"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

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Little Princesses

I don't know that I've ever done a book review on this blog.

Reading is a large portion of our home life and homeschooling, and since that is what my blog is about, I will take a stab at it...



I do a lot of reading. I read fairytales and school text books to my children. I read political and news articles on-line. I read recipes from my cookbooks, and posts from my favorite blogs... And every once in a while, out of curiosity, I scoop up one of my antique books (their main purpose is to sit in vignettes for decoration) and begin to read...

This is what I did several days ago and it altered my life for three straight days.

I don't know what came over me. It never appealed to me to read it before, but I opened up this darling little book...


And it grabbed a hold of me and sucked me in.

It transported me over to England, where I lived with the Royal family in my mind for several days, and staying awake until midnight to read it, two nights in a row.

I originally found this book in an antique shop, and purchased it for my daughters' bedroom because it is pink. 


When I picked it up to begin reading it, I knew nothing about the book. I saw that it was titled, "The Little Princesses" and was published in 1950. I thought it to be, at first, a primitive little novel.

It was written from the perspective of a young Scottish girl who found a job as a tutor for a wealthy English family. By the evening of the first day of my reading it, a line in the book struck me as odd, and I wondered, Is this a true story?!...

A quick Wikipedia search of the author's name, Marion Crawford, revealed to me that, yes, this was a true story! Discovering this immediately made the book far more interesting to me! This was the true story of how Crawford, governess to the Royal family, took charge and care of the little Princesses during their growing up years. At the time when she was hired on, the King and Queen were Duke and Duchess of York, living a happy, quiet life in a country home.  But the Little Princesses became who we know today as (the still reigning) Queen Elizabeth II, and her younger sister, Margaret. 

In my reading on Wikipedia, I also discovered something quite bothersome. When a copy of the manuscript was sent to the Queen for her approval before it was published, Her Majesty became upset and wrote to Crawford saying, "I do feel, most definitely, that you should not write about the children, as people in positions of confidence with us must be utterly oyster." Sadly, Crawford went ahead with it, and had it published disregarding the Queen's extreme disapproval. She was completely ostracized, and no one from the Royal family ever spoke to her again.

Upon learning this, I felt very guilty for reading it!

Crawford was for seventeen years responsible for the education of Princess Elizabeth and Margaret. So many things stood out to me in the book that I found to be either absolutely fascinating, (why are the British Royals so intriguing to Americans?) thought-provoking, or actually quite helpful to my life as a homemaker and homeschool mama. 

I'll list a few of those here...

I was very interested to learn that the Princesses were homeschooled! Of course I find this to be quite validating! Crawford includes her schoolroom schedule in the book:


A lot of their childhood was spent outside in the palace gardens for games and fresh air. I would love to have an impressive garden someday, but for now we have this little back patio area. In the winter it looks like this:


But in May it comes alive...


and looks like this:


The Princesses really had a sweet, peaceful life, with parents who were good and loving. This portion of the book struck me as quite endearing- "There was no official schoolroom. We did lessons in a pleasant little boudoir belonging to the Duchess. I have never known a house with a nicer atmosphere. The Duke and Duchess were so young, and so much in love. They took great delight in each other and their children. They had private family sessions in the parents' room every morning. This continued right up to the morning of Princess Elizabeth's marriage. The children's bath hour and bedtime ended the day. Nothing was ever allowed to stand in the way of these family sessions."

I found their home life to be very inspiring! Many times while reading I would catch myself silently praying within me, Please let this be our home!

Take this one for example:

"Although Elizabeth was fourteen and had reached the age when girls so often get 'romantic crushes,' there was never any sign of that with her. I think they both had love and affection enough in their own home circle and so had no need to go looking outside for emotional thrills."

That challenged me. Are we making our home atmosphere this loving and stable? I thought.

Would our mealtimes...


Our hobbies...


Our school days...


Our time together...


Our home atmosphere...


Their friendships with each other...


And their relationship with me...


Be strong enough to accomplish this? 

I can get my stomach in knots if I wanted to, because most days all I see are my shortcomings. But instead I will simply give all this to the Lord, ask Him daily for His grace which is sufficient, (2 Cor. 12:9) and continue doing what is right and best.

~ ~ ~

"The Queen liked to have lots of flowers about her. Her rooms were always full of them, wherever we happened to be." 

I like this line! There seems to be nothing else quite like the uplifting effect that fresh flowers have in the home! I have long enjoyed selecting a bouquet when doing my weekly grocery shopping. A small bundle at most grocery stores is as little as $5.00.


What a delight it is to be unpacking the groceries and to have among the bread and milk, a fresh bouquet waiting to be placed on the table.


I like to consider it my reward for this unpleasant weekly task, haha!

Another striking portion of the book is this one:

"There is nothing in the world so attractive as gentleness and manners. I have often thought that the young people who copy the Princesses' hats and frocks, and shoes, and ways of dressing, would do well also to copy the beautiful manners of the Princesses. To me, gentleness and lovely manners are a charm that never goes out of fashion, and requires no capital outlay."

Again, this challenged me as a mother, and inspired to me to consider the training of manners with my children as one of my top priorities. I have noticed in our culture today a decline in the manners of young people. It is a shame. But I think no one can train a child in manners the way a mother can, and most children spend their days apart from their mothers in daycares and schools. If this is you, and your children are away from you during the day, gentleness and manners can still be taught in the evenings and on weekends. A little more effort and diligence may be required on your part, but it can be done!

 There have been times when the kids and I will make a game out of it, and before entering a store I will say, "Keep your eyes open for an opportunity to be a blessing." And we look for ways to keep a door held open, return a dropped item to its owner, or help a young mama struggling with bags and a baby.

Of course, let's not forget to practice manners ourselves! I try to make a point to smile at people when I am out and about. (Warning: This can result in the making of new friends. I currently have a sweet, little cashier at my local Walmart who has taken a liking to me. Just this past Monday night I walked into the store's front door, and immediately heard, "Hi, Courtney!!!" I glanced up, and there was my friend at her post, the self check-outs. She waved me over and told me all about how she had just been accepted to a great college where she plans to attend in the fall. I shared in her excitement for a few minutes before I began my shopping.)

~ ~ ~ 

Of all of the interesting stories in this book, the one that stands out to me the most is the peculiar way Princess Elizabeth became Queen. 



Her parents were never meant to be the King and Queen of England, as her father had an older brother who was heir to the throne. The Princesses called him Uncle David. However, only months into his reign, he caused what the book calls a "Constitutional Crisis" by proposing marriage to a divorced, American woman. The Prime Ministers of the UK, as well as all of England opposed the marriage and would not accept her as their Queen. 

"A very strict standard of moral behavior is enforced in court circles. No divorced persons have the entree to the palace courts..." The book records.

Uncle David (unwisely in my opinion) chose to give up the throne to marry this woman. This made his younger brother (Elizabeth's father) King almost over night. And Princess Elizabeth, unexpectedly, England's future Queen.

All this got me to thinking about how our choices affect so many of the lives around us! Did this Uncle David ever consider if his brother and sister-in-law wanted his responsibility? There is this sad line in the book:

"The King and Queen must have thought often, regretfully, of their quiet evenings, one on either side of the fire. They who had wanted only a simple life with their children were now besieged by photographers, pursued by press agents and harried by officials."

Yes, it is important to realize how our choices affect other people! We should not do only as we wish, or only consider our own happiness. Look at the bigger picture, and understand the ripple effect on others our life choices bring!

(Of course, God can bring beauty and blessing from all circumstances. Can you imagine a more perfect Queen than who England has had in Queen Elizabeth II for the last several decades?! She certainly rose to the occasion and embraced her calling! I read that she will go down as England's longest reigning monarch of all time.)

~ ~ ~ 

Well friends, thanks for joining me in this little recap of my most recently completed book. I hope you benefited as I did from these insights and lessons.

As I mentioned above, the Royal family did not approve of the publication of the book. But I found it to be very sweet. Crawford never speaks ill of the Royal family, but does reveal a few family secrets that maybe the Queen felt was too private and not her place to share. Like the exact location where the Princesses were hid during the bombing of England during WWII... and several little mishaps and mistakes that occurred on the morning of Elizabeth's wedding. 

Maybe consider checking your library or Amazon, and read it for yourself! I think you'll love it!

Thank you for stopping by my blog today!

Take care sweet friends,

xo,

~ Courtney ~



















Friday, February 17, 2017

My New Desk

Hi friends!

I'm in the mood to talk about decorating!

Who's with me?!

It's been on my mind because I've been working on tweaking a corner in my home lately...

It all began with a new (old. Very old!) desk that Micah refinished for me.

Wanna see it?!


I think she's lovely!

This is very exciting for me because I've never had an office or desk since we've lived in this house. I've always just used the end of my dining room table. It worked just fine but it looked junky having my papers and computer in what is supposed to be a formal dining room!

On one of our last antiquing adventures, Micah and I picked up this desk very inexpensively. It was covered in about ten coats of thick paint!

Micah appreciates original wood that's been preserved, or else restored, (versus wood that's painted) so he took it out to his workshop to strip it and work on it.


I, for one, very much like painted wood, so our home is a nice mix of both. He really took this desk on as his own project though, so I just stayed out of it and let him restore the original wood.

He bought new hardware for it and gave it these curvy feet...


I really love an authentic look in home decorating, (and Micah's the same way!) so I was happy with his choices.

Once the desk was completed, we ran into a small problem...

We didn't know where to put it!

It lived in our basement for months! But it was perfectly finished and ready to go... What a shame! Until one day I looked at this awkward little corner in my bedroom...


And it finally clicked with me!

Other than the dresser, this corner of my room was meaningless. The items were meant to just fill the space...


I got a hold of Micah one evening and talked him into hauling the desk up two flights of stairs so that it could be in my room and be put to good use.

(It's where I'm sitting right now as I type this blog post!)

Of course, nothing can ever be quick and easy when it comes to this sort of thing... Our first step was to remove the large and heavy barn door that was leaning against the wall...


One thing lead to another and I ended up revisiting how this entire half of my room was decorated. 

When I originally decorated it, I thought I wanted "blank spaces" in this room because I believed it would be calming and serene for me. 

That resulted in empty spots such as this...


I do believe that a few nicely done "blank spaces" in decorating can "give the eye a place to rest," as my mother would say. Don't feel as though you must fill up every nook and cranny in your home. My mother also used to tell me that just because you have something, doesn't mean you have to use it! Ask yourself if what you have will be good for the space.

So, keeping those things in mind, I was ready to slowly add to this space!

I moved the wooden rocker over...


Then added this sheet music wreath that I had made years ago, along with this little watercolor that a friend had given me...


It's an original painting of a robin's nest with two blue eggs inside, because my friend knows I love birds. Isn't it just wonderful to have good friends?!


It took me a few days to warm up to this, though. I was so used to this spot being empty. 

It's also important to me that my house flows, so to speak, from one room to the next. So to figure out what's best for this wall meant taking the whole view into consideration. I stood here looking into the guest room to see if it was visually pleasing to me...


By the time I was done fiddling with all of this, Micah was ready to start bringing desk parts up...


I was giddy with excitement!...



When he got it all set up he realized that he had forgotten something... 

These tiny drawers in the insert of the desktop were never given new knobs!



Once this was realized, we both took off in different directions to check our "stashes" for something that would fit the bill. (When one decides to renovate a 100-year old farmhouse over the course of several years, one accumulates random salvage "stashes" throughout the house, haha...)

Micah came back with small, white porcelain knobs, and I came back with these...


Darling little brass flowers that my grandma had given me a few years ago.

She said, " I'm not sure what they are but I figured you could find a use for them."

(She knows me well:)

They were perfect for my little desk drawers!


Micah screwed them in for me.


I am a happy girl!!!

Would you like to see the space completed?

This was my first stab at it...


I kept the antique birdcage in the corner for a few days but it never set well with me. Because it's white and the walls are white, I felt that the corner needed something more substantial.

So I had this antique column brought in. I figured I would use it in the corner as a plant stand. I had visualized a fern for this space, but when I stopped by my local nursery, there wasn't a single fern in the entire store! I knew I needed a low-light plant because this corner receives no sunlight. Other than ferns, the only other low-light houseplant that I know of are Peace Lily's. So I bought one of those instead...


It's a beautiful plant but it's huge! My nursery didn't have one any smaller. The night I brought it home and placed it in the planter I joked with Micah when he came into the room... "Welcome to the jungle!" I laughed.

He just rolled his eyes and didn't say a word. Haha... (He's a good man. He has put up with me and my decorating for ten years now, and just lets me do my thing... )

So, this is what this corner of my room looks like today...


I really like it!

I decorated my desk with things I find beautiful... Antique books, an oil on canvas landscape, tulips, and a needlepoint chair...






And in case you are curious about how this corner relates to the rest of the room, I'll include these next few photos...




I sure am enjoying having this cute desk in my room. I'm also quite thankful to have a hard-working husband who's willing to tackle these projects for our home!


And I am thankful for YOU, dear readers, who have been with me since I started this blog over a year ago already!

I started it because I noticed there were two types of blogs for stay-at-home moms in Blogland; The keep-it-real "Mom" blogs that were promoting chaos, messes, and unruly children as normal and OK, and the "Design" blogs that were promoting magazine-worthy home decor as if that's all there is to life... I felt I didn't fit into either category. I wanted to find a blog that was about real-life mothering but in a home that was beautiful and well-cared for. I'm not saying I've achieved that perfectly, but I realized in order to have such a blog in Blogland, I may have to write it myself! 

So, that's what I did. 

And what I continue to do. 

I am still learning myself, you know! A lot of what I write is to remind and motivate  ME! Haha...

But I invite you to come along on the journey!

Let's be good and loving mama's and give our families clean, beautiful homes!

We can do it, girlfriends!

Until next time...

xo,

~ Courtney ~




























Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Our Valentine's Day

Whew! 

I am one tired mama!

I aimed to treat my family to a special Valentine's Day yesterday...



And as any mother knows, when you add in something extra or something special to your day- laundry, baby care, and housework all must still go on!

I think I may have crammed too much into one day...

We did a full day of homeschool lessons as well, so as I sit here to type, I'm definitely feeling it! 

I am pooped!

I brought my phone around with me, snapping pictures as I went, with the hopes that I could share it all with you!

Speaking of YOU... How was your Valentine's Day? 

I think about all of you often, and pray that your time spent here on my blog is uplifting and beneficial to your life.

When I first became a wife and mother blogs were new, but I leaned heavily on some favorite blogs of mine to encourage me as I learned how to be a homemaker. Now I'm ten years into it, and still learning... still practicing... still messing up sometimes... But the tiny bit I DO know, I love to pass along to you!

Would you like to see how we spent our Valentine's Day?

It began with my eight-year old Roman asking if he could bake a cake as his Valentine's gift to us.

He really wanted to do it with no help!

He found a recipe that he wanted to try...


Then he got out the ingredients and measured everything!


I had to resist the urge to help him and do things for him.

I really tried my best to monitor from a distance and back-off enough so that he could figure it out on his own.


Basically, he did it by himself but I was nearby if he had any questions.

One question that came up was what is baking powder and where do we keep it?

You know, for several years now I've been hearing Homeschool mama's talk about "Self-led, Interest-based" homeschooling, and I feel like this was the moment that it finally clicked with me. He wasn't sitting still in a desk doing worksheets or getting lectured at... But I realized he was still learning! He was reading... He was measuring using fractions... He was asking questions...


He was asking me questions like, "Why do I have to sift the flour first? Why can't I just dump it in?" And as we talked and he baked, I realized this was School!

(I come from a traditional public school background, so forgive me if this sounds really silly! It's just that I'm finding throughout our homeschool journey that I'm having to deprogram myself! Sitting quietly while someone "teaches" you, isn't the only way to learn something.)

I put it in the oven for him, and he watched it with pride...


He even frosted it... (Thank goodness I had a can of frosting on hand!)


And decorated it, all by himself!


Ta da!

A Roman creation!



It's been our family tradition for several years now to have a "Pink and Red" dinner at home on Valentine's night. 

I think about the food and the table setting, and I try to make everything either pink or red or heart-shaped.

For example, everyone had a heart-shaped napkin at their place...


The napkins were the result of just a few minutes spent on You-Tube after typing in How to fold a paper heart... Lest you think I'm some sort of fancy or crafty person... I'm NOT! Anyone can give their families special treats if they're just willing to put forth a touch of effort.

The littlest things can make a person feel special!

Heart-shaped cranberries went on the table, too...


You're probably looking at this picture and thinking, Wow, Courtney, that is really lame... Haha... But my kids thought it was really fun! Remember, anything that is different or new, is exciting for kids!

They helped me set the table. We used candles, flowers, and antique Valentine cards...


We hung up balloons and heart-shaped banners...


We had a few presents sent to us from both Grandma's...


So, I set them all out in plain sight to heighten the excitement for us when we came to dinner.



Meanwhile, there was a meatloaf simmering away in the crockpot, and potatoes boiling on the stove...

(I added a few drops of red food coloring to the mashed potatoes to make them pink!)

Our menu for the night would be- Meatloaf (with a red sauce), Pink potatoes, Cranberries, Strawberries, Pink lemonade, and Roman's Valentine cake for dessert.


We even made heart-shaped ice for our lemonade...


I tried to get a good picture of it...


It wasn't real noticeable in the glasses, but we still thought it was special! 


We enjoyed our Valentine's dinner and laughed and talked... 


Once we were stuffed it was time to open cards and presents!


What a fun night! 

The kids each got new pajamas from their grandma.



They immediately ran off to try them on...

As a funny side note, the three minutes that they were in the next room changing into their new pajamas, was literally the only alone time Micah and I had all night! Haha... Oh,
 how things change once kids are in the mix!!!


Micah and I don't mind, though. We know that in a flash they'll all be in high school and college. I'll be begging them to come home for Valentine's dinner but they'll all have better things to do! (*Sad face.)


When they got back to the table I had a present for all of them...


I had bought them the game of Twister. They were very excited! We've never had that game!


The rest of the night included tons of pain and laughter trying to play this game on the living room floor! Haha...

The evening went by too fast! But it was a really fun night and I hope my children will carry memories like these in their hearts forever!


~ "We didn't realize we were making memories... We just knew we were having fun!" ~

Well friends, that's all I have time for today! 

As always, please feel free to leave a comment. I love hearing from you!

Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to read about our Valentine's Day!

I plan to write a decorating post next. I've been getting the pictures ready for it, so check back with me soon!


Love to you all!

xo,

~ Courtney ~