved this month's box! This is definitely one of the best.

Each month, there is a theme and this month's theme was "Throwback Toy Box." Man, it was awesome. If you grew up in the '80s and '90s, you've probably noticed your childhood is now becoming popular again. My Geeky Goodies prides itself as a box for geeks BY geeks and I do think they really do understand their demographic. Also, unlike Voldemort, they don't send you random paper goods or marketing materials.

Nerd Block, Jr. Girls Review: February 2015

I don't have kids, so I have no business subscribing to Nerd Block, Jr. However, last month they were featuring Harry Potter and I got suckered in. It was disappointing, but that's on me, not them, since I'm not a kid and I don't have kids. 

This month, though, the Nerd Block, Jr. was AWESOME. If all the boxes were like this, I wouldn't even be embarrassed to subscribe!

Bulu Box Review: February 2015

Okay, so Birchbox and Bulu Box came on the same day - and both were awful. So it would have been a subscription box fail for the day, except the three others I got were AMAZING. But before we enjoy those, let's enjoy this epic disaster.

Someone posted her Bulu Box pictures on Facebook and her box was loaded. Mine was... not so much. I bought a deal for Bulu Box a while back to get three months for the price of one, but I am glad this was a one-time deal and won't renew. Last month was okay, but this... 

Let's just say the best item in the box was this card about heart health.

Birchbox Review: February 2015

I canceled my Birchbox subscription, because they won't guarantee cruelty-free products and I can't really justify the expense if I won't use the products. I also feel like Birchbox is the industry leader in beauty subscription boxes, so they have the ability to demand better from the companies they partner with. My experience has been hit or miss, but theoretically I would have continued. I will sign up again if they ever provide a guarantee that they won't torture animals for hairspray. :/

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Companion Tees/Once upon a Tee Shirt Review: British at Heart

Sometimes you come across things online and you think, "that looks perfect." Sadly, though, you end up being disappointed, either because the product isn't as good as you'd hoped or because the company has unethical practices or terrible customer service.

Other times, you stumble across something and you wonder how you were alive before you realized it existed. Your whole life prior to the company feels hollow and empty. That's how I feel about Companion Tees/Once upon a Tee. Not only do they have a subscription service (either Legend of Zelda or Doctor Who themed shirts sent each month), but they also have some of the best customer service I've ever seen. AND their shirts... My God, their shirts!

But that was how I felt until the package arrived. Once it arrived, I mourned for the moments of my life when I didn't know this was a thing! Look at this envelope! I would buy this just for the envelope, but that's only the beginning.

Honest Company Essentials Bundle Review: February 2015

I have been so impressed with my products from Honest Company, so this month's box is mostly repeats of the items I use a lot with a few new additions. Next month is going to be quite different, but I really wanted to get more detergent for the dishwasher, since this stuff works better than anything I've ever used!

GO-410 Finger Pulse Oximeter Product Review by Crafty

It seems like a silly thing to be excited about reviewing a Pulse Oximeter, doesn't it? However, I was! This opportunity was awesome for me because I am a mom of child with asthma, who also gets a lot of respiratory infections requiring a nebulizer to treat. PLUS I am a medical assisting instructor.

Right out of the box, of course, I tried this on every person in the family. Thankfully, we were all at 99%, which is good.

I then took a look at the features. There are several things I really like about this. First, the design of the product itself is great. It is well-made, has a soft cushion inside where your finger goes, and it clamps down perfectly, not too tight, not too loose. The numbers on the screen are easy to read, and not only do you get the pulse ox reading but the pulse as well.

Starlooks Starbox Review: February 2015

I admit I'm something of a sucker. I can be impressed by the dumbest things. So when I received my first Starlooks Starbox and it was wrapped so pretty, I was in love. For someone who doesn't wear makeup, I seem to subscribe to a lot of makeup boxes. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review of Foxbrim's 100% Organic Rosehip Seed Oil

Lately, I have received a lot of skin care products to review. One of the most recent items is Foxbrim 100% Rosehip Seed Oil. Rosehip Seed Oil is used to help moisturize your hair, scalp, and other areas of dry skin. Since it is winter here, anything that helps with dry skin is welcome by me. Although I have not noticed any dry scalp or hair issues, I figured I would test it out on my hands to see if the dry and cracking skin at the base of my fingernails could be helped by something.

Rosehip Seed Oil isn't hard to use; you simply drop a few drops on your fingertips and massage into whatever area you are focusing on. For me, it was my hands, but really it can be used as an all-over body oil. The bottle also recommends that you keep it stored in the refrigerator to extend the life of the oil. 

Why Customer Service Matters (and Why So Many Companies Fail at It)

Since the beginning of real capitalism, businesses have known that sales and marketing depend heavily on consumers. In today's business world, it's even more true, because there are millions of companies ranging from small Etsy shops to multinational corporations trying to compete for a person's hard-earned disposable income. With social media and the internet, word of mouth and recommendations are critical to long-term strategy for businesses. But the greatest marketing team in the world only lasts so long and has so much impact if the customer-facing personnel don't care about the company's solvency.

I've worked in so many fields in my life, starting my first job as soon as I was legally allowed to work. Before that, I babysat for many years, and that was significant income because I was often the first person recommended in my town. In college, I worked three or four jobs simultaneously, as well as served in leadership roles for volunteer programs. Since graduating, I have worked in a variety of industries and I now freelance, manage my own business, and work in customer service. So when I say I'm confident that I understand marketing and customer service, I have something backing it up.

Customer service doesn't pay well generally. It's the entry level position many people get, and most staff in these positions have no real buy-in. They don't care if the company looks bad or earns more customers, because when you're working for minimum wage or just over that, you aren't thinking about long-term strategic plans. That's the first mistake businesses are making. You depend on your customers. Loyalty in a customer is something you can't earn through marketing. Nothing sells your product better than an enthusiastic consumer. Not great blog posts, not amazing Amazon ratings or reviews, not celebrity endorsements. In reality, Peyton Manning endorses way too much for me really to care what he says he likes. I'm not going to choose my cell phone provider because they're the official cell phone provider to the NHL. All these things may work as a gimmick, but even if I buy something because David Tennant recommends it, in the end I'm not sticking around if the product sucks or I don't feel like my money is wanted or my business is valued. Most people are that way - they will try something because a respected blogger or celebrity idol or even close friend strongly encourages them to try it. However, the challenge is that not only will bad customer service deter the shopper from continued use of product, it will also minimize the referring party's credibility. Eventually, that friend or celebrity or blogger will stop being a source of guidance, since they no longer seem to have the consumer's interests in mind.

Julep Maven Lipstick Box Review

People really like Julep, but I don't use nail polish so I haven't been signing up. However, I decided that the Lipstick Box might be a good time to try it. I like the concept of Julep, especially since you can skip your box each month if you don't like the theme, although it's hard to justify the cost when they always include nail polish. (Seriously, my nails are embarrassing!)

GlobeIn Review: February 2015

Oh my goodness, I am in love with this new subscription I started! (Someone needs to stop me, because I clearly can't stop myself!)

GlobeIn is a monthly artisan box that sends you products from crafters around the world, generally in developing nations, and supports fair trade practices. This month's theme is perfect - World Kitchen. I wasn't sure how I would feel about the box, so I planned to cancel, but I love it. I'm not big on knick knacks (my house is cluttered enough) but every single thing in this box is not only usable, but amazing! To top it all off, when I contacted them to make sure my subscription was still active/could be reactivated, they replied SO fast! And they're friendly (there was an issue where an item was broken in several people's boxes and they sent out a message offering to replace anyone's who was broken; mine, however, was fine).

Plus look at this sticker on the outside! I'm sure this box was made for me. :)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Wantable Makeup Review: February 2015

Guys, I have a problem and its name is Wantable. They are really the perfect company. Customer service is top notch, the products are amazing, everything is customized based on your preferences (which you can change with every order), and if you don't like your box, you can return it. It's risk-free, except once you try it, you'll end up like me and Crafty and won't be able to stop!!

I started with Wantable Accessories, and now I've ordered both Intimates and Makeup. I don't even wear makeup most of the time, but clearly that wasn't going to stop me!

One thing I don't need is more foundation/skin products, so I was clear to list that as a no on my preferences. I also made a note that I will only use cruelty-free products - and Wantable delivered on that!

Crafty Reviews Premium Chalkboard Labels by KANVAS

Boxy actually received these labels for review but because she is an amazing friend, she knew that I would just love them! And she was right!

I always say I am going to get organized and then I get started and just give up. However,when these came in the mail, I was really excited to start labeling things.

I have a lot of storage containers and such with craft items, snacks for the kids, and even the kids' toys and I would love to label them. A few years ago, my husband bought me a labeler but we ran out of label tape and it was pretty expensive to get more so I just stopped labeling things at that point.

Academy Awards 2015: Thoughts and Picks

Hopefully you have had a chance to catch our reviews of the eight Best Picture nominees! If not, you can find them all here. I promise - they're spoiler-free! :)

There were several of the other films I wasn't able to catch in the past year, mainly due to them being unavailable in my area (short films and documentaries don't get a lot of screen time around here). However, I've seen all eight Best Picture nominees and many of the acting/writing/directing nods, so here are my thoughts as we head into Oscar Night 2015!

Crafty Reviews Little Passports World Edition

I have had my eye on Little Passports for a while now. When Boxy first introduced me to subscription boxes, this was one of the first I stumbled upon and I immediately told her how much my kids would love this. Unfortunately at that time, I'd just spent a TON of money on the three of them for Christmas and could not justify the expense. (Even though honestly it isn't all that expensive for this subscription.)

After a bit, Little Passports contacted us about a review opportunity, and I immediately jumped on it. I was so excited. One of the reasons was because I knew yet again my kids would be "tricked" into learning. Also I can't lie; I was really kind of excited about the suitcase that is sent with the first month's box.

When our box arrived, the kids all gathered around the table, which is common anytime a box shows up, and we opened it together. Inside we found a letter from Sam and Sofia, a passport, a postcard, stickers, the suitcase, an activity sheet, and a boarding pass to play more games online.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Hip Humanitarian Review: February 2015 (Minimalist)

The Hip Humanitarian is a subscription box that combines ethical products with materialism and lifestyle products. The theme of February's box was love, although it was focused more on loving yourself than on typical Valentine's Day love. 

Up front, I would like to admit that I had believed there was an issue due to a system problem. I'd emailed multiple times to no response. I tried social media, too, and there was nothing, so I was getting really angry. Hayley and Ashley, though, both checked, and it appears they DID reply - and Gmail ate it, as it's literally nowhere on Earth. They've sent me screenshots, so clearly this is not on them. 

I appreciate not only them replying promptly, even if I didn't receive it, and also being good about following through and not getting frustrated with me when I wasn't receiving the messages. There are so many subscription boxes who don't have it together that it almost becomes a coin toss. Although you will see that I didn't love this box as it wasn't my personal preference, I need to applaud them for their customer service - and I admit my own crankiness was unwarranted. 

Collectible Geek Review: February IWIA Collection

I've been not so patiently waiting for my Collectible Geek IWIA box to arrive this month, having ordered it on New Year's Day! All I have heard is how awesome they are and I subscribe to lots of geek subscription boxes so I wanted to see what the hype was about. Here's the answer: IT IS SO WELL-DESERVED. I actually moved blog posts around to make room to write this immediately. I received this yesterday and it's incredible.

Collectible Geek just posted some news last night, as well as announced that April's collection is Assemble (clearly an Avengers theme). March's collection (Totally 80's) has been sold out for a while. I am so glad I got the IWIA subscription as soon as it was available, and I am ready to find out what I need to do to upgrade to a year. I am that confident that this is well worth it. They set a very high standard for everyone else, though! (In addition, they are going to start donating proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project, making them even more amazing.)

The Collector's Cache theme this month was fantasy, which covered Harry Potter, Dungeons and Dragons, and Lord of the Rings. The IWIA included a focused Game of Thrones pack, too.

There was a special collectible poster, featuring Tyrion, Gandalf, and Harry Potter engaged in quite the tabletop game! Love this and it will be a perfect addition, with a frame, to my husband's "Man's Land," which is really just Geek Land at this point. I spend more time in there than he does, and the cats spent even more there! It's still a major work in progress so perhaps this summer, when we get it all together, I can share.

Dr. Cool's Insect Excavation Kit Review by Crafty and Kids

We were asked to review Dr. Cool's Insect Excavation Kit, and it was a perfect product since I have two boys who love to dig and who also love bugs!

In the past, the kids have done many different types of "digs" made by various companies. These include fossil and gem digs, but we had yet to try a bug dig. One thing all of these different products have in common, I've noticed, is that the plaster you dig for items in generally falls apart and crumbles simply by touching it. While this makes it so that the kids don't have to work too hard to get to the items, it really is also frustrating because it goes by too quickly and there is no real challenge. Dr. Cool's Insect Excavation Kit is very different, though.

Upon opening the package, the first thing we noticed was that the dig brick was not only in the shape of a bug but also that it was going to take some work. I was okay with this since it was my eight-year-old who was most excited about this dig. He is also the one who would have been the most disappointed if the dig brick had crumbled when he touched it. This might not seem like a big deal to many people but I have big-time texture issues. I honestly can't stand the way sidewalk chalk feels when I touch it and that is similar to the texture of most dig kit plasters, but not this one. The brick was also painted a smooth green color.

Oscars 2015: Best Picture Reviews - The Theory of Everything

The last nominee I saw was The Theory of Everything, not because it was the one I wanted to see the least, but just simply because that's how things went. I was actually really impressed by the selections this year and wanted to see all of them.

The Theory of Everything is about Stephen Hawking, but not about science really. This is instead a biopic about his relationship with his wife from their college years and through his life with ALS. It's incredibly hard to watch at times, simply because it's so difficult to see someone go through what he went through with the disease. It's also impressive, because he was told in the 1960's that he had two years to live and he's now in his 70's.

There were so many moments in this film that were painful. ALS is a terrifying illness, because it's hard to imagine your brain functioning just fine while your body betrays you. Both the actors in this film are amazing. Eddie Redmayne needs to win Best Actor, because this is the kind of role that could have been terribly portrayed. He never strays into falseness, and he makes your heart hurt for each moment in Hawking's progressive illness. He is also really funny, giving so much humanity to a man that is admired for his mind, known for an illness and/or his science, but not always seen as a regular person. Felicity Jones as Jane is subtly wonderful. You feel for her throughout and she definitely shows the complexity of emotions that Jane experiences loving a man who is, at times, hard to love.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Estilo Cards Review: February 2015

I'm pretty excited about Estilo Cards! I just love the quality of them and I love that they're made by independent artists, not to mention that they even send you the stamps! After trying them out one month, I decided to subscribe and I'm so glad I have.

With it being February, there was clearly an emphasis on cards relating to love, but all of these can be used for various occasions, which I like. I enjoy having cards ready for any reasons and Estilo helps with that. 

The first card was a hand drawn heart, labeled Corina. The card was made as part of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center's Children's Art Project. Corina is a ten-year-old girl from Houston, according to the card. I love that a card like this is included, and I think it really demonstrates how awesome Estilo Cards is. 

Universal Yums Review: February 2015 (Italy)

I admit this is not my best-written review, because I loved my Universal Yums subscription box from February so much that I took a couple quick photos, ate most of the snacks, and then realized I had also thrown out the info card. All the snacks were from Italy and all of them were so good that I forgot I was supposed to be blogging about them!

Universal Yums does a great job with packaging. The box is small but loaded, and they fill the top with tissue paper in the color of that month's country's flag. This is a cute added touch and I appreciate it. I also love the info cards, which are a list of the items in the box, as well as some facts about the country's culture. They don't overdo the packaging with tons of extra material, either, which I like. It's a big enough box to stuff with treats, and that's it. 

Bonjour Jolie Review: February 2015

I had heard such great things about Bonjour Jolie, and then I tried their Mystery Box. I thought the quality of their items, speed of shipment, and packing were all top notch, so I decided to try the subscription. As I've noted with time of the month subscriptions, I need to use specific products and I find that most companies don't offer them since they're harder to find. Bonjour Jolie, though, offers a pamper box, which is a time of the month box without tampons or pads (so it's cheaper than the full subscription). 

Oscars 2015: Best Picture Reviews - Selma

Wow, 2014 was an awesome year for film. There's been a lot of complaining that the Oscar nominees aren't diverse enough, but I think it's less about diversity and more about having such an exceptional pool to draw from in selecting nominees. I mean, the Best Picture nominees couldn't be more different and they address everything from mental illness to civil rights to homosexuality to ALS.

Selma is the kind of movie that, in other years, sweeps through the awards season collecting a million awards. It is well-acted, well-directed, well-written, engaging, and an interesting look at a major event in our history. Somehow it came out of the nominations without being a leading contender, but it's not an argument against the film. Instead, it's really a testament to the incredible film making that 2014 brought us.

This is the story of Martin Luther King, Jr. (I find it so strange that this is the first big movie about him!), but not of his entire role in the Civil Rights Movement. Instead, it's the story of Selma, Alabama, the march to Montgomery, and King's push to get the Voting Rights Act signed by President Johnson.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Nature Box Review: February 2015

Oh, Nature Box, how I love you! I get so happy when I see your box on my porch!

If you are not familiar with how Nature Box works, they have tons of snacks available, which you add to your pantry. Then, in typical subscription box fashion, they mail you a box each month complete with the top five items on your pantry list. If you have nothing listed, they will surprise you. You can change your pantry any time before shipment, too, so if you get a sudden craving for something, just sign in, move it into your pantry and to the top, and it will be on its way. You can also add extra snacks if you like for $3 each. We added a sixth bag this month, as you will see.

Wantable Accessories Review: February 2015 #2

I really like Wantable and I've been so happy with their collections that every time I get one, I am tempted to order another right away! I am going to wait to get a March one rather than ordering a third February collection, though.

For my preferences, I try to change them a bit for each order, since I don't want to get sunglasses more than a couple times a year or too many hair accessories. I am basically always happy with jewelry and scarves, and my boxes are heavily necklace-based, because I love long necklaces. 

Oscars 2015: Best Picture Reviews - Whiplash

One of the last nominees, Whiplash, is such an interesting pick. Coming from a background in theatre and art, I have mixed feelings about the film and have a hard time deciding who is the hero and who's the villain. I think that's part of the point, of course.

This is the kind of movie you randomly see and then the Oscars come and spend all their nominations on a Lord of the Rings movie and you wonder what is happening. It's intense, engaging, and driven by nothing more than a great story and intriguing characters. It's really the story of two men and the film was shot in 19 days, because it's simple in many ways. On the other hand, there is so much happening that would go missing if you weren't paying attention.

The Teacher's Box Review: January 2015

I signed up for The Teacher's Box late in January and then there were a bunch of snowstorms, which is why I am posting my review of January's box so late! The Teacher's Box is a subscription box for teachers of all grade levels, and that's exactly why I chose to sign up for this one. My husband teaches high school English and I wanted to get him some treats for his classroom. I used to teach, too, before getting into my current work, and I also have a sister who teaches. So I am aware of how much teachers spend on supplies and how nice it is to get little classroom products sent to you. However, the only other subscription box like this is Elementary Box, and my husband doesn't have any use for things for kids. Most of his students are juniors and seniors, so they really don't (at least hopefully) need flashcards and such. 

What I loved about this box is that the supplies weren't just useful for him, but they were all things he can use, if that makes sense. What I mean is that everything can be brought to his classroom, but he's pretty well stocked on cleaning supplies and wet wipes through his school, so I can hang onto those for us at home. In fact, the Shout to Go wipes, wet wipes, and first aid kit are all products I buy every time we travel, so now we have them on hand!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wine Awesomeness Review: February 2015 (with deal to get your own first box for only $15!)

Sometimes, I am just easily swayed by deals. I saw a deal to get the first box from Wine Awesomeness for only the cost of shipping, and I signed right up. Of course, I drink maybe three glasses of wine a year, so I have no business subscribing to a wine box. But deals are deals.

I don't what to praise first - the incredible customer service at Wine Awesomeness or the amazing wine! To start, let me say that since I don't drink much wine, I intended to try this box and cancel, because three bottles of wine will last me forever. (Literally forever, I think.) But I wanted to try it to offer a review, because I know there are lots of wine lovers out there. So as soon as the box shipped, I canceled. Later that day, I got an email from Logan, the CEO of Wine Awesomeness, who wanted to know if there was something they could have improved to retain my business. Okay, first of all, all subscription boxes need to take a note from Logan. Sure, there are lots of us who maybe try boxes when there are deals, but there are others who find that the boxes are just subpar and it's really good business to pay careful attention to what customers have to say. They, after all, make or break your business model in the end.

So I admitted to Logan that I am just not much of a wine drinker and I can't imagine I could drink three bottles in a month. Wine Awesomeness also offers the option for you to get boxes quarterly instead and I may consider that if I end up drinking three bottles in three months. But I told him that there was really nothing they did, and that I simply didn't drink enough for it to make sense (for the record, it costs $45 for a shipment - which is $15 a bottle and beyond reasonable). Instead of making a sales pitch and convincing me I needed to drink more wine, Logan instead asked for the blog address - and then provided us with this special link so that you, as readers, could get your first box for only $15 (free - but you pay shipping, which is normally included)! I was so impressed and honestly flattered, because they don't have to do anything, but chose to even after I canceled.

Anyway, on to the wine, so you can decide that you definitely want to try this (because, seriously, the deal is awesome and the wine is even better).

Oscars 2015: Best Picture Reviews - Boyhood

I want to be clear about something. There is a huge difference between a gimmick and a risk. There's a lot of animosity towards Boyhood right now because it's getting such rave reviews and critics are saying people are just being suckered by its gimmick. However, this film easily deserves every bit of praise it has earned. It's currently the first film in nearly 15 years to have a 100% on Metacritic. Although that doesn't necessarily mean much, it's evident that people are impressed by something more than the fact that the film took 12 years to make.

This is the story of a boy, Mason, from the age of 5 until he turns 18 and heads off to college. Director Richard Linklater could have easily used several actors to play Mason at varying ages and used makeup on parents Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette to show aging. It's done all the time. However, he instead decided to find a five-year-old actor, invest in his life, and shoot footage every year for 12 years. The risk is phenomenal. What if the actor, Ellar Coltrane, went through some kind of weird puberty and suddenly couldn't act? What if he didn't want to? What if something terrible happened to him, or Linklater, or any of the film's stars? What if the money ran out? There are so many reasons no one does this when making a movie, and so many reasons why it's incredible that the film turned out the way it did.

Product Review by Boxy: Lavender Eye Pillow

My entire job is based on the computer, so I spend a lot of my life staring at a screen. Needless to say, it doesn't do much for my eyes and I often find them tired and achy by the end of the week. I also don't sleep all that well, so I jumped at the chance to review the Lavender Eye Pillow from Eye Pillow Vacation.

I selected a turquoise pillow because I liked the color and it's also bright enough that it would stand out when I was looking for it. It arrived quickly after I ordered and I could smell the lavender before I even got the package open! (If you don't like scented products, there is an option for an unscented pillow.)