I am not a morning person. But I like morning. Quite a bit, actually.

What I mean is… I do not jump out of bed at 6:30 with enthusiasm and zeal for the day. In fact, I very frequently sort of roll/fall out of bed once Kev is leaving for work and I know my alarm clock is out the door.

Step one in the mornings is, of course, coffee. I prefer iced coffee, even in the winter. P.s. International Delight (and no… I have no affiliation with them whatsoever) recently created this iced coffee in a carton concept and it is awesome. I can just pour a cup right out of the fridge! It pretty much tastes like a bottled frap. Very tasty.

Step two then becomes drink the coffee in a relaxing location. Sometimes I like to sit on the couch, fire up my mac and check the news, favorite blogs or pinterest. Sometimes I like to sit outside on the porch and soak in the fresh air.

This weekend plans to be pretty hectic. Fun, but hectic! What better way to recharge than lounging around for about an hour this morning, blogging and catching up on the world.

Have a fun weekend, everyone!

my ugly feet... relaxing


There is a mug that my mother used to sip coffee and tea from when I was a child. I have a very vivid memory of this mug. Lucky for you all… I managed to find it on Ebay (thus furthering my theory that with enough patience, you can find anything on Ebay).

This mug was always, to me, a picture of my mom- complete with pins hanging out the side of her mouth. Our home growing up was never filthy… but it most certainly was cluttered. Four creative minds occupying one home did not make for a tidy environment. Combine that with my dad tracking sawdust over every surface, my brother caked in Lord-knows-what and my inability to put things back where they belong and you have never-ending housework. My mom tried so hard to teach us how to clean… but the lessons never sunk in for me.

I guess the mug’s message became my personal mantra, whether I realized it or not. With all of the stuff that I do in any given week, how can I possibly have time to clean without sacrificing any of my other passions? Some people clean when they’re stressed. Not me. Some people clean when its dirty and they can’t stand it anymore. Not me. The only thing that can convince me to clean is the threat of embarrassment. As soon as I learn that someone will be coming over, I run around frantically, cleaning everything in plain sight until I feel less horrified at the idea of allowing someone in our home. I knew I needed help.

So. I called my mom. And I asked her to come over, and teach me how to clean a few things… most especially moldy tile grout and dirty window blinds. Sometimes, we still need help from our moms… I am not above admitting that. As a housewife… I hardly know what I’m doing.

So yesterday, we did a little cleaning. Mom passed down the cleaning Bible to me. And most importantly, she encouraged me. She let me know that this stuff doesn’t come naturally for a lot of people. Women don’t just grow up knowing how to work all day, come home and put dinner on the table every night and clean behind every dark corner. She also reminded me that I live in apartment… and a lot of time, I am dealing with neglect from previous owners. Sometimes it’s my mold… sometimes it’s someone else’s. And now I feel ok. I feel encouraged to clean more often, but I don’t feel that overwhelming sense of failure.

Like I said, sometimes we still need our moms.

So here are a few quick tricks she taught me:

Blinds snap off the walls. (Who knew?) Put some soapy water in the bathtub (I used laundry soap… dish soap works too). Dip the blinds in the tub and use a rag to clean off excess dirt.

See how clean they are?

Then you just hang them right back up again and put an old towel on the floor and they drip dry!

For moldy grout, mix bleach with baking soda until you have a paste-like consistency. Scrub the grout with the mixture. Repeat. It helps. A lot.

For calcium build-up, use vinegar, let sit. I didn’t know what calcium build-up was, really, but my clothes steamer has some weird white stuff in it, which is, in fact, calcium build up. Anyway, we put vinegar in it, turned it on so it would boil, and the calcium came right out!

Anyway, mom stocked me with a few more key ingredients to make the potions found in this book. Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean is full of helpful tips for cleaning. Because really, who has time to clean with the wrong product, just to be forced to do it all over again?

In conclusion, I hope no one comes over with a white glove any time soon, but I sure am feeling a bit less like an epic-fail in the housewife department. We may still be kind of a hot mess over here, but at least now we know the best way to clean it all up!


Well folks, it’s the weekend. I am getting totally pumped up (and a little freaked out) about a huge service project our church is hosting this weekend.

On Sunday, we are hosting the second all-church Food Pack! Last March, we had a team of 250 people packing boxes of food for families in need in our area. Our church’s partnership with Children’s Hunger Fund has been so incredible. These events are awesome because
1. They connect people in church with each other. Serving with friends is fun! Meeting new people is fun!
2. Hungry people in our very own backyard receive boxes of nutritious food. A lot of times, we think of hunger as a problem in developing countries, but there is hunger right here, too. The Food Pack allows people to bring food into these homes, bringing nutrition, hope and the spirit-filling love of Christ.

This time around, we have 750 volunteers signed up. I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of volunteers from age 3 to 85.

Service is more than something you do once in a while: it’s an attitude. An attitude of selflessness. Service is a moment when you step outside of yourself in order to meet the needs of others. Sometimes its uncomfortable. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it takes more from you than you might expect. My year as the Director of Local Serving has created so many opportunities for me to learn this. And as my last ‘official’ act in this role… I am hoping I won’t mess up too much what God is trying to do here!

So hopefully… we pull this thing off without a hitch! I’ll let you all know how it goes…

b & e

Quite recently, two of my most favorite friends, B Head and Feick, were married. Their wedding was so so gorgeous at the historic Bowens Mills Farm in Michigan. B’s favorite color is olive green, which she decided to mix with peach for the wedding. And it was beautiful. Every aspect.






I had the sincere privilege of designing their invitations. After quite a few designs and plenty of inspiration, we came up with this:

The RSVP postcards turned outl like this:

B ended up printing the invites on a shinier paper… which turned out beautifully. She also used a punch on the edges for a little bit of extra pizzazz. Here’s how it all looked in person:

I hope I can share more of this wedding with you all in the future… it really was breathtaking and so meaningful for all of the friends and family there.

Happy Wednesday, all!


Well guys. I got trendy and made a yarn wreath. I’ve been seeing them all over for a while now and decided to take a stab at it myself. My former wreath was… a bit of an embarrassment. It was nice when I first purchased it… sort of woven together with vines and tiny autumnal flower accents. However, every time someone walked through the door, it would fall off. The tiny flowers soon became no more. It became far more of a nuisance than anything. So I had to set my sights on something different.

I admit… I resisted the yarn wreath because of the trendiness factor. What can I say? I can be too cool for school sometimes. But I sorted out my priorities and realized how much more important it is to have a wreath that welcomes people, rather than sticks to their purses or sweaters and falls off the door every time.

So here is my new wreath:

Here is the bow at the top:

And here it is hanging on my janky apartment door:

Excuse the ugly flash but the janky apartment hallway also has janky apartment lighting…

Anyway. That is my new wreath. I hope that it helps people to feel welcome. And happy. And greeted. Come visit me and test it out!


fox & the hound

Tucker has a best friend named Fox. Fox is a Crazy Critter– a stuffing-less, dual-squeaking, plushy friend. And just like Copper and Todd, Tucker and Fox are best friends.

When we first bought Fox, he looked like this:

Now, he looks like this:

The poor little fox is missing a large majority of his body and both squeakers. Quite frankly, he is in rough shape! We tried to buy a replacement fox… but it didn’t take.

They go everywhere together… Fox sleeps in the crate with Tuck. Tucker carries him around the house all wadded up in his mouth (yeah… it looks as cute as it sounds). He tries to bury the fox in random places like couch cushions and behind throw pillows. Sometimes, he carries the fox around and whines quietly with anxiety when he can’t find a good place to bury it.


I suppose that the moral of this story is that even though the fox is in terrrrrrrible shape, I simply cannot throw out this toy. Its in tatters but what can I do? I can’t throw it out… he will just search for it for days. The replacement didn’t work… so I just let him keep the fox as it becomes increasingly mangled.

How could you deny a face like that?

be still my heart- fall fashion part 1

It’s that time of year: the time of year in which I do silly things like wear corduroys to work in August. (That was yesterday’s mistake, although in my defense I rolled them up and paired with leather ballet flats?) I begin to light Apple Cider and Pumpkin Spice scented candles. I start dreaming of slow-cooked pork in the crock pot. I even start listening to my Autumn-themed mix cd a friend made a few years back.

My name is Gretchen and I am addicted to all things autumnal.

I just love fall. I love the colors turning. I love the smells, the activities and the crunching leaves. I love pressing leaves in old, heavy books, cuddling up with a scarf. But most of all… I love fall fashion.

I do not love summer fashion. I feel it leaves room for very little creativity. Fall is this open, gorgeous forest, and like Frost’s yellow wood, I want to pick the road with no leaves yet trodden black! Which leads me to a few fall outfits I feel I must have…

Chambray Polka-Dot Shirt: Old Navy
Mustard Slim-Slouch Chinos: Land’s End Canvas
Pop-color Oxfords (I wonder if I can paint the soles of mine…): GoJane
Accessories (including awesome mustache necklace): Forever21

V-neck Boyfriend Sweater: J Crew Factory
Burgundy Knit Jeggings: American Eagle
Dessert Wedge Booties: Toms
Chunky Knit Scarf: Forever21
Braided Belt: H&M
Gold Knuckle Ring: Forever21 

Twill Blazer: Gap
Chambray Shirt: J Crew Factory
Mustard Striped T: J Crew Factory (no longer in stock but I’m sure we’ll see more mustard stripes as we get closer to fall!)
Jeggings: American Eagle
Riding Boots: DSW
Gold Bangles: Forever 21
Gold Watch: Zappos (I’m sure there are cheaper gold watches at Charming Charlie… but they don’t have an online site)


Anyway… those are just a few of my favorite fall things. I shall put on my shorts today with an expectant and excited sense of longing for what the crisp weather will bring!

love in a box

Greetings! Today, I am going to share a shadow box with all of you. I made this box for my brother and his lovely new bride, Melinda.

Their wedding was absolutely gorgeous!! For their gift, I wanted to make a shadowbox that was not only pretty to look at… but had significance to their day!

So. Here is how you make a Shadow Box.
Step 1: Purchase a Shadow Box. Mine looked like this:

I bought it from hobbs lobbs. I liked it because it looks like barnwood, which was, of course, a big part of this wedding.

Step 2: Create a backdrop. I used layer of weathered-wood printed paper, decorated with Rifle Paper floral accents (I scanned a journal, which was also part of the bridesmaid gift!) which as you might recall from this post was a big inspiration for the invites, etc. I overlaid the wood with swiss dot fabric from Melinda’s dress.

When creating a backdrop, think about mixing textures and patterns. Here’s mine:

up close detail

Step 3: Arrange, arrange and re-arrange. Take the elements and place them all over. Switch things out. Try again. I probably had this arranged 7 different ways, with different pieces that I ended up not using.
The best time to decide to make a shadow box is before the actual wedding. This way, you can take any items that you might be able to use (i.e. programs, or even table decorations once the wedding is over.) You will also be able to pay more careful attention to the ceremony (is there a verse you can use? a quote?) and the decor (can you replicate something on a smaller scale?) to have the most custom box you can create.

Here is a closer look at some of the details:

Inspiration pieces:
Gorgeous weathered barn.
Swiss Dot lace from the dress.
Clothespin details.
Wooden Signs.
A beautiful ceremony performed by Zac’s friend Reynolds.

A word of advice on adhesives:

Shadow boxes are created with multiple mediums. Different materials require different adhesives. For papers, use mod podge. Classic mod podge can wrinkle, so I recommend spray adhesive for a flat finish. I would not recommend glossy. A glue gun is ideal for heavier items, like the metal key and glass vase. If you were gluing wooden pieces, use wood glue. Proper adhesives ensure that your shadow box won’t fall apart upon arrival.

Anyway, there you have it: a shadow box tutorial. They’re all created differently and make a totally unique gift. If you have any questions about anything I made specifically, just ask!

Good luck and happy crafting!

nerd lover’s book club: the hot zone

This is the story of my time learning about viruses:
Late 1990’s… my brother becomes obsessed with virus books and reads portions out loud in which people bleed from orifices and tongues fall out. I cry and tell mom.
2006-2007… 3 very misguided semesters as a biology major brought me to an extra credit seminar taught by a virus expert from Mayo, in which we discussed the very real possibility of an outbreak that no one would be able to stop or contain. We eat snacks and punch and return to life as usual.
2011… caught a rerun of Outbreak on cable, loved it.
July of 2012… watched Contagion. hooked on viruses.

Which leads me to my latest book recommendation…

It’s an oldie but its new to me. The Hot Zone follows the true story of filoviruses, particularly different strains of the Ebola Virus. It is terrifying and awesome all at once.

So. If you’re feeling a little nerdy, and if you’re feeling like you’d enjoy a scare, read The Hot Zone. THEN read this latest article about an outbreak in Uganda. Then look up all the other outbreaks since the book was published in 1994 and cry yourself to sleep (but in a good way, I swear).

p.s. I got my copy at Goodwill for 65 cents.

p.p.s. Stay tuned for my next tutorial… coming at you tomorrow. (I have to give the present away first, obviously!)


Well. On Thursday, Kevin and I realized that for the first time in months, we had no commitments for the weekend. If we wanted to… we could have sat around all weekend. But wouldn’t that make for a dull story?

Disclaimer: this is so lame… but I’ll admit something to you guys… after recently becoming hooked on non-callmemaybe Carly Rae Jepson hits, I discovered the song/music video “Good Time.” After watching this video, I started to think that my life has been preeeetty lame since college. I decided that I needed more spontaneity. Which leads us to…

We decided to go to the water park. I.LOVE.waterparks. More than a friend. With the love of a small child. Can’t eat, can’t sleep, Christmas morning excitement kind of love.

It takes about 3 hours to get to the Wisconsin Dells (which happens to be the waterpark capital of the world!) So just like crazy college kids, we drove 3 hours both ways for one fabulous day at the waterpark with my über-fun cousins Rachel and Luke!

So here is my brief review of the latest attractions at Noah’s Ark Waterpark. If you care little for waterparks, skip to the end.

First: Quadzilla

The newest and latest slide. Four people race simultaneously on a mat. Intense fun. Super fast, but not terrifying. Full disclosure: Kev scraped his knee a little, but I am 100% positive that this was a case of an overzealous push-off at the start, i.e. user error.

Next: Time Warp

There’s really no good picture for this ride… it is very dark and possibly the most frightening ride we went on. For the most part, this ride was like being flushed down the toilet but with flashing lights and large jets of water to the face. Screams of delight… and a little terror.

Next: Black Anaconda

The Black Anaconda is a water coaster… there’s a similar ride at the Kalahari. The coaster cruises down, then back up again on splashing conveyor belts. All in all, it was very enjoyable!

That is my synopsis of some of the most thrilling rides of the day. We did some of the slower rides as well, which is nice because the lines are shorter and sometimes you just need a rest from waiting in line. For the record, I did skip the Scorpion’s Tail due to nothing but sheer terror. I might need a little more personal growth before I am ready to stand in a phone booth waiting for the floor to drop out from underneath me.


The moral of this long story is: spontaneity is so good sometimes, even if you end up feeling really pooped for the next few days.

all tuckered out