Monday, February 23, 2009

Picturing Grace

Nine days ago, I received a gift.

A very large, totally unexpected present.

Something I have pined after for years. Something I knew that I would love and cherish and put to oh-so-good use. And while I was sincerely happy for others who had this thing that I wanted, at times I wondered why I couldn't have one.

This thing is expensive. And at this point in my life, if I can't feed, clothe, or shelter my family with it, I usually can't purchase it.

So here's what happened...

Dear Friend calls me to see when she can stop by. I wondered what she was up to. I figured she had a valentine or some chocolate. Something to make me smile. (Because she's sweet and spontaneous and generous like that.)

So on Friday, February 14th, she stopped by. The Man was still home. The kids were running around. The house was in various states of disarray. Just another day in paradise...

DF came in bearing a box.

What in the world is she doing? I thought.

Before I got to see what was in the box, she handed me an envelope.

Inside was a letter.

It was the nicest letter I think I've ever received. You know all the yucky things you think about yourself? Well, it was as if she had telepathy and knew all the bad self-talk going on inside my head and she wrote a letter telling me the opposite. I cried when I read it. And every time I've reread it, I've cried. And even now, just thinking about it, I'm still crying.

This letter was so amazing, it would have been enough. Who cares about what's in the box when you get a letter like that?

But the letter was just the tip of the iceberg.

Inside the envelope was a check, half of which is to be used by The Man and me to go on a much-needed date AND pay for a babysitter. The other half is for me. Just me.

Well, the letter AND the generous sum of money would have certainly been enough. Way more than enough.

But still, just the tip of the iceberg.

I opened the box.

I SCREAMED. And SCREAMED. And jumped...many, many times. And, still more SCREAMING. And jumping...

Poor Cupcake. He was so scared, he cried because his mother was screaming like a banchee and the Man just had to hold him and attempt to restore calm.

Inside the box was a new camera. A brand new Canon Digital Rebel.

Custom-chosen just for me. It even has an "image-stabilizer" lens. I don't even know what that is. Plus a camera case, memory card, and various accoutrements to go with the camera. You can't even imagine how nice and fancy this camera is.

For little ol' me.

I couldn't believe I was staring at the thing. The thing I've craved and only admired from a distance, dreaming of the day when I would grip my own and capture the most beautiful pictures of my children's faces.

And even as I type this, I am still crying. I have cried a lot over this thing that I got nine days ago.

Because, you see, it's way more than a thing.

It is a giant helping of Grace.

I didn't deserve the letter or the money and certainly not the camera. Wanted? Yes. Deserved? No.

In the letter, DF told how she had been praying about what to do with some money she knew she and her husband were to give. And I was the one who kept coming to her mind.
The letter said:

Let her know that I love her. Let her know that I see.

So she did.

And He did.

I don't know why my Father chooses to make Himself known to me in such huge ways. I think it's because I am stubborn and quick to forget...and easily distracted by things I don't have.

And still, He provides for me, his forgetful and doubting and discontented child.

Because He has done it time and time again, particularly over the last two years since I left my career to be home with my children. When I left that job, we said goodbye to nearly one-half of our family's income.

We thought we were crazy. Foolish even. But I knew God was calling me to this. To greater faith, to greater dependence on Him as my provider.

It has not been a bed of roses. Stress, anxiety, doubt, not knowing how to pay this or that. Not paying this or that. We've experienced all of the above.

But our God has supplied all our needs, often not in our timing. But always in His.

And He's even gone beyond supplying our needs. At times, He has even supplied our wants. Big lavish, luxurious wants. Like cameras.

How much does the Father love me? 12.1 megapixels. That's how much.

Now that is Grace.

* All photos courtesy!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Extreme Makeover: Master Bedroom Edition

The Nester's linky party was just the deadline I needed to finish up my Room-of-Shame re-do.

If you haven't tuned in to the Nester's series "10 Minutes to a Room You'll Love," you absolutely must. In true Nester fashion, she tells you exactly what to do to spruce up 4 different rooms of your home, in 10 minutes.

Yes, I finally finished my bedroom. In 10 minutes...times about 100. 

I know. That means I totally cheated. But in all honesty, I started this bedroom overhaul before the series. Then I abandoned it and gnashed my teeth and pulled out my hair because it was not coming together. At all. 

Her post on sprucing up your master bedroom re-motivated me to finish the job. 

I'll admit...this has taken me a while. Mostly because I have children at home with me all the time so I didn't have long periods of uninterrupted time to knock out the job. Ty Pennington said he was tied up and couldn't help (what a jerk). Alas, I was left to finish the project myself. 

So here's the basic scoop:

1. Budget: I used what I had plus a few thrift store treasures and items from Old Time Pottery. I spent less than $50, not including a computer table from Wal-Mart ($39) so we could squeeze our computer into the room. And the money my hubby spent at Circuit City on a clearance monitor, just a wee bit less obtrusive than our former one circa 1993.

(Streamlined computer area. Not ideal to have computer in our bedroom but there is literally not another space in our little home to house it. And I love The Man for spending a little extra money to make this space way better than it was. I'll probably beautify this area a bit more...but not now. I'm tired.)

2. Design: As mentioned, my first color scheme just wasn't coming together. So, I took out all the color and went totally monochromatic. Creams and whites and taupe. Plus a bit of green. My style is kind of eclectic. I love the comfort and warmth and casualness of Cottage, the nostalgia of Vintage, and the clean lines of Modern. I think this room combines all three. 

3. Finished Product: I love it!!! Ya'll, I have been married over 13 years and have NEVER had a bedroom I loved. Never. Our bedroom was like the ugly stepchild of our home. I focused on the kids' rooms and our public rooms and neglected the most important room of all, the one I share with The Man. We now have a serene, tranquil, and romantic space just for us. I used to only go in there when I had to. Now I never want to leave. 

Ready for the pictures?



Always a fan of plates, I'd been accumulating these white and cream ones forever, unsure of where to put them. The Nester's plates-above-the-bed idea inspired this.



Yep, the dresser went into the closet. (A little bird recommended that. Nester, please give me the Best Student Award.) 



I'll break it down...


Already had the rod and it was already mounted. Thrift store fabric. Not enough of each fabric, so I ripped two different fabrics down and middle to get 4 panels. I folded the top, ring-clipped them, and poofed (all a-la-Nester.)

Valance is leftover from the nursery. I found the trim at the thrift store for a dollar.

We insist on a dark room for sleep and I could not figure out how to salvage my room-darkening panels and keep it hidden. Finally it hit me. I took down the flat thingy that sits at the top of the blinds, threaded the tab-tops over it, and popped it back in place. 

Light and breezy during the day.

Dark and cozy at night.

Sitting Area / Wall

I've never had a sitting area in my bedroom but the Nester said I should. No budget for a cushy, upholstered chair but I did find 2 cream slip covers a while back at Goodwill so I made one of those work. 

Love this boutiquey green girly pillow I got a thrift store for $1!

I had the decorator "table," plus the remnant toile, the thrift store trim, and the sheet. That's right, a sheet. Folded and poofed and placed underneath the toile.

Wait a minute, that's no table. That's a plastic cart with decorator table top on it. (The attic apparently ate the legs.)

As for the chair, the slipcover was way too big and it was just all sad and saggy. So I put some pillows underneath to make it plush.


I also followed the Nester's advice on keeping photos of the kids out of the room and focusing just on The Man and me. I printed some black and whites and framed some others I had sitting around. This wall inadvertently turned into a giant scrapbook...but I like it. I think. It may be a tad bit too cluttery. As budget allows I may add some larger collage frames and eliminate the tiny ones.

All the art is super cheap, comprised of photos and (almost) free art. I found an amazing art book at Salvation Army a while back. I bought it for $3, knowing I would cut out some of the artwork and frame it at some point. 

My "LOVE" letters were $1.99 each at Hobby Lobby. They were brown cardboard and I decoupaged them with scrapbook paper. 

The shelves were formerly white and sitting in my attic. Black spray paint and voila! Four free black shelves. I spray-painted assorted old frames as well.

Don't you wish you had these pretty botanical prints? You can! Go to The Vintage Moth, a FANTASTIC blog with FREE printable vintage prints of all kinds. I put the free fern prints in these old cream frames that were formerly displaying really dated and unattractive family pictures.

This room was relatively easy. (And it was done on the tiniest of budgets.) I didn't rearrange any major furniture or even paint. I just stuck with the builder beige.

But I won't lie. It was not quick. Did I mention my three young children? And that I teach them? At home? That means they are here with me. All the time. Did I mention that?

And that means a bedroom renovation does not happen overnight.

Cupcake especially loved it. His distracted mommy gave him plenty of time to sneak into the bathroom and dump the contents of the trash can into the toilet. 

Still, this room is totally worth it. And now I have motivation to start on "10 Minutes to a Bathroom You'll Love"...

Seeing as how mine is now trashed.

Once again, Nester, I thank you for the motivation and totally do-able ideas you give us to make our homes lovely and liveable.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree...

This week has been a bit discouraging. Motherhood is wearing me out. And I can't find the time I need in between child-rearing, child-educating, home-keeping, and a working-a-lot-right-now husband to get my bedroom finished. (Sneak-peek at the bottom of this post.)

Misplaced priorities? Check. Selfishly pursuing my own agenda? Check. Wanting to swat away all small children who get in my way? Check.

I want to be June Cleaver. Instead, I wish I had a meat cleaver.

But I was reminded today how the Father's mercies are new every morning.  

My 7-year-old daughter, Blondie, sweetly came to my bedside and inquired about my breakfast plans. When I came out to the kitchen, she had lovingly placed a plate of waffles and glass of soy milk on the table for me.

But that's not all...

She also fixed waffles for Brownie. And Cupcake. And herself.

But that's not all...

She cleaned up the kitchen, hand washing and drying all the dishes.

But that's not all...

She enthusiastically jumped into her schoolwork with an attitude I have not seen in months.

And in the midst of it all, I found this.


I have never instructed her in the ways of to-do lists. I don't know that she's ever seen me make one. And oh, I have made many. 

If to-do lists had magical powers to morph the list-maker into an individual of productivity and effectiveness, I would be leader of the free world. I've even listed tasks I've already completed just for the satisfaction of checking more items off. (Sick and twisted, I know.)

That's because I'm a Wannabe Type A. (Well, a recovering Wannabe Type A.) 

And now I'm afraid she is too.

She has started countless art projects and failed to finish them because something else distracted her. Or she couldn't get it exactly right so she walked away distraught and in tears. Or she had all this creative energy and wanted to do something but she couldn't decide on the perfect project. So she did nothing, paralyzed by her perfectionism. Just like me. 

And I, as her mother, want to protect her from years of frustrating failure and self-loathing due to unfinished projects, unkept schedules, and thousands of wasted dollars on day-timers and organizing gadgets. I want her to accept herself, whether she's organized and focused or free-spirited and easily-distracted.

I want to save her from herself. 

But deep down, I know I cannot.

I'm nearly 36 and I've only recently begun figuring myself out. I've accepted some of my less-than-desirable character traits. I've stopped trying to please every dang person on the planet. I've surrendered to just being me. Not the me I want to be, but the me I really am. 

And while achieving such self-awareness years ago would have saved me (and those around me) much heartache, I know the journey was part of the destination.

It will be for her too. Sigh.

And while I can serve as a knowledgeable guide, she will have to travel her own path...

And she will be better for it. 

Just as I am.


(Sneak peek at the almost-free-and-not-quite-finished-bedroom-re-do. Honestly, I should be jailed for such blatant hyphenation.)

BEFORE (experimenting with art and a color scheme that just wasn't coming together):

AFTER (took out all the color and going for the monochromatic look):


More to come...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Soup Nazi

Sorry I haven't posted in over a week! Sheesh, what a slacker. 

Alas, I have been working on a little project...that has turned into a much bigger project than first anticipated. Yes, it is the dreaded Room of Shame I highlighted on my last post. After reading the Nester's posts last week on sprucing up one's Master Bedroom, I decided to return to the project I'd abandoned several weeks prior (since the project had become un-fun and I was feeling clueless.)

Well, you will want to check back in later this week because I will be posting the Room of Shame Re-do. Mind you, this will not be an extreme makeover as I have not painted or purchased new furniture (well, I did have to get one small item.) But to me it's a big change and it is getting prettier by the day and I am getting happier by the day. And I am ready to not be filled with shame after the photos I posted of my sad, sad, bedroom.

My laundry, however, is piling up by the day so this project needs to be finished. Soon. Because even in the South it is cold in February...much too cold to go naked. 

But, I wanted to post something and I haven't talked about food in a while so here it goes.

I love soup. 

And while I am not the recipe-hoarding, extremist Soup Nazi we all know and love, I am insane for soup! I could probably eat soup every day. I'm not talking about that condensed, leave-you-hungry, chicken-noodle stuff you only go for when you're sick. I have a love affair with filling, hearty, and (mostly) healthy soups that incorporate the major food groups. I love the ease and wholesomeness of a one-pot meal, a salad (if I really have my act together), and a loaf of warm bread.

We eat a lot of soup around here, especially when it's cold (the weather, not the soup.) It's cheap. It's usually healthy. And it's a meal in one pot.

If you also like soup and if you want more soup recipes, maybe the Soup Nazi will turn this into a series. 

This is one of my favorite soups. It has been a loyal recipe for years and it comes out of my trusty Williams Sonoma Soup cookbook. Do not let the gourmet shout-out scare you off. There are lots of normal recipes for normal people in that cookbook.

Lentil Soup

If you do not eat lentils, you're crazy. They are super healthy, full of protein and fiber. Super easy, no soaking or lengthy cooking time. And super cheap, less than $1 a bag. Plus they are a tiny little beans and I think that makes them rather cute.

With everyone talking about ways to save more money, going meatless is a great way to do so. Maybe you could start a trend with your family and call it "Meatless Monday's." You can do pasta, soup, beans and rice. I'm a vegetarian, but the rest of my family isn't it. Even so, we eat a lot of meatless meals and I find it's a great way to stay healthy and frugal.

So, here's the recipe. Serve it with a loaf of warm bread and a salad. Yum. 

Lentil Soup
Williams-Sonoma Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion (finely chopped) 
1-3 carrots, scrubbed and sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
(*Note: I throw the veggies in my mini-prep food chopper and they're finely chopped in less than a minute.)  
1 clove garlic, minced
Generous tablespoon curry powder
1-2 bay leaves (if desired)
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 bag (16 oz) dried lentils, rinsed, picked over, and drained
6 cups broth
1 lemon, sliced
1 cup chopped fresh spinach, or 1 1-lb frozen pack
Salt and pepper

Heat olive oil, then add onion, carrot, and celery. Saute until softened (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and saute for one minute more. Add curry powder and cook till fragrant (about 1 minute).

Add tomatoes, juice, bay leaf, lentils, stock to cover, and the lemon slices. Bring to a simmer over medium hight heat. Cover, reduce heat, and cook till lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Add remainder of stock and heat up. Discard bay leaf and lemon slices.

If using fresh spinach, add just before serving. If using frozen, add at the end and cook for about 2-3 minutes.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Bon Appetit!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin