Welcome! I'm Melissa Gross, a dynamic and interactive teacher and speaker called to lead and encourage Christian women in their walk with the Lord through classes, workshops and retreats incorporating Bible study, devotionals, illustrated Bible journaling, paper crafting and mixed media projects that merge faith and art bringing God’s Word to life so you can find renewed excitement to dive into the Word, use your creative gifts, and apply the Truth as you draw closer to the Lord and serve Him in your everyday life. This site is where I share my everyday adventures, Bible Journaling pages, scrapbook layouts, handmade cards, and other crafty projects, as well as information on my upcoming workshops and events. I also post photos, ramble about books I'm reading, stuff I'm organizing, and other FUN bits & pieces of my wonderful life.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Musings: Checking Off My To-Do List

I'm starting to prepare to teach a new Bible study in the fall. I went to Mardel's (Christian bookstore) and picked up several studies, brought them home, thumbed through them, and chose one titled A Woman of Beauty: A Woman's Journey Through I, II, & III John by Dee Brestin. I figured that since I taught all the books of the Bible named after women last spring, I should start on the books named after men - and what better way to start than three in one study! :>)

All kidding aside, I wanted to work through the complete 10-week study over the summer in preparation for the fall class. I added it to my weekly to-do list and completed the first lesson and a half in the first week. I thought to myself, "I'm really not getting much out of this study. I wonder if I chose the wrong one. I've completed one and a half lessons and haven't learned anything. I feel like I'm just checking it off my to-do list." Ahh, that thought stopped me in my tracks. Was I simply working through the study to check it off my to-do list? Could that be why I didn't feel I was learning anything along the way?


I sat back down and took some time in prayer before opening the study book. I worked through lesson one again and was amazed at the insights I gained. Wow, this study is going to be fabulous for our ladies' groups this fall. I can hardly wait to get started in early September! And I know exactly what I'm going to say in our introduction lesson - don't work the lessons just to check them off your to-do list, rather allow the Lord to reveal the truth of His scriptures during your time of study.

Anyone else ever rush through something just to get it off your to-do list, then realize you didn't gain what you thought you would from it? Please tell me it's not just me!

(And don't forget to leave a comment on this post to be in the draw for my scrapbooking office supplies giveaway.) THIS GIVEAWAY HAS CLOSED

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cost of an Education & A Giveaway

Robbie and I decided it was time to clean out and organize the guest room closet this weekend. The first five boxes we pulled out contained all of Robbie's college work, papers, notes, research, etc. He knew it was time to go through those mounds of papers and pull out the few treasures and throw out/recycle the rest. We spent a couple of hours last night going through everything and narrowed it down to a little over half of one box - what a great decluttering project! We ended up with a good size pile of supplies that I incorporated back into our office/school supply file cabinet - folders, spirals, paper clips, binder clips, graph paper, scantrons.

This morning I decided it was time to organize some of my desk drawers and while I was sorting through office supplies, I had the inspiration to scrap a layout using some of them. I knew immediately what I wanted to scrap about - Robbie's work the past year and a half as he earned his MBA degree. I pulled several photos I had taken of him studying and set to work.

I had so much fun using staples, paper clips, file folder labels, spiral notebook paper, a highlighter and a hanging file folder tab for this layout.



This layout came together is less than an hour - amazing what can be accomplished when inspiration stikes! I hadn't planned it, but this layout also fills the requirements for this week's layout assignment in The Mother LOAD workshop to scrap a layout in 30 minutes (I wasn't timing myself, but it took me somewhere between 30 minutes & an hour).

One reason it was so easy to use these products is because I have an ABUNDANCE of them . . . so, I've decided to share. Would you like to create a layout using fun office supplies? If so, tell me in the comments the topic of the layout you would use them on and you could be the lucky winner of a goodie pack of fun office supplies (colored file folder labels, paper clips, fun binder clips, etc). I'll draw a name at random from all comments left by noon (CST) on Tuesday, August 2! [This giveaway has closed.]

Friday, July 29, 2011

Healthy Living Weekly Post: A Year Older & A Lighten Up Breakfast Recipe

It doesn't seem possible, but a year has gone by since I celebrated my last birthday. I'm excited that I'm 7 pounds lighter than I was this time last year, but disappointed that the number isn't higher. Overall I think I did ok this past year striving to continue and add healthy living routines in the midst of a full year of unemployment and then the adjustment to Robbie's new work schedule these past few months. Next year I'd like to be down 14 pounds from my current weight (164 pounds). Actually I'd like to be down by that much before Christmas this year - there now, I've put it all down in black & white (well, I guess my blog font in actually in green, but you know what I mean)!

Today I'm sharing what I call Breakfast Quiche. I first learned to make a sausage quiche when I was a teenager, and over the past several years I've re-worked the recipe to reduce the calories and fat. In fact, since I no longer use a pie crust, it's more like a frittata. Eliminating the pie crust dramatically reduced the calories in this great breakfast dish. I've switched to lower fat and fat free versions of some ingredients and added vegetables to make this a much healthier quiche than the one I started with years ago.

The first step is to brown the ground sausage. I use the Jimmy Dean reduced fat pork sausage.


Then I gather the remaining ingredients:
1 cup fat free cheddar cheese
1 potato, chopped
1/2 cup chopped bell peppers, chopped
1 cup egg beaters
4 eggs
(Combining the eggs and egg beaters cuts down on the fat and cholesterol while still preserving the taste of real eggs.)


I use a deep pie dish and layer the sausage, then the chopped potato and bell pepers. I whisk the eggs and egg beaters together with some salt & pepper, then pour that in and top with the grated cheese.


Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes (or until it's done!).


(If you'd like to see another"Lighten Up" breakfast recipe, be sure to check out Beverly's blog today, too.)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Birthday Weekend

A huge thank you to those of you who left birthday wishes in comments over the last several days! I had a wonderful birthday weekend to celebrate my 42nd birthday. Yesterday I actually created a layout about it - something pretty new for me as I normally don't get my photos scrapped in the same month they are taken, let alone within a few days! I created the photo collage in Photoshop Elements and printed it out first. I didn't use a template, just cropped and moved things around on a 7x7 blank page until I liked the way it looked. I printed my journling onto pink cardstock and then set to work without a sketch or inspiration layout to scraplift!

I used some brand new Authentique papers & letter stickers that Robbie helped me pick out at a wonderful scrapbook store we visited on my birthday. I added a few pieces of memorabilia from the weekend - the Hello Kitty clothing tag from my new PJs, the fortune from my Chinese cookie, and the museum logo cut from a brochure. I also added some ric rac and a few flower stickers.

Journaling reads: My birthday weekend started out Friday evening when Robbie took me to P.F. Chang's where we split the VIP Duck to celebrate Grandma's birthday. Saturday we saw the Dallas Summer Musical production of Guys & Dolls then headed to Waco and dinner at the Elite Circle Grill. We stayed in the Verandah Suite at the Bed & Breakfast at White Rock Creek and watched the 9 to 5 movie. Sunday we toured the Toy Tech exhibit at the Dr. Pepper Museum, had lunch at Logan's, and shopped for me some new clothes. Monday we stopped at Crop, Paper, Scissors and the Brazos Bookstore before lunch at Buzzard Billy's & the drive home to Allen. Robbie made biscuits for supper to top off a wonderful weekend!

Did you notice that cute pink ric rac on my layout? That was part of the wonderful prize I won from Ellyn's Trim Explosion Giveaway. I met up with her Tuesday and she had this lovely box all ready for me.


Inside I not only found a wonderful collection of ribbons, trims and ric rac, but a fun yellow & gray mug rug that Ellyn had quilted just for me! Thanks so much for this wonderful prize Ellyn, I'm already enjoying it.


Anyone else scrapping recent photos, new products, and prize winnings together this week?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Confessions of a Simple Scrapper

The next three weeks we will be focusing on inspirational scrapbooking in the Finding Photo Freedom workshop, so today in the classroom I shared a few confessions (in no particular order) about my scrapbooking and thought I'd share them here, too.

1. At heart, I am basically a very simple scrapbooker. A layout with just cardstock, letter stickers, and photos is enough to make me happy.




2. However, sometimes I scrap a photo just because I can! I make a beautiful page with lots of embellishments and it doesn’t have a story other than what the photo shows, it just makes me smile!



3. I don’t worry about what other people think of my scrapbooks. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy seeing others enjoying my layouts, but if no one sees them but me and my hubby, that’s ok too. I create for us.

4. I scrap just for fun - scrapbooking is my hobby! (Remember, the definition of a “hobby” is “an activity engaged in for pleasure and relaxation during spare time.”)

5. I use the same patterned paper over and over on multiple layouts if I love it! Who criticizes a quilter for using a great fabric on five quilts? It’s the same concept.

6. I didn’t give up chronology all together – I create a monthly digital overview layout and have a separate album that houses these layouts. I’m using one of the post bound albums I had in my stash for this project and will probably have five or six years in one album.



7. I like to scrap events! I wish I had a layout for each of my birthdays growing up so I could remember what we did, who was there, and how I looked.


8. I scrap old photos without scanning. For years, all my old photos were in photos albums and I enjoyed looking through those. When I rescued them from the sticky albums last year, I put them all in a storage binder and I use them right on my scrapbook layouts without scanning.



9. It’s not always the story or the photos that inspire me – sometimes it’s pretty paper, or a challenge, or an assignment in an online class, or a pretty new embellishment. It’s ok to be inspired by something other than the story or the photo because the result is the same – a memory is captured & recorded.

10. I don’t have any guilt associated with my scrapbooking or memory keeping.

11. I clean up my craft table between every layout. I put everything (even my tape runner) back in place before starting the next project. That’s just how I work.

12. I think layouts without photos are just as nice as those with photos.



Now I know some of you are having a hard time dealing with some of the things I’ve addressed here, and that’s perfectly ok. If you need to scan every old photo before you scrap it, that’s ok. If you don’t like to scrap events, that’s ok. If you hate to clean up your work space and thrive on the messiness of creativity, that’s ok. We’re all different and the great thing about this hobby is that it can bring enjoyment to each of us in unique ways.

My hope is that in the process of capturing your memories and showcasing your photos in your own unique way that you will find true enjoyment! Anyone else have any confessions you'd like to share?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Memorabilia Three-Step

Memorabilia can very quickly overwhelm us if we don’t have a place to put it and a plan to process it. Along with organizing my photos in my Library of Memories system, I’ve developed a three step process for handling memorabilia, basically three times that I “touch” the memorabilia: (1) when it comes in the house, (2) when I am slipping monthly or seasonal photos into storage binders, and (3) at the end of the year.

STEP 1: When memorabilia comes into the house, it is important to have some place for it to go to avoid having piles of it scattered everywhere. My memorabilia goes into one of three places:

1. Cultural Memorabilia Box – some items go straight into my Cultural Memorabilia Box. These are items that are not related to a specific event, but are more general everyday life type items like receipts, clothing tags, advertisements, candy wrappers, etc.



2. Memorabilia Accordion File – this box has sections for each month of the year. I simply drop any memorabilia that I want to keep behind the slot for that month.



3. On Display – I do like to simply display some memorabilia. For example, I display Playbills and Programs from various theatre productions and events in an old magazine rack that belonged to my hubby’s grandmother. I enjoy seeing these items and being reminded of the various shows we’ve seen on Broadway or in London as well as my nieces’ dance recitals and community theatre productions.



STEP 2: I process the monthly memorabilia at the same time that I am slipping newly printed photos into my storage binder. In fact, I have this step listed on my Digital Workflow so I don’t forget about it. I take everything out from behind the monthly tab, sort it all out, and decide where it needs to go.

1. Memorabilia File Box – the items I want to scrap go into a File Box that has files labeled by year. I include a sticky note in my Storage Binder with the photos reminding myself that I have memorabilia to go along with the photos. I include smaller pieces of memorabilia right in my Storage Binders with the photos.



2. Any items that I want to keep but not scrap, I leave in the Memorabilia Accordion File.

STEP 3: At the end of each year, I clean out the Memorabilia Accordion File. I go through all the memorabilia that is left in the file and either:

1. Purge it right into the circular file.

2. Move it to a yearly folder in my Permanent Memorabilia Box that I have stored in my craft room closet. This would be my “Stuff that Matters” box. I try to be very selective about what goes into this box as these are items that I’m not planning to use or scrap but want to keep for sentimental reasons.

I have to confess that I truly enjoy saving memorabilia, so having a system in place to deal with it is very important for me. Otherwise I could have items scattered everywhere and/or forget to use the items I’ve saved for a scrapbook page. There are so many ways to use memorabilia in scrapbooking. If you’d like to see some of my layouts with memorabilia, check out this post.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Organized & Inspired Scrapbooker


The Organized and Inspired Scrapbooker (Leisure Arts #5280)

A few weeks ago on a short day trip to the Recycled Books store in Denton, Texas, I discovered a copy of Wendy Smedley & Aby Garvey's The Organized and Inspired Scrapbooker. I've read so many great reviews about this book on other scrapbookers' blogs and online class message boards that I knew I wanted to add it to my collection of scrapbooking reference materials. Finding the book at a half-priced store was an extra bonus!

After reading through the book, I agree that it is full of wonderful ideas for organizing your workspace, products, photos, stories, and tools. The first nine chapters are devoted to analyzing where you are currently in your organization and then assessing what and how you would like to make changes/updates/additions to create a space that will work for you. Then there are several examples featuring the scrapbook spaces of scrapbookers in the industry. The book concludes with several project ideas like a photo checklist and inspiration board.

Right now, I am very happy with my craft room and the organization of my supplies, tools, and photos, so I won't be making any major changes based on my read through of the book. However, I do think I'll add a Journal Kit to my room at some point - a basket with supplies for journaling all in one place. The basket would hold pens, pencils, a ruler, journal tags and boxes, plus scraps of paper that could be used for journaling. I like the idea of having something portable that I can take with me in another room and sit and record some stories to have one hand for layouts. I may combine this idea with my Story Cards basket where I have index cards ready to record layout ideas that can then be filed in my Category Drawers.

Have you discovered any great organizing ideas that you want to implement lately?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

July Cards

I was late getting my cards created for July, but luckily I only needed two cards this month. I matted Mary Englebreit pictures for these cards and stamped a sentiment inside. The first is an anniversary card for my sister and brother-in-law who celebrated 19 years of marriage this month, and the second is for a dear friend who shares my birthday coming up on Monday.



Inspired by the Good Mail Day book I'm reading, I also added some stamping to the envelopes. Now I'm all caught up with card making for a little while - I don't need any cards for August, so I'll be taking a little time next week to create some fun Mail Art instead!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Healthy Living Weekly Post: Women Food and God

As promised in last week's healthy living post, today I'll be sharing my book review of  Geneen Roth's Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything. I mentioned that I was not impressed with the book, and that impression stands!

First, I must tell you that I am one of those people who always finishes a book. It may take me a while, but I almost always complete a book once I start it. This book was one that I truly considered not finishing! However, I continued reading thinking that surely I would find a few nuggets of wisdom worth sharing. My resolve to complete the book was thoroughly tested about halfway through the book when I had to endure six pages about Ms. Roth's cat's tendencies to pee on everything and the cat's demise from heart failure.

To me, the book basically says that every time we eat it is because of some deep psychological issue in our lives and we have to learn to be present in the moment so that we can eat what we want when we're hungry and not eat at other times. I totally agree that many of our eating habits are triggered by emotions and understanding those triggers is important to controlling when and what we eat, however this book is definitely not one I would recommend for anyone wanting good advice on healthy living.

The other thing I really didn't like about the book is the author's attitude - toward the students in her retreats, toward her parents (she states that she's past blaming them, but it certainly didn't sound that way to me), toward meditation (she highly recommends it but claims that most of it never worked for her), toward God (well, actually it should be gods because the author doesn't believe in God).

Just in case I was too subtle in my review, let me state clearly that reading this book was a waste of time and I don't recommend it for anyone who is striving to live a healthy lifestyle.

On a more positive note, I won Ellyn's Trim Explosion Giveaway, so expect to see some layouts featuring new trims & ric-rac in the near future.

And I'll be celebrating my birthday in the next few days! I've just given myself a pedicure and manicure and am totally enjoying this new Lily nail polish Robbie gave me as a pre-birthday gift. It makes me smile just to see this lovely lavender color on my toenails & fingernails.

Next week I'll share with you my thoughts on being another year older and where I want to be at this time next year healthwise.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Twin Tag Mini-Albums

A couple of months ago I was inspired by this tag mini-album that Helena created about a recent trip. I knew this would be a great project for the twins' summer visit, and since Helena also provided some downloadable tags, I was set. I added my own words to the blank tags, printed two sets onto colored cardstock, and then all cut out before the twins arrived.


On the last day of the twins' visit, I uploaded photos to the Walgreens right down the road and we were ready to put these albums together. Paige & Laurie added short lines of journaling to the front of the tags. (I am so proud of their excellent handwriting skills!)


I cropped photos to fit around the journaling for the front of the tags, then coverd the back of each tag with a photo. Each mini-album contained ten tags.



I put the tags on a jump ring and added a few ribbons to complete the albums.


This was a fun project to complete with the girls, and they had a memento of their trip to take home with them. Thanks Helena for the inspiration for this project!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

First Picnic Layout

Just a quick post today to share my latest layout and my process for scrapping it. (The week 3 assignment in the Mother LOAD workshop was to pay attention to our scrapbooking process.)

As I was slipping my latest photos into a storage binder, I realized that I would need to empty a binder before I could add any more photos. I decided to empty my 2001 storage binder, which only held one last set of photos that I wanted to scrap. I pulled the photos and knew I wanted to use at least seven photos, so I would need a two-page layout. I chose the two-page sketch #11 from Sketch Support as my starting point. Then I pulled papers and began the layout. Once I had adhered the photos & papers, I chose a title and altered some chipboard letters by adding pink ink over the ones that were different colors.


Then I added a thin ribbon, a journal block, and a couple of rub-ons for embellishment. Journaling reads: I was living in the rent house behind Brenda & Michael in the summer of 2001 when I discovered the kids had never been on a picnic. Trey & Nichole could not remember ever having a picnic, and Pun'kin was only 3 1/2-yrs-old. Being Aunt Melissa, I (of course) decided to remedy the situation. We headed off to the park with sandwiches, chips & dip, bananas, crackers & cookies. After the picnic, we all had fun on the playground.
 

I had several photos left over from this event, so I triaged those into my category drawers. Now I have a wonderful layout that records the story of me taking two of my nieces & my nephew on their first picnic (back in 2001), and I have an empty storage binder waiting for new photos when I order prints next month, and I have some photos in my category drawers that I can combine with other photos in future layouts. And the main thing - I totally enjoyed the process! Anyone else enjoying some crafty time this week?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

July Red, White & Blues

When Brenda and her family were here to celebrate the Fourth of July weekend earlier this month, she surprised me with a gift of this beautiful red, white & blue table runner. I am delighted to add this to my collection of table linens and will definitely be using it often, especially during patriotic holidays.


Of course, we both got a good laugh when the colors for her quilting scrap challenge was announced for this month - it's red, white & blue! I guess she gets credit for being an early bird since she finished this one last month!

In my quest to play along and use my reds, whites & blues, I created the following layout about Why I Scrap for the week 1 assignment in the Mother LOAD workshop at BPC. I pulled this photo from my category drawers and used lots of different letters to describe my reasons for scrapping.

In the Mother LOAD workshop we are in training for the marathon of scrapping 26 layouts in 26 days during the month of September. These first two months of the workshop are designed to get us ready for that scrapping marathon!

This will be the first time I've tried to do a Layout A Day and I'm really excited about it. Have any of you completed a Layout A Day challenge? If so, I'd love to hear any tips you have for getting ready.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Healthy Living Weekly Post: Too Hot To Handle

We are well into summer here and in reality everything is too hot to handle! Temperatures have soared over 100 degrees most days since the beginning of June and there's no relief in sight. In all honesty, I'm having trouble with the heat this year, it seems to have zapped all my energy! However, it's also been a busy time. A week after the twin's visit and their bike riding lessons, Natashia was here and (along with lots of other fun stuff) we enjoyed bike riding and ice skating. Robbie even bought a bike to ride with us, and he and I are hoping to start riding regularly late in the evenings (when the temperatures dip back down into the 90s!).



I truly enjoyed all the family visits we had this summer, but I have to admit I have enjoyed hibernating inside with the air conditioner this last week, catching up on blog reading & online classes, scrapping a little, and getting back into my regular routine.

On another note: Have you been enjoying the recipes from the Lighten Up Blog Hop the past few months? On July 30, we'll be sharing breakfast recipes and we would love you to join in and share your favorite light breakfast recipe with us. Beverly is coordinating the hop, and you can read all the details in this post on her blog (scroll down to the bottom of the post for information on the hop). This month I'll be sharing how I've lighted up my Breakfast Quiche.

I also started a new healthy living book this week, however I'm really not impressed with it very much so far. The book is titled Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything. I picked it up at a garage sale a while back and it's been in  my to-read pile. The title is misleading because it really doesn't have anything to do with God, it's simply the word the author uses because "it evokes a vast expanse that we cannot penetrate with our minds, although we can know it through silence or peotry or simply sensing what is always there." I'm planning to finish the book up this week and will share my review of it with you in next week's post.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I Love Libraries

I've been thinking quite a bit about libraries this summer as I'm coaching in the Finding Photo Freedom workshop because it is designed to help us set up a Library of Memories.

One of my favorite places to go is the Public Library. We are a family of readers, so we visit our local public library often. The library is filled with hardback books, paperback books, audio books, DVDs, CDs, magazines, and reference materials. These items are spread throughout the building in numerous rooms which span two floors.

Because we enjoy reading, we have our own Library of Books at home. We have books in every room of the house (except the laundry room!). Our library consists of hardback books, paperback books, and a few audio books. Some of these are stored on bookshelves, others are stacked on bedside tables, and a select few are displayed on end tables. (You can see our Library of Books in this photos-only post I published recently - Readers Live Here.)

We also have a Library of Movies, which consists of DVDs, VHS tapes (yes, that sounds archaic, but we have two working VCRs and a wonderful collection of old movies that we enjoy), and movies saved on the DVR. This library is filled with not only movies but also episodes of our favorite TV shows and documentaries. It is a wonderful collection that we can pull from and view at any time.

However, my favorite library is our Library of Memories, which consists of all the items that help us store and share our memories through photos, words, and memorabilia. This collection is also very eclectic and spread throughout the house. We have what I call our Memory Shelf in the living room.

As you can see, this shelf unit houses our Library of Memories Category Albums (on the middle shelf) along with numerous other scrapbooks and photo albums, some of these are arranged chronologically, some of them by theme, and others showcase one event. All of these items are part of our library.

Mini-albums and photos books are displayed in baskets in our front room, several Photo Album Scrapbooks reside on the dresser in our guest room, framed photos adorn the walls in our hallway, several of my favorite theme albums are on display in my craft room, and playbills & programs are conveniently located in a magazine rack near the chairs in our front room. All of these items invite us and visitors to our home to enjoy our Library of Memories.

According to Encarta Dictionary, one definition of a library is “a collection of books, newspapers, records, tapes, or other materials that are valuable for research.” That’s exactly what we are creating with our Library of Memories system - a collection of books and other items that are valuable for “research” about our life and the life of our family!

So, even if you've never taken Stacy Julian's Library of Memories or Finding Photo Freedom workshop, did you realize that you are still creating your own library filled with photo albums and scrapbooks and theme albums and framed photos? And just like in a library, those items are meant to be "checked out", thumbed through, and read often!

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Good Mail Day!

Received this cute package today from Jacky as part of Sian's Pass the Book fun! I'm looking forward to a nice read and planning to send out some good mail of my own soon!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ten on the Tenth: Day Trip Photos

Yesterday Robbie and I decided to take a day trip to Denton, Texas, to check out a bookstore we'd read about in Texas Highways magazine. The bookstore, Recycled Books, is housed in the old Denton Opera House and is HUGE - three floors and numerous rooms filled with books, movies, and records. The bookstore is on one corner of the town square, so we also visited a few antique shops, a comic shop, and the Denton Hamburger Company. Here are my favorite ten photos from the day:










This post inspired by Shimelle's Ten on the Tenth blog activity. Click here to see more Ten on the Tenth posts.