Monday, September 15, 2014

50 Things Mini-Album

Even though I created a page here on my blog where I can share progress on my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list, I knew I also wanted some sort of album to track my completions of these goals. I decided to create a 6x12 album using the We R Memory Keepers Indian Summer Paper Pack, which contains 48 pieces of double-sided patterned paper . . .

. . . six sheets of cardstock, and several matching embellishments.

I printed my 50 Things To Do Before I'm 50 list onto 8 1/2 x 11 patterned paper, then created a sketch of how I wanted to set up the pages of the mini-album.

After creating the 6x12 pages by adhering two pieces of the patterned paper back-to-back, I cut out the remaining elements (4x6 pieces for photo mats, punched circles to hold the Cricut cut numbers, small journal strips, and punched circles for the date).

Then it was simply a matter of assembling each page . . .

. . . which took a lot longer than I thought it would because I had also decided to ink the edges of every single piece of paper and mat each of the printed items on cardstock!

It was well worth the time as I am thrilled with the result. Here's a look at some of the pages.

I included an introduction page explaining how I'd put my list together and my goal to complete the items in five years before my 50th birthday. . . 

. . . and left room at the end for my reflections at the end of the five years.

Since I've already completed one item on my list, I filled in that page by adding a couple of lines of journaling, the date, and a photo. To keep some consistency in the album, I've decided to use all black and white photos.
I added the title, a photo, and some embellishments to the cover, then propped this album up in my craft room where I'll see it regularly and be inspired to work on the items on the list!

I'm looking forward to filling in each page over the next several years!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Book Review - The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters

When I began reading the The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, my first thought was "oh no, not another father/son story told when one of them (in this case the son) is looking back on his life." Despite the fact that one of my goals is to read the Pulitzer Prize winners in fiction, I was afraid that this would be another slow read similar to several other books I've read this year.

However, I was pleasantly surprised with this 1959 Pulitzer Prize winner. The story is told from 13-year-old Jaimie's viewpoint as he journeys west from Kentucky with his father in the mid-1800s. They are headed to California to find their fortune in the Gold Rush. The story is straightforward and often shows Jaimie's innocence as well as his growth over time. His story is interspersed with letters from his father to his mother. These letters have more superfluous wording and often portray a much more optimistic tale than the actual reality of the difficult trip because he does  not want to cause his wife (Jaimie's mother) undue worry. However, Dr. McPheeters also kept a journal that more accurately reflected the trials and hardships that the wagon train encountered. Some of those journal entries are scattered throughout the book also.

I enjoyed this book tremendously, despite the fact that some of Jaimie's tales are somewhat unbelievable at times (possibly because they were slightly exaggerated in his re-telling of them!).  Jaimie not only falls overboard and is thought to be dead, but he's also captured by Indians and held as ransom by a band of outlaws. There are several "coincidences" (like running into the same characters at various points along the trail) that help move the story along. The winter months that they spend with their traveling companions (the Kissel family, Jennie, and Mr. Coe) in Salt Lake City are filled with rather strange (and sometimes hilarious) events that reveal many peculiarities of the polygomastic Mormons of that time.

Overall, the story is well told and entertaining. In many ways it reminded me of The Way West, the 1950 Pulitzer prize winner (which I reviewed here), because of the similar experiences and locales along the westward trails. I would recommend both of these books for anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

If you've been keeping up with my book reviews this year, you may have noticed that for the most part, I've either really enjoyed or really NOT enjoyed the Fiction Pulitzer Prize Winners. After my somewhat unfavorable review of The ReiversCheri commented ... It was the style to use lots of BIG descriptive words I guess. Makes you wonder, however, about the criteria for judging Pulitzer Prize winners.

I did a little research and found this information on the Pulitzer Prize FAQ page: 
6. What are the criteria for the judging of The Pulitzer Prizes?
There are no set criteria for the judging of the Prizes. The definitions of each category ... are the only guidelines. It is left up to the Nominating Juries and The Pulitzer Prize Board to determine exactly what makes a work "distinguished."

Here's the definition for the Fiction category:
Books first published in the United States during (the award year). All entries must be made available for purchase by the general public in either hardcover or bound paperback book form. In the Fiction category, authors must be United States citizens. 

Obviously the awarding of these prizes is very subjective!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Play! List

After completing two layouts based on Stacy's right-brain Ideation challenge in last fall's BPC Art + Science of Scrapbooking workshop, I was thrilled with Jennifer Wilson's left-brain challenge to rate a batch of photos, make a list of stories to scrap from those photos, and then create a layout from one item on the list. Each month I work through my digital workflow, processing the previous month's photos, rating them based on which ones I want to scrap, and then upload a batch for printing at Shutterfly. This year I've also started making a list of stories to scrap that I slip into my storage binder with the printed photos and memorabilia.

I have quite a long list of stories I want to scrap from my January trip to Play! in Anaheim, so I flipped open my storage binder and chose one of those for this challenge.

My friend Amy and I are both working our way through the materials in the Art + Science workshop right now, so I decided to start with a layout about how she ended up traveling and rooming with me for this FUN event.

Once I had all the  main elements on the page - photos, journaling, papers - I pulled out one of my color drawers that holds small bits & pieces and was thrilled to find the "Travel Buddies" sticker that matched perfectly!

A few weeks ago, I completed another layout from this trip showcasing photos of the flowers Robbie had delivered to our hotel room. (This layout is loosely based on a sketch I had printed out back in June during Jennifer Grace's Refresh Your Craft & Soul blog event.)

That's two more items checked off the list of stories I want to tell from the Play! event . . . fifteen (or so) to go! Do you make lists of stories you want to scrap? How/where do you store the lists?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

This Paper Reminds Me Of ...

I rarely start with patterned paper when I scrapbook; typically I start with photos or a story . . . or a challenge, which is why I recently found myself thumbing through my huge stash of paper looking for inspiration.

The first topic in last fall's BPC Art +Science of Scrapbooking workshop was Ideation, and left-brained Jennifer Wilson and right-brained Stacy Julian each issued a layout challenge. Stacy's challenge was to find a piece of patterned paper that reminds me of a place or space, then find photos to support that memory and create a layout. Since I'm predominately left-brained, this was a tough task for me. However, I finally chose a yellow/orange/green patterned paper because it reminded me of the colors of the buildings and the lush gardens in Gardone Riviera, Italy.  

I flipped through my Places We've Been Category Drawers and pulled out a photo that worked perfectly!

I slipped a tag in behind some of the paper layers for hidden journaling and am thrilled with the way this turned out . . . even if it isn't the way I normally start.

As I was scrolling through the classroom gallery a little later, I remembered a piece of paper I had in my stash that reminded me of camping . . . which brought to mind photos and memories of camping in Palo Duro Canyon when I was a kid. In one of my Storage Binders, I found two Polaroid photos taken from the edge of the canyon, and this FUN snapshot of me wading in the river that runs through the canyon.

I printed two additional photos that I had in my scanned family photos file, including this one of me and my two sisters climbing our favorite hill in the canyon.

When I was all done, I realized I had covered up a good bit of the original paper that inspired the layout - it's the green background paper.

However, I did make sure my favorite part of the background paper was visible . . . I even colored it to match my layout.
I don't think I'll be making a habit of starting my scrapping sessions by flipping through paper to find one that evokes a memory, but I have to admit I really enjoyed how this challenge made me step outside my comfort zone. Have you started a layout with a piece of patterned paper lately?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Long Distance Scrapping

A few months ago, my sister texted me a photo of one of the pocket pages in her 2013 scrapbook and asked if I would complete it. She had slipped in photos of Robbie and me playing a game with the girls during a quick weekend trip last fall.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to her album, and after mulling it over for a while decided to create embellishments that mimicked the cards of the game we were playing (You've Been Sentence). After she slipped the cards in the pockets, my sister texted me a photo of the completed layout and said she loved the way it turned out. What do you think?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday Musings - Hook-A-Rug

Do you remember hook-a-rugs? I think they might also be called latch hook rugs. While they are still created today, I remember them being very popular in the 1980s. In fact I'm pretty sure I completed several rugs in my pre-teen and early teen years, however it's the rug that I started but didn't complete that is the focus of my story today.

Sometime during middle school or early high school, I started a hook-a-rug. I finished all the letters and half of the background.

Then I packed it away in a box and moved it around with  me for the next twenty plus years - 11 homes and 9 cities! Even though it was packed away, I always knew where the rug was (of course!) - in the box with some craft supplies and a few other incomplete projects. Over the years I lost, donated, or wore out many things, but the rug was always there waiting for me.

In July of 2007, I was studying the book of First John and ran across the verse that says "God Is Love." I knew it was time to finish this project. I had lots of yarn, however it was not the pre-cut kind, so I had to cut each piece, which obviously required a great deal more work.

At first, I found it difficult to get in the groove of using the latch hook because I had forgotten how to do it over the years. However, as I worked, it became easier. The older pieces of yarn that were already hooked on the rug had been flattened over the years, so I had to move those out of the way in order to add the new pieces. The new yarn is a little different type than the original and the pieces are not all the same length, so this is definitely not a perfect piece of art . . . but it is now complete, and to me it is beautiful.

In many ways, this rug is similar to my relationship with the Lord. Just like I moved this hook-a-rug around with me all those years, God has moved with me. I have at times left Him "in the box" and not worked on my relationship, but I always knew He was there waiting for me. When I finally decided that I wanted a deeper relationship with the Lord, it took work to get back into the habits of daily Bible reading and quiet time. And I had to get some old things out of the way, like unforgiveness and bitterness and selfishness. I'm definitely no where near perfect (God's not finished with me yet!), but I know that if I continue to work on it and follow Him each day, someday I too will be complete in His glory.

After I finished the rug, Robbie framed it for me, and I hung it in our front room where every day it reminds me not to put God in a box, but to let His Light shine in my life for all to see. 

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!
I John 3:1 (NKJV)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A New Season Of Life

This is the first year in a very, very long time that we have not had any of our nieces or nephews here to visit. I've spent the past 20 plus years trying to make special memories and spend quality time with my nephew and four nieces here in Texas.

But things are changing . . . Pun'kin and the twins are getting older and their busy schedules don't leave time for visits since they live over five hours away from us. My nephew and oldest niece are grown now, which makes things more complicated . . . and more exciting because there are great-nieces and great-nephews. Of course, we're all much more spread out, too. My nephew and his family are in Alabama, and Robbie's two nephews are in Ohio.

In all honesty, I've mourned the loss of all those spring break and summer vacation visits. I realize that I'm entering a new season in my role as Aunt Melissa. It's been a little bit of a lonely transition for me because it's not one of those well-recognized changes that parents experience and the rest of the world acknowledges and understands. Everyone sympathizes with the young mom who sends her last child off to school and wonders what to do with her daytime hours and nods compassionately as another couple explains how they just moved their youngest off to college and returned home to an empty nest. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if there are many who can relate to the sense of loss I've felt this year as I dust the picture story books that haven't been needed for bedtime reading and contemplate finally donating the items in the toy bins.

However, over the past month or so I have begun to embrace this new season and am taking time to recognize and enjoy the new ways we are interacting with our nieces and nephews. Most of our conversations now involve some form of technology. My nephew called one day a few weeks ago to see if I wanted to Skype with his little ones. Uhmm.....YES!! I loved being able to see him playing with our great-niece, who we've not had the opportunity to meet in person yet.

And it totally made me laugh when Andrew showed me his missing teeth and then Garrett explained how he was going to lose his teeth, too, so he could be like his big brother.

I was thrilled to have the text conversation below with our 13-year-old nephew in Ohio. Last summer on our vacation, Thomas helped me make my Grandma's pecan pie for our Christmas in July celebration. Since then, he has made the pie a couple of times. I just know it would make Grandma happy to know that the next generation is baking the best pecan pie in the world!

One evening when we returned home from a night out, there was a message on the answering machine from Pun'kin Natashia asking me to give her a call. I sent her a text to be sure she was still up before I called. I loved her reply because it was prompt and polite, just like a true Southern girl!

Another day I noticed that she had posted this status update on her Facebook page . . . and I, of course, called her for a happy/friendly phone conversation.

It might have been a few days late, but I was still thrilled to get this Facebook message from my oldest niece.

I'm so glad technology allows us to interact in such a variety of ways. However, I'm also glad that I occasionally find something special in my mailbox. These two handmade cards came all the way from Ohio to wish me a happy birthday back in July.

And we received handwritten letters from Paige & Laurie in the mail just a few days ago. I'm so impressed with how well the twins are writing and loved reading about what they've been up to lately. (They even sent us each a special magnet!)

Now that I think about it, this new season as Aunt Melissa might not be so bad after all!