Friday, November 30, 2007

27 Years!

Yesterday, Dr. DH and I celebrated our 27th anniversary! It was a day full of little happy and romantic moments. Somehow, it seems like it would spoil things to write about the details of our special day on a blog. But, I do want to say that DH is still the man who sweeps me off my feet!


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Homemaker and God's Will

Simply in living our lives, we all come to points where we need wisdom from the Lord about how to proceed. It's beyond the scope of this article to do an exhaustive study of this topic. But, with prayer, I thought I'd like to humbly throw out a few thoughts for us to consider.

First, let me say that God has provided everything we need for life and godliness through a knowledge of Christ. II Peter 1:3-10. Additionally, He has promised that in times of trials, He gives wisdom to all, without exercising favoritism -- provided that the asker requests in faith. James 1:2-7. Another avenue God uses to guide us is through the wise counsel of godly people. Proverbs 15:22, Titus 2:4-6.

However, one place where we can get stuck is trying so hard to discern what God wants us to do in a particular situation that we ignore the mountains of information about his will that are contained within the scriptures.

We so often hear people -- especially young people -- say, "I am waiting for God to show me his will for my life."

By this, well-intentioned people often mean that they wish to know God's will about one particular decision that they must make. Sometimes, people focus on one such dilemma, while postponing the parts of God's will that are clear to them from his word. Thus, they miss much good in their lives.

For example, let's say you and your husband are considering moving the family to a new place, because you are wondering if it would be best for your children's spiritual welfare. Certainly, no such decision should be made without prayer. But, would it make sense to pray about this, without also seeking right now -- where you are -- to put God's instructions about parenting into practice?

It's important to seek God's guidance in our decisions. But, we must not do so at the expense of the many commands and principles he has already given us in his Word. If you practice the instructions from the Lord that you do know, God promises further understanding of truth.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disicples. Then, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." John 8:31

Here, I think he was speaking specifically of knowing the truth that He is God's Son and our Savior. But, notice the progression of adherence to Christ's teaching, leading to a knowledge of the truth, leading, in turn, to freedom. Like students who learn a subject by doing work and taking tests, God leads us to a greater grasp of his will as we practice his will.

A second sticking point is to measure God's will either by what we emotionally "feel" is right or by what we assume is right according to our human reasoning. When we get into this trap, we can follow whims of our own imagination or reasoning, mistaking this for the guidance that God has promised. Sometimes, people have unknowingly wandered far from God's expressed will by relying too much on "feelings" or on human reasoning.

Of course, our mind and emotions are gifts from God, and they do provide us with valuable information. We'd be silly not to make good use of them in their proper context. On the other hand, we must remember that they aren't infallible guides for life. In Proverbs 3:5, the Lord tells us to trust in Him with all of our heart and not to lean on our own understanding. He promises that if we acknowledge Him in all of our ways, He will make our paths straight. I love this promise!

The Bereans were commended for searching the scriptures diligently and every day, to see if the things Paul taught them were true. Acts 17:10-12. They did not do this with a critical spirit, but with eagerness to verify that this good news from Paul was, indeed, true. If they were commended for checking the word of Paul -- who was an apostle -- against Scripture, shouldn't we be even more diligent to use the scriptures to measure what we think, feel, hear, or read?

God has promised to give us wisdom, but we must also judge our decisions against God's word in order to ensure we are truly following God's path. True wisdom from the Lord will never contradict his Word. Being someone who can find all sorts of ways to rationalize what I want, here is one place where I have to guard my heart.

A third sticking point is to become paralyzed over a decision when it's not a matter of sin or righteousness, but simply a matter of what would be good, better, and best. Of course, we want to seek God's best, and we must believe that he will show it to us. But, we must also believe the promise that God works everything for our good when we seek his purpose. Romans 8:28-29.

The home manager deals with many issues that aren't a matter of right or wrong, but are simply a matter of wisdom. For example, let's say that you want to become a better steward of your money. You pray about that, and you ask God to help you, and He graciously answers you. But, if, along the way to becoming thrifty, you honestly make some poor judgments, you haven't sinned. Believe that God will guide your efforts and that He will work even your mistakes for good in the big scheme of things. Learn from your failures, and, then, move on.

Do you want to know God's will for your life? Study, study, study and practice, practice, practice God's word. Do a study of what God likes and dislikes, and really get to know his heart. Also, do a study of the phrase God's will. Study Jesus' teachings. Notice God's promises and his commands, and act on them.

Also, remember these instructions in Romans 12:1-2:

"Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God -- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -- his good, pleasing, and perfect will."


Monday, November 26, 2007

Adventures in Thrift

Hadias, aka Country Girl at Heart
has been hostessing a book club on her blog. The women are reading a 1916 book called Adventures in Thrift, which is one of those many wonderful old homemaking books that can be found on the Internet. You can follow the link to the book from the side bar of Country Girl's blog, as well as see the book club's questions and comments.

I didn't find out about the book club until the other readers were well into it. But, the book is easy to read and can be skimmed quickly. So, I've been trying to catch up.

The book is written as if it were a novel, though it's supposedly an account of real happenings. A group of WWI era New York City housewives set out to stretch their incomes against what was then called, "The High Cost of Living".

There's even a dash of romance in the book. You see, one girl in the set has a particular interest in this subject. She is a spoiled daughter of wealth, who was engaged to marry a young lawyer. However, when the book begins, she has quarreled with him out of fear that she will not be able to manage on his modest starting salary. She is especially afraid of failure, since she knows his law firm will expect them to dress presentably and to entertain clients. Because her mother never had to stick to a budget, she has no clue how to do that, herself. Broken-hearted by their quarrel, the lawyer has returned to his home in the mid-west for a time. So, when the young lady hears that some of her married friends are embarking on this venture, she joins in out of a desire to fit herself for marriage to the young man. Her best friend, the main character of the book, encourages the romance along by diplomatically and secretly keeping the young man informed of his girl's growing appreciation for how to manage money. Knowing that she is willing to do this for him gives him hope to pursue her.

The book is fun to read because the women face many of the same issues with thrift that we do today, only within the context of 1916 prices. One thing I like is that the women try various things, some of which work and some of which don't. Their journey to thrift is not always smooth, and the women are not perfect. They learn by checking out this idea and that one, holding on to the successful ventures and forgetting about the ones that aren't suitable. That should give the rest of us encouragement as we exercise economy within our homes. It's a journey!

I'd like to know more about the history of the time in which the book was written. Apparently, there were many cooperative experiments that were going on in the country at the time. The women investigate several of these experiments. They also learn about an early twentieth century organization called the "Housewives' League". Maybe, some of you have studied this time period and will have some thoughts about the historical context.

While the cooperative experiments are interesting, what I'm getting most out of the book are tips that I can practice in my own home, right now. Here's something that struck me: Whenever you buy a ready-made garment, look it over carefully. Rip out seams that don't look right and re-sew them by hand or machine, or simply reinforce the seams. Add details, if you like. Make sure the buttons are on well. Do just a little tailoring if the garment needs it in order to fit you well.

In our 2007 economy, many women find that it's more cost-and time-efficient to buy off the rack, rather than to sew their own clothing from scratch. Some garments are better made than others. But, even better label garments often have room for little improvements. Whether an item is from Wal-Mart, the thrift shop, or from a designer boutique, the garment will look better longer if you take a little time to inspect it and make necessary improvements before wearing. Of course, you may want to do more for a more expensive item than you would for a one-season T-shirt. Still, even a little bit of time can go a long way towards making a garment wear better.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

No Time to Turn your Turkey into Delicious Leftovers and Run to the Store, too? Don't worry about hitting the malls. Enjoy Black Friday's savings in the comfort of your own home!

Grab a cup of hot chocolate and your computer and enjoy Black Friday in the comfort of your p.j.'s. Visit my friend, Gina's site,,
for great deals and coupons from over 1,000 well-known and family-friendly merchants.

By the way, do you make use of Internet coupons every time you shop? There are two kinds of online coupons: coupon codes that you use whenever you make an online purchase and printable coupons that you take with you to a physical store. Gina's site is a wonderful resource for both types of coupons. At her site, the coupons are always in-date and well-organized so that you can spot what you need in a moment.

Gina's site and possibly a few others are about the best ways I know to find coupon codes. There are a lot of coupon codes floating around on the net that are out-of-date, and some sites that claim to offer coupon codes are poorly organized and hard-to-navigate. Once you've obtained a coupon code, you'll be able to type it in when you fill out your online order. These codes can save you anywhere from the cost of shipping up to huge percentages off of the item's price.

As far as printable coupons are concerned, you can visit a site like Gina's or you can go directly to the merchant's site to see if they have any listed. You can sign up on a store's mailing list to receive coupons via email.

Be sure, however, that if you sign up for a particular store's email list that you really do want email from them. If you volunteer to be on an individual store's list, they will send you LOTS of email. For example, I signed up to receive promotional deals from Jo-Ann's, and I'm happy that I did. Jo-Ann's sends me both email and snail mail coupons. However, I must say that I do spend a lot of time deleting or tossing offers that I won't use in order to obtain the few offers that I will use. It's worth it to me for that one store and a couple of others. But, I'd hate to be on ten such lists!

If you don't want to sign up to be on a store's mailing list, check Gina's site at your convenience. She lists what coupons and prices are available at the moment. With 1,000 popular stores to choose from, I'm sure you'll find what you're looking for.

Some (very) random links you may find helpful...

One great way to bring some cheer to your home is by attracting birds to your yard. It's fun to hear their lovely songs and to see them flitting about outside your window. Here are a few links that tell you how you can best feed our feathered friends. This is pretty basic information for those who don't want to spend a lot of time in this pursuit, but who do enjoy having birds around. I learned from reading these articles that I've been feeding the birds in our yard the wrong kind of seed. So, by making just a little change, I'll be providing the birds with better nutrition.

Here's an article about to keep a kitchen sanitary, as well as how to avoid fires and use cutlery safely. It's great for new keepers at home or for teaching children how to clean. It's not a bad review for those of us who have been keeping a home for some time.

A new study suggests a link between the birth control pill and heart disease. Various health, moral, and spiritual considerations about the pill have been discussed thoroughly and insightfully in other corners of the blog-o-sphere. I don't feel qualified to throw my two cents into the general discussion. But, I do provide this link as one important dot in the overall picture.

Just because a product says it contains Omega 3's doesn't mean that it contains enough per serving to be helpful or that it's in a from that adds to our health -- or so says this article. Even the Omega-3's found in flaxseed may not have the health benefits once thought. Alas, I just bought a whole bag of flaxseed meal, and I've been buying other products that claim to have omega 3's, too. :( So, what are we to do? Eat more fish.

So, how do you safely incorporate fish into your diet, given the warnings about mercury?
Here's an article that tells you how. Not only that, but it discusses several other things related to choosing, preparing, and eating fish as part of a healthful lifestyle.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Question about Thrift: Has anyone done the math on this?....I'd love to hear from you all.

I have a homemaking book that was written in the 70's, the decade when gas prices first skyrocketed least $1.00 a gallon!

"Big deal!" you say.

You have to remember that this was a huge leap from the approximately $0.39 cents that Americans generally paid right before gas prices first skyrocketed in 1973-74. And, we thought the early 1973 price of $0.39 was high compared to the $0.15 to $0.25 of just a few years prior.
In case you're too young to remember all of that, let me just say that in the U.S. in the 1960's and early 1970's, gas was plentiful and cheap. Plus, stations waged "gas wars" in which they tried to under-sell each other, and the competition drove already low prices even lower.

Back in the day, no one dreamed of pumping his or her own gas! All stations were full service. The attendant would not only fill your tank, but would wash your car windows and check your oil and windshield wiper fluid, too. And, he'd give you a little present just for making a purchase! Of course, these gas station gifts were inexpensive promotional items, a few of which were truly useful and many of which went right into the trash. However, my late mother collected a set of "Love is..." glasses from a station that offered a new one each week, and my father still has some of those glasses until this day.

I can't imagine that the cost of driving from store to store or from errand to errand was much of a consideration for the 1960's housewife. I wasn't an adult then, and, therefore, I wasn't responsible for a household budget. So, I can't say that for sure. However, the attitude of the times was, "Have wheels; gas is cheap; will travel!"

There's no doubt that since the 1970's, the cost of gasoline has been a factor in working out how to be frugal. After the initial gas crisis in 73-74, gas prices dropped back down to around $0.50. They bounced up again to around a dollar, and they stayed in the $1.00 to $1.50 range until not that long ago. As we all know, prices have seriously spiked again. We all experienced another round of sticker shock when prices exceeded $3.00 a gallon.

I don't know how to compare the two big 1970's gas crises to the ones we've experienced in the 2,000's. Of course, every dollar that you spent at the pump back then was worth comparatively more than a dollar is worth today. A dollar was also a higher percentage of an average salary. However, some figures do indicate that today's high gas prices, when adjusted for inflation, have an even greater impact on our pocketbooks than the earlier price hikes did.

Anyhow, I personally married and set up housekeeping in 1980 -- before some of you dear readers were even born. The 1970's-based advice in my homemaking book pretty much still applied to my situation.

Here's a scenario that this book presented: You normally shop at Store A, which generally has your area's best prices for groceries, toiletries, and other staples. However, you also watch the weekly fliers from other stores. One week, Store B offers an item -- let's say a ham -- at an incredible price. (I'm assuming this amazing sale on hams would be one of Store B's loss leaders.) Otherwise, your overall grocery ticket at Store A would still be lower than your total ticket at Store B. Is it worth your while to do the bulk of your week's shopping at Store A and drive to Store B in order to buy the ham, too?

The author's conclusion was that -- given the price of gas at the time -- that it was not worth your time and money to drive to Store B to purchase only one item -- no matter how much you might save on that item. The author's rule of thumb was that a trip to Store B would be cost-effective only if Store B offered at least five items at considerable savings to you. These would need to be five items that you planned to buy -- not five things that you put in your shopping cart simply because they were on sale.

Now, I personally find that there are other factors to consider: Would you pass store B on your route to some other errand this week? If you're going to pass it anyway, why not pop in for the incredible ham? Do you have a freezer? Then, why not pick up five hams, provided that the store hasn't set a limit on the number each customer can buy?

On the other hand, if you are pressed for time and you also have four tired and hungry children with you, it might not be worth your while to stop -- even if your travels take you right in front of store B.

Another thing to consider: Do you run a home business or work from home? Do you practice thrift and frugality so that you can afford to stay home -- in which case being frugal is, in a sense, your home business? In scenario #1, you might figure that your time is worth more than the savings of stopping to buy the incredible ham at store B. In scenario #2, you might conclude that stopping at store B is a fantastic use of your time. There is a time to save time over money, and there is a time to save money over time -- not that these two commodities are always mutually exclusive.

In the past, I've seldom driven to a store just to buy one sale item. I'm talking about smaller items here. When it comes to big-ticket items -- such as furniture or appliances -- that's another matter entirely. If my hubby and I are looking at big savings, we can spend more gas money to drive some distance and still come out ahead.

Re groceries and such, I usually look at how I do on average in one store when compared to shopping in another store. I generally patronize the store that offers the most consistently reasonable prices and leave it at that. Let's say, for example, that store A charges more for bananas and bread than store B does, but it generally charges less for peanut butter, milk, and chicken. At store A, my total grocery bill is consistently less than when I shop at Store B. In that case, I will generally patronize Store A, even though store B might have a few particular items that are better deals.

However, I do sometimes alternate where I shop in order to take advantage of each store's best deals. For example, I might load up at Sam's once or twice a month, buying only those things at Sam's that definitely save me money.

And, my week's schedule often takes me hither, thither, and yon, so I have many occasions to pass stores other than where I usually shop. Once in a while, it may be either more timely or more cost-effective for me to stop by another store on my way home from a jaunt to some place across town.

Now that Wal-Mart no longer carries sewing supplies and our local Hancock's has closed :(, I have to drive about twenty minutes or so to get to a fabric store. Now, I enjoy a particular fabric store, and I've always done some of my fabric shopping there. Usually, I have a coupon that I can use at my favorite store. But, I'm wondering if the price of gas eats into my coupon savings. I have other reasons to travel to that area of town, so I try to visit that fabric store when I already have a reason to be there. It doesn't always work out that way, though.

Also, I love trips to the Dollar Store, where I find little gifts, inexpensive cards and wrapping materials, the awesome Awesome Brand cleaner, and useful little items to put in care packages for my adult children. But, if I burn up two bucks driving to the Dollar Store, would I be better off buying items of a little nicer quality and just a little higher price in a store closer to my home? Hmm...

While I basically have the concept in mind that a trip to a store equals the price of an item plus gas plus car maintenance plus time, I have never figured out an exact system for measuring all of those things. I don't even know if the "five items on sale" figure is as reliable a rule of thumb in 2007 as it was in 1980.

What do y'all think? How do you factor in your gas expenses and your time when it comes to visiting various stores to find bargains? Do you think this is important? Or, no? If you do think it's important, how much does this weigh in your daily decisions.

I'd love to see your comments.


Adventures with kitty litter...

A friend, who was decorating for a large event, remarked that she was going to weight down some tall, lightweight, cylindrical vases with kitty litter. She was using the vases for silk flower arrangements.

I have to admit that though we have cats and kitty litter around, I never remember that you can use kitty litter to stabilize a flower vase for silk arrangements. But, it's actually a great idea. After all, the litter will not only keep tall vases from tipping over, it is a good medium for holding each stem in place as you desire. Or, you can weight the bottom with the litter and put florist's foam, picks, or a frog on top to hold the stems in place.

My friend's comment reminded me of two other uses I've heard for kitty litter: 1) sprinkling it on garage floors to soak up oil, paint, or other stains, then sweeping the litter and stain away and 2) carrying a bag with you to use to give your car extra weight when you need to get out of an icy spot. (I think I've also heard that you sprinkle some litter under tires, as well, in order to provide some traction).

As those of you know who read my blog, I'm a Southern gal. My approach to rare bouts of ice and snow is to stay home! However, there are times when you just have to go somewhere despite icy roads and times when you are already out and a sudden winter storm moves in. So, it wouldn't hurt me to keep a bag in my trunk for emergencies.

I don't know if this tip applies to mud as well. We have lots of mud in Tennessee, though I don't make a practice of driving into it. Has anyone ever used kitty litter for traction in order to get out of a muddy rut?

Upon pondering how useful kitty litter seems to be, I decided to research the subject. Here's a site from HGTV that describes more uses for this humble household item than I ever dreamed were possible.

According to this site, a 10 pound bag of kitty litter will absorb more than a gallon of liquid. So, they also advocate using it for garage spills.

I especially liked the tip about using it in the bottom of a garbage can to soak up spills and odors. However, baking soda does that, too, and I haven't done a cost comparison to see which is cheaper. I have an idea that the baking soda would come out ahead on that one.

The idea of putting the kitty litter into a leg cut off of old pantyhose and using that as a sachet to sweeten shoes seemed like a good idea, as well.

I draw the line, however, at the article's suggestion of using kitty litter as a facial mask. And, I'm not sure that I'd ever use it as a refrigerator deodorant either -- especially not when you can snap up a cheap box of good old Arm and Hammer's.

Of course, you don't need to let my personal squeamishness stop you . After all, kitty litter is clean when poured straight out of the sack. But, in our house, kitty litter does get used as...well..,kitty litter. So, the imagery would stick too closely in my mind for me to dream of putting it on my face . You, however, might be delighted with the results.

Here's another site that commends the virtues of kitty litter:

According to this article, you can -- among other things -- invite moles to leave your yard by pouring kitty litter down their holes. As moles are wreaking havoc in our lawn at this very moment and are the culprits, I suspect, in our great daffodil bulb theft, I may try this one, soon. I do hope this doesn't work by smothering the poor things, though.

Just like everything else in the stores, kitty litter is no longer quite as cheap as it once was. But, all things considered, it's still an inexpensive product. Obviously, if you are using it for purposes other than cats, you don't want to pay for premium kitty litter. Skip the kind with special features, such as the kind that clumps, and avoid the pricier brands. Just buy basic, generic litter -- the least expensive brand on the shelf.

Having said that, I will note that the cheapest is not always the best when you are using it in a litter box. Also, it creates a fine dust and can be hard to work with. But, for things such as removing stains, etc., the cheaper, the better.

Well...I can't believe that I have actually just written an entire post about adventures with kitty litter! But, I do hope you enjoy the tips.


Monday, November 12, 2007

A Song in her Heart...

I've long loved this passage: "Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" Ephesians 5:18b-20.

Isn't that beautiful? I had always thought of it in terms of worshiping God and of God's designs for relationships in the church. Of course, that is the primary meaning of these verses.

However, in a marriage class I attended the other night, the speaker applied this to the "Spirit-filled wife." That added a new dimension to these verses for me.

The speaker proposed that the wife who is filled with the Spirit will "have a song in her heart". That doesn't mean that she won't have struggles or problems or that she won't have to have some "Gethsemane" prayers. However, the tenor of her life will be joy.

The speaker asked, "Does your husband hear you sing as you attend to the duties of your life? Or, does he hear you complain?"

She also asked, "Are you thankful for everything, because of your faith in Jesus?

The speaker shared from her own life rocky times in her marriage, when she did complain. She described the negative effects that her unhappiness had on her husband. She also shared how she's learned to be more joyful, and she described the positive effects that had on her marriage and family.

She also shared about difficult times she's been through in her life, and she looks back now with gratitude, because she sees how God has used those trails for good. She challenged us to see Jesus in the midst of our trials and to be thankful, because of our relationship with Him.

This is probably a "Duh" moment for someone who's been married --as I have -- for 27 years. But, I hadn't really thought about living out this particular verse in terms of my marriage. Oh, I knew from other verses that I, as a wife, should be joyful and thankful, as well as being filled with the fruits of God's Spirit. Examining this verse from that point of view, however, made all of that seem fresh for me.

If you think about it, it's clear that this command to be filled with the Spirit is in the context of "Don't get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit."

In other words, God is telling us that we better pay attention to Who or what controls us. The person who is drunk is controlled by wine, rather than by God's Spirit. Have you ever tried to reason with a person who was drunk? It's difficult, because you aren't talking to that person, but to the alcohol. An inebriated person cannot make sound decisions, because the excessive alcohol dominates her thinking.

Now, for me, alcohol is not the problem. The things that threaten to control me are selfishness or worry. To give in to those things would dominate my thinking just as surely as drinking too much wine would. God, through the apostle Peter, tells us that a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. Under the influence of worry or selfishness or some other besetting sin, it's hard to think spiritually or even rationally. It's easy to lose the "song in our hearts" and to complain, rather than to be thankful. We all know what is our own particular temptation in this area.

The wife who is filled with the Spirit, however, will find that the Spirit bears within her the fruits of peace, joy, self-control, faith, etc. The Spirit-filled wife will, in faith, obey the Lord's commands, rather than insist on her own will. And, just as you sense the alcohol that control's an inebriated person's words and actions, you sense the Spirit's guidance in the words and actions of a person who is surrendered to the Spirit. As Romans tells us, the mind that is controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. As the wife is peaceful in her mind and heart, she has a peaceful influence on her home.

All of this reminds me of one of my favorite sayings, to which I referred in an earlier post: "Every woman should have an apron in her kitchen and a song in her heart."

So, I have committed to praying often this month: "Lord, be the song in my heart!"


Six month plan: Step forward and step backward...

Forward: We replaced our living room's entertainment center -- which had seen much better days -- with a better looking bargain credenza on which our TV will sit. Just that one little change made a huge difference in how that room looks. In the process, we purged some old stuff, including VHS tapes we'll never use.

Backward: The dishwasher had a problem and overflowed soap and water onto our wooden floor. Oops! The problem with the washer can be easily fixed. I'm holding my breath about the floor.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Baby steps in my six month spruce up the house plan:

I'm so thankful that I've been able to accomplish a few teensy-weensy baby steps in my spruce up the house campaign. These are little steps that I'm doing in addition to regular home keeping. They don't seem like much as I blog about them, but the results do lift my spirits. With everything we've had going on, particularly my Dad's health and mine, being able to get to the little extras seems like a blessing.

1) Replanted the pots of freeze-dried begonias on my front stoop with evergreen rosemary trimmed into a triangular shape. Trimmed some of the bushes around the front door, and pulled up some weeds. DH enjoys our yearly potted begonias, so they'll be back next spring -- as usual.

We had a nice warm afternoon today after experiencing a cold spell, and it felt great to be pottering about outside.

2) Polished two silver candelabras and two Revere ware bowls. I need to get to the silverware before Thanksgiving!

3) Cemented in my mind my vision of turning my office/sewing room into a white shabby chic paradise, with touches of pink, using a white Italian lamp that I have as my inspiration piece. This will involve a lot of re-arranging, and it may be after Christmas before I can get to it -- but I have a plan -- for that room, anyway.

4) Bought pine chips to re-mulch space around our mailbox. Clipped the freeze-dried, drought-dried clematis to the ground. Asked DH if he wouldn't mind digging a trench around the area tomorrow.

Elizabeth, the Merry Rose.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Product of the Week...

I'm not one to review specific products on my blog. I think I've mentioned only one other product by name. But, not too long ago, while I was in my local Wal-Mart, I happened across Village Naturals products.

I was attracted by the mineral bath soak designed to help people with allergy and congestion. I'm somewhat skeptical of claims that the minute amounts of herbs in commercial products really have any health benefits. However, the price was so inexpensive, and I enjoy bath salts anyway. So, I decided it was worth a try.

I don't know if it does any long term good for my allergy and congestion, but, let me tell you, it sure does feel good to soak in the bath and to breathe in the fumes. Also, some ingredients in some mineral salt baths inflame my allergies, but this did nothing but soothe them. After a soak in these salts, I found that I could fall quickly into a deep sleep -- something that allergy congestion makes it hard to do.

As I currently have a cold, I'm planning a long soak tonight.

The mineral salts for allergies have ginger, which is supposed to be anti-inflammatory and helps eliminate sinus congestion; lemon, which energizes you; and aloe, which helps cleanse and soothe irritated skin.

Of course, the most inexpensive bath salts are simply a box of Epsom salts. And a warm soak in sea salts or Espsom salts is comforting in itself. But, the Village Therapy mineral bath soak does seem to feel even better when your sinuses are acting up.

I also brought home their lotion designed for muscle aches and pains. But, I haven't used it enough to report about it one way or the other.

They have a formulation for colds, but I haven't tried that one yet.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Strangest Catalog Ever...

The back story: DH has a PhD in Electrical Engineering, and he used to be a college professor. He uses the designation "Dr. DH" so seldom that I am always surprised when someone addresses him as Doctor. But, he encounters a few professional situations where the title is needed, and he receives some mail addressed this way.

This has led to some funny mix-ups. The one we laugh about the most is this: A research study in another state briefly confused him with another Dr., a bona fide medical doctor, who is, of all things, a gynecologist. DH is about as far from being a gynecologist as he can be, and he'd like to keep it that way, despite the fact that he was wonderful during the births of our children. He's more at home with computers and satellites in geosynchronous orbits and artificial intelligence and such.

The current story: The other day, we received a catalog addressed to "The Spouse of Dr. DH". Normally, if I receive a new and unsolicited catalog, it is about fashion or home decorating. But, this one was different. Its pages were filled with pictures of those plastic body parts that internists and specialists have in their offices.

Now, these are the models I try hard not to notice when I am sitting on a cold and hard table, attired only in a flimsy paper robe, and waiting for a medical doctor to examine me. At such vulnerable times, I prefer not to look at replicas of human organs split open to demonstrate how they work. I would rather that my real organs just perk along inside of me, as they were designed to, without calling undue attention to themselves or to their plastic cousins. In those long moments of waiting, I wish to see comforting little statues of children or kittens or puppies instead of gall bladders and the chambers of the heart.

In the comfort of my own couch, however, this catalog of fake human organs was weirdly interesting. It was all the more so because I don't have a clue why it was addressed to "The Spouse of Dr. DH". Whoever sent the catalog to me seems to think that I have no name of my own, other than The Spouse of. This person also seems to be under the delusion that I have a desire to decorate some space -- presumably my husband's office -- using the motif of plastic flesh.

The pages of the catalog screamed:

"Meet your spleen!"

"Need a plastic eye? How about one with plastic nerves and garishly colored blood vessels already attached?!"

"Have you ever taken a good look -- a really good look -- at your intestines?"

The models of legs, opened to reveal the way the bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles work together, made me think of the "leg lamp" in the movie, "A Christmas Story". I imagined sticking a plastic leg in the corner of our living room, with a bulb and a decorative shade on the top of it.

Along with these offerings of plastic livers and plastic foot bones and such were lovely charts of things like the entire digestive system and how to uses trigger points to diagnose fibromyalgia. There were healing potions and tables for chiropractic patients to lie on, as well.

My DH works hard in his real field, and the stuff of his work fills our home office and his dresser. So, I've learned to clean around wires and gadgets and pages filled with complicated designs and the guts (bad pun intended) of computers without complaining -- at least not very often.

This catalog has opened my eyes, however. It could be worse! Much worse!

The Spouse of Dr. DH.

The Project Begins...

I've decided to do a frugal makeover and deep cleaning of my home, with the idea of seeing just how much the house will be transformed by my birthday in May. I've challenged myself to work within my time budget and to work within my financial budget -- so, with both of those, I'll have to be super creative. I've also challenged myself to keep this makeover surrendered to the Lord, rather than stressing out if his plans for my days take me in a different direction than my plans for the makeover.

Yesterday's projects were to put a second coat of varnish on our outdoor swing and to re-paint our pantry doors. The white paint had worn thin in spots on the doors, which gave them a dirty look even after cleanings. The new coat of white paint really makes them sparkle.

Yesterday was not the wisest day for me to put the second coat of urethane on the swing. When I did the first coat, the days were nice and mild, and the varnish went on easily. After a storm came through our area Monday night, the temps dropped, and the afternoon was chilly. We even had our first real freeze of the season last night. I think the varnish had time to dry without being too affected by the cold.

DH has volunteered to paint a room for me soon. Before my dad got sick, I was working out a color scheme for our home. (The dining room has been done for a while, so we don't have to worry about that). I'm a little paralyzed about picking colors for the downstairs right now, as we will be getting new furniture there that will have to harmonize with the walls. Plus, the staircase to our second story opens off of the living room area, which means that I will have to carry the paint up to the second floor. The only thing is that I want to do something a little different with the upstairs than with the down.

Any suggestions?


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Stuff, the Magic Dragon...Part II...

I'm hastily skimming a book, "Making Peace with the Things in your Life," (by Cindy Glovinsky) before returning it to the library. In some ways, this book is "not my cup of tea". However, I do think the author asks some interesting questions to help us think about our relationship to "stuff".

Our answers to these questions aren't necessarily "right" or "wrong"; they do, however, reveal our emotional feelings about things. We may not realize how those feelings affect our decisions about how we attain, use, or dispose of things. Once we understand the feelings we project onto objects, we can make more informed decisions about things.

Here are some of the questions:

1) Make a list of ten Things that you own and consider how you decided that you needed each of them. What role did friends, relatives, or advertisers play? Were you imitating someone when you brought it? What did you hope it would do for you? Did you see it as helping you to create a new identity? as empowering you in some way? as enabling you to belong? as making you or your life perfect? How did owning the object affect you once you made the purchase? Pay special attention to fashionable Things that have only recently come on the market.

2) Do you fear that if you put papers in closed containers, you'll forget where they are? Do you spread your papers on horizontal surfaces such as desktops? Do you believe this is the only way that you will be able to find them? How much time do you spend looking for lost papers?

3) Do you usually put Things away as soon as you've used them? In what situations do you do this, and what situations do you not?

4) Do you have certain times, either daily, weekly, monthly, or annually, when you routinely clean, and/or put Things away?

5) What proportion of your Things have homes? Do you know where all of these homes are? Do you use any tools, such as labels, indexes, or color coding to remind yourself where each object goes?

6) When you lose something, how do you react? Are you able to search calmly and do what you can to replace it, or do you have problems dealing with frustration? Are you constantly trying to get someone else to rescue you by finding things you have lost?

7) Once you've accepted a gift, do you feel obligated to keep it forever? What would happen if you gave it away yourself? How would you deal with this?

8) Are you keeping a lot of family heirlooms to pass on to your descendants? How do you and your potential heirs feel about these Things?

9) Would you feel guilty if you got rid of something left to you by a deceased person? How could you manage your guilt feelings? What are you afraid might happen if you give the gift(s) away?

10) Once you've decided to give or throw away a Thing, do you keep it moving to its final destination? Or, does it sit for months in your closet, back porch, front porch, lawn, or in your basement, garage, attic, car, or truck?

11) Choose a room in your home. List every Thing you can see that is not essential for your survival. On a scale from 1 to 10, how much pleasure does each of these Things currently give you? The items with a score of at least 6 are among your "Happiness Things". Now focus on the Things that received a score of less than six. Consider why you are keeping those things.

12) What do your "Happiness Things" have in common? What does that tell you about yourself?

13) Do you ever take your anger at people out on Things? Have you ever destroyed something valuable in a fit of anger?

14) In dealing with Things, are you afraid of not being perfect, of making a mistake, of forgetting something, of having to face reality, of being bored, of ruining a relationship, of feeling helpless, of having your weakness exposed, of going with out, of feeling empty? How can you deal with these feelings?

15) Walk through your home and ask yourself what you feel as you encounter different Things. Make a list of ten "sadness things". Consider why each object makes you feel sad. Why have you chosen to keep to keep a certain Thing, even though you feel sad to look at it? Is there a "should" involved, or do you feel it will help you to heal yourself? If you feel that you "should" keep it, what is the reason why you "should"?

16) Does anyone use you as a dumping ground for their excess, useless things? Do you truly want these things? If you don't, why do you accept them if you know that you neither desire them or have a use for them yourself?

17) Have you ever gone ahead and started working even when you were so behind you never thought you could ever clean up a cluttered area? Did you keep working until you were finished or did you give up before finishing? How did this make you feel?

18) When do you usually receive mail into your hands? Do you put it down to sort later, or do you open it right away? If you allow mail to accumulate before dealing with it, where do you keep it in the meantime? When and how often do you look at e-mail? Do you feel a compulsion to check for messages frequently? Do you print out a lot of your e-mails? If you do, where do you keep the printed copies? (And, a question for myself -- How often do you clean out your in-box?)

19) What patterns can you identify in how you arrange Things? Do you leave your clutter out for all the world to see or do you hide it away in closets and drawers? Do you favor vertical or horizontal arrangements? If you stack vertically, do you pull out a bottom container, so that the rest of the stack topples?

20) How familiar with you with service centers in your area? How would you go about getting a broken thing fixed? What broken Things do you currently have in your space? Where are they stored? What do they have in common? What was your original plan for getting them fixed? At what point did they become stalled? What happened? Do you know where the warranties for your things are?


Monday, November 05, 2007

Finishing School News:

I have finally begun to load the various posts from the various blogs who "taught" the finishing school classes onto the main finishing school page. Here is the link:

It will take me a while to get all of the classes loaded onto the central blog. But, in the meantime, you can be re-reading and studying the classes as I get them up.

These classes are not in the order in which they were taught. But, you should still be able to follow the material.

Maybe, you are new to the Finishing School, and you aren't sure how it works. The idea came about after Emma posted an article on her blog about a TV program concerning several young British ladies who were invited to attend a finishing school program. Many readers expressed a wish to learn about the subjects that are taught in finishing schools today or were taught in old-fashioned finishing schools.

So, several volunteers each agreed to tackle one subject and blog a week of posts on their personal blog. Each week, we all read the "teacher of the week's" blog, and many of us left comments about the subject. Our topics ranged from living elegantly on a budget to flower arranging to learning about other cultures to making a lovely cake to all sorts of fun topics. Each blogger posted daily things to think about or do to help make the class practical. But, our intent was for the posts to be fun to read, in addition to being helpful.

While I am pulling all of the posts together on the Finishing School Blog, I encourage you to follow the links to the original blogs. That way, you will get to know the teachers, who were chosen because they have a special expertise in their particular subject. Also, you will be able to read the many enlightening comments from the women who participated in the project.

But, if you can't manage to read all the blogs, you can catch up by reading the posts on the Finishing School site.


Stuff, the Magic Dragon...

I've been thinking a lot about "stuff" lately. I don't mean that I'm engaging in philosophical or spiritual ponderings about life. I mean that I am thinking about literal "stuff" -- furniture, floors, walls, papers, books, heirlooms, junk, paint colors, bed coverings, Christmas preparations, etc.

DH and I have been married for a wonderful twenty-seven years this month! Frankly, it's time to re-feather our nest. In the words of Edgar Guest, our seven-year-old house already shows signs of "a whole heap o' living". (What happened to that shiny new look?!) And, the old furnishings within the house are, as we say in the South, "plum wore out". Most of our things need replacing or refurbishing. It will be fun to re-vamp our dwelling as I have time and money.

Because we've moved several times in our marriage, we've been inclined to dispose of junk rather than to lug it from state to state. That has been a blessing. But even though we never tell "stuff" our latest address, it seems to seek us out, anyway. Somehow, it pushes its way into our current home in the form of little chips and wires needed for my husband's business, papers related to mine, the items that breed in a junk drawer, unwanted mail, items that simply get out of place, etc. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about!

So, while I'm itching for us to get at radical decluttering and deep cleaning, as well as home maintenance and decorating projects, I'm also pondering the role of "stuff" in my life. Of course, as a keeper at home, I was faced with this question about as soon as we got back from our honeymoon. In the course of our daily lives, we all have to set priorities for our finances. Part of that is deciding where we will live, what we will give, what we will save, and what we will spend. Part of that is deciding what "stuff" we really need and truly want and what "stuff" we can do without. The process of keeping a home neat and clean also involves deciding what to keep and what to toss. I try to keep a weekly watch on clutter, so that it does not accumulate into one huge mess.

However, this question of "stuff" has taken on a new aspect as I'm moving into that cusp between middle-age and the senior years. During this time, I've wavered between two opposing temptations.

On the one hand, as I feel the first twinges of aging in my body, I find that I crave material comfort and security more than I did when I was younger. I feel myself wanting to "settle in" and "get cozy". The thing is that I know that I can get out of balance here. It's one thing to accommodate the realities of diminishing vigor and to prepare oneself financially for the future; it's another to become self-indulgent and self-focused. If I let myself go there, I will stagnate in my relationship to God. I'll also miss out on living life to the full, as Jesus meant for us to.

Statistically speaking, if the Lord wills, I should have several productive and joyful decades ahead of me, yet. I pray to spend that time growing closer to the Lord and serving Him in whatever ways He has planned for me. (Ephesians 2:9-11) It's way too early to take to my rocking chair!

On the other hand, I'm thinking a lot about what legacy I will leave behind me one day, and I'm certain that I don't want my legacy to be a house full of "stuff". I'm a little morbidly focused on that right now, as I'm being repeatedly confronted with that old truth: You can cart it from house to house, but you really can't take it with you when you finally go!

There was a stage in my life when I attended lots and lots of weddings and baby showers and very, very few funerals. Now, I still attend weddings and baby showers, for which I am grateful to the Lord! But, as I get older, I naturally find myself going to more and more funerals. My 88 year old father attends even more.

Since my father is living in an assisted living center, and my parents-in-law are downsizing to a retirement community, I am around many people whose stewardship of earthly things is just about done. I have learned that it is a blessing when older people enter their waning years with the financial resources they need for their own care. I've also seen that when elderly people have not been able to save these resources, God can provide.

I've also seen that parents can burden their children by leaving too much stuff behind. It's hard for a grieving child to sort through a house crammed with things accumulated in his late parents' decades of marriage. If the child is under pressure to dispose of the property quickly, he or she can find it heart-wrenching to make all the little decisions required: "Should we keep this? Should we sell this in a garage sale? Should we give this to Aunt Sally? Which one of us kids should have this? Should we just throw this old thing away?"

In a time of grief, it's hard to look at stuff objectively. Even a box of papers that has no real meaning to the child or to anyone else can be hard to toss out; it feels to the child as if he is tossing out a bit of his recently departed parent along with the papers.

Also, the child or grandchild who is left to weed through the parents' stuff usually has a spouse and children to take care of, as well. Life doesn't usually stop just so that adult children can have plenty of time to think about what needs to be done with what.

So, now, when I think about buying something or if I'm deciding whether to keep something, I picture my grown children having to do something with it one day. I am one who ordinarily struggles with sentimentality when it comes to keeping books, little gifts other people have given me, books, cooking equipment, books, decorative items, books, things belonging to my now grown children and, did I say, BOOKS! So, while I may thinking a little morbidly right now, I suppose that on some level, this is good discipline for me.

I do want to be considerate of my children, here. An even better motivation might be to think about "traveling light" so that I can spend more time loving God and people while I am alive than I spend in the maintenance of things. Whenever I let clutter get out of hand, I find that things consume precious time and energy -- resources that could be spent elsewhere. The things begin to own me, and I begin to serve them, rather than using them as gifts from the Lord. An attractively neat house, in which everything is generally in place, reall does take less time to maintain than one that is perpetually untidy.

Better yet, it would be good to think about "stuff" in light of giving to those who are in real need.

This season of my life really does remind me of an important truth that Jesus told us:

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

I have many friends who traveled this weekend to the funeral of a woman who died suddenly and with no prior warnings of health problems at the age of 56. I did not know her, myself, though I do know her through the impact her life made on so many people whom I know.

Almost two decades ago, her husband had a lucrative medical practice in a large U.S. city. They gave up his large income and sold most of their possessions. They moved to the Ivory Coast of Africa, where they founded a mission clinic. I'm sure that when they left they did not know that they had found their life's work: living among and ministering to those who were suffering from the HIV/AIDS crisis there. Nor, could they have guessed that they have guessed that they would start similar hospitals in 16 other African countries or that they would raise their three children mostly on the mission field. It was only this year that they came back to work in the U.S. Of this woman, I believe that we can say, "Her treasures and her heart are in heaven, and she has only followed them to her true home."

For now, at least, dear hubby and I are where we believe God has placed us -- in the suburbs of Nashville, TN. So, in keeping with where we are placed and if the Lord wills, I do want to work on our home little by little, refurbishing our nest. At the same time, I want to keep "stuff" in its proper perspective.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Coffee with the bloggers!

Thanks to Meredith for hosting a coffee yesterday for bloggers in Nashville. You can read all about the fun we had at her blog,

She also tried patiently to tell me how to hyper-link. So, I hope y'all will be able to follow the link to her blog. If not, type in the address, and I'll go back for a remedial lesson!

Elizabeth aka The Merry Rose