"By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it's established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." Proverbs 24:3-4

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Beauty (Part One) Skincare

Hello friends!

There's so much I want to write about...

So much going on out here at our farmhouse...

But! I promised you a beauty series, so...

First things first!

I'm hoping to make this a 3-part series that includes hair, makeup, and skincare. 

Just like always, I'll insert my usual disclaimer,


I'm an expert at big, fat nothing!!!

So I'll just be speaking here from my own experience. 

I've battled with my skin throughout my life. I've struggled with eczema and acne on and off through the years. I've finally settled into a skincare routine that is working for me, so I'm sticking to it!!! I'll use this post to 1. Show you what products I use, and 2. Give you a few non-product tips to help keep your skin clear.

This is me in my skin. I'm not makeup-free but I am foundation-free in this photo:


A couple of years ago, my skin had gotten so bad, that Micah bought me a Clarisonic, and the Rodan and Fields Redefine regimen for Christmas that year. It changed my life and my skin! I don't ever want to live without either of these products!

I still faithfully use both. 

You may not know that Dr. Rodan and Dr. Fields are the dermatology team who created Proactive years ago. They revolutionized the acne industry with that product-line and Proactive became a household name. Ten years ago they set out to do the same thing to the anti-aging industry with their Redefine line. 

This is the Clarisonic that Micah bought for me. It's the Mia 2:


I still use the same one but I change out the heads every three months.


I'll start by showing you my nighttime routine. I use the Clarisonic every night with this Arbonne cleanser:


The reason for this is because there is not a single product in the R&F line that lathers, (and that has always really bothered me!)

Dear Rodan and Fields CEO,

Give us something that lathers!!!

They probably have some scientific reason why not, so... I use the FC5 purifying cleanser. I use this with my Clarisonic to remove makeup and all of the oil, dirt, and sweat from the day. 

Two nights a week I take a break from the Clarisonic, and exfoliate instead, using the Microdermabrasion paste from R&F:


This is the.best.ever. exfoliant!!! Arbonne's a great product line, (I used their products for over a decade before switching to Rodan and Fields) but their exfoliant's got nothin' on this!!!

When I'm finished with the either the Clarisonic or the exfoliant, I follow up with these products:


Ok, hang on! I've got to explain this! I've been tweaking my R&F routine for two years now, and have settled on this. A blend of the Redefine and Unblemish. A regimen custom-made by me!

(Hey, it's working for me... Leave me alone! Haha!)

The Redefine alone was leaving me too greasy. The Unblemish alone was too potent, (it's for people with active acne, which I currently don't have) so I use the Unblemish toner, then the Redefine eye cream, then I cocktail the Unblemish treatment together with the nighttime Redefine cream at the end.

Ok, so I've officially exposed myself as a skincare lunatic.....

I'm just getting ramped up, folks!!!

In the morning, I do this: (brace yourself!) 

Yep. That's the face of a skincare lunatic! I do this every morning, too! Once you pick yourself up off the floor from all of your laughing at me, you should know, I haven't had eczema or an acne breakout in 2 years! So, THERE! 

(The mask only stays on for a few minutes, calm down!!!)

These are the morning products:


Once I rinse off the mask I use the toner, then the eye cream, then the morning treatment (it has SPF in it).

One of the best tips I can offer you is to not use too much. A little bit goes a long way. I remember from my hair dressing days, that people would have a tendency to think, well, if 2 pumps is good, then 5 must be better! A bottle of conditioning serum would say, apply a dime-sized amount, and I would find out that my client was using a palm-full! 

More isn't better. For my morning treatment I use this much:


That's for my entire face and neck. I apply my nighttime and morning creams with wet fingertips so that it is equally distributed. 

What you just read here is my personal skincare routine. This is what I do EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Which leads me nicely into the second part of this post. I have five skincare tips that I can share with you that I do myself, and that I believe really help with keeping my skin clear. I hope you can benefit from these! Here we go...

1. Faithfulness

There has never been a night in my adult life that I haven't gone to bed without washing my face first. There has also never been a time in my life since about my early teen years, that I haven't used some sort of skincare regimen. So this is just a part of my life. I never go without. I never skip a day. 

Before you think I may be exaggerating, I'll tell you a little story that made me realize just how committed to skin care I really am. A couple of winters ago I fell ill with one of the worst stomach flu's I've ever had in my life. 

It was New Year's Eve, and we had plans to take the kids over to my brother and sister-in-law's for a party. I had become so sick that Micah had to go to the party with the kids alone, and I stayed home. I literally spent the entire evening on the cold bathroom floor. I never moved for the whole duration of the evening. I physically couldn't move. I think it was around six hours. 

When Micah arrived home, he had to pick me up. I was that sick! He was going to carry me to bed, but I had to wash my face first! (I'm totally serious!) I was so weak and sick that Micah literally had to hold me up at the sink so that I could wash my face. 

I remember he said, "Can't you skip it tonight?" And I said, "I've never skipped a night of washing my face in my entire life, and I have no plans to start now!" Hahaha!

So maybe that's a bit extreme, but my point in telling you this is that faithfulness to a good quality regimen is key, and I've never given myself any excuses. 

2. Clean Pillowcases and Towels

I am very careful about what touches my face. I think all those years of having such terrible skin traumatized me, and now I'm extremely careful! If I had naturally nice skin, as some people do, I wouldn't bother with this, but I make sure that I dry my face with a fresh towel every time. I am not comfortable using a towel on my face that someone else has used first.

Another practice that I have done for several years now, is to switch out my pillow case for a fresh one every night. The reason for this is because we spend so many hours with our heads on a pillow case, and I've read that we shed a lot of oil and dead skin cells through the night. That thought bothers me, so even though I only wash my bedding once a week, I make sure I have a clean pillow case every night. That way I'm not re-contaminating my face with the previous nights' gross-ness! Yuck.

Speaking of sleeping at night...

3. Don't sleep on your stomach

Sleeping on your stomach is so bad for your skin!!! It will give you wrinkles, and in my case (as well as other acne-prone people) a bad breakout. 

Several years ago my mother gave me some motherly advice and told me to train myself to sleep on my back. This is extremely good advice! She said she wishes she had trained herself to sleep on her back when she was younger. Once a wrinkle forms, there's no getting rid of it! I plan to prolong the process as best as I can! 

4. Don't touch your face

Again, I am extremely careful about what touches my face! I try to never touch my face, I wash my hands well before washing my face, and I don't let my children touch my face. I'm always shocked when I see a mother allowing her baby or toddler to touch her face. I think, if that were me I'd wake up tomorrow with a breakout for sure! 

I wish my skin was a little more laid back, but it's just not. It's fussy and it's the type of skin that holds a grudge. What I mean is, once I get a blemish to heal up, it leaves behind a scar that actually takes months to fade away. So you may be tempted to think that I have a lot of unnecessary habits, but to me it's necessary to keep my skin under control. 

All of this is worth it to me. 

I have one last tip for you...

5. Drink a lot of water

In my opinion and in my own personal experience, this is the most important of my five skincare tips. 

I'm a coffee drinker in the mornings, but around 9:00 or 10:00am I switch to ice water and I drink that for the rest of the day. I keep a glass out on my kitchen counter and just keep refilling it over and over throughout the day.

I don't drink alcohol, or soda; I've never smoked, and I rarely consume greasy foods. I think all of those things contribute to whether you have healthy or unhealthy skin.

I love what Rodan and Fields has done for my skin. My face is in better condition now, in my thirties, than it ever was in my twenties! I really appreciate that I can go foundation-free:


If you're interested in more information about the Rodan and Fields products, you are welcome to contact me. My email is courtneydowns83@gmail.com or you can leave a comment below. I love hearing from you, so if you have any questions just ask! :) :)

Love to you all! xo...

~ Courtney 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Crockpot Lasagna

Happiness is...
being at home, fluttering through the house, doing laundry, reading books, tidying up...

Sometimes it includes working in the kitchen to prepare a meal.

 I don't like to spend hours upon hours in the kitchen, but I can find kitchen work to be enjoyable, too!

I think you've figured out by now that I'm no foodie, haha... I just like simple, hearty meals that I can make quickly.

I've been making a crockpot lasagna, or maybe I should call it lasagna soup, for a couple of years now.


I like to eat mine with shredded cheese, sour cream, and fresh parsley. 

Would you like to know how to make it? It's very good, I think you and your family will like it! :)

First things first! Make your environment enjoyable. Things like putting on an apron or lighting a candle will make cooking more enjoyable. I like listening to music in my kitchen. Lately I've been listenening to this CD by George Winston:  


Start by frying up some beef and chopped onion. A pound to a pound and a half of beef is perfect for this. I never measure chopped onion. Just chop up a good amount:


While that simmers away on the stove, get out your crockpot, a 28oz can of diced tomatoes, and a 6oz can of tomato paste:


I mix the two together in the bottom of the crockpot first:


Then add the browned beef with onions and the following ingredients: some chopped garlic, a few shakes of dried basil...


Some fresh parsley...


And a carton of beef broth:

(Also, don't forget salt and pepper!)


I got it in kind of late so I cooked it on high for five hours. 

(You could also get it in in the morning and cook it on low for eight hours.) 


At this point, it is one of my practices to stop and breathe, and look out my window at the birds, and ponder my blessings...

Aren't we so lucky, girlfriends?! 

This was my Mother's Day bouquet from my children, and Roman made this card for me: 


I'm sure you have some love sitting on your kitchen window sill, too! Yes, we certainly are lucky!!!

When 30-minutes are left of cooking time, I get out my container of shell pasta:


And add 2-cups worth to the crockpot. Let it finish its 30-minutes of cooking...

When the 30-minutes is complete, it'll look like this:

Remember to always taste what you've made before serving it:


This is important! Make sure the pasta is done and it's seasoned well.

Sometimes, on a casual night, we will eat at our kitchen island:


For some reason it seems quicker and easier than at the table, but I try not to make it a habit. On occasion this is ok, but I want my children to grow up eating meals at the family table. I mention this to hopefully be an encouragement that sometimes the simple and the easy is ok. 

Like this boxed cinnamon cake that I had made for our dessert:


Don't feel guilty if you can't bake desserts from scratch because of lack of time or skill. One thing I've learned since becoming a wife and mother is that men and children don't care. They just want something warm and yummy to eat. 


I think crockpot lasagna and a warm-from-the-oven cinnamon cake is a perfectly acceptable meal at the end of a full day of homeschooling, housework, and baby care. 

(I tasted this before I served it, too, haha... Staying away from the corner because Micah likes the corners the best.)

Please let me know in the comments if you try this crockpot lasagna! I love hearing from you!


Take care, friends!

~ Courtney 

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Dance Legacy

I certainly don't mean to make it sound like I've come from a long line of professional dancers, but Nola's dance recital this past weekend has caused me to reflect on my dance background. Dance has meant a lot to me and played a significant role in my upbringing. And now, I get to watch my daughter learn to dance and perform on stage! It does something to my heart that I don't know if I could explain!

This is my sweet Nola with her dance class:

(Nola is in the pink on the left side.)

And this is me with my dance class (back in the 80's, ahem...) :

(I'm in the middle row on the right.)

I was a little girl enthralled with beauty, so when it came time to learn basketball and kickball in grade school, I didn't like it. It didn't take long for me to realize I hated sports. I was terrible at it and I didn't care to get better. There was nothing pretty or elegant about sports, as far as I could see, and I wanted a life of beauty. So sports just became something I sort of tolerated when I was little. 

Thankfully my mother enrolled me in ballet when I was very young. I took to it right away because it was beautiful. 


Ballet rescued me from the insecurity that all the other sports had left me with because it was something I was good at. I believe ballet taught me grace and balance as well as good posture. Because of this, it was important to me that I enroll my daughter in ballet, as well. This is her in her class this past winter:

(She's in the pale pink leotard and tights. I'm not sure what they're learning here... Pique turns maybe?)

I really like her teacher. She's a young girl but I could tell right away that she had been well-bred. Even though I hadn't seen her dance full-out, I could tell by her feet. (You can always tell a well-trained dancer by their feet.)

She choreographed and taught the girls a routine. Little by little I watched them learn it and grow in it. Week after week I watched them practice. This picture is the day they saw their costumes for the first time and got to try them on:


I can remember being told by my dad and my aunts that their mother, my grandmother, was in ballet as a child, too. I was fascinated by this thought but she died when I was only five so I never got to ask her about it. I'm sure my aunts have photos and information that I don't have. All I have to my name is this one single photograph of my grandmother, Shirley, when she was ten years-old:


Isn't she adorable?!!! This photo is in an antique frame and sits on a dresser in my daughters' bedroom:



As I reflect back on why dance was important to me, I can recall a time in my teen years when I really took off with it and it became a passion. 

I was attending a private high school and was trying to find my niche. Other than music, there was nothing that I was good at. I played volleyball for a while because I could be with my friends, but I never liked it. My dad told me that I had the body type to be a runner so I tried track for a while, too. But my strong aversion to sports came out once again, and I quickly grew weary of it. 

One day at school I overheard two of my friends talking about getting a group of girls together to start a Dance Team. They asked me if I would be interested in joining them. At that point our school had never had a Dance Team before. I was beyond excited!

I danced with a group of about seven or eight girls my junior year and had a blast, but that summer my parents moved. I transferred to a public school for my senior year. The school had a Pom Squad that I was enamored with! It was double the size of what I was used to at my previous school, and I was captivated by the advanced level at which they danced.

"I bet if I practiced really hard, I could dance like that." I thought to myself. "Oh, what an honor it would be to be able to dance with these girls!" I can remember thinking. 

"If you want to dance on the team, figure out what you have to do to make it happen." My parents told me. So I made a few phone calls and found out the name of the coach. I remember looking her up in the phone book (because this was the 90's, haha) and talking with her husband over the phone. He told me she wasn't home and that she was at the school in dance practice. I got in my car and drove to school to look for her and talk with her. (No cells phones because this was the 90's! ) Sure enough, I found her in dance practice and asked for a try-out. She told me that try-outs were over and that the team was already established. I left feeling defeated.

It felt awful to know that it was my last year of high school and I couldn't dance. 

But a couple of months into the school year, something had happened and the team lost a dancer. The school was in a tissy and there were a ton of girls coveting that one open spot. 

Brenda, the head coach, called me personally and offered me a try-out. When I met with her to try out, I remember her telling me that several girls were upset with her and wondering why she would offer me, the new girl, the try-out over them. She told them it was because I was the only girl who came to her, months before, and met with her, face to face.

Now that I'm an adult and looking back on this, it is impressive and appreciated when a child or teen can approach an adult with respect, look them in the eye, and have a mature conversation. 

I made the team, and finished out the school year dancing with a group of girls that became my friends. I have such good memories of high school and one of the main reasons is because of the Dance Teams I got to be a part of!

(Can we please not talk about my hair! I have no idea why it looks like this!!! Haha)

After I graduated high school, I was contacted by the private school I had attended before I transferred. Their Dance coach had moved on and the team needed a replacement. After an interview, they offered me the job as head coach. 

I spent one year coaching this high school Dance Team:

I was only nineteen here.

I loved each of these girls and had the time of my life coaching them, teaching them, and choreographing for them. It was an extremely fun year. They had asked me to return but by the following year I had begun Beauty School full-time. These girls deserved a coach that could commit to them full-time, and I knew I couldn't do that going to school. 

The next few years I would continue to dance ballet at the studio I grew up in, but by the time I was in my early twenties, my career was taking off and dance fell to the way-side. 

I've never returned to ballet, and at this point in my life I probably never will. But I now get to pass the baton to the next generation...


And with great joy I get to watch my daughter on stage:


She's so young and new at this that I don't know yet if she'll fall in love with it like I did. But I feel like it's my responsibility to at least expose her and get her started in ballet in case she wants to pursue it in her future. 

Micah asked me a couple of years ago, "What are you going to do if Nola doesn't want to become a dancer?" I've always known what I'll do... I will support her in whatever passions she wants to pursue. 

She is not me. She is her own person with her own ideas and talents. Her passions and dreams may not be what mine have been or even what I would want for her. But I will always support her and encourage her to live her life how she wants. 

I feel that way about all of my children:


I pray over their little heads at night:

Dear Lord, give them hearts that want to serve You and let their lives glorify You! Give them good and happy lives, and make me a good mama for them. -Amen

Thanks for reading A Dance Legacy my friends! 


I'll be back soon...

~ Courtney 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Hair Inspiration

Hi friends!!!

I'm just popping in with a quick post today about my Nola, but before I get into it I want to say thank you! 
You all have been so supportive and encouraging to me about my blog ever since I got it started. 
A few of you leave comments for me right here on the blog, some of you will leave a "like" or a comment on the link I post on FB, and so many of you tell me in person that you are reading it. I want you to know how much I appreciate that!
I really love hearing from you!
I know there are millions of blogs in Blogland, so the fact that you take the time to stop by mine, means so much to me!!!

I have a quick, and hopefully fun, little post today about my Nola.


Isn't she so cute?!!! I love her so much! 

Anyway, she loves to look at books! She can't read yet, but I find her all the time curled up in a cozy spot, slowly flipping through the pages of a book. 

She came to me the other day and showed me this picture:


She said, "Mom, do you think you could do my hair like this someday? I think it's really beautiful."

She was inspired!!! I was so thrilled that her inspiration came from an antique book. Old fashioned things really are the best things! (Sometimes I feel like a fish out of water living in 2016. I wish our world could go back to the morals and culture from 60 or 70 years ago... but that's a topic for another post...)

This is an adorable little book, as you can see:

I really wanted to accommodate her hair request, so we carved out time one morning before her dance class, and I got to work on it. She had taken a shower and I let her hair air dry for a little bit first. Her hair was damp when I began:


I gave her hair an overall light coat of hair spray first, for some control, and carved out a center part:


I secured two low pony tails behind her ears:


And braided each one:



I wasn't sure how this was going to turn out, but I just gave it a shot. I tucked the end of the braid underneath to make a loop and secured it with a hair band:


Looking at it closely, I could see it was very imperfect, but Nola liked it! So we went with it!



I gave it another coat of hairspray at the end, and showed her in the mirror what it looked like. 

She was happy! So I was happy! :):):)


It lasted all day. This is a picture I quickly snapped of her and her little friend at dance class:


Having girls is so much fun!!! I tell Nola all the time what a treasure and gift I think she is! I tell her she's a good girl, and that I pray for her and love her, and am proud of her. I can't imagine my life without her! 

Her dance recital is this weekend and I plan to do a blog post about that, too! 

Stay tuned!

Love to you,

~ Courtney