Wednesday, May 30

A tip for using hydrangeas

I know that many of you enjoy fresh hydrangeas as much as I do.  And I'm betting that, like me, you are sometimes faced with this problem: 

Poor things.  Sometimes they just can't keep their heads together.

Here's a little trick I've learned.  Turn your hydrangea upside down, then take a twist tie and gently tie the little stems together.

Cut off any excess twist tie and turn the flower back right-side-up.  Presto!  You have a full-headed flower!

The twist tie will be hidden among all the blooms.

Here they are as part of a vignette on my porch.  Amazing how good they look in a glass jar, isn't it?

For my favorite tip on making cut flowers last longer, check out this post. The flowers in this picture are 12 days old! 

Do you have any tips for using fresh flowers?  Please share!

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

Saturday, May 26

Free, easy, spectacular centerpieces

During one of the busiest weeks of my year, I volunteered to host a dinner party.  I may be crazy, but not completely--right now is peak hydrangea season in the South, so flowers for the party were a simple matter.

It couldn't be easier to create a beautiful arrangement of hydrangeas.  Cut your flowers in the morning before the sun gets too hot.  Then just cut the stems to fit into whatever vessel you choose, strip off most of the lower foliage, add a few drops of Clorox bleach to your water, and poke flowers into the water until you like the look.  You may choose to leave them rather loose and droopy, or do as I've done here and mass the flowers.  You can't go wrong!

f you're unsure about what kind of vessel to arrange your hydrangeas in, use your imagination.  I've put them in pitchers, bowls, mason jars, milk bottles, water bottles, empty sauce jars wrapped with burlap--if it'll hold water, it'll hold hydrangeas.  And if it won't hold water (like my porcelain footbath above), simply place a plastic cup or cups inside it.  Let the plastic cup hold the water and the pretty vessel just look nice. 

And just look at this variety of color!  I'm more partial to the blue flowers that result from a more acidic soil, but it surely is fun to have lots of different blooms.

Beautiful, free centerpieces that take only minutes to create.  That's my kind of decorating!

 Do you grow hydrangeas?  Or is there another flower you use to create centerpieces?  Please share!

Monday, May 21

DIY Diet Limeade (like Sonic's)

I've been a fan of Sonic Drive-In since 1976, when I first tasted a Frito Chili Pie.  My absolute favorite thing on the menu is a drink.  I love Sonic Limeade--both the regular and the cherry varieties.  And since I'm often counting calories, I especially love the Diet Limeade.

Alas--there's no Sonic in my town.  I always visit a Sonic when I come across one on a roadtrip, but that's not often enough to fulfill my desire for Limeades.  So I've come up with a way to make my own DIY version--and it's awfully good!

Here's all you need for a Diet Limeade, Sonic-style.  

You can find this key lime-flavored sparkling lime beverage at Wal-Mart.  It costs 68 cents for a 1-litre bottle at my local store.  (Note: This beverage contains aspartame, just like Diet Coke.  I know that some of you avoid artificial sweeteners; sorry I don't have a recipe for you.)  I don't like this key lime water on its own, but in this limeade, it's the magic ingredient.


1.  Squeeze the juice of one lime into a large glass (or, if you live with lots of boys and dogs as I do, into an acrylic cup).

2.  Add a bit of sweetener if you like.  I like to add a packet of Stevia to mine.  If you prefer a very tart limeade, you can skip this step.

3.  Pour in about 12 ounces of the key lime-flavored sparkling water.  Stir well.

4.  Fill glass with ice; garnish with lime and enjoy!  Add maraschino cherries and a little of their syrup if you want a cherry limeade, but be aware that wouldn't strictly be a "diet" drink.

My mouth is watering for a cold limeade now!  What's your favorite thing to drink in the hot weather?

I'm joining these parties:

Friday, May 18

Dealing with the ugly and the pretty

Earlier this week I wrote about beauty, including my best skincare tip.  I shared a photo that my husband had made into an art print.  I love that photo, because it's mostly about the part of me that's pretty--my red hair.  

There's another part of me that's not at all pretty.  In fact, it's ugly.  I've written about this a little before, but mostly I try not to think about it too much.  A couple of weeks ago I was reminded of it rather starkly.  Every spring, when the weather turns warm and I start wearing dresses or shorts, it happens.  This time it happened at church.  A very kind man rushed up to me and asked, "Were you hurt?"  

He asked that question because of my birthmark.

I snapped this photo with my phone.  I was standing in a department store and caught a glimpse of myself in the full-length mirror.  The photo shows just part of my birthmark, of course.  Believe me, you don't want to see all of it.  It covers most of the right side of my body.  Here's a better photo of part of it: 

There's no way to sugar-coat it.  My birthmark is ugly.  It can't be removed, even with sophisticated lasers (I've tried).  It can't be covered with make-up (I've tried).  It can be hidden, of course, if I never allow my legs to show.  I've tried that, too, but that's not really the way I want to live my life.  So the only real option is to deal with the ugly.

Over the years many people have said to me, "Oh, you should realize that your birthmark is beautiful, because this is just how God planned for you to be."  I don't believe this is true. My birthmark is part of a rare disease called Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome, and disease was not part of God's plan for us when he created everything.  Disease entered the world after Adam and Eve chose to sin against God. What is true is that God is in charge of everything, and He did allow disease to enter the world.  But there's quite a big difference between God's causing something to happen and His allowing something to happen.  

God did allow me to have Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome, and with it this birthmark. And one thing I know for sure about God is that if He allows something to happen, He wants to redeem it.  He can bring healing and beauty into the most difficult of circumstances.  

Many people toss around the sentiment, "God must be teaching you something."  Well, that's true in some ways, although perhaps not always in the way that people mean.  I've learned a lot from having this birthmark--some of it good, some of it bad.  It's taken a long time to sort the truth from the lies. But I'll tell you the most important thing that God has taught me because of my birthmark:

God loves me.  The whole package of me, God loves.

When I look at myself, I like the view that includes my pretty red hair.  I don't like the view that includes my ugly red birthmark.  It's hard to deal with something ugly. But the ugly birthmark is part of me.  It's an important part of my story, and my story is good.  My story is one of redemption.  My story tells that God is good and faithful and patient and loving.  With John I can say,

"This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you,
that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all (I John 1:5).

God loves all of me, the pretty and the ugly.  Just as He loves all of you. I now know this so surely that I wrote a book about my journey. Click here to read more about Mythical Me: Finding Freedom from Constant Comparison or complete this form to receive the first chapter and hit the "subscribe" button to receive the first chapter. (Don't worry—I'll never spam you!)

Do you have a story that includes both the pretty and the ugly?  I'd love to hear it!

Thursday, May 17

Grace at Home on a special day

Today is May 17, 2012, and it's time for the weekly Grace at Home party!

But first, I want to tell you why today is so special in my home. My eldest son, Will, was born on this day back in 1991. Today is his 21st birthday!

Will is a joy and a delight, a man of God who is a blessing to all who know him--most particularly to his mom.  I'm so blessed to be the mom of three wonderful boys. It's an amazing privilege to watch them grow into adulthood.

What I'd really like to do is to show you dozens of photos of Will from all stages of his life, but I don't want to embarrass him. Still, I'll share this one from what seems like just a short time ago, but is actually from 1991:

And this one from just a few weeks ago.

And I'll say it once more: the years go by really fast!  If I were to give one piece of advice to a new parent, it would be to make your family a place where grace reigns--grace for your kids and grace for yourself.  Be grateful for God's grace and model yourself after Him!

Now for this week's party!  Grace at Home is a party is a celebration about all the things we do to make our homes places of grace. You can link a post about

  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it. Please link up the permalink for your post, not your blog's home page. Please include a link back to the party and visit with some of the other links.  If you can help me spread the word about the party, I'd surely appreciate it.  And since today is such a special day for me, could I ask a favor?  Could you please take the time to visit the link just before yours?  It's not really a party if no one visits with others.  Thank you!


Wednesday, May 16

A health tip and a beauty question

Earlier this week I shared my very best skincare tip, and I showed you a special photo of me from back when I was 45 years old.  I stand by my advice to make peace with your fair skin instead of spending time in the sun.  But my health-conscious friend Anne recently clued me in to an important health fact:  many women are deficient in Vitamin D.

Sunlight is an important source of Vitamin D.  If you're protecting your skin from exposure to the sun, you may not be getting enough Vitamin D.  Your physician can perform a simple test to determine whether you're deficient and whether you might need a Vitamin D supplement.

Do be careful.  Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, and taking too much isn't good for your body.  If you do an internet search regarding vitamin supplementation, you may find all kinds of contradictory advice.  I'd suggest that you avoid huge doses of any vitamin.  But vitamin and mineral supplements can be very helpful, and many women do need more vitamin D than they're getting.  I thought this article about vitamin D supplementation was helpful; perhaps it will help you, too.

Now I want to share a couple of photos that my husband took of me this past weekend.  These aren't very glamorous--they were taken on our front porch.  But I want to show you how much more white there is in my hair than there was just a few years ago.

My red hair has a good many blonde highlights, but most of the light pieces you see here are white. 

The photo below really shows off the white hairs--and demonstrates why Jack usually takes my picture when I'm wearing sunglasses.  I can never seem to keep my eyes open in photographs!  It also shows that I have gum in my mouth.  Sheesh.

As you can see, my skin hasn't aged much in the past three years, but my hair certainly has!  And I've never colored my hair before, so I'm kind of scared about it.  I'd like to ask you:  Do you color your hair?  If so, do you do it yourself or have it done by a professional?  Have any recommendations for a novice?

**By the way, if you're looking for good beauty tips (for both inner and outer beauty) you should check out my friend Cyndi's blog, Walking in Grace and Beauty.**  

Monday, May 14

My best skincare tip--and a love story

I'm often asked if my hair color is natural.  The answer is yes.  I'm a redhead through and through--red hair, green eyes, fair skin.  Luckily, my husband thinks red hair is beautiful.  He likes to take photos of me, like this one:

This was taken after a week at the beach, mind you.  Notice how my white top shows off my savage tan.  Ahem.

The truth is, my skin WILL tan if I let it.  But my very best skincare tip, which comes straight from the heart of an aging redhead, is this:

Make peace with light-colored skin.

Now, if we're truthful, most of us will admit that we think that everyone looks better if they have a bit of tan.  Pale skin reminds us of sickness; tanned skin makes us think of youth and vitality.  But there's something you should know:  unless you are naturally dark-complexioned, the skin that looks so pretty and bronzed today is not going to look good when you're my age.  

I'm 48 years old.  The photo above was taken when I was 45.  Obviously my skin isn't perfect; there are some crow's feet hiding behind those sunglasses, I have some freckling on my face, and I have lots of moles.  But I've watched as my sun-loving peers--the ones whose tans I used to envy--have developed skin that's really spotted. What was smooth, beautifully tanned, healthy-looking skin when we were in our teens, 20's, and early 30's is now, in our late 40's, covered in age spots.  The delicate skin of the neckline and decolletage areas are particularly susceptible areas, it seems. 

Believe me, I understand that you may prefer the look of tanned skin.  But that tanned look on fair-skinned people is actually sun damage, and it'll come back to haunt you.  I know that the risk of skin cancer often can seem awfully remote, and meanwhile, we all want our skin to have a healthy-looking glow.  Trust me on this, though: if you spend a lot of time in the sun or in a tanning bed, you can end up with unsightly spotting and wrinkling--not when you're 80, but when you're in your 40's!  If you really, really want the look of tanned skin, find a sunless tanner you like and use it.  Meanwhile, use your sunscreen and be grateful for your smooth skin.

Now for the love story part of this post.  The story has to do with that photo of me above.  My husband Jack took that picture at the beach in the summertime.  At Christmastime that year, he told me that he wanted something particular for his Christmas gift from me and that he would like to order his own present.  That was a  highly unusual request for Jack, but he promised me that what he wanted was a good thing, so I agreed to the plan.  I wondered what he could be wanting--a big flat-screen TV?  something special for his car?  I had no clue.  He ordered the mysterious item online, but wouldn't give me any hints about it.  A couple of weeks later, a huge box appeared on our front porch.  By this time my curiosity was really piqued.  When Jack opened the package, I let out a little scream.  Want to see what it was?

It's that photo that he took, turned into a Lichtenstein-style piece of art.  He ordered it from

This photo will give you an idea of its size--it measures 3 1/2 x 4 1/2 feet!

It hangs in our bathroom, on the wall to the right of Jack's vanity, where my image can inspire him (or haunt him!) every day.

Isn't that the sweetest thing?  God bless that man.  This year we'll celebrate our 27th anniversary, and he still likes to take pictures of me.  My hair now has a number of white hairs mixed in with the red,  but I still don't have age spots.  I'm really glad I learned to live at peace with my fair skin. 

Note:  There are lots of good sunscreens and sunless tanners available for reasonable prices.  For protecting my face, neck, and chest on an everyday basis, I particularly like Olay Complete moisturizer with sunscreen--it's a great moisturizer and the sunscreen is effective.  I have no affiliation with Olay, but I love their product--I'm living proof that it works!  I also wear big UV-blocking sunglasses (as you can see in the photo).  When I go to the beach, in addition to sunscreen, I lounge under an umbrella, wear a big hat, and wear a UV-blocking shirt when I'm playing in the water.  I also keep the sunroof in my car closed during the day--it's a "moonroof" for me.

So what about you?  Are you fair-skinned or a bronzed beauty?  Have any favorite products you'd recommend?  Please share!

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

Saturday, May 12

The privilege of being a mother

It's Mother's Day weekend, and I am so grateful to be the mom of these wonderful young men!
Today I've been pondering what an awe-inspiring privilege it is to be a mother. I've been a mom for 21 years, and sometimes it still scares me stiff!  It really is, as the saying goes, "the hardest job you'll ever love." As I think about the privilege of being a mother, I'd like to share with you a post I wrote about praying for our children. This was originally published at the blog of my friends Vanessa and Heather, At the Picket Fence.  Now I'm glad to share these thoughts here.

Praying for Our Children

Prayer is a complex and multi-faceted subject. If you're like me, you've read and heard a lot about prayer. Sometimes it seems that we can spend so much time learning about prayer that we struggle to find time to pray! While this is obviously not a complete definition of prayer, one of my favorite teachings about prayer is very simple: "Prayer is talking with God about what you and He are doing together."

Surely there's no activity that more clearly demonstrates our working together with God and our dependence on Him than that of parenthood. "Children are a heritage from the Lord," we read in Psalm 127, and we know it's true. Being part of the miracle of creating and sustaining life is one of the greatest privileges God gives us; we know we could never do it on our own.

We love our children so much, and we always want the best for them. But sometimes we find ourselves faced with particularly trying circumstances, and our prayers take on special meaning. For my family, those trying circumstances have often come through the challenges of illness. My husband and two of my sons have a genetic condition called Marfan Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder which can involve great difficulty and even danger.

I remember so well the month of April 2008, when our then-14-year-old son Preston had to have major open-heart surgery. For years we had hoped and prayed that medication and monitoring might prevent his needing surgery, but that was not to be. Surgery was necessary to replace his ascending aorta with a polyester graft and his aortic valve with an artificial valve.

I'll never forget one particular scene from the day of Preston's surgery. For weeks I had held things together pretty well, doing all the big and little things required of me. And I kept a smile on my face in pre-op, staying calm when they wheeled Preston away and quiet as we took our seats in the waiting room. Several friends had gathered there to wait with Jack and me. We were all chatting cheerfully when one of the nurses called the waiting room from the Operating Room. The receptionist matter-of-factly relayed the message: "The surgeon wants you to know that Preston is safely under anesthesia and they've made the incision," she said. "Thank you very much," I answered. Then I burst into tears.

As I sobbed, my friends circled around me. My friend Anne took my hand and said, "Let's pray right now." Right there, in front of the whole waiting room, loud enough for everyone to hear, my friends prayed. They lifted Preston and the medical team and Jack and me to God, and they asked for every good thing. Five days later, Preston went home from the hospital.

That crisis was one I couldn't have weathered by myself. I was helpless to heal Preston, helpless to affect the outcome of the surgery, helpless even to keep myself calm and peaceful. God alone could provide what was needed.

Of course, the time of Preston's surgery was really just a special example of what God does for us every day. Most days we don't feel as helpless and dependent as I felt that day, but the truth is that we wouldn't even have air to breathe if it weren't for the goodness and grace of God. Were it not for God's grace, we wouldn't have our children, much less be able to care for them. Oh, yes! Parenthood is definitely something that we and God are doing together!

But to tell the truth, God doesn't always answer prayers as we'd like. Sometimes terrible things happen to children of parents who pray for them earnestly and faithfully. Theologians of different persuasions offer various explanations for this; they refer to it "the problem of evil." Some of their explanations are helpful; others are not. The humbling reality is that we don't understand exactly how God works. We don't know why some prayers are answered "yes" and some are answered "no." Some things are a mystery to us.

One thing we can know for sure, though: God loves us. "We know and rely on the love God has for us" (I John 4:16). When it comes to our children, we struggle. We cry. We're afraid. Sometimes the things we fear come to pass. But when we pray for our children, we're staking a claim. We're saying that we trust God. We're depending on Him for the very best for our children. God alone is strong enough overcome the most difficult of circumstances. Not even the things we fear most can separate us from God's love in Christ (Romans 8:38-39).

As we pray for our children, we're becoming people who know--really know--that God is good. We thank Him for blessing us with our kids. We humbly rely on Him as we do the work with which He's entrusted us. We humble ourselves before Him and spend time with Him, and He changes our hearts to be more like the heart of Christ. As we become more Christlike, we want to spend more time with him. Then when we spend more time with Him, He changes our hearts some more. Just like parenting, our growth in Christlikeness is completely dependent upon God--but God has given us work to do. We are working together with God. We have a lot to talk with Him about, don't we?

Happy Mother's Day, my fellow moms!

Wednesday, May 9

Inexpensive tabletop accessories

To freshen things up this spring, I created some very inexpensive tabletop accessories for my screened porch. Here's my new vignette:

The finial is a cheap resin piece that I found at a thrift store for $1.99.  It was an ugly green, but I liked the shape.  I spray-painted it with some fleck stone paint and then gave it a coat of Rustoleum's Heirloom White.  Then I simply distressed it a bit with sandpaper.  I think it looks cool now!

The sphere is just a styrofoam ball to which I hot-glued preserved sheet moss.  My WalMart now carries packages of sheet moss for a very reasonable price; it's in the craft/floral section.

With the same package of sheet moss, I created these cute little birdhouses.  The larger one is from Dollar Tree; the tiny one is from Target's One Spot.  I spray-painted both of them Heirloom White, glued moss to the roofs, and trimmed the moss with scissors.  Super-easy!

The ivy plant is potted in an "aged" terra cotta pot that I made myself.  You can read the tutorial for the pots here.  The outdoor lamp I've had for years and years.

My screened porch is a continual work in progress, but I'm happy with this tabletop now--with less than $8.00 and some spray paint from my stash, I think I've created a serene little scene.  Since our porches get a lot of use, I love to decorate them with elements that aren't too precious.  If one of these things breaks, there will be no weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Do you decorate outdoor spaces?  Do you have any ideas for pretty, inexpensive accessories?  Please share!

**I'm joining some fun link parties:

Monday, May 7

Defining successful blogging

There's something that's been brewing in my heart, and I think the time has come for me to say it out loud.

As you know, the name of my blog is Imparting Grace, and I'm determined that the title will also be my purpose. I want to be full of grace.  I want to celebrate grace.  I do not want to be angry and huffy and unforgiving, and I'm determined not to be.  But to tell the truth, sometimes I get mad.  This is one of those times, and I think I should get this off my chest.

You know what made me mad? A statement from a blogger.  In an interview, this blogger said something like, "Some bloggers should just realize that they're never going to be successful. Sorry. We can't all be successful."

The blogger who issued that statement IS successful, and she posts about cool projects.  But you know what?  Her blog contains so many grammatical errors that I find it hard to read.  Now, even though I'm a grammar nerd, I love a conversational, not-hung-up-on-grammar kind of writing.  Besides, we all make mistakes from time to time.  No, these are mistakes that a common grammar and spelling checker should catch.  There are many bloggers who go to a lot of trouble to make sure that their posts are as error-free as they can be, even though that takes a lot of work.  I appreciate them and their respect for their readers.  Since bloggers are writers, it feels wrong to me that the example of a "successful" blogger be someone who doesn't seem to care about the use of the language.  I don't understand why that kind of blogger should have the privilege of saying to small bloggers, "You're not going to make it, so just give up."

Perhaps I should realize that I'm the intended audience for the advice of that blogger.  I've been blogging a long time, and my blog is not big or fancy or hugely popular.  But I think maybe I have something to say, and I do my best to say it well and to be a positive presence in the blogging community. And I've met a lot of "big" bloggers who are respectful and helpful and generous and genuinely nice. People like Melissa of 320 Sycamore and Kate of Censational Girl and Sarah of Thrifty Decor Chick and Gina of The Shabby Creek Cottage and Nester of Nesting Place and Melissa of The Inspired Room and Rhoda of Southern Hospitality and Traci of Beneath My Heart and Beth of Home Stories A to Z and many more--all of whom have huge blogs and all of whom are really kind.

So today I'm going to use my little voice and say what I believe needs to be said. If you're a blogger, you don't have to be big to be "successful." You can have a medium-sized blog or even a tiny blog and still be successful. If you want to have advertising, good for you. If you hate advertising and don't ever want to have any, good for you. If you want to change your blog design constantly, good for you. If you never want to change your blog design, good for you. If you want to write long posts with no photos, good for you.  If you want to do all your talking through photos, good for you.  The truth is that you may not have a big blog or a money-making blog, but that doesn't mean your blog is not a success.

The world of blogging has become a crowded place, but who says there's not room for one more? Producing a good blog is hard work, but if you're doing what you want to do in a way that's respectful of others, I think you're a successful blogger.

So what do you think?  How do you define success in blogging?

**I'm joining the kind and successful Amanda at Serenity Now for Weekend Bloggy Reading.**

Tuesday, May 1

New front porch

One of my favorite features of our house is our front porch.  It's an alcove tucked into the space to the right of our front door, just outside our dining room.  Its inset location makes it protected and serene, and I've worked to make it into an outdoor living room.  But the look of it was growing dated, so this spring I redid it.  I'm excited to share photos of our new space!

The seating area:

The whole porch, from front door to seating area.  The front door opens to the foyer; the side door opens to the back hall that connects the garage, laundry room, pantry, and kitchen.  In older homes I think this was called the "service entrance."  Here it would be a "serve yourself" entrance!

The seating area from the other side:

In the late afternoon, ready for a cold drink:

In the early evening, lit with lamps and candles:

If you look closely, you can see the dining room through the windows.  I like the way the new porch colors work with the French blue of the dining room.

Now for some details. The all-weather wicker furniture is from the "Camino Real" collection made by Lane Venture.  I have no affiliation with Lane Venture, but I couldn't recommend this furniture more--it's been out here year-round for six years and is still going strong. We've been very glad we invested in good seating pieces. Of course, that meant we had to get creative to fill in the rest of the porch, but that's okay!

The rug is an outdoor rug from Target. Inexpensive, good-looking, easy to clean, and practically indestructible.   The wooden lamp table is an antique desk given to me years ago by my parents; the other table is a Goodwill find that I keep re-doing with paint.  The lamps were purchased several years ago from Target.  They're specially made for outdoor use.  The iron piece resting in the left windowsill was a TJMaxx find, as were the finial and the "Welcome" sign on the table.  The candle holder hanging above the couch is from Target.  I love inexpensive accessories, especially for an outdoor space.

The ottoman I made myself from an Omaha Steaks cooler; click here for a tutorial.  For this update, I simply removed the old fabric and stapled the new striped fabric in place.

With the addition of a tray, the ottoman does double-duty as a coffee table. The tray was a $1.00 Goodwill find; I updated it with a coat of Rustoleum's Heirloom White.

The corner by the side entry door is a good spot to add a little cheer. I place a Christmas tree here every December. For now, I added some plants beside the obelisks in the corner. These plants get almost no sunlight, so I chose hostas. I don't think they'll grow a lot, but they seem very happy in this shady spot.

For the wall, I hung a couple of antique ceiling tiles at the top. Oh, wait--these aren't antiques. They were copper pieces I bought at Ross for $5.99 each. Painted with Heirloom White and sanded to reveal some of the copper, I think they look like antiques!

The large chalkboard started life as this rooster painting I found at Goodwill for a few dollars:

I simply painted over the rooster with chalkboard paint, gave the frame a coat of Heirloom White, and turned it on its side for this space.  There's chalk and an eraser in the little bucket beside the plants--perfect for me to write a message for family or guests or for them to leave me a note!

Sometimes even a dedicated DIY enthusiast needs some help.  I knew that making zippered, fitted covers for the loveseat and chairs was beyond my elementary sewing skills, so I had a local seamstress do that part for me.  The throw pillows I made myself using the "sew easy" technique described here. As you can see, the fabrics don't exactly "match."  I'm more of a cross-your-eyes-and-see-if-the-colors-blend-well kind of decorator.

These fabric all came from Not Just Linens in Durham, North Carolina, where most of the fabrics are just $7.99 per yard.  The green I used for the upholstery is an outdoor fabric, so it cost a little more--it was $10.00 per yard.  The store manager, Diane Tattreau, made the new seat and sofa cushions for me.  I could have ordered new cushion covers directly from LaneVenture or from a replacement cushion company, but I liked the idea of employing someone in my community for the work. Diane copied the existing cushion covers exactly, so these fit perfectly.  Her prices were were very reasonable and I was happy that I got to choose exactly the fabric I wanted.

Now, just for fun, here's a peek at how the porch looked before:

And now:

Now all I need are friends to relax with me on the porch. The weather is warm and the drinks are cold!  Won't you come on over? 
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