30 April 2014

How to Avoid Grocery Shopping

 (Photo stolen from Angel's instagram)

Grocery shopping is not my favorite way to spend an hour or two. Because of that, I stretch the groceries we buy for as long as I possibly can in between trips, using several key strategies:

1. When we get home from the grocery store, I brown all ground beef or turkey that we purchased, and freeze it in meal-sized bags. Angel chops up the onions that we buy in bulk and freezes them so that I can add them to recipes easily.

2. I plan and eat meals involving fresh fruits and veggies and milk, anything that spoils quickly, for the first 5-7 days after a shopping trip. I cook meals too big for Angel and I to eat at once so that he always has leftovers to take for lunch at work.

3. I save meals involving primarily frozen or dry supplies till I've exhausted my supply of fresh foods with an expiration date. Once we're out of foods that have to be eaten while they're freshly bought, I start making a lot of meals involving rice and eggs and frozen meat and frozen veggies, along with longer-lasting produce like sweet potatoes and some canned goods. That can usually buy me another week, at least. Throw in a "Hey, Angel, how about a date?" and that's one more meal taken care of.

4. Then, if I want to avoid the grocery store even longer, I get even more creative about using the ingredients I have. Baked salmon filets with...a can of Bush's baked beans as a side? That could be dinner, right? Popcorn from my air-popper is a perfectly acceptable lunch. An apple, nearly too-long forgotten in the bottom of the refrigerator makes a bowl of oatmeal positively appealing. And a bowl of frozen broccoli boiled till just barely tender with a side of tortilla chips is really satisfying when you think about it. Angel's not quite as easily satisfied as I am when it comes to strange dinners, but here's where I thaw out the leftover chili that I stashed in the freezer two weeks ago and give it to him.

But, eventually, just when the refrigerator has reached it's near-perfect state of pristine emptiness, I have to brave the trip to the grocery store once more. At that point I'm usually consoled by the fact that now I will have more available to eat than popcorn and broccoli.

Right now we're nine days out from our last grocery shopping trip and I'm betting we can last at least another week.

What chore or errand will you go to great lengths to avoid?
29 April 2014


 Isaiah 11:6-8
"And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze,
Their young will lie down together,
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den."

They didn't mention the bears and the cats getting all friendly, but I wouldn't be surprised if they do. It's gonna be awesome.
28 April 2014

What Would You Save in a Fire?

Notice that my bangs are pulled back--in the universal hairstyle language, that means, "I suddenly decided I hate my bangs." Not to worry, I cut them less than 24 hours after these photos were taken and I don't hate them anymore.
Angel told me recently that he had a dream that he was at our house, alone, and suddenly realized that the house was on fire. He said that his automatic reaction was to go to our closet and grab my entire wardrobe and throw it out of the house, and that his plan was, after saving all of my clothes, to go and grab our fireproof safe if possible.

When he told me about that dream, I thought that his reaction was very strange, but also pretty sweet. I remember always being taught that you shouldn't try to save any things from a fire, just get yourself and those more helpless than you out of anywhere that's burning. But, to answer the hypothetical, "If you could only save one THING, what would it be?"

I'd say my computer plus the two external harddrives that are nearly always plugged into my computer so basically, they're one thing. I'm practical like that.

But my sweet husband says that out of everything we own, he'd save my clothes. And let me tell you something--if it isn't obvious by now, I don't own expensive, designer clothing. He's not saving those clothes because he wants to protect his financial investment (though maybe it's true that he wouldn't want to cover the cost of a brand new wardrobe). He'd save my clothes because he knows how happy I am to wear my silly little dresses and my excessively bright colored jeans. That's pretty sweet, when you think about it.

So, I'll ask you the question. If you could save any one THING you own (not people, okay, that's a given!) from a fire, what would it be?
25 April 2014

Kids Aren't Useless

I was seven years old the first time I mowed a lawn.

Now, that's an extreme example, and not one I'd really recommend. My Grandpa had taken me on a trip to visit my uncle for my 7th birthday and noticed that my uncle needed his lawn mowed, so he set me up in the backyard with the push-mower. He went inside to read his paper and watch from the window, and yep, he had to walk right back out to start up the mower again every time I ran it into a tree or let go of the handle and let the engine die. He'd walk back out, pull-start the engine because I wasn't strong enough to do it, and get me going. He didn't let me quit just because I didn't know how to mow.

That was a one-time thing. I didn't actually start mowing my own family's yard regularly till I was 10. My brother started when he was 8, but that's because he was bigger and stronger.

More and more these days, I feel like I am coming across men and women of my own age who lack basic life skills. They don't know how to cook, do laundry, mow a lawn, or buy a car. They are in the process of learning these skills in their 20s and 30s, when you don't learn new things nearly as quickly as you used to. I also know moms who say that they feel like they are drowning in the tasks of keeping a home and raising their children, even though their kids are old enough to contribute toward household tasks.

I'm convinced it doesn't have to be this way, but for many people, life is this way because they either believe that kids aren't capable of handling real responsibility or that it is 'mean' to ask children to do real work to help their family. In my opinion, kids ARE capable and no, it is NOT mean.

People are often impressed with the mere existence of my Mom, and they should be. She has raised seven children and homeschooled them and for part of that time she had a full-time job outside the home. But it's not as if my mom were an alien, something inhuman who accomplishes feats impossible to anyone else. She has accomplished a lot in life, but it is because she decided to do so and specifically chose to invoke certain strategies, it's not just something that accidentally happened.

I decided to go with a family picture from way back in 2009 to show us all at younger ages. I believe we were 17, 15, 13, 11, 9, 7, and 2 in this photo.

One of those strategies my Mom used was to teach all of her kids life skills from a very early age. From early childhood she taught us to be polite and respectful while also having good social skills by assigning us to greet a certain number of adults each Sunday at church (we had to report back on their names when we arrived at home, or face the consequences of failing to obey), and to smile and respond to people we happened to meet while we were out and about. All of us learned to cook at young ages--starting with peeling the potatoes, stirring the macaroni noodles, and tearing lettuce for a salad. Now any kid in my family over the age of 12 could easily put together a company-ready meal on their own and have all dishes hot and ready, and the house cleaned and presentable, at the same time. Not only the girls, either. My little brother specializes in Indian dishes, but can cook anything he wants to. How many teenage boys do you know who wouldn't blink at the prospect of making chicken curry from scratch for 60 people? 'Cause that's what Isaac made for the main course at my graduation party two years ago.

My family didn't have a dryer for six years, but my Mom didn't break her back doing all washing, hanging, and ironing clothes for a family of 9 all on her own. All of us pitched in and accomplished the task when necessary--no, there was no chore chart or complex schedule of alternations for the job. For my family, the rule was, "If you see something that needs to be done, you do it." Even a 7 year old knew better than to walk past a dirty sock on the floor and leave it lying there.

Because my family lived in an old house for many years, us kids were also brought alongside and taught how to perform basic home repairs and use power tools. I was 12 and my little brother was 9 the first time we worked on a roof (a very, very safe roof with little incline at all), using shingle-eaters during the tear off process, and carefully learning how to use a nail gun when we put new shingles on. Years later, both Isaac and I were able to volunteer with church-sponsored roofing projects as young adults, and had the knowledge and roofing skills we needed to be an asset to our work team (I may not look like a construction worker, but I have no fear of heights and can jump from one roof jack to another with ease).

Homeschooling did not mean that Mom had to take several hours of every day to teach each child all of their subjects. Older kids were often assigned to teach younger kids in their area of expertise. I can remember doling out 3rd grade spelling tests for my little sisters while working on my geometry homework in high school.

I believe that people can be contributing members of society BEFORE they reach the age of 18 (or, with the delayed adolescence effect of our society's expectations, the age of 30). I also believe that, in the short run, taking the strategy of teaching children real life skills can be harder and more time consuming that just doing everything yourself. A mom can peel a couple pounds of potatoes much faster than an 8 year old can, and so the temptation to just do everything yourself rather than take the time to teach is a very real one. But let that 8 year old peel potatoes a couple dozen times, and they'll get speedy. In a couple years, as they gain skills, they'll be able to put together more and more dishes and they'll be better prepared for life than if you simply chose to peel the potatoes for them.

It's kinder for parents to take the hard road and give their children real tasks and real responsibilities while they're still children, so that they're better prepared to be independant adults when the time comes. Take my 17 year old sister Anna for example. She's an amazing little woman in her own right, but she's also skilled at any home chore you could throw at her. If you left her in charge of your house, she could make daily meals and do any cleaning necessary, probably while doing her homework and babysitting a couple of toddlers at the same time and teaching them their ABCs. Sure, she'd watch tv (I recently got her addicted to Once Upon a Time) and read books and have fun relaxation time, but she knows how to motivate herself to work, she knows what needs to be done, and she'll do it without needing someone in charge specifying every step to her. She's 17. To some people, that's an age of no responsibilities outside of caring for one's self, but to Anna, it means that she knows how to handle a lot of aspects of adult life long before reaching her 18th birthday. 

My parents have taken the harder road, and I admire them for that. My Mom didn't do everything for us. When we were toddlers and infants, yes, she did, because we couldn't do anything, but as soon as we were physically big enough to start taking responsibility for little tasks, she'd give us tasks that befitted our abilities. We started with picking up our own toys and making our own beds, and eventually graduated up to cleaning the entire house from top to bottom. She didn't braid all of our hair every day--once the older girls knew how, they were assigned to making sure that their little sisters' hair was never in rats' nest status. Hey, as teenagers we sometimes joked that we couldn't remember the last time our mom cooked dinner! Bad, bad, fishy teenagers.

None of us are plastic people. The seven of us kids have widely different personalities and interests and skills (You should hear me and Lizzy when we get into a fight...or maybe you shouldn' scared Angel...). There have been plenty of times when us kids didn't follow the rules we knew and didn't do the work that we ought to have done--and some learned from the consequences of such crimes faster than others did. But what all of us kids have in common is that we were taught from a young age to work hard and to work well, and that's a lesson I will be sure to pass on to the next generation.

So that's it, my kid-power post. Don't look down on those who are young merely because they are young. Little might you know the abilities of kids and teens unless you give them the opportunity and the education necessary to accomplish big tasks.

Can you remember the first time you were given a responsibility like mowing the lawn? Or washing the car, babysitting your siblings, or cleaning up after a meal?
24 April 2014

Books of a Lifetime

I've long felt that different seasons of my life have been characterized by different books. Here are a few that have been a part of certain times of my life:

6 years old, my first excessively long chapter book: Little Women. The story goes that Mom was reading it aloud to me, but I read over her shoulder, and between correcting her pronunciation and telling her to turn the page because I was done reading already, I exasperated her so much that she handed the book to me and said, "Read it yourself."

Elementary days: Anne of Green Gables (+ all sequels), Little House in the Big Woods (+ all sequels).

Middle school: A Series of Unfortunate Events. The Chronicles of Narnia.

High school: This is when I started reading and falling in love with C.S. Lewis's other works, i.e. Till we have Faces, Mere Christianity, The Great Divorce, and his Sci-Fi trilogy.

College textbooks: A lot of textbooks were boring, of course, but I've kept a few. Notably, all of my Chinese books for educational reasons...and Lament for a Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff because sometimes you just want to read a book that will make you cry for a couple hours, you know?

Night shift: When Angel worked night shift for the first 1.5 years of our marriage, I stayed up late every night reading because I never felt like going to bed by myself. I was introduced to Agatha Christie in my teens, but I read many, many of her Hercule Poirot novels during this period. Spending nights alone in a large empty farmhouse, seems like a good idea to read murder mysteries, right? Most memorable: Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Also, during that time, Angel bought me the entire Cat Who... murder mystery series. Notice a theme?

Newlywed years: Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. Hands down the best and most helpful marriage book I've read, mostly because of the revolutionary theme: "What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?"

Right now: All the Wrong Questions series and other new Lemony Snicket books. The main reason these are the books of right now is because I just found out that they existed a few weeks ago, ordered them, and have been proceeding to devour them with great haste.
22 April 2014

When Marriage Isn't What You Expected

I knew all about the "wives, submit to your husbands" verse before I got married, and as a rather old-fashioned gal, I was 100% ready to  "love, honor, and obey" as the vows say...but as it turned out, that didn't turn out to mean quite what I thought it might mean when I was single. Some of what submitting looks like in real life has surprised me!

Since being married to Angel, I've found that, for me, submitting to my husband looks like:

-Swing dancing with other guys who are better dancers than Angel. He wants me to dance with them for two reasons: 1) So that he can run to the ice cream shop and get himself a chocolate ice cream cone and have a break from dancing and 2) So that I can learn new moves which I can teach him later on.

- Listening to his request that I NOT make him a wonderful, healthy, cooked-from-scratch dinner every single night when he comes home from work. Although he enjoys my cooking, he says that sometimes he'd just love it if I called him and said, "Honey, I didn't cook today so can you bring home a pizza?" So strange.

- Not doing the laundry so frequently. I'm hard-wired to do laundry before it piles up, but for whatever reason he prefers that I only do laundry after a lot has piled up AND he doesn't allow me to wash his uniforms, he washes those himself because of how dirty they are.

- Staying away from him at night. He builds a wall of pillows down the middle of our bed, calls it the "border" and tells me I'm not allowed to cross it because he doesn't want me to touch him while he's sleeping.

- Dressing differently. I come from a modest culture, but Angel's made it clear from the beginning that he detests my floor-length skirts and baggy tunics that I've had for many years, and has requested that I dress differently. In fact he's said that the way I dressed when we first met made him instinctively not want to be my friend (apparently the clothes weren't that big of a deterrent in the end, though). He has asked that I wear shorts and shorter skirts than I ever have in the past, so I do when we're together and the weather is hot. He's generally 100% opposed to all clothes that I consider modest but we find a happy medium in my usual look of knee-length dresses and or skinny jeans and tops. That's an interesting problem for a wife to deal with--a husband who takes a great interest in what I wear and also is vehemently opposed to conservative clothing.

-(And Angel just yelled out to me, "Don't forget to say that I'm totally okay with your clients kissing you on the cheek as long as they give you a $10 tip." That happened once after I shaved off a guy's beard for the first time in 25 years and he was very emotional about it and hugged me and kissed me. I thought it was impossibly awkward but Angel found it both hilarious and profitable.)

I don't know what I was expecting when I got married, but I'm pretty sure this wasn't it. I have certainly learned that being a submissive wife doesn't mean simply doing whatever I happen to think that 'good wives' do, but rather taking into account what my husband would like his own wife to do.

Did any of your spouse's quirks surprise you when you got married?
21 April 2014

How to Not Shop for Clothes

 Crazy wind...

 Quick! Take my picture in between gusts!

I like clothes as much as the next girl. In fact, possible more than some girls. I'm not addicted to shopping, but I enjoy it. However, the only piece of clothing (including shoes and accessories) that I've bought in 2014 (other than these $4 jeans) is this dress. And the primary reason I bought it was because I had a gift card to eShakti so I only had to pay $13 out of pocket for this adorable dress.

I also haven't made a big deal about a no shopping oath or ban of any kind, I simply haven't bought clothes. Here's how I go months without buying new clothes:

1) Be highly motivated.

My motivation is the fact that we're moving in a couple of months and I probably won't even be able to take all of the clothes I already own and love with me. This upcoming move is enough to motivate me both as far as saving money and not adding any more items to everything that we already have to pack. If there's no motivation, no reason to avoid buying new clothes, you might as well buy them!

For other people, the motivation may be something different. Needing to save money to buy something more worthwhile than clothes. Having a closet that's already overflowing. Planning to be wearing a different size of clothing soon. For me, it's the prospect of moving.

2) Don't hang out in the mall long enough to fall in love with something.

I love the mall. It's silly, but I do. I couldn't stay away forever, but my strategy is to only go with Angel. Angel walks very fast and I don't have the time to fall in love with a new dress, but I still get the fun of looking at pretty things and interesting people, which is why I really love the mall.

3) Be a blogger.

Obviously I don't count accepting clothing reviews as "shopping"--and you can bet I'm taking that fuchsia dress eShakti sent me for review with me when I move! But as a blogger who occasionally gets a new piece of clothing to review, that can satisfy that slight itch for something new in the closet!

4) Love the clothes you already have.

I love my wardrobe. Maybe I'm biased, but my dresses and shoes, the ones I already own, are my favorite dresses and shoes in the whole world. Choosing outfits out of what I already own is a happy process. I think not shopping would be much harder if I didn't like the clothes that are already in my closet. In my opinion, the foundation to being able to skip shopping for months at a time is to build a closet of clothes that you truly enjoy wearing.

I don't feel like I'm missing out by not shopping, even if the sparkly and colorful things still catch my eye.

What's the longest you've ever gone without buying anything new?
18 April 2014

Are You Trying to Make Me Angry?

I was mad. Very mad. No one would listen to me, nearly everyone was ignoring the seriousness of the situation.

It all started when Rebekah brought the polar bear into the house. Yes, a real live polar bear. She was so happy to have found a new "friend" that she failed realize what might be the consequences of bringing a huge predator into the house. Sarah and MaryGrace seemed to love the polar bear too, and Angel was nowhere to be found. Only Mom and Dad recognized the seriousness of the situation and immediately began working on calmly luring the bear out of the house.

Rebekah, the one responsible for bringing a polar bear inside the house.
I left to assess the situation outdoors, but was dismayed at what I saw. Polar bears were everywhere--all over the yard. And not only polar bears, either. Lizzy was out there, hugging a bunch of pandas and hanging out with some hyenas. I gestured to her violently from the window to come inside to safety (well, it would be safe once Mom and Dad finished luring the polar bear outside), she saw me, and ignored ny gesturing, preferring to hang out with her animal buddies. I was muttering under by breath: "This is JUST like her. Always wanting to be friends with animals--Lizzy, sure, you think they're cute now, but these bears could kill you. With one swipe of their claws they could mangle you. Don't make me run out there and drag you inside. You don't understand the situation. This is dangerous."

Lizzy. She just looks exactly like the type of person who WOULD hug pandas and pet hyenas, doesn't she?

With my sister outside, breaking my heart by continuing to put herself in harm's way by continuing to play with hyenas, pandas, and polar bears, I got even angrier when I realized what had caused this whole mess in the first place: There was food garbage all over my lawn. All of a sudden, I realized that my grandpa had decided to save money on garbage removal by disposing of all food waste--eggshells, potato peelings, chicken bones, wilted lettuce, in my YARD and this garbage had attracted all of these animals. What was wrong with these people?

At least Mom and Dad were on the side of sanity, even if no one else was. The polar bear was safely outdoors and away from us, and the little girls were safely playing with their dollhouse, but now my parents and I were conspiring about how to safely get outdoors and bring Lizzy inside whether she wanted to come or not. We knew we couldn't make any kind of ruckus and she'd have to go willingly or the animals might be incited to attack...

...And then I woke up. No wonder I feel tired in the morning after adventures like that all night.

Anyone else dream like this?
17 April 2014

Chicago Adventure

I'd been craving a just Angel-and-me getaway for some time now. We decided it would be a better idea to plan travel after the icy roads were done for the season, so we used Airbnb (2nd successful Airbnb booking!) to reserve an apartment in downtown Chicago for two nights.

During our 48 hour getaway, we were able to accomplish a variety of adventures, including but not limited to:

-Visiting friends
-Taking the subway/train/whatever they call it
-Visiting Chinatown, where Angel found a new favorite snack: dried fish.
-Learning to play Settlers of Catan
-Eating appetizers at Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine (sweet potato fries were amazing!)
-Eating chocolate cake at The Cheesecake Factory (because Angel detests cheesecake)
-Walking lots and lots of miles.
-Wandering around the mall at the Watertower
-Eating lunch at Frontera Fresco, purely because we'd been to the Frontera Fresco in the international terminal at the Chicago Airport before when we were in transit, and Angel loved it.
-Exploring the Field Museum
-Exploring Navy Pier, including the (free!) Smith Museum of Stained Glass and Crystal Garden and drinking a (not free) smoothie from Jamba Juice.
-Watching the latest Once Upon a Time episode on ABC.
-Working out in the gym at the apartment building.
-Eating dinner at Chipotle.
-Watching 5 episodes of Psych on Netflix.

I wanted to hit up the Lincoln Park Zoo, too, but Angel wasn't up for another several mile walk in 37 degree weather with no earmuffs, so we decided to relax more than we would have had the weather been nicer!

 Our view of a snowy and rainy mix from the 37th floor apartment.

 Mandatory River Photo

 Interesting advertisement battle.

 The actual skulls from the very scary lions from the true story of man-eating lions which inspired the movie The Ghost and The Darkness. (In a strange turn of events, once upon a time someone gave us a DVD player which had The Ghost and the Darkness DVD inside we watched it. Otherwise, I probably never would have heard of this terrifying tale)

 This mineral was exhibited at the 1893 World's Fair and they let us touch it! (The sign said we could)

 My favorite stained glass picture from the museum.

 I was quite enamored with this fountain in the Crystal Garden.

This was Angel's favorite museum exhibit, of course.

We also learned a few lessons about city life, and its differences from small-town life in West Michigan:

-You ride elevators a lot more. And I don't particularly enjoy having to rely and wait for an elevator to get in and out of my own home, but when you're staying on the 37th floor, you don't have much of a choice because the stairs don't sound fun either.

-Angel learned first-hand that people in the city are much less trusting, probably with good reason. A bunch of people were getting on an elevator, and the lady in front of us was having a hard time pulling her rolling suitcase onto the elevator because of the little ledge, so Angel bent down and put his hands on her suitcase to help her lift it over the edge and she immediately started shouting at him to get away and get his hands off of her stuff. I'm guessing she felt very threatened and scared because of what he'd done--though I do think she overreacted, of course that's because I know and trust Angel. He apologized to her when we all got into the elevator but she continued to yell directly at Angel and all the other people in the elevator who were not affiliated with the incident--I felt so bad for the other people in the elevator, including our friends' baby who started crying because she was scared of the yelling. Angel probably should have known better than to do that in the city. Where we live, it's normal to do stuff like pick up something someone dropped and hand it to them or catch a blown-away grocery cart for them or, say, help someone pull their suitcase over a ledge, but it doesn't seem  appropriate in a large city. Next time we'll wait until someone asks for help to assist. Or maybe Angel won't. I can't quite always predict what he'll do. He says he doesn't mind getting yelled at, he's used to it because of his job. But I can relate to the crying baby because I was quite nervous, myself!

-There is construction everywhere. I don't know if this is normal for Chicago or if it's construction season, but there was construction in the building we stayed in, the street we were staying on, the Field Museum, AND Navy Pier. Construction everywhere!

-The city is so much more fun to cheapskate-me when we don't have to pay to park everywhere we go. Our apartment included a parking pass, and after we arrived, we walked almost everywhere we went (we took the train to Chinatown). The museum and Navy Pier and other adventurous places start to sound so much more appealing when you don't have to pay $20 for parking everywhere you go. The weather wasn't ideal, but we still conquered!

We returned home on Tuesday with sore legs and interesting memories.
15 April 2014

Just Hangin' Around

I almost forgot about this one (as is probably obvious due to the snow on the ground). But it's a good one, it doesn't deserve to be forgotten.

Funny story: That's not Angel in the bear costume. I'm not sure he could hang by his knees anymore...can you?
14 April 2014

Standing in the Middle of the Road is Dangerous

Rachel: "Angel! I had a brilliant blog post idea! Next time we take outfit pictures, we have to go stand out in the middle of the road to take them, because lots of fashion bloggers do that, and then I can write about what it's really like to stand in the road and take pictures!"

Angel: "Ummm, okay. You know that the speed limit on our road is 55, right? Those bloggers probably live in residential areas with a 25 mph speed limit."

Rachel: "So?"


Taking outfit pictures in the middle of the road feels illegal. It gives you an adrenaline rush like no amount of taking outfit pictures indoors could ever give you. It's also against everything my mother has ever taught me. What are the odds that by some miracle she happens to not read this particular post? Because that would save me a scolding.

It was a strange experience, involving lots of giggling and lots of attempting to keep my hair from blowing in my face...but that's normal. What wasn't normal was having to vacate our photo taking spot twice during the 5 minute picture-taking adventure because of cars approaching from either side, and sheepishly waving to them, wondering what the drivers thought when they spotted two people in the middle of the road who appeared to be engaging in an impromptu photoshoot.

I hope their thoughts of us were kind. Perhaps they even admired my dress. But I'm guessing it's more probable that it was something along the lines of, "What are those crazy people doing in the middle of the road? Move!!"

From what I've noticed, people don't seem to think especially kind thoughts when driving.

I doubt this is an adventure I will participate in again. Once upon a time, I got hit by a motorcycle that ran a red light. You would think I would have learned my lesson by now. Choose safety and stay out of the road.

But just this once, I did it. For the thrill, of course. But that's enough thrill for this dangerous woman.
11 April 2014

The Envelope System: Marriage Edition

Angel and I have been apart much more than we're used to over the last few months--a total of about 7 weeks since August. Since we've been married, we haven't been through any long-term separations, the longest we've been apart has been three weeks. Most of the time, when we're not in the same place, it's just for a week or a weekend...but even these short separations aren't the most fun.

I got the "envelope system" that I use when we're apart from what my Mom did for all of us kids when she and my Dad left us with our grandparents for a couple weeks and traveled to Israel (that was something like 13 years ago now!). She had paper bags with dates written on the outside, and every day we got to open one bag, which always ended up being a treat that we got to share: sometimes a snack, sometimes a couple coloring books or a new videotape for us to watch. As a kid, I loved it, and, obviously, since I still remember it 13 years later, it ranks up among the top special treats of my childhood.

When I have to go away and leave Angel at home for whatever reason, I decide to apply the system my Mom used for us kids to give my husband a fun treat while I'm gone. I'll get a bunch of envelopes, either one for each day or one every couple of days, depending on how long I'll be gone and how ambitious I am, and I'll start filling them with things that I hope will make his day happy.

I look at his work schedule ahead of time so that I can plan treats according to whether he'll be working that day or not. A couple examples of what I've included in envelopes include:

1) KitKats, Reeses, or some other incarnation of his favorite candy.
2) $5 and a note telling him to go out to Culver's for a burger (this is particularly special because I neither eat nor encourage anyone to eat fast food. But sometimes the rules can be relaxed...)
3) A typical love note.
4) A photo of me, in case he forgets what I look like.
5) A to-do list (okay, okay, I know, that doesn't sound like a treat, but to-do lists are my thing, they're they way I am, and I will typically throw in a few fun activities along with reminders of things that he really shouldn't forget while I'm gone like paying the cellphone bill...)
6) Glowsticks.
7) A toy or treat for our cat.
8) Some other really random item that just screams "ANGEL!" to me when I see it. i.e. something involving LEDS, Balloons, fake know, the usual stuff.

I could use paper bags instead of envelopes, I just use envelopes because that's what I usually have in the house. It doesn't take me long to put envelopes together before I go on a trip, but it helps me with missing my husband because I feel like I'm still showing him love even from a distance.

And, for the record, so far I've noticed that candy, money, photos, and glowsticks get the best reviews from my husband. That probably reveals something about his personality. Candy>Romantic Mushy Stuff, any day of the week.

How have you said "I miss you!" from a distance?
10 April 2014

WBBE: A New Hairstyle

When I saw that today's creative challenge on Elah Tree was a new hairstyle, I knew I just had to do something about that.

It's been all too long since the last installation of "Worst Beauty Blogger Ever," my occasional series which pokes fun at the fact that I'm a rather odd fit for the title of beauty professional. My hair is excessively long and heavy at the moment (some of it reaches past my shoulders. Gasp!) and people I love are attempting to blackmail me into keeping it long.

Something had to be done. I've been rather attracted to this Rosie the Riveter style of tying up my hair in a scarf for a while but didn't know how feasible it would be or how attractive it would look in real life. I found out that it's very easy, or, at least, it became very easy once I figured out that in order to tame my naturally volume-loving locks enough to get them to fit in the scarf, I had to stick a couple pins in and put the rest in a low ponytail before I put the scarf on. I curled my bangs to give the look a bit of glamor, and that was it!

Also, you'll notice that I actually wore eyeliner and lipstick. My eyeliner is my famous coordinates-with-my-hair liquid eyeliner but the bright lipstick was provided by Influenster in partnership with Rimmel for review. The color is "As You Want Victoria" and I love how vivid it is.

So, what do you think of this look? Am I erring TOO far on the side of creative and wacky, or can I pull this off? Would you try, or have you already tried the retro headscarf look? Bonus: it's just as good as a hat for disguising stubborn hair days!

08 April 2014

Crossing State Lines

Does anyone else get exorbitantly excited to spot the "Welcome to {Insert New State Here}" signs when on a road trip? I love them. I'm sad if I happen to be napping when we pass by one. When I'm pretty sure we're getting close to the border of a different state, I keep my eyes fixed on all the road signs so that I can spot the new state sign as soon as possible, and I try to snap a photo of the sign as we go by.

I've been on a lot of long road trips in my day. And when you're in the middle of an 18 hour drive, there's just something about those signs at state borders that add a bit of excitement to a long, unbroken stretch of highway driving.

When your vacation days are limited, when there's 18 hours of driving ahead of you, making stops along the way, or taking it slow and exploring the countryside as you go doesn't always make sense. Sometimes the longing for adventure must be tempered with practicality.

But those state border signs are always there. While the look of the countryside may or may not change dramatically from one state to another, those signs are the proof that all of a sudden, you're somewhere new.

They are different from state to state, too, you know. Some states have very artistic welcome signs at certain borders. Other border crossing are neglected and a little dilapidated. Sometimes the signs are different colors. I'm never wearing my glasses when I'm a passenger so I usually don't even catch sight of them until we've almost passed them, but every time, they merit a cheer. Hooray!! We're in Indiana, or Georgia, or Oklahoma, or Kentucky! Hurray!

Maybe it's silly to love a sign on the interstate, but I then again, I never claimed to be a serious kind of person.
07 April 2014

My New Purse


What do you think of this new purse?

My sponsor this month is Corlie of Red Buffalo Trading. She sent me this handbag from her shop. I am consistently impressed with the unique accessories sold through this online store.

Now, us ladies are often drawn to particularly pretty things. But Red Buffalo Trading doesn't merely offer pretty things. The concept behind all of the accessories they make is that they focus on using traditional art from SE Asia to create modern accessories to wear and use.

There's a special focus on incorporating vintage embroidery created by tribes in the Yunnan province of China as well as surrounding areas. As someone who embraces embroidery as a hobby myself (remember this tablecloth?) I am especially intrigued by the stories Corlie tells on her blog about the meaning behind different stitches and about the tradition of embroidery in minority people groups. The handbag I was given is one that features a panel of vintage embroidery on the flap (similar bag available for purchase here).

Corlie so obviously loves and respects the minority cultures of Southeast Asia and the beautiful artwork that they create, and through her shop she gives us the opportunity to show off a tiny bit of that artwork through a purse, or pair of earrings, or bracelet. (Seriously, you guys, just look at this bangle!)

I so appreciate that Red Buffalo Trading isn't a mass-producer of all-too-trendy things to wear. When you order from them, you know you're getting a unique item, one made with plenty of love and respect for the culture that produced it. Read Corlie's blog for the behind-the-scenes info about her life in China and the work that goes into designing and creating pieces for her shop.

Now, I've got something special for you guys today, giveaways are rare around here but Corlie is giving away a pendant made out of recycled scrap metal from bombs that were dropped on Laos in the 1970s.

As per usual rules and regulations, this giveaway is only open to residents of the U.S.A. and will be open for 1 week. I will notify the winner by email. Read the Terms and Conditions for any further rules, and have at it!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
03 April 2014

What About Giving Stuff Away?

 Well pre-growth spurt as here I am about 8 years old (the biggest one, in plaid) and and there are only five of us. We are so well-dressed in this photo, I think it's probable that we were going to church.

When I was 11 years old, I spontaneously grew out of all of my clothes. In the preteen growth spurt years, I think that's a fairly common happening. However, that didn't help the fact that now I didn't have any clothes that fit, and as the oldest and still biggest of 6 kids at the time, there were no hand-me-downs for me, and with money tight and lots of kids who constantly grew out of their clothes, my parents weren't about to go out and buy me a whole new wardrobe.

It was at that opportune moment that a friend's mom dropped off a bunch of bags of clothes that her daughter had grown out of. Among the huge pile of clothes I received were eleven pairs of jeans that just happened to fit my newly larger body.

Now, let me tell you. I had never owned half that many pairs of jeans. And, if it had been left up to my mom to purchase clothes for 11 year old me, I wouldn't have gone naked...probably after a couple months of squeezing into "flooded" pants, she would have bought me 2 pairs of Walmart jeans. But here, simply given to me, were eleven pairs of not-Walmart jeans. These were brand name jeans. I don't remember the brands anymore, but they were whatever brand names were cool among pre-teens in 2002. Hot stuff.

They were simply given to me. My parents didn't buy them off of my friends' mom. I don't think they'd even asked around to see if anyone had clothes to give away. They were given. And though many years have passed since then, and I'm able to buy my own clothes, I remember when I wasn't, and I remember what I was given.


That story explains why I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of selling stuff that I own. I can understand selling one's possessions in certain situations. Sometimes, it may be the best thing you can do. Perhaps when you're money-broke but stuff-rich, it may be the only way you can pay your bills or get rid of debt. Maybe for those who spend a lot of money buying something very expensive, and then decide they don't want it, they're uncomfortable with the thought of "losing money" after changing their mind about the item.

I've read about a lot of people who are in our situation, moving overseas, who have a home set up here, but will need to completely start over with a new home, and selling their possessions is a way to raise money to furnish their new home. It makes sense.

And yet, I can't help but feel uncomfortable with totally embracing that strategy in my own life. Yes, I won't need my winter boots where I'm going. Maybe I could consign them or garage sale them and make $7 off them. But I happen to know that my little sister wears the same size shoe as I do and has holes in the soles of her well-worn boots, and, like many a college student working their way through school, doesn't have a lot of cash for "extras" like boots without holes in them. What is $7 to me when I could keep my sister's feet dry?

Angel and I talk about how we're going to get rid of some of our largest possessions. I'm not saying we'll never sell anything, in fact, we probably will end up selling a few things. I don't know anyone who wants our semi-ugly but in great condition couch, so maybe we will list it on CraigsList...the bikes might go on Craigslist too. Angel calls his car "reliable," but it's the kind of car that's best for someone who knows what they're doing and can perform all fix-its himself when it breaks down from time to time. I've told him that I don't want to burden anyone I know and love with that troubled car, so we won't be giving his car to a family member or friend. I'd rather him sell it for a reasonable price to a stranger and be rid of the thing. However, there's also our grill. The grill we searched long and hard for our first summer together, the grill we splurged on because we had big plans for many years of family barbecues. Could we sell it? Probably, it's only 2 years old. But we happen to know a family whose grill has broiled its last hamburger, but they don't have the funds to replace it. I think I know where our grill will be going.

I'm not opposed to making money, though it could probably be argued that I might not be the sharpest when it comes to making a buck. When I see winter coats that I won't be using in the tropics, and a kitchen table that won't fit in my suitcase, I don't automatically see dollar signs. I see opportunities to give the way I've been given to.

So yeah. I could be worried about what Angel and I are going to sleep on when we arrive in our new home and are faced with the prospect of procuring a mattress. And what we're going to eat on when I no longer have my dishes. But, strangely, I'm not worrying about that. Yeah, I'm not making the sharpest deals around here, I'm not selling all the stuff I can't use at a fair market price so that I know I can buy replacements. You won't see a "Shop my Closet" sale on this blog because the clothes that aren't coming with me are headed for the closets of my sisters, cousins, and friends.Worst comes to worst, we'll live without some of the nice possessions we've enjoyed during our years here.

Making money isn't a bad thing. I'll gladly charge you for a head of highlights or a couple hours spent editing your self-published book or for ad space on my blog. The world runs by money, and I understand the need to make a living. But there's something powerful about giving stuff away. And not just the sucky stuff that you couldn't sell if you tried, either. Remember, all those years ago, those weren't Walmart jeans that were given to me. They were the good stuff. I'm sure those jeans could have been sold, that money could have been made. But, instead, they were given to me.

Years later, I remember those jeans when I pack up a box of yet-unopened home appliances and linens that we'll never be able to use to give to relatives who just bought their first home. It's my hope that some of the stuff I'm able to give away blesses others as much as those jeans blessed me.


When have you been given something that met a need in your life?

Or, when have you been able to meet someone else's need?

I bet almost everyone out there has someone in their life who might be in need right now. I challenge you, one of these days, choose to meet a real need in someone else's life instead of choosing to pad your wallet with a couple extra dollars worth of fun money. I think it'll be more worth it in the long run. After all, someday, a decade from now, there might be someone writing a blog about how she still remembers those old jeans you gave her when she didn't have the money to buy her own.
02 April 2014

My Fiance, Andrew.

Time for some random funny stories about Angel and his name:

There was some confusion about Angel's identity the first time he visited me in Malaysia when we got engaged. Some of my friends who heard of him found it hard to believe that "Angel" was really his name, and a rumor was started that actually, his name was Andrew. Because Andrew kind of sounds like Angel, right?

So, at our engagement party, we received more than a few cards addressed to Rachel and Andrew.

When my sister Anna found out that Angel didn't have a middle name, she bestowed upon him her favorite name of all time, taken from a character in a book, so now Angel is officially known as Angel Geoffrey G.

All too often, Angel introducing himself meets with a variety of comments:

"Is that your real name?"

"No, really, what's your real name?"

"You must be quite an ANGEL to have a name like that!"

"Isn't that a girl's name?"

*Someone immediately breaking into a song that includes the word angel in the lyrics*

And, the ever present,

"Oh, I know someone else named Angel." Which of course proves how cultured and educated in the ways of mankind the person is--look, this isn't the first time they've heard such a name. Sometimes they bring up the pro golfer, Angel Cabrera.


They say that they have a grandson-in-law from El Salvador (which clearly makes them experts on all matters involving Spanish-speaking people groups) and proceed to ask Angel if he moved to Michigan to be a farmhand and work in the onion fields.

Angel doesn't mind much. He tells the people who doubt that it's his real name: "It's my stripper name." And he points out that everyone who makes a joke about his name seems to think that they are hilariously original--but they're not. He's heard it all before. He would also like to point out that Gabriel and Michael, the named angelic beings in the Bible, are traditionally used as male names.

All this to's enough to make me grateful for having one of the oldest and most common female names of all time. Also, Rachel doesn't rhyme with anything, and almost no one sings songs about Rachel. It's an awesome name. And no, there will never be an Angel the Third in our family. What jokes have people made about your name?


Also, on the topic of misunderstanding, anything in this post was a complete and utter fib--in fact, all of it is pretty much the precise opposite of anything Angel and I are likely to actually do. My Dad's birthday is April 1st, so I always feel duty-bound to celebrate it in style.
01 April 2014

Big News for Today

We have successfully bought a house! This must be shocking news, I know, because I've never really given any sort of clue that this was our long-term master plan.

Obviously not the actual house key, because this one looks much cooler.
It'll only require a slight move, it's closer to where Angel works, because he's planning to take advantage of some management and education opportunities which will have him at the hospital more often.

It's an older house, but after living in our 120 year old house, Angel thinks he can handle a 60 year old house which needs some renovations but at least has plumbing and electricity.

Now that we'll no longer be renters, Angel plans to turn Morphine into an indoor cat.

Angel's parents bought us a new bed as a housewarming gift. My parents have promised to buy us curtains because they know I'm opposed to spending money on such things.

Due to adult responsibilities involved in a mortgage, I'm actually going to start working full-time at a salon owned by one of my hair school teachers.

Oh, and in related news, Angel finally got that Rachel's tattoo on his shoulder that I've always talked about, and I got my nose pierced, because cosmetologists can have nose piercings. Pictures to be revealed at a later date, except not the tattoo, because shoulders are too scandalous for this blog. Who knew a date at the Screaming Needle could be so painfully fun?

What can I say, it's a big day that calls for big announcements!


(I did a post of this sort a year ago today--it made people a bit angry at me, so I thought I'd carry on the tradition. That's a good reason, right?)