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.

Monday, September 30, 2019

SPSH 2019 | Maine-New Brunswick-Prince Edward Island-Nova Scotia

To celebrate my 50th birthday in July, we flew to Bangor, Maine, then rented a car for a two-week road trip to New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia, Canada. Robbie and I both had our eyes open for items on this year's Summer Photo Scavenger Hunt (hosted by Mary-Lou of the Patio Postcards blog). Here's a look at our favorite finds for each of the items on the list.
1. An Outdoor Clock
In the little town of Machias, Maine, when we drove through on our way from Bangor to Campobello Island.

2. Single & Pretty
At the Bideford Parsonage Museum (where L. M. Montgomery lived when she taught at the Bideford School) on Prince Edward Island.

3. Repetition
At the Hilton Saint John, New Brunswick.

4. Blurred Vision
On the Bay of Fundy during our ferry ride from Deer Island to the Canadian mainland.

5. The Word Summer
At the Confederation Centre Library in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

6. An Umbrella
Cabot Beach on Prince Edward Island.

7. A Curving Path
Hiking trail at Irving Nature Park outside Saint John, New Brunswick.

8. Shells
A Sailor’s Valentine at the New Brunswick Museum

9. A Bridge
Entering the Haunted Wood at the Anne of Green Gables Heritage Site, Cavendish, Prince Edward Island.

10. Something Made of Stone
I stacked these on the beach at Irving Nature Park outside Saint John, New Brunswick.

11. Fish
Fried haddock we had for supper in Brewer, Maine.

12. Something Crooked
At the MacNeill Homestead where L. M. Montgomery grew up in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island.

13. Two Colors of the Rainbow
Red & green define the burial site of L. M. Montgomery in the Cavendish Cemetery, Prince Edward Island.

14. A Handwritten Sign
In two languages at the New Brunswick Museum.

15. Broken Chair or Bench
Outside COWS (ice cream parlor) at Avonlea Village on Prince Edward Island.

16. Out of Season Treat Being Enjoyed
Soup in the summertime!

17. A Sail
Inside Market Square in Saint John, New Brunswick.

18. Something That Should Be Found In Pairs
Showing off  my birthday gift from Robbie while relaxing at the Hilton Saint John, New Brunswick.

19. A Funny or Meaningful Bumper Sticker
This trailer has traveled far and wide!

20. A Favorite Seasonal Scent
Steamed mussels at the New Glasgow Lobster Supper, Prince Edward Island.

A. Bird or Bee House
At the New Brunswick Museum - two birdhouses ... one is made from an old milk carton!

B. Fresh Local Produce
At the Saint John City Market, New Brunswick.

If you've been following along here this summer, you'll know this is my fourth set of photos for this year's photo scavenger hunt! I've thoroughly enjoyed taking time to find this FUN list of items in Ohio, (with my nieces) at the library, (with friends) around Dallas, and on our summer vacation. Sending a huge thanks to Mary-Lou of the Patio Postcards blog for hosting this seasonal scavenger hunt.

Did you join in the hunt this year?

Monday, September 23, 2019

Children's Book Lessons Are Good For Adults Too

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of children's books - especially picture storybooks, early readers, and chapter books. In addition to the simple joy of reading these stories of FUN and adventure and challenges and triumphs, I am particularly drawn to the lessons that they teach. While these lessons are geared toward children, they are often just as relevant for us as adults as we learn or are reminded of important lessons through the themes addressed in these books.

In fact, numerous times I have shared a children's picture storybook during an illustrated Bible journaling class or at a ladies' Bible study class as a way to reinforce a lesson or open a discussion. This past weekend I read aloud The Little Rose of Sharon by Nan Gurley. This parable of self-sacrifice is so beautiful in its portrayal of the little rose that sacrifices her petals to save a baby dove (and The Creator's comments that His son would one day sacrifice all that He had to save all of humanity) that many of the ladies in the class were teary eyed at the ending!

Another favorite is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I've used this book about friendship and giving in Children's Church sessions, middle school classes, home group gatherings, and women's Bible study meetings. It also lends itself nicely to the creative activity of drawing, painting, or coloring a tree and leaves. :)

Max Lucado's You Are Special is perfect for reminding us we are special no matter what anyone else says. We are cherished just the way we are by our Creator. The Other Side and Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson address segregation, bullying, how small acts of kindness can change the world, and friendships.

I recently completed a new early-reader chapter book (which I received free from B&H Bloggers in exchange for an honest review) that is designed to teach lessons about money management. The Great Lemonade Stand Standoff follows the adventures of Jake, Sophia, and Brody as they slide into an underground headquarters and become secret agents who must help their classmate raise money for the local pet shelter. In this fun adventure tale, these friends learn an important lesson about giving. This is actually book one in The Secret Slide Money Club Series. You can watch a very short video of the author discussing this series HERE.

The 40-book Left Behind:The Kids series follows four teenagers and their adventures after they are left behind when the Lord raptures His church. These teens quickly realize that they were left behind because they had not accepted Christ as their Savior. As new Christians, they ban together to face the seven year tribulation period that is described in the book of Revelation. These books may be geared toward tweens and teens, but I learned so much reading them as an adult!

I could go on and on, but I'd love to hear from you instead. What are your favorite children's books and the lessons they teach?

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Big Birthdays & Bucket Lists & Me (on Stacy Julian's podcast!)

A few months ago, I mentioned that Stacy Julian had a new podcast called Exactly Enough Time. Have you listened to it yet?

I've enjoyed each episode, but I'm especially excited about today's episode (#34) because I got to be Stacy's guest as we discussed Big Birthdays (I turned 50 in July) and Bucket Lists (like my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list) ... and it was so much FUN!!

If you've been following along as I worked on my list of things to do the past five years, you'll likely hear a few familiar stories. You'll also get to hear Stacy define what a bucket list is, share a few items on the list she's creating for herself, and maybe even (like me) add a new movie to your to-watch list!

Here are links to a few of the things we discussed on the podcast:

My Library of Memories System - I wrote this post (on my then very new blog) explaining how I set up my Library of Memories system during that first class I took from Stacy back in 2010.

It Wasn't On My Bucket List mini-album - The album that sparked the idea for my 50 things list.

My 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 List - Here you can find each item on my list with links to the posts about the items I completed. Obviously we did not have time to discuss each item on the podcast, but it was so much FUN to share about our minion Easter eggsour glamping adventure at Raven's Nest Nature Sanctuary, not really learning how to play the piano, going on an Alaskan Adventure and a trip to Europe, keeping a gratitude journal, and reading the Bible (again) and all those Pulitzers.

My Book Recommendations:
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 6x12 mini-album - The papers for this album are actually We R Memory Keepers (not Authentique like I mentioned on the podcast).

After listening to the podcast, I hope you'll be inspired to create a bucket list of some sort - whether it's for five years or six months or any time period that works for you! I'll be sharing more about my one-year While I'm 50 Bullet Journal in an upcoming post.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Upcoming Class | A Thankful Heart Gratitude Journaling Event (Allen, TX)

I'm excited to announce that registration is open for my next all-day event - check out all the details below!

Join me for a BRAND NEW ALL-DAY EVENT as we discuss gratitude and having a thankful heart every day of the year! We will dive into the Word, learn and practice illustrated journaling techniques, create a gratitude journal, and enjoy lots of fun and fellowship as we spend the day MERGING FAITH AND ART in a way that allows us to worship and draw closer to the Lord!

A Thankful Heart Gratitude Journaling Event
Saturday, October 26, 2019
10am - 6pm
Hyatt Place, Allen TX

*Do you want to cultivate a thankful heart and discover what the Word says about gratitude?

*Would you like to try illustrated Bible journaling but you’re not yet sure where to start?

*Do you already enjoy illustrated Bible journaling and want to try new techniques and spend a day with other women who enjoy diving into the Word and using their creativity to draw closer to the Lord?

*Would you enjoy creating a journal to record gratitude scriptures and journal your thanks to the Lord?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this event is for you!

Our purpose throughout the day will be to worship the Lord through the times of learning, discussion and creativity. No artistic skill is necessary for this event!

Your registration fee includes:

*Four Sessions incorporating devotional teachings, discussion, crafting & illustrated journaling demonstrations, and creative time.

*Gratitude Journal Kit that includes a freestanding album, pocket page protectors, stickers, papers, washi tape & more!

*Goody Bag filled with surprises.

*Additional Supplies provided for you to try and use during the event.

*Bottled Water & Snacks provided in the event room.

*Three feet of table space for your creative workspace throughout the day.

*Two extra hours after the event to work on your own journaling projects.

Additional details for the gratitude journaling event:

*You will create a gratitude journal; however, you are encouraged to bring your journaling Bible, a hymnal, or a worship journal to work in as well.

*Along with the gratitude journal kit you will receive, I will have supplies available for you to use in your journaling. You are welcome to bring along some of your favorite supplies as well - there will be ample opportunity for using your creativity throughout the day!

*I will have snacks for us to enjoy. You are welcome to bring your own snacks or a snack to share if you like (completely optional).

*Bottled water will be provided. If a hot beverage or ice cold soda enhances your Bible journaling & crafting time, please feel free to bring that along with you. (There are options to purchase food and beverages at the hotel as well.)

*Lunch is not provided. We will take a break for lunch, so you'll have time to grab something at the hotel or head to one of the nearby restaurants. You may also bring a lunch with you to enjoy in the meeting room during the lunch break.

*There are only 22 spaces available for this fun and meaningful event, so register today to reserve your spot. Within 48 hours of payment, you will receive a confirmation email, and a detailed timeline for the day will be emailed mid-October.

Are you ready to get away and have a full day for using your creativity to worship and draw closer to the Lord?

*If you are registered and unable to attend, please let me know before October 12 for a full refund or transfer of fees to a future class. Cancellations after October 11 are nonrefundable; however, I will be happy to mail you the event kit and goody bag.

*If you receive a notification that the event is sold out & would like to be added to the waiting list, please email me.

*Registration does not include hotel accommodations, which can be booked separately at the hotel’s website HERE! If you would like a roommate, please let me know & I will try to set that up (although there's no guarantee).