Thursday, February 18, 2021

Scrapbooking | January 2021

I modified a digital template from my stash to use as the design for our 2021 monthly layouts. This two-page spread has room for a journaling and lots of photos. My plan is to change the background colors to match the focus photo each month.


Journaling reads: The year began with us continuing to stay home due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. Robbie’s work-from-home CFO position with Katsumi is going well, and he enjoyed building his COBI B-17 Memphis Belle model. Melissa began coaching in the Photo Freedom online class with Stacy Julian and spent weeks sorting her Grandma’s lifetime of photos. For the first time in 18 years, the Cleveland Browns were in the NFL playoffs. We got a light sprinkling of snow on the 10th. Our great-niece, Penelope, was born on the 19th - she and Natashia are doing great. President Joe Biden & Vice- President Kamala Harris were sworn into office. We drove out to visit Mama & Daddy at the end of the month. Here at home, we had the chimney swept & the fireplace refurbished and watched all three Lord of the Rings movies plus Seasons 8 & 9 of Heartland.

By modifying the right page template, I was able to create a title page for our 2021 chronological album as well. I'm still contemplating whether I will do an all-digital album this year or incorporate a variety of layouts into one album as I've done in the past.


Have you gotten a start on your 2021 scrapbooking? What format will you be using this year?

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Book Reviews | The First Books & 2021 Plans

I began this year with a re-read of Stacy Julian's book Photo Freedom in preparation for the Photo Freedom 2021 online class. I'm currently serving as one of six coaches in this year-long class. This book is an overview of Stacy's Library of Memories system and her approach to photo organization and non-chronological scrapbooking. The book was published in 2008. There has been a huge change in the way we take and share photos as technology has improved in the intervening years, so I'm excited to be a part of the class and to learn how Stacy has updated her system to incorporate new ways of sorting and sharing and scrapbooking our photos and memories.

The beginning of the year is always a good time to read about making changes, so I ordered a copy of Atomic Habits by James Clear when I learned that it was the first Simple Scrapper book club read this year. (I'm not a member of Simple Scrapper but several of my Zoom cropping friends are.) This was a fairly easy read and a good review of how habits work - first there's the cue, then the craving, which leads to the action, followed by the reward. Much of what the author shares is based on research and books by others that I've already read, so I don't feel like I learned anything new. However, it was a good review, and his ideas and examples of how to change habits by making them obvious, easy, attractive, and satisfying were interesting.

I'm planning to work my way through one of the shelves of our paperback bookshelf unit this year, so I pulled out the thinnest book to begin. :) I didn't even realize Miracle on 34th Street had been turned into a book after the original movie until I pulled this small book by Valentine Davies off the shelf. Since we'd watched the 1947 and the 1994 versions of the movie during December, this was a quick enjoyable read.

My other plans for the year include reading books by two favorite authors. Diana Wallis Taylor is an award winning Christian writer that I discovered about ten years ago. Over the past month or so, I've re-read the three books I already owned, but I discovered that she now has nine novels of Biblical Fiction. Each of these novels is a fictionalized account of the life of a woman in the Bible. The additional six books are now on my to-read shelf. Anne Rivers Siddons was a novelist who wrote books set in the southern United States. I've recently re-read the two books I already owned and have added some additional ones to my to-read shelf. I also added a few historical fiction novels (purchased with a gift card I received at Christmas) and several books my sister sent in a recent happy mail package. Here's what the previously empty shelf looks like now.

It's definitely going to be a good reading year around here! What are your reading plans for the year?

Monday, February 8, 2021

Book Review | The Guilty Die Twice

Two Bullet-Riddled Corpses.
Two Attorney Brothers.
Two Sides to the Story.


The Guilty Die Twice by Don Hartshorn is a legal thriller that contains several storylines involving murder, politics, family dynamics, integrity, corruption, and the death penalty. It's an intriguing page-turner that jumps between (1) a high profile murder case that occurred ten years ago and forged a rift between Texas attorney brothers Travis and Jake Lynch, (2) a current drug deal double-cross that leaves two rich high school seniors dead and another gravely injured, and (3) the prominent Austin, Texas, Lynch family dynamics.

Underneath all this turmoil is the question of whether the death penalty is ethical or not and the revelation that there are often many gray areas and behind the scenes shenanigans in capital murder cases. This story is set in Texas, where capital punishment remains a legal penalty. 

If you enjoy legal thrillers and/or mysteries, I definitely recommend this book (which I received free from TCK Publishing in exchange for an honest review). As we both enjoy legal thrillers, I've put this book on Robbie's to-read shelf and look forward to hearing his thoughts on it!

What legal thrillers have you read lately?

If you've been around my blog for a while, you already know that I enjoy a wide variety of books from many different genres. Tomorrow I'll be sharing about the first books I've completed this year as well as my reading plans for 2021 as we continue to stay home during this seemingly never-ending pandemic.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Sunday Musings | Not OF Works But FOR Works

We are given the gift of salvation through faith, not because of the things we do. Salvation is free for anyone who genuinely believes in Jesus Christ, confesses that He is the Lord, and accepts His gift of salvation. There is nothing we can do to earn salvation - it is NOT of works as we see in Ephesians 2:8-10:

For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
not of works, lest anyone should boast.
For we are His workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand
that we should walk in them.

However, we are saved for works, good works, which the Lord has prepared for us to do. God has already developed works for us to do as His children. As we seek Him and His will, He will guide us and show us those works that He has prepared for us. This is not something that we have to do, it's something that we'll want to do as we draw closer to Him and remember His free gift of salvation.


What are the good works the Lord has prepared for you to do?

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Sunday Musings | If Your Thread Gets Tangled

Do you ever try to work out a tough situation on your own, then, when all else fails, go to the Lord in prayer? Surely I'm not the only one that is guilty of this type of crisis management at times?

I recently heard a story about a sign in a cotton factory that read:

If your thread gets tangled,
send for the foreman.

Of course, a new worker tried to untangle the thread herself causing it to become more tangled! When she finally called the foreman, he efficiently untangled the thread as he reminded the worker to call him first next time rather than waste time trying to do it herself.

This is exactly what we do on occasion. We find ourselves in a situation that's all tangled up and we start trying to sort it out and it turns into a bigger mess. Yet, the Bible tells us in Psalm 34:17 that:

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,
and rescues them from all their troubles.

Oh, how sweet it is when we remember to seek the Lord first and follow His guidance. Of course, like the foreman in the cotton factory story, He's there to come along and untangle our messes ... but it would be a much smaller tangle to unravel if we call Him first!


What is it that you are trying to untangle in your life right now? Leave a message in the comments (or email me) and I'll join you in prayer asking the Lord to guide you and work out all the details!

Friday, January 22, 2021

Scrapbooking | A Tribute To Shoes

Shoes can make or break a day, a vacation, a walk in the park. They really make a difference.

The right shoes:
Fit well
Wear well
Travel well
Look great
Make me smile
And do NOT cause blisters!


I remember:
*Pink tennis shoes with yellow socks and my favorite striped denim capris on date nights.
*Yellow Minnie Mouse high tops traipsing through the halls of TJ High.
*Pink high heels dancing at the prom.
*Black lace-up granny boots with pink socks strutting across the stage inside the gym at high school graduation.
*A new pair of white high-top Reebok at the end of each college school year.
*Tan and cream kitten heels peeking out from under a long plaid dress during baccalaureate ceremonies at Lamar University.
*White Go-Go Boots standing on a frozen river as the marriage commissioner pronounced us man and wife.

These days I rarely wear high heels or dressy shoes, but a I love my collection of tennis shoes, converses, short boots, tall boots, and hiking boots. I tend to name my shoes based on when I purchased them or where they’ve traveled with me – there’s my Alaska Hiking Boots, the blue Paris booties, Banff hiking shoes, and, of course, my yellow birthday Converses.

So grateful for good shoes, happy shoes, comfy shoes …. and all these shoe memories!


This year I'm participating in Stacy Julian's Story52 class as inspiration to tell more of our stories! This layout was inspired by Stacy's Week Three layout that used lots of photos and tribute journaling.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Book Reviews | Wrapping Up 2020

The final tally shows that I read 96 books last year: 29 nonfiction and 67 fiction! As a friend mentioned after reading my previous post, "there's enough nonfiction going on in the world" to keep us diving into fiction for quite a while. 

Most of what I read was really good, although there were a few duds along the way. Here's a quick review of most of the books I haven't yet shared about here on the blog.

Christian Fiction

A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, and As Sure as the Dawn by Francine Rivers (one of my favorite authors) make up the excellent Mark of the Lion series and depict the world of slavery, wealth, depravity, aristocracy, Christianity, persecution, and gladiator games in first century Rome. The Preacher's Daughter, The Englisher, and The Brethren by Beverly Lewis make up the well-written Annie's People series of stories about art, love, loss and life in an Amish community. Tilly by Frank Peretti is a short quick read focusing on abortion and forgiveness. High Stakes by Kathy Herman is an intriguing mystery set in a small town. It's actually book four in The Baxter Series. My sister sent me the copy she picked up at their library's used book sale after she read and enjoyed it as well.

Books That Have Been Turned Into Movies or TV Shows That We've Enjoyed

The Blackboard Jungle by Evan Hunter is a 1954 novel set in an interracial inner-city school. Robbie and I watched and enjoyed the 1955 movie starring Glenn Ford, Vic Morrow, and Sidney Poitier several times before we both read the book and appreciated how well the movie followed the original story. Based on a friend's recommendation, we have been watching the Heartland series on Netflix. We're currently on Season Nine (and have not jumped ahead to the new season that just aired this month). We are thoroughly enjoying this show that follows the family-friendly drama of the Fleming family as they rescue and rehabilitate troubled horses on the family farm located in Alberta, Canada. This show is based on a series of children's books by Lauren Brooks, so Robbie ordered us two volumes with the first six books (Coming Home, After the Storm, Breaking Free, Taking Chances, Come What May, and One Day You'll Know). We both enjoyed these quick reads despite the fact that the books and TV series diverge quite a bit.

Mystery/Suspense

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield is one of my favorite books from the year. It's a well-written hard-to-put down book with several intertwining storylines that kept me intrigued and captivated throughout. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult is a suspenseful novel filled with mystery, death, and paranormal phenomenon; but the most intriguing things for me were the elephant sanctuary settings and the research into how elephants grieve that form an integral part of the story. Camino Winds by John Grisham is a really good legal thriller that follows some of the characters introduced in Camino Island (which I read a couple of years ago and reviewed HERE). On the Street Where You Live by Mary Higgins Clark is a riveting read involving several closely linked murders that happened 100+ years apart.  Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion was a good quick post-apocalyptic zombie story, not too gory, with a satisfying ending.

Historical Fiction

I didn't realize The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid was considered historical fiction until I looked it up for this blog post. It was an engrossing read, although somewhat disappointing as I didn't realize until a ways into the story that it wasn't really about her husbands but more of a propaganda piece for alternate lifestyles.

Young Adult Novels

That Was Then This Is Now by S.E. Hinton is a coming of age novel following the friendship of two teenage boys as they deal with broken homes, neighborhood violence, growing up, and growing apart. I didn't remember reading The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin until I got into the story. I re-read this classic when my niece loaned it to me during her visit here this summer. It was a quick easy read, but why it's a classic still eludes me.

Nonfiction

I thoroughly enjoyed my re-read of In Search of the Real Spirit of Christmas by Dan Schaeffer leading up to Christmas. Beth Moore's book Audacious is a description of her personal and ministry goal to "see all women audaciously love the Lord." The Salt Path by Raynor Winn was a disappointing, somewhat repetitive, memoir of a couple walking the South West Coast Path in England.

How did your reading tally up for last year? Did all the "nonfiction happening in the world" drive you to read more fiction?

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Cards | Creating with A Kit & Distress Inks & A Gelli Plate

A few FUN card creations ...

From a Keep It Simple kit (that also contained the pieces for the diaper cake layout in this post).


Using distress inks and a May Flaum heart tutorial in the No Stress Distress Club classroom.


Playing with a gelli plate and acrylic paints to create a tag that I adhered to a premade card base.


What have you been using to create cards lately?

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Sunday Musings | God's Got My Back

I was excited and a little nervous when I scheduled my first Virtual Bible Journaling Class for this past December.

The devotional was all written and the techniques ready, but it took quite a few trial runs to get things set up for teaching the devotional section then moving the camera to demonstrate the creative techniques. I can't count the number of times I texted my friend LeAnne to jump on Zoom and see how the lighting and focus looked. I even had my sister and my niece on once to test the setup.

I wanted to have everything perfect, but I honestly worried too much and should have known that God would work things out. 

Halfway through the Friday class, the router here at home completely died! We had no Internet connection at all. Fortunately, the Zoom class continued without me as one of the participants continued to explain the technique I had been demonstrating.

I quickly set up to continue on my cell phone and was able to finish the class. It wasn't "perfect" by my standards, but there were no complaints from the class participants. And I was able to use the hot spot on my cell phone for the Saturday class. (Of course, I made a layout to include this story in our 2020 chronological scrapbook.)


Truly God's got my back when I answer the call He's placed on my life to encourage women to serve him in their everyday lives and use their creativity to draw closer to Him! Things may not work out the way I envision them, but based on the comments below from class participants, I'd say it worked out just as God had planned!

Melissa, wanted you to know that I continued on w/ creating after we got offline! Also, really enjoyed the class you created...blips & all 😊 You were grace under fire & we never missed a beat! Thanks for making this holiday “happy” which was surely needed by all of us. It really helped re-direct my thinking...in the right direction-up!!! Blessings, Ann J.

Hi Melissa. I really enjoyed your class! I am not an artist but your techniques make it really easy to follow. I also needed the lesson on hope. It came at the right time. I hope you have a Merry Christmas! Thank you so much. Holly

Melissa, I loved the class! I needed this so much. The hiccup was handled very well. I enjoyed your message and thought it fit our craft perfectly as usual.  I am ready for the next class! Elizabeth 

Great class today  thanks. Your devotionals are always great and I always learn something in the techniques part  Oh, I also learned about “pin” in zoom. I didn’t know that was there. Thanks! Merry Christmas!! Shari

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Scrapbooking | Christmas 2020


And I used lots of little bits & pieces on a festive grid style layout.


This year we pulled down ALL the Christmas boxes, bins & bags and went all out with decorations throughout the house. We had lots of FUN and even found some items we'd forgotten about. We reorganized and relabeled everything when we put it away.


True Confession: We've never bought tree toppers together despite our love of collecting ornaments! This year we ordered FIVE toppers from Amazon and were thrilled with how festive they are on the trees we set up throughout the house. The Santa is our favorite; the gold star really set off (our very first) book tree; and they all made us happy.


We enjoyed all the decorations and had a really good holiday season and a relaxing and FUN Christmas day.


How was your Christmas? Have you scrapped it yet?

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Scrapbooking | October, November & December 2020 Scrapped

I'm excited to report that I've completed all the layouts for our 2020 chronological scrapbook! Here's a look at some of my pages from the last three months of the year.

My great-aunt passed away in October, so I created a quick In Memory page with a variety of photos from different times.

The quick overnight trip to Mississippi for my aunt's funeral was our only experience traveling in this pandemic. We made as few stops as possible and only spent time with others for the viewing, a quick meal, and the funeral. Honestly, it was extremely uncomfortable because Robbie and I and my Daddy (who traveled with us) were the only ones wearing face masks. To fill in the time the morning before the funeral, we drove around and saw some of the "old home places" and listened to Daddy tell stories from his childhood and the early days of my parents' marriage. When we drove by the abandoned skating rink where my parents met, Robbie snapped some photos of me and Daddy.

It was just the two of us here for Thanksgiving in November; however, we had a wonderful Zoom get-together with all (except two) of my family members. I printed the screenshot I snapped and used some 6x6 fall themed papers on this next layout.

I created a digital layout with our other photos from Thanksgiving Day.

I created quite a few layouts to document our December memories (some of which I'll share in a future post). The first one showcases a photo of my niece and the diaper cake I created as she is expecting a baby girl any day now. I had a Keep It Simple layout kit on hand with colors that worked perfect for the photo she texted me the day she opened gifts since the pandemic prevented an in-person baby shower.

And the final page in our album is a quick layout showcasing the selfie we snapped as we spent a quiet day at home on our 19th anniversary. 

Since I rarely scrap in chronological order, it's very unusual for me to complete an album this soon after the year. In fact, I still have six previous year's albums to complete. There were less photos and no vacation trips in 2020, so I'm excited to have all these memories scrapped. I'm waiting for the final digital layouts to arrive from Persnickety Prints and this album will go on our Memories Shelf with the other completed scrapbooks!

How's your 2020 scrapbook coming along? 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Scrapbooking | December By The Numbers

For our 2020 chronological scrapbook, I created a monthly digital layout featuring six photos and journaling "by the numbers." I used a digital template and various papers from my stash and included a photo of me and Robbie and a photo of my mantel display as the top line of photos each month.

Here's how the numbers added up for December.


* 11 gifts left on neighbor’s porches.
* 8 cards mailed for Angel Card Project.
* 17 ladies at first virtual Bible Journaling class via Zoom.
* 8 Christmas packages shipped.
* 2 planets viewed (Jupiter & Saturn).
* 4 of us here for Christmas Day.
* 19 years of marriage celebrated.
* 23 movies/shows watched: Family Man, Grinch, Christmas Vacation, Walton’s Homecoming, Jingle All the Way, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Elf, A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Christmas Story, A Christmas Carol, Santa Claus 1, 2 & 3, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street (1994), Dragnet Big Little Jesus, Year Without a Santa Claus, Holiday Inn, Polar Express, Nativity Story, Christmas Candle, It’s a Wonderful Life, Wonder Woman.
* 11 layouts + 2 layout kits created, 3 cards made, 1 short story album completed, 2 Bible pages illustrated, 1 collage assembled, 8 ornaments created, 7 blog posts published.

We completed our goal to watch all the Christmas movies/shows we own during the holiday season this year. I also watched a few classic that I'd somehow never seen - White Christmas & Holiday Inn. We also watched the new Wonder Woman movie on HBO max - it was good, but not nearly as good as the first one from 2017.

How did the numbers add up for you in December?

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Sunday Musings | Our Protector Does Not Slumber

Psalm 121 is a song of ascents about the Lord as our Protector. It tells us that He will not allow our foot to slip, that He does not slumber or sleep, that He is a shelter right by our side, and that He will protect us from all harm.

Isn't that a wonderful thought - He does not slumber or sleep. He's always awake, always protecting us.

So, as you lay your head down to sleep each night, go ahead and give your troubles to the Lord - He will be up all night anyway!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Scrapbooking | Pandemic Shopping

Have you noticed all the wonderful layouts with a circular background of stickers that have been posted the past few months? I saw it first in this Shimelle Facebook Live video, and Ruth shared some wonderful examples here and here.

I immediately had an idea to use this technique with the little bits and pieces I'd recently collected from items we've ordered online. Then I filled the circle in with stickers and embellishments from my stash.

Journaling reads: We've always done a good bit of our shopping online, but this year it expanded as we stayed home and healthy. We also finally embraced curbside pickup for groceries and household items. We even ordered new laptops and printers and had a desk and chairs delivered.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Are You Ready to Scrapbook Christmas?

Now that the new year has begun, are you ready to scrapbook your photos and memories from this past Christmas? It was certainly a different holiday season for many and the familiar phrase "Home for the Holidays" took on a different meaning as we stayed home due to mandates and/or choice to avoid the ongoing spread of the coronavirus.

One of my December projects was creating a couple of scrapbook layout kits for our local scrapbook store (which also offers online ordering), and I couldn't resist the familiar title and a few Cricut die cuts of home and hearth on this first one.


The second layout kit features traditional colors, a pile of gifts, and a layered Christmas tree.


Both of these kits are currently available (in limited quantities) at Personal Scrapbook in Allen, Texas. They can be purchased in store or ordered online for curbside pickup or shipping.

I've already chosen photos for each layout (which I'll be adding once my samples are no longer needed at the store). For the first layout, I chose a mixture of photos from Christmas week, including screenshots of Zoom get-togethers with family (to play a game and to read Christmas storybooks to my nieces/nephew) and my parents here for Christmas dinner and a movie. The other layout will hold photos of Robbie and me on Christmas Day - enjoying pie at 10 and opening gifts.

How was your Christmas? Are you ready to scrapbook the photos?