Reviews

I Tried Noom Coach so You Don't Have To

I Tried Noom Coach So You Don't Have To | Writing Between Pauses

In the efforts to be fully transparent, and as body positive as I can be while also working on my physical weight for health reasons, I tried Noom for a variety of reasons, some of them weight-related and some of them not. I’m really excited to tell you how it went. However, I understand reviews like these can be really triggering, especially for those struggling with negative body image. As always, if you feel something like this will be hard for you to read, don’t hesitate to close the window.

I started using Noom, an app that divided food into Green, Yellow, and Red groups, at least 5 years ago. I remember signing up and having the app on my phone. I didn’t like the Red, Yellow, and Green designations; I totally “got” it, but it didn’t really help my issues with seeing foods as “bad” versus “good.”

And while Noom does subscribe to the idea that making foods taboo is bad, using Red, Yellow, and Green ascribes them to “Stop,” “Caution”, and “Go”, which still arranges them on a spectrum of Good to Bad. For all their dedication to terminology at Noom, I don’t know why they kept this designation system! They could have at least chosen different colors.

Either way, I stopped using the app and promptly forgot about it until I heard an ad for that very same app on one of the many podcasts I listen to. “Huh?” I thought. “Noom costs MONEY now?!” I needed to know what the difference was.

Noom Coach is a program like the app I used way back when—that same structure of assigning food to categories and you eat a percentage of the category each day—with the added addition of a Goal Specialist, a Group function, and more. Basically, it became a support program to help you navigate both the physical aspects of weight loss and the emotional and psychological aspects as well. As someone who has struggled with my weight for a long time, I found this focus a little refreshing; there is a lot of psychology around the foods we eat and why (as well as the foods we don’t eat and why) and I’ve always been very interested in it.

As well, since one of my goals in 2019, is to have a second baby, I knew I needed to get to a starting point that would be less damaging to my body than last time. (Again, that disclaimer at the beginning of this post comes in). This is something I need to do for my long-term health, since having preeclampsia during a pregnancy massively increases my risk of heart disease. I thought Noom would be a great option for that, since it seems a little more gentle than, say, Weight Watchers.

What is Noom?

Ok, so first things first: what is Noom? Noom is, like a said, a weightloss app. But it’s design is not just like MyFitnessPal or Weight Watchers. It targets the psychological aspects of weight gain and loss as well. Like I said, they divide foods into Green, Yellow, and Red. Basically, Green foods are foods that are nutrient dense, but not calorie dense. Everything in Noom is based on caloric density. Green foods are things like fruits and vegetables, whole wheat bread, leafy greens. Yellow foods are things like avocado and peanut butter; nutrient dense, but also kind of calorically dense. And Red foods, despite Noom’s insistence that no that’s not the case are the foods you expect: butter, oil, fast food, coffees.

But it’s more than just tracking food. I only signed up for a 2 week free trial (and spoiler alert, I did not spend the money for the first 3 months), but I still had access to the Goal Specialist you are assigned immediately. After a while, you’ll also be assigned a Group Coach, as well as a Support Team. That means within the app you have daily articles to read, quizzes to take, and more, as well as daily weigh ins, tracking your intake, and more. Plus, you’ll have support throughout the entire time.

In theory, this sounds like a great program. They set you up for success right from the beginning and just ask you to be more conscious of choosing nutrient dense foods. For me, that worked really well.

My Experience Using Noom

I’m an emotional eater. I know this. I know it! I also know that I love, love, love certain foods and viscerally hate others. I am a very picky eater. I don’t like most condiments. I don’t like anything mushy. I struggle with leafy greens because I find the texture really unpleasant in my mouth. In general, I’m just a picky eater. I am also extremely busy and very stressed. I have a 3-year-old, a full time job, and a lot going on in my life right now. When I originally started this review, my brother was about to get married—and if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that this was a huge stressful event in my life. Well, a lot happened both before and after the wedding; so much so that I had to put this review aside to deal with it and not use this review as a place to unload.

I’ll just say: my experience with Noom did not help my stress levels.

Like I said, I think Noom’s setup is absolutely great; the app is lovely and easy to use. I loved the daily articles about psychology. I loved the quizzes. The separating of food into color groups made sense, but I still found it a little triggering to see that Red column. There was one thing I had a huge problem with. It was my Goal Specialist.

I want to preface this, again, with this: I know 100% that my experience is based entirely on the fact that one person messed up and it ruined the entire app for me. I know that. And I know that if I had gotten any other Goal Specialist, who was more of a match to me, i probably would have spent the money on Noom Coach to keep going for 3 months. I know those things.

Ok, so, it’s time to talk about what happened.

The purpose of the Goal Specialist is to walk you through the goals you set up in Noom. My goal was to have a baby in 2019 and to get to a happier, healthier point, both physically and mentally. I won’t say the name of the Goal Specialist I was assigned; we’ll call her S. The thing about the Goal Specialist was that she only really sent me one message per day—and in fact, for the first 4 days of the program, I only got 1 message from her asking me to think about things I wanted to work on, then message her on Wednesday after I signed up. That was easy enough.

Here’s roughly what I sent:

“Hi S! I’ve been thinking about things I want to work on and I definitely think preparing ahead is going to be a big one. I feel like I’m busy all the time and end up grabbing whatever is easiest to eat once I get to work. I have a toddler and getting him out the door is my number one priority in the morning, alongside making sure my husband gets to work on time. I feel like I don’t really have the time or energy to really food prep, so ideas for grab-and-go items I can have ready would be amazing!”

I got a reply from S nearly 24 hours after I sent that. Almost always, if she messaged me in the morning and I replied immediately, it would be 24 hours before she replied again. I don’t know if this was part of the program, but it made communicating really difficult. I unfortunately didn’t save her response when I deleted and unsubscribed from the program and app, but this is roughly what she said:

Michelle, it sounds to me like you’re making a lot of excuses. We all have the same time in the day.”

Firstly, categorically, no, we don’t all have the same time in the day. I work 65+ hours a week adding up all my various jobs and responsibilities, on top of having a toddler, cooking and cleaning, caring for a large dog, and taking time for myself. I work out 4 days a week already. The subtle implication that I’m lazy made me see absolute red. This reply was not helpful and did not answer my question or request whatsoever; it didn’t help me get to my goals. It was demotivating and damaging.

My reply was absolute shock that she would say something like that to me. It was not a supportive comment to make to someone who was asking for very specific suggestions. I replied and told her that absolutely was not something I was ok with her saying and I would be requesting a new Goal Specialist. Which I did.

It took 4-5 days for them to assign me a new Goal Specialist.

In that time, S messaged me again and apologized, then again implied that I don’t grocery shop! So great, another snide comment about being lazy. Nice!

When I was assigned my new Goal Specialist, I was close to the end of my free trial. I tried having a conversation with my Goal Specialist about how I was struggling to remain motivated to use the app after S’s messages and, again, it always took nearly 24 hours to receive a reply. When I expressed concern about the program when it took so damn long for anyone to reply to me, the new Goal Specialist (we’ll call her A) simply apologized. Finally, I realized I was done; it wasn’t working for me, despite the fact that it had everything I really wanted in a weight loss app. I told A I wanted to cancel my subscription before the end of my free trial so that I would not be charged for 3 months.

It took two days for that to happen, but I wasn’t surprised by that.

Final Thoughts

I know that’s a lot to read. And trust me, it took me an embarrassing amount of hours to write it in a way that wasn’t just emotional.

As someone who is incredibly Type A and fears being seen as lazy, being called lazy was a huge trigger for me. (And again, I realize this is the action of one person, but it is one person who represents Noom.) It made me immediately not want to even open the app, let alone follow what it told me. If the representative thought I was just lazy and making excuses, then what did it matter? The things I struggle with—taking time for myself, taking a break from working, not having to be perfect all the time—are very real, and yet, I felt like my Goal Specialist had completely devalued the things I struggle with. She acted like they weren’t real and that hurt a lot.

I think part of this issue is this: i was assigned a Goal Specialist that was 1) much younger than me and 2) not a parent. I don’t mean this as a way to talk down to young people (she was maybe 22 or 23) or people who aren’t parents. But fundamentally, the life experience between a fresh-out-of-college Gen Z and a 30-year-old millennial is monumental. The same as between a non-parent and a parent. I definitely feel sometimes that young people and non-parents look at parents and think we are just being lazy in regards to what we eat and our activity levels. But it’s not true. We know it’s not true, but it’s impossible to fight a stereotype, ultimately.

And beyond just that life experience level, what does a Goal Specialist who has never been overweight, never had to rush a toddler into the car to get to drop off on top, never had to walk around with the evidence of pregnancy on their body forever, know about my life? About my experience in this body? About the invisible sacrifices I make both at home and at work daily? The ways in which I have to choose between my health and the health of my family? How can they help me when they think I’m just making excuses? If you read even a single article about working mothers, you know that we perform massive amounts of emotional labor and make sacrifices every day. (And when I say working mothers, I mean mothers who stay home too. Taking care of a home and raising children full time is work, they just aren’t being compensated.) What can a Goal Specialist expect to motivate me when they only see my inability to remember breakfast as being lazy? When they don’t see that in the time I forgot to grab a healthy breakfast, I dropped off a toddler who cried and wanted to stay with me, made sure my husband had breakfast and lunch for work, cleaned up the living room, got to work, arranged my schedule for the day, started working, and made sure coffee was made for the office?

We all have things we struggle with, of course. This isn’t unique to parenthood or motherhood. But I definitely felt that Noom was missing that crucial element of assigning Goal Specialists based on experience. It felt incredibly random and S just wasn’t a good fit for me. In fact, she set me back in terms of my mental health and it took a long time for me to be able to talk about it. I haven’t even told Danny about my experience on Noom.

So, to summarize, here are my thoughts:

  • Noom is, in theory, a great program.

  • There are still some major issues with the way Noom assigns Goal Specialists, as well as their system for tracking.

I found the entire experience really disappointing and, frankly, disconcerting. It’s the New Year and Noom advertisements are everywhere. if you see one and it sparks in you to try it, I hope this review helps you better weigh whether the cost is worth it.

Product Review: Starbucks Cold Brew at Home!

Product Review: Starbucks Cold Brew at Home! | Writing Between Pauses

Over the summer, I developed a serious cold brew problem. The Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew at Starbucks is one of my favorite drinks of all time: it is really coffee-flavored, lightly sweet, and perfect for a cold day. It's also not super calorie heavy; 110 calories for a tall is actually pretty decent. And compared to other drinks at Starbucks, it has 14g of sugar--which is still a lot (about 3.5 teaspoons). Hence, why it's not an every day treat! 

While cruising Target, I noticed that Starbucks now sells packs to make cold brew at home. They come in a variety of flavors, but for around $8 for a box that makes one pitcher, I decided to just get the regular version. 

Cold brew at Home
Making cold brew at home
Is Starbucks cold brew at home good

The instructions are quite easy. However, it does take 24 hours from start to finish. You fill a pitcher with 4 cups of water, add the two giant tea bags of coffee grounds, and pop it in the fridge for 24 hours. Yep, 24 hours. When it's ready, you add another 4 cups of water, remove the big packs of coffee (carefully, I accidentally broke one), and your cold brew is ready to enjoy. 

Minus the fact that it took 24 hours (I don't know why I thought it would be 4-5 hours max!), the cold brew it produced was delicious. It tasted just like the cold brew you would get at Starbucks; with a packet of Truvia, a tablespoon of salted caramel creamer, and a tablespoon or so of almond milk, you have a lower-sugar Sweet Cream Vanilla Cold brew at home. 

The pitcher made about 8-10 servings of cold brew for me. At $8 for a single pitcher, that evens out to $1 or less per serving, which was pretty good considering a drink at Starbucks is $3 or more. Ultimately, it saves money and you can control the calories and amount of sugar in your drinks more effectively. 

Fall is fast approaching, so I've been experimenting with cold brew and pumpkin spice. Let me tell you: it's just as delicious with a little Pumpkin Spice creamer and almond milk! If you love cold brew, but are tired of spending so much money at coffee shops, these are a great option. 

Product Review: Uniquely J Voxbox*

Product Review: Uniquely J Voxbox* | Writing Between Pauses

This is going to be a rather quick review. To start, I received three products in this Voxbox from Influenster and, not to give it away, they all fell a bit flat. It's hard to get excited about crackers and freezer bags, but I did my best!

Disclaimer: as always, the asterisk (*) in the title of this blog post denotes that I received these products free in exchange from review. However, my choice to feature them here is my own and all opinions are my own. You can read more about my disclosure policy here

What is Uniquely J? 

Uniquely J is the generic brand of Jet.com, a website that I know most for having somewhat bizarre commercials. Jet.com is a lot like Amazon, selling household goods on subscription services for cheaper prices. So basically, you sign up and get toilet paper autoshipped to your house every 6 weeks--so it's technically cheaper than buying it from the store. 

Uniquely J is their brand of just about everything: coffee, paper supplies, cooking supplies, cleaning supplies, snacks... They've got a bit of everything. You can check it out here

What I Received

In this voxbox, I received: Fig and Olive Large Crisps; Almond Chocolate Biscotti; and Freezer Bags

Mocha Almond Biscotti

Uh, yeah. Freezer bags. 

Freezer Bags

First things first, let's discuss what I liked: the packaging of these products is cute. I mean, it's really cute. The boxes are cute. Everything is cute. But then, you open them. 

Ok, it's not quite that dramatic. 

Fig and Olive Crisps

But I was pretty disappointed by the snacks because, well, they have the makings of everything I love. I love biscotti! I love crackers! I love those things! Yet, I wouldn't eat either of these things by choice. 

Let's break it down.

I'll start with the Fig and Olive Crisps. They're insanely sweet. Not sweet and salty. Not savory with some sweetness. They are sweet in the way that British people often describe American bread. (Yes, you're not alone, Brits. I, a born and bred American, also hate how sweet our bread is.) They are blisteringly, mouth-puckeringly sweet. I have no idea what you would eat these with, honestly. A dip might help reducing how teeth-numbingly sweet they are, but I honestly can't imagine what I would dip them in. Cheese? Gravy? The possibilities are all quite disgusting. On the plus side: Forrest likes them, but occasionally I catch him eating crayons. He is two years old, after all; his tastes aren't exactly discerning. 

Next, let's talk those Almond Chocolate Biscotti. Almond! Chocolate! Biscotti! Can you imagine? It sounds delicious, right? While the Fig and Olive Crisps are much too sweet for being a savory cracker, these biscotti are not sweet enough, despite being essentially a cookie. What is going on?! They are vaguely chocolatey, with bits of almond in them... but I wouldn't call them a biscotti. It was like two different kinds of blandness getting married to form another type of bland in the form of a cookie. They are aggressively bland in a way that is almost unsettling. And worse, they aren't even whole. This isn't a sleeve of little biscottis; it's a bag of essentially biscotti pieces. It's so bizarre! How can something that should be so easy to make taste amazing taste like I'm eating a piece of cardboard that's vaguely chocolatey? 

Needless to say... the two snack choices didn't make me very happy!

Then, of course, we have the Freezer Bags. I don't even know what to say about these! How do you review freezer bags? They zip. They have cute little designs on them, which isn't exactly my thing, but it's a nice touch. They seem to freeze well. They are quite thick and you get a lot in the package. It's hard to like or dislike freezer bags! 

It's funny because this voxbox had the other option of receiving cleaning supplies... I would much rather have gotten cleaning supplies, because I love a good window cleaner or wipe for my counter! These snacks have officially been put into the "treats for Forrest" bin and we've moved on from trying to make them work. But hey, the Uniquely J coffee does look really good and the prices certainly aren't bad. 

I Tried Hungry Root So You Don't Have To

I Tried Hungry Root So You Don't Have To | Writing Between Pauses

If you like this blog post, you’ll love my road trip guide just for parents, featuring Hungryroot snacks & foods. You can read that here.

As well, you can now use my promo code PAUSETRAVEL to receive $25 off each of your first two boxes of Hungryroot—that’s $50 total! Just sign up at Hungryroot.com and use my code below to receive your discount.

A few weeks ago, one of my favorite podcasters, Jackie J, posted on her Instagram story about Hungry Root, a vegan meal delivery service. As Jackie would say on Natch Beaut, color me intrigued, baby!

Of course, because I looked at it online, I started to get ads for Hungry Root: in my Instagram feed, on Facebook, everywhere. One night, I clicked on an ad to see the price: the introductory offer was about $50 for a box.

Honestly, still pretty steep considering that's my budget for a week's worth of groceries for 3 people. However, I talked to Danny about it and we agreed it would be nice to try to get an idea of vegan recipes to replicate. The next time I saw an ad, I clicked on it again--and guess what? The introductory price had been cut to $30. Ok, for $30, I'll try anything especially if it's food. 

I ordered, I set a delivery date, and I waited. 

What is Hungry Root? 

Hungry Root is a vegan delivery service that promises each meal to be under 500 calories. It's ideal for people who need fast recipes that feature plant-based proteins. You can learn more about Hungry Root here

(I'm still debating whether or not to write Hungry Root with a space or as one word. On their packaging, it's two words. On their website, one. I'm torn, clearly!) 

The Delivery

So, shipping was relatively fast, although my box got delayed on the way to me. It was supposed to show up Tuesday, February 13 or Wednesday, February 14. It showed up on the afternoon of Thursday, February 15. I had started to get worried because it's a box of food

As I posted on Twitter at the time, the delivery driver also didn't take my box of food up my driveway. I live in the country and my driveway is quite long, but it's not a difficult driveway to get up at all. In fact, my husband manages it in his small car pretty easily. We get delivery trucks all the time, as well as our garbage service. The delivery driver chucked my box of actual food into the ditch beside my driveway. I kid you not: I had to try and wrangle Forrest while digging this out of the ditch, wondering if this $30 box of vegetables would be ok or not. (It was fine, in the end.) 

This wasn't Hungry Root's fault, just a 3rd-party delivery driver who was apparently feeling a bit lazy that day! 

The box was pretty large and heavy because it was packed with biodegradable insulation (nice) and Arctic Ice packs. I'm still not sure what to do with these items; can I recycle them? Toss them? What's the process? I do wish the Hungry Root instructions had something about recycling the box or turning it in for credit. 

Hungryroot 1

What I Got

Here is everything I received for this first order: 

  • Cucumber Corn Black Bean Salad

  • Roasted Corn Edamame Salad

  • Black Bean Brownie Batter

  • Fluffy Maple Chickpea Batter

  • Chickpea Alfredo Sauce

  • Thai Peanut Sauce

  • Carrot Chips

  • Cauliflower Rice

  • Shaved Brussels

  • Superblend Salad

  • Sweet Potato Mac

  • Avocado Crema

  • Braised Lemongrass Tofu Nuggets

  • Peanut Butter Coconut Cookies

  • Roasted Red Pepper Quinoa Bowl

All those items promised to make the following dishes, based on the Hungry Root recipe book they include: 

  • Fluffy Maple Chickpea Pancakes (breakfast)

  • Avocado Bean Southwestern Salad (lunch)

  • Simply Seasoned Carrot Chips (side)

  • Red Pepper Sauteed Sprouts (side)

  • Crispy Greens Sweet Potato Hash (main)

  • Carrot Edamame Peanut Stirfry (main)

  • Heart Corn Edamame Stew (main)

  • Pad Thai Fried Rice (main)

  • Peanut Butter Coconut Cookies (dessert)

  • Black Bean Brownies (dessert)

The plan we signed up for (The Good Life) says they include enough for 5 meals, plus 5 sides, snacks, or sweets. My recipes don't necessarily narrow down to those parameters, so it's difficult to tell. However, it is nice to get a few sweets included because it makes it a bit more fun. 

Hungryroot 2

What I Liked

I'm a relatively picky eater and, to be absolutely honest, I'm always very hesitant about vegan food. I typically don't like the way most vegan dishes skew (basically, really heavily sauced things). So I was excited that these dishes were a little more "basic" and gave me some ideas of what I can make at home that isn't standard vegan fare. 

My favorite dish was probably the Avocado Bean Southwestern Salad; that's something I would definitely make myself. Each recipe is for 2 servings--and the servings were huge. I'll talk about this a bit more in the next section, but one issue I did have was that the flavor, especially of the dressing, was just a bit... basic. But it was still quite tasty and I really enjoyed it. 

My other favorite item was the Black Bean Brownie Batter. You can bake it or eat it plain. Danny and I ate it plain throughout the week, just taking bites whenever we wanted it. It was so good! This is something I wish I could purchase ala carte; I just want a tub of it at all times. 

I liked the convenience of all the dishes and how easy they were to make. This is definitely designed for people who perhaps don't really know how to cook or don't have time. I found it a bit frustrating that in the end, it was just opening a bunch of separate containers. There isn't really any "cooking" involved! 

What I Didn't Like

As I mentioned, there just wasn't as much cooking involved as I expected! It's mostly just quickly sauteeing stuff, adding water, and letting cook for maybe 3-7 minutes, then mixing with a container of salad. It's nice because it's so quick, but I really enjoy cooking and so I got quite frustrated having to wait until 10 minutes before dinner to start! 

Danny quite enjoyed almost every single recipe, but he's a trooper and will eat just about anything. His favorite was the Crispy Greens Sweet Potato Hash, but I added a fried egg to give it some protein. That's the issues with some of these recipes. They all promise to be under 500 calories per serving and they definitely are... but some of them a lack a protein element, even though they include a lot of bean salads and the like. 

As I mentioned, I want to talk about flavors. The overwhelming flavor of most of the prepackaged salads is vinegar. There is a lot of vinegar. I love a vinegar-based salad dressing as much as the next person, but it's quite a lot. In general, there isn't a lot of flavor to anything. The Thai Peanut sauce used in the Pad Thai Fried (Cauliflower) Rice is very heavily just peanut butter and very spicy--there is no dimension to it. It's not bad, but it's not something I would want to eat nonstop. It would be nice to see a variety of flavors or perhaps spice packets that can be added to these items to make them have a bit more dimension. 

Another thing: the individual items are labelled really oddly. Like a package of sweet potatoes is labeled "Sweet Potato Mac." But it's just raw sweet potato! It's not a package of sweet potato mac and cheese; you add the sauce separately. 

Is it Worth the Money? 

I paid $30 for this--effectively half the price of the box usually. Was it worth the $30? Honestly, I'd say no. I ate two things that I really, really loved; the rest was a bit meh, I could dress it up... but at that point, I'm just making my own recipes and cooking for myself! 

What made it worth it? It gave me some ideas of recipes to make and things to try in the future to incorporate more vegan food into our diets as a family. I would never purchase it again, but I enjoyed it. And honestly, finding out how good black bean brownie batter is definitely gives me something to think about. Anyone have a good recipe for that? 

What Changed?

You might notice I have a promo code with Hungryroot now. A lot has changed at Hungryroot and I’m so happy to be working with them. My first review was critical of the meal subscription idea—I felt that the box felt more piecemeal than, say, a Blue Apron box and I ended up doing a lot more experimenting. As it turned out, Hungry Root was kind of on the same page. As of January 2019, they have rebranded—not only is their new logo and website gorgeous, but they’ve transitioned to being less of a meal delivery service and more of a grocery service.

Here’s why I love that: I can’t get grocery delivery services in my area and I’m not alone there! What Hungryroot offers is the option to pick a bunch of healthy groceries and have them delivered to your door on a subscription. Our weekly grocery budget is about $50-65 these days so a single small Hungry Root box can give us a few breakfast options, some pre-cut veggies, and a few treats, which is just about all we buy anyway! You can visit my new blog post about Hungry Root to learn more about my more recent experience with using their service.

Have you tried Hungryroot? Are you considering it? I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Beauty Review: My December Ipsy Bag

Beauty Review: My December Ipsy Bag | Writing Between Pauses

This is my 4th ipsy bag and if I'm being absolutely, positively honest... I still really love it.

Ah, gotcha! Right? 

(If you'd like to read my past reviews, click here.) 

This month was really exciting. I was hoping to get some amazing products that I'd never tried before. I feel like each month, ipsy gets a little bit better as I review things, ask them to stop sending certain things, and share these reviews. 

Without further ado, let's talk about what I got in my bag! 

1. Promise Organic Nourishing Coconut Milk Daily Facial Scrub, $9.99

This product has sugar crystals, walnut shell powder, honey, coconut milk, aloe, and more in it, promising to be "pH balanced and gentle." It smells really good (like coconut--sort of that fake coconut smell I associate with sunscreen). Despite claiming to be a gentle daily scrub, it is definitely a rough feeling scrub. I like that it has ingredients that are natural and biodegradable (no more microbeads!), but it is definitely something I would say to not use daily. It did leave my skin feeling quite soft though. I've only used it once since receiving it because I only exfoliate once a week. This brand is available at CVS, as well as from online retailers. 

2. Smashbox Cosmetics Legendary Lipstick in Legendary, $21

Smashbox Legendary | Writing Between Pauses

I love getting lipsticks in my Ipsy bags and this was no exception. At first, I was a little nervous about this color. It's more a bright red than I usually go for (I definitely prefer my reds to be more blue or purple, as opposed to pink or orange). This is what I would call a race car red. However, it goes on absolutely smooth and feels so good on that it's hard to argue--plus, for the Christmas season, it's such a nice color! This is a sample size, so while a full size is valued at $21, I am valuing the size in my bag at around $11. 

3. Pixi by Petra Mesmerizing Mineral Duo in Orchid Ornament, approx. $4 value

This eyeshadow due had a lot of promise, but unfortunately fell absolutely flat. One of the shadows is a beautiful, shimmery champagne color that I absolutely love. The other color is supposed to be a shimmery, deep plum shade. 

A little bit of information about purple eyeshadows: they are notoriously difficult to formulate. For whatever reason, purple is just a color that is difficult to make work. If you've ever had a drugstore eyeshadow in a purple shade, you've experienced this before: it looks great in the pan, but it goes on gray or absolutely sheer. That's the issue with this eyeshadow. The plum shade goes on a dark gray color that blends into nothing. To get any color pay off, I have to put on so much eyeshadow, it starts to feel cakey... and it fades fast. Needless to say, I was very disappointed by this item. It's just not good, which is unfortunate because I love most of Pixi's makeup and skincare. This was just a bit of a dud. 

As well, these eyeshadow duos don't appear to be available off of the Ipsy website. Pixi does make whole palettes out of these shadows: the Mesmerizing Mineral Palettes for $12. Based on that price, I estimated this eyeshadow duo at about $4 ($2 per shadow). 

4. Luxie Beauty Precision Shader Onyx Brush 239, $14

I love getting brushes! I've loved nearly every brush I've received from Ipsy and this one is probably my favorite. I love using shader brushes to place shadow before I start to blend; I find it helps me get a better color payoff, as well as more even color on both eyes. This brush is really wonderful to use and works perfectly. 

5. Feel Brilliant Bamboo Charcoal Facial Sheet Masks, $17.50

 

You know how I feel about masks. (You can read about my favorite masks here; as well, you can read a review of some expensive masks here.) These masks are absolutely lovely; they have activated charcoal, which works to purify your skin. (I am never 100% on that claim; I don't love the idea of it. However, that's what the mask claims, so I'm repeating it here just to make sure I include what the brand promises!) It also has hyaluronic acid, which, despite the name, is actually a moisturizer and helps lock in moisture, so perfect for winter.

I found these masks really soothing to put on and they definitely helped with some difficult patches I've been dealing with lately, including some dry patches on my cheeks and chin. I really like using charcoal products, but I'm still not sold on their claims of "detoxifying"! These masks are $35 for a pack of 4; since I received 2, I priced them at a $17.50 value. 

 

Final Thoughts

The final value of this ipsy bag is roughly $56.49. This is less than last month's value of $69.64. I feel like I got more sample size products than last month, specifically the lipstick and eyeshadow duo. As well, there was one major dud this month; in a $4 eyeshadow duo, I really don't expect a lot... but coming from ipsy, I expect at least somewhat of a decent product. However, I love 4 out of 5 of these products, so I definitely can't complain! A $56 value is still pretty good, considering I only pay $10. 

Did you receive an Ipsy bag this month? What did you receive? Did you like it? 

If you don't have ipsy yet, why not give it a shot? Sign up for $10 a month and get 5 items picked just for you every single month. You can sign up using my referral link here

Review: Foot Petals Andi Classic Trainer VoxBox*

Review: Foot Petals Andi Classic Trainer VoxBox* | Writing Between Pauses

Disclaimer: As always, an asterisk in the title of this post (*) denotes that I received this product complimentary, in exchange for a review. However, all opinions remain my own. For more information, please see my disclosure policy here

A few weeks ago, I received a questionnaire from Influenster. I receive them pretty frequently and, while I do receive a fair number of voxboxes, I didn't expect to receive this one. I remember filling it out, but I wasn't sold on it; after all, I am purposefully sparse with my shoes (I have four pairs only) and didn't feel like I needed more. 

However, when I want to my mail box in the first week of November and saw these shoes waiting for me... I got a little excited. When I had filled out the survey, I fully expected to receive something other than shoes: inserts, maybe, or a foot spray, or something small. But a full pair of shoes? A full pair of shoes? That's pretty cool. 

I've been blogging for nearly 10 years, but the novelty of receiving a pair of shoes to review is still there! 

I was so excited to try these on. I am a big fan of Sketchers GoWalk or Go Lite shoes; I've taken a pair of Disneyland every time I've gone and they are dream shoes for heavy walking. Day to day, I'll admit, I don't do a ton of walking, but I do take Forrest to the park every day that I can and we try to stay active when we're at home. I was excited to add another pair of comfortable shoes to my arsenal (cut to me cringing at this... when did I get so old?) and these really fit the bill. 

Let's get into specifics: I received the Andi Classic Trainer in gray, in a size 7.5. I think I put that as my size for fear that the shoes ran small; however, a 7.5 is really big on me. I tend to wear pretty thick socks, so it's not a huge issue, but I can easily slip these on and off without taking off my socks. So, true sizing or even sizing down would probably be recommended. I do wish I had a 6.5 in these! 

Foot Petals Andi Classic 1 | Writing Between Pauses

First things first, these shoes are comfortable. Not quite as walking-on-clouds comfortable as my favorite Sketchers, but they are very comfortable nonetheless. They have an insert in the middle of the heel that provides support. They feel a little bit like the orthopedic shoes I used to wear when I worked at a deli, but a lot cuter. 

I picked the Andi initially (way back when I did that survey) because they were the most "plain" and I figured they would go with more of the clothes I wear daily. I really love wearing these with leggings and jeans; they make a great casual shoe for when I'm running errands. They definitely aren't the cutest shoes in the world; in person, they are kind of round and remind me a little bit of turtles. 

Overall, what's my opinion on these shoes? If you're looking for a comfortable walking shoe, they definitely should be on the list. At $99.99, they are pretty steep for a pair of shoes (admittedly, more than I would consider paying usually); but they are extremely comfortable, so if you do a lot of walking (or are planning a trip to a place like Disneyland), they're a great option. 

Beauty Review: Too Faced Just Peachy Velvet Mattes

Beauty Review: Too Faced Just Peachy Velvet Mattes | Writing Between Pauses

In the past, I reviewed the Too Faced Sweet Peach palette, which I loved. I know there were mixed reviews on that palette, but it goes without saying: aside from the smell (which does fade after a while), I absolutely love mine. I have hit pan on 3-4 shades! Since I got it in February, I use it every single day. 

So when the Just Peachy Velvet Mattes palette came out, as an almost counterpart to the Sweet Peach palette, I was immediately intrigued. I love peachy shades and my one, minor gripe about the Sweet Peach palette is that it’s a little shimmer heavy (which I don’t exactly mind). Having a whole matte palette is a bit unnerving to me; I was a teenager during the height of shimmer eyeshadow and I only recently learned that matte eyeshadows were a thing. (That’s a bit embarrassing to admit!) 

However, I’m not someone to rushes to buy a palette the minute it gets released. I like to see reviews first. Some of the first reviews I watched on YouTube were not promising; they felt the palette was kind of a let down and not super wearable. However, one of my favorite YouTubers (Jackie Aina) loves the palette. It seemed like an even split and ultimately it came down to people who don’t like the TooFaced eyeshadow formula and those who do (as well as those who like a peachy eye look and those who don’t).

I know some people don’t like the TooFaced formula for eyeshadows; they find it patchy or too dry. But personally, I like my eyeshadows more on the dry, powdery side, as opposed to a buttery or very smooth consistency. (This is actually why I won’t buy Anastasia Beverly Hills palettes or Natasha Denona palettes; their eyeshadows are too soft for me to work with.) 

On my birthday, I decided to take the plunge: I had a 20% off coupon for Sephora (shout out to the Sephora employee who sent me her friends & family discount!) and I was ready. My husband found the palette for me and we bought it. I felt so giddy and so excited to get it home and play. Let’s walk through my thoughts. 

The Pros

The colors in this palette are absolutely gorgeous. I have found them all to be perfectly pigmented and highly blendable. Occasionally, I do find that some colors (like the more mid-tone orange-browns in the second column) can blend out to roughly the same color—however, I don’t exactly mind that because the rest of the palette is so versatile. 

Eyes: Just Peachy Velvet Mattes palette in the shades Peaches and Cream, Fresh Picked, and Just Peachy. Lips: Maybelline Matte Lip Paints in Tongue Tied. Cheeks: Tarte Paaarty Blush

Eyes: Just Peachy Velvet Mattes palette in the shades Peaches and Cream, Fresh Picked, and Just Peachy. Lips: Maybelline Matte Lip Paints in Tongue Tied. Cheeks: Tarte Paaarty Blush

I especially love the color Peach Sangria (the dark, raspberry color), as well as Peach Punch (a bright peach shade) and Peaches and Cream (a darker, creamy pink). Peach Tea is a gorgeous transition shade—one that I use nearly every single day. The last column consists of darker colors that are great for a smoky eye; Peach Tart, especially, is a very dark chocolate brown that I’ve been searching for! 

My favorite look is to use Peaches and Cream across the lid, then Peach Tea in the crease, followed by a little Peach Cobbler or Peach Sangria on the outer corner for a little depth. 

I personally find all of these colors so perfect for warm Autumn and Winter looks; with gold or bronze accents, they are so versatile. 

The Cons

I have noticed that these shadows do have issues with fading throughout the day—but I’m talking after a 8-9 hour day! With a bit of a reapply through the day, it’s not bad. The color I notice this most with is Peach Sangria; it is one of my favorites, but when I wore it over my entire lid once, I noticed that it creased and faded throughout the day (something I don’t usually have an issue with). 

Just Peachy Mattes Look 2 | Writing Between Pauses

As I mentioned, some of the transition shades do blend out to roughly the same color, but if you keep your tones separated, it’s not too bad. (I do have a bad habit of using too many shades to blend!) 

Would I Recommend It?

Absolutely, yes! This is one of my favorite palettes. If you have the Sweet Peach palette already, don’t worry about feeling like you’ve got two of the same; they are incredibly different and yet, very complimentary to each other! 

Beauty Review: eSalon Shampoo & an Update

esalon shampoo review

A few months ago, I wrote a not-entirely-positive review of eSalon. You can read that here

Regardless of my experience, I have gotten a ton (and I mean, a ton) of referral credits because of that blog post. As they piled up, I started to think, “Maybe I should just use these.” 

Ultimately, my issue with eSalon came down to false advertising (don’t say you have violet undertone hair dye if you don’t use blue dye!) instead of a subpar product. eSalon is basically slightly expensive drug store dye; you pay for the extras (that stain guard, baby). I don’t find the quality many different from a box of Garnier Fructis, to be honest. 

That being said, because of all those credits, I’ve ordered a lot from eSalon in the past few months. Like, a lot more than I ever thought I would. Here’s what I’ve ordered. 

1. Hair dye in “chocolate brown” 

To return my hair to my original color (and not the craptastic red shade I’d ended up with the first time), I ordered a hair dye in… dark brown. I sent them a photo of my hair pre-dye incident and they matched it pretty close. My hair is dark, very dark, almost black, but thanks to that red dye, had faded to a weird wishy-washy pale brown. Not cute. It’s back to its original luster now, but like with my past review, even though eSalon says they cover grays for 8 weeks, mine are usually showing by 3-4 weeks. Not ideal, but honestly, not awful. 

2. eSalon’s Heart Lock It Color Care Shampoo and Love Unconditionally Color Care Conditioner

Listen, I really liked the samples of these shampoos I received in my first order, even though the color sucked. So with some credits, I ordered full size bottles. They’re pretty expensive for their size, but they’ve lasted since March, so I guess it’s not the worst. The shampoo and conditioner are bomb and I definitely feel like they’ve helped keep my hair color around longer.

3. Big Love Color Care Volumizing Shampoo

I’m always looking to add volume to my very flat hair, so as my first bottle of Heart Lock It dwindles down, I ordered the volumizing version of their shampoo. I actually love it; it works insanely well. And the bottle matches my bathroom decor so much better. 

4. Get Lifted Root Lift Spray

Because I opted out of the matching volumizing conditioner (since I’m only halfway through my first bottle), I ordered this instead. I love root lifting spray and this one fit the bill because it won’t damage my hair color. I find it works pretty well. Not as good as my tried-and-true John Frieda root lifter… but pretty good. 

If you'd like to try eSalon, you can use my referral link to receive $10 off your first hair color order.