Friday, October 29

A portrait of grace

Once upon a time there lived a girl who suffered from a rare disorder which had caused her to be born with a birthmark covering most of the right side of her body. The girl was very self-conscious, for her birthmark was very unsightly. Other children laughed and pointed. Adults shook their heads sadly and whispered to one another about it. But aside from her birthmark, the girl was pretty normal, and she had the same hopes and dreams as other girls.

When the girl grew up, she met a boy. The boy was sweet and kind and didn't seem even to notice the girl's birthmark. The boy fell in love with the girl and asked her to marry him, which she gladly did. They had a sweet marriage and they had three boys of their own, none of whom inherited her rare disorder. The years drew on, and they were happy.

But the boy, a family man now, could tell that the girl, a grown woman now, was still bothered by her birthmark. He could tell that she didn't see herself the way he saw her. So he decided to do something about it. At great trouble and significant expense, he arranged for her to have a professional portrait made of herself. He knew the portrait would be lovely, and he wanted his wife to be able to see that lovely image and to know that this was the way he saw her.

That's a true story. I know that story because I am the girl. When my husband and I had been married 15 years, he arranged for me to have a portrait made. He wanted me to be able to see myself as he sees me--not as a woman marred by an unsightly birthmark, but as the one he loves.

My story is probably not the same as yours. You probably don't have a rare disorder that caused a birthmark covering much of your body. But I'm willing to bet that you feel marked in some way.

Perhaps you are underweight, or maybe you are overweight. Perhaps you have too much hair, or maybe your hair is falling out. Perchance you are extremely short, or it may be that you are remarkably tall. Maybe you are very shy and feel that you never know what to say, or perhaps you're very outspoken and often feel that you talk too much. Chances are good that you possess some characteristic that seems to be the most noticeable thing about you.

But I have good news for you. That flaw that feels so obvious, that characteristic which causes you such distress, that issue that feels completely insurmountable (I know how it feels, believe me!)--no matter what it is--it doesn't define you. You may find this hard to believe, but the way you see yourself is not necessarily the way others see you.

And above all, that's not the picture of you that God carries in his heart.

You're not perfect, are you? But you don't have to be. God sees you as His beloved child. He thinks of you in the same way that a proud papa thinks of his newborn--not as a red, wrinkly, funny-looking little creature, but as the most beautiful baby ever to be born. He looks at you through eyes of love and grace, and He is so proud of you.

Sometimes, when I'm not feeling very pretty, I look at my portrait. I remind myself that the portrait is a more faithful picture of how my husband sees me than the image I see in the mirror. Perhaps you need that kind of portrait of yourself. Here's a word picture for you to pull out and remember on those days:

"The king is enthralled by your beauty. Honor him, for he is your Lord" (Psalm 45:10).

It's hard to believe, isn't it? God knows that. But He wants you to believe. Listen to these words from Ephesians 3:

"I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power. . . to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

See? The prayer is that you have power--not power to do great things or accomplish wonderful works--but power to understand the love of Christ. A love that surpasses knowledge--including your knowledge of your flaws. A love that sees you through the lens of grace.

It's a beautiful picture.

**Joining Emily at Chatting at the Sky for a celebration of Grace**

Thursday, October 28

Knock-Off Party

Homebody Holly is having a Knock-Off Party! It'll be fun to see what Pottery Barn, Ballard Designs, and Restoration Hardware knock-offs people have come up with.

I'm often inspired by Pottery Barn. Lately, I've done a couple of fun knock-offs.

A wonderful pillow (click here to read about this).

and an "aged" terra cotta pot (click here to read about this).

Check out the party at Holly's for lots of fun knock-off inspiration!

Wednesday, October 27

My new guest room

I've been at work updating our guest bedroom, and it's time for a little tour. Join me!

First, a snapshot of how the room used to look:

I liked many things about my guest room, but I'd been itching to make some changes. As you can see, this room used to be all reds and golds. I'd added a bit of green earlier this year, when I updated the upholstered headboards, but I found myself wanting a bit of blue to go with the green. I still needed to work with some red and gold, though, because I didn't want to change the upholstered chair in the room or the decor in the adjoining bathroom, and to tell the truth I didn't really feel like painting the walls. I also didn't want to spend much money. I'm not picky, am I? So what have I done for little money but big impact?

Well, here's the view as you step in the door of the room:

This is a long, narrow room, so I'll show you both ends. One end:

(Note: I like having twin beds in the guest room. Married couples who visit don't seem to mind sleeping in separate beds for a night or two, and having separate beds allows us to accommodate our sons' friends when they visit. It seems we often have college students occupying this room, and they're more comfortable if they each have their own beds. And while I know it's very fashionable to replace a ceiling fan with a chandelier, I chose to keep the fan. It's hot here in North Carolina!)

And here's the other end of the room:

A few details:

The plates and prints I showed you last week. I like the way they fill up this side wall.

I liked my bedside table and lamps, so I kept them. I added a mirror that I had on hand just above the table and filled a Goodwill-vase-painted-blue with some gorgeous dried hydrangeas. I'll swap the hydrangeas out for fresh flowers whenever we have guests.

I made new window valances

and throw pillows out of this pretty brown print. I also added new cording to the headboards, but it doesn't show up too well in the photos.

I had some reproduction travel posters, so I hung them above the chest holding the TV. I also found a lamp on clearance at Target and painted it blue. I like having a little television for guests to use, and I always keep some kind of chocolate on hand for guests.

Like my shutter project, the lamp involved spray-painting a blue base coat and then wiping on stain until I had a color I liked.

I still love these hatboxes that double as a chairside table, so I kept them.

I hung my shutters for another pop of blue. I love the way they look with postcards and photos tucked into them! I'll add more French postcards as I come across them.

Cost of updates:

Fabric for valances and pillows: $23.97
Cording for headboards: $24.50
Lamp: $9.08
Shutters: $3.00
Plates: $4.08

Total: $64.63

Having a special place to welcome friends and family: priceless.

How many blogging buddies could sleep comfortably here?

I'm joining these fun parties:

Tuesday, October 26

October grace

It happened last October, and I shook my head in puzzlement. Chrysanthemums and gardenias blooming at the same time? Huh??

It happened again this October. . . and this time, I nodded my head in wonder.

Perhaps grace is the freedom to enjoy gifts just as they're given.

Every good and perfect gift is from above,
and comes down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning (James 1:17).

**Sharing this snapshot of grace with Emily at Chatting at the Sky**

Monday, October 25

My Mom Cave (in 200 words or less)

I am the only girl in a houseful of boys.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sometimes, though, I like to be by myself--to read, to write, or just to be. I don't have a whole room to myself, but I do have my own little corner of the world. . . in the corner of the kitchen. Like Cinderella?

No, not Cinderella. Just Richella.

Little things make it mine:

Books, photos, flowers, my blog logo.

My mom's jewelry box, now a caddy for desktop supplies.

And my favorite thing: my reading chair. This chair is where I sat and nursed my babies. Hundreds of hours I spent in this chair, a tiny redheaded boy in one hand and a book in the other. It's been re-upholstered since then, but its contours still fit just right. Oh, the memories.

It's just a tiny corner of the world, but it's all mine!

**Joining Centsational Girl Kate for her Mom Cave party!**

Friday, October 22

Frugal solution: hanging plates

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you're gearing up for a wonderful Autumn weekend.

I wanted to show you a little project I've been working on in my guest room. Next week I'll show you the completed room. . . Lord willing, I'll finish the room just in time for the arrival of several overnight guests.

My guest room has a long wall that I've never quite figured out how to accessorize--so I've left it alone. I had four old art prints that I wanted to use, but the grouping was a little too small for this wall.

Then I found this at Goodwill:

Haviland china, made in France. Six of them, to be precise. $0.68 each. They were terribly stained, but pretty, and I decided that I could take a chance with them for that price. I brought them home and ran them through the dishwasher, and they came out looking brilliant! Stains gone!

I wondered how my prints would look hanging with the plates, and I figured there was no harm in trying it out.

First, I readied my plates for hanging by hot-gluing saw-tooth hangers on the back. I figured the charm of my bargain would be marred by having to spend money on plate hangers. Besides, this method works well and can't be seen from the front.

**Edited to add: A couple of readers commented that hot glue might not hold up, especially for the long haul, so perhaps it would be a good idea to use something a little more substantial to hold the sawtooth hangers onto the plates. I'll reinforce my hangers with a strong, long-lasting adhesive. I've used plain hot glue to hold lots of lighter items with great results, but plates are a little heavy, so I'll take their advice to heart and recommend that you do the same.**

My method of hanging things in groupings is very scientific. I eyeball it. When things look even, I call it good.

Four prints and two plates. Hmmm.

I wondered if I should stop with just this grouping, or if I wanted to use all six plates. I didn't want to put holes in the wall and then decide that I didn't like the whole composition, so I copied Holly's method of taping plate-sized pieces of paper to the wall.

I liked it (thanks, Holly!), so I decided it was worth it to keep going with the hammer and nails.

And here's the final result:

What do you think? Come back next week and see the whole room!

P.S. The winner of the Halloween giveaway is Tanya from FrouFrou Britches. Tanya, your package should arrive soon!

Tuesday, October 19

Halloween fun. . . a recipe and a giveaway

Halloween is fast approaching! I have to say that Halloween is one of those holidays that's not nearly so much fun with older kids as it is with little kids. I miss the days of my boys' eagerly deciding how they wanted to dress for Halloween and excitedly counting their candy haul. Our costumes were usually homemade (i.e. inexpensive) and ranged from soldiers to pirates to elves from Lord of the Rings.

The oldest pieces of my pumpkin collection are jack-o-lanterns that I pull out every year. We've moved ten times over the course of our marriage, but both of these pumpkins have made it unscathed.

This one is now 25 years old. My parents bought him for me when I was a brand-new wife. I've proudly lit him up on Halloween night since 1985!

This one is 24 years old. My boss gave him to me for my birthday back in 1986. My husband was a graduate student at the University of Virginia and I was working while he was in school. I worked for a very kind man who happened to share my birthday, and he bought me this jack-o-lantern on the day I turned 23. This little fellow is made from Virginia clay, and he's definitely a prized possession.

My love for pumpkins extends to eating baked goods made from pumpkin. When I was a little girl, my favorite sweet in the world was pumpkin pie. One of my earliest memories is of a sweet woman named "Miss Janie" who made pumpkin pies year-round. A trip to Miss Janie's house was always a treat for me. Now I make pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, but I make other pumpkin desserts, too. Here's the recipe for one of my favorites, Pumpkin Cake. Closely related to carrot cake (but a lot easier to make), this is one of my most-often requested recipes.

Pumpkin Cake


2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups pureed pumpkin (I used a 15 oz. can solid pack pumpkin)

4 eggs

1 cup canola oil

1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a tube or bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add wet ingredients and mix together thoroughly. Stir in nuts. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake approximately one hour, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan ten minutes, then remove from pan and cool on rack until completely cool.


1 lb. powdered sugar

1 stick butter, softened

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

8 oz. cream cheese

1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Mix all ingredients together and spread on a cooled cake.

Oh, glory. . . make this and prepare for compliments.

And oh, yes, the Halloween giveaway! Just for fun, I'm giving away these cute retro Halloween items.

I love the traditional but muted colors in these tea towels and the ceramic jack-o-lantern. The jack-o-lantern is designed to hold a tea light; he has a hole in his stem to allow smoke to escape. Leave a comment if you'd like to win this little gift. I'll randomly pick a winner on Thursday and send a package right out so that the winner can enjoy these goodies before Halloween. You don't have be a subscriber or follower to enter, although I'd love for you to subscribe or follow me if you'd like to do so.

Happy Halloween!

Today the CSI Project is hosting a Halloween Extravaganza, where there is sure to be lots of Halloween inspiration.

And of course there are always lots of fun things to be learned at Hope Studios on Tuesday!

Sunday, October 17

R.I.P., June Cleaver

I was saddened to hear of the death of the lovely Barbara Billingsley on October 16. She was 94.
Barbara is best known for her portrayal of June Cleaver in the hit television series Leave it to Beaver. Always pleasant, nicely dressed, and beautifully coiffed, June epitomized the ideal stay-at-home mom of the 1950's.

Little did Barbara/June know that, as much as she was appreciated by audiences of her own day, she would later be scoffed at and vilified by mothers who felt themselves unfairly compared to her. Believe it or not, there is a book titled I Killed June Cleaver: Modern Moms Shatter the Myth of Perfect Parenting. There's another called Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box.

Honestly, I think those images of June Cleaver as the "perfect" mom, the standard against which all moms should be judged, should be killed. But I also think that the "real" June Cleaver is a pretty good role model. Here are some things I've observed about June:
  1. She keeps a simple but gracious home. The Cleaver household is not at all fancy. The children share a bedroom; the family eats its meals at the kitchen table. The kids get into all kinds of scrapes. But all in all, things are orderly and therefore lovely.
  2. She is firm with her children. June knows that boys will be boys, but she also trains them to be gentlemen. She expects them to be gentlemanly when the situation calls for gentlemanly behavior; otherwise she allows them to be boyish. As the mother of three teenage boys, I'd say her approach is pretty good.
  3. She dresses as the respectable person she is. After all, what role is more important than that of chief executive of a home and family? I think perhaps this job calls for something a little better than sweat pants. As for the much-touted pearls she wore each day, those were a touch that Barbara Billingsley herself added to her wardrobe. Apparently she was self-conscious about a hollow in her throat, and she wore the pearls to cover it up. Smart move.
We moms seem to have a habit of judging ourselves too harshly, of expecting too much of ourselves. Perhaps the greatest thing we could learn from June Cleaver is her graciousness, and perhaps we should start with a heaping helping of grace for ourselves. No doubt our children could do without elaborate Halloween costumes. Our husbands don't need us to be fashion plates. Our communities don't expect us to be paragons of volunteerism. In short, nobody expects us to be perfect--expect perhaps we ourselves.

Jerry Mathers, the actor who played the Beaver, had this to say about Barbara Billingsley: "She will . . . be remembered by her friends as a gracious lady. Barbara was a patient advisor and teacher. She helped me along this challenging journey through life by showing me the importance of manners and respect for others." Barbara's own son, Glenn Billingsley, said, "She was every bit as nurturing, classy, and lovely as 'June Cleaver,' and we were so proud to share her with the world."

Perfect? No. June Cleaver wasn't perfect; neither was the woman who portrayed her. But gracious, patient, nurturing? Yep. She was that in spades. And that's exactly what I want to be.

Maybe I'll go put on my pearls.

Thursday, October 14

Prayer warrior

I have a young friend who is a member of a Special Operations Force of the U.S. Army. He's just been deployed.

I was chatting with him a few days before he was shipped out. He asked me to pray for the other members of his unit, none of whom is a Christian. Then he said, "I want to get my mom one of those knee pads they make for gardeners. She's on her knees praying so much, I'm afraid she's going to hurt herself."

When I chuckled at this comment, my friend looked me straight in the eyes and said, "I'm serious."

I want to be like that.

To think that someday, when my boys are faced with difficulty, they could rest secure in the knowledge that I would be praying for them so diligently that I might hurt my knees?!

Dear Lord, let it be so. Please. Let it be so.

Wednesday, October 13

Shutter bug

I'm in the process of making some changes to my guest room. I love my guest room, and there are several things I didn't want to change. In particular I like the fact that some of the decor is French. I don't want to go overboard with Francophilia, but little bits and pieces make me happy. The colors, though, were asking for a little updating. The room has been decorated with red and gold for awhile now, and I've been wanting to add some green and blue to the mix. Finding inexpensive accessories that include the right color of blue, though, has been a bit of a challenge.

Then last week I saw a wonderful post about shutters at Good-bye House, Hello Home. Leslie inspired me to think about using shutters in my guest room. What I really wanted was a pair of shutters from a French cottage. Old shutters. Blue shutters. I could just see the cottage with its old blue shutters in my mind's eye.

I followed Leslie's advice and went to my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Sure enough, I found some shutters for $3.00. Here's a snapshot of one section:

As you can see, the shutters were not blue or old. But that's okay, because I have experience with making things look old and blue. Remember my little table?

I had three colors of blue spray paint on hand, and after several coats, I had this:

Then after some sanding. . .

. . . and some wipe-on staining. . .

Je suis dans l'amour.

As I stood surveying my handiwork, my 17-year-old son walked up. "Where'd you get those?" he queried. "Those shutters look like they survived the Nazi occupation."


Now to find the perfect postcards to tuck in the slats. What do you think?

Update: Click here to see the guest room all finished!

**I'm joining Sarah's Before and After Party, Debbie's Before and After Party and Frugal Friday at The Shabby Nest. Check out all the fun projects! And I'm linking to Weekend Bloggy Reading at Amanda's. There are always some fun links there--check it out!

Sunday, October 10


The date is just too cool to let this day go by without thinking about its significance.

It seems that there are often important events that take place on dates that share the same number for month and day. For instance, the Allied invasion of Europe in World War II began on D-Day, 06/06 (in 1944). The Germans signed an armistice with the Allies, bringing an end to World War I, on 11/11 (in 1918). Did you know that the London Eye (formerly called the Millennium Wheel) was put into place on 10/10 (in 1999)? Or that Alaska became the 49th U.S. state on 07/07 (in 1958)?

Much rarer are significant events that take place on dates that share the same number for month, day, and year. Of course, there are only 12 such days per century. But occasionally something big does happen on such a day. Remember the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics? Those took place on 08/08/08 (21st century). The Commonwealth of Australia came into being on 01/01/01 (20th century).

I've been thinking that it might be a fun challenge to come up with some kind of goal related to this special day in history. Perhaps there's something I could commit to do between today, 10/10/10, and the next of these dates, which will be 11/11/11. That's 13 months and one day from today. I'm not very good at making (or keeping) New Year's resolutions, but maybe I could make a triple-date resolution.

Nothing to do with my diet or exercise, thank you. I don't really want to talk about that, but if you do, that's okay.

But maybe I'd like to have all the closets in my house cleaned out by 11/11/11. Or maybe I'd like to read a particular version of the Bible all the way through between now and 11/11/11. Or maybe I'd just like to promise that I'll spend a certain amount of time in prayer each day for this time. I'd love to look back at these thirteen months from the vantage point of 11/11/11 and say that I've spent more time with God in those months than ever before in my life.

What do you think? Want to join me on a triple-date journey? Is there something you'd like to accomplish over the next thirteen months, some hope you hold dear, or something you'd like to do to commemorate these days?

Friday, October 8

The heart of the home: the kitchen

Today I'm going to show you my favorite room in our house. It's a good thing I like my kitchen, because it's where I spend most of my time! Take a little tour with me.

Our kitchen is large, open room which includes a casual eating area and a seating/desk area. Here's a view from one end of the room to the other:

And now, a little closer look, going from end to end. The eating area and seating area:

Our table is from Pottery Barn. It's enormous--11 1/2 feet long! I love being able to have a table big enough to seat lots of people. (A side note about Pottery Barn. I love their things, but they tend to be little pricey. If there's a piece I want, I wait for it to go on sale, and then I purchase it with a Pottery Barn credit card. I pay the credit card off in full the next month--adding interest payments to the purchase price would be horrible. But by using the PB card, I get a reward of 10% of the amount I spent in a Pottery Barn gift certificate.) Beside the table is my mother's dough cabinet, which is one of my most prized possessions.

The stairs to the left of this picture lead down to the "terrace level," also known as the walk-out basement. I like the fact that the stairs are open; it makes this level feel more like a part of the house.

The middle of the room:

The bar is where I usually sit and blog! My favorite thing here is the barstools. They were boring barstools from TJMaxx; I refinished and re-upholstered them, and now I love them. Click here if you want to read about them.

The working kitchen end of the room:

One of my favorite features of this part of the kitchen is the lighted shadowboxes at the top of the cupboards. I use them to display pitchers. You can read more about the pitchers here.

Another of my favorite things is the window treatment. I originally made a faux Roman shade using Thrifty Decor Chick Sarah's tutorial. I love the plantation shutters on the windows of the other end of this room, but I wanted to be able to see out of the window above the sink, plus I wanted a pop of color. Sarah's tutorial is super-easy (and of course, since it's from Sarah, it's fun to read!). That's the red shade you see in the photos above.

This spring I wanted to change the shade, and I came up with an even easier way to make a faux Roman shade. You can see that tutorial here if you like.

You know how they say the kitchen is the heart of the home? Well, my kitchen connects to the back entry, the dining room, the living room, the downstairs, the deck, and the screened porch. It really is like the heart of this house, with accessibility to most of the rest of the living space. It's especially fun for parties, where we usually cover the island with food and the bar with beverages. I'm always amazed at how people just hang out in this room.

I'd love for you to come hang out in my kitchen. I guess this virtual hanging out is the next-best thing! Where do you hang out at your house?

Notes: Cupboards are maple beadboard; granite is Santa Cecilia
Drawer pulls and cabinet knobs are from Restoration Hardware
Appliances are KitchenAid
Wall color is Ruskin Room Green by Sherwin-Williams

**I'm joining these wonderful parties:

Show us your life kitchen party at Kelly's Korner
Room by Room at Cottage and Vine