My Stash of Summer Books

One of my favorite ways to “waste time” is to hang from the trees in a hammock while traveling through the pages of a good book. And apparently this will help me live longer. I heard that spending 30 minutes a day with a good book may add years to your life. Bonus, right?!

So I’ve been keeping a running list of books I want to read this summer, and I finally took the plunge. {I think the sunny weather nudged me into action.}

All of my books arrived within days of each other, which made going to the mail quite exciting this week. It was like Christmas in May. Anyway, I’m excited to share the titles with you. They’re all over the map in terms of topics and genres, but that’s kinda how I read and roll.

Without another peep, here’s my summer reading list, and why I’m excited to dig into each one! >>

{ONE} Into The Water

Why I’m excited: Let me start by saying I loved the thrill and intrigue of Girl on the Train, so when I heard the same author was coming out with her next novel, I was all in.

This book just released on May 2, so it’s literally hot off the press. The book jacket claims it’s “an addictive new novel of psychological suspense about the slipperiness of truth – and one family drowning in secrets.” Ooooh. Can’t wait to read for myself!

{TWO} The Nest

Why I’m excited: This is one of those books that kept popping up on my radar. Have you had one of those? Any time I shopped on Amazon or skimmed through Facebook, there would be a reference to it. I finally read the description and saw Amy Poehler was listed under “praise for the book.” Well, that sealed the deal. Love her (and her book, Yes, Please.)

Amy called it “an epic family story that unfolds in a deeply personal way.” Others describe it as, “A warm, funny and acutely perceptive debut novel about four adult siblings [in New York] and the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives.”

I get the idea this family will entertain us in both humorous and tragic ways. I’ll let you know!!

{THREE} The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

Why I’m excited: This book was recommended in a recent issue of Real Simple magazine. They usually share pretty good book picks, and this one caught my attention. It was labeled as “great for a book club” and had this short writeup:

“Author Lisa See transports you to the remote mountains of China – where, in 1988, an Akha tribe grows tea. There we meet Li-Yan, a young woman forced to give up the daughter she had out of wedlock. Come for the heartwarming bond between mother and daughter, stay for the insight into the Akha culture and fascinating (really!) history of the tea trade.”

As you know, I love tea – and a good story. I’m intrigued by this one.

{FOUR} One Thousand Gifts

Why I’m excited: A lady in my bible study recommended this book to the group. She said it was a life-changer. It’s called One Thousand Gifts and is written by Ann Voskamp, who captures your attention from the first word of anything she writes. She’s such an eloquent writer, yet she tackles topics in a way that’s raw and honest. I love her voice, and I know I’ll walk away from this one feeling inspired.

The premise of this book is that she started writing a list of one-thousand things she’s thankful for – and how this prayerful practice impacted her life and those around her. I have a feeling I’m going to experience why there have been more than one-million copies sold.

{FIVE} The Magnolia Journal

Why I’m excited: Um, do you see who’s on the cover of this lovely magazine? It’s Jo Jo Gaines herself from the HGTV sensation Fixer Upper, and I believe this is the second edition of her Magnolia Journal.

It’s not technically a book, but it’s one read I can’t wait to soak up. In fact, this might have to cut in line on the reading list. My ever-so-thoughtful husband gave me a subscription for Christmas. He’s still basking in pride over this one, because every time I get one in the mail, I give him some sugar and thank him all over again. Well played, sweet B.

That’s a wrap! Have you read any of these books? If so, give me your reviews – just no spoilers! Haha! And what else is on your list right now? I’d love to hear from you.

For now, I’ll leave us with this quote from Plato. >>

Blessings,

Kate

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Mother’s Day Gift List: To the Rescue

Mamas are such special people – at least the ones in my life. Every day should be mother’s day, IMO. But since we formally celebrate next weekend, I’ve been thinking about some gift ideas.

Flowers and candy are always a treat, but what if you want to give your sweet mom, or even your sisters and friends who are great moms, something a little different this year?

Or what if you’re on the receiving end of a gift, and you’re flat out of ideas for what to tell your hubs and kids to get you, because you haven’t had a moment to stop and think about it?!

Here are a few categories to get you started – along with some ideas for each. >>

{ONE} Practically Speaking: Inverted Umbrella

While practical gifts, such as vacuums and dusters, are probably needed around the house, there are some that fall into the category of fun and practical. Take this umbrella for instance. >

{Shop this crazy-awesome umbrella here.}

Everyone could use a good (and cute) umbrella. This one is not only adorable with its navy and white stripes, but also super handy.

It folds in reverse, so when you close it up, you don’t get drenched with water. It’s also much easier to get in and out of a car. I’m simply amazed at its ingenuity and simplicity. Lovely gift.

{TWO} Completely Decadent: A Lovely Infuser with Fancy Tea

On the other end of the spectrum is a gift idea that’s totally something you don’t need, but would enjoy having, none-the-less.

For instance, I love drinking tea. I’m usually cramming a pod into the Keurig as I’m running out of the door for to carpool kids or head to work. So I don’t have many slow, tea-sipping opportunities.

For the occasional moments of chill, though, I would look forward to sitting with a beautiful infuser. It’s nothing I would buy for myself, but I’d cherish it coming from my family. It would feel like an invitation to kick back and relax for a bit. Invitation accepted.

{You can get the infuser here and add some delicious teas from here! The Tuscan Garden loose leaf tea is really nice.}

{THREE} Totally Trendy: Potted Succulents

As an earthy, cool and super trendy alternative to a vase of flowers, a pot of succulents is a charm of a gift.

{Shop this cute planter here. Or make one yourself by painting a terra cotta pot with white paint and decorating with Sharpies – then plant a sweet little succulent inside.}

{FOUR} An Inside Joke: Graphic Tee & Funny Cards

Laughter can be a gift unto itself. And you probably have a few inside jokes with your mom – or your husband and kids. So a gift that hints at your joke or even spells it out on a shirt is always a good idea.

Here’s one I would personally love. >

{I have no idea where I first heard this phrase, but I literally say it every time my kids tell me something amazing or weird. You can get it at this cute shop. More hilarious tees are here…love me some Thug Life. That’s where I got my Mama Bear sweatshirt!}

Sometimes you don’t want to go the route of an overly sweet message on a card, so humor can be the best remedy. >

{Lol!! These cards are actually downloads you can grab here.}

{FIVE} A Heart-Melter: Anything Handmade

The quickest way to melt a mama’s heart is to find a way to push the pause button on time and capture it in a handprint or photo. A gift that archives childhood and the precious memories that go along with it will always be a winner.

There are so many ways to do this, but here’s one in particular that I really love. >

{Get the simple instructions for making this thumbprint charm here.}

That’s a wrap! Have fun shopping – or crafting. And here’s to a great weekend ahead. Hopefully you have nice weather in the forecast so you can enjoy some sunshine and soak up that vitamin D. Lord knows this mama could use some.

Blessings,

Kate

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Five Ways to Make May Day Baskets

It’s almost the first of May, which means I’ll be sneaking around the neighborhood delivering fresh flowers to my sweet friends pretty soon.

If you’re not familiar with May Day, it’s totally okay. I grew up in Arkansas and didn’t hear about it until I went to college in Nebraska. I think it’s a midwestern thing?! Anyway, it’s such a fun way to welcome spring and share a simple treat with others.

It’s been said that the tradition started when people would take all of the flowers that grew at the end of April’s showers, arrange them in pretty paper, and hang them on the doors of neighbors as a way of welcoming warmer weather.

Sadly, I think it’s becoming a lost tradition, but I’m not afraid to be a little old fashioned. I’m sticking with it and hope you’ll join me.

A few tips if you’re new to May Day basket deliveries.

  1. It’s supposed to be a secret. You deliver the basket, ring the doorbell, and run. My kids call it “ding-dong-ditching” which sounds very impolite. But the fact that we’re leaving goodies somehow makes it seem better to me.
  2. The baskets should be super simple. A few stems of flowers or a couple of pieces of candy is perfectly acceptable.
  3. Make each basket with grace and gratitude for your friends. Even though they won’t know it’s from you, they’ll feel your love the moment they open the door.

Here are five baskets to get your creative wheels spinning.

{ONE} Mason Jar Revival

I love Mason jars. They’re multi-tasking rock stars. Among many other uses, they’re the perfect, inexpensive vessel for May Day. Here are all of the supplies you’ll need for this first “basket”. >>

In addition to the Mason jar (with the lid) and some ribbon, you’ll see I raided the garden. This is a smart place to start this whole process so you don’t end up spending tons of money on flowers.

I snipped a mix of hostas, lilacs and some pink flowers that were growing in my hanging basket from Lowes. Lol! I ended up buying tulips from the store since mine have already come and gone. Tulips = spring to me.

To create the “handle,” you’ll want to slide the ribbon under the Mason jar lid. Notice I don’t have the top, just the outside ring. Next you just screw it on to secure the ribbon in place.

Fill the jar with fresh water, arrange your flowers, and then hang this lovely bouquet from your neighbor’s door. Ding-dong!

{TWO} Perfectly Sweet Planter

This might be the simplest idea in the batch. Here are the supplies, which I mostly got from the garden store. >>

I chose a pot of colorful zinnias for the focal point. For the basket I’m using Jiffy-Pots, which are biodegradable. You can literally plant the entire container in the ground. They’re basically thick paper cups, so it’s easy to punch holes in the sides.

And that’s the first step…punch holes on each side of your Jiffy-Pot.

Then you plant your flower of choice right into this earth-friendly little pot.

Lastly, thread the ribbon through the holes and tie knots on each side.

That’s it! You’re ready to spread May Day cheer.

{THREE} Aluminum Can-Do 

This sweet little number didn’t even require a trip to the store. Here are the only supplies you’ll need. >>

I used a can of corn in a recipe last night, so I upcycled an aluminum can. Then I “shopped” around my craft area for a pretty piece of paper and ribbon. The flowers were plucked from outside..white hydrangea and soft lambs ear.

First I covered the can with pretty paper.

Then I arranged my flowers. I kept this one pretty simple…tucking lambs ear down into the giant hydrangea blossom.

Here’s the back side where you can see the final step.

I tied ribbon around the top so I could create a loop to hang from the front door.

Note: An alternative idea would be to drill a small hole on each side of the can so you can create a more balanced arrangement.

{FOUR} Paper Plates & Goodies

For the candy lovers in your life, this would make a fun May Day surprise. Here are the supplies needed for this bright and sunny basket. >>

You’ll need a small paper plate (cut in half), a piece of pretty paper cut to the size of one of the halves, flowers, candies and ribbon.

I went with a “sunny” theme and gathered all kinds of yellow treats. The yellow pansies are from my front garden and the M&Ms were a special purchase. I had the paper and ribbon in my craft area.

To get the basket started, put the two paper plate halves facing each other. Staple the bottom to secure and punch holes on the sides for your ribbon.

I wanted to give the plate a facelift, so I glued a piece of decorative paper to the front.

The plate dips down on the edges, but I like having the paper cover the entire surface.

Here’s a better look. You can see how the paper is flat across the entire plate. It also leaves room for you to thread your ribbon.

This is a view of the finished basket with the ribbon tied to each side.

Now for the really fun part…filling the basket.

I used floral water tubes for the pansies to help keep them fresh and hydrated. You can get these at any floral shop. They also help bundle the pansies together, making it easier to tuck into the basket.

This is the final product with the candies and flowers ready to rock.

{FIVE} Triple Scoop Flower Cone

This is the most traditional style of all of the May Day baskets – with a paper cone. I also used tissue paper flowers so the entire thing is waterless. Here are the supplies. >>

In the upper left I have a stack of tissue paper to make the flowers. I also have floral picks with wire to help secure the paper flowers and give them “stems.”

The upper right is a piece of decorative paper for the cone. And in the lower right you can see I tossed in some greenery. It was actually left over from my front door wreath project. (More on that next week!)

I started by making the paper cone. I just rolled the the paper into the shape of a cone and secured the seam with clear tape.

As a tip, use double-sided paper so there’s a fun design peeking through the back.

Okay, now for the flowers. You’ve probably made tissue paper flowers before, but here’s a quick primer.

Fold a small stack of tissue paper back and forth (like a fan) until the entire thing is folded. Pinch it in the middle and secure with your wire floral pick.

Here’s what it looks like attached to the pick.

Working slowly so you don’t tear the tissue, gently pull and separate each of the layers. I like to work one side at a time.

Then work the other side until it looks like a full bloom! Repeat the process so you have several flowers for your basket.

Once you have all of your goodies ready, tuck everything into your paper cone. Finally, punch a hole in the back of the cone and thread your ribbon so you have a way to hang your beautiful bouquet.

That’s a wrap, my friends. I hope you have a wonderful weekend and give one of these baskets a try. Let me know how it goes.

Blessings,

Kate

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Decorating with Nature

Some of my favorite designers use earth tones in their color palettes and natural elements in their work. I just love this look.

And with Earth Day happening this weekend, I thought it would be fun to round up some beautiful and easy ways we can incorporate nature into our own homes.

{Another lovely print by Katie Daisy}

{ONE} Fresh Terrariums

Succulents and terrariums are all the rage right now, and we can jump on this trend with the help of this tutorial. I also have some inspiration for you on this board.

{TWO} Botanical Prints

Have you ever found a cool feather, leaf, or frond on a fern that you want to frame and keep forever? I love this idea. Sandwich your treasure between two pieces of glass and add it to a gallery wall for an instant conversation starter.

{You can actually buy these acrylic pieces of art at West Elm.}

{THREE} Herbs for Fragrance

Our homes should engage all of our senses…from the moment we walk in the door. Strategically placing herbs and fragrant flowers around the house can add a whole new vibrant dimension.

I particularly like the idea of adding fresh eucalyptus to the shower. The steam draws the oil out of the leaves and creates a spa-like atmosphere – not to mention clears your sinuses. (Much needed during this crazy allergy season.)

{This is a list of 12 natural ways to make your home smell good. Enjoy!}

{FOUR} Painted Rocks

Wouldn’t a stack of painted rocks be so pretty on a coffee table or in a clear vase on a bookshelf?

I have a feeling the process of painting rocks could be very meditative – like coloring books. But if you’d rather leave the painting to the pros, you can find plenty of options on Etsy. Like these lovely stones. >

{These mandala-inspired rocks can be purchased here.}

{FIVE} Driftwood Art

Pieces of driftwood are a lot like snowflakes and thumbprints…no two are alike. And this makes them a natural candidate for artwork.

I couldn’t decide on just one photo to share, so here are a few elements of inspiration for you. >

{Get the DIY tutorial here for this decorative orb. It looks so easy to make – and would make an interesting addition to any bookshelf or windowsill.}

{Get the DIY instructions here to make this gorgeous sea glass and driftwood wind chime.}

{Coming full circle to planters…get the tutorial for this rustic and on-trend centerpiece here.}

That’s a wrap for today, my friends.

How do you plan to celebrate Earth Day this weekend – or any day? I’d love to know, so please share in the comments.

Have a beautiful day, with many blessings.

Kate

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Good Friday Wrap

{This beautiful print was found here.}

Every year on Good Friday, I try to pause for a moment of deep gratitude. If you’re Christian, like I am, we sit in amazement of the greatest gift given to humanity. It’s ours to have and hold in praise…knowing that Sunday is coming.

So in a moment of quiet, I started by looking back on this past week. While it wasn’t perfect, there were plenty of events and things to be thankful for. Here are a few that rose to the top. >

{ONE} Evan’s big day

My sweet Evan not only turned 14 this week (what?!), but also won a regional tournament with his soccer team. I’m so incredibly proud of him and his loving spirit. Most days, that is. Haha.

He’s a teen after all, and we’re not exempt from the roller coaster of emotions from those changing hormones. Since he’s my oldest, we’re learning through this together. He promised to always talk, and I promised to always listen. I love him to pieces – and love being his mama.

{TWO} Kittens on the porch

While April the giraffe is still pregnant and taking center stage in the media, we had a little birth story of our own. And right on our back porch.

We woke early one morning to find a mama and her FIVE kittens on our outdoor couch! Thank heavens my dog (and my niece’s dog, Frito, whom we were watching at the time) didn’t snatch them up before I made the discovery.

The mama cat got scared and scampered away leaving her babies behind. After securing the dogs inside, I put the kittens in a box with old blankets and moved them out of harms way to the side of the house.

Throughout the day the mama came back to get each one. She took quite a bit of time between each rescue, which worried me for a bit. In fact, one of them was left in the box when we went to bed, but she was rescued by the morning.

While I felt unsure about how things would turn out, I was thankful for the experience of meeting those kittens and caring for them in that short time.

{THREE} Seeds for the bees

I have been super excited to receive this free little gift in the mail. While I could have easily picked up a packet of wildflower seeds from the garden store, I like being part of the official #bringbackthebees effort that Veseys and Cheerios are supporting.

Bees are incredibly important to our food supply. NBC News reported that last year, the U.S. lost a mind-boggling 44 percent of its honeybee colonies. Crazy.

It’s also good to know we can help. Planting bee-friendly flowers, reducing or eliminating our use of pesticides and supporting local beekeepers with buying their honey are three super easy things we can do right now. So happy planting – and eating!!

{FOUR} Puppy faux-hawks

We had one day this week where all three of my kiddos were home sick. Some crazy virus was going around. Anyway, as we were homebound, drinking lots of water and resting, there came a time when we needed some comic relief.

Enter Leo.

Our mini goldendoodle is good for all kinds of laughter in our house. His playful tricks and constant kisses keep us smiling. And this week my daughter, Avery, found a new hilarious activity…puppy updos.

As Leo snuggled next to her on the couch, she would give him a new “do” and then take a picture. (We thought the faux-hawk was his best look.) He didn’t seem to mind. In fact, I think he liked having his hair played with. He’s such a good little puppy.

{FIVE} Easter centerpiece

Anything that involves flowers makes my heart happy. So as you can imagine, making this Easter table centerpiece was pure joy for me. I decided to go with garden plants this year instead of flowers. That way I can plant them directly into my garden after Easter.

This project was so easy, too. It literally took me five minutes to assemble. I’ll have the full DIY with pics tomorrow, so be sure to come back.

I hope your Friday is good and blessed,

Kate

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Weeding My Heart and Mind

Pulling weeds isn’t the most exciting part of gardening, but it must be done. Somehow those pesky things manage to grow at a faster pace than the beauty that surrounds them, and if they’re left unattended they’ll completely take over.

So we dig. And we pull.

This little dandelion was rooted deep.

Doesn’t this make an interesting metaphor for our lives?

Negative thoughts are weeds that take root in our hearts and minds. Our focus and attention on them is like sunshine and water. So if we don’t want them growing and crowding out our joy, we must dig and pull.

This idea came to me when I was weeding between rainstorms this week. I quietly hunched over the dirt and thoughts began to pop up like lightning bugs…a nagging thought about an earlier conversation; a worried thought about a friend who has cancer; an anxious thought about my to-do list.

As I knelt and observed, these thoughts felt like seeds that were taking hold and sprouting rather quickly. And they weren’t turning into roses.

I needed to do some weeding.

I dug up each thought, pulled out the meaning and even thanked it for showing up and teaching me something, then let it go. After a few minutes, I was already feeling better and could see the gratitude beginning to flower.

I decided to jot down the five most common weeds we get tangled in, as well as the seeds we could plant in their place. >>

{ONE} Finances

Weeds: Worried about saving enough for college or retirement, paying off credit cards, covering the bills, or making smart investments.

Seeds: Remember you’ve come this far. You’re smart. You’ve survived and found the resources you need. Feel thankful for the abundance you do have in your life – even if it’s just a handful of change at the bottom of your purse – and allow yourself to stay open to the possibility of prosperity.

{TWO} Health

Weeds: Feeling overweight or tired. Frustrated with your eating habits. Afraid of getting sick or maybe you’re dealing with a chronic illness.

Seeds: Notice your breath and allow yourself to feel your heart beating. Be amazed at the fact that you’re alive right now. Even if you’re in the midst of pain, put your attention on something (anything) that feels good. Think about the qualities you love about yourself and throw yourself a high five for a change. Also, find the courage to go to the doctor if you need to.

{THREE} Friendships

Weeds: Feeling lonely or hurt. Not sure who your true friends are. Afraid you said the wrong thing or offended someone you care about.

Seeds: Make a mental list of all of the people you’re thankful for. Who has crossed your path that made you happy, feel special, or even taught you a lesson? Allow all of these memories to fill your heart. Also, remember the times you’ve had to forgive someone on that list. Couldn’t they do the same for you? We’re all human – capable of mistakes and forgiveness.

{FOUR} Career

Weeds: Afraid of failure. Anxious about that promotion. Nervous about a big meeting. Depressed about a job change. Unsure about your purpose overall.

Seeds: Relax and let yourself off the hook for a moment. You’re not responsible for saving the world. Focus on one day, one task, and one conversation at a time. Do your best in each moment. Find the specific actions – think verbs – that excite you, and do those things as much as you can. Fill your days with those verbs. For me it’s writing.

{FIVE} Spirituality

Weeds: Worried if you’re praying enough. Not sure if you’re following the right path. Feeling challenged by friends or people with different beliefs. Wondering why God lets bad things happen in your life.

Seeds: While this is a deeply personal topic, if you’re tangled in questions about your faith, keep praying. Pick up a prayer book, a Bible, a hymnal, or other spiritual book that’s meaningful to you and dive into the messages. I personally believe God is constantly communicating with us. We have to be willing to show up, open our hearts to prayer, and then quiet our minds long enough so we can tune into His station and hear what He has to say.

A final thought…

If you’ve ever done some gardening, you know one of the most satisfying feelings is pulling a weed and getting every last bit of its roots in one swift tug. It means there’s a chance that stinkin’ thing won’t come back. You’ve extracted it from its core. And most importantly, you’ve made room for something more beautiful to grow and take space in your yard.

Here’s hoping we can do this in our lives. Let’s make room for bouquets of joy that we can lovingly share.

Blessings,

Kate

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Friday Wrap: Easter Carrots

Rosie wishes you a happy day. <3

I love this time of year. Spring is in the air – even if it means a rain shower here and there. Trees are budding, flowers are blooming, and Easter is just around the corner, which leads me to today’s round-up post.

What goes hand in hand with the Easter bunny? Baskets, treats, decorated eggs and CARROTS!! Although, funny and true story…our little Rosie the rabbit doesn’t really eat carrots. She’ll nibble on the green tops, but that’s it. Haha!

Assuming all of the other rabbits in the world love them, here’s a tribute to those beta-carotene packed little wonders. I found five extremely festive ways to work them into your holiday celebration. >>

{ONE} Carrot Door Decor

I could not be more in love with this front door decoration. It’s simply made with silk tulips tied with greenery at the top. I can’t wait to attempt this project this weekend. I think the trick will be finding the right color of tulips. Wish me luck!

{TWO} Carrot Cutlery

I’ve seen several variations of this idea online, but I like this one the best with the green curly ribbon tied to the tops. This would be an easy project for the kids – and something they could do several days in advance of our Easter brunch.

{THREE} Carrot Treat Boxes

I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for new and interesting ways to package up treats for my kids’ Easter baskets. I’ve done the carrot-shaped goldfish bags and bunny bags, but I’ve never seen this adorable carrot packaging before.

The possibilities for what to put inside are practically endless…popcorn, candies, nail polish, hair clips. It would be cute to fill the entire basket with a carrot patch of treats.

{FOUR} Carrot Centerpiece

You know how I adore fresh flowers. Well, just look at this gorgeous number. Pictures like this seriously make me want to own a floral shop. Sigh.

I love how the earthy carrots line the inside of the vase that’s overflowing with tulips and Queen Anne’s Lace – which is also known as Wild Carrot. So that makes perfectly good sense for this arrangement. Beautiful work. And something for us to try at home.

{FIVE} Carrot Cheese Ball

Another passion of mine…cheese! Haha! You may or may not remember my annual pumpkin cheese ball for Halloween. Well, it’s always a huge hit at parties. Now I’m on a mission to create a cheese ball “something” for every holiday. And this carrot is spot on for Easter.

That’s a wrap for this Friday, anyway. Have a great weekend preparing your hearts and homes for the holiday.

Blessings,

Kate

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Friday Wrap: Out in the Wild

Hello, my friends!! It’s been awhile since I’ve checked in or shared anything on the blog. I’ve been “out in the wild” with my family and friends soaking up all kinds of interesting and lovely experiences.

A few of my absolute favorites:

{ONE} Turning another year older

I survived another trip around the sun, as they say. This year wasn’t a milestone birthday, so I wasn’t expecting or planning a big “to-do.” It turned out to be such a lovely day, though.

My parents treated me to breakfast, and one of my nieces, Sarah Katherine, surprised me by joining us. {That’s all of us pictured above.}

We sat and enjoyed omelets while my parents retold my birth story. I love when they do this. As the youngest of five kids – and having been born eight years after my closest sibling – many people ask if I was an accident. I’m sure they mean well, simply trying to make a joke, but it can sting a bit. It can also plant seeds of doubt in your mind and heart.

But every time I hear my birth story and see the joy in my parents eyes when they tell it – especially when my dad, who is now a retired Lt. Colonel, gives details about volunteering to fly a nearly broken down C130 home from overseas just to make it in time for my arrival – makes me feel completely loved. I can’t imagine a better birthday gift than this.

This pretty perfect day was topped off with a homemade dinner. B and the kids made “surf and turf” with grilled shrimp and seared steaks. We indulged in cheesecake for dessert, which is kind of a thing for me. That has been my choice of birthday cake since I was like 10 years old.

All of that to say, it was such a magnificent celebration that continued throughout the weekend with our friends…

{TWO} Road tripping to Hot Springs

We headed off to Hot Springs with four other couples. It wasn’t initially a birthday thing. We planned the trip back on New Year’s Eve when we were all together and wanted to take a fun road trip together.

Our group’s social coordinator, Allie, took the reins and planned a fabulous weekend for us!

This was a fun shot of us next to the track at Oaklawn. Brandon is in the back cheering us on. And Seth, on the front right, is the only one with arms long enough to take group selfies without a stick. {We have lots of pictures that look like this. Lol!}

It had been so long since I last visited the races, I wasn’t sure what the heck I was doing. Thank goodness for friends like Danya who gave me a quick primer. B and I ended up doing really well – by breaking even!

Honestly, I found it was best to just bet on horses that had cool names or pretty silks on their back. The one pictured above (and that clearly won the race) wasn’t supposed to. We bet on it, though, because it was named Big E. And that’s what we call our son, Evan, sometimes. See…you never know.

One of the biggest birthday surprises I received on this trip, outside of plenty of Fireball, was showing up to the hotel lobby with ALL of my friends wearing matching shirts – with a hilarious and too-long-of-a-story-to-explain-here kind of picture of me on the front. As soon as I saw them, I turned as red as the shirts. Without a beat, they handed me one to wear as well, and we were out the door for dinner.

These are truly the best troopers (and goofballs) that I’m honored to call my friends.

{THREE} Meeting baby Dottie!!

Next up was a quick trip to Nebraska to meet my new great niece, Dottie. It was love at first sight, and she truly melted my heart. I mean…that precious face.

I remember meeting her mommy, who is my niece Emma, when I was just a freshman in college. I got to hold her just like this. And yes, this makes me feel old, but mostly super special to be part of their lives.

My twins were in heaven with this little bundle. Clara thought it was fun that Dottie had the same kind of headband as her.

She literally slept and cooed at us the entire visit. She is such a relaxed baby girl. I’ll remember this day forever!

{FOUR} Fishing with girl power

The boys were invited to float the Buffalo National River with some friends, so the twins and I decided to have our own version of a girls’ day out – with poles & worms.

We dusted off our fishing rods and headed down to the lake for the first fish of the season!

We only caught a few, like this fairly decent-size bass. My favorite part, though, was sitting still for a bit and catching up with my girls.

{FIVE} Hanging from trees

With the weather finally turning warm around here, we decided to get some hammocks! There’s a park not too far away from our house that’s a prime location for stringing up a reading/napping/chillin’ out sling. And that’s exactly where we headed the moment we left the store.

I have a feeling we’ll be resuming this position as much as we can this spring – and longer.

Thanks for letting me share a bit about my latest adventures. I hope you’ve been up to some fun things, as well.

Until next time, I’m sending you many blessings,

-Kate

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Friday Wrap: Birthday Party Edition!!

Sorry I’ve been MIA lately. I’ve been down-for-the-count with a terrible cold – topped off with allergies. Lovely, I know. The good news is that I’m so much better now and finally able to share some pics from my twin girls’ 11th birthday!!

We had a little shindig at our house to celebrate, and the theme ended up being a mermaid-unicorn-fairy-rainbow-pizza party. (When in doubt, just mash it up.)

And did you see the shirts I found at Thug Life?! They couldn’t have been more perfect. As seen below.

{My sweet birthday girls. We made a photo frame out of black matte board and hot-glued tissue paper flowers to the corners to glam it up a bit. I can’t wait to get into more details…}

It’s safe to say all of the girls had a mythical, magical time. And I wanted to share a few of the highlights.

Maybe this will spark some ideas for your next birthday bash?

{ONE} Rainbow Flowers & Heart Droplets

We gotta start with the decorations. I had so much fun playing around with inexpensive craft stuff, such as paint chips and tissue paper, to create a darling party atmosphere.

I used rainbow colors, because what mermaid-fairy-unicorn doesn’t love rainbows?!

I made tissue paper flowers for the table and giant tissue “clouds” for the ceiling. Then I made it rain up in here with strands of ribbon and hearts dangling from the lights.

Here’s a closer look at the rainbow heart droplets.

Directions: I tied several strands of thin ribbon to the base of our chandelier. Then I glued rainbow-colored hearts (back-to-back) directly onto the ribbon. Super easy.

Want to see the secret to those perfectly shaped hearts? >>

Voila! I used my heart-shaped paper punch.

And all of those beautiful colors were compliments (literally) of Lowes. I got a large stack of paint chips in a variety of pastel colors.

Here’s a closeup of the pinks. I love the ombre look you get from using paint chips, too.

PS. Punching out all of these hearts was the perfect activity for my girls. They were definitely involved in all of this magic making.

We had so many hearts, we even sprinkled some on the table – like rainbow confetti!

{TWO} Rainbow Cupcakes & Candies

Of course we had some rainbow-themed goodies!

I was obsessed with these cupcakes. Avery found the idea on Pinterest, so we had some inspiration. Then she and her sister made these all. by. themselves. No joke. All of those hours watching Cupcake Wars is paying off.

Directions: After baking up some vanilla cupcakes, they added a few drops of blue food coloring to their buttercream frosting. We found some Airhead Xtremes Rainbow Belts at Walmart, so they cut them in small strips and formed them like rainbows over each cake. And the clouds, as you probably guessed, are mini marshmallows. <3

Here’s a view from above. The girls did such a lovely job plating these sweet treats, too.

Here’s a wide angle of the table, so you can see the confetti hearts, tissue paper flowers and cupcakes all hanging out just waiting for the mermaids, unicorns and fairies to arrive.

Oh, and we also made a candy station using rainbow suckers, fruity Twizzlers, and tropical Skittles so their friends could “taste the rainbow.”

The girls thought it was funny to call the Skittles “unicorn poop.” I totally agreed.

And just so everyone wasn’t completely bouncing off the walls, I offered a more natural rainbow selection of fruit when it was time for pizza. #momapproved

{THREE} Fun Photo Frame

Back to the photo frame for a hot minute. As soon as all of the girls arrived, we went to the backyard to take fun pics inside the frame – photo booth style.

I made sure to take a pic with each guest and the birthday girls. Here are a few snaps >>

After the party, we printed out each of the pictures and tucked them inside personalized thank yous!!

{FOUR} Mermaids in Action

We decided to officially kick off the party like mermaids – and went swimming at a nearby indoor pool.

They were the cutest, sweetest mermaids I had ever seen.

I loved this action shot. All of this splish-splashin’ fun was followed by snacks of goldfish and Roarin’ Waters – a mermaid’s favorite snack. They nibbled all the way back to the house where we had more fun activities planned.

{FIVE} Fairy Gardens

The girls put on their best fairy faces and painted mini bird houses for their gardens.

This was Clara’s creation. >>

I bought plastic liners from the garden store, filled them with soil, then offered up an assortment of rocks, seashells from previous vacations, gems, beads and anything else I had in my craft area that felt right for a fairy garden.

The girls had a blast decorating and chatting. This is what Avery pulled together. >>

Once they were finished, we sprinkled grass seed all over the soil. Grass is pretty inexpensive and germinates in less than a week, so the girls had something to look forward to when they left!

Here’s a pic of Avery’s garden today. She has already mowed several times with scissors! >>

That’s a wrap!

After a few planned activities, I just let the girls do their thing…create Music.lys, eat pizza, snack on candy and eventually watch a movie in sleeping bags upstairs. They woke up to pancakes and more rainbow fruit before heading off into the sunrise.

It was a total, successful, drama-free party – thanks to such sweet friends.

And the girls and I want to thank you for reading along and letting us share their birthday fun.

We’d also like to give a shout out to their big brother, Evan, who was incredibly cool about having a house full of girls on a Saturday night. I’m sure he was thinking, “Thank goodness for video games.” But really, he was such a good sport.

And so was our daddy bear. Brandon is always a super-trooper and helps me every step of the way. I love my people so much!

1 + 1 = 11 😉

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and I’ll see you next week (pinkie promise) with some more fun ideas to share.

XoXoXo,

Kate

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5 Helpful Hacks (Using Common Household Items)

Hi, friends! This was a week of stumbling upon a slew of random, but super useful tips.

I tell ya, I felt like a life-hack ninja pulling these tricks out of my sleeve. And I already had everything on this list. Check it out and see if you can pull these off, too!

{ONE} Witch Hazel for Eye Relief

Let’s be clear, I’m not saying to put witch hazel IN your eyes. This trick uses a cotton pad doused with witch hazel and then applied UNDER your eyes to reduce those bummin’ bags.

I’ve been looking for a magical potion (that won’t break the bank) that actually works. So when I saw an article about the many uses for witch hazel, and it listed “de-puff eyes,” I was pumped.

I always keep some on hand to reduce the inflammation and swelling of mosquito bites. And that’s basically the situation under my eyes. They’re essentially swollen. Makes sense.

I gave it a try, and it’s not only soothing, but also seems to work! As a tip, I keep the witch hazel in the fridge. The extra coolness feels good and helps reduce the puffiness even more.

{TWO} Gum to Calm Nerves

Moment of truth…sometimes I have a ridiculously hard time controlling my nerves. It’s usually when I’m in a large group of people I don’t know very well. And if I’m asked to share anything off-the-cuff, like “so…tell us about yourself”, I freak out.

I recently joined a book group (which is fairly large and full of mostly new faces). I really want to feel comfortable and totally myself when I’m there, so I found this trick. Chew gum.

Here’s what some smart people said…

When we’re nervous or stressed, our caveman “fight or flight” mechanism gets triggered. When we eat or chew, it tricks our brain into feeling relaxed. We can’t possibly be in danger, because we wouldn’t be eating if we were. So chewing gum tricks our brain into thinking we’re safely eating a meal, and it starts producing chemicals that neutralize stress responses.

Fascinating. Now I just need to learn to talk properly with gum in my mouth – at least until I’m conditioned to feel more comfortable. #imaworkinprogress

{THREE} Straws to Keep Necklaces Untangled

One of my greatest victories this week was finally untangling my favorite necklace! It’s the small things. (But really, it felt big.) I’ve been carrying my tangled mess in my wallet since the day it all happened. Long story. All you need to know is I’ve been working on this thing for WEEKS.

Every now and then I’ll pull it out and work on it some more. I even tried the baby powder/cornstarch trick that was supposed to heal all jewelry knots. Apparently this particular case just required truckloads of patience and a pair of tweezers with pointy tips.

Once I pulled the last knot through the chain, I hollered with joy, clasped that beautiful thing around my neck, and promptly looked up tips to keep it untangled when in storage. Which is what leads us to the straw hack!

Just thread the hook down through the straw – using gravity as your friend. Then clasp the necklace and store. Or travel. This would be a smart trick for packing.

{FOUR} Olive Oil to Stop Crying Over Onions

I’ve been in a home-cooked meal phase lately, which has been great for our family’s diet and budget. Yay! It also means I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen doing things like chopping onions. Boo!

I love prepping food…except the dreaded onions. They smell and make me cry.

I’ve heard of all kinds of hacks, like freezing the onions, turning on your vent hood, wearing goggles (really?!), and even just slicing them in a different direction (julienne).

This might be the winner (not kidding) for the easiest way to hold back the onion tears: dip your knife in olive oil before cutting. It actually worked for me, so you’ll have to tell me how your experiment works if you give this a go!

{FIVE} Chap Stick to Heal Paper Cuts

Darn paper cuts. How is it that such a small thing can feel so big?! This week I’ve been pulling receipts and prepping for our taxes, and yep, you guessed it…got a paper cut.

Of course I googled remedies, like I do for everything else in my life, and found that chap stick helps soothe paper cuts!

You don’t need the fancy stuff. (I just happened to have a stick of Coconut & Pear Lip Balm on my desk.) As a tip, I probably wouldn’t go with anything that has peppermint oil in it – like the original Burt’s Bees lip balm. That might make matters worse.

That’s a wrap!

What’s your favorite household item hack (that’s not on this list)?! I’d love to know.

In the meantime, here’s to an awesome weekend. My twin girls are having their 11th birthday party tomorrow, so wish us luck. I’ll be back next week with some pics and deets of our “mermaid, unicorn, fairy, rainbow, pizza party.” Can you even believe I found these shirts?! I was dying.

Only Thug Life would have these awesome tees. For reals.

XoXoXo,

Kate

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