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, June 30, 2015

June Scavenger Hunt Finds

I had to smile when I read through the 2015 Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt list that Rinda posted on June 1 because I had captured many of the items on the list during our vacation just the week before! However, the rules state that photos must be taken between June 1 and September 22, so today I'm sharing photos I captured in June. 

I have 21 photos to share, which in essence means I completed the hunt in one month! There are three items that I did not find, but I was able to substitute the three alternatives for those. And I have to admit that one photo is a little bit of a cheat stretch. Nonetheless, I'm giving myself complete credit for this year's hunt! Here are my June finds, all of which (with one exception) were captured on an impromptu overnight road trip to San Antonio. (Click on the photos for a larger version.)
 
1. A bouquet of flowers - As we were strolling along the River Walk, several dinner boats passed by, and one of them had a bouquet of flowers on the table!

2. An ornate door knocker

3. A person walking a dog - The River Walk was pretty crowded during the day and evening, but Sunday morning as we were dining al fresco, a family walked by with their dog. They were rounding the bend of the river before I could grab the camera and snap a photo.

4. People playing a board game or card game

5. Architectural columns - It is extremely difficult to get a photo of the Alamo without tourists in it, but with some patience I was finally able to capture this shot of the front door and the columns on each side.

6. A metal bridge - This was actually my first find of the hunt. On our way to San Antonio, we stopped in Waco at Buzzard Billy's for some Monster-Ella Cheese Sticks. Up the river a little ways is a railroad bridge. If you look closely, you can just see the driving bridge beyond it, and even farther is an old suspension bridge for pedestrian traffic.

7. A turtle - This might not look like the photos others are posting, but these are definitely my favorite kind of turtles.

8. Someone "plugged in" to social media - I was hoping to find someone with ear buds or headphones, but this guy was definitely plugged in and oblivious to anything else going on around him.

9. A tent - This tent was one of the displays at the Briscoe Western Art Museum.

10. A college or university - There are so many options for photographing a college or university, but nothing screams Texas like a new football stadium!

11. A cellular tower or television satellite dish - I'm really not sure what kind of dishes these are, but we found them along a stretch of the 130 Toll Road where the speed limit is 85 miles per hour. (Robbie pulled over for me to capture this photo on our way back home!)

12. A public restroom, bathroom, or toilet - Found along the River Walk.

13. A merry-go-round or carousel

14. A traffic signal - I knew it would be easy to capture a traffic signal, but I had no idea I would find one designed for boats on the San Antonio River!

15. A flag pole with at least three flags on it - There were flags on flagpoles all over San Antonio, with one or two flags, but we didn't see any with three flags . . . until Robbie spotted this optical illusion. The small flag at the bottom is actually on a flag pole miles away.

16. A panoramic view, taken while standing someplace high in the air - Our room at the Hilton Palacio del Rio was on the 16th floor overlooking the river. I captured this panoramic with my iPhone, although I apparently didn't keep the little arrow moving along the horizontal line, which resulted in some of the buildings appearing to lean one way or the other.

17. At least two people wearing matching outfits or uniforms - I actually captured several photos for this prompt, but my favorite is this one of two Alamo Rangers.

18. An overloaded truck, car, bicycle or other vehicle - This is the only photo not taken on our impromptu trip; I actually found it on one of the Dallas freeways the following weekend.

19. A ticket booth - The movie theater ticket booth inside Rivercenter Mall.

20. A natural body of water - According to our river boat guide, if you follow the San Antonio River south from this point, it'll take you all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

21. A photograph of you with a sign reading "2015 Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt" - I had a small printout of this year's list in my pocket as we enjoyed our time in San Antonio. I folded it up so that only the title showed so Robbie could snap this photo of me!

 Alternative A: People eating outside - Most of the restaurants along the River Walk offer outside dining, so this was an easy alternative to find.

Alternative B: Someone holding an umbrella - The weather was absolutely beautiful, but rather warm hot, so I wasn't surprised to find someone sheltering under an umbrella.

Alternative C: A rocking chair -This little grouping along the River Walk looks like a great place to take a break. (You might recognize that chair as the one from #8 above - Robbie pointed it out to me as we were leaving our hotel for the river boat tour. When we passed it again later, it was occupied, so I was able to check off two items in the same spot!)
 
I had so much FUN hunting for the items on this year's list that I'm challenging myself to find them all again in July! (Thanks for the INSPIRATION to be observant and take photos again this summer, Rinda!) 
 
Are you participating in the hunt? Which items are you finding the most challenging to locate?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Creative Habit - book review



There are so many good things to say about this book that I hardly know where to start!  The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life is an easy-to-read tome all about how to make creativity a habit.

The basic premise of the book is that "in order to be creative, you have to know how to prepare to be creative." The author shares examples based on her life as a choreographer, however the information is relevant for everyone regardless of creative pursuits. I thoroughly enjoyed this look into her life and am impressed with the amount of research, preparation, and work that goes into the choreography for a performance.

I also found this book to be very aesthetically pleasing as the typeface and margins were slightly different than a typical book, which I think is apropros for a book on creativity!


Even the design of the chapter title pages was attractive. I think all the white space symbolizes the openness that's needed in developing new and creative ideas.


My favorite chapter was the one on harnessing memory and how creatives are able to mine their memories for INSPIRATION.  She discusses muscle memory, virtual memory, sensual memory, institutional memory, and ancient memory and how we connect what we are experiencing now with what we've experienced before through metaphor. She asserts that "metaphor is the lifeblood of all art," thus memory is important to creativity.

Each chapter ends with exercises designed to help creatives get out of a rut and be open to new possibilities. A couple of my favorite suggestions are:
(1) spend a week without something (mirrors, clocks, newspapers, etc), and
(2) spend time observing two people interacting and note every interaction, then repeat the observation with two other people and only note the interactions that you find interesting - this reveals judgment and powers of observation as well as how individuals are selective and filter the world through their particular viewpoint.

I am especially intrigued by her exercise of "Reading Archaeologically" - reading backwards in time. For example, start with a modern book on a topic, then read another book that predates that one, and so on, working back to ancient texts. She also recommends reading an author's entire body of work backwards as a different way of seeing and learning about the author's themes, philosophies, and style changes. I definitely want to give this a try - I don't have an author or topic in mind, so I'm open to suggestions (which can be left in the comments below!).

I actually checked this book out from our local library, however it's a book that would be FUN to own because it's worth reading again, highlighting important points, and trying out the various exercises in order to prepare and be creative! I discovered that Twyla Tharp has a new(er) book out, The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together. I definitely want to read this one, too. In The Creative Habit she often mentions how performances involve so many individuals working together, from the choreographer, composer, dancers, and musicians, to the set designers and lighting crew, so I know she'll have wonderful tips for collaboration.

I also did a little research on Twyla Tharp and she is still working today. In fact, her dance company will be performing here in Dallas in September as part of her 50th anniversary tour.

 Have you read this book? Obviously, I highly recommend it if you haven't!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

(More Than) 15-Minute Layouts

Despite the fact that I have a list of my Top Five (photos or stories or events) from the past three months that I want to scrapbook as part of the challenge I set for myself at the beginning of the year, I've recently scrapped three stories from this year that were not on that list! The main goal of my challenge was to help me scrap more of this year's stories during this year, so I'm actually very pleased with myself . . . and still hope to check a few off that Top Five list before the end of the month.

The INSPIRATION for all three of these layouts came from the BPC 15-Minute Layouts class. The assignment for Lesson One in this class, taught by Jamie Waters, is to pull together a kit of supplies to work with in order to create five layouts, each in 15 minutes. I chose not to put together a kit, but simply moved on to Lesson Two, took some notes and drew a sketch while I watched the video of Jamie creating a two-page layout in under 15 minutes, and then flipped through my 2015 Storage Binder to see how I wanted to use that INSPIRATION.


I ended up adapting the assignment and creating two one-page layouts. Each layout took me about 40 minutes. This first layout showcases photos from my trip down to the Houston area to scrap with my friend LeAnne back in April.


If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know Robbie always send me flowers when I travel overnight without him. These flowers arrived at LeAnne's house shortly after I did, and I loved the way the glass vase was surrounded by colored pencils . . . and the fact that it came with a box of chocolates. I used Robbie's note on the florist card as my title block. I also included a note about 5-year-old Logan's concern when he saw the pencils . . . "Do they have dirt on them?"


The next layout shares the story about replacing our old refrigerator back in February.


Journaling reads: Finally decided to get a new fridge and spent a good bit of time at Lowe's picking it out. It was delivered the next day, but ran so loud we could hear it all over the house. Had a time picking another one since the west coast dock workers were on strike. Then the one I picked out couldn't be delivered until a week later due to an ice storm!

I was inspired by the class materials to use a stencil to create the splotches in the corners, then to add a few sequins, stickers, and brads for dimension.


Lesson Three in the class provided INSPIRATION for a two-photo layout. I pulled a couple of photos that continued the story of Robbie's case of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. trading cards and set to work.


Jamie suggested embellishing the background paper by adding strips of another paper to create stripes. I actually made my stripes by cutting pieces off the bottom of some of the extra trading cards. Each piece has an episode title and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. logo on it. Then I lined the pieces up across the page to create stripes. This rather labor-intensive step insured that this layout took well over an hour to complete.


I'm excited to add these stories to our 2015 chronological album and am thrilled with how quickly they came together (even if I spent way more than 15 minutes on each). How long does it typically take you to create a layout?

Monday, June 22, 2015

From Trash To Treasure


Sitting on our back patio last week, I once again noticed the ceramic sun hanging out there and thought, I really need to throw that thing away. It's just such an eyesore!


Then I thought, well, maybe I should put it in the donation bin because someone else might like it and give it new life with some paint. Oh wait, I thought, I could do that, too!

And so I did. Right then, I grabbed a drop cloth to cover the patio table and found some blue paint in the garage (leftover from the paperback bookshelf unit that Robbie made and I painted years ago). I set to work creating a frame around the sun . . . and immediately began to like this piece again.


Then I started on the sun with some leftover yellow paint that you might recognize as the color of the walls in my craft room.


My objective with this project was simply to have FUN and give this ceramic sun some new life, so I didn't really have a plan when I started and wasn't worried about painting it perfectly. These are some of the points I've been hearing repeated a lot in The Painted Guru Summit interviews I've been enjoying recently - I don't have to know the final outcome when I start, it doesn't have to be perfect, have FUN and enjoy the process.


I was definitely enjoying myself at this point, so I grabbed a few small bottles of paint from my craft room and added some orange and additional yellow to the sun rays. I also highlighted the lips with a peachy color and used the background blue for the eyes.


Robbie suggested a dot of the peachy color to further accentuate the eyes, and I ended up highlighting the eyebrows,too.


All of this took less than two hours, then I let it sit inside overnight so it would dry completely. Robbie had a can of clear Krylon Clear Glaze in his model-making supplies, so the next day I added a clear coat over the entire piece and let it dry overnight again before hanging it back up outside.


So, with just a few supplies that we had on hand and a couple of hours (not counting drying time), I had turned something I considered throwing away into something that makes me smile!


Now the view is much better when I sit out on the patio to read a book or visit with Robbie as he grills.


How's that for acting on INSPIRATION when it strikes!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

BBQ

One of my favorite things about living in Texas is that we can grill out almost anytime. In fact, we leave our Webber grill out on the patio year round (although we do have a cover for it). I recently completed a layout with some FUN Barbeque Glitter papers from Best Creation.


I cut the glittery grill out of the background paper so that I could layer other papers over the background and still use the grill as an embellishment.


Robbie's used this grill so much over the past eight years that the grate is breaking in a few places! My parents will be joining us Sunday for some BBQ ribs to celebrate Father's Day, so while we were out running errands today we picked up a new grate. Who knows maybe the new grate will inspire Robbie to grill out even more . . . like new scrapbook products inspire me to scrap more!

Who does the grilling in your family?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Walking In This World - book review

I didn't realize there was a sequel to Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way until I stumbled across it while browsing the shelves at our local library. I've read The Artist's Way a couple of times (and reviewed it on my blog HERE), so I was eager to read Walking in this World: The Practical Art of Creativity.


This book is a continuation of the process of discovering our creative self. It begins with the tools that the author recommends everyone practice throughout the process of working through the book, which is set up as a 12-week program. Morning Pages and Artist's Dates were both introduced in The Artist's Way, but this book adds an additional tool, 20-minute Weekly Walks, to help focus our thinking thus helping with breakthroughs in our creativity.

Since I checked this book out from the library, I did not have the luxury of working through the chapters one each week. However, I thoroughly enjoyed reading through and mentally working through some of the assigned tasks. Many of the tasks involved creating lists (list 20 small, creative actions you could take or list 5 people to whom you feel closely connected and devise one creative project you could undertake to show them your love and gratitude for their friendship) while others involved small activities (try a five-minute breather in a new atmosphere like a church/forest/ travel store or acquire a small blank notebook for sketching, carry it with you and sketch the small adventures of life). Other tasks involved fill-in-the blank activities, journaling, writing, and creating.

I definitely recommend this book, however I suggest reading The Artist's Way first if you are not familiar with Julia Cameron and the use of Morning Pages and Artist's Dates. I've journaled off and on throughout my life and have found myself drawn to writing Morning Pages at varying times. And I love the idea of Artist's Dates, which I typically call my INSPIRATION days.

Have you read either of these books? If so, do you write Morning Pages and take yourself on Artist's Dates?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

March Top Five #2

As part of my year of INSPIRATION, each month I am challenging myself to scrap my Top Five (photos or stories or events) from the previous month. I'm a little behind on this goal, but here's my second completion for March - a tag mini-album documenting a three-day trip I took with my friend Kim, her sweet daughter Summer, and Summer's friend Madeline.


I actually created the album itself during our trip in March. Before the trip, I put together supplies for each of us to create a 4x6 tag mini-album. We each had papers and paint chips (which we picked up at a home improvement store on the way to the cottage we rented) as the base for our albums. I brought tools and supplies so we could create all the pages and covers of our albums. We also added in a few pieces of memorabilia the last evening of our trip. We were having so much FUN crafting that I forgot to snap a photo until the albums were all put together.



We included a pocket inside our albums. I added a grid card with journaling about our activities each day. As you can see in the photo below, some of my pages are horizontal while others are vertical.


On this page showcasing the flowers Robbie had delivered to the cabin, I included the florist's card, pieces of the ribbon that was around the pitcher/vase as well as parts of the purple envelope with the florist name.


I enjoyed combining photos, memorabilia, and embellishments throughout the album, like on this page with photos, my ticket to the zoo, and a penguin sticker
.

I printed my photos in a variety of small sizes (3x4, 2x3, etc) so I could include several on a page.


I also brought some games along, which we played in the evenings at the cottage. We all adhered our score cards in our albums, and I used the extra space to journal as well.


I really like the way this turned out and think it's the perfect way to preserve the memories from a short road trip with friends. Do you use mini-albums to document short trips?