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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Tips for Aspiring Writers

I’ve recently had a couple of people ask about advice for aspiring writers. I was honored they asked for my thoughts, and I decided to dedicate a post to the response. This is such a broad topic, so I’ll focus on the writing process for now.

Kurt Vonnegut

via

This might sound crazy, but I love everything about the writing process: the creativity, the solitude, the right word, the research, the procrastination, the blocks, the breakthroughs, the editing…all of it. It’s a constant journey, and one I am proud to travel. I’ve been writing since the day I could hold a pencil and form letters, but I’m not the most well-known or perfect writer. I’ve come to realize that isn’t always the point.

Sometimes you do things because they make you feel alive. Writing isn’t always glamorous or joyful. Notice “procrastination” and “writing blocks” included in my description of writing? If we didn’t have these frustrating moments, the breakthroughs wouldn’t feel as important. Each part of the process has a role, and it should make you feel something deep inside. It should remind you you’re human and blessed to even be breathing.

Whatever you choose to do as a hobby or profession, it should make you feel alive. That’s when you know you’re on to something.

If you’ve chosen the path of writing, here are a few thoughts to help inspire the writer within:

Sit and write.

Writing quote

via

One of my favorite quotes from Steven Pressfield is “put your ass where your heart wants to be.” If you’re a painter, then paint. If you’re a chef, then cook. If you have a passion for words and connecting with people, writing is the perfect conduit for you. So stop organizing your sock drawer or scrolling through Pinterest for more recipes you’ll never bake and get to writing. Put yourself in front of the computer, because the page is waiting for you to show up.

Believe in your voice.

Writing Quote

via

I’ve heard countless people say they’re not enough. They don’t feel creative enough, original enough or good enough with grammar. My response to that is you are always enough. If you feel inexperienced at writing, remember you are experienced in life. Write about things important to you. Tell stories that only you have lived. There are people who can help you edit when it’s time. Until then, be gentle and true to yourself. Speak up and be heard. You are important, and we need to hear what you have to say.

Edit when it’s time.

Once you’ve developed a habit of showing up and writing daily, there comes a time when you need to edit your work and share it with others – perhaps even a publisher. If this is an area where you feel insecure, reach out to that friend or co-worker who is meticulous about grammar and ask for help. If you have kids, get to know his/her English teacher and trade baked goodies for a proofreading session. Get creative about the areas where you don’t feel confident. If you want to brush up on your skills, take an English class at the local community college or subscribe to the Associated Press Stylebook. What you don’t want to happen is let the process of editing keep you from introducing your beautiful work to the world.

Listen to feedback with an open mind.

Editing quote

via

If you’ve shared your work and the feedback includes pages of red ink, don’t get discouraged. If you’ve been turned down by countless publishers, don’t stop writing. Try to find common themes from the feedback and make adjustments. While the writing feels incredibly personal, remember that it’s the story being reviewed – not you. Separate your emotions from the work. When you can do this, and be objective about the mechanics of your writing, you give your work a chance to become stronger.

Read.

Reading

via

One of the best ways to become a good writer is to read good writing. Pick up a novel and immerse yourself in the storyline. Once you’ve read the book, conduct a mini review. What worked and what didn’t? How would you have changed the ending? Did you like the dialogue or was it forced? What emotions did you have, and how did the author engage you? Dissecting a book is a sure fire way to inspire a story of your own. If all else fails, read Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg or Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. They’re two of my favorite resources for writing.

Let me know if this was helpful! I’d be happy to share writing tips specifically for bloggers if there’s interest. Just let me know in the comments, on Twitter, through email – however you like to communicate. All of my info is listed on the Contact page.

Have a creative day, my friends, and go write something awesome! #CreativeTipTues

-Kate

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Perfect Pancakes!

Pancake PicIt’s officially Pancake Day! In our house that means it’s brinner time (fixing breakfast foods for dinner).

As a little background, Pancake Day is also called Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, which is the last day of feasting before Lent. It represents a tradition of eating rich foods before fasting begins.

To celebrate, I thought it would be fun to share some creative ideas and helpful tips for making the most perfect pancakes – regardless of when you choose to flip your cakes.

Tips for the Tastiest Pancakes

This is my favorite recipe because it uses buttermilk, which makes a difference in the flavor and fluffiness of your pancakes.

If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, mix 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice with 1 cup of milk and let sit for 10 minutes.

Williams-Sonoma Vanilla

Source: Williams-Sonoma

No matter which recipe you use, adding a dash of vanilla to your batter will truly enhance the flavor. Using a high-quality vanilla, like this one from Williams-Sonoma, makes a difference, too.

Fix the Fluffiest Pancakes

One of the most helpful tips for the fluffiest pancakes is to be sure and not over stir the batter, which makes your pancakes tough.

pancake batter

Source: Say Yes

Letting your batter rest, separating and whipping your egg whites, waiting until you see bubbles and flipping only once are other super helpful tips. See more details on this post.

A No-drip Tip

Use plastic squeeze bottles to pour your batter and keep the clean up to a minimum!

Plastic Squeeze Bottle

Source: Amazon

You can find condiment bottles like these online or in most grocery stores. You can also recycle and clean out a ketchup or salad dressing bottle for the same purpose!

Get Creative

Add a little creative flair to your hot cakes and try one of these recipes tonight. It is a holiday after all!

Nutella and Mini Pancake Kabobs

Nutella pancake kabobs

Source: Tablespoon

Stuffed Pancakes

Stuffed Pancakes

Source: Prepared Pantry

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

Pancake Pops

pancake pop

Source: Number 2 Pencil

Rainbow Pancakes

Rainbow Pancakes

Source: I Am Baker (Nothing says “Mardi Gras”, which is actually French for Fat Tuesday, like a stack of bright-colored cakes! These might be the winner for our dinner tonight.)

Regardless of how you stack ’em up, I hope you have a happy and delicious pancake day!

-Kate

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Creative Tip: Collaborate with Kids

Creative InspirationDon’t you adore the carefree nature and creativity of kids? It seems the younger the child, the fewer filters they have for things that are silly or absurd. They’re incredibly open-minded and able to rationalize things that are seemingly impossible.

I remember a conversation with my son, Evan, when he was a little guy. He said the sun warmed the earth by reaching down with its invisible arms and zapping everything with heated light sabers. His complete confidence in the idea was not only adorable, but also inspiring.

It’s good to forget logic every now and then and play the “what if” game. What if the sun did have invisible arms? You never know when this type of harmless exploration could lead to great inventions.

At the very least, it encourages us to see the world with fresh eyes and broaden our imagination.

There’s an illustrator named Mica Angela Hendricks who believes in collaborating with kids to enhance her creative ideas. She pulled out a sketchbook one day and allowed her five-year-old daughter to add finishing touches to her drawings. The result was astounding. She began to work closely with her little girl to create beautiful and wildly imaginative pieces of art together.

A selection of Mica's work is available for purchase at Society6.

A selection of Mica’s work is available for purchase at Society6.

Give it a try for yourself!

I’m not an illustrator, so I might adapt this idea with cutting pictures from magazines and then working with my kids to build out the story. I saw something like this on Artmommie’s blog.ArtmommieAnother fun idea would be to create a book together. Start with a writing prompt, then take turns writing lines of a story from there. Here are Ten Terrific Writing Prompts I developed to help you get started. You can go back and add pictures once the story is written, and then have it published through a site like blurb.

blurb

Blurb is a great site for printing your own books.

I’m sure there are hundreds of ways to collaborate with your kids and ignite more creativity in your life. So be sure to share your awesome ideas in the comments or tag me on Twitter or Instagram with a picture you’ve created and use #CreativeTipTues.

As always, have a creative day!

-Kate

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Creative Tip: Live Like an Animal

As humans it’s our nature to have a bit of a wild side. At our core, we’re really just a bunch of animals (highly domesticated, of course). We have a beautiful and innate ability to explore, run, climb and capture. But sometimes we get caught up in the trap of our own advanced minds. We over think situations; we doubt our abilities; and we allow ourselves to feel alone in our problems. We lose touch with our true selves and feel stressed, worried and sometimes stagnant.Dog TherapyIf you ever find yourself feeling this way, perhaps it’s a sign you need to connect back with nature – your true source. Maybe take a walk, breathe some fresh air, and spend time with an animal. Animals, whether they’re out in the wild or snuggled up on our couches, can serve as an amazing source of inspiration.

I believe animals have three special qualities we can emulate to help us live more meaningful and creative lives.

  1. Instinct: animals never question their decisions
  2. Authenticity: animals simply are who they are
  3. Health: animals constantly exercise, eat what’s right, and rest when needed

Pull out your journal and explore some questions for each of these qualities.

Instinct

  • Do you trust your instincts when designing, writing or creating? When is it harder to do this? Why is that?
  • When it comes time to judge and edit your own work (which is something you should always do after the ideation process), do you follow your instinct for what should be changed or which direction to choose?

Authenticity

  • Do you know your own authentic voice? Look at your previous projects or home. What do you see that’s consistent about your style and your decisions?
  • When do you most feel like yourself? What types of activities are you doing?
  • When you’re in the process of creating, how can you quiet the critics and turn up the volume on your inner voice?

Health

  • Do you take time to exercise? Sometimes a simple walk around the block over lunch is enough to recharge your creativity and mood.
  • Are you drinking enough water and eating foods that make you feel good? There are so many fad diets, and I don’t think you need any of them to be healthy. I believe deep down, you know the foods that are right for your body. Take time to slow down and listen.
  • How many hours of sleep are you getting? Do you feel like it’s enough?

Another interesting exercise to try when you’re faced with a challenge is to think of a solution from an animal’s perspective. It might feel weird at first, but think about how a lion would solve your problem. How would a small bird approach the situation? See where it takes you, and you might find a few surprising answers from simply changing your point of view.

Let me know how this works for you. I’d love to hear your feedback or any tips you’d like to share about how you stay creative. In the meantime, have a wildly fun and inspiring day!

-Kate

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Creative Tip: Take a Walk

Blessed are the Curious

“Blessed are the curious for they shall have adventures.” This darling print is available on Etsy.

The weather outside might be frightfully cold, but bundling up and taking a walk is a wonderful way to ignite your creativity and fresh thinking.

According to a research study at Stanford (I feel so smart just saying that), a person’s creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking versus sitting down. No wonder Beethoven was said to have taken long, solitary walks through the valleys of Vienna, and Henry Thoreau claimed that his thoughts began to flow ‘the moment my legs began to move.’

Taking things a step further (sorry for the pun), business innovator Nilofer Merchant delivered a TED talk where she suggests something called “walking meetings” to help ideas flow better.

Why walking works

There are several theories about how and why walking works so well for expanding creativity. Among them include the fact that exercising elevates your mood, which in turn helps open your mind to creative ideas.

Another thought is that walking requires you to take a break from the task at hand. Letting go of the need to produce something allows you to absorb information and ideas around you. This incubation period is easily activated by walking.

Although the exact reason still remains a mystery, research shows that you can boost your creative skills in as little as 10 minutes of walking each day. So why not lace up those tennies, grab your sketchbook and take a spin around the block? You never know where the path will lead you.

Step it UpWhat’s your favorite creative tip? Let me know and I might feature it in an upcoming post! Remember to use #CreativeTipTues on Instagram or Twitter, or tag me @Katejandersen.

Have a creative day!

-Kate

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Holiday Shopping Checklists {printables}

Well, it’s officially December. Time to get serious about Christmas shopping. We have T-minus 24 days and counting, peeps!

Mindy and I have so much in common. Shopping is my cardio, too!

Mindy and I have so much in common. Shopping is MY cardio, too!

I know it’s easy to get overwhelmed and over budget when you’re cruising through the mall or your favorite local shops. One helpful tip is to plan ahead. Sounds ridiculously simple, but it’s also easier said than done. It’s hard to walk past anything that’s more than 25% off. But if you want to respect your sanity, ask yourself, “Does anyone on my gift list really need that waffle iron?” If it’s a “no,” put down the box and step away from the deal.

The very best way to plan ahead is to make lists. I looooove making lists. So I created a couple of list templates to help make shopping easier. Consider it my little Christmas gift to you.

Gift PlannerThe first template is your planner. Think of it as your little personal shopper. You can write down all of the people you need to shop for, along with their clothing sizes, hobbies, favorite colors, etc. Once you map out your list, you can use this for your shopping. I put together a Sample Gift Planner so you can see how it looks filled out.

This template is available to download as a Word document* or PDF.

*Note: I created this on a Mac. If you’re on a PC, the formatting might need to be adjusted a bit. This version is great if you want to type directly into the document. You can email it to yourself and have it on your phone when you shop.

Shopping ListThe second template is more of a tracker. It’s a place to list your purchases and check off details, such as the cost, and if it’s been wrapped and delivered.

This is also available to download as a Word document or PDF.

I hope these are super helpful. Happy shopping and let me know how it goes out there. Remember to stay hydrated doing all that cardio.

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Creative Tip: Embrace the “Yes, And…”

Improv Tips

More great thoughts on this topic at 99U.

Most improv classes teach the importance of “yes, and…” It means when something is given to you (a line, a prop, a gesture), you accept it and add something new. So if someone hands you a bike helmet and says, “Let’s fly to the moon,” you don’t look at them with crazy eyes and reply, “Um, nooo.” You might say, “Yes, and let me grab my elbow pads and oxygen tank.” You keep the momentum going and see where it takes you.

Embracing “yes, and…” is perhaps one of the best lessons in creativity – and life for that matter.

When it comes to creativity

Always be accepting of ideas that are shared by others or come to your own mind. Your instinct might be to shoot down ideas that defy logic, but some of the best and most creative books, photographs, paintings, movies, recipes, or gadgets didn’t always seem reasonable or even plausible at their inception.

Think about how services like Skype would have sounded in a brainstorm: “What if people could login to their computer and be able to see and talk to their friends who live out of state – without any phones?” Someone was willing to say, “Yes, and what if it worked internationally?”

When given the chance, always be willing and courageous to add your “and.”

Wedding PictureThis translates to relationships, too.

Today is my 14th wedding anniversary, and I think about how much improv happens in this life that Brandon and I are building together. From the moment I said “yes” to his proposal, we’ve been adding “ands” ever since. Before we knew it, “Kate and Brandon” turned into, “…and babies, and a house, and a rabbit, and a new job, and a move…” It hasn’t always been easy, but our willingness and courage to accept each other – while being willing to add new experiences – has certainly made the journey more exciting. A little humor never hurts, either.

Here’s to more “yes, ands…” in your life!

Reflection questions:

  • When was the last time you said “no” or shot down an idea?
  • What would have happened if you said “yes?” List all of the possibilities, even the crazy ones.
  • What’s an idea you’ve been afraid to share? Write it down and add a “yes, and…”

Feel free to share your thoughts and use #CreativeTipTues or tag me. I’m on Twittter and Instagram as @Katejandersen.

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Creative Tip: Enjoy the Season!

Christmas kindness

Designed by The Neat Nook

There’s no question the holidays are a special time of year. I love catching up with friends, eating good food, and exchanging thoughtful gifts.

If we’re being honest, it can also be a bit stressful. The weeks leading up to Christmas are hurried and hectic. There’s the decorating, baking, shopping, wrapping, shipping, entertaining, and sometimes traveling to be done. When you’re a momma, you also have school plays, church pageants, class parties and teacher gifts to manage. Whew!

How does anyone stay calm and joyful with so much business going on? It’s not easy. That’s for sure, but if you have the right mindset, you can stay fairly calm through it all.

Try these five quick tips and see if you feel a difference. They won’t guarantee rock star parking at the mall, but they might help you ease up on the horn when someone snags your spot.

  1. Check in with yourself.
    • Stop in your tracks when you’re feeling stressed, and take note of what you’re doing. And I mean all the way down to the verb. Does baking pies from scratch and making the crust look like a string of holly berries (like the picture you saw on Pinterest) send you spiraling into tears? If so, change the plan and simplify. Get the premade crust or better yet, order from your favorite restaurant and call it good. No one will judge you.
    • Also notice what activities make you feel energized and creative. Allow yourself plenty of time to enjoy these things! Personally, I could wrap presents all day long. I adore playing with papers, tissues, boxes and bows. I would swap wrapping presents for making homemade pies any day.
  2. Do only what you can (and want) to do. Delegate the rest.
    • Write down your entire to-do list so it’s out of your head – where it only stresses you out.
    • Cross off anything that doesn’t fill you with joy and is also unnecessary. Synchronizing your outdoor lights to music – when you’re not technically savvy – would fall into this category.
    • Put a star next to anything you love and that only you can do – such as attending your child’s Christmas play.
    • Find a way to delegate or simplify the rest. Enlist a crafty cousin to make a few small gifts, or pay a neighbor with treats to help hang your lights. Get creative!
  3. Stay within budget.
    • One of the biggest stressors this time of year can be money. Plan a realistic budget that includes all of the details (like stamps for those adorable cards you ordered).
    • Keep track of your receipts as you go, so you know where you stand. If gifts are getting out of control, switch gears to something handmade or repurposed. If you’re thoughtful about the present, it will be appreciated – regardless of the price tag.
  4. Make a new friend.
    • Empathy can go a long way when you’re standing in line waiting to pay at the register. Strike up a conversation with the person in front of you and you might realize just how lucky you really are this holiday.
  5. Be kind to yourself.
    • Whatever you choose to do this holiday, make sure it makes you happy.
    • Don’t try to do too much, and certainly don’t try to make everything perfect. Perfection is unrealistic. If your 2-year-old won’t stop pouting in the family picture, let it be. If you burned all of the cookies for the school party, feed them  to the ducks and pickup some store-bought goodies. Serve them on one of your prettiest plates and you’re back in business.
    • The bottom line is, give yourself a break. And have a glass of wine while you’re at it. You deserve a happy holiday just as much as anyone on your gift list.

Cheers, my friends! Here’s to the most joyful and relaxed Christmas season, yet.

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It’s Not Too Late: Planting Fall Bulbs

Hyacinth bulbs with pots to plant

Hyacinth Bulbs Ready to Plant

I was watching Weatherman Dan (my favorite local meteorologist) the other day, and he was talking about a looming polar vortex that will hit most of the U.S. with a wintry vengeance this week. My initial thought after “wait, what?!” was “coat shopping!” The kids grow so fast, there’s no way they’ll zip into last year’s coats without having a Chris Farley moment. I also realized I haven’t planted my fall bulbs, yet. Good gracious, girl!

Needless to say, I need to take a knee and get to planting ASAP. If you’re like me and let the middle of November sneak up on you, let’s do this thing together. You’ll thank me come spring when your garden is exploding with color.

It always feels like a surprise party when the flowers burst out of the cold ground. Even though I carefully and lovingly buried each bulb, I somehow develop gardening amnesia come March. I’m like, “Oh, yay! Look at those little crocus in the corner! I love crocus!”

If you’re not sold on planting bulbs, let me elaborate. Bulbs are awesome. They’re low-maintenance, not too expensive, and make your heart absolutely happy when they bloom at the tail end of a dreary, gray winter. What more could you ask for?

You can find bulbs anywhere this time of year. Be sure to buy them from a reputable nursery, though. Cheap bulbs equal cheap blooms – if at all. Boo. I really like shopping at Westwood Gardens in my area or ordering online from Burpee.

Five great flowers to try:

  1. Tulips: Tulips are probably one of the first choices you think of when it comes to spring flowers – and for good reason. Tulips are classic. There are so many varieties you can have a garden packed with these beauties, while still keeping things extremely interesting. For a unique flair, try ‘Parrot’ tulips!
    ParrotTulip

    ‘Parrot’ Tulip

  2. Daffodils: Another classic spring flower is the beloved daffodil. They’re one of the easiest to grow, too. I love the layers of a double-flowered daffodil. If you want a unique color combo try the ‘Romance.’ It has rose-pink cups with gorgeous white petals. It won’t disappoint.
    RomanceDaff

    ‘Romance’ Daffodil

    DoubleDaff

    Mix of Double-flowered Daffodils

  3. Hyacinths: There are two basic types. The common hyacinth has short stalks of amazingly fragrant flowers that look like little starfish. Grape hyacinths are even smaller and have tight blooms that look like clusters of mini grapes. So cute!
    BlueGrapeHyacinth

    Blue Grape Hyacinth

    hyacinth

    Common Hyacinth

  4. Iris: These are a great addition to a garden because they’re hardy and look amazing. They’re tall and regal and remind me of an exotic orchid – minus the temperament.
    Iris

    ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ Iris

  5. Crocus: I like planting a mix of colors with these adorable flowers. Since they grow low to the ground, they make a pretty accent at the base of any other flower. And you know it’s all about that base.
    Crocus

    Crocus {Hey, there!}

Once you feel ready, here’s a quick primer for planting:

  • When: Plant anytime before the ground freezes (pretty much now)
  • Where: Pick a spot that gets full sun and has well-drained soil.
  • How many: Plant lots of bulbs just in case some don’t sprout. If you want a more natural look, plant them in random order and spacing. If you want to create groves of daffodils or tulips, you’ll need to buy and plant lots of bulbs.
  • How deep: Plant at a depth of three times the width of the bulb. If your soil’s sandy, plant bulbs slightly deeper; in clay soils, slightly shallower.
  • What now: After planting, apply fertilizer low in nitrogen and water well. Apply mulch to keep the weeds down and hold in moisture.

 You’re good to go! Have fun digging in the dirt – and try to stay warm out there!

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