Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Best of August 2014...What Made Me Happy This Month!

Did you know that today (August 31st) is National Trail Mix Day?  Neither did I.  Since this holiday doesn't exactly incite me to wild celebratory acts, I thought I'd share a few things that DID bring me joy this past month. This is a completely random list of "happies" with just a couple of exclusions to protect the innocent. 

My little girl Lili getting her wild on!

Those spectacular summer peaches!

Selling a pair of rubber gorillas on eBay!  (I'm not making this up)

Finishing a book by one of my favorite authors

Tarina Tarantino Lipstick in "Watermelon Wow" - best cosmetic
received in an August subscription box (Boxycharm)

Diana Divine Necklace - best non-cosmetic product received in an
August subscription box (Cate & Chloe)

Feeding pears to these two big clowns!

Getting delicious home-made desserts from my generous neighbors
(Thanks Toni & Paul!)

Essie's "Topless & Barefoot" nail polish, a sand shade with just a hint of pink
Perfect summer neutral is particularly flattering on short nails!

Three Dog Night CD ("Shambala" is stuck on repeat in my head at the moment.)
I saw them perform about fifteen years ago. NOBODY rocks like a nostalgia
fueled over-40 crowd dancing to "Joy to the World"!
(Thank you Pat!)

So, goodbye August!  There are many less tangible blessings but the above were a few of the highlights for me.  I hope they inspire you to consider what made you happy this month.

Of course, my readers also make me very happy....thank you for your loyalty!


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Yumvelope Food & Snacks Review, August 2014 + 20% Discount Code!

Don't you just love words like "artisanal", "small batch", "all natural" and especially "full size" when it comes to food?  Fortunately for subscribers, all of those words apply to the contents of a Yumvelope box!  You might think the contents of a Yumvelope would be shipped in some kind of padded envelope (in fact, that IS what it says on their site), but my recent Yumvelopes have all arrived in large white boxes stamped with their name. 


My August box contained 11 products, all full size and some downright enormous, as you'll see! First things first. There is a card that tells about each product, its maker and its retail price. Another card gives a 10% discount code for use on the Britt Chocolates website. Read on to get that one! And there is an informational brochure from Revolution Tea, the supplier of a couple of items in this box.

The first item is a container of "Minne Muesli" from Seven Sundays.  This breakfast food is sweetened only with fruit and honey.  This one is in the Original flavor but I see that it also comes in Ginger Pear Macadamia and Vanilla Cherry Pecan. If you're interested, this item can be purchased at Abe's Market, which by the way, is a very interesting site, if you haven't yet checked it out.

My Yumvelope actually contained TWO sample packs, each containing three single serve packages of Southern Mint Herbal Tea, from Revolution.  I'm not sure if this was a mistake or not but I'm always glad to get any kind of tea in subscription boxes!

Next is a package containing two Lemon Sugar cookies from Grey Ghost Bakery.  If you read this blog on a regular basis, you have seen these before.  Normally, lemon cookies would not excite me but these are to die for.  I don't know what they do that makes these so good but they are absolutely delicious cookies.  They are all crumbled up in this package but I don't care; I'll be cleaning up every crumb!

There is a 4 oz. package of Fiona's Mountain Blend Trail Mix.  This is a raw, vegan mix that is gluten free, salt free and dairy free.  The mix contains raisins, sunflower seeds, Spanish peanuts, raw almonds, dried cranberries, semi-sweet chocolate chips and pepitas. (If you're a regular reader, you know what those are!) There is a LOT in this package, enough for several snack sessions.

This box included two packages from Liz Lovely, each of which contains two enormous cookies. (These suckers measure 3-3/4" across and 1/2" deep and weigh about 3.5 oz. each...not cookies to be taken lightly!)  One package contains Ginger Snapdragons (a gluten free ginger molasses cookie) and the other contains Triple Chocolate Mint cookies, also gluten free.  I have fond memories of Liz Lovely baked products in previous Yumvelopes!

Do you know what a Garuka is?  Neither did I.  It's one of the few remaining mountain gorillas ranging the volcanic forests in Rwanda. They are in need of protection and this energy bar is named after them. The Garuka Bar, handmade with raw honey from Vermont, contains peanut butter, dried cranberries, whole grain flakes, peanuts and brown rice puffs.

And now for the piece de resistance in this box!  There are THREE pyramid shaped packages of Cafe Britt dark chocolate candies!  These are made in Costa Rica and you can get 10% off any purchase on their site using code YUMBRITT.  The three candies included are Dark Chocolate Covered Coconut, Dark Chocolate Covered Passion Fruit Jelly and Dark Chocolate Covered Gourmet Coffee Beans.  I have tasted these before and was really excited to see them included in this month's box!

In my humble opinion, this was an exceptional Yumvelope month....well worth the $21 monthly subscription cost.  The Yumvelope folks really outdid themselves on this one and it's hard to imagine how they could possibly improve from here.  Just keep sending dark chocolate and big cookies and I'm a happy camper!

If you'd like to try Yumvelope, use the code lonestarshopper for a 20% discount off your first month.  I think you will enjoy this outstanding food and snack subscription service!

Thanks for reading,


Friday, August 29, 2014

Taste For Sweets August 2014 Review + 25% Discount Codes!

For those who have an open mind when it comes to sweets and who are interested in trying candies and other snacks from around the world, Taste For Sweets has a unique subscription service.  Every month, they send a box full of 14 or more candies and treats from outside the U.S.A. If you missed my June Taste For Sweets review, you can catch up here.

A subscription costs $16 per month with free shipping.  If you opt for the six month plan, the cost is $15 per month.  The twelve month plan is $14 per month.  

If you are interested in purchasing gift boxes without a subscription obligation, the cost is $17 for one month, $48 for a three month subscription or $96 for a six month subscription.

My August Taste For Sweets arrived in a small plain cardboard box.  Inside, the treats were wrapped in sparkly white tissue.  Unfortunately, there is no explanatory card inside. Since the treats are all marked in other languages, some explanation would be really helpful!

There are 15 candies and treats in my box.  Eight look to be single serving size and seven are bite size.  I don't remember seeing any of these candies in previous boxes so I am getting a nice wide array of global sweets...the whole reason for subscribing to this box.

I can't tell you much about any of these since they are all marked in foreign languages. But I'll try to relate my observations, limited as they are.  The first item actually is labeled in English.  It's a "Fit Me Muesli Bar" in Orange flavor by Korona, from Bulgaria. The second one says "Choco Snack" with some foreign letters and absolutely no other labeling. It feels like a very light chocolate wafer tube.  Since it is basically unmarked, I wonder if this came out of a multi-pack that was broken down?

This light pink package has one English word on it...bourbon!  The rest looks like Arabic. Again, no identification at all.  I recognized the blue packaging because I noticed the pointed "wings" in several previous packages.  That is a sign of a candy from Russia!  This one is actually from Belarus and I think is some kind of small milk chocolate covered bar.  

The two silver wrapped candies are also from Belarus.  These have a light pleasant lemon flavor with a slightly powdery filling...very good.  No clue what the small yellow and white wrapped candy is but it is marked "mleczne" and has the odd graphic of a pitcher and a couple of daisies.  The little candy with the cow on it has a lot of Asian symbols on the back.  Strangely, it has "since 1984" on a red banner under the name...the only English words on the whole package!  The maker's name apparently is Kasugai so maybe this is Japanese.  

The next little candy twist just says "Michalki" and "Kawowe".  I'm going to go way out on a limb and guess that "Michalki" might have something to do with milk chocolate.  This candy has a very enticing coffee aroma as well.  The candy in the dark brown wrapper looks like it's related to the pink one above.  It also has just the one English word "Bourbon" and the rest looks to be in Arabic.  (I know these descriptions are lame; I'm trying...really, I am!)

The candy in the white wrapper looks like a giant Hershey's Kiss but is dusted with cocoa like a decadent truffle.  The only word I could read on the wrapper was "Kommunarka" so I looked that up on the web.  It's another Belarus confectionary that makes all sorts of elegant chocolates and caramels.  The little red foil wrapped candy is dark chocolate, probably with cherry filling.

This is one of the biggest chocolates in this month's box.  I see the word "HEBA" and a lot of Slavic writing.  The website tells me this comes from another confectionery company in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The neatly wrapped bar on the left is another product made by Kommunarka in Belarus. The second candy comes from the Ukraine and has a few English words on the package...."Sunflower Halva "Milk Softness".  Your guess is as good as mine!  I wonder if the pitchers of milk that show up on a lot of the chocolate wrappers from Russia are meant to indicate milk chocolate?

So we have heavy representation from Russia and the Ukraine in the August box.  I find that quite interesting considering the political situation there at the moment.   

If you would like to subscribe to Taste For Sweets or send a gift box, they have some great introductory discount codes:
  • SNACKS25OFF for 25% off first box when signing up for a month to month subscription
  • GIFT25OFF for 25% off an order for a gift box or boxes
One thing I really like about Taste For Sweets boxes is that the chocolate tends to be dark and of high quality....not what is commonly sold in the U.S. If you're a chocolate snob like me, that alone is reason enough to try Taste For Sweets!


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Square Hue Nail Polish Subscription Box Review, August 2014 + FREE Surprise Box Code!

Unless one has been hiding under a rock for the past couple of years, it would be pretty hard to miss the explosion of all things nail related, including nail art, nail polish, tools, maintenance products, etc. (Do a quick search for "nail polish trends" on Pinterest for a bird's eye view of some incredible nail artistry!)  Nail polish colors have also been evolving with ever more creative shades and stunning effects, which is where Square Hue comes in.

Square Hue is a nail polish subscription company that sends three limited edition polishes per month with colors that reflect the latest fashion trends and seasons. Square Hue polishes come in .5 oz. square bottles under their own brand name and are "5-free" which means they do not contain formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor or formaldehyde resin. Their polishes are quick drying with a high shine finish and they guarantee that you won't get the same color twice. The pricing structure is simple; $14.99 per month plus $5.00 for shipping in the U.S. ($9.00 for shipping to Canada).

My first Square Hue shipment arrived about three weeks after I placed the order. Orders are shipped the first week of every month so if you place your order after the first of the month, you'll get it the following month.  My order arrived in a small white box shipped by USPS first class mail.

Inside are three square bottles of polish and a card that introduces them as "Beverly Hills" from The Passport Collection, a destination series that I believe they've been doing all this year.

We'd be here for a VERY long time if I waited to do this review until my nails were camera ready!  So to speed things up, I did a swatch from each bottle to show you what these stunning colors look like.

From left to right, the first color is called "Canon Drive", a lovely purple with a micro shimmer.  (My camera really didn't do justice to this's more purple and less red than it looks in the photo.)

In the middle is "Rodeo Drive", an absolutely gorgeous shade of gold with micro glitter. This is such a sophisticated and elegant color!


On the right is "Wilshire Boulevard", a beautiful dark blue with micro shimmer. Although I have several blues in my polish collection, this is truly a new shade for me.

I haven't done a full manicure with any of these yet, but I really like the stability of the big square bottles.  You know you're not going to carelessly tip one over.  I am also really pleased with the trendy color curation in this box. I like the idea of having experts send me surprise colors that I might not have chosen for myself. Maybe they will succeed in dragging me kicking and screaming out of my pale pink comfort zone!

Square Hue's next destination collection comes from Sydney, Australia and arrives in mid September.  They have generously offered my readers a FREE surprise box along with the first box in your order. If you're interested, use the code surprise52 to get your free box. If you sign up before August 31st, you'll get the surprise box and the Sydney box at about the same time.  If you sign up after the first of September, you'll get the surprise box shipped when you sign up, then your first box will ship around October 1st.  Make sense?

I can't resist finishing up with this great quote I found on Square Hue's site because I think it probably applies to most of us!

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

PopSugar Must Have Lifestyle Subscription Box Review, August 2014 + $5 & $10 Discount Codes!

Since I've done several PopSugar Must Have reviews in a row, I wasn't planning to do one for their August box.  But this company keeps surprising me with the fun and interesting assortment of items they send.  Consider how hard it must be to consistently please a widely diverse population of subscribers, all of whom have opinions and many who express them publicly!  It's not a challenge I would welcome. But this company does seem to have its finger on the pulse of its customers in a way that keeps their boxes fresh and interesting.

Just to recap, PopSugar is a lifestyle subscription service geared towards women that sends full size products that range from home decor to beauty to fashion to fitness and even tasty snacks.  This company has achieved a high enough profile that they are constantly pitched products for inclusion in their boxes, a position that gives them a distinct advantage when it comes to curation.  Their boxes often feel like a wonderful creative gift chosen for you by a friend!

PopSugar does offer some savings for longer term subscriptions.  I don't always recommend these because of the volatility of the subscription box business in general. But in the case of PopSugar, I believe they are stable enough and consistently good enough at what they do to make a half year or full year commitment if you wish. Pre-payment is also a good way to lock in savings in case there is a price increase.  The current pricing structure is:

Monthly - $39.95
Three Months - $109.85
Six Months - $214.70
Twelve Months - $429.40

PopSugar also offers seasonal Special Edition boxes.  The ones I've seen so far have been priced at $100.  I have not purchased one myself but strongly recommend reading some blog posts and watching a few YouTube videos on these before ordering.

PopSugar's monthly shipments come in hefty branded hot pink and white boxes.

Inside are six full size products and one full size single serve bar which represent a fun assortment of categories!

The fold out color card says that this box was inspired by "Celebration, Sweet Smells, Sexy Skin, Happy Treats, Beach Days, Summer Nights Out and Shiny Accents".  Well, o.k.!  The pink and white card gives a 20% discount code for Kendra Scott, a promising jewelry site that I intend to check out.

The real attention grabber in this box is the big 20.2 oz. package of cookie mix from the Mason Jar Cookie Company.  The package is designed to look like a mason jar and at first sight, that's what I thought it was. You know those home made layered cookie mixes that are often sold in clear glass jars at bake sales and craft fairs?  This is the same idea; it's just packaged to LOOK like it's in a jar!  This cookie mix contains sprinkles and candy coated chocolates; I can't wait to make it and have a taste. Such clever packaging! Retail $12

Next is a pair of "Elle" earrings in slate by Kendra Scott.  These drop earrings measure about 1-1/4" in length and have large slate gray stones in rhodium plated over brass settings.  These are lightweight and versatile neutrals although they are larger than what I usually wear.  They came in a pretty aqua jewelry bag. Retail $52

There is a full size Lush Fruit Lip Gloss by Bite Beauty in a hot strawberry pink shade made just for PopSugar.  This is made with real fruit and contains strawberry, coconut and avocado oils.  The card says this gloss is a "superfruit smoothie for your lips". Luscious! Retail $22

Next out is a purple meal and dipper set by Goodbyn.  This is the perfect size for portable portion control and it contains a cute little lidded dipper container for any condiment you want to keep separate from your food.  Each side holds about a cup and a quarter and the container is dishwasher safe.  Retail $8

There is a High Protein Bar from "ThinkThin" in the "Brownie Crunch" flavor.  This gives a quick energy boost with 20 grams of protein and zero grams of sugar.  I took a couple of bites and to my surprise, this bar is really good!  I usually brace myself when I see "energy bar" but this is definitely something I would buy in a larger pack size.  The bar is also fairly hefty so you won't be finished after just three bites!  Retail $1.99

I really love this next product, partly because it's so unusual in subscription boxes.  It's a full size 8 oz. tube of At Last perfumed shower gel by Lollia. The scent is "white petals and rice flower".  It's hard to describe but it's a very clean and refreshing light floral scent. Really pleased to get this beautiful product!  Retail $22

Candles are one of my favorite things to get in subscription boxes.  This is a small one (3 oz.) by Paddywax in the scent "Ocean Tide + Sea Salt".  This is a hand poured artisan soy wax candle. The scent is light and really does remind me of the ocean! Retail $10

So I bet you can see why I wanted to do this review!  PopSugar's exceptional job of curation just keeps getting better and better.  This is the one box it's hard to wait for every month.  You know it won't be repetitious, the contents will please the senses and you'll get great value for the price paid....that was $128 for the August box!

If you're interested in trying PopSugar, click here and use code REFER5 for $5 off any length subscription or AUG14SELECT for $10 off a three month subscription. (I'm guessing that one may end at the end of this month so use it quickly if you're interested.) 

Do something nice for yourself and try PopSugar; their boxes make great gifts too!


Disclaimer:  Views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly my own.  Product discussed in this post was purchased with my own money. Post may contain referral or affiliate links.

Nibblr Healthy Snack Box Review, August 2014 + FREE box!

Nibblr's healthy snack boxes seem to have become a staple in my snacking repertoire. Their service just works on a lot of levels for me.  Portion control....check.  Low cost....check.  Tasty healthy snacks...check. Control of delivery frequency...check. Ability to choose your own snacks...check.  

Although Nibblr's price per box is very modest, you can get even more of a discount by signing up for more boxes at one time.  Here's the breakdown:

One box - $5.99
Four boxes - $5.75/box, $23 total
Twelve boxes - $5.50/box, $66 total

As if that pricing is not attractive enough, get a FREE box using my referral code 2745!

If you missed my last Nibblr review that contains all the details, you can check it out here.

Since I started my Nibblr subscription in February of this year, I've had quite some time to refine my choices on their site.  That means I'm primarily getting snacks I really like these days.  If you've experienced subscription services that give you NO control over the edibles inside, you know what a benefit that is!

Nibblr sends slim branded white boxes that will fit inside your mailbox.   

Each box contains four individually sealed portion controlled trays. Each tray has the name of the snack on top with a brief description and a full nutrition facts label on the back. The portability of these snacks is one of their great features....they are perfect for "on the go" healthy snacking.

My August box contained these four snacks (from left to right in the photo above):

Cajun Crunch - A savory mix composed of cajun corn sticks, peanuts and corn nuts. These are high in fat so I try to just eat a small handful at a time.

Sesa-Me & You - Sesame honey almonds.  Delicious mix with all the right flavors but again, the fat content is high, so I have to control myself.

The Sweet Life - Peaches, blueberry and pomegranate pieces and golden raisins. Finally! A zero fat sweet snack that I absolutely love!

Mango Cardamom Smoothie - Cardamom praline pecans, banana chips, ginger brittle and mangoes.  Could use a bit less ginger in my opinion but this mix is so good, who cares?

Again, to get your FREE no obligation box from Nibblr, just use referral code 2745 and watch for that slim white box to magically appear in your mailbox.

Snack happy!


Sudsy Box Soap Subscription Review, August 2014 + 20% Discount Code

I haven't found a lot of soap subscription box companies but one really good one is Sudsy Box. They make all natural, gluten free and vegetarian soaps using olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter and essential oils.  Their soaps are free of artificial colors and fragrances and contain no chemical preservatives.  

Every other month, Sudsy Box sends you three hand crafted bars of soap and a free sample of a bath or body product.  Their soaps are scented with classic scents such as lavender, rosemary, orange, lemon, clove, peppermint and cocoa. The cost is $20.00 per box with free shipping. Your subscription automatically renews and can be canceled at any time.

If you missed my first Sudsy Box review, you can check it out here for more details and pricing on longer term subscriptions.

My August Sudsy Box arrived recently.  The soaps come in a small branded box and are nested in a bed of pink crinkle shreds and wrapped in pale pink tissue.

The information flyer inside the box is printed on paper that is embedded with wildflower seeds. Just plant it in shallow soil, add water and watch the flowers grow!  How cool is that?  (The labels on the soaps are also plantable.) There is a card with a code (BOX20) that is good for 20% off your order at Heidi's Artisan Soap. You can buy additional products from the box or choose from a wide array of other bath and body products.

The sample product in this box is a 1 oz. bottle containing Naturally Clean Hand Sanitizer which contains aloe vera, Vitamin E and an essential oil blend of lemon, tea tree, clove and lavender. This conditions and moisturizes your skin without drying has a nice clean scent.

I remembered to take the soaps out of their wrappers before photography this month!  So, here they are "undressed"!

The first soap in the box is called Takesumi Soap (upper right in above photo).  This deep black bar is strongly scented with anise and orange.  Takesumi is Japanese for Bamboo Charcoal which has purifying properties.  This soap embodies that same clarifying power. Since I am not a fan of licorice or anise scents, this one is not a favorite for me.  I will probably just use it as a hand soap.

Next is a pure white soap called Soleseife Spa Bar.  This recipe has been used in German spas for over a century.  It combines sea salt water with rich moisturizing oils and butters to create a cleansing bar that is scented with eucalyptus and spearmint essential oils.  This one has an invigorating and refreshing smell!

The third soap is called Tranquility French Soap (bottom bar in the group photo above). This deep purple bar has a strong lavender scent that is made with olive oil and naturally colored with alkanet root.

The next two Sudsy Boxes come out in October and December and I'm guessing those soaps will be scented to reflect the fall and winter seasons.  If you're interested, you'll need to sign up by October 15th to get the October box and by December 15th to get the December box.  Use code SUMMER20 at checkout for a 20% discount which is good on bi-monthly and half year memberships.  

Go ahead and indulge yourself or get a gift for someone else.  I think you will enjoy Sudsy Box!