Saturday, May 31, 2014

Escape Monthly Vacation in a Box (California) May 2014 Review + 20% Discount Code

How about a little trip to California's wine country this weekend?  Escape Monthly pretty much makes that possible with their May box which contains a wide array of fun products from that area. Escape Monthly sends us to a new destination every month with all sorts of products that represent the culture, food and aesthetics of that location.  If you missed my first review of their April box which gave us an armchair trip to Mexico, check it out here.

This month's box brought an especially nice assortment of products, only one of which I've ever seen in a subscription box before.

Like a good travel agent, they always include a color brochure telling about your trip and the products in the box.  It also gives some fun facts about California on the back, such as "The Beverly Hills zip code is the richest per capita area in the country" and "The Hollywood sign originally spelled out the word 'Hollywoodland'".

They also included a big Moon travel guide on the California Wine Country.  At 650 pages, this is truly a comprehensive resource which includes maps and all the travel information one could possibly need to plan a trip to the area.

There is a small box of San Franola Granola in Cinnamon Almond flavor.  Haven't tried this yet but it looks good.

A bonus item this month is a cardboard can containing everything you need to grow a patch of California Poppies. These are bright orange saucer shaped flowers that open in the morning and close at dusk.  I'm really looking forward to planting these; just hope they will grow in the very hot climate where I live.

Next is a bottle of Caliwater Cactus Water, an all natural drink made from the Prickly Pear Cactus. The brochure says this is rich in electrolytes, minerals and antioxidants and also that it hydrates you faster than juice or water.

A Premium Natural Sea Sponge with a woven cotton hanger is a nice addition to the box and a useful long-lasting addition to anyone's shower or bathtub.

My favorite item in the California box is a bar of Hugo Naturals Vanilla & Sweet Orange Soap. This is handcrafted using essential oils and botanical extracts.  Smells wonderful!

There is a small cardboard box containing two truffles from Nicobella Organics.  These come in several different flavors, like walnut flaxseed crunch, sunflower banana butter, pumpkin chai, blueberry almond, ginger green tea and pure cocoa bliss.  The one I tasted was the pure cocoa bliss. Dark chocolate purists will go crazy for this; it's made with a very rich (high cocoa content) ganache with just a hint of vanilla.  Quite decadent and elegant!

The one product in this box that I've received in other subscription boxes is the IPS All Natural Egg White Chips.  These are made of corn, egg whites and other all natural ingredients and are "pressure puffed", not fried.  These are the Aged White Cheddar flavor but they also come in Barbeque, Cinnamon Sugar and Sea Salt & Black Pepper.

The last item in the box is a full size tube of Green Apple Age Defy Hand Cream from Juice Beauty.  This very rich cream contains aloe, jojoba and shea butters as well as Vitamin C and fruit acids.  It says that it reduces fine lines and wrinkles.  I can always use a new hand cream, so we'll see.

That's everything in the California Escape box which has a total retail value of $60.39.  I think a lot of regular subscribers will agree this was a big improvement over the Mexico box which contained a couple of oddball items that probably weren't appreciated by a lot of people.  Escape Monthly did listen to the complaints and I think the results are apparent in the California box.

Escape Monthly always announces their next travel destination on the back of the brochure in the current month's box and gives some hints as to what the next box will contain in the "Travel Log" section of their website.  For June, the destination is Las Vegas and it looks like the themes will be luxurious hotels, gourmet/artisan foods, spas and "everyone is a winner" with special prizes in every box.  Sounds fun! 

Escape Monthly's regular price is $49.95; however, 20% discount codes are widely available. Since these are good for the life of your subscription, the price is effectively $39.96 per box.

If you'd like to try Escape Monthly, click here.  To get the discount, use code VEGASESCAPE for 20% off your first box as well as 20% off your subscription for life!  

We all know there are a LOT of subscription boxes out there, but I honestly think that Escape Monthly provides one of the highest quality boxes available.  Their monthly collections are meticulously curated, interesting and full of useful, tasty and fun products. And you just can't beat the concept...who doesn't need a little escape every month?

Dude....I'm outta here!


Friday, May 30, 2014

Lip Monthly First Box Review, May 2014 + 2 Discount Codes!

First off, I apologize for the lateness of this review.  My first Lip Monthly box got lost among some other sub boxes and I just now realized I had it.  (That's my story and I'm sticking to it!)  Lip Monthly is a service that sends 2-3 full size lip products and 2-3 sample products per month.  I signed up in early March when this company first came on the scene.  There were a couple of apology e-mails for unexpected shipping delays and I finally got my first box on April 22nd.  That is an unacceptable delay after payment but I'm hoping it was just a learning curve issue for a new company.

Lip Monthly has three price plans with discounts for longer subscription terms.  Plans automatically renew and you can cancel at any time.

  • One month - $10
  • Four months - $40, use code LIPMONTHLY4 to save $4 (total $36)
  • Twelve months - $120, use code LIPMONTHLY12 to save $10 (total $110)
My first box contained three full size lip products and two samples.  These items came in a small branded box inside a wax paper envelope.

The information card provides a list of the products included.  For some reason, they only showed the retail price for one of the items.  (Learning curve again?)

The first full size product is a Lip Tattoo duo by Hard Candy.  One end contains a lip stain in the shade "Fantasy", which looks like a shimmery pink and the other end has a clear breath freshening gloss.  The reviews I've read are mixed on this one with some saying that the color really does not have the lasting power that a stain should have.  Others really liked the gloss over color effect.  

The second item is a full size lip cream by Glam Natural called Poco Loco that retails for $20. This is a warm coral color that would look good on almost anyone.  Since I would never pay $20 for a lip gloss, this is a great opportunity to try this one out. (That's why we all love subscription boxes!)

The third full size item is a Stila Glaze Lip Liner in Fuchsia.  I like Stila cosmetics but this color is way too over the top for me.  It's a very "purple-y" shade that's probably only going to work for a narrow range of skin tones.  Let's hope Lip Monthly eventually adds a profile option so their boxes can be customized to products we can actually use.

There is a mascara sample from UltraFlesh Panthera in Jet Black.  This is an ultra-lengthening, thickening and non-clumping formula.  I'm not crazy about mascara samples but it's nice to get a couple of non-lip products in this box.

The second sample is a tiny foil pack of Cream Blush from Glam Natural in the shade "You Make Me Blush".  There is very little product here but the shade looks like a pretty medium to dark rose.

So that's it for my first Lip Monthly box.  Since there is easily at least $40 worth of product here, I feel that I got my money's worth, even with one product whose shade is not right for me.  Really interested to see what they send next month!

If you'd like to try Lip Monthly, use the discount codes shown above to start your subscription.  If you've already received a Lip Monthly box, I'd love to know what you thought.

Thank you for reading,


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Conscious Box May 2014 Review + 50% Discount Code!

If you read my last Conscious Box review, you might be aware that I'm struggling with this one. The concept is to promote healthier living by allowing you to sample natural non-GMO products in the food, household and personal care categories. (GMO means "genetically modified organism"; GMO free foods in particular have been an increasing focus of many subscription boxes over the past couple of years.)

There has been a lot of customer criticism of Conscious Box for sending so many tiny samples, coupons and brochures in their boxes with less actual product substance. Conscious Box listened and said they would be making significant improvements starting in May.

Since this was only my second box, I can't really compare over the long run but judging from comments I've read, reactions are mixed.  It is obvious that people receive different things in the same month.  Some subscribers did notice significant improvement in May but many others continue to complain about tiny samples, too many coupons and repeat items. 

My May box was attractively packaged and was permeated with a wonderful coffee scent when I opened it.  I'm not a big coffee drinker but I love that smell!

A single serving pod of San Francisco Bay Gourmet Coffee - French Roast was responsible for the intoxicating smell of this box.  These pods are compatible with several popular coffee makers, including various Keurig and Mr. Coffee models. Unfortunately, I don't have one of those machines so will probably attempt some unorthodox drip method!

The paper in the May box includes a card advertising several features on the Conscious Box site, a brochure from Crystal Body Deodorant, a Dr. Hauschka card with a 25% code that expires less than two weeks from the receipt date of the box (boo!) and another coupon for Barbara's Cereal or Snackimals Cookies.  Sorry to say, nothing of real substance here.

There is an 11 oz. container of Pure Coconut Water from Vita Coco.  I'm not sure I'd drink this on its own but I've heard that it's a really good addition to smoothies, so that's how I will try it.  This is 100% natural and loaded with electrolytes and potassium.

A package of two automatic dishwasher tablets by ECover was included.  These are phosphate and chlorine free; not an exciting inclusion but definitely one that will get used.

There was a BioBag, which is "Certified Compostable", again not exciting, but useful. These are biodegradable and meant for the collection of organic waste.  Already set up in my kitchen!  Also included is a single serving of Spatone PurAbsorb Iron.  This is a liquid that can be consumed by itself or diluted in fruit juice or water.  The goal is gentler and easier absorbtion.  

Next are three foil pack samples, a Crystal Body Deodorant Towelette (these have come in SO many sub boxes), Vegan Bone Maximizer, a dietary supplement to enhance bone strength and density and a biodegradable Wipe 'N Clear lens wipe by Flents.  Glad to have that last one but would have liked a dozen of them! 

Another tiny foil pack sample is Dr. Hauschka Firming Mask which is a 20 minute treatment that claims to have great anti-aging properties for the face. Unfortunately, this sample is so small (.08 oz.), there's just not enough to give it a serious trial run. 

And there are still more foil pack samples.  There is an Oat Replenishing Shampoo & Conditioner from Weleda.  Weleda makes great hair products but again, there's just not much here. (Are you sensing a trend yet?)

The first thing that I actually used/consumed from the May box was the Clif Kid ZBar, a baked whole grain energy bar in the Chocolate Brownie flavor.  This was not great, but tolerable and did give me a little energy boost.

There is a single serve package of Barbara's Puffins Honey Rice Cereal, a gluten free whole grain with brown rice cereal.  I don't remember getting a cereal sample in a sub box before so am interested to try this.

The last item is a small Super Squares grain & seed chewy bar in "Vanilla Apple with Almond" from Cascadian Farm.  This looks pretty good, but with 7g of fat, it's not exactly a low fat of my requirements for a food to qualify as "healthy".

So, as you can see, I'm still pretty lukewarm about Conscious Box.  The hardcore healthy living types will probably stay loyal but for those who just want to be exposed to new products, I'm not sure the value is really there yet.

If you'd like to try Conscious Box, they do have a great promotion.  Use the code TAKEHALF to get 50% off your first box.  You can also get the Taster box (the smaller size) for free using the code FREENOW...just pay $4.95 for shipping.

If you've tried Conscious Box, I'd really like to know what you think.  As mentioned above (and is apparent on their site), there is a LOT of variation among their monthly boxes, so I'd like to hear what others received.  Please comment below and add to the discussion!

Thanks so much for reading,


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Yumvelope All Natural Snack Food Subscription Review, May 2014 + 20% Discount Code!

One of the newer healthy snack subscription boxes is Yumvelope.  Is that a cool name for a monthly food service or what?  Yumvelope sends a selection of all natural products that can include drinks, cookies, nuts, chocolate, snack bars, etc.  Most of these are small batch or artisan brands.  I was impressed that they send all full size tiny samples in this box!

Yumvelope's subscription plan is simple.  If you subscribe on a month to month basis, it's $21 per month plus free shipping.  If you subscribe for six months, it's $126.00 plus free shipping and you get a free bonus shipment.  If you would like to try Yumvelope on a one time basis, the cost is $21.00 plus $3.00 shipping.  

My first box contained a really nice mix of seven full sized items:

There is a card describing each item and giving its retail price, as well as contact information if you want to buy more of a particular product.  There are also two discount coupons for Kiss Me Organics and Nina's Fresh Baked.

First is what just might be the best tasting food item I've received to date in a snack subscription box...a big 10 oz. bag of Pecan Cherry Granola by Nina's Fresh Baked. Honestly, this is some of the best granola I've ever tasted.  It's made from oats, roasted pecans, dried Montmorency cherries, maple syrup and sea salt.  It has big chunks of pecan (my favorite ingredient in anything) and is a perfect mix of sweet, crunchy and salty....absolutely delicious!  I'm so glad to be introduced to this brand; I just may be a new customer of theirs very soon.  


Next is a big chunky apple cinnamon quinoa "breakfast cookie" from Morning Sunshine.  This is a high protein, high fiber cookie with slow release carbs.  Looks like a great breakfast alternative that would be really easy to eat on the go.

The box included two Fig Bars by Nature's Bakery, one in Lemon and one in Strawberry. I've had these before and they are quite tasty and filling.  These are cholesterol free which is a big plus for me these days.

Next is a 2 oz. package of "Organically Grown California Pistachios Straight from the Farm" by Allgood Provisions.  These are roasted with sea salt, so good!  They are pretty high in fat, but unlike chocolate, pistachios are something I can eat in moderation.

There is a big 16.9 oz. bottle of Alo's "Appeal" drink in the flavor Pomelo Lemon + Pink Grapefruit.  This is such an attractive looking square bottle and I love the flavor combination!  Alo adds aloe vera pulp to their various drink flavors which is said to have all sorts of health benefits. This is another product I'm really happy to have an opportunity to try.

The last item in May's Yumvelope is a package containing two Oatmeal White Chocolate Chip cookies from Ella's Heavenly Hunks.  I haven't tried these yet but looks like a great flavor combination.

Since I'm trying to improve my diet and avoiding snacks is out of the question, I thought Yumvelope was a great solution.  With the exception of the fig bars, all of these foods were new to me.  The careful curation of my first box gives me a lot of confidence in this company so I'm really looking forward to my next Yumvelope!

A big thank you goes to Yumvelope for providing a great discount for my readers. Use code "lonestarshopper" for a 20% discount off your first month.  I think you'll be as impressed with this company as I am!

Now I'm off to spend some quality time with that big bag of granola!

As always, thanks for reading,


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ipsy Beauty Subscription Box Review, May 2014

For just ten bucks a month, I don't think you can beat Ipsy in the beauty subscription category. Ipsy consistently provides more product than their main competitors and always sends a great mix of brands.  An added bonus is the cute cosmetic bag they send every month. My collection of those is getting out of hand, but I'm not complaining!

Ipsy's theme for May is an ode to Spring called "Fresh Picks".

The cosmetic bag is a fun leaf printed canvas with an Ipsy logo zipper pull.

The first product is a luxury sample of "Therapy Session Hair Mask" by Eva NYC.  This deep conditions, repairs and strengthens dry and damaged hair and "drastically" increases hair's strength and elasticity.  Drastically?  Sounds like a challenge to me.  My dry hair sops up products like this so I'm interested to see if it lives up to its promises.  

Next comes an eye shadow duo from Pacifica.  At first I thought this was a blush/bronzer duo (which I would have preferred) but after a little research, I find that it is actually eye shadow.  Not sure why that most basic information wouldn't be clearly shown on the packaging?  Anyway, this is a shimmery bronze and a neutral beige combination.  Maverick that I am, I still might try this as a blush/bronzer combo!

Now here comes the REAL bronzer....Chocolate Soleil by Too Faced.  Isn't that a great name? This is a matte bronzer that is actually infused with cocoa powder. Chocolate on your face is never a bad thing, right?  Unfortunately for me, this one is in a medium to deep shade.  I just checked and they do have an extensive upfront profile system now but that wasn't in place when I first signed up a couple of years ago...probably the reason I got a shade that isn't right for me.  Lesson learned; I'll be updating my profile very soon!

There is a small spray can of Eau Thermale (Thermal Spring Water) from Avene.  This is a multi-purpose hypoallergenic product meant to soothe sensitive skin after sunburns, various drying treatments, razor burn, hair removal and even for diaper rash.  It can also be used for freshness after makeup removal, exercise, during travel, etc.  I sprayed a little of this on my face; it's a very fine cooling mist.      

The last product is a natural suncreen by Hang Ten.  This has SPF 50 and is a non-greasy lightweight formula that is water resistant up to 80 minutes.  This sample would be a good purse or beach tote size.

All in all, another awesome bag!  I don't think Ipsy has any real competition when it comes to providing value for price paid and fun seasonal product mixes.  If you received the May bag, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts!

By the way, if you haven't done so already, please subscribe to this blog so you can get new posts automatically sent to your e-mail address.  There are lots of great new subscription box reviews on the way that you won't want to miss! 

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Boxycharm Beauty Box Review, May 2014, $77 Value for $21!!

Boxycharm surprised us with new packaging this month!  For May, they introduced a new white box with a printed gold ribbon.  There were also several new products that I have not seen in beauty subscription boxes before.  

My February review contained initial impressions and all the subscription details.  If you missed that and want to catch up, please click here

There are two foil packs containing "hair food" by Novex from Brazil.  These are basically deep conditioners that you apply after shampooing and leave on for 25 minutes.  One features olive oil and the other argan oil, both natural emollients. Looks like there are one or two applications in each package. (Samples)

Next is a round white container (called a puck!) by Lauren B. that holds 15 nail polish remover pads.  These are acetone-free and infused with aloe.  The real test for me will be whether or not one pad can remove the polish on all ten fingers.  (Retail $15.00)

Then there is a really cute pink kabuki brush by Ferro Cosmetics; they call it a "Fabuki Brush".  This has porous bristles that absorb minerals and apply them evenly.  These are great for products that require broad application like face powders, blushes or bronzers. Full size kabuki brushes are rather expensive so I'm really glad to get this little one and try it out.  (Retail $20.00)

The "star" product in this month's box is a full size Lavish Hand Cream by Illume.  This is "Desert Tulip" which features red tulips, white tea roses and lilies.  Because the packaging on this is so beautiful (not to mention the luscious description), I'm going to give it as a gift.  (Retail $20.00)   

And finally comes a dark red lipstick from Mirabella in the shade "Fever", a really good descriptive word for this one!  The shade is much deeper and redder (with a hint of berry) than my camera was able to capture in the photo.  A really pretty color but definitely one to be used with restraint! (Retail $22.00)

Although May's box does not have as high a retail value as some of the previous boxes, I think most reviewers agree that the product selections this month are exceptional!  And, at a total retail value of $77, you more than get your money's worth for the $21 paid. Boxycharm remains very high on my list of favorite beauty box companies!

I have never been able to find a coupon code for Boxycharm but if you do know of one, please let me know and I'll update this post. 

Boxycharm has put out a teaser for their June box with the information that it will include a product from either Fresh, Bombshell, Tarte, Philosophy or Zoya. I really hope it will be Philosophy or Tarte, but my guess is Bombshell or Zoya. Anyone else care to speculate? Please comment below.

Go and be beautiful today!