Monday, December 29

2014 in review

Now that the Christmas rush is over, it's fun to look back over 2014 and to consider all its challenges and accomplishments.

This year included projects big and small around my house.  My favorite project was the makeover of the kitchen island.  I'm so happy with the way this turned out!

I also did some smaller projects in the kitchen, like the transformation of our bar stools.

It was fun to look back at the way they've changed over the years:

I claimed the use of a large closet and made a space for crafting.  It's not fancy, but it surely is useful!

One of my favorite small projects this year was creating a watercolor portrait of our home.  This was easy and fun, and I share step-by-step instructions for it.

To celebrate my son's 21st birthday, I created my own recipe for deep-dish key lime pie.  It was a hit!

2014 was an event-filled year for me.  Some of the events were wonderful, such as taking a trip to East Asia to visit my oldest son.

Other events were decidedly not fun, such as when my 21-year-old son had a stroke this fall.

Perhaps the best way to sum up my year was my final project: this DIY "Joy" sign.

In good times and bad, life is full of joy.  The key is to remember our blessings even in the midst of the trials.

What blessings has 2014 held for you?

I'm joining Rhoda at Southern Hospitality for her Best Projects of 2014 party.

Tuesday, December 23

The hope of Christmas

100 years ago, World War I was underway.

Several decades of economic, political, and territorial conflicts among the great European powers had paved the way for a clash of forces made worse by a complicated system of alliances that drew more and more nations into the fray.  Late summer 1914 saw enthusiastic German forces invading Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, certain that no one could stop their march to Paris and that they'd be home by Christmas.

By Christmastime, though, an enormous system of trenches had been built on both sides of the front. Allied forces held against the German invaders.  Soldiers dug in on both sides, with "no man's land" between the miles of trenches.

"Home by Christmas" was a pipe dream.  The war would go on to last several bloody years, resulting in many millions of casualties.

In the midst of that horror, though, the spirit of Christmas lived.  Thousands of soldiers along the front declared unofficial cease-fires at Christmas.  Although fraternization with the enemy was forbidden, soldiers put down their arms and joined one another in celebrating Christmas.  For a short time, anyway, their hopes of peace were renewed.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the Christmas Truce, a British grocery chain produced this video. Because it's an advertisement, some have complained about it.  But I found it to be a touching tribute to the men involved--and a reminder of the strength of the spirit of Christmas.  I hope you'll watch it.  (If you're reading this in an email, click over to the blog to watch the video.)


May the hope of Christ be born anew in our hearts this year.

Friday, December 12

Christmas home tour

It's time for Christmas home tours, and I'm so glad to welcome you!

Here's how our house looks these days:

This is how we wish it looked. . . but since we're in North Carolina, a white Christmas is usually just the stuff of dreams.

Still, things are pretty Christmasy around here.  Take a look!

At the front door you'll be greeted by my DIY Joy sign and my kids' old sled.  I hope being here fills your heart with Christmas joy!

On the front door is my wreath.  I've always admired wreaths made of noble fir, but find them too pricey.  This year I bought 4 feet of noble fir garland and wired it onto an artificial wreath.  I added berries, pine cones, and a bit of ribbon.  Presto!  A noble fir wreath for a fraction of the cost!

When it's not too chilly, we can pause here on the front porch for a bit.

But it's been pretty cold lately, even if it's not snowy--so come on in!

Here in the foyer you'll find simple decorations--a lighted garland and our Christmas village.

My kids started this Department 56 village for me back in 1995.  I love it displayed here under the DIY watercolor of our house.  I mass poinsettias under the table to hide all the unsightly cords!

This year I added a new banner to the foyer.  It was made by widows in Bangladesh through the good work of a ministry called The Widow's Friend.

Isn't it lovely?

To the left of the front door is my husband's study, where the decor is simple to go with the rustic stone fireplace.

To the right of the foyer is the dining room, which was fun to decorate this year.  2014 marks the 15th anniversary of my mom's death, so this room is full of things she loved.

My favorite things this year are the 12 Days of Christmas ornaments hanging in the dining room windows.

Straight ahead of the front door is our living room.  Along with our nativity scene and Christmas wall art, our sentimental, non-fancy tree is at one end:

And at the other is our fireplace.  The mantelscape is very simple--just mercury glass candlesticks, some greenery, and our stockings--

along with a basketful of cherished Christmas books.  I love looking through these every year!

As you can see, the fireplace scene often involves our two dogs, Snickers and Cocoa.

As you peek into the kitchen, you'll see that our newly remodeled island is looking good for Christmas.  The green color and the beverage fridge are perfect for this season!

I usually do a lot of decorating in the kitchen.  Life has been a little busy this fall since our 21-year-old son had a stroke (he's doing well, thank God!), so this year things are pretty simple. On the island are my antique wrapping paper dispenser and scale. The window is sporting some garland, which smells divine, and my DIY "Noel."

On the kitchen table is a simple centerpiece on a tray that can easily be whisked away.  No muss, no fuss.

Well, there is one fussy piece of decor.  My sons built a LEGO Christmas village.

Look--there's even someone taking pictures with Santa!

The kitchen leads out to the screened porch, which is fun to decorate for Christmas:

The table runner is just a piece of plaid flannel which I folded and stapled into place.  On it stands a tool caddy filled with greenery, some holly berries, and a few pine cones.

Before I stapled that fabric into place on the table, I tore off a few strips to use as bows on the lanterns. Those bows and a few other touches and the porch is ready to go.

Thank you so much for visiting!

A blessed Christmas to you and yours!

I'm joining Kelly at Kelly's Korner for her annual Christmas home tour and 
Myquillin at Nesting Place for her tour.

Monday, December 8

Christmas on the front porch

One of my favorite rooms in this house is the first one you'll see when you drive up.  It's my front porch.

I suppose that, technically speaking, the front porch isn't a "room."  But it's a room to me--an outdoor living room.  We've been in this house nearly 10 years, and we've done more living in this room than just about any other.

Even in the cold weather, we use our porch quite a bit.  Interestingly, it's a good spot for being with other people or for being alone.

I don't do a whole lot to decorate the front porch at Christmas--a lighted tree in the corner and a few little touches of red and green are enough to make it look festive.

I like the way you can see into my dining room through the porch windows!

Perhaps the reason the porch is so special is because it's not a bit pretentious.  It's a spot that anyone can walk up to.  Even the neighborhood dogs and cats can wander up at will.  It's not really a place for doing much of anything; it's more of a spot for just being.

I like just being.  I need more of that in my life.

I have a little bit of art on the porch walls, but I've struggled to find just the right thing to hang above the sofa.  Finally, I found just what I was looking for.  Dayspring offers these cool Letterpress Blocks, and I used them to spell the word that I want to be the motto of my porch:


That's what this outdoor living room is for.  Even (or especially) in the busy holiday season, I need a place to just be.

I'm excited to tell you that the kind folks at Dayspring will give one of you a $50 coupon for Letterpress Blocks. $50 goes a long way here!  If you'd like to enter, just take a look at the blocks here and leave me a comment to tell me what word you'd like to spell out for yourself.  You can choose individual blocks to make your own word or one of their combinations.  No hoops to jump through; just leave a comment and I'll choose a winner at random.

Do you have a special place in your home for just being?

Disclosure: These Letterpress blocks are provided by Dayspring, 
but I was not compensated for this post.
My enthusiasm for this product is heartfelt!

Saturday, December 6

12 Days of Christmas tour

I'm so excited to be joining a wonderful group of bloggers for a 12 Days of Christmas tour!

My mother loved Christmastime, and "The Twelve of Days of Christmas" was one of her favorite Christmas songs.  I have many wonderful Christmas memories of my mom.  She died at Thanksgiving 15 years ago, so I was especially glad to get to participate in this tour celebrating something she loved.

I was thrilled to find a set of 12 Days of Christmas ornaments made by Kurt Adler.  Aren't they fun?

I thought about hanging them on a special tabletop tree, but I changed my mind when I realized that there are 12 rows of window panes in my dining room windows.  My dining room is full of things that belonged to my mom, so this seemed the perfect place to display the ornaments.

"11 pipers piping" was my assignment, so I loved listening to James Galway as I worked.  Anyone else like his Christmas music?  I simply tied wide gold ribbon to each ornament--

and hung them all in a row.  

 Man, it's hard to get a good photograph of windows!

This primitive sideboard in front of the windows belonged to my mom.  It's one of my favorite pieces.

These blown glass ornaments were treasured by my mother.  I love displaying them at Christmastime.

My dining table and buffet were my mom's, too.

The deacon's bench at the dining table is another of my favorite pieces.  It's from my grandmother's church--the church in which my mom grew up.  I have fond memories of visiting that church often during my childhood.

The buffet is actually the bottom of a china cabinet.  I grew tired of having the huge cabinet in the room, so I removed the hutch and use the bottom as a buffet.

At the other end of the room are two built-in china cabinets, so I don't need the hutch for storage space.  I love these lighted cabinets!

Here's one more shot of the 12 Days of Christmas ornaments.  I love the way they add sentimental sparkle to these windows!

For lots more Twelve Days of Christmas inspiration, you should check out all the stops on the tour.

MONDAY December 1st

{Partridge in a Pear Tree}

{Two Turtle Doves}

TUESDAY December 2nd

{Four Calling Birds}


{Five Golden Rings}

{Six Geese-a-Laying}

THURSDAY December 4th

{Seven Swans a Swimming}

{Eight Maids a Milking}

FRIDAY December 5th

{Nine Ladies Dancing}

{Ten Lords a Leaping}

SATURDAY December 6th

{Eleven Pipers Piping}

{Twelve Drummers Drumming}

Thanks so much for visiting!