Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Christmas Ornaments

We like to wait until the Friday after Thanksgiving to begin pulling out the Christmas decorations around here. However, it's totally ok to work on crafty Christmas creations. 

Last year about this time, I was busy creating ornaments. The first two had been in my to-craft pile for awhile. The wooden train was a kit we picked up on our trip to Alaska in the summer of 2018, and it went together fairly quickly.

The Humpty Dumpty was actually pieces of the base of a lamp from Robbie's childhood. The lamp was in pretty bad shape, so I had him take it apart and save the pieces of Humpty Dumpty that were spread out along the lampstand. I glued them together, touched up the paint, and added the flower and ornament hanger.

Next, (based on inspiration from Pinterest) I created some personalized ornaments using ribbon, twine, and Scrabble tiles.

Then I participated in a free online event with a variety of teachers and created quite a few more ornaments - painted balls, scalloped circles, and paper stars.

I had also noticed quite a few pandemic themed ornaments online, so I decided to turn one of the scalloped circles into our own personalized memento for the year 2020. Here's a look at the front and back.

The free Ornamentally Yours event is hosted by Lindsay Ostrom and is scheduled again this year with all new ornaments and a great line up of teachers, including Shimelle. Click HERE to join the Facebook group and participate this coming weekend (October 12-14).

I've actually already created a few ornaments for this year after seeing some FUN button trees while scrolling on the internet several weeks ago. I pulled out a variety of buttons and love the way these wonky trees look. 

They kind of remind me of Whoville! What do you think?

Monday, November 8, 2021

Book Reviews | Middle Grade and Young Adult Novels


Buddies, Bullies, and Baseball by Phyllis J. Perry follows 5th-grader Jack as he deals with a couple of bullies who steal his lunch and call him Mustard (because they consider him a coward/yellow because he doesn't fight back). Jack and his buddies enjoy baseball and are excited that their team is going to the World Series. He's also been assigned a project with the new kid in class, so there's plenty of action going on in this chapter book. This is an easy-to-read engaging coming-of-age story (which I received free from TCK Publishing in exchange for an honest review) that would appeal to middle graders and be a good conversation starter about bullying.

Since I enjoyed the Hunger Games series, Robbie picked up a copy of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins for me. This is a prequel to the original series and tells the backstory of President Snow. It's a good read, although it's not what I would have envisioned and leaves the reader with a little more empathy (rather than complete loathing) for Corialanus Snow and the drive behind his need to survive.

In addition to these two first (to me) reads, I've also been reading some of the books in our collection, most of which I've read before. Some are classics, while others are ones I've had since my school years. As I(re)read these books, I'm deciding which ones stay in our collection and which ones can now be passed along.

The ones that continue to merit shelf space (and future re-readings) include:
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane was first published in 1895 and follows a young soldier, Henry Fleming, as he battles fear and cowardice in the midst of the Civil War. He eventually discovers courage as the war matures him in this well-written novel.
* Queenie Peavy by Robert Burch is a quick read about a young girl who struggles with anger and is often in trouble for misbehaving at school, but she's also dealing with lots of responsibilities at home while her mother works to provide for the family as her father is in prison. Robbie remembers his elementary teacher reading this book aloud to him, and it's a favorite of both of ours.
* The Time Machine by H.G. Wells is another classic first published in 1895. When the Time Traveller arrives in a future utopian time he wants to learn how the creatures live in harmony and return to his own time, but he discovers all is not as it appears.
* A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a lovely book about young Sara Crewe and the hardships she faces at a boarding school in London when her father passes away and the strict headmistress relegates her to a servant. It's a beautiful story about using one's imagination to make the best of any situation and has a wonderfully satisfying ending.
* Master of the World by Jules Verne follows John Strock, head inspector in the federal police department, as he investigates reports of objects moving at speeds that make them almost invisible. The book is set in the early 1900s and is a classic science fiction story. Strock is eventually captured by the man who is behind these events and wants to be master of the world.

A few books did not make the cut for staying in our collection for a variety of reasons:
* Gentle Annie: The True Story of a Civil War Nurse by Mary Francis Shura is a good read with details about nursing during the Civil War. I enjoyed this fictionalized biography and added it to the donation box for others to enjoy.
* My small paperback copy of Candy Stripers by Lee Wyndham was falling apart and hasn't had a cover for years. I believe it was originally my older sister's book. We were both candy stripers at local hospitals in our teen years, and I really liked this story. However, I knew it was time to re-purpose it and have added the pages to my pile of ephemera for use in paper crafting. I kept some of the pages with illustrations separate and plan to create a scrapbook page about my time as a candy striper (or junior volunteer, as we were called when I served during a couple of my high school years).
* Waiting Games by Bruce & Carole Hart is about fourteen-year-old Jessie who "becomes romantically and sexually involved with her eighteen-year-old guitar teacher Michael." This is another book from my teenage years that I probably would not recommend now as it downplays the emotional consequences of teenage promiscuity.
* I had a beautiful hardback copy of The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo; however, as I re-read this story of Despereaux (a mouse who lives in a castle but gets sent to the dungeon by the other mice), Roscuro (a covetous rat who lives in the dungeon), Miggery Sow (a servant girl who is mistreated), and Princess Pea (whose mother died while eating soup), I realized that it's quite a downer (although things work out in the end) and I had no desire to trudge through it again. It went into the donation pile.

I'm enjoying working through these books in our collection, keeping some, passing some along, and repurposing others. Have you re-read any of the books in your personal library lately?

Wednesday, November 3, 2021


It's my AUNTiversary!

Thirty-five years ago today, I became an aunt for the first time. As a senior in high school, I really didn't understand how that new title would change my life. I now have three nephews (& a niece-in-law), four nieces, a great-nephew, and four great-nieces.

Several years ago, I posted some reflections On Being An Aunt and a few years later shared about A New Season of Life as the summer visits waned and many of our interactions came through technology. Although our times together ebb and flow over the years, I truly love spending time with all the nieces, nephews and greats! Oh the places we’ve been … and the places still to go!

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Book Reviews | The Gospel You've Never Heard

Having grown up in church and accepted Christ as my Savior as a young child, then becoming a Bible study leader and teacher and starting my own teaching/speaking ministry as a way to encourage women to dive into the Word and use their creativity to draw closer to the Lord, I was intrigued by the title of Maurie Daigneau's new book, The Gospel You've Never Heard. I've had a personal relationship with the Lord practically my entire life, and, during that time, I've heard lots (lots!) of sermons and Biblical teachings, I've read through the entire Bible myself many times, and I've done quite a bit of in-depth study in groups and on my own; so, I was curious to see what/if this book had something new to share.

This is an extremely well-written and researched book with clear and deliberate wording. However, it is in-depth and requires a slower read (and definitely merits a re-reading) and quiet reflection on the information presented. The reader is reminded of scriptures encouraging us to get understanding (Prov. 4:7) and to abide in the Word (John 8:31) so that we can know and understand the information presented in the gospel. We're also reminded that "the priority of life is to be a consistent reflection of the glory and holiness of God."

The author has done a fantastic job searching and studying scripture and (I believe) spending time with the Lord; however, he reminds us that it's important for each of us to open the Word to discover and confirm the truths he presents for ourselves. He continually points to the Bible and our Lord as the source of all truth, yet there's lots of surveys that show very few people actually spend time in the Word anymore. Each chapter ends with a few Questions for Reflection or Group Study, which are designed to help the reader truly ponder the materials. One example demonstrates the importance placed on time in the Word: Does the amount of time you currently spend in the Bible validate it as a priority in your life?

I especially like the analogy that presented our life as an automobile. When we are born, we are in our car ... and so is Satan (as we are all born with a sin nature due to Adam and Eve's disobedience in the Garden of Eden). At the time that we accept Christ as our Savior, the Lord/Holy Spirit enters our car as well. Unfortunately, Satan doesn't get out of the car, but we can now choose to relegate him to the backseat and allow the Lord to take charge and drive the car. However, many of us often continue to let Satan sit in the front seat!

If you're wondering whether this book has something new to share ... yes and no. Honestly, I didn't find any of the revelations completely new as I have been fortunate over the years to attend many Bible teaching churches. However, this book addresses some issues that are common misconceptions in many denominations and does a fabulous job of placing the focus on understanding what the scriptures actually say by including context and etymology of the Greek and Hebrew words that have been translated (in numerous versions). He consistently points out whether the scripture passages are addressed to unregenerate ("the condition of spiritual bondage into which all human beings were born") or regenerate (born again Christians) persons. The discussion of the various words and definitions for knowledge/knowing and eternal life were especially enlightening and thought-provoking.

So, while I didn't personally find anything in this book I'd never heard before, I did find it presented in a logical, Biblical-based format that makes me want to dive into the Word, pull out my concordance, and review the meanings of some of the original verbiage. And truly that's my definition of a good Christian book - it points us back to the Word and makes us want to learn more so that we can draw closer to the Lord and walk according to His plan for our lives!

(Note: I'd like to thank the author, Maurie Daigneau, who sent me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

Friday, October 1, 2021

SPSH 2021 | A Few Snaps

In all honesty, I didn't do a lot of intentional searching for the items on this year's Summer Photography Scavenger Hunt hosted by Mary-Lou. However, I had the list in the back of my mind and as I've been processing photos from the past few months, I discovered I actually captured quite a few!

1. A Breakfast of Champions - Anytime I say I'm having the "breakfast of champions," it really means I'll be enjoying two of my favorite indulgences. Obviously I can't start my day this way very often, but as an occasional treat, it really satisfies. I snapped this photo in early September since it's a very rare treat these days.

2. Favorite Time of Day - Honestly, I'm not much of a morning person, but Robbie and I have been getting up early to walk most days and I thoroughly enjoy our time together in the morning sunshine. During the week we get in a 20 minute walk in our neighborhood, but on the weekends we're venturing out for longer walks.  I snapped this photo last weekend on one of the trails at a local nature conservancy.

3. Something To Represent Home But Not The Building - Anytime we've been out of town, the Dallas skyline signals that we're "home" ... although technically we live a few towns north of Dallas. I snapped this photo as we were returning home from picking up our great-nephew Andrew for a visit in late June.

4. Head In The Clouds -  I snapped this photo as we sat out on our back patio and watched the light clouds being pushed away by the dark clouds of the weather front that brought some much needed rain in mid-August.

5. The Art Of The Fold - For an illustration in one of my hymnals, I used a cross template folded to fit in the center crease. This allowed me to use gelatos around the edge to create a cross outline on my pages. I snapped this photo in June during our niece Paige's summer visit. She used the same template to create a similar illustration in her journaling Bible.

6. Something That Makes You Laugh or Happy - When our great-niece Mariah was here in June, she and I spent a day baking and cooking. She also covered a composition book with scrapbook papers and created pages with photos and stories from her visit. This page about our cooking mishaps makes me laugh remembering the FUN we had and it makes me happy that she took time to record all the details.

8. Window Views - Every view (inside and outside) of the windows at our favorite bed & breakfast in Mineola, Texas, is amazing. This window perfectly frames the beautiful roses Robbie ordered before we arrived for my birthday weekend in July.

12. Something That is Cause for Celebration - Seeing Mama and our niece Paige enjoying the scrapbook I created last year definitely makes me smile and want to celebrate this hobby of scrapbooking.

18. Upside Down, Right Side Up - Our great-nephew Andrew checking out one of the life-size animatronic dinasours at the factory we toured in June.

Alternate A: COVID Safety - Waiting at the airport to pick up our great-niece for her summer visit and give our great-nephew a hug as he changed planes on the way to his mom's for the summer.

Did you participate in this year's hunt? How did it go?

[Sending a huge thanks to Mary-Lou for hosting another FUN hunt this year!]

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Scrapbooking | More 2-Page Scrapbook Kits Available

During my summer break, I did quite a bit of scrapbooking, including creating several new 2-page layout kits for our local scrapbook store (which also offers online ordering).

It was so much FUN putting these together and using some of the tools I hadn't done much with in a while. 

I'm still using my original small Cricut machine, which works great for creating title letters and embellishments like the ones on this Sweet Baby Girl layout.

I pulled out a couple of small dies and used the Cuttlebug Embosser and Die Cutter for the stars and footprints on the It's A Boy page.

And a large leaf die worked perfect for this Fall layout, along with a leaf border punch.

I pulled out a couple of rarely used stamps (journal box with lines & the word JOURNEY) to complete this yellow and brown layout that uses two inch by two inch squares along the bottom.

What older tools have you pulled out to create with lately?

Monday, September 27, 2021

Book Reviews | Healthy Living

Once again this year, my reading has leaned heavily toward really good fiction. However, as usual, there have been a smattering of healthy living books that I've read as motivation to make healthy choices.

A few were quick reads:
*21 Days to Better Fitness is a thin book that I've had in my personal library for many years that's filled with nuggets of wisdom for healthy living. One of my favorite quotes from this book states that "Reading articles and books on nutrition and exercise is an excellent inducement because it increases your knowledge of fitness and helps you maintain motivation." (You can read other quotes from my previous review HERE.)
*The Mayo Clinic Diet is a practical guide to losing weight by incorporating healthy eating and exercise habits while eliminating bad habits that sabotage progress. It is easy to read and offers recipes and menu suggestions as well as tips for overcoming challenges and obstacles that arise.
*I borrowed my physical therapist's copy of Bulletproof Your Should
er as I continue to strengthen my shoulder after a previous injury and frozen shoulder earlier this year. It was a concise look at the shoulder muscles with specific targeted exercises for the shoulder. (My physical therapist is amazing and I have been following her guidelines and exercises for the past six months and have regained all range of motion and eliminated almost all pain in my shoulder!)

By far, the most informative book I've read has been Master Your Core: A Science-Based Guide to Achieve Peak Performance and Resilience to Injury. This is an extremely dense book in form and content. The book itself (which I received free from TCK Publishing in exchange for an honest review) is a paperback that feels dense when you pick it up; it's well bound and hefty while not being over thick or unwieldy. The material is extremely well-written and easy to read, but it is filled with science facts, medical terms, and a wealth of information that makes it a slow read.

The author, Dr. Bohdanna Zazulak, is passionate about helping each person develop core strength and control in order to avoid injuries, build strength and improve overall health. Her Core BASE System involves Breathing, Awareness, Stability and Empowerment and incorporates an integrative holistic approach that involves mind, body and spirit. Rather than jumping into a list of exercises designed to strengthen the core, Dr. Zaz begins with an explanation of the importance of core strength and the research behind the system she has developed. She then begins with basic breathing exercises and meditation, posture improvement, and finally to lists and charts of exercises designed for maximum core strength and overall health. This was a good read that I'll definitely be referencing again as I work on strengthening my own core.

Do you read healthy living books for motivation to stay on track with your health goals? Which ones have you found most helpful?