Gift Guide 2017 – For Her

So I realize I’ve been pretty MIA from the world of blogging for a while, but I couldn’t let the holiday season go by without putting together a gift guide! Full disclosure, these guides are basically just things I like that I think other people would like too. Maybe that’s every gift guide though…?

Let’s get to it.

1. A chunky knit cowl scarf/snood. Snood is a great word. If you live anywhere that gets even remotely cold, a substantial collection of scarves is a must. I’ve been digging the neutral, cozy, chunky look this winter…and not just because they look like they’d be good to nap in. A lot of the amazingly cozy looking scarves are made overseas, but this one is made in the US, and as of 12/5 has Christmas delivery guaranteed!

 

2. Book of the Month 3-Month Subscription. Yes – I’m still into subscription boxes. And yes, it would be more financially smart to just go to the library, but a 3 month book subscription is a gift that keeps on giving! Well, for 3 months. Book of the Month lets you choose one of 5 books each month, and the options are pretty broad. Cheesy romance? Yup. Murder mysteries? Got it! Non-Fiction? Check. BotM will introduce your giftee to some great authors…and something to do when they’re cozied up on the couch with that scarf!! 🙂

 

3. Rabbit Wing Corkscrew. Okay so I hadn’t planned on doing a themed list, but when you’re cozied up in your scarf reading a new book, it only makes sense that you’d be drinking a glass of wine, right? And how are you going to open that wine? This fab bottle opener. Joe and I have this one, and I love it. Plus everyone could use a corkscrew that doesn’t feel like it’ll fall apart if you twist too hard, right?

 

4. White Marble Cheese Board. Continuing the trend…(seriously, as I was pulling things for my list I didn’t choose themed things purposefully!) Having friends over for a movie night? Bringing snacks out on a nice serving tray of some sort makes you look like you have your shit together – even if you don’t.

 

5. LUSH Sleepy Lotion. I’ve read review after review saying this lotion gives people the best night of sleep ever. It apparently smells amazing (I have yet to try it) and has the same effect as taking a melatonin before bed. Sounds perfect, right? It also has the added benefit of being made with natural ingredients and cruelty free. Doesn’t get better than that!

 

6. Set of Travel Eye Masks. I discovered this website when putting together a wish list for myself, and fell in love! I’m not an eye mask user, but these designs were too cute not to post. They’d be perfect for anyone that a) travels a lot or b) needs total darkness to get some shut-eye. For the record, I put the laundry bags on my list.

 

7. Random Illustrated Facts. Everyone could use a little bit of well designed trivia in their lives, right!? This book seems like it would be a great conversation starter, or something to leave on your desk if you need a quick brain break.
8. Colorful Mini Notepads. Each of these notepads are only $4, and as I’m typing this out I can think of the perfect use for every style. Grocery lists, to do lists, doodling….plus they’re just tiny and cute! Clearly running out of steam on this whole wordsmithing thing.

 

So there we have it! Gift Guide 2017. Unintentionally ‘cozied up on the couch’ themed for the most part. Also, I guess I should include a note that none of this is sponsored by any of the brands I included – but I do get a free book if you sign up for BotM through my link! 🙂

Happy Hump Day, and happy 19 days until Christmas!

 

Deck the Halls // TGIF

It’s December! Which means it’s now socially acceptable to listen to Christmas music 24/7. Or watch every single Hallmark Channel Christmas movie if that’s more your style. (Or both!?) Let’s be real though, I’ve been listening to Christmas music since Halloween…with some My Favorite Murder interspersed in there too. But now it’s December! 24 days til Christmas! It’s also FRIDAY and I imagine lots of people will be decorating this weekend, so I wanted to share the Spotify Christmas playlist I’ve put together to help get y’all in the holiday spirit!

via GIPHY

A few stand-out favorites of mine:

Carol Of The Bells – the bird and the bee

Must Be Santa – She & Him

Mele Kalikimaka – Jimmy Buffet

Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy – Lindsey Stirling (really this whole album)

Deck The Halls / Bring A Torch – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

We’re only about 5% decorated at our house so far – gotta wait til after Joe’s 30th next week! (!!!) But then? Explosion of Christmas goodness. Can’t wait!

TGIF 😀

The Adventures of Barb Cat

In case you missed it, we are now back down to a one pet household; Poppy passed away after a long and lovely life (really though, hedgies are supposed to live 2-5 years, she was 7.) Barb and Poppy never really interacted, but I imagine Barb is happy being a single child again. ALL the attention, and ALL the toys and treats.

We got her a new toy a bit ago, and she loved it to death within 48 hours. Poor monarch butterfly. BUT LOOK HOW CUTE SHE IS. And how much fun she’s having. I definitely took way too many videos, but seriously it’s so amusing.

Anyway. Long intro short, we love Barb. So when I was given the opportunity to try out a cat backpack from Pet Magasin, I was more than thrilled. Barb loves being outside, but would totally bolt and disappear forever if we let her out on her own. Now, I’d be lying if I said anything along the lines of “BARB LOVES THE BACKPACK AND WE GO ON HIKES ALL THE TIME” ..as much as I’d love for that to be the case, Barb isn’t a fan of being confined in tight spaces.

Photo taken from Amazon

That said, we have gone on a few backyard backpack adventures, plus a trip to the vet where everyone in the office was loving Barb’s fancy new mode of transportation. So much better than a little cat carrier. The backpack has pop-out windows on the side (you can see them in the photo below) plus a few pockets to carry whatever you may need (mine has cat treats and a couple of toys) and can be carried on it’s side if necessary too. It also has a collar clip-in to avoid escapees, and while Barb is anti-collar, I imagine it’s a super useful thing for many other people.

Did you know that taking photos of a cat that doesn’t stay still is just about impossible? #Lambothecarrier

The backpack is pretty large – great for the animals, but a bit cumbersome on my small frame. My only real complaint about the bag is that the zippers aren’t as smooth as I’d like them to be, but just a minor detail when I have a carrier Barb doesn’t hate 🙂

Thanks so much to Pet Magasin for the opportunity to take Barb on more adventures! You can find the backpack on Pet Magasin’s website, or on Amazon.

Summertime Favorites

Somehow it’s already the end of August – my Instagram is full of back to school pictures, and it’s getting dark before 9pm. Where’d the summer go!? I’m definitely not ready for pumpkin spice everything. Or shoes that aren’t Birkenstocks. But alas, it’s about that time.

In a desperate attempt to hold onto the little bit of summer we do have left, I thought it would be fun to make a list of some products I discovered and/or fell in love with over the past few months. Also, the last time I did a ‘favorites’ post was in the middle of Fall 2016. So I’d say it’s about time.


Starting off with what I’d say is legitimately my best find in recent memory – DKNY Bralettes! Every 5 or so trips to Costco Joe and I will mosey through the middle section of the store – rarely with the intention of buying anything. But a few months ago I came across 2 packs of bralettes, and my life hasn’t been the same since.

Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but over the course of multiple trips, I ended up with 6 new bralettes, and now probably only wear a real bra once a week (if that.) They’re super comfy, have just the right amount of padding, and were cheap! 2 for $15. Unfortunately they’re basically twice that price online for one, but I’d definitely consider buying more – even at full price.


Next up, in keeping with the ‘wearables’ theme – I decided I wanted a one-piece swimsuit this summer. Mostly so I could drink beer at our friend’s pool and not worry about my stomach situation if I’m being totally honest. In any case, after 3 failed attempts at buying a cheap one (from 2 of those cheap stores where everything comes from China, and 1 from Amazon,) I figured it would be okay to treat myself and splurge on a suit I knew would be high-quality, fit well, and last more than 1 season. Enter: AlbionFit.

I’ve been following their Instagram for about as long as I can remember; dutifully entering contests in hopes of winning a shop gift card, and ogling basically every outfit I saw. I guess it should also be noted that I have a weird affinity for low-V tops. What can I say, I like to show a little skin! 🙂 It was super hard for me to pass over the cute patterns, but I figured black could stand the test of time. Anyway – I’ve had the suit for about a month now and am super happy with it…maybe next year I’ll go for a cute pattern!? We’ll see.


Next up on my list, an app I actually just discovered last week called Sworkit Abs + Core. Joe has been kicking major butt at the gym lately, but between work and just general feelings of “I’d much rather go home and drink a glass of wine” – I’ve been slacking in the gym department. Oops. This app has 3 different ab-focused workouts, and allows you to set the amount of time you want to work out for. I’m hoping to get back in the habit of going to the gym after work, but for those days that just isn’t going to happen, I’ve got this app as backup.


Earlier this summer after a bunch of eye doctor shenanigans, I decided I wanted to look into starting allergy shots. Starting the shots requires an allergy test, and allergy tests require 2 full weeks off of most allergy medications. Considering I’ve taken Claritin or Zyrtec just about every day since 6th grade, this was a big deal. I’m allergic to basically everything. Molds, dusts, cats, dogs, all trees….you name it. (But not food. So I’m very thankful for that.) Anyway. I was miserable. My one saving grace (aside from Benadryl, which I could take until 3 days before the test) was en essential oil Allergy Bomb roller ball from a coworker’s wife. I’m not going to say it miraculously cured my allergies or anything like that, but I definitely would have been more miserable without it.

Bonus points: it smelled good too! Equal parts lavender, lemon, and peppermint oil + a carrier oil. So easy! (and yes, it’s still at my desk. The allergy shots will take 6 months until I start noticing a difference.)


Has anyone watched Riverdale (CW/Netflix) or The Bold Type (Freeform)? Those are my 2 new favorite shows. Joe and I binged all of Riverdale in one weekend. To be fair, there’s only one season – but it was surprisingly good! It’s a present day murder-mystery type show, but featuring characters from the Archie comic book universe. I know that sounds totally bizarre, but somehow it works. Season 2 starts soon, and I can’t wait! (Plus, look at those ratings. That’s impressively high for a CW show.)

The Bold Type was equally surprisingly impressive, and another that I have been urging my friends to watch. It follows 3 friends through their daily lives working at Scarlet – a magazine basically like Cosmo. That in itself is an interesting premise, but the show also looks at social issues, girl power, and of course relationships…but not with too heavy a hand. Usually. They work under a boss that instead of the Devil Wears Prada Glenn Close character, is strong and supportive – refreshing to see in a female CEO type character. Another plus: any drama gets resolved pretty quickly. I’m not a fan of long, drawn out, awkward drama.


Whew. It’s been a minute since I actually “blogged” vs just writing a review! I could totally keep going, but I think 5 or 6 things is plenty. Hope everyone is having a great last day of August!

Review: Vanity Planet Contour Pallet + Brushes

Wowowow. Hey blogo-o-verse. It’s been a minute, eh? Crazy how easily designing packaging for bottles and nipples and pacifiers can consume your life. I am VERY behind on reviews – so so sorry to the brands I’ve been neglecting! (And food recipes I’ve neglected to share out! And lack of general life updates.) Sheesh.

Waaay back when, I was lucky enough to be selected by Vanity Planet to try out a few of their products, and while I totally failed to write about them in a timely manner, I’ve been using them every day! (Seriously!) Absolutely no part of me is makeup-inclined, so when I decided to choose the contour pallet and makeup brush set, I knew I was in for a challenge – or at least something that would have a bit of a learning curve.

Vanity Planet is a boutique marketplace, focused on beauty, grooming, and wellness. They source, curate, and design products that benefit their customers’ daily lives. And holy moley – fast-forward a couple of months, and while I am still all about keeping my makeup v. natural, I actually kind of know what I’m doing now! I don’t need the cheat sheet included in the pallet to give myself a slightly contoured face anymore! (That cheat sheet though – it was a god-send. It’s like VP knew who they were sending the product to.) I’ve been able to incorporate the pallet into my daily routine without much adjustment on my (admittedly makeup-challenged) part.

I absolutely love the brushes – they’re so much softer than the randos I had previously – and the fact that I have a full matching set helps me feel like I have my life together a bit more than I probably do. AND I have separate brushes for my blush and bronzer now. IIIIII know. Moving up in the world over here. Is this an appropriate place to use #adulting? I think so.

Just lookit that contour.

VP was generous enough to share a discount code for any readers that also want to upgrade their makeup brush collection and/or feel like they have their lives together a bit more. Use code BBPalette70 at checkout for 70% (yes, SEVENTY) – thanks so much, Vanity Planet!

Review: Derma E Skin Detox!

Uhh wow, hello there, middle (ish) of March. o_O 2017 is FLYING.

After all the traveling we’ve been doing, my skin has been in dire need of some epic TLC. So much flying dries a person out, who knew? It also probably doesn’t help that I hadn’t been drinking nearly as much water as a person is supposed to. I’m working on that though. So far for the month of March I’ve consumed at least 96oz of water a day (with 1 exception.) I can’t say I’ve noticed much of a difference 9 days in other than going to the restroom way more often than I’m used to, but I’m sure my body is appreciating the hydration.

dryer than a desert! 😉

Anyway. My skin. Not the happiest it’s ever been. Enter: 2 new charcoal-based products from Derma E; a detox scrub, and a purifying mask. The star ingredient, Activated Charcoal, known for absorbing 100 to 200 times its weight in impurities, helping to remove toxins from the skin’s surface. And lemme tell ya, my skin hasn’t been happier in a long time! Although my face has never been acne-prone,  I haven’t had any super annoying surprise pimples pop up either, so that’s a definite win. I’ve been using the scrub and the mask a couple of times a week, and despite the tubes being fairly small, they’ve lasted a surprisingly long time! (That said, they’re sadly almost empty now, but I plan on repurchasing.) Time to get into the nitty gritty. (Heh, gritty. Like the charcoal in the mask. Get it?) Oy, it’s been a long week.

Mask: I still put a moisturizer on after using the mask, but it doesn’t dry my face out nearly as much as other (similar) masks I’ve tried in the past. It has little exfoliate bits, doesn’t smell weird, and I’m pretty sure I’m able to see where the mask pulled out impurities on the dried mask. Maybe that’s just what I’m telling myself, the world will never know. It definitely seems to be helping my skin balance out though, especially after all of the traveling we did at the beginning of the year. The only real negative I can come up with is that the mask seemed to dry up a bit in the tube – but not to the point of being unusable.

Scrub: I love exfoliating face washes, especially when the exfoliate bits aren’t too harsh.  I’m looking at you, St. Ives. This scrub is gentle enough to use every day, but also scrubby enough that I can actually feel it doing its job. I love that the scrub doesn’t dry out my face, and that my skin looks and feels bright and fresh after using it. I’ve also been using it on my back and chest for a little extra detox action. My only real (non-complaint) complaint is that the cap is hard to open, but I’ve just been unscrewing the entire thing which is good enough for me!

I really can’t say enough about the charcoal detox line from Derma E.  Both products haven’t caused my semi-sensitive skin any problems, and the products have been allergy-tested – so if skin sensitivity has been an issue for you in the past, it might be worth giving these products a whirl! Derma E is also 100% vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free, sulfate-free, mineral oil-free, lanolin-free, gluten free, GMO-free. It really doesn’t get much better than that. (Actually yes, it does. The mask is only 1.7oz, which meant I was able to bring it to Disney World! Everything is better in Disney, even masks.)

You can find Derma E’s detox line on their website and at Ulta; let me know what you think if you try them out!!

Review: HASK Chia Seed Oil Volumizing Collection

Hey hey, I’m back with another review for my favorite shampoo brand! I’ll start with a quick refresher, since it’s been a while since I last reviewed anything from HASK. HASK shampoos and conditioners are free of sulfates, parabens, drying alcohols, and phthalates (lol how do you pronounce that?) – all things that aren’t necessarily the greatest for your hair. HASK’s hair care products have SO many different benefits, ranging from curl care to color protection and moisturizing – all made with exotic ingredients and oils. They’re pretty great, and I’ve continuously been impressed with how soft and clean my hair feels after using any of the varieties. So soft.

Whew, now that that schpeal is over, on to my review! I’ve been able to try out a few different varieties from HASK, and while I really don’t have complaints about any of them, I use a volumizing shampoo on a daily basis….so I was super excited to get the opportunity to try a Volumizing duo from HASK! I’ve noticed with other sulfate-free shampoos that they don’t seem to do quite as good a job at lathering up, leaving my hair feeling a little less clean than with other shampoos, but for whatever reason I have yet to run into this problem with any of the HASK products I’ve tried. It’s probably the natural oils/nuts and such 🙂

The volumizing effect comes from Chia Seeds that are fortified with proteins, antioxidants, calcium and nutrients like omega-3s to boost shine, increase volume and lock-in moisture without weighing hair down. Sounds like magic, right? It acccctually might be. I can say with confidence that my hair has been feeling a bit bouncier over the past few weeks, and there’s definitely a difference from my normal dry, winter hair. Not to mention all of the traveling we’ve been doing. I’m pretty sure my entire body is drier than normal this winter. Darn airplanes.

So much volume! Well, more than usual anyway.

Yay clean hair 😀 Also – I definitely wasn’t exaggerating when I said HASK has shampoo for basically any of your hair needs. You can see all of the varieties on their website, and can find them at Target, Ulta, and even some on Amazon (if you’re like me and avoid going to stores as much as possible. Plus we have Prime so…) (Except also it’s totally worth being able to smell before you buy, because they all smell SO good.) Thanks again for the samples, HASK!

Have you tried any of HASK’s hair products? Any favorites? Let me know!

Morocco – Trip Report!

I finally was able to add photos to all 9 of my Morocco updates – woo! I didn’t post a ‘Day 10’ because all that happened was breakfast, finishing packing, hanging out for way too long at the airport (and trying to figure out how to spend the rest of our Dirhams) and then taking a taxi to our Airbnb (which was stocked with snacks and 3 large beers. Hooray!) Oh, I also bought a giant bottle of Amarula, which required me to check my bag from Frankfurt to Detroit. And then I got either the flu or food poisoning halfway through our 9 hour flight back to Detroit. That was awful. But I survived, and am looking forward to heading to Disney in a few days. It never stops!

So anyways, for ease of reading, I’m compiling links to each day’s review. Enjoy!

Day 1   Day 2   Day 3   Day 4   Day 5   Day 6   Day 7   Day 8   Day 9

 

 

Morocco: Day 9

Our entire group would have loved to stay in Essaouira for the rest of our trip (all 28 hours of it,) but unfortunately a driver would be waiting to take us back to Marrakech at 11am. Before we left, I knew I wanted to wander through Essaouira’s port and see the beach once more before starting the journey back to grey Michigan. It was totally a coincidence that we walked through the Medina once more too, as we all figured out the maximum we could spend on souvenirs while 1) having enough money left for lunch and dinner, and 2) not needing to take more money out of the ATM.

Bare feet for the first (and only) time on the trip!

Unfortunately, 11am came rather quickly, and we were on our way back to Hotel Akabar in Marrakech. (Well, it was actually closer to 11:30 because Joe and I decided to walk back from the Medina instead of taking a taxi. Oops.)

First thing we did upon returning to Marrakech? Ordered burgers from the restaurant across the street. 5/6 of us. All of the Tagine and Cous Cous we had been eating over the last 8 days was so yummy – don’t get me wrong, but we were excited for something a bit more Westernized. After a late lunch, we spent some time relaxing in our room (orange this time instead of green,) while Jenna went to the airport to pick up the luggage she’d been surviving without for 8.5 days.

(I gave Joe the egg..)

Once Jenna returned, we went down into the square for the last time, each with a few ‘musts’ to check off before dinner. One of the ‘musts’? Henna in the square! As hokey and touristy as it seemed, we figured we might as well; it couldn’t be that expensive, right?

As soon as we got to the square, we saw a group of older women basically chomping at the bit to get to work on our hands. We figured there was no harm in asking about pricing – but as soon as we approached them we were barraged with requests to take a seat and discuss, rather than giving us a straightforward price. That should have been the first and only hint we needed to walk away and find another group of henna artists. But no, I decided to fulfill their request of sitting down to discuss a design, price, and henna color. Unfortunately instead of trying to discuss the details, the woman took my hand and went to work; with runny, black henna. I didn’t set a price or choose a design, and she was using black henna instead of brown as I requested. Not only were they charging more for the black henna (“it lasts longer!”) but black henna can be really bad for your skin. Cherry on top? She told me my henna would be 350 Dirhams ($35.) I’m pretty sure I straight up laughed in her face. Darn inconsiderate Americans, am I right?

While I haggled on and off with the woman that did my henna, two of the other girls in our group were able to talk the women down to 100 Dirhams for a specific design and brown henna. They paid ahead of time – smart. As they were finishing up, I got 50 Dirhams out of my bag and told the henna woman that she was either taking 50 or I was walking away. I didn’t say she could start, I didn’t get to choose a design, and I sure as heck didn’t want black henna – so I thought it was more than a fair price. They…didn’t agree. Names were called, there was some shouting, but just as I was about to walk away, they reluctantly accepted my 50 Dirhams. (And we avoided that side of the square for the rest of the night.)

Oh – AND they freaking sprinkled glitter all over my hand. I hate glitter.

After stopping at a cafe for some mint tea and doing a bit of last-minute shopping (made much more perilous thanks to the ultra-staining capabilities of the wet henna on my hand/arm,) we had our last group dinner where they served PEPSI! My first and only Pepsi of the trip, and my goodness it tasted delish. We did decide to go with Moroccan food for our last meal – Moroccan soup, with lamb cous cous to share. 10/10 would recommend. And would it really be a Moroccan meal if we didn’t end with mint tea? (Hint: the answer is no.)

Eventually it was time to say goodbye to our guide, get some dessert, and retire to our respective rooms to finish packing up. Goodbyes are weird, but I’m pretty sure Ibrahim used up the ‘goodbye weirdness’ quota for the rest of us – plus I think social media makes things a little less “it was nice hanging out with you for 10 days straight, peace out!”

-okay I’ve been starting at this for way too long trying to figure out a way to end it, but I’m just going to type this instead!-

Morocco: Day 8

I’ve gotta say…it was SO nice to not have to pack up and head to a new city this morning. We still got up fairly early to walk into town for the first of 3 ATM stops (spent way more money in Essaouira than anywhere else…) before Joe and I went our separate ways for the afternoon! Joe went for an hour of quad-biking on the beach, and I went for a 3 hour horseback ride. With Atlas, the most ornery horse I’ve ever ridden. Not that I’ve really ridden that many horses, but Atlas was somethin’ special. He had two speeds, snail’s-pace or fast trot, and he stopped at pretty much every shrub, bush, and tree for a snack. As frustrating as the ride was though, it definitely was something I’ll most likely never experience again, and I’m so glad I did it! Totally worth the zillions of bruises covering the lower half of my body afterwards.

After showering off horse-stank, Ann and I walked back into the city center to meet up with a few other people for a massage. Horseback riding and massages, two things I can say I’ve done in multiple countries (Horses: Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Morocco, US. Massages: Thailand, US, Morocco, Hong Kong (?)) Anyway. We left our hotel with lots of spare time, but still managed to be late. Not that we had service to run Google Maps, but Google Maps wouldn’t have really helped us in the twisty, turny inner-workings of the Medina. We were able to pull up the general location, but at a certain point we just had to hope we’d find the spa, following sporadically placed signage, intermingled with signage for other spas, restaurants, and Riads. It’s much harder to work your way through the Medina when you’re actually looking for something!

Our masseuses spoke about 8 words of English between the 4 of them, so when I was closed in a dark room – minus one multi-colored flashing light – I assumed it was time to get undressed/on the table. Luckily my presumption was correct, and before I knew it, I was being slathered down in a metric ton of oil.

Now, it wasn’t the best massage I’ve had by any stretch of the imagination, and my masseuse seemed to put extra pressure on my newly formed, extra painful bruises, but the 60 minutes flew by, and I was definitely feeling relaxed by the end of it. Well, relaxed, but SO greasy. My sunglasses wouldn’t even stay on my nose. We took a taxi back to our hotel (50 cents a piece) and I took shower number 3 of the day before we all met back up for some evening shopping and dinner!

Shrimp Tagine (not my meal, hah.)

My mission for the night was to haggle the price of a pair of linen pants to under 100 Dirhams ($10,) and after way too much effort, I was successful! 95 Dirhams later, we were off to a rooftop restaurant/bar suggested to us by a shop owner, where we could order drinks such as the Essaouira Sling or the Shouting Orgasm. Lol.

Other purchases of the day: a leather duffel bag for Joe, wooden carved camels for my coworkers, and some pottery.