A Parade of Homes and Dreams

To live is to dream, and some of my favorite fantasies involve beautiful houses! How adult of me, right?

I just love seeing what’s new and trendy in the world of home building, and enjoy taking mental notes of what I’d love to have or try to avoid once I’m in the process of finding (or some day building) a home. And how do I do that without being hounded by realtors during an open house? I participate in the Parade of Homes — specifically the event in Grand Rapids.

The Home Builders Association of Greater Grand Rapids hosts a spring and fall Parade, showcasing dozens of newly constructed or renovated houses and condos. For a small $12 fee, you get to explore as many houses listed on the roster as you want, and the ticket lasts throughout the entire event, which is typically two to three weekends and some Wednesdays. You drive yourself to each location.


The homes that are featured come in all styles and square footage, and while many are up for sale, some have already sold to lucky families. Typically you’ll be able to speak to the builder on site, even if it’s just to compliment his work, and most of the houses are decorated with furniture, artwork, and other home goods from local businesses to help you really get a feel for what it would be like to live under the roof.

I’ve been to a good number of Parade of Homes tours, and I’ve learned that if you try to see everything, it could be a waste of time depending on your likes, dislikes, and needs when dreaming of or seriously looking to build/purchase a new home. I personally have a few guidelines when planning which houses to see and which to leave behind.

Builders: Simply put, after seeing so many houses by generally the same builders every year, you get to learn which perform quality work and which, well, don’t. I definitely have my favorite companies (Eastbrook Homes, y’all!), so I always make a point to see their new homes, even though I’m familiar with their styles. Builders who are new or at least new to the Parade of Homes are usually a “go look” for me, unless they lack on the two other things in my guidelines…

Square Footage: Although I seriously doubt I’m going to have children one day, I’ve found that houses in the 2,500 square foot range are ones I feel fit me best. It’s large enough without being too big, allowing for room to grow. Usually a home of this size has 2-3 bedrooms, two full baths, and one half bath, along with a finished basement. I prefer to have the extra space because I’d love to entertain and have guests over often, and desire an office space. Square footage is more important to me than having a two-story or ranch-style home.

The Dream: Some houses, no matter what, are “must sees.” I’m talking about the larger-than-life, decked out in all things luxury and excess type of homes. These particular showcases are not to be taken seriously as housing prospects, but to simply marvel at the space and dream of owning something like it if you became famous or won the lottery. Homes in this category usually hit about 4,000 square feet or higher, and have a “contact builder for price” printed in the description. These houses will make your eyes bug out of your head upon arrival.

However, there are a few exceptions to the rule. If there’s a really awesome-looking home built by a construction company I know I don’t care for, I will forgo the visit to that location. There’s one builder in particular I pretty much refuse to waste my time on, so I take a minute to cross all of their houses off the list. I also don’t visit the renovated homes or condos.

I look forward to the Parade of Homes each time it arrives, and even if I don’t attend, I usually check out the website to see what I’ll miss. If you love houses and love to dream like I do, give it a try. I know other communities in Michigan have their own Parade of Homes, and I’m sure other states do, too! You never know what you’ll see.

And speaking of never knowing what you’ll see, make sure you follow me on Instagram and check out my daily Instagram Stories! Get a behind-the-scenes and sometimes first look at my daily life and blog posts! You know you want to.


— Some photos by Justin McKee —

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Walk on a Yoga Mat All Summer Long with Sanuk

Summer means letting your feet breathe after being cooped up in boots for the last seven to eight months! That is, if your feet are well kept. Don’t come near me with your stinky toe jam!

I can confidently tell you that I own the most comfortable pair of sandals you’ll ever find, thanks to Sanuk Yoga Slings. While many types and brands require a certain “breaking in period,” where you spend at least a week wincing from newly-formed blisters, these babies fit perfectly with the first step, without plastic inserts rubbing your skin raw.

A friend of mine who introduced me to this type of Sanuk footwear owns a few pair, and described them to me as walking on yoga mats. You can wear them all day, she said, and she wears them with anything, every chance she gets. Now I understand why. And she’s not wrong about the yoga mat! The sandals are actually made with the same material, and it makes a world of difference.

A faithful pair of sandals ended up breaking on me a few weeks ago, and I figured it was as good a time as any to try Sanuk Yoga Slings for myself. I found the perfect basic cream pair I had been searching for, tried them on and didn’t want to take them off. I purchased them on the spot, and even debated purchasing a second pair in a more fun pattern, but I chose to hold off for now due to my budget. And I kid you not, whenever I wear these, at least one person stops to ask about them. Word is spreading on how fabulous Sanuk Yoga Slings really are.

Let me try and explain these sandals to you. The base is pillow-soft and squishy, the perfect material to sink your feet into. The straps are made of soft fabric — that again, won’t create blisters as you go about your day. Because of their design, the sandals are secured to your feet and there’s no worry about them flinging off if you plan on running, biking, or riding your favorite leg-dangling roller coaster. You can pair them with your favorite shorts, jeans, leggings, and casual dresses!

Can you tell how much I love Sanuk Yoga Slings? I give them my highest recommendation, truly! I’m sure you won’t regret giving them a try.


— Photos by Justin McKee —

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Sighs & Smiles: Ending on a High Note

I hope you’ve enjoyed your Memorial Day weekend! Though we all enjoy the extra time off and are probably kicking off summer with a cookout or two, please remember to take a moment and remember those brave individuals who have passed on during or after serving their country. We owe them greatly.

Let’s review the month of May, shall we? But first, take some time to appreciate this awesome photograph of the Northern Lights that Justin took this past weekend. Wowza.


  • My apartment complex is increasing rental fees. Even with the changes coming in two weeks (see the Smiles section), I’m more unsure if I will be able to stay here. It’s a $40 jump, which is pretty ridiculous considering what I’m already paying. Apartment hunting will resume in a couple weeks, but I don’t expect to find anything better than what I’ve already seen, which is seriously disappointing. Why is a nice apartment with in-unit laundry such a commodity?!
  • I believe my car is starting to show its age. I noticed an interesting quiet squeak coming from the passenger side front wheel. If I’m lucky, it’s only a bearing.
  • I get to schedule another CT scan, just to make sure things are as good as they can be inside my body. Bleh.


  • Now that it’s official everywhere else, Justin will be joining me here in Metro Detroit and moving in! Though he doesn’t have a position lined up yet, moving away from the area in which he grew up and worked his entire life is a big step, and we both believe it’ll be better for his mental and physical health, and just flat out easier in general. We’re both really looking forward to living together again, especially since the 3.5 hour drive (one way) to visit each other is exhausting.
  • My friend Marisol arrives this week for a long weekend! I’m so excited to see her again and show her more beautiful areas of Michigan. Hopefully the weather cooperates!
  • I’ve transferred to a new oncologist in a different health system, and I really like her, especially since she actually does her job and contacts people she needs information from. I’m not used to that! After some blood tests, they showed I’m not really in need of an iron infusion (yet, at least), and even better — the CEA test came back with such a low number it’s barely a blip on the radar. Score.
  • I made my first cheesecake! It wasn’t perfect due to user error, but I’ll take it as an accomplishment anyway, and it tasted delicious.

That’s all for this month! I’m so excited to get into June, which really means summer for us in Michigan! I’ll say goodbye and leave you with this tasty time lapse video, also taken by Justin during this beautiful weekend.


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Discovering the Benefits of Essential Oils

Have you discovered essential oils yet? Or maybe you’ve heard of them, but aren’t sure what they are, what they can do, or why they’re popular?

Now’s your chance to find out!

I’ve been using doTERRA essential oils regularly, and have been pleasantly surprised at the benefits I’m already gaining from the three vials I own from the doTERRA Beginner’s Trio Kit, which includes lavender, lemon, and peppermint essential oils. Each can be used for their own specific wellness purposes, and you can mix and match these oils together to create a personalized cocktail of aromas. I also have the doTERRA Petal Diffuser to aromatically release the oils in small areas of my apartment, though essential oils can be used topically and consumed in food and beverages.

doTERRA has dozens of essential oils, ranging from earthy, sweet, spicy, floral, and more. The company also has blends made of different oil combinations that provide their own special wellness benefit. There are quite a few I’d like to try in the future, such as Ylang Ylang, Bergamot, Citrus Bliss, and Sandalwood.

It’s common knowledge that lavender is primarily a scent for relaxation, and many nighttime bath and body products specifically use the herb to encourage calming sensations — especially for children as they prepare for bed. I mostly use this essential oil in my diffuser on my night stand, and I’ve noticed a significant change in my sleep quality. I’m a very light sleeper, often toss and turn, and usually wake once each night to either use the bathroom or feed my whiny cat. However, when I use lavender in the diffuser and leave it on after I turn out the light, the tossing stops, and I don’t stir until my alarm rings. Consider me impressed! I try to make sure I use it every night during the workweek. Lavender essential oil can also be used during a bath, in unscented lotions, or even directly on the skin to soothe mild skin irritation.

I love citrus scents, so lemon is probably my favorite of the trio. This oil smells so fresh and squeaky clean! I diffuse this smell when I need a mood booster, or when it’s a rainy day. Lemon makes me think of a warm summer’s day. In addition to diffusing, a drop of this oil can be added to your glass or bottle of water instead of fresh slices. It could also be coincidence, but I seem to become motivated to tidy up my apartment when I use it, and I’d be willing to bet it’s because I associate lemon with household cleaning products. And guess what? You can use this essential oil to do just that on your kitchen counters and stainless steel appliances.

I never would have guessed peppermint being useful besides being the flavor of gum, toothpaste, and candy canes during the holidays, but I found myself really enjoying this essential oil when it’s diffused. Then I learned of all the benefits it has! It may be the most versatile essential oil out there. I diffuse this when I’m getting tired in the middle of the day and need to perk up for a while, or if I’m working on a project (or blog post!) that I really want to focus on. If I’m carrying the vial with me while I’m on the go, taking a whiff of peppermint helps clear my head and my airwaves, and can calm headaches. When taken internally, it can aid digestion issues. During the summer, adding it to a cold compress can help you cool off. For ladies, one or two drops of peppermint essential oil in a lip balm or liquid lipstick can give your lips an instant plumping effect!

In my opinion, the diffuser is such a simple and efficient way to enjoy essential oils. There’s little maintenance and it’s incredibly easy to use, which I love, but my favorite feature is the built-in timer. That means I can set it and go about my business or sleep without worrying if I left it on. The light option is convenient, too!

Now, for those of you who enjoy candles, like me, you should be aware of one thing: the diffuser is not going to fill your home with a scent so strong it’s the only thing you’re aware of. Diffusing allows the oils to work their magic without being overpowering. The scent is very subtle, depending how many drops you use. Personally, I’ve found that I enjoy five drops, and I usually set the diffuser for the four-hour limit. And not to worry, diffusing is almost silent.

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of essential oils, check out this podcast from Dr. Anthony Youn featuring essential oil expert, Dr. Mariza Snyder. In the episode, she shares her tips and tricks, as well as the oils she always carries with her. She also discusses which oils to start with if you’re a beginner, and why it’s important to purchase real essential oils and not just any oil from the store. Take a look!

If you’ve been wondering about essential oils, or haven’t purchased any because you don’t know where to start, I hope this post helped! If you use essential oils, which are your favorite and how do you use them?


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A Lens For The Wild Ones

Guest post by Justin McKee

As a user of Canon equipment, I am positively giddy about the camera company’s latest update to an old favorite.

Canon has labeled 2014 the “year of the lens,” and it certainly has been an exciting year.
Canon has released a new 16-35mm f/4 L IS lens with Image Stabilization technology; hence, the IS at the end of the name. The “L” stands for Luxury — Canon’s way of saying it’s a prime-time piece of glass.

They’ve also released an updated 24-105mm f/4 lens with STM, a type of autofocus mechanism that uses a stepping motor to limit autofocus noise without losing speed or function — this is valuable to video lovers.

Canon is soon to release an 11-24mm f/4 L as well …

That’s all well and good, but none of those really piqued my interest like the updated version Canon’s 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM II.

Let me break down that name for you. It’s a little complicated.

Obviously, the Canon 100-400mm part makes sense. This thing has killer zoom. The millimeter focal length measurement is the distance between the first piece of glass on the lens to the sensor in the DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex).

f/4.5-5.6 refers to the aperture. This is a variable aperture lens, meaning that when you’re at 100mm, the maximum aperture of the lens (how wide the aperture is inside; see my aperture post by clicking here) is f/4.5. When you zoom the lens out to 400mm the aperture then automatically narrows to f/5.6.

This physical change in the lens’ size while zooming is unavoidable with how it’s constructed, therefore the aperture has to change throughout the zoom range because the distance that light has to travel through the lens is longer. I hope that makes sense. It’s much easier to understand when you’re holding a lens like this.

Alright, the last parts of the lens’ name are just as important as the first. The “L,” as discussed earlier, stands for Luxury; the IS stands for Image Stabilization; USM stands for Ultrasonic Motor — a type of AF (auto focus) motor; and lastly, the II at the end is … well, two. This is the version two variation of this type of lens.

I rented the first version of this lens a few years ago and it was fan-freakin’-tastic.
I could take photographs of the moon and actually see the craters on the surface in spectacular detail. It was like a miniature telescope.

It’s no secret that photographing wildlife is a huge thing for me, and a lens with this focal range is unbelievably useful. Getting close to wildlife isn’t always an option. An animal that is close is either reeeeally curious or reeeeally in front of your car.

I prefer the former.

I currently have a 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM II (typing that out is like playing twister with my fingers — you get the acronyms; I’ll skip them from now on), and 200mm isn’t quite enough for most ventures out into the wild. Purchasing an extender for a lens like this one is always a good option, but there is a slight drop in image quality.

It’s usually just better to purchase a lens with the native focal lengths built into the lens by the manufacturer. Just like the Canon 100-400mm.

While the old lens was simply fantastic — and still is, honestly — it’s been due for an upgrade for upwards of 10 or more years.

Canon photographers like myself have waited forever for this lens, and it’s been released just in time as well.

Other camera companies such as Sigma and Tamron have developed lenses that have even greater range (150-600mm, anyone?) and Canon’s fallen behind because of it.

Sigma and Tamron’s versions of this type of lens are formidable competition too. They have weather sealing, great glass and a focal length range that is even further than Canon’s.

So why am I so giddy about the Canon? Why don’t I just purchase the just-as-capable and cheaper Sigma and Tamron equivalents of this lens?

Well, I totally could and that would be fine. However, there are two reasons I would wait for the Canon.

One being brand loyalty. I like the direction Canon is headed for the most part. Canon cameras have great video features and, while the image quality of a Canon camera is arguably a touch worse (emphasis on arguably) than the Nikon or Pentax versions, Canon’s got fantastic versatility and quality control over their lens lineup.

It’s just good, and the price point is great.

The second reason is that third party lenses have a higher chance of not always working with Canon or Nikon equipment than the brand name equivalent. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great lenses, but quality control is a thing for me. I want my equipment to work the first time around and not have any issues.

So yes, brand name actually matters to a degree in the photography world. This stuff is expensive, and for a good reason.

So, I’m going to be keeping my eyes peeled on image quality comparisons for the Canon 100-400mm II as more is released.

If this lens isn’t up to par to the other two, I’ll simply save some cash and buy one of those.
But I doubt that will happen.

Regardless, as a wildlife and sports shooting enthusiast, good things are happening in the world of photography.

Keep an eye on my blog. As soon as this lens becomes available I may just do a review of it.

Justin McKee is a small-town photographer with big ideas living in Michigan. In addition to portraits, wedding photography and video, he also enjoys wildlife photography. He always seeks to learn more about his craft.

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Things I’ve Learned Living in Metro Detroit

It’s hard to believe I only moved to Metro Detroit a year ago. It definitely feels like much longer, especially after everything that’s happened since. I feel like I’ve experienced a lifetime in this area, and I still haven’t visited every corner of it.

However, I have noticed some quirks of the region and its people.

Being Called “The Motor City” Does Not Ensure Quality Roads

I cannot tell you how many times I mutter “maybe someday they’ll build a road through here,” as I’m driving and praying my car doesn’t fall apart from the torment it goes through on a daily basis. I find myself constantly wincing as I hit each bump that looks deep enough to sink a ship! Michigan is known for its horrible infrastructure, but I’ve never driven on worse roads than in this region. Pot holes, foot-wide cracks, pushed up asphalt, uneven pavement, shoddy patching jobs, and more are unavoidable. It’s incredible how bad the roads are, and even more incredible how they never seem to be repaired (although a main thoroughfare — and the worst of these roads — is being worked on now). How to avoid the worst? You eventually learn which lanes to drive in, and when to switch into others!

Food Options are as Diverse as Each Community

If you’re a foodie, you’ll be astounded by what you can eat in and outside of Detroit. And I’m not talking about your must-have Detroit Coney Dog. It was only last year that I took my first bite of chicken shawarma and loved it. Apart from the typical American chains, I can tell you where to find authentic Thai, Indian, Mediterranean, Greek, Lebanese, BBQ, Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese eateries, and many of those are within a few miles of each other if not in the same plaza or strip mall.  In addition, certain cities are known for their international food choices! You want top-notch Polish food? Go to Hamtramck. Middle Eastern grub? Dearborn. There’s just nothing like the food diversity of this area (and Ann Arbor, maybe) anywhere else.

Eminem is Highly Respected

Musicians have come out of Detroit for decades, but in my one-year experience switching between radio stations while driving or enjoying the day, one seems to stand out above the rest. Eminem is a literal rags-to-riches story and he shined a light on Detroit brighter than anyone in the recent past. Before moving to this area, I would maybe hear his music played once a year. Detroit pop stations, however, not only play his songs regularly, but play singles I didn’t even know existed. Radio stations outside of Detroit just don’t have the same regard for Eminem, and have seem to forgotten this master of rap unless he’s on a track with a pop star like Rihanna. Slamming Eminem is basically insulting Detroit.

Many People Don’t Travel Outside of Their Area, Unless There’s a Reason

I actually worked with someone at my last job who was born and raised in one area of Metro Detroit and had never ventured north of a certain main road in his zip code. When I asked why, he looked at me strangely and said, “why would I?” Although I was a bit surprised by his answer, he kind of had a point. Because you have access to everything you need within a certain mile radius at all times, there’s no reason to spend the gas or time in traffic venturing out except for visiting friends, traveling to a specific destination that has only one location, or navigating around highway construction. Even so, as a lover of exploration, I find it strange.

Yellow Traffic Light = Green Traffic Light

Unless you desire to get flipped off by the people behind you, don’t begin slowing down at a yellow light if you have more than two seconds before it flips to red. Yellow lights mean hurry up, especially on long stretches of road that extend through multiple counties or in left turn lanes. You’d think this would mean chaos on the streets, but it actually works because it’s become a general guideline and it does help keep traffic moving during rush hour when traffic lights stay green for less than 15 seconds.

Car Shows/Cruises Dominate Summer Weekends

Being the home of The Big Three, this is completely understandable. There’s a remarkable amount of history to be found in cars, and locals are oh-so-proud to be showcasing it as they participate in these events. Each community has their own and with so little weekends in the summer, you can visit multiple shows or cruises on a Saturday. The most famous of these is probably the Woodward Dream Cruise, which attracts thousands of participants and spectators. You know it’s getting toward summer when classic and sports cars are out on the roads, and its likely you’ll see some of the most exotic, rare, and literally one-of-a-kind specimens at these events.

Going “Up North” has a Very Different Meaning

Because Detroit is so far south in Michigan, to many who live in the area, going “up north” for the weekend doesn’t mean the same to people who live elsewhere. It’s all relative. For me, “up north” means going to or past the top third portion of the Lower Peninsula; Gaylord, for example, or Petoskey. However, many residents here think it means going as far as Frankenmuth, or maybe Midland if they’re ambitious. It’s also rare for me to  hear of people venturing to the west side of the state, where the lake shore is much more beautiful. I often wonder how many Detroit-area natives have been to the Upper Peninsula or even Mackinaw City.

You Only Say You Live in Detroit if You Actually Live in Detroit

This is true unless you’re speaking to someone who’s not from anywhere near the area. Detroit can be used as a general term for people who wouldn’t know Wyandotte from Wixom. However, you don’t live in Detroit proper unless you’re officially within the city limits, and it’s weird to say you do to someone who lives and/or grew up in Detroit or its outlying cities. And saying you live in a township is perfectly acceptable, whereas you wouldn’t anywhere near my hometown.

Do you experience some of the same traits in the area where you live? Share them with me in the comments!


—Photo by Justin McKee

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ColourPop Ultra Satin Lip Review

Dreamy sigh. I love lipsticks. There’s nothing like opening a new tube and seeing that perfectly shaped tip and creamy color. Lip products can make your look pop, add a touch of color to your complexion, and express personality, all in a couple of swipes.

I usually carry about three or four sticks or tubes with me at all times (and then often forget to wear them!), just in case I want to amplify my look. I try not to go crazy and buy too many. However, it’s hard for me to resist these beauty items when I find them, especially when they’re inexpensive and highly rated, like these from ColourPop!

They’re normally $6, which is a great price, but I caught a special deal that offered three lip products for only $12…so you can imagine what happened! Sorry, not sorry.

Since I dislike the super dry feeling of most matte lip products, and don’t care for the sticky, wet, glossy feeling, I decided to order three from the Ultra Satin Lip range and checked out a number of swatch photos and videos before making a choice on which shades to purchase, hoping they’d work well for me. Each reviewer seemed to love the line, so I was convinced it was the right choice.

I did my best to pick three colors that were relatively unique to my current lipstick collection, though still within my comfort zone and flattering against my skin tone. I simply cannot wear those teal blues and muddy browns that are popular right now. So I chose one that appeared more of a nude mauve, a brown-toned berry, and a deep, cool-toned red.

What I wasn’t expecting was each color looking slightly different than in the tube. And by different, I mean slightly darker in the terms of the first two, and slightly brighter in the last.

Echo Park, while I guess would be a nude shade for some, it’s not really for me, though I’m not mad about it. It’s more of a moody shade than I’ve ever used before, and I like it! It’s feminine with a slight edge. I’m willing to bet this color will quickly become a staple in my collection since it’s such a neutral color that pretty much works with everything. I did notice Echo Park being a bit dry, even with the lip balm underneath, so sometimes I dab a touch of gloss on top.

Frick N’ Frack is described as a rosy terracotta, and I would say that’s accurate. The first time I tried it on, I was unsure about how well it worked against my pale skin, but I’ve come to really like the contrast, and noticed it looks better when I’m wearing clothing of certain colors. Plus, once summer arrives and I get “tan” (my tan is what most people’s skin tone is in winter), I think it’ll look even better. I definitely like this shade better with the lip balm mixed in than on its own, as Frick N’ Frack tends to make the creases in my lips more prominent without it.

Lost is such a gorgeous red! This is a bolder shade than what I’m used to wearing, but I do love a good red, and I don’t think it’s on the orange side enough to clash with my skin tone. The website says Lost is a red-brown, but I don’t see much of the brown when it’s on my lips. After removing it with a tissue, the pigment remains for a while, making this color more like a stain. Because of that factor, Lost is definitely one to apply carefully and clean up with concealer.

Although these Ultra Satin Lip products aren’t a true matte, they’re still a touch more dry on my lips than I usually like. But I found a solution! I just apply a quick swipe of lip balm before applying the color, and I’m good to go. As far as staying power, I’m pretty impressed. They’re not completely transfer-free, but each lasted longer than I expected, and if you don’t blend the colors with lip balm, they continue to hold out pretty well even through a meal.

I would recommend using a nude lip liner before applying some of the Ultra Satin Lip products, however. I noticed a little bleeding after a while when I used Frick N’ Frack. Also, I’m not a huge fan of the applicator. It’s a large doe-foot, but wider, flatter, and with longer fibers, so for me it makes application a little tricky on my thinner lips. It’s also quite messy coming out of the tube, like the stopper doesn’t take all of the excess product off the wand. And for someone who’s anal about keeping the top clean, that’s frustrating.

I want to know which of these three shades are your favorite! Tell me in the comment section below!


—Photos by Justin McKee

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Rodan+Fields Giveaway Winner Announcement!

Last week, my cousin Nicole shared her experience with Rodan+Fields, and also gave everyone the opportunity to win a freebie! The contest closed once April ended, and I’m posting to announce the winner of the giveaway!

The winner of the free Rodan+Fields mini facial is: Sara Sharp!

A message from Nicole: Congratulations! Your best skin is right around the corner! Enjoy your mini-facial, and let me know when we can chat!

Way to go, Sara! The gift will be sent to you soon!


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Sighs & Smiles: April Showers and Spring Flowers

It’s the end of the month, which means another Sighs & Smiles post! I really hope these are interesting…often I feel like my life is so bland!

Here’s a recap of April.


  • I can feel the anemia. Hard. I’m always tired, and it’s not because my body fights against my brain to wake up at 7am each weekday. When it’s really bad, I melt into the couch when I get home until I drag myself to my bed. My primary care physician finally contacted my oncologist (the same oncologist who basically went MIA in December…don’t get me started) and ordered a “hydration infusion,” which is not the same as an iron infusion, so once again I get to do the leg work with my doctors to set everything straight. Can that stop being a thing? Please?
  • And speaking of having to straighten out my healthcare system, I started Entyvio infusions for Crohn’s Disease this week, two months later than Mayo Clinic wanted. Everything went smoothly, without side effects (that I know of). In two weeks I receive my next one, then in four weeks, then six, then eight from then on. This subject could have been placed under Smiles, but the circumstances surrounding it switched it to the negative side.
  • One of my aunts just underwent a mastectomy to rid herself of the breast cancer that returned after years of remission. She’s doing okay, but it just sucks that she had to deal with it. I think it’s a brave choice to make, and it’s definitely better than the alternative.


  • Piggybacking off that, I’m sure many of you are curious about my job. To put it frankly, I’m really enjoying all aspects of it. I’m learning a lot, finding new ways to be creative, working alongside friendly and welcoming people, and simply finding it pleasing to be back to work. Even if I miss waking up at 9am, haha! Weekends, right?
  • Spring is finally starting to show itself! Trees are budding, dandelions are everywhere, and daffodils are blooming. It’s so great to see green again, though I wouldn’t mind more sunshine. We’ve been lacking that lately. The downside of spring, however, is bugs begin appearing. My car windshield shows the first massacre of the year and bumble bees are back around my balcony. Time to re-stock on Home Defense.
  • I’m so excited that my good friend Marisol is coming to visit again after seven years! She and I met online through Livejournal (hush, it was trendy back then!) in about 2004-2005. It wasn’t long before we were talking regularly talking on the phone, and we finally met in person in 2010. Unfortunately, I’ve never had the luxury of funds to visit her, but she decided to come back and will be doing so from June 1-5. I can’t wait to show her northern Michigan this time!
  • Ever since I got back into taking baths (thanks, Lush), I’ve wanted a bath tray to use while soaking. Well, thanks to my other half, I have one! Justin designed and made me one himself, and I even got to customize it just a touch! It is a dark stain, has a larger space for something like a bath bomb, a slot for a wine glass to slide into, a nook for my phone if I wanted to watch videos (I’ll have to be really careful about that), and a smaller space for a tealight candle. To make it secure while in use, he adhered strips of grip liner on each end, and used a wood burner to add the ‘K’ and another small design on the opposite end. The tray is perfect and I love it. So useful!
  • Happily, I don’t have to move next month. I had forgotten I signed a 14-month lease last year, so my lease ends in late July. This not only gives me more time to cherish my perfect apartment, but also allows me to search for a different apartment that I can settle for. After seeing a handful, it’s incredible what complex companies can charge for what they don’t offer tenants.
  • Tomorrow is my birthday, and after my 30th year of life, I’m more than ready to flip it the bird (so to speak) as it passes. Thirty was not a kind year right from the start! It was full of indescribable pain, hardship, misfortune, insecurity, emotional and physical bruises, and desperation, to say the least. I’ve been ready to move on for a long time.
  • I mentioned in February that my cousin and his wife are moving across the country, which is still really disappointing. However, another cousin of mine, along with his family, are moving BACK to Michigan after living in Iowa and Texas. Lose one, gain another? Nevertheless, it’ll be great to see them more often than just major holidays.

Now I ask you: what have your smiles and sighs been for the month of April?

By the way, have you entered the giveaway for a Rodan+Fields mini facial yet? Do it! The contest ends tomorrow at midnight!


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Upgrade Your Skin Routine with Rodan+Fields (Giveaway Included!)

Guest post by Nicole Driver

When I was introduced to Rodan+Fields almost five years ago, I had been using the same face wash since I was a teenager. It was inexpensive and I didn’t have any major skin issues, but I was starting to consider how aging was affecting the overall health of my skin. When I learned that the products were created by dermatologists and that they guaranteed results or your money back, I decided it was time to give it a try.

Our skin is an important part of our bodies and yet we don’t always place the same weight on taking care of it. Many of us spend money regularly to use a gym or go to the hair salon, while neglecting the largest visible part of our bodies!

So… let’s talk products! Rodan+Fields has four main regimens targeting different issues — anti-aging, sun damage, sensitivity, and acne — as well as a host of other products outside of those sets. It’s hard to choose favorites, but here are a few that I can’t live without:

Redefine Regimen — this is a great one for firming and anti-aging. It’s also fantastic if you have decent skin and you just need to maintain what you have.

Lash Boost — this serum is used once a day, along the lash line. It promotes healthy growth and most people are seeing amazing results by 60 days. I have seen drastically longer and thicker lashes and I can’t imagine going back to my original lashes!

Micro-Dermabrasion Paste — I use this scrub in place of my normal cleanser two to three times a week. It helps to polish skin and get rid of dullness.

Mineral Peptides — this is a sheer coverage mineral powder that contains peptides and also has an SPF. It helps even out my skin tone and fights aging at the same time! I wear it every day and I re-apply as often as I like based on my activity. I love having the sun protection without having to apply a cream in the middle of the day.

It’s not all about your genes… 80% of how your skin ages is within your control! Rodan+Fields is built on the idea of using the right ingredients, in the right formulations, in the right order. The products are created to keep your skin looking healthy for life. Even if you don’t have a single skin concern, there is a regimen for you. We all want to look and feel our best and the health of your skin can have a huge impact.

It’s pretty obvious that I love these products, but I had a bunch of reasons why I couldn’t enter the business. Then, after more than four years of enjoying my healthier skin, my perspective changed.

Could this be an opportunity for you?

Rodan+Fields was created by the same two doctors who created Proactiv, which grew into a $8 billion global brand. They let that company go in order to focus on the anti-aging market and now have the #1 skincare company in the country. Translation: they know their stuff! I was already talking about the products because I was so happy with them. Why not take it a step further? I could help my friends get what they need instead of referring them to another consultant. And on top of that, I could get my favorite things at a fantastic discount.

This company is continually growing — it’s been the fastest growing skincare company in the U.S. for six straight years. With a brand new innovation launching in May and our continued expansion into global markets, it’s a great time to join the team. Whether you want to replace a job that you don’t love, or just have a second source of “fun money” income, this could be a great fit for you!

Alright, let’s hear it… what are your reasons for saying no?

Too busy? I feel your pain — I am a graphic designer and a mom of three. If this business wasn’t extremely flexible, I wouldn’t have even considered it. I work when and how much I want to — no inventory, no parties, and no quotas. Busy people know how to make the most of tiny pockets of time — this truly is a company that you can grow in the “in-between” moments of your life.

Not a salesperson? We’d rather you weren’t! Rodan+Fields wasn’t built by people having a strict sales script or a “hard sell.” It’s successful because we’re regular people talking about products that we love. What do you do when you find a new restaurant that you enjoy? You share it with your friends! That’s exactly what I and other consultants do.

What’s next? Get in touch and get more information. There’s absolutely no pressure, and it just might be something you didn’t even know you were looking for! At the very least, you’ll have all the information before deciding it’s not for you. And, if you just want to talk skincare, that’s fine too.

Who wants a freebie?!

Leave a comment here or on the specific Facebook post taking you to this page by the end of April with your thoughts on the business or your skincare concerns. I’ll answer you and I’ll enter you into a drawing for a FREE mini facial pack! Open to those in the United States only! The winner will be announced on May 3rd.

See for yourself why so many people are joining Rodan+Fields!

Nicole is a graphic designer, a Rodan+Fields skincare consultant and a mom of three. Being part of a U.S. Coast Guard family has brought her office to five states and two countries (so far!). She loves being in not one, but two fields that allow her to work with people far and wide no matter where she hangs her hat. When she’s not designing or talking skincare, you’ll find her reading, learning to kickbox, or cheering on Detroit sports teams.


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