Monday, August 31

A winner

True Random Number Generator 16Powered by RANDOM.ORG

I did it! I figured out how to use the true random number generator and how to post this cute little square on my blog. For someone as technologically challenged as I, this is a big accomplishment!

Anyway, the winner of the bracelet is. . .

TRACI at Beneath My Heart.

I'll bet you've seen her blog, because Chris at Just a Girl just did a Feature Friday post on her. Traci, it looks like these are your lucky days! Shoot me an email and let me know your address, and I'll send your bracelet right to you.

Thanks to everyone who entered. I sure appreciate your taking the time to visit here and leave a comment.

Wednesday, August 26

It pays to organize

My latest DIY project was so simple, I'm excited to show it to you.

How to make your own pretty storage bins from cheap plastic containers

My closet is one place that has badly needed de-cluttering. Okay, that's an understatement. It needed cleaning out in the worst way. It's a pretty good-sized closet, but I could barely walk into it. Anyway, it's nice and clean now, but I found myself wanting more than just nice and clean. I bought some inexpensive plastic bins to hold things (undies, socks, etc.) on my closet shelves, but they were so ugly. I wanted cute baskets, but I didn't want to spend any money on cute baskets.

I resigned myself to being satisfied with the plastic bins, until I remembered that I had a few scraps of fabric left from my new bedding.

So I cut up those scraps and hot-glued them to my plastic bins. . . and voila! Cute baskets!

Remember this ottoman that I re-covered with my other bedding scraps? It has a home in my closet, too, where everything is now organized AND cute.

And now for the part about how it pays to organize. You may not believe this story, but it's true. Sometime last year, I lost my favorite bracelet. It's a simple little bracelet by John Medeiros, whose jewelry resembles that of David Yurman or John Hardy. Not expensive like DY or JH, but very nice. Anyway, I had a bracelet that I just loved--wore it practically every day. Here it is:

And then one day it was gone. It just vanished. I searched high and low, to no avail. And I eventually went and bought another bracelet just like the first one. (This was before the economic downturn of last fall--I now find it hard to believe that I went and bought another bracelet, but that's the truth.)
Well, guess what I found yesterday as I was finishing my de-cluttering and organizing?

Yep. I found my bracelet. So now I have two, just alike. See?

Can you believe that?  I'd actually gone and bought another bracelet to replace one that I thought was lost forever--and it was actually hiding in my closet!

In trying not to be wasteful, I held a giveaway on my blog and gave the second bracelet to one of my readers.  So at least someone profited from my disorganization!

**This giveaway is closed.  The winner was Traci.**

Be sure to check out all the fun DIY projects at Kimba's!

Tuesday, August 25

Easy gift for a teacher

I love teachers. Love, love, love them. One of the many reasons I like Chris so much is that she's a teacher. And Jen and Darcy are homeschool teachers. Teachers are awesome.

I always liked my own teachers, and then I trained to be a teacher myself. (My degree is in Secondary Education in English.) I was a good teacher, I think. I taught in various capacities (back in the day), then I homeschooled my own children for three years. During that time my appreciation for teachers skyrocketed.

So now I like to do little things to show my appreciation for my kids' teachers. This was easy when my boys were little, for they were always glad to take "an apple for the teacher." Now that my guys are big, they no longer wish to be the bearers of gifts. I hope that my sons tell their teachers how much they appreciate them, but I like to do a little more than that. So I try to occasionally write a note of thanks, send a card, or give a small gift to their teachers.

Today was Meet the Teacher Day at my sons' school, and I took a little gift to my youngest son's homeroom teacher. I made it myself for very little money, so I thought I'd share it with y'all.

Supplies: inexpensive vase with straight sides, pencils
Tools: glue gun
(Note: I bought a vase for $1 at Wal-Mart as well as some cheap pencils. You can use very cheap pencils because they don't have to write well--they're just for looks. My vase required 22 pencils to cover the entire outside. Office Depot has pencils on sale right now for 10 cents {yes, $.10} for a package of 10.)

Simply apply hot glue to sides of vase and glue pencils all the way around the vase. That's it!

You've got a perfect vase for a teacher's desk.

And look how cute it looks with some grocery store flowers and a bit of ribbon.

Easy as pie, quick to put together, inexpensive. But much appreciated by a hard-working teacher.

Monday, August 24

A fresh start

A new year is starting.

Our oldest son is now safely ensconced at Duke University. Freshman Orientation was last week; classes started today. He's studying international relations and economics. Rather interesting time to take those courses, don't you think?

Our younger two sons start their new school year this week. Meet the Teacher Day is tomorrow, and classes start Wednesday. It should be an exciting year at our house: our youngest starts middle school this year, and our middle son will be a junior in high school. You know what junior year means. . . in short, now that we've got the college selection process complete with one kid, here we go again!

As we embark on this important year in our kids' educations, I'm hoping to start a new year for our home, too. There are so many aspects to keeping our home running smoothly that I've let slide the last couple of years, and I want to get going again. I'm thinking that perhaps if I share my intentions with you, I can also do a better job of holding myself accountable. And maybe I'll actually get some things done!!

Right now I'm particularly thinking about my kitchen. My kitchen is definitely the "heart of the home," mostly because it's such an all-purpose room. An awful lot of our life takes places in this room.

We're very blessed to have a big kitchen/breakfast room/morning room. But it's been a mess. We made some good progress on the rest of the house back in July, when we all pitched in to clean things out. But our efforts didn't quite make it to the kitchen. Not that the kitchen is a wreck--we have clean dishes and fairly organized cupboards. But the countertops! Oh, my goodness. What a dumping ground for toys and papers and mail and books and school supplies and tools and--well, you get the picture.

So. Now. As of now, I have cleaned off my island. And I resolve, right here in front of God and everybody, that I will keep it cleaned off. Scout's honor. Pinky swear. Here's what it looks like today, and this is how I'd like for it to continue to look.

That's a fun little flower arrangement, by the way, if you need a quick, easy, cheap day-brightener. You could do this with Coke bottles, milk bottles, antique bottles, or anything else you might have on hand. I love the Pellegrino bottles because I like the green glass and the blue and white labels. (I also love to drink Pellegrino, so I have a steady supply of the bottles. I've loved it ever since I saw Harrison Ford order a Pellegrino from the flight attendant on his private jet in the movie Sabrina. Anyone else love that movie?)

If you needed small arrangements for several tables for a casual dinner party, it might be fun to put one bottle on each table, maybe with a few votive candles placed around it. Quick and easy, inexpensive and fun.

New year, here we come!

Wednesday, August 19

DIY with a KISS

What's KISS to you? Keep it simple, stupid? Keep it simple, sister? Keep it simple, sweetheart?

Whichever you choose, keeping it simple is about all I've been up to lately. Life has been complicated, what with getting my son off to college, so DIY projects have needed to be simple. Easy. And quickly finished.

And boy, have I got a KISSable project for you!

Do you have silver-plated pieces that perhaps you received as wedding gifts or picked up at yard sales that are languishing in the cupboard, waiting for someone to polish them? Go get them. And spray paint them. You will love how easily they paint.

But JUST IN CASE you might be the kind of person who gets a little impatient with painting at times but that's-okay-because-you-like-things-a-little-chippy, try this. Spray paint your silver things, then distress the paint job a bit.

I was painting this darling little tray for a hostess gift (yes, I took a photo of the tray before I filled it with truffles and wrapped it; don't you do that?). And a tiny piece of paint flecked off the edge. As I walked to the garage to get out the Heirloom White can again, I realized that I liked the little bit of silver shining through. So I took a piece of fine sandpaper and distressed the edges of the tray. And I loved the result!

I found a couple of other pieces that I knew I wouldn't be wanting to polish. Just look at this oval bowl before--it had obviously not seen the Wright's Silver Cream in a long while.

But look at it now! A great nest for some of our favorite fun-size goodies.

See the edge up close? The silver peeks through in the coolest way.

And this tiny Revere bowl is great for holding pocket change. I decided to go with black for it.

I just loved these projects--so simple, so fast. Almost instant gratification. No, I didn't polish the pieces before I painted them. And now I'll never have to polish them again!

Check out all the fun projects at Kimba's and at Gina's!

Mixed emotions

How are you supposed to feel when you take your oldest child to college?

a) proud
b) bereft
c) excited
d) sad
e) all of the above

I think the answer is E.

Saturday, August 15

A trip to the country

If you've visited me before and have read about my family, you know that we've been through a tough time over the past 18 months or so. Everyone is doing well now, and we have so much to be thankful for. But it's been a long road, and I've been tired. . . just a bit drained in body and spirit.

My sweet husband offered to send me to a spa for a few days. Isn't that sweet? He figured I could use some pampering. The fact is, though, that going to a spa doesn't really sound that interesting to me. Now, a spa day--that would be great. A massage, a facial, some time in a sauna or a steam room--that sounds lovely. But a whole spa vacation? I don't know. I suppose if you could do that with a group of girlfriends it might be fun. Even then, though, I think I'd rather spend the money on something else. Like furniture. Or college tuition.

Anyway, it's the thought that counts, and I appreciate that my husband made the offer, but I declined. As the summer wore on, though, I realized that I was just getting more and more tired. So finally I told my husband that I needed to get away. He asked where I wanted to go, and I didn't hesitate. I wanted to visit my sister.

My sis on one of her Tennessee Walking Horses

Aren't sisters the best? I have two of them, and they are both amazing women. Talented, kind, generous Christian women. The kind of people you want to have as neighbors or best friends. Unfortunately, they both live far away from me. One lives in Alabama and one lives in Mississippi. I hadn't seen either of them in far too long.

The wise old retriever and the eager-beaver puppy

This past week, I went to visit my sister who lives in Mississippi, and our sister from Alabama drove over to join us. Good heavens, a bystander could not have gotten a word in edgewise. How fast can tongues FLY?

And to make it all even better, my sister, her husband, and their two precious children live in the country. I mean way out in the country, 10 minutes from the nearest little town. She lives on six beautiful acres, with trees and pastures and ponds and barns and the whole works. And she has the most delightful animals--dogs and rabbits and horses and chickens and ducks and lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

One of the Rhode Island Reds who flew the coop and landed on the deck

You want to unwind and relax? Spend you some time in the country. Help your sister feed the chickens or exercise the horses or shoo the ducks off the porch or any one of the million things that make up life in the country. Talk and laugh and swap recipes. Share memories and make some new ones.

Mallards hanging out in the front yard

Now that's my kind of spa vacation.

Tuesday, August 11

Heavenly day

A number of weeks ago, I got an email from Nester: "Swap Meet. August 8. My house. Can you come?"

Imagine how long it took me to respond to that invitation.

More recently I learned that Emily, Jen, and Kimba would be at Nester's house for the Swap Meet, too. As I was talking with a friend about the day, I said, "I'll think I've died and gone to heaven."

So this past Saturday was the day, and a couple dozen of us had the best time exploring Nester's Nest and swapping our stuff. What fun we had, trading treasures and swapping stories and becoming friends in real life just as we are online.

There I was, right in Nester's house, and did I get any photos? No. Because I didn't take my camera. Can you believe the degree of stupidity involved in that oversight? I did snap this rather pathetic pic with my iPhone just as I was leaving. Nester's beautiful front door, with a lovely foreground accent of my windshield.

Nester herself opened that door when I rang. And though this was the first time I'd ever seen her face-to-face, she called me by name and gave me a big hug.

You know, being there really was like being in heaven.

My thoughts about heaven often include grand ideas of the beauty of the place. I think about the pearly gates or the streets paved with gold or what I'll eat (never mind the calories) or how happy I'll be to see my mom again. Wonderful thoughts. But I have to stop and remember that the most important thing about heaven will be the time--plenty of time, never not-enough time--with God. And with people who love Him.

I heard Dallas Willard teach about heaven once. He summed up his remarks by saying "Anyone who plans on going to heaven had better be awfully fond of God." Good point, huh?

So the time at Nester's was heavenly. Not because her house was beautiful (although it was) or because the food was delicious (although it was). But because I was welcomed with love. And because of the time spent with people who love God.

Monday, August 10

Monday, Monday

My day started abruptly with the shrill ring of my bedside phone. I snatched up the receiver eagerly; I knew what this call was going to be. I had ordered a new washer and dryer, and they were going to be delivered today. New appliances for my pretty new laundry room! Woo-hoo!

Am I the only person who would be excited about the impending delivery of appliances? Maybe it says something about my role in life that a large-capacity washer and dryer would be such a highlight for me. Perhaps I should have cards printed that display my name and my occupation: Laundress.

I was told that the deliveryman would call me early this morning to let me know what time he'd be bringing my precious new machines. Instead, he told me that he had my washer, but my dryer was out of stock. Kind man that he was, he asked if I'd like for him to go ahead and deliver the new washer today and bring the dryer when it arrived. No charge for either delivery. It really was a kind offer, and I was tempted to take him up on it.

But then I realized that, even if I had the new large-capacity washer, I'd still only have my old, small-capacity dryer. I had a momentary vision of freshly-laundered clothing turning sour as it waited its turn to dry oh-so-slowly in my anemic dryer. So I opted to wait until both machines could be delivered at once.

Funny that this was a pretty easy decision to make when only appliances and damp laundry were at stake. It's much less easy to accept that God's timing for the granting of His good gifts may not be exactly what I had envisioned. Sometimes I am so eager just to haverightnow what I want that I don't stop to realize that I wouldn't be able to use the gift even if God were to give it. "But God," I might argue, "I know that 'every good and perfect gift is from above.' I'll be very thankful for it; I'll give You the credit for it."

Do you ever do that? Talk to God by quoting His own words back at Him?

His answer is then gentle but firm, and He sends me back to the beginning of that same chapter, James 1. "Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him (James 1:4-5)."

Oh, right. Wisdom was what I needed all along. Even more than a new dryer.

Wednesday, August 5

How to make a coverlet for an oversized bed

"This bed is too big. . . "

Frankly, Goldilocks would've never even tried out my bed. She would've taken one look and headed to the next one. Of course, the Papa Bear in our house is 6 feet 7 inches tall. So our bed needs to be pretty big.

We have a king-size bed with an extra-deep mattress and a memory foam topper, and though I was able to locate extra-deep sheets that fit, I was always stymied trying to find a comforter or coverlet that actually covers the bed. I always kept my fingers crossed that no one would go into my bedroom and look at my husband's side of the bed, where the spread covered only about half the side of the mattress. When we have company, we always have people put their coats on our bed (does anyone else do that?) But I hated that exposed side of the bed. It always felt like my slip was showing or something; know what I mean?

To cover the whole mattress, I needed a spread that was 112 inches wide, which I could not find. So what do you do when you can't buy what you need? You make your own! And I'll show you how I made my extra-deep, extra-long coverlet. It was so easy, I wondered what took me so long to think of it.

Well, actually, I know why it took me so long. It's because of my extremely elementary sewing skills. The truth is, I am a horrible seamstress. If someone asks, "Do you sew?" I answer "Not really." I can sew straight seams, and that's about it. But I'll tell you what I can do, and you can do it, too. I can PIN. So if I think of something that I'd like to sew, I design it in my head or draw it out on paper, then I cut out the fabric and pin, pin, pin. I have a very inexpensive sewing machine, and all I do with the machine is sew the straight seams of the things I've pinned together.

Now, back to the bed.

Our mattress is about 78 inches wide, and I wanted the drop on the sides to be about 17 inches on each side, which meant that I needed a coverlet 112 inches wide. I also wanted the bedspread to be about 112 inches long, because I wanted to be able to fold the spread over the pillows, like this:

I admire the look of beds that are made with sumptuous sheets folded back and pillows displayed beautifully, but that has never worked for me. I make my bed every morning, and I prefer to spend as little time as possible making it.

I found wonderful fabric at my local discount fabric store, Not Just Linens. Like all the fabrics there, it was $7.99/yard, and like many of the fabrics, it was 57-58" wide. I bought 8 yards for a total cost of $64. The pattern on the fabric repeats every 22 inches, so I bought enough to make sure I could match the panels of the spread. I could have made the spread with less fabric, but considering my sewing skills, I knew it was better to be safe than sorry.

As for the actual construction of the coverlet, I just cut one piece of fabric 114" long. I used this for the center panel of my bedspread.

Then I cut an identical second piece of fabric so that I had twin panels, each 114" long. I split the second panel right down the middle lengthwise, so that I had one full-width panel and two half-width panels. 

Next I pinned one half-width panel to one side of the (full-width) center panel and one half-width panel to the other. This was the slow part, because I wanted the pattern matched as closely as possible. After it was all pinned together, though, it was a cinch to sew. Two long straight seams later, I had a huge spread. I finished the project by ironing the two seams flat and then sewing a machine hem all the way around the perimeter.

And now I have a bedspread that fits my humongous bed with no sheets or blankets peeking out on the side. No more slip showing! For $64 and a bit of my time.  I made the pillows, too; click here for the how-to for those.

Update:  After I made this coverlet, bedskirt, and pillows, we got a different bed.  Our new bed doesn't require a bedskirt, but I think the coverlet and pillows look great with the new style, too!

**Linking to  DIY Day at A Soft Place to Land**

Tuesday, August 4

Going, going. . .


That's what my oldest son will be in two weeks. Just two short weeks from today, he goes to college. We move him into the dorm on August 18. Somehow, it's easier to think of moving him into the dorm rather than out of the house.

But the truth is that he's leaving.

I always wanted to be an at-home mom. I worked in the business world, full-time, until the day before he was born. Since then, I've been a work-at-home mom. Sometimes I've worked at home for pay; sometimes I've just been at home working. But I've had the incredible privilege of being able to identify my profession as "homemaker." I don't know how many forms I've filled out over the years on which I've had to list my occupation. Even during the times that I've been employed, I've still listed "homemaker." I'm so grateful to God and to my supportive husband that I've had the chance to have this job that I love.

This past week, as I was cleaning out my closet, I came across a little treasure. A piece of art that was given to me upon the birth of my oldest son.

It used to hang on my wall, but for several years now has been stacked in my closet. The artwork was done by a woman named Janet Casey. The writer of the words is not identified, although some of you will recognize them as having been inspired by I Corinthians 13. I wanted to share them with you.

If I live in a house of spotless beauty with everything in its place, but have not love--I am a housekeeper, not a homemaker.

If I have time for waxing, polishing, and decorative achievements but have not love, my children learn of cleanliness--not godliness.

Love leaves the dust in search of a child's laugh.

Love smiles at the tiny fingerprints in a newly cleaned window.

Love wipes away the tears before it wipes up the spilled milk.

Love picks up the child before it picks up the toys.

Love is present through the trials.
Love reprimands, reproves, and is responsive.
Love crawls with the baby, walks with the toddler, runs with the child, then stands aside to let the youth walk into adulthood.

As a mother there is much I must teach my child, but the greatest of all is love.

I wish I had known how fast the "stands aside to let the youth walk into adulthood" part was going to get here.