September 30, 2014

Playing Catch-Up: Petit Vour's July Beauty Box Review

I've been getting much more interested in vegan beauty products as of late. I used to wear eye makeup (mostly fun colored eyeliners. Punk rock, what?!) in high school and until my 20s loved painting my nails (I only stopped because I started working in restaurant kitchens where polish is a no-no), but other than that I've always been extremely low maintenance when it comes to beauty routines; a splash of water on my face and I was ready to go.

As for what sparked my current interest in beauty products, who can say? It's probably a mixture of being excited about the possibilities for artistic expression and having a desire to nourish my skin from the outside as I do from within. The latter is somewhat backwards from what most people do, I think, but I've always done things in my own order. So surprise, surprise!

I wish I had the funds to delve into the vast array of vegan beauty products and break it down for you all: which vegan brands are the best, which are the most high quality, which have staying power, etc. But alas, I'm not in that position. That's why beauty boxes are so awesome. For only $15-20/month (depending on which beauty box you subscribe to), you can get a taste of what kinds of products are available to you. I had a lot of fun trying out the Vegan Cuts beauty box this past spring, and I was eager to continue on with my vegan beauty education.

Around the time I reviewed that box, I started to hear a lot about the Petit Vour box. I checked out the website, and color me impressed. I loved the attention brought to featuring only the highest quality vegan brands, and with clean, non-toxic ingredients to boot. That is a huge bonus for me because I not only have to make sure my beauty products are vegan and cruelty-free, but for the sake of continuing on my healing path, I am very, very picky about what I put on my body. I looked at the Petit Vour box on Instagram to see exactly which products were in previous boxes, then I did a little bit of research about each product's ingredients just to make sure they'd be up to my health standards. My impressive findings put any concern to rest.

That put my only reservations about subscribing to this beauty box at ease; I was only worried that I'd spend $15 a month and not be able to use 1/2 of the products because they contained ingredients I won't use. Since that was a nonissue with Petit Vour, I went ahead and got a subscription to their beauty box with my birthday money. Woohoo!

What I really love, in addition to the clean ingredient lists, is that I get so much value in each box. I'm paying $15 for a box that includes several full-sized products in addition to generous sample-sized products and that would retail for well over $30. I always feel like I get more than my money's worth.

What I also love about the Petit Vour boxes is that they seem to make an effort to include products that will look good on various skin colors. Having olive skin that favors warmer colors, it seems like some companies and boxes heavily favor cooler colors that just wouldn't look great on me. I appreciate that when I get a box from Petit Vour, I'm not worried about getting products in colors that will wash me out.

The July box, co-curated by Tashina of Logical Harmony, was my first box, and I basically died and went to heaven when I opened it. Because of my aforementioned high standards, I'm so used to being like, "Wow, this is really great, but...". Not with Petit Vour! I felt like the box was specially put together for me. I loved every ounce of it.

It couldn't hurt that LVX's Lolli was included in the box. I'd been lusting over that color since they debuted it in their summer collection. It's the most perfect pastel bubblegum pink that is playful and elegant at the same time. I've yet to see anyone look less than stunning with it on. I am obsessed with this color.

Pelle Beauty is a completely new company to me, and I am so thrilled to be introduced to them. I received the Luxe beauty oil in my box, and have been using it religiously. The full-bodied scent (a blend of jasmine, cucumber, neroli, ylang ylang, meadowfoam and more) is an amazing aroma and makes for terrific aromatherapy for bedtime. I just love falling onto my pillow at night and having every breath heavy with this soothing, deep scent. They have several other face oils, too. You can check them out as well as their other skincare products here. I'm totally smitten with Pelle Beauty.

The Modern Minerals eyeshadow in Vixen was a cool find in the box since I mentioned how I love jazzing up my eyes. Described as "soft brown with gold highlights", this shade is nothing short of glamorous. Loose mineral powders are new to me, so it's fun to learn how to use them. My favorite way to use this one is to line my outer eyelids with a dark eyeliner and then use a small brush to line my inner eye with Vixen. It makes my eyes glisten, but it's also toned down enough for everyday wear.

Schmidt's deodorant has been on my radar for some time, and I'm so happy that I finally got to try it. I got the Lavender Sage scent, which I admit was a bit too heady for me, but if you like to have a stronger smelling deodorant with a scent that lasts, this one's for you. They have several other scents and an unscented one, too. I'd love to smell the ylang-ylang calendula one. That's more my style! It worked marvelously, keeping me dry and smelling of flowers even through hot, humid summer days. I'd say it even worked a little too well because my underarms were so dry that I started getting some irritation. Schmidt's deodorant comes in glass jars instead of tubes which is great for reuse. You have to apply with your finger, warming it up between your fingers then spreading it on your underarm. They also have an applicator inside to help scoop it out. For some people this application process is a turn-off. Maybe it's because I'm hyped on the eco aspect of the product, but I didn't find it bothersome, especially because once you put it on there's no need to reapply for the rest of the day. Even though this wasn't exactly the best deodorant for me, I still think it's one of the best out there. It works much better than most other natural deodorants. So, I'd say it's worth trying out.

The Tay cleanser was a bonus sample because it was my first box. The rosehip balancing cleanser with sea buckthorn is pretty great. I haven't used any other cleansers of this caliber, but at the very least it's inspired me to spend a little bit more money for a quality cleanser. I started to use this sample in combination with the Pelle Beauty Luxe oil at night, and oh my goodness, my face was so pillowy soft and silky in the morning. I kept saying to J, "Feel my face!", and he looked at me like I was a weirdo. I've always relied on reducing stress and eating healthily for great skin, but I now see that using a few stellar products on my face can really make a difference, too.

So, that was July's box. Stay tuned for the August and September box reviews. I can say I'm officially hooked on the Petit Vour beauty box!

August 04, 2014

7 Years of Love + Easy Vanilla Cinnamon Yogurt Dip

Earlier in May, we were supposed to have a birthday party cookout for J at my parents' house. Yep, even though I threw him a party already, and we also went up to his mom's house for his actual birthday, he was gonna get another celebration. Crazy, I know. It was to be the first time that both of our families had gotten together for an event, so it was more of a "let's find an occasion to get together" thing. It's so funny that it hasn't happened yet after all these years, but that's how it went. It was scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, but unfortunately we had to reschedule due to a difficult circumstance that came up.

We tried rescheduling it a few times, but our families have a lot going on this summer. Finally we found a day that worked. Wouldn't you know, it happened to be on our anniversary! We don't usually do anything big to celebrate our anniversary. One year, I made him a nice card with a poem and pictures of us (and our rescue ratties) inside. Another year, he took me out to dinner. Some years, it was nothing more than kisses and I love you's. No matter if it's big or small gestures, it's the great love we share that matters. And this year, we happened to choose to celebrate our belated birthdays and our anniversary with a family cookout.

Clockwise from the top: potato salad, zucchini. marinated mushrooms, field roast sausage, and a big heap of Caesar salad

We made as many things vegan that we could. It was our party after all. They did cook hot dogs and hamburgers for some of the people there, but we also grilled vegan sausages, marinated portobello caps, and zucchini. For the sides, J and I made a Caesar salad and potato salad. For the Caesar salad, I made the briny Caesar dressing recipe from Isa Does It, and J made herb croutons with a baguette that we had purchased from the French bakery. J was in charge of potato salad. He roasted the potatoes first instead of boiling them which gave them a really nice texture. The rest of it was made as traditionally American as possible (for the mayo we used Just Mayo because it rocks so much). We knew there would be some very picky eaters there, so we wanted to be accommodating to what they're used to. No harm in leaving the more jazzed up stuff for home or for crowds of more adventurous eaters!

The dessert was the stunner of the day. Oh my, how decadent, rich, and utterly mouthwatering was this torte from The First Mess. The brownie-like base was topped with an airy, fluffy hazelnut mousse, vanilla flecked coconut whipped cream, chopped toasted hazelnuts, and date caramel (the date caramel was not put on yet at the time of this picture. Oops!) I actually had some mousse and date caramel left over and ate them for dessert for a few evenings that following week. They made for a great sweet bite at the end of the night!

For appetizers and for snacking on later in the day, I made a vanilla cinnamon dip for a fruit platter, and we had chips and salsa as well. I had a different idea in mind when I committed to making the fruit dip. When it came time to make a prep list, I felt that I needed to lessen my load. I've been having more fatigue than usual, and I didn't want to make things more difficult than necessary. So, I canned my original plans for my fruit dip, and instead made this one. It was so extremely easy to make, and judging by the fact that there was none left at the end of the day, I'd say it was a success!

Vanilla Cinnamon Yogurt Dip

-1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut yogurt
-2/3 cup cashews, soaked 4 hours
-1/4 cup Bee Free Honee
-3/4 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp alcohol-free almond extract


-strain the cashews and blend everything until smooth.

Sweetener subs: If you don't have or can't find Bee Free Honee, you can use an equal amount of coconut nectar or 2-3 Tbsp of maple syrup.

For the almond flavoring: If you have an alcohol based extract, try using a 1/4 tsp instead of 1/2 tsp. I'm not sure of the exact exchange, but I know that it is stronger than the alcohol-free flavorings. The almond adds a nice undertone, but it's not meant to be a primary flavor here.

It was such a fun day. The rain didn't even stop us from having a good time; we just moved the party indoors! The adults and kids both enjoyed a dice game that's a family favorite of ours. The kids pulled out some board games, too, and I played piano with one of the little ones (or rather, she banged away at the keys while I played a little melody!). It went so extremely well, better than any of us had anticipated, and by the time I got home I practically face planted in my bed, exhausted and happy.

Every single day, I'm so amazed by the love that J and I share. I'm stunned that I met someone so incredible, strong, compassionate, and ethically driven. Plus, I found someone who would stick by my side through my years of illness and recovery, which has been anything but easy. We found each other, so different yet so complimentary. We're each learning, stumbling, and growing along this path together, but we always rise to the challenges, accept each others flaws, and encourage each others growth. I'm so lucky. Gratitude forever.