June 26, 2017

What I've Been Reading... June, 2017

You guys, reading has been a struggle for me this month. I had a really hard time getting through Hidden Figures, and it threw me off totally. I would choose to play on my phone instead of reading a few pages before bed, which is never good for me. Something about the light. 

But I stuck with it and finally finished the book. After two months of dry reading (that really should have been more narrative than it was), I'm ready for a quick, fun read.

For June/July, my book club is reading Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. Check out our group if you'd like to join in! 

*All book descriptions are directly from Goodreads.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly ★★★
Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the civil rights movement, and the space race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA's greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades as they faced challenges, forged alliances, and used their intellects to change their own lives - and their country's future. 

If you have already seen this movie, don't read the book. It is centered around the facts and has very little narrative in it. When I started reading this, I had already seen the movie, so I struggled. This is an amazing story and one that should be kept in the public. I just think the movie does a better job of telling it.

Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale ★★★★ 1/2
Sous Chef Aimee Tierney has the perfect recipe for the perfect life: marry her childhood sweetheart, raise a family, and buy out her parents’ restaurant. But when her fiancĂ©, James Donato, vanishes in a boating accident, her well-baked future is swept out to sea. As Aimee struggles to reconstruct her life, she delves deeper into James’s disappearance. What she uncovers is an ocean of secrets that make her question everything about the life they built together.

I listened to this on my drive to and from Rochester a couple weeks ago, and I LOVED it. It is one of those stories that you think about when you aren't reading. I loved the intrigue, the characters of Aimee and Ian, and how the author told the story. She jumped around in time a little bit, and it was still very easy to follow.

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory ★★★ 1/2
When Henry Tudor picks up the crown of England from the mud of Bosworth field, he knows he must marry the princess of the enemy house—Elizabeth of York—to unify a country divided by war for nearly two decades. But his bride is still in love with his slain enemy, Richard III—and her mother and half of England dream of a missing heir, sent into the unknown by the White Queen. While the new monarchy can win power, it cannot win hearts in an England that plots for the triumphant return of the House of York.

Since I read the prequel to this last month, I thought I'd takle this one in June. This book could easily be half the length it is. I understand why the author wanted to go so far in the future (to coincide with Elizabeth's life), but I think it would have been just as meaningful if some of the plot was cut out. What an interesting era though, and I loved all the allusions to Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

The BFG by Roald Dahl
The BFG is no ordinary bone-crunching giant. He is far too nice and jumbly. It's lucky for Sophie that he is. Had she been carried off in the middle of the night by the Bloodbottler, the Fleshlumpeater, the Bonecruncher, or any of the other giants she would have soon become breakfast. When Sophie hears that they are flush-bunking off in England to swollomp a few nice little chiddlers, she decides she must stop them once and for all. 

This is a classic, cute, easy read. I finished it in one evening. I love Roald Dahl's writing, and Matilda was one of my favorite stories growing up. There are definitely lessons to be learned from this story, and I highly recommend it for children.

June 23, 2017

Review: Game Face Wipes

Here's a weird and gross fact about me: I am a sweater. I sweat doing the most basic of tasks, and frankly, it can get pretty gross. I've even started to finish getting ready for the day (makeup and sometimes hair) once I get to my office. 

I also have been trying to be more active. That means I'm using my lunch hour to either go on a walk or work out at the gym. But there is nothing I hate more than sitting in my office, a hot sweaty mess from working out. It just feels yucky to me, and that makes me not want to work out at all.

In the past, I have used anything from facial cleanser wipes, to makeup removing wipes, to baby wipes. But I would end up using a lot of them just to clean off my face & body. That got expensive quick.

So when I was offered the chance to try out the new line of facial wipes from Game Face Grooming, I was pretty excited to see how they stood up against the competition.

These are technically made for men, but who cares. I'm a woman and I get sweaty too. They have a really nice tropical scent, and they are BIG. I love the size because I can get away with only using one wipe to clean my whole face. They are also very moisturizing, and my skin doesn't have that tight feeling after using them.

Honestly, the only thing I didn't really like was that they are marketed toward men. I mean, it's 2017, we need to stop making products gender specific if they really don't need to be. 

Game Face Wipes have become a part of my everyday routine. Whether I use them after going to the gym or to cool off before I put my makeup on for the day, they always do a good job. They even come in different formulas, including acne facial wipes, underarm and body wipes, and antibacterial "warrior" wipes. I know the next pack that I purchase is going to be the underarm wipes--nobody likes stinky pits!

*This post was sponsored by BrandBacker. All opinions are my own.

June 19, 2017

Links, Loves, Laughs

Hello, my friends! I'm back with another post on this rainy Monday morning of links, loves, and laughs to share with you. Happy Monday, all and make it a good one!

-Jasmine recently shared an awesome post on how to be the queen of confidence. Her motivation and positivity are inspiring.
-I love Chelsea's writing and felt like she was speaking to me in this post. I often struggle with wanting to self-edit to please others, and this was the perfect little pep talk.
-Have you seen Mandy Harvey's performance on America's Got Talent? As someone who is experiencing hearing loss in my 20s, this made me basically sob. She is so talented!
-My girl Lindsay never fails to speak the truth, which is what so many of us need. This post about making changes happen in your own life came at the exact right time for me.

-This is the perfect accessory for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday. Rose in the USA? Yes, please.
-In this heat and humidity, I only want to wear dresses. This would be the perfect piece to either dress up or dress down with accessories!
-This lady needs some more supportive sandals for all the traipsing around the city I've been doing lately. I know I want Birkenstocks, but can't decide between this pair in golden brown or this pair in brown metallic. What do you suggest?
-And finally, I'm about to go buy this sweatshirt with a gift card. I think this accurately describes my life, right?

-Do you work? I mean, pretty much all of us do. I thought this article was hilarious, and I may or may not have totally done some of these in the past. :)
-My family recently made a Snapchat group, where we basically just send each other funny photos all day. There are 14 of us in our "Familia" group, and I just can't with them. I highly suggest this for anyone looking to brighten their day.
-Last Wednesday was the Pittsburgh Penguins parade for winning the Stanley Cup. You could tell that the players were partying hard during the parade and basically didn't stop. This made for some funny memes and tweets.
-If you are a cat lover like me, you should join this group on Facebook for your daily dose of kitten cuteness and laughs.

June 16, 2017

My Favorite Summer Lip Products

*This post includes affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Always, Al.
Guys, this post has been sitting in my drafts folder for months. In fact, I had to change it from "spring" to "summer." But most of the products that I included originally are staying on the list because they work for both spring and summer.

I am a chapstick addict. It's a problem, in that my lips feel SO DRY if I don't have something on. Because of this, I like to choose lip products that are moisturizing, and it's a plus if they have SPF. I thought it would be good to include some balms in this list so that you can see what I'm using on a daily basis.

Lipstick Queen Frog Prince Lipstick - This is my favorite lip product to use possibly of all time. It is the prettiest pink color, it is extremely buildable, and hydrating. This goes on feeling like a balm, but it acts like a stain and lasts all day. It is well worth the price, and since it adjusts to your body temperature, is flattering on all skin tones.

Maybelline Color Sensational Lipstick | Warm Me Up - This may be the only lipstick that I have ever used until it is gone. It is such a pretty neutral, with some taupe undertones. It goes on creamy and lasts for hours. This is a perfect color if you want a natural, sun-kissed look.

Tarte LipSurgence Lip Tint | Energy Noir - This is a recent purchase for me, but I love it. It reminds me a lot of the Frog Prince lipstick but it gives your lips a nice berry shade. I keep this in my wristlet and use it all the time when running errands and stuff. I love the mint scent, and this is one tinted product that I can put on without looking since it is pretty buildable.

SeneGence LipSense | Apple Cider - I have two shades of lipsense, and this is by far my favorite. It is a great peachy neutral color that works with my light-medium skin. If you haven't tried lipsense, you really should. It lasts forever, even while eating. The only drawback I find is the chemical smell.

Bite Beauty High Pigment Pencil | Tulip - This is actually the lipstick I bought to wear for our wedding, and I still use it all the time. It is a bright pink shade that has just a touch of red to it. It lasts forever and looks great with bright prints and sundresses.

Wet 'n Wild Megalast Liquid Catsuit Matte Lipstick | Rebel Rose 
Wet 'n Wild Megalast Liquid Catsuit Matte Lipstick | Nudist Peach - I won these two shades in a giveaway hosted on Instagram by Peaches & Willow. Wet n' Wild is a highly underrated drugstore brand. I've tried a bunch of their products in the past, and have never been disappointed. This product goes on wet and dries to a smooth matte. It isn't drying, and these two colors are so flattering. I can't wait to wear them more in the future.

Lip Balm
Hanalei Lip Treatment - A sample of this came in one of my first ipsy bags, and I loved it so much that I ordered the full size. This is the most moisturizing lip treatment ever, and I love to use it at night after exfoliating.

e.l.f. Cosmetics Lip Exfoliator | Mint Maniac - Speaking of exfoliation, I love to use this exfoliating stick. It is gentle enough to use pretty often, but it gets the job done. This product has a mint fragrance, which I always love in a lip product.

Burt's Bees Hydrating Lip Balm with Coconut & Pear - Burt's Bees is my go-to daily chapstick, and I carry it in my wristlet. This balm is not too heavy, and has a nice fragrance that doesn't seem too strong. It hydrates really well, and doesn't leave a greasy residue on the corner of your lips (like some chapsticks do).

Herpecin-L Lip Protectant Balm Stick - This is a medicated balm, with SPF 30. If my lips get SUPER dry, as they are prone to do, I use this. It is very creamy, and will also help if you have a cold sore. Be careful of storing it anywhere warm though, because it will melt easily!

June 12, 2017

Dating Your Spouse

Someone asked me recently if I had any advice for newlyweds. And even though our situation is a little bit different because Dave and I have been together for eleven years now, there's one thing that I've definitely learned in the past year since we've been married.

I think that the most important thing a couple can do in their marriage is to always continue to date each other. 

This goes for all couples, not just married ones. Life is hard and stressful sometimes, so make sure to take a break from it and enjoy your time together. All too often we get bogged down by the little daily things. He got a parking ticket. She spent too much money this month. Dinner was burned. The cat threw up on the carpet.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of interacting with your spouse in just that daily capacity. But I think that is a recipe for disaster.

I'm not going to lie to you... this year has been tough for us. Money is tight, we are both busy, and we are still adjusting to being a married couple in a new city. Lots of changes mean even more room to let stress creep in. 

But this year Dave and I have been making the commitment to have one date night per week. And you know what? It's been the best thing ever. We usually do date night on Wednesdays, and we both look forward to it. It is a time where we can relax together, reconnect in the middle of a busy week, sometimes try new things. It's just been great.

One important thing to know is that having date night doesn't mean you have to go out and spend money. I can't tell you how many nights we've stayed in, eaten pizza, watched a movie, and did a facemask (sorry Dave, I had to!).

Take a minute and connect with each other. Choose your spouse every day.