Things I’m loving for spring

February 24
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Depending on where you live you might feel like spring has already started or like it will never happen. Down here in Florida we are having that one week of perfect 80 degree days before summer starts in March. I generally don’t really have much of a spring wardrobe due to the fact that we don’t have that here, but I have been seeing the cutest stuff this season and I wanted to share some of my favorites. Or maybe this is just a way for me to group stuff I want to buy together for easier shopping later. ūüėČ

First up: Mules. I think I asked over of Instastories if y’all¬†were into mules and I don’t remember a positive response, but guess what? I like them anyways. I LOVE this pair from Madewell, they just seem perfect.¬† Looking for a budget option? This blush pink par from Target are¬†adorable and affordable.¬†¬†I am currently going through my closet finding what I could wear them with. Lastly, I have had this pair from American Eagle in my shopping basket just waiting for the next sale.

Next up: Shorts. Yes, shorts, I am a Florida girl and shorts are pretty much a year round thing. For the last several years I have been getting my shorts from American Eagle. Nice and simple and I always go for a dark wash, lightly distressed mid length cut off like these or these.  I wear these in the spring with a tank and a flannel long sleeve shirt or sometimes a cute long sleeve tee.

Have you seen this super cute top from Old Navy? It might be a sleep shirt, but it is perfect for lazy weekends.¬† All about the coffee.¬† I generally stay away from graphic tees as I don’t get much chance to wear them but I love to keep one or two in the closet for the weekends. I like this one and this one from Old Navy as well. I don’t like to spend a ton on that type of thing as they are more of a short term purchase. Bonus: While grabbing those links I saw Old Navy has a ton of local based tees. Check them out to spread some hometown love.

I am a sucker for a good pair of yoga pants and I love the Lululemon Align II pants. They came out with new colors and I am in love with this new color, So Merlot. It is the perfect blush color for spring. I haven’t purchased these because really, I don’t need them, but if I had a casual job or worked from home I would be all over these.

I love a good pair of dark wash denim. I have this pair by J Crew sitting in my stopping cart. A perfect 9 in. inseam and pockets that make your rear look good. I just love how dark denim can be worn with almost anything to any event, day or night.

Ok, Last item is also from J. Crew, this perfect boatneck tee. This is the kind of classic wardrobe staple that you want from a good retailer. Something that will not fade and will last for years. Classics, am I right?

I am going to go ahead and step away from the computer now before I spend my mortgage money. Are you eying anything that I should know about? Let me know in the comments or tag me on Instagram, I’m¬†@_amberdowns

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Favorite skincare products

January 26
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So tonight while doing my evening skincare routine I realized I haven’t done a round-up here on the blog of my favorites skincare products. So here I am with freshly cleaned and moisturized skin to share them with you.

A little about me and my skin. I had oily skin as a teen but somewhere between 18 and 30 I developed dry dull skin. Honestly, I don’t even know when this happened, I just realized one day that I was still using my teen acne prone skin products and I did not need them anymore. At that¬†point I tossed the clean and clear and grabbed the SPF moisturizer.

Most of my skincare products are drugstore items. Skincare is important and worth spending money on, however I have not yet taken the time to find what high end products I really need. Within the next year I plan on trying out some higher end products and focusing on anti-aging.

My all time favorite moisturizer is CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30. I have been using this for a few years now and it is the perfect mix of moisture and SPF. I love that it comes in a pump bottle so it is less likely to be contaminated like a tub can. Bonus: The bottle is exactly 3 oz and fits nicely in a quart-sized bag. Perfect for your carry on!

This second product is a little more pricey but lasts a long time and is worth it. I received the Lancome¬† Visionnaire Crescendo‚ĄĘ Progressive Night Peel from Lanc√īme a few months ago and love it. This peel is a 14-day chemical night peel that rejuvenates skin and removed dead skin cells without leaving your face red or irritated like a real peel can. As my skin has aged and become more dry I have felt that my skin needs more than just moisture and this product helps remove those dead skin cells that make my skin dull and bland. After doing the 14 day process I use the product about twice a week to maintain.

If you are interested in a type of peel but do not want to go as far as the above product you may like the ELF Gentle Peeling Exfoliant. Although this product is not as strong as the other, it does help to remove dead skin cells without causing irritation. In fact, this is one of the few products that I feel throughly cleans the skin without leaving it feeling tight and tingly.

Although I generally remove my makeup with a facial soap I sometimes find myself super tired at the end of hte day and don’t want to take the time. For these days I keep a pack of Kirkland Signature Daily Facial Towelettes in my room to clean my face without water. Although I don’t like using these daily, they are great for once in a while and for travel.

My last product for today is¬†¬†Jojoba oil .¬†I use this oil as a facial cleanser here and there to help clean the sebaceous filaments on my chin. This is a skin problem of mine where the hair follicles on my chin collect oil and dead skin cells. For years I struggled with why my chin always seemed to have clogged pores and tried forever to remove them, usually via exfoliation. Well it turns our they don’t go away but I can cleanse them with oil with a process similar to the oil cleansing process. I do this about once a week which keeps the area clear of buildup and helps my makeup apply nicely. I love this as a cleansing process, however it is more time consuming then a regular wash so I don’t do it all the time.

So these are my favorite products. I sub out items here and there and have others but I like to keep things fairly simple. I am looking to ad a vitamin C serum to my regimen in the near future but have not found one that I love, especially when looking at the price tag. If you have a favorite please let me know!

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My wellness planner /meal tracker

January 15
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When Me and my Big Ideas (the Happy Planner people) released the new items for winter 2018 there were few items I felt I immediately needed, however as time passed I started to think that maybe the wellness extension kit was for me. I kept checking my Michaels stores to to see if they had it but I never found one.

I have noticed that when I do not have meals, snacks, ect planned out I tend to either binge on junk or just not eat and I then I end up in a grumpy mood and just kind of over everything. However when I eat well I feel so much better emotionally.¬† I have also noticed that I have gained some weight over the last year. My job is more sedentary than ever and we eat a lot of food. Between the new job and just being a lazy person I am not doing the best I can for my body. I want to be proud of myself and the way I look and I just don’t feel I am there.

My goals with the new planner is to plan out my meals so I know the night before what to bring for lunch and snacks as well as what I need to take out for dinner. Generally, I am pretty good about dinners except the nights that my husband isn’t home. So, I am actually going to have a plan for those nights. wether it be a leftover option or something easy to make that I will actually enjoy. I want to point out that I am not “dieting.” There is no restriction here, but more of a tracking system to plan what I will eat and keep track of what I have eaten. This will also help to go back and see how foods affect my moods. Fun, right?

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So on my last attempt to find the wellness extension I randomly picked up a small recollections fitness planner. (Have you seen the 2018 recollections spiral planners? They really stepped up their game.) Anyways, I loved that it tracked water intake and was super cute. I then walked over to the Mambi products and saw the mini fitness planner. There were only like 5 planners left total and one of them was mini fitness. What a win. Anyways, it had a place for meals, snacks, activity, water intake, and calories. Although I did not need all of these sections, it really seemed like the best option so I grabbed that and the mini fitness sticker book.

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Anyhoo, after reviewing the wellness extension online and comparing it to this mini I think I ended up with something that will work better for my needs. It tracks all my meals, exercise, and water and can be carried in my bag whereas the extension pack was just going to stay with my home planner which does not go everywhere with me. The fitness planner does track calories which I will skip as I do not collect that information. I am a little disappointed that the wellness extension did not include more, I feel like it was more of a regular planner with an emphasis on wellness/self care instead of a planner just for that. I guess that would work for some, it is just not what I was looking for for me.

Photo of the Wellness Extension from shop.meandmybigideas.com

Photo of the Wellness Extension from shop.meandmybigideas.com

I will also be tracking my steps in this mini planner. I have used a jawbone in the past but did not want something bulky on my wrist so I bought a Jawbone up move so that I can clip it into my top, pocket or bra to track my steps on the sly. Bonus: These are less than $15, what a great deal. My *goal* is 10k a day which is where I was back when I was a busy Children’s librarian running around in the summer. I know I will not hit it every day, but I want to try. This may mean walks before or after work or taking

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I also bought a new scale to track my weight. I have never personally owned a scale as I do not take much heed in what it says, but I want to have a way to track progress a little more. I purchased this scale for under $12 on amazon and it works great. It can connect to apps but I did not fuss with that because who needs their phone and scale to talk, really.

So this is where I am at right now. I just bought all this yesterday so it is new to me but I think it is a step in the right direction. I will share more in a few months once I get a better feeling for what I am doing. Until then if you have questions ask me here or on Instagram.

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Five to buy and five to try

January 5
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I recently stumbled upon a blog post by Jamie at  Perpetual Page Turner and I love her blog. It is all about books and life. Anyways, I loved her post about Five to Rebuy and five to Tray and it inspired me to write my own.

As you know, I love sharing about my favorite products, but even when I love something, I don’t always love it enough to find that I must rebuy it. I figured this post was a great way to share products that are so great I keep buying them. It is also a way to share things I am interested in and considering. Perfect for you to share your experience with that product.

 

Five to try

Jamie mentioned this RMS illuminator and I think it is finally time to get it. I have been hearing about it for some time and I think it might be a great way to brighten my dry, dull skin.

I have been hearing about the new Olay Whips moisturizer and  I want to give one a try. I have been using Cerave  for some time now but I would like to focus a little more on anti-aging now that I have entered my thirties.

I heard about this BB cream by Erborian this from @Karlareed on Instagram. She says it is a great basic all around face cream. Nice and light but does a lot of work for aging skin. It is a little bit pricy, but it sounds like it is worth it. Might be a great summer staple.

Ok, this one I technically already have, I just haven’t used it yet. This comes from a recommendation from Kate from the small things blog. I love gel manicures because they last so well, but sometimes I don’t have the time to do it at the salon or don’t feel like the price. This kit from Amazon is apparently amazing and my parents got it for me for Christmas. Hopefully I can use this at home in the evenings and save some time and cash. Once I try it a bit I will share my thoughts on it.

It seems like everyone has been talking about The Greatest Showman.  I was not even aware of the movie until everyone started talking about it all over social media. Bonus: Apparently the soundtrack is great and you can listen to it on Amazon.

 

Five to rebuy:

This hairspray stuff is worth every penny. I play around trying different hairsprays, but this one is always what I go back to.

I try not to use these all the time, but I love to have a simple face wipe available. They are perfect for a bedside table in case you forget to remove your makeup, or for travel/gym/busy days. I sometimes grab one and rip in into pieces to use a little at a time to remove foundation from my lips or messy under eye makeup after a shower.  Bonus: One box lasts FOREVER and they are super gentle. (Note: Costco is a membership store so you must be a member to purchase. Ask around, you may have friends/family that are members if you are not.)

I love Tarte mascara but had not tried this one until recently. It is for sure my new favorite. Lasts all day and looks great with only two coats.

This has been my go to concealer for a few years now. It does a great job and is under $5 on Amazon.

I also need to rebuy this e.l.f. primer. It makes my foundation application super smooth and makes my face feel like a baby’s bottom. If you deal with acne try their version with tea tree oil.¬†

Reading goals in 2018 + planner printable 

January 1
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For 2018 I am going to finally do the PopSugar Reading Challenge. I’m sure most of you have heard of this but basically it’s a challenge to read books outside your usual genre. The prompts are fun but also very open so you have lots of options based on your individual preferences. As I mentioned in my 2017 reading round up, I am also going to try and read more classics this year.

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My favorite part of the PopSugar challenge is that they made a printable checklist to mark the books. I printed this out on cardstock oat 80% and placed it in my medium (classic) Happy Planner. If you have a big Happy Planner you can just print it at regular size. If you have another planner feel free to play with sizing to get it to fit. If you are having problems with sizing I have the best luck printing in Chrome or open with adobe reader.

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I do not plan to track my books in my planner this year. I use Goodreads to track my reading. Every year I also do their reading challenge which is based on reading your goal number of books. This year I am leaving my goal at 60 books. This has been my average for the last few years and I feel it is a good place.

I do most of my reading via audiobooks on my commute and around the house. I do enjoy reading ebooks as well, but I often prefer to use my free time to work on projects around the house rather than sitting and reading. It is just how I like to use my time.

Will you be participating in either of these challenges? What is your goal?

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Meeting my 2017 reading goals

December 29
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So each year here on the blog I share a little about my reading goals/what I’ve read over the year.

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This year I met my goal of 60 books. (yay!) but did not read as many classics as I wanted to. I had wanted to read 12 classics and 12 non-fiction books in 2017 and while I did read the non-fiction I did not meet my goal in classics. So we try again next year. I think my biggest problem with the classics is that I wasn’t super excited about a lot of them so even though I downloaded the books, I didn’t end up reading or listening to them as I wanted to go through the books that I was excited to get my hands on. To help with this I will be asking for recommendations of classic books so that I will be more interested in reading them.

Note: When I say classics I am referring to any book that stands the test of time and is still popular and relevant twenty or more years after its release. To me this includes The Handmaid’s Tale as well as The Iliad.

 

BONUS: Right now Amazon is giving away a $5 credit for Kindle books to most users. To find out if you qualify click here. Please note that not everyone is eligible for this promotion. Promo and credit expire January 1st. Don’t have a Kindle? Find out more here.

 

So, without further ado, here are a few of my favorites books from 2017. To see everything I read in 2017 click here.

 

Non-fiction:
¬†If you’re into history, New York, or public transit you might enjoy The Race Underground by Doug Most.¬† This books shares how Boston and New York created their first subway systems along with all the politics, science, and popular culture around the new system. I love riding the subway when I travel and this was super insightful.


If you have spent much time in the planner world you might be familiar with Emily Ley, creator of the Simplified Planner. Her newest book, A Simplified Life details useful tips and suggestions to make like clean, simple, and enjoyable. This book is for women of all ages and at all places in their lives. Bonus: This book is filled with beautiful photography of Emily and her home.

 

Fiction:

For the longest time I was not a Stephen King fan. I am not into horror and have not read It or The Dark Tower series or anything. This changed in 2012 when¬†a coworker told me I had to read 11/22/63. So I read it and fell in love.¬† If you haven’t read it yet please stop what you’re doing and fix that. So since then I guess I have kind of been a Stephen King fan. I guess? I enjoyed the Mr. Mercedes series and have loved his newest book which he wrote with his son, Sleeping Beauties.

I picked this up on a whim from a recommendation from a coworker and I LOVED it. This historical fiction piece follows three girls from war torn Europe through present day. The ladies lives do connect many times and it is amazing to see what each has been through and how their lives touched one another for good and bad. A chunky read, this book is worth the time and energy and gives a great glimpse into how WWII affected our world and people.

 

This is just a small snippet of what I have read. If your interested in hearing more about what I am reading let me know! I am a professional librarian and I do love sharing books but I don’t want to over do it, so let me know what you’d like me to share. Have a favorite book from 2017? Share it in the comments!
PS: Isn’t this a fun little graphic? Log into your Goodreads account to find it.

 

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New Happy Planner accessories

December 27
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So today Me and My Big Ideas (the people who make the Happy Planner) are releasing new planner products. Although there are no new planners, there are tons of new inserts and stickers.  If you want to see everything check the videos here. Below I will go over the aspects of this release with screenshots from the YouTube video. Items are linked to Michaels and will be in stock soon online.

So the product I am most excited for is the new sticker rolls. The idea behind these is that they took the most popular stickers from the value packs and put them into one easy to access kit. Also included in the stickers release is mini stickers. These are all super cute¬†mini stickers for all sorts of stuff. My favorite part of this kit is that they are not sized for the Happy Planner so they can be used with whatever planner you’d like.

Sticker roll options: Click the link to see info and purchase.
Wellness, appointments, faith, travel, checklists, mom, schedule, food, fitness, and home,

New sticker value packs: Mini, productivity, and budget.

To help turn your planner into a more general planner/notebook/life kit MAMBI has released tons of new inserts. These can be added wherever you’d like in your planner.

My favorite of the new inserts are the mini trendsetter/goal getter(hourly) expansion packs. These are great for someone wanting to try out one of these newer planner styles without committing to an entire year. I am currently using the Goal Getter planner so if you’d like to try it as well this is a great option. Also be sure to check out the Fitness and budget expansions as well if those are areas you’d like to focus on.

The last aspect of this release is the extra pages inserts. We’ve had these types of inserts for some time now, but these are just kind of better. First of all we have new¬†pastel¬†filler paper. These come in lots of color options like neon as well as some with a gold foil header. These are SUPER adorable. These come in regular and BIG sizes.

Besides the full page inserts there are also half sheets. The half sheets have a notes option, a weekly menu plan, and weekly half sheets. There is also an expense tracker that looks super useful for those working on budgeting or if you need to track expenses for work.  The half sheet daily inserts are great for those random busy days.
These items will start appearing in Michaels stores December 28th. Michaels puts out new products as they change for the season so they will be put out when staff have time. If you find items in your store tag me in photos on instagram! I’m @_amberdowns!

All items will also be available in the mambi shop on January 8th.

 

HP winter release PIN

 

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My planning plans for 2018

December 15
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It is December which means it is time to start talking about 2018 planners. Excited? I know, right! For the fourth year in a row I will be using a Happy Planner as my main planner. This year I will be using the Happy Planner Girl Goal Getter planner option. This planner is a little different than the other Happy Planners in that each day is set up in an hourly fashion. I have gone back and forth about this set up but I think in the end I will like it. I will share another post next week explaining how I will set this planner up.

For work I will continue to use my Agendio planner. This company is still fairly new on the scene but is pretty amazing. They allow you to create your own custom planner. They offer daily, weekly, and monthly setups and you can start in any month. You can order your planner bound or in an A5 format like I have both punched or without holes. Agendio does not sell planner binder right now so I put my planner in a 6 ring planner blinder. This is a great vegan option.

Some other great options include:

The Day Designer- These ladies make lovely spiral-bound and A5 daily and weekly planners. Like, now that I am looking at them again I want one again.
Erin Condren Life Planner- A spiral bound weekly planner similar to The Happy Planner. Tons of custom covers

The Happy Planner Mini– A small personal size planner perfect for not-so-busy schedules and perfect to fit in your bag.

Kikki planners– These come in multiple sizes with beautiful leather cases. They are A5 so you can buy refills for your planner case.

Kate Spade- I love Kate Spade and although they are not know as a planner company they make beautiful planners and paper goods. The planners are also surprisingly reasonable.

 

What planner are you using for 2018 and why?

DIY BB9-E from a sock

December 14
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If you recall, back when Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out in 2015 I shared a blog post about a DIY BB-8 that I made after falling in love with the droid.

Well there is a new Star Wars movie coming out this week and to celebrate I wanted to share a DIY BB9-E, a droid from the new movie.

Like my BB-8, BB9-E is made from odds and ends around the house including a sock.  Below are some basic instructions on how I made it.

Materials:

Black socks
Stuffing
Gray felt.  (I love the peel and stick kind.)
Thick cardboard
One brad
Red paint or nail polish.
Small bag of rice
Small rubber bands. (I use the clear hair elastics)
Scissors
Marker
Gray comb
The first thing we did was to make the top. First cut two circles out of the thick cardboard with one slightly smaller than the other. Note: We suggest a thick cardboard both so that it is sturdy and so that when we insert the comb it stays straight and firm.

My husband came up with a great way to make the antenna with a comb. We cut the comb and then removed some teeth. We then poked holes in the cardboard and pushed the comb through. This made it so that the antenna would not come out easily. This is hard to explain to check the photos for details.

So next you are going to want to make your felt circles. I took my larger cardboard circle and traced it four times on my felt. Again, I prefer the peel and stick version because I can draw my outline onto it easily which is super helpful. We freehanded the four circles so feel free to look at BB9-E and decide for yourself what you would like him to look like.

 


Our next step is to start assembling our droid. I started by cutting the leg off the sock and then taking the smaller circle with the comb parts and inserting it into the sock. The goal will be to have the antenna stick through the sock. It may take some playing with to get it to lay just right as the sock toe is in that area.

Once your top is in fill the sock with some stuffing and then add the second circle. Feel free to play with how much stuffing you want as it is all personal preference.

Once you are stuffed and circled take a rubber band and place it around the sock separating the top section from the rest. Depending on size you may want to wrap the band twice.


Now stuff the rest of your sock as much as needed to give your droid a nice round shape. After he is filled take a small bag of rice and put in into the sock. This will act as a weight to keep the droid standing.

Once you are happy with the stuffing and rice take another hair elastic and tie off the sock. Feel free to cut excess off. Play with the rice to get the droid to stand nicely.

 

Next stick or glue (we love this glue)  your felt onto your droid. Cut a few extras for the top. We stuck the brad through the felt and then the sock for the “eye.” We added a dot of red nail polish for the color.

 

 

 

 

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What’s in my bag

November 21
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top | sweater (similar) | pants | shoes| bag

I have been putting off this post forever. I don’t even know why, but I always love to read “Whats in my bag” posts¬†so it is time to do my part and share. I don’t carry a ton in my bag, but there are a few daily “essentials” that I feel like I always need at arms reach.

First of all lets talk bags. If size and weight was not an issue I’d basically carry a diaper bag around constantly. I love having the ability to toss a snack, water bottle, or recent purchase in my bag. It just makes life easy. Sadly, I don’t think carrying around a giant bag really works for me so I strive to keep myself with something big enough for the essentials and a little more, but not huge.


I am currently using this bag and it is perfect. I love that is a mix of casual and professional. I can wear it to work¬†or to yoga without feeling over or under dressed. I do like to change my bag out on occasion, but I don’t like to feel like I have to. (Budget friendly option here.)

 

Contents:

Sunglasses: I swap between these in matte black and these in gold.

Wallet: Kate Spade (Similar)

Lip balm: Carmex

Lip products: It changes all the time but today I am carrying this in lolita and this in homeslice.

Nail file: These are inexpensive and disposable.

Spin pins: I love using these for quick top knots on the go. The best part? They don’t leave bumps in your hair like a regular ponytail does. I like the gold ones as it adds a touch of class.

Notebook: I usually have a small field style notebook like this.

Headphones (for audiobooks): Regular apple headphones.

Powder: I’ve been enjoying this light powder foundation from Tarte. Perfect for on the go.

Zip pouch: I like to carry a the smaller items in this little pouch from Tarte. I love this leather one.

If I am going to be out and about for the day I usually toss in a snack , water bottle, and my planner.

So this is a peak into what I carry. What are your daily essentials?