Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 in review


I can scarcely believe that 2012 is nearly over!  I've always heard that the older you get, the faster time flies.  I believe it!

Here are a few of my favorite projects from this year.

I dabbled with homemade chalk painting and turned an old chest from Bombay Co. into a pretty nightstand:

Then I re-did the guest room around the new nightstand!


I turned our bonus room into a very functional space for very little money.


I made some pretty updates to our screened porch for just a few dollars.


I created a gallery wall of mirrors in our master bedroom.


Speaking of mirrors, I made one myself--a clothespin sunburst mirror for the laundry room.

And my favorite project of all was re-doing our "outdoor living room," also known as the front porch.


All in all, it's been a good year at our house; I hope it's been a good year at your house, too!


Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Christmas Walk Down Memory Lane


As I stand here in my kitchen, up to my ears in Christmas candy and dirty dishes, I am reminded of my mom at Christmastime.  I remember the fun we had at Christmas--making fudge and date nut balls and homemade caramels and all the rest.  And the decorating--oh, the decorating!  I can still see the Santa door hanging with a red button for a nose. If you pushed his nose, he recited a special Christmas greeting.  To this day I can remember his little speech word for word.

Here's a special Christmas memory of mine.  I first wrote this a few years ago, but it seems worth sharing again.



Christmas, particularly Advent, is a season of anticipation. For many, though, Christmas is also a season of remembering. At times it can seem that we are caught up like Ebenezer in a visitation of the Spirit of Christmas Past. So it was for me last week, when I went out into my yard to clip magnolia branches for my Christmas decorations.

Suddenly I was once again a new mom, very young and struggling to make ends meet. I lived with my husband and my darling six-month-old son in Michigan, 500 miles away from our families in Tennessee. We had just bought our first house, and I wanted it to look special for Christmas, but my budget was very limited. Naturally, I looked outdoors for greenery to bring inside. And there I stopped, as I realized that there were no big magnolia trees in Michigan. No beautiful waxy leaves to arrange just so atop a mantelpiece or in a windowsill. I had spent all my life in the South, and Christmas just didn't seem like Christmas without magnolia leaves decking the halls.


My mother called, as she often did, and I lamented the lack of magnolia leaves. "Oh," she said. "I never thought about the fact that magnolias don't grow in Michigan."

"There are lots of magnolias here," I answered, "just not the evergreen kind. Not the grandiflora with the big beautiful leaves that I want."

"Too bad you can't pop down here for a few minutes," Mama mused. "Nancy (one of her best friends) has four huge trees right in her front yard."

"Wouldn't that be nice?" I answered. And the conversation drifted to other topics.

A few days later, the UPS truck stopped in front of our house. The man in brown walked to the door, bearing a huge box and wearing a puzzled expression. As I signed for the package, he shook his head and said, "I can't imagine what could be in this box. It weighs almost nothing."

Puzzled, I accepted the package from him. It was addressed to me, and it was from my mother. I eagerly tore it open to discover branch after branch of magnolia, each stem carefully wrapped in damp paper towels and encased in plastic bags. As fresh as if they'd just been cut. Mama had visited Nancy and collected magnolia cuttings, then boxed them up and sent them to me.


It's now been many years since my mother died.  I am grateful that I moved back to the South before she went to be with the Lord. I was there when she passed from this life.

I can collect my own magnolia leaves now. But every time I do, I can't help but remember the time that my mother understood that my soul needed a bit of home. And since I couldn't get it for myself, she had it delivered. Via God and UPS.




Friday, December 21, 2012

Feature at Southern Hospitality


I'm so excited to be featured at Southern Hospitality today.  Rhoda is such a dear person, and I'm honored to be her guest today.  Check out her post here!

And if you're visiting here from Southern Hospitality, welcome!  I'm so glad to have you.  Come on in; the door's open!


If you'd like to look around a bit while you're here, you might want to check out the "My Heart" and "My Home" tabs at the top of the page.  They'll give you an idea of what Imparting Grace is all about.


I'd love to have every one of you sit right here in the kitchen with me.  We could have a cup of coffee and visit. . . .


You might like to know that I host a weekly party to celebrate the ways we make our homes places of grace.  Grace at Home runs every Thursday, and I'd love to have you join us.


Again, many thanks to Rhoda for the feature!  Please pay Rhoda a visit and leave her a comment.  She is a bright spot in the world of blogging!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Grace at Home No. 39--Welcome!


Welcome, friends!  I'm so glad you're here for this week's Grace at Home party.  Every Thursday, week after week, I host this little party to celebrate the ways we make our homes places of grace.


At this point I usually feature some of my favorite posts from last week's party.  But last Thursday, none of us had any idea how tragedy would pierce our hearts the very next day.  Last Friday's shootings in Newtown, Connecticut cut us to the very quick.  Our hearts are broken at the deaths of the precious children and school staff members.

As I reflected on the horrors of last Friday's events, I realized afresh how much we need God's grace, and what a privilege it is to try to make our homes a reflection of that grace.  My prayer is that this little party can encourage us to persevere in that effort.

Now more than ever, we thank God for his grace.

What are you doing to make your home a place of grace?  Share it with us!



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas House Tour


The halls are decked and our house is ready for Christmas.  Join me for a tour!

The front porch:


Since the porch is an outdoor living room, I like having a Christmas tree in the corner!


Inside, our decorations are simple this year.  Our son Preston had surgery on December 14, and I had just didn't have time or energy to get out every decoration.  But I think things still look festive, so I'm really glad for you to come in.

Opening the door:


Peeking inside:


And now with the door thrown open wide:


Just inside the front door, looking into Jack's study:


The study:


The cowhide ottoman was a new purchase this year.  It's one of my favorite things and brings a touch of whimsy to this very traditional room.  Just look at the texture of the hide:


The simple mantel in the study:

The living room mantel:

And on the other end of the living room, our tree:

The dining room:


The kitchen:

Yes, that's a Lego Advent calendar on the counter.  Of course.
(Pottery Barn-inspired NO√čL tutorial here)
(Peppermint stick candle tutorial here)

And the screened porch:



I'm joining these wonderful parties:
Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style

Monday, December 17, 2012

Home for the Holy Days 2012


Welcome to the second annual Home for the Holy Days party!

For Christians, Christmas is a special time to celebrate the birth of Christ.  Of course, the Bible does not tell us the date of Jesus's birth, nor does it require that the birth of Christ be celebrated in any particular way.  But over the centuries since Christ lived on earth, churches have adopted the tradition of looking forward to the coming of Christ during the season of Advent and celebrating the birth of Christ on Christmas.  This special remembrance is good for our souls.

Yet amidst all the hustle and bustle of this season, it's easy to become overwhelmed and to forget what Christmas is all about.  This party is a celebration of the ways we keep our focus on Christ at this busy time of year.

At our house, a lot of Christmas decor is centered on Christ.  First of all, our tree is always situated in the corner of living room, right alongside my cross collection.  I like this reminder of the fact that what began at the manger was completed at the cross.


We have a number of nativity scenes, as well.  One of my favorites is this candle trio from Dayspring.



This is a new nativity set.  Our oldest son, Will, went to Israel last year as part of a Duke University class.  He spent New Year's Eve in Bethlehem, and he brought me this sweet nativity set made there.



We also have an Advent wreath. Lighting a candle on each of the four Sundays of Advent is a special way to remember the season.


One of our most treasured traditions is attending our church's Christmas Eve service.  Although neither of us grew up attending a Christmas Eve service, Jack and I started this practice when our boys were very small.  This is one of my favorite services of all the year.  For several years now, Preston has read the passage from Luke 2 about the birth of Jesus.

Last year we got to add another service to our Christmas Eve remembrance.  Will was asked to be a reader at the Duke University Chapel 11:00 P.M. service of Lessons and Carols.  This is a particularly beautiful service that's always jam-packed with people.  Because Will was part of the program, we had reserved seats right at the front of the chapel.  Being there all together was a great gift.

Now, what about you?  What do you do to keep the focus on Christ at Christmastime?  Link a post about your Christmas decor, traditions, favorite books--anything that's special to you. If you've written a a Christmas devotional, I'd love to read that, too! Be sure to link to your specific post, not your blog's home page, and please include a link to this party.  If you don't have a blog, feel free to link to a Facebook post or leave a comment describing your traditions.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dollar Store Gifts



This week I participated in a Dollar Store Holiday Decorating Challenge.  I made peppermint stick candles.  While I was browsing around the dollar store, I noticed several things I thought would make good gifts.  So in addition to the peppermint sticks and candles, I brought home several other goodies.

Here are the gift items I came up with.  Maybe you could use some of them, too!
Personalized cookie spatula:
I just used a Sharpie to add a name to a wood-handled spatula.  I've had one of these spatulas for years and just love it--it's a great little tool and very sturdy.  I made one for a friend and made this one for myself.  


Back scratcher:
Again, I used a Sharpie and free-handed "Quid pro quo" onto the backscratcher's handle.  Get it?

Cinnamon stick candles:

I simply cut cinnamon sticks the same length as the height of two pillar candles and hot-glued them on.

Cinnamon stick ornament:
This is just three cinnamon sticks tied with a bright bow.  I attached an ornament hanger to make it easy to place on the tree.  This would also be great tied on top of a package.

Note:  To make my cinnamon stick creations even more delectable, I rub some of this oil onto each cinnamon stick.  You can't buy this at the dollar store, but I think it's worth the investment.  This is my favorite Christmas scent, and the cinnamon sticks are the perfect absorbent surface.


Lavender bath salts:
I simply poured some lavender-scented epsom salts into a jar and added a tag.  These smell wonderful!

Hand and body scrub:
I mixed some plain Epsom salts with extra-virgin olive oil to create this pretty citron-colored scrub.  It exfoliates and moisturizes.  (You can use any kind of salt and any kind of oil for this.  Sometimes I use Tropicana suntan oil, and the mixture smells like the beach!)

Hot cocoa mug:

I poured a cup's worth of hot cocoa mix into a disposable cake decorating bag, added some marshmallows to the top, and tied it with twine and a tag.
Then I simply placed the cocoa mix into a dollar store mug along with a giant peppermint stick.  

Note:  My "tags" are just pieces of cardstock.  I used Microsoft Word to create the messages and just printed in the colors I liked, then cut the tags out with scissors.  Not very sophisticated, but it works!

Do you ever use dollar store items to make gifts?  I'd love to hear about them!

**Don't forget that the "Home for the Holy Days" link party here on Monday, December 17!**


**I'm joining Amanda at Serenity Now for Weekend Bloggy Reading.**