30 July 2018

Beauty "Rules" I Live By

Go bare-faced often enough so that people are used to seeing you without makeup. If you wear make-up too often, people who see you without it will automatically ask "Are you sick?" or say "You look tired!" and....who wants that?

Find the ever-elusive clothing that is both gorgeous and comfortable. Don't bother having a closet full of ugly-but-comfortable clothing along with cute-but-uncomfortable clothing. The perfect blend of both ideals is out there, so don't spend your clothing money till you find it. Better a small variety of clothing that meets both qualifications than a large variety that doesn't. The same rules applies to shoes. Better one pair that is comfy and very pretty than five pairs that are only one or the other.

Never wear mascara to church {I know myself. I cry too often in church. Mascara just doesn't work for me there.}

Smile! I didn't go through the braces torture treatment at nine years old for nothing.

Always wear sunscreen on the face. I use a mineral/"mechanical" sunscreen because that's what I prefer--I've been using the "Yes to Carrots" brand for years.

Stand up straight. So, funny story. When I was really young, probably about 7 or 8 years old, I learned in school that people could tell who George Washington was from a distance because he had such good posture while riding on a horse. I don't even know if that is true, or part of the legends surrounding Washington, but for some reason it inspired me, and I've been a strong believer in good posture ever since.

Always own one pair of jeans that fit fabulously. Such jeans are difficult to find, and it's probably hard to find more than one pair, but do get that one pair. I have exactly one pair that fit really, really well, and I love them.

Find a good haircut that works with your natural hair texture and stick with it. Also, your natural hair texture often changes throughout make sure your hairstyle works for the hair that you have now, not the hair you had a decade ago.

Get professional photos taken once in a while. It's easy to skip this in the era of digital camera...but once in a blue moon or so...get the professional photos. We had a professional photographer at our wedding in 2010 and then the next time we got professional photos taken was 2017. Both times I am super grateful for. Maybe we won't wait seven years before our next professional photos. Maybe. :)

If all else fails...just hold a baby. Hanging out in the presence of cuteness bestows beauty by osmosis...I went to beauty school so you can trust me on that one.

What beauty rules or policies or procedures do you live by?
22 July 2018

Celebrating 27 Years

What did my birthday look like this year? Neither Angel nor I had work, and it was pretty much perfect!


5:00 a.m. Wake up with baby and feed him. He's wide awake after eating and I put him in his crib, where he rolls around and kicks and talks to himself until Angel wakes up and bathes him and take care of him while I keep sleeping.

6:30 a.m. Angel and baby come back into the bedroom playing the "Happy Birthday" song on Angel's portable speaker to wake me up. Cuddle with Cyrus for a bit, then take my shower, get baby dressed in my favorite pirate ship t-shirt (because babies should obviously wear mom's favorite clothes on mom's birthday), and feed him and put him down for a nap.

7:20 a.m. Chapatis for breakfast! Angel went to pick up a couple of the tortilla-like flatbreads from the roadside food stall while I was feeding the baby.

7:35 a.m. Beginning my sewing project. I had planned on spending my birthday with a good bit of extra free time for sewing and reading. I did get a pretty good headstart on my sewing project of choice the evening before and had several of the big pieces already together. It was a dress for little Sarah using fabric that Mom had bought for me to make her a dress with...back at Christmastime. Oops. Well, in my defense, I didn't have any patterns in her size, and I had to wait for some to be brought to me from America. Together with Sarah, we picked out a dress pattern that had some fun little complexities that I was excited to try out--cold shoulder cut-outs, bell sleeves, criss-crossing straps in the was a very fun pattern.

10:30 a.m. I finished the dress completely! I took a break in between to feed the baby after he woke up and then brought him to grandma's house for playtime while I continued sewing.

I do my pilates workout, which is just following along to a youtube pilates video, and then I do my makeup, and put on my new watch which was my birthday gift from my parents. This was a pretty special gift--my parents gave me a watch for my high school graduation, and I loved it for many years, but a year or so ago, somehow the battery leaked acid into the face of the watch, ruining it. Mom had the idea to buy me a new watch for this birthday, and we went out shopping for it together, and I ended up picking out the exact same watch that I'd originally picked out for my graduation, just in a different color. What can I say? I guess I know what I like? Also, I did actually try on some different styles, and it is not particularly easy to find a watch with a strap and face that look appropriately proportioned on my child-size wrists.

Read my book for a while, Project 1065, by Alan Gratz.

12 noon. A friend stopped by with birthday presents, including a bouquet of purple/pink roses!!

I read for a bit more, and then

1 p.m. Went downstairs to my family's house, baby was still napping, so I opened up presents from my sisters: a polka-dot circle skirt and a craft kit for making paper cacti! Ever since I wrote The Cactus Who Craved a Hamburger, it's become tradition for people to give me things with a cacti motif. We ate lunch together, of fried chicken, pumpkin, and baked potatoes. Then I painted my nails while hanging out with the family. When baby woke up he was hungry, and ate again.

3 p.m. Finished my book.

4. p.m. Time for a birthday dessert! Brownies with candles. Angel had already started cutting up the brownies before we put the candles in, The family quietly sang Happy Birthday to me in the kitchen since Cyrus was napping in the other room, and we ate our snack. After that, I got out the paper cactus kit that my sister had given me and began working on that project.

I like these, because they won't die, unlike the cactus that Angel gave me a couple years ago, which lived for about a year before giving up the ghost.

The family decided to watch The Greatest Showman, which turned into a singalong, while I continued working on my paper craft.

I fed Cyrus again, because at

6 p.m. Angel and I went out on a little birthday date. I'd requested a visit to the beach about 10 minutes away. Which is not the quietest place on a Saturday evening, but I often feel like we don't visit the beach often enough--I never tire of the wonder of the water crashing against the shore, and simply noticing how big the ocean is in comparison to the little island we live on. Since there were a good few people on the beach, it was a good time for people-watching, too. We saw three different couples with professional photographers, doing photoshoots in wedding clothes. We saw a group of people doing very complicated yoga poses that involved people balancing on top of other people.

We weren't sure where we wanted to eat, so first we popped into one new restaurant to look at the menu, and ran into some friends there. Nothing on the menu looked just right for dinner that night, so we walked to another restaurant, this one an old favorite of ours, where we ran into more friends! This is how common it is to run into people you know whenever you leave your house. :)

8 p.m. We returned home, and picked up Cyrus from the family's house. He was in quite an active and alert mood, so after we went home and he had his bath, we all played on the floor for a while, placing toys just out of his reach so that he would push himself around and grab for them, and then I read him a couple Bible stories from his kids' Bible.

9:30 p.m. Cyrus was starting to wind down, so I fed him and put him down, and then worked on the computer for a bit--typing up this blog post, replying to birthday messages and emails...all that good stuff.

10 p.m. Bedtime!
13 July 2018

Spider Encounters of the Worst Kind


I feel like all of my best stories begin with: So.

I was making cookies at my parents' house, and Cyrus and Angel were both napping at home. I ran home to check on them, and peeked into Cyrus's room where Angel was sitting on the couch, holding Cyrus, and he said to me, "Look up in the corner. There's a spider, but I don't know if it's real or fake."

I looked up, and instinctively jumped back. Yep. Spider. "Angel!" I whisper-yelled, because baby was sleeping on his chest, "Did you put that spider there?"

Angel looked at me and said, so seriously that I believed him, "I do not remember putting any spider there."

I ran to get my glasses, took one look with 20/20 vision and said, "Angel, that's a real spider."

He jumped up, ran out of the room to put the baby in his crib, leaving me to keep an eye on the spider and make sure it didn't move.

Angel still wasn't entirely convinced it was actually a real spider, but I was, because the way the legs were posed was not exactly symmetrical, and if you've seen a lot of fake spiders (anyone married to Angel sees a lot of plastic bugs), you know that the legs are almost unfailingly posed symmetrically.

Angel grabbed a mop and a broom...and his laptop and turned on Facebook Live. Because of course.

I stood outside the room holding two sandals in case the spider tried to make a break for it under the door...and that's where the video begins.

After all of this was over and the spider was safely disposed of (I suggested that he take it outside and bury it under six feet of soil, but he didn't go along with my suggestion), Angel obviously decided that the thing to do was to find his toy spider and play with it and Cyrus.

My response? Well, I'm alternating between a laid-back response of "Oh well, that sort of thing tends to happen once in a while" (????) and feeling like I'll never be able to trust my own home again after this sort of betrayal. I was just thinking the other day about when I'll feel comfortable putting Cyrus in his own room at night. The spider incident may delay that date slightly...

P.S. You may notice that in the video we call the spider a tarantula. I don't really know if it's a tarantula or not, and I don't particularly care. Mostly I'd classify this spider as the genus "I really don't want this in my house" and species "don't come back")

P.P.S. Once upon a time, Angel made me watch Arachnophobia. I do not recommend.
09 July 2018

How to Pack for Baby's First Vacation

Step 1: Think to yourself, of course I can do this. I moved across the world with nothing but a husband, two suitcases, and two carry-ons. I've traveled more times than I can count. I spent a week in Japan with just a backpack, and not even a backpacker's backpack, either. I'm a minimalist. Surely, packing for a three-night vacation with a four-month old will be a piece of cake.

Step 2: Calculate how many clothes + burpcloths the infant will need for the 4 days of the trip. A reasonable average is probably 3 outfits per 24 hours. Realize that you don't actually own that many outfits in his current size. Pack all of the clothes that you do own that fit him and hope for minimal baby outfit disasters, but plan on washing baby clothes and burp rags in the hotel bathroom sink and hanging them up to dry overnight (Spoiler alert: Yes, we did that).

Step 3: Pack extra toys in the diaper bag for the long road trip. Pack extra formula powder because sometimes there's no safe place to stop on the long winding roads heading into the mountains to feed a hungry baby. Pack another extra toy. Just in case.

Step 4: Baby gets a little cold before the trip. Pediatrician recommends packing his nebulizer along, especially since he isn't used to the cool mountain air, and it might aggravate his congestion. You enter crazy-protective-mom mode and throw baby tylenol, saline nose drops, nose-sucking-thing, baby nail clippers, and diaper rash cream into the suitcase, because you realize once more that you must be prepared for anything and everything. Husband tells you that your brain is thinking about too many things at the same time.

Step 5: Go to sleep, the night before the trip. You're done. Everything will be fine. A roadtrip with an infant, to a remote area of Malaysia, is no big deal.

Step 6: Wake up, get ready to go, and suddenly remember that you neglected to pack any toiletries for the baby. No soap or lotion either. Whew. That was a close one. Pack the car. Baby's stuff takes up more room than anyone else's stuff, but that's understandable, because baby needed his own bed. Everyone else is capable of sleeping in hotel beds.


Reflecting back on our first vacation with Cyrus, I'd have to say that the absolute most useful things we brought along, other than, perhaps, diapers, were a playlist of his favorite songs, which we used during moments on the car ride when he was beginning to protest his carseat, and a bunch of aunts and two grandparents. Fantastic. Highly recommend. 

More tales to come from our summer vacation, now that I've finished all of the laundry created by the trip.
01 July 2018

"Old-Fashioned Blogging" and Get to Know Me

I was tagged by Callie in an old-fashioned blogging questionnaire, and it sounded like a good idea. I started this blog something like six years ago, and blogging has changed a lot in the time since then, but like any 26-year-old old-lady, I always have a fondness for "the good old days."

1. What is a favorite childhood memory?

I really loved my childhood, and probably could sit around for way too long just telling favorite stories. Like the time my Dad was out of the country and we locked ourselves out of our house, but were able to break in because I climbed over the fence, dragged a ladder outside, put it next to the 2nd story balcony, climbed onto the balcony, over the railing, opened a bedroom window and stuck my arm inside to unlock the balcony door by twisting the handle--then I was able to get in and let the rest of my family in the house through the front door.

I "come from" many different places and remember the past quite well, so I have awesome memories both of working in the garden in the Michigan countryside and helping my mom prepare a freezer full of homegrown green beans....and of dancing on the beach of the Indian Ocean, 30 yards away from my home, welcoming in a new year with family and friends and fireworks. I like the variety my childhood involved best of all.

2.  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I've loved just about everywhere I've ever lived and I tend to feel like I could make anywhere a home. I love where I live right now, and I really enjoyed life in China, and I have really happy memories of newlywed life in Michigan with Angel. I have no intention of moving at this point, but if this were the sort of "money is not a consideration, you don't need to have a job, and you can pick out a place to live purely based on your own enjoyment" sort of question...Bois Blanc Island in Lake Huron.

Odds are I'd be snowed into my cabin for a couple months of the year, but I'd lay in a good stash of books and firewood ahead of time and write stories while drinking hot chocolate. In the warmer months I'd spend all my time outdoors and biking and kayaking on the lake. It would be just like being stranded on a deserted tropical island, only without the tropical climate, and with a ferry to the mainland.

3. What was the last book you read?

Right now I'm reading Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, an autobiographical novel, and really enjoying it. I love books with really memorable characters, and this one is not disappointing!

4.  When you have some spare time, what do you do with it (besides blogging, of course).

I really enjoy sewing when I have a project in mind and a good chunk of time to dedicate to it. Reading has been a lifelong love, and in recent years, 'creating' in the form of writing, blogging, photo/video editing, or lettering, has been my go-to in the free hours.

5. With whom is your longest friendship?

My siblings, in age order. ;) Followed up by some of the Malaysian friends that I've stayed close with since my first week here back in 2004. And I've been friends with Angel for 10 years so he's getting up there.

6. Favorite summer beverage?

It's always summer here. My favorite local drink is ice lemon tea, which is made fresh with strong tea and real limes, but I don't drink it often because I'm not sure if I really ought to drink caffeinated tea while nursing. I also love any fresh fruit juice or the icy fruit slushies Angel makes out of whatever fruit we have in our refrigerator.

7. If you had the opportunity to attend your own funeral, what would you hope to hear people say about you?

In Secondhand Lions, at the end of the movie they say about the two elderly brothers, "They really lived." and I've always felt a fondness for that statement. I want to have really lived. Even more, though, I want to have changed the world for the better and for the more interesting by being in it.

2010 - the week we got engaged

8. All you ladies are married - how did you meet your spouse?

It's pretty well known that I met Angel in college, on my first day. As the "About" page on my blog says, "It was your typical 24-year-old senior meets 17-year-old freshman and eventually comes to the logical conclusion that she would be the perfect wife" love story.

9.  Finish the sentence: "In high school I could have been voted most likely to..."

Be in the movies.

One person even signed my yearbook with "I promise to buy DVDs of any movie you're in!" but I don't think people even buy DVDs anymore. I loved acting, still do, whenever I get any chance in that direction I'll say yes in a heartbeat, but it's not such a big part of the more normal life I've chosen.

10.  Tell us something that we don't already know and wouldn't think to ask you.

I try harder to be normal that I probably should, and even then I don't much succeed. I've been told a few times during my years in blogging that I'm not very 'relatable' to some who read my blog. But I try. When Angel first met my Grandpa, Grandpa took him on a walk and told him, "Rachel 'dumbs herself down' a lot of the time, but don't be fooled by that." 

I hope that as I get older I continue to grow more in 'owning' the way my brain works, as far as memory and learning things without trying to learn them, etc. I ought to err more on the side of being myself than fitting in, sometimes I'm better at that, sometimes I'm worse.