2020 reads + 2021 challenge!

This last year I challenged myself to reading 46 books – double what I had read in 2019. Though it was down to the last second, I did it!

I have loved reading ever since I was a girl. My parents would ground me from reading when I got in trouble. I devoured book after book for years. And then *boom* trauma happened and even reading became too difficult. At the sign of any conflict in a book, I would clam up – fearful to feel whatever hurt these fictional characters were going to feel. I stopped reading as much. And then pretty much stopped all together. When I finally was able to start picking up books again, sometime after Lainey had come home, I made my “only happy things” rule. That helped me ease back into my bookish ways.

Though I still stick pretty closely to my rule, I am slowly allowing myself to feel things again. That being said, I do love a good rom-com and I definitely judge a book by it’s cover – oops!

Here are my 2020 reads:

My goal in 2021 is to read 52 books – a book a week! I made this challenge tracker so feel free to download it and make sure you tag me!

I’m already three books into my goal this year and they have all been a delight. You can follow my reads on instagram under the “books on books” highlight OR let’s be friends on goodreads!

what to read and watch after you’ve binged bridgerton

Little Women

The most recent adaptation of Little Women is the perfect movie to watch if you are hungry for more independent women after finishing Bridgerton! Love and heartbreak, friendship and betrayal – you can’t go wrong with this classic tale. You can watch on Hulu and Amazon Prime.

Reign

Not the same era as Bridgerton, but Reign is a delightfully royal series about Mary, Queen of Scots. If you need a series with some of the more *ahem* intimate moments, you’ll love this retelling of the infamous queen. You can watch on Netflix!

To Have and to Hoax/To Love and to Loathe (April 2021)

To Have and To Hoax is the first in the series by Martha Waters (To Love and To Loathe will be out in April 2021). Both books are regency era, so if you miss hearing about the goings on in the ton, they will be perfect for you! They are also both rather entertaining and had me laughing out loud on multiple occasions. I can definitely identify with the women toeing the line of what is socially acceptable!

Bringing Down the Duke/A Rogue of One’s Own

Evie Dunmore’s series called “A League of Extraordinary Women” begins with Bringing Down the Duke. We get a view into society from the vantage of less well off women who want an education equal to their male counterparts while also championing the right to vote in England. I haven’t read A Rogue of One’s Own yet, but it’s on my list and the third in the series comes out in September 2021.

The Selection Series

I read all of this series in about a week! The best way to describe it would be The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor. I know dystopian can scare some readers away, but it’s not too dystopian ya know? The story sucked me in with all of the love, drama, and secrets – Lady Whistledown would approve!

Downton Abbey

OK am I the worst for admitting that I’ve never seen Downton Abbey???! I know. I feel like it’s blasphemy. But now it is next on my “to be watched” list! It’s available on Amazon Prime.

The rest of the Bridgerton book series

The next book is The Viscount Who Loved Me, Anthony’s tale, and you better believe I have it on hold at the library!

Belgravia

Belgravia is based on a ball that took place the night of the Battle of Waterloo and follows the events following that evening in the London neighborhood of Belgravia. You can watch on Prime, Sling TV, or YouTube TV.

Sanditon

Did you know that Jane Austen had an unfinished book called Sanditon that she was working on before her death?! Me either. But PBS has turned it into an 8 episode series that you can watch now on Prime Video!

Enjoy! Let me know which one you are starting next!!

3 podcasts to listen to right now

I’m a big podcast listener. I love being able to learn something new in short bursts and while doing something else because I don’t like to be alone with my thoughts. Anyone else?? Just me? Ok fine. I also love using podcasts to diversify my narrative. I have a singular view of the world but I can change that by learning from those who are different from me.

Anywho, here are 3 podcast episodes you need to listen to right now.

  1. A friend recently recommended an episode of This American Life called “The Problem We All Live With.” It is a deep look into an accidentally desegregated school district in Missouri and the inequality that is all too prevalent in education today. I actually had a really hard time listening to it because this is a reality that I see every day. It breaks my heart and lights a fire under my ass, all at the same time.

2. Ok I would not consider myself a goal-driven hustler but I found the “Pricing 101: How to Get Paid What You’re Worth” episode of Goal Digger: The Podcast to be super informative. Especially for all of the women (and even more specifically, women of color) out there that are getting paid LESS than their male counterparts.

3. Finally, I’ve posted about this podcast before but I am posting again because I think hormone health is SO important. The Healthier Together podcast with Liz Moody did an “Ask the Doctor: Hormone Edition” with Dr. Aviva Romm and it was quite informative. Hormone health is a a marathon, not a sprint, and this episode will give you a place to start.

If you listen, please let me know! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

getaway trip

I’ve been listening to a podcast about sustainability recently and one of the episodes was about Nature Deficit Disorder, a term coined by author Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods. Of course, I immediately diagnosed myself with NDD even though it’s not a real disorder. In that podcast they stated that the average American child spends 4 to 7 minutes outside every day doing unstructured play. Four to seven MINUTES a day. What the what?! Getting outside and getting away is so good for our mind, body, spirituality, etc. and it is something that we have to prioritize in our life. 

A few weeks ago, Bryan and I did just that and went to Getaway House right outside of Tyler, TX. Getaway has what they call “outposts” outside of several major cities across the United States. It is essentially a tiny house in the middle of the woods and IT. WAS. GLORIOUS. We did nothing. We read, we did crossword puzzles, we talked about dreams and plans. Bryan decided we need to get a tiny house – which sounds like a terrible idea, ha!

Here’s what I suggest you bring with you: 

– Books (notebooks, books to read, puzzle books, any kind of books)

– Groceries – We ran by the grocery store on the way out of town and grabbed some snacks and ingredients for meals! 

– Comfy clothes – For real, we just laid around all day to bring your comfies. 

– Coffee filters – That was the one thing that wasn’t provided that we ended up needing! 

Ok guys. Getaway. Enjoy the silence. Or the music. And enjoy the time in nature! If you choose to take time at a Getaway House, use code RACHELMLEWIS for $25 off your booking.

weight watchers update

Ok so they say it takes 21 days to make a habit and 90 days to make a lifestyle change. I don’t know who “they” are but they’re probably right. I am on day 21 of weight watchers and it is definitely starting to become a habit.

Let me remind you of a few things: I do not own a scale. I have no idea what my “before” weight was or what my current weight is. We don’t talk about bad foods for us in our home – everything is good for something. Ok, moving on.

5 things I’ve learned so far:

  1. PREP PREP PREP
    Here’s where I think any “diet” fails – preparation. And that has by far been the hardest part about this whole thing. I hate saying that I’m busy because everyone makes time for the things you prioritize but I have a hard time prioritizing meal prep! What has helped has been finding a friend to meal prep with. I make double the recipe of a few meals and my friend makes double the recipe of a few meals and we swap. It has truly been such a lifesaver!
  2. Eat real food
    WW has so many zero point foods and, guess what? ALL of the zero point foods are REAL foods. Nothing processed, just eating food in it’s original form.
  3. Greek yogurt is KING
    Y’all. I hate yogurt. Hate it. Won’t allow it in my house. Unfortunately, WW loves to use Greek yogurt as a substitute for a lot of things. I was so annoyed when I first bought some at the store. I even decided only to get a single serve because I thought there was no way I would like it. BUT GUYS, when Greek yogurt is in something (like the WW two ingredient dough), you can’t even taste it. Speaking of the two ingredient dough – it’s Greek yogurt and self rising flour and it makes this wonderful almost sourdough type bread and it’s all I want to eat anymore.
  4. Eat whatever the eff you want.
    Here’s what I believe (and I have no nutrition experience or expertise or anything like that), some foods are good for your body and some foods are good for your soul. I love that WW has directed me towards more foods that are good for my body, but I am still happily going to enjoy some foods that are good for my soul.
  5. Pay attention
    I have loved paying more attention to how my body feels after eating certain foods. Do I sleep better? Am I more energized when I eat an egg for breakfast rather than a muffin? How is my mood? My therapist would be so proud of me for noticing these things.

I will continue sharing favorite recipes I find and some “hacks” if you will as I continue my WW journey.

Interested in joining me? Get a free month using this link!

Love y’all.

world breastfeeding week

It’s World Breastfeeding Week! When I first saw posts celebrating this week, my heart hurt a little bit. Which surprised me because I honestly didn’t think I had any sadness surrounding my breastfeeding journey. And I am still not sure I do, because I love where both of my girls ended up and I loved that Bryan could help with feedings – LOL!

Right after Emmy was born.

I’ll give short explanations of each of my journey’s with the girls but first I want to point out that however you feed your baby is FANTASTIC. Seriously. I know you see “fed is best” and if you’re anything like me you still experienced some shame around not breastfeeding or supplementing, or pumping or WHATEVER. I have had friends who have had absolutely extraordinary breastfeeding journeys and I have had friends who weren’t able to breastfeed for whatever reason. Each mama and baby are doing what is best for them.

First time feeding Lainey with a bottle! She was about 3.5 months old here.

With Lainey’s early birth, I began exclusively pumping and was actually able to work my supply up to a pretty decent size. Lainey was taking teeny tiny syringes of donor’s milk and then my milk through her feeding tube. She was also on a milk fortifier to add calories to her milk – that didn’t end up sitting well in her gut. There was also a period of time when she was exclusively fed through IV nutrition so she has truly seen it all! Around 4 months old I was DONE exclusively pumping. Just DONE. Lainey had developed an intolerance to my milk and between NICU trauma and just the general suckiness of exclusively pumping, I was so frustrated and NOT about to add diet changes into the mix. The nurses and doctors were so supportive of my decision to stop and we ended up finding a formula that worked for Lainey’s tummy and she was fed by bottle and g-tube for the first year+ of her life.

Tube feeding meant Lainey could sleep through her feeds!

Emmy needed formula from the very beginning. Her sugars were low so she spent a minute in the NICU and we supplemented with formula while trying to make the breastfeeding thing work. Emmy was a little lazy on the boob (ha!) so after trying and working with lactation specialists, and pumping, and googling, we stopped breastfeeding at 4 months and moved to formula. We moved to a more natural formula for Emmy and she became much happier!

Emmy loved her baba.

With both girls, I had obviously been through some trauma and had postpartum PTSD/OCD flair-ups which made the desire to breastfeed non-existent. It was a HUGE help to me to be able to rely on Bryan to help with feedings. Wherever you are (or have been or will be), know that YOU are the best person to make the decision for you and your baby!

xo, Rachel

my favorite multi-use products

This post may contain affiliate links. All thoughts and opinions are my own. A few deals: currently new customers can get 20% of at beautycounter with the code CLEANFORALL20. Also, use this link to get $10 off of your purchase of $50 or more at credo.

Recently I have fallen in love with multi-use products. Here’s what I mean by multi-use: one product that can be used for cheeks, lips, and eyelids. With quarantine and barely wearing makeup, I just love the simplicity! Here’s what I’ve tried and what I’m loving.

Moving from top to bottom in the above picture:

  1. Olio E Osso Tinted Balm in No. 8 Persimmon – $28

    I liked this one A LOT! The color was not what I was expecting based on the picture. It is a lot oranger than it shows on any website you go to purchase from. I was worried about how it would look when I took it out of the box but it ended up being a perfect summery shade. I’d say this product lasted most of the day but I definitely could have benefitted from a reapplication.

2. Axiology Lip-To-Lid Balmie in Rosé – $14

The Axiology Balmie is a super natural look and I love that balmies are zero waste. They seem small but they just aren’t in typical packaging. They are long-lasting and I didn’t feel the need to reapply later in the day.

3. Ere Perez Beetroot Cheek and Lip Tint in Fun – $26

Ok, honestly the bright color really drew me in on this one. And beetroot?? So random but sounded cool so I went for it. This tint really is more of a stain and definitely is long-lasting. Also, the color “fun” is VERY pink – VERY PINK. I don’t know if it’s a daily color for me but it’s a mood, for sure.

4. Beautycounter Color Pinch Cream Blusher in Hibiscus – $38

This is another nice and neutral color that I think would look good on any skin tone. As with all beautycounter products, a little goes a long way so I really only needed a dot of color on each cheek and it lasted all day. The only downside is that there isn’t the shade variety that’s available with some of the other products.

There you go! One product for eyes, lips, and cheeks! Perfect for summer, someone who loves the minimal makeup look, or someone always on the go.

xo, Rachel

top 10 reads of 2020 so far

Ok so this is actually the top 12 books but that didn’t have the same ring to it… My goal for 2020 was to read 46 books! That would be double what I read last year. I’m currently 30 books in so I’m happy with my progress! I mainly listen to audiobooks I check out from the library using the “Libby” app. I love audiobooks because I can listen while working on other things (laundry, blog posts, etc.). There are some audiobooks where I can’t stand listening to the narrator so I try switching to an ebook or print book before giving up on the book entirely!

Here are my top ten(ish) books of 2020 so far in the order that I read them!

Love from A to Z

This was one of the first books I read in 2020. Love from A to Z follows Zayneb as she is suspended from school for confronting a teacher’s anti-Muslim teaching. She goes to stay with her aunt in Doha, Qatar where her path crosses Adam. Their meeting is both a marvel and an oddity that unwinds beautifully.

Well Met

The enemies to lovers trope is one of my favorites and Well Met does not disappoint! Emily gets roped into helping her niece at a local Renaissance fair where she meets Simon. Simon is uptight and annoying, except when he starts acting at the fair. His double personality confuses Emily – are the feelings real or just a part of their fair characters?

Love and Other Words

Ok there have been a couple of books this year that don’t pass my “only happy things rule” and Love and Other Words is one of them. A love story decades in the making between Macy and Elliot with lots of heartbreak and family secrets AND ALL OF MY TEARS.

99 Percent Mine

Darcy has been in love with Tom Valeska ever since she laid eyes on him as a young girl. The only problem is that her twin brother met him first and they have been best friends ever since. Tom moves back to help Darcy restore her grandmother’s house and, well, YOU KNOW.

The Hating Game

Same author as 99 Percent Mine with my favorite enemies to lovers trope. It is seriously SO good. Office rivalry, job promotion, love affair. Loved it.

American Royals

A book about what life would be like if America had become a monarchy instead of a democracy. The Washingtons are the royal family and they have a lot of royal secrets. Perfect for fans of The Royal We!

The Friend Zone/ The Happy Ever After Playlist

Ok I grouped these two together because they are a continuation of the same story. These both did NOT follow my “only happy things” rule. They tackle infertility and loss in the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful way. But it was hard for me to get through them because they were so real.

The Bromance Book Club/Undercover Bromance

I loved BOTH of these books. They also continue characters from one book to the next which is so fun. Gavin gets roped into joining a secret book club with some prominent men in his city. The only catch is that they only read romance books. The goal? To woo their women! Book two is about the only single guy in the group, Braden Mack, and his quest to open himself up.

Tweet Cute

This YA book was SO AMAZING. I was turned off by the name but I was pleasantly surprised. Pepper is helping her mom run the Big League Burger twitter account and ends up in a twitter feud with a small, local grilled cheese shop. Eventually she finds out that her classmate Jack is the one behind the feud and chaos ensues.

Real Men Knit

A sweet and sassy story about four brothers who take over a Harlem knitting shop after their mom passes away. This book centers around Jesse, the youngest brother, and Kerry, a young woman who worked with Jesse’s mom at the knitting shop. Let me just tell you, I am looking forward to more stories about the Strong brothers!

There you go! My favorite reads of 2020 so far. I’m looking forward to more reads this year. Have any suggestions?? Make sure to comment below and they might get added to my list! 🙂

xo, Rachel

clean shower routine!

This post may contain affiliate links. All thoughts and opinions are my own. A few deals: currently new customers can get 20% of at beautycounter with the code CLEANFORALL20. Also, use this link to get $10 off of your purchase of $50 or more at credo.

Ok so I have crazy hair. Mind-of-it’s-own hair. It has changed during and after each pregnancy and then I developed bad scalp psoriasis after Emmy was born. It used to be super curly, but it has gotten less curly as I’ve gotten older. I also started going gray when I was about 20 (thanks Dad!) and started dying my hair about 3 years ago. Just some background to keep in mind as you move forward throughout this post!

Pre-Shower

Drunk Elephant recently came out with hair care and so I jumped on the T.L.C. Happi Scalp Scrub. I’m really liking it! I apply it about 15-30 minutes prior to a shower. It has a nozzle that helps apply the scrub directly to the scalp. Rub it into your scalp a bit and then leave it alone.

Right after I apply the scalp scrub, I use the Acure Moroccan Argan Oil all over my hair and wrap my hair up in a towel wrap or shower cap to let sit for 15-30 minutes.

Shower time – hair!

I have a lot of hair… have I said that? So there are several steps to this shower routine. I should also mention that I only wash my hair every 5-6 days. This took training but works for me! Here are the steps:

  1. Pura D’or Scalp Therapy Shampoo – I use this just on my scalp and massage in with the…
  2. Vanity Planet Groove Scalp Massager before rinsing the shampoo out.
  3. Next I use the Innersense Organic Beauty Pure Harmony Hair Bath to shampoo the rest of my hair.
  4. Beautycounter Daily Conditioner is what I use when I wash my hair. And then every other shower I use…
  5. Briogeo Be Gentle Be Kind Moisture Mask on my hair from the mid-shaft to the ends. Leave this mask on for about 5-10 minutes before rinsing out.

Shower time – body!

  1. Countercontrol Clear Pore Cleanser is my “shower face wash”! I like this cleanser because it has a gentle exfoliation which always feels nice after steam from the shower.
  2. The Beautycounter Sugar Body Scrub is maybe the best part of my week. Ok that’s a little hyperbolic BUT it is amazing. I use it before shaving my legs. It’s a great full body exfoliator!
  3. I use the Billie Razor to shave and I’m a big fan! It shaves super smoothly (is that a thing??) and you can subscribe so they automatically send you replacement razor heads! I’ve also heard good things about their shave cream but I haven’t used it.
  4. Originally this was meant for Bryan but I used it once and loved it, so for my body wash I use Beautycounter’s Counterman Energizing Charcoal Body Wash.

Post-Shower

For my body I LOVE Countermatch Adaptive Body Moisturizer.

For my hair, I spray on Innersense Sweet Spirit Leave In Conditioner while my hair is still damp. If I am leaving my hair curly, I also spray in Innersense I Create Waves while my hair is still damp and let it air dry (which takes approximately 72 days). If I am blowdrying my hair I use the Revlon One-Step Hair Dryer which is the only blow dryer I have ever owned.

And that’s it! Does it make sense why I only wash my hair every 5-6 days?? Because this is definitely a ROUTINE. Bryan makes fun of me because on hair washing days my showers take like 45 minutes. But this is what works for me. I don’t think you can go wrong with products from any of the brands above! They’re clean and effective which is a win-win. I’m always happy to answer any questions – drop them in the comments!

xo, Rachel

A non-exhaustive list of diverse books – black characters

Hi all! It’s been a minute. But after my instagram post on diverse books the other day, I have had several people reach out for more book recs.

Here’s what I am going to focus on: books from all genres that are not necessarily about historical events/figures OR culture. There might be some of those things in the books below but my main focus was to highlight books with diverse characters.

IMPORTANT: do not read this as “books about the Civil Rights Movement or slavery are not important.” That is NOT what I am saying by any means. The reality is, most books written about people of color (POC) are about historical events and do not display a black character as the protagonist in a fairy tale or the star of the soccer team. I want my students to learn about history but I also want them to be KIDS and to see themselves in stories that kids enjoy just for the fun of it. So that is what this list is focused on.

Books that feature black characters:

Two Problems for Sophia

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut

Ada Twist, Scientist

When God Made You

God’s Very Good Idea

What If…

Teddy’s Favorite Toy

Grace for President

The Adventures of Sparrowboy

All Are Welcome

Molly Mac Series

Beautiful

Green Pants

Hands Up! (This one is about protesting at the end but is a beautiful story)

Princess Truly Series

I am Famous

Jabari Jumps

Nighttime Symphony

Little Red Gliding Hood

Please, Puppy, Please

Dancing in the Wings

Mary Had a Little Glam

Monster Trouble

Even Superheroes Have Bad Days

The Word Collector

Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion

Billy Bloo is Stuck in Goo

Do NOT Bring Your Dragon to the Library

I Like Myself

The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do

Excellent Ed

The Snowy Day

I hope this list is a good jumping off point for you and that you start looking for books that include diverse characters as you buy. I was going to include books with hispanic children and books with asian/middle eastern children but I think I need to make a separate list! I purposefully didn’t link each of these books because I would love for you to support a local and/or black owned book store. But I also understand that sometimes we just need to amazon prime things!

*I’ll end with a list of black owned bookstores.*

https://www.braveandkindbooks.com/

https://bookshop.org/shop/Semicolonchi

https://brainlairbooks.handseller.com/category/categorysearch/Childrens

https://www.afriwarebooks.com/store/c4/AFRICAN-AMERICAN-CHILDRENS-BOOKS

https://www.detroitbookcity.com/

https://www.mahoganybooks.com/

https://unclebobbies.indielite.org/

https://ashaybythebay.com/

https://bookshop.org/shop/thelitbar

https://www.cafeconlibrosbk.com/

https://frugalbookstore.net/collections/all

Love you all.

Rachel