Category Archives: DIY

Oregon Gardens

A deep breath infuses my body with the rich perfumes of pine, fir, lush soil, cut grass, and blossoming plants.  Every time, it nearly knocks me over with its power.  The abundance of nature in all its glory is here in Oregon.  I love being here with my mom at her beautiful house just off the hustle and bustle of the University of Oregon campus.

Over the last few months we have been chatting over the phone (me – from the desert terrain of Gallup, NM) about re-creating her small patch of garden on the south side of her house that gets full sun, and therefore has the great potential to be a vegetable garden.  When I arrived a couple of weeks ago we started plotting in earnest.  After a rather painless trip to Jerry’s (a local version of a Home Depot) we returned home with a plan and lots of supplies.

First, we weeded the over-grown area and laid out what I like to call “weed destroyer” – black landscape material that blocks light.  Then we mulched and started hauling in the concrete blocks.  A few six foot, 12″x 2″ cedar boards, soil and voila; raised beds and a tidy little garden. Super fun and quite easy.  Here are the before and after shots:


The next day I took a trip up to Portland to visit some friends and one was my dear friend Patty Cassidy.  She is an amazing gardener and such an inspiration.  She is a grand master gardener and has turned her expertise to helping seniors continue to garden and explore the wonders of plants in all shapes, colors, smells and forms.  She has written a wonderful gardening book, aptly titled “Gardening for Seniors” that I was happy to learn has been translated into four different languages.  She is also the president of the Portland Memory Garden which has been “especially designed for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory problems: the site is relatively flat and is away from other park activity and significant traffic noise. The garden was dedicated in May 2002 and is one of eight memory gardens in the U.S., and one of only two built on public land. The garden is a national demonstration garden project, created as part of the 100 Parks, 100 Years centennial celebration of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).”   If you are looking for wonderful advice about your garden – Patty should be your go-to gal.

It was a gorgeous Oregon afternoon of filtered sun.  I had such fun chatting in Patty’s beautiful back yard with her husband Gary, who, like me, is diving into the world of children’s literature.  No worries – I’ll be shamelessly promoting his book when it comes out too.

In three short weeks I’ll be moving to Sacramento, California.  I am really looking forward to a little space of my own to dig into some earth and help cultivate a bit of life.  Moving to Sacramento not only means I can garden again, but as the winter season is so mild – I’ll get to garden all year round!  I can’t wait.  And I have so many wonderful gardening experts in my life to help me.  Such fun.

I’ll write again from California.  Have a great end of your June!

~ Gretchen


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Filed under DIY, Education, Gardening / Outdoors, Writing

Epic Zombie Killers!

My wonderful, sweet, and creative 6th graders just presented their Post Zombie Apocalypse Geography Plays (yes, I know that is a mouthful!).  But they were hysterical.

They had to present all the concepts we learned about in our geography unit, in the format of a five minute play – theme: resettling after a zombie outbreak.

Two groups chose to have Trump in their plays.  The first one had him turn into a zombie right away.  The other group (in another class), they made him President and they begrudgingly started building a big wall.  At one point, one of the actors yells out, while carrying a paper gun, “come on, let’s round up all the Mexicans!”

I couldn’t believe it.  I have not spoken about Trump to them.  But wow, their parents must be.  They are NOT for him, these kids are definitely anti-Trump.

Later in the skit, they created bombs (wadded up paper) and blew up the wall.  Trump, unfortunately was never turned into a zombie, but at least we know we have a bunch of 6th graders that will fight to overturn him if…

Anyway, a fun way to end a Friday.

Have a happy, and zombie free weekend!

~ Gretchen


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Filed under DIY, Education, Geography, Humanities, Middle School, Super Creative

Spinning Tornadoes To the Rescue!

I’m excited to say that my third graders, the self proclaimed Spinning Tornadoes, have out done  themselves.  Through weekly bake sales and an all school walk-a-thon, they raised not the original goal of $2,500, but $3,814!

This money will give 153 people clean water for life through  I’m very proud of my little troop.

Water Project Group Photo

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Filed under DIY, Education, Myanmar / Burma, Third Grade

Clean Water for Everyone!

After half a year of opening the eyes of my third graders to the plight of people less fortunate than them, they decided it would be really great to give back some how.  I was thrilled.

I introduced them to brainstorming and we came up with tons of wonderful ideas.  Then narrowing it down, they decided that clean water was something that everyone needs and where they wanted to put all their effort.

So I did some research and found a bunch of organizations that work around the globe bringing clean water to folks in need.  We reviewed the sites and decided on

Then we brainstormed a fun team name and voila, the Spinning Tornadoes were born:

Spinning Tornadoes;

Spinning around the world filling buckets with fresh water for those in need.

Next came how to raise funds.  And my super creative third graders came up with a Water Bucket Carrying Contest.  Then we added a walk-a-thon (absolutely foreign concept here in Myanmar) and bake sales.  Our goal is to raise US $2,500.00 by the end of January.

Of course it has not helped that I have been sick for the last 8 weeks – but I was alive enough a couple months ago to explain it all to the other teachers and send letters home explaining what we were doing and what in the world a walk-a-thon is.  I’m still not sure the concept is completely getting through, but I think we’ll have a decent showing.

Our bake sales turned out to be donation from bakeries, sales.  The kids themselves have so many “helpers” (maids, nannies, drivers etc.) that they simply couldn’t comprehend actually baking something at home and bringing it in.  Odd I know, but I haven’t been able to get any of them to do it.

The walk-a-thon is in two weeks.  The water bucket carrying competition is in January.  Our bake sales revenue (3 weeks worth) so far has brought in at bout US $50.00.  So we have a long way to go.

Water Project Poster Making

Working hard creating our Spinning Tornadoes poster for the hallway.

I started a fundraising site on the website.  If you have any interest in helping us out simply go here and you can make a donation with a credit card. And please, spread the word – we need all the help we can get!  Thanks!

Water Project Group Photo

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Filed under Crafts, DIY, Education, Myanmar / Burma, Third Grade, Uncategorized

Recycled Beads and Mud Mountains

The last couple of weeks have been really fun with my third graders.  I think, after 3.5 months we are all getting into a rhythm and I must say it is so nice.  We wrapped up a unit on global poverty in social studies with an inside look into how people are helping people through micro-enterprise with a video from Bead For Life and then proceeded to make recycled paper necklaces.  They just loved it.IMG_1006Recycled Necklaces Project 1Recycled Necklaces Project 2Then last week we finished a unit on how the Earth changes slowly with an erosion project.  In groups, they all went outside and made mountains in the mud.  The biggest surprise to me was that many had never put their little hands in it before.  Initially they were literally revolted.  But once I told them they simply had to put their hands in the dirt in order to build a mountain, they finally got into and the whole hour was full of big smiles.  They scavenged for rocks and weeds to act as trees.  It was great.  They tried making ponds and artificial rivers (out of pebbles) to ease the water to where they wanted it to flow.  They were really creative.

Erosion Project 1Erosion Project 2But of course the boys just couldn’t resist slinging a bit of slime, so a mud fight rounded out the event and before I could snag the culprits, many were covered.  As you can see they were all pretty, darn happy.

Hope your week is creative and fun too!


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Filed under Crafts, DIY, Education, Myanmar / Burma, Photography, Third Grade

Visioning… Our Futures

Such a fun evening with the girls last Saturday!

I rounded up three friends and with a lot of magazines, scissors and glue, we created our vision boards.

To get the visions flowing and to learn more about these great women, I poured us all a glass of wine and then asked each to share what their past year had been like and what they wanted for the upcoming year, etc.

Listening to the challenges of the past year and the hopes and dreams for the future year was really fun.  Each of these women are strong, confident, capable and caring.  Listening to their stories was so fascinating and I have to say, this coming year is going to be great!

A synopsis of each story:

One gal was recently out of a long-term relationship and had re-located to change her life.  She felt she had been accommodating, giving in, doing what others wanted, way too much and needed to focus on creating balance in all areas of her life.

JenAnother had been bucked off a horse the year before and had broken her humerus bone (that’s the one in the upper arm).  After a year of stress and extreme pain, as well as 4 surgeries, she is finally able to use the arm again with quite a bit of mobility and a lot less pain.  So her goal is to continue to get healthy and to travel with her husband – she made two boards – one for health and one for travel.

LauAnother gal was determined to find love.  A recent move from one state to another, deaths in her family and a break-up had made the last seven months not exactly happy.  So her focus for the year was on joy, love and health.

NanFor me, last year was a whole lot of accomplishing little.  I allowed the lack of interesting or challenging work, to squash my normal energy and settle into a dull existence that was uncreative and uninspiring.  So my focus is three-fold: Find that great job (looking to teach Social Studies or ESL in Mexico!), get back into shape both physically and food-intake-wise, and finally, find that elusive man.  Not asking too much.  Of course my fourth is to get one of my children’s books published, but my board didn’t have room for that too!  I guess it wasn’t a completely dull year 🙂


We started our foray into the world of the future at 7 pm.  We finished our boards around 11:30pm.  Phew!  It was so interesting from start to finish.  Each of us had had a vision of what our vision boards would look like.  But being regulated by the available options within our magazines, each one turned out great, but much different than we had anticipated.  A fun experience, with great women.  I think we all feel more focused on where we want to put our energy.  Now to take action and make it all happen.  Here is to a great year!

Group Cropped

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Filed under Crafts, DIY, Introspection

How Much Sugar is in Your Drink?

I just had to share this photo I snagged from a post on Facebook.

Shouldn’t every school have a poster like this!?

On the complete flip-side of the picture above…

I just started a healthy cleanse that I found in the Whole Living magazine.  So far it is delicious – my breakfast:

Blueberry, lemon, OJ, Mint Smoothie – Seriously good!  Check out the recipes – nummm.

Bluberry Smoothie


Filed under DIY, Education

Visual + Action…Board

Next Saturday I am getting together with friends and we are planning on creating Vision Boards.  Di-VisionBoard-vlowresOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So in preparation, as I have not done this before, I thought it would be interesting to learn more about the psychology of this act and what others are saying out there.

This morning I have been doing a bit of research and it seems that ONLY visualizing, dreaming, and thinking positive thoughts may actually lull us into non-doing, sitting back and waiting…taking the easy road, all to find that we are still dreaming of what we want rather than achieving the outcome we envision.

Digging a bit deeper I also found that taking action without having a goal, the big dream, or a vision of what the result will be is also a detriment to getting what or where we want to be as we are  not focused.

“Vision without action is a dream.
Action without vision is simply passing the time.

Action with Vision is making a positive difference.”

– Joel Barker

Cover of

Over the last couple of weeks I have been slowly reading through “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin.  I have found it very inspiring, even though my life and circumstances are quite different from her’s.  I too feel happy but want to be happier.  In “The Happiness Project”, she outlines how making specific, small tasks a regular habit is very important.  From getting in at least 30 minutes a day with your heart-rate elevated to a 10 minute nightly “tidy” up of the house – whatever works for you of course, but the focus is on the small.  Small things that make a big difference de-cluttering your mind and energizing your body… more happiness.  I like this way of thinking as I can implement my list more easily.  Having the big goal of losing 20lbs is, well, depressing.  But getting my heart-rate up for 30 minutes a day is doable.

So visualizing the goal but with actionable steps to get there makes a lot of sense to me.  So I think Saturday’s vision board is now going to be a VISUAL~ACTION Board.  

Have you ever created a Vision/Dream Board?  Did you see results?  Ever created an Action Board?  I’d love to hear what you’ve created and how it worked for you.

I’ll update you after our Saturday fun.  Oh – and we’re going Conga dancing after we finish our boards – so should be a fun night of talking about where we want to go with our lives and then shaking ourselves silly!

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Filed under DIY, Introspection

Garden Art

Today I checked out the local Yard, Garden and Patio show.  It’s always fun to see what the local creatives are doing for our outdoor spaces.  Check out some of these unique creations.  Photos were taken with my iPhone so a bit blurry.

Have any fun art in your yard?  I would love to know -and see a photo if you care to share!

Culvert Chair

This hanging chair is made out of a piece of culvert pipe.  It swings!

The back of this chair was a wall of sedums - succulent plants. Very fun!

The back of this chair was a wall of sedums – succulent plants. Very fun!

This is one piece of what I think is a root, carved into a face. Each piece of "hair" is also finely carved.  It was exquisite up close.

This is one piece of what I think is a root, carved into a face. Each piece of “hair” is also finely carved. It was exquisite up close.

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Filed under DIY, Gardening / Outdoors

Bringing the Whimsy to You

Hello and welcome to my new blog about creative whimsy. This blog will cover lots of topics that are focused on graphic design, crafting, DIY, writing, photography… basically creative people doing creative things.  The goal is to get your imaginative juices flowing and put a smile on your face.  I hope you enjoy.

Recently I launched an Etsy site.  For those not in the know, Etsy is an umbrella site for creative types like me.  They host our “virtual shops” that are full of handmade and vintage items.  Artist/Shop owners are from around the world offering unique items for you to buy and enjoy.

Here’s a sample from my favorite shops:

My shop, Sunshine Impressions, is new and growing.  I am a graphic designer, crafter and writer.  Currently what is offered on my site are graphically created birthday party decorations: everything you need for your themed party from invitations, to pennant banners to cupcake toppers.

I am also designing wrapping paper, wall borders (for kids & adults’ rooms), baby announcements etc.  And I am working on publishing an e-version of my children’s picture book story: Jungle Boogie – which I am hopeful will be listed on my Etsy site by September.

So lots happening – definitely check out my Etsy site on a regular basis!

On this blog, I’ll be writing about all sorts of whimsy that is making our world a happier place.  Stay tuned.

Images above: Etsy Shops from left to right: sunshineimpressionsPatrickIrlaJewelryFeltforcat, JohannaWright, CurateandLove

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Filed under Crafts, DIY, Graphic Design