Sunday, August 24, 2008

Update: Country Heart Gifts Soaps

A while back, I mentioned a sale on closeout soap samples that Country Heart Gifts was doing on Etsy. I've had a chance to test out some of those soaps now -- the only problem is that, since all these scents are being discontinued, it seems less than useful to go into detail on specific scents. So instead, a more general review!

First off, soap-as-soap. It's quite pleasant soap to use, very silky, very clean. A very nice sort of soap to have around, and the samples are terrific for hand soap, just the right size.

As for the scents, well! I grew up in the Midwest; I know from country. :) My favorite scent families out of the samples have been the peach scents (a more sweet peach scent than fresh-fruit peach scent), the strawberry scents (ditto), and the vanilla scents (a nice strong vanilla extract sort of scent). These all seem like the kinds of things I'd find in one of the independent country-home-stores back in Indiana, the kinds of places I could find sheep, bins of nickel candy, and the occasional bar of handmade soap that smells like cherry almond or strawberries & cream.

So if that sort of thing is up your alley, this store comes highly recommended! You can still find terrific bargains in her sale section, so have a look. :)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Serpentine Hair shampoo bars (Esquire, Kahlua, Vapor)

One of the first things that got me hooked on handmade soaps was Telesilla pointing me at Serpentine Hair. (You can see her review of it here!)

I'd been curious about shampoo bars for a while, but in mass-market stores they're few and far between. What pushed me over the edge to ordering them from Serpentine Hair was the great descriptions on her website and the reasons she had for making shampoo bars in the first place. My hair is short -- not quite buzzcut, but not much longer -- and finding a shampoo that doesn't just make it stand up in a large cloud of POOF is a challenge. Even with a couple lathers of conditioner, not much helped, and you know, it's a pain in the ass to effectively wash your hair three times and not get what you want out of it.

The second thing that sold me on Serpentine Hair was the ability to get sample slices, something I could (and did!) share with friends. :) That way, if I didn't like it, I could still hand 'em out to people and know that someone was getting a good time out of the deal.

So my first order from Serpentine Hair included samples of Esquire, Kahlua, and Vapor. I'll take 'em one at a time here so I can do a full write-up of the scents -- here goes!

Esquire: On the website, this is described as follows: Our first blend aimed at the men in our lives, Esquire is a sophisticated, masculine blend of amaretto and leather with the barest hint of coconut to turn down the heat. All smoking jackets and luxury, this is a terrific blend for a man who thinks he can take on the world--and win!

My impression: The bar was a mostly-brown color with the barest hint of pink to it. Lots of almond, and I could definitely catch that leather scent, too. I actually ordered this one because my husband (Grant) loves almond, but it turns out that almond scents really vary from place to place -- some of 'em he loves, some of 'em not. Some of 'em I love and he doesn't. And so it goes! This one, I enjoyed quite a bit; he wasn't so fond of it, so the rest of the samples went to friends.

Kahlua: Website description: Warm and sensual, this gorgeous scent is wonderful for java junkies and chocoholics; it's a delightful blend of coffee and chocolate scents with a shot of creamy vanilla. Kahlua is also a great choice if you're trying to turn the men in your life on to sulfate-free haircare; its delightful fragrance rarely fails to entice!

My impression: The bar was a definite strong brown color, just what you'd expect from a coffee/chocolate blend! And it really did smell like coffee and chocolate, too. As promised on the website, Grant found it enticing. :D But it wasn't my favorite of the bunch, so most of these samples went to friends as well. (It paired great with Naiad's Coffee Chocolate Scrubby bar, though; for a couple weeks there, our shower smelled like a Starbucks.)

Vapor: Website description: Divinely devoid of any adulteration, Vapor is our fragrance and color free scent for sensitive skin and sinuses. A unisex treat that's an absolute delight for all chromosomal persuasions, with fabulous follicular results!

My impression: The bar's almost pure white, just slightly off-white. And even though it doesn't have any added fragrance, it's still made of various kinds of oils. Oddly enough, though it doesn't list almond oil as one of its ingredients, when I sniff it, I definitely detect a hint of almond. And I love it. It's a very, very faint, natural scent, not something you can smell when you're out of the shower, but it's definitely a pleasant one, and it goes with everything. I have no qualms pairing it with any number of other kinds of soap (whereas I saved Kahlua for times when I was using soaps that had definite chocolate or coffee notes). I hoarded almost all the samples of Vapor for myself. ^_^

Okay, okay, so that's all well and good about the scents. What about the actual shampoo effects?

I am happy to say that these shampoo bars kick ass. They're as soothing to my hair as any number of hair treatment products, and they haven't left any kind of residue. I will say that it took about three days for the residue left over from my regular shampoo to finally wash out and be completely gone, and at that point, the shampoo bars really started to shine. It's quick, it's easy, it doesn't take a whole lot, and I'm thrilled with the results.

Doesn't take a whole lot meaning... Well, I've got short hair, so I skip the recommended step of using a loofah to lather up. I just rub the shampoo bar on my head for a bit and lather up that way. (And for all the warning about "not much lather" on the website, I tell you what, there's plenty of lather for me! Sure, you won't drown in it, but do you wanna?) Anyway, because the bars do melt if you leave 'em in the shower without benefit of a wire rack (mind you, my shower rack for soap is a wire rack), I cut mine into sample-sized slices before putting them in the shower.

This is both good and bad. Good, because one small sample slice (say 1/4 inch) lasts me over a week, and you can cut those bars into quite a few sample slices -- so I've been using just the samples I didn't send to friends (I think I kept about 8 at home) for almost three months now (!), and I've still got two that I haven't touched. (I should really keep better stats on how long these things last; I'll do that next time I swap in a new slice.) Bad, because it means I have less excuse to try new scents. :)

This said, I ordered three new bars of Vapor, and one each of Edge of the Earth, Czarina, and Forbidden Fruit, a while back. I've only tried out Forbidden Fruit so far, but I'll see if I can make it a point to try the other ones in the next couple weeks so I can do reviews of those scents, too. :)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Whipped Bubble Scrub from JoJoElle

It's not often that a product can make you totally rethink your thoughts on a whole product type, but that happened to me today!

See, I'd tried a sugar scrub before. The one I tried was an almond-scented body scrub from The Body Shop. It was heavy and thick, didn't spread, didn't dissolve, and didn't rinse off -- I had to take a second shower just to feel clean. I thought, okay, maybe sugar scrubs aren't what they're cracked up to be.

Ha! No, I just hadn't tried the right one yet. And what one was that? Well, the one I tried today was Lemon Wedding Cake Whipped Bubble Scrub from JoJoElle. (You can find a version of it directly from her, or you can get the double-set I got, with Lemon Wedding Cake and Key Lime Cake, from the Soap Box Company.)

First of all, it smells fantastic. Both the Key Lime Cake and the Lemon Wedding cake smell... well, exactly like their names. :) The lemon wedding cake brings back memories of really awesome lemon wedding cakes I've had, and it's a welcome indulgence for my on-hiatus sweet tooth.

Next step: trying it out. It's very, very scrubby, much more than I realized was possible in a sugar scrub! (That'll teach me to go for big-box retailers...) It went on nicely, lathered (that was a surprise!), and rinsed perfectly clean. I was utterly and totally thrilled!

Post-shower, I smell very very faintly of wedding cake. :D I don't mind it a bit. I feel clean and exfoliated -- this will be a great thing to keep in my shower and use weekly, and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a nice sugar scrub. There are several flavors--er, scents--available at The Soap Box Company, so give them a look and see if there's one that suits you. :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Travel soaps!

As Telesilla said, I've been out of town for a few days in my favorite vacation spot -- Las Vegas!

Over the years, the hotels in Las Vegas have tried to distinguish themselves with everything from floorplan (the Venetian has particularly nice ones) to... well, soap. I thought I'd take a quick spin through some of the Vegas soaps I've run into in recent years. Obviously these aren't handmade, and I'm not suggesting anyone go to Vegas specifically for the purpose of acquiring soaps from these hotels, but I thought it'd be fun. I've got twelve "real" reviews in the queue after this, so no worries, I'll be going back to handmade and e-shops next time. :)

Caesar's Palace: Tangerine and Olive Flower
Caesar's offers a whole suite of things in the same scent: Tangerine and Olive Flower. Did you know that that basically means "tangerine and cucumber"? Me neither. (And I don't know if all olive flower scents smell like that or if it was just theirs.) I'm not real crazy about melon/cucumber scents, so this one didn't do much for me. They sure tried hard to give us all the soap we could want for a month (it's hard to make them stop).

I have turned up a few e-tailers that sell olive flower soaps, if you're curious about them! I haven't personally ordered any of these soaps (although at least one of them is now on my wish list), but just in case the information could be useful:

Palazzo: Lemon Verbena
It's not the most unusual scent out there, but the Lemon Verbena soap provided by Palazzo was actually very nice. If my memory serves, the soap was actually Agraria, and it was really nicely-scented stuff -- lemon without being overpoweringly ZOMG LEMON! -- and quite gentle on the skin. Definitely the nicest hotel soap I've ever used. :)

Treasure Island
What does Treasure Island have going for it now that there aren't any pirates? Well, it has some seriously interesting soap. They stock "massage bars" (you know, the kind with the little bumps) in rosemary mint (one of my favorites!) and -- this is the kicker -- oatmeal cookie-scented soap for face and hands.

I'll be honest here -- it's plain old garden-variety mass-produced soap, and if your skin is anything like mine, you'll probably need to use some serious moisturizer afterwards. But the oatmeal cookie scent is awesome, and it's one of the few soaps my husband has ever said "Wow, that smells good!" to. We packed away the soap they gave us every day, and are down to our last bar or two. It's good stuff. :)

There are, of course, any number of places you can get oatmeal cookie-scented soap! Here are a few that caught my eye on Etsy:

Much as I like Vegas, I'm very happy to be home (I think my hair is the happiest thing around; I'm back to using my Serpentine Hair Shampoo Bars, and they are so, so, so much nicer than standard shampoo & conditioner), and look forward to writing up some of the soaps I've got in the review queue!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Winning stuff is fun!!

So La Parfumer Rebelle does a give away each month and....

I won the July package, which was put together by Justine of Oh, True Apothecary and The Scented Djinn. And so today, the day before my birthday (and where the hell has the last 45 years gone, I'd like to know), I got a box. With stuff! And things! And stuff!

  • Two bright pink La Parfumer Rebelle t-shirts, one of which will fit me.
  • A four ounce canister of Scented Djinn's rose geranium powder. While I don't normally wear powder, Darkrose does and this smells good enough that I might end up using some too.
  • A little bag with ginger candy and some tea.
  • A bar of hemp soap (scented with lavender and rosemary) from Sierra Soapurri (who sound like they're somewhat local). It's got poppy seeds in it too, so it's nice and scrubby.
  • A little sample of her Mock Violet Eau de Toilette.
  • A .5oz bottle of the Boronia Eau de Cologne that I love so much.
  • AND! What looks to be at least 2ml of her brand new prefume, Serj. It's an eau de perfume whose key notes are: fir balasam, hyacinth, orange juice and ruh khus (which is vetivert that's been hydro distilled). I've only given this a quick sniff, but it smells really interesting and I can't wait to settle down with it and review it.

    So yay winning things! It's not something that happens to me all that often and that it was stuff from Scented Djinn just made it even cooler.

    Speaking of reviewing, I know I've been kind of quiet lately, but things around here have been a little hectic and tiring what with a certain amount of running around getting things done for the wedding. My lovely and talented co-blogger, Helens, is off on vacation for a couple days and I'm having the fun birthday weekend--dinner with Darkrose tomorrow, dinner with Darkrose and my sister Saturday, and our once monthly fannish get together on Sunday. I hope to review the Serj at some point during the weekend and also, I have two samples from Loreto for the wedding perfume; reviewing those will be fun because they're very similiar.

  • Monday, August 4, 2008

    Soap Sample Sale!

    So I just have to link to a soap sample sale I stumbled across last week. Country Heart Gifts is selling 20 cute adorable soap samples (closeout scents of her choice) for $5, which is hard to beat.

    My package (which contained the samples, plus three full-size bars, plus some wax tarts) arrived today (she shipped 'em on Friday) and I think I got one of everything, plus a few extras to round it out to 20. I've got an Apples & Almonds wax tart going right now and my bedroom smells terrific. :D

    They're small soaps, but big enough to get several uses out of 'em, especially if you use a soap saver of some kind. I'd give 'em a week or so as a hand soap if it's the only one you use. It's a great way to test out different scents -- I've already tried Chocolate Cherry and Orange Spice -- and I can vouch for the soap quality (they're quite nice soaps, very smooth, nice lather). I'll give more details as I try out more of them, I'm sure!