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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

Prime Day 2017

July 10
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It is here friends, Amazon Prime day 2017.  This is the day when Amazon gives deep discounts on some of their most popular products. and services.

 

Don’t have a prime account yet? See why you need one here and sign up over here.

Already a Prime member? Get $10  to use on Prime Day when you stream Prime Video for the first time on your TV.

 

My favorite deals:

Amazon Echo Regular $179.99 on sale for $89.99. HALF OFF!!

Kindle Fire 8″ Regular $79.99 on sale for $49.99

Kindle Fire 7″  Regular $49.99 on sale for $29.99

Ninja Coffee Bar: Regular $179.99 on sale for $104.99 (Add it to your cart to get the deal.)

Promo code: $5 off a $15 books purchase with code PRIMEBOOKS17

Check out these beauty deals at 40% off here.

Favorite longwear lip products

July 7
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Let me tell you, the day I discovered long wear lip products was the day my life was changed. I am one of those people who just look and feel 100x better with a little bit of lip color. I have a fairly pale complexion so just a little bit of color really does go a long way. Sadly, most of the products I have tried in the past wore off during the day and I just don’t have time for touch ups every two hours.

Today I am sharing a few of my favorite long wear lip products both from department store and drugstore brands. I use all of these products regularly and have been impressed by their results.

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Maybelline Super Stay Matte Lip 

This is the newest Maybelline lip product right now. I was lucky to have two colors sent to me to test out and let me tell you, I LOVE it. I was unsure at first as it goes on a little sticky, but it dries within a minute and really does last all day.  My favorite is Lover.  I put this on at 8pm one night and forgot to wash it off when I went to bed. It was still on the next morning at 11am.  Amazing. FYI you will want to use a stronger makeup remover to take this off. I suggest this to remove it. Oh, and I love that this is on Amazon Prime.

 

Kat Von D Liquid Lip

I love Kat Von D products for their longwear ability. Her foundation is one of my favorites and this lip product has been added to my list.

 

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I was recently sent a bottle of this lip product and was super confused when I opened the package. The whole thing is only like two inches tall. They call this a shaker product so instead of the traditional long tube with a wand you have a bottle that you shake and then the applicator is in the lid. You can then use this tip first to line the lips and then fill in with color. The dry time on this one is a little longer but it is worth it. I am loving this in pink.

 

CoverGirl Outlast All-Day Lip Color

This was the first long wear lip product I had ever used. I purchased it at CVS but was unaware of its power until I tried it out. After using it I was in love. I had always been the person who was either reapplying lipstick all day or with colorless lips after 10am. (It was usually the latter.) This product is actually a two step system. The liquid color is applied and then after it dries there is a clear gloss cover to lock it in and add moisture. I got tons of compliments and told anyone who asked about it how awesome it was.

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Disclosure: Some of the items shared today were provided free of charge for review. All opinions are my own. Also, This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item via a link from the page I will receive a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay for the item. In fact, I research the best prices for my site. 

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Happy 4th!

July 4
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Happy 4th of July

 

Happy Independence Day friends. I may be home alone sick, but I wanted to take a second and share a few favorite recipes just in case you are still looking for something to bring to a gathering.

Love cookies and sprinkles? These festive red white and blue cookies are perfect and so easy to make. (Actually, I may go make some right now….)

Check your fridge, you may have everything you need for this simple, healthy, fruit salad. 

Thirsty? Check out this 10 minute sangria recipe that looks like something from Martha Stewart.

Still looking for more ideas? See this cute pool party I hosted a little bit ago, complete with a DIY mimosa bar.

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Six tips for your next yard sale

May 31
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six tips for your next yard sale

1. Have change, and lots of it.
Go to the bank a few days before your sale get some change. I suggest $50 in small and medium bills along with several dollars of change. Inevitably your first buyer will need to break a twenty-dollar bill for a two-dollar purchase. Many yard sale regulars will come with small bills, but you never know. Have a plan for what you will do if you cannot make change along with a rule for the highest bill you will take. I suggest never accepting anything other than cash at your sale unless you’re equipped to take card.

2.  Group like items together.
For my sale I had one table with all the “girly” stuff, another with home decor, one for nerdy toys, and another for misc home goods. This way buyers could gravitate to tables that had the types of items they were interested in and not become overwhelmed by number and variety of the items. Feel free to mention tables to buyers who you think may enjoy their contents. They may have overlooked them.

4. Make your sale welcoming.
Think about how you feel walking into a well designed and organized store versus how you feel when you enter a messy thrift shop or discount store. Pull items out of boxes and display in an appealing manner. Hang clothing when possible or place on tables. Items off the ground are easier to see for most buyers. Look around your home and garage to find ways to make tables. We used plastic totes and the top of a broken coffee table.

3. Price it out
Place prices on as many items as you can. This will save you time in the future when you have five customers needing help at the same time and can also attract customers that don’t love the item but love the price. While we are talking about prices…

4. Give your prices wiggle room
Finding the perfect yard sale price is hard. You want your prices to be inviting, but you don’t want t give your items away. Also remember that many customers will want to bargain with you for a better deal. I always suggest pricing 25% higher than you think is a good deal for an item so you have wiggle room but the price is also enticing to a non-bargaining shopper.  Don’t have a clue how to price your items? Stop by a few sales the weekend before to see what going rates in your area are.

5. Be firm with your price and stipulations.
This may seem to go against my previous tip, but please be firm with your shoppers. I have been to so many sales were a seller has a customer that was low-balling and the seller does not know what to do. Let the buyer offer lower as mentioned about but be firm with your lowest price. I had a set of curtains at my sale that I was asking $10 for. The customer offered $5 and I said $8. Shen then kept trying to get me lower even though I told her it was my lowest price. Stick to your guts and be firm. Yes, you want to make some money, but its not worth it to just give your stuff away. (Yet.)

6. Have a plan for when it’s over
Have a plan for your stuff after the sale. You may make a make a decent amount of money but I am sure you will still have boxes of stuff to deal with. I suggest using this time to call a local charitable organization or thrift shop and having them come pick up whatever it left. If you have the room you may want to save some of the better items for a sale the following year, but if you think it will be over a year before your next sale I suggest you just donate the items. Exceptions to this rule are items for sale over $30. These items can be listed and sold on craigslist, Facebook, Offerup, or Poshmark (clothing).

I hope these tips helped you get an idea of how to set up and run your sale. Good luck!

Summer 2017 favorites part 1

May 21
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Hey all, I know its been pretty quiet around here but I wanted to jump in and share a few of my favorite things so far this summer. Now yes, I know technically it is not summer yet but if you were in Florida right now with me you’d totally feel like we’ve been in summer for several weeks now.

 

The first is this baked salmon recipe. I haven’t cooked very much fish in my adult life due to being cheap and the fact that until recently my husband wasn’t a fan. Several months ago I started cooking it again and slowing working it into our diet. My husband has been super sweet and has tried and almost enjoyed the fish so we’re making it a weekly thing now. Also, do you shop at Aldi? Their prices on frozen vacuum sealed fish cannot be beat. And they’re good!  Anyways, I’ve made this salmon recipe twice now for family and friends and it was enjoyed by all. I love how simple it is to make in the oven on a sheet pan with tin foil; the cleanup is a breeze and the house does not smell like fish like it does when we pan fry.  WIN

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Hey, did you know Charlie and I run a board game blog? Well now you do. It is boardgamingcouple.com and we talk all about old and new board games from the perspective of a board game veteran and a novice. It is a great place to find ideas for games that everyone can enjoy both as a couple and with friends. Recently, a company reached out to us to try out their new game Manicdotes and we really enjoyed it. You can read about it here.

 

Spending some time in the 🍻 tent at @orlandofringe. #orlando #orlandofringe #ofringe26 #orlandofringefestival #beer

A post shared by 📒 Amberdowns.net 📒 (@_amberdowns) on


Charlie and I have spent the last few days at the Orlando Fringe Festival and have been having a blast seeing tons of shows, friends, food, and of course spending time in the beer tent. I’ve been drinking Kona Hanalei Island IPA and loving it. It has what I am looking for in a simple, fruity, drinkable IPA. It has some light fruity hints (I am loving fruity and citrus beers this summer.) and only a 4.5 ABV which is perfect for the summer. I’ve seen this beer is in stores but always passed it up for something more “craft,” but honestly, I am going to have to grab a 6-pack to drink by the pool.

 

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Last month Lancôme sent me a gift of several products to try out. I loved them all, but I wanted to share with you my new lipstick favorite Lancôme Matte Shaker Liquid Lipstick. Lancôme sent me the Pink Power color and at first I was kinda bummed because I don’t wear bright pink lipstick but then I said “screw it” and wore it anyways. Guess what friends, I loved it. I wore it to a girls night with my sister and it was fun just doing something different. It does really last, like so much that you’d better have some makeup remover at then end of the night or else you will have day two pink lips. It was great for something fun and different and I can’t wait to pick up another shade as I love a lipstick that really does last all day.

That’s all I have to share for now but keep an eye out for some summer clothing favorites in the near future. ❤

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item via a link from the page I will receive a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay for the item. In fact, I research the best prices for my site. All printables are free. Enjoy!