Coffee Date

Coffee Date with Ashley Slater

Today's Coffee Date is with talented photographer, blogger, and co-founder of the Bloom Workshop, Ashley Slater. I had the opportunity to hang out with Ashley in Atlanta a couple months ago at the Bloom Workshop, and she's even more gorgeous, funny, and quick-witted in person! I knew that you would love getting to know her as much as I did, so she's joining me for a Q&A today. Find out what her normal day looks like, how she simplifies, the advice she has for other business owners, and, my personal favorite, how many jobs she had before becoming a professional photographer. This one is so fun. Meet Ashley!

What's in your coffee cup this morning?

Coffee, always! Usually with flavored creamer.

What does a normal day-in-the-life of Ashley Slater look like?

I have to laugh at this one because since welcoming my little boy Caleb to the family, my day to day is rarely the same! Often though, we wake up around 8am and have breakfast and watch Good Morning America. The rest of the day is dedicated to Caleb; playing, going to the park, fun projects at home. During his naps I try and stay up to date on e-mails and phone calls. Once my husband arrives home and we have had a family dinner, I head upstairs and my "work day" begins. Once Caleb is asleep for the night I stay up until the wee hours busting out edits and any other work I need to get done. It's not the most ideal schedule, but for now it works!

How did you get started in the photography industry? What business advice has been the most helpful for you?

I took an interest in photography shortly after I got married. My husband is a physical therapist and after our wedding we began "travel therapy" (which just means he filled in at a hospital or clinic somewhere around the country) and we would move every 3 months. I began blogging so our families could keep up with our travels and see where we were living. Pretty soon after starting this blog, I started getting readers who weren't just my family members. I discovered this crazy world of blogging and wanted to be as professional as other blogs I was reading. Naturally, I decided to work on creating beautiful photos and read my camera manual and practiced a lot. I started falling in love with photography and once I started practicing with people I really fell head over heels with the art of storytelling through photos. I was hooked, and launched my business the summer of 2011 while living in California. That was two and a half years ago and it is crazy to say that I am currently in the midst of wrapping up a wedding season that included over 28 weddings!

The best business advice I ever received was from a friend who pushed me to "just ask." This advice applies to everything -- from asking for advice or mentoring, to meeting up with someone you admire for coffee, or sending an email to an industry peer about collaborating. The worst someone can tell you is "no," but most of the time I have found that most people are more than willing to share their knowledge and work with me which has been an incredible blessing! So my advice to anyone starting a business is to reach out and just ask for whatever it is that you may need!

Your style posts are some of my favorites on The Sweet Season blog. What are your favorite shops and fashion staples?

I was a really late bloomer when it came to figuring out what my style was. And I mean late as in: I was 20 and didn't know the difference between concealer and foundation, had virgin unplucked brows and considered simply putting my hair into a ponytail as a style victory. It was bad, and sometimes I still feel like an awkward 15 year old when I get dressed in the morning. I have found that I am most comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt. I so admire girls who wear dresses and heels on the daily, but for me it's just not practical. My favorite jeans are a pair of distressed skinnies from Gap, and I practically live in basic tees from J.Crew. When I do dress up, I love pieces from Banana Republic, Anthropologie, and I just snagged a pair of seychelles booties from Lulu's and I am in love with how comfortable they are! I also love adding a statement necklace to add some glam. And yes, I have since learned how to curl my hair, which helps... just don't ask me to braid! I re-wear a lot of the same things in my style posts because I feel like the average girl is like me and uses the same pieces in a lot of different ways.

Between being a mom, wife, and business owner, I'm sure life can get busy. How do you simplify and keep it all together?

I promise I am not saying this because I am writing for Lauren's blog -- but my Elle & Company planner has been a huge lifesaver for me this year. When I had Caleb I knew he would be my number one priority before anything else. My days are dedicated to being a mom, but when he goes to bed I put my business hat on. It is essential that I am focused and on task so I can make the most of limited work hours. I use my planner to schedule blog posts, client meetings, and stay on track with sending out photos and products. I also suggest setting office hours for anyone who works from home. Being your own boss makes it really easy to push work aside and maybe slack off a bit, so it is critical to set aside time that is dedicated to the business. Another huge thing for me this year has been learning how to say no. I found my niche is in weddings, boudoir and fine art portraitures but when I was contacted for a family or newborn session I had such a hard time saying no even though I was miserable shooting these types of photo sessions. I finally realized that I can't do it all, and saying no and taking on limited work has been so huge. As important as it is to make time for your business, it is equally as important to make time for your family and yourself!

What is something you've been loving lately?

Ooh, I have a few things that I am into right now. First, lavender Epsom Salts! Especially after working a long wedding I LOVE filling the bath with scoops of these salts. It is so relaxing and helps me get to sleep at night! I also have taken a recent interest in food and product photography and have been loving the book Plate to Pixel. Finally, with Christmas right around the corner I have been burning my Balsam and Cedar Yankee Candle every single day. I LOVE the way it makes my house smell!

And lastly, I head through the grapevine (ahem, Michaela) that you had your fair share of jobs before you became a photographer. What were some of your favorite off jobs and why?

Haha! Yes, I have worked just about everywhere, it is true. I think being a creative is a blessing and a curse; I get distracted easily and want to try my hand at different ways of expressing myself artistically. I also just really love learning and trying new things which played a role in the crazy random jobs I had. This is going to be embarrassing but here it goes:

At 16 I started working at Limited Too and quickly became an assistant manager (yes, at 16!) Through that job I ended up being hired as visuals director and was in charge of creating window displays and holiday set up for Bath and Body Works, Banana Republic and Ann Taylor Loft. I followed my boss from Limited Too to IKEA and worked as an assistant manager in the textiles department. I got to build the Atlanta IKEA as well as one outside of Chicago. For extra money I also worked at Chik-fil-a and at a little shop in Atlanta selling Vespa's. Once moving to Michigan I worked for a short time at a Starbucks in the Grand Rapids airport. I couldn't cut waking up and opening that store at 3am everyday so I found a new job at a nutraceutical company as a sales rep. I worked my way up to shipping manager and eventually to a copywriter and marketer all while going to school. After that company went under I started working at Macy's at the Clinique counter and met my husband during that time. Once we were engaged I took a server job at Longhorn to make extra money for our wedding. Thankfully, I think photographer is going to be a lasting profession! HAHA!

Follow along with Ashley

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Recent Coffee Dates

Favorite Coffee Date Moments

Every Friday since Elle & Company launched, I've featured over 30 ladies (and one funny guy) on this space for a Coffee Date. This series started as a way to bring some fun conversation (and oftentimes a laugh or two) to the blog, and I think it's safe to say that it's a favorite around here. I'm not surprised - it's fun to start off each Friday with a few cups of coffee (or tea, or... milk?) and a new friend. 

In honor of reaching the 35-date mark,  I've rounded up more of my favorite Coffee Date moments. 

Elle & Company Coffee Dates

What's in your coffee mug this morning?

Ashley Owen:

The real question is what I wish was in my coffee mug this morning. I typically drink whatever "middle shelf" coffee is on sale at Kroger. While Private Selection French Roast always gets the job done, deep down I am craving a non-fat Dirty Chai from the local coffee shop across the street. It is a heavenly drinking experience with the right amount of kick to get me through my morning. Plus, it is really fun to order. You always get a few strange looks from those who have yet to be enlightened to this gem.

Rachel Brock:

WIthin the warm circular shell of my insulated mug swims a deep, dark roast... Ha! Yeah right. I have the lightest, girliest drink available. It is commonly known as the "White Chocolate Mocha," and unfortunately for me, it costs a pretty penny. I was never really a coffee drinker until I married my husband, Matt. My marriage plus the fact that there is a Caribou Coffee shop conveniently located across the street is a dangerous combination, my friends! I have made the White Chocolate Mocha my traditional Friday morning treat.

In design school, I struggled to embrace my own design style. Have you had a similar experience? What advice do you have for other creative ladies about embracing your own individual design aesthetic?

Molly Jacques:

Wow, YES! Design school is such a funny time. I remember always being on this emotional roller-coaster. Entering design competitions, never winning anything, seeing my friends flourish in their illustration skills and their so-called "voice". It was a constant battle of always comparing my work to my peers and always feeling sub-par or lacking vision. Fast forward four years later and now I realize that was TOTALLY normal and exactly what art school is all about. It takes time and patience and perseverance to start to create a visual voice and design aesthetic. Sometimes it comes more quickly to some than others. I feel like I'm just now starting to embrace my individual design aesthetic. It's funny - art school is an amazing community of artists all sharing one space but I think sometimes one's most honest work comes from spending a good chunk of time being alone without the temptation of comparison. 

My advice for other creative ladies is to be patient and gentle with yourself. Realize that you need time to discover your voice and aesthetic and that's okay. Just make sure you put in the work time - or else it will never happen!

Life can get busy and stressful. How do you simplify?

Katelyn James:

Scheduling our "Stay at Home" days has been life changing! When we're swamped and on the go, we can look at the calendar and know we have a break coming our way! "Stay at Home" days also guarantee that we can schedule double dates with friends and nights with our families! We have also started blocking off weekends and weeks one year in advance to make sure that we get some vacation time! We just recently slipped away to the lake with my family and those four days were glorious!! So I think it's safe to say that we simplify by being strategic and planning time off!

Leigh Carter:

Pray. Honestly, I just ask God to take away the things I don't need, to take care of the details that I can't, and to help me complete the tasks He has put before me. Also, I've been trying to leave at least 3 weekday evenings open with no regularly scheduled events so that I can hang out with friends, have people over, and serve others freely.

Kristin Schmucker:

It can be! Simplifying is a huge passion of mine, but something I am learning that I need to do more and more. I think you need to figure out what things are most important to you, and try to get rid of some other things that consume your time. Learning to say no is a huge thing. When I say no to something I am not passionate about and I don't really love, I am able to say YES! to the things that are most important. I try to keep my marriage and family more important than any work I am doing, and try to be aware that sometimes a tea party is more important than email.

Kristin Bandy:

It's so easy to busy our days and literally fill them to the brim. I had a good friend who made the comment that she only plans one thing a night.

I thought that was great advice so I've tried to implement it too. Instead of planning dinner with a friend at 5:00, then coffee with a friend at 6:30, then a movie at 9 - planning one thing an evening. Not only will I be less stressed, but I'll be more intentional with the friend I'm spending time with and they will feel more loved in return.

Rachel Cox:

Simplifying... well, I have begun this week to create a capsule wardrobe. AHH! So I have been purging my closet, and throwing out SO MUCH. It has been really hard and uncomfortable for me, but I am loving the simplicity of having a few go to outfits, better defining my style and not letting my wardrobe cause me stress and anxiety every day! I will be sharing about this whole process in the months ahead on my blog!

If you could write a book, what would it be about?

Jake Hooker:

It would be a long series, but I will give you a sneak peek. It would be a crazy story following a young woman that has to fight for her district in order to feed everyone. I'd call it, "The Games of Hunger."

You've had a lot of amazing opportunities, from interviewing Sir Richard Branson to receiving an Emmy award. What has been your most memorable experience? 

Hilary Kennedy:

I think my most memorable experience with my job was getting to sit down and chat with Sir Richard Branson. It took place in front of hundreds of people, but he made it feel as if we were the only two people in the room. He's charming and kind, and one of the nicest people I have ever met. Celebrities are just regular people with cool jobs, and it's always gratifying to meet one who hasn't let their immense success change how they treat people.

What's something you've been loving lately?

Ashley Herrinton:

Tuesday night Ty and I cheated on our Daniel Plan and went to Sonic for limeades and to just shoot the breeze. I kinda felt like we were dating again as we sat outside under the umbrella while the server roller-skated our order out to us. Our lives are about to get crazy busy as we begin our wedding season. Little spontaneous trips like this remind me how precious and important the simple things are in life.

Allyson Bishop:

I can promise you there is never a dull moment around here. Not a single one. And I love it! My kiddos make me smile daily - they are a joy and a blessing and a gift from God. Of course, there are ups and downs, highs and lows, struggles and victories - and being a Mommy is hard work - but it is so work it and so very rewarding. Smiles galore!

Jenny Constantin:

So we got our wedding pictures back and my nephew has some HILARIOUS faces. I'm going to be keeping these on my desk... and saving one for display at his wedding one day :)

Caroline Logan:

Thank-you notes! It may be verging on an obsession - you would laugh if you saw my stash of them! There's something about pretty stationery I can't resist. I love how much power there is in positivity, and with a simple thank-you note we have the opportunity to tell sweet friends they matter. Like really, really matter.  I once heard it said to never suppress a generous thought, and I kind of loved that. Tell people you love 'em. Tell them they've impacted your life. Tell them you've noticed the way they earnestly care about people. Tell them they're making a difference. Don't just suppress it :)

Jake is jumping in on our Coffee Date this morning, so brace yourself. Here's his question: On a scale of 1 to 10, how good is your hog call?

Kat Schmoyer:

HAHAHA! I grew up on a hog farm, and I showed hogs all over the state of Virginia... while I never entered a hog calling competition, I'd give myself a solid 7 in that category. Nice question, Jake :)

Elle & Company Coffee Dates

Who have been some of your favorites in our Coffee Date series? Which lady would you love to see featured next?

Coffee Date with Emily Thomas

Today's Coffee Date guest could charm the dew right off the honeysuckle! If you've been following along with Southern Weddings for any length of time (especially this past week on Instagram), you are probably already familiar with who she is.

Emily Thomas is the creative director at Southern Weddings and the lady behind one of my favorite blogs, Em for Marvelous. Her hard work ethic and drive have been a great example and encouragement to me, but her genuine, kind-hearted personality takes the cake! A lady like Emily deserves to be highlighted. So without further ado, meet Emily!

Landon Jacob

Landon Jacob

What's in your coffee mug this morning?

I actually don't drink coffee! I love the smell of it but can't stand the taste. I like to drink chamomile tea at any hour of the day or OJ in the morning.

What does a day-in-the-life of Emily Thomas look like?

My days usually look a big like this:

8am:  Roll out of bed

8:30am:  Out the door and on my way to work at Southern Weddings!

9am:  Arrive at the office and spend some time scrolling through email that cam in overnight (I never check it after work) and through Instagram (I also don't check that overnight). I create a paper to do list from whatever didn't get done the day before and anything that came up over email.

9:30-1:30:  Work time! This means lots of email (I try to work on a one-touch system); consulting with Lisa and the other ladies about upcoming shoots, magazine and blog features, shop products, and social media things we're trying; formatting and writing blog posts; calls with creative partners for upcoming shoots to finalize details; email; setting up Blue Ribbon Vendor portfolios; and pinning to our Pinterest boards!

1:30pm:  Lunch outside on the porch. Even if my lunch break is only 15 minutes, I try to take it away from my desk for a change of scenery and so that I'm not staring at my screen for 8+ hours on end. I almost always bring leftovers from whatever my husband cooked the night before!

1:30-5:30pm:  I finish up my work day at SW with more of the same.

6-7pm:  I'm home! I usually arrive home before my husband, so I try to knock out any Etsy orders I need to work on before he arrives - usually about an hour of work on a normal day.

7-11pm:  Once John gets home, we almost always go for a walk around our neighborhood if we're not heading out to a meeting or our church family group, which meets once a week. He makes dinner while I sit at our kitchen bar and either work on a blog post, answer personal email, or chat with him! I do the dishes, then we'll watch a show, read, work on more blog things, do some sort of chore, work on a house project... the possibilities are endless :)

Working in a creative field is a blessing, but sometimes it's easy to get stuck in a rut. What do you do when you're in a creative slump? How do you stay inspired?

At Southern Weddings, I'm thankful that we have two very real sources of inspiration - true love stories, and the beautiful South. If I'm ever at a loss for what details to include in an editorial, I try to think about real couples and real love stories that inspire me, or I try to experience something new and beautiful outside my door. Em for Marvelous is really the story of my life, so I've learned over time that it's extremely important for me to actually be living a life that's worthy of documenting and sharing. For me, that means less frequent posts (about two a week) so that I have time (in addition to my full time job) to do interesting things and improve myself!

Meredith Perdue

Meredith Perdue

What have been your top 3 highlights since working at Southern Weddings?

Oh wow, too many to count! Everything about producing the magazine is still so exciting for me - from seeing the concepts we dream up come to life, to holding each issue in my hands, to seeing each on the newsstand for the first time. I have a picture of myself kneeling next to the newsstand rack with every one! :) I've gotten the chance to work on set with amazingly creative and kind people over the years, including Jose Villa, Joy Thigpen, Blye Eyed Yonder, Ali Harper, Katie Stoops, and Joey and Jessica Seawell! I've also traveled to Florida, Virginia, New York, South Carolina, Texas, Georgia, Indiana, and the Grand Caymans for Southern Weddings, which is a huge highlight.

You went out on a limb and took a creative approach when you applied to Southern Weddings. What advice do you have for other young women on setting themselves apart and breaking the mold?

Honestly, the thing that most sets someone apart in my inbox is whether or not they're a good writer. In a world that's increasingly moving online, the importance of being able to communicate effectively, graciously, smoothly, and with great tact through writing cannot be understated. Great writing skills are a skill set that will serve you well no matter how technology changes the world or your industry in the years to come. For those who already have a job, I can't say enough how much I love the career advice Joanna Goddard recently posted - I give an enthusiastic YES to everything, especially numbers 4, 7, and the bonus!

What is something you've been loving lately?

Bright lipstick! I just traveled to NYC for Bridal Market, and it reminded me how fun it is to wear a bold lip color. My favorite is Nars Schiap. Also honeycrisp apples, which are not necessarily compatible with bright lipstick, but delicious nonetheless.

You're originally from Connecticut but you've been living in North Carolina since 2009. Just for fun, what "southern-isms" have you picked up in the past 5 years?

Well, I do say y'all on occasion - it's just too useful not to! My favorite Southern adoption has to be the food, though, with biscuits, pimento cheese, Chick-fil-a, and vinegar-y barbecue topping the list. YUM!

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Coffee Date with Gretchen Saffles

Everyone loves a good story. Whether it's a friend recanting a funny moment, a crazy plot in a movie, or a well-written novel, all of us enjoy getting lost in a story that isn't our own. I especially love hearing stories of people I admire and how they got to where they are today. That's what this Friday Coffee Date series is all about, sharing the stories of ladies who are doing significant things so we can learn from them. 

Today's Coffee Date is with Gretchen Saffles, the creator, designer, and blogger behind Life Lived Beautifully. She's also a traveler, a stylist, and the author of A God-Sized Love Story. Gretchen is always making my Instagram feed a little lovelier with photos of her Give Me Jesus Journal and sweet words of wisdom, and her blog is a great resource for encouragement and truth. I'm thrilled to share a little bit of her story with you today! Meet Gretchen. 

What's in your coffee mug this morning?

1-2 cups of coffee from Sweet Aroma Coffee and hazelnut creamer from Trader Joe's! Some days I change it up with a cup of green tea and honey.

What does a day-in-the-life of Gretchen Saffles look like?

I love change and flexibility and my days usually take the shape of an unpredictable schedule! Usually I wake up around 6AM and go straight to the coffee put for my first cup of coffee. Mornings are my favorite time of day and I cherish the moments when the sun is slowly waking up with me. I sit on our green couch and spend time in the Word and then typically go to the gym for an exercise class or on a walk around our neighborhood. My best work hours are in the mornings, so I try to revolve my hardest brain tasks for the first part of my day (including emails, writing, and organizing). I ship packages with lunch, usually with a friend who comes to help, make a quick meal for me and my husband, and then work on new projects in the afternoon from a coffee shop! My husband also has a flexible schedule and we love to take advantage of going to new places, enjoying different coffees (usually a fancy latte in the afternoon), and meeting new people. I often meet with a friend in the afternoon and enjoy time with Greg and friends from church in the evening!

You have a degree in Fashion Merchandising and a passion for helping women dress beautifully. What are some of your fashion staples and go-to shops?

I am passionate about the art of dress and creativity God has given us to adorn our bodies to His glory! Two things you need to know about my fashion style:

  1. I rarely buy things full price and love finding staple pieces at different stores?
  2. I rarely wear the same outfit combination twice. (I know this sounds crazy, but it is completely possible to do in your own closet and makes your clothes stretch and seem "new")

I am 5'10 and have always had trouble finding jeans that fit well and dresses that are modest for my long legs. I recently had a friend create a slip extender for me to wear underneath dresses that are too short. You can purchase them from Etsy or have a friend who can sew create one for you! It is a favorite piece and the perfect way to add some style to skirts and dresses. Gap is one of my favorite stores to shop for jeans that won't go out of style, fit well, and are comfy and cute! I also love supporting shops that support a cause. Philanthropy has a small online store, and a few stores across the U.S. When you walk into the shop, you can literally feel the presence of the Lord! A part of all purchases goes to support missions and the clothing is gorgeous! There are so many stores that are supporting missions that you can support and wear fashionable clothing. It's a win win in my book. 

You are a light and a role model for so many young women, myself included. One of the biggest struggles for young women today is comparison. How do you guard your heart and steer clear from the comparison trap?

This is the perfect question and a trap that I have fallen into countless times. Satan is sneaky and knows that if he can get us to compare, we will be discontent with the immeasurable blessings God has given us, with how God created us, and with what God is doing through us. Comparison robs us of joy, purpose, hope, and fruitfulness for the Gospel. There have been days that I feel were wasted worrying about little things and what others think of me. Measuring ourselves up or down against others is the opposite of the Gospel that tells us Christ did everything for us and we are complete in Him. Over the years of wrestling with comparison, the Lord has taught me the extreme importance of keeping my eyes on Him. This starts first thing in the morning when I am tempted to look at Instagram before reading the Word. There have been days where I have deleted Instagram from my phone to eliminate falling into the comparison trap. But we will see comparison take place in all shapes and forms - social media, family, friends, possessions, success, talents, personalities.

God calls us to meditate on His Word, to love Him whole-heartedly, and to die to ourself each day. We will never defeat comparison by trying harder, but rather by leaning into the Savior who has defeated it for us and claiming the truth of God's Word. This may mean carrying Scripture memory cards everywhere you go (I have done this so many times!), limiting time on social media (or taking a fast - I highly recommend this), and most importantly spending time in God's presence claiming the truth of Scripture and refocusing on our purpose. The grace of God has set us free from the measuring sticks we often carry. Live in His grace.

Because we all love a love story, how did you and Greg meet? How did he propose?

I love telling this story! Greg is the only person I have ever dated. And we didn't meet until I was 22 years old. In the 7th grade, I committed my heart to the Lord to wait on Him to bring me my future husband. Little did I know, that meant many years of being date-less and boyfriend-less in middle, high school, and college! I graduated from the University of GA with a degree in Fashion Merchandising, but God presented an opportunity for me to intern at a church in Tennessee. It was clear the Lord was leading me there, and I moved with a giant leap of faith to a place I didn't know anyone for the summer.

The ways of God beautifully connected me and Greg and middle school camp. Yes, you read that correctly! I was an intern and he was working in the media department. The first time I met him my heart burned. Literally. I had never felt something like that before and knew there was something so different about him! (and it wasn't just his crystal blue eyes that made my heart burn :) We began to get to know each other as friends that summer and I ended up getting a full-time job at the church. Greg pursued me for 6 months in the sweetest, most God-honoring ways! We began dating in February, were engaged in June, and married in November (all in about nine months!)

Greg is incredibly creative and thoughtful and planned the most beautiful proposal that June! I was visiting family in Texas and he couldn't come because he had to "work." That week, he drove from TN to TX and stayed with a family in my sister's church without me knowing that he was just down the street! HE had cut down trees and set them in cement and created an incredible room in the Chapel of my sister's church where he would propose. My sister had planned on taking "family pictures" at the Chapel of their church and we got dressed and headed over there. When we walked in, Greg was standing there and I was beyond shocked! He led me into the chapel that was filled with mason jars, candles, bulb lights and our favorite worship music playing. He led me to the podium where a Bible was sitting that had my new name on it. He read some verses to me and told me he loved me for the first time! (We had been waiting for this day for so long!) He then read from a travel journal a note that he had written to me and then got down on one knee and proposed! The rest is history and all the glory goes to God for our God-sized love story!

What is something you've been loving lately?

I recently finished "Choosing Gratitude" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and had my heart rocked by how ungrateful I am everyday and the abundance of blessings God has poured out on us! Anytime I have a free moment, I spend it reading a new book on my Kindle. :) I am also loving my new Advent Calendar from Naptime Diaries! I can't wait to decorate for Christmas!

You have a heart for traveling and seeing the world. Just for fun, which travel destination was your favorite and why? What are some places that are on your bucket list?

My heart literally beats for adventure and traveling the world! One of my favorite places I have been to would be Israel. Words cannot describe how incredible it was to walk where Jesus walked and see the Bible come to life before my eyes! We were also there on a mission trip and were able to lead children to Jesus in Bethlehem. I pray my husband and I can go back there one day!

We have a long bucket list that we are working through. :) A few things that we want to do are bike the country of Holland (you can bike the entire country in one week!), hike Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and go to Alaska to see the Northern Lights!

Follow along with Gretchen

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Coffee Date with Natalie Freeman

My design-loving heart skips a beat each time I walk in Anthropologie. Every one of their items feels like it has a story behind it and no two pieces are the same, however they all fit together perfectly in an thoughtful, inspiring collection. They have a style that's one-of-a-kind and lovely. The same is true for Natalie Freeman's style. It's one-of-a-kind, homey, and creative, and the first time I stumbled upon her website I couldn't help but spend a half hour looking around, getting excited about every pretty little detail.

Natalie and her husband own Freckled Hen Farm where they raise goats, chickens, and a vegetable garden. Their home is a collection of colorful items that Natalie has so thoughtfully collected and paired together, and she blogs about their life, her thrifting and junking adventures, and her latest crafting projects. She also has a little shop where she sells "a happy little mix of handmade and vintage items." The way that Natalie finds beauty and simplicity in the day-to-day makes her a joy to follow along with, and I'm thrilled that she's joining us for a Coffee Date. Meet Natalie!

What's in your coffee cup this morning?

I love a good cup of coffee made by my husband in the early morning hours with maybe a little too much half & half.

Give us a glimpse into a "day in the life" of Natalie.

Every day looks a little different, but each day is always filled to the rim with good stuff. On any given day, you'll find me harvesting flowers and vegetables from our garden for our sweet Freckled Hen Farm customers. Other days I am washing eggs at the sink & dreaming up where we might raise our pigs or place our future beehive. Almost every day, you'll find me typing away & sharing my story on my blog in my studio. If I am lucky, I can sneak away for a couple hours to sew up some goodies for my etsy shop. I also volunteer as a garden educator within the public school district. Hands deep into the soil & surrounded by a cackle of students, you'll find me digging up worms & identifying insects in the school garden. A good day wouldn't be complete without a visit to the local thrift shop, one of my favorite places to get lost in my thoughts & find those forgotten treasures. In the midst of the busyness of life, I am always incredibly thankful that I get to call this wild & precious life mine. 

You and your husband, Luke, share about life around the Freckled Hen Farm. How did you start this venture and what do you enjoy most about living on a farm?

The farm really did fall into our laps. We had always dreamed of owning a piece of land, but never would we have ever imagined that it would happen so soon. We bought our first home & the farm a little over a year ago. Here we raise dairy goats, a large flock of chickens & a vegetable garden. When we first arrived on the farm, it instantly felt like home. It was the refuge my weary soul needed. Since our first day, my favorite part has always been the quiet. The calm mornings & the quiet evenings on the farm are so incredibly peaceful. I don't think I could ever go back to the city life.

What advice do you have for newbies like me on how to start a garden? What are your favorite plants to grow?

Just start. Don't worry, you'll mess up. But you'll learn a whole lot. And you'll continue learning with each new garden & season. But if you grow discouraged, plant some salad greens. In just a handful of weeks, you will be harvesting fresh greens from your garden. They're oh so easy to grow & quite tasty, too!

Between having your own Etsy shop, keeping up with the farm, blogging, and crafting, I'm sure your life stays busy! How do you simplify?

My own little word for 2014 is Quality & with each month, I learn a little bit more about what it means for my particular journey. I have a really difficult time simplifying my life & saying no to new opportunities. This year, and with each day, I am learning to say no so that I may say yes to those aspects & people in my life that are most important. Quite honestly, each day is a struggle, but I find that when I allow a bit of white space in my life, I reap the benefits of a quality life.

What is something you've been loving lately?

Just recently I have loved disconnecting from social media. This time away from social media allows me to fully connect with my husband or notice the little details of life I would have otherwise missed with my face to the screen. 

And just for fun, what do you hope life looks like for you and Luke thirty years from now?

We hope we're still having fun, seeking adventures, living out our passions & most importantly, loving each other fiercely.

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