Thursday, May 31, 2012

Grace at Home No. 11


Welcome to this week's Grace at Home party!

 Last week's party included some wonderful links. Here are a few of my favorites.

Terry at 11 Magnolia Lane planned a wonderful party for her 7-year-old son--and learned a lot about being flexible with kids' parties.




Erin at Two Story Cottage shared the story of a really special 16th birthday party for this beautiful girl.  A precious story.


Kari at A Grace Full Life transformed her old "Welcome Back Kotter" tables into nice lamp tables for her living room.  If you have any ugly pieces from the 70's, you'll be inspired by this post!



Many thanks to everyone who linked up!  Now for this week's party.

Grace at Home is a party for you to share anything related to making your home a place of grace. I invite you to link posts about
  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Please link to your specific blog post, not your home page, and include a link in your post back to this party.  And please visit some of the other guests--parties work when people interact!



Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A tip for using hydrangeas


I know that many of you enjoy fresh hydrangeas as much as I do.  And I'm betting that, like me, you are sometimes faced with this problem: 


Poor things.  Sometimes they just can't keep their heads together.

Here's a little trick I've learned.  Turn your hydrangea upside down, then take a twist tie and gently tie the little stems together.



Cut off any excess twist tie and turn the flower back right-side-up.  Presto!  You have a full-headed flower!



The twist tie will be hidden among all the blooms.


Here they are as part of a vignette on my porch.  Amazing how good they look in a glass jar, isn't it?



 Do you have any tips for using fresh flowers?  Please share!

**I'm joining Tips and Tutorials at Home Stories A to Z.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Free, easy, spectacular centerpieces

During one of the busiest weeks of my year, I volunteered to host a dinner party.  I may be crazy, but not completely--right now is peak hydrangea season in the South, so flowers for the party were a simple matter.



It couldn't be easier to create a beautiful arrangement of hydrangeas.  Cut your flowers in the morning before the sun gets too hot.  Then just cut the stems to fit into whatever vessel you choose, strip off most of the lower foliage, add a few drops of Clorox bleach to your water, and poke flowers into the water until you like the look.  You may choose to leave them rather loose and droopy, or do as I've done here and mass the flowers.  You can't go wrong!


I
f you're unsure about what kind of vessel to arrange your hydrangeas in, use your imagination.  I've put them in pitchers, bowls, mason jars, milk bottles, water bottles, empty sauce jars wrapped with burlap--if it'll hold water, it'll hold hydrangeas.  And if it won't hold water (like my porcelain footbath above), simply place a plastic cup or cups inside it.  Let the plastic cup hold the water and the pretty vessel just look nice. 



And just look at this variety of color!  I'm more partial to the blue flowers that result from a more acidic soil, but it surely is fun to have lots of different blooms.



Beautiful, free centerpieces that take only minutes to create.  That's my kind of decorating!




 Do you grow hydrangeas?  Or is there another flower you use to create centerpieces?  Please share!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Grace at Home No. 10

Welcome to this week's Grace at Home party!

Last week's party included some lovely links.  Thanks to everyone who joined!  Here are just a few of my favorites.

Vanessa from At the Picket Fence wrote an absolutely beautiful post about becoming a mother.  If you haven't already read her post, you should.  But have Kleenex handy!

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Courtney from The Creek Line House wrote an honest account of why it's a privilege to stay at home--but it's hard.



Cathy from Miss Grace-Filled Life wrote a wonderful, encouraging post about having a child when you're in your 40's.  Such wisdom!


Paula of Sweet Pea shared a delicious-looking recipe for Spinach and Couscous.  And Paula should get an award for being the best party participant.  She's a great example!




Now for this week's party!  Grace at Home is a party is a celebration about all the things we do to make our homes places of grace. You can link a post about
  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it. Please link up the permalink for your post, not your blog's home page. Please include a link back to the party and visit with some of the other links.  If you can help me spread the word about the party, I'd surely appreciate it.  And if you could, will you please take the time to visit at least one link just besides yours?  It's not really a party if no one visits with others.  Thank you!

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--Richella

Monday, May 21, 2012

DIY Diet Limeade (like Sonic's)


I've been a fan of Sonic Drive-In since 1976, when I first tasted a Frito Chili Pie.  My absolute favorite thing on the menu is a drink.  I love Sonic Limeade--both the regular and the cherry varieties.  And since I'm often counting calories, I especially love the Diet Limeade.

Alas--there's no Sonic in my town.  I always visit a Sonic when I come across one on a roadtrip, but that's not often enough to fulfill my desire for Limeades.  So I've come up with a way to make my own DIY version--and it's awfully good!


Here's all you need for a Diet Limeade, Sonic-style.  



You can find this key lime-flavored sparkling lime beverage at Wal-Mart.  It costs 68 cents for a 1-litre bottle at my local store.  (Note: This beverage contains aspartame, just like Diet Coke.  I know that some of you avoid artificial sweeteners; sorry I don't have a recipe for you.)  I don't like this key lime water on its own, but in this limeade, it's the magic ingredient.

Directions:

1.  Squeeze the juice of one lime into a large glass (or, if you live with lots of boys and dogs as I do, into an acrylic cup).


2.  Add a bit of sweetener if you like.  I like to add a packet of Stevia to mine.  If you prefer a very tart limeade, you can skip this step.

3.  Pour in about 12 ounces of the key lime-flavored sparkling water.  Stir well.



4.  Fill glass with ice; garnish with lime and enjoy!  Add maraschino cherries and a little of their syrup if you want a cherry limeade, but be aware that wouldn't strictly be a "diet" drink.


My mouth is watering for a cold limeade now!  What's your favorite thing to drink in the hot weather?

**I'm joining these parties:

Tutorials and Tips at Home Stories A to Z
Tutorial Tuesday at Hope Studios
Show and Tell at Be Different, Act Normal


Friday, May 18, 2012

Dealing with the ugly and the pretty


Earlier this week I wrote about beauty, including my best skincare tip.  I shared a photo that my husband had made into an art print.  I love that photo, because it's mostly about the part of me that's pretty--my red hair.  

There's another part of me that's not at all pretty.  In fact, it's ugly.  I've written about this a little before, but mostly I try not to think about it too much.  A couple of weeks ago I was reminded of it rather starkly.  Every spring, when the weather turns warm and I start wearing dresses or shorts, it happens.  This time it happened at church.  A very kind man rushed up to me and asked, "Were you hurt?"  

He asked that question is because of my birthmark.



I snapped this photo with my phone.  I was standing in a department store and caught a glimpse of myself in the full-length mirror.  The photo shows just part of my birthmark, of course.  Believe me, you don't want to see all of it.  It covers most of the right side of my body.

There's no way to sugar-coat it.  My birthmark is ugly.  It can't be removed, even with sophisticated lasers (I've tried).  It can't be covered with make-up (I've tried).  It can be hidden, of course, if I never allow my legs to show.  I've tried that, too, but that's not really the way I want to live my life.  So the only real option is to deal with the ugly.

Over the years many people have said to me, "Oh, you should realize that your birthmark is beautiful, because this is just how God planned for you to be."  I don't believe this is true. My birthmark is part of a rare disease called Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome, and disease was not part of God's plan for us when he created everything.  Disease entered the world after Adam and Eve had chose to sin against God.  What is true is that God is in charge of everything, and He did allow disease to enter the world.  But there's quite a big difference between God's causing something to happen and His allowing something to happen.  

God did allow me to have Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome, and with it this birthmark. And one thing I know for sure about God is that if He allows something to happen, He wants to redeem it.  He can bring healing and beauty into the most difficult of circumstances.  

Many people toss around the sentiment, "God must be teaching you something."  Well, that's true in some ways, although perhaps not always in the way that people mean.  I've learned a lot from having this birthmark--some of it good, some of it bad.  It's taken a long time to sort the truth from the lies.  But I'll tell you the most important thing that God has taught me because of my birthmark:

God loves me.  The whole package of me, God loves.

When I look at myself, I like the view that includes my pretty red hair.  I don't like the view that includes my ugly red birthmark.  It's hard to deal with something ugly. But the ugly birthmark is part of me.  It's an important part of my story, and my story is good.  My story is one of redemption.  My story tells that God is good and faithful and patient and loving.  With John I can say,

"This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you,
that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all (I John 1:5).

But God loves all of me, the pretty and the ugly.  Just as He loves all of you.  

Do you have a story that includes both the pretty and the ugly?  I'd love to hear it!

**I'm joining these wonderful link parties:



Thursday, May 17, 2012

Grace at Home on a special day

Today is May 17, 2012, and it's time for the weekly Grace at Home party!

But first, I want to tell you why today is so special in my home. My eldest son, Will, was born on this day back in 1991. Today is his 21st birthday!

Will is a joy and a delight, a man of God who is a blessing to all who know him--most particularly to his mom.  I'm so blessed to be the mom of three wonderful boys. It's an amazing privilege to watch them grow into adulthood.

What I'd really like to do is to show you dozens of photos of Will from all stages of his life, but I don't want to embarrass him. Still, I'll share this one from what seems like just a short time ago, but is actually from 1991:


And this one from just a few weeks ago.


And I'll say it once more: the years go by really fast!  If I were to give one piece of advice to a new parent, it would be to make your family a place where grace reigns--grace for your kids and grace for yourself.  Be grateful for God's grace and model yourself after Him!

Now for this week's party!  Grace at Home is a party is a celebration about all the things we do to make our homes places of grace. You can link a post about

  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it. Please link up the permalink for your post, not your blog's home page. Please include a link back to the party and visit with some of the other links.  If you can help me spread the word about the party, I'd surely appreciate it.  And since today is such a special day for me, could I ask a favor?  Could you please take the time to visit the link just before yours?  It's not really a party if no one visits with others.  Thank you!

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A health tip and a beauty question

Earlier this week I shared my very best skincare tip, and I showed you a special photo of me from back when I was 45 years old.  I stand by my advice to make peace with your fair skin instead of spending time in the sun.  But my health-conscious friend Anne recently clued me in to an important health fact:  many women are deficient in Vitamin D.

Sunlight is an important source of Vitamin D.  If you're protecting your skin from exposure to the sun, you may not be getting enough Vitamin D.  Your physician can perform a simple test to determine whether you're deficient and whether you might need a Vitamin D supplement.

Do be careful.  Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, and taking too much isn't good for your body.  If you do an internet search regarding vitamin supplementation, you may find all kinds of contradictory advice.  I'd suggest that you avoid huge doses of any vitamin.  But vitamin and mineral supplements can be very helpful, and many women do need more vitamin D than they're getting.  I thought this article about vitamin D supplementation was helpful; perhaps it will help you, too.

Now I want to share a couple of photos that my husband took of me this past weekend.  These aren't very glamorous--they were taken on our front porch.  But I want to show you how much more white there is in my hair than there was just a few years ago.

My red hair has a good many blonde highlights, but most of the light pieces you see here are white. 


The photo below really shows off the white hairs--and demonstrates why Jack usually takes my picture when I'm wearing sunglasses.  I can never seem to keep my eyes open in photographs!  It also shows that I have gum in my mouth.  Sheesh.



As you can see, my skin hasn't aged much in the past three years, but my hair certainly has!  And I've never colored my hair before, so I'm kind of scared about it.  I'd like to ask you:  Do you color your hair?  If so, do you do it yourself or have it done by a professional?  Have any recommendations for a novice?

**By the way, if you're looking for good beauty tips (for both inner and outer beauty) you should check out my friend Cyndi's blog, Walking in Grace and Beauty.**  

Monday, May 14, 2012

My best skincare tip--and a love story


I'm often asked if my hair color is natural.  The answer is yes.  I'm a redhead through and through--red hair, green eyes, fair skin.  Luckily, my husband thinks red hair is beautiful.  He likes to take photos of me, like this one:



This was taken after a week at the beach, mind you.  Notice how my white top shows off my savage tan.  Ahem.

The truth is, my skin WILL tan if I let it.  But my very best skincare tip, which comes straight from the heart of an aging redhead, is this:

Make peace with light-colored skin.

Now, if we're truthful, most of us will admit that we think that everyone looks better if they have a bit of tan.  Pale skin reminds us of sickness; tanned skin makes us think of youth and vitality.  But there's something you should know:  unless you are naturally dark-complexioned, the skin that looks so pretty and bronzed today is not going to look good when you're my age.  

I'm 48 years old.  The photo above was taken when I was 45.  Obviously my skin isn't perfect; there are some crow's feet hiding behind those sunglasses, I have some freckling on my face, and I have lots of moles.  But I've watched as my sun-loving peers--the ones whose tans I used to envy--have developed skin that's really spotted. What was smooth, beautifully tanned, healthy-looking skin when we were in our teens, 20's, and early 30's is now, in our late 40's, covered in age spots.  The delicate skin of the neckline and decolletage areas are particularly susceptible areas, it seems. 

Believe me, I understand that you may prefer the look of tanned skin.  But that tanned look on fair-skinned people is actually sun damage, and it'll come back to haunt you.  I know that the risk of skin cancer often can seem awfully remote, and meanwhile, we all want our skin to have a healthy-looking glow.  Trust me on this, though: if you spend a lot of time in the sun or in a tanning bed, you can end up with unsightly spotting and wrinkling--not when you're 80, but when you're in your 40's!  If you really, really want the look of tanned skin, find a sunless tanner you like and use it.  Meanwhile, use your sunscreen and be grateful for your smooth skin.

Now for the love story part of this post.  The story has to do with that photo of me above.  My husband Jack took that picture at the beach in the summertime.  At Christmastime that year, he told me that he wanted something particular for his Christmas gift from me and that he would like to order his own present.  That was a  highly unusual request for Jack, but he promised me that what he wanted was a good thing, so I agreed to the plan.  I wondered what he could be wanting--a big flat-screen TV?  something special for his car?  I had no clue.  He ordered the mysterious item online, but wouldn't give me any hints about it.  A couple of weeks later, a huge box appeared on our front porch.  By this time my curiosity was really piqued.  When Jack opened the package, I let out a little scream.  Want to see what it was?



It's that photo that he took, turned into a Lichtenstein-style piece of art.  He ordered it from allpopart.com.

This photo will give you an idea of its size--it measures 3 1/2 x 4 1/2 feet!



It hangs in our bathroom, on the wall to the right of Jack's vanity, where my image can inspire him (or haunt him!) every day.

Isn't that the sweetest thing?  God bless that man.  This year we'll celebrate our 27th anniversary, and he still likes to take pictures of me.  My hair now has a number of white hairs mixed in with the red,  but I still don't have age spots.  I'm really glad I learned to live at peace with my fair skin. 

Note:  There are lots of good sunscreens and sunless tanners available for reasonable prices.  For protecting my face, neck, and chest on an everyday basis, I particularly like Olay Complete moisturizer with sunscreen--it's a great moisturizer and the sunscreen is effective.  I have no affiliation with Olay, but I love their product--I'm living proof that it works!  I also wear big UV-blocking sunglasses (as you can see in the photo).  When I go to the beach, in addition to sunscreen, I lounge under an umbrella, wear a big hat, and wear a UV-blocking shirt when I'm playing in the water.  I also keep the sunroof in my car closed during the day--it's a "moonroof" for me.

So what about you?  Are you fair-skinned or a bronzed beauty?  Have any favorite products you'd recommend?  Please share!

I'm joining Beth at Home Stories A to Z for Tutorials and Tips.  




Saturday, May 12, 2012

The privilege of being a mother


It's Mother's Day weekend, and I am so grateful to be the mom of these wonderful young men!
Today I've been pondering what an awe-inspiring privilege it is to be a mother. I've been a mom for 21 years, and sometimes it still scares me stiff!  It really is, as the saying goes, "the hardest job you'll ever love." As I think about the privilege of being a mother, I'd like to share with you a post I wrote about praying for our children. This was originally published at the blog of my friends Vanessa and Heather, At the Picket Fence.  Now I'm glad to share these thoughts here.

Praying for Our Children

Prayer is a complex and multi-faceted subject. If you're like me, you've read and heard a lot about prayer. Sometimes it seems that we can spend so much time learning about prayer that we struggle to find time to pray! While this is obviously not a complete definition of prayer, one of my favorite teachings about prayer is very simple: "Prayer is talking with God about what you and He are doing together."

Surely there's no activity that more clearly demonstrates our working together with God and our dependence on Him than that of parenthood. "Children are a heritage from the Lord," we read in Psalm 127, and we know it's true. Being part of the miracle of creating and sustaining life is one of the greatest privileges God gives us; we know we could never do it on our own.


We love our children so much, and we always want the best for them. But sometimes we find ourselves faced with particularly trying circumstances, and our prayers take on special meaning. For my family, those trying circumstances have often come through the challenges of illness. My husband and two of my sons have a genetic condition called Marfan Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder which can involve great difficulty and even danger.

I remember so well the month of April 2008, when our then-14-year-old son Preston had to have major open-heart surgery. For years we had hoped and prayed that medication and monitoring might prevent his needing surgery, but that was not to be. Surgery was necessary to replace his ascending aorta with a polyester graft and his aortic valve with an artificial valve.

I'll never forget one particular scene from the day of Preston's surgery. For weeks I had held things together pretty well, doing all the big and little things required of me. And I kept a smile on my face in pre-op, staying calm when they wheeled Preston away and quiet as we took our seats in the waiting room. Several friends had gathered there to wait with Jack and me. We were all chatting cheerfully when one of the nurses called the waiting room from the Operating Room. The receptionist matter-of-factly relayed the message: "The surgeon wants you to know that Preston is safely under anesthesia and they've made the incision," she said. "Thank you very much," I answered. Then I burst into tears.

As I sobbed, my friends circled around me. My friend Anne took my hand and said, "Let's pray right now." Right there, in front of the whole waiting room, loud enough for everyone to hear, my friends prayed. They lifted Preston and the medical team and Jack and me to God, and they asked for every good thing. Five days later, Preston went home from the hospital.

That crisis was one I couldn't have weathered by myself. I was helpless to heal Preston, helpless to affect the outcome of the surgery, helpless even to keep myself calm and peaceful. God alone could provide what was needed.

Of course, the time of Preston's surgery was really just a special example of what God does for us every day. Most days we don't feel as helpless and dependent as I felt that day, but the truth is that we wouldn't even have air to breathe if it weren't for the goodness and grace of God. Were it not for God's grace, we wouldn't have our children, much less be able to care for them. Oh, yes! Parenthood is definitely something that we and God are doing together!

But to tell the truth, God doesn't always answer prayers as we'd like. Sometimes terrible things happen to children of parents who pray for them earnestly and faithfully. Theologians of different persuasions offer various explanations for this; they refer to it "the problem of evil." Some of their explanations are helpful; others are not. The humbling reality is that we don't understand exactly how God works. We don't know why some prayers are answered "yes" and some are answered "no." Some things are a mystery to us.

One thing we can know for sure, though: God loves us. "We know and rely on the love God has for us" (I John 4:16). When it comes to our children, we struggle. We cry. We're afraid. Sometimes the things we fear come to pass. But when we pray for our children, we're staking a claim. We're saying that we trust God. We're depending on Him for the very best for our children. God alone is strong enough overcome the most difficult of circumstances. Not even the things we fear most can separate us from God's love in Christ (Romans 8:38-39).

As we pray for our children, we're becoming people who know--really know--that God is good. We thank Him for blessing us with our kids. We humbly rely on Him as we do the work with which He's entrusted us. We humble ourselves before Him and spend time with Him, and He changes our hearts to be more like the heart of Christ. As we become more Christlike, we want to spend more time with him. Then when we spend more time with Him, He changes our hearts some more. Just like parenting, our growth in Christlikeness is completely dependent upon God--but God has given us work to do. We are working together with God. We have a lot to talk with Him about, don't we?

Happy Mother's Day, my fellow moms!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Grace at Home No. 8

Hello friends! It's time for the weekly Grace at Home party, where we celebrate all the things we do to make our homes places of grace. Here are some highlights from last week's party.

I loved the organization and cute look of the DIY fabric bolts created by One Thrifty Chick.



The creative gal behind Magazine Your Home shared a lovely new mantelscape.


Laura from Happy Canadian Home shared some yummy recipes, including this one for Lemon Coffee Cake.  My husband would love this!



And Becky from offered some excellent thoughts about hospitality in her post When the Queen of Sheba Comes to Visit.  You should read this!


Time Out: Devotions for Moms by Becky Kopitzke


There were lots of other wonderful links, too, and I really appreciate everyone who joined.  Now for this week's party!  This party is a celebration about all the things we do to make our homes places of grace. You can link a post about

  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it. Please link up the permalink for your post, not your blog's home page. Please include a link back to the party and visit with some of the other links.  And if you can help me spread the word about the party, I'd surely appreciate it!

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Inexpensive tabletop accessories


Inspired by the talent and style of Jenni from Dear Lillie, I created some very inexpensive tabletop accessories for my screened porch. Here's my new vignette:




The finial is a cheap resin piece that I found at a thrift store for $1.99.  It was an ugly green, but I liked the shape.  I spray-painted it with some fleck stone paint and then gave it a coat of Rustoleum's Heirloom White.  Then I simply distressed it a bit with sandpaper.  I think it looks cool now!


The sphere is just a styrofoam ball to which I hot-glued preserved sheet moss.  My WalMart now carries packages of sheet moss for a very reasonable price; it's in the craft/floral section.


With the same package of sheet moss, I created these cute little birdhouses.  The larger one is from Dollar Tree; the tiny one is from Target's One Spot.  I spray-painted both of them Heirloom White, glued moss to the roofs, and trimmed the moss with scissors.  Super-easy!

The ivy plant is potted in an "aged" terra cotta pot that I made myself.  You can read the tutorial for the pots here.  The outdoor lamp I've had for years and years.

My screened porch is a continual work in progress, but I'm happy with this tabletop now--with less than $8.00 and some spray paint from my stash, I think I've created a serene little scene.  Since our porches get a lot of use, I love to decorate them with elements that aren't too precious.  If one of these things breaks, there will be no weeping and gnashing of teeth.




Do you decorate outdoor spaces?  Do you have any ideas for pretty, inexpensive accessories?  Please share!

**I'm joining some fun link parties: