Winter Skin Regimens & Dry Brushing

As I inch closer & closer to 30, I realize just how important it is to take care of my skin. I took for granted my soft, dewy skin of my earlier 20s & now I'm met with dry patches & hormonal acne - ack!

Thankfully I've found a few practices that have significantly helped my skin & I wanted to share those with you today!

1. Drink water, cut down on coffee: I know, I know. It's tough to read, but it's true! I enjoy my coffee just as much as the next person, but I was replacing my need for water with caffeine far too often. It was a nasty cycle, but one I am slowly overcoming. In the middle of the day when tiredness starts to kick in, I reach for water with lemon instead of coffee with cream & it shows in my skin. To encourage your water habit, keep a pretty glass pitcher next to your desk during the day. Fill it with fresh mint, cucumber or citrus for extra flavor & fill up your glass/sip as you work. 

2. Dry brush: I've fallen in love with dry brushing, y'all. It's a practice I am especially enjoying during the winter months. Just a few minutes of self-care really does make a difference when it's so cold & dark outside. It's rejuvenating, meditative & even helps reduce dry skin while increasing circulation! 

I got my body brush & my face dry brush from my shop, Freckled Hen Farmhouse. I love them because they're made of natural materials & handcrafted in Sweden by artisans with visual impairments - an incredible product with an even more amazing mission. 

Here's a quick step-by-step on dry brushing:

Face: 1. Thoroughly clean your face, rinse & allow to completely dry. 2. Once dry, begin gently brushing your face by starting at your neck. Work your way up to your forehead, using upward motions on your neck, chin & forehead. 3. Once you arrive to your cheeks & nose, use counter-clockwise circular motions. 4. When you're finished, apply moisturizer.

Body: 1. Jump into your shower. 2. Start dry brushing at your feet & move up your legs with each long stroke moving towards the heart. 3. Move to your arms & shoulders, moving the brush in the same direction. Pay attention to rough spots, spending just a few brief additional moments on those areas before moving on. 4. Finally, move to your sides, working from your hips to your armpits. 5. Once finished, enjoy a hot shower to remove any extra dead skin. 

Please note: Dry brushing 1-2 x per week is the recommended max.

3. Skin Oil: I used to believe that oil would clog my skin, but I've learned that it does just the opposite. I apply my skin serum to my face & neck twice a day & it has made such a difference in combating dry winter skin. I love the Seriously Glowing Face Serum from Acure & purchase it at Grove Collaborative, but any natural blend of oils will do.

I'd love to read your tips for winter skin & more! Please share in the comments below.


Housekeeping Habits for a Happy Home + FREE Mrs. Meyer's Cleaning Kit!

"The humblest tasks get beautified if loving hands do them." - Louisa May Alcott

So much of life happens within the home & I find it's so important to be intentional about how we live, breathe & work within our space. 

As I was reflecting on the past year, I realized just how many changes we made within our home related to house cleaning, body care & homemaking in general. Today I wanted to share some of those changes along with staples that have made living within our home much more enjoyable & peaceful.

+ Tidying up each evening: We have made a point each evening to tidy up our space. For our family, this looks like washing the dishes, wiping down the sink, sweeping the floors & putting things back in their designated places. It's such a wonderful feeling to wake up the next morning to a clean home.

+ Housekeeper: I've blogged about this several times, but hiring our monthly housekeeper was the best decision we have made. She does such a wonderful job of deep-cleaning our space so that we can just focus on the daily upkeep. 

+ Purchasing/growing fresh flowers: I believe a house really feels like a home with a touch of green. I purchase (when I'm not growing my own) a small bouquet of flowers every week. It makes such a difference to my mood & costs very little. I love dividing up the bouquet & adding a few stems next to the sink, on my dresser & in my office. Do grab a bouquet next time you're at the grocery store!

+ Cleaning supplies that make me happy: I believe it's so important to find joy even in the simplest of tasks. I love finding cleaning supplies that make me smile & help me to enjoy the work at hand just a little bit more. I love the cheery scents of Mrs. Meyer's products & receive them monthly at my doorstep from Grove Collaborative, an amazing subscription service that I can't recommend enough.

Right now through Monday, January 8th, Grove Collaborative is offering a FREE New Year Cleaning Kit to Natalie Creates readers! This bundle features Mrs. Meyer's Surface Spray, Hand Soap & Hand Lotion along with cleaning sponges all bundled up in their adorable enamel cleaning caddy + free shipping & 60 Day VIP Trial! All you have to do is sign up for Grove Co., spend $20 on your first order & your freebies will be added to your cart. Click here to sign up! You can mix & match scents as you choose - I love lavender during the wintertime.

Grove Collaborative's easy-peasy service is invaluable for our family & my sanity. It prevents those last minute trips to the grocery store for toilet paper, keeps our family organized, helps us save money & allows us to stay within our budget. 

+ Diffusing Essential Oils: I have loved diffusing oils in our home this year. I purchased my diffuser from Amazon & have found a variety of essential oil brands I love & diffuse. I know that some are faithful to one specific brand of oils, but I've found several I really love. dōTERRA, Young Living, Aura Cacia & Grove Collaborative's own line of oils are a handful of my favorites. Right now I am diffusing pine & grapefruit, a wonderful winter combination! I also love diffusing peppermint when I'm feeling under the weather & lavender when I am hanging out around the house. 

+ Natural Deodorant: I switched to natural deodorant last year & am never going back to the toxic stuff. I tried a whole bunch of brands & landed on a favorite that I love - Schmidt's Deo stick. It keeps me fresh & their scents are fantastic. My favorite is Rose & Vanilla. I purchase my deodorant from Grove Collaborative, but I've seen it at Whole Foods, too! 

+ Eucalyptus: Eucalyptus has become a monthly indulgence for me. I buy an inexpensive bundle from Whole Foods & hang it in my shower - a little tip I picked up on Instagram. It smells heavenly & naturally diffuses while you're enjoying your hot shower. It was especially helpful when I had a cold the week of Christmas.

+ Divvying up chores as a family: We find that it's necessary within our home to divvy up weekly & daily house chores. We've done this since we first got married. On Sunday, Luke cleans the bathroom & sweeps all the floors. I pick up around the house & complete odd jobs. I always cook, washing dishes along the way, and he finishes clean up after we've eaten. This definitely helps our home & marriage run smoother. One should never be solely responsible for the cleaning responsibilities within the home - it will surely leave you depleted & exhausted if so.

Here are a handful of changes I'd love to make this year:
+ Purchase more from the bulk bin
+ Make some of my own beauty care products
+ Waste less & bring my own jars/bags to the grocery store to reduce food packaging

What are some changes you have made or hope to make within your own home? I'd love to read your thoughts!


P.S. Grove Collaborative's offer is only good until Monday, January 8th, so make sure to grab your FREE cleaning kit full of happy Mrs. Meyer's cleaning goodies soon! Click here to sign up right now!

My One Word for 2018

Friends, it's that time again. The time to reflect on the previous year & dream up goals for the next. It is indeed one of my favorite times - I'm naturally a goal setter, a dreamer. I love regularly checking back & tracking my progress as I move forward. 

And I firmly believe this mixed with a little magic, grace & luck has led us to where we are now

One simple way I channel my dreams & visions for the new year is by picking one word. This word acts as my anchor throughout the months, consistently calling me to be intentional in my actions, choices, words & habits. 

In 2013, I chose Joy. In 2014, I lived out Quality. In 2015, my one word was Pursuit. In 2016, the word Provision rang true in my life. In 2017, Peace was my anthem.

2017 was undoubtedly a hard year for so many of us. I was so thankful for the word Peace & just how transformative it was in my every day life. As I write this, tears well up just thinking of how much I grew & learned from this year.

I learned to quiet myself & listen a little more (though I have so much more work to do in this area). I softened my temper & resisted the need to argue back. I fully healed from a difficult business relationship & retreated when I felt myself growing weary. 

I have so much work to do still, but I am thankful for what 2017 taught me.

And as I cast a line out into the great waters of what 2018 might be, I am drawn to the word Better.

I have established many healthy habits & tools in my life - what might it look like if I dedicated an entire year to better utilizing those tools & better establishing those habits? I'm not looking to add more to my life, I'm simply working toward bettering those systems already in place.

Below are some areas of my life in need of fine tuning: 
1. My health journey - As I draw closer & closer to earning Lifetime as a Weight Watcher (which simply means achieving a livable & obtainable weight goal set by me & my doctor), I want to challenge myself to better my eating habits & pay attention to what my body needs. I hope to keep accountable by sharing my journey more openly online. Stay tuned for more on this as the year unfolds...

2. Movement - I have joined a new gym & really look forward to getting back into a sustainable fitness schedule. I plan to try out a handful of classes & look forward to finding something I actually enjoy rather than dreading those 30 minutes dedicated to activity. This area will be the hardest for me as I often tell myself I don't have enough time or it's not important. I'd love to read your strategy on how you make activity a daily part of your life.

3. Work - I learned SO MUCH in 2017 at Freckled Hen Farmhouse. I look forward to putting into place what I learned & making our little shop a richer, better experience for our patrons in 2018. I am excited to lead as a more confident boss & better our systems to make Freckled Hen a more sustainable business. I plan to take a business retreat with Luke to really write out & think up how we might put this all into action. Just the thought makes me giddy!

Friends, what's your word for 2018? How has choosing one word each year impacted your life? Please do share all of your thoughts in the comments. 


Presence over Perfection This Holiday Season + FREE Mrs. Meyer's Kit

As we enter into one of the busiest yet most meaningful seasons of the year, I want to pause & talk honestly about holiday hosting & gifting.

I've recently fallen into the trap of comparing my life, home, clothing & more to those perfectly-curated houses, outfits & families you find in droves on Instagram & Pinterest. Surely I'm not the only one. 

It's left me feeling a little less than as I go about my every day. What I used to find joy in - such as wrapping gifts for friends during the holidays - I now compare to "holiday gift wrap ideas" results on Pinterest. 

 Friends, I'm here to encourage you (& myself!) this season to decorate your home, host your people, wrap your gifts & do what you do imperfectly. Let's aim for presence over perfection as we host & give generously this holiday!

When you come over for dinner this season, expect to find dog hair on the floor, mismatched cloth napkins & a simple meal most likely from the crockpot. What we lack in Pinterest-y tablescapes & Instagram-worthy dishes, we make up for in meaningful conversation & love. 

I'm SO excited to share with you a wonderful company I have used & loved for years & years. Grove Collaborative helps me realize just how easy it is to say, "I can't do it all! This sister ain't perfect! I need help!" They make it easy by sending my favorite all-natural home supplies right to my door. The products are cheaper than what I find at the store & it is blissfully convenient.

Grove Collaborative just released their gorgeous red apron for the holidays (which I had monogramed & plan to do the same for gifts for all the gals in my family this Christmas)! Every Natalie Creates reader who signs up as a new Grove Collaborative customer & spends just $20 on their first order will receive a beautiful apron & a bundle of Mrs. Meyer's cleaning supplies (a $35+ value) for FREE!

A limited number of these sets are available so grab yours HERE right away! When you click above, you'll learn a few facts about Grove. Your cart will then be filled with a few recommended items (which you can totally change to whatever you need or want!). Once you've made your selection of goodies, you'll finish & pay. In just a few short days, you'll receive your first glorious Grove package with your freebies & purchased goodies inside! Simple, right?!

If there's anything we can take off our plates this holiday season as we host, decorate & give, it's the trip to the store to buy toilet paper. Can I get an amen? Let's all remember, sweet friends. Presence over perfection.

Join me this season in hosting friends & family on a whim, making a comforting meal of crockpot chili, hanging twinkle lights from the dollar bin & saying yes to freebies that make life a little easier!


 P.S. This offer is valid for new Grove Co. customers only, but existing customers can grab a few sponges for free right HERE. Unfortunately, Grove Co. does not currently ship to Canada, Alaska or Hawaii.

Drying Homegrown Herbs

I am finally reaping the rewards of my newly planted herb garden (I talked more about it in this post)! Throughout the summer I harvested herbs here & there for roasted potatoes & homemade salad dressings, but with the change in seasons comes the need to beginning drying & storing my homegrown herbs for the winter months.

After my morning walk, I headed out to the garden with my basket & shears to harvest the first of many baskets full of herbs. 

I keep this little twine stand with scissors conveniently in our dining room hutch for tying bundles of flowers, last minute gifts & freshly harvested herbs. It truly does have so many uses. I also keep a plethora of baskets nearby - can you ever have too many baskets?!

Once I brought my herbs inside, I bundled them up with a simple tie of twine. 
From left to right - hyssop (for winter tea), oregano, lavender (I love baking with lavender), bergamot (also for homemade hot teas!) & rosemary (my favorite)

I then hung each bundle on my herb drying rack (found here). Each time I walk by my herbs, I squeal in delight - the rosemary smells heavenly! 

I will say, it is best to dry herbs in a dark, cool space. Unfortunately our small home doesn't have a dark space that is not already being utilized. Thankfully, this little spot receives diffused morning light only so it has worked great.

Once my herbs are dry, I store them in my favorite Weck jars. If you don't like the clamps, you can always use the wooden lids, which are equally lovely. 

I appreciate the look of these jars & think they make such wonderful jars for gifting during the holiday season. Lots of relatives will be receiving Freckled Hen Farm culinary herb blends with a little wooden spoon this year!

I'd love to read your thoughts on drying herbs at home. What are your favorite methods & blends? Please share!


My Top Five Favorite Podcasts

With the arrival of August comes the desire to make little habit changes that are sure to positively affect the coming season. 

One habit that I've made room for in my daily rhythm is listening to podcasts. I usually listen while I clean the house, run errands & complete repetitive tasks for work. It's an enjoyable way for me to pass the time while staying productive. I also love the conversations that come about with Luke (a podcast junkie!) & friends simply from what I've heard.  

Today I thought I'd share just a handful of podcasts I thoroughly enjoy. I'd also love to read your favorites, too, as I am hoping to add a few more to my weekly rotation! Enjoy!

- How I Built This: I love entrepreneurial podcasts that inspire me to do my work better. I am so motivated by the stories on this podcast of amazing entrepreneurs who built successful businesses all the while taking big risks & often times failing along the way.  

- Elise Gets Crafty: Another entrepreneurial podcast but all about small business. I have actually been interviewed by Elise twice (here & here) so I may be a little biased (ha!), but I love the work that Elise is doing to shed light on the gifts & hardships of being a small business owner & creative.

- Happier with Gretchen Rubin: I am fascinated by habits & the power of choice. I love Gretchen Rubin's books so I knew I'd love her podcast. It does not disappoint! While her voice drives me a little crazy, there is a wealth of knowledge to be enjoyed with each episode.

- S-Town & Serial: Excellent podcasts with a storyline that captivate you, leading you to learn about everyday people living their complicated lives. If you're interested in reading a book but don't quite have the time, this is an excellent way to fuel that desire. 

Honorable mention: Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert though she's no longer recording

Do you listen to podcasts? Share your favorites in the comments below!


Summer Meal Planning + Caprese Salad on a Stick Recipe

Let's talk about summer meal planning.

I find it's more difficult to plan our weekly meal plan during the summer months. Perhaps that's counterintuitive to what you may think given the abundance of vegetables growing in our garden, but that's the very reason why it's so tough! I am constantly on the search for creative ways to use up our bowls of tomatoes & piles of squash, aside from my usual canning & freezing for the winter months ahead. 

I've shared several tips & tricks for budgeting & meal planning (here, here & here), but I've never shared how my system adjusts during the summer months. 

As with every season, I assess what we have. I check my pantry, dig around in the freezer, walk the garden & talk to Luke about what we'll be harvesting this week. Once I've got a pretty general idea of what ingredients we already have on hand, I make a plan.

I pull out my favorite cookbooks (I'm a huge fan of Simply in Season & the Skinnytaste cookbooks), check my recipe box, gather saved recipes from magazines & scan my saved images on Instagram (I love that new feature!).  

Once I have my recipes, I check our weekly calendar of events & plan our meals out for the next seven days (this is my favorite meal planner to date - it has the detachable shopping list, which I love). I typically only plan dinners & fill in our lunches with leftovers/sandwiches/salads & breakfasts with peanut butter toast/eggs/smoothies. 

Here's this week's meal plan:

M: Peach & Tomato Salad (from Better Homes and Gardens)
TU: Zucchini Garden Chowder (Simply in Season)
W: Pizza Lasagna Roll Ups (Emily Bites)
TH: Grilled chicken with squash & basil salad (Simply in Season)
F - SU: Camping! (Separate meal plan)

I typically only jot down the main meal & add in fresh sides as we harvest vegetables from the garden (sautéed zucchini, roasted new potatoes, cucumber salad, etc). 

As for potlucks, picnics & special events throughout the week, I make a note of sides & desserts I will need to bring.

Last week I brought along this delicious caprese salad dish to book club & thought I'd share the recipe with you!

Caprese Salad on a Stick 

- Cherry tomatoes, halved
- Handful of fresh basil
- Mini mozzarella balls
- Balsamic vinegar
- Olive oil
- Course sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
- Toothpicks or mini serving sticks for taste-testing 

Pierce one ball of mozzarella on your mini stick or toothpick followed by a leaf of basil, half of a tomato, another leaf of basil & a second ball of mozzarella. Place on a cookie sheet & repeat until you have enough tomato/basil/mozzarella sticks for your gathering.

Drizzle olive oil & vinegar on each stick. Sprinkle salt & pepper to your preferred taste. Transfer the sticks from the cookie sheet to a pretty serving tray. Refrigerate or serve immediately. Enjoy!


How do you use up the abundance of produce in the garden during the summer months & plan your weekly meal plan? Share your thoughts below!

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