Sunday, February 28, 2010

I LOVE a flat surface!!

Flat surfaces are just MADE for displaying 'stuff'! And I have loads of 'Stuff' to display! The newest flat surface my husband made for me recently was a shelf over the French doors in our kitchen. We thought that would be a perfect place to keep our most precious memory coffee cups. And, boy, do we HAVE coffee CUPS! I counted them once long ago and they totaled over 300! That was before my marriage to Louis Dean and he brought a collection with him plus all the many we have added to the number since then! We still maintain a coffee cup cupboard in the kitchen....three shelves with cups stacked on top of each other and every shelf FULL! The NEW shelf is for my SPECIAL cups!
Among my treasures now sitting safely UP on my new shelf (he put a little lip along the edge so they will not 'walk' off !) is a cup with orange autumn leaves and pumpkins on it. My friend, Deborah Freeman, and I took our kids to Marshall Pottery on a field trip back in our homeschooling days. I remember after shopping at the pottery place there we stopped at a camping site they had for visitors where the kids made a small campfire of pinecones and folliage while she and I brewed us up a mini pot of flavored gourmet coffee (they had water/electric for the camping site) and we sipped from my newly purchased cups! In the years between then and now, one has been broken but I still cherish the one that remains. Also in this group is the special coffee mug with my three grandchildren pictured on it. I don't want THAT one to break..EVER!! I have a cup from North Lake College where Amber attended at the young age of 15! Another from coffee like KONA coffee! We used to collect cups as we traveled so I have a special one from Colorado trimmed with gold leaf around the rim. A cup from Cafe Du Monde reminds me of our upcoming visit to New Orleans. I will need to take Louis Dean there for Cafe au lait and beignets! Do you think I MAY buy ANOTHER special cup then?? There is one sitting there that says 'Grandma' even though I am a 'MiMi'....not sure WHERE it came from but I am keeping it! None of the cups were expensive and I would not be devastated to lose one...however they do hold meaning for me....each and every one! Even the ones in our 'everyday' cupboard! I guess you could say that along with the cups that sit on that shelf are also many memories. It makes me happy when I look up and see them all.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Decorating the....Refrigerator?

Yes! I took every last magnet, photo, paper clippings, recipes...EVERYTHING OFF!! It looked HUGE, naked, ugly and black! I cleaned it well and had thought to leave it bare for awhile....but I could NOT do it!! Had all the 'stuff' piled into a basket and I began the 2 hour process of putting MOST of it all back on! I love the 'Mama Says...' calendars and often paint my version of some of the pages.

Today I put half a dozen of last years illustrations on as a 'base' and embellished them with the various magnets/photos to complement each theme. One section is patriotic...another the treasures of children...another making memories and a section down low for grandkids. I have 3 cookie magnets in that area that are 30 years old. The whole thing is filled with pics of loved ones and crammed full of good memories! Pictures of my Mother as well as quotes about MOM. Some of the quotes are old and stained but remain a treasure for me. A very favorite is one by Chuck Swindoll back in 1985...."We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations!" Isn't THAT the TRUTH??

A whole row of apples Amber, Benjamin and I painted.....a set of little square 'Mom' magnets my mother gave me when I had a second set of kids when in my late 30's....the poems Summer, Jesse, Jr and I all memorized in their childhood - 'Don't Quit' and 'Slow me down, Lord' of all four of my children plus my three grandchildren and my daughter in law, Leigh Ann, and son in law, Mike. Each picture brings back memories of what life was like at that time.....for instance the one I took of Summer in a field of bluebonnets brings to mind the refreshing freedom I was beginning to feel that spring. Also on there are a few favorite pics of myself. I love the 'Ring Dance' picture of Amber and Mike. The years from 1983 through 2009 are all accounted for right there on my refrigerator. I like it! A bare fridge (inside OR out) is so lonely looking! Better to have it chock full of interesting keepsakes on the OUTSIDE and healthy wholesome food on the INSIDE!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Simple Pleasures of Life

Today I am thinking of the many simple pleasures in life! The other day Louis Dean and I bundled up on what was a COLD winter day in Texas and walked to Braum's for some milk and bread. How wonderful to be in walking distance when you need just a few grocery items! We took Lucy who LOVES going on a neighborhood walk! When we returned we filled all the bird feeders up with fresh seed, using ALL the seed in our 'Seed Can' which is a galvanized trash barrel with a painted scene of trees, birds and feeders on it. Must send Louis Dean to the feed store today where you can buy 100 pounds for about $35. The purple finches were at the feeder Saturday! We sat in our 'restored' gazebo and enjoyed watching them as we drank our morning coffee. The gazebo is another one of life's simple pleasures for us.It is a wonderful place to read and talk and watch the activity of so MANY birds right there in our own back yard! We have trees and shrubs with berries which attract the birds as well as 2 water ponds and a bird bath and 2 feeders. Today I am having lunch with a friend and then attending Bible Study....both blessings to be enjoyed on a cold February day. Yesterday my sister in law, Ruth Ann and I took in a movie (Extraordinary Measures with Harrison Ford!) then shopped the local Goodwill store where we each found some lovely 'Treasures'.....then spent a few hours painting.....more simple pleasures of life! Whatever YOU find to do today, I hope it brings you a little splash of PLEASURE!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Secret of Happy Living..... not to do what you like, but to LIKE what you do! I read this on one of my daily calendars and how true it is! Life is too short to be miserable...and that is what you are if you are not doing what you love to do! I have loved all the stages in my life....wife, mother, home educator...I even liked the three years I worked at an insurance agency. What I love the MOST is being at home! I enjoy every aspect of homemaking from cleaning, baking, gardening, organizing, repairing, remodeling, decorating, designing, goes on and on! I know I am obsolete and few women actually prefer a life centered around the home any more. That's why I am glad God made all of us unique and we can appreciate the 'joys' he has set in each and every one of our hearts...whatever those JOYS are!

Louis Dean and I just returned home from a financial seminar with our Edward Jones adviser, Shannon Gregg. Shannon LOVES her work! She simply bubbles over with her enthusiasm for life! You can catch some of this yourself just by being around her! She is gifted and talented in art, design and photography, loves to travel, and has an adorable husband. But above all that she has a heart for helping people, specializing in helping them reach their financial goals in life and you can tell by watching her how much pleasure she gets from accomplishing this!

Another person comes to who is doing what SHE loves best! That is Summer, my first born daughter! She is an insurance person through and through! Always thinking along the lines of liability and insuring her customers have the best coverage available! She,too, absolutely LOVES her work! Insurance has proven to be her life calling as this has been her field since she was a very young adult. Like Shannon, Summer takes great pleasure in actually being able to HELP people! Always has...always will. Both Summer and Shannon are very PEOPLE type persons!

My youngest daughter, Amber, is a free lance writer and editor. Words and writing are her 'thing' and she is excellent with both! As a 21 year old she was an editor in chief of a luxury magazine in Houston, Texas. She also was editor in chief of HOUSTON BRIDES launching their first issue while working as a senior editor with Houston Modern Luxury. From a child she has loved books. When she was very young and not yet reading, she loved to look at books and see how the words formed sentences and paragraphs and the patterns they created on the page! Thankfully when she grew up she was able to use this love in her career..doing easily what would be a challenge for others! Amber does not write sequestered in a closet somewhere but is most comfortable around people! She was visiting here at home recently and writing a story in our den on her laptop even as Louis Dean and I were talking with each other. As a matter of fact, PEOPLE are the most important part of any story she writes!

I am grateful God made us each with a set of strengths and interests which will hold us in good stead as we live the perfect plan for OUR life! We all have things to do which we do not necessarily ENJOY doing! That is just a part of life but thank God for the most part we can live each and every day LIKING WHAT WE DO!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Counting my Many Blessings!!

I am counting my many blessings this afternoon even as I am sniffing and wiping tears from my eyes! I have so VERY much to be thankful for! Amber and Mike just left after being here for such a SHORT time it seems! They packed as much into their few days as they could cram! One of my favorite moments was on Saturday when Louis Dean and I had our morning coffee out in the gazebo and I was savouring the fact Amber and Mike were asleep in the guest room. Saturday was a lovely day and I got to see a lot of them as we did errands, went to a movie and later attended a party...all TOGETHER!!

I am thankful for many things as I write....I am thankful Amber will only be gone 6 months and then be back in Texas for good! Houston seems such a SHORT distance away NOW!!

I am also thankful that my siblings,my mother, my first born daughter and first born son and all three grandchildren live within 40 miles of me! How blessed am I to have them close when some families are scattered all over the world!

Another blessing is a trip to Florida coming soon where I can walk on the beach and visit with Becky and Simon....(Louis Dean's niece). We are looking forward to being with them and their daughter, attending Little House on the Prairie musical and getting to know and be with FAMILY!

I have many fun things planned for this spring! Remember the 'Bring Your Child to Work' days? Now Summer is 'Taking Mom on a Business Trip'! What fun that will be! Charlotte, NC in March! Summer will be receiving an award and I think it's the coolest thing in the world to be able to be there and share that moment WITH her! And even sooner.....this Thursday I am meeting her at lunch and we will spend the rest of the day together! Perhaps browsing shops or bookstores, lunch at Cafe Express, a movie? Who knows? Just spending time together is what it's all about! And I am grateful for daughters who WANT to spend time with me! A HUGE blessing!!

So even as I am a little sad at saying Good Bye....I must remind myself of all the blessings in my life! Now...I am off to a movie! 'Leap Year'....set in Ireland/Scotland/Wales area. A perfect treat for a Sunday that has turned cold and rainy!

Monday, February 15, 2010

It is a small world after all.....

It is a small world after all!! We had a Valentine Dinner Party last night given in honor of our Edward Jones financial advisor, Sharon Gregg. She just recently opened her own office and this party was to celebrate her success! My husband loves her like a granddaughter and I think he fills the bill as her grandfather wanna be! She had invited several of her clients most of whom we did not personally know. I was still in the kitchen preparing the salad when the guest began to arrive. As we all mingled around I was telling the group of my daughter returning from Scotland for a brief visit. One lady said, "Wait! Is she a BELL? WE have friends whose SON just returned from Scotland for a visit!" It turns out they are neighbors of Mike's parents here in Irving! They attended Amber and Mike's wedding and had known all the Bell Boys for years! What a small world! When we took Amber and Mike from the airport to Mike's parents' home, Sandy and Dave (we know their names NOW!) were just getting into their car to head to a motel as the power was out for the houses across the street from the Bells. So we had actually SEEN them on Friday afternoon and knew about the fall Sandy had taken that day and having to take their pets as well as themselves to a warmer place! Little did we know we would be hosting them at a dinner party on Sunday! It ends up that Sandy is active in a Tai Chi class, something Ruth Ann and I have talked about doing for two years. And I teach an art class here at home on Tuesday nights which is something Sandy has been wanting to get back into for awhile! Amazing how God causes people's paths to cross!

My sister in law, Ruth Ann, is another example. She and I have lived in the same section of town for over 40 years! Ruth Ann is sister to my husband's beloved first wife. At our wedding Ruth Ann was reunited with a friend of mine, June, with whom she had attended church for several years! Again, a small world!

The one thing I regretted about a second marriage is that you do not have 'history' together. God, in his infinite goodness, saw that we DID, actually! Although Louis Dean and his wife lived in South Texas for much of their marriage, Roy and Ruth Ann lived here in IRVING! SO they made many trips here to visit in the summertime and during holidays. I am certain our paths crossed unbeknownst to us! So we are able to share history of how Irving has grown and changed. I met my husband through eHarmony and he was living in Brownwood, Texas at the time so this 'Irving Connection' was something I discovered while we were dating! For years his son lived about a mile from me as does Roy and Ruth Ann!

It truly is a small world....after all!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Blanket of Snow!

A blanket of snow can be beautiful....and here in North Texas we have just that! BEAUTY! The still soft magical flakes have been falling steadily here at our house since 3:00 this morning. It is a Winter Wonderland out there and all the windows reflect a soft snow scene as we look out on all sides of our house. There is a hush in the neighborhood...a stillness.

I rather miss the days when I had children at home. On a day like this there would be much tracking in and out from the cold...socks would be laying out on the hearth to dry and there would have been marshmallows roasted in the fireplace as well as hot chocolate made in large batches. What I remember most fondly from past winter snow days is ....the snow ice cream! Benjamin, espcially, loved for me to make that! He would gather a huge mass of clean snow and I would add those special ingredients (sweetened condensed milk and vanilla) and whip up a big batch! I would always make enough for the whole neighborhood as we had lots of kids living here back then! Markie, Caroline and Emily next door....Brandy, Mac and Kyle across the street....and Tara, Andrew and later Bailey from the corner! What fun we all had! And of course they would build snowmen! Alas, our neighborhood is quiet this afternoon. All these children have grown up and sadly, not many have moved in to replace them. There are no snowmen on our street today...and not many footprints even! I walked to the curb to take pictures and hurried right back in to the warmth of the den fireplace!

My husband used this calm peaceful day to do what he loves best....bake! He made a couple dozen cinnamon rolls in honor of my daughter, Amber, and her husband, Mike, coming home for a visit from Scotland. They arrive tomorrow and he wanted Mike, especially. to be greeted with a batch of them. I just frosted them and now he's back in the kitchen making another double batch...this time with whole wheat flour! He is on the South Beach Diet so he figures he could eat ONE if it was made with healthier flour! All I know is it was a delight to wake up from my winter afternoon nap to the fragrant aroma of warm cinnamon rolls floating through the house!

Now to end this piece of writing with BAD news and GOOD news! The bad news is that as lovely as the blanket of snow is still very heavy! I am afraid I looked out my sewing room door and beheld a drooping gazebo! Louis Dean says it has suffered a fatal blow! The good news is....we will be purchasing a NEW one soon! Our life is richer for all the gazebo sitting hours we do out there. In good weather (which means ANY time we can sit without getting really wet or really cold!) we start our day with coffee in the gazebo. That's where we do a lot of our outloud reading. In the afternoon we usually meet back there for a break from whatever work or projects we have going and at night we gather one last time for a glass of wine and quiet conversation before bed. This one has served us well and we have loved it.....but how EXCITING it will be to get a NEW one!!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentine: The Memory of the Heart....

I have walked down Memory Lane this afternoon as I sorted through a bag of Valentines I saved during the childhood years of my youngest daughter and son. It was a nostalgic journey. I sometimes yearn to have those innocent years back for a moment just to savor the joy one more time. I loved it when my children expressed their heart and emotions so freely! We homeschooled - so many of the Valentines from them to me were 'Teacher' ones. My daughter, Amber, often wrote.."To Mom! You are the BEST!" On one of them she wrote..."Keep up the good work!" I see Valentines from their childhood friends..Markie, Caroline, Tara, Brandy....all whom have grown up now and yet remain in my heart. And there is a special collection of Valentines I sorted out. These include the ones from their Aunt Deanie who did not miss a single year as they were growing up! And there is another stack from 'Grandma'...known to ALL the other grandchildren in the family as Granny. Amber and Benjamin, however, wanted a GRANDMA and she was willingly called that by only the two of them! The next stack is from Summer, my first born daughter who is some 21 years older than Amber! She ALWAYS sent Valentines to ALL of us and I have carefully kept each one. There were many for ME as well....from Amber with whom I am still very close....and Benjamin of whom I have not seen in over a year. My Mother sent many....and I love to look at her signature. She had a stroke in 2005 and can no longer write as she once did. She had the most beautiful penmanship....graceful curving letters. My sister, Deanie, faithfully sent Valentines to me as well as the kids. She continues this tradition still! I received one in the mail just yesterday and I will save this one along with the many others I have collected from her over the years. I even have a couple she gave me when she was still a child herself...and signed her given name....which she seldom acknowledges anymore! And I have one from my other sister, Nita, and I found one from my brother, Lonnie!I married first and these were sent to me while they were still children! What a keepsake! Yes....Valentine's Day is a special time to reflect on the memories of our hearts....a time we can relive those treasured moments when LOVE expresses itself......from one heart to another!

Painting With Urgency!!

Last night we started a new art project! The last few weeks we have been leisurely finishing up things we had begun back before Christmas. However, the NEW canvas we began was painted with a good deal of URGENCY! It is a small 8X10 done in palette knife style. This motivates us to hurry! LOTS of paint AND a new style! Exciting! It also helps us paint out of our comfort zone...if we only paint what we are familiar with..we will not GROW in our art! So the three of us (Sabrina, Ruth Ann and I ) enjoyed art with glasses of herbal tea, bowls of potato soup, and background music of Andre Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. And we DID paint with an URGENCY about us!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

"The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul." Proverbs 13:9

I love this verse and it is oh, so TRUE! We finished the kitchen back splash project! Yesterday we made pretty good time on many accomplishments. First we tackled some outdoor work. It has been a real winter in Texas....and we do not always HAVE real winter weather here. Meaning COLD! The sky peeked out of the clouds and you could see great swathes of BLUE! But that was Friday and I was busy with errands, visits and other things and could not take advantage of this weather. Yesterday dawned with birds singing and coming to the feeder as we sat having coffee in the gazebo. FINALLY warm and pleasant enough to do some gazebo sitting! It was cloudy and chilly but not outright COLD and no percipitation. So we leveled off the flower bed we had begun work on 2 weeks ago and planted my bulbs, lavender, rosemary, pansies and onions. I plant onions right in there with the flowers as we have little garden area and must grow WHAT we can WHERE we can! The rosemary was planted between some of the rose bushes. I was told it keeps the pests off of them. Let's hope! My husband loves roses and we have over a dozen plants in a variety of colors. Everything planted in the front flower bed is fragrant! From honeysuckle to lantana to roses to lavender to rosemary and I am certain some MINT will still crop up...all sweet smells! This flower bed is in front of two windows...a guest bedroom and my husband's music room. In the spring when I turn the attic fan on (which I LOVE!) it will pull these scents right into the house!

After we had done as much as we could outside, we turned our efforts back to the kitchen! I guess we were a little more experienced after putting in two sessions on the walls in previous days! In two hours we had finished the last section of the back splash area. Louis Dean is very good with electrical repairs and wiring. In taking the outlets out so as to put spacers in to allow them to come forward a little in order to be flush with the cover, he discovered a plug that had been wired backwards. I have no idea what this means but he said it was dangerous and so he fixed it! He fixed several outlets on this particular project. One of the outlet boxes always pulled out a little when you unplugged something. NOT any more! It is as tight as it can be now!
By the time we slid into bed last night we had pretty much cleaned up the kitchen! We are very pleased with the way it looks! Back in 1983 when my house burned, I had wanted to put ceramic tile as a back splash. At the time SO MUCH needed to be done as we had to gut the entire house! As a 'temporary' measure, I put up some vinyl wallpaper.....and even REPLACED this wallpaper once...all the while still wanting to put up the tile. My sister recently re-did a home she bought and she used these kitchen wall panels in copper color. I liked them so well and they are so much easier to install that I decided to go that route! I LOVE the fresh look and the lift a new project gives to a room! AND my husband and I worked together on it making it even more special! Yes, the desire accomplished IS sweet to the soul!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Little Wine and Some Turpentine...

Those are the ingredients for a lovely evening of art and conversation. You do NOT mix the two liquids together although they DO have a connection. We began our class time with a little glass of wine as we sat by the fireplace in the den......always white wine for me and usually red for Sabrina while Ruth Ann enjoyed a glass of Black Current tea. It had been a stressful day for me with the current kitchen project I have going....and I am certain my friends carried in a certain amount of cares as well. We were all looking forward to an art session! I have been teaching and at times merely HOSTING an art class here in my home on Tuesday evenings for 33 years! The dining room is transformed into a studio by placing a cardboard cover on the table and covering it with a layer of newspaper. We pull from the buffet (which looks like it should hold table linens and such) the essentials for an art night....oil paints, turpentine, brushes, paper towels. As we prepare to put brush to paint to canvas, we start with a prayer. Then we begin what Sabrina calls 'art therapy'. Sabrina is a delightful artist! She has a real gift for creating and although she has only been painting a few years, she has already received awards in art shows for her work. She has an amazing talent! Ruth Ann, my sister in law, is another Lovely Lady of Art. Her artistic expressions with thread and fabric are stunning as can be seen when you look at one of her quilts! She has recently turned HER hand to painting with wonderful results!

So on this winter evening in February, we three paused from the business of life and gathered together to relax and create....with a little help from the wine and the turpentine!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

One Thing Leads to ANOTHER!!

It never FAILS!! I get all excited about a project and thing leads to another! It SLOWS me down and I get so impatient! We stayed up late last night cutting the panels for our kitchen under the cabinet area. I was all set to install them when I woke up this morning! But FIRST came coffee...then our reading...then our talking....and FINALLY we got to the kitchen. I had no sooner installed the first section (which measures only 15 X 13 inches!) and was ready to sqeeze the glue onto the next (which has THREE outlet holes cut out!!) when Louis Dean called out. "PROBLEM!" Apparently the electrical work done back in 1983 when my house burned was not quite as kosher as Louis Dean would have done it! It seems that the eletrician had cut an outlet hole TOO BIG and instead of fixing and/or putting in a double outlet there he just put in a spacer and proceeded. I am not knowledgeable in any way regarding electricity and STILL do not understand why we could not continue on....the plug has worked for lo these 27 years with no problem but NO! My husband must fix it RIGHT and right NOW! When we get that wall finished I will have a grand total of FOURTEEN holes to plug something in!!! That is FIVE regular outlets and one DOUBLE outlet! All in a 15 X 83 inch wall! Can you SEE that many things even fitting on the counter to plug into these sockets?? I am planning to cover the outlet covers with plates I will design and paint to be as least noticeable as possible! I am now going off to CLEAN SOMETHING while he finishes THIS project so we can continue on with the job at hand! I am indeed blessed to have a 'Handy Man' type of guy for a husband! And he is glad I quit the emotional tearing up when I had to accept this lull in the action! I was SO on a roll!!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cleaning Like a Mad Woman!

If you know me at all, you know I have tons of 'STUFF'.....literally! I keep seemingly everything! A friend recently sent me instructions on making Quilted Postcards....I already HAVE all the materials! I have things I have kept over 40 years.....way too many 'things' altogether! SO! Since I have been ill with flu/cold/allergies for most of the month of January.....and since THIS is February 1st....I am into a cleaning frenzy! This includes throwing out stuff! I purchased 2 new lamps for the den last Friday to REPLACE 2 in the den...not ADD to them! I hauled one of the old ones to the curb (AFTER having removed the perfectly good shade which I used on a different lamp and then tossed THAT shade out! Are you following??) SO one went to the curb and the other one is SO very heavy....and the shade was SO very sturdy....that as I was trying to wrestle it out of the den, I thought about our gazebo! We have what my son in law calls 'Throne Chairs' out there with a table between and lo, and behold! this HEAVY and STURDY lamp looks perfect there!! We will replace the bulb with one of those yellow bug lights and be in business for the summer season! Till the pests appear we will just use the soft lighting it has in it now. On to another room....our bedroom. I had a 4 drawer WHITE wicker chest in there between the door and the bathroom. Now WHITE doesn't go with ANYTHING I have much less my bedroom suite! I do not even remember where this piece came from! I emptied the drawers onto the bed (vests I had forgotten I had!) and hauled it to the foyer.....Louis Dean just returned from taking it to the curb! As I was leaving the house this morning for a meeting at church, I looked at the wreath on my front door that has seen better days and in a moment of reckless abandonment, I jerked it OFF the door and casually flung IT onto the growing pile! I am feeling the power!!! Now that I am home and have the rest of the day as well as week to CLEAN....I am going to go after it! I spent 2 hours in the main bathroom alone yesterday....and tossed a tall kitchen sack FULL out! That was followed by 2 hours in the bedroom but I only managed to scratch the surface! My goal is to have the house CLEAN by Saturday....with a couple of projects done as well. I am putting a new back splash in my kitchen! 'Decorative Thermoplastic Wall Panels' in the Bronce Bermuda finish. So with that carrot dangling in front of me, I am about to clean like a mad woman!! Although I am actually extremely HAPPY!