Friday Favorites: Le Volume

Yesterday was a rough day! I woke up with a bad migraine and just couldn’t get over it.  I did sit down and try to post, but the fog in my brain just wasn’t allowing it.  Thankfully, that migraine is gone, and I am refreshed and ready to bring you another one of my favorite things today.  This one is actually a new favorite. I have been eyeing those round brush hairdryers for years because they really intrigued me. I already used a round brush with my regular hair dryer so I thought a brush and dryer all-in-one would make my life easier.   Revlon has had one for years that I have looked at, but I got scared when I heard that many of them had been known to catch on fire.  That alone kept me from ever purchasing one of theirs.  Then L’ange came out with one a year or two ago, and I was again fascinated.  My drawback to pulling the trigger on it was that everyone kept talking about how much volume they got with it.  It is even called the Le Volume, a 2-in-1 volumizing brush.  If you have been following me for a while, you know that volume is just about the last thing my hair needs.  I have insanely thick hair, and it has more than enough volume on its own. I certainly don’t need anything that is going to add to that, but I still really wanted one.  Another thing that was holding me back from buying that one was that it seemed to be a very large brush. The original design was a 75 mm brush.  I was worried that it was too big for my shorter hair.  I just couldn’t make myself order it.

Then L’ange came out with a smaller version last year that is a 60 MM brush.  When it when on major sale for Black Friday, I finally pulled the trigger and ordered one.  I figured it was better to get it heavily discounted than to spend full price and end up hating it.  Best. Decision. Ever. I am obsessed! I may never use a regular hairdryer again! It is so easy to use, cuts down on my drying time, and gives me a smooth look.  I easily figured out how to use it and not increase the volume in my hair.  Now, if you want volume, you certain can get it but lifting your hair upward from the root.  I, on the other hand, just pull down from the root, and it doesn’t add any extra volume.  I still do use my flat iron afterwards to flatten down the natural volume that I have because I personally like my hair better that way, but the Le Volume does not make the volume any worse than it naturally is. In fact, it is probably a little better if I am being honest.  I also think that the brush helps cut down on some of the frizz that I get from a regular hair dryer because the air flow is more easily controlled and is concentrated just on the hair in the brush as the time.  It doesn’t blow your hair every which way like a regular hair dryer.  The brush easily glides through my hair and never gets stuck or tangled.  It is seriously the best thing ever.  I am mad at myself for waiting so long to get one.  It is seriously like getting a salon blowout in your own home. 

The one warning I would give you about the brush is that the air gets pretty hot as it blows out.  It has gotten pretty hot on my neck as it blows when I am drying the short hairs in the back of my head at the base of my neck.  My fix for that is to turn it to low when I am doing that part of my hair because it isn’t as hot when it is on low.   The bristles do not get hot, and I have no problem touching them to guide my hair through or with the bristles touching my head.  The titanium plate does get hot, though, so make sure you don’t accidently touch it.   I do think that my personal body temperature doesn’t get as hot when I am using this versus a regular hair dryer either.  I think that part of that is because it doesn’t take me as long to dry my hair with this as it used to before.  Normally, I am sweating buckets after I dry my hair, and I don’t feel like I am as hot using this. 

I also recommend that you don’t use it when your hair is soaking wet.  I feel like it works better when my hair has dried just a little bit naturally. I usually put my makeup on before I dry my hair, so it has a chance to dry a little first.  I think this is better all-around for the health of your hair when using a hair dryer and brush and when using the Le Volume.  I don’t think it is good for your hair to brush it a lot when it is soaking wet.  I could totally be making that up, but I feel like I have heard that a few times before. 

I highly recommend the Le Volume.  It is one of the best purchases I have ever made.  It saves time and energy, and it works great! I really love all of L’ange’s tools and brushes.  I am not an affiliate for them.  I simply love their products.  If you have been thinking about a round brush hairdryer, look for a sale and get one. I don’t think you will be disappointed!

Anchored,

Book Club: White Ivy

Since I took my unplanned break from blogging for the holidays, I never got around to giving my review of my December Book Club pick, White Ivy by Susie Yang.  I have to start by saying that I had a hard time staying interested in this book.  If fact I just had to go back and read some parts of it again to even remind myself what it was even about.  It clearly did not stick with me. I’m not sure how good this review is going to be since my memory of the story has faded.  I do recall having to reread multiple pages at a time because I found myself daydreaming or completely not really paying attention to what I was reading at all.  I would read and then realize I had no idea what I just read.  In all fairness to the author, this could have been simply because it was December and there was a lot going on and a lot on my mind during the time I was reading it.  I really wanted to like this book, but it just didn’t do it for me.  It was really slow to start, and I felt like there were side stories that really weren’t necessary or that didn’t really go anywhere. Some would likely say that it was good character development but I kind of felt like a lot of it wasn’t needed.   I will say that the second half of the book was a little more interesting and presented some turns that I wasn’t necessarily expecting.  I do think there were some interesting concepts, but I didn’t feel like it was all that it could be.  I would probably give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. 

The story is about a Chinese immigrant, Ivy, who was brought up learning to steal and cheat by her grandmother at a young age.   She always dreamed of the finer things in life and wanted what she couldn’t have.  She had a determination to get what she wanted to matter what it took or how she had to compromise herself to get it.  Her biggest obsession was a boy named Gideon that she met at a young age. Gideon was the son of a prominent and very wealthy politician, and Ivy set her sights on him right away.  After lying to her parents about her whereabouts, she was caught at Gideon’s house the morning after a sleepover for his birthday.  Her mother, whom she had a tumultuous relationship with, immediately sent Ivy back to China to live with her relatives for the summer in order get her away from Gideon and what her mother thought were bad influences.  While Ivy was away her parents moved to a new home in a new state as a way to keep Ivy from Gideon and those bad influences upon her return.  It wasn’t until after college that Gideon and Ivy’s paths crossed once again. Ivy quickly set her sights on him again and was soon living a life wining and dining in Boston and in the Cape with Gideon and his family.  It looked like she had finally gotten what she had always wanted until a certain someone from her past reappeared in the most unexpected way and threatened to take it all away.  Ivy was determined do whatever it took to keep the wealthy life and to hold on the Gideon including lying, deceit, debt, and even murder.  With a surprising end, you learn that money, wealth, and prestige were far more important to Ivy than actual love.

Despite my feelings on the book as a whole, there were good parts to it.  The ending was definitely better than the beginning.  There were all the things you want in a book like some suspense and a few unexpected twists, but I wouldn’t call it a thriller necessarily.  It was more of a coming of age story with a bit of suspense thrown in.  Some of the characters like Ivy were very complicated.  She was the villain that you wanted to dislike but at times rooted for.  I think that the story just got started so slow for me that I lost interest before it got to the good parts.  Maybe if I had read it at a different time in the year when I wasn’t so busy as well, I may have liked it better.  I would be interested to see what any of you thought about it if you read along with me. 

Looking back at all the books I chose for the Anchored Book Club in 2020, I am really hoping that I choose better books for 2021.  Don’t get me wrong, there were some that I really enjoyed like Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See, The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi, and My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabet Russell.  There were just also a few that I really didn’t like.  I had high hopes for some that just didn’t really live up to my expectations.  I would say that my least favorite of the 12 books was The New Wilderness by Diane Cook.  That one really disappointed me the most because I felt like it had so much potential.  It is incredibly hard to choose a book unless they are widely known as exceptional. I try to choose books that you may not necessarily read otherwise. Sometimes I choose well and sometimes I don’t. It is just the nature of the beast.

I am going out on a limb for my first pick of 2021 despite what I said above.  This could end badly or be an unexpected treasure.  I totally just happened upon this book when it came up as a suggestion under another book I was looking at.  I was really captivated by the synopsis, and hope that I am choosing wisely this time.  Some reviewers described it as heart wrenching, realistic, and captivating.  Some even said they were left speechless.  For January, I have chosen a historical fiction novel entitled The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri.  This is a story about beekeepers, Nuri and Afra, and their plight as they lived through and escaped Syria during the Syrian War. Here is what Publishers Weekly had to say about this novel.

“Lefteri tells a haunting and resonant story of Syrian war refugees undertaking a treacherous journey to possible safety. In 2015, Nuri Ibrahim and his wife, Afra, who was blinded in an incident during the Syrian civil war, cling to their home while everyone else flees the bombings and violence. They are emotionally devastated by the loss and destruction of their neighborhood but decided to seek asylum in the U.K. after soldiers attempt to forcefully recruit Nuri. They travel through harsh conditions in Turkey and Greece, waiting in camps for the proper paperwork and meeting more refugees along the way. Nuri is determined to find his cousin Mustafa in the U.K., where the two men can return to their beloved work as beekeepers. Afra recons with the reality that she will not be able to continue her life as an artist because of her blindness, and the couple recall painful memories as they are drawn into the agonizing experience of other refugees. Lefteri perceptively and powerfully documents the horrors of the Syrian civil war and the suffering of innocent civilians. Readers will find this deeply affecting for both its psychological intensity and emotional acuity.”

Will you come along and read with me?

Anchored in a Good Book,

**This post contains commissioned links. Should you choose to purchase items using these links, I may earn a small commission.

Friday Favorites: Graphic Design

I have had a few people recently ask me about some of the graphics and things I have created for my Trades of Hope business and for here, so I thought I would share my favorite programs/apps that I use to make them.  I like using the creative side of my brain to make eye catching graphics.  You could even say that I am a little crazy about it.  I will see a graphic that someone else on my team has created, and I will recreate it for myself because I need it to be “just right.”  It is pretty much making extra work for myself, but it is the kind of work that I enjoy so I guess that means it is ok.  For some reason, I feel the need to put my spin on it. I literally will spend a whole day working on a set of graphics until I start to go cross-eyed from staring at my screen.  Sometimes I will get an idea for a graphic in my head and then spend hours working on it trying to get it “just right.”  I get super frustrated with myself when I can’t make my vision a reality.  That is the perfectionist and a little bit of the OCD in me.  Bottom line….Despite the hours I spend on it, I love creating graphics. I did, for a very brief time in my life before college, want to go into graphic design.  I think I would have been good at it if I had taken the time to hone my craft.  Anyway, here are my favorites to use. 

WORD SWAG

Word Swag is an app on my phone that I use when I want to take a photo or image and add words to it.  I use this app mostly for the blog like the one above.  There are so many free stock photo images available in the app that you can use and then simply add whatever text you want to it.  You can also use your own images and add the verbiage you want to them as well.   I like this app because it is simple to use, and I can throw a cute graphic together with it in just a few minutes. I can also easily add my logo to any image I create which I really like too. 

PIC STITCH-COLLAGE EDITOR

Pic Stitch is another app that I have on my phone. I use this one when I want to put several images together into one graphic to create a collage. These aren’t ones that are super creative or very eye-catching.  This app is really just good for putting multiple images together.  You can’t add text or anything within this app.  Sometimes I will use Pic Stitch to create the image I want and then plop it into Word Swag to add some text to it.  I use this one mostly when I take a group of photos from the blog and put them into one image to share on social media. I do this a lot of times with many of my style posts.  

CANVA

Canva is my absolute favorite when it comes to creating graphics.  I have the app on my phone, but I mostly use this one on my computer.  I feel like I can manipulate things and make it work better on my laptop than on my phone.  For several years, I used the free version of Canva and loved it.  I would pay a dollar here and there to be able to use a certain image or template that I really liked and was totally happy with it.   Then about 4 or so months ago, I decided to try out the paid version with a free 30-day trial.  I loved the app even more for one simple reason…the background remover.  That feature is only available in the paid version, and I absolutely am obsessed with it now.  I went ahead and started paying $12.95 for it every month, and I am not sure I will ever go back to the free version.  While I think the free version is great, especially if you just use it occasionally, I have to say that I think the monthly fee is worth the investment for the amount of time I use it and the number of graphics I create.   The paid version opens up so many more templates, images, and features that I really like using, but the background removing feature alone really makes it worth it for me.  I highly recommend this program/app if you make a lot of graphics.

Those are my three favorites that I use ALL the time. All three are easy to navigate and really do help make the prefect graphics. All you need is a little creativity.

Anchored,

Book Club: Behind Closed Doors

I am doing my monthly book club review a week early this month because of the holiday next week.  If you were reading along with me and haven’t finished yet, stop reading this post and come back when you are done. For November I chose Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris.  This was a new author to me and one that I had heard about as someone I might like. This novel was definitely a psychological thriller that did grab my attention pretty quickly.  It was a fast read, and I finished it in just a few days.  If I had the time, I likely could have finished it in one long sitting because I didn’t want to put it down.   I feel like I have said this a lot about the past few books I have chosen, but I have mixed feelings about this book as well.  I don’t know what it is lately, but I have been disappointed in the ending of several books.  Some have said that they were surprised by the ending of this book, but I wasn’t.  I thought it was very predictable and didn’t give me that shocked feeling that I had hoped for.  I was left thinking, “That’s it?” with this one. Maybe I watch too many crime shows and all the thrillers are becoming predictable to me, or maybe I should have been a detective or possibly even an author.  My husband always says that I have a good sense for these things because I often predict what is going to happen when we are watching a show or movie before he picks up on it, and I am usually right.  I don’t know if that is necessarily a good skill to have, though, because it often leaves me disappointed like it did with this book.   What I will tell you is to not let my review or feelings about this book keep you from reading it if you haven’t already simply because I think most people will really like it if they are into psychological thrillers.  I think I will give it 4.5 out of 5 stars even with my disappointment because it really was a captivating read. I did like it despite my disappointment at the end. 

This story is about a woman named Grace, who is the primary caregiver for her sister, Millie, who has Down Syndrome.  Millie is currently living in a care facility where she goes to school.  However, once she turns 18, she can no longer live at the facility and will come to live with Grace.  Grace loves her sister so much that her life practically revolves around Mille.  About a year or so before Millie’s 18th birthday, the two sisters were in the park one afternoon for their usual Sunday excursion when they were approached by a man named Jack.  He was very kind to them and even danced with Millie through the park that day.  This act of kindness towards Millie led Grace to begin having feelings towards Jack fairly quickly, and the two began dating right away.  Jack was a well-respected lawyer for women who had been victims of domestic abuse and had never lost a case. To Grace and Millie, Jack seemed like the perfect guy.  They had a beautiful, whirlwind courtship, and before long Jack and Grace were engaged to be married.  As a wedding gift to Grace, Jack promised to find her the perfect house. Their plan was to move into the house and then have Millie move in not long after her birthday.  To all their friends and Grace’s family, Grace and Jack appeared to have the perfect house, perfect marriage, and perfect life. However, appearances can be deceiving.  When you hear that things are too good to be true, that was the case in this situation.  In reality as soon as their wedding ceremony was over, Jack had changed, and Grace instantly became his prisoner.    No one knew this as they visited the house because Jack and Grace put on a good show and hosted beautiful dinner parties.  No one suspected anything was not as it seemed. The one thing that I was surprised by, and you will likely be too, was the reason behind why Grace became a prisoner.  That was something that I did not see coming that was revealed early on.  You will quickly learn that Jack is a very sick and sadistic human being, Millies is much more perceptive than you would think, and everyone’s fate lies very heavily on Grace’s strength and willpower. 

I do recommend Behind Closed Doors if you haven’t read it, and I will likely read other books by B.A. Paris in the future.  I believe that my disappointment in it is just my own personal issue because it really is a good book that will captivate you.   I am starting to think that my disappointment in the ending of several books like this one is just because I didn’t want them to end or I am just being super picky. Who knows? What I do know, though, that it won’t stop me from doing one thing that I really love…reading!   

My pick for December is a New York Times Best Seller and A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick called White Ivy by Susie Yang. It is a story of a young woman and her crush on a former classmate who comes from a privileged political family, which is the total opposite of her upbringing as an immigrant from China.  It revolves around her love for him and is mixed with lies, deceit, obsession, and family ties. Here is what Apple Books had to say about it. 

“A female antihero can be mighty hard to resist—and the deliciously evil Ivy Lin is one of the best we’ve read lately. Debut author Susie Yang’s unapologetic protagonist is a Chinese immigrant whose grandmother taught her how to steal when she was little. As a Harvard undergrad, Ivy also became an expert liar, and post graduation, she’s ready to focus her skills on the thing she covets the most: handsome Gideon Speyer and his politically connected family’s rich, privileged lifestyle. White Ivy is a tense thriller that literally made us grip our phone with sweaty palms. While Ivy proves there’s nothing she won’t do to fit in with New England’s Waspy elite, Yang colors in the lines of her ruthless and charismatic lead with pitch-perfect cynicism. Like a thoroughly modern updating of Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley, Ivy is an awful person who does awful things. But Ivy’s actions also reflect the heartlessness of her marks—and we’re here for it.”

Will you come along and read with me?

Anchored in a Good Book,

***This post contains commissioned links. Should you choose to purchase items using these links, I may earn a small commission.

Book Club: Big Summer

It’s that time of the month when I share my thoughts on my book club pick. I have to admit AGAIN that I am super disappointed in myself this month.  I had been on a roll of reading 2-3 books a month and was really proud of myself for making the time for something that brings me so much joy.  Sadly, I only read the one book that I had to read for this month and that was it.  I keep letting life get in the way.  I want to say that I am vowing to do better in November, but let’s be real…November and December mark the busiest season with the holidays, so the chances of me reading extra books is probably small.  Anyway, for my October book I chose Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner.  It was meant to be a light read and a change of pace for me.  I don’t typically choose books in the “chick lit” category, but I like to mix it up every now and then to keep me from getting stagnant.  This is also the first book I have ever read by Jennifer Weiner.  I actually have mixed emotions about this book, which I will explain more in a bit. 

The book revolved around a young, plus-size, social media influencer, Daphne, and her relationship with her own body and that of her “friends.”  She had a very low self-esteem and was always very self-conscious about her body and her appearance.  She was skeptical of anyone who wanted to be friends with her or even date her.  Much of that stemmed from her friendship as a teen with Drue, a wealthy and very popular girl.  Drue was also one of those high society, mean girls who often treated Daphne poorly.  Despite that, Daphne was in awe of Drue and did whatever it took to remain on the peripheral of Drue’s inner circle.  That all came to a crashing halt when Daphne discovered that Drue had practically paid a guy to act interested and date her.  That was the last straw for Daphne, and she immediately ended their friendship.  That incident and Daphne’s response to it is what ultimately launched her influencer career. Years later, Drue made a reappearance in Daphne’s life and asked a huge favor.  She wanted Daphne to play an important role in a big life event.  That favor led to a murder investigation that left everyone involved searching for their identity and the true meaning of friendship.  

This book involved a bit of mystery, romance, and drama.  As I mentioned earlier, I have mixed emotions about it.  I didn’t hate it, but it definitely wasn’t a favorite.  I think my biggest issue with the whole storyline was that it was very predictable.  I figured out the plot and the “who done it” pretty quickly.  I prefer storylines that keep me guessing throughout.  It is not a bad story, and I actually think that there are a lot of people who love the “chick lit” genre that would really enjoy it.  Unfortunately, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  It was a pretty quick and easy read, and there were some parts of it that held my attention.  I do think the idea behind the story was really good.  A story about a girl who doesn’t quite fit in and has body issues that learns to love herself and to value who she is as a person is a lesson that many young adults need.  I just wish it wasn’t quite so predictable for me.  I think I would give this one 3.5 out of 5 stars.  It is definitely a good beach read type of book.

I am switching genres again for November.  This month I am going for a psychological thriller by B.A. Paris entitled Behind Closed Doors.  This book was published in 2016 and was an instant New York Times Best Seller, as well as, a USA Today Bestseller. It is said to be one of those books that you can’t put down.  The San Francisco Book Review said, “This was one of the best and most terrifying psychological thrillers I have ever read.” I don’t know about you, but I love a good page turner! This novel is about a young newlywed couple, Jack and Grace, who seem to outsiders to be the perfect little family.  It turns out that appearances can be deceiving, and Grace is actually a prisoner in her own home.  This is a story of her journey to freedom. Will she find it? We will have to read and find out!

Here is Apple Books review of this story.

“Like starting a fire, writing a page-turning thriller takes patience and skill.  British author B.A. Paris has both in spades. Our heart skittered and raced as we tried to untangle the dark secrets at the heart of married couple Grace and Jack’s twisted relationship. As the story moved between past and present—revealing an ever-larger and more sinister gap between appearances and reality—we could barely imagine how Grace and her sister, Millie, would make it through.”

Will you come along and read with me?

Anchored in a Good Book,

***This post contains commissioned links. Should you choose to purchase items using these links, I may earn a small commission.

Friday Favorites: The Home Edit

Image pulled from @thehomeedit on Instagram

I don’t know if I am late to the party or if I am right on time, but I just recently discovered The Home Edit on Instagram and their show on Netflix, Get Organized with The Home Edit.  I am in love, and following them on social media and watching their show are both a MUST! The Home Edit basically consists of two women, Clea and Joanna, and their love for all things organization and the rainbow.  They go into people’s homes and turn chaos into beauty, and I am totally obsessed. I love everything about their systems and how their brains work. Sometimes I feel like they are inside my head, and I really want to be their best friend.  They follow 4 simple steps to help people get their life together.  They start with the EDIT.  This is where they go through everything in the space and purge. The next step is to then CATEGORIZE.  They sort items into specific categories that they can then use to create zones in the space.  Next is the CONTAIN step.  This is my absolute favorite part.  They use clear bins of various sizes to store everything and make it look all nice and neat. I love that everything is sorted and contained in such a neat way.  The final step is to MAINTAIN.  This is where they make sure that it is easy to maintain the organizational system put into place.  They are specifically known for color coding things in rainbow order to make it easier to locate things and, in turn, put them back in the right spot.  This method is simple enough that even kids can follow it. They also use labels on everything so that it is clear that everything has its own designated space.  AHHHH! You know I love my labels and bins! Having systems like they design truly makes my heart sing!  

I am completely serious when I say that Clea and Joanna are my soul sisters.  I think I could totally be a third partner in their ever-growing business of home organization.  Seriously, sign me up right now! Their attention to detail and their color coding is totally up my ally.  I have actually been color coding my own closet for years.  I am so obsessed with them right now.  If you don’t know about them or haven’t watched their series on Netflix, you need to do it this weekend! I promise you that it will motivate you to get off the couch and organize either your closet, your pantry, or your fridge.  You will also have this burning desire to go to The Container Store, which is the holy grail of organization and my dream store, to purchase clear bins and turntables.  My pantry is already organized into zones and bins, but after watching The Home Edit I want to redo it all using clear bins.  I seriously need it all in my life right now!  They even have a book and workbook that will make all of your organizational dreams come true, The Home Edit Life and The Home Edit Workbook.  Not only are Clea and Joanna fun to watch and follow on social media, but they even have some big-name clients on the show that I’m pretty sure are as obsessed with them as I am.  What I love about them most, though, is how down to earth they are, and they are totally real on social media. They make you feel like you can conquer the chaos in your life easily. It just takes a little time and effort.

Images pulled from @thehomeedit on Instagram

I think I have mentioned before that two of my best friends and I attempted to start our own organizing business a few years ago as we all three have a passion for organization.  Clea and Joanna are everything that we wanted to be, but we just didn’t make it work.  I had to move not long after we launched the business which made it very difficult for me to be a part of it.  Over time we just couldn’t manage it all with our kids and full-time jobs. We ended up having to dissolve the business. However, I totally think we could have done amazing things together.  It was just at the wrong time in our lives for it to work.  Maybe one day we can start it up again and be the next Marie Kondo or Clea and Joanna! I can dream, right? 

Anchored and Organized,

It’s Christmas Movie Time!

I am fully aware that it is only the middle of October, but I cannot contain my excitement because it is Christmas movie time!!!! That’s right! This month marks the start of Hallmark Christmas movies, which are my all-time favorites! Yes, I know that they basically all have the same plot, and I can pretty much predict how they all will end.   I have even seen most of them several times already.  I don’t care! I love them so much. They get me every single time.  I spend my weekends binge watching with tears in my eyes.  I don’t know why I get teary when I know how it is going to go, but I do every single time.   I cannot wait to watch all of my old favorites and the brand new ones released this year.  I fill my DVR with all the new ones, so I don’t miss a single one.  I even re-watch them all when they come back on in the summer for Christmas in July.  They are just that good. 

My husband can’t stand them and rolls his eyes every time he walks in the room and sees me watching another one.   My children think I am crazy, but I know that one day they too will love them as much as I do.  They do occasionally watch one or two with me, and I can tell that they love it and don’t want to admit it.  Seriously, almost every female that I know loves Hallmark Christmas movies. My mom, sister, and I have to watch at least one together when we are all home for Christmas.  It is tradition.  People even make shirts about it, so I know I am not alone in my obsession with them.  

I so have to admit that the Lifetime channel has upped their game, and they are putting out some great Christmas movies too.  Some are even right up there with Hallmark’s.  I added the Lifetime ones to my repertoire last year, and they are sure to be on my DVR this year as well.  I do know that their movies start this month as well, but I couldn’t find a complete schedule all nicely compiled into one graphic like Hallmark has, but you can find the full schedule here. Their Christmas movies start on October 23.

I know that Hallmark Christmas movies are corny, predictable, and a little sappy, but I love them anyway.  There is nothing like a good Hallmark movie to really get the spirit of Christmas flowing through your body. It makes me want to decorate the house already.  I am so ready! This year they have 23 brand new movies for your entertainment pleasure. Check out the schedule below for all of the new releases and get your DVRs ready! It all starts next week.

Anchored in the Spirit of Christmas,

Friday Favorites: TOH Fall 2020 Collection

I am a partner with Trades of Hope which is a beautiful company that uses fashion as a force for good to empower women around the world out of extreme poverty and human trafficking.  We partner with artisans in 19 different countries including right here in the US through job creation.  We believe that business, not charity, is the long-term solution to solving the global poverty crisis.  Our artisans are given a job creating gorgeous, handcrafted, artisanal jewelry, handbags, home décor, and more.  They are paid a fair and living wage through fair trade, which allows them to provide for their family’s basic needs, get access to health care, job training, and therapeutic services. The work that we do is really making a difference in the lives of women all over the world. It is giving women the opportunity to truly change their lives. I am very passionate about my work with TOH and like to share some of my favorites each season because I love the beautiful work our artisans do so much.  Our fall collection, entitled Renaissance of Thought, was released last month, and I am so in love with the jewel-toned colors and the uniqueness of each piece.  Check out some of my favorites from this collection.

Bijou Bracelet

The Bijou Bracelet is made by women in Haiti who are now able to keep their babies instead of turning them over to orphanages because they can’t provide for them.  This bracelet is made up of hand-rolled and painted Haitian clay beads, natural sodalite stone beads, steel beads, and hand-rolled cereal box beads. That’s right, our artisans take discarded cereal boxes and turn them into something unique and beautiful.

Makensia is one of the artisans that creates the Bijou Bracelet.  Here is her story of hope.

Surrounded by the tropical beauty of Haiti, Makensia is also surrounded by extreme poverty. But neither poverty, nor the death of a child, nor domestic abuse have defined her. She has persevered through many challenging seasons and continues to pursue good things for her family.

 

While many mothers in her village have been forced to make the heartbreaking decision to give up their children to poverty orphanages to save them from starvation, this mother of five has been able to earn enough income to keep her family together by hand rolling beads and making jewelry from discarded cereal boxes. Your purchase helps Makensia continue to keep her family together. 

Trades of Hope

Zanmi Earrings

These beautiful Zanmi Earrings are also created by women in Haiti who are working to be able to keep and feed their babies. They are made from lightweight, upcycled aluminum with hand-tied navy tassels. I love how they recycle items that we often discard.

Ismaella is one of the artisans that creates the Zanmi Earrings.  Here is her story of hope in her own words. 

“In Haiti, life is difficult. In an unorganized society, men often don’t respect women, and fathers often do not take responsibility for their children. Women have to become strong to survive and to support their children. 

 

We are a small community of strong women. We share good and bad times, and because we spend so much time together, we have become a second family. The opportunity to earn money allows us to become better than we could have imagined. We can go farther, and we can understand that we have potential for great things. We can take care of ourselves and our families.” 

Trades of Hope

Amara Necklace

This gorgeous necklace is created by women and men in India who are now able to provide for their families. Yes, we do sometimes have men that work alongside our women artisans!  The Amara Necklace features a paper clip linked adjustable chain, a handcrafted gold-toned filigree charm, and a genuine labradorite gemstone charm.  

Dulal is one of the men who helps to create the Amara Necklace.  Here is his story of hope in his own words. 

“When I was 19 years old, I wasn’t interested in further studies. My life was just sad. I was not aware of my abilities and was just in search of some work. I was depressed due to economic conditions. Then my friend introduced me to this work. My previous boss used to treat me very badly. Now, I enjoy my work! It’s helping my family and me. I’m capable enough to fulfill my needs, and I’m making all types of handmade jewelry. So overall, it’s a big achievement for me! I’m happy to be an Artisan. I have hope for a good life in the future!”

Trades of Hope

Aura Earrings

The Aura Earrings are created by women in the Phillipines who are rising up out of extreme poverty.  These elegant earrings are very lightweight and are created using natural capiz shells that are hand-cut by these women to create these geometric shapes. 

Emelyn is one the artisans that creates these earrings. Here her story of hope.

After financial struggles forced Emelyn and her siblings to drop out of school during her first year of college, Emelyn went to work at a fast-food restaurant. At the restaurant, she met the granddaughter of a local businesswoman who taught women how to make jewelry and art from capiz shells. Amazed by the Artisans’ creativity, Emelyn eagerly learned each step of the production process. Now, this twenty-four-year-old is able to support her parents, send her younger brother back to school, and buy land to build her family a home. She even co-manages the workshop’s entire capiz production process, along with the owner’s granddaughter! 

Trades of Hope

Rita Scarf

This intricate scarf is handcrafted by artisans in India using ancient Bagru block printing techniques and natural indigo dyes. It features a multi-color border with shades of crimson red, emerald green and gold. It is very generous in size and can be used in the traditional way around your neck, as a headwrap, as a vest, or even wrapped around your waist! The possibilities are endless. 

The Rita Scarf is created by women like Babli.  Here is her story of hope. 

Babli creates traditional Bagru block-printed scarves in a quaint family workshop in India. Her family takes great pride in being one of only a few workshops in their village who are able to create these unique designs without the use of machines.

 

Babli’s husband learned these skills after his income as a manual laborer wasn’t enough to provide for their essential needs. As their family grew, Babli wanted their children to be able to enjoy a good education. So Babli and her mother studied and practiced until they became master craftswomen.  

 

Babli’s work empowers her to send her children to school and save toward her family’s dream of owning their own home. 

Trades of Hope

Everyday Crossbody

The Everyday Crossbody is handcrafted in India by women who have gained freedom from sweatshops.  It is beautifully handcrafted from ethically sourced leather and features an expertly hidden exterior slip pocket, an adjustable strap, and an adorable cotton-lined interior with an additional zippered storage pocket.  

Women like Rafiqan work to create this beauty. Here is her story of hope.

Rafiqan lives near Jaipur, a city renowned for its legendary artisanal workshops. Extreme poverty in many of the surrounding villages often results in the exploitation of vulnerable Artisans – especially women – in sweatshops with unsafe workspaces, unreasonable hours, and unfair wages. Committed to empowering Artisans, this workshop trained Rafiqan in the art of leather crafting. She began as a materials cutter and can now make an entire bag – from start to finish – by herself! Now Rafiqan is able to earn a living wage in a safe clean workspace. Your purchase helps Rafiqan earn enough income to provide for her family’s needs and send her children to school. 

Trades of Hope

Aren’t these all so amazing? Not only are they beautifully crafted, but the stories behind them are truly inspirational.  To shop for these gems or any of our other pieces or to learn more about our mission at Trades of Hope, you can visit my website here.  Every purchase is empowering women (and men) around the world to become the heroes of their own stories.  

Anchored in HOPE,

**This post contains commissioned links. Should you choose to purchase items using these links, I may earn a small commission.

Friday Favorites: CAUSEBOX Fall 2020

My Fall CAUSEBOX arrived yesterday, and I couldn’t wait to tear into it.  While I mentioned my disappointment for the delayed shipping of my summer box back in August (COVID strikes again), I am happy to report that my fall box came right on time! If you are new here and don’t know about CAUSEBOX, it is an ethical, quarterly subscription box that includes beautifully curated pieces from brands that are socially conscious, cruelty free, and/or are sustainably made. I love that it is full of products that support a cause and artisans around the world.  It is all about lifting women up and supporting women owned businesses.  This is my fourth box since becoming an annual subscriber, and I have loved every single box I have gotten. My fall box is no different. I love everything in it.  My only complaint this time is that my box was missing one of my choice items.  I quickly sent an email and have been assured that the missing item will be on its way soon. This box came with 6 items total.  I was able to choose 4 of my items and then there were 2 items that came in every box.  Check out what I received.

Bathen Waffle Bathrobe (Choice of Mint or Charcoal)-a fair trade, handwoven robe crafted by women in Panipat, India

Artisan Direct Milky Way Lantern-beautiful golden lantern created by artisans in India

The Green Co. Set of 10 Reusable Facial Rounds-a sustainable alternative to cotton balls or cotton facial rounds that come with a laundry bag for washing, use these two sided rounds to take off your makeup or apply products

Aromatherapy Associates De-Stress Muscle Gel (my missing item)-a rub that cools, warms, and comforts tired muscles, ethically sourced ingredients include black pepper, ginger, and aromatic rosemary

Core Bamboo Serve Set-organically grown and FSC certified bamboo serving board, tongs, and spatula

Way of Will Brightening Face Serum-a serum made with vitamins A and C that fights free radicals and hydrates your skin for a dewy glow

Get a PMD Microderm Classic for FREE for a limited time using this link.

I think I am most excited for the facial rounds.  I had actually been looking into something like them for a more sustainable and economical option for my skincare routine, so these arrived at the perfect time.  I am also a bit obsessed with the soft comfy feel of the robe.  I am a total robe girl and am pretty picky when it comes to mine.  This one is a great addition to my collection. I seriously love it all! Since I have now received a full year of boxes, I can honestly say that I highly recommend this box if you have been thinking about trying a subscription box. It think the products are a great quality and I love what this company represents.  For a LIMITED time, sign up using this link and receive a FREE PMD Microderm Classic like the one above valued at $159 in addition to your first box of goodies! 

Anchored,

Book Club: The New Wilderness

I am a little disappointed in myself this month.  I had been doing really well reading multiple books a month for the last few months, and then I blew it for September.  I only managed to read our one book club book this month.  I honestly don’t know what happened.  I just stopped reading once I finished that book and didn’t even attempt to start another one.  Anyway, I have to get back on track for October for sure! Reading is my escape, and I need it for my sanity. 

Let’s dive into my September pick, The New Wilderness by Diane Cook.  I was actually excited about this book when I chose it.  It gave me that Hunger Games/Divergent Series type vibe when I read the description and reviews.  I thought the concept of the story had a really good chance of being right up there with those two popular series.  However, I was left very underwhelmed.    I think there was so much potential to be a great storyline, but it certainly didn’t live up to that potential.  I was left wanting so much more.  I don’t feel like the characters were developed well, and I thought a lot was left out.  It left me filling like I had to fill in the blanks with my own imagination for much of the story.  It also skipped around a lot which meant that some parts weren’t every fully developed in my mind.  There were parts that I liked, but overall, I thought it was a big letdown.  I always hate when I have to say that I didn’t love a book, but I have to be honest with you all.  This one wasn’t all that I wanted it to be or anywhere near to what it could be. I just feel like there was so much wasted potential.

This story takes place sometime in the future after years of pollution, development, and over-population had not only destroyed the planet but also made children and other individuals very sick.  There was only one area of the world that was untouched by humans. It was called the Wilderness State and was to become the sight of a lengthy experiment.  Twenty individuals were chosen to be the subjects of the experiment.  They were to be ripped from their lives in the dying city to be dropped in the middle of the Wilderness State to become the “Community.”  They were to live off the land without leaving any kind of footprint behind.  The environment was always to appear undisturbed. They had to hunt for food, use animal skins to make their clothes, and were unable to build any type of shelter or permanent structures.  They were not allowed to remain in one location for more than 7 days and were forced to check in with Rangers periodically for assessment.  Those check-ins were the only time they had any communication with the outside world as they were allowed to send and receive letters to love ones they had left behind. However, there was sometimes months or years in-between those letters and packages. It truly was a daily battle for survival for them out in the harsh wilderness. Three of those individuals that were part of the experiment were a family consisting of Glen, the soft-spoken brains behind the initial experiment, his sometimes aggressive wife Bea, and Bea’s daughter, Agnes, who was one of the children who had become very ill.  They, along with 17 other individuals embarked on the journey of living in the wild.  While Agnes’s life was saved when she was finally able to breath clean air, many others lost their lives while battling the elements.  Those people were eventually replaced by “Newcomers” from the city.   It was a story of mother/daughter relationships, survival, and extreme isolation that never quite reached its peak for me.  While it did hold my interest to some extent as I hoped it would improve, I just couldn’t shake the feeling of being let down by all that this book wasn’t. I almost wanted to rewrite it in my head as I was reading. I sadly would give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars. 

Now, on to my pick for October.  I am going to switch it up a bit this month. While I know that summer is officially over and I may be a little late to the game, I decided to go with Jennifer Weiner’s newest New York Times Bestseller, Big Summer.  I can honestly say that I have never read a book by Jennifer Weiner despite knowing her popularity and large following.   Her genre of the more “chick lit” is not typically my first choice, but I thought I would give this one a chance as it has great reviews like so many of her other novels.  I like to read things that are outside of my usual bubble every now and then just for variety.  I am hoping this will be a welcomed change that will get me back on track for reading more books. Check out what Publisher’s Weekly has to say about this novel.

“Weiner’s story of a female friendship (after Mrs. Everything) mixes a splash of romance, a dash of humor, and a pinch of mystery to create a deliciously bloody poolside cocktail. Daphne Berg, a young woman struggling with her weight and self-esteem, has become “#fiercefatgirl,” a powerful plus-size media influencer with thousands of followers. Her world is turned upside down when an old high school frenemy comes looking for a favor. Drue Cavanaugh, a high-society darling, was everything Daphne wasn’t in high school: rich, gorgeous, and a mean girl to rival all mean girls. Back then, Daphne did anything she could to simply exist on the fringes of Drue’s world. Now, Drue is planning her splashy Cape Cod wedding to a reality TV star, and she wants Daphne to be her maid of honor amid her family’s infighting and doubts about the groom. Trouble has been brewing under the surface, and Daphne finds herself at Drue’s beck and call at a grotesquely ill-fated celebration that reveals the dark side of Dru’s seemingly perfect life. Weiner’s surprising tale is hard to put down.”

Will you come along and read with me?

Anchored in a Good Book,

**This post contains commissioned links. Should you choose to purchase items using these links, I may earn a small commission.