Tuesday, August 31

Moments to remember

My boys all started school yesterday. After moving into the dorm and going on class trips last week, yesterday was the big day.

The boys quietly and calmly went about their business. I guess I'll always think of them as "the boys," even though they're young men now. No big production--just back to school. I wish I were the scrapbooking kind of mom, the kind of mom who would always take pictures to remember such special things as the first day of each school year. I'm afraid I'm not organized enough for that.

But I was happy this past week to be reminded of a special little fact. Turns out that the very first friend that my oldest son ever made in school, many years ago and in another city and state, has now become a friend again. That little boy we used to know now lives in the same dorm at Duke as my son.

My son was in third grade when he went off to school for the first time. That first day of school prompted me to take a photo:

Now, eleven years later, those boys' paths have crossed again. Isn't that cool?

So I'm reminded that, although I may not be a scrapbooking kind of mom, God is a storytelling kind of God. He is telling me the story of His goodness and kindness and everlasting faithfulness, the way He takes care of us and provides for all our needs. And He is gently urging me to remember that He always will.

I'm grateful to be back to school with a very patient Teacher.

--Gratefully Unwrapped with Emily at Chatting at the Sky

Monday, August 30

Where do I blog?

Kate, the incomparable Centsational Girl, is having a party today--a party for all of us to give one another a glimpse into our lives and to share where we blog.

So here's what I wanted to do. I wanted to tell you that I blog mostly sitting at the kitchen counter. And I wanted to link to a post I wrote about how I painted and re-upholstered the barstool I'm sitting on. And I wanted to link to a post that featured photos of my kitchen. And I even thought about telling you some of the other magical, heart-warming things that happen in my kitchen. And then you would want to read more about me and perhaps even follow my blog so that you wouldn't miss a single idea or a word of wisdom.

But you know what? I've had a day from you-know-where. Although I am sitting at my kitchen counter, I'm certainly not experiencing anything heart-warming or magical. Mostly I'm sitting here looking at this:

That's all the stuff that's supposed to be under my kitchen sink. But it can't be under my kitchen sink right now because I'm waiting on the plumber who was supposed to come earlier to fix the leak under my kitchen sink but who got the times that I was available mixed up and who had to go to another job and so I'm left with all this clutter on my counter and without hot water in my kitchen or a dishwasher. And, obviously, I'm so discombobulated that I can't think in anything other than hopeless run-on sentences.

Now, aren't you impressed? Don't you want to follow my blog so that you won't miss a single word of wisdom? Aren't you inspired?

Heaven help me.

Friday, August 27


This week has been a busy time in our house. "Meet the Teacher Day" at school was on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, our middle son left for his senior class trip. On Wednesday our youngest son left on his 8th grade class trip. Our oldest son moved back into the dorm at Duke yesterday. The house has been a flurry of laundry and packing and school supply gathering.

And then yesterday it was empty. The younger boys will be home today, but for awhile things were eerily quiet. And what did I do? I could have read a book or taken a nap or sipped a cup of tea or prayed or just about anything else for hours. Uninterrupted. Instead, I ran around like a chicken with its head cut off, frantically trying to get things done. No one was forcing me to be crazy-busy. There were no children to care for, no meetings to attend, no carpool lines to navigate, no deadlines to meet. I forced the craziness on myself.

And I accomplished almost nothing.

So today I am backing up, quieting myself, remembering these words of wisdom. Maybe you need them, too.

Much of our acceptance of multitudes of obligations is due to our inability to say No. We calculated that the task had to be done, and we saw no one ready to undertake it. We calculated the need, and then calculated our time, and decided maybe we could squeeze it in somewhere. But the decision was a heady decision, not made within the sanctuary of the soul. When we say Yes or No to calls for service on the basis of heady decisions, we have to give reasons, to ourselves and to others. But when we say Yes or No to calls on the basis of inner guidance and whispered promptings of encouragement from the Center of our life, or in the basis of a lack of any inward "rising" of that Life to encourage us in the call, we have no reason to give, except one--the will of God as we discern it. Then we have begun to live in guidance. And I find He never guides us into an intolerable scramble of panting feverishness. . . .

Life from the Center is a life of unhurried peace and power. It is simple. It is serene. It is amazing. It is triumphant. It is radiant. It takes no time, but it occupies all our time. And it makes our life programs new and overcoming. We need not get frantic. He is at the helm.

Thomas Kelly, A Testament of Devotion

Blessings to you!

Wednesday, August 25

Inspired by Pottery Barn: pillow tutorial

The other day I was browsing through my mother's button box when I came across these beauties:

I'm betting they were from a coat back in the 1970's. Who knows? But they were nice, big wooden buttons, so I pulled them out and wondered what I could do with them. A few days later, I got my newest Pottery Barn catalog, and found wonderful pillows created with--you guessed it--buttons!

I just loved those pillows with all their buttony cuteness.  And the fabric from which they were made reminded me of canvas. You know, this kind:

Game on.

The dimensions of the Pottery Barn pillows are 16" x 26", so I cut two rectangles 18" x 28" from my dropcloth. (I always add one inch to each side of my fabric whenever I sew anything. My sewing skills are very elementary, and allowing that one inch seam allowance keeps things simple.)

To create the look of the front of the Pottery Barn pillow, I cut a third panel of fabric 25% shorter than the others, but I added a couple of extra inches to fold under, so that panel was 18" x 23". I folded one end under two inches and pressed it, creating a panel 18" x 21".

See the short panel on top of the long panel?

This panel I placed on top of one of the other panels and pinned it in place, then sewed a straight seam about 1 1/2 inches from the fold. This created one panel to be the front of my pillow. (Note: I am not a good seamstress, but I'm a darn good pinner. Click here to see a pretty shower curtain I made via careful pinning and dismal sewing.)

Once those two pieces were sewn together, I simply took my front and back panels, put them right sides together, and sewed straight seams down the sides. I left a good-sized gap in the bottom for stuffing the pillow. (Click here for a pillow-making tutorial.) Then I turned my pillow cover right side out and pressed it.

And then for the fun part: adding the buttons! I used a tape measure and placed four buttons evenly along the front of the pillow. I used a pencil to make dots on the fabric where the buttons would go. (I just poked the pencil tip right through the button's holes to mark the place).

See the pencil marks?

Now it's starting to look like the real thing!

When the pillow case was all finished, I stuffed an old bed pillow in it and closed up the gap at the bottom.

Voila! A brand-new Pottery-Barn-inspired pillow, all made of materials I had on hand!

What do you think?

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For other great projects inspired by Pottery Barn, check out the The Pottery Barn Challenge at The CSI Project. And for lots and lots of pillows, don't miss the The Pillow Challenge at The CSI Project. Those CSI girls really know how to round up great projects!

The Lettered Cottage

Tuesday, August 24

DIY Textured, Aged Pots

Recently I spent a leisurely time just walking through Pottery Barn, admiring all the accessories. Of the many things that caught my eye, I especially liked the beautiful terra cotta pots. They were brand new, but they looked as if they'd been gracing a garden for years, building up a wonderful patina. These were dotted throughout the store, holding everything from moss balls to topiaries to silk flowers.

Inspired by Pottery Barn, I figured out a way to make my own "aged" pots.

I started with plain terra cotta pots, each about a buck from a garden center.

I sprayed them lightly with this fleck stone spray paint. You should be able to find it with the spray paint at big box home stores, or you can order it from Amazon. It's a little more expensive than regular spray paint, but not outrageous.

I sprayed my pots until they looked like this.

Then I sanded them for a distressed look, and dabbed on some craft paint in a few different shades to mimic the dirt and moss.

That's it!  It couldn't be more simple, and the only pricey part of making it is the spray paint--but one can goes a long way. 

Since then, I've seen other DIY aged pots, but those don't have the texture of the pots that inspired me.  The extra step of applying the Stone spray paint is well worth it!

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Thursday, August 19

Custom coasters

I love coasters. And at our house, it's a good thing. All of us take our drinks with us wherever we go, so we need places to set those drinks.

One of my favorite kinds of coasters is the kind of cork-backed hardboard made by Pimpernel and other companies. I think those are very pretty--but they're also very expensive. I was in need of new coasters for my bedroom when I was at the thrift store and spied these beauties:

What? Don't you like Christmas trees?

Well, this part is beautiful:

Four sturdy coasters for $1.00. And all it took was a coating of spray paint to get rid of the Christmas scene.

I wanted pretty coasters to match my homemade bedding, so I used espresso spray paint for the base. Then I added a stencil and


Custom coasters for my bedroom, all for an investment of $1, a little spray paint, and a little time. Honestly, I think you can spray paint anything! For more wonderful ideas, check out

Wednesday, August 18

Easy gift for a teacher

If you're like me, you're doing back-to-school shopping. One of my favorite of all school supplies is wooden pencils. I've always liked Dixon Ticonderoga pencils the best. Is it weird to have a favorite pencil?

As I'm hitting the back-to-school sales, I try to pick up some extra items while they're cheap. Even though my own kids are too big to need crayons, I buy some boxes of Crayolas. These are great to add to Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

I also purchase supplies for making this fun teacher gift:

Supplies: inexpensive vase with straight sides, pencils, rubber band, ribbon
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. So these don't have be Dixon Ticonderogas. My vase required 22 pencils to cover the entire outside.)

Simply apply hot glue to sides of vase and glue pencils all the way around the vase.

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

Encircle the vase with a rubber band (just to keep things nice and steady) and cover with a bit of ribbon. Add some grocery-store flowers and you're done!

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

Tuesday, August 17

Thankful on a Tuesday

See that cute little photo? That's my eldest son, Will. He just got home after being away for 10 weeks. He spent his summer on a Summer Project with Campus Crusade for Christ. I'm so proud of the way he worked and learned and grew as a man of God this summer.

I'm thankful to have him home. When he got home, though, he had a surprise for us. He told us about a special adventure he and a few of his friends had during the last week of the Project. That last week included a good bit of free time for the students to enjoy--sort of a vacation after their summer of hard work. Guess what Will did during his vacation?

Yep. He jumped out of a plane. One of his friends took that shot of him as he was about to land on the beach.

But I'm especially thankful for this photo, which one of his friends took after he landed.

Is he crazy? No. Well, maybe a little bit. Mostly he's a 19-year-old boy.

His summer activities showed that he stands on the Solid Rock. Which is even more important than standing on solid ground.

Sunday, August 15

The (inexpensive, real-life) pantry organization project

My dream house has a very large cook's pantry as well as a beautifully-appointed butler's pantry. Come to think of it, my dream house might have a cook and a butler, as well.

My real house has a small pantry, and I ought to be grateful for it. It's conveniently located in the little hallway that leads from the kitchen to the garage. Instead of being grateful, though, I've been grumpy that the pantry looked like this:

It's hard to get a photo of the whole thing, but that gives you the general idea. Ugh.

Inspired by projects I've seen online, I was finally ready to tackle this big project.  I was released from my ordinary wife-and-mother duties when my husband and sons took a weekend trip, so I decided to give my pantry a makeover. The thing is, I wanted to make my pantry look nice, but I needed to keep it real. I have three teenage boys, so it needs to hold a lot of food. I knew that, even though they might be cute, dainty little containers wouldn't work for me. And I needed to do this whole thing without spending much money. So here's what I did.

First I removed every single thing from the pantry. Look at all this:

That's embarrassing. My table is 11 1/2 feet long, for crying out loud!

After a good scrubbing, the pantry already looked better.

Before I re-stocked the pantry shelves, I inspected the foodstuffs. I was a little surprised at how many items had long since passed their expiration dates. The worst was a box of sugar-free Jello that expired in June 2003.

Next I mapped out my new pantry. I re-used some plastic drawers that I already owned to organize some small things. For the shelves, I loved the idea of beautifully woven baskets or antique milk crates to hold things. But I wanted to spend less than $75 on the entire project, and none of my idyllic images fit within that budget. So I found these great plastic baskets at Target. They're available in three sizes. I ended up using a dozen medium baskets ($3.59 each) and four small baskets ($2.59 each). The baskets can stand alone or stack:

Lest I simply end up with a bunch of messy baskets, I gave each one an assignment and made tags for them. I didn't have any card stock, so I made the tags by gluing pretty wrapping paper to an old file folder and then cutting out circles with a paper punch. I used my label-maker to print out the contents and stuck the labels on my tags, which I attached to the baskets with cord.

Some items I left out of containers. I actually like the look of goods lined up on shelves. Maybe that's because I was born in Memphis, Tennessee, home of the first self-serve grocery store, and when I was a little girl my dad worked for a grocery wholesale business. Perhaps a love for well-stocked shelves is in my blood. Anyway, I organized canned and boxed items by type and put labels on the shelves so that it'll be obvious to everyone where things go.

Here's a closer look:

I wanted some of those cool three-tiered shelves for holding canned goods, but they were $8.99 apiece at my Target. Not a bad price, really, but I was trying to spend as little money as possible. I decided I only really needed tiers for canned soups, and I improvised some of my own by using plastic baskets turned upside down. I'd found these for 49 cents each at Goodwill; I knew they'd come in handy for something!

As I surveyed my organized pantry, I was overcome with gratitude for the bounty that God has provided for my family. I was reminded of the prayer that my boys said when they were very small: "Thank you for the world so sweet; thank you for the food we eat; thank you for the birds that sing; thank you, God, for everything." A few weeks ago I found some vinyl letters on clearance at Target for $3.24; I used some of those to post a line from that prayer on the wall of the pantry.

The letters were originally foil, but I spray-painted them black to match my basket tags.

And now for some photos of the whole thing:

Again, it's hard to get a photo of the whole thing, but these shots will give you a top-to-bottom idea of the new space:

Total expenditure for this project was $57.58 for baskets; everything else I had on hand. And the best part is that, with everything labeled, I think I'll be able to keep it organized and tidy. The hardest part has been keeping my work a secret from my husband. He's very neat and organized, and the pantry has been a pain in his neck for a long time. He's called several times this weekend, and each time he's asked, "What have you been up to?" I can't wait to see the look on his face when he goes in search of a snack!

Click here to see my whole kitchen!

Linking to:
Transformation Thursday at Gina's
Feature Yourself Friday at Rachelle's