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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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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?

 

My Instant Pot

September 19
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The current biggest fad in kitchen gadgetry is the Instant Pot. What is an Instant Pot you ask? It is a seven in one magic mystical cooking device. It is a slow cooker, a rice cooker, a pressure cooker, and a yogurt maker. It sautés, steams and might even read your dreams. OK, maybe not that last one, but you get the picture.

I had been lusting after this pot for about a year when I finally grabbed on on Prime Day from Amazon in July. The most popular function of this device is pressure cooking. In the past, pressure cookers were stove top devices that many of us remember being warned about as children. I remember my grandmother having one and my mother being scared to death that she would hurt herself with it. So when people started talking about pressure cookers again I was surprised that nobody was concerned about safety. After doing a little research I realized that these new cookers are much safer and have several fail-safes set up to protect users. 

So the idea is that this is a total time saver. In pressure cook mode  it cooks meat, both frozen and fresh in no time and can prepare the types of dishes you generally make in a slow cooker in a fraction of the time. Pressure cooking is great for dried beans which we have recently converted to. I used to cook my beans in a slow cooker and it just took all day. In the Instant Pot I can get them done in a fraction of the time.

I’ve been using mine for a few weeks now and have been enjoying it. My only complaint is that many of the recipes online say something like “from raw to on the table in 15 minutes,” Which totally skips the time it takes the machine to get up to pressure as well as the time it takes to release said pressure. So keep that in mind when planning out a timeline with an instant pot.

 

Anyways, here are a few recipes I have made and liked:’
Orange Chicken (Even the hubs liked this and he’d never had it before)
Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes  (I added a packet of carrots for a one dish meal)
Simple shredded chicken (from frozen!)
Potato Salad (Or at least the potatoes and eggs)

I’ve also  successfully cooked baby back ribs, frozen ground turkey, and hard boiled eggs and I can’t wait to make yogurt in the future.

Do you have an Instant Pot? Please share your favorite recipes with me! Also, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram where I am sharing my Instant Pot successes whenever I can.
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My favorite planner stickers

September 3
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Please note: This is not a sponsored post. Affiliate links are in use.

There are a lot of companies out there making planner stickers these days.  At first they were few and far between, expensive and online only. Now it seems you can get them everywhere. By far my favorite planner stickers are the Happy Planner Value Packs.

You get your monies worth. These packs retail for about $20 but often times you can get them for less on sale or with coupons. Each pack comes with 30 sheets so this is less than a dollar a sheet at retail price and even less when they are on sale.

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I love cute stuff as much as the next girl, but I want stickers that help me make the most of my planner. When I use stickers in my planner I want to mix both function and form. I like to keep two types of sticker books at hand, cute ones, and fictional ones.

 

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If you have a Michaels nearby that is great, but if not you can pick up a set on Amazon with free prime shipping if you’re a member. I hate waiting for stuff, so I love how accessible these are. By just having one of two of these around I can make a super cute layout that really helps me make the best of my week.

 

Have you used these stickers? What did you think?

 

 

 

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Summer Favorites

August 30
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So it has been a hot minute since I have done a favorites post, but I think it is time to get back into it. I have a few fun things to share today and I’ll try to get back into sharing on a monthly basis.

 

I have been loving this Stok refrigerated cold brew coffee. I generally just make regular coffee in my french press to use for iced coffee but this stuff is just too good. I got it on sale for $3.99 for the 48 oz bottle at Publix which seems great. The only downfall? It is so good I could drink the entire bottle in a few days.

 

If you’ve followed me much you might know that my husband and I run a board game blog. We have been running around the last few months trying new games and even went to Gen Con in Indianapolis to play new games. One of my favorite new games we have tried is Cottage Garden. I love how beautiful and calming the art is. Although the game itself seems very chill it is also a great logical competitive game. My husband and I love to play together on a quiet evening as it is a challenge but not too much. It is also great for kids as it involves lots of great analytical thinking skills.

 

About two months ago I was in a Walgreens minding my own business when I saw that the e.l.f. section of the cosmetics area has a bunch of clearance signs. Of course I had to check it out. I don’t use a ton of e.l.f. products, but they do have a few I am loyal to. Read about those here.  I was super lucky and found many of their products half off. I bought a few of my favorites as well as a few new items which included this foundation blurring brush. So I took it home and there it sat for almost two months until I really needed to clean my regular foundation brush but hadn’t and then remembered I had this. Let me tell you. I LOVED it. Super soft, smooth, lots of bristles, and no fall out. It really does live to the name of blurring. Prefect for your favorite liquid foundation.

 

My birthday was in July and my super sweet sister got me the Tartelette In Bloom Clay Palette from Tarte. I had been wanting a new eyeshadow palette but kept telling myself that my old Naked 2 Palette was enough. This palette is everything you could want in a palette. Rich colors, lots of options and great pigment. I love that I can make day and night looks and all of the colors are ones I will actually use. (thanks sis!)

Ok, that’s all for today. I will check back next month with a new list of favorites. Have you tried something new and loved it? Comment here with what is is or tag me on instagram or twitter.  I’m @_amberdowns.

Planner review- Agendio

August 8
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For months I have been searching for the perfect, affordable, sturdy, A5 planner and I think I may have found it. Agendio is a custom planner company that makes both daily and weekly planners as well as A5 and spiral bound options.  I had found other companies that made daily A5  options, but many of them cost  way too much, were not visually appealing, or did not have strong paper.

My favorite part of Agendio is that you can customize basically everything about your planner. First you get to decide if you want a full planner (think spiral) or if you just need inserts which they size and punch for Filofax, Franklin Covey, Day Timer, and regular 3 ring binders. Because I will be using this product for work I wanted an A5 planner punched to fit into my Filofax.

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I have been using an A5 for work for over a year now and I have enjoyed how functional it is.  The binder itself has lots of pockets to stash things, I keep a pouch in the back to store things, and the I keep a punch at work so that I can add pages as needed so I always have what I need with me.

Ok, onto this planner.

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I chose a fairly simple daily layout. I wanted an area for my priorities first thing as well as a place for a schedule/appointments.  I also made a notes area on the right where I can list to-dos as well as notes from meetings and phone calls. I like to log all this information in my daily sheets so when I need to go back and reference it, I can just go to the day the meeting or call took place. When I need more space I just add a blank sheet to the page.

One of the most awesome aspects of this planners is that you can add events like holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries as well as reoccurring events like yoga every Thursday. I used this to add daily blog task reminders so that I would keep them in mind.

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You can also add on fun extras like a page marker bookmark, notes pages, contacts pages, and the most interesting add-on, perforated page corners. The idea is that you rip it off after the day so it is easy to keep track where you are in the book. It makes sense, but is till new to me.

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I can keep talking about it here, but really you need to just check it out and play with the customizer to see which setup is best for you. The customizer is so easy to use and makes total sense.

 

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Note: Agenido sent me a free product for review purposes. All opinions shared are my own.

Six things to do before you start your new job

July 17
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So today I am starting a new job at a new location. I will be working will an entire new staff who have only met me during the interview process and know nothing of the former work Amber. Part of me is extremely scared; new jobs are scary. The other part of me is excited. How often do we get a do-over, a fresh start? Think of starting a new job as the first day at a new school. You are a new person and you can be whoever you want to be. Were you the office gossip at your old job? The person everyone always asked for the latest news? Now is your chance for a fresh slate; a chance to become a better person.

Today I am sharing a list of six ways you can change your office self to make the most of the new job. the first are habit based and the rest are personality based. Please note: I am not saying change who you are. Please never change who you are. However, we all have bad habits and lifestyle choices we would like to change. This is my and your change.
1. Change your morning routine.
I am one of those people that seem to always leave for work just in the nick of time. I’m not late, but I’m not early either. I’d like to take this new opportunity to change my mornings. I am getting up earlier and doing 20 minutes of yoga in the morning to help stretch and relax myself. Although I am not new to yoga, I am exited to use this change in my life to set a time to practice it more. Do you wish your mornings went differently? Now is your chance to mold them to your liking. Maybe you’d like to read or work out in the morning, or maybe just have time to check your email. Use your new job to reset your mornings into what you want them to be.
2.Change your morning beverage.
Coffee person? Tea person? Chances are you are somewhat identified by your A.M. drink choice. Use the new job to force a change if needed. When I started my last job I decided I was going to drink 40 ounces of water during the work day. Other staff noticed and this became part of my work identity which made it easy to keep up. If they didn’t see me drinking water throughout the day the sometimes even asked why.
3. What about food?
Now is a great time to switch it up and start bringing your own healthy lunch to work. Become known as the person who always has great lunches and is a regular in the breakroom. Your coworkers will notice this and may even ask you for ideas. Once they know you’re a brown bagger they will hopefully skip you when they go out for fast food.
4. Refresh your wardrobe
Surprisingly, one of the hardest things to change is our appearance. Often times when you start changing how you dress or wear your hair or makeup, people start to talk. Why is Amber suddenly wearing a skirt and makeup? Everyone wants to know. However, at your new job you could be the person who always looks her best. (Pro tip: Wait until a day or two on the job to purchase new clothes. This gives you a minute to get a better idea of the workplace culture and dress.

5. Go to happy hour
As we have already kind of mentioned, you coworkers remember you and what you do or don’t do. If you say no to Happy Hour or other after work events enough times they stop asking. Maybe this is your chance to join the group. Of course on the other hand, if you need to skip Happy Hour tell your new coworkers that you cannot hang out after hours and they will stop asking.

6. Be organized
Wether or not you were organized and used a planner at your old job, now is the chance to jump on that bandwagon. Depending on your job, you may or may not need a daily planner to help you with your work. I have been using a daily planner for the last few years at work and it has made me so much more productive, prepared, and responsible. Check back in a few weeks for an update on my work planner.

 

I know I am super excited about my first day and I hope that these tips are useful to you. Have any other great ideas for starting a new job? Share then in the comments.

 

Other posts you may enjoy:

What I keep in my work bag.

Six simple things I do on Sunday for a successful week

Spaces