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A Few of Our Favorite Things …

HGTV has supplied the daily decorating bread in our household for as long as I can remember. Many a childhood evening were spent watching “Trash to Treasure” and “Design on a Dime.” Magazines featuring vintage homes and junk transformations provided entertainment on numerous road trips and continue to fuel our decorating inspirations. (Side Note: My mom was also the original “Pinterest-er,” saving magazine ideas in page protected binders for future reference.) Over the years, we have loved taking tired and worn-out furniture and restoring it to something beautiful again. As we look back on 11 years of salvaging and repurposing, here are some of our favorite projects!

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Retro Chair transformed into a Refined Seat.














Delivering whimsy to any room!

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Two is better than one – Even our double bench agrees!










A table made for the ultimate Board Gamers.

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From a vintage ice box in shambles to a sweet island!














Our repurposed Piano Bar struck a key with Crooked Willow’s guests…













Wallpaper gave this tired chest of drawers a new face.

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Sometimes a fresh coat of paint is the only thing separating plain and punchy!














A side table worthy of any schoolmarm.

What projects have been your favorites throughout the years at Crooked Willow? Did our DIY-ideas inspire you to breathe new life into a space? We would love to see how you have brought pieces of Crooked Willow into the heart of your home! Please share your pictures and stories with us on Facebook or via email! – Kate

College Life

IMG_20140918_142557_131Though this is technically still the “Life at Crooked Willow” blog, my correspondences are no longer penned from my favorite abode in the world. Four weeks into the college experience and my days are already being filled much differently than they were this summer. Hours normally spent weeding the gardens, leisurely reading the latest Karen Kingsbury, drinking coffee, and “porching” with my family are now full of engaging classes, reading about every topic from saving children from nature-deficit disorder to Beowulf to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, rehearsing with the Women’s Chorale, drinking coffee (some things never change..), and staying in touch with the ones I still love best! I have to admit that I haven’t really been here long enough to consider myself an expert on leaving home and settling roots in new places. But I have learned a few things in my time here so far:

  1. Sleep is important. Tremendously. People everywhere, not just college kids, try to fill their waking hours to the maximum and cut back on the “unnecessary” sleep. Yet they rarely can be engaged at all when they are so exhausted. I am becoming a large advocate of naps.
  2.  Multi-tasking doesn’t really work. Several professors mentioned this in the first week of classes. We can be much more effective at our work if we stay focused on accomplishing one thing at a time before moving on. Wherever you are, be all there.
  3. Slowing down is good. Homework assignments, textbook reading, meals with floormates: these little things are all meant to be enjoyed, part of the experience. Like anything in life, we can’t appreciate things by rushing through them in a race to cross everything off our to-do lists before the next day arrives. Events are so much more enjoyable when you simply appreciate the journey while on your way to the next great destination.
  4. Having something to look forward to is wonderful. Counting down the sleeps until I can return home again is one of the best feelings ever. I firmly believe that it is important to stay rooted in the moment and enjoy each day as it comes. But there is a quiet hope that you can carry about when you have great things planned for the future. (In a sense, it’s like our own small version of having great plans for ourselves, when we know that God’s plans are even bigger than these!)
  5. Bring a little piece of home with you, wherever you go. Though my dorm room is abundant with sweet treasures and vintage pieces that remind me where I came from, home is deeper than my surroundings. It’s internal. It’s the letters I re-read from my mama and sister, encouraging me to dream bigger as I start this new journey. It’s the sweet little text messages from dear friends who are also starting down new paths and offering encouragement. It’s in phone calls home and pictures on my desk of the people closest to my heart. It’s in the deep-rooted confidence in my heart that some things will never change in our constantly fluctuating world. I am blessed that the love of my family is one of those things. It’s our faith and patience that gets us through these times apart. We know that when we are together again, the appreciation and love and laughter that will meet us there – and the time until then will be completely worth it! – Kate

A New Chapter …

It doesn’t even seem possible that August is over, my favorite Silverstreaks are already in the midst of meets and games, and some of best friends are already at school. Where on earth did our sweet little summer get away from us? Among evenings of pancakes on the porch and swatting those darn mosquitoes that can make weeding miserable, hitting up the tennis court with my Mama and sharing conversation over cups of cereal, busy days of work at the store and little jaunts to the library or the grocery store, starting Karen Kingsbury paperbacks and unclasping rollerblades from red ankles, somewhere among all these moments, summer happened.

With the startling realization that summer is drawing to a close, our house has been in a mild attack mode over to-do lists, school shopping, final get-togethers with our nearest and dearest and last minute dorm/house projects. The front bay of our garage is presently a maze of shelves, photo displays, and a dresser that are in respective stages of refurbishing. Alex and I are actually quite excited to have these little thrift store finds all finished. Her bookshelf, crafted by Grandpa Dave from orphan drawers, will be a home for the textbooks she isn’t presently committing to memory. My dresser was upgraded with a simple paint job and an inspiring message from Proverbs 31. Our sweet photo display had broken hinges and a frumpy appearance when we found it  ~ fresh paint, new hinges, and some creativity transform this piece into my organizational center for the school year. Ahh, the joys of repurposing!




The newest chapter of the Anderson adventures are just beginning. After Alex and I are settled in at school, our dear parents will have the house to themselves for the first time in twenty-two years. (Needless to say, I’m sure they are far more excited than they let on) It will be tough to let go of this wonderful summer and the indescribably joyous times we have when we are all together, but our narrow paths are leading us in new directions. “I command you: be firm and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) Today and every day. The blogging torch shall be passed back to my mama for now, although I may be a guest poster in the future. Thank you for letting me practice my writing and share a little snapshot of life at Crooked Willow with you these past few years. Blessings to all as you enjoy the final days of summer and anticipate autumn days ahead. – Kate

August at Grandma’s House

Anne Quote

When I was younger, I hated the feeling of Sundays in August. For me, it was the epitome of emotional dehydration, or “the depths of despair”, as Anne of Green Gables would say. August is such a melancholy month. Summer is beginning to wind down and our world notices – the days are less humid and muggy, sunsets anxiously arrive earlier each evening, and gardens seem to revel in the final days of their summer glory. Our hearts beg us to enjoy each sunshiny day while it lasts, but our minds are beginning to look ahead to what lies around the bend in the road.

Whether you have a least favorite time of year or not, we all go through those days where we just can’t seem to find contentment. Some find peace through relaxation, but I find happiness in planning simple summer pleasures and scattering them throughout my week. My family and I have already experienced an abundance of them these past few weeks and have planned even more as we prepare to walk through this month with grace and happiness.

To give you an idea of what these scattered moments look like, I’d like to share the adventures that my Mom, sister and I had on our weekend trip to grandma’s house. Our story begins on Saturday, after enjoying a hard day of work at the store. We closed up shop, grabbed our bags, climbed into our carefully-inspected, road-ready vehicle (thanks daddy), and we were off! The three and a half hour car drive that used drag on endlessly for us kids flew by quickly in a series of life chats, silent reflections, and salads and sundaes enjoyed outdoors at Culver’s in Hutchinson. We arrived at grandmas in time for a quick debriefing in the kitchen before snuggling into our cozy beds for the evening.

Sunday morning dawned bright and early. We joined a small but strong number of friends for church in the wee hours of the day and delighted in the joys of mass in the beautiful church where my Mama grew up. Grandma cooked a delicious breakfast back home before we went our separate ways for the day. Alex and Grandpa Dave were off to a baseball game while Grandma, Mom, and I made our way to Mankato for a day of shopping. We had a rather successful time of it. Several thrift store finds (including a three-drawer dresser, sweet vintage teacups, and photo display) are going to accompany me to school in a few weeks after receiving a bit of TLC. Some coffee replenished our energy and strengthened us to continue our search for the best deals in home and dorm décor. The afternoon became rainy and with little room in the vehicle to fit much else, we headed back to join Alex and Grandpa for a quiet evening. To make a wonderful day even better, a glorious sunset and rainbow graced the sky when Alex and I took our little stroll around town. It was such a sweet promise to bring us rest after a full day.

We headed home Monday morning after an intense car re-packing session (that nearly resulted in G&G adopting me for the week)! Road construction detoured us to New Ulm and we gushed over the quilt stores and boutiques of this little German town. After some tasty wraps and coffee (a Nutty Irishwoman, anybody?) at Lola’s, we set off again. A few quick stops in St. Cloud ended with us stopping to see my brother’s new apartment and share a meal with him. At last we pulled into the driveway of our sweet home with a full vehicle and fuller hearts from the time we had shared together.

The rest of our month includes more sweet escapades to cute little towns and school shopping, as well as the simple summer pleasures of “porching” and diving into good books. It is becoming too easy to just count the days, which is why we are going to be intentional about making the days count. Let’s take some advice from Anne and enjoy the nicest and sweetest of days that we still have left!  -Kate

Summer Adventure!

Ocean Sunset

Sometimes when life sends big opportunities your way, you carelessly throw them away. But when God helps you lift them back out of the trash, you know it’s yours for the taking.

This literal event happened to me in February when I got a letter in the mail for a SportQuest mission trip. Spending a week or two this summer teaching tennis clinics and sharing God’s love with kids sounded like fun, but the stress of school and the prospect of my last summer before college made me shrug my shoulders and toss the letter away. “Maybe some other summer. This one will be all about me and my family,” I thought smugly to myself.

Turns out, God was prepared for my stubborn little response. My best friend had come over to watch movies with me later that day while I was recovering from wisdom teeth removal. Enjoying life chats, mint chocolate chip ice cream, and the movie, Love Comes Softly, she mentioned that she had received a letter in the mail from SportQuest and was wondering if I had too. Amazed that we had both been invited to share in this opportunity, we raced to the kitchen to pull my letter out of the trash. Re-reading the letter through fresh eyes, I realized that we could embark on this great summer adventure together. Something our cautious mothers were much more likely to agree upon if we were both going.

After some online research, we learned that the only location to teach tennis clinics this summer with SportQuest would be in San Diego. In the middle of a Minnesota winter, San Diego sounded pretty good. Over the next few weeks, we talked about the trip with our school guidance counselor, with our parents, and with each other. With each conversation, the possibility of us going seemed even more likely. We sent our essays, recommendations, and applications in to SportQuest and were both accepted!

June 18th came much faster than we anticipated, especially in lieu of all the graduation party preparations and end of the year activities that consumed all of our time and energy. Before we knew it, we were on a plane, headed across the country to spend eleven days with a bunch of people we had never met. While neither of us was overly nervous about the trip, I was definitely feeling a little nostalgic about leaving home, especially in light of the sweet summer memories I was sure to miss making with my siblings and parents. But looking back, I can’t imagine how my summer would have looked if I hadn’t gone on this mission trip!

The people I met were absolutely incredible. Athletes from all across the United States flew in to San Diego to teach volleyball, soccer, tennis, or basketball. From different backgrounds, religious denominations, and regions of the country, we had all been invited to share in this experience together. We had all accepted the opportunity to be there. The first four days of our trip were dedicated to team building and getting to know each other. A trip to La Jolla Beach, a ropes course at Palomar Mountain, pool parties, and service projects gave us plenty of chances for conversation and bonding.

The camps themselves went over smoothly. The kids were an absolute delight to work with, even on their squirrely days. Each day of camp, one of the coaches shared with the kids why they choose to play with purpose. It was incredible to see the way the kids looked up to the coaches and how impactful their little connections became. Friday was our last day of camp and we ended the camps with SportQuest night, an evening for the parents to join us for a picnic, silly skits, awards, and a final message from two of the coaches about our mission. As I sat in the grass with my new friends, listening to the coaches sharing their stories, I gazed at the California sunset and felt perfect peace. I knew that God had called me on this trip for a reason. I think that He wanted to show me that I would be okay at Bethel this fall. My family would be apart from me for this season in life, but God would never leave my side. That was a lesson well worth learning.

Over the course of the trip, we completed a Bible study based on the concept of powering through. We learned how to find power in prayer, overcome spiritual warfare, and discern our purpose in life. Our team built fast friendships on the solid basis of our faith and the sports ministry we were taking part in. I was amazed at the tears that were shed during our goodbyes – who could imagine that we would be so heartbroken to leave a group of people we had just met eleven days ago!

During this trip, I felt myself become more comfortable with reaching out to others and developing friendships – useful college skills that I will need soon! I took a leap of faith and saw mine grow in the process. My best friend and I now have shared in one of the most incredible adventures of our lives so far and can continue to encourage each other in new ways because of this experience.

I am so glad that God convinced me that I needed to do more this summer than read books and pick weeds. I have done both in abundance since I have returned, but the renewed sense of appreciation for everything I love, from my family to playing tennis, was definitely worth being parted for so long. Leaving so much at home reminded me just how blessed I am and how wonderful it is to be back with those I love best.

My hope is that you can have your own little rejuvenation period this summer. Whether you go to a conference or retreat, spend a weekend at your cabin or just an evening taking a walk, I encourage you to unplug from the world and take some time for yourself. We are always in too much of a hurry (myself included) and must appreciate all the little things, because someday we will look back and realize that they were the big moments. Spending time with God puts everything into perspective! Happy summer days! – Kate

Independence Day


Without much of a chance to comprehend where the past four weeks of summer have gone, the Fourth of July is upon us. It seems the holiday weekend has crept up without warning. Just like that, your visions of a classic summer celebration, complete with all the ruffles and Pinterest-perfect complements, have been dashed . . . or maybe not. Here are some ideas that may help you enjoy this Friday’s holiday whether you have been preparing for weeks or just since you started reading this blog.

Host an old time baseball game. Gather friends and family to enjoy this classic American sport in a new (or old) way. Play by the rules used in 1860, like they do at St. Olaf College each July 4th.  The rules are as follows: no gloves necessary; if the ball is caught on the first bounce, the batter is out; no umpire to call balls or strikes (though batter can still strike out after three swings and misses); foul balls are not strikes; and if base runners overrun first, they can be tagged out.

For an easy food and decoration combo, serve blue M&M’s, white chocolate covered pretzels, and red licorice. Show off your patriotic colors by displaying these sweet treats in hurricane jars and other clear vases.

If you are looking for a dessert to cool everyone down try a no-bake watermelon cake! Cut your watermelon in a cylinder shape, cover with whipped cream, and decorate with berries, almonds, or granola. Make a flag design or star shape if you’re feeling creative. It’s healthy and relatively easy to prepare!

For your table, round up mismatched white chairs and blue dishes combined with some Old Glory’s in a vase to create a patriotic atmosphere for a meal. Simple details like colorful flowers and a vintage bicycle will add unique and whimsical accents to your table setting.

Need an extra pop of color somewhere? Use red, white and blue bandanas as your go-to item. They are useful for table runners, napkins, or a punch of color in clear glass jars with silverware for your table. They are simple to wash and functional in many ways.

Whatever your plans for the holiday, I wish you a Happy and Safe Independence Day! – Kate

Father’s Day Thoughts …


With Father’s Day just around the corner, my dad is due for some sweet words in his honor:

My dad is one of the most compassionate and thoughtful people I know. He constantly does little things to let us know that he cares. From filling up my car with gas when he takes it for a quick trip to town to bringing Gatorade to my tennis meets, he is forever thinking of others. Before every road trip, my dad always checks out our vehicles to make sure that the wheels meet his standards and will safely guide us to our destination.

As far as being a handy man, my dad is the fixer-upper we can’t live without. Every electronic item in our household has broken down at some point in its existence and been resurrected to working order again with his care. He has rebuilt computers, assembled vehicle engines, and even spent time  fixing our shower. Without his vast mechanical knowledge of how things work, our household would be in a constant state of chaos and disarray.

Hunting weekends and lake days have always been time well spent with my dad. Some of my best memories with my dad have been eating cheese sticks at seven in the morning while knitting a scarf in our hunting shack (I was that daughter), four-wheeling through the woods together, and finally learning to stand up on water skis through his persistent encouragement. Though we have put in our time waiting for him to be ready to begin our adventures, his preparedness for all situations has saved us more than once.

My dad was very busy with work when we were younger, and often our only time with him was late in the evenings. Through high school, he remained a loyal and dedicated fan for each of his children. Every single tennis match, softball game, concert, and play I ever had, he was there. He never told me what I had done wrong or could have done better. He simply loved me and supported me in everything.

What a blessing this man has been in my life! We are looking forward to spending some time with our family this weekend and enjoying the sunshine and warmth of summer together. Whether you are going fishing or to the Twins game, writing a letter or making a phone call to your dad, I encourage you to let him know what he means to you! – Kate

Graduation Memories


As of Saturday May 31, I am officially a high school graduate! It is strange to finally say these words after years of assignments, projects, and tests at Osakis High School. Reflecting on my graduation day is truly a tribute to the many years I was blessed to be a student at Osakis.

My sweet mama threw her heart and soul into my graduation party. We have had a delightful time the past few months arranging all the details of our little gathering. My sister painted an old gate for us to display pictures and quotes on, in lieu of traditional photo arrangements. Small samples of fabric in my party colors of turquoise and coral cut into triangles with pinking shears were sewn to binding to create little pennant banners. With some help from Shutterfly and the sweet quotes of Anne of Green Gables, my guest book now contains pictures that tell the story of my life and the kind words of those who attended my party. A hat box set on the piano bar stored cards of well wishes. Coral colored Gerber daisies in blue mason jars adorned the tables. The beautiful quilt that my meticulous grandma so patiently sewed was proudly displayed with clothespins. Our menu consisted of fried chicken from the Corral, Grandma’s potato salad, fresh fruit, Rhode’s buns, root beer floats, peanut butter brownies, lemon bars, and Special “Kate” bars. The evening passed all too quickly in a rush of wonderful conversations and encouraging intentions from my family and friends.

Our commencement ceremony was held Saturday afternoon and went well, considering the lack of ventilation in our gymnasium and the impatience of my classmates to be done with high school. Wearing the gown and ill-fitting cap was a strange feeling for me. After years of watching my siblings and older friends graduate, I had many assumptions about what it would actually feel like to stand in my high school with all of my classmates together one last time. Graduations are known for being bittersweet: exciting adventures ahead but a multitude of friends, experiences, and memories are left behind as the transition to adulthood begins. Growing older and the changes that accompany this natural progression of life are absolutely terrifying at times. But we won’t know what’s around the bend in the road if we lack the courage to take the first step towards it.

I was honored to give a speech at commencement regarding the present. In closing, I stated that: The present time is a beautiful one. We are on a bridge, casting a glance over our shoulders to the difficult and worthwhile path that brought us here and gazing at the uncertain yet hopeful destination ahead of us. One of the most simple and challenging things to do is live in this moment. Yesterday is over and we have no guarantee of tomorrow. All we have for certain is today.

Amongst graduation parties, the allure of summer, and college preparations, the future can be exciting and scary all at once. We have so much that we want to or need to do that we can easily fail to see the sweet and beautiful moments playing out before our very eyes. Ecclesiastes 3 says that there is a season for everything. To my fellow classmates, this is our season to celebrate all that we have become and all that we have yet to look forward to. Take in this present moment and each one that comes your way. And always remember, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the everyday, moment-by-moment journey.

At Crooked Willow, we love old things because they have stories and they have character. I think that speaks well of people too as they write another sentence of their own stories each day. Appreciate the memories of the past, look confidently to all that the future will bring, and love each and every moment. Hoping that whatever adventures are in store for you this summer, you are inspired to live in the present. -Kate

Mother’s Day Joy


My mom and I have always been close. Our identical features and loves of God, family, and coffee (in that order) naturally make us pretty good pals. But our relationship goes beyond those things to a place of kindred friendship where the hearts of mothers and daughters dwell. In the absence of my big sister while she continues her studies at Morris, I have found another strong woman to model my faith and values after. Book recommendations, spring jackets, burst laugh-worthy stories; we share everything. Throughout my senior year, my mama has stayed beside me as we savor each “last” and embrace each delightful day we have together. Though next year will bring new changes to our lives, we are confident that this is not the beginning of the end, just the end of the beginning.

I think that Mother’s Day is a wonderful Sunday in May for us to all celebrate the women who have the toughest occupation in the workforce. Considering the hours of life-chats, the loads of laundry, the dishes washed, and the tears dried by my mama, even an entire Mother’s Week wouldn’t be enough to properly show her how much she means to me. How on earth can I thank someone who has done as much for me as my mom has?

Little things mean the most. While she would surely enjoy a fancy dinner at Bella’s, tickets for a Viking Princess cruise, or a bouquet containing every flower in season, I know that something my mom truly appreciates is when my siblings and I help out with small chores like unloading the dishwasher and folding towels. She fancies our little daily conversations and problem solving sessions. And she certainly loves when her whole family is gathered together. These little ordinary moments become extraordinary when we make them intentional and meaningful.

Unlike normal jobs, mothers don’t work from 9-5 and call it a day. They work tirelessly and around the clock, never even receiving the compensation or wages that other occupations give to workers for their labor. Yet, they do all that they do because they are passionate about their family. Whether you still live with your mom like me or have children of your own and live hundreds of miles from your mother, I encourage you to let your mom know how much she means to you. Don’t wait for Sunday the 11th to show her how much you appreciate her. Every day can be Mother’s Day. The Bible tells us that during Jesus’ growing up years, “His mother kept all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51) Remind her how special she is to you – it is something she can keep in her heart forever! -Kate

Spring is in the Air

vintage postcard forget-me-nots

Spring is coming! I am feeling very hopeful of this, especially with the beautiful 40 degree days we enjoyed only a few weeks ago.  As long as it stays above freezing, we have hope that spring will soon arrive for good.

Even with the sunshine beginning to stream into our homes and lives once more, we know what the cloudy and slushy days can do to our spirits. Here are a few ideas for restoring hope and joy in spring:

-Fill your mind with good things. These past few weeks, Mama and I have been enjoying Karen Kingsbury novels and the “Love Comes Softly” movie series. In a world where literature and film can sometimes make you feel emotionally drained, these are certain to rejuvenate you!
-Share. Bring colorful doughnuts to work or school. Sort through your wardrobe and donate clothing you don’t wear anymore. Cleaning + helping others = pretty great day.
-Create something. Find a use for those old mason jars in your basement. Make an organizational piece for the winter attire you hope to send away soon. Check out Pinterest for some ideas to get you started.
-Look to the future. Whether you have a vacation coming up or are beginning to make plans for a graduation or other celebration, get excited about something! It is never too early to start planning.
-If you have been blessed with small children in your life, spend time with them! Take them to the library for an afternoon or out for an ice cream date. Smile at their giggles and stories and enjoy the perspective of spring from a four-year old.
-Get your sunlight! Oranges, Vitamin D, well-lit porches, whatever you must do. When you find light and sun somewhere, stay close to it and enjoy its warmth.
-Start egg carton seedlings. Place them on your windowsill and watch them grow day by day. Begin planning your garden and all the blooms to come.
-Get out of the house. Go for a walk, breathing in the fresh air. If you feel brave, go without mittens or a hat. Soak in the sights and smells of springtime.
-Be grateful. Start a gratitude journal and write about something every day. You are blessed when you view all your circumstances as blessings.
Happy Spring to all of you!  -Kate

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