Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 2012 Subscription Boxes

I love this time of year and I also love it when my subscription services theme their fare to the season. It's easier to do with food than make-up and cosmetics, but I really liked all my selections this month. Here ya go with the reviews:

This month had couple of toys, some treats, and some care items. In the pictures above Baloo is enjoying his Moody Pet Humunga Stache ball. It's designed so that if the dog is chewing on the ball, it looks like he has a ridiculous moustache. Baloo was not cooperative and wanted instead to chew on the moustache part so I had to help him a little in the middle picture. He also received a Lollycadoodle wool toy in the shape of a snake made in Nepal, so fancy! As far as treats go, of course Baloo loved the Feelgood Treat Company's Turkey Trail Blazin Bitz. I'm pretty sure Baloo has never met a treat he didn't like, the ladies in the leasing office at my apartment even give him carrots from their lunches sometimes. The care products we received this month were Tropiclean Clean Teeth Gel and Metro Paws Poopy Packs (again). The teeth gel is supposed to help with plaque without the need to brush (which a lot of dogs resist), but Baloo actually has excellent teeth (even his vet is impressed when we visit) so I don't know how much use we'll get out of this. And the poopy packs we've received before and I don't like to see repeats in my subscription services, poor form BarkBox. Especially since the apartment complex provides poop bags anyways! Total Value: $30.11+ exact unknown, some of the items I could not get a price for because they were only available in Canada or for wholesale! Cost: $29.99/mo $5 off with my link!

 I am really happy about this month's Birchbox. It was curated by the people from GOOP (Gweneth Paltrow's website) and it is full of stuff I've been wanting to try. My philosophy is that the subscription services can't help it if you don't like something after you've tried it, but they should at least ensure that the items in the box are worth trying, and I think Birchbox did just that for me this month. I read about the Eve Lom cleanser with special muslin cloths to apply on the blog awhile back and was almost tempted to buy it. The amika hair mask came just in time, I'm currently fresh out of hair mask and I like to apply one once every other week at least. I'm re-discovering a brand of cosmetics I liked in high school: DDF and this month I received their pore minimizer. Jury's still out on this one, but it can't hurt to try. I also received the Chantecaille mascara that everyone keeps saying is the best layering mascara, can't wait to try it this weekend with my Halloween costume! Lastly, I received a Lemon Zest Luna bar that I've tried before in another box and am saving for a soccer day snack. Value: $44.06 Cost: $10/mo

Another jam-packed goodies box this month. I just cannot get over how cheap this box is! They said this box was trick or treat for adults, and I agree. I received Dang Toasted Coconut Chips (I don't like coconut but these were actually quite tasty), Brownie Brittle in chocolate chip (I tend to not like crispy brownies, but this brittle idea is genius!), Smartfood Selects in cinnamon brown sugar (very light, airy, and tasty), Mayesa drink (not switching off chocolate milk just yet...), Nutella & Go! (I've never had nutella but I'm glad to have tasted it because this was yummy), and lastly Juicefuls (like gushers but less fake looking and tasting). I loved all but the Mayesa this month, excellent work goodies! Value: ? Cost: $7/mo seriously

I got some pretty cool stuff in my Glam Bag this month, but I may have to stop this subscription soon because one girl only needs so much mascara and eyeliner. At least the Birchbox tends to have hair products and face/body cleansers mixed in with its makeup. This month I received Pequi Oil Treatment for my hair. So far this seems like an ok serum, definitely not beating out my Kerastase. I also got Mirenesse Lip Bomb Lacquer Stain in a color that is outrageous on me. Way too bold for my taste, but it may go well with my Halloween costume! Next is the Balm Body Builder Mascara. Probably won't get around to trying this with the mascara from Birchbox already in queue. While we're on eyes, I also got Coastal Scents eye shadow in a 4 color palate. I really love purple so I may give the plum color a try. Lastly (still on eyes) I received be a bombshell eye liner. I already have two felt tip eyeliners, but this one is fatter so I'm interested to see how it goes on. Value: $70.31 wowza Cost: $10/mo

As always, let me know if you have any boxes I should be trying!

Be sure to enter my giveaway to win a Nature Box!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Giveaway: Nature Box!

I recently had the opportunity to sample a monthly subscription box focused on food, Nature Box. Now, I’ve been searching for a substitute for my Foodzie Box (that is no longer in distribution) so I was really excited when the people from Nature Box contacted me to sample their product. First, a little background on the Nature Box: They are focused on providing healthy snack alternative. Their rules are: No High Fructose Corn Syrup, No Partially Hydrogenated Oils, No Trans Fats, No Artificial Sweeteners, No Artificial Flavors, and No Artificial Colors. This month the theme was “Health Myth Busters”. They provided a great info card to explain how each of their samples (by the way, when I say samples I mean a large bag full of more than enough goodies to decide if you like what they’re serving) fits into their theme. In this box, the items sampled were: Pistachio Power Clusters, Umami Roasted Nuts, Big Island Pineapple, Toasted Sesame Stix, and Apple orchards Granola. They talked about topics such as glycemic index (the granola is sweetened with agave instead of sugar), good fats (like from the nuts), and natural energy boosters (instead of processed candy bars).

As far as my personal opinion, I was beyond impressed with the pistachio power clusters! I dunno if they gave me any more ‘power’ in my day per se, but they sure were delicious!

 I also enjoyed the Big Island Pineapple. I happened to have just bought the dried pineapple from Peeled, and I think the big island Pineapple is way better, so full of flavor and more moist than fibrous.

The Umami Roasted Nuts were tasty with just a hint of flavor, and the toasted sesame stix were a nice change from pita chips with my hummus.

I have to say that I was majorly turned off by the Apple Orchard Granola. To me, granola is supposed to be crunchy, this granola was soft. As someone with self-professed soggy food issues (I can’t understand French toast or chicken parm, why do you want soggy bread/breadcrumbs?!) this was the only miss for me.

If you’re interested in trying if for yourself, the Nature Box peeps have given me a promo code for you to get 25% off your first month: APPLE25 (please note that the 25% discount is only applicable to the month-to-month subscription. 6 month subscriptions receive 1 month free and 12 month subscriptions receive 3 months free). Oh and the best part? Nature Box donates one meal for every box to feed over 14 million children in America who go hungry. Nothing like helping out kids at home with meeting their basic needs.

 Now for the extra fun news: GIVEAWAY!!!

You all are in luck, Nature Box wants to give one of my readers their own Nature Box to try for free!

Prize: 1 Nature Box (note: this will not be the same box I received and reviewed, but a future box with unknown contents)

How to enter: Join my blog via the google blogger app on the right hand side of the blog and leave a comment on this post.

When to enter: This giveaway begins on Monday, October 29th at 0800 CST and ends on Friday, November 2nd at 1700 CST.

Who can enter: Only those of you residing in the USA can enter as Nature Box only ships to US addresses.

Winner will be chosen using and notified on November 2nd after the close of the giveaway. If no response (hey we need your address to ship you goodies) is received, another winner will be chosen 3 days later and so on and so forth.

One last note from Nature Box: At this time, we are unable to customize our NatureBoxes for specific dietary needs or personal preferences.
Disclaimer: The box I tried was free, but all opinions are my own, they didn’t even ask me to write a post, but I felt the need to let you guys know about this great company (and score you this giveaway)!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Apple Crumble Cheesecake Bars

My work recently held a chili cook-off and a dessert bake-off. Since I knew my healthy turkey meat with beans chili would not go over well here in Texas, I entered the dessert contest. I decided to try a new recipe so that even if I didn't win, I'd at least have tried something new. I ended up really loving the combination of cheesecake and apple, and so did everyone else because I won 1st place in the dessert bake-off! Check out my goodies and winnings:

Apple Crumble Cheesecake Bars (from Zoom Yummy)

1c flour
1/2c brown sugar
1c butter, softened

Cream cheese filling
2 (8oz) pkgs cream cheese, softened
1/2c sugar
1t vanilla
2 eggs

Apple topping
2 apples (I used granny smith)
1/2t cinnamon
2T sugar

1/2c oatmeal
1/2c brown sugar
1/2c butter, softened
1c flour

Preheat to 350F. In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter until the batter is kinda crumbly. Press the dough into a 13x9" pan. Bake for 15 min or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix until combined. Pour the cream cheese over the crust.

Peel the apples and chop. Mix the apples in a bowl with the cinnamon and sugar. Place the coated apple chunks on top of the cream cheese layer.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, and brown sugar for the crumble. Cut the butter in with a fork to create a crumbly mixture. Distribute evenly over apple sand cream cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce temperature to 300F and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Remove and cool completely. The original recipe calls for a caramel drizzle, but I forgot to make the caramel and they were still really delicious. Be sure to refrigerate after cooling at room temperature.


Surprise Visitor

Surprise visitors are so fun! Jenn was in Houston for just one night and luckily it was one of the only nights I don't play soccer, perfect! I picked her up and we ate at El Gran Malo in the Heights. I found them on Eater Houston, and it was delicious! Great tacos at a great price. I had the snapper (seared/ pomegranate salsa/ shaved cabbage/ Serrano/ micro-cilantro), pork belly (Mexican coca-cola& lime braised/ roasted/ peanuts/pickled red onion/ local bibb lettuce), and chicken tinga (pumpkin seeds/ shaved cabbage/ lemon/ cilantro) tacos. All were really amazing and arrived at our table maybe 5 minutes after we ordered them. Great service. I also ordered a 'Boobie-rita' that was made with tequila that had been aged in red wine barrels so it turned a light pink color. Really delicious and a fun way to support October breast cancer awareness month! It was really nice to see Jenn because she was in Florida the two times I've been at the Furgione house in NJ recently. Thanks for the holler, girl!

Homemade Crock Pot Chicken Noodle Soup

For awhile there it actually seemed like fall was coming to Texas. We had cool, crisp weather that inspired me to make some soup. The weather promptly heated back up and I froze about half the soup for later cool downs, but I was very pleased with this recipe so I'm going to share it now since I'm aware that most everywhere else in the US it's cool (some people already have snow!). This one is awesome because it's a 'set it in the crock pot and go' recipe. I used a lot more chicken than was called for and less broth because I like a more hearty soup. I also used weird little bead-like 'noodles' because I bought them on a whim one time because they were 'cute' and never used them. Here is my final product and recipe:

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup (from November 2012 Real Simple Magazine pg 224)

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs ~1 3/4 lbs (I used about 8 that were ~2 1/4 lbs)
8c low sodium chicken broth (I used a giant can of Swanson's broth)
4 carrots, chopped
1 lg fennel bulb, chopped plus 2T fennel fronds
1 lg onion, chopped
1c dried white beans (I used navy beans)
Kosher salt and ground pepper
1/2c small pasta (I used Acini di Pepe)

In a slow cooker, combine the chicken, broth, carrots, fennel, onion, beans, 1 1/2 t salt, and 1/2t pepper. Cover and cook until beans and veggies are tender, about 7-8 hours on low. Transfer the chicken to medium bowl. Add pasta to slow cooker. Cook on high for additional 20 minutes. Shred the chicken with a fork or using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add chicken to slow cooker and stir into soup. Use fennel fronds when serving.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn't love chocolate and peanut butter?! This is a flavor combo favorite that I picked up from my Dad early on in life. When I saw this recipe, I thought duh, must try. They were amazing out of the oven and the next day, but they get dry quickly so you'll have to eat them quickly! Here's the goods:

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (from Flavia's Flavors)

2c flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 c smooth peanut butter (I used natural)
1/2c sugar
1/2c brown sugar
1 lg egg
1 t vanilla
1c semi-sweet chocolate chips

*This recipe requires chilling the dough for 2 hours+

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, mix together the butter, peanut butter, sugar, and brown sugar. Beat until lightened in color and texture, about 2 minutes. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg and vanilla then add it to the large bowl. Mix well to fully incorporate. Gradually add the flour mixture to the large bowl, scraping down sides as necessary. Do not over mix! Add in the chocolate chips and stir to distribute with a spatula.

Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat to 325F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove dough from refrigerator and allow dough to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Using a cookie scoop, distribute the dough onto the baking sheet. Cross hatch with a fork. bake for 15 minutes or until the edges are just slightly golden. Cool completely.

Enjoy the peanut butter chocolate goodness!

September Subscription Boxes

Time for the monthly (September to be exact) update on subscription boxes! This month I have five boxes to report on for you. I received a BarkBox, Birchbox, My Glam Bag, Goodies Box, and sent a Whittlebee Box to Christine and Abigail. Here’s a look at the loot I received and a summary for each package:
This month’s BarkBox was a fun one, lots of treats (Baloo’s favorite)! I showed him the box and he immediately pulled out the Barkwothies pretzel bully stick. That was a definite win! Baloo has had the Zukes Z-Bones before and definitely likes them; they’re just kind of expensive for something he inhales. He ate the freeze-dried sweet potato treats and freeze-dried chicken treats from Whole Life Pet too. I like the idea of non-processed treats for my Baloo, and this company gives you a look into their suppliers on their website for added accountability. I haven’t had a chance to give Baloo the Zigoo Pets Crinket toy. The idea is to put a plastic bottle inside the rubber sleeve and let them chew on that. It keeps the dog from shredding the plastic bottle and swallowing the pieces (Baloo and Bernoulli used to do this when they were younger). I hope he still likes plastic bottles; this toy could be a big hit! Either way it’s a great idea! The BarkBox also contained a coupon for $10 off a purchase at, which I used to buy more Bocce’s Bakery treats! I haven’t had a chance to use the wipes yet, but I’m sure Baloo will give me one soon enough. Total Value: $56.01 Cost: $29/mo in the month-to-month plan, get $5 off with my link!

This month’s Birchbox contained a lot of things I’ve wanted to try. Both a BB cream and volumizing hair products have been on my radar. I have to say, I’m glad I was able to test these products via samples. I ended up not liking any of them enough to switch from my current products. I believe that the Liqwd volumizing shampoo and conditioner did not have particularly volumizing effects. I also still prefer my B&B volumizing spray to the Liqwd volumizing spray. I feel the same way about the Dr. Jart+ BB Cream that I did about the last one I sampled. I think the BB Cream provides more coverage than I like, sticking to my tinted moisturizer. I really liked the Color Club 'Insta-this' blue nail polish. It is a really fun color for fall. I also received another twistband hair tie. I wish they would stop sending these things as they don’t really hold my hair very well. Last item was the Bvlgari Mon Jasmin Noir perfume. It was quite lovely, may have to add it to my slowly growing scent collection! Total value: $14.45 Cost: $10/mo or $9.17/mo with year subscription

I’m really excited to share this new box with everyone! First read through all the yummy goodies and then feast your eyes on the price! I got Somersaults (tasted before from Foodzie and love the sunflower taste and consistency), Wai Lana Chips (the lime chili flavor was to die for), Snap Infusion candies (they were tasty and purportedly contain vitamins and electrolytes), snackLets Kale Chips (these were quite gross with their overly strong bbq flavor, what’s wrong with plain kale chips?!), Sensible Foods Crunch Dried Snacks (taste was good, but they seemed freeze dried and had a super crunchy consistency), Rooibee Red Tea in peach (delicious alternative to regular tea), and a Kashi Soft-Baked Square (a brownie made with whole grains, agave, sweet potatoes and beans that unfortunately tasted like its ingredients and not like a brownie at all). Total Value: $17.92 Cost: $7/mo!!!! Get some!

This month’s Glam Bag was ok. I liked half and didn’t care for the other half. I received another Circus nail polish, this one in neon purple (a color already in my collection). Also I received Jane sparkle gloss that was extremely bright and not very well suited to my skin tone as well as really sticky. I did like the idea of the Carol’s Daughter Monoi Repairing Split End Sealer but I’m not certain that it does what it claims to do and I’ve been using it for a month. There was also a Mirabella eye color in a coppery shade that I am excited to try. I don’t generally use too much eye shadow, but I hear that coppers tend to make blue eyes brighter so I figure I’ll give it a whirl here soon. Last item was a smudge brush. Love adding to my brush collection! Total value: $29.56 Cost: $10/mo

Whittlebee Box (for Abigail)

Unfortunately all I have are some pictures of the lovely clothes Abigail received in her Whittlebee box, I’m not sure if they include information on where to buy more of the clothes, but the items she received were quite cute and seemed to be of high quality. Cost: $39.99/mo

Over all another good month in the world of subscription boxes, especially with the addition of the goodies box! I’ll be continuing all of these boxes into October except for the Whittlebee box. That was a one time thing I got as a present for Abby because Whittlebee had a 55% off coupon code I found (it’s quite expensive otherwise).

Let me know if there are any other subscriptions I should check out!

Last but not least, stay tuned next week for a subscription box giveaway, more detail to follow in a later post!!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Grace and Jameson

A weekend ago I traveled back East for a dear friend, Grace’s, wedding. She was married in the lovely Eastern Shore town of Chestertown. The ceremony, setting, and of course the bride were all perfect! I had an amazing time celebrating Grace and Jameson as well as catching up with some of my favorites, Meredith and Hannah (I also got to swing by and see Christine, Abigail, and the Noodle, score)! It was a whirlwind weekend, but definitely worth it to see all those ladies in one weekend. Here are some of my fave pics from the wedding:

My fave bridesmaid, Meredith:

 One last walk with her daddy as a single lady:


First dance:

My favorite part is seeing the wedding cake! I give Grace mad props for this beautiful and yet still fun design! Oh and no fondant, extra bonus points!

The groom's cake (he's a Giants fan obvi):

Check out the veil!

The former CRC lifeguards in attendance:

Me and Mere on the dance floor:

Mere with Hannah on the dance floor:

Possibly one of my fave pics from the night:

There were quite a few dance circles that developed during this wedding:

A boat full of beer!

At the after party with my roomies for the night:

Loves Grace's after party dress:

Had so much fun visiting with my Marylanders! Wish the weekend wasn't so short!