August Birchbox!

I was again lucky enough to get a late-shipping box, and it didn’t actually arrive until last Friday, when I was away on vacation. So I had a nice surprise waiting for me when I got home!
This is a great month to buy from Birchbox if you’ve had your eye on something. They’ve partnered up with Pencils of Promise, to donate 15% of their shop proceeds to build a school in Central America. So go ahead and pamper yourself!
I’m not particularly in love with anything in this month’s box – none of it was bad, but none of it was particularly great either. Let’s get to the goods! (Mediocres?)

This month’s theme was “Beauty School” and included this nice fold out booklet with lots of nifty beauty tips. It details types of makeup brushes, how to read a product label, tips for shaving, quick fixes for makeup mistakes, and a 3-minute plan for morning skin care.

This month’s perfume is Viva La Juicy ‘s La Fleur. It smells nice, very floral obviously. I like it and I’ll probably use it, but I have to be honest – it just smells… typical. Nothing really to distinguish it from any other floral perfume.

This is a teeny tiny sample of Jouer Moisturizing Lip Gloss in “Birchbox Pink.” It feels very soft and … moisturizing … on my lips. Haha. 🙂 I am not a fan of this kind of lippy container (it’s got the fluffy applicator on the end of a stick attached to the lid) because there is SO MUCH wasted in the bottle. This tiny bottle makes it even harder to get any use out of it.

The bonus extra this month is this Schick Hydro Silk 5 blade razor. I haven’t tried it yet because I just shaved the other day and my hair grows really slowly. I’m sure it’s good though. The part I like about it is that it has a coupon on the back for 4$ off a refill pack, and 55c off Skintimate Shave Gel. I love coupons. Unless this razor completely stinks, I’ll be using that coupon, not gonna lie. Razors are expensive.

This is Apothederm’s stretch mark cream. I have a ton of “tiger stripes” on my tummy from pregnancy and I’ve tried several other things. None of them did a damn thing. I’ll be honest again – not expecting anything from this one, and I don’t really even mind. I earned those stripes, dammit. This was different from other stretch mark things I’ve tried, though – this was a cream, while others tend to be oils or gels. It had the old-lady smell though, and not in a good way.

The final items in this month’s box (it’s two items but it was packaged as one which totally feels like a ripoff) are these Shu Uemura Full Shimmer products for color-treated hair. The shampoo was much more liquid-y than most shampoos, but it smelled *excellent.* The “treatment,” which I basically used as conditioner, also smelled good. It wasn’t the texture that I generally need conditioner to be (I have very thick hair and this stuff just didn’t spread well). I don’t really notice any magical difference in my hair, but I did love the smell. I’m not paying what they want for it though, omg. I also want to register my dislike of the packaging. Aside from the 2-for-1 switcheroo, there were no instructions on the packaging! It’s obvious how to use shampoo, but I didn’t know what to do with the “treatment” and had to look it up on Birchbox’s site. Most uncool. (/Sweet Clyde)

So that’s it for this month!

If you don’t know about Birchbox, you may not know that they have a cool points program. I earned a bunch of points for my one-year subscription, and earn 10 points for each item that I leave feedback for each month. (If anybody signs up from this referral link, I get 50 points.) These points can be redeemed in the Birchbox shop – you get 10$ for every 100 points. I’ve been hoarding points and soon I’ll cash them in. What do you think I should cash in for?

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How to Make Homemade Butter

I was a voracious reader as a child (still am, at that), and was always fascinated by the prairie housewives who made their own butter and bread and cheese. (And clothes and everything else. Seriously, Caroline Ingalls was amazing.) It’s been a running theme in my life to learn how to do things “from scratch.” You will never ever see a boxed cake mix in my home. I’m working on producing a perfect sandwich bread, and frequently make artisan loaves. I’m a bit of a snob, I guess. (I do hate making pie crusts though. Despise.)

A wave of Pins about homemade butter went around a few weeks ago, reminding me that I’d never yet tried this one. I calmly pick up a pound of butter every couple of weeks, no big deal. Well, that has now changed.

All you need for this food project is heavy cream (possibly labelled as whipping cream) and a bottle or jar. I used a Nutella jar because of the wide mouth. After the actual churning, you’ll need a bowl and probably a colander and a jar for storing the buttermilk.

Please learn from my mistake – do NOT do so much at one time. You’ll want to do this with a much smaller amount. I did this again later with about a third of this volume and it came together MUCH quicker.

Shake shake shake, baby. My preschooler could do it in the early stages. She wasn’t strong enough for the whole process, but this is a great project for older kids. Also a pretty good arm workout!

After a little while, you’ll have whipped cream! You actually can add sugar (and maybe a dollop of vanilla extract) in the beginning and use this method to make a quick batch of whipped cream without dragging out your beaters. This stage was quick and easy to reach, even with this too-large volume. I can’t give you a specific time on any of these stages because it will depend on the amount of cream and the size of your jar.

Keep on shaking. Feel the burn. Its starting to get grainy now.

This is the part where you’ll regret it if you put too much cream in the jar. It will take an insanely long time to get past the grainy stage and into the part where the liquids separate from the solids. I took to hitting it against the frame of my couch – the thickened cream inside just was too much for my puny arms.

But hang in there! Soon it will do this. You’ll be shaking/banging away and suddenly hear a “flop.” The solids have finally clumped together into a blob and will now hold their shape and be a lot easier to shake through the final stage.

Shake it for a few more minutes. The butter will become more and more yellow as the buttermilk separates. I am unsure if it is possible to “overchurn” your butter, so use your instincts. This here seemed to be a good place to stop.

This is why I chose a wide-mouth jar – I knew I’d have a big blob at the end, and the big opening made it much easier to get out. You do not have to keep the buttermilk, but you should because it’s a delicious ingredient. Set a colander over a bowl and drain baby drain. I happen to have a tiny colander (aww so cute) and a salsa bowl, but you can of course use whatever you have on hand.

Plop the butter into a bowl and press it with your fingers. You’ll see more liquids come to the surface. Press and rinse, press and rinse, until there are no more liquids coming out when you press. Shouldn’t take too long.

Save the buttermilk! I started with a partial container of cream (left over from something) so I don’t know how much I started with, but I ended up with a fistful of butter and half of a molasses jar of buttermilk. (That’s my clay crafting supplies in the background, fyi.)

You’ve now got a nice clean blob of butter. You could, if you wanted to, press it into a form and refrigerate it to use later as an ingredient. I always use unsalted butter, but you could salt it if you wanted. I’m not sure how that works or what amount you’d need.

This is your final product. A beautiful, pale-yellow blob of milkfats. It’s very satisfying to spread the soft fruits of your labor onto a slice of fresh baked bread. I’m not sure that I’d want to do this all the time, for all my butter needs, especially since I bake a lot. (Although maybe with a mixer?) But for a fancy event? Heck yes. I want to experiment with adding things like herbs or garlic to the cream for fancy flavored butter. It was really easy to reach a smooth creamy whipped cream stage, and I actually have used that trick already – cream and sugar and vanilla, shake shake shake, pour on top of strawberries.

What is is that’s so impressive about “made from scratch”? I don’t know, but I know that it’s very personally satisfying to be able to make a final product, something that we all take for granted like butter or bread, all by myself, from a few basic ingredients.

Have you ever tried to make butter?

(My husband will be having surgery today so I don’t know if I’ll be around. All comments this week are entries in my Giveaway, though! Please check out that entry if you’re interested. If you don’t want to enter the giveaway, you can still leave a comment – just make a note that you don’t wish to be entered. There is also another giveaway here, in case you’re interested.)