sister camp 2015


the one word that comes to mind to best describe sister camp would be restful.


tucked away in the ozark mountains of arkansas along the buffalo river, we lived & created for three whole days. 

sweet d'wana of mountain girl melodies asked if i would teach on the art of gift giving at camp. other than that, i knew nothing else about camp. 

when we settled into our rooms & met together on friday evening, d'wana informed us that sister camp was simply about resting. we were there to breathe, to rest our minds & ease our hearts.
y'all if i would have had the energy to ugly cry, it would not have been pretty.

oh, me? rest? 



& that is exactly what we did. the camp staff loved us & served us so well. 


sweet naomi & her momma made the most delicious food. friends, i gained four pounds. i wish i were lying; it was that good. 


everything was just beautiful... every detail perfectly executed & every corner oh so lovely.





we were invited to journal, to meditate, to nap (thank you, jesus) & to pray. there was so much free time to just be. i never get that time at home; it was truly a retreat from the rush of everyday life. 



on saturday, we made our way up the mountain to d'wana's cabin in the woods. this is her space for creating & she invited us in to make alongside her.



we made mini quest boxes & clay pendants.



i had the privilege of sharing my thoughts on the art of thoughtful gift giving with the campers. we made lavender sea salt scrub to gift to others using ingredients easily found in one's pantry. remember, gifts don't have to be expensive to be meaningful. 


the sister camp staff absolutely spoiled us with swag from some amazing makers! i came home with all kinds of goodies!



this camp allowed us to rest, but it also gifted us the amazing opportunity to simply come just as we already are. 


sister camp was that soulcare i had been craving. it was an invitation to bond with my fellow sisters, from all ages & backgrounds, & a reminder that there is indeed a seat at the sisterhood table for each & every one of us. 


if you would like to join d'wana at her next sister camp, registration opens in august. i would absolutely recommend saving money to go. it's worth every penny & so much more.

thank you, d'wana & naomi for this gift! i love you girls. xo.
love,
natalie

may spending freeze


if you've been around these parts for long, you know that luke & i are very intentional about budgeting (find out more on how we budget here). we have monthly budget meetings & plan ahead so that we're spending below our means each month. 


of course, despite our very best efforts, sometimes incidentals & unexpected expenses come up, leaving us spending much more than we planned. over the last two months, we have repaired two vehicles & purchased a large amount of farm supplies for the summer months. 

in an effort to build back up our savings, we have adjusted our monthly budget for may & agreed to a spending freeze.


what does a spending freeze look like for our family?

during the month of may, we are only going to spend money in the absolutely necessary categories of our budget. 

our may budget does include:
- bills
- food
- date night (yes it's a necessity for our sanity, but we've reduced this category by 25%)
- individual allowance
- medicine
- animal care
- personal care (haircuts, etc.)

our may budget does not include:
- clothing
- house projects
- home supplies
- gifts
- anything "extra," including non-budgeted wants


our biggest challenges:
- using up our storage food from the freezer
- using only what we have to create gifts for friends & family (including mother's day!)
- limiting our date nights to only inexpensive dates
- not purchasing home improvement supplies including plants, diy project supplies & general pretties
- finding contentment in what we already own, use & have

i've got a ton of blog post ideas i plan to share with you during the month of may from healthy meals on a limited budget & gifting with what you already own. 


if you're craving a spending freeze, join my family during the month of may! i plan to update our journey here in full detail, but join me on instagram @nataliecreates & use the hashtag #mayspendingfreeze!

do you have ideas for saving money & spending less? please share!
love,
natalie

april shop update: the bow band & more!


hello, friends!

mark your calendars for this thursday, april 23rd, when i will stock my shop with new goodies at 8 am cst! in celebration, i thought i would share with you a little sneak peek of some of what's to come...


i am absolutely in love with the new bow band that launches on thursday! it is reversible so you can style it two different ways! as always, there is white velvet elastic in the back for comfort & ease of wearing.


there will be a limited number of each bow band in three different designs! i think you are going to love these beauties.


there are also two new skinny headbands coming to the shop! i absolutely love the peach modern floral headband & the mustard yellow headband that are both perfect for spring & summer!


there will be just a few happy flag sets in the shop this time around, including the lovely set from my collaboration with sweet lindsay of pen + paint, so snatch them up while you can!


to celebrate this fun shop update, i am giving away a package full of surprise pretties from my shop!

to enter, simply:
comment below with your email address & favorite new product from the shop right now

i will pick a random winner on thursday, april 23rd, just before the shop opens at 8am cst!
love,
natalie

p.s. i am offering 20% off in the shop on all orders $10 or more to all blog readers! simply enter "NATALIECREATESBLOG" at checkout! thank you & happy shopping!

++ giveaway closed! congrats to allison for winning a little bundle from my shop! i will email you soon! as for everyone else, use the shop code to purchase a few goodies for yourself! ++

a homemade year: a review + giveaway


in writing about family traditions within our home, one of the books that has influenced us in more ways than i can count is a homemade year by jerusalem greer


jerusalem is a dear friend of mine & one who motivates our family to take a deeper look at the christian liturgical calendar. 

as an author, minister & teacher, jerusalem is a wealth of knowledge. i didn't grow up learning much about the christian calendar, but jerusalem makes it easy for her readers to learn more.

she invites her readers to read just a few pages about the historical meaning of each holiday & live that out within our families & home with a meaningful craft or recipe. it's a beautiful picture of bringing meaning to our imperfect family traditions through the sacredness of home.


a homemade year weaves a story of family life & the historical christian calendar that is seamless & inspiring. in her book, she shares meaningful craft ideas for holidays such as easter & delicious meal ideas during the slower summer months.

and with her book, she also provides a discussion & reflection guide that can be found here that you can share within a book club or even a homeschooling group.


y'all, i absolutely love a homemade year so i asked jerusalem if she would share a copy with one lucky reader!

to enter, simply...
2. comment below with your email address & one creative way you live out your faith within the home.

if you don't win, you can always purchase jerusalem greer's a homemade year here!

i will pick a random winner on monday, april 27th! happy winning!
love,
natalie
++ comments closed! congrats to jessica for winning! we will email you soon! ++

my everyday mantel


once easter passed & most of our spring decor was packed away in our guest room closet, i decided to freshen up our mantel with a little everyday decor.


i picked up this pretty vintage globe from the thrift shop last week & was so excited to find that it fit the width of our mantel piece perfectly. 

i picked up little things here & there from around our home for our mantel. for this theme, i was drawn to earth greens, teal, robin's egg blue, pops of yellow & white. 


here's a front view of our decorated mantel. i love my boxwood wreath from target. it was a splurge purchase from leftover christmas money & i am so happy with it. 


i collect vintage clipboards of all sizes & love having them on our mantel for clipping my favorite prints & bits of paper ephemera. this print is from the lovely magnolia letter arts. 


i purchased this wooden 'hello' from hobby lobby for just under $12 (with my 40% off coupon!) & i love it. it's been displayed in every corner, but i think it's found it's permanent home... or at least for a little while anyway! 

if you'd like more mantel inspiration, i am fond of erin's mantel decor ideas!

comment below & include a link to your recent decorating projects... i'd love to see!
love,
natalie

how we budget: an overview of our budgeting tools & tips

many of you have asked for details on how we live within our means & stick to a budget. today on the blog, my husband is sharing the details of how we budget & tools for creating your own unique family budget, too! 

currently, we live on one full-time salary & my small business. luke is the manager of our home finances & i am so thankful for his leadership to responsibly manage what we have right now! i hope you can gain some tangible tools from his knowledge!
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Through years of trial and error, falling off the horse and getting back on again, Natalie and I have developed a budget system that works for us. We know that each family requires their own systems to fit their own specific needs, and this is not a one-size-fits-all. But we hope you are able to glean some good tips and craft a budget system that’s a perfect fit for your own family!


We currently use a combination of tools to stay within our budget. Our three tools are:
- Excel spreadsheets
 - Cash budgeting
- Online transaction tracking

 It might sound a little complicated at first, but today I am going to explain just how we use these tools...


1. Our Excel Spreadsheets

This is where my inner geek shines through. I love Excel spreadsheets, but I realize that most of you probably don’t share that love (if you don’t like Excel, you could probably find an alternative). This component is vital to our budgeting and financial management.

We use spreadsheets to predict our upcoming spending for the month, and then to track our actual spending at the end of the month. It allows us to sit down together, look at our anticipated income, list out bills, extra expenses, and savings goals… and see if it all adds up. If not, we can do some tweaking and adjusting so that we know we won’t be spending more than we are bringing in.

Here are the categories we use for our budget spreadsheets:

1. Income
2. Bills
3. Cash budget
4. Extras
5. Savings goals
6.Net Income (should be greater than 0) = Income – bills – cash budget – extras – savings

I’m able to create functions in Excel to do the math for me and make it very easy – just plug and play. But those of you who aren’t so inclined could just do the math by hand in a budgeting notebook.

Please note that our Excel file and budget change from month to month. We know what our basic expenses are each month, but we have a bit of wiggle room to adjust categories in anticipation of additional expenses.


2. Our Cash Budget

We used to do a cash budget for almost everything, but we’ve moved away from that. Now we only do the cash budget system for categories that we are likely to overspend and we need a hard limit on.

The categories we use the cash budget system for are:

1. Groceries
2. Home supplies
3. Allowance
4. Date night
5. Gifts

For these categories we choose a set amount at the beginning of the month and withdraw the money in cash from the bank. The money then gets divided out into envelopes (Natalie uses her miss moneybags wallet specifically for this), and whenever we spend on that certain category we’ll use the cash out of the envelope. We can visually see the money decreasing in the envelopes, and when the cash is gone we know we’ve met our budget limit—without any guessing or adding up receipts.

The allowance category may sound silly, but it has actually been very important and healthy for Natalie and me. This allows us each to have our own spending money to use on whatever we want without having to talk to the other person about it. Coffee dates, books, beer… whatever. And we each get the same amount, so it’s fair.

You may get to the point when you don’t need to do the cash system for a category anymore and can just regulate the amount you put on a credit or debit card. That’s fine. Natalie has gotten to the point where she knows how much she can spend at the grocery store (and will actually add up the total price as she puts items into her cart), so we have recently moved away from doing the cash system for groceries and are now tracking online.


3. Online Transaction Tracking

This sounds complicated, but it simply refers to checking the bank account online or using an app to track purchases. We use Mint.com for this because it is free and user-friendly. Also, Mint has apps for smart phones and tablets, so you can use the service on multiple platforms. I have come to love their iPad app.

Online Transaction tracking allows us to track our spending in the categories we set in our budget spreadsheet that we use our debit card on. I try to get on the computer and categorize our transactions at least twice a month to stay on top of where we are with the budget. Mint will actually show you in real time your current spending compared to your budget limit, and send you text messages when you’ve overspent. Some people solely use this kind of app for their budgeting, but it works better for us to do a hybrid approach.

So the role Mint plays for us is to allow us to accurately tally up our spending at the end of the month and compare it to our goals we set at the beginning of the month. If we overspent on a category like clothing, we may have under spent in a category like pet supplies to compensate, or we may have to take out of our savings goals (worst case scenario).


In summary our budget system allow us to:

1. Make accurate predictions on anticipated spending for the upcoming month to ensure we are not living beyond our means
2. Stay on track during the month so that we are staying within the limitations we have set for ourselves
3. Set savings goals and follow through with those goals by depositing money into savings at the end of the month
4. Minimize stress by giving us the assurance that we can meet our needs and put back money for the future


We hope you’re able to glean something from learning about how we budget. The most important thing is to understanding that a budget is there to serve you and give you the freedom to live without financial stress, by allowing you to live within your means and plan for the future.
- Luke

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i'd love to read any tips or tools you use when budgeting your home finances! 

my thoughts on jamberry nail wraps


today's conversation is dedicated to nail talk. grab yourself a cup of coffee & join me.


it's confession time.
i've become a nail art addict.


it all started when one of my gal pals walked into one of our weekly coffee dates with the cutest nails. i couldn't stop staring at her hands... it was getting awkward. 

of course, when i first heard of jamberry, i laughed. i mean, WHO would do that?! stickers for your nails. weird.

never say never, my friends. 

we had a bit of a conversation about her nails & before i knew it, i was at my sweet friend's home for her jamberry party. we spent the evening eating cookies, sipping on drinks & giving ourselves fun little manicures. love at first application, y'all.


friends, it's like a burst of tiny rainbow color on your fingertips! 

plus, jamberry is straight up tough. that was honestly the selling point for me. i even did a little test - i took photos of my nails every week. after three weeks of gardening work, renovating our church, scrubbing dishes & simply living life - my nails still looked decent & even cute. 

right then & there, i became a jamberry believer.


you won't find me selling jamberry anytime soon. it's a hobby & something i simply love doing to feel pretty. when i find something i love so much, i just like sharing it. 

i did recently host a jamberry party for my local gals & wanted to share my party here (you can click the link, choose my party & purchase a wrap to try it out if you'd like! just a heads up - each wrap is $15 & equals two full manicures & two full pedicures.).


through my recent nail obsession, i've also found my favorite line of nail polish:


sinful colors by walgreens dries quickly, applies evenly, chips less often & costs less than two bucks a bottle. cheap! i apply it to my accent nails along with my jamberry for a fun quirky look.

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if you have never applied jamberry,  it can feel daunting but it's honestly so easy. here's a great tutorial on applying jamberry (instead of using a heater, just use your blowdryer!). i'd also recommend the plastic bag trick as shown here.  

what are some of your favorite beauty practices for making you feel pretty?
love,
natalie

p.s. just as a heads up - i get zero money for this recommendation of jamberry; these are my own thoughts & opinions. if you do decide to purchase some jamberry nail wraps from my link, i do get credit toward free wraps. xo.
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