Lessons from My Father-in-Law

Hello, dear friends. Just as soon as I wrote about all of the joyful things going on in our lives this summer, something sad happened. My father-in-law passed away unexpectedly.

A few weeks ago today we were standing in a funeral home saying goodbye to a deeply kind and loving man. It was a tough experience, but I wanted to spend a minute remembering his life, which was so well lived.

He was an incredible father to my husband, a playful and fun Papa Don to our children, and a sweet father-in-law to me…making me feel like part of the family from the moment I met him.

We all learned so much from Don, and these are a few of my favorites. >

{I love this picture of my in-laws. Such a beautiful couple.}

{ONE} Teach everything you know

Don was a teacher at heart. So anything he was passionate about, like dancing or cooking for a crowd, he would learn to do it so well that he could teach others. It wasn’t in a know-it-all kind of way, either. He was humble about his gifts and sincerely wanted to share what he knew.

He was a dance instructor with my mother-in-law, Polly, for nearly 60 years. Teaching in studios, at colleges, and in their basement for private lessons, they’ve probably had 90% of the residents in Lincoln, Nebraska in their classes. It’s hard to go anywhere in town without someone introducing themselves as a student of theirs. They’d share how learning to dance brought them confidence or happiness in their lives. Many students, including Don and Polly themselves, met on the dance floor.

Don also loved cooking for people. He got such joy from serving up a stack of hot cakes or a plate of burgers and fries. He owned a restaurant for several years and then moved to the Nebraska State Fair where he had a food stand. Through these experiences, he also taught my husband and his sisters how to cook, count back money, and most importantly, treat people with attention and care. As a true gentleman, Don taught by example.

{TWO} Don’t settle for a desk job when you’re a dancer

Don knew himself well, and he understood the importance of finding happiness. He tried working at a desk job selling insurance for a short time, and he quickly figured out that wasn’t for him. It was probably decent money and consistent work that supported the family, but he wasn’t happy. So he moved on. I admire that level of honesty, courage, and faith.

I’m sure we’ve all found ourselves in a situation where we weren’t completely happy, but it was easier to stay put or we were too scared to move. Once Don left that corporate job, I’m sure he had plenty of challenging moments. He was willing to work through it, though, because he enjoyed the freedom he had from being his own boss. He enjoyed just being himself.

{THREE} Be generous with your compliments

One of Don’s more endearing qualities was his love of food. He would enjoy a meal and offer the most adoring compliments to the chef, and then he’d remember that meal for years. I’m not exaggerating. I served him a pot roast during one of his visits. Two years later, when he was celebrating his 80th birthday, all he asked for was another serving of my pot roast. He and my mother-in-law drove all the way down to Arkansas for that meal. Talk about the ultimate compliment.

I also loved how he would compliment Polly. Whether it was her cooking or the way she dressed, he always had a kind word to share. One of my favorite and most recent memories was when he asked Polly to play a song on the piano for the family. He told all of us how beautiful her music was, and he wanted to be sure we all had a chance to hear it. As she sat down to play, I looked over at Don, and his face was beaming with pride, love, and adoration for his lovely wife. It melted my heart for the both of them. True love in action.

{FOUR} Every gesture matters

As I listened to each family member share stories about Don after his funeral, it was clear he made each person feel important. Even when he was a young, busy father, he took time to have one-on-one breakfasts with his daughters, and he’d play basketball in the driveway with his son. He loved surprising them with gifts at Christmas and cars for their 16th birthdays. And even the small gestures, like helping with their homework, were deeply appreciated and what people remembered most.

As I joined the family and got to know him myself, I had similar experiences. Don would always take time to chat and ask how things were going. He remembered that I liked half a packet of Truvia in my coffee when we came to visit, and he’d serve it up with the most delicious donuts in town. Don’s whole life was spent loving his family one memorable moment at a time, and that’s quite a beautiful way to live.

{FIVE} Always remember to laugh

Since my husband was the only boy in the family, Don would call him his favorite son. He loved that joke. In fact, Don was full of jokes. He was always smiling and laughing. That’s something my kids adored most about him. They would play countless hours of card games and dominoes and laugh pretty much the entire time. And I loved that sound echoing through our home. Just thinking about it reminds me not to take life too seriously. It truly is short.

Even though we lived far away, Don never felt far from us. He was such an important part of our lives and made an effort to stay that way. We’re going to miss him dearly and deeply, but we know he’s in eternal peace now.

Don, we love you so much and promise to live life to the fullest, just as you did.

All my love,

Kate, your favorite daughter-in-law ūüėČ

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Friday Wrap: Sunny Summer Fun, So Far

{shop this darling print here!}

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted family pics and shared a little about what we’ve been up to (other than painting kindness rocks…my girls and I are super into this right now, btw!!)

With 4th of July literally around the corner of this weekend, I had a flash of realization that we’re already at the halfway mark of summer. Dang, sisters. That happened fast.

We haven’t had our big beach trip just yet, but we’ve made the most of our days so far. A few highlights >>

{ONE} Serious Soccer & Wolfpack Wednesdays

My son and his soccer team placed first in the the state of Arkansas for his age group, which means they qualified for regionals in North Carolina last week. They practiced such long hours and played their hearts out. In the end, they didn’t advance to finals, but we were so proud of their accomplishments.

I love this picture my husband took of the team before their first game of the tournament. #praybeforeplay

Evan and his teammates were excited for opening ceremonies. Each player received nice shirts and lots of soccer swag before the “show.”

Between soccer practices, Evan and his friends made time for driveway hoops.

We extended an open invitation every Wednesday night for the boys to come over and play basketball. We just fill the outdoor fridge with Gatorade and let them do their thing. Their team is called the Wolfpack, so “Wolfpack Wednesdays” kinda stuck. I think this tradition will, too.

{TWO} Puppy Playtime

Our mini goldendoodle, Leo, recently turned two years old!! We had a puppy birthday party for him that included his “cousin” Frito. His hat and treats all came from Three Dog Bakery. That place is the cutest.

In other puppy news…we’ve been dog sitting for a friend of ours over the past two weeks. The dog’s name is Rocky, and we’ve had fun coming up with all kinds of nicknames for this sweet boy…Rocky Road, Rocky Balboa, Rocky Mountain High, etc.

As you can tell from this picture, Leo kinda likes having Rocky around. He puts his paw on his back when we watch TV. Srsly the best. He’s gonna be sad when his friend has to go back home.

Here’s a glamour shot of our little friend. Haha!

{THREE} Lots of Swim Time

My family called me “fish” growing up because I swam so much. It’s no exaggeration to say that every day in the summer I was either in a pool splashing around, beside a pool catching some rays, or watching over a pool as a lifeguard as I got older. I loved (and still love) the water.

It’s super cute to see my girls following in my wet footsteps. They had their first swim meet of the season a few weeks ago and these Ducks rocked it.

Swimming isn’t just about competition. We love to close down our neighborhood pool each night with friends! Summer memories right there.

{FOUR} Cheerin’ & Chillin’¬†

My girls decided to try some new things this summer, too. So…

Clara just started a cheer and tumbling class. Totally out of the blue for her, since she’s never taken any sort of gymnastics. She barely knew how to do a cartwheel when she started. One week later, she’s doing backbends and attempting back handsprings. I love her adventurous spirit.

While Clara was flipping around, Avery decided to chill at home and do other things, like swing in the hammock, watch hummingbirds (yes, a hummingbird perched and drank from the feeder while Avery talked to it!!), and read her book club book. A little quiet time away from her twin is perfectly acceptable.

She plans to start tennis in the near future. So more on that later!

Speaking of book club books…a mom in our neighborhood started a cool group for girls entering 6th grade next year. She picked The Giver as their first book, and they’ve all been reading and discussing the book once a week.

This picture was from their first meeting at Freddy’s. The frozen custard afterward definitely sealed the deal. The girls were hooked – and have been reading more this summer than any other that I can remember!

{FIVE} 70’s Style Bowling & Outdoor Concerts

The kids shouldn’t have all of the summer fun, right?! Brandon had a hilarious 70s-style bowling party with his work friends a few weeks ago. They were celebrating a co-worker’s birthday…in Big Lebowski fashion.

Brandon is in the middle with his Star Wars tee tucked into those sexy polyester, baby-blue trousers.


Aaand I managed to squeeze in a girls night out! (Mama’s get to party, too.)

We went to the Elle King concert at the Walmart AMP, which is a beautiful outdoor amphitheater here in Northwest Arkansas.

(The guy in the photo is the husband of my friend, Jen. He was veeery brave to hang with us that night. Haha!)

Elle King has such a soulful, powerful voice. I went to the concert only knowing two of her songs and left loving many more.

That’s a wrap for now!

We’re heading to Indian Hollow this weekend for some fireworks and family time. We head to the beach at the end of July, so we’ll keep doing all of the above until that time. And I’ll keep on postin’.

XOXO,

Kate

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Natural Bug Repellent (in an awesome jar)

There’s actually a mosquito bite on my right arm as I type this post. Sigh. The bugs are already out n’ about in our neck of the woods, so it’s time to whip up a batch of the “Clark family bug spray.”

I call it that because the recipe came from my last family reunion in Minnesota, where they joke about mosquitos being their state bird. They’re that big. What I love most about this spray is that the ingredients are natural, and they smell really nice when mixed together. Aaaand it works.

Here a snapshot…

All you need:

  • 15 drops of lavender essential oil
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¬†¬ľ cup lemon juice
  • ¬Ĺ cup witch hazel
  • 1 cup distilled water
  • Spray bottle

All you have to do:

  • Combine first four ingredients in a 16 oz measuring cup
  • Pour the distilled water into the cup – up to the 16 oz mark (about 1 cup)
  • Stir and transfer to spray bottle

That’s it!! I made some last night and put it in a very cool glass spray bottle that I want to talk about. It’s called an Infinity Jar. Have you heard of them?!

Take a look. >>

{This is the 200 ml glass fine mist spray bottle and sells for $20.}

I personally hadn’t heard of these jars until the company reached out asking if I’d try one. So this was a sample – and it came with some helpful information. I also started researching them on my own and found some interesting facts.

For one, I didn’t realize how important a glass container is for skin care products and ingredients for cooking. I also didn’t realize how popular these magical little jars were. They must really work.

Here’s what came with the bottle:

That tomato test was crazy! The bottles not only preserve what’s inside, but also protect our bodies from chemicals.

I decided to try my bug spray recipe in this, because I want it to retain its freshness and strength during the summer season. There are so many uses, though. I’m looking forward to ordering the¬†apothecary jars to store my herbs!

The only drawback I can see is that since it’s so opaque, you can’t see what’s inside. And if you have several of these bottles with your favorite potions inside, you wouldn’t want to get them mixed up. A super easy solution is to have a good labeling system.

I’d recommend waterproof labels, since these bottles will more than likely contain liquids and be stored in a kitchen or bathroom. Now, the bottles themselves do come with a small envelope of labels. In fact, the packaging was very thoughtful. The bottle was in bubble wrap, and it came with a cleaning cloth and labels. The labels were just a little clinical. So if you want to design your own pretty labels, I found¬†these waterproof and adhesive food labels¬†on Amazon.

Here’s what my label looked like. >

{The art for this label is also shown at the top of the post}

If you want to print the full recipe and get this label design, download this free printable.

As a wrap, my opinion so far is that this jar is an extremely high quality item. The glass is is nice and thick and is a pretty bluish color. The sprayer gives off a perfect fine mist, so you don’t have to rub in the product. It doesn’t “squirt” in weird streams – like some sprayers. And I’m super happy that¬†I decided to put my natural bug spray in this jar, so the essential oils and other ingredients retain their effectiveness!

I hope all of this was helpful to hear. I don’t get anything from their company for your purchase, so my advice to buy one is purely because I think it’s a good product.

Looks like right now you can win a $50 gift card for posting a picture of your jar on social media. And you can get a free jar when you order $25 worth of product on their site. Happy shopping!

Have a fantastic weekend and let me know if you try the recipe. I hope it works just as well for you and your family.

Blessings,

Kate

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Five Beautiful Wedding & Anniversary Gifts

Hey, friends! For my weekly list of fun things to share, I wanted to dive into some gift ideas for weddings and anniversaries. June is the month for weddings, so you might be looking for some creative ideas.

Here are a few for us to consider!

{ONE} Pretty Address Book

If someone very dear to you has just gotten engaged, an address book would be perfect for a shower or early wedding gift. Here are two of my favorite finds:

{This book @ erin condren is so pretty Рand it can be personalized!)

{This one is via Rifle Paper Co. Рone of my favorite brands and has a cloth book cover with gold foil detailing and a ribbon page marker.}

{This is the inside cover of the address book above. Such pretty details.}

Any bride-to-be would love receiving a beautiful book that has been pre-filled with names and addresses of their family and friends.

They’ll be sending save-the-dates, invitations to showers and the big day, and then following up with handwritten thank you notes. So having addresses organized and handy is such a thoughtful gift. You could even tuck in a few “love” stamps as an added bonus.

P.S. This would also make a great gift for a high school graduate. My sister-in-law, Lisa, plans to do this for my niece when she heads off to college in the fall. In fact, she’s the one who gave me this idea in the first place!!

{TWO} Memory Keeper

Not to be confused with a high school trapper keeper, this memory book is a gorgeous place to record details of each anniversary from the first year all the way through the 60th. Details include writing prompts such as: how we celebrated our anniversary, our favorite things at the moment, memorable moments from the year and what we’re looking forward to.

My parents are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary next summer, and I was just thinking how cool it would be to read something like this…to see how their relationship grew and evolved over the years. They’re such an inspiration to me.

{THREE} Wedding Flowers

Fresh flowers are always a good idea when it comes to gifting. And if you can recreate the same wedding bouquet as an anniversary gift, that’s even better!!

Back to my parents for a sec…my dad loves giving yellow roses to my mom because that’s what she carried in their wedding. Isn’t that sweet?

{FOUR} Registry Leftovers

Many retailers keep wedding registries active for up to a year after a couple gets married, so you could shop for anything left on their list as an anniversary gift!

At the very least, you could double-check their china pattern or towel colors so you can coordinate a gift to match their home.

{FIVE} Save the Date

If you’re feelin’ up to a DIY project, you could tackle this super thoughtful idea. It’s a pillow that includes a copy of a marriage license. These instructions show you how to enlarge and transfer the image to the fabric. You could do this with a wedding invitation, too.

Another way to set the date in stone (or wood in this case) is to paint it on a rustic sign. This cute design includes the couple’s initials and wedding date. <3

That’s a wrap! I hope this gives you some fun ideas to think about this wedding season. Tomorrow I’m sharing a super easy recipe (and really cool jar) for homemade bug spray. Yes, it’s also that time of year. Sigh. We can manage, though, and smell good while we’re at it. See you back soon!

Blessings,

Kate

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Kindness Rocks + Finding Time “In Between”

Today’s post is inspired by a comment that Jenna @¬†Tractors and Glam¬†shared with me on Friday. I had posted some fun project ideas for summer and included “playing with rocks.”

Jenna really liked the ideas and went on to explain that there’s a large group of people who are painting rocks and hiding them all around town, and that it has become huge in her community.

How cool is this? I was intrigued and started researching the idea.

Apparently this is a thing (and growing trend) across the country. There’s this article¬†and¬†this dedicated website¬†to help us understand what it’s all about.

Essentially, the idea is to “spread inspiration and motivation for unsuspecting recipients through random inspirational rocks dropped along the way.”

Here are some examples from the Kindness Project Facebook page:

Aren’t these lovely? And what a creative way to spread some joy around the world. Not to mention, it’s an inexpensive hobby. Rocks are free and you can find permanent markers and paints at pretty much any discount store.

I’m thinking about starting a group in my hometown.

If anyone has experience with this, please let me know what to do! I’d love your tips and tricks.

In the meantime, I created a¬†board with lots of ideas for what to paint on my first set of rocks. {There’s no shortage of inspiration on Pinterest, I tell ya.}

I’m excited to get started. Now, where to find the time to do this?!

Part 2: “In-Betweening”

As a busy mom with a job, pets, and a blog, a small part of me is asking, “When the heck will you find time to start this new creative project, sister?”

I think I found the answer in a podcast by my super talented friend and co-worker, Jameson Sheppard. He recently started a podcast called Creative Common Ground.

In episode 4, around 12 min into the podcast, he talks about the idea of “in-betweening.”

He explains that when we step back and evaluate how we spend our time (all of it, including the time scrolling through Facebook and deciding which Netflix series we’ll binge next) we’ll discover we have more time than we realize.

Look at the time between things on our schedules and engage in a creative endeavor or hobby during those small moments.

Even if it’s 5-10 min. each time, it will add up over the course of a week or month or year. Heck, you could end up learning to play a guitar or writing a book during all of that “in-betweening.”

We just need to decide and set ourselves up with the right tools to make this easy. I plan to give this a try with my rock project, so wish me luck!

Feel free to listen to Jameson’s full explanation of the idea – and check out his other episodes. They’re only about 15 min each and worth every second.

Here’s to more time being creative + spreading kindness like confetti…and rocks!!

Blessings,

Kate

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What to Do on a Summer Crafternoon?

Let’s start with the basics…

Haha! I love digging into a project of any shape or size. When I’m able to keep my hands busy…tied up with ribbons, pens, glue or string…it’s usually a happy day around here.

Now that summer is upon us, my girls and I decided to pull together a go-to list of projects. These have all been “Avery & Clara approved”, so…

If you have tweens in your life, they might like these projects, too!! >

{ONE} Play with rocks

The great thing about this project is that it requires you to spend time outside collecting the perfect set of rocks before you begin. Then you get to play inside (or on a cool porch) with crochet needles, ink pens or paints.

For instance, look at this first set of stones! I would love a bowl full of these beauties in my house. Each one is covered in a different crochet pattern, and takes on a personality all its own.

If this seems too tricky, you could skip to the next idea and just treat yourself to beautifully crocheted pebbles here!

Next up is an idea that just requires a Sharpie or ink pen.

As a tip, you might want to pencil-in your design first. That way you can plan out a more intricate pattern like the ones pictured below.

PS. I love the one with white ink on the dark grey stone. So pretty.

If you’re more in the mood for painting, here’s some inspiration: Paint one of your favorite quotes and add a few floral touches.

Wouldn’t this be sweet sitting on a coffee table or desk?

{TWO} Crochet cute animals

Have you seen the trend of these teensy-tiny crocheted animals?! I’ve recently learned the correct name is amigurumi, which is a Japanese word. You can learn more about the origin of these darling yarn creations¬†here.

In the meantime, let’s look at a few designs that my girls are dying to try – like these starfish!

I can just picture us crocheting a few of these sitting beachside. >

I’m becoming obsessed with hedgehogs¬†these days. When I saw this pattern, my heart melted a little bit. >

And what’s cuter than one saddleback seal with her furry white coat? Two…a mama and her precious babe. I mean, those eyes. >

{THREE} Build a fairy garden

Most of the projects so far could turn into full-on hobbies, including this one.

Building fairy gardens is a never ending experience because they’re living¬†projects. They continue to grow and change right before your very eyes.

There are so many ideas out there, too! You could create new fairy spaces all of the time. In fact, here’s further inspiration…

This post shows one of the earlier gardens that my girls and I made together. You’ll get tips on what kind of flowers to plant, too.

This is a more recent post that was inspired by a trip to my local garden store where I spied several darling gardens. The one pictured above is included in this post.

I’ve also collected tons of ideas on this board.¬†Feel free to hop over!

{FOUR} Color a card & keep in touch with friends

If you’re into adult coloring books, which are very meditative, then you’ll love this idea.

Turn your drawings into greeting cards. Cut out your favorite pattern and glue to the front of a plain card. That way you can share your pics + keep in touch with friends while you’re away on a summer adventure.

It’s an easy project to take on the road, too.

I recently spotted these playful postcards you could color, tear out and send right out of the book. >

{FIVE} Learn brush lettering (finally)

As a lefty, the idea of calligraphy sounds impossible. The ink doesn’t dry fast enough between letters to keep the entire page (and your hand) clear of smears. I’ve tried many times. A dear friend of mine even bought me a gorgeous quill with a small bottle of ink, and it turned into a sad mess.

But nowadays, it seems like there are more convenient options to choose from. Even some of the fancy brush pens dry fairly quickly. I think it’s time I re-attempt this much-loved look. Don’t you?! ūüôā

There are lots of tutorials on this topic, and I found this one to be especially helpful.

And as a further nudge, I found several pretty ways to display and share all of the hard work. >

Clip it on a bulletin board or drop it in the mail as a greeting card.

Write out a funny quote like this one and frame it for your office or kitchen.

Write out your “word of the year” or a phrase that makes you feel strong and then take a picture of it. Select it as the screensaver on your phone or computer for a daily dose of motivation.

If you want to get really artsy, put your lettering on a small canvas and prop it up on a plate stand. You can display it on your dresser or in your living room – wherever you want to see your special “note to self.”

I’m just now getting into bible journaling, so my hand lettering skills will definitely come in handy for this new hobby.

Look how pretty these letters are with the gradient colors.

Alright, friends, that’s a wrap for now. If you need me, I’ll be cruizin’ and droolin’ through the craft store aisles. Lol. Have a fun summer and let me know what kind of projects are on your list!

Blessings,

Kate

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P.S. For hundreds (literally) of additional ideas for summer fun, check out these lists!

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5 Fast (and thoughtful) Father’s Day Gifts

I’d like to begin this post by raising this (incredibly awesome) mug in honor of all of the dads out there. It’s almost Father’s Day!!

It’s time to properly celebrate the dad’s in our lives with fun gifts, silly cards and big bear hugs. If you’re still looking for a few ideas you can pull off in time for Sunday brunch, here’s a list of five go-to gifts. >>

{ONE} Daddy Bear Toast

You know the saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Well, this adorable daddy bear toast will win over both. My girls made mama bear toast for Mother’s Day, and I loved it. (Shown above.)

I think with a small adjustment to the bow, moving it from the ear down to the chin like a bow tie, you have the perfect breakfast to start Father’s day.

It’s as easy as it looks, too. There’s a peanut butter base with sliced bananas for ears and a nose, and blueberry accents for the eyes, and tip of nose.

{TWO} Sweets for the Sweetie

Sticking to the food theme for just a second…

My husband calls our girls little peanuts, so when I saw this idea on Pinterest, it totally caught my eye. Our twin girls made their own version…times two!

It’s so simple (just a small bag of M&Ms tied to a piece of card stock), yet it will definitely make our sweet daddy smile. This could also make any Papa smile, too.

If you’re not into candy, an apple would be a cute substitution. It could be from the “apple of his eye.” You could also say, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” ūüėČ

{THREE} Snazzy Shirt

I know, I know. Ties and shirts aren’t the most creative gift, buuuut if you pick out a super soft, stylish polo like this one from Banana Republic, your husband, dad or father-in-law will definitely thank you. These shirts are some of my hubs favorite. He can wear them on the weekend or even to work.

And according to BR, it’s a “smart, handsome gift that will remind him of you every time he puts it on!” Snap.

You can shop them here¬†or swing by your local store so you have it in time for this weekend. It’s not an affiliate. My husband just happens to really like these shirts. Lol.

{THREE} Personalized Beer

I absolutely love this idea…dressed up beer! You could print your own labels and wrap them around your man’s favorite beer. The ones pictured above would be perfect for a first-time daddy. (I hope the one for “3:00 am feedings” also has a shot of espresso in it.)

My husband would need labels for things like “driving smelly boys home from soccer” and “pre-teen mood swings.” Haha. Cheers to whatever milestones you’re living through right now!!

{FOUR} Photo Card

How stinkin’ cute is this?! My girls are all about the sidewalk chalk, so we might have to whip up a special message for our daddy and try this photo trick.

You can even print it out and glue it to the front of a homemade card – for keeps!

{FIVE} Experiences vs. Things

Perhaps one of my most favorite Father’s Day gift we gave our sweet Brandon was our time. And for a busy mom, teenage boy and two pre-teen girls, time away from electronics is PRECIOUS. Last year we went camping, and it turned out to be the best experience for all of us.

So…think about what kind of experience you can share and give to the dads in your life. It doesn’t have to be a full-on camping excursion. An invitation to coffee or a walk around the block without any distractions could be just the gift they need.

However you choose to celebrate this weekend, I hope it’s fun & full of love!

Blessings,

Kate

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All the Peonies, Please!

Yep, that pretty much sums it up. Haha!

Peonies have been a love of mine since the first time I saw and smelled their sweet layers of petals.

I’m pretty sure the nuns at St. Patrick’s had a few bushes¬†next to their front porch. I would have been in grade school at the time, and the nuns lived in a small house nudged between the school and church. They¬†had a modest¬†garden right outside of their house. I seem to recall peonies, but I didn’t know what they were called at the time.

In college, during my days of unpacking and labeling flowers at the floral shop where I worked, I came across several bunches of peonies. The fragrance brought back memories of walking between buildings on the St. Patrick campus.

Lilacs and honeysuckles can bring me back to childhood, too. Summers in our southern neighborhood were always filled with warm, sugary air.

While peonies are reminiscent of my younger days, they carry specific meaning for others. >

Outside of how to pronounce the name, I didn’t know any of that!

After doing a bit¬†more digging¬†about my favorite flower, I came up with five reasons why I’m so obsessed with peonies!! >

{ONE} They represent good luck & love

There are many sources (Greek, Chinese, and even our Western culture) that describe various meanings of peonies. What I found was that they universally stand for love (romance, happy marriage, affection) and good luck (good fortune and wealth).

Both are good things to have in life, so it’s no wonder so many¬†brides (and apparently celebs like Drew Barrymore and Hillary Duff) love to include them in their bouquets.

PS. Peonies are also known as the 12th wedding anniversary flower, so tuck that piece of knowledge away for a gift idea!

{TWO} They’re a springtime special

Spring is one of my favorite seasons. And early April showers bring these May-June flowers to life in most parts of the country. That means you should be able to find them at your local farmer’s market right about now. Yay!

Or if you’re super lucky, you’ll¬†have them growing¬†in your own backyard. Btw, if you’re thinking about planting them, it’s totally worth the investment. One bush can bloom¬†as long as 100 years! You can pass them along to your precious grand babies.

{THREE} They’re perfect in arrangements 

Just like that rockin’ statement necklace that completes your outfit, peonies can add a bold splash to an arrangement. Blooms can grow up to 10 inches, depending on the variety. Bam.

And they‚Äôre easy to work into pretty much any color palette since they come in shades of red, pink, coral, white and yellow. Apparently they don’t come in blue, but you could tuck in a few other¬†flowers to add a blue or purple punch.

I¬†love the arrangement above. They used ranunculus¬†(another top five, most favorite flower ever) and wispy greens (that remind me of seeded eucalyptus) to surround two bright pink peonies. Doesn’t it look like a fresh-picked, country-garden bouquet?

Okay, and before we move on, I have to show you this arrangement above. Look how they included succulents and hydrangea in this darling bundle. I honestly can’t tell if they’re real?! Regardless, it’s simply gorg.

 {FOUR} They can be healing

In addition to simply making me happy, I discovered peonies can actually make you feel better. In ancient times, peonies were used to relieve headaches and help with asthma. A quick search on WebMD lists even more uses and benefits Рlike cramps. #thankyouverymuch

The suggested method is to use the dried root and boil it like a tea. I’m no nurse, so definitely check things out with your doctor first. It does sound fascinating, though.

{FIVE} They’re just so darn pretty with their layers of loveliness

While my preference is to enjoy peony blooms in person – like these stunning beauties from Pigmint that I received on Mother’s Day…

…I even love looking at pictures.

Take a scroll with me down this virtual walkway of flowers that are pretty enough to print and frame for your house.

Seriously, y’all. >>

Okay, now for the grand finale, because those are always the best. Here’s a glossary of peonies to help guide us in our shopping.

That’s a wrap, my friends. May your weekend be a bowl of fun¬†with extra peonies on top. Yum!

Many blessings,

Kate

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Milestones & Sweet Memories of Feeding My Kids

My precious view at dinner. <3

It’s another year of milestones for all three of my children. My twin girls are graduating up to middle school, and my oldest son will be in ninth grade. Can he really be entering high school?

Some days it feels like forever since I was cradling them in my arms or pushing them in a stroller that barely fit through grocery store aisles. The fog from all of the sleepless nights and pure busyness of having three babies under the age of three hovers low over my memories and grows dense. Other days, like today, I look across the table and remember clear.

We sit together enjoying a nice dinner, celebrating accomplishments of the school year, and I can remember them as babies. I remember the mornings so early. They would call out from their cribs like little roosters, waking the house, fuzzy heads peaking through wooden slats, wanting to be fed.

I also remember the quiet afternoons and evenings spent one-on-one holding each of them. Even though they had siblings waiting their turn, I tried to sit in stillness enjoying our time and moment to bond. I‚Äôd let their hand curl around my finger, while I smoothed out their hair and hummed the tune ‚ÄúYou Are My Sunshine.‚ÄĚ

Thinking back, feeding was one of the most intimate experiences I had with my children. At first, I didn’t give¬†much thought to how I‚Äôd feed them. My mother nursed me ‚Äď and all four of my siblings ‚Äď so I just figured it was a good thing to do.

I started off nursing my first child for about four months. As a working mom, trying to keep up with pumping between conference calls and deadlines was a bit tricky for me. My body was exhausted, my milk was reducing, and I eventually switched my son over to formula. I remember feeling a little sad and even a bit guilty about it all. Had I given up too soon…too easily? But it ended up being the best decision for our family.

When I weaned my son from nursing, I also weaned myself from trying to be supermom. I let myself off the hook and recognized how incredible and capable my husband was (and still is today). I created room for him to step in, feed our son, and bond like no other moment in time. Even though he had been helping warm up bottles of breast milk, the process of mixing and making bottles with formula was different. We were on the same side of making milk. And my husband and I bonded as parents ‚Äď through feeding our child together.

When our twins came along, my husband and I didn‚Äôt specifically talk about how we’d feed them. Initially, we were in too much shock and excitement at the news of twins to think about such details. We were already 20 weeks along when we found out! When we eventually brought the girls home, we were in survival/autopilot mode most of the time.

We did whatever felt natural, and thanks to a little experience from having our son, a few things actually did feel natural. I nursed the girls as soon as I could ‚Äď and at the same time. I held them on each side, surrounded and supported by pillows. So many pillows. I had a C-section this time, so it was hard to lift the girls. My husband would bring the babies up to my chest and I‚Äôd balance and hold them like little footballs under each arm. It was an amazing sight that would bring tears to my eyes each time I fed them. How was my body doing all of this?! I always seemed to have enough milk to satisfy their growing tummies. No matter how tired I was, the milk would be there.

After about three months of nursing the girls, and two episodes of mastitis, I made the decision to switch to formula. It wasn’t an easy choice. It was also fairly expensive – everything times two and all – but it was one that helped me get some physical strength and much-needed rest. I was also reminded of how good it felt to let my husband step in and help us. He bonded more with the girls, while he and I bonded deeper still, through yet another crazy parenting experience.

I think the way my husband and I fed our kids at birth reveals a lot about how we feel about and feed them today. We realize each day holds new chapters and milestones. And we view each moment at the table as chance to bond and a time to savor. No matter what was warmed up in a bottle back then or on a plate today, it was and always will be served with our deepest love.

Many blessings as you nourish your own sweet ones,

Kate

P.S. I was inspired to share our story because of the Honest.com blog and some of these beautiful feeding stories. Enjoy reading them for yourself and thinking back to your own personal stories. Is there something helpful Рa tip or new perspective Рthat you can share?

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