Birchbox Review | July 2014

How the latest and greatest in beauty and lifestyle products made me feel a little bit more gorgeous this month…or not so much. Here’s the skinny…

Birchbox Review July ATG FINAL


#1.  Harvey Prince Hello Body Cream | It’s no secret that thanks to Birchbox, I’m a fan of Harvey Prince. If I had to pick my signature scent right now, Hello is my near daily go-to perfume choice (which I’ve gushed about before here and here.). In a nutshell, the Hello Body Cream is the icing on the cake! The formula is infused with my beloved Hello perfume, along with sweet almond oil, citrus botanicals, and shea butter to give it a bright scent, and light moisturizing feel. The texture is silky and the product blends into the skin almost instantly. Your hands (which is where I opted to use this product) feel saturated and soft, without a greasy residue. As much as I love the cream, I’ll stick to their perfume as my Harvey Prince indulgence of choice. Though I do adore this product, I can’t see myself spending $22 on a 12 ounce bottle of lotion at this time. I’d rather save up and invest in the fragrance.

Overall: A do…if you can get behind the cost.

#2.  Ruffian Nail Lacquer – Ambrosia | I’ve received a Ruffian nail polish sample from Birchbox before. I won’t go into much further detail from my previous review last September, but I will say that I loved this color much better than the one I got last year. I do think this was largely why I was so unimpressed at the time. There’s nothing worse than a “blah” shade in any beauty product. The Ambrosia color has a unique metallic lavender finish that sparkles subtly in the sunshine. And even better, you really only need one coat. Where Ruffian does excel is in the design of the bottle. I do appreciate the ball shape on the cap. It allows for a good grip and gives you more control during application.

 Overall: Perhaps I misjudged Ruffian the first time around. Relationship status, pending.

#3.  Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Repair Moisturizer  | Like most skin care products designed to help with fine lines and wrinkles, this gel serum from Juice Beauty (cool name!) would take time and repeated usage to see any real results. I’ve only used this product a few times and would need to continue use for a while to form an opinion (and I don’t know if the size of the sample would give me enough product to form one anyway!). I don’t really have anything to say other than I wasn’t a fan of how it made my skin feel pretty dry after application. I was always desperate to get to my moisturizer after using it. Admittedly, I happen to be in the category right now of not really having aging concerns when it comes to my skin. This likely due to my age, my race (African-Americans tend to age well), and the fact that my mom looks more like my sister (so I have good genes!). That being said, I’ve always been one for good skin care (also thanks to my mom) and probably do need to start thinking more seriously about using something like this product on a more regular basis to get an early start at warding off signs of aging. Unfortunately, I don’t think it would be with this product anyway.

Overall: Eh.

#4.  Ruffian Dressing Room Nail Lacquer Remover Towelettes | I have a confession to make and I may lose cool points for it. I typically resort to maximum strength acetone-based nail polish remover when it’s time for a polish change. And while I know this stuff is known to wreak havoc on nails, I like the ease of a quick swipe, swipe, swipe, and the polish is gone. Though I think these towelettes are a pretty genius idea, I wasn’t thrilled that it took 3 times as long for me to remove my polish. It’s not like I was in any big rush or anything, I just hate rubbing the same nail over…and over…and over…times 10 (it’s my A.D.D. nature, I’m sure). However, these perfume scented towelettes are winners in and of themselves. Each wipe is enough to remove the polish of an entire mani or pedi. They are acetone-free, and therefore, naturally much less harsh on nails. Add in the fact that they smell wonderful, and are infused with vitamin E – which leaves the nail bed area all the more moisturized – and this is something I could buy into, despite the longer removal time. Where these fall short is being able to really reach toward the sides of the nail bed nearest the skin in the deeper crevices. You’ll still need the aid of a Q-tip, which is slightly disappointing given that a box of 10 towelettes costs $12.

Overall: A do…if you don’t mind a longer removal time…and the cost.

#5.  100% Pure Gingerade Shower Gel (Honey Cream Wash) | This was a case of I just couldn’t tell. I couldn’t tell if this all-natural (a plus!) ginger-inspired body wash was a scent I could get behind because I didn’t hate it, but I couldn’t say I loved it either. I really couldn’t tell much about its performance from the pathetic-sized samples I got where one packet barely did anything on my loofah. I actually had to add my go-to Caress body wash to it to finish my shower. This has all the ingredients for a terrible first impression. It might help if Birchbox sent a larger sample to really get a sense of the product, but this was disappointing. I just gave up and denounced this altogether. There are too many products on the market to experiment with. Neeeext!

Overall: Pass.

#6. Ofra Universal Eyebrow Pencil | I don’t personally use eyebrow pencils. If I ever feel the need to define them on a rare given day, I usually just add a few swipes over my brow bone using a brown eyeliner pencil applied with a light hand. That said, this eyebrow pencil by Ofra is a good option if you don’t like the all-in-one convenience of just using your eyeliner. What makes this particular pencil stand-out, is that it’s designed to work on any gals brows, from blondes to brunettes. Obviously, I can’t speak to its universality, but as a brunette with a darker (honey) complexion this pencil works well. You really only need just a few strokes and you’re set. The pencil is long-lasting and fills nicely.

Overall:  A do… if you’d rather not just use an eyeliner.


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(I’m not affiliated with Birchbox outside of just being a fan…with an opinion.)


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Beach Day Reads

Beach Day Reads

I can’t believe it’s the last week of July! I haven’t even made it to the beach yet, perhaps that’s why it hasn’t quite felt like summer yet. Not to worry, we still have 55 days of the season left. I’m on it!

I found this old photo from one of many summer adventures at Point Dume on a crisp morning, turned hot day – encapsulating all of my beach day essentials. And it’s not quite a beach day without my Kindle loaded with a new book. Does this girl love a delicious summer read!

In the spirit of a lazy Saturday spent on the beaches of Malibu with a good book and an iced latte nearby (one of my absolute favorite ways to kick-off a summer weekend!), I thought I’d share my next 5 reads that will take me through the rest of summer. Some of these are book club selections for the next few months ahead, while others are just stories I’m anxious to delve into on my own.

If you’ve read any of these, please do share your thoughts in the comments section.

Until we meet again…happy reading and happy 55 days of summer left!


Beach Day Reads ATG FINAL

1. MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche

2. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

3. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

4. China Dolls by Lisa See

5. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Blog Signature Official_FINAL


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Highlights

On combating restlessness…

Since we last caught up, that was something I aimed for as I maneuvered through the week, understanding that when this feeling arises in life, it’s likely a sign from the universe to shake things up, however big or small you choose. And while I began the process of working through a big area in my life by becoming really honest with myself  – I chose to take the smaller, more subtle route, for much of it.

Little tweaks here and there: experimenting with a new make-up technique, listening to new music, subscribing to a new magazine (and only $5 thanks to Groupon!); or taking a conscious moment to enjoy the simplest of pleasures: connecting with other bloggers during an engaging Twitter chat, watching YouTube videos for much-needed life inspiration from my favorite thought-provokers…along with a few of these special moments, started to add up and help combat that unwelcome feeling:

Urth Waffles

{Taking myself to lunch for the first in ages at one of my favorite places. And trust me, waffles help with whatever is going on in life. Immensely.}

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{Enjoying a bright nail polish after a relaxing at home pedicure.}

FLOWERS

{They say money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy a $4 bouquet of flowers for myself from Trader Joe’s and that’s pretty much the same thing.}

Let all your life out

{Words that spoke to me while visiting  the “Made in LA” exhibition at the Hammer Museum: “Let all your life out.”}

Looking forward to a warm weekend ahead. We’re headed out to my old stomping grounds, The O.C. as you may know, to The Orange County Fair. I promise NOT to overindulge…well, too much. Have a great weekend! xx Blog Signature Official_FINAL


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…to Downtown LA We Go.

Downtown Header

{Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho…to downtown LA we go!
And this time, my camera was charged and ready.}


What: LA Conservancy Walking Tour
Where: Broadway Theatre District
Location: Historic Broadway, Downtown LA
Cost: $10.00


It feels as though a modern-day renaissance, a rebirth, is taking place in our own backyard. The interesting thing is how. As much as there is an effort to revitalize Downtown Los Angeles, there’s an equal push to hold onto its history. The duality here is that while constructing some of the most revered contemporary architectural structures, hosting the trendiest restaurants in town (my favorite restaurant happens to be downtown), and rejuvenating the streets; if you were to walk for several blocks in a particular direction, say, toward Broadway, and open your eyes passed what appears to be a random storefront or abandoned building…you’ll see it.

It’s Hollywood’s origins, as early as 104 years ago.

After a memorable Saturday night last month at the Los Angeles Conservancy’s special screening of Back of the Future (minus what has to be my least favorite restaurant that also happens to be downtown), I channeled firsthand what it would’ve been like to go to the movies 80 years ago at one of the most lavish movie palaces ever created.

Movie palaces weren’t just about seeing the film, it was a night out on the town, ball gowns and top hats required. Though I was dressed more circa 2014 California chic in a bright sundress and a pair of sandals – one could still feel the old Hollywood decadence as you walked around the United Artists Theatre that night. The Spanish Gothic design, frescoes painted high on the walls and ceiling, the ultra glam vanity room to touch-up your lipstick after a trip to the restroom, and the massive 1,600 seat theater was a lot to take in. Needless to say, it was a gem.

And in fact, these gems are sprinkled throughout Downtown LA. There are 12 of them in total, built between 1910-1931 and all located on the same street over a 7-block radius on the now, historic Broadway. From movie palaces screening the latest films to vaudeville acts performing on large stages; Art Deco to French Baroque-style architecture, each theater was distinct in its design and purpose, though all were originally constructed with the same goal, and that was to entertain at the highest of standards.

I was eager to learn more. Thanks the heavens for the Los Angeles Conservancy’s Walking Tours through Downtown LA.

Tour Start FINAL

{Saturday, 10:00am. View of the skyline from Pershing Square as we gathered to start the tour.}

Two hours on a bright, warm, summer Saturday morning a few weeks ago, found me walking along what is known as the “Broadway Theatre and Commercial District.” Escorted by a tour guide from the LA Conservancy, I was taken back to a history I had never really known much about and their efforts to save it.

The tour guides you to 11 out of the 12 theaters (the Million Dollar Theater is a few blocks away from the main cluster), stopping frequently to hear about its structural design and contribution (or failure) during Broadway’s entertainment heyday.

MAP FINAL

{Map of the Broadway Theatre and Commercial District. Click to enlarge.}

Little did I know that what looked like a less than glamorous storefront, was once an auditorium that hosted extravagant film screenings or performances. And while some of the buildings aren’t necessarily in the best shape or much to look at if you’re just passing by, the tour does a fantastic job of making you look past the facade to see a little deeper. The details are still there, though perhaps a little (or more than a little) weathered. In some instances, while the theater space now acts as a retail shop, the interior is preserved. In others, it is no more. Typically what remains is the structure.

Roxie ATG FINAL

{The Roxie. Built, 1931. Now a retail store. Though pretty weathered, it retains its Art Deco style.}

Tower FINAL

{The Tower. Built, 1927. Renaissance design.}

GLOBE FINAL

{The Globe. Built,1913.}

DSC01183

{The Palace. Built, 1911. French Baroque.}

The State Final

{The State. Built, 1921. Currently a church and the only place with air conditioning during the long hot tour!}

The good news is that a few of the theaters are in relatively excellent shape, so much so that you can feel the energy of the early 20th century the moment you walk in. I got the sense that is just depends on what day you take the tour (and the fact that many of these buildings are now retail venues or closed altogether), but we were only allowed inside of one of the theaters (other than The State).

If there was one interior venue I wanted to see with my very own eyes, it would be the luxurious Los Angeles Theatre. It. did. not. disappoint. Built in 1931, this lavish venue cost $1.5 million dollars to construct. The lobby boasts crystal chandeliers, a sweeping staircase, a fountain, custom-made carpets and drapery. It has individual stalls in the women’s restroom made from unique marble materials (no stall looks alike!), a vanity area, children’s playroom, men’s shoe shine area, downstairs lounge, dance floor, and a crying room (a place where mothers could take their crying babies so as to not disturb the audience and still watch the movie!). It also seats 2,000 people!

Yes, seeing a film or attending an event at the Los Angeles Theatre was certainly living it up back in the day! Even better, though privately owned, it’s a working venue and still in-use/for rent today.

Los Angeles ATG FINAL

  {Exterior, Los Angeles Theatre. Built, 1931.}

LA Lobby FINAL

 { Los Angeles Theatre. Ticket booth.}

LA Chandelier FINAL

{Los Angeles Theatre lobby. 50 foot ceiling, crystal chandeliers.}

Interior LA FINAL

{Los Angeles Theatre stage.}

Shoes final

{Sidewalk in front of the Los Angeles Theatre. It’s marble!}

PS: I encourage you to visit the Los Angeles Theatre’s website to see their gallery photos of the interior space. Mine certainly don’t do it much justice!

UA 2 ATG FINAL

{The equally decadent United Artists Theatre at Ace Hotel. You can read more about this venue from another post I recently wrote, here.}

EASTERN FINAL

{Though not focal to the tour, we had to stop and chat about the famous Eastern Building which is also located on Broadway, just across the street from the Orpheum Theatre. It’s considered to be on the finest examples of Art Deco style architecture in existence. Apparently, a loft here can set you back well into the millions!}

DOWNTOWN LA ATG FINAL

Approximately 2 hours and 90°+ later, I walked away from the tour with an appreciation that I didn’t necessarily have before. My eye is typically always drawn to what’s pristine, modern, and aesthetically pleasing (perhaps that’s why the Walt Disney Concert Hall was such a thrill for me to tour last year!). However, this was a classic case of not judging a book by its cover. While the Los Angeles and United Artists Theatres don’t necessarily draw you in by the exterior, you’d never know such opulence would be behind those doors. Essentially, this experience taught me to applaud the duality that’s taking place downtown. Modern structures speak to forward movement, but there’s something special when it comes to surrendering to history and wanting to keep it alive.

I’m glad that organizations like the LA Conservancy make it a goal to preserve what was.  Though I enjoy the plush large seats at the Arclight as much as the next Angeleno; I doubt I’ll ever wear a ball gown, drop my faux children (as I don’t have any!) in the theater playroom, watch a film, sit in a marble bathroom stall, walk a grand staircase while enjoying the sounds of the neighboring fountain, just after making my way to the lounge, where I’ll sip a cocktail and dance the night away…all at the same place.

If you’re ever looking for an inexpensive, educational, and explorative thing to do on a beautiful Saturday morning in LA, this is for you!


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Highlights

ATG FINAL

{Laguna Beach, dusk.}

There’s nothing like a summer night. I was at a wedding last weekend where I stepped outside for a few minutes and saw this incredible view! We were about 2 blocks from the beach. What a sight to see the sun setting over the water. What is it about staring at the ocean and inhaling the gentle breeze that just makes the mind start to wander?

And wander it did.

Truth be told, I’ve been restless lately. I’m taking it as a sign that it’s time for some changes. I suppose it’s life’s way of nudging us forward…or in an entirely new direction altogether. I can pinpoint exactly where this restlessness is coming from. It’s just a matter of making a decision on what to do about it and acting on it. It’s when you don’t, that it seems to seep into just about everything else in your life – or at least that’s my experience with it.

Despite this feeling that’s been following me around lately, it’s been a good week overall. I’m gearing up to co-produce a pretty intense, yet deliciously interesting documentary project, which means the summer is about to get busier!

I also went to my first yoga class in ages this week and boy, have I missed my practice. Even when I’m laying in shavasana thinking about how I can’t wait to get home and eat that aforementioned chicken lasagna (which you’re NOT supposed to be doing if you’re performing the pose right), it still felt so invigorating to be back in a yoga studio, breathing deeply, and doing something completely good for myself. This is what yoga is for me: a space in which I know, without fail, that I am consciously taking the time to take care of and connect with myself. Perhaps as I continue with my practice and think through my restlessness, answers will find their way to me much more gracefully and naturally, than me trying to fight my way toward them.

I’ve been wondering as I write this how others deal when life becomes a little too restless. This seems to be part of a larger cycle in life. And not in a sense where it’s just a day or two here and there, but when you have a feeling that somehow the days just melt into one another. Does a drastic change help? Do smaller alterations make the difference? Is it as simple as adjusting my routine? A new hairstyle? Expanding my circle?

The good news is that in spite of all this, I know that there’s much to be grateful for and always look for that when that wandering mind takes over.

It’ll be another low-key weekend here. And perhaps this is part of the problem now that I think about it. I enjoy quiet weekends as much as anyone. Oftentimes, you need that slower pace to re-charge. But I think my spirit is telling me that that road trip I’ve always wanted to take to the Grand Canyon needs to happen sooner than later. Perhaps my spirit just needs a little more adventure, to stop with all the planning, and get to the business of doing.

Have a nice weekend! I hope it finds you far from restless and taking in these amazing summer nights!

What I’m Lovin’ Right Now

Happy Wednesday! I hope the summer is treating you well so far. Interrupting your hump day to share a few random things I’m just lovin’ right now…

…I think you will, too.

1-WILRN ATG FINAL

1. // Taking matters into your own hands: Salad Dressing 101.

2. // International advice: on how to live the sweet life.

3. // Keeping nature close by: bright flowers arrangements in assorted mason jars, windowsill optional.

4. // Shoe candy: Charles by Charles David “Verge” Sandals.

5. // Music to my ears: Latch by Disclosure featuring Sam Smith.

6. // The bad hair day cure: Billabong’s Firebird Trucker Hat.

7. // Summer chic without trying too hard: ASOS Sleeveless Skater Dress.

8. // A.M. grub that actually holds you over to P.M. lunch: Peanut Butter Berry Oatmeal.

9. // Summer mani/pedi inspiration: Best Summer Sheers.


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5 Reasons This Week Will Rock!

5 Reasons ATG FINAL


It was one of those weekends that just didn’t feel long enough. All I seem to recall was a wedding on Saturday night, seeing another gal rock pretty much the exact same dress as me at said wedding (but to help with the sting some, it did look slightly better on me. ;) ); 2 lemon drops, a trip to Target, a stop at Trader Joe’s and somehow it’s already Monday. I’m not too stoked about this, but understand that one cannot just wish their life away incessantly waiting for the weekend to arrive once again. This new week brings a few fun things to look forward to.

Here are 5 reasons this week will rock:

#1. Two words: Restorative. Yoga. (I’m so excited about my first restorative yoga class in ages! Yes, this is about the easiest form of yoga you can do – you basically pay to take a nap for an hour and a half…and I’m okay with this.)

#2. Joy the Baker’s Fresh Blueberry and Mint Lemonade (hello!) coming to a taste bud near me! This looks so refreshing, I can’t stand it nor wait to whip up a batch. The only hurdle is that I neglected to get the blueberries when I was at the grocery store yesterday. No worries. I’m all over it and will report back.

#3. I’m REALLY trying to get into Orange is the New Black. I was semi-interested after the first episode, totally bored by the second, though much less bored by the third. I’m aiming to give it some time to see what all the fuss is about. It’s one of the most buzzed about shows on TV currently, however, I’m just not seeing why as of yet. I’m giving it 3 more episodes/nights on the couch to suck me in, otherwise I’m moving on.

#4. Trader Joe’s Chicken Lasagna. Picture this: a $4.99 lasagna that’s pre-made in the refrigerated section that merely requires a gal to pop it in the oven for 45 minutes (I like it almost burnt), have a gourmet meal, AND get at least 3 nights worth of grub out of it? This gem, my current obsession, will be my dining companion over Orange is the New Black.

#5. Starting my next book club read: MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche.

These are 5 reasons this week will rock! I hope yours does too!

See you Wednesday!