Exciting Blog Changes

Wow… I’ve spent the better part of my day looking into transferring my blog to become self-hosted. I am so tired of not being able to change my design or add widgets for giveaways and so on. That’s what I get for choosing a free blog platform, but now that things are going great and my enthusiasm for blogging is at it’s highest I would like to take it one step further. In the long run I think it will be the right decision for me and the blog. I’ll definitely enjoy the creative freedom.

But let me tell you, it’s all very confusing! I was familiar with the general idea of it, but all the details have me baffled. Now I think I’ve finally made my decision, but it will still take a while before it’s all ready. And until then I’ll still be blogging right here. And don’t worry, all my posts, pages, and comments will be transferred when the change is made. I’m so excited!

If you blog from WordPress and have any questions regarding blogging or becoming self-hoted, I recommend you stop by WPbeginner and search their archives. They have been such a great help to me!

Oh, and while we’re talking about blogging… Right now my cute little banner is up on the right side of lovely Ange’s blog. And she also has a giveaway coming up on Monday, so you should stay tuned!
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Now I’m wondering: Are your self-hosted or do you blog from a free platform? And how did you make the decision? If you have any tips, feel free to share them!

Books On My To-Read List #2

I made another “books on my to-read list” post early in December and figured I’d do another one now that I’ve had time to read more. I don’t know if some of you share my passion for reading, but I definitely couldn’t live without it. And you can follow me on GoodReads if you want.

The Princess Bride // Alex Cross, Run // Firefly Lane
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The Name of the Wind // The Eye of the World // Little Women
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And, like I did last time, I want to recommend some of the recent books I’ve been reading. I read almost constantly, and right now fantasy and romance are at the top of my list – well, that is almost always the case except for a few forays into mystery, crime, or nonfiction. Out of the six books below, number one and three are my favorites. I have read the Clan of the Cave Bear series over and over again until I know it by heart, but it never gets old. And Dear John brought me to tears on more than one occasion.

The Clan of the Cave Bear // The Maze Runner // Dear John
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Safe Haven // City of Bones // Divergent
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Let me know if you want me to keep posting this every other month or so, and feel free to leave book recommendations of your own. My to-read list can never get too long!

My Eye Makeup

Mascara:
As I’ve mentioned before, Clinique’s high impact and high definition mascaras (in black) are my all time favorites. You can get them for $16 each online, but I always buy mine at Belk for $15. I think I buy them about twice a year, depending on how much I use them.
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Okay. Here’s a quick “before picture” with my eye shadow already done. My lashes are almost blond and invisible without mascara. However I’ve never used a lash curler, since they are naturally curled.
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First I apply two layers of the High Definition mascara. It is great for separating your eyelashes and to avoid any lumps. It’s a great everyday mascara when you don’t want anything too dramatic.
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Afterward I apply two layers of the High Impact mascara, which makes you lashes fuller. I used to use this mascara by itself, but it tends to be a bit too wet which makes all your eyelashes stick together.
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Eyeliner:
As you can see in the above picture, I’ve also applied eyeliner on my top and bottom waterline. This is where I prefer to apply mine – I think it’s much faster and I like the way it looks. (If I want a more dramatic look I will use a darker eye shadow and apply my eyeliner to my top and bottom lids instead.) But, of course, you will need a waterproof eyeliner for this to work. I use a cream one from Makeup Forever. Well, technically it’s an eye shadow, but it works just fine either way. I have had mine for close to two years, and I’m only two thirds through it. Just make sure you close it properly, or it will dry up. You will need an angled eyeliner brush to apply it – and a bit of training. Make sure you don’t apply it too close to either corner of your eye, because it will then smear onto your skin or gather in the corner of your eye after you have worn it for a few hours. Something I noticed in the beginning…
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Eye Shadow:
I have two favorite eye shadow sets, both from Too Faced. The Natural Eye Shadow Collection I use on a daily basis and the Smokey Eye Shadow Collection is more for special occasions.
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I tend to mix-and-match a bit, even though the looks are great the way they are intended too (day, classic, and fashion). For the look below I have first applied Silk Teddy to the entire lid. Then I used Push-Up (it’s my favorite) on the lower part of my lid, from the crease down, before moving on to Cocoa Puff. I start at the outer corner of my eye and follow the bone about halfway across my eye, in the shape of my sickle moon. I like to make the outer edge dark while going lighter toward the middle. When I’m done I use a little more of Silk Teddy in the inner corner of my eye and along the bottom of my eyebrow, just to smooth out the edges of my eye shadow.

I normally use a similar technique, even when I use different colors. What do you think?
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I took these pictures last week before posting my “boyfriend jeans outfit”. It’s definitely a bit too much for an everyday look, but this is how I do my makeup when I go out (though sometimes I use the smokey eye shadow set). For an everyday look I would normally stick to two layers of the High Definition mascara and the eye shadow from the “day look” – just without the Sexpresso, it’s a bit too dark.
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Skin Care Products

Now that spring is right around the corner (yeah, I’m being optimistic), I’m sure we all want our skin to look it’s best for when it’s time to wear shorts and t-shirts again. I always feel better about myself when my skin looks nice and I don’t have to use tons of makeup to cover up my blemishes – and I’m probably not the only one. Here are a few great, and affordable, products that I really, really love (because I hate that some of these products often cost more than your entire spring wardrobe). I also feel like I should mention that I have what’s called “normal skin” (not especially oily or dry), and that my skin isn’t normally sensitive to any products.

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1 – Neutrogena Body Clear® Body Scrub
I use this exfoliating body scrub every time I shower. Mostly on my back and face, or any other “problem area”. It’s no overnight miracle cure for acne, but I have seen good results after using it for several months. My skin feels smoother and more even, and – although it’s not completely gone – I definitely have less acne than before I started using it. So it is absolutely worth $6 for a bottle that should last you a couple of months.

2 – The Body Shop Vitamin E Nourishing Night Cream
This is probably my favorite out of these six products. I use it every night, and sometimes even in the morning if my skin needs a little extra moisture. The vitamin E helps reduce redness in my face overnight, and my skin is always smooth and soft when I wake up. It also has a good smell that isn’t overpowering; it kind of reminds me of baby products. The only drawback is that this little container costs $20, which might seem like a little much. However, mine is just about empty now, after using it for four months. You only need a little bit of it every night.

3 – Bath & Body Works Intense Moisture Body Butter
I’ve used this lotion for years, and can’t get enough! I’m sure they are all great, but I really love the smell of “Paris Amour”, so that’s the one I keep coming back to. I use it year round (though I also have their regular lotion which is faster to apply, dries faster, and great for when something stronger isn’t needed), but I really love it during the summer because shaving your calves every day tends to make them dry. It is also perfect for your knees, elbows, and other dry areas right after you get out of the shower. Just a tip: Apply it to your feet at night and sleep with socks, it’s amazing!

4 – Banana Boat Self-Tanning Lotion
This doesn’t improve the quality of your skin a whole lot (just makes it slightly softer), but who doesn’t feel sexier with a bit of a tan? I hate all the different types of spray-on tanners (even when done professionally). They are hard to apply and some times look splotchy after a week, instead of coming off evenly. This is just a regular lotion that happen to give your skin a slightly darker color. You should still be sure to get it everywhere, though, and it’s easier if you get someone else to do your back. You can then use it as often as you like – though I stick to a couple times a week – and get the shade you like best. And, best of all, I have never seen it come off my skin in patches. It just wears of gradually. The smell is slightly overwhelming in the beginning, though, even though it’s not very strong.

5 – eos Lip Balm, lemon drop spf 15
I have eos lip balms in just about every color/flavor, but this one is my favorite. It smells delicious, makes my lips feel great, and has a bit of the protection you need on sunny days. It’s only about $3 and I’ve had mine for forever (although that’s also because I have so many of them). And, hey! They also look super cute, right?

6 – eos Hand Lotion
Okay, I have to admit that I haven’t tried this one yet. But I’ve wanted to for a long time, since I’ve heard so many good things about it – I just keep forgetting to get one. I love that it’s small enough to fit in my purse, and if it’s anything like their lip balm it should be great for my hands! And since it’s only $4 I really have to try it out. Let me know how it is if you buy it.

Workout Motination

I just figured I’d post some of my tips when it comes to keeping yourself motivated. I always seem to work out in periods, and whenever I break my own “rules” my motivation drops, and I start skipping workouts. And I bet I’m not the only one with this problem! Feel free to share how you keep yourself motivated, and maybe I’ll add some of your tips to my list.

  • Find someone to work out with. That way you can keep each other motivated on days where one of you would rather stay at home in front of the tv. For me it really helps to go running with Andy, especially since he is in a much better shape than me and this gives me motivation to try to beat him sometime.
  • Set goals. Not only your final goal (like how much weight you want to lose – if this is why you’re working out), but also daily and weekly goals. I am not a great runner, so one of my previous goals was very simple: to run the same distance that I ran the day before, but this time I was going to do it without a break halfway through – and I made it! I love trying to beat myself, and having beaten my goal made me feel like I achieved something.
  • Find a workout that works for you! It doesn’t matter if you enjoy running, spinning, dancing, yoga, strength exercises, or using the elliptical (like me). Just make sure you pick something that you enjoy, and try to mix it up every now and then. I have an elliptical at home, but I also have Wii fit and Wii Zumba. I like using my Wii fit board while I’m watching my favorite series, or dancing along to the Zumba routines on a day I have some extra energy (although I think going to Zumba classes with a friend is a lot more fun).
  • Bring good music – especially if you’re working out by your self. This will keep your tempo up and it will help keep your mind off what you are doing. For me this makes me feel less tired.
  • Set a weekly minimum limit to workouts. So if you have decided to get at least three work-outs in every week, then you have no excuses for not doing it. If it’s Sunday night and you have only exercised twice so far then you should force yourself to get at least a small amount of work done. Like a 30 minute fast walk around the neighborhood.
  • Reward yourself. This doesn’t have to be with food (if you’re trying to lose weight), it will just as easily work with other things. You could decide to not buy those pants you’ve been wanting until you manage to beat your own record. Or you could schedule a girls night out as soon as you’ve stuck to your work out program for a whole month. (Just don’t reward yourself by skipping workouts.)
  • Keep a workout journal. I’ve done this for the past few months. Just buy a notebook where you write down which exercises you’ve done every week (including repetitions or duration). I love comparing my current week to the previous one to see if I’m making any progress. Sometimes I’ll add an extra workout if I see that I did better the past week.
  • Buy new workout clothes! I don’t know if this works for everyone, but it definitely does for me. A colorful, new outfit makes me want to try it out. And the same goes for buying workout magazines with tips for exercises. But, of curse, you should limit this to once in a while so that you don’t end up shopping more than you work out. (Although a full day of shopping really should be considered a workout…)

At the beginning of 2012 I finally decided to get back into shape after several years of doing nothing but studying. After most of my workouts I felt completely exhausted and ready to pass out – but it was worth it! And, after a while, I could tell that things were getting slightly easier every day. I still haven’t reached my goal, but I’m much happier than I was before I started.
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Social Media and Blogging

Blogging has become extremely popular during the last few years, and there are thousands of blogs out there on whatever topic you might like to read about. Because of the large volume of content it is therefore hard to attract readers to one specific blog. So, a lot of people think it’s important to use whatever social media out there to spread their name. Well, here are the three I use most:

Facebook:
– I hardly know anyone between 15 and 50 that doesn’t use facebook almost daily by now, so why not take advantage of it? Create a a page for your blog that people can like.
– Every time I post something on my blog I link to it on my facebook page so that everyone who likes my blog can see that there is an update to read. That way they don’t need to stop by my blog unnecessarily.
– You can also create “photo albums” with your favorite pictures from your blog, that way your readers can easily see them all in one place. I also love good pictures on a blog, so if I find a facebook page with pictures I love I am more likely to stop by the blog itself.
– I do keep my personal facebook profile private, though, which is something I would recommend. Only friends and family can see my information, pictures, and personal updates.
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Instagram:
– Again, I love pictures. So I think instagram is a fun way of sharing updates.
– I normally update my instagram account about once a day (sometimes less) – unless I’m traveling or doing something fun, so that I have more fun pictures to share. I don’t post just for the sake of posting.
– I save pictures I like on my computer to a dropbox folder so that I can use them on my phone.
– I would rather edit my pictures ahead of time instead of using the instagram effects.
– I’ve connected instagram to my facebook page so that people who like my page can see all my updates.
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Twitter:
– I follow family, friends, and bloggers on twitter, so that I can see their personal updates.
– Everything I post to my facebook page is automatically posted to my twitter account.
– I don’t actually use twitter a whole lot, except for sharing my blog updates. But I do think it’s fun for short updates when I’m out traveling, or cute quotes and sayings that you want to share. And my updates also post to my personal facebook page so that I don’t have to update things more than once.
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I think Twitter and Instagram is a fun blog tool for when you don’t have time (or enough content) to write an entire blog post. And if you have a popular blog then I’m sure your readers want to hear from you at all times of the day (don’t ask me why, though). They are also – in addition to your facebook page – a great way to let people know that there is new content on your blog.

Oh! There is also Bloglovin, where you can follow all your favorite blogs – no matter what platform they post from – and get updates whenever they post something new. That way you only have to check one website instead every single blog you read.