Monday, December 31, 2012

Sometimes Christmas Isn't Awesome. And That's OK.

I'm gonna be really honest here- I think that for a lot of us, Christmas is, more of then than not, somewhere between boring and depressing.

My own personal Christmas began with my mom coming to my house to see how flippin' adorable Jasper was with his new toy. She literally walked in, and within 30 seconds knocked my Christmas tree over. My poor little tree is only about two and a half feet tall, give or take, and I have it standing atop what used to be my fish tank stand. So, one moment Mom is walking into my living room, the next I am covering my eyes with my hands as everything goes crashing to the floor. Remarkably, none of my ornaments broke, but it kind of set the tone for the morning. Yikes!

Just in case you are a crazy cat lady, too, here's Jasper with his new toy! (I filmed Toey with his, too, but I have been uber lazy about all things video this week!) It's one of the catnip toys I linked to in my holiday gift guide.

My mom was totally broke this year, so she didn't get me anything, but my oldest sister did send me a necklace and a surprisingly cute little box for storing random crap.


Click to enlarge

It can be a little disheartening to get on Facebook on Christmas afternoon and see all of the "ZOMG, I got a pony and a spaceship and a new 100000 inch TV! YAY CHRISTMAS!" types of posts, but at least this was better than 2 years ago when my family basically forgot I existed, and I was 1000 miles away from all my friends, and thus ended up with zero presents.

It's easy to say "Oh, if I were back home in Orlando already, Christmas would be super amazeballs and I'd be so happy!", but even that's not true. Yes, we have a ton of seriously awesome Christmas-related things at Disney, but they're all so flippin' crowded by mid-December that you couldn't pay me to go near them. (Except that they DO pay me to go near them, 'cause that's my job and stuff.) My first year, when I worked at Magic Kingdom, I think I worked 16 hours on Christmas Eve, 15 on Christmas itself, and 14 the day after. Those are always crazy stressful days, dealing with guests who don't understand why it's crowded ("We thought nobody would come on Christmas!") or who don't understand the concept that the parade was filmed a month ago ("Where's Ryan Seacrest??") or who just generally aren't feeling so holly jolly. But at least you have your work family to lean on, that little band of people who understand. Also: holiday pay does not suck.

Whoa. I think I just admitted that I would rather be working a 16 hour day in a theme park crammed with 100,000 guests than be where I am now. Whoa. I think I need to process that.  Huh.

My need for therapy aside, I feel like no matter where you are and what your Christmas is like, there are a lot of us who end up feeling depressed or lonely or let down. The thing is, we (both our individual selves and society as a whole) build Christmas up SO MUCH that it's pretty tough for it to live up to the expectations. We start hearing Christmas music before Halloween even happens, our TVs are flooded with advertisements about how to have the best Christmas EVER, our Pinterest boards are overcome with crafty ideas for turning our homes into a winter wonderland. And so it's easy to feel like maybe we've failed a little, if we don't bake the perfect gingerbread men, or buy the perfect present for everyone we know, or send out the cutest Christmas cards EVER, or perhaps even if we can't find a freaking santa hat for our kitten, despite checking three pet stores. (ahem.)

And THEN, we start talking about next year. "Next year," we sigh as we put the ornaments back into the storage box, "I'm going to bake a whole gingerbread house from scratch. And I'm going to make an amazing Christmas playlist so I have the perfect music all month long. And I'm going to get a really cute picture of my kitten in that Santa hat to use as my Christmas cards. And I'm going to find an ironically cute-ugly holiday sweater with reindeer and stuff on it. And I'm going to make the most amazing meal, and wrap all of my presents with a sprig of fresh holly, and hand-embroider everyone's stockings, and and and!"

And so it starts again. We set the expectation bar absurdly high for next Christmas, and when we don't meet it, we feel like we're missing out on something.

Pro Tip: Most Christmases don't look like this, except maybe on ABC Family.

But here's the thing: It's okay if the most festive thing you did this year was watch the Backstreet Boys sing and dance to something festive during the televised Disney Christmas parade. (It is possibly less ok if you spent half of that parade sobbing about missing home, but that's just me.) It's ok if your tree is not done in a perfectly designed color scheme, or if the most fun you had was buying presents for your cats. It's OKAY if you spent the day in ratty sweatpants and no bra. It's all okay. And it is equally okay if you're spending New Year's Eve tonight with a glass of wine and only a cat to kiss, or even if you're going to bed early with a book, or if you're getting paid $7.50 an hour to be at work as the ball drops.

I think we need to drop the crazy expectations. Having a perfect Christmas doesn't mean your life is perfect, and having an amazing New Year's Eve doesn't necessarily mean that the year ahead will be amazing. Maybe next year, you really WILL have the perfect holiday playlist, or prepare the perfect meal, or finally be under the mistletoe with that person you've been swooning over for years. And maybe you won't. But either way, it's okay.

Old Navy Adventures!

I recently got an opportunity to check out Old Navy's active wear via the Old Navy Style Council on Crowdtap! Since I needed to write a bit about my experience for them, I thought I'd share it here, too!

The closest Old Navy to me is about 45 miles away, so I don't get to shop there very often! I did some pre-shopping on their website, so I'd have some idea of what to look for when I got there! The coupon I was sent was good for one top and one bottom (the phrase "active bottoms" makes me giggle), so I checked out pretty much all of the active wear available.

After some poking around online, I was pretty sure that I wanted this tank top:
Women's Active GoDRY Tanks

It looked comfy and I loved the color.

My top pick for pants were the boot cut yoga pants:

Women's Boot-Cut Yoga Pants

Let's just say that's kiiiiinda not how things turned out!

I met up with my friend Christa for the shopping trip, since they were generous enough to send me coupons for a friend to get an outfit, too! The only down side of this trip was that we were at a major shopping mall on the Saturday RIGHT before Christmas. Needless to say, the place was a little crazy!

If you haven't yet watched my Vlogmas Day 22 video, it includes some of our shopping adventures! (The Old Navy part starts at about 4 minutes in, if you don't want to watch all of my babbling on about random things.)

(Oh, my, what an attractive screenshot that video has.)

Anyway, we found the active wear department after some poking around, but it had almost none of the items that I remembered from my browsing on the official site! I was mostly super confused by the pants. There were all sorts of high-tech looking pants for various forms of exercise, and I just kind of stared at them like "What are you supposed to DO?" All I really wanted was either a pair of simple, comfy yoga pants or something akin to leggings. Instead I was faced with a confusing mass of running pants with crazy seams and features I didn't understand. It was confusing, y'all!

Here's what we ended up with:

Sorry for the not-so-great photo quality! We both snapped pics on our phones, and this was the better of the two. Next time I'll bring an actual camera! (And yes, I am TOTALLY barefooting it Britney Spears style.)

My exact jacket is no longer pictured on the site, but they have several other colors still available:
Women's Active Compression Jackets
I really like this purple, I wish the store would have had it! I like my blue, too, though.

So, now that I'm reading the info about this jacket online, I've discovered that it's a "compression jacket", but I still have zero idea what that whole compression thing is about. I picked out a size Large, which is pretty loose everywhere but my boobs, so there's no compression going on, anyway. If you ignore that I'm not using it for its intended use, it's still a pretty snazzy jacket. It's already come in handy during a quick trip to the grocery store when it wasn't quite cold enough for an actual coat. I love the fact that it has thumb holes, even though I find them irritating to actually use. (I'm sensitive about having stuff around my thumbs!) I also REALLY love that there are not only the pockets you see pictured on the outside, but little pockets inside (in pretty much the same spot), too! Those would be great for tucking your car keys and maybe wallet into if you're going for a jog/hike/whatever. That would also be awesome if you're vacationing somewhere that pickpockets are a problem!

I spent an embarrassingly long time staring at the pants on the Old Navy site, trying to find an "official" photo of mine, but I couldn't figure out which ones mine were. I finally felt less dumb when I realized that my pants are no longer on the site. (Weird, yes?) All the tags on mine tell me are that they are "Always Moving Slim Fit Pants". Mine are a charcoal grey color, and sort of a boot cut. They're kind of like if spandex and sweatpants had a baby- thicker than most of my yoga/dance pants, but still easy to move in.

My friend got a pair of the "compression leggings", which she said took FOREVER to put on. Maybe putting the pants on is supposed to be part of the workout? I believe her jacket is one of the "Active Zip Windbreakers", like this one:

Women's Active Zip Windbreakers

I wish I'd taken better notes about hers now, but I expected to be able to pull it up online when I got home. But like mine, her exact style/color is nowhere to be found.

Still, it was fun to check out all of the active wear, both in store and online. (Trying to match the things I found in the store TO the items online was significantly less fun. Sorry for the lack of many visual aids!) I really like the jacket I got, and although I'm yet to really put the pants to use yet, I'm sure they'll come in handy, too!

I also tried on this t-shirt, which was on sale for $4, but didn't like the fit enough to actually buy it:

If you watched the video, you saw that the real star of the shopping trip was the AWESOME pair of earrings I found! We never even knew Old Navy had jewelry, so those were a surprising find. I tried to find a pic of them on Old Navy's site while I was there, but they don't seem to even acknowledge that their jewelry exists. (Seriously, you guys. The "Accessories" section of the site lists hats, scarves, etc, but NO jewelry! The amazing Yeti hat I tried on in the video is also nowhere to be found online!)

So, what did I learn from all of this? 1) Exercise pants are super confusing. 2) Putting on said exercise pants may possibly count as your entire workout. 3) Their jackets are pretty rad, though. 4) If you find something you like in the store, you're probably better off buying it there, because judging by my experience, your chances of finding it online a week later are slim to none. 5) The opposite of that, too, since almost none of the things I liked online were in my store! 6) Old Navy earrings may or may not exist. But mine are amazing! 7) I hope I get to do another one of these Old Navy Style Council things in the future, because this was a lot of fun! And I definitely learned a lot in terms of how to approach it next time.

So there ya go! Definitely a little out of my comfort zone in terms of the types of fashions I usually post about here, but probably timely since I know a lot of people will do the whole "Get in shape" resolution for next year, which I am pretty sure involves shopping for cute things to wear!

If you want to sign up for Crowdtap so that you have the chance to do future events like this, just click here! (I wasn't paid for this post, I just got the 2 coupons for free outfits. And I wasn't required to blog about it, but I figured that since I needed to write a review of my experience for them anyway, I might as well share it with you guys, too!)

Now, who can explain this whole "compression" thing to me? Or am I better off not knowing? Also- who wants to take a poll on how many people use their "active" wear more for lounging around the house than anything else?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What I've Been Reading Latley

It's been a while since I've posted about books, so here's a round-up of some of what I've read lately! (My book total for this year is 61 so far. Not sure what it will be by the end of the year, since I still have a few days to go!)

 A Dangerous Inheritance: A Novel of Tudor Rivals and the Secret of the Tower by Alison Weir

I've been on a historical fiction kick this year, but this is my first of Weir's fiction books. (I read her The Six Wives of Henry VIII earlier this year and enjoyed it). I got an advanced copy via Net Galley back in July, but then didn't get around to starting it until I only had a few days left before the ebook expired, so I rushed through it a little more than I normally would.

The story is split between the perspectives of Katherine Grey (sister of Jane Grey) and Kate Plantaganet. It's a little confusing to jump between the stories as you switch chapters, especially since Katherine's is in first person and Kate's is in third, as well as the fact that the stories take place about 100 years apart. Philippa Gregory uses multiple narrators in a lot of her novels, too, but those tend to be a little easier to keep straight since they're covering events that take place at the same time. (This would actually be the perfect book to read right after Gregory's The White Queen, since that tells the opposite side of Kate's part of the story.)

The main reason I was interested in this book is because it covers two stories I find fascinating- the mystery of the princes in the tower (Wikipedia article is here if you need to brush up on history) and Jane Grey, who was queen for a whole 9 days, although her story is seen through the eyes of her sister. In short, English history is crazy-go-nuts, y'all.

Other than the slight confusion of keeping up with two very similar protagonists, my only real criticism is that at 537 pages, this book felt about 100 pages too long. Even though I was invested in the story, by around 400 pages I was definitely thinking "Get on with it!"

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

You probably best know Mary Roach from her book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. This book, about space travel, is almost as interesting as Stiff, but with a MUCH lower "eww" factor. I was totally fascinated by all of the considerations that have to be figured out for space travel that have just NEVER crossed my mind! This is a fun, fairly quick read, and you'll learn a lot! I really like Mary's writing style, and I want to read Bonk, her book about sex, but haven't been able to find it at my library, so I may have to suck it up (possible awful word choice there) and order a used one!

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, #1)
Beautiful Creatures
I picked this book up at the recommendation of someone I don't even remember now. I don't read much YA (heck, I don't read much fiction), but it's a fun change every now and then when I want something to de-stress with. I guess this series has been talked about a LOT, and there's a movie coming out about this, the first book, next year. Some people are thinking it's going to be the next Twilight kind of  thing in terms of blowing up in popularity, so I guess we'll see where all that goes. When I checked out reviews on Goodreads, they seemed to be super split- people are either obsessed with it or really disappointed. I enjoyed reading it, and I might pick up the next book in the series if I come across it, but I'm not obsessed with it or anything. It did have that definite fault that you see in a lot of first books of a trilogy or series where they try to pack in WAY too much establishing background info in a small space. I'd give it a solid 3.5 stars- something above "meh", but not something I'm suggesting to everyone I know, either. I have to say- I looked up the movie's cast, and none of them look at ALL like I imagined.

What have you guys been reading lately? Any recommendations?

Friday, December 28, 2012

End of the Year Clean-Up

I've mentioned this in some of my vlogs, but not so much on my blog yet- When the end of the year rolls around, I like to do a little "housekeeping", for lack of a better word. Partially in the actual decluttering around the house sense, but really more focused on where I spend most of my time- on the ol' computer.

Here's my list of things to go through!

*Empty e-mail inboxes (probably the hardest thing for me!)
*Go through the blogs I follow in GFC/Google Reader and see if I can unfollow any. If I'm away from my computer for a couple of days, it is totally normal for there to be 1000+ unread posts waiting in Reader, since I follow 265 blogs. I've done a pretty good job of puring this throughout the year, but there are probably a few more I could eliminate.
*YouTube subscriptions. I know there are a couple of people I subscribed to years ago whose videos I never watch.
*I keep a file of random notes in a (suuuuper high tech) notepad file, and it's gotten pretty crowded. I tend to paste urls I want to come back to, ideas for blog posts, random info, you name it.
*My bookmarks folder could definitely use some attention, especially the "blogs to revisit" sub-folder, where I stuck a few of the blogs I unfollowed on GFC so I could check them out again in the future and see if I wanted to resubscribe. (It's also where I bookmark blogs that I like, but not enough to read on a regular basis.)
*Twitter. I only follow around 280 people, but I'm sure there are a handfull I wouldn't miss if I removed them. (I scrolled through my list right after typing this and unfollowed 18 people super easily!)
*My drafts folder on Blogger currently has 90 partially written but as yet unpublished posts sitting in it. The oldest one is from May of 2009. It's probably time to go through and finish up the ones that are worth sharing, and delete the ones that aren't.
*The photo folders on my laptop could use some serious attention. (I also really need to back up pretty much everything on both computers, but that's practically a whole other topic.)
*My Google Docs (or Drive, now, I guess, although I'll probably never start calling it that) files could use a bit of weeding through. There seem to be an awful lot of them now.
*There are 70 not yet listened to podcasts sitting in iTunes.

What am I forgetting? I'm sure there is something! Do you guys do anything like this, too?

Friday, December 21, 2012

New Year, New Lingerie!

I mentioned in one of my vlogs that I always spend the last week or so of December doing some "tidying up", so to speak, both online and around the house so I can start the new year off a little less cluttered. I unsubscribe from email newsletters that I never read, try to get my email inboxes down to 0, and scroll through the list of blogs I follow in Google Reader to see if there are any I want to unsubscribe from. It's just nice to start a new year with a little less mental clutter!

I've been trying to do a little bit of the same around the house! I spent about half an hour the other day organizing my socks, of all things, and tossing out any older pairs that were well passed their prime. Theeeeen I moved on to my underwear drawer. I have SO MUCH LINGERIE, and yet I am always so hesitant to throw things away. Panties where the elastic is pretty much gone, causing them to sag? I can totally get a few more wears out of those! But this year, I'm putting an end to that! I gathered up the "I can wear these a few more times!" pairs, with plans to wear pretty much only those (TMI? Maybe?) for the next week or so, and then toss 'em.

It's kind of silly when you think about how much effort most of us put into our clothes, makeup, hair, etc, that we're so willing to let other things slide just because they aren't visible!

I thought I'd offer up some fun lingerie suggestions, just in case you guys want to go into the new year all shiny and new, too! Since Pantone has declared emerald to be the official color of 2013, that's the theme of today's items! (All of these are from EdenFantasys, btw, who currently has free shipping on orders over $25! Score! They have a giant selection of sexy lingerie, but you do need to be at least 18 to shop the site.)

Satin and Lace Corset by Coquette- Usually $62.99, currently on sale for $47.24

This is probably my FAVORITE corset that I own, and giving the overstuffed status of my lingerie dresser, that's really saying something. The color is amazing, the lace is super pretty, and it comes in sizes from small up to 3X/4X. Plus, it's the type of style that you could totally put a cute black jacket over and wear to a holiday party. LOVE this one!

Bra, garter belt and g-string set- Also by Coquette- Normally $32.99, on sale for $24.74
Okay, I totally own this set, too. The style is very similar to the corset above, but this is a little more comfy for more frequent use. Sadly, this only comes in small, medium and large, and the bra from the large set will only fit a C or small D cup at the most, so mine has never gotten any real use. It kinda fits, but if I move at all it's like a boob explosion. In other words: awesome for happy fun bedroom time with a significant other, but probably not the best idea for everyday use. Of course, if you're of more average boobage, it would be amazing!

Anyone else going to join me in tossing out old underthings that don't make you feel instantly amazing when you put them on?

March of the Coffee Mugs

First up, congrats on surviving the apocalypse, everyone! Well done, well done.

I was just checking out my Google Analytics stats for the month, and an absurd number of people seem to have ended up at my site lately by searching for things like "penguin cookie jar" and "penguin mug" and such. That made me start thinking about a) Penguins are pretty frickin' cute, and b) I could realllly use a 2nd cup of coffee, but it is too cold to get out of bed again. c) Maybe I should just give the people what they want.

So I hopped on the ol' internets and did some penguin hunting!

First up, for those of you with the overwhelming urge to stick your cookies in an arctic bird (Pro Tip: I suggest sticking em in your mouth, instead, but to each their own, I guess...)

Ceramic Penguin/Glass Belly Cookie Jar $35
This is totally NOT what came to mind when I thought penguin cookie jar, but I am kind of in love with it! I love that Mr. Penguin (it's the males that sit on the babies to keep them warm, right?) is just like, hangin' out. He would look a little weird once he's stuffed with Chips Ahoy, given that his rotund belly is transparent, but still, SUPER CUTE.

 Penguin Cookie Jar $20
I'm a fan of this little guy's festive hat and scarf. I like that he's pictured next to milk and cookies and kitchen stuff, as if he's saying "Check it out, I am TOTALLY qualified for this job. I have experience with cookie stuff."

Boston Warehouse Penguin Party Hinged Jar - $8.99
This cute little dude comes in on the more budget-friendly end of the price range, but there's that kind of awkward thing going on where he looks like he's maybe suffered a recent encounter with some whiplash. I'd feel a little awkward having to decapitate him every time I wanted a cookie.

And, a topic near and dear to my heart, coffee mugs!  (Seriously you guys, I will pay someone to go make me some coffee. It's 32 degrees, I am not moving from this bed.)

Animals Globetrotter Penguin Mug [Set of 2] $21.56
I was kind of surprised there weren't more cute penguin mugs available on Amazon! I think this is my favorite, though. I like the random green fish!

Mugzie® brand 16-Ounce Travel Mug with Insulated Wetsuit Cover - Penguin Christmas Tree
Okay, so this is more a travel mug than a coffee mug, but it's cute!

And let's round things off with some random penguin goodness for your kitchen!
(BTW, as I'm typing up this blog post, my cats knocked over the Christmas tree. Not just some ornaments, the ENTIRE 6' tree. They do nothing halfway!)

Lekue Slim Penguin Ice Cube Tray, Blue $7.95
I love this! I do wish it was made of silicone instead of rubber, but otherwise it's pretty rad! And they come in all kinds of shapes like stars and apples and hearts, too!

Penguin Pop-Up Laundry Hamper - Round $14.20
Ummm, yeah, I think I might need this. I kinda love him. I am a little creeped out by his staring, stalkery face, though. He looks like the kind of laundry hamper that would really enjoy watching you undress. But still... pretty awesome.

Boston Warehouse Frozen Friends Ice Cream Scoop, Penguin Design $9.99
This little dude can scoop my Ben & Jerry's any day! (Hahaha, just kidding, I eat it out of the carton like everyone else.)

Norpro Pete the Penguin Cocktail Shaker $29.67
This looks like the kind of barware you'd see in the evil lair of a Bond villain or something. And for some reason it keeps making me think of the Maltese Falcoln. Also: I love his little FEET!

Are there any penguins in your kitchen? And hey, did anyone else play Sims 2 and if so, are you now thinking about that little penguin from Seasons who would wander into your house and leave behind puddles, or make conversation with your snowman? I am!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

e.l.f. Essential 5-Piece Get The Look Eye Set in Brown - Review and Swatches

Holy cow, y'all... this set!

This just might be the best $5 you can spend on an e.l.f. product. They offer these "Get The Look" sets in 3 different colors (Brown, which I got, plus Purple and Smoky). Each set includes a black liquid liner, black mascara, eye shadow brush, eyelash curler, and a trio of eye shadows. You can buy the liner, mascara, and eyelash curler separately for $1 each, but the brush is slightly different from any of the single brushes available, and the shadow trios are only offered in this set.

I have reviewed the liquid liner in the past (you can find that here) and I won't be reviewing this mascara since I haven't used it (I set the one that came in the set aside for a giveaway since I already have zillions of mascaras). The eyeliner does contain parabens, so if you only use paraben-free products, you might want to skip that one.

The eye shadow brush is pretty nice. It seems to be a slight step up from the $1 shadow brush in the essential line. It's definitely handy to have around, but nothing super special. Neither the packaging nor the website specifies what the brush is made of. As a guess, I'd say the bristles are synthetic, but I'm not positive.

The eyelash curler is also pretty standard, except that the one I received was a little crooked.

I know this is a little tough to see, but the left side has a much smaller gap than the right.

To be honest, I almost never use eyelash curlers because a) I think my lashes look fine the way they are and b) lash curlers kinda freak me out. If this wasn't crooked, I'd vote it as not being bad for $1, though.

What really makes this kit worth buying is the eyeshadow trio. These are *awesome*!

Although the darkest color looks sort of charcoal black in the official photo, it's much more of a deep brown in person, which makes more sense with the other colors included.

The top half of this photo is the shadows over bare skin, the bottom half is over primer. As you can see, they go on pretty nicely on their own, but the primer does help a tiny bit.

I am really liking these so far! They are soft and easy to apply, they stay on a long time, and they're colors that will look good on almost anyone. The lightest shade works nicely as either a highlight color or on the lid, and the darkest makes a great eyeliner when used wet.

The best thing about this trio of shadows is how much variety you can get in the looks you use it for. You can stick to mostly the lighter two colors for a very natural look, or really make it dramatic by using more of the dark brown. Here are a couple of examples:

For this subtle look, I started by applying the lightest shade over the entire eye area, from lashes up to brow bone. I then added a bit more of the same color to the lid and just under the brow, but applied wet this time to make the color just a little stronger. Next, I covered the lid (from lashes up to the crease) in the medium brown. I finished it off by using the dark brown as eyeliner by applying it with a damp angled brush.

For this more dramatic look, I started by applying the lightest color to the upper half of my eye (everything above the crease) with a damp brush. Next, I painted my lid with the medium brown color (also wet), and then used the darkest brown in my crease. I finished by using the dark brown as liner again, but this time I topped it with a thin line of black liquid liner along my upper lashes. (The mascara used in both photos is e.l.f.'s $2 volumizing mascara.)

Overall, I think this trio of shadows are the best quality eye shadows I've tried from e.l.f. I wish they were sold separately, since I'd like to try the purple trio, too, and I don't really need a whole extra kit. I'd also like to see more color options added, since the Smoky (silver, dark blue, black) colors don't appeal to me at all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Boooo! An e.l.f. customer service rant.

I'm pretty bummed to have to be writing this post, but since I'm in the midst of sharing a ton of e.l.f. product reviews, I felt obligated to share the snafu I ran into with their customer service.

First, some background on past experiences. When I ordered a liquid liner earlier this year and it arrived with a funky, stiff brush, I shot an email to their customer service and they immediately shipped out a new one. (That one actually arrived dried up, too, but I just kinda forgot about it instead of emailing them again.) In a similar situation with another order, they replaced a dried out eyeliner pen. All good stuff.

With this order, I noticed when I got my email confirmation that the wrong shade was listed for a lipstick I ordered. Again, I sent them a note through the site asking if that could be fixed before it shipped, and they responded quickly and did ship the right color. Thumbs up.

But now we come to the limited edition holiday eyeshadow palette . When my package arrived, I checked my bag-o-stuff against my order confirmation, this was missing. I was pretty sad since it was the item that I was most excited about. In the past, when items have been left out of my order, I've contacted e.l.f. and they've either shipped them out or refunded me. With that in mind, I pulled up their website the day after my order came to see if the palette had already been discontinued (since it's limited edition). It showed up as out of stock, but there was a note that it would be available again soon. Cool.

So, I used the site's contact form to sumbit a request: I asked if instead of refunding me, they could just ship it out when it became available, since I really wanted to review it on my blog but there was no way I could afford to pay $7 shipping again for a $3 item if I made a whole new order.  Pretty straight forward, right?

Here's the response I got:

We apologize for items missing from your order. We have issued a refund on your credit card and are very sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused. Please note that this may take 7-14 days to post to your account. We regret any inconvenience. Sincerely, the e.l.f. team

Wait... whaaa? That is the total opposite of what I just asked for.

(image originally from Hyperbole and a Half. It makes me sad that no one ever credits Allie for her amazing drawings.)

I assumed that since their reply had ZERO to do with what I asked, and they didn't even acknowledge my actual request, that it was probably answered by a program that screens their emails for certain words and sends out automatic responses. I responded along the lines of "Umm, I'm guessing this was answered by robot since it's the exact opposite of what I asked." I was hoping an actual human would see my response this time, apologize, and give me an answer that actually applied to my question. (Either "Yikes, sorry about that! We'll happily ship this out ASAP!" or "Unfortunately we're totally sold out of these and can't fulfill your request. Super sorry about that!".  I would be bummed out by the latter, but I'd totally understand.

Instead, I got this reply:

We apologize that we have not been able to ship all of the items you ordered. Since we have already refunded your credit card for the items, we will be unable to ship the items you did not receive automatically. If the items are back in stock, and you still wish to receive them, please place another order. Thank you for your patience and loyalty.

the e.l.f. team

You have to be kidding me.

A Comprehensive Glossary Of Gifs / gifs glossary

First, I already said in the original message that I had no desire to place a new order since shipping was more than twice the price of the item. Yes, I really want this eye shadow palette, but I'm not about to pay $10 to get it! (Especially since when I ordered it was on sale for $1.50).

Second, they are using the fact that they already sent a refund against me, even though they did so in response to my request NOT to be refunded. That is beyond ridiculous.

I replied again, calling them out on the whole "Since we already refunded your credit card after you explicitly asked us to NOT do so, we can't help you." thing, but I haven't heard back yet. (I'll update this post if I do.)

And here's the thing: Yes, this is all over a $3 eye shadow palette. Not getting it isn't a HUGE deal- it's not like I don't already own a ton of makeup, or like it lays golden eggs or something. (I *did* already put a good 30 min or so of work into setting up the review post, filling it with info about the product with space to add in my personal experience and photos when I got it. But again, half an hour is no huge loss in the grand scheme of things.) The actual item isn't a big issue, but the way they have handled it IS.

So yes, I'm making a big deal out of a $3 item. But here's the thing- on their end, they're causing all of this annoyance over a three dollar item. I don't know if it's because of my background working for Disney where guest service is something we take MAJOR pride in, but I find this type of "customer service" 100% unacceptable. I mean, let's be realistic here. That eye shadow palette probably costs them less than 50 cents to manufacture. (Probably way less than that.) Shipping a new one would most likely cost them less than a dollar. So for around $1.50, they could have solved the situation when I originally asked. Not only would that have made me happy, but it would lead to a) a review of their product out on the ol' internets, and b) a report of how efficiently they handled it, too. Given that companies frequently send me $50+ worth of products for exactly that kind of publicity, it seems like a no brainer.

Instead, because they're too cheap to spend a dollar on postage and drop a new one in the mail, they lose my respect, seriously decrease the likelihood that I'll order from them online again, and we all end up here in the midst of a big rant. (To be fair, I mentioned in two of my messages to them that the product was going to be reviewed on my blog, AND I tweeted yesterday that a rant was coming, including their Twitter handle in the tweet to give them a heads-up. I consider that pretty fair warning and plenty of chances to solve things before taking my opinion public.)

So, that's that. I'll continue my reviews of the products I got in this order, and I won't let my issues with their support team influence my opinions of the actual products. However, I thought it was only fair to share all of this with you guys so that you know that if you do end up buying any of the products I talk about, there is that small gamble that you'll end up in a frustrating situation, too.

Update: I heard back from my most recent message about 2 hours after I posted this. They sent me two $5 gift cards to use on my next order. That's a pretty decent resolution, but handing it the right way in the first place (or even second or third message) would have been a lot better.

e.l.f. Mineral Pressed Mineral Eyeshadow in First Date - Review and Swatches

If you watched the e.l.f. haul video that I posted a week or so ago, you know I picked up quite a few products that I've never tried before. I'm going to do my best to review and photograph them, since I know that searching for that info helps me a lot when I'm trying to decide what to buy!

Up for review today is the e.l.f. Mineral Pressed Mineral Eyeshadow in the color First Date! I have tried e.l.f.'s loose mineral shadows before, but the pressed version is quite new, so this is my first experience! This company's products are VERY hit or miss for me, so I usually only buy one color/shade of a new type of product when they come out so I can get an idea of the quality before I commit to buying it in multiple colors.

One of the main issues that I've had with e.l.f. is that the colors of the products often look NOTHING like the colors shown online.

Here is what the official site shows for First Date:

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And here is what it looks like in person:

The upper half of the photo is over primer, lower half is on bare skin. As you can see, it barely shows up on the lower half!

As you can see, it's pretty pale! And a bit messy in the first photo. The shade of pink is also a bit cooler-toned than in the official photos, which made me kind of sad because I really wanted the warmer shade pictured, but otherwise it is pretty close to what I expected. I do like that it's matte, since the main problem that I had with e.l.f.'s other mineral shadows (the loose ones) is that they are all SUPER shimmery.

I tried applying this a few different ways to see what would work best. Because it's so powdery (is there a better word for that? Crumbly? Delicate? You get the idea, I hope.) I had much better results applying it with my finger or a makeup sponge than I did with a brush. While applying it wet cut down on the powdery mess, once it dried it took on a sort of cakey appearance that really revealed its inexpensive quality.

Although you can build up the color a little bit, you're never going to get *that* much color from this product.   I'd say it's best for when you want a subtle highlight color that's not white, since it's hard to build it up enough to look very good on the lid.

The pressed mineral shadows are available in 10 different colors, but there is not a lot of variety in color available:

All very cool toned neutral colors so far. Of course, if the history of other products holds true, if these go over well they will probably add more colors in the future. Judging the the reviews on the official site, it sounds like the darker colors have pretty good pigmentation, but the lighter ones tend to not show up as well.

Would I buy this again? Hmmm, probably not. It's not a terrible shadow, but I really prefer something more pigmented. These would probably be good for someone looking for a very subtle amount color. I like this shadow fairly well, but it didn't perform any better than e.l.f.'s less expensive eye shadows (this one is $3), and I feel like the formula could still use a little fine tuning.