Pillars.

There are things in life that hold us up, even when we feel like falling down. Here are mine, in no particular order.

Family. My parents and my brother, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. These are the people. These are the ones that love me, not just because of the shared DNA, but because they have seen me grow and live and love. These are the ones that I cannot do life without, because they support me, loudly, in all aspects of my life. From school right now to Wildflower Reflections by Elle Renee as a brand in the future, these are the ones who have my back. They hold me up.

Friends. New and old, from school and work and church. These are the people who choose to love me every day even though we don’t share an ounce of DNA. These are the ones who listen to me laugh and cry, see me smile and make me roll my eyes (especially at their lame jokes). These ladies and gentlemen are the ones who I turn to when I am having a bad day, a good day, or just any day. There is a huge, wondrous amount of trust that I have built with these people, and I tell them everything. They support me.

Faith. When I was younger, I went to church on and off and this pattern has continued throughout my young adult life. At the moment, I’m off, but it’s not because of my lack of faith. It’s because I have social anxiety and haven’t worked myself up to get to a service yet. Jesus saved me, just last year, and He has been saving me every single day since then. Without my God, I honestly don’t know if I would be here today. That’s hard to admit, but it is so, so true. I can do all through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13). My Lord lifts me up.

It seems important for me to be writing about the good things I have in my life right now because, to be honest, I’m not doing well. I am writing this blog from my couch, at home, with my dog lying next to me. I missed class today and I will miss again tomorrow, but I need these couple days with my family. I need them to remind me that I am loved, especially now, as I find myself wandering down some dark roads, emotionally. This is not a ploy for attention; I don’t want to make anyone worry. I have promised you all that I would be open on this journey- so here I am, giving you my all. -Elle

Photo Credit: Caraline Grebner

Messy Buns and Getting Stuff Done.

I’m just building my empire… as a college student. Can you say glorious mess? 

It has been over a year from the beginning of this semester that I was enrolled in classes. I think that my brain forgot how to “school.” I have not been keeping up with my assignments very well… so I called my mom, freaking out.

She came to Iowa City and we bought a big calendar. We went through each syllabus for my classes and wrote all of the due dates for the rest of the semester (of course, each class is color coordinated) and it looks like a lot. But having everything all spread in one place makes it seem way more manageable.

When I was talking with my mom, I decided that I want to do more than just survive here, at the University of Iowa. I want to thrive. But for now, I need to just get caught up on five weeks of work and reading… so I put my hair in a messy bun and I am getting stuff done.

I set up meetings with all of my professors and have made plans to see them all at least once a week for the rest of the semester, even when things are going well. I have decided that I am going to do well here, somehow. I am going to do well, for me, and not just to fulfill the expectations of other people. I want this degree. I want to thrive. I want to do this well so that my future business does well.

I have also been praying, but not as often as I should. I said that I would be finding a church soon, and I will… I just haven’t done that yet. I’m meditating more and getting more exercise in, just by walking around campus. I am thankful to the Lord that I have the amazing support system that I do and that so many people are lifting me up and helping me out.

Okay. So the last five weeks haven’t gone exactly as I had pictured they would. I am on the hot mess express. I’m the conductor, I think. Hard work and tough effort don’t always feel great, and sometimes I just want to get off the train. But at least I am moving forward.

I have been emotionally drained, mentally tested, and physically exhausted. But at the end of every day, I acknowledge that I am happy that I am here and that I am taking the step to further my education. I’m proud of myself for making this effort to make my future self happy.

Here’s to the messy bun and to getting stuff done. Here’s to everyone else on this glorious hot mess express. -Elle Renee

“Embrace the glorious mess that you are.” -Elizabeth Gilbert

First Week Line Up

The fourth week of college is finished. My style is already evolving to better fit the campus lifestyle by combining fashion and function.

Starting when I was in high school, I really began caring about my appearance and how I looked. When I was about a sophomore I would wear skinny jeans and a colored cami or fitted t-shirt with a button down cardigan in a neutral color. I wore sneakers or canvas slip-ons and added a patterned scarf or interesting necklace. I wore varieties of this outfit until near the end of my senior year, when I started introducing some sweaters and dressy tops. My hair was always “just so” and I used mousse every single day. I used bobby pins to hold it out of my face and I applied eyeshadow and mascara. It took me an hour and a half to get ready for school, including my shower. (Looking back, I thought I looked very pulled together. I looked smart and mature. It helped me feel like I could get more things crossed off my list.) Now, though, it takes me less than half an hour to put together a different type of outfit each day. However… after I get home from classes, (if I don’t have any other plans for the day) I slip right on in to leggings and comfy t-shirts.

I still like to dress up for class, and I had some pretty good outfits for the first week of school. Each day I wore a different wash of jeans and (because of the snow and ice) I put on my cute (navy and brown) snow boots. Here are the outfit combinations for my first week at U of I:

Monday- The goal for Monday was to look like I tried, but not too hard.. so I decided on a neutral green, cowl-neck sweater and dark wash skinny jeans. For earrings, I went with big, gold hoops. I picked cream sweater-socks that peeked just above my boots. Simple, classy, pulled together, yet completely comfortable.

Tuesday- I wanted to wear something pretty casual, but also something that didn’t make me look frumpy. So I went with the classic flannel. I have SO MANY flannels in SO MANY colors, but I went with the black base and white plaid option. Under that, I wore a plain white, v-neck, loose t-shirt. I picked a light wash, skinny leg for my jeans and I wore ankle socks (not visible) with my boots. My earrings were small, gold hoops with bright red fringe! I felt very cool in this outfit because of the basic colors in my clothing and the pop of color in my earrings.

Wednesday- I had one class and decided to revise my Monday outfit, since it was a different professor and most likely different students, I wasn’t worried about the repeat factor. I wore a charcoal gray cowl-neck sweater and dark wash jeans. I decided to be a little matchy-matchy and picked the same color of sweater socks (charcoal gray) that peeked above my boots. I went with the big, gold hoops again. I felt comfortable, yet cute and stylish in this outfit.

Thursday- On Thursday, I knew that I wanted to try a different style for the week than I had worn so far. So, I went with a medium wash for my jeans in a boyfriend fit and a plain black, v-neck, loose t-shirt. Over that, I wore a light wash chambray shirt (looks like denim, button down style). I chose to forego earrings and also wore my glasses this day. I still wore my boots (with unseen ankle socks). This was the most casual I had been, but I still was more dressed up than many other students, who had already succumbed to the sweatpants and t-shirt style. I was comfy and content in this outfit.

Friday- I decided to wear another flannel, This time I chose a white base with black stripes. I wore a medium gray, v-neck, loose t-shirt under the flannel and a medium wash skinny legged jean with unfinished bottom seams (which gives the jeans a little bit of a fringe effect). I wore light gray sneakers and no earrings, again.

Each day, I went for something a little different, but I chose options I knew I would be comfortable in. From walking to class in the bitter cold to sitting in overheated lecture halls and classrooms, I was super satisfied with all of the outfits I put together. Most of these outfit ensembles are super easy to replicate, so I definitely would encourage you to do so!

As class has gone on, I find myself relying on a few staple pieces in my wardrobe, all of which have been showcased in this blog. The first is a good, well-fitting jean. The second is a top that is comfy and functional, but cute. Third, I find that having some statement jewelry (for me, it’s usually earrings) has been essential to pulling together my outfits.

If you have any comments or questions you can leave a note here, on WordPress, or email me at wildflowerreflections@gmail.com! I would love to hear from you and see the outfits you put together! -Elle Renee

(Special shout out to my roommate who snapped these cool photos for me to post for all of you… Hayley, THANK YOU!)

P.S. Please enjoy some outtakes and bloopers as we were taking pictures for this blog!

Behind the Facade

I try to show how happy I am, but while I sit here trying to think of a fun blog topic, all that is coming through is anxiety and loneliness. No one told me it was going to be this way.

I don’t want this blog to be a pity party, but I do want to be completely transparent and utterly honest. Before this semester, I took a year off school. Not many people know the true reason why, but I feel it’s time to share…

I wanted to die. I wanted to no longer feel the pain of this world and I was ready to give up everything. I felt guilty for that because I didn’t want to leave my family with another trauma to deal with. I didn’t want to leave them, but I did want to leave me. I dropped out of community college and I quit my job. I voluntarily checked into the hospital for psychiatric help about a week before my 20th birthday… it didn’t help and I went home feeling completely worthless.

I spent three months on the couch, not showering some days. I just slept and watched Netflix and cried and slept some more. Eventually, I got in to see my therapist again, but it was slow moving. Progress wasn’t coming easily, and so I was referred to a psychologist. She changed my medication and, with continued therapy, I began to pull myself together. As I have posted before, I finally got a job and now I’m back in school…

Having big dreams is tough for me because I get discouraged while overthinking things (like how many people read my last blog and I wonder if anyone really wants to hear what I have to say). I want to continue to grow and build on the foundation I’m laying, but sometimes life just gets me.

I didn’t expect to be lonely when I got to the University of Iowa. I expected to be super busy almost all the time and I thought I would be hanging out with my friends more often than I have been. I also thought that I would be making friends at a faster rate, but so far it’s just been my roommates.

I miss my dog. So much so, that I considered getting another one. I love the company that my dog provides, but she really wouldn’t do well near the college campus. I miss her so much, in fact, that I am moving to a place she is allowed when my lease is up here (three months from now).

Here’s my silly girl, Dymond.

The number of times I have thought about throwing in the towel on this whole college thing in the few weeks that I have been here is astounding. Almost every morning when I am getting ready for class I think about going home. Nighttime hits me the hardest, though… when I am ready for bed, teeth brushed and pajamas on and just laying in my bed alone, I really crave being home. I want to be snuggled up with my dog and I want my mom to rub my back until I fall asleep. Needless to say, I am not adjusting as well as I thought I would to life on my own. I enjoy the independence and I appreciate that I don’t have anyone telling me what to do. But I miss having someone to go home to (whether it be a human or dog) and I miss being able to eat with my family.

I feel like I have been putting on a mask to get by these first couple weeks. My social anxiety has really been a hinderance on getting to meet people and do things here. My roommates are wonderful and I have enjoyed getting to know them, but I still feel alone. I thought that this whole experience would be going quite differently, so I think I am kind of shocked that I haven’t been doing well.

I have made an appointment to see a counselor through the university, so hopefully I’ll be able to get back into expressing my feelings in a constructive way. If anyone has any advice, I would love to hear it!

Thank you all for hanging with me while I get a grip, here. -Elle Renee

Magnolia Table’s Brownie Pie

Joanna Gaines has a cookbook out called Magnolia Table copyrighted in 2018. It is filled with 328 pages of family stories, delicious recipes, and captivating photos every couple of pages.

Brownies, yum. Pie, also yum. Joanna Gaines has found a way to combine two of the most popular desserts into one decedent, flavorful, wonderful combination… Brownie Pie.

With the weather being as harsh as it is, and has been, my roommates and I have been wondering what to do with all our time. All of a sudden, it occurred to me that we haven’t cooked or baked together yet. So I asked Hayley if she wanted to bake something with me. We searched through pages and pages of recipes, first on Pinterest and then in Magnolia Table. We saw the image of the Brownie Pie and shared a look of excitement. That would be our recipe for the evening.

So, we began to read the instructions… we had to make a pie crust, which neither of us had done before. Let me tell you, this venture was an adventure, beginning to end.

Okay. We have all the ingredients out. We’re combining these ingredients together and by this point, Hayley’s hands are covered in butter and flour. Once we get to the right consistency, we have to chill this pie crust dough… I didn’t know that things had to chill. I thought this was going to be a fast, easy process. Oh well, we have come to far to go back now.

(Our roommate Hallie had been out thus far with her vehicle, as it had not been starting earlier in the day. She was working on getting a plan together… which involved knocking on our neighbors’ doors to see if someone could move their car so she could get her car jumped…)

Hallie comes in and asks us what we are baking. Hayley and I happily reply, “Brownie Pie!”

“Umm, do we even have a pie tin?” Hallie questions. We rummaged through all the cupboards… we do not have a pie tin. We do, however, have a cupcake pan. We decide to make mini brownie pies!

When the pie crust dough is chilled appropriately, Hayley and I begin to shape sections in the cupcake slots. Her mini crusts look better than mine, but it will taste the same.

Once the crusts were all cute and similar (kind of) in size and thickness, we begin the brownie batter. We mix the chocolate and sugar, flour and eggs, and whatever else we needed. There is too much batter for our little, bitty, mini pies. At this point, Hallie is observing our interesting baking adventure. She suggests that we just use the rest of the batter in a normal pan and have some normal brownies (she really helps us with common sense sometimes).

Then we put the mini brownie pies and the normal brownie in the oven, where they cook for about an hour. During this time the three of us decide to watch a Trevor Noah comedy special on Netflix. We’re sitting there, laughing at this show, smelling the brownies in the oven, wishing it was time to take them out and chow down.

Finally, the time comes! I get the mini brownie pies out of the oven and…. they look so cute and so yummy! The regular brownie also looks good, but we’re all eyeing those little pies.

We pop them out of the cupcake pan and set them on a plate. I took pictures (because I was extremely proud of how they came out) and then we ate.

Luckily, they were pretty tasty- We succeeded! At my next family event, I just might be brining these wonderful tiny treats!

The chocolate chips we added to the batter began to bubble out the top- so yummy!

Before we ate, but after the photos, we dusted these beauties with powdered sugar 
(which Hayley proceeded to spill on the couch…)
In this image you can see more chocolate chips that melted into the center of the brownie pies.

Skating to Class

It’s been an adventure. Today, it seemed that almost every school in Iowa was closed. But not the universities!

When I woke up, I didn’t even think to check the weather. As a college student, who has to face the elements every day, one would think I would check the forecast more often… but I don’t.

I did look outside, though. And it looked quite unappealing out there. I could tell it was icy and I dreaded going to class. I decided to look online to see if my brother had school. He did not… Neither did over half of all the schools in Iowa, it seemed. I said a silent prayer for the university to have cancelled classes… alas, they did not.

So I got showered and dressed. I ate breakfast. I began to walk to class. Within the first 2 minutes of my walk, I almost slipped 3 times. I continued to ice skate to class on the sidewalks and thanked God that I didn’t actually fall. Now, I’m not back to my apartment yet and there is still quite a bit of walking to do… but hopefully I will not fall (I fear that if I fall I’ll break a bone, and as a college student… I just don’t have time for that).

Life Connection: Sometimes life can be slippery, but with enough support, (like the facility workers who sand the sidewalks around campus and a pair of good boots) we can get to where we need to be in one whole piece.

I hope all my readers are having a safe and cozy Tuesday! -Elle Renee

These boots have some good traction- and they are not too yucky, surprisingly!

Following Dreams, Yet Staying On the Ground

I have big dreams. I have discussed these dreams before. They’re hard to reach, but I’m still aiming high. I also am a student. I have obligations. Dreaming and reality can be hard to mix, but I’m doing it.

At this point, I am enrolled in 13 credits at the University of Iowa. I work part-time retail job. I have homework and friends. I need to have some independent relaxation time. That’s a lot of stuff vying for my attention. And then I add in Wildflower Reflections. My dream. The part of my life that takes me up into the sky with the realm of possibilities that it can become. That I can make it become.

When I first began thinking about Wildflower Reflections by Elle Renee, I decided that I would be successful in at least one aspect of it (the blog, the apparel, or the home decor). I, obviously, want to be successful in all three of these… but my feet are still firmly planted on the ground.

To be honest, in the real world of classes and homework and work and social life, I have been discouraged. I don’t actually know how to make this dream work. I have no clue how to get it off the ground. I don’t know how to reach more people with my blog or what they all want to read about next.

I have continued to blog, but I haven’t been able to publish more than two posts per week. That’s an okay amount, but I felt that when I started off there was a fire under me that’s now been restricted to a single flame. I promised myself that I would not let the blaze fade out, but I need help with that. I don’t know who to ask for help with this endeavor though, and I don’t know what my options are.

Right now, I will continue to post on the blog about twice a week. I will continue to dream about the clothing that I will create and the dishes I will design. I will keep thinking big, while going to class. I will keep finding inspiration, while hanging out with friends. I will keep dreaming this crazy dream of mine. Hopefully someday I will find that my feet are still on the ground, but in my dream instead of on a college campus.

If anyone has any suggestions or feedback, let me know! -Elle Renee

Photo Credit: Caraline Grebner

College.

This has been an adjustment… Walking to class. Strange schedules. Cooking for one.

When I started class just a few days ago, in some ways, I didn’t know what to expect. I have been to college before, but not to any place this big. And let me tell you- this campus is BIG.

The closest class to me is about a 20-25 minute walk from my apartment, if I don’t have too slow of a pace. The furthest class takes be upwards of 35 minutes and I dread it (it’s only once week though, so I can deal). But part of the point is… back home, I could walk around my entire town in about 35 minutes. That is crazy.

I don’t mind walking and there are many benefits (exercise, fresh air, etc.). Thankfully there has been no actual snow while I have been going to or coming from class, but the wind gets me quite often. Also, I start to sweat. Like, I am kind of (a lot) out of shape. Everybody here says that I will get better and my body will be used to walking in a few weeks… but right now my calves are sore. I mean, has anyone seen some of these hills around campus?! I have to go UP them!

Not only do I have to walk to Timbuktu every Monday (and sometimes Wednesday), but my other classes carry me to completely different buildings with 10 or 20 minutes to get to the next place. I can usually deal with a crazy schedule, but it can be a struggle to get to and from some of the buildings as a new student. I don’t quite know my way around yet. Luckily, I am getting a bit of a feel for it.

I haven’t begun working yet, so when I am done with my classes and crazy schedule, I have been walking back to my new apartment to do homework and readings, watch Netflix, and work on Wildflower Reflections by Elle Renee. I also try to get some healthy meals in… but I have never had to cook for just one person before.

Cooking independently is something I am used to. Back home, I would do a lot of the cooking for my family, especially since I tended to be home when dinner needed to be started. Here, though, I can cook whenever I want and I only have to cook for myself. The first meal I made, there was so much extra that I just told my roommates to have some (which they did, and said it was good)! I’ve been sticking to sandwiches and single serve fruit-cups for the most part. Those are easy! I’ll be working on incorporating veggies next… I may have neglected to purchase any at my last trip to the grocery store.

So far, I love the independence I have already established for myself here at college. I enjoy being able to do what I want, when I want, with who I want. However, I miss my dog. She barks too much for her to come live with me though, and she needs a fenced in back yard where she can run.

This round of college has been quite an adventure so far, and I’m not even a full week in! I am so thrilled to see where else this adventure will take me. Hopefully it’s accessible by car.

Photo Credit: Caitlyn Grebner

Reflections: Three of the Best Trends of 2018

Fashion. Food. Family.

Trends are everywhere we look, everywhere we eat, and everywhere we go. Some are better than others, so here is a list of Elle Renee’s thoughts for the Three Best Trends of 2018!

Body inclusivity. More and more stores and brands have begun to include extended sizes, plus sizes, or alternative options for different body shapes. Aerie is a branch of American Eagle that launched a “Girl Power, Body Positivity, No Retouching” campaign and I was all about that. This brand has undergarments in cute and comfy sizes and styles that are made for “real” women. By “real” the campaign made it easier for women to feel more self confident in one of the situations that many women feel overwhelmed by (shopping for undergarments). Shout out to Aerie for advertising through this type of campaign!

Effective Diets. An example is the ketogenic diet. This diet was pretty great, and one of my aunts is continuing this one throughout the new year. By cutting out carbohydrates and unhealthy sugars, your body adjusts into a state of ketosis. This means that your body starts to use the fat already stored on your body and gains energy from the stored fat. You can lose weight quickly, and keep it off by simply continuing to eat a Keto-friendly diet. I tried this diet for only a couple days, but I didn’t follow through… mostly because I LOVE BREAD and bread is carbohydrates. Kudos to Aunt Carrie, though, for sticking to it and following through with this!

Family Style Tables. More and more often in furniture stores and homes you can see these gorgeous tables. They are longer than a typical dining table so that more people can gather to share a meal. These tables are not only perfect for larger families, but they are wonderful for people who love entertaining and who have guests over often. Even if you have a smaller family, if you have the space, these tables can just create an enjoyable atmosphere everyone will want to gather in!

Thanks for reading! Comment what you think about these or other great trends you noticed for 2018! -Elle Renee

Photo Credit: Maddie Herring and Holly Appleton

Blessed Like a Beautiful Morning

I moved in to a new apartment and I begin classes Monday morning… and Jesus is reaching out for me.

I have been filled with anxiety and nervousness about this move and beginning classes again, as well as all of the changes that come with those things. I have been watching my feet, making sure that I am taking the exact right steps, the exact right path… only to realize that Jesus has me. He has me wrapped up in his gracious and holy love.

Have you ever been outside on a fresh, crisp morning? Just going about doing whatever it is you have to do? And then it dawns on you… It is beautiful… The sky is like a sweet, pastel pink with shades of purple and red and orange… The air is fresh, you can breathe deeply… The birds are singing their perfect morning songs… and you know that God is good.

I recently read Psalm 16 and it was a refresher, just like those lovely mornings. I usually forget to take them in, especially in the winter. Psalm 16:8 says, “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.”

How many times have I just forgotten that Jesus is right by my side? He loves me and He will not let me fall. He lets me learn and helps me to understand that I am only human- never perfect.

There are some moments (many moments, actually) that I forget to take in the wondrous beauty that is my life. I have a family who loves me and friends who encourage me. I have a roof over my head and shoes under my feet. I have clothes on my back and love in my soul. And I have Jesus. Even if I didn’t have anything else, I would have Him. And for that, for having Jesus, I am blessed.

As I fumble my way around this big, new place that is the University of Iowa, I pray that I remember to let my Lord keep control. I pray that He continues to surround me in His everlasting love and that He guides me to wherever this life is going. But most of all, I pray that you, too, can see the beauty in the mornings, even the cold, Iowan, January winter ones. Because in the exact way that Jesus has me, he has you.