Rachel Awtrey

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Posts tagged Lifestyle
The Felt Hat I Love 😍

One of our favorite Awtrey conversation games is Happy + Crappy. It gives a chance to talk about things we love (or didn’t love) about a trip or an experience. Communication is key, they say. 🖤


In general, here’s parts of my happy + crappy list from Spring so far 👇🏼👇🏼👇🏼
Happy: Motown music, oat milk lattes, grilling out, my herb garden I want to plant, cheap Amazon finds like this hat, car washes, @behindtheblisspodcastideas, safer beauty ☀️
Crappy: pollen, gluten hives (iykyk)


What would you say are your happies + crappies? Would love to hear them! 😂💕

Keepin' It Real
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Life’s fun, ya know?
Im thankful to share a piece of mine with you over here on Instagram and for all of the friends, new and old!
But, you need to know one thing: I like to keep 👏🏼 it 👏🏼 real 👏🏼
After all, we all need to be met in our moments. Whether it’s the soiled laundry because you forgot to switch it to the dryer in time (guilty), the fight on the way to date night, the playlists with the perfect combo of rap and worship, the frozen meals put in pretty bowls so you can take credit for supper (thank you Trader Joe’s) and everything in between,
I gotchyou, girl!
Here’s to making pretty out of our mess, letting people in to see “behind the bliss” and doing all of the fun crazy moments together. 🤘🏼

These "Suck" - Your Top Hand Vacuum Recomendations
 
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Thomas and I are looking for a hand vacuum to use in our home to pick up all of the little Remi hair’s around the house. The other day on Instagram, I asked you all your recommendations for Hand Vacuums and I got those and lots more! So, I figured I’d share with you what all I got!

P.S. Thomas and I have (and use everyday) the iRobot and recommend it all the time! We just want a hand vacuum to use in little corners, knick knack spots and to vacuum the car when needed!

Embrace the Pain
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Have you ever been so dang grateful for everything that you just want to cry because you don’t know what else to do to express it?? Maybe it’s just me 😂 take a moment and write a list (or think of one) of all the things in your life that you’re thankful for: stability, a family, memories, the ability to dance if you wanted to, people that love and support me, you get the gist.

All of a sudden, the things that stress you out or make you mad seem to sort of dissolve. Funny huh?

Reflecting on the blessings we have and don’t deserve, the grace that’s been offered to us, makes all the stretching (😉), all this discomfort, all of the tension and pain worth it. Because stretching makes you more flexible and flexibility allows movement.

So if you’re wanting movement or strength in your life, embrace the stretch.

Galentine's Day at the Summit
 
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As much fun as Valentine's Day is for some of us, I know it's not celebrated by everyone. But, have you heard of Galentine's Day? It lands on February 13th and it's the time to celebrate all of the girl bosses, best friends, and side kicks in our life. So, grab some cupcakes, champagne, a good chick flick, and celebrate those BFFs!

Galentine's Girls Night Suggestions:

What to snack on

  • Trader Joe's salted popcorn
  • Chocolate Gluten Free cupcakes from Trader Joe's
  • Your fave wine or champagne
  • Get fancy with a cheese board

What to do

  • Watch a favorite movie
  • Play a fun card game (like Cards Against Humanity) something to get everyone laughing
  • Exchange gifts

What to watch

  • 13 Going on 30
  • Definitely Maybe
  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
  • Along Came Polly

What to gift:

Gifts are tricky, especially for your friends. What if they don't like it? Will they be able to use it? How much do I spend? These questions always crowd my brain when it comes to gift giving to my BFFs. You feel like you know someone until you have to buy them a gift...ya feel?
I've put together some of my favorites ranging from $15 - $50 so you can pick your gift based on the set budget! For me, it's so easy to find anything that I'm ever needing at The Summit in Birmingham, Alabama. If you're in the Birmingham area, I highly suggest going to do your shopping there. You have Free People, Lululemon, Anthropologie, Madewell, West Elm, Sephora, Kendra Scott, Athleta, and way way more all in one place. I'm so grateful I can walk around and get all of my shopping for friends completed all in one trip!

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Colorful Breakfast for Slow + Rushed Mornings
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Early mornings are my thing. I love a good morning where you have time to wake up, eat what you want, prep yourself for the day before the chaos starts. This breakfast is for those type of mornings (plus, it's very colorful and great for energy + power).

What's plated?

Blueberries

"Leftover Scramble"
2 Eggs
Baked Chicken
Goat Cheese
Spinach
Sriracha Sauce

Orange Juice

Coffee


SHOP THE PICTURE


My January Favorites
 
 

I'm all about cleanliness as far as what I'm putting on my body and it's been a struggle to find a clean yet efficient deodorant but I think I found one!! I'm loving it so far! I snagged it in Sephora and looked it up here and it gave me the green light. Using the EWG App has been a lifesaver to filter through what's "good" and "bad" for me these days. This deodorant has a sweet, tropical smell + it goes on like normal deodorant: no paste, no chalkiness. 

2. This Spotify Album

 
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I have been JAMMING out recently to this worship album by my friend Emma Warren. She is killing the game and has the best version of "King of My Heart" I have ever, ever heard. If you haven't listened to it but worship music is your jam, too, click the here and it'll take you to the Spotify album or click here for Apple music.

3. This Nail Color

I've been getting gel manicures for a while now and keep going back to the color "I Canolli Wear OPI" and I'm obsessed. It's the greatest cool color for the winter. It's a great mix of a classic grey with a hint of blue - it's great for people like me with lighter skin and wants to make your skin tone look a little warmer. HELLO, give me that.

4. This Sweater

I am obsessing over this sweater and have been wearing it around the house, to the movies, around town running errands and date night. It looks like a coat but has a neckline like a professional cardigan but feels like a robe. Can I get an amen??

5. This Lip Color

 
 

Berry is the way to go this season and this lip gloss (not sticky) in "Fig" is the best berry color I can find. Plus, did I mention it's "clean" too?

6. This Snack

 
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Thank you Trader Joe's for providing the yummiest snack (that comes with a Gluten Free option as a well) for the Holidays. They're called Candy Canes Think Oreos with a peppermint twist. Gimme, gimme, gimme.

 

Travel Packing List

After traveling miles and miles this summer from South Carolina, San Francisco, Wine Country, Oregon and beyond, I think I've got this packing thing down to a science. Here's the list that I use to get ready! (I use to have it in the Notes app in my phone but created a little more fun picture to make packing less awful). Grab a glass of wine, put on some slippers, turn on some jazz and get to packing!

Anything missing that you'd like to have on your packing list? Let me know, below!

Doin' Up Your Dorm Room

BEDDING

It's the one thing that you'll want to splurge on because it's the place you'll come home to, sleep, do homework, take a quick nap in between classes. You'll want it to be the most comfortable and inviting part of your room. At least, that's my theory!

As much as I love white and bright, I'd suggest light bedding but maybe going with a grey. This way, it doesn't look super dirty and you don't have to worry about any stains and such. This is why I love this grey duvet comforter so much! It's linen so it's very very soft and comfortable but also light (so, great for all seasons).

I love cotton sheets but I also really really love jersey sheets. They're softer and stretchier to me so they're easy to change (important if you have a bunk bed) and they're perfect to bundle up in after a long night of studying!

Another "must", as far as comfort goes, is a mattress topper. Most likely, you'll be using the mattress that the university gives you and to be honest, it's not quite a mattress in my opinion. So, to add a little "fluff" I used this mattress topper and slept like a rock every night!

Nothing completes a bed like a headboard. I know, I know, it's silly to have a headboard in college but trust me! It makes alllll the difference in the look of your room. It gives the room a "finished" and "polished" look. Changes the game!

ORGANIZATION

A dorm room is a tiny space, that's not new news to anyone. Let's make the most of the space that you have and make sure all of your belonging are organized properly!

When you host people, you're most likely going to want an ottoman or seating for your guests to sit. Why not make that seating storage as well? That's why I love this storage ottoman! You can stash snacks in there, your shoes, socks, you name it!

I also needed a place to put my hairdryer, my curling iron, straightener, etc. I didn't want to just leave them on the ground and I didn't have a drawer I could fit them in. So, I purchased this styling tool holder and never looked back. It locked on nicely to my lofted bed and it even had a place for cords so it didn't look messy all of the time!

Any kind of basket, you'll find a need for! Go ahead and buy a few cute ones that can blend in as decor like this fringe basket or this pom pom basket

You'll find, too, that you're taking home a lot of important papers or coupons or letters from home. These wired desk organizer are a great place to store all of these sweet items. And to make sure your jewelry doesn't get all tangled up, a jewelry organizer like this one or this one is great to have on your vanity!

DESK

If you're not studying at a Starbucks or the library, it'll probably be here, at your desk in your dorm. And when you're not studying, there's no need for this space to be an eye sore. 

DECOR

This! Now, this is what makes your "home" your "home"! It's the fun little gadgets and gizmos that make it a comfy place to live, to block out the cinderblock walls and to add some color!

YOU'LL FIND THIS HANDY

These are a few things that you'll probably wish you had if you didn't go through and buy these things. They're the "fun stuff" that keeps you happy and keeps your life a little more simple.

Dry erase boards are great to put inside your dorm room or even on the outside of your door so that people can leave sweet messages, encouragement and communicate something you may need to know! This marbled + gold one is especially cute. 

Bed risers are one thing, but bed risers with an outlet plug on them is a whole 'notha level! It makes plugging in your chargers that much easier! No more climbing under the bed or trying to reach in a crazy place to plug something in! Along with plugging things in, make sure you have plenty of extension cords and make sure that these fit the fire code in your building.

There's probably other rules about being able to hang stuff up on your walls: no nails, no screws in the wall, no holes, etc. So, these sticky strips to put on the wall last all year, my wall decor never fell and they fit standards!

Make sure that you have a mirror on the back of your door to see your outfit from head to toe! It also gives you and your roommate more space to get ready, too!

A water filter is a must. Being able to fill up a pitcher of water from the bathroom sink with tap water and know that it's going to be good and fresh is the best thing! I also will highly recommend a Keurig coffee maker! It's easy to make coffee in the mornings, easy to clean up (super important) and they're quite quiet so you don't have to worry about waking up your roommate in the morning! 

Some other random stuff: this lavender hand sanitizer is a life saver when you're in a rush and don't want to get your hands wet from washing them in between classes! You'll want a good pair of headphones when you're in your dorm room incase your roommate is watching a movie or you want to be polite and listen to your own kind of music. These are some of my favorite!

CLOSET

Gosh, this was probably the messiest part of my dorm for the first few weeks. It was mass chaos until I figured out how to properly organize my clothes for each season, bring out the ones that I needed, put away the ones that I didn't, make sure there was a place for my shoes, a place for my sweaters, you get the gist. 

The vaccum sealed bags are the best space savers when you're trying to put away last season's clothes! It saves so much room in your closet just being able to throw this bag under your bed after it's all air-tight. 

You neeeed a shoe organizer for all of your shoes and maybe even some knick-knacks. The shoe organizer, along with the hanging organizer are a great way to make the most use out of your teeny tiny closet.

Velvet hangers are a secret weapon! The texture really does an incredible job of hanging onto your clothes in your closet to make sure they don't slip down and fall!

Alright, y'all. These scented drawer liners are my JAM! I don't know about you but I get freaked out knowing that my clothes are going in drawers others have used so laying down these drawer liners not only gives me a peace of mind but they also give my clothes the best scent! MUST HAVE!

BATHROOM

So maybe you have a bathroom in your dorm, maybe it's a suite and you're sharing it or maybe you're using a communal bathroom. Regardless, this are some things that saved my toosh when it came to making sure I was squeaky clean.

It's kinda gross to shower with bare feet in a communal bathroom, so I wore these flip flops whenever I needed to shower.

This towel wrap is the best thing to use when you're getting ready, it has velcro at the top so you can wrap it around yourself while you're doing your makeup or blow drying your hair!

The bathroom caddy is great to haul all of your products in for your shower! It has awesome pockets and storage and this one is waterproof.

I hope this helps you tremendously and that there were a few things that you caught that you may have forgotten! Let me know what you love or what you're adding in your dorm room!

For reading until the end, here's a little picture of me and my first roommate + BFF on move-in day!

8 habits to start practicing in 2017

I have some habits that I believe are going make me healthier: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiriticually. I'd love a team of people to gather around and go in on this with me. These are easy, practical ways to make your year a little less cluttered, a little more loved and a lot more beneficial. 

There's this thing called the 21/90 rule. It takes 21 days to form a habit -- but, 90 days to form a lifestyle. So, let's create a lifestyle, people.

1. make your bed every morning

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You know that feeling when you get home and you want to relax from work, school, etc and your bed is still ruffled from resting the night before? At that point, I just want to come home to a clean house. 

Not only does making your bed create a disciplined lifestyle, I think it just helps your stress when you get home from a long day. When I make my bed, my room looks automatically cleaner. So, why not take the 5-10 minutes pulling up the sheets and loading on the pillows every morning before you head out? You'll thank yourself when you get home from errands. 

2. wash your makeup off before bed

The easiest way to protect your skin from aging and damage. Seriously, imagine leaving all that gunk on for hours to just sit and then think of your pillow case collecting all that gross-ness. I'm not judging, trust me. I'm guilty of this bad habit. Throughout college, either after a fun night out or a long day of classes, the last thing I wanted to do was walk to the bathroom and take off my makeup. But, I wish I had started this sooner.

Not only do you feel cleaner going to sleep at night, you feel rejuvenated and your pores open up and will thank you for days to come. Rinse off your face, wash it with facial cleanser and apply moisturizer (coconut oil will do!) and Vitamin E around your eye to protect your eyes from wrinkling when ya smile all the time. 

3. minimize your wardrobe

I'm the worst at this. I actually recently created a shop on Instagram to get rid of all of my clothes because I realized I never wore 80% of it. I couldn't stare at my closet every morning and see the same things again. So, I started this thing where after I wear a clothing item, I turn the hanger around so it comes the other way on the bar in my closet. Every month, I take a look at what is still facing the right direction and I question myself, "why didn't you wear it?" "will you wear it? Rachel...honestly?" Then I sell it, consign it, donate it. 

4. give something away every week

We were created to serve and to give and you know it's the best feeling. Christmas is our favorite for that reason, we have the opportunity to give something to someone else and enjoy their excitement. So, let's celebrate Christmas year round and give something away every week. It could be a bouquet to a stranger in public, it could be chocolate to your co-worker, it could be the jacket you're wearing when someone compliments you. It's healthy. 

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5. 30 minutes of "you" time before you start your day

For me, it's worship. Either while I'm showering, making breakfast, cleaning or hanging out with Remi, I listen to my favorite worship playlist. For you, it might be stretching, reading, doing some pushups or crunches. What ever it is, you deserve "you time" set aside for you for at least 30 minutes before you start your day. It will center you, I swear. You, your co-workers, people around you, everyone will benefit from it. 

6. vitamins + essential oils

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I'm not a huge guru when it comes to vitamins, health and essential oils but what I do know is our body needs more than the (honestly) crap we're feeding it everyday. It deserves some love and attention. Purchase some vitamin supplements. 

Essential oils. I currently use peppermint oil when I have headaches from sinus issues or when my allergies flare up and it clears me up in no time. I also am using lavender oil when I feel stressed, or my heart rate goes up or if I can't calm down before I go to sleep. I just put a dab on my temples, wrist, behind my neck, yada yada yada and it helps!

It's quicker working for me that any medicine I've found. 

7. find a podcast

Not only does our body deserve some attention, but our brain does too. We need something to keep us occupied, inspired and always running towards the goals we've set. Podcasts are freakin awesome and most of the time, free. My current favorites are: Goal Digger by Jenna Kutcher and Build Your Tribe by Chalene Johnson.

I listen when I'm driving, walking, running and yes, sometimes I'm that crazy woman wearing earphones while grocery shopping. Judge me. 

8. sleep with your phone in a different room

I'm guilty of staring at my phone before I go to sleep to make me sleepy or when I wake up, first thing, checking my notifications. When in reality, my husband and family deserve my attention before and after I go to sleep.

"But my phone needs to charge!" Good thing you have several outlets in your home!

"But, I need an alarm clock to wake up!" Get an old school alarm clock (without the snooze.) Or, set your alarm on your phone and make yourself get up out of bed to turn it off. Boom. 

All in all, these are practical, simple steps to making your life a little more simplified, healthy and prepare you to rock and roll this new year. It won't be easy but we can do it together! Who's in?

 
 
Moving Home Sweet Home

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA

If you follow me on social media, it's no question that this family likes to move around. We've been from California (seasonal location for Thomas's job), South Carolina (so I can graduate from the best university), and now Alabama. I guess you could call us pros at this point and since we've been moving so frequently, this pack up was super easy. There wasn't much to pack since most things were already in boxes from the last move. Sheesh. Thomas's parents made the move up with us, following us in their car + a trailer holding Thomas's beloved motorcycle. We got to Birmingham pretty late Wednesday night and we unloaded the truck 'til mid-day Thursday. With all the contents in the apartment we started moving things around, finding arrangements that we agreed on and now, I'd say we're all set. 

The packing process, like I said, was light -- but, I did find some pretty great diy/alternative ways to make sure all of my dishes and China made it here safe and sound. And it worked! (Tips at the bottom).

Y'all, we could literally fit all our entire home in South Carolina in the living room of our Bama house. PRAISE. Because things were starting to get a little small for my liking. Hallelujah for an upgrade!

We had some beautiful pieces "donated" to us (couch, table, chairs, bed frame). We are so blessed beyond belief because I can't imagine a furniture shopping trip right now...

We bought some chalk paint and repainted some of the furniture to fit the scheme of our "minimalist farmhouse" look. 

After Thomas's parents left, a few friends from high school joined us for the weekend. We would wake up in the morning, cook breakfast together while sipping on our coffee, do a little unpacking laughing and dancing to music. We'd take a break and cuddle and catch up and then cook dinner and head out to venture in our new town. It was dreamy. Thomas and Allan hung up decor on the walls, hung curtains, all the manly stuff. Marissa and I took paint brushes to these furniture pieces and gave them a renovation, place eucalyptus and small decor (candles, frames, knick knacks and such), girly stuff. 

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We are so thankful to have had them to help us adjust emotionally to this "newness." Having a piece of home here in the area was an answer to plenty of prayers. The four of us brought in the New Year with us sitting in a local Waffle House watching the ball drop in NYC early (since we're in the Central Time Zone now). Ugh, adjusting, ya know?

We finally have all the lamps plugged in, placemats on the table, dishes put away, comforters on the bed, etc. We're nesting now and waiting for our "finishing touches" to appear and then you can expect a fun "Home Tour" on the blog soon. Stay tuned. 

xoxo


Moving Tips

1. Use styrofoam plates in between each plate to move

2. Use clothing from dressers to wrap dishes instead of purchasing lots of bubble wrap

3. Saran Wrap drawers or cabinets from pieces to avoid having to un-pack and re-pack that furniture. 

4. Tape cords together and label them so (a) they don't get tangled and (b) you can tell which appliance they go with. 

5. Set aside toiletries, clothes or cleaning supplies you'll need when you first get there and put them on the back of the truck so that you have them handy at your final destination.

6. Use trash bags and wrap them around your hanging clothes to avoid missing hangers, clothing items and you can easily transfer them from the truck, hang them in your closet and cut the bag off. 

Our First Christmas Together

Joining forces on traditions is the most fun -- especially Christmas, I love Christmas. We never officially purchased our own stockings but my mom let us borrow ours from her house. Christmas Eve, we baked cookies, finished wrapping, put presents under the tree while watching Home Alone 2 with hot chocolate steaming in our mugs. We packed up Remi, in his Christmas sweater, and hopped in the car and headed down the road to some Christmas lights. When we came home, we plugged in the Christmas tree and kept it lit all night. 

Yeah, sounds dreamy until your dog (*cough* Remi *cough*) threw up all night because he ate all of the wrapping supplies that we wrapped presents with the day before. Ugh. 

Also, I went out and ran errands with chocolate on my face from making cookies so really Christmas Eve was just a blast. 

We did stockings for each other this year and it was the most fun, getting things for other people is my love language so BOOOYAH. It's tough to put together the stockings for each other without each other seeing. So, we assembled stockings and put them under a blanket on the couch for the morning. 

Christmas morning, I woke up to the sound of the Hallelujah Chorus playing. This is special to me because that's the song that woke us up every Christmas morning at my home. We lifted the blanket and opened stockings and gosh, my man knows me. All of my fave candies, nail polish and gadgets were in that stocking. 

We packed up our car with gifts and duffles and Remi, of course, and headed down the road to our home town to see our families. the car ride was full of jazzy Christmas music, and our travel book -- Me Before You. When we got to my family's house, we unwrapped presents after brunch with the smell of fried oysters, with excited shrieks and dogs running around each other eating wrapping paper. We unwound by taking a quick nap before heading to Thomas's parent's house. 

There, we had a blast opening presents, smiling until our cheeks hurt and sat down for a huge Christmas dinner. Needless to say, we went to sleep with stomachs completely full to the brim with food, incredible memories that will always last when we recall the first Christ we shared as husband + wife. 

 
Disney | Animal Kingdom

It's been a magical day in Walt Disney World with the fam (all in matching Lion King shirts) and today was spent in Animal Kingdom. Honestly, it's one of our least favorite but was still so very incredible.

Today was filled with melting chocolate Mickey snapped ice creams, Mickey pretzels, walking around "Asia" and "Africa" being submersed underwater with the Finding Nemo show and dancing with lions and monkeys at the Lion King show. The Lion King show is a must see. It was our absolute favorite. 

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We saw exotic animals on the Kilimanjaro Safari and danced with Africans in the middle of Harambe Market. Like I said, it was magical. We grabbed fast passes for Expedition Everest, Dinosaur and the safari (highly recommend fast passes to all the Disney newbies). The most fun part about this trip is that Dane, Caleb, Todd and Thomas have all never been to Disney before so we get to show them the ropes. 

After the crazy long day of running around the parks, screaming on rides and laughing at shows and each other, we gobbled up some fantastic food at the all-you-can-eat buffet at the Tusker House (mid-Africa) with all the characters.

I wish everyone could be here, so join us on Snapchat: rachel.awtrey

Everyday we're in the parks, we're putting together a quick little video to our day, feel free to follow along!

TIPS:

1. Grab preferred parking when entering the parks instead of standard (you get up close parking, bottled waters and VIP treatment.

2. Make sure to plan your day around fast passes. Get the Disney Experience App on your phone to add showtimes, etc. It helps us A-type people stay on track.

3. See if the park has "magic hours" (hours that are only available for those staying on property. It either opens early or stays open late, aka short lines.)

4. Make reservations at a restaurant in the park if you plan to eat a sit down dinner. 

Christmas Tree Shopping

Oh yeah. We're the "real" Christmas tree people, despite the fact that I'm highly allergic to the environment (specifically trees). It's a tradition that we go with Thomas's family to the Farmers Market in Columbia, South Carolina and pick out the perfect tree. The search is accompanied by frisbee throwing, measuring sticks and negotiating. 

This year, we brought Remi (all wrapped in my shaw with me). Honestly, the tree we left with was the first tree we laid our eyes on. How easy! 

It's all about the fresh smell of pine, the pine needles on the floor, the consistent watering of the tree, the strapping of lights, hanging or ornaments and addition of the ribbon and angel topper. 

We picked out the tree, wrapped it up in netting and threw it on top of our car and headed back up to the Upstate. 

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Thankfully, the Awtrey women took me shopping on Black Friday and we found all of our ornaments and ribbon at Michaels for waaay cheap! Can I get a "hallelujah" for that newlywed budget? The best part: Thomas's parents bought our tree for us, so the best gift is the one over the wrapped presents. Super sweet!

The next night, we threw on my mom's Christmas contribution of flannel Christmas pjs, heated up some water in the tea kettle, opened the packets of hot cocoa, unwrapped the candy canes, made a quick trip to Target because (oops) we forgot the lights...

We turned on a Netflix Christmas movie, put Remi to sleep and went to decorating the tree. If you're married and have never shared the pleasure of wrapping a tree in lights and hanging ornaments in the perfect spot, I dare you. 

At the end of the process, we turned off all the lights, finished our hot cocoa and plugged in the strands. Voilà!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight.

xoxo,

Rachel

My life: death, loneliness, and victory

I was raised in a great home with a wonderful family. We prayed over meals, watched Veggie Tales, went to church every Sunday, we were involved in multiple church plants, we prayed for the missionaries we supported as a family, we met the "Christian criteria" and I thought that was enough. I played the part the other days of the week too, had great friends, never touched alcohol, had an occasional boyfriend but that was about it. So when I'd hear about forgiveness and Jesus died on the cross for my sins, I was frustrated because I had a hard time grasping at anything in my life I needed forgiveness for. (HA!) I only saw sin as the things kids my age were doing on the weekends, not the pride and lying and disobedience in my heart. 

I also heard all about how God was our comforter in time of need. I had a hard time with that one too because I had never really been in a "time of need" where I had to lean on the Lord more than the day before. My life was "normal", my family was together, I got along with my friends and I didn't really have any regrets. The only "catastrophe" I could ever think of was one time when I was in a car accident.

Because my "lack of tragedy," I was left really confused. The confusion led me to lean heavily on my parents as my rocks and providers when it came to faith and what I knew about it. There was no pursuit on my own, nothing that I was really initiating on my own because of my own curious desires. 

Then one day I woke up, got dressed and headed to the orthodontist with my mom to get my braces removed. We went to lunch afterwards to celebrate and order and eat all of the foods that I hadn't been able to enjoy before. My mom's phone rang, it was my dad. Actually, it was my dad's phone but it was his friend. My dad left for a rock climbing trip the morning I was headed to the orthodontist. On the other end of the phone came some news that we are never prepared to hear.  News that still to this day is hard to believe it actually happened because it happened way too fast. 

My dad past away in a rock climbing accident three days before my 17th birthday. All I remember is all the flowers, all the smells of food and meals being brought over when I felt nauseous. I remember that huge birthday party my friends threw for me in the backyard so that I felt celebrated in the midst of tragedy. I remember the bagpipes at his funeral and all the support and love that came that week. 

I remember laying in bed the next week, house quiet, thinking "so this is life, huh? This is what they talked about, needing God as comfort." It was sort of humorous to me that when things were well, I felt him near and when I was closest to despair, it was hardest to know He was comforting me. 

I used this confusion as an excuse to grieve unhealthily. I turned to things to take my mind off of what was really happening. I pushed away my friends, pretended to be someone I wasn't, made some really poor decisions that progressively impacted me until I got to a point I just didn't care anymore. 

Obviously my family life looked a lot different and some people came into the picture that really hurt me when I was vulnerable, they too were capitalizing on the situation. It was all too much. It became much easier to be silly and immature than face what was really happening. I started to pity myself. It got to a point, my freshman year of college, where I started to feel like I was in a box and I was watching other people, outside of my box, have a lot of fun, they were free. I was frustrated and pouting in my box watching them. I became bitter towards them and realized it was easier to stay in the box than it would be to get outside of it and join in on the celebration. 

I then realized a lie that I had always believed. I saw Christianity, Jesus and faith as rules and regulations and the things I can and can't do. I saw it as a restriction on my freedom to live the way that I wanted to live my life. I'm giggling even writing this because it's just the opposite. 

Jesus came to set me free, to take off the chains that were holding me down, to pick me up out of the box that I just went and climbed back into again. A relationship with Jesus is the definition of freedom. I was being held down by my own grief, my anger, my confusion, my obligation to continue to be this fake person and live the way I thought I was expected to in the midst of tragedy. I was held down by depression and bitterness. I was held down by my inability to forgive.

I realized the only person that was holding me to that box was me. 

I had always considered my relationship with Jesus to be me, Jesus and my dad. Or me, Jesus and my mom. Or me, Jesus and (whoever). When really our relationship with Jesus is just between the two of us. The day has come where my dad is no longer able to support that relationship here on Earth. There will be a day when I lose someone else that has had a huge impact on the way that I view Jesus. But, if the way I see Jesus is based on the emphasis of someone else, I will never have ownership of my own faith. 

Being a believer isn't meeting the checklist. Because I'll be the first to admit many days pass by where not only does the checklist not even get marked, I forget the checklist exists!

Thank God for a graceful and forgiving God who just wants us to want him back, that picks us up out of our misery and who fixes the typo we made from "victim" to "victor."

The coolest part, my story isn't over-my heart is still beatin'. So I say, "bring it on!" Who knew death could bring so much Life?

This is not meant to intimidate to you. The last thing I want is for you to read this and get to the end and think, "gosh, I don't have a testimony like that" because that is not my heart. I once was that girl. I was the girl that would hear and listen or read someone's testimony and think that my life wasn't extraordinary because my story wasn't extraordinary like the one I was hearing. If you're nodding your head in agreeance, you're story isn't over. Your story is extraordinary no matter how many details it contains or how many details it lacks. There's no way we can compare our testimonies to the other and think that somehow one is more marvelous than the other because the God that wrote my story is the one writing yours and He is marvelous, therefore your story is marvelous and that should be enough.

This is for my friends who think that Christian music is boring + those that just want to dance out of their box. 

 
 
A Diary of a Newlywed Kitchen

If you don't agree that the thought of your husband picking up the fork with a steaming creation inching closer (in slow motion) to his mouth gives you a little anxiety, you're either 1. Paula Deen, herself or 2. completely confident. 

I, at first, was not either of the above to be honest. Thomas has a mom that is phenomenal in the kitchen so I knew that expectations were a little high. If you're a married woman a little apprehensive about whipping up some great meals for your family or unmarried and dreading the day, this is for you. 

One time I tried to make beer bread. I followed the recipe, poured the batter in the bread pan, poured on the glaze and popped it in the oven. Three minutes later and there's smoke starting to seep into our tiny home. I glanced at the oven and double take real quick when I saw a flame in our oven. Yeah, go Rachel. I didn't know what to do so I yelled, "fire!" followed by a few other words I would never claim and I frantically went for our fire extinguisher. 

Thank God for a calm husband that grabbed my shoulders (yes, the fire is still going at this point) and say, "Calm down, it will be okay." He let the fire die down in the oven on its own and long story short, the beer bread was never fully baked. 

Another time, we went to Greenville for a while and knew we weren't coming back until later so I put some spaghetti squash and sauce in the crockpot, following another recipe, and we came back, hangry (hungry + irritable) to absolute mush. Oops. My bad. 

Here are a few things that save my tush in the kitchen. 

I highly recommend getting a cookbook and figuring out which recipes look a little manageable to ya. They're the best! They're like picture books for adults. I flip through until I see a picture that I love and drool over, dog ear the page and continue to flip. It makes it so much more manageable and also gives you some hope of what this mean could look like. 

This one, The Newlywed Cookbook, is the best because it is made for the simple wife, the "let's just try and see" woman. It's easy and even gives some tips how to incorporate your hubby into the process. Hand over the knives and towels and let him put some sweat in, too!

Pinterest is more than wedding planning and outfits, y'all. If you don't pin food, I don't even know who you are. Create a board with some of your favorite recipes and stock up. A lot of times these are food bloggers that are great to follow but also give additional advice for the process, not just the ingredients and directions.

The kitchen is more than cooking the food. It's about the savory smell and reaping what you sow. It's about the time, energy and effort you're putting into serving your significant other. He will understand and be grateful regardless. I'm blessed with a  husband that scarfs down even the nastiest of foods that I mess up or make the best of.

One of my favorite books that stresses this concept is Bread and Wine. She does an incredible job of describing the real reason of the kitchen: to fully know, remember, serve and glorify the Lord. Seriously, there's room to acknowledge him in everything. While pouring your sweet tea or red wine, flipping your burgers or rotating your chicken, seasoning your carrots or peeling your sweet pot remember communion with your community. Remember what Christ did for us. This makes your time cooking in the kitchen so much sweeter with a greater purpose than making a tasty meal. 

I'm no pro, I'm still learning how to chop, peel and not make my home all smokey. But, there's grace and room for improvement. If your is better in the trash than your mouth, light some candles, play some jazzy music, pray over the meal and own it. Someone once told me, "burnt food tastes better under candlelight" and I fully agree. 

 

B E H I N D   T H E   S C E N E S   I N   O U R   K I T C H E N

We're puppy parents!

Thomas and I were sitting at a coffee + ice-cream shop in Ashland, Oregon during our summer out west when the conversation started: "let's get a dog!" 

We saw something beautiful in starting a family (piece by piece) and in sharing responsibility bigger than ourselves. The search started right then and there, looking at breeds, sizes, locations, everything.

I wanted a dog that I could cuddle and play with, not too big but big enough to feel like I had a buddy, not a cat. Thomas wanted a hunting dog, a main dude he could take out in the field or in a boat to hunt ducks, pheasants and those sort of things. It was important to both of us that the dog was energetic, had a funny personality and would eventually be great with children. 

The breed was decided: Brittany Spaniel and now the hunt for the addition to the family was on. 

Eventually, back in September we found a breeder that was much less expensive than the rest and this caught our eye. We chatted with the breeder on the phone to see why there was such a large difference in the price between them and the other breeders. Their answer was perfect: "we want these dogs to be priced fair, to find a home quickly and to be socialized and in the house as soon as they can. Expensive dogs don't get out of the kennel very quickly." 

She's a lovely lady, Mrs. Rosemary, from Tennessee (a fair six hour drive from our home). We took a Monday and drove up to see the kennel and look at all of our options. She mentioned her partner that also bred Brittanys, only an hour drive away. We hopped in the car with her, grabbed a pizza on the way and pulled up to a rustic tractor farm. A man, Dave, accompanied us and welcomed us to his kennel. Thomas got caught up with Dave talking about the tractors he was restoring and the chickens in his backyard. Mrs. Rosemary and I rocked in rocking chairs on the porch drinking a glass bottled coke waiting for the men. Eventually, Thomas and Dave returned. They handed us over 3 laundry baskets of puppies. 

After much deliberation, Thomas and I picked a boy with white and orange coloring. He hadn't opened his eyes yet at only 2 weeks.  

Patiently, we waited until we were able to take him home. We named him Remington, Remi for short. 

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We could not be more thankful for our little love bug; yet, a menace indeed. He's the sweetest dreamer, never goes a sleep without running and slightly barking. He has the softest coat and the teeniest breaths, the sharpest teeth and the most dreamy eyes. 

We are so grateful for this tiny addition to our family. Here's to puppy parenthood!

Needless to say, our nights are long + his teeth are sharp + he has some big pipes and whines all night. So, puppy advice is welcomed below in the comments. Thanks, friends!

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Let's talk about money

I remember the first time Thomas and I sat down and actually talked about what was going on in our bank accounts. My palms got super sweaty, we were eating wings and fries, trying to make it causal, and we just straight up talked about right now, how much we had in checking and savings.  Lots of "ummm"s and "uhhh" and awkward pauses completed the conversation but at the end of it, I felt this relief. "We're going to be okay" I thought. 

We weren't going to be okay necessary because we had a lot of money, in fact we didn't. But, I knew we were going to be okay because the dialogue had been opened up. "Communication is key" you hear that a lot; seriously, it is when it comes to your marital finances, or finances in general.

When money becomes an issue for women, we feel unsafe, unprotected because there is so much unknown. When money becomes an issue for men, they feel uncontrolled, irresponsible which leads to a lack in confidence. 

I did some fact digging and here's what I found: finances and the struggle of is the number one cause of divorce in America. You may be thinking, "I'll marry rich so I don't have money issues" and I'm going to be real honest, you can't get away from them, honestly. You'll either have too much or not enough. 

Money is always an awkward topic. When friends asked me to go to out to eat and I realized I didn't have cash on deck to do so, I'd sometimes make up another excuse because, let's face it, no one wants to talk about the dolla dolla bills. It's tense, awkward and something we like to keep to ourselves. This can lead to destruction, "what's hidden can never be healed." Handling your money well is Biblical. "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:10. Whether this is spiritual gifts, characteristic gifts or financial gifts, we must steward them well. 

So, Thomas and I sought out some guidance on this issue, prayed about it and were actually gifted with an awesome wedding gift. My aunt and uncle gave us all the workbooks, audiobooks and classes for Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University

This is a must take. This is not a sponsored blog, I am not being paid to say this. Actually y'all, this is the best class I've ever taken in my life. It gives you the low down on saving for emergencies, how to invest in your 401K, Roth IRA, how to pay off your student loans or other debt and how to spend smart and how to set up a budget. 

Ew, budget. Most of you probably just cringed. Let me clear something up; a budget is actually made for you, not against you. It provides healthy boundaries so that you can live the way that you want to. It gives you the power instead of your debit card. "If you don't tell your money where to go, it'll find a place to go itself." Dave Ramsey said it himself. 

We meet in a class with other people in the community also signed up, once a week at a local church in Greenville, South Carolina. Thomas and I take the opportunity for date night and to get out and do something fun.

I love the class so much because not only have you opened up a tense topic in your family, but you've opened up the conversations with strangers in your class. You're able to see that you're not alone in this money thing. Talking about it and being vulnerable about it leads to so much more closeness and intimacy inside your home. 

True story: when we first started the class, Thomas and I went one month budget free just to see how much we were use to spending and on what exactly. We'd log into our accounts and check out balances and always be shocked to see a massive decline in what we thought we had. But, if we know what we were spending, why was this a shock? Because there was no planning, no follow up and no idea where our priorities were set.

After that month, we sat down, looked at all the numbers and figured out that "oh my gosh, we spent that much on just coffee??" or "oops, yeah, sorry, I just really had to have that dress and shoes." We talked about priorities, we like to eat well and healthily, we like to have fun and go to concerts, we really don't care much about buying clothes (ehh, sometimes), we don't have kids to support, we really believe in tithing and saving. Once our "non-negotiables" were on the table we built a budget, a friendly guideline so that we don't blow all of our concert money on stupid stuff like "I'll just grab a granola bar" instead of waiting to drive 5 minutes to the house to fix food I already have in the fridge. (I bet you're catching on who's the spender and who's the saver, my bad.)

Here's how we track it. With another awesome money friendly tool we found, Mint. Mint is an app where you link up your bank account (I'm not skeptical but some are) and it tracks every time you swipe your card. When it catches a transaction it allows you to categorize it, in the budget you built, where you want it to go. Sometimes we pay for gas for a business trip for Thomas and it budgets that automatically, but then when he gets reimbursed, we're able to "pay ourselves back" on the app so that the money gets added back to our budget. Say goodbye to all the ins and outs and question marks that are normally left on the budget. That's the reason why it's easy to quit, it gets confusing. But, this app makes so much practical sense and keeps you accountable to every single swipe. 

Like I said before, we like to eat healthily and we all know that healthy grocery lists full of produce and fresh meat are expensive lists. But, no fear! Thomas found another app, Flipp. Flipp allows you to put in your zip code and it brings up all the coupons that may be available in your area. You can add your grocery list and it searches for deals in your area so that you can plan your trip accordingly. You can even add your rewards cards to the app so that you don't have to keep up with your bulky wallet, you just scan the app when you want to get those points. This makes grocery shopping fun (for me at least.)

Men, they don't like to walk around a grocery store with ya, honestly. Sometimes, I don't want him there either to be real with ya because he sees that thing he "has to have" that's not on our list and you spend an hour in the grocery store instead of the allotted thirty minutes. I have an app for you kind of people, too. It's called Shopkick. Shopkick is great because it acts almost like a scavenger hunt. You get "kicks" or basically points for walking into a store, scanning a certain item and buying that item. For example, we were in Target and we got 50 kicks for walking in and then we had to find a certain brand of cat food and dog food and scan it to get 100 more kicks. Thomas goes and finds the items to scan and I do the shopping. It's a win-win scenario because each kick adds up to give you money on a gift card. Yes, you read that right. You are going on a scavenger hunt for gift cards. How could you not resist. Hand over the phone to your distracted BFF, boyfriend, husband, or kid and have them earn you money. Work smarter, not harder people. 

Doing the money thing is totally possible, you just have to find the resources. 

Are you able to still buy the things you want even though you share money with someone?

I get this question at least 3 times a week. I'll admit, I love to online shop, I love the dollar section at Target and I can't go past nail polish without purchasing a new color. Thomas knows this about me. I wouldn't consider it a "struggle" because there's nothing wrong with treating yourself. But, as soon as the "treating yourself" jeopardizes someone else's goal, it's no longer a treat. So, Thomas and I set aside money in our budget called Pocket Money, another Dave Ramsey piece of advice. It's allotted money that is set aside for us as individuals. We both get the same amount and we can spend it on whatever we want, coffee, drinks, nail polish, a new shirt, fishing gear (Thomas), anything we want. And because it's our own money and it's set aside for us as individuals, it alleviates the "you bought something else??" or "what's in the bag?" It actually makes us excited for one another when we buy something because it was agreed upon. Woohoo to freedom. 

Marriage and finances should be the ingredients for success because you have someone that can keep you accountable on spending and saving, you also have someone to chat about your fears and failures within the world of finances and also, you have someone to share them with so when you can't make a decision on your own, you don't have to. These are all great "pros" to money + marriage but if you don't actually talk about it, none of these will occur. 

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Well, that's just Darling
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Reading a magazine has always been one of my favorite things to do. The colors in the grocery store lines always catch my attention, and then add the headlines: intriguing. Yes, I want to be the next homemaker, I want to know what outfits are "in", I want to know what flowers will bloom in my (imaginary) garden this season. 

The common denominator of all of these wants: to be inspired. 

Honestly, all of the magazines that sit in the check out line just never fulfill that desire for inspiration in me. This past December, Thomas subscribed me to the daintiest, yet powerful, publication: Darling Magazine. 

It's all about the "art of being a woman". Inside, it holds the most unique stories of the most resilient women and photography that will put you into a sensory overload of all the inspiration you've been searching for. 

Their pages match their content: thick. Unlike most magazines, they don't cheapen the experience, it's rich and full and you leave your magazine reading experience with a new passion for who you are rather than gloating or being full of self loathe for who you're not. 

But, most importantly, I believe in what they stand for. They never alter the images or add any Photoshop techniques. They are genuine and don't believe in altering anything that is already beautiful. They highlight women that aren't known for anything other than their story and success and tell their story in the most eloquent way. 

What Darling believes is slapped on the back cover of every printed magazine, you can't miss it- I like it that way. 

And the best part: it's for all women. Not just single women but married and everything in between. It's for moms and daughters, sisters and wives. Crafty and creative women and not-so-crafty women. It's for all of the above that are craving pure inspiration with no mess or false representations. 

Check out their website to see how you can get your hands on one!

Darling is the art of being a woman. Darling magazine holds the modern mold of woman up to the fire to evoke a discussion on felinity and re-shape an authentic design. Darling is a catalyst for positive change; leading women to discover beauty apart from vanity, influence apart fro manipulation, style apart from materialism, sweetness apart from passivity, and womanhood with degradation. Darling leads women to practice the arts of virtue, wit, modesty and wisdom-all the while creating beauty and embodying love. Darling says women are not only interesting, but original. Not only good enough, but exceptional-not just here, but here for a purpose.
— Darling Magazine
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A French kind of morning.

This morning I was fortunate enough to not have a class. My first class on Tuesday/Thursdays aren't until the afternoon which means my favorite: slow mornings. 

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We slept in and woke up slowly, headed to the kitchen and turned on the griddle. I was so excited to be able to use my Kitchen Aid mixer once again (it's becoming a staple). I whipped up a crepe batter and Thomas chopped some fresh strawberries we bought at the grocery store yesterday in preparation for this slow morning. 

He poured the coffee grinds and started the coffee while I poured the batter onto the skillet and started breakfast. 

Our slow morning isn't complete without some kind of music. I have put together some of my favorite french, jazzy favorites into a "slow morning" playlist on my Spotify account. Takes me straight to the heart of the french countryside. 

I love crepes over pancakes because 1. They're easier to flip 2. They're tastier and 3. I almost feel like because they're thinner, they're healthier? 

We love to add Nutella and our favorite fruits or jams for a perfect morning dessert. Crepes + coffee + some fresh orange juice, you're set. 

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I found the perfect crepe recipe that turned into the crispy but soft, floppy browned and sweet crepes. It's an easy recipe because all you do is whip all ingredients together and pour on a griddle or skillet. 

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2 eggs
1 cup of flour
1 cup of milk
1/4 tsp of salt
2 tbsp of sugar
1 tsp of vanilla extract 
1 tbsp of butter
and oil for frying 

Make sure the griddle is basically searing so that you only spend about 1-2 minutes on each side of the crepe before flipping.

Seriously, so simple. They're even better if you eat them in bed or on a couch. Comfy food is meant for a comfy experience. 

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