Thursday, December 31, 2020

Happy New Year Y'all

As we're waving goodbye to 2020 and walking in to the new year, I hope you will be able to look back and find the blessings amidst the pandemic and turmoil of this past year and to keep putting one foot in front of the other as we move toward the joys and challenges of the year ahead!

Happy New Year Y'all!

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas Y'all!

Hope y'all have a wonderful and blessed day as we celebrate the birth of our Savior!

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Book Pages Sculptures

On a very rare outing a couple of months ago, we stopped at Half Price Books to sell back a couple of boxes of books. The store policy is that we have to remain in the store while we wait for the buy offer on our books, so we wandered around social distancing and discovered these gorgeous book pages sculptures.

Since we both found it pretty uncomfortable wearing masks and wandering the store trying to social distance from other shoppers, it'll be a good long while before we return to sell back additional books. Who knows, maybe we'll get inspired and just take them apart and create something instead! 

Friday, December 18, 2020

Book Reviews | Not the Year for NonFiction

As I look back over my books read list for this year, it's apparent that this was not the year for lots of nonfiction reading. Of the 89 books I've read (so far), only 25 are nonfiction, with 21 of those being read during the first half of the year. As the pandemic continued and civil unrest and election news seemed to take over everything, I gravitated toward good fiction.

Here's a quick review of the four nonfiction books I've read since the beginning of July.


The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World had been on my to-read shelf since early 2019. I have mixed feelings about this book - I agree with the premise that we need to empower women as one way to make changes in our world and found the stories interesting. On the other hand, it was somewhat depressing reading the stories of abuse and poverty around the world and I often couldn't relate to the author, Melinda Gates (wife of Microsoft's Bill Gates). Since my thoughts were somewhat divided on this book, I added it to our personal library until I decide if I want to revisit it in a year that's not already filled with so much hard news.

Next, I was asked by TCK Publishing if I'd like to review one of their recent books, so I chose The Art of Writing by Peter Yang (which I received free in exchange for an honest review). I chose this book because I thought it would be good inspiration and a reminder to be continually conscientious about improving my writing here on the blog and in my newsletters, etc. The contents list the "four principles for great writing that everyone needs to know" as economy, transparency, variety, and harmony. So, I was excited to dive in; however, I found this book to be lacking and really cannot recommend it. The author didn't really follow his own guidelines, the examples were sometimes distracting, and some paragraphs were so disjointed or superfluous that I had no idea what he was trying to say. I'm glad it was a thin book, otherwise I would have simply put it in the donate pile without finishing it.

(On the other hand, this blog post from TCK Publishing is a great read looking at why stories are important to our lives and culture.)

These last two books from our personal library are ones I've just read as part of enjoying the Christmas season. 


Windows on Christmas is a small but lovely volume that shares a look at Christmas from various perspectives or "windows" beginning with Mary & Joseph and including the angels, the shepherds, Anna and Simeon. Christmas Stories for the Heart is another small volume that is filled with lovely stories of Christmastime, some of them I've heard or read other places (or at least some version of) while others I did not remember as it's been quite a few years since I read this book that we received as a wedding gift (almost) 19 years ago.

How about you? Did you gravitate toward fiction books this year or take the opportunity to include more nonfiction or (as some have said) simply quit reading and binge watch Netflix? 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Sunday Musings | A Symbol of Hope

The evergreen trees that we decorate at Christmas time are a symbol of hope. In nature, the evergreen tree gives hope that spring is coming as it perseveres through the hardship of winter weather. It remains unchanged through the seasons and gives hope that there will be a freshness and newness when spring arrives.

Similarly, when we look at our Christmas trees, we can remember the hope of new life in Christ. Before that first Christmas, the people were hoping and waiting for the Savior. The birth of Jesus was the fulfillment of their hope!

Notice how the tree points toward heaven and has a triangular shape reminding us of the 3 persons of our Lord - God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We often put a star on top, which serves as a reminder to follow the star that leads to Christ. All those twinkly lights remind us that Jesus is the true light in a world of darkness.

Our beautiful Christmas trees can remind us to place our hope in the Lord and in His Word.

When you look at your Christmas tree, what do you see?

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Scrapbooking | October & November 2020 By the Numbers

This year, as I process each month's photos, I'm creating a digital layout featuring six photos and journaling "by the numbers." I'm using a digital template and various papers from my stash. My plan is to include a photo of me and Robbie and a photo of my mantel display as the top line of photos each month. Since my green mantel display was still up in October, I included a photo of our new couch on that layout and the fall mantel display on the November layout.

Here's how the numbers add up for October & November.

* 3 vacation days & 8 final days Robbie worked from home for FPT.
* 2 weeks off between jobs.
* 36-hour roundtrip to Mississippi for Aunt Betty’s funeral.
* 1 new desk purchased & 1 AC vent installed for Robbie’s home office setup.
* 2 new laptops & 2 new printers added to home network.
* 1 visit from Mama & Daddy.
* 2 early votes cast in the presidential election.
* 5 curbside grocery pickups from Kroger/ WalMart.
* 1 game of Battleship played with Logan via Zoom.
* 2 bookstores visited to sell back books & pick up new magazines.
* 2 virtual crops with friends.
* 1 movie watched: Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
* 21 layouts created, 2 cards made,1 Bible page illustrated, 1 scrapbook- for-hire project completed (58-page album), 10 blog posts published.

We watched some Netflix shows and football games during October, so we ended up only watching one movie. If you've been around my blog for a while, you already know that I am a fan of the Little House on the Prairie books, that I took a comprehensive class on Laura Ingalls Wilder as a writer a few years ago, and we've even visited the Wilder home in Missouri. So, when I heard about the two-movie series Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I wanted to see it. The first movie focuses on Laura's meeting, marriage, and first few years of life with Almanzo Wilder, which involved the birth of their daughter, losing a year's crop to a hail storm, a still born baby, a bout of diphtheria that left Almanzo weakened, and a house fire. The second movie, which we watched in early November, followed their trip to Missouri and the new life they built for themselves there. The movies are well done and true to their life story (as opposed to the Little House on the Prairie TV series, which veers greatly from Laura's actual life).

* 1 CFO position at Katsumi began.
* 1 family member diagnosed with Covid-19 & 2 others possibly exposed.
* 3 online church services attended.
* 56th birthday celebration for Robbie!
* 1 visit to Mama & Daddy.
* 17 family members in 5 homes & 3 states on Thanksgiving Zoom call.
* 5 Christmas trees decorated.
* 13 movies/shows watched: Beyond the Prairie Continues, The Day the Earth Caught Fire, Miracle on 34th Street, Holiday in the Wild, Christmas with the Kranks, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Frosty Returns, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Little Drummer Boy, Coat of Many Colors, Christmas of Many Colors, The House Without a Christmas Tree.
* 9 layouts created, 2 cards made, 40-page theme album completed, 3 Bible pages illustrated, 1 scrapbook- for-hire project completed (54-page album), 10 ornaments created, 1 diaper cake assembled, 8 blog posts published.

Along with part two of Beyond the Prairie, we watched one other movie before we began enjoying Christmas movies. The Day the Earth Caught Fire is a 1961 movie that was recently remastered for Blu-ray. The United States and Russia test atomic bombs at the same time, which alters the Earth's axis of rotation. This is a really good end-of-the-world movie with an intriguing ending.

Like many others around the world, I was ready to start decorating for Christmas and watching our favorite holidays movies this year. For us, the Christmas season typically starts on Black Friday when we pull the Christmas trees down from the attic and begin decorating. Since we were not hosting Thanksgiving or traveling anywhere this year, we started a week or so before Thanksgiving and ended up watching 11 Christmas movies/shows before the end of the month.

We started with the 1947 version of Miracle on 34th Street, a favorite that ends up with Judge Harper declaring that there is a Santa Claus. The Netflix movie Holiday in the Wild follows the story of Kate as she travels alone to Africa after her husband leaves her. While the storyline is fairly predictable, the setting makes this a memorable movie. It is set in an elephant sanctuary that rescues young orphaned elephants and cares for them before they are returned to the wild. We watched Christmas with the Kranks on Amazon Prime, but this is such a FUN movie that we'll be adding it to our movie collection for next year. When the Kranks daughter announces she's not coming home for Christmas, they decide to skip Christmas all together, which leads to hilarious interactions with friends and neighbors.

We have a TV Christmas Classics Collection that includes Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Frosty ReturnsSanta Claus is Comin' to Town, and The Little Drummer Boy. These animated and stop-motion shows always remind us of childhood Christmases and watching these on television. The House Without a Christmas Tree is another favorite made-for-television special that first aired in 1972. I don't remember ever seeing this one until Robbie and I married, but he's enjoyed it for many years. Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors and Christmas of Many Colors - Circle of Love are two new favorites that were just released in the past few years. These stories from Dolly's childhood in the Tennessee mountains are touching and extremely well-done. While Coat of Many Colors is not technically a Christmas movie, we always watch it at this time of year because the story in Christmas of Many Colors follows it chronologically.

How did the numbers add up for you in October and November?

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Mantels | December 2020

My goal this year was to design a new mantel display each month in a way that reminded us of bits and pieces of our wonderful life...and share those stories here on the blog. I kept a few displays up longer than a month so actually ended up creating nine total displays for the year!

December's display has a Christmas theme and features Santa & Mrs. Claus.

We picked up the large Santa & Mrs. Claus at a craft fair back in 2010. I like that they're both showing some cute personality.

Each month I'm including a photo (or two) of us, and I knew our wedding photos would be perfect to represent the Santa & Mrs. Claus of our home. Those little figures in front of the frame are actually small bells that my sister sent me from The Santa Clause House in Alaska back in the early 1990s.

We picked up the Home for the Holidays wooden barn sign on a very rare trip inside WalMart last week as it seemed to fit with 2020's theme of staying home. The kissing Santa & Mrs Claus were purchased on my first visit to Canton First Monday Trade Days in 2001, four weeks before we were married. That Christmas tree is one I created from an old paperback book.

We found the Santa & Mrs. Claus on the bench about 12 years ago in a store in one of our local malls. It was sitting in the display window and caught our attention, and we knew it would make a great addition to our collection.

We have a large collection of Santa figurines and ornaments, but this is the first time I've put just the Santa & Mrs. Claus items on display together. I'm thrilled with how this turned out!

How did you do with your displays this year? Did you find a place to showcase some of your memories and change them up throughout the year?

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Scrapbooking | Emphasis, Contrast & Type

I have finally completed working through Cathy Zielske's Design Your Life 2.0 class (that I signed up for and didn't complete in 2017!). This year I've worked through all the videos & created a digital and a traditional layout for each of the eight templates/sketches.

Week Four is all about using emphasis, contrast, and type to improve the design of our layouts. My final two layouts use the same template/design as my Family Visit layout from July. 

I used one of Cathy's week four digital templates to showcase photos and tell the story of Robbie's recent obsession with baking bread. I added a page border and put the smaller photo on the left, but otherwise kept the template the same (with the exception of the color scheme, which I altered to match my photos).

I then printed four photos from Robbie's recent birthday and used this same design to create a traditional layout. I stamped a title and used several older bits & pieces from my stash as embellishments. 

I'm excited to have these two layouts to add to our 2020 chronological album...and to have completed this informative and FUN class (finally!). In total (from 2017 & 2020), I've completed 21 layouts inspired by this class! And, I'm sure I'll use these digital templates again while the design tips and lessons will continue to help me improve my layouts.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

LSNED 2020 (& September 2020 Scrapped)

I didn't record a new (or remembered) lesson every day of September this year; however, I did make note of twelve lessons and created a digital layout to document them for our 2020 chronological scrapbook. This year Shimelle included several links in her daily Learn Something New Every Day emails, so some of my lessons came from there while others presented themselves as we went about our everyday life.

1. Even on days I feel tired and blah, I can be productive if I pace myself. I completed a small scrapbook-for-hire project despite feeling listless on a dreary gray day.

2. Having a plan in place keeps things on track when obstacles (like rainy weather) arise. When we began our morning walks, we agreed that if the weather was too bad or either of us had a very early morning call/appointment, we would each exercise at home during the day to get "credit" for that day's exercise.

3. Andragogy is “the method and practice of teaching adult learners.” Pedagogy is “the art and science and profession of teaching.” Pedagogy is associated more with teaching kids and is dependent on the teacher, and andragogy is more self-directed. Despite having taken several pedagogy classes and continuing education workshops for my teaching certification, I don't remember ever hearing the word andragogy before.

4. The first and youngest woman to have flown in space is Valentina Tereshkova. In June 1963, she flew a solo mission on the Russian Vostok 6. She is also the only woman to have flown on a solo space mission.

5. God can heal any relationship and reconciliation can lead to better relationships.

6. We must contend earnestly for the faith.

7. I can add a custom color swatch to the colors palette in PSE. This little technique was shared by Cathy Zielske in one of the bonus videos in the Design Your Life 2.0 class.

8. A Rube Goldberg machine refers to a complicated gadget designed to perform simple tasks in convoluted ways. It’s named after the cartoonist Reuben Goldberg who drew popular cartoons with these types of machines.

9. Seinfeld’s “Don’t Break the Chain” system of productivity works. We're adding heart stickers to our monthly calendar to track our daily walks/exercise.

10. The Bungee Chair is now available in red with the flat straps!

11. Giant chocolate chip cookies baked in mini cast iron skillets are called pizookies (a combination of pizza + cookies). I've enjoyed these yummy desserts before, but I don't remember hearing this name until my friend LeAnne mentioned them while we were scrapbooking together via Zoom.

12. The Tiber River runs through Rome. I can usually remember that the Thames runs through London and the Seine runs through Paris because I've visited both of those cities. However, I'm often stumped when a crossword asks for a river running through other cities (which happens pretty often), so this fact caught my attention while I was attending a virtual tour of Rome hosted by our financial advisor.

This 12x12 digital layout (along with our month in numbers) completes the month of September in our 2020 album!

Did you participate in LSNED this year? What lessons did you learn?

Monday, November 16, 2020

Scrapbooking | September 2020 By The Numbers

This year, as I process each month's photos, I'm creating a digital layout featuring six photos and journaling "by the numbers." I'm using a digital template and various papers from my stash. My plan is to include 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 add up for September.

* 15 days Robbie worked from home + 1 sick day (dr appts) & 5 vacation days.
* 8 hamburgers & 12 Zummos grilled on Labor Day.
* 1 visit to Mama & Daddy.
* 1 new-to-us couch for living room.
* 2 red Bungee Chairs purchased.
* 257 binders re-organized, combined, and (mostly) re-numbered.
* 28 walks (+ 2 days of Plan B exercise).
* 4 1/4 CPE hours completed for Melissa’s teaching certification.
* 12 lessons recorded for LSNED 2020.
* 1 Harry Potter Lego Knight Bus assembled by Robbie.
* 1 virtual Christ for India Mission Event attended.
* 8 Harry Potter movies watched.
* 17 layouts created, 50-page theme album completed, 3 Bible pages illustrated, 2 scrapbook-for-hire projects completed (5-page album & 54-page album), 1 collage assembled, 8 blog posts published.

We had a "movie marathon" and watched all eight of the Harry Potter movies over the course of eight evenings. If you've been around my blog awhile, you already know that we are huge fans of the Harry Potter books and movies. We've watched all the movies numerous times and always enjoy them!

How did the numbers add up for you in September?

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Mantels | Fall 2020

My goal this year is to design a new mantel display each month in a way that will remind us of bits and pieces of our wonderful life...and share those stories here on the blog.

October and November's display has a fall theme and features green and burgundy items.

I wanted to try something simple for the fall, so this display showcases fewer items than in previous months. I have a small collection of hymnals that I've gathered over the last few years. The Church Hymnal on the top of this stack is one I purchased new over 20 years ago because it's the version I grew up using in church. A couple of the others came from my grandma and/or Daddy, and I added the Baptist Hymnal from a box of hymnals a friend donated for me to use in Hymnal Journaling classes.

I grabbed a basket from our stash to hold the large pinecones we typically store in a large bowl on top of the fridge. I'm not sure where this particular basket came from as we have a "rotating stock" when it comes to baskets. We receive gifts in baskets and often use them for various purposes (display, holding items for my classes, etc) and then we'll fill them to give away as gifts.

Robbie had these two vases before we married; one of his many home d├ęcor purchases from Pier One Imports. The leaf vine is one we picked up after Thanksgiving on clearance at Hobby Lobby several years ago.

I've really enjoyed this simple (dare I say elegant?) display as we anticipate a much fuller display for the Christmas season. Happy Fall Y'all!

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Upcoming Class | Hope & Christmas Trees Virtual Bible Journaling Class

There’s no doubt about it - this has been a tough year all around the world.

As we look forward to the holidays and anticipate the celebration of our Lord’s birth, how is your hope?

I’m excited to announce that my very first VIRTUAL Bible Journaling Class will be focusing on hope and how our Christmas trees can be a reminder of the hope we have in Christ.

Join me in December as we discuss Biblical hope, persevering through the tough times, and recognizing the blessings along the way. We’ll also look at why Christmas trees are a symbol of hope as we learn several techniques for illustrating these evergreen trees in the margins of our Bibles. 

Hope & Christmas Trees
December 4 or 5, 2020 (Friday or Saturday)
10am - noon
Virtual Class presented via Zoom.

Your class fee includes Biblical teaching, illustrated Bible journaling technique demonstrations, and a printable notes and tips handout.

Please note:

*This class will be presented live via Zoom. There will not be a replay available.

*Your spot is reserved once payment is received. Within 48 hours of payment, you will receive a confirmation email. The link to the Zoom classroom and the notes handout will be sent separately as we get closer to the class date.

*There is not a supply kit for this event. However, I will be sending a list of items you may want to have on hand during the class. You’ll definitely want to have your Bible and a pen on hand. Otherwise, I encourage you to use what you have available as you illustrate what the Lord is showing you through His Word.

*If you are registered and unable to attend, please let me know before November 23 for a full refund. Sorry, cancellations after November 22 are nonrefundable.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Click the appropriate link below to reserve your spot today!

Click here to sign up for the FRIDAY class!

Click here to sign up for the SATURDAY class!

I would love for you to join me as we dive into the Word and use our creativity to draw closer to the Lord during the most wonderful time of the year!

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Scrapbooking | More Layouts From Page Kits

If you've been following along here this year, you'll know that I've enjoyed using page kits for a variety of layouts this year. 

One of the kits I had on hand (from last year's Scrapbook Expo) is from Quick Quotes and can be used to create four 12x12 pages.

So far, I've only used one of the pages to showcase photos from a weekend getaway in 2013. I had to punch out the frames in the large teal paper to create space for my photos and memorabilia, then piece the center embellishment together.

I had one page leftover from another Quick Quotes kit, and I was thrilled to find several older photos of Robbie's grandparents that went well with the colors and design.

The final two layouts are from a Lickety Split kit and have 6x6 grid bases.

I have to admit that it's FUN to flip through my photos and find ones that match the colors and themes in a kit and put a layout together quickly and easily. And they really look good, too, don't you think!

Monday, November 2, 2020

Miscellaneous Crafting

Although scrapbooking is my primary paper crafting hobby, I enjoy mixing things up with other crafting as well.

I created this little card that reminds us to Bee Happy using a card kit from our local scrapbook store.

These mini canvases that I painted in the heat of August reminded me that fall was on the way! 

When my niece was here this summer, she brought a yummy recipe that we tried and then scrapped for our 6x6 recipe albums.

I also altered a couple of clipboards my sister requested earlier in the year. It's hard to tell from the photo, but the one on the left is a mini-clipboard and the one on the right is letter size.

What miscellaneous crafting have you done lately?

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Sunday Musings | He Sings Over Me

Zephaniah 3:17 says:

The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.

Have you ever thought about the fact that the Lord will rejoice over you with singing? Isn't that image a wonderful reminder that we, too, should rejoice with singing.

When my niece was here visiting this summer, we discussed this verse and spent time Bible journaling together using inspiration from a similar page on Pinterest.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Photo Freedom 2021

I first began scrapping in elementary school, putting memorabilia in the scrapbook my Mama started when I was born. Throughout my teenage and young adult years, I compiled a variety of photo albums, scrapbooks ... and even photo album scrapbooks!

In 2010, I discovered Stacy Julian's online classes and embraced her Library of Memories system. I began using a digital workflow plan, started sharing my photos, stories, and layouts on this blog, and changed from chronological to inspirational scrapbooking. I put processes in place to keep my printed and digital photos organized, to showcase my completed scrapbook layouts, and to capture memories and inspiration for future pages. 

Since that class, I've adapted Stacy's system to fit our family and lifestyle, and I've created a ton of FUN and meaningful pages, albums, and projects that I love! I also helped coach others to set up and adapt their own system in a couple of Stacy's workshops several years ago. I truly enjoyed sharing Stacy's big picture approach to preserving memories and seeing others embrace (or re-embrace) memory keeping in all its many forms during these classes.

I'm excited to announce that I get to do it all again! Yes, that's right, Stacy Julian has updated and revised the materials for setting up, maintaining, and enjoying your own Library of Memories, and is offering the PHOTO FREEDOM class on her website in early 2021! 

AND I have an exclusive discount code for you, my faithful readers! Check out all the details for this 12-week class here and use the code MELISSAG50 to get $50 off your registration. (This affiliate code is one of the ways I'm compensated as a Photo Freedom coach.)

Click the following links to read more about how I initially set up my system, how this is just one type of library I love, and what I do with storage binder photos.

I am so glad to have a hobby that allows me to preserve our memories in a way that is also an outlet for my creativity, and I'm excited to be a part of the new PHOTO FREEDOM class

BTW - If you use my code to sign up, please email me so I can send you a little bonus happy mail. :)

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Art Journaling | Collages

Over the past few months, I've enjoyed creating collage style art journaling pages. These FUN quick pages are perfect for enjoying some creative therapy!

This first image is in one of my art journals and was a great way to use up some miscellaneous letter stickers!

I created these next three collages in my sister's planner when my family evacuated here ahead of Hurricane Laura.

These final collages are two-page spreads in my 2020 planner.

Do you create collages? Do you find them therapeutic?

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Scrapbooking | A Cat That Doesn't Shed

When I was a teenager, we had a family of black cats as pets, which meant that my yellow bedspread was always covered with lots of little black hairs. 

When Mama asked what I wanted for Christmas one year, I said, "I want a cat that doesn't shed!"

That year, under the tree, I found a two-tone brown cat cross stitched onto a pillow.

I still have that pillow and always smile at the way Mama gave me my wish all those years ago!

The layout design for this page was inspired by Lesson One in the free Timeless Techniques with Shimelle class.