2/1/11 - 3/1/11

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The Art of Keeping House

Have you ever thought of your home as a ‘work of art’ ?  After seeing so many beautiful homes on blogs around the country, I'm pretty sure most people do. Certainly decorators like Maria of Colour Me Happy and Mary Ann of Classic-Casual-Home, understand the subtleties of beauty in the home.

I know that I revel in the texture of fabric, ornately carved crystal, and the detail in every day decor. But what we don't talk about much is how...
Housekeeping is the key to revealing a home's beauty. 
 A beautiful home won't stay pretty long, if it's buried in clutter.

This hit home for me the day I noticed that my new refrigerator didn’t look so ‘spandy nice’  as it had at the store. Most of the 'new' feel of an item is tied in to the clean factor, isn't it?

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to ruin the 'look' of a stylish hotel room?  It’s simple--just leave out your shoes, clothes, shopping bags, and paperwork.  And for sure...“Don’t worry about the bed--just let the maid get that!”

If you leave messes all over your hotel room, it won't look lovely for long. And the maid isn’t going to pick up your stuff--that’s your job. :o)  When I stay in a hotel room, I want to enjoy it's beauty...not live in the mess of my own clutter. What a waste of money that would be!


Here’s the rub though. The same thing happens in our own homes every day. Why buy a lovely home, furnish it stylishly  and paint it lovely shades of just the right color, just to bury it all in clutter? In order to enjoy a beautiful home, you have to keep it clean and picked up. It's that simple.
A room truly can be a work of art..if we are willing to see the beauty in every day things and to maintain that beauty .

Sadly, no fairy godmother is going to show up to whisk away the mess.  And it doesn't work to clean once a week either, because you still have to live in the mess the rest of the week.  As Denice Shofield, said in Confessions of an Organized Housewife  a house needs daily attention. Things need to be put back in their rightful places--often!


It occurred to me, one morning, that if everyone in the house would pick up after themselves,  I'd gain a couple of spare hours of prime work time.

Yes, I am the homemaker, but I’m not a butler or personal maid.

We all need to show common courtesy by  not leaving things out for someone else to pick up. If I don’t train my kids to do this, I’m doing them a great disservice. Habits like orderliness will serve them well for the rest of their  lives. If they don’t learn it now, the messy habit will plague them forever.

Did you know that stuff causes stress too? Jamie of Life and Love in the Country talked about the dramatically improved attitude of her son after removing excess toys in her post "Lessons from a Toddler". Less stuff equals a happy toddler!

by Rebekah

So, I had a chat with the kids and let them know that, as of today, all items left out for an hour or more, would be ticketed at a quarter per item (using sticky dots). Somehow, my regular reminders had not eliminated the messy habit up to now.

I'm hoping this new system will...
  •  Train the kids to pick up after themselves.
  • Net some extra free time.
  • Get them used to an orderly environment.
  • Help us be more prepared for emergencies.
  • Eliminate ‘big’ cleaning days. 
  • Leave time for more Family Fun.
  • Help us find things more easily.

If an object isn’t adding to the beauty of a room..
then it should be put away.
italian glass

The heart of housekeeping is the idea of maintaining the beauty of our home. That's something even young children can understand and help with.


Even the most simple home can be pretty with regular maintenance.  Why do your work in a messy environment when you could function in a lovely one? Finding beauty in every day things  and maintaining that beauty is part of what makes homemaking …an art.

Linking with My Romantic Home's Show and Tell Friday
and Raising Homemakers' Homemaking Link Up


What are You Relying on...Faith or Feelings?

Having one of those PMS days? I know all about that, unfortunately.  One of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the years is NOT to rely on my ‘feelings’. I’ve historically been one of the more emotional types. I've always had to sort of 'ignore' how I feel and get past it. In a way, hitting ‘menopause’ has been one of the most blessed events of my life! Hurrah!! Now I get to sit and ‘stoically’ respond to the ups and downs of life without looking like I’ve lost my mind.  I look pretty mature no matter what the circumstances… So this is how the male world feels?! Wow..awesome!

You just can’t imagine how hard it is to ‘look’ like a mature responsible adult  when you cry about absolutely everything!  Does your family have to ask, “Are those happy tears or sad tears Mom?”  Poor Tim…I don’t know how he has managed to stay sane while living with my hormonal ups and downs.  Whether happy, sad, angry, or tired..I’ll probably cry.   He and Eleanor  (of Sense and Sensibility) have a lot in common.

Hormone days, as I call ‘that time of the month’ are the craziest of all. I only have ONE hormone day so it's not a crisis for me. But it always catches me by surprise because it really is a crazy day. Thank goodness..I don’t get mad as I know some women do, but I will cry at the absolute drop of the hat. Like Marianne, I just weep and weep…  The funny thing is that after years of this cyclical event, I’m now no longer ‘caught off guard’.  How do I know nothing is wrong? Ah..I just know.  I began to realize, early on in my married life, that if I was suddenly overly upset or anguished about something and knew that I normally wasn’t upset about the issue…then it must be ‘the day’ or fast approaching. It helped me to separate true issues that needed to be resolved over just the emotional upheaval of my hormonal roller coaster ride.  It makes sense to mark the day on a calendar..and then warn the whole family…hormone day is coming? Watch out…it’s ‘that time of the month’.

It might be good to note here that we women probably need to remember that having a PMS day is no excuse to let our hubby or family ‘have it’…just because we are feeling bad. I had that little ‘talk’ with Rebekah when she was eleven.  For some totally unexplained reason…she just about pummelled her little brother Christian. All he was doing was waving monopoly money in her face…over and over again. Normally, she would just laugh it off and make him stop. But that day…well..he got more than he bargained for.    I quickly realized that Rebekah must be on the verge of that hormonal transition that we women all make around that time of life. So we had ‘the talk’. Yes, you  may feel like walloping your brother more than you normally do..but we musn’t give in to those feelings. 

We’ve learned to give ourselves a ‘time out’ from normal life at times like that. Kind of like the werewolf who locked himself in at night so he wouldn’t ‘wreak havoc’ while in his ‘wolf’ form, I’ve sometimes been tempted to do the same thing myself. Ha!  What I have done is make a point of not making any decision or even allowing myself to THINK about anything truly important at that time.  That’s a good rule of thumb period. If you are upset…then put off those big discussions and decisions for at least 24 hours.  And don’t have major discussions with dear hubby at night. Bad idea.  You’re both tired. Wait till morning! Things look so much brighter and reasonable in the morning!

Why did the Lord orchestrate the arrival of menopause to coincide with the hormonal upheaval of puberty in five teenagers? I don’t know…except that he may just have a strange sense of humor..or maybe he wants to show just how awesome and powerful he really is! Tee-hee! If He can keep us all loving and gracious in the midst of that storm, which he has, then He’s pretty awesome right?  I do know that it has been during this last few years of family ‘hormonal’ stew, that I’ve learned to walk a lot more by faith..and less by my feelings.

by Rebekah

I’ve had to live more on my knees…and I’ve learned NOT to trust my judgment so much. I’ve learned to pray truly in faith..knowing I just couldn’t do it on my own. It’s so hard to be ‘objective’ when emotions are overwhelming you.  That’s why I’ve learned to ‘love the Lord with all of my mind’. I’ve finally learned that what I think is going to overflow into how I feel.

 8“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,   
         Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.

9“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,   
         So are My ways higher than your ways   
         And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9
As Flylady says so well, we need to get rid of ‘stinking thinking’.  That’s what devotions are all about…renewing our mind. God’s ways really aren’t our ways, nor are his thoughts our thoughts.  It really doesn’t matter how I feel…what matters is what does the bible say. What is the truth?  If he says it, that really does settle. No need to worry about how I feel.  God is there..unchanging..faithful…loving me, loving my family, caring for us in every way whether it ‘feels’ like it or not.
All of this ran through my mind during my devotions today. I got away to spend time with the Lord and didn’t feel anything…at all. But I did it anyway. I read his word, I worshiped him, I prayed about everything that needed to be prayed about, and I just sat there in His presence knowing that he really was ‘present’. So what if I didn’t ‘feel’ anything?  It doesn’t change the facts. God is there…listening and always will be.  Sometimes, I’m really grateful that I have these times of feeling nothing..however much they may be hormonally related..because it gives me a chance to truly walk by ‘faith’.   As Bill Gothard said, “Sometimes, reading God’s word is like cereal…dry..but nourishing!”  So true…

Today I was reminded to meditate on his word, pray, and love him…with all my mind…as well as with all my heart.  Just like water and sunshine cause  a plant to grow…basking in the sunshine and watering of the Lord’s word and presence will help me grow too.  I don’t have to see it happening…I just know it. :o)

Isaiah 55:10-11

10“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,   
         And do not return there without watering the earth   
         And making it bear and sprout,   
         And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;

11So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;   
         It will not return to Me empty,   
         Without accomplishing what I desire,   
         And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

Love, Donna

Linking with Spiritual Sundays

For more devotional entries visit my journal, Thoughts of Home
or my daughter's journal Life of Light

This Week..at Our House..

It's been busy around the home front for sure! Aren't we all? I promised Hubby that I would try to write a weekly post with family news so we can send it to relatives. I do have family who check the blog, but for those who don't I plan to pass it on via email. I thought some of you might like to hear our 'local' news too. There are some tidbits of useful info in this post. :o) This week's news includes a new pet, update on A and E's move to Seattle, a raise, an award, a great test score and some creative photography, plus a prayer request for my Marine son.

My biggest 'personal' news this week, aside from the obvious--A & E moving to Seattle--is that we have a new family member…Kitty! She was Andrew and Ebeth’s calico cat and they didn’t think she would handle the trip across country at all. So we have ‘adopted’ her. So far, she is adjusting very well. By the end of the week, she had made it all the way from the bedroom on one end of the house to the coffee table at the other end. She tolerates our two cats, Midnight and Tiger, hisses at Percy, our dog, to keep him at a safe distance, and has managed to pull down the birdcage after three attempts. (Davy Jones is just fine.) We are going to have to hang the bird cage or eventually, she is going to get him. 

     kitty 1

She’s super cuddly and loves to loll around or drape herself over you in bed. And she is not at all shy about getting you to pet her. I had to hide my hands underneath me to get her to let me sleep while Tim was in Seattle with the kids.  She is absolutely the most gorgeous cat! I’ve always wanted a Calico, but never thought I’d ever get one. But here she is.. (of course, A and E may decide they can’t live without her and pay to have her shipped and I wouldn’t blame them, but for now..I’m really enjoying her being here. It gives me someone to cuddle in place of the grandbabies. Sigh..  

DSC04133Lena Plays the Piano by Rebekah

So..on to the news for this week..  Our biggest news is of course, that Andrew and Elisabeth have moved to the Seattle area (Kent actually)!  I chatted with Ebeth and Lena (and Andrew) via webcam on Skype last night..and I’m feeling so much more cheerful about the separation. Lena giggled and laughed at me while crunching on goldfish crackers and toddled off to her bedroom to ‘show’ me where her toys are now. Thanks, Ebeth, for bringing along your laptop so I could see. :o)  Ebeth was busily putting together a small dresser for the kids and they have almost all of their furniture in the house. Tomorrow, they plan to get a couch.  Andrew starts work this coming Monday. They are as happy as they could possibly be with the new job and the new city. Andrew may even get to use the bus system to go to work which means they will only need one car.  Sure hope we can make a trip out there soon. 



Their drive across country went  beautifully although they did have to back track an hour when they discovered the bad snow storm in Wyoming. Now they are scrambling to buy coats and winter clothes. It’s hard to find much here in Houston, so they had to wait until they got there to get what they need. Too funny really!  And I got to talk to dear Augy too when Ebeth picked him up out of the crib from his nap. Is there anything more wonderful than video cams and skype for Grandma’s who live far from their grandbabies? I think not!  They got to have dinner with Tim’s brother, Mike and wife, Kristi and the twins. (I’m just a wee bit jealous as I haven’t met the twins yet!) They are the most beautiful little kids I’ve ever seen..really!

 Brennan opens his gift brennan Amanda and Nikolai's bday

Amanda, my DIL,  is holding down the home front with three kiddos, two of whom celebrated their birthdays this month! Brennan turned 3 on Feb.11 and Nikolai turned 1 on Feb. 2nd..my birthday!  Amanda shared photos on facebook and I really enjoyed them so much. I can hardly believe that they will be in Texas in only ten days! We will be having grandkids and lots of fun sometime in March! I’m so looking forward to their visit.  I sent Colin, who is five, I think (yipes..my brain!) a little toy for Valentine’s day. It’s hard to be the only kiddo not getting a toy. When he’s older, he’ll understand better, but I wanted him to know Grandma was thinking of him too.

Matthew is part of the 2nd Radio Battalion   in Afghanistan. We’re still praying very hard for him. He lost his best friend in action while on patrol only a couple of weeks ago, and then called last night to say that another friend was severely injured in the same way. He sounded very discouraged. War is just not something anyone is really prepared for I’m afraid.  Our family shipped him a care package of goodies for him and his buddies today. I just wish we could do more. He’s called several times this last two weeks and I’m always so thrilled to lend a listening ear. That and prayer are all we can do. He’s in the Lord’s hands and we are trusting in God’s perfect will for his life. 

Jacob just won first place  in the Right to Life Oratory contest. :o) (Got some scholarship money too!) We are very proud of him and glad that he could share his heart in such a special way. He will be giving the speech next weekend at the Right to Life banquet and will also go on to the state competition. He also made a near perfect score on the ASVAB though they still won’t give him Tier 1 status (Highschool Grad. equivalent.) He’s categorized as Tier 2 or GED /dropout status.  All because he’s homeschooled. I find that hard to understand considering he has a 4.0 gpa and 12 college credits at Lone Star.  Hopefully, the military will get this figured out one of these days. A 96 on the ASVAB (50-60 is considered excellent) should mean something! :O) Ah..well.. They promise it won’t affect his career or his entrance into the college program with Texas Army Nat. Guard.  


Our big kink this week is that when Jacob went through a severe spell of fainting called Teen Syncope (fainting), which he grew out of, we didn’t ever go back to the original doctor for a final bill of good health. So I spent the week driving from hospital to hospital to doctor’s office getting medical records proving they had found nothing wrong. We may have to go back to the doctor and let him do a final exam for that purpose in order for Jacob to get in.  Lesson learned..get medical records and keep them. You never know when you will need them for your kids!



Rebekah has been working at Chili’s now for several weeks and just got a raise! She’s so excited! They also increased her hours and will be training her for possible future management position.  She came home pretty excited today. She’s also working very hard on her flower bed and has planted some herbs and some flowers. I’m so relived that she is staying busy.  Christian went with her to hang out for ‘ultimate frisbee’ day and they played sports for six hours with some home school and square dance friends. Christian adores sports and I was so glad Rebekah was willing to take him with her.  She and Christian are both very athletic. 

by Rebekah

One really special thing that has brightened my life considerably is that she is writing a daily online devotional called Life of Light.  I read it daily and write her notes. I never realized what a great writer she was or just how deep her relationship with the Lord was until I began reading this blog. She inspires me! What a blessing! I’m going to start sharing her posts on Sundays because I think they will bless your socks off! And her photography is stunning too.

Christian has been diligently studying with his Dad and is now ready to write his first computer program. That just blew me away! Tim wants him to design a simple ‘hangman’ game. How fun! He loves learning to program and I think this may well be the direction that his life’s work will go.  He and Tim are super close buddies and ‘hang out’ a lot. :o)


 DSC04882             DSC04883

He’s also taking photos for me on commission. I pay him a .25 per photo. He’s starting to upload more of his photos on his photography blog. I think ‘hiring’ him helps inspire him to take his art more seriously. I’ve also commissioned Rebekah to do the same thing. I’m amazed at how good most of my kids are at photography. They take stunning photos with so little effort. They sure didn’t get it from me. I’m getting better but I have to take tons of photos to get the same results they do with just a few shots. I think it’s because they ‘think ouside the box’ so much better than I do. And they appreciate details…I’m always gravitating towards the ‘big picture’. I’ve had to train myself to stop doing old fashioned mom-style photography. :o) His photo blog is MiPixx .

This coming week, I'm planning to talk about...
  • The Art of 'Keeping' House
  • Tuesday Tea: The Need for Fellowship
  • What is Boutis or French Quilting?
  • Texan Beauty - Photo Shoot by Rebekah
  • Stylish Blogger Award from The Clip Cafe--Thanks!

Well that’s all of our news for this week! Hope you are having a great week too! I’d love to hear all about your news too. 

What’s the biggest news at your house this week?


How to Alter a Prom Dress (Cheap Bridesmaid Dress!) ~ Bonus: Easy Fairy Tu-Tu!

This used to be a full length strapless dress..with no bow in the back or shawl.
Rebekah was going to her first homeschool prom with Daddy as her ‘date’.
She didn’t want to go with a ‘boy’. :o)

One of the things I’ve gotten really good at, due to sheer lack of funds, over the years is altering prom dresses so that they are either more modest..or more stylish..or both. We’ve done this to make inexpensive bridesmaid's dresses and to make more modest dresses for proms, cotillions or father-daughter dances. Wow..what a help that was!  Considering that the normal bridesmaid or prom dress costs a good $200.00 minimum, this is an essential skill for cutting costs.

skirt from altered prom dress
Rebekah altered an old prom dress to make her first square dance skirt.
Like mother..like daughter!

We have altered prom dresses for bridesmaid’s dresses (tea length) and square dances, or just took a thrift store ballroom gown and altered it for a party dress. My friends are all into this idea of saving money but still being able to come up with great party dresses. The average cost of a gown from a thrift store is around $20-30.  

Rebekah's dress

Most of the time, the dress doesn’t fit..or it shows a little too much skin for a pre-teen..hence the need to alter the gown.  Why alter a thrifted purchased ballgown rather than sewing it yourself? It’s a huge savings of time and energy, plus you can get yards and yards of gorgeous designer fabric for only a few dollars a yard! Why not? 

Getting Ready for the Dance

The most common tricks I have for altering a prom dress are to cut off the length (making it tea length) and using the excess fabric to
  • Cover the chest just a little bit more. (You can also tuck in a bit of organza.)
  • Make wider straps instead of strapless or spaghetti straps
  • To add a big bow in the back or front
  • To make a shawl to cover their shoulders ~ Looks elegant and shows a bit less skin. :o)
  • Make an inset panel to hide their back when all the dress has is criss-crossed spaghetti straps.

Now, Rebekah and I aren’t the only brainy mom-daughter teams to come up with such a great idea.  The Velardes and Rayberns have been doing the same thing for years. The girls all attended the prom mentioned above together. :o)

il_570xN.213322741 il_570xN.191163525
Just click on the photos to go to the Etsy shops by Glamtastik and Tirastutus. Gorgeous dresses!

So when Jeannie and her daughter Jessie asked to come over, I happened..to have just one evening available and hubby wasn’t home from Seattle yet, so I was lonely. In fact all the kids were off having a great time..so I squeezed in two hours with Jeannie, her daughter, and friend. :o)  They are so smart!  


Jessie and her friend and mom all got on ETSY and started looking at ideas for cute cotillion dresses.  They purchased a lovely black prom dress that was SUPER short but absolutely stunning!  Jessie wanted the bodice or corset look of the first dress and the multi-layered colors of tulle for a tutu.

First, they told me the dress needed to be longer and gave me some purple fabric for an ‘underskirt’. I suggested that we fold the purple rectangle into a triangle (twice) and cut out a waist, just like I demonstrate in my tutorial, “How to make a circle skirt without sewing.” We skipped the last step. Instead of cutting off the bottom edge into a curve, we left the points. 


All she has to do now is add a wee bit of elastic to tighten up the waist. It is knit fabric and slipped right over her head. We decided not to even bother hemming as it will be topped with so much tulle.

cutting fabric DSC04911
Then we cut the different colors of tulle into long strips. We draped the strips in the color order we wanted over a wide band of satin ribbon and then tied them in knots (so as not to make the waist to bulky).


Now, Jessie has a tie-on tulle multicolored tu-tu. It took only a very few minutes to do this! Super EASY!

The last part was altering the prom dress. We cut it off at hip length to give the ‘effect’ of a corset. It has a strong knit under fabric which I will hem with a tiny narrow hem. We decided to just have Mom hand tack the bottom edge of the sturdy black under shirt to the tulle skirt so it will stay down while dancing. No doubt a more permanent solution could be done, but they wanted the option to remove the tulle tu-tu and just use the purple skirt on occasion.

prom dress

   hem blouse

First we cut off about a 5” wide strip of both layers of the dress.  I made a 1/2” wide hem on the lower edge of the sheer fabric of the blouse/dress so that  it will just drape loosely. It didn’t look quite right tucked in or poofed (like a puff skirt) over the edge of the tu-tu.  

add strap

From the excess fabric that we cut off, I fashioned a ‘gathered’ shoulder strap to hand sew to the dress, just inside the original shoulder strap. Normally, I would remove the original straps, but they didn’t feel it was necessary. This is a lot quicker. I gather the lower edge of the fabric for the shoulder strap on both ends and then stitch it in place. You can baste it right in the middle of the strap to keep it bunched up or spread it out over the shoulders like Rebekah did at the top of this post.

Gather folded tulle strip bow with pin

Then we made a tulle flower of gold. I just cut a strip about five or six inches wide, folded it in half lengthwise,  and gathered it into a ruffle flower to put at Jesse’s shoulder. We added a center flower of pink just for a little added pizzaz.  While we were in the ‘designing phase’, I just gathered the ruffle with two safety pins. In a pinch this would work just fine. :o)


Well, I hope I’ve covered everything for those of you ladies out there who are brave and want to try this. Frankly, there wasn’t much sewing to it. Other than hemming the blouse, and hand stitching the straps on, that was about it. Mom tucked a little leftover purple in the front…which I thing is just fine.  Doesn’t Jesse look great? I know she is thrilled and I’m so glad I could help them out. I hope to do a lot more of this sort of thing for friends at church when I get caught up around here. 

As always, feel free to email me if you have any questions.

Laura's Royal Wedding Wednesday What To Wear Linky Party

Linking with My Romantic Home's Show and Tell Friday. 

“There's nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.” ~ Margaret Sangster

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