Remembering Leslie Sisti

Leslie Sisti

Leslie Sisti of A Blonde Ambition

It’s with a heavy heart and tearful eyes that I write this post about my friend and co-worker, Leslie Sisti, who passed away on Sunday from a heart condition. She was only 30-years old and left behind two babies, as well as a loving husband and countless friends. The immense amount of sorrow created by her loss is proportional to the measure of joy she brought to this world. She was such a gift to many.

I was honored to have worked with Leslie at Mitchell Communications for several years. We worked closely as writers, so I had a chance to witness and admire her creativity, humor and wit firsthand. We also grew to become friends, which is what I’m most thankful for today. We’d swap working-mom stories, laugh at SNL skits, and occasionally cry on each other’s shoulder.

What I loved most about Leslie was her joyful, optimistic spirit. She was life’s cheerleader…quick to listen, lend a helping hand, or offer words of encouragement – no matter what she was going through personally. When I would question my own writing, she’d be there to pick me up and tell me to keep writing. In fact, she’s the one who gave me the courage to start this blog. And she knows a thing or two about blogging.

In addition to writing at work, Leslie was a well-known fashion blogger with followers all over the world. As you can imagine, she always looked impeccable with the most stylish clothes, perfect shoes, and right amount of sparkle. She had a way of being fashionable without being fussy. That’s what was so magnetic about her and drew thousands to her blog each week. Leslie was a down-to-earth, Southern gal who made everyone feel welcome. She was the definition of style, grace and beauty.

As I sat through her memorial service this afternoon, which felt surreal, it was evident that Leslie was a shining light to so many people in our community. I’m sure all of us were thinking about how devastating and unfair this situation is for her sweet family. I can’t even think about those two babies without stopping the tears. The only thing any of us can do is pray and lean on our faith. Faith that Leslie is now in God’s loving hands and free from any pain or struggle. Faith that He will comfort and heal her family. Faith that we will know how to help and what to say. Faith that Leslie’s joyful spirit will carry on in the many lives she touched. And faith that we will one day reunite with our sweet, dear friend.

Until that day, let’s part with the words of Leslie herself. She always signed off with “Be Blessed Lovelies,” and that’s exactly what I wish for you today.

-Kate

I encourage all of you to read Leslie’s blog, as she had many inspiring and lovely things to share over the years.

Also, an account has been set up to help with her girls’ college and eventually wedding funds. Please visit and help support them if you can.

http://www.gofundme.com/d53bgd5p8s

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Friday Wrap: Gardening Edition

sunny friday

Happy Friday, friends! It’s been a scorcher out there. We’re talking full sun and temps in the mid to upper 90s. So what better activity than getting outside and overhauling your entire garden? Insert scarcastic emoji here.

This all started because we decided to pull and haul out more than 20 overgrown bushes from around our house last week. Here’s the “before.”

gardening makeover

I couldn’t exactly leave it be and risk getting contacted by our homeowners’ association garden & weed police. I swear it’s a thing. And you don’t want to upset them.

So, this week kicked off with a plant binge at the garden store. I love shopping – and plants. My heart was full. And after hours of blood (minor cut on my foot), sweat (from sweltering summer heat), and tears (from said sweat in eyes), my yard had transformed into a flowering bliss. At least more than its previous condition.

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Now that my plant babies are in the ground and growing nicely, I want to keep them strong. With that, I’m finally getting to my Five on Friday list – the Gardener’s Edition.

Five Things to Feed Your Plants

{ONE} Epsom Salt

This is made of Magnesium Sulfate, which are two minerals crucial to healthy plant life. To use, dissolve 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt per gallon of water, and substitute this solution for normal watering at least once a month. Genious – and inexpensive!

{TWO} Vegetable Cooking Water

Next time you boil a pot of brussel sprouts or other veggies, save the water for your plants. The water has tons of nutrients your garden thrives on. Wait for the water to cool before sharing with your plants.

{THREE} Crushed Egg Shells

Egg shells are a double-whammy in the garden. They not only provide a calcium boost to your plants, but also help keep the slugs away. So next time you make omelets, wash and save those shells. Your plants with thank you.

{FOUR} Bananas

When planting (especially roses), bury a sliced banana peel in the hole next to the plant. This provides much-needed potassium that plants need for proper growth.

{FIVE} Your Fingers

You don’t technically feed your fingers to your plants – unless you have venus flytraps. I included this on the list because it’s important to use your hands to pinch any dead blooms (called deadheading) and pluck surrounding weeds that could choke the growth of your plants. It’s like releasing the plants so they can feed on all of the good stuff you’ve provided above.

That’s a wrap!

Have a great weekend. Stay cool, and I’ll see you next week with some straight up organizational tips and other random musings.

-Kate

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Career Thoughts for Your Kids

While the twins and I were driving in the car yesterday, we somehow got on the topic of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Clara has such a tender heart and loves animals of all shapes and sizes. Avery is incredibly creative and loves painting, writing, singing, dancing…any activity that’s expressive.

My first instinct was to offer typical career choices.

I told Clara she’d be a great veterinarian; and I told Avery she’d make a tremendous art teacher. As the ideas came out of my mouth, though, I felt like I had closed them into such small boxes. Those don’t have to be their only choices, and I don’t want them to feel obligated to those ideas.

I tried to quickly recall my message – like you do with an email that’s sent to the wrong person – and told them that those were just a few ideas, and they could explore lots of options.

That’s when the exciting ideas came. Clara imagined she could have a dog-sitting service or train animals to help people in need. Avery decided she could own a craft store or become a famous singer that inspires people. The conversation was not only more productive, but also more joyful.

After this experience, I realized that instead of asking my kids what they want to be when they grow up, I should just ask what makes them happy.

Sounds simple enough. But once they’ve figured this out, it can then be my job to help them remember, help them hold on to this passion, and encourage them to explore ways to use their gifts to make the world a better place.

It’s totally okay if their personal mission doesn’t line up with existing jobs. Many jobs are becoming extinct – and new ones are being created every day.

If you need a boost in your own career choices or development, think back to when you were 10 years old. What did you love more than anything? Are you doing it today – if not in your career, at least in your hobbies? Figuring this out is a miraculous first step to being joyful – and feeling purposeful. 

If you need an even bigger boost, check out this inspirational presentation by Casey Gerald. My inspiring friend, Mary Eliff, recently shared this with me. It was part of a Creative Mornings lecture series, and has been one (if not the only) speech to receive a standing ovation with this group.

Hopefully it will make you feel inspired. If so, be sure to pass it on. The world needs more inspired people.

Have an incredibly productive day.

-Kate

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A Natural Spray to Keep the Mosquitoes Away

Remember the family reunion I recently told you about?

family tee

This is a picture of the cute t-shirts we received. #familyiseverything

The event gave me a chance to catch up with crazy-fun relatives AND walk away with the most amazing mosquito repellant. Kind of random, I know. But the location of our family gathering was in Minnesota where they say the state bird is the mosquito. Others call it Minneskeeta. It’s all fairly accurate.

State Bird

My cousins whipped up batches of homemade (and all-natural) mosquito repellant for the entire family.

Now that I’m back in Arkansas, where it has been raining since I returned, the mosquitoes are breeding faster than the rabbits. I’ve been using my spray almost daily and thought it was worth a share. (I’ll be making a fresh batch this week. See how low my supply is getting?!)

organic mosquito repellant

You can get these little spray bottles from Walmart near the travel-size essentials.

Below is the full recipe that’s also featured on our online family recipe book, which is tabbed neatly on our family website. (See where I get my Type-A tendencies?!)

mosquito repellent recipeIngredients

  • 15 drops of lavender essential oil
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup witch hazel
  • 1 cup distilled water
  • Spray bottle

Directions

  • Combine first four ingredients in a 16 oz measuring cup.
  • Fill to the 16 oz mark with the distilled water (about 1 cup).
  • Stir and transfer to spray bottle.

I hope this is helpful. (It also smells really nice.) You’ll have to let me know how it works or if you have other recipes and tips for keeping those darn bugs away!

-Kate

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Friday Wrap: Summer Fun

Happy Friday, friends! Here’s my list of five faves so far. (I always love a good string of alliteration. #wordnerd)

To start things off, Clara and I have a tiny, but joyful, thing to show you…

{ONE} The First Tomato of the Season!

homegrown tomato

We’ve been nurturing that little thing, and it was finally time to pick it from the vine this week. In celebration of our finally fruiting plant, here’s a recipe for Fresh Tomato and Herbed Ricotta Bruschetta that will make you go “yum.”

{TWO} Vox Box Winner: nanoblur

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I received my first Vox Box this week from Influenster! It was the #IdoVoxBox, and I had been eagerly anticipating its arrival. It didn’t disappoint. Once I dislodged it from the mailbox, which is a whole ‘nother story, I found a bundle of seven treats to try. I carefully examined and sampled each and awarded indeed nanoblur the grand prize for making my life better. It goes on a bit thick, so dabbing is better, but once it was applied my skin instantly looked smoother. Two thumbs up from this girl.

Vox Box

This was the full #IdoVoxBox (P.S. The Sahale cashews and Skinnygirl snack bar tied for second. Super delish!!)

{THREE} Lindsay Letters

One of my work friends (shout out to Sarah Doretti) recently shared this designer with me, and I have been shopping around her site ever since. I love her style and choice of phrases. You can find a few selected pieces at Hobby Lobby, but as you can see in the pic, there’s a Christmas in July sale happening right on the Lindsay Letters’ site, so be sure to take advantage of it while you can!

{FOUR} Bush Overhaul

garden

While it looks like a mess, this event made Momma Kate super happy. Consider this your classic “before” picture.

We had way too many bushes in our garden. They were taking over like giant weeds. So we had them removed. Not all of them, but at least a dozen were hauled away this week. This leaves me with a rather large gardening project this weekend, but you know I love a good project. Any thoughts on some must-have plants? I like a cottage garden look.

{FIVE} Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc

A solid week’s worth of work deserves a tasty glass of wine. Don’t you think? I love a chilled glass of Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc on a hot summer day. In fact, I think there’s a bottle calling my name right now.

That’s a wrap. I hope you have a relaxing weekend. Be sure to checkout the other great bloggers through Five on Friday >>

Cheers!

-Kate

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Color Your Stress Away

Not much could soothe my childhood soul more than a box of fresh crayons and the crisp pages of a new coloring book. I’d spend hours at a time in a zen-like state carefully decorating each section of my picture. There were no real pressures. I didn’t have to color by a specific deadline, within a particular budget – or even inside the thick, pre-planned lines. I could simply sit and enjoy the act of coloring.

What a joyful thing to experience.

It’s no wonder adult coloring books are a growing trend right now. Have you seen them? It’s really a thing – and some of the books are downright gorgeous. Frame-worthy, even.

I first stumbled upon one in Barnes & Noble. My little Avery wanted a new book and we spotted the Secret Garden by Johanna Basford.

secret garden

Come to find out, Johanna is the queen bee of adult coloring books. She has sold more than 1.4 million copies of her book so far, and she has composed a newer edition called Enchanted Forest. It looks equally as intriguing.

enchanted forest

I found myself scootching next to Avery whenever she pulled out the Secret Garden. We’d sit and color and chat about what seemed to be nothing. But whenever we finished, we felt much happier. And that’s definitely something.

I know it might seem too indulgent to sit and color. Sometimes I hear, “ain’t nobody got tiiime for that” in the back of my own mind. But if we reframe it as a time to relax and reconnect with ourselves (or even our children), it can be as important as any to-do on the list. And it can be as refreshing as meditation or a good glass of wine. #winning

So why not give it a spin? Pull out a new batch of colored pencils (the grownup version of crayons for these beautiful books), fire up your pencil sharpener and start creating.

To help get you started here are five pages from Secret Garden you can download and print right away.

When you’re ready to buy a full book, here are a few good options to consider:

Calming Colouring Patterns by Leslie McCallum (I bought this one at Hobby Lobby before our recent road trip!)

calming colouring patterns

Here are a few others on my fave list:

Color Me Calm by Lacy Mucklow and Angela Porter (Love the title.)

color me calm

Dream Catcher: A Soul Bird’s Journey by Christina Rose (This is more like Secret Garden with the botanical/nature patterns.)

dream catcher

The Mindfulness Colouring Book by Emma Farrarons (I feel calmer already just looking at the cover.)

mindfulness coloring book

Animal Kingdom by Millie Marotta (Look at these gorgeous illustrations. These are wall-hanging worthy for sure.)

animal kingdom

Creative Coloring Inspirations by Valentina Harper (I love the inspiring messages that come along with each of these pages.)

coloring inspirationsYou’ll have to let me know if you have any of these books and which is your personal favorite.

I’d also love to see some of your pages. Snap a pic and tag me on Instagram with #CreativeTipTues or @KateJAndersen.

Happy coloring, my friends!

-Kate

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Friday Wrap: Road Trip Truths

First off, big cheers to a long weekend celebrating our independence! If any of you are hitting the road, I’m fresh off a trip myself and have a few handy truths to share. I’m also linking up with Five on Friday, so I’ll make this my list of five…

Road Trip Truths

{ONE} You can never have enough sanitizer.

sanitizer quote

via

Or paper towels or hand wipes or trash bags. There are just too many sticky, spilly, messy, drippy reasons to mention. Also, there are those questionable gas stations.

{TWO} Roadside attractions are usually worth the extra time.

IMG_5875It’s fun to take an extra stop every now and then. At the very least, take some pictures. Friends love seeing where you are. Plus, it’s not every day you get to see giant Morel Mushrooms or Thunderbirds.

{THREE} Staying hydrated makes you happy.

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And when I say hydrated, I mean with water. There’s plenty of time for other beverages once you arrive at your destination. Water is a miracle worker for keeping everyone happy and healthy on the road. To top it off, ice water is free at gas stations. So pack your favorite Tervis’ and stay hydrated with the good, crunchy ice. I know, I sound like my mother. But she’s usually right.

{FOUR} Sunburns happen.

suncreen

via

It’s good to apply sunscreen even if you’re “just in the car”. Your right arm burn (or left if you’re driving) won’t lie. Be sure to get the good kind, too. I just read something about Neutrogena sunscreen being harmful. What the heck?! I’ve been using that on my kids!

{FIVE} Never underestimate the importance of good car tunes. 

singing

Do you remember this scene from Identity Thief? Suuuper funny.

Music can help make some good memories. So crank up the tunes and sing along. If you have XM radio, you have to try the new channel #147 called Road Trip Radio. It’s a fun blast from the past.

P.S. My sister, Debby, wasn’t able to travel with us last week, so we texted with her the entire way so she could feel like she was part of the party. She made it fun for us, too, by providing car challenges. One of which was recording ourselves singing our favorite road trip song. You should totally try this with your friends or family.

Have a great weekend, and no matter where you are may you enjoy all of the freedoms brought to you on the fourth of July so many years ago!

-Kate

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Hello again!

Hello, friends! If you’ve been wondering where the heck I’ve been lately, not to worry. I was on a whirlwind, family-style adventure for the past few weeks, and now I’m back and ready to blog about it all.

Where exactly did I go?!

Our little family of five trekked up to Hastings, Minnesota for a family reunion. Then we headed down and over (very technical directions, I know) to Lincoln, Nebraska for my nieces’ wedding. It was a trip that took us two weeks and all the way through the entire state of Iowa. We saw lots of agriculture and wind farms (cue the 12-year-old boy jokes) and even a few rainbows spread across the sun-stormy skies.

rainbow

A beautiful rainbow over Somewhere, Iowa

Our whole adventure started with a full day’s drive to Owatonna, Minnesota where we visited Brandon’s sister and brother-in-law over cold beers and grilled burgers.

owatonna pic

We made it to MN! We’re in my SIL backyard next to a gorgeous koi pond.

But let me back up a bit.

If your family is at all like ours, the adventure actually begins before you even leave the driveway. First we had to stop off at the vet to drop off Rosie the Rabbit. That’s where she stays when we go out of town. That little bun arrives with more stuff than you’d pack for your first-born child. It’s pretty ridiculous. Once we got Rosie settled and said our dramatic good-byes, we moved to the task of shoving our suitcases, pillows, stuffed animals, coloring books, snacks, drinks, magazines, electronics and all of the associated chargers and adaptors into the car – and the car topper.

At one point, there wasn’t enough room for either Avery or Clara. Since it wasn’t an option to leave them Home Alone style, we rock-paper-scissored our way down to one stuffed animal each. When it was finally time to pull out of the driveway, we only had to de-program the house alarm twice to get things we forgot before we were officially on the open road headed for middle ‘Mercia.

family road trip

Road trip!!!! Of course Mr. Fluffers and Hershey made the cut.

Adventure Part One…Done!

Back to being in Owatonna. After our visit to this cute town, we decided to head to Mall of America before things kicked off at the family reunion. Now, I was a bit leery about this particular outing – only because this was our family’s second attempt at shopping here.

The first occurrence happened back when Evan was 3-years old and the twins were a mere 3-months old. We had a four-alarm meltdown right in the middle of Rain Forest Café where visitors were not able to distinguish between the sounds of automated rainstorms with screeching monkeys and our three whaling children. Our car was parked MILES away, and we could not get out of there fast enough. It’s a memory I’m still trying to forget, which is probably why my right eye started twitching the moment we pulled into the multi-storied parking garage.

I’m happy to report that all went well this time! There were a few screams, but only out of delight when we rode the roller coasters (yes, plural) and other crazy rides in Nickelodeon Universe®, which is smack dab in the middle of the mall. Evan found the Lego store, which was clearly marked by the two-story Transformer – made entirely of Legos.

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We also managed to find the Godiva Chocolatier store where we stuffed our faces with truffles like we were Lucille Ball. Aaaand…we ran into both of my brothers and their families. It was a delightful day – one I’ll be happy to remember for a long time.

Godiva chocolate store

Yes, we found the chocolates!

It was the perfect way to kickoff our reunion with the Clark family (my dad’s side), which started later that day.

Our reunions are special because they happen once every three years.

It’s amazing what can happen in that amount of time – both joyful and tragic. We spent the entire weekend catching up, hugging, laughing, eating, drinking, swimming, canoeing, and even praying together.

frisbee golf

This is just a few of my nieces and cousins who were there! They were the “frolfers” – frisbee golfers 😉

One of my favorite outings was a boat ride along the St. Croix river that docked in the darling town of Stillwater, MN. The mosquitoes there are no lie, but the views are worth the extra spritz of bug spray.

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River Boat on the St. Croix

Once we said our good-byes to all 85 or so family members, our little family headed to Nebraska where we spent the week helping my niece and (new) nephew prepare for their wedding. This is the same couple that I made a scrapbook for – which pulled together really well, btw!

Anyway, I may have to dedicate an entire post to this event, because it would be worth it. This couple is absolutely adorable, and I’m not just saying that because I’m their Aunt Kate. People unrelated to them say the same thing. They had a picture-perfect wedding, and I felt honored to be able to share in their joy.

emma and paul

I mean…look at that sweet couple. Am I right?

Talk about lots of family time!

We certainly enjoyed every minute of our trip. Well, except for a couple of bad decisions on gas station stops. #sanitizer All-in-all, it was a wonderful experience. I even picked up a few “rules of the road” I’ll share with you tomorrow on my Friday Wrap. It feels good to be back on the blog and I’m so glad you’re here.

Can’t wait to visit more tomorrow!

-Kate

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