A Bearthday Celebration!

front door sign

Me-oh-my! We had quite the bonanza of parties this weekend. My favorite, though, was celebrating our first double-digit birthday for my girls. They’re officially “tweenagers.”

They’re still at that sweet age, though, where they listen to their teachers (and parents) and play with a few toys. In fact…

My girls adore their stuffed animal bears, so we hosted 10 of their friends at our house for a special 10th bearthday party.

On the surface, this seemed like an easy-peasy kind of theme. It was a bit tricker than I had thought, but thanks to a few ideas on Pinterest and my crafty sidekick-twins, we pulled off one of our favorite parties to date. And that’s saying something, because we thought last year’s 9th Neon Birthday would be pretty hard to top.

I took lots of pictures in case you try this out for yourself. (I totally recommend it.) Now let’s get on with the show-and-tell.

{A Warm Welcome} We made a welcome sign out of chalkboard and drew bear prints up the sidewalk for a grand entrance. We went with teal and a burlap-brown as our overall color palate.

front sidewalk

{Bear Signs} We had fun posting bear signs in the yard and around the house. Didn’t the girls do a great job with these?!

bear sign

bears in bucket

{Rustic Decorations} We carried the party colors and rustic theme into the house and used acorns, pine cones and other woodland accents to decorate the table. (I’m totally planning to squirrel some of this away for the fall.)

party set up

table decorations

Most of this came from Hobby Lobby, btw!

{Bear Paw Cupcakes} The original idea on the cupcakes was to use brown M&Ms to help make “paws.” Well, you can’t just buy just brown M&Ms – unless you go to a specialty store. I found Hershey’s chocolate drops, which are a bit bigger than M&Ms, and they actually worked perfectly!

You can also see how I displayed the cupcakes on two slices of wood with a glass candlestick in the center. This really helped with the woodland look on the table.

rustic cupcake stand

{More Fun Food} While we’re on the topic of food, the menu for the party included grilled hot dogs, carrot sticks, fresh berries and assorted candies. Remember those Hershey’s drops? The girls thought it would be funny to call it bear poop. Yes, we did.

berry patch

bear poop

{Backyard Bear Cave} My husband got into the theme, as well. He’s such a good daddy – and was absolutely adorable to watch as he mapped out a bear cave in our backyard.

He pitched a large tent and attached a cardboard box to the front (as the entrance to the cave) and covered it all with a brown tarp. The girls added signs and we had ourselves a super cute bear hangout.

The girls ended up watching the movie Brave (because of the bears) in the tent toward the end of the party. It was a great place to hang while the parents picked up. I’ll give a full rundown of activities here in a sec.

bear cave

{Campfire Fun} One other area we set up was right next to the tent. We created a campfire setting where we could make s’mores and create funny mad libs together. We made sure there was a seat and blanket for each girl so they were comfortable as it got chilly.

campfire

{A Beary Happy Time} Each of the girls brought a special stuffed animal, and we played fun games the entire time! We chose not to have an overnight party, so our compromise was to have an extra long party. (It was four hours.)

girls with bears

Look at those sweet girls!! <3

{Entertainment) Here’s how we kept everyone busy and having a blast:

  1. Bearaoke (your basic karaoke – sung with stuffed animals)
  2. Pin the bowtie on the bear
  3. Bear bingo (using Teddy Grahams as bingo chips)
  4. Dinner, cupcakes and opening gifts
  5. Bobbing for apples (because bears love apples)
  6. Busting open a piñata (because bears love anything sweet)
  7. Dress-the-bear relay (each team had to run back and forth to dress/undress a Build-a-Bear)
  8. Nature scavenger hunt
  9. Campfire time with s’mores and mad libs
  10. Watching the movie Brave (while eating piñata candy)
eating dinner

One of their friends used the bottom of the piñata as a hat. She wore it the rest of the night. Cracked me up!!

playing games

This was taken during bear bingo. Most of the night-time pics didn’t turn out because it was too dark.

{Parting Gifts} As each of the girls left, we made sure they took home a little treat bag filled with Teddy Grahams and mini marshmallows!

goody bags

{The End} That’s a wrap for this party post. It really was a great time. Let me know if you try this theme for yourself and what other details you add.

relaxing by the fire

This last picture shows Evan, Leo and I taking a rest by the fire while the girls watched their movie.

Here’s to being happily partied out!!

-Kate

 

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A Fast & Fabulous Ornament

DIY gold ornament

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

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

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

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

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

glass ornament DIY

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

ornament supplies

This was all I used! See how simple?!

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

Happy crafting!!

-Kate

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December Coaster Winner & Weekend Update

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

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

Now for a quick update on the weekend…

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

Bentonville parade

There was no shortage of adorable elves this year.

Santa

It’s SANTA!!!

pugs on parade

You gotta love the “Pugs on Parade.”

Bentonville Band

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

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

personalized bottled water

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

Christmas fabric coasters

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

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

Many hugs,

-Kate

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Beginning to Look Like Christmas (Finally)

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

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

{ONE} Puppy Proofed the Tree

Leo under the tree

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

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

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

{TWO} Shopped with my Girls

IMG_6886

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

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

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

{THREE} Dressed up the House

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

{FOUR} Baked Cookie Ornaments

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

{FIVE} Launched the December Coaster Giveaway!!

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

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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

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Cheers!!

-Kate

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Holiday Drink Recipes + December Coaster Giveaway!!

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

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

Here are the most helpful planning tips from the article.

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

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

girlfriends

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

the guys

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

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

{Hot Caramel Apple Cider}

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

{Cranberry & Apple Spritzers}

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

{Peppermint Stick Martini}

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

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

{Cranberry Mimosas}

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

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

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

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

Here are the details!

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

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

Good luck and many cheers to you!!

-Kate

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Teaching Kindness at Christmas

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

thanksgiving funny

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

elf quote

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

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

Makayla

This is our sweet little elf, MaKayla.

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

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

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

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

Nordic Kindness Elves

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

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

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

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

-Kate

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November Coaster Winner!

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

November coaster

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

Keep having a wonderful Wednesday, sweet ladies!

-Kate

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Wine Glass Wisdom + Thanksgiving Coaster Giveaway!

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

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

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

Where did all of this pairing begin?!

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

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

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

Speaking of serving…

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

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

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

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

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

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

marika-champagne-glass

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

So let’s have another coaster giveaway!

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

November coaster

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

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

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

Happy shopping – and sipping!

-Kate

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Light Your Porch for a Vet

greenlight a vet

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

patriotic quote

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

Greenlight a Vet

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

Here’s to a day full of gratitude!

-Kate

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Friday Wrap: Desk Favorites

My big project of the week was a desk makeover. It feels so good to be organized in this little space! Here are my five favorite things about the desk that I wanted to share:

{ONE} Bulletin board

bulletin board

If you would have seen what was previously hanging on this door, you would have been all, “Girl, you gotta be kidding me.” It was this HUGE dry erase board that was hard to write on, and it extended beyond to door, so you had to remove it in order to even close the door. Anyway, it was time to have it removed. So I did. And I replaced it with this beautiful little thing that fits my personal notes and pics. PS. I attached it to the door with a wreath holder and used ribbon to secure it in place.

{TWO} Hello, pillow!

chair

My chair was already pretty comfy, but it needed a better back support. This pillow is super soft, and I love walking into an office where your chair greets you every time. “Well, hello to you, too!”

{THREE} Striped cup project

gold pencil cup

This was a fun project I tried. The cup is a plastic tumbler I found at Walmart for $1.47. I used masking tape to create the stripes and then painted with metallic gold acrylics. The total project was about $3 with the paint.

{FOUR} Owl lamp

owl lamp

This little cutie-hootie was calling my name at Walmart. He makes me feel smart when I’m sitting at my new desk 🙂 Oh, and I love having fresh flowers on my desk. I tucked some rosemary into this one so it has a nice fragrance. The cup has gold polka-dots to go with the black and gold color theme I have goin’ on, if you couldn’t tell.

{FIVE} Gold paper clips

gold paper clips

The clips themselves are from Hob Lob, and I tied ribbon around the ends to jazz them up a bit. They’re great for bookmarks – and of course holding papers together.

Whatever you do, try to have an awesome weekend. My sweet B and I are headed to Portland to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. (I can’t believe it has been that long?!) I promise to share pics when I get back next week.

Hugs to you!

-Kate

PS. Remember to check out all of the brilliant bloggers on Five on Friday and Oh, Hey Friday!

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