Home Decor for Real
What I Did on My Corona Vacation
Over the past several months, I have frequently pondered the possibilities for the closet in my foyer (once used as a little office by children now grown and gone). When a speaker at my church started talking about the marvels of having a Prayer Closet, I began to scratch that itch, one I didn’t even know was there.
Could the foyer closet work? Maybe, but shouldn’t a Prayer Closet be quiet, rather than in the flow of traffic? And it was a bit small – would the fetal position actually be conducive to hearing from God? That, I knew, was what I wanted. I wanted to pray Holy Spirit-led prayers, to be changed, and a conduit of change. I wanted to commune with God.
I dared to dream. Uninterrupted. Private. Whenever I wanted or needed to get alone. A place for all my stuff, my prayer and praise “paraphernalia”. Mine. So I could be more His.
And there it was – the room attached to the side of my utility room, functioning as linen closet, gift wrapping station, sewing/ironing spot, storage for kites, puzzles, paint, defunct pillows, lawn chairs, and Christmas decorations, revealed to me its true purpose. I rolled up my sleeves.
Where to begin? First came organization of the back shelves, which included large piles for both Goodwill and the trash, along with condensation of Christmas decorations. Curtains were hung over the shelves, and the much needed deep cleaning began. A good bit of elbow grease and five tubes of caulk later, it was painting time. I chose a very pale yellow green for it all, but it was too much. Toning it down was as easy as painting the ceiling, door and window trim white (with the palest ever peachy/pink tint).
Now for the fun parts. For several days I found and added treasures to enhance my space. It was as I hung my window treatment that I realized this room was originally supposed to be a bathroom. Why else would it have an opaque bathroom-sized window? I smiled as I wondered and whispered, “God, I think you stopped the bathroom construction because you thought, ‘Someday Bev will need a prayer room.’”
Finally, after about a week’s work, I sat down to engage. The first day I got a straight-from-Heaven word. I’d been praying about certain people, with a troubled and weary heart, and I asked God for “a word”. I randomly opened the Bible to Jeremiah where my eyes went directly to a verse that emphatically answered my heart’s cry.
Day Two I got another powerful word, which developed during the next several hours and into the following day, and it set me free from a thirteen-year relationship struggle.
On the third day I filled my journal, writing as quickly as possible so as not to forget anything, with new and freeing revelations. Since then I wander into my Prayer Closet early and late, as well as between times. I enter knowing I have a need of something, and I come out with something to meet the needs of others. Sometimes meeting the needs of those who love me most is just a matter of getting my joy back, and passing it on with a smile.
Pehaps you’re wondering whatever happened to the closet in the foyer, and what did I do with my linens, ironing board, etc? The foyer closet is now my sewing station. The ironing board and iron rest in my bedroom closet. This is very handy for John and me, as we can step right out of the bathroom, do our ironing, and dress right then and there (I haven’t quite worked out that wrapping station bit, but I will, and quite likely as I’m sitting and dreaming in my lovely new Prayer Closet). As to the linens, I have a new and improved setup. It’s two cleared shelves in the utility room (they were in great need of clearing) and I had the most fun and felt ever so elegant and superior throwing out ratty linens, and folding the remaining items with perfect symmetry.
Symmetry. That’s the word for what a prayer closet can do to your spiritual life. Plus, it’s just so much fun!
Rx: Open the Windows and Breeze Through January!
Rx #1: It may be January in the Rockies, and a bit nippish outside, but what is that to stuffiness and last night’s garlic odors permeating the inside? Why not build a fire, put on a sweater and big socks, and open the windows?
Then get moving and start Spring Cleaning. Morning till about 2:00, when it’s time for just a few more details under the belt, and a bit of a walk out of doors, before a nice cuppa. Have I lost my mind? Why, you may be asking, would I want to do Spring Cleaning in January? Is it because it will be way too nice outside to be cleaning when Spring gets here? Or because the house is getting a bit crusty, what with doing only surface cleaning over the holidays? Maybe it’s just that I can’t stand to open my closet, or the pantry, or look very closely at anything.
It could be a bit of all the above, but for me, it’s mostly that January can be a bit long. But still, you may be wondering, how could cleaning make it better? Cleaning is, everyone knows, menial., Wrong. Menial, the dictionary tells us, means “not requiring much skill and lacking prestige.” The dictionary can be misleading, I say. Done well, homemaking requires a great deal of skill, as evidenced by how few people can do it. As to lacking prestige, there’s very little that makes me feel better about myself and life in general, more prestigious, than a clean and orderly home.
To clean and orderly, add happily and beautifully decorated (not “fashionable and politically correct” decorating), comfortable and comforting, relaxing and restoring, aromatic with both home-concocted essential oil sprays (see below) and no-bake cookies (those are coming later this evening because we don’t want to get carried away with all this weight-loss and fitness stuff), and all five CD trays filled and playing Mozart, and I feel more than prestigious. I feel blessed.
So, give it a try. Rather than more of the same (leftover holiday habits) – eating and drinking mindlessly, watching stupid stuff on the Net, and feeling like a big lump, try my prescription. First, open the windows . . .
As for that essential oil spray: I had an almost-empty bottle of “Balance” from “The Good Home” and I just added water and more oils. I didn’t have all the oils in the original and might I add marvelous formula, so I added several citrus oils, some Cedarwood, and Cassia, and went through the house spraying anything and everything. I just realized I forgot the Clove! Clove is on the way as soon as I finish this post.
Speaking of Clove, add it to your evening drink, or whatever else you can think of, along with other very warm and marvelous oils and spices, such as caraway, nutmeg, allspice, ginger and cinnamon, and you will be both physically and emotionally fed.
Rx#2: This is for getting through long January evenings when you’re sure it must be bedtime and it’s not yet 7:00 p.m. This is when I do my evening ablutions (such a lovely word), put on my pajamas, and settle in with a very good book (ideas coming right up). If I get sleepy again before I want to turn in, I take a break and make a lovely evening drink, and here’s the recipe:
Warm milk, honey, vanilla extract, with cinnamon and nutmeg on top. This must, of course, be imbibed from your very favorite mug. You could try this, or your variation thereof, and call it your January bedtime story drink (we did this with goat milk when the kids were little and read aloud together – very fun and a way to get rid of the free goat milk our neighbors gave us). This is a perfect time to concoct your own version of an Internet Chai recipe – I just look for what looks really spicy, then double the spice amounts. Yay! for warmth in January.
Maybe in February (Valentine’s Day and Chocolates) add cocoa and almond flavoring to your drink and plenty of ORGANIC* heavy whipping cream. Don’t think of this as fattening. Rather, have only one reasonably sized mug of it and think of yourself as blessed.
And now for those books: I started one the other night and had to tear some of the pages out lest anyone in my house see me reading such trash (OK, so you don’t do that, but do you hide the Jo Jo’s?). Finally, this entire book went into the trash. I went to the library the next day and came home with TREASURES: Comstock Lode by Louis L’Amour and Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington. I’m about 2/3 through Up From Slavery and halfway through Comstock Lode. Both are riveting.
It’s about time I had a cuppa (something) and did a bit of reading – Booker T. and me, and Louis as well, so swell (I know you’ll forgive my corny-ness). Thanks for being with me, and I wish you a Happy, Blah-Free January. Amen.
*I said ORGANIC because otherwise you may be drinking carageenan, which for me causes joint pain. Not good, not what I want to be worrying with in my fun January.
Coffee Table Fun, Golden Retriever Puppies who Never Make a Mess, and Ignoring the Naysayers when Decorating!
And, you can’t really do this playing it safe. White. Gray. Grey.
A coffee table that’s too large, too small, too nice to put your feet on. Too new.
What would happen, I wondered, if I turned that old, very old, dresser on it’s back. The size would be perfect.
What happened was my daughter, Hannah, laughing until she had to slide down the wall and sit in the floor. Just you wait. She and every other doubting Thomas in my house went to bed.
As did I. No, I won’t use it. I’ll just do something else. It’s too out there, even for me. I went to sleep.
But then. I woke up thinking of the exposed slats in the bottom of the old dresser, exposed and right in front of the couch. And I thought . . . I wonder . . . Would that picture of the Golden Retrievers fit? Nah. Too long.
But I went to get it and tried it out and you can see the results below. You can see what people who put their feet (pillows and warm socks always provided at our house) and their coffee on my coffee table see when they look down a bit.
And now, more of my welcoming, cozy, answer to the Bleak Facade: (first you must decide which puppy you like best)
That’s a vintage (a-maz-ing sound!) record player in the corner – Neil Diamond “Moods” is playing.
The pram in the dining area (next to the piano) holds CD’s and a CD player.
Yay, Hooray, Today is the Day
Summer Put Away
Autumn Holding Sway!
Color, Clamor, Leaves Gone Quite Wild
Light Fine and Clear
Let us all Rejoice! Harvest is Here.
Romancing the Guest Room – Hideous Before and Lovely After
BEFORE . . .
This room was a lovely but a bit chilly in blue and white. Put in new windows and remove the old sills, and it’s a bit of a horror.
Using what’s under my nose, i.e. paint I already had from other projects, I decided on the pale aqua and green yellow. “This is going to look like a nursery,” my son predicted.
Not if I use red accents. Just you wait.
Master Woodworker Husband John and Dire Predictor Son Seth set to work on the new window trim, and as you can see (pics don’t do the perfection of their work justice) the results are lovely.
(There’s always more to do, little touches here and there. For instance, I am going to paint the frames on the little French biker children a shiny copper, as the dark frame detracts).
I am especially pleased with my red efforts. I had already made curtains out of the red polka dot fabric (a hand-me-down from a seamstress friend) and they had a bit of surplus length. I took that surplus and made the little valance for the smaller window, then took a crocheted piece from the linen closet, and tied it with a red ribbon.
On the antique dressing table chair (above) I added a Mary Engelbreit pillow – with red, of course, and on the walls opposite are quilted wall hangings, as well as a never finished quilt top (another hand-me-down), all of which contain a bit of red.
Does it look like a nursery? Not according to the two guests who have so far enjoyed it. “Lovely, absolutely lovely,” is the verdict. And again, except for one additional can of paint, I used only what I already had – right under my nose.
Don’t Hide Behind What’s “In”
One size does not fit all. If you have a brand new home in a look-alike neighborhood, then go ahead with what’s “in”. But if you have an old and beleaguered house, with crooked walls and battered baseboard heater covers, with weird angles and misplaced windows, you need to form a cohesive whole. One that goes.
Goes? Yes, goes. One that goes with the house, the setting, and one that suits you, even if no one else gets it at all, even if it couldn’t possibly be less “in”.
A brief history of decorating:
Our house had darkly stained (almost black) wood trim, unpainted. The walls were a dark diarrhea color, and the crowning touch was the mauve Formica countertops to match the pink-ish stain on the cabinets. My budget was for paint. Not new trim or countertops or cabinets. Paint.
After much searching I finally hit on a golden apricot for the walls and a trim color called “Blackberry” which was deep purple most of the time (I took the doors off the upper cabinets and display dishes rather than pink-ness).
But there was that time of the day when the purple trim was just garish as heck against the white areas of the kitchen, and not all that complementary with those lovely mauve countertops. The countertops were the sticking point – the mauve against the apricot, which also at some times of the day was just plain orangey papaya, began to be a thorn in my side.
I griped in my head every time I looked at it. If I could just get new countertops. I spent a couple of years on this “if” but to no avail. Fine. One fine day I would have new countertops. In the meantime I would go to what always works for me. Paint.
Don’t want to repaint the whole thing. How about just the kitchen including the wall that is also the window wall of the dining room? What color then? Finally I found it. A lovely and very pale green/yellow (depending on the light, but more green than yellow).
The mauve countertops against the green look fantastic. The ugly old now appears lovely vintage. I am so very pleased with this outcome of my efforts. However, there was one thing. The corner.
With a bit of uncertainty I had stopped in the dining room corner, where each color refused to cooperate with or give way to the other.
And so. Something to tie it all together. Perhaps a border that went all the way around the dining room. I found the border. A year later I thought (border still in drawer) of stripes on the lower part of the wall, beneath the border. Another year later I did it, and you see the results above.
I leave it to your imagination to envision how awful this room looked before I painted, but let me assure you that when that trim was stained walnut, and later when those walls were painted in shades of body excrement, those things were “in”.
Again, what’s “in” should be what works for you. My house is high in the Rockies and it’s often chilly. I want warm colors. My house is also a 70’s monstrosity of vaulted ceilings and weird angles, and the argument could certainly be made that “granny” decor doesn’t fit. But the final word on it all is “mine”. This is house is mine, and so what’s “in” is irrelevant.
No design police are coming, no magazine photographer either. What’s “in” about this house are the people who LIVE “in” this house (continual compliments from my beloveds on this new creative endeavor).
I encourage you. Go browsing and digging around thrift shops, estate sales, antique stores, kitchen stores and consignment shops, and your own “stuff” for something that absolutely delights you. Let your imagination go.
Just remember this: “In” is based on someone else’s imagination, or lack thereof. Again, this house is your house!
Happy Real Decorating!
P.S. Somewhere in all this – about a year ago, I think, I painted the trim white, a lovely brilliant white with the very teeniest hint of rose (in certain light).
Fall Decor to Warm the Heart and Soul!
I just read a decorating post about warming up your space for Fall. But if all your walls and furniture and decor are white and grey, you’ve got your work cut out.
Why not put old fashioned colorful quilts on those white chairs, soft camel throws on the couch with scarlet-streaked pillows, and warm amber lightbulbs under those stark white lampshades and then . . .
Paint your walls something warm and marvelous, such as butter yellow, or golden umber. Maybe a deep terra cotta trimmed in olive green or a dusty apricot with creamy trim would really light your fire.
Fire. If you have a fireplace, you understand fire power. If not, light candles until you can get one, or at least a facsimile.
Move some art around. Go through the house and find the warmest and brightest of your art and bring it to the most-used areas, which are likely the living room and kitchen.
Cook. Soup. Cook soup. And muffins. And don’t stint on the butter.
Use warm spices. Spray the house with spicy essential oil scents, cook spicy foods, warm up some cider and keep the tea kettle whistling.
Even if it’s still 90-plus degrees at your house, Fall is coming and it’s time to get ready!
It’s Fall and it’s cozy and warm and welcoming time.
How About a Bit of “Maximumism?”
Starting in the low 400’s! Yay. For just a bit more you can get windows and doors. And never forget the marble countertops. Friends of ours got a deal on a house because it had lovely blue Corian counters, which aren’t “in”.
I recently visited a favorite decorating blog post, and was disappointed. The author, a lovely and talented Christian lady, was touting, “What’s in for Fall 2018!!!!” And everything was white. And grey. And there was that teeny bit of “color” as proof of bravery.
Why not be brave and actually go with your heart? Please, I must believe that I’m not the only one with a red heart. I must believe there are red-blooded women out there, whose homes minister to their red-blooded family members, and to Hades with what’s “in”.
Pray to God it will soon be out, and as forsaken as most other decorating mysteries of the past. Really, we once put fluorescent lighting in our kitchens to illuminate brown ovens? Really, we now prefer stark white, encoldened (I made that word up) by gray.
Perhaps I should say we prefer gray “further silenced” by grey-white.
Gray. Grey. White. Off white. Off. When can we get off this chilling, unwelcoming, stark, minimalism.
What’s minimal here is coziness, warmth, hospitality, jollity, personality, uniqueness, honesty, quirkiness, heart’s treasures.
I have changed my entire kitchen because of the colors on a Susan Bright calendar, and once because of an April Connell dish towel. To my delight, and isn’t that the point?
Why must we delight in being like everyone else, and therefore really like no one? Why worship at the altar of what’s “in” rather than seeking to find and express what’s “in” our own hearts?
There’s a falseness, a facade, in preferring pressed wood furniture that won’t make it twenty years, over a family heirloom mahogany table (I have a friend who gave such a table to charity because her daughters had no use for it).
We choose to make social “statements” rather than personal, and in so doing, say nothing at all. We are not mindless parts of a group, or a generation. We are each unique in all the world, in all the history of the world, and our homes should reflect who we are, not which group with which we share birthdates, or fad to which we’re enslaved.
So, how about we go to a bit of “maximumism” (yes, I made that word up, too). Why not maximize our own personal joy in our surroundings by making our homes uniquely, radically, and positively ours.
Are we cold and soulless, unwelcoming and robotic? No, we are human! We are fearfully and wonderfully made, as the Word of God tells us. “Knit together in our mother’s wombs, known by God before the foundation of the world.” Talk about “maximumism”!
Welcome to our very own homes, and welcome to everyone who enters herein.
The Enchanted Home is Authentic, Artistic, and Sometimes Even Boasts the Best-Ever Molasses Cookies
We forgive people who decorate in colors we abhor, with “style” we can’t fathom, using cat-clawed and dog-scratched furniture, if their homes are authentic. If we have to hide a smile at some of the wild colors, particularly those in hues of sunshine, we will overlook what we consider a decided lack of taste and sophistication.
Conversely, walls of flawless beige, trimmed in pristine white, surrounding us and brand new-looking sofas set just so before “modern” décor atop ice-cold coffee tables make us wonder, “Is this a home or a statement?”
Does your house scream your lack of identity, thereby stealing your guests’ senses of identity as well, or does your house say “I’m OK, You’re OK. I didn’t invite you here to impress you, I invited you here because I value you enough to open my home, and therefore my heart.”
An authentic home has heart—it’s owner’s. An unauthentic home hides its heart behind its façade. It’s sad enough that we sometimes feel we must wear the façade in public, but at home we must take off the mask.
Does that mustard yellow throw your grandma made embarrass you? That’s a good reason to put it on the couch, front and center. Do you have a secret love for that hideous orange ottoman from the 50’s, and does it match absolutely nothing else in your living room? Go with it and add a bouquet of flowers with a bit of that same orange. You’ve shown yourself and your guests just a little bit of your heart. And you’ve given them art.
But what will your guests think, especially the world travelers with such cool stuff? They’re on their way. You look around, asking yourself What does this look like to other people.
Dirty for starters. You can wash those awful smears off the patio doors, or make molasses cookies and put on a bright and crazy shirt. You guessed it. If this guest is a mom, she’ll either feel greatly relieved that other people have nasty doors, too, or she’ll feel superior because hers are clean. Let her feel superior. Authentic people make those kinds of sacrifices. Just be sure your cookies are better than hers. Just kidding. Sort of.
How to make great molasses cookies? Use the recipe on the molasses jar, only double (I did say double) the molasses and the spices and the salt. Also use real butter and/or coconut oil instead of shortening. Then make them awesome with lots of raisins and walnuts. For even better results (and healthier cookies) use half whole grain flour and half unbleached white flour, instead of the standard bleached white flour, and last of all, use a non-GMO organic sweetener. I like organic light brown sugar by Wholesome. Also, even when the recipe doesn’t call for it, I like a little vanilla flavoring in my molasses cookies. But I think it’s safe to say they’re wonderful without vanilla.
P.S. These aren’t actually my cookies. I’ll post them when I make them – closer to Christmas!
P.P.S. This isn’t actually my house, but I’ll definitely post it if I get it for Christmas!
The “Art” of Home Education
“What should I do with him today?” Hannah asked this morning, regarding her babysitting charge. “I’ll think on that,” I said, knowing Hannah was talking as much to herself as to me, and would as usual come up with something on her own.
Still, I pondered her question because I said I would, and then later called her. “I know what you can do. Google a recipe for finger paints, then let him do something like the horse Seth did with finger paints when he was about that age.”
“Oh, God,” Seth moaned in the background (he now thinks that marvelous painting is awful). “Thanks, Mom, that’s what I’ll do!” was Hannah’s more gratifying response.
It doesn’t matter what Seth thinks about that painting, or that he doesn’t understand why his dragon water color has a place of honor (more on that place later) or that Benjamin wishes heartily that I take down his crayon drawing of his battle horse, “Ready”, or that Hannah disagrees entirely with my assessment that her quilt horse pencil drawing is pure joy (I even have candles to match it). Rebekah’s most prized artwork (in my view) is her picture of me (I have a crown on my head and a hugely smiling, bright red mouth and am wearing a low-necked turquoise dress), and she’s the only child who never complains about it being on the wall for all the world to see.
Yes, there was plenty of art that never made the frame, never graced our walls, some of it long gone, others in folders stored away. And I do have artwork that was done by “professionals”. But none of it has ever elicited the interest, the smiles, even the joy brought by the works of my children. ‘Real” art has never made John say, as he did about Seth’s 4-year-old finger-painted horse, “Don’t ever take that down. It makes me smile every time I look at it.” Me, too. Even now.
Hannah, in entertaining her charge last week, sculpted a cat for me, as he created for his mom. Hannah wrapped her creation carefully in toilet paper, sat down beside me on the couch when she got home, and said, “I know you are the one person who will appreciate this.” She unwrapped the cat, and just as she knew I would be, I was delighted. The cat (not named yet, am waiting to get to know him/her) sits in a place of honor on my dresser.
As to Seth’s dragon painting’s place of honor, it sits in front of the TV, effectively hiding the hideous thing from view. TV can be the greatest enemy of creativity, of family life, of art appreciation.
In all our travels the kids have never been allowed to watch movies or play video games rather than enjoying the scenery (they can read if they like). Nature’s art speaks to our hearts whether we’re on the Oregon coast or at the highest spot we can climb to in Rocky Mountain National Park, or amid the Sugar Maples during Fall in the Ozarks, or on a desolate stretch of desert highway. Appreciation and understanding of God, that’s what art can give us. Real art. Art from the heart.
Exhortation of creativity is one of the hallmarks of good home education. Good home education produces children who are highly individual, and yet uniquely qualified to contribute to the greater good. Such as in creating artworks that are also mementos. Such as taking the time to ponder what will bring joy to the heart of a child when babysitting.
A little child will lead you. When Seth first tried to draw dragons, I bought a little book entitled, “How to Draw a Dragon” (or something like that). When Rebekah wasn’t all that keen on drawing, I bought books on how to draw horses (she was very keen on horses). Hannah’s interest in water colors was fueled by a local water color class. For Benjamin, I simply kept plenty of pencils, pens, and paper on hand, as his art was mostly props for his writing. If he was creating a battle scene, he would go outside, build a city, enact the battle with the wooden sword and shield John made one year for his birthday, come back inside and sketch out further details, and return to his writing (fantastic writing by the way). My small contribution was making a hauberk, helping John with the finishing touches on the shield, and saying, “Absolutely!!!” when John asked if I thought he should add a battle axe to the weaponry.
Home education, done in love’s rhythms and graces, can make learning an enchantment of color and light and joy. An art, in other words.
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