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?

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Take Three Thursday | How To Style A Mantel

I've actually got three groups of three photos today because I want to share some fabulous mantel styles from our favorite bed & breakfast. Fall Farm Country Inn is located in Mineola, Texas, and Carol Fall's decorating style is both beautiful and welcoming - it makes us want to just take it all in and snuggle up in a comfy chair to read beside an open window or by one of the beautiful lamps Carol has strategically placed throughout the inn!

There are quite a few mantels that demonstrate Carol's eye for design. This first one accompanies the fireplace in a lovely sitting area in the front of the house. I especially like how colorful this one is!


A closer looks shows Carol's wonderful ability to group items; her eye for color and scale and variety makes every space exude welcome.


The corners on each side of the fireplace offer a cozy place to read and relax.


This next mantel is freestanding (no fireplace in sight) and is located across from the kitchen. Once again there's lots of color and variety.


I really like how the arrangements include artwork and everyday items (plates, teacup & saucer) as well as crafty pieces (painted pinecones).


The blue chest under this mantel adds a pop of color and another area for creating a nice grouping. Since this is near the kitchen, these books are cookbooks, but there are lots (lots!) of books scattered throughout the inn, all of them inviting you to find a spot and read a while.


And here are three more of my favorites. This lovely freestanding mantel is in the Fall Suite, where Robbie and I enjoyed a relaxing time over the Easter weekend.


There's even a freestanding mantel outside near the entrance to the innkeeper's residence. This one may appear a little simpler, but it still contains all those wonderful components - color and scale and interesting elements grouped together, and a place to sit and visit!


This last one isn't actually a mantel. I think it's a large sideboard. However, it's another great example of using different elements and groupings to create a beautiful and welcoming atmosphere!


What do you think? Are you inspired to re-style your mantel now? (I've got several ideas I want to try, so watch for a future post with a fresh look at our mantel.)

Joining in with Mary-Lou's Take Three Thursday, a meme designed to help us notice more of the ordinary of our lives. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Book Reviews | Productivity Books

   

Your Best Year Ever by Michael Hyatt is basically "A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals." The author discusses ten areas of life where we can assess and work toward goals: spiritual, intellectual, emotional, physical, marital, parental, social, vocation, avocational, and financial. There's a LifeScore Assessment (which can be accessed online HERE) that shows individual results in an interesting pie chart that allows us to see the areas where we are more "successful." 

The five steps included are:
1. Believe the Possibility - all about having the right mindset.
2. Complete the Past - take time to evaluate and move past regret to gratitude.
3. Design Your Future - with SMARTER goals.
4. Find Your Why - knowing your motivation.
5. Make It Happen - take action! 

A good read with some familiar concepts and a few twists to help us achieve our most important goals.

The 12 Week Year - Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Do in 12 Months by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington encourages us to think of each 12 week period as 1 year (instead of 12 months equaling a year). Otherwise, the information is mainly familiar concepts - set goals, list the necessary tasks, evaluate progress along the way, and celebrate goal completion.

The first section of the book, Things You Think You Know, is interesting and motivating reading with quite a few great quotes. The second section, Putting It All Together, goes through the basic plan with real-life examples. 

Here's a look at a few of my favorite quotes - which one resonates most with you?

"Knowledge alone benefits no one unless the person acquiring it does something with it."

"There's nothing like a deadline to get you motivated."

"If you want to know what your future holds, look to your daily actions; they are the predictor of your future."

"Intentionality is your secret weapon in your war on mediocrity."

"A plan between your ears is not nearly as effective as a plan on paper."

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Book Review | What Am I Feeling

I recently received the FUN picture story book What Am I Feeling? (free as part of the B&H/Lifeway Bloggers program in exchange for an honest review) that follows a little boy named Sam to school the day it's his turn to share for show-and-tell.


When Sam tells his dad that he feels "flippy in his tummy," his dad recognizes that he is afraid and reminds Sam that "a feeling is just a feeling - it's not in charge of you." Throughout the school day, Sam has encounters with his classmates, who are each experiencing a variety of emotions. 

This is a cute story with nice illustrations that can be used to teach children how to deal with their emotions. This book has a pull-out feelings chart that would be great for a pre-school or elementary classroom. In fact, I'll be passing this along to one of my teacher friends.

Have you read any educational picture story books lately?

Saturday, May 4, 2019

30 Days of Scrapbooking | Not A Complete Fail

After a really good start on my 30-day goal to do something scrapbook-y, my progress slowed as we enjoyed a nice weekend get-away and spent a good bit of time on a couple of home improvement projects and are watching our way through the Marvel Universe movies. Here's an update on what I did accomplish!

Day 8 - Created a FUN layout using some Monkey Business embellishments that have been in my stash probably ten years. (eek!) 


Day 9 - I sorted the photos and memorabilia from Robbie's surprise birthday weekend trip in 2011 and laid out some items for an itinerary page.


Days 10-19 No Scrapbooking!

Day 20 - I completed a layout using the last of the Paper Loft Class Kit papers. I created seven layouts with this kit earlier this year and already had this page partially complete, so it went together quickly. I even stamped on this layout!


Days 21 - 25 No Scrapbooking!

Today, Day 26, is (inter)National Scrapbook Day, and I'm all set to begin scrapbooking after publishing this post. It's almost noon here, and I'm excited to have the rest of the day in my craft room!

With my upcoming Bible journaling classes next weekend, I doubt I'll get back to scrapbooking again until later in the month. Despite the fact that I didn't accomplish my 30-day goal, I'm thrilled with the thirteen layouts I did create and the time I spent organizing to complete our 2011 chronological albums (which I might finish today!).

Are you scrapbooking to celebrate (inter)National Scrapbook Day today?

Friday, May 3, 2019

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 | Flower Field Guides

Many times when we're out on a walk or nature hike, I see flowers and wonder what they are; so, I included buy and use a flower field/identification guide on the 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list that I created almost five years ago now. I thought it would be FUN to have a guide and to actually start identifying the flowers and recording when and where we'd seen them.


For my birthday two years ago, Robbie gave me two National Audubon Society Field Guides to North American Wildflowers - the Eastern and Western regions. After flipping through them, I set them aside thinking I would take them with us on our hikes or travels. However, it never seemed practical to carry them with us on a hike or to waste take up space in the suitcase to have them with us on a trip.

Instead I decided to simply look up some of the flowers using the photos we'd taken along the way. Honestly, this turned out to be a little more difficult than I anticipated. For example, I'm pretty sure the pink flowers in the photo below (taken outside the Anchorage, Alaska, visitor's center) are foxglove.


However, I didn't find a photo of these orange carnations in the Western Region guide, and the purple flowers might be violets or butterwort. There was such a beautiful array of flowers around the visitor's center!


I was experimenting with the various modes on the camera when I snapped this next shot (at the Palmer, Alaska, Garden) that appears to be some type of sunflower, although (once again) I could not find a good match in the field guide.


The Eastern Region guide was no less troublesome, maybe because it's hard to find an exact match when comparing the samples in the guide to my own photos. It may also be that some of these flowers that are grown outside our local library could be considered weeds instead of wildflowers.


And even though I haven't positively identified this lovely rose blooming along the roadside at the Vicksburg Military Park, it still makes me smile as I remember the beautiful weather we had the day we visited a few years ago.


I'm sure I'll pull out my flower guides from time to time, but my guess is that I'll mostly just keep snapping photos of beautiful flowers that I'm not concerned about identifying. As I have made an effort with the guides, I'm content now to check this item completed on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 List!

Do you try to identify flowers or are you content to simply enjoy their beauty?

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Take Three Thursday | National Day of Prayer

Today is the National Day of Prayer, so I'm sharing three of my illustrated Bible pages that remind me of the importance of prayer.




Joining in with Mary-Lou's Take Three Thursday, a meme designed to help us notice more of the ordinary of our lives. As you go about your day today, I hope you'll take time to pray for the ordinary people and issues you notice!