Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Book Reviews | Memoirs & Nonfiction

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell tells of his adventures during the five years he spent with his mother and three siblings on the Greek island of Corfu. He was ten years old when they moved there from the UK in 1935. 

The author had an obsession with animals, and he collected quite a menagerie over the years (maypies, terrapin, snakes, dogs, etc). His oldest brother Larry was a writer; his older sister Margo was a teenager at that time, mostly worried about her appearance; and his other brother Lesley enjoyed guns and shooting. Their Mom was quite laid back and didn't let their varying interests and adventures upset her. 

During their time on Corfu, they lived in three different villas, each with its own unique characteristics and animal species. This was a FUN easy read incorporating the family's hilarious activities and arguments as well as the author's adventures hunting animals and learning from his various tutors. I definitely recommend it!


An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Col Chris Hadfield tells the story of the author's life, career path, and the three missions he flew in space (the last one as commander of the International Space Station). Col Hadfield was a Canadian astronaut, and this memoir/life lessons guide is very well-written, weaving the author's life story in with the three missions. It's a very interesting read that I definitely recommend.

The great chapter titles are FUN and give a hint to the lessons: Have An Attitude, The Power of Negative Thinking, What's the Next Thing That Could Kill Me?, How to Get Blasted (and Feel Good the Next Day).

The book really demonstrates how much of an astronaut's life is in training and supporting, moving up and down the ladder of "importance" depending on who's scheduled for the next mission. The secret, according to Hadfield, is to enjoy the training. He gives this analogy - "the appeal was similar to that of a New York Times crossword puzzle: training is hard and fun and stretches my mind, so I feel good when I persevere and finish - and I also feel ready to do it all over again."

One of my favorite lessons was about "attitude." Attitude in space is the orientation of the spaceship relative to the sun, the earth, and other spacecraft. It's vital not to lose control of the spaceship's attitude because "the vehicle starts to tumble, disorienting everyone on board, and it also strays from its course, which ... could mean the difference between life and death." So, they must monitor attitude constantly and adjust when necessary - good advice for our attitudes in everyday life as well!

He spent several years in Houston at the Johnson Space Center, so when he was asked to take a position in Star City, Russia, he said, "To a Canadian who'd managed to acclimatize to the drawl and humidity of Gulf Coast Texas ... the chance to live in yet another foreign country for a few years sounded exciting."

After the author's last space mission, he was often asked what was next in life for him and could anything compare to his experiences as an astronaut. His reply was that "a high octane experience only enriches the rest of your life." He currently speaks and writes and continues to promote the space program - you can learn more about him on his website HERE and or watch his TEDTalk - What I learned from going blind in space


The Library Book by Susan Orlean is another very interesting and informative read. This book is about the Los Angeles Public Library fire in 1986, but it really contains three story lines.

1. The timeline and details of the 1986 fire and the investigation of Harry Peak (the number one suspect, although no concrete evidence led to him being formally charged).

2. The history of the Los Angeles Public Library and its librarians beginning in the late 1800s to present day. There are lots of insights along the way into the variety of items available in libraries and the various functions of a library and the adaptations of libraries as technology changed and became more dominant.

3. The author's visits to the library and the time she spent with various librarians over the years she researched and wrote this book.

There was no chapter titles. Instead, the titles of four books were listed at the beginning of each chapter, giving a clue to the contents to follow. I thought this was ingenious! Another book I'd recommend.


Have you read any of these books? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Scrapbooking | Houston Space Center 2011

When I got to the photos of our 2011 visit to the Houston Space Center, I happened to have a brand new paper pad on my desk with colors that would work perfect with those photos! However, the theme was vastly different - cooking and recipes (the Ingredient collection from Authentique). 

I ended up using eight of the twenty-four papers in the pad because the "B" sides worked perfectly. Of course, if you turn these layouts over, you'll see aprons and spoons & forks and pigs & cows and flowers.

Since we'd included journaling about this trip on an earlier layout, these simple pages came together quickly. I included additional photos in two 12x12 pocket pages as well.







I even used a few space-themed embellishments that have been in my stash for years!!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Book Review | Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel



"A story of fathers and sons, memories lost and found, and artists and their muses, Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel explores the mysteries of the mind, the truth behind lore, and the miracle of inspiration."

Midnight at the Tuscany Hotel (which I received free from Booklook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review) is the second book I've read by James Markert. (See my review of What Blooms From Dust HERE.)

In1945, 24-year-old Vitto Gandy returns home from WWII to his wife and young son (who doesn't remember him) and father (who's developed dementia). Vitto is struggling with leaving behind the realities of war (what we now call PTSD).

Vitto's father, Robert, and his mother, Magdalena, had built and run The Tuscany Hotel. This creative couple spent all their life together at the hotel, a place where artists and musicians and famous and powerful people filled the guest rooms. Each room had a different colored door and beautiful frescoes on the wall and/or ceiling. The hotel had closed down after Magdalena's death several years before Vitto went off to war.

When Robert disappears one day, they find him back at the hotel, which he's decided to reopen to help those with dementia! After struggling with the symptoms of Alzheimer's the past couple of years, Robert is suddenly back to his former self after drinking from the hotel fountain (that reportedly brings back memories) and wants to help others.

This story is interwoven with tales of Greek mythology - Magdalena spent hours telling Vitto these stories when he was growing up and he retells them to his son as they view the various paintings and sculptures throughout the hotel.

As Vitto struggles with his own memories, he helps rebuild the hotel, but also uncovers memories about his mother and her tragic death and life as a young girl. He also works to keep his marriage together and get to know his young son again. 

This is an interesting read and has a really nice ending, although I got lost in some of the Greek mythology tales and still am not positive of the meaning some of them were meant to convey.

Have you read anything by James Markert? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Take Three Thursday | Mistakes

I'm really enjoying joining in with Mary-Lou's Take Three Thursday, a meme designed to help us notice more of the ordinary of our lives, most weeks this year! It gives me a chance to pause each week and think about what it is I've noticed.

Unfortunately, this week I've noticed several little mistakes that I've made recently! 

1. Earlier this month, I sent out an email with this subject line:

Sneek Peak & Last Call - Flowers in the Bible Class This Friday or Saturday 

Did you spot the error? I didn't notice it until after it had already gone out to the 390 people on my newsletter list!!

2. The title of last week's Take Three Thursday post also had an error: 

Take Three Thursday | How To Style A Mantle

I did correct the error in the title (and throughout the post!), but not until after it had already been sent to those individuals who subscribe to my blog posts via email! 

3. This week I filmed a couple of hymnal journaling videos (that I'll be editing & publishing soon). As I was narrating and illustrating at the same time, I made a mistake, which I immediately attempted to correct ... but it still shows up a little.


It's lucky I'm a huge believer in the fact that "perfection is highly overrated", isn't it!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Book Reviews | Pulitzers

I am closing in on completing my goal to read all the Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winners - 58 down, 6 to go!


The Stories of John Cheever (1979 winner) took me forever to slog through! You may remember that I'm not a huge fan of the short story, and this book included stories written by John Cheever from the end of World War II until the 1970s. They are organized in chronological order by the date they were written, which did make it a little interesting as the author's writing style changed a little and the stories contain more "modern" settings and events.

There were lots of stories about people who went to New York for various reasons. The stories often covered several years of time. Quite a few were set in the Shady Hill Suburb, often with the same surnames showing up in multiple stores (the Farquarsons, the Townsends, etc). A few of the later stories were set in Italy. Many of the characters had affairs and illicit thoughts. These story titles will give you an idea of the depressing stories: "Christmas is a Sad Day for the Poor"; "The Season of Divorce"; " The Death of Justina." The negativity made for very slow reading and very few characters were portrayed in a positive light. For example,"The Crutchmans were so very, very happy and so temperate in all their habits and so pleased with everything that came their way that one was bound to suspect a worm in their rosy apple and that the extraordinary rosiness of the fruit was only meant to conceal the gravity and the depth of the infection." 

Guard of Honor (1949 winner) by James Gould Cozzens is set during World War II at a fictional AFORAD (Army Air Force Operations and Requirements Analysis Division) base in Florida.

There are lots (lots!) of characters in the book, and they are often referred to by various names. For example, Major General Ira N. Beal was referred to as Bus by his friends, Ira by his wife, General Beal by many of his subordinates, as well as simply the Major General. This made it difficult at times to keep all the characters straight!

There were several conflicts going on at once during the three days of this 640+ page novel: General Beal's friend and copilot punched a Negro pilot who almost caused an accident; the Negro officers were not allowed in the officer's club, but they showed up one evening & got arrested; a different friend of General Beal's from another base kills himself, so there's an investigation; etc. Colonel Ross works to fix everything to keep General Beal looking good and prevent bad publicity. In the end there are really no consequences for the actions of anyone, so "all's well that end's well." This was an interesting read, however, it was a terribly disappointing ending!

I read The Edge of Sadness (1962 winner) by Edwin O'Connor on my Kindle. This story is told from the perspective of Father Hugh Kennedy, the pastor of a dying parish. Father Hugh was assigned to this parish after his time away recovering from the alcoholism that helped his deal with the death of his father.

As the narrator, Father Hugh says that he's basically telling the story of the Carmody family who he was friends with before he began drinking years before. Charlie Carmody is an old swindling businessman who got in touch after years and kept Father Kennedy wondering what he wanted. Charlie's son, John, was Hugh's best friend, and is also a parish pastor, but he's actually quite sick of people! Helen, Charlie's daughter, also renews her friendship with Father Kennedy. This was a pretty easy read, although the suspense was drawn out and not rewarded in the end. It simply all ended with Father Kennedy choosing to stay at the dying parish for the rest of his life.

Have you read any of these books? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Upcoming Class | On A Mission Bible Journaling Class (Allen TX)

As Christians, we are instructed to share the gospel message throughout the world (Mark 16:15). This may mean teaching your children about the Lord in your own home, helping your neighbors in order to share the love of God, being the hands and feet of Jesus by volunteering in your local community, advocating for Biblical values by voting in national elections, and/or going on a short term mission trip to spread the Good News of salvation. It may also mean serving in a foreign country, leading others to Christ and training them to be disciples.

This summer I'm excited to be meeting Cornelia and Ana who serve as missionaries with Campus Crusade for Christ in Moldova. These ladies will be in the DFW area in June and are going to attend my Bible journaling classes in order to learn about this fun and meaningful hobby (and hopefully use it as a new tool in their missionary work). They will also be sharing about their mission work during the classes!



Join me in June as we study and discuss missions and the call of missionaries around the world and take a look at the call on our own individual lives. We'll also hear from Cornelia and Ana and take time to illustrate what we feel the Lord is saying to us in the margin (or across the whole page) of our Bibles!


On A Mission Bible Journaling Class
June 21 or 22, 2019 (Friday or Saturday)
Home of Melissa Gross, Allen TX
10am - 1pm
$30

Your class fee includes Biblical teaching, illustrated Bible journaling technique demonstrations, a kit of fun Bible journaling supplies to add to your stash, additional supplies and tools to use during class, bottle water and light snacks, as well as fellowship, creative time and discussion with other class participants and our visiting missionaries! Click the appropriate link below to reserve your spot today!

**If you are registering for more than one spot, you can change the quantity on the payment page, so you only have to check out once.**



Please note: If you receive a notification that the class is sold out & would like to be added to the waiting list, please email me. If you are registered and unable to attend, please let me know before June 17 for a full refund or transfer of fees to a future class. Cancellations after June 16 are nonrefundable; however, I will be happy to mail you the class kit.

Additional details for classes at my home:
*Be sure to bring your Bible (or a journal or hymnal) to work in, along with your favorite journaling pen.
*I will have supplies available for you to use in your journaling, but you are welcome to bring along some of your favorite supplies as well. (Please note that space will be limited as we all gather around one large table.)
*There will be some yummy snacks and bottled water for us to enjoy throughout the day. If a hot coffee or ice cold soda enhances your Bible journaling time, please feel free to bring that along with you.
*Space is limited for each class (it's the same on both days), so don't wait too long to register! Your spot is reserved once payment is received. Within 48 hours of payment, you will receive a confirmation email with my address and directions.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 | Watch All Movies In Our Collection

When I added "watch all the movies in our collection" to my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 List, my goal was not to literally watch ALL the movies we own. I knew I'd skip the zombie, monster, and horror movies Robbie enjoys (but that do not appeal to me). My objective was to be intentional about taking time to watch the movies we've collected because there are so many movies that I really wanted to see and I enjoy spending a relaxing evening with Robbie watching a good show.

We actually have an inventory of our DVD/BluRay/VHS collection on a spreadsheet for a couple of reasons: (1) We have the collection in several places and it's easy to locate what we're looking for by checking the list; and (2) we (well, mainly Robbie) might have occasionally bought/ordered something that we already owned!!

I've been keeping track of my movie watching over the past five years.


I've actually watch 175+ movies! In all honesty, I'm not a huge movie/TV watcher, so this number tells me I've definitely been more intentional about enjoying our collection! After watching 20 Marvel Universe movies (in preparation to see Avengers Endgame) over the past three weeks, I'm happy to check this item completed!


Do you have a collection of movies? How often do you watch them?

Friday, May 10, 2019

Scrapbooking | 2011 Chronological Albums Completed

I spent all day Saturday working through the final photos & stories for our 2011 Chronological Albums. I completed 16 layouts - a variety of 12x12 pages, an 8 1/2x11 page, and several divided pocket pages. It was a wonderful way to spend (inter)National Scrapbook Day!

First, I finished up the itinerary layout for Robbie's Surprise Birthday Getaway. I included lots of journaling on this page, so some of the following pages about this trip contain little or no additional journaling.


Then there are several pages about the Cleveland Browns/Houston Texans game - two of which contain funny stories that still make us laugh.


For all of these pages, I used an orange cardstock background and interspersed memorabilia and FUN football themed embellishments.


Here's a closer look at the journaling about those humongous hot dogs!


The remaining pages show Reliant Stadium, the game itself, and the final score (sadly the Browns lost).



I used an 8x8 divided pocket page to include more highlights from game day.


After the game, we headed to the Kemah Boardwalk for dinner. We were still wearing our orange jerseys, but I wanted to give this layout a different feel. I pulled some darker papers and discovered a border strip that said "On the Boardwalk" - perfect!


We spent the next day at Space Center Houston, and I created another six layouts showcasing those photos (which I'll share in a separate post).

To finish out our 2011 albums, I created three pages with Christmas cards. I chose a selection of cards, sentiments, and signatures from all the cards we received that year.



I also scrapped two lovely anniversary cards we received for our 10th anniversary that year.


It feels so good to complete this project that I've been working on for the past eight (!) years! 

Did you find time to scrap on (inter)National Scrapbook Day?