Escape Monthly November: Arizona Box review

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Happy birthday to my mom! It’s nice to have it around Thanksgiving, since that often means seeing her on or near her birthday. Before the holiday weekend, I received my most recent box. Check it out!

Escape Monthly is just under $40 per box (with code for 20% off your subscription – see end of post) and comes with a variety of food, home, skincare items themed around a city/region. Each box comes with a guide for that area. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. They offer a referral commission program.

escape monthly november arizona box products showing escape monthly november arizona box info card escape monthly november arizona box info card opened with fact sheet showing escape monthly november arizona box info card opened with details of products included(click to enlarge and read full messaging)

At first glance, there are some cool items here and I immediately gravitated towards the mug. Normally I would have liked the bath puff type thing but that was overshadowed by something I find even more useful!

Here’s what came in the box:

Moon Handbooks guide to Tucson – I’ve only briefly stopped by Arizona before and never been to Tucson, so I should add it to my list of places to visit. At some point I expect to live in SoCal again, so then it wouldn’t be too bad of a drive to go out there.

Arizona Sun Lip-Kist lip balm – Haha, I like that this is “kissed with lemon” and the tube looks like it. I’ll save this in my growing collection of lip balms. It feels like something I’d want to use in the summer!

Arizona Sun bath and shower gel – I like that this is paraben and sulfate free, though the green color is odd. Since I don’t use shower gel much (more of a soap kind of girl), I’ll see if the husband wants to use it. I got a whiff of it and it had a very unique scent I couldn’t quite pin down. Aloe, maybe?

Route 66 travel mug – It is a surprise that this is my favorite item? It shouldn’t be. I just love things I can use that also look nice. This will be perfect in the coming winter months, so I can bring some hot water with me in the mornings.

blue mesh bath puff – Won’t this go well with the shower gel? This will come in useful when Panda needs a replacement. It’s quite dense so I’m sure it will work up a very good lather. Their little description about all things blue was a fun way to tie it all together.

Cowgirl Chocolate dark chocolate truffle bar – I’m always down for more chocolate! Lately I’ve gotten some really good ones from boxes, like the one from the last Escape Monthly box. I’m excited to eat this one too.

Phizz – I’ve never tried a fizzy tablet before, but I really should have had this before traveling for Thanksgiving. The stress of the travel and the change in climate must have gotten to my body, because I had a cold sore breakout. Ick. So now I will have one and hope for a speedy recovery! Next time I’ll need to remember to take it before traveling. I’m surprised that the pill looked rather pink, but then it dissolved into a dark orange color, sort of like orange soda. The taste was sort of like a watered down Gatorade.

turquoise necklace – I doubt I will wear this since I don’t really use much jewelry, so I will probably trade this or gift it to someone. I do like that it’s hardcrafted and showcasing Arizona’s state gem.

My wish for an Asian destination didn’t come true this time, but I did like learning a bit more about Arizona. Maybe I’ll be inspired to drive Route 66 there someday! Which products from this Arizona Escape Monthly box do you like most? If you want to sign up, be sure to sign up for their newsletter to get a code for 20% off the lifetime of your subscription.

[This post contains affiliate links. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I’d be ever so grateful. :) All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box and wanted to share what I got!]

Uncontainable Conscious Capitalism

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I just read the book Uncontainable by Kip Tindell, CEO of The Container Store, and found it to be a delightful read – or “yummy” as he would say. I had no idea that TCS was such a strong brand with an admirable corporate culture. After learning more, I wonder why I didn’t hear about their values sooner. With an employees-first view, they’ve made a successful business that thrives from the love they pour into their people. They don’t see business as a zero-sum game and believe that everyone can win. Yes, that means the business, its employees, its customers, and its stakeholders.

Most businesses do not operate that way, and it’s a pity. What TCS and other strong brands like Whole Foods, Southwest Airlines, and Panera Bread have done is what they termed Conscious Capitalism. They operate in a way that serves a higher purpose beyond profit and they do so by adhering to values that inspire better work (and thus leads to greater profitability). I like this idea, that making a profit is not a bad thing – money is not a bad thing. But that doesn’t mean we should be cutthroat and see everyone else’s wins as our losses. Quite the contrary: you can position yourself to be more successful by thinking of others and taking a more wholistic approach.

I absolutely believe this is a better way to do business, much like the triple bottom line idea of people, planet, and profit. These philosophies share the basic tenet that serving one’s interest can benefit others and doesn’t need to harm them. I really enjoyed reading about a success story that illustrates good business practices, particularly treating employees well. (Side note, I don’t like the term employee and team member seems too clunky. Any alternate suggestions?)

What I also enjoyed was how I felt like I could see Kip’s personality in his words. Some parts got repetitive when he shared the same idea again, but it felt like he had deep conviction and the tone was so accessible. I like his style and honesty. There are certainly some things I would do differently based on my own values, but they are nonetheless spades better than most any other company out there. I do hope his vision of a future where Conscious Capitalism is the normal way of business becomes a reality. I’ll certainly do my part.

Petit Vour November 2015 review

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The weather’s really getting cold so I need a lot more product to help keep my skin moisturized as the dry air takes hold. I loved this box!

Petit Vour is $15 per box (or as much as $30 for international subscribers) and comes with vegan beauty, skincare, and other personal care products. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. They offer a referral program that earns you points towards free boxes (email to say I referred you if you sign up!).

contents of petit vour november 2015 box with pelle beauty beauty balm, obc skincare body oil, one love organics dry shampoo, modern minerals lip gloss, and info card with give thanks theme petit vour november 2015 box info card with item details

Pelle Beauty Luxe Beauty Balm – Wow, this waterless formula looks almost beeswaxy. It melts well as you rub it, so you can easily rub it across your face. Since this is a more intense product, I prefer to use it at night to let it work its magic while my body is taking care of itself.

Organic Bath Co Skincare Stress Less body oil – That wonderful lavender scent is reminiscent of a visit to a spa. Actually, that reminds me that I need to go do that. It’s been too long since I indulged in a facial or massage! I love using body oil in lieu of lotion during the winter months. It helps lock in the moisture so much and I never have to worry about dry, cracked skin (ick).

One Love Organics Healthy Locks dry shampoo powder – The presentation of this is totally adorable and this is the perfect size for bringing on travel. Dry shampoo is great for refreshing my hair when I don’t want to spend the time to get it wet and wait for it to dry (yeah, I don’t blow dry). It’s a great idea for on the road, when you might not have access to the right kind of facilities.

Modern Minerals Lotus Wei Infused Violet Rose Emotive Lip Gloss – Aaaah, what a nice lip gloss. Not only is the formula amazing, providing instant hydration and glossiness without a super sticky feeling, but it smells so unique! I love the Lotus Wei infusion, which is really calming and a lovely sweet scent. I feel like I’m getting aromatherapy from my lips (which might be the point?).

Alright! What a great set of products that will serve me will for the winter. I’m really happy with this selection. Which of these products do you like most?

[This post mentions a referral program. Signing up and emailing to say I referred you helps support my subscription and I’d be ever so grateful. :) All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box and wanted to share what I got!]


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One of the things I’ve wanted to get was a spiralizer to make zoodles. I’m so excited that I have this now! I’ve been spiraling cucumbers for a chilled appetizer and it’s so much fun. I look forward to cooking up some zucchini soon!

tri-blade spiralizer slicer box tri-blade spiralizer box side with instructions tri-blade spiralizer machine tri-blade spiralizer interchangeable blades cucumber being cut by spiralizer medium blade

Yogi Surprise November 2015 review

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I really enjoy all the types of products that I get introduced to. I’m constantly surprised by the yoga-themed things they can find!

Yogi Surprise is just under $36 per box (with code for 20% off your subscription – use my referral links from this post) and comes with yoga gear, skincare, food, and other lifestyle products. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. They offer a referral program that earns you free boxes.

contents of yogi surprise november 2015 box with info card yogi surprise november 2015 info card with product details yogi surprise november 2015 product info sheet

breath perception guide – Cool, this is sort of like a meditation guide! I need to make time in my routine to incorporate breathing exercises. You hear about the benefits all the time, but it’s so easy to not do it. Once you get into the habit though, I’m sure it will be worth it.

Banyan Botanicals Nasya Oil – I don’t know what it is about sticking something up my nose, but I’m a bit apprehensive. I guess it’s because I’d heard of those yeti pots where people could get their noses infected if not used properly. It just seems to vulnerable to put oil in my nose. Is that odd? I will have to get used to this idea before I can try it out. Let me know if you’ve done it before!

Laughing Giraffe pumpkin spice snakaroons – Ok, I’m not much into this kind of macaroon. There’s just too much coconut for me. At least these were moist, which I like much better than the drier kind that some brands make. It does feel healthy though, so I might pop one or two in the morning on my way to work.

sibu beauty sea buckthorn age defying eye cream – I love this brand, which I first discovered from Yuzen many years ago. I’ve never tried their eye cream, so this will be perfect! Sea buckthorn is such a cool product and their soap smells heavenly. I do have quite a backlog of eye creams though, so I won’t this just yet.

Yummy Yogi cookie cutter – What, a cookie cutter yogi? Haha, never would have thought of this one. I think I’ve only used cookie cutters once, so I’m debating if I will save this as a gift or try making cookies with this cookie cutter. I’ll sit on it a bit before deciding.

Yuni Instant Shower Sheet wipes – I’m all about body wipes to quickly refresh without the whole shower thing. Once I get in a shower, I never want to come out, so I kind of dislike the idea right now since it’s such a time suck. Now I don’t plan on replacing my showers with these, but at least they can keep me fresh in between them. Certainly great to have after working out (not that I do :-P).

Yogi Surprise Cultivating Gratitude yoga sequence series card – I’ve been out of yoga practice for a long time and I’m not sure when I’ll pick it up again, but when I do, these cards will come in handy. Be sure to swing by the instruction page to download this sequence before it’s replaced by the next one. And erm, if you downloaded last month’s could you share that with me? I must have forgotten…

This was a pretty good box and certainly showed me a ton of new products. Which of these items would you like to have?

[This post contains affiliate links. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I’d be ever so grateful. :) All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box and wanted to share what I got!]

Yuzen Winter 2015 edition review

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The winter Yuzen box is out and ready for holiday gifting! Check out the unboxing video on Yuzen’s YouTube channel and read more below.

Yuzen is $33 per quarter (with boxes sent Feb, May, Aug, and Nov) and comes with around 7 or 8 eco-friendly beauty, skincare, food/snacks, and home products. Boxes are sent quarterly with no option to skip, but you can get one-time gift boxes too. Sometimes there’s a waitlist to get the subscription. They do not offer a referral program.

yuzen november-january 2015 winter box open with pale blue tissue paper, piece of yuzen paper and info cardgreen yuzen november-january 2015 winter box contents in organza bagyuzen november-january 2015 winter box contents laid out yuzen november-january 2015 winter box info card inside listing brands in box yuzen november-january 2015 winter box info card back side listing brands in boxyuzen november-january 2015 winter box offer cards

sanitasOil Free Moisturizer: I’m getting quite the collection of their products! This will be my third and I’m happy to add it to my moisturizers. I definitely benefit from the oil-free ones since my face does get pretty oily. I like the lightweight feel of it and I did not detect a noticeable scent. It’s very refreshing to rub in! Use code YUZEN15-1 by 3/31/16 for 20% off at TheSkinFactor.

Co-PurFacial Scrub + Mask: The first thing I thought of was baby powder (of course). I really like how a dry version like this means that a small bottle can last a really long time. I was surprised it came out a greenish yellow and the smell reminded me of food – like a vegetable I can’t quite place. It’s oddly pleasant and a fun way to apply a mask while exfoliating. Use code 20%OFFYUZEN by 12/31/15 for 20% off at Co-Pur.

The Tea RoomGreen Earl Grey & Raspberry Rooibos dark chocolate: Whoa, this is new! I definitely taste the tea in these chocolates and it’s quite unique. I can’t pick which is my favorite – they both have their own appeal. The flavors are quite strong to me, so typically one small piece is enough to satisfy. Use code YUZEN415 by 1/31/16 for 15% off at The Tea Room.

21 drops 18 Sleep essential oil blend: I enjoy essential oils and certainly find this one relaxing. I haven’t noticed my quality of sleep to draw a conclusion, but last night I applied it and I did have pretty restful sleep. It doesn’t seem to help me get to sleep much faster though and my mind was still racing when I tried to fall asleep. Perhaps I should apply more? Use code YUZEN by 3/31/16 for 20% off at 21 drops.

Black Dahlia Lacquer – Red Spike Cactus: What a fun, funky name. I find this shade to be more on the pink side. There’s tiny bits of glitter to make it a very sparkly sort of look, kind of like twinkling holiday lights. Use code YUZEN by 3/5/16 for 20% off at Black Dahlia Lacquer.

Kimberly Parry Organics – Sweet Orange & Cranberry body scrub: Turns out this is a brand I’ve received from Petit Vour before! That was a facial cleanser that I quite like. I couldn’t find this scrub listed on their website, but it’s a wonderful sweet scent that is quite delicious. I love it! Use code YUZEN2015 by 1/31/16 for 20% off at Kimberly Parry.

SalusLemongrass organic lotion bar: This smells fantastic and feels so good! It melts on contact with your skin and just a little bit is enough to really moisturize dry skin. Since it comes in a reusable tin, it’s perfect for bringing along on travel. No need to worry about liquid lotion bottles that can’t be taken on planes! Use code YUZEN15 by 1/31/16 for 15% off at Salus.

Level Naturals – Menthol + Cucumber Shower Bombs: Whoa, menthol and cucumber is such a different combo. It’s all sorts of cooling and sinus-clearing, with a lightness to it. I actually like to just smell shower bombs and I don’t use them much. I’ll be keeping these around for their scent and might not get them wet for awhile. Use code yuzen10 by 12/31/15 for 10% off at Level Naturals.

As always, it was lovely getting to try out all these brands. I’ll be enjoying each and every one of them! What do you think of these products?

*Disclosure: As a super fan, I was invited to be the Yuzen Ambassador to help them spread the word about their brand. I now receive the boxes for free. I was not compensated otherwise and all opinions are my own, irregardless of my relation to Yuzen. I just happen to think they’re awesome (as does everyone else I’ve heard from). :)


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I didn’t want to continue blogging like nothing was happening in the world. The attacks in Paris are just too horrific to ignore and I still can’t believe it. That city has had to withstand so much this year and I feel for them.

Last night I was watching my college’s football game, feeling bummed out that we ultimately lost. But in comparison to what happened in France, my perspective changed. Instead I am grateful that I was able to watch the game without fear of an attack. That my friends and fellow Bruins could rally at the Rose Bowl and be safe. I’m glad that we are not on lockdown and that we have not had attacks.

I can’t imagine what it’s like in Paris now. Certainly nothing like the amazing city we were in just a month ago. I’m fortunate we got to travel through Europe safely and I hope the Parisiens get their city back to normal soon. I know it can be a long, hard path. Americans have felt similarly for 14 years, but resilience will win out.

In honor of the souls lost and the brave people who helped the survivors, I wanted to pay tribute. It’s a small piece but I wanted to send goodwill out into the world wide web, from my little corner of it. We will stand united and we will overcome. <3 Vive La France

Seasonal shift

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With the days getting cooler and shorter, we’re on the brink of the holidays. Some things I enjoy most from this change are the festive lights that start popping up everywhere, the rain that will eventually turn to snow, and the potential deals to be had! Here are some videos showing a few of those experiences…

twinkling tree holiday lights from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

snowfall in reston town center from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

There’s something very exciting about the first snowfall of the season. It starts a new era.

target black friday time lapse from Mary Qin on Vimeo.

Last year was the first time we did Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving night! And the first time I took advantage of Black Friday deals in years. Or maybe ever.

The creators, the inventors, the doers

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I’ve always admired people who can make something. Maybe it’s gadgets or maybe it’s music. Maybe it’s art or maybe it’s crafts. It just amazes me when they can take their skills to produce an end result that we can use or enjoy again and again.

For years I wished I could be a creative. Come up with things, produce things that others would admire me for. In fact, recently I’ve been contemplating YouTube videos. Putting content out there that people could listen to and relate to, now that’s creation! I looked in admiration at all types of people who had found their passion as a child, couldn’t stop creating, and eventually followed a path to put out amazing things. “What about me?” I thought as I reflected on skills I wish I had, like making soap or cooking or singing or dancing.

Yet all this time, I never realized that I have been creating. This very blog, in fact.

For some reason, because it’s not something I can open up an Etsy shop for or record a video or audio file of, I never considered it creating. Why did I not see it earlier? This IS content, and truly one of the original forms. And I (*gasp*) am creating it! Whoa.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been writing for so much of my life that it became the norm. I don’t even notice all I’ve written. At 10 years old, I began keeping a daily journal. 13 years later, I stopped upon meeting Panda, but by then I had been blogging on the side. So then blogging started to take hold until it became the primary way I kept track of my life. I’d share thoughts and experiences and now it’s become a place for my memories. Whenever I want to share something with friends, I can easily do a search of the 2300+ entries on my blog to pull up a post. It’s very much a part of me and an extension of me.

This is what I’ve realized: I am creative. I write blog posts. I am inventive. I constantly think of new topics to share. I am a doer. I built and manage the website for it all.


On not feeling good enough

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We all get to a point where we feel like a failure. Maybe you haven’t gotten there yet. But the longer you sail through life without smacking into a wall, the harder it will be to adjust and overcome.

That’s a lesson I learned the hard way.

Academically, life was pretty much a breeze up until high school. It got a bit tougher then, but I still graduated in the top 10% of the class (or was it 5%?). I got into a respectable college – UCLA – and began my undergraduate career. The first year, things were pretty good. I managed to get over a 3.5 GPA so I made the Dean’s Honor List and joined ALD/PES (the National Honor Societies). My second year, the grades slipped a bit. Perhaps I was distracted by pledging for my fraternity, AKPsi. My third year, I studied abroad in the UK and my grades kept going down. I figured that the different grading system and structure might have contributed. When I came back for my fourth year, the trend only continued. At this point I might have begun to realize that as classes got progressively harder, I wasn’t adapting.

It took me a long time to figure out what was happening. The lesson I learned about myself is that all those years of doing it on my own and having learning come easily did not prepare me to know how to handle adversity. In one of my last classes before graduating, I was actually afraid of failing the class. An absolutely scary prospect for someone who spent most of her education getting A’s. So in desperation, I asked my roommate for some help. She was also in the class and got the concepts way better than me. And you know what? She was able to explain things to me in a way that really helped my understanding! It was amazing.

Ironically, when I was younger, I tutored and mentored children. I did not realize the impact that could have had on them. I figured I was just helping out, spending some time with them and sharing some knowledge. It wasn’t until I was on the other side of the table that I learned the power of extra help. I’ve never been tutored in my life. I’ve never gone to the teacher for help. I can’t really remember truly engaging in a study group either. I thought study groups were for people to sit in the same area and do their own work. After over 15 years of schooling, I finally began to see the impact of having support.

It’s not like I didn’t know about support being out there. I just never associated it with myself. I had never learned how to reach out and use the resources out there. I hadn’t known to ask for help.

Is that strange? Am I alone in this? Or perhaps it is more commonly an Asian thing?

Whatever the case, looking back at my college track record makes me feel pretty awful. Had I known how to empower myself with better learning, what would I have gotten? Could I have graduated with honors, with distinction? Panda’s college story tells almost the exact opposite story. He started off a little lower than me, but as he got into the upper division courses, he got better. He was hitting his stride with classes in his major that was really fit for him. I wasn’t finding the joy in diving deeper into my chosen majors. Maybe I should have double majored in something else. Maybe I should have majored and minored instead. But maybe it was that one factor all along, that I just didn’t know how to ask for help or how to identify when I needed it in the first place.

I’ve learned since then and I hope it’s not too late to apply that to my next academic pursuit. I still find it hard to reflect on how I’m doing and get help when I need it. Being aware of the issue is only half the battle. It takes a conscious effort to continually address it so it’s not neglected.

Now I certainly hope that you don’t have to face extreme adversity in your life. Yet by experiencing that low in life, you learn a lot and you grow from that. So in a way, I hope that you do face challenges, so you can build up your resiliency.

In fact, that reminds me of when Panda failed for the first time. It was a training program and he made a mistake that meant he didn’t pass the course. He had to do the whole program over again at a later date. I remember he called me sounding so dejected. He did not handle it well. The amount of stress and worry was far more than necessary, but I think because he hadn’t really experienced failure before that, he didn’t know how to deal with it. It just made him feel like he couldn’t do it at all. Luckily, we talked through it, did not let it get out of proportion, and built up his confidence again so he could pass the next time. It really takes experience to go through something like that and learn the hard-won lessons of how to be better.

So if you ever feel like you’re a failure or you’re not good enough, remind yourself of what you can learn by pushing through it and growing with it. The lessons from the experience will be more valuable than the ultimate outcome. That’s what I’m doing now as I apply for b-schools. It’s tough but it will be worth it!

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