Graze Snack Box Review #3

graze1I’ve posted a couple of times before about Graze, a snack subscription box I get. I’m really picky when it comes to subscription boxes- I like surprises but at the same time I don’t want to be disappointed and feel like I should have spent my money elsewhere. That’s why I like Graze so much. I get to rate the snacks they offer and even “trash” ones that I don’t want to try (you can also trash snacks that don’t meet your dietary restrictions). It’s perfect for me. Every box is still a surprise but I know I’m not going to get a boxful of snacks I won’t eat. Each box includes four snacks. One of my recent boxes included Oven Roasted Salt & Vinegar Nut Selection, Toffee Apple, Scandinavian Forest, and Olive & Rosemary Bruschetta.

graze2Oven Roasted Salt & Vinegar Nut Selection included salt and vinegar almonds and peanuts. I don’t like salt and vinegar chips, but G does so I thought this snack might be something he might like. Of course, when it arrived in my box he refused to try it. When I opened this snack, it smelled strongly of peanuts. It was very vinegar-y but not in a good way. This was a weird combination of flavors- the sweeter almonds didn’t quite fit in. I hated this and only made it through half the package before I threw it away.

Verdict: Trash

graze3Toffee Apple included toffee sauce and soft apple pieces. This snack has since been replaced by Caramel Apple (the same thing with a different name). It had a very fresh apple smell to it. I’ve had soft apple pieces from Graze before and I really like them. They are just a little chewy with a nice texture. They are much better than the hard, crunchy dried apples you can get elsewhere. These apples were a little tart, like they were made with green apples. One piece wasn’t quite cut right and included part of the center of the apple (it was a little hard). The toffee was sweet but not too sweet with a nice viscosity. There was a good amount of toffee for the apple pieces.

Verdict: Love

graze4Scandinavian Forest was a fruit mix containing lingonberries, blueberries, cherry raisins, and soft apple pieces. I like Graze’s fruit mixes because they include such a variety of fruits. The lingonberries were tart and very tiny. The blueberries were a nice mix of tart and sweet. The cherry raisins were very sweet. They didn’t have a noticeable cherry flavor and really just tasted like sweet raisins. I would have preferred actual cherries instead of cherry raisins. The soft apple pieces were soft and chewy with a nice texture. They were a little tart as well, like they were made from green apples. I really liked this mix. The apples were a nice balance to the smaller fruits and it was a good blend of tart and sweet flavors, although I wish it was slightly sweeter. There were a lot of raisins in this- I would have preferred more blueberries.

Verdict: Like (almost Love)

graze5Olive and Rosemary Bruschetta included olive croutons, rosemary and garlic cashews, and tomato baguettes. This smelled really good, kind of herb-y/tomato-y like pizza. I’m not much of an olive fan but I really liked the olive croutons. They were really crunchy with a light flavor. These had just a hint of olive flavor to them. The rosemary and garlic cashews were slightly garlicky with a softer texture. I never thought of myself as a cashew fan, but Graze is making me change my mind. The tomato baguettes had a great crunch to them and a slight tomato flavor. This was a good, savory snack. I liked the crunchiness and the mix of flavors. This was savory without being salty.

Verdict: Like

graze6One thing I like about Graze is the flexibility with shipments. You can postpone boxes or add more whenever you want, and it’s so easy to do on their website. I actually skipped a few boxes around the holidays because I knew there would be plenty of snacks around the house. When I resumed my shipments, I received a box with Born in the USA, Graze’s Lightly Salted Popping Corn, Key Lime Pie, and Summer Berry Compote.

graze7Born in the USA included pecans, cranberries, and almonds. This snack is no longer available. The pecans had a nice texture but I wish there were more in this snack. The cranberries were very tart and tangy. They were fresher and softer than normal dried cranberries (one thing I’ve noticed with Graze is that everything tastes much fresher). The cranberries added a nice flavor to this mix. The almonds had a nice, sweet almond taste. This mix wasn’t anything special but everything was very fresh and I liked the addition of cranberries. This was a good energy-boosting snack.

Verdict: Like

graze8Graze makes two kinds of Popping Corn: Twist of Black Pepper (which I reviewed in one of my previous boxes) and Lightly Salted. Since these are designed to be a snack for one person, they are smaller than other bags of popcorn, but they are a good snack size for me. I don’t eat much popcorn but it’s nice to have every now and then. This popcorn didn’t wow me but it wasn’t bad. It had just the slightest salty flavor but really just tasted like plain popcorn. I added Kettle Corn seasoning to it to make it more flavorful.

Verdict: Try

graze9Key Lime Pie was a mix of lime flavored raisins, vanilla cookie drops, mini meringues, and green raisins. This smelled very lime-y when I opened it. Graze uses an excessive amount of raisins in their mixes but I like how they use flavored raisins. The lime flavored raisins had a strong lime flavor but were slightly sweet instead of sour. The vanilla cookie drops tasted like crunchier, not-as-sweet vanilla wafer cookies. The mini meringues had a great, crunchy texture. They were sweet and pretty sugary and melted in my mouth. The green raisins tasted like a slightly tangier version of normal raisins. They did not have a strong flavor. I liked them. This was a great blend of flavors and textures. It had a good “key lime” flavor but I wish it was a little limier. It leaned sweet but not too sweet. The mini meringues were really cute and this snack definitely fit its name.

Verdict: Like

graze10The Summer Berry Compote included berry compote with wholemeal shortbread dippers. It immediately smelled very fresh with a strong berry flavor when I opened it. The berry compote was fantastic. It was tangy and sweet and tasted like raspberries and lemon. There was plenty to scoop onto the dippers. The shortbread dippers had a crumbly texture that was hard to work with. They tasted kind of plain and one broke apart as I was trying to scoop out the compote. I wish there was more berry compote in this snack, and better dippers.

Verdict: Like

I’m still really happy with Graze. I love the variety of snacks and the versatility of the subscription you can pause it or add extra boxes whenever you want, and you can receive weekly or biweekly shipments). Their customer service is also really great- I had a melted snack in one of my boxes and they reached out to me and credited me for half a box. They recently added more options to their website- you can now order a bigger box of snacks or choose boxes that only send sweet or savory snacks (I get the variety box). They have also reduced their price back to the $6.49 each box that I pay (that includes shipping). You can read more about my experiences with Graze here. And, you can even use my referral link here to get your first and fifth boxes FREE (and you can cancel at any time, even after the first free box).

Do you subscribe to any food boxes?

-Molly

Tour of Tuscany

After leaving Rome, I only had about a week left of my time in Europe – a few days each in Tuscany, Venice, and Paris. M, N, and I actually rented a car from Rome to go on a mini road trip through Tuscany (3 quick days). Let’s just saying driving in Rome was quite an adventure! We had discussed our mini road trip with our tour manager, who is Italian, and he told us to be careful! This should have been a sign for what we had in store. Getting out of Rome was probably the craziest part of the drive – everyone just seems to go whenever/wherever and the streets aren’t in a grid system so it’s a little more confusing than what we are used to. Once we made it to the highway towards Greve in Chianti, the driving calmed down except for the speed – everyone drives crazy fast there! We were even almost run over by a police office – he was driving so fast and there was a semi truck next to us so we couldn’t get over right away! Probably the scariest part of the drive. Once we got into the Tuscan region, we drove through the country roads and had quite a view of the countryside. The whole Tuscan region was so beautiful! Rolling hills, trees, and vineyards everywhere.

Our first stop on our trip through Tuscany was Greve in Chianti. We actually stayed in a cute little bed and breakfast, Antico Pastifio, right near the center of town. The owner was a great host and definitely made us feel at home. Greve seemed like a pretty small town but still had quite a few shops and restaurants in the town center. We ended up walking around the town center and then going to a pizza party at the B&B the first night we were there. The next morning we had breakfast at a cute restaurant in the town square of pastries, tea, and cappuccinos. My tea was served in the cutest matching teapot and teacup! While we were there they were setting up for a town festival later in the day. It was fun to watch the commotion while we enjoyed our breakfast. After eating, we headed back to the B&B to pack up and headed to Sienna on the way to Montefollonico.

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We only had time for a quick trip through Sienna, but the little time we were there I really enjoyed. The whole city is up on a hill and we had to take several escalators up from where we parked to get into the actual city. We spent a couple hours wondering through the streets, seeing the churches, and having a late lunch of pasta and of course more gelato. I thought Sienna was a really cool little town and would have liked to have more time to spend there but unfortunately its hard to see and do everything so I’m glad we were able to make a quick stop.

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From Sienna it was on to Montefollonico for the night. We actually stayed in a pretty cool looking “castle” type apartment for the night. We booked it through Air BNB, which is a site that allows people to rent out rooms in their houses or even their whole house/apartment. The place we stayed at was a separate apartment on the top floor while the family we were renting from lived in the house below. It was a pretty cool set up and the apartment was really nice with a touch of retro decorating. And the view was amazing! Montefollonico was definitely what I was expecting from my previous thoughts of Tuscany – rolling green hills and vineyards everywhere. Driving through the countryside to where we stayed the night was so pretty and actually one of my favorite little things of the trip. That night we had a relaxing night. We walked into the town and found a cute little wine restaurant where we bought wine, bread, prosciutto, cheese, and fig jam for dinner. We decided to have a more “light” dinner since we had a huge late dinner of pasta in Sienna. We brought all the food back to our apartment and had a relaxing night in, which was much needed.

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The next morning we headed to a winery nearby for a little wine and olive oil tasting. The vineyard wasn’t giving tours since it was a Sunday but we were able to try four varieties of wine,made from their vineyards, and tried some olive oil as well. All of us decided to buy wine to take home for our families and I decided to buy some olive oil as well.

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From the vineyards, we continued on our road trip towards Venice!

- Stacie

MAC Viva Glam Miley Cyrus Lipstick

vivaglammiley3Last week I purchased my first MAC product, their Viva Glam Miley Cyrus lipstick. MAC seems to be a polarizing brand- lots of people seem to absolutely love them but others don’t think they’re worth the money. I’d been contemplating picking something up to see for myself when I saw this lipstick. I’m a sucker for a bright pink lip and the Viva Glam lipsticks are for a great cause. Every penny of the price ($16) goes to the MAC Aids Fund, which supports women, men, and children who are living with or are affected by HIV/AIDS. That’s right, the entire price of the lipstick (not just the profit or a percentage of the proceeds) goes to charity.

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MAC partners with different celebrities for their limited-edition Viva Glam lipsticks and this year they worked with Miley Cyrus. In addition to being in the ads, her signature is also featured on the box and the lipstick tube.

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Since Viva Glam lipsticks are created every year, this one is called Viva Glam Miley Cyrus. There is also a matching Viva Glam Miley Cyrus Tinted Lipglass (a sheer pink with lots of sparkle).

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MAC lipsticks come in a black bullet tube. It’s a different shape than most of my lipsticks, so it will be easy to find in my lipstick drawer. This also feels really nice in my hand.

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The inside of the case is red with Miley’s signature, which I think is a cute touch. The lipstick itself is a hot pink that leans a little warmer than most bright pink lipsticks. I thought this shade would be easily dupe-able and very similar to lipsticks I had already, but when I saw it in person I had to get it. It’s much brighter than I was expecting and quite a bit different than my other lipsticks.

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This lipstick is an amplified creme finish, which means it is super pigmented and opaque like a matte lipstick, but it is also very creamy. It has a glossy finish but is still long-lasting. This felt amazing on my lips! It glided on so easily and was light and moisturizing with great coverage. I loved the glossy creme finish. It was shiny without being over-the-top. I wore this for about six hours and never felt like I had to apply lip balm, which never happens to me. The only complaint I have is that it transferred onto everything! The glossy finish meant if I barely touched my lips to anything, it would transfer to it. Still, it lasted the whole time and never feathered.

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Viva Glam Miley Cyrus is a hot pink shade that leans warmer than other bright pinks but is still a cool color. It goes on easily like a balm but is very opaque. This has a vanilla scent to it.

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NARS Schiap, MAC Viva Glam Miley Cyrus, Maybelline Fuchsia Flash, Maybelline Vivid Rose

Here you can see Viva Glam Miley Cyrus compared to some other bright pinks. It looks much warmer and even looks a little coral compared to true cool-toned, blue-based pinks.

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This is the lipstick in sunlight. It’s a gorgeous hot pink shade with a creamy, glossy finish. I am so glad I got this color! It is absolutely stunning in real life and it feel so nice on the lips. It also wears wonderfully, which is very important.

vivaglammiley11Viva Glam Miley Cyrus is a bit of a chameleon shade. It is a true hot pink but the color can shift a little bit, depending on the lighting. This is in indoor light. You can see that it looks a little shinier, but is also a little warmer.

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And here it is in darker lighting. In person it still looked pink, but it definitely leaned more toward coral. As this wore off, it left a reddish-pink stain on my lips. Viva Glam Miley Cyrus is such a fun color no matter what light you’re in. I am really happy with this purchase and I will definitely be looking at getting more MAC lipsticks (especially more amplified cremes). MAC’s Viva Glam Miley Cyrus lipstick is $16 here. The matching Lipglass is $15 here. I’m not much of a lip gloss person but I love the lipstick so much I’m considering the lipglass. Plus, it’s full of sparkles and would be great layered.

What’s your favorite MAC lipstick? Do you miss pilates-Miley as much as I do?

-Molly

 

Chard and White Bean Stew

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Something about winter makes me crave hearty stews. This Chard and White Bean Stew is my favorite. It’s packed full of good-for-you veggies and definitely not short on flavor. This stew is tangy, rich, and filling, and great fresh or as leftovers. I’ve been making it for several years and it’s still my go-to during the cold months. If I had a signature dish, this would be it. I’ve adapted it from Smitten Kitchen (my favorite food blog). My version mostly involves adding shortcuts and cooking everything longer (G likes his vegetables more soft than crunchy and I find the flavors really meld together if it is cooked longer). One pot is more than enough for the two of us with leftovers (it probably serves about 4-5) but sometimes I double it to give us both lunches for the week.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
About 1 cup chopped onion (yellow is best, I usually chop as much as I can stand before my eyes start burning, then give up)
2 tsp. of Penzey’s Minced Garlic (or 3 fresh garlic cloves)
1 cup dry white wine (I use the cheapest Chardonnay I can find)
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups (or more to taste) vegetable or chicken broth (I use water and 1Tbsp. of Penzey’s Vegetable or Chicken Soup Bases)
1/4 cup tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 tsp. dried thyme (depending on how strong you want it)
1 bay leaf
1 bunch of Swiss chard (can also swap kale or another “tougher” green)
Grated Parmesan to serve (optional)
Sherry or Balsamic Vinegar to serve (optional, I used Pomegranate White Balsamic Vinegar from here)

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium. Add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic and saute for 20-25 minutes (less if you like your veggies crunchy). Add wine and cook until it is reduced by three-fourths. Add beans, broth, tomato paste, a pinch of salt (you may want to skip this if you’re using really salty broth), a few grinds of black pepper, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30-60 minutes (I like it to cook for around 45 minutes but it can cook longer if needed. This is when the flavors really blend together).

While the stew is cooking, rinse the chard and tear into 1- 1 1/2 inch pieces, removing the stems and large ribs. When the stew is nearly done, add the chard and cook for about 5 minutes more. It will seem like there is too much chard for the stew, but it will cook down. If your stew is a little thick, this is a good time to add extra water to thin it. Remove the bay leaf. Add more salt and pepper if needed.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of vinegar.

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This stew is soooo good and I swear it gets better every time I make it (last time G actually said it was exquisite). I really like the blend of flavors and how colorful it looks while cooking. I like to serve slices of baguette with olive oil and cheese with this for a hearty, filling winter meal.

-Molly

Formula X Brazen and Harmonics

formulax_brazen_harmonicsI’ve gotten a couple of Sephora promos recently that included mini Formula X for Sephora nail polishes. I’m a big fan of nail polish and I never seem to finish any so minis are great for me. The colors I received were Brazen and Harmonics. I’ve been wearing a lot of darker polishes lately, but something about these spring pastels called to me and I decided to try them out.

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Brazen is described as a petal pink. When Sephora released the Formula X line, I remember being interested in this color but I never purchased it. I love light pink cremes and if I could only wear one color for the rest of my life, a cotton candy baby pink creme is what I would choose.

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Harmonics is described as a deep lilac. This is a pretty orchid creme polish. I really like this color but in general I’m pretty disappointed with light purple polishes. I really want a pastel purple polish that isn’t too blue. Something like Brazen but in purple instead of pink. It seems like most light purple polishes are a little too dark like this one or too blue in tone.

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Brazen was streaky and thin with the first coat, but evened out nicely and became opaque with the second. This is a perfect pastel pink. It isn’t too warm or too cool and it is nice and bright on the nails. Harmonics also looked nice with two coats, although it wasn’t as opaque as Brazen looked. It is a pretty color, just not as bright and springy as Brazen. This is a true purple shade.

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formulax_brazen_harmonics7I really wanted to try Brazen and Harmonics while it was still cool out because I had some cute mint green mitten nail decals from Vinyl It Up that I wanted to use. I figured pastel shades would be the perfect background for them. I also decided to use another pastel polish, Julep’s Something Blue, as a string to “hold” the mittens together.

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I love how all of the bright colors really “pop.” This was a pretty simple mani to do and it is so nice and cheery. I really like how the mitten vinyls are different patterns, it makes them really fun. Something Blue is the perfect sky blue creme polish (and one of my favorite polish shades) and I love the bright mint color of the decals.

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I also added mittens to my thumbs and “tied” them together as well. I’ve posted previously about how much I love Vinyl It Up’s decals. They are so easy to use and they’re a quick way to add some pizazz to a plain mani. Plus, she makes so many cute ones in a great variety of colors (right now I’m really loving her Valentine’s Day themed vinyls, like these Assorted Hearts and these L-O-V-E letters).

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Just looking at these nails makes me happy. As much as I love to wear black (with a few gray accents) during the colder months, having bright nails is a nice contrast. Brazen and Harmonics are $10.50 at Sephora. Julep’s Something Blue is $14/11.20 Maven here. My mint Mitten Decals came from Vinyl It Up (50 for $2.50 or 25 for $1.50). You can also follow her Instagram for special offers.

What’s on your nails right now?

-Molly