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Rebecca Collected

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!

My Veganuary Menu

Sunday, January 6, 2019

This year I'm joining a few hundred thousand of my closest friends and participating in Veganuary! It's my first time ever being strictly vegan so I'm a little nervous but ultimately really excited to be trying it out. Luckily for me, John is also joining in so I'll have him to lean on when I'm feeling tempted *eyes the box of birthday donuts in the break room at my work*. To make things easier on myself, I selected a month's worth of meals in advance so all I have to do each week is schedule which ones I want to make and put together my grocery list. We're about a week in and so far it's all going swimmingly and I haven't felt like I'm missing out on anything at all. Even the donuts. Without further ado, here's my meal plan!

I've picked 5 regular length recipes and 2-3 longer or more involved recipes for each week in January. I'm taking this opportunity to explore a few of the cookbooks I got this year, so all of the recipes come from 3 (fabulous so far) cookbooks.

*Isa Does It - Isa Chandra Moskowitz
**Chloe Flavor - Chloe Coscarelli
***BOSH! - Ian Theasby, Henry David Firth

Week 1
Chandra malai kofta* (If you love Indian like we do, you've got to make these.)
Phyllo pot pie*

Smoky incan stew*
Creamy carbonara*** (The marinated mushrooms in this were amazing and I don't even really like mushrooms)
General tso’s tofu** (Seriously better than any take away I've had so far. And really easy.)
Sloppy Chlo’s** (Tasted exactly like regular sloppy joes!)
Sweet corn chowder**

Week 2
White wine risotto*
Sweet potato gnocchi with brussels sprouts and tarragon cream*

Tempeh meatballs and spaghetti*
Cast iron stir fry*
Shepard’s potato***
Tortilla soup**
Creamy korma***

Frying up some vegan kofta!

Week 3
Nirvana enchilada casserole*
Nacho night*

Tempeh orzilla*
Spinach and black bean burrito bowl*
Fiesta mac and cheese**
Takeout sesame noodles**
Chipotle sweet potato kale soup**

Week 4
Tamale shepherd’s pie*
Peri Peri hasselback potatoes*

Cheddary broccoli soup*
Tempeh agrodolce over grilled polenta*
Lemon garlic fava beans w/ mushrooms on rice*
Creamy tomato-basil spaghettini**
Down home curry*

Week 5
New england glam chowder*
Creamy seaside pie*

Roasted potato and fennel soup*
Lentil quinoa stew with kale*
Panang curry (thai peanut sauce and red curry, chickpeas and sweet potato)*
Nice spice rice***
Vegan ramen bowl**

I'm already sure I'll come out of this month with a few more staple recipes and I'll be sure to update you on which ones were the favorites and what I think of each cookbook in general. If you feel like joining in in whatever way you can, whether that's just 1 vegan meal a week or going all in, you can still sign up for Veganuary here! Hope you've had a great start to your 2019 so far and see you next time!

December Highlights

Sunday, December 30, 2018
Happy almost new year! Before I switch right into full on year reflection mode, I'd like to take a little time just to appreciate some highlights from this month, now that we're post-holiday madness.

This month has been jam-packed with festive activities from start to finish. In the first week of the month I headed up to Omaha with John's family. We started with dinner at Modern Love, an amazing vegan restaurant by the awesome Isa Moskowitz. After stuffing our faces, we headed to see the annual production of A Christmas Carol at the community playhouse. I'd never been before, but I was thoroughly won over by the amazing sets, the humor they injected into the script and the acting. And if that wasn't enough, the play ended with fake snow falling on the audience and everyone was given a little loaf of bread! After all of that and seeing all the little kids dressed up in their nicest Christmas outfits, I was well in the Christmas spirit.

The next weekend we got together with John's parents again and headed to the movie theater to watch a screening of the original version of Miracle on 34th Street. I'd only watched the 90s version with Matilda aka Mara Wilson before, and even though that one is really good, I think I prefer the original! There's just something about the old outfits and cars and designs that makes it feel a little bit more special. Getting to watch it in a recliner with chocolate covered raisins and a giant bag of popcorn doesn't hurt either.

This year my sister and brother-in-law are going to be with his family in Mexico for Christmas (jealous), so we did a little Christmas celebration before the actual holiday and we'll do a little after they're back as well. To kick it off, we went to the winter edition of Love the Locals, a little handmade goods show. It's always super crowded, but it's fun to browse what kinds of goods, art, crafts and clothing people are making here. I didn't buy anything this year, but I took full advantage of the free toffee samples, thank you very much. Afterwards, we went back to my parents' house and started a cookie baking marathon. We tamed it down a bit from previous years, but we still made 4 different kinds of cookies: regular molasses cookies, a veganized version of the same molasses cookie recipe, peanut butter blossoms and double chocolate ginger cookies. We all went home with way more cookies than 2 people could want or should eat, but they disappeared way faster than I'd like to admit.

I spent Christmas time with all kinds of family and friends. Christmas Eve we went to John's extended family's annual celebration dinner. Later, because my parents always play in the Christmas Eve service, we went to the service to watch them play (part of being in a musical family means lots of sitting in church pews alone while they gig). On Christmas morning we woke up, mowed down the cinnamon rolls my aunt always gives us for Christmas, opened our stockings and presents for ourselves and then went to John's family for the rest of the morning. They always go all out for Christmas, so we had more breakfast with them, did stockings and presents and then ate Christmas lunch and hung out for a little while. Then in the afternoon we went to see my parents and do presents with them followed by dinner (we cooked them a tasty vegan dilly stew with rosemary dumplings from Isa Moskowitz's Isa Does It cookbook). Lots of shuttling around, but totally worth it.

Christmas isn't the only thing that happened this month even though those last few paragraphs might suggest otherwise. My grandma's 92nd birthday was this month and it's always great getting to spend time with her, especially since prior to the last few years she's always lived in another state. She might hate living where it's cold again, but I'm glad I get to see her as often as I do now, especially since she's getting up there in age and won't be around forever. This month was also the college volleyball playoffs and Nebraska made it all the way to the championship match! They ended up losing, but getting to see a team that wasn't expected to be championship material this year play their way up was really fun. It also helps cure the heartbreak of a less than stellar football season. 😅Finally, we went to see a movie with my parents as well, which never really happens, but it was really nice. We saw Pick of the Litter which follows a litter of puppies along their journey to becoming guide dogs for the blind. Me seeing two movies in a single month is pretty much unheard of but when one movie is a sentimental movie about animals, it's a little less surprising. I recommend seeing it if you want a feel-good film!

This was a pretty great month to cap off a really amazing year. Now onto 2019!

New Year, New Bullet Journal

Saturday, December 29, 2018
I always start a new bullet journal at the beginning of the year. I have a few pages left in my current bullet journal, but it would only be enough for about a month and I like the fresh start anyway. That new bullet journal feel reminds me of the first day of school and I love it. I have always used the Leuchtturm1917 medium dotted journal, but I made the switch from softcover to hardcover a year ago and I'll never go back. So much sturdier when you're toting it around everywhere for a full year!

When I start a new bullet journal, I always add my future log in the first pages. Three months per page, with a mini calendar at the top, birthdays and anniversaries next and important dates underneath that. I always add things like holidays, daylight savings time, election dates, weddings, meetings, etc right away so those are easiest to see in the list. Then I go back and fill in any smaller events or things I need to remember.

After my yearly overview, I have a section for my review and goals. I transferred my 2018 review from my old bullet journal to my new one so I can look back at what I accomplished, what made me happy and what I best spent my time doing. I've also listed out the goals I have for the year prominently on their own page, and then created two more pages for my financial goal tracking and my reading goal that I always set for myself. Even if I don't accomplish them all, I like to have something to aim for!

Next up I have a bunch of collections that center mainly around my home life. My project list helps me keep track of all the stuff that needs to be done around my house. Hopefully I'll tick off more this year than last year... Opposite that, I have a cleaning log to help me remember what needs to be done and keep me more accountable for actually doing it!

Then I have a space to reflect on my wardrobe throughout the year. I did this for the last two years and it's really helpful to identify pieces I wear a lot and might like more of or similar items, and to help identify items that just don't work for me. It's also really nice when the season comes around again to look back on last years reflection to figure out what I might need to buy or replace this year. 

I also keep a list of go-to meals at the front of every bullet journal for a little help when I'm meal planning each week. It gets tiring trying to come up with new things each week, so it's nice to have some easy, dependable meals to fall back on when you can't be bothered to be creative.

Last year I started a big transition in my life to living in a more low impact way. I'm a long way from perfect, so I decided I'll keep a list of things I notice in my life that aren't very low waste or eco friendly so I can come up with a plan to replace them for better alternatives. My plan so far is to create myself a little timeline so I can gradually but steadily make progress in this area.

In kind of a 180 degree turn, next I have a single spread to keep track of things I want or need (I don't really want a vacuum cleaner, but I want one, you know?). Even though it's literally a list of things to get, my intention is that it makes me really think about the item I'm listing, consider it a bit first and only if I still think I need it will I buy it. In other words, try to keep those impulse purchases to a minimum! This page is also a place to jot down gift ideas throughout the year. In this post-Christmas haze I always end up feeling like next year I need to be more proactive and better organized with gifts, so maybe this will help.

Finally, I have a bucket list. Places I want to go, things I want to do, etc. This is my first year making one but it's already inspired me to me a bit more intentional with my free time.

That's it for this year's annual collections! The next pages will be straight into January monthly pages, and I'm sticking to the same layouts I've had for the last 2 years. If it ain't broke, don't fix it and all. I hope you're having a lovely new year so far, and see you next time!

How I Plan for a New Year

Wednesday, December 26, 2018
I've been spending a lot of time lately reviewing my year and planning for next year and I'd like to share what all that entails for me in case one of you guys finds it helpful!

First up, I spend some time reviewing the past year. Last year for this review I rated different categories of my life from 1 to 10 (modeled around the Level 10 life, with the categories of relationships, home, mind & body, health, career & money and fun). This year instead of doing any ratings, I asked myself a few questions and recorded my answers. Here's what I asked myself:
  • What were your highs this year?
  • What were your lows this year?
  • What did you accomplish?
  • What did you fail at?
  • What good habits did you have?
  • What bad habits did you have?
  • What was the best investment of your time this year?
  • What was the worst investment of time this year?
Once I had a good idea of how I felt about 2018, I turned to the future. To get my brain juices flowing about what I might want to focus on, I wrote down an aspirational vision of my future life. The goal isn't to make any measurable or realistic goals here. Instead you just write down what your perfect life would look like long in the future. What would make you happiest? Where would you be? Who would you be with? What would you do every day? What would you not be doing? Write down anything that's important to you, or that you wish you could be doing!

After I dreamt big, I scaled it back a bit and decided for the first time every to take a stab at a 5 year plan. I'm not the best at thinking that far in advance so it was certainly a challenging exercise! I didn't end up with a lot on my 5 year plan, but it was nice to think about how old I'll be at various times, where I might want to travel between now and then, how my finances might look and when, if ever, I might want to have kids. (I still can't believe that's even a thing I have to think about already!)

From the more reasonable 5 year time frame, I started brainstorming potential goals for this year. I wrote down ideas in all kinds of areas of my life and then whittled them down until I found 3 or 4 goals that seemed most important to me right now. Last year I had a goal for every area of my life and I found that it was just too much to manage, so this year I'm sticking to just a few so I hopefully be more effective.

With my goals in place, I also spent some time brainstorming how I wanted to track my progress effectively. In last year's bullet journal I simply wrote my goals in bullet list format at the beginning of my notebook, but I kept forgetting about them and didn't really set aside any time to make actionable tasks to accomplish them. This year I'm going to add quarterly reviews to my calendar, and I'm going to devote a 2 page spread every quarter to reviewing my progress with each goal and creating some tasks with with due dates to complete before the next check-in. That should help me progress nicely!

Finally, I devoted a morning to reviewing some of my routines and tools for managing my day-to-day life. To help me budget on a weekly, monthly, and long term basis, I have a big spreadsheet with a bunch of different sheets. I closed out my weekly spending tracker sheet for 2018 and created a new 2019 sheet. I refreshed my net worth tracker layout so that I can better differentiate between investments, cash, assets and debt and track the change between each month. I even created a new sheet to try out this year to track the dollars in, the dollars out, the dollars that get invested, and then ultimately calculate what percent my saving rate is. With all my money sorted out, I turned to my home. I reviewed last year's list of chores to make sure they were all still needed and to add any new ones, and then revised my cleaning routine around those changes. I also updated my list of house projects that need to be done and my wish list of items I need to buy or replace around the house.

I hope this helps motivate you to do a little refresh and planning session of your own! Having done it myself, I've got a good idea where I stand and what my goals are and I'm ready to start setting up my new bullet journal for 2019. Keep an eye out for a tour, coming soon! In the meantime, happy new year!

Feeling Festive & My Molasses Cookie Recipe

Sunday, December 23, 2018
Waking up on Christmas morning, all warm and cozy under a heavy winter duvet, my own subconscious rather than the usual alarm prodding me to stir, telling me there's something special about today I need to wake up for is one of those feelings I wish I could bottle up and dip into at my leisure throughout the rest of the year. It's a potent little mixture of youthful anticipation, familial love and togetherness, and the serene sense of this being a day meant for simply being, not the usual monotonous hum of responsibilities and routines. But sadly Christmas is only one day.

Maybe we can't sit in that Christmas morning moment forever, but we can certainly anticipate it, celebrate it and attempt to conjure up some of the same feelings in the days leading up to it! In my house, we start counting down to Christmas the second Thanksgiving is over. Cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies are on almost every night, and Christmas songs play on the stereo as we're cooking and are whistled and hummed as we go about our days. We decorate a huge old Christmas tree with ornaments passed down to me from my parents, hang stockings on the mantle and a wreath in the entryway. Our house greets us every night as we come home from work with cheery, warm lines of lights around the roof and twirls of lights around the porch columns that remind me of candy cane stripes. We eat our way through heaps of John's mom's Christmas treats -- the same kinds each year, which gives us that nice sense of familiarity and comfort. Just in case we were short on sugary foods, my family spends an afternoon baking all our favorite Christmas cookies so we have plenty to swap and take home to enjoy throughout the month. And this year we close every day reading a little message from the personal advent calendar I made. All these things we spread throughout the month do wonders for elongating those fleeting magical hours of Christmas morning.

In case you're in need of your own festive feelings, here's my favorite holiday cookie recipe. I hope it brings you a little joy!

My mom's recipe card, copied from her mom's recipe card.
Molasses Cookies
Approx. 3 dozen

3/4 c shortening
1 c brown sugar
1 egg or egg substitute
1/4 c dark molasses
2 1/4 c flour, sifted
1/2 t salt
2 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1 t ginger
1/2 t ground cloves
white sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Cream together shortening and brown sugar.
3. Add egg and molasses and beat.
4. Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a mixing bowl.
5. Gradually add dry ingredients into wet ingredients.
6. Chill dough in refrigerator for about 20 minutes.
7. Roll dough into 1" balls and then roll each ball in white sugar to coat. Place on greased cookie sheets.
8. Bake for 12-15 minutes, let cool and enjoy!