Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Home: A favorite scent

Today my beautiful and inspiring friend Sandy from Reluctant Entertainer is beginning a new series:



Home is. . . will take place every Wednesday, and we'll all have a chance to share insights on a particular topic regarding homemaking, entertaining, hostessing, cooking, gardening, and more.

This week, the Home is. . . topic is "A favorite scent," and I'm so glad, for I'm a very scent-oriented kind of gal. I just love the way many people and places are easily recognizable because of their scents. My home is definitely one of those places.

Now, I'll admit that, without some help, the scent of my house might not be as lovely and inviting as I would like. Three teenage boys and two dogs don't always combine for a heavenly aroma! And most air-freshening products are too floral-smelling for my men's tastes. But I have a secret weapon in the scent category.

First, the inspiration for my secret: leather. I love the smell of leather. Rich and supple, mellow and soft, yet masculine and pungent. Mmmmm. (Am I the only one who "looks" at wallets and purses and other goods by holding them up to her nose?)

And leather furniture! Oh, my. Like one of my favorite things in our house: the leather chair and ottoman in the corner of my husband's study. Just thinking about it makes me want to curl up with a cup of coffee and a good book.




Anyway, on to my secret: leather candles. Well, leather-scented candles, anyway.




I know there are lots of good purveyors of candles out there, but in my mind there's one that really stands out: DeeJay's Candles of Fort Worth, Texas. DeeJay's is one of those wonderful family-owned business that does things the old-fashioned way. (Read the story here.) The founder, Diane, had a love for scented candles but was never satisfied with the ones she bought. . . so she created her own. And twenty years later, she's still making her own candles, and they are the best I've ever tried.

The first time I shopped with DeeJay's, I bought a sampling of scents. And I'm telling you, she's got quite a list of scents to choose from. Her product line is straightforward: she's all about the good smells. You can choose from votives, tea lights, pillars, jar candles, fragrance oils, and other yummy-smelling products.

I've tried a number of DeeJay's products, and they've all been good, but my personal favorite is the votive candle. I am not kidding: DeeJay's votives are the longest-lasting, most highly scented candles I've ever tried. Pop one of these babies into a slender votive holder and you won't believe how good it will smell or how long it will burn. All for just $1.50 per votive, plus a FREE 13th votive if you buy 12. There aren't many places where you can still get a "baker's dozen." And you don't have to choose a dozen of just one scent: you can choose 13 different scents for your 13 different candles, if you like.

I asked the people at DeeJay's if there was something special I could offer you, and they said yes! So right now, just for Imparting Grace readers, DeeJay's is making available a special offer. If you want to try their candles, you can get 14 for the price of a dozen instead of 13. Just place your order for 14 votives and then enter the online code "RICHELLA" at checkout. You'll get 14 votives, but you'll only be charged for 12. Isn't that nice of them? (I don't have any affiliation with DeeJay's candles; I just like their products and like telling people about them.)

Now go visit DeeJay's. You might love Banana Nut, or Fresh Cake, or Creme Brulee'. Maybe one of those will be your home's signature scent!

***There's still time to enter my giveaway! Click here to get to the giveaway post!***

Monday, March 29, 2010

Party guests

If you're lucky, your son's birthday party guests will produce a scene like this




without even being asked.

--Joining Sweet Shot Tuesday with Darcy

***Don't miss my giveaway!***

There's a special place in heaven. . .


. . . for the mother of three boys.

When my youngest son was born, a friend gave me a piece of artwork with that sentiment inscribed upon it. Another friend hummed the theme song to My Three Sons as she gave me a baby gift. Still another told me to bid my clean house good-bye forever.

As of today, I'm not just the mother of three boys. I'm the mother of three teenage boys. On this day, March 29, thirteen years ago, I gave birth to my third baby boy.




Having been at this boy-mothering business for a long time now, I've learned a thing or two. I've learned, for example, how sweet it is for your baby boy to reach his arms up for a hug.

And how heart-melting it is for your little guy to pick you flowers. And how much fun it is to listen to a little fellow play with cars and trucks and other things that go vroom-vroom. And how astounding it is to watch a boy build a massive Lego creation. And how precious it is to hear your young man read Scripture at church. And how heart-swellingly proud you feel when your son opens a door for a lady or helps a neighbor carry something heavy or explains a math problem to a friend.

And how sweet it is for your baby boy to reach his arms down for a hug. Because, no matter how much he towers over you, he is still your baby.

I think I would change that piece of art if I could. I think maybe it should say, "There's a special bit of heaven on earth for the mother of three boys."

Thanks, guys.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Boy, oh, boy

See this?

This is a picture of my house from last fall.

And this is my house at Christmastime:

It looks like a fairly calm, serene place, doesn't it?

Well.

In just a few hours, there will be fifteen (count 'em! 15!) 13-year-old boys here for my son's birthday party. And the weather forecast is for rain, so will they be outside playing basketball? Of course not.

Should be fun, right?

So what are you up to this weekend?


Thursday, March 25, 2010

English teacher: how to use to and too


It's Thursday, so it's time for the next installment in my English teacher series! If you missed the introduction to this series, click here to read it. I'm hopeful that these little grammar lessons will prove helpful to you.




Today I'll explain the proper usage of three tiny but important words: to, too, and two. As I've traveled around the blogosphere, I've noticed that many people have trouble with these little words. I think that's because these three words are homonyms--they're pronounced alike, so they all sound the same, but they have different meanings. Of course, homonyms give us no trouble when we're speaking. Since they all sound alike, someone listening to us just hears the word and decides on the right meaning in the context of the sentence. When we're writing, though, it's up to us to choose which word is correct.


To is a preposition that indicates direction, such as in these sentences:

I'm going to pick up the kids from school.
Natalie, give this to your sister.
Can you show me how to do this?

Too is an adverb that means also, extra, or very.

I want to go, too!
There's too much icing on your cupcake.
She's not too happy with the paint job.

Two is a number. This word is derived from the Old English twa. The word twain is also derived from twa.

May I have two cookies?

There's a simple way to remember which to/too/two word to use: To is your go-to word; you'll use it a lot. Too is the word to use if you mean also or extra; that's easy to remember because it has an extra o. And two is the funny-looking word of the group, just as the numeral 2 is a rather funny-looking figure.

One of the reasons that writers sometimes have problems with these words is that SpellCheck won't catch them. To, too, and two are all legitimate words, so they won't register as misspelled words. It's up to the writer to choose the right word.

That was a simple little lesson. Now I'll get to the heart of this post, which is something I really care about. . . and the giveaway!

When I teach grammar to young people, I always start by explaining that language is a gift from God for the purpose of communication. Learning grammar is not important in and of itself; it's important only as a tool to help us communicate. The study of grammar was never intended to be dull or tiresome. But the study of grammar just for the sake of learning about grammar would be worse than dull and tiresome--it would be a waste of precious time.

The fact is, we all have a story to tell. And in this online age, our means of communication is writing. When we write, our goal is not to have perfect grammar. Our goal is to communicate effectively! Grammar is simply a key to being able to communicate in writing. It's a key that allows us to say what we mean to say. It's a key that helps us avoid being misunderstood. And in honor of those facts, I'd like to give away this key bookmark




to one of you. Please leave a comment asking a grammar question you'd like for me to answer, suggesting a point of grammar you'd like for me explain, or even pointing out a grammatical pet peeve of yours. I'll randomly choose a winner from among the commenters. (If you're viewing this in a reader or reading it as an email, click on the title of the post to get to my blog so that you can leave a comment.) Then I'll use those questions and suggestions for future posts. I'll leave the giveaway open until next Wednesday night, then I'll announce a winner next Thursday. If you'd like to mention my grammar lessons on your blog, please do--I'd love to spread the word. Then come back and leave another comment, and you'll be entered in the giveaway a second time.  (This giveaway is now closed.)

As always, thank you for visiting me here at Imparting Grace!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An Easter vignette

Like many of you, I love to decorate for holidays, and Easter is one of my favorite holidays. As with other holidays, I use my mother's dough cabinet as a backdrop to create a simple holiday vignette.

Here's the cabinet decked out for Easter:






On the left, I simply wrote "Happy Easter" on my Goodwill-plate-turned-chalkboard-platter and added some antique bunnies and candlesticks. I'm trying to decide if I want to use my Easter candles here or in the dining room. I may need to make another pair!

On the right, I grouped a pitcher of daffodils, some antique jars filled with jelly beans (the one Easter candy that doesn't tempt me and is therefore safe to have in the house), and a bunny teapot.

My favorite elements are the antique bunnies. Look at this little guy closely:




He and his friends all have holes in the backs, so that you can insert your own cotton to make their tails. See?



Kitschy, yes, but vintage kitschy, so I like it.

How do you decorate for Easter?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

An Easter tabletop

Yesterday I showed you the pillar candles I made for Easter.




These are a simple little call to rejoice at Eastertime. . . and rejoicing is possible because of the Resurrection. Christ's death and resurrection give me the knowledge that I will once again see people I love who have already left this life--like my mother and grandmother. They both died in 1999, and I really look forward to seeing them again!

My dining room is one of the most sentimental rooms in my house. It holds my mother's dining room furniture, along with a deacon's bench from my grandmother's church. So it seemed only fitting that at Eastertime I use the dining room table to hold my mother's Easter egg collection.

My mother, and her mother before her, were big collectors. They both took real joy in building various collections. They each kept an eye out for the things that the other collected. It was quite common for my mother to receive a package in the mail from her mother. The package might contain a book, some candy, and all kinds of little things, but almost always it would hold an item for one of my mother's collections. I remember those packages so well. . . my grandmother worked as a school cook, and she would save the plastic bread bags from the school cafeteria. She used those as stuffing in her packages, and then my mother used the bags in various ways in our home. They were ahead of their time in recycling!

So here's my dining table holding my mother's Easter egg collection:






It's very simple--just my Easter candles and my mother's eggs. I don't have a spring table runner, so I just used an old white tablecloth, folded in half, as an improvised runner. I could use your help here: Do you like the cloth, or do you think the eggs would be prettier just on the wood of the table?



Mama used a magic marker to label many of her treasures with the date she acquired them. Like this:




This is one of my favorites. My mother loved butterflies (another collection!), and I love the way this porcelain egg looks as if a tiny butterfly just landed on it:




Today I'm joining Marty at A Stroll Thru' Life for her weekly Table Top Tuesday party. You should look at all the beautiful tabletops there!


Monday, March 22, 2010

DIY Easter candles




Several weeks ago I followed Manuela's lead and made myself some lovely toile candles. I've enjoyed these and gotten lots of compliments on them.




Now that I've taken down my St. Patrick's Day decorations, I'm wanting to decorate for Easter. I found myself wishing that I had some special Easter candles. Then I remembered that I had a few leftover Easter napkins. Those, along with pillar candles, Mod Podge, and a foam brush, are all I needed to make some Easter candles.


I held my napkin against the candle and wrapped the napkin around, trying to get a feel for how to center my design.

Then I cut two napkins into identical pieces, because I wanted to make two identical candles.


Then I simply ModPodged the napkin onto the sides of my pillar candles. (My method is to coat the entire candle [the sides, that is, not the top or bottom] in Mod Podge, carefully press the tissue onto the wet surface, allow to dry completely, and then coat the entire thing with a protective layer of Mod Podge.) Perhaps you can tell how very neat I am at decoupage:



ModPodging tissue paper is not an exact science, especially onto a cylindrical surface. Use tissue paper only if you're happy with an imperfect surface. If you try to get out every little wrinkle, you'll end up tearing the tissue. I just tried to flatten the surface as much as possible, then put the candles on wax paper to dry.


As you can see, I only decoupaged the napkin onto the sides of the pillar candle, leaving the top plain. This way I can burn the candles without fear of fire.

I love the way this looks when it's lit:


Please come back tomorrow and I'll show you where I'm using these! Thank you, Manuela, for a wonderful idea.

Linked to

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Thrifty treasures

Ah, 'tis spring, 'tis spring, and that means. . . March Madness. We live about 10 minutes away from Duke University and about 15 minutes from UNC-Chapel Hill, so March is usually an exciting time around here one way or the other. My mother was from Kansas, though, so I have lots of friends and family who are KU fans. This weekend was a reminder that there's no predicting what might happen in college basketball.

One thing you can always depend on, though, is finding treasures at garage sales and thrift stores in the springtime. Look at these adorable little baskets I just found:



Won't those be fun to fill with Easter candies? I've already polished the one in the foreground, and as you can see it cleaned up beautifully. These little charmers were 98 cents at Goodwill.

And this elegant footed dish was $1.98:



Of course, if I couldn't polish these beauties, I would have just spray painted them, like I spray painted my thrift-store silver pitcher for flowers. Last Sunday I bought some grocery-store flowers for my pitcher:



And this is how they looked yesterday, six days after I bought them:



Still going strong! Daisies, lilies, and alstroemeria are particularly long-lasting blooms. If I'm going to pay even grocery store prices for flowers, I like for them to last awhile.

Hope you've had a wonderful weekend! For those of you who were stumped at my "Welcome, Spring Springtime" reference, I refer you to Episode #53 of The Andy Griffith Show. "Welcome, Spring Springtime" (also known as "good old 14A") is one of the songs sung by the Mayberry Choir. Episode #53 is called "Barney Joins the Choir," in which Andy learns that Barney can't sing. . . not a lick. Anyone else out there an Andy Griffith fan?

--Linking to Rhoda's Thrifty Treasures Party

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Weekend fun

It's the first day of spring, and in Durham, North Carolina, it's sunny and 76 degrees.


Be still, my heart.

In case you missed it, I wanted to show you a little project I completed this week. I embellished a towel for my new powder room. . . with just a few minutes and no money. I love the way it turned out:



I give the extremely easy step-by-step directions in this guest post I wrote for Amanda at Imperfectly Beautiful. Click here to read the post. . . or here if you want to go to Amanda's home page. She's hosting a giveaway this weekend.

Now here's a little springtime riddle for you. Do you recognize these lyrics?


Welcome, sweet springtime, we greet thee in song;

Murmurs of gladness fall on the ear--

Voices, long hushed, now their full notes prolong,

Echoing far and near. . .


Can you name that tune?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Upside down

Today there's something I need to talk about.



image courtesy of clipclip.org


I don't think of myself as particularly naive, but I was taken aback yesterday when a thick, slick catalog from an upscale department store landed in my mailbox and included this message on the front page:

INSTANT HAPPINESS

Grab your BFF and get busy shopping for all those things you just have to have--amazing new handbags, armfuls of color, accents with attitude. . . .


Huh? Instant happiness??

I suppose this is the way a lot of us act sometimes--as if shopping for an "amazing new handbag" could bring us "instant happiness." But are we so far gone that this could be an effective advertisement?

In his masterful book The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard tells the story of a fighter pilot who was practicing high-speed maneuvers. The pilot turned the controls for what she thought was a steep ascent--and flew straight into the ground. Why? She didn't realize that she had been flying upside down.

Willard writes, "This is a parable of human existence in our times--not exactly that everyone is crashing, though there is enough of that--but most of us as individuals, and world society as a whole, live at high-speed, and often with no clue to whether we are flying upside down or right-side up."

I'm thinking that a society in which a department store can market its wares by promising "instant happiness" from shopping for purses is society in which a lot of us are indeed flying upside down. It's not the fault of the advertisers--surely this department store wouldn't make that statement if there were no one to read it and respond to it.

I'd really like to fly right-side up. I think perhaps we, the blogging community, can impact one another for good, for encouragement in right thinking--or we can drag each other down. When we read each other's blogs, we can find nuggets of truth and beauty and we can encourage one another. . . or we can be envious of one another and find an unending fuel source for our own fires of discontent.

I'll step down off my soapbox now. But I'd love to know--what do you think?


Thursday, March 18, 2010

English teacher: how to use semicolons


Back for a third installment in my series of posts about English grammar! I hope y'all are enjoying these posts and finding them helpful.



I should explain that I am not a typical English teacher. These days, most English teachers are primarily responsible for teaching literature and writing. My training specifically prepared me for teaching English grammar, which is what I love to teach, and most of my classroom experience is in teaching grammar. My degree is in secondary education in English. I've been certified to teach in two states (Tennessee and Michigan). So I'm a bona fide English teacher, but I'm a little weird.

Our first two lessons were about words that often give writers trouble: its and it's and your and you're. You can click here for the its/it's lesson and here for the your/you're lesson if you'd like to review.


Today, and from now on, I'll respond to questions posed by readers. Last week a few readers asked about the use of semi-colons. The semi-colon is a useful bit of punctuation, so here's what you need to know about it.

1. Semi-colons are used in the formation of compound or complex sentences. If you don't want to use them, you can avoid them by keeping your sentences simple. But they're a handy tool if you want to combine two independent clauses (that is, two clauses that could actually stand on their own to be complete sentences) into one sentence. You can either use a comma and a conjunction (such as and or but) between the two independent clauses, or you can use a semi-colon.

Example:
The state requires nurses to be licensed; in doing so, it ensures a basic level of competence.
"The state requires nurses to be licensed" could be a sentence all on its own. "In doing so, it ensures a basic level of competence" could be a sentence all on its own. Each of those clauses has a subject and verb. So you can't just string them together unless you have a proper way to connect them. The semi-colon provides one proper way to connect them.

2. You often see two independent clauses put together into one sentence by the use of a conjunctive adverb such as however, nevertheless, therefore, or furthermore. (Nobody really cares that these words are called conjunctive adverbs, but that's their official name.) The correct way to punctuate a sentence like this is to place a semi-colon before the conjunctive adverb and a comma after it.

Examples:
The consultant depended on the information provided by the research assistant; however, the assistant's research was flawed.
Students must complete several pre-requisite courses before they may declare the music performance major; furthermore, they must audition and be accepted into the department of music.

3. You already know that you should separate items in a series by a comma. For instance, if you're naming children to be invited to a party, you might say, "Emily wants to invite Ashley, Marianne, Sarah, Lauren, and Susie to her party." But if you're writing a series of items and those items themselves include commas, you should separate the items with semi-colons.

Examples:
They need to choose a date for their wedding. They're considering December 18, 2010; January 8, 2011; and January 15, 2011.
The conference attendees were from Durham, North Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia.
The principal considered complaints from the teachers, who first reported the incident; the students, who believed they had done nothing wrong; and parents, who wanted what was best for the students.

That pretty much sums up the use of semi-colons. As you can see, they're quite useful in making sentences logical and orderly. Sentences using a semi-colon can be pretty long and a bit complicated, but the use of the semi-colon keeps them from being confusing. And that's really the point of using punctuation--to make the written word understandable. When we speak, we can use tone of voice, inflection, and pauses to make things clear. Those tools aren't available to us when we write, so we depend on word choice and punctuation for clarity.

Please let me know what questions of grammar you'd like for me to address in these posts! I want to make this feature useful to you, so I'd love to know what you want me teach. And if you have a specific question about grammar, feel free to email me [richellap (at) gmail (dot) com]. I'll be happy to help if I can!