Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bath Time Box Review, March 2016 + 15% Discount Code!

Why do the most amazing bath and body products come from Canada? My trips up north over the years have resulted in unexpected hauls of decadent bath products every time. Not surprisingly, the arrival of Bath Time Box (from the province of Alberta) brings on a little happy dance around here every month! I have subscribed to this box for a full year now and the variety and quality of the products consistently impresses me.

Each Bath Time Box contains five mostly full size natural and/or handcrafted products. The cost is $29 on a month to month basis, $85 if you pay for three months in advance and $335 if you pay for a year in advance.  Honestly, this is a subscription you might want to consider pre-paying for. You're going to love what you get and the quality is there month after month so the longer term discounts are a good bet.

My Bath Time Boxes usually get here the last day or two of the month or during the first couple of days of the following month.  March's box actually arrived on April 2nd. The boxes have been downsized for shipping efficiency over the past year but they contain the same amount of products. Here's a first look at the contents:

A product page tells about each item and has a little article about achieving the perfect facial serum.  On the back is a reminder that the code BTB10 will get a 10% discount off any purchase at the Bath Time Store, a site definitely worth checking out.

I believe every Bath Time Box includes a cold process soap, something I really enjoy getting. This month the soap is Free n Clear, an unscented bar that contains activated charcoal, Australian pink clay and white kaolin clay plus cocoa butter, shea butter, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, olive oil and sweet almond oil. I told you these products are decadent!

Blissful Face is the facial serum discussed on the product page.  This "facial bliss" goes on at bedtime and contains a base of pumpkin seed oil with rosehip and pomegranate oils as well as Vitamin E and a blend of bergamot, lemon and pink grapefruit essential oils.  I noticed that it has a pretty strong smell so a tiny bit goes a long ways towards nourishing and hydrating skin. The pump spray mechanism really helps control the amount dispensed.

Under eye creams are my favorite product to receive in any box! Blissful Eye is a firming under eye cream which also helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines. This does have an unusually firm texture for an eye cream but goes on very smoothly. There's enough in this little pot to last me a very long time.

How can you not love this big pink heart-shaped bath bomb?  It's called the "Flower Garden Bath Bomb" and is said to be super-foaming with a beautiful floral scent.

Last is a container of Blissful Body Rhassoul and Sea Salt Dry Scrub. The label says this is a 1 oz. container but I could tell immediately it holds more than that.  It actually weighs a little over 4 ozs.  This is a skin exfoliator that you apply to damp skin for softening and nourishing.

As always, Bath Time Box really delivered with the March box.  I use or gift every single thing in these boxes; nothing ever goes to waste.  If you're a bath and beauty product connoisseur, you can't help but appreciate the quality and variety of products that Bath Time Box sends month after month!

Get 15% off a three month subscription using the code SUN15 which reduces the price from $85 to $72.25.  Shipping is free and subscriptions auto renew. 

As you can see, there is a lot of BLISS in this month's box! Bet you can guess where I'm headed right now.


Disclosure:  Views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly my own.  Product discussed in this post was purchased by Lone Star Shopper.  Post does not contain referral or affiliate links.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Happy Mail (from A Beautiful Mess) Subscription Review, April 2016

Are stationery subscriptions the inevitable backlash against instant gratification culture? To the extent that they revive social graces and encourage thoughtful communication, I think they do provide a desperately needed service.  Happy Mail is one of two available subscriptions from A Beautiful Mess, a site devoted to all things related to stationery and paper arts plus on-line classes.  (Their other subscription is Messy Box, which I believe is oriented more towards planners and scrapbooking.)

If you've bought any greeting cards lately, you know how absurdly expensive they are.  At $20 per month ($18/mo. for 6 mos. or $15/mo. for 12 mos.), Happy Mail provides a much more affordable alternative. They also include a few fun extras that help add a personal touch to your cards.

My first Happy Mail arrived FIVE days after ordering.  Then I got the April packet three days later.  That's more cards than I need in a month but it's nice to know I'm not being ignored. (Aha!  I think I've just hit on an underlying reason subscriptions are SO popular!) Happy Mail comes in a cute cardboard envelope:

Inside April's packet were all these cute cards (and a few supplies) just bursting with pastel Spring colors.  (Note to friends, family and some devoted could be receiving one or more of these at some point so don't read any further if you want to be surprised!) 

Happy Mail sends a mix of folded cards + matching envelopes, flat cards + matching envelopes, a postcard, cute accessories and an 8" x 10" piece of cardstock (suitable for framing) with a graphic hit of color and inspiration:

Here are a couple of the pastel folded cards.  Inside the ice cream cone card is a list of "Things I'm Craving:  You, You, You, Ice Cream and You".  Ahem...priorities.  The other card is blank inside; my preference as blank cards give so much more flexibility.

These are two of the smaller sized folded cards; the first is blank inside and the second says "You did it!" inside.  Nice and generic which is the only way a stationery subscription can really be useful to everyone.

I'm not sure but I think most of the Happy Mail subscriptions include a roll of washi tape.  This one is a beautiful sparkly lavender color.  There are also three hot pink card stock tags for when you REALLY want to get someone's attention! 

Fortunately, there is only one postcard in this shipment and it's pretty bland.  I like cards that are open to interpretation but this one is so generic as to be boring. I'm not sure I'll ever use it.

Much more potentially useful are these three flat cards which show that you care but don't require much effort in terms of message writing.

I think most of the Happy Mail shipments include a page of stickers containing whimsical words and phrases. These are small (same size as average handwriting) and say things like "Homemade", "Espresso Yourself", "Let's Be Delightfully Chaotic", "Hunger Makes Me Say Mean Things", "Goal Digger", "OMG!!", "Tacos Are Always A Good Idea", etc.  Finding the right spot to make use of each of these is going to be a fun challenge.

And finally, there are two large flat cards with matching envelopes. I can think of quite a few situations/applications for each of these.

From the reviews I've read, it looks like everyone gets the same collection of exclusively designed cards each month.  So you never have to feel like you got a set that is "less than" what others received.  This would be a wonderful subscription for parents or grandparents to give older kids as a means to get them to put some thought and effort into their communications (teach the little heathens some manners!)

Happy Mail cards are very good quality and show a lot of design creativity.  The single sheet cards allow a short personal sentiment without the need for a lengthy note.  I do wish they would include one or two birthday cards in each shipment as those are the most likely to be needed.  Also, it would be nice to see a couple of seasonal or holiday themed cards appropriate to the month.  In terms of value, these cards average about $1.50 to $2.00 each....MUCH better than you can do in a retail store!  

I guarantee you'll brighten someone's day every time you send one of these cards!


Disclosure:  Views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly my own.  Product discussed in this post was purchased by Lone Star Shopper.  Post does not contain referral or affiliate links.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sock Club Review, April 2016 + FREE Pair of Socks!

A couple of months ago, there was a Gilt City deal for Sock Club....$25 for a three month subscription. Since the price is normally $12 per month, this was a pretty attractive buy. There are a lot of sock subscription services out there but what differentiates Sock Club is that their socks are made from cotton grown and knit in the U.S.A.  That (plus their really cool designs) influenced me to give them a try. Sock Club socks arrive in a brown cardboard mailer with a cute logo print pattern.  

On the back is more information about Sock Club.

Sock Club is operated out of Austin, TX and they design a unique pair of socks for their subscribers each month. The enclosed letter tells about the inspiration for their April sock, which is called "The Frontier". 

The socks are packaged in brown paper with a cool red wax Sock Club logo seal.

And here are "The Frontier" socks! The bottom half is an earthy green shade with argyle "mountains" in tan and brown, topped with white "snow" and ever deeper layers of blue skies above.  A yellow sun hangs suspended in the sky on each sock. Very clever and creative design!

When setting up a subscription, you can choose whether the socks are a gift or for yourself and the size you need.  I believe the designs are pretty much unisex so everybody gets the same design each month.  These are a size Medium, which fits a Men's shoe size 8-12 or a Women's shoe size 9-12.  

Designs from past months are featured on the site and you can purchase them a la carte for $14.  I really like "The Leo" which I received last month and "The Homesteader" which they featured in October, 2015. 

If you're interested in trying Sock Club, use the code FREEPAIR for a free pair of socks with an annual term subscription. Even better, the same code will get you a free pair of socks with an order of one or more pairs of socks from their store! (That means TWO pairs of these unique socks for just $14 plus a small shipping fee and tax.)

Sock it to yourself with this fun subscription!


P.S.  For those of you in Austin or San Francisco, Sock Club has some really cool skyline designs for your cities!  I hope they continue that trend with some other locations.

Disclosure:  Views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly my own.  Product discussed in this post was purchased by Lone Star Shopper.  Post may contain referral or affiliate links.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Adore Box Review, March 2016 + 50% off Discount Code!

Adore Box is a subscription service that sends mostly beauty and skincare items for $15 a month (less for longer terms, but I do not recommend those).  Although there are a LOT of red flags with this one, it is still a good buy especially when you use the half off discount mentioned below.

Red flag #1 is found on the site when you are asked to indicate a shirt or top size during the ordering process and there are pictures of handbags on the various term length buttons. This subscription is NOT ABOUT tops or purses!  In the six months I've been subscribed, I have NEVER received any clothing item or accessory.  My boxes/mailers have included ONLY cosmetics with an occasional random item like a car freshener or chocolate drink mix. 

Since my last review, Adore Boxes have started arriving in small bubble mailers rather than boxes. The return address on the mailer is "Ubukata Nation" and that is also the name that appears on your credit card statement...a fact that has caused me a lot of wasted time and confusion in trying to identify the charge.  It is absolutely inexplicable to me why any subscription company would not clearly brand their shipments with the same name that is used on their website and that customers recognize.

Red Flag #2 is that there is no information card or flyer whatsoever.  I understand that the low price necessitates running this subscription on a shoestring but how hard is it to include a piece of paper that shows a brief list of the contents?  This is especially important when one or more items are minimally marked samples.  Here is what was in the mailer:

The highest value item in this shipment is a Soft Focus True face color from bareMinerals.  This product is not boxed and the exact shade is not on the bareMinerals website but it does appear to be full sized. (actually larger than the sizes shown for $21). This alone is probably worth more than the price of the subscription this month.

There is a tiny sample of L'Oreal Hip High Intensity Pigment in shade 108 "Irresistable". I've never really understood what pigments are for; I think they are intended for use on the eyes (if so, why aren't they just called "eyeshadows"?) but the shimmery pinkish bronze shade of this one means it will only end up on my cheeks.  It is a lovely subtle color.

Another sample is this tiny pump spray containing Eau de Star which is an eau de toilette from Thierry Mugler.  This has an unusual sweet baby powder and vanilla scent...strong when first applied but quickly wears down to a nice wearable fragrance.

I think this Glossy Tint chubby stick in "Knockout Red" from Victoria's Secret is probably a discontinued item but it is full size and completely sealed.  Although reds in general can be quite aging, the color is not overwhelming and really livens up the face. This is light and easy to apply and has a very nice moisturizing feel on the lips. 

This 5 Minute Beauty Peel from Derma Silk is probably another discontinued item. It is a trial size box with a small quarter oz. tube inside.  This is an enzyme mask used for deep cleaning and brightening the skin. There's not much product here and I don't expect much in the way of results.

For me, the two winners here are the bareMinerals face color and the Victoria's Secret lip tint.  The value of these two alone easily exceeds the cost of the "box". While not exciting, the other three products are worth a try and are things I haven't received before.

If you're considering Adore Box, be sure to check out their Facebook page.  I hate to say it but all indicators point to a fading subscription.  The price is just too low to be sustainable for the concept and the lack of obvious (and cheap) forms of branding is hard to understand. Red flag #3 is that none of the company's recent posts talk about Adore Box at all; they're all promoting a sister company. Red flag #4 is that there are a lot of complaints and questions posted by subscribers to which no responses have been posted.

Having said all that...if you're still interested, the code HALFOFF is good for a 50% discount. That makes the price of the first month a real bargain at just $7.50. Unfortunately, the branding inconsistencies, lack of customer service and website confusion suggest using great caution at signing up on more than a month to month basis.  


Disclosure:  Views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly my own.  Product discussed in this post was purchased by Lone Star Shopper.  Post does not contain referral or affiliate links.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Duncan's Bookshelf Mini Grab Bag o' Books Late Winter Flash Sale Review

In case you haven't noticed, book subscriptions are hot, hot, hot right now.  I am one of the obsessed; if I had to pare down all my subscriptions, the book oriented ones would be the last to go.  In an effort to differentiate themselves, book subscriptions come in several different forms. Some send only books, others send books plus book related items and others are focused around reading and chocolate or reading and tea or reading and both!

Duncan's Bookshelf is not a subscription and does not yet have a regular schedule for making their Mini Grab Bag O' Books available. In February, they had a Winter Flash Sale event with shipment expected at the end of March.  For $24.95 plus free shipping, they promised a random assortment of books with at least one hardcover (and usually two). The books are mostly fiction with occasional non-fiction. These are bargain or overstock books which means they are new and unread but may have publisher remainder marks, sticker residue or slight cover blemishes. Readers could choose from six genres:  Horror, Mystery/Crime, Thriller/Suspense, SciFi/Fantasy, Urban Fantasy or Young Adult.

I ordered the Thriller/Suspense genre for my grab bag. A heavy USPS Priority Mail box arrived in early April, right on time. There is no book swag here; this box is ALL about the books!  I received two hardcovers and two softcovers.

There was a paper slip included that listed the four books and mentioned that this shipment is Volume 3; I guess that means it's the third time it's gone out.  I do not plan to miss out the next time this is available!

I haven't read any of these books yet so am not in a position to review them but here's what I got with a few brief comments.  First is "Helsinki White" by James Thompson. This is "an Inspector Vaara novel" so it must be from a series.  The plot involves a black-ops police unit in Finland, the kidnapping of a billionaire's children and the assassination of a political activist. (SC, 2012, 355 pages, $15.00) 

This hefty softcover is "The Book of Fate" by Brad Meltzer, a #1 New York Times bestseller. A crazed assassin kills an old friend of the president but the old friend turns up alive eight years later. Untangling the mystery involves secrets buried in Freemason history and a 200-year old code invented by Thomas Jefferson to conceal secrets.  Sounds like a fast paced action-packed story with fascinating historical ties.  (SC, 2006, 520 pages, $13.99)

Alafair Burke is an unknown author to me but "If You Were Here" looks like my kind of suspense novel.  The story starts with an unidentified woman who heroically pulls a teenage boy from the tracks just before a subway train roars through. Video surveillance reveals the woman to be someone who vanished without a trace ten years earlier. She was a classmate of the husband of the journalist who is reporting about the subway incident. The journalist embarks on a search that uncovers dark secrets.  (HC, 2013, 369 pages, $25.99)

The second hardcover book is "A Tap on the Window" by Linwood Barclay. This thriller involves a private investigator whose teenage son died in a tragic drug-related accident. His marriage and world are coming apart with the grief.  A chance encounter with a girl the same age as his son leads him into a world of lies, secrets and cover-ups. He becomes a bit unhinged as he attempts to find the dealer who sold the drugs to his son. The reviews on this one are mixed but the author is solid so I'll give it a chance. (HC, 2013, 500 pages, $25.95)

These are all books I would have picked up for myself from a book store overstock table so I'm happy with the selection. They all seem to have intriguing plots with lots of twists and turns to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. The $24.95 price tag is quite reasonable, especially when you consider that there was no shipping charge for the four pound box in which these books arrived.

Unfortunately, the Late Winter Flash Sale event is now closed and it isn't certain when the next sale will be held. It sounds like they are trying to figure out a strategy going forwards. A possible sale this summer may be in the works.  I think a lot of readers would like to see this one become a true subscription but even if it remains an occasional sale opportunity, it's worth keeping an eye on.  I don't see a mailing list option on the website but there is a newsletter sign-up tab at the top of their Facebook page if you want to be kept informed.  The owner does seem to be quite engaged and responsive on Facebook; that is a good sign!

Thanks for reading,


Disclosure:  Views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly my own.  Product discussed in this post was purchased by Lone Star Shopper.  Post does not contain referral or affiliate links. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Pet Gift Box Review, March 2016 + 50% Discount on First Box!

“Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one is a life diminished.”

Dean Koontz (author)

I couldn't agree more!  Dogs bring an indefinable quality to our lives. Besides their sterling character, they provide steadfast loyalty, love and unflinching adoration. Of all the subscription boxes out there, it's not much of a stretch to say the dog boxes are the MOST deserved! We've tried several of them around here but Pet Gift Box consistently sends fun and tasty treats that delight my boys Tucker and Dakota.

Pet Gift Box sends themed monthly boxes containing premium pet products for dogs or cats.  They offer discounts for longer term subscriptions and shipping is always free. Available pricing plans are:

Month to month - $28.99
Three months - $23.99
Six months -  $20.99
Twelve months - $18.99

Pet Gift Box comes in a big red box with a gift tag hand addressed to Tucker on the outside. (Dakota has joined my tribe since we started this subscription so I need to go to the site and update the shipping information.)

The theme for March is "Stand-Up Comedy".  It really is amazing how well they source pet products around various themes with just the right mix of treats and toys.

Here are the goodies:

The "Woof-Out-Loud" information card gives a little info about each item on one side and provides social media contacts on the other side.

Let's get the worst over with first!  Of course, this disgusting "Funny Bone" (Ha!) crown knuckle will be the hands down favorite of both Tucker and Dakota. They are exceptionally good about sharing and this huge thing will last a long, long time in my back yard.  Trust won't be coming in the house!

What better mascot for this box than a Bozo the Clown squeaky toy from Multipet? He has a squeaker in his head and another one in his stomach.  Dakota, my bigger boy, will love this. Poor Bozo's red hair is not likely to survive the first ten minutes though!

Here is a box of Doggy Delirious Apple Cinnamon Bones which are natural wheat free treats. I have a feeling these will be a hit with the four legged population here.

I particularly like getting training treats, which are small bites that pack a LOT of motivation. Dakota has been working on sitting up and begging when he wants something rather than fully extending on his hind legs and dancing for his dinner. (cute but sometimes hazardous for both of us) He's doing quite well thanks to rewards like these Lick-Out-Loud Peanut Butter treats.

The second toy is a toothy rubber grin squeaky toy.  It has a handle with a squeaker inside and there's another squeaker in the mouth.  I'll proceed with caution on this one since Dakota is likely to dismantle it in seconds.  (For a rubber toy, it is tougher than most.)

That's it for the March box.  I thought Pet Gift Box did a wonderful job of finding toys and treats that work with the clown theme.  These are all things that one or the other or both of my dogs will absolutely love.

If your pup could use a Pet Gift Box, click here to get 50% off your first box!  This is a terrific deal for new customers and I think you will be quite pleased with what you get.  Your dog will be ecstatic!

Thanks for reading,


Disclosure:  Views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly my own.  Product discussed in this post was purchased by Lone Star Shopper.  Post may contain referral or affiliate links.

MonoBox (from I Love Jewelry) Review, March 2016

If I were starting my own subscription business, I'd think twice about naming it the MonoBox! (Do you really want monthly Mono?) But that is the name of a new box from I Love Jewelry. For $21.95 per month, you get three items. One is monogrammed (clothes or jewelry) and the other two are surprises, most of which are jewelry or beauty items.

When signing up, you're asked to provide your clothing size (I assume this is mostly for tops, although they don't say) and your initials for monogramming.  Be aware that the initial of your last name generally goes in the middle of a monogram.  So Susan K. Jones would see "SJK" as a monogram with the "J" somewhat larger than the other two letters.  (Just mentioning this as some reviews have expressed surprise/concern about that customary practice)

Before moving on, I want to mention a problem. Although the site states the monthly cost of this box as $21.95, the amount billed to my credit card was actually $25.90, which means they are charging $3.95 for shipping.  While that is a very reasonable shipping amount, it is not o.k. to omit that information upfront. Not providing clear and complete pricing information well before the checkout page is a red flag. I have e-mailed them about this and will update this post if I receive a response.

Now...we all want to know, what is in a MonoBox?  It took a little longer than normal (about three weeks) for my box to arrive but since personalization is involved, I sort of expected that.  And here we have it....Mono in a box!  (Sorry, just couldn't resist.)

Right on top is a card that has a 15% discount code for I Love Jewelry's website.  If you're interested, use code MOREMOREMORE; I believe the discount applies to your entire purchase.

This is the group of items I found packaged inside lavender tissue paper.  So far, so good!

The monogrammed item that I received was an off white baseball cap. The monogram is embroidered in dark gray thread. Although the cap has an adjustable snapback, it is too small for my big head. Even if it did fit, I'm really not the baseball cap wearing type so this doesn't work for me.  Having said that, the monogram is beautifully done and the color combination makes this cap highly wearable. But unless I can find someone with my initials (and a smaller head) or someone who is not too discriminating about their head wear, really not sure what I can do with this. That's the inherent risk in getting monogrammed items.

I was surprised to find that there were actually THREE jewelry items in my box, contained in two pale pink drawstring organza bags.  

The first is a set of aqua, gold and coral bangles. They fit me nicely and have the look of enamel on metal although I'm sure they are not. These are chunkier than what I usually wear but the colors make them fairly versatile. (My photography leaves a lot to be desired; these are prettier than they look here.)

I thought the second organza bag contained just a necklace but there is actually a pair of earrings in here too!

I'm not wild about the statement necklace trend (which has gone on much too long in my opinion) but this gold and aqua necklace is somewhere in between classic and statement. It really is pretty and simulates the look of turquoise in a very believable way.  

The earrings are probably my favorite item in the box.  They are quite delicate and have the open fishhook backs that I find the most comfortable to wear.  These are something I can see wearing on a regular basis.  Love!

These are clearly inexpensive jewelry pieces but for the price paid, I'm happy with what I received.  I don't expect any of these to last very long but I will enjoy wearing them in the meantime.  I particularly like the way the pieces work together; there are a lot of options here.

Aside from the shipping cost disclosure issue, I think MonoBox did a pretty good job, especially since I received one more jewelry item than expected. They probably should do a little more profiling when customers sign up to make sure clothing or accessories will fit but I have no complaints about the quality or accuracy of the monogramming.  There is a limit as to how many monogrammed items I need or want but until then, I'm eager to see what comes next!

Thanks for reading,


Disclosure:  Views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly my own.  Product discussed in this post was purchased by Lone Star Shopper.  Post does not contain referral or affiliate links.