Monday, May 26

Lest we forget

What a privilege it is to live in the land of the free!

So many have paid the price of our freedom with their lives.  On this day, we remember and thank them.  And for those even now putting themselves in harm's way on our behalf, we pray:

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

O Christ, whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walkedst on the foaming deep,
And calm amid the storm didst sleep:
O hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea.

O Trinity of love and pow'r
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them, wheresoe'er they go:
Thus everymore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

                                                --William Whiting

A blessed Memorial Day to you!

Tuesday, May 20

Kitchen island makeover

This spring has been an adventuresome time for my kitchen.  Not so many culinary adventures, but decorative adventures for sure.  One by one, we're making changes to create a lighter, brighter space that has more of a farmhouse look.

Here's how the kitchen island area started:

And here it is today:

We started the process earlier this year by painting the island a delicious green, Oakmoss by Sherwin-Williams.  Then we added new knobs and drawer pulls, Gilmore from Restoration Hardware.

Now we've finally finished the island makeover.  This final part of the makeover included the easiest project and the most difficult.

We're blessed to have a counter-depth refrigerator in this kitchen, but having that kind of fridge comes with a price: much less space than a full-depth model.  For a long time I've thought that a beverage refrigerator would be a great addition to this kitchen, and I had the perfect spot for one at the end of the kitchen island.  The island had large cabinet at the end that I formerly used for storing miscellaneous items.  Let me tell you:  getting rid of miscellaneous items is good for the soul!

I knew that do this bit of cabinet surgery was not a DIY job--not for me, at least!  After I ordered the right size beverage refrigerator (I chose a U-Line), I called in the pros.  If you follow me on Instagram, you've already had a sneak peek of the process.

And here's the finished product:

For such a low-profile appliance, the beverage fridge holds a LOT:

This model includes dual temperature zones: the top racks are the right temperature for chilling bottles of wine and the bottom area is colder for other beverages.  The very bottom is a half shelf, and it seemed a good place for storing lemons and limes.

As difficult as adding the beverage fridge was, the other improvement was simplicity itself: adding new pendant lights.

I wanted a brighter, more old-fashioned, farmhouse look, so I started searching online--and to my utter delight, I found just what I wanted at Ballard Designs.  The best part?  These are simply adapters that screw into existing can light fixtures.  The only skill needed to install these is a little patience when it comes to getting the cords all the same length.

I like the way they look with Edison bulbs.  Tip: is a great source for vintage-style bulbs! (affiliate link)

Here's how they look all lit up:

So now I'm one giant step and one baby step closer to having the farmhouse kitchen I've been wanting!  I'm hoping to reveal the whole makeover in the next couple of weeks.  I'm really eager now to get this project finished!

**Update: After many years of having maple cabinetry, I decided to update my kitchen further by painting the cupboards white. You can see the newly updated kitchen and read about the changes here. But I still LOVE the changes I made to my island in 2014, so it remained the same. 

Have you completed any projects in your home lately?  

I'm linking to these wonderful parties:

The Scoop at Stone Gable
Inspire Me Monday at Sand and Sisal
Inspire Me Tuesday at A Stroll Thru Life
One Project at a Time at A Bowl Full of Lemons
Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style

Wednesday, May 14

Best plants for a shady porch

One of our favorite rooms in this house isn't really IN this house at all.  It's the front porch, which we use as an outdoor living room.  Summers in North Carolina are hot, but we're blessed to have a porch that's tucked into a cool, shady spot.

There's just one problem with shade: how do you get plants to grow there?  Of all places, a front porch must have some greenery!

Every time I've asked this question at a garden center, I've gotten the same answer: impatiens.  Right, right.  We all know that impatiens will grow in the shade.  But is there anything else?  I'm glad you asked!

Here are some of my favorite plants for a shady porch.

Hosta.  Yes, I know, most people plant hosta in the ground, where it comes back year after year.  But a single hosta plant will grow quite well in a container, and this plant thrives in the shade.  Tuck a little moss around the base of the plant for a finished look.

Ivy.  Ivy loves the sun, but it will grow just fine in the shade.  I usually purchase the tiniest plants available and plant two or more of them in my planters.  I love the way the tendrils cascade over the sides.  Bonus: ivy can survive the winter, so you can have green all year round.

Here's another idea.  Remember, plants need light, but they can do well with artificial light as well as sunlight.   I have lamps on my front porch, and the ivy plant under the lamp does especially well.

Coleus.  Of all shade-loving plants, I think coleus is the best.  I just planted the coleus in these planters, and it's already lush and full.  Coleus is wonderful because it comes in many shades of green, pink, and purple--I like to mix varieties.  This plant is a shade-loving winner!  Do note that coleus does not like cold weather.  Don't plant it outside until the danger of freezing is past.  Coleus will last all through the summer and until the first freezing temperatures of the autumn.

Growing plants in containers is easy and rewarding.  Just remember to water as needed (more often in hot weather).  For added lushness, add some Miracle-Gro to the water every now and then.

If you need some beautiful pots for your porch, did you know you can created your own "aged" pots? Click here for an easy tutorial!

Did you know that you can easily give clay pots a beautiful, "aged" patina? Here's how to do it!

If you'd like to see more of my "outdoor living room," click here.

Do you have a covered porch?  What are your favorite plants?

Sunday, May 11

Soul care for Mother's Day

Words can't express how grateful I am for these guys who changed my name to "Mom":

 The years surely fly by!

Sometimes I need a reminder that I'm a child, able to depend on my heavenly Father for all that I need. This old hymn has been playing in my heart the past few days. Perhaps it'll bless you, too!

A blessed day to you!

Wednesday, May 7

A Mother's Day remembrance

I had left the room for a few minutes when my mother died.

June 1985
She was terribly ill for 18 months, and we'd all rushed to her bedside many times over those tumultuous weeks.  Finally, worn out from the months of battling illness, she told us that the time had come. "This is too hard," she said.  "I want to go home."  She was 58 years old.

At the end, my father kept a vigil at her bedside, supported my two sisters and me.

On Mama's last night, my sisters went away from the hospital for a much-needed break.  My father never left the chair at the side of her bed.  I asked if he wanted something to eat, then hurried to the hospital cafeteria to fetch some food that I could bring back on a tray.

When I got back to her room, my father's chair was empty.  He had left her bedside.  I could hear the shower running in the attached bathroom.  And I knew.

One look at the bed confirmed my fears.  My mother was gone.  I'd left the room for 15 minutes, and in that time her eyes had fluttered open one last time, then closed for good.

After he finished his shower, my father came back into the room where I sat, horribly alone.  He touched my mother one last time and said, "Well, we gave it a good fight, didn't we?"

That was all.

I'd read stories over the years of how families joined together to make a beautiful occasion of the passing of a soul from this life to the next.  I guess I imagined that my sisters and I would be sitting at my mother's feet, collecting last bits of wisdom and sending my mom off with words of thanks and hymns of praise.  Somehow I always thought that this would be a special, sacred time, when we would all feel the presence of the Lord and weep together.

As it turned out, my mom slipped away while I was out getting sandwiches.  It was not what I had imagined.

My older boys with their grandmother, 1996
Most of all, in my imagination, the occasion of my mother's death was a time that was far, far in the future.  It was long, long after my mother had helped me pick paint colors and choose wallpaper patterns and sew curtains and all those little things that we used to do together.  It was a time after my children had grown up, long after they'd taken swimming lessons and built pinewood derby cars and sung in concerts and learned to drive and graduated and gotten married.  It was after they'd proudly presented my mother with great-grandchildren to love and spoil.  It was always later.

But as it turned out, my children were 2, 6, and 8 years old when my mother died.

It's been 15 years since I got to wish my mother a happy Mother's Day.  Now Mother's Day reminds me that things don't always work out as we'd planned.

My mother wasn't perfect, but she was beautiful.  She was kind.  She did her best to love us and care for us.  I wish I could have learned more from her.  I wish I could have asked her more questions.  I wish I could have struggled through the years of bringing up my own children with her to love and support me.

Most of all, I wish I could just tell her thank you again.

Click here for a printable version of this poem (author unknown).

If you have a mother, thank God and thank her.  If you have children of your own, thank God for the privilege.