The Meh about Julep Maven

In my recent foray into the world of beauty subscription boxes, I managed to snag a Julep Maven box for free. This wasn’t a difficult feat, as they often have freebie codes on their website to entice newbies to give them a try. Click the link above, enter your e-mail address and Bam! Free box. This isn’t one of the boxes that initially attracted my attention for a few reasons:

The first would be that it’s mostly nail polish. While I love a good polish, I already have more than I need. It would have to be a truly spectacular polish to keep me coming back for more every month, and I’m talking super quality, not just pretty colours. I always have my toes painted, but I just don’t have the patience or the skills to keep my fingers done all the time. Plus, Finn sticks my fingers in his mouth on a regular basis, and I really don’t want him eating nail polish if it can be avoided.

Secondly, the price seemed a little high to me. At $24.95 USD per box, plus a small shipping fee, you get three items a month. Granted, you do have the ability to swap items in your box for stuff that you really want, and there are also add-on options (for an additional fee), but that’s still one of the priciest boxes I’ve seen. I know, I know… Julep polishes run $14 USD each if you’re not a Maven member, so the box price is quite a steal. But added up every month? I wasn’t sure it would be worth it.

I couldn’t pass up the free box, though, so I forked over my shipping fee and eagerly awaited my package in the mail. I chose a box with two nail colours and a fancy top coat, and I was stoked to see what the brand could offer me.

Maven Box 1The dark, almost Barney-ish purple is called “Bette” and the coral, which has a lovely shimmer to it, is called “Laree”. This was my favourite of the two. I was stoked to learn that the formulas are formaldehyde free. The last free polish I tried, by wHet, had minimal odor and a nice long wear, so this gave me hope that the Julep polishes would perform the same way.

I was also really excited to try the top coat. It claimed to set like a gel, giving an ultra long lasting finish, drying in just five minutes, and lasting even longer if cured for two minutes under a 60 watt bulb. If I’m going to paint my fingers, I need something that’s going to stand up to hard use, so this was looking like a great at-home solution. My hopes were high and my fingers were crossed.

I started with the coral. The first coat applied smoothly and with a lot of pigment, but it seemed to take a long time to dry. This may have been why the second coat seemed to go on really… gloopy? Is that the word I’m looking for? Sure, the day I applied it was hot and humid, but I don’t think that should have made a difference. I did do the second coat outside, though, because this colour smelled terrible! For something that is supposed to be low on chemicals, it reeked. If I breathed the fumes too directly, I ended up coughing, and that is not a good thing.

In spite of these minor set backs, I was happy with the results. I used three coats of colour and one of the top coat:

Sorry about the crap picture; this is the only one I took with the finished nails in it. For shame.

Sorry about the crap picture; this is the only one I took with the finished nails in it. For shame.

The top coat dried quickly to the touch on most of my fingers. The middle finger on my right hand got a little damaged, but I probably hadn’t let the colour on that finger set all the way before applying the last layer. That was my own fault. The colour itself made me insanely happy. It’s gorgeous and bright. I just wish it had lasted longer.

I did my nails on a Sunday, and by the following Wednesday they were already starting to chip and peel. This is not what I was expecting from such a high end brand, particularly when I used their “gel” top coat. I wasn’t hard on my hands. I didn’t abuse them or so anything crazy like pull Lego apart. I just went about my every day stuff, and it didn’t hold up.

What a let down.

The other colour wasn’t much better. Where the coral applied really well, the purple went on runny and uneven on both my fingers and toes. I made sure to use a base coat, but I just couldn’t get a nail to come out evenly. This colour didn’t have such a harsh smell, but it took forever to dry. I only applied one coat every ten hours or so, and I was still getting nicks and dents in the finish. The fifth, and last, coat was left to dry for over two hours before I went to bed and it was nearly destroyed when I got up. I felt like I needed drying drops for this colour, and I really shouldn’t need them. Take a look at the result of base coat, five coats of colour, and a top coat:

Julep Bette (2)You can see how uneven it is. With five coats, I should have a glorious, lush colour. Instead, I got a watery, streaky, mess. I didn’t even bother to clean up any polish I got outside my nails, because at the first chip this colour is coming off. My toes look no better.

I don’t think I need to say it, but I will not be keeping my Maven subscription. In my opinion, the quality is just not there. I love some of their colours and tools; shipping was fast and efficient; it’s the product that’s not living up to my standards. If I feel like trying them again in the future, I’ll pick up a colour or two at Sephora.

 

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Taking a Look at Disposable Diapers

In spite of pressure to cloth diaper coming from all sides, I knew it was something that was never going to work for us. I don’t have anything against cloth diapering, obviously, but it’s just not right for our family. That being said, I did want to find the best disposable diapers for both Finn and the environment. This led me to doing tons of online research. So far. I have used three major brands: Babyganics, Earth’s Best Tendercare, and Seventh Generation.

So, what were we looking for in a diaper? I wanted something that didn’t use any chlorine in their manufacture. Chlorine is way bad for the environment, and isn’t really needed unless you want something to be all sparkly white. I also wanted something that used as many natural and renewable resources as possible. Being latex free and minimal in petro chemicals is a huge plus (that last one turned out to be a little ironic, which you will find out in a later post.)

L-R: Earth's Best (sz 1), Babyganics, and Seventh Generation (both sz 2)

L-R: Earth’s Best (sz 1), Babyganics, and Seventh Generation (both sz 2)

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(I didn’t have a sz 2 in the Earth’s Best, as we only ever used them in a sz 1)

Open Babyganics Diaper

Open Babyganics Diaper

All three of the above diapers fit those criteria, but we decided to start off with Babyganics. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect from any  kind of eco-friendly diaper, but I was pleasantly surprised by these ones. They are so soft, have nice stretchy sides and back, and fit well around the legs. You also don’t need to put on a ton of “bum grease”, as they have a built in Neo Nourish Complex that’s made up of a skin friendly seed oil blend.

Finn never got any kind of diaper rash when we were using these, although I’m not one of those people who finds it hard to keep the rash away. These diapers do have a handy little wetness indicator along the front that vanishes as more moisture gets absorbed, and it can be handy if you just want to do a visual check instead of relying on the “poke check” (a test I use to tell if Finn needs a change. If the diaper still makes a crinkly, paper noise when I poke it, odds are he’s good. If It feels like a sponge, a new diaper should be forthcoming.)

Babyganics side tabs; stretchy, but thin.

Babyganics side tabs; stretchy, but thin.

One thing I did notice, however, was that these are not the best diapers if you have a bigger baby. If you compare them to both other brands above, you’ll notice that they’re a little on the narrow side, and this led to a fair few leaks when he was getting to the upper range of a size. It also meant more diaper blowouts as in this instance as well. I would definitely recommend Babycanics diapers more if your kid is on the slim side.

I did mention that the tabs are stretchy. They are also resealable/adjustable. Have a kid to like to kick and wiggle their diapers open? No problem! These reclose easily and don’t lose their sticking power. One thing I would have liked was a little more thickness in the side tab. Finn is a bit of a pee wizard and can manage to pee up and over his own legs. A little more thickness here could have prevented some small leaks.

To Summarize:

5/5 for softness

4/5 for absorbency

2/5 for fit on bigger babies (My guy is 16lbs at 3 months and 24.5 inches)

2.5/5 for availability. I live in Edmonton, Alberta, and the only place to get them is Baby’s R Us, who are terrible at stocking anything larger than a size two, and they don’t even  have that with any consistency. It’s kind of a hassle to either order online or drive all over the city when a diaper crisis hits.

Inside the Earths Best

Inside the Earths Best

Now, speaking of stock at Baby’s R Us, we decided to give Earth’s Best a shot when they were out of Babyganics one day. They also happened to be on sale. I wasn’t impressed with them right out of the package. For something I was supposed to be putting on the most delicate bit of my baby, they were rough! I was constantly on the look out for skin irritation the whole time we were using them, and sure enough, Finn got a rash. The only thing in his diapering routine to change was the diapers, so I can’t blame anything else. (We actually had to switch bum grease to get it to go away, but that’s a whole other post.)

Non-stretch tabs

Non-stretch tabs

The fit was average, but still not the best for a bigger baby, as the sides had no stretch. The tabs will refasten, and the absorbent material was mainly corn and plant based, so that was a plus, but there were so many other things I didn’t like that we never considered getting these again once they were gone. Even if I like everything else about the diapers, the fact that they gave my son a rash would have been a deal breaker.

To Summarize:

1/5 for softness

3/5 for Absorbency

3/5 for fit (a wider over all diaper slightly balanced out the lack of stretch tabs, giving these a higher fit score than Babyganics)

3/5 for availability

Inside the Seventh Generation

Inside the Seventh Generation

Seventh Generation are, by far, my favourite, which was kind of disappointing because they are not the best for the environment. While they do use chlorine free wood pulp as an absorbent, they also use absorbent gel. They also use synthetic rubber strands and plastic fabric and film. But hey, they’re better than all the major brand diapers and they market themselves as exactly what they are, so I can respect that.

The fit is perfect for Finn. They’re both wide and long, and they have the best side tabs of the three. They have a great amount of stretch and are nice and thick, so they can manage to contain any small leaks that are trying to escape. There is enough elastic and material at both the back and side to contain most messes, although Finn has managed to get poop out of every diaper he has had on. (He likes to hoard his poop and get it out all t once. This doesn’t help things at all.)

Super tabs on the Seventh Generation

Super tabs on the Seventh Generation

These are probably the ones we’re going to be sticking with for the foreseeable future. They fit well, absorb well, don’t cause any rash, and are easy to pick up at the local Save-On Foods.

To Summarize:

4/5 for softness

5/5 for absorbency

4.5/5 for fit

5/5 for availability

We did have a diaper crisis in which we used a few Pampers Swaddlers that a friend had given us. I hate them. They fit okay and they absorb just fine (the mess on the inside was good for containing poop), but I couldn’t stand the baby powder smell. Why does a diaper need a smell? I went from my regular diapers not smelling like anything when Finn loaded then with pee to smelling something like bad vinegar. It was horrid. His butt wasn’t a fan either. Nothing that I would call a rash, just some mild irritation that I nipped in the bud.

What are your fave diapers and why? How long did it take you to find something you really liked and that worked for you? Let me know in the comments.

Local Jazz: Kristen J. Photography

When I started looking for a newborn photographer, I had no idea what I was looking for. Shawn didn’t think we needed the photos at all, but this may be the only baby we ever have, so I wanted to make sure things were properly documented.

The web was scoured. Many a website was looked at, many a portfolio perused. Honestly, nothing really jumped out at me, regardless of the price being charged, and I was starting to feel very discouraged. Perhaps these photos just weren’t meant to be.

It was at this point that I decided to take a different approach: I started thinking about all the newborn photos I had seen in the last year, and which ones really stood out for me. The clear winner came from a friend and co-worker of my mum at work. Her daughter had twins in the last year, and I really loved her photos. We decided to ask who had done them and go from there.

Kristen J. Photography turned out to be just what we needed. not only was she within our budget, but I liked everything she had on her website. That doesn’t happen for me very often (hence why it took us such a long time to find a wedding photographer). I decided to shoot off an email, and the rest is history.

Our photos were taken two days after we got home from hospital, when Finn was five days old. Everything about the shoot went smoothly, in spite of the fact that I got pooped and peed on. Finn was brilliant and we ended up getting some really great shots. Take a look:

Five days old! Photo by Kristen J. Photography

Five days old!
Photo by Kristen J. Photography

With daddy.

With daddy.

Wearing the custom Finn the Human (Adventure Time) hat from his Auntie Caelin.

Wearing the custom Finn the Human (Adventure Time) hat from his Auntie Caelin.

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Finn was definitely the star of the show. Both of us were exhausted. Shawn forgot to shave. I was super sore from my surgery, and I had grey hairs sticking out all over the place. Still, I’m so happy with how things turned out. Kristen was amazing to work with: great with the baby, super personable, easy to talk to and easy to work with. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending her to anyone else.

Looking back on these pictures now, I realize how dark Finn’s hair was when he was born. It was nearly black, with white blonde eyebrows and lashes. Now, his hair is more the colour of Shawn’s, and his eyebrows are darkening to match. Either way, I’m not ashamed to say that I think he’s one beautiful baby.

We Watched Epic!

I’m just going to say it: Epic reminded me a lot of Fern Gully, but it was a lot more subtle. Instead of having the forest fighting deforestation directly, with the big bad guy being (gasp!) pollution, Epic focuses more on the environment fighting itself. The warriors of the forest, or Leaf Men, fight off little creatures that make me think of what would happen if sharks and rats reproduced. Their sole aim is to spread corruption and rot through the forest and take over everything that’s green and good.

There is also the secondary story of a girl (the hapless human who gets shrunken down to the size of the people of the forest) trying to reconnect with her dad (the hapless human who has dedicated his life to finding the people of the forest). It’s quaint, predictable, and doesn’t really add much to the movie other than to advance a few key plots points.

The animation is pretty and the voice acting was well done. I really enjoyed the comic relief characters, especially the three-legged, one-eyed pug. That dog cracked me up. This is one that I’m glad we didn’t shell out to see in theatres, but getting it on demand was a good use of an evening. I’d give it a 6.5/10. It’s fun for all ages, but the scary little dudes might be a little, well, scary for the really wee ones. They kind of freaked me out. Watch it and let me know what you think.

(Manga!) One Piece!

What do you get when you combine all the epic-awesomeness that is Japanese Manga with pirates? That’s right, you get One Piece, the massively long running epic written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda. Oda started writing the series in 1996, and it has been serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump ever since.

What’s to love about it? What isn’t to love? The characters are zany, especially the leader of the Straw Hat Pirates, Monkey D. Luffy. He’s completely mental, but has the capacity to take things and people very seriously when the need arises. Honestly, to give a full description of every awesome character in the series, it would take me a month, so I’m just going to tell you to get your hands on a volume or check out the anime (in original Japanese, please! The dubbed versions almost always suck!)

Luffy basically decides he’s going to be the king of the pirates and sets off to do just that, gathering a crew and having incredible adventures along the way. The ultimate goal, aside from being king of the pirates, is to find the hidden treasure of the last Pirate King, Gol D. Roger, who revealed that he had hidden it moments before being executed. To top it all off, Luffy has eaten a Devil’s Fruit, which turned him in to rubber and gave him extraordinary powers. Unfortunately, it also means that he can’t swim, which can be detrimental for a pirate.

This is by far the most engaging manga or anime story that I’ve come across, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. It wouldn’t have continued for so long if it didn’t have a huge and extremely loyal fan base. My husband got me in to it, and I got so hooked our custom wedding shoes had our favourite scenes from the manga on them. It was awesome.

Read it. Watch it. Love it. You can thank me later.

Sh*t I love! My Roccat Arvo Keyboard!

I’ve had some time to properly test out the new keyboard, and I have to say that I love it. The Roccat Arvo is a compact gaming keyboard that doesn’t have a huge number of features that I don’t need. Do I need a million macro keys? No. Do I need a number pad that is separate from my arrow keys? No, but ability to switch between the two, with the arrow feature having to macros to play with is great.

This keyboard is everything I wanted: Small, easy to use and very responsive. The keys have all the responsiveness and bounce back of a mechanical keyboard, but don’t have any of the noise. You can lay it flat or use the feet on the bottom to give it a boost. You can even deactivate individual keys, which is great for both gaming (damn windows key!) and blogging (damn caps lock key!). I haven’t had a chance to try out the “thumbster” keys yet (three macros located under the space bar), but have some ideas about what I can use them for.

It’s been great for everyday use, perfect for my small hands when I’m playing Torchlight II, and the price was exactly what I was looking for. If you want a keyboard with gaming capabilities, but don’t need something in the pro range, take a look at this one. It’s German engineered, so you know it has to be good (not that my German side is forming any sort of bias in that opinion).

(Web)Comics! Dark Legacy Comics!

Have you or someone you know ever been a victim of the evil that is “World of Warcraft”? Have you ever played any other MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role-playing game)? Then Dark Legacy Comics is for you!

As you can probably tell, I am not a WoW player myself. My husband, on the other hand, was in a raiding guild when we met and played ALL THE TIME. (As a side note, my ex was also in a raiding guild, and played ALL THE TIME. I swore I would never date a WoW player again, but then Shawn came along with all his awesomeness, and I broke my promise to myself. Luckily, he doesn’t play anymore. League of Legends is much easier to handle.) I do have enough experience with Warcraft, by proxy, and with MMORPGs in general, to appreciate the humour in DLC. Some of it is very WoW specific, but a lot of it will appeal to anyone who has ever played any type of team, class based game.

One thing I really love is going all the way back to the beginning of the series (from February 5, 2006) and giving it a good read through. The main characters become really well established throughout, and it’s great fun, as it is with a lot of webcomics, to watch the art style progress. This is one that always manages to get a laugh out of both of us, and it’s a great read.

Give it a go if you’re an MMO gamer, guild wife, PC gamer, or just someone who enjoys the culture. It’s well worth it (and has a regular update schedule! W00t!) Let me know what you think.