Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Too busy?


It's so easy for me to get too busy. Too busy doing what's urgent to focus on what's important. Such has been my week. So many little jobs to do. So many details. So many i's to dot and t's to cross.

But it's Thanksgiving week. And I have so much to be thankful for. To be honest, I think I'm too busy NOT to be thankful. I'm too busy NOT to pray.

Maybe you are, too. Join me:

Come, ye thankful people, come.
Raise the song of harvest home!
All is safely gathered in
Ere the winter storms begin.
God, our Maker, doth provide
For our wants to be supplied:
Come to God's own temple, come,
Raise the song of harvest home!

We ourselves are God's own field,
Fruit unto His praise to yield,
Wheat and tares together sown,
Unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade, and then the ear,
Then the full corn shall appear:
Lord of harvest, grant that we
Wholesome grain and pure may be.

Even so, Lord, quickly come
To Thy final harvest home.
Gather Thou Thy people in,
Free from sorrow, free from sin.
There, forever purified,
In Thy presence to abide,
Come with all Thine angels, come
Raise the glorious harvest home.

I am thankful for you.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A winner


It's a cold, rainy Monday morning in Durham. One of those days that makes you glad that it's warm and dry inside.

This morning I have the pleasure of announcing the winner of my giveaway celebrating my 100th post. I used random.org to pick a number, and the winner is

Entry #15: Julia from Hooked on Houses!

Thank you so much to each of you who entered. Julia, let me know your address, and I'll send "Rudolfo" right to your house. I hope you'll be hooked on Vietri.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My favorite things

One of my favorite bloggers is Melissa from 320 Sycamore. Today, Melissa is hosting a Favorite Things party, and I'm excited to participate.

I have so many favorite things, it's hard for me to identify just a few. If you ask my favorite color, I'll say, "Green. But I also love red and blue. And shades of yellow." Before I'm done, I'll have pretty much covered the color wheel. But I'll try here to tell you about a FEW of my favorite things.

Crosses. If you've visited me here before, you know I love crosses. I've shown you the wall of crosses in my living room.



Here's a new favorite, that I plan to display at Thanksgiving every year:



Coffee. I do love a good cup of coffee. But I like my coffee hot, and I like it fresh. So I LOVE my coffee maker:


I tried valiantly to get a good photo, to no avail. But I so love this Keurig coffee maker. It makes one cup at a time. The K-cups required to make coffee in this machine are a little expensive, but we find that in the long run it's worked out to be fairly economical, because there is NO waste. It just makes you one perfect cup, which you can enjoy in your home or to go. No stopping by Starbuck's or Dunkin' Donuts necessary.

Christmas music. Yes, I'm one of those irritating people who sings along with every carol. Here's my favorite album:



Perry Como. Swoon. Ever hear Perry Como sing "Some Children See Him"? If not, you need to.

Soft skin. I'm a texture person, and I love my skin to feel soft. Not always easy to achieve, especially in the winter. But easier with this product:



Olay Ultra Moisture Body Wash with Shea Butter. My dermatologist turned me on to this several years ago. Squirt some onto a puff and scrub away. It really works. Smells nice, too.

Portuguese and Italian pottery. I love this stuff. I always keep an eye out for these pieces at the thrift store and at TJMaxx and HomeGoods. I'm lucky to live close to the Vietri outlet (you know--"Irresistibly Italian"). In fact, I love this stuff so much that I'm giving away this cute Rudolfo chip and dip set to celebrate my 100th blog post.



Click here if you want to enter!

(I hope that wasn't self-promotion, Melissa.)

What are some of your favorite things? Visit Melissa today to see lots of fun answers to that question!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An early Christmas gift

I'll bet most of us have started our Christmas shopping. Perhaps some of you--definitely not I!--have even finished shopping. And we're busily working on lists and plans, all in anticipation of that glorious day just 38 days from now.

This weekend, I got an early Christmas gift. One that's changing the way I look at this Christmas. My husband, our youngest son, and I went to see Disney's new version of A Christmas Carol.

Friends, you need to go see this movie. It may be the best adaptation of Dickens' story that I've ever seen. And I've seen a lot of them.



But this time, as I watched poor old grouchy Ebenezer journey through his past, present, and future, I found myself in the story. It's so easy to dismiss the idea that I could ever be like Scooge--I would never wish away Christmas with a "Bah! Humbug!" And yet, as I watched the movie this time, I realized that sometimes my attitude does hold some of Scrooge's self-centeredness. Sometimes I do find myself wanting simply to protect what is rightfully mine. It may not be gold that I hoard. Instead, I may cling to the fact that I'm right (I know I'm right!) in an argument. Or I hold steadfast to an idea or ideal that would better be left behind.

The Scrooge pictured at the beginning of the movie is utterly and completely alone. He has clung to the only things that matter to him, and he is loved by no one. I found myself there, too, as I realized how isolated I can become from holding too closely to things that matter to no one but me.

The message of the movie is clear, though: it's not too late. Even the iciest of hearts can melt. And though of course I knew that's how the story was going to end, I was even more excited to witness the transformation than I'd ever been before. Oh, to see the worry and frown lines melt away from Ebenezer's face. Or Richella's face. A Christmas gift, for sure.

God bless us, every one.

--Gratefully unwrapped with Emily at Chatting at the Sky

Monday, November 16, 2009

DIY Day: Christmas trays

**Scroll down to yesterday's post to enter a giveaway!!**


DIY Day @ ASPTL


It's DIY Day at Kimba's!

This week I'm working on getting a head start on Christmas decorating. I keep my Thanksgiving decorations up through Thanksgiving Day, and always before I've waited until after Thanksgiving to work on any Christmas decor. This year, though, I'll wait 'til after Thanksgiving to put anything Christmasy on display. . . but I'm as busy as an elf getting things ready.

Recently I found a stack of unusual trays at Goodwill. Eight trays, all just like this one:


This is printed on the back of the trays.


I'm guessing they're from the 1940's or '50's. I can just imagine these being all the rage for the homemaker who wanted to serve the latest in TV dinners to her family. Since that's not a pressing need of mine, I decided to see what I could do with my trays. I paid $2.00 for all eight trays, so I figured I had very little to lose by experimenting.

Here's one onto which I mod-podged Christmas tissue paper.


This one I spray-painted apple green, then stencilled a Christmas ornament in the corner. I have a friend who likes to decorate for Christmas with apple green and bright red, so this might find its way to her house.


These I'm calling B & W, the damask twins. I used three panels from a border stencil to make these.



And this one might be my favorite. You can imagine how long I hesitated at Hobby Lobby before purchasing this wrapping paper. I mean, really--does it get any better than houndstooth?? I spray-painted this tray red and then mod-podged a bit of my precious houndstooth wrapping paper just to the center panel.


What do you think? I think I like them! And I have three more that I can play with.

Do you have a thrift store treasure that's languishing in your basement? Pull it out and see if you can create something fun!

Be sure to check out all the fun DIY projects at Kimba's. And scroll down to yesterday's post to enter a special giveaway I'm doing to celebrate my 100th post!

A transformation and A GIVEAWAY!

Don't we all love transformations? Every week, some of my favorite parties feature transformations. Susan at Between Naps on the Porch hosts Metamorphosis Monday, and Gina at The Shabby Chic Cottage hosts Transformation Thursday. I really enjoy reading all the wonderful before-and-after stories.

This week, I want to tell you about one of the biggest changes that has taken place in my house over the past several months. The object of change? Me.

You may have read here about some of the challenges my family has faced over the past 18 months. As 2009 winds down, I find myself hoping that 2010 will be a calmer year for our family. But one thing in particular has happened to me during that time, something for which I'm very thankful: I've become a blogger.

This time last year, I had a blog. One that I'd started in May 2007, then dropped after writing half a dozen posts. Then a friend introduced me to Nester's and Kimba's blogs. From there, I went on to meet Emily, and Darcy, and Amanda, and Rhoda, and Manuela, and Melissa. . . well, you get the picture. And a whole new world opened up to me--one that I sorely needed. The inspiration I drew from these and other wonderful bloggers helped to rescue me from the pit of inward-focusing in which I found myself. I needed inspiration and re-energizing--and I found it. I found it among bloggers.

So today I am celebrating the transformation of Richella from non-blogger into blogger. And I am marking the publication of my 100th post (!) with a giveaway.


I'll bet you're familiar with Vietri. . . you know, the Irresistibly Italian pottery? You've admired it in stores, haven't you? Perhaps you haven't bought any, because it's fairly pricey, but I know you've seen it. Well, you probably didn't know that Vietri is headquartered just down the road from me. The next town over from Durham is Hillsborough, North Carolina, home of Vietri. The Vietri goods are all made in Italy, then they're imported to the U.S.--right here to North Carolina! And the company headquarters includes a wonderful Vietri outlet, where beautiful pieces are sold at a discount. I made a trip to the Vietri Outlet and found a wonderful treasure that I'd like to give away to one of you:


The Rudolfo chip and dip. Isn't it darling?

It's actually two separate pieces, so you can take it apart and use the platter and bowl separately if you like.


Just leave a comment on this post to be entered in the giveaway. I'll keep the giveaway open until midnight Sunday, November 22, and announce a winner next Monday. You don't have to be a blogger to enter--you can always leave a comment as "Anonymous," but include your name and contact information in the body of the comment.

Thank you so much for visiting me here at Imparting Grace! I wouldn't be a blogger if no one were reading. I am so grateful for your friendship.

Lots of love,

Friday, November 13, 2009

Let there be light

I love light.

I love sunlight, I love candlelight, I love lamplight, I love accent lighting. As soon as I'm up and dressed in the morning, I turn on lamps. I even have some lamps in which I keep compact fluorescent lightbulbs so that I can keep them burning all the time. But in my kitchen/breakfast/office/keeping room, I had a dark corner:




You can see that there are windows on each side of my desk, so there's plenty of natural light during the day. But the evenings are long now, and the dark corner was kind of sad. I have a little lamp on my desk, but otherwise no light except the can lights in the ceiling, which I turn on only when necessary.

Then a few days ago it occurred to me to climb up on my desk and take a look at that space above my cabinets. And guess what I found? That corner cupboard unit is actually three pieces, each mounted to the wall individually. Only the molding at the top of the cabinets goes all the way across. And between each of the individual pieces, there is open space. Just enough space for an electrical cord. So I ran to Home Depot and got a length of rope lighting. I plugged the rope into an extension cord, which I ran down that space and through the cord opening on my desktop. A few minutes of work, and voila! Light!

Then of course it seemed a shame to have that lovely lighted space just begging for some kind of embellishment. So I shopped my house and rounded up with some decorative plates.




The large red one was a TJMaxx clearance purchase. The blue, white, and black plate was a thrift store find. The black and white "life" plate was purchased from Dayspring. The two colored plates on the other side of the center were Pier One sale purchases.

Here's a look when the outside light is dim, but the corner is bright and happy:



I love my new lighted corner! And light in the previously dark corner made me think of what God does in our lives. If we'll let Him, He'll shine light on places we thought were doomed to remain dark. No corner has to remain dark if we invite God to shine His light upon it.

I am grateful for this little object lesson that God taught me. I needed it. And it reminded me of this old hymn. It was written by John Bowring in 1824. I haven't heard it in a long time, but today it's playing in my mind. I thought you might enjoy it, too.

Father and friend, Thy light, Thy love
Beaming through all Thy works we see;
Thy glory gilds the heavens above,
And all the earth is full of Thee.

Thy voice we hear, Thy presence feel,
While Thou, too pure for mortal sight,
Enwrapped in clouds, invisible
Reignest the Lord of life and light.

Thy children shall not faint nor fear,
Sustained by this delightful thought:
Since Thou, their God, art everywhere,
They cannot be where Thou art not.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Don't miss this!

Today is an exciting day for me.

Many of you may have seen the fun series going on over at Life In Grace: Edie's been doing an exciting series called "12 Days of Handmade Christmas." She started on November 1, and she's featured a different craft each day. Such good ideas! If you haven't seen this series, go here to start at Day 1 and work your way through.

Well, today is my day to guest post for Edie! And my Christmas craft is one that anyone can try: homemade fudge. Not just any fudge, though--my fudge recipe originated with Mamie Eisenhower. It's from an old Kansas cookbook, and the recipe title proudly adds a subtitle: "Mamie made this fudge to woo Ike." I like Ike, and I like fudge, but I don't like candy thermometers and confusing directions. Well, this recipe is not confusing. It's simple to follow, and it produces the most delicious, creamy, wonderful fudge. I've made it every year for the past 20 years, and I'll keep making it as long as I'm able to hold a spoon.




Now go on over to Edie's and read the post for yourself. Print that recipe and give it a try. You'll love it. Promise.

Monday, November 9, 2009

DIY Day




My latest DIY projects have been geared toward to making my middle son's room a bit more inviting.
Here's a photo of me and my son.


I love this picture because you get an idea of what a cutie he is--and just how huge he is. I am also shamelessly loving this photo I look so cute and tiny, but that's mostly because my son is 6'8". Anyway, my vanity aside: those of you who have little boys, take note. Some day--a day which will come soon--you'll be smaller than they are.

Back when my boys were small, I found decorating their rooms so much easier. For instance, when they were really into fishing, I hung cafe curtains at the bottom of their windows and bamboo fishing poles across the tops of their windows. It looked cute (which pleased me) and it reflected their interests (which pleased them). Now that my guys are older, most of the decorating of their rooms is up to them.
Recently, though, my 16-year-old asked that we pay some special attention to his room. He has a large bedroom down on the "terrace" (aka walk-out basement) level of our home. The first decision was a color to paint his walls, which were previously a very dirty version of the neutral used throughout the non-colored parts of our house. We chose to paint the walls the color of the bags from Restoration Hardware. Very scientific, huh? Actually, I've learned since then that Restoration Hardware carries a paint called "Silver Sage" that's pretty much this color. At the time we did the job, I was in a bit of rush at the paint store and ended up just choosing a color from the Benjamin Moore fandeck, and we were happy with the result. We went with HC-144, Palladian Blue.

He was using an old headboard from a Swedish furniture store--blond wood slats, stainless steel frame.


A good quality bed, but not the traditional look he wanted. So I stapled foam and then leather-looking vinyl to the frame to create an upholstered headboard. Nothing special, but better than the slats.

While I was at my discount fabric store shopping for vinyl for the headboard, I spotted some wonderful striped fabric in the remnants section. Now, my fabric store charges just $7.99/yard for decorator fabrics--and that's the REGULAR price. Remnants are discounted to $3.99/yard. So I bought 3 1/2 yards of striped fabric for just $14.00. Here's what I made:


Large Euro shams for his bed (using the elementary sewing skills I posted about here) and valances for his windows.

Here's a closer look at the valances. They're very simple: I folded up and hot-glued a hem onto a length of fabric, then just folded in a simple box pleat. The only sewing involved was to sew a rod pocket for the curtain rod.




Some of my favorite bloggers, including Nester and Sarah, have stressed the importance of hanging window treatments ABOVE the windows, thereby not blocking the natural light. Why, they have asked, do people place their window treatments where the natural light from the window is blocked? Well, while doing this project, I discovered one reason why. Because the curtain rods say that you should mount the rods to the casing around the windows. After all, you can't just hang curtain rods on drywall, can you? So I dutifully hung these valances right on the window casing. . . and I discovered that Nester and Sarah are right! You do lose some of the priceless natural light! Solution? Use drywall anchors to mount your curtain rods, and put them wherever you want them.

I'm tickled with these fun little touches that I've added to my son's room. And I think that he was pleased that I spent my time working on this project just for him.

Check out all the fun projects at DIY Day!


I can make that!

One of my favorite bloggers, Chris at Just a Girl, is having a party! Chris has a lot to celebrate--she just unveiled a beautiful new blog design, and she's decided to take the plunge into attracting blog sponsors. So it's a good day for her to have a party. And it's a good day for all of us, for her party idea is a great one. Here's our chance to share ideas of all kinds of things that we can make. . . and there's plenty of time for us to learn from one another and make lots of wonderful gifts and decorations in time for Christmas.

What I'd like to show you has the most humble of beginnings:

scraps of fabric and a wire coat hanger.



That's it. That's the entire list of materials required to make a ragamuffin wreath!

You've seen the adorable ragamuffin garlands made wildly popular by the Nester. Nester even did a tutorial on these for Edie's 12 Days of Homemade Christmas series.

I took that idea, but instead of tying my fabric scraps onto a string or wire, I tied them to a wire coat hanger. As much as I prefer padded or plastic hangers, I still have lots of wire hangers in my house. I chose a sturdy wire hanger, removed the paper from the hanger, bent the body of it into a circular form, and began tying. (Don't worry about getting the hanger into a perfect circle. It's going to get bent some as you go, and you can always tweak it after you've finished tying on your fabric.) If you like, you could use wire cutters to remove the hook from the top of the hanger. I find the hook useful for hanging the wreath, so I don't cut it off.

For this project, I suggest you cut your scraps of fabric or ribbon around 7" to 9" long. Anything less than 6 or 7 inches will be hard to tie. Pieces longer than 9" or so will be a little too long, since the pieces need to follow the circular form of the wreath. Of course, you could always trim pieces off a bit after you've completed the wreath.

Here's a wreath that I'm making for Thanksgiving. When it's finished, I'll probably add a little something to it--maybe a small sign that says "Give thanks." In a perfect house, this would be finished and hanging somewhere really cute. In my house, it's only half finished. But here it is:



And here's a little different one. It's made with scraps of just one flannel fabric, all cut exactly the same length. I added a bow and the rustic jingle bells.



Isn't it cute? I hang it on the inside of the glass door leading in from my front porch. I always hang a pine cone wreath on the outside of this door, so having a wreath on the inside of the door is nice.



This photo is terrible, but you get the general idea.

I'll bet you have a bunch of fabric and ribbon scraps lying around. And if you don't have a wire hanger, you can easily get one. And I'll let you in on a secret: I cut the fabric strips for this wreath, but my six-year-old tied them to the hanger. Yes, he did. That six-year-old is now 16, so it's been awhile. . . but what sweet memories are tied up in this wreath! So this craft really is something you can make yourself or get your kids to make with you.

Be sure to look at all the great ideas at Chris's party!


Friday, November 6, 2009

Changing focus

I am one of a group of eight women called "The Birthday Girls." Okay, "girls" is a bit of a stretch, since we're all in our 40's and 50's, but somehow "The Birthday Women" just doesn't have the same zing. Anyway, we started getting together regularly several years ago when we all had kids starting high school. Those same kids are now in college, and we've leaned on one another for support a lot through the years, but we've also had lots of fun.

One of the most fun things we do is to have lunch together to celebrate each woman's birthday. We used to meet at a restaurant and give one another elaborate gifts. This year, we've scaled back a bit--we're now meeting in one another's homes for salad potlucks and we're sticking to a spending maximum of $5 for gifts. The scale-back is good for our wallets, and we have just as much fun as we used to.

Today I had the chance to host the group for lunch. As I was setting the table for the six of us who could come to today's luncheon, I was whining to myself that I don't have any pretty fallish napkins. My dishes are white, and my best napkins are white, and I had myself a little pity party as I looked at all that whiteness. I even thought briefly about running out to see if I could find some inexpensive seasonal napkins. And then it occurred to me that although my napkins were white, I had plenty of colored ribbon. You know what I mean. I know that y'all have a stash of ribbon, too. So I cut lengths of pretty green ribbon and tied some around each white napkin. Each place setting looked like this:



Actually, the green ribbon looked kind of nice with the silk flower arrangement I had made:



This photo shows the whole table:



You can probably guess what happened. As my friends and I were taking our places at the table, one of them exclaimed: "Look at these napkins! How cute!" There followed a conversation about what I had done with the ribbon and just how I had achieved that look.

It surprised me that the thing about which I was complaining and with which I was just "making do" was one of the hits of the party. Later, as I was washing the dishes, it occurred to me that I was looking at the napkin situation all wrong. And I wondered how often I do this with other things in my life. How often do I grouse and complain about all the things I want but don't have? And while I'm complaining, am I stopping to be thankful for all the wonderful things I DO have?

During this season of giving thanks, I think I need to change my focus. I think I need to change the lens through which I'm viewing things and choose to be thankful for all of God's abundant provisions rather than focusing on the things I don't have. So I'm going to make a concerted effort to do just that. Here's a first try:

"As I was setting my table for today's birthday lunch, I was reminded how much I enjoy my versatile white dishes. They truly go with anything! And I just love to use these snowy-white napkins. I received this as a gift several years ago, and they're so luxurious. . . and, as an added bonus, I can always bleach them if they become too soiled! So they're practical as well as pretty. To make them a bit more fallish, I tied a bit of green ribbon around each one. My guests loved the look, and the honoree of the lunch told me that the table setting made her feel special."

How's that for looking at the same situation with a little different focus?

How about you? Is there anything in your life that you need to view a bit differently? Join me this month as we try to do that together.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Holiday Decorating

I love to decorate for holidays. Especially Christmas. Love, love, love it. And based on what I'm reading around blogland right now, I'd say that most of you share my enjoyment.

It seems to me that we all decorate in a cool, relaxed way for summer, then really get back into feathering our nests when fall arrives. Halloween, hello! We enjoy pulling out the pumpkins and all the other paraphernalia that welcomes autumn. And then, after we've eaten the toasted pumpkin seeds, we are ready to rock and roll on into Christmas.

And yet, there's another holiday in there that we all love. As much as I adore Christmas decorating, I'm trying to reserve these few weeks to keep my house decorated for this month's holiday. What I do is simple--I just tweak my autumn decorations by removing the jack-o-lanterns and bringing in a few special Thanksgiving pieces.

For instance, my dining room table now holds our cornucopia. Still using my burlap runner and homemade sconces.



Filling the cornucopia is always fun for me. I found this beautiful horn way back in 1991, when my oldest son was just 10 weeks old. I've loved using it ever since. Its look has changed over the years. When I bought it, it was peach-colored papier mache', which was really something 18 years ago. Not so much today. Its current finish was achieved with espresso spray paint topped with a feather-light dusting of gold; I think I like it. Some of the cornucopia contents are special to me and I pack them up each year: a sheaf of wheat from my mother's native Kansas; a boll of cotton from my father's native Tennessee; buckeyes that my son and I collected on a nature walk 'way back when we lived in Hillsdale, Michigan. Sweet memories.



The table on my porch traded its candy corn hurricanes


for a warmer look: a table runner and a fun lantern.


Actually, the "runner" is just a piece of fabric folded to look like a runner. And here's a closer look at the lantern:


I found it on clearance at Target last year for $9.

The move away from candy corn is actually a very good one for me. I am crazy about candy corn. I mean, certifiably nuts about it. But since August I've had one root canal and two porcelain crowns installed in my mouth. I think my tummy likes candy corn more than my teeth do. It was time for it to go.

In the breakfast room, my dough cabinet is one of my favorite spots for seasonal decorating. I just removed the jack-o-lanterns from my pumpkin collection and added a couple of terra cotta pilgrims and some "Give Thanks" blocks.



These simple changes took just a few minutes of time, but they help me to stay focused on November rather than rushing ahead to December. And since November is the time set aside for giving thanks, it's a good place for me to stay focused.

What about you? Do you decorate for Thanksgiving, or do you like to go ahead and get started on Christmas decorating?

Linked to "Show and Tell Friday" at My Romantic Home