Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Orange Bell Sleeves

If you've been around my blog for a while, you may have noticed I have a strong love affair with Old Navy. Every season, I stock up on basics because that have so many plain tops that I can wear all season (or year) long. Normally I stick to your basic colors like black, grey, navy, maybe a little maroon for the colder seasons. But orange? Not usually a color I go for! But given it's the perfect color for fall, I couldn't pass up this top! Plus this top has some cute details like the shirring around the neck and on the arms and the slight bell sleeves that make it oh-so-trendy right now!

While I paired this top with jeans, you could easily pair it with a pair of destroyed shorts if it's still toasty where you live. If you're a working professional, pair it with a pair of black pants or tuck it into a pencil skirt. This is why I love Old Navy tops! They go with so many different outfits!

A quick note on my shoes: I snagged these during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale so unfortunately they're back up to full price and it's pretty steep. The similar shoes I linked above (also find them here and here) are much more affordable. I love cutout booties because they worked so well in the summer, but they'll also work in the fall. I'll probably store them away once it snows, but that likely won't happen for a while!

Last note: Old Navy is have a sale today ONLY where you get 30% off your order with no code needed! Meaning it's a great time to stock up on some basic tops for the upcoming seasons!


Monday, September 25, 2017

Lancer Skincare Review

Pin me!
Hello and happy Monday! I'm here to tell you about a skincare brand I only heard about recently but have fallen in love with: Lancer Skincare. It's a line that was developed by Dr. Lancer, an LA based dermatologist. His goal was to create a skincare line that would leave every consumer with a radiant glow that his patients always gush about having after visiting him. 

I will say that this brand is not a cheap brand. But I also wouldn't recommend something to you that I would use myself. I had the opportunity to test four products these last few weeks (thanks Influenster!) and I'm a changed woman! My skin has never been smoother and I didn't have a single blemish until I ran out of product and had to switch back to my old skincare! Take a look at my before and after photos to see for yourself!

Now for the good part: the products themselves! I tested a four step routine and I'll tell you about each part below.

Step 1: Polish. This is by far my favorite part! It's an exfoliator, but it's been perfected so it's not so rough that it'll tear your skin. At the same time, it isn't so fine and soft that you're left feeling like nothing happened. If you purchase anything from the Lancer line, THIS IS IT!!

Step 2: Cleanse. Here's where your typical face wash comes in. But because it's soothing and hydrating, it's perfect for following the polish. I was also surprised to see that this line really isn't targeted for oily skin, but I couldn't tell. While my face wasn't amazingly matte, it wasn't more oily than normal. This line does have multiple cleansers though - they include a cleanser for blemish-prone skin and sensitive skin (same with the Polish!).

Step 3: Nourish. After exfoliating and cleansing you'll definitely want a good moisturizer! Again you've got the normal moisturizer but also a moisturizer for blemish control or sensitive skin. My skin was left feeling super hydrated after this step and it felt that way all day!

Step 4: Eye Serum. My poor eyes have wrinkles and the darkest circles and usually few things help that. While this serum didn't solve my dark circles problem, I do believe that it minimized some of my wrinkles. I noticed that my concealer didn't settle into fine lines as much either!

Okay so now that you know what I tried, I'm sure you're thinking "That's great Ashley, but you said this was a pricey brand. So what's ACTUALLY worth it?" Great question! If you buy one product from this line, buy the Polish! Seriously that stuff is the best I've ever tried! The cleanser was good and if you're in the market for a new one, this one is pretty good! I will say that the moisturizer was probably my least favorite. I have other moisturizer that I like better and would work just as well with the other steps. This is my favorite eye serum I've ever tried, but it's expensive. I doubt I purchase it right now, but it might be something I pick up down the road after I try a few more brands.

So there ya go! Buy the Polish but skip the rest if you already have ones you love. Have you ever heard of/tried this brand? Better yet, what's your go-to skincare brand? Let me know in the comments below!

Thank you Influenster and Lancer Skincare for the free samples for testing!


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Three Ways to Wear a Utility Vest

I'm a huge fan of vests and this utility vest is my favorite. Below I've styled it three different ways. The weather in Ohio has gone from the 60s back up to the 80s and then it'll be back in the 60s within a week and a half. I love wearing this vest because I still feel like I'm dressing for fall, but I don't feel like I'm dying of a heat stroke!

1. With a tank top. I wore a similar outfit to the county fair back in August only with shorts. I stayed cool because it's all sleeveless, but I still felt cute!

2. With a t-shirt and flats. Pairing this vest with a t-shirt and comfy shoes is perfect for a day running errands! This vest is easily dressed down, and the pockets on the side are actually functional so that's helpful!

3. With a long-sleeve shirt and booties. Ahhh yes the perfect fall outfit! This vest goes perfectly over a burgundy long-sleeve top paired with asymmetrical booties. Toss a blanket scarf on and you'll perfectly embody fall in an outfit (okay that's a little dramatic but still!).


Monday, September 18, 2017

The Single Series: To The Dating/Engaged/Married Friends

Hello friends! I'm continuing The Single Series! If you don't know what this series is about, check out this post first, then come back here. Or search Single Series in the search bar on the right side.

Now that's we're all caught up, I want to dedicate this post to the friends that are dating, engaged, or married. One thing I always struggled with as a single gal was relating to my friends who weren't single. They possessed this thing that I craved so bad. And it seemed like they forgot how it felt being single. The loneliness, the inappropriate questions and comments from family members, the struggle of not feeling worthy. #thestruggleisreal

I wanted to give some advice to those girls who have the guy. Sweet friend, I first want to tell you how happy I am for you! Dating is so much fun! And if you're engaged or married, even more congrats! I pray for so many blessings on your marriage and that the Lord would move through the both of you for His kingdom. But if you have single friends, can I give you some advice?
  1. Spend time with just the two of you. Leave your guy at home and spend time with your friend. No one likes being the third wheel all the time. It's so important to continue feeding this friendship. But don't say things like "well I can only hang out this weekend because [insert your man's name] is out of town." This can make your single friend feel like she's just your back-up plan. Plus, if you're only spending time with other couples, it can send a message that you only think other couples are worth spending time with. I know the older we get the busier we get. But take the time to grab coffee with her, get a manicure, or just go for a walk. 
  2. Don't just talk about your relationship. As a single girl, I truly did love hearing about my friends' wedding planning but there always came a time when I wanted to talk about something else. When the only thing you know to talk about is your boyfriend/fiance/husband, it can really wear on a single friend that struggles with wanting a relationship. And I'll admit I've been there! You're so excited so it's what you want to talk about. But you both talked about other things before you started dating, right? On the flip side, don't just complain about the negatives in your relationship. I know I ended up resenting my friends when they did this because I would always think "you aren't even appreciating your relationship!" And then I would be angry because I would feel like she wasn't cherishing what the Lord had given her. Definitely an unhealthy place to be!
  3. Unless she explicitly asks you to set her up, don't assume she wants you to play Cupid. When you're single and you have a friend who is constantly trying to suggest guys, dating apps, whatever to you, it can really make you feel like you're lacking something. And as a single gal, I want to tell you that you are not lacking anything!
  4. Please stop saying "this is your time to date the Lord." If you're in a relationship, were you perfectly pursuing God before you started dating? I know I wasn't! And I would bet a lot of people would say the same thing too. Telling your single friends that this is their time to really get to know the Lord is well-meaning because they do have more flexibility with their time, but it can cause them to believe the lie that they must have a perfect relationship with God before he'll bring a man into their life.
  5. And don't say "it'll happen when you stop looking." Trust me. I have stopped looking so many times and still nothing happened. I specifically remember looking back on an entire semester in grad school where I realized I didn't stress about being single. And I wasn't thinking about meeting my future husband either. I was truly not looking. Did I find him? Nope. Sure didn't. In fact, I met Jake when I was purposefully looking for someone. That's kinda what happens when you meet online. Saying this can make your friend feel like it's wrong to be intentional about looking for a guy.
We always want what's best for our friends. So while this concern is usually genuine, it can come off as insensitive and can quickly send your single friend into a unhealthy place. And the last thing we want is to be the thing that sets our friend into a terrible cycle of doubting the Lord's plan for her life, to doubting her worth, to struggling with self-esteem, and so on.

So to all the dating/engaged/married friends, your single friends still love you. And they still need their friend! They're excited for you, but don't get so consumed in your relationship that you forget about your friends. If you're a single gal struggling with your relationship-ed friends, pray for grace first of all. Then lovingly approach them about what's bothering you about the shift in your relationship. If you're relationship-ed up, remember that your single friends might be struggling with their single-ness. Show them grace and cover them in love!

In His hands,

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Easy Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

If there's one thing I love it's a good cookie. And y'all I am obsessed with Betty Crocker's cookie mixes. No, this isn't sponsored. Just a girl who loves to make cookies quickly! Below, I'm sharing one of my favorite ways to dress up the oatmeal cookie mix. This cookie is great as a mid-afternoon snack, but you could also have it for breakfast - and who doesn't love cookies for breakfast?

The ingredients for these cookies are super simple:
  • Oatmeal cookie mix
  • Stick of butter, room temperature
  • Egg
  • Water
  • Mix-in of your choice (I went with cranberries!)

If you've never used Betty Crocker's cookie mixes, let me tell you why I love them really quick. First, they don't break the bank. Kroger often has these on sale for $1 a mix - score! Second, there's nearly no measuring required. In a hurry? These are perfect because the only thing you have to measure is water. Third, they taste like homemade cookies. While the college kid in me will always love place-and-bake cookies, you can never beat a homemade cookie. But with these mixes, you get a homemade-tasting cookie without doing all the sugar, flour, baking powder measuring!

Of course they have a lot of different cookie flavors, but the oatmeal is probably my favorite. You can add chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, or any dried fruit. I love adding in various types of Craisins. For these cookies, I went with cranberries.

Seriously y'all. Making these is so easy! Just put the mix, room temp butter, egg, and water in a bowl and mix together. Then, fold in your mix-in!

If you really want to pack these full of stuff for a breakfast cookie, I suggest adding in some chia or flax seeds. Of course, when you add something dry, you'll want to add a little bit more water to even it out. I actually added a couple tablespoons of flax seed for some added nutrients. I compensated by adding another tablespoon of water to make sure everything got mixed in. Additionally, you could add some cinnamon or nutmeg when using cranberries or dried apples for a fall-ready cookie!

I don't have a cookie scoop so I just use a small spoon and shape them into balls with my hands. I flatten the balls just a little bit so the middle is sure to bake.

Here's my biggest tip: When baking these cookies, always leave them in for the minimum amount of time suggested. For these, it suggests 10-12 minutes. I always bake them for just 10 minutes. You're guaranteed to get a soft cookie with a lightly browned bottom.

I took these up to Lake Erie over Labor Day weekend to visit Jake's parents and they were very well received! His mom texted me that by the time they got home Labor Day evening, only three cookies were left.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Life after the PhD

Hello friends! It's been a while! I wanted to talk about something I've been dealing with for the last couple weeks. On August 10 I successfully defended my PhD in analytical chemistry. While this was amazing news (four years of incredibly hard work has finally paid off!), my reaction to it was not what I thought it would be.

First, let me tell you that I finally realize just how great it feels to be done. No more exams, no more teaching, no more classes, no more research, no more fixing broken instruments. But the week after I defended was rough. I have my PhD! I should be sipping a margarita and partying it up to celebrate! Instead I spent every day feeling lost and every evening in tears for nearly an entire week. It was all I could do to move from the bed to the couch. When people would ask what I wanted to do when I finished my degree I would always answer "I want to sleep" and they would think I was joking. But y'all. I was serious! I clocked an average of 11 hours of sleep for two weeks after I defended!

You would think that after working so hard for four years with very few breaks, being done would feel great. Instead I felt so lost and I didn't know what to do with myself. It's a very weird thing to describe so stick with me: It's like I was pushing the gas pedal to the floor for those four years, but I was doing it with a few tons of weight on my car. Once I defended, all of that weight was gone and all of a sudden I'm flying down the road. You can imagine that you likely wouldn't have much control of your car if that actually happened. That's exactly what my mind felt like. It was working so hard that it just lost control when it didn't have to work must past what I wanted for lunch. 

I was also mentally exhausted. Yes I was physically tired because the weeks leading up to my defense were filled with late nights and early mornings working. But the mental exhaustion was deeper than I realized. And that type of exhaustion isn't fixed in a single day. Fun fact about me: when I'm super tired, I cry. I was actually doing the dishes one night and the exhaustion hit me like a brick wall and I started crying. Bless Jake's heart because he took the scrub brush from my hands, put me in bed, and finished the dishes for me.

It took me a few days but I realized I had let non-existent expectations get to me. I had a PhD which meant I should have a job, but I didn't. I was at Jake's house during the day but I wasn't cleaning, cooking, etc so I was being a terrible girlfriend. I have all of this free time but I'm not diving into the many devotionals I have so I'm a lazy Christian.

After a long talk with Jake, I finally realized that was my problem. We talked it out, with lots of crying still on my end, and prayed about it. But it still took a few more days for me to let the Lord to really ease my stressed out heart.

Thankfully now, over three weeks later, I'm feeling much better and it's sinking in that I defended my PhD...and passed! Obviously I wish I still had a job, but that'll happen. It's something I've been praying constantly about and there's just a peace in me that right now is not my time to have a job. I've needed a break for a long time and now is my time to enjoy it!

So just a quick piece of advice if you know someone just finishing up their PhD (or any degree for that matter!): Give them time and space to process it. It's a huge change to go from being a career student to not having school anymore. If they aren't jumping with joy, give them time! They'll get there!


Friday, September 8, 2017

Welcome to Ashley Elizabeth!

Hello! Welcome to Ashley Elizabeth! While it might not immediately look too different, the content is where I'm making the majority of the changes. But first, let me update you on my life:

  • On August 10 I successfully defended my PhD in chemistry. While I can kind of say I have a PhD, it won't be official until December when I actually graduate. 
  • I don't have a job. I've been applying to jobs since January this year but unfortunately I've just had zero luck. I definitely have my moments where I get super discouraged, but for the most part I try to look at it as a blessing from the Lord to have true time off.
  • I don't have an apartment either. While I was finishing up my dissertation, I was staying with my boss/advisor. Now I know a lot of people would vomit at the thought of living with their boss, but Neil isn't a normal boss. His family was always so welcoming throughout grad school and since he had kids my age, it honestly felt like moving back home!
Those are the big changes I've gone through recently and I'm sure I'll elaborate more in the near future. So now, let's move on to the blog updates!

I've been challenged recently to think about what my dream would be in life. And honestly, I can't really think about a job that would be a dream. I'm pretty good at adapting to my environment and I can tough out almost any situation (I mean hello I plowed my way through a PhD). That being said, I think I can do well in pretty much any job I end up with. But one dream I've had has been inspiring and helping women through my blog. I didn't feel like I was doing that with Life & Reactions. Plus, if I don't end up in chemistry forever, the name just didn't make sense. I wanted my blog to be able to expand into any niche I might wander into, so the name needed to match. And honestly I love my name. I've always thought Ashley Elizabeth sounded kind of elegant (something which I'm not haha) so why not use that as my blog name? This blog is going to be as true to me as I can make it, so using my name just made sense.

So what types of things will appear on the blog? I still love fashion so that won't go away. But if I've learned one thing from living out of a suitcase for two months it's that I can wear the same five shirts over and over without ever getting sick of them. I also still love beauty products, but again try using one small palette for all of your makeup for two months. It's pretty incredible how creative you can get!

Not having a job has also meant I've gotten much more into cooking than ever before. I've been cooking for myself and Jake every night and it's really challenged me to come up with or try new recipes. I want to share those, but I'm still figuring out the best way for me to do that. Jake doesn't have this huge kitchen with tons of bright light, so I'm trying to figure out how to photograph in a small, dark kitchen. I've also been decorating Jake's house. Since I don't have a job, I've had to do all of my decorating on an incredibly small budget! And the decorating isn't going to stop any time soon so I would love to document what I do on the blog.

Lastly, I loved the response I got from The Single Series! I was so encouraged to hear that I was resonating with other girls. I want to continue talking about this! Jake and I had a great conversation last week about singleness and I have so many feelings! Bless his heart, he listened to me talk for probably 20 minutes straight. But more than singleness I want to talk about other topics related to faith. Whether that's what the Lord is currently teaching me, advice I have on hot topics, and whatever else the Holy Spirit lays on my heart!

Of course with all of this, I'm always open to what you want to read about! While this blog is a creative outlet for me, I want to make sure it's interesting for you as the reader to keep coming back to. Feel free to send me an e-mail, find me on social media, whatever! I'm excited to move in this new direction and I really hope you'll join me in the journey!


Subscribe to my mailing list for exclusive content, recap of recent posts, plus other fun and exciting things!

* indicates required