Birchbox February | Happy Anniversary

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Happy Birchbox Anniversary to me!

It’s been one year since I started experimenting with the latest and greatest in beauty and lifestyle products (then started blogging about them!). It’s been quite a ride and I have to admit, while it’s been a hit or miss experience when it comes to the products themselves, I still love the monthly surprises in my mailbox. Birchbox has introduced me to some pretty amazing products that use I regularly, while also teaching me that just because something is considered “high-end” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any better than the stuff you can get at your local drugstore for half the cost.

(Shhh!) Between you and me, I’m considering the idea of exploring another monthly box service. Not that I’m dissatisfied with Birchbox, because I’m not, but given how the market is now flooding with new options and new approaches toward discovering beauty products, it might be time to try something different. I’ll dedicate a well-researched post in the near future to share my findings with a succinct listing of what’s out there, along with the pros and cons of each, where I’ll then announce my final decision.

Until then…here’s how February shaped up!

Product reviews are from left to right.


Agave Healing Oil Treatment  | Whenever a product uses the words “agave” and “healing” in the same sentence somehow I instantly feel like I’m doing something completely natural and completely right for myself. Perhaps I’ve been brainwashed by the marketing industry to “trust” a product more. I was admittedly excited about this hair oil. The hard part is that the sample wasn’t very generous, so I used the whole pack in one sitting and this may be a product where you see better results the more you use it. What I loved about this treatment was the sweet fragrance along with the smooth texture of the oil. I can’t say with conviction that this did anything other than make detangling my hair much easier, which is a huge compliment for my kinkier hair texture. And as I write this, my hair has a nice bounce to it (then again that could just be because it’s totally clean at moment). However, at $24 full-sized, I’m can’t say I’m convinced to experiment with this product any further.

Overall: I’m indifferent.

Smashbox Cosmetics Full Exposure Mascara  | officially became a mascara snob last fall when a friend recommended Benefit’s They’re Real Mascara to me when I was on the prowl for a new go-to mascara. Since then, my search for the perfect mascara was O.V.E.R. While anything with the name Smashbox associated with it on the beauty front is no joke – I was skeptical if this could top the instant “wow” impression that They’re Real did and still does. And I was right. While this paraben-free formula isn’t a terrible mascara by any means, I was instantly turned off by the brush which was so thick that it always left a total mess on my eyelids no matter how delicately I tried to apply it. The good news is that this isn’t a problem when you use an eyeliner, otherwise if you want simple mascara-only drama or to use it after you’ve already expertly applied eye shadow (sans liner), this was a disappointment. It always needed an extra eyelid clean-up after use. And even after applying several coats, I never quite got the volume that I do with Benefit’s mascara. Essentially, between the wand and the formula, this isn’t something I’d readily jump out and buy. I like control when applying mascara and didn’t feel like I had it here. I look forward to using the sample, but will stick with what’s working.

Overall: If you want the best mascara ever – Benefit’s They’re Real is your answer. I promise.

Smashbox Cosmetics Full Exposure Palette | Admittedly, I was bummed at how Smashbox chose to share their eye shadow palette sample by placing a not so generous amount of product on a card. I mean, come on! This is SMASHBOX COSMETICS – you guys can do better.  If cost was an issue, I would’ve preferred less shades options and more product in a sample-sized pot so that I could really explore application with the colors. Okay, now that that’s out of the way…What was unique about this sample was that they chose to share the same shades in both a matte and shimmer finish. I experimented with the shimmer finish for the most part to build a more dramatic eye and had a pretty positive experience overall. I will say that it felt like the shimmer lasted longer than the actual color pigment in some of the shades, which is not ideal. I recently used my Birchbox points to score this full-sized eye shadow palette from Coastal Scents and I’m very happy with it. I might have more to say if Smashbox gave us more to work with, but since I’m not in the market for a new palette – it’s a pass.

Overall: Pass. Go for the Coastal Scents Palette if you’re looking for as many as 88 options! FYI – it’s cheaper on their website. I was pissed to see Birchbox charge $40.00 for something that’s selling for $25.00 on their site. Granted, Coastal Scents does charge for shipping and Birchbox ships for free – it may not be too much of a difference. Given that I used my points, it lessened the sting, but didn’t make me happy at all when I first caught this.

Ruby Wing Color Changing Nail Polish | As hypocritical as it may sound since I’m a huge believer in “All That Glitters” – my experience with this glittery nail polish is bittersweet. On the one hand, I love the idea of a little sparkle on my nails, but on the other – it’s always so annoying to work with glitter anything. My first attempt at using this nail polish was a total fail. Take one: I polished my toes in Sexy Silhouette (don’t you just love the names of nail polishes now-a-days) and got creative and used this gold glitter nail polish over it for every single nail. TOTAL DISASTER. I don’t blame the polish, just a moment of poor judgement on my end. Take two: I polished my nails a very subtle gold color and used this gold glitter nail polish as an accent on one nail. MUCH better. My thoughts on this polish, however, are dual. I love the look (when done right) but HATE that it takes FOREVER to remove glitter nail polish. On top of that, this formula takes a few applications to look right and at that point becomes so thick it’s complicated to work with. As for the “changing” color aspect, I did notice the bottle change to a more reddish color when doing my outside photo shoot for the picture above, otherwise I can’t say I noticed it changing color in the sun too much (maybe I need to stare at my nails more outdoors). Either way, this is rather gimmicky to me and not really necessary. I’ll enjoy the sample on occasion, but don’t have any plans to make a full-sized purchase. The sample would last me awhile anyway (ahem, Smashbox!) when I am looking to add a bit of bling on my nails. In between those times, there are other ways to enjoy some sparkle in my life.

Overall: Eh. It’s fun, but I would want to experiment with a different brand to find something easier to work with.

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{Sneak peek at “take two.”}

Camille Beckman Glycerine Hand Therapy | Holy awesome hand lotion! I feel like I’m always reviewing lotions in my Birchbox, but this one has to be, by far, the best yet. What I immediately noticed about Camille Beckman’s hand lotion in Morelia Monarch was its amazing texture – unbelievably smooth and creamy without a stitch of greasiness from the moment of application. You don’t have to wait a few minutes before any lingering residue absorbs into the skin as you might have to with many lotions on the market. I was also instantly struck by its subtle scent – notes of vanilla, amber, and green tea. Your hands feel incredibly moisturized and silky to the touch. At $15, it is an expense over what I’d normally grab just to keep in my pursue, but one that I’m willing to overlook in this case. Your hands are in for a treat.

Overall: Worth it…if you don’t mind the splurge.

anniversary!

Join the Birchbox fun! Pick up your subscription with this link:

https://www.birchbox.com/invite/ATG

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


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What I’m Lovin’ Right Now

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You wouldn’t know it by looking out the window at our trademark California sunshine as I write this, but a storm is vastly approaching the City of Angels. By the time you read this, we’ll be in the mist of an actual (and very much-needed) rain storm for the next 5 straight days. In “LA speak” this means alternating between downpour then drizzling, on and off, just before the next random heat wave. Not usually one to get too excited at the prospect of rain (especially when I prefer to be wrapped up in a soft blanket at home watching movies all day and not sitting in traffic heading to work) I know that this particular storm is a godsend to our ongoing drought emergency. Looking ahead to an upcoming long weekend on my end, it looks like I’ll be spending the last days of February primarily indoors. It’s prompted me to think about small pleasures on a rainy day: a good book, a warm beverage, things to do to pass the time, and a fun umbrella to have handy when you do brave the outdoors.

Here are a few things I’m lovin’ right now to guide us through the rain and to the rainbow, until our trademark sunshine joins us again. xx


1-Collage WILRN

 rainy day footwear – Knee Length Cozy Socks

rainy day mani inspiration – Suzi and the 7 Dusseldorfs by OPI | Amazon

rainy day protection – Bumble Umbrella | Target

rainy day neck wear – The Nellie Knit Scarf | Grace & Lace

rainy day chocolate fix – Homemade Hot Chocolate |  heart.love.weddings.

rainy day self-care – Why and How to Take a Detox Bath | Healthy Living How To

rainy day read Think on These Things by Jiddu Krishnamurti | Amazon

rainy day organization inspiration – 52 Meticulous Organizing Tips for the OCD Person in You | Buzzfeed


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What I’m Lovin’ Right Now | The V-Day Edition

As I think about it, there are several stages to the Valentine’s Day experience I believe many women go through. As a kid, you were forced encouraged to swap Valentine’s with your classmates, literally walking home with tons of cards and heart-shaped candy (along with the biggest sugar rush ever to your parent’s delight). In middle school, you sent candy grams to all your girlfriends, and they to you, as a mark of solidarity. In high school, somehow that all changed and you watched with disdain that only the popular girls somehow now got all the candy grams delivered right in the middle of English class. In college, you were just plain bummed to be single and/or annoyed by all the hoop-la so you holed up in your dorm room watching movies until this ridiculous excuse for a holiday was over. In your early twenties, Valentine’s Day became “Single’s Appreciation Day,” and you were as Destiny’s Child once said, an “Independent Woman” so you’d grab your single girlfriends and make your own rules (I don’t need no man!). And then one day, whatever day or age it may be, you meet your Valentine.

From there, it may revert back to the early twenties stage where you find yourself celebrating Single’s Appreciation Day again after a break-up; or perhaps after years in a relationship, it just becomes another day.

I think I’ve gone through almost (almost) every iteration of the typical women’s Valentine’s Day experience. This year, I happen to be on the team that has a Valentine and he’s always good about making it special.

While I’m aware, and in complete agreement with those that think, that love (and flowers, and chocolate, and kind words) should come more than once a year on a consumerist driven holiday, I couldn’t help but dedicate a little space to that thing we call love and all the hoop-la surrounding it.

Here’s what I’m lovin’ right now…the Valentine’s Day edition…

V-Day WILRN

  1. SAY | 30 Ways to Say “I Love You” | Huffington Post.
  2. BAKE | Skinny Pink Champagne Cupcakes  | The Skinny Fork.
  3. UNWIND | Jo Malone “Red Roses” Bath Oil | Nordstrom.
  4. WEAR | Pink Knot Front Dress | Victoria’s Secret.
  5. PAINT | Festive Valentine’s Day Mani.
  6. COOK | 15 Creative Dinner Ideas for Celebrating Valentine’s Day | All Yummy Recipes.
  7. CREATE | Personalized M&M’s | My M&M’s
  8. CRAFT | D.I.Y. Frosted Vase |  A Beautiful Mess.
  9. BRIGHTEN | Pure Color Cheek Rush in X-Pose Rose | Estee Lauder.
  10. SMEAR | The Kiss Lip Balm | Lush.
  11. BUY |  Handmade Valentine’s Day Cards | Sew Colorful Designs.
  12. WATCH | The Top Romantic Movies for Valentine’s Day | Better Homes and Gardens.

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Birchbox Review | January


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How the latest and greatest in beauty made my January feel a little bit more gorgeous…or not so much.

Product reviews are from left to right.


Fekkai Brilliant Glossing Crème | I’m rather picky about what I use in my hair, and have found over the years to usually stick with what works for me. There have been very few new products that I’ve introduced to my hair care routine over the last 4 years – though I’m willing to experiment courtesy of my Birchbox subscription, of course. Not surprisingly, my philosophy to stick with what works applies here. In a nutshell, Fekkai’s Brilliant Glossing Crème did absolutely nothing for me. I found it to be unimpressive when I used the “pea-sized” amount as directed on damp hair. Nothing. The next time I increased the amount of product thinking perhaps my naturally drier and kinkier hair texture might require a higher dosage. That time it came out greasy. Add in that this is not at all pleasantly scented, is $20 full-sized, and my constant bafflement at specifically how this product did anything positive for my strands, and unfortunately, I was done.

Overall: It’s a pass.

Burt’s Bees® Intense Hydration Day Lotion with Clary Sage | My skin is naturally pretty dry and during the winter months can be so dehydrated that it cracks to the point that I channel the likes of a corpse.  So as I sat down to type this post, I slathered some on yet again, and feel confident that Burt’s Bees is on to something with their “Intense Hydration Day Lotion.” It has a thick, creamy texture that’s rather divine when you spread it over really dry skin, immediately providing much-needed moisture and relief. What I don’t particularly care for is the slight greasy feeling your hands submit to as the product works its way into your skin; and while I know that this means less chemicals in its 99% “natural formula,” I wish this had a more appealing scent. Either way, this product means business on the hydration front, and if you suffer from corpse-like skin during the dead of winter, here’s some serious help to bring it back to life.

Overall:  It’s a do.

Dr. Lipp Original Nipple Balm for Lips | It’s juvenile, I know – but couldn’t we have found a not so distracting name for our product here? Okay, so we discovered something that worked well for nursing mothers for multiple purposes, but there’s something somewhat comical when you’re out and about and need a chapped-lipped fix and your friend asks, “what’s that?” and you casually announce, “nipple balm.”  Bonus points for memorable branding, I suppose. The interesting thing is that this product is really great for chapped lips and has staying power. It has a slightly more liquid feel to it so it’s easier to apply, but in essence channels Vaseline if you ask me. I’ll enjoy the sample and all the perks of what a little nipple balm can do, but I’m not convinced it’s worth making a full-sized purchase. Perhaps as I make my way through the sample, I’ll have a change of heart though I’m not a fan of spending $14.50 on something like this. I’m still pretty content with the simple and much more affordable Chapstick sample Birchbox sent me a few months ago.

Overall: Use Vaseline…or Chapstick.

Nail Rock | I’m a huge fan of what’s happening in the mani/pedi world: playful colors, patterns, and super fun embellishments usually get me to break out my “Ooh, I LOVE it!” face. I just don’t think the textured nail movement is a trend that I can get behind. Nail Rock was my introduction. Let me explain. You polish your nails as you normally would and dip the wet nail bed into the nail velvet and let dry. I knew minutes after applying the texture that this wasn’t for me. The 3D-inspired pop of velvet looked like I’d smashed cotton balls on my nails beds. It was a bit ridiculous. I learned that Nail Rock uses glitter textures as well and I would’ve preferred a sample using that feature instead. The sad thing was that while I loved the deep purple color (perfect for winter), the consistency of the nail polish is lacking so I don’t think I could use it alone without experiencing mild frustration. You need like 4 coats before it finally starts to look like a solidly painted nail. This is likely because it’s designed for you to dip the polish into the velvet which would hide the “watery” look underneath acting more as a filler.

Overall: Velvet textured nails are too gimmicky. It’s a pass.

Juicy Couture – Viva La Juicy | One spritz of Juicy Couture’s “Viva La Juicy and you instantly feel a little more flirty. Its subtle mix of florals, fruits, and sweet undertones cultivate a vibe of playful femininity. It is an expense at $90 full-sized, so while I’ll certainly enjoy the sample, I don’t have any plans to purchase it. The fragrance market is flooded with a plethora of options at half the cost. It’s a shame because this is a winner. If you’re looking for an amazing everyday scent at a more resonable price point, I’d recommend Harvey Prince’s “Hello.” It’s officially my new favorite.

Overall: It’s a do…if you can afford it.

How did your first Birchbox of 2014 work for you? I’d love your feedback in the comments section below.

If you’re not a member, join the Birchbox fun! Pick up your subscription here:

https://www.birchbox.com/invite/ATG

(I’m not affiliated with Birchbox outside of being a loyal fan.)



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What I’m Lovin’ Right Now

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This time of year always brings about reflection, resolutions, and wanting to try something new. The first post of my WILRN series of 2014, centers around things that will make you and the everyday a little more glamorous. When curating this list, I thought about areas of my life personally that I wanted to add a touch of something new, beautiful, and different to – be it in my beauty or workout routines, how to improve my diet, what accessory I could add that would brighten my day every time I looked at it, or how to incorporate something into my home that would evoke a fresh new feel, for a fresh new year. Of course, when starting anew the goal should not always be about “things” but also our perspective and paying attention to our minds as much as we might those external aspects. I adored #8 below when thinking about new beginnings. Here’s to a glamorous 2014, full of trying new things. I found 11 ways to get us started. I’m happy to report that a few have been checked off my list, making 2014 already something special.

What I’m Lovin’ Right Now



WILRN 2014

      1. The best new beauty statement | My Private Jet by OPI.
      2. The best new way to start the day | Overnight Oatmeal.
      3. The best new signature scent | Hello by Harvey Prince.
      4. The best new hair inspiration | Jessica Alba’s blunt waves.
      5. The best new way to indulge your sweet tooth | Oreo Truffles.
      6. The best new way to keep sophisticatedly organized | Tilly Maison Lucite Tray (similar here).
      7. The best new fitness/health motivation |  7 Days to Skinny Jeans.
      8. The best new piece of advice you could ever need | Lessons of Life.
      9. The best new way to walk through life in style | Harvest Belted Booties.
      10. The best new way to keep track of time | 2014 Paper Source Foil Desk Calendar.
      11. The best new everyday accessory |  Gosia Meyer’s Gold Initial Necklace.

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Birchbox Review | December

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How the latest and greatest in beauty made my December feel a little bit more gorgeous…or not so much.

Product reviews are from left to right, top to bottom.


Harvey Prince Hello Perfume | What an inspired and truly appropriate name for this new Harvey Prince fragrance. It’s light, refreshing, and with a spritz instantly channels pure sunshine. It’s like literally saying “hello” to those you come into contact with all day long without saying a word. By far, this was my favorite sample of the month. However, I would say its playful scent is better suited during warm, sunny seasons – perfect for spring and summer. I was a bit shocked to see such a citrus-y and floral scent in my box during the dead of winter. Certainly not anything to get too bent up over, but I wish Birchbox would curate their products to be more streamlined and thematic to the time of year. At $55 full-sized, it’s not incredibly expensive and is something I look forward to adding to my fragrance collection. So instead of saying “Hello” – let this perfume do if for you! It’s an A+.

Manna Kadar Sheer Glo Shimmer Lotion |  I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this product when I turned to this sample. So, I read the description and got clear quickly. It’s essentially a pink lotion that sparkles when applied to body and face. I rubbed a bit on my hands and was instantly thrown off that it had absolutely no scent. A body lotion, with no scent? Hmm. While the shimmer on my hands was nice, I thought this would be best served for its main purpose as a highlighter for your face. Now this aspect to the Manna Kadar’s Shimmer Lotion was great. I loved the subtle sparkle to my cheeks over Christmas dinner….and then I my skin broke out. Since I’ve been using the same products on my face without this problem in recent times, I can with some degree of certainty (outside of maybe one too many sugar cookies over Christmas?) blame this product. That means, no go for me. I won’t even risk trying it again to be certain that it caused the breakout (I’m that anal about my skin) – but let’s just say my cheeks were the main area of the breakout, which is exactly where I had applied this product.

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré (24-Hour Miracle Cream)  | I don’t know if I’d call this a “miracle cream,” but it made my skin happy.  When my face had recovered from the Manna Kadar Shimmer Lotion disaster – I did try this cream and was impressed with the amount of moisture it supplied. My skin can get a bit drier during the winter and I need something a little stronger. This product is light with great coverage, yet doesn’t leave your skin greasy after application. I’ve been happily using the same Murad moisturizer for years now, and while I’ve been rethinking a new moisturizer due to cost, I don’t think this product would make the cut. It’s still quite expensive and you don’t get much of it in the full-sized version at 75ml. I’ll keep looking.

Number 4 Non-Aerosol Hairspray | Admittedly, this came in handy over my holiday travels! It was the perfect size sample to take on the road. And this hairspray was rather admirable in performance. It did a great job of maintaining my hairstyle without flakiness. The caveat is that this hairspray is also good for the environment, hence also the non-aerosol properties, along with being free of sulfates and parabens. This product would be nice for someone who dislikes aerosol sprays and harsh chemicals, while making the world a healthier place. Forgive me in advance, and not to offend my earth friendly readers; but at $30 full-sized, I’ll stick with my favorite L’Oreal Elnett Satin Hair Spray at half the cost and twice the amount of hairspray. I’ll find another way to contribute to a greener world.

Twistband™ Hair Tie | I don’t quite understand the”Twistband” trend. While I love that these are designed to give a supportive hold without leaving that annoying crease where your ponytail sat (they do work in this respect!) – these look rather cheaply made to me (i.e. the “knot” to close the band is near criminal). But for the sake of review – I did use this hair tie quite extensively over the holidays and after about 2 weeks of use on and off, it looks worn out already. $12 for pack? No thanks. 

Join the Birchbox fun! It’s a great way to start a new year – with a little gift of surprises to yourself every single month.

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Birchbox Review | November

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How the latest and greatest in beauty made my November feel a little bit more gorgeous…or not so much.

Product reviews are from left to right.


DDF® Amplifying Elixir | When I saw DDF in my box, I got a little more than excited based purely on reputation alone. Wow, the DDF. In my Birchbox. Turns out, there wasn’t too much get excited about. My first stint with the famous DDF brand was experimenting with their Amplifying Elixir used after cleansing and just before moisturizing. The product touts that it “transforms skin, boosting its natural moisture barrier up to 50%” (whatever that means!). To give it some credit, this may be a product that takes frequent use over a period of time to really notice anything happening, but I wasn’t impressed. It burns upon application and makes my skin feel a bit sticky. This product retails for $70. For that cost, I should be more assured by now. This is a pass. Just use a good moisturizer and you’ll be fine!

Tiossan Body Cream | This is a really nice body cream.  I received it in the “Terranga” scent, which I wasn’t too crazy about at first use, but decided it wasn’t too  bad after all. It has a great texture and went on silky smooth without any residual greasiness (don’t you just hate that in a lotion!?!). The reason I’ll stop writing any further about this product is that it’s $38.00 for the full size. Mind you, full-sized is a mere 6.5 oz. No body cream is worth all that, unless it’s made of gold.

theBalm® cosmetics Stainiac | This did absolutely nothing for me. Aside from the fact that I’m really over “lip/cheek stain combo” products in general because they never seem to work with my skin tone – I didn’t like the way the product felt upon application nor the shade I received, “Beauty Queen.” It didn’t show up on my lips very well and when I went back to look at my lips mere minutes later after several layers of applications, what did faintly show up 5 minutes before was gone. Perhaps this would work better on a gal with very fair skin; but if you have some color to your skin, like myself, skip this product. It’s worthless.

Color Club® Harlem Lights Collection | If you recall, from my very first review of Color Club’s nail polish, I’m a fan. I continue to share this sentiment as I’ve begun experimenting with their “Baldwin Blues” shade in their Harlem Lights Collection. It’s my first time playing with dark blue nails, and I’ve been having too much fun with this color! A huge perk worth noting? This polish was on for almost a week before I noticed my first chip!

Folle de Joie eau de parfum | Folle de Joie which means “Crazy With Joy” in French makes me happy just thinking about the name. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something unique about this scent. It’s light, fresh, floral, but citrus-y. I was surprised this product came in my Birchbox so late in the year. I know Birchbox’s aim when curating samples is to think about season and themes when selecting products. This fragrance, although okay year-round, would pair nicely with Spring and Summer. I think a bit more drama is necessary in fragrances as we approach winter. As much I like the sample and will contiue to enjoy it, this product retails for $98. There are too many other exciting fragrances on the market to justify the nearly $100 cost at this time. Either way, it makes me crazy with joy!

Ahmad Assorted Teas | What was right on time and themed appropriately to the chilly temperatures developing outside was Ahmad’s tea assortment. As of writing time, I’ve only sampled the English Breakfast and no complaints here.  I found the sample flavorful and bold. I’m anxious to try the Black Raspberry next. In fact, tonight might be the perfect time to head home after a long day and brew a spot of tea. Baby, it’s cold outside!