Saturday, August 17, 2019

Book Review | Empowered

Empowered: How God Shaped 11 Women's Lives (And Can Shape Yours Too) by Catherine Parks is geared toward teens and tweens. Each chapter tells the story of a woman used by God.

There were quite a few women I already knew a good bit about, including Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie ten Boom, Joni Aereckson Tada, Fanny Crosby, and Elizabeth Elliot. There were others who were new to me - Esther Ahn Kim, Sophie Scholl, Pandita Ramabai, Phillis Wheatley, Charlotte Forten Grimke, and Annie Armstrong.

Each woman's story illustrates a characteristic that helped her stand strong in her faith despite trying circumstances - loving others, expressing gratitude, fearing God, being obedient, using our talents for God's glory, living with adversity, being kind, etc. The chapters end with questions and scriptures to help the reader apply the lesson to her own life. This is a good book to introduce girls to some wonderful Christian women and share examples of how anyone can be used for His glory.

Note: I received this book free from B&H Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 | Reflections

I began working on my list of 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 on my 45th birthday in 2014. Can y'all believe it's been five years already!?! I turned 50 a couple of weeks ago, and I'm thrilled to report that I completed 31 of the items on my list!!!

I've learned several lessons by having this list of goals over the past five years.

A list of goals provides inspiration and motivation.
Several of the items on my list are ones that I've thought about doing for years. When I put them on the list, I moved past the thinking stage and began researching and planning and actually doing them. 

Without the inspiration and motivation of working toward checking items off my list, I might still be just talking about hiking in the Grand Canyon, taking piano lessons, learning to ride a horse, dyeing Easter eggs again, or finally carving a pumpkin.

It's ok if some things don't get completed. 
It would have been amazing to report today that I had completed every item on my list; however, in reality, there are 19 items that I did not check off. There was nothing on the list that was mandatory; it was simply something FUN I came up with to enjoy on my way to 50.

While I did read all the Pulitzer prize winners in fiction, I did not re-read all my children's/young adult books ... and that's perfectly ok. I didn't make a quilt; however, I completed 10+ scrapbook projects and reviewed all my paid for scrapbook classes. I didn't grow my own vegetables, but I did make Mama's biscuits and take a macaron cooking class.

Our desires/circumstances/goals can change in five years.
While I truly desired to lose down to a healthy weight and take a boot camp class and hold a one-minute plank, the past couple of years have held a good bit of trauma and emotional upheaval which I allowed to derail my goal of getting fit! Of course, we have made some adjustments to our eating and exercise plans, which have also ebbed and flowed throughout this time. I'm not as healthy or fit as I'd like to be (but I did complete a 10k walk in less than three hours at the beginning of summer). I was, however, more successful with my emotional and spiritual health goals as I kept a daily gratitude journal for one yearread through the Bible again, and completed a 3-day fast

I also chose not to earn a doctorate after considering and researching this option as I didn't feel it was the right direction for me at this point in our lives. And Robbie and I decided it was not quite time (yet) for us to buy a camper.

Sometimes I'm overly optimistic with what can be accomplished in a certain time period!
If you look closely at the list, you'll notice that there were quite a few travel items. Considering the fact that we typically take two vacations a years, we could have gone to all those places. But then we would have missed out on the family vacations and last minute trips and other things that caught our attention over the years. 

I feel so grateful and blessed that we were able to tour the Anne Frank House and visit Corrie ten Boom's home, travel to Paris, visit Harry Potter World in Florida, see New York from the top of the Empire State Building, have an Alaskan Adventure, travel on a train, see Niagara Falls, catch some holiday fireworks, and go glamping.  We even hiked to the top of a mountain in the Canadian Rockies and I rode in a helium balloon. So, it's hard to be disappointed that I didn't go snow skiing again or take a mission trip or visit Washington DC and tour the White House.

Some things are out of my control.
I knew when I put lead someone to Christ on my list that it was a stretch goal because it's not actually up to me whether or not it happens. While I strive to be a witness for the Lord in my daily life and I started my own ministry/business teaching classes that merge faith and art, I've never actually been the person who prayed with someone as they gave their life to the Lord. My giftings are in teaching and administration, not evangelism.  The Bible says that some plant, others water, but it's God that gives the increase. However, I put this item on the list to remind me to be aware of opportunities to witness to others and share about Christ. In fact, I did have several opportunities to talk with others (individually and in classes I've taught) about the way to eternal life. I feel great about the seeds I've planted and watered and weeded over the years and glad I included this reminder to myself to always be open to share the plan of salvation.

Sometimes I'm not willing (or able) to devote time to something new.
For example, I'd really like to learn to speak basic conversational Spanishtake swimming lessons and dance lessons and private singing lessons, and even learn to French braid my own hair. While I chose to focus on other things these past few years (like having something publishedrevising our wills, improving my photography and photo editing skillswatching many of the movies in our collection, and using a flower guide), I may find/make time in the coming years for these non-completed well as playing all the games in our collection and going fishing again.

All in all, I've thoroughly enjoyed working on my list of 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 over the past five years. And now I'm setting new goals and looking forward to all the things I'll do While I'm 50

What will you be doing over the next 12 months?

Saturday, July 27, 2019

SPSH 2019 | Reunion Tower

Our friends LeAnne & Bill and their two boys, Aiden & Logan, were here for a visit over the July Fourth holiday weekend. We headed in to Dallas to do some sightseeing one day, and I teamed up with Logan to see if we could find any of the items on this year's Summer Photo Scavenger Hunt (hosted by Mary-Lou of the Patio Postcards blog). LeAnne teamed up with Aiden, and the hunt added some extra FUN to our visit to the Reunion Tower GeO-Deck, Dealey Plaza, and The Old Red Museum.

Logan and I found eleven items! (I think LeAnne and Aiden found about the same amount.) Many of the photos were taken from 470 feet high, looking down from the Reunion Tower GeO-Deck. 

1. An Outdoor Clock
Looking at the Old Red Museum from Dealey Plaza.

2. Single & Pretty
Hotel driveway near Reunion Tower.

3. Repetition
Parking lot across the freeway from Reunion Tower.

4. Blurred Vision
While we were enjoying a light lunch at Cloud Nine, the casual Reunion Tower revolving restaurant, Logan noticed a small section of condensation on the window where he was able to capture this blurred view.

5. The Word Summer

7. A Curving Path

9. A Bridge

10. Something Made of Stone
This huge stone made a perfect seat for the boys!

12. Something Crooked

13. Two Colors of The Rainbow in Any Combination

18. Something That Should Be Found In Pairs

[Is it obvious I'm enjoying this year's hunt? So far, Robbie and I found all the items on our trip to Ohio, the twins and I found 20 items at the library, my buddy Logan and I found these 11 items, my oldest niece and I found a few on our 10K walk (photos coming soon) ... and I'll be searching for them all again on our next trip. :)]

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 | Improve Photo Editing Skills

One of the goals on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 List is to improve my photo editing skills. I've been using Photoshop Elements for ten years now and have definitely improved my skills during that time, especially in the past few years (although it seems there's always more to learn). Along with learning from materials in online classes, I've often searched for ideas or tried out editing tweaks I've read about on other blogs.

When I first started blogging, I simply resized and uploaded photos (like this FUN photo from my nieces' visit earlier this summer).

However, I learned that when I resize it, the photo will appear clearer if I select the right "bicubic" option (in this case bicubic sharpener). It's often just a subtle difference.

My favorite edits include cropping (to remove distracting elements) and adjusting levels and shadows (to correct color and brighten).

I've also learned to play with the various options when converting a photo to black & white. The "newspaper" option keeps my photo bright and happy.

I've even experimented with some of the FUN guided options available in Photoshop Elements, Pop Art being my favorite.

Over the past several years, I've also learned more about editing photos on my iPhone, using the tools available to crop photos, adjust the color or lighting, and/or apply filters. I've used Canva to create photo collages. I've even used the editing feature in Facebook to improve photos before posting. So, I feel I can confidently mark this item as done on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 List!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 | Review All Paid For Scrapbook Classes

Over the five years before my 45th birthday (when I created my list of 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50), I'd enrolled in over 120 classes online at a variety of sites including Big Picture Classes,, and I'd actually worked through all the materials in some of them, others I'd done some work in, and a very few I hadn't really even looked at. Once I set the goal to review all the classes I'd paid for, I made a list of the classes and began reviewing them.

At various times over these past five years, I have successfully reviewed all those classes - some of them I worked through the materials, others I read through for inspiration, and some I simply reviewed and saved the materials I wanted to keep. I also posted updates on this goal HERE and HERE and have shared layouts, projects, and inspiration from these classes in various blog posts. During this time, I only signed up for a few additional classes since I was working on this goal. However, as I check this item completed, I am looking forward to finding a class or two to enjoy in the coming months. 

(Please share your favorite sites for online classes these days in the comments.)

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

SPSH 2019 | At the Library

Last week my 14-year-old twin nieces were here for their summer visit. During one of our visits to the library, we decided to see if we could find book covers to represent the items on this year's Summer Photo Scavenger Hunt.

We wandered through the aisles of books, not paying attention to the titles or topics, but simply searching for pictures or words that matched one of the items. Laurie kept track as we found them, consolidated the photos on her phone, and then air-dropped them to me so I could share our finds here. Between the three of us, we found 18 of the 20 items, plus both alternates ... so a total success! 

1. An Outdoor Clock

2. Single & Pretty

3. Repetition

4. Blurred Vision

5. The Word Summer

6. An Umbrella, open or closed

7. A Curving Path

8. Shells

9. A Bridge

10. Something Made of Stone

11. Fish

12. Something Crooked

13. Two Colors of The Rainbow in Any Combination

14. A Handwritten Sign

15. A Broken Chair/Bench/Stool

16. An Out of Season Treat Being Enjoyed
(Laurie was determined to find this one, so she headed to the children's section and the Christmas picture storybooks. There wasn't a single book with someone drinking hot chocolate on the cover, so she opted for an out of season gingerbread cookie. I think it's a perfect fit!)

17. A Sail

18. Something That Should Be Found In Pairs
(Paige decided right away that we had to find something with twins on it for this prompt. It took a while, but she finally discovered this book that actually has two sets of twins in the story!)

19. A Funny or Meaningful Bumper Sticker

20. A Favorite Seasonal Scent

A: Bird or Bee House
(After we got home, the girls decided the cover from one of the free Advanced Reader Copies we received at the library Book Buzz event would work for this prompt. No house, but at least it's a bird!)

B: Fresh Local Produce

This was such a FUN activity - we all enjoyed it! In fact, now that the girls are back home, we are each working through the list again and posting our finds to a Pinterest board. Paige even made us a cute image for the list.

[Sending a huge thanks to Mary-Lou of the Patio Postcards blog for hosting this seasonal scavenger hunt. I'm thoroughly enjoying the hunt, even more so now that it also helps me keep in touch with the girls in such a FUN way this summer!]

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.