Battle of the Beauty Bags: ipsy vs Play by Sephora

BeautyBagOffSubscription beauty bags are all the rage. Half of the people I know are using ipsy, but being a brand-faithful beauty buyer (I love Urban Decay everything) I did some googling to find out what was really out there. As it turns out, Sephora has a subscription box they call “Play”. I immediately signed up for the waitlist and this is the first month I got my Play box. Being that I have been using ipsy for a year I was excited to compare and contrast, so here it goes…

ipsy

Once you sign up for ipsy it take you about a month to get queued up, from what I can tell they rely a lot of peer to peer and work of mouth marketing to promote their products. They will email you teasers of what will be in your glam bag and give you points for more products, but only if you comment through the ap to post on your social media sites. Being in marketing, this drives me a little bit crazy because I think anything that seems like a “hard sale” or shameless promotion via social media is icky, so I usually just wait to get the “hey your bag is in the mail and here’s what’s in it” email. You can click through to a personalized link where you can view what’s coming in your pink pouch and you can rate your the products to get a more personalized bag that fits your needs/faves.

Here’s what came in my bag this month:

  • Eva NYC Get Glossed Hair Syerum (sample size)
  • Em Cosmetics Lash Gallery Dramatic Volume Mascara (full size)
  • Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Face Primer (sample size)
  • Vasanti Cosmetics Professional Eyeshadow Brush
  • Skyn ICELAND the Antidote Cooling Daily Lotion (sample size)

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Once you sign up for ipsy, you take a quiz that defines your skin type, style, and what your generals are. For example, I have fair skin so unless I am getting an out there Glambag, they probably aren’t going to send me a dark brown lipstick. Typically, there are always 5 items in a bag and the subscription is $10/month including shipping.

Play by Sephora

The set up by Play for Sephora is similar to ipsy, but there is a waiting period because Play is in such a high demand and they are in their infancy of rolling Play out, I think it’s only been around since last December. So, you can sign up for the waiting list here and wait for your email inviting you to subscribe. To get my email probably took 5 months, so it’s quite a wait, but hopefully the longer they are up in running the more they can accommodate.

Once you sign up you can view past boxes, special Spotify playlists, and videos about specific products. You can also go to your local Sephora to get tutorials and how to’s, which is cool if you need application lessons. Similar to ipsy, once you get the email that your box has sent you can see what has been sent in the box. It arrives in Sephora’s trademark white and back stripes and your product comes in a bag.

Here’s what came in my Play box this month:

  • Blotterazzi Beauty Blender
  • OUAI wave spray (sample size)
  • NEST Fine Fragrances: A Ray of Citrine (sample size)
  • Smashbox Photo Finish Primer (sample size)
  • First Aide Deep Cleanser (sample size)
  • Too Faced Bronzer Haute Chocolate (sample size)

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I did take the quiz that accounts for my hair, skin, and eye color, and talked about my problem areas (fine hair, dark eye circles, etc.). There are always 5 times per box, plus a fragrance sample, bonus! The subscription is $10 plus tax, including shipping.

ipsy vs Play by Sephora

ipsy Pros: 

  • I know what is coming in my bag and I can continue to personalize it based on rating my products. I also get bonus points for rating products sent to me.
  • Most products sent to me are cruelty-free/vegan/organic.
  • $10 is very affordable and I get some of the staples I need. (I haven’t had to buy mascara since I got ipsy!)
  • Introduced me to brands I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.
  • Full sizes! I have received a lot of full sized items, whether it’s hair products or mascara!
  • Lip products are always top. The shades I have received have been exactly my style and look great.

ipsy Cons:

  • The social media marketing pressure is real. In order to get “early access” to your bag they want you to share comments for bonus points via social media. If you are cool with that, great, but I am not into exposing my network to promos that I have opted into.
  • I’ve missed out on some cool stuff. You can see what other people got in their bags and I have missed out on some really cool stuff and brands. This may be because I haven’t rated enough products, but I missed out on some Urban Decay eyeshadow (wahhhh! my fave!).
  • Monochromatic eyeshadow. All of the shadows I have received have been in the same family of color (and in some cases almost exactly alike) with the exception of this weird red eyeshadow from benefit.
  • 50/50 for nail polish. Of the nail polish I have received, I wasn’t so much keen on quite a few of them. The only ones I have really liked were this bronze and bright red. I guess I can save the purple for halloween!

Play by Sephora

Play by Sephora Pros

  • Like ipsy, Play is super affordable and you get 6 items instead of just 5!
  • Generally, many of the items are cruelty-free and higher end.
  • Hardly any “filler”. Sometimes I get items from ipsy like masks, brushes, etc. that I get pretty frequently. I think I’ve gotten 3 brushes so far—where as I got a blender from Sephora which I feel like is really on-trend right now because everyone is contouring.
  • Video and in-store tutorials help you master the products you receive.

Play by Sephora Cons

  • The wait is substantial. I had to linger on the waitlist for months and months and once they send you your invite you only have a few days to respond before you get passed over. I was trolling my inbox for what seems like forever.
  • I’m not sure they “get” me. Granted, this is my first box and I feel like everyone basically gets the same thing, but I am pale and I am not so sure that a chocolately bronzer will ever work on me–we’ll see.

All in all, I would say that, as of right now at least, I prefer Play by Sephora to ipsy, BUT they are both so affordable I think I will keep them both for awhile! What about you, which to do YOU prefer?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Budget Like A Boss, Beginners Edition

BudgetGraphicI had a visit from my family over this past weekend which was so much fun. I finally got to meet my future brother-in-law and Mr. JD and I love love love him. While they were visiting I came to some realizations amidst all of the fun; I need to start saving for 1) my sister’s wedding in France (her fiance is from the French countryside) and 2) my mom’s inevitable retirement. Also—and somewhat related—I realized that people can be really disgusting, have zero integrity or accountability, and love to make assumptions, but that’s a story for a different day because I wasn’t going to let anything ruin my family being here :).

As I was saying, most people believe that their parents will spend their golden years with a robust retirement, but that’s just not the case for everyone—I wish it was! For example, because of my unaccountable (and estranged) father, my mother has very little savings and she’s past the age where she can technically retire. I want her to be able to stop working when she wants and live comfortably, so this is something I have to start budgeting for. Luckily I have help from my sisters, one is a vice president at a hedge fund and her fiance is an architect—my other sister manages creative content. We will all be in the position to chip in, but I also have to think about my in-laws and my sister-in-law, who has medical needs. Everyone needs help at one point or another, especially in retirement and I want to be able to provide that.

Because I want to be able to take care of my entire family and can only count on limited amounts of help, Mr. JD and I are going to do the best we can to budget more than we normally do.

Here are 5 easy step to start a budget or strengthen the budget you already have:

  1. Get Organized: At work, I have binders for everything and my budget is no different. I happen to like this free printable from Printable Crush—it has almost everything you need to get on track, including: monthly budget, expenses, schedule, and meal planner. The only thing is doesn’t have is something to track your student loans (which can be complicated, but we’ll get to that later).
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  2. Track It On the Go: Everyone has to have extra spending money for clothes, toiletries, etc. This can get out of control really fast so I suggest giving yourself a set amount of personal spending money and then track it using Trello. I make boards for line items in my budget and then as soon as I spend money I make sure I account for it so I know where I am at on a weekly basis. Trello also has an app, so you’re mobile on the go! And the best part? It’s FREE, which means it’s budget friendly.
  3. Pay Down Debt With High Interest: This depends on the debt you have, Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.09.34 PMgenerally credit card debt is going to have a higher interest rate than your student loans, but it really just depends. Paying your high-interest loans and lines of credit down will free up money to pay down other debts, make investments, or just save. I created this Student Loan Payment tracker because most of the time people have multiple loans with different interest rates. I always try to round up and pay at least $10-$40 more on each of my student loans every month.
  4. Save For Emergencies: Saving 10% of your paycheck is crucial, this way you will have savings on hand in case you have a astronomical vet bill, insurance premium payment, doctors visit, etc. There is no worse feeling that having your budget be blown out of the water and/or not having cash-on-hand in case of an emergency. Typically, Mr. JD and I save between 10% and 15% of our monthly income, but we will be bumping that up a bit so we can help our family in the future.
  5. Decrease Your Required Payments: This is important because low payments are so attractive when you really want something with a big price tag, but financing isn’t always the answer. Also, there is an opportunity cost that comes with everything. I was talking to my aea2447ce69e0692e17d5c686ad494d0sister over the weekend and she was talking about how she disagrees with people who have upwards of 8 kids (because she saw a gaggle of kids at a Museum we were checking out). Her argument is that, just because you can provide food, clothing, etc. doesn’t mean you can provide the attention and care that each child needs. This is where the term “opportunity cost” comes in, meaning, just because you can afford payments for something doesn’t mean you have the time to invest in it. My best suggestion would be to keep things you have to make payments on down to things that are invaluable to your everyday life…like a car, perhaps a house and maybe not-so-much a giant jet ski or flat screen tv. For me, this means putting some of the big projects that I wanted to do on hold, like an in ground pool. We can certainly afford to do it, however, we don’t have the time to fully enjoy it or take care of it…maybe in the next house we buy! 🙂

I hope these tips put you on the right track to budgeting, it’s hard work and takes time, but I know you can do it—it works well for us, in fact, we’ll send you a post card from Paris next summer. ❤

 

 

Prepping Your Veggie Garden This Spring!

SINCE 1972It’s almost spring and the first signs of life are sprouting out of the ground! We always see gorgeous, fragrant hyacinths and tulips in our yard during the spring, then as the summer approaches we get tiger lillies, peonies, and roses. As much as I love flowers (and I plan on adding to my garden this year), I also want to approach the spring with a more utilitarian mentality.

First of all, being a veggie is hard and expensive. In order to get really good, organic produce, without going to 3 or 4 different stores, I end up shelling out at least $20 on produce a week. A few weeks ago I bought 6 bell peppers and it cost me $8, but what else are you going to do in a week where you are having salads, stuffed peppers, and tofu fajitas for dinner?

Now, I’m not going to lie, I don’t have the greenest thumb, but it’s in my blood (my uncle is a farmer), plus I have a friend who happens to work at the local food bank who is also passionate about growing her own food. She’s giving me tips and for every dollar I save on what I would have spent on produce this summer, I plan on donating it to her Foodbank, because they really do amazing things in our community, which unfortunately, is considered a food desert.

I digress, I have committed to growing my own produce this summer and I am super excited about it! I will not only be saving some money and do some good, I will be eating super healthy! I plan on growing hot peppers, sweet peppers, summer squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, strawberries, herbs, lavender, pumpkin, spaghetti squash, mini tomatoes, and berries. I also plan on adding dahlias, hydrangeas, more peonies and roses, and ranunculus to my existing flower garden.

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Seeds and Herbal Seed Paper

So, I’ve been told the best way to start your veggie garden is with a seed starter kit. I also grabbed some herbal seed paper from work and seed kits for fun. Here is everything you’ll need to start your garden:

  • Seed starter kit
  • Seed paper
  • Seed starter soil
  • Your choice of seeds
  • Water
  • A sunny area

First step is to add your soil. I purchased soil that is specifically used for starting seedlings and I added a healthy amount to each pod. Next, dampen the soil and stick your index finger into each pod creating a two-inch hole. Place the seeds in the hole and recover with soil. Add a bit more water and soil, then cover the seed starting kit with the plastic top and put in a warm, sunny place.

When your seeds start sprouting, you will eventually take the plastic top off and cut down all of the weaker sprouts, leaving the strongest seedling behind. Transfer the entire pod, seed and soil into your garden area, then BOOM—veggie garden—and then you get to eat all the vegetables!

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All the fruits and veggies!

 

The Best Way To De-Stress!

May every joy be yoursthis Holiday SeasonHere’s the thing, even on a bad day I can handle a lot, I think we all can. However, the past few weeks have really challenged my emotional resolve and stress levels. I had a major fundraising event, I worked at least 10-12 hour days for a week and a half–solid, my husband went to the doctor for some pretty scary stuff (hopefully he’s fine) and my father, who I am pretty much estranged from (for good reason), sent my sister a letter explaining he was going to cut ties from all of my sisters and I and he was making grave threats about taking his own life.

Now, having a toxic parent is a challenge and having a toxic parent with a personality and mental disorder is even more of a challenge. Even more challenging beyond that is having people in your life who throw around terms like, “sociopath”, “crazy”, and “narcissist” as pejoratives, when most people have no idea what experiencing someone like that is really like. I speak candidly about this because I feel like there is a lot of ignorance, sometimes cruel, purposeful ignorance, that surrounds mental health issues, which is weird because so many people deal with them.

Needless to say, I’ve been stressed beyond belief and one of the things that helps me manage is yoga and meditation. In fact, as soon as it’s a little bit nicer out I plan on creating an outdoor yoga space in my back yard. There’s something about deep breathing, exercise, and listening to your body that completely melts stress—so if you’re feeling stressed out, I highly suggest one of these 3 sequences to help:

1) Breathing and Meditation: I fully believe in the benefits on mindful thinking and meditation. I even have a relaxation/breathing app on my phone. I’ve even taken 5 minutes at my work desk to go through this routine and it always helps when I need to de-stress. If you have a stressful job, this is a must if you have an office door you can close and spend 5 minutes by yourself.download

2) These yoga poses help alleviate stress and are actually good for beginners. You don’t even necessarily have to have a mat for these—and if you don’t have a yoga block, you can always use a hard pillow or a puppy dog (jk—don’t use a puppy dog). 🙂

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3) I can’t recommend this video enough, I love this sequence—especially before bed. I don’t know about you, but when I am stressed out, I can’t sleep. My Fitbit says I do 4 hours of sleep at best when I am really stressed. Instead of going to bed with a million racing thoughts and a heartbeat that is jumping out of my chest, I am relaxed, stretched out, and ready for sleep after this sequence.

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What about you, what are your favorite yoga poses?

Oolala! Lavender Syrup Cocktails & Mocktails

oolalaIt’s been awhile–who knew migrating a website could be so time consuming? Needless to say, with everything going on at work recently, I’ve needed (with what little time I have off) to relax.

I have some friends at work who are into essential oils and told me lavender works wonders for sleep, anxiety, and stress—so the next time I went to my favorite local coffee shop I ordered a Tangerine Lavender Honey Latte and fell in love! Not only does lavender smell wonderful, it’s delicious–very delicate and floral.

Because I rarely drink soda, wine, beer, juice, or dairy this leaves me with a lot of water, coffee, and tea. I discovered that adding lavender simple syrup to cold and hot tea, sparkling water, and coffee is truly amazing. There’s

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Tangering, Lavender, Honey Soy Latte

nothing like throwing some herbs, fruit, and garnish into some sparkling water for a nice mocktail or cocktail if you’re having people over and have some vodka on hand.

Here’s the recipe to make lavender simple syrup and a recipe for my favorite mocktail/cocktail:

Lavender Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup purified water
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 3 tbs lavender
  • purple food coloring (if desired)

Add the water and sugar to a small sauce pan and stir, then add the lavender and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir and bring down to a simmer for 10 minutes. Strain our the lavender buds using cheesecloth and store in a mason jar. Your simple syrup will end up a caramel color, but if you want it to look more purple you can add a bit of food coloring (red and blue).

Store in the fridge for up to a week.

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Citrus, Cucumber, Lavender Mocktail

My Favorite Lavender Mocktail

  • La Croix Orange Sparkling Water
  • 2 Crushed Basil Leaves or a Slice of Cucumber if Basil is too strong for you
  • Slice of Lemon
  • Lavender Simple Syrup to taste

My Favorite Lavender Cocktail

  • Large shot of vodka in a cocktail glass
  • Heavy Splash of Grapefruit Juice
  • Soda Water
  • A Few Crushed Mint Leaves
  • Lavender Simple Syrup to taste (I like about a tablespoon)

Pro Tip: If you have a friend who works at a non-profit in a development capacity, recruit them to be a bartender at your wedding/event, hell recruit them to coordinate your entire event/wedding. We have all had to play double duty at fundraising events as a event coordinator/bartender/florist and have learned quite a few tricks! I know more about linens, seating grids, centerpieces, menus, catering, and ordering bistro tables, eight and ten tops than I ever, ever thought I would know.

Lavender may be on the expensive side, HOWEVER, feeling relaxed with a delicious drink is priceless—so tune out all of your work worries, miserable, mean people, loud kids, and have a delicious drink with a few friends!

 

Gift Giving & Get Wells: For Friends Going Through Chemo

I love gift giving. Well, scratch that…I love being thoughtful and making people happy—it’s really not about the gift at all. That being said, I hope no one ever has to give a gift like this, ever.

If you told me that by the time I was 30 I would know 3 people (who are younger than me) who were diagnosed with breast cancer, I would tell you that you were crazy. I guess I’m the crazy one

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Turns out I wasn’t crazy about this, it’s too sweet. Fever Tree is much better!

I just went to grab some bubble tea and chat with one of my friends who has breast cancer. She’s in amazing spirits and keeps close tabs of her journey on Facebook, so I know how she’s doing even though I don’t see her everyday (we used to work together). I snagged some ginger sodas at a local store and immediately thought of my friend and her severe nausea. She was very appreciative for the soda and we got to chatting about how she was feeling. I immediately thought of a couple of nice things that could be made into a gift basket to help with the things she was dealing with. Anything to brighten someone’s day, right?

 

So again, I hope you never, ever have to put something like this together, but if you do…here are some suggestions:

For Your Freinds Going Through Chemo

Ginger Lollipops – This is a great gift that naturally helps alleviate nausea. Quite a few of my friends who have been through chemo say hard candy is a gem. Bonus: these are organic and if you over-purchase they are always handy for a pregnant friend or anyone in your house with a tummy ache. Caramelized Ginger Lollipops via PopOrganic.

Aloe Infused Socks – Hospitals can be drafty and when you are receiving chemo you want to be comfy! Additionally, many rounds of chemo can dry your skin out. Dry, cracking feet sound painful to me—so why not skip it! Winter Aloe Infused socks from Bath and Bodyworks.

Games For Two – Hopefully, whether it’s you, a family member, or a friend, someone is there to hang out during chemo. It’s a long process and passing the time with fun things is better than sitting there. Again, depending on the medications applied in addition to chemo (steroids and allergy meds to name a few), games might be out and restful quiet moments might be in, but it really just depends on the person. Also, who doesn’t love Uno!? Find Uno and more two-person games on Amazon.

Lotion – It’s winter and that means dry skin as it is, but chemo adds to this. When I was at lunch the other day my friend’s hands were so dry and she was wanting some lotion stat! I really recommend Philosophy’s Amazing Grace because it’s mildly fragrant without being overwhelming, strong scents are no good for anyone with a weak stomach. Also, I just love Philosophy’s skin care products. I highly recommend them! Find anything Philosophy at your local Sephora or sephora.com.

Aloe – After a coworker of mine went through chemo and radiation, she told me that her skin actually burned. I usually have lotion with aloe at work, but didn’t this particular time. Needless to say, this is always a good option to throw in there. Try to purchase 100% aloe vera and while you’re out snag some aloe juice. It’s delicious and wonderful for you! You can purchase aloe at any local hodgepodge store. 

Last, but not least and most importantly…

Yourself! – Think about how you would feel if you were faced with a scary diagnosis. Now magnify it by 100, because you really have no idea unless you’ve been through it. I, for one, would totally loose my sh*t. I would need my friends and family to be there to be positive and occupy my time with really happy things, because thinking about the alternative isn’t an option. Don’t be afraid, offer to go to chemo, play games, compliment your friend on the perfect shape of her bald, beautiful head.

Most importantly, don’t make it about yourself and don’t let it scare you away. People feel awkward about emotions and need to talk things out. Understandable, but don’t talk to your friend about how you need to do a better job remembering your monthly breast exam, about how you need to make a gyno appointment immediately, or tell them about the one time you found what you thought was a lump, but it tuned out to be nothing. That is making their diagnosis about YOU…and let’s face it, we live in a world where we’re all a little too focused on ourselves anyways. I know a few people like this, entirely focused on how things effect them and just generally self-important and really good at making everything about them. It’s all I can do to grin and bare being around them without wanting to scream, so imagine how someone who is battling cancer feels! 

So, turn on the cheesiest music you can find and moonwalk past your friend’s office, start a countdown to their last chemo appointment, hide Hershey kisses in their office/room, anything to make someone’s day a little brighter—and yes, I have done all of these things listed above. Worth the embarrassment of everyone in my office seeing my horrible dance moves? Totally. ❤

Also, if your friend is facing a difficult diagnosis, it is always a great idea to learn more about it. This by no means makes you an expert and you should not be giving advice, but just understanding what someone is up against, no matter how scary, is always a good idea!

 

 

 

Furniture Flip: Vintage Night Stand

Title-2It’s not too often I find something stellar for the right price at the thrift store down the street from where I live, but when I saw this cabinet I knew I had just met my new nightstand. It was vintage, solid wood, only a few warped parts that could easily be fixed, nice hardware and details—considering its size, for just $9.00 it was a steal.

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Bedroom color inspiration found on Pinterest!

Because my bedroom isn’t finished, I had to finalize the color palate I would be using and then choose my colors from there. I knew I didn’t want a simple stain because I had this beautiful paper liner that would look great as a pop of color on something a little more muted.

The first step to getting a piece of furniture ready to flip is to study it. This particular piece needed some help due to water damage. The top was warped and the inside of the cabinet was a little warped as well. There was also some thick stain on it, which meant I needed to whip out my sand paper.

Here are all the steps I followed:

IMG_20150524_1442321) Because this piece was older, I had to wash all of the dust off and fix all of the warped pieces. This was easily fixed with some time and some wood glue.

2) Remove all of the hardware and the drawers from the body of the cabinet.
3) Sand. Depending on how many times something has been stained or what kind of paint is slapped on there, this could take awhile. I had a sanding block just lying around so that is what I used and it took a long, long time. I recommend using a hand sander if at all possible. Especially for a bigger piece of furniture.

IMG_20150524_1553304) Paint away! The paint I selected had a sealant in it, so I didn’t have to worry too much about a million layers of paint and a top coat to seal it. I gave the entire body and drawers two coats and let it dry.

5) While I waited for the paint to dry, I took a pizza box, tossed all of the hardware inside, and then took my coral spray paint and managed to coat all the hardware. This actually takes more time than paining because the hinges and handles are moving pieces. Dry. flip. dry. flip. repeat.

IMG_20150524_2121226) I grabbed the thick paper liner I got from Home Goods on clearance and measured out what I would need to line the inside of the drawer and the cabinet. All you will need is a ruler, an exacto knife, wood glue or rubber cement. When you go to glue the liner to the cabinet, make sure you are in a dry area—too much moisture and the paper will wrinkle. Additionally, once the liner is fastened, use the ruler and gently scape it across the drying liner to force out any wrinkles or air bubbles.

7) Once everything is completely dry, reassemble everything and clean! There you have it, your new cabinet/nightstand.

I absolutely loved the finished product and it ended up being the perfect height for a nightstand. The little details and the vintage hardware were exactly what I was looking for. The quirky colors will be perfect in my bed room and this project was far cheaper than buying a boring nightstand.

Here’s the math:

  • Nightstand: $9
  • Liner: $3
  • Paint: $6
  • Spray Paint: $3

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For a grand total of $21 as opposed to the $175  one I had my eye on, this was a great investment, is totally unique to my house, and almost completely upcycled!