Monday, April 28, 2014

Fancy Box Review - April 2014

Curated by the fancy community
I'm currently signed up to receive a couple of the subscription boxes offered by Fancy: regular monthly, food, and one curated by model Coco Rocha. I think it was their clever name that roped me in; who doesn't want a little more fancy in their lives? This is a look at their regular monthly box for April 2014. The box costs $39 each month with free shipping, and can be customized with up to three categories. The $90+ contents are selected from the most Fancy'd items on the Fancy website. This whole concept is new to me, but I think it's their fancy way (groan) of saying "I would have liked this on Facebook 5 years ago." It seems you can upload any product in the world and invite the Fancy community to comment on it, share it and covet it. Anyway, I'm not sure how much of a difference it made, but for my categories I selected men, women and gadgets. I saw women and gadgets with this box. No offense intended if you're a dude and love this.

Even though the theme was "rustic," this box doesn't seem to have anything particularly masculine
Let's see how fancy shmancy it gets...

Trading cards
These cards give a little more info and reasoning behind the picks. I hate to toss them because they're so pretty and because I'm a pack rat. But in what alternate universe am I ever going to use these again? It's not like they're going to be worth millions one day like Garbage Pail Kids or Magic: The Gathering.

I found myself in this same position last week
Yowzers this is an expensive magazine! I saw it once in a doctor's office and found it kind of fascinating. Maybe because it wasn't AARP or Home & Garden.  The stories and pictures are really beautiful, and it's more of a cultural celebration than a traditional rag. I think it would make great window seat reading on a rainy day. Unfortunately I have neither of those at my disposal.

This magazine is now on my coffee table for bored guests to peruse. I appreciate that this takes some of the pressure off me to be entertaining.

Is this what Sting was going on about?
This is a clever little 4GB USB flash drive embedded in the cork stopper of a small glass bottle. Adorbs. I think the same one is cheaper on Amazon.

I haven't needed flash drives very often since I left the corporate world. I think it would make a cute gift loaded up with pictures with your bestie (when did I start talking like a 22 year old?) or love emails, so I'll have to hold onto it until that perfect opportunity presents itself. More than likely my husband will grab it when he's scrambling for portable storage to transfer massive files. Undoubtedly when that day comes, I will have forgotten a half-finished Valentine's Day project on there and the awkward steamy images will be forever seared on his potential client's eyes. If I trusted it was waterproof, I would make up some treacly sweet love story and cast it into the ocean a la Nicholas Sparks. 

Why do I always prefer the British spelling of chaulkboard?
I love the idea of these stick 'n peel chalkboard decals, but shudder when I imagine my illegible scrawl trying to cutely and oh so casually present a grocery list for all to see and judge. I think this is going in a craft closet, where it has the potential to end up being something really cool. In reality it has a 5% chance of ever seeing the light of day again.

Hello, old friend
Finally something I KNOW I will use! Because I already own two bottles! This is the second dry shampoo I've received in subscription boxes this month. I'm a dirty, dirty girl and this stuff isn't cheap so I'm not complaining. Oscar Blandi's product is a powder, rather than the more popular volumizing sprays on the market. You sprinkle it in your hair, it absorbs any oil (sexy, I know) and then you brush it out. I want to say it has a pleasing lemon verbena scent, but I'm not sure I know what lemon verbena smells like.

Added bonus - I've tried this on clothing before, and it actually does a decent job of absorbing any oil from accidental food or lotion stains. Yeah, I'm a train wreck.

Petite earrings for a petite girl (AKA Not Me)
I feel classier already owning these teeny tiny gold-plated earrings. Although I typically go for bolder pieces to balance out my 5'9" frame, I'm now reconsidering after seeing Cameron Diaz's delicate gold jewelry in "The Other Woman." In my opinion, her style was the only redeeming quality of the movie. If you're a Game of Thrones fan, avoid it at all costs; you'll never look at Jamie Lannister the same way.

This was a fun box, with a great value of $99. Realistically I will use about $39 of it, almost exactly what I paid. Since I can trade, gift, or pack-rat the rest of the goods, I think I got a good deal. I'm hoping that next time around they include more dude-oriented stuff. I'm sure plenty of guys (err, George Michael?) could rock the dry shampoo and lightning bolt studs, but I need something to help me convince my hubs that this is a subscription worth keeping.

If you feel like seeing what this Fancy thing is all about, or if you want to sign up for one of their Fancy boxes, you can do so here. Like Quarterly, they have a variety of boxes curated by celebrities including Jennifer Love Hewitt, Kelly Rowland, T-Pain, Coco Rocha, Snoop Dogg, Tyler Florence and Verbal.

Disclaimer: Of course these are totally my opinions and they mean nothing. I received no compensation for this review. There are affiliate links above.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Bluum Box Review - 7 mo - April 2014

This is technically my second Bluum box, because my one from March 12th is still floating around a New Jersey USPS sorting facility, which is apparently where packages go to die. After 45 minutes on hold with the Postal Service, I was assured that the zip code has been properly updated. Three weeks later? Still no box.

So what is Bluum all about? For $24.95 month (discounts if you pay ahead), this subscription service tailors a box to your child's developmental needs according to age and gender. I shouldn't have been surprised, therefore, that the 7 month old box was filled with stuff I need RIGHT NOW, centered around the introduction of solids. A box all about eating? Now that's one I can get behind!

The same afternoon I received the box, Bluum sent me an email detailing what was inside, the MSRP of each item and a sentence on why it was included. They encourage writing reviews by offering rewards points, and provide links within the email to do so.

Onto the goods!

Free Spirit Publishing - Happy Healthy Baby - EAT ($6.99)
My baby is clearly a genius. He can already read and follow directions.
I'm always game for a children's book, board or otherwise. This one has cute phrases about eating and black & white pictures of babies doing just that. I think he enjoyed it about as much as any other of his 10 gazillion books, but $7? Although Barnes & Noble would probably try to get away with list price, I think the value is closer to $3 when compared to what you can find at your local TJ Maxx or Ross. There weren't original illustrations, which make a huge difference in value to me. It was the perfect length for his attention span and I was happy to get it for free.

Playtex Baby - Training Time Cup - Blue & Green ($4.99)
The outer packaging stated 4 mo+, so I was confused that the inner instructions referred to a toddler cup with an internal straw. Maybe they got these cups on massive discount from Playtex. I'm not quite sure what to put in here yet. He still gets his liquids from Mommy!

Amara - Dry Food Pouch - Apple Maqui Berry ($2.50)
I'm making baby food with a Baby Bullet, so I know the only ingredients are the fruit/vegetable and water. These freeze dried fruit blends are a unique, storage friendly way to provide the same amount of clarity and simplicity. I love that this is a combination I won't make on my own. I haven't given him any combinations yet, so I need to wait a couple of weeks before trying these. They will be an awesome addition to his diaper bag for Grandma's house!

Tom's Of Maine - Toddler Training Toothpaste ($4.25)
I have a little rubber banana practice toothbrush, but hadn't even considered toothpaste. This is a great idea! With no fluoride and claiming to be completely safe for baby to swallow, Tom's toothpaste allows little one (well, you) to practice brushing those nipple chompers like a big kid. This is exactly why I like subscription boxes, to find new products that I wasn't even aware of. If we like this, we will definitely get more, and the box came with a dollar off coupon for any Tom's of Maine product.

Klorane - Dry Shampoo ($19.50)
Clearly these Bluum Mommies have done this whole kid thing a time or two. I haven't had a chance to wash my hair in 7 months, so I use dry shampoo daily. I've never tried this brand, but always wanted to. It's nettle based, which sounds just crazy enough to work. According to the online sub box community Bluum always throws in a little extra sumpin sumpin for mommy. What a PERFECT choice. I'm kidding about the washing hair part...Kind of...

I absolutely loved my "first" Bluum box, which makes me even more annoyed that the first one has never shown up. This was a really great kit that addressed several areas of consideration for solids introduction. The only thing missing were glycerine suppositories. :) The total value was approximately $38, but more importantly I am excited about every item and didn't have to track them down myself! Hopefully when my baby's 6 month box eventually gets here, he will find some of it useful with his own children. That's how much faith I have in the postal service.

If you're interested in trying out Bluum, you can get 50% off your first month here.



Thursday, April 24, 2014

POPSUGAR Must Have Box Review - April 2014

My POPSugar Must Have box must ship later than a lot of other subscribers', because I saw a spoiler for this one about a week before mine arrived. I HATE spoilers, especially since I look forward to POPSugar so much. So if you don't want to know, quit reading now.

This month's box theme was Spring cleaning; CLEARLY they aren't playing to their audience! Luckily, it was a loosely fitting theme so I could still enjoy most of the contents.

Too Faced Natural Eyes ($36)
This was the spoiled item. Grrr. I'm the girl that plugs her ears during movie previews so surprises aren't ruined. This was my favorite thing in the box, so I was still thrilled to get this. I am already a fan of Too Faced bronzers, and I have picked up and put back this same kit on at least a dozen occasions. From the looks of it, they've slightly revamped the color selection, which contains a mix of matte and shimmery nudes with double-entendre names. I feel like if you boiled down the essential colors from the three Urban Decay's "The Nudes" Collections, you would end up with this palette. It's a perfect set and comes with an illustrated instruction booklet for the eyeshadow challenged.

BlueAvocado (Eco) Shopper ($25)
I've recently started using reusable shopping totes because they make grocery carrying so much easier and prevent contents from sliding all over my car when I inevitable brake too hard. This one is much cuter than the free ones I've randomly collected (apparently totes are "the thing" to give pregnant women as giveaways). It feels a little flimsy, but I love that the entire thing folds up on itself and can be zipped up small. Will I use that feature? Probably not, but I still feel cooler knowing it's there.

Caldrea Rosewater Driftwood Hand Soap ($10.50)
This is the closest to cleaning supplies I want to see in a surprise boxes, and I'm happy with it. It says "rosewater driftwood" on it, but if that's supposed to be a fancy scent description I'm not picking it up. I have the blessing of a weak sense of smell, so I'm not the one to judge. It's soap, and looks nice next to the sink.

Graphiv Image Pocket Notes ($20)
Wouldn't it be fantastic if we still COULD run the world using paper and pencil? Not really. I think someone needs to call POPSugar and let them know most of the United States now uses their phone for, well, everything. If I WERE to use a notebook, it would be this one. It's a beautiful blue leather bound pocket notebook with silver edging. I'm trying to convince myself I need to carry this alongside my phone everywhere I go, but I'm losing the argument. Either way, it's really nice for a dinosaur - I mean paper.
NatureBox POPSugar Must Have Mix ($5)
Stuff like this POPSugar custom Trail Mix really only tastes fantastic when I'm so carefully watching what I'm eating that I start counting craisins as dessert. Since I had ice cream for lunch it's pretty obvious I'm not at that point. It's decent for dried soybeans. This mix was made to convince POPSugar subscribers to jump on the Nature Box bandwagon. I had been considering it before, but I think I will wait until I'm much healthier and really hard up for flavorful healthy snacks. in the meantime I'm open to suggestions for a good dessert box.

Fresh Pastry Stand Totally Awesome Tea Towel Set ($18)
I wasn't sure what these were at first. I dig the font, but they aren't a great fit for my kitchen decor so they will be lovingly placed in a new home soon. They're pretty dang big and I'm sure they adequately dry dishes and mop up spills.
Overall, I'm not sure that I "must have" most of what I received this month. At $114.50 the value was good, and as always the quality was great for every item. Because I can swap the stuff I won't use with other box subscribers, I still consider it a win. The Too Faced cosmetics were, by far, the most Totally Awesome item for me.
If you want to sign up for POPSugar, you can do so here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fancy Women's Mystery Box - Winning!

I just opened my Fancy Large Women's Mystery Box. Large refers to the box size and content value, not the size or shape of women receiving. I paid $40, no shipping, and had no idea what would be included. I have to say this box would be loved by women of ALL shapes & sizes!

I've been trying out Fancy subscriptions recently with the original Fancy box, the Fancy Food Box, the Coco Rocha curated box (waiting on this one) and this mystery box. This one is undoubtably my favorite so far. Since it arrived I've been randomly belting out, "Everything is Awesome!" because everything was.

Chunky Knit Infinity Scarf ($15?)
I don't know the brand, so I couldn't find this exact one online. Similar scarves cost about $15. Although brown isn't my favorite accessory color, it's a cute scarf. There's only one problem: it's April in Arizona and we already hit 101 degrees a couple of weeks ago. I'll find a way to swap or give away this one.

Sophie Sparrow Shark Tooth necklace ($60 or $40)
This feels like the most expensive item in the box, but it's listed for $40 on the Fancy website ($60 on the Sophie Sparrow site). I love this necklace. The delicate infinity chain (no clasp) is a beautiful touch and the pendant has a nice weight to it. I'm really hoping my son doesn't succeed in yanking it off my neck.

TKO Skeleton Watch ($125 or $100)
$100 on the Fancy website or $125 on Amazon. I love mint in my ice cream and apparently in my watches too! The rubber band pairs beautifully with the gold hardware accents the face. With the advent of smart phones, I've pretty much forgotten how to tell time with the little sticks. Just recently I've reintroduced watches to my wardrobe strictly as a fashion accessory or for an additional arm workout day. I love this one and will definitely wear it this spring and summer. Lots of colors are available.

Square Jellyfish Combo Smart Phone Selfie Kit ($28)
Since my son has been born I've found myself trying to get pictures of the two of us, but my arm disturbingly isn't long enough to get a decent shot of both of us. Luckily, WeBMD was wrong, and this isn't a rare genetic abnormality that will eventually end with my horrible demise. Supposedly this is a common problem, and I've just been given the solution! I couldn't find this exact combo kit on Amazon, but it costs $28 on Fancy. It comes with a sturdy little smart phone tripod that doubles as a handle and a sun shade. This kit makes my phone perfect for all the beach selfies I will NOT be taking this summer. Normally I wouldn't cart this around everywhere, but I have to balance out the weight of that infernal car seat so I'm on the lookout for random stuff to add to my Mary Poppins diaper bag.

I didn't try either the small or medium mystery boxes they also have for sale, but I'm tempted to now.

If you were inspired to spend some of your paycheck, you can totally give me a referral kickback by using any of the links in this article or by clicking here.

Even using the cheaper valuations makes the Fancy box worth $183. I don't feel ripped off one bit! I would have been happy with either the necklace or the watch. Getting both in one box means...EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Subscription Box Showdown: Stitch Fix VS StylingOn

After seeing a gazillion raving blog reviews, I got swept up in the Stitch Fix excitement and signed myself up. My first box was a little off mark, so even while I ordered my second box, I continued the quest for the perfect fashion subscription. I eventually stumbled across StylingOn, for which I could only find about 2 reviews. I wasn't too surprised since they don't offer the $25 referral reward that Stitch Fix does.

As a public service for the subscription addicted, I decided to face off these two services in a fight to the death, where death means absolutely nothing.


Stitch Fix
Fill out an online personal style quiz, and request a single style box or subscription. Receive 5 pieces of clothing and/or accessories hand selected for you. Try on and return what you don't want within 3 days. Provide online feedback for next box. Charged for what you keep.

Fill out an online personal style quiz. Discuss specific needs with your assigned stylist. Review multiple hand selected Look Books online and decide what you want in your box (approx 5 pieces). Charged for those pieces. Try on and return what you don't want within 10 days. Provide feedback to stylist. Refunded for what you return.

Winner: Stitch Fix

Both websites walk you through a fashion personality quiz to determine your sizing and preferences in terms of style, fit, color and (in the case of StylingOn) brand. Both purport to offer both a subscription and a one-off ordering service. I signed up for monthly boxes with Stitch Fix  but can't quite figure out how to do so with StylingOn. Luckily I can just notify my stylist when I'm ready to start a new box.

StylingOn's concept for their website is really cool, but I feel like the processes aren't really being followed and the tools only partially used. I use my phone and Kindle to navigate online, so it's really important to me that mobile sites are usable. Unfortunately, I can't get to my personal page through (I have to navigate directly to the client area login page). I was also unable to enter credit card info online. There is a Virtual Closet that I still haven't figured out how to use, and although my Look Books were posted quickly online, they were a bit difficult to navigate mobiley (you're welcome, Oxford Dictionary). Luckily, I've been able to contact both my stylist and the owner, Lidia, directly with my questions, and was able to get my box ordered without difficulty.

Stitch Fix, on the other hand, has a very streamlined, well-tested website and ordering process. I haven't noticed any glitches or deviations from what they promise.
Winner: Stitch Fix

Stitch Fix charges a $20 styling "fee" which is applied to anything you purchase in a given month. The average price point is about $68/garment. No shipping costs, even for returns.

StylingOn has no styling fee but charges $20 in shipping, not applicable to anything. The minimum costs per garment is $100.

Winner: StylingOn

Stitch Fix might be cheaper, but I still feel like I get a better deal with StylingOn  The point of this journey was to round out my newly purged closet with some higher quality pieces. I updated both profiles to request more expensive pieces, so I am willing to pay a little more if the quality is there, but StylingOn was the only one to deliver.

StylingOn offers designer brands at a variety of price points, starting at about $100/piece. A few of the labels include: Elizabeth & James, Theory, Ted Baker, Diane Von Furstenberg, Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo and Stella McCartney. All of the clothes in my LookBooks were beautiful, and I wish I could have purchased everything. The prices on my pieces seemed very fair (my stylist said she was looking for sales & good deals) and I didn't locate them cheaper elsewhere.

Stitch Fix works with over 200 brands like 41Hawthorne (their own), Daniel Rainn, Kut from the Kloth, Collective Concepts and Kensie. I typically see the same brands popping up repeatedly on reviews across the web. I also know that some of the brands they carry can be found in markdown stores like Nordstrom Rack (Daniel Rainn shirts for $24.99 instead of $60). They aren't exactly the same pieces, and Stitch Fix is charging a fair price (MSRP), but knowing the markdowns I can find with a little leg work makes paying more tough to swallow. These brands are on par with most of what is already in my closet. Even when I increased my preferred price points with Stitch Fix  the brands stayed the same (actually got a bit cheaper).

Winner: StylingOn

Stitch Fix assigns a stylist, and I believe you can request a specific one that you like. A cute printed note is included in the shipment from your stylist. I can't recall the name of my first stylist.

My stylist at StylingOn is Brooke. I know what she looks like, I know her inspirations and style preferences. I even know her daughter's name and age. I'm not a stalker, although if she keeps hitting it out of the park I might become one! We've had two phone calls and have exchanged half a dozen emails. She followed up via email the morning my box arrived to get my feedback. Inside the box was a handwritten Thank You card. Brooke listens to me, understands my pain points, and shows genuine excitement for finding perfect pieces. She rocks, and we're already discussing my next box.

Winner: Stitch Fix

Both services advertise free return shipping in a pre-paid envelope, but I only received a pre-paid FedEx label in my StylingOn box. Not a big deal, but I need to find a bag to return my stuff.

Stitch Fix gives you 3 days to try on and return, you are charged for what you keep.

StylingOn charges you up front for the clothing. You have 10 days (nice!) to decide on returns. It can take up to two weeks to receive your refund.

Clear Winner: StylingOn

This is personal preference (natch - it's my review), but the StylingOn process lends itself to a higher satisfaction rate. You spend much more time with your personal shopper discussing ideas, and you review everything online before confirming what will be sent to you in your box. By the time you receive your box, you're mostly confirming fit and quality, whereas reviewing a Stitch Fix box is a bit of a crap shoot. I love the element of surprise with Stitch Fix, but StylingOn was definitely more on target.

Out of the 5 pieces in each of my two Stitch Fix boxes, I kept one. Box 1: a pair of jeans (see review here). Box 2: a bracelet (which I didn't really want but didn't want to lose my $20).
Collective Concepts Spectra Fit & Flare Dress
The hubs said this added 40 lbs so...

Under Skies Jasmine Blouse
UGH - awful shape for the girls
Bay to Baubles Rhinestone Bangle
Not my favorite but I can mix & match
Mia Melon Paloma Cutout Jersey Top
Mildly Ok, but I own better
Olive & Oak Alvah Hi-Lo Blouse
This was a better fit, but nothing special
Of the 4 pieces I requested in my first StylingOn box, I kept a Theory black silk shirt and a Joie chambray button up shirt. A beautiful black Helmut dress didn't fit quite right and a feather cuff bracelet wasn't quite as bold as I was hoping, but I still loved those two pieces and it was painful to send them back.
Feather Cuff Bracelet
Pretty, but snags and not statement enough
HELMUT by Helmut Lang Dress
Couldn't pull it off
Joie Chambray Blouse
In love with this lightweight top!
Theory Black Silk Shirt
Beautiful & expensive feeling

I seriously didn't plan to have them each win 3 categories - I HATE ties! I refuse.

In terms of price, convenience and tools, Stitch Fix has the edge. In terms of what is more important to me: personal touch, quality and overall satisfaction - StylingOn wins hands down. So I'm calling the ball - THE WINNER IS STYLINGON.

Obviously it's a matter of personal taste, and I totally understand why so many women love Stitch Fix. If they carried more of the style I was looking for or could better dress my shape, then I never would have strayed. I did and I liked it; StylingOn now has my heart and my wallet.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

JewelMint Subscription Box Review - Oia Jules Collection

Buyer Beware - a purchase subscribes you!
My iPhone is being so annoying. One of the recent OS updates coincided with a loss in up-close focusing. However, I also drop, throw, and dribble my phone on an hourly basis, so it's probably not fair to solely blame the software. That's a long way of saying sorry for the focus issues - I need to upgrade my camera!

JewelMint recently offered a special Collective Style Surprise box for Oia Jules (designer Elizabeth Shricker)  Although overall the pieces on JewelMint don't sing to my soul, the Oia Jules pieces I found online sparked my interest. I saw expensive looking jewelry consisting mostly of chunky chains and beautiful agates and druzies. The mystery box cost $29.99 and promised 3 mystery pieces worth over $100.

First of all, I found the JewelMint site confusing, as are several of these subscription sites. I don't think it's obvious that you are automatically signing up for the subscription service when making this one-time purchase until after the fact. That should be very clear prior to any charges. It wasn't until I saw $29.99 in "credit" on my account and reviewed fine print in a confirmation email that I realized I was going to be charged monthly and expected to spend that money on one of the following websites: IntiMint, StyleMint, ShoeMint or JewelMint.

There is no easy or simple way to unsubscribe via the website. I'm not cool with the fact that they hold credit card info hostage simply because you've made a purchase through their site. That being said, once I found an email address ( and requested the end to my subscription, it was cancelled within 2 days.

Onto the box. It shipped quickly. I ordered it March17th, received a shipping notification on the 27th, and it arrived on the 29th. Yes, this review is behind!
Love this matte box - the packaging was higher quality than one of the pieces!
The packaging was great - a high quality matte box packed tightly with foam, which will be reused for gift wrapping at some point. As promised, three pieces were inside - two bracelets and a necklace. Although perhaps not the ones I would have chosen, they were very similar to pieces I found on the Oia Jules site.
First Impression
What does a little birdie say?
This silver bracelet actually cheapened the box for me. In fact, I don't think I originally gave the other pieces enough credit because this was the first one I picked up.

This is so light it has to be entirely made of plastic. Silver-plated plastic is still plastic. Ok, maybe it's tin. With super-shiny "silver" and an iridescent "jewel," at least it is eye-catching. I like the size of the links and I will get some wear out of it, but if someone wanted a closer look I would have to resist the urge to self-consciously pull my hand back. As Cher Horowitz would say, "It's a total Monet."

I found a gold version on JewelMint called "Chunky Opalite Bracelet" for $35. Opalite is nothing like Opal. You've been warned. There are some similar bracelets made with agate and druzy that look rather beautiful, but I'm gun-shy after seeing this one.
Leather wrap bracelet
I have had such an issue getting wrap bracelets to fit properly, and I love that this piece is fully adjustable and can be wrapped tightly. A gold leather band supports a large green agate. At least I think it's real (dyed?) stone; the first piece has me questioning everything. I gave this a test drive the day I got it and received compliments. This is different than anything I own, which is the benefit of ordering these surprise boxes. Expanding horizons and all that. There are several similar bracelets online I'm interested in, each of which runs about $44.
Holy Mole-y
Although I haven't worn it out yet, I like this necklace, which feels like the highest quality piece in the box. A neutrally striated agate is offset on a pretty gold chain. If this had been shipped solo, my opinion of its value would likely be even higher. It's refined and interesting. Ironically (or perhaps fittingly), the classiest piece in the box will probably get the least use from me. I couldn't find this online, but somewhat similar necklaces cost around $52. 

According to my research, the MSRP value is $35 + $44 + $52 = $131. Hmm, ok. I paid about $30 for this box, and it felt like a fair price to me. I could be convinced of a $70 value ($5, $25 and $40 respectively), but not over $100. Material-wise, there is room for some improvement, at least in the lower-end pieces. Admittedly, as I've had these, they have definitely grown on me. So, overall I'm still happy with the cost of the box. 

Takeaway? I think I'm over JewelMint. I don't appreciate or fully understand their membership service, which needs better explanation. On the other hand, it was successful in that it introduced me to a new designer who is showing some originality. In fact, I'm tempted to pick up a few more Oia Jules pieces. The designs are pretty, and this jewelry stands out in the sea of glass statement necklaces filling every store right now. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

I Just Found "Lost My Name"

FAMILY MEMBER SPOILER ALERT! If you're related to me, stop reading now unless you want to see what your kiddos are likely getting at some point over the next year!

I used to have a unique name. Before "Who's the Boss?" launched Alyssa Milano to stardom and inspired a new generation of baby makers, nobody knew how to pronounce or spell my moniker, which my mother found in a novel. I loved feeling original when teachers and store clerks commented on my unusual name. 

Nowadays, when I go to the store more often than not I'm cringing and ducking because I hear an angry young mother shout "Alyssa!" Apparently we're an ornery bunch.

Before this new generation of little girls hit the shelves, finding anything personalized with my name was impossible. On family road trips I would check every truck stop along the way for a kitschy keychain, coffee cup or mini license plate that I could purchase to remember me by. No luck (or lots of luck from the perspective of the older and wiser). 

This little boy lost his name - I used to know the feeling!
So last month when I saw a Facebook ad for a personalized children's book by Lost My Name, I had to check it out. Oh, they are devious! Their website instantly starts asking questions about your child. Who doesn't like talking about their kids?? Before I knew it, I was previewing a beautifully illustrated custom fairy tale. Naturally I added it to my cart (I mean - it was already MADE) and saw that an additional book could be had at a discount! I knew I wanted one for my nephew's upcoming birthday. Then I needed to see what the girl's book looked like. Magically, each book I added (up to 5) got successively cheaper. The next half an hour is kind of a blur. 

Less than two weeks later this arrived in the mail...
Clearly we have a gender imbalance in our family!
True to the online preview these books are filled with beautiful and imaginative illustrations. Each describes a journey that a child goes on to "find" their name. Along the way a variety of creatures they interact with give them the needed letters (i.e. Aardvark gives "A," Mermaid gives "M"). By the end of the book, the child's name is completed as a result their magical encounters. 
Lion gives "L"

When creating one for my niece, Anna, I was a little concerned how they would handle having two double letters. Their algorithm accounts for that and she got her own special adventure with no creature repeats.
Perfectly Personalized
Despite buying TEN, there are some options I would like to see Lost My Name offer to make this a top quality gift. It's currently a paperback with matte pages but I would have paid a little extra to get a hardcover copy with thick glossy pages. 
Great inscription, but allowing a personalized one from the giver would be even better!

If you do buy one, be sure to use the preview option to proofread it. They are an independent operation, and while the whole website is pretty slick, I did notice one glitch. I tested out "AAA" and while it does give three unique encounters to get the A's, I noticed the gender switched from boy to a girl on one of the pages. I notified them of the error.

The first book ordered costs $27.99 and has free shipping. Subsequent books receive 5%, 10%, 15% and 20% off, respectively. It would be nice to have the ability to gift wrap and ship to multiple locations (keeping the discount for multiple books in an order!) but that probably makes their margins too slim. Anyway, I do like writing a personalized note in front, so re-shipping isn't a big deal. 

UPDATE 4/7: Today I got an email from Joe at LostMy.Name who provided me with the following information (yay! yay!)
First things first, we now have a new option for gift-wrapping and adding a personalised inscription. Also, a hardback version is on it's way! We have lots of lovely samples sitting around the office at the moment and it's just a matter of time until we launch it. 
In regards to the boy book showing up as a girl on the hole pages, this is something we've been made aware of just today, and we're currently working on fixing it (luckily its only a problem with the widget and doesn't print out like this).
This is the brainchild of a group of friends (three dads and an uncle according to the Lost My Name blog). It is obviously they have put their hearts and souls into making this amazing little book. I am happy to do as they request and spread the word. I love personalized gifts, especially when names are unique. I love fairy tales and fantastical creatures.  I really REALLY love children's books and encouraging young ones to read. For me this was a no brainer - ten times over!