Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Stars and Stripes party

Centsational Girl Kate, one of the world's most delightful bloggers, is having a Stars and Stripes party today. Who could resist an invitation from Kate?

stars and stripes party button

Here's how the red, white, and blue is waving at our house.

My mother's dough cabinet is my favorite holiday decorating spot. It's sporting its Independence Day decor right now:





I keep using this chalkboard platter I created from an $0.89 plate from Goodwill, along with candlesticks I spray-painted with Old Faithful (a.k.a. Heirloom White). My little vase is proudly holding a bouquet of miniature flags. And see my cute little barn star propped against the candlesticks? It started life like this:



It was a Dollar Tree Christmas ornament. I wasn't crazy about the snowman, so I worked a little spray paint magic to transform a couple of these into patriotic decor.

Here I've used some buckets I found at Target's One Spot. I think they're intended to hold tealights. I filled two blue ones with red Christmas ornaments. The red one I filled with special July 4 Tootsie Rolls. I confess that I am a sucker for Tootsie Rolls.



Another of my favorite spots to decorate is our little screened-in porch. It contains some cheerful blue and red decor at all times, so I just amp it up a little for July 4.



The table is decorated with an old red tablecloth folded into a runner, then strewn with some ribbons from my stash. The blue pitcher works well with the red runner. I added a little flag to the daisies.


These plates are on my side table most of the year; aren't they fun? They were clearance finds at Pier One. I've added an old Teddy Bear from our attic stash. He's seated on a little bench I found last year at Target's One Spot. He's holding yet another miniature Old Glory and his bench props another Dollar Tree star.



Look closely and you'll see an ashtray and cigar cutter and lighter, all waiting for Dad to smoke a celebratory cigar. As much as I hate cigarettes, I just love cigars. My husband smokes one every now and again, and I love their aroma--as long as it's outside.




Visit Censational Girl to see lots of fun patriotic decor. Thank you, Kate, for getting us all together. A happy Independence Day to all!

How to crack eggs for free


The egg is a marvelous food item. Where else can you find a significant source of protein (6g per egg) in an easy-to-handle, neat package, all for only about 70 calories and at a cost of about ten to fifteen cents?

image courtesy of kidscientist.com

Now, the goodness of this nutritional powerhouse comes encased in a hard outer surface known as a shell. The savvy cook learns to break through this surface in order to access the goodness found within. The process of breaking through the protective surface is known by the scientific term cracking.
Here's what you need to know about the process of cracking eggs.
You will need an egg (or eggs) to crack and a vessel into which you can deposit the inner contents of the egg.
Hold the egg firmly in one hand. Tap the center of one of the longer sides of the egg lightly but sharply against the edge of your vessel. You should see a crack appear in the shell; if not, you have not tapped the egg sharply enough and you should try again.


image courtesy of healthytextures.com

Once you have established that a crack indeed exists in the shell of your egg, take the egg into both hands with the crack appearing on the upper side of the egg. Using both hands, hold your egg over the vessel and gently use your thumbs to pull the crack into a frank opening. Aim your egg slightly downward so that the contents of the egg will land in the center of the vessel. You may then dispose of the egg's shell and proceed to use the contents for any one of various culinary uses.
Bon appetit!
***Published as a public service for readers of Imparting Grace. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Permission granted to duplicate and distribute for educational purposes only.***

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hello again

Hello friends! I've been out of touch for a week, and I've missed you.

Several people asked how my husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary. I'm happy to say that this is one occasion that we really did celebrate in a big way! Our marriage has been a journey full of ups and downs, highs and lows. We've persevered through the trials and we are so grateful to have made it to this milestone--so we celebrated!

Besides, I went to Party City recently to pick up a few things, and I noticed that they had a whole section of party goods devoted to 25th anniversaries. I told my husband that any event for which Party City has a dedicated section of merchandise is an event that's worth celebrating.

We went to Paris earlier this month in celebration of this anniversary, but we wanted to do something special on the day. But the day was on a Tuesday, and it just happened to be a day when my husband had to attend a meeting in Chicago. I decided that Anniversary #25 was just too much of a big deal for us not to be together, so I found a cheap airline ticket and flew up to Chicago to join him! I felt very sophisticated, jetting off to join my husband in the big city. Especially fun was going up to the desk at the hotel and saying, "My husband left a key for me."

This was the view from our hotel room:


And guess what? We were on the 25th floor. Room 2502, to be exact. How's that for a 25th anniversary? We had fun walking around the city, and we had a wonderful dinner together. Of course, I had to come home to regular old life the next day, but my day in the city was lots of fun.

So how about you? How do you celebrate special occasions?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Silver

Today is not an ordinary day. Today, June 22, twenty-five years ago, was my wedding day.

The soloist sang that pretty song from West Side Story:

Make of our hands one hand
Make of our hearts one heart
Make of our vows one last vow--
Only death will part us now.




On this day 25 years ago, my true love and I stood before the Lord in the presence of witnesses and made promises. Lots of promises. Promises that, to tell the truth, we didn't know how to keep.

We thought we knew. We felt confident, standing there, that our marriage would be different from other marriages. We were certain that we were well-equipped. Armed with our faith, our dreams, and our incomparable, inestimable love for one another, we just knew that ours would be a marriage free from common problems.

We were wrong.

We've had the common problems. We've had some uncommon ones, too. We thought that keeping our vows to one another would be a fairly simple matter. It turned out to be a very complex matter.

25 years later, we're still learning how to keep those promises we made. We're still making the mistakes that we thought we'd never make. We're still messing things up. After all these years, we're still having to figure out what those vows meant.

But by the grace of God, we're doing it together. We're doing it imperfectly--sometimes painfully--but together.

Make of our lives one life
Day after day, one life
Now we begin, now we start--
One hand
One heart
Even death won't part us now.

--Gratefully Unwrapped with Emily at Chatting at the Sky

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's art if I say it's art

What a busy week we had here last week! I did a lot of hurrying and scurrying as I prepared to host a bridal shower on Saturday afternoon and a birthday party for my middle son on Saturday evening. I'm happy and grateful to report that a very kind air conditioning technician was able to fix our A/C unit in about 10 minutes. He had to replace a "capacitor." That sounds to me like something from Star Wars, but who cares? When cool air started coming out of those vents, I had to restrain myself from giving him a big old hug.

In addition to party preparation, we've been spending a lot of time on Lego maintenance. Did you know there is a LegoLand North Carolina? Oh, yes, there is. It's in my house.

My husband decided that the boxes and bins of Legos that lurk in every corner of our home must be tamed. To get started, he dumped some of them (not all of them, mind you) into a pile in the middle of the guest room floor.




This is an actual unretouched photo. And that's not all of our Legos. Our boys started receiving Lego sets as gifts about 15 years ago, and our collection has grown and grown and grown. Our youngest son is now a Lego entrepreneur. Really. He reviews Lego sets. He started out with a Lego blog; now he works mainly with youtube. If you ever need the inside scoop on a Lego set, you can check out LegoLee329 on youtube. He's serious about it.

So how do you decorate the room of a 13-year-old boy with a passion for Legos? Well, I made him a Lego wall hanging by decoupaging a Lego logo onto a wall plaque.




And this week we discovered another way to up the Lego decor factor:





Those are empty Lego boxes hanging on the wall. I simply taped the boxes shut and hot-glued a sawtooth hanger on the back of each one. (I measured the width of each box and carefully hot-glued a hanger right in the middle of the top edge on the back of the box.)



You could do the same thing with any kind of box. Instant, free art!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Uh-oh

It's been a busy week around here. Yesterday was my middle son's 17th birthday was yesterday. This little guy:




His golden birthday--he was 17 on the 17th! And he's an L.A. Lakers fan, so it was exciting for him to have his team win the championship on his birthday.

In addition to that, I'm hosting a bridal shower for a beautiful young woman tomorrow. Guest list of 50. SO exciting.

Except that the air conditioning on the main level of my house has stopped working. Uh-oh.

Did I mention that it's been in the 90's every day this week? Oh, boy.

Your prayers would be appreciated!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ain't nothing like the real thing

As I see it, the ideal with travel is for the traveler's horizons to be broadened, her world to be expanded, her sensibilities enlightened . . . and her heart turned toward home, where she enjoys a new appreciation for her life.

All too easily, the reality with travel is for the traveler to be so impressed with the beautiful and the exotic that she has difficulty appreciating the--well, the homeliness--of home.

On our anniversary trip, I stood inspired and enthralled by the grandeur of Notre Dame. I gasped in wonder at the loveliness of Sainte Chappelle. I marveled at the beauty of the chapel at Versailles.



And I came home to worship God in an elementary school gym.

No glorious stained glass windows. No awe-inspiring architecture. Nothing.

Nothing but the homeliness of love and kindness and acceptance and support. Nothing but family. Come to think of it, though, that's what church is. The family, not the building. Made beautiful by the presence of the Lord.

Those basketball goals never looked so good.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I love Paris in the springtime. . .


Not that I've ever been there in the fall, mind you, but it was pretty spectacular in May and early June. A few photos for those of you who have asked:



Notre Dame--love those flying buttresses



breathtaking stained glass at Sainte Chapelle


the Venus de Milo up close and personal at the Louvre


and the Mona Lisa not quite so close
(My husband had me turn my head to the right and my eyes to the left,
just like hers. What do you think?)




The Orangerie, a beautiful little gem of a museum,
where I just stood speechless at the sight of Monet's work.



a little bit of the gardens at Versailles
and a bit more


a shot of the Arc de triomphe at night

and one taken from the Arc de triomphe at night


A kind fellow tourist snapped this of the two of us.


Dear friends from church stayed at our house with our boys while we spent a week in Paris. I'm still pinching myself, wondering if it was just a dream after all.

Now please tell me: do you like to travel? Do you ever go on special trips for special occasions? What's your favorite place to visit?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

English teacher: how to use bad and badly



Don't you love it when someone asks you a question you can answer? I think there's something very rewarding about knowing something and being able to share that information with someone else. Like the other day when one of my sons queried, "How many tablespoons are in a cup?" and I was able to answer "16" without batting an eye.



In that very same way, I love it when readers ask me a question about English grammar. It makes me happy to be able to answer someone's question, to have knowledge that I can share.

This week's question: how to use bad and badly. Oh, boy.


The answer is actually pretty simple, but these words get misused so often that many people believe that the incorrect usage is correct.

Bad is an adjective, so it's used to modify nouns or pronouns. Badly is an adverb, so it's used to modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs.
  • That's a bad paint job. (bad modifies job, a noun)
  • He did that very badly. (badly modifies did, a verb)
See? Simple.

The problem occurs when people use these terms to talk about feelings. If something is bothering you, are you feeling bad or badly?

Answer: You're feeling bad. You're describing your feelings (a noun). Now, "feeling" can be an action verb, but it's not one that we use very often. For instance, if you're shopping for sweaters, you might run your hand across a number of them, feeling the texture of each one. If you were doing a poor job of running your fingertips over the surface of sweaters, you could say that you were feeling badly. If you're talking about your feelings, though, use the adjective bad.

(Technically speaking, "feel" is used here as a verb of being, or a linking verb. It is in fact the verb in the sentence "I feel bad," but it's not an action verb. It simply links the subject {I} with the adjective {bad}. Just as you would say "I am happy," not "I am happily," you would say "I feel bad," not "I feel badly.")

Examples:
  • I feel so bad. I have a terrible headache.
  • That family's house burned down. I feel really bad for them.
  • I didn't get a chance to read your post; I feel bad that I missed it.
This is an example of what I like to call grammatical irony. When little kids first learn to converse, they say that they feel bad about things. . . and their mommies instruct them to say that they feel badly. The mommies' intentions are good, of course, but in this case their grammar is bad.

Don't feel bad about saying that you feel bad. Don't let anyone tell you that you should feel badly about something. And if someone tells you that they feel badly, ask them if they injured their fingertips. (Just kidding. Another person's mistake never gives anyone the right to be rude. But you can treasure the knowledge in your own mind.)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Changing perspective

"Pride goeth before a fall." You know that proverb--your grandma quoted it to you, maybe even the whole thing from Proverbs: "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18)."

Uh, oh.

I wasn't prideful about going to Paris. I was humbled and excited at the prospect of this long-awaited anniversary trip with the love of my life. Oh, no, it wasn't that. It was how I was going to look on this trip that was my downfall.

I was not going to be just one more tourist in shorts and T-shirts, looking more as if I were headed for the gym than for some of the most beautiful and famous museums and palaces and churches in the world. I was going to treat my host city and its residents respectfully, and I was going to look tres chic while I was at it. So I carefully, lovingly, pridefully packed darling little summer dresses and comfortable but cute sandals. I even got a pedicure before I left. I meant business.

You know what's coming. On the third night of our trip, just before bed, I ran to the bathroom. And my right foot had a fight with the door facing. I'm ashamed to admit that a not-very-nice word escaped my lips as I sat down. Man, that hurt. And it hurt even worse the next morning to discover that my little toe was a sickening shade of purple--almost black.

Yep, I went to Paris with my cute clothes and shoes and proceeded to break my toe.

Luckily, I have experience with toe-breaking, my youngest son having done it twice before. I wasn't really alarmed as I iced it and elevated it and took ibuprofen--just in pain. But I certainly wasn't going to sit around in the hotel room. So I visited some of the most beautiful and famous museums and palaces and churches in the world wearing tennis shoes.

Here, for instance, in the hall of mirrors at Versailles. That would be me wearing jeans and tennis shoes in the palace.



Oh, well. My pride suffered more than my toe, as it turned out. My husband was a good sport about hailing cabs and matching his pace to my hobbling gait. My toe is mostly well now--the swelling is gone, and the bruises have faded to shades of grey and green.

And there was one good by-product of my pain. One afternoon we sat down on a park bench near the Eiffel Tower so that I could rest. My sweet husband said, "Why don't you just lie down? Put your feet up." So I did. Right there in the middle of Paris, I lay down on a park bench.

And I discovered that the view from a humble perspective was a good one.



Monday, June 7, 2010

Back in town


When I first started blogging, I was puzzled by the way bloggers sometimes wrote, "Sorry it's been so long since my last post." After all, there's no schedule for blogging, is there? Aren't people free to post as frequently or as infrequently as they want?

Now that I've been blogging regularly for a year, I get it. Whenever my blogging friends are absent for awhile, I wonder what's up with them. If they're sick, I'd like to know so that I can pray for them. If they're having a bad week, I'd like to express my concern. If they're doing something really interesting, I'd like to know that, too. In short, I like this way of sharing life and being connected to people.

So just in case you were wondering where I've been the last several days, I'll give you a hint:


The anniversary trip of a lifetime. More details later. For now, does anyone have any tips for dealing with jet lag?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

English teacher


Another Thursday of little grammar lessons!

Last Thursday I began writing about words that present special challenges to writers. Today I'd like to continue that discussion with the use of foreign words.

One of my readers asked that I write about a word that many of us use when we mean to say "Ta-da! Here it is!" That word is often pronounced "wa-lah," or, as a couple of my readers pointed out, it's more correctly pronounced "vwa-lah." If you're speaking, your listeners will hear the sound "wa-lah," and they'll know what you mean. But if you're writing, you should know that this is the French word "voila." It's a great word, and it's a fun word to use. . . you should try it. But spell it "voila."

Another such word is the Italian word that sounds like "chow." It's a wonderful, useful word that can mean "hello" or "good-bye." It is spelled "ciao."

One more Italian word we often use is the word that conveys the thought "Do you get it? Do you understand?" in one word. When English-speakers say this word, it sounds like "ka-peesh." But it's not spelled "ka-peesh," or "kapish," or even "capiche." It's spelled "capisce."

To tell the truth, I think that French and Italian people probably get a kick out of our using some of their words. But I think that if we're going to use their words, we should be respectful enough to spell them correctly. If you don't know how to spell a foreign word, simply do a quick internet search for it, spelling it however you THINK it might be spelled. You should be able to find the correct spelling pretty easily. If you want to be absolutely grammatically correct, you should also italicize a foreign word when you write it. You may not want to go that far, but I would encourage you to check your spelling. And have fun with it!

Are y'all tired of this? I want to write these posts only if they're helpful. Let me know if you'd like for me to continue!

Ciao!