Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Listen to me on The Bond Broadcast: Muskegon 100.9 FM (Podcast Episode Here!)


Listen to me on The Bond Broadcast:
Muskegon 100.9 FM (Podcast Episode Here!)
I had a great time talking with Jim and Michael Bond of The Bond Broadcast about everything from my new blog rebranding to parenting with positive body image! Check out the podcast below to listen to the entire show, and make sure to check out Muskegon 100.9's Soundcloud channel! I would love to hear your thoughts on our topics.

How do you talk to your children about body image? And for those who aren't parents, how did your own parents ideas about body image shape you?
Leave a comment below!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Catch me on the radio Sunday! Muskegon's 100.9 FM at 5 p.m.!

Catch me on the radio Sunday, May 17th!
Muskegon's 100.9 FM at 5 p.m. EST!

Tune in to Muskegon's 100.9 FM on Sunday, at 5 p.m. EST (via radio or streaming at www.MuskegonRadio.com) to catch me on The Bond Broadcast, a multi-generational, interactional entertainment radio program with a common-sense approach to parent/child viewpoints on culture and relationships. Father and son duo Jim Bond and Michael Bond will be chatting with me about thrifting, body image, and other interesting topics!

I'm excited to talk with them and I hope you'll tune in to hear the show live! If you can't make it on Sunday, I'll be sure to post the stream later on.
Happy Friday!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Southwestern Tofu Scramble for #MeatlessMondays--a quick vegan meal!


Southwestern Tofu Scramble for #MeatlessMondays--a quick vegan meal!

Life has been INSANELY busy lately. My life as a blogger has been trumped by my demanding roles in every other aspect of my life. Finding time for self care (through healthy meals and exercise) trumps just about any other side project or hobby I may have, and that includes my re-branding work (which is slowly moving along) and so many other pots on the backburner. I hope you are taking time to take care of yourself!
But, speaking of pans on the stove, one of my ongoing nutritional goals is to ensure that I get my grams of protein in. This can be require much planning and dedication when you are trying to go as plant-based as possible. I am omnivorous--not vegan--but I prefer to eat vegetarian and vegan as much as I can. This is not only for health reasons but also for moral ones. Though I am not yet completely invested in a lifestyle that doesn't include consumption of any animal product, I am able to flow with a "reducetarian" mindset that focuses on the reduction of not only animal products and meat, but also all natural resources--including gas. I'm proud to say I've almost exclusively biked or walked to work for the last month, and though it started with vehicle issues, I'm glad to have begun what I hope is a permanent change for the season!

Life doesn't always have to be "all or nothing"...you can do your best. ;)
For our family, this means a happy dedication to "#MeatlessMondays" (click the link to find all of my meal ideas and recipes on Instagram, some of which are picture below).

It takes a little planning, but when it comes to easy, one pot meals, this Southwestern Tofu Scramble isn't anything complicated, yet it is hearty and a great serving of protein, low in fat, and moderate in carbs. It also packs almost 8 grams of fiber per serving and tastes awesome!
Check out the recipe below!


Southwestern Tofu Scramble

Makes 5 hearty (approximately 2 cup) servings. Prep/Cook time: 20 minutes.

Nutritional Information: Calories per serving: 184, Carbohydrates: 29.5g,
Fiber: 7.7 g, Protein: 13.9 g (this information does not include avocado).


-(1) 14 oz container of firm tofu (I prefer to use Nasoyu Organic Lite Firm Tofu)
-(1) Can petite diced tomatoes
-(1) Bag of frozen mixed veggies (diced carrots, corn, green beans and peas)
-(1) Can black beans
-Half of red onion, diced
-Cumin, red pepper flakes, sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and any other seasoning your prefer to use.


Dice tofu into cubes. Place large skillet on medium high heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray or lightly grease with your favorite oil. Once the pan is hot, add tofu cubes. Season with cumin, sea salt and other spices. As tofu is browning, dice and add red onion. Allow the two to sauté until onion is slightly softened and tofu becomes browned and marinated well in seasoning.
Add tomatoes, frozen veggies, and black beans. Season to taste and reduce heat in skillet to medium. Cover with pan lid and stir periodically until frozen veggies are heated properly and flavors have blended. Cook time will vary but should only take about 10-15 minutes.
Remove from heat and serve with a fresh halved avocado! I preferred to cream the avocado with a little sea salt and garnished my bowl with that, as well as a dash of hot sauce. Other ideas for toppings might include vegan or regular cheese, greek yogurt, or fresh cilantro.



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Mindful Grrl


I've been working...a lot. Behind the scenes!

Some of my readers may not know that I am also a full time student at the moment; having funneled my language arts degree in to a new endeavor (a B.A. in public relations), I have very little free time! In fact, I've been hitting the books hard (4.0 student, thankyouverymuch) and I've also been working full time as a PR practitioner for a non-profit school (where I have been the last 14 years), as well as being a mommy, and planning a wedding! Phew!

Therefore, re-branding seemed like something that was beyond my reach for quite some time. I thought for so many hours about what I wanted to say, who I really am, and how I was going to make the difficult transition.

Without further ado (yet with much to do in the future), I present to you my new blog name:

Mindful Grrl.


Thrift Trick has been an amazing outlet for me. And it communicates so much of what I still hold steadfast regarding a life that embraces conservation, living within means, and enjoying the things around us that still have so much life. Yet, as many readers have likely noticed, one of my main focuses isn't just being conscious in your spending habits, it is being conscious and confident in your daily life. From what you think, to how you shop, to what you put in to your mouth.

Why is being conscious and confident so important to me? Because it didn't always come easily for me, and it still doesn't.

Part of the idea of consciousness is mindfulness; you must seek to be aware at all times, or things can easily slip away. Every day of my life I feel temptations--from blowing my money on things I don't need, to mindlessly snacking, to shaming or devaluing my own body.  Staying intentional, daily, is something that takes effort and can prove to be challenging, and I want my blog to not only share with you my personal journey in maintaining those efforts, but also, inspire you to take charge yourself (because even if you have already, you still need a cheerleader!).

If you have known me personally for any length of time, than you probably are aware of my support and interest in women's issues, and feminism. A teen of the 90's, I spent many hours in my room listening to riot girl bands and standing up for feminine equality (and racial equality). My egalitarian viewpoints these days are shaped by intersectional feminism, cultural awareness and a readiness to react to the world around me, both politically and culturally. The "grrl" in my new blog name reflects that attitude and is a nod to thinking outside the box as a woman...and a grrl. This is SO important when we begin to have truthful and illuminating conversations about positive body image!

Regarding the blog's actual transformation, please be patient with me as the changes come! I thought for sure I would be done with my renovation by early April, but speaking engagements, radio appearances (more on that soon!) and design work has taken much longer than expected.

For now, know that you will soon notice social network changes, and the new website and blog will be coming soon as well. I hope you will come along with me in this new journey that will bring you more of what you have enjoyed at Thrift Trick, as well as new and more meaningful conversations.



P.S. I'm not giving up my outfit posts! Or my thrifting adventures! =)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Dark Floral for Spring: Thrifted Outfit


Thrifted Outfit

Spring has finally arrived in West Michigan. Life has been crazy here; beyond the ever-warming temperatures and budding trees, planning for a wedding, full-time work and full-time college(plus preparation for upcoming speaking engagements and appearances) has definitely hindered my blogging frequency. 

If you've been following Thrift Trick, you know that I've also been preparing for my re-branding (behind schedule, of course)! No matter the chaos, I'm still predictable in my fashion patterns: I always get down with the dark floral in spring. (See this old post, and this one!)

This outfit is 100% thrifted. I feel good about that because I know that, by buying secondhand, I am reducing waste, and also helping to pad funds for wonderful causes such as the rescue mission in Holland!

Dress: Lakeshore Rescue Mission Thrift, Grand Haven
Jean Jacket: Hope's Outlet, Grand Haven
Purse: Dibs on Resale, Muskegon
Boots: Goodwill, Grand Haven

 IMG_9854      IMG_9835






Sunday, March 29, 2015

Gluten Free and Low Sugar Pineapple Upside Down Cake Recipe!

Pineaple Upside Down Cake

Gluten Free and Low Sugar 
Pineapple Upside Down Cake Recipe!

Due to some serious tummy distress I've been experiencing over the last year (and really, beyond that) I've recently decided to try and pinpoint any possible food allergies I might have, and I started with gluten. This has been exceedingly tough because I LOVE whole grains, and products made with gluten (such as seitan, which I make from scratch with vital wheat gluten). Also, for those who suffer with celiac or wheat allergy, it can be so frustrating when products have hidden gluten in them (I was definitely bummed about most soy sauces, lots of soups, and craft beer...sad times). Still, it's worth a shot to see if I can cure some of my tummy woes. If this doesn't work, dairy is up next! 

As far as gluten free baked products go, I've tried some that I really like, such as LiveGFree from Aldi (great taste and fabulous price) and Glutino (their pretzels are the best!!). Still, some of the gluten-free products leave something to be desired--that great, chewy texture, or softness that breads, tortillas and other baked goods have.

I was a little nervous, for that reason, to bake a cake using gluten-free ingredients simply because sometimes the texture of things like coconut flour and other wheat-free substitutes can seem too crumbly or pasty to me. Therefore, using other recipes as inspiration, I set out to create my own low fat, low sugar, gluten-free version, and it turned out awesomely! It even passed the gluten-loving eight-year-old boy test. =)

Recipe and directions below! Recipe serves 14. Or you might like a bigger slice...=)

PS--I feel fairly confident that you could sub just one of your favorite gluten free baking flours instead of what I used (as long as you keep the total amount of flour the same), or a different blend (again, same total amount). I intentionally used a blend of flours to create a complex taste with the batter.


--1 fresh pineapple, peeled (I use the core as well, as not to waste) OR about 2 1/3 cups crushed pineapple (you could reduce this amount if you prefer without any repercussion though your cake topping might not be as moist) 
--5-6 Maraschino cherries (optional)
--(1) pre-packaged 1/2 cup serving of natural, unsweetened applesauce (or 1/2 cup either way)
--1 whole large egg
--7 tablespoons of egg white OR an additional 2 whole eggs (will add more calories and fat to nutritional information)
--2 tbs butter (or your favorite fat--coconut oil or margarine, etc.)
--1/2 cup white sugar (or sweetener equivalent of your choice)
--2 tbsp brown sugar (save for pineapple topping)
--1 teaspoon of liquid or powder stevia (which is equivalent in sweetness to 1 additional cup of sugar)
--1 pre-packaged 1/2 cup serving of natural, unsweetened applesauce (or 1/2 cup either way)
--1 tsp vanilla
--1 tsp almond extract
--1/2 tsp salt
--1 1/2 cup coconut milk (or any other nut milk or dairy milk you prefer)
--1 cup all purpose gluten free baking flour (I used Bob's Red Mill, a blend of garbanzo, tapioca and potato flour)
--1/2 cup gluten free baking/pancake mix (I used Krusteaz brand, which is a blend of rice flours)
--1/4 cup coconut flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
--1/2 cup gluten free corn starch (or tapioca starch)
--1 tsp gluten free baking powder (most brands seem to be)
--1 tsp baking soda 
--1/2 tsp salt 


 Preheat oven to 350 degrees, spray or grease your pan very well. I used a typical bundt cake pan (that's how mom always did her pineapple upside down cake!) but you can also use a typical 9x13 or 2 round cake pans (you'd need to split your pineapple mixture up differently, so that's up to you!). For these purposes, the directions are geared toward baking in one pan.

Because I used a fresh, very ripe pineapple, my first step was to peel and chop my pineapple in to large chunks. I did not remove the core. I then blended it in the processor, just briefly, to create a crushed pineapple texture. It yielded just over 2 cups of pineapple, which I then set aside.

Next, blend your applesauce, white sugar, liquid stevia, vanilla, almond extract, 2 tbsp butter, whole egg and egg whites. I mixed this cake by hand, intentionally. You could absolutely use a mixer on a typical cake setting, which would lend a lighter and fluffier cake. I appreciated the density of the hand mix on this cake though--it made it moist and a little heavier, which was tasty!

Combine with dry ingredients (all flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cornstarch) while also incorporating the coconut milk. Beat by hand for around 2 minutes, or around 150 strokes. If you prefer to use a mixer, this would be about 1 minute. If your mixture is too thick and not a nice pouring batter consistency, you may want to consider carefully adding more liquid. I do believe that different gluten free flours may change this variable a bit, so use your best judgment.

Pour pineapple into the bottom of your VERY well greased pan. Add crumbles of brown sugar and maraschino cherries if desired (I placed mine in a little pattern around the bundt cake). 
Carefully pour cake batter over the top of pineapple, evenly distributing around pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for around 40 minutes (or less if you use two small cake pans), until cake springs back to the touch or a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes. Carefully use a spatula or another tool to gently loosen the sides of cake from pan. Pay special care to this part if you are using a bundt pan. In a quick motion, carefully tip pan upside down on to your serving tray (or, if you prefer, leave the cake "right side up"--who cares!).

We served our pineapple upside down cake with a dollop of whip cream! ENJOY!


Yeilds 14 slices.

Calories: 158 per slice
Total fat: 3 grams
Cholesterol: 19.3 mg
Sodium: 30.6 mg
Carbs: 26.1 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Sugars: 10 grams
Protein: 2.6 grams 


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Two Birch Jewelers: Service and Product Review for Wedding and Engagement Ring Products

Two Birch Jewelers: 
Service and Product Review for Wedding and Engagement Ring Products

My fiance proposed to me with a beautiful, simple white gold solitaire. It was a family ring and amazingly, fit me perfectly without needing re-sizing. Anyone who knows me and my viewpoints on finances and expensive jewelry knows that I was thrilled that our engagement didn't create any sort of monumental debt. I don't subscribe to the idea of expensive jewelry and I'm always shocked in horror when people tell me that they are walking around with a $10,000 ring on their finger--particularly if their other half can't really afford to make a purchase like that! It's not what's important, and statistically, there's a lot of research out there that suggests a little humility might be an imperative thing if you actually want your marriage to last.

With that sort of frugality and sensibility in mind, I set out to find a wedding wrap (or ring guard) that would compliment my engagement ring on our big day. I was also interested in selecting two rings: one sterling silver or white gold that I could wear with silver jewelry, and one rose gold that would work with my bronze, rose gold and regular gold jewelry.

But wait--before you think I'm a total diva--you'll have to reserve judgment. =)

I knew I didn't want to spend much, and the local selection at  jewelers for ring guards and wraps was almost non-existent.

That's where Two Birch came in.

I found both of these rings--the Sterling Silver Contour Ring and the Rose Gold and Sterling Silver Vintage Fan Style Ring (both with Cubic Zirconia) for under $60 each. I viewed the Two Birch site but mainly did my shopping and browsing on Amazon. They are both beautiful! And if you are the sort of person who demands diamonds, you can get any style Two Birch ring for more with diamonds instead of CZ. Their selection of ring wraps, guards, wedding sets and engagement rings is amazing. I personally found their jewelry to be among the most affordable thing I'd found online!

Everyone who has seen my rings is impressed with their quality and luster (I couldn't really capture the sparkle and clarity with my camera!). When I noted my choice of Cubic Zirconia, people said, "You wouldn't even need to tell anyone! No one would ever know!" The quality pleases me, but I want EVERYONE to know...I paid very little for these rings, and they are beautiful! It's OKAY to choose CZ! 

I didn't have to worry about blood or conflict diamonds, and my wedding wrap didn't cost the equivalent of down-payment for a car. I'm saving for home ownership, why would I want to take on debt like that?

The best part about paying very little is the freeing feeling. If I were to lose or damage my rings, it's ok. The world won't end. It's just a ring.

I've saved the best thing about Two Birch for last--the customer service. (By the way, this post is not sponsored by Two Birch--the photos and opinions contained are all my own as a consumer, with no compensation given. They had no idea I was going to review their company in my blog...)

Before I purchased my rings, for $10, I ordered the PerfectFit kit by Two Birch, which came with ring sizers (handy) as well as molding material (very easy to use). This allowed me to send a mold of my solitaire to Two Birch for fitting purposes. The company then took this mold and matched it with different ring wraps, sending me photos along the way, and discussing the fit and different choices I might want to make. Because I really wanted something that would nicely compliment my solitaire and something I would love for--well, hopefully a VERY long time, haha--this took almost a month of sizing, pictures, and I even sent a few rings back in the process.

Dozens of emails and pictures later (I worked with a representative named Maria who was very helpful), I had my two rings--which I adore.

I was thoroughly impressed with the amount of customer service and attention I was given during this time for my purchase, which only totaled $120 all together.

I honestly can't recommend Two Birch enough as a jeweler, particularly for the couple who is trying to make an informed, reasonable purchase for their engagement or wedding. There are affordable CZ and diamond choices, and you can feel GOOD about not breaking the bank.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Who I am: Future Blog Plans and Changes on the Horizon

“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” -Marilyn Monroe - See more at: http://exploreforayear.com/clarity/45-inspiring-quotes-change#sthash.mIpcwRJA.dpuf
“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” -Marilyn Monroe - See more at: http://exploreforayear.com/clarity/45-inspiring-quotes-change#sthash.mIpcwRJA.dpu

“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” -Marilyn Monroe 
Image courtesy of Fanpop
 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Future Blog Plans and Changes on the Horizon

It's hard to believe that I started my blog four years ago.

I had so many vintage and thrifted treasures to share. I wanted to blog about a lifestyle that was centered around reduced consumption, and I loved the idea of sharing vintage and secondhand clothes. I also happened to be PETRIFIED of photographing my body, and I was working through quite a few body image issues, finding my voice, and shifting gears professionally.

While I never found my blog to be vapid in its content (fashion or otherwise), I was afraid to over-saturate my readers with too many posts regarding body image, or life topics that didn't seem to be calibrated for a thrift fashion blog. Slowly, bit by bit, I began to add healthy cooking, and more pieces on image and self-love. I still maintained my love of thrift, and fashion, but the content became a little more heady, and I was glad for that--because I'm a writer, and I love sharing myself with my readers!

Still, sometimes I worried that new readers and Facebook fans would wonder about my blog's name--that perhaps "Thrift Trick" wasn't really an accurate handle for me anymore.  For the last year, though I've very much enjoyed connecting with readers on my website and through re-published content on Grand Haven Tribune and even an interview on NPR, I've felt that my name was a limiting container--something that was keeping me from fully expressing myself.

Re-branding your blog (and essentially your voice) is actually quite an intimidating process. Each time I thought about doing it, a new opportunity for my existing blog would prevent itself, and I would think, "How can I risk stunting this momentum right now? My blog is really starting to become what I've always wanted!" Yet, there was a little voice inside of me that proposed that perhaps my blog's name was actually holding me back.

It's taken me a long time to make the decision, and I'm finally pulling the trigger.

I'm re-branding.

More answers and new changes will be on the horizon, but the most important thing that I'd like to communicate to my readers (and I appreciate EVERY single one of you!) is that my content won't really be changing too much. Here's what you can expect from the new blog:
--Thrifting and a lifestyle that promotes reduced consumption
--Healthy cooking
--Fashion and Beauty
--Positive Self-Image
--More interviews, guest writing and street fashion that spotlights real people with interesting stories
--My photography
--The addition of new media (more on that soon!)

The truth is, it's really what I'm doing right now! However, the new blog will be more appropriately named, so that more people who are interested in a conscious, mindful lifestyle can successfully connect with me.

If you are already subscribed to my blog and visit frequently, I hope you will continue to do so once the changes begin. I also value your feedback as readers, and I'd love to hear from you. I will begin applying changes over the next month, and by April, I will have completed everything.

Do you have any questions or suggestions for me? Please comment below--I value your input!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

#BodyPositive February Roundup!


"Because gender and beauty are not defined by hair." @theinlandlyon

#BodyPositive February Roundup!

You may remember last month's #BodyPositive roundup from Instagram, and this month I found some new favorites to add to my February Collec.to folders! Why have I featured these photos here? I found them to be moving the idea of body positivity along with forward momentum, and I love hearing from people about their personal journey with self-image. I'm also including one of my own photos hash-tagged #BodyPositive! Check them out above and below! Also check out all of my #BodyPositive albums on Collec.to!

"I won't let anybody tell me how i should look or how they'd prefer me to look. I am comfortable in my skin and will continue to be..." @lynsimplymade

"Pounded out 3 super sets of push-ups and planks to Failure, and some HIIT cardio to finish off my workout tonight!"  @thelovelyaphrodite
 "#effyourbeautystandards #allbodiesaregoodbodies #everybodyisagoodbody #nobodyshamecampaign #bodypositive #bodylove@wastingthyme


"Amazing new sensations all over my body from yesterday's push up challenge.#strongissexy...#bodypositive" @colecochick


"#toproll #armwrassle #gunshow #bodypositive" @Channystar


"National eating disorder awarness week : since the age of 10 I've struggled with an #eatingdisorder . From not eating - binging - being sick. I hated myself for a very long time. When weight wouldnt come off I turned to using drugs. I've been nearly every size imaginable. However, I learned to love myself, appreciate life and celebrate who I am. Life is too precious to live & die by your scale. For anyone out there who is struggling : it's never too late to get help, there's always a light at the end of the tunnel. We are beautiful creatures of all shapes & sizes. No one should ever feel ashamed of themselves because of a number. #bodypositive" @velouria.doll

Monday, February 16, 2015

Announcing Our Wedding Venue: Watermark 920!

Announcing Our Wedding Venue: 
Watermark 920!

The decision has honestly been under wraps since a few days after the engagement, which was such a whirlwind of excitement for us! Watermark 920 is a homebase for me--somewhere I've enjoyed being a part of so many events (Like the Thrift Trick Fashion Show and the annual Lumber Baron's Ball)--and it also is swanky, industrial and a million miles away from the Pinterest-y shabby chic barn weddings that seem to have all but consumed the wedding industry over the last few years.


It also happens to be that the President, Sarah Sass, and General Manager, Laurel Sass, are two of the coolest chicks ever.

All personal preference aside, Watermark 920 has been rocking events on the Lakeshore like nobody's business. Their sophisticated, customizable space is perfect for so many applications, and the team is absolutely amazing. My first consultation with Laurel and Sarah made me realize what an serious breath of relief it is to have support from professionals when you are planning a wedding.

Everyone knows how thrifty I am--and always will be. The interesting aspect to going "DIY" mad when you put together your own wedding from the ground up is how much you can actually end up spending on odds and ends--from linens to chair rentals. Anyone with a fairly decent sized guest list can attest to this fact.

For this reason (and for matters of mental health), I can't even begin to say how thrilled I am to work with the awesome staff of Watermark, and to relinquish some control over our special day. I know I'm passing the torch to very capable (and professional) hands.

I thought it would be great to hear from Watermark 920 on a few topics--from how they got started, to where they are headed.

Watermark 920 Interview

with Sarah Sass 

President of Watermark 920 and

recipient of Grand Rapid's Business Journal's "40 under 40" Award 2011

and Laurel Sass
General Manager of Watermark 920 and
member of the Muskegon Lakeshore and Grand Haven Chamber of Commerce 


Q. How did Watermark 920 come about?

Sarah: The space that houses Watermark 920 is a former loading dock for the Shaw Walker Furniture Factory. When we built the Watermark lofts, our original thought was that this space would have a commercial or retail use. We kept getting asked if we had meeting and event space available and realized that there was a huge need in the community for another event center and the vision for 920 came about.
We wanted to create a space that was wide-open and had a neutral palette so every color would look good in the center. We also didn’t want our brides to feel like they had to cover the chairs so we invested in gorgeous, black Chiavari chairs. We wanted to create and felt that Muskegon needed a space where the only limitations were our clients’ imaginations and 920 was born!

Q. You’ve hosted a big variety of events in the past—did your vision for Watermark always contain a lot of diversity?

Sarah: When we first started 920 we honestly weren’t sure what to expect and there wasn’t  really anything locally to compare 920 to. Our vision was just of say a busy center, but what became even more apparent was that we all loved events and everything about them from concept to completion.
Because we have such a diverse team behind the Watermark we had a group of people bringing ideas and contacts to the table. We were having so much fun with the space that we decided to create an event and promotions arm of our company to promote and produce events both on and off-site. What started as just a way for us to have some fun has turned in to a very viable part of our company and a huge component of our success. We started by producing in – house concerts and now we even design and create events for private and public companies and individuals, from weddings to fundraisers. But I think that is where the diversity comes from. We like to show off our space and show how it can be used. I also feel that because it is so minimalistic, modern and wide open that you can make the atmosphere feel like a huge party or very intimate. I think all of these factors have created the diverse nature of what you see happening in the space.

Q. You’re a female-fronted business, which is totally awesome. How has that impacted the trajectory of Watermark? Have you encountered any roadblocks as female entrepreneurs?

Sarah: We are actually all family and friends around here which has created more of a unique dynamic, I think. Both Laurel and I come from a background that has small, family-owned businesses so we have been a part of that entrepreneurial spirit and I think that has shown us how to work hard and I think the fact that we are family and friends around here gives Watermark a genuine feel. I guess personally, I have never felt like just because we are women Watermark is successful but more because we are good human beings and we care about what we do that other people care and support us too.
We are also all born and raised Muskegonites. We love our hometown and feel like being from here comes with some responsibility like giving back. I think the relationships we all have with each other more than our business being female-fronted has had more of an impact. There is one thing we know about the community here and it’s that we have to support it and I think that has impacted our trajectory the most.
 I personally haven’t ever encountered any roadblocks based on my gender but I started working in my field at 19 – and have had a few problems in my career because of my age more than anything. But that is a whole other topic of discussion!

Q. What is your favorite aspect of hosting weddings and receptions? Can you tell me about a few events that have stood out from the rest in a good way, and why?

Sarah: We love everything about weddings! In the past few years since we have been hosting them we have become complete and total linen junkies. We have unhealthy obsessions with the Pantone Colors of the year and the shabby chic trend was a lot of fun.  I guess my favorite part is that planning events really is fun and each one is as unique as each bride is.
I think for me what stands out most are all of the clever little ideas we see from candy tables to guest books. Just when we think we have seen it all a bride will pop up with the coolest little centerpiece and we will all be in awe.  The weddings that stood out for me are the ones where the guests and the hosts all are having a good time. I like seeing people have a good time and I don’t think you have to have the fanciest wedding, the most expensive or the most unique to achieve that.  When planning your wedding put some thought in to your guests and what they will be doing all night. 

Laurel: I love being able to work with all kinds of people and the overwhelming gratitude from brides, mother-of-brides, wedding guests, etc. It gives you a special sense of enjoyment that I could make their day a little bit more special. 

Q. What is your least favorite aspect of hosting weddings? Is there anything that you wish your clients wouldn’t do, or any golden nuggets that you wish they knew before they started planning a wedding at a venue like Watermark?

Sarah: For me, I think I don’t have a least favorite aspect so much as I think sometimes that guests and brides forget the reason why everyone is celebrating. There is nothing worse than a Bridezilla or a rude guest who spends the entire evening on their phone or iPad and not engaged in what is happening. Also, overindulgence has a way of wrecking things too and I have seen both wedding couples and guests ruin a beautiful night.
If I were planning a wedding I would absolutely hire an event planner. A professional planner can do as little or as much as you want them to do. Don’t put the burden of setting up all of your decorations and linens off on your friends and family…as well as the tear down. Ask your venue about their policies and what services they offer. One of the things we see all of the time is bride’s trying to save money in all of the wrong ways. For example, asking about our linen prices, then buying directly from a company online because it is cheaper. Included in our pricing we will press and set all of your linens as well as tear them down and they are guaranteed to look good. We see brides all of the time that buy online and then spend all day trying to press their linens and by the time they get them on the table there is no time to set up the rest of the event….and then what do you do with 30 – 72” linens after the event?
Event Managers – we do this all the time, we know what works. We have better resources we can do it faster and create a hassle – free event for you. We can also suggest ways to maximize your budget and have the biggest impact. 

Laurel: I wish more brides would let us do their decorating! The events that we have pulled the décor together for look phenomenal and really doesn’t cost a fortune like most people assume. The stress of setting up on their big day is taken care of; I wish more people would understand that. 

Q. What do you suggest as a timeline for recently engaged couples in terms of booking an event at Watermark?

Sarah: I don’t think a year is unusual but we have pulled them off in a couple of weeks before too! Many venues book out a year in advance – we are already booking in to 2016!

Q. What’s next for Watermark 920?

Sarah:  The sky is the limit and the only way is up! 

Thanks so much to Sarah and Laurel for taking the time to answer my questions. I can't wait to share more wedding details with you in blogs to come!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015



It’s true. I am.

I know, you’re hung up on the word “fat”—it stings. And then, maybe secondarily, you’re snagged on the idea of me being athletic because I really am fat. In our society, so many other adjectives get a free pass, but the word “fat”…it hangs in the air like puff of smoke, threatening the atmosphere with cancer. That’s a topic for an entire essay, much like an incredible piece written by LesleyKinzel of XOJane entitled “FAT: Usingthe Other F Word”. It’s a fabulous read. “Fatness, we’re told, is an aberration, not a permanent state of being,” Lesley asserts. Touché.

Rest assured, though, by using this descriptor, I am NOT tearing myself down. I may get frustrated with my body sometimes, but I’m not going to fear that word any more, as long as it isn’t used with malice. If you are reading, know this: I love my body, and I’m proud of it. I might get frustrated with it from time to time, but that isn’t going to stop me from being present in my own life, and enjoying what I deserve: I am an athletic fat girl.

Face it, fat is just an adjective. So, if “that word” bothers you, than let me put it another way: I am an athletic girl who wears a size 12. I am a fit girl who jiggles. I am an active girl who has tummy rolls, and thigh chub.


What do I mean by active? I mean that I work out. A lot. Around six days per week, I perform cardiovascular activity like intense circuit training, stairstepping, running and the like. I have a nice home gym (including an Olympic weight bench), and I’m a runner. On the weekends I run 5ks for fun, and though I’m certainly not “The Flash”, running over three miles really isn’t anything for me. I know I should push myself more--and harder--but I happen to be a busy lady, and a mom…and I have a to-do list. My fiancé regularly accuses me of “overdoing it” and begs me to relax on the couch…something I’m not good at, in the least.

I’m also a superbly healthy eater and I love to cook. My diet is comprised of whole foods and I work with an amazing dietitian. I watch my portions and even though know that hard numbers can be triggering (and everyone’s needs are different), I’ll throw it out there for the people who may be critically wondering: my intake is around 1400 calories or less per day. (I’ve played with eating more, but I tend to gain even more weight).

pretty food I made pretty food I made pretty food I made

When I was younger (and lazier), I didn’t have such healthy habits—in fact, I had an emotional eating disorder, and I still remain aware of that part of myself. In my twenties, I revolutionized and overhauled my perspective on health and self-care, and made permanent changes. That lifestyle has now become a habit for close to a decade. Since then, I’ve been pretty mystified with my weight. Angry, confused…yes. All of those emotions. I’ve cursed my body and wondered why, with the same amount of work and effort (if not more), I didn’t look like other athletic and health-conscious people I knew. I spent a lot of time at the doctor’s office trying to figure it out, and I’m embarking on a third round of hypothyroid testing as we speak. My mother has been diagnosed and medicated for hypothyroidism for many years. My aunts on both sides of the family, as well as my grandmother, have also suffered from the condition. I feel that an answer may be on the horizon, but for now, all I have is a question mark.

Over the years, as I have struggled with the unknown, there was always someone on the sidelines waiting to tell me that it was “definitely the diet pop” (my one and only vice, in moderation) keeping me fat—or, perhaps, that I should focus more on the weight training aspect of my fitness routine. So, I tried changing those things as well, and nothing happened. My body remained the same. I became even more stoic in my food tracking. The “calories in/calories out” adage did not seem to apply to me (and by all accounts I would be a size six by now if it did).

Why am I telling you this? It’s not to impress anyone or to whine (okay, maybe it is to whine, a little). Still, I’m not expecting to impress anyone because, let’s face the music: when I’m walking down the street, it’s unlikely that many people would think of me as an athletic person. Our society is so wrapped up in six-pack abs and perfection that we can’t envision health coming in any other sort of package. Yet, it does. Health and radiance do come in many different packages.

There is an incredible amount of pressure on us as we navigate through society. It is this sort of reality that makes me feel empowered by a shopping cart full of healthy food at the grocery store, and mortified when one of my boys at home request donuts or chocolate milk. I don’t want to deprive them of the occasional treat, but I hate buying those items, because I imagine that someone is looking in to my cart and saying, “AH, that’s the reason you wear XL yoga pants.” Yes, people are that sort of judgemental. I know it’s true, and I’ve done it, myself.

Image courtesy of Huffington Post

Even at my doctor’s appointments—food and exercise log in hand—I feel pressured to give my “speech” about not understanding why my body is STILL overweight. “It’s okay, you don’t have to convince me,” a sweet nurse recently told me at an appointment. “You can’t fake test results. You have the labwork and resting heart rate of an athlete.”

OH! Belly fat! When are you going to get the memo?

As you can imagine, it’s hard enough to be a bit of an anomaly. It’s taken me a very long time to accept the vessel I’m in, but it turns out that my acceptance isn’t the only part of things, contrary to popular belief.

“Who cares what other people think?” well-intentioned people have said to me, thousands of times. Seriously? EVERYONE! Everyone cares what people think. As a human, you don’t live in a vacuum, and we all know it. Let’s drop the façade. My goodness, we are a socially constructed human culture. And we all want to be accepted and seen for who we truly are. Does a lawyer want to wear a clown suit every day to work? Hell no, a lawyer wants to be seen as a lawyer.

An athlete wants to be seen as an athlete.


On the left: the picture that I carefully posed in to flatter myself...on the right, a less than flattering shot taken a few moments later with my girlfriend LaVange, who PLACED in the race for her age bracket for the Ludington Lakestride 2014, by the friggin' way.

I know there are others out there, like me, putting in that work. They might feel frustrated, and misrepresented. Worse yet, when a healthy girl (who happens to be fat) has a hard time establishing her identity in society, she is told it is her fault, and that she is exclusively responsible for her sense of self. “Just love yourself.”

I’m all about consciousness. Truly, I am. And while it may be up to you to love yourself first, before anyone else can (and every other cliché bit of self-help advice out there that is actually true), what other people think matters, too. You deserve to be validated by others for who you are, what you do, and how hard you work for it.

You have the right to be present in your own life. And you deserve to be recognized and seen. I hope for all human beings everywhere that a higher level of perception will bring us to a point where we can validate each other based on our actions, and not our thigh gaps. I have a lot of faith we will get there, because the climate is already changing, and the weather feels great. It sounds cheesy, but it makes me feel hopeful. I know there is peace in embracing and celebrating the authentic self.

As far as athletes go, I’m not telling you that I’m an elite performer, the strongest girl I know, or even a minuscule threat to the other runners on race day, because I’m not. I probably never will be (though I have fun dreaming about it).

But I AM fit. And I’m fat. And that’s okay.

Check out this amazing video,  from “This Girl Can”. 
This is my anthem. This is my jam.

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