Tag Archives | Tacoma

First Fruits: Selling My Artwork

I am announcing the inaugural sale of my watercolor paintings! My original artwork will be posted for sale on Memorial Day morning, to my etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ekwetzel . For the first week, ALL SALES WILL BE DONATED to our local church planting fund for Mars Hill Church in Tacoma. That means: for a $50 art piece, all $50 will be donated to our church plant (the extra shipping fees will cover my shipping costs).



Matt and I are passionate about the Tacoma area and about being on mission in our region. We currently attend the Mars Hill location in Federal Way, but we have yearned for a church in our Tacoma home ever since we were married five years ago…and I have hoped for a local Mars Hill location since I became a member in 2005. This dream has been a long time coming.

Our church has now purchased a building off of Wright Park, one of our favorite parks in Tacoma. When we walked through the doors of this building for the first time, it felt like coming home. We were giddy with excitement. We want to be a part of the restoration of this building. We want to make this a home for our children…and our children’s children. We want this building and the church of Christ’s body that worship and serve in it to bless this region that we love.

You can read more about the restoration of our church building at the Mars Hill Tacoma blog … The long and short of it is that we bought an old building at a killer bargain, but it needs a lot of repairs. We have no deep pockets in our church body to help fund the restoration of this space, so it falls to all of the ordinary people with average incomes in our church to find creative ways to contribute to the restoration.

Matt and I talked about it. We prayed about it. And we believe giving our fruit fruits in this way will glorify God. And we are thrilled to do it!

bokeh heart


I have always loved the idea of giving first fruits. In the past, whenever I got a new exciting job, I always wanted to be able to give my entire first paycheck to church or charity, but something seemed to always get in the way.

The seed was planted in my head at a young age. Growing up, I read “The Pineapple Story” (published by the Institute in Basic Life Principles) about a missionary who planted a pineapple field and struggled with the natives who were stealing his pineapples. After much heartache, the missionary decided to give the pineapple field to God. When the natives asked why he was no longer angry when they stole his pineapples, he told them they were not his pineapples; they were God’s. This transformation entered other areas of the missionary’s life…he was less possessive of his time, his family, and his belongings. Once the missionary gave up worrying about all his stuff and let Christ’s love shine through him, the natives responded in kind and opened up to the missionary and his message of Christ. And they stopped stealing the pineapples. Everyone ended up sharing them.

I like having faith in God to meet my needs.

And I like the idea of giving extravagantly.

This is a picture of one of my originals (right) compared to the art print (left). Even here you can see the poor quality of the print.

This is a picture of one of my originals (right) compared to the art print (left). Even here you can see the poor quality of the print.


I will not be selling art prints.

I have been holding out on opening my etsy shop for business because I wanted to sell art prints; however, I have run into great difficulty in making quality art prints. Even the best prints that the local print shops have to offer are subpar, and I would not feel right about selling them. Therefore, I will hold onto the original pieces that I want to keep trying to make art prints from.

I will sell some original works.

I will sell some reproductions of originals that I’m keeping for future art prints.

I will also sell one commission.

All told, I hope to have ten total paintings, plus one commission, up for sale.


I’m excited to open up my etsy shop with artwork for sale. I hope you enjoy what you see, and I hope you find something you like! If you do not want to buy artwork, but would like to donate to our Tacoma church plant, you can do so at marshill.com/give.

Thank you!

By Erin

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The New University Place Library (Pierce County, Washington)

Today, Phoebe and I visited the new library in University Place for the first time, and I’m in love with it. The layout of the building is very thoughtful, with a large indoor courtyard perfect for playing inside on rainy days. The library is in the new building on Bridgeport Way, along with the UP Police office and a café. The children’s section of the library is well planned. There are many different places to cuddle up with a book: couches, sofa chairs, bean bags, child-sized chairs and tables…even a rocking chair nestled into a little corner (which I imagine is a favorite for nursing moms).There are tons of different age-appropriate activities scattered throughout: easy shelving and bins for board books, puzzles, crayons and pictures for coloring, and a slew of wall toys, as well as a “fun house” I forgot to snap a close-up picture of. I found this board book, My Foodie ABC, really amusing. It even includes the term “localvore” under the letter “L”!Another thing that impressed me was how clean everything was. The nooks. The books. The tables. The computer stations. Even the bathroom. And one of my favorite things about the layout was that there was a family bathroom right there, in the middle of the children’s section! So convenient! When Phoebe discovered it, she got a huge grin on her face, turned to me and signed “bathroom.” Then she slammed the door to it shut. The bathroom itself was spacious and easy to maneuver in. All in all, I was extremely impressed with the new space. It is much better than the hole in the wall next to Pizza Hut where the library had to camp out for five years.

I anticipate visiting once a week when rainy weather hits, especially since storytime for kids 2 and under starts on Thursdays at the end of September. Wednesday storytimes are for kids 3 and up, and on Saturdays, everyone can come. Storytimes are all at 10:30 am. Even though I’m not a resident of University Place, I was able to get a Pierce County library card, as a resident of Tacoma. So now we are members of the Tacoma library system AND the Pierce county library system. All you books and story times, watch out!!!

^_^ Erin

PS: Yes. I did, in fact, take a picture of a toilet.

Posted using Tinydesk Writer iPhone app

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Our Priorities

yellow sidingWhen Mr. Wetzel and I were looking to buy a house, we were on a shoestring budget, but there were several things we expected to find if we were going to take the plunge and make a purchase.  So, we sat down and made a list.  We didn’t have the financial flexibility to dream up the perfect house and then search until we found it. Instead, we looked at houses online and took a couple tours, and we talked constantly about our impressions and what key things we were attracted to in each house.

At first, our list looked something like this:

TOP PRIORITIES (Things we wouldn’t compromise on)

  • An extra half bathroom (1.5 total bathrooms)
  • At least 3 bedrooms
  • A good heating system, preferably forced air heating
  • A wall that would fit our big bookcase (we’re avid readers)
  • A garage
  • A neighborhood that would be safe

HIGH PRIORITIES (Things we were still looking for, but if we found a perfect house with one or two of them missing, it wouldn’t be a deal breaker)

  • Basement
  • Vinyl windows
  • An outdated kitchen (I dreamt of remodeling the kitchen)
  • House built in the 1970s (we tended to prefer the layout of the 70s style)
  • Open living area
  • Near parks
  • Good walking neighborhood
  • Close to the freeway

THE ICING (Things we weren’t looking for, but when we found them in a potential house, they made it even more attractive)

  • Wood floors
  • Fruit trees, fruit vines or the like
  • Established trees
  • Attached garage
  • Laundry in the garage

At first, I excluded any houses from my online search that did not meet the basic “3 bedrooms, 1 ½ bathrooms” criteria. I didn’t bother to check on house listings in areas of Tacoma with which I was unfamiliar.  I made sure any houses with “baseboard heating” were excluded from my searches, and I always started my searches by looking at houses built from 1965 to 1985.

Some of my instincts were good, but others were simply prejudices. As time went by and deals fell through on the first two houses that we wanted to buy, I learned a lot about what we were really looking for in a house, what would be the kind of house that would be good for us, and what criteria were markers of that kind of house.


Mr. Wetzel and I are not skilled enough to fix up a turn-of-the-century house, and we quickly learned that these old houses that had been well maintained or restored were too expensive for us.  Newer houses were also too expensive, so we were looking at midcentury houses, from roughly the 1940s through the 1980s.  Homes built earlier tended to have boxed off rooms, and as we looked at more houses, we came to love how the open concept design made a small house feel roomier and more social.  Once the 1980s hit, however, homes tended to add elaborate features to the private living quarters: Master suites started to have walk-in closets and bathrooms. If we were going to own a certain amount of square footage, we wanted to have it in the public areas, where we could spend time entertaining, chatting, meeting with church, family and friends.

We quickly learned that the 1970s were the sweet spot for what we were looking for: big, open social areas and smaller private areas tucked into the back of the house. If we were going to get the most bang for our buck, the 1970s were where we would most likely find it.  The fabulous rambler we ended up buying was built in 1971.

lens flare, car, road tripDISCOVERING TACOMA

I would often run a search for homes right after work, and then drive around Tacoma to see what the neighborhoods were like and what the potential homes looked like from the outside.  This helped to eliminate many homes right away, but it also helped me to become with little neighborhood pockets that I was unaware of.

In some cities, there is a clearly defined “good area” and a clearly defined “bad area.”  Not so in Tacoma.  The good and the bad are all intermingled; one street may have cute, well established neighbors, and a few streets over there might be a few run-down houses with a suspicious looking crowd.  Welcome to urban life! The only way you knew what the neighborhood would be like is experience.

I also did searches for registered sex offenders and crime rates in each area whenever we were seriously considering a house, and that became an insightful barometer for judging the relative safety of different Tacoma neighborhoods.  Many US cities have this data available online and readily searchable.

As it turns out, our home is in a neighborhood with lower crime than just about any other neighborhood we looked at in Tacoma (even the areas we dreamed about where all the houses were at least $100,000 out of our price range). We’re on a dead in street, on a quiet road, right off the freeway, and surrounded by trees. To top it all off, the city and the local Puyallup tribe are doing a major project this year to re-pave our street and put in sidewalks…at no expense to us; thank you Federal Stimulus Bill!


This, I knew, was a luxury; however, I was sick of the baseboard heaters in our apartment. They did not warm anything, and they were expensive.  I often would search for homes regardless of the heating type, because I realized that many house listings got this detail wrong!  The online listing would say “baseboard heating,” but the actual house would have a different system entirely.  Because I was willing to look at some homes without my preferred heat style, I was able to discover this anomaly.

The house we bought was listed as having baseboard heaters. Not only did it NOT have baseboard heaters, it had Central Air.  What does that mean?  Both “Forced Air” and “Central Air” describe a system where there are grates in the floor and a unit pushes the temperature-controlled air throughout the house. With “Forced Air,” there is only heating involved; “Central Air” also includes cooling.  It is very rare for a Washington house to have air conditioning, and it is a major luxury.  I couldn’t believe it was not listed as a feature online, but was thrilled to discover it in the house that we now own.


If you’ve ever lived in a house with 1 bathroom and more than 1 person, you’ve run into the “I gotta pee” scenario that Mr. Wetzel and I were hoping to avoid. We came to realize, however, that while we wanted an extra half bathroom desperately, it was something we had lived without for our married life and that we could live without for a bit longer. If it wasn’t for this concession, we wouldn’t have bothered looking at this house, and this is the house that is perfect for us.

HOW DID WE FARE?  Here’s how the house we bought measures up to the hopes and dreams that we had when we were looking for a new home:

  • 1 Bathroom
  • 3 Bedrooms
  • Central Air
  • A wall that fits our big bookcase
  • An attached, 1-car garage
  • Laundry in the garage…as well as lot of storage
  • Safe neighborhood
  • NO Basement (Oh well!)
  • Vinyl windows, relatively new
  • An outdated kitchen (Yay! I get to remodel!)
  • Built 1971
  • Open living area
  • Near 2 parks
  • After the road construction and imminent sidewalks, it will be a great walking neighborhood
  • 2 minutes off the freeway
  • Laminate wood floors in the public areas
  • Apple tree, Rainier cherry tree, 2 grape vines (green & purple), rhubarb plant, strawberry patch, lavender, tons of roses and a raised garden area

Beyond our expectations!

P-town, bike, communityFINAL WORDS & ADVICE

It took us over a year to finally find the house that was right for us. Take your time.  Be willing to change your opinions and to compromise.  Communicate, communicate, communicate!  Look at things you never thought you’d want, and look in places you never thought to go. Finally, have fun and be willing to fall in love with a house.  The more experience you have searching, the more sure you’ll be when the right house comes along.

By ekwetzel

*Photos courtesy of Justin Higgins

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Cider Squeeze

Yesterday, Mr. Wetzel and I went to the Curran Apple Orchard in University Place, WA for their annual cider squeeze.  Earlier this year, we “adopted” a Gravenstein apple tree at the orchard, and have attended the “concert in the park” series all summer, but this event was even more packed than all the concerts put together by far. Hundreds of men, women and children were roaming the orchard, picking apples off the trees, grounds or wherever they could find them, and getting jiggy with the blue grass band that serenaded the whole event.

Adopters can sponsor a tree at the orchard for $35 a year to help the non-profit keep a presence in the community.  As adopters, we are encouraged to prune our tree (which there are several training days for), and we are permitted to pick apples off our tree all summer long.  On the Cider Squeeze day, anyone can pick from any tree.

We picked our apples earlier in the week. They were bright red and very juicy, and they filled about a half a milk-crate. (We left a lot of apples on the tree.)

There were electric and mechanical cider presses available. We ended up with a Wetzel-powered cider press. I put the apples in one by one…

…and Mr. Wetzel cranked away. (He’s concentrating a little too much to look too chipper here about getting his picture taken).

After all the fruit was pulverized, the volunteers that were helping us got to work pressing the juice out of the pulp. Their old-fashioned press cranked a round wooden plank onto the apples, and as in screwed down tighter, the juice flowed.

We ended up with 3/4 gallon of fresh, raw apple cider. Yum!!!

By ekwetzel

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Raw Milk in Tacoma

One of Three Jersey Cows at Meadowwood Organics

UPDATE: 4/3/2014

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I can’t believe how often I meet people in real life who tell me they did a search for “raw milk in Tacoma” and stumbled across this post! The raw milk scene has changed since I first wrote this post, and I’d love to share with you my NEW INFORMATION.

First of all, the Tacoma Food Coop is now open for business. They have EXCELLENT dairy options, including several different raw milk options for both cow milk and goat milk. Next time I visit, I will take a ton of pictures and create a new post dedicated to the Tacoma Coop’s current dairy options. Our favorite milk they carry is Blackjack Valley Farm’s raw cow milk, based out of Port Orchard, WA, which goes for approximately $5/half-gallon or $8/gallon.

In addition, Marlene’s has much better dairy options right now for both cow and goat raw milk.

I will try to keep this post up-to-date, but for the latest updates on raw milk sources, be sure to check out the newest comments below! And feel free to ask me any questions you may have!!

Thank you!


Raw milk is milk that has been neither pasteurized nor homogenized.  Mr. Wetzel and I want to drink raw milk from a local dairy for several reasons.  We want milk from healthy cows that are well cared for.  We want to support the local economy.  We want fresh, tasty milk.  We want the health benefits of drinking milk in its purest form.

For more technical information on raw milk, or to find leads on a dairy in your area, check out: Realmilk.com .

It is difficult to find a place to buy raw milk.  Most small farmers who offer it don’t advertise very broadly, if at all.  In order to find the farm where we now buy our milk, I asked around a lot until a lady who works at the CSA where we pick up our local veggies gave me the contact information for Meadowwood, LLC. This option works for us because it is only a 20 minute drive from where we meet for church on Sundays.  Here are the options for milk I have found in my explorations for alternative milk options in the Tacoma, WA area:


20228 SE 400th St.
Enumclaw, WA  98022

Milk is sold in reusable glass jars.  This is where Mr. Wetzel and I are now buying our milk.  They offer a cowshare program which brings down the cost of the milk.


17635 100th Ave SW
Vashon, WA 98070

Sea Breeze Farm has delicious milk.  The biggest problem for Tacoma residents?  They are on Vashon Island, a ferry ride away.  If you live in King county, you can buy from Sea Breeze Farm at a handful of farmers markets in the Seattle area.

Cows from Sea Breeze Farm on Vashon Island

in Gig Harbor

Contact Chris Schlicht at (253) 884 7840

I have yet to visit this farm, but I earnestly want to.  ChristiPaul Farm’s greatest attraction for me is the fact that whenever you buy milk, you receive milk from only one cow.  Their milks are not mixed.  This is an overwhelmingly idealistic thought for me, taking real milk to another level.


2951 S. 38th St.
Tacoma, WA 98409

Marlene’s carries two raw milk options: cow milk from the Dungeness Valley Creamery and goat milk from the St. John Creamery, both in Washington.  While Marlene’s is the closest retail spot, the milk is noticeably less fresh and flavorful than the milks we have purchased directly from the farm.  Given the choice between Marlene’s raw milk and Golden Glen Creamery’s, I opt for the latter.


Available at Top Foods in Tacoma, or through Spud Seattle’s delivery system.

Milk from the Golden Glen Creamery is pasteurized, but it is not homogenized.  They make a variety of dairy products, including cheeses, butter and cream top milk.  We save our glass bottles from Golden Glen because they are easier to pour from than the glass jars our milk comes in from Meadowwood, LLC.

Photo courtesy of Golden Glen’s Facebook Page

Do you have a raw milk testimonial?  What resources for locating raw milk do you have to share?

By ekwetzel

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