The Best Beauty Box Ever

Best beauty box ever reviewWhen I got an email from The Best Beauty Box Ever to ask me if I’d like to receive a complementary beauty box to review, I tried to play it cool, I really did…. Fail:  I was jumping with excitement and my email reply had a number of OTT exclamation marks. I actually said YES PLEASE!!!! in capital letters. I’m so uncool.  

I’ve had my Best Ever Beauty Box for nearly three weeks now and I’ve had the chance to give all of the products a jolly good test drive, Here’s my thoughts which are, as usual, honest and unbiased, albeit a bit too wordy. Sigh. 

Wait:  What the hell is a Beauty Box?

Ordinarily the concept with beauty boxes is that you sign up and, for a set fee each month, you receive a package of beauty products (which might be samples, or full sized products).  Usually you end up getting a bunch of products at a much lower cost than if you buy the products individually which can amount to a significant saving. I’ve been chomping at the bit to to try a beauty box. However I’ve been reluctant to commit on more than a one-off basis.  My reluctance also was because, often, you don’t know what products you are going to get.  But wait: The Best Beauty Box Ever is different! How so?

How The Best Beauty Box Ever Works

Good news: There’s no ongoing/long-term subscription with The Best Beauty Box Ever: Nope, you just buy a box when you want it.  Also, if you don’t want a surprise in terms of the products you receive, you can jump online and check out the contents of the box . Awesome. Price-wise, there’s a bunch of different boxes at prices to suit your budget.  For example:

  • Nail aficionados will enjoy the We Love Nails box filled with 10 nail products for $58, the full value of box would ordinarily be $169.  
  • Those who love to shop Kiwi made will enjoy the NZ Brands Beauty Box (NZ$97) which is crammed with 11 full sized products which would, all up, usually retail for $289.

Check out the range of boxes here. I got the Incredible Eyes box, which I was bloody stoked about –  beauty eye products are my favourite products.  The Incredible Eyes box retails for NZ$74.95 and it contains $236 of products. Holy shitballs. I love a deal… This is a steal.

So, what was in my box?  What are my thoughts? Keep reading!

the best beauty box ever review

Mellow Glam Eye Shadow Palette

This is a GREAT palette. I am, frankly, stunned, that it retails for $28.50, especially considering it was designed and tested in NZ: This is astonishing bang for buck.  There’s 14 shadows, 7 velvety smooth shimmery colours (all are gorgeous) and, pleasingly, seven matte colours (I’m a big fan of matte shadows for blending out the eyeshadow crease). I’ve been using this palette for the best part of three weeks and I’ve got one slight criticism: It’s missing a matt skin coloured neutral colour for brow bone highlighting.  That’s being a bit picky… That there is a blush and bronzer included, top marks. Seriously impressed. RRP: $28.50.

the best beauty box ever review

L’Oreal Paris Brow Artist Plumper

LOVE THIS! I’ve already waxed lyrical about this in my April favourites blog post. I’m a big fan. RRP: NZ$19.99

L’Oreal Paris Superliner Smokissime

Another BIG winner from L’Oreal. I’ve worn this black smokey liner non-stop for three weeks and I’d go as far as to say that, as the lover of a smokey eye most days, this half eyeliner/half eyeshadow product is a gamechanger product for me.  

The spongey tip is unique: It’s super soft with a pointy tip so you have good control, yet it blends really well at the same time.  It’s a bit hard to explain what I do with it, but here goes. Using a ‘naked eye’ (that only has eyeshadow primer on), I apply this as an eyeliner, thickly, and messily. Then I softly blend it in with an eyeshadow brush that has a bit of ‘fluff to it’ (like a MAC 217 brush). Then I apply a mid-toned eyeshadow to my whole eyelid (like any of the sparkly colours in the Mellow Glam Eye Shadow Palette), including over the top of the eyeliner. Done. The result is a glam smokey eye with sod all fuss.  I am going to get the dark brown version of this. Totes in love, I’ve been doing demos on y friends. I think they think I’m a bit bat shit. RRP: NZ$22.99

the best beauty box ever review

Artiste Small All Over Shadow Brush

This is a neat little brush that has a rounded natural bristle tip which is ideal for applying eyeshadow colour to the whole eye lid and highlighting the brow bone. It’s also small enough to apply eyeshadow to the lower lash line. A thumbs up for a mighty good staple in your makeup bag. RRP:$16.49.

Manicare Eyelash Curler

I’ve been curling my lashes since I was 13 years old when I got my first curlers from Boots on a trip to the UK. I know it seems a bit freaky, curling your eyelashes, but I just don’t get why more people don’t do this: Eyelash curling opens up the eyes and makes your lashes look longer and your eyes bigger – this step makes the single biggest difference in my whole daily makeup regime (and it has many steps, let’s be honest).  

This stainless steel eyelash curler is good. It comes with spare cushions/pads which spins my wheels: Did you know these need replacing? If you don’t, you’ll risk cutting your eyelashes off (my friend Jenny kept doing this and couldn’t figure out why her lashes were so short… I called her an egg and explained that she was trimming her eyelashes most days. Jenny thought I was a genius for working it out). If you a newbie to eyelash curling, hook yourself up. Top tip: Give the curler a quick blast with the hairdryer to warm it up before you curl your lashes. This trick creates curled lashes the same way curling your hair with a curling iron does.  RRP: $12.99.  

Manicare Pencil Sharpener

I already had one of these, but really needed a second one as I keep misplacing my original! This is a dual cosmetic pencil sharpener, one side is suitable for fat pencils. I love this, in part, because of the no-mess catcher.  Because there’s two sizes it fits nearly all of my eye and lip pencils. The blade is also super sharp – the result is perfectly sharpened pencils with no mess.A great staple for your makeup kit.  RRP: NZ$11.99

Jessica/Taylor Lashes 

I don’t really need to use falsies as, thanks to fLash eyelash serum, my eyelashes are so long they look like falsies already (don’t mean to brag…)  Anyhoo, I gave these a bash and I can report back that they are gorgeous!  They instantly accentuated my eyes and I had thick and full, but still natural-looking lashes.  I find I often have to trim falsies (with scissors) to fit my eye: Sometimes they are too long. Good news though, there was no cutting to size  necessary with these, they were perfect. These have been carefully filed away back in their box: I’m going to bust them out again on Saturday night for my mate Cathy’s Glitz and Glam 40th birthday party. I reckon I’ll get another few wears out of them. RRP: NZ$13.99

Manicare  Mixed Mascara Wands

This is probably a product that would spin the wheels of a die hard makeup geek, or a makeup artist.  I do makeup on other people (mainly friends but I take the occasional client) and I  buy these regularly on account of good eye hygiene: You don’t want to use the wand the mascara comes with on multiple people – ewww! Show us your eye-itis!   Anyhow, this packet of mascara wands comes with four different mascara brushes to help create different looks (volume, lengthen curling,define).  They are good, I like ’em, these are a regular purchase for me and a welcome inclusion to my Beauty Box. RRP: NZ$11.99.

Manicare Precise Grip Tweezers

I’m a bit embarrased, I’ve shunned pharmacy bought tweezers up till now. Smack my bum:  These are shit hot.  They’ve got a precision slant tip for general tweezing and, by jingo, they get the fine hairs that you didn’t think possible. When you get a super sharp pair like this you realise how blunt your old tweezers can get! I love the non-slip design too.  Warning: They are so precise and sharp, be careful not to pinch your skin!  Totes recommend and I love the price-tag: RRP: NZ$13.99. Hell, they are that good: Get two pairs, give one to a friend!

The Best Beauty Box Ever Review

Dr Lewinns Firming Eye Cream

This was such a good score in the box: This eye cream retails for NZ$59.99 and there’s a shit tonne of product: 30g worth – I reckon this’ll last me at least six months.  Containing Vitamin A to assist in skin cell renewal, and anti-oxidants and multi-vitamins to help hydrate, rejuvenate and nourish your skin, this highly concentrated formula targets all the stuff around my eyes that gets me down: Puffiness, fine lines and general tired signs.  Long story short, I REALLY like this product and it does a good job of tightening (you can feel it working ) and making me look more awake. As for reducing fine lines:  These look smoother somehow. They are still there though.

I  apply this gently to my eye area after cleansing and toning, and before my serum. The eye cream is a gel formula, which is lightweight and contains natural pigments for an illuminating effect to, presumably, make the undereye area look brighter (you don’t end up looking like a disco ball, don’t worry). The gel consistency absorbs quickly which is brilliant for use under makeup.   Note: I’ve got to deduct a few brownie points deducted for the packaging, I am not a fan of eye creams that are in a pot: You need to keep sticking your fingers in the pot each time and this gives me a bit of angst from a hygiene perspective. Simply, I prefer a tube.  Yeah, I’m anal.

Now, as a bit of a disclaimer, I am enjoying this product so much I eagerly ciphered some out and gave it to a friend to try out (in a sterile container)… Bad idea, she has slightly sensitive skin and she said it made her eyes sting and water. Bugger. I have skin as tough as old boots though – I’ve not experienced any issues.

t Beauty Box Ever Review

Za Killer Volume Curl Mascara

I was excited to try this as I’d heard good things. But it didn’t really work for me as I’d hoped. This mascara is supposed to create volume and long-lasting curl. It did slightly curl my super-straight (and non eyelash curled) lashes, but it made my lashes so clumpy and almost glued them together: I couldn’t even comb them (with a specific eyelash comb). It also, bizarrely, straightens out my eyelashes if I apply it to lashes that have been curled with an eyelash curler.  Part of the problem is that the mascara is just so wet: I’ve resorted to wiping nearly all the product off on a tissue before I use it.  As for trying to remove it… I needed twice the amount of a coconut oil as usual and I only wear waterproof mascara, I’ve never had such a palaver in the removal process. Maybe it’s just me… Anyway, I can’t say I’m a fan, but it might be just me! You can’t win ’em all.  Anyone had good results with this? RRP: NZ$23

My verdict on The Best Ever Beauty Box…

I think this is such a brilliant idea. I thought the variety of the products was well thought out and I loved nearly all of the products. I also tried some new products I wouldn’t ordinarily have bought: The eye cream, the eyeshadow palette (I probably would have dismissed this as cheap and nasty… Opps) as well as the L’Oreal smokey eyeliner, which I would have deemed gimicky.

Mostly I think the box represents sensational value for money: $74.95 for $236 worth of products. Far out. I love a bargain. A box of goodies from The Best Beauty Box Ever would be a brilliant present for a makeup lover.  I’ve been showing off the box to all my friends and colleagues and everyone has commented what a gorgeous gift this would be to receive. Don’t worry: I’ll remind you all of this closer to Christmas! Bottom line, I received this complementary from The Best Beauty Box Ever (thank you so much!) but I’ll be buying one of these, for sure, as a treat for myself sometime soon. 

Cheeseball recipe – Cheeseboard on a budget!

cheeseball recipe

This cheeseball recipe is another one of those recipes that I’ve made on and off over a decade. It’s a recipe I actually got off my Aunty Lois. She’s a great cook and one day I asked her what her best recipe was. She paused and then said ‘my cheeseball’ – naturally I begged for the recipe and lucky she obliged! I can’t help myself, I’ve put my own spin on it over time. It’s become a great ‘go to’ recipe, particularly if we have people call in unexpectedly or at short notice as it’s something you can whip up without too much difficulty for nibbles: I always have cream cheese in the fridge and some salami (that’s a staple in my son’s lunchbox).  Note, in these situations I freeze the ball instead of chilling it in the fridge to speed things up.

Well, we’ve been on a reduced income since I started my new job and subsequently now work part-time, so frankly, pulling out an extravagant cheeseboard groaning with a stinky Kikorangi blue, vintage cheddar, double cream brie, cumin gouda, stuffed baby peppers and a selection of gourmet deli meats is no longer in my budget. That’s a bit of a bugger because a cheeseboard, as odd as this probably sounds for someone who loves cooking, is one of my favourite things to make, as well as eat, noting it’s not particularly conducive to being Weight Watchers friendly at the moment!  Anyway, since we’ve been on a reduced income I’ve totes ditched the cheeseboard and, instead, pulled out this old school favourite cheeseball recipe a few times as a ‘nibbley dish’. It always lands well with the punters and you can serve it up with any cracker, or even a nice loaf of ciabatta, meats, anything goes. I love it on dried apricots tucked into a slice of salami, but I’m a bit random like that.    On that note, there’s a heap of ways you can variate this recipe, be sure to check out the notes at the bottom of the recipe below.

Lastly, as the recipe below makes two balls (snigger… I’m so smutty and immature) I often keep one in the fridge (not rolled in nuts) and then stuff it into chicken breasts a few days later. I wrap the breasts in streaky bacon, pan fry them till they are golden on both sides, then bake them until the chicken is cooked. This is next level stuffed chicken breast – I promise.

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Lou’s Loves – Faves April

Lou Loves April Faves

Cough. April finished up a wee while ago…  Sorry about that!  Better late than never with my April faves blog post though, right?

Trilogy Age-Proof Nutrient Plus Firming Serum

trilogy age proof nutrient plus firming serum

Trilogy’s Age-Proof Nutrient Plus Firming Serum was an impulse purchase during Farmers Beauty Week. Usual story: My self-restraint sucks… The discount was too good to pass up.  Standing at the Trilogy stand I vaguely recalled my friend Kellie had been waxing lyrical about a product from Trilogy’s Age-Proof range, only I couldn’t remember which one. So, I got this one.   I’d heard nothing about this product, so I truly was flying blind.  

I’ve been using this bad boy morning and night (after toning and before moisturising) all over my face, neck and decolletage for about six weeks and I adore it.  Packed full of natural ingredients this is a lightweight serum that’s a nourishing pick-me-up for skin.  What ingredients? There’s natural skin brighteners like green tea, licorice and mulberry. These extracts help to even skin tone so your complexion appears more radiant.  You’ll also find  hyaluronic acid, known as nature’s ‘moisture magnet’, which is deeply moisturising and plumps the skin.  Trilogy, by the way, uses hyaluronic acid derived from a process involving the fermentation of wheat (that’s all getting a bit beyond me…).

The packaging alleges the serum will soften fine lines and wrinkles and I reckon it does just that. My face definitely looks plumper and softer when I’m wearing this, like it’s had a bit of an energy boost.  Usually when I look at my face in the mirror, stripped bare, I think “dear God”. Lately I’ve been looking in the mirror when my face is all nudie thinking that I look a little better.  Given I’m not using any new products in my beauty regime, it seems fair that this serum could be the culprit.   Importantly for me, as I wear this serum under my makeup during the day, it’s non-greasy and absorbs well. My makeup sits ‘sweet as’ on top of it.

A repeat purchase? You bettcha.  If you want a list of ingredients and the full product description, click here. 
Price: NZ$48.90 (I got it for less as it was on sale).   (more…)

Weight Watchers – Reclaiming my shrinking jeans

3 monthsfrom now (1)_editedI outed myself on Facebook as having joining Weight Watchers a  month ago on account of being a tad too curvy-licious to fit into a lot of clothes in my wardrobe and feeling, frankly, bloody miserable about my expanding waistline.  Since then I’ve had a few people message me to see how I’m getting on and to ask: Would I recommend Weight Watchers?  This is a blog post answering those questions – and more.  

Firstly,  I want you to know that I’m paying my own hard-earned cash for Weight Watchers. Therefore this is a (non-sponsored) blog post with my own opinion. Usual story: Some will disagree with me, some will think Weight Watchers is a bunch of nonsense, equally Weight Watchers evangelists may get a bit snippy with me for my constructive criticism. Cool as! We are all entitled to our own opinion: This is mine. (more…)

Autumn Salad with Spicy Chicken, Lentil and Pumpkin

Autumn Salad with Spicy Chicken, Lentil and Pumpkin
Since joining Weight Watchers three weeks ago I’ve fallen into the trap of eating more or less the same thing every night (roast chicken with a green salad) and I’m BORED.  This is really silly: There’s an abundance of recipes available through Weight Watchers, I’m usually really creative in the kitchen AND I’m working part-time now and I have ample time to cook dinner.  There’s no excuse for boring, uninspired and repetitive meals.

I made this Autumn Salad with Spicy Chicken Lentil and Pumpkin recipe this week after a being struck by a bit of inspo following browsing on the Weight Watchers member’s only section.  Also, I’d bought a GI-NORMOUS pumpkin from Countdown for $2 and this pumpkin required some serious tucking in. Anyhoo, the result was a warm, hearty, nutritious salad that was packed full of flavour, colour and was ‘viable’ in relation to Weight Watchers SmartPoints.  My hubby isn’t on Weight Watchers (skinny, active, healthy bugger) so I’m trying to up the anti on meals that don’t blow the points budget for me and meals that hubby enjoys. Hubby and I both loved this dish, we had it as a main course and, as there was only two people eating it, there was enough the next night for a repeat dinner performance (needless to say the kid didn’t eat this dish. He had ham steaks with potatoes, carrot and pineapple. Sigh).

You can funk the salad up even further by adding fried haloumi, diced feta, also some olives would also be a delicious addition!   Or even, for those not on the ‘trying to shrink bandwagon’,  chorizo would be a scrummy addition!  This recipe, if I do say so myself, is ‘friends-over-for-dinner-worthy’. On that note, I’m taking it sans chicken to my next pot luck dinner as a side salad. (more…)

$6.30?! Essence I love extreme volume mascara review – Hit or miss?

Essence i love extreme volume mascara reviewSo, there I am, at Easter, in Welly, at Farmers Cuba Street, having a debate with myself over the purchase of a $6.30 mascara. “You don’t need it. You have several new tubes of mascara already” screamed penny-pinching Lou, who is keeping a steady eye on her ASB bank balance after commencing a new part-time job (a lifestyle ‘adjustment’ is currently underway). “But it’s $6.30 you EGG!” yelled bargain-loving Lou. “You can’t buy it in Rotorua and you’ll regret it!” cautioned pragmatic, live-in-the-moment Lou.  Bargain-live-in-the-moment Lou won. I departed with a new mascara. 

So, a $6.30 mascara, hit or miss?  It must be said: I had low hopes.  I mean, seriously, I’m a mascara addict and I’ve been known to fork out close to $58 for a mascara (Lancome…. contented sigh) and declare “it’s worth every cent”. I’m a tough mascara customer. So, here’s my thoughts on the $6.30 jobbie…

Let’s back up the bus. What mascara?  What’s the brand?  The budget mascara in question is ‘I love Extreme Volume’ from European beauty giant Essence Cosmetics, which, as a brand, is a relative newcomer to NZ’s beauty shores. There was lots of mascaras on the stand and after some deliberation I narrowed my selection down to the waterproof formulas and did ‘eeny meeny miny moe’ to aid my selection.   Why waterproof? I only ever wear waterproof mascara on account of two reasons.  Firstly, I have VERY oily eyelids and I can’t abide all the smudging that used to happen with non-waterproof mascara. Secondly, being an eyelash curling addict, normal mascara straightens out my eyelashes, whilst waterproof keeps the curl in place allllll day (learning this was a game changer).

My first impressions of this mascara was “Holy shit! That’s a big mascara wand”.  No joke, this has the biggest brush of any mascara I’ve ever used. Hence there’s a word of caution: If you have small eyes or are prone to getting mascara on your nose, in your hair, in your brows, or on your teeth (I’ve seen it all), stop reading, this probably isn’t the mascara for you. Try out a different mascara from the Essence range, i.e. one with a smaller brush and report back (I haven’t tried any of the others!). If you have intermediate level-ninja mascara application skills, or are confident you are on the cusp of securing ninja status mascara skills, keep reading. (more…)

Stacked Eggplant with Roast Tomato Feta and Pesto

stacked eggplant with roast tomato feta and pesto

We headed down to Ohariu Valley in Wellington over Easter to have a long (and very overdue) with our extended family. The good news for me is that the majority of the whanau are foodies, and they have a dream kitchen, with views of the countryside that are to bloody die for. One of the first questions I’m usually  hit with when I arrive is “what shall we cook?” Oh yes: That’s one of my favourite questions…!  For Easter Sunday dinner I made these stacked eggplant with roast tomato, feta and pesto. They were supposed to be the accompaniment to a huge leg of roast lamb, but the positive feedback received would suggest that this eggplant concoction was the hero of the meal and the lamb should step aside!

I’ve made these stacked towers of goodness in the past for as a main course (with a side salad), suffice to say they always go down a treat and it’s a good dish to have up your sleeve if you are feeding vegetarians.  This is the first time time I’ve coated the eggplant with panko breadcrumbs and fried ’em, but it was a total winner and I’ll be doing it again – when I’m off Weight Watchers though! A lighter version, and how I usually do them is to simply brush the eggplant with olive oil and grill them on the BBQ. They are delicious done this lighter way, but the fried panko version was next level because of the nutty crunchy dimension!  Besides, everything tastes good fried in olive oil, eh?  Sigh…. No wonder the clothes in my wardrobe are pulling me the birdie!

Note, it looks like a long winded (read, labour intensive recipe) but I did this in stages throughout the day. Made the pesto the day before. Roasted the tomatoes – set these aside. Went for a quad bike ride. Cooked the eggplant, prettied my face up before visitors arrived. Assembled the eggplant stacks when the lamb came out of the oven and was quietly resting on the bench.  Seemed like no trouble at all…

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Cookies and Cream Cheesecake

cookies and cream cheesecake

Right.  This isn’t my recipe, let’s get that out of the way. Nope, this mega morsel of delicious-ness was the brainchild of my nine year old son (albeit with a little bit of help from his Mumma). He’s been on a cheesecake creation bender for the last month and he’s been churning out all sorts of cheesecake concoctions. This Cookies and Cream Cheesecake is the best cheesecake yet!  Being a child that was raised well (ha),  he’s happy to share his recipe.  Enjoy. 

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