June Birchbox

Better a little late than never, right?

I noticed something. Last month, the month that I found so disappointing, my box came very early, before I noticed anybody saying they’d gotten it on Pinterest or Twitter. This month was much better, and it was also one of the last ones – it shipped on the 10th, the last day of shipping. I wonder if that’s relevant, or just coincidence.

Oh, speaking of last month, remember that Dr Jart’s BB cream? IT IS AMAZING. I actually got like 5 uses out of that tiny bottle, and very seriously considered purchasing full size. I decided to try some other brands before I committed to that brand, so now I’ve got a tube of the Garnier offering. Love it too.

So… what did I get this month, you ask?

This is an Eyeko London Skinny Liquid Eyeliner. It actually seems to be full-size, which is straight-up awesome. I am usually a gel-pencil eyeliner girl, personally. I tried liquid liner back when I was a teenager and didn’t like it much – I don’t have very steady hands. I really like this one though! I like the look of the liquid liner, and the style of the tip of this one is easy to control. It’s got a paintbrushy feel to it (but it’s not a brush, it’s a tapered foam tip). Mine is black, but the Shop only seems to have it in Olive and Turquoise right now (both of which look pretty cool too). Definitely will consider buying this.

Apparently there’s a scented product every month, and this time it’s Melvita Floral Water in Rose. I really love the scent – it really does smell exactly like a rose. However, the scent is very light when you put it on; it doesn’t seem to linger at all like a perfume does. I suppose this is meant to be more of a “body spray”? Those are nice too, but I don’t buy body sprays in this price range. It’s lovely, just more than I’d spend on the product. It’s also available in Lavender and Orange Blossom (I’d really like to try that one).

The lifestyle extra this month is “fancy bandaids” (as my daughter is calling them). This is a box of 20 Band-Aids designed by Cynthia Rowley. They’ve all got cool designs on them. I’ve not injured myself since receiving the box, so I haven’t been able to test them out, but I’m sure they’re of good quality. The Shop is selling a package of 40 (20 of these and 20 in a sport pack) for 11$, which seems pretty much like what the plain old beige bandages sell for, so this is a pretty good deal. I’d purchase these.

I’ll admit I was a little dubious about this one – Stainiac by theBalm. It’s a stain designed to be used as lip or cheek color, which seems just a bit weird to me. I got the Beauty Queen color; they have two other color choices. I never ever use cheek color (my cheeks have plenty of natural color – too much, in fact), so I haven’t tried it that way. It was pretty nice on my lips though. I was expecting a dark red color, but it was actually quite pink. It went on smoothly and was not sticky. I don’t think it lasted very long though. I’m a big fan of Cover Girl Outlast lip stain and I don’t think that this measured up to that. I liked the product, but it’s not for me.

Yu-Be moisturizing skin cream has been a top-selling product in Japan for over half a century, so it must be awesome, right? Right. It has no added fragrances or colors and no petrolatum – just a light moisturizing cream. It rubs completely into the skin and doesn’t leave a greasy residue like some creams. I tried it on a patch of dry skin on my hand and saw instant results. The price is excellent as well – I may give this a try the next time I’m in the market for lotion.

Last but not least, I’ve got a cologne sample from the new Birchbox Men service! John Varvatos Star USA is (at this writing) sold out on the Birchbox shop, so I guess we weren’t the only ones that liked it! As a woman, I loved this smell for my husband, and he liked it a lot as well. It’s expensive, like all perfumes and colognes, but not exorbitantly so. We’ll enjoy this sample for date nights and maybe get some in the future.

If you like what you see here, consider trying out a Birchbox subscription of your own! They’re only ten dollars a month, and it’s always fun to see what surprises are in store. I’ve not been compensated in any way for this post, although the link earlier in this paragraph is a referrer link that will earn me some points if you subscribe using it. All opinions are my own. Check out my Health and Beauty category here on the blog to see more Birchbox reviews and other similar things.

Do you have a Birchbox subscription? How did you like it this month? If you’ve tried any of these products, what did you think of them? Did you find any amazing new products this month?

Swamped like Quicksand

Guys. Guys. Omg. I am sooooo swamped. Like “overwhelmed” swamped. I’ve got a HUGE personal project – with a deadline! I’ve got FRG stuff and other personal projects. Then there’s my Etsy listing goals (ha ha ha) and, you know, cleaning the house and taking care of my kid and all that.

On top of allll of that, I’ve recently taken on some SEO writing! I took over for a friend and my contact person definitely dumped TEN articles on me all at once. I don’t have a “deadline” on them, in particular, but they need to be done as soon as possible.

SO, all of these things combined means that I am not going to be able to do my Web Weekends for a few weeks. It sucks. :/ I love doing them, which is why I keep doing them even though nobody ever comments, haha. But I just really won’t have the free time to reader, and especially not to compile them. I’ll resume them as soon as possible, but there definitely won’t be one this weekend, and probably not the next.

Regular blogging should continue as usual. ๐Ÿ™‚

Quick Tip: Strawberry Season

Strawberries are in season all across North America, which makes this the perfect weekend to find a “u-pick” farm and gather your own delicious berries. I’d like to take a few moments of your day to share some tips I’ve learned about strawberries.

Strawberries are not technically berries! We just call them that. Strawberry image from todayifoundout.com.

Tip 1: The smaller berries have better flavor.
I don’t know if this is because the flavor is more concentrated or what the actual reason is, but all my experience tells me so. The supermarkets will stuff those little plastic clamshell boxes with giant berries, which may *look* impressive, but they taste like cotton. Not to mention all the empty space in that box, which you’re paying for!

Tip 2: Buy them as fresh as possible.
All berries have a pretty short shelf life. By buying your berries as close to the actual strawberry plant as you can, you get to take advantage of as much of that time as possible. There are farms all over the country where you can pick your own, not to mention all the farmer’s markets. I bought mine today from an Amish family who picked them just this morning. The ones at the supermarket? I have no idea where they came from or when they were picked, nor do I have any way of knowing what was done to them to make them look nice.

Tip 3: As soon as you get them home, wash them.
Now, wait, don’t just run them under the faucet. I’ve heard anecdotes of berries actually rotting faster when they’re washed in plain water. Get a bucket or large bowl and combine one part plain vinegar with 10 parts of plain water. I use a margarine tub with 1/4 cup of vinegar and 2 1/2 cups of water. Dump in your berries (in several batches or all at once) and swirl them around for a few moments. Remove them, rinse if you wish, and store. (This is also effective for other kinds of berries.)

Tip 4: Eat them!
Strawberries are DELICIOUS.

Have a great weekend everybody. ๐Ÿ™‚

Achievement Unlocked: Break a Bad Habit

Holy guacamole, has it been a week or what. This week has been super rough for me. I hope you’re having it better out there. Just popping in to share for a while again.

I took this photo for a Pin contest that Birchbox is doing because why not. The photo is supposed to show your favorite manicure and a Bandaid, for reasons unknown to me because I don’t really care. Lol.

I’m sharing here so I can explain it. My nails are bare. “That’s odd,” you say, perhaps thinking of the giant stash of fancy polishes I own. But, you see, my nails didn’t always look like this. Six months ago they were NUBS. I’d been a nail biter my entire life. I am not quite sure why I abruptly decided to quit, but I did.

My fellow biters out there are yelling, I can hear them. HOW? They ask. HOW do you stop biting your nails?! It’s an impossible nervous habit. Let me assure you, this was not the first time I’d tried it. And here’s how I did it.

First, I invested a lot of money in them. Haha. I dropped some bank on fancy polishes in colors that I liked (but that may scandalize my mom). I splurged on NerdLaqcuer and Butter London, and went wild with OPI and Zoya and China Glaze (Hunger Games shades, zomg). I had nubs of course, so I also got a big box of falsies and some glue (in fact you can see some in the background – I used it this morning to fix my glasses because I’m an idiot and stepped on them and broke the bridge of them, but I digress), along with all the other stuff – files and remover and cotton pads and who knows what else. I tried out some trends, too. I got some matte polish (love it) and some magnetic polish (love it, but it’s a bit tricky).

Then I invested TIME in them. I spent HOURS doing my nails – most nights, for weeks, I’d be filing or painting or gluing or whatever. Plastic nails are not impossible to chew through (done that), but they are more difficult. Painting them in ways that made me happy made me not want to mess them up, and if all else failed I could remind myself how expensive this experiment was if I quit, and that my husband would make fun of me if I gave up.

I soon found myself admiring rather than biting. It took a few months, but I finally got brave enough to go without the protective falsies. Underneath, my natural nails were thin and weak. I painted them with dozens of extra coats to beef them up a bit. They grew out, much stronger and thicker than I ever knew they could be. I haven’t worn plastic nails in months, and probably never will again.

A tip: getting professional manicures isn’t a fix that worked for me, although I’ve heard people recommend it. It’s definitely a financial investment, but there’s not a whole lot of time invested. And there won’t be bottles of lacquer all over your house laughing at you if you slip up. And I think the “weaning off” period may be harder that way. Your mileage may vary, of course.

My fingers now look like human fingers. Before the tips of my fingers were always red and weird looking, with gross jagged nails. Now, they’re all the same color, and I actually have the problem of needing to file them MORE often. The last few weeks, as you know, I’ve been insanely swamped and haven’t had much time for maintenance, much less polishing, which is a several-hour period where you can’t touch anything, lol. So my fingers have been bare. But that’s okay. Because I worked damn hard for these nails, and I am SO proud of them.

(Yes that’s Hello Kitty on the bandaid. My daughter calls her Baa-bo head in her adorable accent because she first met the Kitty as a bobblehead toy. It’s too adorable to correct. Also, fun fact – there actually is a small wound under there. I scratched my finger on something while doing dishes the other day. Just a glimpse into the glamourous life of a blogger.)

Do you have any bad habits? Ever manage to break one? We’re pretty good at that here – my husband quit smoking last year. Let’s chat about healthy habits and adorable preschooler accents.

Homemade Onion Rings

You may have noticed that I am a big fan of onions. They’re an ingredient in just about every savory recipe I’ve shared here, and in fact in just about every savory recipe I make, shared or not. I love their taste, I love their texture, and I especially love their versatility. They work with just about every flavor profile and cooking method.

Every once in a while, I get a craving for FRIED onions. Specifically, onions shaped like rings and covered with crust. A lot of people would just dash out to the nearest fast “food” place and pick some up, or maybe get some premade ones from the freezer case at the supermarket. But I’m sure you know me well enough by now to know that that’s not how I roll. And I’m here to tell you that homemade onion rings are SUPER easy.

You will need:
– onions. I generally use one small-t0-medium onion.
– two forks, a medium bowl, a sharp knife and a cutting board
– a cooling rig – paper towels are fine, a rack on top of the paper towels would be better.
– batter, see below
– oil – an inch or so deep in your cast iron skillet – put it on the burner first so it can get hot while you prep the rings

Here’s your batter.
3/4 cup flour, 2/3 cup milk, 1 egg, 1 tbsp oil, 1/4 tsp salt.
Mix these together in a bowl. Stir until smooth and unlumpy. Feel free to adjust the texture as you like. More flour will give a thicker batter, more milk will thin it (obviously). You can leave out this salt if you are concerned about sodium, but seriously this is not health food. Just leave it in – it tastes much better.

Slice the onion(s) into a big ol’ pile of rings. Separate them gently with your fingers. The center of the onion will be too small to make decent rings with; just put that part in a container and use in your next meal. If the outer layers have green veins (like the one on the left side of this photo), they won’t taste very good, so discard them.

Dip the rings into the batter and swirl them around to coat them. This particular batch has extra milk and is a little thin. Lift them with one of your forks and let the excess drip off. If your oil is ready (I think 350 degrees is the temperature, but I never actually use the thermometer for this. I actually take a drop of the batter and put it in the oil – if it immediately starts to sizzle, it’s ready), drop in the rings, one at a time.

Sorry for the fuzzy photo, lol. Make sure not to crowd your pan or add too many at one time (so that the oil temperature doesn’t fall too much). If your rings are not bubbling like mad from the second you put them into the oil, they’ll absorb the fat and be horrible and gross. Take them out if this happens, and crank the heat.
Watch the edges of the rings for the telltale color of Golden Brown and Delicious. It usually takes around a minute for each ring, but it’ll depend on the thickness of your batter and of your individual onion. Use your second fork (or a frying spider) to flip them over.

When they’re done, evacuate them to your cooling/draining rig. If your oil is hot and you don’t let them overcook, and you allow them to drain properly, your onions will retain very little oil. They’ll not be healthy, but they also won’t be balls of grease.
If you get drips of batter in the oil as you fry, try to remember to get them out, or else they’ll burn and then stick to the rings, which is why you see those black dots on these rings. :/
Salt them while warm (if you want) and serve. I like ketchup with mine, but just about any dipping sauce will work here. Onions are versatile, I told you. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I don’t have a pretty staged food photo for you this time. I was too busy devouring my onion rings. What are you still doing reading? Go make some.

An Unplanned Break

Well, I *intended* to post a web weekend post this past weekend. I was even relatively caught up on my reader! But, well, I ended up taking a vacation from the internet. We went out and had our Standard Saturday Fun, and that evening I just didn’t feel like internetting. Sunday was Cleaning Day, and when that was done, I started on a needlepainting project (omg it’s amazing by the way).

So let’s just call that a vacation and I’ll pick up again next weekend with the roundup-ing.

Last week I actually managed to find time to *gasp* play a video game! According to the save files on the disk, it’d been a year and a half since I last played Wind Waker, and that’s just sad. I’m enjoying replaying it though – Wind Waker is a very relaxing game to me, and I could listen to Fado’s music for days on end.

Not sure that I’ll be able to play this week or not. I’d like to. In fact, I would really like to find some time to actually finish Skyward Sword. I’ve beaten all but the final boss twice. The first time, I made an idiotic mistake in the fight with Ghirahim, and was too ashamed to play that file again. (I let him break my shield, and it was the only one I had, so I had to let him kill me.) The second time, I defeated Ghirahim and the first stage of the fight with Demise, but couldn’t figure out the trick to the second phase. Yes, I’m dumb. Now I think I know what to do. The problem is, it’s been so long since I played that I feel awkward picking up the almost-complete file, like I’m cheating or something. My husband will laugh his butt off at me if I restart though. (I am notorious for getting halfway through a game and deciding I liked playing the beginning and want to do it again, or whatever.)

Oh, I made an ipad cover this weekend! It was commissioned by a friend. It was fun. I made a little “ipad” out of cardboard to use as a test subject to make sure I got the dimensions right. It’s a father’s day gift, so it was a rush order and I’ll be posting it later today. Hopefully she’ll be able to purchase it quickly and I can mail it out to be there in time. (I just want to point out that the time crunch is not my fault and not typical of commissioned orders. I received the selected fabric in the mail exactly one day before I made the product. )

Probably the only iPad I’ll ever own, lol. ๐Ÿ˜‰

By the way, my garden is growing like CRAZY. If THIS is the difference between organic soil and crappy Miracle Gro soil, guess which one I’m using for the rest of my life. (Hint: it’s not the over-advertised one.)

Let’s see, what else… Oh! I’ve also found some time/inclination lately to read some more! According to my Kindle Fire, I am now 50% through with Dance With Dragons. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m really enjoying it. Although, I encountered a particularly painful spoiler the other day and I’m dreading it. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

This is going to be a rather busy week, I think – but I am definitely putting “draft posts” at the top of my to-do list, and hopefully I’ll be able to post a bit more often.

Do you find it harder to stay on top of your to-do list in the summertime? Are you planning a vacation? Have you read any good books or played any great games lately? Let’s talk about summer fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

Sneak Peeks

You may or may not know this, but my husband and I love renaissance faires. We both grew up a stone’s throw from one of the best: The Texas Renaissance Festival. We miss it a lot now that we live way up here in New York, but we console ourselves with Sterling Renaissance Faire. It’s not as big as TRF, but we had a TON of fun last year. It was the perfect size to see everything, and the shows by the Bless the Mark players were absolutely amazing. We are obviously planning to attend again this year (possibly more than once).

I shared that bit of trivia with you to introduce the stuff I’ve been working on and thinking about the last couple weeks. We’re planning to dress up in costume this year!

The last time we attended TRF, we got our “family crest” researched. This shape here is a water bouget, the central figure for the heraldry of our last name.

I embroidered this with DMC Ecru on some plain off-white fabric. I’m going to make a tunic for Jonathan and applique this onto it. I’m fairly happy with how this turned out, although I definitely feel it could be better.

We haven’t yet gotten the fabrics or patterns for any of the clothes (except for some off-white cotton gauze), but I’m planning on a deep blue for Jonathan’s tunic.

He’s also going to be armored up. His “character,” such as it is, is basically a hedge knight – non-landed, non-nobility, knighted-for-valor sort of thing.

Here you can see a six-rails wide strip of European 4-in-1 maille. We’ve been tag-teaming on this one. We’ve done about half each, at this point. I think he’s wanting to finish it himself, which is probably good since I’ve got lots of sewing to do.

This is the length of the piece. If I hold one end at my shoulder, it reaches to the floor. It’s 6-wide at one end and 4 at the other because of how Jonathan’s weaving it.

It’s going to be a shirt of mail, eventually. This long strip will hang over one shoulder. When this piece is all evened up, we’re going to start on the center part, forming the neckline and the torso. I have no idea yet how we’ll do the shoulders/sleeves. Cross that bridge when I get to it.

I’m fairly sure now that this is approximately what I’m going to make for our little fairy girl. She already has a fantastic pair of wings (which we bought at TRF in 2009). I need to sit down and have a good look at a pattern for this shirt. ๐Ÿ™‚ Don’t you just love how it criss-crosses in the back? Even without sparkly pink wings (because she will inevitably want them off), Charlotte will still look like a little fairy. (Photo from this post at Colette Moscrop.)

No, I haven’t mentioned what I’m going to wear, because … I don’t know. I kinda want my costume to tie in with Jonathan’s, but I’m not sure how. I’d also really love to make a Female Link costume, or a character from Game of Thrones (n0t sure who, though). Sigh.

There are things going on here aside from costuming. Not very much crafting, I’m afraid. Soooo busy. My garden is looking absolutely lovely. My house is a complete pigsty. LOL. I took a bit of a break from reading (unintentionally), but I’m still working on Dance with Dragons. Loving it! The books continue to pour in (and out) from Paperback Swap. I have a HUGE stack of new books. ๐Ÿ™‚

I may be teaching a crafting tutorial at an FRG event in July. Well, I said I would, anyway. I just have to figure out what I’d like to teach! I’d love to do chainmaille, but it’d be difficult because of the “needing a million pairs of pliers” issue. So I’m leaning toward embroidery. What do you think?

We attended a Sesame Street event earlier this week! It was pretty great. I’ve got photos of it up on my facebook (sorry, random internet people, but they’re private). I made a daisy chain while we were waiting for the doors to open.

I always have hundreds of planned projects, but one that I am REALLY hoping to start on soon is this!

I’ve been jonesing after this baby for months now. There are a zillion colors in it, but I have quite a few colors already so I think I’ll finally print out the pattern, assess what I have, and make a start (and a list of colors to obtain). I even have a scroll frame now, which should make it easier to do! The pattern for this lovely thing can be found at this Sprite Stitch thread.

That’s all I can think of to share right now. ๐Ÿ™‚ See you in a few days with my Web roundup. In the meantime, let’s chat! What are you working on?

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