Creative Tip Tuesday: Try Something New. Anything.

It’s Tuesday! That means I’ll be sharing a creative tip today. This post was inspired by my sweet and amazingly talented friend, Leslie Sisti. We work together at a PR firm where we both get to share our love of creativity and writing. Leslie has been a fashion blogger of A Blonde Ambition for several years now and has become wildly successful. She’s the real deal, friends. When I told her I wanted to start a blog, she kindly offered tips, encouragement and even a chance to guest blog to help get things going. There aren’t enough flowers in the world that could properly thank her!HeaderTrans_zpscb139c50Here’s where I tried something new.

As nervous as I was, I took up Leslie on the offer to guest blog. (It’s posted today, so be sure to check it out.) While I’ve been a copywriter for decades and even led teams as a creative director, you’d think writing a blog would be as easy as breathing. Somehow, trying my hand at this feels entirely different. I’m usually writing on behalf of clients. So while the words are mine, the message always belongs to someone else. There’s a veil of protection in case someone doesn’t like the work. Or strangely enough, if someone loves what I’ve done, I can smile in the background and not have to take center stage. So, blogging. It’s personal. It’s honest. It’s imperfect. And most importantly, it’s something new for me.

I’m excited for the journey. My hope is you’ll join in my adventure and be inspired to try new things, too. It doesn’t have to mean quitting your job or planning a trip to France (although I’d LOVE to visit my dear friend Kristina!) Enough small adventures will lead to big discoveries. Here’s an inspiring TED Talk by Matt Cutts that shares his adventure of trying something new for 30 days.

New things can include writing with your other hand, taking a different route to work or buying plantains instead of bananas. What will happen is you’ll start to notice patterns about the things you choose – and the things you love. You’ll hear your inner voice. You’ll see your confidence grow. Perhaps most importantly, your true self will emerge. And that’s good for everyone.

What the world needs...

Graphic designed by The Neat Nook.

Go try something new today and tell me about it. Comment, email or post it on Twitter, Insty or Facebook using #CreativeTipTues.

My love and cheers to you all! – Kate

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Pumpkin Seeds Three Ways

Halloween Week Banner2Happy almost Halloween! For my family, the most exciting part of this week (other than Halloween night itself) is carving our jack-o-lanterns. We’ve had one too many squirrels demolish our creations, so we learned to wait it out. The all-you-can-eat pumpkin buffet can open after Halloween!

Speaking of carving, did you know it’s easier to carve from the bottom? I had NO idea until I recently stumbled across this carving video from Better Homes & Gardens. I’m a huge sucker for a good tip like this.

Once the excitement of carving our ghoulish grins is over, we love playing with the seeds. Well, once they’re clean. Funny how the kids suddenly have something terribly important to do when it comes time to desliming the seeds. Thanks, guys.

Since pumpkin seeds are pretty much a once-a-year treat for us, I love finding new ways to use them. Here are three of my favorites!

  1. Bake them. The basic salt-and-oil roast like this from SimplyRecipes is classically delicious. If you want to mix it up a bit, try a batch of Sweet and Salty seeds from Real Simple.
hallo-pumpkin-seeds_300

Sweet & Salty Pumpkin Seeds, Real Simple

  1. Grow them. Why spend lots of money on pumpkins next year when you have a handful of free seeds this year? Once your seeds are washed and dried, store them in an envelope. Pumpkin seed envelopeThe best place to keep them is somewhere cool and dry. I like to use the refrigerator in my garage. Label the envelope with the date and name so you remember what’s inside! When to plant? In cooler parts of the country, the best time to plant pumpkin seeds is late May. In warmer parts of the country, you can wait until mid July to plant pumpkins in time for Halloween.
  1. Craft them. Seeds are way underrated in crafting, IMO. Look at this pretty ornament I whipped up. I’ll have a full DIY on these beauties Thursday. Be sure to check back!
Pumpkin seed ornament_finished

Pumpkin seed ornament. Watch for DIY instructions Thursday!

In the meantime, what’s your favorite way to serve up some seeds? Do share!

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Give Parsley a Chance

Parsley

Freshly picked parsley

Parsley is one of those herbs that’s usually tossed aside. And I mean that literally. In restaurants you’ll see it perched on the edge of a pretty plate – and that’s where it stays. It’s not the star player in many recipes, and it doesn’t have an elegant fragrance like basil, oregano or thyme. So what’s it good for?

To be honest, I was pretty nonchalant about parsley until I started planting it in my garden for my pet rabbit, Rosie. She looooves parsley, but only when it’s fresh. She’s a bit of a princess that way. So I always include a little patch in my garden for her.

Rosie the Rabbit

Meet Rosie the Rabbit! Pets deserve an organized and creative life, too. So you’ll see Rosie featured in posts from time-to-time.

Get creative in the kitchen

One day I casually tossed a few springs of parsley in my salad and loved its punch. It has such a fresh taste with hints of lemon and pepper. The next thing I knew, I was sneaking it into soups and stews. It’s native to the Mediterranean, but can be used in all kinds of dishes.

Here are some recipe ideas from beautiful Sunset Magazine. This article features 11 ways to cook with fresh parsley.

parsley-ravioli-with-brown-butter-sauce

Parsley Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce from Sunset Magazine. A plateful of yum.

Get healthy

Come to find out, parsley is really good for you. It’s rich in all kind of vitamins: A, B1, B3, C, and K. That’s a nice portion of the vitamin alphabet. It also keeps your immune system strong and encourages digestion. No wonder so many chefs nudge it onto our plates.

Some people even use it for medicinal purposes. A few of the more interesting options I’ve read include:

  • Reducing hair loss by massaging parsley essential oil into the scalp.
  • Relieving joint pain by eating parsley daily.
  • Treating insect bites with the juices squeezed from the leaves.

Grow your own

If I’ve piqued your interest, why not grow your own? It’s a cool-weather-lovin’ kind of herb, so right now is a great time to plant. Here’s a helpful guide from Gardening Know How.

As a tip, flat leaf parsley has a little better flavor for cooking than its curly cousin. You’ll want to keep that in mind when buying seeds or plants from the nursery. By the way, I’m a huge fan of nurseries that carry the Monrovia brand. They always have quality plants.

I hope you’ll give parsley a chance. Comment below or email me your favorite way to enjoy this healthy herb!

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Creative Tip Tuesday: Carry a Sketchbook

SketchbookA sketchbook is an important tool for anyone wanting to live a creative life. Please know, being creative doesn’t mean you have to work as an art director, painter, photographer or fashion designer.

Creativity simply means “involving the imagination or original ideas.”

Any endeavor in life could surely benefit from the use of your imagination or original ideas. So, let’s get sketching!

Here are my top three reasons to pick up a sketchbook today.

  1. It gives you a safe place to explore. You don’t have to publish or show this book to anyone. Allowing yourself to experiment and make mistakes is one of the best ways to foster creativity.
  2. It allows you to capture ideas immediately. This is important so you can take action right when a thought or visual idea strikes.
  3. It becomes a source of inspiration. If you’re feeling stuck or bored, thumbing through your sketchbook can prove to be an uplifting exercise. Look at all of the ideas you’ve had, allow yourself to see them in a new light, and be amazed at how much better you feel.

Your sketches don’t have to be fancy by all means, they just need to communicate your ideas. Your book can include favorite quotes, pictures from magazines, and even your grocery list. The main thing is to have fun, explore, and capture your thoughts.

Tips to get started.

  • Skip or purposely scribble on the first page. This will help you avoid the fear of the blank page.
  • Buy an inexpensive book so you don’t feel obligated to have highly important or valuable ideas. (I bought the one pictured above from Walmart)
  • Allow yourself to be messy. Feel free to scribble, drip paint, and glue stuff together. Just promise not to judge yourself or tear anything out!
  • Always carry your book with you. If you buy a book roughly the size as your favorite device (iPad, computer, etc.) it’s easier to tuck it in your bag and carry it with you at all times.
  • Give yourself an assignment. Here’s one to get you started:

Think of a situation at work that’s bothering you…not enough support, too many meetings? What would this situation look like if it were personified as a monster? Draw it. Now, what features could you add to make it more approachable?

Speaking of monsters, be sure to check out @jonhuckeby on Instagram. He’s a fantastic illustrator who doodles the cutest fuzzy fellas.

If you need more inspiration, here are some great doodle sketches on Pinterest.

I’d love to see some of your sketches if you’re open to sharing! Tag them with #CreativeTipTues on Twitter or Instagram so I can gather and share in a future post.

Happy creating!

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Aromatic Herb Bundles for the Perfect Bonfire

Herb Bundle

This is the “Sweet & Lovely.”

Nothing says, “it’s fall, y’all” quite like a bonfire. Well, other than pumpkin lattes, cozy sweaters and apple-scented candles. Regardless, I’m a huge fan of glowy bonfires – especially on a crisp autumn night. Our family likes to sit out back huddled around our fire pit with blankets and cups of steamy cocoa. We usually crack open a bag of marshmallows while we’re at it. S’mores, anyone?

Now, the start to any fire, whether it’s an indoor fireplace or outdoor pit, is proper kindling. Any small pieces of flammable material will do: torn newspaper, old receipts, junk mail. It’s actually a great way to declutter. Just be sure to ask permission to burn certain items – like your husband’s Sports Illustrated. For a burst of fragrance in your kindling mix, you’ll want to toss in an herbal bundle. Mmm.

Plow and Hearth sells lavender fire starter bundles for about $25 each. They’re lovely. If you’d like to make your own for way less (MYOFWL), here are super easy instructions.

What you’ll need

  • Dried aromatic herbs – approx. 12-15 stems
  • Small strip of decorative paper – 1 inch wide x 4 inches long (optional)
  • Raffia – several strands

Neatly trim each stem to about 6-8 inches.

Divide the herbs in half. Gently gather each bundle and point the tops in opposite directions to create a “bowtie” effect. Tie the middle of the bunch with a small piece of raffia – just to hold it together.

Next you can wrap the bundle with a piece of decorative paper if you want to add a pretty design element. Hold the paper in place with another piece of raffia. This last piece of raffia will finish off your bundle, so make it into a pretty bow or just keep it simple like I did.

That’s it! You’ve made your super amazing bundle of aromatic goodness.

Herb Bundle Styled

This bundle is dolled up on a garden seat.

A few ideas to enjoy your new creation:

  • Use it for yourself! Toss into a bonfire for fragrant kindling.
  • If you’re not ready to light that flame, display a few bundles on your hearth or a garden seat like I did above.
  • Put one or two in a pretty dish on your nightstand – especially if it includes lavender. Lavender helps you sleep!
  • Give as a thoughtful hostess gift.
  • Decorate the top of a birthday or holiday package.

Here are some delicious combinations to try:

Sweet and Lovely

  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

Warm Spice

  • Sage
  • Tarragon
  • Oregano

Winter Wonder

  • Evergreen sprigs
  • Cinnamon sticks or vanilla beans
  • Small oak or maple twigs (or anything readily available)

I hope you enjoy your bundles of goodness! What fragrant combinations do you love?

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A Happy Halloween Meal

Halloween MenuThe formula for concocting a perfect Halloween dinner is “simple + delicious.” For this reason, using your crockpot is a must. Just fill it with tasty treasures before you head out to work, and you’ll come home to a magically finished meal.

This is especially helpful when you have a house full of eager trick-or-treaters who want to eat, dress and run. Everyone can have a good meal before they head out. When they return, second helpings are warm and ready!

I also like recipes I can prepare ahead of time, so this post is full of ideas for the simplest, happiest Halloween meal.

The Line Up

  • Spooky Taco Soup
  • Ghoulicious Guac with Bat Chips
  • Pumpkin Veggie Dippers
  • Sopapilla Pumpkin Cheesecake
  • Fanta-lanterns

Quick tip: To add seasonal flair, take everyday recipes and get creative with their names – like Spooky Taco Soup. It’s taco soup with a cute name and served in bowls that look like little ghosts for instant Halloween cred.

Speaking of bowls, I’m a huge fan of paper plates and other disposables on nights like Halloween. Who wants to spend this special night hovering over the kitchen sink? I’ll give you some easy and creative serving ideas with each recipe below.

Spooky Taco Soup (click for recipe)

This version from Allrecipes.com is a good one. I also like how their site allows you to adjust the servings so you can easily scale the recipe.

Spooky Bowl

Ready for my soup now.

To make the soup “spooky”, hot-glue googly eyes to the sides of paper or plastic soup bowls.

Ghoulicious Guac (click for recipe)

Homemade guacamole is the perfect partner for a cup of taco soup. I don’t know many variations of guac, so you might already have your own go-to recipe. If not, here’s a great one from SimplyRecipes. You’ll want to prepare this right before serving so it’s fresh and delicious.

Now, to make the dip Ghoulicious (see what I did there?), serve it with Bat Chips!

Bat Chips

A fresh batch of bats ready for the oven!

All you need is a bat-shaped cookie cutter, a package of flour tortillas, olive oil, Kosher salt and black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut each tortilla with your cookie cutter. Place your bats in a single layer on a sheet pan and sprinkle lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake for about 10 minutes, until crisp, turning once. You can make these a day or two ahead of Halloween and store them in an airtight container.

Pumpkin Veggie Dippers (click for recipe)

pumpkin platter

Such a happy pumpkin.

This is a basic veggie platter featuring carrots, sliced cucumbers, broccoli and Ranch dip. Simply arrange the vegetables in the form of a pumpkin on a large platter. Serve the Ranch dressing in small bowls or ramekins to create the eyes and nose. It’s super easy and kid friendly.

Sopapilla Pumpkin Cheesecake (click for recipe)

Why not top off the night with a slice of this decadent dessert? When I saw this recipe, I was like, “You had me at sopapilla. And pumpkin. And cheesecake.” I love this recipe from Six Sisters’ Stuff. They have tons of great recipes. Be sure to check them out!

You can cut these into squares and serve on a pretty orange or black platter. Or eat straight from the pan. That’s how I roll with these beauties.

Fanta-lanterns

Fanta-lantern

Cheers!

This is a cute way to dress up your drinks. I made silly jack-o-lantern patterns out of black construction paper, cut them out and used double-sided tape to adhere to the sides of clear plastic cups. Serve fizzy, orange Fanta in these adorable cups for instant Halloween cheers.

Planning Checklist: Day(s) Before

  • Grocery store run. Here’s A Happy Halloween Meal Grocery List you can download.
  • Create the soup bowls and cups
  • Bake the bat chips
  • Make the cheesecake
  • Prep the vegetable platter
  • Brown the meat for the soup

Planning Checklist: The Day of

  • Fill your crockpot in the morning
  • Make the guac just before serving
  • Set out your food and serving pieces
  • Enjoy the night

Happy Halloweeating!

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Trick Out Your House for Treats: A Halloween Checklist

Halloween's pumpkinsWhen we first moved to Arkansas, we made the rookie mistake of not asking our neighbors about Halloween. We figured we’d see about the same number of kids from our previous neighborhood, so I bought a single bag of 100-count Snickers. Thinking half of them would be for me while I waited patiently between doorbell rings. Boy, were we wrong!

Our street was swarming, SWARMING I tell you, with costumed kids. The little ones started as soon as we pulled in the driveway from work. So we obviously didn’t have our A-game on. At one point, kids were lined up down the sidewalk waiting at each door like they were in line for a Disney ride. Needless to say, our bag of candy disappeared faster than you can blow out a candle. We made an emergency trip to the grocery store for more candy, which only lasted another 30 minutes. We finally had to shut down our candy factory and watch the insanity from a one-inch opening through our blinds. It was incredible. It was also pretty cool to see so many of our neighbors getting into the spirit and creating a safe place for kids to enjoy the holiday. I’ll always remember that night, which is why I developed a plan for all of the Halloweens to come.

If you want a fun and organized Halloween night, here’s my go-to-checklist. Now is the perfect time to start planning and checking away:

  • Costumes and accessories. Here’s a huge photo library of homemade costume ideas from Costume Works. Remember to wear long underwear if it’s chilly so you don’t have to cover up your cool, new outfit.
  • Treat bags. If you don’t want to go the standard pillowcase or plastic bag route, Pottery Barn has the most adorable plush treat bags on sale and they can be personalized – so there’s no question whose candy is whose. Unless it’s a Snickers. Then it’s mine.
  • Flashlights or glow-in-the-dark necklaces. These are important safety items for everyone – big and little tikes alike!
  • Jack-o-lantern candles. We like to use flameless LED candles so we don’t have open flames near the bushes – or the kids with flowing princess dresses.
  • Special goodies for your friends and neighbor kids. I like to wrap non-candy treats, such as pencils, stickers and small glow sticks in clear cellophane bags tied with festive orange and black curly ribbon. All of the parents will thank you.
  • Candy bowl prepped and ready for the onslaught of everyone else! Shop at your local wholesaler (like Sam’s Club) for good deals on big bags of candy.
  • Cute door sign for if/when you run out of candy. I made this one out of a chalkboard sign from Hob Lob. I used white paint for the message and tied a new ribbon through the holes.IMG_4250
  • Crockpot prepped and ready. Halloween is the perfect night for a crockpot meal. A special, spooky menu with recipes will be posted this week!
  • Treat jar to store the goods. Each of our kids gets his/her own jar. As soon as they get home, they sort through their candy, toss anything unwrapped or homemade from people we don’t know (I’m not taking chances), trade anything that’s not a personal favorite, and store the “keepers” in their jars.
  • Festive movie for candy-sorting entertainment. Our family favorite is the classic “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

Even if you don’t have a wild and busy neighborhood like ours, you can conjure up your own Halloween fun. Invite a few friends over, have an awesome meal, eat your own trick-or-treat candy and watch for that Great Pumpkin to appear. Just wait and see.

I hope this helps you have a happy and relaxed Halloween!

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Lovely Lavender No-Sew Sachets

IMG_4169The smell of lavender can be intoxicatingly good. Giving someone a bundle of fresh lavender wrapped in silk ribbon always makes a nice gesture.

In fact when given as a gift, lavender flowers represent luck. They also offer the promise of new adventure. So why not go the extra mile and make a no-sew lavender sachet for your favorite travel buddy? Sachets are perfect for tucking into a suitcase for a sweet-smelling arrival. I mean, who wouldn’t that?

Let’s do this thing.

First you’ll need a bundle of dried lavender buds. Either buy some in bulk or create your own. To DIY, simply cut fresh stalks from your garden. Either hang the lavender stems upside down to air dry or lay them flat on a towel for a few days. Once the buds are dried out, strip them off the stem into a pile. This is what you’ll use inside your sachets.

If you don’t have access to fresh lavender, don’t despair. You can still make sachets with a couple of tablespoons of uncooked rice and a few drops of lavender oil.

Now take an antique handkerchief or pretty scrap of fabric cut into a 6” square. Place the lavender buds in the center of your fabric. Pull all four ends together into a bundle and tie with a pretty ribbon.

IMG_4187You can add a personalized note to complete the package. Now go surprise someone with this precious gift.

What’s your favorite way to use lavender?

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Three Steps to Organizing Your Jewels

IMG_4159Organizing your bracelets and baubles probably lands next to organizing your sock drawer on your priority list – especially if you’re a working mom like me. I totally get it. What I’ve recently discovered is that the smallest inconveniences, such as missing earrings or tangled necklaces, can cause serious morning madness when you’re getting ready.

I put together three simple steps to getting your jewels all jazzed. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Your jewelry
  • A space for sorting
  • 2 small boxes (recycled shoe boxes are perfect)
  • Sticky notes for labeling
  • Soft cloth and jewelry cleaner
  • Jewelry containers or boxes

Step 1: Sort

When it comes to sorting, I’m a huge fan of the dump and dig method. I like to lay it all out there, literally, to see what you’re working with. I like to use my bed, since it’s a nice soft space. You can also use a large bath towel on a counter. Once you dump, quickly dig and sort your things into piles labeled with sticky notes:

  • Keep
  • Fix
  • Rid
  • Trash

The keepers are the things you love and don’t need any extra TLC. I like to sub-sort this pile by color to make it easier to decide what I should keep or send to the rid pile. The fixer-uppers are the items you love, but they might be missing an earring back or a glittery bead. The rid pile is for items you really don’t wear, but they still look nice. You can choose to donate, sell, re-gift or reuse in your next “crafternoon” project. The trash pile is for hopeless items that simply need to hit the can once and for all.

Step 2: Scrub

Once you’ve established your piles, go ahead and dump your trash pile. Put your fixer-uppers into a box and label for later attention. Review your rid pile and polish up anything you want to sell or donate. If you want to re-gift anything, go ahead and label the item for the person you have in mind. Put these items into your second box. Now for the good stuff…look at all of your beautiful keepers! Take time to scrub and polish, as needed. Admire, as you wish.

Step 3: Store

It’s time to store all of your gems in style. When deciding on the type of storage, think about your space. For example do you have plenty of counter space, or do you need something to tuck in a drawer or hang in your closet? Find storage options that will fit your space and style. For more great tips and storage ideas, check out this video from PopsugarTV.

Once you’re finished, stand back and admire your work. That’s always my favorite part.

Have a creative day! What jewelry tips do you have to share?

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Manage the Morning Madness

Processed with VSCOcam with s5 presetThere have been mornings in my house what would rival the madness of a Black Friday sale. Kids are tired and fussy, breakfast is burning in the toaster, I can’t find my favorite pair of earrings, and there’s less than 10 minutes before the final school bell rings. I never intend for our mornings to get so out of hand, yet simple missteps can send all of us spiraling into chaos.

I started doing a few things to tame the madness and thought they were worth sharing. Now, these might sound like no-brainers, but I’ve learned not to take any ideas for granted. I’ve also discovered that if you try this for 66 days, which is the magic number for forming a new habit, you’ll find yourself with enough time to actually relax on the porch with a cup of coffee. Heaven.

Now, if you only take away one tip from this post, it’s this: the secret to a sane morning is to start the night before.

Prep the kids

Select outfits the night before and get them approved. A lesson I’ve learned at work is that collaboration is key. Same rule applies with kids. Get them to help pick out and approve their outfit so you don’t land yourself back in a battle over purple legging or pajama pants with minutes left to “go time”.

Plan the food

Not only plan and pack lunches for the next day, but also think about breakfast. Ask your kids what they’d like to eat and be sure you have enough milk, eggs or cereal to go around. If not, send hubby to the store. Like how I delegated, there?

Get to bed

I loooove to sleep. I’m one of those people who has to have 8 hours of sleep, and if you gave me 10, I’d be exponentially happier. Admittedly, my tendency is to stay up late and sleep in. I’ve learned, though, that if I get to bed no later than 10pm, it’s so much easier to wake up on time the next day. In fact, in the few days I’ve shifted my sleep times I’ve discovered early morning is the most peaceful time in our house. I’ve also discovered sunrises. I mean, have you seen one lately? So beautiful. I’m not suggesting you wake up at 4am. Even if you wake up 20 minutes earlier than anyone else in the house, those precious minutes provide plenty of time for you to set your intention for the day and start off on the right foot – and with matching shoes.

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