Wednesday, February 29

Leap Day Fun

Today is February 29. Leap Day! My youngest son's birthday is March 29, and he reminded me that he only gets to say "It's one month 'til my birthday" every four years!

I get that that this is the day when we re-align our Gregorian, 365-days-per-year calendar with the actual time it takes Earth to travel around the sun, which is close to 365 1/4 days. And although I understand a little of the science behind having an extra day in our calendar every four years, my Southern-fried brain can't help but think about this exchange between Andy and Opie from the first season of The Andy Griffith Show. Andy is upset with Opie for giving only three cents to a collection for underprivileged children, but when he tries to talk to Opie about it, things get a little muddled:

Andy: Opie, you can't give a little bitty piddlin' amount like three cents to a worthy cause like the Underprivileged Children's Drive. Why, I was reading here the other day where there's somewhere like 400 needy boys in this county alone, or one and a half boys per square mile.

Opie: There is?

Andy: Sure is.

Opie: I never seen one, Pa.

Andy: Never seen one what?

Opie: A half a boy.

Andy: Well, it's not really half a boy. It's a ratio.

Opie: Horatio who?

Oh, my lands. It gets even better from there. Since you have a whole extra day in your calendar, surely you have time to watch a couple of minutes of this clip from "Opie's Charity." I promise it'll make you smile!

(If you're reading this in an email, click over to my blog's home page to view the video.)
Do you have any special plans for Leap Day?

Monday, February 27

Easy, free pantry upgrade

I want to share with you a simple, free upgrade I made to my pantry.

My pantry used to be one of the most organizationally dysfunctional spaces in my house. I did a massive pantry re-organization back in August 2010, when I literally emptied it, cleaned it, and re-arranged it in a way that works for our family. You wouldn't believe how proud I am that this space has stayed organized since then! Sometimes it gets a little bit cluttered, but it's never again gotten out of hand.

I used a black-and-white theme when adding a couple of decorative elements to my pantry, and one day it occurred to me that it would both look cute and be very useful if I were to add a chalkboard to the space. So I used some painter's tape, chalkboard paint, and a disposable foam roller, and


Isn't that the cutest thing?

I was lucky that my doors all have these nice panels, so I simply taped off and painted the top panel. But this would be easy to do with any kind of door. And with painter's tape, it would be easy to mask off just about any shape and fill it in with chalkboard paint. Just be sure your painter's tape is stuck down good and tight. Use short lenghts of tape pieced together to form curves. For an ultra-smooth finish, apply the paint in several thin coats with a foam roller. Easy as pie!

As you can see, I'm already using it to keep up with grocery needs. But I'm thinking it might also be a good place to use a little inspirational note or just to say "I love you" to anyone who might be pantry-stalking.

Maybe an inspirational poem would look better than a list including onions, garlic, and grits. Food for thought!

I'm joining these wonderful parties:

Show and Tell at Be Different, Act Normal

Thursday, February 23

A poor bargain

After being out of town all week, I was grocery shopping today when I came across a wonderful clearance item:

TWO boxes of sugar cereal for just $2.74. They jumped right into my cart.

Now I've eaten two big helpings of them instead of a nutritious lunch. My tummy hurts and my jeans feel tight. And I'm reminded of the time I found my favorite brand of ultra-chewy taffy on sale and bought two bags. As I gleefully showed my bargain to Jack, he said,

"That's a great deal if you don't count the cost of the root canal."

Am I the only one who struggles with such foolishness?

Saturday, February 18

Simple and delicious cream cheese glaze

I have a special fondness for cream cheese, particularly as an ingredient in baked goods. It's the killer ingredient in my chocolate chip pound cake, for instance. I watch for sales on cream cheese and buy a half dozen bricks at a time.

One of my all-time favorite uses for cream cheese is frosting. Carrot cake, cinnamon rolls, banana bread, pumpkin bread--you name it, I think it's even better with cream cheese frosting. Mmmm. I just adapted a recipe to make cream cheese glaze that's super-simple. Here's all you need for it:

First, let 4 ounces (half an 8-oz. brick) come to room temperature. Then cut into chunks and place in the bowl of your food processor.

Sift some powdered sugar. You'll need two cups sifted sugar. I like to use this old sifter my grandmother gave me 27 years ago--it looks awful, but it works like a charm! (Tip: sift onto wax paper, measure what you need, and then roll up the paper to pour the excess back into your powdered sugar container.)

Dump 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 tablespoon half-and-half (or heavy cream or milk, whatever you like) into the food processor, right on top of the cream cheese. Process for several seconds. Scrape down bowl. Add a second tablespoon of half-and-half and process the whole mixture until smooth. It'll look like this:

Warning: you WILL be tempted to lick the blades of the food processor. Do not yield: the blades are very sharp!

Then you can add a ladylike drizzle to whatever baked good you like--or you can be like me and pour on a heaping spoonful!

Y'all. This is so good. SO good. I wish I could let you lick the spoon!

Need a good recipe for pumpkin bread? Click here for mine.


Cream Cheese Glaze

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons half and half

Cut cream cheese into hunks and place in bowl of food processor. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and 1 Tbsp. half-and-half. Process for several seconds. Scrape down sides of food processor bowl. Add additional Tbsp. half-and-half and process until smooth. Pour or spoon over carrot cake, banana cake, pumpkin bread, cinnamon rolls, etc.

**I'm joining Amanda at Serenity Now for Weekend Bloggy Reading. Head over there to see other fun posts!

Thursday, February 16

Best Valentine's gift

My husband Jack is a gift-giver. Birthdays, holidays, you name it--he always gives me a gift. He has an uncanny ability to give me something, large or small, to make me feel special. This Valentine's Day, though, Jack outdid himself. He chose a gift absolutely sure to please.

When I got home from taking Lee to school, I found a note on my computer saying: "Open iTunes. Click on TV shows. I love you!"

Can you see what's captured in this screen shot? Both seasons of Downton Abbey. Be still, my heart.

And the best part? Jack likes to watch it, too. Thank you, Lord, for giving me a romantic husband!

Did you get anything special for Valentine's Day?

Tuesday, February 14

Happy Valentine's Day!

How it got to be the middle of February so quickly, I'm not sure. . . but here we are! Happy Valentine's Day!

I did a small Valentine's display on my mother's antique dough cabinet: my chalkboard plate, hurricanes filled with candy conversation hearts, a papier mache heart-shaped box, a favorite red vase, and a fun printable from Sprik Space. Some red ribbon adds to the fun and hides the plate on which one of the hurricanes is elevated.

From the latch I hung a little Pottery Barn wall packet (I should paint this a fun color, shouldn't I?) that I filled with vintage valentine cards from The Graphics Fairy.

And there you have it--a Valentine's display that cost me just a couple of dollars for candy conversation hearts.

I'm joining dear Marty at A Stroll Thru Life for Tabletop Tuesday!

Sunday, February 12

Better than an alarm clock

Every day, I feed our two doggies at 5:00 P.M. sharp. And every day at 4:50, Snickers and Cocoa start this routine:

First they just station themselves by their bowls. When I don't feed them right away, they start dancing around. Well, Snickers the beagle does most of the dancing; Cocoa mostly just sits and looks at me with her puppy-dog eyes.

It's uncanny that they know exactly what time it is. Suddently it occurred to me: they have clocks in their stomachs. You know, like Barney Fife. Do you remember Barney's clock in the stomach?

Here's the clip, just for fun:

Anyone at your house have clock in the stomach? It's a very common condition, after all!

Wednesday, February 8

"Love never fails" pillow tutorial

Yesterday I showed you the pillow I made for my porch. Originally I wanted to make this as a Valentine's Day decoration, but now I think I'll keep it out long after February 14.

The pillow cost me no money and just a little time, so I want to share with you the technique for making it. Believe me, if I can make it, you can make it. I have a tiny amount of artistic ability and a great amount of desire to make pretty things for my home. If you share that desire, you can make things, too! Here's how.
  • Choose a pillow size. I used a pillow form that I had on hand; for it I needed a 17" square case.
  • Choose your fabric. I used a piece of dropcloth which I'd washed, dried, and pressed. Here's a confession: I've only ever purchased one canvas dropcloth and just cut pieces as I needed them. There's a lot of fabric in a dropcloth! You could use muslin, cotton duck, tight-weave linen, poplin--just about anything. I recommend using inexpensive fabric so that you won't worry about messing up.
  • Cut your fabric. To minimize sewing, I cut one piece of fabric and folded it over. For a 17" finished size, I cut my fabric 19" wide (17" plus 1" seam allowance on both sides) x 36" long (17" long finished size plus 1" seam allowance for the bottom.
  • Select a sentiment. Mine is a direct quotation from I Corinthians 13. (By the way, if you're like me and love the King James Version of the Bible, you might enjoy the New King James Version. It's pretty much the 1611 version with some updates (especially pronouns and verb forms). It retains the beautiful, comforting "feel" of the KJV but is a bit easier to read and understand--and to inscribe upon a pillow.)
  • Decide upon spacing. After seeing my final product, I wish I'd placed the verse a little higher on the pillow, so I suggest you think about that before you start.  Learn from my mistake!
  • Use a ruler or straightedge to draw guidelines. You can use a special pen with disappearing ink that's made specifically for this purpose, or do as I did and simply make lines with a pencil and later erase them. Use whatever you have, but don't skip the lines.
  • Now use a black Sharpie or other marker and start writing. I'm not an artist (obviously), but I have pretty good handwriting, I can print well, and I can do very basic calligraphy. I know nothing about graphic design, but I like the look of combined typefaces, so I tried to achieve that look. Here's the secret: don't try to paint the words. Just use a Sharpie and write on the fabric as if you were writing on paper. It's a good idea to write your sentiment on paper first, then write on your fabric. If you like, you can type out your sentiment, change the font styles and sizes, print them out, trace the outlines onto fabric using carbon paper, and then color in the letters with your Sharpie. Use whatever method works best for you, but do remember Nester's admonition: It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. I did my writing freehand, knowing that if I messed up I could quickly and easily just cut out another panel of dropcloth and start over. Oh, the freedom of using inexpensive materials!
  • Once you have your lettering in place, step back and take a look at your canvas. Here's a tip: snap a quick photo and then look at the photo on your computer screen--that will help you see if you need to add a little ink here or there. When you're satisfied with the writing, erase your pencil marks or wash away your ink marks.
  • Now sew or glue your pillowcase. Since I'd cut one long piece, I folded the fabric over right sides together, stitched the side seams, then stitched the bottom partially closed. If you don't sew, you could use Stitch Witchery, fabric glue, or even a glue gun to create your seams.
  • Turn your pillowcase inside out and use a long, skinny tool to make sure the corners are turned out neatly. I used a chopstick for this; you could use a knitting needle, a pair of scissors, a skewer, etc. Just be sure not to poke a hole in your fabric. Press pillowcase if necessary.
  • Stuff pillow with your pillow form or with loose pillow filling (down, polyfil, fabric scraps, etc.).
Here's my pillow on my screened porch, where it'll stay for awhile. If it gets dirty, I'll just throw it in the washer. Because the lettering is done with a Sharpie, it'll be easy to touch up if need be.

It's certainly not perfect, but I'm happy with it. And I can always use the reminder that God's love never, ever fails.

I'm sharing this post at these parties:

Tuesday, February 7

A story of true love

On Saturday, January 28, one of my youngest son's best friends, Blake Hubbard, was killed in a tragic accident. We were privileged to know Blake for ten years and to live right next door to him for seven years.

No one tells Blake's story better than his cousin Jennifer at Dear Lillie; if you haven't already seen it, you should read her post.

A couple of mornings after Blake died, I came into the kitchen to find this on the table where we keep the Scrabble board:

"There are only two B's on a Scrabble board," Lee explained. So he used a blank tile to create a monument to his friend.

Months ago I showed you the new bed Lee and I made for his room. Now his room includes a little memorial to Blake:

In the hours immediately after Blake's death, Lee said, "It seems like the whole world should stop." Jack and I had to agree with him.

The world doesn't stop, though, and Blake's family can keep going even in the face of such tragedy because of one thing: love. True love. Not the so-called love that we sometimes celebrate on Valentine's Day, but the love of God that never fails. That love prompted God to walk the very path our neighbors have had to walk this week: the death of a beloved son. But because of that love, we know that Blake is safe now, and that we will see him again.

Human love is strong and powerful. Many times it is triumphant and inspiring. We sing about it and celebrate it. But sometimes it fails. The love of God never, ever fails.

I had gathered the supplies to make this pillow 10 days ago; yesterday I finally got around to finishing it. Tomorrow I'll post a tutorial on making the pillow--it's simple and easy and inexpensive. Maybe you, too, could use a constant reminder that the love of God never fails.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Paul's 1st letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13

Love to you, my dear friends.