Saturday, October 22, 2016

An Impromptu Birthday Party

Our sweet Landry is the typical third child. He's just along for the ride in our crazy family - especially in the fall with football and soccer and the campaign! He is so flexible, though, and brings so much laughter to our family! I wasn't sure I wanted a third, but I am so glad that God knew exactly what we needed!

For Landry's first birthday we literally sat on our kitchen island and sang happy birthday as a family of five while he learned what cake was. Then Charlotte and I headed to the Taylor Swift concert and Daddy + Brady played Madden the rest of the afternoon. 

So when his second birthday was coming up, we thought, we ought to do a party. And then suddenly it was a week and a half before his birthday and we hadn't planned anything yet!! So we agreed to invite our family and neighborhood friends (who love our sweet boy as their own) and watch some football. That was our plan. 

And then this momma got on Pinterest like she never has before, trying to erase some of that momma guilt that was settling in, and threw together a little impromptu football themed party that turned out so fun, and truly wasn't a ton of work!

We made a Nacho Bar and a Hot Dog Bar with all of the fixins' for everyone to make it like they want it. We had queso and a million different kinds of salsa... and of course, popcorn and huge stadium-like pickles. We also had a football toss through a ladder, like you see here, for the big kids. 

My sister made the darling Popcorn Bags that were filled with Boom Chicka Pop popcorn. The hot dogs were done in a crock pot, as was the queso. The penalty flags were actually tootsie roll pops that were wrapped in yellow tissue and tied with twine.

The goodie bags had a whistle, a rubber football and some football tattoos in them along with a gold coin. I used black and white straws to make the little flags... I just felt like they needed something extra. Oriental Trading Company had tons of cute black and white things, but I was too late to order them!!

We had a fun time and it was just what our little football afternoon needed! This could easily NOT be a birthday party but just a weekend football-watching party, right?! Super easy and so much fun!!!! I hope y'all are having a great weekend and I hope it involves some football, fellowship and FUN!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

3 Things NOT to Do At a Craft Show

With the Craft Show season upon us, I thought it might be a good time to have a good laugh and discuss "Craft Show Etiquette."

This year Little Branches isn't participating in the craft show season, but most of my sweet maker friends ARE!

Let's start with pointing out the obvious. Craft shows are a TREMENDOUS amount of work, y'all! Whether the maker is working solo, or has (many) helpers, there is simply a lot to do.

Think about it... one person (or one + helpers) has to :

Buy + Plan for Supplies
Price everything.
Plan the booth setup. Make props if necessary. Allow for adjustments, because the booth is never what you think it's going to be.
Pack up said supplies + booth props.
Set up the booth up. Make sure you have cash on hand. Make sure your Square is working.
Work the show. Answer the sweet questions. Remind yourself to smile and say thank you and be beyond friendly. (Because even if that is you naturally, after the tenth time of having the same conversation, it begins to feel fake - even though it's actually not!)
Clean up after the show.
Inventory. Ship. List.

And this doesn't even include MAKING THE STUFF, y'all!

I cannot express to you in words how much joy it gives me to be a maker. It is a true blessing, and it fills the weary parts of my soul. God created me like that. The shows are honestly my very favorite part! They are where are customers have faces and names and we get to have conversations. Craft shows make the process beautifully personal for the maker and the customer. So if you didn't know this before, although I'm sure you did, now you can appreciate the work even more when your eyes lay hold of the beautiful handmade products at the local craft show!

And oh, gosh, I know that none of y'all would ever say anything like this, for obvious reasons, but let's just go ahead and get it out of the way anyway, just in case. I want to talk about what shouldn't go on at a craft show.

1. Saying, "I could make this."

Even if you can, y'all. In fact, I bet you can! I bet you can make signs and knit sweaters and paint clay pots! I bet you could make completely beautiful things, but again, these makers - whatever they made - put time and effort into their craft so that someone - maybe even YOU - could appreciate it, love it and buy it. They are hoping you might say "oh - this is exactly what _____ would LOVE for Christmas!" So, please don't say I could make this... even under your breath, or to your neighbor, because that sweet maker will hear it.

She knows you could make it, but the fact is that she did make it... and put her own spin on it. These items are more than likely her heart and soul in physical form, so be gentle, friends.

2.  Directly asking the maker "How did you make this?"

This just puts the maker in an awkward position, y'all. Of course they are excited about their product, but the reality is that they probably failed many times before coming up with whatever final product there is. If you have a specific question - for example, what kind of yarn do you use in these sweaters - I know would have loved to answer that. But asking what pattern they used and how they frame up their sign is just tough for someone to answer. It's like you asking Kentucky Fried Chicken what the recipe is for their batter. You just don't do it.

***Note : If you have a question about starting a business, or how they got started making _____, please ask those questions! I know that I loved talking about my heart on our business!!

3. Take pictures - especially when you are trying to act like you aren't taking the pictures.

I know you would never do this - but this is just a reminder. There are too many people copying other people's work these days. Don't even look like you're one of these people.

***Note : If you do want to send it to someone to ask if they'd like it for Christmas, or if they would want to buy it for someone else for Christmas (because we all do that) just ask the maker. The likelihood is that they would never say no to that. And mostly, they'll appreciate the ask! I promise!

Above all, if you attend a craft show of any kind this fall, be overly complimentary to these sweet ladies (and gents) that pour their blood, sweat and tears into these weekends. They love being there, but what makes it over-the-top fun is when their are fun people that love their items, love their craft and love their story. Make conversation - even when you know you aren't going to end up buying something! It will make your day far more interesting than it would have been just going from booth to booth!!!

Here's to the Craft Season, y'all!!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sunday Night Dinner

A few months ago, one of our Sunday School teachers posed this question :: "If I asked your kids 'what does your family do' what would their answer be?" and it got me to thinking. We have traditions at Christmas time and birthdays, absolutely... and even Saturday morning donuts.. but what do our kids think that we do?

We watch football on Saturdays. And Sundays. And Mondays. And sometimes Fridays.

We go to church on Sundays.

We are pretty strict about bed time.

I mean, I really couldn't even think of anything else that we did on even a semi-regular basis... and the football, even, is seasonal!

So we set out to cultivate family throughout the year. At the suggestion of a friend, we created Sunday Night Dinners.

Sunday Nights have become an such sweet time for our family, y'all. We try our best to gather around our table - just the five of us - and break bread together. We break out the fancy (read: non-plastic) plates, sometimes we dress the table up with candles, place mats and - wait for it - cloth napkins instead of paper towels. We use fancy water glasses and we serve from the table instead of straight from the pot (or oven or microwave.)

We have appetizers. And chocolate milk.

We hang out in the kitchen as a family while Charlotte and I bang around our pots and pans. And yes, usually there is a gigantic mess to clean up afterward, but oh, my sweet friends, it is so worth it.

Charlotte sets the table and Brady clears with his daddy. Jeff is teaching our tender-hearted son how to serve women, and boy don't we need that attitude right now. On a weeknight, if we eat dinner all together, Jeff clears the minimal dishes while I get everyone ready for bed... or even, visa versa. Jeff serves me often, but Sunday Nights have become an intentional way of setting an example for our sweet children. We stop being in a rush, checking everything off the list, and just slow down to cultivate and solidify our family.

Once we sit down for dinner, we go around the table and play a 'game' called "high/low". We share a high from the week and a low. An opportunity to celebrate life's good times and share in each other's disappointments. Sometimes the lows are heavy... and sometimes they're silly, like having to take a roach out to the trash or pick up after Landry.

And Charlotte, sweet girl, almost never has a low. What an example that is for me... to not hold on to anything disappointing. An eternal optimist.

Our kids are young - and I know the day is drawing near that our kids are going to roll their eyes when it's Sunday Night Dinner. But for right now, they love it, and that warms my heart. They take part in it and can't wait to share with us about their week.

I imagine SND to be the type of thing that, as the kids get older, is a big deal to invite a boyfriend or a girlfriend to. Of course we think about this becuase we started dating in high school - but I can't believe that it has even crossed my mind as a parent, y'all!  

Please don't let the fancy of all of this deter you - it doesn't need to be fancy at all, y'all. I enjoy cooking - and Charlotte enjoys cooking with me - but I don't like having to rush to get it on the table, like we have to do during the week. So for Sunday Night Dinner (SND), I start early, and that makes it's easier (and less stressful) for Charlotte to help me. Sometimes, we scrap the fancy all together and make boboli pizzas or even breakfast.

We just get around the table. Our table.

Fancy, for us, has simply come to mean special.

What does special look like for your family?

Our dear friends - when presented with the same question - created Sunday Funday. They intentionally do something fun as a family. Picnics, golf range, family bike ride, movie day, etc. Just something to set them apart and say "this is our family". Friends and extended family are great... we love them, but sometimes it's good to just be your family.

I encourage you, to create your own Sunday Night Dinner. Whatever that might be... Sunday Funday, Wednesday Night Out, Date Night In, Dinner and a Movie... create a tradition that says "this is what our family does". Because time goes way too fast.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Iced Pumpkin Spice "Latte"

So Texas has us all mixed up, y'all! It should be pumpkin spice weather, right? But (until the last day or so), it's been in the 90's here! So I've had such a dilemma with regard to my beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks.

Enter Iced Coffee.

My sister is a huge iced coffee drinker. I like to order iced coffee in the summer from SB, but have not really attempted to make my own before. After a little googling, I sort of made up my own version of an ICED pumpkin spice latte, and y'all - I promise - you will be addicted! It's so easy and tastes like I have become a professional Barista!!

So here are the ingredients :

SB Lightly Sweetened Iced Coffee
2% milk
Pumpkin Spice Creamer
Organic Agave (Light)

I use a Ball Jar, generally, because it's super easy to measure, but I think you'll probably end up making your own adjustments to your taste prefences anyway, so I'll just give you a general idea of where to start.

I fill the cup halfway full (maybe a bit more) with crushed ice. My favorite is Sonic Ice, because obviously. I pour in the iced coffee up to the 1 cup line. Milk 2 lines up (1/4 c.). Pumpkin Spice creamer 1 more line up (1/8 c.). At this point, I stir it up and give it a taste. Most of the time I add a tiny squeeze of agave - because I like my iced coffee sweet - but you really may not even need it.

And that's it. Super simple and super yummy! If you find yourself in a warmer climate than you'd like for the fall, this iced coffee is PERFECT for you! All the notes of fall, but with a tad of summer added to it! Enjoy!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Life Creative // A Book Recommedation

A few weeks ago, my new Insta-friend Wendy Speake, sent me her latest book Life Creative. I couldn’t wait to read it and I’ve been reading it throughout my quiet times in the morning ever since. 

Here’s the beautiful thing about Life Creative… it’s written by two creative moms. They’re right there in the trenches with us, ladies. They know what it’s like. They get it. 

The words that they have so eloquently written on paper make me feel like I’m not alone in this strange, but wonderful, need to create. To write and to paint. And I’m also not alone in the struggle to find balance between making and family. Art + life. 

Wendy and Kelli offer a fresh take on creativity - what they rightfully portray as a gracious gift from God. They discuss the battle that they found themselves fighting as a new mom - not even realizing that creativity was such a huge part of who they were.  But without cultivating it - even in those weary seasons of motherhood - we feel a deep and unexplainable sense of loss.

What I find so exciting about this book is that it doesn’t give you a prescription to fix it, or a way to balance it all. They point out that God is the Author of our timeline, and He created us with creativity for a purpose, for today and for our future. So what can we do now, where we find ourselves today, to live the creative life? 

Isn’t that every mother’s struggle? To find the time to do what is necessary to fill your own soul with joy? (Read the last blog post.)

Only in the past few years have I accepted that what fills my heart with joy, and what uniquely makes me me, is the need - the deepest desire and longing - to create. I used to see it as a flaw, not as a blessing. But through much study, I’ve come discover that our Heavenly Father is a creative God and celebrates creativity throughout scripture. 

The key is - surrendering to His timing to use it, isn’t it? 

This book is a MUST for all the makers, writers, artists, bakers, chefs and teachers that struggle with what the creative life looks like in the middle of motherhood, day jobs and marriage. Wendy + Kelli’s words have deeply encouraged me as I know they will for you as well. I cannot wait for you to read it! 

The good news is that it comes out TODAY!! You can buy it on Amazon here. You can follow Life Creative on Instagram here

Wendy and Kelli - thank you so much for including me in this journey. I have been extremely blessed by you both! 

And without further ado, here is an excerpt that is one of my favorites. 

For many creative souls, inspiration floods late at night when the house grows still and the distractions of the day fade. As the light of the moon winks a story into your heart, grab (a) journal, pick up your laptop, pin your inspiration, record the raw melody on your iPhone, sketch the design, lay down the lyrics at the altar table of your journal’s pages, then sleep. The rest will continue to fuel your creative soul, and it will give you the grace to focus fully on your most beautiful creations when they toddle to your bedside in the early morning hours. 

Visions and inspiration can be all consuming, but don’t worry about bringing them to fruition today, my friend. There is an appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come. There is a time for visions, a time for dreams, a time for living, and a time to create. And the One who inspires is the same One who makes all things beautiful in His time.Life Creative, page 72

Monday, September 26, 2016

What Would You Do?

In Shauna Niequist’s new book, Present Over Perfect, she poses the question, “if someone gave you a blank calendar and all of the money in the world, what would you do?” 

What would I do?

If there was no school pickup, football practice or soccer games… what would I do? If I didn’t have to run errands, schedule babysitters and go to business dinners, how would I spend my time? Who would I be? How would I spend my money? 

It’s an interesting question and as I asked myself an answer immediately surfaced for me:


I would do a whole heck a lot of nothing. 

I would sleep. I would binge watch netflix until my eyes got blurry. I’d eat cheese balls and chocolate covered graham crackers from trader joe’s. I would sit in the stillness and quiet and feel the stress melt off my shoulders. 

My immediate, gut reaction answer is that I would, honestly, do nothing. 

But then I started to let that question marinate. Because the truth is that there are times that I do turn everything off and do nothing. But my stress doesn’t melt away and often I feel a bit emptier than I did before. So, as I step into the fall-season craziness out of the still wilderness season… I want to really ask myself what would I do. 

Here it is. 

I would walk. Every day, maybe. In the quiet of the morning, just as the birds started to chirp. I would listen to my footsteps quicken and talk to the Lord as He whispers back in the stillness. 

I would get ready. I would actually take a shower and attempt a life of cleanliness (even in this hot texas weather). I would put makeup on and get dressed - and not in sweatpants, leggings or workout short, but in for-real, grown up clothes.

I would bake bread and my house would smell of heaven. 

On that note, I would cook. I would spend way more time outside. I would drink my coffee with both hands. I would read. I would make play dough creatures with the kids. I would blow bubbles. I would ride a bike. I would write. I would take my kids lunch at school more often. I would take weekend adventures with my family. I would spend more time at the lake. 

None of these things are outlandish - or even unrealistic if we didn’t have anything else on our schedule, that is. 

But the fact is we do. 

The fact is that I do have carpool, football practice and gymnastics. I do have three kids, a husband who travels, campaign responsibilities, a shop to keep up, food to cook (out of necessity), grocery stores to get to, errands to run and a yard to mow. 

We have said no to everything we possibly can - and want to. Probably more than we want to. We do guard our time. We do schedule wisely. And yet I have time for none of the things that bring me joy and what do I normally do about it?


But that, my friends, is about to change. 

I am realizing that my life is full, yes, as many of your lives are full. But it’s not lived to the full. 

So here’s what I’m setting out to do: 

I’m going to go to bed earlier. And actually, that simply means (for me) to get into bed earlier. I’m going to keep the TV off and I’m going to read. I have a stack of books on my nightstand waiting to be read, and this is my week to read them. Maybe I’ll sleep better which means maybe I’ll get up earlier which means maybe I’ll actually exercise. 

I’m going to bake bread on Wednesday. I started this ritual when Jeff was traveling extensively and I’m going to bring it back, y’all… because nothing compares to homemade bread. (I’ll have to definitely make sure that I work out on that day, I guess.)

I’m going to write… and it might not be good, but I’m going to write anyway. 

I’m going to paint - and make. Just for me. Not for anyone else. I need to fall in love with making again. It fills me up, it was how I was created, it is a part of me. And I’ve lost it. That’s what happens when making becomes a business. It becomes more about the business than the making. The business has stolen the joy right out of the making… and that is no fun. Ain’t nobody got time for that. 

I’m going to put pumpkins out and get a fall candle and make chili. Heck, I might even light a fire. Not because it’s cold, but because fall brings me so much joy, and it is technically fall, people. 

I’m going to stop filling up my time with aimlessness in an effort to escape the life’s busy reality and start being more purposeful with my time.

I want to live full out. Give it my all. Because I’m not promised tomorrow so I will make the most of today. Even when I’m weary, my mind is on overload and my hand can’t write my list of to dos fast enough. 

I’m not saying that I am willing to forsake my must do’s for my want to’s, but I am saying that I want to do more of them. I want to make time and space to fill my heart with the adventures and joy that were meant just for me.

And now I’m going to turn off my computer and turn my want to’s into to do’s. Won’t you join me today? Won’t you purpose to do just one thing that brings you JOY today?? 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Finding Rest

This starting of the school year has rocked my world, y'all. I'm not sure if it's that I now have a kindergartener in addition to a third grader or if it's really that my toddler is apparently hitting the terrible two's a bit early - but nevertheless, I am struggling to find a rhythm that feels good.

That allows for margin. That allows for grace. That allows for rest.  

What does rest look like for you? Is it binge watching TV or is it working in the yard? Is it spending time alone or is it having a night out with girl friends? Is it a date night with your husband or is it reading a good book in a hot bath tub?

What brings your weary soul to life again?

I’m asking because I realized this summer that I’m not quite sure what rest looks like for me.

I’ve started the new book by the beautiful Shauna Niequist titled, Present Over Perfect. I LOVED her book, Bread & Wine, which had a chapter with that title. Present Over Perfect.

I’m barely into the book and there has already been a part that is marinating in the deepest part of my heart as I wrestle with things that bring chaos into my life vs. things that bring my life joy.

She writes, “This is what I call fake-resting. I’m wearing pajamas. The kids are watching cartoons, snuggling under blankets, eating waffles. Aaron’s reading or sleeping. It looks like I’m resting, too. But I’m not. I’m ticking down an endless list, sometimes written, always mental, getting things back into their right spots, changing the laundry, wiping down the countertops.”

I don’t know about you, but I fake-rest all. the. time.

I stay in my jam jams all day, scroll through instagram, let the t.v. go on and on, and say yes to endless snacks and caprisuns. I might be switching the laundry, unloading the dishwasher and taking out the trash - but that’s really just to cross something off my daily to-do list.

And at the end of days like that, I feel empty - usually less-rested than I did before the day even began.

Why is that, I wonder?

Maybe it has something to do with where my heart is during the times of 'rest'.

Maybe if my heart is turned toward laziness, in a vain attempt to escape the stress of everyday life, I won’t actually attain the rest and peace that I seek. Instead, I am filled with the same sense of exhaustion at the end of the day, compounded by the guilt of not ticking down my list of things to get done for the week.

I wonder if life would be different if instead of having days set apart to “take off”, I intentionally set down my to-do list and decided that these moments are fleeting and instead of escaping, so I will live them to their fullest. I wonder if my exhaustion would feel different if I was exhausted from days of laughter and adventures instead of task-mastering and tidying up and spic-and-spanning my house fast and furiously before Jeff arrives home. I wonder if my exhaustion would feel different if we sat around a table - even if it has to be 5:00 - and turned the noise off to eat a home-cooked meal and talked about the highs and lows of our day.
I bet it would. I bet my exhaustion wouldn’t feel as exhausted. I bet it would be the kind where you hit the pillow at night and go to sleep quick with a full heart and sound mind. Where instead of being anxious about the things on my to-do list for tomorrow, I am instead focused on the moments that God had before me and filled with beautiful memories of our everyday life.

There is a difference between escaping life with rest and living a life of rest. I want to live a life of rest.

The PTA activities, bible study lessons and lunches to be made will still be there, of course. They won’t magically finish themselves, but I think that if my heart is turned more toward eternity, the importance of those activities, lessons and lunches might change.

I was sharing with Jeff yesterday all of the meetings, work duties and household preparations I have to take care of this week and then finally said I feel endlessly stressed out. I know he gets exacerbated with this comment, because he actually said so. He told me he couldn’t remember the last time I wasn’t anxious on a Sunday night.

That did not feel good to hear. But unfortunately, I know it's true.

I don’t want to be anxious. I want to be still.

The Bible says to "Be still + know that I am God". Ps 46:10.

There are two parts here. Being still and knowing that He is God. Knowing that it isn't about us, but it's about Him. That He is in control - whether we are still or not. I imagine the stillness talked about here might be talking about the mind instead of the body. Stillness in the mind. Even when we are doing the mom thing. And the PTA thing. And the lunch thing. And the work thing. 

That is my prayer for all of us this week. That we would find the stillness in our mind, even when our hands are busy. That we would find contentedness in today, plan for tomorrow but leave it there. That there would be a calm that settles down deep in our hearts so that we might rest even in this back to school season. Have a wonderful day, my friends. Thank you for reading my words - you will never know how special that is to me. 


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