The Girlfriend’s Gift Guide /// Gifts For the Sister You Choose

Tracking PixelYesterday I confessed my love for Black Friday sales. And I do – I really, really love them. Even more, I love sales that aren’t tied to one, crazy day. And friends, I’ve found one of those. With the help of The Microsoft Store I’m thrilled to be sharing something fabulous that is available NOW – no waiting for Black Friday! I’ll fill you in shortly, but first, let’s talk about who deserves the gifts we reap from these great, holiday sales.

Family is at the top of my gifting list, of course. But next, are my best friends. These are the gals who hold me up in prayer, support me daily, and march through the trenches of motherhood by my side. No gift could ever thank them enough for being my chosen sisters, but every year, I try :) Girlfriends guide opener

Truly, if I could give them the moon or the hottest mama swagger wagon on the market, I would, but I think some of these ideas would do quite nicely … and be much appreciated. Don’t you agree? girlfriends gift guide collage

Girlfriend’s Gift Guide by thatmamagretchen featuring HP Stream 7 Signature Edition Tablet


Before you start clicking like crazy to place your orders and bless the socks off your BFF, give me a hot minute to highlight the HP Stream 7 Signature Edition Tablet. For this $99 deal there is no waiting for Black Friday, no lines, and no hidden print – you can snag one now! Do it quick though, this is one of those “while supplies last” bargains. The HP Stream 7 Tablet comes with Office 365 too which is valued at $69.99 – but that bonus is just for the holiday season.

I can almost guarantee any best friend, teen, husband, grandparent or, well, me, would surely be happy to see a tablet sized present under the tree. Even better, the 5 star reviews are rolling in from happy customers who have gone before you!

microsoft tablet

What gifts are you considering for your best friend this Christmas? Spill those ideas!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Microsoft.

Style File /// Like a Glove

bird dress 2 bird dress

dress, c/o eShakti / jean jacket, Stitch Fix / scarf, Target / studs, c/o Archer + Hare (similar) / chain bracelet, c/o Sweet Ties Hair Ties / boots, Nordstrom (last season) 

When eShakti contacted me about styling one of their dresses I couldn’t say no! With such classic and modest lines, beautiful prints and both standard sizes and custom measurements it seemed too good to be true. 

And yes, I said custom measurements. I don’t know many mamas who have a cookie cutter, “regular” sized body. I sure don’t! So, it was super fun to receive a dress made exactly for me – my shoulder width, my sleeve preferences, my bust line, waist, and length. In a modern twist, I kinda felt like Cinderella slipping into this one of a kind dress. It fit like a glove! High five, eShakti, you’ve found a customer for life!

And, for those of your on the lookout for Christmas frocks – eShakti has a quite a few sales going on right now! Plus, with code “thatmamagretchen” you can get 10% off through 11/30/14.*

I’m loving this red, this lace, this sheath, and this takes the cake for modern holiday style! Most of all, this — SWOON! What’s your favorite?

I received a complimentary item from eShakti. All opinions are my own.

*Code has to be entered in the ‘promotional code’ box.   It is not case-sensitive. Code can be used any number of times until the validity period. It can be clubbed with any other promotional offer, gift coupon or gift card in the same order unless explicitly specified otherwise in the offer conditions. This discount code is not applicable on clearance / sale, gift cards & overstock categories. Not applicable on previous purchases.


Freezer Meals /// Quinoa Chicken Chili + Honey Garlic Chicken

When the cold weather strikes, as it has here in the Northwest (BRRR!), I seem to get extra domestic. Not super-Pinterest, make all the things, look at my spotless house kind of domestic, but the cozy, slow cooker, warm beverages, snuggle in blankets out of the dryer kind of domestic. 

I love the warmth that the holidays bring with traditional meals, movies we save just for this time of year and the glow of twinkling lights. Baby, when it’s cold outside, come over here, turn up the heat and gather ’round the table for something delicious. 

It will sound funny now for me to make a witty little transition to talking about freezers, but stick with me.

The holidays mean budgets, and budgets mean prioritizing and cutting corners and making decisions to use time, energy and funds more efficiently. You won’t catch me skimping on the house temperature or a warm bath in the evenings though. This mama can’t really function if the house is cooler than 68-70, even with socks and a sweater. And baths? Well, hello? When else am I supposed to brainstorm about all aspects of life?

So, I’ve prioritized heat and hot water as my top energy sources and therefore capitalize on saving energy in other ways. One of which is keeping my freezer full! FILL YOUR FREEZER TO SAVE TIME

Does it sound backwards to spend money filling a freezer to somehow save money? Well, I promise you, that freezer of yours will work more efficiently and therefore save you money when it’s properly stocked. This is what you should check for when assessing your freezer …

  • Keep compartments full, but away from the fan – that fan is what allows cold air to move
  • Check that your freezer’s temperature is set for 0-5 degrees Fahrenheit

Those 2 simple tips will keep you running cool (bahahaha!), saving money and being a little extra efficient when it comes to your home’s energy! And now, the real question … “What do I fill my freezer with to keep it working more efficiently?” Around here, we’re stocked full of Zaycon chicken, local beef and freezer meals! Two of which I’m sharing with you today! 

The best part about these 2 meals is that you can make them with chicken breasts or a rotisserie chicken – whatever you have on hand! And, you can eat them right away and freeze leftovers or freeze the entire portion. Pretty much, whatever you do, take note – these meals are enjoyed often around here! quinoa chicken chili

Quinoa Chicken Chili


  • 1 cup of quinoa, rinsed
  • 28 oz can of diced tomatoes (you could use crushed)
  • 14 oz can Rotel
  • 16 oz cans of black beans, rinsed, drained
  • 15 oz can of corn, drained
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 chicken breasts, thawed 
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder


This recipe is beyond simple. See all those ingredients up there – dump them all into a slow cooker. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. With tongs, remove the chicken onto a large cutting board and shred with forks. Put the chicken back in the slow cooker. Serve immediately with your favorite toppings (crushed chips, cheese, sour cream, avocado) OR allow to cool and fill gallon size freezer baggies 2/3 full. Lay flat and allow to freeze. When you’re ready to serve – thaw, dump into a slow cooker and warm on low for 1-2 hours.

If you opt to use a rotisserie chicken (that’s my preference!) – do not add the chicken to the initial dump. Just shred it up and add it around the 4 hour mark. honey-garlic-chicken freezer meals

Honey Garlic Chicken


  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce or coconut aminos
  • 1/4 cup blackberry jam
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Sliced green onions, for garnish
  • Sesame seeds, for garnish


Place the chicken breasts in the slow cooker so that they are not overlapping.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the honey, soy sauce, blackberry jam, hoisin, olive oil, garlic, onion and crushed red pepper flakes, and then pour the sauce over the chicken. Cover the slow cooker and cook the chicken on low for 4 to 5 hours.

With tongs, remove the chicken and place on a cutting board, shred well. There will be a lot of liquid in the slow cooker – DO NOT DISCARD. Pour the liquid into a saucepan over medium heat.

In a small, separate bowl make a slurry with the corn starch and 3 tablespoons cold water. Which the slurry into the liquid mix that is heating in the saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat. Your goal is for the sauce to thicken and reduce. When it’s done, pour over the chicken and serve immediately OR allow to cool and place in freezer safe storage container for a wonderful freezer meal later. To reheat, simple place your saucy chicken back in the slow cooker and warm on low for 1-2 hours.

Again, if you opt to use a rotisserie chicken this recipe comes together very fast since you’re not waiting for chicken to cook. In this case, shred your chicken and your sauce ingredients and cook on low for 1-2 hours to meld the flavors. Then with a strainer, remove the chicken and follow the steps to thicken the sauce. 

Browse more valuable energy savings tips here!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Essential Oils During Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum

Oh friends, I’m so excited to have my friend, Jamie, sharing all about her experience with essential oils during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. This girl did her research and I’m thrilled all this info is logged away in one spot for all us oil lovin’ mamas!

Welcome, Jamie! And congratulations on baby Leah, she’s a doll!



So…I’ll start with oils used during pregnancy.

Nausea and Upset Stomach /// I have a digestive blend and would put a drop or two in my hands and then rub it on my throat and over my belly (diluted in fractioned coconut oil) and cup my hands over my nose and breathe deeply for a dozen or so breaths. One time in particular it got rid of some pretty severe nausea within moments. Mostly it would dull the sensation of wanting to vomit everywhere. I had only slight nausea so I can’t speak to more severe cases.

Sleep /// Oh, Lavender! Why didn’t I use you earlier!?! Per my other pregnancies, there came that time in the third trimester where I’d wake up in the night and stay awake for two or three hours, unable to fall back asleep. One night after using Lavender oil with the kids for their bedtime, I thought, “Hmmm, why not?” I rubbed the top of the bottle on the insides of my wrists before bed, and then again when I woke up at night. Wow! I was able to fall back asleep within minutes! I still woke up a ridiculous amount of times, but more often than not a sniff of Lavender helped me doze back to sleep.

Swollen Ankles and Feet /// When it would get particularly bad, I’d make a foot soak of warm water, about 1/4 cup epsom salt, and a few drops of Orange, Lavender, and Geranium oils. The next morning they’d look and feel much better. A few times I also massaged my ankles and feet with Geranium and Melaleuca blended with fractioned coconut oil, towards my heart, three or four times that day. Both applications/techniques worked well, but I preferred the soak since I could do it at the end of the day and it was a one-time thing.


Let’s Get This Baby Outta Here /// We had three different “due dates” for our little girl based on an ultrasound, the doctor, and our midwife.  In the end we just said, “She’s due towards the end of October” because that just made it easier.  Lo and behold, she had her own idea of when to arrive and October came and went…and I was still pregnant.  I do remember feeling, at the beginning of this pregnancy, that October seemed too soon for a due date and started adding, “or the beginning of November” to our standard answer to “When are you due?”

Apparently I talked myself into it because November started off with my belly still very much pregnant!  I was okay going the full 42 weeks (or beyond), and we had an appointment with our midwife after 40 weeks and baby and I were still very much healthy and very much ready to do this whole labor thing!  I strongly believe that babies come when babies come, and there is no need for inducing a healthy mom and baby just because a date on the calendar has come and gone.  All that said, though…we had been in a holding pattern for almost three weeks, putting off meetings and work responsibilities and get-togethers on hold “until the baby comes.”  Eventually, we started looking into some gentle, natural options to encourage labor to start.  Braxton Hicks contractions and general tightening had been occurring for at least four weeks, if not longer, so I knew my body was preparing for something and just wanted to add a little nudge in the right direction.

I ate labor-inducing cookies. I continued to drink two quarts of NORA tea each day, with an extra scoop of red raspberry leaf tea.  I walked the dog an extra loop in the mornings.  I visualized, did stretches, spent time with my husband (ahem), did pressure points on the ankles, feet, and inner legs.  I napped.  I walked the track at our ministry campus, and the bleacher stairs.  And, of course, I used oils.

I asked my friend for a sample of her Clary Calm (a blend of Clary Sage, Lavender, Bergamont, Roman Chamomile, Cedarwood, Ylang Ylang, Geranium, Fennel, Palmarosa, Carrot Seed, and Vitex essential oils) when I was about a week “overdue”.  I would sniff it throughout the day and massage it into the pressure points I mentioned above.  The night before I went into labor, I used Basil oil and the Clary Calm blend repeatedly on the pressure points, especially the one at the base of my thumbs and pointer finger.  And even though it’s not an essential oil, I finally gave in and took two Evening Primrose Oil capsules before I went to bed that night…and was up just a few hours later with some pretty strong contractions.  So who knows if any of my influences actually ‘helped’ labor start, or if it was simply the right time for her to be born.

Oh God That Hurts /// During the early stages of labor, from about 1 AM to 7 AM, I felt a lot of anxiety.  The contractions were manageable, coming in waves that built in pressure and pain and then slowly subsiding.  However, these episodes of contractions had happened quite a few times before, especially in the evenings.  The next morning I’d wake up and – wah wah – still be pregnant.  So to say I was doubtful would be an understatement.  Which made me anxious.  Which increased adrenaline in my system.  Which inhibited the oxytocin from flowing as freely, slowing down the frequency of the contractions and decreasing their intensity.  Which made me even more anxious, which started the whole cycle over again.  Yeah, not a good pattern to start labor!  I found myself clutching a sample-sized vial of Lavender oil in my right hand as I paced back and forth in my bedroom.  When a contraction came I would lean over and brace myself against the wall.  As soon as it was gone, I would take a deep breath, inhaling the Lavender scent.  I also rubbed some Lavender oil on my neck and chest, where I was physically feeling the anxiety.  It really helped.  I was able to calm down, let the contractions build, and finally about 8:30 AM I asked our doula, “Um, do you think I should call the midwife to come back?”  Good thing she said yes because transition and pushing came hard and fast and she was born about two hours later.

I had purchased Basil oil to help in the case of back labor but I only experienced one contraction that I would say was painful in my lower back.  I was laying down during that particular contraction and decided, “Yeah, that wasn’t so fun” so I stayed upright for the rest of them and didn’t have another contraction in my back for the rest of the labor.


Here She Comes! /// Leah was born partially in caul – the bag of waters broke as her shoulders came out.  Pretty cool, I think!  After she was cleaned off and I got settled, we really began to put our oils to use.

For Mom …

Thankfully I didn’t tear at all (miracle!!!), so I took a somewhat casual approach to postpartum perineum care (ha – that sounds funny when I look at it written down but it’s true).  I had prepared some ‘padsicles’ in the freezer (sanitary napkins soaked in witch hazel and then frozen in an arch by placing them in a bowl) and I used a few of those in the days after birth.  In retrospect, I wish I would’ve added a few drops of Frankincense or Lavender to the witch hazel to help with the soothing and healing “down there”, but after three or four days the tenderness and swelling had gone down and I felt much better.

The afterpains were intense this time around.  Like, had to tell everyone to be quiet and grab my husband’s hand and close my eyes to get through them intense. I was prepared with Lavender oil to help with the pain so I applied a few drops to my lower stomach after on of the pains subsided.  BAD IDEA!  Just simply touching my stomach sent my utuerus into a massive contraction – worse than the ones I had during the entire first stage of labor.  So I thought I’d help myself stay calm and quickly cupped my hand over my nose and inhaled.  EVEN WORSE IDEA! As soon as I did that I remembered that lavender can also be used to stimulate contractions and yup, that bad boy kicked itself up a notch.  SO NOT FUN!!! Later in the day I tried one more time, adding a few drops of Frankincense for good measure, but the same thing happened. I called it quits on that idea and asked my husband for some ibuprofen instead. :)

My core – lower back, abs, and pelvis region – was much weaker after this birth than what I remember from the previous two. There were a few times when I would kneel down to pick something up and my lower back would explode into painful spasms.  Overall, it was a sense of instability and weakness that really made me slow down and be careful how I moved and what I did during the first week after her birth.  Finally I decided I’d see if oils would help.  I went sorta maverick with this one, making up my own blend from what I had on hand.  I combined three drops of Basil (for anti-spasmodic), 3 drops of Lavender (soothing), 5 drops of Birch Bark (pain relief) and 5 drops of Helichrysum (healing and overall awesomeness) in some fractioned coconut oil. After a particularly weak morning, I rubbed about a teaspoon of that blend all over my lower back, and another teaspoon on my stomach, sides, and lower belly.  I did the same thing four or five times throughout that day, as well as being extra careful and restful that day.  The next morning I felt significantly better, and have kept that blend on the counter in a cute little mason jar so I can apply it at the first hint of pain or weakness in my core.

For Baby …

Frankincense was our go-to oil for umbilical cord care.  When we changed a diaper, we would rub our finger on the top of the frankincense bottle to get just a dab of oil on the tip of our finger.  Then we’d gently pat that finger around the base of the umbilical cord stump as well as the tip where it had been cut (bonus – our midwife was totally on board with delayed cord and placenta clamping after the birth.  I’ll always have an image burned in my mind of snuggling my newly arrived little girl…and glancing to my left and seeing the cord snaking down into a big yellow plastic bowl where the placenta was hanging out.  The same yellow bowl my husband uses to make soap suds to wash our car.  So cool but so weird at the same time).  The cord fell off on the fourth or fifth day with no problems.  There was a little bit of scabbing on her belly button so we’ve continued to apply Frankincense a few times each day, and just today I added a tiny drop of Helichrysum diluted in fractioned coconut oil and rubbed it gently on the rawer parts of her tiny little button to help in the healing process.

To help combat thrush we turned to a combination of Melaleuca, Oregano, and fractioned coconut oil.  Thrush was NOT fun with our other two kids so I wanted to be totally prepared the first moment I saw any sort of white patch or spot in her mouth.  She nursed well from the start but only opened her mouth a little bit to latch on, and didn’t totally flare out her bottom lip, so as I helped her learn a more comfortable and effective nursing position, I also dreaded the onset of that stinging, painful infection.  A few tiny blisters were developing on the tips of my nipples so I wanted to be totally ready for battle!  I put six drops of Melaleuca, three drops of Oregano, and two or so tablespoons of fractioned coconut oil in a roller ball bottle.  During diaper or clothing changes, I’d swipe a roll of the blend on the bottom of each of her feet, and then be sure to cover her feet with socks (to prevent the oils being spread anywhere else on her skin or clothes).  There were a few times when I thought I saw some whitish patches on her cheeks so I upped my game and took one drop of a protective blend like OnGuard (Clove being the key ingredient in the blend) in some water, swished it in my mouth, and then swallowed.  By the end of the day or the next morning, the whitish patches would be gone!  Once they disappeared I would stop applying the oils to her and taking them internally for me until/if I saw any sign of thrush again.

For Everyone …

I’ve continued to use Lavender at night to help with sleep and relaxing.  I swipe some on my wrists (I sleep with my hands near my face so I can smell it very well when I apply it there) and rub the top of the bottle on the blanket she sleeps on, as well as on the front of her sleep sack.  She’s been sleeping very well after the first few nights (the snuggles and side-nursing sure do help!) and I’ve been able to fall back asleep fairly quickly after waking up to care for her.

Our diffuser has seen a combination of oils since Leah was born.  One of my favorites (for scent and effectiveness) is Lavender and Orange. It’s calming but also helps me focus. The first afternoon that I had all three kids home by myself I had that blend wafting through the downstairs.  We played quietly together on the rug, building towers and making train tracks, and the few meltdowns we had (me included!) were easily managed.  I’m also loving the Holiday Blend (a friend gave me a sample of hers) with a few extra drops of Orange.  And on the afternoons when I haven’t been able to lay down and I’m really dragging, a blend of Lemon, Orange, and Peppermint has helped pick me up and get me through those tough post-naptime hours (well, naptime for everyone else!). baby leah

Finally, a shout out to an oil that’s not really an essential oil, but we all know that it’s essential to just about every part of our lives.  Coconut oil!  It went on Leah’s hands and feet to help with the flaky newborn skin. During pregnancy, I would rub it all over my belly after I showered (just like with my other two) and once again – no stretch marks!  I applied it to my nipples during the first few days of nursing to help soothe, heal, and fight any sort of bacteria that wanted to hang around.  Just today I saw a hint of redness on Leah’s bum so I rubbed some coconut oil on it with a dab of Lavender and Frankincense … just ‘cause :).  It’s in my deodorant, it is my face lotion, and for some reason our two year old middle daughter thinks it’s the greatest thing to rub all over her belly and neck.  So three cheers for coconut oil – the non-essential, essential oil!

Isn’t that just the best recap of how to implement essential oils during pregnancy and birth!?! Thanks a million, Jamie, for sharing your experience.

If you’d like to read more about my journey with essential oils or to purchase doTERRA essential oils take a peek here and definitely join my oil chit chat Facebook group – I, Jamie, and many other mamas frequently visit about oils and ask questions :)

Any tips and recommendations shared on this blog are very specific to doTERRA or equivalently pure essential oils and should not be transferred to oils from another source. Statements made on this website about essential oils have not been evaluated by the FDA. Nothing shared is intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or condition. Consult your primary care doctor or specialist before making any changes to your healthcare protocol.

Can You Guess My Biggest Pet Peeve?

Here’s my run down of pet peeves …

  1. When Dominic leaves the fridge setting on ice, so when I go to fill up with water, ice comes out instead of water
  2. People who slurp their soup/cereal/anything
  3. Paying for shipping

Number three is the big one. I’ve been known to drive far for an item over paying shipping fees. And yes, I understand that sometimes my gas cost and time can outweigh the actual shipping cost. But pet peeves rarely make sense, and I just can’t get over the extra cost of shipping.

Paying shipping is what keeps me from ordering online more often. It doesn’t feel like a real sale when I still have to pay $5-$20 for my items to be delivered! Are you with me?!? Truly though, I’m the ideal online shopper – I’m up late, have a PayPal account, love to browse the internet and have children that DO NOT need to terrorize all the shop girls around town. I’d love nothing more than to stay at home, avoid the crowds (and hauling my kids to and fro) and shop from home WITHOUT paying shipping. Pretty much, free shipping sounds like a little slice of Christmas heaven to me! 

And, my friends, free shipping has arrived to the world via and 1,000 popular retailers. Oh. Em. Gee. Never PayShipping Again

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 9.56.38 PM

This is what you need to know …

  1. Start by creating an account at
  2. Then, search from the popular retailers partnered with – there are over 1,000!
  3. Click “Visit Store”, shop like regular, and process your order. 
  4. Watch the magic happen —> you earn 10% cash back on every purchase AND free shipping. Well, all except for Black Friday through Cyber Monday when will be offering 20% cash back at five different retailers each day. Some participating retailers include Walmart, QVC, Sears, Children’s Place, Gap, and Nordstrom. Yes, 20%! That’s kind of unheard of … right?

This weekend I gave the ol’ college try and it was simple and fabulous. Well, more like, faaaaabulooooooous! Better yet, I earn 7% more than I would have through the other % back site I’ve tried out in the past. 

Naturally, I shopped at Nordstrom online and found some super winter necessities and Christmas gifts for Jemma and I. Here’s a peek!

Jem and Mama

MICHAEL Michael Kors bracelet watch / Capelli New York beaded headwrap / Tea Collection ‘Otti’s Blumen’ Dress (Baby Girls) / Nordstrom ‘Ravenna’ Boot (Walker, Toddler, Little Kid & Big Kid) Red 8… / Tucker + Tate ‘Core’ Leggings (Little Girls & Big Girls) Navy Peacoat… / vigoss black | Nordstrom / Bobeau Split Back High/Low Plaid Top | Nordstrom / BP. Embellished Knit Head Wrap (Juniors) | Nordstrom

Technically, the only necessity was winter boots for Jem. That girl grew a size and a half in about a month and suddenly NONE of her shoes fit! The plaid blouse was on sale and super flattering, so obviously a holiday must and I think the watch may be my Christmas gift from Dominic to me  :)

I’m not 100% on all of it, I mean, I do LOVE it all, but … budgets and all. Anyways, between Nordstrom and, returns aren’t a worry or cost either. Woohoo! has a Return Shipping Rebate that cover the charges if a member ever needs to return any online purchase — for any reason. Love that!

Ready to join

Clever Girls has a coupon code, HOLIDAY2014, that you can enter on the website to begin a free 30-day trial. It will also give you a  discounted monthly membership rate of $9.95/month (after the 30-day free trial).

Join me in the greatest Christmas discovery of all and help me kick that shipping pet peeve to the curb! Shipping costs, BE GONE! 10% kick back, WELCOME! 

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

A Tech Free Christmas

Did I let Jemma circle her little heart out when the Toys R Us Christmas catalog arrived last week? 

Of course I did. I’m not the mom version of Wicked Witch of the West!

But, when it comes down to what I’ll actually be spending my money on this Christmas, it probably won’t be found in that catalog. For one, I’m all about practicality and at this age all my kid’s want to do is open presents. The contents aren’t super important. New socks? Woohoo! Toothpaste with their favorite character on the bottle? EEK! A framed family photo for their room? Hey, that’s me! 

Anyways, my littles use and love technology as much as the next. I consider it a necessity for my sanity most days, but when we find and love a tech free toy I call it a win in my mothering book of life. I don’t actually have one of those, it just sounded right, feel me?

So, may I introduce a few lovely ideas for a tech free Christmas? Of course I can! 

And you, you wise mama who is also thinking ahead for Christmas, comment with your favorite tech free gift ideas!a tech free christmas - that mama gretchen

ONE /// Awhile ago I mentioned on Facebook how much time Max spends playing with his Squigs. The perfect toy for our glass slider while I prep dinner and avoid making eye contact with anyone who dares spark the witching hour.

TWO /// Poke-A-Dot, literally. This line of books is just brilliant!

THREE /// Who has a little girl or boy with Frozen on their Christmas list? I’ve fallen in love with this wood memory game from Ella & Ezzi. It encourages learning and fun – the perfect pairing. Even better, Ella & Ezzi is a mama made shop! You all know how I love supporting mama businesses. With over 20 designs you’re sure to find a perfect one for your kiddo. Beautifully made AND it comes gift wrapped. Can’t beat that :) Be sure to like Ella & Ezzi on Facebook, I’ve seen giveaways popping up on occasion!

FOUR /// You all saw my mini review of Strider Bikes, right? They really are great and the age range allows this to be a gift that gets a lot of use for quite a few years. Plus, the sturdiness insures that a younger sibling will also get the Strider love. P.S. This giveaway campaign will make your heat soar! I love companies who emulate true kindness.

FIVE /// Dollhouses are such classics. Jem plays for hours with the one she got for her birthday and so I’m considering adding to the neighborhood with the treehouse

SIX /// Kid’s love kid size things and I can’t get over the perfection of this table and stool set from KidzPad. Totally a practical Christmas gift that will get hours of use. Plus, such a bargain! We have this piece in our newly rearranged Jemma/school/play room (think Peter Pan nursery style where all kid items are now in one giant room) and the quality is impeccable. You can’t go wrong with any of the KidzPad pieces. This would be a real winner for a practical gift too!

Chime in! What tech free toys do you love?

This gift guide included some items from wonderful That Mama Gretchen sponsors, all opinions are my own. Amazon affiliate links used as well. Thank you for supporting the shops and affiliates that support my blog! 

Sour Cream Lemon Pancakes

I don’t really know how so long has gone by without my sharing my pancake recipe. 

It’s the shiz. That’s all there is to it. Pancakes equal love and love equals pancakes. Especially these. They’re like no other!

Funny thing is … until I was pregnant with Max, I didn’t like pancakes. For years I preferred French toast or waffles. But then, something switched and pancakes became my everything. Hormones maybe?

Regardless of how it came to be, pancakes have stuck around this place like dirty dishes and mountains of laundry. I suppose it is just meant to be! 


So, today’s recipe has one small addition – doTERRA lemon essential oil. After batches and batches of fluffy, delicious pancakes I’ve started playing around with extra ingredients so, feel free to make these regular or make them special, the base is the best so they’ll turn out no matter what :)

Sour Cream Pancakes


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • Optional: 2-3 drops of doTERRA lemon essential oil, chocolate chips, blueberries, banana slices, chopped nuts … the world is your oyster!


Add all your ingredients to a large bowl or mixer and blend well. While it mixes, heat a large griddle and generously butter. 

Turn down the heat (I usually heat it up on high or 9 and then turn it down to 4 or 5) and scoop batter onto the griddle. I use a 1/3 cup measuring cup and once I pour I use the bottom to quickly evenly spread the batter into a circle. Evenness is key to perfect pancakes.

When you see bubbles on the top of the batter – the middle and the sides, it’s time to flip! Only flip once for perfect pancakes ;) Serve piping hot with a dollop of butter and real maple syrup. Please oh please don’t ruin these with the fake stuff. Real butter, real syrup. Ok, fine, if you’re my sister you’re allowed to top with jam. That’s acceptable too.

Are you a pancake lover like me? What’s your secret to perfect pancakes?

It Doesn’t Always Rain in the Pacific Northwest

Driving down the freeway last week, Jemma began chatting about the weather – one of her favorite topics. She commented on all the rain and how it makes her so “fwusterated” because it makes the slide in our cul-de-sac too wet. Then she transitioned to thoughts on summer and how she hates the sun in her eyes so even though the rain is bothersome, she doesn’t want it to be summer again. She won’t wear sunglasses for some reason, so summer is truly difficult in her book. Naturally I responded to her chitter chat with a question, “So Jemma, what kind of weather DO you like?”

Jemma: The clouds. Just the white clouds. They’re the best. Because then there is no rain and then they hide the sun too. 

As the little princess wished, we ended up with a plain ol’ cloudy morning shortly after her lamentations about the autumn rainfall. A perfect day to take her new balance bike for a spin.

IMG_1173 IMG_1175 IMG_1178 IMG_1180Jem is not super adventuresome and it has taken her quite awhile to even be interested in bike riding. She TALKS about doing new things, but when it comes time to taking the plunge she’ll usually tell me, “Well, how about we save that for Friday?” In her world, everything happens “Friday” or “tomorrow” or I’m even started hearing “what about after my five birthday?”

After a little coaxing and the promise of no sun in her eyes – off she rode. And she rode and rode and rode. Back and forth on the path while yelling, “Watch me, I’m trying so hard! Look at me gooooooo!” 

I think we’ve found a real winner with our balance bike from Strider Bikes. It’s super lightweight, was easy to assemble and comes in a bunch of fun colors. I see many more cloudy days of bike riding in our future!

Find Strider Bikes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They highlight Strider races and I’m floored by all these kids can do on their bikes!

P.S. Jemma travels at about .0005152 miles per hour on her bike currently and thus, I didn’t require her to wear her helmet during these photos. As her confidence and speed grows you can bet your britches she’ll be adding her Dora helmet to the mix. Safety first!

P.S.S. I’m pretty sure I’m going to order Max his own bike for Christmas. At 2 and 4, sharing just isn’t always the most joyous thing. But, what color?!? Another orange so there isn’t fighting over who gets what color or maybe blue? Or get pink for Jem and let Max inherit orange? Oh the choices that Christmas brings :)

We were gifted a Strider Bike, no other compensation was received. All opinions are my own and of all the balance bikes I’ve encountered in my day, I’m truly impressed with Striders quality!


Hi! Let’s Talk Vaccines …

Elections are over, but that doesn’t mean controversial topics aren’t still a part of our everyday lives, amiright? So, in honor of Vaccine Awareness Week it only seems fitting that I spill a little on vaccinations … one of those hot topics that spark camps of strong opinions, like, REALLY strong opinions. vaccines

Here’s the scoop, well, my scoop/disclaimer/two cents …

1) I’ve never shared on the blog what Dominic and I have decided for our children – our situation is unique just like yours is so it would be silly for me to say “I do this and you should too!” because your kids aren’t my kids and mine aren’t yours. With that said, I’ll totally chat one on one about vaccines so if you ever want to swap thoughts just send me an email :) 

2) Every parent has the responsibility to research and make their own decision … I respect yours and I sure hope you’ll respect mine.

3) There isn’t a right answer when it comes to vaccinations or any other parenting decision we encounter. We’re all doing the best we can.

4) Just because you or I decided one thing once upon a time, it doesn’t mean we can’t change our mind when our knowledge base expands. This has been so freeing for me in my journey as a mom; it’s what compels me to continue reading, consulting and seeking out experts who know more on various subjects that I.

5) And this may be the conservative in me speaking, but questioning what the government recommends isn’t a bad idea. I kind of consider it due diligence. And you better believe when it comes to my kids, I’ll be due diligencing until the cows come home. 

With all of that said, I’ll close with a few resources – some scientific, some anecdotal –  I’ve found helpful in my understanding of vaccinations. Most of all, I highly recommend building a healthcare community. One person will never have all the answers, so determine who you can reach out to, compare notes and ask questions. Consider talking to someone with similar values, someone who can interpret things you don’t understand, someone with a degree, someone who has seen a vaccine injury, someone who has seen a disease ravage a family, someone who vaccinates no matter what and someone who would never consider it. There is a lot of learning to be done!

The Chiropractic Position on Vaccinations – The Doctor Within

There are 3 kinds of people: lazy people, stupid people, and people who seek out their own answers. The first category is by far the largest.

Ask Dr Sears: Vaccines

Vaccines have become the most controversial topic for parents and doctors today. Most of you want to vaccinate your children, but you also want to know about the risks and side effects of the shots. You don’t just want to be told, “Vaccines are perfectly safe and none of the concerns you read about in the media and on the internet have been proven to be true.” You want, and deserve, a fair, scientific and straightforward discussion of the shots you are giving your child.

If You Vaccinate, Ask 8! –

If you choose to vaccinate, always keep a written record of exactly which shots/vaccines you or your child have received, including the manufacturer’s name and vaccine lot number. Write down and describe in detail any serious health problems that develop after vaccination and keep vaccination records in a file you can access easily.

Is the Flu Shot Safe – Wellness Mama

Obviously, the upside of getting a flu vaccine should be immunity from the flu. Unfortunately, if the wrong strain is included in the vaccine, this won’t be accomplished.

Don’t Rush To Hand Out the Ebola Vaccine – Huffington Post

… rushing a vaccine to widespread use, history has shown, could be tragic, not only by infecting the healthy but also by delaying the development of safe and effective vaccines.

The Greater Good – Facebook Group and Website

As new parents, we wanted to dig deep into this complex and polarizing issue so that we could learn firsthand what experts believe, share that information with the public, and open the hearts and minds of viewers to the fact that vaccine injuries do occur.

Why I Investigated Vaccines – Dr. Tenpenney

When a vaccine is called “effective”, it is not the same thing as being “protective.”

What research have you done to determine what is best for you and your family?

Mini Style File /// Minnetonka Kids

I wish you could have all heard the gasp of excitement when Jemma opened her package from Minnetonka. Girl couldn’t have been more excited to see purple boots. 

“Mom! They’re purple! My most favorite color in the whole WILD world! How did they know?!?” I’ll always love that she says “whole wild world” … I can’t bear to correct her!

I didn’t crush her dreams, that no, Minnetonka didn’t actually know her favorite color, it was just her mama’s all knowing ways. But, in Minnetonka’s defense, they do deserve a lot of credit. Minnetonka shoes are truly fabulous and have been for a long, long time in my book. I mean, they are part of the four-fecta after all.

With lovely styles for the whole family, Minnetonka can dress up, dress down, and most of all, dress for play. I’ve had my pair of Kilty Mocs since college and the suede and supportive soles hold up well. Long lasting quality and timeless styles make this mama happy because it means one day, maybe another little babe of mine will receive a hip hand me down from their big sister or brother. Until then, we’ll be playin’ hard and running around the whole wide world in a splash of purple and a handsome pair of little man classics.IMG_1163IMG_1154jemma moccsIMG_1165IMG_1166IMG_1153IMG_1152IMG_1172Outfit Details – thrifted except for Jem’s skirt (such a fab deal on the first outfit!) /// Shoe Specs   – Minnetonka 3-Layer Fridge Boot and Boy’s Moc

Follow Minnetonka on Instagram for a peek at more mocs in action!

A big thank you to Minnetonka for sending Jemma and Max fabulous fall shoes. No other compensation was received, all opinions are my own. Best of all, stay tuned for a Minnetonka giveaway :)