Monday, April 6, 2015

Beverage of the Gods

Chai tea with vanilla-flavored almond milk coffee creamer and a touch of stevia just may be the beverage of the Gods. And if it's not, then I nominate it. It's seriously good, y'all.

Try it. You'll thank me later.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Rocksbox Review No.2

I received my second Rocksbox in the mail earlier this week and wanted to share my thoughts on this latest set.  To read my review of my first box, please go here.

In this box, I received:
Gorjana Geometric Drop Stud | $55/$44 member price
Gorjana Infinity II Ring in Rose Gold | $40/$32 member price
Margaret Elizabeth Small Teardrop Bezel Necklace in Labradorite | $108/$86 member price

First, my one wishlisted item, the Gorjana Geometric Drop Stud.  I really liked the idea of these when I saw these on the website, but I wasn't impressed with them in person.  From the online picture, I didn't expect these to be quite so delicate.  They were much more thin than I expected and I just didn't like the way they looked.  Which brings me to one of my complaints - I really wish Rocksbox would show pictures of the jewelry actually ON a person to give us a better idea of what the pieces really look like and to gauge size.  The plain white background doesn't help at all with that.

I absolutely understand why my stylist chose the Gorjana Infinity II Ring in Rose Gold for me.  I do like Gorjana pieces and I did ask for rose gold.  This was a really pretty piece and it would definitely be versatile - going easily from day to night, professional to casual.  However, for my rings, I prefer less delicate styles.  I also felt like the price was a bit high for what it is.

Finally, the Margaret Elizabeth Small Teardrop Bezel Necklace in Labradorite.  My stylist said she picked this since I asked for versatile pieces that would work for both work and weekends.  Unfortunately, this necklace was just all kinds of wrong for me.  I really didn't care for the dotted chain.  I can't really explain why, but it just turned me off.  I also wasn't in love with the labradorite, in color or in shape.  It's funny because in general, I love all things grey, but I just can't seem to get on board with labradorites and their particular shade of grey.  I've tried on other labradorite pieces before and I just can't love it, which is so counter-intuitive of my typical preferences.  I also didn't care for the shape of this particular stone.  I know natural stones = natural variations, but this "teardrop" just felt stubby and wide to me, more circular than teardrop.

Total bust.  This entire box went back the very next day after I received it.  Oh well.  The good news is that I'll be able to squeeze in one more box before my first free month is up.  I'm still not sure if I'll continue with this service past that.  I like the concept of this monthly service and I like the jewelry but over all - I like it, but I'm just not sure I love it.  It's fun to get new pretties in the mail and they're pretty quick about shipping out new boxes, but I just wish I had more control over what they sent me and I really don't like feeling like I'm throwing away $19/month.  I know it's a more than reasonable cost for the service, I just don't know that with the way this service is set up, that it has $19 worth of value to me personally.  I have some more thoughts on that, which I'll elaborate more on in my third review when I get my next box.

Want to try Rocksbox and decide for yourself?  Get your first month free by using this code: clarabff10

Monday, February 16, 2015

BALTO Sandwich

Everyone knows and loves the classic BLT sandwich, but my personal favorite is the BALTO sandwich.  Never heard of it?  Well, that's probably because it's my own personal creation!

I can't believe it, but I actually haven't shared this yummy favorite of mine with Kenny until yesterday.  We were discussing brunch ideas and I mentioned a BLT.  He said he loves BLTs (over 2 years together and I'm still learning about this awesome man).  So I suggested that he try my own version, the BALTO.  He giggled and said, "BALTO?"  Yes, maybe not as catchy as the BLT but hey, it works!

The BALTO is my own combo that builds on the traditional Bacon/Lettuce/Tomato (to which I also use mayonnaise and a bit of pepper on the tomato) and adds Avocado and Onion.  With the avocado, I don't usually use the mayo, but my man loves his mayo, so I did include it today.

To make this Clara-friendly, I used gluten-free bread and beef bacon.  Kenny has declared it a winner, 5 out 5 stars!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Rocksbox Review

I've been seeing a lot of this company lately, Rocksbox.  Several bloggers I follow have mentioned it and some pieces I've seen online that I really like are mentioned as coming from there.  But, what is it?

Rocksbox is the Netflix of jewelry.  It's a membership-based, direct-mail jewelry styling service. Members pay $19/month to rent stylist-chosen jewelry sets of three at a time.  You wear your pieces for as long as you want, keep what you'd like to buy (at 20% off) and mail back whatever you don't want to keep.  You pay the same membership fee regardless of how often you exchange your box.  The jewelry is sanitized before coming to you and the fee covers insurance in case an item arrives damaged.

The more I read, the more I liked.  Several reviews said it was a great service, and I found a code to try the service free for one month.  So what's not to lose?  I signed up a few days later, my first box shipped out.  It arrived last Friday and I must say, overall, I'm fairly impressed with this service!

First impression - I love the packaging.  It protected the jewelry very well but was also very stylish.  I kinda wanted to keep that box!

Whoa, my name in big, bold lettering!  Hey to you too, Rocksbox!
Inside that card was a short, sweet note for why my stylist chose these items as well as a list of each item and it's price.  Each piece was in an organza pouch, with the more delicate pieces wrapped in bubble wrap.  I love the patterned tissue paper and just how coordinated the entire package is - top marks for presentation!

This month, I received:
Robyn Rhodes Louisa Stud Earrings  |  $50/$40 member price
Urban Gem Victoria Necklace  |  $64/$51 member price
Gorjana Twist Cuff  |  $95/$76 member price
The cuff was on my wish list and my stylist picked the other pieces based on it.

First up, the Robyn Rhodes Louisa Stud Earrings.  I think these are a great size and a great color. They'd go with just about any outfit, dressed up or down.
Even at the discount of $40, it is a little steep but they are handcrafted, genuine blue lapis, and the metal is 14kt gold plated brass, so they are definitely a quality piece.  And, with their versatility, you'd definitely get a lot of wear out of them, so the cost-per-wear of these would be relatively low.
I do already have a pair that is very similar though so I didn't keep them but I might have considered them more heavily if I didn't already have something like this.

I can see why my stylist picked the Urban Gem Victoria Necklace for me.  It does fit my profile, I'd bet that this is a popular style and it is just a really pretty piece.  I love the overall vintage feel of the piece and the shape is just lovely.  I can definitely see it being dressed up with a LBD and easily dressed down over a graphic tee or underneath a plaid button-up shirt.
However, at $51, I just wasn't sure that I would get enough wear out of it.  I already own a different rhinestone short necklace that I just don't wear much.  I honestly like this one much better but not enough to justify the price.

Finally, my wish list item, the Gorjana Twist Cuff.  The $76 price tag is definitely higher than I generally like to spend on a bracelet, but when I wore it, I was so enamored with it!  I absolutely love the hammered texture, which is so "in" right now, and it really makes this piece go from dressy to casual easily.  It is reversible (twist facing up or the opening facing up) and it has it has some amazing layering options: the obvious bangles, open bangles, and link chains, but also watches, due to the little "dip" in the center created by the twist.  I know lots of people layer lots of different bracelets with their watches, but I have never found a bracelet that I personally liked layered with a watch until now.

As you can probably guess, I ended up talking myself into keeping this bracelet.  I'm confident that due to it's versatility, I'll be able to get a lot of wear out of it, making the price justifiable when you think about the cost-per-wear.

Overall, I think my stylist did a good job choosing items for me.  I honestly liked all the pieces and didn't think that any of them were off, based on my survey and requests.  The prices are fair, no big steals here, but nothing outrageous either.  The packaging was both practical and cute.  I've only received 1 box so far and I think I can get 1 or 2 more in before my free month is up.  So far, I only have 2 suggestions:

1) My box arrived in a bubble wrap padded envelope which included the Rocksbox as well as an additional bubble wrap padded envelope for the return shipment.  Why do we need a second envelope?!  This might sound nit picky but it's wasteful -- both financially and environmentally.  Instead of these single-seal padded envelopes, I'd suggest getting the ones that can be opened and then resealed, then the company can save LITERALLY HALF the money they're spending on these envelopes since they'd only be sending one per order instead of two.  Even if the resealable ones are more expensive per envelope, I'm positive it's cheaper overall than using 2 envelopes per order.  With those, customers can just apply the new label over the old one, reseal the envelope and send it back.  Also, doing this would stop all that plastic going into the landfill.  It may seem like a small difference now, but as this company grows, it will become a larger issue quite quickly.

2)  Take a cue from StitchFix and apply the monthly fee to our purchase if we decide to make a purchase that month.  I honestly understand that the $19 fee is fair based on all the shipping to/from costs, the stylists time, the packing time, and apparently ALL the darn envelopes they're buying.  However, as a customer, once I start factoring the monthly fee into the cost of the piece(s) I want to buy, the fee basically negates the 20% off discount.  I don't feel like I'm getting a "deal" anymore.  I could have just bought the item myself at full retail.  Sure, I wouldn't have had them pick it out for me, but in this particular case, this was a piece I was looking at anyway.  Maybe I'd feel differently if the piece I kept was a brand-new-to-me piece that I never would have chosen for myself.

Aside from those two issues, I do really like this service.  They offer high-quality pieces in appealing packaging.  And really, it's just FUN.  Who doesn't love getting little surprises in the mail?  Especially sparkly ones!  I'll finish out this month, getting at least one more box, maybe two, and then decide if I want to continue with this service.

Want to try Rocksbox and decide for yourself?  Get your first month free by using this code: clarabff10

Friday, February 6, 2015

Chopped Salad

I used to love making chopped salads a few years ago when I first heard about them.  I'm not sure why I stopped making them but I did and I ended up sort of forgetting about them.  I've seen them pop up on some menus at some restaurants I've been to lately and it's been on my mind.  I love how you can take ingredients that you typically wouldn't eat raw (cauliflower, zucchini, asparagus, etc) and chop it up tiny and all of a sudden, it's really appealing.  I love the bright, enticing colors and the delicious aroma.

My "One Little Word" this year is LESS and with that, I've recently decided to eat out for lunch less.  I've been eating out 4-5 days a week for the past year or so and that has got to stop.  It's not healthy for my body or my bank account.  I will allow myself to eat out or order in lunch no more than once a week.  I made a sandwich on Monday, then brought leftovers for lunch on Tuesday and Thursday, Wednesday was my lunch out day (Red Robin ... Yum!) and then, last night, I was rooting around in my fridge trying to decide what to bring.  I initially thought about bringing another sandwich but I wanted to try to get in more veggies.  A salad, then, I figured.  I pulled out the spinach and the spring mix and then dug around to find some other veggies to add.  I realized I had cauliflower I needed to use up, but I knew I wouldn't eat it in a regular salad ... then I remembered chopped salads!  Perfect!

It felt so good pulling all the fresh, raw veggies out of the fridge and it was kind of therapeutic chopping them all up.  I love chopping and prepping food ... well, most of that time!

I didn't measure anything, but this particular chopped salad has:
Turkey breast
Beef salami

I decided not to add any leafy pieces just to be different (we eat a lot of spinach in other dishes and spring mix on our sandwiches ... which we eat a lot of! Ha!).  I wanted to add avocado (my fav!) but we were all out.  Next time.

I whipped up a homemade vinaigrette (for which I also didn't measure anything) but it had:
Olive oil
Avocado oil
Sesame oil
Red wine vinegar
Lemon Juice
Worcestershire sauce
Hot sauce
Minced garlic
Dried oregano
Dried onion powder
Lawry's seasoning
Black pepper
Agave nectar

I definitely need to make more of these for lunch, maybe this will be a once-a-week meal.  I want to experiment with different veggies and see what flavors and mixes I can create.  I'm especially excited to try adding in boiled egg, yellow peppers, jicama and olives.