Tuesday, April 29

How to make your kitchen smell fresh

Now that spring weather has finally arrived, I find myself itching to get some spring cleaning done.  I love for my house to smell fresh!  I haven't been able to simply throw open the windows, though, because the pollen has been so thick.  So I've come up with a simple little trick for making things smell lovely.

First cut a lemon into thick slices.  Then run some water in a Pyrex measuring cup, squeeze some of  the juice from the lemon slices into the water, and then add the lemon slices themselves to the water.

Now microwave the lemon water on high until the water bubbles.  Place a bamboo chopstick in the water; breaking the surface of the liquid allows bubbles to form more easily so the water can boil without boiling over.  The steam from the lemon water will make your microwave smell fresh and clean.

Next, pour the lemon water into a small saucepan on your stovetop.  Add a couple of teaspoons of vanilla extract to the mixture.  Bring the mixture just to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer.  Take care that your pot doesn't boil dry!

The combination of lemon and vanilla makes the kitchen smell fresh and clean and homey--kind of like the smell of a lemon meringue pie fresh from the oven.  A lovely smell for springtime!

What's your favorite way to make your home smell fresh?

Joining my friend Roxy at Living from Glory to Glory for her Encouraging Homemakers party!

Tuesday, April 22

For Earth Day and every day

It's a beautiful spring day in my home state of North Carolina--the kind of day that reminds me of Psalm 19:

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

Beauty abounds in my own back yard

Along with the written Word of God, the Bible, another great “book” is provided to us:  the "book" of Nature. As Psalm 19 says, "the heavens declare the glory of God." This is true! Taking a real look at the creation of God can do much to fill your heart with gladness and to and drive you to your knees in praise, adoration, and gratitude. This is good for your soul.
Now, simply reading the book of Nature without ever looking at the Bible would be a mistake.  It is quite possible to elevate the goodness of God’s creation to the level of worship-worthiness; doing this is certainly not good for your soul.

But just reading the Bible without ever pausing to drink deeply of the beauty of creation and to adore the God of creation would also be a mistake. “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made” (Romans 1:20). In the words of one of my favorite poets, Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
and ev’ry common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees take off his shoes--
The rest sit ‘round it and pluck blackberries.

Azaleas in my yard afire with God 
Do you see?  Do you see goodness and grace of God in the everyday beauty that surrounds you?  All Creation sings the praises of the Creator! 

Perhaps today you would benefit from stepping outside and considering the glorious testimony to God’s goodness provided by His creation.

This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and ‘round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world!
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world,
The birds their carols raise;
The morning light, the lily white
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world!
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass, I hear him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

If you aren’t seeing that all of creation proclaims the praises of the Creator, I urge you to make space in your life to look again.  Spend time considering the wonders of creation.  Allow the order and beauty of the natural world to stun you.  Let it sink deeply into your soul.  For the same God who created all this beauty still reigns.

This is my Father’s world,
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world!
The battle is not done:
Jesus, who died, shall be satisfied
And earth and heav’n be one.

Happy Earth Day!

Sunday, April 20

He is risen!

Crown Him with many crowns,
The Lamb upon His throne;
Hark! how the heavenly anthem drowns
All music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing
Of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King
Through all eternity.

Crown Him the Lord of life,
Who triumphed o'er the grave,
Who rose victorious in the strife
For those He came to save.
His glories now we sing,
Who died and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring,
And lives that death may die.

Crown Him the Lord of peace,
Whose pow'r a scepter sways
From pole to pole, that wars may cease,
And all be prayer and praise.
His reign shall know no end,
And round His pierced feet
Fair flowers of paradise extend
Their fragrance ever sweet.

Crown Him the Lord of love!
Behold His hands and side:
Those wounds, yet visible above,
In beauty glorified.
All hail, Redeemer, hail!
For Thou hast died for me--
Thy praise and glory shall not fail
Throughout eternity!
Matthew Bridges and Godfrey Thring

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 18

Good Friday

Today is Good Friday, the day that Christians stop to remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. To be honest, it's easy to want to skip right past this day and get straight to the wonder and celebration of Easter morning. I've been thinking that this desire to skip the painful and go straight to the glory may be part of the story of Good Friday.

Special thanks to Gina Luker from The Shabby Creek Cottage for the beautiful crosses!

When I was a little girl, I was always horrified to think of the people who wanted Jesus to die. And I felt sorry for them. After all, they had been waiting for many years for the Messiah, and finally the Messiah came! Why on earth would they not accept Him?

Perhaps I've been too quick to question these folks. I tend to concentrate on how Jesus performed miracles, healed the sick, and even brought the dead back to life, and I wonder how anyone could disbelieve that He was the Messiah. But lately I've been thinking that, after all, Jesus was not exactly the kind of king I would have expected, either. Especially if I'd been living under the harsh rule of foreigners who had invaded my country and taken over the government. I probably would have been looking for someone who was much more commanding and regal, someone who exhibited traits of a strong and mighty leader, someone who displayed grand rhetorical skills. I would have been looking for a take-charge kind of guy. I'm afraid that, if I'd been looking for a deliverer, I would have sought a conquering hero, not a wise and gentle teacher.

I've always pictured myself as one of the few who remained faithful to Jesus. I've seen myself as one of the women who went to the tomb on Sunday morning, you know? One of the devoted friends of Jesus.  One who always believed. Good Friday looks very different to me when I stop to realize that, if I had lived 2000 years ago, I might have been part of the angry mob.

Even as I write these words, my heart protests, "Surely not! Surely I would have known that He was the Son of God!" I'd like to believe that, and perhaps it is true. But if I'm honest with myself, I know that I am often attracted to the grand and glorious rather than to the simple and humble. The more I think about the life and teaching of Jesus, the more I think that what God really wants from me is a humble heart.

I think of the story of Jesus's life. The Son of God being born in a stable? The Son of the Almighty becoming a baby whose first bed was a feeding trough? The Son of the Most High serving as an assistant to a carpenter in a peasant village? The Son of the Creator living the life of an itinerant teacher, without even a home of his own? The Son of the Lord of all creation allowing himself to be beaten and executed like a common criminal? Seriously??

Yes. Seriously. It's all true. And He did all that out of love and mercy for people who could, if they so chose, simply scoff at the story.

But the story is more than just a tale. It's the truth. Two thousand years later, we're still telling the same sweet story of the cross. The kind and gentle Savior still invites us to humble ourselves and believe it.

This, the power of the cross--
Son of God, slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.

Stuart Townend and Keith Getty

Wednesday, April 16

Side dishes for your Easter dinner

Planning a special brunch or dinner for Easter?  Here are three side dish recipes that are easy to make and mouth-wateringly good!  And these are all especially good with ham, so if that's on your menu, you may want to make one or all of these!

Potato casserole is delicious for a brunch or dinner, and this recipe is a little different from the usual--and it's the best I've ever tasted!

Another dish that's a little different but absolutely scrumptious is Baked Apricots.  These will have your guests coming back for seconds--and asking for the recipe!

And if you need something that's super-easy to make and foolproof, try this five-ingredient Holiday Salad.

Do you have any holiday meal favorites?  Do you have recipes to share?

**I'm joining Amanda at Serenity Now for Weekend Bloggy Reading.**

Easy to make and delicious recipes at ImpartingGrace.com

Monday, April 14

Entering into Holy Week

In preparation for this Holy Week, I was challenged and helped by these thoughts from Fleming Rutledge.  Perhaps you'll find them helpful, too.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

With all my heart, with all my mind, with all my strength I desire to convey to you that this week, while the world goes about its business, the meaning of existence is revealed to those who have eyes to see.  The true significance of the headlines comes to light as Jesus of Nazareth goes His solitary way. . . .

In the reading of the Passion, Thursday night as Jesus eats His last supper and goes forth to be betrayed, Friday noon as He hangs exposed and naked on the Cross and pours out His life, God is acting.  In the events of this week, the cries of those who suffer have been heard by the One who could, the only One who can, the only One who will deliver on his promise that there will be a happy morning.  But it only comes - it only comes - by means of His death.  Let us follow Him then, this week, to the foot of His Cross.  Let us come together in mind and heart and to behold our Lord as He gives Himself up for the sake of the whole world.  Let us come in heart and soul and mind, in faith and in trust, to confess that "truly this man is the Son of God."

Tell me--what do you plan to do this week to "follow Him to the foot of His cross"?  Can I help you?

Friday, April 11

Creating a space for crafting

I'm so excited to share with you a new space in my home!  My friend Angie from The Country Chic Cottage is sharing tours of beautiful craft rooms this week, and I'm honored to participate.  I don't quite have a craft room, but I do have a special space to share!

Let me tell you how this little space came about.

First I should say that we're blessed to live in a large house, with lots of space for most everything.  There's room for reading, writing, working, playing, cooking, entertaining, exercising, relaxing--you name it, and we've got room for it.  Except for one thing.

There was no place for me to craft.  No place for my tools and supplies, no spot for me to perch and plan and create.  Let's face it--crafting is usually a fairly messy process, and there was no dedicated space for it.  So I kept my things stuffed into cupboards and closets and pulled them out to the kitchen whenever I wanted to make something.  Someday soon, when my boys are all grown up and out of the nest, I may have a dedicated room for crafting.  For now, I just wanted a place to work, store my materials, and keep my sewing machine set up!

And then one day, when I was changing the sheets on the guest room beds, it hit me.

See that door to the left?  Guess where that leads?

I had this large guest room closet, nice and bright and empty.

I've worked very hard create a welcoming space for guests, and I didn't want to mess that up.  But that was a lot of unused space!

So I measured and drew and schemed and planned and enlisted the help of the friendly wood cutter at Home Depot.

I removed the old closet rack from one side of the guest room closet and, aided by my trusty level, I mounted 1x6's to serve as brackets for a work surface and a shelf.  A pro would have mounted the 1x6's with nails, set the nails, and puttied over them, for a perfectly smooth surface.  I'm no pro, so I cheated: using my drill, I attached the 1x6's to the studs with screws. They're not pretty, but they're secure.

Holding my breath, I placed the sheets of wood that I'd so carefully measured atop the brackets.  Perfect fit!

Sanding and white paint finished off the job.  And now. . . I have a space for crafting!

While my electrician was here doing some work, I had him add an outlet to the desk area.  I was planning just to run an extension cord from the bedroom into the closet, but it's so much nicer to avoid that mess.  And my sewing machine is right at home!

You can probably tell from looking at my sewing machine that I'm not an expert seamstress.  Those lines of tape are there to help me sew straight seams!  But my little machine and I get the job done, and we have lots of fabric stored underneath the beds in the guest room.

I added baskets on the shelf to hold craft supplies.  (These are made by Sterilite--they're plastic and quite sturdy but look a little nicer than most plastic baskets.)  You can see a few things peeking over the tops of the baskets, but mostly things are kept neat and hidden away here.

And drawer units under the desk to hold more craft and sewing supplies:

I needed a few desktop organizers, so I covered some oatmeal containers with scrapbook paper from my stash.  Free.

I figured that a large bulletin board might come in handy on the desk top, so I created one by covering pieces of foam core board with batting and drop cloth.  Easy and inexpensive.  Among other things, I like to keep an ornament of the word "hope" hanging there, a reminder of one of my favorite verses, Romans 15:13:  "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." 

My craft space isn't large--after all, it's still just half of the guest room closet.  But it's a sweet little space.  And there's still plenty of room for guests to hang their clothes:

Where there's a will, there's a way!


Thanks so much to Angie for inviting me to participate in her Craft Room tour!

Organized Craft Room Tour -- a tour of a fabulous craft room with tons of ideas for organization. Plus a ton more craft room tours linked!
I'm joining Sarah at Thrifty Decor Chick for her April Before and After party.

Tuesday, April 8

Free printable and giveaway winner

Hello, friends!

I'm tickled that so many of you liked the green Heritage Collection Ball jars.  I think they're so pretty, and I especially like mixing them with last year's blue jars.


I created a Waterlogue of the jars sparkling in the sunlight, and many of you asked about that artwork.  Click here to download a printable of this Waterlogue (free for personal use only).

The lucky winner of the case of jars is Entry #181,  Mindy Whipple!  Congratulations, Mindy!

***SPECIAL REMINDER:  This week I'm celebrating the 100th edition of the Grace at Home link party by giving away $100 cash!  Click here to enter!***

Thursday, April 3

Grace at Home No. 100! A celebration and a special giveaway

Welcome, welcome, welcome!!
Grace at Home

Today is special around these parts.  It's Thursday, so it's time for the weekly Grace at Home linky party, and that's pretty special on its own.  But today is the 100th Grace at Home linky party, and that's worth celebrating!

Grace at Home is a party for celebrating all the ways we make our homes places of grace.  We are all recipients of God's grace.  We are dependent upon Him for everything!  It's a privilege to honor God by making our homes reflections of that grace in big and small ways.

So today is a party for a party.  Along with our regular linky party, I want to celebrate with everyone who has ever participated in Grace at Home.  How shall I do that?  Well, how about a giveaway?  It seems to me it would be good to mark this this 100th party occasion with a $100 GIVEAWAY!

No sponsors, no gimmicks, just $100 cash to celebrate this 100th party.  I hope you'll join the celebration by entering the giveaway!  (If you're reading this post in an email, click over to my blog to enter.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Next week I'll share some favorites from two weeks' worth of parties, but for now I just want to say a special thank you to everyone who has joined this party over the past couple of years!  I'm so grateful for each person who links up each week.  After all, it wouldn't be a party if no one participated! 

Now for this week's party!  Grace at Home is a place for you to share anything related to making your home a place of grace. I invite you to link posts about
  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!  And don't forget to enter the giveaway to win

Tuesday, April 1

Making progress in the kitchen

My big project so far this year has been going s.l.o.w.l.y. . . but I'm excited to share a bit of progress with you!

Here's what my kitchen used to look like:

Last year I made some changes in an effort to make things lighter and brighter.

But I've been wanting a real change in this room.  The bones of my kitchen are good, and my budget is limited, so my changes need to be reasonable.  The first change made a big difference--painting the walls a lighter color and painting the island a beautiful green.

Next was a change that's fairly subtle, but it's made a world of difference in the way I feel about my kitchen.  I've been especially bugged lately by the dark and heavy feeling of my tile backsplash, especially the area over the stove.  Here's what that area looked like before:

It may be silly, but I just hated that stainless steel backboard behind my range and I was tired of the tumbled marble.  Actually, I like tumbled marble, but I was longing for more of a farmhouse kind of look.  

If you follow me on Instagram, you saw these progress photos:

And here's that area now:

Subway tile to the rescue!  This is a crackle-finish glazed tile in a cream color.  It works nicely with my existing granite, which I won't be changing (that's way outside my budget parameters!).

KitchenAid manufactures a stainless backsplash for its ranges that don't have tile backsplashes; that's what we used to have.  The new tile backsplash goes all the way down to the countertop level, so there's no need for the stainless backsplash.  I replaced the stainless backsplash for the "island trim," and I love the sleek, clean look.

The backsplash project was pretty involved, since it included demolition of the old backsplash and installation of the new.  The other change I've made so far, though, is ridiculously simple: new canisters.

I like canisters that are big enough for me to fill a cup with sugar or flour right at the top of the canister. These 2-gallon glass jars from Anchor Hocking work perfectly for that!  They're inexpensive and so cute, don't you think?  I love the way the aluminum scoops work in the canisters, too.

Inch by inch, I'm working my way to more of a farmhouse look in this kitchen!  I'm hoping to have all the changes made so I can do a full reveal soon!

So how do your projects go?  Are you a tortoise or a hare?

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links.