Bespoke Post Review: Agave

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Bespoke Post is always one of my favorite boxes, although I have to say that the selection this month was not my absolute favorite for my husband and I. He is not into cigars at all, which was another offering, so we went with this one because we both love cocktails and could use a new set of bartending supplies. Enter, the Agave box:

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Bespoke Post is a monthly box for men that features upscale lifestyle items. They send you an email at the start of the month showing you which boxes you can choose from. If you don’t want any of them, you can always opt out for the month if none of them are your thing. It is $45 per month, and you can always get 25% off your first box with the coupon code WINGMAN. While this box is for men, there are always things for the house or things we both like to choose from, so it is kind of for both of us. And that is also why it is one of my favorites. The Agave box features professional quality bartending items, most from Cocktail Kingdom. Here are the goods:

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All the items are top quality, and I love that everything matches. Here are the details:

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Boston Shaker: ($25?) This is an unbranded Boston Shaker, but it is a nice one. They run anywhere from $15 up to $75 for the double walled ones. This is a single walled shaker, but is still high quality. I used one like this when I bartended off and on in college. It’s the best way to mix a shaken cocktail.

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Cocktail Kingdom Ice Ball Mold: ($6.95) This is great for making big, spherical ice cubes for whiskey, which we both love.

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Cocktail Kingdom Julep Strainer: ($10.95) This is perfect for straining martinis and other drinks that you shake with ice.

Cocktail Kingdom Japanese Jigger: ($8.95) To measure your liquor for your cocktails. We probably could have used this at our party last week, might have slowed some people down a bit. ¬†ūüôā

Cocktail Kingdom Mexican Beehive Juicer: ($16.95) This will be a nice juicer to keep in our bar cabinet and our pther one can be used solely for cooking now. Plus, our other one doesn’t match.

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Bonus Item: Don Julio branded cocktail glasses. Two of these were included as a promo item from Don Julio Tequila. We don’t drink tequila much, but these are cool glasses, and the branding is not too obnoxious. My husband works for a brewery, so we are used to branding all over our freebies. I don’t really add the value of promo items to the box value, but these are nice glasses.

All told, the Bespoke Post Agave box had a value of about $70 for the $45 price tag. While this wasn’t one of their highest value boxes, everything is really nice, and we feel very grown up having a matching set of cocktail ware. Bespoke Post continues to be a favorite for my husband and for me. If you know a trendy, classy kind of guy, Bespoke Post would make a great gift.

PopSugar Must Have Review December 2013

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The PopSugar Must Have December Box has received a lot of mixed reviews thus far, with some people seeming pretty unhappy with it. While it wasn’t necessarily my favorite PopSugar Must Have box, I actually thought everything was pretty nice, and even the stuff I didn’t initially love, I realized I would get use out of. Here are the goods:

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This box was full of holiday cheer and everything was pretty fun. Here are the details:

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Govino Go Anywhere Champagne Flutes: ($12.95) This is a set of four disposable champagne flutes from Govino. While I understand why some people weren’t happy with them being plastic and disposable, I think we will get use out of them, but I think it will be during the summer. We take picnics to jazz in the park a lot of summer Sundays, and these are perfect. I can’t really see using them more than once like they say you can, but we shall see. I didn’t think these were amazing, but we will use them.

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Whoa, snack-city for this PopSugar box.

CC Made Caramel Corn: This is a great size to add to a gift basket, which is probably what I will do with it. After the peppermint pretzel incident from the Special Edition Box, I need to lay off the snacks for a bit.

Ghiradelli Squares: (2 packs) ($4.25 each) These were fine, and I actually put them out at our cocktail party, so I got use out of them right away. The Pumpkin Spice flavor is to die for. These were listed on the information card as an extra, although I thought it was a little weird that there were two packages of them. Chocolate is good, and so I accept these and will do my best to give most of them away.

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Mixt Studio Holiday Gifting Set: ($9) This is a package of three different kinds of wrapping paper with string and tags to finish the packages. I think this is super handy and pretty, and I will be wrapping a few presents with it this week. i thought this was a cool addition for the holidays.

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NCLA Peppermint Lane Nail Wraps:¬†($16) Nail wraps are not my thing, but I already know who is getting these as a gift. We are doing a small-gift gift exchange with my husband’s family, and I am going to put together a little nail set for Mike’s brother’s girlfriend. These will be perfect to add to that.

Modelco Fibre Lashxtend Black Mascara: ($20) I have a ton of mascara, and as I have mentioned a million times, am currently totally hooked on It’s So Big mascara by Elizabeth Mott. This will go in the makeup box for gifting or putting into the Bag-o-Beauty for girls’ trip. I’m sure those classy ladies will throw down to see who gets a full size mascara out of there.

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Lulu Frost for PopSugar bracelet: ($110) This was another item in the box that had a lot of mixed reviews. I really like it and will wear it. While I would not pay $110 for it retail, I think it is edgy and pretty at the same time and am excited to wear it. Lulu Frost items are typically pretty spendy, so I think  that is part of what they figure into the price. I like that it is a special edition for PopSugar, and I like the antique coloring to the gold chain. This was my favorite thing in the box.

All told, this PopSugar Must Have box had a value of around $180 for the $39.95 pricetag. I liked the holiday cheer, loved the bracelet, and thought it was pretty good, though not my favorite PopSugar box. Looking forward to what they have in store for 2014.  You can always get $5 off of your first PopSugar Box by using the promo code REFER5.

PopSugar Special Edition Must Have Holiday- For Him Review

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Our poor mailpeople are out wandering the streets at ungodly hours these days. I got my mail today at around 2:30 and was so sad that there was no PopSugar on the porch. However, at about 6:45, the poor guy dropped off my box in the cold and the dark. While I was feeling for the mailman, I was excited to see one of the three December PopSugar Must Have boxes I am expecting this week. ¬†Sadly, due to poor self-control, I know pretty much what is in all of them. This men’s box is awesome, though! Here are the goods:

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This box was a little smaller than the luxury edition boxes I have gotten in the past, but the items are legit. I really thought this box had a luxurious feel.  Here are the details:

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Apolis Flannel Wool Tie: ($68) This tie, despite my unfortunate photo that includes my thighs, is really cool. I saw another reviewer who got it in grey, but we got black, and I actually think the black is a little bit trendier. My husband will wear this at our big holiday cocktail party this weekend, and from then on, probably only for other special occasions, as his work is pretty casual, but still, I love that it is something wintry and cool. The tie is meant to take after officers’ ties from the 40s, and the very trendy label played to that:

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I dig this tie.

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Mark and Graham Everyday Leather Travel Pouch: ($79) My husband is already pretty into his Blue Claw dopp kit from last month’s Bespoke Post, but this one is really nice, too. ¬†It is quite small, although, when I think of travel bags, I think of all the crap I lug with me, and my husband, like most men, does not need that much. So this size might just be perfect. This is a really nice, buttery leather and would also make a great gift.

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Malin and Goetz 1 oz Essential Kit: ($30) I am super jealous of this. I so wish this was full of stuff for the ladies, but instead, it is all very manly and yummy. ¬†I think my husband will like this a lot, as he travels on and off quite a bit. Whatever is convenient to get him through security faster is a win with him, plus, there would be room in here to add his cologne and just go. He is fine using hotel stuff, but I always hoard that stuff to donate to the women’s shelter, so maybe this will change his mind about that.

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Native Union Monocle: ($59.99) Ok, so at first I was wondering whether my husband would use this or not, but now, I really think he will.  We have hands-free BlueTooth in our newer car, and it has been life-changing, but he actually drives our older car most of the time and has lamented that he hates holding his phone while driving because after using the hands-free system, he realizes how dangerous it is. Since we are still 10 months away from replacing that car, I think this might just solve his problem. He also might use it at his desk, where he listens to music very quietly most of the day.  I think he is really going to like this one.

popsugar7Soxiety Striped Cotton-Blend Socks: ($12) Now, socks are something that Mike wears every day, like most red-blooded Americans. And he loves him some funky socks. ¬†He is a snappy dresser, though a bit conservative, but he likes to spice it up a little in the sock department. These are made in Italy and are super soft and will get worn often. They also came in their own dustbag. I kind of laughed that the leather dopp kit was in a box, but the socks came in a dustbag. ¬†Who knew? These must be some fancy socks. ūüôā

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Chip-Zel-Pop: ($3.50) Oh, holy cow. This dangerous stuff is right in my wheelhouse, as I am a sucker for all salty-sweet things. I am going to make Mike take this to work, or we are going to put it out for the party on Saturday, but it cannot get opened in this house unless it is for a crowd, otherwise I will have to spend the rest of December at the gym.  And I have plans to do other things. This is a mix of potato chips, caramel corn, pretzels and chocolate. Yeeeesh.

Krave Pork Jerky in Black Cherry BBQ: ($7.00) We usually only do jerky when we are backpacking, but I know my husband loves it, so I’m sure he will bust into this as soon as he sees it. It looks really good, and the flavor sounds awesome.

All told, the PopSugar Special Edition Must Have Holiday For Him¬†box (now sold out) had a value of over $250 for the $100 price tag. I think everything in this box was well-curated and that my husband will use almost all of it, and what is left will make very nice gifts. Way to go, PopSugar. This men’s box rocks.

Mommy Mondays: Holiday Ho-Hum

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! 

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The iconic Joni Mitchell

It’s funny how poor timing can make even your favorite things feel off. With Thanksgiving so late in November this year, everyone is getting ready for Christmas early, not just the retailers. Friends are posting Christmas tree photos on Facebook, people are already sending cards, and the stores, of course, are completely decked out for Christmas while the few Thanksgiving and harvest decorations have been cast aside into clearance bins. Even the radio station that plays all holiday music and nothing but holiday music from Thanksgiving until Christmas every year has started early. That particular radio station, in fact, was what clued me in to my less than stellar mood. My husband, knowing my propensity to get giddy over holiday music, stealthily switched the station and turned it on this weekend. But instead of being excited about it, I felt suddenly accosted. I asked him to switch it back.

I am normally a total holiday nerd, donning a Santa hat, sending out 200 cards, and begging to put up the tree as soon after Thanksgiving as my poor husband can stand. I love the decor and the cooking and the smells, and I love the shopping and the giving and the parties. And I love the general feeling of happiness and cheer about the snow and the cold, because, after all, who does not dream of a white Christmas? But I wasn’t ready this year. I don’t know if it is the fact that every part of our lives still feels as if it is hanging in the balance or that I feel so useless as I am figuring out my career transition without anything completely definitive to grasp on to. Or maybe it isn’t me, and everyone else with their damn holiday cheer and red and green decorations up BEFORE Halloween are the crazy ones. ¬†Although, to be honest, it is usually me.

I sat wondering what was wrong with me for awhile this morning. D is sick again, so I was sitting in the car in the parking lot of the pediatrician (where they told me he does not have bronchitis again, but I KNOW he does because I KNOW my boy, and if the timing is as it has been the last few times, it will get really bad right on Thanksgiving) D was snoozing in his car seat, and we were a few minutes early, so I sat drinking coffee, staring at my sweet, sleepy boy, and wondering what the hell my problem was. And what occurred to me was that I didn’t go through that stage this year where Fall arrives and I spend a few days crazily missing my mom like I have every other year. My mom was the champion of holiday love and traditions and her joy for Thanksgiving and Christmas was completely contagious. Each year as October closes, I always end up spending a few days in introspective moping, missing her, lamenting her short life, feeling cheated, and then eventually getting on with it and whipping my bad self into holiday shape. Cookies need baking, presents need wrapping, and the cards need to be meticulously written. But I guess with a toddler and our whole lives in tumultuous uproar, I somehow forgot to mope this year, and then it snuck up on me. I never got it out of my system. I heard Joni Mitchell sing River too early and I wasn’t ready, and before I knew it I was in tears driving down the road. I smelled the pine and cinnamon too soon, and it made me sad instead of giddy. I thought about going to cut down our tree and just felt like getting it over with instead of loading the car with snacks and mittens and happy dogs and enough holiday CDs to get us up the mountain pass and back without ever repeating a song.

Maybe now that I realize what was going on in my stimulus-riddled brain, I can try to find my normal holiday spirit and get on with it and find my happy place. I can let myself be a little sad and then whip myself into shape. I can remember the lady who was the the best at holidays and try to emulate her instead of whining about how my son will never experience Grandma done exactly right. There are fifteen people headed my way on Thursday, and I am expected, as always, to reprise my role as the queen of happy holidays and all things traditional. That gives me three days to get my shit together.

Thanksgiving Time!

My very favorite day of the year is coming!!  For Thanksgiving, we always host all of our friends who are not traveling to their respective homes for the holiday, and it is always a great time. Mike and I have been hosting Thanksgiving since before we were even married; this will be our seventh year.  Sometimes it’s a small group of five or six, and other times, like this year, it is a group of 15 or so. That is my favorite!

I am already thinking about the table settings and centerpieces, and I have been trolling Thanksgiving settings on Pinterest, trying to get some great ideas. I am pondering getting some inexpensive fabrics from Jo-Ann this year and cutting my own placemats and napkins. Maybe burlap placemats and linen-like napkins?  I love the idea of rustic, rough edges. I also saw where the napkins were tied with packaging string and a cinnamon stick and sprig of thyme. So gorgeous. Here are a few photos stolen from Pinterest. I have linked the captions to their sources.

Things are a little different this year, because we are on a tighter budget due to me being unemployed.  I am still making the turkey, but friends are bringing all the sides. While I was sad to give up all the cooking, it will be nice to relax a little bit. Besides, this year, I have a toddler running around, too, and that makes things a little more hectic than normal. So, I am excited to make a kick-ass turkey and set an amazing table and leave the cooking to the team.  It’s going to be a great year! 

Favorite Things Party, 2013. YOU Get a Car! YOU Get a Car! YOU Get a Car!

Published early, even! The 2013 Favorite Things Party was a hit! And it was a blast, too. ¬†If you are unfamiliar with Favorite Thing parties, they are loosely based on Oprah’s Favorite Things episodes, where she would give away a ton of awesome stuff to unsuspecting audience members, all items she deemed her “favorite” new products for the year. And who can forget the year she gave everyone a damn Volkswagen or whatever it was? ¬†Insanity ensued.

For the version that I host, each girl chooses her favorite thing at an approximate ten dollar value, then she buys five of them.  Five of the same item.  And then she wraps them up and brings them to the party. At said party, she will draw five names out of a basket. then, when it is her turn, she stands up, says a couple things about why her item is her fave, and then reads off the five names she drew, and then those five girls are the ones who get her item. As you can imagine, with 30 women and tons of wine, this turns into a hilarious blast.

I set it up this year so that everyone also brought her favorite party appetizer or cocktail. I divided the girls up; those with first names starting with A through M brought an appetizer, and those with first names starting with N-Z brought a cocktail. It worked out perfectly, plus I barely had to do anything except rid my home of dog hair and put out a cooler of soda and beer. Plus, I made prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe. Easy peasy. And my kitchen wasn’t even much of a disaster afterwards.

I added an element this year and had a second basket where the girls only put their name in once, and used it to give away door prizes.  The door prizes were made up of some subscription box items that were not totally me and a couple other things (the beer is the Blue Moon Autumn Variety Pack, which my husband gets free from work), and they were a hit.  See?  Everyone gets pleasure out of subscription boxes.

Since my husband had taken D to San Francisco for the weekend to visit his parents, I was free of my mommy responsibilities and imbibed in way too much wine. Fun was had by all.

The loot I scored consisted of:

A bottle of Alamos Malbec, sworn by my friend Sarah to be the best bottle of wine under ten dollars, one that regularly gets high ratings and beats out the pricier competition. Yes, I’ll take it!

Smith’s Rosebud Salve (and two of the stretchy ribbon ponytail holders) I *like* Rosebud Salve, but I don’t love it. ¬†Somehow, I have about four of them floating around. ¬†I will pass them on to friends as stocking stuffer type things.

Bodyglide Anti-chafe Balm For Her, which I love and use. This stuff is awesome, especially if you love to work out and happen to be a bigger girl like me. I put this stuff all over my feet before a long run, under my arm where my ipod case rubs a little bit, in the crotch of my bike shorts during a triathlon, on my feet when wearing strappy heels that can rub in spots. ¬†You name it, ¬†you can put this stuff about anywhere, and it prevents chafing, rubbing and blisters. ¬†This was my friend Lisa’s favorite thing, but as you can see, it is one of mine, too. ¬†Lisa also included a little tube of Aquaphor, too, which, if you’re a mom, you know is a legit cure for just about anything. ¬†Score!

Butter London Nail Lacquer in “Champers”, which is an awesome pinky-gold color, perfect for the holidays. As soon as my work/job sitch settles down and my nails grow back, I am totally putting this on!

Neutrogena Crease-Proof eyeshadow pencil and e.l.f waterproof eyeliner pen. My friend Michelle started off her speech about her favorite thing by stating that she is an “oily beast” and that these two makeup products are the only things that do not smear, crease, run, etc for her. ¬†I do not think she is a beast at all, but I get it. I happen to have super dry skin, so I may pass these on to someone who will get more use out of them. Or I could throw them in my makeup bag for when I do friends’ makeup for a special event or wedding. (I used to be a makeup artist in NYC in another life, so I do that as a favor for friends on occasion)

All in all, I scored some awesome loot for the Favorite Things 2013 extravaganza. Oh, and my item that I brought was super cute flour sack towels from an etsy shop called French Silver. ¬†(her stuff is adorable!) They all had funny, snarky sayings on them. ¬†I am totally obsessed with tea towels and flour sack towels, and if you search either term on etsy, you can find some that are so great, but I think French Silver is the best. ¬†I got the same five that I gave away for myself, too, because when I was ordering them, I was laughing so hard. ¬†I needed to get them so I wouldn’t feel sad to give them away.

There were lots more awesome Favorite Things, including two different kinds of spray meant to make the bathroom less smelly after a number two (women are so funny about pooping, myself included). ¬†Here are some photos of the girls showing their schwag (pardon the quality, as these were taken on my friend Linda’s cell…I forgot to take photos after my first glass of wine)