Friday, June 29, 2018

**REVIEW** Piping Rock (Oils, Herbs & Supplements)

UPDATE 3/8/20

I ordered something from Piping Rock the other day. I had not been back over there in a while due to a lack of good customer service and standing behind their products. It's very hit and miss. I had that one really bad experience, then I had an okay experience, but I'm still not trusting their customer service. You just never know...

I peruse the site every now and then, but... Anyway, I noticed that the shipping on this latest order is by FedEx - not USPS - and it looks like it's going to take a while. I ordered on March 3rd and didn't get tracking info until the 7th. The package is estimated to arrive on the 13th (which is a day earlier than the first notice I got) - as far as I know, because at the time I am typing this, FedEx's tracking is temporarily down. I hate to say this but I really dread seeing that FedEx is the shipper when I order something. They are slow and careless. There is a problem almost every time I get a package from them.

Piping Rock often has cheaper prices than elsewhere but sometimes the quality reflects that.

I will let you know how this latest order turns out.

NOTE: I actually wrote this review a while back and it didn't publish for some reason. I have updated it a bit and am sharing it with you all now. My oops.

Piping Rock is a recent discovery for me. I needed a place to get some oils, moisturizing butters, and other hair and skin products at prices more affordable than those offered at my usual shopping sites. The thing is,  I want affordable prices,  not cheap quality. So far, I have been 90% pleased with Piping Rock. I will tell you later about that other 10%. For now, let me tell you about my overall experience with the items I've ordered.

Since I found this site back sometime during the deep of winter, I ordered some of the oils I use to moisturize my skin and hair. Among my most pleasant experience, I've ordered Pumpkin Seed, Watermelon, and Abyssinian oils along with some lip balms. The Iowa winter kicked my butt!!

The packaging was amazing. Everything was sealed and very well-cushioned to prevent any breakage or spillage. The only thing that was a bit frustrating to me was that it seemed to take forever to receive my order. I ordered the items on 4/11 and received them on 4/17. On the other hand, I have to stop being so critical because the shipping costs were very reasonable, and there was that awesome packing job they did. As far as the shipping time, I think it's just that Amazon Prime has me spoiled.

This is the packing material my items were protected by:

Thick cushioning!

Also, let's talk about how much I love the Pumpkin Seed and Abyssinian oils. I have used Pumpkin Seed oil before so I know what to expect from a good quality item. This one was wonderful and came in a larger bottle than I can usually afford when I order elsewhere. The Abyssinian oil is something new in my hair and skin care regime so I had to do a lot of reading up on the benefits before I tried it. After having used this for about 2 months, I can tell you that my skin adores this oil. It's touted to add shine and hydrate the scalp without clogging pores. It lived up to the hype for moisturizing, but I have to say that it did a better job of adding shine once I cut my hair and got rid of all those dead, split ends,

I have told you all more than once I believe Pumpkin Seed oil is like a miracle for dry skin and hair. I love having this larger bottle to refill my dropper bottle from time to time. I go through this oil like crazy. I got a 16-ounce bottle from Piping rock for less than what a 4-ounce bottle of the other brand was costing me.

Piping Rock is always having sales so unless I am totally out of and in dire need of an oil or supplement, I wait for one of the major price drops.

For the most part, P.R. has good products and prices, careful packaging, and reasonable shipping and handling costs. So, you might ask me what's not to love? Well...

The first (and so far, the only) bad experience I've had so far with a product's quality was with a Tonka Bean oil. Tonka Bean oil is best known for a lovely aroma that I describe as "warm and spicy vanilla".  It can put you in the mind of a decadent dessert or a type of perfume. As a matter of fact, Guerlain (which makes my beloved Shalimar) has a fragrance called Tonka Imperiale. Someone in my family needs to gift me some of that in a full-size!

When I ordered a bottle of Tonka Bean oil from Piping Rock, I couldn't wait to try it out as a personal fragrance and to add it to my oil warmer. What a huge disappointment! This oil smelled nothing like Tonka Bean and was actually a bit unpleasant. I wondered if I'd had gotten part of a bad batch. When I complained, Piping Rock responded that they checked and the batch was fine. They did tell me that I could return the bottle (at my own expense). Well, boo-hiss to them.

Where I had started out rating Piping Rock at 5 stars for products and prices, I had to drop them down a half star for the Tonka Bean oil and a half star for the nonchalant customer service. I will still order my usual oils from them, but I won't trust them with the more exotic things. By the way, I am still in search of some reasonably priced Tonka oil. The sellers on Amazon are too expensive or non-Prime.

In summary, if it's standard oils and supplements you want, Piping Rock is worth checking out. For the quirky stuff - like Tonka - maybe look elsewhere.

By the way, for those of you who hunt online for these types of ingredients to use in making your own concoctions (like I do), make sure to also check out MakingCosmetics. I've used them in the past and have reviewed them here before.


Thursday, June 28, 2018

UPDATE **REVIEW** Bissell Cleanview Bagless Upright Vacuum (Model 95956)

My wonderful vacuum broke the other day just when I needed it most. 

Don't ask because I don't know...

Of course, the automatic Amazon warranty expired in July. Of. Course. That broken spring up there is on the MAIN part of the vac - the canister. So weird that it just popped out when I was getting ready to empty the thing and check the filter. Anyway, I decided to see if I could buy a replacement for the handle - or spring, or whatever - and I contacted Bissell online. They told me that there is no replacement for the handle; the entire cannister has to be replaced. Before I could have a mini nervous breakdown wondering what that might cost, I was told Bissell would ship one out as soon as I verified my address. At no cost. Not even shipping fees. Wow. So my new canister will be here day after tomorrow. How awesome is that? And they even emailed me a coupon for a percentage off any online purchase I make. Yay, Bissell. I just wanted to make this note about the wonderful customer service. Now, when I start looking for a carpet shampooer, I know who to check out first. Oh, and I guess I should mention that this is all because I made sure to register my vacuum with Bissell even though I made the purchase on Amazon.

**Before I even start the review, let me do a service to anyone who, like me, might be confused about the model numbers of Bissell's Cleanview 9595 series of vacuums. Apparently, the 95956 (the model I have) and the 9595A are the same in every way except for the colors. My model is in Teal and the other is in Purple. I could not clarify this except to contact Bissell and Amazon. On Amazon (where I made my purchase) the 9595A has 11k+ reviews while the 95956 has only 105 reviews at the time of this post. Out of all the answered questions and reviews (and I dragged through just about every single one of them), I only recall seeing a single comment about the color difference. The reason this was so important to me is that I wanted the vacuum for its "OnePass" feature that Bissell seems so proud of. I could not tell clearly from the product info whether or not the 95956 had the feature. My brain does not retain information long enough to keep track when comparing items. I was afraid I had ordered the wrong one...**

Okay. So with that cleared up, let's take a look at why I wanted this particular vacuum.
  1. The price tag = $79.99 + $5.22 for a protection plan. Perfect for my sad budget. The poor little Dirt Devil that I got at Dollar General (and paid, I think, less than $25 for) when I moved here a year ago has been limping along. It picks up the obvious debris but my carpet is very neglected looking from what the DD leaves behind. I've been saving up for about 3 months for a better vacuum but could only afford something under $100. I watched videos and read hundreds of reviews for at least 10 vacuums (and had to take notes so I wouldn't get confused) before I settled on the Cleanview 9595 model. I wanted to go cheaper but...
  2. The suction power. Reviewers rave about the cleaning power of this model. You should see some of the photos of what people seemed to have sucked out of their carpets. At least 10 people mentioned this model having suction at least almost as good as $200 and $400 machines. That part may be little scam-ish, but the photos don't seem to be lying. Reviews that complained about the loudness of the vacuum still gave a thumbs up for the suction. And I need to really clean out all the residue of the spot cleaners I used all winter.
  3. The lightweight design. Lord knows I can barely work up the energy to vacuum at all so I sure don't want some heavy, clunky machine to drag around even such a small apartment
  4. The added bonuses are the attachments, a decent length cord, and a washable filter. The Dirt Devil has a washable filter and that saves money big time. It's also cool that this has an easy-empty cannister.
Keep in mind that this is why I wanted this machine and was hoping it would live up to the hype. The only thing I was bothered by from the product photos is that the power button is placed so far down on the machine. Why not on the handle? That may seem like a petty thing but I've been having back problems the past couple of months and I try not to bend if I don't have to. But whatever. Everything else about this vacuum sounded like my dream product.

So, let's now see how it all worked out. In addition to what I mentioned above, I would also be looking to see how easy it would be to assemble this machine. This is what it looks like when you remove everything from the box:

Once I stuck on the handle, everything else was easy. I have cognitive issues and it only took me around 22 minutes to have it all done and get to vacuuming. And I really did need to get to vacuuming...

I'm going to show this photo of what my carpet looks like pre-vacuuming. I do vacuum at least a couple of times a week with the Dirt Devil and I ran it over the high traffic area right inside the front door - pictured here - about 3 times just so you could see how awful the dirt and buildup of cleaner is. Pretty nasty, right? (By the way, now that I have a good decent machine, I can scrub with some spot cleaner and re-vacuum to see if it improves. For now, I want to see what this does with no spot cleaner.)

Remember, I went over this carpet more than once with the Dirt Devil for this photo:
BEFORE - lot of silty dirt
 This is what the carpet looks like after having been vacuumed pretty thoroughly with the Bissell:

AFTER still needs spot cleaning but MUCH better

This is what the Bissel cannister looked like after a couple of trips over this small area. UGH!

I feel so ashamed. It's as if I haven't vacuumed but a couple of times a season since I moved in!

So, Pros and Cons:

CON - Using the vacuum would be a lot of fun if it were not for that Power Button being placed so low down on the machine. Thankfully, the vacuum is not super heavy and I didn't get too worn out even after vacuuming and re-vacuuming off and on all day. (I'm determined to un-gross these floors!)

PRO - If I didn't appreciate the suction power while using this machine as an upright, I sure did once I used the attachments. I used the rotating attachment to freshen up the sofa. Man! This thing got all the little tiny particles of crumbs and dirt out the of very crevices of the couch. I could actually feel the suction power as I held the attachment and ran it over the fabric. That's awesome, but I will have to be really careful when trying to clean out window sills and such. I can see this thing snatching a pull cord right out of place.

PRO - The dust canister is SO easy to empty and I don't really have to touch the icky-ness. The canister pops open with the push of a button (so make sure to hold it over the trash can!), and any clumps of dust that gets stuck can be dislodged with a wooden skewer. Or that's what I do.

PRO - While this isn't the quietest machine, for the suction power, it sure isn't much louder than the Dirt Devil.

CON - The hose tends to fall off the holder and dangle. Also, the arrangement of the hose and the power cord is just awkward. This is a very minor issue though.

CON - If using the attachments, you need to use two hands so you can sort of stretch out the hose because the suction keeps contracting it. On the other hand...

PRO - The hose is a decent length - if you can keep it stretched out.

Overall, I am 5-starring this vacuum. It's not outrageously expensive and is doing a great job so far. I have told friends that I'll be more than happy if this lasts a year before I have to use the Protection Plan.


DISCLAIMER: I was not paid or in any way compensated for this review. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

**REVIEW** Qivange Kabuki Makeup Brushes

Most of you guys know that I'm no expert at applying makeup (said the woman who almost put out an eye applying liner!), but I got to try these brushes:

Up until now, this  "oval" was my favorite (and only) kind of makeup brush:

There are things that I really love about the Kabuki style brushes, and there are a couple of things about the oval brushes that I prefer. By the way, there are 10 brushes in the Qivange set. Let's just do a little review.

To start, I will tell you something I recently learned: Kabuki brushes are also referred to as a "mushroom" brushes. And also that,
It is named after the Kabuki Japanese drama theater where actors wear Keshō, a very heavy makeup that emphasizes the nature of their characters. There, the kabuki brush is used to apply the white powder rice uniformly on the entire face. (Wikipedia)
What I like about the Kabuki brushes - or at least this set from Qivange - is how dang soft the bristles are. Normally, when I think of "bristles", I immediately think "itchy". Like most affordable brushes, these are made with synthetic fibers. The handles are wood and aluminum. And this is where these excel over the particular oval brushes that I have. The Kabuki brush is sturdier while applying makeup. I can exert more pressure on these than I can on the handles of the oval brushes. My oval brushes (and I actually have 2 different brands) tend to be flimsier. I have to hold the handles down close to the brush head so that they don't feel as they will snap - and I have had one snap and break completely.

Another thing I appreciate about the set from Qivange is the variety of shapes. In the 10-piece set I got these different brush heads:

  1. Angled
  2. Flat angled
  3. Tapered
  4. Flat (for foundation)
  5. Round (for powder)
  6. Precision round
  7. Small flat
  8. Small angled
  9. Small flat angled
  10. Small tapered

I know that there are ladies who do a lot of layering and contouring (because I often laugh at them) and could use every single one of these brushes every time they applied makeup. For myself, I use the starred ones most - and that's if I am applying what I call "special occasion" makeup aka The Works. On a casual day, I mainly use the Angled brush to apply some light foundation or BB cream.

This is me wearing my daily makeup applied with the Kabuki brush. I used the Angeled Face brush for the all-over foundation, then I did the undereye concealer and highlighter with the Small Tapered brush.

Another huge benefit of the Kabuki brush (over the Oval) is that I didn't have to use as much of my  BB Cream to get very even coverage. I'm almost out of my Black Radiance and it can sometimes be hard to find in my shade...

In case, I have one of my senior "moments" and forget what the heck I am doing or which brush I am using, each of them is nicely labeled on the handle:

Nice, right? Thank you, Qivange!

On the other hand, the oval brushes do have an advantage over some (only some) of the Kabuki brushes when it comes to the firmness of the brush heads. The bristles on the Kabuki brushes for eyes - with the exception of the Small Tapered one - are too soft for my liking. I could not use them for eyeshadows because the looseness of the bristles made it hard to control the application. Or maybe I am using them incorrectly. That's why I love the Small Tapered brush; The tight bunching of the bristles meant I could use it best in the areas around my eyes without puffing powder and shadow everywhere. The oval-style brushes for eyes, even the smallest one offers more even coverage and control, in my opinion.

These Kabuki brushes are a great value as far as I'm concerned. If you have Amazon Prime, you pay a dollar per brush because this entire set was (at the time I got them) ten dollars. That's not bad for the quality of the brushes and those wonderfully labeled handles. I used my favorites for 2 days in a row and, when I cleaned them tonight, they washed out more easily than my oval brushes do. I have one of those ridged brushed cleaners to gently scrub the bristles against. None of the bristles washed out, by the way

So these brushes are pretty neat and, compared to the oval brushes, I think it just depends on your preference. I personally like having both types around. I also use blender sponges and old-fashioned red cosmetic blotting sponges and, sometimes, disposable cotton-head Q-tips. I'm glad I have the Kabuki brushes in the makeup arsenal.

I'll leave with this little summary (because I know I kind of rambled).


  • Strong handles that won't snap
  • Soft bristles that don't irritate my sensitive skin
  • Bristles didn't "shed"
  • Brushes are easy to clean
  • Each brush handle is helpfully labeled
  • Better foundation coverage using less product
  • A great value for 10 brushes
  • A variety of brush heads
  • Some of the brush heads didn't offer a lot of control
Basically, these are 4.5 of 5 stars in my book.


Monday, June 18, 2018

**REVIEW** Sonkir 3-in-1 Soil, Light, PH Tester

For those of you who don't read my Plant It Earth blog, first, shame on you and second, I'm cross-posting this review here and there. (Did that make sense? My brain is acting crazy cakes this morning!)

That is the Sonkir 3-in-1 Soil, Light, PH Tester.  To be honest, I still don't understand plant PH (but my soils are usually packaged as balanced for the particular plants), and I've already got the hang of placing my plants in the right lighting. The water though...  Yeesh. The only plants I have ever killed have died from over- or under-watering.

Of course, I have read plenty of books and articles on providing the right amount of water to my plants, but the thing is trying to judge how moist or dry they are. I tried using a wooden stick (didn't always work) and I tried using my fingers (I'm squeamish about dirt!).

This meter runs about 11 bucks and I think the plants are worth that much.

When I was looking to choose a meter, I was on the hunt for something around this price, but it would have to actually work. I read reviews for a handful that fit my price range and most had too many negative reviews. The one I was hopeful about after reading about just a few reviews, dropped off after I read a few more. One reviewer did an awesome job of testing the meter on a large variety of plants - both freshly watered and dried out - and he noticed that the moisture meter never fluctuated from "dry" reads.

I tested this one the same way - checking plants that I knew were due for a watering and a couple that I watered about 15 minutes before testing. The reads came out pretty accurate for me. At least, I know that it read moister for the wetter plants and dryer for the one I had not watered.
If I use the camera's zoom, I can read the meter!
There is one thing I don't like about the meter. I need to use a magnifying glass or my phone to read the results. The print is tiny on the readout and in the instruction pamphlet. And the instructions include a handy little guide for the water and light needs of some commons houseplants.

The plant that I worry most about is my beautiful Monstera. She is thriving and sprouting new greenery by the minute, but her pot is too deep for me to accurately tell when to add water.

This is the Monstera (I call her "Monster") on about May 1st:

This is her June 5th:

she's sprouting more as I type this 

Wow, right? This plant is pretty effortless. I play violin classical music for her and every day I spray her leaves with filtered water. She is growing so much that I am going to have to anchor her with some sticks or something and learn how to prune her. Just yesterday, my Facebook plants group pals suggested turning her occasionally.

This soil meter is really going to help me keep on track with watering. Plus, if I have to go away for a few days, my neighbor will be able to use it while she plant-sits for me!

By the way, if any of you Being Free readers need some info on plant watering, here are a couple of useful links: Our House Plants has both a watering guide and a really helpful "hub" of plant info.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

**REVIEW** Dirty Money: Payday

The Netflix series "Dirty Money" has covered some interesting stories that make the average-to-poor person gape at the screen. The episode that floored me though was the one about Scott Tucker. Aptly titled "Payday", this one got to me because of the moral blindness of the 'bad guys'.

(if you don't have Netflix, check bottom of post for some links to info)

To sort of recap (difficult with my memory and such), Scott Tucker was the leader in the field of "payday loans" that target the down and out and hard up. I've been down and out, Lord knows, but I never got caught up in that scam. What I do know about them is that, like pawn shops and liquor stores, they are usually found in the OSOTT (other side of the track) and lower-income working neighborhoods. Matter of fact, just like some neighborhoods are marked by the lineup of a Bed, Bath & Beyond, Hobby Lobby, Burlington Coat Factory, some are marked by the lineup of a liquor store, payday loan office, and pawn shop.

Back to the show though.

Tucker and his brother were a couple of smart dudes. Driven and ambitious, they worked together to take the payday loan business out of the strip malls and onto the Internet. And business exploded. Tucker made enough money to buy himself the life of a race car driver. Apparently, this was a dream of his. He likes cars and speed but, mostly, he seemed to like the celebrity of it all.

During the film, you get to see Tucker spending a lot of time on his exercise bike. The man and his wife are both fit people. They seem to be concerned with having a certain look - even while they are being sued to pieces, having the government taking away cars and other material possessions to satisfy a gigantic settlement. The wife is nice-looking but in that tight, managed way that doesn't seem to speak of just having good genes. I thought it was pretty weird that she walked around the house in a jacket with a fur-lined collar. She was, even at such a dire and trying time, worried about presenting a certain image to the cameras. Completely vain and silly.

I always have a hard time understanding greed and selfishness, but the part that made me saddest was how oblivious the Tuckers seemed to be. It's like there are just black holes where their hearts are supposed to be. I wanted to feel a little bit bad for these people and I just could not, God forgive me.

When Tucker got busted for shady business practices - basically all kinds of lying and covering up to fleece customers - he actually tried to play the victim himself. The worst part of the film for me was when I learned that his brother actually committed suicide when all the cards started falling in on the scheme. I began to feel bad for Tucker and his family until he did this whole fake-crying thing for the cameras. After about 3 minutes of trying very hard to look as if he was wiping away tears, he managed to squeeze out a couple, but...

you will love his answer...

It was sad that his brother took his life, but that didn't seem to make Tucker think of how he may have driven his customer to that same fate. I'm sure that some of the people he ripped off and drove even further into debt (under the guise of helping them, mind you) had thoughts of suicide. He certainly some of them into a worst position than he'd ever been in.

When all was said and done, Tucker (and his lawyer) went to jail and supposedly lost everything material. Who knows what they had set up beforehand to protect some assets. Tucker's wife sure seemed worried about that! At one point in the film she's upset that because she's married to him, her money and credit is on the line along with his. Well, boo hoo, honey. You were sure glad to claim the marital bond when it suited you.

The blindness of Tucker (and his lawyer) is just stunning. They both seem to make the argument that they shouldn't be punished for making money by dirty tactics. After all, it's just smart business.

The Netflix show did a good job of covering a complicated and layered story. There was a lot to this - the racing, the loans, involvement with an Indian tribe, and stories of some of the victims.



Thursday, June 14, 2018

**REVIEW** Clairol Nice and Easy Permanent Hair Color

Remember back when I raved about the Walmart Beauty Box?  Well, while I liked everything in that neat little $5 box, I had a couple of favorite items. One was the Foam Conditioner by Pantene (of which I plan to buy a full-size when I'm in need of more conditioner), and the other was the Nice and Easy Hair Color that I was able to get FOR FREE with the generous coupon provided.

Question: When you buy something that is less than the coupon amount, why don't you get the change back? Just saying. The coupon was for $8.99 and I think the product I got at Walmart was priced at $6 and some change. Oh well. The important thing is, I found the product and was able to use it.

Normally, I've used L'Oreal's Colorsilk hair coloring (Dark Soft Brown or Brown Black shade). The price is what attracted me several years ago (even in Anchorage, I didn't have to pay more than $4 for a box) and I found it easy to pick the right shades for my hair so just stuck with it. Had it not been for the coupon, I never would have tried the Nice and Easy. I'm SO glad that I did. So let's talk about this.

When I have dyed my hair with the L'Oreal, I always liked the results, but until now, I never noticed that it was slightly harsh on my hair. It doesn't strip my hair or totally dry it out and I love the conditioner that comes in the kit. Next to the Nice and Easy, though, I have to say the L'Oreal is not as good. There was more of a conditioning effect with the N and E and the color was definitely richer and covered the grey better. The one downside is that, because I am not used to the color charts for the N and E, I went a little too dark... As in, instead of the soft off-black or brown-black I was going for, I ended up with crow-black results. I have since tossed the box, but I want to say that I got the Dark Brown to put on my own Dark Brown hair.

This is what my hair looked like pre-Clairol coloring:

And this is my Jackie Chan Black hair post coloring:

I was going to re-color it to tone down the black but my neighbor told me that it's actually very flattering. I don't photograph well so you don't get the full effect. That color is the same color as my eyebrows.

After coloring and conditioning, my hair was very soft and manageable. The color was very dark and it covered every inch of my grey. I can tell that this dye penetrates much better than the L'Oreal. After I use the L'Oreal, I can rinse some of the dye out a day later. With this dye, there is no residual loss of color so soon after coloring. As a matter of fact, the next time I use this dye, I have to be more careful not to get any on my skin because this stuff stains more than the other brand.

So yeah, I do love this brand and I'm going to be switching away from the L'Oreal. Now if I can just find the best shade.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

**REVIEW** Birchbox June 2018

First off, let me set this down right here... Trudy Sent Me! Yeah, that's in case you want to credit me with sending you to Birchbox.

This is my third Birchbox and, while it brightened an otherwise crappy week, I have to admit it's not as awesome as the May box (which contained 3 items I loved). This June box only had 1 thing I'm crazy about and 1 thing that I like a lot. The rest was... We'll get to that.

Let's just go ahead and start with the best item of the box. That would be this amazing Waterfall Moisture and Shine Lotion from R+Co.

5oz full size = $29

This stuff is so good on these dry, afro-natural naps of mine. It's so hydrating without being greasy, tacky, sticky, or heavy. I applied it to my already styled hair and was blown away by how soft and touchable the curls felt. The smell is light and nice and the moisture actually lasted all day and through the night. For me, the biggest advantage was the softening effect. I could not stop touching my own hair!

The only downside is the price of the full-size tube. Thirty bucks is right up there with a full tank of gas, right? And I'm not sure how long a tube of this would last me. Right now, my hair is short (remember I did that big chop the other week) and I could stretch this sample size out for maybe a week if I'm creative. Eventually, though, my hair is going to be growing back out and,,, I don't know if I could afford this product. Still, I will definitely be telling all my afro-natural buddies about this.

My second-fave from this box is this Deep Dive Water Cream from Red Earth.

1.8oz full size = $29

Other than that creepy and new-agey upside down as-above type A, I do like this stuff. I've used gel moisturizers before but there was always something 'off' about them. Mostly it would be the texture - sticky or gluey - that made me dislike them. This one gets it right. It's really light and goes on like water. Seriously.

Once again, though, the price is the biggest flaw. I'm sure there are a lot of hidden costs in bringing a product to market, but I wonder about the markup. From reading the ingredients list, I'm pretty sure that I could pick up most of what I need from Making Cosmetics to throw together a generic version of this stuff. I like the product, but I don't like it enough to pay $30 for 1.8 oz. And, also, that Satanic-looing A really does creep me out...

This next item would possibly have been the second favorite but I can't really tell because the sample was too small for me to test it well.

I think most of us women have tried (or at least seen) the Beauty Blender makeup sponges, right? I don't wear foundation every day and I even have some of the sponges.

Like I said, this one from the Birchbox was too small to do anything with. I couldn't even grip well enough to test it with foundation. The one thing that was kind of cool about the sample - though it's not a feature I would use because I don't wet my sponges - is that you can increase the sponge size two-fold by adding water. The sample even came with its own water. And this actually did enlarge the sponge. It didn't make it big enough for me to use, but it did swell.

The watered sponge is on the right

Oh yeah, and the price - $20 for a full-size sponge - is, as with the other products, ridiculous. However, in the case of the sponge, I can (and have) found them at a much more affordable price. For under twenty bucks, I've gotten up to 3 sponges that work just as well.

The sample, by the way, is not round. It's flat as well as small.

in the center of my watch

Next up is this Glow Serum from Beautaniq.

0.67 oz full size = $22

I didn't like the gritty feel of this highlighter and the color was way too light for my dark skin. After falling in love with the Glowtion from the May box, this was a big flop. And that's about all I can say about that.

The next sample isn't bad but it's not something I could be crazy about. It's the Davines SU Hair & Body Wash.

250ml full size = $24

First off, I'm not a huge fan of this kind of thing. My hair and skin have totally different needs and issues. Second, I don't need anything to help "prolong my tan".This tan of mine ain't going nowhere, thank goodness. Third, I wasn't crazy about the smell of this. If there was any citrus scent, it was drowned out by the castile soap smell. So this was just kind of meh, but kudos to Davines for supplying such a nice-sized sample. That was cool because I know that some folks will probably really like this. It's getting almost 5 stars on Birchbox.

Finally, let me just say that the prices are probably the most disappointing thing. If a product knocks it out of the park and offers something you can't get just anywhere (think Whal Myung), then okay. But even the best stuff here seemed overpriced, in my opinion. What I do like about Birchbox is that when I love something in a box and can't afford to run out and get the full-sized version, I can always order a second box for $10. That's what I did with the Whal Myung until I can get somebody to remember it on my birthday! Haha.

So, yeah, that's this month's box. Not (terribly) horrible, but not my fave. That hair lotion though... Man, that right there made the box worth it.


Thursday, June 07, 2018

Breakthrough and Breakdowns

Last night, I had a stunning breakthrough in understanding myself. Stunning, scary, wonderful, liberating, and all those things. I feel so relieved and so sad at the same time.

For years, I thought that the way I am is just part of my unique personality and I wondered why I never met anyone who seemed to ever feel the way I do. This is why the breakthrough I've had feels like such a relief.

I've made choices in dealing with serious things that have caused a lot of regret and confusion. Possibly knowing why is what makes me sad. Why did I never find this out before? How different all my life could have been had I known.

My "breakthrough" came from learning about something that's called Depersonalization and/or Derealization.

Because I spend so much time inside my head, trying to figure myself out, I finally decided to look up reasons for the way I think and feel. I ran across a forum where someone was asking the same question I was: "Why do I have such a constant feeling of surreality?" There are apparently a lot of people who wonder the same thing.

Now that I have some idea that this inner personality of mine is not unique to me, I have to figure out what to do about it. For the time being though, I just need to wrap my head around what it all means.

Once I learned about "DP/DR" (and I believe that Derealization is my main problem), the first thing I did was cry for about an hour. Then I spent most of the night having flashbacks of my life. So many things have been screwed up because of the way I have handled things. At the time I was making certain choices, I didn't even understand why but I'd sometimes look back and wonder what the hell was I thinking. There are major regrets from some of those choices.

most of my life feels like this - unclear or misdefined

I don't know when I started having these feelings, but I do know that without God, I would not have been able to deal with the constant regrets and consequences caused by them. Still, I can't help but think that it took me until middle age to know about this. So much wasted time! I was thinking last night that this is probably why I write stories to make myself seem more real to the world. I think that when I write I'm trying to live the life I can't grasp any other way. I'm still trying to deal with learning about the DP/DR so I'm probably not making much sense right now.

It's not easy for me to put myself out there (and I'm going to hurry and post this before I change my mind), but I don't want anyone else to not know about this. There may be someone out there, like me, who never heard of this and so have been wasting precious time from their life just wandering through thinking that they are alone.

I guess I will have to find the courage to talk with my doctors about this. Just knowing about it myself is almost too much to handle and, ironically, seem to be creating even more of a surreal feeling.

Here are some references I have found, in case you want to understand what I'm talking about:

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

**REVIEW** Klean Kanteen Insulated Wide-Mouth Mug

Although I'm not a bio-mom, I did help for a while in the care of some of my nieces. Though a couple of those kids are only 15 years my junior, they still honor me as a mom-by-proxy. This past Mother's Day, one of the nieces (who is also my Goddaughter) got me a bag of delicious coffee and a mug from my all-time fave coffee roasters. I also got a plant, but I'm here to talk about the Kaladi Brothers-stamped Klean Kanteen that I'm so in love with. (And I say that mine is stamped with Kaladi's logo because you can get a non-Kaladi one by going to the Klean Kanteen site.)

When Klean Kanteen said that this particular style would keep my coffee hot for up to 14 hours, they lied. I have opened the Kanteen after sixteen hours and my coffee is still quite toasty. No kidding. For keeping things cold, I can tell you this: I filled the Kanteen with lots of ice cubes and just about a cup of water one morning around 10. My brother and I were going to be out running errands and it was over 90 degrees that day already. I sipped from the Kanteen and kept it in the shade on the floor of the car whenever we got out. I went home around 4 because my brother had to pick up his wife from work. I just put the Kanteen on the kitchen counter while I went to take a shower. The next time I even thought about the Kanteen was after 9 that night. I was getting ready for bed and was going to refill the Kanteen with more ice and water to keep on the nightstand. I will be doggone if there was still some ice in the container. I'm horrible at math, but you can add it up for yourself. From about 10 in the morning to just before 9 that evening, my Kanteen was still chilled and chilling.

I do notice that for coffee, it helps to warm the Kanteen beforehand by filling it with really hot water while making your coffee. For the cold, I just add the ice and use cold water. I'm still amazed at how long the Kanteen worked for ice water. That's pretty vital here where we've been getting temps up over 100 degrees. In the winter, we can get as low as 15 below zero (as I learned a few months ago!).

The one thing I don't like is the lid. It's difficult to take apart for cleaning. Also, the Kanteen will spill if tipped the wrong way. Not a lot, but it does leak. Those are the only (and minor) things about this mug that I've run into. The Pros far, far outweigh the Cons though.

So, yes, the Kanteen can be a little pricey and I probably would never have tried it had I not gotten mine as a gift. Now that I know how well they work, I would not hesitate to buy one.