Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Lovely Coloring Pages

Who doesn't enjoy a lovely coloring page?  I've got a few pretty pages to share with you today.  The first was made for a fabulous conference I attended last weekend and the other two are cleaned up doodles you may have seen on Instagram earlier this year.

You can click on any of the images to download & print each page.

First up, Mary's Fiat from Luke 1:38:
"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word."

"There is nothing we can desire or want that we do not find in God." St. Catherine of Siena:

"The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that He, in His goodness, sends to us day after day." ~St. Gianna Molla

P.S. You might also like all the Quote Coloring pages under the Teaching with Fulton Sheen tab, too!

And while you're here, take the time to go enter the Beautiful giveaway- seven lovely items that would be perfect for you or a gift for a friend.  The giveaway closes at midnight on Friday, so just a few more days to enter!

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Beautiful Things Giveaway!

In celebration of the Why Make Beautiful Things series (and my birthday) I'd like to give YOU some gifts!  I have seven beautiful things that can help you host like Shirley, cherish like Betsy, dress like Danielle, and decorate like Bonnie.  I hope there is something lovely that you would like to have or give to someone you love.  Scroll down to the bottom for your chance to enter!

First up, here's where you can find our generous donors on social media.  Go visit them, browse their creations, and maybe support their small businesses.  I chose them because they make beautiful things- I hope you love their work as much as I do.

***Fawnly Prints***
on etsy     on facebook     on instagram

***Society of Saints***
on etsy     on facebook     website          

***Kayla Phillips Design***
on etsy     on facebook     on instagram     website     blog     

***[un]common workbasket***
on facebook     on instagram

And now for the beautiful line-up.  Here are the seven items in the giveaway:

Psalm 16:6 11x14 Print from Kayla Phillips Design:

8x10 Watercolor print from Fawnly Prints:

Immaculate Heart of Mary 8x10 print from The Society of Saints:

Vintage Linens- four blue dinner napkins and printed fruit tea towel from Betsy herself:

Yellow Rose half apron made from vintage linens from [un]common workbasket:

Beloved metal stamped antique brass necklace, 24" chain from [un]common workbasket:

Life is Beautiful, Dress Accordingly 8x10 handlettered on vintage dictionary page from [un]common workbasket:

Good luck!  You can enter here for your chance to win.  There are seven prizes and there will be seven winners.  First step- comment below with which prize you would most like to win.  You can even rank them if you like.  :)  Then go on to the rafflecopter entries.  This way when the winners are chosen, I'll do my best to match up the winner with their favorite prizes.

The giveaway is open until midnight on July 1st.  Because I have to mail the gifts, winners must have a US mailing address.  Feel free to share on social media :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Decorating for Holidays & Holy Days {Guest Post}

Today I'm honored to host Bonnie of A Knotted Life with a reflection on why she dedicates time and effort to decorating her home for the changing seasons, holidays, and holy days.  Bonnie endured being my campus minister in college and while our relationship has grown into deep friendship, she still is a voice of reason, support, and challenge in my life.  We love a lot of the same things- her six fabulous kiddos (including her oldest, who is my Goddaughter), Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, and sharing the truth and beauty of the Catholic Church.  It's a joy to know Bonnie, and I hope her post today shares a little of the joy that can be found making your home a place of celebration.

Decorating for Holidays and Holy Days

At least once a month I change up the decorations in my house. The rotation goes something like this: January: snowmen / general wintery coziness
February: hearts / more wintery coziness
March: Lenten burlap, purple, more "white space"
April: Easter baskets, flowers, eggs, bunnies, adorablenss
May: more Easter / general Spring-y flowers and whatnot
June: simple summer / Sacred Heart / fresh flowers
July: patriotic / fresh flowers
August: simple flowers / Back to School
September: Back to School / general pumpkiny fall
October: Halloween / pumpkins / purple, green, orange, and black
November: harvest / pumpkins / Thanksgiving
December: Advent / Christmas

I work in other feast days plus birthdays and our anniversary as they happen but the outline is pretty much always the same. In our home the bookshelves, mantel, chalkboard, and dining room table all play host to my ever changing decorations. Sometimes the windows even get in on the act, thanks to bargain bin window clings for the kids.
Why do I do it? For three reasons. First, because decorations are a simple way that I can bring the rhythm of the Church's liturgical year into our home. This is helpful for me as a mom - the decorations add an extra emphasis on what we are celebrating or why we are fasting. They are a sort of visual aid for my children as I teach them about saints, Jesus' love for us, doctrines of our faith, and the culture of our catholic Catholic church. But really it's not just for the kids - even as a 34 year old woman I find it much easier to enter into the liturgical seasons, the feasting and the fasting, if I am reminded of them by my surroundings.
Second, my mom did it and I have many strong memories of the extra magic and charm it added to our home and my childhood. Autumn *began* when Mom put out the pumpkins, her ghost-carrying-a-jack-o-lantern light, and the little scarecrow she had sewn and stuffed. Christmas *arrived* when we hung the lights on our tree, laid evergreen boughs around the house, and set up her Christmas Dickens village. And so on. It was thrilling to me. I loved helping her set up all her decorations just so and I loved the way our house looked and felt when each season had been properly ushered in by Mom's decorations. Beautifully decorating the home was a special part of my childhood and its something I treasure. Continuing that tradition for my own kids is something I hope will add just as much charm to their own childhoods. Already the kids love decorating days. They love to help me set up nativities, find the perfect spot for the pumpkins, and place the fresh flowers cut from our yard in just the right spot.
Third and most importantly, I like it. My house is prettier and more inviting when I take the time to decorate it. I always clean as I move about my objects, and the dusted surfaces with their fresh flowers or twinkling lights or sentimental pretty trinket - well they make me happy. I decorate my home with pictures, prints, statues, flowers, and knick-knacks that mean something to me. The meaningful, intentional beauty that I spread through the house means there is always something lovely for me to look at, always something I can rest my eyes on to help me quiet the world around me. Of course, I believe it also makes my home more pleasant for everyone who lives or visits there, but it is a priority to me because I enjoy it.
I don't craft. I don't make things. I can't sew or knit or paint. But I can arrange things.
And there's something to that.

I loved hosting Bonnie today!  Her home is always welcoming, and without a doubt, it is fun to see how she has creatively decorated for the current season each time I visit.  What's your favorite season to decorate for?  Do you have any tips for making your home special and unique for holidays and holy days?  Chime in on social media or in the comments below.

You can follow along with Bonnie and find more of her liturgical decorating:
On Instagram
On Facebook
On Her Blog

Bonnie's guest post is part of this year's Why Make Beautiful Things series.  
Monday, Shirley shared about being a hostess & hospitality here: Open Heart, Open Home
Tuesday, Betsy wrote about finding value in history and restoring heirloom linens here: Making Old Things New
Yesterday, Danielle and Morgan wrote about dressing with intention here: Life is Beautiful, Dress Accordingly 
If you are curious, you can go back and read the posts from last year here.  
And make sure you come back tomorrow for the beautiful things GIVEAWAY!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Life is Beautiful, Dress Accordingly {Guest Post}

It is a joy to host my friend Danielle today!  My first (and continuing) impression of Danielle includes her friendly smile and her stellar sense of style.  Danielle always looks professional, put-together, and classically lovely.  I admire that her outfits always seem to be both timeless and on-trend all at once- a difficult feat.  But beyond the surface, Danielle portrays the value and dignity that she knows she owns as a daughter of God.  Her fashion sense is merely an outward expression of that inner truth.  And bonus! Danielle asked her good friend Morgan (also a fellow teacher, also happens to have a friendly smile and stellar fashion sense) to write some tips and reflections on how she has dressed during her first pregnancy.  I hope that you enjoy their words as much as I have!

Life is Beautiful Dress Accordingly

For those of you who know Katie, follow her blog, or have been on her site for even a mere 30 seconds will not be surprised to learn that her home is truly a reflection of who she is and what she cares about.  In every room you will find history, inspiration, purpose, and of course creativity. Her bathroom is no exception. Of the many words of wisdom found throughout her home, a simple framed clothing tag spoke to my heart. It read, “Life is Beautiful Dress Accordingly”.  Those few words spoke a sassy truth that I could not deny.

I was humbled when Katie asked if I would put together a few of my thoughts about the importance of dressing for the occasion of life.  After all, there are many cringe worthy photographs of me out there, especially from my adolescent years, that would destroy any shred of credibility that I have.  That said, I come by my love of clothes honestly for my mother who has had a “fashion board” for as long as I can remember that displays outfits pulled from magazines and catalogs that she admires.  Do not get the wrong idea here, these were not outfits she was planning on purchasing but rather works of art in the eyes of someone who sewed her and her three children’s clothes for at least the majority of my childhood.

After a few awkward years of hand me downs and buying trendy things just to fit in, I started to find my style niche when I began working at The Limited.  It was there that I really experienced the uplifting boost that can come from a correctly chosen outfit and the difference quality pieces make.  An added bonus was that I made wonderful friends there that helped me learn and build upon the fashion foundation started by my mother.  I could talk about this developed passion for days, but with the help of some industry icons, I will narrow it down to some basic points to consider when thinking about clothing.  

“Dress shabbily they will notice the dress. Dress impeccably they will notice the woman.” - Coco Chanel  

This is an important thought to consider and one that frames all of the subsequent points.  There is a deep rooted desire in all of us to be respected, understood, and appreciated for the wonderful women we are.  Your choice in clothing can help to make that possible.  There is a difference between dressing to get noticed or getting noticed because of how you dressed. Seek to pair together pieces that are not a distraction but rather a compliment to the beautiful creation God intended you to be.  And if you are more of the practical type, realize that putting on a flattering dress involves fewer steps and less laundry than sweats and a hoodie!

“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak” - Rachel Zoe

There will always be preemptive judgments cast from others based on our appearance, but instead of viewing this as a negative, think of it as an opportunity to invite others to get to know you better.  Your outward appearance should be a reflection of what you value.  It is worth underscoring here that it is not “vain” to put effort into looking nice. On the contrary, the effort you put forth simply shows that you have self-worth and value your dignity as a person which is undeniably an important fundamental truth of Christianity.  

"Your clothes should be tight enough to show you are a woman but loose enough to show you are a lady" - Marilyn Monroe

A little bit ironic that this quote came from Marilyn Monroe but regardless it is great advice to live by.  We are fortunate in this era to have a variety of sizes and price points available right at our fingertips.  No longer do you have to just settle for what is at the department store but instead can browse the web exclusively for sizes that match your need. As someone with above average height and feet to match, I know all too well the frustration of walking into a store and realizing that not a thing in the place is going to fit the way it should. For the most part I go out shopping to find ideas and the occasional deal but most of my purchasing is done online so that I can get pieces that are flattering and appropriate for my shape.  

"The fashionable woman wears clothes. The clothes don’t wear her." - Mary Quant

This is where it becomes important to use some discernment with what you are buying and how you are putting it all together.  If you are uncomfortable or unsure about what you are wearing, that will inevitably show in your behavior.  Avoid walking into a store and thinking that you have to wear the exact outfit from the display.  It is best to start simple and build a solid base of basics you are comfortable with and then add in something that makes the outfit special.  You can make any white tee shirt and jeans pop with the right jewelry, shoes, or cardigan.  Bottom line, make sure you put together outfits that help build your confidence.

“Life isn’t perfect but your outfit can be” - Anonymous

Let’s be honest here and call out the fact that life doesn’t always seem beautiful.  In a world that is full of unpredictability it is empowering to maintain control where we can.  Choosing your outfit is one of these areas.  On some of the days when I’m having a particularly negative outlook, I put extra effort into making sure I look nice.  This inevitably helps to boost my mood and at the very least brings me a bit of joy that may not otherwise be there.  

Even out of context people mention that certain events are worthy of wearing your “Sunday best” but it is important to consider that each and every day as a Christian you are a visible piece of evidence that God the almighty creator exists.  For some, you may be the only version of the Gospel they “read”, so take time to make sure your cover is an accurate portrayal of the beauty that accompanies living a life where Christ is King.     

There is a lot more to say, but I want to be sure and save some space for a special look at dressing while you are pregnant.  There are numerous traits I appreciate about my friend Morgan, but without a question one of the first things I noticed was that every time I was around her she was wearing something I wish I had hanging in my closet.  Now just over a month away from giving birth to her first child, she is still rocking outfits I wish I could borrow.  

Pregnant Thoughts

”Pregnancy is such a miracle!” ”It’s the most beautiful period of your life!”  “You’re practically glowing!”

Yes, I 100% agree- it IS a miracle, it IS a gift from God, it IS amazing to see how an actual person grows by the day inside of me. But when the little miracle that grows by the day has you constantly waking up with the question, “What’s going to fit and/or look right today?” it starts to feel a little less beautiful.

I am accustomed to having a full closet (let’s be honest, a closet and a half...) of clothes to choose from that I have meticulously pieced together. Now suddenly I’m faced with the realization that either:
A. I need to spend thousands of dollars on a brand new wardrobe that I will only wear for 5 months (most people can get away with wearing MOST of their pre-pregnancy clothes, to some extent, for the first few months with the help of a Bella Band and some ingenuity), or
B. I need to come up with a game plan of how I can work with what I’ve got, and then invest in some classic pieces to mix and match and hopefully use again in subsequent pregnancies.

I’m a third grade teacher, therefore, in all aspects of my life, I’m a planner. Before I even needed maternity clothes (remember, you don’t have to do all your shopping the minute you see those two pink lines!), I started my research with a few questions in mind and here’s what I found:

Which store has the best deals?

  • Hands down, Old Navy. Typically, you can get between 30-50% off on any given day, combined with free shipping (when you spend over $50) and rewards dollars (from my pre-pregnancy Banana Republic addiction), I found my best bargains from here. These perks, along with free returns (in case those pants, that they said would fit in your “pre-pregnancy size,” wouldn’t slide over your newly sized hips-remember, it’s a beautiful time!) makes Old Navy an ideal place to start.
Who has the cutest/most normal looking maternity clothes?
  • In my opinion, Ann Taylor Loft. As one whose personality and attitude is expressed firsthand through the clothes I choose for the day, sticking to my pre-pregnancy style was a must for me.  Though often more expensive, Loft maternity wear makes me feel the most “normal” during a period in my life that is so abnormal. On the plus side, you can usually catch a good 30% off sale to make the purchase not so daunting, and if shopping enough ahead of time, you can wait for some things to go on sale.
Where can I get fastest shipping?
  • Because, let’s face it, there will be days when all of a sudden, those pants you just wore three days ago, won’t slide over your hips, and you need something to wear to work ASAP.  I found that Loft has the fastest shipping, without having to pay an arm and a leg extra.
Where can I get good “basics?”
  • I found that Gap had great basic tees for layering, especially crew neck tees, for a decent price.  It seems like an odd request, but when your bust grows a few extra sizes, it’s kind of nice to not have to layer up with a tanktop under a v-neck (Why do so many stores insist on only carrying v-neck tees for maternity attire??). Otherwise, Target has a good selection of basic tees, but I will warn you, they’re all v-neck!

Find what works, wait for it to go on sale, then buy it in every color.

As I said before, I wanted my pregnancy style to stay as similar as possible to what I wear when not pregnant. I love clothes, I would even say shopping is my top “hobby,” but I also know better than to spend too much on something unless completely and absolutely necessary (I can’t be the only girl who has justified a purchase by doing the age-old math equation: price of garment divided by number of times I plan to wear it).

I have tried my best to continue shopping at the same stores I did pre-pregnancy, but sometimes you do have to step into that dreaded store: Motherhood Maternity. Here I found a couple gems: a great pair of basic dark, skinny jeans (an absolute necessity), a swimsuit (for $12 no less! Trust me, wait for the sales on this site), and a cute pair of Jessica Simpson flowy shorts (finding the perfect pair of maternity shorts could be an entirely different article).

By shopping early and holding out for sales I was able to start a good base wardrobe complete with basic tees in various colors (Gap!), black and navy pants (Old Navy!), and a few cotton dresses (Target). I then worked on layering these basics with accessories and items I already owned. Even if those cardigans or jackets don’t button, layer them anyways! Switch out the sweater or jacket for a fun printed scarf or a statement necklace and you have a brand new outfit.
With a few scarves, you can make countless outfits out of maternity basics.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t stop with those few items! But at least having a starting point helped me build a solid maternity wardrobe for the upcoming months that I was both comfortable in, and felt my best.

Pregnancy is truly a miracle, a gift from God, and a blessing.  Dressing beautifully during this time only adds to the joy of the beautiful life being created day by day.

I loved hosting Danielle and Morgan today!  How have you found your own style niche and stuck with it during different events and times in your life?  Chime in the comment box with your tips!

Danielle's guest post is part of this year's Why Make Beautiful Things series.  
Monday, Shirley shared about being a hostess & hospitality here: Open Heart, Open Home
Tuesday, Betsy wrote about finding value in history and restoring heirloom linens here: Making Old Things New
If you are curious, you can go back and read the posts from last year here.  And make sure you come back for one more unique post tomorrow and beautiful things giveaway on Friday!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Making Old Things New: Finding Beauty in Restoring Antique Linens {Guest Post}

Betsy, a dear friend, joins us today with her love of family heirlooms and restoring beauty to items that might often be overlooked.  Clearly, Betsy and I have bonded over this love of making old things new (just check out these posts about wearing my Granny's dresses and jewelry) but we also have common ground from our adventures with [un]common Workbasket and our Jane Austen Book Club days.  Even if you don't plan on finding/cleaning/using antique linens, I hope that you read and are struck by the truth that Betsy shares about how the beauty found in simple things points us to the glory of heaven.

Making Old Things New: Finding Beauty in Restoring Antique Linens

I have always loved history.  From reading historical fiction, to dressing up as a pioneer girl when I was little, to relishing in the vivid imagery and descriptions of the beauty of turn-of-the-century Prince Edward Island as related by L.M. Montgomery in the Anne of Green Gables books, the past has always called to me. Like Anne Shirley, my imagination has always been pretty active.  I love imagining what life was like for my ancestors, and I’ve often wished I could travel back in time to experience pioneer life or the early 1920s when my grandparents were young children. Through the process of sorting through my late grandparents’ household belongings in recent years, I have acquired an appreciation for some specific parts of my family’s history. 

 I’m not sure when I first discovered that I have a thing for linens.  I can’t really explain what it is that draws me to pretty old tablecloths, handkerchiefs, and doilies, but draw me, they do.  My grandma Charlotte, who died in 2014, also had an affinity for linens (and lots of other nice things for that matter).  Her collection of table linens, quilts, bedspreads, sheets, and aprons filled three rooms of her house when we spread them all out to look at them last year.   As a saver of all things, Grandma kept (but never used!) all of the white linen tablecloths and napkins that her ancestors meticulously hemmed by hand so long ago.  Do you know what happens to linens when they are kept in storage for years and years?  They no longer remain white.  I am not sure on the scientific reasons, but most linens yellow with age, particularly if they are not stored properly.  From my grandma’s collection, I was able to keep several nice tablecloths and sets of napkins, even though we at first believed that some of them might be ruined due to severe staining that had occurred over time.  Typically the exposed edges of the tablecloths would be badly yellowed or browned if the cloths had been folded and stacked in piles where they were stored. 

Antique clothing soaking in OxiClean and hot water; 
the water can become very brown, depending on how stained the fabric is.

In order to honor my grandma, and also because I like to tackle something that needs a good cleaning, I began my search for how to clean antique linens.  I read a variety of tips, but what I found to work best at removing the yellowing (or dark browning) was OxiClean.  Enter my new best friend.  Oh, OxiClean and I had some grand adventures last summer!  How exciting it was to fill my dishpan (or sometimes even my whole bathtub!) with hot water, stir in that white powder, and then drop in some horribly stained item, knowing that soon it would be gleaming white!  Of course, I didn’t know that it would work the first time I tried it, but once I had successfully seen those awful brown stains disappear, I was hooked.  I went through two tubs of OxiClean last summer!  Isn’t it strange when such simple things can bring such delight?  

Chenille bedspread from my grandma, lace pillow covers from a thrift shop, 
and a throw pillow with vintage fabric from an antique store

There was something so satisfying about restoring those antique linens to their original states that just thrilled me!  It became a challenge to see what I could transform next.  Over the course of the summer, I OxiCleaned lace and linen tablecloths, chenille bedspreads, pillowcases, doilies, dresser scarves, handkerchiefs, and even some antique clothing.  Of course, now that I have all of those linens in my closets, what do I do with them?  Well, I try to use them.  I have a chenille bedspread on my bed.  Dresser scarves lay prettily on some of my bedroom furniture, and my great grandmother’s crocheted doilies have had a turn on my coffee table.  Someday I hope to live in a home with a big enough dining room table to be able to use some of those tablecloths!

Beauty is present in so many facets of our lives.  Even though we know we cannot “lay up for [ourselves] treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy…” (Matthew 6:19), we can still appreciate the beauty in making old things new.  Revelation 21:5 says, “Behold, I am making all things new…”  Someday, as Christians, we will experience a newness in Christ that is unfathomable in comparison to the “newness” that my OxiClean brought to my grandma’s old tablecloths.  Just imagine what that will be like!
In late summer, a bee enjoys the nectar on an Ironweed plant in my prairie patch.

I have read the aforementioned “Anne” books so many times that certain portions of the books often come to my mind.  One passage from the fifth book in the series refers to a “queer ache” that one feels when encountering something beautiful:
“It's so beautiful that it hurts me,' said Anne softly. “Perfect things like that always did hurt me — I remember I called it ‘the queer ache’ when I was a child. What is the reason that pain like this seems inseparable from perfection? Is it the pain of finality — when we realise that there can be nothing beyond but retrogression?” –Anne’s House of Dreams, L.M. Montgomery

I am not suggesting that OxiClean gives me that “queer ache.”  But, I have experienced something similar when walking through a garden on a late summer evening, or when discovering my grandma’s name stitched into a beautiful quilt that I inherited.  Beauty stirs something deep inside of us and makes us long for something greater than ourselves.  C. S. Lewis wrote about that longing in Mere Christianity:
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world…Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.”   
The beauty that I see in antique linens or in a garden merely suggests the real things, which are found only in Heaven. Appreciating beauty in created things can and should point us to our Creator.  We must remember the One who made all things.

It was a sweet discovery to hang this quilt on my clothesline 
and find my grandma's name embroidered on it.

I believe in the value of honoring our pasts and preserving our ancestors’ labors.  Each handmade item that was part of my grandma’s collection represents hours and hours of handiwork.  I wonder at the women who made those pretty things.  Those ancestors, who I never knew, meticulously stitched every one of those linens with the intention that they would bring joy and beauty to someone’s home.  Decades, and even a century later, I am thankful to have those pieces of my family’s history, and I am joyfully choosing to use some of them in my home.  I know it would please my grandma Charlotte to know that a tablecloth hemmed by her sister Esther, who died of rheumatic fever at age 21, is clean, ironed, and hanging in my closet, ready to cover a fancy table when it is needed.  Let’s look for beauty where it can be found, and take joy in preserving something beautiful from the past.

Hanging fresh linens on a clothesline is good for your soul, 
and it’s good for the linens too!

Some practical tips for restoring antique linens:
  1. Determine the type of fabric.  Cotton and linen fabrics can be cleaned with hot water and OxiClean.  Test for color-fastness before submerging entire pieces.  I have only used OxiClean on white linens, so I can’t advise you on what to do with colorful fabrics.
  2. Be patient.  Sometimes stains are so severe that the linens must be allowed to soak for several hours (overnight or longer).  Changing out the water and OxiClean, or increasing the temperature of the water as well as the concentration of the cleaner, is also helpful.
  3. Rinse, rinse, rinse.  It is important to thoroughly rinse your clean linens.  I also generally used a mild laundry detergent after the OxiClean. 
  4. Squeeze, but don’t twist, rinsed antique linens to remove water.  Remember that they may be fragile.  You can roll smaller items inside bath towels to gently squeeze and remove water.  If you are very brave, you can use the gentle cycle on your washing machine to do a wash cycle or even just a rinse after you have soaked the item and removed the stains.  Lingerie bags work great for machine washing small items like handkerchiefs.
  5. Hang or lay flat to dry.  Avoid putting antique linens in the dryer.  If you have a clothes line, use it!  There is nothing better than the smell of freshly laundered linens that have dried in the summer sunshine.  If you don’t have a clothesline, or you have a heavy item like a quilt, you can lay it flat to dry in your yard.  Lay old sheets on the ground first, and then spread your quilt or bedspread on top to dry. 
  6. Ironing brings out more beauty! Your linens will be terribly wrinkled after washing.  If you want to further experience their full beauty, carefully iron them.  It will be easier to iron them if you don’t let them completely dry.  You can go ahead and iron them when damp. They will be so pretty (and more ready to use) after ironing.  I like to use spray starch too, but I read somewhere that it attracts moths to linens that are in storage, so avoid starching things that you are not planning to use any time soon. 
  7. Store cleaned linens properly.  Plastic and wood are not friendly to antique linens.  It is helpful to slip linens inside old pillowcases before storing inside plastic tubs or on wooden shelves. 
  8. Invest in some rubber gloves.  You’ll need them for handling the hot water and for protecting your hands from the OxiClean. 
  9. The off-brands work great.  OxiClean is the brand name, but generic versions of the product are available in many different stores, and they work just as well. 
  10. Carefully consider the benefits and risks. You may fear ruining antique linens, especially if they are fragile.  Decide what value there is in keeping something if it cannot be cleaned.  If you are determined to clean an item, you have to be willing to risk it being ruined.  However, if the only way for it to be preserved and enjoyed is by cleaning it, then it’s probably worth the risk.  Otherwise you would be throwing it out anyway.  Why keep something that is dirty and unusable?  I guess the answer would be if you think it will be worth millions on Antiques Roadshow, you probably shouldn’t launder it.  I haven’t had to worry about that so far, though!

Some websites I found to be helpful when I was first learning how to clean antique linens:

You can follow along with Betsy on:
Instagram  here and here

Betsy's sweet guest post is part of this year's Why Make Beautiful Things series.  
Yesterday, Shirley shared about being a hostess & hospitality here: Open Heart, Open Home
If you are curious, you can go back and read the posts from last year here.  And make sure you come back for two more unique posts this week and beautiful things giveaway on Friday!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Open Heart, Open Home: The Hostess & Hospitality {Guest Post}

Today I have the honor of hosting the lovely words of my lovely friend Shirley.  Shirley couldn't have chosen a better title for her guest post- her open home is an outward extension of her open heart and kind compassion for those she meets.  It has been a privilege to be welcomed into Shirley's home for dinner parties and celebrations, and I could think of no one better to write about the art of food and hospitality.  I hope her thoughts inspire you to think of your table as a place of ministry and your home as an opportunity to better love the souls in your life. 

Open Heart, Open Home: The Hostess & Hospitality

I’m the type of person that tends to have a myriad of soapbox topics and things I like to speak passionately about, but none so much as the philosophy behind the meal, communion shared while eating and “our daily bread.” While I could probably write a whole book on the topic, here I will share some thoughts on why the details of your next dinner party are worth making beautiful.

I love to create nourishing, delicious, beautiful food and warm, inviting spaces. It’s my art. I’m sure there are plenty people out there who like to “wing it” and clean out the fridge when they are having people over for dinner. Those are wonderful people, but I am certainly not one of them. For me, having people to my home is an experience. I prepare for their visit with extensive planning, prepping, and cleaning. This time spent, very literally, becomes an act of love for the person or persons who will dine with me later in the evening. Most of the dinner parties I have hosted have themes and several courses. I’m often chided for going over the top, but I wouldn’t know any other way. It is the way I pour out my heart. Here’s where we dive a little deeper. Edith Stein, amazing Catholic saint and philosopher, wrote this about the soul of a woman:

“Women must become broad, tranquil, emptied of self, warm and transparent. Only hearts that are emptied and silent can be penetrated by grace, with its power to form women into the loving persons they are intended to be.”

“What does this have to do with hosting a dinner party?” you ask. Well, seemingly nothing. But if we look a little closer, it’s obvious. Women have been created in a particular way to nourish and nurture life. The disposition of our hearts, as described above, should be a warm place where all are welcome and feel loved. That is the “genius” of the feminine (see more on that here). This should also be the environment of our homes insomuch as we can make them. When we are literally welcoming people to our homes to nurture them in friendship and nourish them with food, we see an even closer connection between the spiritual and physical aspects of hospitality. I imagine the home at Nazareth had this feel to it. Our Lady made it so. Opening my home has also given me the opportunity to grow in virtue over the years. The purity of my intention to serve the other, and not my own ego, has been refined. I think this is what Edith Stein means about emptying our hearts- everything we are is given to those we love and serve and it turn our hearts are open to receive whomever the Lord wills.

The interior disposition is so important to hosting, but so is the practical! Below are my top 3 tips for hosting an enriching evening (mostly learned through trial and error).

1. Don’t bite off more than you can chew (pun intended :) )

I’m definitely guilty of getting in trouble when I try too many complicated or intricate recipes at once without adequate time to pull them off. So, start small. Fewer courses done well are more impressive than trying too hard and having aspects of your evening flop. I’m speaking from experience here! Also, a sweaty, flustered hostess is never attractive (again, experience!). Simplicity is beautiful. I’ve had to learn this and I’m still learning.

2. Setting the Stage: Atmosphere is Key

A warm, inviting atmosphere needs to be created. Key players: soft lighting, candles, and background music. The overall aesthetics of my home are something I work on all the time to have beauty to look at everyday, but also to bring joy to visitors. I give extra attention to the set up of the table: fresh flowers in a mason jar centerpiece, set silverware and cloth napkins are all a nice touch. Creating an atmosphere of welcome can begin as soon as your guest arrives by greeting them at the door, taking their coat, asking if they need a drink and making sure they know where to go to join the party. Your guests are immediately at ease and ready to enter into the evening by those simple gestures.

3. Sometimes, less is more

Sometimes my hosting philosophy is: the more the merrier but more often than not these days, it is less is more. It’s not that I don’t want more people to be able to come to my house, but it’s important that you use the space you have well. Try not to crowd the space you have and accommodate additions comfortably. Also it can be prudent to have less people to facilitate more quality conversation and real relationships. Having less people at each dinner party allows for more dinner parties overall! Win, win!

You may be wondering whom to invite to your next party. Who’s worthy of all this trouble? My humble suggestion: Your priest. I’ve not enjoyed hosting or cooking for anyone more than our beloved shepherds. They are so appreciative of home cooked meals and it is an honor to have them dine with you and your family and friends. I have been incredibly blessed by each Father who has broken bread at my table and God willing there will be many more! But you don’t have to take my word for it. St. Margaret Clitherow gave her life for this very act at a time in English history when being a Catholic priest or having them in your home was a capital crime. St. Margaret is a great witness to the sacrifice of hospitality. (You can read more about her incredible story here).

Over the years, it’s been beautiful to see how this way of loving has been received. Having dinner parties in my home has been as much of a ministry to me as it has been to the other. When a person is welcomed into such a space and fed body and soul- they relax, laughter abounds, friendships deepen, and joy ensues. 

Bon appétit!

P.S.- Shirley is the cutest- when the Pope was here in the fall, she shared this grand wish:
The whole time the Pope has been here all I can think is, I wish I could cook him dinner! I want to feed him (and make him some strong coffee!) A grand Babette's Feast (modeled after his favorite movie, of course). If anyone has connections, let me know. My dream would look something like this... 

I only hope that I could garner an invite and would be sitting on the other side of that table, enjoying Shirley's warm welcome and delicious food. :)

 You can follow along with Shirley over on Instagram, where she chronicles beauty in the everyday, celebrates her success with Whole30, and posts the best food pics ever. :)

Shirley's lovely contribution is part of this year's Why Make Beautiful Things series.  If you are curious, you can go back and read the posts from last year here.  Make sure you come back for three more unique posts this week (Betsy on making old things new) and beautiful things giveaway on Friday!