Thursday, July 29

A tiny transformation

We're a Kleenex kind of household. At this moment, you can find boxes of tissues in at least five different rooms of our house. In the winter and spring, you'll find even more. I guess we sneeze a lot.

I don't like having naked boxes of tissues around. I know that tissue manufacturers try to make the boxes attractive; I guess I'm sensitive about tissue box decor. But I'm also sensitive about how much tissue box covers cost at retail stores. Yikes!

So I watch for tissue box covers at thrift stores, and recently I found this little gem:

Not quite the look I wanted, but I did like the price. So I got out my trusty spray paint:

And a stencil:

I'm quite happy with my new tissue box cover! Not bad at all for 99 cents. Meanwhile, I came up with another use for an empty tissue box. I use it to store empty plastic bags. I have half a dozen re-usable bags, but I often forget to take them into stores with me. I find that plastic bags are useful for many different things, but storing them has been a challenge. Solution: stuff them down into an empty tissue box. And if you have a 99-cent decorative cover for your tissue box, you can have a plastic bag dispenser that's useful and pretty!

Wednesday, July 28

Progress, not perfection

The lovely Amanda from Serenity Now is having a "Show Me the Progress!" party today. I love this idea for a blog party. Too often I get sucked into feeling that I should only write about projects that are finished . . . and it's a short trip from there to feeling that my projects could never measure up to others' projects. This party celebrates progress rather than perfection, which is a good goal for home projects as well as life in general.

This summer I've made some progress on my screened-in porch. It's been so slow that I almost didn't notice it. About this time last year I decided to create a sitting area on my porch. I did that on a shoestring, and I was happy with the result. But things were still very much unfinished. The bench looked like it had seen better days (which was true), and I wanted a coffee table or ottoman or something for the seating area. My budget for further work on the porch? $25. I knew I didn't need to spend more than that.

So I painted the bench black using some paint I already had on hand. Then I made some new pillows using $7.99/yard fabric I found at my local discount fabric store. So far, so good, and I'd only spent $8.

Then I made an ottoman from a styrofoam cooler, using foam and fabric I had on hand. I did spend $13 to purchase molding corner rosettes that I fashioned into feet for the ottoman. You can read about that project here.

Now my sitting area is looking pretty good, and I've spent only $21. That's progress, and I'm grateful to Amanda for reminding me that progress is worth celebrating!

Tuesday, July 27

A sweet shot

Sometimes a sweet shot is a brilliant photo. An incredible example of photographic prowess.

But if you happen to have a son who's spending the summer thousands of miles away from home, and if you happen to get the chance to visit him, and if he happens to smile for you, well . . .

. . . it doesn't matter how perfect the photo is. It's a sweet shot.

Check out all the sweet shots at Darcy's!

Friday, July 23

A treat for your hands

With all the things that you do to make your home an inviting space, do you ever end up with your hands looking like this?

Me too. And I've been inspired to do something about that. I guess I could wear gloves, but I'm not very good at handling things while wearing gloves, so instead I've come up with a way to care for my hands after I've abused them.

Simply take some kosher salt (coarse but not rocky)

and mix it with some oil. You can use whatever kind of oil you like. Olive oil is very nice. Or you can use this:

It contains aloe vera and other nutrients and smells like the beach.

Simply mix the salt and oil together. The mixture will be coarse and crumbly; the oil doesn't dissolve the salt. (If you tend to have lots of cuts and scratches on your hands and want to avoid using salt, try turbinado sugar instead of salt.)

Store the mixture in a plastic or glass container. I keep mine in a little crock by the kitchen sink.

To use, take a handful of the mixture and massage it gently for about sixty seconds, then wash your hands. They'll be as smooth as a baby's bottom.


Monday, July 19

DIY Ottoman

Last summer I used an Omaha Steaks styrofoam cooler to make an ottoman for my front porch. A year later, that ottoman is still going strong, so I decided to make another one. I used the lessons I learned from my first DIY ottoman and created a sturdier version:

In case you'd like to make your own ottoman, here's a tutorial.

1. Start with a sturdy styrofoam cooler.

2. Add some old magazines or something similar to give the cooler more weight.

3. Hot-glue foam padding (I used an old mattress topper) to the top and a piece of wood to the bottom of the cooler. The padding makes the top nice and cushy, and the wood on the bottom gives you something to which you can staple your fabric. You can leave the sides bare or pad them.

4. Select a piece of fabric. I used a piece of upholstery-weight decorator's fabric left over from another project. I happened to have a piece that was 1 1/2 yards long and 54" wide; this was plenty for my ottoman.

5. Wrap the cooler like a present, using a staple gun to secure the fabric to the bottom of the ottoman. Be sure to pull the fabric taut as you go. You'll have lots of spare fabric on the sides; cut out some of the excess underneath so that the fabric will lie flat. This is a pull and tug and stick-out-your-tongue process, but it doesn't take too long.

Once you've pulled and tugged so that your fabric is taut and smooth all over, add plenty of staples to hold the fabric securely in place.

6. If you like, add feet to the bottom. This will give your ottoman a more finished look. You can use proper furniture feet (I found some at Home Depot starting at $4.67 each) or be creative and make your own. I used molding corner rosettes to make my feet. I glued two rosettes together for each ottoman foot, then spray-painted them black.  These I had to secure to the bottom with glue. If you use real furniture feet, you'll be able to screw them into place.

Another shot of the finished product:

The rosettes cost $1.59 each. All the other materials were things I had on hand, so my total cost for this project was less than $15.00 and less than two hours' time.

Here's the ottoman in its new home on my screened-in porch:

What do you think?
I think it's a handy little place to prop your feet! Now I need to find a little tray to go on top so that it'll hold a nice glass of iced tea.

Check out all the fun outdoor projects at Kimba's mid-summer DIY Day and The Furniture Makeover Challenge at CSI!

Sunday, July 18

Blogging woes . . . and a winner

Blogging is hard for those of us who are technologically challenged.

Honestly, I'm not quite sure what I'm doing wrong. I've done one thing right: I've changed my name. This blog can now be found at the simple address "" I love that part. That's the easy part.

The hard part? Getting everything from my old Blogspot address to my new address. It's not supposed to be any big deal--everything is supposed to move automatically. But so far some stuff hasn't moved. Comments, for instance. If you click on an old post, you're likely to see "0 Comments," which really makes me sad. I'm told that they'll get here eventually.

Meanwhile, I needed to pick a winner for my Summer Reading giveaway, but that post is only showing 4 comments. You'll have to take my word for it: there were more than four comments, and the Random Number Generator chose #15 as the winner. If I counted the comments correctly, Commenter #15 was The Scooper at A La Mode. Scooper, send me an email with your address, and I'll send your copy of Stuff Christians Like right out to you!

Thursday, July 15

My best salad recipe

It's July, and it's hot, but we still need to eat. So, with excellent timing, Traci at Beneath My Heart is having a salad party!

I'll share with you a salad recipe that always gets rave reviews. Always. It's actually more of a crunchy cole slaw. Whatever you call it, you should try it. It's delicious.

A delicious side salad that is easy to make and good for rave reviews

Aside from a few pantry staples, here's all you'll need to make this yummy side dish:

Here's the recipe.

Crunchy Cole Slaw


16 oz. cole slaw mix or chopped cabbage
3-6 green onions

1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds
1 package Ramen noodles (chicken or Oriental flavor)

1/2 cup oil (I use canola)
3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons sugar (or 3 packets artificial sweetener)
1/2 teaspoon salt
seasoning packet from Ramen noodles


Roast almonds and Ramen noodles at 350 degrees until light brown (about 5-7 minutes). Set aside.

Chop green onions. Stir into cabbage.

Whisk dressing ingredients together well.

Toss vegetables, crunchies, and dressing together just before serving.

Click here for a printable copy!

As I look at this picture I think this salad doesn't look that impressive. But believe me: you should try it. You'll like it. I promise!

Wednesday, July 14

Summer reading (and a book giveaway)

Amanda at Serenity Now is having one of her fun Dishing It parties today, and her topic is a great one: summer reading.


Oh, how I love to read. Left to my own devices, I'd spend hours on end with my nose in a book. There aren't enough hours, though, so I'm picky about where I park my nose. For me, a book needs to be at least one of three "E's":
  • Entertaining
  • Educational
  • Edifying
And if a book is more than one of these, it's a real winner.

We went to the beach last week, and I read two (count 'em! Two!) novels. My son Preston has been hounding me to read some of his favorite authors, so I gave in and read Michael Crichton's A Case of Need. Preston seemed happy to say "I told you you'd like him" when I asked what Crichton book I should read next. As it turned out, Next was the Crichton novel Preston recommended I read next! These novels were both entertaining and certainly thought-provoking if not educational. I give them 1 1/2 E's.

Next up for me is Longing for God: Seven Paths of Christian Devotion by Richard J. Foster and Gayle D. Beebe.

You've read Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, haven't you? If not, click here and order it. Believe me, you'll be glad you did.

About Longing for God John Ortberg says, "This is a feast for the mind and the soul. This is the best and richest of Christian thinking and soul-making made accessible to everybody. It would be very hard to read this without having your heart grow." Sounds good, doesn't it? This is going to be at least a 2 E book.

And as for the giveaway, there's one more book that's been in my hands this summer:

Stuff Christians Like by Jonathan Acuff. If you like tongue-in-cheek writing, you'll like Jon's book. Be warned: Jon's an equal-opportunity offender, so you'll have to bring your sense of humor with you when you read his book. But underneath Jon's sarcasm beats a heart aflame with a white-hot love for God.

I am proud to say that Jon Acuff is the oldest son of two of my dearest friends in the world, Mark and Libby Acuff. When Jon was visiting his parents recently I bought a few copies of his book: one for me, a couple for gifts, and one for you. That's right: I got Jon Acuff to autograph a copy of Stuff Christians Like for me to give away. Leave a comment on this post to enter. I'll use a random number generator to select a winner from among the commenters on Sunday, July 18.

**Note: You don't have to be a blogger to comment. My blog is set up to accept comments from anyone, including people who prefer not set up a Blogger account or even remain anonymous. Just click on "Comments" or "Post a Comment" below and you'll be directed to a form. If you do choose to comment as "Anonymous," though, be sure to leave some kind of name or contact information in the form--that way I can get in touch with you if you're the winner!**

Happy reading!

Tuesday, July 13

Love grows

My baby boy was just two months old the first time we took him to the beach. Too tiny to sit in an umbrella stroller.

Thirteen years have gone by so fast. I think he might not be a baby any more.

I'm glad that love grows even faster than boys do.

Sunday, July 11

Dog days

I've read a little about why these hot, hot days are called the "dog days of summer." I suppose it's true that the term originated with ancient peoples who equated the hottest days of summer with the time that Sirius, the brightest star in the Canis Major constellation, rises and sets with the sun.

But when the temperature is in the 90's for days on end and the humidity makes the air feel as if you could cut it with a knife, I think the dogs are the only ones who have the right idea about how to cope.

Remind me never to complain about winter weather again.

Tuesday, July 6

Outdoor decor

The girls over at the CSI Project are sponsoring a weekly challenge party. These parties are wonderful because they're fulfilling the mission of the CSI Project--Create, Share, Inspire. I'm excited to be participating in this week's challenge: outdoor decor.

One of the reasons we bought this house five years ago was because it has a covered front porch. I could practically live on a covered porch. So when it was time to decorate my covered front porch, I decided to make an outdoor living room.

The truth is, though, that at first I didn't do anything at all. Buying the house and furnishing the interior had used up all our house money. The second year we lived here, though, we were able to buy all-weather wicker furniture for the front porch. After that purchase was made, the fun of decorating began.

I pulled a cute little antique desk from one of my indoor rooms. I keep it way at the back of the covered porch so that it's not subject to very much weathering. I love having a place for a lamp on the porch. These lamps I found four years ago at Target. Both lamps on the front porch are made for outdoor use. They're really heavy, have all-weather-fabric shades, and light bulbs enclosed in globes. I keep compact fluorescent bulbs in them and leave them burning all the time. One of my favorite things about having a front porch is that it says "Welcome Home" to me. Having those lamps burning adds to that effect.

The porch decor is rounded out by an outdoor rug purchased at Target and an ottoman I made from an Omaha Steaks cooler. You can read this post if you'd like to know more about that project.

Of course, live plants can be a wonderful part of any outdoor decor. If you're wondering what will grow on a covered porch, try coleus. These green pots by my front door are completely shaded--not even shade-loving flowers like impatiens would bloom here. But coleus goes wild, as you can see from this photo:

I'm trying Boston ferns for the first time this year. I elevated a couple on wonderful, chippy old chairs that I got at a neighbor's garage sale for $5. They're not thriving in the shade the same way the coleus is, but at least they're still alive.

Now to the back of the house, where we have a screened porch. Our screened porch is small, and it languished in an un-decorated state until last year, when I finally decided that I could squeeze in both an eating table and a sitting area. Now it's one of my favorite spots in the house.

One of my favorite things about decorating outdoor spaces is that you can use really inexpensive items. Something about the casual feel of being outdoors and the natural light combine to make even the most humble accessories look great. For instance, I love the pitcher of daisies that adorns my porch eating table. The daisies were from Dollar Tree, and the pitcher was from Goodwill.

The throw pillows on the bench and chairs are all homemade. The green fabric was left over from another project, and I found the floral fabric at my local discount fabric store. I simply stitched up squares that would fit around old throw pillows.

And, hmmm . . . I don't have any kind of coffee table out here, but I do have another styrofoam cooler in the garage. Wonder if the screened porch could use an ottoman? What do you think?

Now come on over and sit a spell, won't you?