Thursday, July 28, 2016

until we meet again

Okay everyone, time for another dose of tough honesty. For the last six months, my posts have been few and far between, and I have to admit, not always my best quality. When I started blogging, I thought it was perfect for me — it connected my love for writing with the freedom to write about anything and everything I wanted.

But, as life often does, things changed somewhere along the way, and blogging became more of a stressor than a creative outlet. It got to a point where I was choosing between girls night or finishing up a blog post, and cooking dinner with Adam or taking outfit photos. I know there are plenty of bloggers who run a successful business on top of a full-time job, but for me, curating my online life was taking away from my real life, and that's the last thing I want.

The idea of taking a break from blogging has occurred to me a lot in the last few months. I've spent a lot of time weighing the pros and cons, and I realized the decision was even harder than I thought. So a few weeks ago I just stopped everything blog-related — writing, picturing-taking, planning — just to see how it felt. And I have to be completely honest: it felt SO GOOD. Instead of leaving dinner early to finish a post, I spent all night cooking, eating and playing games with friends. I prepped my lunch for the next day, went to bed stress-free, woke up, went to work and did whatever the hell I wanted the next night.

For those of you who have finished school, remember how awesome it was those first few weeks of starting a new job when you would come home from a day of work and realize you were just done for the day? No homework to do, no projects to work on — the whole night was yours. That's how the last month has been for me.

It's not that I don't like blogging anymore — there are certain aspects I already miss about it. But I really don't believe that this is a permanent break. It's just that for the stage I'm at in my life now, it's just not right for me. I found a job that I love, I have a renewed passion for fitness, and I'm genuinely happy with where my life is going at the moment. Blogging is such a great hobby and job, and it can be so fulfilling. But at the point where it's taking away from creating those fulfilling moments and memories in everyday life, there's a problem. So, for the foreseeable future, I won't be posting any new content. You can still find me on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest — and someday, I think, you'll find me right back here again.


Friday, July 1, 2016

wandering the web: happy 4th of July!

Healthy chicken lettuce wraps, three Fourth of July sangria recipes, the perfect shorts for summer and 10 ways to make your morning suck less.

Happy Friday! Giving myself a small pat on the back for making it through the most Monday-filled week ev-er. Thankfully, it ends with a 3-day weekend, and that is a straight mood lifter right there. Do any of you have exciting plans for the Fourth of July? I think we're going to catch a live band one night and we'll definitely find some fireworks to watch, but I'm looking forward to a mostly quiet couple of days. I hope you all have a great one!

1. The mental, emotional and physical effects of three workouts. (The Coveteur)

2. And speaking of workouts, I'm giving this 30-day plank challenge a try this month! (Refinery29)

3. Drooling over this healthy chicken salad lettuce wrap recipe. (Southern Curls and Pearls)

4. American Eagle has a killer sale on shorts right now. (American Eagle)

5. Ten ways to make your mornings suck a little less. (The Stripe)

6. In L-O-V-E with this new series. (Man Repeller)

7. These chambray shorts look so perfect for summer. (Prosecco and Plaid)

8. Celebrate the Fourth of July with three amazing sangria recipes. (A Southern Drawl)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

transitional fitness clothes

Transitional pieces to take you from the gym to the street in style.

As you probably know by now, one of my favorite motivators for a good sweat sesh is a killer outfit. But one thing I look for especially in workout gear is a transitional element that I can take from the gym to the street. Two pieces I can't get enough of right now are cute tights and strappy sports bras — the perfect duo in any athleisure look, if you ask me.

I've been doing a little shopping around (natch) for some great transitional pieces and had to share some of my finds with you today. I've had my eye on these tie-dye leggings by Free People for weeks; they went on sale for 40% off over the weekend and sold out yesterday (go figure) — I'll keep watching for a restock and post an update.

I hope you're all having a great week so far! Yesterday was the most Monday-ish Monday, so I'm extra happy that we're one day closer to a 3-day weekend!

What kind of workout gear do you wear most? How do you like to transition your gym clothes? 

P.S. affordable workout gear and how to work out anywhere

Friday, June 24, 2016

wandering the web: have a fun weekend

Fourth of July outfit inspo, how to start your own succulent garden and fiction for feminists.

Another week is in the books, and I have to say this one really flew by. After falling off the workout wagon a little bit toward the beginning of the month, my body is feeling refreshed and strong after a week of solid exercise — and it really is the best feeling. It's just like Elle Woods said, you know?

On that note, here's to a fun, healthy weekend!

1. How to start a succulent garden — the only plants I'd actually consider! (The Everygirl)

2. Fiction for feminists. (Daily Worth)

3. Chic Fourth of July outfit inspiration. (Hello Fashion)

4. Drooling over these pretzel chocolate chip bars. (Just A Taste)

5. Getting major kitchen inspiration. (Pinterest)

6. I'm loving the new Cupcakes and Cashmere bedroom collection. (Nordstrom)

7. How to improve your mental health. (Man Repeller)

8. I don't like pink, but I love this room. (Refinery29)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

summer to do list

9 things to do this summer, wherever you live

Summer is officially here — though if you ask anyone around here, we've been sweating it out in 90+ degree temps for weeks now — and with it comes our bucket lists of everything we want to do before the snow comes again. I mentioned last year that even after a year in Des Moines, there's still so much that I haven't done or seen in this city, and the same is true this year.

Of course, I was able to venture out and find some new things to do in the last 12 months (exhibit a and exhibit b), but this year I want to keep adding to the list. Some of my goals are Des Moines-specific, but many of them can be done wherever you live.

1. Rent bikes to ride by the river.

2. Take a tour of the botanical gardens.

3. Go on a hiking trip.

4. Join an outdoor pop-up yoga event.

5. (Try to) learn how to golf. ;)

6. Plant my own succulent garden.

7. Picnic at a winery.

8. Read a classic novel.

9. Make a fun summer cocktail treat.

What's on your bucket list this summer? Would you try any of these things? I'd love to know!

P.S. here's to new adventures and my travel guide to Des Moines

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

lipstick review vol. 6

Two of my favorite lip looks, plus a warning to never put this one on your lips!

Well hello again, lovelies! I hope everyone had a good weekend! We had such a fun time taking the boat out for Father's Day, and I even made chocolate chip cookies for the occasion. (Still proud of myself for not overcooking them!) Anyway, on to today's topic: lipstick. This edition is a fun one because it contains two options that I absolutely love, one that was disappointing and the WORST lipstick I've ever tried in my life. So, let's get to it!

1. Bite Beauty in Dragonfruit — I had been researching new pink lipsticks for summer a few months ago, and I decided I wanted to give Bite Beauty a try because I've been following their Instagram and loved their whole Amuse Bouche line. Once I got to Sephora, I tested a few different pinks and fell head over heels for Dragonfruit and its magenta, purplish tones. The hue feels a bit more sophisticated than traditional hot pinks, and it seems to go with every color. I also love the formula — it's soft and creamy and makes your lips feel hydrated and healthy all day. Rating: 5 stars.

2. MAC lipstick in Viva Glam II and Ellie Goulding Plushglass in Explosion — This combo holds a special place in my makeup bag because they're my first nude lipsticks and I bought them at the Fifth Avenue MAC store in New York. The picture doesn't do it justice, but this duo is definitely my favorite nude lip look. The lipstick is a little darker toned, but it compliments fair to light skin tones so well. The gloss adds just the right amount of shimmer without looking like a cheap throwback to 2002 and without feeling sticky. This is what I wear when I want more of a sultry pout. Rating: 5 stars.

3. NARS Dolce Vita — I've been a NARS devotee since the first time I tried their lip pencil in Dragon Girl. So far, I haven't been nearly as impressed with their lipsticks. This is one I got in a nude lipstick sample set from Sephora and I've only worn it probably two or three times. The formula is super light and feels like a balm, but it takes about 10 coats just to make the color come out and then it comes off after one sip of coffee. Long story short: I would not pay the $28 retail price for this glorified lip balm. Rating: 2 stars.

4. NYX Lip Lingerie in Embellishment — And finally, the most terrible thing I have ever put on my lips. I know that sounds dramatic, but I have to be completely honest. I was so excited to try this new line by NYX after I saw this Instagram post. Gorgeous, right? And now look back at my photo. Not even close. In fact, the day I wore this, I felt insecure and paranoid that I looked dead because of the purple-gray color. Not only was the color totally different than its photo, the formula was awful. It's a gloss that turns matte, but it was so drying that I felt like I had left a face mask on for too long. And THEN, when I tried to take it off, it. did. not. budge. There's something to be said for long-lasting lipsticks obviously, but not when you're scrubbing and scrubbing with a damp wash cloth until your lips are practically raw — aka, what actually happened. Rating: 0 stars and a warning to save your money (and your lips!)

P.S. check out my last five lipstick reviews — which ones have been your favorites so far? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, June 17, 2016

wandering the web: have a great (hot) weekend

The perfect summer treat, deciding what music to play for your kids and an honest bracelet.

We made it — happy Friday, dolls! Anyone got any fun plans for the weekend? I'm doing a 5k with a friend bright and early tomorrow (hopefully before the thermometer hits 95 degrees!) and tomorrow night I'm going to Shakespeare on the Lawn with my sister. They're doing "King Lear," which I've never seen before. Then we're heading out to the lake for a little pontoon fun on Father's Day! Very excited for a fun-filled weekend ahead :)

I hope you all have a great weekend, and here are some fun links to prep you for summer (which starts officially on Monday!)...

1. I loved this piece on choosing what music to play for your kids. (Cup of Jo)

2. Nine tips to walk for weight loss — love the first one! (Pop Sugar)

3. Where to find "Old Paris." (World of Wanderlust)

4. Only the most perfect summer treat ever! (I Heart Naptime)

5. Found — the best nail color for toes! (Essie)

6. Hacks for finding cheap flights — definitely bookmarking this! (Refinery29)

7. Pretty sure I need this bracelet in my life. (Gage Huntley)

8. A great article on how to beat "imposter syndrome." (The Everygirl)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

book review: 'Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures'

Emma Straub does it again, weaving together themes of love, loss, family and work, in a beautiful story of reinvention.

Congratulations! We made it to Thursday! Trust me, there were several moments this week when I didn't think it was going to happen. (hashtag adulting, am I right?) But here we are, so close to the glorious weekend.

After much research and indecision, I finally bought and took this book with me to Florida for road trip and beach reading last week. I wanted something light and summer-y, and every time I thought of those two traits I kept coming back to the first book I read by Emma Straub, The Vacationers. I read it last summer and enjoyed it, for the story but mostly for Straub's writing.

Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures had been on my list for a while, and it did not disappoint. The book was different than I expected — but in a good way. It follows Elsa Emerson, the youngest of three daughters whose parents run a theater company in small-town Wisconsin in the 1920s. Elsa loves living in her small town, but she gets married and leaves for California in search of a bigger stage when she's only 18. Once she gets there, her acting career doesn't happen quite like she had imagined, and a series of events — her "discovery" by a famous Hollywood producer that comes with a name change, her husband's drinking problem, and two unexpected children — each changes her life in different ways.

I loved this book for many reasons, one being its detail in the Golden Age of movies, which I've always found fascinating. It was such an interesting time period to read about, especially thinking of how different things are from today and with the fictional characters she created for it. The other reasons I enjoyed this are mainly tied to Emma Straub and her talent. She took a simple outline of a young woman reinventing herself and made it into a beautiful story of love, loss and choices. Laura Lamont reminds you how the people we are and the people we want to be can be so different.

Straub covered so many themes in this book — family, heartbreak, work/life balance, aging in the public eye — but it never felt overwhelming or like it was too much for one story. Everything flowed seamlessly, even the timeline, which jumped years ahead from chapter to chapter and spanned more than 50 years.

If you're looking for a great summer read, or even a light historical fiction, Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures is the one. Honestly, it's the first book I've had a hard time putting down all year and it's only got me more excited to read her other books.

Have you read any of Emma Straub's books? What are your favorites? If you pick up this one, let me know what you think!

P.S. reviews of Saint Anything, Looking for Alaska and The Vacationers

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

palm print paradise

palm print v-neck dress with strappy open back
palm print v-neck dress with strappy open back
palm print v-neck dress with strappy open back

palm print v-neck dress with strappy open back

palm print v-neck dress with strappy open back

palm print v-neck dress with strappy open back

palm print v-neck dress with strappy open back

palm print v-neck dress with strappy open back

palm print v-neck dress with strappy open back

Happy Wednesday loves! So I've been waiting to share this dress with you all for months because I bought it specifically for my trip — like I said, still obsessing over palm trees in every shape and form! I fell in love with this dress immediately when I saw it, even thought it's pretty different from my normal style. First, it's pink, which I never wear but I loved how it looked against the green palm leaves. I also loved the flowy, asymmetrical hem — it made me feel like I was ready to go salsa dancing!

The cut of this dress is extremely flattering and perfect for a date night or even girls night out. It might be a little harder finding a place to wear it here in Iowa, but it's one of those outfits that just makes you feel good no matter where you are, so you can bet I won't hesitate to break it out again!

P.S. summer leather, statement earrings and dress fever 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Florida vacation recap

Good morning babes! How have you all been? I feel like I've been away from the blog forever, which I kind of have in blogosphere time. I came back from Florida last week and it's been a little crazy with unpacking and working and Adam's birthday (happy birthday boo!) but I'm finally adjusted to being home and I thought I'd start things off with a few photos from my trip!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

a fascinating new show

The best food show is a docu-series called Chef's Table, and you won't be sorry you started watching.

Have you guys seen the Netflix docu-series Chef's Table? It was created by David Gelb, and each episode tells the story of a distinguished chef and his or her restaurants. It has interviews from the chef, their cooks, critics, family and friends, and it shows the intricacies of their restaurants.

I typically don't care much for cooking and food shows, but Adam started watching this one and when I saw it I was instantly hooked. The production is so good, and it's amazing to see how intensely passionate and creative each chef is. Their food isn't just food, it's art. They think about every element — taste, texture, smell, presentation — and put them together in ways you could never imagine.

We started watching the second season last night and the first episode featured Grant Achatz of the restaurant Alinea in Chicago. His story is incredible; Achatz overcame stage four cancer and the loss of his ability to taste(!) and created a restaurant that is all about the experience, using foods to create illusions that trick the guests and make the meal feel like an actual show. Every single episode is captivating, and the shots are so beautifully done. The show was just renewed a couple months ago for two more seasons, and I can't wait to watch all of them.

What are you watching right now? Have you watched Chef's Table yet? Will you? If you have, which episode/chef is your favorite? I'd love to know!

P.S. another great show on Netflix and six movies to see now

Image via.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

instagram roundup no. 16

Favorite outfits, restaurants, drinks and places from May.

Long weekends are the best, aren't they? All day yesterday, I kept thinking it was Monday only to happily remember it's actually Tuesday! And now we're already starting a new month, which seems impossible, so today I'm doing a little look back at May. Starting with this beautiful view of the Iowa capitol building from the Des Moines Farmers Market (aka the actual best farmers market).

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Florida packing list

what's going in my bag for a summer trip to Florida

As I mentioned last week, I'm heading to Florida on Thursday to help my mom settle in at the new house (and to get some much-needed sun time on the beach — obvs). My mom and sister and I are driving down with the rest of their belongings (and two little dogs!) and my sister and I will be flying back. Since the car will be jam packed with home stuff, luggage, two dogs and three humans, packing light is definitely a necessity. I thought I'd share a few of the things I'll be bringing with me in case any of you are looking for packing inspiration for your next vacay!

Transitional pieces are going to be the name of the game for this trip. This gray dress is so cute and casual, and easily doubles as a day dress or a swimsuit coverup. I'll be packing several similar dresses that can transition easy from day to night, especially lightweight ones to survive the heat.

Obviously, this trip is going to be a bittersweet one — I'm already dreading the drive to the airport — but right now I'm just looking at this as my first vacation in far too long, an amazing beach getaway, and some excellent girl time. Hope you're all having a great week, babes!

P.S. statement earrings, dress fever and an easy spring outfit

Friday, May 27, 2016

wandering the web: have a great long weekend!

Celebrity lookalikes, cat pickup lines and black ice cream — yep, you read that right.

Happy Friday, loves! Hope you've all had a great week, and cheers to a long weekend! Got anything fun planned? I will be soaking up the sun on my dad's pontoon and having a grill-out with the fam on Monday. And after that I'll just be counting down the days (and hours, and minutes) till I head down to Florida and the beach! While I plan to thoroughly enjoy this three-day weekend, my newsletter will be going out Tuesday instead of Monday (you can sign up for it here) and I'll be back with regular posting next week! I hope you all have a wonderful long weekend! 

1. I want to go to Boston just to see these. (Atlas Obscura via Cup of Jo)

2. Blackberry gin slush...yes please. (The Speckled Palate)

3. Not sure I can get behind this type of ice cream. (ASOS)

4. Five things healthy sleepers don't do. (Huffington Post) 

5. Whoa. This is trippy. (Buzzfeed)

6. Four ways to find yourself in a new city. (The Everygirl)

7. Nordstrom's half-yearly sale is happening now, and I'm crushing on this top. (Nordstrom)

8. If cat's had pickup lines. (Pinterest)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

cucumber watermelon spritzer

A refreshing cocktail perfect for summer nights

With warm weather comes patio season, and with patio season comes cocktails. Because, honestly, is there anything better than a summer night spent sipping cocktails whilst a light breeze tosses your hair? (Answer: Nope!)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

when moms move away

Life update: What happens when your mom and best friend moves away.

If you've been following my newsletter (which you should be), you're probably ready for me to explain my cryptic comments on "big changes" and happening in my life... Well, here's the first one: My mom is moving to Florida! No, I'm not the lucky one trading snowstorms for beaches, but this is a big change for me because I've never actually lived more than an hour away from my mom. On top of that, she's been my best friend since day one.

For those reasons, it's taken me a while to write this post — she found out back in March (her husband got an incredible job opportunity near Orlando). I've gone through so many different ways of talking about this on my blog. Do I dedicate a full post to it, or mention it casually on a weekly roundup? Do I share only my excitement for her big move, or do I dive into all the emotions it brings? Finally, I decided to open up and share it all. (Mostly because you were all so great when I expressed my vulnerability with you here.)

Friday, May 20, 2016

wandering the web: have a great weekend

DIY watercolor mugs, invisible Instagram stories and mirror therapy.

Happy Friday babes! How's your week been? I feel like it just started, and yet we're already to the weekend! Definitely not complaining though ;) Tonight I'll be doing some much-needed cleaning around my apartment, and then tomorrow I'm having a girls day with my mom and sis. We'll be going through the Des Moines Farmers Market and getting pedicures and I. can. not. wait! I hope you all have a great weekend, and here are some fun links from the week...

1. In the summer, I just crave fresh foods. This chicken mango lettuce wrap would make the best meal. (PopSugar)

2. "Really seeing oneself, and really seeing other people, are probably the hardest things any of us will ever do." (Refinery29)

3. Watercolor mugs would be a fun weekend project. (I Spy DIY)

4. Would you decorate with patterned wallpaper? I kind of love it. (Apartment Therapy)

5. I keep hearing great things about this workout program. Have any of you tried it? (Kayla Itsines)

6. Just ordered these palm print workout tights and I'm SO excited to get them! (Fabletics)

7. Invisible Instagram stories are inspiring and so creative. (Bustle)

8. Is it summer yet? (Pinterest)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

what's your love language?

figuring out the best way to make your relationship flourish

A while ago my sister shared this love language quiz with me, and I was a little intrigued (read: surprised) at my results. By now we all know that love has so many different interpretations, and different aspects of a relationship are more meaningful than others. Some people feel more intimate when they have deep, honest conversations with their partner while others feel more intimate when they're, you know, intimate.

The 5 Love Languages was written by Dr. Gary Chapman, who specializes in marriage and relationships. He's written numerous relationship books, speaks at marriage conferences, and has been married to his wife for more than four decades. He's also developed this quiz to help people identify their own primary love language(s).

I've taken the quiz twice a few months apart and gotten pretty much the same results both times. My highest-scoring category is quality time, but all of my answers put my results within two points except for receiving gifts, which only scored two — you're welcome, Adam ;) I said I was surprised at my results, not because I scored highest in quality time but because my second-highest score was in words of affirmation. In the past, I haven't often thought of myself as a person who needed encouragement or reassurance.

Adam took the quiz too, and I think it was a happy coincidence that his highest-scoring language was also quality time. Which makes sense, because we've always enjoyed being together, even if it's just doing separate things in the same room. And I think we realized just how much that time means to us when Adam was working in New York for three months earlier this year and we didn't get that for so long.

Unlike mine, Adam's scores were very divided between the two highest and the three lowest. His lowest score was words of affirmation, which kind of shocked me! We've always had a very verbal relationship in that we often say we love each other, praise accomplishments and encourage each other. Adam said he wasn't surprised at all and in fact, his answers were almost exactly what he would have expected them to be. When we talked about our results, Adam put it simply: "We just love spending time together."

I think it's such an interesting concept, and it turned into a great conversation about how we both express our feelings. Have any of you taken the love language quiz before? Were you surprised by your results or did they meet your expectations? I'd love to hear...

P.S. how to keep the sparks alive, the choice to have children and how to fight successfully

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

baublebar sale picks

my top picks in baublebar's sitewide sale!

I like to consider myself something of a professional shopper, and part of earning that title is about finding the best deals and bargains around. Baublebar is one of my go-to stops for finding trendy and quality jewelry because their styles are always on point. You might remember a few guest appearances Baublebar made in my last wish list. But let's be honest, it makes an appearance on just about every one of my wish lists ;)

This week they're having a killer sale on the entire site, offering up to 30% off. So if you're in the market for a some new jewels — or maybe the rest of your closet is just begging for some new accessories ;) — now is the time to check it out. I hope you're all having a great week — mine has been flying by, and I'm definitely not complaining!

P.S. my favorite statement earrings, dress fever and white leather

Friday, May 13, 2016

wandering the web: have a beautiful weekend

A perfect summer salad, body fat as the new religion, and a chickpea cocktail? Umm...

Happy Friday babes! I am so ready for the weekend; my sleep schedule has been a last priority this week, and it's definitely taking a toll...I'm ready to make up for it in the next few days! Do any of you have fun plans for the weekend? Adam and I are probably going to see Captain America: Civil War at some point, and I'm so excited! I've been waiting for it ever since I saw the first preview. Have you seen it yet?

I hope you all have a beautiful, fun, relaxing weekend, and here are some links I liked this week...

1. Rainbow smoothie anyone? (FitSugar)

2. Majorly crushing on these shoes. (Express)

3. This avocado caprese chicken salad sounds perfect for summer cookouts. (Joyful Healthy Eats)

4. You go girl. (Refinery29)

5. And, how body fat has become the new religion. (Buzzfeed)

6. Guys, I don't know what's wrong with me, but I'm starting to like pink.... (Nordstrom)

7. I really love Brooke and Meggan's #WhatWeWore series. (Somewhere, Lately)

8. Would you care for a chickpea-goo cocktail? (Huffington Post)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

wish list: statement earrings

Brighten up your summer look with these statement earrings

It seems like every year I get caught up in one accessory and go all out with it, and this year statement earrings are stealing my heart. I love how much flare they can add to even the simplest outfits. Adding a small pop of bright color to a neutral ensemble can be just enough to transform it into something fun and fresh. I've been lusting over bright, bold earrings for weeks now (you may have seen these and these on my Instagram!) and I just added these yellow beauties from H&M to my collection — for only $10!

Keeping today's post short and sweet because I may have stayed up too late catching up on Dancing With The Stars and playing with my mom's dogs ;) The weather has been rainy and humid most of the week, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it'll stay sunny for the whole day today! Hope you all have a good one!

P.S. dress fever and my spring wish list

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

book review: 'Looking for Alaska'

The overwhelming mediocrity of Looking for Alaska.

I purchased Looking for Alaska for two reasons: One, I loved The Fault in Our Stars and really enjoyed Paper Towns (both by John Green); and two, it was on sale.

Note to self: Never fall for the book on sale. The problem I had with this one is that I don't have anything good or bad to say about it. It was totally, wholeheartedly mediocre. It brought out no emotions in me whatsoever. (Unless you count the annoyance I felt at the need to finish one book before I start another one, because I really wanted to start a new one.)

Here's the thing. John Green is a talented writer — there's no denying that. He's got a great style and impressive abilities to tell a story and get inside the mind of adolescents. He really knows what it's like to live and breathe teenage hormones, and it impresses me how in-tune he is even as an adult. But Looking for Alaska landed somewhere on the same plane as Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, albeit with more interesting and relatable characters.

This one is about Miles (aka Pudge), a high school junior who leaves his school in Florida to attend boarding school in Alabama, looking for the "Great Perhaps" in life. Pudge has a penchant for learning famous people's last words (an interesting quirk that I actually did enjoy). Up until this point, Pudge has led a normal, unexciting life that he's ready to trade for something he hopes will be better. When he gets to the new school, he meets the Colonel (another nickname) and Alaska (a real name), both of whom introduce Pudge to some much-desired drama.

Alaska is the sort of enigmatic character Pudge has been seeking, someone who has really experienced life and doesn't care to play by the rules set by someone else. She's a mystery, and he inevitably falls for her. Of course, some mysteries can't be solved, but that doesn't stop Pudge and the Colonel when Alaska presents her final mystery.

It wasn't that I couldn't relate to the characters and what they were going through, because I have been in similar situations to what Green wrote about. I just thought it moved a little slowly, and some of the events didn't seem quite as big as they were meant to be. Final thoughts: Looking for Alaska is not a bad book. If you're looking for good writing and well thought-out characters, this one is for you. If you're looking for a more gripping story, try this one.

Have you read Looking for Alaska? What are your thoughts? Am I the only one who thought it was overwhelmingly average? I'd love to hear your opinions... 

P.S. reviews of Paper Towns and Me, Earl and the Dying Girl

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

lipstick review vol. 5

The best nude lipsticks and pastel shades for spring beauty looks

Hey hey hey friends! How was everyone's weekend? I hope everyone who celebrated Mother's Day had a good one! My sister and I spent the day with our mom, going to church, eating brunch and going to see the new "Mother's Day" movie. It's always nice to spend a casual day together to hang out and have fun, especially now that everyone has grown up and gotten so much busier.

It's been a while since I've done one of my traditional lipstick reviews, so today I'm sharing two of my favorite nude shades and a couple pastels that are perfect for spring!

1. Nudestix Whisper — As I've mentioned before, this lip pencil quickly made its way onto my favorite nude lip list. It has a matte finish and a lighter tone that's great for a neutral, unassuming beauty look. It coats well and stays put with minimal need for touchups throughout the day — a major plus in my book. This is my favorite nude to wear when I choose heavier eye makeup or an outfit with a lot of color, but I also love it when I'm wearing white for an extra-clean, didn't-try-to-hard look.

2. MAC Pink Nouveau — I bought this light pink shade last year after seeing Caitlin wearing it in so many of her posts. It looked like such a fun, flattering color for summer! I wasn't quite as smitten with it once I tried it out for myself, thought, as the formula turned out to be a little sticky and chunky (gross). It's the only MAC lipstick I've ever had that issue with, so I think it may just be a defect in this one. The color is pretty, and it does seem to flatter most skin tones. I shy away from it sometimes because it sometimes feels too "Barbie pink" for me, but I still love the way it looks in pictures.

3. Laura Mercier Milky Way — This was one of the unexpected frontrunners from the nude lip collection I bought at Sephora a few months ago. It's a bit of a darker color with brown undertones that give it a '90s feel, and I actually love that about it! It goes on slick and glossy, but takes a couple coats to really bring out the color. I typically reapply it fairly often throughout the night for that reason, but it always feels smooth and not sticky.

4. Revlon Berry Haute — I bought this tube a couple summers ago when orchid lips were just starting to become more popular, and every time I wore it I felt it was a little too light and made my lips look dead... haha, not a great look! Purple lipsticks can be a hard shade to pull off in my opinion, because they don't tend to fit all skin tones like some of the reds and pinks. But I gave this one a try again this spring and I actually really loved it! It looks a bit lighter in person than in the photo, but I really do think it's darker than it was when I bought it...if that's possible! It's a great soft color for spring that's not too bold or in your face.

Which ones are your favorites? What are your best spring lip colors? I'd love to know!

P.S. all my other lipstick reviews

Thursday, May 5, 2016

dining des moines: +39 italian

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Anyone have any big plans for the (drinking) holiday? I'm thinking margaritas and chips and salsa are a must tonight ;) In other food news, I had the chance to check out the newest Italian restaurant in Des Moines last weekend and couldn't wait to share my thoughts with all of you. This location is the second for +39 Italian Market, which started in Ames (shoutout to my college town!) a few years ago. The owners are from Italy and both restaurants have separate wine rooms with hundreds of bottles on the walls (swoon!).

Walking in, the restaurant is small but beautiful. It's clean and white with small black tables and simple decor. I loved everything about the look and design, but the acoustics were terrible. We had reservations at 8 p.m. on Friday. The place was packed, and the buzz of conversation was almost overwhelming, and we had to yell just to hear across the booth — major bummer for such a chic space.

We also had mixed reviews of the food. The menu is small and everything sounds delicious, but when we started asking our waitress questions, we found out all but one of the pasta dishes was made with store-bought pasta and the fish was frozen, not fresh. I decided to take a chance on one of the pastas anyway, and we were all further disappointed when it arrived. The menu's description of the pastas listed food items as if they were included in the dishes, but it turned out they were listing the ingredients in the actual sauces — as in my pesto pasta came without the expected pine nuts (the best part!)

The gourmet pizzas were the redeeming factor, though. We tried one with prosciutto, apples and brie cheese, and it was amazing. Perfectly cooked, and the flavors came out perfectly without being overwhelming. The best part? Dessert. The homemade tiramisu is to. die. for. Seriously, I've been craving it ever since!

Final thoughts: we were a bit disappointed that the "authentic" Italian restaurant didn't make its own pasta and use all fresh ingredients. The pastas seemed like a dish anyone could make at home, but for a much higher price tag. If you're going to check it out (which I do recommend!), order a pizza, save room for dessert, and definitely explore the wine list!

Have you been to +39 restaurant yet? Will you? I'd love to know...

P.S. Eatery A, RoCA and the Scenic Route Bakery

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Instagram Roundup No. 15

TGI... oh wait, it's only Wednesday. Bummer. But! Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo, and we all know what that means: MARGARITAS. Count me in! This topic happens to coincide perfectly with my first photo, which is a delicious taco from a new place called Taco Hangover that opened in West Des Moines a couple months ago. Tasty tacos, amazing salsa and they just opened a new patio this week.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Wandering the Web: have a fun weekend!

Money advice, a sad pattern in advertising and things that annoy me while I'm PMSing.

Happy Fri-yay, everyone! Does anyone have any fun plans this weekend? Tonight I'm going with the fam to check out a new Italian restaurant that opened recently in Des Moines (can't wait!) and tomorrow we're heading to the Amana Colonies for the afternoon. I would be even more excited, but it's been rainy and cold here all week and it's not looking better for the weekend. Can it just be summer already?

1. Would you wear a neck scarf? (Le Fashion)

2. If you happen to be in New York, here's something fun to do tonight. (Cup of Jo)

3. Four bank accounts is better than one — surprisingly. (The Everygirl)

4. What millennial women think about the presidential race is fascinating. (Refinery 29)

5. The strange detail we've all been overlooking in movie posters. (Buzzfeed)

6. This is the next book on my reading list. (Amazon)

7. Things that annoy me while I'm PMSing — hilarious and true. (HelloGiggles)

8. YES. (Huffington Post)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

how I graduated with less than $14k in student loans

Six ways I saved and earned to avoid paying thousands in student loan debt

As graduation season creeps closer, I’ve been reading more and more articles on student loans and the growing burden of debt that comes with a college education. Debt and student loans are two concepts with which I am very familiar, thanks to being the youngest child of four to graduate college. It’s something my siblings would often talk to my parents about as they went through their own college and post-college journeys, and even though I was young, I absorbed bits and pieces and learned something myself along the way.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

wish list: dress fever

12 easy dresses to elevate your summer wardrobe

Happy Tuesday, babes! How's your week going so far? I'm incredibly excited because my mom's best friend is flying in from California tomorrow, and we always have so much fun when she's here! We're planning a girls night, dinner and drinks, a day trip, and lots of other fun stuff over the next few days.

In other news, my shopping lately has developed something of a pattern. When warm weather hits, it's almost impossible to find me wearing jeans because I am ALL about the dresses. Adam says I have dress fever, and I can't argue with that! I may or may not have purchased five of them in the last two weeks...oops! ;)

These are some styles I found and love, but the two styles I can't get enough of this year are shift and swing dresses. I typically lean more toward fitted cuts or A-line skirts, but for some reason I'm really loving the flirty feel of loose dresses. I just got this one in purple (and love it) and I'm considering ordering this one now, too. There's no such thing as too many dresses, right?

P.S. my spring wish list, a pretty linen dress and my favorite jacket for summer

Friday, April 22, 2016

Wandering the Web: have a wonderful weekend

Yard games to play this summer, an inspiring message about goals, and chocolate lasagna.

Happy Friday lovelies! It's been rainy all week here in Des Moines and today is the first day it's supposed to be dry and sunny, so you know I'm excited. This weekend Adam and I are headed to Iowa City for a 5k race (and by race I mean leisurely walk for me ;). I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and here are some links I liked this week...

1. Twenty-seven yard games to play this summer. Especially love #24! (Buzzfeed)

2. Loved this inspirational message from Jessi. (The Darling Detail)

3. Just bought this Bite Beauty lipstick in "Dragonfruit" and am completely obsessed. (Sephora)

4. I love the fun simplicity of tassel wall hangings. (Bloglovin)

5. Chocolate + lasagna? Yes please. (OMG Chocolate Desserts)

6. The most anticipated films of the summer. (Forbes)

7. These would certainly dazzle on a night out. (

8. And lastly, RIP Prince. (Vulture)

P.S. Thank you so much for your comments and kind words on this post. I know a lot of you are feeling or have felt the same way, and I'm so happy and appreciative to hear that my words resonated with you.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

white leather jacket

White leather is the perfect amount of edgy and fun

White leather is the perfect amount of edgy and fun
Snake skin heels for a chic going out look

Snake skin heels for a chic going out look

Snake skin heels for a chic going out look

Snake skin heels for a chic going out look

White leather is the perfect amount of edgy and fun

Snake skin heels for a chic going out look

Snake skin heels for a chic going out look

White leather is the perfect amount of edgy and fun

Happy Thursday babes! First, I want to thank all of you for letting me dive off an emotional cliff yesterday. It took me a while to take that post live, but it turned out to be incredibly therapeutic and I'm so happy I shared it with all of you.

Now let's get back to some regular content, shall we? This white (faux) leather jacket is the best purchase I've made lately. I've been wearing it nonstop because it goes with everything and it's the perfect edgy-but-girly jacket for summer. Don't get me wrong, I love a classic black leather jacket, but once spring hits, I'm all about bright colors and light shades — which makes a white moto jacket the perfect accessory.

I styled the jacket with a simple black wrap shirt and snake skin heels, a classic but casual outfit that's perfect for date night or just going out. I don't wear stilettos often, but every once in a while I love a good statement shoe like these. I'm a big believer that every girl should own at least one pair of pumps that make her feel like she's walking a runway every time she wears them, and these certainly do that. Pair them with this white leather, and I feel unstoppable.

P.S. the perfect linen dress, 8 wedges for summer and my favorite spring nail colors
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