The First Day of Spring!

TulipI 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

Now Trending at Crooked Willow

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As soon as we flipped our calendars to April, the atmosphere at home definitely changed to a frenzied state of business for everyone. (I know I’m constantly talking about how busy we are, but this is legitimately the busiest month of the year!) Anyway, rather than boring with you a rambling account of how stressed we’ve all been, I’ve decided to give a list of what’s been “trending” at home right now.
So here we have it!
-Coffee (How on earth would we get anything done without it!)
-Pizza and leftovers galore (Who has time to cook these days?)
-Most of the time, a rather empty driveway (We just keep coming and going here!)
-A detested overflow of winter boots piled by the door (Come on spring, you can do it!)
-Tags in abundance (White tags, sticker tags, jewelry tags: Hello pricing-things-for-the-store season!)
-Earlier times being set on our alarm clocks (Much to our great dismay.)
-Going on six weeks of indoor softball practice (We are looking at playing double headers at least four days a week by the time we can get outside – Ahhh!)
-Lots of soft clicking noises coming from upstairs each morning (As I break in my prom heels!)
-Cozy fires each evening (Often our only time of the day to sit down and take a breather together.)
-Plenty of prayer (God is sure holding us up in these crazy times.)
Sending warm thoughts in everyone’s direction! Happy Spring 🙂
-Kate

Happy Easter!

JesusCompared 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

Visiting Charleston

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. 

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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!)

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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.

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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!

March2013 00052Every 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!

Snow, Snow, Snow

Winter 00009Hopefully 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

Winter Delights

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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

Winter 00037 “February Twilight” – Sara Teasdale 

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

 evening star 

As long as it watched me. 

Winter 00012 “Snowflakes” – Linda A. Copp 

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. 

Winter 00008 “Crooked Willow”

– 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,

Against circumstances,

And nature’s perchances.

 Bravely, you lived on,

With many branches upon

Your trunk-reaching beyond

Anyone’s expectations.

Victory over temptation

To give in to life’s cessation.

Valentine’s for your Valentine

I can hardly believe that January is already over!  As I look forward to February there are many exciting happenings on my schedule –  Starting with donating blood with my best friend, an afternoon ice-skating with my sister and taking the ACT test! (Can’t say I’m really looking forward to that, but a visit to Caribou afterwards to recover is definitely going to get me through)  Before we know it, Valentine’s Day will be upon us!  Here are some lovely Pinterest ideas to get you thinking ahead:

Valentine Cup

This one is so easy and as a lover of cute mugs, and of course the coffee that goes inside them, I love this idea!  Simply take a ceramic mug and write all over it with a Sharpie.  The mug pictured has a list of “What I like about You”.  You can write lyrics to your first dance if giving this to your husband; 1 Corinthians 13 for your friends or daughter; or a list of memories that you share with your special Valentine!  Put the mug on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Voila – you now have a One Of a Kind Valentine ready to go. http://www.sisterssuitcaseblog.com/2013/01/diy-sharpie-mug-valentine-gift.html 

 Valentine Cookie

As a lover of sweets, I think these cookies look absolutely delicious!  This is just a regular peanut butter cookie but a simple twist makes it very effective for Valentine’s Day.  Use Dove chocolate instead of regular Kisses for a sweet change on a holiday favorite!

   Valentine Cupcake

If you plan on making Valentine muffins or cupcakes, save yourself the struggle of trying to figure out how to make them heart shaped by using a marble in the muffin tin.   Who knew that a marble was all it takes?

Valentine CandyI love the word play in this idea! Here are 14+ little food items that you could set up as a scavenger hunt around the house or you could consider leaving one of these little treats out on your counter every morning in February until Valentine’s Day.

Nuts – I am NUTS about you!

Reese’s Piece – You stole a PIECE of my heart!

Swedish Fish – You o’FISH’ally have my heart!

Crush Soda – I have a CRUSH on you!

Starbursts – You are the STAR in my eyes!

Now and Laters – I want you NOW AND LATER!

Pop Rocks – You ROCK my world!

Babe Ruth – Thanks for going to BAT for me!

Skittles – You color my world!

Pretzel M&Ms – I’d be in KNOTS without you!

Apple – You are the APPLE of my eye!

Gum – I’m stuck on you!

Sweet Tarts – You are my SWEETIE!

100 Grand – You are priceless to me!

Hot Tamale – You are my Hot Tamale!

Rolos – I like the way you ROLL!

Pop – I ‘SODA’ think you are amazing!

Almond Joy – Being married to you is a JOY!

http://caseyandnicolehoughton.blogspot.com/

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!  Don’t forget to spread God’s love wherever you go this month! – Kate

New Year!

NewYear2012 is officially over!  And what a year it was: filled with memories of vacationing with my family, playing softball with my sister, getting my drivers license, spending a week in Florida with my friends, becoming an only child when my siblings went back to college, starting my junior year of high school, competing in the state tournament with my favorite tennis team, and making everyday special and memorable with my friends and family.  Mom, Dad and I spent our final evening of the year with family friends, playing games and enjoying their company and laughter.  It was time well spent.  What a tough year to compete with!  It will certainly be exciting to see what new adventures God has in store for 2013.

I’ve had a tough time coming up with a New Year’s Resolution this year.  Most often, my plans are thwarted just weeks into pursuing them and I spend the remaining 11 months waiting for a fresh start to try again.  Instead of cramming my day with a list of things I need to accomplish, I’ve decided that I’m going to try to make the most of each one.  Every day we wake up is a day that God has laid a new set of opportunities on our path and it’s up to us to make the most of each one.  The best way to live life to the fullest is to begin by living each day to the fullest.

Something I saw on Pinterest really inspired my resolution.  Instead of keeping a journal to remember how you’ve spent your days, you keep an annual log.  The tutorial for making the “journal” is very simple and the result is incredibly rewarding.  http://www.designsponge.com/2010/12/diy-project-vintage-postcard-calendar-journal.html  .  Each day, write down something small that happened.  Over the years you will be able to look back and see how far you’ve come and celebrate the milestones that you have accomplished in your life.

Best wishes to everyone in 2013! -Kate

 

Christmas Adventures!

IMG_6039It’s safe to say that this time of year is crazy busy for everyone.  Between family gatherings, school events and a multitude of Christmas pageants, concerts and recitals to attend, it’s a wonder we can accomplish anything this month!  In the spirit of “living life to the fullest” each season, regardless of our schedules, my friends and I have gotten pretty creative with making “to do” lists of cute things we want to do when we hang out each month.   If you have some spare time in the weeks coming up, or are looking to make your gatherings memorable, check out some of our ideas:

  1. In the spirit of giving, donate blood with your friends.  It is a gift of life.
  2. Go see a play together. Churches and schools have them going on like crazy right now.
  3. Make a list of local restaurants that you have never been to and make plans to go.  (Some of ours include Jitters, Cherry Berry and Bella’s)
  4. Spend an afternoon ice skating.  Try Noonan’s Park in Alexandria.
  5. Try out homemade ice cream recipes.  A bit strange to have in the winter, but an entertaining indoor activity.
  6. Grab some coffee or hot chocolate and go for a drive to look at Christmas lights!
  7. Take a day and spend it on the slopes at Ande’s Tower Hills.
  8. For some interesting variations on dinner, have a progressive meal.  Have the appetizer at one person’s house, the main meal at someone else’s home and dessert at a third location.  Or switch up the order and have a backwards meal, starting with dessert!
  9. One of our best ideas so far involves a snow day.  So this one will have to be on the spur of the moment.  The next day that we get let out of school early due to the weather, we plan to gather a bunch of people at one person’s home and then watch movies and eat yummy comfort food.  We might even get snowed in!
  10.  A few weeks ago, we got together to make Christmas cookies and watch cute Christmas movies.  Simple, but perfect for just spending time together.

Take time for yourself this season and Merry Christmas to everyone! – Kate

 

 

 

 

Christmas Traditions

I know I have said it before but – THIS is really my favorite time of the year.  Especially in recent months of being an only child, I absolutely cannot wait for my siblings to be home to celebrate this Christmas season.  Since we were little, Mom has always worked hard to make things memorable and special for us.  Cutting the tree down in every imaginable weather, spending our annual weekend in the Cities with our cousins, watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” every Christmas Eve and our more recent Christmas treasure hunts, have been some of our most unforgettable traditions.

For as long as I can remember, Ben and Alex have always talked about when Mom would do “the Christmas Mailman” for them/us.  According to their accounts, we had a mailbox that she would put a new letter in every day with a sweet treat or cute little activity or something.  Sadly, due to my being a wee child at the time, I have absolutely no recollection of this!  Somehow, Mom was convinced to repeat the tradition this year and I have loved being a part of it!

Several days in, I have received many little treasures to hold onto this season.  Sweet little pictures from holidays past; a reminder of what love is (1 Corinthians 13) with some chocolate hugs and kisses; crayons (because life is about using the whole box!); Linus’ Christmas explanation from the Charlie Brown Christmas movie; a little money to do some good with this season; the definition of joy (written in scrabble letters!); a favorite childhood book (Clifford’s Christmas); and a list of my favorite things about Christmas through the years have all been delivered so far.  It’s safe to say that our shared sibling excitement over this has not decreased despite the years since the last time Mom put this together!  The little bits of wisdom and love make me smile every morning (even when I’m reading it at 4:45!)  Ben and Alex were right: this has been a great tradition!

Hope everyone is enjoying their Christmas season thus far!

-Kate

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