Wednesday, May 29

Faux Roman shade

I love the look of a Roman shade, don't you?  Such a wonderful way to add a burst of pattern and color without the busy lines of some window treatments.

Years ago I created a method for making no-sew faux Roman shades.  With hundreds of thousands of views, that tutorial is my most popular post of all time.

I've been in a mood for change, though, so I wanted to replace the dark fabric with something lighter and brighter.  But I had a couple of problems:
  1. This window faces west, and light fabrics let too much light through to look good, even when doubled.
  2. This window is 57 inches wide, so even extra-wide fabrics didn't quite cover the whole space.
The nice lady at the fabric store suggested that I line the shades with black-out liner.  This was a very logical suggestion, and it would have worked well for the nice lady at the fabric store, who is an expert seamstress.

I am not an expert seamstress.  I have never been able to get the lining of anything to lie flat.  So that option wouldn't work.  I tried to glue the liner to the shade, but that didn't work well, either.  Still couldn't get that thing to lie flat.  All I got was a bunched-up mess.

As I stood there surveying my bunched-up mess, I said to myself, "If only there were some way just to get the liner to cover the window without having to attach it to the shade."

Tip for using lightweight fabric to create a faux Roman shade, staple blackout fabric directly to window behind the shade.

Then the light bulb turned on.  I cut a small piece of black-out liner to cover the top of each window and simply stapled them in place.

Couldn't have been easier.

Using blackout fabric behind a faux Roman shade ensures that light doesn't show through the shade

The lining panels are completely hidden behind the shade.  They just quietly hang there and do their job.  I may write them a love song.

Now for the second problem!  Once lining issue was solved, I was free to use any fabric I liked, but I still had the challenge of the extra-wide windows.

Then I ran across the Kavita tablecloth from World Market.  The colors were exactly what I wanted, and best of all it was 60 inches wide.  More than enough for my window!

I bought the 60"x120" tablecloth and followed my own tutorial to create a new Roman shade. (It uses a secret tool: the oval tension rod!)  I'm so happy with the way it turned out.

Tutorial for making a faux Roman shade using fabric and tension rods

I especially like the way the pattern of the tablecloth provides interest on each side.  I was simply careful to hang the shade so that the design is centered on the window.

A brand-new look for my kitchen window for a little bit of time and less than $40.00.  I'm so happy with it!

What do you think?  See any tablecloth-cum-Roman-shades in your future?

I'm joining these great parties:
Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now

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Monday, May 27

Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, we pause--

We remember.

We bow our heads

And we give thanks

For those who have freely given their lives

That others may live free.

Tuesday, May 21

A prayer for courage

As we watch news coverage of the devastation wrought by tornadoes in Oklahoma, our hearts break.   Our eyes fill with tears as we grieve with parents over the loss of their children, with wives over the loss of their husbands, with husbands over the loss of their wives, with friends over the loss of their loved ones.

Oh, God.  We are undone.

We want to know: can we help?  Is there anything we can do?  The answer is yes.  Click here for a list of tangible ways to help.  If you know another way, share it.

And we can pray.  We can all pray that God will provide as only He can do.  We can join our hands and hearts together, and we can remind one another of the truth.

Lord, give us the courage to do what You want us to do.

Monday, May 20

How to make your cut flowers last longer

After a long winter and a chilly spring, it's finally warming up.  That means it's time for wonderful flowers to cut.  Right now gardens in North Carolina are full of peonies, and hydrangeas--my favorite!--are just about ready to cut.  So I thought I'd pass along this simple tip for making fresh-cut flowers last longer.

It couldn't be simpler:  Place your flowers in water as soon as possible after cutting.  Cut or strip away greenery that would lie below the water line.  Then when you fill your vase with water, add a few drops of household bleach (such as Clorox) to the water.  That's it!

The small amount of bleach does no harm to the flowers, and it keeps the water clear.  Flowers last much longer in clear water.

See the flowers in the photo above?  That picture was taken 12 days after I picked the hydrangeas. As you can see, there's a bit of yellowing on some of the leaves, but the flowers are still going strong!

Bonus tip: if one of your hydrangeas does start to wilt, remove it from the vase, make a fresh cut at the base of the stem, and soak the entire flower (not just the stem) in a sink or bowl of water for about 45 minutes. The petals themselves will absorb some of the water, perking them right back up.

Do you grow flowers?  What's your favorite flower to cut and bring inside?

Tuesday, May 14

The ways we are perfect

Am I a proud mama?  You'd better believe it.

On Sunday, my oldest son graduated from Duke University.

In front of the majestic Duke Chapel
Will is an awesome guy.  He's smart.  He's hard-working.  He's fun.  He's funny.  He's good to his brothers.  He's loyal to his friends.   And now he's a graduate of one of the finest universities in the country.
My three sons
As I was thinking about my son's qualities and accomplishments this weekend, I realized something important.  He's perfect in exactly the same number of ways that I am perfect.

None.  Absolutely none.

He's not perfect at all, but he's wonderful.  He amazes me.  I think the world of him.  Of course,  I never expected him to be perfect.  I'd love him and be proud of him no matter what.  

But, oh, how I wanted to be the perfect mother.

Some days I was a good mother.  Some days I was a fair-to-middling mother.  To be honest, some days I was a pretty bad mother.  On no days was I ever a perfect mother.  I've beaten myself up about that.  I've cried and lamented and wished I could go back and change things.  Because, although I never expected my son to be a perfect child, I did expect myself to be a perfect mother--or darn close, anyway.  And, of course, I failed.

Yet this fine man is my son--the child I carried in my womb for nine months, the baby I birthed, the boy I nurtured.   He's not perfect, but he doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful.

And if that goes for kids, maybe--just maybe--it goes for moms, too.

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 8

Life in the Kingdom of God

Today is not a normal day. Dallas A. Willard, the most brilliant yet most humble man I've ever known, died today.

A photo of Dallas I snapped last June

You've probably heard of Dallas.  If you've spent any time around me, you've heard about him.  You've heard his words quoted.  Perhaps you know him as the author of The Divine Conspiracy, The Spirit of the Disciplines, Hearing God, or Renovation of the Heart.  Heck, if you've been around me for long, I've probably given you a copy of one of his books.

One thing's for sure: if you know anything about Dallas, you know that he didn't just live his life for God.  He lived his life with God.

And he's still living it.

Dallas has no more need of his human body.  It was the battery-pack that powered his spirit.  He liked to say that we are all "unceasing spiritual beings in God's great universe."  And though his body has ceased to function, Dallas surely lives.

Lots of people have said, "He's with Jesus now."  And that's true; he's with the Lord face-to-face now.  But Dallas has been with Jesus for a long time now.  He understood that Jesus made available to all of us the opportunity to live in the Kingdom of God--right here, right now, right on this earth.  Dallas understood like few others that "those who live in reliance upon the word and person of Jesus, and know by experience the reality of his kingdom, are always better off 'dead,' from the personal point of view.  Paul's language is, 'to die is gain' (Philippians 1:21).  And again: 'To depart and be with Christ is very much better' than to remain here (v. 23).  We remain willing, of course, to stay at our position here to serve others at God's appointment. But we live in the knowledge that, as Paul elsewhere said, 'Jesus the Anointed has abolished death and has, through the gospel, made life and immortality obvious' (2 Timothy 1:10)" (The Divine Conspiracy, p. 394).

As I was thinking today about Dallas's life and work, I was embarrassed for a moment that I blog about such little things as homemaking and cooking and decorating.  I found myself wishing that I devoted all my space at Imparting Grace to weightier matters.

But then I heard Dallas's gentle voice, reminding me that Jesus offers me the opportunity to live in the Kingdom of God.  I alone have the opportunity to bring my own little kingdom (or queendom, if you like)--the range of my effective will--under the authority of God's Kingdom. And that changes things.   

So I devote myself to writing and speaking and deeply spiritual matters--but I also make a home for my family.  I cook.  I decorate.  I do a million things that often seem to be inconsequential, but they all go together to make my life--a life lived in the Kingdom of God, consecrated to God, and for the glory of God.

I won't lend you my copy of Renovation of the Heart--but you should read it.

I seek to live my life as Jesus would live it if He were I.  Not the life of someone else, but my life.  A life deeply enriched by knowing Dallas Willard--and the God he serves.  The One who reminds me, 

"Whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (Colossians 3:17).  

Tuesday, May 7

Simple solution for decorating problem

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that big changes are underway in my living room.  Actually, I've been holding out on you.  I've got news about my living room, and it's pretty stinking exciting.  Ready?  I'm in the middle of implementing a custom design from Darlene Weir of Fieldstone Hill Design.

Somebody pinch me!  I've never worked with an honest-to-goodness professional designer before, let alone someone of Darlene's caliber!  Woo hoo!

Right in the middle of procuring items for the room, though, I hit a snag.  Darlene had found floor lamps that were just perfect for the back wall of my room.  And she had found urns that were just perfect to stand on the chest beside the perfect floor lamps.  She told me that the urns and the lamps were going to provide "essential height variety."  It was all going to be just perfect.

Except it wasn't.

It turns out that the lamps weren't quite as tall as they were expected to be.  Instead of getting "essential height variety," we got elements of almost exactly the same height.

I'm embarrassed to admit how panicky I felt when I looked at the wall.  I really liked those lamps, and they were such a good price!  I didn't want to search for different lamps.  Other lamps were going to be much more expensive, I just knew it!  And I loved the urns.  I knew I wanted to use the urns.  The urns were exactly what I wanted!  Besides, returning them would be such a pain!  My mind raced as I tried to figure out what to do.  In short, I was in a tizzy.

I emailed Darlene, who agreed that the lamps should be taller.  Darlene wasn't at all panicky, though.  She was very reassuring and suggested a couple of possible solutions.  Which is to say that she reminded me that this was NO BIG DEAL.  So I calmed down.

In my calm state, I walked through the kitchen section at Target and spied these bowls:

Wooden bowls by Thomas O'Brien.  Perfectly round, perfectly straight across, inexpensive.

The light bulb came on as I realized that they were almost exactly the same circumference of the bases of my lamps.  Could it be?

Yes, it could.  I brought the bowls home, placed them under the lamps, snapped a photo and sent it to Darlene for a second opinion.  With her encouragement, I simply smeared wood glue onto the bottoms of the bowls

and attached them, bottom side up, to the bottoms of my lamps.  The bowls just sort of disappear under my lamps but make them an inch and a half taller.

And that was that.  End of drama.  Problem solved.

Essential height variety?  Check.

Want to see more of my new living room?  My hope is to reveal the whole new room as soon as everything is in place, which I hope will be in the next couple of weeks.

Now I find myself wondering if there might be simple solutions for more problems if I could just calm myself enough to see them.   What do you think?

Joining these fun parties:

Friday, May 3

Fresh salsa

Cinco de Mayo is coming soon, and that calls for some yummy Mexican food!

My favorite Mexican recipe is simple and quick to prepare but oh, so delicious.  It's good with chips, on fajitas, on quesadillas, on enchiladas, or straight from the spoon.  Try it!

Here's how to make your own delicious fresh salsa.

  • 2 lb. tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 onion (I like Vidalia or other sweet onion)
  • a few slices jalapeno pepper
  • juice of one lime
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • salt to taste
Using a food processor, chop garlic, onion, and jalapeno very fine, then scrape into a medium-sized bowl. Chop tomatoes as chunky as you like them. (I process the tomatoes a couple at a time, just using the "pulse" button, so that they're pretty chunky.) Add the chopped tomatoes to the bowl. Stir in lime juice and tomato sauce. Chop cilantro and stir into tomato mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

*Click here for a printable copy of this recipe.

Honestly, this is the best salsa recipe I've ever tried. It tastes so fresh. It's good the moment you make it, and it keeps beautifully in the refrigerator or freezer as well. And you can use it to make guacamole!

One of my best friends grew up in Southern California with avocado trees in her yard. She told me that she and her siblings used to feel sorry for themselves because they had to eat avocado sandwiches
for lunch. Poor little things. I got her to teach me how to make guacamole.  Here's her simple method:

Halve and pit avocados. Place halves in a pie tin and use a potato masher to mash them. Sprinkle with a bit of salt if desired. Stir in fresh salsa.

I'm delighted to be joining Barb from The Everyday Home for a Mexican Fiesta Recipe Blog Hop. Be sure to check out the end of this post for lots of recipes and party inspiration!

Do you have a favorite Mexican recipe?  Please share!