Sassy’s Book Club: Top Favorite Books of 2019

Sassy’s Book Club: Top Favorite Books of 2019

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I read 30 books total this year, which did not hit my ultimate goal of 35 books total (damn!), but was up 5 books from last year so that’s a big improvement. Progress – I’ll take it! Last year, I didn’t do a book recap of my faves from 2018. Not sure why, but let’s just chalk it up to sheer laziness. However, here is a recap of all my favorite books from 2016-2017 if you’re looking for more inspiration.

And below are some of my fave reads from 2019. Not all of these books were written this year FYI. I just read them this year. And fun fact – all the authors are female which feels very fitting. I also linked them all on my Amazon shopping list if you want to buy them!

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray

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The brilliance of this book is hard to describe. It covers so many issues in such an eloquent way that it just astounded me. The book centers around the 3 sisters in the Butler family – Althea, Violet, and Lillian – and each chapter is told from each of their perspectives. Althea and her husband have just been put in jail, and Violet and Lillian are dealing with the aftermath including their two daughters. Incarceration, eating disorders, overachievement as fulfillment, social acceptance are just some of the themes this book deals with. All the sisters are so vastly different too you truly feel like you enter a new world with each chapter. This wins for my book of the year and in my opinion, is a must-read.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

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Let me start with saying this is going to be made into a show for Hulu in 2020, so if you are someone who likes to read the book FIRST do so stat. This book is about two teens growing up in the 2010s, Connell and Marianne, who have literally nothing in common but have been brought together outside of their normal school setting because Connell’s mother is Marianne’s housekeeper. What happens next is a story that will feel very familiar and frustrating to any millennials. I know it brought out those feelings for me.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane 

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At its core, this book is a love story. You follow Kate and Peter from birth. They grow up as neighbors – both children of NYC cops – and they strike up a quick friendship that is tested over and over again throughout the 40-year arc we follow them on. It’s an explosive arc and tackles the common topic of what forgiveness looks like for different people. A lot of this book felt comfortable to me since it deals with Irish Catholics (a topic I know a good bit about), but the explosive moment that shapes both these families’ lives is massive and leads to such great drama and questions for all parties involved. Highly recommend.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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At first, I had a hard time reading this book since it is written like a manuscript of a documentary. Keeping track of who is who was a little rough since this is about a rock band of 7 people so there are lots of characters. This book is set in the 1970s during the height of rock and roll and about a socialite, Daisy Jones, who joins a rock band and they hit peak fame. Now, a team of documentarians is doing a biopic on the band in the present time. It’s interesting to hear different perspectives and questions whose view is true or not. This is a quick read and well done.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

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It took a little bit for me to get into this book, but once I did I couldn’t put it down. This book is set in Chicago (the author went to Northwestern), so I personally loved knowing street names and the bars and restaurants she mentioned. But, that’s not that important to the storyline. The book itself is set in during the AIDS epidemic and follows two stories – one of Yale, a gay man watching his friends suffer and pass away as the disease ravages Boystown, and Fiona, the sister of Yale’s best friend who has just passed away. Fiona’s story is told 30 years in the future and it is almost hard to follow why this story is important to the one in the past, but it is. It’s like unraveling a mystery of how these stories connect, and the end result is fantastic. FYI this was optioned by Amy Poehler and is also being made into a TV show.

Trial Run: Organic Tampons

Trial Run: Organic Tampons

Let me start this post by saying I am in no way a clean/green natural product expert. I still use non-natural deodorant after a pretty gross rash occurred while using Kopari. I want to try to use more natural cleaning products in my house but haven’t started the transition yet. Clean beauty products are something I have but not exclusively.

However, I read somewhere recently that tampons come in direct contact with very sensitive, highly permeable internal tissue in our bodies (makes sense when you think about it!) and that vaginal tissue contains a very large number of blood vessels and mucous membranes which can carry chemicals and other materials to other parts of your body.

It’s worth noting that the research on the above is so varied. I read article after article while writing this post about if you need to use organic tampons or not and what are the side effects of traditional tampons and one doctor said glyphosate is the main factor for people turning to organic which exists in such trace amounts in tampons that “a lifetime of heavy tampon use doesn’t approach the amount allowed for one day of oral intake.”

So the toxins might not be a major concern, but the idea of organic tampons being biodegradable really spoke to me – especially a plant-based applicator because the less plastic we have that doesn’t disintegrate on this planet is fine by me. Some women also said they felt less hormonal issues (cramping, heavy bleeding) when using organic tampons which also spoke to me since I get really bad cramps during my period.

At which point I was like OK, sounds like I could probably be fine using conventional tampons for the rest of my life, but what is the harm in trying something more natural especially if it’s biodegradable and makes me feel like I’m doing something positive for the earth?

Ironically not long after that, O.B. Tampons reached out to me to see if I wanted to do a collaboration around their organic tampons as did the plant-based feminine care company Honeypot Co. This is what I like to call good old fashioned telling the universe what you want and then it lands right in your lap karma. I’ve also heard really good things about Lola, but I didn’t order any in time for my April period so I will have to add to this post once I receive them in the mail!

Last week, I had my period so I used both organic tampon products and here are my thoughts on organic tampons overall.

CONS: 

  • I felt like I had to switch these tampons out more than conventional tampons. For me, this was comparable to having to apply more natural deodorant throughout the day. It’s doable, but also annoying especially when you’re used to it being so convenient to NOT have to switch out your tampon so frequently. Organic tampons definitely aren’t as absorbent as conventional tampons and that’s what a lot of people usually put in the PRO list because that means it’s less likely for you to get toxic shock syndrome. I usually use Playtex tampons and they are known for being SUPER absorbent so I think the variance there was a big one for me since I’m used to using maybe only 2-3 tampons a day during a heavy day and with organic tampons I used probably more like 5-7.
  • That whole thing about feeling less hormonal? That was a definite NO for me. I had one of the worst bout of cramps I have had in a while this go around. Ones that had me laying on the floor cursing everyone and everything out. I’m not sure if the hormonal thing is something that comes with using the organic tampons more regularly or not, but for me in this instance no I still had heavy bleeding and cramps.
  • The tampons were really easy to insert, but sometimes when removing them it hurt a little bit more than conventional tampons seemed to. This isn’t a deterrent for me, it wasn’t enough pain to make me not want to use them, more of a like, “Oh, that isn’t what it normally feels like”.
  • Organic tampons are much more expensive. I could get a 36 pack of non-natural tampons for the same price as a box of 18 organic tampons.

PROS

  • For me, the fact that both products were biodegradable is a big draw for me and would overshadow a lot of the cons.
  • O.B. actually has applicators that are 92% plant-based which again makes me feel better about trashing them. Honeypot’s applicators are plastic just BPA free.
  • In general, just feel better about what I am putting in my body and what I am putting back in the earth.

Overall, I thought my experience with organic tampons was a positive one. I would 100% buy organic in the future and try different size tampons and companies to find the right one for me.

I wouldn’t say O.B. or Honeypot won over one another. They both had good products that did what they said they would. O.B. might have a bit of an edge because they have plastic-free applicators, but Honeypot was founded by women, donates their time and money to menstruation charities like Happy Period, and is a start-up so really both would keep me as customers moving forward.

If you want to read more on the subject of if organic tampons are right for you, I suggest this article which helped me a lot when I was doing my own research.

Christmas is Better When You Have a Car: a Memoir

Christmas is Better When You Have a Car: a Memoir

If you know Chicago fairly well, then you know that a lot of people in Chicago have cars despite it being a city. That’s because this city is big and sometimes hard to navigate (ugh to the no east to west public transportation!), and parking isn’t impossible to find like some other cities. Nevertheless, I don’t have a car. I like public transportation and I like walking so it doesn’t bother me…until it’s the holidays. Then it annoys the hell out of me that I don’t have a car. So when Toyota reached out to see if I was interested about using one of their loaner cars for the season and tell you all about my favorite features, I jumped at the chance because doing errands with a car during the holidays is just literally my dream come true. So if you’ve been thinking about upgrading in 2019 let me tell you all the reasons why I loved having the 2019 Toyota Corolla HB to help me be the best Christmas Sassy I could be.

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Apple Car Play

If you follow along in my stories, you probably also know that Toyota took me to the 103.5 KISS FM’s Jingle Ball for the holidays. The concert features a multitude of different artists who all sing about 3-4 of their recent hits and sometimes holiday music! I was most excited to see Calvin Harris perform but ended up loving Bazzi and Shawn Mendes’s sets so much that I became obsessed with their music so the entire time I had the Corolla Hatchback I was playing a playlist I created of all the music I fell in love with at the show. Thankfully I was able to use the car’s Apple Car Play features to do that. It’s so easy to set up your phone to Bluetooth and play your music straight from Spotify! For a music lover like me who likes to play their own playlists when they are out and about this was clutch.

Lane Departure Alert & Automatic High Beams 

Toyota has these Safety Sense features on their cars that I absolutely love and my favorite two are the Lane Departure Alert and Automatic High Beams. They were particularly awesome during all my holiday shopping because everyone seems to be out and about during November and December and not everyone is great at staying in their lane, so with this feature, you can make sure not leave your lane until the coast is absolutely clear in front and behind you. Automatic high beams are something I feel we see a lot on cars now, but it’s so nice to not have to care about accidentally leaving them on when you have to run into a spot real quick to do an errand!

Road Sign Assist 

This was a feature I had not previously seen before and it kind of wow’ed me! Road Sign Assist actually shows you on your dashboard the speed limit or if a stop sign is approaching so you’re more aware of your surroundings when you drive. I loved knowing the speed limit, especially in the city when it’s constantly changing from 35 to 25 quickly. If you don’t know the area well you might get stuck with a traffic camera ticket and that is the worst!

My experience with the Toyota Corolla Hatchback was amazing and I wish I didn’t have to give it back after a week! If you want to read about my experience driving the Toyota CH-R from this summer you can do so here.

Big Fig Bed Review: A Mattress That is a Little Bit Extra

Big Fig Bed Review: A Mattress That is a Little Bit Extra

Every year, my company has a big off-site meeting for the whole company (all 34 of us!) and we meet to discuss trends in the industry, things we can do to make our service better for our customers, and also about staying fit and healthy. Yes, my company rocks. But the reason we need to talk about staying healthy is that at a start-up you tend to overwork yourself to get the job done – and when you’re working on-site events like we often do at my job you tend to overdo it by not sleeping and then we would try to “make up” the sleep by just putting in 12 hours after the event was over.

Well, my world was flipped upside down when our CEO told us that he had recently read a book that said you can’t ever make up a good night’s sleep. Meaning if I only sleep four hours tonight and then tomorrow I put in an extra three to make up for it then I’m all caught up on sleep. That’s fake news. We all need a good 7-8 hours per night to recharge and have a functioning brain that can, in turn, help your family and your coworkers cause if you sleep well then you’re not a zombie.

That got me thinking about my own current sleep state. I was currently sleeping on a 10-year-old mattress that I bought right after I graduated college. I had recently been waking up with major backaches and had a hard time getting comfortable when I went to bed. I never sat on my bed to get ready in the morning because it would sag or was uncomfortable when I sat on the edges since they really didn’t have any support. I knew I needed a new mattress, but I didn’t even really know where to start.

Enter: Big Fig Mattress.

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I first heard about Big Fig when I was asked to speak on a blogger panel at Dream Big Midwest and saw that Big Fig, the first mattress designed for a plus size body, was sponsoring it. I was immediately intrigued because how could a bed be that different for someone who is a straight size vs. plus size.

That’s why when Big Fig reached out to me to see if I was interested in trying out one of their beds, I jumped at the chance. I wanted to see if this bed was really all it was cracked up to be! A few of my plus size blogger buds had already been trying theirs out and were giving them A+ reviews and I wanted to see if I would agree.

I got the mattress about a month ago, and I can wholeheartedly say that my experience with Big Fig has been nothing short of awesome and truly IS made with a plus size sleeper in mind. Let me tell you about my personal favorite features:

Edge Support

Remember before when I said I hated that I couldn’t use my bed in the morning to get ready because the sides had no support? Well, foam mattresses are notorious for that problem, but Big Fig is designed with a really firm foam around the edges so you can sit on the edge and not feel like you’re gonna fall off when you put on your tights in the morning. The edges also expand the sleeping circumference so it feels like your bed is bigger than it really is.

Hybrid Construction 

Traditional mattresses soften over time as the materials break down and for plus size individuals that can break down even faster than for a straight size individual. Granted, it took my bed a long time to break down (about 8 years), however Big Fig has a 20-year guarantee which blew my mind! Most mattresses don’t last past seven! Their hybrid construction of springs and foam gives a good mix of support and comfort and the individual wrapped coil helps the foam maintain its firmness. You can see the test results that show it can last 20 years with someone who weighs over 350 lbs.

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No Mattress Sag

This was a big one for me. My cheap mattress I had bought all those years ago started to sag pretty soon after I bought it and I figured it was because it was cheap, not that it wasn’t meant for someone plus size. And we all get them right, it’s that sag in your mattress where you end up sleeping night after night because it’s your comfort position. Big Fig combats this issue with 3 inches of high-density foam cushioning. That’s over 50% denser than the foam in a standard mattress.

Since I got the Big Fig mattress, my back doesn’t hurt anymore and I sleep really well, and I have the added comfort that I won’t have to buy a new mattress until I’m over 50 years old!

120x240I have the Queen size mattress without the box spring mattress and the mattress by itself is $1699. You can actually do monthly financing on the mattress too which is great for your bank account to pay in chunks

The best news of all is if you use my code SASSY at check-out you will automatically get $100 off your new mattress! How awesome is that?!

I highly recommend this mattress for the best night’s sleep!

The Big Fig mattress was gifted to me for this review but all opinions about the bed are 100% my own. Using the links or codes I provide can help me earn a small commission if you shop through them. 

 

 

Making Creative Cocktails with Barrit’s Ginger Beer

Making Creative Cocktails with Barrit’s Ginger Beer

When my friends and I get together for a fun girls night in, we love to start the night with cocktails. In fact, back in the day, we used to get out my great grandma’s old punch bowl and do what we liked to call “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Punch Bowl”. Each person would get to take the punch bowl to their house and come up with a fun punch bowl recipe. It made for some pretty interesting celebrations let me tell ya!

The punch bowl has since been retired, but we still love starting our nights off with a cocktail. The problem always seems to be how do we make this cocktail fun and different (aka not a margarita!).

Enter the Mexican Mule made with Barritt’s Ginger Beer!

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This cocktail involves our girls night in favorite ingredient: TEQUILA! It’s our go-to spirit so we were excited when we found out it was the secret ingredient in this recipe.

To make the most delicious Mexican Mule this side of the Mississippi, you will need:

  • Ice
  • Tequila
  • Jalapeno
  • Limes
  • Barritt’s Ginger Beer – comes in diet too!
  • Moscow Mule cups or mason jars if you want to be extra cute!

Recipe:

  • Fill the glass halfway with ice.
  • Pour 2 oz. tequila (about a shot and a half) into the glass along with 1 oz. lime juice and 4 oz. of Barritt’s Ginger Beer.
  • Add jalapeno for heat. You can also leave this out, but I can’t handle a lot of heat and this added some nice spice for me.
  • Stir it all up!
  • Garnish with a lime and drink up!

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The Barritt’s Ginger Beer really cuts the tequila well. One of my friends even said she couldn’t tell there was alcohol in it! That’s a good thing because no one wants to be wincing after every sip, but also a warning to not add too much tequila!

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You can look up where to buy Barritt’s using their website, but it can for sure be found at Target and Mariano’s (and even 7-11!).

We only tried the Mexican Mule last night, but Barritt’s also has great ideas for other types of cocktails like an Irish Mule or a Pimm’s Cup, so definitely check out their recipe section too!