Frosty VoxBox

This month (December 2014), I received a Frosty VoxBox full of goodies to review.  These products were provided free from Influenster, and I agree to review them online.  In this box, I got a bunch of stuff to review.

Product Reviews

  • No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Serum from Boots Beauty USA.  Claims to “be even more effective at reducing the appearance of fine lines for younger looking skin in just two weeks.” This is a foil packet that contains 3 mL of product.  I’m not sure how I’m going to make that last for 2 weeks without drying out or if there is enough of the product in the little foil pouch, but I will start using it.  Feb 2015 UPDATE: I used this until it dried out.  I couldn’t see much difference.  It did make my skin feel like I’d kind of rubbed glue on it–that sort of tight, filmy feeling.
  • Rimmel Gentle Eye Makeup Remover: “Gently removes all eye makeup, including long-lasting and waterproof makeup, with no oily residue.” Unlike some eye makeup removers, this one isn’t biphasic or oil-based.  My first impression was that it required more scrubbing than I like to get the mascara off and it left my skin feeling very dry and tight.  I didn’t like that feeling.  However, that mascara has been notoriously difficult to remove, so I will try with another mascara too.  Removing eyeliner and shadow, however, was a breeze.  Feb 2015 UPDATE: I have been using this more.  I read a tip that you should hold the remover-soaked cotton pad (or cotton ball, whatever you used) on your eyelid for 15 seconds to let it penetrate the makeup and saturate the area.  Works much better that way.
  • Rimmel Scandaleyes Waterproof Kohl Kajal Eyeliner: “Gives instant colour impact with its high intensity pigments.  The ultra-smooth and creamy formula glides on easily.” You got that right!  This eyeliner was unusual in that it required almost NO pressure to apply, so it didn’t drag.  It also didn’t smudge and it wore very well.  It’s quickly become the eyeliner I tend to grab first when I grab a black.  Very light application can actually get you a dark grey color that is soft rather than a harsh black line.  I’d buy more of these without a doubt!  Feb 2015 UPDATE: still gets occasional use when I remember to use eyeliner.  Definitely one of my more reliable ones.
  • NYC Expert Last Lip Color in Sugar Plum: “Get intense, amplified color and shine that lasts up to six hours!  Our moisturizing formula glides on easily for  a silky, smooth, velvety finish for all day wear.”  I like the color of this lipstick a LOT.  It does apply well and is highly pigmented, so I get great coverage with a single swipe.  What I did not get was six hours wear or moisturizing.  In regard to those claims, this lipstick was about average for me, but I have NEVER found a lipstick that actually lasts six hours.  I think I lick my lips a lot.  Feb 2015 UPDATE: Wear this a lot even though it’s not super moisturizing.  The lid has a very annoying tendency to come off.  Love the color.
  • Celestial Seasonings Candy Cane Lane Decaf Green Tea: Why decaf?  Why oh why would you send me decaf?!  I am the caffeine queen!  I’m not a tea drinker usually, but I do like green tea.  This one promises to be a nice holidayish treat.  Feb 2015 UPDATE: Tried this when my stomach was really upset.  Tasted WONDERFUL; not really like candy cane in my opinion but absolutely pepperminty.  Great cold weather warm up tea!
  • EcoTools Hair Brush: “EcoTools has the brush to tame any hair style with a variety of five brush head shapes and bristle designs specially crafted to suit every need.” The brush I received was a giant round brush that was hollow.  It looks like exactly the kind of tool that you use for a blowout.  I tried that.  My hair turned scary.  Feb 2015 UPDATE: Nope.  Hair still turns scary.
  • McCormick Gourmet Thyme: I DO love to cook!  It’s one of my favorite hobbies.  It’s probably my only creative outlet.  This thyme smells delightful.  I really just want the whole McCormick display case from the store for my home.  I swear I own half of it already… Feb 2015 UPDATE: I used this in a Mustard Chicken Stew Recipe from Epicurious.  It was very tasty, but it didn’t look like the picture and I was too embarrassed to take a picture: mine was, um, brown.
  • Fruit Vines Bites: I got the cherry flavor of these candies.  I have a problem with candy: it disappears really fast.  I have no self-control.  At least this was low-fat and preservative-free, and 150 calories per 10-piece serving.  They’re softer than other “vine-style” candies that are also red (you know the ones I mean) and chewy.  I found myself pulling the little trio of vines apart.   They’re artificially flavored, but the flavor is a pretty good intense cherry flavor.  However, they do have a somewhat plastic flavor that I find off-putting.  I don’t honestly think I’d buy these, but it didn’t stop me from gobbling up the bag…  Feb 2015 UPDATE: haven’t found these locally anywhere.  That’s probably a good thing.


I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

Birchbox Book Club: November 2014

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

I’m a member of the Birchbox book club.  Why?  I don’t know!  I keep asking myself that question.  So far, most of the books we’ve had have not been “up my alley” and this month’s read is not an exception.  This is my first blog post about any of them, though.

For November, we read Amy Poehler’s new book “Yes, Please.”  I purchased mine in Kindle format.

In all honesty, I know who Amy Poehler IS, but I haven’t really watched her comedy.  I don’t know if her humor is the type that I would particularly enjoy.  I haven’t watched Saturday Night Live in ages, and I may have seen one episode of Parks and Recreation (maybe).  Thus, this book is really an autobiography of a random stranger to me.  As such, the paths that people’s lives take are often interesting–we rarely end up following our planned routes–but biographies (or autobiographies) aren’t my favorite genre either.

Do I love the book? No.  Do I dislike the book? No.  I just can’t really relate to the story or the person particularly, and that may be because I’m a science geek, or perhaps due to a mismatch between humor styles (I find British comedies to be much more my preference, in terms of television).

In the continuing saga, on Tuesday I heard a story on NPR that actually mentioned the audiobook version and played a brief clip.  Nope.  Still not in love.  Didn’t laugh uproariously.  Didn’t even chuckle.  And I had read that part in the book, so no spoiler(s)…

In fairness, I finished the book on November 28.  I’m just now finishing this review because it was the end of the semester and as a teacher I had GRADING.

There was one chapter in this whole book that resonated with me: time travel.  There were some lines in this chapter that I could relate to: “Change is the only constant.  Your ability to navigate and tolerate change and its painful uncomfortableness directly correlates to your happiness and general well-being.”  Truth.  Change is the nature of the universe.  Human nature may not change, but relationships form and dissolve, break apart and burn, start and grow and deepen.  All of these happen throughout our lives.  I am not the same person that I was a decade ago.  I can recognize my high school self, but I doubt that self would recognize me.

In this chapter, Amy says she’s found a way to time travel, or to control time, with people, places, and things.  Her discussion of this is subtle in some ways: she is not as direct as I am.   Her perspective of this is also heavily influenced by our current understanding of happiness deriving from being “present”; from being “in the moment” and paying attention to the now rather than worrying about the past or the future.  This is a difficult thing to learn and perhaps an impossible way to live, as it only makes sense to reflect on and learn from the past and to plan for the future.

“…life is not fair or safe or even ours to own.” Also truth.  I frequently hear about “fair” and today the term seems to have become synonymous with “how I want things to be.”  That’s not how life works.  It will beat you down and kick you while you’re down and kick you while you’re up too.  It’s not fair, as some people never experience those things: some never experience rape, or murder, or love.  That’s life.  We have little choice but to accept it and move on.


Do these really enable us to time travel?  In a sense, yes.  Those people, places, things, can transport us back in time and enable us to relive moments or events.  To treasure those memories.  To view things from another perspective and adjust our idea of reality now.  Sometimes, we may be able to briefly glimpse and inhabit a potential future, live in it for a while.  But it doesn’t last, you see.  Any more than books do.


Birchbox, November 2014

This is actually my first beauty blog post in a very long time.  I don’t usually write about my beauty sample subscription obsession, but I realized I actually wanted to start.  I enjoy it!

Birchbox is probably my favorite beauty subscription box of the three that I get, and this month was an interesting one in support of HIV awareness (#shaRED).

Printed on the outside of the boxes was a factoid about HIV.  Mine said “Fact No. 3: Medication can reduce the risk of a mother passing HIV on to her baby to less than 5%.”  That’s a tremendous reduction in risk, and it represents a huge advance in our knowledge and understanding about HIV.  When I was a kid, people were afraid to shake hands with someone who was HIV positive.  Today, thanks to medical research, we understand a lot more about how to treat and manage HIV.  It has become a chronic illness that is manageable.

On to what’s in the box:


Product Reviews

View this post on Instagram

@Birchbox November goodies from my #shaRED box!

A post shared by Christina Steel (@miceandmakeup) on

  1. MAKE dual-phase eye makeup remover:  I’ve used this several times because I’m lazy and it’s still in my bedroom.  I saturate a cotton wipe, press to my eyes for 15 seconds, and start wiping off my eye makeup.  This does a good job, but I’m not sure it’s any better than my Neutrogena eye makeup remover.
  2. Laura Mercier eyeliner in violet.  I love Laura Mercier’s products, so I was really excited to get this sample, and it will probably last me years at the rate I use eyeliner.  Violet isn’t my normal color, but I have honestly worn it once and will be wearing it again today.  It applies well–requires a little more force than some I have, but prewarming it with your hand should eliminate that.
  3. Toni & Guy shine serum: I’ve tried this once.  I honestly couldn’t tell any difference, but I will probably try it again.
  4. Juice Beauty green apple peel:  Did it do anything?  I followed the directions and my skin felt tacky-sticky while it was on.  When I rinsed it off, I couldn’t tell any difference.  It’s supposed to be formulated for sensitive skin, and that’s definitely a good description of my skin, but this was perhaps TOO gentle.
  5. Platinumé Gold Hand Therapy: I find the name to be ostentatious.  I find the lotion to be very citrusy and it disappears into my skin pretty much instantly.  Feels wonderful.  Maybe it earned the name!
  6. Chuao chocolatier maple bacon: this was interesting!  It did not have a strip of bacon in it.  The bacon flavor was actually rather subtle; it came through as a sort of smoky saltiness.  Good, actually!

That’s a wrap for this month’s Birchbox products!


Resolutions: 3rd-Quarter Check-in

  1.  Financial:  I’m having a difficult time with this one.  Some months I’ve managed to keep to the $100/month budget, others I was over, and others I was way under.  My cats have been unanticipated expenses this year, too.  Overall, though, I’m working toward getting my student loans out of hock, my car payment caught up, money in savings, and a 401k by the end of the year.  Some of that will still be in-progress (student loans will be ongoing forever), but the rest will be doable!  I feel kinda good about that.
  2. Physical: I’m nowhere near my target weight loss goal.  I can’t get there unless I lose a leg.  I have greatly improved my fitness this year so far, and I am running my first 5k in December (jogging, really, but it’s a start), and I hope to do that ONE mile in under 10 minutes before the end of the year.  I will push on that.  I’m doing the Jillian Michaels’ 30-day shred.  I’ve worked out more this year than any other, and I’ve changed my diet more, too.  I guess I just wasn’t consistent enough.  I know that this summer I had a setback with a hip injury that knocked me down for 12 weeks, and I lost a lot of ground… that’s honestly not an excuse, but it did not help me progress toward my goals.  I got sloppy.  It happens to most people.   At this stage, I’m now at the heaviest I’ve been all year.  I’m sticking to a brutally restrictive diet and tough exercise regimen (Couch-to-5k and the 30-day shred both) and at this point, hope to re-achieve my low weight for the year.
  3. Beauty:  I’ve continued to make efforts on this, but not as consistently as I could.  I still have my hair in a bun a lot (because it’s quick, easy, and controls my hair).  After the 2nd haircut I decided I couldn’t heat style my hair as much because the split ends were seriously bad… and without that, frizz is not a style.
  4. Be nicer to my cat: poor Mickey.  She’s having a really bad time of it. Her eyes have quit producing tears, she was scratching bald and bleeding spots in herself… nicer is a relative term.  She’s on daily eyedrops/cream (which she hates) and a prescription diet (which she’s convinced is starving her to death) and at this moment she has laryngitis.  I’ve probably spent over $1300 in vet bills.  Her vaccines are up-to-date.  I still love my kitty to pieces and we snuggle every night.
  5. Photo-of-the-week: this is the one last section I need to work on updating!  There are some missing weeks, but I’ll be posting as many as I can.  I don’t think I can hit 95% though.  Some pictures were apparently lost due to technology-issues, but really, I think that was one or two photos.

The lost decade in fashion…

I should probably revise that page title. I’m not interested in haute-couture, runway fashion. Therefore, clothing is a more appropriate descriptor.

Here’s the thing: I’m sick of most of my clothes. Some I’ve had since high school. Okay, so I may never get rid of that sweater; it’s soft and comfy and still looks good. I’ve never really thought of myself as a jeans-and-T-shirt kind of girl. If I had to define my favourite look, it would be dark jeans and a white oxford shirt. I don’t know why, I just love the way that looks. So there’s my “style.” I can’t wear jeans to work, though. They’re immensely more practical in a laboratory with bleach, and nasty acids, but that’s not something my current boss takes into account. I have two clothing options: business-wear (we do have a lot of flex), or scrubs. I loathe scrubs beyond all definition. And they’re not warm enough.

I’m starting to understand that I’ve matured; I’m grown-up. That’s silly to have to say, but I’m actually not a teenager anymore; I’m not a college student or grad student. It’s time I dressed more my age. The next big problem is that there’s little out there for “my age.” Too old for miniskirts, too young for frumpy muu-muus, where do 30-somethings fall? Talk about tween angst! I feel like I am between two worlds. I’ve looked at some stores that are supposed to be for adult women (not 20’s): Ann Taylor/LOFT/Chico’s; JC Penny, and others. Even my old standby of NY&Co doesn’t fit “me” anymore (and I’m not exactly meaning physically).  Most don’t fit my sense of who I am. It doesn’t help that most of the models look like 20-somethings. I don’t have wrinkles yet, or even fine lines, really. I do have some “character” lines in my forehead and the beginnings of some fine crinkles under my eyes. All totally normal for my age.  I have some grey hair, and I’m okay with that: I’ve earned them!!!
I’m finding I like the way my face has matured.  I think my body will come to match.  Now how do I dress that body?

I’ve watched TLC’s What Not to Wear and I love the show.  I don’t have a $5000 shopping spree in NYC at my disposal, and I don’t dress badly enough that I’m likely to end up on the show.  Although I would let Nick Arrojo do ANYTHING he wanted to my hair.  Period.  The man’s a genius.  I want to be more feminine.  I want to quit HIDING behind my clothing, something I’ve been doing since I was about 14.  My wardrobe has consisted of neutrals (with the occasional red, green, navy) for 20 years.  I am SICK of it.  Who am I?  I have earned a Ph.D.  I have more skills in more diverse areas than many people.  I can do a lot of things.  I won’t be at this current job forever; in fact, I don’t want to be there past the 2 year mark (or much past it).

Back to the point of this post, though.  I have been seeing an ad on our cable stations for a couple of weeks.  It caught my attention the first time I saw it and I’m still hooked by it.

This is ME.  This ad resonated with me so strongly I can’t describe it.  This is what I want to look like, what I want to FEEL like, through and through.  I know that the colour palette is still pretty black-white-grey-red, but the STYLE of the clothing, and the ATTITUDE of the clothing, is what grabbed me.  And it’s not letting go.  On the rest of the company’s site, they show 3 makeovers of women aged 34-37.  That’s MY age group.  That’s ME.  That’s… I think I’ve covered it.

At the same time I’m feeling completely obsessed by these clothes, I understand that I’ve promised myself no new clothing until I’ve reached my goal weight.  Most of my wardrobe is in okay condition–it can make it a few months yet.  And that stuff is expensive (by my standards).  I hope it’s better made than my current stock.  If I’ve learned one other thing from What Not to Wear, it’s that I need a good foundation, too.  Meaning undergarments.  So, I need to start from the inside out–and that part of my wardrobe is probably in the worst condition.

Hey, at least I already have rockin’ shoes!

Out of this frustration and my reaction to this ad and this year’s resolutions came a realisation.  2012 is shaping up to be a year of transformation for me.  It’s scary.  Possibly terrifying.  I have no idea where I will be at the end of this year relative to where I began it, but stick with me and find out!

Photo of the Week: Week 9

So, due to my own vanity, this week’s photos are also of… me.  Hmmm.  I don’t take very interesting pictures, do I?  Anyway, the point here is that I got a haircut this week, back on Monday, and here are the results.

I should point out that the insane expression on my face is because my roommate kept getting me with my eyes closed.  Or looking like I was being tortured.  I should also point out that this was at the END of a LONG day that had also included a massage, so the hair is messier than I would have preferred, but still… there you have it.

I also think I ended up looking like Dr. G, Medical Examiner on the Discovery Channel…

Beauty Resolutions, Continued…

I’ve continued to do my hair and makeup. I’ve made progress in both arenas–
And, pursuant to my goals, I acquired makeup brushes. And more hairstyling products that may actually help.
Meanwhile, it’s a cold, wet, dreary day out. Usually, I love those days, and today isn’t much of an exception. I’m quite jealous that my parents are getting SNOW and I’m not.

I also picked up groceries for the week. I’ve been making a concerted effort to change my diet and exercise, and it’s paying off! Today I was wondering what on earth I would do for dinner. I opted to roast a chicken and some brussels sprouts (these are my LEAST favourite vegetables in the whole wide world, but I had some that I loved that were roasted, so I figured I would try it), and baking some potatoes. If it goes well I will post pics (AFTER THE JUMP)
Meanwhile, you may vicariously enjoy my shopping trip…

Roasted Chicken

Yummy Dinner