Sunday, July 31

A prayer for uncertain times

When I turned 50, my husband and sons presented me with a very special gift, one they knew I'd treasure: a very old book.

While it may not look like much here, inside its covers is a true treasure.

It's a Bible printed in England. You probably can't read the date, so I'll read it for you: 1648. Just 37 years after the King James Version of the Bible was finished.

In times like these, when the world seems to be full of trouble and peril, I like to open this precious book. Times were perilous in 1648, too. And the answer to the troubles of the world was the same then as it is today. Politicians, speechmakers, dreamers, and schemers may propose this solution or that, but the truth is the same yesterday, today, and forever. No help is found apart from the Lord.

In the back of my Bible is a prayer. I don't know who wrote it, but I know that it's as good a prayer for us today as it was back in the 17th century. Perhaps you'll pray it with me.

Lord Jesus Christ, show forth Thy might,
That Thou are Lord of Lords by right:
Thy poor afflicted flock defend
That we may praise Thee without end.
Oh, Holy Spirit, our comforter,
Be our patron, help, and succor;
Give us one mind and perfect peace,
All gifts of grace in us increase.
Thou living God, in persons three,
Thy name be praised in unity;
In all our need, so us defend,
That we may praise Thee, world without end.

It seems that today we particularly need this part: "Give us one mind and perfect peace."

As I see my own country and others across the world in times of unrest and political tension, I pray for one mind and perfect peace which can come only from God.

"Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations" (Psalm 90:1). Give us grace and courage to dwell with you now.

Will you join me in this prayer?

Monday, July 25

Screened porch updates

It's full-on summertime here in North Carolina--time for sitting on the porch and enjoying an evening breeze. I've already shared updates I've made to my front porch, and today I'll show you what's happening on my screened porch.

Cool and shaded screened porch with eating and sitting area

Yes, I know that we're very blessed to have more than one covered porch. This feature is one of the things that sold us on our house.

Here you can see the location of the porch. Our house is three stories in the back, so the porch is perched high. Sitting here is like being in a treehouse!

Three-story house with ground level patio and second story deck and porch

Our screened porch is not large, but it's big enough for both an eating area and a sitting area.

The dining table is not really an outdoor piece, but it's done just fine here. You can see here that the eating area of the porch is just a few steps from the grill on the deck.

Dining area of screened porch leads out to deck

Here's the view from the table out into the back yard.

From screened porch dining area, you can see adjacent deck and patio below

I like to keep the dining table looking nice, but I'm not one for fancy centerpieces. These Ball jars holding hydrangeas are more my speed. I like displaying three of them on this tray I found recently on Decor Steals.

Centerpiece for dining table composed of galvanized tray holding Mason jars and flowers Simple and lovely!

The small seating area is nestled into the other side of the porch:

Small sitting area on screened porch is cozy and cool.

The furnishings here are an eclectic mix: an old garden bench that I painted black, a very old wicker chair, an antique farm table, an ottoman made from a styrofoam cooler, and an outdoor rug from Target. If you follow me on Facebook, you may recognize the paisley pillows. I considered them for my new front porch, but decided that I like them better here.

Comfortable sitting area features simple furnishings and accessories

A new addition is this darling galvanized table I found this spring at Decor Steals. 

Cute galvanized table from Decor Steals is perfect for screened porch

For years I had a bookshelf in this corner:

I liked the bookshelf, but the whole area seemed a bit crowded. Solution: I had the bookshelf cut in half to make a compact sideboard.

Old bookcase was cut in half to create a small sideboard for screened porch

Now we have a space to serve drinks on the porch, and the seating area is more open.

Bookcase cut in half now serves as small sideboard and creates a beverage serving station on screened porch.

You can tell from the photos that the screened porch is shady, so even on hot days it stays pretty comfortable. Wish you could come sit here and drink a nice glass of iced tea with me!

Second-story screened porch is nestled in the trees and offers a shady spot for relaxing.

I'm joining these wonderful parties:

Sunday, July 24

Will your anchor hold?

Like many of you, my heart is heavy these days. In light of the tragedies of the past several weeks, the American political conventions seem ridiculous, almost scandalous.

At church this morning I was reminded that there is no answer for any of the needs of our aching hearts apart from Jesus. And I thought of this old hymn that I haven't sung for years:

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift or firm remain?

Certainly we are facing the storms of life in the United States and around the world. And while political leaders and government policies might be important, they will not save us. They do not offer an anchor that will hold.

Only the Savior offers that.

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
Fastened to the Rock that cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior's love.

The love of the Savior provides an anchor for our souls. |

Thank God for Jesus.

Tuesday, July 19

Back yard updates: new patio and deck

I'm excited to share with you some updates we've made to the back of our house.  Here's how it looks today:

Last year we had to have our deck replaced. 10 years of Southern sun exposure had taken a toll on both the flooring and the railing. Luckily, the posts and support beams were still sound, but everything else had to go.

We were very happy with how the new deck and railing turned out.  Here's an up-close photo of the railing. I chose simple square rails and copper finials for the posts.

Unfortunately, that photo features the way things have looked most days in the past few months. I know that some of y'all live with drought conditions, so I try not to complain about the rain.

After the deck was completed, we decided to make a major improvement to the ground level of our home. We're very fortunate to have a large back yard that backs up to land owned by the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers. A major creek runs through that land, so it will never be developed. Hence our back yard is extremely private. Our house is built on a hillside, so it's two stories tall in the front and three stories tall in the back. All we'd ever had on the ground level in back was a concrete patio under the deck and a muddy mess under the screened porch.  Here's how we solved that.

First, our splurge: a Belgard paver patio. (No affiliation; I'm just a fan of their products.) I'm so glad we didn't try to DIY this project. A wonderful crew spent two full days getting to this point:

Things progressed quickly after that:

VoilĂ !

We couldn't be happier with the way the patio turned out. 

As for the muddy mess under the screened porch, we certainly could have used the same pavers, but that was cost-prohibitive for us. Our patio contractor suggested a river rock and flagstone approach to make that area attractive and maintenance-free. When you use the term "maintenance-free," you're speaking my love language.

And now:

I added a decorative pot and some hostas for a little visual interest:

Snickers the beagle adds visual interest, too.

Looking back from the rocky area toward the patio:

The window and door there lead into our home gym. The view from the treadmill is much nicer now.

Here's the whole area from one direction:

And from the other direction:

Here's a view looking down from the steps onto the new patio. One of the main reasons my husband wanted a ground-floor patio is to have a safe place to use his Big Green Egg. The new patio is 270 square feet, so there's plenty of room. I can't wait to host a party here--my husband is locally famous for baby back ribs cooked on the Big Green Egg!

The gas grill we left on the deck, so it's just a few steps from the kitchen.

Here's the view now from our screened porch dining table:

Next I'll share some fun updates to the screened porch decor!

I'm joining these wonderful parties:

Wednesday, July 13

Front porch update and tips for choosing outdoor fabric

Today I'm excited to invite you to hang out on my newly refreshed front porch!

Porch furniture covered in Sunbrella fabric

My house is an 11-year-old suburban home with Craftsman influences, including a front porch flanked by stone and wood pillars.

front porch with Craftsman pillars

As I zoom in closer to the house, you can see that the front porch is nestled to the right of the front door.  You can see that the space is very shady, even in bright daylight.

I've always loved this porch. It's a sheltered space just outside the dining room. It's open only to the north side of the house, so it stays nice and cool even in hot weather.  It functions as an outdoor living room for our home, so that's how I've decorated it.

front porch sitting area

The seating pieces are all-weather wicker made by Lane Venture (the "Camino Real" collection). I have no affiliation with Lane Venture, but I recommend this furniture highly. We bought it in 2006, so it's been out here in all seasons for ten years. As you can see, it's still going strong.

Like most of you, my budget for decorating is limited, and the purchase of the three wicker seating pieces consumed most of my funds. It was fun, though, to get creative with the rest of the porch. For instance, I made an ottoman from a styrofoam cooler! (Click here a tutorial for making the ottoman.) The tray holding drinks is a recent find from Decor Steals. The outdoor rug is from Target.

front porch furniture recovered in Sunbrella fabric

I used an antique desk my parents gave me many years ago as an end table; I simply apply Howard's Feed and Wax to it from time to time. The lamps I found at Target. They're especially made for outdoor use, and I just love them. I keep compact fluorescent bulbs in them and keep them turned on 24/7, so there's always a light on to welcome you to my home. The lamps are also 10 years old; I've simply replaced the shades on them a couple of times over the years.

The tabletop accessories are items I've gathered over the years. My favorite thing is the little clock from the Better Homes and Gardens line at WalMart.

front porch decor

The decorative throw pillows I made (using this simple technique) from decorator fabric I bought at JoAnn. Since these are not made from outdoor fabric, I spray them well with Scotchgard fabric protector. The solid color pillows are from the Threshold line at Target.

front porch sitting area

For outdoor wall art, I prefer items that are practically indestructible. The "Relax" blocks are Letterpress blocks from DaySpring. The chalkboard I made by painting over a Goodwill picture with chalkboard paint; the ceiling tiles are reproductions that cost just a few dollars.

Green plants round out my front porch decor. Over the years I've learned which plants thrive in the deep shade of a space like this. (Click here for my tips on selecting plants for a shady porch.)

Back in 2012 I completely updated the look of the porch by having new slipcovers made for my furniture. Before that update, here's how the porch looked:

And here's how it looked after that update:

I really liked those green slipcovers, but they were made from fairly inexpensive outdoor fabric. While they looked wonderful when they were brand new, they did not hold up well. They faded pretty badly each time they were washed, and spot-cleaning them didn't work at all.

So this year, I bit the bullet and had new covers made with Sunbrella fabric. If you're considering fabrics for outdoor use, I urge you to consider investing in Sunbrella. Yes, it's more expensive: I paid $35/yard for this fabric. But I'll tell you why I think it's worth the money to use Sunbrella fabric.

Here's a piece of the original Sunbrella covers for my porch cushions. These were purchased in 2006 and were on my porch until 2012. The fabric is still in perfect condition, but you can see the flecks of mildew on it:

visible mildew stains on outdoor fabric

I took that piece of fabric and sprayed it with Clorox Clean-Up:

Clorox cleaner sprayed directly onto Sunbrella fabric

Here's an after photo. See that clean space in the middle? That's what happens to Sunbrella fabric when you bleach it. Only the dirt and mildew are affected; the fabric does not change.

mildew stains removed from Sunbrella fabric

While I don't want to use the red striped fabric on my cushions any longer, it's still in perfect shape after all these years.

I have no affiliation with Sunbrella, but I couldn't recommend it more highly. I think it's worth the extra expense for pieces that you want to look good year after year.

One more look at my new porch:

Won't you come sip a nice cold glass of lemonade with me?

Note: I have no affiliation with any of the companies mentioned in this post; I'm simply passing along what worked for me.

Joining these wonderful parties: