Reading Lately.

 

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Over the past couple of months, I’ve really started to enjoy reading again. Life has been busy since, well, forever, and I’d forgotten how much I love going to the library. It’s easy for me to get lost in the endless array of reading material, and if it weren’t for Matt I might never make it back home ;) Anyway, I thought I’d do a quick review of what I’ve been enjoying lately! I’ll start with the book that inspired me to write this post in the first place:

1. The House at Riverton

This is so. good. I honestly haven’t read such a good story in years. If you like Downton Abbey, this book is for you. I would have read it all in one sitting, except that it’s close to 500 pages, and this girl has to sleep. I loved the ending, and was sad when I finished it. Isn’t that the mark of a good read? When you feel sad that it’s over?

2. The Paris Wife

I have mixed feelings about this book. It’s based on a true facts about the early life of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley. I love, love, love stories that are set in the Jazz Age, and this book didn’t disappoint in that regard. But the end left me feeling sad and angry with the characters involved. I feel like there’s unfinished business. I did like it pretty well though, and I recommend it if you, too, enjoy the 1920′s setting!

3. The Late, Lamented Molly Marx

Hm. This one wasn’t my favorite. I really wanted to like it, but it was anticlimactic, and I was disappointed with the ending. It plants an intriguing idea in the readers mind within the first couple of paragraphs (if I remember correctly), but for me, it didn’t deliver. Pass.

4. Gone Girl

If you’re easily offended by foul language and adult scenes, this is not the book for you. But, if you can get past that, you’ll find that this is a really interesting story. The plot is pretty unusual (read: CRAZY), the characters are unique… I can’t say I’ve ever read anything like it.

5. The Distant Hours

Another Kate Morton win. Really, really good. Her books can get a little wordy and overly descriptive, and a couple of times I found myself just skimming through a paragraph to get past bits of  (in my opinion) unnecessary information. That quality doesn’t take away from the stories, though. Love them.

6. The Secret Keeper

I just finished this book. Like, closed it 5 minutes ago and came in here to write this post. I wanted my emotions to be fresh so I could express to you how much I loved. this. book. My favorite so far of Kate Morton’s. I was sad when it ended. I wish I could have coffee with the characters and discuss the mystery! As with her previous books, it didn’t end at all like I’d imagined. Her stories (the three I’ve read, anyway) all have a similar theme. Misunderstandings and seemingly insignificant choices made by the characters cause ripple effects that last generations. My heart ached for the characters, their love lost. Speaking of characters, all of her books have an army of them. If I put it down for more than a couple of days, I had to really think to remember each of them and their role. I know I’ve really talked her books up, but I just love them!

Next on my reading list are A Room With a View (it’s old, I know) and What Alice Forgot. I like to check out only 2 books at a time, just to make sure I don’t return them late. It’s irritating to have to wait for a book that someone else has had for 6 weeks, haha ;)

Let me know if you have read/plan to read any of these, and what you think!

Living my real life.

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It has been my intention since beginning this blog to be really transparent and authentic. I’m still learning about myself… interests, dreams, style, insecurities, etc., and as I dig deep and explore those things, I want to share them with you. I’m hoping that I’m not the only one in this place of self-discovery. Keeping that in mind, I’m going to post this in hopes that it might be encouraging to you, should you have any prisons of your own.

So, I have this… thing. Mm, it’s actually less of a thing, and more of a heavy, unshakable, burden that stems from a deeper root issue of fear. It causes dread, weariness, anxiety, and has kept me up more nights than I care to say. Makes me competitive, and when I’m inevitably out-done, leaves me feeling less-than.

See, the “thing” is… I need you to like me. And not just you, but everyone (I warned you it was a heavy burden). I try hard to keep you (read: everyone) happy, and it’s exhausting and feels like a less authentic version of me. Honestly, it’s a little ironic. I’ve had several conversations with Matt about how I dislike in-authenticity. I feel it right down to my bones when people are being phony, yet I can be so guilty of it myself. I say yes to things I know I’ll regret later (but at least you won’t think less of me for saying no), and justify it by saying I’m serving and giving of myself, and that I should because, after all, I’m at home. Don’t get me wrong, serving is a non-negotiable. It’s a huge part of our calling as Christ followers to love and serve others. It becomes a burden, though, when we do it from a place of obligation or self-seeking (such as trying to control what you think of me), or when we just know that we need to say no because it’s not right for us right now.

Another example? Sometimes I won’t wear things I really like, because I think that you’ll think I’m trying to be someone I’m not. Or I won’t buy something because you might think me excessive or greedy. I do and say things to try and keep up with you, to make you think we’re on the same level. Heaven forbid that I should be left behind. That I might not be as far along as you, as confident, as sure of who I am. That I might not possess the same praise-worthy, tangible gifts. That I might be… inferior. Why would I let you see that? It shows weakness, after all. Weakness, and humanness, and smallness. And if you saw all of that, if you knew the real person… you might not like her.

I’m selfish, and lazy, and terrified of stepping outside of my comfort zone. Not because I’m actually afraid to try things, but because of what you’ll think of me trying things. I’ve been the same person, after all. You know me as that girl.

But here’s another “thing” that I’m slowly accepting: We are uniquely made. God has a different plan for each of us, has fashioned our hearts individually. Being the same, at the same level, with the same gifts… that’s not His plan for our lives. Can you imagine if we were all the same? Desperately trying to one up each other, always seeking approval? It’s how I’ve been living, and that realization breaks my heart. Jesus died so that you and I don’t have to live in bondage, in these prisons we create for ourselves, and that means that I don’t need your approval (or you, mine, for that matter). I am Approved. I am Loved. I’m Free.

“The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men… He fashions their hearts individually…” Ps. 33:15

“You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” 1 Cor. 7:23

“But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?” Gal. 4:9 

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Gal. 5:1

That’s the real kicker, isn’t it? Almost laughable that I try so hard. I am Already. But I’ve been living like I’m Not Yet. I’m tired of it. I’m sick of enslaving myself to the standards I’ve imagined you to have. God has given us freedom, and boldness, and access through Jesus, and I’m ready to start living like I believe that. What an amazing, undeserved, exceptionally blessed life we have!!

Will you start living it with me? Whatever your personal prison, lets refuse to allow ourselves remain there, missing out on our real. life. Lets be bold and have the courage to be the person that He designed(!!), to say no when we know we should (even though some people won’t like it), and say yes to who we are! Lets be true to the Lord and to ourselves. It might be a slow process, and I’ll no doubt have set backs along the way, but I’m determined to keep trying, refuse to treat something as crucial as this to taper off like some unattainable, unrealistic new years resolution.

I feel like this is a whole jumbled mess that doesn’t flow or make a lick of sense, but maybe that’s good? The stamp of an authentic, un-flow-y (apparently I also make up words), imperfect, jumbled, messy, me?

(I almost didn’t link this song because I was worried that you’d think it was lame. But it’s so appropriate for this post and the chorus has been stuck in my head for days, so I’m doing it anyway. Baby steps.)

 

High Five for Friday!

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1. Valentines Day. It was really, really good. Matt didn’t have school, so we got to spend the entire day together! We went out to dinner with some friends and had a lovely time. I wore my Valentines gift (coming soon to a favorites post near you ;) ) with a couple of other bracelets and felt super fancy!

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2. We had a really relaxing weekend at home (mostly due to the nausea I thought I’d rid myself of earlier in the week. it’s going around :( ). We watched the entire second season of House of Cards on Netflix (which I don’t recommend if you’re easily offended :/ ). But it was nice to just stay in and rest. I’m feeling much better this week, thankfully, though still staying away from heavy foods.

3. Had another snow day with this cutie on Monday :D . How precious are those suspenders?!

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4. A night with my beautiful, newly engaged, sister friend! (Ignore the tired eyes. This is many hours, emotions, and a bottle of wine later.) Love her so much!

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5. I finished The Distant Hours (another one by Kate Morton) on Tuesday night, and immediately started The Secret Keeper. It is so satisfying, and also a little sad, to finish a novel. I’ve rediscovered my love of reading over the past couple of months, and am working on a post reviewing those books, so you can expect that in the coming week or so.

Happy Friday everyone! :)

Date Night Ideas (that won’t break the bank!)

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Now that Valentines Day is over, the flowers have been sent, and the chocolates and expensive dinners have been eaten, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to share with you all some of  the fun, inexpensive dates Matt and I enjoy together. I love having date nights with my hubby, it is absolutely one of my very favorite things! Since I quit my job last fall, we’ve scaled back on our dates, going out only about once or twice every month. I know that probably still seems like a lot to some folks, but for us (who were used to going out every weekend), it was an adjustment. We’ve gotten pretty creative with our at-home date nights over the past few months, and I’m happy with what we’ve been coming up with. I hope you all enjoy these as much as we have! :)

1. Culturally themed date nights: This one was actually Matt’s idea. For example, if we go for Italian night, we’ll make pizza, spaghetti, etc., and watch a movie that goes along with it. It’s really fun, and forces us to branch out and try foods and movies we would otherwise pass on in favor of our usual.

2. Game night: This one is pretty self-explanatory. Grab some snacks and a fun game (or, if you’re like us, a really ooold game like Battleship or Life ;) ), and go to town!

3. Take a Drive: This is one of our very favorites. It’s inexpensive, exciting (but also relaxing), and I have to say that some of our best conversations happen when we’re in the car together. Sometimes we stay in town, sometimes we take a country drive, and sometimes we’ll go a bit further and see a place we’ve never been before. It usually involves sharing a large order of fries or a couple of doughnuts. Probably our most loved date.

4. Work it out: Our Friday nights can get pretty wild. I mean, going to the gym together to start off your weekend is all the rage right now, am I right?! ;) The point is that it’s something we can do together, and we both feel great afterwards!

5. Coffee and dessert: And oldie, but a goodie! Bake some brownies, brew some (decaf) coffee, and pop in a movie, read a book together, or (my favorite) talk about life, your relationship, dreams, etc.

So those are just a few inexpensive date ideas that we’ve been enjoying. Like I said, we still go out once or twice a month, but setting aside a dollar amount in our budget specifically for date nights out has challenged us to stay in more, and be more creative with our time together. Hope you enjoy these as much as we do! :)

High Five For Friday!

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Another week has floooown by! Whew! Here are my high 5 for the week:

1. I decided (rather spontaneously) to go visit my mom at the end of last week. We had a great time! Went to our usual (and very favorite) thrift stores. I picked up a couple of frames and a pair of (brand new!) Bandolino heels for $9.00! We ate too much, watched movies, and finally got to exchange our Christmas gifts. I love staying with my momma. Her house is so cozy and warm! We had a lovely time!

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2. The weather kept us in on Saturday (read: kept me from going to the library and picking up more Kate Morton books. I was able to get them soon after, though!), so I made these cinnamon rolls. They were so good! Cinnamon rolls are my favorite breakfast and dessert. And dinner ;) .

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Matt and I made a peach pie together on Sunday, too, and it was delicious. We were surprised at how well it turned out!

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Then on Monday I decided I needed to cancel out the sweets with some healthy food, and after a little practice I made a green smoothie! The result was yummy! I’ve had one every day this week, and I don’t think I’ll turn back. It motivates me to eat healthier throughout the day, and to workout.

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3. I got to talk to this baby. He turned 11 on Tuesday, so I guess not a baby anymore :( My little nephew (first one!) is getting so big, so fast! I remember changing his diaper in my moms living room one day when he was about 6 months. I dressed him, and when I finished I looked up and he was smiling at me! Heart=stolen/melted/full!

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4. Matt had 4 (!!) snow days this week, and we spent them sleeping, eating, working out, and watching movies. It was glorious.

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5. I finally got to see About Time! It was so, so good. One of the best movies I’ve seen in a really long time. I definitely recommend it!

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(photo credit)

Hope you all had a wonderful week, and have a wonderful weekend! :D

January Favorites!

 

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It’s that time again! I just have a few favorites this month. I’ve been sick for a little less than half of January, and haven’t been super interested in or paid much attention to a whole lot of products this month (it’s been a sit-on-the-couch-and-devour-book-after-book kind of month). These few really stood out to me, though :)

1. NYX Butter Glosses: I’m probably the last person to try these, but that doesn’t even matter. The point is that they’re finally in my life. I picked up the shade Creme Brulee at Ulta a couple of weekends ago. It smells like vanilla cupcakes, really does feel buttery, and it’s the prettiest nude gloss I’ve ever tried (I even prefer it to the Maybelline gloss I mentioned in this post). Love. It.

2. Mario Badescu Seaweed Cleansing Lotion: This stuff is wonderful. I got it at the tail end of December, and after using it twice a day, every day since then, I’ve decided that I love it. I almost gave up on it after that first week of seeing not results (I’m an impatient girl ;) ), but I marched on. So, so glad I did. I haven’t had a breakout for 2 weeks, and the redness in my face has reduced significantly. It’s good stuff.

3. Aussie Hair Insurance Heat Protectant: I ran out of my Tresemme, so I picked this one up. It smells great, and in my opinion it works better. The ends of my hair don’t feel as brittle after I use a flat iron on it, specifically my bangs. I like it.

4. The House at Riverton. Read it.

So that’s it. Not a super exciting favorites post, but like I said, it’s been a month partially filled with recovering on the couch :( I’m excited to be over that stinkin’ head cold and looking forward to all February has in store! :)

High Five For Friday!

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Photo credit

Hey everyone! I’ll be linking up every Friday with Lauren for High Five For Friday, starting today! I’m not sure what the time line is supposed to be, but my H54F posts will run from the previous Friday to Thursday (is that confusing?). I’m so excited for this series. I think it’s going to be a great way for me to really think on and appreciate my blessings, and I’m excited to be able to look back on the year and remember some really precious moments that I  would otherwise take for granted. So, without further adieu…

1. On Saturday, Matt and I had a little date in the afternoon. We went to Panera for lunch (one of my favorites!), and then watched The Wolf of Wall Street. It was… fine. The story itself was really interesting, but there was about an hours worth (literally) of nudity that I could have really done without. We went to Ulta, and I picked up a NYX product that will definitely make it into my favorites post next week, even though I only just got it. It’s that good.

2. Oh, and Sunday. What a fun night we had! Matt and I went to a birthday celebration for our dear friend, Natalie. We played games, ate yummy food and drank yummy wine… I won’t forget it! :)

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3. Monday I got to babysit my sweet little niece. She’s the most darling little thing!! I could eat her up!

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4. I finished reading The House at Riverton. I’m not going to get into it here, but I suggest you read it as soon as you can. It’s my new favorite. (Also, I don’t think I’ve had a favorite book since the fifth grade, when I read Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio. So, yeah. It’s been a while.)

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5. I sat down and wrote several posts this week! For me, that’s a big deal. I’m excited for the things I’ve been blogging about and I can’t wait to share them with you!

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Let me know about your week! :)

Quick and Easy Re-purposed Candle Vase

I can’t be the only one that has about 100 empty Bath and Body Works candle vases lying around, can I? It might be silly, but it’s just so hard for me to throw them away because they’re glass, and I feel like they can be used for lots of different things. I have a couple of them on our bedroom vanity to hold jewelry, hair accessories, etc. This post will be a short, super fast and easy DIY, showing how I used one of them to give a little glitz to my desk.

You’ll only need a few items:

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Empty candle vase

Mod Podge

Glitter

Paint sponge/brush

Wax paper (or something to catch glitter fall-out)

First, you’ll need to remove any remaining wax from the vase. I’ve found that the easiest way to do that is to put the vase in the freezer for a couple of hours. When you take it out, use a knife to gently break the wax into pieces. It should come right out. Then I like to use warm, soapy water or alcohol to clean up any wax or adhesive that might still be on the glass.

After your vase is clean, apply the mod podge around the interior of the vase, and quickly (I mean, VERY quickly, mine was drying super fast) dump the glitter in. Roll the vase back and forth on its side until it’s coated:

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Let it dry for a few hours, and:

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Viola! Like I said, this is ridiculously easy, and I love that.

Hope everyone is having a great Tuesday! :)

Good Will Mirror: Before and After

Remember the mirror I talked about in this post? Well, I gave it a little love (aka threw a few coats of paint on it), along with a couple of other little pieces I’m revamping for the office. Here’s a quick before-and-after:

Before:

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After:

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I love that a little paint can bring new life to something!

 

Hope everyone is having a great day!

December Favorites!

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It’s that time again. I’m not complaining, though. Like I said before, monthly favorites are my favorite! ;)

Starting with beauty:

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This is by far the best deep conditioner I’ve ever used. I hated it at first, it gave my hair that squeaky clean feeling when I rinsed it out, not sleek or smooth. But my hair was noticeably softer as the day went on, and that’s a big deal. I rarely notice a difference in my hair when I switch up products. I tried the Loreal Total Repair 5 before this one, and it was fine I guess. I don’t dislike it. When I went to get more, this one caught my eye. I’ve heard that hyaluronic acid is fantastic for your skin because it pulls moisture in to it, so when I saw this I was immediately interested. It’s. so. good!

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Sugar Sugar from Sinful Colors has been on my nails almost constantly for the past few weeks. It is beautiful on, a velvety red with the tiniest bits of shimmer. I know the holidays are over, but I had to reapply it today! So pretty!

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This Jane waterproof liner is so good! It’s the first waterproof liner I’ve tried, so I’m not sure if it’s superior to any others. It stays on my waterline though, and that’s good enough for me! :)

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Oh. my. goodness. EEEPP! I’ve found it, and I’m ecstatic! I can’t tell y’all how long I’ve searched for a red lipstick that I’m comfortable wearing. They’re all too blue, or too orange, or I’m too pale, or they clash with my hair… I’ve just had the worst luck. But we went to Walgreens a couple of weeks ago and I picked this shade up (foregoing my typical neutral option). First of all, these new Revlon Colorburst Lacquer Balms in general are a.maz.ing. Smooth, pigmented, and I love that they kept the minty flavor that’s also in the Kissable Balm Stains. But this shade (150, “Enticing”) specifically,  has stolen my heart. I’m determined to wear it every chance I get!

 

On to the non-beauty favorites:

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Yep, another necklace. If you follow me on Instagram, you know how much I love this thing. I’ve worn it with ev.er.y.thing. It’s so beautiful! Mindy Mae’s Market is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to shop for jewelry. They had a huge sale a couple of days ago (their prices are already super affordable), and I may or may not have picked up a J Crew inspired bracelet for $12, shipped. I love a good deal.

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My last favorite of December has been gold prints. There are TONS of them on Etsy, but I just can’t justify paying $20 for something I can easily do myself, you feel me? This month I’ve been getting inspiration for the office decor on Pinterest, and when I ran across a print similar to this one, I just had to recreate it (in my own messy, imperfect way, of course ;) ). Paris is my dream, so that’s the theme I’m going with for the office. I made this one at the beginning of December to add a little glitz to our Christmas decor:

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So that’s it! Hope you guys enjoy reading these posts as much as I enjoy writing them! If you happen to post monthly favorites, please let me know! I’d love to check them out :D

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