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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January Healthy Living Update

Overall for January, I feel good about my efforts toward a healthier lifestyle and progress toward my weight loss goals. (I lost 4 1/2 pounds.)

The first two weeks of the month, I rode the stationary bike regularly. I was not as consistent the last two weeks of the month because I was spending quite a bit of time on the laundry room remodel - of course, moving everything out of that room, helping to lay ceramic tile, painting walls & trim, etc, certainly required lots of physical exertion on my part and can be counted as a form of exercise, right?


We focused on healthy eating throughout the month, doing a fairly good job of eating balanced meals about half the time. I've also been paying attention to portion sizes and cutting down on the amount of sweets I consume. I have chosen not to keep cold Coca-Colas in the house, rather I drive to the store for a nice cold can when I want one. This has definitely helped decrease the number of empty calories I'm drinking each day, although there's still much more room for improvement in that area.

If you set healthy living goals for yourself in 2012, how did you do this first month of the year?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Good Mail Week!

Every other day for the past week, I have found a piece of Happy Mail amidst the usual bills and advertisements in my mailbox.

A classmate in the Twelve workshop, Midori, posted an offer on the message boards to send out a goody pack of embellishments from Creative Charms to the first 20 people who emailed her - I was number 4!


Then a lovely card and some extra embellishments arrived from Denise of Chocolate Mousie as part of Ginger's ongoing Mail Art Exchange.


And then a package arrived from Rinda as part of her Stamp Giveaway. I was the lucky winner of the farm labels stamps.


This was definitely a Good Mail Week!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reclaiming My Time

Over the past couple of weeks, I completed working through all the class materials in the BPC Reclaiming My Time workshop (which started back on December 1). I filled out worksheets on How I Think I Spend My Time, How I Actually Spend My Time (which involved tracking my time for several days), How I Wish I Spent My Time, and How I Will Spend My Time in 2012. I truly enjoyed these exercises as they helped me define what I want to spend my time on this year AND how I will accomplish that.


One of the main components of this class involved dividing the thing we do into group. I started out with lots of group, however after working through all the materials,combining groups, and adding new groups for things I'd like to work on this year, I ended up with 14 groups. I then journaled about how I will spend my time this year in each of these groups.

My groups are:
(1) Robbie
(2) Spiritual Growth
(3) Exercise
(4) Organizing/Decluttering/Redecorating
(5) Photography
(6) Scrapbooking
(7) Blogging
(8) Internet
(9) Reading
(10) Family
(11) Friends
(12) Household Chores
(13) Taking Care of Me*
(14) Scrapbook Industry "Work"

Another activity in the workshop encouraged us to create a list of five main goals for the year. I actually ended up with six main goals. (These are, of course, in addition to my lifetime goal of continually drawing closer to the Lord.)

(1) Maintain a deep connection with Robbie. I don't think we should ever take our most important relationships for granted, however I have to admit this will be my easiest goal because Robbie and I are so deeply connected already.

(2) Lose 20 pounds. I believe this will be my most difficult goal, but one that I am determined to accomplish nonetheless.

(3) Work through each room/area of our home to organize/declutter/redecorate. We've already started on this as we are remodeling the laundry room (photos from that project coming soon!)


(4) Learn to use new DSLR camera. I'll be taking classes and lots of photos as I learn what all those little dials and settings can do!

(5) Work through all paid for online classes. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has unfinished (or unopened) classes waiting to be completed, right?

(6) Create an online class.

I really like the way this workshop was scheduled and how it allowed us to work from how we THOUGHT we spent our time to how we ACTUALLY spent our time to how we WILL spend our time this year. I'm looking forward to tracking my progress through monthly check-ins on the message boards.

Anyone else take this workshop? Have you set specific goals for yourself for 2012?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Which Game Will He Play?

I was hopping through blogland today when I happened upon Shimelle's latest Starting Point. I had a photo and piece of cardstock on my craft table that I was planning to scrap next, but I didn't really have a layout design in mind yet. I knew instantly that the first starting point in Shimelle's post would work perfectly. I turned the sketch to fit the orientation of my photo and set to work. Of course, in my inspired state, I forgot to take a photo of the layout with just the starting point elements - background paper, a pile of patterned papers as the base for the photo, and a longer strip of patterned paper.


I took this photo of Andrew while he was visiting last fall. I had it all planned that I would capture a great shot of him with these different sports balls all lined up, however he only stayed put long enough for this one shot!


Have you tried any of Shimelle's Starting Points lately? I like how this one helped me use a variety of patterned papers as a base for the photo.

January's Pass the Book Recipient


ALISON said . . .
I love to write in our 'naya' which I believe is your equivalent of a 'sunroom'!

Congratulations Alison! I have your address and will have this book on its way to you in a few days.
 
(For all the details on Pass the Book:Year Two & to see when books are available, click here.)

Friday, January 20, 2012

January Pass the Book - The Writing Life

I've seen several quotes from The Writing Life by Annie Dillard lately and the book has been mentioned on several message boards. This is a small paperback book (so it won't be expensive to ship!) that contains stories from Ms. Dillard about the life of a writer. She describes the places where she's gone to write - from a small uninsulated cabin with a wood stove to a room in a library.

The book is a quick read and an interesting perspective on the life of a writer. I'm not sure it necessarily encouraged me to write a book as I don't believe I could be holed up in one room with the blind drawn (to avoid distractions) for days and weeks and months on end!

If you're new to Pass the Book:Year Two, you can find all the details here. To be in the draw for The Writing Life, please leave me a comment telling me the last place you sat down to write. For me, I typically write these days while sitting at the computer, however on our recent cruise I enjoyed sitting on our private balcony with a good old-fashioned pen writing away in my handmade journal. (I'll draw a name & post the first recipient of this book on Wednesday.)

**Rebekah is ready to pass on December's book, The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship. Click here to be in on the draw for that book.**

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Completed Scrapbooking at Sea Layouts

My dear friend Iris came over today and we spent six hours visiting and scrapping. Such a wonderful way to spend the day!

I worked on those partially complete layouts that I started on our cruise. Although I mix different size pages in my Library of Memories albums, I've decided to use all 12x12 pages in our cruise theme album. So, I modified this first layout from an 8 1/2 x 11 and added photos of us standing in line waiting to board the ship. I also added bling to the purple flowers, two strips of ribbon, the bon voyage label, and white letters to make the title "Ready for FUN."

This next layout showcases one of the professional photos we purchased on the cruise. This photo was taken right before we boarded the ship. I had not adhered the black flower embellishments, so I adjusted them to work with the photo and added the Fabulous tag.

I turned the other 8 1/2 x 11 layout into a two-page layout and used the packaging from all three cruise scrapbook kits along with the photos of me enjoying those scrapbooking workshops. This is the layout that changed the most from what I put together during the cruise.

I used the layout with the water and crinkled paper for two of my favorite photos of us in Cozumel, Mexico. I added letter stickers for a title, a journal spot and a few other word embellishments.

And finally a photo of us enjoying a nice cold can of Coca-Cola on the Royal Promenade as we waited for the Royalpalooza Parade to start. This is one of those "at-arm's-length" photos that I'm getting pretty good at taking (if I do say so myself!). I added additional words and circle embellishments to complete this layout.

I'm excited about how colorful this scrapbook is going to be and am looking forward to scrapping the other 300+ photos I received from Shutterfly in yesterday's mail! I'm slipping all those photos into a storage binder this evening so I can flip through and scrap as I'm inspired.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Scrapbooking Workshops at Sea

As I perused the schedule for our first full day at sea on our recent cruise, I caught my breath and looked again to be sure I was reading it right.

Yes, it was there all right - a scrapbooking workshop scheduled for 10:30 am! Of course, this was our anniversary cruise and I was pretty sure Robbie wasn't interested in the workshop, but when I mentioned there was a scrapbooking workshop he immediately said I should go. The workshop took place in one section of the lounge on Deck 14, so Robbie simply found a seat near the windows in another section and read a book on his Kindle while I attended the workshop. (I do so love that man!)

I wasn't sure what to expect as one of the cruise personnel began carrying in a couple of boxes of supplies. I was pleasantly surprised to find that a Scrapbooking Kit especially created for Royal Caribbean was provided with the workshop.


As it turned out, there were a total of three Scrapbooking Workshops during the seven-day cruise, so I came home with three kits . . .


and five partially completed layouts.






The workshop was designed so that each participant created a 12x12 layout with the kit. Since I finished my layout early during the last two workshops, I created an extra 8 1/2 x 11 layout with some leftover bits & pieces. During the final workshop, we were using a paper crimper and for my smaller layout, I ran a piece of the clear packaging through the crimper and attached it to my page to add some shimmer. (Can you see it in the FUN layout above?). The workshop leader was so impressed, she took my layout around to show all the other participants! (Does that make me the teacher's pet?)


I am patiently anxiously awaiting a large order of prints from Shutterfly so that I can complete these layouts as I start on a scrapbook about our cruise. So, if you've been wondering whether or not you'll get to see some of the 800+ photos we took as we cruised the Western Caribben, you can rest easy . . . lots of layouts and photos coming soon!

Monday, January 16, 2012

2012 Blog Schedule

As I always do this time of year, I'm enjoying planning and creating a schedule for 2012. Here's a look at the schedule I've created for monthly blog posts at Daily Life - Bits & Pieces.

*1st - Month in Numbers (I'm planning to create my monthly overview layouts using a new format this year!)

*10th - Ten on the Tenth (I like how Shimelle's Ten Things provides an opportunity to share on an infinite variety of topics.)

*12th - Twelve Photos (Something new for 2012, inspired by the prompts in the Twelve workshop.)

*20th - Pass the Book:Year Two (I will continue to pass a book through July. I'll provide a short book review and hopefully a sample of how the book inspired me each month.)

*25th - Pass the Book:Year Two recipient (Be sure to check back if you've added your name to the draw!)

*last day of month - Healthy Living Review (A little update on how I'm doing with my weight loss & healthy living goals . . . and my rewards!)

*first Sunday of month - Storytelling Sunday 2 (My plan is to share a story and layout each month as I strive to get more of our family stories recorded.)

*once a month - Book Reviews (My thoughts/opinions on the books I've read.)

The schedule I've shared here is just the foundation for this year of blogging. Of course there will be many other posts showcasing all the layouts I'm planning to create and keeping y'all updated on what we're up to here in Texas (like the fact that we've started a remodeling project on our laundry room and are doing all the work ourselves).

Have you planned a schedule for your blog this year or will you simply figure it out as the year goes along?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Twelve Photos - January

Today is Dozen Day in the BPC Twelve workshop and we received a handout with 12 photo-taking opportunities and 12 page-making ideas. We will receive a similar handout each month through 2012, and I've decided to try to take 12 photos based on the prompts each month on the 12th and post them here for your enjoyment (or amusement).

1. What You're Wearing - simple enough, an easy photo in the mirror look at me today.


2. Your Cell Phone - the same phone I've had for the past 3 1/2 years; I think it's time to upgrade, don't you?


3. Three Things Together  - three new books I purchased for storytelling and scrapbooking inspiration.


4. Something Blue - this DVD set is one of my Christmas gifts from Robbie. We've been enjoying an episode each evening this week.

5. A Bedroom (before you pick it up) - luckily I'd already thrown the quilt over the bed in a haphazard fashion before reading this prompt so it doesn't look too bad!


6. A snack - just a little snack today as I'm trying to eat less.


7. The View Out A Window - looking out to our very barren raised garden bed.


8. Looking Down - I looked down and there were my feet, just like always. :>)


9. A Smile - Robbie's collectible toy room makes it easy to find something for almost any prompt.


10. Weather - a beautiful sunshiny but very cold day here today.


11. Homemade - the little square quilted "rug" on the table was made especially for me by Pun'kin, all by herself. It was my Christmas gift this year, and I am so thrilled that she shared the first thing she completed by herself with me! Isn't it beautiful?


12. Shoes - looking down a little later in the morning, I found my shoes!


I've seen other prompts/inspiration/ideas for taking 12 photos on the 12th of each month this year - are any of you participating in those challenges? Have you taken your 12 photos today?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ten on the Tenth - What I'll Be Doing in 2012

I can hardly believe it's the tenth of January already. It has been a busy beginning to the new year. I am looking forward to a wonderful 2012 and have lots of plans & goals for the year. Here are ten of the top items on my list.

1. Stacy Julian's Twelve workshop has begun at BPC. We are gearing up to create 144 inspired layouts in 2012, all designed around twelve categories. This workshop include a ton of material and inspiration - 24 inspirational emails each month, 12 Triggers to spark our inspiration on the first of the month, Dozen Day on the 12th where Stacy shows us her 12 layouts for the month, and one Storytelling Feature each month to help us become better storytellers. I've created a layout to track my progress in this year-long class. The front of the layout contains a checklist similar to my September 2011 Goals layout.

The back of the layout includes 12 topic lists where I'll record the titles of the layouts I create.

I am so excited about all the inspiration in this class already and am looking forward to a very productive year in my scrapbooking.

2. I'm also in Cathy Zielske's Move More, Eat Well workshop. In all honesty, I've barely had time to look at the material for this course which started on the first also. However, from what I've read so far, this year-long workshop will be a wonderful way to stay motivated in my ever-continuing quest for a  healthy lifestyle. Robbie and I have both set some goals for ourselves this year, with rewards along the way. We both began exercising (again) when we returned from our cruise on the 2nd and are concentrating on eating smaller portions.

We each set three weight goals for this year and our individual rewards will benefit both of us. For example, when I hit my first weight goal, I am planning to sign up for a photography class (see item #4 below). Robbie already knows quite a bit more about photography than I do, however I'll be sharing all I learn with him as we play with our new camera. When Robbie hits his first weight goal, we are going to take golf lessons together. It's something we've both wanted to try for a while. I'm excited to see how we do and will be keeping you updated along the way.

3. Reclaiming My Time with Karen Grunberg is also a year-long workshop (that started back in December). We are in the process of evaluating how we use our time and how we would like to be using our time. We have another couple of weeks of this process as we begin to align our time with the things we want to do. (More on this in the weeks to come.)

4. I will be taking Photography Classes this year so that I can learn how to use our new DSLR camera and become a better photographer. I'll be looking to sign up for my initial class once I reach my first weight goal for the year (probably sometime in March/April). Please let me know of any classes you would recommend.

5. I will continue to pass a book each month through July as part of Pass the Book:Year Two.


There are a couple of chances to be the next recipient of a book right now - click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to find out where the books are now.

6. I will continue to blog here regularly about what's happening in my life, my latest scrapbooking pages, books I'm reading, stuff I'm organizing, and the fun classes I'm taking. I'll also be participating in lots of fun blog activities like Sian's Storytelling Sunday 2 and Shimelle's Ten Things (this post is part of that activity - click here to see more Ten Things posts).

One of things I've enjoyed most about blogging these past (almost) two years is making friends around the world! I so appreciate each of you who regularly visit my blog, leave comments, and even send snail mail that totally makes my day (like this surprise package I received from Rebekah shortly before Christmas).


Thanks Rebekah - I know I've found a friend who understands me when she can't walk past a display of toe socks without picking out a totally cute pair for me!

7. Because I have received so much joy from the Mail Art packages I received (& sent) this past year, I will definitely be sending out surprise Mail Art packages throughout the year!

8. I will also continue to participate in the Library of Memories Community where we receive weekly challenges and encourage others who are setting up and maintaining a Library of Memories system. I enjoy the interaction with others who are also working to keep up with their digital workflow and photo organization in order to scrap inspirationally. If you've ever taken the Library of Memories or Finding Photo Freedom workshops and find yourself not keeping up with your system or lacking motivation, click here to sign up (it's only $15) and join us as we set weekly goals and share our own adaptations.

9. This year I am also planning to do some in-depth work in our home - organizing/decluttering and a little bit of redecorating/remodeling. The first room is our laundry room, which we plan to start on before the end of this month.

10. And, as always, I will continue to strive for growth in my walk with the Lord by maintaining a daily quiet time, attending church regularly, and teaching Ladies' Bible Studies. I'm currently preparing to begin leading a study entitled Walking by Faith: Lessons Learned in the Darkby Jennifer Rothschild.

I am looking forward to a fantastic year! What's on your top ten list for 2012?

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Twelfth Day of Christmas - New PJs

BPC 12 Days of Christmas workshop
12th Day of Christmas
Photo Prompt - family in PJs or new clothes
Teacher - Stacy Julian
My Layout - Christmas Jammers

I know many families have a tradition of giving & receiving new pajamas on Christmas Eve, some simply to ensure that their Christmas morning photos look great. Since we were celebrating our 10th Christmas together (& 10th wedding anniversary 2 days later), I decided it was time for us to start a new tradition - new pajamas (or 'jammers as we call them) on Christmas Eve.

I didn't follow Stacy Julian's layout design since her page was 8 1/2 x 11 with one 4x6 photo and included a smaller 6x6 page that included four 2x2 photos. I did like the addition of the smaller photos, so I printed my photos here at home and put together a 12x12 layout.

Journaling reads: Dear Mrs. Santa, Thank you for the new pajamas we found under the tree on Christmas Eve! What a fun way to start the celebration. We hope this will become a new yearly tradition. (Hint, Hint) All Our Love, Robbie & Melissa

I really like the way this turned out and am so excited to use that heart embellishment, which has been in my stash for several years (since I took it off the front of a Valentine's card!).


YIPPEE - I did it! I completed the entire 12 Days of Christmas workshop and now have 12 Christmas memories/traditions/ events preserved in my Library of Memories albums. Thanks so much for sticking with me - I've cleaned up all my Christmas papers & supplies and am looking forward to lots more scrapping in this new year! How about you? Are you still scrapping Christmas?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Eleventh Day of Christmas - Stockings/Chimenea

BPC 12 Days of Christmas workshop
11th Day of Christmas
Photo Prompt - stockings displayed in your home
Teacher - Georgana Hall
My Layout - Chimenea

The photo prompt for the 11th Day of Christmas was to take a photo of stockings displayed in your home and Georgana Hall's sample layout showcased those photos. However, since I'd already scrapped about our stockings (& the story of my big stocking), I simply scraplifted the layout design and chose a different topic.

I used photos from Christmas 2007 when Robbie surprised me with the gift of a chimenea. I added a photo from last winter and a journaling block to tell my story.

Journaling reads: I've always wanted a chimenea, & Robbie surprised me with one for Christmas 2007. However, being from the south, I never bring in outside furniture in the wintertime. After three really heavy snows  and freezing days in the winter of 2010-2011, the chimenea cracked & was irreparable. :>( Live & Learn!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Tenth Day of Christmas - Wrapping Gifts

BPC 12 Days of Christmas workshop
10th Day of Christmas
Photo Prompt - wrapped gifts
Teacher - Wendy Smedley
My Layout - Fun Tradition Wrapping Paper

I was so excited to finally use some of the bits & pieces of wrapping paper I've saved each year on today's layout and record our wrapping paper tradition.



Journaling reads: Every year, we buy new Christmas paper to wrap each other’s gifts. I pick out a special paper (or papers) for Robbie’s gifts & he picks out special papers for mine. Then we choose one day the week of Christmas to wrap our gifts at the same time, in different rooms so we can’t see our gifts, of course! We banter back & forth as we wrap: “Oh, you are going to LOVE this gift.” “This is such a great gift, can’t wait ‘til you open it!” When we’re both done, we put everything under the tree and fill the stockings. [The leftover paper gets used the next year for family & friend’s gifts.] The papers on this layout are from 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.

Do you have any special traditions associated with wrapping paper and the process of wrapping gifts?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Ninth Day of Christmas - Christmas Treats

BPC 12 Days of Christmas workshop
9th Day of Christmas
Photo Prompt - the baking process & the treats
Teacher - Nic Howard
My Layout - Magic Cookie Bar Memories

I know some of you have read about my Magic Cookie Bars before as I've shared the recipe and mentioned them in a few previous posts. However, I realized that I had never scrapped my memories about this favorite treat. Nic's prompt to document a favorite treat for the 9th Day of Christmas provided the perfect opportunity. I included quite a bit of journaling, so I had to modify Nic's layout to fit that it all in.

Journaling reads: *Many years ago I discovered an Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk recipe that has become a favorite with my family. It’s a fairly simple recipe as long as you don’t skip the “press down firmly with fork” direction (which enables the sweetened condensed milk to perform its “magic” and hold everything together). The recipe calls for 1 cup of chopped nuts – I always use pecans!

*My favorite memory occurred a year or so before Robbie and I met. It was after a family BBQ at Mama & Daddy’s house in Groves. I was helping Mama clean up the kitchen while most of the family was still relaxing out in the back yard. There was one Magic Cookie Bar left in the bowl, so I leaned out the back door and asked if anyone wanted the last one. Luckily I had a firm grip on the bowl because several family members ran to get to the bowl first and grab that final cookie! As they fought over that last one, we all started laughing and I knew then that I would be making these Magic Cookie Bars every year for the holidays and other family get-togethers.

*I remember when I lived near enough for them to visit often, Trey & Nichole enjoyed waiting for me to cut the Magic Cookie Bars & put them on a plate. They wanted to eat the crumbs (of graham crackers & chocolate & coconut & pecans) that were left in the pan!

*One year during Christmastime when we were living in Hudson, I baked up a bunch of goodies to deliver to friends & shut-ins from our church. I packaged all the goodies for Robbie & I to deliver one Saturday. I placed two Magic Cookie Bars, a 5 dollar bill, and a tract on Salvation in a Ziploc bag. Robbie noticed the bag and asked who it was for. I replied that I had put it together in case we saw a beggar while we were out. Robbie laughed and reminded me that we were no longer in the Dallas area and we’d never seen anyone begging on a street corner since moving to east Texas. I was undeterred, however, and we headed out. As you might have guessed, we saw a beggar that day . . . of course, he was on the other side of the highway from where we were. I didn’t even have to tell Robbie to turn around! When we got back to the intersection, the beggar had already started walking away across a parking lot, but I was determined that the little Ziploc bag was for him and Robbie sped over to where he was. He seemed grateful (& somewhat surprised). I’ll never know what happened to those Magic Cookie Bars (I hope he enjoyed them) or the $5 (I hope it paid for some milk to go with them) or the tract (maybe it planted a seed that lead to his salvation), but I’m certain that something miraculous happened that day all because we shared our Magic Cookie Bars.

*In the fall of 2011, I shared the story about the Magic Cookie Bars and the beggar during two of the Bible Study sessions I was teaching. It was an example of how we can give to others even if we don’t always see the fruit of our gift. However, I had not thought to take any Magic Cookie Bars with me to the meetings, and the ladies gave me lots of good natured grief about it before I promised to make a huge batch for our last meeting of the study!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Eigth Day of Christmas - Christmas Books

BPC 12 Days of Christmas workshop
8th Day of Christmas
Photo Prompt - Christmas books
Teacher - Elizabeth Dillow
My Layout - Read

I loved today's prompt because I am a collector of books, and I have a fun assortment of Christmas picture storybooks that I display under the Christmas tree each year. I enjoy reading them, especially when there are children around to enjoy them too, and I have been known to travel to family get-togethers with a couple of them ready to read.

I followed Elizabeth Dillow's layout exactly, including the quote & title. Then I added an extra row of photos across the bottom of my layout featuring the reading of some of my books.

I think this quote sums up a good book very well.

Of course, now that the holidays are coming to a close, I'm ready to put these Christmas books back on the children's book shelf in the guest room with the rest of my collection. Maybe while I'm working on that, I'll pull out a book and have a quick read, too! We're never too old to enjoy a good story.