Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ipsy Glam Bag Beauty Subscription Review, April 2015

The plan was to do another Ipsy vs. Birchbox Smackdown for April.  But when the two arrived, there was no competition.  Ipsy was the hands down winner.  (Send me a full size blush and you're guaranteed to win the monthly cosmetic war!) So this review will just focus on Ipsy's terrific April bag.  Here's what was inside the hot pink metallic bubble mailer this month:

Ipsy doesn't bother with information cards; they typically just include a card with a bit of inspiration and a promotion.  Here's the one for April; the theme is "Beautifully Bohemian".

After receiving more than 25 Ipsy cosmetic bags, it's getting harder and harder to declare any one of them better than another.  But I think April's bag is truly their best yet.  It's a cute woven design that combines natural fibers with multi colored contrasting ribbons.  The inside has a waterproof lining.  I think this would make a great coin purse or mini tote to go inside a handbag.

This full size Hikari blush is the reason Ipsy clearly beat Birchbox this month.  I received the shade "Tango" which is a beautiful matte pink coral (much more vibrant than it looks in the photo).  I love the sleek black case and especially the large window which lets you see the color at a glance.  This blush retails for $15. Ipsy's monthly bags are $ do the math!  I would have been happy even if there'd been nothing else in this month's shipment.

The Balm products are usually tiny and very creatively packaged.  Their new line of "Nude Dude" eyeshadows contains twelve different shades.  This cute little eyeshadow mini contains "Flirty", which is a brown with a bit of taupe and a hint of sparkle...a very versatile color.


The tiny "book" package is adorable!  I don't use much eyeshadow but The Balm gets a lot of points for great packaging.

The only ho-hum product in this bag is a 1 oz. can of Klorane dry shampoo.  I don't really understand these but maybe they work better for those with oily hair.  Since I have the opposite problem, dry shampoos aren't of much use to me.  And I've just received SO many dry shampoos; fortunately, I have a niece who loves them.

There is a travel size bottle of nail polish from Julie, a brand I only know through subscription boxes.  (They are part of the Jesse's Girl brand; an inexpensive drug store line.)  This polish is a really pretty bright fuchsia pink shade.  There is also a dollar off coupon for a Jesse's Girl or Julie product at Rite Aid.

The fifth product is an eye primer from Mica Beauty Cosmetics.  This is in a neutral flesh tone and there's enough here to last a long time.  It's not an exciting product but it is a good basic.

Well, Ipsy had me at the blush this month.  The cosmetic bag is also exceptional and my favorite one to date.  Even with enormous volume buying power, it's hard to see how they pack this much product in a bag that sells for just ten bucks.  I'm sure you can see why Ipsy is my longest running beauty subscription.

Great job Ipsy....can't wait for next month!

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.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Bath Time Box Review, April 2015 + 10%, 15% & 20% Discount Codes!

It hasn't escaped my notice over the years that Canada is a great place to find luxurious bath products. Our northern neighbors seem to have a real talent for coming up with unique and elegant ways to please bath connoisseurs.  So I am not surprised that Bath Time Box has turned out to be one of my favorite sub boxes.  The focus is on natural and handcrafted products and they typically send five or six generous sample sizes.      

Bath Time Boxes travel about 2,100 miles to reach me!  That means a lot of time en route and the weary traveler showed signs of stress when I picked it up at my post office yesterday.  I was a bit worried when I saw the condition of the April box.

More stress was evident when I opened the box.  So far, all three of my Bath Time Boxes have had a somewhat disheveled appearance when first opened.  

There was a little bath powder spilled in the box and the packaging of one item was slightly damaged but overall, everything survived the long journey.  The box contains five bath products and one fun surprise item.

The information card is basic but tells a little about each item and its value.  

This package contains about 5 oz. of a foaming milk bath.  The amount of product barely comes up to the bottom of the window in the package which is a little disappointing; seems like it should have been packaged in something smaller.  This smells wonderful but as there are no details about the scent, I can't identify the components.  There is enough here for two, maybe three, baths if you stretch it.

This little pot contains a Revitalizing Clay Mask.  Again, there's not much information except that it's a blend of clays and oils.  Apply it to your face, wait 10 minutes, then rinse off. This came with a little wooden spatula attached with Washi tape to the lid.  That apparently tore off during the long trip but no harm done.

Grapefruit is a favorite scent of mine for bath products so I was happy to see this container of Whipped Sugar Scrub which contains grapefruit essential oil.  This is great for hydrating dry skin and just general pampering.  There is a generous amount here which should last a while.

When I first opened the April box, a lovely lemony scent emerged.  The responsible product is this adorable Lemon Poppyseed soap which is molded to look like a tiny little yellow Bundt cake.  It smells exactly like lemon poppyseed bread; a very scrumptious and decadent scent.  This is a goat milk soap and the poppyseeds act as exfoliators. This may be my favorite Bath Time Box product so far!

The final bath product is a polka dotted cellophane package containing Happy Goat Tub Tea.  This is a big tea bag that contains goat's milk, cocoa butter and Himalayan pink salts blended with lavender.  You drop it in the bath water, give it a few squeezes and enjoy a relaxing luxury bath.

There is a surprise in this box, this very cute "Spring Has Sprung" wine stopper.  It's a chartreuse color with a plastic butterfly on top.  I think the stopper itself is made of rubber.  Really unique and fun addition to this box!

Considering the drop-kicked appearance of the April Bath Time Box, I was most relieved to see that all the items were unharmed.  The variety and quality of items in these boxes has been a pure delight so far and I'm looking forward to trying everything.

For subscription details, see my February review.  Use code MARCH20 to get a 20% discount on your first box.  LAUNCH10 will get you a 10% discount on any subscription.  The code APRIL15 will get 15% off a three month subscription.

In addition to the monthly subscription box, you can also find all of these products individually at the Bath Time Store.  Use code BTB10 to receive 10% off your order.

I believe the April box was Bath Time Box's third box.  So far, I've been really pleased with this subscription and can't wait to see what comes next!


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.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Blind Surprise Gift Box Review, April 2015 + 25% Discount Code!

This is the toughest kind of review to write because this company isn't yet what it could be.  Blind Surprise sends a monthly box containing a surprise (or surprises) based on interests you specify when signing up (cooking, technology, fashion, traveling, etc.)  Their April box was my fourth.  If you've read any of my past Blind Surprise reviews, you know that I run hot and cold on this one.  

Sending a fun surprise item (or items) that speaks directly to a specific interest is a great premise.  But Blind Surprise seems to be having an identity crisis that is compromising the perceived value of this service.  I actually like the item they sent for April but to put it mildly, the box was underwhelming.  I think I've said the same thing about the previous three boxes.

When my April box arrived, I actually thought they'd forgotten to put anything in it; it was THAT light in weight.  However shallow, sending boxes that look and feel like they contain physical substance is a basic rule in subscription commerce. Nobody wants to pay for and receive a box that feels like it has nothing in it.

What was in my box was this extremely lightweight foldover clutch.  This bag comes from Lacy Lou Handmade Designs.  The design is clever and the bag is beautifully made.   

The top part is a light canvas type material in a pretty mint green color with a slightly tribal looking white arrow pattern.  The bottom is a solid brown faux leather with a textured pattern to it.  The bag is fully lined with muslin and zips at the top. It has a cute mint green and silver tassel and closes with a magnetic snap.

When the bag is unsnapped, it can be used as a small tote to carry papers or other items that are too big to fit in a clutch.  

Lacy Lou Designs is an Etsy seller and this bag sells for $28 in her shop. It is not substantial enough for regular or heavy use but it is cute and definitely well made. It is the kind of clutch that you could easily drop into a larger tote and pull out when you need to lighten your load.

Since I got a discount for a multi-month subscription, I am happy with this item. The value IS there.  But I think Blind Surprise really missed an opportunity to "delight the customer" (a phrase most of us have had pounded into our heads by employers at one time or another).  This box could have been SO much more impressive if they'd added a bar of handmade soap (for example) and a cute note telling about the designer of the clutch. As it was, the only other item in the box was the generic card they include in every shipment which just solicits Facebook reviews.

I get that Blind Surprise is transitioning to handmade products; that is commendable.  It is hard to nail the problem but somehow the "WOW!" factor just isn't there. When your company is built on surprising people in a good way, that's not an omission you can afford.

For what it's worth (and however presumptuous), here are my suggestions for Blind Surprise:

  1. Define exactly what kind of service you want to be.
  2. Substance is important; put more in the box. (Your competitors are doing that.)
  3. Sending handmade items is great but if it's not economically feasible to send more than one item, add something else with perceived value.
  4. Inject some charm.  Include an imaginative information card that tells something about the product(s) or their makers.  Improve the packaging.
  5. Showcase your featured artists via social media.
  6. Use a survey tool to find out what your customers want/expect.
If you're ready to try Blind Surprise, click here and use code THANKFUL for 25% off or GREEN for a $3.00 discount on your first box.

As I said, I do like the clutch.  I'd just like to see this company amp up their service and send boxes that truly surprise and delight!

Thanks for reading,


Blind Surprise Monthly Gifts

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.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Graze Healthy Snacks Subscription Box Review, April 2015 + 2 Free Boxes!

Some penance is probably in order after that last MunchPak review in all its unapologetic decadence.  Perhaps redemption can be found through Graze, which sends healthy and tasty snacks in portion controlled trays.  Graze is dedicated to finding unique combinations and flavors and the best quality ingredients.  They typically work with small batch suppliers and have an incredible variety of snacks available on their site.  Every Graze snack carries some nutritional benefit which is nice to know when your hunger demon strikes.

Graze boxes can be ordered in two sizes--four trays ($6.99 per box) or eight trays ($11.99 per box).  There is no delivery charge.  You can choose to have a box delivered every week or every other week.  The site makes it easy to delay shipments if you're going to be out of town or just want a break.
I think my current Graze box actually arrived at the very end of March but I'm going to call it my first April box.  The boxes often have cute seasonal themes and always have fun artwork inside the lid.  This one has a pastel Easter egg print on the lid.

Inside the lid are two lambs (grazing....ha!) in tall green grass.

You don't get to pick the exact snacks you will receive but Graze has a great rating system that lets you "like", "love" or "trash" any of their snacks at any time. They encourage you to do that so you won't get any snacks that you've "trashed".  The longer you stay subscribed, the more closely the snacks seem to match your tastes.  

The top row in this box contains "Honeycomb Flapjack" and "Cherry Fudge Sundae".  The bottom row contains a single serve bag of Graze's popcorn and "Olive & Rosemary Bruschetta".

Honeycomb Flapjack - I had never heard the term flapjack used to describe a rolled oats bar before subscribing to Graze but they have them in several different flavors. These are honey with chocolate drizzle on them.  They aren't my favorite of Graze's snacks but they are quite filling when you need substance to your snack.

Cherry Fudge Sundae - This mix contains whole blanched almonds, chunks of chocolate fudge, dried cherries and cherry flavored raisins.  With 8 grams of fat, this is not exactly a low fat snack but it is packed with vitamins and minerals.

Graze's Popping Corn (Twist of Black Pepper) - Since I've marked all the popcorn choices as "Love", I get these pretty frequently in my Graze boxes.  I can't say that black pepper flavor is my favorite, but hey....popcorn is popcorn!

Olive & Rosemary Bruschetta - This is a really tasty mix of olive croutons, rosemary and garlic cashews and tomato baguettes.  This is the very definition of a savory snack!

If you're interested in trying Graze, you can get two free boxes.  Click here and use code 29MRQJ1MP to get your first box for free.  If you remain as a subscriber, you will also get your fifth box for free.

Let the Grazing begin!


P.S.  If you want enough snacks to share, check out Graze's new Sharing Box.  This contains five bags, each containing four servings, for a total of twenty servings. 

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.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

MunchPak Snack Subscription Box Review, April 2015 + Discount Codes!

It's MunchPak time!  <Happy dance!>  MunchPaks have to be one of the most popular snack subscription boxes around.  There's no sugar coating this....MunchPaks are not for the food police crowd. They ARE for those who love really great snacks and enjoy having lots of different ones arrive each month, most of which are international brands. In the past my MunchPaks have contained a mix of familiar and foreign snacks but my April box contained all international treats.

MunchPaks come in three sizes.  As you can see, the Mini option lets you try them out at a very low price.  You can also choose the frequency for your Munchpak-- once a week, twice a month or once a month.

MunchPak Mini (5-6 snacks), $9.95
MunchPak Original (10+ snacks), $19.95
MunchPak Family Pak (20+ snacks), $39.95
April's MunchPak arrived in a spiffy new red and white box, a nice upgrade!  

This box was packed with a particularly colorful assortment of thirteen snacks.  I could see a few (welcome) repeats right away but also a lot that I have not received before.

First out is a big bag of Ramen Crunch from Hapi Snacks.  This brand has shown up in snack boxes before but this is the first time I've seen this particular product.  It's described as a Japanese-style ramen noodle snack cracker that is trans fat and cholesterol free. The picture looks like the crackers have cheese in them but there is no cheese product shown on the ingredient label. This snack actually comes from Malaysia.

Next is a little package of Strawberry Bon Bons from Eiffel.  These are little round pink sugar candies surprise...come from France.

This little package contains chocolate sandwich cookies from Romania.  The name is Eugenia Cacao and I believe the maker is Dobrogea.  Can't say I've tried many Romanian sweets before!

This Rip Rolls Blue Raspberry fruit roll up candy comes from Thailand.  I've tasted these before; it's sort of like a fruit leather version of a Sweet Tart.  The second snack comes from Taiwan.  I have no idea what it is but the ingredient label lists "Scallion Pumpkin Cake".  If by "scallion", they mean "onion", this is going to be one strange tasting product. (I hope I'm wrong.)

These waffle type cookies have shown up in one form or another in just about every food box I've received over the past six to nine months.  They are very thin waffle cookies with a layer of sweet honey filling.  The idea is to set them over a hot drink and let them absorb the heat and soften up.  They are pretty bland tasting but o.k. with coffee or hot chocolate. This one just says "Amsterdam! Good Cookies", so I assume they are Dutch.

The green package contains Lemon Wafers from "Mic's Mincher" of Taiwan. Interesting that the picture on the package shows limes, not lemons!  The cute little box of Botan Rice Candy comes from Japan.  It's aimed at children and contains little stickers inside.

I have received Glico Pocky biscuit sticks in other boxes; they were dipped in either chocolate, vanilla or strawberry coating.  This is another Glico product called Pejoy. These are also biscuit sticks, but this time, they are filled with chocolate rather than dipped in it.  I've learned to love anything from Glico!

I suppose every food box has to have one dud.  For me, it's ALWAYS going to be the seaweed product.  This one is called "Big Roll" and it's a grilled seaweed roll. Even worse, it has BBQ sauce on it.  It comes from Thailand and a company called Tao Kae Noi.  In my entire circle of friends, family and acquaintances, I only know ONE person who might possibly eat this.  Really wish box companies would stop sending seaweed products.

Most of my MunchPaks have contained at least one package of Hi-Chews by Morinaga, a product of Japan, made in Taiwan.  This package is Mango flavor.  I love the point that I've ordered them directly from Amazon in between MunchPaks.  They are individually wrapped candies that are about half the size of a Starburst and a bit chewier.  They come in a wide range of fruity flavors.

Another repeat that I'm glad to see is a six sided box of Koala's March by Lotte of Thailand.  If you haven't seen a version of this product, they are tiny cookies in the shape of koala bears, each with a cute bear print on it.  They come with different fillings; this one is creamy milk cream, which is probably a vanilla flavor. This is another one I've been inspired to order straight from Amazon.

I have saved the best for last!  This is a big package of chocolate biscuit cookies called "Vika" from Viktorija, direct from Lithuania!  This is definitely a first for me. These look delicious and there are a lot of them in the package.

It's difficult to determine a value for this box but since foreign snacks tend to be expensive, an educated guess is that the box contains very good value for the price paid.  There is only one item that I rejected outright (guess which one...ha!); the rest will last me nicely for the rest of the month.

If you are interested in trying MunchPak, below are several codes you can use when signing up.  I believe these discounts are the same regardless of the size MunchPak you order.

Get $3.00 off with U2BPAK
Get $3.00 off with LITTLETHINGS
Get $2.00 off with SNACKIN

With their new packaging and awesome tasty snacks, MunchPak seems to be on a roll. I have a feeling this company is going to be around for a long time and that's fine with me!


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.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

FabFitFun VIP Gift Box Spring 2015 Review + $10 Discount Code!

Like a lot of sub addicts, my favorite genre is the lifestyle box.  I like these because they send a good mix of items, usually in the beauty, food, health, home decor and fashion categories.  Sometimes you get a product that defies all categorization! FabFitFun's quarterly VIP box is limited edition and contains $200+ in retail value.  The products are all full size and the price is $49.99.  Shipping is free.   

For the Spring 2015 box, subscribers were given a choice of two scarf patterns which I think may have been a first.  But let's back up and see a full FabFitFun unboxing...that big black box deserves some attention!

Everything was neatly packed with a big "fff" logo on the lid and sticker.

The box contains nine full size products, two sponsored items and a few coupons.

FabFitFun provides one of the better information cards with facts about the products and their retail prices.

As mentioned above, subscribers were able to choose between two scarfs.  One was a watercolor print in pastels and the other had a more artsy vibrant pattern in brighter colors. I chose the second one. This is a very lightweight spring or summer appropriate scarf from Jules Smith.  Retail $42

This pod from Miracle Gro is called a Gro-ables Combination.  It holds everything you need (mulch, seed and fertilizer) to grow a little pot of basil.  Just remove the lid, stick it in soil, add water and watch it grow!  There is also a free gardening app called Sprout It that tracks the Gro-ables progress and offers advice, support and reminders along the way.  Retail $1.49

We've been seeing lot from Rifle Paper Co. in sub boxes lately.  That's a good thing as they make wonderful products.  This cute keepsake box contains a set of 8 paper coasters featuring illustrations of New York, London, Tokyo and Paris. There is also code inside for 25% off any purchase at Rifle Paper Co.  Retail $16  

Next is a package of Salted Caramel Premium Puffed Corn from Cosmos Creations. This is made with all natural ingredients, is non-GMO, gluten free and has no trans fat.  Looks yummy!  Retail $1.49 (Sponsored)

I was happy to see two really nice makeup brushes from Ofra; these are brushes #11 and #20.  #11 is for eyeshadow and #20 is for concealer or foundation.  The bristles have an exceptionally soft and luxurious feel.  They've also provided a generous discount code (FABFITFUN40) which is good for 40% off your purchase at Ofra's site through August 1, 2015. Retail $45.90

Palmetto Derma is another brand that has been frequenting sub boxes lately.  This Collagen Booster is a free radical fighting super serum that increases collagen growth, slows down the aging process, minimizes wrinkles and fills in fine lines.  I always like getting a chance to try expensive cosmetic and skincare products that I would otherwise never buy!  Retail $48

There is a sheet of metallic temporary tattoos from Yasi.  These are Moroccan inspired designs in gold and silver.  This is one trend that I wish would go away.  This may be a snarky observation but how many subscribers who can pay $50 for a sub box use temporary tattoos?  Just asking.  I will find a teen to give these to.  Retail $20

There are two Orly nail products in the box.  One is called "BB Creme Make-Up for Nails".  I have never heard of this product before but it's an all-in-one treatment that helps smooth, moisturize and brighten natural nails.  It goes on with a sheer peach tint.  The other bottle is a very pale pink polish called "Cake Pop".  I don't have much experience with this brand so am intrigued, particularly by the nail makeup product. Retail $15 and $8.50

The last item is a 3 DVD set called Intense Body Blast Pilates Interval Training from Merrithew. This is co-branded with Stott Pilates and FabFitFun.  This could be a nice item but I see on the back that the intensity levels are pretty high.  So, I'm guessing these DVD's will be too advanced for a lot of people.  They have also included a $25 gift card (see next photo below) that can be used towards one of their 500 fitness products.  This is a really nice benefit since there is no minimum purchase.  I'm going to have a look at some of their exercise mats and bands and some of the other DVDs.  Combined retail is $61

There are two sponsored gift cards in the box.  One is worth $125 at Vow To Be Chic, which is a mail order rental service for designer bridesmaid and special occasion dresses.  This gift card permits a free dress rental with the rental or purchase of another dress.  I can't use this since I don't have any special occasions upcoming but even if I did, I wouldn't need two dresses.  I suspect this card will only be useful to a very narrow range of FabFitFun subscribers.

The second gift card is good for $40 off your first week's delivery of Hello Fresh.  I've received this card in numerous sub boxes.  It requires a pretty substantial investment in their service so I don't consider this to have any real value as far as this box goes. If you do sign up for Hello Fresh's food delivery service, then of course, it is worth $40.

So, that's it for FFF's Spring box.  The total retail value (including the Merrithew card but not the other two cards that require a purchase) is $259.38.  The winners for me are the scarf, brushes, Palmetto Derma product and the $25 Merrithew card.  I'm also happy with the Orly products and the Gro-ables.  As for the tattoos...they aren't for me but I guess they do round out the box contents in a way.

The Spring FFF boxes are still available.  If you are a current subscriber and really liked this box, you can get another one for just $44.99.  Current subscribers can also save by signing up for an annual plan for $179.99, which reduces the price of each box from $49.99 to $44.99.

There is also a Mother's Day box option this year which is the Spring box plus the Jessie Steele apron and FabFitFun water bottle that were featured in earlier boxes. This one has a total retail value of $327+, so at $49.99, it's an especially good value.

New subscribers can get $10 off their first box clicking here and using code TRYFFF, making it just $39.99.

FabFitFun is more than just a beauty box.  If you'd like to see what was included in previous boxes, check the site for photos of many past boxes.  You just might be inspired to sign up!


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.