Wisdom for the Season

Last Friday was a day that I had been simultaneously looking forward to and dreading for months. Twenty minutes after waking up, with no reason to look cute and no permission to have breakfast, mom and I were headed to town. When we arrived at Centrasota, the people were friendly but that didn’t stop my heartbeat from echoing loudly through the room as monitors were attached to my arms and chest. The laughing gas made me dizzy and once I closed my eyes, I knew it was over.

I woke up in a cozy room, stretched out on a little bed. If I had had the jaw capacity to smile, I probably would have, because I had made it through my first surgery. How could I have ever known that getting my wisdom teeth out would help me understand some of life’s biggest lessons?

As a girl who is constantly on the go, the past four days have been simply odd. The living room has become my “Katie Nest”, scattered with Karen Kingsbury books, College Government notes, the Love Comes Softly movie series, half-melted ice packs, Gatorade bottles, and my favorite blankets. My agenda book has sat forlornly on my desk, unopened and unneeded for days. For someone once so neat and organized, this itself has been strange.

Tiredness from the pain medication has drained most of my desire to be productive as well. On Saturday alone, I took FOUR naps. (My mother tells me I stopped taking them when I was three years old, so I would say this is quite a change for me.) I even fell asleep when one of my friends came over to keep me company! When I wasn’t resting, I struggled through school assignments. I did finish enough homework to attend afternoon classes on Monday, but anticipate some extra work later this week.

Had I known that this is what my weekend would consist of, I think I would have been much less insistent on having the surgery in the middle of my senior year. Between everything going on, I would have argued that the timing would never have worked out. Strangely enough, I think the timing was a blessing. In between seasons, right before softball and Lent start and the final stretch of the year gets under way, this was the perfect break. The optimal time to catch up on sleep, read books and simply relax.

This weekend, I really found out how blessed I am by the people in my life. The text messages and phone calls from my nearest and dearest have been simply sweet. One friend came over Saturday night with ice cream, chicken noodle soup, movies and encouraging words to keep me going through the weekend. Another made me pudding on Sunday and waited very patiently for half an hour while I finished my supper. (Spaghetti on the third day? Not as easy as it sounds.) My parents have been absolute gems, keeping the fire going in the living room, refilling my ice-packs and apple juices (even though my legs work just fine) and simply praying with me. My friends and family are skilled at doing little things with great love. I am touched by their kindness and gentleness with me.

It struck me the other day how Jesus wants us to spend time in His Presence every day, throwing our concerns and to-do lists to the side and just being with Him. It’s a lot easier to just pencil Him into your schedule though and keep madly running around afterwards, like Martha in the story of Mary and Martha. Instead, He wants us to be like Mary, content to just be with Him and not concerned with anything else. You may not have the opportunity/privilege to do nothing for four days like me, but I encourage you to make time for yourself, no matter how busy your schedule is. With spring on the way, it’s easy to get wrapped up in all the winter things we were going to get done and everything else we want to accomplish. May I suggest that you focus on the things that must get done, make time for yourself and enjoy each moment. Don’t rush this season of life you are in, because you are anxious for the next one to begin. God’s Blessings to you All ~Kate

Reflections on February 14th


The stores have nearly exhausted their supplies of chocolates and bouquets. Tickets for romantic chick flicks like “Endless Love” and “Winter’s Tale” are selling out rapidly as couples flock to theaters. Restaurant reservations have been scheduled for weeks. It seems that everyone wants to be spending time and money on their special sweetheart this weekend.

While some cynics may argue that Valentine’s Day has become overly commercialized and is doing more for the economy than for relationships, I would offer another view point on this holiday. My heart aches for those who claim this is “Singles Awareness Day” and vow that they will be forever alone. I think that Valentine’s Day is about something much more heartfelt than the decorations we see hung in windows and doors.

St. Valentine lived hundreds of years ago (1,745 to be exact.) Much mystery surrounds the life he lived, as archaeologists have verified his existence through just an ancient Roman tomb and a church dedicated to him. It is thought that he was a priest who was not only willing to die for his beliefs but also lived a life full of faith. Many believe that he secretly married Christian couples in a time when Christianity was widely disliked. He performed miracles throughout his lifetime and even cured the blindness of a jailor’s daughter while imprisoned.

Looking at what meager facts we have of Saint Valentine, we know two things:          1. Valentine was courageous and 2. He believed in love. I think it is important to understand this when looking at the holiday we celebrate on February 14. I think that Valentine’s Day is less about showing love to a special person and more about being the one person who shows Christ’s love to everyone.

Wherever you are in life, regardless of your relationship status or age, you are surrounded by people. Friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances, people you would do anything for and people you want nothing to do with. Regardless, they are in your life for a reason. Corrie ten Boom once said, “Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives, is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.” What matters is how you handle their presence in your life.

I challenge you to be a Valentine for these people. Be courageous and be a person of love for them. If you don’t know where to start, the best place to begin is on your knees. Valentine’s Day may come only once a year, but every day is a chance to let your Love light shine. Hoping that everyone is spending the weekend with people they love. I know that whenever I am with my family, love is in more than the air: it’s in our hearts too. -Kate

Sunshine and Warm Tropical Breezes


Amidst the bone chilling temperatures and post-Christmas spirit slump, our family was blessed to spend some time away from home earlier this month. A trip to St. Thomas had us longing for golden skin and sunny skies long before we reached our destination. The weather certainly did not disappoint us, though it did make our return trip a bit more difficult.

We found plenty of time for relaxation while we were there. As the men slept in, the ladies in our group spent mornings simply relaxing by the ocean-side, reading books, sipping coffee and peacefully taking in the breathtaking view around us. I found it to be a really wonderful time for prayer and reflection and simply just being there with God without the normal distractions that sometimes interfere with my quiet time.

Unlike many trips in our past, our days were not pre-planned and full to bursting with activities and outings and adventures. We let our days unfold gently, sometimes visiting a beach (Magen’s and Sapphire were absolutely beautiful) or shopping our way through the stores of Charlotte Amalie. Friday was our adventuresome day when we kayaked to Hassel Island, hiked to Fort Willoughby, snorkeled on a reef and even went parasailing! It was incredible to experience so many new things!

Our family was not inseparable the entire week and we did enjoy individual activities from time to time. It was the evenings that united us as we always seemed to come together at the table, whether we were enjoying a meal or simply a competitive game of Trivial Pursuit. I think that speaks a lot for us and who we are. We all have different ideas and dreams that send us down separate paths at times. But at the end of the day, the most important things in life are the people beside us. Life is nothing if we have no one to live it with or experience it with. All the joys and sorrows can be shared and there are no better people on earth to share it with than your family. I know they are the ones I will always turn to.

As the grand finale to a sweet and memorable Christmas break with my siblings, I feel so blessed that we were able to spend time together.  I always get the same deliriously happy feeling when our family is all in one place and I believe that is when we are truly home!  -Kate


Christian Christmas

Christmas movies are kind of a big deal for my family. Nearly every night, we can be found in our living room with the fire blazing, cozied up with coffee and blankets, watching a festive holiday flick. Naturally we have our standard classics that we return to year after year, but this year we (or maybe just me) have taken a particular interest in Hallmark Christmas movies. There is nothing like a sweet little story with a happy ending to lighten your spirits at the end of a long (or short) December day.

I have compiled a list of our top movies and the lessons I think we can take from each of them:

“The Year Without a Santa Claus” Do not become stressed by the things you must accomplish this season. Take time to enjoy it and try to help others who are feeling a bit overwhelmed.

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas”  Christmas cannot be bought in a box or eaten off a plate. It is all about the feeling in your heart and the people around you.

“Elf” The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

“A Christmas Story” No matter how dysfunctional your family is, they are still yours. Also, Red Rider BB Guns are never a good idea. You’ll shoot yer eye out.

“The Santa Clause” Spend more time being Santa to others than wondering who will be giving things to you. Giving beats receiving every time.

“The Nativity Story” The beauty of Jesus’ birth is in the fact that He was born so humbly, in a filthy stable of all places. Yet, God used Him to save the entire world. Oh, how He loves us!

“White Christmas” Love is all that matters at Christmas. Also, there really should be more Bing Crosby’s and Danny Kaye’s in the world!

“It’s a Wonderful Life” If you want to feel rich, look at all the gifts you have that money can’t buy.

“Charlie Brown Christmas” And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not – for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men. And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.-Linus

Wishing everyone a very blessed Christmas from our home to yours! – Kate

Sweet Thanks

These quiet days of November are starting to slip away more quickly. Days are getting shorter and nights are getting longer, making cozy movie nights by the fireplace much more enticing. At Crooked Willow we are beginning to discuss plans for holiday get-togethers. Most importantly on the agenda, Thanksgiving is only a week away!

We are looking forward to hosting Thanksgiving in our home this year. My siblings will be home from college in a few short days and we are highly anticipating the arrival of most of our extended family! Perhaps you are planning your Thanksgiving celebration and are looking for decorating ideas or  ways to entertain small children. With a little help from Pinterest, here are a few ideas I would like to share:


A classic Thanksgiving tradition is to go around the table and share what everyone is thankful for. Have your guests write down the things they have been blessed with in the past year. You can collect the blessings and make a game out of guessing who was thankful for what. At the end of the day, each person should take his or her “Blessing List” home as a reminder of a wonderful year.  Be creative with this sweet little reminder to be grateful. You can find the folding instructions for this silverware holder by clicking here: http://www.abirdsleap.com/2012/11/diy-minimalistic-thanksgiving-table.html


Chalk painted chargers can be used to create name cards for seating assignments or to allow you to write out your Thanksgiving Day menu.  You might also use the plates to write kind thoughts and words to your guests and family members.  There are endless possibilities with this idea! http://www.mendezmanor.com/2013/10/more-crafting-diy-chalkboard-painted.html


If you have small children coming to your big dinner (like we do) -I think a photo shoot with different Thanksgiving props is a fun idea to give the kids a chance to be silly and creative. This snapshot will last longer than a paper turkey! http://www.simplysilhouettes.blogspot.com/


This Thanksgiving Blessing mix is a wonderful reminder of the true reasons we celebrate this holiday. The ingredients are:

Bugles, 2 cups: Shaped like a cornucopia or Horn of Plenty, bugles are a sign of our nation’s abundance.

Pretzels, 2 cups: Arms folded in prayer, pretzels represent a freedom sought by the founders of our country.

Candy corn, 1 cup: Representing sacrifices, candy corn symbolizes the few kernels of corn early settlers survived on each day when food was limited.

Marshmallows, 2 cups (mini): The first winter the Pilgrim’s endured was cold and snowy! (Probably nothing compared to Minnesota, but…)

Nuts or seeds, 1 cup: Promise of a future harvest, they show that we will reap only if our seeds are planted and tended diligently.

Pumpkins, 1 cup: Representing a bountiful harvest.

Dried fruits, 1 cup (cranberries, raisins): Thanksgiving celebrates the fruits of the harvest.

M&M’s: Memories of those before us who guided us to a blessed future. http://hilaryishappy.blogspot.com/2007/11/thanksgiving-blessing-mix.html

Mix together and package cutely.

Thanksgiving, like most holidays, will come with its share of unpredictable moments and unexpected events. Whether the turkey is slightly dry or you receive more company than expected, embrace each surprise that comes your way. Find a way to laugh it off and move on. At the end of the day, all that truly matters are the people seated around your table and the thankfulness in your heart. Blessings to everyone this Thanksgiving! – Kate


Blessing-Quotes-and-verseAs of this past Friday, my senior year of high school is a fourth of the way over! We have been spending the past few weeks celebrating the end of another amazing tennis season. I count my team, our wonderful memories of playing tennis over the last three months and the opportunity to glorify God on the court among my greatest blessings from this fall. Needless to say after this exciting autumn, it has been a little bit difficult slowing down and absorbing the quietness of November.

Without tennis, I have been forced to attend to my ever increasing homework load as well as the lengthy college application process. On the bright side, I have at least been able to commiserate with my Mama, who has been just as busy as me these past twelve days. The life of my sweet “glitter fairy” has consisted of dozens of storage bins full of Christmas linens, ornaments, trees and everything in between; planning lessons and putting projects together for her confirmation class; consuming large amounts of coffee (though surprisingly not much more than me) and little else. With our endless to-do lists, we have been trying to use this season to gain a new mental perspective on the holidays.

While thankfulness is usually at the height of its popularity this time of year, it is something we seldom think about otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, we notice when things are going well – When the gas prices drop, when the humidity and freezing temps agree to stay away for a blissful few weeks, when we finally have time to do those things we were meaning to get to. We certainly enjoy these bright moments in life – but do we take the time to truly appreciate each little moment that comes our way?

Mom and I have been starting to understand that the secret to inner peace is being thankful and enjoying every single day. So simple and yet such a challenging task. In all honesty, this is the only way to make things work. Otherwise you listlessly float about on a loose end, grumbling about every minor issue in life and constantly waiting for the next big event on your calendar to arrive.

We need to live intentionally and on purpose. We must seize each opportunity that comes our way – today is the day! Life is not about checking everything off our to-do lists. While our final destination (home with Jesus) is going to be the most amazing thing ever, He has you here for a reason. Don’t be so focused on the bumps and hills that you forget your destination and always remember to enjoy the journey.

Here’s to counting your blessings and being thankful!

Home Away from Home

Where has the summer gone? Between tennis, getting ready for school and soaking up the last moments of summer, I have severely neglected the blog, so here is my attempt to fill you in on what we’ve been up to with an extra emphasis on the happenings of my sister as she returns to school.

After years of working through the unemotional task of weeding and watering the various flower beds on our property, Alex finally discovered her true talent this summer: furniture re-design.  If you have been to Crooked Willow lately, you would have undoubtedly seen traces of the innumerable projects that she has completed over the course of the past few weeks. She and Mom were constantly discussing the old pieces that needed some touch ups and do-overs. They would carefully select colors and shades and little accents to complete each item. Then Alex would spend hours and days patiently preparing the pieces through the sanding, priming and cleaning process and then adding coat after coat of paint and seeing every detail through from start to finish. (Honestly, it is not as easy as it sounds. I gave up after one project and quickly resumed my yard-care and blogging duties.)

DSC_0193These past few weeks, she has been making preparations for moving into a house with her friends. The projects that she and my parents have pulled together are so cute!  It makes me excited to think about my future college dorm/apartment (which is only a short year in the future). An armoire was selected for storage and extra closet space.  It was given a fresh coat of paint and some new fabric in the door (as the graphic blue is much more suited to Alex’s taste than bright florals!) After a laborious and rather precarious experience trying to maneuver it upstairs, it now resides in her new room. I was honored to be involved in the décor by helping apply primer to a rug that was later painted white with a blue trim to cover the wooden floor. My absolute favorite piece in her room is the desk. The desk itself was from our great-grandma (a sweet and sassy lady if there ever was one!) and has a great cottage style flair all of its own. But in a Pottery Barn-esque idea steal, my grandpa constructed a panel that secures a wall of blackboards and fabric covered corkboards behind the desk. If my future home away from home ends up being half as cool as hers someday, I will be absolutely thrilled!

DSC_0191After a phenomenal summer of making memories and sharing precious time together, this amazing girl is heading back at school. While I wish that she could just stay at home forever, I know that God is calling her out to bigger and better adventures and she is going where she needs to be right now. Can’t wait to see what He has planned for the future of my best friend!  -Kate

Berry Delights

When my siblings and I were growing up, vegetables and fruit were foreign cuisine that we were just fine disregarding from our diets. In particular, we loathed asparagus and adamantly refused to eat it in any form. Nowadays, Alex and I make special trips to town to hit up the produce section at Pete’s County Market or the County Stop. When Ben comes home for the weekends, we load up on grapes just for him! While any fruit from pears to peaches intrigues me, I have a special fondness in my heart for berries.

I can’t say entirely when my love of berries first began, but I have such sweet memories of them. Picking raspberries in my grandma’s garden on hot summer afternoons; sampling fresh strawberries from the crop of a generous family friend; making foamy smoothies for lunch (the secret obsession of the ladies at Crooked Willow this summer .) I always enjoy blueberry pancakes while camping and strawberry trifle at Easter. These little moments have made me quite a berry lover. Since August seems to be the pinnacle of the growing season (and bottom of the price range!) for these precious little gems, here are some recipes to try out:


Slow Cooker Berry Cobbler


1 cup flour

3 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. cinnamon

1 egg

¼ cup fat-free milk

2 tbsp. canola oil

1/8 tsp. salt

2 cups raspberries

2 cups blueberries

½ tbsp. lemon juice

1 cup sugar

¼ cup flour

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, 3 tbsp. sugar, baking powder and cinnamon. In a small bowl combine egg, milk and canola oil. Whisk together until completely blended. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until just moistened. Spread over the bottom of a 5qt slow cooker. In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup sugar and ¼ cup flour and salt. Next add in raspberries and blueberries (fresh or frozen will work) and lemon juice. Stir to completely and evenly coat the raspberries and blueberries with the sugar-flour. Evenly distribute the raspberries and blueberries over batter. Cover and cook on LOW for about 2 to 2½ hours or until batter is cooked through. Top with ice cream or frozen yogurt if desired.


berryMini Strawberry Shortcakes


1 pint strawberries, sliced

1 tbsp. amaretto liqueur or ¼ tsp. almond extract

½ cup sugar, divided

½ cup heavy whipping cream

1 (8-oz.) container mascarpone cheese or cream cheese, softened

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 (3 or 3.4 oz.) package ladyfingers

Combine strawberries, amaretto, and ¼ cup sugar in a bowl. Let stand about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, combine remaining ¼ cup sugar and whipping cream in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Fold in mascarpone cheese and vanilla. Layer ladyfingers, mascarpone mixture, and strawberry mixture in 6 (9-oz) bowls.


bisquitBo Berry Biscuit


2 cups flour

1 cup milk

1/3 cup sugar

5 tbsp. butter

4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

3 oz. blueberries (fresh or dried)


1 cup powdered sugar

1/8 cup water

1 tsp. vanilla

½ tsp. lemon juice

Freeze butter. Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix salt, sugar, flour and baking powder in a bowl and sift. Add the cold milk into dry ingredients and mix. As dough begins to form, use a cheese grater to grate your frozen butter evenly over dough. Fold dough, and knead. Repeat until all butter is spread evenly throughout dough. Fold in the blueberries. Gently pull off chunks of dough and pat to form biscuits. Place on ungreased cookie sheet or cake pan. Place in oven and bake for about 7-12 minutes (until golden.) Melt 1 tbsp. butter in the microwave, and paint finished biscuits with pastry brush. Mix glaze ingredients in a bowl, and drizzle over BoBerry Biscuits with a fork.


Enjoy yourself!  -Kate

July Garden Vision

When it comes to weather in Minnesota, I’m starting to think that our gardens are just as hardy as we are. After being planted weeks later than usual, undergoing superfluous amounts of rain one week and drought-like conditions the next and braving the harsh sun day after day, I am amazed at the progress our beautiful flowers have made. They have an uncanny ability to roll with the changes and nothing seems to faze their growth. What an inspiring lesson for us to take from nature.  In honor of the perseverance we see in our plants, here are some ideas to give our favorite outdoor spaces the TLC they deserve:

photo1Do you have a hodge podge of aging garden tools lying about? Use them as door or drawer handles in your potting shed! If you feel like moving past the natural look, paint the handles bright and fresh colors.

~Sweet Magnolias Farm


Are you tired of the same old look with your garden markers? Invest in some vintage style spoons, a 1/8 inch alphabet stamp set and a hammer, and start creating! Even if you don’t use them outside, these would make a sweet little place setting at a garden party.



Mirrors are often used indoors to open up spaces, but have you ever thought to use them outside? Find some inexpensive and vintage looking mirrors, or old window frames which you can have mirrors cut to fit.  Place them in a somewhat sheltered nook of your garden, lean them against a wall or tuck one within a hedge. Visitors will be delighted by the reflections they find when walking through your garden!



What a better use for an old canoe or boat than turning it into a sweet little rest area in your garden? I absolutely  love this idea! It would be simple to add a few shelves and hooks to create a mini-potting shed!


This little tire planter is too cute! A few holes in the bottom would allow easy drainage for your plants and a quick coat of paint adds vintage charm. You can also try chalkboard paint and write little messages on this piece.



Are you looking for a new potting bench or table? Try using an old door to make one. Find a carpentry handy person to build you some little shelves and half a table to attach to the front. Old shutters will also work well for repurposing this piece.


Don’t wait for someone to give you flowers. Plant your garden and decorate your own soul. ~Kate





Independence Day


Image(s) courtesy VintageHolidayCrafts.com

Fourth of July has always stood out for me as the pinnacle of summer and its unofficial half-way point. Many families take the week off to spend time at their cabin or with relatives. For others, the Fourth is a day to have an outdoor BBQ and watch fireworks. With all the opportunities that abound, I would encourage you to be creative when deciding how to spend your day. Take the time to reflect on what makes you proud to be an American and why we are so blessed to live in this great country. Here are some ideas for your Independence Day Celebration:

-Take in a baseball game. Nothing more American than baseball! Watch a local game if any are being played or round up some kids to start a game of their own. Be inspired by the Fourth of July scene from “the Sandlot” and enjoy the competitive atmosphere at the ballpark.

-Find out something new about our country. Study the origins of our American flag or read the Declaration of Independence. Knowing why this day is celebrated will allow you to appreciate the deeper meaning behind the fireworks and parties.

-Visit a historical site in your area. It’s unlikely that you have the fortune to live across the street from the Liberty Bell in Pennsylvania being inspired daily by its symbolism in our country’s history, but even visiting a monument or a museum in your town will help increase your knowledge of local history and allow you to understand its impact on our nation. This can be a great afternoon outing, especially if you have children!

-Jam out to some patriotic tunes. While the nice summer weather might leave you desperate to turn some country music on, a few tracks of something more appropriate for the day will help get you in the right mindset for the Fourth. Many local radio stations even synchronize their holiday music with local fireworks!

-Enjoy all that yummy food.  Maybe this year you can try to make your own ice cream or root beer! Is it the cherry pie that always gets to you? Whatever your preference is, savor every bite.

-Host a block party! This is one of those cute little ideas that you always hear happened “back in the day”, but has become lost in this new generation. Round up all the neighbors that are staying home this year and enjoy some food and fellowship together. Get the kids to have three-legged races or a kickball competition. Maybe you can even set off some fireworks of your own (legality providing.) Make some new friends and cherish the bonds you have with the people who live closest to you.

-Find a new spot to watch fireworks. Whether it’s from your boat, the golf course or your own back porch – appreciate every last colorful burst!

Whatever you end up doing this Thursday, enjoy each second. Share in lots of laughter and fun with your friends and family and send up a prayer of thanks that you are blessed to live in this fabulous country. God bless America!  -Kate

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