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february 2018 book club

Posted in Entertainment by

february book reviews

I’ve been reading more than ever the past few months. My boyfriend got me a Kindle last fall, and turns out that has been the key to unlocking voracious reading.

Dani and I also created our own reading challenge this year: 51 categories to prompt us to pick up books we wouldn’t typically read (or books that have languished in TBR-land for too long.)

Some books are provided by the publisher through NetGalley or as physical advanced reading copies in exchange for an honest review.

Coming Clean: When this book was published in 2013, I heard the author give an interview on NPR. When I found it on Prime Reading, I was excited to finally read it, but… this book was hard to listen to. I knew it would be. It’s well-written, and the narrator is fine, but it’s one I can’t read at my normal speed because it’s very close to home.

Limited Edition (Ideal Standard): I read this titled Limited Edition on NetGalley, but it’s on Amazon as Ideal Standard – I assume the story is still the same. It’s about Claire, a 30-something who is neurotic about getting older alone… which would have felt very close to home a year ago. It’s a comic, which I’m getting into more and more, and I liked the story but did find it a little hard to follow sometimes. The font used for the text can be a little hard to read occasionally, and the limited colors (while really stunning) don’t lend a lot of help in keeping track of the story, but I thought it was a fun read. If you’re nearing 30 and want to get into comics or graphic novels, give this one a read.

Welcome to Night Vale (Book 1): For a long time I’ve wanted to get into the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, but it’s a little overwhelming to navigate. Do you have to start at the beginning? (Turns out, no.) One of our prompts, a book with a purple spine, proved a lot more difficult to fill than expected, so I was pretty pumped to find this book. I listened to the audiobook – it’s narrated by the voice of the podcast, so it’s a really good way to jump into this fictional desert town. The book was long and the beginning was a little slow to weave the two main characters together, but it was a really fun listen for long drives to Michigan!

Like reading on your computer or mobile device? Check out Scribd – thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and more on your device!

Eleanor & Park: Another one that has long languished on the TBR list, I decided to use this as a palette cleanser this month. It was… fine? I liked that it did throw a little bit of a twist on the typical high school romance story, but overall Rainbow Rowell’s books have been extremely hit or miss for me, and this is another that just didn’t land.

The Reminders: I’ve long loved Val Emmich – his Little Daggers album is still one of my most often played albums. I had looked forward to this book for awhile and got it when it came out, but didn’t get around to it until now. The story is very unique – told from the alternating perspectives of a young girl and a 30-something Hollywood actor – and I hung on it throughout.

The Hate U Give: I read this book over the course of a day and a half – I just couldn’t put it down. It was very well-written with characters you care about, actions that upset you, and I just found the story very affecting. There’s nothing else to say – this is one of the rare books that is deserving of all of its hype.

Hunger: I wanted and expected to love this book, but honestly, I didn’t at all. It felt unfinished and rushed – a friend described it as feeling like a first draft, and I agree. At one point I actually screamed out loud “sis, go to therapy.”

Blackout: Drinking memoirs are my book of choice, and this was good, but not as much of a standout as Drinking: A Love Story. I liked that it was different because so much of her story is actually absent and she had to recover it along the way, and there’s a whole chunk of my life that I’d have to hunt answers down in a similar way.

the witch doesn’t burn in this one: the witch doesn’t burn in this one is really excellent prose and poetry. The poems here inspire readers to fight the patriarchy and demand more than what women have been given in the past. It’s a quick read with excellent structure and formatting, and I liked it a lot more than the princess saves herself in this one.

Go: Very meh. I liked the message but it was a confusing read – maybe things were lost in translation but there wasn’t enough background for some of the Japanese or Korean terms used – Kindle First is a new find for me, and I can’t wait for the new month to try another book. Go fulfilled a prompt in our challenge I was struggling with, so I grabbed that for February. Liked the mystery of the girl. So much fighting.

Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!

She Regrets Nothing: I did a full review of this book, but if you liked Gossip Girl but wish it was a little more grown up, this is the one to pick up.

The Assistants: This was my biggest disappointment of the month. It was nowhere near as good as I had hoped. I liked the story, and it was a fine chick lit read, but didn’t live up to the hype for me at all.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson: I love John Green, and this was a quick and fine book, but the end didn’t give me a whole lot of resolution. I’m also finding that I’m not the biggest David Leviathan fan – I’ve tried to read two other books he’s co-written and haven’t been able to.

What were you reading this month?

March 1, 2018
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using Best Self Journal to reach your goals & giveaway

Posted in Living by
Best Self Co. provided a sample for review and giveaway, but all opinions are my own.

If you’re like me, you have some big goals. Whether it’s running a marathon, going back to school, starting a company, or even starting a blog, it can be really hard and intimidating finding a way to make those dreams a reality. A few months ago, I discovered Best Self. Their planner/journal is created specifically to help users reach their dreams by breaking them down into smaller goals and actionable steps. That way, your big dreams feel more attainable (and you’ll be more likely to work toward them!) I thought I’d give a preview of what my Best Self journal looks like as well as a look at my routine and how I use it.

best self review

The package itself comes with the journal, as well as a pen loop and Wall Roadmap to mount so you can always keep your eyes on the prize. By putting your goals and steps up on your wall, preferably in a place where you see it most often, you’ll stay even more motivated to work hard every day. It’s dry erase, so you can even use it over and over.

Inside the journal, it’s packed with resources and advice on how to create goals. It can be harder than you think if you’ve never really set them before! You’ll learn about the 20-Mile March, and how Best Self’s 13-Week roadmap helps you achieve these goals. They’ll also point you to online resources for even more support, like a Facebook group of other users, and a guide on how to create good goals. In your journal, you’ll establish three main “result goals” which you’ll break down further. Best Self has you note the reasons that achieving these goals will improve your life, and you’ll also sign a commitment to achieve your goals. These are powerful psychological methods to motivate yourself.

The actual daily layouts are built to plan your day in a way that help you learn how to schedule your tasks in ways that work toward your goals. They also include places for morning and evening gratitudes. Practicing gratitude has many scientifically proven benefits, and it will put you in the right mindset to kill your goals. Sometimes it’s harder than others to find things to be grateful for, but if I can find six things every day, so can you. Even if it’s something as simple as the choice to take a shower every day (#RemoteWorkPerks.)

best self journal

Now that I’ve gotten into a routine after about a month of use, I’ve finally settled into a routine that works for me. I spend about thirty minutes a day with my journal. In the morning, I’ll wake up and write down my gratitudes. I’ll also write down my targets for the day. I’ve color coded each of my three result goals, so I try to have one target a day for each goal. At night, I reflect on the day, update my lessons learned and wins, and lay out my planned tasks and activities for the next day. That way, when I wake up, I don’t have to think – I’m already set up for success.

best self daily planner

During the day, I check off my progress, add things to my to-do list, and track my food (since that’s one of my action goals.) Tracking wins is fun too, and sometimes I run out of space. When you really focus on positivity and gratitude, you start to realize how great things are.

Since my goals are all color coded, that’s how I try to break down my day. You’ll see three to four colors (sometimes I’ll track work tasks in a fourth color here) in my daily spreads, and I try to add a reminder of what I’m working hard for in the My Goal section. Plus, one of my favorite parts of the journal are the inspirational quotes throughout. On each page, there’s a bit of inspiration and advice from people who are successful in their own rights. It’s helpful to have reminders on the bad days. Going forward, I’m also going to include a self-care line here. Planning in self-care is a great way to ensure that you’re going to do something for yourself every day.

best self weekly tracker

Best Self Co. was also generous enough to send over a journal for a giveaway, and I’m really excited to share this amazing productivity tool with you! Enter below, and share with us in the comments what your goals for the year are, or how you use your journal or planner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

August 2, 2017
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what’s the best time of day to work out?

Posted in Work Out by
This post is sponsored by Health I.Q.!

When I first started getting really into fitness in 2012, I would roll out of bed every morning at 5:30am to hit the elliptical for 45 minutes before going to work. I kept that up for awhile until I started to explore group exercise classes – almost always taking place at 5:30pm after work, completely reversing my regular routine. It showed me that there might not be a “correct” time of day to get up and get working out, but I did always wonder if it made me a bit lazier by not getting up early and joining the hardcore in the dark, early mornings.

If you’ve ever wondered what the best time of day to work out is, here are some things to consider!

  • The best time of day to work out is the time you can dedicate to it. It sounds obvious or silly, but it’s true! This is something I struggle with. Sometimes I feel like if I don’t work out in the morning or on my lunch break that there’s no point or that all my “free” time for the day is up. This is the most important thing to consider when trying to plan out your workouts.
  • If you need consistency and accountability, make a schedule and find a buddy to work out with. This was a big part of why group exercise was so effective for me. It was at the same time every day, and though I didn’t have “friends” in the classes, there were definitely people I was friendly with and came to enjoy seeing every day. Whether it’s a gym exercise class, a standing date with a friend, or a personal trainer, it can be a worthy investment as you get your fitness in gear.
  • Working out in the afternoon might be the best time of day to prevent injury or sleep interruption. Working out in the morning might be difficult because of sore muscles from sleeping in a strange position, and fatigue can put you more at risk for injury. Being active too close to bedtime can throw your circadian rhythm off. The afternoon might be the perfect time to protect your body and avoid feeling too “awake” to sleep!
  • Consider your safety and comfort when deciding when to work out. Maybe you go to the gym but it’s packed after work. Start becoming an early bird! Live by a really gorgeous park, but feel nervous about a pre-dawn run alone? Watch the weather, hydrate, and go for a spin after it’s a bit busier.

Take the quiz below to learn more about the best time of day to work out and start saving today. Your results on Health I.Q. can even help you qualify for lower life insurance rates!

About Health IQ:

HealthIQ’s mission is to improve the health of the world. In pursuit of this mission, they’ve created over 1,000 health-related quizzes and worked with innovative insurance companies to create financial rewards for health conscious people. To date, Health IQ has helped over ten thousand triathletes, vegans, runners, and other health conscious people secure billions in life insurance coverage, and they hope to expand to other financial rewards in the near future.

About Health IQ’s Learn About Life Campaign:

Learn About Life is a health-education campaign, with the goal of driving more people to learn something new about their health. To accomplish this goal, Health IQ has partnered with a select group of nonprofits and bloggers to produce and promote thousands of health related quizzes. If you’re a non-profit or blogger and want to learn about how you can support this campaign, email cleo.kirkland@healthiq.com with subject line “Learn About Life…I’m In”

July 22, 2017
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cotopaxi questival discount & giveaway

Posted in Travel, Work Out by
This giveaway is presented in partnership with Cotopaxi!

It’s no secret that I love Chicago and one of my favorite things to do is explore. Whether it’s trying new restaurants, hiking a new trail, or hitting the newest fitness class, I love to check out new things. If I can combine that with fitness, even better! That’s why I was so excited to find the Cotopaxi Questival Adventure Race.

Different than a traditional 5k or running race, Questival lets you “spend 24 hours with your closest friends, in your favorite city, checking a bunch of amazing experiences off your bucket list?” Sounds pretty awesome, right?

Questival is a 24-hour adventure race that invites you to build friendships, push yourself, experience your surroundings, and have a whole bunch of fun. Your team of 2 to 6 people will do exciting, unpredictable, and downright good things you never thought possible. We guarantee it’ll be like nothing you’ve ever experienced.

Cotopaxi is bringing the Questival to Chicago from August 25-26, and I’m already recruiting my friends to head out with me. As I learned in a race a few weeks ago, I am a bit out of shape, but that’s no problem – Questival is accessible even for people who aren’t super athletic.

Not only does the entry fee include 24 hours of adventure, all participants also get Cotopaxi’s Luzon Del Dia Daypack. Every one of these bags are unique because they’re handmade by Cotopaxi employees who get to select each part of the bag (learn more about this in this video!)

I’ve been using it for about a month, and I’m absolutely loving it. It’s a great bag to wear when I head out to tour Chicago, packing up to organize a road trip with friends, or even piling my belongings into it to settle in for a long night at the rock show.

The bag features some really great details, including a Velcro key loop, adjustable straps, and a card holder inside the zipper pocket on the front of the bag. Since it’s built for a hydration bladder, I picked up this one on Amazon, and it’s worked great! If you’re an outdoorsy type or even someone who just carries a lot of stuff around, I highly recommend this bag. (Did I mention you get it for free if you do the Questival race?!)

This giveaway is over, but be sure to visit Cotopaxi and register for the Questival near you! Check back in a few months for a review and recap of the Chicago event.

July 17, 2017
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#GetAGrip: Kenra Grip Trio review

Posted in Style by

I received free product from Kenra to review, but all opinions are my own.

kenra grip trio review
I have super thick, very wavy hair. Even though I have hair for days, there’s no texture to it at all. I’ll try to give it some height or volume and it will immediately fall flat. (Don’t even get me started on humidity.) For the last few years, I’d sprayed it down with sea salt spray and called my “beachy wave look” a day.

Kenra’s new line of Grip products claims that they’ll add 50% more grip and up to three times the volume, so I was excited to try them to see how it’d hold up in use. I used all three products to glue my hair into place for a long, humid Memorial Day party a few weeks ago. My first reaction was that I liked how it smells and how it feels – the Air Grip Spray has great grip without being sticky. Even the Kenra Whip Grip Mousse has a nice feel. Typically, I hate mousse because it feels so crunchy, but there’s none of that here. I put some mousse at the roots of my hair after towel drying, then took a blow dryer to it. Next, I sprayed the Air Grip in and used my fingers to scrunch it up. I finished it off with the High Grip Spray – Kenra has long been one of my favorite hair sprays, so I liked that there’s one in this line. The hairspray in this line has a matte finish, so it doesn’t add extra shine to your hair.

Kenra Grip Trio Collection

It felt like it was set pretty well, so I headed out to grab the bus in the muggy Chicago heat. A 45-minute CTA ride plus a 20-minute walk had me feeling pretty melty, but my hair held up really well! It didn’t fall flat, and anytime I reached up to scrunch the ends or “fluff” the top, the volume came right back to life.

I definitely recommend the Kenra Grip Trio Collection! It’s especially great if you have thick or fine hair that doesn’t typically work with other products.

June 26, 2017
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