New Uses for Rubber Bands

Rubber bands

Don’t you love finding multiple uses for things? I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to collecting ideas.

I wrote a post on 10 uses for loom bands awhile ago, and it turned out to be such a popular topic. If you haven’t read it, feel free to hop over to see what those mini rubber bands are good for (other than clogging your vacuum).

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to share a few helpful uses for the grandfather of loom bands – the original rubber band.

Fun fact: Did you know the first rubber band was made from discarded rubber products, such as tires, and it was used to wrap newspapers?

These humble, stretchy bands continue to surprise me with their many uses. I’ve lumped them into three basic categories:

{ONE} In a Pinch

If you’ve ever gotten stuck trying to remove a screw that’s been completely stripped, just wedge a rubber band in there so you can literally get a grip, man. Think of it like snow tires for your tools. It gives you the traction you need to get things moving.

My kids hate eating brown apples, and I don’t always have fresh lemons on hand to squeeze onto the open slices to keep them fresh. What’s the next best thing? A rubber band.

Wrap it around a pre-sliced apple so it stays in tact until lunchtime.

You can get a few more lunchbox hacks in this post.

sliced apple holder

{TWO} Keeping Order

I’m a big fan of using a pretty bookmark when I’m reading a novel. When it comes to sketching or writing in my journal, though, I like using a rubber band to hold my place.

I wrap it around the front of the book. That way I can easily flip to where I left off, and the pages from the front of the book (where I’ve already written) stay together. And this makes it easier to write. Happy dance.

bookmark

Have you ever had an entire tea bag (including the tag) drop down into your scorching cup of water? Sigh. My latest trick is to secure the string to your cup with a rubber band. Mornings just got a lot happier.

tea holder

Now that it’s allergy season, I’ve pulled this trick out of the box. 😉 I keep a full Kleenex box secured with a rubber band to an empty box. That way we always have a place to toss the trash. This is especially handy in places like the car. It keeps used tissues from getting shoved into cup holders – or the bottom of your purse!

tissue paper holder

{THREE} Purely Decorative

When working on craft projects, rubber bands make a great substitute for glue – especially when you don’t want something permanently secured.

For example, in the project below, I wanted to cover the outside of a vase with pencils. But I didn’t want to hot glue them to the side of my vase forever. So I used a rubber band.

This is the finished project. More details below on how I assembled all of this >>

finished vase

For the supplies, I used a box of pencils, a small Mason jar, and a rubber band to hold the pencils to the edge of the jar.

supplies for vase

Once the pencils were secured to the jar, I covered the rubber band with gold ribbon.

steps for vase

After this step, I filled the Mason jar with water and tucked the flowers down inside. For more flower arrangement ideas, be sure to check out last Friday’s post!

For my next trick, colorful rubber bands are used to jazz up plain packages. This was an idea I saw on Martha Stewart, and I was in awe of its simplicity and style.

That’s it for today. Let me know if you have any other rubber band hacks or genius decorative ideas. Be sure to swing back by on Thursday to see a few new uses for egg cartons.

Until then, have a beautiful and organized week, my friends! <3

XoXo,

Kate

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5 Ways to Mind Your Money

With school back in session, soccer gearing up, and holidays right around the corner, I like to do some budget planning this time of year.

If I’m being honest here, “like” might be an overstatement. I’m not really a numbers person and spreadsheets make my eyes cross. But I realize setting a budget is important, so I try to think of it this way…

money quote

During this planning mode, I’ve come across some helpful tips and resources. I thought I’d share my top five – in case you’re a little like me and love any help you can get 😉

I realize this might not sound super exciting, so feel free to crack open a bottle of Chardonnay-nay or whip up one of these fancy mimosa mocktails to make this more like a party.

Ready?

{ONE} Make a Plan

IMG_2313

You can order a new Day Designer here.

You might be thinking, “Well, of course I need a plan.” But I didn’t always take this idea to heart – until recently. I decided to sit down with Brandon (my hubs), and and write down all of the things we need, items we’d love and experiences we want to have. Then we assigned costs to each line item and had some serious discussion and brainstorming around how we could make it happen.

This step alone was huge.

We’ve always talked about wanting to send our kids to college, make updates to the house, and travel to Hawaii. Now we have a better sense of what it would take, and we can keep our eyes on the prize.

Drilling down to a monthly view of our finances is also helpful for us. At the beginning of each month we write down our estimated expenses and income. Then we check in at least once a month to see if we’re on track. I tuck receipts into my Day Designer so when it’s time to review they’re all organized in one spot.

PS. If you need a new planner to get you through this upcoming busy season, the Day Designer is really awesome.

{TWO} Check – and Double Check – Rates

credit cards

You know that credit card transfer or store credit card you opened a few months ago because it had 0% interest or gave you extra coupons? If you haven’t already paid those off, and the promotional window is over, you could be paying significant interest – like up to 25%. Not cool, man.

It’s also smart to double check the rates on your home and car loans – since rates are still really low. It might be time to refinance. We just checked on our home loan and realized we could be saving a significant amount of money.

{THREE} Shop Wisely

Have you met my new friend Ebates?! I like using Ebates for my online shopping because you get cash back (like in the form of a check) sent to you just for shopping at places you already shop.

For example, I scored 30% off at Old Navy (because they were having a sale), and also got 6% back in cash because I clicked through to Old Navy from the Ebates website. It’s seriously that simple.

I even used it for booking our hotel in South Dakota and got 10% back. That was some good cash.

If you don’t want to spend tons of money on brand name clothes for you and your family…geez, I sound like an ad for TJ Maxx or something. But seriously, if you want beautiful things like a Coach shoulder bag or a Michael Kors dress, ThredUp is a great place to shop.

They claim to offer up to 90% off the original price. And some of the items are new – with tags. Sold!

Now for groceries…

When it comes to groceries, I’m not a coupon clipper. I like to make shopping as painless as possible. So I started using the Walmart Grocery Pickup.

Y’all. It is so amazing.

I sit and plan my meals, make a quick list and then jump online to order each item. I type what I need in the search bar and up pops my choices. (Once you’ve done this a few times, it saves all of your “favorites”, so it’s even faster to re-order and checkout.) Then I pick a time to go get my things and it’s all fresh and ready to roll.

The biggest benefit – other than saving me gobs of time – is that online shopping keeps me from impulse buying. #moneysaver

The site also shows you “cost per” ounce, roll, etc. so it’s super easy to comparison shop. I love not having to do more math.

{FOUR} Eat at Home

Now that we have our groceries picked up…

These Turkey Taco Lettuce Wraps are super easy – and delish.

Yum. Eating at home is not only better for your waistline, but also your wallet. I  know it’s not possible to eat at home for every meal, but it’s good to take a look at your ratio. Does it skew more toward your family kitchen than the family diner down the road?

I did a quick check and was a little surprised by how much we’d “just swing through” places for a meal, snack or drink here and there. It all adds up. In lots of places. (Which is why we had the Whole30 discussion last week.)

Meal planners are a must in my life. Here are a couple I found that are super helpful >>

I like planning my meals a week at at time. And I leave room for eating out on nights like Mondays when everyone has soccer practice (clear across town from each other) and no one is home until 8pm.

{FIVE} Include the Kids

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Boy, do they love stuffed animal shopping! <3

This final note is something Brandon and I recently figured out. Now that our kids are tweens and teens, they’re old enough to learn about managing money.

We give them a line item in our budget, which means we set aside a little money for them each month to choose how to use.

They get to experience the true cost of things as they head to the cash register, and they get practice making decisions. Do we go for an ice cream treat after dinner or save up for more stuffed animals?

IMG_2312

Something else we’re doing is setting a fun family goal. Do we want to go back to Disney or experience a cruise?

Once we have it figured out, we’ll let the kids help “pay” for it by putting any of their loose change in a basket in the kitchen. {We’ve actually had a change basket above our refrigerator for awhile, so we have a head start!)

This won’t pay for the entire trip, of course, but the kids will feel like they’re helping – and that they’re an important part of the family when it comes to making money decisions.

I hope at least some of these ideas were helpful to hear. What are other ways you and your family stay on track with your finances?

-Kate

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Friday Wrap: Back to School Time

Happy Friday! It’s already back-to-school time in our house. Yikes. We had our orientation/ice cream social on Thursday and now we’re making final preps for the big day on Monday.

you got this

I am totally digging these pencils. I don’t know if they’re more appropriate for the kids or me!!

Speaking of supplies…have you seen the new Walmart commercial with the Whitesnake song? It’s darling!! I’m also pretty positive it’s how my kids feel about getting back in the saddle. They want to own that first day armed with awesome supplies, a stylish outfit and an enviable homemade lunch.

I don’t blame them. In fact, I love that first-day feeling. Part jittery, part pumped. So I’ve done my best to help make this whole back-to-school season go as smooth as I can.

Here are five things up my mom-sleeve.

{And note, these are more for my girls than for my 13-yr. old son. He has assured me that he’s “got this, mom” and I believe him 100%. No fancy pencils needed for that kid.}

{ONE} The Outfit

iron on tees

My girls wanted something special to wear for their first day, and we found a few cute things from a mix of Old Navy, Target, Justice and Academy (for PE days). But when it came to “the outfit” for the first day, they decided to make something! Those two apples didn’t fall far from the tree.

We ended up getting some iron on transfers and made cute tees like the one above. I’ll post the official first-day pic on Monday!

{TWO} Fun Backpacks

backpacks full

We searched high and low for a backpack that had all of the pockets, zippers and space needed, PLUS the option to personalize so I don’t have to figure out how and where to label the darn thing. Pottery Barn Teen for the win. I really love how these turned out.

backpacks personalized

PB may have personalized with their names, but the girls made sure to personalize with charms, as well! 😉

Oh, and we found Converse tennies to match Clara’s pack. (She’s obsessed with Converse.) Bonus!

matching shoes

{THREE} Lunchbox Hacks

There are plenty of ideas on Pinterest, but this is one of my favorite compilations if you want a slew of smart ideas in one simple post.

bananas-secret-writingThere’s everything from writing a secret message on a banana with a tooth pick to the more essential hacks of wrapping a pre-sliced apple with saran wrap so it doesn’t get brown.

apple-fresh

Another trick I was super excited to find – and will promptly try this year is a snack-contraption that’s made with a Mason jar and empty fruit cup container.

Mason jar lunch box trick

Pretty slick. And you can find some fun recipe combinations here.

{FOUR} Buddy Bracelets

Even though my girls have officially entered the double-digits, they still get a tad nervous about school. I thought this mother-daughter bracelet idea was so sweet.

bracelets

It reminded me about the worry stones we did last year. Oh, and the Kissing Hands we would do when they were little. The girls decided these bracelets would be a fun twist this year. So…

I’m going to surprise them with matching bracelets on the first day of school for the three of us to wear. They’ll be a gentle reminder that we have love and support around us – even on the toughest days.

{FIVE} Important Notes

I’m a big fan of communication, which means I’m big on notes. Here are some notes for teachers, kids and even mommas and daddies out there sending their hearts out the door to school. <3

For Your Teachers

Student Information Sheet

Most teachers ask for this kind of info on the first day of school, but just in case, you could send this along to make things easy. I also like to jot down a few things about the kids – like what their favorite activities, books, and subjects are. Basically things I’d like to know if I were a teacher! 🙂

For Your Kids

Free-Printable-Lunchbox-Notes-12

Lunchbox love notes are awesome, but sometimes a silly joke is just what your day needs. Download this and more lunchbox notes here.

first day of school poem

This would be a great way to get kids talking about how they feel about school – and specifically their first day!

For You!

parent love note

Okay, as a mom, I think this would be THE sweetest thing to receive from a teacher on the first day of school.

holding hands

A little something to remember as we bravely let go a little bit each day to make room for our babies to grow.

My friends, here’s to a successful back-to-school season for everyone. And in the meantime, I have a very important question…

what type of wine

XoXoXo,

-Kate

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Friday Wrap: Father’s Day Campout

friday hugs

First and foremost, I want to say how excited I am to be the featured blogger this week at High Five for Friday. The gracious hosts, Katie, Della and Tif, extended the invitation, and I said “yes” faster than I could sneeze. (Be sure to check out each of their blogs!)

I’m so glad it’s finally Friday. I have loved meeting so many amazing bloggers through H54F so far, and I can’t wait to meet more of you today. <3

If you’re new to The Neat Nook, welcome! I’m honored you’re here and invite you to read more about me or click through a few previous posts.

You’ll quickly see that my family is at the heart of my soul.

This weekend we’re taking our first camping trip (outside of our own backyard) to celebrate Father’s Day.

As much as we love the outdoors, it kind of floors me we haven’t done this sooner. We’re headed to a gorgeous place called Devil’s Den here in Northwest Arkansas.

devils den

I can’t wait to hike to this view. See more pictures here!

I’d love for this trip to be easy, fun and comfortable, so I’m pulling out a few camping tricks. Here are five ideas that I hope pull through for us this weekend. Crossing fingers here.

{ONE} The Hamper Hack

hamper hack

Presenting…the laundry hamper, two ways.

I love foldable laundry hampers because I can easily get them down to the size of a pancake and store them next to my washer between loads. They’re also handy for carrying beach towels to a camping trip. Don’t you think?

Once we get unpacked at the campground, I’m going to transition the hamper into a portable trashcan. Yay! No slouchy trash bags sitting next to our picnic table.

{TWO} Natural Bug Deterrents

daisies

This is a closeup of a citronella leaf. It has a nice citrusy fragrance.

Okay, y’all. I can’t resist decorating our camping space just a smidge. So I’m bringing a Mason jar of flowers from the garden (which I’ll transport in the cup holder of our car) to fancy up the picnic table. I clipped some shasta daisies, and for the greenery I added sprigs of my citronella plant to help keep mosquitoes away. How’s that for some double-duty daisies?

sage bundles

Another way I plan to keep the bugs at bay (in addition to my natural, homemade bug repellent) are these sage bundles. I wrapped several bunches of sage with yarn – so it’s all easy to burn. Then we’ll just toss them right into our campfire. Apparently mosquitoes and other flying insects don’t like the smell of smoky sage. Good thing we do.

{THREE} Instant Fire Starter 

pencil sharpener for tinder

Look at that pile of tinder. The great outdoors, here I come!

We’re bringing plenty of firewood, but sometimes it can get tricky to get the fire started. I plan to take a hand-held pencil sharpener in case I need to make some tinder with shavings from a twig. Even if I don’t need this, I’m totally using it so I can feel like Bear Grylls for a day.

{FOUR} Glow Stick Night Lights

glow bottle

What’s more fun than flashlights at dusk? Glow sticks!! I bought several colors to light up our campsite. I’ll put them inside empty water bottles to make a runway outside of our tent, and I’ll also drop a few inside of the cooler so we can see which flavor of Capri Sun we’re grabbing once the sun goes down.

{FIVE} Campfire Coffee

starbucks via

This is potentially a camp-saver.

Brandon (my sweet hubs) and I can’t imagine a morning without coffee. We panicked a bit when we realized we won’t be anywhere near a coffee shop AND we don’t have a camp stove percolator OR any contraption like it. Although this set is pretty adorable, and I should totally order it for our next trip. 😉

Once I realized Starbucks has instant coffee, life was good. Has anyone tried it?! We like fairly bold flavor, so I’m hoping we’ll be happy campers with this situation. I guess all you do is pour boiling water over the packet? I’m taking a few bottled mochas just in case all of this goes south. #firstworldproblems

starbucks

His & hers backup plan.

Now that my hacks are all packed, I’m off to load the family truckster.

Let me know if you have any must-try camping tricks. I love learning new things. I also love meeting new people, so introduce yourself in the comments. It will be like a little guest book for the day.

Have a wonderful weekend, and be sure to hug those sweet daddy bears out there!

-Kate

PS. Check out all of these fun blog parties if you can!

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Friday Wrap: Work It

I’m in major workout mode these days. I think it’s a combination of the sun rising earlier, making it much easier to get up and go, and the fact that it’s full on swim suit season. Yikes.

Unfortunately, the many weeks (okay, probably months) of not working out have made their mark in the shape of a donut around my waist. Instead of being bummed or frustrated, I decided to lace up my shoes and get moving.

Here are five things I’ve started doing on my recent health kick. I’d love to know your workout secrets, too. Help a momma out.

{ONE} Taking Notes

workout journal

My goal was to start a food journal so I could see everything I was eating and spot any red flags. Well, that lasted for about two days. It was so time consuming! At this point in my life, I pretty much know my weaknesses: sugar, beer and not enough water to wash it all down. So I vowed to make some adjustments in the food department. Check.

When it came to working out, though, I thought it would be interesting to write down what I was doing and how it made me feel. It’s way more reasonable in terms of a time commitment, and it’s helping me realize how much I like exercising. I don’t have to sweat it out at the gym every day. A hike around the lake counts, too.

Tip: I use the notes section in my Day Designer for this.

Here are the things I jot down each day:

  • Type of exercise
  • Duration/distance
  • Weather conditions
  • Scale of 1-5 (5 being awesome) how do I feel

{TWO} 7-Minute Workout

7 min workout app

These are screen shots from the app on my phone.

My biggest excuse for not working out is time. I never seem to have enough of it. I honestly think I have a leak in my schedule where minutes and hours slowly spill out as I cruise through the day. The next thing I know, it’s time to make dinner, and I really don’t want to workout on a full stomach.

Enter the 7 Minute Workout Challenge. As the name implies, this app gives you a full body workout in just 7 minutes. It’s genius. According to the website, “It’s backed by actual research. The app can transform your body for a mere 7 minutes a day.” I’m totally doing this. How hard can it be to find 7 stinkin’ minutes, right?

{THREE} Listening to Podcasts

podcast

On the rare days I do find time to jump on the elliptical or jog through the neighborhood, I love listening to audiobooks and podcasts. Brandon got me started on this kick.

If you haven’t listened to Serial, which is completely captivating, you should definitely give it a go. Brandon and I listened to Season One on our drive to the beach over spring break. We missed two exits because we were so engrossed in the story.

For more ideas, I found this jackpot of podcasts that really do make your workouts fly. I’m always looking for more ideas, though. So let me know what you’d add to the list!

{FOUR} Drinking Sassy Water

sassy water

I love treating myself to a big glass of sass right when I wake up and also after a good, sweaty workout. Here’s the original recipe…

Sassy Water Recipe

This classic recipe is featured in the Flat Belly Diet book. For more variations, check out this list of 25 different recipes!

{FIVE} Morning Motivation

alarm motivation

This last idea was actually inspired by my son. He showed me how to add messages to the alarm on my phone. Now when I wake up, the first thing I see is a happy message.

I discovered that when I wake up with the right mindset, I’m more likely to make healthy choices during the day. Simple, yet powerful stuff.

That’s a wrap for this post, now I feel like I should lace up!

sweat, smile and repeat artwork

If you want to hang this motivational mantra in your home, you can get it here.

Happy friday and I’ll see you next week!

-Kate

I’m linking up again with some amazing, talented people. Be sure to check them out.

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Cute Ways to Organize Pet Stuff

According to some calendars, today is National Pet Day. I’ll take any excuse to talk about my furry babies. If you’re a pet owner, I’m sure you feel the same way. So take this as an open invitation to share your pictures and stories with me. (I LOVE pet pics!)

Here are a couple of my faves of Rosie, our bunny, and Leo, our mini Goldendoodle. I promise I’ll get to the cute organizational tips here in a sec.

rosie at the office

Rosie was helping me with my writing one a rainy day. It was also right after Leo was neutered, so he had a cone on his head. That meant Rosie was free to roam our home. #happybunny

Leo with treats

This was taken after Leo passed his puppy training class. Note the treats sitting on his paws. He’s showing off his “wait” command. #goodpuppy

Okay, now for some ideas on how to organize all of the food, leashes, toys, treats and other pet-loving accoutrements we’ve collected…

Note: while most of these look like ideas for dogs, they could easily be adopted for cats – or bunnies!

grandinroad pet bin

This adorable piece of furniture holds food, bowls and a basket for toys. I also love the leash hook on the side. You can find this at Grandin Road for $300.

pullout food bowls

How clever is this? It’s a built-in drawer that pulls out to feed your pets. The cabinet directly above could hold bags of food and other supplies. If you have space in your kitchen or laundry room, this would be an awesome addition.

food station from desk

If you don’t have the space (or don’t want the commitment of a built-in) you could take an old dresser and turn it into a feeding station. You could also attach a hook on the side for leashes, like the first option!

pet bed plus organizer

What a great way to organize your pet supplies in an entryway or mudroom – and it even makes room for your best bud. This piece is from Pottery Barn for $400.

hideawaybed

Speaking of making room, check out this hideaway that sits inside of a cabinet. The door slides up and reveals a cozy nook for naps. And I love the giant baskets on the right for storage.

cupboard for pets

This has DIY written all over it. It’s just an old armoire that has been given a fresh coat of paint and a few hooks on the inside of the doors to organize all-things pet.

hanging organizer

If you don’t have space for a large piece of furniture, this is a handy over-the-door organizer for about $50 that you could hang in a laundry room, mudroom or the inside of a utility closet.

leash holder

If you just want to create a smart little “walking station” by the door, this is would be an easy project to try. It uses a wipe container for waste bags, and it’s attached to a piece of wood – along with a few hooks for leashes.

Those are just a few ideas I thought were simple, darling or just dang smart. Let me know how you organize all of your pet supplies! In the meantime, go love on those furry friends of yours. Today is an extra special day for them, you know!

-Kate

 

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Friday Wrap: Hopping into Spring

The daffodils are in full bloom. Soccer season has kicked off. It has rained every day this week – canceling some of said soccer. Pinterest is full of bunnies, chicks and Easter decorations. And I’m in need of a pedi.

Yep, it’s officially spring!

Here are five “springy” things I’d like to share from the week.

{ONE} Bunny Bunting

This is one of my favorite decorations this year – outside of my Easter tree that’s filled with sweet little eggs I’ve collected over the past few years. I found this bunny bunting at Hob Lob, and it looks adorable stretched across our mantel.

bunny bunting

{This is a closeup of one of the buns}

Easter mantel

{This is how the whole mantel pulled together. My kids giggled about the idea of “toasted buns.”}

I also love these little bunny tail cookies. I may have to make some of these next week. Pillsbury is rocking their holiday-themed recipes. Have you noticed that?

{TWO} Darby Smart Solutions

What goes hand in hand with spring cleaning? Spring organizing! I swear it’s a thing. So when I saw all of these storage solutions from Darby Smart this week, I was in heaven.

{This canvas bucket would be adorable in my office!}

{This canvas bucket would be adorable in my office!}

{THREE} Dog Party USA

We started taking Leo to a day camp once a week to help get some of his springtime energy out while we’re at work and school. This week it was especially helpful. We’ve had so much rain, he hasn’t played outside as much as usual.

Judging by this picture, I’d say it’s working. He literally slept from the moment we picked him up until the next morning. It reminded me of picking up the kids from daycare when they were babes. Sometimes they’d fall asleep in their dinner. Yes, I said “in.” Lol.

IMG_0187

{FOUR} St. Patrick’s Day Planning

I guess we have to ease up on Easter a bit so we don’t skip right over St. Patrick’s Day. With these holidays so close together this year, it would be easy to do. But with my strong Irish background, I promise to do right by the green-wearin’, beer-drinkin’, folk-singin’ celebration.

Here’s some inspiration for my mani/pedi that’s scheduled for tomorrow. #finally

Should I go with the minty polka dot or gold glitter contrast?!

Be sure to stop back on Monday for more St. Pat’s ideas!

{FIVE} Daylight Savings!

Yet another sign of spring is moving our clocks forward an hour. Remember to do this on Saturday night before you go to bed, my friends!

Here’s to more light in your days ahead.

-Kate

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Organize Your Special Days in Style

Facebook is great for reminding us about birthdays (among other things), but when it comes to keeping track of all your special events, including anniversaries and personal moments – like the day you were engaged or found out you were pregnant – the perfect thing to have is a perpetual calendar.

What’s a perpetual calendar?!

It’s just like a normal calendar, but it doesn’t list specific days of the week. That means you can use it year after year. For example, the month of January looks like this…

January

See how there are just dates – without days of the week to lock in a specific year?

I’ve used one for years. I keep it on the wall of my work space at home because I think it’s pretty.

perpetual calendar

See? isn’t this cute?!

How do I use it?

Once I purchased my calendar, I sat and wrote down every special event I could think of or had written in my day planner. From there, it became a matter of checking each month or adding new dates.

I’ve made a habit of looking at it at the beginning of each month. Then I purchase cards and gifts in one big batch. Sometimes I’ll also jot a note in my day planner to give special people a call or send a FB message.

Where can you find them?

If you’re in the market for a new perpetual calendar, or if you’ve never used something like this before, be sure to check out these beauties below. (I made sure to include links to each source so you can easily find them.)

Now, if you’d rather go down-and-dirty, you could always download this free printable from Whitney English. I’m using her Day Designer this year, and she recently shared this with her planner peeps.

Whichever route you choose, here’s to a happy day organizing your special days!

-Kate

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Five Things Every Guest Room Needs

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

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

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

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

{ONE} It’s Welcoming

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

{TWO} It’s Comforting

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

{THREE} It’s Entertaining

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

{FOUR} It’s Practical

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

{FIVE} It’s Personal

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

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

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

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XOXO

-Kate

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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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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