Tuesday, September 29
Wednesday, September 23
Chocolate Pound Cake1 devil's food cake mix (any brand, any variety)8 oz. cream cheese, softened3/4 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)1/2 cup water1 teaspoon vanilla extract4 eggs1 small package instant chocolate pudding1 heaping cup chocolate chipsPreheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt pan (or do what I do and just spray it with nonstick cooking spray).Place cream cheese in mixer bowl. Beat cream cheese a bit to soften. Add cake mix; beat a bit to combine with cream cheese. Scrape sides of bowl. Add oil, water, and vanilla; beat well. Scrape sides of bowl again. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in pudding mix; beat until well combined. Fold in chocolate chips.Pour/spoon batter into prepared pan. Note: the batter will be very, very thick. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour, not a moment more. Remove from oven and cool on a cooling rack for 10-15 minutes. Remove cake from pan.
I wish there were a scratch-n-sniff feature on your computer. Mmmmm. Heaven for your nose, right here in this little cake.
Tuesday, September 22
photos courtesy of LegoLee's Reviews
Last week I wrote about how my son taught me to have a better perspective. He told me that I should celebrate having 100 followers, but I shrugged it off, saying that 100 followers wasn't really that many. He showed me that I was looking at things incorrectly, and that 100 followers was indeed very many, considering that he has only one follower on his blog. He corrected me, and he was right.
What surprised me was how many of you responded to this post with such kindness. But I shouldn't have been surprised: kindness and generosity are the hallmarks of our blogging community. There's something about the relationships we form via blogging that brings out the best in us. Don't you think? Isn't it refreshing?
In response to questions from several of you, here's a link to my son's blog. His name is Lee, and his blog is all about Legos, so the name of his blog is LegoLee's Reviews. He would be honored and thrilled to have any of your sons or daughters or young friends read his blog. And I'm thrilled at the prospect of other people reading his blog as well. Lee doesn't like to write, but I explained to him that if he wants other people to read his blog, he really needs to try to make his writing readable. So he's trying to write in complete sentences, use correct punctuation, spell his words correctly--the very things that he doesn't like to do in school. All those comments from his teachers--"Be sure to proofread your work, Lee," "Correct your punctuation, Lee," "This paragraph doesn't flow, Lee"--those comments never did motivate him to want to make his writing better. I'm betting that comments from kids reading his blog might be a bit more inspiring.
So thank you, my kind friends. Thank you for your kindness in asking about my son's blog. Thank you for caring. Thank you for making up this wonderful blogging community. I am so grateful to be one of you.
Friday, September 18
Wednesday, September 16
. . . you make DIY lemonade, of course.
Then I used some coarse sandpaper to distress the board, allowing a little of the red to peek through the green.
Monday, September 14
Wednesday, September 9
The little project I'd like to show you this week is one I completed some time ago. I thought I'd show you now because you might have some postcards you collected over the summer. This is a fun way to use those postcards and preserve your vacation memories.
Last year we got to go on a special trip. At the time, my husband was working for a Swiss bank. He had to go to Switzerland for business, and we got to tag along. Now, if you live in a hot, sticky climate like the one we have in North Carolina, you'll jump at the chance to go to Switzerland in August. Believe me.
Most of the items we would have liked to purchase as souvenirs were very expensive, so we didn't buy very much. But we did purchase a wonderful vintage travel poster (well, a reproduction) from the town we visited and a stack of pretty postcards.
The poster I framed in a traditional Swiss style. I love it.
And the postcards? I considered framing those, as well, but I wasn't satisfied with that idea. Then I remembered this old tray that I had:
I spray-painted the tray black (of course!), and then decoupaged the postcards onto the tray using a disposable foam brush and following the instructions on the bottle of Mod Podge. And look at the result:
Now we have a very useful serving tray that serves as a fun reminder of our trip every time we use it.
Check out all the fun projects at Kimba's!
Tuesday, September 8
This past week has been one of a great deal of reflection for me. Part of that was natural: I had a birthday, on which I turned 46 years old. I am now officially closer to 50 than to 40. Believe me, that'll get you to thinking.
Part of my reflectiveness, though, came from a preoccupation with decorating my house. As August gave way to September, I was consumed with the desire to change the look of our home--to go from the breezy, cool look of summer to the warm, cozy look of autumn. In addition, Sarah at Thrifty Decor Chick hosted a "Before and After" party, inviting her readers to share photos of some of their transformation projects. And today, Jen at Sanctuary Arts at Home is having a "You should have seen it before" party. Apparently a lot of us like to see befores and afters.
Somehow, the convergence of these events got me to thinking about the "before and after" pictures of my life. It's a subject that intrigues me on several levels. On a purely physical level, I'm fascinated by before-and-after pictures because I have some pretty dramatic ones myself. You see, I was the ugly duckling in my family. I was one of three girls. My two sisters were both beautiful girls; they both looked like my mother. And I? Well, I looked a little like my father, but mostly I just looked like myself. And that was not a very pretty picture. For instance, here's a photo of me when I was a junior in high school. This is not one of the horrible pictures. I was actually pretty proud of this picture. It appeared in the local paper. Me and a couple of trophies I'd won at a speech tournament.
Or here's another: my junior class picture.
"Sweet 16 and never been kissed"? Are you kidding? Sweet 16 and never been considered by a boy. My high school years were successful in some ways, but certainly not in the boy department. I never had a single date in high school. Not one. Senior Prom? Not for me.
But it turned out that I was just an ugly duckling. I wouldn't say that I grew up to be a beautiful swan, but I did grow up. And my looks changed. I wasn't expecting it to happen; it just happened. I'll admit that attending my 20th high school reunion was a sweet time for me. My classmates even voted to give me the "20 Years Have Been Kind to You" award.
And while I have no keepsake pictures from the Prom, now I have teenage boys of my own, and I can have my picture taken with them all I want. Like this one:
My heart aches now when I see a high school girl who's not one of the pretty, popular girls. I want to pull her to me, dry her tears, show her my pictures, and tell her that it's not over.
And I think that sometimes this is how God feels about us. When He sees one of us suffering with the state we're in, I think He wants to pull us to Him, dry our tears, show us His pictures, and tell us that it's not over. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11). I hear God saying, "Don't worry: the way things look today is not the way they'll always look." And I know it's true.
Unwrapped with Emily at Chatting at the Sky
Sunday, September 6
If you'd like to read more about how I brought about this revitalization, click here.
The other ottoman is one that I made for my front porch. Here's a before photo of it:
Wednesday, September 2
I'm going to be honest with you, though. . . sometimes I love seeing DIY projects--I get all inspired and full of good ideas and confidence. . . and sometimes I look at the awesome DIY projects and feel silly and incompetent. Kind of like Napoleon Dynamite hanging on to his numchuck skills.
But that's my own insecurity talking. The spirit of DIY Day is sharing and encouraging. Not just look-what-I-did, but look-what-you-can-do! That's one of my favorite things about bloggers: they'll show you what they did, and they'll tell you how they did it, and they'll rejoice with you when you do something.
So, for my show-and-tell today, I'm going to show you something that I sewed. But first I want to tell you that I'm not a seamstress. When people say, "Do you sew?" I usually reply, "What do you mean by 'sew'?"
You see, sewing is something that is sometimes done a certain way, according to well-defined techniques. There's a right way to set in a sleeve if you're sewing a shirt. There's a correct way to attach a waistband if you're sewing a skirt. There's an appropriate way to sew in a zipper if you're sewing a dress.
So I don't sew shirts or skirts or dresses or anything else that requires this kind of technique. Why? Because I don't know how to do it, and right now I don't have the time or inclination to learn how to do it. But I DO sew things for my house--pillows and bedspreads and bedskirts and window treatments and shower curtains.
And here's how I do it. I have four secrets.
- I do not use patterns. Why? Because I can't read a pattern guide to save my life. I just create things that can be stitched up with straight lines.
- I use three very important tools: a seam gauge, an iron, and good pins. Lots and lots of pins.
- I have cheat lines on my sewing machine. I cannot for the life of me sew a straight line, so I put painter's tape on my sewing machine. When I need to sew a straight line, I just guide the fabric along the tape. Works like a charm.
- Whenever I come to something I can't do, I improvise.
Isn't it pretty? I needed a shower curtain for my guest bath. I wanted something vibrant and colorful but refined and classy. You know, like me. So I was thrilled to find this fabric.
I love this fabric. It was $7.99/yard at my favorite discount fabric store. My tub enclosure is 58 inches wide. The fabric was 54 inches wide, so I sewed two panels together to make a nice full curtain. I made the curtain 78 inches long, which seemed like a good length to me. No rule here: some people like their shower curtains to hang from a higher rod than I used, and some people like them to hug the floor on the bottom. You can do whatever you like.
So how did I do it? First, I carefully cut two identical pieces of fabric for the main body of the curtain. (You know the old saying: measure twice, cut once.) Then I pinned and pinned and pinned those two panels together to make the curtain. (Believe me, sewing the seam is a breeze when you've pinned things together well.) I hemmed the sides and bottom by folding the fabric over one inch (using a seam gauge to measure one inch all the way), ironing the fold into place, pinning the hem in place, and sewing a nice straight hem by following along my handy-dandy tape lines.
Second, I made a second panel for the top of of the curtain--a little valance that just lies right on top of the main body of the curtain. Why? I don't know; I just thought it would look nice. I made this one just like the big curtain except in length. It's about 1/5 the length of the overall curtain. I stitched both panels together, one on top of the other, to make the finished product.
When I had the finished product, I thought it needed a little oomph. So I bought a couple of yards of trim to attach to the valance. I tried to sew it on, but I just couldn't do it. No trim-sewing skills. But I do have glue-gunning skills, so I glued it on.
There are lots of ways that you can make a shower curtain hang from a rod. Usually a curtain has buttonholes or grommets into which shower curtain rings can fit. Sometimes a curtain has loops made of fabric or ribbon. Now, I don't know how to make buttonholes. I don't have a grommet tool. And for this project I didn't want to attach loops. But I did have an extra tension rod. So I just folded over the fabric and sewed a rod pocket at the top of the curtain. I hung the plastic shower curtain liner from rings on one rod and the decorative curtain from a separate rod. Like this:
I love the finished product. I love that I can say that I did it myself. And now I love that I can tell you that you can do it, too. If you have a sewing machine or have access to a sewing machine, you can make something like this. And if you don't have a sewing machine, you could sew these straight lines by hand or use Stitch-Witchery or glue to make those straight seams.
You can do it! And I want to see what you do!