Bike Loot Review December 2013

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We got our Bike Loot box this week, and it was purty darn cool again.  It looks like Bike Loot is changing things up with their box subscription. The monthly price is going up to $11 plus shipping, but they are supposedly increasing the box value and doing an overall upgrade. Along with this upgrade, their website got overhauled and you actually have to recreate your whole account and re-subscribe. While this is kind of a pain, they acknowledged the inconvenience in a note in the December box and included a personal coupon code for $10 off your new subscription to make up for it. If you have to cause your customers a little pain, I think that is the best way to handle it. I am excited to see what they have in store for 2014. In the meantime, here are the goods for the December Bike Loot box:

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As always, Bike Loot boxes always come with a great info card that includes coupon codes for a lot of the products, and on the other side is always a great quote about cycling. This one is now hanging on our fridge. My husband is a total cycling nerd, and he thinks the little quote is one of the best parts of the box. Here are the details:

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Energems: Energems are kind of like big M and M’s for athletes. Along with the mint chocolate and candy shell, these also contain caffeine and B vitamins for energy during a workout. These are one of the things that I want to steal from this box. I mean, swimmers need fancy workout candy, too. They also included an Energems branded drawstring bag. It’s pink, so I may get to steal that, too, although Mike would probably use it to take his lunch to work if I let him keep it.  A 20% off coupon code is also included for Energems.

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ITrain $10 gift card: ITrain is an online workout site where you can download all different kinds of workouts right to your computer. They have a big section of indoor cycling workouts, great for the offseason. Since my husband’s bike is on the trainer in our family room right now, he was really excited about this item. It looks like the workouts on itrain.com range from about $5.99 to $10.99, so this is good for one free download with a little left over.

SPORTea: My husband is a coffee fiend and really the only time he drinks tea is when he is sick, so I may end up inheriting this tea. It contains Ginseng for energy. It smells pretty good, so I will give it a go. I switch back and forth between tea and coffee a couple times a year, but I really like the idea of a warm sports drink. I will try this before my next cold-weather run. SPORTea was created here in Colorado, so that makes me happy to learn about a new local business, and Bike Loot included a coupon code for 10% off at sportea.com

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Carbon Pro Sports Dri Shine/Dri Wash: This is a way to clean your bike on the go and is meant to be used without water and can be used daily. My husband is all about keeping his baby clean. His baby the bicycle, that is. His baby the actual boy is usually at least a little bit dirty.

Kool n’ Fit pain relief spray: I like that this is an external pain reliever in spray form. Most are in tubes and can be messy, but this seems way easier to contain. I often want to steal my husband’s loot from Bike Loot, even though I am not a cyclist, and this is one of those things. I am always nursing a running injury of some kind. Or sometimes I am nursing a lift-a-toddler-eleventy-times-a-day injury. My husband is seemingly immune to injury. He barely even gets sore. Hopefully said toddler gets that part of the gene pool. This stuff actually smells nice unlike many pain relief creams. I’m excited to steal it.

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NibNaks Dried fruit snack: This is one I will not be stealing. A lot of subscription boxes send dried fruit, and I find dried fruit kinda gross. Luckily, my husband and son like to gobble up these wrinkly pieces of sad fruit with wild abandon, so it does not go to waste around here. This is an all natural product and the flavor I got was Apples, Raisins and Cherries. My husband will enjoy this snack, although it will probably be at his desk instead of on his bike.

As usual, I don’t really try to calculate values on boxes that are more focused on samples, but I do think this box value exceeds its price tag. I will be curious to see what they will be offering up with their new and improved box in 2014.  I think they always do a great job with their packaging and branding, and, as a marketing geek, I really like that they have a distinct voice and brand.  Bike Loot is legit. Carry on, Loot Dudes.

Mommy Mondays: Black Felt-Tip Pen

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Photo courtesy of papersource.com

Because I am a writer by trade and by brain, I have chosen Monday as the day that I will take a short break from reviewing subscription boxes and talking parties and stuff to write a bit about life as a mom, toddlerhood, family stuff, life stuff, basically anything I feel like doing a little babbling about. If you just want box reviews, feel free to keep scrolling, they are down there!

For as long as I can remember, my dad has always sent hundreds of Christmas cards. Every single year. This year, he and my stepmom combined will send 700.  You read that right. Seven zero zero.  These aren’t the kind of cards we are all now used to. The pre-printed ones that are made by companies far away with the main effort on the part of the sender being uploading some digital photos and a cute note. And possibly, if you didn’t opt for the address automation, then you might spend an evening drinking wine and writing a hundred or so addresses with your husband after the baby is asleep. Almost like a date night. I am so familiar with this process because that is how I have done my cards for the past few years. I still do a little writing, but I do it in the online form, and everyone receives the same message of hope and cheer right next to a photo of Mike and I snorkeling in Thailand or clutching a squirming newborn. But that is not how my dad does it.

He starts his “card project”, as he often refers to it, in late October, though I am pretty sure he is thinking about it in August. Or July. Or always. In the past, he has taken his own family photo or enlisted a friend to do so, a front yard attempt at getting everyone to smile and have a good attitude at the same time. Or if there happened to be a big family gathering that year, like a wedding or something where everyone was in the same room, then that is a jackpot to him. Photoshoot done. However, like most mixed families, we are in a couple of states, and unlike most families, we siblings are not close, and so it is rare to find the entire gang together. So my dad adopted the policy of letting us each submit a picture of our respective families. He then takes those photos to a camera shop, where they charge him way too much to meld all of the photos together into a single collage with mini captions under each shot. This is something that I could do for him on my Mac in about eight minutes for free, but he likes to do it his way. He then uses some sort of adhesive to attach the photo to the inside panel of a traditional Christmas card. On the back he also does some adhering, this time with his selected bible verse of the year.

What he does next is baffling.  He writes individual messages inside each one. A message to each family with personal anecdotes and congratulations on that year’s happy happenings. Meaningful condolences to those who have lost loved ones. Genuine concerns about health and wellness.

He does this seven hundred times.  In pen. Black felt-tip pen.

When we were younger, it was part of our job to help him. We would all be required to pen a few hundred addresses and stick a bunch of stamps while he toiled away on his personal messages, and those days have become some of my fondest Christmas memories. The holiday music playing, quiet, quality time with my dad, who during the week was a dedicated career man, and a feeling of warmth and happiness that can only come from knowing that you are about to send a big pile of love out into the world, care of the United States Postal Service.

My sisters and I joked over the years about how my dad sends a card to the entire population of my hometown, in addition to hitting all fifty states at least twice each.  When I was 20, dutifully helping my dad fill in envelopes, I wrote what was probably my hundredth address in my nicest penmanship only to look down in shock at what I’d done. “Dad! Why are you sending a card to my gynecologist?!?” I held up the card accusingly, ready to tear it into pieces.

My dad, used to the the drama that comes with having three daughters, looked up calmly to read the address. “Oh,” he said, “His wife used to work for me”

Not missing a beat, my older sister deadpanned, “He probably won’t recognize your face anyway”

Throughout the year, my dad is the meticulous keeper of an address book, now online, but just as important. I finally helped him input all of his addresses into his computer and taught him how to update it a couple years ago. It prints out the address labels each year so that he can stick them on instead of writing them out, a marvel of modern technology that still thrills him.

I have explained to him several times that I could automate his process. I could add his bible verse and collage of photos to a card of his choice online. I could help him with captions and a nice note that would be appropriate for everyone. But he refuses. The last time I offered, he told me it would be great, but then he would just have to write a note to everyone explaining why he had sent them this newfangled type of card, so it would basically be the same amount of work. And what about his elderly friends who were alone, he wondered. Sometimes his note was the only one they would receive.  He needed to write it in pen. Black felt-tip pen.

And so, my dad, who at 76 is considered elderly himself, is currently, as we speak, most certainly holed up in “the craft room” with his stacks of cards and treasured pens and his stamps and photos and bible verses, armed with his system that no one else might ever be able to understand. That is where he sits for hours on end, for days at a time, writing sweet notes to everyone who has ever had the great luck to become his friend.

I sent about 200 cards this year, the generic, computer-generated kind with a photo of our son staring out at each recipient from the front and a heartfelt note to our friends and family on the back. It gives me abject pleasure to do this each year, and sitting down and writing out addresses, though my weapon of choice is a red, Ultra-Fine Point Sharpie, is by far my favorite part of the holidays. My other favorite part is receiving cards in return. It’s a great way to see photos and updates from everyone we care about, even those that time and distance keep us from really getting to catch up with anymore. It’s a window into the lives of friends from our past and present and a connection that I hold near and dear. Though the new cards are amazing, and there are so many cool things you can do with computers these days, my favorite card to receive is still my dad’s. Though I am not a religious person, his card with its stuck-on photo and bible verse is the one that makes me tear up because I know how much work and thought and love he put into mine and 699 others. That card is the one that gets hung front and center, because it is the one that is a piece of home, written in black felt-tip pen.

Julep Maven Diamond Mystery Box Review

Ah, Julep.  I just can’t quit you. The Diamond Mystery Box was $24.99, and it was worth every penny. With seven different polishes and three beauty products that I love, I am so glad I signed on last minute. Here are the goods:

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I was so not expecting that many polishes! Yay. I was initially giving up on my Julep subscription because it was just too much polish for me, but then I remembered that I put a nail polish in each of the gift bags (18 of them!) each year for my annual girls’ lake trip, and Julep is an awesome way to get them inexpensively, along with some cool beauty products. It was really difficult to talk myself back into it.  Here are the details:

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Sea Salt Texture Spray: (regularly $22, on sale right now for $9.99) You can spray this in your hair wet or dry and it adds volume and texture. I already tried this, and it smells nice and definitely adds some body. I tried it on damp hair yesterday, but I think the way to go for me might be to spritz it on dry hair. Good stuff.

Beach Tonic Dry Body Oil:  (regularly $23, on sale right now for $18.50) This stuff smells amazing, and it adds nice moisture to your skin. I am going to save the rest of it for summer because it is just not quite enough moisture for Colorado winters, and I need to stick with serious cream to keep my skin from hurting. But come summer, this stuff is going to be awesome for after laying in the sun or big swims.

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Double Stuff Foot Treatment and Friction Stick: (regularly $22, on sale right now for $17.60) This is a moisturizer and blister preventer in one. I wrote in my Favorite Things Party post about body glide and how it saves my feet when running or wearing strappy sandals. I think this stuff is similar, and I can always use an extra for my purse. You never know when a pair of shoes might end up starting to rub funny, and stuff like this can save you from a night of foot-hell.

On to the polish:

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Julep polishes are regularly $14, but all of these are part of the Julep sale right now and are all under $12. The five polish colors I got are:

Helen: A soft purple-pink color

Karen: A peachy, pale metallic orange. Surprisingly pretty for winter, even though it is more pastel

Karmen: A metallic red and gold mix, perfect for holiday parties.

Lucy: A dark wine color.

Candace: A gold and black metallic mix.

And then, of course, the diamond top coats!

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Antonia: A pink and rose-gold top coat with diamond overlay.

Geo: ( no longer linked on site) A silver and purple tinted top coat with the same diamond overlay.

These top coats are gorgeous. I think I am going to keep one and gift the other to my BFF. In addition, there a couple of the polishes that I will keep for myself and then will hang on to the others for when I start girls’ trip planning in February. (yes, I start six months out..it takes a lot to get 18 women into a cabin with gift bags, t-shirts, cocktails and everything else. Posts on that in 2014)

I loved all the additional beauty products in this box. At first it felt kind of strange to be getting summery items in my holiday box, but seriously, who doesn’t need a little summer fun in the cold of winter.

The Julep Diamond Mystery Box is no longer available, but all of the products and almost all of the polishes are available linked above.  You can get your Julep monthly subscription here.

This post contains referral links.

Thursday Thoughts Link-Up

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So, I am linking up with Jen at Ramblings of a Suburban Mom for the very first time. I have been following her blog for a few months as I was starting my own, and it is a lot of fun to read, both for her box reviews and for everyday feel-good fun. She is also a Target bargain genius. So, here goes, my first Thursday Thoughts.

Speaking of big changes, I am also in a huge transition, having all but decided that I will try my hand at being a stay-at-home mom for a couple years. After getting laid off, the job market has been terrible for writers and I miss my boy. I am waiting to find out about one possible job the first week in December. If that does not pan out, then we are taking D out of school (we’ve kept him in thus far because they have an 18 month waiting list), and my life is going to totally change. I never thought of myself as a stay-at-home mom, but I am excited and, ok, kinda scared because I think it is way harder than going to the office. What the heck am I going to DO to entertain him all day? I’d better get crafty. But seriously, I got this.

I had dinner and drinks with my BFF last night to celebrate her birthday and promotion. I got her a Birchbox subscription for her birthday and she was also excited to get a gift bag of leftover subscription box schwag that I gave her just because. She is just one of the greatest people in the world, and we always have such a good time and awesome conversations. Wish we could spend more time together.

So, after I wrote about D’s first traumatic headwound on Mommy Mondays this week, he got ANOTHER one at school on Tuesday. Cut his lip up pretty good falling over a big tractor on the playground. Holy crap! I can’t take this. He looks like he was in a fight:

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Mama, quit interrupting my terrorizing to take pictures!

And as soon as he came home with his second cut, he was at it again trying to climb up on top of a big box of diapers; I caught him just as he was about to fall, and he LAUGHED.  Seriously, how did I end up with a future X-Games competitor as a child? I blame his dad.

So when I started this blog, it was over at Blogger, which is where I used to have a writing blog a long time ago. I had been away from blogging for awhile, and what I found out is that Google kind of ruined Blogger. So I migrated to WordPress this week and am having fun learning it. So much better.

It is super snowy and icy here today, so Mike is working from home. I am finishing some freelance work and some schoolwork, then going to do some chores. What I want to do is snuggle up with a coffee and watch a movie, but duty calls. At least I have some candles going and, while my husband is on constant conference calls, it is nice to have company while we both work away.

I think I have some good boxes coming today, so look for reviews later!

Happy Thursday!  And thanks, Jen, this was fun!

Birchbox Snow Day Review

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 So, I was a little late to the game ordering the Birchbox Snow Day special edition box, but I just couldn’t resist all the cute stuff that will make such great gifts. For me and for others. This box was $39, and since I am not getting my Sparaj until December, it fit into the budget in that spot. Perfect.  Here are the goods:

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The Birchbox Snow Day box came packaged in adorable snow-patterned box and was filled with the most cozy array of spoil-yourself, stay-inside gear. I seriously wanted to climb inside this box, it was just so cozy to open.  Here are the details:

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Askinosie Chocolate Single Origin Cocoa Powder: We are big Askinosie chocolate lovers around here, and I pick up the bars on a regular basis at our neighborhood gourmet shop. I bet this hot chocolate is legit!

Three Tarts Gourmet Marshmallows in Cinnamon: Yes, these will go perfectly with the hot chocolate. I think I will save both of these items to make for me and my husband on Christmas Eve night while we are Santa-ing for D. Mike is a hot chocolate freak, and the marshmallows might just send him over the edge. Maybe we’ll even throw a little booze in there. You never know with us; we’re kinda wild like that.

Jonathan Adler Fireplace Matches: So these are going to get used soon. The packaging is gorgeous, and I love long matches anyway, but we have a fireplace that is 100 years old and in questionable service, so we don’t really use it. What I do instead is fill it with candles (I get the inexpensive six-packs from IKEA) and we light them for special occasions, including the special occasion that we both happen to be sitting down with a glass of wine and the baby is sleeping. It gives the illusion of a fire in the fireplace without all the wood and mess. So, anyway, these matches are perfect for lighting all of the candles in one swoop instead of burning my fingers on a hot Bic lighter.  Also, not sure why I didn’t photograph the matches with the candle, but my odd methods are simply part of my charm.

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(sorry for crappy photo…I’m getting better with my new too-fancy-for-me camera, but it is a process)

(MALIN+GOETZ) Votive in Cannabis: So, I was kind of wary about receiving a candle with a Cannabis scent, but honestly, it does not really smell like I thought it would. I would definitely consider this a manly scented candle, which are not my personal flavor to burn, but it still smells fresh and woody and clean. I think this one would make a nice gift.

Chantecaille Flower Infused Cleansing Milk and Jasmine and Lily Healing Mask: Man do I need a mask so bad. I sometimes look at my face in the mirror and am shocked to see my mother staring right back at me.  This mask promises to give my face a dose of pure calm. I wonder if they have a version for your whole life instead of just your face.  The Cleansing Milk will probably get tossed in my swim bag, as it is always nice to have something good to wash my face with instead of the “face wash” at the gym. I put it in quotes, because I am almost positive that the face wash and body wash are interchangeable in the giant dispensers in the gym showers. This would be a nice change for my tortured skin. No wonder I look 20 years older than I am sometimes.

L’OCCITANE Shea Butter Hand Cream: I have this and use it already (though Keihl’s is my go-to hand cream) and this deluxe sample size is perfect for my purse. My hands will be thankful.

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Mox Botanicals Matcha and Clementine Body Soak: This smells really nice, and I love the packaging. This sample will most likely end up in the Bag-o-Beauty, simply because I do not take baths. It’s not that I don’t want to take baths, in fact I actually long for it sometimes, but then I remember that I am over six feet tall and that we live in a house with bathtubs that are not even remotely large enough for a tall person to take a bath. So, if we end up moving to California, I am searching for a house with one of those giant jacuzzi tubs, and then I will use this, if not, my friends can fight it out for it on our lake trip this summer.

S.W. Basics Organic Lip Balm: This lip balm feels great and has a very different, but nice smell.  I like it, and it will be part of my vast collection immediately.

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These were my two favorite items in the box.

Happy Socks Combed Cotton Crew Socks: I love wearing funky socks like this with clogs in the winter. I am always wearing athletic socks, and I love to change it up a little bit with some cool ones. These are bright pink and burgandy tiger stripes. I feel cooler already.

Scrabble Birchbox Edition Mini Game: This is so cute. I love Scrabble, and how fun it is it to have this tiny little portable size. The board folds up small, and the letters are super small. Adorable. I don’t know how functional this board would be for like super-competitive Scrabble players, but just for messing around on a mountain trip? Definitely.

All told, the Birchbox Snow Day box had a great value, and I love almost everything in it. They also included really cute cards explaining how to have different kinds of Snow Days. Sold. this Colorado girl can most definitely get behind an awesome snow day.  This box is still available here.

(This post contains a referral link)

Bike Loot Review

Bike Loot is one of the boxes that I get for my husband, as he is a giant cycling nerd. He was pretty excited about his first Bike Loot box, which he opened last night when he got home from a business trip. Here are the goods:

bike loot 4 Bike Loot is a monthly box for cyclists that contains samples of nutrition and gear. It is $10 a month plus shipping.  Each box comes with a card that has the product information and coupon codes on one side and an inspiring cycling quote on the other. This month’s quote was from Hemingway, and my husband said the card, which he wants to hang up in his office, was one of his favorite items.  Here’s the lowdown on all the stuff:

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Mazamabar meal replacement bar in Hazelnut: This went right into my husband’s bag for his next ride this week. Stuff like this that gives great energy and fuels the body, but can still be stashed in a jersey pocket and eaten one-handed is just the kind of stuff he likes to grab for his ride. Bike Loot includes a 25% coupon code for Mazamabars.

Sqwincher hydration concentration: The Bike Loot information card reminds cyclists to be extra vigilant about hydration during cold-weather rides because you don’t always feel thirsty when the weather is cool. (although here in Colorado, we feel thirsty all the damn time) This can be added to your water bottle to provide electrolytes and calories along with your hydration.

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Peanut Butter & Company The Bee’s Knees Peanut Butter blended with honey: I’m not sure that my husband will take this out on his bike, but it will definitely get eaten around here. Peanut butter is a great food for fuel when you need to travel light because it is so calorie dense for such little weight and space. We are backpackers, and peanut butter is our go-to on the trail. However, because we have a toddler who is a couple years away from being able to lug his stuff down the trail with us, this very well may end up as his lunch one day; the packaging is great for throwing it in the diaper bag.  This peanut butter is gluten free, trans-fat free, all natural, no hydrogenated oils, and no high-fructose corn syrup, and the Loot Dudes, as they call themselves, include a coupon code for 20% off.  Nicely played, Loot Dudes.

VFuel Endurance Gel in Peach Cobbler: Mike is not a huge gel guy, but he will probably still stash this in jersey or flat pack for emergencies.  I actually kind of like gels, so if he doesn’t use it, I may steal it for my next road race or long swim. They include a 20% off coupon for VFuel, too.

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Paper Shower wet and dry towelettes: This is a pretty cool concept, a wet towel for cleaning off, and a dry towel for drying off, packaged separately, but attached to each other. Since most of Mike’s rides start and end either at our house or at his office, both places having showers readily available, he said this will probably go in with our camping gear. Cool concept, though.

Grabber Warmers: These hand warmers had me at their snarky little packaging. Seriously, how cute is it that they say Hold Me?  These will be another one that definitely gets used. The last couple of big rides Mike has been on, he has complained that his hand were cold, so I could see him slipping these right into his gloves and riding off into the sunset. A 10% off coupon for grabbers is included.

All told, my husband really liked his first Bike Loot box. All of the items will get used, although some for things other than cycling, and the packaging was great. I don’t really try to assign a value to boxes that are just samples, because I really think the purpose of this box is to try new products rather than to get a real bargain like a lot of my other boxes. This stuff is all great, but I would love to see some Bike Loot branded stuff in here in the future, like water bottles and t-shirts. My husband would totally wear a Bike Loot t-shirt, and all of his cycling buddies would be jealous.  Thanks, Loot Dudes. Party on.

Bespoke Post for November

I decided to go ahead and go for the Bespoke Post November box. The one I am defaulted to is the Refresh box, which is a nice-looking dopp kit full of deluxe size samples of great men’s stuff. My husband has recently been lamenting the loss of his “goodie bag” as he calls it, and is in need a of a great new dopp bag, so this will be perfect for a Christmas gift, and it will be like a whole nother stocking filled with all of those goodies.  I am excited to get it, and I know he will like it for his many work trips. This is what the contents of the box will look like:

I wish they would do one for women!

Up until recently, Mike has never been a product guy, but I got him the PopSugar Summer Men’s bag this year, and he puts on the moisturizer that was in there every day. I swear I can see an improvement in his skin. We Colorado-dwellers need moisturizer, male or female! I think he will enjoy trying this stuff out. So, yay for a Bespoke box in November!