Hello again!

Hello, friends! If you’ve been wondering where the heck I’ve been lately, not to worry. I was on a whirlwind, family-style adventure for the past few weeks, and now I’m back and ready to blog about it all.

Where exactly did I go?!

Our little family of five trekked up to Hastings, Minnesota for a family reunion. Then we headed down and over (very technical directions, I know) to Lincoln, Nebraska for my nieces’ wedding. It was a trip that took us two weeks and all the way through the entire state of Iowa. We saw lots of agriculture and wind farms (cue the 12-year-old boy jokes) and even a few rainbows spread across the sun-stormy skies.

rainbow

A beautiful rainbow over Somewhere, Iowa

Our whole adventure started with a full day’s drive to Owatonna, Minnesota where we visited Brandon’s sister and brother-in-law over cold beers and grilled burgers.

owatonna pic

We made it to MN! We’re in my SIL backyard next to a gorgeous koi pond.

But let me back up a bit.

If your family is at all like ours, the adventure actually begins before you even leave the driveway. First we had to stop off at the vet to drop off Rosie the Rabbit. That’s where she stays when we go out of town. That little bun arrives with more stuff than you’d pack for your first-born child. It’s pretty ridiculous. Once we got Rosie settled and said our dramatic good-byes, we moved to the task of shoving our suitcases, pillows, stuffed animals, coloring books, snacks, drinks, magazines, electronics and all of the associated chargers and adaptors into the car – and the car topper.

At one point, there wasn’t enough room for either Avery or Clara. Since it wasn’t an option to leave them Home Alone style, we rock-paper-scissored our way down to one stuffed animal each. When it was finally time to pull out of the driveway, we only had to de-program the house alarm twice to get things we forgot before we were officially on the open road headed for middle ‘Mercia.

family road trip

Road trip!!!! Of course Mr. Fluffers and Hershey made the cut.

Adventure Part One…Done!

Back to being in Owatonna. After our visit to this cute town, we decided to head to Mall of America before things kicked off at the family reunion. Now, I was a bit leery about this particular outing – only because this was our family’s second attempt at shopping here.

The first occurrence happened back when Evan was 3-years old and the twins were a mere 3-months old. We had a four-alarm meltdown right in the middle of Rain Forest Café where visitors were not able to distinguish between the sounds of automated rainstorms with screeching monkeys and our three whaling children. Our car was parked MILES away, and we could not get out of there fast enough. It’s a memory I’m still trying to forget, which is probably why my right eye started twitching the moment we pulled into the multi-storied parking garage.

I’m happy to report that all went well this time! There were a few screams, but only out of delight when we rode the roller coasters (yes, plural) and other crazy rides in Nickelodeon Universe®, which is smack dab in the middle of the mall. Evan found the Lego store, which was clearly marked by the two-story Transformer – made entirely of Legos.

IMG_5873

We also managed to find the Godiva Chocolatier store where we stuffed our faces with truffles like we were Lucille Ball. Aaaand…we ran into both of my brothers and their families. It was a delightful day – one I’ll be happy to remember for a long time.

Godiva chocolate store

Yes, we found the chocolates!

It was the perfect way to kickoff our reunion with the Clark family (my dad’s side), which started later that day.

Our reunions are special because they happen once every three years.

It’s amazing what can happen in that amount of time – both joyful and tragic. We spent the entire weekend catching up, hugging, laughing, eating, drinking, swimming, canoeing, and even praying together.

frisbee golf

This is just a few of my nieces and cousins who were there! They were the “frolfers” – frisbee golfers 😉

One of my favorite outings was a boat ride along the St. Croix river that docked in the darling town of Stillwater, MN. The mosquitoes there are no lie, but the views are worth the extra spritz of bug spray.

Homepage-SS-2-

River Boat on the St. Croix

Once we said our good-byes to all 85 or so family members, our little family headed to Nebraska where we spent the week helping my niece and (new) nephew prepare for their wedding. This is the same couple that I made a scrapbook for – which pulled together really well, btw!

Anyway, I may have to dedicate an entire post to this event, because it would be worth it. This couple is absolutely adorable, and I’m not just saying that because I’m their Aunt Kate. People unrelated to them say the same thing. They had a picture-perfect wedding, and I felt honored to be able to share in their joy.

emma and paul

I mean…look at that sweet couple. Am I right?

Talk about lots of family time!

We certainly enjoyed every minute of our trip. Well, except for a couple of bad decisions on gas station stops. #sanitizer All-in-all, it was a wonderful experience. I even picked up a few “rules of the road” I’ll share with you tomorrow on my Friday Wrap. It feels good to be back on the blog and I’m so glad you’re here.

Can’t wait to visit more tomorrow!

-Kate

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Friday Wrap: Birthday Week!

Monday marked another birthday in the books. It was a celebratory day complete with a crepe paper fort, flowers, Starbucks, coffee cake, a new mug, love notes from the kids, antique cookie cutters, a hand-knitted wrap, Kung Pao scallops and a piece of fresh cheesecake! I’m feeling full just recapping the list. I also felt the Facebook love from family and friends near and far. Birthdays are one of the best reasons to have a Facebook account. I tell ya. Talk about feeling overwhelmed and blessed by such kindness.

The week was jam packed with goodness. It’s hard to narrow, but here’s my list of five faves.

{ONE} Birthday Flowers

birthday flowersMy husband knows me so well. He brought home a bundle of fresh tulips to celebrate my special day. My sister also sent me a beautiful bouquet of stargazer lilies and spray roses. The smell is intoxicating. I have to say, all of this has given me a touch of spring fever – even during the bitter week of snow and ice. I’m feeling ready for some sunshine.

Quick tip: To extend the life of cut flowers, which I definitely want to do with these beauties, sprinkle a dash of baking soda in the water!

{TWO} Lemon Water

Birthdays are kinda like New Year’s Part Two when it comes to resolutions. I know it’s only been a few months since we rang in 2015, but this is a good time for me to check in and make adjustments. I’ve fizzled a bit on the “drink more water” kick, so I’m getting back in step – and adding lemon! I recently read sipping lemon water right when you wake up is one of the best ways to start the day.

Apparently it helps wake up your body and gives you a feeling of fullness so you don’t overeat at breakfast. Sounds good to me!

{THREE} Gallery Wall

gallery wallWith so much snow, it was another week of indoor projects. One of which was a gallery wall in the stairwell. This has been on the to-do list for quite some time, so it was fun to finally give it some attention. I’ll share a more detailed post next week. In the meantime, I wanted to share this quick tip.

Cut butcher paper to fit the size of your frames. Tape the paper on the wall to see what the arrangement will look like. You can easily tape and move your “frames” around without making millions of holes in the wall – like I usually do!

{FOUR} Fixer Upper Fave

Another benefit to being stuck indoors has been catching up on my favorite shows, like Fixer Upper. I simply adore Chip and Joanna Gaines. If you’re like me, you’ve seen every episode multiple times. One of my favorites (which I watched again yesterday) was the house with the garden atrium. So amazing. I would seriously give anything for them to come to my house and fix ‘er up with some farmhouse charm. If you haven’t shopped at JoJo’s store, Magnolia Homes, it’s worth a look. I’ve noticed several items in her store that she’s used in her designs on TV.

{FIVE} #WomenIRL

WomenIRLEnding on a funny note…if you haven’t been following this hashtag on Instagram, do it now. This is just one of the awesome pics on this feed, which was started by Real Simple magazine. I had trouble picking one to share because there are so many good ones. There’s so much honesty, hilarity and humility. Either search #WomenIRL or follow @WomenIRL.

Here’s to a wonderful weekend, my friends! I’m linking up with Five on Friday again today with April, DarciChristina, and Natasha. Be sure to check them out!

Fiveonfriday-Kate

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Friday Wrap and Year Beginnings!

New Year's Cheer

A New Year’s Cheers!

In case you haven’t been properly wished upon, yet, Happy New Year!!!

Our family spent the evening with a group of friends playing all kinds of crazy games – and tricks. It was the kind of fun that literally landed me on the floor laughing. It had nothing to do with the Moscow Mules, either. It was all about the awesome people, which we’re super thankful to have come to know.IMG_5099Then yesterday we kicked off the year with an amazing meal. My SIL served up a proper, southern New Year’s feast of Hoppin’ John (black eyed peas for good luck), collard greens (for wealth and abundance) and cornbread (for good fortune). I made sure to have seconds – for the luck and all. Wink.

hoppin-john

I was so busy eating, I didn’t grab a photo! This is basically what it entailed – a bowl full of delicious rice, black eyed peas and other veggies and seasonings.

This meal, and the past few days to be honest, has left me feeling incredibly blessed. Good food, good friends, good family moments…the best gifts of the season. I hope you’re feeling equally as thankful and are excited to keep the good things going.

Speaking of good things, here are five I’ve truly loved and/or obsessed about this past week that I had to share – outside of my SIL’s incredible food. I wish I could share that, too.

{ONE} Horse Race

horse race

We played with a cool, handmade version of this game.

This was THE best party game of new year’s eve. If you ever have a chance to play horse race, do it. And don’t fall for it when someone tells you it’s a game where you run with stick horses around the kitchen. Just trust me – and the floor I fell on.

{TWO} Melting Moments Cookies

Melting Moments

Seriously so good.

I made a few batches of these for our neighbors over the holidays, and I have since made several more batches (who’s counting?) for our own family to devour. These are seriously sinful. And like the name says, they melt in your mouth.

I tried making a gluten-free version for my parents using GF flour. They didn’t turn out so great. I might have botched things when I melted the butter vs. used room temp. I’m not the best baker in town, so I honestly don’t know if that made the difference? Maybe someone has a better GF version? For now, here’s the real deal from Give Recipe (that even I could bake):

Ingredients

  • 1 and ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup powdered sugar + 1 cup to sprinkle on top
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (not melted!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Combine flour, cornstarch and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix butter and sugar until smooth.
  3. Add vanilla extract.
  4. Gradually add the flour mixture until everything is blended.
  5. Chill the dough for half an hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 350F.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  8. Make mini balls from the dough, and place on the baking sheet leaving about 1-inch space.
  9. Bake for 13 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before sifting powdered sugar over the top.
  11. Eat them. All. Then lick your fingers.

{THREE} Vision Boardssample vision boardEarlier this week I wrote about vision boards. They’re a pretty powerful way to map out your goals if you haven’t tried your hand at making one, yet. I finished mine (for now) and feel pretty good about how things are mapping out this year. I hope you’re able to take some time to do the same for yourself. Once you have an idea of what you want, it makes it so much easier to break things down into mini steps that you can put in your calendar (or gorgeous planner), which so eloquently brings us to number four…

{FOUR} Day Planners!

Day Designer

I’m so in love with this Day Designer. Belle & Blush sells these beautiful planners. They have tons of other amazing things, too. (Thank you notes, anyone?!) They’re definitely worth checking out. Tell ’em The Neat Nook sent ya!

This time of year reminds me of the first day of school. Stocking up on fresh notebooks and new calendars. I plan to kick it old school this year and use a day planner. I think the act of putting pen to paper makes things feel more official – like a contract. I’m going to see if it makes a difference getting things accomplished this year. Wish me luck!

There are so many great planners to choose from. I landed on a Day Designer by Whitney English. When I read, “It was created with creative professionals, busy mamas, and girls-on-the-go in mind,” I was like, um, that pretty much sums up my life. So I looked no further. I’ll be sure to share some of my favorite tips and tricks with the planner as I go!

{FIVE} Solmate Socks

Solmate Socks

These are from Handmade Market right here in Fayetteville. Darling store!

This was the dark horse of all the gifts in my stocking this year. I didn’t realize how much I could love a pair of socks until these precious things came into my life. They are super cozy, yet not too thick to fit inside your favorite boots. I live in them as much as I can – and probably need to get more for this winter we’re about to have. Snowy weather + cozy socks = happiness. Yes?

So, 2015…I feel good vibes about this one.

I’m looking forward to growing friendships, enjoying lots of family time, venturing into new projects and embracing my imperfections through it all. Thanks for being on this journey with me. Let’s make this year memorable!!

Love and creative wishes,

Kate

Fiveonfriday

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Start the Year with a Vision Board

Yogi Berra quote

I’ve always liked this quote. It’s funny, yet carries buckets of truth.

January is one of the most inspiring months. It delivers a fresh start filled with hope for an exciting year. My husband and I have a tradition each December where we wake up early on a Saturday (which we did this past weekend!), brew a few cups of coffee and plan for the year ahead.

We love our coffee visits. Any time. Any place.

We love our coffee visits. Any time. Any place.

Brandon enjoys planning as much as I do. We’re not overly type-A, by any means. We just like having somewhat of a plan in place. Our annual session always culminates in a vision board, which is a motivational thing for us. It includes words and pictures that represent our goals.

This article offers great thoughts on building a vision board to help your creativity.

To start, here’s the process Brandon and I go through to create our vision boards. Hopefully some of these steps (and a good cup of coffee) will help you, too!

{ONE} Determine Goals

First we just talk. We share personal goals and create family goals for the coming year. We try not to overanalyze. We quickly jot down ideas and assign rough budgets to everything. We’ve come to learn if we skip the money part, our plans are harder to achieve. Even if it requires saving over the course of several years, things and events won’t happen without saving and planning for them now.

{TWO} Pick a Word

Once we’ve chatted, each of us picks a word of the year. It’s a word that has a personal meaning, reminds us of our overall goals, and sets off a spark of motivation when we hear it. So if we’re in a slump or feeling defeated, simply saying the word can jumpstart our engine.

Last year my word was “emerge”.

I found myself in a bit of a rut, occupied with general busyness. You know the kind that keeps you from sitting still and asking what you really need to be happy? That was me, in a hamster wheel afraid to find out what would happen if it stopped. I finally grew tired of feeling dizzy and drained, so I jumped. I spent some much needed time figuring things out.

I ended up changing my work schedule, starting a blog, volunteering more at the kids’ school, and saying “yes” to more social invitations. I found myself “emerging” in new ways and feeling okay with it all. There were tasks that were terrifying, but I did them anyway. I made mistakes, but I learned to stop scolding myself. I embraced imperfection for the first time and kept walking in new directions – regardless of how awkward I may have felt at times. While I will always be on a journey of emerging, I decided to add a new word this year: action. As in, “get up and go, already!”

Now that I have a little more confidence under my belt, I think I’m ready to march toward some dreams I never thought were possible.

{THREE} Create a Vision Board

sample vision board

This sample vision board is from Martha Beck.

Once goals are figured out, and we have a word that can kick us in the pants when we need it most, it’s time to make a vision board.

You can either create one out of poster board and magazine clippings, or go for something digital. Brandon likes using the O Dream Board. You could also try Dream It Alive or any photo collage app on your phone.

I actually like using Pinterest. This year I’m creating a secret board, so I don’t have to share it with the entire world. The title includes the year and my word of choice, so something like: “2015 Vision: Emerge & Take Action.”

Spring hiking

I used this image on my vision board to encourage me to get out and enjoy our beautiful parks and trails with the family.

Next I’ll find images that represent each of the goals on my list. In the caption I’ll write action steps I need to consider. This helps provide guidance and direction for the vision board.

As Antoine de Saint-Exupery stated, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

I’ve already started my vision board. In fact, I just need to add a few more details, so I’m off to finish it now. Good wishes for your personal planning. I’d love to know your “word of the year” or what kind of goals you’ve set for yourself. Share it in the comments or tweet me @Katejandersen.

Your ideas could help inspire someone else – and that’s a beautiful thing to accomplish!

Much love to you all this year,

Kate

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Friday Wrap

What a week! It was filled to the brim with activities and projects (both personal and work related), and it’s still not over. Give this mama another Starbucks already.

So quick confession, I think I showered maybe twice and pretty much lived in a ball cap all week. I think the number of projects on my plate compared to the number of days lived in a ball cap are directly proportional to each other. I will say, through my blizzard of activities I really did have a good time (still am). Here are a few highlights of the week:

  • {ONE} wedding flowers: My niece, Sarah, and I made these sweet pew markers for a family wedding this weekend. Finding fake greenery that looked natural was a bit of a challenge, but we found nice pine sprigs from Hob Lob and added pretty creme-colored flowers to match the rest of the wedding bouquets. We wrapped them with burlap ribbon and wired on some pew clips so all we have to do is slip them on and go!Wedding FlowersSpeaking of weddings, my niece, Emma, is getting married this June! She’s such a sweetheart and asked me to help with invites and other paper goods. I promise to share my projects and discoveries as I go.
  • {TWO} white elephant gift: My husband’s office party is this weekend, so I had to find a white elephant gift. Talk about a fun shopping project. I knew I’d find something awesome at The Mustache, which I did. I almost went with a boot-shaped shot glass, but I landed on these drink coasters with misheard lyrics. Although, I was like, “Wait, sweet dreams aren’t made of cheese?!” #eurythmics #musicfailMisheard Lyrics
  • {THREE} costumes: Don’t you love it when your child comes home from school (the day before the school play) letting you know she needs a costume? Awesome. I panicked for a moment thinking I had to somehow fashion two costumes (life of a twin mom). Thankfully her twin sister was told to use the sugar bear costume from the music department. Yes, sugar bear. Could you imagine having to come up with that in a night’s time? Avery was selected as a candy cane. Totally doable. I grabbed a white shirt and roll of red Duct tape for instant stripes. Thank the high heavens for Duct tape, btw. It was a little plain, though, so we added a tutu. I took strips of red and white tulle, tied them to a piece of elastic and then secured it around her waist. Done, next!Costumes
  • {FOUR} party clothes: I ordered a couple of cute dresses from LollyWollyDoodle for the first time. Am I late to the party on this one? Regardless, they have some stinkin’ cute stuff on that site. I just hope they arrive in time for our mother-daughter holiday party next week! I’ll be sure to share pics when the dresses get here.Lolly logo
  • {FIVE} genius gift wrap: I’m sure you’ve seen the internet sensation of Japanese gift wrapping – where you wrap a gift in less than 12 seconds with a piece of paper and a few slices of tape. I was in complete awe watching this video. It also inspired me to share some other fun and easy (‘cause that’s how I roll) ways to wrap gifts. So be sure to stop back next week.
Gift Wrap Hack

Watch this video of super-fast wrapping. It should be a sport.

I’m linking up with the fun ladies who sponsor Five on Friday again. Be sure to check them out. As always, they’re amazeblogs! FiveonfridayHave a festive weekend, my sweet friends.

-Kate

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving MessageHello, sweet friends. I hope you’re having the best Thanksgiving so far filled with scrumptious turkey and all the fixin’s. I know I am. Why is this not also National Yoga Pant day? Not that anyone is doing any actual exercising, though.YogaWhat will we be doing? Well, I thought it would be fun to share a few of our family traditions.

  • We always travel to Nebraska to visit the in-laws, as well as my sister KJ and her sweet family. So I get to partake in two Thanksgiving meals, making me one thankful girl.
    Nebraska...the good life

    The sign speaks truth.

  • If we don’t oversleep (because my amazing in-laws let Brandon and I sleep in while they hang out with the kids who wake up like roosters), we catch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I love the fanfare, the creativity, and the death-defying inflatables cruising down the street.
    Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

    That is one big turkey.

  • We watch college football like most of America. I should probably clarify. Brandon watches football while I sit next to him catching up on the latest issue of Real Simple and the kids play games on their phones. It works for us. With the Huskers not playing so well the past few weeks, football has turned into a sore subject with the hubs. “Want the November or December issue, honey?”
    Husker Power

    “Please play well, Huskers. My husband’s joy depends on it.”

  • As you may have read on an earlier post, Brandon and I were married on Thanksgiving weekend, so we always carve out some time for each other. This year we’re headed to Lied Lodge in Nebraska City – home of the National Arbor Day Foundation. Gorgeous trees and apple orchards everywhere. I’ll share some pics on Instagram: @katejandersen.
    Lied Lodge & Conference Center

    Lied Lodge & Conference Center

    I’d love to hear about your family traditions. Share in the comments, Tweet or tag me on Instagram. In the meantime, have a wonderful day. I’m thankful you’re here!

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Friday Wrap (with Five Faves)

Happy Friday! I’m attempting to link into “Five on Friday” for the first time, so hopefully I’ll meet a few new friends today!

Here we go:

  1. If I had to wrap the week in a word, it would be joyful. Even though I attended a funeral for my friend’s father, it was such a beautiful experience that left everyone feeling inspired. His nickname was “Brownie” and was one of those guys who loved life, was never short on a joke (or prank), and knew how to appreciate a good beer. The stories shared at his service were both heartwarming and hilarious. As I was listening, I made a quiet vow to myself: don’t take life too seriously. Our time here is a quick breath of air in the grand scheme of things. I want to enjoy every second of it – while laughing as often as I can.
  2. I was proud to wish my own dad a happy Veteran’s Day on Tuesday. He was in the Air Force for many years and retired as a Lt. Colonel. He served our country with great pride, and I’m a better American because of him. Love you, Pappa Joe!
    Pappa Joe

    My sweet dad, Pappa Joe!

  3. I saw my first snowflake of the season this morning. And it’s only November! That’s a rare treat in Arkansas. It didn’t stick to anything, but it was alive for all of five seconds. Some may dispute, but I saw it. I hear more is on the way this weekend. Brrr and bring on the cocoa. Or maybe another Chestnut Praline Latte from the ‘Bucks?
    Chestnut Praline Latte

    I tried one this week, and they are sugary goodness in a cup.

  4. The girls started a new thing this week where they put their favorite blanket in the dryer while they’re taking a bath. After they dry off, they literally wrap in a blanket of warmth. Why haven’t we done this sooner?!
    Avery & Clara

    Look at those snuggly little peanuts.

  5. I just pulled out my Hip Hop Abs DVD. Not to get all Bridget Jones’ Diary on you (remember that funny book?) but I’ve been feeling a bit “swollen” lately. I don’t know if I’ve overdone the salt, sweets, carbs or all of the above, but I was prompted to workout. I try to do yoga once a day to get some form of exercise. I just don’t usually do sweaty workouts – unless they’re fun and have good music and make me forget I’m actually working out. That’s where Hip Hop Abs enters the picture. Even though I feel like a total dork doing my “tilt, tuck and tighten” with Shaun T, I pump up the volume and stomp it out in my garage every now and again. Once you get the hang of it, it’s actually pretty fun.

What I feel like:Hip Hop DancerWhat I probably look like:bad-dancerHave a great weekend and I’ll catch you on Monday with some gorgeous DIY ornaments inspired by Pottery Barn. Here’s a sneak peek:

Let's make these glittery initial ornaments!

Let’s make these glittery initial ornaments!

Feather Ornament

Let’s make these gorgeous glass and feather ornaments, too!

Thanks to Liz, DarciChristina, and Natasha for letting me join your fun Friday adventure. I hope to catch you all again next week!Fiveonfriday

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Get to know me better!

Hello and happy Friday! It’s a frightfully fun Friday, too. I hope you have your costumes, candy and crazy decorations planned and ready to for tonight. If you need last-minute recipe ideas, check out this post from earlier in the blog.

It has been such a great week meeting new people, sharing a special post with A Blonde Ambition, showing you how to make easy and beautiful pumpkin seed ornaments, and finally creating an “About Kate” page. IMG_3991Be sure to check it out. I’ve included some candid shots and random facts about my life – including my nickname growing up. I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know me better. Let me know what other questions you might have.

I’m glad you’re here and excited to be on this creative journey together. You can always connect with me through comments on the blog, Instagram @katejandersen, or email katejandersen{at}gmail{dot}com.

Have a wonderful weekend!

-Kate

 

 

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