Auntie Em's Guide to Life

A guide to all the important things in life- marriage, family, cooking, gardening, reading, travel, Christian living… And whatever else grabs my attention!

Dinnerplate Hibiscus- and a Ridiculously Excited Auntie Em

I know you’re not supposed to play favorites, but I think of all the beautiful flowers in my garden, I love this dinnerplate hibicus best! A friend gave it to me when I was teaching her son, about 10 years ago; it had sprouted up beside hers. She told me that these are very persnickety about propagation and rarely make babies.

So last spring when I saw this little baby peeking up near the big bush, I held my breath and waited…

When it reached about a foot tall, I dug it up, potted it to grow a bigger root system, kept it over the winter, then gave it to Sis this spring for her garden. She kept me updated and we were so excited when it finally bloomed! Here it is:

And another unusual thing happened last summer- Since I will reuse potting soil if a plant “bites the dust” (HA- usually that’s exactly what happens; I don’t water enough and it dies of thirst!), sometimes random plants come up in newly-potted plants. I sometimes recognize what they are; sometimes I debate whether they are weeds or something desirable, and wait it out; and sometimes I have no idea! Last summer I had 2 babies which looked like hibiscus come up in a pot. I posted the picture to Facebook and asked friends what they thought it could be– hibiscus? Watermelon? I hadn’t planted any dinnerplate seeds in a long time… a few years back I had, but they never germinated.

What do you think?

I put them in separate pots and kept them alive all through our horrible drought last summer, then this spring planted them in the ground.

One died. But one thrived. I kept watching, holding my breath, and hoping it would be a dinnerplate… and finally… TADAAA! I was so excited you would have thought I’d have bred a Kentucky Derby winning horse!

Such is the life of a frugal gardener!


In Auntie Em’s Garden

I read a quote on the WordPress site yesterday from Gloria Steinem saying, “I don’t like to write. I like to have written.” That’s sort of like me with gardening. I do like to get my hands in the dirt, but it’s so hot, and my knees hurt with all the squatting, and I’ve pulled muscles in my back from tugging… But I so love the results! Bright colors, and especially blues, make me happy! (pinks follow a close second.)
Flowers are just part of the method of propagation that God designed for plants. I’m so thankful for His beautiful creativity! He could have designed a nuts and bolts, practical way, but He added all this beauty too.
Psalm 19:1– The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His handiwork.

Mr X is off today, so we are taking a little day trip. I’ll leave you, Dearies, with some pretty sights from my garden to start your weekend on a happy note!

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I’m having fun… and an award

I have been reading blogs for a couple of years- I started out with Pioneer Woman, then added The Reluctant Entertainer, The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor, To Love, Honor, and Vacuum, Hoe and Shovel, and of course the spiritual wisdom from my old longtime friend, Juliana at SimplyJuliana.

Juliana was a strong Christian even back in high school. Now I was a Christian- but a strong one? Did everyone I meet see Christ in my life? I’m not so sure. It’s easy for a mature woman to take a stand, but the older I get, (I seem to be saying that a lot lately *sigh*) the more I admire Juliana for her strong Christian witness for as long as I’ve known her.

Even though we both live in the town where we graduated, we did not stay in touch regularly until Facebook, but since then, we’ve made up for lost time, sharing prayers and requests. She even says I was instrumental in her starting her blog! She just has always been able to pull out Scripture and wisdom in any situation I needed, at the drop of a hat. So I’m really glad she’s writing and sharing it with a larger audience. She also encouraged me to start Auntie Em, and she’s nominated me for a Reader Appreciation Award! It’s sort of like an Academy Award *rolls eyes*, nominated by your peers- and then I get to nominate the blogs that I particularly love.  Thank you Juliana!

It’s been really fun (all 3 days of it lol) because, as you know, one of Auntie Em’s rules in the guide for life is to EXAMINE YOURSELF. When you write, you have to really think things out, and come up with things you might not have in normal life. For instance: My younger daughter, whom Auntie Em calls “Sunshine”, has always brightened rooms whenever she walks in. People have always said it- it’s just that obvious. She is strikingly beautiful (may I say that?), with dark blue eyes, blonde hair, and very fair skin. We always say Sunshine brings the party with her. She was very easy to name.

My older girl, Sis, is much more subdued than Sunshine. Auntie Em was trying to come up with an appropriate name for her so I began thinking- what has she been in my life? Help. Calmness. Stability. Joy. She was the child that I learned to mother with. I thought, “What a wonderful mother I must be!” when she rarely cried, and was so sweet-natured and easy to care for. (Then I had another child and realized that it was more about HER than ME!) Her teachers always said what a wonderful student she was. I find myself using the word “always” to describe her often- always a hard worker, always self-motivated, always helpful, always dependable. She lived at home until she got married, after college for bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and while many times I would advise against that, I was happy to have her here because she made my life so much easier. (She too is very beautiful!)

Therefore (as the Apostle Paul so eloquently says when summing up what he’s said before, to come to the point), because of writing Auntie Em, I talked to Sis about her blog name, and said all these things to her, which otherwise I might not have. It was a good conversation to have.

So your assignment for today, my dears: Think about someone who has made a positive difference in your life– a teacher? Child, parent, sibling? Friend? Think about HOW, and be specific. Then tell them. You know- give them their flowers while they’re alive, instead of waiting to send them to the funeral.

So here are my award nominees.

1. The Pioneer Woman – recipes, funny and heartfelt “confessions”, beautiful photography, and now a show on the Food Network.

2. The Reluctant Entertainer – Sandy writes about overcoming your perfectionism, getting over your excuses and reasons not to get together with friends, and to JUST DO IT! To someone who thinks things to death, and is much better at PLANNING than DOING, her blog really hits home.

3. The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor – In case you don’t know, “sartorial” has to do with clothes and dressing. I have always loved the royal highnesses and majesties, especially the British ones, but I’ve discovered the Belgian, Dutch, Spanish, Swedish, and Norwegian ones too, as well as other “serenes”. And did I mention the JEWELS??

4. To Love, Honor, and Vacuum – Shelia writes about marriage and — dare I say it?– sex, from a Christian perspective. She is forthright but tasteful and talks about a lot of things that SHOULD be being taught in churches, but many times are not. Christians need to hear this message in the right context, not leave it to network TV.

5. Hoe and Shovel – Meems writes about her garden in Florida. Oh. My. Goodness. Such beauty. And and environment similar to mine, so I draw a lot of inspiration from her.

Please accept this award with my thanks for the inspiration you have given me! And follow these directions.

1. Add a picture of the award to your blog post.

2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and include a link to their blog.

3. Nominate 5-10 other Bloggers and inform those selected that they have been nominated.

And don’t forget your homework! Turn it in, right in the comments section!


Auntie Em’s guide to life

Hello Dearies; I’m so glad you are here! Auntie Em has learned a thing or two along the way and is happy to share them with you, so you don’t have to learn the hard way! (And now I’ll switch to first person!)


Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is deceitful above all things. Who can understand it?” Surely everyone knows your life will be easier if you are honest with other people. (Who can remember what they told to whom? Not me!) The trick is to be honest with yourself. People were fooling themselves back in Jeremiah’s day and we are still doing it. Have you seen women of a certain age wearing Spandex when they shouldn’t? Singers on American Idol who thought they were good? What about teachers who make a big to-do list at the beginning of summer, and when school starts, it’s still undone? (OUCH!) Deceiving ourselves can go from the frivolous (like Spandex or size 6) to much more important issues, like our weight’s effect on our health, or addictions, or bad relationships. Once you uncover your warts– a painful process– you can deal with them honestly. You might decide to still eat the brownies. But you’ll do it with open eyes.


As long as we’re talking about honesty, this is a good time to say- examine yourself. Have you thought about why your dad’s not telling you about his out-patient surgery hurt your feelings? (My “rules” say you must share health concerns.) Have you been cranky and not known why? (I’m cranky when I’m cold. I get colder than a lot of people, so I know to bring a jacket, or if I’m on a car trip with Mr X, a blanket too.)


My rule: My girls had to have dresses that I made at Easter when they were little. (This caused some stress for me!) THE rule: They need to be in church on Easter (and regularly) and it really didn’t matter even if it’s a new dress or not! Don’t get too hung up on YOUR rules.


The “Tightwad Gazette” (Amy Dacyczyn) has had a significant influence on my financial life. In our world, “frugal” means getting the value that YOU determine is valuable. You save where you can, intentionally, so that you can decide what you want to do with your money. (We did piano lessons for 2 children from grades   1-12 but didn’t have cable TV until the youngest was 9 or 10.) We are also Dave Ramsey followers- don’t borrow money except for a house.

DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT (Don’t fall for advertising.)

Contrary to what TV ads say, every woman does not need professionally colored hair, salon nails, a tattoo, a fake tan, and the latest shade of the color-du-jour shoes. And it really IS possible to live on one income while caring for preschool children. Now I have a very fashionable friend who likes to buy inexpensive, trendy accessories, but she saves her bigger money for wardrobe staples. And I have some friends who don’t want to put a hold on their careers and feel like their career/child situation is in balance (usually with the help of a lucky grandma!). But your money (or time, or energy) can do only one thing. YOU get the facts and decide.


You have control over one thing. You.


I love 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter.  “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (v 7) So very often, my students get all upset because of something a friend did or didn’t do, or say, only to find out later that their friend was preoccupied, or didn’t see them because they didn’t have their contacts, or were upset because their parents just announced a divorce. If we can jump FIRST to the conclusion that some offense is not about us, we will be much happier.


I don’t know why I’m still surprised when I find out that somebody who appears to be fine is actually dying inside. I’ve seen it so many times. Be kind to people and give them a break. You never know what’s going on in their lives.

USE REAL BUTTER (and the best ingredients possible)

Self-explanatory. Except it holds in all other areas. I have Wusthof knives and will never need to buy any again.


Azaleas will get big, and they have a natural shape. Don’t try to make them small hedges. You’ll work yourself to death and they won’t reach their potential. (This theory works with children too.)


Fertilizer won’t help too-sandy soil. And the Texas sun will dry up your beds in a day if you don’t mulch. Weeds will spring up too. (Good relationship rule too, with kindness and love being both the amendment and the mulch!)


Guys are weird different and sometimes hard to understand. Reading books like John Gray’s Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and Gary Smalley’s The Five Love Languages will give you lots of insight, but you still need to be a student of your husband and ASK him.


They will leave. He will not. (hopefully both) They will also be set up for good relationships when Mom and Dad have a good one.


Swallow your pride and pick some people you admire. Let them mentor you. HINT: They don’t even have to know they are doing it; in fact they might not even be alive! Look at different areas and see who you admire- fashion, decorating, spirituality, marriage, child-rearing, etc.


You will find many mentors in the Bible. Even if you are not a believer, you can’t go wrong! Love one another- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you– The borrower is slave to the lender– Don’t let the sun go down on your anger– etc. You’ll see lots of guidance on what to do, but also plenty of “what not to do” (David did what?), and how God will forgive ANY sin and still use you in marvelous ways.

So there you have it. Auntie Em’s guide to life.

I’m linking with The Alabaster Jar


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