Get ready, we’re gonna unleash the joy

Good morning!

The forecast where we live is predicting the first snowfall tomorrow and I just want you all to know I’ve been preparing for this moment all year. I started re-watching The Gilmore Girls with my daughter and we’re almost to the first snow episode and can I just say that my wish is for all of us to be Lorelai.

Snow Day! ❄️☃❄️

You know what surprises me? I get that driving in snow is hard(er) than normal and shoveling snow is laborious and dressing for colder weather is allthethings, but what I don’t get is the adopted attitude that everything turns to shit in winter. I live in Michigan, winter is all but guaranteed, and while I used to have the rage feelings about this season, too, I’ve since realized that the only reason I felt that way was because I was taught to feel that way.

Truth is? I really love winter. Like, I AM A SUPER FAN OF WINTER. I love it so much. It’s beautiful and calm and the entire world whispers and it shines like glitter and it smells amazing and Thanksgiving happens and then Christmas comes and then we get to celebrate a handful of family birthdays (one being my favorite teenager of all time) and we get to go skiing and be among the trees while they hibernate and glisten and we bake all the things and drink hot chocolate and have you ever felt the pure joy of sledding down a hill with friends, or small kids, or grandparents?

YOU SHOULD TRY IT.

I get that popular opinion is usually the path of least resistance and that there are staunch supporters of “Winter is the Worst” – thats fine. Hats off, dear friends. But the rest of us? Really? Do we really hate winter? Or are we just taught to turn our noses up and complain about the roads?

We can do hard things, even changing our mind about our likes and dislikes – or maybe discovering them for the first time.

It's embarrassing how long it took us to get here this morning only to find the lodge closed, no rentals for the day, and the sledding hill roped off. It was pretty though. Aaaaand I'm done.

Let’s not forget that for some weird (out of body) reason I am Team Holidays this year. I feel like making jersey’s and going caroling and hand delivering baked goods to my neighbors in a horse drawn sleigh. We can all wonder what the H happened to me, while you’re busy doing that – I’ll be over here cheering for snow and flipping the freak out about the weight of all this joy. Effortless, I tell you. There’s just so much and it’s just so dangum easy to carry.

The other side of the camera is me freaking out with a stupid happy face and lots of giggling. I love snow. Love it love it love it.

Here’s a list of things to do this winter, and please add to it and take from it whatever serves you and leave the rest. Maybe the most freeing thing about all this is realizing we can change our minds or witness our hearts healing. Look up, you get to decide what’s next.

Obviously, GO SLEDDING
Make snowmen
Bake Holiday treats
Watch Holiday movies (Elf, The Christmas Calendar, Home Alone, Easrnest does Christmas, Polar Express, The Grinch … I need more, leave suggestions in the comments)
Make tree decorations
Snowball fight
Go to a local middle or high school play (go to all of them?)
See the Holiday symphony
Sing along to the radio
Play Christmas music REALLY LOUD, and often
Decorate early!
Or just dust off those boxes and decorate at all
Make an indoor tent with sheets, read stories, drink hot chocolate
Hang twinkly lights
Buy those chocolate advent calendars, go nuts
Speaking of nuts, roast some! Or sugar some!
Walk around the mall, take it all in. You don’t even need to shop, just watch, smell, listen.
Pick up a journal and choose to write something in it every day – a joke, a memory, something you’re thankful for, what you need to let go of in order to choose new/different/now. No rules, there is not right way to feel (especially in private).
Draw or paint or color
Do a puzzle
Wear slippers on purpose, giggle
Buy that coffee creamer you love, and get the full fat, real sugar stuff. (do it.)
Try a new latte
Meet a friend for lunch, order mimosa’s (or something fancy)
Host a game night
Greet your neighbors with a lot of excitement. They should maybe wonder what you’re so jolly about. Confuse the hell out of people – give away joy like candy canes at the north pole.
Go for a wintery walk in the woods or a trail you love
Shovel someone’s driveway
Play with puppies in the snow
Skip school for the perfect ski day – run away together
Sit in a hot-tub during a snowstorm
Take lots of baths, light the candles
Go cross-country skiing
Go snow-shoeing
Go bird watching after a powdery snow fall
Call your Grandma’s and Grandpa’s – ask them about their favorite holiday traditions from their past
Visit your library
Make goofy headbands (elf, reindeer, santa)
Star in a child’s directional debut of the Night Before Christmas – perform at gatherings, laugh a lot
Play group games (pictionary, catch phrase, etc)
Host sleepovers
When out of town family comes to town, SHOW THEM WHAT YOU LOVE, take them to your favorite spots, spring for the bill, get out the good plates, buy the brisket
Build an igloo
Go iceskating

Your turn, friends. Show up in the comments, let’s build this list so grand and fantastic that we look back and think of this as the winter we started believing.

It’s going to snow tomorrow.

I’m ready.

Housekeeping: Throw a party

Our pastor described his daughter as a “Party waiting to happen” once when I was in middle school and I’ve never forgotten that phrase. I decided; to be known as anything – a “party waiting to happen” was probably top of the line and I wanted in. I liked the connotation of the description. It didn’t mean she was a partier, on the “wrong side of those illusive tracks”, or someone to beware of. It meant she was fun, happy. It meant anything could be a party, a good time. It meant she was joyful.

There’s some great resources out there to get your creative juices going about how to host people in your space. Use them!

Pinterest
Picmonkey (How I make my invites)
Amazon
Your friends – borrow, borrow, borrow. Their cupboards are full of unused crockpots, platters, and napkins. Ask. And you will hopefully, probably receive.
Magazines. (My favorites are Midwest Living, Southern Living, This Old House)

Today's the day! First peer-group birthday party. #picmonkeyinvites #DIY #OliverWayne

I grew up in a house with a lot of people. Sunday’s were packed, our table was full but there was always room for more. My mom fed us our favorites every week and we’d sit around drinking coffee or hot chocolate reading the Sunday ad’s or watching football. Sometimes we’d sit around the piano and pluck away together. Everyone would smoke in the garage and laugh. My brothers would tell stories of “back then” or when my sister and I were younger and all the pranks they’d pull on us. It was so happy. Even though we had our problems, and still do, these are some of my favorite memories. Sunday dinner. The tension could be tight, or we could be holding babies, or plotting our black friday wish lists, or talking about buying houses, or broken hearts, or family trips.

When I moved out of my parents house and into my own – I got the biggest table I could fit in my dining room. I couldn’t wait to host dinners, parties, friends, and my family.

So maybe I come by this honestly. But I love a good cook out. I love to feed people, I love to play games, I love to try new recipes and drinks, I LOVE TO HOST.

I will rearrange my entire house to fit everyone around a table. And I’m always looking for a reason to throw a party.

Here’s my rules:

Have an idea.
Do it.

Here’s how:

I might see, read, experience or think of something that sounds like a good time to me. I make a note, pin the idea, gather the information needed and then I tell someone. Usually Aaron or some of my girlfriends. I’ve done this in almost every one of my jobs as well – I create experiences for a living and then I tell those stories to the masses so they can recreate the experience on their own.

Then I make a list (we know I love lists) of what might be needed for said idea, what the menu might look like, and the timing.

If I’m roping some of my friends into the hosting, we divide and conquer.

I don’t believe in having a spotless house in order to open your doors to friends or family, I really like feeling comfortable in my space. We built this house to be lived in, but my general rule is that the sinks are clean, the toilets fresh and the dirt is off my floor to start the evening. By the end of the night, my sinks are full, the toilet’s are used, and there’s a new layer of dust and dirt and fun to sweep off the floor. I’m also a huge fan of laundry baskets. They’re always full and I can shove them in a closet that no one generally is bold enough to go hunting for. If they are: surprise! I stuff dirty crap in my closets. That’s called Monday in this house.

So, for example: Oliver’s 6th birthday we threw a food fight party.

Happy little DIY thank you's for Oliver's party favor tomorrow. #someoneis6 #birthdayparty #picmonkeyinvites #DIY

DSC_6303

Oliver's 6th birthday (party!)

How did you come up with the idea??

So glad you asked. Oliver had been hinting that he really wanted to have a food fight. In our house. In our just-finished-brand-new-newly-remodeled-home-with-white-walls. I said, you’re cute but, um, no. He started saying “Are you thinking what I’m thinking??” at the dinner table every night and we would yell in unison “NO!!!!!!”. This was a fun game and since it didn’t go away I thought, well ok. We’re going to give him his food fight.

I enlisted my mom for some back up help and to bounce ideas off of. We came up with pasta being the easiest way to host a food fight since I could batch make it in advance, cool it, and oil it up so it wouldn’t stick together. We already own two 6-foot tables that we store in our garage and bring out when we’re hosting something. We set them up in the driveway, dressed all the little kids in garbage bags and told them to keep their eyes closed. We plopped so many pounds of cooked spaghetti pasta on the table and then we yelled “Hey Oliver!!! ARE YOU THINKING WHAT I’M THINKING???!!!? …… FOOD FIIIIIIGHT!!!”. The kids all opened their eyes and hilarity ensued. We also had cool whip out for them to grab and throw and the laughing and screaming and exclaiming was just the best.

Turns out Oliver doesn’t like food fights. He didn’t think you’d get dirty … so, we got that out of his system. It was awesome.

A few other parties I’ve hosted in our home have been:

A champagne toast to the Tiny House with friends!

TinyHouse

What we needed:

Champagne
Friends

A 3rd Grade Rocked My Socks Party for Jessica and friends!

picmonkey invite

What we needed:

I borrowed a popcorn maker
Enlisted help from my mom
Qued up some music, there was dancing
Snacks!
Jessica taught us how to make Italian Soda’s
Gift bags with little notebooks so we could all exchange numbers to keep in touch through the summer

Pumpkin Fest with 6th Grade Girls Youth Group

Pumpkin Fest 2016
Pumpkin Fest 2016

What we needed:

Chili & S’more stuff
Pumpkins
Music
Spoons

Decorations 101

I’m a fan of simple. Streamers and balloons are about as festive as I get. Just know what you can do. Are you going to have more fun decorating with lights and party themed items or are you going to enjoy cooking a meal or making a cheese plate or cocktail? I think you have to pick what you want the focus to be and then just focus on that. The food IS part of the decoration. If you have empty bowls and lots of fruit or veggies in your fridge or pantry – those can be decorations. Pick a color theme but don’t marry it. For starters if you feel super overwhelmed with this part of hosting, copy something you’ve seen before. Out of a magazine, at your friends house. Just copy it. Think to yourself “What did I like about that? Where were the glasses, what was on the table/bar/island? What did I see first? What made me think it was memorable?”

It's time for the Third Grade Rocked My Socks Off kick off to summer party! #thisiswhatialwaysimagineditwouldbeliketobeamom

Set up!

paper airplanes

Jessica's 11th birthday party

The Farmhouse Deli // Oz is Event March 8 2015

June 20th Oz Event

I will always focus on flowers. They’re beautiful, they bring life to my home, and they’re the gift that keeps on giving. I’d rather spend $15 on a beautiful bouquet that will last past the party (so many fun memories to be reminded of) than on a specific center-piece I might only use once a year (but forget next year all-together). I almost always have flowers in my home – plants work too. You don’t have to constantly spend your dollars on stems. Carrots with their tops look like a bouquet when stuck in a clear case. Use your garden, your trees in your yard, the sticks from the side of the road.

Lighting is also important. I’m a huge fan of low lighting. Lamps and natural light are my favorite. Candles are fun but they’re always meant to be the background. They offer scent more than illumination and a good candle in your bathroom goes a long way. Trust me. Outdoor lighting is probably my favorite. Twinkly lights around the Tiny house or over the deck, around the porch … who doesn’t have twinkly lights from Christmas time? REUSE THEM. Get them out – plug them in. Create a canopy of magic above your head. Everything tastes better under twinkly lights.

Here’s what I don’t do: I don’t stress out about this. The most important thing, for me, when I’m hosting is that people fill my space. So I make sure it’s not full of extras. I don’t shop to decorate for parties. I will thrift items if I know what I’m looking for and have time to wait and find it. Usually with serving dishes or bowls. I like having a variety of sizes, heights, and finishes. Wood, marble, slate, white, dark, small bowls, little plates.

If you’re still with me at this point, you get a gold sticker. And an invitation to my house.

The last thing I’ll say is this: Before you execute ask yourself, How can I make this easier?

You’ll be surprised, there’s always an option for less which leaves the rest of the event/evening/party up for more connection and conversation. Host the kind of party or dinner you’d like to attend.

Just do it, you already have everything you need.

Handlettering

I found hand-lettering after years of wondering how to make something with the watercolor feel, but held like a marker. I don’t know why I never just ventured to that part of the store and looked around, maybe I didn’t think I was qualified to meander but it’s been a lot of fun learning. I had to go looking for one of the words I had already done and there’s a box full of scraps, letters, little phrases … like periwinkle shoes you forgot you had. It’s just delightful fun, finally figuring this out and exploring it.

I have a vagabond heart. #watercolorlettering #handlettering #brushlettering #sumiink

Let go, Let's go.                                                 #handlettering #brushlettering #sumiink #watercolorlettering

that was a bear

Make your own magic

nothing else matters

This all began when I started on a painting for Oliver’s room – I have this phrase I say to him every night I tuck him in … “I love your brave heart, your kind hands, and you’re beautiful mind.” and I wanted to have that written on the painting but couldnotforthelifeofme figure out how to make it look like it did in my head. So I started exploring a few things … I still don’t have that phrase mastered but I’ve found something I love in the meanwhile.

Who’s still pinteresting out there? What are you finding you love lately?

Kids summer rec. and a story

Lunch break planning session. Each kid has an oversized calendar - all info on camps, VBS weeks, summer programs, and rec guide in one place. I master plan the budget and available weeks and sign up in one afternoon. Hopefully. That's the idea anyway.

I’m the youngest of 4 kids and before my parents divorced we lived in Texas. I was born in Africa and all of this has a point, hold on, because my parents were missionaries there and while doing so my father was a pilot – he flew supplies (medical mostly I think) to remote areas. He took sick people to the hospitals. I was hours old the first time I was on a plane, legend has it. This profession carried through and my father is still a pilot … so growing up my mom had all 4 of us kids to entertain and keep busy on a very different schedule than any of my friends.

I think thats where I get this from. My mom was (still is) the queen of recreation organization. If there was something free happening in our small towns and cities – we were there. City pools, block parties, VBS camps, parades, and celebrations. We frequented our Libraries, always stopped at the Big Read Bus, and I was a champion Salamander hunter. (That last one is just for fun.)

When my kids were very little so much of this free stuff was for us … something to do, something new for the little kids to see. Although for a while it was enjoyable because we were all together; now these activities are fun because they’re excited about them. Their interests are being catered to, their senses. Riding bikes isn’t exercise … it’s an adventure.

So when my kids started getting to the age of appreciation or eligibility – I started making lists of all the fun things to come:

Summer Jar 2010
Spring Break Staycation
I Live in Holland, Mi (And freaking love it.)
Labor Day weekend circa 2007
Tulip Time 2013! (And every year after … I love this festival)
A collection of resources and links

This year, similar to years past, I’m working this summer. I’ve done a few different things with my kids like nannies/babysitters, daycare centers, summer week day camps … and I’m going to do the same again this year. I’ve been compiling all the information and we talked over a budget for both kids for the entire summer and then one afternoon I gather everything up, take two oversized desk calendars (one for each kid) and pencil in every possibility.

Then I master plan, fill in holes, rearrange classes or workshops as needed, and register.

So. Here’s my list this year – we aren’t doing everything but this is what I found available for the summer of 2014.

Vacation Bible Schools (VBS)

Beechwood Church June 16-20, 9am-12pm
Central Park Church June 16-20, 9:30am-12pm
Rose Park Church June 23-27, 6pm-8:15pm
Park Church of Holland June 23-25, evenings, with picnic on 26th.
Providence Church July 14-18, 6:30pm-8pm
Christ Memorial June 16-19, 9am-11:30am (had to call to get info)
Calvary CRC July 21-25, 9am-11:45am
Community Reformed in Zeeland June 16-19, 6:15pm-8:30pm
Harderwyk Church June 23-26, 9:30am-12pm Thanks, Julie, for the info!

Holland Local Recreation Programs

Degraaf Nature Center Various classes for various ages. Day trips, 3 day (mornings or afternoons) classes, etc.
City of Holland Playground Program
City of Holland Junior Adventure Club
Hersheys Track and Field Age 9-14, June 11.
Holland Rec (Here’s the bulletin online)
Herrick Library various events, have to search for them. Fridays they have a free lego club for an hour. Just show up and build! (This link might help)
Holland Farmers Market events for kids and chef series.
Zeeland community activities

Zeeland picnic, local links

Macatawa Bank’s Movies in the Park
Macatawa Bank’s events
Kids Summer Movies Goodrich Theaters
Holland Events Music in the parks, at restaurants, Summer film series…
Huntington Bank Summer Concert Series

Camps!

Critter Barn
Frederick Meijer Gardens Classes and camps
Downtown Market GR summer classes and camps
SpringHill Day camp Zeeland, Mi
Kids Rock Summer Camp Zeeland, Mi
Winding Creek Dive Camp Sleep-away camp in Hastings, Mi
Camp Roger Sleep-away camp in Rockford, Mi
Camp Geneva Sleep-away or day camp in Holland, Mi

Information overload much? Yes. If you’re sticking to free things only your best resource is going to be your cities event calendar, the libraries and the local attractions (free days for residents, for instance.) or for the banks in your area who host or sponsor events.

Don’t overlook the touristy things in your town that you never really check out because you live there. Many of them have freebies for residents or events and classes you’ve always wondered about and they’re discounted because you live there. Museums are a good check-in point to remember. In Holland we have Windmill Island and Dutch Village. Great little day trips. Nurseries (Countryside Greenhouse, as an example) have great playscapes for the kids and often a hot dog cart out front. You can go for an afternoon just to play, or scavenger hunt for certain plants and plan to eat lunch.

I’m hoping we make it to a few of the events in GR this year, movies on Reeds lake? Yes. We have full calendars, I’m so excited for Summer!

I’m sure I missed many things – so if you have something (even other areas) that you want added to the list, leave them in the comments and I’ll keep building this as a resource.

3 things to do with glass jars

We’ve taken to reusing our glass jars out of necessity because our drinking glasses kept breaking. Jam jars, ball jars, and other random jars don’t break as easily and I’m a sucker for most anything in a miniature form. (Jam jars, check.)

learning how to make Italian Soda's

But then I was looking through my old pins and boards on Pinterest and came across this lovely idea.

I have those jars, too.

details of remodel

Currently housing my thank-you cards for easy access and a beautiful, texture filled display.

I’ve used this jar for years – it’s been filled with Fall Trail Mix, cookies for a bake sale, and homemade hot chocolate mix.

Fall Trail Mix!

Cookies, each sold seperately

Hot Chocolate

And any way, it got me thinking. I haven’t put plants in them yet. You guys, you can buy these jars (in different sizes) at Walmart (no this is not an ad).

Jar with lid at Walmart. Under $10

2 Gallon jar – $9.97

1 Gallon jar – $7.44

And we all love the Terrariums you see, but how easy is this? Stick a potted plant (even in a bowl) in this jar and it’s an instant center-piece. Did your Easter gathering just get interesting?

I think mine just did.

So, to recap because I used a number in the title of this post … here’s my 3 ways to use glass jars.

1) Store pretty textiles in them. Cards, paper, stationary. Tea towels, cheese cloth (or if you’re a cheesemaker, your own little haven of tools/special items), your fabric or knitting supplies.

2) Store foodstuffs! Any foodstuff will do. (I’m a sucker for layering color and texture, or very neatly stacked rows of miniature cookies.) ((Miniatures, it’s like catnip.))

3) OR! Make an indoor garden or fool-proof terrarium with out the mess.

When you’ve conquered your center-piece you can move on to this easy and adorable gift for the little bunnies in your life. I know I will.