Tuesday, February 26

How to make your house smell delicious

Mmmmm.  I love for my house to smell good.  In the autumn,  I want it to smell like cinnamon and cloves (click here to read how I do that).  But now that we're in the last stretches of winter and heading quickly toward spring, I want my house to smell a little lighter, a little fresher, but still warm and welcoming.

I discovered a way to create just the aroma I was wanting, and it couldn't be more simple.  In fact, it requires just two ingredients.

Here's what to do:

Peel an orange.  Put the orange peel into a small pot.  Fill the pot with water, then squirt in some vanilla extract.  Bring to a boil, then simmer.  Be careful not to let the pot boil dry.

Vanilla extract is the secret weapon here.  Yes, it's expensive, but you'll be so glad you used a teaspoon or two for this!

Do you have a great method for making your house smell good?  Please share!

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

Friday, February 22

Looking at fabrics

I've been looking for fabrics lately.  I've started a fabric pinboard to collect lots of lovely ideas.  (I'd love for you to join me on Pinterest!)

A golden herringbone (with a bit of a greenish hue)--possibility for chair upholstery:

Spa blue linen (upholstery weight with a backing):

Possibilities for other uses (decorative pillows, window treatments, etc.)

Any of these strike your fancy?

Wednesday, February 20

Unfinished Projects--
and an exciting announcement

That's all I seem to have lately--a bunch of unfinished projects.  Here's a little peek into what's been going on around here:

Furniture delivered but not yet in place.

Light fixture purchased but not yet installed.

Artwork framed but not yet hung.

One project, though, is just about finished.  My part of it is done.  I've been so eager to share it with you, and the wait is nearly over.

I've written an eBook.

It's called A Spiritual Formation Primer, and that's exactly what it is.  An introduction to Christian spiritual formation.  My heart in 65 pages.

Renovaré is publishing it.

It'll be available March 8 (that's just two weeks from Friday!).

And because I couldn't wait a moment longer, here's a peek at the cover:

Whew!  I'm so glad to get to share this news with you!!

So how about you?  What's going on at your house?  Do you have unfinished projects, too?  Please share!

Joining Kim at Savvy Southern Style for Wow Us Wednesday and

Friday, February 15

Remembering I am dust

Day before yesterday, I attended my first ever Ash Wednesday service.

That'll be surprising to some of you, but it's true.  I grew up in a church that strictly eschewed the observation of any kind of special religious celebration or observance, choosing instead to focus on following only the practices specifically set forth in the scriptures and ignoring all traditions that had grown up through the years of Christian history.  That's not a bad approach in some ways, although it does tend to throw the baby out with the bath water.

As my husband and I have matured in our faith, we've had what one pastor friend described as "liturgical longings."  I think that's a good way to put it.  We've learned about some of the Christian traditions that have helped to sustain the souls of Christians for 2000 years, and we've found many of them to be very nourishing.

Special times of reflection such as Advent, Christmas Eve, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday have come to be especially meaningful to us.  This year we wanted to add a particular time of renewal during the season of Lent, so we were glad to start with an Ash Wednesday service.

The observance of Ash Wednesday is not obligatory in any way, but for hundreds of years now many Christians have marked the beginning of the Lenten season (the 40 days before Easter, not counting Sundays) with a particular time of reflection and repentance.  The imposition of ashes upon one's head is symbolic, of course, but what a powerful symbol!  With the placing of ashes on one's head comes the  entreaty: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return," echoing God's words to Adam in Genesis 3:19.

That admonishment is meant to call us to God by reminding us that our days are numbered.  In it I find echoes of Solomon's heartfelt cry, "Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth" (Ecclesiastes 12:1), or Paul's earnest plea, "Now is the day of salvation" (II Corinthians 6:2).  I appreciate the reminder.

But this year I'm also thankful for the reminder that I am only dust.  So often I yearn and strive, almost forgetting that I'm not responsible to do what God alone can do.  God is God and I am not, and Ash Wednesday helped me remember what a wonderful and restful fact that is.

"Bless the Lord, oh my soul; and all this is within me, bless His holy name!" (Psalm 103:1)

**Do you practice any special observation of Ash Wednesday?  Please share!

Wednesday, February 13

Strawberry Cake: perfect Valentine's treat

I live in a household of all boys, so you won't find much pink around here.  I make one exception, though, when it comes to my husband's favorite childhood dessert: Strawberry Cake.  And its pretty color would make it perfect for Valentine's Day, so I thought I'd share the recipe with you.  Old-fashioned and delicious, it's a winner.

This cake is super-easy to make and is absolutely delicious.  Instead of frosting, it has a strawberry glaze that's ooey and gooey and yummy.  And it's made with frozen strawberries, so it's a great treat even when strawberries aren't in season.

Strawberry Cake

1 box white cake mix
2 Tablespoons flour
1 3 oz. box strawberry gelatin
4 eggs
½ cup water
1 cup oil
½ cup liquid drained from thawed strawberries

1 pound confectioners' sugar
2 T. melted butter
24 oz. frozen strawberries, drained and mashed (reserve ½ cup liquid)

Thaw frozen strawberries.  Drain, reserving ½ cup liquid for use in cake.  Mash berries.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour 9”x13” pan or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine all cake ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

While cake is baking, prepare glaze by mixing together all glaze ingredients.

While cake is still hot, poke holes all over cake with toothpick.  Pour glaze over hot cake.  Glaze will set as it cools.  Cut into squares to serve.

Click here for a printable copy.

I put extra glaze on this piece, just the way my husband likes it.  See how ooey-gooey it is?

Just right for Valentine's Day!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 12

Thank you, Mr. Lincoln

On this day in 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born.  For citizens of the United States of America, there are fewer words more stirring than those Abraham Lincoln delivered at the dedication of the military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  The bloody battle of Gettysburg had taken place just a few months before the dedication of the soldiers' cemetery in November 1863.

Perhaps, like me, you'd like to re-read these words today.

     Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
     But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
     It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. 

Tuesday, February 5

My favorite Pantone colors

You may know that every year Pantone designates one of its colors as the Pantone Color of the Year.  Now a subsidiary of X-Rite, Inc., the Pantone company started as a commercial printer in the 1950's.  Pantone is recognized world-wide as the provider of professional color standards for design.

This year's Pantone Color of the Year is Emerald (Pantone #17-5641).  Last year's was Tangerine Tango (Pantene #17-1463).  It's fun to look at the history of the colors chosen to be Color of the Year. Pantone's press about the color of the year states: "For more than a decade, Pantone's Color of the Year has influenced product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries, including fashion, home and industrial design, as well as product packaging and graphic design."

As for my favorite Pantone colors, that's easy.  I have a few.  First, the blues.  Pantone #287: Duke blue.  Pantone #278: Carolina blue.  Did you know that there's an official Pantone color for your favorite teams?  (I have one son at Duke and one son at UNC-Chapel Hill, so there's rivalry in my favorite blues!)

Some of my other favorite colors are grandly represented in this gift from my oldest son:

Aren't these great?  For an Anglophile such as I, what could be better than mugs for colour-matching my tea?  (I have to admit, though, that I also use these for coffee.  They're great mugs!)

No doubt about it: my favorite is Pantone #729-C.

Pantone makes a number of fun products.  You can even order a mug in Emerald Green, although they're a bit pricey right now; click here to see those.  (This is not a sponsored post; I'm just fascinated by color and by the artists who do cool things with it.) 

I find this utterly amazing: even including all the hundreds and hundreds of colors in Pantone's color library, there are still more glorious colors in God's creation.  Even with the most sophisticated technology, we can't possibly represent ever color in God's spectrum.  Breathtaking, isn't it?

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament shows his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1).

Do you have a favorite color?