Saturday, August 31, 2013

August Birchbox Review

I received my box on August 9th - much earlier than I expected.  This box was curated by Ann Taylor but I'm not sure I would've guessed that without being told.  There was a pretty good coupon in the box for Ann Taylor and you could get a really pretty scarf from them with a purchase of $85 or more.  I probably liked last month's box better but this one did have some interesting stuff.

Miss Jessie's Original Rapid Recovery Treatment
This came in a large foil packet and would probably provide 2 uses for people with normal hair.  My hair is long and very thick so I only got 1 use out it.  This was a nice hair mask but it had to sit in for 30 minutes which was kind of a pain.  My hair was definitely softer and more manageable after but not noticeably better than it is when I use my regular leave in treatment spray.  My hair is in pretty good shape so I may have noticed a bigger difference if I had a lot of damage.

Miss Jessie's Original Super Sweetback Treatment
To be honest I haven't used this yet but I'm guessing it will be a decent mask like the one above.  The problem with this product is it's kind of a hassle to use.  You shampoo your hair then let this sit in for 30 minutes and then wash it out.  I'll use it at some point but it's definitely not something I have the time or the desire to mess with very often.

ModelCo Party Proof Lipstick in Red Velvet
This lipstick is really great and it came in what appears to be a full size tube.  The staying power is nice and I don't find it too drying like I frequently do with other lipsticks (especially MAC for some reason).  It doesn't fade off in the center leaving a dark edge on my lips which happens to me a lot when I'm wearing dark lipstick.  My only problem is its a bit bright for regular wear so it's definitely more of a special occasion lipstick.

Whish Exfoliating Body Wash
This body wash smells amazing.  It smells like coconut without being too sweet.  It was exfoliating enough without being to harsh and did a great job of getting rid of some of the rough skin patches on my legs.  If I bought one product from August's box in full size it would probably be this one.  I also like that it came in a travel size tube so I should get at least a few more uses out of it.

Whish Deodorant Swipes with Hair Inhibitor
This came in a foil packet with 1 wipe so I can't say how much it inhibits hair growth.  I do know that it does work as well as regular deodorant though I did use it on a day where I wasn't hugely active.  At $22 its a little pricey for regular use but it would be great for traveling or hot sweaty days.  It's pleasantly scented but once applied I didn't notice the fragrance.

Pur~lisse Pur~youth Preserve Age Delay Skin Serum
This seems like a perfectly nice anti-aging serum.  Goes on nicely and absorbs quickly leaving an almost powder like finish.  Didn't cause any breakouts or other irritations.  It came in a nice size sample tube.  That being said, I don't really have an opinion for how it works as an anti-aging serum.  Despite the generous sample I'm not sure that even if I used it up completely I'd be able to give an opinion as these things supposedly work fairly slowly especially since I don't have too many obvious signs of aging.  The creases at the corner of my eyes might be a little less noticeable or that could be complete wishful thinking.  I will probably adjust my Birchbox profile to not get these kinds of products in the future.  Update - This is better than I thought it was originally.  This is the only face product I've been using for the last 2 1/2 weeks and my skin looks really really good.  Even without makeup.  If it wasn't so expensive I would definitely buy this and if I get enough Birchbox points this would be the product I would splurge on.

So that's it for August and I can't wait for September's.  This month didn't have a product that I'm planning on buying like last month but I did love the skin serum.  I'm just got off the waiting list for Ipsy which is the same price as Birchbox but seems to offer more cosmetics.  I think the 2 of them together will be a lot of fun.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Week 7 Cupcake - Twinkies Cupcake

This is the 3rd of my 3 request cupcakes.  The Twinkies cupcake was Ringo's idea though to be honest I'm not sure he's ever had an actual Twinkies.

1. Source: A blog called Restless Chipotle that I've never used before.  Her pictures are great though.

2. Ease of Recipe (1 being cake mix/canned icing - 5 tons of steps and very time consuming): 4.  Making the sponge cake was a bit challenging and it had a filling and frosting made from scratch.

3. Changes Made:  None

4. Problems:  I'm not sure what I did wrong with the making of the cake but it came out very stiff and dry.  Also I didn't have quite enough frosting for a good sized glob on top of all 18.

5.  Overall Impression:  These were not my favorite cupcakes but I'm not a huge fan of Twinkies in the first place so I'm probably not the best judge.  Nothing about this particular recipe really wowed me.

6. Quantity:  18

7. Make Again?:  No probably not.  If I did I would double the frosting recipe though.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Thrift Store Trip 8/27

I finally got to do a little thrift store shopping today!  It's been way too long and the buying drive was starting to rear its ugly head.  I only had time to hit up one store today but still managed a decent haul.  This was to one of the big name stores that actually has 2 locations here.  It's prices are a bit higher but sometimes they have 50% off everything sales and there's always a ton of good name brands.  Unfortunately they seem to be upping the prices considerably on name brand stuff.  I saw prices like $10 on Abercrombie shirts.  Luckily they seem to be upping the prices on the Abercrombie/Hollister type stuff and for now are leaving Ann Taylor alone.  So for a whopping $31.73 I got:

green J. Crew shorts
olive green cashmere Land's End sweater
pink Angora/Merino wool Ann Taylor wrap cardigan
lavender Merino wool/cashmere Ann Taylor Loft cardigan
white silk Ellen Tracy sleeveless blouse
grey and silver striped Gap 3/4 length sleeve t-shirt
AND a super cute Ann Taylor Loft t-shirt that has 2 Audrey Hepburn type sketches on it.

I'm planning on doing some serious shopping Thursday while the Tornado is in school and plan on going to some of the cheaper places.  One of these days I'll actually take pictures of all this which will make keeping track of  what I buy and where I got it much easier.

Tomorrow (hopefully) Twinkies cupcakes!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Week 6 Cupcake - S'mores Cupcake

So last week I asked J, Emma and Ringo what kind of cupcakes they wanted.  Last week I made J's Copycat Hostess Cupcakes.  This week was Emma's S'mores Cupcakes.  I made a S'mores cupcake during my first 52 Weeks of Cupcakes and honestly I liked that one better.  That one was a chocolate cake with graham cracker frosting and if I remember correctly a marshmallow filling.  The graham cracker frosting was amazing.  These are good too but not quite to the same level.

1. Source: Shugary Sweets - this is a blog I've used quite a bit.  Normally with very good results.

2. Ease of Recipe (1 being cake mix/canned icing - 5 tons of steps and very time consuming): 3.5  The cake is from scratch and there are 2 types of frostings but one was a ganache.  Nothing had tons of ingredients and all 3 recipes went together easily.  Not too much mess on the assembly.

3. Changes Made:  I got lazy and tried to microwave the cream to make the ganache.  Also I didn't have graham crackers so I topped it with Duff Decorating S'mores Sprinkles which actually worked out pretty well.  They provided the crunch and the graham cracker flavor.

4. Problems:  Probably entirely my fault but the ganache just didn't come together.  I can't judge the recipe since I didn't actually follow the procedure for making it but my result was basic milk chocolate water.  Tasty but not a ganache.

5.  Overall Impression:  These are good and I really like the texture of the marshmallow frosting.  The multi-layer frosting is a great idea and really gives it a s'more flare.  However, I think I would've preferred if the cake itself was some graham cracker flavored in some way instead of chocolate.

6. Quantity:  18 though I over filled some of the cupcake liners.  Only had enough marshmallow frosting to give a hefty dose to 16.

7. Make Again?:  Yes but mostly to see if I can get the ganache to come out correctly.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Week 5 Cupcake - Copycat Hostess Cupcakes

I asked J, Emma and Ringo what type of cupcakes they wanted and this was J's pick.  It's a copycat Hostess cupcake.  I've eaten a few of these and they're definitely my favorite of the individually wrapped snacks.  There are a few different options for these but this is the one I decided to try out this time.

1. Source:  The Brown Eyed Baker Blog  - I've tried a few of her recipes and always had good luck with them which is one of the reasons I chose this recipe over the other versions.

2. Ease of Recipe (1 being cake mix/canned icing - 5 tons of steps and very time consuming):  Between a 3.5 and a 4.  Everything's made from scratch but the cake and ganache just involved whisking.  The filling was a bit of a sticky mess though.

3. Changes Made:  I used Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder instead of regular.  Also used a tube of frosting for the white swirls instead of making my own buttercream.

4. Problems:  I ran out of ganache halfway through though that was possibly because I was getting some "help" from the Tornado.  The marshmallow filling was difficult to get into the center of the cupcake though I'm sure it'd have been easier if I had used a piping bag like she recommended. 

5.  Overall Impression:  These are very good chocolate cupcakes.  The cake and ganache are very rich and chocolate-y.  The bitterness of the bittersweet chocolate in both balances out the sweet marshmallow filling.  Mine weren't as pretty as hers but I'm sure the would've been if I'd followed the assembly directions better and used piping bags and dipped the cupcakes vs spreading the ganache on top of them.

6. Quantity:  12

7. Make Again?:  Yes definitely.  Even if I didn't want to go to the trouble of the marshmallow filling this would be a good chocolate cupcake base to use with other fillings and frosting.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Week 4 Cupcake - Pancake Batter Cupcake with Maple Buttercream and Bacon Garnish

This is my first time trying a breakfast cupcake.  I've pinned tons - pancake cupcakes, french toast cupcakes, cereal based cupcakes, coffee cake cupcakes - but have never actually made one.  I was extra thrilled when I realized these are from Dollhouse Bake Shoppe who I've seen compete on Cupcake Wars at least twice.

1. Source: Dollhouse Bake Shoppe website.  You can also order products from their site.  They seem to have a lot of cupcake kits which look very intriguing.

2. Ease of Recipe (1 being cake mix/canned icing - 5 tons of steps and very time consuming): 2.  Cake could just be hand mixed and the icing was a quick run with a hand mixer.

3. Changes Made: Not really a change but the recipes calls for 1/4t maple extract OR 1 to 2 T maple syrup.  Since Florian Bellanger on Cupcake Wars is very anti-extract I went with the syrup.  She also calls for an option 1/2c of add-ins such as chocolate chips, blueberries or bacon.  I used semisweet chocolate chips which was good with the cake.

4. Problems:  None really except I think the syrup made the frosting way too sweet.  I think extract would've been better despite Florian's opinion.  I'm going to try one with a bacon garnish to see if the salty bacon tones down the sweetness of the frosting.

5.  Overall Impression:  These are really good cupcakes. The cake is nice and light and is reminiscent of a thick fluffy pancake.  The frosting had the look and feel of whipped butter.  Didn't think the frosting recipe made enough for a thick layer of frosting.  If I made it again I would probably double the frosting.

6. Quantity:  12

7. Make Again?:  Maybe but I would change some things about the frosting to make it less sweet.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Thrift Store Haul

Emma and I tried a new thrift store today.  It's one we always donate stuff too but I've never actually been in it.  After today that won't be the case.  They had a fabulous jacket selection - I ended up with 2 blazers (one tweed-y, one embroidered blue) and a fake leather jacket for Eleanor.  I also got a 2 really nice Ann Taylor sweaters and a few other shirts.  Emma got a handful of shirts, a thick sweater and a skirt.  All of this came up to a whopping $24.50.  This store will definitely go on the rotation!

I'm looking forward to joining the rest of the world with a smart phone so I can post pictures which will make it much easier to keep track of everything.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Week 3 Cupcake - Better Than Anything Cupcakes

I've had this in cake form and made it in cake form several times and always enjoyed it so I was really curious to see how it turned out in cupcake form.  The answer - pretty good!

1. Source: Center Cut Cook - a food blog I've never used before but am interested to investigate more.  It was a complicated recipe but her instructions were very clear.

2. Ease of Recipe (1 being cake mix/canned icing - 5 tons of steps and very time consuming): 4.5.  These were kind of a pain.  Pouring the filling in made a huge mess and the frosting was time consuming.  It used a cake mix and the filling didn't have to cooked which is why it didn't get a 5.  Most likely it would be easier if I made it a 2nd time.

3. Changes Made:  Not much.  Only difference is I used cream instead of water in the cake mix and topped it with sprinkles instead of Heath bars because I'm the only one who will eat Heath bars and the last thing I need is to eat a whole bag on my own.

4. Problems:  Filling these made a gigantic sticky mess.  Next time I would put a piece of foil or parchment paper down because it took forever to get the caramel off the counter.

5.  Overall Impression:  These are very good and taste very similar to the cake.  It was the first cooked flour frosting I've ever made and I'm not entirely sold on the texture.  If I make these again I'll probably just top with sweetened whipped cream.  They'd have to be refrigerated but that probably make them taste more like the cake.

6. Quantity:  16

7. Make Again?:  Possibly but they're not first on my list.

Tomorrow I'm hoping to get a little thrift store shopping in!   I'm hoping to find some good stuff and I'll post the list here tomorrow or Sunday!