My Reading Seasons, Thoughts on Dark Hope + a GIVEAWAY

I go through seasons with reading.

Season one —> Consume all the books.

Season two —> Read nothing.

I’m currently in season one. I’ve joined a book club. My library hold list is l-o-n-g. I’ve been scouring Goodreads to bookmark favorites for fall. I’ve been awake into the wee hours embracing characters and story lines and causes. My bubble soap is almost gone. I’m a bath reader in case you didn’t follow how that contributed to season one of my book life. dark hope

Last week I finished the first book in a new series – Dark Hope: Book One in the Archangel Prophecies by Monica McGurk. First off, I’m a series whore. I love the suspense of waiting for book two. Well, love hate, but mostly love. 

Second, fictional books with a purpose are the shiz. Dark Hope follows a young teen, Hope, and the repercussions from her mostly failed abduction. From the first chapter, you’re left wondering – What REALLY happened? How was she saved? How did her abduction change her?

Throughout Dark Hope everything comes together. Questions are answered and well, more questions are born. The spirit world comes alive and people are saved; physically, emotionally and spiritually. Readers are given a researched, behind the scenes peek at the awful human trafficking scene that is alive and flourishing in many cities around the US today. In Dark Hope fiction meets real life scenarios. Voiceless girls are given a voice, evil is condemned and the power of prayer and hope soar.

Although categorized as a young adult novel, Dark Hope (and its’ upcoming books!) will intrigue young and old readers alike. I will add a trigger warning on the topic of child abductions and human trafficking. My heart jumped into my throat more than once, imagining these terrible scenarios, but I’m thankful for the overtones of God’s care, protection and hope.

Learn more about Dark Hope, Monica McGurk (she started out writing fan fiction based on the Twilight series!) and how reading this book can play a role in combatting the modern day slave trade here


Want to win a copy of Dark Hope? Simply comment with your favorite young adult novel and I’ll draw a winner September 8th!

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

“Drink Tea” With the Silhouette CAMEO

I have 4,000 crafts in my mind – all waiting for a free, quiet evening.

I doubt I have 4,000 evenings on my horizon, but I did recently have one. So, on that illustrious evening I settled in at the dining room table with my new computer, my new Silhouette CAMEO and a dash or two of creativity.

This is what I came up with … photo 4

You see, my mama starts school on Wednesday – her 23rd year of teaching, most of them being in the kindergarten classroom. Yes, she’s an angel. Most years I try to send her off with a little present or two to kick her year off right. This year, my CAMEO made that easy!

Personalized tea mug + special tea + Trader Joe’s $1 card = A very happy first day of school!

I’m still learning the ins and outs of my CAMEO, it seems to have endless capabilities, hence my 4,000 ideas. This vinyl project was easy breezy and a perfect starter for CAMEO newbies. photo 1



In the design screen, create your words – I chose “drink tea” …

For this project I wanted a script font where the whole word connected so I could apply it one word at a time instead of individual letters – does that make sense? I downloaded a new, free one called KG Always a Good Time here

To create a word in the Silhouette Design screen you just click the little A on the left and type. You can drag and drop anywhere on your white background which is ideal for using up material scraps!

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Next, I modified my cut settings … I set the cut style to cut edge, set my blade to a 3 depth and slowed my speed to a 4. After some trial and error I determined that the slower the blade the more likely I was to get a clean cut.

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After adjusting all my settings, I loaded my vinyl and clicked “Send to Silhouette” in the top right. The CAMEO took it all from there!

You’ll have to excuse the dark photos – remember the “quiet evening” required for my alone time with the CAMEO. Yep, I think I wrapped up this project around 1 AM one morning :) photo 1 photo 2photo 4

I gently peeled each word off and placed it on my mug. Then, I sealed it with a clear coat of nail polish. I did a test hand wash and it stayed on just fine! There is also this method that uses a stencil created with the Silhouette CAMEO and Sharpies.

Happy first day of school, Mama! Take a deep breathe and “drink tea”! 
photo 2

Next up —> I’ve been playing around with the sketch pens, LOVE! And I’m planning to download this SVG to prep for Jemma’s 4th birthday!

This post was sponsored by Silhouette America via a product swap, no other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.

Silk Soy Lavender Mocha

It may be in the 80s this week, but I’ve got my mind on Fall. So much so that before the day warms up I’ve been sipping cozy beverages. But not just plain ol’ coffee, something much, much better.

Think on this for a minute … SILK SOY. LAVENDER. MOCHA.

Yes, oh yes. I promise you, it might sound odd … lavender in a mocha? But it’s pure heaven. Perfection in a cup, ready to warm you from the inside out. The soymilk has a unique nutty flavor that blended beautifully with lavender and chocolate. It’s just … well, you’ve got to try it to understand. So, add this treat to your fall bucket list. Every mama needs a taste of a soy lavender mocha!lavender mocha 2

Silk Soy Lavender Mocha


  • 3/4 cup Silk soymilk
  • 3/4 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1 ounce lavender syrup (Monin brand)
  • 2 ounces liquid mocha syrup


I don’t have an espresso machine so this could be considered the poor mama’s mocha. But, I’ve improvised and won for us regular coffee mamas. Cheers! Start off by brewing a cup of strong coffee. I do it on the small cup setting of our Keurig. Simultaneously heat 3/4 cup of Silk soymilk on the stovetop or in the microwave. To your hot coffee add 2 ounces of liquid mocha syrup. Stir well. Then add the lavender. While stirring, gently pour in the soy milk.lavender mochalavender mocha 3

Sip. Smile. Slip into fall.

You’re welcome :)

Learn more about Silk soymilk and other soy products here and pop over to Silk’s Facebook page for coupons, recipes and other fab info.

This conversation is sponsored by Silk. The opinions and text are all mine.



photo— Dom + I kayaked for our anniversary! Fun, scary, and “Wow, look at me, I’m a kayak mama!” —

Needing /// a case of Guava Goddess at my fingertips.
Missing /// my sweet Hannah! Her hubs, my BIL, graduated from Ranger School last week and we couldn’t be more proud … or be missing them more! Good news is I think we’ll be visiting them in Texas in early 2015 when they PCS. Look at me and all the Army lingo I’m learning!?! 
Reading /// this … never even knew this happened :( and this which seems to always be on my reading list/on my reference pile.
Hoping /// I can up my pace for my next 5K. I ran a 12 minute mile and with some training I think I can easily get that now to 11. Then again, I’m considering just continuing my training for a 10K in November … thoughts from those of you who run? Stick with a 5K and boost my pace or go for endurance training?
Playing /// around with the idea of adding biking into my exercise routine. Who’s a biker out there? What trailer would you recommend hauling 70+ pounds of kiddos in?
And some links to share …
  • Still in love with Fabletics and have now discovered FabKids! Once you sign up you get a $10 store credit and that can apply to your first $15 outfit. That means you get your first outfit SHIPPED for less than $5! Sign up here!
  • Love this lady and her new blog space.
  • Starting the Bible study in September and can’t wait – watch the 1 min video, oh yes, do!
  • Starting a vinyl project soon – stay tuned!
  • A must read for all parents, since the media isn’t going to share this info.
  • Standards of Grace – loved!
  • Have you visited my two fab sponsors yet? Both are going to be frequent purchases around here! This guy and this here gem.
  • I’ve been lovin’ denim jackets ever since middle school – you too?
  • Always inspired.
  • Look who had a baby!!!
  • I’m always reading about mattresses and someday I really want us to have a mattress makeover around here. Adding this to the arsenal.
  • We are planning our first getaway (pray for Max! pray for my mama!) and I loved this packing post!

Ok friends, adios! Have a lovely Thursday!

Getting To Know Our Food Source

Jemma is almost 4 and sometimes I fear that she believes her food comes from the refrigerator.

And it does. But a lot leads up to the fridge. Amiright?

So, with our recent beef purchase and preschool appropriate conversation of how it came to be in our freezer, I decided it was high time we began exploring other food sources.

To the blueberry fields we went … photo 1 photo 2And then to the farm where our eggs are laid …   chickensAnd the garden where we are blessed to get free veggies on occasion … photo 2photo 3 a gardenNext I’d like to venture to an orchard for some tree fruit picking and a dairy farm to see those lovely lady milk makers.

Have you had conversations and/or field trips with your littles about their food source? Where have you gone? Has it helped you resolve any picky eater issues? I’m still holding my breath for that!

My First 5K

Back it up to last Thursday and I woke up with a cold :/ Who gets sick two days before their first ever 5K? This girl.

I diffused/applied my essential oils (OnGuard for the win!), guzzled Vitamin C and napped while the dishes didn’t do themselves. That put me nearing wellness by race morning. Phewf. Crisis averted. Quitting out of the question.

I woke up, rallied the troops and carefully selected my race outfit. Appearances are everything when you’re a glistening mess. Amiright? Then I moisturized my face with a lil’ SPF, donned my 3D mascara (still love it!) and braided my lion’s mane. And that’s as 5K as I know how to be. RUN LIKE A DOG 2014-2

Now, the play by play of how this 5K went down.

Arrived at the race site, barely in time. The kids were still in their pajamas because they refused to get dressed.

Fed them applesauce pouches and exchanged my shirt size because I registered for a medium and was swimming in it.

Wrestled Max into his buckle as he yelled “DOG” every 1.4 seconds. There were a bazillion furry creatures at this race because it was in support of a local veterinary hospital – Max was majorly amused. Jem kept telling me how tired she was and how she just needed the stroller to be a cozy bed.

They rallied the racers to get in line. Fast people, then fast people and fast dogs, then dogs, then us normal folk. No mention of first time mother runners with ginormous strollers so I just nestled myself in the middle. 

We started off and I breezed through mile 1. Really up to 1.5 miles I was a cruising’ lady. My only struggles the first half were a dozen dogs hell bent on cutting me off and becoming BOB stroller road kill. Little four-legged friends! I cannot stop the orange beast at a second’s notice. I need at least 2 seconds. So, bark or something … ok? And stay by your master. I am not she. Now, dog runner people. When there are a bazillion people and dogs running in a pack on a small trail I’ve got two words for you. Short leash. Deal?

I took a minute walking break around mile 1.6 because there we merged onto a road there was a darn incline. I suck at running up any sort of incline with the stroller. It morphs into 200 pounds instead of its regular 100 and I just can’t handle. So, walk, breath, walk, breath, crest the hill and mentally prep to jog again.

By this time, I’d found my place in the race – no more tripping on dogs! – and Jem could not longer keep her thoughts to herself. Of course, dogs were on her mind so she started off her conversation like so …

Jemma: Can I get a dog for my four birthday?

Gretchen: Um … huff, huff, … no.

Jemma: I really really want a little cute dog! A fluffy yellow gold one with a tiny nose.

Gretchen: That’s a pomeranian. Definitely NO … huff, huff … maybe Kiki will get a dog someday though. Her’s will be big though … huff, huff … called a lab.

Max: BIG!!! BIG!!!

Jemma: Quiet Max! I’s talking’ to mama! Now, mama, I’s gonna ask Kiki to get some kinda dog for my four birthday. I really love dogs and I PROMISE I will take care of it. With food and water and lots of walks. And protein so it stays healthy.

This conversation happened alongside a few other runners and they thought we were pretty funny. I agree. Jem is my daily hoot.

At mile 2.1 I thought to myself – This is stupid. People who run are just stupid. I wonder if I text Dom if he’ll just come and find me so I can get a salted caramel hemp latte (new obsession). Uh, and I’m soooo sweaty. I hate sweating.

I pushed through thanks to Pink crooning in my ear; girl always comes through for me. And then, on the verge of mile 3 I passed someone. A three legged dog. But whatever. It was someone/some dog!

I rounded the corner towards the finish line and some darling volunteer told me to stop. WHAT?!? Yep, we needed to cross a road and there was a line of cars (not in a race) who needed to take their turn. BAH! How was I supposed to win now???

I kid.

Anyways, I caught my breath while the cars moseyed on by and then sprinted towards the finish line. 


110th place out of 336 runners.

My running app actually said I went 3.2 miles too! And I pushed 37 pound Jemma, 36 pound Max and a 34 pound stroller. I say I’m awesome because running is hard. Running with 107 pounds is extra hard and therefore, extra awesome. I am extra awesome.

I smiled with my medal. Chugged some water and ate a banana. I did it!!! I ran a 5K!

Well, jogged. But that’s neither here nor there. Because I’m extra awesome. I’m a mother runner!

Obsessed with my running posts? :: roll eyes here :: Then, take a peek at my others:
Mother Runner Playlist
Run, Run It Real Good

Oh, and my rad chevron running leggings were c/o Thomas Kelly! Browse their site and stay tuned for a giveaway!

5 Questions To Ask About Vaccinations

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are my alone.


One of those hot topics that bring out all the big feelings from mamas and dads. And rightly so! Vaccinations are a big decision and one not to be taken lightly.5 QUESTIONS TO ASK ABOUTVACCINATIONS

Being a part of the natural parenting community you might be surprised to hear that I don’t consider myself pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine. I truly believe both are viable options depending on the circumstances. And really, there are many, many options that fall between the pro and anti camp. I think that’s why I call myself pro-research when it comes to vaccinations.

As parents we have a huge responsibility to care for our children. We study and read, ask questions and seek out experts on a plethora of topics. In my humble opinion, vaccinations need to be at the forefront of that research. I mean, you and I both read food labels, right? Shouldn’t we be reading the labels and ingredients of our child’s vaccines?

Vaccines are not a single event like birth and it’s not a short season like first foods or transferring a little one to their own bed. The decision about vaccinations comes up again and again from day one through adulthood. Plus, the recommendations are often changing, vaccines are constantly being developed/revised and new studies are always coming out. Pretty much, there is always new information to be evaluating and applying to your family’s individual circumstances.

Being the researcher I am, here are a handful of questions to ask, research and evaluate before proceeding with your vaccination plan …

  1. What is my purpose in vaccinating my children? Where did this opinion come from?
  2. What does the CDC recommend?
  3. What does my pediatrician recommend? Have I gathered scientific information from both “camps”? Many physicians, naturopaths and chiropractors offer classes or Q&As on vaccinations to broaden your knowledge base. I love taking these classes and having the opportunity to learn more and ask questions based on each of my child’s individual health. 
  4. Is my or my child’s situation unique? Is there a reason to specifically follow or stray from the general recommendation?
  5. What are the risks and benefits of each vaccine? Is every vaccine right for us?

Back to school is a common time to address your child’s current vaccination plan and believe it or not, that doesn’t necessarily have to happen at the doctor’s office. Your local Walgreen’s Pharmacy is a great resource when researching and/or getting vaccinations.

This last week I popped in to Walgreens and gathered some vaccine inserts for my personal research. I was able to chat with the pharmacist and even found out that I can request a specific brand/type of vaccine be ordered based on my preference. This was GREAT news because I’ve previously been told by our doctor’s office that they “don’t usually do that” and that “I’m not sure we can” :/ High five Walgreens! photo 1 photo 3vaccine inserts

After evaluating your family’s personal vaccine plan, if you deem a specific vaccine necessary head on over to Walgreens. For every vaccine given they’ll give a vaccine to a child in a developing country through the United Nation Foundation’s Shot@Life Campaign — Get a Shot. Give a Shot. Great concept, right?

I believe vaccines are a very personal decision which is why I’ve never written about our decision here. Instead, I tend to share articles and studies I read, learn from and appreciate. Everyone’s situation is so different and I’m no expert on your children or circumstance so it most definitely isn’t my place to advise on what is best for you and yours!

Today, regardless of your family’s vaccine schedule, would you mind sharing a link or two to some of your favorite resources in the comments? I’d love to have a whole list to peruse in the coming weeks! 

You can find some of my favorite birth and parenting resources here, there’s a whole vaccination section for your reading pleasure :)

Thank you to Walgreens for sponsoring today’s conversation about vaccinations. It’s an important one! When you think of back to school – think Walgreens! They’re the place to shop for all your back to school supplies and whatever vaccinations you deem appropriate for your school aged child. Don’t miss Walgreen’s deals and the Get a Shot. Give a Shot. #GetaShot #CollectiveBias

The Seven Year Non-Itch

IMG_6225The quintessential anniversary post. This year, honoring seven years with my perfectly imperfect husband. No doubt, he’s the guy for me and each day I’m thankful to call him mine. I mean, just look, he appeases me with grainy selfies on hot summer days while our munchkins wail for us to sing Let It Go for the 14th time. If that isn’t love, what is?

Oh, I’ll show ya … love is photo booths too:COFFEE(1)I think these snapshots will forever be some of my favorites of us. It’s our fun, carefree selves. The ones who dress up and go on dates, drink wine and dance, forgetting that there is a real life that looks nothing like this most days.

Seven years together has brought new meaning to love. Raw, real love that knows much more about tears than smiles. The kind of love that stays because it’s the hard, messy thing to do. The kind of love which knows deep down that hard things are always the best thing because they build strength, endurance and best of all, more love.  We’re in a season of hard things, but we’re choosing to define them as good things in our life story; facing them together, as a unified front. It has made what some normally call the seven year itch, very non-itchy for us. Doing this life alone is not appealing to either of us. Rather, doing it together seems like pure relief. I don’t have to journey life’s mountains alone because I’ve got a protector, a guide and a best friend by my side. So throw them stones, these Bossios ain’t goin’ down.

I think I’ve mentioned before, but our first year of marriage was anything but an extended honeymoon. It had glimpses of happiness, of course, but for the most part I think we both wondered what we had gotten in to. We fought, we slammed doors, we struggled to become one in many, many ways. Dominic and I are both independent, stubborn souls – meshing isn’t in our nature, because, well, I’m right and you’re wrong … obviously ;) Year two eased up on us, year three followed suite and since, every year has gotten increasingly better. Just think how much bliss we’ll be living in when we celebrate 60 years together? So much you’ll gag at our lovey dovey-ness, I’m sure.

Seven years in we’re still learning about one another, practicing self-sacrifice for the betterment of our family and taking things one step at a time. Our marriage is far from perfect, but it’s one of those things the Lord is using as a refining fire for each of us. Growing a strong marriage has been much like growing in my relationship with the Lord – the more it’s tested, the more it learns to withstand.

This year has brought many trials to our family  – an unexpected death of a very close friend, my parent’s divorce and troubling illnesses among  family and friends. Each of these has tested our marriage. Our reactions to stress and immense pain could have easily turned us against one another. Pain is a fickle thing like that. It grows harsh words and uncontrollable feelings. Thankfully, Dominic and I have been able to ebb and flow in our support of one another. I get my bad days and he gets his. I pull him up from his depths and he cheers me out of my wallowing.

Are we winning because we’re awesome? Not quite. I’d give much more credit to prayer, a stint in marriage counseling and our telltale stubbornness to love when we don’t feel like it and say I’m sorry like it’s going out of style.

Despite everything we’ve encountered this year I’m hopeful for year eight. We’re more of a team than we’ve ever been and we’re taking care of each other amidst all the life that seems to be flying at us nonstop. Our marriage isn’t always in the season of summer, but there are many blessed moments of sunshine. It’s a breathe of calm to know that all these “for worse” times will be redeemed with “for better” ones. And what joy it will bring to us both, to look back, hand in hand and see what we’ve endured together.

If that ain’t love, don’t know what is.

Other love + wedding-y posts here:

How to Feed a Family of 6 … QUICKLY!

When you can’t go on a date night to Chili’s Grill & Bar, the next best thing is Chili’s At Home! Thanks Bellisio Foods for sponsoring this post and bringing Chili’s bold flavor straight to my home! 

Best of all, coupon here! Click it, print it and head to the grocery store! If you’re a PNW mama like me I’ve found Chili’s At Home at both Walmart and Safeway.

Come September our family is growing. And no, I’m not pregnant with twins so you can all call off the ambulance that would be flying to Dominic’s side if that was the truth!

Rather, our sweet Korean daughter is returning for her senior year as a part of a local high school’s international program and with her we’re welcoming a new Chinese daughter too!

They arrive just 48 hours before classes begin so there will be a flurry of airport pick-ups, welcome home celebrations and back to school shopping. I honestly can’t wait. Our Korean daughter (I’ll have to ask her if I can share her name soon) loves Jemma and Max and has already Facebooked me that she has surprises for them. Jem has been covering her big sister’s room in artwork and Max wanders around upstairs saying her name and looking in all the rooms and closets :) I’m sure they’ll both be thrilled when they realize they have not one, but two big sister’s to play, color and laugh with this year!

As a family of six – Dom, me, two teenagers and two little ones – our lives are about to pick up speed in a bold, busy and colorful way. I’m drafting schedules, chores and meal plans while prepping Dominic for a tight ship around here. There just isn’t any way to manage the chaos if I don’t. Cross your fingers I can stick with it, lest we get buried in laundry and eat peanut butter and jelly for a week :/ It’s inevitable that I’ll falter, but I’m trying! 

Meal planning falls heavily on my shoulders which I both enjoy and resent. Oh, the pains of motherhood. I have every intention of kicking off the school year strong though. A balance of expectations for myself (every night can’t be Pinspirational), sticking with the grocery budget (easier said than done) and finding things that satisfy six diverse food preferences (is that even possible?) will make meal planning a task worthy of medaling in the motherhood Olympics if I can succeed.

So, my tips?

Well, I had a chance to figure out feeding six last year when we had two Korean daughters from January-June. That doesn’t make me an expert, but it has taught me a few things :) How to Feed a Family of 6

  1. MEAL PLAN /// I mentioned that the foundation of getting everyone fed well is having a plan. As tedious as it is, this plays into sticking with a budget too, so it’s 100% necessary. I found a free printable online and use that to map out our week’s activities and dinners. It works well and I highly recommend it. Especially with teenagers … it’s good for them to have a visual on the fridge so they know what’s coming.
  2. DELEGATE /// I organize everything but it doesn’t mean I have to do everything. Every week either Dominic or the girls will take one evening to prepare dinner. That way I get a night off and they get an opportunity to appreciate what happens in the kitchen all the other nights that dinner magically appears :)
  3. MANAGE LEFTOVERS /// Nothing erks me more than wasted food. So, when a meal is done, I pack any leftovers in individual size containers so they can easily be packed for lunches or warmed up for a leftover meal. Oh, and we can leftover night “choices” because who wouldn’t want to choose their dinner? It’s almost like a restaurant where everyone can pick something different! Exciting!
  4. CONVENIENT FREEZER MEALS /// It’s such a myth that every meal has to be from scratch. Yes, we do our best to have many of our meals follow the farm to table philosophy, but that’s probably only 70% of them. For the remaining meals I rely on other sources … one being convenient freezer meals. A new favorite is the big, bold and tasty flavors of Chili’s At Home. We fell in love with the Sweet & Spicy Chicken and Sweet Potatoes and there are so many other flavors we’re anxious to try – both as family meals and some grab-n-go options for lunch. Take a peek at all the options here, what bold flavor looks most tasty to you?

Chilis At Home Freezer Mealchilis at home sweet and spicy chicken
The majority of our weeks end up looking something like this …

  • Monday – Try a new recipe
  • Tuesday – Delegate
  • Wednesday – Slow cooker recipe
  • Thursday – Choices
  • Friday – Pizza or BBQ
  • Weekends – I’ve yet to figure out a good plan here, all our weekends look so different and thus things really ebb and flow between eating out, leftovers or big family dinners where everyone pitches in

And just like that, quick, delicious dinners for 6 hungry people! Sweet and Spicy Chicken

Take a moment and comment with what Chili’s At Home meal we should try next – I’m so torn! They all look pretty fabulous! AND COUPON!!! 

Style File /// Beach Bliss

kimono 2 kimono 3kimono 1Leggings, Fabletics /// Tank, Old Navy /// Necklace, Ann Taylor LOFT /// Kimono, Just Dawnelle

The Pacific Coast is my happy place. Throw a darling beach cottage, delicious food and my sand + surf frolicking kiddos on top and I count myself a blessed mama.

Someday, I’ll own a little house here that I can steal away to at a moment’s notice. Adding that to the bucket list. For now, we’ll venture to the sea as often as we can. It’s good for all our souls.

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