Saturday, October 31, 2015

Best of October...Subscription Boxes and other Favorites!

October is in the rearview mirror but here a few things that brought me joy this month.

Subscription Boxes

Best Beauty Box - Birchbox's "Power Pose" Box - Any beauty box that features BOTH Clinique and Estee Lauder is a hit with me.

Best Non-Beauty Box - Teabox - No contest here.  This is one of the best boxes I've received in ANY category all year.

Best Box Under $20 - Terra Bella Box - Mostly because of the amazing Dead Sea Mud Mask.  

Best Box Over $20 - FabFitFun - Every single product in this box was a winner!

Favorite Food Item Received in a Sub Box - Orange Glad's Moravian Cookies in Pumpkin Spice - Nobody is more surprised at this pick than me!

Favorite Non-Food Item Received in a Sub Box - FabFitFun Umbrella - Useful and attractive always gets my vote!

Entertainment Favorites

Book - The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman

Audible Book - The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (An epic 32.5 hour listen!)

Movie - The Great Debaters (Everyone should see this movie, particularly those under the age of 40)

TV Show - Blood & Oil (Pure guilty pleasure, a modern version of "Dallas")

Reality Show - Dual Survival (Great for picking up all sorts of survival trivia you hope you never need!)

Music - Girl Crush (Little Big Town), Honey, I'm Good (Andy Grammer) and pretty much anything recent from Miranda Lambert

Random Favorites

Shopping Website - Yerdle (ditch your stuff, get what you want, don't spend a dime!)

Fragrance - Marc Jacobs "Daisy Eau So Fresh Sorbet" (Thank you Scentbird!)

Candle Scent - Bath and Bodyworks "Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin"

Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin 3-Wick Candle - Home Fragrance 1037181 - Bath & Body Works

Favorite YouTuber - TeriGigi (she really puts her heart into her channel)

Cosmetics - Chanel blush (Rose Bronze 02) and Laura Mercier Silk Creme Foundation (Peach Ivory)....not cheap, but the flawless results are worth it

What made me laugh - Mindy Kaling's new book "Why Not Me?"

Image result for why not me mindy kaling

Have a spooktacular weekend!


Image result for Happy Halloweenie

"You owe me BIG time!"

(No animals were abused during production of this photo.  All pets were generously matter how coerced they look!)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Clean Bar Box Review, October 2015 + $5 and 10% Discount Codes!

Soap in one form or another gets mentioned a lot in this blog.  There's a reason; it's the perfect product for the subscription business model.  There are endless varieties, most women love artisan soaps, it can be cut to any size and the scent can easily be customized to fit the season.  The lifestyle boxes frequently contain a bar of soap but my favorite way to get it is through the dedicated soap boxes like Clean Bar Box. Their boxes contain four bars of handmade soap that reflect the scents of the season.  

My first Clean Bar Box review contained all the subscription information.  If you would like to catch up on the details, click here.  You can sign up for monthly delivery or bi-monthly delivery.  Since I get so much soap in sub boxes, the bi-monthly plan made sense for me. With this plan, you get two full size (5 oz.) bars and two half size (2.5 oz.) bars every other month.

The 8.5"x11" information sheet briefly introduces the theme of the box and tells about each soap inside.

Personal touches are always appreciated; this little pink note just tells me to "Enjoy", which I certainly plan to do.

The first full size bar is perfect for this time of year; Pumpkin Spice.  This one has a fairly strong cinnamon element to it which I really like.  Smells good enough to eat.

The smaller bars come in little drawstring muslin bags.  This one is called Gold Moss Scrub and my nose told me immediately this was more of a masculine scent.  It smells woodsy and earthy and a bit sweet.

The second full size bar is one of my favorite soap scents--Cafe Mocha.  This smells a lot like the delicious cappuccino I drink several times a week.  It is packed with ground coffee which works as a good exfoliator.

The second small bar is Orange Cinnamon, a delicious scent combination; this just might be my favorite soap in this box.

Soaps can sit around for a long time in my bathroom before getting used. Because these are so perfect for this season and so decadent, I think they'll be moved front and center to my soap dish.  If anybody ever develops Smell-A-Blog, this will be the first subscription box I'll review using that tool!

If you would like to try Clean Bar Box, use code FIRST5 or 5OFF for $5 off your first order. CLEAN10 gets a 10% discount which may or may not be a better deal, depending on which plan you choose.  FIRSTBOX is good for a $3 discount.

By the way, you can purchase a one time box that contains the current month's soaps for $19.99.  Shipping is free. All of the above codes work for a single box also, making it only $14.99, a really terrific deal. Full size bars in many previous months' scents are also available a la carte in their shop.

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.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hatchery Tasting Box Review, October 2015 + $10 Discount Code!

"Hatchery" would be a great name for a subscription service that sends an unidentified fertilized egg each month. The surprise would be seeing what kind of chick popped out of the egg.  You could get a finch, you could get a hawk, you could get an ostrich!  I wouldn't recommend signing up for the annual plan unless you live on a farm......

As it turns out, the Hatchery Tasting Box sends a monthly delivery of small batch ingredients and condiments sourced from independent makers across the country. The cost is $20 a month with free shipping.  Gilt City recently ran a deal where you could get a three month subscription for $25.20.  Although this isn't the type of box that would normally interest me, I had read some good reviews.  At just $8.40 per month, I figured this was an opportunity not to be missed.

My first box arrived about two weeks after placing the order.  It is a nice looking medium sized red box with Hatchery branding.

Almost every review I've read or watched has mentioned the extraordinary packaging inside a Hatchery Tasting Box.  Every item was wrapped in a special kind of quilted or corrugated brown kraft paper and sealed with a Hatchery logo sticker. 

The Tasting Guide gives a lot of information about each product and its purveyor.  In addition, there is a "goes well with" section that tells what types of foods work with each item.  There is a recipe on the back that makes use of one of the ingredients. This month, that's a Shredded Vegan Caesar Salad.  Unfortunately, the print is so tiny in the guide that I'm struggling to decipher it.  

There is a coupon for Jones of Boerum Hill which makes expensive aprons for serious chefs.  If interested, use code HATCHERY20 for $20 off any order of $50 or more. Another card provides a 20% discount for purchases of $35 or more in the Hatchery Marketplace which stocks a wide variety of individual condiments and ingredients. Use the code TASTINGBOX to take advantage of this offer.

After removing all the packaging, I was surprised at how little was actually in this box and disappointed that one of the items had leaked. It's not completely clear, but I believe the guilty party is this packet of Tessemae's All Natural Caesar Dressing.  I'm not sure if this is a single serve package but even if it isn't, it's only 1.5 oz. so it's not going to go far.

Next is a small container of Beekman 1802 Ommegang Abbey Ale Beer Jelly. Again, the print on the jar was so tiny that I had to use a loupe to read it.  (Yes, I am near sighted but I have a lot of visual assistance and this is ridiculous.)  Even after reading the description, I'm not clear on this one.  It's a jelly that has a "layered sweetness with a hint of licorice and chocolate".  Huh?  The card says it goes well with sandwiches, hard and soft cheeses and burgers. I can't stand licorice in any form, so this will probably be gifted.

Next is a kraft paper packet containing Crunch Dynasty, an "exotic hot topping" with elements of Chinese cooking such as chili peppers, soy sauce, fried shallots and sesame seeds. This goes with rice, sandwiches, sushi or eggs.  The fire level marked on the packet is "Hot", so this is not a seasoning to underestimate.

From "Born With Seoul" we have Original Sesame Korean Gochujang.  This is a traditional blend that contains chile powder and sesame seeds.  I can't read the label at all so am relying on the Tasting Guide which says this goes well with vegetables, beef, tofu and rice. 

The last item is a packet of Sweet & Salty Surrender from Sweet is the Spice.  This is a sweet blend of organic brown sugar, maple sugar and organic cinnamon plus Vermont maple sea salt.  It can be used on ice cream, cookies, squash or waffles. This mix probably has the most chance of actually getting used in my kitchen.

I am underwhelmed by this box.  Admittedly, I am probably not their target customer but this box doesn't provide much that's useful or even interesting to me.  I am very glad that I did not pay $20 for the box.  Sadly, the best thing about it was the packaging. Even that seemed wasteful considering how little was inside most of the carefully wrapped little packages. Except for the serious chef and/or gourmand, I suspect this box will fly right over the heads of the less adventurous among us. I really hope that the next couple of boxes will bring less foreign (and less hot) ingredients that I'm likely to actually try.

If you're a more progressive chef than I am and would like to try the Hatchery Tasting Box, the code SAVE10 will get $10 off your first box, making it only $10.  I would say that's a fair price for what's in this box but you'll have to make your own decision about whether to proceed at $20 a month after that. (I'm sure these products are difficult to source so they might be of considerably more value to the kitchen elite.)  I believe this subscription does appear fairly often on the deal sites, so keep an eye on them if you're interested in a longer term discount.

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, October 27, 2015

Book of the Month Review, October 2015 + 3 Month Discount Code!

If you're a reader over 40, chances are you've had a past encounter with the Book of the Month Club which has been around since 1926. The old school book club model meant getting a monthly brochure with hundreds of books in it and a deadline by which you had to make your selections.  Miss that drop dead date and you'd get charged and sent whatever was laying around in their warehouse that week. Responding to the deadline involved considerable effort on your part (stamp, envelope, thinking ahead) and it may very well be the reason that the "negative opt-in" subscription model died.

Well, to quote Dylan, the times...they are a changin'.  The new Book of the Month (they seem to have dropped the "Club") much more closely resembles a modern subcomm business.  Each month, they have a limited selection of books available (just five, I believe), each chosen by a "judge", most of whom seem to come from the literary world, with a few celebrities thrown in for extra dimension. There is an active on-line forum for discussing various books which helps a lot in making your selection.

Book of the Month has three subscription options with a tremendous deal on their three month plan (more about that below).

One Month - $16.99
Three Months - $38.97 (works out to $12.99 a month)
Twelve Months - $107.88 (works out to $8.99 a month)

As someone who is accustomed to obtaining much of my reading from Amazon for a penny plus $3.99 for shipping, I was concerned about the cost effectiveness of this service. (Granted, the penny books are generally not current releases but that's a starting point.) For October's selections, I've included the lowest available Amazon price (including shipping) for a book in "New" condition. 

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff ($15.32)
Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins ($17.63)
Rising Strong by Brene Brown ($15.71)
Smaller and Smaller Circles by F. H. Batacan ($10.21)
The History of Love by Nicole Kraus ($9.60)

Based largely on the comments of Judge Leigh Haber (the Books Editor for O Magazine), I chose "Fates and Furies".  You also have the option of adding a book from previous months' selections for $12.99.  New book selections are announced on the first of each month and you have until the sixth of that month to make your selection.  I happened to make my choice on the 4th which fit conveniently into the selection window, so received my first book pretty quickly....nine days later.

My book came in a medium size branded cardboard box, shipped by USPS Priority mail. Inside was what looks like a hand written note from Leigh Haber.  In it, she uses this phrase to describe "Fates and Furies":  "It's a flight of fancy with a little bit of Shakespeare and a dash of Greek myth".  I like this personal touch, even if thousands of readers got the same card!

And here's my brand new hardcover with dust jacket edition of "Fates and Furies" by Lauren Groff.  The book has 390 pages and was published this year...a big plus to me, since I try to keep up with new fiction.  When I checked out the "Also by Lauren Groff" page, I realized I had read another of her books "The Monsters of Templeton" in January, 2013.  (Yes, I do obsessively maintain a reading history.)

I haven't had a chance to dive in yet since I'm finishing up Mindy Kaling's latest book ("Why Not Me") which arrived in October's PopSugar box.  That one's a fun easy read though so I expect to get started on "Fates and Furies" later this week.

Now, for the GREAT deal available from Book of the Month!  The code BOTM15 will get the three month subscription for $20.97...that is just $6.99 per book! That discount is not available for the month to month or annual subscriptions, just the three month term.  I don't know of any other way you can get brand new recently published hardbacks for that little. (Even two round trips to the library will cost you more than that and you won't get a book in pristine condition.)  If you're a hard core reader like I am, there just isn't any reason not to take advantage of this terrific discount!

Maybe I'll have a "Fates and Furies" book review for you in a few weeks....

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, October 25, 2015

Treatsie Gourmet Sweets Review, October 2015 + Double Sweets Code!

Happy dance!  The arrival of fall means that the subscription companies can finally lift their moratorium on sending chocolate!  Treatsie didn't waste any time in rushing reinforcements to chocolate deprived subscribers.  For those who endured a long hot summer filled with mostly hard sugar candies, peanut brittle and caramels, this soul nutrition arrived just in the nick of time.  Of course, this is one of those reviews that must be written quickly before the box contents vanish. (I'm writing some of this from memory, as it is!)

Treatsie sends a monthly box full of gourmet sweets. The cost is $19.95 a month or less if you sign up for quarterly or annual billing.  There is a $4.95 per box shipping fee.  The retail value of each box is about $25.  The intangible value is that you can't just run to your local convenience or grocery store and pick up treats of this quality. So let's take a look at October's box which contained five items.  

The information card tells a little about each item and tells how to order more of any one that you particularly like.

I spoke a little too soon about caramels.  The (seemingly) requisite package of them this month is from Le Bon Garcon.  These are seasonally appropriate Spiced Cider Caramels, hand made in California.  They are dark in color and quite tasty.

This delectable looking sweet wrapped in gold foil is a Milk Chocolate Bolt from Colts Chocolates. Normally I prefer dark chocolate but this contains peanut butter and almonds so I believe an exception can be made for what sounds like an amped up Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. (Update:  This was sinfully delicious; I forced myself to make it last for two days.)      

These are Chewie Fruities from Torie & Howard.  They taste a lot like Starburst but come in different flavors...Blood Orange & Honey, Pomegranate & Nectarine, Lemon & Raspberry. To be completely honest, I like Starburst better but these are full of Vitamin C and not bad at all.

From Zingerman's Candy, there is a little Milk Chocolatey Karamel Krunch Candy Bar.  The description says:  "Muscovado brown sugar caramel mixed with crisped rice and enrobed in milk chocolate".  Sounds good!  (Yes, I am completely capable of devouring this entire box in one day but I am trying to show some restraint.)

And finally we have the star of this show (to me, anyway), a Dark Chocolate Caramel Pecan Bar from Cocoa Dulce.  This is the perfect amount of bittersweet chocolate (54%) plus caramel and pecans...what a candy bar SHOULD be!  By the way, if you're serious about chocolate, you really need to take a look at Cocoa Dolce's website. (The name sounds exotic but all of this incredible chocolate comes from Wichita, KS.)

See why I'm glad it's Fall?  If you have a serious sweet tooth and want to give Treatsie a try, click here and use code FRBUCO01 to get DOUBLE the sweets (over $40 total value) in your first box!  Treatsie also has gift subscriptions available and a mouth watering assortment of gourmet sweets for individual purchase in their store.  

No more excuses Treatsie...bring on the chocolate!


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.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Adore Box Review, October 2015 + 50% off Discount Code!

It's always interesting to me to see how sub commerce entrepreneurs choose to position their businesses.  With the beauty category SO saturated, carving out a new niche probably isn't that easy.  There are box companies that address every conceivable aspect of health and beauty; some of whom do it exceptionally well. So I wondered where Adore Box would fall along the health/beauty/lifestyle box continuum.

Their stated premise is very simple.  For $15 a month, you get 4 to 10 hand selected items that may include makeup, hair care, skin care, jewelry, edibles, accessories and/or housewares.  Wow...that is a broad definition so I knew this would be a box for the open minded!

It took about three weeks from the order date for my first Adore Box to arrive.  It came in a medium size plain white cardboard box.  There was no branding on the box and the return address said "Ubukata Nation" in Bountiful, UT.  That made me curious.  Did this box come from a Native American tribe?  After a little Google research, I see that Ubukata Nation is actually the name of a small on-line retail fashion business.  This is important to know because "Ubukata Nation" is what appears on the credit card statement, NOT Adore Box. That can be extremely confusing if you subscribe to a lot of boxes.

Inside was an eclectic assortment of seven items, mostly beauty but with a couple of random things tossed in.

There is no fancy printed information card or brochure, just a half sheet of paper with a "What's In My Box?" list on one side. This gives the name of each product, a very brief description and the full size retail price.

I was happy to see a full size Physician's Formula product.  This is the Organic Wear Face Sculpting Trio.  I've never seen a product quite like this but it's a 3-in-1 highlighter, face powder and bronzer. Normally, I would apply those three products separately but since these are pressed into the same compact, I guess you just swirl a brush over the entire pan. I'll need to practice with this a bit to see how it works.

I don't remember EVER seeing a Prada labeled product in a sub box before!  This Purifying Milk sample is tiny, only .1 fl. oz.  It is labeled as a "free sample/not for sale" and there are no instructions on either the package or the information sheet.  This looks like something that was picked up for free somewhere and tossed in the box. I have no idea what this is for or how to use it.

This little tube contains La La Lagoon Aromatic Bath & Shower Gel from TempleSpa. This has a slightly herbal clean scent with notes of ylang ylang, eucalyptus and patchouli.  I like getting anything for the tub but this is quite small so will only provide enough for 2 or 3 baths at most.

In the completely random category is a "Classic Car Jar" air freshener from Yankee Candle. This one is in the scent "Luau Party"  I won't open it until it's needed but I love Yankee Candle scents in general.  Kind of a strange inclusion but very useful.

Although you can't see it in the photo (and it can barely be seen in person), the Jurlique brand name is on the lid of this pot.  There are no marks or packaging whatsoever which I find a little disturbing.  Without the paper, I would have no clue what this is...a big problem when a product disappears into a vast cosmetic collection.  Turns out this is a Silk Finishing Powder, which is a finely milled translucent facial powder that refines the complexion and reduces shine.  This is an elegant product with a sifter and puff applicator in the top, but why isn't it labeled?  Really leaves me wondering where this came from.

Another random but quite welcome item is a package of Premium Hot Cocoa in "Double Chocolate" from Ghirardelli.  No complaints here.  It's chocolate!

Finally, there is a small bottle of "Bodyfixx Sculpting Jele" from Peter Coppola New York. You work this through towel dried hair, then style as usual.  The product gives body, texture and moldability.  

This is an interesting box with a fun mix of products.  A couple of them are higher end than I expected which definitely makes the value more than the price paid. This box does not seem to be about curation but more about what's available at the moment. With both department store and drug store products, sample and full sizes, the contents are all over the place which makes this one both confusing and intriguing. On the plus side, there are some really good brands in the box.  However, the lack of labeling on two of them is a problem.  Some will disagree, but personally, I like the completely random items.  Bottom line...this box is for those who do not have narrow expectations!

Adore Box has an excellent offer for first time subscribers.  Use code HALFOFF to get your first box for just $7.50.  The Physician's Formula trio and the Jurlique face powder are each easily worth that! Longer term discounts are available (3 Mos. - $42; 6 Mos. - $78 and 12 Mos. $144) which is a good way to get the monthly price down if you're interested.

Thanks for reading,


P.S.  The owner of Adore Box says that she won't spend money on fancy packaging or branded boxes; that she wants the subscription amount fully invested in the products.  I haven't heard that philosophy expressed by a sub commerce company before but it's fine with me.  I'm tired of trying to find constructive ways to use all those gorgeous boxes anyway!

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, October 20, 2015

Orange Glad Sweet Box Artisan Desserts Review, October 2015 + $10 & 15% Discounts!

There is a good reason that my Orange Glad reviews are so few and far between. The box contents generally do not survive long enough to make it to the photography stage much less long enough for a fair review.  So, please appreciate the super-human effort required to provide this review of October's box! (In my defense, many of the products have very short expiration dates. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

In case you are not familiar with Orange Glad, they send a monthly box filled with artisan desserts and sweets.  When setting up your subscription, there is an opportunity to indicate your favorite flavors (things like chocolate, coffee, cayenne, caramel, vanilla, orange and lavender).  I don't think the boxes are individually customized at this point but that profiling helps them curate future boxes.  The cost per box is $15 plus $4 shipping.

October's box contains five items. I'll skip all the unboxing photos since those were covered in my last review.  My apologies in advance for the photography; although delicious (mostly), these items were not the most photogenic!

Orange Glad includes a color brochure that devotes a page to each product.  We are told about the vendor (usually small batch artisan types), the product, the ingredients and the "Best by date".

Although it's still in the high 80's where I live, signs of fall are everywhere.  So I'm in the mood for these Moravian Cookies in Pumpkin Spice.  I've never seen Moravian cookies in this flavor before but I've also never had one of their cookies that I didn't like.  And the little 2.75 oz. can is quite cute.  (Update:  Just tried these; absolutely WONDERFUL!  They are very thin crispy pumpkin-shaped cookies with just a hint of pumpkin flavor.)

In the not-so-pretty category is this Maple Pecan Shortbread cookie in the shape of a leaf from A Couple of Squares.  From the minimal ingredient list, I'm guessing this will be delicious!

My least favorite item is this Amsterdam Wafel from Rip Van Wafels.  Versions of these have been in WAY too many subscription boxes.  There's an image in my head of the waffle cookie salesman knocking on the door of every single sub box company. The Dark Chocolate flavor is o.k. but in general, I wish we'd stop getting these.  I'm sure all the friends and family I've given these to would like to see less of them as well. (I took the bullet for all of us and consumed this one myself. You're welcome.)  

A MUCH more welcome addition is a Cheryl's cookie.  (Yes, the name shows exceptionally good taste <ahem> but these cookies are also fantastic!) This is a buttercream frosted cut-out cookie in the shape of a flower from their Fall Harvest collection.  As far as I'm concerned, there should be a law requiring a Cheryl's cookie in every sub box!  (If I ever win the lottery, I'm gonna buy this company.)

The last item is a pair of Cranberry Almond Biscotti from Bella Sophia Baking Co.  Lots of biscotti show up in sub boxes, presumably because they are durable and easy to ship.  They aren't my favorite thing but I have learned to appreciate them.  This looks like a good flavor combination and I like the big pieces of almond I see.  (Again, sorry for the pitiful photography...definitely should have used a dark background!))

That's it for Orange Glad's October box.  If you're interested, they also have a Marketplace on the site where you can buy individual items from past boxes.  You can also get gift box subscriptions in either the regular size ($15 + $4 S/H) or the Double Box size which contains twice the number of items ($27 + $4). If you're gifting more than one person, I recommend the Double Box as the regular size box really won't contain enough for two or more.

If you have time, be sure to browse the Community tab where you can see past products rank ordered by subscriber reviews.  At the moment, the Milk Chocolate Swirl Caramel Apples are in the lead.  Use code SHOPSWEET for 15% off a Marketplace order. If you would like to subscribe, click here for $10 off your first box. (Makes it just $9....a pretty sweet deal!)

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.