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Vegan Cuts Beauty Box – Review

If you read my post about vegan snack boxes, i’m sure it will come as no surprise that when I heard Vegan Cuts was coming out with a beauty box (affiliate link), I made a noise like a tea kettle and threw my wallet at my computer screen.  I am so excited to be able to get a beauty box that is affordable and from an all-vegan company, ran by vegans, so I know they aren’t going to slip me beeswax or carmine or lanolin.  Vegan Cuts stocks a lot of beauty products that i’m curious about, but they do tend towards higher end items that cost more, so I will gladly take all of the samples the want to sell me.  I also have a problem with buying mostly ELF makeup, because it’s cheap so I made a deal with myself that i’m not allowed to bring home more makeup or face products unless it’s from a company I haven’t tried.

I noticed a few complaints about the box, right off the bat – so let’s clear some stuff up.  The entire point of a subscription box is to try new things, so if you don’t normally wear makeup, that means that it’s ALL new things.  If you don’t wear makeup and don’t plan on wearing makeup, don’t order a beauty box!  I got the same feeling from reading some reviews that I get when I read cookbook reviews on amazon that say ‘I flipped through this at the bookstore and nothing looked good so i’m giving it one star’.

Also, the point of the little pouch that came with the first box is so you can put your makeup in it and then carry it in your purse.  Makeup will sometimes explode or unscrew and it’s better to have it do that in a tiny bag then your whole purse.  Some people seem to be completely confused by the inclusion of the little pouch.  Let’s move on!

From left to right:  Namaste pouch, Glam Natural mascara sample, NYL facewash sample, Suntegrity tinted moisturizer sample, Acure pure argan oil sample, LVX polish in Deco (the V isn’t worn off, it’s the way the light was hitting the bottle), Lippy Girl lip gloss, and a sample of essential oils.  Some people got a lip balm and eye shadow as a replacement for the lip gloss.

I was extremely pleased with the selection, and if you go to use all of the products you’ll realize that they gave you pretty much everything you need to do a basic makeup look.  You can wash your face, put on the tinted moisturizer, mascara, and lip gloss, and maybe add some powder and that’s about how much makeup most people can stand on their face during a hot summer day.  You can paint your nails and use the argan oil on your cuticles.  And then I guess huff lavender oil out of the pouch and pass out looking absolutely beautiful.

Will I keep my subscription?  Absolutely.  The value is definitely there, especially when you consider that shipping gets more and more expensive.  $20 shipped is nothing, and I know this box was extra packed because it’s the first one but i’m sure they’ll keep the value up.  I think the sample sizes are just enough to keep me occupied until the next one comes, and the mascara and tinted moisturizer samples will actually last through many applications because you need so little.

My only issue was a non-issue for me personally, but if I had gotten the eyeshadow and lip balm replacements, I would’ve been kind of mad because it’s the same lip balm that was in the last snack box, same flavor and all.  I like it, but I just got one.  Crossing over products is something they’ll have to be mindful of.

I think they can improve this service by letting the box be customizable by skin tone, i’ll explain why that’s important below with the tinted moisturizer.  Trying to keep color preferences straight would be a lot of work for Vegan Cuts, but I think a note on how light or dark people are and what their underlying tone is would go a long way into making the box more usable to everyone, every month if such products are going to be included regularly.  I also hope they will expand the amount of companies they carry or send out samples of, as the variety on their website isn’t big enough to keep the boxes from containing repeats for more than a few months.  Mayhap we will see some OCC or Sugarpill in the future?

Overall, I think this is an invaluable service to a lot of vegans because navigating the world of cruelty-free beauty is HARD.  There’s third party testing, parent companies, now companies that sell in China have to test making them not cruelty-free, the fact that cruelty-free claims aren’t regulated at all, Urban Decay can bite me, all kinds of bullshit.  Personally, even I can’t pick up a product in a store and tell you if it’s vegan unless someone else has told me or the company has labeled it as such, because of the crazy names they give some animal products.  I think this (admittedly old, but it popped in my head) post from JL shows how mega-companies that are known to test are trying to trick us into giving them their money.  If you are not that into makeup but still want the occasional cruelty-free product without trying to make your brain explode, this will be great for you.  Basically, any vegan who likes to put things on their face will appreciate this box for one reason or another.

That is what I have to say about the box in general, if you are interested in reading about what I think of each product, keep reading!

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The nail color is one that will flatter pretty much everyone, and coral is a standard color for summer.  I am pretty good at chipping nail polish just by looking at, I managed to go three days without a single chip besides my thumb, which I used to pick a sticker off of a glass bottle.  LVX is $16 a bottle, so a full size bottle is almost the price of the whole box.  Some people balk at the price, and while $16 is kind of high for nail polish, it seems to be a quality brand.  For comparison, two of the more popular vegan brands, Zoya and Butter London, sell their polishes for $8-9 and $15, respectively.  I own and enjoy some cheap polishes, like Wet n’ Wild, but they are $3 or under for a reason.

The Suntegrity tinted moisturizer immediately had me worried.  Most people have either yellow undertones or pink undertones, some people are neutral.  But most tinted moisturizers a) default to yellow and b) are too dark.  I am pale and pink, so I usually get screwed over.  Thank god for samples!  I squeezed some out on my hand so you can see that it is pretty dark, even when blended out, and the sample color is ‘golden light’.  However, it didn’t look that bad on my face and with mineral foundation over it, was even less noticeable.  I already have a tinted moisturizer and a BB cream that I like pretty well, so I wouldn’t buy this one as the full size retails for $45.

(I don’t like posting pictures of my hands because of my eczema, hang nails, and poor painting skills so please be nice.)

I LOVE the Lippy Girl lip gloss, it’s flavored with coconut and fruit oils so it’s like spreading Aloha Bread on your lips.  I’ve already gone through 1/5th of the tube so i’ll definitely be ordering more.

Mascara wearing vegans are always on a quest to find the best one EVER.  I was recently saying that the size of mascara tubes annoy me, because they’re actually too big.  You’re supposed to toss your mascara every 3-6 months because of bacteria, so having more than one full-sized tube at once seems like a waste.  Even if you don’t toss them that often, they will dry out long before you actually use it all.  So in the case of mascara, I would rather they were all available in sample size.

Now I am from Team Drag Queen Lashes, so I knew that anything with ‘natural’ in the title wasn’t going to blow me away.  But I tried the Glam Natural and it doesn’t flake, smudge, or fail the Nap Test, so i’ll be keeping it in the Namaste pouch in my purse for mascara emergencies YES THAT IS A REAL THING THAT HAPPENS.  You can build it up a little bit, the left is one coat and the right is two (curling my lashes would’ve helped):

P.S. I immediately fixed my bangs after these photos.  What are they even doing?

I used the face wash, but I really don’t know what to say about it.  It washed my face?  I’m not too particular about my face washing products because I mostly use some sort of scrub.  I will say it was more watery than I was expecting, but on the package it says that’s because they don’t add unnecessary thickeners to their products so it’s totally on purpose.

I’ve never used argan oil, but I know it’s all the rage in beauty right now so the prices of it can be pretty inflated.  I’ve been using Jojoba oil as my night moisturizer/stretched ear massaging oil for years, so i’m pretty happy with what i’ve got.  So i’ll use the argan oil and i’m happy to get a sample to try, but I probably wouldn’t purchase a full size.

The lavender oil is the only thing I would toss if I had to choose, but that’s because i’ve had insomnia since I was about seven and sniffing some oil isn’t going to put me to sleep (if only, if only).  But it’s the smallest sample in the box so it’s not that big of a deal and it smells nice.

So that’s it!  I love two of the products, like the pouch and mascara, and hate nothing.  I got everything I wanted out of it and then some!

posted: July 22, 2013
under: products, review

Whole Grain Vegan Baking: Blog Tour/Review and Giveaway!

The giveaway is over, congratulations Tofu Cat!

Are you ready to bake up some whole grains like a mug*?

I have a feeling that Whole Grain Vegan Baking is the kind of book that people will be afraid to pick up, and needlessly so! I found this book easy to use, despite having only a half stocked kitchen. I went to make my first recipe and realized I didn’t have any dry measuring cups, for pete’s sake. I also don’t currently own any pretty plates or linens so you’ll have to excuse my washcloth-chic food styling. So! Let’s address some fears you might have:

It’s expensive/inaccessible: It doesn’t have to be! Please check out the post I made a few days ago about how people from small towns can easily get what they need. Internet shopping is a gift from Al Gore, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t use it. If you happen to live in a place with a health food store, you can hit up their bulk bins and get a lot of the flours, or if you’re lucky, all of them. Bulk bins are cheaper and you can get the exact amount you need. And while WGVB does use a few items that are pricey, Celine and Tami made a conscious effort to use more affordable ingredients. Overall, of course while grain flours and natural sweeteners are going to cost more than white flour and sugar, but I guarantee that there is something in here for every budget and lifestyle.

Also, someone noted that there seems to be a lot of vegan yogurt in this book, obviously ordering yogurt off of the internet requires purchasing a cold pack and isn’t something most people are willing to do. You can substitute any yogurt in the book with blended silken tofu. Or if all you can get is a fruity yogurt, say the gross new Silk soy ones, you can diligently pick the fruit out and adjust the sweetener a little bit. And maybe your finished product will come out blueberry tinted, but whatever.

I have to buy a million flours and i’ll never use them all: Hey, you don’t need to buy anything you don’t want to! I didn’t make a count, but it seems to me like barley, spelt, wheat/whole wheat pastry flour, and oat are the most commonly used. What I did was mark up a bunch of recipes to try, then I went through and wrote down the common flours/sweeteners in them. I just checked the index and each flour used has a section, and the only flour I got that doesn’t have multiple uses is graham flour. Also, Bob’s Red Mill and Arrowhead Mills come in much smaller bags than standard flours, so you’ll use them up much faster than a standard sized bag of wheat flour. If you have the room, you can store extra flours in your fridge or freezer, in an airtight container.

It’s boring: Absolutely not. Celine and Tami aren’t the kind of people who will put out a book of plain loaves and bran muffins. The basic recipes are there, but they are far outweighed by things like Peanut Butter Surprise Cookies (the surprise is Sriracha) and Baked Speculoos Donuts. If you think you’ve got whole grain baking figured out because you know how to swap whole wheat for white flour, you are in for a punch to the gut of your tastebuds.

It’s too healthy tasting/god damned hippie crap: Everything I made has passed The Brian Test, and he kept saying that he couldn’t tell that they were supposed to be healthier alternatives. The last thing I made were the Savory Barley and Potato Scones (I made the suggested walnut swap for the raisins), and I warned him that they were totally savory and the most ‘whole grain’ tasting thing I had made, and he still liked them. Using such a wide variety of flours, and combining them, helps the recipes avoid that dry, crunchy, sadness you might expect.

I hate oil/soy/gluten/nuts/joy: Okay, ya’ll are going to be disappointed with this book if you are expecting this book to be free of anything besides refined flours and sugars, and soy (which is an easy swap for milks and yogurt). I don’t think any of my xgfx friends will be shocked to hear that this book isn’t for them, since it’s a baking book that isn’t specifically gluten free. But if you are feeling adventurous and want to try and de-gluten some of the recipes, here’s a good guide to gluten-free flour swaps and when to use them.

And as always, Fair Winds puts out some of the most attractive vegan cookbooks ever.  The design of the book is beautiful, as are Celine’s photos.  I would guess about 1/3rd of the recipes have an accompanying photo.  I found the book very easy to use and despite the fact that I had to improvise a lot based on my kitchen equipment (seriously, how did I forget measuring cups?!), I got great results with everything I made.

Pictures! Followed by words about the pictures!

Wholesome Vanilla Pound Cake, I ate most of this straight up with a glass of almond milk, but I spread these pieces with Peanut Butter & Co. White Chocolate Wonderful and cherry fruit spread.  Definitely one of the easier recipes in the book, if you’re looking for the shallow end to dip your toes into.

Double Cranberry Scones, I had to use raspberries in lieu of fresh/frozen cranberries, so for me these were Cranberry Raspberry Scones.  Another super easy recipe, which Brian enthusiastically wolfed down.

Layered Chocolate and Banana Mini Cakes, I used a 6 cup bundt pan because I only have one mini cake pan.  This is the recipe to go for if you have some overripe bananas that you need to use up, and again, super easy.  It’s like a desserty banana bread with a brownie on the bottom (or top, depending on the kind of pan you use).

Savory Barley and Potato Scones, which I decided to make after I realized that I hadn’t made anything that wasn’t at least a little sweet.  These are definitely different, and since I used the recipe note suggestion to use walnuts in lieu of raisins, they would be excellent paired with a soup or stew.  They come out a little dry looking (I brushed a little vegan margarine on top of the ones in the photo), but the inside is incredibly moist.

My final picture is below with the recipe, and I can’t wait to bake more!  For funsies, I asked the authors what their favorite recipes from the book were, if you need some more jumping off points.

Tami:  English Muffin Bread, Cracked Wheat Pan Rolls, and the Strawberry Sweet Biscuits

Celine:  the hazelnut shortbreads, the lemon curd tartlets, and the banana berry breakfast bake

Giveaway!  Fair Winds Press has agreed to send one lucky person (US or Canada only, sorry) their own copy of Whole Grain Vegan Baking.  To enter, simply comment on this entry telling me what your favorite kind of baked good is!  Be as generic or specific as you like.  I’m partial to cake and anything yeasty, myself.  I will pick a winner at random on Friday, May 31st.  Make sure to comment with a valid email address!  Enjoy the recipe, and check out Denise’s post tomorrow on The Urban Vegan, which is the last stop on the book tour.

*mug is slang from days gone by that only I still use, it means mother somethingsomething.

 

Braided Almond Oat Bread

This was an instant favorite when I made it, so it was the recipe I wanted to share. It’s small town living friendly: you can grind oats and almonds in a food processor to make those flours and sub the yogurt with blended silken tofu if you have trouble finding those things. I recommend brushing with maple syrup instead of agave, because it tastes like a loaf of french toast! The only change I made to the recipe was to just use some extra almond meal for the sprinkling at the end.

3/4 cup (180 ml) lukewarm plain or vanilla flavored almond milk, divided
1/4 cup (60 ml) pure maple syrup, divided
330 g (2 3/4 cups) white whole wheat flour, divided
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
90 g (1 cup) oat flour
120 g (1 cup) almond meal
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
120 g (1/2 cup) plain or vanilla flavored vegan yogurt, at room temperature
1/4 cup (60 ml) melted coconut oil or neutral flavored oil
Pure maple syrup or raw agave nectar, for brushing
Chopped roasted almonds, for sprinkling

Combine 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the milk with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) maple syrup, 60 g (1/2 cup) of the wheat flour, and the yeast. Let this mixture sit for 10 minutes, until bubbly.

In a large bowl, combine 240 g (2 cups) of the wheat flour and the oat flour, almond meal, and salt.

Combine the remaining 1/4 cup (60 ml) milk, remaining 3 tablespoons (45 ml) maple syrup, yogurt, and oil. Pour the wet ingredients onto the and mix, adding the remaining 1/4 cup (30 g) flour, 1 tablespoon (8 g) at a time, if needed, until the dough is smooth and pliable, about six minutes.

Alternatively, knead the dough by hand on a lightly floured surface for about eight minutes, adding extra whole wheat flour if needed, until smooth and pliable.

Shape into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Punch down the dough, and place it on a clean surface. Divide it into 2 equal portions. Divide each portion into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion out into a 12-inch (30 cm) strand. Place 3 strands side by side, pinch them together at the top to seal, and tuck the top under slightly. Braid the strands. Pinch together and tuck the bottom of the braid as well, gently grabbing both ends of the braid and pushing together to make a neat and tight braid. Repeat with the remaining three strands. (Katie’s note: I found it easier to start the braid not quite in the middle, so I could braid towards each end and ensure maximum braidage before tucking. If that makes any sense.)

Place the breads on the prepared sheet. Cover the breads with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes, until puffed.

Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C or gas mark 5).

Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown on top and dark brown on the bottom. Turn the baking sheet once halfway through to ensure an even coloring and even baking of the braids.

Lightly brush the tops with maple syrup or agave nectar once out of the oven. Sprinkle with the chopped almonds. Let cool on a wire rack. The breads taste even better the next day.

posted: May 27, 2013
under: books, pictures, recipes, review

Boxes, boxes, everywhere.

Hey, 2013! [insert non-blogging excuse here] Actually, I purposely waited to write about it until I had positive things to write. So let’s start with the happy things that are happening!

Last summer, my husband had a great internship that ended with a full-time job offer when he graduates, which he will this spring. If you don’t know, Brian got out of the army three years ago and has been going to school on the GI Bill since then. It’s been three years of limbo and waiting, and that’s finally about to end. We’re not moving out-of-state or to a bigger city (it’s actually smaller than where we live now), but a well-paying, steady job is more important than moving to a place that’s more vegan-friendly. I plan on focusing on the positives of small town living, like having room for a decent garden and trying to make more of my own foods like jam and shit. Our new house has a large pantry basement so I can finally live out my dreams of becoming a vegan extreeeeeeeeeeeme couponer!

Like the title implies, I am surrounded by half-packed boxes. But this is more about subscription boxes, which are all the rage right now, and me procrastinating. Since i’m moving to a smaller town, AND I really like getting mail, I decided to try out a few. I really wanted to find an all-vegan beauty box, but that hasn’t happened yet, but here’s what i’ve tried so far (apologies for the lack of pictures):

Conscious Box: Let’s get the big diss out of the way first. Conscious Box is not an all-vegan service and they’ve made it clear that they don’t really care much about their vegan customers. I ordered the box that was put together by The Vegan Zombie, and it came with a brand of eyeliner I wasn’t familiar with, so I checked the ingredients and it had beeswax (The Vegan Zombie did not actually pick that product out so it’s not their fault at all). When I mentioned it and asked them to announce it so other people could be aware, they didn’t. I canceled my box, but next month they had a lotion that also had beeswax in it, and when someone complained they replied on facebook that it was from ‘magic bees’ and therefore vegan (and then someone smarter than them removed the comment). They also did not feel the need to let their customers know about this mix-up. That same month, a lot of people got their standard box instead of the vegan one.

I know some people don’t have a problem with bee products, but I do and most people I know do, so I don’t trust Conscious Box. I also think their customer service is shit, and that’s the bottom line for two big thumbs down. It’s okay for companies to make mistakes, it’s how they handle their mistakes that make me decide if I want to continue buying from them or not.

Healthy Surprise: I actually got this for my father-in-law as a Christmas present, because I knew it’d be right up his alley (and that he’d share it with me). If you like to try new snacks all the time and don’t have any interest in household or beauty products, this one is for you! Healthy Surprise is always vegan (no honey here!), gluten-free, soy-free, and corn-free. There are sometimes nuts and grains, and there is always something chocolate, apple chips, and either a kale snack or a seaweed snack. We don’t like every single thing we get, but that’s the beauty of a snack box: you only get one so if you don’t like it, no big. Please note the Healthy part of the name, there aren’t any Tings or Go Max Go bars in here, but they are still snack foods. The price seems kind of high, but as long as you don’t get the smallest box you get free shipping, and these are full-sized products that aren’t cheap.

Vegan Cuts (affiliate link): Some people were disappointed in the Vegan Cuts box when it first came out, so I held off getting one. But after a few boxes, they said they were going to make it better and put more things in it, and at $20 shipped I couldn’t really argue against one box.  Vegan Cuts boxes aren’t all full-sized products, which is fine with me because if I really like something, i’m going to order the full-sized version anyway, and i’d rather get to sample 10 items than get 5 full-sized products.  I actually have pictures of these from instagram:

So far, i’m pretty pleased.  The only thing that i’ve either not totally loved (Eli’s Earth bar, zomg) or at least liked was that Barre…bar.  No one is going to make me like spirulina, sorry!  If you live in a big city you probably won’t find the Vegan Cuts box super exciting.  But if you’re like me and you’re always jealous of your internet buddies who get to try all of the new vegan products right away or live within an hour of a Whole Foods, I think the Vegan Cuts box is a good choice.  It’s a little bit smaller than the smallest Healthy Surprise box, but they’ll send you junk food and it seems like one or two non-food products to try.  It’s also very affordable.

Final thoughts:  I can’t recommend Conscious Box to anyone, but if you don’t care about beeswax, a lot of people seem to like it.  Healthy Surprise is fun, but I wouldn’t get it if I wasn’t splitting it with someone, they repeat a lot of items which is good or bad depending on how much you like kale and apple chips.  So far Vegan Cuts is my favorite, but i’d still like to find a beauty themed one, since vegan/organic beauty products can be expensive and it sucks to commit to a $30 bottle of moisturizer only to find out you hate the smell or it breaks you out.

(All boxes were paid for by me, no freebies here.)

posted: April 10, 2013
under: food, review

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