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.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Across Five Aprils

Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt is one of Robbie's all-time favorite books. I first read it shortly after we were married and completed a re-reading of it today. This novel is the story of Jethro Creighton, a nine-year-old boy when the Civil War starts in April of 1961, the first April referred to in the book's title. The story continues through the end of the war and the fifth April, 1965. Jethro's life is changed in many ways as he grows up during these four years. Two of his brothers, a cousin, and his close friend and teacher are fighting with the Union Army; and one brother, the one he has always felt the closest to, is fighting with the Confederate Army. After Jethro's father is weakened by a heart attack, Jethro takes over the hard labor required to keep a farm running. With the help of his sister Jenny and the goodwill of neighbors, he plows and plants and harvests, all the while reading newspapers and waiting for letters bringing news of the war. The family suffers heartache when one of Jethro's brothers is killed in the war and they suffer loss when some of the locals set their barn on fire to show their disapproval that Jethro refused to criticize the brother that was fighting for the south.

The book touches on quite a few issues including loyalty, bravery, love, desertion, honesty, hard work and perseverance. The characters in the story are believable and well-developed, and the novel does a fabulous job of integrating historical facts about the war (battles fought, generals in command, casualties, Abraham Lincoln's decisions) into the story being told from the perspective of a southern Illinois farm family and the surrounding community. It portrays how a family living in one of the border states during the Civil War viewed the war and offers others' views through conversations, letters, and discussions of newspaper articles.

I enjoy books like this one that help make history "come alive." Reading about the Civil War from the perspective of an ordinary family helps me better understand the effects of the war on the people of that time.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Our Day Aboard the USS Lexington Origami Album

I love this little origami album that my sister Sandra made. All I did was add photos, journaling, and a few pieces I cut from the USS Lexington brochure and it was complete! [Well, there was the tricky part of cutting the photos diagonally and adhering them just right so that they didn't keep the album from closing in that wonderful origami way!]

Sunday, June 27, 2010

May 2010 Texas Road Trip - The Food

One of the great things about road trips is the food - trying out new restaurants and new culinary delights. On our recent road trip, we ate a tremendous variety of food, everything from a drive-through meal at Taco Bell to a four-course dinner at a luxury restaurant. I took photos of some of the foods and often had our waitress/ waiter take a photo of us at the table.

I'm currently taking the Camp Scrap Workshop that started this week at BigPictureScrapbooking.com. As is often the case, there was a pre-class handout with information about the class and a pre-class layout idea. For this workshop, the teacher, May Flaum, provided us with a color palette from Stacy Julian and challenged us to create a layout using those colors. Stacy's color palette was inspired by a hamburger! Here's the hamburger color palette and the papers I chose from my stash.


I flipped through my storage binders looking for photos that would go with these colors, and then I had an inspiration. What about doing the layout about food? The inspiration came from a food after all. I ended up creating this layout with photos of various foods from our road trip.


If just looking at those photos doesn't make you hungry, here are some of the best meals and restaurants we discovered along our 1,300 mile road trip from North Texas to the Gulf Coast and back up through the Hill Country.

Elite Circle Grill - Waco
Excellent Chicken Club sandwich!


The breakfasts here were wonderful. We especially enjoyed owners Dana & Retha Strickland's Fruit Filled Ladder Loaf, a dessert like pastry filled with cream cheese and fruit.


Buzzard Billy's - Waco
Best appetizer - humongous cheesesticks. Literally, these cheese sticks were huge!! There were actually four of them (I didn't think to take a picture until we had already gobbled down the first two).



Pier 99 - Corpus Christi
Shrimp Bonanza - a huge platter of food that included "Hoss size jumbo shrimp, sauteed shrimp, blackened shrimp, fried shrimp, boiled shrimp, cole slaw, cob corn, new potatoes & toasted french bread!" The best place to eat seafood - sitting on the patio with the beach literally on the other side of the wall.


Snoopy's - Padre Island
We had to try this eatery as it came highly recommended by our friend Felton: he and Elaine and their family used to eat here every time they traveled to this area of the Gulf Coast. The best fried fish ever!



Lula's Mexican Cafe - a brand new location just outside San Antonio in Windcrest. Great Mexican food, happy yellow walls, colorful artwork, and friendly service!


Hill Country Cupboard - Johnson City
All their advertisements claim they have the "World's Best Chicken Fried Steak (nearly 3 dozen sold)," so, of course, we tried it. Delicious! We also tried ONE fried tomato. The waitress gave us a funny look when we asked if we could just try one instead of ordering the appetizer, but we didn't want to waste a whole plate of tomatoes if we didn't like them. Turns out we should have had the full order, it was yummy. Loved their menus pasted onto paper bags!



Auslander - Fredericksburg
Great food, friendly service, and scrumptuous German chocolate cake.


And then there was the four course dinner at Rose Hill Manor. [Check back for a future post with the details and photos from that memorable evening.]

I hope if any of you are traveling in Texas this summer you'll take time to stop and enjoy a nice meal at one these great eateries - and let me know what you think! Or better yet, leave a comment and let me know about a great restaurant in your area or one you discovered while you were traveling. Who knows when we'll be on the road (or in the air) again and might need a great meal!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Robbie's Florida Trip Photo Album Scrapbook

Recently found two very small photo albums with pictures from Robbie's 1984 trip to Florida to visit Grandma & Grandpa Aubele. It was the year after Robbie graduated from high school, and he flew down to visit them for a week. Grandma had labeled most of the photos on the back and I had Robbie tell me about the trip. I copied Grandma's notes on the pages with the photos and included Robbie's memories on separate 4x6 inserts to complete a Photo Album Scrapbook in this nice leather-like photo album that Robbie received as a college graduation gift a few years ago. I didn't really do a lot of scrappy stuff, just typed a few pages and added some vacation packing-tape-like sticker borders as embellishment, however I enjoyed making this album as a gift for Robbie. We both enjoyed going through all these photos and reading Grandma's notes.

  

  
  
   

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Three Cups of Tea

I have very mixed reactions to the New York Times Bestseller Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. On the one hand, it is a very inspiring story about how Greg Mortenson has dedicated his life to building schools in Pakistan (and now in Afghanistan). Mortenson was a mountaineer who stumbled into a remote Pakistan village after a failed attempt to climb K2, the second highest mountain on Earth. The villagers helped Mortenson regain his health and in return he promised to return and build a school for the children there. The book chronicles his three year venture to build a school in that first village and then in many villages in Pakistan. His philosophy revolves around educating children (especially girls) in order to alleviate poverty and improve their lives. One chapter of the book explains how many new schools are being built which offer a skewed education, inciting youth to join terrorist organizations. The schools Mortenson (and the agency he co-founded, the Central Asia Institute) are building offer a much-needed alternative.

There were many disappointing aspects to the book, however. The book is written by David Oliver Relin as the story was told to him by Greg Mortenson (and others that he interviewed). The impression I got from the book was that Mortenson could do no wrong, everything he does is great and is done with the right motives, and he has single-handily changed education in Pakistan. Obviously what Mortenson has and is doing is a wonderful accomplishment, but the biased view presented in the book was overdone. Also, as the book covers many years (Mortenson's failed K2 attempt was in 1993 and the book was published in 2006), many world events, including 9/11, brought changes in our country as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan. The book portrays America as the "bad" country with a president making promises but not keeping them . . . all the while, of course, portraying that Mortenson is that one American who was making a difference. I know there's a lot of controversy over the actions taken by the US and the war on terrorism, but the book continually criticized America. I'm actually amazed that Mortenson still returns here when his true love is the people of Pakistan. He does have a wife and two children in Montana, and while the book talks about his wife's support of his passion to build schools, I couldn't help but feel that they get the leftover part of his life. And, unfortunately, God seems to be absent from Mortenson's life. There is much discussion about how the various cultures in Pakistan pray (proper posture, ritual washing, facing Mecca, etc) and how Mortenson learns and performs these rituals in order to earn the respect of those he wants to help, however there is no discussion of Mortenson's personal beliefs.

Would I recommend this book? That's a tough question to answer. I guess it would depend on who was asking. I would say yes to someone who wants to read an inspiring story about how one person can make a difference in the lives of others and/or wants to learn more about the culture and life in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I would no to someone who is easily swayed to believe that because something is in print it must be an important truth or who is likely to accept the criticisms offered in the book without further research.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Who Knew All Those Inks Were DIFFERENT?

This week I've been studying up on the different kinds of inks used in scrapbooking. No, I don't mean the ink that comes out of a pen, I mean all those different sized ink pads that crowd the shelves in any scrapbooking store lately - dye inks, distress inks, pigment inks, chalk inks, permanent inks.

I have quite a few ink pads and up until recently basically used them for two purposes. The large ink pads I used with my wooden and clear stamps to add pictures and words to layouts or cards. The small chalk inks (they look like a teardrop) I've used to add color to the edges of photos, papers, and other embellishments. I've never really paid attention to whether the ink was dye or pigment or permanent, probably because I don't do any embossing (which requires a particular ink, I understand) and only stamp/ink on paper. However, I recently stamped on a transparency and this weekend am taking a mini-album class at our local scrapbooking store that requires distress inks and a Tim Holtz applicator. These activities prompted my study of ink types.

There's a wealth of information out there on inks, and now that I am more aware of the different types, who knows, I'll probably try to use the "right" one for my projects based on the little that I now know:
  • pigment inks are used for embossing, are thicker inks, and create fade-resistant color because they "sit" on top of the page rather than soaking into the page like dye inks
  • dye inks dry the fastest
  • distress ink is formulated to create an aged look
  • StazOn is permanent ink and is the best to use on transparencies
This new wealth of information also prompted me to re-organize my inks. I have my ink pads displayed in a wooden cassette tape holder, which hangs behind the door in my craft room. I put my dye inks on the right, pigment inks on the left, and will have my distress inks in the middle and StazOn ink above that (these last two are currently packed for my class tomorrow). I keep my chalk inks (since they are smaller) in three drawers on the shelves above my craft table.


As you can see, I also have a few of my larger wooden stamps stored on this shelf. So, of course, I decided to organize/ declutter/re-arrange all my wooden stamps. I have two old printer's drawers hanging in my craft room to hold my collection of wooden stamps. Compared to some that I've seen, my collection is pretty small, but I love that they all fit in these two drawers. I also love having them displayed this way because I don't have to look through drawers or containers to find the one I want. [Now I exclusively purchase the clear stamps which take up much less room. I store those in drawers on my bookshelf. And, no, I didn't feel the urge to organize them . . . yet.]


I even got a little decluttering in because I had duplicates of several stamps. I'll be passing these on to other family members, so that's recycling, too!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Vacation Layouts

I've completed a few layouts with photos from our May Texas Road Trip. Robbie and I both agree that this was one of our best vacations ever. I'm having fun re-living it as I scrap the photos.

This first layout shows us at Padre Island National Seashore. I actually created the background "paper" out of six photos that Robbie took with his film camera. They were a little more washed out than the digital photos, so I created the background then added little seashells for embellishments. In the BPS Dimensional Details workshop, there was a thread on the message board about what types of embellishments to use on beach pages and that's what inspired me to complete this layout. I had the cute little flip flop buttons in my stash and was excited to find a ribbon (in my recently organized drawers!) that had both orange and yellow and looked like twine - perfect for a beach layout.


This next layout uses some great new Bo Bunny papers that Robbie had picked out for me before our trip. I thought they went well with this photo of us at the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi. It's one of those photos they take while you are strolling around and then they give you a number and when you go to look at your photo it is so nice that you just HAVE to buy it. :>) I picked up the patch while we were there with the idea that I would use it on a layout. 


This last layout shows us on the Discovery Tour at the Natural Bridge Caverns. This was not a planned stop on our trip; we just noticed the signs pointing the way while we were driving to Stonewall. It was definitely worth the side trip to see the caverns. I used a sketch I found at this website for this layout and also included our ticket stubs for the tour as embellishments.



Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Marriage Wish

The Marriage Wish, a Christian fiction book by author Dee Henderson, is the 50th book I have read this year. It was a quick easy read, however the topics it deals with are difficult ones - death, guilt, loneliness, loss of faith, etc. I enjoyed the storyline about Scott Williams, a 38-year-old bachelor who makes a birthday wish to find a wife, and Jennifer St. James, a writer who is dealing with her grief and (unfounded) guilt over the death of her husband and infant daughter three years before. It is a true romance story although much of the story revolves around the difficult and sad events in Jennifer's life prior to her meeting Scott. However, the epilogue is truly a happy ending when it describes their life together five years later.

Personally I thought the story moved too quickly and that the characters were not fully developed. For example, in chapter 1 the two have a chance meeting which prompts Scott to search for Jennifer and leave a message with her agent. By the end of the chapter, they are talking like they've known each other for years, even though Jennifer will keep some of the secrets of her past to herself for much of the book. Late in the book there is a devastating house fire, daring almost-rescue of an infant by Jennifer, rescue of Jennifer and the infant by Scott and others, Jennifer's recovery time in intensive care and change of heart about marriage - all in only five pages!

However, as I researched a little about the book, I discovered that this was Dee Henderson's first book which was published in 1998. It is also the first of her books that I've read. Over the ensuing years, she has written numerous other books including the O'Mallory series. I will definitely read more of her work as I enjoy Christian fiction and enjoyed the storyline of this book. It will also be interesting to see how her writing has developed since this first book.

Monday, June 14, 2010

New Free Online Class

I am so excited about an email I received this morning - it announced that Jessica Sprague is offering another free class at JessicaSprague.com. The first online scrapbooking class I took a couple of years ago was a free class offered by Jessica Sprague called Stories in Hand. It was a phenomenal class designed to help scrapbookers remember and record the stories of their lives. We also created a scrapbook/notebook to keep these stories in and received quite a few digital downloads. Last year she offered another free class called Holidays in Hand which I took and created (well, mine's not completed yet) a scrapbook about the 2009 holiday season. These classes were really my introduction to online classes, and now I am almost always enrolled in one or two online classes.

If you are interested in seeing what it's all about, click here to link to more information about the free class. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Grocery Shopping

Tuesday is my errand day. I usually have several errands to do, always culminating in buying groceries. I really don't like to shop (except maybe at scrapbooking stores), and I think grocery shopping is probably my least favorite of all. Maybe it's because it has to be done, at least it has to if we want to eat around here. Two things have happened this week that have caused me to decide it is time for me to get a new attitude about grocery shopping.

First, my devotional for this past Tuesday, June 8, started with Colossions 3:23-24 which says that we should "work at everything heartily, as for the Lord." Then in the following short discussion, one sentence jumped out at me. It reads: "He wants you to enjoy going to the grocery store." Really! It says that in my devotional. I have used this same devotional book, Starting Your Day Right by Joyce Meyer, for the last five years (although I'm not always good about reading it every day) and have not really felt anything particularly significant about that statement. However, just a short time before I read it this past Tuesday, I had commented to Robbie about dreading going to the grocery store. Wow, what an attitude changer to think of it as going grocery shopping for the Lord instead of a dreaded chore!


Second, today I began a once-a-week volunteer time at our local food pantry. I spent three hours helping stock shelves and assisting the "customers" choose items for their families. I met people who were excited to have the chance to choose from several different items, and everyone who received assistance there today was very appreciative. It certainly reminded me of how blessed we are that I can go to the huge Kroger just down the road from us and pick out all that we need and an awful lot of what we want, too.

Next time I need to go grocery shopping, I will remind myself that all that I do is for the Lord and because of His blessings I can choose the store I shop at and which foods I buy. God is Good!!!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Love My Expedition

In a few weeks, my red Ford Expedition will be 8 years old - and I still love it! It is the first "big" car I've ever owned. I had a Honda Accord when Robbie and I got married (and for the 12 years before that), so getting the Expedition was a huge change. However, it is perfect for driving in Dallas traffic and for traveling since we like to pack pretty much everything (and even hauled a kitchen sink once!). Shortly after we got it, we started calling it the "honkin' truck" because it was so much bigger than our previous vehicles. I believe it's the first vehicle I've ever owned that's had a nickname.

We have traveled all over Texas in our honkin' truck, loaded it down numerous times when we've moved (ourselves, Trey, Mom, Mama & Daddy, etc), hauled trikes, bicycles,suitcases, and stuffed animals when my nieces come from their spring break and summer visits (it is probably quite comical to watch me and Brenda transfer everything from her van to the Expedition, especially since Pun'kin's bike is now a 12-speed and there are two of everything when the twins come), and taken road trips to Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Ohio - even pulled a U-Haul trailer all the way home from Ohio! So, yesterday I decided it was time to do a layout about this "member" of our family.


BigPictureScrapbooking.com had a challenge to create a layout using letters stickers, which I have no shortage of. I used red letter stickers for the title. It's hard to see in this photo of the layout, but all the white spaces have white letter stickers that spell out words related to the layout - 2003, red, drive, honkin' truck, travel, in town, road trip, highway, fun. I combined photos from over the years for this layout, one of the many things I have started doing after taking the Library of Memories workshop. These photos are from 2002, 2004 and 2010.

I just love my honkin' truck and can't wait to see where it takes us next!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon

Completed the books of Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon this past week and began Isaiah today. I'm not doing an in-depth study, just re-reading through the Bible. Here are a couple of things that stuck out as I read through this time. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon spends most of the book explaining why everything is meaningless. However, he ends it all with our true purpose: "Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all."  (Ecclesiastes 12:13) And in Song of Solomon, chapter 2 verse 4, I discovered the origin of one of my favorite childhood songs - His Banner Over Me Is Love. I've had that tune running through my head all day today!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ribbon

Last week I created a scrapbook page about snow, and I am very pleased with it. However, after I completed it, I found a roll of ribbon that would have been perfect on that layout. I didn't find this perfect ribbon at the local scrapbook store or a garage sale or even in someone else's scraproom - I found it in my own stash!!! Ribbon has become one of my favorite embellishments for scrapbooking, and I have assembled a pretty good size collection. So, yesterday I decided it was time to straighten up my ribbon drawers since they had become rather disorganized and I was having trouble opening one of the drawers (and seeing what I had obviously). First, I moved my ziploc bags of lace to a different container - they were taking up too much space and I don't use lace as often as I do ribbon. I have this plastic three-drawer unit that I use to store my ribbons and fibers. It sits to the right of my craft table, within easy reach.

The two bottom drawers hold new or partially used ribbon still on the roll. I'm excited that I was able to get all these to fit so that I can see what I have when I pull out the drawer. (That nice shiny blue roll near the back of the drawer on the right is the one I would have used on the snow layout!)



The top drawer holds my pieces of ribbons sorted by color in ziploc bags. I also have fibers here by color and a few ziplocs hold theme ribbon (patriotic, Christmas, Easter, etc).


While I was getting these drawers back in shape, I was inspired and created this layout using eight different ribbons from my stash. I then added an embellishment cluster using Prima & BoBunny flowers, brads, a Tim Holtz frame, a Jenni Bowin butterfly, and a couple of stickers. Creating these embellishment clusters is one of the techniques I've learned in the Dimensional Details workshop offered at BigPictureScrapbooking.com.


And by the way, here's the snow layout. I completed this layout as one of the assignments in the Dimensional Details class. I used my Stampin' Up snowflake stamps to create my own patterned paper, then used white eyelets, a square paperclip, glittery snowflakes, brads, a border swirl, and stickers for the embellishment clusters.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Textuality Layouts

The online Textuality Workshop ended on May 19, however I've just this past week completed creating the "assignment" layouts and reviewing all the wonderful material provided by Amy Sorensen. The amount of material provided with the workshop was phenomenal - information about including a large amount of text on a layout, medium amount of text, small amounts of text, as well as ideas about using titles, letters, words and quotes as design elements on a layout. Here's one of my favorite layouts - the assignment was to include numerous small bits of information in list format. My layout is about Banff and the lists include things we like and things we've done on our four trips to Banff.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Little House on the Prairie and Melissa Gilbert

Robbie and I recently attended the production of Little House on the Prairie The Musical, a traveling theatre production that was part of the Dallas Summer Musical series. We were excited about the musical not only because we both enjoy Laura Ingalls Wilder's books and the TV show Little House on the Prairie, but also because Melissa Gilbert was playing the part of Ma in the musical. Melissa Gilbert is the actress who played the part of Laura Ingalls in the ten-season Little House on the Prairie TV series.

My parents and younger sister also attended the performance, which we all enjoyed immensely. The two-and-a-half hour production was well done although the sets and acoustics were not the best we've seen. The young lady who portrayed Laura did a wonderful job and had a beautiful voice, but I think we all agreed that the best performance was of Nellie Olsen. The actress did a wonderful job playing Nellie's conceited self, and one of the funniest scenes in the show is when she tries to sit on a fence rail and ends up falling over like someone playing on a jungle gym.

We picked up a copy of Melissa Gilbert's Memoir Prairie Tale at the show and Robbie and I both read it. We agree that it is one of the worst books we've read this year, a real disappointment. First, I guess it's important to remember that sometimes we have a tendency to associate an actress with the role she has played, and it's easy to associate Melissa Gilbert with Laura Ingalls. However, the two individuals are very different and it was disappointing to read about Melissa Gilbert's life. As a child actress, she was somewhat sheltered from many of the immoralities going on around her, however as she reached her later teen years and throughout her adult life, that reality changed drastically. Her book chronicles her ups and downs with alcoholism, smoking, relationships, affairs, acting roles, and motherhood. The profanity alone in the book is reason enough for me not to recommend the book, closely followed by the almost nonchalant way she relates the names of the numerous men she has slept with over the years. There is no mention of God, except occasional times when his name is used in vain, and seemingly no moral or ethical values. I laughed out loud when late in the book, she was miffed that someone was questioning her integrity - my thought was, "what integrity?"

Honestly, it is sad that many of the individuals in Hollywood who are admired are leading this type of a lifestyle. There seems to be no system of right and wrong in a moral sense. Hmmm . . . maybe this is why there's not much worth watching on TV and at the movie theatre these days?