Thursday, March 30, 2017

Grace at Home No. 243


Hello, friends, and welcome to the Grace at Home party! Can you believe that March is nearly over? The weeks are just flying by.

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

Tarah from Grandma's House DIY shared the makeover of her kitchen–from old house to new, all in do-it-yourself projects.


Erin from The Usual Mayhem shared a system for spring cleaning your whole house in just one day. Boy, do I need this!

Carol from Blue Sky Kitchen showed us how to make two lovely centerpieces for spring. Great ideas!


Meg from No Small Life shared four verses to build your faith. Take a minute and read this--you'll be glad you did.


As for me, I was busy this past week celebrating my youngest son's 20th birthday! I can hardly believe my baby is 20 years old. In considering my years as a mom, I decided to share a little piece of parenting advice. Read all about how to use your phone to be a better parent.


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!





Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How to use your phone to be a better parent


In 1991, I had a baby boy. In 1993, I had another baby boy. And in 1997, I had still another baby boy.

Baby boys are my favorite.


Before 1997, I never had a cell phone. But not long after I had that third baby, I had to drive halfway across the country with only my six-year-old, my four-year-old, and my newborn sons for company. After carefully considering the monthly cost, my husband and I decided that I should have a phone with me, just in case of emergency.

I remember that the monthly fee included 30 minutes of talking time. I vowed never to exceed that limit.

Things have changed a bit, haven't they?

Today, I have a cell phone, my husband has a cell phone, and all three sons have cell phones. We do still have a "home phone," but we rarely use it. It's difficult to imagine how we'd get along in the 21st century world without our smart phones.

And yet.


Today is my baby boy's 20th birthday.

Yes, things have changed a bit.

I was proud and excited when my eldest son turned 20. My babies were growing up! Double double digits!

I was a bit more hesitant when my middle son turned 20. Wasn't it all happening a little too quickly?

But today? My BABY is 20 years old? What on earth just happened? And how did it happen so fast?

I know, I know–young mothers don't want to be told to treasure the time with their little ones.

I usually keep my mouth shut, but on this day, there's one thing I wish I could tell my young mom friends. Just one piece of advice: the best way to use your phone.

Use it to take pictures.

At every age, every stage, take pictures of your kids. Print some of them out. You don't have to make show-stopping scrapbooks with them, or even organize them into albums. Just take the pictures, because the years are going to fly by much faster than you think.

And then, after you take those pictures?

Put down your phone.

I'm serious. Put it down. Turn it off if you have to.

One of the best things about having a smartphone, one of these incredible little hand-held computers, is that we have the ability to keep up with the outside world even when we're stuck in one place. What an amazing gift! Yet it comes with a side effect: fear of missing out. "FoMO" even has a dictionary definition now: "anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website."

The horribly ironic thing about the fear of missing out, of course, is that while we're busy being afraid that we might miss something exciting elsewhere, we actually ARE missing something right in front of us.

No, each event might not be exciting. Some are downright boring. Some are actually best forgotten.

But the events of our real lives and the lives of our loved ones are worth paying attention to. And by the time you scroll through Instagram or check the Facebook status of your friends, they'll have passed.

I'll never claim to be an expert mom. But I have learned one thing in two and a half decades of being a mother:

The days are long, but the years are short.

Put down your phone and enjoy them.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Grace at Home No. 242


Hello and welcome to this week's Grace at Home party, where we celebrate all the ways we make our homes places of grace.

Here are some links from last week's party I thought you'd enjoy. Springtime is finally here, so I was especially inspired to see lots of outdoor projects.

Shannon from Belle Bleu Interiors is on top of her springtime decorating game. Check out the way she decorated her front porch for spring. She even provides a step-by-step tutorial for making that beautiful swag.

Ash from Just Measuring Up showed us how he made a picnic table in one day–for less than $200! What an awesome project.


Tarah from Grandma's House DIY showed us how to build an outdoor grill station. This is brilliant!


Tehila at Women Abiding shared some compelling thoughts on three phrases we use all the time–but really need to change!


As for me, I've been slowly (VERY slowly) easing into springtime. I like to start with my front porch, and I shared one of my best tricks for transitioning a space from one season to another.


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!





Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Easing into springtime


We've had a teaser of a spring in North Carolina. She appeared really early, only to be replaced with brutal winter just as the flowering trees were at their peak. But now she's back, and it looks like she's here to stay!

The warmer temperatures and longer days make me want to hang out on our front porch again. I updated it last spring, and here's its warm-weather look:


I changed it for Autumn simply by switching out accessories:


And again for Christmastime:


When I updated the porch last spring, I chose a neutral fabric for the loveseat and chair cushions. I'm so glad I made that decision! I think the neutral fabric works well with all the different looks. (Read this post to see why I'd highly recommend Sunbrella fabric–I have no affiliation with the company; I just think the product is exceptional.)

Now that it's time to decorate for spring once again, I'd like to show you one of my household tricks.

Last fall, I stitched up new covers for the outdoor pillows using this easy method and simply put them right on top of my spring pillows. I'm pretty good at sewing straight seams, but I'm not very good at hand-sewing the pillow closures. Instead, I use a glue gun to finish the pillows. So now that I'm ready for spring again, the metamorphosis of the pillows is as easy as 1-2-3:

1.

2.

3.

Most of my pillow covers opened up with a firm pull. One was a little stubborn, so I just warmed the glue with a hair dryer until it pulled open easily.

Now I can just fold up the autumn covers and store them until October. It's time to make lemonade and enjoy the long evenings on the porch!

Do you have any decorating tricks for easing from season to season? I'd love to hear!

Joining these fun parties:

Thoughts of Home on Thursday

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Grace at Home No. 241


Welcome, friends! Can you believe it's already the middle of March? The frigid temps have reminded me that spring is not officially here yet, that's for sure. But I'm glad you're here for the Grace at Home party.

Here are some links from last week that I thought you'd enjoy.

Penny from Penny's Vintage Home always wows us with her beautiful, Victorian-inspired spaces. This week she shared her updated laundry room. Even this space is in keeping with her lovely home!


Kathryn from The Dedicated House just moved into a new house. Here she shows us all the spaces in her old house and includes lots of tips for staging a home to sell. Here's one of my favorite spots in her home.



Debbie from Debbie-Dabble inspires me with the way she decorates for each holiday. St. Patrick's Day is no exception. Check out this fun display!


Ronja from Abounding Grace shared a beautiful, inspiring story about how children can encourage our faith.

As for me, I shared a super-easy recipe for making pie crust. Seriously, this crust is delicious and SO easy to make! (On Pi Day, I made this yummy quiche for dinner; you can find that recipe in the same post.)






Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Easy-to-make delicious pie crust


Today is Pi Day. In case you've forgotten your math classes, pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.

When I was studying math, pi was usually expressed as 22/7: that was back when we did our calculations by hand rather than with a calculator. Pi is 3 and 1/7. Now that calculators and computers do the math for us, pi is usually thought of as 3.141592, or 3.14 for short.

I've read that Pi Day was first celebrated back in 1988, but I'm not certain of that. I imagine that math students have thought of March 14 as Pi Day for many years. For certain, though, the idea of people across the country celebrating a number is a fairly recent development.


What's more important to me is that Pi Day is a perfect time to make a pie, which is one of my favorite things to do. I have a confession, though: until recently, I never made my own pie crust.
My mom was a proponent of Pillsbury's All Ready pie crusts, and I inherited from her a love of their convenience. It just didn't make sense to me to go to all the trouble of making a homemade crust.

I can now say with complete confidence that I was wrong: partly because homemade crust really is much tastier than pre-made crust, and partly because making homemade crust is MUCH easier than I ever thought it could be. 

The secret weapon? My food processor. Pie crust purists might scoff, but trust me: this works.

Here's the recipe I've developed for making a delicious pie crust with my food processor. I hope you enjoy it!

Food Processor Pie Crust
(Single crust recipe)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons butter, cut into cubes (I always use salted butter, but your choice is fine)
4 Tablespoons (1/4 cup) shortening, cut into small pieces
3-4 Tablespoons ice water

Directions

Chill the butter and shortening. I like to cut the butter and shortening into cubes and place in the freezer for a while so that the cubes are very cold.

Place flour and salt in food processor with regular blade attached. Pulse a few times to incorporate salt throughout the flour.

Add chilled butter and shortening to food processor. Pulse a few times, holding down the pulse button for a couple of seconds per pulse, just until the butter and shortening are mixed with the flour enough that the mix resembles coarse crumbs.

Then, with the food processor running, pour the ice water into the bowl. Start with just 3 Tablespoons of water, adding a bit more if needed. All you need is for the dry mixture to become damp enough to stick together a bit. You don't want it to form a big clump. (Resist the temptation to add more water!)

Dump the mixture onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Gather the corners of the plastic wrap and press on the outside just enough to form the dough into a ball. You can refrigerate the dough for a bit if you like.

Tear off two sheets of wax paper about 15 inches long each. Place your dough ball between sheets of wax paper and roll out to your preferred size. 



Y'all, this whole process takes just a few minutes, and the resultant crust is light, flaky, and oh so tasty. 



And if you want to turn your delicious crust into dinner, try this super-easy quiche recipe:

Ingredients

Unbaked pie shell
6 whole eggs
1 1/2 cups cheese, grated (I like half cheddar and half Swiss or Gruyere)
3/4 cup cup milk or cream
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
salt and pepper to taste
bacon, ham, or sausage, or any combination thereof

Directions


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 


Cook meat of your choice and drain fat. Cut or crumble into small pieces.


Beat eggs with baking powder. Add milk; mix well. Stir in grated cheese and meat.Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick insert in center comes out fairly clean. Do not overbake--the quiche will continue to cook some from residual heat after you remove it from the oven.

Have any pie favorites? I'd love to hear!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Grace at Home No. 240


Hello, friends, and welcome to this week's Grace at Home party! I'm so honored that you are here.

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

Marty from A Stroll Thru Life turned a plain Jane office chair into a beauty--for just a few dollars and a little elbow grease! Read her post for the step-by-step instructions.


Rebecca from Mary and Martha's House shared some thoughts about keeping a "hospitality pantry" as well as a recipe for a cheese ball that can be prepared three different ways. Yum!


Christina from Penny Wise shared an easy recipe for Irish Soda Bread–just in time for St. Patrick's Day!


As for me, I've been pondering why we need the season of Lent. I'd love to know what you think.


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, March 7, 2017

Why we need the season of Lent


The season of Lent officially began with Ash Wednesday.

But I don't attend a liturgical church, and we don't have an Ash Wednesday service. My faith upbringing was non-liturgical–even anti-liturgical, if there is such a thing–so my thoughts don't naturally turn to Lent.


As I've gotten older, I've grown to appreciate the various observances of the "church calendar," although I still wince a little bit at that term. To put it very simply, this calendar arranges itself around events in the life of Jesus. So the year begins with Advent, the season leading to the birth of Christ. Then comes Christmas on December 25, then Epiphany, which is a celebration of the manifestation of Jesus as the son of God.

We have no record of the actual dates for any of these celebrations. The Bible doesn't tell us the date that Jesus was born to Mary. The earliest records we have that the birth of Jesus was celebrated on December 25 was the year 336, when Constantine was emperor. But the birth of Jesus is certainly an event worth celebrating, isn't it?

After Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany comes the beginning of "Ordinary Time." Until fairly recently, I had no idea what that term meant. Contemporary English speakers usually think of "ordinary" as meaning routine or nothing special. Our word ordinary is derived from the Latin word ordinarius, which means customary or usual. The root of ordinarius is ordo, which means series or arrangement. It's easy to understand that our English word order comes from this root, and it might be helpful to think of "Ordinary Time" as "Orderly Time," which is another way of saying "counted time." These are days when there's no particular holiday, so in that sense I guess they're "ordinary" in as we usually understand that word. But these are most of the days of our lives, so we do well to mark them, to understand that they're important.

Ordinary Time is interrupted by the most important season of all: that of the death of Christ on the cross and his resurrection from the grave. This is the one time we can mark with some certainty, although it doesn't occur on the same date every year. The Bible tells us that Jesus and his followers went to Jerusalem at the time of the Passover, the Jewish celebration commemorating the exodus from Egypt. This was the time when the enemies of Jesus demanded his crucifixion. Passover is still celebrated by Jews, so the dates of everything on the Christian calendar related to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus derive from the date of Passover.

And that brings us to Lent. Lent is the season of the 40 days (not including Sundays) that lead up to Easter. The Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday, a day on which some Christians may participate in a service that involves having ashes placed upon their foreheads in the form of a cross. That imposition of ashes upon one's head is symbolic, of course, but what a powerful symbol! With the placing of ashes on one's head may come the entreaty: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return," echoing God's words to Adam in Genesis 3:19, or "Repent and believe in the Gospel." 

The word "gospel" is important. Its literal meaning is "good news": the word gospel is derived from Old English god (good) + spel (story or news). The very best news of all time is that God loves us, so much that Jesus came to earth to give his life for us. The Gospel accounts in the Bible (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) tell us that Jesus went everywhere announcing the Kingdom of God. "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," Jesus said (see Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15). I love the way my friend Dallas Willard summed up the message of Jesus: "Re-think how you're living your life in light of the opportunity to live in God's Kingdom today and forever."

How do we avail ourselves of the opportunity to live in God's Kingdom? By putting our confidence in Jesus. We trust that our sins are forgiven because of his death of the cross. We trust that what he taught was true. We trust that the way of living he explained and exemplified is the best way to live. 

And we remember that we are dust. Just a short time of trying to live like Jesus will demonstrate to us that this task is beyond our human abilities. So we trust the strength to become more like Jesus will be supplied not by our own power but by the grace of God.

We welcome the days leading up to Good Friday and Easter as days to ground ourselves once again in the truth that we are in need of what only God can provide. 



As a symbol of penitence or an aid to thinking of our need for a savior, some Christians mark the season of Lent by some form of fasting or self-denial. You might hear of what a Christian has "given up" for Lent. 

My favorite suggestions of what to give up for Lent came from the mother of a dear friend of mine. Like me, this lady came from a non-liturgical church background. She first learned of Lent in her late 80's, and here are her suggestions of what to give up for Lent:

  1. Give up grumbling. Instead, in everything give thanks.
  2. Give up 10-15 minutes in bed. Instead, use that time in prayer.
  3. Give up looking at people's worst points. Instead, concentrate on their best ones.
  4. Give up judging by appearance and by the standards of the world. Instead, learn to give up yourselves to God.
Aren't those wonderful? Yet even these simple things I can only accomplish with help from God. 

So I am once again brought to my knees in gratitude for the good news. I don't just believe the gospel; I am thrown upon it. 

And in these weeks leading up to Good Friday and Easter, that's a good place to be.

I'm joining Jennifer Dukes Lee for Tell His Story.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Grace at Home No. 239


Hello, friends, and welcome to this week's Grace at Home party! I'm glad you're here.

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

Kristine at The Painted Hive created these mini barn doors to hide a front-loading washing machine. So clever! She shares a tutorial so that you can make your own.


Ash at Just Measuring Up gives step-by-step instructions for building raised planter. Spring has already sprung in North Carolina, so I'm really interested in these.


Angela at Simply Beautiful shows how to reframe a cheap mirror. She started with a $5 mirror to create this beauty:

Jas from All That's Jas shared a recipe for Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Dijon Mustard Sauce. Don't these look yummy?


As for me, I shared my thoughts about Ash Wednesday, and I'd love to know what you think.


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!





Wednesday, March 1, 2017

From the ashes


Today some of us will attend an Ash Wednesday service.


Some of us will see folks with crosses on their foreheads and think, "What on earth is that about?"

Still others will see people with smudges on their foreheads and politely say, "You've got something on your face."

I've been each of the people listed above. I'd never heard of Ash Wednesday until I was a teenager, and lived close to New Orleans. There people celebrated throughout Mardi Gras, really whooped it up on Fat Tuesday, then went to church on Ash Wednesday.

To be honest, it was all Greek to me.

Later I learned about the season of Lent. For hundreds of years now, many Christians have marked the 40 days before Easter as a particular time of reflection and repentance. The Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday. Special Ash Wednesday services may include a minister's making the sign of the cross upon the foreheads of congregants. The ashes themselves might even come from burning the palms left from Palm Sunday the year before. 

The imposition of ashes upon one's head is symbolic, of course, but what a powerful symbol!  With the placing of ashes on one's head comes the  entreaty: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return," echoing God's words to Adam in Genesis 3:19. 

That admonishment is meant to call us to God by reminding us that our days are numbered.  In it I find echoes of Solomon's heartfelt cry, "Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth" (Ecclesiastes 12:1), or Paul's earnest plea, "Now is the day of salvation" (II Corinthians 6:2). 

I appreciate that reminder—no, I need the reminder.  

Just this week I learned of yet another person who has been diagnosed with cancer at a very young age. Last week I heard of a young person who was tragically killed in an accident. I'm reminded that our time here is fleeting. We are dust, and to dust we will return.

I am so apt to get caught up in the events of every day and the dreams of "some day" that I forget that today is a gift from God. Today is when I must be faithful to the work God has called me to do.

This day, I wear the sign of the cross, grateful for the reminder.

How about you? Do you observe Ash Wednesday? Do you participate in an observance of Lent? Why or why not? I'd love to learn from you!