Charcoal Masks are INTENSE (Giveaway!)

The folks at ASDM Beverly Hills were awesome enough to send me their new Detox & Renew Charcoal Mask to try out. I've only ever tried one other charcoal mask so I was interested to see if different masks had different effects.

This particular mask comes inside a rather large box. (See the first image above.) Inside the box is the 2 oz jar containing the product and a fan brush for applying it. I have to say that the box seemed unnecessarily large for the two items. The jar takes up about 1/3 of the space and the brush fits flush against the side of the box. Sure, it is taller than the jar but there is still a lot of empty box wasted. The brush could probably be a lot shorter without having any real effect on the usefulness of the tool. Then the box itself could be smaller as well.

Like many masks, the instructions are pretty easy. After washing your face, use the fan brush to brush on a thin layer of the charcoal mask, making sure you avoid the eye and nostril areas. Wait somewhere between 2 and 10 minutes, then rinse off. Easy peasy!

But this is where things went wrong for me. As you can see in the picture, I have a very thin layer on my skin and I thought I avoided the eye and nostril area. However, my eyes started burning the second the mask touched my skin. Shortly thereafter, my skin started feeling very warm as well. It's difficult to tell from this picture but I am having a very hard time keeping my eyes open long enough to snap a shot of the mask actually on my face. Unfortunately, I couldn't even wait two minutes before having to wash it off. For the rest of the night, the skin between my nose and my cheekbones was red and felt very warm, almost like the product actually burned me. Very disappointing.

Have you ever tried a charcoal mask? The first one I tried didn't seem to get nearly as hot as this one did. What are your experiences with charcoal masks?

ASDM Beverly Hills has given me a jar of their charcoal mask to give away to one of my readers. The contest will run from 10/27/15 through 10/31/15 and is open to everyone. The winner will be announced on Facebook and Twitter on 11/1/15 so be sure to follow me on both of those platforms. Good luck!

I received a sample of the charcoal mask for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are my own.

Her Story - A Different Type of Video Game

I don't play video games very often. Sometimes there are stories that I need to play through to see where it goes. Her Story is that type of game.

Her Story isn't your typical video game. There are no monsters or bad guys to kill. There are no princesses to save. There are no treasure chests to be opened. Instead, you are given a computer with access to a police database. You have to search the database for video clips of woman taking part in a number of police interviews. These clips do not contain the officer's side of the conversation. Only hers. And you can only access the clips by searching for keywords. Some of these keywords are contained in previously viewed clips (you are given one keyword to start off - "murder") but some of them you have to figure out on your own. When you have watched enough of the main storyline videos, an instant message will pop up asking if you have figured it out. The answer is up to you.

I bought this game from Steam because (1) it was $6.00 and (2) the gameplay sounded interesting. I'm not good at shoot-em-up games or difficult puzzle games but I am good at hidden picture or games that require you to figure out the answer. Since the gameplay is so much different from every other game out there, I was intrigued. There are no real controls. You just have to search a database. How difficult can that be?

The game, itself, is not difficult. There are a few instances where I ran out of obvious keywords so I had to broaden my searches a bit. The difficulty in the game lies in the fact that there is no real solution. As you watch the videos, it is obvious that the case is about the murder of a man. The woman in the video is his wife. She tells a variety of stories - a lot of them based on fairy tales. You have to decide which stories to believe. And the goal of the game is not to decide whether or not this woman committed the murder. No. You have to decide if the videos depict twin sisters or one woman with multiple personalities. At no point are you given a definitive answer. And, from what I can tell, the answer is different for everyone. Some people see traits that prove the twin theory and some people see traits that prove this is only one woman.

While I did enjoy the game, the lack of an ending is frustrating. I wanted there to be some sort of definitive answer and there is not. Sam Barlow, the creator, wanted it that way. To be honest, I have more fun scouring the (real) internet for other people's opinions. Maybe that is what Barlow was aiming for. Not so much the experience of the game itself but the interaction of the players after the game was over. There have been a ton of online discussions debating what was real versus what was a lie. I think that alone makes Her Story one of the most interesting video games of the year.

Installing KissPat Feather Hair Extensions

Feather hair extensions are a popular way to dress up your hairstyle. Even though they are called "feathers," they aren't really feathers. They are simply hair extensions that sorta look like feathers. And they are much easier to get in your hair than you think! Watch the video below to see step-by-step instructions on how you can install extensions in your own hair!

I received a sample of these hair extensions for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are my own.



One To Go Giveaway

One to Go by Mike Pace tells the story of Tom Booker, an alcoholic attorney in Washington DC. The story is a little difficult to tell so, please, bear with me. Tom is a divorced father. One Saturday, he was late picking up his daughter and two of her friends for a field trip. Annoyed by his tardiness, his ex-wife sent the kids off with her sister. As Tom was rushing to get to the kids, he texted his ex-wife, attempting to figure out the plans for the day. Of course, this means Tom got into a huge accident on a bridge. A teenage driver was killed and the van containing the kids (and his ex-sister-in-law) teeters over the river below.

Just then, two preppy-looking demons jog up to him. They offer him a deal. He can "take back" the accident but he would have to kill five other people in exchange for the lives saved. Disoriented by the crash, Tom agrees to the deal. But can he really murder five people?

While I loved the idea of the plot, this book was not very well executed. At a whopping 313 pages in length, not once are we given a reason to care about the lives of these characters. Sure, we're supposed to believe that Tom is protecting his daughter but he never really acts like he loves her. He spends most of his time getting drunk and sleeping around. Even when he is supposed to be emotionally torn about murdering people, he doesn't ever seem like it really bothers him. He just goes back to drinking and screwing. 

I really wanted to like the book. The plot sounded so interesting to me. In the end, One To Go is a short story that was never fully fleshed out to become a real novel. And that makes me sad.

Oceanview Publishing is giving away a copy of the book to one of my readers. I hope that you will read the book and think that I am being overly critical. Perhaps you will see the characterization that I missed. The giveaway ends on September 18. 

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are my own. 

Hello Cutie Mud Mask Giveaway

I recently got a chance to review the Hello Cutie Mud Mask on my YouTube channel. Glam Essentials also gave me a chance to give away one jar of the mask as well! Check out the video then enter the giveaway!

I received this product for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are my own. 

CacheAlaska Cell Phone Holder

For the past couple of months, my husband has been bugging me to get a phone holder for my car. I thought that CacheAlaska's cell phone holder might do the job. Sadly, it only really worked for about a month.

I have a Galaxy Note 4. The charging port for the phone is on the bottom, underneath the center button on the front. My car, a Honda Fit Sport, has the air vents right above the radio. (You can see this in the photo above.) When I have my charger plugged in, the connector pushes up against the face of the radio. I know that, eventually, either the charger or the phone port will break. The picture below will show you what I mean. 

The only way to keep the connector from pushing against the radio is to tilt the phone toward the driver. This works better for me because it makes it slightly easier for me to see the screen. However, I'm pretty sure this tilting as broken the holder. 

The piece that sticks into the vent is a soft plastic but the piece that holds the phone is a hard plastic. Over the past few days, I noticed that the holder no longer holds my phone upright. Instead, it acts like the phone is top heavy and drops it sideways. 

This picture looks like I have tilted the phone like this. I did not. I put the phone in the holder like I normally do (see the first picture) and the holder slowly tilts sideways. Unfortunately, this makes the phone unusable for the driver. 

I really wanted to like this holder. It seemed like the perfect match for someone who didn't really want a holder in the first place. Just when I got used to having it, it stopped doing its job properly. I think this whole situation could have been avoided if the holder stuck out a little further from the dash. I did try a number of configurations to try to get the phone to fit over the radio but none of them worked. Ah, well. Maybe I'll be able to find a better holder that will work with the layout of my car. 

I received this product for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are my own. 

AmazaPens

I have a bit of a pen addiction. My daughter frequently drags me away from the office supply aisle whenever we are shopping. Needless to say, I leapt at the chance to try out this set of pens. 

AmazaPens is a set of 24 gel ink pens. There are 12 glitter pens, 6 neon pens, and 6 pastel pens. That is a lot of awesomeness in one package. But how well do they write?

I have been using these pens in my blog/vlog planner. And I couldn't be happier with the result. There are more than enough colors to allow me to color code everything I do.  Even though there are some "repeat" colors (for example, the neon pink, pastel pink, and glitter pink), they are still unique enough that I can tell them apart at a glance. 

While it is difficult to see in the picture above, most of the writing was done with the glitter ink. Thankfully, the ink contains the right amount of glitter. It is enough that it can be easily seen in person but the glitter isn't getting all over the place. (I usually have problems with glitter.) I think the glitter colors are actually my favorite.

There are a few colors that are a little problematic. As you can see on the September 1 block, the orangey pastel pen is very difficult to read on light colored paper. There is also a white pen that I don't know how to use. I suppose it might look nice if I'm writing on dark paper but, c'mon, how many people write on dark colored paper? 

Overall, I am in love with these pens. I just might have to buy another set when this one runs out. THAT is how much I love it.

I received this product for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are my own. 

The Diagram of Dogs by Pop Chart Lab

Pop Chart Lab is a merchant that sells all sorts of kitchy posters. There are posters about guitars, posters about wine, posters about eyewear....if you can name it, they probably have it. They send me one of their dog posters to review. 

This particular poster shows every breed of dog in their specific category. For example, if you look at the toy breeds, you will find a pomeranian or a pug but then that category branches off into sub-categories, like poodles. I have three dogs, myself, and it was pretty cool to look up each of their breeds to see how they fit into the world of dogs. 

Everyone in my family loves dogs. This poster is an absolutely perfect piece to hang on our wall. Personally, I would probably choose to frame it but it isn't absolutely necessary. The poster paper is thick enough that you could hang it on your wall as is without any problems. I highly recommend picking up one of their posters if you can. Not only are they well-made, they are cute to boot. 

I received this poster for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are solely my own. 

The Couch Tomato in West Chester, PA

On Saturday afternoon, my family and I stopped by The Couch Tomato in West Chester, PA.  I don't usually spend a lot of time in West Chester but my husband does. He easily found us a decent parking spot fairly close to the restaurant. (Hint: The parking meters nearby have free parking until 5PM on Saturday!) I believe there are some parking garages in town but they aren't quite as close to the restaurant.

We arrived around 4:30PM. Strangely, the only other people in the building were the two guys that walked in before us. However, more people arrived after we sat down, closer to 5:00. 

The Couch Tomato is set up a little bit like a fast food joint. You place your order with a cashier then you find a seat until they call your name over the loudspeaker. Once you hear your name, you head back to the front area to pick up your food. You also bus your own table, separating the recyclable materials from the food waste and placing the dishware onto shelves next to the trash can. So maybe not quite like McDonald's but not like a sit-down restaurant with waiters either. 

I had a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato bisque soup. The grilled cheese was delicious. It had a mix of cheeses and arugula grilled on...well, OK, I'm not sure what kind of bread it was. But the bread was chewy and crunchy at the same time. As for the tomato soup, I'm not a huge fan of tomato soup and, since this was a bisque, it wasn't quite a creamy as the tomato soup I'm used to. It wasn't the worst soup that I've had but it wasn't something I would have usually ordered. 

While my food was delicious, it took a very long time to come out. My husband and my daughter ordered food and both of theirs arrived before mine. My daughter got a Hail Caesar salad and my husband got the Couch Club sandwich. (More on those later.) All of the sandwiches are grilled so I'm not really sure why my sandwich took 20 minutes to cook while his only took less than 10. 

This was my daughter's Caesar salad. We both really liked it. (Yes, I tried her food too!) The salad dressing was perfect; the lettuce was nice and crisp; and the hard boiled egg was well-done. My daughter didn't like the croutons too much but she doesn't usually like croutons to begin with.

My husband had the Couch Club sandwich. This is turkey, tomato, turkey bacon, cheddar, and avocado ranch on a weird sort of sesame bread. As I said, all of their sandwiches are grilled, unless otherwise requested. I think I liked his sandwich better than mine. It was a little bit bigger so it might be difficult for small mouths to bite into but I think it would be well worth trying. The bacon was crisp, the turkey was tender...I didn't even realize there was avocado ranch on it! I would probably recommend this sandwich over the others.

Finally, my husband and I both got fountain sodas. And we both chose the cola flavor. The Couch Tomato uses New Hope fountain soda, which uses cane sugar instead of HFCS. For some reason, our sodas tasted off. We have both drank our fair share of cane sugar soda and he has had New Hope soda before. None of it tasted like this. It had a weird aftertaste that none of us liked.

As a whole, we had a rather enjoyable experience at The Couch Tomato. The only downsides were the soda and the extremely long wait for my food. Otherwise, the food was delicious and very well priced. 

If you would like to see my video review of the restaurant, please click below:

I received my grilled cheese and tomato soup for free in exchange for this review. All opinions contained within are solely my own. 

Movie review: Big Eyes

My husband, knowing that I wanted to see Big Eyes, rented the movie from Redbox over the weekend. We didn't get a chance to watch it until Monday night but I'm glad we did.

In case you are not familiar with the movie, Big Eyes tells the story of Margaret Keane, an artist who is famous for painting children with large eyes. After she left her first husband in the 1950s, Margaret did what she could to support herself and her young daughter, Jane. She found a job painting art on children's furniture. But she never stopped painting the big eyed children. It was during an outdoor art exhibition that she met Walter Keane, who would eventually become her second husband. 

Walter was an artist himself. However, where Margaret painted people, Walter painted Parisian streets. When Margaret's first husband threatened to take custody of their daughter, Walter proposed to Margaret. Now there would be a stable home for Jane. 

Ever the businessman, Walter tried to get both his paintings and Margaret's into art galleries. When that failed, he rented wall space at the local jazz club. People would frequently ask about the children with large eyes and Walter began to tell them that he painted them. Margaret was angry when she found out about Walter's lies, but he somehow convinced her that this would be better for sales. 

Years passed. Margaret continued to paint the "big eye" paintings and Walter's fame continued to rise. Profits soared, allowing them to open their own gallery. 

One day, Margaret came upon a shipping box with Walter's name on it. Inside, she found dozens of Parisian street paintings with a different artist's signature. She suddenly realized that she had never seen Walter actually paint anything. After scraping the Keane signature off of one of his paintings, Margaret confronted Walter. 

Despite knowing about Walter's false life as a painter, Margaret continued with their "big eye" ruse. Walter had convinced her that no one would accept a woman as an artist and that business was better if everyone thought he created the paintings. It wasn't until the 1964 World's Fair in New York that Walter's lie began to unravel. An art critic, John Canaday, rejected the piece Margaret painted for the Hall of Education. Canaday called the piece "tasteless" and Walter just lost it. 

Eventually, Margaret tired of the lie and how much of her life she lost to Walter. She took Jane and moved to Hawaii. It was here that she was introduced to the Jehovah's Witnesses. With some support from the community, Margaret sued Walter for slander. Since the case was he-said-she-said, the judge decided that, in order to figure out who was telling the truth, both parties needed to paint a picture. Walter claimed he had a shoulder injury that left him unable to paint while Margaret completed a painting in 53 minutes. Margaret won the case. 

Big Eyes is a very difficult movie to watch in 2015. Since it takes place in the 1950s and 1960s, there is a lot of misogyny and male dominance in the story. Margaret stays with Walter, despite the fact that he is taking credit for all of her work, for ten years! Even when she knew what a con man he was, she still stayed. The viewer definitely needs to keep in mind that, at that time in history, it was very difficult for a woman to leave her husband and be independent. Thankfully, the movie does a fairly good job of setting that up early on.

This is also one of the few movies where I could forget who made it and who starred in it and just lose myself in the characters and story. Amy Adams did a wonderful job becoming Margaret and Christoph Waltz was scarily good at being Walter. On top of that, it didn't have all of the telltale signs of a Tim Burton movie. It is obvious that Burton loved the film's subject and took a lot of care to tell the story properly. If you get a chance to catch Big Eyes, I would definitely recommend checking it out. Margaret Keane's story is an inspiring one, even if it took her a long time to make it happen. 

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