2016 rewind | best of books

I can easily say that I read more in 2016 than I have any other year-- my goal was 52 books and my total was 63, but I think I'll probably get to 64 or 65 before the year officially ends. I'm thankful for how much I was able to read this year, how many new authors I discovered, and how many new bloggers I discovered through books.

If there's one thing I learned in regards to reading, it's that I really don't have a favorite genre because each one of my favorite books from this year is so completely different.  I also learned that sometimes the hype around a book is real, sometimes it's not, and sometimes pushing yourself out of your comfort zone a little bit can really pay off.

These were my five favorites that I read this year, plus a couple of honorable mentions that really stand out and weren't quickly forgotten. I linked each book back to my original review.

A Prayer for Owen Meany | This is probably my favorite book of all time- at least in the top 3. I picked it up completely randomly after seeing it in a Bookbub email and I totally think it was meant to be.
Finding Audrey | I loved everything about this book. The story, the characters, and dialogue, the parts that were told through a script. Anxiety and depression is so, so real and I loved Kinsella's take on in this novel.
Pretty Girls | Hands down the best thriller/horror book I've ever read. This was a 5-star book I would never read again because it was so dark and at times graphic.
Daring Greatly | Brene Brown's research is so insightful and interesting to me, and I think just about anyone can find something inspiring out of this book.
Homegoing | Beautiful writing and storytelling in such a unique format.

honorable mentions: Swear on This Life, Eligible, The Mothers

What were some of the best books you read this year?

in case you missed it: what I read in December

Carly Reads Here | december

Happy Wednesday! I can't believe we're already just a few days away from Christmas. It looks like December is going to bring 3 weeks of book posts and what better way to end the year? Last week I shared the Christmas books I read, next week I'll be sharing my favorite books of 2016, and today's post contains the rest of the books I've read between now and the November book linkup.


The Perfect Hand Cream

I'm not a big fan of lotion, but as soon as the cold weather rolls in and the heat kicks on my hands get painfully dry. I also wash my hands a zillion times a day, so that doesn't help with the extreme dryness. For the past couple of years I've been on the hunt for the perfect hand cream.

Aside from the obvious importance of moisturizing quality-- the two most important factors are fragrance and whether or not it's truly non-greasy.

Fresh Seaberry Nourishing Hand Cream | $23 for 2.3oz
I wanted to hate this-- I wanted it to be really unimpressive because it's so pricey, but it's wonderful and definitely my favorite of the bunch. The scent is extremely pleasant and very light- it doesn't linger at all once it's applied. It makes your hands super soft without being the slightest bit greasy or heavy. It's the perfect lotion to use throughout the day because

L'Occitane Shea Hand Cream | $12 for 1oz
This is a gorgeous hand cream that is perfect if you want something scented. I have the rose petals fragrance and it smells amazing and always makes me happy.

Aveeno Skin Relief |  $3.79 for 3.5oz on Amazon
Aveeno is usually a safe bet for sensitive skin- it's fragrance free and the packaging says it's dermatologist recommended. It holds true to the scentless claims, and while it is moisturizing I find it to be really greasy, which is a bummer since you get the most product for a fraction of the price of the other hand creams.

True Blue Spa Paraffin Super Softening Hand Lotion | $12 for 2.5oz
This is another great option that isn't greasy and has a very light, slightly citrusy scent. I was curious to find out what paraffin was, and from the googling I did paraffin is a mineral oil. Mineral oil has a lot of mixed reviews on whether or not it's safe, so if that's something you're trying to avoid I would probably skip this since it's the second ingredient listed after water.

What are your favorite hand creams or moisturizers?

Festive Beauty Favorites

My makeup collection is continually shrinking, so there aren't as many products that I switch with the seasons, but there are a few colors and products that always jump out at me during the holidays in terms of nail and lip color. 

British Green Racer is the most gorgeous forrest green polish with a very slight shimmer that you can't really detect in most lights. I find it to be the perfect color-- without pulling too green, and it's a great alternative for a dark polish if you don't want to go with a black or super dark red/burgundy. My bottle is a few years old, but still goes on like a dream- super smooth & evenly opaque in just two coats. I wasn't able to find this exact polish anywhere online but stylenomics by Essie was the closest dupe I could find, and hopefully this will encourage you not to shy away from green polishes. 

Sarah by Zoya is one of my favorite polishes ever. I'm convinced there isn't a more festive nail polish out there between the cool tones of the red and the sparkle mixed in. Zoya is 5-free, which is awesome and you can now purchase it at Ulta, which makes it a lot easier to purchase. 

Burt's Bees lipsticks were my favorite this year. Russet Red is such a great deep winter color- a brownish red, brick color. I have two other shades from this line and I do find that this one applies a little bit unevenly if I have any dry patches on my lips. 

The Nars velvet matte lip pencil in cruella was the Sephora birthday gift last year and it's such a perfect true red. While I don't branch out into bold lips often, I love that this does a pretty good job staying put once you apply it to help avoid the lipstick all over your face look. On the subject of bright reds, my Bite duo is a couple years old now but I love the quality of these lipsticks and the colors are perfect for this time of the year. Poppy is another perfect bold red with a satin finish, while Scarlett is a deep red with warm undertones. Tannin and liquorice appear to be the closest dupes to the duo since it was limited edition.

What are your favorite products for the holiday season? 

Books to Bring Christmas Cheer

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is curling up with a mug of hot chocolate piled high with whipped cream and watching cheesy Christmas movies-- Snow Bride is my favorite! Christmas books aren't something that come to mind as quickly, so I made it a mission to try and come across some equally cheesy heartwarming Christmas stories. I had big plans for this post a few months back, but I definitely hit a wall with reading these past few weeks combined with a few I just didn't like enough to finish. I'm linking up for Show Us Your Books.

All I want for Christmas | A woman is expecting to inherit her grandmother's farm only to find out that half of it has been willed to a boy she grew up with when she was little but hasn't seen in years. This was every kind of cheesy and predictable, but so enjoyable. I read another Jenny Hale Christmas story last year and wasn't that crazy about it, but I found this to be the perfect mix of friendship and romance with the perfect holiday backdrop. I was sent this book from Netgalley for review, opinions remain my own. 

Twelve Days of Christmas | A woman tries to kill her scrooge-like neighbor with kindness as part of a 12 day challenge she documents on her blog. I've never read anything by Debbie Macomber, but after requesting this from Netgalley I realized she's quite well known for her Christmas novels, and I've seen a few pop up as made for TV movies on the Hallmark channel. The blog element was fun in this one, but I thought the main character was really annoying, which took away from some of the enjoyment. I was sent this book from Netgalley for review, opinions remain my own. 

Winter Stroll | Funny story with this one...I thought this was the first book in the three part series, but was talking with Heather on instagram and she mentioned she was reading the first book (Winter Street) and I was like wait, what?? Winter Stroll is definitely the second book, which explains why I was so overwhelmed/confused when I started reading this- I thought it was just because I was doing cardio at the gym and probably not paying attention as much as I should have been.

Taking all of that into consideration, and removing my confusion, I still enjoyed this for a holiday themed book, though I think there was a little too much going on, and one too many characters. It definitely makes you feel like Nantucket is one of those perfect little Christmas towns with fun events. I would highly recommend starting with the first book though.

The Mistletoe series by Richard Paul Evans is on my radar for next year, along with My True Love Gave to Me (read Lindsay's review). Do you have any favorite holiday books?

Friday Mashup | christmas cheer, coffee, and TV favorites.

This week seemed to go by fast and slow all at once. Last night we had fun at the National Gallery of Art for the Evenings at the Edge. It was the first time my husband had been back in the East Building since it had opened so I was excited to show him all of my favorites. What was even more exciting was running into Deborah after Snapchat led us to realize we were both at the same place! It was so awesome to finally meet her in person!


Currently | November

Happy end of November! Thanksgiving is behind us and just like that, we're less than a month away from Christmas. I thought I'd get in one last November post to share what I've been up to lately using the What's Happening Wednesday format (that I thought was this week-- whoops!). I'm also linking up with Kristen & Gretchen for What's New With you.

What I'm eating: After Thanksgiving I haven't felt like stepping foot in the kitchen, but my brother sent our Christmas gift early and I'm so excited to make a few recipes from the Skinnytaste Fast & Slow cookbook.

What I'm reminiscing about: I have season 1 of The OC on DVD, but I haven't watched it in years. Earlier this week I came across a random channel and it was playing the first episode so I thought I'd watch it for a minute or two... but I got sucked in and ended up watching the first two episodes and now I think I might fire up the old DVD player to watch the rest of it because it gave me so much nostalgia!

What I'm working on: In blogland, I'm working on finishing up the last changes to my newish design. I've been putting off updating my labels and figuring out what categories I want to focus on, but I'm really happy with how everything has turned out so far.

What I'm excited about: So many things-- my parents are coming to visit for Christmas and I'm more excited than I can express!

What I'm watching: I didn't think it was possible, but I think I overdid it on the Hallmark movies. Aside from a couple favorites they all kind of blend together with the same story lines and very little diversity, so I'm more than ready for all of the Christmas classics. I'm also looking forward to the new season of Top Chef & Fixer Upper.

What I'm listening to: The Mariah Carey holiday station was really disappointing me, so I went into the holiday stations and came across Hipster Holidays, and it's the best thing ever. Festive and chill all at once.

What I'm doing this weekend: Hopefully making gingerbread loaf & making a big dent in our holiday shopping.

What I'm looking forward to next month: I'm going to go with the obvious answer for this one and say Christmas!

What else is new: Our Christmas tree has so much character this year and I'm loving it. I've grown to appreciate getting a real tree more and more every year, but I'm pretty content just getting the first tree we see that looks like the right height. This year our tree has some super long branches sticking out in random places, and some branches missing in other places.

What have you been up to lately?

Finding Fall | The National Arboretum, Union Market, and Carrot Cake Cookies

mason dixie biscuit co, national arboretum
Remember last week when I said I was over fall and ready for all things Christmas? I think God was telling me to slooow down, because we had the most perfect fall weather this past two weekends ago in DC. I've been wanting to go to the National Arboretum for a while, but it has always seemed kind of out of the way for some reason, so we've never made going a priority. With the stellar weather forecast, and knowing that miserably cold days are ahead, I wanted to take advantage of doing something outdoors, so it was the perfect excuse to head over to the Arboretum.


Carly Reads Here | November

I only have three books in this post, which is probably not a bad thing because I have more lengthy reviews for two of them. One of them being probably the worst book I've read all year, and another one that is easily in my top 5 books of the entire year- how's that for balance? Linking up with Steph & Jana for Show Us Your Books.

Today Will Be Different | This was one of my most anticipated books of the fall and unfortunately it left me really disappointed. I read Bernadette (also by Semple) at the end of last year and remember enjoying the writing and voice, but not being totally crazy about the storyline, so when I read the synopsis for Today Will be Different I was really excited. It's told over a single day in the life of Eleanor who swears today will be different and she won't be such a mess. Sadly the story didn't quite achieve a level of momentum that held my interest and I found myself bored and honestly have already forgot just about every detail. 

It Ends With Us | I've only read one other Colleen Hoover book and it wasn't my favorite, but I liked it enough to really want to read It Ends With Us, especially because it has over 4.5 stars on Goodreads with over 35,000 ratings! The tagline is, sometimes the one you love is the one who hurts you the most.

I hate to be critical but this book was not for me... I found it cringeworthy over anything else, from the dialogue to the descriptions and the foreshadowing. The characters had zero depth-- I didn't know if I was going to make it through another second if I had to listen to Lily mention that Ryle was a neurosurgeon or comment on what he was wearing one more time. Their love story was weak and the dialogue didn't seem remotely realistic... and when you don't buy into the story or the characters, that makes it really hard to care... even about tough topics.

Through all the shallowness, the book focuses on domestic violence and abusive relationships. I appreciated the afterward when Hoover talks about how personal the story is to her, and I think it's important to raise awareness to domestic violence, but I personally did not care for the writing, the story, or any of the characters. I've come to the conclusion that I'm one of the few people who are not a huge fan of Colleen Hoover. If you've enjoyed her other books, I'm sure the star rating and outstanding reviews are going to be more of your speed. 

Homegoing |  This book took me an unusually long time to read and I'm not sure why because I loved every bit of it and it was amazingly captivating. It was the October choice from the Beyond Words Book Club, and I didn't know too much about it before reading it, other than that it had received a lot of praise. I also knew it was about two half-sisters- one who is sold into slavery and the other one marries an Englishman. When I started reading it I assumed it was going to switch back and forth between their two storylines, but after the third chapter I consulted the table of contents and realized it was a new POV with every chapter so I went back and read the entire synopsis and realized that it's a generational story. So it's kind of like a new story in every chapter and I was continually amazed at how Gyasi could make me so invested in every new character in so few pages. It's a weird feeling to want a chapter to end because you're anxious to see what comes next, but to feel sad at the same time because you want to continue with the character you're currently following. I really can't do the book justice, but highly recommend to everyone.
We believe the one who has the power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must always ask yourself, whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too.  [yaa gyasi, homegoing]
What books are on your radar to read before the year is over? 

What's New

Fall is pretty much over in my mind and I'm ready to go full force into all things holiday. I managed to check off almost everything on my fall to-do list. We saw Girl on the Train and were both a little unimpressed. I've read the book (my husband hasn't), but we both thought it jumped around a little too much to ever build any real suspense. I made caramel corn for the first time ever and it was delicious, but I think I actually prefer caramel apples a bit more. We took our traditional trip to the apple orchard and drank overpriced hot cider, got a couple of mini pumpkins, and picked a few apples. I made an apple crisp, which is perfect because you can kind of make as much as you want without having to make an entire pie or go through a lot of work. Lastly, we're on the fence about running a Thanksgiving 5k, but have a couple of weeks left to decide.


A Few Things & A Question

Happy Wednesday! It's already the last week of October, which makes me feel less bad about putting up our mini Christmas tree last week. The holidays go by so fast, I like to enjoy the festive things for as long as possible. I'll wait until this weekend to put more of our decorations out and we won't get our actual Christmas tree for a while, so I feel like it's not too overboard, right? Anyway, linking up with Mattie & Jenn today, and Joey tomorrow!

A few things I've learned recently... 

  • I decided to measure out a single serving (according to the box) of cereal and realized my idea of one serving is actually like 4. I probably need to chill out on the amount of cinnamon Chex I've been eating or maybe just don't measure your cereal?
  • Pretty Little Liars is best when binge watched without commercials to distract you, aka make you lose interest. That or the current/final season is just really bad.
  • You can be super disappointed in the last 2 seasons of a 4 season TV show and still be sad when it's over (Hart of Dixie, I'm looking at you).
  • You might smash your husband's finger between weights at the gym if you're too lazy to take your headphones out and mishear what he says. 
  • You can go to Bath & Body Works during a major candle sale and walk out with only one candle.
  • But then you might go to Nordstrom and smell the Nest Holiday Trio and have to try even harder to remind yourself you don't need to spend $60 on candles.

More importantly I need your help regarding a new coffee maker! I've had (& loved) my Keurig for the past few years and I'm not sure if it's something with my machine, or my tastes are just changing, but I've been really unimpressed with my coffee lately. I use the same k-cups & creamer, but the coffee just doesn't taste that satisfying to me (unless I have it iced), which is a huge problem because coffee is probably my favorite thing about the morning! I'm not sure if I should try a fresh press, nespresso, or just a regular coffee pot, but I need a solution asap, because it's getting too cold to drink iced coffee. What coffee maker do you use/love? 

What I'm Loving on Etsy 2

Another You've Got Mail favorite from AlexaZ.

A Kate Spade inspired bookshelf mug from History in High Heels and there's a matching print.

I don't know where I came across this pool party print, but I loved it so much that I wanted to include it even if the artist is based in the UK-- meaning extra expensive shipping to the US.

This grumpy cat bookmark from Wonderflies made me laugh out loud. She also does custom pet portraits that are super cute.

If you look forward to your coffee first thing in the morning, this notepad to-do list is perfect for you. Even if you're not a coffee drinker, Hennel Paper Co has dozens of cute designs from cards, calendars, notepads, and more.

Previous What I'm Loving on Etsy Posts

Ulta First Impressions

One of my least favorite things about blogging is taking product photos/editing them. I know flat-lays or pretty backdrops are a lot more eye-catching, but I have zero skills when it comes to those things and I use my iPhone like 99% of the time. I do prefer to use my own photos over stock photos so my images continue to be a work in progress. On to the topic of this post-- a few new Ulta products I'm excited to try out. I don't know if I've ever ordered such random things, but everything serves a purpose I found to be almost a need vs a want.

1. Castor Oil | I've heard good things about people using this to help grow their eyelashes, so I figured it would be worth a try for my brows. My brows are really dark and the hairs are long , but they definitely lack a little fullness, so I'd like to try and help them grow in if possible. Blame social media?

2. RT Beauty Blender | I've never tried the actual beauty blender... the price always put me off combined with worrying about how hard it would be to clean. When I saw how many good reviews the RT version had, I figured it was worth trying.

3. Burts Bees Lipstick in russet river | I think these lipsticks are my favorite new beauty product of the year... great formula, color payoff, and pleasant on the lips. This shade is a really pretty brick-red which is perfect for fall into winter.

4. Armor Top Coat | I'm back in the groove of painting my nails and was in need of a new top coat. I had been using Seche Vite, which is really good, but it smells so strong, I think it's impossible to use without getting a headache & I can't imagine it's good for you. I was going to go for the Essie gel top coat (3 free), but decided I'd go for Zoya instead-- it was cheaper and 5 free, and I love all of the Zoya polishes I've ever used. Crossing my fingers I end up loving it!

5. Living Proof Dry Volume Blast | Never in a million years did I think I would cave and buy anything that promised volume for the hair. Volume isn't a word I'd ever associate with my hair-- it's impossibly straight and quite long (aka heavy). I did recently cut about 5ish inches off because it was driving me crazy, but I wanted something that would give my hair a little bit of texture because it would either be super clean (too slippery to style if ya know what i mean) or too dirty and greasy and dry shampoo, just wasn't doing the trick.

6. Spin Pins | Staying on the hair struggle, I did a google search for the best hair ties for long hair and everyone kept mentioning spin pins. They claim that one spin pin is equal to 20 bobby pins and I tested one out and it seemed to hold my hair in a bun pretty good, but it wasn't the most comfortable. I definitely need to play around with them a little bit more though.

I took advantage of the Wednesday beauty break and got a little Benefit kit that I got mainly for the bag because I can't handle the glue that is They're Real Mascara, I don't need my eyelashes to be any darker, and the brow conditioner did absolutely nothing. I have a lot of Ulta points I'm saving up for maybe the Lorac 3 palette and I'm anxiously awaiting the Sephora VIB sale to repurchase a few essentials. What are some of your favorite things to pickup at Ulta?

Carly Reads Here | October

the barbizon hotel 2016
This was the month of getting into all of my library books right before they were due back to the library-- meaning I didn't succeed in finishing many of them. And sometimes watching Hart of Dixie takes priority over reading, whether I'd like to admit it or not. I had my worst book (one star) of the year in this batch of books, but the rest were 3.5 stars or above, which rarely happens. Linking up with all of the other book lovers for Show Us Your Books.

The Look of Love | I picked this book solely because it popped up on my library page and I liked the cover and the author sounded familiar. I saw that it was available and the synopsis (a woman finds out she has a gift to literally see love) sounded fun... I did not like this at all. First it was the writing- there was too much I did this, I did that, then I did this... there was also a lot of dialogue that I found obnoxious/pointless. Every character used the term of endearment honey so many times that I stopped reading to do a search to see how many times the word was used. Each chapter was set up with a random address at the beginning- this would have been fine, but the location changed many times within the chapter, so I didn't see the point, and found that aspect to be distracting more than anything else... I could go on, but I imagine you get the point. Wasn't for me.

The Dollhouse | This story follows a girl from the Barbizon Hotel in New York in the 50s, but flips between a present day story of someone who now lives in the building. I would categorize this as something of a mix of historical fiction and chick lit with a good suspense element to it. The POV switches between decades each chapter, and it definitely worked really well at building the suspense, because as soon as you'd get really invested in one storyline the chapter would change-- the further into the book you get, the more the stories start to connect, making it really interesting. I'm not sure if it's because I had a galley copy, but I was hoping there would be more at the end about how Davis researched the book, it definitely left me curious to explore more about that time in New York and at the Barbizon. //this book was provided to me by penguin random house - first to read in exchange for an honest review.

The Woman in Cabin 10 | I'm torn on this one because it was definitely a book I couldn't put down and it had a much better suspense element than In a Dark, Dark Wood, I thought the setting and premise of the story was unique and different, but the main character was highly frustrating. Which often seems to be the trend with psychological thrillers? It felt a bit overdone to have a female appear as unreliable because she has mental health issues and abuses alcohol. There was also one pretty big component to the story (borrowing a stranger's mascara) that bugged me a lot because it seemed so unrealistic. With all my gripes, if you're in the mood for something suspenseful, I'd recommend it.

Things I Would Say |  If you read Alyssa's blog you already know how amazing of a writer she is, if you're not reading it yet, you should be. I mistakenly thought it was going to be a book I would breeze through because of the length... instead I found myself reading one or two essays at a time to take in their depth.

The Wrath & The Dawn | Fantasy usually isn't my jam, but I was in the mood for something different and I remember Kristen (& just about everyone on Goodreads) raving about this book, so I figured it was worth checking out. My understanding of the premise was that a boy-king takes a new bride every night and then kills her (inspired by arabian nights). I had a really hard time getting into this book- girlfriend is possibly going to die the next day, but she's just totally calm and collected hanging out with the people who are going to kill her? That's to say I was really skeptical at first, but I ended up loving it for so many reasons. The romance completely sucked me in, combined with a great suspense element and a really rich setting in the middle-east. So excited for the sequel!

What great books have you read lately?

Merry October III

card; nail polish
What in the world. It's already October, and I know I've been saying that basically every single month since February, but I'm not sure how I'm feeling about 2016 being the fastest year ever. This is my third October in blogland (20142015), and I always have a post with this title, inspired by Rainbow Rowell's book Attachments. It's no secret I'm a sucker for a good seasonal tag post, so I decided to kick off October with the autumn tag. I'm linking up with Kristen & Joey.

1. What signifies the start of fall for you? I think the beginning of September is almost always the unofficial start of fall for me. The older I get the more I realize that seasons are more of a state of mind than a date on the calendar. Does it really feel like a traditional fall day on September 1st if the heat index is still in the triple digits? Probably not, but if it makes you happy to pull out all the fall things, who cares?

2. What is your favorite fall scent? I don't have a specific fall personal fragrance so I'll go with candle scent which is easily sweater weather-- though I've been burning autumn recently and really loving it. I'm also considering trying out a simmer pot of some sort!

3. What is your favorite autumn color? Anything in the burgundy, dark red, oxblood category. Jewel tones suit my coloring better than pastels, so I really love how prominent they are in fashion this time of the year.

4. What is your favorite fall drink? I love hot cider- add caramel and whipped cream and it's even better! I have to admit, I've had one (or three) salted caramel mochas so far this year and I'm kind of obsessed, though I don't even want to think about the insane amount of sugar in them.

5. What TV show are you looking forward to this fall? I'm not really big into any shows that premiere in the fall, but I do enjoy Superstore for something silly and light.

6. What is your favorite fall fashion trend? Over-the-knee boots with an oversized sweater. Two things that are still currently missing from my closet.

7. What is your favorite fall activity? I touched a little bit on this in my fall plans post, but I look forward to going to the apple orchard every year.

8. What is your favorite fall makeup look? There's something about fall that makes me want to bring out all of the matte shadows again, which is a good thing because my Naked Basics palette hasn't had much use lately-- and according to my first impressions post, I picked it up two years ago in October.


4 Books to Encourage & Inspire

I'm a huge fan of non-fiction in general, but especially love a good self-help/improvement book every once in a while. Personally I don't see any problem with the term self-help, but I know it kind of has a negative connotation, so I decided to stick with personal development term for this post.

Quiet | I remember reading this and thinking, finally someone gets it! This is obviously a book about the power of introverts, but I think it's a great read for anyone regardless of your personality type. I think you might appreciate it a bit more if you're a fellow introvert who went through over half of your life feeling like something was wrong with you, and sitting through the majority of high school and college classes with so much anxiety due to the pressure to "speak up", as if participating in front of class is the only way to measure someone's intelligence (end rant). Cain does a really great job of balancing stories with facts and research.

The Happiness Project | This book was published back in 2009 and I'm sure it isn't new to anyone, but it's one of my favorite books when it comes to needing a little inspiration to make changes. Not because I thought anything Rubin shared was really groundbreaking, but because it's the perfect book to help get you into a positive mindset and I love the setup of accomplishing different aspects of your life in each month.

How to Have a Good Day | The title pretty accurately sums up the aim of this book and I loved that it was science-based without being too heavy on the facts. While a large part of the book focuses on work life (specifically more corporate careers), I think there's a takeaway for anyone regardless of what you call your job. Read my full review 

Daring Greatly | A few years ago I read The Gifts of Imperfection and think I've had Daring Greatly on my list since then. Even after I got it for my birthday in April this year, it was one that sat on my shelf for a while until I felt like I was in the mood to read it. Of course it ended up being one of those books that I wish I read years ago because it spoke to me in almost every way. It was another one of those books that I read and was shocked at how much I could relate to so much of the material. That was how I felt reading a lot of this, and I imagine it's how most people would feel because Brene's research on shame is so raw and real. I could easily write an entire post on what I learned from reading this, and I probably will eventually, but for now I would say to check out Brene's research if you're interested in enriching your life and how important it is to be vulnerable sometimes.

I have a few other self improvement books on my radar that I hope to read in the next few months as well. I always enjoy a good personal element and ease to read, but look forward to the research and facts as well. If you you have a good book in this same realm, let me know!

Linking up for my books & favorites

Currently | September 16

I always read Emily's posts for this linkup and I love Shay's blog so I thought I'd participate in my first what's up wednesday linkup today. I took out a few of the questions because my answers were repetitive, but thought this was a fun version of a currently post. 

What I'm eating this week: I made the first batch of chili for the season and think I finally found a recipe that I love. I'm kind of picky and prefer for it to be more on the soupy side with not very much meat. I used this recipe as a base and adjusted it quite a bit and it was a huge success! Special thanks to my mom for giving me the idea to add fritos! 


Don't You Just Love New York in the Fall?

This is more of a last week-ing than weekending, but I figured it still counts to linkup with Biana today. We took a short last-minute trip to New York last week, where we did our usual walk around and experience as many neighborhoods as possible.


Fall Goals & Plans

The beginning of fall is officially right around the corner and after an insanely hot summer that followed an insanely rainy spring, I'm looking forward to fall more than ever. While spring is more of the season of growth and renewal, there's something refreshing and exciting about fall. The above quote is from Gatsby and I realize Jordan's meaning behind it can mean a few different things, for me it perfectly sums up my feelings on fall. I'm linking up with Steph & everyone sharing their seasonal goals update. 

Visit the orchard | This is one of my favorite yearly traditions. We usually pick apples, pick up some mini pumpkins, and stock up on apple cider.

Make an apple dessert | There are about a million desserts I want to make this time of the year, but I love making something new with some of the apples we pick.

Make caramel corn | On the dessert subject, I'm really hoping to make caramel corn this year. It's one of my favorite treats and I'd love to try making it from scratch. On the caramel corn subject, this snack mix looks delicious.

See the Girl on the Train | I'm not a huge movie theater person and I think the last movie I saw in theaters was the Martian, but we like to go to the fancy theater every once in a while. I think I only gave the book 3 stars, but the movie looks really intense and I actually don't remember how it ends, though I'm guessing it will come back once the movie starts.

Another 5k | This one is a big maybe-- I'd love to do a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, but there are a couple of other fall 5ks I have my eye on... I'm definitely not 100% committed to running another race, especially during a cold month, but maybe.

Just a few seasonal fun things for fall as I try to enjoy it without mentally going right into Christmas/holiday season mode. What are your favorite fall things?

Carly Reads Here | september

After what felt like forever I finally got back into somewhat of a reading grove and stopped reading books that left me continually bored or unsatisfied in some way. At the end of August I read five books in like three days when I had some kind of awful summer cold, so that definitely helped bring me closer to my 2016 reading goal and rounded out August with 7 books completed. One will be coming in a stand alone review post sometime later this month. As always I'm linking up with Steph and all the other book lovers for Show Us Your Books. 


Slow Cooker Meals to Add to Your Dinner Rotation

Even though we use our slow cooker year round, I get excited when fall hits and I can bring back a few of my favorite recipes. Most of these fall into the comfort food category with creamy soups, but they're a few of our go-to fall/winter recipes. When it comes to using our slow cooker, I want something that's going to be super easy to prepare and have minimal prep and ingredients. The ease is the whole allure of using a slow cooker after all.

Corn Chowder Taste & Tell Blog
This might be my favorite slow cooker recipe ever-- something about the flavors is so good. I follow this recipe almost exactly- only using frozen diced potatoes because it's so much faster than peeling and dicing your own.

Super Easy Pot Roast Cooking Classy
There are a lot of pot roast recipes out there, but this one is usually our go-to because it's so easy. Depending on what you keep stocked in your pantry you only need the roast, beef broth, and worcestershire sauce. You can even use baby carrots, so you don't have to deal with any prep peeling or cutting vegetables.

Creamy Chicken Soup A Touch of Grace
This soup is basically chicken potpie without the crust-- it's the perfect comfort food, and you really could add in any veggies you like. I've followed Tiffany's recipe exactly just subbing cream of chicken for cream of celery.

Baked Potato Soup Mostly Homemade Mom
Not the healthiest option, but always so satisfying! I follow the recipe pretty closely, but always used diced potatoes instead of shredded. Cream of celery or mushroom instead of cream of chicken, and about half a yellow onion (not onion powder).

What are your favorite recipes for the slow cooker? Do you have any favorite recipes for fall?


Friday Favorites | All Things Beauty

planner (similar)
Happy Friday! I haven't done a beauty favorites post, or an empties post in a while so I thought I'd highlight a few beauty products I've been loving including a couple of new things and some old favorites with Amanda & Andrea.

Clarins Gentle Foaming Cleanser | After going through two tubes of this wash for dry/sensitive skin, I switched to the cottonseed version for normal/combo skin. As much as I enjoyed the other formula I wasn't so sure I liked the shea in it- plus my skin is more combo than dry. The first few times I used the new one I didn't think I liked it. I wasn't the craziest about the scent (it smells like soap) and it almost gives you a squeaky clean feeling if that makes any sense, but I've grown to really like it and definitely prefer it to the one with shea.

Becca Spotlight Highlight | I mentioned this last month when I reviewed the full Becca Blush Radiance kit, but after using this more frequently I wanted to mention it again because it gives the prettiest highlight ever. I do also love the powder highlight, but sometimes that can be a little bit much-- this is more subtle, but still has a wow factor.

Dior Addict Fluid Stick | I actually did an entire post on this last year, but pulled it out recently and remembered why I liked it so much. As soon as I put it on I was like this feels so good on the lips-- it's smooth without being sticky or tacky and feels moisturizing with a very slight tingle. It makes my lips actually look semi-shapely and doesn't all over my face (which happens often for me with traditional lipstick).

Maybelinne Fit Me Concealer | This was another product I hadn't used in months and when I put it on I was shocked by how much I liked it. It creases just a tiny bit, but it gives the perfect amount of coverage without being too heavy or difficult to blend in- definitely a drugstore concealer worth trying out if you're looking for something new.

Shea Moisture Coconut Oil | I know you can really get coconut oil anywhere, but I'm a huge fan of this brand. I love using it on any really dry patches on my elbows or ankles, but it's also a great deep conditioner for your hair. I like that you can get it at Target or Ulta in the travel size for $3 or $4 and it still lasts a really long time because you only need a little bit. It's a really great overall deep moisturizer.

It's always the best when you rediscover old favorites! What beauty products have you been loving lately?

Favorite Fall Fashion

I'm not big into fashion, but fall is a fun time to pack on the layers, bring out all things plaid, and search Pinterest for inspiration (while trying not to get caught up on the fact that regardless of the outfit I won't ever look like whatever person or celebrity is rocking the outfit). I was watching Gossip Girl this time last year and my phone is full of screenshots and grainy photos taken of my ipad of my favorite Blair Waldorf outfits (see below). I would love her entire wardrobe if I had an unlimited budget and plenty of places to go dressed up. What fictional character has a wardrobe that you love?

blair waldorf

Wrapping Up the Summer Months

I'll start this post by being honest and saying I kind of feel like saying good riddance to August. I really do try and appreciate and practice gratefulness for every day and season, but this summer was hothard and I don't think I've ever been more excited for fall. September is here now, which means we're basically into the holiday season and I can't wait until October 1st so I can watch Hocus Pocus approximately 25x before November hits and I switch to terribly cheesy Christmas movies.

At the same time I feel like it was just May and I was so excited when Megan listed the categories for the summer book challenge. I couldn't wait until it was June to start reading the books on my list. I didn't finish the challenge, but I definitely made a good effort, especially since I was working primarily with library books. I think book challenges can be tricky because you never want to read a book that you won't enjoy, or something that doesn't interest you, but it's also so important to expand your horizons and consider new genres or categories.

Aside from the category on a microhistory (I never picked a book), I was able to find a book that I wanted to read to fit in each category. I didn't get to Big Stone Gap, but it's the perfect example of a book I probably would have never discovered without this challenge. When I first saw the Appalachia category, I admittedly had zero interest in it, but I've loved some of Trigiani's other books & after mentioning Big Stone Gap in my initial post a few people commented about how much they love the book/series.

I'm not going to list out the categories or books in this post because I've already reviews the ones I finished, but you can see my final list & point total here. While this challenge has ended and I'm really close to finishing my Goodreads challenge, I want to focus in on some of the categories for the PopSugar Reading challenge and the Book Riot Read Harder challenge as well.

At the beginning of August I put together a to-do list (or a few goals) for the month and definitely didn't come close to checking most of them off. To be fair, it really should have been a summer to-do list because there was no way it was going to be possible to check off so many things in just four weeks. The best part is that everything on the list can still be checked off this month, so no pressure.

September also brings a few new things I'm really looking forward to checking out: National Book FestivalMuseum of African American History & Culture openingDC Short Film FestivalReopening of the East Building at the NGA. I'm also really excited for season 2 of Narcos to be released this week-- it's definitely my most anticipated new season of the year. Plus football is back, and chili sundays, and flannels, and all things apple...

What are you looking forward to in September? Are you ready for summer to wind down, or are you also ready for fall? Linking up with Kristen & Gretchen today for what's new with you?


Nemours Estate & Gardens

After we stumbled upon the Anderson House a few months ago I did a little research on other mansions, gardens, and estates. When I came across Nemours Mansion & Gardens in Delaware I knew it was the perfect place for a mini day trip since we can usually get to Wilmington in just about two hours.

I was completely unfamiliar with the estate and Alfred I. duPont, so we loved that there was a brief video on his history after you buy your tickets and before you head to the shuttle that will take you to the house. The admission is $17 for adults, which seemed a little bit steep coming from the land of DC (where most museums & things are free), but the cost was completely justified. The visitors center is top notch and they have shuttles running every few minutes around the estate-- combined with the overall upkeep of the estate.


Salt to the Sea

A few months ago I read Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys after hearing about it from a monthly book linkup. I absolutely loved the book and heard additional bloggers recommend Sepetys other books. When I saw Salt to the Sea was the book club option for August, I knew I wanted to make it a priority to read.
genre: YA historical fiction focusing on four teenagers
I don't typically gravitate towards historical fiction during the WWII era, so I wasn't sure what to expect going into this book, and really enjoyed it being in the young adult genre. Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the four main characters. Each chapter is only a few pages so you're able to get a quick snapshot of each POV, which keeps the story moving quickly with a lot of mystery in each storyline.

The story focuses on Emila, Joana, Florian, and Alfred and they each carry a different secret as their paths all cross at different points in the story. In addition to their points of view, there are a few minor characters who are so well developed that you feel almost as connected to them. While you know the ending of the ship (based on history), there is a lot of suspense as you get further into the story wondering if the characters you've grown to love are going to survive.

I'd recommend this to everyone-- it's a relatively easy read that's both inspiring and heartbreaking. Read it for a wonderfully crafted story, but also to learn a little bit more about such a tragic historical event that is rarely talked about.

Are you a fan of Ruta Sepetys? This book was definitely completely different from Out of the Easy, but I really enjoyed both and definitely look forward to reading Between Shades of Gray.

All About Goodreads

tag post; blogger tags; book bloggers;
If Goodreads counts as a social media platform, it's definitely my favorite. If not for the ease of keeping track of what you've read and what you'd like to read, also to see what other people are reading and loving (or not loving). Usually I take some warming up to new app or website interface, but I actually really like the new look of Goodreads and think it makes it even easier to interact.

1. what was the last book you marked as read? Salt to the Sea (review coming Friday!)

2. what are you currently reading? I'm finishing up Daring Greatly and hopefully tackling a few library books.

3. what was the last book you marked as 'to read'? The Look of Love - this was on the homepage of the library website and it was available, (three cheers for no hold list!) the author sounded familiar, and the cover was fun.

4. what book do you plan to read next? Matilda - I have the ebook from the library and am hopefully going to get to it just in time to add it to my SCSBC list.

5. do you use the star rating system? Yes-- and forever wishing for a half star option!

6. are you doing a 2016 reading challenge? Yes, I recently changed my goal from 50 to 52 books and am pretty confident I'll hit my goal well before the end of the year.

7. do you have a wish list? No. I use my TBR list as a wish list in terms of what I want to read-- for purchasing books, I usually don't purchas

8. what book do you plan to buy next? I usually don't buy a book unless it's something I've already read and loved, but I know I'll be purchasing the new SkinnyTaste cookbook coming out in a few weeks.

9. do you have any favorite quotes? share a few.

Carly’s quotes

"But God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through."— Francis Chan

10. who are your favorite authors? This is a feature I don't think to update very often, but I do have Sarah Dessen, Gretchen Rubin, Megan McCafferty, and Joey Hodges listed to name a few.

11. have you joined any groups? This is another feature I'm not great about keeping up with, but I'm part of a couple of book club groups that ebb and flow in activity & I just joined a group for a September read-along for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

12. how many shelves do you have? 8-- along with the regular (read, currently reading, and to be read) I have one for DNFs (did not finish), childhood favorites, audiobooks, and netgalley.

Do you use Goodreads to keep up with your TBR list or to write reviews of books?

Best of Becca (a review)

This post has been a long time coming-- I took these pictures months ago when I got this kit for my birthday but I never got around to uploading the photos. This was my first experience trying out Becca products and the main pull was definitely the backlight priming filter. The kit was $32.50 and I had a $10 coupon to put towards it as well, so it was definitely a better deal for what I needed compared to buying a full-size of the primer for $38-- plus I got to try a few other products at the same time. While I thought it was an Ulta exclusive, and doesn't appear to be available there anymore, I did find it on the Lord & Taylor website. Everything will be linked to the full size product through affiliate links.

Backlight Priming Filter: This is supposed to blur any imperfections while giving a natural glow. While my skin is currently combo to oily, it tends to be more on the dry side, especially in the winter so I was really looking for something that was going to give my skin a little extra glow, and I had heard amazing things about this primer.

Shimmering Skin Perfector (opal): If you use this product you understand why there is so much hype around this line of highlighters. It's a golden opal color and is super creamy and easy to apply. I love a highlighter that gives you a glow without looking glittery and I like that it blends into my foundation, it doesn't just sit on top like some products tend to do.
becca highlight, opal, moonshine, blush
L to R: flower child blush; moonshine highlight; opal powder highlight
Shimmering Skin Perfector Spotlight (moonshine): Because this is a travel size of the product it comes with an applicator which makes it really easy to just dot on the face and blend in. Moonshine is a pale gold, but similar to opal I'd say both products are more of a cool toned gold, not a bright gold. I find this one to be a little less intense of a highlight (compared to the above). It reminds me a bit of Benefit's high beam, but I find moonshine to be a lot more of a natural color.

Shimmering Skin Perfector Luminous Blush: I was really excited to try out this blush-- I typically switch between my two favorites (madly and chiffon), so it was fun to have a new color to try out. I found the formulation to be similar to the highlighter-- very creamy and easy to apply. I quickly learned you get a lot of color payoff with each swipe of the brush.

It's a neutral peachy pink with gold shimmer to it, I think it would flatter a lot of different skin tones. The only downside (for me) is that it's really similar to chiffon-- which might end up being a good thing because upon writing this post I wasn't able to find chiffon online anywhere. I saw it at Nordstrom Rack a few months ago so I guess that should have been a sign, but that always seems to happen to me with Smashbox products!
Overall, I'm really happy I scooped this kit up-- I think it was a great value for what I was looking for. While I was most excited to try the primer, the two highlights were my favorite products. Are you a fan of any Becca products?

Life Lately | august '16

carly blogs here; cbh; life lately
I originally had a different post scheduled for today, but I need to upload the photos from my actual camera, so I keep putting it off. I wasn't sure if this was going to be a Friday favorites or Friday five type post, so I guess it's more of a random mashup of things, otherwise known as life lately & linking up with Amanda & Katie.


The One About Netflix

netflix, gossip girl, blair, blogger tags,
I thought I'd do a little tag TuesdayWednesday today because who doesn't love Netflix? I saw this post on Megan's blog and thought it was a fun way to talk about some of my Netflix favorites.

What are your favorite series to watch on Netflix?
I'll start with the Netflix originals: Narcos, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black.... we recently watched Stranger Things and watched the entire show in one night- it wasn't anything I expected to like, but both my husband and I loved it-- give it a try if you haven't watched it yet!

Other favorites include Friends, Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars.


7 Upcoming Book Releases for Fall

Today I'm sharing a few book releases I'm looking forward to in the next couple of months! Kasi does monthly videos on exciting releases over on her booktube channel and I always love finding out about any up and coming books. It's a great time to queue up your Netgalley or Goodreads or maybe even pre-order one or two. I always feel like I'm cheating a bit on summer by talking about fall in mid-August, but fall unofficially starts soon and this year I'm kind of looking forward to it after the record-breaking heat this summer.

Today Will Be Different | Semple also wrote Where'd You Go Bernadette? which was just three-stars for me, but I love the premise of this story. Goodreads describes it as a hilarious, heart-filled story about reinvention, sisterhood, and how sometimes it takes facing up to our former selves to truly begin living. release date: october 4

Commonwealth | I'm not sure why I haven't read anything by Ann Patchett yet, but this book had amazing pre-release reviews. Goodreads says, told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. release date: september 13

Leave Me | Gayle Forman is another author I've never read, she's well known for her young adult books. Leave Me is her debut adult novel about a woman who walks out on her current life and sees herself from a different perspective. release date: september 6

The Boy is Back | I'm not sure if I'm all the way caught up with this Meg Cabot series, but these books remind me of the Shopaholic books in the sense that they're light, easy reads-- which is sometimes just the thing you need in a world full of heaviness. release date: october 8

The Magnolia Story | Admittedly I'm usually not big into celebrity books, but who doesn't love Chip and Joanna? I've gone back to swearing off audiobooks again, but I'm definitely intrugied to get this one in audio format knowing they recorded it themselves. This would be the perfect gift for any Fixer Upper fan. release date: october 18

Skinnytaste Fast & Slow | This cookbook is what my dreams are made of! Gina shares 140 new recipes that are quick and easy to whip up or throw in the crockpot. release date: october 11

Grace Not Perfection | Emily Ley is known for creating the Simplified Planner- which I've never used- but I've always been an admirer of her for her outlook. I'm really intrigued to see what this book will be like, it's described as being designed with Ley's signature aesthetic to give women tangible ways to simplify their lives to give space to what matters most. release date: october 11

What I'm Loving on Etsy

I know I'm not alone when I say the Etsy addiction is real. It's kind of like Pinterest in the sense that you can search for just about anything and find an amazingly creative and talented person who has made something you like. I've done a couple of etsy posts in the past and thought I would do an updated post on things I'm currently crushing on.
It's no secret I love books- I don't know why I don't already have a personalized bookplate stamp, but I love this one from East Grove Stamp.

On the subjects of books I've wanted one of the Frostbeard Booklovers' Candles forever. There are endless fun options but Gatsby's Mansion sounds like it smells amazing.

Hearth and Hammer is another shop with literary based candles. They have really great mini kits you can get but I have my eye on Pemberley Park.

I don't exactly need another t-shirt, but I wouldn't mind swapping out a few old scratchy ones for a new one or two- especially the ones from Simple Truths Designs that are super soft.

I don't know how I don't already have a Friends mug- doesn't any Friends lover need one in their collection of mugs? Frankly Noted has endless mug options-- I like the classic with just their names, but this one from the one where everyone finds out is one of my favorite episodes. So. funny.

I'm mildly obsessed with You've Got Mail (by mildly I mean I watch it at least once a week), so I was basically smitten when I came across Three Letter Birds. I want every single one of the greeting cards. If you're not as obsessed with You've Got Mail as I am, not to worry, she has so many other great prints and cards.

If you shop on Etsy you know it can get expensive with shipping costs depending on what you're purchasing so I like to follow the shops on social media to make sure I'm up to date on any special promos or sale. What are your favorite things to buy on Etsy?


Carly Reads Here | august

I was one book short of my mini-goal of getting to 40 books total for the year by the end of July. I'm still waiting for my next great book that I can't put down... because I keep feeling pretty iffy about most of the books I read. There were a couple over the past two months that I did really enjoy and would recommend. Instead of listing these in the order that I read them I've ranked them from favorite to least favorite. Linking up with Steph for Show Us Your Books!

siracusa | I came across this book on netgalley and thought it sounded interesting. It wasn't until after I was approved that I realized that Delia Ephron co-wrote You've Got Mail, which is my favorite movie of all time. First, I have to point out that the formatting of this book was a mess and if I wasn't planning to go see Delia Ephron at a Politics & Prose event I probably wouldn't have even attempted to read it, but I gave it a try and was actually really pulled in by the first few pages.

The story is about two couples (one has a daughter) and their vacation to Italy. Each chapter is told from a different point of view over the course of their vacation. The characters aren't exactly likable, but they're interesting and reading each chapter makes you feel like they're each telling you a story directly, just as a friend would. *this book was provided to me c/o netgalley in exchange for an honest review

vanishing girls | This book surprised me in a good way-- when I first started reading it I was nervous because I saw it compared to We Were Liars and that book was not my cup of tea. But it felt like more of a Dessen novel in the sense of the character development and little side love story. I didn't really catch on to the thriller element of the book- though the last half definitely had a bit of suspense to it. So if you're looking for an interesting YA novel with a twist, I'd check this book out.

I'm torn because I liked the writing enough to want to read more of her novels, but none of the synopsis pull me in/ I don't really care for fantasy.

vinegar girl | This was a case of like not love, but I would recommend it for something light and enjoyable. The story is a loose retelling of The Taming of the Schrew, which I hadn't read since high-school, so it's not a Shakespeare story fresh in my mind, though I did keep thinking of 10 Things I Hate About You. I found the characters fun and likable and really enjoyed Tyler's writing style. I think I would have felt a little more iffy about it had I not known it was based on another book. *this book was provided to me c/o netgalley in exchange for an honest review

13 ways of looking at a fat girl | I wasn't sure what to expect going into this book, but I knew it was something I wanted to read after hearing so much about it. I was pretty immediately captured by the writing and felt like I could perfectly picture everything being described. While it is a novel, the chapters are disconnected and (to me) it read almost more as short stories and follows Lizzie's journey to weight loss-- and really just her attempt at finding herself. I found the beginning chapters really engaging and then the book lost steam for me. I do wonder if it was intentional, as the MC so obviously lost herself as she lost the weight.

modern lovers | I didn't care for The Vacationers so my interest in this book was solely from seeing it everywhere this summer, and I'm sad to report I didn't care for this book either. I was so bored. It kind of reminded me of Siracusa in the sense that it's a book about two couples and their children, but I didn't buy into any of the friendships or relationships, and the character development just didn't work for me. It's hard to connect with a book or stay interested in it when you can't buy into the story.

surprise me | This book was the perfect example of why you should never judge a book by its cover, though I was really intrigued by the synopsis as well and it still was a huge dud. This was the author's first novel, she's also a screenwriter, and you could definitely tell. The first part was written like it should have been a TV show, or at least that's how I kept reading it. There was too much cheesy dialogue that didn't fit with the book- and there was hardly any character development so I was beyond bored because I didn't care about the characters at all. I just kept thinking what is even happening? I did give it a star for the ending-- because the writing style felt completely different and it actually worked. *this book was provided to me c/o netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Writing this post I realized that in three of the six books I read there was a main character named Lizzie- kind of weird, right? I'd definitely recommend Siracusa and Vanishing Girls. What have you read and loved recently?
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