Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Birthday Beach Weekend and Reba!!

Birthdays are a time to celebrate and while I love a low key dinner with family and friends every now and then, I also love to go all out and plan for a trip. This was a mini staycation as we frequent Clearwater Beach for dinner and beach days throughout the year since it's only about 20 minutes from us but staying there is the best of both worlds. We're locals that can live like a tourist for a few days.

Now, I always want to give a party favor and putting these together was so fun! I got to pick out the perfect combo for each of my friends and sister and they loved them, of course! I found a beach towel for each of the girls at various stores but TJ Maxx has some real winners, the cute water bottles came from Walmart and threw in some Birthday Cake Chapstick and spray sunscreen.

Friday night I had it all planned out that we'd do dinner at South Beach Frenchy's (we usually go to Rockaway on the beach, Dunedin Causeway Outpost or Saltwater which I lovingly refer to as the back road Frenchy's) since none of us had ever eaten at that location. While we were there the girls learned about the Frenchy's passport where you get a specialty drink at each of the 4 Frenchy's on Clearwater Beach and at the end you get a commemorative tank top with champion on it, yes please. Since they were each up for it and I had been wanting to do it we decided to complete it Friday night and what a way to start the weekend!!

We finished around 10:00 and ended up back in the room early, because we're old, duh.

Saturday, I wanted to try out a donut shop The Donut Experiment where you get to create your own. They were fresh, but just ok, you only get to choose one frosting and one topping...I've had better, just not always fresh. I've also had Mini Doughnut Factory since then and it's going to be hard to top that!

Saturday during the day was beach time. It was a super cold weekend for us and the temperature on the sand was at least 10 degrees cooler in the shade so we all kept our cover ups on and sat partially in the sun to stay warm, lol.

Saturday evening I had reservations at Marina Cantina that I wanted the family and friends to try out. I had booked us on the roof since that's what the tourists do and boy was it cold. They had heaters and blankets so it wasn't too bad, but still. Come on Florida, what's with the weather?!

Sunday we dropped off my friend that had a trek back to Jacksonville and three of us headed down to Indian Rocks Beach for P.J.'s Oyster Bar but sadly they were closed on Monday so we tried out Lulu's Oyster bar where P.J.'s used to be and while it was good, Kim said it wasn't as good as she remembered P.J.'s being.

Sunday night was all about Reba at the Strawberry festival. We had great seats and I couldn't believe I was finally seeing Reba in person. I have loved her music and watched every episode of her TV show, so I'm glad I got to check her off the list. Apparently my family can't go to the Strawberry Festival without also getting a strawberry shortcake. me, I'm usually there for the music, lol!

I returned to work and had birthday cake, breakfast and just a lot of fanfare as we have a few March birthdays in our department, so all was fun and games for a couple weeks, lol.

All in all, it was one of my favorite Birthday celebrations so far!

How do you do Birthdays?

Monday, April 23, 2018

BBQ Bash and Weekend Recap

Happy Monday, Friends!!

I am exhausted and so glad I have a couple days I get to sleep in this week. We spent the last couple weeks planning a BBQ for my sister who is going to Haiti for 5 weeks. She'll be "interning" with a missionary family that's been there for a few years and one of her key parts is setting up a baking school/bakery to work with the local women. Since she'll be working with food, that's been one of her main fundraisers as well, so a BBQ with family and friends sounded like a good idea. God is good and she raised almost everything she needed well ahead of her June deadline so now what she raises can go toward supplies and setting up the bakery. He also kept the rain away until we had everything back in the house!!!

Invitations / Flyers
I looked on stock photo websites to see what they had available because I had some credits and after seeing what they did I decided to make my own to their likeness and use Vecteezy graphics like the pig!

Location, location, location
Since we were inviting a lot more than a typical BBQ we went ahead and booked a shelter at one of our local parks. We have several throughout our County but because we had people coming from all over we wanted one that was as close to centrally located as we could get with only scheduling this a month out.

We found all of the décor at Walmart and the Dollar Tree! We figured we wouldn't be able to find the table cloths anywhere but Amazon or Party City and were shocked when The Dollar Tree had exactly what we were looking for. I wanted to order this pig off Pier 1 but found this cute little pig in their Seasonal party stuff at a Super Walmart. Other than the flowers, we also had wet wipes, paper towels and salt/pepper packets at each table.

We know not everyone likes pig but we wanted to keep thing super simple so we didn't offer grilled meat or chicken. We did make a side of baked beans vegetarian so some of my sister's friends could enjoy a plate of goodies as well. The drink idea came from Pinterest, of course. The lemonade was super easy, just empty enough of the jug so it's not spilling out the spout and dump in a whole container of lemonade powder. For the tea we emptied a water jug into glass containers and made sun tea then poured them back in via a pitcher.

We almost didn't get any of these pictures, guys! After we had everyone served and were cleaning up I was like...did anybody take pics?! Mom and I snapped a few shots before everything went away and I'm so glad my brain was able to remember that we needed to document the weekend.

The rest of the weekend was really spent getting ready for this. Two days of go, go really tired us out. I'm definitely ready for my vacation this weekend!!

Linking up with Biana!

How was your weekend?!

Friday, April 20, 2018

February and March 2018 Favorites

Happy Friday, Friends!!

Since I missed a couple months, I thought I'd combine them. The problem with not planning is I tend to forget something was my favorite until I use it again.

A metal hand-held juice press for all the lemons and limes I flavor my water or tea with or even when I'm making margaritas! This is what it looks like but the cheapest place I found one was TJ Maxx, save yourself a couple bucks.

Movie and Music

The Greatest Showman movie and soundtrack was a hit with our family. I've been listening to the soundtrack non-stop and can't wait to watch the movie again this Friday. We invited our elderly neighbor over. Hopefully she likes musicals!

Pork Egg roll in a bowl is a delicious low carb meal that definitely went on our list of go-to meals. We made a double batch so we could have lunches too and it took only 30 minutes. Easy after work meal to prepare!

Linking up with Amanda!

What do you have planned this weekend? We have a BBQ benefit for my sister's internship in Haiti on Sunday and Saturday will be spent getting last minute things ready for that. Have a great one!!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Happy Sephora Sale - April 2018

Happy Friday Eve, friends!!

If you're NOT Rouge, tomorrow is SALE DAY!! While it's not the 20% we get in the Fall, I love this one to replenish whatever I am out of and I'm not really thinking about gifts like I do in November so this one is generally all. about. me. Without further ado, the top beauty picks in April, 2018 are.

All of the links in this post are affiliate, I really appreciate you supporting me. Happy shopping!

On my list

I love the All Nighter mist and would love to try the primer in this duo. Plus, it's on sale and I love a sale with a discount added on, score!

Somehow I ended up with a shade that's too dark right now in my foundation so I need to get my OG color and I just love this foundation but I hate paying the $47. I've looked at other foundations but not bit the bullet. Do you have a favorite medium-full coverage foundation?

I love using Micellar water to remove my make up and now that I'm back to wearing it almost daily I want to make sure to get it all off, but gently. These from Clinique are about the same price I've been paying for Garnier and I'm not in love with them.

I'm still on the fence about the Drybar On The Rocks charcoal clarifying shampoo. I have a clarifying shampoo I use and if the Sephora Favorites Dry Shampoo collection is still available I may end up with that instead. Decisions, decisions. It's important to note that the dry shampoo MUST ship ground and isn't sold in stores. Either order it separately because I believe you can use the coupon code continuously until it ends OR just know you'll get your order few days later.

A couple of other sale items I added to my cart, one is for my sis. She loves the Clinique chubby mascara and with this set you get a liner and mascara travel size for $6! I love the FAB face wash and saw a couple of Instagram beauty girls talking about the FAB primer/moisturizer so I love that this set is on sale for $20.

Last time I suggested these things and here are my thoughts . . .

The Clinique Chubby Eyeshadow stick, but it came in a new to me color. It's not the subtle shade I had been using so I've only used it a handful of times. Still love the product, just not the color. Ended up buying the shade I love when Clinique Bonus time came around.

I mentioned this is my favorite lip product and I still love it. Another lip product I talked about last time was the sleep mask and I've been using it but I didn't notice a difference from using that verses my Night/Day Chapstick.

This Brazilian Bum Bum Cream is amazing, but I think it's a splurge product. I love wearing it when I go to the beach and I'll definitely wear it on the cruise I'm going on! This was shimmery enough that I don't want to use is everyday, I mean I'm not in middle school anymore.

Of the two powder foundations I mentioned wanting to try I only picked up the one by Tarte and I love it. Use it almost everyday now. Especially with the addition of a hydrating face wash in the morning and the C-Rush lotion I no longer see the flaky or patchy dry skin I had dealt with for so long. I want to get the Clinique one so I can have one in my purse!

Suggestions (that would be on my list if I was out)

I will be sharing a full post on this product after I've used it for a few weeks, and you may have seen it on my Instagram already. I received the Ole Henriksen C-Rush Gel Crème complimentary to try and if I wasn't already a lover of Ole Henriksen I definitely would have been interested in trying their products after sampling this moisturizer. The orange smell is nice and doesn't last long, plus it moisturizes but doesn't make my face get greasy later on in the day which I think was happening with my beloved CeraVe AM lotion. I still use the AM lotion mixed with this on days I will be outside for longer than to run to my car because it doesn't have SPF and if you're not using SPF on your face you should be!! What's your favorite face SPF?

My go to mascaras are Urban Decay Perversion and Too Faced Better Than Sex.

I just bought this set from Tarte because I love their blushes and they're great for travel. When I'm not traveling I love the Too Faced Sweetheart blushes and use the bronze one during the Summer.

At Sephora I love the Anastasia Brow Wiz, but most of the time I use the best dupe, NYX Brow Pencil.

As far as eyeshadow palettes go, I'm in love with the mermaid one from Tarte. The palette smells like chocolate and goes on super smooth.

I can't wait to hear what you're looking at during this sale or if you have anything to suggest, I'm all ears!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

All About the Books April 2018

Life According to Steph

This month it was catching up on Netgalley reviews, while also adding some more *cough* and all the library books. I still have about eight checked out I need to read before the 23rd. FYI, I'm a romance reader mostly and these are all romance, if that's not your thing I totally get it. I'm hard pressed to read a lot of genres.

Five Stars, Loved It

Fatal Chaos by Marie Force -
I love how Marie Force does not make the book drama between the main characters. The outside forces are enough for these stories. There were similarities between the murders in Fatal Chaos and something Our Area experienced late last year so when I can relate that just makes a story so much more interesting to me. All of the characters in the Fatal series continue to entertain me and I'm always anticipating the next in the series!!

Synopsis: First the calm. Then the storm…

Escaping DC during the dog days of summer is one of the smartest moves Washington metro police lieutenant Samantha Holland ever made. Beach walks aren’t quite as romantic with the Secret Service in tow, but Sam and her husband, Vice President Nick Cappuano, cherish the chance to recharge and reconnect—especially with a scandal swirling around the administration.

No sooner are they back home than a fatal drive-by shooting sets the city on edge. The teenage victim is barely older than Sam and Nick’s son, Scotty. As more deaths follow, Sam and her team play beat the clock to stop the ruthless killers. With Nick facing his greatest challenge—one that could drastically change all their lives and even end Sam’s career—will the mounting pressure deepen or damage their bond?

Hard Justice by Lori Foster is the second book in the Lori Foster Body Armor series and surprisingly, I loved it more than the first.

Synopsis: Playing it safe has never felt so dangerous

Justice Wallington knows how to harness his strength and intimidating size, skills he put to good use first in the MMA cage and now as a bodyguard at the Body Armor agency. But no opponent has ever left him feeling as off balance as his new client, heiress Fallon Wade. Far from a spoiled princess, she's sweet and intriguingly innocent. It's a risk-free assignment, until he's required to fake a relationship with her in order to blend in.

Sheltered from the world after a family tragedy, Fallon longs to experience life, going to bars, dancing, talking to strangers. Not easy with a huge, lethal-looking bodyguard shadowing her every move. Justice seems like her polar opposite, but pretending to be a couple stirs undeniable heat. And when danger strikes again, it's not just her safety in jeopardy, but a passion that's real, raw and absolutely against the rules.

The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter - I have no idea how this ended up on my holds list at the library but I'm so glad it did lol. This is the third book in the series and I've already ordered the first one because it's NOT at my library and will read the others in order. I have a heart for foster kids, especially those that age out so I just whipped through this book and was so glad to see the outcome I was hoping for.

Synopsis: Living side-by-side, a fledgling chef and a big-hearted contractor find a delicious attraction.

Trouble is, their chemistry could spoil their dreams.

Spirited PJ McKinley has the touch when it comes to food. Her dream of opening her own restaurant is just one building short of reality. So when a Chapel Springs resident offers her beloved ancestral home to the applicant with the best plan for the house, PJ believes it’s a contest she was meant to win.

Contractor Cole Evans is confident, professional, and swoon-worthy—but this former foster kid knows his life could have turned out very differently. When Cole discovers the contest, he believes his home for foster kids in transition has found its saving grace. All he has to do is convince the owner that an out-of-towner with a not-for-profit enterprise is good for the community.

But when the eccentric philanthropist sees PJ and Cole’s proposals, she makes an unexpected decision: the pair will share the house for a year to show what their ideas are made of. Now, with Cole and the foster kids upstairs and PJ and the restaurant below, day-to-day life has turned into out-and-out competition—with some seriously flirtatious hallway encounters on the side. Turns out in this competition, it’s not just the house on the line, it’s their hearts.

Hot Response by Shannon Stacey was *fans self* so what I love about a good hero story. There's just something about Stacey's writing that draws. me. in. Gavin was such a great guy and the relationship between Gavin and Cait really grew at a pace I've seen a lot among friends. The challenges facing them weren't drama for drama's sake and I thought the book flowed perfectly.

Synopsis: Gavin Boudreau lives for the job, but he also believes in “work hard, play harder.” As the youngest guy in Ladder 37, he figures he’s got plenty of time before settling down becomes a priority. Soft, pretty women who aren’t looking for promises are exactly his type, and he’s comfortable with that. Working with a gorgeous EMT isn’t going to change who he is.

The last thing Cait Tasker needs in her personal life is a firefighter whose challenges on-scene have been a thorn in her side from minute one. Her plate’s too full for a man anyway. Back in her childhood home to help her family cope with an unexpected tragedy, she’s got enough to handle without throwing a hot, testosterone-laden fireman into the mix.

As long days on the job lead to long nights together, Gavin and Cait will discover how far temptation can take them—and what happens when the one you thought was all wrong for you turns out to be the person you can’t live without.

Netgalley Read, Review is my honest opinion.

Truth or Bead by Penny Reid was just as good as I thought it would be. I can't wait to get my hands on the other books in the series, and I felt like this was the perfect first book in the series. I loved the chemistry between Duane and Jessica, plus the small town history always gets me.

Synopsis: Beards, brothers, and bikers! Oh my!

Identical twins Beau and Duane Winston might share the same devastatingly handsome face, but where Beau is outgoing and sociable, Duane is broody and reserved. This is why Jessica James, recent college graduate and perpetual level-headed good girl, has been in naïve and unhealthy infatuation with Beau Winston for most of her life.

His friendly smiles make her tongue-tied and weak-kneed, and she’s never been able to move beyond her childhood crush. Whereas Duane and Jessica have always been adversaries. She can’t stand him, and she’s pretty sure he can’t stand the sight of her…

But after a case of mistaken identity, Jessica finds herself in a massive confusion kerfuffle. Jessica James has spent her whole life paralyzed by the fantasy of Beau and her assumptions of Duane’s disdain; therefore she’s unprepared for the reality that is Duane’s insatiable interest, as well as his hot hands and hot mouth and hotter looks. Not helping Jessica’s muddled mind and good girl sensibilities, Duane seems to have gotten himself in trouble with the local biker gang, the Iron Order.

Certainly, Beau’s magic spell is broken. Yet when Jessica finds herself drawn to the man who was always her adversary, now more dangerous than ever, how much of her level-head heart is she willing to risk?

The Opposite of You by Rachel Higginson had a few things going for it that made the story mean something to me. Food trucks, competition, strong female and of course, a love story. Loved! I like to think of myself as a food truck connoisseur, so this appealed to me beyond the romance level and it's still one I think of whenever I watch a cooking show. The intricate knowledge of the culinary world always fascinates me and the build up to the relationship felt real. his critiques of her food reminded me of little boys that tell a girl she's doing something wrong because he likes her and that's the only way he knows to show it. #swoon

This was my first book by Rachel H. and I look forward to exploring her other works.

Synopsis:I’ve sworn off men.

All men.

Famous last words, right? You’re expecting some epic tale of reluctant love and my dramatic change of heart? Well, you’re not going to get it.

I’m stubborn. And headstrong. And I’ve just survived the worst three years of my life. After escaping an abusive boyfriend to live in hostels and cheap hotels while I worked my way across Europe, I’ve come to two conclusions.

The first? Now that I’m back home, I’m going to squander my expensive culinary degree on a food truck that caters to the late night drunk crowd.

The second? I’m going to prove to the bastard across the plaza that my street food is better than his fussy five course monstrosities.

Killian Quinn might be Food and Wine’s Chef to Watch Out For. He might have a Michelin Star. He might have every food critic in the city wrapped around his too-large fingers. But he’s also pretentious and unbearably arrogant and the very opposite of me.

So he can keep his unsolicited advice and his late night visits and his cocky smiles. I want none of it. Or him.

I want the opposite.

In Fighting Dirty by Lori Foster we really get to know the two main characters that we've seen throughout the series and it made for such a deeper connection between myself as the reader as well as the characters since they have known each other for years! I love how Rissy's brother Cannon actually pushed them together, knowing how they both felt and we're holding back. The suspense of who the attacks were targeting kept the book moving and I enjoyed the extra layer it brought. Looking forward to the body guard series to come!!

Synopsis: He's the hottest MMA fighter in the game, but one woman is ready to try out a few steamy moves of her own in an unforgettable new novel from New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster...

With the life he's led and the muscles he's gained, Armie Jacobson isn't afraid of anything. Except maybe Merissa Colter's effect on him. It's not just that she's his best friend's little sister. Fact is, she deserves better. Women pursue him for one night of pleasure, and that's all he wants to offer. Until rescuing Merissa from a robbery leads to the most erotic encounter of his life.

Good girl meets bad boy. It's a story that rarely ends well. But Merissa is taking matters into her own hands. No matter how he views himself, the Armie she knows is brave, honorable and completely loyal. And as past demons and present-day danger collide, they're both about to learn what's truly worth fighting for…

Netgalley Read, Review is my honest opinion.

Worth It All I'm such a sucker for a kid without a dad (or mom) in a romance book and the way it just adds to the story. The hero not only gets the girl, he gets the whole family. The connection between Casey and Jake was so precious. To see him help her out so much and in turn get the girl really just kept me wanting more for this couple, even beyond the ending. Love the McKinney brother series!

Synopsis: She’s fighting for control. . . . Paige Roberts learned to fend for herself growing up. Now she’s doing everything possible to give her daughter, Casey, the stability she never had. But when the vivacious five-year-old decides she’s done wearing her prosthesis, Paige faces her toughest challenge yet: trusting a handsome, brooding stranger who simply wants to help.

He’s struggling to connect. . . . JT McKinney lost more than his leg in a car accident that stole his dreams of pro football. Eight years later, he's made a new life for himself far away from his old one. His business is developing cutting-edge prosthetics and he’s more than happy to turn his attention to machines instead of people. Still, he can’t shake the feeling that something’s missing.

Will they take a chance on love? . . . When JT gets the chance to help Paige’s daughter, he takes it. He never planned on the two of them tearing down his walls or teaching him to believe in himself again. Paige might not believe in happily ever afters, but JT wants more than anything to be her prince. They’ll both have to let go of the past if they want a future.

Netgalley Read, Review is my honest opinion.

Four Stars, Worth It

Score by Victoria Denault is the first in the San Francisco Thunder Series and while I enjoyed it there wasn't anything stand out to me.

Synopsis: He's used to winning, but now he's playing with his heart.

Jude Braddock. Hockey god. That's how everyone sees him now. But when they were teenagers, Zoey knew him as the kid who didn't have enough nerve to make a move on their one and only disastrous date. Seems he doesn't have that problem anymore, though. According to the rumors, he's with a different woman every night. After a rough divorce, the last thing Zoey needs is more heartbreak. But Jude's cocky, playful attitude is mighty hard to resist.

Jude knows he isn't built for long-term relationships. But he's getting sick of women pounding on his door in the middle of the night looking for a rematch. When Zoey comes back into his life, it's like fate has given him a second chance. He'll do anything to make her happy again. Is this what love looks like? He has no idea. All he knows for sure is that this time, he's playing for keeps.

Under Pressure by Lori Foster was a good intro and I think the story just dragged and could have been finished a lot earlier. I loved getting introduced to the Body Armor series, because they have gotten significantly better to me.

Synopsis: He can protect anything except his heart

Leese Phelps’s road hasn’t been an easy one, but it’s brought him to the perfect job — working for the elite Body Armor security agency. And what his newest assignment lacks in size, she makes up for in fire and backbone. But being drawn to Catalina Nicholson is a dangerous complication, especially since it could be the very man who hired Leese who’s threatening her.

What Catalina knows could get her killed. But who’d believe the sordid truth about her powerful stepfather? Beyond Leese’s ripped body and brooding gaze is a man of impeccable honour. He’s the last person she expects to trust — and the first who’s ever made her feel safe. And he’s the only one who can help her expose a deadly secret, if they can just stay alive long enough...

Three Stars and Below, Meh

Lawman From Her Past by Delores Fossen had an interesting premise and was unfortunately just ok.

Amish Refuge by Debby Giusti - Romantic Mystery is hit or miss for me. This one felt like a never ending repeat of events.

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally really sounded like it would be a great book, I mean a girl football player and her team actually respects her as a leader.

Up next:
I have SOOOOO many books on my TBR list that have been added recently. I'm looking forward to a New Adult series by Mila Gray, Come Back To Me.

Are we friends on Goodreads!!

What are you reading and loving lately?