Teaching Kindness at Christmas

Welcome back from the Thanksgiving break! Hopefully you had a relaxing weekend. We had such a memorable time in Nebraska surrounded by our sweet family – and an enormous amount of delicious food. This was my public service announcement for the day…

thanksgiving funny

Now that the turkey has been served, I’m officially in the Christmas spirit. Bring on the tinseled trees, sparkling lights, Jingle Bells and playful elves!

elf quote

{via} I love this quote from the movie, Elf.

We didn’t get back from our trip in time to decorate on Sunday, so I’ll be spending the week making multiple trips down from the attic and over to Hobby Lobby for a few dashes of fresh decor. One of the things I’m really looking forward to unpacking is our kindness elf, MaKayla.

Makayla

This is our sweet little elf, MaKayla.

She was new to the Andersen house last year and came at the perfect time. The kids were old enough and ready to transition from Elfie (our EOTS), and I wanted to find a fun way to integrate the true meaning of Christmas into our daily schedules. Enter our kindness elf.

Each day our elf delivered a message about kindness, and she gave the kids an idea for something they could do for others.

She brought a lot of joy to our house. And as we got to know her a little better over the holiday, we discovered some funny things – like her obsession with marshmallows.

One morning she had a half-eaten mini marshmallow in her lap along with her note. The girls thought it was hilarious and started leaving her treats each night. She didn’t get into any elaborate schemes like Elfie, but she had a few fun quirks that made her extra special.

Nordic Kindness Elves

These are some of MaKayla’s friends! We ordered her from this darling Etsy shop.

If you decide to adopt a kindness elf this season, here are a few activities he/she could suggest for your kiddos. These should take you from today right into Christmas Day!

  1. Donate three of your toys to a child in need.
  2. Tell a joke to make someone smile!
  3. Put change in the Salvation Army bucket.
  4. Leave a quarter in the candy machine at the grocery store entrance.
  5. Write a heartfelt thank you letter to the mail carrier.
  6. Drop off crossword puzzles and fresh pencils at the closest senior living center.
  7. Bake fresh cinnamon rolls for the neighborhood fire station.
  8. Visit a laundromat with your parents and leave quarters in the washing machines.
  9. Donate your old books to the library.
  10. Smile at someone you don’t know at school.
  11. Offer to do your sister/brother’s chores tonight.
  12. Feed the birds.
  13. Give your teacher a gift card for a cup of coffee.
  14. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth.
  15. Write a nice poem for your best friend.
  16. Make an ornament for the neighbors on either side of your house.
  17. Plant seeds that can be grown indoors.
  18. Write a “happy” note and leave it on someone’s car.
  19. Pickup litter.
  20. Say “thank you” to someone in the military.
  21. Donate shampoo and soap to the women and children’s shelter.
  22. Learn one new thing about a different culture.
  23. Let someone step in front of you in line.
  24. Make bookmarks and leave them in books in the library.
  25. Write down the names of three people you are thankful for – then let them know.

Have fun with your elf, and let me know what other things you’d add to the list. Here’s to spreading all kinds of kindness this season!

-Kate

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Happy Thanksgiving!

I wish each of you the happiest of Thanksgivings filled with the sweetest of blessings! Thank you for being such dear friends and readers of the blog. I cherish your support and want to share this Thanksgiving poem written by one of my favorites, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Together, let’s give thanks…

Love and hugs,

-Kate

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Fun Friday Wrap

We’ve had such a fun-filled week (including last weekend). I thought I’d share some of the joy in my “Five on Friday” list. Here we go:

{ONE} Fayetteville Ale Trail

ale trail

Look at our fun, crazy friends. We’re blessed to have found this crew.

B and I had a BLAST touring several local craft breweries with our friends last weekend. Northwest Arkansas is a flourishing area for this type of thing. (There’s even this cool documentary about it.) And we’re the lucky ones who get to benefit from all of the creativity and delicious brews. My favorite of the day was T-Rex from Fossil Cove. It’s really good. And I sampled a lot of beer that day. Hiccup. A couple of the places offered tours, so it was also highly educational. Wink!

{TWO} Repurposed Muffin Tin

muffin tin

Okay, so I’m still on the topic of the beer tour, but I had to share this smart idea. You know I’m a sucker for repurposed anything. Well, I now have a new use for muffin tins!

Let me back up the bus. Whenever you order a flight, which is basically several little shots of beer, it’s usually served in small glasses nestled inside of a wooden tray. When we were at Saddlebock Brewery, they served their glasses in muffin tins. They used dry erase markers to label each of the beer samples. It may have been the beer, but I thought this was pure genius. There you have it!

{THREE} An All-American Performance
american performance

My sweet girls had a 4th grade performance last week that featured all American-themed songs. Clara is pictured on the left, and it’s a bit blurry because I was trying to work around the dude in front of me in the oversized cowboy hat. Seriously, people. Oh, and yes, that’s a giant pig in the background. I’m still not sure why there were farm animals, but they were very funny.

Avery, pictured on the right, was a flag twirler. You can tell from her expression that she was in her element. It was a wonderful moment for us, and for my parents who were able to join us, to celebrate our patriotism. It was much needed. Thank you, my twinsies!

{FOUR} Recovering Puppy

cone head leo

Our little Leo was neutered last week, so he has been recovering the past few days. The Cone of Shame comes off on Sunday, so I’m sure he’ll be back to his jumpy, puppy self once that happens. In the meantime, while he has been napping at my feet, look who came out of her room to play “office” with me…

rosie at the office

It’s Rosie the rabbit! She loved sitting in my lap while I worked. This picture cracked me up because it looks like she’s drinking a latte, and maybe posting a few blackmail pictures of Leo wearing his cone.

{FIVE} Thoughtful Anniversary Gift

IMG_6771 IMG_6772

As many of you know, B and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary a tad early when we took our trip to Oregon. Our official date is over Thanksgiving weekend. So in honor of our anniversary month, we’ve been spacing out special surprises for each other. One of them was opening this incredibly thoughtful gift from my parents.

It’s a brass door knocker they received as a wedding gift in 1958! They decided to share it with us on this special milestone. I love this so much. I hope I remember to hang on to gifts like this for my kids one day.

Here’s to more adventures ahead – for all of us, my friends!

Be sure to check out all of the blogging goodness on Five on Friday and Oh, Hey Friday!

Fiveonfriday

-Kate

 

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Thankful Thursday: Special Recipes

As I dream about and prepare for turkey day, I’m feeling thankful for all of the recipes shared among my family and friends.

I keep these treasures tucked in a little recipe box in my kitchen, but it’s more like a memory box. I’m amazed at how food can conjure up such strong memories.

rifle recipe box

The smell and taste of a certain dish – or even an ingredient, like cinnamon or chives – can instantly take you back to an event or special place in your life.

Cheese pizza on Christmas Eve, hand-spun Ovaltine milk shakes, shoestring potato snacks, and Jell-o cheesecake all bring me back to my Gramma Lettye’s apartment, where we spent countless evenings camped out in front of her TV watching episodes of Dallas, Fantasy Island and Love Boat together.

I will seriously high five anyone who can name all of these characters.

{via} I will seriously high five anyone who can name all of these characters without Googling.

When it comes to special recipes, I think about the time my friend Katie brought over this amazing poppy seed chicken right after Evan was born. I was an exhausted and nervous first-time mom, and the comfort of this warm, home-baked meal made me feel grounded again – even if it was just for a few bites. It was a welcomed treat, and I still think about that moment every time I make it for the family.

Of course my sweet mom, Mimi, has many recipes that make me feel “home.”

Growing up, her savory hot Virginia dip was one she made for holidays or when company was coming over. I knew it was time to dress up when the smell of buttery roasted pecans filled the house.

Any time you’re feeling chilly or under the weather, Mimi’s chicken noodle soup is more soothing than anything you can buy from the drugstore. That, and her ice chips…

ice chips

When we were little, she’d hit a piece of ice with the back of a spoon to make crushed ice. We didn’t have fancy dispensers back then. Whenever you heard that cracking sound coming from the kitchen, you knew someone wasn’t feeling well.

Mimi also makes this amazing banana bread that cannot be recreated. Both of my sisters (and I believe my SILs) have tried our hand at whipping up some of this special bread using the same recipe. It simply doesn’t taste the same, unless my mom delivers it to your door. We think something magical happens in the car on the way. By the time it arrives, it’s perfectly delicious.

banana bread

{via} I don’t have an actual picture of Mimi’s bread, because I’m usually too busy stuffing my face. This picture reminded me of her version, though – even with the little cutting board and all!

There are so many more fond memories I have around food, family and friends. I know you have some, too. So as you’re gathering together and giving thanks this coming week, think about this prompt.

What dish reminds you of “home?”

Join the conversation with a comment below or share on your social channels using #ThankfulThursday.

In the meantime, here’s my mom’s hot Virginia dip recipe. Enjoy, and go have yourself a party!!

Mimi’s Hot Virginia Dip

1 cup pecans, chopped
2 tsp butter
16 oz cream cheese, softened
4 T milk
5 oz dried beef, minced
1 tsp garlic salt
1 cup sour cream
4 tsp onion, minced

Directions:
Sauté pecans in butter. Reserve. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Place in a 1-1/2 quart baking dish. Top with pecans. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve hot with crackers.

-Kate {hugs}

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November Coaster Winner!

I’m excited to announce that Justine Ciemny @ Charm City Ciemny’s is the winner of these adorable Thanksgiving coasters from Qostr. Yay!

November coaster

Congrats to Justine and a special thanks to everyone who played along. We’ll have another giveaway (with a surprise design) in December. It will be just in time for your holiday parties, so stay posted.

Keep having a wonderful Wednesday, sweet ladies!

-Kate

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No More Knots

Here’s a practical tip for your Tuesday…

How to untangle knots from your necklaces.

My SIL recently shared this tip with me, and I stored it away in my “good to know” file. Then it came in handy this weekend when my girls decided to wear some bling to church.

We’re usually scrambling to get out the door, so of course we were having a frantic moment when the necklaces were all intertwangled. (When more than one necklace is tangled into a giant knot ball.)

I quickly remembered the trick, and it worked like the magical charm of some sort of tangle fairy.

Tangled_Chain_large

{via} This video also shows you how to untangle your mess.

All you need are two household items: baby powder and a safety pin

You simply sprinkle powder on the knot to begin to loosen and use an opened safety pin to work the knot completely out. That. Is. It.

baby powder

While we’re on the topic of the powers of baby powder, here are three other quick tricks:

{ONE} Dry Shampoo – When you’re in a pinch and need to take care of some oily roots, a dab of baby powder can do the trick.

{TWO} Drawer Freshener ­– I like to line my dresser drawers with shelf paper to keep things fresh and clean. Once in awhile I’ll sprinkle baby powder under the liner. It absorbs any moisture and keeps things smelling pretty.

{THREE} Rubber Glove Saver – To keep your dish gloves fresh and easy to slide on, sprinkle a bit of baby power down inside between each use.

How else have you used baby powder – other than the obvious? 🙂

-Kate

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Five Unique Hostess Gifts

My mom is one of the most gracious guests. She always shows up with a gift in hand – even if she’s just coming over to visit the kids. While she’s originally from the West Coast, she raised our family with good Southern manners. And I try to carry on her tradition of bringing something with me to every event.

Sometimes I grab a bottle of wine and call it good, but notable occasions, like a Thanksgiving meal or holiday party, call for something more special. So…

Here are a few unique ideas to tuck in your thinking cap as you’re planning gifts this season. And they’re all around $10, which means you won’t have to break the bank shopping for all of your friends.

{ONE} Holiday Plates

A hostess can never have enough serving dishes. Really. It would be a welcomed treat to receive any one of these dessert plates. And by one, I mean you could buy a set of these precious plates from Pier One for $20 and divide them up as four hostess gifts. Fill the plate with homemade cookies, wrap with cello, add a pretty gold bow and you have yourself a show stopping gift – times four!

{TWO} Convertible Scarf

This cute little number is called the Ellie Convertible Button Scarf from Mudpie. It can be worn three ways: traditional over the shoulder, as a draped shawl or as a chunky scarf. Regardless of how it’s draped, your friend will be wearing it with a smile once she opens this gift. You might just need one for yourself, as well. The current price is $9.99. You can have it monogrammed for an additional $10.

{THREE} Personalized Oreos

For that quirky and fun friend, who also has a sweet tooth, this gift will be one she’ll remember. You can log on to the Oreo site, design your package and they’ll ship it right to you. The package price is only $10.

{FOUR} Williams-Sonoma Pancake Mix

Who doesn’t love waking up to a stack of piping hot pancakes? This is a gift your hostess will appreciate come sunrise. Package price is $10.95. If you want to splurge, you could add a pound of freshly ground coffee beans from your local coffee shop and tie them together with a pretty ribbon. Breakfast is served!

{FIVE} Custom Coasters

{via}

{via}

Of course I had to mention these adorable coasters from Qostr. They’re ideal hostess gifts you can personalize with pictures or other designs. Be sure to use promo code NOVEMBER20 to get 20% off your order. This offer is just for Neat Nook readers, so enjoy!

I’m also hosting a giveaway for one set of Thanksgiving coasters that were designed just for The Neat Nook. You only have until Monday, 10pm Central to register to win. Enter below, my friends!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have a terrific weekend and be sure to check out all of the blogging goodness on Five on Friday and Oh, Hey Friday!

Fiveonfriday

-Kate

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A Thankful Thursday

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I thought it would be nice to bring back Thankful Thursdays. Each week throughout the holidays, I’ll post a little something I’m thankful for and offer a prompt for you to do the same. I appreciate all of the blessings in my life, and I know you do, too. So we can expand our habit of gratitude together!

Today: I’m thankful for the friendships in my life.

I’ve had many come and go over the years, and I’ve learned that’s okay. At the time, I never imagined going a full 24 hours without talking to my high school besties or summertime pool buddies. Now, it has been decades since I’ve seen most of them, but it doesn’t mean our friendships weren’t strong or that they didn’t serve a purpose. Each of those people taught me about acceptance, gratitude, and compassion – and maybe a little mischief. They set the groundwork for the kind of friend I could be to others.

I used to stress out about not calling enough or doing a better job at keeping in touch. Then I decided to be nicer to myself – and allow my heart to take the lead. It’s amazing how things work out. People show up in our lives at the right times, for the right reasons. And sometimes that person is us – being home when the doorbell rings and a friend needs to talk.

I think one of the most beautiful things about friendship is that people are friends because they want to be – they choose each other. As we search for a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life, we realize we can’t do it alone. So we chose friends to help us along the way.

I love this quote from The Atlantic, “Friendship is a relationship with no strings attached, except the ones you choose to tie, one that’s just about being there, as best as you can.”

Some of my most treasured friends are the ones who are willing to forgive long lapses in communication, because they feel life’s obligations, as well. When we finally pick up the phone, grab a cup of coffee, or schedule a road trip to each other’s homes, everything falls right back into place. We become the same people we were the last time we talked. That has to be one of the best kept secrets of friendship. And I’m incredibly thankful for all of them.

Prompt: Which friendship are you most grateful for?

Join the conversation with a comment below or share on your social channels using #ThankfulThursday.

Oh, and how perfect is this…today starts the “buy one, share one” promotion at Starbucks. And if you go online, you can make a cute little e-card to send to someone special. I made this for my dear friend who just moved back to the states from France. “Hi, Ovey!!” Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 5.11.22 PM

Cheers to a happy week shared with friends – old and new!

-Kate

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Wine Glass Wisdom + Thanksgiving Coaster Giveaway!

On my recent trip to Willamette Valley in Oregon, I learned a little about wine glasses along the way. Well, specifically the Pinot noir glass. (We were in deep Pinot country!)

This glass is flared at the rim to help deliver the wine to the middle of your palate, where the wine is better experienced. The bowl of the glass is wider to give the wine space to “open up.”

I was fascinated by all of this and did a bit more research – and just in time for the biggest wine holiday of the year: Thanksgiving!

Where did all of this pairing begin?!

Legend has it, the idea of matching stemware to the specific type of wine was developed by Riedel, an Austrian company that has been making glass for 250 years. The company’s president believes, “You have to have the perfect messenger to deliver the wine.”

With that said, I found this cool chart that maps out each of these little messengers:

This can be helpful if you arrive at a party and have multiple glasses in front of you. You can be smart about what goes in what. Or if you’re hosting a party and you want to buy special glasses or borrow some from a friend, then this chart can help you know what to serve in what. 😉

Speaking of serving…

You don’t have to line a table with a dozen glasses for each guest. A good rule of thumb is to offer guests two types of wine: a red and a white. So you’d be solid if you had at least two types of glasses on hand: a larger-bowled glass for reds and a smaller-bowled basic for whites.

viv-20-oz.-red-wine-glass

{via} This is a nice option for a basic, red wine glass.

vineyard-12-oz.-white-wine-glass

{via} This is a great white wine glass that has a smaller bowl.

If you want to get fancy and pop open some champagne, you could include a flute in the mix. By the way, my awesome SIL found this article on the benefits of drinking champagne every day. Bring on the bubbles. Your health depends on it.

marika-champagne-glass

I think every nice glass of wine deserves a beautiful coaster. Wouldn’t you agree?!

So let’s have another coaster giveaway!

Our awesome friends at Qostr designed this adorable Thanksgiving coaster just for us.

November coaster

Qostr is a product of Matchstick Studio, and they’re the perfect way to personalize your table – especially for a lovely Thanksgiving meal.

We’ll giveaway one free set of 8 coasters (shipping included) this week. You have from now until Monday, 11/16 at 10pm Central to enter. Details below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
In addition, anyone can order from the Qoster site right now and get 20% off using The Neat Nook promo code of NOVEMBER20 at checkout. This code will be good through November 30th.

Happy shopping – and sipping!

-Kate

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Light Your Porch for a Vet

greenlight a vet

This week our country celebrates Veteran’s Day to honor and remember the soldiers who have dedicated their lives to protecting our freedom. My dad is a retired lieutenant colonel from the Air Force, and my father-in-law served in the Marines. So this day reminds our family to pause and thank them for their courage and commitment. We have a lot to be thankful for when it comes to our dads, and this is yet one more reason we can add to the list. Their service has made a difference to the lives of so many.

patriotic quote

I’d like to share this suggestion…as you’re getting into the spirit of Thanksgiving, thinking of all of the things you’re grateful for, and maybe even decorating your house with a cornucopia of abundance, consider adding one thing to your list – especially this week.

Greenlight a Vet

By putting a green light on your front porch, you’re signaling to all of the veterans on your street, in your neighborhood and in your lives that you support and honor their decision to serve our country. It’s a small, but unifying gesture of appreciation. And it’s easy to do. I’ve heard Walmart has stocked up on green lightbulbs just for this special occasion, so I’m off to buy my share.

Here’s to a day full of gratitude!

-Kate

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