Monday, December 15, 2014

My Favorite Books of 2014

So I thought today's post would be something a little different. 2014 is the year I rediscovered my love of reading, and I am kicking myself for not having picked up a book in years. As a result, my Goodreads to-read list is dangerously approaching 80. (!!!).

I didn't even come close to achieving my goal of reading 35 books in the year, but at least it's an improvement from 0-1 books from 2010-2013!! So far in 2014, I've read exactly 20 books, which I have to say, makes me quite proud.

When I absolutely love a book, I literally can't put it down, and when I finish it, I can't stop thinking about it for days afterwards. I want to stress as much as possible that this is an OPINION post (key word there!), so you have every right to fully agree or disagree with me on this. In fact, this would make the discussion even more interesting! So here is my list:

The Ones I Absolutely Loved:
1. Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty: This book begins by telling you that a parent has died at a school function, but they keep you guessing the whole time who it is. I couldn't put it down because I just couldn't go to sleep until I found out what had happened. This is by far the most un-put-downable" book I read in 2014. Her books remind me a little of Jodi Picoult, my favorite author a few years ago, but I definitely enjoy Moriarty's style a whole lot more.

2. Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell: The paradox with this book is that it moved me so much, that it completely paralyzed me on the couch for a while when I finished it. The emotions felt incredibly real to me, so it impacted me deeply, and I know I sound so melodramatic here but it's totally true.

3. If I Stay, by Gayle Forman: This book is the very definition of heartbreak. I don't know what else to say about it.

4. Where She Went, by Gayle Forman: Again, I don't know what it is about heartbreaking books that attracts me so much, but this sequel of "If I Stay" is equally as emotional and gut-wrenching as the first, and left me thinking about it for days afterwards.

5. Bossypants, by Tina Fey: Because everything Tina Fey does is brilliant, and her book is no exception. Very enjoyable and funny throughout, one of the best light reads of the year for me. I needed it after the Gayle Forman books.

6. The Husband's Secret, by Liane Moriarty: Although I liked "Big Little Lies" better, I was still glued to the pages of this book, unable to look away and completely shocked by how a single action that occurred years ago can come back and change so many lives forever.

7. Yes Please, by Amy Poehler: I talked about this book in my November Lifestyle Favorites post. It was a great book that shows how wonderfully sincere and honest Amy Poehler is. She writes like she lives: freely, without apologizing and owning up to her mistakes. I loved every page, reading it mostly in the morning, which made the start of my day so much better.
8. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green: another beautifully written, heartbreaking story that I couldn't pull away from. It was one of the first books I read this year and it made me want to keep devouring lots more.

The "Just-meh" books:
1. Dear Daughter, by Elizabeth Little: This is supposed to be a sort of crime thriller, Gone Girl-style book. While it did keep me very interested in the storyline, and I really developed a liking for the protagonist, it wasn't a book that I just couldn't wait to finish, and soon after I did, I never thought about it again.

2. The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert: First I have to admit that I dived right into this book as soon as I saw who wrote it (the author of "Eat, Pray, Love") without even bothering to find out anything about it. Then I read it and realized it was a historical fiction novel, which isn't one of my favorite genres, and that, together with the fact that my expectations were so high because of the author, made it a little disappointing for me. Regardless, it's a beautifully written book, extremely well researched, so for those of you who love historical fiction, you'll probably actually really love this one.

3. Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter: the storyline was cute and I did enjoy it, but my thought after finishing it was that the characters lacked some depth, and it is just kind of a forgettable story.

4. Just One Day, by Gayle Forman: again, I think my lack of love for this book is more due to my having read Forman's "If I Stay" previously. And also after finishing it, I just couldn't help but think that this book was very "been there, done that", so it was nothing new that blew me away.

5. We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart: Everyone had raved so much about this book and its "twist", that I thought it would be something much more shocking and nerve-wracking. Instead it was just a bit "meh", and I really really hated the protagonist. I simply cannot stand books that center on the theme of "I'm so beautiful and rich, but I swear to you my life is so very, very hard!". Ugh!!! And to top it off, the book centered mostly on this message than on the actual plot of the story!

And the one I just couldn't stand:
1. The Beginning of Everything, by Robyn Schneider: I listened to the audio version of the book, and I don't know if it was the way it was read, but I hated pretty much all the characters from the very beginning. A prom king kind of popular boy suddenly realizes he wants to change his life and hang out with more "real" people? please! I don't buy it for a second. Plus this book was way too long for the plot: something that could have been written in 100 pages, took over 300, which just made it unbearable. I couldn't wait to finish it, and not in the good way!

If you have made it this far, kudos to you! What were your favorite books this year? Did I perhaps convince you to read any of these?
Love you bunches!

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

November Lifestyle Favorites

Yesterday I shared my beauty favorites, and today I am sharing all the other stuff that I loved during the month of November. Let's get cracking, shall we?

Bath & Body Works Harvest Gathering 3-Wick Candle
I am and forever will be faithful to BBW candles. Just ask my husband, who is more than happy to tell everyone that I have an obsession bordering on worrisome. I got a bunch of their winter candles in November, but this one happened to be my favorite. It feels homey and cozy, and fills the whole room. And those leaves hanging from the lid add such a cute little touch to it, too.

Bath & Body Works Winter Candy Apple Mason Jar Candle
I keep this one in our bathroom, and unlike the candle above, this one is a lot sweeter and fruitier. I love the little mason jar it comes in and it is more than enough to fill our bathroom.

Rosebud String Lights from Urban Outfitters
These rose bud fairy lights caught my eye instantly in the store. They are cute and delicate, and I think they will add personality to any room.

Whatever You Are Be A Good One Book
This book is simply stunning. I bought it more for the illustrations than for the quotes, but the quotes are also very thought-provoking and beautiful. I read a few pages every few days and always left feeling motivated and happier. It is most definitely one of the most beautiful books I own.

Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
When I started to read it, I thought it would be a lot like Tina Fey's "Bossypants". However, Amy, despite having a very similar sense of comedy to Tina's (and having worked alongside her for many years), manages to steer her book in a very different direction. I absolutely love how she writes exactly what she wants to write, is not afraid to sound controversial or dive into touchy subjects, and even gives you unsolicited (awesome!) advice shamelessly. You just have to love her for it. If I was a fan of hers before, I am now crushing big time (not creepy at all!) and want her to be my bestie stat (17 year age gap and all!).

Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa
Yummy yummy yum yum. What else can I say? This has been the winning hot drink of the month by far.

Urban Outfitters Hat
When I got this, my husband had to laugh and said I looked like a nana. I in turn informed him that he has no sense of fashion (pretentious? me?), and I rocked the hat all month long. I specially love how it looks with a cute dress, heels, and sunnies, but for the colder months, a cool pair of jeans, booties and a printed tee complete the look perfectly as well.

"Do Your Best" Mug from Anthropologie
I mean, come on! This is the cutest little teacup, polka-dotted inside and with a cute typographic design on the outside, very me.

Brandy Melville Ring
This is a very cute, delicate ring that I have been wearing a ton this month. I got it on my trip to NYC and I love the touch of flirtiness of the little flower.

Black Express Heels
If I am being completely honest, this aren't the most comfortable shoes to walk in, as your foot is positioned at a very strange (read, steep) angle. If I am being even more honest, I couldn't care less, because they are seriously S T U N N I N G. And yes, sexy, I'm not gonna lie. In my book that equals worth it, worth it, worth it!!! That sound you just heard was half the population of the world gasping (how dare I be so vain!?) but I can't deny that I love the feeling a beautiful pair of heels gives me: I love how they look with jeans, as well as a dress, and they make any outfit look so much more sophisticated and finished.

Please do share what you loved this month in the comments below!
Love you bunches!

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

November Beauty Favorites

November was a wonderful, wonderful month beauty-wise for me. I know that sounds cocky, but I was just very lucky to have tried some incredible products this month, and I can't wait to tell you about them.

- OMG this!!!!  It's the girliest, most "bubblegumm-y" scent I have ever seen in a shower gel, but man it smells good!  This is part of LUSH's Christmas line, and it is a favorite every single year. This is my first time trying it and I am hooked. If you like more earthy, herbal or "serious" scents though, stay clear of this one.

Yet another LUSH shower gel from the Christmas line! I am not really crazy over their regular shower gels, but these two I am all over. Too bad they are limited edition! Rose Jam smells exactly like their super famous Ro's Argan Body Conditioner, which I have been obsessed with for years and just can't live without. Pairing the two of them in the shower is nothing short of orgasmic, I tell ya. And yes, I do get a tad over-excited about shower gels, so let's move on.

This is my very first Formula X nail polish, and I am so pleasantly surprised. For some reason I just never thought of trying them, but I can say that I'm a convert now. I got this deep red (almost burgundy) color, which I think is perfect for the season (or really, any time of the year). It is office appropriate and so has enough edge for a night out. Also,the formulation of these polishes is wonderful: creamy and moisturizing, but with serious lasting power, which is the winning combo when it comes to nails.

Wow, that's twice that the O word comes up in this post... But this time is all on NARS and their marketing department (a blush called deep throat, really!!??). Regardless of this blush's erm, unusual name, it is one of the most coveted blushes in the beauty world. I had never tried it until this month, and I love the dewy finish it leaves on my skin and it's very flattering peach hue. I can see why everyone is obsessed with it and can't believe it took me this long to try it out.

Bath and Body Works Fresh Sparkling Snow Hand Cream
This hand cream is so thick and moisturizing that it makes it perfect for the drier months. It has shea butter and vitamin E, which lock in the moisture, and a wonderful citrusy scent that reminds you of a park in the early hours of the morning. (That's the best way I can think to describe it...!).

I had been eyeing this pretty much since it came out last year and was an instant hit. This month I finally got my little hands on it and I've been wearing it nonstop since. The colors are gorgeous, the pigmentation is amazing and it literally lasts all day on me. It is definitely on the expensive side of things at $59, but I get so much use out of it that it makes it so worth it.

See By Chloe Perfume
I had heard many great reviews about this perfume, and I'm glad I caved in and bought it. It is very feminine, kind of a mix between floral and fruity, which I think makes it unique and delicious. And I mean, look at that stunning bottle! So classy!

I got this scent in the rollerball because I wanted to try it out before purchasing the bigger sizes, and now I'm convinced that I need it in my life. This is one sexy little perfume, not too girly, not too fruity, and I think it's perfect for day- or nighttime.

Yet another product that has been a cult for years and I'm only trying now. It is a very black black (??), and very precise too, perfect for those of us who are just a tad clumsy. I usually go for liquid or gel eyeliner when I'm going to draw a wing and leave the pencils for my tightline, but this one is so smooth you can achieve a flawless cat eye with it too. 

Like I mentioned in my post yesterday, looking after your cuticles is essential, since they are the ones that make or break your manicure. I had been looking for a good oil to give them a little more TLC, so this month I purchased this one by O.P.I., which made all the difference in my nails, and they are very thankful for it.

LUSH Snow Fairy Sparkle Massage Bar

Fair warning: this one is messy, messy, messy. This little bar kind of melts in your hands as you apply it, leaving a pinky tint all over them. As soon as I apply I go wash my hands and it comes right off, so no biggie there. It smells exactly like the Snow Fairy shower gel, so of course I had to get it. It is so very moisturizing, and I kid you not, it smelled as strongly at 6pm when I left work as it did at 8am when I applied it. Divine!

This is my go to when I am feeling sleepy and lazy in the mornings. The uplifting Apple fragrance leaves me feeling awake and so nice and clean. It provides a mild exfoliation and great lather, and leaves my skin smooth, soft and subtly scented. This is a limited edition product, part of their Holiday line.

The cranberry would have to be my favorite of the Body Shop holiday scent trio. It is probably one of their sweeter scents (as opposed to their fruity or nutty ones), and the scent lingers for hours. And of course, there is no competing with the Body Shop Body Butters, they are one of the most moisturizing, nourishing ones in the market and I always make sure I have a good stock around.

And again we have another Holiday product from The Body Shop. If you aren't such a fan of smelling like a sweet berry all day, then you might love this one instead. The vanilla is still sweet, but more subtly so, and equally as moisturizing as their other body butters.

If you enjoyed this post, stop by tomorrow to check out my non-beauty (let's call them "lifestyle") favorites, I'm so excited about those!!
What beauty goodies have you been loving this month?

Love you bunches!

Monday, December 1, 2014

How to Winterize Your Nails: A Post by JULEP

Unless you have been living under a rock, you've heard of Julep. This brand first started as a nail parlor in 2007, and has now expanded into a company that releases over 300 new products per year (!!!). Aside from their top-quality polishes (which you can find in a ton of places including Sephora and Nordstrom!), one of the most amazing things about this company is their Powered by Girlfriends program. Through it, they donate a portion of their proceeds to organizations that support and empower women. How awesome is that!? And let's not forget about Julep Maven, which are fully customizable subscription boxes delivered right to your door every month!!

This awesome company contacted me shortly asking if I was interested in sharing with my readers their tips on how to keep your nails in top condition for the winter season. These cold months demand a lot more TLC for our nails, as the dry air might cause them to peel and become brittle, and it's also a breeding ground for the dreaded hangnails!
No worries though, just follow these simple steps by Julep (with some additional ones by me) and your nails will breeze past the season unscathed:

If there is one thing that really impacts the condition of your nails is the cuticles. Unkempt cuticles can really break a flawless mani, so if you are going to remove them, make sure you are doing it properly (cutting your skin when doing so is the easiest way to get an infection! ouch!). If you are not great at cutting them, I suggest you go to a manicurist or simply apply a cuticle softener (like the one pictured) and push them downwards gently so they aren't noticeable.

In doing your mani, stay well away from any polishes that contain Toluene, Dibutyl Phthalate, and Formaldehyde, which are actually referred to as the "toxic trio". (Good news: Julep nail polishes are free from all three! woop woop!).

When your mani is finished, I strongly recommend you use a cuticle oil that will nourish and strengthen your nails. Or you can opt for a cuticle serum like the one in the picture, designed to do the same. Ideally, use it two to three times a week for best results.

Make sure that in the winter months you switch your hand cream for something a little heavier that will provide extra hydration to your hands and lock in the moisture. To see which one I am loving at the moment, make sure you come back tomorrow to see my November favorites.
Keep one in your purse, your desk, and your nightstand so you can apply whenever needed. If the air is too dry where you live, also make sure you don't leave the house without some good mittens to keep your hands nice, warm and protected.

Finally, make sure you are drinking plenty of water to hydrate your nails from within. It makes a world of difference.

Multitasker tip: if you don't have a cuticle oil available, your lip balm will do the trick aswell!

If you are in need of some inspiration for what colors to rock this holiday season, make sure to check out Julep's incredible color selection here. (You might even find one with the same name as you! I am so in love with the Veronica shade!).

I hope you have enjoyed these tips and if you have your own, please do leave them in the comments to share with me and the other readers!
Love you bunches!

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