Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Just a (OK, not so) Quick Yay!

I came home from class last night tired and frustrated. As I walked in the door though, my attitude did a 180, because I saw that I had some awesome boxes waiting for me.  I had 2 Little Black Boxes, a Sampler from Sampler Village, my order from Heaven and Earth Essentials, and my order from Angel Face Botanicals.

Of course, I fell on them like a starving dog on steak.

Then I woke up my kids by squealing in delight. Oops.

The hubby laughed at my reactions, stole some goodies out of my boxes, and told me to blog about the boxes, because I was so overwhelmed.

I am only going to talk briefly about the Little Black Boxes, because anyone who reads this blog knows I LOVE them.  This month was the Bath, body, and Candles theme box.  I know Kim had some problems with people flaking on their samples, but all I can say about the people who DID step up and provide samples is WOW.  There are some full sized items in some of those boxes!!  You all know how much I LOVE my bath and body product and candles, and I was psyched.  That was why I bough extra boxes this month, because I wanted a sample from everyone.  I didn't quite succeed, which makes me a little sad, but that's OK. I can't wait to start using, reviewing, and planning my purchases. :)

Yeah, I know....that was BRIEF????

My eye had been opened this month on facebook to another sample seller that people thought very highly of, and that's Traci at the Sampler Village.  I had never heard of them, but I decided to try out their Valentines day Mega Super Sampler (pictured on top....and sold out, though as of this writing, their regular sampler is still available!).  Again, all I can say is WOW. Everything came packaged in this pretty pink gift box wrapped with a bow, which was a really nice touch. The box was a lot bigger than I expected, too. 

The first thing that happened when I opened this box, is my husband swiped the chocolate dipped pretzel from RhodaRose.  While he happily chowed down on what he reports was a very delicious treat that I should think about purchasing more of (he never gave me any. *pout*), I rummaged through the box.  Now, I purposely bought one of the HUGE boxes with all of this month's Villagers in it, because I wanted too see what kinds of samples the Village got, and I'll tell you, they get some nice samples.  The Valentines box had quite a few sweets samples in it too, which I of course LOVE, too.  That may be due tot he box being a "Valentine's Day" sample, but that's OK with me!  There were a lot of bath and body products, some candles, jewelry, paper products, pet treats, what have you!  In all, I was very plesed and excited!

I'm really glad I tried out the Sampler Village.  Now I have two high quality and great sampler boxes I can buy every month to be exposed to even MORE sellers!!  For future review purposes, I have done my best to keep the samples from the Village and the LBB samples separate, though some sellers appeared in both boxes.

After all of this happiness and squealing, I opened up my order from Angel Face Botanicals.  You may recall a review I made earlier this month about their "awareness" soap.  Well, I ordered a full sized bar of it, I loved it so much, and I ordered some bath salts, because, hey, I love me some bath salts.  Everything arrived extremely well packaged and safely, and into the box, they had tossed a BUNCH of soap samples!!  FREE GIFTIES!!  WAHOO!!  I swear, I was more excited than I was at Christmas....probably mostly because I had given most of my Angel Face Botanicals products away, and I was feeling sad that I didn't have more of my own. :)

Finally, I got to my order from Heaven and Earth Essentials. They have figured out my weakness at HAEE.  LOTS of different scents.  They have scents I have never heard of or seen anywhere else!  I MUST try them all!!  I love that they have a lot of different sampler packs available too, because in general, I prefer to buy a lot of different sample sized products.  I probably have adult ADD.  I get easily bored even with using the same lotion or soap every day. I like the smaller samples over the full sized products, because then I am not trying to store half used soaps or lotion when I tired of that scent or product for a while.  True, I will also buy full sized samples when I LOVE something, but that's because I know I will WANT to go back to it over and over again.

Back to Heaven and Earth Essentials. Barbara has figured me out!  Every sample was a different scent!  AND she sent me a whole little handmade satchel of EXTRAS!!  This is why I love this company.  They really care about their customers.  The box I got myself over the holidays from HAEE was also full of little extras, and it was so lovely.  I really recommend their products!

Speaking of sellers, I had some problems with some sellers over the holidays. Packages not arriving or coming late. Poor quality of items.  Breakage due to poor packaging.  People just NOT SENDING STUFF, etc.  Because of those problems, the sellers who really came through, and then added little extras (which I could use to cover the problems) got an extra little spot in my heart.  Angel Face Botanicals and Heaven and Earth Essentials were FABULOUS in that regard, along with other sellers who I have already reviewed or will be reviewing soon, and will be sure to let you know about that. Now, I know I tend to buy a lot at a time (because I buy samples and sampler packs a lot, I tend to want to make things worth the shipping), I may get special treatment, but I have had sellers send me special extras when all I did was buy a bar of soap or a single lip balm, so you never know.
I have to note, though. I had NO PROBLEMS from any seller I have gotten anything from in my purchased samplers, be it LBB, Sampler Village, or other sampler packs. I have also never had a problem with anyone I reviewed on my blog, though I admit I have not purchased from a few of them YET. I don't anticipate problems, though.  The problems I had were mostly random people I found on etsy or the web, and I had some warning signs show up with those sellers that I have not gotten from anyone I reviewed (poor communication being a big warning sign). 

So, I'm done sharing my extreme excitement!  I hope I can get you excited, too!!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pissed Off with the Post Office

Ok, I just got a huge awesome box from Capella's Garden.  Speaking of FAST SHIPPING! My issue is, the box was OPEN when it was delivered.  This ticks me off. What ticks me off more is that this is not the first time I have had packages and mail tampered with before it was delivered.

It defeinitely looks like the contents were messed with, too.  Unfortunately, since I ordered sampler packs, I can't say for sure whether anything was taken or not.  What I got still looks great, so I am not going to contact them about it and make them try to figure out what EXACTLY went into my box, since it was a random collection. Not on Capella's, I just mentioned them to goive them props for super fast shipping. 

When I loived in New York, I did not have my compulsive buying under any kind of control.  I would get a few boxes every day.  Yes, Ihad a few packages that went missing, but any time ANYTHING showed up on my porch damaged, it was in a clear bag and labeled that it arrived at some post office along the way in damaged condition. 

Since we moved to Texas, I have gotten multiple boxes with the sides ripped out, once with pre-wrapped Christmas presents that the ends of all of the gifts had been opened to see what was inside.  I didn't receive a SINGLE Christmas card that the top corner of the envelope wasn't opened (as if to look for cash or checks).  What is going on??

I just called the post office again this morning to make sure that they are aware that this is STILL going on.  I think part of the problem is that we don't seem to have a regular mail carrier here.  If my packages had been broken into at my old place, I would have known that, unless it was thursday, my mailman had gone into it.  Here, it seems like there is a new mail carrier every day.  There's no way to know who is delivering my mail on a daily basis, and I bet they know it.

Look, I know the economy is tough, but the post office needs to get it together.  I can not be the only one dealing with these issues.  I have been dealing with them for MONTHS, and it is still occurring.  It sucks. Yes, I know a lot of the blame shoudl go towards whoiever is being unethical enough to be doig this, but where is the accountability, if it ias been going on this long? By now they should have at least narrowed down where the problems are occurring.

This Week in Reviews! 1/14-1/21

THis week's blog is, in some ways, a testament to my laziness.  This morning when I finally got around to unpaking my travel case of toiletries and cosmetics from the trip I took IN DECEMBER, I found a few items I had used on the trip that needed to be blogged about.  Yes, that's right. the only thing I had unpacked from my toiletries from a trip from 12/25-1/1 was the little bar of soap I had remembered was still wet, and that I had packed separately.


So, anyway, now that I have admitted to the world of laziness that I live in, I feel the need to post about some items I used on that trip along with this week's items.

Here we go!

I am going to start off with something I have whined about before.  In an earlier blog, if you recall, I whined about my allergy to artificial sweeteners advancing to the point that artificially sweetened lip balm works like a lip (and tongue!) plumper on me. I had bemoaned the fact that I just could not find flavored artificial sweetener free lip balm.  WELL!  I got a few emails, and did some more searching, and I found a few sellers making unsweetened lip balm!  I am hoarding them and waiting to open a new one until I use the old one, so I currently only have one review, though I found three balms.

The first lip balm I opened was Maple Hill Farm's "Lemon" natural lip balm. Though it can feel a little grainy in the stick container, this lip balm goes on smoothly, with none of that grainy-ness transferring to your lips.  If anything, the grainy helps open up the wrinkles in your lips to get a better coverage with less balm.  I don't feel like I have to reapply or slather on this balm to get the benefits from using it. The lemon flavor/scent is light and not over powering. There's just enough to cover up the normnal "lip balm" smell and taste.  I REALLY like this lip balm. Right now, it is living in my purse. When I found the trip items, I remembered this balm in my purse.  I am going to buy another one after I finish the ones I already have.  The price was good, too.  Maple Hill Farm also sells soaps, body butter, and laundry soap.  I bought a few soaps when I bought the lip balm, which I will review after I use them, though they look lovely.  Buying a few soaps also offsets any shipping, and makes the price even better.

One of the things I bought for this trip was Citronella Skin Balm from Sandy Creek Soap. Every time we go away, I end up getting eaten alive.  A lot of bug sprays make me break out, and I hate the stink.  This skin balm is all natural and goes on like lotion.  it smells nice, and best of all, it WORKS!! I would put a light coat of balm on my skin before I get dressed in the morning, and reapply after going swimming. This was the first trip I didn't spend half the night every night up scratching my bug bites.  I even felt safe putting it on my kids!  I am never going away without this balm again!  It lasts forever, too! They have other scents of body balm, too, which would be great to use as a solid perfume or lightly scented lotion.  Sandy Creek soaps sells a lot of other products, too.  In fact, they will be appearing again in the next few months, because I got a handful of their soap samples, too.   

Because I am obsessed with candles and smelling good (and we were going to be in a timeshare for a week), I brough a couple of travel candles from Mrs Tattooed Geek.  I had gotten these candles in some Little Black Boxes and never gotten around to burning them before.  What a mistake!  They burned cleanly and well, lasted a good amount of time, and really threw some good scent!  Next time I go away for any length of time, I am picking up a few more travel candles!  They are in a little tin, so the candle is contained, but not in breakable glass. I just pack a silicone heat pad to protect the surface, buy (or get) matches at my destination, set everythign up, and burn some sweet smelling candles wherever I am!  The scent that I had that I liked best was Sugar Skulls, but I love some of the scents she has listed in her shop.  I can NOT wait to have money again so I can go on a candle binge!!  Mrs. Tattooed Geek is at the top of my list.

This week's soap is Sun Ripened Raspberry by S.V.Soaps. I am using a sample I got in my Little Black Box.  I like this soap.  It has some nice color layers with lovely rosepetals and dried raspberries in the soap.    Although I put in a link to this seller's stand alone website, they are also on Etsy.  S.V. Soaps also sells body butter, bath bombs, items for men, lip balm, and so many other things.  Having used their sample of soap, I would love to try some of their other items.

I also figured I would let you all know that I am STILL using the shampoo and conditioner from Heaven and Earth Essentials.  I LOVE IT, and it lasts forever. I am rotating 5 scents, each in 2 oz containers, and after 3 months, I am only about half way through all 5 scents.  I know I have mentioned them before, but seriously, the more I use their products, the more I love them.

My last review is of a non-consumable.  It is a mug that my sister got me for Christmas from Larry Spears Pottery.  I have been using it all week to drink my tea out of.  It is a great size (I like my mugs BIG), and the handle is very comfortable.  It was shipped well packed and in a timely manner.  I got a lot of compliments on my mug, and the husband uses it behind my back a lot.  All positive things to recommend Larry Spears.  What I REALLY want from him is his Soup Tureen. I covet that thing.  I have a couple of soups that are my specialty, and I LOVE the concept behind the tureen.  I just don't have the money right now.  Oh, but SOON.  Soon, I hope, I will be able to splurge on it. It is fabulous looking,a dn if it is made with the same craftsmanship as the mug I got, it will end up being a display piece as WELL as a highly used functional item.  I will leave you with a picture, so you too can revel in its magnificence.

Talk at ya later!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Reviews! 1/16/10

Ok, I can't really call this set of reviews, "this week's", because I never wrote my reviews last week, due to a whole lot of family junk going on here.  But that's not here nor there on this blog, so on to the reviews for the new year!

My first "review" is actually a shout out to the Little black Boxes.  For the holidays, I, like so many other moms, had a lot of appreciation gifts to give out.  Throughout the year, I hoarded together the items from the black boxes I got every month that I wasn't going to use and that weren't perishable. I then bought some really cute gift bags, and a  few additional sampler packs from some sellers I really like.  I put the samples into the gift bags, added a card from a seller I had found through the little black boxes, and voila! I had appreciation gifts for everyone.  Whenever possible, I left on the sellers' business cards and contact information for the people who I gave the gifts to, in case they wanted more. I have actually done this over the year whenever I needed hostess gifts, or last minute gifts for adults, and they have always been relly well received, especiall because I could adjust what was in the gift to accout for the likes and dislikes of the recipient.  Without the Little Black Boxes and their samples, this would ever be possible, and I never would have discovered many of the sellers I now turn to to finish out these gifts, and to provide me with my little indulgences for myself. So, thank you, Kim and the Little Black Boxes (LBB).

Now, On to our regularly scheduled program:

A new item I tried for the first time this year was bath bombs. As you may know, we moved into a new house this year, and the tub int he master bathroom is a bubble tub.  It's annoying, and I do not recommend to anyone to buy a bubble tub, but that's a whole different review.  I was worried about ruining the bubble creating components on the tub with the oils and salts in bath products, but I figure, I am both not going to use it as a bubble tub, and the exposure to the components when I am not runnign the tub is minimal, so what the heck.

I got a number of bath bombs through my LBBs, from Sheba's Secrets and Cappella's Garden.  I'm glad I got more than one, and I'll tell you why.  The first bath bomb I used, I hated. I ended up feeling like I had been greased up, to the point that I took a shower after my bath to remove the waxy residue.  Since I had so many bath bombs, and so many people wax poetic about them, I figured, what the heck, and tried another one a few weeks later. Well, let me tell you, the difference was like night and day, and the bombs were both from the SAME SELLER! I loved the second bomb as much as I had hated the first one.  It was uncanny.  I have taken 3 baths since the second one, and used another bomb every time. Loved them all. The first was apparently a fluke.  Both the bombs from Cappella's Garden and Sheba's Secrets give off gorgeous scents that emanate through the entire room.  They smell wonderful and, looking on their sites, are reasonably priced.  Since I am not a "one seller loyalist", I can equally recommend each.  Both are fabulous.  Once the husband and I are working again, I plan on relatively large orders from both.

This past week also destroyed another of my biases.  I havea lways been very leery of black soap.  I remember as a child using those soap crayons, and the time my mother had cleaning the tub after the four of us had a grand old time using some of them.  Black soap always seemed like a continuation of this problem.  However, I got a sample of Metropolis Soap Co.'s "Black Soap Horror", so I decided to try it.  Well, I have to agree with black soap proponents. No staining has occurred, and,t hough the black lather is disconcerting, I am just as clean as I would be with non black soap.  The soap hold up extraordinarily well, too, and I haven't had anny of that goo-ing....of course that may be due to my listening to one of my readers and permanently putting a soap rack in my shower. So, I must say, I have been very pleased with my soap from Metropolis soap Co.

This week, I am actually talking about 2 soaps, because I brought a sample of "Awareness" lemongrass soap from Angel Face Botanicals with me on my vacation, along with a little scrubbie made by Jodi's Craft Emporium. This little tiny sample lasted the whole week whie we were away, and there was enough to use for another week after we came home.  I have to say, I absolutely LOVE this soap!  I used it while at a Caribbean Island, and it helped my skin from getting dried out from the constant exposure to salt water and chlorine.  It also smells great and invigorating. Angel Face Botanicals is also one of the sellers I bought from to use their products in my appreciation gifts, and many of the recipients waxed poetic about it.

Well, that's all of my reviews for this week.  Many more coming soon!

Monday, January 11, 2010

I'm lucky.

As I sit here at my computer, drinking my artisanal tea out of a handmade mug my sister got me off of my favorites list on Etsy, smelling of a combination of my handmade soap and shampoo, wearing jewelry I made myself, and avoiding eating the handmade caramels the hubby got me for the holidays, I realize how lucky I am.

I'm lucky I discovered handmade products.  I'm lucky I married a guy who shares my love of pottery, unique handmade jewelry, Renaissance fairs, and original art.  He takes me to craft shows (and lets me buy stuff there!), and puts up with the other stuff I buy online.  I'm lucky he puts up with my buying of mass supplies and crafting adventures.

I'm lucky he and I had children who love handmade clothing just as much (If not more than) store bought.  Children who are waiting for the day that they are old enough to have their own special mugs and cups, and who get so upset when their plastic self-decorated cups get ruined because they put them in the water in the sink. A daughter who prefers handmade dresses to anything else, who daily begs me to make her more, who has begun designing her own clothes, and who BEGGED for her own sewing machine for her sixth birthday this year. A son who tells me every day that I need to make his teacher something special, and that his blank tee shirts need an animal embroidered by me on them.

I'm lucky that we put away enough money and made enough money that I can indulge myself with these items, even now in this rough economy, which has hit us hard.  I'm lucky I discovered sites like the Little black boxes/handmade guru, the sampler, Wickedly Chic, Etsy, and even (yes) eBay.

Yes, I am lucky. I need to remember this and be thankful every day. Thankful for artists and crafters who put their stuff out there and sell it, and for all of the people who buy them.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I Need a Beauty Boot Camp

And by Beauty Boot Camp, I mean one that actually teaches you the basics of beauty. Are these things ingrained in women, and I just lost that gene? Where do peope learn these things? My sisters don't have any problems with this stuff, but I am hopeless. I am getting back into the workforce, and I can't even get myself together as well as the other stay at home moms in the grocery stores! I have tried books, and videos...everything I could think of. I'm hopeless.

You would think with all of the makeup and hair care products I have in my bathroom that I would be better at applying them. *Sigh*

As a reformed tomboy, I have to admit, I have NO IDEA how to blow dry my hair so it looks ANYTHING like it does when I leave the salon. I can't even come close. Seriously.  I can't even keep my hair soft adn parted in the right place.  I am a failure at hair. No matter how hard I try, it always just ends up looking like I didn't even try that morning, so why try??  If someone would sit down and properly teach me to style my hair and walk me through it, maybe I could look less schlubby on a daily basis.

Same thing with makeup.  I am clueless.  I just wear whatever the makeup artist or salesperson puts on my face.  If I try anything new, I end up looking foolish. Half the time, even if I try to do what I have been shown, I look foolish.  I need to know how to make myself look good on a daily basis, AND how to dress it up for special occassions. I also need to know how to adjust when I change my hair color or between winter and summer when my skin tone changes. And I need to not only be shown how, I need follow up care where someone will check on me the next day or two and make sure I did everything right, and if not, tell me how to correct my mistakes.

I am doomed to be a frumpy schlub...and with that happy note, off to my love affair with candles, soap, and pottery.....:)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Maylee's Garden...the Shop that Started it All...

I was talking to someone the other day about handmade bath and body products, and she asked me how I got into using them.  She was telling em that she has always felt skeptical of handmade body care products and whether or not they are actually as effective as store bought products.  This woman had noticed that I don't seem to be a very "crunchy" person, so to find out that I use almost exclusively handmade bath and body products surprised her.

It got me thinking. How DID it all start?

The answer is actually pretty simple.

As you may well know, I have been sewing for myself and my kids for a long time.  For a long time I was a member of a "hippie sewing" group.  I know, I know. ME a Hippie??  Well, yes.  I have gotten away from much fo the patchwork loveliness in my everyday wear, but that doesn't mean that I didn't have a number of years where that was pretty much all that I wore.  I also tend to be relatively politically radical, and have always been a proponent of conservation and recycling.

On that board, I met some wonderful women who made their own bath and body products.  But I never tried them. For YEARS.

Then I started my Jewelry Business (Now Known As AngelTree Gems).  One of these wonderful ladies on the board saw and loved a few of my jewelry pieces, but she was not in a position to purchase them, so we worked out a barter.  She would send me a few bars of soap, adn I would send her some jewelry.  My thinking was, "I'll just have them around if I needed some hand soap).

Well, the soap arrived, and one bar smelled SOOOOOO good, I just had to try it.  Soon I noticed how soft, yet not greasy my hands felt after using the soap, so I brought it into the shower with me to use all over.  My skin came out of that shower softer and better feeling than it had ever felt even using fancy bath gels and creamy clenasers.

The rest, as they say, is history.  I may never go back to commercial soaps (well, after I finish my BB&B stash in my closet).

Who was that wonderful woman?  The one who got me hooked on handmade soap?  Libby of Maylee's Garden.  She hasn't popped up in my reviews, because her soaps are my go-to soaps.  I have bars stashed all around the house.  And her bars last FOREVER!  I just get sick of using the same scent for a month, so I switch them out a lot.

Another great thing about Libby, is all of her products are Vegan.  I, personally, am not a vegan, but I know many people are.  She caters to this group without them having to sacrifice quality, scent, or beauty.   

Libby also makes laundry soap (I am still scared to use this in my high efficiency washer), perfume oil, dreadlock shampoo, body butter, and some of the most awesome smelling bath salts EVER.

Check her out, You will not regret it. I highly recommend her soaps, they are rich smelling and gorgeous.  Maybe we can even convince her to make one of her fancy swirled circle soaps that are so gorgeous.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Back from Vacay!

I didn't want to post publicly before we left, but since we are back, I'll tell you!  We spent a week in Grand Cayman, and I feel relatively recharged and ready to attack the new year!  2010 here we come!

I have all kinds of new things to review and other things to talk about.  I have decided to branch my reviews and thoughts out beyond merely Etsy and Handmade, and you, my precious readers will get to be privvy to my wandering thoughts!

I am going to leave you with a picture of my newest, and currently most favorite tea pot.  Not handmade, true, but for a frog lover such as myself, it is much beloved.....especially since my 7 year old son picked it out for me. :)

Happy New Year!