Thursday, October 31, 2019

Benefits of a Gratitude Practice

A gratitude practice is something we do repeatedly and regularly in order to improve our ability to see and recognize the gifts and blessings in our lives. It is a way of approaching life intentionally and having a sense of wonder, of thankfulness and of appreciation. The practice may be saying a prayer of thanksgiving each morning or taking a weekly walk in nature while meditating on the good things in life or writing down the things you are grateful for each day.

Individuals have practiced gratitude for centuries, but it's become even more prominent as study after study confirms the physical, emotional and relational benefits of gratitude.

This article shares the following benefits of gratitude for the individual:

  • increased happiness and positive mood
  • more satisfaction with life
  • less materialistic
  • less likely to experience burnout
  • better physical health
  • better sleep
  • less fatigue
  • lower levels of cellular inflammation
  • greater resiliency
  • encourages the development of patience, humility, and wisdom

That's a list of benefits that sounds pretty good to me!

I'll be using this FUN free-standing gratitude album as I practice gratitude throughout the upcoming month of November.

This album has pocket page protectors, and I've used the kit materials to create cards for each day of November. 

My plan is to record something I'm grateful for each day by simply pulling out the card and writing in one or two items.

I'm looking forward to practicing gratitude with this FUN album!

Do you have a gratitude practice? Will you be recording the things you're thankful for this November?

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Book Reviews | Anne, Marilla & the Landscapes of PEI

As is my custom, before we headed out on our summer vacation, I researched the areas we'd be visiting, thumbed through travel guides, and read a few books. 


Because our primary destination this year was Prince Edward Island, Canada, I absolutely had to re-read L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables. It's been three years since I last read this wonderful classic that has so much scope for imagination! It's definitely a book that's perfect for re-reading and enjoying, especially before heading off to see the sites that inspired the beautiful setting of the book.

Robbie gave me The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables by Catherine Reid as a pre-birthday gift before our trip. It was the perfect book to build on the anticipation of visiting Prince Edward Island. This book shares the similarities between the real-life author L.M. Montgomery and her fictional character Anne Shirley (raised by older couples, loved being in nature, high achievers, attended one-room schools, taught school, etc) as it tells about the beauty of Prince Edward Island, the changes that have come to the island now that tourism (due to the Anne of Green Gables books) is the second largest industry, and how this island was an integral part of L.M. Montgomery and Anne Shirley's lives.

The book is filled with beautiful photographs! There are contemporary photos of Prince Edward Island as well as photographs taken by L.M. Montgomery in the 1890s (many of which she colorized in the 1920s). While some of these older photos included people, L.M. Montgomery also took photos of her surroundings - gardens and nature and even her room. I found this interesting because during the times of early photography (and even modern film photography) people were more conscientious about taking fewer photos and rarely used extra shots for things like capturing a tree in bloom or the details of a bedroom.

Because I have read the Anne of Green Gables books and several of L.M. Montgomery's published journals, I honestly didn't learn any new information about the story or L.M. Montgomery. The author quoted extensively from Volume 1 of the journals, the first Anne book, and The Alpine Path (L.M. Montogomery's autobiography, which I haven't read ... yet). However, I enjoyed the review of all this information in such a lovely book and thoughtful gift as we were preparing to visit many of the exact locations mentioned.

Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy was another gift from Robbie. This novel develops the backstory for Marilla, years before she and her brother Matthew adopted Anne Shirley. It's a good story that follows Marilla as she grows up at Green Gables, develops and loses a relationship with John Blythe, joins the Ladies Aid Society, and has her first encounter with the orphanage in Nova Scotia. Her Aunt Lizzy is introduced in this book, which also deals with runaway slaves and the controversy over the abolition of slavery.

The story ends right before where Anne of Green Gables begins, with Marilla and Matthew discussing adopting a boy to help around the farm. I enjoyed this book; however, I do not think it developed Marilla's personality in a way that it flows smoothly from this story to the original stories by L.M. Montgomery.

Have you read the Anne of Green Gables books or visited Prince Edward Island? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Cards | Candy Cane Cottage

A few months ago, I signed up for a card class at Personal Scrapbook. Due to some scheduling changes, I didn't actually make it to the class, but I picked up the kit and created my own version of the cards that use the Heartfelt Creations Candy Cane Cottage collection.

There were only three cards advertised for the class; however, I was able to create four cards by changing things up a little and adding one card base from my stash. It's hard to see in the photo, but these cards include glitter and Wink of Stella highlights, so they are very glittery.

Do you follow class/kit directions exactly or veer off to make your own creations?

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Sunday Musings | If My People

If My people
who are called by My name
will humble themselves,
and pray and seek My face,
and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven,
and will forgive their sin
and heal their land.

This scripture, found in 2 Chronicles 7:14, is a beautiful reminder of the forgiveness and power of our Heavenly Father. 

My friend, Pasty Boyd McSpadden, wrote an entire book, If My People, on this passage. The book is divided into chapters that dive deep into the meaning of each phrase and ponder the question of whether this promise, given to the Israelites, is for America (and us) today.

Patsy shares her personal stories and scriptural teachings in this interactive workbook designed to show us that humility and prayer are most needed as we turn back to God, for us individually and for our country. It's also a great reminder that the Word of God speaks to us and directs us still today!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

WWW dot ABCs

When I open a new tab on my browser, I can easily click my most frequented websites.

Susanne recently posted a peek into her virtual workspace via her Browser. She said, "I was noticing, not for the first time, that I only need to get one letter past www dot in my browser to pull up my most used websites. Are you curious about what they are? How many of these are the same for you?"

I decided to try this experiment as well. Here's what I discovered by typing www dot and each letter of the alphabet into the address line of my browser.

a = Amazon
b = BibleGateway
c = Chase
d = Delta
e = Edward Jones
f = Facebook
g = Google maps
h = Hilton Honors
i = Instagram
j = nothing
k = Kroger Feedback
l = Lowes
m =
n =
o = nothing
p = Pinterest
q = nothing
r = nothing
s =
t = TicketMaster
u = USPS
v = nothing
w = Walmart
x = nothing
y = YouTube
z = nothing

What a FUN look at the places I've frequented online lately! I noticed a few simliarities to Susanne's list - Amazon, Instagram, USPS, and YouTube.

Have you tried this? What letters do we have in common?

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Book Reviews | Advance Reader Editions

This summer at our local library's Book Buzz event, I picked up several Advanced Reader Editions of books that are brand new this year. These special copies are released before the actual publication date of the book (as uncorrected proofs with covers that may differ from the final version), so they are like a sneak peek into what's coming up (or has recently come out).

Since my twin nieces were here visiting and attended the event with me, I came home with a pile of new books! Here's a look at the ones I've read so far.

Last Day: A Novel by Domenica Ruta was released on May 28. One of my nieces picked this one up, and I thought it would be an apocalyptic novel. However, it turns out that "Last Day" is a "holiday" that happens every year. The story follows several characters, none of who are very likable; most of them have some type of mental illness or emotional issue (one character tends to eat random things like pencil erasers or bugs). Honestly, I don't recommend this book as I really wasn't interested in what happened next and was glad to get to the unsatisfying conclusion.

However, it was somewhat interesting to read about the three astronauts (well, one was a wealthy tourist) on board the International Space Station since I'd previously read An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth. Although the fiction characters did not necessarily portray the astronauts in a good light (drinking, swearing, goofing off, not taking care of the ISS), there were aspects of life in space that were "familiar."

Lost Roses is Martha Hall Kelly's second book and is set right before and during World War I. The story alternates between three characters: (1) Eliza Ferriday (based on the real-life woman), a well-to-do American in Southhampton, New York, who is married to Henry and has one daughter, Caroline; (2) Eliza's friend Sofya Streshnayva, a Russian aristocrat (who is kin to the tsar) in St. Petersburg, Russia; and (3) Varinka, a peasant girl who is employed to help take care of Sofya's son when her family flees to their country estate in Malinov, Russia. All three characters eventually end up in Paris, France, but not before they each go through trying times and heartache as the war rages.

This is a great historical novel with a page-turner plot line as it alternates between the various points of view, beginning and ending with a fourth character, Luba, Sofya's younger sister. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and immediately checked out the author's first book from the library.

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, although the first book written, actually takes place after Lost Roses. This book is set during World War II and, once again, follows three women's lives: (1) Caroline Ferriday (Eliza's daughter and also based on a real person) lives in New York and is working for the French consulate as well as running a venture that sends aid to French orphans; (2) Kasia Kuzmerick (a composite character based on the real life Polish "rabbits"), a Polish teenager from Lublin, who gets arrested for working with the underground in occupied Poland and is sent Ravensbruck; and (3) Herta Oberheuser (also based on a real-life person), the German female doctor who performed operations as part of the sulfonamide experiments in Ravensbruck.

This is another very well-written historical novel, using a strong juxtaposition of the wealthy elite in New York and the desperate prisoners in the concentration camp and the pro-German desensitized doctor! 

Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children's Home Society was written by Judy Christie (journalist and author) and Lisa Wingate (author of Before We Were Yours, which I reviewed HERE). This non-fiction book (which releases next Tuesday, October 22) tells the stories of children who were adopted during the reign of Georgia Tann at the Tennessee Children's Home Society. I first heard of the terrible illegal deeds of Tann when I read the historical novel Before We Were Yours, so I was eager to read some of the real-life stories. Many individuals who were adopted from TCHS began contacting the author after reading her well-researched novel, and they shared their stories of finding or searching for the truth about their adoptions.

One adoptee shared how his mother ... and all (!) the mothers in the maternity ward that day ... were told that their babies had died in the night, when in fact Georgia Tann had stolen them to sell to couples wanting to adopt a baby. Another adoptee remembered her mother leaving her and her two brothers on the courthouse steps because the man she was with didn't want them. When Georgia Tann picked them up, she assured the three children that she would keep them together. However, when they arrived at one of the children's home, she had the little girl get out of the car first...and then the driver took off with her brothers and she never saw them again. Although it was heartbreaking, I am so glad I read this book and learned more about the atrocities that were allowed to take place for almost 30 years!

However, the author/journalist interspersed her thoughts and story in between the chapters about the adoptees (and their families). I thought this was extremely distracting - honestly, I'm not interested in the details of what she went through to get to an interview on time or whether her husband had to drive cross country to meet up with her before an event. These diversions really didn't add to the topic of the book.

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Scrapbooking | Scandinavia Page Kit

At the Stamp & Scrapbook Expo (much) earlier this year, I took a class to learn how to use kits from Club Scrap. These kits include papers that are cut and divided to create layouts with absolute minimum (or no) paper waste. We cut, separated, and organized the Scandinavia Page Kit into four piles during the class. Each pile would create a two-page layout. These pages were then easy to assemble at home using the images and directions from the kit.

Once I (finally!) had these pages together, I flipped through my storage binders to find photos that would work with these designs and colors and themes. I ended up with three two-page and two one-page layouts using a variety of photos from several years.

Photos from our visit to Shiloh Morning Inn in 2012 worked perfectly with the green background and "Together is Our Favorite Place To Be" title block.

The photos from our visit to Eisenhower State Park in 2013 were a great match for the "Owl You Need Is Love" page - the pops of red and the nature theme really highlight the snapshots from our hike near Lake Texohma.

I'd already previously scrapped one photo from my 45th birthday hike to the top of Squaw Mountain, and this kit provided a great layout for showcasing more of those photos, as well as a FUN journaling card.

I separated the final layout into two separate pages. The first one highlights photos of us at Christmastime through the years and will reside in our category album all about us.

And the second holds photos of a FUN scrappy time with a friend in 2012.

This was my first time using a Club Scrap kit, and I was delighted with how easily it came together and how well it worked with a variety of photos. I also appreciated the inclusion of journaling space on each layout. If you'd like to see another Club Scrap kit in action, I noticed that Susanne recently posted about the Forest Floor Kit.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Book Reviews | Lots of Great Fiction

I've been reading quite a bit the past few months and have discovered lots of great fiction, new and old!

I picked up The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan on one of our trips to the local Barnes and Noble because a book about a bookstore always sounds interesting. This is the first Jenny Colgan book I've read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

The story follows Nina Redmond as she makes a huge change when her job as a librarian in England ends due to budget cuts and the centralizing of library services in one big media tech center. Nina buys an old van in a small town in Scotland, converts it into a little bookshop, and moves out of her comfort zone and into a new life far away from the city. This is a great story about adventure and the beauty of nature and finding the right book for each reader and helping others and falling in love. I highly recommend it!

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See has been on my to-read shelf for a while. This book was highly recommend by librarians and members of our local book club, as well as many others. This is one of the best books I've read this year!

Li-yan and her family are Akha and live in a remote area of China. There are lots of customs native to the Akha that dictate their lives. Her a-man (mother) is the village healer, a greatly respected position (although still considered beneath all the males). Throughout this story, Li-yan experiences so many things:  the birth of a child out of wedlock and the decision to leave her at an orphanage; questioning her tribe's customs and rituals; separation from her family; and her education and training in the production of tea. There's a good bit of historical information about tea farming in China (as well as the One Child Policy). There are also glimpses into Li-yan's daughter's life through letters, therapy transcripts, homework assignments, etc. This story is beautifully told, with very well-developed characters, a page-turner - get it, read it!

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms was one of the monthly free Kindle books offered to Amazon Prime members. It was a nice easy read, perfect vacation reading during our summer trip to the Atlantic northeast.

The main character, Amy, is a librarian who has been raising her two kids on her own since her husband just up and left three years before. As the school year comes to an end, he's back in town and wants to spend time with the kids. Amy ends up taking a trip to New York City for a librarian's conference. When the kids decide to stay with their dad all summer, she stays in New York and becomes part of a magazine article about "momspringas" (similar to Amish rumspringas). Of course, she meets a guy, and the summer is much more interesting than she had anticipated. With several twists and turns, I wasn't sure how the story would end, but it was a nicely satisfying ending.

The Forgotten Hours by Katrin Schumann was another free book I had downloaded to my Kindle; however it was a much heavier read as it addressed the issue of molestation from various viewpoints.

Katie is twenty-four-years-old when her father is set to be released from prison after serving six years for molesting her best friend when the girls were in their teens. Throughout his time in prison, Katie visited her father in prison and he called her every Wednesday evening on her home phone (because he didn't trust calling on her cell phone). Katie believes her father is innocent, and this book follows her story as she reflects back on that time and tries to figure out what really happened. It's a fairly good read, with a few twists as family secrets are revealed.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman was a book club selection that I have mixed feelings about.

Eleanor Oliphant is somewhat of a naive misfit who has no filter or social skills. The story follows her as she lives her life alone and never strays from her routines - work, crosswords, Vodka, more Vodka on weekends, and Wednesday evening calls with her Mummy, who is apparently either in prison or an insane asylum. Eleanor has lots of strange ideas about social customs and rules because "Mummy always said" things should be a certain way. Things begin to change in her life when she discovers a page from the social worker's files and is befriended by the new IT guy at work. Raymond turns out to be a good friend and together they help an old guy who passes out on the street and meet his family.

Honestly, it's interesting and often pretty funny to read Eleanor's descriptions of various scenes - like how everyone at a wedding stands around pretending they like all the other people there. She uses great "crossword" words as she describes things. There were several twists and turns, one of which made me think the book was going to have a satisfying conclusion, then another that ruined it for me.

Robbie read Bird Box by Josh Malerman a while back and put it on my to-read shelf. In this story, when a strange "creature" is seen, it causes people to go  insane and kill themselves. The story alternates between Malorie's life beginning five years ago when the first creatures appeared and her current life traveling down river with two small children in search of a safe place.

In the beginning, Malorie, who is pregnant, answers a newspaper ad offering a place to live during this catastrophic time. She ends up living in a house with several others. They cover all the windows and only go outside if they are blindfolded. This is an interesting, engaging read that has been turned into a Netflix movie. We watched the movie, that stars Sandra Bullock, earlier this week. There are many changes in the storyline from the book, but it's a very well-done movie (although it's rated R and may cause nightmares!).

I've also read several young adult books recently.


At a little used book store on Prince Edward Island, I found a Trixie Belden book that I didn't own - #34:The Mystery of the Missing Millionaire. It was so FUN to revisit these "old friends" and add to my teenage collection after all these years

I had a free copy of Treasure Island by Robert Louise Stevenson on my Kindle. This is a classic that I'm not sure I've read before, although the story is so familiar ... I probably read this as a picture storybook at some point. This is a good read, told from Jim Hawkin's point of view, with a few chapters from the doctor's point of view, as they search for buried treasure.

When our youngest nephew mentioned his summer reading included Animal Farm by George Orwell, I decided it was finally time to read this classic as well. (I'm not sure why I didn't read it in high school; maybe because we read Watership Down instead.) This story is a great example/allegory of how easily animals/humans can forget and be re-conditioned to what's "normal" or "best" in a very short period of time. 

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

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Sunday Musings | He Will Be Like The Dew

Hosea 14:4-7 describes how the Lord will be like the dew that causes the lily to blossom. 

In this scripture, God is promising to heal and restore Israel when they repent and turn to Him. This restoration will include growth (he shall blossom), beauty (like the lily), and strength (take root like the trees).

In our society, we are often encouraged to "bloom where we're planted." What better way to bloom than by repenting and turning to the Lord and allowing Him to fill our lives with growth and beauty and strength!

This illustration is actually a coloring page that's been cut out and adhered to a blank page in my interleaved Bible. The background is a bright pink Gelato that I added to the page using a sponge dauber. I also used the Gelato and one of the blossoms from the illustration to highlight the verse on the opposite page. The scripture journaling was added with a black Micron pen and the page is completed with the addition of some puffy crosses.