Monday, January 30

Prayer request

My online friends, will you please pray for my dear friends and neighbors? Their son, one of my son's best friends, was killed in an accident this weekend. All their family and friends are coming together to support them in every way we can, but they need the kind of love and care that only God can provide. If you will join me in praying, I will be grateful.

Thursday, January 26

What the old ladies mean to say

If you've been paying attention to Facebook and Twitter recently, you've probably seen Glennon Melton's post, "Don't Carpe Diem." Well-written and thought-provoking, it's worthy of all the attention it's getting.

As I read her post, though, I realized something rather startling:

I'm one of the old ladies in the grocery store.

Okay, so I'm not really that old. I'm 48. And my kids are not all grown and gone from home. But the truth is that when I see a mom with little kids, I experience a bunch of mixed emotions. There's a part of me that thinks, "Boy, I'm glad I don't need a cart with seat belts any more." But there's a bigger part of me that thinks, "Don't I still need a cart with seat belts?"

What the old ladies really mean is that they're jealous.

To suggest that anyone should--or even could--enjoy every moment of parenting is ludicrous, of course. I didn't enjoy the moment that my two-year-old turned on the sink taps and closed the drains in the second-floor bathroom and I didn't know about it until water began pouring through the ceiling in the basement. I didn't enjoy the moment when my five-year-old wanted to read in bed and so pulled his bedside lamp under the covers and got second-degree burns on his leg. I didn't enjoy the moments when all three boys had a stomach virus at the same time. I didn't enjoy all the moments in the barber's shop or the headmaster's office or the emergency room. I don't think anyone enjoys every moment.

You know what, though? I miss those times. Even those days through which I just barely limped. Some of them made me want to pull my hair out--and some of them made me want to pull my kids' hair out--but I miss them. So when I see a mom whose kids are yelling or screaming or kicking or making a scene, I don't tell her that she ought to be enjoying every moment. But I want to tell her not to wish these times away. I want to tell her that these moments are going to be gone awfully fast.

Is parenting like climbing Mt. Everest? I don't know. I think maybe it's more like hiking across the continent. You get tired and dirty and sweaty; your feet hurt and your back aches. For the most part you don't need special equipment. You don't get your picture in the paper for having done it. But while you may never enjoy the breathtaking vista from the top of the mountain, one day you will have another view: perspective. You'll know that the journey was worth every step, even the excruciating ones.

And you might feel jealous of the young moms in the grocery store.

Wednesday, January 25

DIY Valentine's Wreath

Decorating for Valentine's Day can tend to be a bit on the girly side--lots of pink and hearts and cherubs and such--and that doesn't go over too well at my house full of boys. I wanted a Valentine's Day wreath, though, so I decided to create one that would satisfy my desire for decor without making my sons wince. Here's what I created for $2.00:

Here's how I did it.

I retrieved an old Christmas wreath from my stash in the attic. I'll bet you have some of these, too.

Using my hands and a pair of pliers, I fashioned it into a heart shape. Easy-peasy.

Then I squirted on lots of Elmer's glue and, a section at a time, mashed in floral moss from the dollar store. You could use sheet moss and come up with a beautiful wreath, but sheet moss is rather expensive. Two bags of loose moss cost me $2.00. (Note: I used Elmer's glue because that's what I happened to have on hand--I'm sure spray adhesive or a different kind of glue would work well.)

When the wreath was fully covered, I let it dry overnight. Then I found a vintage Valentine card online (thanks to The Graphics Fairy for her free printables!), printed it out on card stock, and laminated it. This I glued to the wreath.

I wired on some red ribbon for hanging, and voila!

I like the way my $2.00 wreath makes things all Valentinesish (is that a word?) on my screened porch. The red ribbons on the table were left over from Christmas; I figured they worked for Valentine's Day just as well!

The winter landscape is bleak, but at least the porch looks cheerful!

Do you decorate for Valentine's Day?

Tuesday, January 24

Easy and delicious: Mini Sticky Buns

Cereal for breakfast is everyday fare at our house, with the occasional omelet or batch of pancakes thrown in. Every now and then, though--usually when begged by my boys--I love to make these wonderful Mini Sticky Buns. They're very easy to make, and they couldn't be any more delicious to eat.

Here's how to make them.

Mini Sticky Buns


  • 2 containers crescent rolls (any brand is fine)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon sugar (1/4 cup sugar + 1 teaspoon cinnamon)
  • chopped pecans, optional


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two 8" or 9" square pans liberally with non-stick cooking spray.

Melt butter. Combine with brown sugar and corn syrup. Divide evenly and spread in bottoms of the two prepared pans.

Open crescent rolls. Unroll dough as one sheet. Pinch perforations together so that you have a seamless sheet of dough, then roll into a rectangle of about 9" x 15" (don't worry; it doesn't have to be measured precisely).

Note: If you can find these packages of Crescent seamless dough sheets, they're perfect for this recipe.

Sprinkle sheet of dough with half of the cinnamon sugar. Then, starting with one of the short ends, roll the dough up jelly-roll style. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the roll into 9 one-inch rolls. Place rolls in pan, right on top of the brown sugar mixture, in three rows of three. Be sure not to crowd them too much; they'll rise in the oven.

Bake at 375 degrees for 13 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly, then serve by scooping a roll along with the yummy sticky mixture underneath and flipping it over onto a plate, thereby placing the sticky mixture on top of the roll. I suppose you could also invert the whole pan onto a plate so that the sticky part would be on top. However you serve it, you're going to want to eat it right away!

If you have any leftovers, they'll still be delicious later. You'll just have to warm them a bit in order to serve them, because the gooey topping gets fairly hard when it gets cold. If you're like us, though, you might not have any leftovers.

I keep all these ingredients on hand, so these are perfect for a snow day. . . except we haven't had any snow days this winter! We're all longing for a lazy day inside. What about you?

**I'm joining Beth at Home Stories A to Z for Tutorials and Tips.

Friday, January 20

Instant relief for chapped hands

Earlier this week I wrote a post about making fresh flowers last longer. I included a photo of my hand to show the pollen that gets on your hands if you remove the anthers from the flowers.

When I went back and read that post, I was appalled at the shape of my hands. I knew they felt rough, as they often do in the wintertime, but I didn't realize they looked quite so bad. But quick relief was easy to find. I simply took the kosher salt from my cupboard (plain old Morton's; we always have this on hand):

and mixed it with this dreamy-smelling stuff:

I haven't used Hawaiian Tropic oil on my body for many years, but I just love the way it smells. The coconutty scent transports me to the beach. (If you don't want to buy any suntan oil, you can simply use olive oil.)

Simply squirt some oil into a small bowl of kosher salt. The oil won't melt the salt; it'll just form a paste. You could substitute turbinado sugar for the salt, and if you have lots of cuts and scratches on your hands, you might find that more soothing. I like the salt because sugar tends to attract pesky little ants at our house. This will keep indefinitely (salt is a great preservative); mine lives in a little crock that I found at the thrift store. (If you use salt, be sure to store in a non-porous container.)

To use the salt scrub, simply scoop up a glob and massage into your hands. The oil will feel wonderful and the salt will slough away dead skin cells. Massage as long as you like, then wash your hands with soap and warm water. Dry hands and follow with your favorite hand lotion if you like.

And now for the proof: an actual, unretouched photo of the same hand (minus the pollen, of course) AFTER using the salt scrub:

My hand isn't wet. It's just well-moisturized and no longer chapped. Of course, my hands are nearly 50 years old, so they have lots of little lines and wrinkles. . . but they don't have to be dry and chapped!

Do you have any tips for keeping your skin soft and smooth during the harsh winter?

**I'm sharing this at the Tutorials and Tips party at Home Stories A to Z.**

Tuesday, January 17

Tiny tip: making cut flowers last longer

On these grey January days, cut flowers are a real treat. Whether they come from the florist's shop or the grocery story, flowers are a cheerful addition to any decor. Here's are some tip for making them last longer.

  • Remove flowers from their packaging. Cut the stems and remove any foliage that will be below the water line.
  • Fill a vase with water; add a couple of drops of chlorine bleach to the water. The bleach helps to keep the water fresh and will make the flowers last longer. Be sure to replenish the water if it gets low.
  • When flowers open up, remove the pollen-producing anthers.

Warning: you'll get pollen on your hands when you do this; be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterword.

Here's how the flowers will look with the anthers removed:

If you follow these simple steps, your flowers will stay pretty for quite a long time!

**I'm joining Beth at Home Stories A to Z for her Tutorials and Tips party.**

Thursday, January 12

Super-easy Valentine's pillows

Christmas decorations have finally come down and Valentine's decorations are appearing all over the place! I doubt most of us know a thing about St. Valentine, but we surely love to celebrate the day that's named for him, don't we?

I made two Valentine's Day pillows so easily and cheaply that I just had to share them with you. The pillows are for my front porch, which is furnished as an outdoor living room.

I made the pillows from drop cloths. I simply took two pillow forms, cut two pieces of drop cloth one inch bigger on each side (I like 1" seam allowances because I'm not a very good seamstress!), and stitched the pieces together on three sides to form pillow cases. Then I stuffed the pillow forms inside and stitched the fourth sides together. Easy as pie.

To make the Valentine's pillows, I used these felt ornaments that I bought at Target on after-Christmas clearance. The original price for these was $1.00 for a package of three, which made them 10 cents for a package of three in the 90%-off clearance sale. (By the way, this is still going on at my Target store!) I'm a big spender, so I bought six packages. 60 cents! If you don't have heart-shaped ornaments, you could easily cut heart shapes out of felt, which would also be very inexpensive.

Then I simply spaced the hearts out on my pillow forms and hot-glued them in place. (I just used three dots of glue per heart--these pillows won't see too much wear and tear, so a tiny amount of glue should be sufficient to hold the hearts in place. You could also adhere the hearts with fabric glue or Stitch Witchery, or you could sew them in place.)

And that's it! Super-easy Valentine's pillows! What do you think?

I'm joining these fun parties:

Tuesday, January 10

Home Goals 2012

I've stated here that I'm not very good at making goals. But I'm trying. And I was thinking about what I'd like to do in my house this year when I came across these words:

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; 
remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.


Boy, is this ever true for me. Here's my house (this is how it looked all decorated for Christmas):

Here it is in the snow:

And here I confess that my attitude about this house has usually been one of two things: either I've felt guilty or greedy.
(By the way, this post is brought to you by the letter G.)
Seriously, I've tended to feel guilty that I have such a lovely place to live--I know I don't deserve it! Or else I've felt greedy--such as when I've looked at my kitchen and thought, "I really just don't have enough storage space." Sheesh.

When I really stop to think about it, I realize that neither of these attitudes is doing me or anyone else any good. So my house goal for 2012 is to adjust my thinking. I want to replace the guilty and greedy thoughts and feelings with two new "G" words:
grateful and
I want to spend every day of this year being grateful for all of God's blessings, including my house. I think maybe if I stop to be grateful for this gift, I'll take better care of it. And I want to open my home to others. In any way I can, I want to share this gift. I want my home to be a place of grace.
So my specific goals include:
  • getting rid of piles. (I'm a terrible piler. I need to break this habit, or at least go through the piles on a regular basis so that the piles don't become mountains.)
  • adopting a regular cleaning schedule that I can and will actually stick to.
  • keeping the house orderly enough to be glad to open the door to anyone, anytime.
  • keeping the guest room clean, so that overnight guests are always welcome.

My hope is that I'll begin to recognize that the care of my home is an issue of stewardship. Maybe instead of being "house proud," I'll be "house humble." And then other home projects will be a bonus!
Yes! I have goals! Do you have any suggestions for how I might reach them? Do you have goals for your home? Join the Nester for her Home Goals Party!

Monday, January 9

Post-holiday issues

You know how the Grinch hates Christmas? That's not me. Not at all. I love Christmas.

But I've discovered something about myself. I am a New Year's Grinch.

I especially despise New Year's magazines. It seems that EVERY SINGLE ONE includes a plan for losing those extra pounds we all gained at Christmastime. Everywhere I look there's a weight loss plan or an exercise plan or a healthful eating plan. Ugh.

Today, as I was pondering how much I hate focusing on diets and scales and dress sizes, I was reminded of this old poem. I hope it'll bring a smile to your face, too.

Methusaleh ate what he found on his plate,
And never, as people do now,
Did he note the amount of the calorie count;
He ate it because it was chow.
He wasn't disturbed as at dinner he sat,
Devouring a roast or a pie,
To think it was lacking in granular fat
Or a couple of vitamins shy.
He cheerfully chewed each species of food,
Unmindful of troubles or fears
Lest his health might be hurt
By some fancy dessert;
And he lived over nine hundred years.

"Methusaleh," Author Unknown. The Best Loved Poems of the American People, Hazel Felleman, Editor. Copyright 1936, Doubleday and Company.

Anyone else gain a couple of pounds at Christmastime? Are you a New Year's Grinch, too, or do you embrace the chance to start fresh?

Thursday, January 5

Easy New Year's wreath (for free!)

I love the order and cleanliness of my house without its Christmas decorations. But somehow it always feels a little sparse and lonely without the festive decor. This year, I took the leftovers of my favorite Christmas decorating element--magnolia leaves--and made a New Year's wreath. Here it is:

Here's how I did it.

I pulled the magnolia leaves off the branches and spread them out on boards. Using spray paint I had on hand, I sprayed some of them shiny silver:

some hammered silver:

and some white. When the white ones were dry, I doused those with spray adhesive and sprinkled on Epsom salts. Some white glitter would have been nice, too, but I didn't have any, and I was determined to keep this project free.

Then I simply used one of my wreath forms and my glue gun and layered on all the various kinds of leaves, including a few that I left in their natural green. And voila! A pretty, wintry wreath!

Now I don't feel quite so wistful about taking down the Christmas decorations.

How about you? Are you all finished taking down your Christmas decor? Any fun winter decorations? I'd love to see!

I'm joining these parties:

Tuesday, January 3

New year's resolutions: a word for the year

Everywhere I look these days I see the same messages:

Happy new year!
Time for a fresh start!
Out with the old, in with the new!
Choose a theme word for the new year!

And I look away. Or wince. Because I am the world's worst at making new year's resolutions. I stink at goal-setting. I'm awful at making plans. And if I'm completely truthful, I'll admit that I'm prone to dragging my heels when it comes to things with which I struggle so much.

Can you make a new year's resolution to get better at making resolutions? How does someone who's bad at goal-setting set a goal to get better at setting goals? How can I choose one theme word for the year when a thesaurus dances around in my mind?

I pondered this while I was taking a shower, which is where I do a lot of my pondering. As the water washed over me, I was reminded of one of my favorite psalms:

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
(Psalm 51:1-3, ESVUK)

I've always loved that picture of being washed clean. So after I dried myself off, I looked up the 51st psalm and re-read the whole thing. This part caught my eye:

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
(Psalm 51:10-12, ESVUK)

And suddenly I, the horrible goal-setter, had my theme word for this year:


I doubt that I shall suddenly be transformed into an expert planner. I will probably not become an excellent goal-setter, much less a great goal-achiever. But the one thing I do want to be is willing to change. When I think about my situation honestly, I know that God doesn't want to change me into something I'm not meant to be. He created me to be Richella, not anyone else. But if I'll cooperate with Him, He's able to help me become the very best version of myself.

So there you have it. Not a new year's resolution, exactly, but a new year's prayer.

And just for grins--or maybe food for thought:

What about you? Do you have special hopes for this new year? Check out Layla's party for lots of inspiration!

The Lettered Cottage