Thursday, July 31, 2014

Topsail at 6:30AM

The last day at the beach (July 26th), which I don't even count as a "day" since everyone was packing and driving home, I got up early with my cousins Greg and Abby, and we went out in the ocean one last time. It makes me sad to think that I may not see them again for a few years, unless Michael and I are finally able to make a road trip/ flight up to their lake house. I probably haven't been there since right after high school. But I love how close I am with my cousins when are all together ~ just like brothers and sisters.
And the night before everyone left Topsail, instead of watching a movie, Greg showed us all of the pictures he took when he was on his three-week medical mission trip to Africa in May/ June. He went to Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. I really liked when Greg would say, "Oh, here's a picture for Rachel," and it was of a bunch of orphans! By the way, tomorrow I will start a combined sponsorship through Amazima Ministries with my friends Mia, Sharanya and Lindsey. =)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Portraits ~ Danielle

Michael and I just drove down to Orlando from Birmingham with his mom. He says this is really the last time we will move until we get a house, but we say that every time. They are enjoying mother/son time at dinner and driving around the area, while I have doggy time with Sasha in the nice hotel. It has beautiful wood floors, and of course I have to take advantage of the free Wifi!!
On Friday (July 18th), I met my friend Danielle at the Aldridge Botanical Gardens in Hoover, Alabama so I could take some modeling pictures of her. I wanted to do it for fun and since I haven't done portraits in forever, plus she needed an updated photo to send out with her graduation invitations. It was about 15% rainy, but I convinced her to still meet me since we had been planning this photo shoot for a few weeks and it was the very last day we were both available. I'm sure I also threw in a comment about how if she wanted to be a real model, she would do whatever it takes! I did the same, as the photographer, waking up earlier than usual for this fun opportunity.
I loved the mix of green foliage, small bright flowers, the blue in her clothing, the vibrant pink lipstick and gold pearls so much that I didn't even have to edit any of them. Well, Michael edited the rain drops from the top of her lovely royal blouse (a term I never use, but its nicer than a shirt!) in her number one favorite picture/ the first one posted. Danielle told me that her sister did her make up that morning. I thought it looked really nice. Very America's Next Top Model. My goodness, when is Cycle 21 going to air?
Danielle was an easy model (my favorite!) ~ coming up with her own poses, aware of the lighting, and knowing where she wanted the scene set, without needing too much direction from me. But she was a wonderful mix between serious and silly. I even got a few crazy shots of her purposely making faces just to make me laugh! I miss her and my other friends already, but now when Michael and I go back to Birmingham to visit his family, I will have plenty of time to see my friends too.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


On Thursday night Lauren texted me saying, "Don't make plans for tomorrow night." I got excited because she had mentioned a going away party for me. So on Friday, Michael and I met a bunch of my friends at Al's Grill- a popular spot known for their chicken fingers that Michael had taken me to during Full Sail for one of our Birmingham trips to visit his parents. We have talked a lot recently about being more social, especially after we move, since a lot of his Universal friends still haven't met me yet. I was so glad he was a part of this night, so I definitely owe him one. It's just really nice having him sit next to me and being able to give him a smile and squeeze his hand.

I had originally asked Lauren if it was going to be an Amish party, but she said no. (An Amish party is where everyone dresses in olden clothes, sits around a wooden table with candles lit and we talk about Jesus!) I promised Danielle that I would wear my Helen Keller outfit, until I remembered that I have packed everything except exercise clothes and beach clothes - hence my cute little beach dress. Michael said I was talking and laughing louder than usual with everyone, but that's a Rumspringa for you! ;)

I'm really glad that everyone was able to make it.

** Today is Cory Monteith's one year "death-iversary". ☹ I'd be binge watching old Glee episodes on Netflix if I could, but for some reason it hasn't been working on my laptop and I don't know how to use the Apple TV device. Plus all my DVDs have been packed for weeks. Instead I've been amazed by this Harry Potter/ Twilight dance battle video that I found online today. The BTS is great too!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Packing again.. oh my goodness. Please don't ever give me anything for the rest of my entire life. I'll open it with a big smile on my face and exclaim, "Oooh! The shoppers at Goodwill are going to love this!!" ~ Rachel, 5 July 2014

Packing is another activity that makes me want less. Why is everything that I buy important in that moment? Why do we "need" so much junk? Storage units should not ever be necessary so it is very nice that we will have a garage next month. I want everything I own to fit in two suitcases.
 Sasha is definitely going to miss her spacious front porch. But I'm looking forward to living in a smaller place and paying less for rent. About half of what we paid for rent in California and a few hundred less than where we lived in Orlando before, but not less than here. ;)

A big thank you to Michael for boxing almost everything up while I have been at work. And of course thank you to his parents for giving us a place to live since we didn't have enough money left in savings to move straight to Orlando from California last year. But Birmingham is a beautiful place and I've enjoyed calling it "home" for the past nine months.

Ruffner Mountain

Michael was bummed that he wasn't able to spend my birthday with me since I was gone for a week. But we made plans for Wednesday, June 18th since we both had that day off from work. We originally talked about going to Desoto Caverns, but when things began moving along with the 911 hiring process and we talked seriously about moving to Orlando and putting as much as we can into savings, I asked if we could hike at Ruffner Mountain instead since that is free! I had gone there in May when Sharanya visited after we got back from the beach at Hilton Head.
 Michael and I followed the quarry trail to an opening at the bottom. He hated it! Ha, he felt like he was in the dessert and the air felt hotter and more humid, but I didn't complain. I just kept taking pictures. Then we followed a different trail back up to the cliff part for that amazing view! It looks a lot higher from the top than from the safety of being on the ground, but I was feeling risky. ;)
After hiking we definitely took cold showers back at home since it was so hot out. (Hopefully I will go swimming more in Orlando if I go to Mia's apartment or Alana's or Miriam's house- they both have pools in their back yard!!) Then we picked up Michael's mom and the three of us had dinner again at Olive Garden. I love going there because I can fill up on bread sticks, salad and chicken gnocchi soup, then take my Italian entree home. This past Sunday, Michael and I had a date together at Salvatore's one last time. Oh my goodness- how do they make the best pizza in the world? That delicious thin crust and hot seasoned cheese. Next week may have to be our "one last time" instead.

Orphan Birthday

My way of thinking and wanting things has seemed to decrease in value over the past five years. You would think that as time goes on and the world gets greedier and new iPhones get updated that I would too. But it keeps making me want less. At some point during Full Sail, I began to talk a lot about the Amish culture, being fascinated that they choose to live a certain way even after all the inventions and advancements of American life, as asked by their religion. Then it went to Pioneer/ Little House on the Prairie times to make it even simpler. Living that way because nothing more had been invented. I was told about the PBS show "Frontier House" by my friend Lindsey and have watched that on and off- a kind of reality show from the 1990's about three families that live for five months in Montana as if they are living in 1883. They have to build their own houses, wash their clothes by hand every other day, ration their food until the time comes once a month where one family member can make the ten-hour trek to the general store and trade items for more groceries. Intense! But since I read "Kisses from Katie", I spend a lot of time thinking about third-world countries and orphans, wanting to help them by tithing (as often as I am allowed) so they can go to school for an education, have three meals a day and get the medical attention that they need.
Two of my closest friends since high school, Mia and Sharanya, selflessly volunteered to help me with a combined sponsorship through Amazima Ministries beginning in August, once Michael and I get situated into our wonderful new little apartment in Orlando. But if it doesn't work out for all three of us, I will still sponsor an orphan every month, using money out of my grocery fund and eat rice and beans for dinner and pray for everything God has given me over the past 27 years. This year I spent my birthday driving down to Gainesville for my brother's wedding. My mom worried that I was feeling left out in all of the marriage celebration, so we did my birthday that weekend. The girl in the photo is Celeste, the girl my mom has been sponsoring through Unbound (formerly called CFCA: Christian Foundation for Children and Aging) for several years now. I didn't have a picture of Mikaella with me, the girl I have been sponsoring through the same program for over two years. I need to keep praying to be able to do more for them. And others in general.

Blood Widow Release

Blood Widow, the feature-length movie that Michael and I worked on back in June 2011, was officially released for sale on Amazon on June 3rd of this year and out to rent on Redbox June 26th. Michael's parents have both seen it already, but we have not since we got the rough cut version back in Orlando.  But I'm excited to get our copy since it says the DVD comes with a blooper reel, deleted scenes and an audio commentary! I went through and watched some behind the scenes videos that I had recorded from those beautiful weeks a few summers ago. Michael did such a great job with all the special make up effects and I enjoyed being the 2nd Assistant Director and personal assistant to Ms. Gabbie Henry, our lead villain!
 I like my friends here in Birmingham asking me about the movie and how one guy will say "I think he's in the kitchen" every time he walks by me since that was my famous line as Hipster at Party (and I would have no problem dressing like that every day). I kept planning to bring in my Blood Widow scrapbook, before remembering that it has been boxed up already. I was watching the official behind the scenes videos on YouTube that were released as the time passed to get fans excited for the final release. Michael's video is here & Brandon's video (Hugh/ male protagonist) is here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


I hope next year, around the end of June, I remember to read the 4th of July posts by Naomi Davis on her LoveTaza blog. She makes it look like the best holiday ever! (See their 2014 and 2013 celebrations linked here.) We spent the day boxing things up for our move back to Orlando- of course Michael did most of the work while I filtered through all my scrapbook stickers, themed paper and embellishments. Parker and his girlfriend, Joo, were visiting for the weekend at Michael's parents' house and cooked the hamburgers and hotdogs for us. We also ate potato salad, baked beans and fruit for dinner, outside on the patio. Around 7:30pm Michael drove us to a church parking lot up on a big hill where a lot of other people were. We waited about an hour until it got dark and the fireworks started at 9pm over the famous Vulcan statue in Birmingham. It was nice being outside and talking with Michael without distractions of TV or internet. I did complain about being cold (every other day has been so hot I have barely gone for walks) so Michael let me use the chair covers as pants!! These are the only pictures we took this year for the 4th of July, but I was glad I had a red shirt this year. Last year I had to substitute with pink:

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sharanya Visiting

Sharanya stayed with us for a few days one week at the end of May, after we got back from Hilton Head. I worried that I would feel too tired or rushed having just gotten back the day before and having to work every day she was here, but it ended up being really great and I liked keeping busy. No wonder Jessica always loves being around people and wanting company ~ it's a great feeling!!

She arrived on Wednesday night (May 21st) and I set up the blow up mattress for her. Sasha loved laying on it when we weren't home. I am not sure why I didn't bring my nice Canon camera when we went out places. Perhaps it was too hot and I was feeling lazy all week, but these pictures are from Sharanya's phone, which I just stole off her Facebook page. Thank you!!

Day 2: We went to Ruffner Mountain before I had to go to work. I had wanted to go there for a few months since I read that you could see the view of Birmingham from one of the cliff overlooks. That's what you can see in the second photo, but Sharanya and I both liked the quarry view better. It was much quieter and she liked watching the hawk fly around. We also went along the trail that pointed to the coal mine area. There was a lot of red mud that we slipped through, but it was fun.
Day 3: We went to Peavine Falls before I had to go to work. I enjoyed taking her on all the trails since she gets so excited about everything. It was really cool at the bottom where the main water fall was since there were a group of friends hanging out in their tree hammocks that are really popular this year- or maybe just popular in Birmingham. Same goes for all the velco sandals everyone wears now when they hike. Sandals that people got made fun of for wearing in high school. One girl there had pretty fushia colored hair and she talked to Sharanya for a minute about what products they use.
Day 4: We went to the Botanical Gardens before I had to go to work. Sharanya and I both loved the cactus area in the green house. That wasn't opened when Michael and I went in January and none of the flowers had bloomed either. I really liked their gift shop too and bought my mom a tiny heart shaped do-dad that says "Love You Mom". I gave it to her on my birthday when I saw her, as a belated Mother's Day gift. She ordered us handmade paper necklaces from Amazima Ministries.
I only had to work for three hours that day (May 23rd), so at 5:30 Michael drove us to the Bottletree Cafe in downtown Birmingham. A hole-in-the-wall- kind of bar with music that Sharanya found online. She helps me feel adventurous when it comes to food, so I ordered the black bean burger and a slice of tofu pie. It was actually really good- peanut butter flavor! Before it got dark we stopped to tour the Vulcan statue. The main lobby area was really pretty with marble stairs to get to the second floor, then the rest was cement. I would say there were maybe 15 floors? Michael took the elevator borth ways, but I also don't like elevators with huge windows so it feels like a roller coaster. I did not enjoy the heights or the metal floor with slats all through it, but Sharanya was nice and took my hand and told me I was brave.
The morning before she left we went to Edgar's Bakery for a wonderful breakfast. I got the ham and egg croissant and she got a carrot muffin and what I call "the Amish oatmeal". Pure oats in a bowl with tiny cups around it to add each item: brown sugar, strawberries, blueberries, crushed walnuts, or milk. She filled up quickly and let me have the rest. I found a lot of healthy and scrumptious looking oatmeal recipe ideas on Pinterest. It's on my grocery list for the future after I actually eat the 20 cans of soup I bought last year!! I also forget how many easy meals I have added to my Pinterest boards that still look amazing. I'll have to make some "before and afters" of those meals too. So far I've only done a few last year and I got into a great cooking phase because it was super important for me to be healthy and active last Fall. What a great time that was. ♥
On her drive back to Gainesville, Sharanya stopped in Lumpkin, Georgia to see the Little Grand Canyon. We had planned to go there in June with Mia and Tonia, but it that trip got cancelled since all four of us were not able to all get the same days off from work. Hopefully it will be easier with a set schedule in Orlando and then we wouldn't have to drive as far. I'd love to take a trip to Key West and I am very ready for a 5 year "tubing down a river" reunion next summer!