How to Create the Perfect Thank You Note

Now that the holidays are behind us, and we’ve attended our festive parties, fattened our bellies, and unwrapped gifts from our thoughtful friends and family, it’s time to reflect and relish in all the things we have to be grateful for. That’s right, it’s time for a few thank yous!

Thankful Quote

Feel free to share this image! <3

The best way to show your gratitude is with a good ol’ fashioned handwritten note. Sending a quick email or text message is nice and can be done in a timely manner. But when you sit down to write a letter (like with a pen on an actual piece of paper), there’s a deeper level of connection that’s made between you and the person who gave you the gift. So why not take a few moments to make that happen?

There are three key ingredients to creating the perfect thank you note.

{ONE} THE CARD

Thank you card

Store bought cards are great. I promise. It’s really the message that’s the most meaningful, so don’t let a DIY card project stand in the way of sending a timely note.

If you’re able to carve out just a few extra minutes, though, here’s a super quick way to personalize a card for that sweet, gift-giving friend of yours. Here’s all you need to make the card shown above:

Double-sided scrapbook paper

doublesided scrapbook paper

Edging punch or scissors

edge punch

Pretty alphabet stickers

Martha Stewart alphabet stickers

Pack of envelopesenvelopes

What to do:

  1. Fold your double-sided paper in half.
  2. Cut the paper to the size of your envelope.
  3. Use edging scissors to cut across the top “flap”. This creates a pretty peek-a-boo design on the cover.
  4. Find the letter of your friend’s first or last name on your sticker sheet, and apply it to the front of your card.
  5. Now you’re ready to write your thoughtful message!

{TWO} THE MESSAGE

Sometimes this part trips people up the most. Where do you start? What should you say so it doesn’t sound forced or canned? Starting with a simple “thank you” is always good. Here are a few other statements to get you off to a good start:

  • You deserve a hug! I am so grateful for the (gift item) you gave me.
  • I feel so blessed to have you in my life. The fact that you took time to send me a (gift item) meant a lot.
  • How did you know I totally needed a (gift item)? You are seriously the best.

Once you have that part down, say something personal. What will you do with the gift, where will you put it, or what did the gesture mean to you?

Next, mention the next time you might see each other. Such as, “I can’t wait to see you at the reunion.” Then restate your appreciation as your close. “Thank you again for your kindness.”

{THREE} THE TIMING

Send a thank you as soon as you can. A good rule of thumb is to send a card within a month after the event. That means you have until the end of January to have your holiday thank yous in the mail.

If it’s later than that, start your note with a brief apology. “I’ve been meaning to tell you…” is a great statement to use. Be sure to follow with something personal about the gift. Has the gift really come in handy? Is there a funny or cute story to share? Those details can make the tardiness of the message worth the wait.

Okay, friends. I’m off to jot a few notes myself. Here’s to a day filled with gratitude!!

-Kate

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Lovely Pots of Potpourri

I was looking for a simple, yet thoughtful gift that I could make in batches for our friends and neighbors. When I came across this recipe for Christmas potpourri, I knew it was a sure-fire winner.

It’s the perfect blend of cranberry, cinnamon and citrus that will spark the Christmas spirit in any home. I brewed myself a batch just to make sure. Wasn’t that so nice of me? 😉

This was found on Yellow Bliss Road, which is a wonderful blog if you haven’t hopped over to see all of the delicious recipes and crafty ideas. I made several batches of the potpourri today, and I can’t wait to make like an elf and deliver my handmade goods.

Here are three quick tips for assembling these gifts.

{ONE} Get the right size jar

ball jar

You want to be sure all of your ingredients fit inside. If it’s too small, you won’t get your orange to fit. If it’s too big, it will look like you’re being chintzy with your potpourri. I found that a 16 oz. jar was just right. I had a few on hand with white lids, and then I bought the rest from Hobby Lobby just like the one shown.

{TWO} Use small oranges

Cuties

Cuties ended up being the perfect size for a 16 oz. jar, as well as the perfect amount of citrus for the rest of the ingredients in the jar. You don’t want anything to overpower. Equal fragrance for all!

{THREE} Throw all of the spices together

christmas potpourri

You can kind of see all of the spices at the bottom.

The recipe called for smaller, plastic bags to contain the “powdery” ingredients. I just put everything directly into the jar to keep it simple. No-fuss is a must in my life.

This is what my gifts looked like when they were finished.

christmas potpourri

I tied the recipe on the jar with a ribbon and used round Avery labels for the lids to add a touch of holiday flair.

christmas potpourri

Here’s the top view that shows the Christmas label. <3

Happy gifting! Only three more days ’til Christmas. Eeep!

-Kate

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Five Things Every Guest Room Needs

First of all, nothing motivates me more to clean and organize the house than having guests over. My in-laws are coming to town this weekend, which means I was inspired to spruce up the house before they get here!

As you may remember from my office makeover, our guest room serves many purposes. Some days it’s my office, other days it’s a puppy play room, and this weekend it’s going to be a full-on guest room. So I closed up the closet, pulled out the Murphy bed and started assembling all of my guest room goodies.

I love making people feel like they’re on a little retreat when they come stay with us. Brandon does, too. We could totally run a B&B one day.

I think the secret to hospitality is setting up your guest room with these five qualities.

{ONE} It’s Welcoming

As soon as your guests have entered their designated space (even if it’s just a pullout couch in your living room) show them you’re excited and ready for their visit. Have a plan for where they can put their luggage and hang clothes, place a few folded towels neatly on the foot of the bed, put some fresh flowers in a vase by the bed, and light a candle so the room smells nice and has a pretty glow.

{TWO} It’s Comforting

Think of all the things you would want in a cozy room, and have them on hand. If the room is chilly, have extra blankets on hand or plug in a small space heater. Make sure you have plenty of pillows, and if you want to go the extra mile, place a couple of “luxury” items on the nightstand, such as bottles of water and pieces of chocolate.

{THREE} It’s Entertaining

You can’t expect your guests to spend every waking hour with you. Well, unless it’s your sister or best friend who simply lives too far away. Most of your guests need a little time to themselves to chill. So put the latest issue of your favorite magazine and a few good books in a basket or on a shelf in their room. I happen to have a small piano in our guest room, and my MIL likes to sit and quietly play every now and then. Musical instruments or even a simple deck of cards can be good options, as well.

{FOUR} It’s Practical

I’m always forgetting something when I travel. Whether it’s contact solution or toothpaste, I don’t always have my act together when I’m packing. Perhaps I’m just so excited for my trip ahead?! Regardless, I like to think I’m not alone on the issue, so I keep a stash of travel-sized toiletries in a small jar in my guest room. It’s usually stocked with shampoo, soap, toothpaste, lotions, dental floss, hair spray, Q-tips and a sewing kit. You don’t need a ton of items, just what you think your guests might need in a pinch. Oh, and remember to write down your wifi password and leave it on the dresser. This is another practical, yet essential, item they’ll need.

{FIVE} It’s Personal

Lastly, one of the most important things you can do to make your guests feel special is to leave a handwritten note on the bedside table that tells them how excited you are for their visit. Time is precious, and they’ve chosen to spend it with you. When you express your appreciation, and do it in writing, they leave with not only a full heart, but also a lovely souvenir.

Have a wonderful weekend. If you end up entertaining family or friends, I hope this guide gives you some ideas on how to make their stay more special.

Be sure to connect with all of the amazing blogs on Five on Friday!

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XOXO

-Kate

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A Fast & Fabulous Ornament

DIY gold ornament

I’m feeling joyful now that my ornament is ready to share!

Okay, so the twinsies and I have our annual mom & daughter holiday party this Friday. It’s actually called The Not-So-Silent Night Christmas Party, which is perfectly titled. If you’ve ever had more than a handful of tween girls in your home, you know the decibels can reach glass-shattering levels.

Anyway, last year was the first of these parties and the girls had a blast playing games and crafting while the moms sipped our chardo-nay-nays and exchanged ornaments. I had waited until the last minute and all of the cute ornaments were picked over. I swore I wouldn’t do that to myself again. Well, here it is the week of the party, and have I purchased my ornament, yet? No.

But I decided not to get in a stress ball about it and just make something cute. Why didn’t I just do that last time?!

Here’s the ornament I whipped today using a clear glass ball, pretty gold stickers, jumbo glitter and fancy ribbon! I’d give you a full, step-by-step DIY, but that would possibly insult your intelligence. I literally just put stickers on a ball, sprinkled a little glitter inside, and tied a ribbon on top. And look how pretty!!

glass ornament DIY

I put “joy” on the side. It was hard to get a good picture since the glass has a glare, but it looks darling in person! Swear.

ornament supplies

This was all I used! See how simple?!

If you want to make a bundle of inexpensive gifts for friends, teachers, co-workers, neighbors, babysitters, mail carriers, hair dressers…you get the drift…then load up on some of these ornament supplies and go to town. You could wrap them in handmade ornament boxes to make them extra special. Regardless, I hope you have a total ball making these.

Happy crafting!!

-Kate

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December Coaster Winner & Weekend Update

We sure had a lot of interest in the coasters this month! That was exciting to see, and I’m happy to announce that Mary Elliff was our big winner this time. I can’t wait to see which coasters she picks. There were so many cute designs to choose from.

I also wanted to extend a special thank you to all of the readers who entered to win. You still have time to order from Qostr and get 20% off using the Neat Nook promo code of DECEMBER20. I hope you enjoy!

Now for a quick update on the weekend…

We had a wonderful time at the Bentonville Christmas parade on Saturday. Here are a couple of fun pics.

Bentonville parade

There was no shortage of adorable elves this year.

Santa

It’s SANTA!!!

pugs on parade

You gotta love the “Pugs on Parade.”

Bentonville Band

The marching band is always my favorite. Click for a cool video recap of the whole parade.

Oh, and we had some visitors from Little Rock join us this year. Our friends Mark and Amy drove up for the weekend. Mark owns Personalized Bottle Water, and he made some super cute labels for the annual pre-parade party at my brother and SIL’s house.

personalized bottled water

His wife Amy is a girl after my own heart and loves to sew and craft. She made me some ADORABLE fabric coasters. I’m so in love with them. If you have Christmas fabric left over from projects, you should make these as gifts. People will love them. Trust me! 🙂

Christmas fabric coasters

Aren’t these so sweet? The lower right shows the front and back.

We wrapped up the weekend with a stormy Sunday, which coaxed us into some much needed rest. Now I feel recharged for the week ahead. Get ready for the Christmas ideas to continue!

Many hugs,

-Kate

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Beginning to Look Like Christmas (Finally)

We got busy with it this week and made serious progress with Christmas decorations and to-dos. We blared the carols while we decorated the trees and strung lights on the front porch. If it weren’t for the unusually warm 70-degree weather, it would have felt like a full-on winter wonderland at our house.

Here are five of my favorite things we did, in no particular order…

{ONE} Puppy Proofed the Tree

Leo under the tree

Seeing as how Leo is still under a year old and is fascinated with shiny objects, having a Christmas tree almost seemed impossible. The kids freaked out when I mentioned the thought of it, so I went online to do some serious research. I found many contraptions, including a static electricity mat and a fence that was wrapped like a giant present. All of this seemed excessive, so I went for the simplest route I could find.

We took cotton balls and dipped them into a jar of Vicks VapoRub – like the kind you smear all over your chest when you’re sick. Then we tucked them into the branches around the bottom of the tree. It worked like a CHARM. Leo took one whiff and was like, “Ew.”

To be on the safe side, I also didn’t put as many decorations on the bottom of the tree. And I’m waiting until Christmas Eve before putting out our gifts. But at least we HAVE a tree – and one that Leo doesn’t want to touch.

{TWO} Shopped with my Girls

IMG_6886

Nothing makes holiday shopping more fun than my sweet, silly girls. I swear. As I was stressfully looking up and down the aisles of greenery, which were all picked over like a bag of trail mix with raisins, I heard Avery giggling her heart out. Her twin sister was modeling an enormous bow.

When we turned the corner and saw an even BIGGER bow, we totally had to “try it on.”

IMG_6887

They’re so good for me. Sometimes I take things way too seriously, and my girls help me remember to stop and laugh already.

{THREE} Dressed up the House

IMG_6896

Not knowing how Leo was going to do with the tree and all, I decided to elevate our decorating – literally. I hung things in places I had forgotten existed – like the pretty doorway leading into our sunroom. It’s nice to look at your house with different eyes sometimes.

{FOUR} Baked Cookie Ornaments

As you may know, I have a thing for “smells,” so I love making these fragrant ornaments every year. And they only require two ingredients: cinnamon and applesauce! Once you make the dough, simply cut your shapes and bake for a bit. The full recipe is here. They seriously make your house smell SO amazing. I recommend doing this before you have guests come over.

{FIVE} Launched the December Coaster Giveaway!!

Speaking of entertaining…you totally need some of these cute Christmas coasters. You still have until Sunday at 10pm CST to enter to win a free set. My friends at Qostr graciously offered FOUR designs this month, so the winner gets to choose!

holiday coasters Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 2.04.28 PM (1) Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 2.04.15 PM (1) Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 2.04.07 PM (1)

If you want some right now, you can get 20% off using the special Neat Nook promo code of DECEMBER20 at checkout.

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Here’s to a happy weekend ahead. We’re off to the Bentonville Christmas parade tomorrow morning. That’s always such a fun tradition. I just hope it doesn’t rain. I told my kids that if it does, we’re totally painting candy-cane stripes on our umbrellas. Nothing is going to stop our fun! 😉

Be sure to enjoy all of the beautiful bloggers at Five on Friday and Oh, Hey Friday!

Fiveonfriday

Cheers!!

-Kate

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Holiday Drink Recipes + December Coaster Giveaway!!

‘Tis the season for holiday parties!! In addition to launching the December coaster giveaway (details are below, so be sure to keep reading) I thought it would be fun to share a few delicious recipes and party tips.

It seems like I’m always second guessing how much food and how many drinks to get when we’re throwing a shin dig. In fact, this past weekend, we invited some friends to join us at my brother’s cabin at Indian Hollow. As I was planning and packing supplies, I came across this great resource.

Here are the most helpful planning tips from the article.

  • Total number of drinks: Each guest drinks an average of two drinks the first hour and one drink each hour thereafter. So, for a 4 hour party with 20 people, that should be about 100 drinks.
  • What to buy: A one-liter bottle of alcohol yields approx. 22 mixed drinks. Once you figure out what kind of bar you’re going to have, that will help you determine how much to buy. Most crowds like vodka, rum and beer if that helps to know.
  • Accommodate non-cocktail drinkers: Estimate one bottle of wine per eight guests, remembering that white wine tends to be more popular than red.
  • Ice it all down: Plan on one and a half pounds of ice per person. This will provide enough ice for drinks as well as any ice baths for wine or beer.

We seemed to have plenty of wine AND beer at our little gathering this weekend. 🙂

girlfriends

Amy, Katie and I took a quick pic right as everyone arrived.

the guys

The guys were so cute in their college hoodies. Cheers!

Okay, so let’s move on to some delicious recipes, shall we? Here are a few goodies for the holiday season.

{Hot Caramel Apple Cider}

This would be great to serve in your slow cooker to not only make your house smell divine, but also offer an option for the kids or anyone who doesn’t want to booze it up at your party!

{Cranberry & Apple Spritzers}

This is another non-alcoholic option that looks like a tall glass of Christmas when it’s garnished with fresh cranberries. You could also toss in a sprig of fresh mint. If you want to get adventurous, you could easily add a splash of vodka.

{Peppermint Stick Martini}

Don’t you just want to lick the crushed peppermint sticks right off that rim? These festive drinks would be beautiful served on a large tray lined with greenery.

PS. If you serve a fancy drink like this, you can simply offer beer, wine and sodas as your other options. No need to go overboard with lots of ingredients.

{Cranberry Mimosas}

If you can tell, I love drinks that have decorated rims. This one uses colored sugar crystals! If you’re having a holiday brunch, this would be a must-have drink on your menu.

Are you ready for some more fun? It’s time for the December coaster giveaway!!

Our friends at Qostr are offering not just one, but four holiday designs to choose from. One lucky winner will receive one FREE set of coasters, and you get to choose which of these designs you’d like.

holiday coasters Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 2.04.28 PM (1) Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 2.04.15 PM (1) Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 2.04.07 PM (1)

Here are the details!

Simply enter below from now until Sunday at 10pm CST. I’ll announce the winner next Monday. (Tip: Be sure to click each of the checkmarks in the lower right corner to get entered in the contest.)

You can also order any time and get a 20% discount just for Neat Nook readers! Use the promo code of DECEMBER20 at checkout.

Good luck and many cheers to you!!

-Kate

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Five Fun Gift Toppings!

Yesterday I shared some of my favorite Christmas wrapping papers. Now for the trimmings! Here are five ways to top your gifts that are not only easy, but also perfectly charming. Let’s get to it.

Blogged while listening to Adele’s new album and sipping a chai tea latte.

{ONE} Paper Straw Stars

paper straw stars

This is a project I worked on this week. I took three paper straws and cut them in half. I pinched the centers, stacked them on top of one another, then stapled them together.

paper straw how to

Once I had the “star” in place, I glued a red button in the middle to cover the staple. Then I hot glued the whole thing to my package. Very simple and cute for kids’ gifts. I’m also thinking we could turn this into an ornament once the gift is opened!

{TWO} Parchment Paper Flowers

IMG_6853

For another Kate-project, this one simply used a sheet of parchment paper and ribbon. I took a full sheet and folded it where the creases were. Then I cut it into a perfect square.

From here, I did the zig-zag fold – like you do with tissue paper flowers. When the whole thing was folded up, I rounded off the edges with my scissors. This is what makes pretty scallops on your flower. Next I tied the middle with a piece of ribbon. {Here are some visuals}

parchment paper how to

Top left: The sheet of parchment paper; Top right: The zig-zag fold; Bottom left: the rounded corners; Bottom right: tied in the center

After the center is tied, I carefully peeled each layer apart. Once all of the layers have been separated, you can fluff, as needed. Then you’re ready to tie the flower onto your gift.

parchment paper flower

The left shows half of the flower “fluffed” and the right shows the final flower!

I love how the flower looks translucent. You could use wax paper if you don’t have any parchment paper on hand. I love just using what you already have.

{THREE} Seashells from the Sea Shore

Seashell Gift Topper

This was a topper I featured last year. I still love this look so much. I had (okay, still have) tons of seashells from our trips to the beach. I decided to share them with family and friends by using them as gift toppers. I hot glued them right onto the ribbon.

{FOUR} Feathered with Love

I haven’t tried this, yet, but I adore how it looks. This is paper that has been cut to look like feathers. Wouldn’t this look so pretty on a Christmas package?

{FIVE} Wreathed Wrappings

This final idea is another one that I haven’t tried, yet. The full instructions are here. It looks really easy. I love how you can use this on gift bags. I plan to make treats for my coworkers and I think this will make great wrappings for them. Don’t you?

Have fun wrapping up all of your glorious gifts. It’s Friday, so I’m linking up once again. Be sure to check out all of the lovely ladies on Five on Friday and Oh, Hey Friday!

Fiveonfriday

-Kate

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Gorgeous Gift Wrap for Christmas

When you spend countless hours planning and purchasing gifts for your family and close friends, you don’t want to stop short on the wrapping. First impressions really are everything. The way the gift is presented is the part that says, “I care about you so much, I made this gift look as pretty as I could.” And that’s a warm, welcoming message for anyone!

You might remember I wrote a fun post last season that shared lots of ways to wrap gifts. Be sure to check that out if you want to break out some different wrapping techniques.

Today’s post shares a few of my favorite papers. Good ol’ Kraft paper decorated with markers, paints or stamps is my ultimate favorite.

But sometimes a special gift calls for specialty papers and labels like these gorgeous numbers…

{Rifle Paper Company: Adorable retro papers that evoke the spirit of Christmas past}

{Paperjacks: Playful labels to adorn perfectly patterned papers}

{Zazzle: Personalized paper with your photos and messages!}

{Paper Source: Glitzy polka dots and other charming patterns}

{William Morris: Non-traditional holiday colors that would look beautiful wrapped with gold ribbons}

What’s your favorite paper? Once we have that figured out, it’ll be time to top our packages. Stop by tomorrow for a few ideas on the trimmings!

-Kate

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