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Rebecca Collected

A Little Earring Haul

Sunday, March 24, 2019

A few weeks ago I went shopping with my sister and boy did I need a good shop. There's just something about getting out of the house, hanging out with your favorite people and getting to nose around shops and see what's new and beautiful this season. I was on a mission for wedding related items at the time, but of course sometimes life happens and you end up with more earrings than you previously even owned. You know how it goes. So without further ado, let's take a look at my little earring haul and laugh together as I try to describe them!

Oh and please note, most of these are from H&M aka the fastest of fashion so 1) please don't judge me too hard for shopping there and 2) I did my best to find links for these but even though I bought them only a couple weeks ago, they're no longer online. I tried to find similar items where possible.

I think my obsession with everything tortoiseshell began spring of last year, especially with this post, and it hasn't slowed down since. These earrings are just another manifestation of that fixation, but they're perfect. Lightweight, not too flashy, and they kind of blend in with my hair so I could easily wear these at my very casual workplace and not feel overdressed.
Similar H&M $14.99
Similar H&M $12.99
Similar H&M $5.99

To be quite honest, I really liked these when I was in the store, and since coming home I like them less. I still think they're fun, but I'm struggling to come up with outfits I'd wear with them. Everything else I have is pretty organic feeling, and these are so very structured. At least they'll be fun to experiment with!
H&M $6.99

I think of these as little blobs of gold. If you find a better way to describe them, please let me know. They're super lightweight which my ears appreciate, but still pretty dressy so I'll likely be saving these for nights out. As you can see in the picture they're already a little scratched so I'll have to be pretty gentle with these, especially given how reflective they are.
Similar H&M $14.99

I think these will be the most wearable of all the earrings I picked up. They open from the middle and just snap close, so there's no stupid tiny back to wrestle with. The post is a bit thicker than most earrings I think so that was a little uncomfortable at first but my ears quickly got used to that. Much better than the time they put an earring into my rook piercing 2 sizes bigger than they had before, but that's a story for another time... Anyway, these are fun to wear, pretty easily dressed down for work and up for play and I love the chunky look.
Target $7.99

I am in love with these, but ironically I still haven't worn them yet. In my eyes they're the most dressy of the earrings I bought, so I'm waiting either for an actually dressy occasion or for it to warm up enough that I can dress up a white t-shirt, high rise blue jeans and casual shoes with these gorgeous things. Just look at the shape of those "pearls." And the "gold" posts that remind me of tree bark. I die.
Similar H&M $14.99
Similar H&M $12.99

I definitely have my work cut out for me getting wear out of all of these, especially when I've been religiously wearing my Mejuri mini hoops and some studs John got my for Christmas throughout this winter. Now that it's spring though maybe I'll actually go outside every so often and have an excuse to dress up a little. What a concept. Until next time, have a good week!

My Week in Workouts

Sunday, March 17, 2019
Guys. There's sunlight and warmth outside. It's a miracle! Spring is finally here, which is fantastic because my poor winter boots need a break from being worn every single day, but it also means that we're on the home stretch before our wedding. For the last few weeks we've been focusing on keeping a really consistent gym schedule so we can feel great for our wedding and honeymoon. Neither of us want to change a lot -- no major weight loss or gain goals, no bulking up or shredding, just good old fashioned maintenance and basic strength. I thought I'd take you guys along for the week to show you what we've been doing lately and talk a bit about what our gym plans are up until the big day!

Weekends have been active rest days for us for as long as I can remember. Some people like having the leisure of more time on the weekends to hit the gym, but I'd rather squeeze it in during the weekdays and then use my weekend time for delightful tasks like cooking, cleaning and running errands. Such fun. This Sunday we spent our morning batch cooking all our meals for the week.  (Batch cooking has seriously changed our weeks. More on that some other day perhaps.) That's about 3 hours of chopping, standing by the stove and over the sink doing dishes. Nothing to break a sweat, but it keeps you on your feet. The rest of our afternoon before dinner was running all kinds of errands -- wedding band shopping, a quick Target and Home Goods run and a trip to Trader Joes. All in all we were probably on our feet for 6 hours of the day. Not bad for active rest!

Today's workout:

Up at 5:50am today to head to the gym. This is only our second week of trying out morning workouts. We realized we'd only have to wake up 10 minutes earlier than we had been anyway in order for us to get to the gym, workout, shower off and get ready there instead, and then we'd be able to go home straight after work instead of losing an hour of our evening free time. All we have to do is make sure we prep our gym bags and lunches the night before, which is totally doable! I will say, waking up at 5:50am this week was harder than last week thanks to daylight savings time, but we made it work.

Today's workout:

Kayla Itsines' Bikini Body Guide (BBG) Week 2 - Legs and Cardio

Circuit 1
10 burpees
20 jump lunges
24 knee ups
15 sumo squats

Circuit 2
100 jump rope skips (I don't use a jump rope, I just hop)
24 weighted walking lunges
30 reverse lunges + knee lift
15 jump squats

Two days a week we tend to do some low impact steady state (LISS) cardio. When the weather's nice we are planning on walking to work and back, which is about 2 miles each way, but alas, winter appears to never be going away so we hit the gym instead. I opted for the recumbent bike and 35 minutes of scrolling through Instagram and Facebook. Perhaps not the best use of my time, but sometimes that's all you can take at 6am. One thing I'm still trying to figure out is how to go from a sweaty betty to work appropriate within an hour. My face always gets really red, and even though we have showers to rinse off and cool down in, when I attempt to put on concealer it's almost comical how much it stands out from my beet red face. Today I had to wait and do my makeup in my work bathroom. The cleaning people that I ran into in the bathroom probably thought it was a morning after situation 😂

Today's workout:
10 miles (35 minutes) on the recumbent bike, medium resistance.

So just like Monday's workout, today is another workout from Kayla Itsines' Bikini Body Guide. I've done both her first and second guides (her second one is no longer sold) several times through before and I always go back to them when I just want something quick, hard and all planned out for me. There are basically three workouts a week, with some recommended LISS or HIIT workouts on a few other days of the week. Each workout is 28 minutes plus some rest time and they're comprised of 2 circuits of 4 exercises each. You set a timer for 7 minutes and do the exercises from one circuit as many times through as you can. Then you rest for a minute or two and move onto the second circuit for another 7 minutes. Repeat both circuits again and then you're done! It's all exercises you can do with only some basic equipment so it's easy to do in any gym or even at home. Honestly, I torrented the guides back in 2015, but if I knew then how much I would use them and still be using them in 2019, I would have paid. They're definitely effective!

Today's workout:

BBG Week 2 - Arms & Abs

Circuit 1
15 dumbbell squat and press
15 tricep dips
24 commands
20 straight leg jackknifes

Circuit 2
20 situps
15 mountain climber (4) + pushup (1)
15 straight leg raises
15 lay down push ups

Another LISS day in the gym this morning. Even though I'd rather have been walking outside, at least I got in some extra reading time today. Currently reading The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan and it's starting to become a page turner so I'm grateful for the opportunity to really settle in with it. (I've got Goodreads if you want to be friends)

Today's workout:
9 miles (30 minutes) on the bike, medium resistance.

Today was tough. Five days of pre 6am wakeup calls is no joke, especially when the night before was spent going to dinner, grabbing a drink and dessert and then seeing Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra afterwards. I was not feeling motivated to do burpees. We still went to the gym, and we still did our planned workout, but perhaps it wasn't my best effort ever. I still left the gym as bright red as ever though! After work we spent the evening doing all our grocery shopping so we were up on our feet again for about 2 hours while in pursuit of the best bulk deals.

Today's workout:

BBG Week 2 - Full Body

Circuit 1
10 burpees
30 jump lunges
15 lay down pushups
15 sumo squats

Circuit 2
15 mountain climber (4) + pushup (1)
15 straight leg jackknifes
100 skips
24 commandos

Another active rest day today. And we can sleep in! What luxury! We were still up and at 'em at 8am so we could start another morning of wedding-related appointments and errands. (Seriously, planning a wedding sucks) The afternoon I spent deep cleaning the house. Last week was madness due to car troubles with BOTH CARS and honeymoon planning, so the house reaaaaally needs it this week. I was zipping around the house for a couple hours, but then I balanced it out with dinner at Chipotle with the future in-laws and binge watching the newest season of Queer Eye at night. Perfection.

Today's workout:

For the time being, we're still planning to carry on with these absurdly early workouts and I hope to finish another round of Kayla Itsines' 12 week guide before the wedding. Having a limited timeline is helping me stick with it and not give into the snooze button, but maybe we'll go back to evening workouts if we're feeling particularly tired some week. I'm just glad to be back on a workout routine! I'll be sure to keep you all posted. Until next time, have a great week!

Book Review: A Gentleman in Moscow - Amor Towles

Sunday, March 10, 2019
After I posted a few weeks ago about how long I've been wanting to read A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, I finally managed to get my hands on a copy at the library. The fact that every copy has been checked out or on hold each time I've looked over the last year or so should have clued me in as to how fantastic this book is, and now that I've read it I can only confirm that indeed it is completely worth the wait.

A Gentleman in Moscow starts in 1922 as Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is sentenced to permanent house arrest in the Metropol hotel for the crime of writing a poem. He must move from the grand suite had had been staying in to a small attic room, taking with him what few possessions he can. As the years go by we follow as the Count befriends Nina, a young girl also living in the hotel, learns all the back hallways and hotel secrets from her, watches as she grows up, starts school and falls in love. The Count also begins work as a waiter at the hotel restaurant and develops deep friendships with the maitre d', Andrey, the head chef, Emile, as well as other hotel staff like the seamstress, Mariana and Vasily the concierge. With other colorful characters popping in and out of the hotel over the years, like a beautiful movie star, an American ambassador, a high ranking government official and an old school friend, the Count builds himself a rich life all without setting foot outside. But when Nina returns and leaves her daughter to the Count's care, he must take on one challenge he's never faced -- parenting.

The story spans over 32 years and like we do in our own lives, we move from one little drama to the next, seemingly without a single overarching plot line until we can reach the very end, look back and pick out the themes and major turning points. Along the way I kept expecting something bad to happen, especially considering the political backdrop of the novel, but nothing really ever did. Instead Towles did a fantastic job adding little details throughout the story that while seemingly unimportant at the time do end up tying together in the end for a very satisfying conclusion. I was left feeling contented, proud of all the characters, and hopeful for their futures, but I wanted their stories to keep going. After following them for so long it's hard to leave them before it's all truly over.

The plot of this book is engaging, charming and heartwarming, but to me the best part of this book is the writing itself. I found myself lingering over sentences, marveling at the turn of phrase. The prose is a delight to read, slowly absorb, step back and admire and then re-read simply to go through it all again. It gives such a grandiose sense of the hotel, the Count himself and keeps the atmosphere of the novel as a whole floating in this charmed, almost artificially-preserved space full of old-world charm and manners while the world outside -- both of the hotel and the reader's world -- endures the pain and banality of everyday life. Even within this rose-tinted world, Towles is able to hit on little universal truths that are still relevant today and do so in a way that's at once beautiful to read, relatable and humorous. Here are a few quotes I loved:

"Surely, the span of time between the placing of an order and the arrival of appetizers is one of the most perilous in all human interaction. What young lovers have not found themselves at this juncture in a silence so sudden, so seemingly insurmountable that it threatens to cast doubt upon their chemistry as a couple What husband and wife have not found themselves suddenly unnerved by the fear that they might not ever have something urgent, impassioned, or surprising to say to each other again? So it is with good reason that most of us meet this dangerous interstice with a sense of foreboding."

"Furrowing his brow, the Count reviewed all of the conversations that he had ever had with his daughter in chronological order and could find no evidence of having told her the tale before."

"Like in a reel in which the dancers form two rows, so that one of their number can come skipping brightly down the aisle, a concern of the Count's would present itself for his consideration, bow with a flourish, and then take its place at the end of the line so that the next concern could come dancing to the fore."

By this point it should go without saying that I loved this book and would highly recommend it to anyone. Next time however I'll be sure to brush up on my Russian 20th century politics a bit before reading so I can have an even greater context to the story. Having now loved two Amor Towles novels, I eagerly await his next book and will definitely be purchasing this book myself so I can reread it!


February Highlights

Sunday, March 3, 2019

I have officially reached my limit with winter. I am glad to be writing this post simply because it means February is over and maybe we can start inching toward spring. Knowing Nebraska though, we've probably got another dumping of snow or two before we'll be allowed to live in peace and maybe even feel the warmth of the sun. Regardless of all the horrible weather, February still managed to be a good and especially productive month!

We didn't do a lot of activities this month that involved having to leave the house, but we did manage to sneak one talk in at the Sheldon Art Museum. Just as a snow storm was blowing in, we were heading to "A Diverse Menu: Race, Class, Gender and the Things We Eat" with Ijeoma Oluo, author of So You Want To Talk About Race, and Soleil Ho, restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and producer of the podcast “Racist Sandwich.” The panel discussed how food can be a jumping off point, whether that be in reference to people's access to it, what dishes they're making, who's making it, etc, to explore the way those different social constructs affect people's experiences. It was a fantastic, thought-provoking panel which has caused me to think even more about the choices I make every time I sit down to a meal, and to really think about what white American food really entails, culturally. If you live in a town with an art museum, be sure to check out their events for high quality, often free, and very interesting learning opportunities to spice up an otherwise ordinary week night!

My other activities this month were on the complete other side of the cultural spectrum. We started the month with a Super Bowl watch party at my parents' house with my family. We tend to get together for this every year not because any of us are particularly into the game, but because it's a nice excuse to see each other and my parents have cable. This year was unique though because John and I made all the food so everything was vegan! We had the chili recipe I always make, buffalo cauliflower and peanut butter brownies, both from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook and it was all fantastic.

Later in the month I got to go on several shopping trips with my sister. The first trip was supposed to be for bridal shoes, but instead we ended up with way too many earrings from H&M, face mask sets, and a couple pairs of shoes between us, none of which were bridal related at all. The next trip was to get jeans for my sister, which we actually accomplished this time, but since we're overachievers we ended up with guest room decor, sunglasses, hats, sweatpants -- you know, a typical Target run. The things we bought were fun, but what I enjoyed most, cheesy at it sounds, was spending so much time with my sister. We live close to each other and we see each other fairly frequently, but that's usually with the rest of our family. This was just us two, laughing at our stupid jokes, spending way too much time in the candle aisle of TJ Maxx and catching up about work and friends and life. I always forget how much fun it is to spend time with her!

One load waiting to be donated
Other than those couple adventures, the rest of the month has been spent doing all kinds of (indoor) life admin. The wedding prep is really starting to come together -- we've ordered invites, had the first few alterations appointments, bought wedding shoes, ordered menswear, finalized shower details, started booking a honeymoon and began a registry. There's still a bit left yet to organize, but we're really starting to make progress. I've also spent a good portion of this month getting our house ready for guests, which I talked a bit about last week. We finally got around to donating all the stuff left after the great KonMari clear-out of 2017-2018 so we have our office back, plus we've cleared out 3 closets, turned our old yoga room into a guest room and rearranged our admittedly oversized book collection so that all our books squeeze onto our existing bookshelves with only a handful relegated to a temporary shelf. A lot is going on in our second floor and it's still a bit of disaster area, but we're making more progress than we have in years. Thanks for the kick up the butt future guests -- I'm really relishing my sudden penchant for making decisions, taking initiative and finally getting some shit done!

Our stray cat friend hanging out on our garage and chatting with Finn

Finn really wanted attention when I was working from home

Guest Room Makeover: And So It Begins

Sunday, February 24, 2019
We're 33 days away from the arrival of my first house guests since about 2017. Back then I actually had a dedicated spare bed for guests. These days? Well, as of last weekend I at least have a bed for the room again. But no sheets. Or pillows. Or a nightstand, etc, etc, etc. So time's a tickin' and I'm sure my friend is reading this and feeling a tad bit nervous about her arrival. (Hello Nicole! 👋). Since we're on this journey under a bit of a time crunch, I thought this would be fun to document here as this room goes from nonexistent to a cozy, welcoming and actually finished room!

Prior to last weekend, the room we've ended up using as the guest room was actually mostly empty, save for a jade plant soaking up the best light in the house, our yoga mats, a couple dumbbells and the hope chest my grandpa built me when I was a baby. My original plan was actually to stick the guest bed into the same room as my office, but when I started playing around with possible layouts, the room just didn't work. Oh the joys of an old house with large rooms, but only 2 inconveniently placed outlets and floor vents smack dab in the middle of every space that would otherwise be a perfect spot for furniture. Just as I was on the verge of a meltdown, John suggested we scrap the idea entirely and instead move everything from the workout room into the office, combining those two rooms and then use the old workout room as a guest room instead. He's brilliant.

With all the furniture moved out, we had ourselves a nice blank slate. We have the original oak floors throughout the whole house, and the room is painted with the same warm, almost pinkish white color featured in every other room of the house that I haven't bothered to repaint since moving in. (I really need to do some painting in this place...). After moving some things from John's house, we are starting this room makeover with a full sized bed and frame, a white secretary/hutch unit made by John's dad back as a high school project which features robin's egg blue shelves, a 55" TV complete with sound bar, subwoofer and Xbox, and a (much too large) cream and brown Moroccan-inspired rug that spent many years down in the living room. We're going to attempt to use as much of what we already own as possible to keep the costs down, but I ultimately want a room that feels "done," not just thrown together, so we'll see what we actually end up using.

My vision for this room has been heavily influenced by fashion right now: neutrals, neutrals, neutrals. It just so happens that the room already has a lot of warm neutrals thanks to the paint, wood floors, and the repurposed rug, so that works out nicely. As a child of the internet, I obviously couldn't begin any project without a slew of saved photos for inspiration, so naturally a Pinterest board was made and an Instagram collection started. It's very clear I have an obsession with pampas grass, rattan and wicker, warm neutrals, glass and ceramics.

I have only made one purchase so far -- a linen duvet cover and pillow shams from West Elm in the color "natural flax." It's the same bedding line that I've had in my bedroom for the last 5 years and I love it. I'm waiting for this to arrive as it's going to inform the rest of the choices I make. We'll have to see if it clashes too horribly with the rug or not, and if so the rug might get the boot in favor of something else. The next big purchases I'm hoping to make are the nightstand, potentially a different media console for the TV, and a small chair. I will check back in in a few weeks and let you know what progress we've made!

One Huge Beauty, Skin & Hair Care Wishlist

Sunday, February 17, 2019

For the last few months I just hadn't been feeling the whole beauty scene. It's been much too cold to consider trading a few more minutes under the warmth of my duvet in the morning for more time to do my makeup, hair or skincare. But after what seems like a very long dry spell, the desire to try new products and styles is starting to creep back in! Unfortunately that also means a wishlist about 3 miles long and spending hours on end putting products into my cart but never actually buying them. All that money and plastic and whatnot. Rather than just staring at them wistfully from the cart summary page, let's talk them through and pretend money was no object and the environment was of no concern.


Peter Thomas Roth Mask Frenzy set - You might remember me talking about the smaller mask set earlier. I am nearing the end of those masks (a year later!) and I'd love to repurchase. This is basically  the same set but with bigger pots. I think this sounds great because you get all the variety of the sampler set but with a lot more volume of product for not much more than a single full size mask from the brand.

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% - I am already a huge fan of the Ordinary because they give you a great basic product for a fantastic price. I tried another one of their silicon based vitamin C products and didn't like it, but I think that's because me and silicon just don't get along. I'd love to try this one out and get a vitamin C product back into my life.

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA - I've been using the 5% Lactic Acid for awhile now and it's been great, but it's time to up the strength. Bring on the smooth, babylike skin.

The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA - Up until now I've been using the CeraVe PM Moisturizer both day and night. I love it and would definitely repurchase it, but I want to give this one a shot as well because it's packed with great moisturizing ingredients at such a cheap price.

Kora Organics Noni Glow Face Balm - This one I blame entirely on Allana Davison. She put this in her video about skincare products that will change her life and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. If it keeps a Toronto girl's face protected from the elements, I have high hopes for it here in the never-ending snow.


It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream - Anna from The Anna Edit and Lily Pebbles have been banging on about this one for years now. I gifted it to my mom in Christmas of 2017 and it looks super natural and covers her dark spots flawlessly so now it's high time I give it a shot myself.

Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter - Another The Anna Edit influence. I need all the help I can get establishing any kind of glow I can get in the dead of winter and this is meant to be almost too glowy. Sign me up.

Hourglass Vanish Flash Highlighting Stick - I heard about this one from Lizzy Hadfield from Shot From The Street. I basically fall in love with anything she wears or uses, so this is no surprise. It's just another highlighting stick which I probably don't need, but that's not the point is it?

NARS Highlighting Powder - I'm a sucker for NARS packaging, always have been. And again, gimme dat glow.

Kevyn Aucoin The Sculpting Contour Powder  - Both Alanna and Anna have rec'd this contour powder and I fancy something that looks more natural on my super pale skin. Their new light shade is definitely catching my interest.

Smashbox Photo Finish Primerizer - I already have two primers on the go right now, both of which I love, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to try this one which is supposedly super moisturizing.

Too Faced Born This Way Super Coverage Multi-Use Sculpting Concealer - A full coverage, creamy concealer is always on my list when it's dry and cold outside and my genetic dark circles need all the moisture they can get. Color me intrigued.

Charlotte Tilbury Magic Away Concealer - Another concealer of the same vein that people have been raving about. I've heard the applicator isn't great, but the formula is apparently fantastic.

Marc Jacobs O!Mega Bronzer - I just need to stop being so pale.

Eye Gloss by Violette -  I love Violette's YouTube videos and she makes this looks so effortless and cool. I want to slick this on and pretend it's spring outside.

IGK Mistress Hydrating Hair Balm - I feel pretty solid about my skincare and makeup knowledge, but styling and caring for my hair I don't really have down yet. I recently watched an Estee Lalonde video with David Lopez and now I'm obsessed with haircare. Brace yourself for a massive IGK list. This product would hopefully give a little definition and moisture to my eternally fluffy, parched, thin hair.

IGK Call Time Styling Primer - Sometimes, and by sometimes I mean a grand total of 3 times so far, I managed to quickly add some curls to my hair before work. I've loved how it looks so I'm interested in a styling primer that will help protect my hair and also give it a shinier look.

IGK Smoke & Mirrors Conditioning Cleansing Oil - I hate showers. But if you tell me I can basically oil cleanse my scalp I'm suddenly ready to hop in. It's like skincare for your head!

IGK Trust Issues Instant Scalp Rebalancing Treatment - The winter plus hard water is super hard on my scalp. I long for something to help me soothe the itchiness after I shower and this sounds really promising.

IGK Speechless Dry Oil Finishing Spray For Hair And Body - Because my hair is often so dry, I feel like it never really shines. I would love to try this out and see if I can see a little shine peek out.

IGK Next Level Nordic Cotton Heat Activated Volume Spray - Like I said, I have really fine, thin hair. I'm always on the lookout for anything to give me more volume. This looks fun.
Briogeo Don't Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Mask - I should really start masking my hair as much as I mask my face. I've heard great things about this one!

Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt - Because scalp care is just as important and skincare, I want to make sure I'm exfoliating properly. This scrub seems like a totally luxurious way to accomplish that.


Isle Of Paradise Self Tanning Water - Again, I'm so so pale guys.

Byredo La Sélection Nomade - I used to have a fairly sizable perfume selection. Through a combination of donation, swaps and simply using things up, I'm down to only a single day and a single night scent. I like to have a little variety sometimes, and I'm still not really sure what I would consider to be "my" scent. I've been dying to give these a go, but unfortunately there's nowhere in Nebraska that sells them, and buying perfume offline sight unseen (or smell un-smelled?) seems dangerous. But a nice small selection could be nice!

Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask - My lips are screaming out for a heavy duty moisturizer this year. I can't remember the last time I didn't have flakey, sore lips despite having at least 3 lip products on my at all times. I'm really hoping this could finally provide some relief!

Finally, I've run out of things to blab on and on about. Please no one add up the total for this wishlist. My heart can't take it. I must be off now to go empty my shopping carts before I get any crazy ideas. See you next time!

My 2019 Reading List

Sunday, February 10, 2019
It's been awhile since I've posted anything about my recent reads here, but I've still been devouring books nonetheless. In 2018 I set myself a goal of 30 books for my 30th year and I actually managed to accomplish it, even if I was cramming in some reading every second I could get towards the end there. Maybe it's the cold, dark days we're having lately but I've been really enjoying having my nose in a book. I have so many things on my to-read list right now too so I'm sure thats a motivating factor as well. So what am I hoping to tuck into this year you ask? Brace yourself, it's a long one.

Full disclosure: I may have already started some of these...even finished some... I'm sorry, I can't help myself! But let's start with the ones I've already dipped into...

A Rather Remarkable Homecoming by C.A. Belmond - Fourth in the series, I asked for this book for Christmas because I could only ever find the first three at my precious the library book sale. Thank you Amazon for your used book selection! This was a fun little read, with just enough intrigue and mystery to keep you turning pages but not enough to have your palms sweating. I like my books fun and happy thank you very much.

An Edited Life by Anna Newton - I pre-ordered this book from the UK Amazon because I couldn't be bothered to wait for the American release almost a month after it originally came out. It's a self help book of sorts about curating different aspects of your life so it's not absolute madness. I just finished this the other day and I can say it's funny, has some good tips and manages to be prescriptive enough to help you get your shit together but without making you feel bad. And counting Ryan Gosling references along the way was fun as well.

One that's been a long time coming is Quiet by Susan Cain. My mom (extrovert) got this for me and my brother-in-law and my dad (all introverts) several years ago. I've been meaning to get around to it, and I'm glad I finally did at the beginning of this year. It wasn't anything mind blowing, but it's definitely making me examine how I can better set myself up for success especially in the workplace when I know I crave quiet and am easily overwhelmed by external stimulation when I'm trying to think.

This is the last one I've cheated and already started, I promise. It's actually a short series, but I've polished off the first mini book and I just started the second one. The Mindfulness Essentials series by Thich Nhat Hanh is a collection of five little books on mindfulness in different areas of life -- sitting, eating, loving, walking and relaxing. So far I like the tiny format, the ease of dipping in and out and the quick little nuggets of insight. I'm looking forward to applying some of his advice and doing some of the mini meditations in my day to day life.

Ok now for things I've not yet got my hands on. First up, non-fiction.

I'm kind of all over the shop with the non-fiction list this year. In the health department I plan on borrowing How Not To Die by Michael Greger from the library this weekend with the hope that I'll learn a lot more about nutrition, particularly since I've been making a lot of dietary changes lately. For my physical health I really want to read Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker which, as you can guess, talks about the importance of sleep and what it does for our bodies. I'm a big fan of sleep and get right around 7 to 8 hours a night so I don't have any issues there but I'm still intrigued to learn about what's actually happening while I'm laying there unconscious.

Moving away from health and wellness, I'm really hoping to get my hands on a copy of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate by Naomi Klein. I've been reading a lot about what we as individuals can do to reduce our impact, but I'm interested to read about what needs to happen at a corporate level before the biggest impact can be made. In the financial sphere, I want to read Making The Most Of Your Money Now by Jane Bryant Quinn. I was given her other book, How to Make Your Money Last which was more aimed at retired people than 30 year olds, but it was packed with information nevertheless. Now it only seems prudent to read the book she actually wrote with the 30 year olds in mind. Yes, I'm a bit of a money nerd. I lead a very strange life. The last two books I'm interested in are kind of genre stragglers. The first is Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, yet another book that ties together work and minimalism to help you edit your time. I'm not sure that it'll be anything new to me, but I'm still interested in seeing what it has to say.

Finally, the last two non-fiction books I want to read are both memoirs. Just like everyone else in the world right now I can't wait to read Becoming by Michelle Obama. How could you not want to learn all about such a smart, poised, admirable woman? Now to wait until my mom finishes her copy so I can steal it... The other memoire is Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton. I haven't heard of anyone here in the US talking about this yet but it seems like every UK-based blogger I follow has devoured it and loved it, so I want to see what all the fuss is about.

Finally! The fiction! Admittedly this section is really small in comparison, which is unusual for me. I am a fiction girl through and through, but I tend to just buy whatever I can get my hands on at the library book sale every year and read that so I'm never really on the hunt for any specific books. There are only three book on my mind this year. In fact, one has been on my mind since way back in May when I posted my last reading list: A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles. I still haven't borrowed this from the library, but it remains on my list. Maybe I'll get really ambitious and borrow two books when I go today. Living life on the edge. The last two books are both recommended by Anna from The Anna Edit: Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney, and White Teeth by Zadie Smith. Both books have received stellar reviews by readers and critics alike so I can't wait to immerse myself in their worlds, even though that usually means I end up ugly crying. Totally worth it.

I definitely have my work cut out for me this year, especially since this doesn't even cover the 20-some books I also picked up at the library book sale back in October. I better go get a move on. If you want to see how I'm doing with this rather ambitious list, come friend me on Goodreads. Otherwise, see you next time!

A Laid Back Bridal Shower Look

Sunday, February 3, 2019
When you're a little girl they warn you about getting your period, about dealing with cliques in school and even such delightful things as the wage gap. They don't, however, warn you that someday you'll be expected to go to bridal showers for first-cousins-once-removed-in-law in the middle of January when the temperature is in the single digits. Life takes some wild turns. While I'm recovering from being turned into a human popsicle, I thought I'd share my makeup and outfit with you lot.

I didn't do anything particularly fancy or special for my makeup. I wear almost all of these products on a daily or at least weekly basis, depending on how lazy I feel that particular morning. For instance, most days I don't even wear base, but today I needed to combat the Rudolph nose and bright red cheeks that the horrible wind chill was definitely going to give me. I used Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk in the shade number 2 as my weapon of choice. It's great for evening everything out without looking super heavy, and when I combine it with one squirt of the Too Faced HangoverRx primer and one squirt of the Becca First Light Priming Filter it all just comes together for a nice, natural finish. The only place I powder is my forehead, to protect my bangs from any potential oiliness, and for that I use the Makeup Forever HD Powder. To hide my (unfortunately genetic *curses father*) dark circles, I always turn to NARS Soft Matte Complete concealer in the shade Vanilla. Not going to lie, it's a little dry, especially in the winter, but no other concealer I've tried has stayed put and covered as nicely as this. I just attempt combat the dryness with some good skincare, but that's a whole different post...

Let's work our way from the top down for point makeup. I used Glossier Boy Brow in the shade Brown. It's my favorite eyebrow product ever and it's literally the only reason you can see my eyebrows at all, especially when I wear my bangs down. It's a fine haired person's dream. For highlighter, again with a Glossier classic -- Haloscope in the shade Quartz. It's creamy, it's dewy and it's absolutely not glittery, thank god. As far as I can tell, it's also going to last forever. I've had it for almost a year and there's still a ton left.

On my eyes I've got the world's oldest Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion. They don't even make this applicator type anymore. I should probably throw this away, but hey, it's still working and it doesn't smell yet! On top of that potential health hazard I'm wearing the Vibrate and a tiny bit of the Hot Spell shades from the Urban Decay Naked Petite Heat palette. I'm so pale that even the second lightest shade still pulls really orange and dark on me, but I'm not mad about it! For mascara, I've got the Glossier Lash Slick. It's suuuper subtle at first and you can only build it up so much, but I really do like having a more natural lash look that just elongates my natural lashes and gives them actual color rather than being completely invisible to the naked eye. I also forgot to curl my lashes here, and having the stick straight hair that I do, I'm actually pretty impressed that they curled a bit on their own with just the mascara! Just the slightest bit, but still.

For blush, it's yet another Glossier product. What can I say guys? I like their shit. This is Cloud Paint in the shade Dusk. It's pretty sheer, but it's kind of a perfect mix between a blush and a contour. That being said, I was definitely too lazy to do any other kind of contour or bronzing so blush is all we get. I'm pale guys. I'm just embracing it. Finally, on my lips I have just the slightest, thinnest, easy teensy tiniest layer of Bite Beauty's Lush Lip Tint in the shade Cherry which is unfortunately discontinued. I have super sensitive and chapped lips around this time of the year so the sheer color is the only kind of thing I can handle that doesn't further accentuate any dryness or cracking and for that I am grateful.

As for my outfit, I went with my comfort zone -- all black. If I was gonna force myself out in the winter wilderness to meet a bunch of new women I didn't know, at least I was going to be warm and comfortable doing it! Let's start from the bottom and move up this time shall we? On my admittedly hidden feet I'm wearing some old ASOS black leather chelsea boots (similar). I 100% no joke wear these every single day in the winter. It might be time to branch out my winter shoe collection. My jeans are the black Authentic Stretch high rise skinny jeans from Everlane. Love their fit, so I own them in three washes. On top I have a really old (maybe 7 years old?) tank top from Express and on top of that I have the Everlane Oversized Blazer. I don't get to wear this enough because my office is super super casual, but I love it so much. Finally, for accessories I have Mejuri mini hoop earrings, a Lucy Williams X Missoma necklace and an old gold mesh watch from H&M that I really need to get resized. All in all, I felt pretty good! 

Hope you guys are having a fantastic weekend and see you next time!

January Highlights

Sunday, January 27, 2019

This month is a month of birthdays in my family -- my mom, my dad, John and his nephew are all born in January. Needless to say there was a lot of celebrating. We started out with a picture perfect day in Omaha with my family. It was somehow 65 degrees and sunny so we ate brunch outside at Saddle Creek Breakfast Club and then spent the rest of the day at the Omaha Zoo. I haven't been there as a family in at least a decade so it was fun to see all our childhood favorites again with our parents. John's birthday was a low-key affair this year. His actual birthday was a Wednesday so we just carried on as normal, but on the Friday after we got takeout, made some drinks and a cake and watched Dazed and Confused because he was appalled I hadn't seen it before. What can I say? I've hardly seen any movies! The next day we met up with his family to celebrate both his birthday and his nephew's birthday with some sushi. It was my first time having vegetarian sushi, and it was delicious. I even think I like the veggie miso better! The last birthday celebration of the month is tonight with my family. We are having a joint dinner celebration for my mom, dad and John. We're brining a vegan paella, the rest of my family is making their own non-vegan food and we're all having the same cake recipe I made for John's birthday earlier because it was seriously the best cake I've ever baked. We always have very lively get togethers so I'm looking forward to it.

Unrelated to any birthday celebrations, I finally got to go out to dinner with my friends! We had been trying to arrange a holiday timed get together since prior to Christmas, but everyone's various illnesses and bad weather kept forcing us to cancel, even our grandma-status reservation of 4:30pm on a Sunday! Finally we were all healthy and warm again so we headed to a Monday night reservation at Sebastian's Table, an old favorite restaurant that recently reopened after years of being closed. If there's one thing my friends and I are good at it's racking up a sizable bill at tapas restaurants (or really any restaurant if we're being honest). I'm happy to confirm that the brussels sprouts are still delicious, the sangria is still just as good as ever and that their (vegan!) paella is fantastic. I don't get to see my friends a lot because we're all pretty busy with work and life and starting to get more and more spread out, but every time I do see them I have a fantastic time full of laughs and inappropriate jokes. I'm truly grateful for all of them.

Outside the social realm, I've been enjoying a few other random things this month. Just like last year, John and I are doing Yoga With Adriene's 30 day yoga series that she releases every January. We haven't been keeping up with every single day, but it's been so good to get back on the mat, start thinking about how I feel in my body and start to get some flexibility back. I am hoping we carry on the habit into the coming months. Alongside yoga, I have been doing workouts from Zanna Van Dijk's Sculpt Guide. I've really liked the structure and how you can choose you workouts each week. It keeps me from getting bored, and it's it's a nice boost of motivation to have a new workout guide to work my way through.

Another big change we tried out this month is Veganuary. I am quite pleased that it's actually been a lot easier than we thought it would be, especially when going out for meals. We found a lot of new favorite meals from this month's recipe adventure, discovered that pretty much all the veggie dishes we were eating at restaurants already are accidentally vegan and we're currently planning to remain vegan as much as possible from here on out!

Lastly, just some general feelings I've been loving. This month we've had several snow storms, and while that makes the outside unbearably cold, it also makes for a very beautiful, peaceful scene. I've been working at home a bit more because of the weather, and it's lovely to watch the snow fall while you're working. The home feels extra cozy and you get to enjoy all your favorite hearty meals like chili and casseroles. Just don't make me go out and scoop again please. The serenity of the winter wonderland outside also seems to have settled into me. I am feeling very at peace with just taking days to do nothing, or skipping a workout if I'm just too tired. We've been sleeping in a lot, breaking our routines more and just generally living how we feel rather than according to a plan. It's not how I typically feel at the beginning of the year (normally I'm raring to go with a to do list in hand), but I'm not mad about it. I've even somehow managed to make more decisions and plans for our wedding than at any point before this, as if somehow being more relaxed about everything has made my mind clearer about what I want, and more determined to actually make it happen. I'll take it!

Well that was quite the ramble. I hope you guys have a great last few days of the month, and I'll see you next time!

Being Productive At Work

Sunday, January 20, 2019
It's been a few weeks now since we all emerged from our holiday cocoons, squinting into the florescent light overhead and fidgeting with our non-elasticated waistbands, wishing for the return of our forgiving sweatpants. I don't know about you, but getting back into serious-business mode after such lovely, relaxed time away is always pretty hard for me. I'm easily distractible, a bit tired and longing for a responsibility-free life. Alas, I need to eat and pay bills, so it's back to the grind for me.

How I'm Staying Productive At Work

Make a daily tasks/goals list: When I drag myself into the office and the last thing on my mind is actually doing work, I've found that setting out a short list of things to accomplish by the end of the day gets me more in the mood to do things. Nothing too ambitious or I'll feel overwhelmed, and conversely not just a list of a couple tiny tasks or I'll breeze through it by 10am and go right back to feeling uninspired. I like to use Todoist to make my daily list, and even to organize bigger task lists for projects. The "karma" points you get for completing tasks and getting streaks of days meeting your goal makes it a little more motivating too!

Work some, then rest some: I tend to be the kind of person to get sucked into a task and forget about the rest of reality. I'd happily carry on doing whatever I'm doing, not thinking it's adversely affecting my work. It's only until I spend too much time thinking about something that after a short break I figure out in a few minutes do I realize that hey, maybe breaks are good even if you think you're in the middle of something. When I've got something big I need to tackle, instead of plowing ahead I break it into chunks and tackle it using the Pomodoro technique. Work for 25 minutes, take a few minutes of break, repeat three more times and then take a longer break. It's a great way to get a lot done but still give my brain a little break and time to dream about all those holiday cookies I'm missing.

Create a focused environment: I work in a fairly openish office, and my team's room is right next to a room where people are constantly making calls throughout the day, doing webinars or working on something together. Not to mention we're in a basement office under two restaurants that spend the mornings tenderizing meat right above us, rolling in carts of food that manage to sound like jet engines and cooking with gas from their squeaky gas meter. Believe me, I need all the help I can get staying focused. I throw on my big on-ear headphones to show people I'm trying to get some real work done and I either throw on an episode of Annie Mac's Friday night radio show or a dance station on Google music if I want some energy to get me through the task, or I'll open up Noisli, a customizable background noise app if I need to think hard about something. My favorite mix is a little thunderstorm, some crackling fireplace, and coffee shop. If I'm really trying to set a mood, I'll throw on BBC Radio 4 really quietly on top of that as well.

Reflect: On Friday late afternoon when I'm really dragging, I like to jot down a couple things that worked well or that I accomplished, as well as a couple things that weren't so great. Celebrating what I managed to get done gives me a little motivation boost, especially if I leave it where I can see it again come Monday morning. Analyzing what didn't go so well, and more importantly what were the reasons it was happening helps me recognize things to change or experiment with next week so I don't repeat my same mistakes.

Staying Organized

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The beginning of the year is always so full of all these grand plans. We're busy setting goals and intentions, making dietary changes or starting new exercise plans. Maybe you're also having minor panic attacks about wedding planning like I am. Whatever it is, we all seem to have something big-picture on our minds during these first few weeks. I personally love that fresh start feeling and the desire to shape up your life, but I'm also finding it to be a bit chaotic. I have slimmed down my goals since years past, but I'm still spending a good amount of my very little free time at night working on something new, whether that be attempting to find good vegetarian caterers in Nebraska or trying to organize the next DIY at John's house for the weekend. I'm really relying on all the little routines I've got going on to keep life humming along with some semblance of organization and allow me to focus on some of my bigger goals but not lose traction with everyday things. This is my ode to those routines:

Pre-Planning My Workouts - Oh how quickly would I stop going to the gym if I was faced with choosing it every single evening. Instead I plan my workout days (usually it's just Monday - Thursday) every Sunday and sometimes even the exact workouts for those days so that instead of fighting the desire to go home and zone out on the couch once 5pm rolls around I just head straight to the gym because the decision has already been made for me. Thanks past self! This month has been especially fun and easy to plan workouts because I got Zanna Van Dijk's Sculpt Guide and I am just starting it. It's set up so that you pick your workouts from a handful of weekly options, so you never get bored and you actually can pick something that fits well with your schedule. It's great so far!

Meal Planning & Prepping - If left to my own devices, I would eat a bowl of cereal for every meal and probably not even be that mad about it. There are too many different cereal options in this world to ever get bored! Unfortunately bodies actually need these things called nutrients. Who knew? Planning my meals in advance is my own hope at actually managing to consume enough vegetables, and even then I still struggle with it. This habit has been drilled into me since I was a child (my parents also meal plan) and it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

Budgeting - Every week I log all of my unplanned (aka not bills) purchases in my weekly spending tracking spreadsheet, which helps me keep a rolling total of how much I've spent throughout the week and year versus how much I've allotted myself. I also have a little routine that I complete every time I get paid which helps me stay on track for savings goals, remember to pay off my credit card, and track my financial progress. Without doing this I'd be wondering where all my money disappeared to while swimming through a pool of tissue paper from Sephora bags.

Bullet Journaling - I've already mentioned my Bullet Journal, but seriously it's become my second brain. When your mind is all over the place, it's great to have a place to unload it all and know it'll be there when you've forgotten it. It's a perfect place for completing all those other routines I've just talked about, and it's even better for seeing all the various things your brain thinks is important and recognizing they're not. What's the best way to get your todo list done? Make it shorter. My Bullet Journal has actually helped me a lot with prioritization and that's been the biggest weight off my shoulders. If you haven't started one yet, just go do it!