Friday Wrap: Out in the Wild

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

A few of my absolute favorites:

{ONE} Turning another year older

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

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

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

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

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

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

{TWO} Road tripping to Hot Springs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

{THREE} Meeting baby Dottie!!

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

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

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

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

{FOUR} Fishing with girl power

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

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

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

{FIVE} Hanging from trees

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

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

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

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




Friday Wrap: Birthday Party Edition!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

{ONE} Rainbow Flowers & Heart Droplets

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voila! I used my heart-shaped paper punch.

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

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

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

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

{TWO} Rainbow Cupcakes & Candies

Of course we had some rainbow-themed goodies!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

{THREE} Fun Photo Frame

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

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

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

{FOUR} Mermaids in Action

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

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

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

{FIVE} Fairy Gardens

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

This was Clara’s creation. >>

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

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

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

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

That’s a wrap!

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

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

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

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

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

1 + 1 = 11 😉

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





Friday Wrap: Teen Birthday

The big news around our house is that my son turned 13 this week. How the heck did that happen so fast? I promise not to get too sappy, but it’s hard not to feel a twinge of nostalgia and a longing for my sweet little boy to be, well, little again.

I have always loved this picture. Evan was about a month old and was chillin' in his swing on the back porch. The sun was setting, which made a halo on his fuzzy head, and his hands were folded in "prayer" like an angel. For the most part, he still is! ;)

I have always loved this picture. Evan was about a month old and was chillin’ in his swing on the back porch. The sun was setting, which made a halo on his fuzzy head, and his hands were folded in “prayer” like an angel. For the most part, he still is! 😉

This is Evan today. He loves soccer, which is why he's wearing the US men's national team soccer jersey.

This is Evan today. (He loves soccer, btw, which is why he’s wearing the US men’s national soccer team jersey in his school pic.)

As my first child, Evan’s birth day changed my life forever. I became Mom. And like all other moms who were created before me, I experienced a level of love, joy and fear I never thought possible.

happiest day

{My forever message to sweet E.}

Now that I have a child who is officially old enough to see a PG-13 movie, not only do I feel old and wonder if I’ve outgrown headbands, but also feel unsure about what to buy for his big day. (His party is tomorrow!)

He wanted to update his room, so we bought a handsome new comforter and rearranged his furniture. Other than that, he just wanted gift cards or cash. Sigh. At the very least I will wrap those gift cards like nobody’s business. It’s a celebration, and there will be things to rip open. With that said…

Here are five ideas I’ve gathered for making gift cards and cash an exciting thing to behold.

{ONE} Glitter Balloons

I love the fact that someone has to pop this balloon in order to retrieve their gift. I imagine money would be easier to stick into a deflated balloon than a gift card. This balloon has been painted with glue and dipped in glitter after inflation, which is super cool.

{TWO} A Hidden Gem

There’s more to this jar of M&Ms than meets the eye. There’s a gift card hidden down in the center of this chocolately goodness. The original idea says to include a poem and give this to a teacher, which is a darling idea that I might also have to do. For a birthday treat, you could wrap the jar with tons of curly ribbon and tuck it into a gift bag.

{THREE} Personal Touch

Wouldn’t this be a sweet gift idea from a sibling? I might have Avery & Clara pose for a picture with their hands out to their sides (like the one on the right) and then tape a gift card on top. I would then put this in a small gift bag, so there would be some “opening” to do.

{FOUR} Paper Tube Money Holder

This idea gets two thumbs up because 1) it recycles a toilet paper tube and 2) it’s easy and cute – which could actually qualify as three thumbs if I had them. I’m thinking it would be easier to fold money into the center of this packaging, since the tube is a tad smaller than a gift card.

{FIVE} Creative Money Card

This is another creative way to give cash. Roll some bills into the shape of birthday candles, and put string through the center as the “wick”. Then tie them all to a card. Voila!

Now that I have Evan’s gift figured out (with plenty of ideas on how to wrap it), and all of the party supplies are purchased and ready to roll, I can sit back and remember with a full heart, the moment I met my son…

on the night you were born

Happy birthday, Evan. Momma loves you to the moon and back.



The Diary of a Real Housewife



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.


{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!!




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!



Friday Wrap: Five Faves of the Week

Hello, friends! We’ve had a happy and memorable week at the Andersen house filled with birthday parties, Valentine’s treats and jewelry-making projects. The fun keeps truckin’ this weekend with a date night, basketball game and possible visit to my brother’s farm. So what do you say we ring in this weekend already? Here are our favorite highlights of the week – so far!

{ONE} Neon Ninth Birthday

Avery and Clara turned nine this week and we had a glow-in-the-dark, neon party to celebrate. We used black lights and tons of neon decorations to create a glowing good time.

Neon Birthday

Top left: Avery and Clara getting their dance poses ready; top right: dance party U.S.A.; bottom left: That would be Brandon getting the DJ booth ready; bottom right: My son and his best friend getting into the spirit of the night. They were brave to hang out with screaming and dancing third grade girls all night.

Glow Stick Chandelier

I had to show you the glow-stick chandelier I made! Look at the center of the pic. I took a garden hanging basket and hung it from the ceiling. Then I hung glow sticks from the rim. It turned out to be one of my favorite decorations of the night (other than the neon paper chains made with poster board! That took the prize for the least-expensive-highest-impact decor.)

{TWO} Monogrammed Sweatshirts from Initial Twist

Okay, y’all. My friend Karrie has a business called Initial Twist where she does applique’, embroidery and vinyl designs on the most comfortable shirts in the world. She can pretty much do anything, so message her through her Facebook page and she’ll hook you up. Tell her The Neat Nook sent you!

Monogrammed shirts

I ordered these cute, monogrammed shirts as birthday gifts for the girls. So cute!!

{THREE} Kate Spade Inspired Earrings

If you’re looking for the easiest and prettiest DIY project this weekend, you HAVE to do this. A sweet and super creative friend of mine showed me how to do this one. The best part, they look just like Kate Spade earrings, but will only cost you about $5 total. Not. Even. Kidding.

Glitter Earrings

This is all I did…took these fun earrings from Walmart and painted a layer of clear polish on top. I sprinkled glitter on top, let it dry and did a few more layers (paint then glitter) until my desired look!

{FOUR} Mother & Daughter Necklace

I received an early Valentine surprise from my darling husband. I showed him a picture of this beautiful necklace by Erin Pelicano on Pinterest (because I was so touched by how sweet it was) and he ended up ordering it for his special girls – that would be the twinsies and I. I’m in love all over again. That guy. I tell ya. <3

Mother Daughter Necklace

The smaller hearts have an A and C stamped on them for Avery and Clara. My own heart is the one melting.

{FIVE} Strawberry Heart Kabobs

The kids had their Valentine’s Day parties at school yesterday. I volunteered to make sweet treats, and ended up making this easy-peasy strawberry number. It was a hit – and didn’t send the kids spiraling into too much of a sugar craze. Win-win.

Strawberry kabobs

I found short bamboo sticks in the Martha Stewart party section at Walmart. The trick for the strawberries is to scoop out the tops. Then when you slice them in half (which is all you do), they look like little hearts. I slid them onto the skewers and served with fresh whipped cream. Yes, please!

I hope you have a fun weekend planned and have an extra sweet Valentine’s day!! If you want more details about ANY of the things mentioned above, let me know and I’ll either email you the deets or post more details next week.

Be sure to check out the rest of the ladies on Five on Friday. I know they’ll have fun things to share, as well!