August 18, 2017

Back to School Essentials for Graduate Students

*This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support of Always, Al.
If you haven't heard (from my weekly complaints about how busy I am), I am currently working on my MBA in Sports, Arts & Entertainment Management. This has been something I've wanted to do for a long time, but just never thought I could afford it.

Luckily, since I work for the University, I get some tuition remission. Without that, I wouldn't have been able to pursue this degree. I am thankful every single day that I have this opportunity.

I hadn't taken a college class in about 4 1/2 years before I started working on my masters. It was pretty nerve-wracking at first--would I be able to keep up? How would I be able to deal with working full time AND taking 6 credits/semester?

Some of my friends and I put this list together to help anyone else who might need a little refresher on what you need for classes! We also included some things that are specific to commuters, since most of us work and take classes.

Planner - A planner is an absolute MUST for me. I like to have something with a daily and monthly layout (if not weekly, too) so that I can see things at a glance, and in detail. I love a Day Designer, but I think I'll probably try something new for 2018.

Travel Coffee Mug - Coffee is my best friend on most days, but especially on days when I have class at night. I usually drink one travel mug full in the morning, and then one in the afternoon to get me through to the end of class (10 pm). Having a mug that keeps your drink warm for a few hours (like this one) is imperative.

Travel Water Bottle - On a similar note, I always want to keep water with me. I have one option with a straw and one with a screw top, and I rotate. I like to make sure my water bottle doesn't sweat, in case I want to throw it in my bag.

Colored Pens & Highlighters - A MUST. Studies show that the brain remembers things better if there is some sort of color associated with it. I love to color code by subject, and then sometimes by topic. I use these Staedtler FineLiners, and they work so well for note taking.

Sticky Notes - Another must have. I use a ton of sticky notes to remind myself of important dates, to take notes in my textbooks, and to hold my place in notebooks. I personally really like the full stick back notes, and it just makes studying so much more enjoyable if you use stickies in fun colors and shapes.

5 Star Notebooks - I prefer to use these notebooks because I like to tape or glue handouts into them to keep everything contained. I find that these are a little bit larger than your typical notebook, which makes them perfect for taking notes and keeping track of handouts. I like to use one notebook per class, and I usually fill it.

Headphones - You are inevitably going to have some down time, whether it is before or between classes. It is good to try to be productive in those times, and what better way than by listening. I like to take that time to listen to audiobooks or podcasts. These over the ear headphones are what I prefer (they don't mess with my hearing aids), but any pair will do!

Portable Phone Charger - This was probably one of the best investments I made this year. By evening time, I almost always have a low battery on my phone. I hate having to commute without my phone (safety, boredom, etc), so I always make sure to plug my phone in during class.

Flash Drive - We do a lot of presenting in my classes, and something that is so annoying to me is when people have to log on to their email to open their presentations. I love using a USB drive because I can easily pop it into the computer, and open files quickly.

Cloud Software - We didn't have this when I was working on my undergrad, and I can't believe how easy it makes working on projects! For one of my last group projects, we completed it fully on Google Drive software (Sheets, Slides and Docs), and there was no long string of emails to each other. We didn't get confused about what was the latest version of files and always knew that our files were safe. I suggest Google Drive or Drop Box!

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August 16, 2017

Review: VIICode Oxygen Eye Masks

*This post is sponsored by VIIcode. All opinions are my own.
I've had dark circles under my eyes my whole life. I can remember being very young (5 or 6?) and noticing that about myself. Also, I was a weird child. They weren't really related to tiredness either. I could wake up fresh as a daisy, and they would still be there. It's just part of my skin tone.

Now that I am in my late 20s (yikes...), I still have those dark circles, but have been using concealer and foundation to mask them for the last 10 years.

Since I turned 25, I have really been trying to take care of my skin. I have oily/combination skin, so I try to be REALLY careful about the products I put on my face. Products that feature natural ingredients are what I gravitate to a lot, because I don’t feel so bad about putting tons of gross chemicals on my face.

When my skin is in good shape, I wear less makeup. Everything was going so great, but I was really bothered by the dark circles under my eyes that stayed no matter what I tried.

When VIIcode reached out to me and asked if I would like to try out their under eye masks, it was really a no-brainer. They sent me their Oxygen Eye Mask for Dark Circles to try out over the course of a couple weeks.

The eye mask pads are made of a gel-like material, which allows oxygen to flow to your skin the whole time you wear them. The blend of natural ingredients encourages cell regeneration in the skin.

These mask pads are a little bit different from anything else I’ve tried before, because you wear them overnight. They should be worn for about 8 hours at a time, 2-3 times per week. Each box comes with 6 packets (which contain two pads each). VIIcode suggests 3 boxes for a “full treatment.” The easiest place to purchase them is on Amazon.

But honestly you don’t even need the “full treatment,” because you will notice a difference right away. I have to admit that I was a little hesitant to like these at first, because they tingle a little bit when you first put them on. I quickly got used to it though, and didn't realize that I had been reading with them on my face for a few hours.

After wearing these eye mask pads overnight, my under eye area was lighter and less puffy. I didn’t need to wear as much concealer as I normally would. Also, these are great if you keep them in the fridge. My face got a little bit sunburned, and they felt like HEAVEN on my skin after that.

Personally, I didn’t really like to sleep with these on, since they tend to fall off my face. I am also a stomach sleeper, so that might be part of it. I find that they work the best for me when I wear them on the weekend when I’m relaxing, or in the evenings when I’m watching TV or reading.

I don’t think this is a miracle product, but I do think that they are great to use when you need to look and feel refreshed. They are gentle and don’t cause irritation, which makes them perfect to use before you have a big event or are getting your photo taken.

August 14, 2017


The best post to write on a Monday morning is one formatted in bullet points. That's about as far as I can think this early in the week. :)

August is chugging away, and school is about to start! Our family's schedule is based around the school calendar, so this time of year is both busy and boring for us. We are wrapping up summer fun, getting things ready for the fall, and anticipating what a new school year will bring.

  • I've never been big into podcasts until recently I listened to Serial. Guys, if you are an audiobook person, you will like podcasts! And vice-versa! So far I've listened to all of Serial season 1, S-Town, and am working my way through Young House Love Has a Podcast. If you have any suggestions, send 'em my way!
  • For the first time in a LONG time, I felt lonely and bored at home this weekend. Dave is in Rochester visiting friends and family, and I stayed home to work on some stuff for school. Usually, I am all about that alone time, because as a true introvert, I really feel recharged from alone time. All was going well until come Sunday, and I had to go through our normal routine by myself. Just goes to show life is better when we're together.
  • I just purchased some of these blue light filter glasses from Amazon. I'm not sure if they will make a huge difference in the eye strain I feel while looking at my work computer, but it's worth a shot. 
  • Speaking of Amazon, I think that is my most-shopped place this year. I'm addicted. Is anyone interested in a post about some good stuff I've purchased lately?
  • We joined Costco! We have been planning on this for a little while, but we heard a rumor that they would have a Groupon out in August. We waited until then, and it was SO worth it. If you use this Groupon to join, you get a bunch of coupons for free stuff and a $20 cash card. Worth it!

August 11, 2017

Caroline's Visit to Pittsburgh for the Red Bull Flugtag

Having a sibling who is still so young is seriously the best thing ever. To experience things with her for the first time, and to teach her things is just the best. Last weekend Caroline visited so that we could go to the Red Bull Flugtag at the Pittsburgh Regatta. 

When I saw the ads for the Flugtag, I knew immediately that this was something that Care would be interested in. She is a little engineer who loves to build and figure out how things work. Essentially I forced my mother to drive to Erie so that Care could come visit me and check it out. 

Flugtag literally means "flight day" in German. Red Bull hosts a number of flugtags around the world, where competitors launch man-made flying machines off of a pier, into a body of water. It is a lot of fun to watch, because most of the machines don't fly at all. The teams have fun with it, though, and it is cool to see the entrance dances and costumes and stuff.

Caroline LOVED the event, and it was so much fun to spend time together. We even took her on her first city bus (always an experience), and Dave taught her to make pierogis!

It warms my heart so much that Dave and Caroline are buddies. He doesn't have any younger siblings, so to see him tease, help, play, and generally be patient with her is so nice. He's a good big brother.

I'm glad I got to check out this new event with my sister. We are both looking forward to attending again in the future!

August 2, 2017

A Festival Look with Moonstone Magic Jewelry

I love moonstone. I love the neutral and iridescent look of it, and how interesting the stones can look. Fun fact: my promise ring from Dave (purchased in 2009) was moonstone. Do you remember when Bella's ring from the first Twilight movie was popular? Yeah, that's the one!

So naturally, when I was contacted by about styling a piece of their jewelry, I was SUPER excited. I couldn't wait to get my hands on some pretty gems!

When I think of moonstone jewelry, I immediately think "boho." But while you can create some awesome boho looks featuring moonstone, this gemstone is neutral and versatile enough to work with almost any outfit.

Last weekend, we attended the annual Picklesburgh Festival, which took place on one of the many beautiful bridges in downtown Pittsburgh. While the weather was nice, I knew it could be hot, so I wanted to keep my outfit simple and layered. I recently purchased this dress from Old Navy, and immediately went and got two more. They are so comfortable and I love them.

The Ellipse Pendant from was the PERFECT Accessory to go with my festival outfit. It added just a little bit of shimmer and shine with an otherwise very neutral outfit. I got SO many compliments on my necklace because you could really see all the colors in the gemstone in the sunlight.
I did have to purchase my own chain to wear with this pendant. I ordered this one, and it feels like the perfect length to wear the pendant as more of a statement piece. I have worn this pendant a couple of other times as well, one way which you can check out on my Instagram!

*A big thank you to, who provided product in exchange for a review. This post also contains affiliate links.