I was surprised and confused when a goodie box arrived last week (okay, now that’s “last month” — I’ve been slacking) from Sandusky, Ohio. I dug through the avalanche of freebie products — snacks, make-up, and lotions, lotions, lotions — expecting to find a note or survey, but nothing!

Only after I sat down and Googled performed a Google search did I discover my luck: I’d somehow scored an Oprah tote. At that moment, my attitude shifted from puzzled suspicion to beaming gratitude. Yes, because it’s Oprah.

My oh my, that benevolent corporate monarch knows what she’s doing! Though I don’t watch Oprah or read her magazine, I’m already predisposed to like the products. I’m puzzling out the psychology of that: does Oprah serve, even to the uninitiated, as a transcendent avatar of all things good? (Or all things free?) Or am I swayed by the arrival of all these goodies in one big, unexpected spree? Or is it the combination of the two?

I don’t even remember entering the tote giveaway sweepstakes, but I suppose I must have. (Though, as The Fella points out, if you’ve ever had a Pap smear or handled a $5 bill, Oprah has your profile in her databank.)

disclosure: these products were given to me outright as an Oprah tote recipient, with no request for review and no compensation other than the freebies described. Elli and Elsa of Macbebekin have established a product review disclaimer policy for future offers of promotional goods or services:

A) Even if we accept promotional goods, we might choose not to write about it. Supplying promotional goods does not guarantee a review.

B) If we do decide it’s worth writing about, the review might be negative.

C) We will always disclose that the product was a promotional sample. If we do not expressly state that a product is a promotional freebie, it isn’t.

D) We may revise this policy at any time.

Though the Oprah tote was a prize, not a solicitation for reviews, I wanted to take this opportunity to re-state and clarify our policy.

Inside the box was a cornucopia of goodies packed inside two totes: one tomato-red flat-bottomed grocery tote from Contessa Foods, and one pylon-orange rip-stop nylon O Magazine tote which folds into its own self-containing zipper bottom.

The products, mostly sample sized, can be assigned to three categories:

– a coupon for one free Contessa convenience meal: Because I do all of my cooking from scratch (and because we don’t have TV reception, so we never see commercials), I’d never even heard of this product before, but the first thing I thought was “Oooo, dinner!” Well played, Contessa: I went from total ignorance of your product to “ooooo!” in one moment. This promotion worked exactly as planned… or would have, except that we’re a mostly vegetarian household, and their dinners appear to be meat-based. Sigh.
– a full-sized bottle of Wishbone Tuscano Romano basil salad dressing: we’ll almost certainly give this to a friend; I’m the only one around here who eats salads, and I prefer very simple homemade dressing. I bet my Mom will be pretty thrilled to have it, though.
– as single-serving packet of Flat Earth baked fruit crisps, peach mango paradise flavor: “A Blend of Rice, Potato, Apple, Peach, and Mango.” Uh. Potato? Rice? We’ll see about this.
– a single-serving (90 calorie) packet of Quaker Mini Delights Chocolatey Mint multigrain cakes. This will go in my bookbag for some distant desperate afternoon at school.
– a packet of Blue Diamond Natural almonds, cinnamon brown sugar flavor: fingering the foil packet suggests an estimated 10 almonds inside. Mmmm, ten bites of goodness.

– a small tube of Lancome custom volume mascara, unfortunately in black, which makes a frightful contrast with my prematurely white hair. Still, I can play with it and see if fancy mascara trumps my drugstore brand.
– a sample tube OMG, it’s a tiny atomizer! How adorable! of Dior j’adore eau de parfum
– an apparently full-sized compact of Neutrogena mineral sheers powder foundation – shade buff 30: Though the shade is too dark for me even in the summer, I plan to try it out one day to see whether their formula (pressed powder applied with included cosmetic sponge) beats the Signature Minerals I’ve been using, which requires buff-buff-buffing with a Kabuki brush.

skin care
– a 10 oz. bottle of Dove Supreme Cream Oil Satin Smooth body wash: Dove, a company notable for its frequent sample giveaways, ain’t fooling around — they included a full-sized bottle of product. I have to admire that generosity, and it makes me think they’re confident that if I try their body wash, I’ll want to buy the next bottle. Who knows, they might be right! Dear Dove: I’m not crazy about the scent, which smells not unpleasantly of wealthy old lady (possibly a hint to their target market, eh?), but I’m going to give it a try.
– three packets of Befine food skin care: exfoliating cleanser with brown sugar, sweet almond, & oats; night cream with cocoa, millet, & rice bran; warming clay mask with cardamom, arnica, and pomegranate.
– two sample packets from Curel’s Life Stages line: First Signs of Aging youth-defenseTM moisture lotion; Menopause & Beyond skin fortifying moisture lotion; also a coupon for future purchases.
– a sample packet of Jergens Natural Glow Express body moisturizer for medium skin tones: this appears to be self-tanner or possibly body makeup. I’ll give this away.
– a 2 oz. tube of Eucerin Dry Skin Therapy Everyday Protection fragrance-free body lotion with UVA & UVB SPF 15: pretty psyched about this! Fragrance-free and a little SPF, both things I require in a lotion, and in a size large enough to last. That means I’ll get a chance to assess it properly, which never happens with a tiny packet of product.
– 0.5. oz tube of Aveeno Continuous Protection sunblock lotion, SPF 55: Though I’ve been very happy with my Neutrogena oil-free sunblock, which I smear on my face and throat with wild enthusiasm every single morning, I’m delighted to give this brand a try. This sample holds enough for a few days’ liberal smearing on the face — in other words, a good trial run.
– a 5 mL (0.17 oz) tube of Clarins Younger Longer balm.
– a 0.24 oz bottle of Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair protective recovery complex.

These last two were perhaps the only products that made me squeal girlishly. My face, along with the rest of me, is rapidly approaching 39, and it shows. Though I’m perfectly happy to bear the character that age bestows, I’ve been wondering if it wasn’t time to pay a little more attention to my skin, and to that end, I’ve been reading about various night creams and lotions. Jeez, there’s a lot of info out there, almost none of it supported by evidence. I’m absolutely delighted to have a couple of samples of proper grown-up-lady skin treatments; I’ll try them out and report back.

*Oops! Oh, what a giveaway! I wrote this at the beginning of August, before I’d tipped over from 38 to 39. As regular readers know, other things have been on my mind since then.

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