(five) books + a box

So remember when I disappeared from blog land because I remembered how much I love reading books? Yeah, well, I’m still there, BUT, I’m taking a break for a quick review post. The reason being I just got another free Influenster box in the mail and want to give it a review. Also, I need to tell you guys about my new favorite series of all time! We’ll start with the books:

In which I completely abandon all literature except young adult lit

I’ve told you all before that I tend to gravitate toward the younger audience when it comes to books. Sure, I love many of the classics and have a special fondness for historical fiction, but I just love an easy, entertaining read over something with deep, complicated layers of symbolism and poetry. (My English professor mom is probably considering disowning me right about now!) HOWEVER, I do expect that my books are well written. I’ve cracked open a few teen fluff novels and couldn’t make it through more than a few pages because of terrible and/or sappy writing.

Anyway, to the point! My cousin told me about this series, called the River of Time, that she swore she liked better than the Divergent or Hunger Games trilogies. This obviously caught my attention, so I ordered book one, Waterfall, online. Nary a day had passed that I texted her desperately to borrow the next books in the series, because my Amazon order for them wouldn’t get here fast enough. GUYS, I love these books.

Without spoiling the plot—because I hate that, and also because the plot itself isn’t what makes it so great—let me just say what I love about this series:

  1. It’s written the way a young girl with a moderate amount of intelligence talks. Pop culture references and slang, but still descriptive and eloquent.
  2. It’s got romance without being trashy. Totally clean enough for, say, my 13-year-old niece who is now as obsessed with these books as I am.
  3. SO FAR*, the books mostly end in a manner that doesn’t make me want to throw them angrily at the wall and scream, “Why???” to the universe.
  4. BONUS not loved part: The cover art. I’m sorry, but it’s so corny, and the guy characters are way hotter how I imagine them.

So anyway, if you’re looking for a light but gripping read, check out River of Time! And once you do, please tell all your friends to build more interest so someone will make a movie of these!!

* There are currently five books out (three full length; two novellas sold in one volume), and the author is working on the sixth to come out in July!

Mary Kay (MKGlam) VoxBox: The time I actually changed my mind about a brand

If you read my last Influenster review, you know the drill. I fill out a profile, complete some surveys, and if I meet the target demographics, I get selected for free boxes! In exchange, I promise at the very least to complete a final survey about my opinion of the products. But, as an extra thank you for the free stuff, I can post a review on my blog. So here I am. Let me begin by saying if you haven’t joined Influenster yet but want to, let me know! I can invite you! But onto the review.

This box arrived before I even saw any tracking, so I wasn’t expecting it. I knew it involved Mary Kay, but that’s it. My opinion of the Mary Kay brand prior to this box was basically this: I associated it with pushy sales-ladies/sort-of friends in your house, maybe a little sense of tackiness. (This is just my honest opinion here!) So I received this box with a bit of a try-to-wow-me mentality. And I have to admit, I was kind of wowed. Overall, everything felt way more high-end than I expected, and there were a few products I absolutely LOVE. Couple that with the fact I got everything for free, and I almost feel like shouting from the rooftops. Here’s the product rundown with my comments on each item and the list prices (all are Mary Kay products):

  1. Lash Love Mascara ($15.00): BEST. MASCARA. EVER. I kid you not. I thought Benefit had me committed for life, but I love love love this mascara. The handle/applicator has a great weight to it, and it feels so sturdy. Oh, and the stuff really works. Fave item in the box.
  2. Cream Eye Color – Apricot Twist ($14.00): I don’t typically wear eye shadow of any kind, but I love this stuff. It’s a perfect shiny neutral and goes on super smoothly, with no cakiness as the day goes on.
  3. Mineral Cheek Color – Shy Blush ($12.00): This is just fine. It’s blush. I don’t really wear blush.
  4. Translucent Loose Powder ($16.00): This was probably the item I was most excited about before trying but most disappointed in once I did try it. I like that it’s very light, but I didn’t feel it made enough of a difference.
  5. Gel Eyeliner with Expandable Brush Applicator ($18.00): Now this I like. Believe it or not, I’ve never actually worn gel eyeliner, but I’ve tried this stuff the past couple days and might be a convert!
  6. Bronzing Power ($18.00): I like this stuff. I don’t normally wear bronzer, and I could probably use a tutorial on how to wear it correctly, but I like the “sun-kissed glow” this gives.
  7. NouriShine Plus Lip Gloss – Mango Tango ($14.00): This stuff looked orange-y but actually goes on a really nice coral-red. I like it!
  8. Cream Eye Color/Concealer Brush ($10.00): I actually don’t own any makeup brushes, so this was a welcome item! Seems like good quality.
  9. Big powder brush (wasn’t listed on the info card, but I’d guess around $12-15): Yet another brush I will happily use! Worked well enough but didn’t feel life-changing.

In short, this was $120+ worth of free stuff, and I was actually super impressed with most of it. I think my main qualm with Mary Kay has been the sales method, but I’d be totally cool with buying this stuff online. Yay for discovering awesome new products and yay for free boxes!

{RoT image via}

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a case of infatuation

So, I have a bit of a problem with infatuation. I get all excited about something and let it completely consume me, to the neglect of everything else in my life. Thus, while I’ve been absent from blog land the last week and a half, I’ve been soul-deep in… books. It’s just that I don’t actually get to spend all day reading, since, you know, I’ve got an infant and a job and all that, so when I finally have time to myself, literary cliffhangers take precedence over the internet. I always forget how much I love reading until I’m reading.

But now Ben and I are in a standoff, because he’s in the middle of the second Maze Runner book, and I just finished the first, so I basically just chastise him for every free minute he spends not reading. Like right now. So I’m in book limbo for the time being. And while I wait, I might as well say hi! We’ve managed to do a few non-book-related activities recently, because the weather is AMAZING. Like, it’s a crime not to eat every meal outdoors on a picnic blanket. Some of the recent highlights include the following:

  • More outlet shopping: Because I can’t stop. (Thankfully, my dear friend at Tommy wasn’t working this time.) And on that note…
  • White shorts quest: After finally finding a great pair of white jeans, I realized that my only pair of white Bermuda shorts is from… Motherhood Maternity. So the whole purpose (from which I was all too easily distracted) of visiting the outlets was to find a new pair. But every pair I tried either fit weird or was see through. So frustrating!
  • Spring festival: Ben and I had another date night! Yay! The community had a spring festival the other night with all sorts of booths, outdoor games, food trucks, and a screen on the green showing of Frozen! So fun! Cuddling on the grass under the stars to a Disney movie is pretty much amazing.
  • A new show: I had seen the previews for AMC’s Turn a while ago and it looked intriguing, but I had forgotten all about it until an ad in my Facebook feed reminded me (clever Mad Men cross-marketing). It’s really good! Honestly, I’ve shown shamefully little interest in the American Revolution beyond required history classes (my book club’s reading of 1776 was a big fail), but this makes it much more accessible. And the first episodes are all available on the website!
  • Which Wich: I despaired when we left the DC area, because I was a bit of an addict to Potbelly sandwiches. Thus I was delighted when we recently discovered the West’s Potbelly counterpart: Which Wich. They even have Oreo shakes! We’ve been there approximately three times since my last post….
  • Soaking in Easter perfection: Yesterday was the most perfect and gorgeous day to remember what’s most important to me and to refocus my perspective a bit.  This video pretty much says it all.
  • Orchestrating the most awesome Easter egg hunt ever: Okay, well at least we thought so. We had a big family dinner for Easter yesterday, and Ben and I got to fill all (70!) the easter eggs and hide them around my parents’ back yard. Most had candy inside, but we volunteered my mom to donate some cash for a few special eggs to keep things exciting. It was so fun watching my nieces and nephews hunt around and happily bring in their spoils.

I wouldn’t be surprised if I continue to post a tad less frequently in the future to give myself more time for all my other infatuations—and, of course, more time to read others’ blogs! There really are too few hours in the day! But while I love to come here and document my life, thoughts, and adventures, I just don’t have the talent to multitask blogging with everything else I want to do! Hope you all are enjoying this fabulous spring day!

{Image via}

the daily bubble

Ben and I recently watched a movie in which (completely unrelated to the main plot of the movie) this family does something each day called “the daily bubble”—basically, this couple and their young daughter create a big soap bubble and count the seconds until it pops. So yesterday, on our way back from froyo for possibly the second time in the last three days, we popped into a dollar store on a whim and picked up a bottle of bubbles. And what began as a fun family activity meant for Allie’s benefit quickly turned into a mad science project of Ben’s to create THE. PERFECT. BUBBLE. So Allie and I just chilled on our blanket enjoying the sunshine, watching the perfectionist at work.

Other highlights from this week:

  • Allie’s top four teeth are all pretty much out! They are moving at different paces, but this teething cycle certainly struck with force.
  • The day after our family hike, we went back for a family picnic! It was so awesome! Allie wore her shades almost the whole time and enjoyed a lunch of a couple of her favorites, chicken and watermelon.

  • Allie has started dancing. How awesome is that? She rocks back and forth to—you guessed it—”What Does the Fox Say?” and smiles. So freaking adorable. (I had a video to embed, but I can’t figure out how to upload to YouTube without making it searchable. Boo.)
  • She continues to wave at EVERYONE. Like, random strangers who aren’t even looking at her. She just waves and waves and occasionally finishes off by clapping, almost as if she’s applauding her awesome waving skills.
  • She also continues to sleep solely on her tummy. When I put her in her crib, I can’t even get her sleep sack zipped up before she’s rolled over.
  • Crawling update: Still not happening, and we’re okay with that. But she does desperately flex and straighten her legs with her little bum in the air, scooting around in a circle on her belly to get things she wants.
  • Things Allie is especially loving lately:
    • Vacuums (unflinching eyes glued in the direction of any vacuuming, with no attention to spare for, say, eating)
    • Ceiling fans (half fear, half fascination)
    • Playing airplane (flying on my feet)
    • Cats and dogs (loud squeals every time she sees one)
    • Fruit (she lives for watermelon and grapes)
    • Her quiet book pages (so speedily sent to us by Chelsea)
    • Froyo (don’t tell, but I let her have some of my watermelon sorbet)
    • Pressing buttons (like the “yellow” button on this play center we have… over and over again)
    • Knocking down anything that is stacked up (the main motivator we’re using to help her learn to crawl)

In short, we are having so much fun with Allie these days! She is so giggly and goofy, with more and more personality coming out every day. But I am sort of terrified for when she starts crawling…

sunshine and lost willpower

A bunch of random, somewhat connected thoughts and news today:

Sunshine is my favorite

Yesterday we went for a HIKE (well, sort of—more accurately, a stroll). As in, out in nature. Wearing short sleeves. It was amazing. There were a ton of people out walking, biking, skateboarding, or just lying on the grass having picnics and reading books. This is what happiness is made of, my friends! I’m hoping the weather stays nice, but in any case, my goal is to spend as much time outside as possible.

Date night number two!

We left Allie a second time! I realize how lame this all sounds to people without kids or people with kids who don’t have control/attachment/clinginess issues. But it’s a big deal for me! Ben and I went for a long-overdue visit to the local temple, and apparently Allie slept soundly without making a noise! I am slowly but surely becoming more comfortable with leaving her with family. However, I’ll probably need another three or four years before I let random people babysit her.

The most interesting thing I’ve read all week

I just happened across this fascinating post/infographic that compares death tolls from various events and causes throughout history. Super interesting and insightful. I really did not have an accurate concept of some of these. Second most interesting award goes to the first two chapters of Waterfall, the first book in the River of Time series that my cousin recommended to me. She said she liked it better than the Hunger Games and Divergent trilogies, so I will keep you all posted! We ordered it along with The Maze Runner, which Ben will be reading first.

I recant my earlier statement

So… remember how proud of myself I was that I managed to not buy the anchor cardigan at the Tommy Hilfiger outlet? Well, yeah, about that. The other day we decided to take another venture to the outlets since the weather was so much nicer (and since they are literally just 20 minutes away), and I decided to duck back into the Tommy outlet, just to check things out. Guess what was still there, still the only one in my size. This time my willpower wasn’t so strong. And, as I left with the anchor cardigan I suddenly decided I was destined to own, the guy who checked us out (and had last week, as well) called, “See you next week!” Oh gosh. NO MORE SHOPPING. For a while.

No boxes in the apocalypse

But, speaking of addictions, a fellow box-lover shared this Washington Post article yesterday about the subscription box craze. If you’ve been sitting there thinking, “This girl is seriously obsessed with surprise boxes,” this article may help shed some light on the why. It’s a whole community of addicts. Except instead of support groups to help us break our addictions, we have support groups to enable them. It’s kind of crazy, now that I think about it.

I really have been thinking a lot about how pointless all the things are that I love to buy. Ben and I were discussing survival tactics for various apocalyptic scenarios the other day (in part because I only got “three months” to Ben’s “indefinitely” on the How Long Would You Survive in a Zombie Apocalypse? quiz), and the thought occurred to me I’d be better spending my time learning how to start fires and identify plant life than, say, online shopping. But it’s really hard to just completely change what excites and motivates you in life. I’m hoping it will be easier once we’ve settled in wherever our new location is. Or not. Stay tuned, I guess!

things that made me cry this weekend

Not that there’s much that doesn’t make me cry! I am such a crier. I wasn’t always this way; I remember realizing at some point in high school that I hadn’t cried in over a year. Things definitely changed as I got older! It doesn’t take me much to get teary these days, and new mom hormones (can I still blame those?) certainly don’t help the matter. This weekend a few things just sent me over the edge:

  • Frozen: So, crazy as this is, I hadn’t seen Frozen until this weekend. I was fighting it a bit because everyone loved it and I always hate bandwagons until I’m on them… But I loved this movie so much!! I literally cried about 10 times during it. Watching it (without Allie, given our no-TV-before-age-2 rule) made me (somewhat ironically) so excited to watch it with Allie when she’s older and can go princess-crazy. I also might have said to Ben, seeing the relationship between Elsa and Anna, that Allie needs a sister… (This is NOT an announcement!)
  • General Conference: My church (for those of you who aren’t members) has a televised conference twice a year with talks by our church leaders. I have definitely seen my spirituality diminish with my stress and sleep deprivation over the past few months, and this was a much-needed spiritual boost. Several of the talks as well as an in-between segment (about a family forgiving the man who killed their mom while driving) touched my heart and moved me to tears. I feel very motivated to be more positive, loving, productive, and grateful, despite the challenges of our current transitory state.
  • Sorting baby clothes: Allie continues to grow like a very beautiful weed (or maybe just a flower), and I’ve been meaning to go through her clothes and pack up anything too small. I finally did this the other night, and it was probably the socks that set me off. THEY ARE SO LITTLE! I remembered how small she was just a few months ago, and I suppose I cried because I realized she’ll only get bigger, and those days are gone. But I also cried because seeing how much she’s grown made me think of who she’ll grow to be. I’m basically obsessed with her. Sigh.

This week is supposed to be lovely and warm, and I am looking forward to (a) another date night with Ben (if all goes as planned), (b) my POPSUGAR April and Special Edition Resort boxes *hopefully* shipping, and (c) starting either the River of Time or Maze Runner series. Both first books are on their way, and I suppose I’ll let Ben start on one while I read the other. I am feeling so reenergized by spring, even with its temperamental comings and goings. Yay!

{Image via}

adventures in shopping

You may have seen versions of the “shopping is my cardio” t-shirt out there. Well, while that may be true for me as well, shopping is also my therapy. And this week, I had a few especially fruitful sessions with my favorite therapist.

The chosen tote

Friends! I am so excited about this one! You know how I was looking for a tote bag to function as my daily everything bag? And how Ben told me I would just know when I found the right one? Well it happened! I had been eyeing some of Kate Spade Saturday’s three-way tote bags, and I checked earlier this week and only saw two prints available—neither of which appealed to me. But for whatever reason (most likely because I’ve been searching totes every single night), I went back a few days later and found THE ONE. I was looking for something light and basic that I could load up with a few baby + me essentials, throw over my shoulder, and be off. It needed to be able to coordinate with most of my outfits, which meant some kind of pattern, but not detract from them, which meant something abstract. Behold: the Three-Way Tote in Atmosphere. Ben thinks it looks like someone spilled paint all over it. But I think it’s lovely! And I can’t wait for it to arrive!

The anchor cardigan I didn’t buy

Last week at church, I saw a girl wearing this super cute red cardigan with little blue anchors all over it. You may be aware of my love of all things nautical (a backstory for another day), so when I saw it, I jumped on my phone immediately to identify it. Google kindly informed me it’s a Tommy Hilfiger cardigan no longer available online. So on Wednesday, when we decided to visit the local outlet mall, I took a chance and ducked into Tommy Hilfiger.

I browsed for a while and found some super cute stuff on amazing sales, then, on our way to the register, guess what was right in the dang front of the store and 50 percent off! It seemed like an obvious choice, because it was the whole reason I went there and they only had one left in my size. But something funny happened in that moment that doesn’t happen to me often: I saw reason. I realized that, while very cute, this cardigan wouldn’t go with very much in my wardrobe, and I wouldn’t get much use out of it. So… I bought a polka dot one instead. Much more practical. But still super cute!

The POPSUGAR box I need really want to buy

Okay, so of course I already subscribe to my fave subscription box ever, POPSUGAR Must Have*. But there is apparently a coupon code (CHANNEL7) that’s good until today for half off a box, making it a mere $20, which is a fantastic deal! Unfortunately, it doesn’t apply to current subscribers, so… I need to get a box for someone. I just have to. It’s TOO good of a deal! Now just to convince Ben…

Other purchases of note this week

  • An amber teething necklace for Allie to wear (during the day only), because the FOUR TEETH she is sprouting right now are causing her all sorts of pain and discomfort.
  • The book of What Does the Fox Say, because Allie continues to be obsessed with the song, and while we’re totally sick of it, it’s her song. So it’s only appropriate. (And also possibly because I was getting the teething necklace and just buying one thing from Amazon is so hard.)
  • A total Target receipt under $100 yesterday! This is a big step for us! (Though of course every time I step into Target now, this article pops into my head.)

Anyway, it’s probably best that I STOP shopping for a while. I finally finished Allegiant last night, so I guess now it’s time for a new book! I’m either going to check out the River of Time or Maze Runner series. Sticking with YA lit, of course! Hope you all have lovely weekends!!

{Images via sites linked above}

* My referral link

rebelliousness and scrambled eggs

I have been super absent from blog land the last few days. I could say it’s because I’ve have lots of work to do, which is part of it, or because I’ve been trying to finish Allegiant, which is also true. But it’s mostly because I just did not feel like blogging. Like at all. Do you (since most of you reading have blogs of your own) ever get like that? Sometimes I feel this pressure to blog and read blogs, like I have to keep it up or my world will stop turning. But I have always had a rebellious spirit and hate feeling forced to do things, and I guess I just needed a break. And I want you to know I’m reading your blog because I want to, not because I feel I have to. It’s just that sometimes I just want to run away and do whatever for a while, k? 🙂

But since you’re all dying to know, here are a few things that have occupied my mind and time these past few days:

  • Anti-April Foolery: I seriously hate April Fools’ Day. I am a believer of things, and I always fall for everything. Thus, when I spent at least a full hour yesterday being insanely excited about the promised return of the show Firefly, it was with deep sadness that I remembered the date. NOT COOL.
  • Impossible giftery: What do you give to someone who has or could very easily acquire (and with much less financial damage than you) everything? Someone in our lives has been immensely helpful and supportive recently, and we have wanted to show our appreciation, but every gift just seems so pointless. Last night we eventually settled on a gift of a Taste Trunk, a food box I’ve never actually tried but that looks pretty good in the reviews I’ve read.
  • Teething and waving: Oh yeah, so teething sucks. I mean, I’m assuming so, because Allie is back at it (top tooth number one made its appearance a couple of days ago!) and is all sorts of pouty and night-wakey. But she still manages to be amazingly smiley and giggly at the same time. OH, and she has totally mastered the wave! (Hand, not crowd.) Granted, she does it with both hands at once, but she understands enough to do it when we wave at her!
  • Scrambled eggs: I had never in my life made eggs… until this week. For whatever reason, I don’t like eggs (except in cake or cookies or brownies or basically eggs plus anything)—though I think it may be the food I try to learn to like this year—but Allie tried some at a restaurant a week or so ago, and I realized this would be a good food for me to make for her. So the other morning I scrambled my first ever egg. Ummm so, it’s ridiculously easy. Painfully easy. Granted, I sort of overscrambled it the first time, but I tried again the next morning and the next, and not only am I a total promateur, but Allie totally loves eggs. #momwin #sortof
  • Dreaming of campaigning for the change of American workplace norms: I read this article about how America’s workers are stressed out and overwhelmed, and I read somewhere else this past week about how so few people take the full hour for lunch and so many eat at their desks. I can attest to both of these from experience. Conclusion: Our workplace culture needs to change big time. It’s proven that people work better with more breaks, more vacation, and more unplugging—yet we still maintain our toxic culture of working late even when you don’t need to, always being available by email, and being ashamed about actually wanting to spend time with our families. This is ridiculous! And it is going to destroy American ingenuity and prosperity, IMHO. Okay, off soapbox.
  • Headaches: And on the subject of being overwhelmed… this is what has literally occupied my mind lately. I don’t get headaches a lot, but I’ve had one almost non-stop for three days. Must mean it’s time for a vacation!

I hope whatever you are doing today, it’s something that you want to do!

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