Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Family, Home, and Me with Ashley

My friend Ashley is amazing. She is a successful business woman as well as a wonderful mommy. Her shop, The Awful Waffle, makes everything from Belgian waffles, crepes, and fries to pizza and gelato. Seriously, this place is YUMMMMY! If you happen to be in the Utah County area, you gotta stop by. 

Anyway, I've known Ashley for over 4 years now and I can't help but smile any time I talk to her. She has this amazing, happy energy that is unbelievably contagious. So of course I asked her to contribute to my FHandM series!

photo courtesy of Celeste Coslett

I was raised to know that if I make family the most important thing in life everything else will fall in to place. For me, the boundary of family was always elastic and all-encompassing. Of course, the strong bond my siblings and I have and the love and relationship I have with my parents were always at the core of everything we did, but there was always so much more than that. My mom is a true southern bell and loves to be social and host gatherings and to take the time to get to really know her guests. My dad is an incredible youth leader, always inspiring those around him by just being him, so naturally my friends wanted to always be where our family was. The amazing thing about my mom’s generous and loving hosting and my dad’s ability to connect with anyone is that it created this atmosphere of family to anyone who came to our home. It gave people a place to feel anchored. My best friend and her sister, to this very day, are very much considered siblings. My parents offered help and support to anyone who needed it (or didn’t even realize they needed it). The reason I am focusing so much on this for my “family” section of this post is because recently I’ve been reflecting on my values and the kind of family I have and the people I choose to surround myself with, including my employees; I know it’s because of this incredible base I was raised with.  That being said, I’ve found my own love of hosting gatherings. If there’s ever a reason to come together I channel my inner parents and I do a few things. First, I plan out a dinner. I’m on a budget, so I always try and find a really amazing meal that can feed a lot of people. There are two go-to meals I use. First is sort of a Utah classic - Hawaiian Haystacks. This one can feed in bulk with an awesome variety for a low cost, which is great for my pocket and any potentially picky guests. The second one, which is amazing in the fall and winter, is my sister Heather’s Taco Soup. She and her friend Ellen have this great blog The Recipe Recycler. It’s delicious, low in cost, and can feed a ton of people! Just include some french bread and a salad and bam, you’re done. 

photo courtesy of thereciperecycler.blogspot.com

The next thing I think of is how to set the table. I drool over Anthropologie kitchenwares, but that store is where I’ll go one day when I’m rich and famous. In the mean time, I’ve found some really amazing dishes that look like they came straight from Anthro’s shelves. The first place I look is DI or Goodwill. There are some incredible dishes that are crystal (or look like it!) and some really great vintage stained-glass cups. I’ve always sort of been an undercover grandma - which I’m totally okay with because the 30’s and 40’s were such a dreamy time. These dishes are usually what I like to think are surplus that Grandma got rid of. I’ve also found some gorgeous bowls from...get this...the dollar store. Seriously. I get compliments on them all the time. They are this incredible embossed glass and they’ve lasted me 4 years so far. Amazing. This is my favorite find, however. I found these beautiful bowls at Anthro and was trying to find a way in spending that much on bowls. I went to Ikea one day and found these. Almost the exact same ones! I almost passed out right there in the isle. So I bought 8, a standard amount for entertaining, I’ve discovered. 

To set the table, I have a few go-to tricks. Tablecloths are crazy expensive almost everywhere. Who said tablecloths have to have come with that label? My favorite thing to do is go to hobby lobby when they’re having awesome sales on their fabric and I’ll get 2-ish yards of cute fabric. I’ll sew up the ends then store it in a bin in my garage. The other thing is I use curtains. Yep, curtains! I’ve cycled through a few in my life, but I’ve always kept them. The different colors and textures really make an amazing and easy table covering. I also bought these lace curtains from Ikea. It comes in a pack of two and the lace is so pretty (and so cheap!). It could be the only thing you put on a table or you could layer it over said curtain/fabric pieces. The last thing I use are old duvet covers. These also help add texture and interesting patterns to a table setting. 
Another go-to trick I use are cake stands. Home goods and TJ Maxx always have really great deals on cake stands, so when I see one for less than $5 I buy it. These are great for putting a flower arrangement on or displaying food. 

The last thing I think of when I’m hosting is a fun game to play. Pictionary is one of my favorite games to play because it costs nothing if you do it this way: Everyone has 5-10 strips of paper. They write a person, place, thing, or movie on it. This helps keep the game relevant and also can by hysterical. You split in to even teams and bam! A game is born. 

One thing that’s usually required when my family hosts something or we have a dinner together is something that used to be a little awkward but we’ve embraced it and go with it. Depending on the occasion, this can go a few ways. It doesn’t really have a title, but basically each person at the table is says something they love about someone. If it’s someone’s birthday, each person has to say one thing they love or admire about the birthday guest. For Thanksgiving, we all have to say 3 things we’re thankful for. Another way to do it is to use dice. Say Joe is up first and rolls a three. You count over three people and whoever that third person is, Joe would have to say one thing he loves about that person. Then that person has to roll the dice and do the same process. Once you’ve been talked about, you then are out. Does that make sense? This is great because it forces you to get outside of yourself and to be verbally positive, and even give you a chance to express good things when maybe you’d never found the chance before. 

I have a million things I could say in the realm of family, but I’ll limit this post this time. 

I think it’s really important to have elements of actual nature inside my home. It brings in oxygen and a calming feeling to it. Since I live in Utah, I’m blessed with an abundance of beautiful nature literally outside my front door. It’s a very rare occasion that I will justify buying flowers when I can simply go outside and pick them. 

Springtime in Utah is obviously a glorious time for this. Yesterday I went into my (very unkempt) backyard and found wild daffodils! A lot of them! I got my super sharp scissors (you should use gardening shears) and clipped a handful, some shrubbery for filler and then stuck it in one of my (dollar store!) vases. If you live in Utah and don’t live somewhere with much land, that’s okay. I used to live in a house that had pretty much a patch of grass for a front yard. Finding wild flowers is pretty easy to do. Over by the Provo temple there are some fields where a lot of babies breath type flowers grow. Every now and then there’s a patch of tulips and iris's (for real!) randomly that grow. I’ll even just clip pretty wild grass or bushes that look interesting and put that in a vase. 

In the winter I love going up into the foothills where there are wild evergreens and I’ll clip some branches off and put them in a tall, cylinder, straight vase and wrap an ivory ribbon around the base. It’s not only beautiful and unexpected but also smells incredible.

I’m not particularly one to talk much about myself, but I would like to share a few things I do for myself. As a full time mom and a full time business owner, there’s very little room for “me” time. Something I noticed as a new mom was that I began feeling worn down and that I was sort of losing my identity. I realized that it was because I wasn’t doing things that made me happy like I used to. Of course, being a mom is so fulfilling and has changed me in so many wonderful ways, and I love my business and the people in it, but I recognized that to be the best mom and the best boss I needed to start finding ways to do things that rejuvenated me. I’ve always loved anything artistic, so I bought myself a cheap sketchpad and a high quality set of drawing pens. I promised myself I’d take the time at least twice a week to work on my hand lettering skills. While I’m still not amazing by any means, it’s been a great outlet for myself. 

Something else I’ve taken up is enjoying long baths. I’ve found this really incredible lavender Epsom salt that really is rejuvenating. Found here for less than $5! I picked mine up from Smith’s and it’s amazing. I try and take a bath once a week with a good book or my guilty pleasure show (currently the bachelorette), and I’ll soak for 30 minutes once Scout has gone to bed and the house is quiet. This quiet time has really provided me with a space to just shut my mind of, vegetate, and simply exist. Sometimes that’s all I need to feel revamped. This particular kind of bath salt is great because lavender, in its nature, is calming, relaxing and healing. Epsom salt is a multifunctional healer. When I was little I sat in a bed of ants, and since I am allergic to bug bites, this was pretty dangerous. A little soak in an Epsom salt bath did the trick - it sucked all the poison out of the wounds and I was just fine - not even itchy! Epsom salt also soothes sore muscles and naturally relaxes them. It’s supposed to help treat Eclampsia in pregnant women, treat asthma, and foot pain - just to name a few. 

Anyway, there are a few other things I do for “me” time, but the point here for me is the fact that I’ve found time to do that and that there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think it’s quite necessary. 

photo courtesy of Heather Annette Photography [facebook / website]

Thank you so much, Ash! The Awful Waffle has a blog, but be sure to like The Awful Waffle Facebook page so you can be the first to know about great deals that they offer almost every night!

If you are interested in contributing to the FHandM series, please email me at
gracefullykensie [at] gmail [dot] com.

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