"By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge it's rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." Proverbs 24:3-4

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Front Porch Inspiration

It's summertime!!!

Woo-Hoo!!!

I truly hope all of you are having a marvelous summer. 

I'm just popping in today with a quick post about my front porch inspiration, and then I plan to take a small blogging break. 

Don't worry, just a teeny-tiny little break, because I would miss you too much! And because we've been up to our eyeballs in summer fun in the sun! 

We've been going to the beach...

                

And to ball games...

               

And to amusement parks...

               

And in between it all I've been working at home, which is my favorite thing to do!

This is my front porch:


I have a folder that I like to go to for inspiring photos that I've been collecting. I have a "front porch" section in my folder. It looks like this:

                

It's filled with magazine clippings, mostly from old Victoria magazines. (Victoria is by far my most favorite magazine!) 

I don't like to save whole magazines. Instead, I'll tear out a page or two of something that really strikes me, file it away in my folder, then pitch the magazine. 

Sometimes I'll circle what inspires me and maybe even jot a note to my future self:



             

Then, when I go back later to look for inspiration, I have some direction. 

See?! My front porch now has a white swing with blue ticking pillows:

           

Another page in my front porch inspiration shows hanging basket ferns:



           

Isn't that arch just beautiful?! My house doesn't have that kind of architectural detail, but I can hang a few ferns! I really love the look of hanging basket ferns on old farmhouses, so I decided to do that this year:


           


Here's another magazine clipping that inspires me. I'm drawn to the blue hydrangea bushes and cement urns:


Yes, I know my house doesn't even come close to the beauty and character of this house, but I try not to let that discourage me. Last fall I had Micah rip out the dying bushes in front of our porch. Because of this picture, (that I've been saving for years) we planted Endless Summer Hydrangea's in their place.


They're babies now, as you can see, but they survived their first winter and came back green with the start of some blooms. When I water and fertilize them, I pray over them that they will thrive! The other day I noticed a faint hint of blue around the edges of the petals! Oh, how this thrills me!

           

Do you think my cement urns look like the inspiration urns?


I think they're close enough! 

                

I prefer to look to the old magazines for my inspiration, over what's new and modern these days. I literally, actually have the magazines that my mother and grandparents had from the 80's and 90's. I've been slowly going through them over the years, tearing out the pages I want to keep, so that I can pitch them to declutter. 

I'll have to do a post on this someday because when I'm looking through these old magazines I find myself thinking, "I wish young homemakers could see how much better our mothers and grandmothers decorated their homes compared to what we're doing." 

Everything's gotten too modern these days. And I always get the sense, when I see brand-new, generically decorated homes, that it's all meant to impress. We're losing the down-home, comforting feel in our homes in exchange for what will my friends think when I entertain? Or, I can't decorate well because I have little kids. I think it's a shame.

Yes friends, this certainly sounds like a topic for a future post! But for now, I'll leave you with a few more photos of my front porch...

              


Impatients always seem to do well on my porch each year because they're shielded from the sun.

              

              

Thank you to all of you who faithfully read and leave comments for me. Whether it's here or on the link that I post on FB, I truly appreciate the comments that I get! You are always so encouraging to me! Thank you! 

Keep enjoying your summer!

I'll be back soon...

~Courtney 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Standards In The Home and Love Letters

In January 2014, I began writing to Elsa, my fourth baby, who was only a few months along in my tummy.

I hadn't written to any of my other children, but had the idea that I would begin sort of a journal or letter, hand-written by me, to just her.

In it, I thought I could record some family information, stories, motherly advice, etc...

It's been over two years since I began and I'm still writing to her. It's become more than a letter, it's now a book! My hope is to give it to her when she's a young adult, and my prayer is that she will treasure it.

This is a picture of the very first page:




Today I want to share an excerpt from her book. I think this specific excerpt fits nicely with the theme of my blog. It was written in the fall of 2015, right after a conversation that I had had with an older mom friend of mine, about the topic of standards in the home. Should a mother lower her standards for her home because she has young children? The following are the thoughts I recorded. I hope you enjoy it.

My sweet Elsa,

It's Fall now. I just finished putting supper in the crockpot for us. It's late on a Sunday afternoon. Everyone is resting or watching football but I can't sit so I put in some laundry, tidied the kitchen, and made soup. To me, true rest is found in useful activity. I find it relaxing to chop up some garlic, and onion, and parsley, etc...

I love working in my home. I do get overwhelmed sometimes. I was just walking around and noticed toys on the floor, papers scattered about on the table, smudges and finger prints on the door, and several other messy or out-of-place things. It reminded me of an older mom telling me recently that I should "lower my standards".

She said that since I'm a mom of young children and I homeschool, that that is where my focus should be and nothing else is all that important. She advised me to consider getting rid of my house plants and antiques because that might lighten my load and eliminate some stress. As she was telling me this I couldn't help but think, "What an unbelievably odd suggestion." And I've been pondering this ever since. Here's what I've come up with:

You will never meet a successful person (whether it's in business, or their marriage, or any other form of success) and have them tell you that the key to their success all began with them lowering their standards. On the contrary, any well-run business, clean home, beautiful garden, etc... came to be because someone decided to work hard and prioritize it.

Well-meaning people have said to me that a messy, unorganized home is normal when you have little kids. Yes, I suppose to a degree that is true. But I would say, just because something is normal doesn't mean it's acceptable. 

I think more young mothers should prioritize their homes and strive to make them beautiful and clean. What a gift they would be giving their family! I sure hope that this can be said about me! And from what I can see, it begins with a decision to raise ones standards, instead.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Elsa's book is filled with a variety of things, like a description of my childhood home, her first words and sentences, funny family stories, how her dad and I met, family tree-type information... And lots and lots of pages telling her how much she's loved and adored by me and her family.

(This is me with my children the summer I was pregnant with Elsa.)


I've also included some detailed stories of ways I've seen God move in my life as well as some of my personal struggles.

- An excerpt from January 2014:

~ ~ I don't know what your life will be like. Your struggles will look different than mine, I'm sure. But no matter what the future holds for you, Elsa, I want you to know that life in Christ is never hopeless. Scripture is a deep well of comfort. God is Just and Sovereign. He has a plan for your life. ~ ~

(Baby Elsa last summer.)

                

- An excerpt from July 2015:

~~ I can't imagine life without you! You are like the cherry on top of our family! Daddy and I love you so much! Your brothers and sissy adore you! ~~ I'm so glad God gave you to me! I consider you a special gift! God has a wonderful plan for your life, Elsa, and I'm looking forward to watching it unfold. ~~

(Elsa today.)


               

- An excerpt from June 2016:

~~ Elsa, you are such a joy! You absolutely light up my life! You are a good girl and a good listener! You are almost two and I can't believe it! Not a baby anymore :( :( You're running around all over the place, wanting to be a part of what the big kids are doing. I told you when I began writing to you, that I wanted to record some of my life experiences. This Spring I saw God move in my life and speak to my heart. I want to tell you about it... ~~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Recently I watched an interview with Anderson Cooper, and he said something that struck me. He said that his father died when he was only ten-years old. He then spent the rest of his childhood into his teen years with the fantasy that maybe his father had left him a letter that would surface in his adult years. A letter that would tell him everything he didn't know about his father and his life. He went on to say that there was never any such letter and that he didn't want that same heart break when his mother dies. So, he's been in the process of writing a book with his mother.

I mention this little story to say that kids really do want to know about their parents! They're interested in details and stories! It gives them a sense of belonging. If something happens to me and I die young, my children will have some information about me and my life, written by me, through this blog and the book to Elsa. 

I plan to continue writing to her, and to you, too, my dear readers! 

Until next time...

xoxo,

~ Courtney 


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Splitting Peonies

 "To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow." 
~Audrey Hepburn 



                   

Do you see these peonies? Aren't they wonderful? They are the result of a plant-splitting experiment. Micah and I are not gardeners. When we bought our house, it came with three established peony bushes. They quickly became my favorites! 

Last spring we noticed that we had a little empty spot next to our roses that we thought would look better if it was filled in with something. We wondered if peonies could be split and transplanted. I told Micah the pale pink ones were my favorite, and I would love to have more! 

This is the mother plant last spring right before she bloomed and was split. She sits proudly at our front gate, and has always been faithful to bloom beautifully for us every year.


                 

After she was split and transplanted, we found out that peonies can be split, but it's advised that it's done in the fall. I became a nervous wreck. We did it in the spring! I didn't know if it would still work. 

I faithfully watered the little plant, every single morning, for the entire spring and summer. It stayed alive and green all summer, but never budded or bloomed.

It survived its first winter, and came up green early this spring. I was hopeful! And then, about a month ago, I noticed buds! I called Micah over to it, saying, "Look! Look! It just might bloom! This makes me so happy!" 

               

He smiles and nods, and walks away rolling his eyes, whenever I get unreasonably excited about silly things. I don't care, I think this is magnificent!!! 

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."  ~Albert Einstein 

Look at this! Only one year later we have these beautiful blooms:

               

I think they get along well next to the roses...

              

And how do they know how to poke their little heads through the fence?! I'm glad they know how to do this! It makes me so happy!

              

The mother plant acts as if nothing ever happened: 




Isn't she beautiful?! This is what she looks like from inside the fence:


So, I now have two pale pink bushes, a white bush, and a deep pink bush. This morning I decided to go out and cut some blooms for the house. Fresh decorating is my favorite kind of decorating. While I was out there, I got a little distracted and the next thing I knew I was spreading some fresh mulch under the bushes. I think this looks much better:


I took my clippings into the house to play:

                 

They are going to replace this arrangement that looked great when I first did it, but is now dying:

                

Do you like my crystal vase? It does not live its life behind my china hutch doors. No, no! I use my good things! 

                

This vase was a gift from my grandparents on my sixteenth birthday. It came with this note, handwritten by my grandma, that I still have!

               

It says, 

Courtney -

When the boyfriends start to bring flowers you will have an antique vase.

Love- Grandma & Grandpa D. 

I freshened up the dining room arrangement:



              

I didn't bother with the Hosta leaves and Iris's like I did with the first arrangement. I like to do different things each time, and this time I wanted the peonies to be able to speak for themselves:

             

Just one arrangement is never enough! Oh, no; I am not satisfied. I went back out and brought in more:

             

And more...

            

And just a little bit more...

           

This is why I don't need therapy. This is my therapy!

         

I think therapists should stop prescribing medication and just prescribe this instead! ;) Do you think that would work? Haha... 

"Here is one prescription for three-dozen fresh, perfume-smelling, eye-catching, inspiring, beautiful, and wonderfully uplifting flowers for your home life!" 

POOF! Depression gone.

(Try it! You'll see!!! Haha!)

          

I have a little trick that I like to do whenever I want to put fresh flowers in antique vases or pitchers that I don't want getting wet:

          

This is an extremely old hand-painted pitcher that has some cracks along the bottom. I'm not comfortable filling it up with water, so I just insert a little cup of water instead. 

No one would ever know:


I'm enjoying the pink in my kitchen right now:



               

By the way, as a side note, this is why I don't have color on my walls. I like for my furniture, art, and accessories to be the stars of the show. 

Well friends, today is coming to a close. My kids are in their beds, Micah is out mowing our yard, and I'm wrapping up this post. Summer evenings are always so beautiful. The sun sets out our back windows, bringing evening light into the kitchen.

             

Peonies, (like lilacs, tulips, daffodils, etc...) are one-time bloomers, not continuous bloomers like hydrangea's and roses, for example. So, that's why it's important to enjoy every minute of them! Once they're done, they're done for the year. 

If you have a peony bush in your yard, I encourage you to clip some blooms and bring them into your house! It's well worth the time and effort! We should never underestimate the emotional and mental benefits of a little beauty around the home. 

Even the process of clipping them and arranging them in a pretty vase is relaxing. I want a peaceful life where rich meaning can be found in simple things. That's why my morning routine includes going outside as soon as breakfast is over to water plants, wander around the yard, and bring clippings into the house. Over the past few years this has sort of become my daily summer ritual.

I wouldn't trade it in for money, diamonds, or anything fancy... A few flowering plants to call my own is the perfect life for me...

...And I'm enjoying sharing all this with you!

     xo,

~Courtney 




Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Beauty (Part Three) Hair

We're talking about HAIR!!!

Oh friends, I hate my hair! I've hated it all my life! 

It has a mind of its own and it's ridiculous! 

You don't believe me, do you? No one ever does. Whenever I say that I hear, "But you have beautiful hair!" 

Well, you think that because I style it! If it's ever "beautiful" it's because I've earned it! It's naturally unattractive.

This is how I usually do my hair:

                 
(Selfies are so weird... *eye roll*)

My hair is a pain because it's naturally curly in spots, naturally wavy in other spots, and overall a frizzy mess. When it's humid, the above style is a lot of work for a very mediocre result, so I do something different in the summertime. Today's post will be both hairstyles.

I'm going to start with my summertime style. It's quick and easy, which I love, but it's not a real polished look. 

As always, I'll insert my disclaimer... You'll never know that I used to be a hairstylist. Please don't expect anything fancy or professional. Remember, I'm a homeschool mom now! Haha!

To start, I attach my diffuser to my blow dryer:

               

Next, I blow dry some product in. I use two things, a root lifter and a mousse:

              

My root lifter is the Uplifting Foam by Aquage. I need something that is going to literally lift the hair away from the scalp, so that is why I use this. And a general purpose mousse, (sometimes I use a volumizing mousse, this one is a curl defining mousse) for the mid-shaft through to the ends.

When I started having my babies, I became a nighttime shower-er. It was too tricky to shower in the mornings with babies and toddlers all over the place. (At least it felt like babies and toddlers were all over the place.) So I would shower at night before bed because the kids would be asleep and Micah would be home to listen for them while I was in the bathroom. 

I still do this! So by morning, my hair is almost dry. I do not blow dry starting with completely wet hair. To do this on a regular basis would fry the hair! When I'm applying my products to blow dry, my hair is about 80% dry. The goal is to just blow dry the products in.

I apply the Aquage right to the scalp using a rat-tail comb to carve out parts:



              

I rub it into the scalp. Once that's applied I distribute the mousse throughout my hair and comb it through. 

Girls, I'm sorry, these are not the best pictures! I know you can go on You-Tube and watch entertaining and well-done tutorials about hair and makeup, and as you have figured out, that's not what I do!!! Me and technology don't mix! I was snapping these pictures with my phone while getting ready in my teeny-tiny little bathroom! Remember, I'm a regular person and this is a real-life blog!!!

When blow drying for curly hair using a diffuser, set your blow dryer on high heat and low speed! 

              

Just to show you the difference two products and a diffuser can make, this is my hair before I began:

             

And my hair after:

             

Now once I reach this point, I'm never satisfied, and I feel like it still needs a little work:

               

So I plug in a one-inch iron:

              

And grab a few random spots to touch up on:

             

My friend and stylist told me once to twist the hair just a little bit before applying the iron. Can you tell in the picture above that I've twisted the strand? It was a great tip that she gave me and I still do it! 

I just touch up a few spots with my iron, spray my hair with hairspray, and this is the result:

           

Most of the time, though, I style my hair with hot rollers. I love doing my hair this way because I have thick hair, so it takes me forever to go through it with just a curling iron, alone. Another reason I love hot rollers is because I can get more volume than with just a curling iron.

I use the same products that I showed you before, but I blow dry these in without the diffuser attached:


          

(My seven year-old, Roman, is helping me with the pictures :):):)

I like to use the type of rollers that come with medal clips, not plastic clips. My experience with the plastic clips is that it leaves dents in the hair. The medal ones do not.

          

When I made the decision several years ago to use hot rollers on a regular basis, the hard rollers and the medal clips would give me a splitting headache! If you are not accustomed to hot rollers, but would like to start, be aware that it could give you headaches in the beginning. Don't let it discourage you! I would take an ibuprofen or two to get me through it. I've noticed now, though, that I don't have to take anything anymore because my scalp has toughened up to it. You'll adjust to it, too.  

This is now just a part of my life. I'll show you what I do...

I'm not saying this is the right way or the only way, it's just my way... I start in the crown, and carve out a section right behind the bang section:


          

While I was doing this, Roman asked me why I wanted him to take these pictures, so I told him that it was for my friends who read my blog. I said, "Some of them wanted to know how I fix my hair." And he said, "Why? You look like a unicorn!" I laughed!!! But I thought, Sheesh! Thanks a lot! (Kids sure keep you humble, don't they? Haha!)

Ok, I'm about to tell you some important stuff so pay attention! 

First!... I hairspray each section, individually, before putting the roller in. So many people make the mistake of styling their hair and then spraying it at the end. But by then it's too late. The style won't hold. Hairspray needs to be layered in:

         

Next!... I pull each section that I'm working on forward. I try to envision that the section at the scalp is the base and when I roll the curler down, I want it to sit right on its base. Like this:

         

         

Ta da:

         

I continue doing this, repeating the above method, down the mohawk section...

         

Carve out a section, spray! spray! spray! Pull forward, roll the curler down to the scalp, and clip in. 

Now, we need to talk about the sides! I use my finger to carve out a vertical part from the edge of the roller to the top of my ear:

          

Listen to me! Do not roll this section downward or toward your face. You will not like the result! (Don't ask me how I know that! Haha.) Instead, this section gets pulled forward and rolled back, away from the face. 

          

Ok, I want to tell you a couple of things here... 

-The larger the section, the looser the curl. 
-The longer you leave the rollers in, the tighter it will set. 
-I leave the bang and nape sections out.

I try to leave my rollers in for at least 15 minutes, but I've been known to leave them in for as much as an hour! I notice that the result is better if I can leave them in longer. While my hair is setting I do other things. On this day that I was taking these pictures, I was getting ready to take my kids to the park, then to McDonald's to eat, and then to church for their evening bible class. So, once my hair reached this point, I touched up my makeup, got dressed, and plugged in a 1 1/4 inch curling iron. 

          

I start in the nape, spray, and curl:

          

Then I begin to remove the rollers, starting with the bottom ones first. The bottom ones first! This is important, work your way up! Again, I'm thinking about layers and working in sections. I'll take out two or three at a time and evaluate to see if there are any spots that need touching up with the iron.

This is how I curl my hair with an iron. I do not clamp the iron down onto the ends and roll up. NO! Don't do that! I start in the middle of the hair first, leaving the ends out. Then I slowly click the and turn the iron to include the rest of the strand. I tried to snap a picture of this for you, but it was tricky! Haha. 


          
(By this point, Roman was long gone. He had had enough! ... Men! ...*eye roll*)

I keep removing rollers and curling with the curling iron:

           


             

At the end, I flip my head over to shake the curls out and spray more hairspray! (I'm pretty sure that when I die, it'll be from hairspray inhalation. And I'm still trying to figure out if that'll be worth it...)

This is my result:

             

The other side:

            

Sometimes I leave it down like this and other times I like to clip back the bang section:

            

Roman's back and willing to take a picture! Yay! I'm ready! We're off to the park:

            

Well friends, I've told you everything I know! But as always, you are welcome to leave any questions you may have in the comments below! (Hey! That rhymes!) 

Love to you all, and Happy Hairstyling!

~ Courtney