I've been sitting on writing about these for way too long, but here they are, my picks for the month!

 Not Your Mother's Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray: I have pretty stick straight hair that gets just slightly, annoyingly wavy in a few spots when it's humid out. And during the summer I often just can't stand to dry and flat iron my hair, because nothing gets me grumpy faster than feeling hot and sweaty before I even leave for the day. So I often resort to the wavy scrunched air-dried look during the summer. I've tried plenty of wave sprays, and none have worked as well as this one. With others I have to keep scrunching all day, and the waves get all crunchy, or fall out entirely. This spray smells like the beach, sort of coconut-y, the waves stick around, and it doesn't leave my hair all gross and crunchy-feeling. It's cheap too; I got a bottle at Ulta for about 6 dollars.
Meet my newest obsession, Trader Joe's 70% Dark Chocolate Caramel with Sea Salt bar. It's very new, and taps into one of the big foodie trends right now: salted caramel, or any variation of the salty/sweet dichotomy:
This bar is utter bliss in my book, and has several things going for it. One, the price. It is only $1.99, which is just stupid cheap. A bag of run of the mill Toll House Morsels will set you back more than that. Two, the salt component isn't just some vague note inside the flowy (I mean, seriously flowy) caramel center, there are actually tiny chunks of sea salt embedded on the bottom of the bar itself, so most every bite is going to have a "pop" of salty to go along with your sweet.

And 3, the flavor itself is fantastic. It's super dark chocolate, which is fine by me, the darker the better. It's got fruity, smoky notes, adequately complex and satisfyingly intense but not overwhelming or busy. The chocolate is very thin and has a very defined snap to it, so the bar is prone to breaking. This makes it somewhat messy, because the caramel is practically liquid. You could always pop it in the freezer to firm it up, but that does tend to dull the flavor.

Trader Joe's is great because they're always coming up with new and interesting products that are relevant to what's on the forefront in foodie land. I hope they keep this one around for a while (some products come and go pretty quickly) because it's one of the more sophisticated chocolate bars I've seen anywhere for the price...nomtastic!
I just couldn't resist the 10% off plus free shipping sale Meow Cosmetics had a couple weeks ago, and though I was pathetically broke I still got a hefty supply of samples for less than 11 dollars. Joy! I decided, after much experimentation, that my closest Meow foundation shade, especially in the summer, is Sleek Sphynx. But I can also wear Inquisitive Sphynx (Inquisitive being the lightest level of any shade), so during the winter I think I will mix Inquisitive Sphynx with Sleek Sphynx to give me a little warmth.

The tricky thing with Meow, I've noticed, is that there are shade variations between the formulations even at the same shade and depth (I've used Pampered Puss and Flawless Feline). Observe here, where I ordered a sample of both Inquisitive Sphynx and Sleek Sphynx in the Pampered Puss and Flawless Feline formulations:

Technically you'd expect the shades to be the same, just lighter or heavier in coverage, but there does seem to be some color difference. I doubt it's enough to make or break the potential for a perfect match, but it is something to consider, and it makes trying a LOT of samples that much more imperative. Especially from a brand that offers so many choices, and considering their higher full-size prices, you want to make sure you're getting the best possible shade/depth/formulation for you.
Here is more from my haul:

I got some eyeshadow samples from their Caribbean Escape line, as I've
been on the hunt for more
seafoam-y, tropical, light colors for summer. These all turned out to be great choices! I also got a sample of the green Camo Cat, which is a green neutralizing concealer for redness, and also a Sleek Sphynx under eye concealer (not shown), which is nice and creamy and works just fine as a regular concealer too.

Before I share the EOTD I did using these colors, may I just add that I went swimming again this past weekend to the area water park, and I'm quite proud of myself for that after years of avoiding it for various reasons. I also noticed that water slides feel MUCH different on a 30 year old body than a 15 year old one! I swam for hours in the wave pool with no problem but man, these slides were brutal on my old bones, lol!
You can see my feet in there!
Also, if you're like me and don't want to go totally bare faced at the pool or beach, try Urban Decay's All-Nighter Makeup setting spray. I used it this weekend, and after hours in the pool, swimming and going down slides, not just lounging, my makeup (a base layer of Tarte's Illuminating Serum, which I used as a tinted moisturizer and a light sweeping of Meow mineral foundation) was still intact. It didn't streak at all! It didn't come off until I used a makeup removing wipe in the shower, and I am VERY impressed. I wish I'd had this stuff when I was a teenager!

Ok, moving on to swatches of the eyeshadows I got:

Left to Right: Pink Sand, Kiwi, Seasick (eyeliner), Cayman, Swanky (free sample), and Seafoam
And here is the look I did using some of the colors:

I used Pink Sand and Seafoam on the lid, and Cayman in the Crease, with Seasick as a lower lash liner. I think the combo of pink and seafoam green is really pretty and perfect for hot days when you want a little color but nothing over the top.

That's all for today,thanks for reading!
So last month's Birchbox was nice enough, if only a little "meh". My June Birchbox, however, I am thrilled about! Birchbox is quite the fickle lover, just when you begin to think the relationship is past its prime, they go and do something lovely to make you fall in love with them all over again! What a cruel, delicious tease! So, here's what I got in my June box:

This was pretty much the perfect Birchbox for me. It had a great variety of products, skin care, makeup, hair care, perfume, and body care. All the bases were covered, so this month's box felt incredibly balanced. Plus, an absolute steal for the money. A full size Laura Geller Blush/Bronzer, which retails for $29.50! Perhaps ideally I would have gotten one of the more peachy/pink shades that some people got, but why should I quibble? This is a great item for summer, and not as dark as I thought it'd be against my skin.

 As awesome as it was to get a full sized makeup product in my box, like the full size Stila eyeshadow last month, it's sort of tricky. Realistically, we probably shouldn't expect this every month and we will inevitably feel a little let down when other months aren't quite as extravagent. It's easy to forget that this is a mere 10 dollar a month deluxe sample program, and I don't know how the Birchbox people can afford to keep that full size "wow" factor going while keeping costs so low. But if they can, more power to them, and I certainly won't complain.

The other highlight for me is the Pangea Facial Toner in Italian Mandarin and Sweet Lime. I've never used a toner in mist form before, usually I just break out the old Clean N Clear and a tissue. But this stuff is SO refreshing and cooling, perfect for hot days! And it smells like an aromoatherapy scent, except for your face. To me it smells like lavender and a Lime Slush Puppy. Love this! Plus the size was 1.8 oz, almost half the full size, which retails for $26.00. This stuff is on my wish list. I'd been wanting to try Pangea Organics for a while, the scents they offer sound so exotic and interesting.

I also got a sample of Kate Spade's Twirl, which smells lovely, a bright and sparkling fruity/floral. Now, I didn't expect to like this, but I really did. It only took me a minute to realize why: It smells, to me, remarkably like Nina Ricci Nina, in the little red apple bottle, and that happens to be one of my favorite scents ever. I detected a distinct similarity between them, but then again, that's just me and my nose.
The Oscar Blandi hair serum looks interesting, I haven't tried it yet though, and I will keep the Orange Towlettes in my purse for emergencies. The extra packet of Pangea Nigerian Ginger, Sweet Lavender and Thyme lotion was really nice too, though I would have loved a stronger ginger scent as opposed to the lavender. I think that would have been really distinctive.

So, well done, Birchbox! You made me love you.
Just wanted to quickly share swatches from my last BFTE order. These colors are all gorgeous, but you simply must check out Subcooling. It is such a unique shade, a cool blue with a sparkly gold undertone. I don't think I've ever seen a color quite like it, and it looks great with Passion, which is a bright pink with a slight purply/blue sheen.
Tickle Me, Passion, Subcooling, Aqua
  I'm still getting some Vix Vault items organized to share with you all. I am so tired today; went to get my hair cut and then spent the afternoon at IKEA, convinced that buying a bunch of organizers and containers and shelves and whatnot will help contain my mental clutter. I definitely believe that your environment can influence and/or reflect your mental landscape so I've been on a serious "the clutter must go" kick lately. We've decided to get a new bed as the one we have is ancient and impossible to sleep a full night on comfortably, so I figured if we're going to invest in a nice new bed I am going to get the bedroom streamlined and in control. Right now I am afraid the Buried Alive people will show up at our door any day now. Well, not really, but sometimes it seems like the piles are getting just too high. I need more space, more light, more airiness. I feel like I'm in a crack den at times, so my trip to IKEA today was orchestrated to get more out of the space I have and create a sense of openness where there might not be any, in essence, as my dad would say "to squeeze the nickel till the buffalo poops." Not exactly poetry, but it's true enough. Gotta get the most out of what I've got.
As soon as I saw this set on Sephora.com, I knew I had to have it. Not only are the sample sizes really quite generous, some of the products being half a full sized product, but the price is right, $35.00. I am always interested in trying new skin lotions and potions, and the exfoliating, luminizing possibilities in this set really appealed to me. Especially after a long, cold, miserable winter, I feel like my skin needs to be rid of its pallor and dreariness. I haven't tried all of the products, but the ones I've tried I've liked a lot. Perhaps not enough to buy a full sized, save one. But that's OK, because these are large enough to last me a while. So, here's what I got:

Even knowing the sizes of the products I'd be receiving, I was still surprised by the size of this kit. Sephora's Favorites kits are hit and miss with me. Most of them have one or two products I'd love to try, padded with uninteresting filler. Not this kit. I was anxious to try all the products. Here they are:

There is one baffling, disappointing aspect with my haul though. The ExfoliKate facial scrub, when I went to open it, with the opening still sealed, thought the contents felt scant. I figured that was my luck with sample sizes, but noticed that the other tubes were filled to capacity. Then, upon closer inspection, I discovered this:
Yep. ExfoliKate all gone. Well, not all gone. I think there is enough in the tube for maybe 2 more uses, and I managed to get one already, but the tube was less than 1/4 full. It was a bummer, but not enough to send it back, because while I wanted to try it, it wasn't at the tip-top of my list. And there was still enough to try it, a true sample's worth. I found it more of an interesting oddity, how that little opening occurred in my tube, but there was no leaking in my package at all. Strange...
The .5 oz I was supposed to get actually retails on Sephora's website for 19.00, so I figure I got a bit less than 5 bucks worth.
The scrub itself is okay, nothing extraordinary. Somewhat gritty but not uncomfortably abrasive. It does have an intriguing smell, sort of floral/herbal, but a dried herb scent. Dried herbs/flowers, and a touch of cinnamon. Like something I'd find in an antique store. Unusual, but somehow it works.

The Perricone MD No Foundation Foundation is supposed to be a one size fits all coverage option, combined with sun protection. It does have a tint to it, and it is darker than my skin tone, which worried me at first. It blends in though, and while it doesn't cover much, it does even things out a bit and adds a slight glow. However, I don't think I could wear it as my sole foundation unless I was having the holy grail of perfect skin days, and even then I would have to add a bit of translucent powder to mattify because "dewy" tends to make me feel grimy. But I could rock this on a day at home, or if (when!) I go to the pool and don't want to be entirely bare faced. I like that it has SPF 30 in it, too. It's .5 oz, while the 1 oz size costs $50.00

The Josie Maran Argan oil is something I've read a lot about, and while some might scoff at the idea of adding oil to troubled complexions, this light oil soaks right in and leaves the skin feeling very healthy and moisturized. It doesn't leave me feeling greasy at all. I think this oil is sort of all-purpose, and could be used on hair, nails, and skin for a variety of issues. 

The Ole Henriksen Truth Serum is likewise very light and quick-absorbing, and smells pleasantly creamsicle-ly. I am really impressed that this is a .5 oz size when the 1 oz package costs $48.00. This set is really a fantastic bargain for the product junkie, even with my ExfoliKate mishap.

I haven't tried the Clarins Delicious Self-Tanning Cream. I'm a bit nervous about it. I'm really quite pale and even those subtle, gradual tanning lotions operate like a regular self-tanner on me. Even after one use I can see the hue developing, and any potential streaks. I do like that the Clarins is tinted, which could potentially help me avoid those streak disasters. It smells like a typical self-tanner mixed with butterscotch, not bad at all. I will probably test it out soon though, and I will report back.

I've only used the Tarte Smooth Operator Serum once, and I'm not quite sure about it. it also has a slight tint to it, so I'm not sure if I should use it as a primer, a foundation substitute, or a skin care serum that I'd apply at night. Will have to try it again to get a better grasp on it.

But here is the highlight of my In The Glow experience: The Boscia Black Mask! I was SO excited to try this, and I was left VERY impressed. I will be getting a full size of this at some point. I had read some reviews of people breaking out a few days after using the mask so I waited to see if I'd have a similar reaction, but so far things seem calm for the most part. This mask is hard core. It is not one of those flimsy, clear, diaphanous gel peel-off masks you might try. This bad boy is like midnight, like tar, and it adheres to your face like molten plastic. Meaning, you better put a thick enough layer to be able to peel it off in one piece, and you better not put TOO much on or it will never dry and you'll be forced to wash it off, missing the whole "peel-off" point. A happy medium is ideal.

 I've used lots of peel off masks, and the closest one I've ever used to the Boscia Black Mask was a mask Bath and Body Works made literally 10 years ago in their True Blue Spa line, called "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep". It had the same matte, plastic-y feel as the Black Mask except it was white. I've been looking for years for a mask like that, and the Black Mask leaves it in the dust.

Be careful to not apply it too close to the eye area, or any area containing anything you'd like to keep. It irritated my eyes a little as it was drying, but it was not overwhelming. It does take a solid 20 minutes to dry, but if you're using a mask I'm assuming you have the time for the experience. It's not something to do while getting ready for work in the morning. I can see how this mask is sort of love-it-or-hate-it. It could easily be too much for some skin types. I consider my skin pretty sensitive though and prone to temper tantrums, but my skin bounced back from this experience looking almost scarily clear and luminous. At least for me, who has not quite grown accustomed to even somewhat clear skin yet. Because once I peeled the mask off, and I must say bluntly that it hurt like a mother, it peeled off everything. I looked at the remnants of the mask, my shed snake skin, and it was like a bizarre alien landscape. At first I thought it simply made an imprint of those tiny baby peach fuzz hair on my cheeks, but upon inspection I realized this mask hurt like a mother because it ripped all that hair out. It was horrifying, and immensely satisfying. So, FYI: don't put this stuff on anything you want to keep, like your eyebrows or hairline or whatever, because you won't get it back. I would have expected my skin to be screaming red in protest of that assault and the peel-off process (I recommend peeling slowly, this stuff resists the band-aid approach), but it looked fine afterward. AMAZINGLY fine. I am going to try to get G to try it. That'll be fun. A little sadistic, but fun!

So, that's that. I highly recommend this kit. It is a fantastic value, perfect for summer, and a great way to try some new, awesome products! 
I wanted to briefly share another reason why I love BFTE cosmetics: their interest in promoting worthy causes and drawing attention to subjects that desperately need it. They have just released two new colors to support Zach's Friends, which is focused on promoting suicide awareness in honor of a young man who recently took his own life. I think this is a topic that affects many people even though they might not talk about it. So much of our society is focused on putting on a strong, well-adjusted face even when the reality is not so much so. I also think the proliferation of technology and computer social networking in recent years sometimes has the ability to isolate people in real life, and at times can help those that might not otherwise have an outlet. It does at least help spread messages very quickly, and this is an important message to get out.

 I myself have known people who have attempted suicide, and know people who have had friends and family members commit suicide. I also went through a period of feeling  extremely depressed and suicidal when I was in middle school, and when I emerged from that I "coped" with several years of self-injury. I remember feeling very alone and wishing people cared enough to notice. Not many people did, and those that did made awkward jokes and let it slide, leaving me to fend for myself. I'm not sure quite how I moved away from those coping mechanisms and tendencies, but somehow I eventually did. I do know that I wouldn't wish those feelings on anyone. It can be hard to know how to react when faced with such a situation, which is why I don't blame those who did not give me the attention I perhaps needed, but I think talking about it enough can perhaps erase some of the embarrassment and stigma of the subject.

Please check out BFTE's post about their new line of colors and Zach's Friends here !

Back from my (way too short) weekend away, and I am happy to report that I did swim. I haven't been swimming in about 5 years, which feels utterly absurd and unnatural to say. But as soon as I was in the water again I was my usual water baby self, all my self- consciousness and anxiety and awkwardness simply melted away and I felt much younger than my years. I am not one of the "beautiful" people working on their tans in their string bikinis, tip-toeing daintily into the water in an attempt to avoid mussing their hair. I am the big, pale, zaftig dork splashing around, seeing how many somersaults I can do under the water in one breath. Given my appalling level of non-fitness, I was pleased to make it to 3. Of course, the next day I felt mysteriously achy, quite like I'd been hit by a truck. Then I realized, oh yeah, I'd exercised. Maybe I should keep that up. I will make a concerted effort to do so.

So, moving on to my last Sephora haul, filled with items I definitely needed for summer. I got a pack of Korres Pomegranate face wipes, which smelled oddly like wine. They were OK, non-irritating and pretty good at getting makeup off, but a bit on the dry side. I would have liked them to be more moist. The little sticker sealing the package does not stay on very securely, so I will probably stick with Sephora's face wipes, as they get the job done more efficiently and cheaply.

The thing I'm using most is a kit that was on sale at Sephora from BE, whom I haven't bought from in ages. But I really like this Lift and Glow set. I actually expected the containers to be smaller, so I was pleasantly surprised at the amount I got. It comes with 3 colors, Pure Radiance and Soft Focus Pure All Over Face Color, and I'm Amused blush, which looks shockingly wine-tinted in the jar but buffs out quite prettily. The Pure Radiance is a somewhat shimmery light tan color that I've been using as a contour/highlight color, and I use the Soft Focus Pure brushed all over. It is a very subtle non-shimmery peachy color and it really does seem to add a glow. It also comes with a cute pink bag and a blush brush, so for $18.00 I thought this was an awesome deal.

Another highlight from my order is my little set of Buxom lip glosses, in Lacey and Pixie. I'd been wanting to try Buxom for a while now, and I was not disappointed. Lacey looks super orange in the tube, but applies as a light coral, and Pixie is a barely detectable baby pink. What I love most is the minty tingle! On some hot days lately it's been the only thing that makes me feel cool! I already have pretty full lips so I'm not sure if it actually plumps them at all, but the gloss is very long lasting and the colors are wonderful. This set was only $10.00. I liked it so much, I went and bought a full sized tube of Lacey when that color went on sale at Sephora for $9.00.

Left: Pixie, Right: Lacey

I also got a pack of Sephora's Charcoal Blotting Papers, which comes in a pack of 100 for $8.00, which is great because those papers tend to come in packs of 50 or so. I don't think that the charcoal black papers blot any better than your garden variety papers, but they sure do look cooler. They are powder free, too, so you're only taking away oil, not adding
more layers of powder.

Another item I tried is Urban Decay's All-Nighter makeup setting spray. I was a bit skeptical about it so I got a travel sized one for $11.00. I tried using it, just a few quick misty sprays, after applying my makeup during some comfortable weather days, and I didn't notice a huge difference. The I tried it first on a sweltering day at the zoo, and then this past weekend at the Taste of Cincinnati, during which I believe a law is on the books that we must go during the most humid, impossible to bear, "I'm-here-to-eat-but-all-I-want-is-an-Icee" type day. I am a girl who does not glisten during days such as these, I sweat. Like Shaq. Seriously. So I was pretty happy that my makeup these days did not turn all gross and streaky or mottled-looking, nor did I get any mascara smudges, and my eyeshadow stayed pretty much intact (I credit TFSI for that too). My makeup sort of faded a bit during the day, but in a non-horrific sort of way. Just very gradual, and while the rest of me was a sweaty, soaked mess, my face looked OK, for what it was worth. So I was happy about that, and will likely buy it again for days like that.

So those were the highlights of my haul, and I will have another one to report very soon, and I'm VERY excited about this one, full of products I've been super anxious to try. And there will be some more Vix Vault items too, so stay tuned!
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