Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye 2016!

As I look back on 2016 and the goals I set in January (MOVE, LEARN, TEACH, SCRAP, CLEAN), I feel really good about the year overall.

MOVE - Although I did not keep up with regular exercise throughout the year, I did often add in bits of adventure and activity. This week I've made an effort to get on track and have exercised every day. I'm looking forward to new year and a new start!

LEARN - I completed and reviewed the FIT 2016 class materials this month. I also attended the DIY Santa's Workshop class at our local library, where I created five Christmas crafts (but forgot to take photographs before we packed up the decorations earlier today). 

My goal for the year was to participate in more online classes, take a few in-person classes, and (as always) read lots of books in my quest to learn new things this year. Overall for the year, I don't think that I accomplished much toward this goal simply because I didn't do more than I have in past years and because I spent more time on other goals.

TEACH - Although I've chosen to take a break from teaching, I'm very happy with my accomplishments relating to this goal! Throughout the year, I taught over 30 classes, had lots of FUN, and met many wonderfully creative women.

SCRAP- I completed the second of the custom wedding scrapbook-for-hire projects this month. The 46-page album took a good bit of time to complete, but it was an enjoyable project. I'll be sharing a video of the album soon, but here's a peek at some of the pages.

I actually scrapped a lot this year, however, the 5 scrapbook-for-hire projects account for much of it. I'm looking forward to spending the beginning of 2017 catching up on my own projects - processing photos and working through my digital workflow plan, scrapping photos and stories for our chronological albums, and creating a few photo books.

CLEAN - I'm thrilled with the progress we made here at home, although I do still have lots of areas that need a deep cleaning and decluttering. I love my new craft room, and we are both enjoying the new recliners for reading in the front room. Robbie's still working on getting everything back on display in the new toy room, and the office needs a little cleaning out, but the rearranging of rooms this year has definitely been worth the work so far!

I've chosen a word to focus on in 2017, which I'll be sharing in the new year! Did you accomplish your goals for 2016? What are your plans for 2017?

Friday, December 30, 2016

December Round Up - Continuing the Conversation

I'm excited to share my final round up of comments for 2016. It's been a good year, and I so appreciate those of you who stop by to see what's happening here on my blog!

New York & The Empire State Building

When I shared about my trip to the top of the Empire State Building, Barbara said..I love New York! In fact I have a trip planned for my girls and I in April. It's been many years since we've done the Empire State building. We might have to do it again. The views are pretty amazing! Karen said...When my father was alive, I was in NYC regularly. Now it's been over 15 years! But I've never been to the top of the Empire State Building. It was never on my bucket list, but going to the top of the Statue of Liberty was, and one summer my brother and I took our kids. We had a bit of a wait and like you on the Empire State Building, thought it was a fabulous experience.

Cheri said...I don't think I've been to the Empire State Building (but then I'm hazy about some childhood years). I DID go to the crown of the Statue of Liberty on a class trip - climbed all those stairs, took photos, then climbed back down - and ended up with my legs shaking uncontrollably when it was over. But it was fun! What is it about views from high places that will make us do insane physical activity to see them? Ellyn said...we went to the top of the empire state building when I was 14. on the way up the elevator stopped & we were stuck for hours (ok it was probably minutes, but it felt like hours!) Last year we went to the top of one world trade center, to the observatory there & that was awesome too!

Yikes - a stuck elevator does not sound like FUN, for any amount of time! I've not been to One World Trade Center yet, however, on my first trip to New York in 2001, I stood in line with friends for several hours to get to the top of the Statue of Liberty.

FIT, Weight Loss & Yearly Goals

After sharing my review of Fit,  I was glad to read that I'm not alone in struggling to achieve my healthy living and weight loss goals. Mary-Lou said...Cathy Z is quite a fun & motivating coach. Not sure 2016 is finishing where I thought it would, but being that I am upright, it's all good & means I can try again. Karen admitted... It's been the usual roller coaster here--with weight loss and exercise. I go in cycles. 

I especially like Susanne's positive attitude and plan for 2017...I actually did pretty good for the first 6 months of the year in the weight loss department, but then rested on my laurels in the 2nd half just maintaining the new status quo. I figured if I do the same in 2017 I will have achieved my goal, even though it took 2 years instead of 1. Looking forward to a new year - with a little more fit and a lot more FUN! Cheri also had a positive experience with mixed results...My "FIT" experience this year was fantastic on the physical activity side, but absolutely miserable on the weight side. Despite drastically increased physical activity, I gained about 8 pounds. And no, it wasn't muscle.

My favorite comment came from my friend Amy. She emailed to say...So glad to read this summary of her class!  Wish I had taken it!  And, Melissa, you have lived in the moment this year, 2016, and done it publicly, with so many women!  If I recall, your goal wasn't about weight loss and healthy stuff, it was about glorifying God.  You rocked it, girlfriend!!  Love you!  💛💛💛💛💚💜💙💛💛💛💛  Thank you Amy!!


I received lots of nice comments on my Snap posts (Christmas Cookies and 12 Days of Christmas) and want to sent a huge THANK YOU to Helena for hosting such FUN photography memes over the past few years! I wasn't a weekly participant, but I appreciate the opportunity to jump in when I had photos to share throughout the year. I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing photos from around the world each week!

I didn't get a post up on Wednesday this week, but here are my favorite snaps as we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary on Tuesday! Robbie gave me a beautiful double heart necklace as a gift, we saw the Passengers movie, took a walk around the pond at a local park, and enjoyed a nice dinner and stroll around the square in nearby McKinney.

Book Reviews & Recommendations

I shared several book reviews this month and, as is often the case, received book recommendations in return. After reading my reviews, Karen said...The first two books on your list are on my ever-growing lists of books to read. I was glad to see your good recommendations. I read When Breath Becomes Air several months ago, and was very moved by it. In a way, it was a companion piece (to me) to Being Mortal which rates up there among the 10 most important books I've ever read. I have Being Mortal on my to-read list and just might move it up a bit with that additional recommendation!

Susanne said...That first book has been on my list for quite a while, ever since I read his first book, Rules of Civility. I think he does a nice job on character development and it sounds like you agree. I had not heard of any of these others, but I am intrigued by the one written in verse. After Robbie finished A Gentleman in Moscow, he mentioned ordering Rules of Civility, so we'll both be reading that one in the coming year.

Minetta emailed...You know that I believe in the power of children's books. Read some by Kate DiCamillo and Cynthia Rylant.  I loved the Tricia Belden books as well as Cherry Ames and the Dana Girls. Another series I loved were the penny Parrish books by Janet Lambert.


After sharing some of my miscellaneous crafty projects, it was apparent that most of the crafting in December was holiday related. Karen said...All the creating here has been Christmas related. I have things to share, but haven't had time to get them posted. Sian said...I've been doing a lot of CHristmas gift knitting. I'm nearly finished. 

I did some Christmas crafting as well - created more cards and a free Bible journaling printable download for my email list.

Illustrated Bible Journaling

My 5 More Places to Find INSPIRATION for Illustrated Bible Journaling post prompted Sandra to comment...I honestly can't thank you enough cor this post. I'll certainly check them all out xx And Susanne said...Great post - good indo. I will definitely check out that Illuminated Journaling book. I've purchased a journal bible and colored pencils to start taking baby steps in 2017. Yeah, Susanne, enjoy your new Bible!

Thank you, everyone, for stopping by and continuing the conversation here! I've enjoyed looking back each month this year and sharing your thoughts, recommendations and comments. I hope you and your family have had a wonderful holiday season and are looking forward to a great 2017!!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Children's/Young Adult Book Reviews

Over the past several months, I've read quite a few selections from our Children's & Young Adult book collection. 

First, I completed the remaining books in the Trixie Belden series. Since my last update on these books, I read books #16-22, 25 & 32. Again, some of these books are not as believable as the first ones in the series, although #16, The Mystery of The Missing Heiress, does bring in some of the characters and activities more in line with the initial stories. 

However, the consistency which characterizes the first books is missing: for example, book #19 (The Secret of the Unseen Treasure) occurred at the end of the school year, then book #20 (The Mystery Off Old Telegraph Road) is set in the spring (rather than the summer after that school year). And some of the main characters exhibit traits contrary to their personalities. (I'm sure much of this is due to the fact that the later books were written by a variety of authors.) Of course, I still enjoyed re-reading these books that I've owned for over 35 years!

I also re-read/worked through the Trixie Belden Mystery-Quiz Books 1 & 2.

It was so FUN to see my handwriting in these books from all those years ago! I have to admit that I did a great job on the quizzes, then & now. :)


I also read the two sequels to Richard Peck's A Long Way From Chicago (which I reviewed last December HERE). In A Year Down Yonder, 15-year-old Mary Alice returns to spend an entire year with Grandma Dowel. This is a great sequel; I actually listened to it as an audio book several years ago. Grandma's antics are embarrassing to Mary Alice at first, but she eventually sees that Grandma is taking care of others and showing love in her own very unique way. 

Grandma Dowel returns in the third book, A Season of Gifts, however, this time her antics are observed by new next-door-neighbors. The minister, his wife, and two kids eventually learn what a gift of a neighbor she truly is, however, I didn't think this book was as FUN as the first two. (Robbie read all three of these books and felt the same way.)

Have you read any good children's/young adult books lately? 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Snap 18 - 12 Days of Christmas

Yesterday I made another trip to the Dallas Arboretum, this time to see the 12 Days of Christmas exhibit. The Arboretum installs "12 elaborate 25-foot-tall Victorian gazebos in the 66-acre-garden filled with the charming costumed characters, whimsical animals and winter scenes made famous by the beloved Christmas carol. Each gazebo is encased in glass and extravagantly decorated on all sides to provide a dramatic, three-dimensional experience that adds to the “music box” quality." 

It was a gorgeous, although somewhat cold, afternoon here in Texas when my Pun'kin niece Natashia and I visited the exhibit. (This is Pun'kin's first time to drive up [5 1/2 hours] for a visit, and it's so wonderful to have her here for a few days! ) We had a great time snapping photos and singing the 12 Days of Christmas as we strolled through the exhibit and gardens.

Joining in today with Helena's meme - Snap - a visually linked set of between 2 and 4 images. The set can be based on colour or shape or subject. I'll start by sharing four of my favorite photos that give a feel for the exhibit - 2 of the gazebos, 1 of the signs, and a favorite with us in front of the tall Christmas tree.

Because the gazebos are encased in glass, it was difficult to get really good photos of each of the exhibits. The displays are on rotating platforms, which makes it FUN to see these exhibits, but impossible to catch all the characters at once. Here's a peek inside each of the gazebos.

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Two Turtle Doves

Three French Hens

Four Calling Birds

Five Golden Rings

Six Geese a-Laying

Seven Swans a-Swimming

Eight Maids a-Milking

Nine Ladies Dancing

Ten Lords a-Leaping

Eleven Pipers Piping

Twelve Drummers Drumming

And for your yuletide enjoyment - a 10 second video!

Hope y'all are enjoying these last days as we approach Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Message of the Minor Prophets

When I chose The Message of the Twelve: Hearing the Voice of the Minor Prophets (which I received free from B&H Publishers in exchange for an honest review), I was looking forward to learning more about the twelve books in the Bible written by the minor prophets.

Based on the brief description I read about the book, I anticipated  reading about each of these twelve books and how the messages from these prophets continue to apply to us today. This is exactly what happened, except I got much more detail than I expected. The book is divided into two parts: part one discusses the historical context of the books, and part two goes into detail about each book.

The main premise is that the minor prophets have a relevant message for the church today. Prosperity during the time of these prophets led to spiritual complacency, a condition that is prevalent in our world today. The basic messages of the prophets were blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. These messages were each framed in new and innovative ways in order to get the audience's attention.

This book actually reads like an advanced textbook and includes lots of details, references, and footnotes. In fact, I've had this book for three months and have read a little here and there because it is a very slow read and is filled with lots of unfamiliar religious words (like syncretism, apostacy, eschatalogical, exegetical). There are some maps throughout the book, however they were not very helpful because they're very small, cover a large area, and utilize graduations of the same neutral color to distinguish various routes.

I persevered and completed the book. It is an excellent book for anyone wanting to study the minor prophets in depth, however I have to admit that it wasn't an enjoyable read and the sections applying the material to our lives today (which I was most interested in) were very short conclusions to each chapter.

5 More Places to Find INSPIRATION for Illustrated Bible Journaling

In addition to the five places I shared in a previous post, I often find INSPIRATION for illustrated Bible journaling in tutorials, classes, quotes, teaching preparation, and books.

1. Tutorials

With the growing popularity of illustrated Bible journaling, there are lots of tutorials online. I especially like video tutorials that share a technique along with a devotional or explanation of the scripture being illustrated. Tracy Pounds, owner of The Little Blue House (not-so) local scrapbook store, often shares this type of tutorial. I completed the page below based on this Facebook Live video and Psalm 90:1-2. Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You Are God - I first drew this illustration with a pencil, then traced over it with a Micron pen. I completed the illustration with watercolors and colored pencils, then added letter stickers and a tab to finish off the page.

2. Classes

I combined techniques from Tonya Hamilton's class at the Little Blue House (using glue and foil) and Jann Gray's Illuminated Journaling workshop (using One & Done Line Art Transfer Sheets) to illustrate Proverbs 31:30. Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.

Beauty is Passing - I traced the roses using the One and Done Botanicals kit, then went over the illustration with a Quickie Glue Pen. Once the glue had dried some, but was still tacky, I covered it with foil. I burnished the foil with  my finger, then peeled it off, leaving a beautiful shiny image on the page!


I like to collect quotes and have discovered that taking time to illustrate a quote helps me remember it. The quote below is a great reminder of how important faith is, so I recorded it next to Hebrews 12.

Faith is like Wi-Fi - I used a blue Micron pen and Zig marker to add this quote in the margin of my Bible.

4. Teaching Preparation

When I'm preparing to teach, I take time in prayer as I consider the group I'll be instructing. Occasionally a specific topic will be requested, but typically I choose the scripture as I feel led by the Lord. In preparation for a class for teenage girls earlier this year, I prepared a page based on Titus 3:5-7. But according to His mercy, He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

A Princess - I used graphite paper and a pencil to trace the princess image from a coloring page, then went over the graphite with Micron pens before coloring in the image with colored pencils. I added a variety of letter stickers and punched flowers to the page, then adhered a tab and stamped a date. (The purple washi tape was already on this page to reinforce the paper for a tip-in included on the page underneath.)

5. Books

It'll come as no surprise to regular readers here that I find lots of INSPIRATION in books. I'm always reading three or four books. I'm currently reading Entrusted: Anchoring Your Life in the Gospel by Dr. David Shibley. In this book, Dr. Shibley shares a quote from an unknown author, and I was inspired to record it in my journaling Bible.

The Greatest Love - Click HERE to see a step-by-step tutorial on how I created this page. are also books specifically about illustrated Bible journaling. I recently read Jann Gray's book, Illuminated Journaling. This easy-to-read and informative book shares information and ideas for beginning and continuing the practice of illustrating what and how the Word speaks to us individually. Illuminated Journaling is described as a tangible way for us to communicate back to Him that we want to give a gift back that is filled with genuine praise and appreciation for Who He is and what He has done for us.

Are there other places that you find ideas for illustrating in your Bible? Please share them in the comments.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Miscellaneous Crafty Projects

The past few months I've been pretty busy teaching illustrated Bible journaling workshops and cardmaking classes, creating custom scrapbook-for-hire projects, moving into my new craft room, traveling, and reading. However, I did find time to complete a few FUN crafty projects.

First, a framed 12x12 dimensional piece that I created for a client using a photo and memorabilia from a family trip to Belize.

Second, a layout using photos from our 2014 Banff trip and papers from the Bo Bunny Take A Hike collection.

Third, an 8x12 framed scripture that I created using a variety of papercrafting products, including a great house patterned paper from the Bella Blvd Oh My Stars Collection.

Fourth, three Christmas cards created using bits & pieces from a Heartfelt Creations make-n-take kit.

And, finally, a layout using photos and memorabilia from Valentine's Day earlier this year.

What have you created lately?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Book Reviews

An intriguing novel, two memoirs, a volume of journals, an eBook with blogging tips, and a behind-the-scenes look at television history - these are the books I've read lately.

I chose these first three books based on recommendations from the What Should I Read Next podcast.

I liked the premise for this book - a man is sentenced to life inside a Russian hotel - even before I saw the cover, which I also really like. A Gentleman in Moscow begins when Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to life in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow. He is 33-years-old at the time and determines immediately to make the most of the situation. The book is filled with great supporting characters: Nina, a young girl he meets and befriends; the chef and the maitre d' of the posh hotel restaurant; a beautiful actress who visits the hotel frequently; a Russian he "tutors" for years; an American diplomat, etc. There are details of historical significance, which are integral to the story, however that information is not as detailed as informative as I thought it would be to influence the story. This is a long novel, with lots of details given throughout that are all brought together so beautifully in the ending. I definitely recommend this book!

I didn't immediately add Brown Girl Dreaming to my list of books-to-read, despite the raving reviews, because it is written in verse. I'm not a huge reader of poetry, so an entire book of it didn't appeal to me. However, since the library book club I attend chose it for discussion, I checked out a copy . . .and thoroughly enjoyed it! It is very beautifully written and extremely readable. There are short chapters and long chapters - each one tells some of the the author's life story. This memoir begins with her birth in Ohio in February 1963 and follows her through her upbringing in South Carolina and New York. She illustrates how blacks were treated differently in the north and in the south and how family members adapted to those varying conditions. Her father was not a part of her life during her growing up years, so her mother raised her and her siblings. She also spent a good bit of time with her grandparents. All the stories, of good times and hard times and difficult family members, are told lovingly. So, don't let the fact that this book is written in verse keep you from reading it!

I knew that Paul Kalanithi wrote his memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, during the last year of his life. I also knew that he was in his final years of training to be a doctor. However, I was under the impression that once he was diagnosed with cancer, he chose to give up practicing medicine to pursue his dream of writing. In truth, he continued with his education and continued practicing medicine until his illness no longer allowed it. It actually scared me to read about him being so ill and continuing to treat patients, even when he had to have other doctors take over to complete surgeries because he became too weak.

The story starts when he's entering college and follows him through his studies and his interest in the intersection of life and death. I had a difficult time relating to him. The book was ok, but not totally as intriguing as I'd thought it would be. It's a small book and easy to read despite the medical jargon used throughout.

The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery: Vol. 2 begins with Maude still living with her invalid Grandmother. She travels a week to the states to visit her publisher & has a nice time. She was able to spend some of the money she'd earned after the publication of the first Anne of Green Gables book. She normally didn't spend money because her grandmother wouldn't allow luxuries. Her entries are not quite as depressive as they had become at the end of Volume 1.

After her Grandmother's death, she marries and moves from Prince Edward Island. Her husband is a minister,  and they have two sons. She is ill off and on, but continues to write and publish new books. This volume covers the first decade of her marriage and reveals her utter dislike for the duties of a minister's wife. She detests visiting and hosting guests and chairing committees, yet she keeps these thoughts to herself in order to ensure her husband's career success. In person, she claims to have come across as calm and happy despite feeling that all these duties were a waste of time.

However, she was greatly tormented over many things, particularly the years of World War I. She kept up with the news and often referenced battles and the ups and downs of the war in her journal. These events greatly affected her moods. She also had the unpleasant task of dealing with the Page Company that published her first books. She sued the company and spent time in Boston while the case was on trial. Fortunately, she was able to find some relief from the headaches these issues caused when she tried a new remedy called aspirin.

Throughout these years, one of her greatest pleasures was when her best friend Frede visited . . . and Frede's untimely death caused much depression. Another source of great torment to Maud was the discovery of her husband's terrible melancholia. After several years of marriage, he began to experience periods of "spiritual melancholia" which today would be categorized as a major depressive disorder. During the first of these lows, he went to Boston for treatment, and Maud eventually had to join him and spend several months away from her young sons. These journals are very slow reading, however I find them interesting and will continue with Volume 3 sometime in the spring.


Everything But the Posts: Tips, Advice, and Templates From a Blogger Who Has Been in Your Shoes is an eBook with basic information about blogging, along with tips for making money as a blogger. It came with a bundle of resources about blogging and was a quick easy read.

I saw an ad for Carol Burnett's In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox book and thought it would be a FUN read. It was interesting to read about all that went in to producing a weekly show, and I enjoyed when she shared specific incidents regarding some of the episodes. However, it was more of a commentary on her business life as a comedian with a variety show and wasn't as FUN as I had hoped.

Have you read any of these books? Are you adding any of them to your books-to-read list?