Monday, November 25, 2013


I am going to assume that my niece, Rachael, read my recent blog post where I pledged my undying love for all things Anthropology, because I came home from a trip to the cabin to boxes containing more things to smile about.  I am writing this follow-up in hopes of inspiring other family members.  You know, with Christmas right around the corner and all.  *grin*

Don't you just want to lift that lid and scoop out that luscious butter?  I did.  I didn't think anything could make butter taste better.  
 And for a mere 70 cents, I will let you use the salt and pepper shakers.  They are just the cutest things.  Of course, I probably should put something in them if I am going to charge 70 cents.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I just sold a bunch of these darling little birdies at a get-together for local crafters and home-based businesses.  They make great package decorations or tree ornaments.  They are so much fun to make with just scraps of fabric you have on hand. 
bird decoration
The photos pretty well show you exactly what to do, but I will give you a step-by-step in writing.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Every year around Christmas, my Etsy shop gets pretty busy selling the pattern for my almost famous little birds.  One thing you can do to personalize the bird is to add your logo or other graphics. 
logo bird 3
This tutorial was originally posted in 2010.  I have made a few updates.


I was at a book club last night hosted by my friend, Candace, from His Mercy Is New.  She writes a homeschool encouragement blog packed full of all kinds of good stuff.  Candace has a heart for the Lord, and although an introvert, is a pretty skilled at coordinating events that bring Christian woman together to share their experiences, perspectives, gifts, and humor.  I am mostly attracted to the humor part--which I'm sure is not her main focus going in. 
Last night we discussed Emily P. Freeman's newest book, A Million Little Ways.  And it seems that the nine of us had a million things to say about it and how it spoke to us individually.  I am not really sure that some of the rabbit trails we found ourselves on last night could be explained today in respect to chapters in the book, but it was engaging nevertheless.
One of the topics that we touched on, not surprising, was how our giftedness manifests itself.  For me it was easy.  At 56, I better have figured it out by now! 
I am clever.
Yep, cleverness is my gift from God. 
Nothing fancy. 
Honestly, I am nothing if I am not clever.  I say that a lot--usually right after I do something extremely clever. 
Last week I was at the cabin writing.  For two whole days I sat and let my fingers do the walking.  By day three, I needed a break.  I really did not want to get involved in a big project like painting, so I settled on coming up with a shelf for the landline phone.  It could no longer be perched on the electric heater.  It was 22 degrees and snowing, so the heater was on--full blast.
I do not have my husband's warehouse, my shed, Kelly's house, Hobby Lobby, or any other storehouse of great stuff to search through up in the mountains of Virginia.  My resources are extremely limited.  I decided to shop the cabin.  Slim pickings to say the least.
But in the end, my clever did not disappoint. 


Two L-brackets, some Velcro, and an old Scrabble board.  Now that is what I am talking about.  I cut the star out of the center of the board for the cords to run through.  I will deal with the black wires the next time my clever kicks in.  And I am planning on a photo enlargement of the kiddos playing a game for the space above.


Sunday, November 10, 2013


You just never know what will become a tradition in your family.
santa mike denise pat
I have very few great childhood memories, mainly because my father was a serious alcoholic.  He rarely interacted with my brother, sister, or me in a positive, nurturing way.  Well, maybe he never interacted in a nurturing way.    He traveled a lot as a salesman, and a good portion of the money he made either went to feed his addiction or to playing the numbers.  When he was home, there were fights and a lot of ugliness. 

But every Christmas Eve, we saw a side of my dad that almost convinced us that he did, in fact, care about us.  Yep, once a year, we felt special.  

We grew up in Pittsburgh where community ties were strong and relationships grounded in cultural traditions and sports.  You knew your neighbors; sheesh, you knew when they had bacon for breakfast.  Homes were lined up like teeth on a comb and not much went unnoticed.  Front porches were not just for decoration.

I am sure that everyone knew that our father was a drunk, and I am sure they witnessed his meanness toward us; but nobody, in that day and age, would have said a word about it.  There was a line that people did not cross.  That would be considered being "nebby" as they say in Pittsburgh.  Do you know that there is such a thing as Pittsburghese, words that only make sense to those who live there?   I digress. 

Well, on Christmas Eve, my dad would actually pay a Santa Claus to personally come to hand out our presents--so what if payment was a fifth of whiskey.  He came.  To our house.  For us.  It was my dad's shining moment and our brief glimpse at the man he could have been--the man he should have been.

One year, the front door was left open, exposing Santa behind the storm door to the neighborhood children.   I'm sure that my dad had his reasons for not closing the door.   It was Pittsburgh.  It was cold.  I will never forget going up to receive my gift and looking outside to see my friends on their bellies sneaking a peek at my Santa.  That was my nanana-boo-boo moment.  *grin*

When I had children, I knew that I wanted to keep that tradition alive.  I bought the Santa suit with the professional beard, and for a few years I bribed a friend--with food, not whiskey--to ho, ho, ho his way into my children's hearts.  It just was not the same.

Maybe it was not the same because my children had so many other happy things in their lives.  Maybe it was because having accepted the Lord our focus turned more to Christ than Santa.  Regardless, the tradition died out after just a few years.

That's not to say that we do not have traditions.  Probably 20 years ago now, a friend introduced us to the pickle ornament tradition.  Hey, I was from Pittsburgh, Heinz territory, so I was an easy mark. 

On Christmas Eve, the pickle ornament (see below) is hidden in the tree by a responsible adult.  The child who finds it on Christmas morning gets a special gift.  This is where I changed it up a bit to make it more interesting.  I don't really put a lot of thought into making things more interesting.  They just come to me.  I think it's operating in my giftedness. 

One year, I forgot to plan for the "special" gift, so I went to the pantry and took out a jar of pickles.  That jar of pickles was thrown into a gift bag and a tradition was established.  You would think those kids were competing for a trip to Disney World.  No kidding.

Looking through pictures this week, I came across this one.  Apparently, I went all out on the pickle prize that year.  And apparently, Nate was the winner.

A few years ago, Tessa was asked on camera for a school promotion to talk about a favorite holiday tradition.  Her choice:  finding the pickle.  The clip made the cut.  Not many understood, and that's okay.  We are very content in our uniqueness.  It makes us smile. 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013


Grief.  You cannot  prepare a plan for it.  The feelings and emotions cannot be rehearsed.  There is no getting it right.  It just is.

The only choice you are given when faced with the death of someone dear to you is whether you will wrestle with God to work through it or whether you will go it alone.  Because of my faith foundation, I chose to wrestle with my maker.  It probably would sound better to say I chose to trust God, and I am sure that I verbalized that sentiment; but to me that makes it sound easier than it really was.  
The book, Glorious Ruin, How Suffering Sets You Free, by Tullian Tchividjian was recommended by a dear friend, and it taught me more about this walk of suffering than anything else.  It challenged my response to suffering and exposed my unfounded cultural beliefs.  It truly did reveal to me how suffering sets you free.

The chapter titles hint at the deeper truths the author explores. 
  • Suffering Is Inevitable
  • Suffering is Serious
  • Suffering Honestly
  • Moralizing Suffering
  • Minimizing Suffering
  • The Freedom of Defeat
  • The Gospel of Suffering

Saturday, November 02, 2013


I have been so busy creating a new space at the cabin and keeping up with my 31 days of smiles that I have neglected my primary residence big time.  I have overlooked all kinds of things that would normally drive me crazy.  I also am feeling a bit of a disconnect with my space for a number of reasons. 
When we first bought the house we currently live in, the size alone was overwhelming.  We traded a cozy 1000 square feet for a spacious 4500 square feet that had been used to house a private school.


boxmoor 001

house 11-13
We traded five rooms and a bath in the country for twelve rooms and four or five bathrooms in the historic district of the city.  The Boxmoor needed a total renovation on a 1000-square-foot budget!  We had very little furniture, and what we did have did not fit such a formal house with a prestigious reputation.
Thinking back, I let the budget (first) and the expectations of others (second) drive a lot of the decorating decisions.  In hindsight, I would have done things a bit differently.  But it has been almost ten years since we began the project, so it is not unreasonable to start changing things up a bit.  And along the way, we split the house in half to accommodate Kelly and her family, so now I only have six rooms and two baths to deal with. 
And while I like some of the rooms, the smile project made me realize that I don't love some of them or the things in them.  I am going to be cleaning out room by room and uncomplifying as the Nester says.
So every single item will be held up to smile scrutiny.  It will either make the cut or be given away--which will make me smile.  The only exceptions made will be for things that hold extreme sentimental value or a connection to a story worth telling.  And there is the practical matter of not being able to replace all the functional pieces. 

Today I gave away a silk arrangement and a table runner.  I threw away several plants--which really bothered me, but I did not know anyone who would want them.  I removed a table from the dining area (center photo below) to free up some space, and displays were rearranged and culled.  
That huge spider plant in the center photo has lived on the coffee table for years.  It was traded out for a less bulky-looking plant in that beautiful pot that I got--I can't believe I am going to say this again--from my mother.  I also hung the cuckoo clock that was given to me a few years ago by Katja, our German exchange student.

The best part is that once I get going on a project like this, my creativity is fed.  I now have a vision for a pantry area that makes me happy, happy, happy!  I can't wait to show you the before and after.  And I just might let my husband install that downstairs powder room in our coat closet.  We shall see.