Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011

Closing the door on 2011 feels pretty good, personally. It wasn't an easy year for us, so knowing that when we wake up tomorrow we will be waking up in a new year feels AMAZING. But being the ever-optimistic person that I am, I find it fairly easy to look back through the year and see all the amazing things that went on in our lives.

Here are just a few of the highlights:

We saw a LOT of live music. To name them all would be tough.

I became a founding member of the Denton Women's Collective.

I donated my hair to Locks of Love for the second time.

My brother turned 25.

The Rangers went to the World Series for the second time.

My cousin got married in August.

One of my best friends, Kim, got married in November.

Ryan & I celebrated 3 years of marriage. I made a little slide show to celebrate our time together (since 2002) and realized I never posted it anywhere! Ryan & I watched it together on our anniversary, and even though its been almost two months, I am going to share it here anyway. It is nothing compared to what my immensely talented friend, Lindsay, can do, but it was so fun and emotional for me to do it myself.
(Video features "Next to Me" by Sleeping At Last)

So, 2011, I happily bid you adieu as I look on towards 2012 feeling hopeful. Happy New Year to you all!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Christmas 2011 was a great one. It's been a tough year for us, so I think we went into it with some skepticism, but it ended up being one of the best Christmas', for me at least, in a long time.

Our tree was bursting at the seams with wonderful gifts.

It started with an amazing Christmas Eve dinner and the annual viewing of Home Alone with Ryan, Mom, Frankie & me. Then Christmas Day breakfast and opening presents with Ryan, Mom, Frankie & me, followed by our good friend Kevin coming over for a late afternoon finger-foods-feast and watching A Christmas Story and Elf. And our awesome weekend was closed out on the day after Christmas, opening gifts with my Dad and Donna, complete with an awesome sushi dinner. The whole weekend was just wonderful.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Peppermint Platter

Oh, Pinterest. How I love you and your crafty ideas.

This morning, my friend and co-worker Heather greeted me with a smile and "have you seen the peppermint serving tray on Pinterest?"

My eyes grew. I hadn't. But I knew I needed to. I looked it up and saw image after image of these adorable serving trays made of melted peppermints.

So, of course, I had to try it.

I gathered my supplies. All 3 of them. Various peppermints, parchment paper and a cookie sheet. I pre-heated the oven to 350* and starting arranging. (I quickly learned that perfection had to be tossed out the window for this little project.) Once I was happy with the look, I popped it into the oven.

I waited.

And watched.

Once all of the peppermint candies were melted, which took about 10-12 minutes, it was ready.

I did my best to pop the little bubbles that had formed with a toothpick, but candy bubbles are stubborn. Then, I just left it on the counter to cool. It slowly became less sticky as it cooled, but I plan to mod podge it just to seal it before I use it.

I cannot wait to use this on Christmas - I am going to serve my homemade fudge on it!

Give it a try! It's pretty foolproof. :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Christmas is here!!! Christmas is here!!!

Well, in 4 days anyway. But in my heart? IT'S HERE!!!!

I found this cute little Christmas questionnaire on Mandey's blog and you know how much I love stuff like this. I couldn't resist. I LOVE Christmas nostalgia, so this was extra fun. Enjoy - AND MERRY CHRISTMAS! :)

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? Both. I love both.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Well, Santa didn't put our presents under the tree. He filled our stockings (and some of THOSE presents were wrapped) and then left our big presents unwrapped and by the fireplace.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? BOTH! We always had colored lights on the tree and house, and then eventually went to colored on the tree and white on the house. Ryan & I do colored on the tree and both outside.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
No, but my Mom and Grandmom always did. Maybe I should…

5. When do you put your decorations up? Ryan & I decorate after Thanksgiving usually. I think we did sometime between Thanksgiving and the first week of December growing up.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish? Well, really my favorite thing to eat around Christmas is all sweet stuff. Homemade cookies, candy and fudge. And of course, a Stein’s coffee cake that is shaped like a Christmas tree that we have gotten every Christmas of my life. It is NOT Christmas without that coffee cake.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? I have several. (Mom, get out the tissues.) I had 3 jump out in my mind right away. 1 – My Granddaddy reading The Night Before Christmas to us on Christmas Eve. Sometimes he would read The Cajun Night Before Christmas. There was just something so magical about hearing that story in my Granddaddy’s sweet Mississippi accent. 2 – Making Christmas cookies with my Mom (and Grandmom on the years they came here for Christmas). 3 – The church we went to until we moved to Flower Mound when I was 8 had this big craft making event in December every year. We would go as a family and each station had a unique Christmas related craft; a necklace for Mom, an ornament for Dad and one year I made this thing out of newspaper and panty hose that hung around a door knob for my cat to play with. Then, after all the crafts were made, we got to sit in Santa’s lap.

I also think about my Gram putting bows from the presents in her hair, and my Gramp and Dad putting together our toys for us. Man…I love Christmas nostalgia.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I don’t really remember actually. If I’m being honest, I don’t think I’ve ever FULLY stopped believing. Which is why I cry during every single Christmas movie. I mean, I remember when Frankie stopped believing and my Mom talking to us about Christmas Spirit being alive in all of us. But, yeah, there is still a part of me that so badly wants Santa to be real, that I’m not sure I’ll ever lose that feeling. (Go ahead, you can make fun of me now, I don’t care.)

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? When we were kids, we got to open one gift on Christmas Eve. Our babysitter from when my Mom worked, Peggy, sent us a book for Christmas every year, and I always chose to open her gift every year so I could read a new book before bed on Christmas Eve. She passed away a few years ago, but as long as I live, I will think about her and her books every Christmas Eve.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Growing up, it was a mixture of handmade ornaments and ornaments we got as gifts. Which is perfect, if you ask me. Theme trees are cool, but they aren’t for me.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? LOVE IT!!!!! But I live in Texas so, it’s rare. Someday I will live in a state where it snows on Christmas. Like, every year.

12. Can you ice skate?
I can, yes. But it’s been years and I bet it would take me a while to get the hang of it again.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
That’s an easy one. The year I got my American Girl doll, Molly, stands out as probably the best Christmas for me. I still treasure that doll.

14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you? The time spent with family. And Christmas Spirit.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Fudge, Christmas cookies and my Mom’s homemade candy (Crème de Menthe balls, Bourbon balls and Buckeyes).

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Well, I already mentioned Stein’s coffee cake. That’s a big one. Also, we watch Home Alone on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day every year. And we have our “nice” dinner on Christmas Eve and then just do appetizer/finger foods on Christmas Day. And looking at Christmas lights! Ryan & I have started going to Deerfield in Plano every year. It makes you feel like a kid again. Oh! Oh! And I LOVE Christmas cards!

17. What tops your tree? Ryan & I have a gold star that lights up. Growing up, we had an angel holding a bunny that my Aunt Judie cross-stitched for my Mom.

18. Which do you prefer: giving or receiving? Giving, and watching the receivers open the gift by far. That’s a good part of the Christmas morning excitement for me.

19. Candy canes: yuck or yum? Yum. Especially the spearmint ones.

20. Favorite Christmas movie? I've never met a Christmas movie I didn’t like, but I’d have to say Home Alone. And tied for second place: A Christmas Story, Elf, This Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life. Oh, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. And Prancer! Okay, this is getting out of control, I’m moving on.

21. Saddest Christmas song? That Christmas Shoes song. I change the station.

22. What is your favorite Christmas song? I truly could not pick one. It would end up like the movies question. I LOVE Christmas music. All of it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

DWC's Very Merry Pinterest Party

Sunday night, the Denton Women's Collective hosted our first annual Christmas party. (Thank you Brittany for offering up your digs for the party!) Since most of us girls are obsessed with the virtual pin board Pinterest, we decided to make that the theme of the party. So, everyone picked a recipe or two we'd seen "pinned" to bring and share.

One thing I'd seen around the interwebs was a growing trend of collecting every one's cell phones during a gathering so that the attention was on the people you were with, not the things happening on your cell phone. I wrote a cheesy little poem and all the girls were excited to set their phones down for a couple of hours.

Back to the Pinterest part of the party. I had seen the cutest "Melted Snowman" cookies and decided to give it a go. I ran into some major minor stress over decorating their faces so I threw in the towel before adding their buttons, arms or accessories. But, they tasted great, which it always the most important thing to me anyway.

All of the girls executed their Pinterest inspired recipes brilliantly! Everything was delicious.

It was so much fun kicking back and just hanging out with all of these girls.

We also had a special guest; the head counselor at Flower Mound HS came to film a little short segment for the high school announcements to continue the good message of Finding Kind!

As part of our effort to better our community and the world around us, we collected Toys for Tots in lieu of the traditional "White Elephant" type exchange that might happen at a Christmas party like this. You can see some of the toys at the very bottom of the picture. :)

It was such a fun night with some really spectacular women!

Friday, December 9, 2011


"Silver" is a word that was introduced into my vocabulary at a very young age. Mostly because my maiden name contains the word. But, there were other reasons as well.

The (second) biggest reason I knew this word, this color, so well was because I recognized it on my father's head. I don't really have memory of my father without silver hair. When I was very young, he was salt & pepper but with each passing year it was much more salt than pepper. For the majority of my life, I knew I had 'my Dad's hair'. People would tell me how lucky I was when they would discuss my thick, naturally curly hair. Well, not a week after my 18th birthday, I got another taste of 'my Dad's hair' when I found my first. gray. hair. I plucked that sucker out and marched right up to him.

I waved the strand in his face and yelled, "DO YOU SEE THIS?!"

And then, he laughed at me. LAUGHED!

Looking back, I think he was laughing because he knew what the next 10 years would hold for me. Lots more where that came from. By 25, I had a noticeable amount of gray and could no longer pluck them out. So, instead, I started to color it.

Now, my hairdresser assured me years ago that my hair is not gray. She insists that gray is flat and dull. My hair is turning silver. And just over three years since the first time I colored it, I have stopped. (Which doesn't mean I won't ever again.)

My Dad says I look sad in this picture, I assure you I am not.

A lot of people ask me why I don't color it anymore, and it's a funny thing really. A NEW thing for me. All of the sudden, out of nowhere, I decided it doesn't make my hair less pretty. Or make me look old. Or is something I should feel ashamed or embarrassed by. Quite the opposite. It's a part of me. And more importantly, its a part of my Dad, of my Gram, that I get to keep forever.

So, this morning, as I was fixing my hair, I snapped a picture. The 'silver' isn't faithful to the front of my hair anymore. It's started to sprout all over. See?

And I smiled. Because I kind of love my silver hair.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

To My Younger Self

Last week, Mandy posted a letter to her younger self and it reminded me that I had done the same several months ago...but never did anything with it! After all the time we spent on Finding Kind, it seemed and appropriate time to make this letter public.

It was tough to write; revisiting the things that I've been through since I was a teenager. But then it was joyful, because those things totally shaped who I am today. I highly encourage you to do the same. It was extremely therapeutic.

Me, at 16 and 17.

Dear Teenage Rachel,
You know more than you think you do, if you’d just listen to yourself every once in a while. Music will never stop being important to you so don’t walk away from it…even when you really, really want to. Take advantage of your slim figure while you have it…because you’ll spend the rest of your life trying to get it back. You don’t need a credit card at 18 - You’ll regret it later. Listen to your friends and family when they tell you a boy is no good for you. They see things you don’t. You’ll waste too many years and tears. Money matters little in the grand scheme. Please remember that. You will be so rich in love and friendship, which will be so much more important than any dollar. You also need to remember how strong you are. You will experience a great deal of loss. You will lose a best friend to tragedy, and while it might never stop hurting, it will make you appreciate your life so much more. You will have your heart broken - more than once - and one of your broken hearts will be at the hand of the one person who was never supposed to do that. But, he will and you will survive it. You will also HEAL a broken heart, and you will fall in love with that heart. You’ll marry him, too, so don’t worry so much about your happily ever after. You’ll change a lot in your twenties, and you’ll be so glad you did, so let it happen naturally and don’t try so hard to grow up. Once it happens, you can’t go back. And most importantly, don’t ever, ever forget to love yourself and be true to WHO YOU ARE…’cause you’ll be great.

Love, 28-year-old Rachel

Friday, December 2, 2011

We Found Kind

I'm struggling to even find the right way to start this post...every time I start to write, I find my mind going faster than my fingers can keep up. ::Deep breath::

This week has been monumental.

Remember in September when I first talked about Finding Kind? After months of hard work, planning and meeting we, the Denton Women's Collective, teamed up with Flower Mound High School to present this amazing documentary to the female masses.

Promo poster hung in the hallway at FMHS - Photo credit: Lindsay Van Meter

It is no exaggeration when I tell you - my life changed this week. After two screenings, we got to share this film and its amazing message with roughly 1200 women and girls. My eyes are filling with tears as I type that incredible number. And being able to do all of this at my high school alma mater?! Words cannot even express how I felt. Seeing these girls who are walking the same halls I walked, being impacted by the Kind Campaign movement leaves me with a feeling I've only experience a handful of times in my life.

November 30th, we shared the message with 550 girls and women - Photo credit: Lindsay Van Meter

December 1st, we shared the message with 650 girls and women - Photo credit: Lindsay Van Meter

After the film, we held an open forum-type discussion. We were all so floored by the willingness of these amazing girls (and women) to stand up with a microphone and share personal stories, things they'd witnessed and ideas they had for changing the harshness of "girl world". During the post-film discussions, we asked them fill out a Kind Pledge card and an Apology card to pledge how they would become more kind and to apologize to someone they may have been unkind to at some point, respectively.

The Kind Wall, covered with Kind pledges, a sight that brought me to tears - Photo credit: Lindsay Van Meter

SO many people deserve thanks and credit for making this amazing event possible. First and foremost, to Lauren and Molly, the film's creators, for shedding light on this growing problem. And more locally, to one of my best friends since the 4th grade and fellow founding member of DWC, Brittany Sassaman, for spearheading this entire movement. Thanks to the other members of DWC for volunteering your time and being as excited and passionate about this as we were. And last, but most certainly NOT LEAST, to the counselors, administrators and PTSA members at Flower Mound High School for doing so much to make this dream of ours a reality. I can say without hesitation that this would have been impossible without their help.

I will leave you now with my favorite quote from the movie. "We may not all be beautiful. We may not all be smart. We may not all be talented. But we can ALL BE KIND."

If you would like to know more about the Denton Women's Collective or the Finding Kind movement, please click on the names above, or contact me via comments.