Tuesday, July 16, 2019

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 | Complete 10 scrapbook projects

I didn't have an exact  list of projects when I added the goal to complete 10 scrapbook projects to my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 List; however, I had lots of ideas and projects in progress.

My list of completions includes a variety of items - theme albums, chronological albums, photobooks, notebooks, and a collection of pages. In reality, I've probably completed several more projects over the past five years, but here are the ten that I'm counting toward this goal.

1 10th Anniversary Cruise albums
2 Summertime Scavenger Hunt photos
3 2011 Visits Photo Album Scrapbook
4 Gross Family 2014 Vacations & Visits Photobook
5 2015 Texas Spring Break Vacation Photobook
6 2014 FUN One Little Word Notebook
7 2015 INSPIRATION Notebook
8 2017 ACTIVE OLW Notebook
9 2011 Chronological Albums
10 10K Walks Theme Album

In addition to these items, I completed eight scrapbook-for-hire albums as well as numerous layouts (traditional, pocket page & digital) for my in-progress chronological albums.

To complete the page in my 50 Things mini-album, I created a collage of some of the finished projects.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 | Read all the Pulitzer Prize Winners in Fiction (1948-2018)

I am so excited to say that I've just completed the last of the Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winners, all 64 books from 1948 (when the novel category was changed to fiction) through last year's winner! I have to admit that I'm pretty proud of myself for sticking with this goal and actually reading all these books. While I'm an avid reader, I discovered that many of these prize winners are out of my comfort zone or contain boring (or no definitive) storylines.

The final book I read was the 1,106-page Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer. This huge tome is a very well-researched fictionalized account of the life and crimes of Gary Gilmore, including his execution in the state of Utah in 1977. The book is divided into two sections: Part One follows the story of Gary Gilmore from the time he is released from prison until he is returned to prison a few months later after he commits two cold-blooded murders; Part Two of the book introduces a host of additional characters from the court-appointed attorneys to the prison warden to other convicts as they debate the merits of execution and Gary Gilmore's adamant desire to be executed (by firing squad) rather than live out his life in prison.

Despite the abundance of sexually explicit scenes and strings of profanity, part one of the book was interesting and moved along quickly. However, the second part of the book drug along and seemed never ending as attorneys rushed to appeal the sentencing despite the convict's stated desire not to appeal! It was somewhat of a relief when he was finally executed. The story wrapped up with a quick review of where the other main characters ended up ... although there wasn't much to tell since this book was written within three years of the execution. This is not a book I would recommend unless you're researching prison life and legal executions.

As I check this item off my list of 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50, there's the short list of books below that I truly enjoyed and would consider reading again (click any title to read my review or click HERE to see my review of all the books I read to complete this goal). 

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Way West by A.B. Guthrie
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 | Make Mama's Biscuits

Mama's biscuits are one of my very favorite foods, a comfort food that can fix almost anything. However, I've never learned to make them really well. In fact, I debated putting this item on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 List because part of the appeal of the biscuits (besides their absolute yummy-ness) is the fact that I don't make them for myself. Either Mama or Robbie (or my sister Brenda on occasion) makes them for me. I've always known that if I started making them for myself, they might not be quite as willing to make them for me. (big grin)

In reality, I've tried making these biscuits before with some limited success - because following Mama's "recipe" is simple yet complex.


*Sift some self-rising flour into a large mixing bowl.
*Make a hole in the middle of the flour & add a dollop of Crisco (shortening).
*Pour in some cold water.
*Mix together, adding in flour until it's all the right consistency (!!??!!).
*Form biscuits & place in iron skillet.
*Bake at 425 degrees until done.

Years ago Mama taught my friend Elinor how to make the biscuits ... and you can tell by this photo that finding the "right consistency" is the trick!


When Robbie and I became engaged and I was going to move away from my family for the first time, my sister told him he better learn how to make Mama's biscuits. Once he got the gist of it, he actually created a little more defined recipe that he follows.

*Sift 2 cups self-rising flour & 1 tablespoon baking powder into a large mixing bowl.
*Cut in 1/4 Crisco & stir in 3/4 cup cold water. (Add more water if needed to make dough stick together.)
*Knead a bit, but not too much.
*Make biscuits.
*Bake at 425 degrees for 20-22 minutes.


I decided to take a hybrid approach by using Robbie's measurements (without the baking powder), making the hole in the flour (like Mama) and working toward finding just the right consistency. For my first attempt, I created a half batch and baked them in the small iron skillet. They tasted just right, although they were not quite as fluffy as Mama's.


Mama said I needed a little more water and maybe a little more Crisco, and my next batch came out perfect!


They were fluffy and yummy ... although they didn't have the "extra special ingredient" that Mama and Robbie put in when they make them just for me!  However, they certainly tasted good with a dab of butter!


Of course, I want to make it clear that while I now know that I can get them just right, I will always enjoy them more when someone else makes them! But I am thrilled to check another item on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 List completed!


Friday, June 28, 2019

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 | Have Something Published

When I originally added the goal to Have Something Published to my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 List, I was thinking of having something I've written or created printed in a glossy magazine or tangible book. However, in reality, we get so much of our information these days online that I'm giving myself credit for having quite a bit published over the past five years. Some items (like my blog posts, Facebook posts, and YouTube videos) have been self-published, while others have been published on a variety of websites and Facebook Groups. Here's a look at where you can find my writings, videos and crafty creations.

Daily Life - Bits & Pieces Blog Posts
I've been most prolific here on my blog with over 1700 posts since I began in 2010! Based on page views, my two most popular posts these past five years are Sunday Musings - She Walks Uprightly and 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 - Corrie ten Boom Home. Overall since I began my blog, the most viewed post is Gift Wrapping Ideas.

Guest Blog Posts
Over the past few years, I've shared guest posts on several blogs, including Teach the Young Women on the Sweet To The Soul Ministries blog and How To Use  Your Blog as a Witnessing Tool on Naomi Aidoo's blog and numerous posts on the Scrappin' Goodtime and Personal Scrapbook blogs.


Facebook Posts & Videos
Along with my personal Facebook page, I share Bible journaling inspiration and publish Facebook Live videos on the Daily Life - Bits & Pieces Facebook page.

Facebook Group Guest Series
I shared a four-part series on Creativity for Well-Being in the She Flourishes: Abundant Living for Faith-Centered Women Facebook group a couple of years ago.


Scrapbook Layout Challenge Winner
I had a 12x12 layout featured on the Authentique blog when I played along with one of their sketch challenges.

YouTube Videos
I also have a YouTube channel where I sporadically publish my own videos. The two most popular ones are a walk-through of a Custom Wedding Album Scrapbook-for-Hire Project and my Doily Dress Tutorial.


As you can see, I've published quite a bit over the past five years, so I'm perfectly content to check this item off my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list. I also created a photo collage to include in my 50 Things album.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Book Reviews | Pulitzers

I am very (very!) close to finishing my goal of reading all the Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winners from 1948 through 2018! Here's a look at a few recent completions.

  


 


Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner (1972 winner)
A fairly good read, well-written, with lots of details as Lyman Ward researches and writes about his grandmother's life. Grandmother was an artist and a writer, a "snobby" Eastern lady with high ideals who married an engineer and moved West with him "temporarily." They lived in mining villages and out on the desert. Oliver Ward (Grandfather) was a man of integrity, but had lots of bad luck. There's lots of interesting information about the history of mining and irrigation and western life and families. Unfortunately their marriage, while long-lasting, weathered so many hardships that it was not a happy one much of the time.

The narrator, Lyman, is also dealing with his divorce and his deteriorating body (his skeleton is solidifying and he's had an amputation) as well as his feelings toward the wife who cheated on him. The "angle of repose" is the angle where rock and sand stop sliding down into the ditch. This is a good read without a satisfying conclusion.

Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow (1976 winner)
A very loooooooong book, which I read on my Kindle. Charles Citrine, a writer, is an older man now, living in Chicago, looking back on his life. He was infatuated with Von Humboldt Fleisher, a poet who'd had a brief stint of success.

Citrine is so gullible and many of the characters take advantage of him. He shares lots of musings (while other things are going on); he's always thinking about poetry or literature or success. There are many, many references to authors and/or books I'm not familiar with or don't know much about. He has an ex-wife (who is suing him for more money), 2 daughters (who are rarely mentioned), a girlfriend, Renata (who uses him for a trip to Europe, then dumps him & marries someone else). There's a lot of build up about the gift Humbolt left him … but, honestly, it's kind of a let down because Citrine doesn't really take advantage of it (but others again take advantage of him).

Two interesting notes about this long-winded and somewhat boring book:
(1) The book had perfect punctuation ... except there were no commas in lists of things or descriptions.
(2) Citrine shares his thoughts on the Pulitzer (which is hilarious since this book ended up winning the prize). "The Pulitzer if for the birds - for the pullets. It's just a dummy newspaper publicity award given by crooks and illiterates. You become a walking Pulitzer ad, so even when you croak the first words of the obituary are 'Pulitzer prizewinner passes.'"

Independence Day by Richard Ford (1996 winner)
The book follows four days in the life of Frank Bascombe, a realtor in Haddam, New Jersey, who is dealing with lots of "issues" - a couple wanting to buy a house who are difficult to work with, a girlfriend who suddenly seems to want to be serious, a son who has a court hearing coming up and is dealing with issues after his parent's divorce. In the end, after four wordily described days through Frank's thinking and thinking and thinking, nothing really changes other than his thinking maybe things are getting better. (I learned that this was the 2nd in a series of books, so maybe taken together something happens!)

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos (1990 winner)
This story centers around two Cuban brothers who write and sing songs. The older brother, Cesar is in a hotel room, dying, looking back and remembering his life and their one moment of fame when they played on the I Love Lucy show with Desi Arnaz. He reminisces about drinking and smoking and many overly explicit scenes of carnal lust and I was glad to get to the end of his tale!

Rabbit at Rest by John Updike (1991 winner) 
[**spoiler alert - some plot twists revealed in my review**]
Since I'd already read Rabbit Is Rich (the 1982 Pulitzer winner, which I reviewed HERE), I was prepared to be disappointed in this book. The story picks up now that Rabbit, aka Harry Angstrom, and his wife Janice are semi-retired, living half the year in Florida and the other half in Pennsylvania. Their son Nelson is now married and there are two grandchildren. At the beginning of the book, I almost thought it would be ok as Rabbit was older and more relaxed and trying to be a good grandfather … then there was that night he spent with his daughter-in-law … and I can't say that I wasn't glad to see it all end when Rabbit was finally at rest eternally.

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

Monday, June 24, 2019

Theme Album | 10K Walks

Quite a few years ago, I pulled together supplies and an 8 1/2 x 11 three-ring binder to use for a theme album about 10k walks that I'd completed. I put all the items, along with photos and memorabilia from the three walks I'd done up until that point in a Project File, which has sat on a shelf in my craft room until this week.


Earlier this month, my niece Nichole and I completed a 10k walk, which inspired me to pull out this file and put together this FUN album. I started by using a variety of papers and supplies from the project file to create the title page.


Then I put together two-page layouts for each of the four walks I've completed! My first walk was in Galveston in February 2001 with a group of friends who introduced me to the American Volkssport Association and these FUN walks.


I titled the next page "The Fall in Love Walk" because this is the first thing Robbie and I did together when we met in person in New Braunfels, Texas, in September of 2001.


A couple of years later, my nephew Trey was visiting for spring break, and we completed a walk at White Rock Lake in Dallas with my friend Jennifer.


And, finally, sixteen (Yes, 16!) years later, my niece and I completed a 10k walk (that I'll be sharing more about in an upcoming post) in Wichita Falls, Texas.


I'm so excited to have this album completed. Well, actually I'm hoping it is now an ongoing project that I'll be adding to as I complete more 10k walks for FUN, activity and exercise!


Have you heard of the American Volkssport Association? Do you enjoy 10k walks?

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Sunday Musings | First Breath of Morning

I met author Kathy Cheek a few months ago and picked up a copy of her 90-day devotional, First Breath of Morning, to read in my quiet time. "First Breath of Morning is an invitation to the relationship God wants to have with each of us."


The title of this beautiful devotional reminds us to wake and experience God with our first breath each morning. While I'm not consistent with having my quiet time first thing in the mornings, I do think it greatly improves our day if we wake and spend a few moments with the Lord, simply asking for guidance for the day and thanking Him for our many blessings.


I enjoyed the devotionals in this book, the stories Kathy shares about her own and other's lives, and the poems she's scattered throughout (one of which you can see I added in the margin of my journaling Bible above).

This devotional has six sections/themes - Morning Invitation, The Seeker, Deep Abiding Love, Faith's Journey, Never Alone, Worship - so it is easy to pick up and flip through for whatever topic you may be drawn to on a particular day. I especially enjoyed the Morning Invitation and Worship sections and think the Faith's Journey and Never Alone sections are perfect for someone going through tough times. I definitely recommend this devotional!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Cards | Fun With Alcohol Inks

Back in February, I shared a box lid idea for keeping items organized at a card class I attended at Personal Scrapbook. However, I realize I never shared the seven cards we created during that class using Alcohol Inks!


We learned a good bit about the Ranger alcohol inks, which I'd not used before - it dries on many surfaces (which is different than other inks we use that don't dry as well on all types of papers). 


We used MirriSparkle Glitter and Yupo (a synthetic type of paper that allows the ink to sit on top and reactive with additional inks) and Silver Glossy papers.


We used a lift off pad to make create impressions (the pinecones here) by inking a clean stamp and lifting to pick up some of the alcohol ink.


We used pieces of felt attached to a wood block (like the Ranger applicator without the handle) to put the inks on the papers.


And learned to be generous with the ink so you have big drops on the felt pad, then blot it up and down so the colors don't bleed.


We used watercolors for a couple of the cards. Overall, it was a great class with lots of techniques, and we left with a great bunch of (mostly) completed cards!


Do you use alcohol inks? Please share your favorite uses in the comments.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Book Reviews | Fiction

From a new-out-last-year to a classic to a children's book to a young adult novel, I've enjoyed some great fiction reading lately.


I first heard about An American Marriage by Tayari Jones from Ruth's review. This novel tells the story of Roy & Celestial, who have been married a year and a half when Roy is falsely accused and convicted of raping a woman. He is sent to prison, and their life takes a drastic and heart wrenching turn. Celestial's lifelong friend Andre, the one who introduced the two & the best man at their wedding, helps take care of and comfort her. After five years in prison, Roy's sentence is overturned and all three of them must make difficult decisions.

This story is told from the various perspectives of these all black characters, mainly Roy & Celestial's with a few others along the way. Roy's parents (actually his step-dad) were married 30+ years and his mom dies while he's in prison. This story is very well told, and well paced, although it is a difficult and heart wrenching situation for all of them. The conclusion was not what I was hoping for, but it's very realistic and somehow satisfying in the end.


After enjoying reading and discussing The Hobbit with my twin nieces earlier this year, we set up a similar system (once a week Facetimes) to discuss To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I always enjoy re-reading this classic (which I previously reviewed HERE), and it was especially enjoyable to discuss the antics of Scout and Jem and Dill as well as the implications of Tom Robinson's trial with these sweet teenage girls who had lots of great thoughts and opinions about the book!


So  much FUN to discuss books! In fact, both of the girls loaned me one of their favorite books to bring home after my visit earlier this year.


My niece Paige loaned me drizzle by Kathleen Van Cleve. This is a cute story about 11-year-old Polly Peabody, who lives on a magical farm that grows rhubarb (Giant Rhubarb, regular rhubarb, medicinal rhubarb, and chocolate flavored rhubarb). It rains every Monday at 1pm ... until one Monday, when it doesn't! Polly has to figure out what's causing it not to rain, which involves talking (& spelling) bugs, an old library with ivy growing inside, a skeleton key, an emerald ring, and a host of interesting characters. This is a FUN coming-of-age story geared toward middle readers that I thoroughly enjoyed!


My niece Laurie loaned me her copy of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I first read this book over ten years ago and had forgotten that the narrator is Death. The story is set in World War II Germany, outside Munich. Leisel Meminger is 11-years-old when she finds her first book (and thus becomes a book thief) on the way to being placed with a German foster family. There's a host of great characters - Rudy Steiner (Leisel's best friend), Hans & Rosa Hubermann (her foster parents), Max Vandenburg (a Jew they hide in the basement), the mayor's wife (who has a library full of books).

This is a very well-written book that I highly recommend. (Robbie read and enjoyed it as well!) Here's the description from the book cover: 


It is 1939. Nazi Germany.
The country is holding its breath.
Death has never been busier and will become busier still.
Liesel Meminger finds her life changed when she unearths a single object from the snow. It is The Grave Digger's Handbook, left there by accident at her brother's funeral, and it is her first act of book thievery. But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jewish man in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up and closed down.

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

Monday, June 17, 2019

Upcoming Class | Oh Those Flowers Bible Journaling Class (Allen TX)

Have you ever wondered about the flowers mentioned in the Bible? What do they represent? What can we learn from them? Will considering the lilies really help us worry less?

We'll be discussing these questions (and learning a variety of flowery illustrating techniques) in my next Bible journaling class here in Allen, Texas, on September 20 or 21 - check out all the details below!


Oh Those Flowers Bible Journaling Class
with Melissa Gross
Friday or Saturday
September 20 or 21, 2019
10am - 1pm
$30

Join me in September as we discuss the flowers mentioned in the Bible and enjoy time illustrating what we learn using a variety of flowery techniques. Your $30 class fee includes Biblical teaching, illustrating technique demonstrations, a Bible journaling kit with fun supplies for you to keep and use in your journaling, plus additional supplies to tryout/use during the class.



Please note: 
*To reserve more than one spot, simply change the quantity and let me know who will be attending with you. 
*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 September 16 for a full refund or transfer of fees to a future class. Cancellations after September 15 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) 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.

Friday, June 14, 2019

SPSH 2019 | Ohio Trip

Last month we traveled to Ohio to visit family, celebrate our nephew's high school graduation, and do a little sightseeing. Robbie and I both had our eyes open for items on this year's Summer Photo Scavenger Hunt hosted by Mary-Lou of the Patio Postcards blog

Ohio State Reformatory Tour
One of my favorite movies is The Shawshank Redemption, which was filmed at the Ohio State Reformatory (#10 Something Made of Stone). [I'll be sharing more about our tour and this movie, which contains very mature topics and lots of bad language, in a future post.]


There were life size cutouts of some of the actors from The Shawshank Redemption throughout the tour, and Robbie snapped this photo of me with Warden Norton (#12 Something Crooked)!


In the Warden's Quarters bathroom, there was a single vase with a rose (#2 Single & Pretty) that we learned on our tour was in memory of the first warden's wife.


The cell block (#3 Repetition) is six stories high and difficult to capture all in one photo!


Looking through the old glass on one of the doors (#4 Blurred Vision) revealed some of the items from the warden's pantry.


The reformatory is in quite a state of disrepair, as you can see here in the chapel with what were once beautiful columns and pews (#15 A Broken Chair/Bench/Stool).


At the gift shop, we found a tiny pair of handcuffs (#18 Something That Should Be Found In Pairs).


I was hoping for a great old outdoor clock (#1 An Outdoor Clock), but the best we could do was this digital version outside a bank in the town of Mansfield, Ohio, where the reformatory is located.



Everett Covered Bridge
One morning we drove out to the Everett Covered Bridge (#9 A Bridge) and enjoyed snapping photos and strolling in the nice weather. (I even recorded a Facebook Live video about family relationships that you can watch HERE.)


There was a lovely path (#7 A Curving Path) between the parking area and the bridge.



Out & About
Driving around one day, we passed Szalay's Farm Stand that didn't open until the following weekend. However, the tables and umbrellas (#6 An Umbrella, open or closed) were all set out and ready.


Even though the produce stand wasn't open, this freshly sprouting field indicates there will be some fresh sweet corn (B: Fresh Local Produce) available later this summer.


Robbie's sister-in-law cooked several great meals while we where visiting, and when she set this platter of steamed corn-on-the-cob on the table (#20 A Favorite Seasonal Scent), it was impossible not to be drawn directly to the dining room.


Another evening, we enjoyed dinner at The Barn, a restaurant in Ohio's farming country, which has lots of great displays in the huge lobby/waiting area, including this swarm of bees (A: Bird or Bee House)! Don't worry - they were in a glass case. 


We hadn't captured any shells until Robbie pointed out his brother's set of coasters (#8 Shells).


Robbie snapped this advertisement (#11 Fish) when he and his brother and nephew stopped in McDonalds for breakfast one morning.


Unfortunately, none of the boats (#17 A Sail) were out the day we had lunch with Robbie's mom at Portage Lakes.


We made a stop at Robbie's favorite bakery, where there were lots of signs (#14 A Handwritten Sign) in the windows, including one for his favorite - Italian Cream Cake!


I totally agree with the sentiment on this bumper sticker that Robbie noticed in the Target parking lot (#19 A Funny or Meaningful Bumper Sticker).


I'm not sure if root beer floats actually have a "season" (#16 An Out of Season Treat Being Enjoyed), but our nephew Jacob was willing to go out for a late night treat!


And our nephew Thomas posed for this FUN photo with some green and red friends (#13 Two Colors of the Rainbow in Any Combination) when we were coming out of the movie theater after seeing Avengers: Endgame.


And, finally, on the Park N Fly shuttle back to our car after arriving at DFW, I had to smile at this last capture of the trip (#5 The Word Summer).


Were you keeping track? YES - we found all 22 items on this year's list and had so much FUN!!