October Birchbox Man Review

This month’s Birchbox Man included a significant number of brands which were new to me, both in the personal care and lifestyle areas. I had my usual choice of lifestyle & would have probably opted for this item anyway but happened to be traveling and not have access to the choice email this month.

Birchbox October

This month was a generic themed box, not one of the special partnerships like last month. I enjoy having a mix of those as well as basic boxes but for now let’s get into the products:

Tretorn Socks, I received two pairs of socks one blue and one brown. I believe these are geared towards boot or hiking use.. which I do don’t often do, but I did find them to be comfortable and pretty warm! The color patterns are a bit “ugly Christmas sweater” but in a fun trendy way.

Oxford Bleu cologne from English Laundry, I’m beginning to wonder how many different scents English Laundry has.. I think I have close to 7 different samples! This one is nice, as the name suggests it’s more of a refined scent.

CW Beggs and Sons 3 in 1 which happens to be a chicago company! While I’m all for supporting a local(to me).. this product just isn’t for me. I’m simply not a fan of these types of products.. I find the body wash part not foaming enough, the shampoo part not cleansing enough, and didn’t even attempt to shave with it! I will give them a few points for the scent, but not enough to repurchase.

Clinque for Men Oil Control Face Wash, oddly enough in all my years of testing out products this is somehow my first time using Clinque. The promise of this product is to control oily areas & it does just that! I didn’t feel like it was too strong for the skin either!

Jack Black Hand Healer, this is another brand that I can’t believe I’ve not tried.. the lip products are wildly popular & if they are anything like this hand cream I understand why! The scent is amazing, reminds of a spa, the actual hydration of the product works quite well!

Like I said lots of new brands for me this month, which is always exciting & why I love my Birchbox Man subscription. If you are interested in signing up for your own Birchbox visit this link.

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Weekend Recap 10.21.2015

Hello folks! This weekend was the start of a 2 week-long business trip… So somewhat boring in a lot of ways, but there were a few highlights!

Friday I left work and decided that I needed a simple night in… with Pizza! After a horribly unhealthy dinner I decided to swing into Target and stalk the clearance racks & found a few candles I’d had my eye on for a while! I also found a few board games I contemplated buying.. but held back.

I had to work on Saturday and then finally get around to packing.. it’s not like I was leaving the next day or anything. After a few rounds of pack, unpack, and repack I think I have everything I need squeezed into a bag just slightly under weight.

I woke up bright and early on Sunday and made my way to Austin for a few days. The last few weeks have been horrible in terms of eating healthy, so as soon as I landed I scoped out the Snap Kitchen locations so that I could figure out a healthy option for the next few days. I also set out on a hunt for nature.. living in Chicago it’s so easy to go months without seeing open space… so I’ve been trying to add lots of it into my travels this fall!  I found a great park called Bull Creek, it seems to be very popular with dog owners & parents!

I also decided to try out a new fitness class (thanks to Classpass it’s super easy to try new spots) I took a class with Dosh at Crush Fitness I can’t recommend this place enough, great workout (treads/weights), free parking, & cool towels after the workout… #happy
Thanks for reading! I’m currently in Houston but will be heading to Denver on Friday morning so I’m looking forward to a few things… dinosaurs, brunch, and plenty of relaxation.. followed by a week of work.

Norwegian Pearl Review: The Itinerary AKA Alaska

I’ve already talked about the boat, the services, & the people of the Norwegian Pearl, now I want to focus on the reason we took this cruise with Norwegian – Alaska. The itenary that we took included stops in Seattle, Juneau, Skagway, Ketichican, & Victoria PLUS a few days at sea as well as a day in Glacier Bay national park. I knew that Alaska was going to be amazing, but I don’t think I was prepared for how awesome it was! The cruise allowed you to see a few different types of Alaska – you see the capital & “city”, Skagway the historical town, Ketichican aka Salmon Capital of the world, the natural beauty of Glacier Bay, & finally a little international experience in Canada!

We flew out a few days early to experience Seattle a little, while I had an ok experience I can’t say that I’m in any rush to go back. It’s just not the type of place that I enjoy for vacation… BUT it does allow for a pretty easy boarding process – the docks are close to downtown & the workers were quite quick in getting you onboard.

Juneau was our first stop, which allowed us to choose from a number of different excusions, we opted to see a Glacier & ride the Mt. Richards Tram, both of these experiences were awesome. The Mendenhall glacier is awe inspiring – the park around it is also nice because you have a number of areas to explore & learn about!

Next up we headed to Skagway, which is a small town of about 400 year round residents, during this stop we opted to go on an Adventure Hike, where we were able to see 2 completely different ecosystems! The guides on our trip were very knowelegable and were able to tell us about not only the natural habitat but also the history of Skagway. The most popular option for most people was to take the Train at this stop, which would also be great because it’s one of the seven engineering marvels of the world!

Next up was a trip to Glacier Bay, which is a national park & home to many of the most awe inspiring moments of the trip! I can’t even hope to share how amazing this ways so instead I’ll just recommend that you go!

Finally we made our last stop in Alaska, Keitchican, aka Salmon Capital of the world! This was a cute little town, however it’s location also causes it to be the 2nd most rainy town in the country… so not somewhere I wanted to spend much time, this was one of the days I opted to stay on the ship and enjoy the spa!

The last stop before getting back to Seattle was a night in Victoria BC, which was a great way to end the trip! We got off the boat, walked around the town & found ourselves some Poutine… when in Canada right?

This trip as well as each of the stops were truly amazing, it’s not everyday that you get to see the 2nd rainiest city in the US, a place you can only get to by air or water, and of course the glaciers.  I can’t recommend this experience enough, it something that I’ll remember for years to come!

Weekend Recap 10.15.2015

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Hello there! This week’s recap comes to you from exciting Normal, IL… yep the town is actually named normal & I must say… it fits perfectly! This weekend however was anything but “normal”, instead I was experiencing the excitement and beauty of Denver!
I was lucky to have Friday morning off work so I got to have breakfast with the boyfriend before he had to start working & made an ice cream base which we enjoyed later in the evening. After a quick day in the office we made our way to our neighborhood deep dish spot, Lou Malantis, and watched the cubs attempt to break the curse! While that didnt get off to a great start the Pizza was delicious and followed by some outstanding (if the chef may say so himself) homemade Chocolate Ice Cream.

Saturday morning started bright and early with a flight at 730, before that however I had the joy of meeting a lovely cab driver who has been working in Chicago for 39 years! Her name was Joan & she reminded me of a tv grandma! We chatted about life as a Chicago cabbie through the years, shortcuts I could take the next time I need to head towards Ohare during rush hour & her experience being one of the first cab drivers accepting credit cards WAY back in ’93! I’m so happy that I opted not too put on headphones & instead got to talk with her, it’s a nice reminder that everyone has a story and sometimes it’s good to stop and listen!

After landing in Denver I made my way to try out a new car rental provider, Firefly, which is a subsidiary of Hertz, I was a bit concerned after reading some bad Yelp reviews… but honestly it was a great experience!  I don’t know if I’m just a low maintainence person or lucky, but my experience with Firefly was outstanding, they were quicky, efficent, didn’t upsell, and provided me with a quality vehicle.    I spent the rest of the day seeing some of the sights, eating some local food, & exploring downtown.  I’ll be back in Denver in a few weeks so I just did a little exploring this trip!

On Sunday I had a full day of actual work & the reason I flew out for the weekend – the National College Fair.  The event was pretty succesful for me & seemed to be for the folks in attendance as well.  As the fair was going on  checked social media & saw that Southwest was having a pretty rough day which didn’t make me excited about heading to the airport.  Upon arrival I was actually surprised by how efficent the processes went even though they were having some technology issues!  I did get to witness folks using hand-written boarding passes.. which is just crazy to me.. The night ended with a somewhat less than stellar flight – 2 loud talkers & 2 crying babies near me on the flight back home, time to consider purchasing some noise cancelling headphones.
I hope that you had a great weekend!  I’ll be making my way to Austin on Sunday followed by Houston on Tuesday so if you have any recommendations of places to try while in the area please let me know in the commons section & enjoy these photos from my weekend.

Norwegian Pearl Review – The Services

Last week I talked about how much I enjoyed the Pearl itself, this week I want to focus on what makes the pearl more than just a floating city – the services & people on board.

If you are new to cruising you’ll find that each day is filled with what seems like an endless amount of activities! Every night before bed we took at look at the days upcoming activities and figured out what we would be doing the next day – this is important because otherwise you might miss something!

A few of the stand out staff members would be the Cruise Director Staff – they make the boat very fun! You’ll find them hosting trivia competitions, Bingo, dance contests, etc. not all of these are things that are fun.. but lots of them are, so just go to them and figure out what is something you enjoy!

If you happen to belong to a specific community (College Aged, LGBT, Latitudes) I would highly encourage you to participate in the activities! On our ship we found a group of about 10-15 people who attended the LGBT social events each night, it was awesome. The staff made us feel welcomed, hosted a dinner for us, planned bowling, etc. It made this boat with nearly 3000 people on board feel much more approachable and smaller.

Another service on board the boat which I can’t imagine cruising without was the Mandara Spa, during the first day they offer tours of the space.. and wow I’m so happy that we took a tour & ultimately bought a full access card – this allowed us to use the thermal suite which includes a thalassotherapy pool, multiple hot tubs, saunas, etc. They only sell about 95 of these on board the pearl so it keeps the numbers small inside & lets you have an awesome place to relax! I didn’t have any spa services, but I heard amazing things about all of them!

These types of things might exist on other cruise lines, but for me the Norwegian experience was so good that I don’t know if I’ll ever need to experience another cruise line!

Weekend Recap 10.7.2015

Finally!  A weekend recap being written in Chicago, not that I always have to be home.. I do love traveling.. but there is also something nice about being in your own city for more than 48 hours in a week!  I will be staying somewhat local for the next two weeks, but then I head back to Texas & out to Denver for a few weeks… but that’s a few weeks away so lets focus on this weekend.

Friday I got to spend the day in the office, which was nice because I got to see some of my coworkers, after traveling for a few weeks & only seeing new people everyday it was nice to know the people around you.  Friday evening the boyfriend & I were invited to a opera recital, one of his coworkers has a family member who is starting to audition for the Lyric & other Opera positions in Chicago.  It was a new experience for me, I’ve heard opera on the radio & little bits and pieces of it in Broadway shows but to hear only Opera for an hour was new to me!  I must say that I really enjoyed it!

Saturday morning I was surprised by a delicious brunch at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate, probably the most decorated Pastry Chef in Chicago.  Every part of the meal was outstanding, from the first bite of donut, through the decadent hot chocolate, all the way to my quiche.. I think I died & went to heaven.  If you want to try out some of the hand crafted hot chocolate make sure to get a reservation, we saw many walk in groups turned away.

We spent the rest of Saturday doing our normal fall tradition.. football & cooking.  I enjoy the cooking part more than the football, but its a fun way to spend the afternoon/evening!  We’ve been working out way through the Soupbox Cookbook for awhile now & attempted the Tomato, Bacon, & Cheddar Chowder – not the best but simply “ok”.

Sunday morning I started out the day at Full Psycle, with a new instructor, & quickly devoured lunch before we starting doing some cleaning & redecorating around the house.  Finally we made our way towards dinner & a show, The Gentleman Guide to Love & Murder.

What did you do on this very fall feeling weekend in Chicago?

Norwegian Pearl Review -The Ship

The Norwegian Pearl is a member of the jewel class of ships & I must say that it did in fact dazzle like a jewel during my recent vacation. My partner really wanted to go on an Alaskan cruise & due to the fact that we wanted to go over labor day we were initially limited in our selection of boats – but my experience with the Pearl and Norwegian was outstanding. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing my thoughts on 3 key areas of the cruise – the ship, the staff/services, & the itinerary.

If you want to see specific details or follow along with my review checkout the deck plans on the Norwegian website

In terms of the ship itself, you will 13 decks a majority of which are used for mostly housing in a number of different styles of staterooms, everything from a small inside room up to The Haven which features multi-room suites for those looking for a private experience. We had a mini-suite with balcony because we were worried about how small the rooms might be… that was not a fear that we needed to have, there was more than enough space & I wouldn’t opt for that room in the future – a normal balcony would likely be enough space for 2 adults.

In addition to the staterooms you have a few floors which are simply for amenities which include both indoor and outdoor activities. On the Pearl you’ll find a bowling alley, climbing wall, multiple pools & hot tubs, a gym, spa, & plenty of space to relax.  The Pearl also has ample outdoor space, which would be nice during a different cruise – it didn’t get used that much during an Alaskan trip in September.

The other parts of the boat include a mixture of restaurants, bars, and lounges. The restaurants we dined at were: The Summer Palace, Indigo Room, O’Sheenans, & the Garden Café. All of these provided us with great service & somewhere between outstanding to less than stellar food (Garden Café). I loved the Freestyle dining method of Norwegian, which allowed us to choose when we wanted to eat – there wasn’t a set time, because we had different events & plans each night. My favorite spot to eat was the Summer Palace, the décor is great & the service was the best you’d find on the ship.

In terms of bars/lounges – you’ve got options, LOTS of them. We found ourselves using 3 areas most though – The Atrium, Spinnaker Lounge, & Bar City. These are three spaces which standout for different reasons – the Atrium has outstanding people watching, Spinnaker is the best view you’ll find on the boat, & Bar City has outstanding entertainment every night!

The ship also has ample space for people to spread out & relax, I never really felt crowded on the boat – even on the days we were at sea there was enough space on board that I didn’t notice the roughly 3000 people I was sharing my experience with.  You’ll find plenty of services on board as well, things like the photo studio, the spa, fitness classes, etc. & I’ll be covering some of those next week so make sure to stop back by!