Favorite Things I Need to Tell You about Right Now

Favorite Things I Need to Tell You About Right Now – Vol. 2

Hey friends! To start the year, I did a post on “Favorite Things in 2017 That I Need to Tell You About Right Now,” and decided that it needed to become a semi-regular series. So I’m back today to share a new list on random finds and new favorite things and trends I’m obsessed with lately. And since my friend Brandi and I are always swapping these kind of ideas back and forth, I’ve asked her to contribute! And like before, this post in not sponsored in any way — I just genuinely recommend it all.

Skecher Go Step Boat Shoes

Amanda: My mom recommended Go Walks to me last summer and while the overall brand has a lot of styles that I don’t like, I am in LOVE with the Go Step style that look like Sperry’s since I bought my first pair on sale last fall. They are seriously one of the comfiest shoes I have ever owned, have never given me blisters and I’ve been able to walk in them long distances without it affecting my plantar fasciitis. I’m currently trying to figure out what pair I want next.

Ebates

Amanda: Ebates is a service that you download as a plugin on your internet browser (there is also an app) and then as you shop online it offers a percentage cash back on your purchases. Then you get a check every quarter with what you’ve made. I heard about Ebates a long time ago, but I always thought that there was a catch of some sort or that it would take too much effort to work. But I was wrong, its literally just one extra click of a button to activate each time. Now, I could see how it would drive someone to spend more money than really necessary, because the site advertises all of the different deals going on with various brands. But I have just used it for purchases that I already otherwise was going to make. When I was planning on buying new running shoes and knew exactly which pair and size I wanted, I went to Ebates to see what retailer had the best cash back offer and made my purchase there. Since July, I’ve made almost $60 back, and my next check will be a bigger one because I just I was able to use Ebates for a plane ticket I recently bought.

If you are interested in using Ebates, use my referral link:

https://www.ebates.com/r/AJAESP?eeid=28187

…and we’ll BOTH get a little extra back 🙂

Mine Design Noted Candle

Amanda: Since the past year or so I’ve been regularly burning candles in my home and my favorite has been this one that I snatched up as on add-on item with one of my FabFitFun boxes. The scent itself is just a light floral scent, but the best part about it is that you can write messages on it with pencil and erase and rewrite as many times as you’d like. It’s perfect for my style and been a fun addition to my home. After I am done burning the original candle, I’ll put votives in it so I can continue to use it. Right now it says “Surviving Not Thriving.”

Kombucha

Amanda: I don’t drink as much pop as I used to (but I’ll never give it up completely), but I’ve always crave the fizz. Kombucha has become increasingly popular recently and after one my friends suggested I try it a number of times, I finally gave it try and now I’m hooked. Kombucha is essentially fermented tea, is really refreshing and is a good source of probiotics. It still has sugar so I don’t drink it everyday, but its become a tasty treat about twice a week or so. I usually buy it at Trader Joe’s and really like the Trader Joe’s brand Pomegranate Hibiscus, Health-Ade’s Pink Lady Apple and GT”s Synergy Trilogy.

JERGENS® Wet Skin® Moisturizers

Amanda: I’m usually pretty skeptical of these kind of products but one of my friends let me try some of her JERGENS® Wet Skin® Moisturizers when I was visiting last fall, and seriously, its so good! It’s official description says it “works with water to instantly lock in moisture from your shower. Skin stays soft and luminous all day, without a heavy, sticky feel.” I’d say that description is pretty accurate. I have really dry skin and now use this about twice a week or so when I’d get out of the shower. It has really made a difference, especially throughout the harsh winter months. I tried the Refreshing Coconut Oil version and am looking forward to trying some of the others.

Erin Condren

Amanda: I talked about choosing a new planner and my new love for Erin Condren in a blog post in January. What I didn’t share is that I first fell in love with these planners when I bought one for my Mom for Christmas in 2016, and then again in 2017. When Brandi was looking for something new last year, I knew these would be a good fit for her too. My Mom and I both have the “Life Planner,” which best fits our needs.

Brandi: Toward the end of 2017, the search for a new planner began. I had tried a bullet journal in 2017 and it was evident I really just needed full monthly views spare pages to put down notes and to-do lists. After lots of researching and asking around, I found Erin Condren and felt like I had hit the planner mother lode. If you saw or talked to me at the end of 2017, I likely tried to sell you on this planner brand because of how low-key obsessed I was am with it. There are 3 main planner layouts and tons of covers, colors and customizations to choose. Truthfully, it took me longer to pick out a favorite cover design and color combination than it did to research a planner type. I finally settled with the Monthly Deluxe and paid for extra notebook pages in the back. Since I ordered my planner, I’ve ordered an academic planner for my sister, a wedding planner for a friend, a plain notebook for work and tons of accessories. In addition to all the planner options, they also have lunch bags, personalized notepads, blankets, throw pillows, wine totes, and so much more. Luckily they’ve started a rewards program so I can earn points on my purchases to put toward MORE PURCHASES!!

This post is not sponsored, but I do have a referral code if you are interested in getting something from Erin Condren yourself.

Podcasts

Brandi: I learned pretty early on that being in a shared work space with lots of other people talking on the phone, I’d need something to help block out the extra sound. Listening to music works sometimes, but at certain times the jamming out and lip-syncing is not conducive to working. That’s when I started looking into podcasts. There are so many options for subjects ranging from things you can learn, talk radio recorded for podcast listening, people recapping television shows, and lots of humor. I started listening mostly to see if I could passively learn anything, but now a lot of my podcasts are light-hearted and meant more for comic relief than anything. They help keep the work day or a car ride lively when music isn’t cutting it.

Here’s my current Top 5:

  1. The Dave Ramsey Show
  2. An Acquired Taste Podcast
  3. The Way I Heard It with Mike Rowe
  4. TED Talks Daily by TED
  5. The Brooklyn Boys Podcast

Bonus: Game of Thrones The Podcast by Bald Move (when the show is live & new)

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What are some of your favorite things lately?

Books and Reading

Book Review: February 2018

Well friends, I lied.

I said in my January post that I was almost done with “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr, and I was, but then I got distracted and started another two books. Which is unfortunate, because I don’t want that to indicate that the book isn’t good… these other two books were just easier to fly through and I am still working at making more time for reading.

So with that said, in February I finished two books that were drastically different from each other, which was a good mix.

Read past reviews here.

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My Story
By Elizabeth Smart
with Chris Stewart

Synopsis

“For the first time, ten years after her abduction from her Salt Lake City bedroom, Elizabeth Smart reveals how she survived and the secret to forging a new life in the wake of a brutal crime.

On June 5, 2002, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, the daughter of a close-knit Mormon family, was taken from her home in the middle of the night by religious fanatic, Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. She was kept chained, dressed in disguise, repeatedly raped, and told she and her family would be killed if she tried to escape. After her rescue on March 12, 2003, she rejoined her family and worked to pick up the pieces of her life.

Now for the first time, in her memoir, MY STORY, she tells of the constant fear she endured every hour, her courageous determination to maintain hope, and how she devised a plan to manipulate her captors and convinced them to return to Utah, where she was rescued minutes after arriving. Smart explains how her faith helped her stay sane in the midst of a nightmare and how she found the strength to confront her captors at their trial and see that justice was served.

In the nine years after her rescue, Smart transformed from victim to advocate, traveling the country and working to educate, inspire and foster change. She has created a foundation to help prevent crimes against children and is a frequent public speaker. In 2012, she married Matthew Gilmour, whom she met doing mission work in Paris for her church, in a fairy tale wedding that made the cover of People magazine.” (via GoodReads)

My Review

This case is probably one of the first major news events that I can remember happening as a kid. I was only a few years younger than Elizabeth and I remember following the news as things were happening and then again in college when her abductors finally stood trial. I think it is hard to write a review though, when the book is non-fiction and about a particularly heavy topic. I read a few other reviews on this book and couldn’t believe some of the criticism people gave it. Many thought it was too child-like and didn’t have any depth… umm hello, Smart was abducted when she was a young teenager, so of course even as an adult she still is going to process it and tell the story from that point of view. Others have questioned the fact that she never did formal therapy afterward or the impact her family’s religion had on the whole event during and after.

Personally, I was interested in hearing the story in her own, honest words as an adult and appreciated the approach she took to telling it. Overall, there were obviously parts that it were really hard to digest, but the resiliency and faith she had through that horrific experience is nothing short of amazing. I also really appreciated that she addressed quite a bit of questions and the criticism head on, and shared how she been able to focus on and live for the good things in her life, and not let this experience define her.

Favorite Quote(s)

“Life is a journey for us all. We all face trials. We all have ups and downs. All of us are human. But we are also the masters of our fate. We are the ones who decide how we are going to react to life.” 

Recommend?

3 out of 5 stars. I don’t know if its a book I’d recommend to everyone, but if it is a story that interests you, or you like reading non-fiction about resilience and things in the news such as this, then I’d recommend it. It’s a pretty quick read.

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Silver Girl
By Elin Hilderbrand

Synopsis

“Meredith Martin Delinn just lost everything: her friends, her homes, her social standing – because her husband Freddy cheated rich investors out of billions of dollars.

Desperate and facing homelessness, Meredith receives a call from her old best friend, Constance Flute. Connie’s had recent worries of her own, and the two depart for a summer on Nantucket in an attempt to heal. But the island can’t offer complete escape, and they’re plagued by new and old troubles alike. When Connie’s brother Toby – Meredith’s high school boyfriend – arrives, Meredith must reconcile the differences between the life she is leading and the life she could have had.

Set against the backdrop of a Nantucket summer, Elin Hilderbrand delivers a suspenseful story of the power of friendship, the pull of love, and the beauty of forgiveness.” (via GoodReads)

My Review

In some ways, this book was another Hilderbrand-standard formula for a good chick lit/vacation read. But it also took a bit of a different turn into a crime mystery that channeled reality. The husband of the book’s main character was caught for orchestrating a Ponzi-scheme, much like the real-life Bernie Madoff case. The story is told from the wife’s point of view, and really made me think about how the news and public views and treats the family and loved ones of those who commit crimes, and how they become another kind victim in the whole process.

The story jumps back and forth between the present day and the main character’s past, addressing the rise and fall of many of her relationships, including a falling out with her best friend who later becomes her only ally when her husband is arrested. While I enjoyed the story and its interesting perspectives on crime and friendship, I never fell in love with or felt like I could related with any of the characters (which is usually what I love about Hilderbrand’s books) and that made me like the book just a little bit less.

Favorite Quote(s)

“Meredith immersed herself in the novels. For some reason, fiction hit on the meaning of life so much more concisely than real life itself did.” 

Recommend?

3 out of 5 stars. It was a good combo of chick-lit and crime mystery.

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What books do you recommend?

Music - What I'm Listening To

Friday Jam Session: Motivation

This week’s Jam Session is all about songs that motivate me, some that are upbeat that you can workout to and others that are slow and maybe more calming and uplifting. Both typically have positive messages. I’ve said a few times lately that my attitude just hasn’t been the best and so music is definitely one of my main go-to’s to help change my mood or help me get through things. This list is fun because there is a good mix of newer songs that have been on my radar lately, and a few of them are older, and are some of my all-time favorite songs to help motivate me and change my outlook. There is also a really good mix of genres, which is just a reminder and how vast my music taste is.

A few playlist notes…

If you played high school sports in the late 2000’s you’ll probably agree with me on Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” and I couldn’t count the amount of times that my sister and I rapped through the whole thing on the way to school. Speaking of high school, I included an early Taylor song, which really takes me back! I tried to not duplicate any of the artists, but my favorite Christian rock band, NEEDTOBREATHE, snuck in there with two songs, because to be honest, almost all of their music motivates me. There are three songs that have the word “Arrow” in the title, though they could not be more different. Ed Sheeran is one of my all-time favorite artists, but I was a bit surprised that I managed to still include him on this list. I don’t know if I’ve ever considered any of his other music to be particularly motivating, but this one definitely hits that point. I hadn’t heard Pink’s song until the Grammy’s this year and am still think back about the impact of her very simple performance. Hope you enjoy this week’s playlist!

What are you listening to lately?

See past Friday Jam Session posts HERE.

Music - What I'm Listening To

Friday Jam Session: Favorite Albums in 2017

I am SO EXCITED to bring back this series. Blogging is such a fun hobby for me and a way to both journal my life and exercise my writing skills outside of work, so in 2018 one of my goals is to blog more regularly. Friday Jam Sessions used to be some of my regular posts, but how I was doing them at the time — choosing one song to highlight for a bunch of different categories and writing a review for each — were just so time consuming so I eventually got out of the habit of doing them. But music and discovering new artists and tunes is still one of my favorite things and I missed sharing these posts. So now that I’ve become loyal to Spotify a few years ago, I am going to switch things up and share playlists I build on there around different themes. This is much easier for me to do because I listen to Spotify almost all day, everyday, regardless if I am at work, in the car or at home. And I’ve always had the habit of sorting songs into playlists based on moods or themes as I go. So right now I am aiming to get one of these posts up about every other week or so. Let me know if there is any particular theme you want me to feature!

See past Friday Jam Session posts HERE.

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To start us out, I decided to look back at 2017 and feature my favorite 10 full albums that were released that year. My music tastes stretch far and wide, but not surprisingly, artists that came out with full albums that I listened to over and over to, were almost all artists that I consider some of my all-time favorites. I decided to put three songs from every album on the playlist, which was NOT EASY. I should also note that Chris Stapleton technically came out with TWO new albums this year (because he’s amazing) but I counted them as one in this list…and still included three songs from each.

  • Ed Sheeran // Divide
  • Maren Morris // HERO
  • Chris Stapleton // From a Room Vol. 1 and 2
  • Logan Mize // Come Back Road
  • Harry Styles // Harry Styles
  • The Greatest Showman Soundtrack
  • Aaron Watson // Vaquero
  • Taylor Swift // reputation
  • Turnpike Troubadours // A Long Way From Your Heart
  • Halsey // hopeless fountain kingdom

A few playlist notes…

Halsey was a bit of a surprise to me because I don’t recall really liking much from her first album, but I really liked her sophomore album this year. Harry Styles’ freshman solo album solidified that his talents stretch far beyond his work with One Direction and I spent most of 2017 demanding that my friends listen to it. I was over the moon that Logan Mize finally gave us a new full album and proceeded to reminisce about all of his concerts I went to in college. My obsession with Ed Sheeran continues to know no limits and after discovering Maren Morris when her original EP came out a few years ago I have to remind myself that she’s still considered a new artist. After listening to him a bit in college, Aaron Watson shot up my list when I finally caught one of his concerts back in September and was kicking myself for having missed out on more of his music for so long. Maybe its because we’re the same age and I feel like I’ve grown up with her, but I’m still a shameless fan of Taylor, and after being a little concerned about LWYMMD as the first single off the new album, the rest of it was everything that it should be. Turnpike Troubadours has such a distinct sound, and I finally made it to one of their concerts for the first time, which only solidified my love for their music. Chris Stapleton’s sound continues to memorize me and I will never be able to wrap my mind around the fact that he spent so many years writing for other people before making it on his own. I FINALLY saw him live in concert this past year, and he is even so much better live — if that is possible. Finally, I couldn’t not mention the album that seems like everyone can’t stop talking about, and that is The Greatest Showman soundtrack. The movie was SO GOOD and the soundtrack has been on loop in my car for weeks. I think I know every word to every song by now.

I am sure that I forgot or overlooked a few albums,  but I did have these others on my list when I was planning this post, so I suppose they deserve honorable mention.

  • Little Big Town // The Breaker
  • Thomas Rhett // Life Changes
  • Old Dominion // Happy Endings
  • Grace VanderWaal // Just The Beginning
  • Demi Lovato // Tell Me You Love Me

And these are artists with albums coming in 2018 that are on my radar so far that I am looking forward to.

  • Dierks Bentley
  • Vance Joy
  • Justin Timberlake
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Twenty One Pilots
  • Brothers Osborne

What are you listening to lately?

Capture

Books and Reading

Book Review: January 2018

As a kid, my parents used to joke that for punishment they should take my books away because that would have been one of the few things that really would have made an impact. But they didn’t thank goodness, and books became the first thing that really fueled my love for words, stories and their impact, which eventually influenced my career path.

But then college happened and I almost stopped reading altogether outside of textbooks, articles and what not.

In the almost 5 years since I graduated (say what?!), I’ve struggled to bring reading back into my regular routine, so when I do read its usually when I’m traveling or a random binge, where I start and finish a book in one day. However this hasn’t stopped me from bringing in a few hauls from local bargain sales and adding to my endless list of popular books that everyone else is suggesting.

So my goal in 2018 is to read at LEAST one book a month (baby steps), but to aim toward more like 2 to 3 books. Since book reviews are some of my favorite posts to read, I figured that making this a monthly post is the best way to keep myself accountable.

In January, I read two books and I am ALMOST done with “All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr, but just couldn’t quite get it finished in time, so that will go on next month’s review.

My list is already pretty long, but please let me know what you recommend!

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The Castaways
By Elin Hilderbrand

Synopsis

“Greg and Tess MacAvoy are one of four prominent Nantucket couples who count each other as best friends. As pillars of their close-knit community, the MacAvoys, Kapenashes, Drakes, and Wheelers are important to their friends and neighbors, and especially to each other. But just before the beginning of another idyllic summer, Greg and Tess are killed when their boat capsizes during an anniversary sail. As the warm weather approaches and the island mourns their loss, nothing can prepare the MacAvoy’s closest friends for what will be revealed.
Once again, Hilderbrand masterfully weaves an intense tale of love and loyalty set against the backdrop of endless summer island life.”
  (via GoodReads)

My Review

I love Elin Hilderbrand, and to anyone who asks, I usually describe her as the Sarah Dessen for adults (though for the record, as an adult I still LOVE Sarah Dessen.) Hilderbrand’s books always make me both laugh and cry, and while yes, you can describe them as a mindless, fun vacation read, I would argue that they often stay with me for a while and make me think a bit. Anyway, The Castaways had a little bit of everything — humor, romance, drama, mystery, etc. — and was probably one of Hilderbrand’s more complex stories. It flowed really well, considering it changed narrators with each chapter and kept me interested until the very end. This story was bittersweet and interesting look at how six different people react and work through the same tragedy. Plus, as always, Hilderbrand makes me want to visit Nantucket someday since that is the setting for all of her books.

Favorite Quote(s)

“Women clearly felt things more deeply: they read sub-text where men saw only white space.” 

Recommend?

4 out of 5 stars… so yes! Definitely recommend if these kind of books are your jam.

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Good as Gone
By Amy Gentry

Synopsis

“Thirteen-year-old Julie Whitaker was kidnapped from her bedroom in the middle of the night, witnessed only by her younger sister. Her family was shattered, but managed to stick together, hoping against hope that Julie is still alive. And then one night: the doorbell rings. A young woman who appears to be Julie is finally, miraculously, home safe. The family is ecstatic—but Anna, Julie’s mother, has whispers of doubts.  She hates to face them. She cannot avoid them. When she is contacted by a former detective turned private eye, she begins a torturous search for the truth about the woman she desperately hopes is her daughter.” (via Good Reads)

My Review

I love crime shows and mysteries, so I was really looking forward to this book after reading a few good reviews — some that even said that it was equal to “Gone Girl” (which I LOVED.) But I was ultimately left disappointed. The first half of the book was pretty good and had me pulled in, but after a while the narrative switches started to get too confusing and I actually guessed the ending maybe around 3/4’s of the way through. While I realize that religion was a key piece of the story, but I think that the story could have been shortened and simplified a bit. There was just too many things going on that never quite connected for me.

Favorite Quote(s)

“My whole life, ever since I could remember, I’d always hated the thought that no one could ever know what anyone else was feeling or thinking. The fact that no one could ever be inside my head with me seemed like the loneliest thing in the world. I wanted so bad for there to be something that could make those boundaries just disappear. Something so big it was like air, a magic flowing across the planet, connecting everyone and everything.” 

Recommend?

2.5 out of 5 stars. If suspense is a genre you are really into I’d say, ‘sure why not.’ But otherwise I’d say skip it.

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What books do you recommend?

Favorite Things I Need to Tell You about Right Now

Favorite Things I Need to Tell You About Right Now- Vol. 1

A few weeks ago I saw a lot of bloggers with posts centering around their “favorite things of 2017.” Most of these posts focused specifically on categories of products like beauty, fashion, home decor, etc. I thought it would be fun to do my own list for the year, but with a little bit of a twist 🙂 These lists also started to make me think of two things: the MTV show that was called “Best of (insert year)” or something along those lines where each episode focused on all of the trends, news, phenomenon’s that were big in pop culture that given year.  The second is a similar series “3 Things You Need to Know About” from a blogger I regularly follow (and you should too!)

So this is my “Best of 2017,” covering what trends I was into, random finds and the things I became obsessed with. I should also add that this post in not sponsored in any way. I just genuinely enjoy it all. I actually I think I might make this a quarterly piece moving forward.

Trader Joe’s

I have become a part of the cult and am volunteering myself to be their poster child. Practically anytime someone refers to Trader Joe’s I have to reign in my excited response of how in love I am with that place. I think it’s important for people to understand that I loathe grocery shopping. In college I would always try to convince my roommates to come with me and to this day I’ll call my mom up to chat while I’m shopping which is always a clear mistake because I can’t actually multi-task. Its also taken me a good portion of my almost-3-years living in the DC area to adapt to smaller weekly shopping trips and balancing my grocery budget out with the fact that you inevitably eat out more while living in the city. But Trader Joe’s has changed all of that. I like the environment of the store, its quality vs. price ratio always shocks me and I just really love so many of the products.  Specifically, for someone who cooks for one and doesn’t like to cook, I really do think that doing the bulk of my shopping there has helped me make healthier decisions, explore a bit more with cooking and has cut down on my food waste. Plus, I love that there are so many random finds that end up being new favorites. I could really do an entire blog post this. But until that time some of my favorites are:

Fresh flowers, candles, Black Cold Brew Coffee (in the can), Citterio Genoa and Provolone snack packs, deli fruit and nut spinach salad, beef tamales (the “handcrafted” ones with 2 in a bag), tubs of soup in the deli section, good AND affordable wine, the fresh asparagus/mushroom/onion mix, fresh pre-made vegetable kabobs, almond butter, steel cut oatmeal, frozen asparagus risotto, frozen vegetable stir fry, olive oil popcorn, scone and muffin mixes, whole wheat toaster waffles, chili lime seasoning

Nickel & Suede Earrings

I honestly can’t remember where I discovered these but I am obsessed! These leather earrings are essentially weight-less, come in a few different sizes and shapes, and I think the quality is great. In their original teardrop style I prefer the medium size. The rose gold pair were my first and their leather is a bit lighter than the others which does tend to make them curl a tiny bit but I’ve just stuck them in a book overnight a few times and they were fine. I have always been into big and flashy earrings, but as I get older I really don’t like when they are too heavy and I like how versatile these are with my clothes. Plus, the couple who own the company started it in their basement in Kansas City, and I am always a big fan of a good small business story. I love them so much I gifted three pairs at Christmas this year.

Game of Thrones

I finally jumped on the bandwagon, and spent about three months binge watching the series. I always knew that it was probably something I would like, but for many years none of my friends were watching it and I typically like to have people to discuss shows with. But two of my best friends finally got in to it and practically drug me along with them. I probably would have finished it a lot more quickly but I took about a three week break after watching the “Hold the Door” episode because I just couldn’t deal…

Harry Styles

Half of you are rolling your eyes at me and the other half is nodding in agreement. I shamelessly admit to jamming to One Direction in the car with my roommates in college, but regardless of your sentiment toward the group, don’t condemn Harry as a solo artist just yet. His debut album is SO SO GOOD! Its soulful with more intricate lyrics, in more of a Lumineers and Mumford and Sons type of way, and you’ll realize that being part of a boy band really didn’t do him justice. My favorites off the album are “Two Ghosts”, “Sweet Creature” and “Ever Since New York.” He also recorded a cover of Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” that makes me think it should have been his song from the start (and I love LBT’s version).

Filly Flair

This spring one of my best friends turned me on to this online fashion retailer out of South Dakota, and now it is one of my favorites. They have a lot of fun dresses, but they also have a great selection of what I consider staples for mixing and matching. I usually find that online retailers aren’t consistent at being true to size, but this one has been the exception so far. Plus, once again, it started as a small business by a woman entrepreneur, which I love and actually follow on Instagram because she engages with her customers there.

All of the items I have from there are not in stock so I can’t show any pictures from the site and this picture is the only one I have on hand of me wearing something from the boutique… which is odd because I practically lived in a basic black tank top dress from there this past summer. So much so that I regret not buying it in other colors too.

The Home Edit

This duo and their company make their living by organizing (mainly famous) people’s lives… you know the magazine worthy Instagram pictures you see of perfectly curated pantries? Yah, they do that, and then offer tips, tricks and products you can buy on their website. But the real reason I am obsessed with The Home Edit is because of two ladies behind it are HILARIOUS and share my affinity for good grammar. They chronicle their real-life sarcasm and adventures via InstaStories, and last year they finally started to sell shirts with their funny, often-used phrases. For Christmas I received the “Surviving Not Thriving” sweatshirt from my friend Brandi, who is equally obsessed.

InstaStories

Personally, I’d venture to say that in regards to social media platforms, InstaStories owned 2017 across the board. I know it became my go-to for following people on social media over scrolling through Facebook and even regular Instagram posts, which seems to be more of a time suck.

FabFitFun

I LOVE THIS BOX. PERIOD.
Maybe a year ago or so, I decided that I wanted to try out some sort of box service and started looking around at what would be the best bang for my buck and would fit me best. I settled on FabFitFun, which sends you four boxes a year – one for each season. I chose it because: it was the most well-rounded, meaning it covers beauty, fitness, decor, fashion and hobbies; it sends you full-size products instead of samples; and the retail value of one box is typically more then you pay for the entire year subscription.

So after a year of four boxes, I am sold! Out of the four boxes there is only one thing I can remember that I flat out didn’t like at all. Past that, there were maybe maximum 5 or 6 things that just either weren’t my personal style or preference, and so I just re-gifted those items, which was kind of fun to do anyway. Everything else, I have LOVED and there are a few things that I do plan on buying again for myself or as gifts from the original retailers. Boxes like these aren’t for everyone, but as someone who likes to try new things, but doesn’t particularly like to aimlessly shop, this is a fun surprise to gift yourself with a few times a year. Below is what came in the most recent Winter box and were all thing that I loved.

If you are interested in these, let me know because I have 3 starter boxes that I can give away (you would just pay the shipping). I also have this referral link – http://xo.fff.me/hy0DY – which gives both of us a discount off a box if you use it to sign up.

And of course… Miss Sawyer June

Because more than any trend or material thing I’ve been loving recently, Sawyer June and her baby talk have been my favorite thing of all 🙂

Should I make posts like these a semi-regular thing? Let me know!

Linking up with both the Friday Favorites crew (here, here and here) and The Blended Blog.

Capture

DIY and Organization

My Favorite Phone Apps

Todays post ventures out a bit past what I usually blog about, but the blogs that are easily some of my favorite to read are ones that give me new ideas and things to try. So today I want to chat about apps for our phones!

In a lot of ways I do miss the simplicity of a good old flip phone, and don’t get me started about how longed I sulked when I was told that my beloved Blackberry was a goner. But overtime I finally embraced all that smartphones have to offer, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit I’d be lost without it.

I am always looking around and asking others about what new apps I should try. Honestly, from time to time I’ll just open up the app store and search some key words to see what is out there. Often I’ll download a bunch at once and keep them on a unorganized third screen first while I’m trying them out, and then if I decide I like it I’ll move it over to my organized screens.

Yes, I am Type-A… and yes, my sanity does depend on living the “zero notification life.”

Here are quite a few of my tried and true favorites. I tried my best to categorize them, but that proved a bit harder than I originally thought. And no, none of this is sponsored, just my honest opinions.

Work/Productivity

  • Scannable: This will probably sound strange, but seriously, if you download only ONE app from this blog post, this is the one you never knew you NEEDED in your life. It allows you to scan documents into your phone as a PDF and then directly email it back to yourself or others. I use it all the time and can skip fighting with the office monster machine.
  • Bitly: I use this for shortening links for both work and my blog.  I primarily use it on my desktop but having the app is also pretty handy.
  • Notes: I know there are a ton of different list making and to-do list apps, but honestly for me nothing really beats the default Notes app. It would be a sad day if I lost what I have saved there. With that said, someone did recently recommend Google Keep to me, which is basically the same thing as Notes except it is saved in your Google Drive, so I might switch over to that.
  • Google Drive: This is my lifeline, and it is so convenient to be able to both retrieve and save things straight from my phone.
  • Others: Dictionary, Meltwater Buzz (a service we use for media tracking at work), Voice Memos, Dropbox.

Social Media and Communications Support

Obviously I use apps for all the social media I am on, but I didn’t think they necessarily needed mentioning.

  • WordPress: I run my blog on WordPress, so yes, this one is pretty standard for me.
  • Facebook Page: I am an admin on 5 different Facebook pages, so this app is much more functional then trying to manage the pages from the regular Facebook app.
  • Canva:  If your career is in ANYTHING communications related and you aren’t using www.canva.com, then you aren’t doing your job right. It’s what I use to create all the graphics for my blog and work social media channels, and really, I am nowhere near using it to its full capacity. The day they FINALLY came out with a phone app was like Christmas Day.
  • ABM and Typorama: There are quite a few different social media creative apps for adding words, making collages, etc. These two are the ones I prefer.
  • FILMiC Pro: This is one of the few apps I paid for. When I was traveling for work in Guam last year and needed to shoot some video on my phone, this is what my videographer cousin recommended. It was DEFINITELY worth the $10.99.
  • Others: I haven’t used these much but have dabbled in Boomerang, Watermark and Flipagram.

Lifestyle/Daily Use

One thing that you’ll notice missing, specifically for me, is any news apps. Trust me, I read a LOT of news, and I do have and occasionally look at Medium, AP Mobile, NBC News and CNN, but I rely on my TweetDeck on my desktop and my phone Twitter app for the majority of my news.

  • Spotify:  I pay for a premium account so that I don’t need Wi-Fi to access my music, which also means that this app takes up the most room on my phone. But I listen to music ALL DAY LONG so it’s worth it to me, especially since moving to the city and spend much more time as a pedestrian, running outside and riding the Metro. I realized quickly that it was probably unsafe to be without my phone and I didn’t want to carry both that and an iPOD. And yes, I am definitely #TeamSpotify over Pandora…
  • WomanLog: Ladies, basically you need this app for all the things.
  • HumorCast: My weather app of choice is actually WeatherBug, but I also have HumorCast because for each day it gives you a funny and usually sarcastic message based on the what the weather is doing.
  • Airline-specific apps and Wallet to carry your ticket: Going to play the “millennial” card here… People, it’s 2017, learn to use these. I shudder thinking of my early days of flying a lot in college and not having these as an easy go-to for checking in and receiving flight updates. And I literally pout when, on occasion, they still have to print my ticket out instead of letting me use the digital one. (Yes, I’m a travel snob.)
  • Shazam: Ever watch a TV show and wander what song they are playing? This app “listens” and reports back. Problem solved! (And you can connect it straight to your Spotify app!)
  • Peet’s: My chain-coffee shop of choice (since it’s right near work). It has a virtual punch card and they are pretty great about sending you other specials.
  • Ibotta: Recently I started using this for getting cash back on purchases (mainly food). All you do is scan in your receipt and then match it up with things on special that you bought. Use my referral code (RCTYHWL) if you’re interested so we’ll both earn more 🙂
  • MyFitnessPal: I don’t always remember to use it, but I’ve found it handy for tracking eating, water intake and working out, because it helps give you a scope of what you are actually accomplishing (or not accomplishing.)
  • Bible Gateway: There are so many choices out there but I think this one is the most mobile friendly and interactive.
  • Venmo: This is another MUST HAVE. It’s a money exchange/”I owe you” app that makes paying people back or trying to figure out how to split a bill so much more simple, and more importantly, not awkward. My old roommate actually used to pay me for all of our bills this way.
  • Capital One Wallet: Pretty straight forward, and I also use the WellsFargo app for banking, but I was sold on this app for my credit card, because when I thought I lost it recently, I was able to click one button and “freeze” it from being used. Plus it sends you updates on your account and can log digital receipts.
  • CBS Sports: My sports news app of choice. I like that it allows me to flag “my teams” and sends me news notifications and score updates.
  • iBooks: I am still a fan of a real book over digital, but I finally gave in when I went to Asia for 3 weeks this year and forbade myself to pack 4 clunky books in my suitcase. Now it has been kind of nice when I have a few extra minutes here and there.
  • Others: Maps (with a love/hate relationship of course), Beats Pill+, Nelnet (for my student loans), Etsy, LIKEtoKNOW.it, Groupon, Nike+RunClub, Netflix, Kansas State Alumni Association, SheReadsTruth.

City Living

  • Uber: Living in the city, this a must and I definitely prefer it over taking a taxi. I do use Lyft every once in a while, but its drivers always seem to have a heck of a time finding my apartment building so I kind of gave up on them.
  • Parkmobile: Say goodbye to feeding coins to the meter and having it run out on you before you can get back.
  • Smithsonian: It’s helpful when you are looking for what events are going on, but mainly I really like it for its map features. This app was essential for helping me learn my way around DC.
  • OpenTable: Allows you to check on and make restaurant reservations.
  • Grubhub: Food delivery for optimal laziness.
  • DCRider: My DC metro app of choice.

Just for Fun

  • IMDb: I’ve always been a bit of a nerd about entertainment behind the scenes, so this app definitely enables that.
  • ZUI Days: This is a fun countdown app that that allows you to track things that you are counting down to (like my grandparents visit in 15 days) or milestones in the past (like my work anniversary, which is 2 years, 6 months and 11 days.)
  • Timehop: Connects to your social media accounts and gives you a daily trip down memory lane with posts and pictures from years past on that particular day.
  • Coloring Book for Me: It’s a COLORING BOOK APP (!!) with fun designs and a variety of color palettes. If I am doing something where I have a few minutes to kill, this is a nice, creative change from scrolling through social media
  • Others: Overall I’m not really into phone games but occasionally I’ll play Word Crack, Sudoku and good old Solitaire. Sorry, no Candy Crush addiction over here.

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Alright, now that I’ve shared my phone, what am I missing? What other apps should I try?