Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Starlooks Starbox April 2014 - Last Review?

This may be my last review for Starbox, which is the subscription box for the Starlooks brand.  Starlooks promotes their line as being pro quality, comparing their products to M.A.C., Chanel, Dior, Makeup Forever, etc. I don't buy those brands but I am familiar enough with them to know that they run huge (expensive) marketing campaigns, their products come in extravagant packaging and they have long industry track records.  I'm not sure Starlooks can claim any of those.

"Luxury" is a subjective term that is used to position certain cosmetic brands at a price point that is easily ten times that of their more humble counterparts.  But in terms of pigmentation, ease of application, wearability, and longevity, I doubt that most of us "regular Janes" can make the quality distinctions that are used to justify stratospheric luxury brand retail prices. I'm sure that beauty professionals or cosmetics industry insiders will beg to differ, but in the end it's OUR wallets that decide.

Starlooks may very well have a great product but in terms of beauty subscription boxes, they just aren't in the same league with Ipsy, Boxycharm, Glossybox or several others. What most beauty box subscribers want is to get a beautifully packaged box or bag full of cosmetic surprises. (The operative word there is "full"!)  They want new and innovative products that they might not have otherwise purchased and a much higher retail value than was paid for the box. That combination may not be sustainable in the long run but for now, the beauty box leaders have spoiled us. Yes, I realize this sounds like a manifesto; perhaps it is!!

I'm not saying that the products I've received from Starlooks are not worth the amount paid. I think they actually are. Je ne sais pas quel est le probleme (big Gallic shrug here!) with Starbox.  It just doesn't deliver in the way we've come to expect.  

The February, March and April boxes each contained two full size products and one inexpensive filler item.  For April, I received an eye shadow palette and a lip gloss plus a package of wild flower seeds.

The information card gives the retail price of the lip gloss at $12 and the eye shadow palette at $41.  The first I can accept but $41 for a five shade palette?  Not in my world.

The gloss is a big one and is a very pretty shade called "Orgasmic", sort of a plum pink color.

The eye shadow palette has an interesting, somewhat unconventional, mix of shades. From left to right is a shimmery gold, olive, green, rust and a deep brick red.  This actually looks like a good fall palette to me.

Then there is the package of Starlooks Wildflower Mix.  What can I say about that?  I hope they grow but I'm not holding my breath!

One thing I'll say for Starlooks...there is so little in their boxes that the reviews are easy to write!  In all honesty, I hope this company does survive. They may need to re-think their strategy and either shift to luxury size samples or raise their Starbox price point a bit if they want to compete in the beauty box business.  

If you would like to subscribe to Starbox or check out their other products, click here.

Thank you for reading,


Monday, April 28, 2014

Taste Trunk (Sweet Trunk) April 2014 Review + 25% (Maybe More) Discount Code!

One of the hazards of subscribing to a high end sweet box is that you must either eat the contents quickly or freeze them.  That's even more the case if you need to keep the goods around long enough to write a blog post. April's Taste Trunk has been here for a few days now so I need to hop to it!

Taste Trunk offers four different types of subscriptions:  Gourmet, Sweet, BBQ and Health.  You can change your category at any time.  So far, I've chosen the "Sweet Trunk" each month .  I'm not enough of a BBQ cook to justify that box and I get enough healthy treats through other subscriptions so don't really need that one. I may try the Gourmet Trunk some time but I'm a bit leery of those as they can contain highly specialized items that I probably would not use. With the Sweet Trunk, it's a safe bet that my palate will be happy and all the contents will vanish!

If you missed my post on Taste Trunk's March box, click here.

The Sweet Trunk is always gratifying to get in the mail.  It's a big hefty box that's usually bursting at the seams...something we all want to see in sub boxes!  April's box was no exception.  

First out are the cards describing products provided by five vendors--Just Desserts, Torie & Howard, Two Snooty Chefs, Dancing Deer and Miss Meringue. Three of these are new (to me, anyway) and two are repeats, although with different products.

Half the box was occupied by my favorite product, a big tub of chocolate meringue cookies by Miss Meringue.  These are pretty much guilt free as they have no fat and are low calorie (seven of them have only 100 calories).  I'm not saying they're GREAT for you as they consist mostly of sugar, but when you must have something sweet, it's nice to have these around.  I find them quite satisfying when I'm having a sugar snack attack.

Next is a package of four all-natural Blondie Squares by Dancing Deer Baking Co.  This is one of those high quality products that deteriorates rapidly if you don't eat it right away. The package isn't dated so I don't know when they were made but they were pretty dry by the time they reached me.  These are very high in fat (15g per bar) so aren't something most people would consume quickly.  They do taste good but I would have preferred chocolate brownies.

As if they heard me, the next product in the box is a single Caramel Pecan Brownie, also by Dancing Deer. This looks great and I can't wait to get into it!

For the third month in a row, there is a cute tin of hard candies by Torie & Howard, this time in pink grapefruit and tupelo honey flavor.  I'm getting a little tired of these. They are a nice aesthetic addition to the box but the flavors are weird (o.k. "unconventional") so they tend to sit around here for a long time.

Next is something delicious but with an appearance that looks like it came by Pony Express.  It's a mini carrot bundt cake from Just Desserts.  As you can see in the photo, it wasn't secured well in its container and arrived as a complete mess with frosting rubbed all over the lid.  Maybe not the best product for inclusion in a box that has to travel, but....it is delicious.  It's a nice moist carrot cake with walnuts that almost tastes like it's homemade.  And now I want to find some mini bundt pans...the result is just so cute!

The last item is a dark chocolate bar called "Mocha Mole" by Two Snooty Chefs.  (I love that name!) "Mole" is a Spanish term for a spicy topping that contains chocolate and is generally served as a condiment for poultry.  In this case, the term refers to the various seasonings that give the chocolate a bit of a kick. Add coffee extract to that and you've got quite an interesting chocolate bar.  (I downgraded from "wonderful" to "interesting" because this is a little spicier than I would like.  Still good though.)

So, that's it for April; as always, they sent a fun, delicious and unique mix of sweets! I am hoping Taste Trunk will be able to sign up some new vendors over the next few months but in the meantime, I'm thoroughly enjoying the Sweet Trunks.

Taste Trunk has provided a special code for my readers.  If you'd like to try them out, use Lonestarshopper25 for a 25% discount off your first box.  Sometimes, you can also get 40% off your first box just by going to their website and signing up.  (I'm not sure if that deal is available all the time or not.) 
Taste away and thank you for reading,


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Escape Monthly Vacation in a Box April 2014 Review (Mexico) + 20% Discount Code!

In the subscription box world, Escape Monthly is a unique adventure for armchair travelers!  Each month, they announce a destination, either domestic or international, and send several luxury products that reflect the tastes and culture of that location.  Recent boxes have been inspired by Oregon, Italy, Ireland, Napa Valley, Hawaii, Colorado and Vermont.  April's box, which I just received, brought a little taste of Mexico.

A fun aspect of Escape Monthly is that each month, one very lucky subscriber will find a ticket in their box for travel to that destination.  Spoiler alert...it wasn't me this month!

Escape Monthly arrives in an aqua blue box with aqua chevron patterned tissue inside...sort of a beachy look that immediately makes you think "vacation".

Inside is an assortment of products that bring some local Mexican culture, particularly from Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. I've been to Mexico quite a few times but these are two places I haven't visited so was glad to have a chance to explore!

The most prominent item in the box is a Moon travel guide focusing on Ixtapa and Zihuatenejo, including Acapulco.  This looks like a really comprehensive guide to the area with lots of maps and photos.  In browsing through this book, I see enough inspiration to make me want to book my trip right now!

There is also a flyer, customized for this box, that gives an introduction and describes all the products and their retail values.  This one also provides some fun facts about Mexico ("A Mexican tamale called the zacahuil is three feet long and weighs about 150 pounds") and advertises various offers on their site.  The flyer also tells you where we'll be going next month...for May, it's California.  

First is an Ayate Fiber Exfoliation Cloth made with 100% natural agave fiber and hand woven in Mexico. This is a long lasting, quick drying cloth that is mold resistant.  It can be used in place of a loofah for skin exfoliation or as a utility cloth in the kitchen.

Then come two authentic Mexican soda pops which are said to be favorite drinks of street vendors in Zihuatanejo. One is Mundet Green Apple and the other is Sangria Senorial. The first one sounds good to me; I'm not so sure about the second one.  I'm not a fan of sangria so may have to find another home for that one.


Next is a cute cork-sealed glass container of Fusion gourmet habanero salt which is a naturally flavored gourmet sea salt. I was surprised to see on the label that this is actually made in Washington.  Although I am interested, I don't know how to use this seasoning and there are no tips or recipes provided.  However, the manufacturer's website (www.seasalt.com) does give a lot of good information so I will refer to that for ways to use this seasoning.

I love dried fruit, so my favorite item in this box is the package of organic mango by Kopali Fruit. Mexico is known for its mangos so I thought this was an appropriate addition to the box.

Candles in any form are always welcome additions to sub boxes, as far as I'm concerned. This little one by Pacifica is a reddish brown color in "Mexican Cocoa" scent. This has a wonderful chocolaty smell with hints of spice, perhaps cinnamon, I'm not sure.

Some common Mexican candies were included in this month's box....two Pulparindos and one marzipan candy from de la Rosa.  I've had both of these in other recent sub boxes and they are also commonly sold where I live.  Personally, I don't like Pulparindo which is a hot salty candy made from tamarind pulp so these will be give-aways.  The marzipan is very crumbly and falls apart in your fingers but it's good.

The final item is a small plastic container of Lucas Mango Powder. The Escape Monthly flyer calls this a candy, but I have no idea what you're supposed to do with it. Consume it straight from the container? Sprinkle it over something?  Under the blue lid is a strange little snap off tip, so I snapped it off and took a "hit"!  Wow...very spicy and strong, not something I would eat straight.  This might be good added to a smoothie or sprinkled on something as a topping, but for me it's much too strong to eat straight as a candy.

So that was our little Mexican excursion for the month.  To be honest, there are a LOT of complaints about the Mexican box on Escape Monthly's Facebook page. Of course, people will complain about anything but the sheer volume of them for this one box was surprising. Many of them had to do with the fact that there were so many hot and spicy items in this box that a lot of subscribers didn't like. I don't care for them either...BUT...the box was supposed to represent Mexico!  I do get the impression that the company is loading the upcoming California box more carefully to allay some of the dissatisfaction with the April box.

Complaints aside, I think this company has a wonderful concept and one that does not have a lot of viable competition. I'm really interested to see where they will go in future months!

The regular monthly price of Escape Monthly is $49.95; however, 20% discount codes are widely available. I believe these are good for the life of your subscription, so you effectively pay $39.96 per box.

If you'd like to try Escape Monthly, click here.  To get the 20% discount, use codes CALIESCAPE, MYESCAPE, YOUDESERVEIT or YOURESCAPE. They offer frequent and varying coupon codes, so if these don't work by the time you read this, check their Facebook page for updated codes.

Hasta manana,


Friday, April 25, 2014

Treatsie April 2014 Review Plus GREAT Discount Codes!!!

Treatsie is one year old this week.  They are a subscription box company that sends a few artisan sweets each month from three or four small independent vendors. Pricing is simple...it's $15 plus $4.95 S&H per month.  This is NOT a subscription service where you're going to get a retail value that is much higher than the price you pay. They say that the retail value is usually about $20-$25, not including shipping.  You basically get what you pay for with this one.  Having said that, the quality of Treatsie snacks is outstanding!

April's box included four delectable sweets.  Let's don't kid ourselves....I intend to snack my way through this review!

The biggest item in the box is an 8 oz. package of Lemon Sugar Cookies by the Grey Ghost Bakery. These are all natural and made from scratch.  If you've read my blog for very long, you probably know that I don't usually care for packaged cookies.  Also, lemon would not be my first choice.  BUT...these are absolutely wonderful.  They are quite soft and melt in your mouth. According to the fine print on the package, they are "hand-topped with pearlized sugar and baked with candied lemon zest", probably what makes them so good. This package retails for $9.  I'm tempted to go to their website (www.greyghostbakery.com) and try out one of their other flavors, such as chocolate espresso or cinnamon pecan.  Yum....just YUM!

Next came four quarter ounce "Brix Chocolates for Wine Pairing" packaged in a cute brown organza drawstring bag (not pictured).  These were designed specifically to be paired with different wine varietals...the idea being that the natural tannins in the cocoa prime the palate for the tannins in the wine. These even come with a small leaflet with instructions on how to conduct a tasting and recommended chocolate/wine pairings.  Whatever.  As for me, just bring on the chocolate! 

Then we have a sample bag of Peanut Butter Bites by "Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery".  Is that the best business name ever?  These are crispy, salty, peanut buttery, dark chocolate covered bites...like a gourmet version of Reese's Pieces.  Need I say more?

The final treat also comes from "Hot Cakes".  This is called a "Bling Bling".  It is an artisan version of a Hostess Ding Dong....the world's BEST Ding Dong, I must say.  This is a "moist, dark chocolate cake filled with dark chocolate buttercream, then hand-dipped in organic 55% dark chocolate".  These actually retail for $5 apiece.  

It's rare for me to like EVERYTHING that comes in a food subscription box so this Treatsie box is an exception. I especially like the emphasis on dark chocolate which I much prefer to milk chocolate. I wish Treatsie would put a bit more in these boxes but I certainly can't complain about the quality or selection I've received so far.

If you'd like to try Treatsie, click here.  Try WELCOME44 to get $10 off your first order or FIRSTBOX44, which I believe will get your first box for the shipping cost only.

Now, please excuse me.  I think I need to go and be alone with that Bling Bling for a while!


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Boxycharm April 2014 Review - $102.85 Retail Value for $21!!

Boxycharm is quickly becoming one of my favorite beauty subscription boxes.  They used to feature mostly drug store brands but have recently upgraded to some higher end cosmetics.  Granted, some of these names are being featured in a LOT of beauty boxes lately (Model Co and Bellapierre, you know who you are) but...the quality and value are there.  I would say that Boxycharm is now almost on a par with Glossy Box and that competition should pay off for all beauty box subscribers!

If you missed my first Boxycharm review in March, check it out here.

April's box included five full size products, as always packaged in a classy black box and nested in a bunch of black squigglies!

Of course, the very first thing that caught my eye was the purple nail polish by Bellapierre.  I must admit that I thought this color was "too much" at first.  But it's growing on me.  It's a seasonal Easter-ish shade and there's nothing else like it in my polish collection. That's part of the fun of these boxes...discovering products you would never have thought to try otherwise. (Cynics will call that "wasting money"; I think of it as adventurous shopping!)  Retail value is $15.00.

Next is a lip pencil by Model Co.  This one is in the shade "Melon" and has the unique feature of a sharpener built into the cap. This is a mauvish pink shade which should work well with any pink-based lip color.  Really like that built-in sharpener!  Retail value is $20.00.

An interesting product in this month's box is a full size bottle of Coolway's "Glow Finishing Oil".  Since I lost the information card that came with this box, I checked this one out on the manufacturer's website.  This is a non-toxic color safe Vitamin E + seaweed extract spray that helps your hair retain moisture.  Use it as the last step in your hair care regimen to give a final polish and add some shine.  Boy, does my hair need this! Retails for $29.95.

One of the cosmetics I use the most on a regular basis is blush so I always like to receive these in sub boxes. For April, Boxycharm included a full size blush by Model Co in the shade "Amaretto Sunset 03".  Because this is a pink shade with strong brown undertones (not as pink as it looks in the photo), I would use it as a bronzer.  This one retails for $18.00.

The final product this month is a beautiful "liquid lipstick" (not lip gloss) by Ofra, a brand I am not familiar with.  This is in the shade "Hollywood", which is a bright pink color.  I tried this on and was surprised to find that it dries quickly to a matte finish. The color was pretty intense so I had to blot it a bit to bring it down to a wearable color.  It has a very subtle candy smell to it....or else I am just obsessed with candy?  I would not pay the retail price of $19.90 for this product but I'm glad to have a chance to try it out.

So Boxycharm provided $102.85 worth of products this month for $21.00!  Any one of these products alone would almost justify the price of the entire box.  This is a great example of why these boxes are so popular...you get to try high end products for a fraction of their retail price. Even if you don't like a couple of the items, you're still getting value that is well above what you paid.  (For the record, I'm not being compensated by Boxycharm in any way; I just think they are providing a really good product at a tremendous price!)

Now...the question on everyone's mind...is there a discount code?  In early February, one of their reps told me that they had not issued any promotional codes but would be making an announcement when they did. So far I have not seen any discounts. Apparently, Boxycharm feels that they are providing enough value in their boxes that they don't have to further incentivize buyers.  After seeing the contents of the last few boxes, it's pretty hard to argue with that reasoning!

There has been some repetition of brands in recent Boxycharm shipments but they say that all new brands are coming in May...so be on the alert!  

If you'd like to try Boxycharm, click here. Judging from what I've seen in recent boxes, I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Love With Food, April 2014 Review + $10 off Your First Box!!

It's always such a pleasure to see that pretty red box arrive in the mail!  I first reviewed Love With Food in February.  To find out about the company and get the subscription details, check out that review here.

Love With Food sent a nice assortment of products in their April box, ranging from popcorn to dried fruit to tea.  Their theme for this month is "Flower Power".  

The cards this time include their description card, a flyer from Simply Snack Squad announcing a contest where the prize is your image on the front of their snack bag and an Instagram contest sponsored by Love With Food.

First out of the box is a bag of Aged White Cheddar & Hatch Green Chile popcorn by Crave Canyon.  This non-GMO popcorn comes in several flavors; this one was just too hot for me.

Next is a snack size package of almonds with cranberries, honey and sea salt by Sahale Snacks plus a $1.00 coupon for any of their products.  These are great...just the kind of snack I love.  But I am not familiar with this brand so am not sure where to buy them other than their website.  (Spoke too soon...just checked Amazon and of course...there they are!)

Then there is a package of Orchard Blend Crunch Dried Fruit which contains apples, peaches and apricots. . These are fat free and the whole package only contains 70 calories!

There is a single serve package of Heart-Tee hibiscus herbal tea from the Wild Hibiscus Flower Co.  This is a berry flavored tea with a deep red color.  This came with a promotional card showing how to make this tea hot or cold, as a popsicle or to flavor sangria.  This tea supposedly has the health benefits of lowering anxiety and stress. We'll see.

Next is an organic energy bar called "Bumble Bar" in "Amazing Almond" flavor.  This chewy gluten-free snack contains almonds, sesame, flax, vanilla and cinnamon so I'm guessing it's pretty good.

A traditional Belgian street snack called a Honey Waffle by Meli is included.  This consists of two thin crispy waffles with a creamy honey filling. 

There is an organic fruit spread sample called "Fiordifruitta Strawberries & Wild Strawberries" by Rigoni di Asiago.  This is sweetened with apple juice; there is no added sugar.  Really cute packaging!  From Vintage Bee, there is a tube of Creamed Honey with Chocolate Mint.  I'm not sure how this is intended to be used but it feels like it has the consistency of honey or a spread, so perhaps it would be good on a plain cookie of some kind....can't imagine consuming this straight from the tube!

So that's everything from the April box.  If you'd like to try Love With Food, click here. Use the code YUMMY to get $10 off your first box!  Or use the code LOVEMOM2014 to save $5 on all subscription plans. (Remember, promotion codes usually expire pretty quickly so the sooner you use these, the better.)

By the way, if you haven't subscribed to my blog yet, you're missing out on the latest subscription box reviews and discounts delivered directly to your e-mail....sign up in the box in the upper right hand column.

As always, I so appreciate my readers!


PopSugar Must Have April 2014 Review + $10 Discount Code!

PopSugar Must Have is one of my favorite monthly boxes.  Since their products don't fit neatly into any of the standard categories for subscription services, the term "lifestyle" seems most appropriate.  So far, the boxes I've received have generally included an interesting fun mix with products representing the beauty, fashion, home, fitness and food categories.  

If you missed my first PopSugar Must Have review in March, which contained the subscription details, you can check it out here.

April's big (nearly 3.25 lbs.!) box arrived last week.  I was not disappointed with this month's haul which contained six full size products.  PopSugar does not try your patience with absurdly small samples, "filler" items or boring advertisements.

They do provide one color folder that gives a nice description of each  item and its Suggested MSRP, which I do find helpful.  This month they also sent a coupon for 50% off your first Nature Box, which is worth about $10.  

If you read my blog regularly, you probably know that I'm a big fan of Nature Box.  So I was thrilled to see that PopSugar teamed up with them to provide a custom snack mix for the PopSugar April box.  This mix contains almonds, soybeans, corn and cranberries.  Co-marketing at its best!

Next is an "eco shopper", a collapsible tote, cleverly designed to fold into it's own zippered carrying case. When the tote is stowed, the dimensions are about 9"x6".

When opened up, you have a large shopper bag that measures about 18"x14.5"x6.75". This is a lightweight bag that would be great for carrying your purchases or for taking along on a vacation.  The information card mentions that this bag is made of "upcycled plastic bottles"!

Probably the most coveted item in this month's box is the Too Faced Natural Eyes palette which contains nine gorgeous neutral shades with names like "Heaven", "Cashmere Bunny" and "Chocolate Martini".  This comes in a unique metal tin compact that also includes a guide that shows you how to create three different looks.  This palette retails for $36.

This elegant little notebook by Graphic Image is just the right size (5.25"x3.25") to take with you everywhere. It has silver edges, acid-free paper and a flexible cover. Nice neat little organizer!

An unexpected item this month is a set of "Totally Awesome" graphic tea towels by Fresh Pastry Stand. These are handmade with a water-based ink and are completely lint free. One says "TOTALLY" in blue and the other says "AWESOME" in green.

And finally, there is a hefty 10.8 oz. bottle of Rosewater Driftwood Hand Soap by Caldrea. This has a lovely scent combination of floral and cedar notes and there is enough to last for a long time.  It's going in my bathroom right now!  

PopSugar Must Have boxes truly have the feel of a really nice gift chosen for you by a friend.  I think we'd all like to have friends with such taste and creativity!

If you would like to try PopSugar Must Have, use the code "MAY10" to get $10.00 off any length of subscription.

You can bet I'll be stalking PopSugar's Facebook page for May spoilers!

Thank you so much for reading,