Monday, December 31, 2012

Make-up Updates

In a vain attempt to update my make-up, I watched some tutorials online for how to better highlight and contour my face. Am I going to a party? Nope. Am I dressing up for the red carpet? Nah. I'm just realizing that it has been entirely too long since I updated my make-up brushed up on my make-up techniques. And rumor has it you should consider yourself out of style if you haven't made an update to your look in at least 5 years. Ouch. So I decided that maybe its time to re-visit Sephora and get some tips from the pros. 

So I did just that. In an effort to update my look, and figure out if what I'm using is really best for me and the coverage I want. 

And here are the products that made it to my shopping bag:







1. Benefit's Sun Beam highlighter: This was a little extra sample that I got in my bag, but I really love it. I'll use it over top of the concealer around my eyes to add a little bit more shimmer. If my skin was a tad bit tanner, it would be perfect on its own, but I needed the concealer to play the middleman so I didn't look like my eyes had been to the tanning bed.

2. Benefit's Coralista blush: When learning how to highlight and contour my face (which I'd never heard of until Pinterest), this was one of the products that was recommended...plus its a Victoria's Secret go-to. So you would hear no argument from me. There are only 2-3 colors, but they are light and shimmery which makes it easy for any skin type to wear it.  

3. Maybelline's illuminating concealer: This little guy came from Target, and quickly made me feel more 'put-together'. Not sure how a concealer/highlighter can do that, but trust me, its awesome. I use this around the inside of my eyes, just under the outer part of my brow, down my nose, and a little bit around my lips. I'm amazed at how a little bit of light-ness can make your features pop.

4. Benefit's Hoola bronzer: This is another item that can work for any skin color. I learned that the trick with a bronzer like this is to have it be matte, rather than have a sheen to it. The goal is to create more definition in your cheekbones and around your nose. I was impressed with how easy it is to draw attention to certain features or minimize others depending on what features you want to accent. Unfortunately I have not yet mastered this art, but I'm practicing. :)

5. Smashbox Color Correcting primer: This stuff is definitely green, but is meant to smooth your skin, remove any redness, and absorb any oil in your skin so that it doesn't hurt your make-up. I saw this bottle and thought it would be absurd to put on my skin, but after the woman at Sephora tried it on my face I was completely dumb-founded. My skin has so much redness to it that I LOVED the way this cream evened out my skin-tone. Without any powder, foundation, blush, etc. my face was already looking better. 


Do you have any go-to products that you really enjoy? I'm on the market for new ideas and updates, so give me your best stuff.

Happy shopping (and updating)!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Changing the World

"People who really want to make a difference in the world usually do it, in one way or another. And I've noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound. They aren't determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they're satisfied with small changes. Over time, though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities and nations, and yes, the world." - Kisses from Katie

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dreaming of Africa

One of my favorite memories was from May of 2007. It was my second week in Karatina, Kenya, and we were spending some time at a rural school. The temperature was warm, but not unbearable despite our proximity to the equator. Each day was spent in schools, orphanages, homes, or in fields with frisbees or soccer balls. This day was spent listening in on an African classroom, and organizing fun games and activities for the kids during their breaks.

When you're in Kenya, or probably in any African nation, white people are not very common. Especially the further you go out into the bush. Sometimes kids would hide behind their parents if you made them uneasy, but others would come bounding up to you and want to pat your hands and touch your hair and kiss your cheeks. I remember one specific girl at the school that day. She had some sort of mental delay, but was the giggliest girl I've ever heard. She danced everywhere she walked, and wanted to be continually tickled. 

She sat on my lap throughout her school lessons, but if you moved her or touched her in a certain way, she would crack up. It was kind of like how I feel when I play "Honey if you loved me, would you please, please smile." People can't even get to me before tears are rolling down my cheeks. 

That's how this girl was. Joyful. Happy. Energetic, and just so excited to be where she was. To be holding someone's hand whom she'd never met. To be listening to stories and math lessons, and to be tickled by the slightest movement of my body. At one point she had to go to the bathroom, and I heard her laughing the whole way, screeching in delight at the thought of what she was doing that day with complete strangers. The picture below shows her listening to another villagers ringtone on his phone. She laughed and danced, playing the tones over and over until tears streamed down her sweet face. 


I think we have a misunderstanding of Africans. We so easily see them as poor and destitute, when in reality, we are the ones that are poor. They are the ones who are truly rich. They possess an inexplicable joy and contentment with their lives, and are so grateful for the rains, the animals, and their land. They're grateful for the one beautiful skirt that they have, or the pile of sticks in the field that can be turned into a game. They're grateful that they have food to share today, not that they might not have food for tomorrow. They are generous and warm, and I don't know that I've ever known a season of such great peace than when I was in Kenya. Their hearts bled into mine. Their peace and excitement and love were infectious. I felt at home there in a way I've never felt in America. And maybe it was because they know the value of life, and appreciate it so fondly. 

What's been stirring my heart for Africa lately is Kisses from Katie. A beautiful story about an 18 year-old girl that picks up her life in 2007 and moves to Uganda. She's adopted 14 children, and spends day after day loving the least of these. Tending to wounds, filling hungry bellies, and worshiping with children kneeling beside her. Her story reminds me so much of me, and my heart and my desire for the nations. I feel like Katie is helping me wake up from years of sleeping, and pulling me back to the true reality of the Kingdom. Of loving. Of tending sheep. Of making a difference in one life at a time. 

I also had the honor of sending Frankie to Kenya yesterday. Reading her first blog post on Kenyan soil made me excited for the life-changing experience she's about to have. The kind of experience that will never part with heart, and will leave her longing to stay a little longer, have one more cup of coffee, and  dive a little deeper into God's presence. These beautiful women who are doing amazing things inspire me. And remind me that Africa and the world is still a part of my heart. And I can still make a difference.




Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Book Reviews: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl

book review girl with the dragon tattoo gone
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: This book was intense, y'all. Not necessarily full of twists and turns, but definitely an edge-of-your-seat thriller.

I had heard that the movies were violent, so I hesitated in starting this book because I didn't want to read page after page of sexual violence. And to some degree people were right, but Stieg Larsson was extremely short-winded in those scenes, and developed no attachment in me to those specific characters. So that meant I could read 'from a distance', yet still experience the gravity of the story.

The writing was quickly paced, and the characters were original and quirky.  I'd be interested in knowing what it was in Larsson's background that made him understand the ins and outs of serial rapists and their strategies in capturing their next victim. The thought in that regard blew my mind. I hope the next books are as explosive and multi-dimensional as this one. Definitely worth your time.

Gone Girl: This book I have VERY mixed feelings for. If I could write a response to the first 90% of the book and the last 10% of the story, I would. Because they felt like completely separate stories and authors.

Gillian Flynn became one of my new favorite authors within the first 50 pages. She is brilliant, and just twisted enough that her stories and characters are 100% unpredictable. The book FLEW by, but came to a screeching halt about 90% of the way through when you realize what the ending will be. And the ending is so completely disappointing, that you wonder if the book was worth reading for that kind of let-down. You put too much energy into the book for the ending not to completely ruin the experience.

Overall did I like it? Yes, very much.

Would I recommend it? Eh. If you can stomach the ending. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Adventures in 15-year-old Boys

So, we love HaRim. 

In a BIG way. 

And couldn't imagine our lives these days without him. He makes us laugh until we cry, and sometimes asks questions that make us incredibly uncomfortable - wondering whether his parents realized that they hadn't had much of "the talk" with him before passing him along to us. Yes, you assume correctly. 

This weekend he inquired about how people keep from having a baby. And Patrick patiently sat while I squirmed in my seat, trying to figure out how on earth to break the news to him. You know, the news about birth control.

Sensing my hesitation, HaRim gently reminded me "It's okay, I'm old enough. You can tell me."

Which made my armpits sweat a little bit more, and I might have peed in my pants a little bit. 

Sweet, sweet HaRim. The light of our lives. Having to introduce birth control to a child that you know should have learned it from his parents, his older brother, school... anyone but me really. Because I do not yet have answers for these questions. In fact, I might not ever have answers to these questions.

"Well HaRim, there is a pill you can take" was all I could muster. 

"Does it kill the baby?"

"No, you take it every day, kind of like a vitamin. So when you're ready to have a baby, you stop taking it." I couldn't bear to introduce his other options - the pill just seemed to be the most "kid" friendly in my mind. Not like any birth control is "kid-friendly". 

But I think he got the hint that I was uncomfortable. And being a baby about having "adult" conversations. 

But I only feel 16! I don't feel 27. I can't be expected to act like an age that I don't feel, Right? Gosh, I'm such a kid! And have zero maturity. In fact, I pleaded with Patrick (albeit silently) to save me from this conversation. And you know what? He wouldn't do it. He let me 'man up' all on my own. Jerk.

So enjoy the comments below that HaRim has made recently that we've found funny. But recognize that none were as awkward and funny as our talk on birth control. 




"I think my fat is too heavy"

"Do I need to decorate myself for dinner?"

"You know we have same baby taste"

"I practiced Piano Man, and added my own POW POW POW"

"Bailey is a big cat. I've never seen one like her. She's very special."

After falling over Lucy, he said "Yeah, that was kind of strange. And kind of hurt. If I was grandpa I would die."

"She made me a large back. I mean, she spread my back." Umm that's what she said?



Thursday, December 6, 2012

Giving Back




Christmas is a time of generosity, kindness, and love. And most people want to be creative in their gift giving, yet they don't know where to start, especially if you're hoping to give more than just a gift.

There are some incredible gifts this year that will not only impress those receiving, but will also impact the world for the better. Take a look at these items/services and continue putting your money to something bigger and better this year. 

Each one of these gifts has the potential to radically change a life.





1. World Vision gives you the opportunity to give a gift that keeps on giving. Purchasing a goat, chicken, or any combination of farm animals for a family gives them a chance to not only provide for themselves (through milk, eggs, etc.), but to also sell extra eggs, chicks, or milk to help pay for the basics of daily life. Prices range from $16-2,500.

2. Pecans on Peachtree helps raise money for patient-related programs at The Shepherd Center through the selling of Georgia-grown pecans. The Shepherd Center is one of the top 10 rehabilitation centers in the nation, and specializes in medical treatment, research, and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis and other neuromuscular disorders.

3. If you're familiar with the Hutu and Tutsi tribes in Rwanda, then you should also become familiar with Land of a Thousand Hills coffee. Land of a Thousand Hills has brought together these life-long enemies to work on coffee plantations throughout the country. The Forgiveness School is a school being built in Rwanda in order to foster the continued reconciliation of these two tribes. Be a part of the Forgiveness Wins campaign by purchasing a square foot of the Forgiveness School. 

4. Sevenly's goal is to "harness the power of art and community to build sustainable awareness and fund movements that support charities in their efforts to change the world." Each week you can purchase clothing, and $14 will go towards the charity being sponsored that week. Charities of the past include Knots of Love, Autism or cancer research, and sex-trafficking awareness. 

5. The goal of Heifer International is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty. Through Heifer International, you can purchase anything from an animal to clean water to education for a child to a knitter's gift basket. Their approach is holistic and directed at sustainable solutions that impact whole communities.

6. The Invisible Children is an organization that is working to raise awareness of the LRA in Uganda. They have a variety of products that go towards the betterment of Uganda, and the disarming of Joseph Kony and the LRA from abducting and killing civilians at an alarming rate.   

7. Plywood People is a seller of fair trade goods, all of which are under $50 and support different US craftspeople and companies.

8. International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. This year you can buy an 'Aftercare Package' for someone who has recently been rescued from the sex slave trade. Another gift idea is for $24, you can pay for IJM workers to be present in a community one more day in the hopes of rescuing women and children in one of these harmful environments. 

9. TOMS - Through the purchase of one pair of shoes, you donate a pair of shoes to someone in need. 


Merry Christmas and happy shopping!  

Friday, November 30, 2012

For the Christmas Home


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Bostonian Way

Two weeks ago, Patrick and I had a really fabulous trip to Boston. We are blessed with dear friends that live in Cambridge, so we knew we wanted to make a trip there together before their stint in the city  was over. The weather was beautiful, and we couldn't have asked for a more enjoyable experience (or more enjoyable friends to hit the city with!). They were gracious and kind, and devoted so much time to teaching us the ways of life in the Northeast. I couldn't have been more thankful for our time together - exploring and reconnecting. 

Here are some of our favorite memories from the weekend:


Beacon Hill and Cambridge

The beautiful faces we woke up to each morning

Cambridge and the Charles River

Beacon Hill Chocolates came highly recommended to us, and it was well worth the $3 bite-size chocolates. Trust me, it is worth the splurge.

The Holocaust Memorial

Samuel Adams Brewery


I couldn't post about Boston without giving you a list of some 'must-do' things around town. Our time there was short, so I know this list isn't exhaustive, but it is definitely worth your time if you venture up to the Northeast:

Caffe Vittoria - Coffee and gelato
Mike's Pastry Shop - Incredible cannoli in the North End
Holocaust Memorial - Incredibly sobering, but absolutely worth the visit
Clam chowder at Union Oyster House (America's oldest restuarant) - If you're lucky you can snag JFK's private booth!
Atomic Bean in Cambridge - We had breakfast sandwiches with mango and pineapple that were divine
Sibling Rivalry - Dueling chefs use the same ingredients, but have created separate menus
Sam Adams Brewery - best brewery tour I've ever been on. Funny, informative, and awesome samples
Harvard Square/Charles River


Happy traveling!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

3 Things to Know Before You Book Your Travel Plans


Traveling is something we all want to do, but the finances of it all can keep us from seeing the most beautiful places the world has to offer. When planning your next trip, think about these 3 things before you book. It might save you more money than you realize.

1. When thinking about where you want to go and what you want to do, its important to know your own travel style and expectations. Ask yourself these questions:
  • How comfortable do you want to be? A hostel might be a cheap option and put you in the middle of town, but a hotel might offer more peace and quiet as well as your own space. Both options are great, and will come down to your own style and expectations.
  • How cheap do you want to be? Prioritize your needs, and weigh out which items you'd be willing to spend more or less money on. If you're going to Italy, nice food might be a part of your trip, but it also might be the most expensive. But if you're going to Sri Lanka or Tunisia, you may opt for PB&Js each day, and decide to spend money on more tourist attractions or nice lodging. Regardless of your preference, it is important to decide how you want to allocate your money.
  • What is the goal of your trip? If your goal is to spend time with someone, consider booking less activities and leave room for more downtime together. If your goal is to experience a new culture, then you might be more open to the local food, staying in different types of establishments, or connecting with people from that area.

Knowing your own style and expectations will keep you from getting side-tracked throughout the trip planning process, and will ensure that each leg of your trip is exactly what you want it to be. And who knows, it might even save you some money!

2. Look at the cheapest times of the year to visit. Ireland might be cheapest in the winter, but 35 degree days might not be your first choice when booking a vacation. But checking year-round weather might help you find a specific month within the "cheap" range that has warmer/cooler temperatures. Dublin in April might offer you the same cost benefit as would January, but the weather might be 25 degrees warmer. Doing a little research can be easy, and save you 50% on the plane ticket price tag.

3. How to decide on a price (for everything). There are many things to consider when finding the best price, and I admit that some of them can be time-consuming. Here are a few takeaways that I've found to be the most beneficial in my travels that are relatively easy to manage:
  • Consider booking individual legs rather than round-trip flights. Sometimes individual legs offer you a cheaper price, but they also might allow you to see more than you might have seen if you had to travel back to your starting point. So check both options to be sure you're getting the most bang for your buck. *Also check local or smaller airlines as well. They might not be as comfortable, but the money they save you could be put towards somethings more memorable or worthwhile.
  • Book your plane tickets at least 6 weeks out for the best deal. Occasionally you can find cheap rates the week before an excursion, but the planning for and getting excited about your trip is part of the fun (even research agrees). Booking later might mean a spike in prices, fewer options, or unmet expectations. Also keep in mind that if a ticket goes on sale later, you can always buy the cheaper ticket and return your original one. *Places like kayak.com and orbitz.com both allow you to set alerts for when tickets go below a certain price. Using tools like this save time, and also help save you money.
  • Always ask for a deal. Find a way to emotionally connect with whoever you're working with, and be genuine about your excitement over the trip or seeing their city (because everyone takes pride in where they live). Letting the hotel concierge know that this is for your anniversary and you're hoping to do something special for your significant other might get you further than you realize. Being condescending or negative will not. If there isn't a deal that they can give you, ask for a price match. The worst they could say is no.

Although this is not an exhaustive list of everything you can do to maximize efficiency, cost and happiness when you travel, it'll at least point you in the right direction.

Let me know if you find tools or strategies that work for you that I might have missed. There is not enough ink in my computer to type out all that is available, but I am always hoping to learn and grow my own process. Happy travels!





Monday, November 19, 2012

Grateful






Today, I am grateful. 


So I am making a great and noble attempt at being more thankful each and every day. In an effort not to miss a moment of life's beauty.




Saturday, November 3, 2012

Let Hope In

This is a blog post by Taylor Bashta that has been encouraging me this week. Mull it over and let me know what you think.


"Let hope Arise and make the darkness hide. My Faith is dead I need a resurrection somehow".


This has been a very controversial line in "Like a Lion". David Crowder sang the line at Passion, but several other worship guys have asked if they could change the line from "my faith is dead" to my "my faith is cold". Daniel said yes of course, if they feel like that line is better for where they are playing, then that is what is most important.

But I've been thinking about this very thing lately. Hope. And Faith.

Hope has become Daniel's anthem. It is written on his guitar. It is written on his arm.

It's the cry of our heart that through his music Hope will spring up!

There is something that I am hoping for in my life right now.

And I honestly struggle with letting hope in, because I fear disappointment. I fear pain.

When I start to feel the little flutters of hope, I shut them down, preferring to think "It probably won't happen" because then I'll be surprised if it does. That feels safe. But is that right? Sometimes my faith does feel dead.
Let Hope arise and MAKE the darkness hide. I like that idea better!

I was running last week and praying about all of this. D and I are attempting to train for the Nashville half marathon- we shall see. But I've had a lot of time to think as I run.

My conversation with God went something like this-
"God how do I let hope come in? I'm so afraid of being sad, disappointed, hurt, etc.! But I want to hope! I don't want the enemy to have any place in my heart or mind or emotions- I want your hope. But I'm scared." -sounds like a little girl- but it's how I felt.

I felt like he said this. Taylor, 

all you are responsible for is letting yourself hope- let it grow inside of you! Let faith arise, don't be afraid. And if it doesn't happen when you think it should- let me take care of your heart. Leave it to me".

Are you hoping for something? Take the risk and dare to hope. Let that faith spring up.

If the worst happens- God will take care of our hearts.

But somehow I think through hope- miracles are coming!




Thursday, November 1, 2012

I splurged.

I'm sorry y'all. I had to do it. 

I caved.

After a mere 24 hours of having the West Elm catalog in my hand,

I ordered this



But it was an emergency. Trust me.

And I was in love. And couldn't be talked down from the cliff.

I tried to get help, I really tried. But Ginny, Katie and Susan had no support to offer. 

And they caved with me.



And down we fell. 

Giddy, with hearts full of puppies and flowers and wood-burning fireplaces. Tumbling into beautiful West Elm oblivion. 

For reference, I googled "downward spiral" and this is what came up:


And that's about how hard I fell...

Lindsay Lohan hard.

Minus the drugs
alcohol
and
psycho-crazyness that is Lindsay Lohan.


West Elm, you have my whole heart. And I do not want it back.

Sincerely,
Your most faithful buyer

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

HaRim West - The newest member of the family.

Everyone, meet the Byuns. Sook, Sarah, HaRim and Michael. These are some of the most wonderful friends that we've ever met, hailing from Incheon, South Korea. But sadly, they all flew home this past Saturday. 


Well, everyone except for THIS guy.


Everyone, meet HaRim. The newest member of the West family. No, I'm not kidding. We have legal guardianship over this young soul for the next three months. AND WE ARE SO EXCITED!!!


But not as excited as him!


Long story short, he and his family wanted him to have a more "American" experience, and give him the chance to work a little bit more on his English. So we've decided to let him move in until mid-January, take him everywhere we go, and treat him as if he were our own child. (Which meant he cooked us Korean dinner on Sunday night. Including sauteed anchovies, squid, and rice wrapped in seaweed. I win no awards for how I did with the anchovies on my plate). 


I do want to leave you with this conversation between HaRim and Patrick on night #1:
Patrick (ordering at Chick-fil-A): I  got a complikated order! Sekurity!
HaRim: I want to learn to talk like that.
Patrick: Like how?
HaRim: Like British people.
Patrick: That was ebonics. 


In other news I punished Lucy today for eating out of the litter box.

That is all.


Monday, October 22, 2012

YAMMO, Indy, Weddings and Friends

Re-capping the last three weeks seems utterly impossible. I had a brief (and early) visit with Lauren. Pardot was acquired by ExactTarget. I went to ExactTarget's user's conference in Indianapolis. We went to our first Jewish wedding. And we celebrated Benji's wedding in Athens with some old friends. 

Everything has been SO FUN but man, I am beat. 


Co-workers at our YAMMO party. We rented out the roof of the W in Buckhead, and were transported in limousines to this fabulously swanky event. And have I mentioned that I LOVE my co-workers? I'm pretty much obsessed with these incredibly smart, sweet, and talented women. 


If you go on a walk with me, this is what I do. I instagram. Shamelessly.

At Greg and Lauren's wedding. Mazel Tov!

Our FINAL meal with our Korean neighbors. They leave this weekend, but are considering leaving the 15-year old with us. And by considering, I mean we've signed the paperwork to be legal guardians for the next 3 months. 

Indianapolis with fellow Pardashians. Minutes away from hearing THE Michael J. Fox. Yep, we're spoiled. 

LOVED this "Hub" crawl in Indy. Each sponsor of ExactTarget sponsored a dj, food, drinks, etc. at 8 different bars/clubs around Indianapolis. So we spent the night dancing, laughing, and seeing the city lights of Indy.

Aaannnndddd we had a private concert with The Fray. Who we then met at the airport the next morning on their way back to Denver. Isaac Slade I love you. 

This was in Athens on our .7 mile walk from Benji's wedding to the reception. But naturally, we had to stop by 579 Pulaski. Otherwise known as "The Heezy." Let me know if you haven't heard that story, because it's awesome. 



With the groom at the MOST FUN WEDDING EVER. And I mean EVER. Praise God for Ke$ha and Gangnam Style.


Brunch at the Farm.



If you can see that journal I'm holding, Frankie made that baby out of a dryer sheet. And it's pretty incredible.