Thursday, October 26, 2017

Grace at Home No. 272


Happy Thursday! Y'all, today is the last Thursday in October. Can you believe it?

I'm so grateful you're here for the Grace at Home party, where we celebrate the ways we make our homes places of grace. Here are some links from last week's party that caught my eye:

Many of you have decorated your homes for Halloween, but starting next week you may want to transition to a Fall/Thanksgiving theme instead. Lindsey from Repurpose and Upcycle shows how you can decorate your home for Fall in just a few minutes.


Amanda from Sincerely Marie recently re-did a laundry room/powder room into this beauty, and would you believe that floor is not made of real bricks? Check out her post to see how she got this look for a fraction of the cost of a real brick floor.


Joy from Artful Homemaking shares some great tips for how to keep your home without losing your mind in her post 7 Habits of Highly Effective Homemakers.


I don't know about you, but the cooler temperatures of Fall make me want comfort food. . . yet the busy days of Fall make me want easy recipes. So I was glad to see that Jas from All That's Jas rounded up 25 casserole recipes.


Tiffiney from Welcome Home Ministry offered some much-needed words of wisdom for moms who struggle with the fact that they're not perfect. Love this post!


A big thank you to everyone who joined last week's party!  I'm so grateful for each person who links up each week. If you've been featured, feel free to grab the "I was featured" button.  I'd be so proud if you displayed it!


Now for this week's party!  Grace at Home is a place 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
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  Note that if you link a post here, you are giving me permission to share your post, including a photo.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!





Thursday, October 19, 2017

Grace at Home No. 271


Welcome! I'm glad you're here for this week's Grace at Home party.

Here are some links from last week's party that caught my eye.

Lindsey from Repurpose and Upcycle gave us some great tips for decorating a mantel for any season.


Leslie at From Playdates to Parties gathered some adorable Halloween costumes for little kids. Makes me wish I still had little kids!


Kimberly from LouLou Girls shared a recipe for a sheet pan dinner featuring steak. Doesn't this look delicious?


Karmen at Chairs from the Curb made me laugh out loud with her post, "One More Robot." Apparently Karmen's husband is a techie and she is not. . . oh, you'll just have to read it!


As for me, I did something unusual this week—I got a jump on Christmas preparations! I'd love for you to take a look at the sentimental Christmas ornament I created from one of my mother's old recipe cards.


A big thank you to everyone who joined last week's party!  I'm so grateful for each person who links up each week. If you've been featured, feel free to grab the "I was featured" button.  I'd be so proud if you displayed it!


Now for this week's party!  Grace at Home is a place 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
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  Note that if you link a post here, you are giving me permission to share your post, including a photo.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!





Saturday, October 14, 2017

How to capture a memory in a Christmas ornament


I know it's only the middle of October, but I've been doing a little bit of Christmas crafting, and I'm excited to share an idea for a homemade ornament with you.

Christmas recipe card ornament

I've had a good reason for my early crafting--I was delighted to be asked to join a group of bloggers who are creating handmade ornaments all month long!


Now, I'll have to give you some backstory for my ornament. I know it's not the most beautiful ornament you've ever seen. To be honest, my Christmas decorating follows more along sentimental lines than showy ones; you can take a look at my home decorated for last Christmas here to see what I mean.

But even more than that, Christmas is a time when I think of my mom. How she loved Christmas! From the time I was very small, when our family had very little money, all the way through more prosperous times, my mother made Christmas at our house a time to remember. She taught me to do the same in my own home. (Click here to read a very special Christmas memory of her!) She died back in 1999, and I miss her most at Christmastime.

Ever since my mom died, I've especially valued anything handwritten by her. I wish now that I'd saved every card and letter she ever sent me. It's not that her handwriting was special; it's just that it was a very particular part of her. I'd recognize her handwriting anywhere!

You can imagine how much I prize her handwritten recipe cards, like this one:


Her friend Bonnie gave my mom this recipe for Date Nut Balls, and my mother made them only at Christmastime. Can you see how the recipe card is yellowed? That's partly from age, of course, but it's mostly from having been used a lot!

I decided to make an ornament that would capture this wonderful Christmas memory.

First, I made a photocopy of the recipe; the original is in my recipe box, safe and sound. Then I found a simple piece of craft wood that was about the size of my recipe card. Nothing special here; any piece of wood would do. Since I made this I've found these pretty little wood plaques;I think they would work better. A piece of barn wood would be great, too.


The process for making the ornament couldn't be simpler. I just decoupaged the photocopy of the recipe to the piece of wood using Mod Podge.Since my recipe card was close to the color of the wood, I left the wood untreated; you could also paint the wood, especially if you had a piece a little larger than your card all around.

I added a Santa hat sticker in the corner for a bit of color and to commemorate the fact that my mother had a huge collection of Santas. The Santa hat I used was just a scrapbook sticker like this.To create a hanger, I hot-glued a piece of twine to the back of the card. That's it!


You can see in this photo that I used glossy Mod Podge, because that's what I had on hand. If I were starting over, I'd use the matte finish Mod Podge;I think that would look better.

As I said, it won't be the most beautiful ornament on the tree, but it will be full of the most beautiful memories!

Christmas recipe card ornament


You could do the same thing with a special note, a card, or any other precious memento. You could make it as simple as what I've shown here, or you could really make it fancy. Or to be even easier, you could just glue a ribbon to the back of the card and hang it on the tree! The important thing is the memory and the way it will warm your heart each time you see it.

Looking for lots of great Christmas ornament tutorials? You can follow the Handmade Christmas Ornaments Pinterest page so you don't miss a thing, or check out all the links here:

Here are all 31 Bloggers in order of their appearance:

Day 1 - Pet Scribbles | Day 2 - Yesterday on Tuesday
Day 3 - Cupcakes and Crinoline | Day 4 - An Extraordinary Day
Day 5 - Celebrating Everyday Life | Day 6 - Hunt and Host
Day 7 - Love of Home | Day 8 - Celebrate Creativity
Day 9 - Petticoat Junktion | Day 10 - What Meegan Makes
Day 11 - Atta Girl Says | Day 12 - Sweet Pea
Day 13 - Exquisitely Unremarkable | Day 14 - Imparting Grace
Day 15 - In My Own Style | Day 16 - 504 Main by Holly Lefevre
Day 17 - Inspiration for Moms | Day 18 - The Chelsea Project
Day 19 - I Should Be Mopping the Floor
Day 20 - My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia | Day 21 - Hearth and Vine
Day 22 - Shabby Art Boutique | Day 23 - Remodelando la Casa
Day 24 - Domestically Speaking | Day 25 - Swoodson Says
Day 26 - Stone Gable | Day 27 - My Creative Days
Day 28 - The Crafting Nook | Day 29 - Knick of Time
Day 30 - Lovely Etc. | Day 31 - Live Laugh Rowe


Now, tell me: do you have a Christmas memory you'd like to capture in an ornament? I'd love to hear!


*This post contains affiliate links.
If you make a purchase after clicking on these links, 
I will earn a small commission. 
Your price will not be affected in any way.
View my full disclosure policy here.*

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Grace at Home No. 270


Welcome! I'm so glad you're here for the weekly Grace at Home party, where we celebrate the ways we make our homes places of grace and beauty.

Here are some links from last week's party I thought you might enjoy.

Amanda from Sincerely Marie Designs created this beautiful pine cone tassel, and she teaches us how to make one as well. Bonus: she made hers from scented pine cones, so it smells heavenly!


Precious Fabby of Fabby's Living shows us her kitchen decorated for fall and also tells us about her custom of hosting a monthly rosary luncheon. When I grow up, I want to be more like Fabby!



Want to read a story of God's goodness and the power of prayer? Then check out this post from Theresa at Shoestring Elegance. Have tissues handy!


I think the Autumn makes a lot of us want to get back to baking, don't you? Especially if we can bake something containing pumpkin or apples! Jas from All That's Jas is a baking master, and she shares her recipe for Bavarian Apple Oatmeal Streusel Cheesecake. Doesn't that sound amazing?


As for baking with pumpkin, I shared my pumpkin bread recipe, which is my most-requested recipe of all time. I'm not exaggerating when I say this is the very best pumpkin bread I've ever tried! I'd love for you to take a look.


A big thank you to everyone who joined last week's party!  I'm so grateful for each person who links up each week. If you've been featured, feel free to grab the "I was featured" button.  I'd be so proud if you displayed it!


Now for this week's party!  Grace at Home is a place 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
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  Note that if you link a post here, you are giving me permission to share your post, including a photo.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!







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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

My most-requested recipe:
Best Pumpkin Bread Ever


We all have at least one prize-winning recipe, don't we? One that we make over and over, always to rave reviews. One that people always ask us for.

No doubt about it: my most-requested recipe is for pumpkin bread.

Best Pumpkin Bread

I know there are lots of recipes for pumpkin bread. You may already have one (or several) in your recipe files. And of course a quick internet search will yield many more. But I'm telling you, this one is special.  

When I got married in 1985, one of my favorite gifts was a wooden recipe box from my Aunt Laura. Inside the box were several recipes she had painstakingly copied by hand, and this pumpkin bread was one of those. Unbeknownst to her, by the time she gave me my own copy of this recipe, I'd already baked it several times in my mother's kitchen! 

It's easy to be impressed by recipes from famous chefs or magazines, and I do admire most of those recipes. But I'd be happy to have this bread judged against any of those. It hasn't necessarily been verified by a professional test kitchen, but I've made it hundreds of times over the years and I've never had it fail. And over the years I've eaten pumpkin bread made by lots of different home cooks as well as many different professional bakeries.  Cross my heart: this is the best pumpkin bread I've ever tasted.
Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients

3 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 Tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons)* salt
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup vegetable oil (I use canola oil)
4 large eggs
2 cups pumpkin purée (I use Libby's solid pack pumpkin, 15 oz. can)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Optional: 2-3 cups chopped nuts (I use walnuts or pecans)

*If you like to bake, do yourself a huge favor and spend a couple of dollars to order these measuring spoons. The set includes 6 spoons: 1/8 teaspoon, 1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, 1/2 Tablespoon, and 1 Tablespoon. Having all six of these makes measuring so much easier! These wash beautifully in the dishwasher and last for years.



Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If you're including nuts, spread them on a baking sheet and roast for about five minutes. This will make them a much tastier addition to your bread. Coarsely chop toasted nuts.

Stir all dry ingredients together in mixer bowl. Add all liquid ingredients. Mix well. Stir in chopped nuts if desired. 

Note: I often make two medium-sized loaves with nuts and two without nuts. To do that, simply mix up all ingredients except nuts. Fill two prepared pans with nut-free batter. Then stir chopped nuts into remaining batter and fill two additional pans.

Batter will be very thick, and to be honest it's not very pretty. Don't worry.


Pour batter into prepared loaf pans. I use four inexpensive oblong pans, each about 3 1/2 inches x 7 1/2 inches. This recipe is perfect for four loaves of this size, six "mini" loaves, two or three large loaves, or lots of muffins. (Please note: you don't need fancy heavy-duty pans for this recipe. I've made it a number of times in cheap disposable pans.) Grease and flour the pans if you like. I just spray mine with nonstick cooking spray.

Here's a trick: If you have a kitchen food scale, weigh each pan as you're distributing your batter. Your loaves will play nicely together in the oven if they're all about the same size. Don't stress over this; just make each pan weigh about the same as the others.


Depending on the size of your loaves, bake 40-60 minutes at 350 degrees. Bread is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. This is the most important thing: DO NOT OVERBAKE. For these medium-sized loaves, I usually time this bread for 45 minutes and start testing at that point. Even if you have to sacrifice many toothpicks and test your bread every couple of minutes, that's better than overbaking. If it's not done, the toothpick will be goopy. If it's done, the toothpick will be completely clean or perhaps have a couple of crumbs on it, but no goopiness. Remove the bread from the oven just as soon as a toothpick comes out clean.

Q: Why is testing the bread so important?
A: Because of residual heat, the bread actually continues to bake just a little after you remove it from the oven. So if you leave baked goods in the oven too long, they'll OVERbake after you remove them from the oven.  Believe me: it's worth the effort to watch the bread and remove it from the oven as soon as a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Here's how your loaves will look fresh from the oven:


Cool in pans for five to ten minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.


See how neatly the loaves come out of the pan when you just spray the pans with nonstick cooking spray? No sticking and no flour residue. I bake a lot, but I never grease and flour pans any more.

When completely cool, wrap individual loaves in foil. If you don't need all loaves right away, they freeze beautifully. I like to keep a couple of these in the freezer. A loaf makes a great gift for a neighbor, a teacher, a new mom--just about anyone. One of my favorite hostess gifts for autumn is to pair a loaf with a package of pretty beverage napkins.


One more thing about this amazing bread. If you like, you can make this bread do double-duty as a yummy dessert simply by adding a simple cream cheese frosting.  Here's a simple recipe:

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 stick butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 oz. cream cheese

Mix all ingredients together. Add roasted and chopped nuts if you like. Spread on bread or cake (or just eat with a spoon--it's that good!).  Store in refrigerator.

Or you can make a simple cream cheese glaze which is also really tasty: click here to read about that.

If you've got a pumpkin spice craving, this recipe will hit the spot. I promise!

The best pumpkin bread

What's your most-requested recipe?

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*This post contains affiliate links.
If you make a purchase after clicking on these links, 
I will earn a small commission. 
Your price will not be affected in any way.*

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Grace at Home No. 269


Hello, friends, and welcome to the Grace at Home party, where we celebrate all the ways we make our homes places of grace and beauty. I'm glad you're here.

What a week it has been! With all the horrible news these days, it's easy to feel that such things as a blog party may be trite or even meaningless, but I don't think that's true. God has given us a beautiful world to live in. The actions of evil people may mar the picture, but they don't change the fact that God loves beauty. God created us to love beauty, too, and to join his work to make this world a lovely, flourishing place. 

To that end I'm happy to share some great links from last week's party.

Laura at Decor to Adore lives in a part of the country that's not yet enjoying cool temperatures, but she's developed some great ways to add fall touches to her front porch even when it's hot outside.


Lori at Dining Delight shows us how she created beautiful fall decor for her coffee table.


Jody at Southern Seazons outdid herself in decorating her mantel for Fall. Take a look!


No one does more to decorate her home for the seasons than Debbie at Debbie-Dabble. Check out her autumn elegance tree.


And if traditional Fall colors aren't really your thing, you might want to check out the kitchen at Penny's Vintage Home.


Leslie at Journey to Imperfect offers five action steps to see you through misunderstandings. A great post for this busy season.


As for me, I shared a Fall Home Tour, and I'd love for you to take a peek!


A big thank you to everyone who joined last week's party!  I'm so grateful for each person who links up each week. If you've been featured, feel free to grab the "I was featured" button.  I'd be so proud if you displayed it!


Now for this week's party!  Grace at Home is a place 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
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  Note that if you link a post here, you are giving me permission to share your post, including a photo.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!





Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Fall Home Tour


Oh, y'all, it's finally Fall in North Carolina. We're all breathing a sigh of relief as our scorching temperatures have relented at last. And now that the season is officially here, I'd like to welcome you to my home.

First, a disclaimer. Lots of bloggers are brilliant at staging their homes for beautiful photos, and I know we all admire and appreciate their work. Alas, staging is not one of my talents. So these are just photos of the way I have my home decorated for Autumn.

Here's our house in Durham.


We're blessed to live in a relatively new house in an old, established neighborhood. The mature trees are great friends of mine. As you can see, the leaves haven't really started changing colors yet.

Here's the view as you approach the front door.


And a closer look at the area around the door.


That's a tobacco basket tucked in the corner, a nod to North Carolina's biggest crop.

This year I'm trying something a little different in place of a wreath. It's a copper bucket filled with dried and silk flowers and wheat. I'm not sure if I like it as well as a wreath; what do you think?


To the right of the front door is the front porch sitting area, which is one of my favorite rooms in our house. I've added a few fall touches here.


I just slipcovered my usual throw pillows with some autumnal fabric and added a few pumpkins and some cotton. Our families are from Tennessee and Arkansas, and cotton is a huge part of our family history: my grandfather was a sharecropper, my husband's grandfather was a tenant farmer, and my husband's father ran a cotton gin. So when I think of harvest, cotton is the first thing that comes to mind.


An heirloom pumpkin anchors this end of the sitting area, along with a Fall message on the chalkboard.


The room on the inside of the front porch windows is our dining room, which is decorated very simply for Fall.


I made this dried arrangement a few years ago, and I still like it in this room.


Just beside the dining room is the living room. The colors in this room lend themselves well to some fall decorating.




The wingback chairs are pair nicely with these Pottery Barn fall pillows.


The sofas got some new pillows this Fall, too—I found some Pottery Barn napkins I loved and sewed them into pillow fronts. So easy!


The coffee table usually holds a bowl of green apples, so that works great for Fall. I also add a little touch of the season on the magazine tray.


I don't usually do mantelscapes for the seasons other than Christmas, but I was tickled to find a huge copper tub while antiquing in Blowing Rock, and I thought it added a nice touch of Fall to the fireplace.


Doesn't it look pretty holding grocery store mums?


The living room leads into the kitchen, where just a few touches add some Fall flair. I wish you could smell my kitchen right now: I just baked a batch of pumpkin bread, which is my very favorite of all autumn treats (click here to get that recipe!).

 I'm still loving my green island!



The same antique mall in Blowing Rock yielded this wonderful candy scale, just like I remember from my childhood!


I found these dessert plates at Pottery Barn. They came in a set of four, and I hung three here.


Want to see my high-class method of hanging plates? I glue the pop-tops from Coke cans onto the back!


My mother's dough cabinet stands in our breakfast area and is one of my favorite pieces of furniture. This year it's decorated very simply for Fall.


At the end of the kitchen is the door to the screened porch.


The porch is on the second floor of the house, so sitting here is like being in a tree house. Soon the backdrop will be full of vibrant color. For now, we'll enjoy the color in the pumpkins and gourds of my simple centerpiece.


You know, with all the horrible news these days, it's easy to feel that such things as seasonal decorating is trite or even meaningless, but I don't think that's true. God has given us a beautiful world to live in. The actions of evil people may mar the picture, but they don't change the fact that God loves beauty. God created us to love beauty, too, and to join his work to make this world a lovely, flourishing place.

I like to think of my efforts to create a welcoming home as an offering of love, a small act of defiance in the face of evil. What do you think?



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