Friday, January 30, 2015

My life in shambles: A post-Birchbox Review of Things in my Immediate Vicinity

In one fell swoop I both cancelled my Birchbox subscription and ended the existence of my primary muse for this blog. While the bandwagon fan in me can smile at the fact that the Seahawks will win another Superbowl on Sunday, the writer in me cringes at the fact that I have lost a large chunk of motivation, and that that motivation stemmed primarily from a subscription to grooming products. But I must press on. In the words of Marilla Cuthbert “To despair is to turn your back on God” and that’s certainly not what I’m about. Presented for you now is a series of reviews on what was readily available to me. While I’m certainly not in the most hygienic state that I was last month, I hope you can still enjoy this blog

Animal Portrait Calendar
I didn't believe in love at first sight until I saw this Calendar. 

As the days dwindled it became increasingly apparent that it was time for me to let go of my much beloved, but completely useless Cupcakes of 2014 Calendar. A years worth of scrumptious looking desserts was over and I took my annual mid-January trip to the mall Kiosk to pick up my 75% off replacement. The pickings were slim, but I found a single gem amongst the foliage of Sports Illustrated and Daily yoga Tips offerings. For the next 12 months I will have some of the best looking animal portraits I’ve ever seen. In the fashion of politicians and aristoc(r)ats I can gleam a small amount of joy from the cold reality that my life is slowly passing and I am helpless to stop it, yet for some socially condescending reason I’m not allowed to have a mid-life crisis before 50. What if I die at 52? Then this would be the perfect time to have one, wouldn’t it? Regardless, at least my Birthday month has the most dapper Otter I’ve ever seen, and my First born should be born on a month with a sweet looking Gibbon.

Leaving Wonderland
This is an album cover and not a craigslist add for rusty bicycles. 

This artist and met briefly at a political themed summer camp. It was seriously a giant LARP (Live Action Roleplaying Game) where we played the roles of congressmen and women and we had to lobby our bills in an attempt to have it presented before the governor at the end of the week. Natalie and I didn’t roll with the same crowd, per se. While my character was attempting to legalize Marijuana for recreational use (a bill that was assigned to me, not chosen) she was attempting to save puppies or something, I can’t really be bothered with the details at the moment. Anyway, we went to the same camp for a few years, after which I promptly forgot she existed. That is until we ended up going to the same college. An interesting coincidence that served as a catalyst to simply extend the standard Facebook friend invite and twitter follow.

Fast forward 6 years and a link pops up into my twitter feed. “Oh, look at that! Natalie made an album and posted it on youtube, I didn’t know she was that into singing, maybe I’ll give it a liste- This is fantastic!” seriously, I’m probably the worst person to review or critique music, but I was totally unprepared for the level of quality that began pouring through the small speakers on my Nexus 9. Natalie uses her musical prowess to create a sound that is uniquely her own. Lyrically, the songs are just fun while the melodies merge with her voice to create something that is simply a pleasure to listen to. Listen to it on Youtube here, but you should probably just buy it here. Follow her on Twitter here.

Chain Mail Dice Bag
My bag is just as lethal as my dice rolls.

I started a new job in the customer service department of a door manufacturing plant here in Lynden Washington. It was a long time coming, I’m thoroughly proficient in door use, as I utilize them dozens of times a day. On top of that Monsters Inc is one of my favourite Pixar films, so, yeah. It’s a passion. While touring the plant I met a fellow by the name of Ken. Ken is in charge of programming a number of the automated machines in the shop. While talking I noticed he was wearing a couple of rings made out of chainmail. As if programming robots wasn’t cool enough, this guy tells me he creates chainmail items as a hobby. While he absolutely declined to accompany me to the mid-summer Renaissance Faire, he said he could make me a dice bag. I used to be able to say with confidence that my leatherman was the most dangerous item in my bag, NO LONGER. I now have the capability of rendering a full grown rhinoceros unconscious. Ken is the most unsuspecting guy in the world, but he carves and makes chainmail and used to play Dungeons and Dragons. He is a better role model than The Backstreet Boys.

Jack in the Box Tacos
I think they had to stop using this promotional image because it was the definition of false advertising. 

Simultaneously horrifyingly disgusting and absolutely delicious at the same time. I might be upset that they even call them tacos if they weren't 50 cents a pop and as addicting as meth. A co-worker apptly called them "Crunchy grease".

*note: I don’t know if meth is actually addictive, as that’s only an assumption I’ve made from years of watching TV and movies.

Marley’s Mellow Mood

I am drinking this right now. This tea is advertised as a “Relaxation Drink”. Essentially an anti-energy type of concoction that calms your emotions and clears your head. While you could certainly achieve a similar experience with a hot cup of Chamomile, this one tastes like Arizona raspberry tea, which is what summer taste like and who doesn’t love the taste of summer? Living in a state that has legalized recreational marijuana for real, it’s easy to see what the packaging is trying to insinuate. However, you’re not carded for this drink, because it is literally just tea. Using chamomile in the ingredients as well as a few other choice herbs, it manages to make you pretty sleepy. While undoubtedly the placebo effect plays a large part in how one might feel drinking this. For me in particular it causes my eyelids to feel heavy, not quite as much as say a dose of benadryl or nyquil, but it certainly makes it easier to sleep. Some people have problems with the dragons and how they make you cross the sea without even consulting their travel agents before going ot ashi in the oatmeal with the skittles winning a su[erbowl go hawks sniiiiiiiiiiiiiiidddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd.

I'm sorry, I don't even know if this is funny or useful because I seriously started drinking that tea 30 minutes ago and I need to go to sleep. I'm just posting this. Tune in next time when I review a Thai restaurant that the entire city of Lynden claims is fantastic in some sort of elaborate practical joke to convince me to eat there again.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Farewell to Birchbox

Well my smelly colleagues, my pursuit of higher hygiene is about to take a semi-permanent hiatus. Having a $20 reoccurring fee for small bottles of potions lotions that make me absolutely irresistible to my beautiful wife is just too steep a price to pay. My limited disposable income will be better suited elsewhere. Perhaps I'll simply set aside the money for a "blogging budget" where I can spend it on things I can write about here. Regardless, unless I've screwed up the billing cycle, this will be the last Birchbox review for a while. So here it is, my January 2015 Birchbox

Billy Jealousy Fuzzy Logic Hair Strengthening shampoo

Honestly, I just got tired of typing all these long names.

The vast majority of shampoo on Birchbox is geared towards reverse hair thinning.

A legitimate picture from my Homeschool alma mater.
That's me on the left celebrating my friend's graduation from highschool a few years back. I cannot risk my hair getting any stronger. Thankfully I recieved a sample size of this, otherwise what is currently a symbiotic relationship would undoubtably turn hostile to the point where I would simply become Gossamer (google it, he's a Looney Toon because I refuse to use a "cousin It" reference. I heard enough of those serving dry turkey and boxed mashed potatoes to senior citizens ). Oh right, the Shampoo. Oddly enough, this was the first of two products that reminded me slightly of Andy's Mints. The smell was slightly more natural, as if the chocolate mint had been eaten by a pine tree that exhaled directly into your face. The texture was soft, it lathered up nicely and cleaned by hair like a shampoo should. While my hair didn't cascade into perfect waves of chocolate brown after running my hands through it, it did an exceptional job of making my hair light and fluffy, like how I've always pictured a good souffle. The sample was nice, and I love trying new hair product, but this did little to deter me from my giant Amazon bottle of Head & Shoulders.

Clean: Cologne 
Not an actual cleaner.

I mean, the name of this is just so accurate it's almost pointless to write out a whole review. This smell is to cologne what "Clean Linen Scent" is to Febreze, bread and butter (not literally, you freaks, it's a figure of speech). I've reffered to my wife's asthma issues, and this one was the worst on that front. I tried to be sneaky apply a little on my way to work. It was my first day, so I was wanting to impress you know? Well between coughs she insisted that no one else working at the door factory would care what I smelled like. While she was 100% right, I feel like it really gave me that confidential edge that's needed when starting a new job. It was a nice scent, but nothing to write home about, unless the only way you write home is through product reviews, in which case it absolutely is.

DTRT: First Thing First Facial Scrub
Ingredients: Gunmetal.

I received a DTRT facial scrub last month and it was exactly what I was looking for. So, needless to say I was surprised and confused when I received an ALMOST identical product. Same company, packaging and type of product. The difference here was that this iteration was a once weekly facial scrub. DTRT seems to have made a commitment to not feeding fish those plastic exfoliating beads that were so popular in cosmetics and 1990s design. Instead, this time they threw in some crushed up appricot seeds to do the leg work. To be honest the thing I remember most about the sample was the color. It was like a silvery gunmetal grey. I took the greatest risk you can take while washing your face; I opened my eyes. I did this to double check that I hadn't just rubbed acrylic paint all over my mind-blowingly gorgeous face. Both times I survived and saw no traces of the pigmentation residing on my hands. A real shame.

Mt. Sapola Charcoal Soap

Not for use with BBQs

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love good bar soap. Bonus points for this being the second item to smell like chocolate mint. Oh sure, it's not the scent they were going for, but I don't hold that against them. To be fair, if Wonka's chocolate river mixed with a crest factory you might have a closer idea to the smell. Yes, chocolate toothpaste (patent pending) sounds about right. The charcoal color is something I've had issues with in the past, primarily with the dye sticking to my shower. It wasn't as big of an issue this time around, but still had residual color left where it sat. Charcoal unfortunately only refers to the color of the soap, as the exfoliation is accomplished by some kind of rice. So not only do you not get the exfoliating experience of a lifetime, but you may as well kiss that Chimney Sweep costume goodbye.

Icon Q Altos Earphones with Mic

Triangle box can also be used as a survival tool when confronted with wildlife.
This review almost didn't happen! The packaging was reminiscent of the torturous Christmas mornings where it took poor dad three hours to undo twist ties and rip open clam-shell packaging before I could play with my toys, which ultimately just ended with both of us in tears. Not only was it difficult to open, but the package was triangle. What that means is that when I finally managed to wrestly open one end of the package I may as well have opened a switch blade. This razor sharp point kept shanking my hand like he was some prison yard bully. No matter, I'll just open the other sid- DOUBLE SWITCHBLADE!!!!! The headphones sound pretty good, I mean they certainly give my beloved $10 Gummy plus headphones a run for their money. The cord unfortunately tangles a little easier than I would like. Sound is pretty great, the in-ear pieces come in multiple sizes and the mic is also a nice touch. I was eager to get a different sample this month, but now that I'm blasting Jibs "Chain Hang Low" into my cranium, I really can't complain too much.

Well, that's it for now I guess. I may return to Birchbox reviews at some point, but at the moment the cash just isn't there, or rather it's going to be reallocated to either other nerdy stuff or just food. I hope you've enjoyed this series, because it's really been a blast to write. I'm off to use up my Birchbox points on two pairs of fancy new socks.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Decking the Halls with Birchbox Man

You're on the internet. You're always open.

Fa la lalala you filthy animals. That’s right it’s that time of month again where I can tout my superior grooming techniques for all seven of my readers. I pay some company money and they send me a bunch of cutesie samples in the mail every month. Then, get this, the BRIBE me to write reviews of the products with points that I can use to get discounts in their store. This month’s reviews are crucial because A) it’s Christmas and I have to get my lady friend (wife) some fancy lotions and B) these reviews will put me over the 500 point mark before the year ends which will qualify me for their VIP “Aces” program. So, let’s get started.

The goods.

The official smell of Fort Knox

English Laundrey Notting Hill Cologne: Well well well, English Laundry, what a surprise! Those of you that have read previous reviews may have noticed that this brand is pretty much a standard. Just from their cologne line I’ve received at least 5 samples. That being said, they’re still a quality brand and one of the only ones that I’ve actually made a full sized purchase from. This Cologne, for starters, comes in a gold colored sample container. That, so despite it’s scent, despite anything about it I already felt like Scrooge McDuck getting ready to be covered in sweet, sweet gold. Thankfully, this stuff smelled better than money. While it, of course, gave my wife an asthma attack, she managed to gasp out that she otherwise enjoyed the smell. The scent has a lot going on, but not overwhelmingly so. With a quick spritz you too can envelop yourself in a cloud of gold dust that smells like the manliest lemon grove you’ve ever encountered.

I don't care that it's a sawdust covered cough drop, I'm in love with it!

Ernest Supplies Awake and Exfoliate Body Bar: There is nothing more inconvenient in life than having to put liquid soap onto a washcloth. You’re literally wasting your time, which as it turns out is eerily similar to wasting money, by taking the step of applying goop to a piece of fabric before rubbing it over your body. Oh sure! you could just put the soap on your hands and wash that way, but you know as soon as you’re under running water it’s all going to slip out of your hand and you’ll essentially just be washing with tap water. Maybe others won’t know just how low your lack of hygiene has sunk, but you’ll know. It’s a round-about way of saying it, but my point is I love bar soap. Ernest Supplies offering this month is the best I’ve tried. Imagine that a first rate soap making factory was next to a sawdust factory (probably a real thing) and there was a freak accident where the two accidently combined their products….and both were made better by it. This bar of soap smells like a cough drop that was accidentally spit out in a Christmas tree lot and got a bunch of pine needles stuck to it (I think I have a problem conveying positive imagery...point being, it smells good). The bar has bits of not-quite-sawdust embedded into it that gives an exfoliating feel to it without killing fish like those plastic bead exfoliants. It’s an invigorating smell and feel that will allow you to wash WITHOUT a washcloth.

Pomade is very, very different from lemonade. 

Hanz de Fuko Modify Pomade: I embarrassed myself last week by blubbering on about how much I liked the Hanz de Fuko sponge wax pomade that came in my last birchbox… I like this one even better. This stuff has an even lighter hold to it and is far easier to apply to your hair. You can’t expect to have Johnny Bravo-like waves, but you can have that “I just got out of the shower” look all day long, which looks great and also gives the illusion that you showered. The application process is painless and not greasy. The stuff easily spreads even in cold weather and manages to blend in nicely with wet hair. I have yet to try it with dry hair, but I imagine it will be a lot easier than my current pomade of choice. Scent-wise it’s not overbearing nor unpleasant, just a faint clean smelling pomade that’s the easiest to use out of any I’ve received thus far and my current favorite.  
If someone fears a pirate with one eye-patch, imagine how they'll fear me with TWO eye-patches!

Recipe for Men Under Eye Patches: The last time I ventured out to try an under-eye product I was at the AHAVA factory near the Dead Sea in Israel. They had a number of samples out and, after trying out the most expensive ones, I found myself face to face with some cream that was meant to make you look younger. Being 19 at the time, I thought it would be hilarious to try some out. About two seconds after putting this stuff under my eyes I started to experience that burning sensation people often feel when they light their face on fire. My eyes began to get red and puffy and I spent the bus ride back to the moshav looking like a mother getting no sleep due to her young triplets keeping her up all night. Flash forward to today. I get a pair of these patches from “Recipe for Men” and gave it another shot. To my relief, I felt a cooling sensation. The patches are gooey and feel kind of like big slugs, to the point where I questioned if this was actually something I wanted on my face. But, after the required half hour with them on I peeled them off to reveal a more hydrated looking and feeling face. While I’m not glowing by any stretch of the imagination, it was thoroughly refreshing, and something I absolutely would not have tried without a free sample.

They're like mittens for your feet.

Nice Laundry Socks: I was given the chance to choose from a small list of items, what to recieve as a lifestyle item this month. With no hesitation at all I chose to get some new socks. I’ve been waiting for months to get a sample of socks or boxer briefs, and this was the first opportunity for such. I got two pairs of these things and they are, without a doubt, the best socks I own. They’re comfortable, soft and very durable. However, I got this package shortly before a cold snap and I’m finding out quickly that they are not particularly warm. While they would be fine most of the year, it’s currently below 20 degrees (which is intangible for someone that grew up in southern California) and my toes are a bit chilly to the point of feeling like they’re needing to be lopped off from frost bite. The colors are the best. When  

If you're interested in signing up for Birchbox click here to access my referral link! Birchbox sends you a unique box of samples every month based on your personalized profile. Men's boxes are $20 and include a cool lifestyle item. Women's boxes have no lifestyle item but are only $10 a month.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How I get Paid to Take Surveys

*Not an accurate representation of $30.

Since the dawn of the internet I've heard the legends that people can get paid to take surveys. The story goes you get paid to answer consumer questionnaires and make a fortune in no time! The mythological money making experience has eluded me for the majority of my life...until 10 days ago. While browsing the internet I stumbled upon a forum where people were discussing quick ways to earn cash. Something called "Amazon Mechanical Turk" was mentioned. I skipped over it, because I have a limited attention span. I stuck with my current form of earning extra cash, donating plasma, and went along my merry way. Until, again, I saw "Amazon Mechanical Turk" mentioned again. I gave it a shot and, 10 days ago and now have $30 that can either be transferred to a bank account or turned into Amazon credit. As a Prime subscriber this is gold. Now 30 bucks is hardley the fortune I was initially promised at the ripe old age of 12, but, with Christmas coming up, combined with donating plasma (oh yeah, and working a full time job) it was going to make things a lot easier.

Here's the deal: Amazon has this service that allows businesses and individuals to offer compensation for tasks that people can accept. These tasks (or HITS) are essentially "Micro jobs" that you complete and get anywhere from 2 cents to a couple dollars (more if you put in the time and get certifications for different jobs). It's not much, and to be honest it was a little discouraging completing tasks for pennies. However, it added up. You're on a 10 day probational period when you start, meaning you can't access your balance until 10 days of performing tasks. In those 10 days I managed to accumulate $30 simply by hopping on their website when I had a few minutes to blow and completing easy tasks that computers find hard. Sometimes I was filling out surveys, sometimes I was drawing squares around people in Europe. That 10 day probational period most likely prevented me from spending my balance, forcing me to accumulate the money I have now, which is just about enough to purchase one of the gifts I was going to use my own money to buy anyway. And that's just in 10 days! You put however much time you want into it, and if you get good enough at searching you can score $.40-$.50 hits consistently.

So, if you're interested in earning a little extra scratch head over to Amazon Mechanical Turk and sign up. You'll need to create an Amazon Payments account and be approved (usually takes a day or two) before you can get started. It's all super easy, especially if you already have an Amazon account.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

This November I am Thankful for the Christmas Season

Today, I am going to buy my first carton of Eggnog of the season and I am going to sit down and watch one of the most under-appreciated Christmas TV specials of all time. "A Muppet Family Christmas" is a made-for-TV special that features The Muppets, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock spending Christmas with Fozzy's mother at her farm house. Currently the only DVD version available is horribly butchered due to licensing issues. However, you can watch it in it's entire 47 minute glory on Youtube. Or, you know what? Lets just put it right here.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Greg Hardy Has Quite the Alma Mater

This is an old video that was recently re-brought to my attention. Greg Hardy of the Panthers calls himself "Kraken" and states that he went to Hogwarts during a football game. It is by far my favorite moment in any professional football game.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Birchbox is Making Me Thankful This November

Once a month I'm forced to come out of my hygienial hibernation and test out some quality grooming products. I pay twenty bucks to BirchBox and in return they make me look like a million bucks.

Programs! Get your programs! You won't know whats what without em!
Scrubbing bubbles for your face.

The never ending quest for a decent face-wash continues as Birchbox sent me their third offering. I really like my wife’s Walmart face wash because it smells like a lemon drop. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need something of my own, and the last two offerings have been...underwhelming, in a chemically smell kind of way. This stuff, however, has a mild scent to it that’s simple and soothing in the same way that warm laundry soothes a cat, or myself. But the best part? The bubbles. This stuff foams and feels like you’re brushing your teeth, but got carried away and just decided to go the whole nine yards and lather up the rest of your face. Your face ends up feeling good and clean… just like all the other ones, but with a better smell and more enjoyable journey.

Not actually for use with sponges.

My first official BirchBox purchase was some English Laundry Pomade that I ended up loving. I like this stuff better. Sometimes I don’t have the 60 seconds it takes to do my hair. My usual routine involves me kneeling outside the tub and placing my head under the faucet at full power. I then apply my product of choice and go on my merry way. This wax shaves my routine of the precious seconds it takes to half drown myself in the morning. Yes, you caught me, I don’t shower EVERY morning. Did you ever think that maybe I just shower at night because I don’t like going to bed sweaty and gross? This stuff makes it possible to mold my hair into whatever shape I desire...which tends to be just regular hair shaped.

Someday I hope to be worthy enough to use these.

These are $12 pencils. Despite feeling nice, looking great and coming in a fancy box; they are still $12 pencils. I love the way they look and I’m enamored by the fancy packaging. I feel like they’ll make me be a better writer and that I could maybe draw really well if I used them. But that’s mostly because they’re $12 pencils.

My biggest problem with this notebook is that I feel I’m incapable of filling it with anything worth it’s cover price. I mean, it’s not the best looking thing in the world, but a stylish notebook like this deserves better than what I can offer it. The pages are heavy duty paper with stylish grid dots. The whole thing has a very minimalistic feel, again making me feel woefully unsophisticated because of my general use of cheap knock-off brand notebooks. Unfortunately I did not receive the red notebook. As was the case with the Wallet they sent me a while back, I got the blue version. If they really cared about me, they would have scoured my social media posts to find out that red is my favorite color (even though it’s secretly purple).

Might I interest you in some pepper water?

To my wife’s horror, I’m developing quite a collection of asthma inducing aromas. While I don’t mind being prepared for any situation, this was a less than ideal scent. It was spicier than previous samples I've received, but not in a pleasant way. On the whole, it was unremarkable, which is saying something from a small glass bottle that came packaged with an exotic postcard in a sheer rice paper envelope. I mean, cologne and perfume is known for it’s pretentious marketing schemes, but usually they have a strong enough scent to warrant the proverbial parade that this thing was packaged in. I’m familiar with this brand, and I realize that all their samples are packaged as such, but out of the three I have, I only like one. And that’s only because it smells like lemonade.

Birchbox continues to mock my sedentary lifestyle.

This was the second month in a row  that I've been given a product for gentlemen with rough hands. I think BirchBox is subtly hinting that I need to have a more active lifestyle. The jokes on them, I’ve been spending my days off working in a cabinet shop using my own two hands to move rough slabs of wood from one area to another. While my hands are far from calloused, they managed to get nice and dry on the knuckles and this stuff did the trick, soothing my burning finger tips and chapped knuckles I was able to endure the pain. I am, however too embarrassed to offer such a product to the gents that work full time doing this, as they have never complained about such problems despite having hands that look like chunks of sandpaper.  

Birchbox is a monthly subscription service that sends grooming samples and lifestyle items based on a profile you customize. Here is my referral link, you can use this get me bonus points so I can buy myself nice things.