I’m baaaaack! Sihaya & Co Spring Box Review

Hey everybody! I have been away from my blog for a long time. Mostly for good reasons– my jewelry business has kept me pretty busy. I’ve been working on a new soldering technique and happily creating tons of new stuff with stones and crystals. It’s pretty fulfilling. And I’ve been prepping for the Spoutwood Faerie Festival in Glen Rock, PA, at which I will again be co-vending with Faerie Magazine, and dancing with my troupe, Transcendence Bellydance Collective (we’re billed as the Faerie Ring Dance Collective out of cheeky tradition).

So I’ve been keeping pretty busy, and just not having a lot of time to do reviews– although to be honest, I’ve been on a low-buy in general. I’ve been working so much, I’ve been doing my makeup about two days a week at best, and so buying new stuff hasn’t been much of a priority. I’ve picked up some new things here or there, and hopefully I’ll get a chance to write about them soon.

I did want to review some things that I tried recently, though– but I want to be clear that it’s a project I started, and I’m very excited about. In January, I founded Sihaya & Company, a four-times-a-year seasonal box. Focused on indie makers, it’s a gift box full of bath and body, household items, sweet treats, and other fun surprises.


The Spring box, which I am reviewing here, has come and gone, and cost $75 for goods worth nearly $100. I was so thrilled to start out the project with a group of makers I absolutely adore. It featured products from Deconstructing Eden, Villainess Soaps, Paintbox Soapworks, Blooddrop Fineries, Leccare Lollipops, Dryad Tea, and my company, Sihaya Designs. The summer box will feature new collaborators (aside from me!), but I am so in love with all of the companies that I selected that I hope to create a rotating roster of regular participants.

I did want to write up my thoughts on the contents of the Spring box, so here they are.

Deconstructing Eden contributed a 5ml perfume spray, Soft Awakening, created especially for the box. It honestly surprised me that I fell so head over heels in love with it. When Toni was telling me about the scent she was crafting, it sounded floral and aquatic– my two least favorite scent families. But I also knew to trust her– she has created many scents that I didn’t expect to like very much, but absolutely surprised me when I tried them on.

Soft Awakening was love at first sniff. It opens with a burst of lavender maillette, a soft lavender that is not at all heavy or medicinal. But what follows it is just spring in a bottle. It’s the scent of cold morning dew on a freshly-tilled field, and raindrops clinging to quivering fresh buds. It’s so incredibly realistic– this is the way hiking smells on a day after rain, that clean dirt and condensation and soft breeze smell that instantly relaxes me and brings a smile to my face. I have worn it at least six times in the month since I received it, and I anticipate wearing it all through the sticky summer months. Even though it was created for the box, Toni has the option of releasing it in her own collections if she so chooses, and I really hope she does, because it’s just that great. It’s a real hit for people who love fresh scents– it reminds me of a springtime version of another favorite DE scent, Anael. So if that sounds like something you’d like, be sure to tell her!

Paintbox Soapworks contributed a 2 oz guest soap, Song of the Lark, also custom made for the box. It is a two-color soap; the bottom layer is a lovely lavender, and the top, a beautiful peach dusted with golden shimmer. The listed notes are “The soft air of dawn, flowering bulbs, sweet earth.” To my nose, it’s a bouquet of soft pastel floral notes. The “earth” note isn’t as prevalent here as it is in some of Hayley’s other earthy blends, like Hiraeth or Potting Shed In A Deluge, two of my favorite PBSW scents to date, but it’s there, softly underpinning the florals. I can’t really tell you what the florals ARE, but I can tell you what they probably aren’t– I don’t smell rose, gardenia, jasmine, or carnation. Overall, it’s a clean floral, just a touch powdery, and not at all heavy or cloying. The formula is Hayley’s glycerin formula, softly moisturizing, and so silky.

Villainess contributed one of their mainstay sugar scrubs, Jai Mahal, in the Smooch formulation. The notes are “4 rich vanillas and tonka, Mysore sandalwood, bourbon and coconut. Expensive woods, incense and imported spices – cedar, amber, myrrh, cardamom and nutmeg.” It’s a definite crowd pleaser of a scent– the rich vanillas blend so seamlessly with the sandalwood and spice notes that it stops short of dessert-y, while still remaining an incredibly sexy gourmand. I love the Smooch formula, too– this particular one is middle-of-the-road in scrubbiness, and lathers a little bit. It’s such a lovely indulgence, and the one I almost always recommend to folks looking to try Villainess, so it made a great addition to the box.

Blooddrop created a box-exclusive linen & chamber spray, Douceur. It is described as a “gentle waking blend of powdery notes and florals, blackberries, sweet citrus, and lemon herbal tea.” When I spray it, I definitely get the powderiness loud and clear– very much like baby powder. I get a little bit of blackberry sweetness as well, and just a touch of lemony citrus. Overall, it’s a gentle smell like the cap of a baby’s head, and it’s a good choice for linen spray if you’re the type to need help with a restful night’s sleep.

Dryad Tea contributed a trio of deluxe tea samples in loose leaf form. Spring Sprite is “black tea and the kiss of spring blueberry.Mermaid’s Promise is “green tea with vanilla, warm chocolate, and anise notes.Moonlight Grove is “rich black teas laced with light spice and warmth. Perfect for Winter, giving way to Spring.” Of the three, Moonlight Grove was a favorite, as I am a chai girl. It wasn’t a chai, but the delicate spices were perfectly balanced, and the richness of the black tea stood up to milk, my preferred way of drinking tea. Spring Sprite was best without milk, and with a little bit of honey– that way the blueberry really stood out! Mermaid’s Promise was surprisingly tasty, as I am neither a green tea drinker nor an anise lover. The chocolate and vanilla added enough of a gourmand flair that even I liked it!

Leccare Lollipops sent a selection of four lollipops for the box, and even made them with special vegan flavorings to approximate honey and marshmallow. The flavors I received were Lavender & Marshmallow, White Peach & Rose, Marshmallow & Hibiscus, and Marigold. I loved all four, but of them, Marshmallow & Hibiscus was my most favorite. Marigold had a bit of a citrus lemon flavor. White Peach & Rose and Lavender & Marshmallow delicately balanced the flavors so that neither was soapy at all, but they still felt very lush. Each box got two lollies, and I was so very pleased with their inclusion.

As for me, I created petite owl pendants in the box– 16mm painted cabochons on an 18″ sterling chain. I did the owls in petal pink, sky blue, and mint green.


And, since I wanted the inaugural box to really be something special, I added a trio of mini travel candles, 4 oz each. I blend the scents for my candles by hand (ie, I do not use stock scents), and overall I was very happy with the three I ended up with.


(Those are the candles before I trimmed the wicks.)

Lavender & Cream: I know lavender can be major hate note for people if it’s too strong, so I made something that fit my idea of lavender silk– I cut the lavender with a young coconut note (which doesn’t smell like coconut the way we Westerners are used to smelling it) to give it a very smooth, soothing feel, and blended in a milky note that was fresh and not at all sour. So it felt very silky overall, and not “perfumey” like some types of lavender can be.

Antique Sandalwood & Madagascar Vanilla: My original scent profile for this blend in prototype was to achieve a non-sweet vanilla (because in a candle, that can very quickly get cloying and headache-inducing),  blended with a very woody sandalwood. I had originally envisioned the blend to be more vanilla than sandalwood, but one of the sandalwood notes I tested was just STELLAR, and so I decided to make it the dominant note. It ended up a very rich, warm sandalwood blend with a dry vanilla pod note– much more vanilla extract smelling than sweet bakery vanilla. I was thrilled with how it turned out.

Ginger & Wild Peach: This was overall the scent I was the most worried about in the blending process, and I tried three separate ginger notes to get the right one. Ginger is a weird one, and it can either be too aggressively spicy, or it can be weirdly soapy, depending on the source. I wanted a baking spice ginger, but one that wasn’t diluted with cinnamon or cassia, so I was pretty picky about my ginger. For the peach, I actually ended up blending two different peach notes– mostly I used a farm-fresh peach note that smelled more like peach skin than peach juice, but I also blended in a bit of a peach candy note to give it that sweet juiciness to keep the ginger from taking over. The final result was totally mouth-watering, and I am definitely keeping the recipe so I can release this again in the future. I loved it so much.

So that was the first box! The second box will go up for pre-sale the first week of May, for shipment by the Summer Solstice. The theme is Forces of Enchantment, and it will retail for $60 or under. I am REALLY excited– fairytales and magic are among my absolute favorite themes. Also, look at the promo art, by Merle Pace Arts:


I’m practically giddy about it. I will be releasing a pre-order for a candle trio at the same time, to be based on lore of faery queens: Titania, Mab, and Nicnevin. They will be able to be purchased separately, or included in the purchase of a Summer box.

If you’re interested in keeping up with Sihaya & Company, you can visit us on Facebook, Twitter, or search the #SihayaAndCo hashtag on Instagram or Twitter. I’ll be releasing more information about the box’s contents and contributors as we get close to the May pre-sale date.

It’s my aim to create a consistently stellar box and provide a great platform for the indie companies I love, so if you love indies, too, be sure to check it out!


Review: Paintbox Soapworks Buttercup Facial Scrub


I recently placed an order at Paintbox Soapworks for more Clean Slate scrub– for my husband, who has also fallen in love with it. It is my go-to scrub Spring through Autumn, though I had stopped using it as Wintry cold descended and my normally-oily skin suddenly went dry as a packet of silica. But then I noticed that Hayley had released a new scrub, aimed at drier skins, Buttercup. Into my cart went a sample size.

For reference, the above photo shows the full size (Clean Slate) vs the sample size (Buttercup). I’d say there are about 15 uses in the sample size, depending on how much scrub you use. That’s pretty generous, huh?


Full Size vs Sample Size

The description for Buttercup describes it as “sweet blood orange, lavender & ylang ylang essential oils, with soothing organic cocoa butter, rice powder & gentle rose clay.” So let me tell you, when the blood orange combines with the cocoa butter, this scrub smells like chocolate oranges.


Specifically like Terry’s chocolate oranges. NOM.

It’s like smearing dessert all over your face. It is awesome.

Texture-wise, it is thicker and creamier than Clean Slate. My face feels really soft after I use it, and it helps very much with the dry patches I get on the sides of my nose. I am so so happy to have a great scrub to use when it’s cold and miserable outside. If you have dry skin that flakes in winter, you may want to look into this scrub, ’cause it’s pretty great.

The other big hit at my house this Holiday season was Roses In The Snow, a limited edition scent that will be disappearing soon-ish from the shop.  Continue reading

Delicious Smells from Paintbox Soapworks

Last month, horror of horrors, I found that my once over-stuffed soap cabinet was very nearly depleted. What’s worse, I had completely worked through my third order of Clean Slate facial scrub. Since that, obviously, could not stand, I hied myself over to Paintbox Soapworks to place an order.

In addition to Clean Slate, I purchased two soaps, and was gifted with a generous sample of a third (as Hayley, the proprietress, knows my love of the great departed Walk In The Woods). Here are my reviews of those three soaps, and I apologize that I did not have the time when I was testing to photograph them properly. Instead, we’ll use Hayley’s awesome product shots. So really, that’s kind of a bonus.

Paintbox Soapworks - Nekisse Soap

Nekisse: Deep, rich Ethiopian coffee studded with ripe blueberries & buttery pastry crumbs.

Oh. My. God. This is absolutely delicious. The coffee is indeed deep and rich, and it smells like it’s being served up with hot blueberry pie with a flaky crust. What a way to get out of bed. This one made me so hungry.  Yeah, it sort of became an insta-favorite. I need it in a scrub. (And apparently, this is based on a real coffee blend, which I now need to track down…)

Paintbox Soapworks - Go Green Soap

Go Green: An earthy, woodsy blend of clary sage & cedar essential oils, with a spark of lime & lavender.

While not a replacement for Walk In The Woods, I’d call them scent cousins. While WITW had a bright, clear, fresh green note, this one is more like soil after the rain in a deep, old forest.  Much earthier, but still very green. The clary sage is prominent in this one, and while I’d thought I’d smelled a bit of patchouli, it was probably the cedar. It’s very nice.

Paintbox Soapworks - Big in Japan Soap

Big In Japan: A translucent green blend of matcha tea, crisp yuzu & serene sandalwood.

Are you one of those people who find it hard to get going in the morning? Well, take your morning shower with Big In Japan, and that will no longer be a problem. It’s a bold, citrusy punch in the face that’ll open your eyes just as easily as a coffee. The yuzu is front and center here– and, for those who are unfamiliar with the Japanese fruit, it’s sort of what you’d smell if you mashed together a grapefruit and a not-quite-ripe lemon. It’s bright, zingy, and just a touch herbal.  For those of you who shower extra in the warmer months to de-sweat yourself, you’ll be pleased with just how clean this one leaves you feeling. Such a great summer scent.

So that was my latest Paintbox order. Three soaps, three winners. Now to plot the next…


A Lazy Skincare Saturday with Lush’s Catastrophe Cosmetic Mask

Catastrophe Cosmetic Fresh Face Mask by LushTruth be told, as much as I love color cosmetics, I don’t pay much mind to skincare. My skin– my boringly combination skin– more or less behaves itself without much interference. I had absolutely terrible skin in high school, but my hormones resolved themselves, and the persistent acne more or less went away. My pores are normal, the ruddiness around my nose is easily masked with some concealer, and breakouts generally only come when I’m expecting Aunt Flo.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a blackhead.

So my skincare routine is pretty basic. I usually shower at night, so I wash my face in the shower. (If my husband is joining me, I take great pleasure in dramatically smearing my mascara down my face and menacingly singing the chorus to Manson’s “The Beautiful People” at him. Because that’s what married life is like.)  If I don’t shower at night, I get my makeup off with Neutrogena wipes before bed.  I exfoliate a few times a week to get rid of winter flakies. I only use moisturizer if my skin feels tight or dry, which is not particularly often. I’m not even sure what toner does. I don’t use eye cream or anti-aging anything.  And yet, for all of that cavalier attitude, I have the kind of skin that often gets me asked what my major is at the ripe old age of 30. So I don’t fuss too much.

That said, hoo boy did December kick me in the ass. Or rather, in the face. It was one of the most stressful months I can remember, and the result was several aggravated and angry breakouts. Whiteheads and even some cystic ones, along my chin and cheeks.  I was really unhappy, and so was my skin.

I hied myself to Lush to snag a face mask to control the damage. Usually I am faithful to Brazened Honey for brightness, but now I had a completely new need.  The overzealous-but-friendly sales associate there (and really, is there any other kind?) suggested several that were for calming the skin, and in the end, I chose Catastrophe Cosmetic. It’s got blueberries, calamine, chamomile, moss, and rose to soothe skin in crisis. It’s also completely cruelty free.

Catastrophe Cosmetic Fresh Face Mask by LushI also love that it tells you who made your mask. Thanks, Adrian!

Catastrophe Cosmetic Fresh Face Mask by Lush

One pot is roughly enough for four liberal applications, or five moderate ones. I am currently on mask 4.

It’s a lot thicker and harder to spread than other Lush masks I’ve tried. It has a very clay-like texture, and considering it’s supposed to be refrigerated, that can mean it takes some effort to get it onto your face. Add to that, it’s a kind of oogy greenish-grey with chunky bits in it.

Catastrophe Cosmetic Fresh Face Mask by Lush

Basically, you look extra sexy when you wear it, is what I’m saying.

But no matter, what’s awesome is that it works. My skin feels super soft when I wash it off, and any redness in my skin is noticeably calmer. My skin is almost back to normal– the actual raised bumps have gone away, and now I’m just waiting for the last of the redness to fade, as well.

Also, no mask post would be complete without a snapshot making a zombie face. I have a nice little collection of these. I often send them to my husband while he’s at work.

Catastrophe Cosmetic Fresh Face Mask by LushA final addendum– there’s another skincare product I’ve been meaning to recommend for awhile now. I’m on my third pot of it right now, and it’s probably the best (and best-smelling) facial exfoliator I’ve ever tried.

Clean Slate Emulsifying Facial Scrub by Paintbox SoapworksBehold Clean Slate Emulsifying Facial Scrub by Paintbox Soapworks. It’s a very nice mid-grade scrub that’s gentle enough to use multiple times a week. It’s got charcoal for oily, acne-prone skin, and it smells just awesome. Like a slightly minty herb garden. Very spa-like and addictive.  If you’re in the market for a new face scrub, I heartily recommend this one.

Happy Saturday!

Paintbox Soapworks: New For Spring!

Paintbox Soapworks is one of two indie soapers that I have been loyal to for years. The other is Villainess, but my stockpile (really– stockpile) of Villainess soaps are mostly LEs from last fall (AUTUMN GALA), which means I’ll have to place another order for more recent stuff to show you. WOE, MY LIFE. TWIST MY ARM, WHY DON’T YOU.

Aaaaaanyway. Hayley of Paintbox Soapworks released the first wave of her Spring LEs last week, and of course I had to try them. The only scent I did not purchase was Bluebird In The Lilacs, because lilac is one of those florals that makes me sneeze endlessly.

First up is Bramble & Apple Luxury Glycerin Soap.

Paintbox Soapworks Bramble & Apple SoapIf you read “glycerin” and though “great, so it’ll melt in two uses,” think again. I have never tried a glycerin bar as long lasting as this formula. First of all, it has some heft to it. Second of all, it outlasts other glycerin bars I’ve tried by at least a week. I get very dry skin in winter, and while I would not call them moisturizing, I will say that they are in no way drying to me. The scents stay bright and clear– one bar will scent my bathroom entirely. So that’s nice!

Scent wise, this is pure black currant with a bite of appley tartness, super juicy. Fresh and candy-like at the same time. I dig it.

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