Looking back at the year, I like to try and pick my three favorite books. I actually had a few 5-star books and a lot of 4-star books, so it was hard to narrow it down. These are three books I would love to have on my physical bookshelf and would love to already read again. last year's favorite books


The Healthy Mind Cookbook: a review

I love Pinterest and I love Google for finding recipes, but sometimes it's nice to just be totally unplugged and not need the internet or a device to find a new recipe. Plus, there's just something special about flipping through the pages in a cookbook, looking at the gorgeous photos (and wishing your own food could turn out half as pretty).

For my most recent Blogging for Books read I picked another cookbook. The Healthy Mind Cookbook appealed to me right away, but I was hesitant. My first thoughts were, who is this lady and what does she really know about food and our brain? Not to mention, the last cookbook I reviewed was a bit of a flop. It was beautiful, but just not realistic for recipes I would make on an average day. After reading good reviews on this one I took a chance and requested it. As soon as it arrived I knew I was in for a treat! The book's tagline is big-flavor recipes to enhance brain function, mood, memory, and mental clarity.

The quality is amazing-- everything from the photos to the format, to the variety in the recipes. The first few chapters of the book are full of so. much. information. And it's great because it's not a bunch of stuff that is totally over my head. There's a glossary (which they call the culinary pharmacy) of different foods and the benefits they have.

I'll be honest, at first I was a little turned off by the recipes. I worried they were going to be full of obscure ingredients-- or too many ingredients. I like easy when it comes to cooking. If you see the below list for a baked falafel recipe there are 17 ingredients listed. After taking a closer look I realized that the majority of the items listed were spices I already have. Lemons, chickpeas, garlic, and a red pepper are four pretty ordinary things. The only ingredient I wasn't able to find was tahini- and that's probably the only ingredient that I would purchase and maybe only use for this recipe.

I think my favorite feature of this cookbook is the 'cooks notes' section at the end of some of the recipes (above left photo). As a total novice when it comes to the kitchen I need even the most basic tips. I haven't had a chance to make any of the recipes yet, but along with the baked falafel there were about a dozen I can't wait to try out and will probably post about as we move into the new year.

This was provided to me by Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. Based on my first impressions, and all of the information in the book, this is definitely one I would consider buying on my own for a friend or family member. Are you a fan of cookbooks or do you prefer to use Pinterest?

A Little Christmas q&a

I can't remember the last time I did any sort of tag post on the blog, so when I saw this festive one Meg created I knew I wanted to make a post about it. How crazy is it that Christmas is less than two weeks away? Linking up with Katie for her Christmas linkup!

1. What is your favorite Christmas tradition? I've always loved decorating Christmas cookies, and breakfast on Christmas morning at my parent's house. And Christmas Eve pajamas.

2. Where do you spend Christmas? This is something that depends on the year and whether or not we'll be traveling since our families live in different states.

3. What is your favorite Christmas song? Angels we have heard on high

4. Do you decorate before or after Thanksgiving? Usually after, but I am 100% for decorating on November 1 (sorry Thanksgiving!)

5. Tinsel or garland? Either, I guess? I think my husband is more of a fan of tinsel, but I prefer garland.

6. Do you own an ugly Christmas sweater? Not really-- though I do have a red plaidish one that is probably ugly to a lot of people ;)

7. What is one Christmas food you cannot live without? Probably all of the desserts. Cookies, fudge, caramels, etc....

8. Peppermint or gingerbread? Before this year I would have easily said peppermint, but the Gingerbread loaf from Starbucks is one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted!

9. Have you ever tried a fruit cake? It's possible at some point, but I definitely had to google 'fruit cake' for some clarification.

10. What is one thing you asked for this Christmas? I would love a hard copy of The Goldfinch. 

11. If you could be any Christmas movie character, who would you be? So I kind of feel like I have to say Kathleen Kelly from You've Got Mail because I can't stop watching that movie and I love New York and I would love to own a bookstore (even if it does close...), but I'm not sure if that technically counts as a Christmas movie so I'll go with Amanda from The Holiday.

Are you ready for the holidays? What are some of your favorite holiday memories or traditions?

Pass or Purchase Again? [vol 5]

It's time for another empties post, and probably the last one of the year! This was a good mix of some favorites-- both skin care and makeup! Sorry for the less than stellar photo above. I took it on my phone and thought it was fine until I uploaded it and hated it-- hence all the filtering. As you can probably guess, I had thrown everything away by the time I realized I needed a new picture, so I'm just rolling with this one.

UD de-slick makeup setting spray | I so love this stuff! It feels so nice on the skin, and I truly do think it makes my makeup last longer. Instead of repurchasing this version I got the chill during an Ulta sale a while back and I love it just as much-- so this is a definite repurchased item for me!

Dove dry shampoo | This took me so long to use up-- which is rare for dry shampoos (I feel like Batiste cans never last very long). I don't remember not liking this product, it had the same issue with a really, really strong scent, and it was only a few dollars (maybe $4?), but I'll probably pass.

Bath & Body Works orange ginger body scrub | if you like ginger scents, this stuff smells a-mazing, and has a wonderful scent throw, after you use it your entire bathroom will smell good. Despite the high fragrance, it didn't seem to irritate my skin at all. While I think it has natural ingredients, the perfume and fragrances are a little bit much and I couldn't help but feel like it probably isn't all that great for my skin? I have zero knowledge to back this up, so I could be totally wrong but for now I will pass.

Smashbox studio skin 15 hour hydrating foundation | BEST FOUNDATION EVER. I'm still obsessed with this foundation and will probably repurchase a million more bottles. It's the best coverage without being cakey or heavy and it lasts on my skin all day, and even when my skin is slightly dry it manages to give it a little life. The one tiny downside is that the shade I wear 2.1, is a tad too dark if I don't self tan- I tried the next lighter shade and it was way too light, so I wish there was more of a color range.

Lancome hypnose drama mascara | While this isn't my favorite of Lancome's mascaras, I really enjoyed this, and was surprised at how long the mini tube lasted! After finishing this one I've been using doll lashes, and I like it, but I definitely miss the drama of hypnose drama & will probably go back to the original hypnose after I current this tube. But these mascaras are always a repurchase for me.

Clairns gentle foaming cleanser | I can't remember how I stumbled upon this cleanser, but I am a big fan. When I went to repurchase it I thought I had the wrong product when I read 'foaming' in the name because it doesn't really strike me as foaming? It is extremely gentle, yet I feel like it really does cleanse my skin using it on its own or with my Clarisonic. I'm not crazy about the packaging because it seems like too much product always comes out and is wasted which isn't ideal, especially for a rather pricey product.

St. Tropez bronzing mousse | Love this stuff, and made sure to repurchase a second bottle before I ran out. I do wish it was slightly darker, but I try and apply it when I'll be able to leave it on for as long as possible before rinsing off the color.

To see my previous past or purchase posts visit here. What products have you used up recently? Do you like trying out new things or are you more likely to stick with what you know and already love?

Show Us Your Books | late fall edition

I've been meaning to talk about these books for a couple of months now, but am happy to finally get to linkup with Steph and Jana again. For most of these mini reviews I skipped over the synopsis, but if you click on the book title it will take you to the Goodreads page.

After You | This book wasn't what I was expecting, even though I didn't know what to expect if that makes any sense at all. Me Before You was one of my favorite books ever, so knowing the sequel had a lot to live up to made me a bit nervous.

The story reunites you with Louisa, while bringing back some of the other characters from Me Before You, but focuses on new relationships in Louisa's life as she's still trying to sort out what she wants to do and how to actually live her life. I really enjoyed the bits of Me Before You that were sprinkled throughout the book, but appreciated how well the book read as a stand alone book for someone who might not have previously read Me Before You. There were a couple of events in the book that I thought were a pretty big deal, that brushed over in a few pages, which was a let down, but overall this was another Moyes winner.

Necessary Lies | This book was on my to-read list forever and one day I randomly found it in the bargain book section of b&n and knew I had to pick it up. I've heard Joey, and a few others rave about the author and the book definitely lived up to all of my expectations! The story was so much deeper and complex than I realized-- until the very end. It was so sad, but so well written, and I found myself thinking about the book days after I had finished it.

The Longest Night | This book was provided to me via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. There were times I felt like this should have been called The Longest Book, because I thought it would never end. But really it wasn't that bad, it was just long and a bit slow for my taste. The story is based on true events from a nuclear accident that happened in Idaho in the 1960's. There is a lot of great character development that explores Nat's life as a stay at home mom with two young children in a new town, as well as the story of Paul (her husband) and his experience working at the nuclear reactor.

What Happened to Goodbye | This was a Sarah Dessen book I hadn't read that was available from the library. After not loving Saint Anything as much as I hoped, I don't know what made me want to read something else in the same genre, but I really liked this story. It's pretty predictable with the same girl meets boy formula, but I enjoyed the setting and loved all of the characters.

The Knockoff | Very rarely will I not finish a book, but I just could not get through this one and was kind of happy when my library loan was up and I had an excuse not to finish it. I didn't care for the characters and I found it so hard to believe that in this day and age, even someone in their 40's, working in the media world could be so clueless to social media. May have been very good in the end, I just didn't make it that far.

I'm going to end this post here to keep it from being way too long. I've read a couple of other really good books since reading these and will be back with their reviews in the next couple of weeks. There's nothing like the last minute to get me reading as many books as possible to try and at least come close to making my end of the year goal (50 books).


Sephora First Impressions

Despite all of the things I would have loved during the Sephora VIB sale, I stuck to what was on my list (for the most part). I can't really give a full review on anything as I haven't used these products enough yet, but I thought I'd share some first impressions.

Affiliate links are used in this post and I will earn a small commission based on clicks and/or purchases. 

Nars Madly Blush | I've wanted this forever-- last year it was sold out everywhere, and I was convinced it was going to be discontinued so I kind of forgot about it. When I swatched it on my hand I was a little worried because there is SO MUCH shimmer! I did a double-take, and thought maybe they sent me the wrong shade, but on the cheeks the shimmer isn't an issue and the color is perfect, and warms up my face in the best way possible. Up until recently I was pretty much sticking to just bronzer and highlight and now I've switched back to just blush.

GlamGlow Thirstymud Hydrating Mask | Oh this stuff smells so good! My skin is every kind of sensitive so I'm really cautious about what I put on my face. Right away I liked that this mask can be left on over night-- to me that means, if I forget to rinse it off right away it's not going to start burning my skin or something else awful. The directions say you can just wipe off the mask with a towel and rub it into the skin if you don't want to rinse off with water. I can't speak to the effectiveness yet as I've only used it one time, but it felt really comfortable on the skin and left my face feeling soft and hydrated.

Sephora Crystal Nail File & Instant Polish Remover | Both of these were recommendations from Nadia! At first I was convinced the nail polish remover couldn't work that well, but it really makes for the easiest nail polish removal! My nails haven't been long enough to need a file (yet), but it comes in a nice little case & I can't wait to try it out.

Formula X Base Coat | Despite the little how to section on the Sephora website suggesting you wear this stuff alone to strengthen your nails, I do not recommend that. It peeled like crazy, and I was hoping it was just because I didn't put an actual polish over it. I haven't tried it again yet, but if it does the same thing it will probably be going back.

Living Proof Dry Shampoo | This was a last minute addition to my cart after reading Heather's post. As much as I love the Batiste dry shampoos sometimes the scent is just too strong and I don't like using it for that reason. I have to say that this dry shampoo has the best (and lightest) scent of any dry shampoo I've tried! As far as its effectiveness, it definitely works, though the verdict is still out, as to whether it's better than what you can find at the drugstore.

Shiseido Eyelash Curler | My current lash curler is old and pretty gross, so I figured it was time for a new one. I think my old one was Tweezerman, and to be honest this one seems exactly the same, so I have no complaints, but it doesn't do anything crazy or amazing.

Replica Beach Walk & Lazy Sunday Morning Rollerball | I had planned on purchasing lazy sunday morning, but then I saw this little duo and thought it was too good of a deal to pass up while I had 20% off. I already have a beach walk rollerball, but I use it all of the time, so I definitely don't mind having a backup. The staying power of both of these scents are amazing on top of how good they smell!

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