Brighten Up! How to add pops of color to your everyday spring make-up

I don’t know about you but when this time of the year rolls around I immediately want to start wearing brighter colors. This doesn’t have to stop with your wardrobe. There are many easy ways to add pops of color in your make-up routine, even for the neutrals only girl.

Bright Lips:

The easiest way to brighten up any look is a bright coral or plum lip. Keep the eyes and the rest of the face light and pop on your favorite bright lipstick. Finding the right lipstick for your skin can always be a struggle. Testing out drugstore options before making the plunge for a higher end bright lipstick is always a great idea. I love corals much more during the warmer months when I have a tan. Any type of bright lip really just screams spring/summer to me.

Above I have a few of my favorites:

  • Mac Costa Chic – This is my go-to coral lipstick. It’s bright enough to really pop but not too much to wear for an everyday look
  • Maybelline Hot Plum – This is part of their Vivids line so you know this is a bright lipstick. I love this color for me when I really want something out of the box but I highly recommend checking any of their lipsticks out from this line.
  • Hourglass Muse – The first liquid lip I tried and still one of my favorite formulas. This is the perfect lip to throw on and forget about as this formula does not budge!

 

Swatches from L-R: Hourglass, Maybelline, Mac

 

Blue Eyes:

My favorite and go-to way to add color throughout the spring/summer months is lining the lower lash line with a bright blue or turquoise liner. When I really want my eyes to pop I’ll even smoke out my lower lash line with blue shadow as well. If you really want to go out of the box, keep the whole face neutral and add a graphic blue winged liner to the upper lid. One that has shimmer in it is an even brighter touch. If all this is a little much for your spring make-up routine, keep it simple by doing your regular liquid eyeliner and adding a touch of the blue to the top of it.

For liquid liner I recommend:

  • Wet N Wild Megaliner in A Case of Blue – This is such a pretty pale blue liner that could brighten any look. For such a cheap drugstore liner this is so pigmented and easy to apply.
  • Stila Bora Bora – This is one of their sparkle waterproof eyeliners so it has a little shimmer in it and also stays on all day!

Eyeshadow:

  • Nars South Pacific – This is great duo of eyeshadows that allows you to pick the paler shade for day looks or the brighter shade when your really trying to make your lower lash line pop.

Eyeliner:

  • Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in Radium and Flipside – These are my all time favorite eye liner pencils. They stay on throughout the summer heat and apply so smoothly. Urban Decay bundles multiple of these colored eyeliners together occasionally which I would recommend checking out.

Bright Coral Cheeks:

The perfect way to brighten up any neutral look is to add a bright pop of color on the cheeks. I love a bright shimmery coral blush during the summer. This color looks great on a summer tan. I like shimmery blushes more during the summer because I don’t need to wear a highlight. Adding multiple products to your cheeks can cause them to look cakey and over done, especially during the hot summer days.

Above are my two favorite coral blushes:

  • NYX Ombre Blush in Feel the Heat – This line of blushes has to be one of my all time favorites. They’re perfect because they’re buildable and you also have the option to swirl in the lighter side which is where the shimmer is at.
  • Too Faced Perfect Flush Blush in Sparkling Bellini – This blush also gives you the option to customize the shade you’re looking for. This blush has an all over shimmer in it which gives you that glow from within look instead of straight on sparkles.

These are all my favorite ways to brighten up a neutral look during the warmer months. As someone who was once scared of any sort of colored make-up products, playing around with brighter colors can be fun and exciting! What are your favorite ways to change up your make-up looks in the spring?

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Tarte Make Believe in Yourself Eye & Cheek Palette l Swatches and First Impressions

When I saw this collection launch I knew I had to pick up the Make Believe in Yourself Eye & Cheek Palette. I also grabbed the brushes but haven’t had much time to play around with them to really form an opinion. First, I love the name of this collection. I feel like many brands are recently creating product names and packaging that promote a “self love”/”love the skin your in” vibe.

Breakdown:

The palette itself is absolutely stunning from the box it comes in, the outside and inside of the palette, from the sparkling eyeshadows to the large luxurious looking mirror. The four shades on the right immediately grabbed my attention as you can tell they’re packed with glitter whereas the shades on the right are more of a shimmer. This palette includes one matte shade located at the top of the palette called Myth. This shadow is the perfect transition/crease shade to work with all of the high shine shadows in the palette. I was very excited to see that this was included, as many brands create shimmer/glitter only palettes that pretty much require you have to use other eyeshadows or palettes in your collection. The middle shade, which I completely looked over when I first saw pictures of this palette, is considered a pearl highlight for the face and eye.

Swatches:

From Top to Bottom (shade descriptions are taken from Tarte’s website):

  • Myth – matte nude
  • Magic – bronze
  • Wings – copper
  • Marvel – metallic sage
  • Trance – taupe slate

This side of the palette really grabbed my attention first. Wings, Magic and Trance have a gorgeous sparkle to them that are perfect for an all over the lid color. These look even better when used spritz with Fix + and foiled onto the eyelid. The top shade Myth is the only matte shade in the palette. I was super disappointed with how this shade swatched on my hand but on the eyelid it performs much better and is the perfect transition shade. These shades do come with a lot of fallout on the eye but so do many other glitter shadows. I would recommend doing your eye make-up first or using a glitter glue, my favorites is Too Faced Glitter Glue .

From Top to Bottom (shade descriptions are taken from Tarte’s website):

  • Fairy – metallic lavender
  • Mystic – blue pearl
  • Dream – turquoise
  • Crystal – iridescent champagne
  • Pixie – golden pink

Far Right:

  • Believe – pearl highlight

This side of the palette really disappointed me when swatching it. They are pretty shades don’t get me wrong but they were very hard to capture through a camera. These shadows are much more toned down and could easily be worn everyday. I’m excited to use the blues on the my lower lash line during the summer months. Believe, which is a face/eye highlight swatches really patchy and powdery. I was kind of disappointed in this shade because I felt the whole palette was centered around it in a way. It’ s a very wearable highlight and does look beautiful blended on the brow bone or the inner corner. It’s not a high shine, in your face kind of highlight but since most of the shades are that way it works well with them.

Overview:

All together I wouldn’t say this palette blew it out of the water but I was very happy with it. Some of shades weren’t the greatest swatched but on the eyes they did look beautiful. I’m excited to play more around with this palette and see what looks I can come up with. The packaging is sturdy and gorgeous making this product feel very high-end. I’m intrigued with all these brands putting out ‘unicorn’ and ‘fantasy’ inspired products and know I’ll be grabbing a few more in the future. It does seem a little gimmicky but I’m a sucker for cute packaging and anything pastel or holographic.

 

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The Skin Care Product I Didn’t Know I Needed

Real Techniques recently released multiple new sponges at Ulta. These included a dual-ended sponge for foundation and contouring, a Miracle Finish Sponge for a more natural look, contouring wedges, blotting cushions, a body complexion sponge and lastly their Miracle Cleansing Sponge. All of these sponges are shaped like their original Miracle Complexion Sponge but I’m assuming have different textures and feelings to them. The only one that really caught my eye, which I decided to purchase, was the Miracle Cleansing Sponge.

The Product I Didn’t Know I Needed:

Originally I was nervous this sponge would be too harsh for everyday use since I do have very sensitive skin. I started off using it every other day just in case it irritated my skin. This turned out to not be necessary. The sponge itself feels rough when dry but when it’s wet it becomes super soft and comfortable. When used with a cleanser on the face it provides the gentlest exfoliation, making it okay for every day use. I used this sponge with my regular Cetaphil cleanser but also tried it with a variety of other cleansers. I even tested this out with a light exfoliater that I use every couple of days and it still worked great.

This is such a simple product to add to anyones skin care routine and can create a huge difference. Any facial cleanser will be amped up to provide a deeper cleanse and a smooth base for make up application. This product is latex-free and retails for $5.99 making it a cheap product to transform any cleanser. Another added bonus of this product is how easy it is to clean after your finished using your cleanser and then set out to dry. On Ulta’s website it is recommend to replace the sponge every 1-3 months.

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Real Techniques: Bold Metals Collection

I’m huge fan of Real Techniques brushes and have been eyeing their bold metals collection for a while now. These brushes do come with a heftier price tag than their other brushes so I always found away to talk myself out of purchasing a few. A couple of weeks ago they ran a BOGO sale on Ulta.com, making it the perfect time for me to pick up a few. Since I’ve been able to use them and the diamond sponge for a couple of weeks now, I figured it was the perfect time to review them for others wondering how the quality compares to their other brushes.

These brushes run from $12.99 to $20.99. The collection also includes a sponge shaped like a diamond costing $9.99. The brushes are color coordinated for which step in the make-up application process they are used for. The gold handles are for base products, the silver handle for the eyes and the rose gold handle for finishing products. These brushes are marketed as their ‘softest bristles ever’ and have weighted handles for ‘balance, control and comfort’.

Silver

I picked up three of the silver handle eye brushes. From left to right: 200 Oval Shadow brush, 201 Pointed Crease brush, and 203 Tapered Shadow brush. All of the brushes have super soft bristles and make applying product super easy. I have really enjoyed using these brushes for applying my eye shadow, I use 200 for my all over lid color, 201 with darker colors in the crease or outer corner, and 203 as a blending brush. I believe you can never have enough blending brushes and actually picked up two of these. The only negative thing I have to say about these brushes is they are pretty basic shapes so you most likely already have similar brushes in your collection. All three of these brushes are $12.99.

Rose Gold

The only rose gold handle brush I purchased was the 300 Tapered Blush Brush. At first I was a little turned off as this brush was a lot smaller than I thought it’d be. It seemed to be a perfect brush to blend out contour but I put it to the test and used it for my blush. After multiple applications I did get used to the brush shape and absolutely love it now. The bristles are super soft and make blending out blushes so easy. I love the long handle and the fact that its weighted makes it feel luxurious. This brush retails for $18.99.

Gold

The last brush I picked up was a gold handle brush, 100 Arched Powder brush. Originally I used this as a regular powder brush to set my foundation. Although the bristles were soft, much like all the other brushes, I just wasn’t wowed by it. I usually use flat top brushes to set my foundation and this just didn’t compare. I put it down for a couple of days and then decided to use it with my bronzer. Now I love this brush and it’s the only brush I enjoy using with my all over face bronzer. Again, like the other brushes, it applies the product so beautiful and flawless. Out of all the brushes I think I would recommend this one the most as I didn’t have a similar brush in my large brush collection. The other brushes could be easily duped but for this one I can’t think of a similar brush. This brush runs for $20.99.

Diamond Sponge

The last thing I purchased was the Miracle Diamond Sponge which I was unaware was a part of their Bold Metals collection until I saw the packaging. I’ve also tried their Miracle Complexion Sponge which I’m a huge fan of for the price. This sponge has such a unique shape which I think makes it sort of gimmicky. Although the sponge is beyond cute and stands out from all the other sponges in my collection, the shape does not benefit this sponge at all. I like the flat surface on top but that’s about the only part of this sponge I can use. The multiple edges provide no added benefits for application. I tried the pointed side numerous times to blend out my concealer under my eyes but it’s so slim that it makes that side sort of flimsy and hard to get control over. This sponge is super unique and pretty but I would definitely pass, it’s not something I would repurchase. This sponge retails for $9.99.

 

Altogether I thought this was a great collection and really steps up Real Techniques brushes. The bristles live up to their claim of being softer than their original brushes and the weighted handles help the brushes feel great in your hand which adds control.  This collection feels like higher end brushes but they do come with a higher price tag than their normal brushes. Luckily this brand usually has sales going on at Ulta (I think right now if you buy two products you get one free).

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Battle of the Meal Boxes: Home Chef

I was really excited when I stumbled across this subscription meal box. Originally, I was going to go straight for Hello Fresh for my second installment of Battle of the Meal Boxes since it’s the one I’ve heard most about next to Blue Apron. When first I came across Home Chef I immediately knew it blew Blue Apron out of the water. From its wider variety of meals to it’s easier customization Home Chef has been a great experience when it comes to subscription meal boxes.

Home Chef

I came across Home Chef fairly easily during my research into subscription meal boxes. Upon looking at the website and going over what the service offers, I very quickly signed up for my first box. Like many other subscription meal boxes this one offers $30 off your first box.

Getting Started:

The website itself is fairly easy to navigate. Upon entering your email and your zip code the site takes you to select your dietary preferences. What I like about Home Chef, compared to the other meal boxes I’ve tried, is you can enter all of your dietary needs instead of just being offered three vegetarian options a week. You also have the option to choose 8 meals a week for up to 8 servings so any type of household can be accommodated. 

Each week you’re offered 10 dinner options to choose from, a breakfast option and additional add ons which include smoothie ingredients or a seasonal fruit basket. You can filter through this options by having only low-carb, low-calorie, gluten-free, etc. options show if you didn’t originally select those dietary preferences. Before selecting the meal you have the option of exploring the recipe and seeing the nutrition facts, the amount of time the meal takes and the spice level.

Each week you have the option to add the smoothie or fruit basket for $4.95 and occasionally there are higher end meals you can add-on for a small additional cost. What’s great about Home Chef is that all the meals are always available so that it doesn’t matter if you pick a certain meal all the other meals are still available and can be added to your box. You also always have the option to skip multiple weeks. 

The Cost:

Like other boxes there are several different meal plans you can select from. For this series I have decided to stick with 3 meals a week for two people. Without any of the add-ons this comes out to $59.70 per week with free shipping. This comes out to $9.95 per meal which seems about standard for subscription meal boxes. Home Chef offers free shipping for all order over $45.00 so if you’d like to do only 2 meals a week you’d have to factor in the $10 shipping as well. A referral program is also offered through Home Chef. You can give a friend $30 off a meal and receive a $30 credit for your next box.

My referral code to receive $30 off: Home Chef 

Inside the Box:

In your first box you receive an empty binder as your ‘cookbook’. I think this is such a small but cute and thoughtful touch. Each recipe is hole punched so you can easily add it to the binder. Inside the binder a couple of pages were already included that described some cooking techniques, information on where the ingredients are from, and how to recycle everything included inside the box. All the ingredients for each recipe are wrapped together and then the meat is included under ice packs in the box. The box was very well packaged and easily recycled.

Cooking the Meals:

I thought the recipe cards were so much easier to read and follow compared to the other meal boxes I’ve tried. On the front you can easily see how much time the recipe takes, the ‘spicy level’ and the difficulty level. It also includes how long you have before you should cook the meal so you can plan which meals you should cook first. On the side of the recipe they also include interesting facts about the meal, ingredients and cooking tips. They also clearly state when an ingredient is used twice so you know ahead of time.

 

 

All of the recipes were very easy to follow and fun to cook. There was no confusion with the instructions which made all the recipes, even the more difficult ones, pretty easy. I really enjoyed all the recipes as they were definitely not things I thought a novice in the kitchen could complete. These were recipes I wouldn’t pick out to cook for myself which made cooking them even more enjoyable.

 

 

Overview:

Throughout this whole process – the website, picking out the meals, receiving the box and cooking the meals, I was overly impressed. This is definitely the meal box to beat as of now. Just like the other ones I think these are a great idea for those who have a busy lifestyle and aren’t the best with planning out meals or grocery shopping. As somebody who thought they were terrible at cooking, which in return caused me to hate it, I look forward to cooking these meals. Its such a fun thing to do with a partner or even by yourself. I liked this box a lot as well because you can easily select a quick meal when your hungry and don’t have much time. Saving the more difficult meal for later on in the week when you’re feeling adventurous.

Home Chef was great because of all the options it offered. I loved how it included a breakfast meal you could pick but you aren’t forced to include this every week. I also love the add on smoothie and seasonal fruit options. This is such a great idea as you can easily add this on one week and not the next. The meal varieties are what really sold me. There’s so many different meals to choose from that there’s bond to be something for everyone.

Again the price point does set me off. $60 does seem to be about average for these meal boxes (for 3 two serving sized meals a week) which is a little pricy for something to commit to week after week. With the coupon code and other added perks from this service I do highly recommend checking it out.

My referral code to receive $30 off: Home Chef 

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BareMinerals x Ingrid Nilsen I Swatches and Review

As I was scrolling through Sephora.com, in the market for a new face powder, I stumbled on this new collection from BareMinerals. I’ve seen some of Ingrid Nilsen’s videos but I wouldn’t label myself as a big fan by any means. I’ve also used BareMinerals powders before and have a couple of brushes from them that I love. So after seeing how cute the bag in this collection was, I knew it was something I wanted to pick up.

Inside the Bag

The kit itself includes a full size BareMinerals Original Foundation in your choice of shade, Invisible Glow Highlighter in Resilience, a rose gold Beautiful Finish Brush with the phrase “be you” written in cursive on the handle and a make-up bag with the quote “Be your best self”. I think both the bag and the brush are so cute. I love how this collection is so positive and promoting your best self. This bag is great quality and I know I’ll be getting a lot of use out of it. I’ve used the Original Foundation before and have found myself coming back to it a lot.

 

The brush has such an odd shape that I was really worried about how it would it apply to powder. It’s advertised that it works perfectly with their ‘swirl, tap, blend’ method of applying powder and I couldn’t agree more! The concaved center of the brush picks up a good amount of powder and the longer outside bristles help trap the perfect amount of product when you tap of the excess. The bristles are beyond soft and blend the powder out seamlessly.

The highlighter itself is a unique shade designed by Ingrid. It’s a gold pearl shade that looks beautiful in the pan. Since the highlighter is marketed as an invisible glow I was surprised at how shimmery it appeared in the pan. Once swatched though it appears just as a subtle glow. This translates onto the face as the prettiest glow from within highlighter. It reminds me a lot of the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powders. The powder itself is super finely milled and blends beautifully. There’s no stark glitter or pigment so it’s a very natural looking highlight. The swatch below is very heavily layered to show the color and glow.

 

 

 

 

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Touch in Sol vs. Revlon Photoready Eye Art: Comparison + Swatches

Sadly, New Years Eve has recently passed so a post comparing two glitter products may seem outdated but let’s be real glitter is always in season. I picked up the Touch in Sol Metallist Liquid Foil & Glitter Shadow Duo awhile ago and immediately fell in love. When I saw the Revlon Photoready Eye Art in my CVS a couple of months ago I was so excited, assuming they would be similar, and picked up two. Unfortunately, I was slightly let down.

I have heard great things about the Revlon product, so I’m sorry if you’re a big fan this post may not be for you.

Packaging and Applicator:

Revlon 100 Topaz Twinkle – Shadow on left, Liner on Right

The biggest difference to note is that the Revlon duo markets itself as having a lid shade on one end and a glitter liner on the other. While the Touch in Sol is a shadow duo so both products are meant for the lid.

The Revlon shadow has a flat doe foot that is very flexible, easily bent back and forth. The liner side has a brush applicator which in my opinion is a little too thick to be used to apply a liner. Think of the Urban Decay glitter liners but with a brush 2-3X the size.

As for the Touch in Sol the foiled shadow side also has doe foot applicator but it’s much stiffer. I personally prefer the Revlon’s shadow applicator but I think it’s really preference. Now since the glitter is not a liner it comes in more of a loose pigment form. It’s not entirely a true glitter pigment but it is loose and can be messy. The applicator has a soft, flexible plastic end. I’ve seen mixed reviews about it but I think it makes the glitter very easy to pick up and apply to the eye.

Touch in Sol #5 Lottie – Foiled shadow on left, glitter shadow on right

Application and Wear:

Since I found the Revlon glitter side a little hard to apply as a liner I did originally wear the shadow and then applied the liner all over my lid as I would with a glitter pigment. I did find the glitter was hard to apply evenly as you can see in the swatches at the bottom. Both the shadow and the glitter burned my eyes every time I applied them which was very disappointing. I do have sensitive eyes though. I found that these started to flake off in a matter of hours which became extremely annoying through the nights I’ve worn it. Blending shadows on top of the foiled shade is pretty much impossible but I didn’t find that too surprising. To give the shadow itself a fair chance I have worn it alone on multiple occasions. Although it’s a beautiful color I found that flaked off super easily and even easier if I accidentally scratched or rubbed my eyes.

On the flip side,  I adore the Touch in Sol foiled shadow and glitter. Both of these shadows look stunning swatched and on the eyes. The glitter looks beautiful over the foiled shadow or even worn with different shadows for other looks. I think this method of applying glitter is super easy and great for anyone who has trouble or shys away for glitter. The glitter is pigment and you really only need one swipe on the eyelid to apply it. I keep meaning to pick up more of these in the other shades. Applying the foiled shadow directly with the doe foot applicator can tricky, as with any liquid shadow, but I either recommend doing it first in your look or using a smaller brush.

From Left to Right: Revlon 100 Topaz Twinkle Shadow + Liner, Revlon 110 Steel Spark Shadow + Liner, Touch in Sol #5 Lottie Shadow + Glitter

Overview:

I was praying I found a dupe for the Touch in Sol when I first saw the Revlon Photoready Eye Art but sadly that was not the case. Even though these products are marketed slightly different, I also find a huge difference in the quality. The Touch in Sol is slightly costly at $25 compared to Revlon’s $8.99. The Revlon product also comes in a larger selection of colors, including a few bold options like a bright lilac and a cobalt blue.

Overall I would repurchase the Touch in Sol over and over again but will definitely not be picking up any more of Revlon’s duo.

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DIY Spa Kit: Lavender Infused Cocoa Butter Bath Melts

I’m a huge fan of good bath and shower products but they can cost a ridiculous amounts for ingredients you might already own. I chose this DIY as my first in a spa kit series because of how incredibly simple it was. All of these ingredients were easy to find and are great for the skin.

Cocoa Butter Benefits

Cocoa butter is a natural moisturizer that is high in fatty acids. This helps penetrate the skin deeper than a normal moisturizer would. These fatty acids are areoleic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid which also provide anti-aging benefits. Since this a natural ingredient it’s great for people with sensitive or irritable skin. The scent of chocolate and vanilla has also been proven to have aromatherapy benefits.

Lavender Essential Oil Benefits

Essential oils each have their own benefits when it comes to aromatherapy. Lavender has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety. It is a popular oil for baths due to its calming properties. Lavender has also been proven to alleviate headaches and improve sleep.

 

What You’ll Need:

1/4 cup of Cocoa Butter

2 tablespoons of Coconut Oil

20 drops of Lavender Essential Oil

Silicone Baking Molds

~the links above are Amazon affiliate links but are all products I used and stand by~

The Process:

  1. Using either the stove top or a microwave, melt the cocoa butter and coconut oil and mix together. Both of these products are solid at room temperature but melt just above it so they don’t need to be heated up too much or they will over heat.
  2. After mixing these two together and they’ve cooled slightly add the essential oil. You don’t want to add this until your mixture has cooled slightly so that the oils don’t evaporate.
  3. Carefully pour the mixture into the silicone molds.
  4. Let these cool in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  5. And that’s it! Super simple! It’s important though to store these in a cool dry place. Any warmth or moisture will cause these to melt prematurely. I recommend keeping them stored in the fridge to be safe.

 

Now pop 2-3 of these into your next bath and relax!

 

 

 

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Personalized Valentine’s Gift Ideas for the Special Someone in your Life

Valentine’s day is always a weird holiday for me, where you’re split on whether you should get your significant other a gift or not. My conclusion has always been that this a more personal romantic holiday so I like to skip the big budget busting presents and pick the smaller personalized or even homemade ones.

For the New Beau:

If you haven’t been dating this special someone for all that long I think anything edible is a great way to go. Of course chocolate strawberries is a go-to, the ones pictured above are from Shari’s Berries. Last year I made my boyfriend homemade ones and he loved them! I picked up long stem strawberries from the grocery store which can be much larger and look much better than regular strawberries. I melted down dark chocolate and white chocolate chips. If you wanted to you could even add red food coloring to half of the white chocolate to create a pink color. I then dipped half of them in each type of chocolate and used the other type of chocolate to decorate them. I did this by dipping a knife in the chocolate and using that to drizzle the chocolate over the covered strawberries. For some of them I also dipped them in coconut or crushed nuts. This created such a great variety of strawberries and they truly looked just as good as the ones in the stores.

For the Long Term or the Long Distance Relationship:

This is something I recently found and am actually giving to my boyfriend this year. The company is called Love Book and they create customized books that you can give to your significant other. You create a cute stick figure that looks like yourself and your boyfriend and they give you full customization over the pages. You can either pick between having a paperback of hardcover book with about a $10 difference. At first I was scared that I wouldn’t know what to add-on the pages but they give you tons of great ideas that you can pick and easily customize to your own relationship. There’s a set price for each the paperback and the hardback and then you can add as many pages as you would like.

For the Jet-Setters:

If you and your significant other travel often why not pick something that will suite your life style. You can find personalized passport covers and suitcase tags just about everywhere, the ones above are from Amazon. What’s even better is you can find matching ones so that you’re covered as well. These can have both of your names or initials on them. They could even be personalized with your favorite quote or a song that means a lot in your relationship.

For the Budget Friendly:

If this is just one of those years where buying a valentines present is out of the question there’s a tonnn of super cute personalized cards out there. I love looking on Etsy for them and always have the hardest time deciding.  You can find quirky NSFW cards or even have them personalized with your SO’s name. The one above is from the Etsy seller SiouxAlice. If you’re really ambitious why not even make a handmade card and include a picture of you guys. There’s nothing I appreciate more than receiving a handwritten card.

 

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Battle of the Meal Boxes: Blue Apron

So a little back story before I get into the review:

My boyfriend and I have a ton of family and friends that use meal delivery subscription services. We were torn for a while on whether these boxes were worth the price tag. Since a lot of the boxes offer some kind of discount for the first one, we decided that it couldn’t do any harm to test out a few to see how we like it. These subscription services make it fairly easy to skip multiple weeks and there’s usually no cancellation fee. A lot of them also offer an option to give free meals to new members which is what we did with some of our family/friends who have been long time users.

Blue Apron

For the first box we tested out we decided with Blue Apron because this seemed to be the most popular choice along with Hello Fresh. We easily found coupon codes for the first box and have seen/heard various radio and TV commercials promoting the brand.

Getting Started:

Registration was fairly easy, you just enter in all necessary shipping and billing information. After getting through Blue Apron will automatically select three meals for you:

 

 

These can easily be changed to any of the six meals offered for a particular week. There’s always three vegetarian options offered as well. If none of the meals appeal to you it’s super easy just to skip a particular week. The biggest downside about the meal selection is sometimes certain meals can’t be paired together. For instance in the meals offered below if you selected the Mushroom and Cabbage Dumplings you would not be able to also select the Cumin Crusted Pork.

The Cost:

Blue Apron offers several different plans including a family plan and the one we selected which is three meals a week that each serve two people. This plans comes out to $59.94 which includes shipping costs as well. So each meal would come out to $9.99 which isn’t really that bad when you break it down.

When creating your account we received a coupon code which made our first box $15 which is definitely a steal.

Inside the Box:

 

Each box is set to be delivered on Monday before 9 PM but we received ours before 6 PM. The food comes in a pretty in a large box with the Blue Apron logo on the outside. Inside you’ll find three recipe cards and all the ingredients you need for each dish.

Each recipe also includes a smaller brown bag with ‘Knick Knacks’ inside including smaller recipe items like red pepper flakes or a cube of garlic butter.

The only real negative about how the box is delivered is the items aren’t separated by what meal they belong to in any way, excluding the Knick Knack bags. It wasn’t too hard though to figure out what belonged with what.

They also included large ice packs which were placed over top the meat items. Everything was very securely inside the box and nothing was damaged or bruised when opened.

Cooking the Meals:

Alright just a warning, neither myself or my boyfriend are great cooks by any means so feel blessed you’re getting a peak into the kitchen with us in the pictures below.

 

 

The recipe card above shows how easy it is to prepare each meal. I highly recommend reading the directions all the way through because there were times where we didn’t think to preset the oven or start bowling water at the beginning of the recipe. Or if cooking with two people there are steps that can be combined and cooked at the same time to cute down on cooking time.

Each recipe specifies the preparation time and cooking time. All the meals we picked out did take longer than the time noted but that could also be because of our lack of kitchen skills.

 

It was definitely a lot of fun cooking these meals as they weren’t recipes we would normally cook. We also had the opportunity to cook with ingredients that I wouldn’t normally pick up such as fennel or tomatillos. The recipes were easy to follow and you could also go online to view more tips about certain cooking techniques.

Each meal also comes with all the nutritional value facts which is a nice touch.

Overview:

All together I think these boxes are a super clever idea. I think this is a great idea for people who think they don’t have much cooking talent (like us). These are meals we would have never normally picked out so it was really great experience. They also included some ingredients that we wouldn’t normally choose to cook such as fennel. The first box was 100% worth it just because of how cheap it was but then going up to around $60 a box is not something we could commit too.

I liked how they included the recipe card so we could easily go out, buy the groceries and recreate the recipes. This is also makes this box great because we both hate grocery shopping so having all the items you needed delivered to your door is beyond convenient.

All the meals included super fresh ingredients and you could even go online to look at where the ingredients were from. The only things we found that were not included in the box were items such a salt and pepper and olive oil.

At first we were scared the portions may be a little too small but they were perfect. Each meal said it had two servings but we found that we always had a little but of leftovers.

Another extra perk is that Blue Apron offers a win paring service that you can add. For extra money each week Blue Apron will add wine that pairs with the selected meal. This is something you can pick and choose if you want add each week which is a nice touch.

Since we are trying out some of the other meal boxes, we aren’t going to jump into repurchasing this one. At the moment we are just skipping weeks but I think we will reuse this service every once in awhile when the recipes seem like they are worth it.

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