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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!


DIY coasters from ceramic tiles

February 21
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While prepping for our holiday party we knew that we would want to have a favor to give our guests when they left the party. We wanted the favor to be a custom item related to the party, but also inexpensive and useful. We landed on this coasters made from the same design we used for our party invites.

I had tried making these coasters before but was not 100% successful as the Mod Podge didn’t seem to fully set the design. I ended up with a coaster that got sticky and stuck to my cup when met with condensation.  Not good! Especially if we had tile floors!


Anyways, my lovely husband looked into it and decided that if we used a shellac then we might get a better result.  We tried this out and were super happy with the results. The final product will need several coats, but it is an easy process.


Ceramic tiles
Mod Podge 
Scrapbook paper or printouts
Brush (Just about anything will do)
Felt feet (Amazon seems to have the best deal.)
Well ventilated space


Note: Purchase your tiles at a local home improvement store. Amazon will try and change you like $1 each when they are $.10 each at Home Depot or Lowes.

Start but cutting out 4 in squares of whatever paper you want to use to cover your coasters. If you have extra scrapbook paper on hand this is a great time to put some cute pages to use. We have also had luck with printed pages from both our inkjet printer and laser printers.

Once you’ve got your squares ready to go place them on your tiles to make sure you are happy with them.  Good?  Good.


Lay out your newspaper (Or don’t if you’re brave like me) in your ventilated space and place your tiles on the sheets.  Using your brush spread a thin layer of Mod Podge on the tile and then place your paper on the tile. Adjust the paper so it lines up as you want it and then cover with another thin layer of Mod Podge.


Let this sit for a few hours. When dry it will be time to begin the Shellac process.  We did 4  coats on our coasters.  We did one coat in the morning and another in the evening.


For the party favors we added g sprinkle of glitter half way through. If you are brave enough to have glitter in your home feel free to try this too. I am not that brave, but luckily the husband is.  Go him!

Alright. Once you have enough coats you can add the felt feet to the four corners of your coaster. After that you’re done.  I like to let them rest a day or two just so that the shellac can cure completely.


Need an easy gift? Make a set of four and put them in a cute box or tie them up with a ribbon. Done!


I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. I gathered inspiration for this post from The Cottage Mama.


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. Enjoy!- Amber D.


Valentine’s Day ideas

February 12
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Image from @shaycochrane

It’s Feburary, so you know what that means, Valentine’s Day. Personally, I am not a huge fan of the holiday. Not because I don’t love love, but because I hate the expectations and ridiculousness that over commercialization of the holiday has brought.  I love the idea of celebrating love; reminding your special person that you love them; even little gifts or trinkets. I just don’t think we should expect our SO to take us to a fancy meal or buy candy that nobody actually likes.


Today I wanted to share a few ideas and things my husband and I have done to share the day without getting caught up in hype.


  1. Prepare a new meal at home- Use this as an excuse for you or your SO to try out a new meal from a cooking show or pinterest. Splurge a little on nice ingredients and a bottle of wine and call it a night. No crowed restaurants and you don’t have to worry about having that extra glass of wine as you are already home!
  2. Get dressed up and go out for fast food- We did this on our wedding. We stopped by Tijuana Flats in our full wedding gear to grab a meal before the after party. We had a blast and enjoyed our tacos and the price tag.
  3.  Due to his line of work, my husband often works the evening of Valentine’s Day (to be honest, I always try to get him to work.) Last year I contacted one of his coworkers and gave her a little goodie bag of treats/gifts for him which she delivered to his work area. He loved being surprised by these little goodies when he arrived at work that evening.
  4. Have a pajama night- Buy junk food, snacks, and your favorite drinks and spend the evening on the sofa watching your favorite movies and eating junk. There really is nothing better than enjoying a movie and junk food with your favorite person.
  5. Exchange children’s valentines- Pick up a box at the store and give your favorite’s to your SO. Bonus- use a marker to edit your favorites. *wink wink*


Do you have any great alternate Valentine’s Day ideas? Share them in the comments



What I read- January 2017

February 8
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If you read my post from last month then you know I have some new reading goals for 2017 as well as a new way to visually track my reading.  I have been using Goodreads for a few years now, but I wanted a way to see the number and types of books I am reading in my planner.

This year my goal is to read 65 books with at least 12 of them non-fiction and 12 books that could be considered classics.  Here is how I am doing this month:


Here is the list of what I read:

The Husband’s Secret– Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty has been super popular as of late for good reason.  In December I read her newest, Truly, Madly, Guilty and realized she is a great writer. She is able to weave a tale that includes, life, love, suspense, and really lets you feel the characters.  This book is another great display of her work. I actually got my mother a copy of this book for Christmas and when I visited her last week she was about 3/4th of the way through it. She loved it too and totally involved in the characters and what was going to happen next. I can’t wait to read more of her books.

The Case Against Sugar– Gary Taubes

This was one of my non-fiction picks for the month and it is a good one. I have been meaning to read Why we Get Fat, also by Taubes, but hadn’t had the chance. This new book came out in December and is the first book I’ve seen that really explains the history of sugar over the last few hundred years which really puts our current consumption into perspective. If you have any interest in nutrition or the history of food as it relates to diet then this book is for you.

Hillbilly Elegy– J.D. Vance

After Trump was elected the New York Times came out with a reading list that was meant to help the other half understand why small town and southern American voted the way they did.  As a person from the south I did not find this book to be too eye opening, but it was a great read and helped me to better understand my own life and how I got to where I am.  If you are looking for information about the south and how it became what it is today I strongly suggest White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg which is a much more scientific look at the subject.

Small Great Things– Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is one of those authors that has been around for awhile but I haven’t sat down and read anything by. Small Great Things, her newest title about a black female nurse from conneticut who gets caught up in a murder case due to racism both overt and subtle. This book is a real tear jerker, but also a great insight into life for so many blacks in America.


Night– Elie Wiesel

This was my choice for a classic title this month. Night in a 1958 autobiography about the author’s time in Nazi death camps where he lost is entire family. Although a short read, Elie does a great job expanding on his story and sharing what it really felt like to live in is world. A great topical read in today’s world. 
Well that’s it.  What did you read last month? Share  below! 

Winter beauty faves

January 31
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Winter Beauty Favorites


Hey friends, I wanted to take a few minutes today to share a few of my favorite products for winter.  Now yes, I know it does not feel like winter AT ALL in Florida this year, but I did spend some time in Chicago this year and have fell in love with a few new things that were perfect for dry damaged skin and hair.



Ponds Dry Skin Cream– I actually bought this accidentally thinking that it was cold cream but was pleasently surpirsed by what it was.  Although not what I was shopping for, this lotion is like an intensive night cream that is so rich and luxurious feeling you’d think you’d spent ten times as much.  Because there is no SPF in this product I only use it in the evenings.  Looking for my favorite daytime moisturizer? Check out CeraVe AM lotion with SPF 30. Perfect for year round use.


Carmex– This is of course the best lip product for dry lips. Try one with SPF to combat that winter sun.


Nivea hand cream tins– I have several of these little tins. One at my desk, one in my bag, and one in my nightstand. The cream is a thick hand cream, not a lotion and really moisturizes my hands on the spot.  Bonus: The tins are super cute and yes, the lids do stay on tight.

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NARS Hilighting Blush- When my skin is super dry and lacking color I like to grab a nice hi lighter to bring it back to life. This one from NARS is perfect.  I always prefer a power to a liquid product in this department.


Tarte Amazonian Butter Lipstick– When I’m dealing with dry winter lips I switch from my holy grail Kat Von D Liquid Lip to a product that is more moisturizing and covers the problem more. This Tarte Lip butter totally does the job.


Nexxus Humectress Moisture Restoring Masque– Hair a dry mess? Try this mask from Nexxus.

What I keep in my work bag

January 13


What I keep in my work bag- all the essentials I keep in my desk at work to handle all the little things that come up during the day.

Although I sometimes wish I was a full time blogger, I do in fact have a “read job.” I am a the head of the reference department at a decent sized public library. I love my job, and I enjoy going to work every day, but it always seems like I forget to bring something.

Because of this, I put together a little work essentials kit.  This kit stays at work and contains all those little things you just might need during the course of a day or would just make the day go that much better.

What I keep in my work bag- all the essentials I keep in my desk at work to handle all the little things that come up during the day.

My kit contains
Face palette
Hair ties
Bobby pins (These are my favorite brand)
Tampons (or pads)
Panty liners
Hand cream
OTC pain medication

You may also want-
Rubbing alchohol
First aid supplies

I also try to keep a few snacks in my desk to munch on when my blood sugar gets low or in case I forgot to bring something.

What is great about these little kits is that fit nicely into a desk drawer or a locker so you can leave it at work and have a little more peace of mind knowing it is there. Of course none of the items mentioned are required and your kit should only contain items that you would need within your work day. Don’t waste your time, money, and space, filling it with anything you might need, its not worth it. Just stick with the essentials that you’ve found yourself needing in the past.

As far as bags are concerned, check around your home and see what you have. I used  a freebie from an Victoria’s Secret order but anything will work as long as it fits in your locker or desk.  No locker or desk? This could also be kept in the car as an all around emergency kit, just make sure the lipstick doesn’t melt.



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. Enjoy!- Amber D.

What I keep in my work bag- all the essentials I keep in my desk at work to handle all the little things that come up during the day.