Monday, January 21, 2013

Fun in (Jess') kitchen...

So we were in Texas recently... (we seem to make those trips pretty frequently these days, primarily because my daughter Jess and her wonderful husband Joe have produced the world's most adorable baby -- Evangeline!) 

...anyway, Jess (and her friend Hannah) are fearless crafters and innovators. Jess spotted a recipe on a blog for flavor-infused syrups for coffee, which seemed like a simple enough project for us to tackle in between snuggling the baby, changing diapers, feeding, cooking, etc. The recipe is from A Beautiful Mess, one of Jess' favorite DIY blogs, but a new one to me. 

The ingredients needed were fairly simple, with the exception of lavender buds for the lavender-brown sugar syrup (yum, right?) We made the trek to Central Market in Fort Worth where we did in fact find lavender buds in the bulk tea section. 

I'm not sure where they could be obtained in the greater Northeast Louisiana area -- Vieux Carre in Monroe maybe? A quick google search revealed that you can order them from Amazon (who knew?). The other ingredients were fairly simple to assemble -- sugar, brown sugar, honey, vanilla and water! We also scooted over to World Market for some simple dispensers -- we found small olive oil dispensers with tops that would close (freshness!) We also picked up a sheet of chalkboard adhesive tags to use as labels. (And I had a 15% off coupon!)

So, here's the cast of characters:

For the Lavender-Brown Sugar Syrup, the recipe calls for equal parts water and brown sugar with 1-2 Tablespoons of lavender buds, depending on your taste for the floral/aromatic quality (we went big!)
Simmer for 20 minutes, then strain the lavender buds as you pour the syrup into the dispenser.

The Honey Syrup was super-simple. Equal parts honey and water, again, simmered for 20 minutes. (It gives a honey flavor in a consistency that's easier to mix with coffee. It's extremely subtle -- I liked it best in hot tea.)

And the Vanilla Syrup was 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water with 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract. (They recommended the clear kind -- we just had the dark. Turned out fine, although after tasting, I think it needs more vanilla. I'd double it. I may try to add some to the already prepared syrup, but I'm not sure how that will turn out. *update* -- added more extract, mixed well and it definitely enhanced the vanilla flavor! Loved it!) Again, simmer for 20 minutes then pour into your dispenser.

We (and by "we" I mean Jess) brewed coffee for the three of us (Hannah joined the festivities by this point) and frothed some milk in the microwave for a little lavender-flavored latte. The scent was heavenly and the taste was subtle, but nice. I found that I wanted lavender syrup then a touch of just regular sugar to get the right amount of sweetness without being overpowered by the lavender. It really was delicious. 

Now that we know how easy (and yummy) it is, we think they would make cute gifts -- don't you?

Thanks to the girls of A Beautiful Mess for the inspiration, and to Jess for orchestrating the project, and taking the pictures (while I snuggled the baby). 

Now, maybe I should invite someone over for coffee...
"Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay." 1 Peter 4:9 (or a cup of coffee?)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The grace of hospitality...

Time for another Scripture...I'm continuing with the short passage in 1 Peter 4 that I started at the beginning of the month. The first verse I've learned (I think -- I'm about to type it from memory) is:

"Above all, love each other deeply, 
because love covers over a multitude of sins."     
-- 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)

(nailed it. of course, it is kind of short!)

The next verse is:

"Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

That's in the NIV, but I think I prefer the more positive New Living Translation for this verse:

"Cheerfully share your home 
with those who need a meal or a place to stay."      
-- 1 Peter 4:9

Isn't that beautiful? 

And this is one of those verses which the Amplified translation really, really amplifies! Check this out:

"Practice hospitality to one another 
(those of the household of faith). 
[Be hospitable, be a lover of strangers, 
with brotherly affection for the unknown guests, 
the foreigners, the poor, and all others 
who come your way who are of Christ’s body.] 
And [in each instance] do it ungrudgingly 
(cordially and graciously, without complaining 
but as representing Him)."

Wow. Confession: I'm not the most naturally hospitable person. When we built our home 20 1/2 years ago, I had a four-year-old and a two-year-old and it felt for years like the house was always in a state of chaotic mess. For some reason, I thought it had to be "perfect" to invite people over and I think I let anxiety or pride or whatever keep me from being as hospitable as I should have been. Fast forward to today and my empty nest (while not immaculately clean always) is generally in a state of order because it's just the two of us. 
So now what's my excuse?

I want to take the challenge of this verse and be more intentional in showing hospitality ("generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests; kindness in welcoming guests or strangers.") It will take intentionality (as in, actually inviting people over to eat) and maybe a smidge of preparation -- food, clean sheets! -- so I'm ready to be welcoming. I want to let go of any preconceived notions of perfection and focus on my guests, not my house or my cooking or myself. I have a little napkin framed in my kitchen that says this:

I love my is a blessing far beyond anything I deserve...and I want to use it to bless others. 

So, what are your hospitality tips? Or what verse are you learning this time? I'd love to know!

Monday, January 14, 2013

My very first-ever crafty post!

I love crafty stuff. I pin crafty stuff. I purchase crafty stuff...or get my daughter to craft things for me.
But I decided today to just go for it. Attempt to craft something. The challenge: I planned to use only things I had in the house (which included some 8x10 prints of the family photos Justin Bufkin did for our Christmas cards). So here's how it happened...
(prepare yourself for the longest first-ever crafty post ever!)

First, I've been to three different "painting parties" - a "Corks and Canvas" fundraiser, one at our church and one at a friend's house. All three were very fun experiences with skillful artists and good friends, wonderful snacks and, well, painting. But each time I came home with a 16 x 20 canvas of a painting that I would really never consider hanging anywhere in my home...

Lovely, right?
So, anyways, these canvases were laying around in a closet and then I saw this:

over at the handmade home (my absolute new favorite home decor blog!) and this:

over at The Lettered Cottage (a longtime favorite) and an idea was born! I think both of these bloggers created the striped...what would you call it? It's not a frame, not a mat...a background? Anyway, I think they painted MDF to make theirs, but I had canvases, so I thought I might adapt the idea.
So, over Christmas, I got some Gesso, which is used like a primer for canvases. And Jess helped with the Gesso part...

It took a couple of coats and it was, uh, textured, due to the heavy, globby art beneath, but I embrace imperfection when it comes to craftiness...and home decor...and, well, pretty much everything. The Gesso'ed canvases just laid around for a few weeks as we wrapped up Christmas activities. Then, in the midst of the recent cold, freezy, rainy spell, I pulled them out, grabbed some brushes, some leftover wall paint, a few things of acrylic paint in the art bin (I think left over from when the kids had art in high school) and some painter's tape. I gave the canvases a base coat of the wall color in our living room (it's called polished silver, I think). Then I decided to measure four-inch stripes and do two horizontal and one vertical. (I actually dummied this out on a piece of paper to help me decide what to paint/tape where). Then, I poured some of the wall paint into a bowl and squirted a little blue and black acrylic paint in and swirled it around until I liked the contrast with the base color, and I painted the stripes. Once it dried and I peeled off the tape,  I decided I wanted the whole thing to look a little muddier, so I squirted just a little brown paint into a bowl with a good bit of water and brushed it on and wiped it off with a paper towel.

Then it got a little tricky. I had some black paper -- just paper, not cardstock or anything. I trimmed a 1/2-inch off the bottom so it would be 8 1/2 by 10 1/2 to make a mat for the photos. I decided to Mod Podge the black mat onto the canvas, then just use double-sided tape for the pictures, thinking I could change/update the pictures over time. I'm not a big Mod Podge user, and my first attempt was a pretty big mess:

I almost ripped it off and then decided to embrace the imperfection -- and only the outer 1/4 inch was going to show once I put the picture on! I googled some tips on how to use Mod Podge (duh!) and the next two looked much better:

After they dried, I placed the pictures on using double-sided tape around the edges (Jesse doesn't think it will stick -- I'll have to update later!) and then hung them up! 

I LOVE them! This was practically free 
(I only purchased the Gesso and Mod Podge) and really easy! 
And being surrounded by my family makes me very happy.
(And if you made it all the way to the end of this post, 
you are a nice person! 
Thanks for indulging a wannabe crafter!)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Grace in this new year...

*tap, tap...anyone here?*

I've neglected this little corner of the blogosphere over the past year...and as my fingers hover indecisively over the keyboard this morning, I remember why. I'm not sure I have much to contribute to the "conversation," but the personal discipline of regularly chronicling things -- Scripture memory, books I'm reading, goals, life in general -- gives me a measure of motivation...accountability, that I need.

So, here goes. 2013 -- what will it hold? I'm kicking off the year in Scripture memory by keeping it simple. I want to focus on "grace" -- receiving it and extending it to others -- so I'm drawn to passages that reflect this. I'm going to work on three verses in 1 Peter 4, but I'm going to do it one. verse. at. a. time. First up:

"Above all, love each other deeply because love covers over a multitude of sins."
1 Peter 4:8, NIV

I also love it in the Amplified translation:

"Above all things, have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins (forgives and disregards the offenses of others)."
talk about grace!

And I can't resist including The Message version:

"Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything."

In addition to a year of drawing closer to God by spending time in His Word, I want to cultivate more prayerfulness this year and to serve others at every opportunity. (Thanks for the inspiration, Brian, recapped by Hannah!)

And I plan to spend as much time as possible with this sweet face...

...and to celebrate my entire family at every opportunity. What a gift!

I hope to continue the discipline of counting gifts...never discounting the small.

And, of course, I have the uber-predictable goal of eating healthier, exercising regularly and getting more fit. But seriously, I'm pretty motivated when I look at the sweet faces above. I want to be able to keep up with my kids and grandkids for a lot of years!'s a new year. Grace. May it abound.