We Went to California – Joshua Tree


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The quick trip I just mentioned that Josh & I took to CA at the end of March was a desert trip! Raise your hand if you’re surprised.. (No one? Huh..) We spent a couple of nights in Joshua Tree and a couple of nights an hour away in Palm Springs. In Joshua Tree we rented a beautiful home through Airbnb. It was about 10 minutes outside of town and on 5 acres of land. Lots to explore!


That land is so completely unforgiving – burning hot days and cold nights – but our house was cozy and welcoming. And loaded with plants, so, kindred spirits. It felt so good to be away from regular life, especially after a hard winter, and I can’t put into words how wonderful that sun felt.


We were on Michigan time the first few mornings so we were up and exploring before the sun. Watching the moon go down as the sun rose, I dunno.. Magical.


And! Jackrabbits were everywhere! The owners had to fence off all of their landscaping that wasn’t established because the bunnies eat it. Anytime we went out on a walk we’d see them scatter in the distance.


Every night we waited for the coyotes to come out but we never heard them. Josh had a habit of sitting out back until it got too cold to handle. But can you blame him?


We spent one day hiking/exploring in Joshua Tree National Park, which was really the reason for staying there. It was a great time of year to go – not too hot (I CANNOT imagine going in the full summer heat!) and the wildflowers were blooming. YES.


Josh picked a few “easy” hikes for us to do – even in those my lungs were challenged at times but that’s a good thing. Trying too much and hating the whole experience would have been a big bummer. I’m thankful that Josh is so good at finding those happy mediums.






We also drove a lot – this cholla garden is at the very southern end of the park, a distance from any of the hiking we did. We were shocked that there was no water access anywhere in the park! I guess that’s just the Michigan in us, but I figured at least a few of the restrooms would have something. NOPE. The biggest surprise was that it was never mentioned anywhere. Like, if you’re coming for 2 hours, bring oh I don’t know, 5 gallons of water because it’s the desert and deserts are VERY HOT AND DRY.

Thankfully we did have enough water but we would’ve probably gone through twice as much if it had been an option. So, there’s a PSA for anyone planning future Joshua Tree trips.


Baby Joshua tree!


“Everybody’s talkin’ bout my tight pants, I got my tight pants, I got my tight pants on!” We sang this a lot during this part of the trip, hah. It was thoroughly stuck in my head. You know.

Coming back to this bed after a hot, dusty, hike-y day was the BEE’S KNEES.


Josh did “harvest” himself a few cacti on this trip (don’t worry! Not at the park!) so he wasn’t AS tempted by this sign, but oh my word they saw us coming didn’t they?


My favorite stop in Joshua Tree? Duh, small town gift shops will always have my heart. I’m 34 grown years old and still can’t resist. Of course I bought prickly pear candy and prickly pear chapstick. As one does. I’d also like to dedicate this picture (below) to my parents and brother who waited for me to shop in many such stores over the years, with varying degrees of patience.



Joshua Tree was everything we’d hoped for and we want to go back. Like, soon. If you’re not quite sick of seeing it, here’s a little video of our time there. BE NICE (or at least not mean), it’s my first video ever!

If you’re on a mobile device you might not be able to see it, so here’s the YouTube link.

A Vacation, A New Niece, And Great Strides


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Ace Hotel Palm Springs

Can I combine three big posts into one little one today? Thanks.

  1. Josh & I just got home (well a week ago now) from California – my biggest goal right now is to break my “wait a year to post about it” habit and show you some pictures pretty soon. Me and my big goals, huh? Our trip was partially to celebrate our 10th anniversary (which was in January but I was actually in the hospital in Ann Arbor and we weren’t really feeling celebrate-y right then). It was a long winter! We reeeallly loved this trip.
  2. My sister-in-law Jess is due to have Baby #3 very soon! Like this week kind of soon! We’ve been hanging out with Thomas and Jane more because she’s been on bed rest and having a hard time with debilitating headaches. She is going to be VERY happy to be on the other side of this pregnancy.
  3. I just checked the calendar and was shocked to see that the CF Foundation’s Great Strides walk for Grand Rapids is coming up on May 7 this year. We would LOVE for you to join our walk team and as always we are grateful for any donations toward CF research! Here’s a link for more info —> aaaand I’m sorry in advance for the terrible quality of our team pic from last year. What is this, 1985? Seriously, though, May 7. See you there?!

OKAY SO that’s all for now. There’s definitely more to say on all of this, but all in good time!

We Went To Arizona – Sedona & Phoenix


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I can’t believe I went the whole last post without raving about the Airbnb cabin we stayed in while visiting Sedona. This place! My word. I hope to go back someday.

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Judging a book by its cover totally worked again. It was completely irresistible!

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Our cabin was on the same property as the owner’s farmhouse and they had chickens. So, eggs for breakfast every day, cooked on this adorable mini stove in a mini kitchen.

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..With this view to stare out at!


Our host made the mistake of telling us that javelinas live in the area and they often come up on the deck at night to eat her flowers. So, obvs, I got obsessed with seeing my very first javelina and COULD NOT SLEEP. One night we (embarrassingly) got up with a flashlight and went javelina hunting.

Never saw one, guess we’ll have to go back.

Ugh. I just googled “javelina” to make sure I spelled it right and the disappointment of missing out on a sighting in the wild came rushing back.


Our last stop on the way out of town was Montezuma’s Castle (not very thrilling, if I’m honest). We went back to Phoenix for one night before our flight home.


Since we only had the one night in Phoenix we spent most of our time checking out the mid-century/vintage shopping scene. I’d like this building, please. And make sure the orange trees (!!!) come with.



Worth noting – that beverage in my hand was a lavender latte. Life was so good that day.





Our last dinner in Arizona was spent in the open air as the sun set. Should I repeat that in all caps? Because that’s how I felt about it.


We did have a brief visit to the hotel pool. We (I) spent it preparing our strategy for successfully making it through security at the airport.. Kinda took the “just relax” vibe away but at least the photo looks inviting?


Ain’t that the truth. Missing you, Arizona!

Welp. Thanks for sticking around through all these photos and stories from last year, guys. I know it seems silly but selfishly I like being able to look back at these posts. Hopefully you found something interesting too!

Onward and upward!

We Went to Arizona – Sedona


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Josh and I were excited to go to Sedona and get our share of red rock living, but on the way out of town from Tucson we had a couple stops to make. One for me, one for him. For me: plant shopping. For him: exploring a canyon. No surprises here.


We stopped at a couple different desert landscaping spots and I was completely in my element. It was like going to the zoo but for people who like plants.


The biggest difference being, you can buy these guys and at super affordable prices compared to what they cost in stores at home in Michigan.


Naturally I needed one of each.




After permission was granted by Josh and the lady behind the counter who said people bring cacti on the plane “all the time”, I assembled an armful to bring home. It felt like the stupidest thing in the world and the best thing in the world all at once.



When you look at this box, remember that we already had suitcases full of rocks – and my aerosol machine which is often mistaken for a bomb or at least something suspicious. Now we were adding a box of live pokey plants, launching ourselves to “Most Interesting Slash Suspicious People at Airport Security” status.


Next souvenir purchase? Prickly pear candy because WHEN IN ROME. I embrace it. It’s the easiest way to go. I also recommend getting signature drinks anytime that’s an option, btw. Part of the experience, people.


Anyway, we took the tram up Sabino Canyon and it was a really beautiful ride. It was us and a bunch of retirees with sunhats, cameras, and water bottles, which I think is the definition of Arizona in February? (#GOALS)



This completely unlivable hot and dry environment somehow grows these bizarre plants that live longer than humans, it really is mind boggling.

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And so beautiful!


Hooookay. So anyway, that was Sabino canyon and cactus shopping. We got to our Airbnb near Sedona after dark that night and headed out hiking the next day.






We forgot our carefully packed lunch at the cabin so by the time we came back to the car after hiking we were severely hangry. We owe our lives to this little cafe that served insanely delicious (and expensive) sandwiches. Can we talk for a minute about the genius of the blankets on each chair? It’s the type of place that is hot in the sun and freezing in the shade and whoever came up with that pretty, smart solution deserves a raise. That’s all.


I thought that would be such a fun thing, picking up that stupid prickly pear pad. And it was. SUPER fun having invisibly tiny needles in my fingers for DAYS. Can’t wait for the chance to do that again.


Here I am showing a stranger which button to press on my camera to take a photo of us and she beat me to the punch. I don’t know, is this funny to you guys? I get a huge kick out of it. So much so that I’m starting to seek out these awkward opportunities. Yikes.


But, not half bad, right?!


Gosh. What a beautiful place.

We Went to Arizona – Tucson


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Facts about this post:

  1. Contents are very outdated (picture a year and a month here)
  2. Because of that you may not be interested in said contents.
  3. Really it’s just my digital photo album with some descriptions, soo..
  4. If you can live with #1-3, there may be something here for you.

We went to the Tucson gem show in Feb 2015 with my parents, and Josh & I went a couple days early (messy snowy weather at home led to my parents being delayed TWO DAYS) to explore the area. Any chance we get to hang out in the desert, especially in February, we’ll take it!

We especially loved the Saguaro National Park. It’s bananas.

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“Right this way, sir..”


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If you KNEW how many cactus photos are stored on my computer you’d be really impressed with my restraint here. Even still I can guarantee some of you will be over-cactus-ed by the time we’re done talking about this trip.

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This really is the sunset! Still dying over this one.


Once my parents arrived we did some exploring around Tucson but we were staying out in the country at an Airbnb. It was weird and great and kinda in the middle of nowhere.


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I mean how perfectly “southwestern” is this place?

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I am somewhat embarrassed to say that this front window sold me on the listing when I was browsing Airbnb. It was basically judging a book by the cover (which I do all the time) (you know you do too).

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Hi Dad & Mom!

The four of us walked our legs off at the gem show for a couple of days.. It takes over the city in outdoor tents, hotel lobbies, and convention centers. There’s probably no way to see everything..

Some venues require credentials to get into because they are intended for wholesale buying within the trade, and in those spots we saw some world class gems. I still have stars in my eyes.


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Josh and I have a huge 60+ pound slab of petrified wood at home and we were excited to meet this vendor and learn a little bit about how he sources, cuts, and sells it. Spoiler alert: we all came home with suitcases full of rocks.


Not this rock though.


Not these “rocks” either.

Pictures were frowned upon by a lot of the gem vendors but I mean you have to sneak one here and there.


I got set on buying a chunk of a pretty rock to bring home for the mantle or whatever, and for a while my #1 choice was this aquamarine that Josh is holding. It was such a pretty iceberg color. It ended up getting dethroned but I still like it.


We were so focused on the shows that we never got a picture together until the morning we parted ways – Mom and Dad for home, and Josh & I for Sedona.

Thank you, stranger in a hotel parking lot, for this awkward shot.

So there it is, Tucson!

From there Josh & I did some desert exploring (more cactus photos coming your way!) and then landed in Sedona.


2015 Things


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Hey guys, happy 2016! We made it to the other side of the holidays!

That, by the way, was NOT easy around here this year. But we made it. I just wanted to pop in and let you know that my amaryllis is about to bloom. Whoop!

I guess there’s a lot that went unsaid around here this year, not on purpose, but it happened. Soo I thought I’d catch you up on a few things 2015 for Josh & I.

Favorite things include: Tucson/Sedona in February (I still have some great pics to share with you from that trip, but you know I like to wait at LEAST a year before sharing travel pics), a random but fun feature of our home on Design Sponge in March, a girl’s weekend in FL with my friend April, a fun summer around West MI with a couple fun weekends away in the Traverse City area, Josh becoming the director of the Upward Bound program that he’s worked in for 11 years now, exploring Atlanta/Savannah/Tybee Island in September, and finding out that we have a niece on the way this coming May (Mark and Jess’s third) as well as my friend Molly’s baby girl coming the SAME WEEK.

Not favorite things include: Probably a few things, but why dwell, but mostly I got sick in early December and was suddenly on IV therapy through the holidays. It’s happened before, but this time the meds hit pretty hard and it was a whole lot of not fun. After an extended fall season of being nice and healthy, BOOM. It hit. I did a really bad job of letting friends/family know what was going on because it caught me a little sideways and frankly I was just trying not to barf most of the time. Mark was sick right along with me and we were both doing IV’s – he’s freshly off and we’re looking forward to things improving around our houses! I would still very much appreciate your prayers, as post-treatment my lungs feel too small for comfort and I’m really hoping that they’ll improve as I get back into the pool, etc.

Other weird things: Josh bought himself a 35-year-old saguaro cactus after our AZ trip (shoulda seen that coming), I memorized almost all of Romans 8 with our church but never got to the last few verses (and they’re my favorite ones, so I guess it’s time to finish that off!), we bought a new fridge on Black Friday after living in our house for 8 years (it was going to happen “right away” but we just never did it and you really should’ve SEEN the old one), we had a new roof done this summer after years of literal leaks into the living room and bad patch jobs, OH and our 10th anniversary is coming up in 9 days! We should probably start talking about that…


2015, you weren’t perfect, but you were a good year! We’re thankful for the good, and to the bad? SMELL YA LATER.

Thanks for stopping by! BTW I’m a lot more regular on Instagram if you’re interested – @suzannebrandsen AND @selectedandcollected.



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Yesterday this box arrived via Fed Ex and I wanted you guys to know about it because it involves many of you! This is my first month’s worth of a brand new medication for treating Cystic Fibrosis – Orkambi. Throughout my life, many of you have prayed for my health (and my brother Mark’s) and given financially to CF research. I even participated in a Phase Two study for this med. So to be able to show you that it’s HERE is pretty fun!

In some ways this is just another new med, of which there have been a handful in my lifetime. We have been advised that the positive changes to our health will most likely be slight. But positive change is worth fighting for on any level, right?!

In other ways, this new med is different from any others. It is a pill (YAY, not another aerosol!), which I’m happy about! Also it is not an antibiotic or something that treats symptoms. It actually works against CF at the most basic level (so specific, right? Sorry, I haven’t had my coffee yet). This is a big step forward research-wise and closer to correcting the gene problem than anything before it. So that’s exciting!

Thanks for investing in CF research. My cousin’s (8 year old?) son told me this week that I’m “so mature” (heh) — obvious proof that CF is not a “children’s disease” anymore like it used to be!

Sleeping Bear Dunes and a Job Update


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Sleeping Bear Dunes

You guys. First, HE GOT THE JOB!!! But while writing this I can’t help but be super distracted by these photos. Have you BEEN to Sleeping Bear Dunes? We went last weekend while we were up north, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. I guess it’s pretty easy to see why.

This was the perrrrrrfect distraction from waiting to hear about a job. Can you imagine anything better?

Sleeping Bear Dunes

SO. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, scroll back to the last post to get the background info.. But Josh just found out that he is the new director of Upward Bound at GVSU! He is happy and relieved and ready to just, you know, do work. He’s been the interim director for a while and he’s been edging into the job for years now, so in some ways this is no biggie. BUT. The issues that swirl through offices and programs and universities and committees were real, and they could have derailed everything. So thanks for your prayers during this time of upheaval! It’s been a crazy ride.

Josh did have a binder full of people who wrote letters of recommendation, notes of support from students, and all sorts of incredible proof that he’s right for this position. I believe that God has gifted him generously with the right type of abilities to work in these environments- the classroom, the office, the university, the state-wide organization, and the nation-wide organization. And I’m SO thankful that he gets the chance to utilize these gifts where he WANTS to. Know what I mean?

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So anyway, there’s that.

I’m really sorry to the people who are reading about this for the 45th time, after Instagram, FB, or personal conversation.. But thanks for hanging in there!

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P.S. ALSO. He got his braces taken off today! This guy right here is living the LIFE right now, I’d say.



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Oh geez, I’ve been neglecting the blog again. UGH. Sorry, guys.

I wanted to let you know, though, in case you haven’t heard – Josh has a big job interview tomorrow. He has been working at Grand Valley State University for the Upward Bound program for 11 years now and tomorrow will be interviewing to be the director of the program. (He gets a lot of questions about what he “does”. Right now he spends about half his time teaching/tutoring in two different high schools of Grand Rapids Public Schools, and the other half doing administrative work for this program. To qualify for the program, the high school kids must either be from a low income home or be (future) first generation college students.. Most are both. The point of the program is to support these students and prepare them for college.)

He has been burning the midnight oil for days preparing for this interview, and tomorrow’s the day! So we would greatly appreciate your prayers. Given everything he has done for the program and the university, and the schools, and the students, he should be a shoo-in for the role. (There is a whooooooole lot I could say here, obviously!) He is even the interim director now. BUT unfortunately it isn’t that “easy” and university politics and agendas have a very real chance of taking over. So if you would, just pray for the best for the program and for Josh’s life.

Thanks guys! Interview’s at 1:00 tomorrow (Monday), we’ll keep you posted – hopefully with good news!