Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas 2012

It's been crazy around my house for the past week so this post is going to be brief, but I wanted to take a moment and give my poor, neglected blog some attention. I don't have any pictures ready to post, but if I'm being honest, I might just forgo that whole idea this year. I was spoiled rotten once again but my amazing husband and family...but I'm not going to post a million pictures of the gifts that we opened. It was a wonderful day, I just don't feel the urge to shove "LOOK AT WHAT I GOT" in your faces. Instead, I'm going to tell you that in the next few days, I am going to share some of the recipes that we enjoyed over the holiday! I mean, that's what you'd all rather read about anyway, right? :)


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Its The Busiest Time of the Year

Yes, it is the MOST WONDERFUL time of the year...but we have also officially entered the busiest time of the year.

At least, it is for me.

My calender is busting at the seams as I fill up any free time I once had. Honestly, looking at it makes me feel a little exhausted. It's all happy, exciting stuff, but this former social butterfly has become more and more of a homebody over the last few years, so I will totally admit that sometimes I have to pump myself up for things. ;)

In the meantime, if you notice a void where new posts used to be, it's just because I'm throwing myself headfirst into this jam-packed calendar of mine. :)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful

Today is day for giving thanks. I always feel thankful for the big things in my life like my loving husband, my brother, my parents and family, my friends and my job. I have the most amazing people in my life - you all know who you are. But on Thanksgiving I like to take time to really be thankful for the littler things too.  If you follow me on instagram, you might get bored. Sorry. ;)

I'm thankful that my hubby is handy so he could repair our utensil drawer this morning so I could get to my essential tools for Thanksgiving cooking!










I'm thankful for the apron my brother got me for Christmas last year. It makes me feel glamorous while I'm slaving in the kitchen!

I'm thankful I have access to things I usually take for granted, like aloe gel, to treat my inevitable burns. I'm a clumsy cook!

I'm thankful for recipes that get passed down the generations, like my Grandmother Wylie's Apple Crisp.

I'm thankful I get to spend Thanksgiving with two of the most important men in my life.





I'm thankful for our two furbabies, who fill our current "children void".
I'm thankful for the delicious meal we shared, all made from scratch except for the rolls (ran out of time).
I'm thankful that in this tough economic year, we always have food on the table.
I am SO thankful for dessert! ;) (Apple crisp and Pumpkin Roll)

I'm thankful for the roof over my head that provides a safe, comfy home for my boys to nap in.

This has not been an easy year of us, but it's so nice to stop and recognize all the wonderful things we have to be thankful for. And there is so, so much.

Happy Thanksgiving, all! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Product Review - It's a 10!

Oh Hair. You fickle thing. I've discussed my complicated hair ad nauseum on my blog, but to sum it up for anyone who hasn't heard it before...my hair is naturally curly, thick, coarse and FRIZZY. Once I started to really care what my hair looked like (my teen years), the hunt for perfect products began. Super moisturizing shampoos and conditioners. Deep conditioning treatments. Serums and mousses and balms. You name it, I've tried it.

For the longest time, I would wash, condition and deep condition in the shower, then use a anti-frizz serum AND a mousse and/or leave-in balm.

So. Many. Steps. 

I thought it did a pretty decent job...but it was a lot of products (and money). Then several of my friends starting talking about this spray-in treatment called It's a 10. Miracle Leave-in Plus Keratin to be exact. I did some of my own research and decided to pick up a trail size bottle at Ulta.


The "miracle" part of the description was no lie. I could feel a difference in my hair after just the first use! About a week in, I stopped using my anti-frizz serum and balm altogether.

I didn't need it anymore.

My hair was getting softer, more shiny and most importantly, SO MUCH LESS FRIZZY. Fixing my hair is far more enjoyable, too. It blow dries smoother so I don't have to flat iron each section twice like I used to. And it stays smooth basically all the time once it's fixed. That is a whole new world for me! I used to carry a smoothing balm in my purse and I'd apply it several times a day. No more of that! My hair just looks and feels so much healthier.

See the difference for yourself...

Below is a picture I used in my post about the Dove Evolution campaign. Long before the wonder that is It's a 10. Post blow dry used to equal poof and frizz:

 Now, it's almost smooth enough to wear as is after just blow drying!

I mean, is it obvious yet that I am IN LOVE with this product? In case it's not, let me try it this way. THANK YOU It's a 10! I love you!

Try it! You won't be disappointed.

*Disclaimer: I am not being paid or compensated by It's a 10 or Ulta in any way. This is simply an opinion from my personal experience.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Christmas Came Early

Ryan and I share our love for the holidays that occur when the weather is cool. Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Years, Valentine's Day...but mostly, Christmas. As soon as one Christmas comes to a close, we are thinking about the next. We love shopping for others, we love the holiday foods you only eat once a year, we LOVE the cooler temps, and we love decorating.

In my house growing up, my Mom transformed our house for the holidays. She had a box for each holiday of the year...and many, many boxes for Christmas. Our house turned into our own private Winter Wonderland, and I grew accustomed to that. So, when the weather starts to turn chilly, I get excited to transform our little apartment too. Usually we decorate on what most people call "Black Friday". (I don't participate in that madness. I loathe it, actually. I digress.) BUT, this year we decided we were ready for a little Christmas early. And I am SO glad we decorated. It just makes me happy.

Setting up the tree - I took the bottom layers, Ryan took the top.

We love our "hipster" holiday Pandora station! ;) Stockings by the fire, Cooper under the tree, lighted garland hung around the living room. Love it all!

Our little tree. With a really bright bow on top, haha.
Some may call us crazy for decorating so early, but to us it really is the most wonderful time of the year, and we want to be in it as long as possible. :)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Product Review - Ardell Lash Excel

I don't like making broad generalizations, usually, but there is one that I stand by 100%.

Women love when their eyelashes look amazing.

No seriously. We do. Have you seen the insane amount of mascara available to us? It's because we are all about our lashes. Nothing else we put on our eyes looks as good without it. And I say "we" because I am no different. I own a ridiculous amount of mascara for one person. But its because I'm constantly trying to find that one magic tube of black goo that will make my eyelashes PERFECT.

I have pretty average lashes. They aren't super long or super short. They aren't very dark on their own. And they are a very moderate thickness. I also have one eye of lashes that behaves (right) and one side that sticks straight out and does NOT like to curl (left). Like I said. Average

For a long time I have thought about lash enhancing options. But they are expensive. All the lash serums I had heard about cost $50 or more for a tube. Out of the question. There are also lash extensions. I have friends that swear by them, but they are also expensive and just like fake nails or hair color, you have to maintain them. No thanks.

Well, finally there is another, less expensive, option. I'm talking $15.

Ardell Lash & Brow Excel

After lots of research and reading online reviews, I decided to take the plunge. I dropped into Sally's Beauty Supply and picked up a tube. It's been about a month and a half since I started using it, and I'm starting to see a difference! 
After picture taken 11/9/12
I should have taken a before picture on the first day, with only mascara on...but I just didn't think about it until I started thinking to myself, "My lashes seem longer". So, I dug up a picture of a make-up look I'd tried to use as a comparison.They totally look longer, right? The most interesting thing is that I am sprouting NEW lashes. There are about a dozen little short lashes on each eye...so I am eager to see what those little guys do as they grow.

At first, I really just noticed length, but I'm starting to see a little increase in thickness also, maybe because of the seemingly new growth. One of my bffs was looking at me the other day and I looked down at something and she said, "WOW! Your lashes basically just touched your cheekbones!" Of course she was kidding, but they ARE longer.

Overhead view
They are starting to touch my eye brows when I look up
Now listen, I have no doubt that if I would cough up the money for one of the more expensive brands, I'd be seeing crazy results...but I've been pretty happy with the changes I am seeing so far. And for considerably less money? That's a WIN in my book.

Want to know a sad fact? When I was telling Ryan about this product and that I was starting to notice a difference, he said, "I don't think I've ever really noticed your eyelashes."

Dead stare.

I mostly blame that on him being a dude who has never, in his life, thought about his own (thick, long, dark) lashes. But he constantly compliments my eyes. Its actually a running joke. And when I do anything that further enhances my eyes, he notices. I just don't think he has given eyelashes, as a separate entity, much thought. Well, when these puppies are long enough to braid, I bet he'll take notice. ;)


*Disclaimer: I am not being paid or compensated by Ardell or Sally's in any way. This is simply an opinion from my personal experience.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kind Founders

Last night, I had an experience that will forever be one of the best moments of my life.

Unless you are brand spanking new to this blog, chances are you've read posts about the Denton Women's Collective and our work with Finding Kind. Collectively, we have done 5 screenings now and are working on a few more in the near future. It has been an amazing gift to us to be able to spread this message...but we always hoped and dreamed that we would eventually get to meet Lauren and Molly, the inspirational founders and film makers.

Well, last night, that dream came true for us! We found out that they would be speaking at a high school in the area and we jumped at the chance to be able to see them in action. The anticipation grew as Lindsay reached out on various social media outlets to let them know we'd be there. It was a whole new experience for us, being in the crowd instead of leading, and being able to see how Lauren and Molly interacted with the girls was so special.

Lauren and Molly, speaking to the group
After the movie and discussion had wrapped, the five of us waited (sort of) patiently for an opportunity to speak with these amazing ladies. Much to my delight, they are just as kind and genuine as they seem on film. As we met and hugged them and started to express our appreciation of them, they were doing the same! Thanking US for spreading the kind movement in our area. It was an absolutely surreal moment, chatting with these two and having them pay us such sweet compliments, when all we are doing is spreading the message they started.

Members of DWC with Lauren and Molly!
L-R: Stephanie, Me, Shell, Brittany, Lindsay
Lauren, Molly
After we snapped a few pictures and discussed future plans, we parted ways...with very full hearts. It was a night I will never forget, as Lauren and Molly have made such an impact on my life. And Britt, Linds, Shell and Steph, I am SO grateful I got to experience this moment with you.

I'm still smiling.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Our Fourth Anniversary

November 8th was our FOURTH wedding anniversary (time flies y'all), but since it was on a Thursday, we decided to celebrate on Saturday night. We planned a low-key date night this year, which was new for us - including a strict "no gifts" rule. We don't go to a lot of movies (we are all about Redbox in our pjs) so, we planned on just doing dinner and movie.

Our obligatory self-pic
We headed to a nicer-than-where-we-usually-go Mexican restaurant for dinner and enjoyed the atmosphere a little too long because on our way to drop the left overs at home, we realized we were probably not going to make it to theater before the movie started.

Super grainy picture
But since spending time together was the main reason for celebrating our anniversary, we were perfectly content snuggling up on the couch and catching a movie on TV. After all, part of the celebration is that we still love just being together, no matter what the plans are, right?!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Ants Go Marching...

My drive home yesterday was traumatic.

Let me paint you a picture.

A few minutes into my commute home, I merged onto the highway and reached the optimum (and legal) cruising speed of 70 mph. Upon entering the highway, I turned my a/c on high. (Yes, high. It's in the high 80's here in Texas right now. Which is SO rude. But I digress.)

Moments later, I noticed there was something spitting out of my air vents. Soon its progressed from spitting to raining. I felt it pinging against my face but I thought maybe it was pollen or moisture or something NOT terrifying. Like an idiot, I just pointed the vents UP and kept on trucking.

Then I glanced down at my shirt.

And there I discovered about 20 little ants, just crawling around.

I immediately started to panic and I glanced around my car and realized there were ants EVERY WHERE. Hundreds of them. On my face, in my hair, on my clothes, all over my passenger seat and dash board, and some had even made it into the backseat.

I zipped over to the nearest exit and whipped into the first parking lot I saw. I jumped out of the car and started brushing and shaking the ants off of me like a crazy person. I flipped my head upside down to shake out my hair...and ants were falling onto the ground. (YOU GUYS. ANTS. IN MY HAIR.) After I felt I'd sufficiently gotten these pesky little insects off of me, I started to try and brush off the seats. I got as many as I could before I called Ryan SOBBING (because my first reaction to EVERYTHING is tears). He offered to come meet me and drive my car home, but I felt like that was ridiculous in rush hour traffic so I bucked up and got back in my car.

The remainder of the drive home, I could just FEEL them all over me...and I was watching as the survivors of my initial seat-brushing crawled all over my car.

This picture does not do the incident justice. This is after I'd brushed about twice as many out of my car. But, all those black dots are ants. And on the right side, there are about 20 in that crease of the seat.

Ryan met me in front of the garage and immediately put the shop vac to work as I ran upstairs to get out of my ant infested clothes and shake out my purse. Ryan said he thinks I parked on an ant hill at some point and it was either yesterday and they'd crawled into my engine or it was a while ago and the ants laid eggs...that hatched yesterday. Either way...I was terrible and I am still traumatized.

Fingers crossed that I won't have to bug bomb my car and those ants go marching two by two...to ANYWHERE else.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Rachel Battles The Bulge

I've posted about my struggle with weight before on this blog.

I'm one of those people who NEEDS to express myself and often times writing is the "easiest" way for me to do that.

But I also don't want to force people to read about my weight when they really stop by my blog to read about "lighter" (pun intended) subjects in our lives. Yes, I know, weight is part of my life, but still...I never liked mixing that in with my other posts. It just didn't feel right to me.

SO...I decided to bite the bullet and create a separate blog strictly for that.

All the love and support I've gotten while on my current weight loss journey has been amazing...and if you want to keep supporting me, you can follow my journey here: http://rachel-battles-the-bulge.blogspot.com/

But, be warned, as always I will be keeping it real...and it might not always be sunshine and rainbows over there. ;) And it won't hurt my feelings if no one ever reads it. Its just a place where I can express and sort out my thoughts and feelings. And I have a lot of them...

Friday, October 12, 2012

United/Divided

Politics. That's a touchy subject for me. I stand firm and proud with my views, but I don't (generally) broadcast them openly, mostly because I don't want to FIGHT. Recently I've grown more and more disgusted with how split this country has become. We roll our eyes and scoff at others who don't see it the way we see it - I, myself, am guilty of this. We can't understand why "the other side" sees things they way they do, so instead of embracing and appreciating that our differences are okay, we argue and fight and finger point. But riddle me this...How is that productive? How is that helping to repair our damaged country? And what kind of example are we setting for our future generations?

Today, my brother posted a video that sums up so many of the things I've been feeling. It is not for one side or the other. It's for ALL OF US.



I know I can sometimes be a "let's all just love one another" idealist, and I know there will always be lines drawn in the sand and sides chosen, but can we just stop for a moment and remember that we are all Americans?

United, we stand.

Divided, we will fall.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Photo Dump

Kitty overload! Chloe snoozing on my lap, waking up with Cooper next to me, Chloe enjoying the nice weather, Cooper enjoying fresh-from-the-dryer laundry.

Chloe watching Animal Planet.

Put a box on the floor and Cooper will curl up in it.



Yes, I know, that was a lot of pictures of my cats. If you know me at all, this is not surprising. Here, I'll throw one in of us too...just to make it a little less "crazy cat lady". ;)


Enjoying a rare night out. :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

These are a few of my favorite things...

So lately, some of the blogs I stalk read have featured a list of their "favorites" in the entertainment categories of movies, music and/or TV. Three of my favorite things. ;) I decided that I wanted to jump on that bandwagon since I constantly talking about all three of those subjects in my day to day life. I especially love sharing music with people, so this allows me to share movies, TV shows and music that you may not have heard of!



I did a Top 7 for each major category. The general rule is “Top 5” for all but the last category, but 7 is my favorite number, and in all honesty, I couldn’t narrow several of these lower than that so…7 it is. And most of them are in no particular order. I also linked my favorite song by each of the music picks just for fun. :)

Favorite Movies:
-The Princess Bride
-The Wizard of Oz
-Newsies
-Across The Universe
-Cool Hand Luke
-Die Hard
-Boondock Saints


Favorite Music:  

ALL TIME Favorite Classics:

ALL TIME Favorite Current:
-Mumford & Sons or The Flaming Lips are tied for #7. It's not cheating, I swear. ;)

Favorite RIGHT NOW:  (What I can’t get enough of at the moment.)
-The Avett Brothers (They make both lists. And I linked two different songs.)

Favorite TV Shows:
TV Shows No Longer On Air:
-Veronica Mars
-Firefly
-The Killing
-Battlestar Gallactica
-Friday Night Lights
-Weeds
-Sex in the City

10 Favorite TV Shows Currently On Air:
-Breaking Bad
-Shameless
-Game of Thrones
-Mad Men
-Falling Skies
-The Walking Dead
-Rookie Blue
-Sons of Anarchy
-Parenthood
-Grimm

So, there you have it - a little insight into my entertainment psyche! What are your favorites?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Southwestern Quinoa Salad

I used to blog recipes.

And then I didn't for a long time.

But now that I'm dedicated to Weight Watchers and finding new, exciting, tasty ways to feed my husband and myself and still be WW friendly, I'm trying a lot of new things.

Which means I'm going to blog recipes again.

Yesterday, I snapped a picture of the meal I'd prepped for my lunches this week and loaded it into Instagram. Several people asked for the recipe, so I decided this was a good one to start with!

I first found this recipe on Pinterest so I can't take credit...but in my usual fashion, I've tweaked it a bit to fit my taste.

Southwestern Quinoa Salad

1 c dry quinoa
2 c water
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can (or 1 c frozen) corn
tomato (I used 2 roma tomatoes), cubed
1 avocado, cubed
juice of 1 lime (you may want more or less, depending on your preference for lime)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
cilantro to taste
salt
pepper
garlic powder
cumin
adobo

Start by rinsing then cooking the quinoa. Set it aside to cool to room temp.

Mix together evoo and lime juice. Add in black beans, corn, tomato, avocado, and cilantro. Mix well. Then season to taste.

This is where I changed it up. I didn't add any balsamic vinegar like the recipe called for. I just wasn't sure how I felt about it being mixed with these ingredients. Instead, I went with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin and adobo. I seasoned a little, then tasted, then adjusted until I had it the way I like it. Once you have a balance you like, stir it into the cooled quinoa. Then just pop it in the fridge! Easy peasy!

I actually prefer this closer to room temp but it was good right out of the fridge, too. And next time I may try it exactly like she made it, just to see what the balsamic vinegar does with the rest of the flavors.



Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Battle with Testosterone - Update!

Before I jump into the meat of the post, I want to first thank everyone for your kind, loving words and support after my first post. Sharing such deeply personal parts of our lives with the internet can be a scary thing, and the outpouring from everyone squashed that fear. So, thanks. :)

Also, settle in for another long one. This particular situation doesn't benefit from brevity. 

Yesterday, Ryan went in for his 2 week follow-up and I am so pleased to report that my darling husband is improving every day! I am getting my sweet husband back, and the joy that fills me with is indescribable.

I guess I should explain what went down at the initial appointment.

We brought along all the recent blood work that our general doctor had just run a week prior, and settled in for the consultation. When the specialist came into the room, met us and started looking over Ryan's paperwork, he was making me nervous. He kept looking at the blood work results, shaking his head and looking at Ryan. Finally he put everything down and spoke to Ryan with such care and concern. He said "I have seen men with double the levels of testosterone who can't even get out of bed in the morning. You must have some will." No surprise, I started crying immediately. Partly, I was crying because I was so happy someone else recognized how amazing Ryan is for dragging himself through (recent) life while feeling SO terrible...and partly I was crying because he was justifying that this was serious. We talked over Ryan's blood work, the options available, what he suggested and how it would work. I cried a lot. He was kind and patient. He even joked that "its not a successful visit if no tears are shed" as the nurse passed me a box of tissues. After hearing all the options and the doctor's recommendation, we trusted him and took the plunge. Ryan was prepped and received the first treatment right there, on the spot.

What we decided was best for Ryan is an injection of bio-engineered testosterone pellets, which are inserted into his hip area, just under the skin. A small incision is made and then a large syringe puts several pellets under his skin. These pellets are sustained release and last for months, so Ryan will only have to have that done about twice a year. The hope is that eventually, Ryan's body will start producing the correct amount of testosterone on its own and this won't be a life long thing. He was also given a shot of fast acting bio-engineered testosterone to help jump start his system. Within a few days, I was starting to notice little improvements. Things that would make Ryan mad or upset for DAYS were now rolling off his shoulders in record time. He was smiling more. Being more playful. Laughing more. (The sound of Ryan's laughter is one of my favorite things on the planet and hearing it with much more frequency was so very welcomed.) Overall, he was just...BETTER.

Over the last 2 weeks, that has continued to improve. His mood is better each day, his energy level is getting back to where is used to be and I can just tell that he FEELS better. He didn't experience the "light switch" effect that many have described, but considering how low his levels were to start out, that doesn't surprise me. At the follow up yesterday, his doctor told him that he was at almost 500 now, (a HUGE jump from his starting level of 181) and as the pellets dissolve and go to work, he should reach the optimum level of 1000. As for the root cause - well, that's still in the air. They ran a lot of tests and there are several possibilities, but the doctor doesn't feel comfortable making that determination until he sees how Ryan's body responds to the pellets after a couple of months. So, for now, we are just along for the ride. A ride that is getting increasingly more enjoyable. :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Battle with Testosterone

If you know me personally, chances are you know that I am a pretty open book. I have always been one to openly discuss things I am dealing with because the way I see it, if sharing a part of yourself helps just one person, then you are doing something good. I've always been very transparent and real on my blog, I feel, by sharing things about myself...but I've not shared a lot about my husband. Ryan is a pretty private person, which I respect, but recently we have gone through some tough things that I felt strongly about sharing. Luckily for me, Ryan agreed. He jokingly said "Sharing is caring!" ;) I happen to agree.

Per my usual disclaimer, this post will be immensely personal and LONG. 

There are a million reasons why I married Ryan. I could go on for days talking about the things I love about him. But two of the biggest things that drew me to Ryan was his heart and his personal motivation. He is so kind, sweet, thoughtful, generous and loving. And I'd never met anyone who gave as much as Ryan. No matter what he did as a job or to help others, he gave 110%. The year we got married, 2008, I would have described him as "sweet, even-keeled and driven". He had been through some really tough circumstances from 18-22 and while most would have understood why he had a chip on his shoulder, he worked very hard to not be bitter. He remained kind and giving and level headed. 

Fast forward to 2012, Ryan has been laid off by THREE companies due to his career path being one that is seen as a "frivolous" expense and when the economy took a turn for the worse, the A/V industry did too. I was starting to notice that my kind, level headed husband was growing increasingly angry, bitter, detached and less tolerant of things that used to just roll off his shoulders. Most people would probably have just chalked that up to the blows he'd received professionally or that he was forced to work a job he hated...but after knowing him for 10 years, this felt different to me. 

My initial reaction was depression. I come from a family where that is a very openly discussed subject because many of my family members, and myself, have been treated for depression at some point. But it felt bigger than that. He wasn't just "sad". He was losing his motivation. He seemed to be walking around in a fog. He was withdrawing from life. Essentially, he was giving up. I knew there was something serious happening to him, so I made him a doctor's appointment, took a personal day to go with him and basically said "this is what we are doing." I felt like it was important for me to be present. Because of the foggy state he had been in, I wasn't sure if he would be able to accurately explain what was going on. It was as if he'd forgotten that he used to be full of life and happy.

We met with an AMAZING doctor who listened carefully to what we both had to say, prescribed anti-depressants on the spot but then said "I'd like to do some blood work, just to make sure there isn't something else going on inside Ryan's body."  About a week later, he went in for his follow up and we were hit by a Mack truck sized discovery. 

Ryan had dangerously low Testosterone. For a man in his mid-twenties, the normal, healthy level is between 800-1000. Ryan's was a staggering 181.

I was shocked. He didn't have the "well known" Low T symptoms like ED and low sex-drive. But after speaking with his doctor and doing my own research online, I realized that those symptoms primarily effect men who have Low T due to age. As I read over the list of often over-looked symptoms, I started to sob. Depression, mental fogginess/fuzziness, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, loss of muscle, weight gain in the mid-section, and a general feeling of not caring about anything. Check, check, check - as I went down the list I soon realized that over the last year, Ryan had experiences ALL of those "hidden" symptoms. 

His doctor put him on a regimen of shots, but his levels just weren't responding like they should have been and he seemed to be getting worse by the day, so his parent's graciously offered to help us cover the cost to see a specialist to seek another treatment option - one that has been proven to work QUICKLY and WELL. So, I took the afternoon off of work and we will meet with the specialist together this afternoon.

I haven't shared the extent of how hard this has been with many people. For much of the time this year, I've felt like I was married to a stranger. There would be fleeting moments where I would see "my Ryan" still in there somewhere, but over all he was a different person. In the midst of one of the lowest lows he's had, Ryan looked at me solemnly and said "I feel like if you were anyone but Rachel, you would given up and left by now." That statement, which reduced me to tears in an instant, was the main reason I wanted to share our story. He could have so easily have been stamped with "DEPRESSED", put on meds and sent on his not-so-merry way. But our doctor took the extra step and did the blood work. I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that this saved my husband's life and looking 5 years down the road, probably saved our marriage. And, as I mentioned at the very start of this epically long post, if ONE person googles these symptoms and finds my blog, and that ONE person realizes that they or someone they love may be suffering from Low T, then sharing all of this was well worth it. 

Want to know more? Here are parts 2, 3 and 4

Monday, September 3, 2012

Product Review - Neutrogena Tinted Moisturizer

Since my mid-twenties or so, I've felt like I was constantly battling with my face. I was really lucky and had great skin in my teens. I would get a few monstrous pimples a few times a year, but other than that, my skin was clear, soft, not too oily, not too dry. But, around 24-25, something changed. New types of stress, "aging" or hormones perhaps? Whatever the cause, it threw me for a loop. In the past year, I have noticed even more changes. Many of you will roll your eyes at me, but I'm starting to notice fine lines on my forehead and around my eyes. They don't ruin my day or anything, but I don't exactly love them either. Add in this new break-out prone skin with serious dryness and I feel like I've switched skin with a stranger.

When I switched to the Neutrogena Naturals line for my cleanser and exfoliater, I noticed a slight drop in break-outs. Don't misunderstand - they still happen more often than I'd like, but they are slightly less frequent.

But then I noticed my mineral makeup was accentuating the fine lines and worsening the dryness.

I decided that I needed some extra moisture to help combat the dryness, but with my fair skin, going with no coverage on my face at all doesn't really work for me. My pink undertones and pale complexion isn't ideal on its own. So, I made the decision to try a tinted moisturizer. Enter another stellar Neutrogena product - Neutrogena Healthy Skin Enhancer.

 Enhance indeed. 

This is a light, creamy tinted moisturizer with SPF and Retinol mixed right in. This combined so many things into one! It took a product I already used (moisturizer with SPF), added in Retinol (shown to diminish fine lines AND help fight break-outs) and a dash of sheer color. And I just love it. It provides just enough coverage to even out my skin tone while leaving my skin softer than its been in YEARS. And I have truly noticed the fine lines (especially on my forehead) becoming just a little less visible. I will admit that my nose and chin tend to get a bit shiny, so I just dust a tiny bit of translucent powder on them and problem solved.I don't see myself going back to "regular" make-up for my face anytime soon.

*Disclaimer: I am not being paid or sponsored by Neutrogena in any way. This is simply an opinion from my personal experience. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hair Fail

So, if you follow me on Instagram you get bombarded with a nauseating number of beauty-related pictures. As I've discussed approximately a million times, I love trying new things with my hair, nails, makeup, etc, and IG is my outlet for that.

Well, recently I saw a tutorial on one of my favorite blogs, The Beauty Department, and it got me all excited.

Let me back up.

I have naturally thick, coarse, curly, big hair. Some of you think that sounds awesome. Sometimes it is. Usually, it isn't. I prefer to wear my hair straightened because I can get more "wear" between shampooings. And when you have coarse, naturally curly hair, the less you wash it, the better condition your hair is in.

Back to the point. This tutorial was all about extending the life of your blow out. I generally can't wear my hair only blown out without using my Chi to smooth and seal the frizz, but I decided to give it a whirl.

I spend about twice as much time as usual blowing out my hair until it was basically as smooth as I could possibly manage without my trusty Chi. Then I twisted each side into rope braids, as directed, and went to bed.
Proof it was before bed - no makeup, tired eyes.
The next morning, I was eager to see what the result was. I was convinced it was going to be gorgeous. I unraveled the rope braid and ran my fingers through my hair.

Um, no. The Beauty Department lied. Or they cheated. Maybe both. Because the result, was NOT pretty.

Still no makeup, but looking slight more rested? Maybe?
It didn't look so awful from the front, you can judge for yourself above, except it was pretty frizzy. But the back...it was a freaking Roman tragedy.





I kind of can't believe I am even putting this on the internet for the world to see...ew. It basically looked like I slept with my hair in a ponytail and had the WORST pony tail indentations ever. I immediately plugged in my Chi and went to town fixing this mess.

So, here is my thought. This would probably work on someone with longer, naturally straighter and smoother hair. (coughKIMcough) But, it was a giant hair FAIL for me.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Baby Gentry

Two weeks ago today, my dear friend Heather brought a beautiful baby girl, Gentry Grace, into the world! Kim & I went to see Mama, Baby and the rest of their beautiful little family the day after she was born and I was immediately swept up by baby fever. Well today, Heather and baby Gentry stopped by our office for a little visit and I was in baby heaven all over again! Babies are so special. They bring a certain type of happiness into any situation. Before they headed back home, we snapped a quick picture. I hope that someday this beautiful little girl will see this picture and realize that she is loved beyond her realm of understanding.

L-R - Back: Kim, Me
Front: Hydhee, Heather & Gentry, Allison

Your Lakeland family loves you VERY much baby girl (and Mama)!!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Adventures with the Kitchenaid - Brownie Cookies

Yesterday, I took another random vacation day to spend the day with Ryan. We didn't have any plans but to spend time together. We were pretty lazy in the morning, which was so awesome, but after lunch we were both struck by a sweet tooth.

We decided we wanted cookies but didn't have any chocolate chips, so we assessed what we did have and went from there. I based this off of a double chocolate chip cookie recipe, but we used less baking soda and no chips.

That resulted in a most wonderful creation.

The Brownie Cookie.

It's exactly what it sounds like. A chewy cookie that tastes like a brownie. Amazing!


We whipped up the batter together. I love cooking and baking together. :)
 
 The dough will be sticky, but using two spoons I got the dough dropped onto the tray pretty easily.

  Here's the first batch, out of the oven!

 Cookies and milk for the Husband & I to share!
Also, Ryan's foot photo bombed me...

 They were absolutely divine! So soft and chewy.


*EDIT - I made this again but added the peanut butter chips. 
HOLY DELICIOUSNESS BATMAN. 
It did add to the bake time, though.

WITH peanut butter chips


Brownie Cookies
1 1/4 c butter, softened
2 c sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
3/4 c cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 c chocolate or peanut butter chips (optional - but totally recommended)


In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt and slowly incorporate into the creamed mixture. Stir in chips of your choice. Drop spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Bake 8-9 minutes without chips, 10-11 with chips (depending on your oven) at 350*. The cookies will fluff up while baking and flatten out while cooling.

Enjoy!