Friday, September 28

The blessing of being welcome

I talked with the receptionist in my doctor's office this morning.  She was helpful and friendly, and when I thanked her, she answered cheerfully, "You're welcome."

I was stunned at how glad my heart was to hear these simple words.

You don't hear them much any more, do you?  People say "thank you" a lot, but the reply is usually "No problem," "Sure thing," or maybe "My pleasure."  Very few people use the traditional reply  of "You're welcome."

It occurred to me that it's sad for "you're welcome" to have fallen into disuse.  Why?  Because I need to be reminded that I'm welcome.  For someone to make space in his or her life for me--to help me, to assist me, to encourage me, to accommodate me--those things are all important.  Those are the kinds of things to which I might say "thank you," and rightly so.   Somehow it's very reassuring to me to hear that I am welcome in that person's life and space.

I need to hear it from God, too.  As I consider all his blessings, I can't help but thank him.  I need to be reminded that he's glad to bless me, glad to make room for me, glad to share his life with me.   I need to listen as his gentle voice says, "You're welcome."

"Every good gift and every 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, NKJV).

What about you?

**I'm joining Vanessa and Heather At the Picket Fence for Inspiration Friday 
and Amanda at Serenity Now for Weekend Bloggy Reading.**

Tuesday, September 25

Autumn mantel

My living room mantel tends to stay the same, season after season--except for Christmas. Christmas changes everything! I don't usually do seasonal mantelscapes other than for Christmas.

But this year the call of Fall was just too strong to resist, so I put together the simplest of Autumn mantels.  Here it is:

 Very simple, isn't it?

Fall leaves in a vase filled with wine corks.  Plus a giant pine cone.

Our yard is full of pine cones, but this is the only giant one I've ever found.  Not sure how it got in my yard, but I like it!

We'll be lighting the fire soon, but for now the hearth is warmed up a bit with a few fallish elements.

These bundles of sticks remind me of sheaves of grain.  So far, though, they've mostly ended up as a playthings for my 15-year-old as he sits in the club chair to watch NFL.   One stalk at a time, my sheaves are dwindling.  Oh, well.  I'd rather have the boy than the sticks.

How's the Fall decorating going at your house?

I'm joining some fun parties:

Monday, September 24

Goose Creek Candle Co. Winner

Hello friends!

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway for a scented candle from Goose Creek Candle Company.  I used to generate a winning number.  And the winner is. . .

Kim from Canaan Bound Brigade!

Kim, email me (RichellaP (at) gmail (dot) com) so that we can get your candle mailed out to you!

For everyone else, don't forget that you can use Coupon Code #1050 for 25% off your entire order through September 30.  Just visit Goose Creek Candle Company for lots of choices!

Monday, September 17

The very best pumpkin bread

Whether you base your change-of-seasons attitude on the weather or the calendar, it's time to celebrate Autumn, for it will officially arrive this week.  Autumn is the perfect time to make my favorite of all baked goods:  pumpkin bread.


I bake a lot, and this is one of my most requested recipes.  I know there are lots of recipes for Pumpkin Bread, but this one?  This one is special.  My Aunt Laura gave me this recipe back in the 70s, and I've made it hundreds of times over the years.  And over the years I've eaten pumpkin bread made by lots of different home cooks as well as many different bakeries.  I'll tell you the truth:  this is the best pumpkin bread I've ever tasted.
Pumpkin Bread


3 cups sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 Tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons)* salt
1 Tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup vegetable oil (I use canola oil)
4 large eggs
2 cups pumpkin purée (I use Libby's solid pack pumpkin, 15 oz. can)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Optional: 2 cups chopped nuts (I use walnuts or pecans)

*If you like to bake, do yourself a huge favor and spend a few dollars to order these measuring spoons. The set includes 6 spoons: 1/8 teaspoon, 1/4 teaspoon, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, 1/2 Tablespoon, and 1 Tablespoon. Having all six of these makes measuring so much easier! These wash beautifully in the dishwasher and last for years.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If you're including nuts, spread them on a baking sheet and roast for about five minutes. This will make them a much tastier addition to your bread. Coarsely chop toasted nuts.

Stir all dry ingredients together in mixer bowl. Add all liquid ingredients. Mix well. Stir in chopped nuts if desired. Batter will be very thick, and to be honest it's not very pretty. Never fear. All will be well.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pans. I use four inexpensive oblong pans, each about 3 1/2 inches x 7 1/2 inches. This recipe is perfect for four loaves of this size, six "mini" loaves, two or three large loaves, or lots of muffins. You can grease and flour the pans if you like. I just spray mine with nonstick cooking spray.

Here's a trick: If you have a kitchen food scale, weigh each pan as you're distributing your batter. Your loaves will play nicely together in the oven if they're all about the same size. Don't stress over this; just make each pan weigh about the same as the others.

Depending on the size of your loaves, bake 40-60 minutes at 350 degrees. Bread is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. This is the most important thing: DO NOT OVERBAKE. For these medium-sized loaves, I usually time this bread for 45 minutes and start testing at that point. Even if you have to sacrifice many toothpicks and test your bread every couple of minutes, that's better than overbaking. If it's not done, the toothpick will be goopy. If it's done, the toothpick will be completely clean or perhaps have a couple of crumbs on it, but no goopiness. Remove the bread from the oven just as soon as a toothpick comes out clean.

Q: Why is testing the bread so important?
A: Because of residual heat, the bread actually continues to bake just a little after you remove it from the oven. So if you leave baked goods in the oven too long, they'll OVERbake after you remove them from the oven.  Believe me: it's worth the effort to watch the bread and remove it from the oven as soon as a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Here's how your loaves will look fresh from the oven:

Cool in pans for five to ten minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

See how neatly the loaves come out of the pan when you just spray the pans with nonstick cooking spray? No sticking and no flour residue. I bake a lot, but I never grease and flour pans any more.

When completely cool, wrap individual loaves in foil. If you don't need all loaves right away, they freeze beautifully. I like to keep a couple of these in the freezer. A loaf makes a great gift for a neighbor, a teacher, a new mom--just about anyone. One of my favorite hostess gifts for autumn is to pair a loaf with a package of pretty beverage napkins.

One more thing about this amazing bread. If you like, you can make this bread do double-duty as a yummy dessert simply by adding a simple cream cheese frosting.  Here's a simple recipe:

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 lb. powdered sugar
1 stick butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 oz. cream cheese

Mix all ingredients together. Add roasted and chopped nuts if you like. Spread on bread or cake (or just eat with a spoon--it's that good!).  Store in refrigerator.

Or you can make a simple cream cheese glaze which is also really tasty: click here to read about that.

Scout's honor: this is one recipe you really should try.

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

*This post contains an affiliate link.
If you make a purchase after clicking on this link, I will earn a small commission,
for which I am truly grateful. Your price will not be affected.*

Friday, September 14

Autumn at my front door

Even though Fall doesn't officially start until September 22, it's already Autumn in my heart--and now it's starting to look like Autumn around my house!  Here's a peek at my outdoor decor.

Our front door is bare during the hot weather, but I like to make a wreath for Fall.   This year's wreath is pretty simple.  I just used fallish elements from my craft stash and hot glue to create it.  I started with a straw form that I covered in moss.  Then I glued on a bunch of colorful silk leaves:

With that as a base, I then poked and glued in fallish elements--seed pods, pine cones, sweetgum balls, sheaves of grain--anything I could find in my craft stash that looked fallish got added to the wreath.  I did go through several sticks of glue, but I'm happy with the result.

I hung the wreath on the front door only to find it completely covered with dew the next morning. I mean, it was dripping.  So I let it dry thoroughly and then gave it a coating of clear spray paint.  I'm hoping the clear finish will keep it from mildewing. The spray paint gives it a glossy finish, but that's okay with me.

By the way, I hang my front door wreath from a wreath hanger.  My hanger sort of blends in with the color of the door--I highly recommend painting a door hanger the same color as the door so that it doesn't detract from the beauty of your wreath.  Wreath hangers tend to be a little too short for my taste, so I use wire to hang the wreath a bit lower.  You can't really see the wire, and my wreath ends up where I want it.

Mums flank the front door along with with some pumpkins and gourds.  I'll be excited to add some real pumpkins to the mix in a couple of weeks.  By then the mums should be in full bloom, and then it WILL be Autumn!

The sitting area to the right of the front door is one of our favorite spots to relax in the Autumn.  I made simple autumn leaf pillows for the loveseat.  You can read about those here.

The tabletop holds a very simple vignette--a couple of pumpkins along with a plant and a "Welcome" sign.  Simple but good.

Officially or unofficially, it's Fall at my house.  How about yours?

I'm joining these lovely parties:

Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now
Inspiration Friday, At the Picket Fence

Tuesday, September 11

Early Halloween decor?


Look, I love all kinds of creatures. And I really don't mind finding different kinds of critters around my house. But I've discovered that I have to draw the line somewhere--somewhere short of finding this friend in my garage:

Even with its legs curled under, this thing is 2 full inches across.  Now, I know that's probably no big deal in some parts of the world, but this is my house.  And with all due respect to Charlotte A. Cavatica,  I just don't do big spiders.

What about you?  Any creepy-crawlies around your place?


Friday, September 7

Simple fall craft: autumn leaf pillow

I love Autumn, and I truly enjoy getting my house ready for the season. Today I want to show you how I created some super-easy Autumn Leaf Pillows for my front porch.

Some time ago I made some of throw pillows out of drop cloths.  I've used these same pillows to decorate my front porch in different seasons:  autumn, Christmas, Valentine's Day.  The pillows had gotten a little yucky from being outdoors, but running them through the washing machine with a little bleach cured that.

I'd made Autumn Leaf pillows before by cutting leaf shapes out of felt.  They were cute, but I always wished that the leaves were a bit bigger and more intricate.  This year I planned to buy large pieces of felt and make more detailed leaves.  Then when I was at HomeGoods recently, I spotted this placemat:

Here's the tag.  HomeGoods has these in several colors.  I chose the dark brown to coordinate with my new front porch.

And here's the best part:

I probably would have spent that much on a large piece of felt.

To make my Autumn Leaf pillows, I simply hot-glued the placemats onto my dropcloth pillows.  Voila!

I may want to add more traditional autumn colors as the season wears on, but for now I'm still enjoying the fresh blues and greens of my porch.

I found the large green ceramic pumpkin at TJMaxx; the small brown one is from my collection.  I spray-painted my "Welcome" sign to complement the throw pillows.

 Just the tabletop:

Here's how the porch looks most mornings.  It's a favorite place to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee.  Wish you could come have a cup with me!

One bit of autumn decor down, 99 to go!  How are you preparing for Fall at your house?

I'm joining these parties:

Wednesday, September 5

Happy birthday to me!

Yep, today is my birthday--49 and counting!

The other day my youngest son asked, "Mom, were you born when John F. Kennedy was President?"  The answer to that question is YES, I was.  Just barely.

For my birthday today, I'd like to ask you a special favor.  Would you please do something special for me for my birthday?

You see, I'm conducting some research, and I'd love to include you in that.  I know you're busy, but if you have just a minute, please, please, PLEASE leave me a comment and complete this statement:

"I wish I were more like _________________ because s/he is so ______________________."

Or if you don't really wish you were like anyone else, I'd love to know that, too!

Anyone can post a comment to this blog--you don't have to be a blogger, a registered user, or anything. Simply click the word "Comments" at the bottom of this post and follow the prompts.  If you're reading this in a reader or an email, simply click here to go directly to the post on my blog, then leave a comment.

Thank you so much for helping me to have a happy birthday!  I'm so grateful for you!!

Tuesday, September 4

Simple, fragrant homemade cleaner

I love simple cleaning techniques, don't you?

One of the simplest I've found is to use rubbing alcohol (that's right, 70% isopropyl alcohol that you can  buy at any drugstore or megamart) as a household cleaner.  It's remarkably good at cutting through greasy dirt and it's a great disinfectant.  Its only drawback?  Its smell.  It smells like. . . rubbing alcohol.

I like fresh, clean smells.  Like citrus, for instance.  Especially orange.  Something about the smell of a freshly-peeled orange just makes me happy.

And so one day it occurred to me that I could infuse rubbing alcohol with orange peel.  Eureka!

I dropped the peel from an orange into a container of rubbing alcohol.  I then left it alone for several days.  The alcohol took on a bit of the orange color and a lot of the orange fragrance.

I poured my infused alcohol into an old spray bottle and voila!  A fragrant all-purpose cleaner!

I've used this straight and I've combined equal parts alcohol and water with a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid added.  Both work well for cleaning countertops, etc.

An inexpensive, good-smelling cleaner that cuts through grease and disinfects?  Yes!

Do you have any cleaning tips?  Please share!

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

Saturday, September 1


Summer is over.  Can I get an "Amen"?  Maybe a "Hallelujah" or two?!

Or how about just "Praise God from whom all blessings flow."

At last, September.

September has come. It is hers
Whose vitality leaps in the autumn,
Whose nature prefers
Trees without leaves and a fire in the fireplace.
So I give her this month and the next
Though the whole of my year should be hers who has rendered already
So many of its days intolerable or perplexed
But so many more happy.
Who has left a scent on my life, and left my walls
Dancing over and over with her shadow
Whose hair is twined in all my waterfalls
And all of London littered with remembered kisses.

from "Autumn Journal" by Louis MacNiece

Are you (like me) a person whose vitality leaps in the autumn?