TRAINING FOR 2015 (on tuesday)

Here's a confession: one of my goals for 2014 was to run a 5k. I talked about it over and over again but never got around to even registering for a race. I made it about half way through C25K and I loved it, but life's distractions always got in the way. And I was lazy. A lot.

2015 is just a few days away so I'm starting off the new year with the same goal. I'm going to challenge myself to find a race that is before June 30th and run the entire thing. Easy enough, right? I'll check in with Alyssa and Tracy again next month with more details. I haven't decided if I want to try C25k again or what my plan to get back into the swing of running will be.

Two more fitness related goals for the year:

1. Barre
2. Pilates

Pilates is a little more realistic because classes are offered at my gym, but after Biana's reviews & hearing so much about barre from Amanda's blog I think I would really love Pure Barre.  With barre it's going to be more of finding the right time to try out the monthly new client pass so I can make the most of the membership because it's not cheap.

I'm so thankful for this blogging community, not only for accountability, but for always being so encouraging and inspiring! Make sure you linkup with Tracy and Alyssa to share any of your training goals.

Are you fitness focused at all for the new year?



If you were to ask me about this past year I would probably tell you it wasn't the best. Losing my grandma was really hard, and there were some other challenges along the way. What I'm learning more and more that it isn't the size or number of our experiences/accomplishments-- but the people we share them with. The little moments in life really are what make it special. A few weeks ago Kristen wrote this post on the importance of loving your life no matter what. When I stopped to take the time to look back at my year, I saw how blessed I was with so many wonderful experiences.

When we look at  resumes or job applications or awards at work or school it's all about our accomplishments. How many things we've achieved. While there's obviously a purpose for that type of measurement of success, it's not the only thing that matters. Society might not appear to value it as much, but the type of person you are and how you treat others is invaluable. In a world so driven by stuff sometimes it's easy to forget that. 

This isn't the post I intended to write when I started typing and I realize this might sound kind of random and off topic. I guess this is really just a reminder for myself (and maybe you) to not always think of accomplishments as things that are easily measured or can be bulleted out on a list. Always celebrate the big things, but if this past year didn't go according to plan, remember to reflect on the little things as well :)

A few favorites of 2014 as documented on the blog: 
Another Thanksgiving Day spent in NYC
Completing my 2014 reading challenge
Sharing my favorite places in DC
A northern Michigan summer vacation
Finding a way to give back (girls love mail)
Making so many amazing friends through blogging!

Linking up with Jenn - what were some of your accomplishments in 2014?


Collective Beauty Haul

This is a bit of a collective haul of things I've picked up over the past couple of months. As you'll see at the end of the post, a few things took forever to ship so I didn't have them in time to take photos. Affiliate links are used in this post and I will earn a small commission based on clicks and/or purchases. 

I only picked up two things during the Sephora VIB sale. The Bobbi Brown Sheer Finish Pressed Powder in pale yellow had been on my wish list since I saw Amelia Liana talk about it in her contouring video. I imagine it as being a pressed version of the highly talked about Ben Nye Banana Powder. I prefer pressed powders and this one is extremely finely milled and feels nice and light on the skin.

I talked about the Bite Lipstick duo in my October favorites and when I saw they had a little holiday collection available at Sephora I had to pick up another duo in the Scarlett/Poppy duo. I kind of wish I would have got another one or two for gifts!

Ignore the foundation swatch! I decided to put the foundation in a separate post-- coming soon!
I went through my makeup not too long ago and almost all of my cream eye shadows were dried out. I picked up barely branded from Target a few weeks ago and LOVE it! I also picked up the L'Oreal infallible shadow in eternal sunshine. It's pretty & I like the two together, but I kind of wish I would have went with Mia's suggestion and got iced latte instead.

They're both more shimmery in better light, but the top is barely branded & the bottom is eternal sunshine
A couple weeks later I used my $15 Sephora rewards card on a few items. I was planning to buy the full-size of the Lancome eye makeup remover but this randomly happened:

I ended up ordering the Clinique Take Off The Day makeup remover instead. My mom gave me the Mary Kay eye makeup remover so I'm excited to try it and see how it compares to Lancome and Clinique. I also picked up the Clinique Moisturizing Lotion+. In the past I've preferred the gel version, but I need something a little bit heavier for winter- especially at night.

My more "fun" purchase was the St. Tropez Self Tanner Starter Kit. The last time I tried a self tanner it was the bareMinerals Faux Tan and I was not the biggest fan. It hardly showed up on my skin, which is not what you want after you spend forever applying it.

I finally decided to give the Mario Badescu Drying Cream a chance when it was 30% off at Ulta. I also picked up the L'Oreal Infallible Gel Liner. I'm excited to try both of these products, and will definitely be back on the blog with a review.

That wraps up this haul of a little bit of everything. What products have you been loving lately? Any new favorites? 

Recent Reads: end of the year edition

Happy Thursday! It feels good to be back to blogging (kind of) and I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who sent emails and tweets over the last couple of weeks- they really brightened my day. Once again I'm really behind in getting this recent reads post up, but I wanted to do it before the end of the year.

Yeah, Maybe by Jo Hodges: This was an adorable YA novel that will make you feel like you've transported back to high school with all the good & the bad. As much as I hated Annie's BFF at times- Joey kept her so real and honest to how someone at that age would actually behave. I'm hoping for a sequel :)

The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood: This is one of those books that I thought about days after I read it, and after I had time to process it I liked it a little bit more. It reads as a mystery/suspense, but it's really more of a study on each of the different characters. It's a group of individuals who live together in a boarding house and there is a lot of craziness (and a murder) that go on from each of the character's point of view. Because there are quite a few different people to follow I had some trouble keeping them straight at the beginning, but once I got into it, it was easier to follow & an enjoyable read.  [c/o netgalley]

Life Drawing by Robin Black: The story pulled me in immediately but as it progressed it seemed to slow down and I found myself losing interest at times. I found Black's writing to be wonderful, easy to read, with great imagery, but the story fell flat. The story follows a couple who has moved out of a big city to the country in an attempt to get a fresh start after the wife has an affair. This is a book that looks at marriage as well as friendships and how the two intertwine. [c/o netgalley]

A Christmas to Remember by Jenny Hale: It's no secret I love the cheesy holiday movies, so I figured maybe I would love a book in the same genre...turns out, not so much. The story had a lot of promise for a cute Christmas story-- the nanny falls for single dad and his perfect family. It seemed like Hale glossed over the parts I thought would have been interesting and spent way too much time on Carrie going over the same thoughts- it got boring after a while.

A small thing that bugged me was that the story is set in Virginia, but as I was reading it felt so forced to me. I decided to do a little research and found that while the author does live in Virginia I believe she's British, which made some of the weird word usage make a little more sense. Not a huge takeaway, but it obviously distracted me. [c/o netgalley]

The last thing I'll say is that all four of these books were completely different. A little YA, a suspense, drama, and some chick lit. I'm currently reading Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and I love what I've read so far! And if you missed it, I did a full post on my thoughts on The Goldfinch.

I have a lot of housekeeping type things to do over here in blog land, but I'm looking forward to posting again.

Have you read any of these books? 
What have you read recently? 
I kept going back and forth on whether or not I wanted to post about this. I don't like to let things get too personal on my blog, but I didn't feel right going on as though nothing in my life had happened.

My sito (grandmother) passed away this weekend and there aren't enough words to describe the amount of sadness I feel. I'm so thankful for all of the years we got to spend with her here on earth and I have comfort knowing that she's now resting peacefully in heaven.


Thoughts on The Goldfinch

I mentioned The Goldfinch for the first time a couple of months ago while I was still reading it, and this book was definitely the standout of all the books I read this year. I almost don't want to bother reviewing it because I don't think I'll do the story justice.

The first thing I'll say is that it's long. It's possibly one of the longest books I've ever read and that's what put me off from reading it for so long. However, the book was so good that even at nearly 800 pages I didn't really want it to be over.

The book starts off in NYC with 13-year old Theo and follows his life over the next 15 years or so. Right away I was pulled into the story because I love all things New York City and I love museums. If you read the synopsis of the book you'll know that Theo's mother dies in a tragic incident in the first few pages. Even though the mother wasn't in the majority of the story I felt like I missed her, just as Theo did throughout the story.

There were parts of the story where I hated what Theo did / what happened to him. So much so that it makes my skin crawl to think about it, but I was so wrapped up in the story, and had so much hope for Theo that even the hard parts were really brilliant to read. Not to mention, I was easily captivated by Tartt's writing style.

There's also a level of suspense and mystery to the story because you're never quite sure what's going to happen-- to Theo, or to the painting.

This is a hard one for me to review without giving too much away, but if you've been debating reading this, I'd say it's a must-read!

Have you read The Goldfinch
What have you been reading lately? 

November 2014 Favorites

2014 is quickly wrapping up and I'm here to share a few favorites. I apologize for the not-so-great picture, but I quickly snapped a picture on Sunday night so I could get this post ready to go for today.


Thanksgiving Weekending in NYC

Happy Monday! I hope everyone who celebrates had an amazing Thanksgiving weekend. We spent most of the weekend in NYC and now are back trying to catch up.


10 Things on my Christmas 2014 Wish List

The holidays seem to change the older I get- at least when it comes to gift giving and receiving. Whether it's deciding to take a trip, buying a big item purchase for your home or family, or putting money towards an experience of some sort (a concert, play, sporting event, etc), the holidays are less about the presents under the tree.

With that being said, here are a few things I would love to receive this year- and some thing I'd say would make pretty great gifts for someone else too :) I'm linking up with Elise for the These Are a Few of my Favorite Things linkup. Affiliate links are used in this post and I will earn a small commission based on clicks and/or purchases. 

1. I'm pretty set on eye shadow with the Urban Decay Naked Basics palette, but I've heard amazing things about sable & sumptuous olive for people with brown eyes.

2. I'm on the hunt for a new blush and cedar rose by Lancome is the front runner. I had a sample of this shade a few years ago and remember loving it. Exposed by Tarte and Mood Exposure by Hourglass are also up there.

3. I've been into lipsticks lately and would love to try the new line from NARS- the shade Anna looks gorgeous.

4. I keep things pretty simple when it comes to my hair, and I usually use coconut oil when I'm in need of a mask, but I would love a little extra pampering with the Bumble & Bumble Creme De Coco hair mask.

5. I love the mini RL bag I got for my birthday, but something a little bit bigger would be nice and I'm loving both the RL Newbury Double Zip Shopper & the Rebecca Minkoff Amorous Tote.

6. I've always wanted to try a lip scrub so sparkling peach by Sara Happ would be a total splurge and amazing gift.

7. I recently got a sample of the Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gioia perfume and was in love with it! All of my other perfumes are extremely floral, so this one would be something different for my collection.

8. I love this slightly oversized cotton plaid shirt from Madewell- it looks amazingly comfortable and I love the colors, though I actually wouldn't mind one in every color!

9. I've never been huge into jewelry or accessories, but every once in a while something really catches my eye & this necklace from Piperlime by House of Harlow is beautiful with the rose gold and blue quartz is gorgeous.

10. Lastly, I've had my eye on these sunglasses for a while now- I know winter isn't primetime for wearing sunglasses since it seems like the sun is rarely out, but these would be a much welcomed Christmas gift anyway!

There are also a handful of things from Etsy that I would love & a few books I have my eye on, so part two of my wish list might be coming soon. What are some things on your holiday wish list this year?

Thursday Ramblings

It's already Thursday, and I'm sure it's no surprise to anyone that November is flying by! I'm linking up with Joey and Annie today to share a few things.

I already can't get enough of the cheesy Christmas movies. I love the classics like White Christmas and Home Alone- but I can get sucked into the Hallmark channel for hours. I've already watched Snow Bride twice this year. One Starry Night is new this year and it's so cute. One of my ABC Family favorites is Holiday in Handcuffs- if you haven't seen these yet, and you enjoy a super cheesy, cute, holiday movie make sure you set your DVR for the next time they're playing!

I'm about two weeks in and I've done well aside from Saturday. It started with ordering pop at lunch with a friend-- I had skipped my coffee that morning and felt like I needed caffeine. Later we had pizza for dinner complete with cinnamon sticks (I could not resist) & more pop...

Other than that I've done really well- even with the constant candy and cookies tempting me at work and the peanut butter cups in our freezer. Drinking tea when I want a snack has been a good distraction so far. I'll do another update at the end of the month, but I'm hoping for no more major slip-ups!

Lunch was at Rosa Mexicana; a Christmas Tree going up at the National Harbor. 
I completed my reading challenge for the year this week and read my 35th book. Its been a while but I'm excited to have a book post coming soon!

What have you been up to this week? How are your November goals going so far? Any favorite holiday movies? 

October Favorites

I know everyone is saying this, but I really can't believe we only have one more flip of the calendar left this year. This is a bit of a different type of favorites post because I didn't have time to take proper pictures so I went through my phone and picked a few of my favorite things from the past month. A couple of beauty products and some good fashion finds. Make sure you linkup with Mia & Kelli to share your favorites!


No Sweets November

If you're wondering why I used that tempting picture for this post-- so am I...

I have a serious sweet tooth. Honestly I have a sugar addiction and it's a hard thing to admit, but it's a huge problem for me. I'm not going to lie, I feel a little bit dramatic talking so strongly about sugar, but really something need(ed)s to change.

The title is slightly misleading because I'm not totally cutting out sweets or sugar but I'm cutting way back (for me)-- if you follow along with my blog regularly you know how much I love to bake. I also have a huge addiction to candy- not so much chocolate but skittles, starburst, sour anything... it's a problem- especially when there is always a giant bowl of candy at work staring me right in the face.

My husband refused to buy halloween candy until the day of because he knew I would possibly eat half of it before halloween... ugh, it's a problem!

Anyway, for November (and maybe longer) I'm saying NO to candy, cakes, cookies, pop, ice cream, basically sweets of any kind. With the exception of something for Thanksgiving... it only comes around once a year, right?? (this is why I have a problem...)

In addition to Thanksgiving I am making a few other exceptions, because while I'm serious about making a change, I know what's realistic for my lifestyle. I will probably partake in the occasional Starbucks drink. I don't care for the sugar-free syrups, and if I'm going to pay to get a fancy drink I'd rather enjoy one that I actually like/want-- only in moderation 4 total for the month.

That's my plan for the month! It also means there won't (or shouldn't) be any baking recipes up this month, which makes me a little bit sad, especially around this time of the year, but I don't trust myself to bake anything without eating it.

Have you ever done anything like this? An elimination diet of any kind? Or made a conscious effort to cut back on certain things? 

Also, if you have any tips or suggestions please let me know. If you have any good snack or treat ideas that aren't loaded with sugar I would love those suggestions as well. Sometimes using Google and even Pinterest can get overwhelming.

I confess...

...I started listening to Christmas music on Tuesday. Usually I wait until after Halloween, but I was having a very blah day...

...I cut my own hair a couple of weeks ago-- I'm talking like 6 inches off the ends... more on that later though.

...I really want to do NANOWRIMO, but I know I don't have time even though I've been feeling inspired lately. One day left to decide!

...I was really excited to finally try out the Sephora Color IQ and it was a huge letdown because it definitely did not work (or the girl did it wrong?) The number matches me to Tarte's light sand and when I use that it seriously looks like I'm dressing up as a mime because it is so insanely light against my complexion. I even tried light-medium sand and even that was waaaay too light-- so I don't get it?

...I really wanted to linkup with Alyssa and Tracy this week but I made zero progress sooo there wasn't much to update about-- but reading everyone's posts really did motivate me and I'm hoping I'll be ready with a post for next month!

...I watched all of season one of Parenthood in a single weekend, but I haven't been able to get through a single episode of season two. Sarah (Lauren Graham's character) annoys me on every level, and there are so many things I'd rather do with my time than watch a show with someone so obnoxious.

So there's that for a random Friday post. I'm working on a favorites post to linkup with Mia & Kelli next week, and a few other things as well-- trying to get back into a blogging routine or schedule at least. Just like that October is over... two months left of 2014, where does time go?

Wishing you all a very happy Friday and joyous weekend!

[linking up with a blonde ambition & lauren elizabeth]

Recent Etsy Finds & Gift Ideas

This is kind of my Etsy wish list, because I want every single one of these things, but I also wanted to share these shops in case they're new to you and you're in the need of some inspiration, motivation, or just something cute to spruce up your space. I think fun prints (or mugs) are also great gift ideas, so here are seven Etsy finds I'm loving right now.

1. East West Design Co: Love the globe artwork and the meaning behind the quote (Matthew 28:19)
2. Pen Meet Paper: Being away from home I'm always looking for things that remind me of Michigan & I just love this print (it's a Shel Silverstein quote)-- they have other states too!
3. Afternoon Coffee: I don't think this mug needs much of an explanation if you're a fellow Harry Potter fan...
4. History in High Heels: Love all of Ashley's artwork, especially this fun Elizabeth Taylor quote, though it was hard to narrow down a favorite.
5. Lady Poppins: I'm obsessed with everything she does-- this print is soon to be en route to me because I love it so much. If you're a lover of books, reading, or writing she has some really great pieces.
6. Laura Row Studio: If I could travel back in time I would probably choose the roaring twenties-- plus the Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books, so I love everything about this print.
7. Pen and Paint: I love the colors in this print and the quote is one of my favorites.

I think it goes without saying that all of these shops have multiple items I would love, so definitely check them out to see what else they have on hand.

My Experience Making Apple Bread

Happy Monday! This should actually be titled the apple bread that almost wasn't. I had some major baking issues with this and I think our oven temperature might be off a bit. I'm actually really proud of myself for salvaging the bread & it was delicious even with a few flukes.


A Package Full of Sunshine

There have been so many times I've wanted something small to send to someone-- either for a birthday gift or because a friend is having a bad day, or just because...this is just a quick little round up of some of my favorite gift ideas that are great together or on their own.

(1) Depending on the person your current favorite paperback may do, but if it's a friend who doesn't read as much, a fun book like Unplug Every Day is always a good option.

(2) Perks of Aurora has some great mugs based on popular TV shows, movies, & other pop culture references so there are some fun ones to choose from. The Bridesmaids and Legally Blonde are some of my favorites. Adding a Starbucks gift card (real or virtual) is never a bad idea.

(3) Fun notecards are another great option- I don't think I've ever come across anything from Rifle Paper Co. that I don't like. You can sometimes find really nice (and good quality) stationary or notecards at places like Home Goods or TJ Maxx for a great bargain. I may or may not tend to stock up.

(4 & 5) You know I couldn't skip out on a beauty product! A lip balm of some sort is usually my go to option. I'm a huge fan of Clinique's Chuby Stick lip balm's because they're moisturizing, provide a hint of color, and they have a lot of color options. I've never tried Lush's lip balms, but they're a great natural option for something a little different.

What are some of your favorite gift ideas?

Mini Apple Hand Pies

I don't think anything screams fall to me more than apple pie! Not to mention, there's always something special about making your own apple pie of some sort with the apples you picked (plus you know exactly what ingredients were used). Last year I made mini apple pies that were so cute and so easy to share, but this year I wanted to try something a little different- especially since baking something new was on my October to-do list.


A look back at the week

I had planned on getting more than one other blog post up this week, but for some reason I'm slacking when it comes to blogging motivation. I also haven't been on my computer as much, so if I haven't been commenting that's why. I try and keep up with all the posts on my iPad- it just takes too much effort to comment from there (#lazytyper)


tomato, rice, and chickpea soup

I've been on a soup kick lately, and this is a recipe I came across from The Faux Martha via Pinterest did not disappoint.

I made quite a few changes to the original recipe due to my own taste preferences, but I imagine following her recipe exactly would be just as delicious.


Naked Basics Palette: First Impression

urban decay naked basics

I know I'm like a billion years late over here, but I thought sharing my first impression and some photos might be helpful to anyone else out there who over-researches when it comes to makeup. You may remember this post, where I was on the fence about an eye shadow palette... well I ended up going a totally different route and got the Naked Basics palette- though I still have my eye on the Lorac for my Christmas list...


Mini Shepherd's Pie

In my mind I love shepherd's pie... I actually don't think I've ever had the traditional version, but whenever I see it, it always sounds so good. When I came across this recipe for a version of mini shepherd's pie, I figured it would be a good alternative to try out before tackling the task of making the real thing.


Merry October

"October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins." -rainbow rowell (attachments)

A few October goals/plans: 

1. GET A HAIRCUT. This sounds like a ridiculous goal, but I'm not a huge fan of going to the salon. I usually only get my hair cut 1-2x a year so it's not too big of a problem for me, but my hair is insanely long right now and it's way too hard to manage.  

2. Apple Picking. I think we've gone almost every single year since I've lived here- so it's definitely a fall tradition. 

3. Less TV more books. I got obsessed with watching The Wire, which really put a kink in my reading progress. I really do prefer reading to watching TV, I just get lazy. 

4. 5k/running training: see post here.

5. Bake 1-2 new recipes-- preferably something with apples.

6. Plan for the holidays. This is vague, but I mean everything from figuring out our holiday plans to beginning to look for gifts. I want to stay on top of everything this year so I don't end up stressed out or disappointed when I run out of time.

September went by so incredibly fast, it's just kind of a blur when I look back. I'm hoping to make October a month of productivity.

What are some things you're looking forward to this month? 
Even though I have like twenty-five books to read right now, I feel slightly out of the book loop-- what have you read recently? 




The Beginning. 

Growing up I did dance, swimming, and soccer for a few years but I was never dedicated or motivated to really care.

I ran track in middle school and it started off as being something I did because all of my friends were doing it-- I still kind of remember the moment I realized I had a little bit of speed, when playfully racing a friend at one of our first practices.

As it turned out I was actually pretty decent at sprinting and would go on to run the 70m and 100m and usually place. I was never the fastest girl on the team, but I was up there.

Entering high school I continued sprinting running the 100m, 200m, 4x100 and 4x200. For a while I was on the a team with our 4x100 relay team, which was great, but the truth was I just couldn't keep up-- I really just wasn't good enough, and once again I just wasn't competitive enough to really care.

It's funny how specific moments stick out in your mind. I can pretty vaguely remember the moment when my coach decided to tell me they were going to move me back to the b team-- it was the same moment my mom showed up at the track with my new inhaler (I could never breathe and had recently been told I had exercise-induced asthma). I'm sure I cared more than I ever let on, but truly I wasn't competitive, and after 10th grade I quit track all together.

Looking back, I wish I would have stuck with it-- 11th grade was the start of a difficult time for me, as I think so many people have self-esteem issues when they're 15/16 years old, but that's another story for another day.

Needless to say after 10th grade I wasn't active at all. In college we were required to take three gym courses, I took tennis, tap dance, and an intensive cardio class-- all three were surprisingly difficult. I went on "runs" with friends, but they were never very serious and I'm sure I could never keep up.


If you've been following my blog for a while you might know I started the Couch 2 5k program twice. Due to different life happenings, something always came up and I was never able to see the program all the way through.

While I was using it, it really seemed to work-- it was hard- but it worked. There were weeks I was so embarrassingly excited about my minimal achievements. The furthest I got was up to jogging 5 minutes without stopping-- I know that doesn't sound very impressive, but when I started I could hardly run for 60 seconds without stopping.

As far as exercising goes, it has never been that easy because, 1). I'm out of shape and 2). the whole asthma component. Plus, I'm not good at pacing myself. Even though it has been years since I was on a track, whenever I run I want to go full speed ahead-- that clearly doesn't work when you're trying to run for distance!

So here we are at the end of September, and I'm ready to start again. I guess I would classify myself as a wannabe runner.

I'm so excited that Tracy and Alyssa created this linkup each month to help hold me accountable.


Matte on my Mind (mini review of Sonia Kashuk Velvety Matte Lip Crayon)

I've dabbled in matte foundations, bronzers, and a few eyeshadows, but matte lips were something that never appealed to me... until now.

Nars Pure Matte Lipstick & Nars Velvet Matte Lipstick: The Nars Velvet Matte Lipstick is really the first Matte lipstick I remember hearing about and it's rated pretty highly. However, the packaging of the Pure Matte Lipstick is definitely a bit more appealing to me as you can just twist up the product. However, as someone with small lips the point of the Velvet Matte lipstick would probably be a better option for me.  Both products come in 14 shades varying from nudes to deep pinks and reds.

Bite Beauty Matte Creme Lip Crayon: Bite Beauty has been pretty high on my list of brands I want to try and I really love the size of this product. I have small lips, so a smaller pencil makes it easier to be more precise. Sephora offers 12 different shades, but you can also choose from three shades at J. Crew. For fall I'm loving brandy, a deep raspberry color.

Clinique Long Last Soft Matte Lipstick: I tend to have pretty good luck when it comes to Clinique and I think they're a great mid-range brand. Considering how much I love the chubby lip pencils, I would definitely be willing to try out this line of matte lipsticks for $16. From what I can tell pink chocolate is my shade of choice- a nice brown pink.

The drugstore is usually pretty on point with its lip products, so I'm interested to see how the matte lip products compare to the higher end brands.

NYX Matte Lip Cream: I'm still completely obsessed with frappuccino & I love the butter glosses so I definitely see myself giving these a try in the near future.

Revlon ColorBurst Matte Balm: I'm a big fan of the glossy version of these, and I tend to have pretty good luck with Revlon lip products in general, so I definitely want to give these a try.

Sonia Kashuk Velvety Matte Lip Crayon: As far as packaging goes this is most similar to the Nars Velvet Matte Lipstick, I mean even the name is pretty similar.

I picked one up at Target recently in the shade blossomy nude*, and while I wasn't a fan of the color the overall feel of the lip crayon was pretty impressive. The product went on smooth and actually felt quite moisturizing. It did feather a bit, so I need to use a lipliner when wearing it just to be on the safe side.

I wasn't crazy about the packaging, I could see the top coming off in your bag since it doesn't click or snap on. It's also a little bit of a hassle that you have to sharpen the product, the other lip crayons I've used twist up, which is obviously more convenient.

If I was a bigger fan of the color, the pros would outweigh the cons, but since SK is only available at Target and you can't return opened cosmetics, I probably won't try another one.

*I thought it would be more nude and less pink

Shop the products:

Are you a fan of matte lips? What are your favorite matte lip products?

One last thing! I'm sharing my bookshelf on Sarah's blog today! I'd love if you stopped by :) 

Recent Reads & Reviews

I apologize for this post being so incredibly late. I had the entire thing done by the end of August but was waiting to finish The Rosie Project so I could add in the review... I never ended up finishing the book, and I had already made the graphic so I didn't want to post until I was done. I haven't read at all this month, so I never finished the book & decided I would just share this post anyway. (sorry, longest ramble ever!)

When The World Was Young was set in NYC in the 1940s & 1950s which is what initially drew me into the book. I really enjoyed this book up until the very end-- I felt like Gaffney ran out of time or lost interest when she got to the end of the book. There were so many big changes & twists in the second half of the book and they were all crammed into a couple of chapters at the end- or simply not mentioned at all. It almost felt like two different books because the first half of the book is full of so much development and description. Overall, it was a lovely story but I was disappointed it seemed so incomplete in its final chapters (3 stars) (c/o netgalley)

I'm going to be honest, I loved Me Before You so much that I was a little disappointed with the first half of this book. I found it to be a tad slow and dragged out, but once I got about halfway through I was completely hooked and read the entire thing in a single day. The story follows Jess, a single mom, who has has a difficult life- she always sees things on the bright side and has a positive outlook in life, despite being dealt not the best hand. Both of her kids are bullied and I loved how one of them end up using blogging as a positive outlet. The bit about her love interest is predictable, but still well written and I was definitely attached to them and rooting for them to get together throughout the entire story. It isn't as good as Me Before You, but still one of my favorites this year. (4 stars) (c/o netgalley)

After seeing this book on almost every single summer reading list I felt like I needed to read it before the summer was over. I don't know if I had my expectations set too high or what the problem was but I really was not impressed with this book. I actually forgot I even read it until I went back to look at what books to add to this post! The one redeeming factor for me was that I actually read it while on a family vacation, so that was a little fun. Otherwise, I felt like there were too many characters and story lines going on at once and not enough time to really fully develop any of them. One of the saddest things about reading a book is when I don't connect or like any of the characters and that's exactly how I felt while reading this. I honestly didn't care what happened to any of them. Every once in a while there would be a good one-line of dialogue that was thought provoking, insightful, or funny, but other than that I was bored. (2 stars) 

After hearing so much talk about this book that I figured it was worth requesting from the library-- I didn't think it was worth all of the hype. I liked the story quite a bit, but I didn't care for the writing style at all. The ending caught me completely by surprise, which is always nice- but that wasn't enough to sway me to like the book overall. This is a book people either seem to really love or really dislike. I gave it 2 stars but it's all a matter of taste! (2 stars)

This was my first Rainbow Rowell book and it didn't disappoint! It switches between email correspondence between two girls and the narrator Lincoln. I wasn't really a fan of Lincoln through most of the book, but I loved the relationship between Jennifer and Beth-- reading the emails between them felt so REAL, Rowell did an amazing job giving them both their own voice and making it feel like a conversation you would literally have while emailing your BFF. The story takes place right before/during Y2K and I'm with Kristen on loving all the 2000s references. (3.5 stars)

Quirky is the one word that comes to mind when I think back to this book. I tend not to care much for books that have male narrators and I read this right after Attachments, so I was on the fence about that...(that's as far as I got! I liked it enough to finish it once I get back into the swing of reading)

ICYMI: I shared the BookSparks books I read these past two months in this post.

Have your reading habits changed now that fall has hit? What have you read recently? Any recommendations?


Fragrance Collection

Perfumes are my favorite-- and I kind of wish they weren't because they tend to be on the expensive side. I also do this thing where I don't like to use my favorites very often because I want to save them-- but then I realize life is too short! 

As you'll quickly be able to tell I prefer floral scents, so if that's not your thing you probably won't care for any of these scents. I have a hard time choosing a favorite, but Coco Mademoiselle and English Pear & Freesia are probably tied for my top two. Both were gifts from my husband, I wore Coco Mademoiselle on my wedding day so that will always be special and English Pear & Freesia just smells so good! 

I got the Michael Kors as a deluxe sample from Sephora and was obsessed with the scent. It's definitely the least floral of the bunch.

Miss Dior Blooming Bouquet is my most recent fragrance. It was a gift from my aunt after one of my other cousins wasn't a fan of the scent. It's an eau de toliette spray, so it's not very long lasting, but it just means I can spritz it on all over for a nice, light floral scent. This is definitely a fragrance that smells much different on my actual skin as opposed to just smelling it in the bottle.

Gucci Envy Me was the first fragrance my husband picked out for me, and after this picture it went into retirement in my perfume bottle box.

Are you a fan of floral scents? What are your favorite fragrances?

A Post About Skincare

I've struggled with my skin basically my entire life. I think I've had about five thousand visits to the dermatologist but I never really found a product, medication, or routine that seemed to really make a difference. With that being said, as long as my skin isn't a major disaster, I'm generally pretty happy and it doesn't bother me as much as you'd think.

This spring I did a little experimenting with limiting dairy in my diet because I thought it was having negative impacts on my skin. At first I thought it made a difference but after a few weeks I realized it really didn't have an impact at all. The change I was seeing was due to the change in the seasons, and the fact that I was finally getting a little bit of sunlight after what felt like eight months of winter!

My skin type has always been oily, acne-prone, and sensitive. In the past year my skin has been far less oily and I really think a lot of these things have helped with that. My forehead is still really oily, especially in warm weather, but it's no longer a major concern for me.

CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser: I have to thank Katie for the CeraVe recommendation. Back in January my skin was probably the worst it had ever been-- I had been using way too much benzoyl peroxide, and not moisturizing, so my skin was so horribly dry it was a mess. This is for dry to normal skin, so I thought about switching to something else once my skin was out of the dry phase, but I like it so much I've been using it ever since. This is also the cleanser I use with my clarisonic.

Aveeno Ultra-Calming Moisturizer: This is another product I picked up during that dry phase. At first I wasn't sure how much it actually helped with reducing redness (which is its main claim), but I think it does help over time and I like how gentle and lightweight it is, and it contains SPF.

Clinique Dramatically Different Gel: This is another favorite moisturizer that I can't say enough good things about. It's light weight and very gentle on the skin. In the past I've used moisturizers that feel like they just sit on top of your skin- this one sinks right in, so you don't have to wait forever to start applying your makeup in case you're in a rush.

Neutrogena On-the-Spot: I've talked about this a few times on the blog before, but this is really the best spot treatment I've ever used and I've tried everything from Proactiv to Clinique to Philosophy. It has just the right amount of benzoyl peroxide to be effective without being harsh on your skin-- and it blends into your skin so you can wear it under your makeup. For me, benzoyl peroxide works really well on any hormonal or under the skin acne.

I find that charcoal or sulphur masks work the best for my skin type. Most of them double as an overnight spot treatment which is a nice bonus. The Mario Badescu Drying Mask and the Origins Clear Improvement Mask are two of my favorites.

My Clarisonic Mia 2 is also essential to my skin care routine. I've had it for a year and a half now, and I've gone through periods of not using it as much, and my skin definitely appears happier and healthier when I use it regularly. The Mia 2 has two speeds, but I really can't tell a difference between the two. Because I have sensitive skin I use the sensitive skin brush heads, and I use it 2-4 times a week.

My skin is not perfect, and as you would expect, when I'm eating better, drinking water, and exercising, my skin is in a lot better shape. I'm always on the hunt for a new product, but these are a few that I find work well for my skin.

What are your favorite skin care products? Do you use a Clarisonic? 

Dumbarton Oaks (Washington DC Travel Post)

I have to start this by saying that my pictures do not do the beauty of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens any justice. You will seriously feel like you were transported back into a magical time inside of a secret garden. This is easily one of my favorite places to visit in all of DC.  

This is a location that is a bit tucked away in Georgetown. When I think of Georgetown I think of crowded sidewalks, the waterfront, shops, and restaurants. It's not in that part of Georgetown but off R St. NW. It's a beautiful walk from the main area as you get to pass by so many beautiful homes. 

August Favorites

I hope you guys all had a wonderful long weekend! We spent Labor Day weekend in New York and had an amazing time. It is easily my favorite city in the US, and no matter how many times I visit, the first sighting of the skyline, and again for the statue of liberty will never get old. (A few pictures here, here, and here.)

Anyway, I'm sharing my monthly favorites with Mia and Kelli today! Make sure you check out the linkup to see what everyone else has been loving lately.

NYX Frappucino Lipstick: I've had this for quite some time and have never really used it for some reason. I've been going through all of my makeup and tossing older items and I decided to try this and was IN LOVE. First of all, it's the perfect nude for my skin tone and is definitely a my lips but better color. The formula is also amazing, it's really pigmented and creamy. I believe NYX now has their butter lipstick & matte lipstick line so I don't think the round lipsticks are as easy to come by, but I would image the butter line is similar, and I definitely want to try more.

I think I was the last person ever to try these hair ties, and they are worth all of the hype in my opinion. My mom gave me one while we were on vacation and I'm still using it because it's the only hair tie I own that will actually hold all of my hair without it either feeling way too tight or sliding right out!

I'm pretty picky when it comes to conditioner for my hair, but I love when I find a really great drugstore product. The L'Oreal OleoTherapy conditioner is really nice and an amazing value. In the past I've found other L'Oreal conditioners to be too heavy, but this one is really nice and light while leaving my hair soft.

For months I had wanted to try something from the Alba line at Target, but it's a brand I didn't hear much about and I didn't want to be stuck with something I couldn't return if I didn't like it. On a whim one day I picked up the acnedote face & body scrub, because I had some annoying bumps on the back of my arms. There were scrubs from Sephora and Ulta I wanted to try but they were $30+ so I figured I'd take a chance and I was pleasantly surprised!

The scrub has a very pleasant peppermint scent to it, and is lightly coarse. Appearance wise it reminds me of coffee grains, which could be kind of weird, but it doesn't bother me. I swear after using it one time the back of my arms looked and felt better. I haven't used it on my face, but I love it for my arms, neck, and back. It does contain salicylic acid so it might dry you out, just something to be aware of.

I hate lotion, as in I never wear it, and didn't even own any proper lotion until I got this Vaseline Spray & Go in aloe fresh a few weeks ago. It has the nicest scent, plus goes on really nice and quickly absorbs into your skin. My skin tends to be easily irritated, so the fact that this didn't bother my skin at all is impressive as well!

Have you tried any of the products? What are some of your recent favorites?

The Post Where I Talk Too Much About Eye Shadow

If anyone knew the amount of time I spent googling eye shadow swatches yesterday they would definitely judge me. I haven’t been wearing eye shadow very often, but earlier this week I went really crazy (sarcasm) and used two shades: naked lunch & satin taupe. Two of my favorite shades…however, for some weird reason they were showing up REALLY silver on me and I didn’t like it-- which is weird because I typically love both shades. 


The beginning of the fall wish lists...

I think I went through all of last year without really buying very much as far as clothes and shoes go. My mom did get me a really great pair of black Steve Madden booties. The reason I say that is because my other boots are in a bit of rough shape so I needwant a pair or two this year.

I love booties, but the thing is, I know tall boots are a bit more flattering on me because I have short legs-- this also means booties with heels are going to be more flattering on me, but flat shoes are more practical.

I say all of that but I still can't stop dreaming of a few of these boots with a slight heel or wedge. The black rag & bone pair are a complete splurge that will never happen but I liked them too much not to share. I was kind of obsessed with every single rag & bone pair I came across on Nordstrom.

Are you looking forward to the change in footwear for fall as much as I am? Do you have a bootie/book preference? What are some of your favorite shoe brands or places to shop? 


Beauty Favorites for Vacationing

Happy Monday! Today I'm guest posting over on Shelby's blog! She's soaking up the sun in Mexico and words cannot describe how much I wish I was there! Be sure to stop by her blog and check out my post on some beauty favorites that almost always make it into my travel makeup bag.

An Overdo Vacation Recap (pure michigan)

I've been meaning to do a vacation recap ever since we got back from our trip but I haven't been able to find the motivation to upload all of the pictures. I figured I would probably never do it, so instead I'm sharing a few pictures from my parent's camera because Michigan is too beautiful not to share. I am a little worried these pictures won't do it justice because it truly is pure Michigan

I know people don't ever think of Michigan as a place to visit for their travel bucket list, but West/Northern Michigan really is something amazing. If you're a fan of the outdoors or water sports, it's a must see! We were in Ludington for the week and enjoyed the gorgeous beaches and clear (though cold) water. It’s an extremely small town, and even during a peak summer week it was never very busy anywhere we went.


Cream Blush Crush

cream blush

I was doing some cleaning this weekend and realized it was time to retire some of my cream blushes. I thought I would do some quick swatching and share them here before I tossed them.

Apparently they don't sell Illamasqua in the US anymore? Sephora used to carry it, which is when I got this blush in rude. It looks like you can get it through asos. It was an amazing quality blush-- with a really nice finish and great lasting power. Rude is a warm peachy pink with a dewy finish. I'm guessing because it's not easily available in the US anymore the pricing is the conversion from pounds because I didn't pay as much as they're selling it for through asos, but it's an option if you're really wanting it I guess!

I think this NARS cream blush was one of the first high-end beauty products I purchased when I first started reading blogs. I didn't think I'd be able to find it online but it looks like you can also order it through asos. This is the one I'm most sad to get rid of because it feels so nice on the skin-- even when I was swatching it on my hand I was tempted to keep it because it's so creamy and soft. Lokoum has a little bit of shimmer in it, but it doesn't show up on the skin.

You can still get a couple of these blushes through the NARS website in other colors for $30, but they now have moved more to the multiples, which are a cream blush in stick form. I haven't tried any, but if the formula is similar to the other cream blushes I imagine they're amazing.

I picked up this Too-Faced Cream Blush in tea rose on a whim one day when I was working across the street from an Ulta and stopped in far too often! I ended up really loving the color and being impressed with the product overall. This is a product I don't think I've ever seen anyone else talk about. It's actually a product that can be used on your lips as well, but I've never tried that so I can't say how that would work, but as a blush it's really lovely.

I've talked about this NYX cream blush in boho chic a few times-- and it's one of my favorites and a fraction of the price of the other blushes. I will say that the staying power of this doesn't come close to the higher-end brands. Also, I swear it doesn't look as purple-toned when I wear it on my cheeks! When I swatched it I was like whoa- because it's showing up so cool-toned!

top to bottom: NARS lokoum; Illamasqua rude; Too Faced tea rose; NYX boho chic
These next two were so hard for me to swatch because I couldn't fit them on my left hand. Anyway, you've probably heard me talk about the Argan Color Stick in pink peony. I got it in a JM kit back in the spring and since I got it, it has definitely been my most used cream blush-- probably my most used blush in general. I haven't used the Coconut Watercolor Cheek Gelee (berry bliss) as much since the winter/fall, but I'm excited to start using it again soon.

These blushes are much more sheer than the others I've included in this post. They're natural and buildable which is really nice-- especially for berry bliss, I definitely don't want purple blush. Another thing I love about the JM blushes is how good they feel on the skin. The cheek gelees are refreshing because they're more of a gel finish.

Since I'm getting rid of the first three that means I have space for more in my collection, right? Are you a fan of cream blushes or do you prefer powder? Tell me your favorites!


Weekending in August

Another summer weekend passes us by and we're blessed with another Monday. Its been a while since I linked up with Biana to share my weekend and even though it was pretty low-key I thought I'd share a few highlights today. 

Friday night was date night-- which consisted of chickpea curry I made, a trip to Target, and staying up way too late watching The Killing. I actually went to bed during the third episode but my husband stayed up and watched the entire thing. I wasn't so impressed but apparently the last couple of episodes got better. 

Saturday morning my husband had a soccer scrimmage in the morning so I slept in, treated myself to some Panera iced coffee (the iced carmel lattes are sooo good), and read We Were Liars before it had to go back to the library. 

Once he got home we ran some errands and I even convinced him to stop in Sephora with me so I could finally restock on my Josie Maran cleansing oil. It's pricey, but with how sensitive my skin is, I'd rather pay more for something that I know I really like. I managed to get in and out of Sephora with only one thing so that's always a win! 


Books for your Summer Beach Bag (VOL. II)

Summer is quickly (and sadly) winding down, but I'm back with a few more books to share! A couple of months ago I posted about the first few books I read for the Book Sparks Summer Reading Challenge. Today I'm back to share a couple of the other books I read courtesy of Book Sparks and NetGalley!


Quick Tips That Help Me Stay Organized in Blogging

I'm back from vacation and slowly but surely catching up on all things blog! I'm not a blogging expert but these are a few things I've come across over the past few months that have helped me stayed organized when it comes to blogging.

Mark all as read
I use Bloglovin' to read blogs so the group feature on Bloglovin' is extremely helpful in organizing what blogs I read. Even using the groups I still end up with hundreds of to-be read posts in my feed which can be overwhelming. I recently got into the habit of marking all as read at least 3x a week. Using that feature more often keeps me from getting overwhelmed when posts start to pile up.

Create a tab/label in your inbox for comment replies
This is essential for me when it comes to making sure I'm not missing any blog comments! I often read comments on my phone and will go back and respond when I'm on my computer. In gmail I created a filter that applies a label to any blog comments. When I get a new comment via blogger, it shows up in my email with the subject [Carly Blogs Here] followed by whatever the post title is. So I added that ([Carly Blogs Here]) to the filter and voila! I can easily click on the Blog Comments label in the left side bar and pull up all of my blog comments without any other emails mixed in.
*If you have more questions about this feel free to ask and I'll email you more detailed directions!

I tried to use a handwritten journal/planner for blogging, but I love that you can just click and drag in your iCal if you change up a post date. I know it sounds lazy, but it makes a difference. The to-do list on the side is the perfect way for me to keep post ideas.

Schedule tweets
I finally started using Hootsuite even though I use it only for Twitter. I don't like to overload anyone with a thousand scheduled posts, but on days I don't have a new post to promote I like to share my most recent one, or an old favorite from the archives. If you use multiple social media platforms for your blog I highly recommend this.

Know your linkups
If you often join in on linkups, keep a spreadsheet (or keep it in your calendar) of when they occur- this can help you with picking the best day to post and promote a post. I also find it helpful for linkups that don't occur weekly. Nicole at Treasure Tromp has a great directory of linkups if you're looking for some new ones to join!

I know this post probably didn't have any earth shattering information for anyone, but I hope it was a little bit helpful! I know these are all things I wasn't doing when I first started blogging.

Let me know your favorite blogging tips or tricks!
What motivates you or helps you stay organized when it comes to blogging?
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