Ava’s Current Top Ten Reads

The Green Ember Series by S.D. Smith
The first two books in the series, The Green Ember and Ember Falls, are amazing! Action covers the pages and hope fills the characters. The series is about bunnies defending themselves against wicked wolves. It might seem odd, but the battle between good and evil in The Green Ember, reminds me of Star Wars. The story is full of action, desperation, love, hatred, bravery, hope and friendship. The author recently released Ember Rising, and right away, it was sold out on Amazon. I can’t wait to get my copy!

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
I couldn’t tear myself away from this book. The story is about two friends, Ellen and Annemarie, living in Denmark in 1943. Nazi soldiers surround the corners and watch everyone like a hawk. Being Jewish, Ellen and her family are in grave danger, so Ellen must pretend Annemarie is her sister. At the most exciting part of the story, it’s all up to Annemarie to return a lost item and save her beloved Jewish friend. Will she make it? You have to read this exciting book to find out!

The Mandie Series by Lois Gladys Leppard
I have loved this series so much that I have read most of the books 2 or 3 times. The collection is a series of exciting mysteries with curious characters, set in the 1900s. To me, the author focuses on the importance of friendship. Not a single mystery is solved without a friend. Most importantly, the author writes about God and His loving ways. Often, the characters quote Psalm 56:3 “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” I  have cherished my Mandie books and I hope you will love them too.

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis
This story is about Deza Malone and her famly. They live in Gary, Indiana during the Great Depression. The family loses touch with their father after he was forced to set out and find work. With more hardships happening back home, they journey off in hope of finding him. As they hit many bumps along the way, we find out why Deza deserves the title “Mighty Miss Malone.” Christopher Paul Curtis is a very talented writer, has won several awards, and is one of my family’s favorite authors. I recommend reading all of his books!

The Candymakers Series by Wendy Mass
These two stories are full of adventures, yummy treats, creativity and friendship. Four kids are aiming to achieve their goals and end up uncovering some well hidden secrets along the way. The Candymakers was a New York Times Bestseller and one that I’ve read twice!

The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
This series is an “oldie but a goodie,” and definitely one of my all time favorites! The story’s main character is Laura Ingalls, and the books are based on the author’s own life. I love how the family is so faithful and always believing that the Lord will help them. Because this is a classic series and Laura Ingalls Wilder is recognized as one of the best authors of all time, I think it’s important for every girl to read The Little House on the Prairie books.

Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
I told you I like Christopher Paul Curtis’ books! This story is all about a boy named Bud who lives in Flint, Michigan in the 1930’s. Bud has no home and no family, but when he finds a clue about his father, he sets off on a journey to reach him. This book will make you laugh and cry.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
This is another great mystery series. It’s about 2 girls, 2 boys and a man named Mr. Benedict. The kids set out on adventures, never knowing what might happen. As I read the books, I loved trying to solve the mysteries right along with the characters. I’ll admit, I felt a little bored at first, but just keep reading! The action is coming!

Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series by Chris Grabenstein
In the first book of the series, a boy named Kyle and several other kids finds themselves locked in a mysterious library designed by a famous game maker. They must use their brains to get out in time! Every single book in the series is just plain fun!

The Book Scavenger series by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
To me, this series feels a lot like Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. The story is about two friends who run into an odd clue. When they realize it leads to a valuable prize, they have to hurry to solve the obstacles before anyone else. Again, I enjoyed trying to solve the mysteries along with the characters, and I know you will too!

Top 5 Makeup Tips

1. Beautiful makeup starts with great skincare! Your skin needs to be clean, fresh and moisturized before you start your makeup! If you’re struggling with acne, be sure to read our Acne 101 post here:

Pimples, Zits and Blackheads…Oh My!

 

2. Start with your eye makeup! This might seem backwards, but if you’re applying eye shadow or even powder eyeliner, it will sprinkle down on your face and ruin the rest of your makeup. So, do your eye shadow and eyeliner first. We still like to save eyebrows and mascara for later, but do the powdery stuff on your eyes, then wipe away whatever residue falls on your face before applying the rest of your makeup.

 

3. Before we apply face powder or foundation of any kind, we like to start with primer! Primer smooths the skin, it helps conceal imperfections, it creates a prettier finish, and it makes your makeup last all day! Our favorite is by Smashbox.

 

If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, try the Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer LIGHT.

If you aren’t acne prone, you can go with the original formula.

4. Be extra careful when choosing foundation, or the base of your face makeup. Two things are important when it comes to foundation: 1.) You must pick a color that matches your skin perfectly 2.) You need to choose just the right type or formula. For color matching, go somewhere like Sephora and get as much help as possible matching the color to your skin! Try it on in the store. We strongly suggest walking outside with a mirror to see how the makeup looks on your skin in the natural light. To choose the right type, you must educate yourself and know the differences before you go shopping. It’s also helpful to shop somewhere that will allow you to return whatever you’re not satisfied with. Sometimes nailing down the right makeup formula takes several tries before you find your favorite.

 

5. Never overlook your eyebrows! Eyebrows might just be the most important and overlooked step in a makeup routine. Eyebrows frame your face! If you have light hair, this step is especially important for you! Always fill in your eyebrows, ladies!

 

Exposed

Teenage Gossip

 

Cool kids are lonely. Mean girls are miserable. Bullies are scared.

There. I said it. It’s the truth. Knowing this truth will change your perspective. It will change how you view certain people, and hopefully it will transform how you treat them.

Now, let me explain.

First, let’s talk about the “cool kids.” You know who I’m talking about. The ones who walk around kinda acting like they’re better than everyone else. They hardly make eye contact with anyone. They certainly won’t talk to just anybody. They only hang out with a few choice people. They have the newest gadgets before anyone else.  They have a zillion Instagram followers. They are always dressed “just right.” Their hair is “just right.” Their shoes are “just right.” Their talk is “just right.” Their walk is “just right.” Yada. Yada. Yada.

Honestly, that sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? Being too cool to interact with the real world around you, is a lonely, miserable experience. Constantly worrying about having everything “just right” is draining. I would even argue that often, the “cool kids” don’t have quality friendships. After all, to have authentic relationships, you must be vulnerable, real, humble, and selfless! I’ve seen “cool kids” that are so scared to interact with the “wrong” people for fear of ruining their image, that they seem to have no real friends at all!

So, why would someone make so much effort to be “cool?”

Next, let’s discuss “mean girls.” Ya’ll….just…no! No. Just No. No. No. No. No.
“Mean girls” put other girls down. They judge other girls. They humiliate other girls. They purposely try to stir up jealousy in other girls. They gossip about other girls. They make efforts to turn friends against each other. Is it even possible for “mean girls” to have real friends? There’s nothing more unattractive than a “mean girl.”

So, what motivates a “mean girl?”

And finally, we have the classic “bully.” Oxford Dictionary defines a bully as “someone who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker…typically to force him or her to do what one wants.”

Bullying is a serious issue. In some cases, it can even be life-threatening. Bullying is never okay, and if you’re being threatened and intimidated in this manner, or you witness others being bullied, tell multiple trustworthy adults immediately.

Do you think bullies are happy? Do they have real friends? Are they content in life? I think you can answer “no” to all those questions.

So, why be a “bully?”

Did you catch the 3 questions I asked? You must ask yourself “Why?” What makes people act downright ugly?

Hurting people hurt people. People are broken. People are sick. Some people more than others. When people are insecure, afraid, hurt, angry, jealous and ashamed, they tend to act…well… ugly. It’s like they’re trying to make themselves feel better by putting others down.

It sounds kinda sick, doesn’t it? Yeah. It’s called sin.

Love (and the REAL source of LOVE) is the opposite to this sin sickness. Some of us have been fortunate enough to have experienced love more than others. It’s that experience with love that keeps us from acting out in hate.

So how do you treat difficult people? What does love look like? Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn’t jealous. Love doesn’t brag. Love isn’t full of pride. Love doesn’t put others down. Love is selfless. Love doesn’t get angry easily. Ya feelin’ me? Now, I’m not saying to go out and be best buddies with rude people! No! But if you are forced to interact with them, you can do it in love. If nothing else, pray for them! Prayer is the most loving act you can do for another person, and that can be done from a distance.

You see, sometimes you must CHOOSE to act in love. It can be hard to love what is unlovely. But, aren’t you unlovely sometimes? We are all bent toward ugliness. We are all bent toward sin. And we ALL need love. Cool kids need love. Mean girls need love. Bullies need love. You need love.

Love changes people. Love is powerful. Love wins in the end. Actually, LOVE has already won. You can love because YOU ARE LOVED. So, ya’ll…let’s love others. Yes, even the ones who are hard to love. Love the cool kids. Love the mean girls. Love the bullies.

***Note of caution – Again, if you are being bullied, threatened, intimidated, etc. tell trusted adults immediately! Your safety and well being is of utmost importance! I am NOT advocating that you ignore threatening behavior! Always seek help from adults. You can “love” people from a DISTANCE! Don’t be afraid of getting a bully in trouble. If a bully gets punished, it is because of their own poor choices. Be wise! If you are being bullied in person or online, seek help!***

 

Pimples, Zits and Blackheads…Oh My!

Acne 101:

It is important to understand the basics about acne before you can start treating it. First of all, acne is very common in the pre-teen and teen years. Your body is beginning to release hormones that cause your body to change. These hormone changes often lead your body to produce more oil, which can lead to acne. Don’t ever feel like something is wrong with you, or that you’re a weirdo because you have it. It’s extremely common with girls your age. And don’t lose hope, either! It can be fixed.

So here’s a little lesson on acne:

It all begins with pores. Pores are tiny openings on your skin. They are actually the little holes for your hair follicles. Your body is covered with skin pores, but some are more noticeable than others. Each pore has a sebaceous gland that produces oil (also known as sebum). Your body naturally produces this oil to help keep your skin moisturized. Oil isn’t a bad thing. However, pores can become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. When pores become clogged, bacteria and germs build up and infection sets in. This causes acne.

What To Do At The First Signs of Acne:

If you’re getting an occasional pimple or two, you can possibly get it under control before going to a doctor or a dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in skin issues).

First and foremost, you must begin to THINK CLEAN! You have to think about every little thing you do that could be causing dirt, oil and germs to build up on the surface of your skin. Here are a few dirty skin culprits:

– Hands
– Headbands
– Pillowcases
– Washcloths
– Hair products
– Makeup

Know the key acne-fighting ingredients. Ok. I’m gonna throw a few big words at you, but you need to know the weapons in a good acne-fighting arsenal.

1. Benzoyl Peroxide – It kills the germs that can lead to acne. It takes about 4 weeks to really see the benefits of benzoyl peroxide. Even after your acne improves, you have to keep using it. You also need to know that Benzoyl Peroxide BLEACHES! Wear an old t-shirt when washing your face or treating your face with Benzoyl Peroxide.

2. Salicylic Acid – It affects the way your skin sheds old skin cells that lead to acne. This also takes a few weeks before you’ll see improvement. And just like benzoyl peroxide, you have to keep using it, or the acne will come back.

3. Retinol – This will be your main weapon against acne. It affects the way cells grow and keeps pimples from being able to form. Don’t freak out! Your acne will probably get worse before it gets better, because Retinol will pull out the acne that has already begun to form under your skin. It will take 8-12 weeks before you start seeing acne improve from Retinol. However, it’s probably the best topical medication for treating acne. It was once only available with a prescription from the doctor. But now you can buy a lower dose of Retinol in a cream called Differin.

Products to have on hand with links to my tried-and-true favorites:

Benzoyl Peroxide wash:

Salicylic Acid wash:

Gentle wash:

Toner:

Moisturizer:

Retinol:

Jane Iredale Magic Mitt:

Kleenex Hand Towels:

Antimicrobial Pillowcases:

Washing Routine

Now that you know what acne is and you’re familiar with the main acne-fighting ingredients and you have your products, it’s time to start a washing routine. Healthy skin begins with clean skin. You need to wash your face at least twice a day – in the morning and before bed. You also need to wash your face after you do any activity that causes you to sweat a lot. You want to wash really well, but be careful! You can actually over-do it! Skin can be very picky! You want to keep a good balance. You want to remove dirt, germs and excess oil, without stripping away all the moisture your skin needs. You want to clean your skin well, without rubbing or scrubbing too hard. Damaging your skin can actually lead to more redness and irritation! YIKES!

So the idea with a acne face washing routine, is to give your skin a little bit of all the acne-fighting ingredients without over-doing it. If you begin to see signs that your skin is very red, burning or really drying out (a little drying out is to be expected), then replace one of the washes with your gentle Cetaphil wash once or twice before going back to the stronger stuff. You can also lay off the Differin gel one night here and there. Never skip moisturizer!

Here is my favorite washing routine:

Morning:
1. Wet your magic mitt and wet your face. Put a little dab of your Salicylic Acid wash on your magic mitt and wash your face with small circular motions. Rinse out your magic mitt and use it to wash the soap off your face completely. You will probably have to rinse your mitt and your face several times.

2. Dry your face with a fresh Kleenex hand towel.
3. Moisten a CLEAN cotton ball with your witch hazel toner and wipe it across your entire face using upward motions. Let it dry for several seconds before moving on to the next step.

4. Dab a little moisturizer on your clean finger and rub it all over your face using upward motions.

Night:

*Don’t forget! Benzoyl Peroxide bleaches! Wear an old t-shirt when washing your face!

1. Wet your Magic Mitt and wet your face. Put a little bit of your Benzoyl Peroxide wash on your Magic Mitt and begin washing your face with small, circular motions. Rinse out your mitt and use it to rinse the soap off your face. You will probably have to rinse your mitt and face several times to get all the wash off.

2. Dry your face with a fresh Kleenex hand towel.

3. Moisten a CLEAN cotton ball with your witch hazel toner and wipe it across your entire face using upward motions. Let it dry for several seconds before moving on to the next step.

4. Put a tiny bit of Differin gel on your finger and spread it across your problem areas first. Problem areas tend to be in the “T-zone” (forehead, nose, chin). I would avoid putting it in areas that are more sensitive, such as your cheeks and NEVER too close to your eyes!!!! Retinol can really dry out your skin, especially in the less-oily areas of the face. So I suggest only applying it to your problem areas at first. Let the gel dry for about a minute before the next step.

5. Dab a little moisturizer on your clean finger and rub it all over your face using upward motions.

6. Sleep on a CLEAN pillow case and with your hair pulled off your face. I highly suggest having several white pillowcases on hand, so you can sleep on a freshly washed pillow case each night. You wouldn’t believe how much oil, germs, residue from your hair products, sweat, etc. seep into your pillowcase each night. Keeping it clean will help your skin more than you realize! If you can splurge, purchase a bamboo pillowcase! Bamboo has natural germ-fighting properties!

After a sweaty activity:

Follow the steps from your morning routine. Or replace the salicylic wash with your gentle Cetaphil Wash if you feel your skin is getting dry or irritated from too much product.

Life Is Like a Tub Full of Glitter

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You’re kinda like a tub full of glitter.

Think about glitter. Isn’t it beautiful?! It’s mesmerizing! When I see a huge tub of glitter at the craft store, it makes me want to pour it out onto the floor and roll around in it! (Just kidding. No. I’m really not.)

But what is so special about glitter? Wikipedia explains how glitter is made: “First, flat multi-layered sheets are produced combining plastic, coloring, and reflective material such as aluminum, titanium dioxide, iron oxide, and bismuth oxychloride. These sheets are then cut into tiny particles of many shapes.” Snooze. Snooze. Snooze. I know. I know. I didn’t meant to throw a boring definition at you…but a few things caught my attention. Stay with me.

1. Did you notice that glitter isn’t just made of one color or type of material? If I just cut up tons of tiny pieces of pink construction paper, would it even come close to the beauty of glitter? Heck no. I don’t want to roll around in a pile of pink pieces of paper. Well, I think it’s important to remember that people are kinda like that. Let me explain. There’s diversity in God’s creation. When He made you, he didn’t intend for you to be an exact copy of someone else. He made you to be you. Only you can be you. If you try to be something different, it’s kinda like telling God that His idea and His creation isn’t good enough. Yikes. Ain’t nobody wanting to do that!

2. When glitter is made, the materials get cut into several different shapes. They don’t just cut out tiny squares. They cut the materials into squares, circles, hexagons, octagons, etc. Well, you’re kinda like that. There’s more to who you are than just one thing. For example, if you play soccer, you’re not JUST a soccer player. Maybe you also have a really good voice and you enjoy singing in the church choir. Or maybe you’re an amazing student. Maybe you’re known for your kindness. Maybe people stop you in the store to comment on your beautiful hair. See? Who you are as a person, is a COMBINATION of the gifts, talents and character traits God has given you. It’s all those things coming together that make you beautiful.

3. I saved the best for last. What REALLY makes glitter stand out? Did you catch the part about using reflective materials? Do you know what reflective means? What happens when you look in a mirror? You see your reflection. What happens when you shine a light at something that is reflective, like aluminum foil? The light bounces off. What if you shine a light as something that has several reflective sides? The light bounces off in a bunch of different directions! It’s beautiful! Ok. Ok. Ok. Here’s the good part….as a child of the KING, you were made to reflect HIS IMAGE. It’s beautiful! As humans, we aren’t so beautiful on our own. We are actually bent toward sin. We are bent toward selfishness. We are bent toward pride. Bottom line…we are bent toward ugliness, not beauty. But there’s nothing more beautiful than the image of Jesus. And when we put our faith in Him, He gives us HIS image. He gives us HIS Love. He gives us HIS joy. He gives us HIS peace. He gives us HIS patience. He give us HIS kindness. He gives us HIS goodness. He gives us HIS faithfulness. He gives us HIS gentleness. He gives us HIS self-control. It’s beautiful!

My sweet friends, God wants you to be you, not someone else. He wants you to discover, enjoy and be confident in all the different aspects of who you are. And finally, He wants you to grow in Him, so you begin to look like His beautiful Son.