Aven’s party details {& party planning for the non-hostess}

Confession: I am not a “hostess” type.

The more people who RSVP with a “yes” the more I want to go hide in a corner until it’s over, no matter what type of event I’m planning. I cheer when people say they can’t make it. 




During the planning of my daughter’s 2nd birthday party, my philosophy was “it doesn’t have to be fancy!

Y’all. This is a two year old’s party. She will relive it through photos one day, but she will not remember it. I tend to let myself get overwhelmed with the details of events rather than focusing on the ultimate purpose, and I was determined not to let that happen. At the end of the day, I just wanted Aven to have a good time with all the people she loves. 

{ Hey look! This was my own Minnie party, back in the day! Check out my mom’s cake decorating skills. Impressive! She definitely IS the hostess type. }

I started drafting this post the day after the party when we were still in recovery mode, because I know there are lots of people like me who feel that party planning is out of their comfort zone. But even for us non-hostess types, you can pull off a great party and have fun while planning it – I promise!

Here are some shots of the party and a list of things I found to be super helpful during the planning process. 

(her ears are actually pigtail clips from this Etsy shop)
keep it simple. here’s how:

1. stick with a narrow theme and color scheme. 
Because it’s her absolute favorite, we originally chose a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme, which would include a whole cast of characters. But since a ton of party planning is incorporating the colors of your chosen theme, and I wasn’t loving the use of so many bold primary colors for a little girl’s birthday party. I changed it up to a simpler theme of Minnie Mouse only, and stuck with the colors black+white, gold, and pale pink. SO glad I made this change. It really made it so much easier. If possible, stick to neutrals and one or two pops of color. (Also – buy paper products and utensils in neutral colors so you can reuse the excess later).

2. choose just a couple of “statement pieces”.
You could easily run around spending lots of money and time buying 200 different party decorations and supplies. OR you could choose just a couple of large-scale, key items that will be the focus of the party.

So, instead of a bunch of balloons, I used only FOUR. Yes – FOUR. I had one giant 30″ pink balloon, one huge number “2” Mylar balloon, and then two regular pink balloons for our mailbox. (balloons and paper straws purchased from this Etsy shop)

I also happened to find (really, it was fate) a black and white polka dot blanket with Minnie’s silhouette on it in the kid’s bedding section at Target. It couldn’t have been more perfect for the party and it became the primary inspiration for the rest of the decor. We used it as a focal point and backdrop on the day of the party. Bonus….we get to use it after the party! 

3. party basics: banners + signs.
There’s a reason why party banners show up at every party: they’re cute AND easy! I strung a three tiered one on the fireplace mantle. It was black so I just wrote “happy birthday Aven” with chalk and strung it with black and white baker’s twine. I traced out the word “TWO” on glitter scrapbook paper and then strung that on the Minnie blanket backdrop. DONE. (I meant to move the “TWO” banner to the front of the high chair as decoration when we did her cupcake and candles, but I forgot. Anytime decor can pull double duty – go for it!)

I also purchased a chalkboard easel (something I wanted anyway and will for sure use again) and placed it outside by the front door as a welcome sign.

4. favors that function as a party element.
I bought a set of 12 Mickey and Minnie ears and placed them by the front door with a sign that said “We’ve got Ears, say Cheers!” They doubled as both decor and party favors for the kiddos. Another idea I love is to use food as favors – some extra special little snack you’ve put together and pre-packaged.

5. food: pick a theme.
We decided to do a morning (10am) pajama party, so the food was a no-brainer. My awesome husband made Minnie-shaped pancakes (!), and we did other breakfast foods as well. Fruit, pigs in a blanket, hashbrown casserole, monkey bread – those types of things.

Also – let your food decorate for you. You can put your cupcakes in a pretty stand and make it the centerpiece on the table.

6. use decor you already own.
I raided Aven’s nursery, my kitchen, and my box of party supplies for accent pieces that matched the party. I also borrowed several things from generous family members, like kid tables (which we covered in polka dot craft paper), platters, and trays. 

7.  Pinterest is your party-planning friend. 
Chances are, your party theme has been done, documented, and Pinterest-ed, so you can borrow other people’s creative ideas when you come up short on your own. I even printed coloring sheets off a link I found on Pinterest, so the kids would have a little activity to occupy themselves with. 

8. some things just don’t matter – don’t waste time or brain power on them.
I am not the girl who’s going to bake a birthday cake. Just, no. Instead, I ordered Publix cupcakes and we stuck Oreo Thins in them as Minnie ears. Done. Work within your wheelhouse! Or have friends and family help you. You don’t have to do it all. 

So, which side are you on? Does party planning make you giddy or give you an anxiety attack? I’d love to hear any other tips you guys have!

a state of the heart

I can’t believe it’s over! I’m so glad I decided to be a part of the #write31days challenge. It’s been tough and revealing and heart-tilling. 

If you read even one of my Learning to Simplify poststhank you. Without readers, I have no blog, and this has become such a special place to me. 

I’ve only begun learning how to simplify and what that truly means. For me, the investment is worth the reward. I know it will be an ongoing lesson and journey. 

Ultimately, through writing over the past month and carrying out these posts into my real life, I’ve learned that simplifying isn’t a method or a technique or even a lifestyle. It’s a state of the heart. When I begin there – in my own heart – and work outward, paring down to the essentials, non-negotiables, and life-givers, it can more easily infiltrate every facet of my life. 

And the truth is, only the Lord can completely clear out and clean up my heart. I can’t do it because I’m a human and we hoard our junk. We let things pile up. We rarely deep clean. He knows my heart so well because he’s the One who made it. I can safely let Him come in, dust, declutter, and organize. I can trust Him with that task. 

That’s the kind of Simple I long for. 

revisiting the why

Why is decluttering even important? I first discussed this back at the very beginning of this writing challenge, which you can read here. Aren’t we taught to value “more”? How often do we stop to evaluate whether or not constantly seeking more is serving us, the people we care about, and our God?

It’s worth taking an appraisal of. 

1. Decluttering reveals. It unearths the state of our home, our hearts, and everything that lies between. You can’t continue in ignorance once you’ve confronted the truth. You’re forced to put everything in it’s rightful place, or remove it from your life. This is the hard part, the fire.

2. Decluttering leaves behind only valuables, both material and intangible.  I do enjoy having a simple closet and I can appreciate an organized space, but even more so, I treasure newfound freedom, joy, and purpose. The invisible – this is where the beauty is found. 

Those treasures can’t be defined until we have first worked through the reveal. They are equally important and necessary. 

I hope you take the time to find what you truly value, and let it take it’s proper place in your life.

James 1:2-4, The Message: Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

my simple confession

When I first felt the Lord moving me towards a simpler life, I began small. It started behind my closet door, where I pared my wardrobe down to only my very favorite things. It was the perfect beginning to this new chapter in my book because it affirmed in me the desire for long term and deeper growth beyond my closet.

These past twenty-eight days were not intended for instruction or even motivation, although those would be wonderful byproducts. These posts were my confessional

Not a confession to you, and not even a confession to my Lord – He already knows the maze that’s my heart. 

It’s been my way of confronting myself and all of my junk. Over my last twenty-eight years I have accumulated all along the way and it was time to step back, evaluate, and clear out. 

Things are feeling lighter. There are less distractions. I can breathe deeper. 

This process of writing and editing and praying and pondering is always a mirror. It helps me see more clearly, reflecting everything back in truthful light. 

Thank you for helping me hold the mirror by simply reading and providing this safe space for me to declutter in pursuit of Him. 

If you’ve missed my previous posts in this series, you can click here.

relationship recap

Wow. Posting every day for 31 days straight is no joke! It has been tough. It hasn’t been perfect, and I’ve missed a couple of days here and there because, life. So many of these posts I had to publish despite wanting to edit them more or sit with them longer. But what an awesome challenge it has been not only for my writing, but even more for my heart. I’ve had to wade through some heavy topics (and some not so heavy) in “real time.” Each day I have prayerfully considered what God would have me to share, to ponder, to declutter. Although this was a kind of crash course in simplifying, it has been transformative for me. I am so hopeful that the Lord will continue this sanctifying work in me, long after October 31 passes. 

I plan to use these last few days to recap some of my greatest takeaways from this challenge. 

With all of my “relationship” posts, I’ve noticed a clear thread in how I want to approach them. It really does come down to the themes of love, grace, and truth. When I remind myself to go “back to the basics,” those are the words that fill my mind. I am so grateful to the Lord for allowing me to see these precious pieces of my life with new eyes. Relationships need re-evaluating from time to time, and I’ve discovered how valuable it is to focus on improving myself, not the counterpart in the relationship. I will always have much to refine. Much too much to focus on how others need polishing. 

I should just be the friend, partner, mother, and daughter that I want to have. 

The Lord is sweet in his relentless patience with me as I learn to be more filled with him and less with myself. This is dying daily, and it’s not an easy practice. I want to see my friends and family with eyes of grace, a heart of love, and thoughts of truth. Always

If you missed my relationship posts earlier in the series, you can read them by clicking here, here, or here

31 Days of Learning to Simplify: My Mothering

There are about one million ways I could think of to improve my parenting. One million ways I fail and mess up, and one million times when I’ve said or done the wrong thing. I’m sure the people around me would gladly dispense advice and there are books full of checklists to make sure I’m doing everything just right, all the time. 

It’s so much pressure. 

But God doesn’t put pressure on me to be a more perfect mom. His approach is much different, gentler. He picks my tired self up off the hot seat, and then he doesn’t just leave the seat empty for me to find my way back again. He sits in my place.

He sees me in the monotony of my days, at my best and my worst, and he’s pleased. He tells me I’m a good mom (sometimes more than once, when I really need convincing). 

That’s because the Lord looks past my mom “failures” and “wins” and peers deep into my mama heart. 

He knows the soaring love I have for this baby of mine, because he sees with the eyes of a Father. A kind Father. A good Father. 

When I feel all caught up in my constant striving to do better and more, I need to remember who he says I am. That is, already enough

Right where I am – I’m enough. You’re enough. 

I’m my best mama-self when I see myself how he sees me. When I parent out of that place, I’m not relying on techniques or methods, I’m just relying on the One who made me a mom in the first place. And He’s enough. 

I am nearing the end of my Write 31 Days Challenge! If you want to read through some of the other posts in this series, click here

31 Days of Learning to Simplify: Finances

Carrying two mortgages will make you rethink your finances, mainly because you have no other choice. That’s the position we found ourselves in this past summer when we randomly (divinely?) found the “just right” house for us, before our old home was even listed on the market. It was a good practice for us to pay close attention to the money leaving our accounts every month. 

I am no expert in the realm of finances, but these are some personal goals and practices that I try to keep up as much as possible. 

1. Keep track of the outgoing. Online banking is helpful for me in this way since it’s always up to date and tracks all spending and bill pay in one place. 

2. No debt. Of course easier in word than practice, but less debt = less stress. We only have one credit card and use it sparingly + pay it off quickly. 

3. Charitable giving. Be on the lookout for opportunities to give that are meaningful to you/your family. One that is important to me is sponsoring a child in Thailand who I met when I was there in April. 

4. Where you spend is important. Whenever possible, buy from companies that provide safe environments and fair wages. Here’s one article that has influenced me on this topic. 

5. Accountability. My husband and I share accounts so everything is always visible to the other. Also – no large purchases without discussing first. 

6. Monthly/weekly allowance. Setting a certain amount of spending money for each week has helped us keep our small purchases like coffee in check. 

7. Make returns. If something doesn’t work or fit, or you just change your mind – take it back! Don’t just stick it away in a closet and forget about it. 

8. Online bill pay. Everything in one place keeps finances simple. 

9. Prayerful consideration over major changes or purchases. We did not decide rashly to buy a second home without lots of prayer and crunching numbers to make sure it was a smart decision. 

I don’t want to just streamline my finances for simplicity’s sake. I want to be a good steward of my blessings and resources, and make it a priority in life. 

I would love to hear any tips you guys may have! This is an area where I always have something to learn. Please leave your ideas in the comments. 🙂

31 Days of Learning to Simplify: Destructive Expectations

After just completely missing yesterday in the #write31days challenge, I’m back. Sorry ’bout that.

All too often, I expect too much from the people in my life. 

Because of my unrealistic expectations, I set them up for failure. This is detrimental to the relationship — it can cultivate dissatisfaction, resentment, defeat, hurt feelings, and most definitely disappointment.  

By choosing to withhold grace, I am allowing our relationship to be damaged. The responsibility actually falls on me. (Ouch.)

When what I want is perfection, I should anticipate shortcomings. Not because people want to let me down, but because people are people. Just broken people in a broken world. 

Naturally, for myself, I want fair standards. I want grace and compassion extended to me. So, why am I hesitant to offer this same grace to others?

When I find myself in a place of expecting the impossible for my husband, my friend, my daughter — here’s my heart check
1. What do I know to be true? As I evaluate a scenario that’s left me feeling hurt, I ask myself what do I know to be true of that person and my relationship with them: Are their intentions bad? Do they love me? Would they ever purposely let me down? When I consider the facts instead of just my feelings, I can see more clearly.

And, 2. Who is my hope really in? Only the Lord. Everyone else will fail me at some point. But there is only one who is always faithful and always trustworthy because He knows no other way. 

Lets learn to let others, and ourselves, off the hook. Grant abundant grace. And let’s tuck our hope away in the proper holding place that’s safe from all the let downs this world has to offer, in Christ alone. 

::Truths for your heart::
My hope is in You all day long. Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love. Psalm 25:5-6 

The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. Psalm 147:11 

Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.  Psalm 62:5 

31 Days of Learning to Simplify: Social Media

We all know what a time waster social media can be – this is not news to anyone – but I’m on a mission to actually re-evaluate how much of my life I’m willing to give over to my online presence. I think Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and every other social media outlet can create unnecessary clutter in our lives, and distract us from really seeing, living, experiencing, and connecting. 

All of the scrolling, the pinning, the liking, the evaluating based on a single square or 140 characters – it can easily run your day. I’m not saying it should go away entirely, obviously that’s not happening, but at the very least, some decluttering needs to take place.

In the writing world, there is a wise notion that we can never let ourselves only write – we have to experience life to be able to tell about it. The output can’t outweigh the input or else we will find ourselves with no stories, no lessons, no words. The same holds true for our online sharing. If we never put the phone down, we won’t have anything meaningful or significant to share when we do pick it back up. 

I’m creating a call to action for myself and hoping you’ll join me. I’m setting boundaries, time limits, and purposely diminishing it’s overall presence in my daily life.

Here’s how: 
– I believe it starts with telling yourself it’s okay to step away. It’s okay to disconnect temporarily. After all, this is the internet and whenever we come back for a visit, it will still be there. 

– Be picky. Decide which outlets are your favorites and stick to them. You do not need for people to be able to reach you 37 different ways. (I use Instagram and Facebook the most. I post on Twitter only periodically for blog purposes). 

– No social media during certain blocks of time. This week, I’m not checking anything after 8pm except email. Next week maybe I will block off 5-8pm when we have family time. Or the weekends. Picking a time and sticking to it is crucial to stepping away intentionally.

– In addition to the “do NOT check” times we just talked about, I think it’s helpful to set “TO check” times. Although it may not be completely off limits all day, contain your social media time to a short, predetermined window to avoid wasting time. 

– Turn off all notifications. Sounds, pop-ups, alerts – off. This has been a GAME CHANGER for me. I realized that I was actually forgetting to check my phone when I didn’t hear it dinging for my attention constantly. I do not plan to ever turn these on again. #freeeeeedommm

– Fill the time void with something you are passionate about. (This is the easy part.) I guarantee you will not miss it if you are busy painting/reading/journaling/playing with your kid, etc. (For more on this topic, read yesterday’s post passions versus hobbies).

– Have a friend join you. It’s easier when you know someone is along for the ride and can keep you accountable. 

Remember: The ultimate purpose of paring down social media intake and output is to be able to actually DO LIFE. Instead of talking about it and posting about it and documenting it, we were meant to LIVE IT. Let’s never forget that.  
Let’s put everything down for a time so we can really listen. Really see. Let’s really live. 

31 Days of Learning to Simplify: Passions Over Hobbies

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting the writing here at Beloved Nest. 

I am one of those people who has a lot of interests, and when I like something….I really like it. Home design, photography, furniture painting/refinishing, reading, television, bargain hunting, Instagram-ing, writing, and let’s not forget Target-shopping, which is definitely a thing. Of course nothing is inherently wrong with having many hobbies, but it can be detrimental if I don’t manage how my interests pull from my limited free time. I’m learning how to simplify the things I devote my free time to, so I can get the most out of both my hobbies and my time. 

Once I became a mom, I used to say I never had time for reading. Now I know that I was lying when I said that, even if it was unintentionally, and even if it was just to myself. Oh I had the time, but instead the Real Housewives of Wherever would suck me into their episode about everything and nothing, or I would browse through Instagram for an embarrassing amount of time. The bottom line is that we have time for what we make time for. 

My inspection of my free time started when I read 
The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner over the summer. I began noticing how much time I was throwing away each day that could instead be spent doing something I really enjoy, rather than something to just fill the time gap.

For me, learning to simplify how I spend my free time was as easy as defining which of my interests are hobbies, versus which are my passions in life. Huge difference. Social media and decorating my home might be fun, but they aren’t life-giving for me. However, reading and writing? Those two are my soul-stirrers. They matter. They feel less like an interest, and more like a calling. That is where I drew my line in the sand. 

Now that I’ve narrowed my scope down to my two non-negotiable passions of reading and writing, I feel more fulfilled because I’m steadily focusing on improving myself in those two areas rather than letting thirteen different things steal away snippets of my time. 

I would challenge you to really investigate your minutes and see where you can intentionally grab 10 or 15 of them to devote to something you actually love, rather than just another time waster. Ahem, social media, I’m looking at you. Then decide which interests you are most passionate about, and which ones can just be an occasional hobby. Do you have two interests that would work well together? Maybe even one that you can make extra money from? Start investing in those by giving them the time and energy they deserve. If you need help with figuring this out, Jessica’s new journaling and planning version of The Fringe Hours is available for pre-order here

Please hear me when I say it’s about intentionality and balance. So while many times you will find me reading or writing, please know that sometimes I also need to intentionally do nothing and use zero brain cells while I watch some Teen Mom. Plus, I can only take so much of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse before the television scale needs some leveling. Yes?