It’s that time of year again: We are hosting our Garden Party! This is an event that has been a tradition ever since Crooked Willow started eight years ago. It’s amazing how blessed we have been as the years have flown by and we like taking the time to celebrate just how far we have come. Hoping that everyone will have an opportunity this weekend to come and check out our delicious food samples, register for some cute door prizes and enjoy a refreshing root beer float on Saturday.
It truly shocks me just how much things have changed in less then a decade. In this short time we have expanded our buildings from just the main house and Summer Kitchen to include the Trapper’s Lodge, Timber House and even the Barn! Us kids have found ourselves being promoted from behind-the-scenes weed pickers and floor scrubbers to project-painting, lawn-mowing, “sales associates.” And through it all, my mama has found an endless supply of creativity and fresh and innovative ideas to be the life-source behind this business. They energize and inspire everyone who walks through our doors to remember a simpler time and place. Absolutely amazing that God would allow us to be a place where people can take a break from their crazy lives to just relax and spend time with friends.
One of the biggest changes that we have undergone in eight years is moving here. It was certainly a major adjustment in our lives and came with plenty of difficulties and uncertainties. Nobody ever really seems to enjoy change because it means breaking free from the safety and assuredness of our present situation. But nothing great and exciting can ever truly come from walking cautiously through all of our days. We need to take risks and try new things, or we’ll never know exactly where God can take us. I think that the story of Crooked Willow is a beautiful example of faith and courage. It shows us why we take opportunities that are full of doubts and hesitations: because God’s whispered peace and love are louder than any fears that creep up inside of us.
I am excited to see what God has planned for our future. Thank you for eight fabulous years of making Crooked Willow your destination for a relaxing afternoon with friends. -Kate
I don’t know about anyone else, but this cloudy and rainy weather we’ve been living through, day in and day out, is getting mighty discouraging! Once we finally got rid of all the winter snow, it seemed like we were making progress towards a nice, warm summer, but it was not to be. I heard on the weather report a few days ago, that about two-thirds of the days in the past two months have either been cloudy or rainy! We could sure use some sunshine more than anything right now.
In the meantime, as we patiently (or not so patiently) wait, for better days ahead, here are some ideas to keep you energized and joy-filled:
-Clear out all your winter clutter. Being surrounded by lots of junk can make a person feel a little buried and crowded, not to mention scattered and unable to enjoy new things that come into our lives. Go through your closet (and why not the rest of the house too!) and sort through all those undesirable piles of unnecessary things. Give back to your community if you are able, because that will certainly make you feel good about yourself.
-Stock up on fruits in your house. While it’s tempting to keep plenty of sweets and “feel-good” foods on hand (which I certainly don’t discourage!) you are only as active as the foods you eat. Especially focus on oranges or Cuties for extra Vitamin C!
-Make a “Summer To Do” list. It can be simple things that you always make time for like sipping your Diet Peach Snapple on the front porch or watching a sunset. Be sure to include a few items that you’ve always wanted to do, like heading to the State Fair or trying out a new restaurant with friends. Try to cross off at least one activity a week.
-Get working in your garden. Obviously the weather has been a little sketchy as far as planting, but you still have three solid months to enjoy some fresh blooms. Gardens are projects filled with hope as you watch each flower blossom, despite uncontrollable factors around them.
-Volunteer somewhere. Churches often organize events that will benefit others, but groups such as Love Inc. in Alexandria as well as hospitals and libraries can always use an extra hand. There is no greater feeling than the one you get when you help someone else. Brighten someones day! J
-Exercise. Trust me, I know the last thing you want to do when it’s cloudy and depressing outside is put on your athletic shorts and do some crunches, but all those endorphins will energize you and wake your mind up! Make a new workout playlist, buy some cute workout clothes and download some apps (Nike Training Club is fabulous!) to get you motivated.
-Start your mornings a little differently. Buy a new devotional book, read a few chapters of the Bible or spend some time in prayer each day. Spend ten minutes every morning focusing on your spiritual life and you will soon notice a change in your attitude and outlook on life. Perhaps a little divine intervention could bring us some nicer weather!
-Make a box of sunshine! Fill it with assorted yellow items like post-it notes, stationary, candies, lip balm, nail polish, lemonade, socks, jewelry, or whatever you can think of. Give it to someone who could really use some cheering up, or even save it for yourself to dig out on a particularly gray day.
I have been thinking a lot about how much we take the sun for granted and how we allow its presence to dictate our moods. I’ve come to the conclusion that God must want us to become a little more mentally tough this year. We need to find our source of joy and peace through Him, regardless of the temperature or what we see when we look outside our windows. If we fail to grasp this concept, we are headed down a difficult and joyless path. No matter what, we need to stay positive and optimistic: Bring your own sunshine wherever you go! – Kate
Memorial Day means many things to different people. For teachers and students, it’s another day off. For everyone in our high school band, it’s spending the morning marching in a parade to the cemetery while the community watches. For veterans, it’s a day to remember their experiences in the military and to be honored by their nation. For me, it’s a day to realize just how blessed I am to live in America.
As a junior, I was required to take an American History class this year. With more depth and details than previous years, I learned all about the wartime horrors that servicemen and woman endured throughout each war. There was the fear of bigger weapons and ideologies that threatened to destroy our nation, worries of being killed in their sleep and concern for families back at home, anxiously waiting for their return. I marvel at their bravery and courage to undergo such experiences.
I often wonder what inspires a person to dedicate their time, energy and (for many) their lives to the military. Surely some were forced to do join because of the draft and others may have felt obligated to follow in the footsteps of family members. But I’m certain that the core purpose and motive that propelled these veterans to fight for the United States is the cause of freedom. Freedom from political ideas that threatened to control our way of life. Freedom from power-hungry dictators that were striving to take over the world. Freedom so that everyone would have a fair chance at life and the opportunity to be raised in a country where they could be educated and responsible for their own actions. Freedom to chase our dreams, no matter how big or small.
Many times in the course of the past few weeks, I have found myself complaining about the excessive amounts of homework I have had to deal with. If I take a step back, I realize just how thankful I should be that I have homework; because that means that I am going to be an educated young woman someday. In far too many places in our world, this is not even a possibility. Nearly every single thing that you take for granted in your life has been tirelessly pursued by the efforts of our veterans. Had it not been for them, we would not be living in the greatest country in the world.
I pray for the veterans who gave their lives for the freedom of millions. I pray for the veterans who still struggle today with PTSD and wartime injuries, both physical and mental. I pray for each one of us. I know that we can always find fault in the things in our lives and it is far too simple to focus on what we don’t have and lack. But especially on this day, I hope that you can find a place of thankfulness in your heart and be grateful for all that we have been blessed with. God bless America! -Kate
Over the past few years, I have truly begun to appreciate photos. When we were younger, it was such a struggle for my mama to get us kids all in a row with our forced smiles in place. As we got older, we began to take them with a more practiced ease and less complaint. Now, I almost feel like I’m the one asking for us to take pictures! There are so many moments in this beautiful life that I want to capture and never let go. Taking a picture can never physically bring you back to that time and place, but for a little while it allows you to remember exactly how you felt in a certain moment. You remember things that had slipped back through the recesses of your memory. You more fully appreciate the little things in life that were actually big things.
The reason I mention my love of photography is because I want to share the project I have been working on over the course of the past year. After our sojourn to Florida last summer, I went through a period of time that yielded a whole lot of cute pictures. I debated whether to frame and display them or just throw them in an album. This problem, combined with my obsession with Pinterest quotes, led me to create my inspiration wall. With just tacks and a massive wall, I can now look at all my photos at once! Whenever I feel overwhelmed and need a morale boost, I pick up encouragement by seeing how far I’ve already come and remembering where I want to go. I update it every few months or so with pictures of the latest events and happenings. So consider creating a place in your office or home where you can be inspired and refreshed by the beauty of your life! – Kate
I don’t know about anyone else, but last Saturday had to be one of the happiest days of my life! All that sunshine and warm weather after so many nasty and cold days made me absolutely joyful! The evening’s baseball game and Coldstone ice cream didn’t hurt either. We had a very productive day at Crooked Willow on Saturday too. While Dad was off enjoying the delights of an auction, Mom decorated and displayed her new merchandise in the Barn and I spent five hours in the sunshine scrubbing outdoor furniture and garden props. Believe me, unlimited Caribou Coffee couldn’t have convinced me to be anywhere else in the world!
Crooked Willow has started taking shape with every passing hour as Mom has worked in each of the buildings over the past few weeks (actually, months to be more exact.) Pricing things has been super fun for me and I love being one of the first people to see all the new products! Overall, we are looking forward to a splendid spring!
Undoubtedly, everyone else in the upper Midwest has caught onto the spring bug too and is looking for some more ways to make the most of the next sunny day. Well here are a few suggestions for you:
-Plant flowers. It is certainly a bit early yet for this one, but grab some magazines or catalogs and start planning for your garden.
-Go roller skating or for a bike ride. Travel by a form of wheels you normally don’t and hit up the trail or find your own route to arrive somewhere.
-Sit back and watch a ball game. Now that fields are FINALLY dry enough, playing sports outside is actually a possibility. Head outside and enjoy watching spring athletes do what they love!
-Redecorate your room. This can even be a rainy day activity, so hooray for that! A little organization, cleaning and a fresh coat of paint will do wonders for nearly anything in your home.
-Start walking (or running if you’re REALLY motivated.) Grab a friend, pick a time and make it a tradition! You’ll find yourself building friendships and energy before long.
-Host a tea party. I have always wanted to do this! Get some friends together, dressy fancily and enjoy drinking classy beverages and delicate desserts.
-Create an outdoor space for yourself. Maybe it’s a porch swing or a cute wicker furniture set, but set up an area for you to relax and enjoy the fresh air!
Hoping spring will finally catch hold and stay for awhile! -Kate
Compared to the practically nonexistent winter we breezed through last year, 2013 has been much less forgiving. It started out great with our beautiful white Christmas and plenty of opportunities for ice-skating, snowmobiling or sipping coffee and watching Downton Abbey with my mother. There was also the fact that my first winter driving experience in our lovely Minnesota weather was everything I had thought and sometimes feared it would be! The third aspect of this winter involved more late starts and cancellations at school than any year I can remember. Winter certainly hasn’t disappointed me during the last several months! But now the sparkling glow of snow every morning is starting to be a little less exciting as it has dawned on me that the great meltdown we’ve all been desperately waiting for seems to be quite a bit off in the distance yet.
Some days I honestly think I have forgotten what grass looks like and it’s easy to fear that spring will never come. Despite all these struggles we’ve been having with our weather, it provides a perfect opportunity to do a little soul searching and connect with God on a deeper level.
I love that Lent and Easter correspond with the seasons. We start Lent in the midst of the cold and snow and begin a period of time that can, quite frankly, be a little rough on our souls. We have to press through all the trials and icky stuff to truly become a stronger person by the time Easter and spring roll around. It will never, ever be easy but we must take advantage of every moment and strive to live for a greater goal. God’s timing never fails-Trust in Him.
Hope your spirits are staying high and your heart is all ready for Easter, no matter what you see outside!
Happy Easter! -Kate
It’s official. Southern houses are the cutest! Before our trip to Myrtle Beach, I would have sworn up and down that my future home would someday be a little lakeside cottage. But an afternoon spent touring historic Charleston, South Carolina changed my mind pretty quickly!
The one hour carriage ride we took provided a street side glimpse at some of the most beautiful homes I have ever seen. The massive porches (or piazzas) were absolutely gorgeous, especially when they were featured on each floor of the house. From the road, you could see what appeared to be the front door and as we turned to look back, the door opened straight onto the porch! Our guide informed us that if the door was open, you could go in and chat with people sitting on the porch, but if it was closed, they didn’t want to be disturbed.
Some of the stories that accompanied each house were as amazing as the building itself. One of the houses on King’s Street had been the headquarters of the British Army during the Revolution. The homeowners were hardly Loyalists, so the house was taken by force. Amazingly, the Mother left her two daughters in the attic during the 2 years the house was occupied! Carvings and drawings on the attic walls show the girls’ boredom while they stayed up there. (I love my sister, but don’t know that we could handle two years alone in an attic!)
Another house has a much sadder story. A charming young man told his girl that he would build a house more beautiful than her. The house itself was certainly gorgeous – it took four years to build! When he went back home to find his lady, he discovered that she hadn’t been too keen on waiting for him. She was already married with two kids! Sadly, he lived the remainder of his life alone in the beautiful house.
This one has to be my favorite tale. On the morning of her wedding, a young woman woke up to find a note on her bed. It said something along the lines of “Darling, I want you to enjoy this day and forever.” It accompanied a check for $75,000 to build the house of her dreams. (About 2 million today!) The note was from her Daddy. The grooms parents didn’t seem to have too much trouble helping out, as they sent the couple on a 27 month honeymoon, paid for all the furniture they found in Europe and shipped it back to Charleston. When the happy couple returned from Europe, their house was ready and waiting for them!
Every house seems to have a unique story of its own to tell. Charleston was a fabulous historical gold mine of house tales. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend visiting this beautiful city!
Hopefully everybody is still enjoying the lovely snow that proceeds to accumulate in our yards. We have had several late starts at school this year along with a couple of “Snow Days” – which are always fun until you realize at some point they will need to be made up.
Driving in these kinds of conditions is always a challenge and I have discovered that relying on the rumble strips to stay on the road is not my idea of safe driving! I now realize that slow and steady is always best; never slam on the brakes when you feel yourself sliding; and sometimes it is wise to stay home where you are always safe rather than venture out into unknown territory. Sadly, it seems that we are still a few weeks away from the warm weather we all love so much. Rather than whining about how sick of the snow we are, I’ve pulled together a few ideas to help you embrace winter. Enjoy!
-Build a bonfire and make s’mores. Or you can cheat a little bit and just make s’mores with your indoor fireplace.
-Construct a fort and have a snowball fight with your friends, kids or spouse. It seems really simple, but some of my best childhood memories are the massive wars I had with Ben and Alex or the amazing snow “castles” we made with the help of Dad and his plow.
-Grab a blanket and some coffee and sit outside on your front porch swing. I love this idea if there happens to be a really pretty sunrise in the morning and you can take in the moment and read a devotional or talk to God. So peaceful.
-Go on a winter picnic. Be sure to bring tons of blankets, sandwiches and hot soup in a thermos. Finding the perfect day to do this is not an easy feat to handle in Minnesota, but this would be a great idea if you have enough courage to brave the elements!
-Sick of seeing so much white? Make snow paint with food coloring in water, dump it in a spray bottle and paint your yard! See what kinds of designs or messages you can create.
Whatever you do, don’t lose hope: Spring will come! -Kate
As far as handling extreme weather, we Minnesotans were really put to the test last weekend. Dad had to drive us to church in his truck with four wheel drive and we still barely made it there and back. At least we were allowed to travel at all (Sorry Massachusetts). I can’t say I didn’t enjoying being stranded inside, because I haven’t had that much time on my hands in weeks to have movie nights with my family, catch up on sleep, and to just read! I find the simple pleasures in life can bring much happiness. A few years ago David McIver took some wonderful photos of Crooked Willow right after a winter snow. I think he captured the essence and perfection of a beautiful winter day! It seems appropriate to give you a glimpse of our “after the storm.” I am also feeling in a poetic mood and have included a few wintery poems to help you appreciate this wonderful season! Stay warm everyone! -Kate
I stood beside a hill
Smooth with new-laid snow,
A single star looked out
From the cold evening glow.
There was no other creature
That saw what I could see—
I stood and watched the
As long as it watched me.
Snowflakes spill from heaven’s hand
Lovely and chaste like smooth white sand.
A veil of wonder laced in light
Falling Gently on a winters night.
Graceful beauty raining down
Giving magic to the lifeless ground.
Each snowflake like a falling star
Smiling beauty that’s spun afar.
Till earth is dressed in a robe of white
Unspoken poem the hush of night.
– Donna Fields, a sweet lady who visited our shop and wrote a poem for us.
Crooked Willow Tree,
Oh, how I weep for thee.
What happened in years past,
To mangle you and cast
A crooked shadow now,
From your trunk, bowed?
When on your knee,
Did your maker hear your plea
For life at any cost?
A courageous battle fought,
And nature’s perchances.
Bravely, you lived on,
With many branches upon
Your trunk-reaching beyond
Victory over temptation
To give in to life’s cessation.