Birchbox time again! This month was heavy on smaller, packet-ish items, which some might argue is not quite up to snuff, considering that Birchbox claims to send only "deluxe-size" samples. But I won't complain in this case because I ended up getting 9 individual items that I am able to review for 90 Birchbox points, equaling 9 dollars to use in the shop. This negates any ill will I might hold towards getting a few packets.

Here's what I got:




I'm not too terribly excited about the grey nail polish, but I am thanking my lucky stars it wasn't this one:


Photo from Birchbox site
Chartreuse nail polish would just not have worked for me! They did have this one as a possibility though, and it would have been my ideal, rose gold:


Photo from Birchbox site

I am not a big tea drinker, but tea bags make excellent, relaxing eye compresses, so I will use them that way!


I've used the Benefit cleanser already and liked it. It has a creamy, very foamy texture that reminded me of Origins Checks and Balances cleanser that I received in a previous box. But since it was just a little packet I only got two uses out of it, not quite enough to base a decision to purchase on.

My box also contained a coupon code for Madewell. It's a little bit beyond my budget so anyone who wants the code is welcome to it! It expires September 30th.


When I recently had a bit of a falling-out with LUSH, I decided to try and find another etailer that offered affordable, awesome bath bombs and other such bath frillery. The company FizzButter was suggested to me and I checked them out and read as many reviews as I could find. They seemed reputable and have a fairly active presence on Facebook (weekly giveaways) so I thought I would make them my first stop on my little bath bomb journey.
I've had most of this Haus of Gloi haul for a while now, and I figured it was time to get to reviewin'! I have tried most of the autumn scents before, and reviewed them in my First Impressions review of the Haus last year. This year I got a full size of Samhain instantly, as that was my favorite and I kicked myself the whole year for not having purchased a full size when I had the chance.

Along with that, I got:

Perfume samples in
Hedonic
Spider Silk
Pumpkin Eater
Apothecary (freebie)
Lip balm in Banana Bread
Bubbling Scrub in Olde Cider Haus


Hedonic
Black fig, golden honey, saffron threads and Indian agar musk.

I get honey, not as strong as Honey Tree, but there is lots of honey. It's also somewhat regal, exotic, and smokey. A very syrupy scent, and that syrupy note reminds of Insalata Nocturna, which makes sense because they both contain a black fig note. I like this, but don't lovvvve it.

Spider Silk
Procured from a dream: delicate water mint, wispy grey musk, crystalline webs of amber, oakmoss, torchwood, copaiba resin, and a touch of withered violet leaf.

Surprisingly impressed by this. The mint is so incredibly faint, it really is just like an ethereal wisp of spider silk. That sounds lovely, though in reality if I walk into a strand of spider silk unexpectedly you will probably find me shrieking, flailing, and saying "ewwww" a lot. This scent romanticizes the notion. The dry down is more traditionally perfume-y that most Haus scents I've tried, likely because of the soft grey(not quite red and not quite white) musk. I think this would easily work as a unisex scent.

Pumpkin Eater
Cream, glowing pumpkin, rich vanilla bean and the tiniest touch of nutmeg butter.


I got this as a whipped soap last year and wanted to try it as a perfume. I'm not sure if it's just me, but the Pumpkin Eater soap, if I recall correctly, seemed much more pumpkiny, with a bit more cream and spice. The perfume seems more peachy to me, not quite like Pumpkin Queen, but I still get quite a bit of peach. I don't get as much creaminess or nutmeg, but still, this is lovely, and great as a layering item for other scents.

Apothecary
Old books, bubbling concoctions, herbs and creaking floor boards! A pure essential oil blend of: Lemongrass, rosemary, blood cedar, sweet basil, lavender and the tiniest drop of vetiver.

 
Lemongrass and I just don't mix. And Apothecary is all lemongrass, along with a generally herbal profile. I just can't smell lemongrass without thinking of curries, in which it is fine in extreme moderation, but too much is just...too much.  Sadly, not for me.

The Banana Bread lip balm is glorious, however! It has a butteriness that leans almost towards buttered popcorn if I think about it too hard, but if I tell myself it is banana bread, that is what it becomes. Probably my favorite lip balm I've tried from them so far.

The Olde Cider Haus Bubbling Scrub is also luscious. The scent is not quite apple cider, in that it doesn't have much spiciness, if at all. It is more clean, refreshing, earthy apple. Simple, but wonderful.


And finally, another reason why this review is so late (aside from the death in my family and just not feeling it last week), I wanted to wait until I got this second haul! This one actually contained orders for two of my co-workers as well. I tend to bring in my orders and let them swoon over everything and finally they broke down and ordered some items.
I, also, finally broke down and decided to try the fairly new offering from Haus of Gloi: Perfume, Made for You. They have a selection on the website of top, middle, and base notes, and let you choose any combination of four notes you wish for $20.00, and they will blend it for you and package it in a cute little gift box. Some of the notes will change according to the season. Autumn is my season, so I had to try it!

Admittedly, I had some trepidation. I am fascinated by perfumery, but I am by no means an expert on what compliments what, what notes overpower others, what more exotic notes smell like individually, etc., etc. I can "visualize", if you will, how I imagine a scent could smell all combined, but this is still a gambling game. An interesting little experiment. A twenty dollar experiment, so I took my sweet time deliberating.

I wanted something very earthy and autumnal, a little foodie, and a little spicy, with a woodsy drydown. So after much hand-wringing, I went with Leaf Pile, Pumpkin, Ginger, and Sandalwood. And crossed my fingers.

I got my perfume a few days ago, along with Olde Cider Haus and Pumpkin Eater butters, which I thought would go well with my little concoction. When I first smelled it, I wasn't sure how I felt. The scent was quite potent and unique in the bottle, but faded on my skin fairly quickly. I think that's because I only chose one base note, sandalwood. However, the longer the oils have had to marry and mingle, the more I'm liking it. At first it smells quite gingery, like a gingersnap. Then underneath that is a dry, green leafy note. The pumpkin adds a sweetness and while the sandalwood is never very loud, it gives the blend a slight woodsy-smokiness. I'm actually pretty proud of this for my first try! There is a silly vanity factor in play here, I am so waiting for someone to ask me what I'm wearing, to which I will reply smugly "oh, this? It's my own scent. I designed it." Since it doesn't have a name, I'm going to call it Sweater Weather, as that's the kind of feeling I wanted to evoke with it. It is getting quite close to the scent I had in my mind the longer it melds.

  On one had I wish we could choose more than four notes, as the blends are naturally going to be fairly simple, but on the other I also suspect the limitation is in place because the more notes there are in play, the harder it would be to reasonably ascertain the outcome. The blends are also created with equal ratios of each note, but if you send them an email with your order, they can adjust the ratios +/- if you wish.

I'm very tempted to try this little experiment again! How does a blend of leather, rose, labdanum, and vanilla bean sound?



...and hopefully I will be in a better place for writing about happy and fluffy things. I found out this week that one of my cousins died in a pretty horrific-sounding motorcycle accident. Found out via Facebook, again. That harbinger of death. I haven't seen my cousins on that side of the family in a really long time, as in, over a decade. So I'm not quite sure how I feel about it. Sad, obviously. He was around my age with three kids, so I feel awful for his family too. We all did spend a lot of time together growing up and had some great times together, so it's just strange when any fixture from the past just ceases to exist, whether they are part of your life currently or not. While we all definitely had/have a lot of differences, it still saddens me that I feel so estranged from a lot of my family, and things like this are a cruel reminder that if you want to change things, you have to be proactive about it. If you're missing someone, find them and tell them. Don't wait, because anything can and will happen when you least expect it, with no rhyme or reason. I've been writing another cousin of mine more this week and I'm hoping we can get together soon and catch up. Life gets in the way, I know, and I hope she comes through this time. For those you care about, you have to make time. Because you really don't know how much you have left.
This weekend G and I went to a get-together with his family for Labor Day. His family is nice and I love them, but the first time I met them long ago I was reminded of the father from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, who called his daughter's fiance's family, "dry...like toast. A toast family!"  Meaning, not extremely warm or comforting or expressive, diligently following society's rules and not particularly appreciative of anything outside the norm. They've loosened up a bit in the ten years G and I have been together, though they remain cliquish (G's side and his stepmother's side don't mingle a lot) and conversation never gets far beyond surface topics. G and I have always felt a little like black sheep, partly because we are and partly because we've allowed ourselves to be written into that role and allowed others to perpetuate it.

Today the place was bursting at the seams with babies. Two newborns, one expectant mother, and two young girls galloping around the house. It's not a huge family either, but every single woman there besides me was a mother. And I feel like they're looking at me like something's wrong with me. I'm 31, have been with G for ten years and haven't married, and I don't have children nor do I particularly want to have children. And this, I surmise, confuses them and also diminishes my worth. Like, I'm somehow less valuable and less whole as a human being because I'm not a mother. Like our relationship is less valid and less worthy of celebration because we've opted out of traditional marriage for the time being.

I know that this isn't true in my heart. I know my limitations, and I know that I'm not a monster because I'm not fanatically maternal. In fact, I think it makes me more aware and responsible than those who have children without really considering their temperaments and resources, just because it's what's expected of them. I am not in a financial position to have children, and at this point in my life I value my autonomy and my freedom too much. My choices, however, are not appreciated by them. Instead I feel invisible. I'm trying to not let them inside my head, but it's hard. Is it possible I was born with my mental wiring all wrong, like a biological switch that compels most women to have children just never got switched on in me? Am I faulty? Would they love me more if I had a baby, and if so, why? Is that really all I'm worth, a producer of babies to coo over? What if the black sheep label got passed on to my child and they wouldn't fawn over that child as much as the others, what then?

It's all so ridiculous. I've always done things in life according to my own time frame, slowly, deliberately. Not always right, but consciously. A late bloomer, maybe. Perhaps I contemplate and worry too much about the details and potential problems and am often paralyzed by fear, but I like to be prepared. But with children, it's not just that I would be afraid to be a mother, at this point, I really don't want to be. I don't see why I should have to explain that to anyone, as no one has to explain why they do want to be so. They probably just expected that G and I would date for a few years, get married, have babies. A, B, C. And now because we haven't followed that script they don't take us seriously, perhaps think our lives aren't as full, important, or interesting. That isn't true, or fair.

We are our own family. And we are definitely not one of the toast variety.

OK, I'm a hypocrite. Last month G and I had an abysmal experience at LUSH, and I vowed with clenched fist to never step foot in there again, unless I wanted something really, really, really badly. I broke that vow yesterday, but I had two good reasons:

1. I decided to try another bath bomb company, which I will do a First Impressions review on soon. I wanted to have some physical examples to compare/contrast them, and I didn't have any left. So I did it for your benefit, dear reader, I did it for you!

2. The aforementioned abysmal experience has been nagging at me for a month. I was resentful, and felt alternating frustration and empathy towards the employees that made it such a rotten experience. I knew logically that none of them really wanted to be obnoxious, overbearing prats, and they probably felt as awkward putting on that show as I did listening to it. I felt terrible that their certainly meager paychecks depended on employing sales-tactics that all but guaranteed scaring a hefty percentage of patronage away. And I felt terrible for myself. I just wanted to buy a damn bath bomb! Can't I just buy a damn bath bomb in peace? Is that too much to ask? Suffice it to say, I had some demons to slay.

So, yesterday, I did some deep breathing exercises and steeled myself to the possibility that I might have to be a little forceful, insistent, blunt, and perhaps a bit mean. All things that I can do fairly easily in writing, but in person, anxiety turns me into a rambling puddle of mush. But I practiced what I would say. I would give them no time to get their hooks in me. Immediately I would deflect their overly-cheerful inquiries: "I'm just browsing, thank you. If I need help, I'll be sure to ask."

Repeat if necessary.

G offered to go with me. I think in a way he was perversely interested to see if I actually would resort to a strongly worded response to their advances or melt under the pressure, but I told him this was something I had to do myself.

So I took the long walk to Macy's, shaking a little in my sandals. As I approached the store, I noticed a glaring lack of something...employees. One singular, harmless young lady was there, and I was able to browse for a good minute before she approached near me (not entering my personal space) and casually (not bouncing with fake energy and omglushismylifeeeee enthusiasm) said hello and the customary "what brings you in today?" I said, "Oh, just browsing." She asked if I'd ever been in a LUSH store before, and I nodded. And then...she offered help if I needed it and left. What a revelation.

Since it was only the two of us in the store I suddenly felt like getting all that had been bothering me off my chest, so I told her, "OK, now... you're perfect. You were polite, offered help if I needed it, then backed off. I did not have that experience the last time I was here..." I went on to tell her about the experience G and I had. She seemed to understand and asked me when it happened. She then explained that another store had closed recently and their employees had come to their store temporarily, which was why it was so crowded, and that their sales approach was different and they had been told they needed to give people more space. She said they weren't on commission, which may be true or not, though the people from the other store certainly acted as if their lives depended on it. Either way, she listened to me even though I'm sure I rambled a bit and wasn't totally as concise as I'd hoped to be. One other employee showed up and she mentioned to her I'd had a bad experience and I discussed it a bit more with them both and just let them know that some people are introverts or independent and that approach really drives those people away. I thanked her for listening to my constructive criticism and for saving me from having to be mean, and she thanked me for my opinion and as I was leaving seemed to say something about it having been an issue for them too, though I didn't catch the exact words, she was sort of chuckling as she said it.

Oh, and she was also proactive and asked me if there were any products I wanted to try, and made me up two samples. She gave me a little spiel on the ingredients of one, but it wasn't painful or too scripted sounding. My purchase was small, just one Twilight bomb and a Dorothy bubble bar, and I didn't feel like she was annoyed by me not spending a ton, and she didn't try to force any other products on me. But you know what? Being able to make that small purchase in peace and of my own volition makes me feel a lot more inclined to go back and buy more than had a salesperson manipulated me into a huge purchase that I would later beat myself up over.

So. Here is the breakdown LUSH:
1. Encouraging your employees to hard-sell, hover, ambush,and make customers feel generally uncomfortable and unhappy  =  customers not buying anything and not coming back, customers buying too much of things they don't want/need/can't afford and not coming back, and employees not feeling so awesome either.

2. Allowing your employees to breathe and interact with customers in a considerate, intuitive way = customers who feel comfortable purchasing and returning and happier employees who are not run ragged by counter-productive sales tactics.

Seems to make sense to me.
Are LUSH and I BFFs now? Not likely. But I do feel a lot better after my little cathartic experience. I am cautiously optimistic and will consider returning, as long as the experiences don't revert to their previously abysmal nature. This is unfortunately just my singular experience though, and while yesterday was certainly more convenient for me, I still think LUSH seriously needs to reconsider their practices as a whole if they're going to really live up to the ethical, progressive image that they project. Because it doesn't mean anything if they don't treat their employees well or obtain their sales through subterfuge.
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