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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


Hey, did you know Charlie and I run a board game blog? Well now you do. It is 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.


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.


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!

Mother’s day ideas

May 7
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I wanted to take a few minutes and share some great last minute gift ideas. These are all found on Amazon and are prime shipping eligible so  it will arrive well before the 14th.


Up first is this adorable planner. Does mom plan? If not get her one of these just in case she’s interested. BONUS: This one is super cute for summer!

I am loving these matching Mother and Daughter Alex and Ani bracelets! (They come in gold and silver!)


Does she like to read? Where’d you go Bernadette is a great summer read.


Looking for something for a new mom or a mom who is trying to juggle everything? Get her Grace not Perfection by Emily Ley. I love this strong woman and this book.

Nothing looks good yet? Get her a coffee gift set. Its cute, and its coffee!


I hope one of these works for you! Have a great week friends.  <3
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!Easy last minute mother's day gift ideas that will arrive by the 14th!

My new favorite kitchen tool

May 6
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Fun fact: although I love coffee I’ve never owned a automatic drip coffee maker. I used a Keurig for several years and also have used a french press and pour over methods sporadically.

Anyways, I loved my Keurig but I always feel like its expensive and wasteful. I felt like I had to shop around to get the best deals on the k-cups because they are so expensive and I hated throwing the plastic away.

So I stated experimenting with the french press and pour over and and I although the pour over was fun, I didn’t enjoy the time consuming aspect of standing there pouring the water over the coffee. Also, I tended to pout too much water and make a mess. Anyways, I ended up loving the french press but I tried several and none of them were amazing. I wanted to purchase an item that was a “buy it for life” type thing so that I don’t have to go buy another one or worry about it breaking.


So, fast forward a few years and at least three presses and I finally got fed up and started researching what the best press would be. From what I read it seemed that the best way to go was a stainless steel press. At first I was against the idea of a the stainless because I wanted to be able to see the contents of the pot, but after more research and breaking ANOTHER glass press I gave in. (Yes, I broke another one while deliberating over my purchase.)


So, I went to amazon and found this moderately priced press.  Now the $35 price tag totally scared me away at first, especially when I usually went for the $10 models. BUT LET ME TELL YOU. This thing is totally worth the money. The quality level of all the parts are 110%. The filter is a perfect tight fit and the press comes and an extra on just in case you need to replace yours. The cheaper presses I’ve owned all had filters that were subpar and did not fit as tight in the pot.


I had been using the smaller single serve french presses but I went ahead and ordered the larger one for my “buy it for life” item. This worked out well as I was expecting several overnight guests so I wanted  something versatile for larger groups. This press makes four servings of coffee if you don’t use huge mugs. Perfect for my guests!  Anyways, I can still do a smaller batch in the press for just a 20oz mug but I also regularly make a full batch so that I can use the extra to make ice cubes or just stick it in the fridge for iced coffee the next day.


Anyways, I haven’t tried every french press on the planet but I have been using this one for a few months and I am pretty sure its a solid win.



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!

Bullet journal paper

May 2

So if you have been following along you might be aware that I have been experimenting with bullet journaling in my mini happy planner.  Well, I am going to be honest, it has not been going great, but that is my fault.

Anyways, I have been looking to buy some dot paper like you find in bullet journals but it turns out it is a little hard to find and cost prohibitive. I see people selling it precut for the Happy Planner online but it was too expensive for what it was and I knew there had to be a better way. So I of course turned to google and typed in one simple search and came across THE BEST website. Basically the you can just plug in what you want and the page generates a PDF of the dot page for you.


I suggest using a slightly heavier paper such as this HP presentation paper so that your ink does not bleed though.  Also, don’t forget to print on BOTH sides of the paper!


These are the settings that I found to work for me. Print it out and then cut down to the correct size for your planner.

Make your paper here!

Classic Happy Planner: 9.25” x 7”
Mini Happy Planner:   7” x 4.63”
Big Happy Planner: 8.5” x 11”
A5 planner: 8.5” x 5.5”
Personal/A6 planner: 3.7″ x 6.7″
Now grab your punch and you’re good to go!

Looking for more printables? Be sure to check my printable library!

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

Six simple things to do Sunday for a successful week

April 6
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The last few months I have started getting into a great Sunday habit that I feel has really led to better weeks. I am calling it one habit, but my Sunday habit really is a set of six goals that I try to have met each Sunday before I go to bed. Sundays are generally my day off to myself as my husband works them so it is a great time to me to knock out some important errands. Depending on your schedule, you may have another day you do these tasks. Do it when it is best for you. For most of us Sunday is the day before the start of our workweek.

Meal Plan

One of the first things I do Sundays is meal plan. For me, meal planning is picking out dinners for the week as well as ensuring my husband and I have leftovers or other meals for lunches. I like to be realistic so I plan easy meals for busy nights and more elaborate dinners for nights when I am off or actually have time. I also take my husband’s schedule into account so if I know he is working late Thursday night I may make that a leftovers night instead of trying to cook a full meal just for myself. You know you and your family. Make a plan that works for you, but also be flexible with it. Want to grab tacos on Tuesday? Go for it, just make Tuesday’s meal on Wednesday! 


After I have my meals I put together my grocery list. I add items for meals as well as check the staples in the pantry and fridge. I also text my husband and get any ideas from him. This is a great time to check the bathrooms and storage as well to ensure you are stocked up on toiletries and paper products. My goal is to have everything for the week purchased so I don’t have to make extra trips to the store during the week. After the list is made I do my shopping and put away my purchases.


Next I walk into my closet and plan my outfits for the week. When I tell people I plan my outfits they are usually a little shocked at first, but after I explain my process a little more they get it. Yes, I do plan my work outfits, but I am not super strict about it. I will hang them in an area of my closet in order Monday, Tuesday, ect, but I am very flexible on when I wear what. I also look at my planner to see if I have any important meetings I need to dress up for or any other plans that might affect my wardrobe choices. I also like to glance at the weather as well. This really makes getting ready in the dark in the morning easy. Just grab a set and go.

As I mentioned, these outfits are hung in order in the front of my closet. If camisoles are needed I grab them and put them on the hangers. Going through my drawers looking for the hot pink camisole at 6:30 am is not fun.

Generally my laundry is already done by this point, but if there is an item I need for the week now is the time I’d toss it in the wash and do a load.


Back to food again. I know it sounds silly, but having all the meals thought out really does set me up for a better week. I like to pick up my snacks for the week at this time. Granola bars, fruit, and hard-boiled eggs are my current favorites. Usually I eat a small snack in the afternoon at work to tie me over until dinner.  Now is the time I cook any rice, quinoa, or beans my husband or I need for lunches.

The Car

One my last to dos is to check my car. I clean out anything left from the week before and ensure it is gassed up for the next week. Getting gas Monday morning is just not fun.


The last thing I do is more of just a generally habit. I like to take a few minutes in the afternoon and just pick up anything around the house or the kitchen. It is great to go into the workweek with a clean house; it really helps me mentally prepare for the week.

I like to have all this done by dinnertime so I can make dinner and enjoy the evening before the workweek. Keep in mind, this system works well for me but please optimize it for your own use. Maybe you don’t pack a lunch or you wear a uniform. Skip those steps and feel free to add anything else you need. Also don’t feel like you need to spend an entire day getting ready for the week. You of course do need to grocery shop every once in a while, but the rest of this is easy stuff that does not take a lot of time. Enjoy your day and plan to have a great week!


Six Simple Things


What I read- March 2017

April 3
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It is that time again; time to share what I read last month. I made my way through several books last month, and honestly I was really happy with most of them. Read through to see what I liked and what I didn’t.

The Handmaid’s Tale- Margret Atwood

With the upcoming Hulu mini series I wanted to make sure I had this book finished before the show came out. I was able to read the book for free on Kindle Unlimited which was a great deal! (Follow the link for a free one month trial.)  I am big fan of utopian/dystopian fiction so I was surprised that I hadn’t read this book already. The story is not for the faint of heart, and deals with some ugly topics but is a great book to remind us to look at our world and be aware of how the small choices we make as a people could multiply and become a serious issue.

The Last Days of Night- Graham Moore

This great piece of historical fiction is about the battle to rule the electric light bulb between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse. The book explains how Nikola Tesla was involved in all of this and is a great introduction to these men. I listened to this on audiobook and felt the narrator did a great job with Tesla’s accent.  If you enjoy history and the turn of the century this is a must read (or listen.)

The Moor’s Account- Laila Lalami

Some friends and I started a new book club recently and this was the title selected. Before it was chosen I had not heard anything of this book, but when I found out it was about Narvaez expedition I was excited. The Moor is a black slave that was one of the few survivors of the fateful expedition and the book is his tale of what happened as well as the story of how he became a slave. Sadly, I did not love this book. It was alright and worth reading, however it really dragged on for me. You may love it, but again, it just wasn’t for me, I was bored.

The Animators- Kayla Rae Whitaker

Truth: I picked up this book because the cover looked cool. I figured it would be about life in California working for Disney, or something like that.  That is 100% not what this book is about, but I think it might be better than that. The female duo are indie film creators and the book is a look into their lives, the tragedies they face, and how the are overcome. I loved the real grittiness of this book. The characters are real and the book deals with real life issues. Also, they are so cool it makes me a little jealous.

Big Little Lies- Liane Moriarty

I am going to guess that you have heard of the new HBO series Big Little Lies and that is it based of this book. In case you hadn’t, well, now you know. I have read a few or Moriarty’s books and so far this one has been the most intense for me. I love how real this book, as well as her others feel. They deal with real issues, real families, and tragedies that do happen. I am not going to go into detail as I don’t want to ruin anything, but this book is great.  Like her other books I have read, this title takes place in Australia which is always fun.

The Trespasser- Tana French

I am new to French’s books and so far I enjoy them. This a a cop mystery that takes place in Dublin which gives it some fun vocabulary as well as accents to play with. Although a procedural cop mystery, I enjoyed the tale and how it was shared. The title wasn’t super deep or emotionally riveting, but it was a great story and worth my time to read and escape. I will be adding her to my list of vacation reading authors or for when I need a change or pace.


So that concludes what I read for this month. If you’ve been following along you may have noticed that I did not meet my goals of non-fiction and classics this month. Oh well, I have plenty of time to catch up, and I am already ahead in non-fiction.

Screen Shot 2017-04-02 at 9.43.30 PM

As far as the Goodreads challenge is going, I am ahead which is great. Feel free to follow my on Goodreads to keep up with what I am reading and have read.


Well that is all for this month. What have you read lately?
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!

Starting a Bullet Journal in a Mini Happy Planner

March 18


I have been putting off getting a bullet journal for some time now. I keep thinking about it, but always stop when I realize how much setup is involved. I LOVE lists and the idea that all your lists and info can be kept together, but I always just kind of stop when I start to think about filling out the monthly calendars. It is just a little too tedious for me.  After seeing the mini happy planners that came out last year I started to toy with the idea of using bullet journal style planning in one of these smaller, more compact planners.  Fast forward to today and I have finally done it. I have taken what I feel is the best of both worlds and created a frankenbullet journal that is perfect for me.


My problems with traditional bullet journals:

Generally, bullet journals are done in moleskin notebooks or similar bound books. The means there is a limited number of pages and no option to move things around. With the Happy Planner I can take out and add pages at will which means mistakes are not the end of the world. Believe me, I need this; I make too many mistakes.

My second major issue with bullet journals, as I mentioned above, is that I don’t want to write out the entire calendar.  By this I am not really talking about the calendar grid, but the numbers for the dates. Mess one up and the entire month is ruined. You’ve got to cross out and rewrite it all. Or, even worse, you may not realize your error and end up missing an important meeting or appointment.  Great. By using the premade Happy Planner monthly DATED planner this removes this issue. Yay! (Make sure you buy a dated version, please.)


For this project I purchased:
Mini Dated Happy Planner
Extra paper
Folder dividers
I also used my Happy Planner punch. Don’t have a punch yet? Get one, they are a great investment for Happy Planner users. You can put ANY paper into your planner. It is amazing.


These are the folders in the pack.

As far as paper is concerned I took the easy way out and purchased the Happy Planner paper, however most traditional bullet journals used dotted paper. If you’d like dotted paper you can purchase these premade  dotted pages  or make your own and use the punch it to put it in.


Anyways, so this is what I threw together as my journal/planner. Check back next week to see more about how I am using this planner as well as some printables for it.




Looking for more? Check out my instagram account for planner photos and everything else.

How to start a bullet journal (Bujo) in a MINI Happy Planner by MAMBI.

What I read- February 2017

March 5
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This was a pretty productive month reading wise. As usual, most of these titles were read via audiobook at home and during my commute. If you haven’t tried audiobooks before I strongly consider giving them a change. I was against the idea at first, but have learned to love them. I get my audiobooks from library’s downloadable books service and Audible. (Click the link for a free 30 day trial.)

Why do we get Fat? by Gary Taubes
You will see the theme for much of my reading this month is health related. This title gives an interesting spin on the million dollar question of why we get fat. I am personally not looking to lose weight, however I do know that there is a weight problem in the US and I know that I may not be invincible forever. I’d like to start making the right steps today to lead me and my husband down the right path for the rest of our lives. The main point of this book is that carbohydrates really are the problem, (which I agree with) but he went on to explain why they make us fat and how they trigger our brains. I still want to do some more research on what the author says and will follow up later after my research is finished.

Smart Fat: Eat More Fat. Lose More Weight. Get Healthy Now by Steven Masley
Another health book, big surprise. This author has a great focus on how good fats, protein, and fiber really are the main food groups we need to worry about. This goes hand in hand with what Taubes said in the previous title and also agrees with the idea that we should avoid carbs. The book includes a great list of foods that qualify for the three groups and how much of each we need to eat.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

As you may recall from my 2017 reading goals post, I am reading one “classic” a month. For February I chose this title. The story is about a boy living in a small town during the summer of 1928. The book  shares his adventures, revelations, and life in a small town. Although I didn’t love it, this is one of his most well known titles and a great book to have read and be familiar with.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

This was a fun read for the month. This is a great modern tale about a well off wife and mother living in Seattle and where life takes her. I am not going to reveal much more in case you want to read it, but it really was a fun read.  The writing reminds me of Liane Moriarty but maybe a little less emotional but still full of drama. This was a great enjoyable read to break up the non-fiction this month and would be a great beach read.

Hidden Figures by Margot Shetterly

I haven’t had a change to watch the movie yet, but I wanted to jump in and read the book ahead of time. While I enjoyed the book, I am fairly sure the movie will actually be better. (Blasphemy, I know.)  Although the book does focus on some of the more emotional aspects of the ordeals the women went though, I am fairly sure the actresses will have done a better job.  The movie comes out on DVD in April so I will have to rent it then and confirm my suspicions.  If you’ve seen the movie and want more background information I think the book will be helpful as there are always more details in the book.

Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout by Laura Jane Grace

I have been a big Against Me! fan since my teens and have been casually following Tom Gable’s male to female transition in the media and was super excited with I heard about his book coming out. I went into this book mostly wanting to read a history of the band and if that is what you’re looking for, that is not 100% what you will find. This book is about Tom/Laura and their life before, during, and after the transition. Yes, the book covers many of the albums, touring, and band life, but it is not about the music, it is about the person. This was a great look into Laura’s head, but it did leave me feeling like the band was only for the buck, not the music.  If you read it, let me know what you think.

The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes
My last book for the month is another by Taubes. This is his newest book and is again very eye opening. If you, like many of us, are starting to realize that we are consuming way too much sugar then this book deserves a read. Taubes shares how much sugar was commonly consumed 50, 100, and 200 years ago and compares those levels to today. We all know there is too much sugar going around, but it is not until you look at the numbers that it really makes sense. He also compares the American diet to that of other countries who do and do not consume sugar like we do. Much of the book is spent explaining the rise of diabetes and how sugar affects it. As someone who has a history of diabetes in my family, I found this information very useful and would like to start limiting my sugar intake to hopefully prevent future illness.


So those are my seven books for the month. Click below to see my goodreads account and see what I’m currently reading and my to-read list. Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 9.56.09 PM


Did you read anything great lately? Share it in the comments or tag me on Twitter or I’m @_amberdowns on both!


Beauty products I use daily (or almost daily)

February 28
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I wanted to share a little bit about the items I use ALL THE TIME. I love trying new beauty products, but somehow I end up going back to my favorites.  This list changes with the seasons and I feel like I wear more makeup in the winter and then kind of tone it down for the summer. Here in Florida makeup sometimes melts off in the heat and I try to get away with as little as possible on those days.



KatVon D Lock It Tattoo Foundation: I know the name sounds a little scary but this is actually an amazing all day, full coverage foundation. It applies nicely and can be diluted with a bb cream if you want a little less of the full coverage look. I use this foundation on long days or when I am going all out with a full face of makeup.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Power Foundation: This is a lose powder foundation that gives great full coverage without the weight of a liquid product.  I apply both of these foundations with the Expert Face Brush by Real Techniques.

Revlon Colorstay Pressed Powder: When I use a liquid foundation I finish with a pressed powder. This one by Revlon does the trick and is a great value.

Tarte Blush: Looking for your go to blush? These Amazonian Clay blushes are the best. They apply and wear amazingly.

Naked Flushed: I love this cheek palette. It has a great blush, bronzer, and highlighter. It is a simple one-stop cheek product and is great for travel.

NYX HD Concealer:  This concealer is a great deal at only $5. I wear it under my eyes, around my nose, and on any blemishes.

E.l.f. Primer:  Primer is a must for me when wearing a heavier foundation. It is not needed for everyone, but if you feel that your foundation does not apply smoothly or that it does not sit on your skin nicely try a primer. In my opinion, this one is just as good as the more expensive brands.


Naked 2: This palette has been around for a few years now but I am still convinced that it is the best of the naked series. Also, it lasts a long time. Looking to spend a little less or something for travel? Try Naked Basics.

Tarte Lights Camera Lashes: My go to department store mascara. I always end up grabbing a tube when this is on sale or when I have a coupon.

Revlon Mascara: Drugstore mascaras come and go, but I am a firm believer that they can work just as good as a department store brand. Revlon continues to put out great mascaras. I go for the ones with the bigger applicators.

Anastasia Dipbrow: Another classic product. This pomade is simple to use and stays on all day. I don’t do a lot with my brows, but a little of this really makes them stand out but with a natural look.



E.l.f. Lip Exfoliator: This product was sent to me to try out for the blog and I loved it. Again, I try a lot of products but most don’t stay around and this one did.  If you, like me, enjoy long wear lip color a lip-exfoliating product is a must!

Kat Von D liquid lip: Remember that long wear lip color I mentioned? This is my favorite brand. It goes on smooth and easy and stays for several hours.  I am usually good for the day with only little touchups after meals.  I can wear this daily without severe drying out of my lips.


So these are my current favorites, have you tried any of them? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! (7)

Early 2017 Faves

February 24
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Hey guys, I know I haven’t been doing regular favorites posts lately but I wanted to jump in and share some things I’ve been crushing on lately.

This is my version of the street tacos


If you know me, you know I love Mexican food and of course tacos.  Over the last few weeks I’ve been taking my taco making skills up to the next level with two AMAZING new recipes.  First I made these yummy Beef Street Tacos, and more recently I tried out these Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa.  Spoiler alert: They were both great and I can’t wait to work them into our meal rotation.


In other news, I’ve been working on my dining room lately. One of the new items I have added is this great teal rug from Walmart. Yes, Walmart! I was in there picking something up the other day and saw it and it was only $80 which was great.  I love the bold color, but if I get sick of it in a few years I can just replace it as I didn’t spend a ton of money on it.  Now that I have that rug in there I am going to be working the rest of the room around those colors.

I know I’ve got valentines colors in here, I’m working on that.


Both January and February found me visiting Antique Extravaganza at the Rennigers Flea Market here in the Orlando area.  First of all, (as I am sure you are wondering) yes, it is big enough of an event to be called an extravaganza. Anyways, I picked up two new cute home decor pieces; a window and a dough bowl.  I know these are both trend items and the bowl is reproduction, but I think they are super cute and really work in my dining room. (Which, as you recall, I am working on.)


I think it must be the early nightfall or the cool air, but I have just been loving curling up on the sofa after work with a good book and reading until bed. When I get out of the  habit of reading physical books I don’t miss it, but once I start back up I swear they are as addictive as coffee and Publix cookies. (Oatmeal Raisin of course.)
Not a favorite yet, but I am considering trying Lipsense. Have you tried it? Do you like it? I am looking for an Orlando area consultant so I can try it before I buy it. Not sure what Lipsense is? It is a long wear lipstick that appears to really stay for 18 hours. It is only sold via direct sales so ask around in your area for a consultant.


Anyway, I hope you liked this collection of a few random things I am enjoying.  Loving anything awesome? Share it with me in the comments! Want to see more things I love? Follow me on Instagram!