09 December 2014

Book Review: Happy Handmade Home



A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home

I could not wait to get my hands on this book. I'd seen it circulating in the blogworld, and though I'd never heard of A Beautiful Mess's blog (I know, where have I been? Still mourning the loss of Young House Love, I suppose), I was curious to see what it was all about. Upon delivery, this book did not disappoint!! The second I received the package in the mail, I ripped open the envelope and counted down the minutes until naptime so I could begin to devour it.

This book is chock full of nearly 240 full color, beautifully designed and meticulously staged photographs. That makes for an absolutely exquisite book. BUT. But. It can be quite a disappointment when one tries to recreate a similar look in their own home. I know the idea of a book like this is to take the general feel of a room/project and put one's own spin on it. However, anything and everything I could ever come up with would be so lackluster compared to the images in this book! The tag of the book is to paint, craft, and decorate a cheerful, more inspiring space. This book definitely inspires, so I suppose my beef isn't really with this book: its with my own inabilities to adequately create what I am inspired to create! However, that certainly won't keep me from trying!

Not only is this a fantastic book on fresh decor ideas, its also a handbook for homemade parties! I love to throw parties-- baby showers, birthday, wedding showers, etc. Any excuse to dress up a space and have lots of friends together is my idea of a good time. I love some of the ideas for party decorations and themes. Perhaps my favorite feature of this book is the 9 Ways series... they choose an ordinary item (jewelry dish, toothbrush holder, picture frame, etc) and remake it 9 different ways. This is revolutionary! I love the idea of taking something ordinary, useful, plain and simple, then turning it into an absolute statement piece!! 

This book is beautiful and really gives a lot of bang for every buck. Not just a coffee table book, this is sure to be sitting on my craft table and my kitchen table, too. 

For more about this book, click HERE or to read more about the Authors, go HERE

Though I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for the purposes of this review, the opinions are my own. 

Book Review: Let's All Be Brave


Brave. Its a word I've heard over and over this year. My fancy friends- the ones who seem to have time to put their thoughts on paper in eloquent ways I only wish for; the ones who assign each new year a word or theme- many have chose "brave" to be their word of 2014. That's what attracted me to Annie Downs's book, "Let's All Be Brave." That title alone makes me respond with a resounding, "Yes! Let's!" 

Written in an easy to read, blog-to-book format that is so common these days, this book is a collection of thoughts written by Annie in various places (mostly trendy coffee shops), over the course of about a year. From the beginning, her story captivated me. She was living a comfortable life, doing what she had always wanted to do, living near family and friends where she grew up. Then she felt (dun-dun-dun) the stirring. The restlessness. The inkling of an idea that God was calling her to more. I think in one way or another, we've all been there before. We feel a calling to be something bigger than who we currently are, to go somewhere other than where we are, and to step so far out of our comfort zone that the only One who could possibly be calling us there is the One who created it in the first place. 

That's what this book is about... having the courage to recognize when God is speaking, and to act on it. Annie uses illustrations from the Bible and from her own life that underline the faithfulness and consistency of God's never-changing character. Fulling knowing and trusting that God is good is a first step to being brave. Annie writes with refreshing honesty- about being a single woman, about fighting the urge to be a quitter; she's a self-proclaimed CRIER (me too) who gets homesick sometimes (me too). Every chapter was like reading an entry in her journal, one I could closely relate to. Perhaps some of what she wrote, the personal experiences of God's faithfulness, are what I might write if I were to have the same kind of courage she has had. 

Lest you begin to think this is a self-serving book that is simply tooting Annie's own bravery horn, I ultimately appreciate the crux of this book-- that bravery on our part is great and even what is expected of us in the Christian life. But it pales in comparison to the bravery that Jesus Christ  had when he died for our sins. Annie writes, "While it is important to celebrate bravery in others and call it forth in ourselves, it would be ridiculous to believe that anything we do can hold a candle to the courageous things Jesus did for us." 


This book is challenging in a non-threatening way, mainly because it is written by someone who is living what she is preaching. Ideals are great, but they're thin when there's no proof to flesh them out. This book is full of Annie's real-life proof that when we bravely follow God, he is faithful to hold our hand and give us the map for the journey that lies ahead. 

I received a copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

06 November 2014

DIY Type


I'm not usually one to get hyped up about the latest trends, but one trend I am loving right now is the Chalkboard lettering trend! You see it everywhere- on walls, art prints, even fabric! The artistry and skill of some of these chalk calligraphers is amazing. I've tried my own hand at some lettering techniques, and while they came out ok, it was anything but perfect. That's why Dana Tanamachi's new book DIY Type really intrigued me. 


There were some mixed reviews about this book, so I decided to check it out for myself. Dana is an accomplished, iconic chalk artist who has been commissioned by big wigs such as Google, Yahoo!, and Nike. She's also created custom cover art for HOW, Time and O, The Oprah Magazine. If anyone knows what they're talking about when it comes to beautiful lettering, this is the person! 


The book is beautiful in person. I knew it came with a set of lettering stencils, so that wasn't a surprise. But what was a surprise was how very little other content this book really contains. There is a grand total of just 9- yes, NINE- pages of instruction or writing on how to actually hand letter. And while the full-color pictures that accompany these few pages are pretty, the instructions are quite vague. Maybe its because I am used to a more step-by-step approach (ala The Pioneer Woman's cook books?), but the writing and instruction in this book leave me want a whole lot more. 

Lack of instruction aside, the stencils in this book are fantastic! There are actually two sets- a larger one and a smaller one. Each letter is cut from heavy cardstock paper and can easily be removed from the binding of the book. The larger letters will be great for making banners or monogrammed T-shirts. The smaller letters will be great for trying on a chalkboard or other art project. 


Overall, this is a fun book. The stencils are basic, but coupled with Dana's embellishment techniques, they could be very helpful in creating some beautiful and original designs! However, if you are looking for more of a step by step guide to lettering, you might want to look for something else. Honestly, I'd love to see a book just full of her designs and artwork! You can purchase this book HERE if you are interested!

Though I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for the purposes of this review, the opinions are my own. 


29 October 2014

Fall Photos!

We headed out to our favorite orchard, where we've gone every year since we've lived here. Its such a tradition we couldn't pass it up this year. Plus, Anderson's Orchard has the best prices around. Seriously, 1/2 a peck costs $6-- regardless of the type of apple. At Beasley's Orchard (the other popular one in the area), prices go up to $12!!  Craziness. Plus, Anderson's has You-Pick orchards-- we love it! The day was beautiful, much warmer than last year! And we found a beautiful new spot by a small lake to take some family photos. I'm on a mission to get a good family photo to enlarge, since we don't have one of the four of us yet. I'm not sure if any of these made the cut, but they might!










And just for a little nostalgia...



22 October 2014

Book Review: Your Family In Picutres


I tend to be a documenter. I was the girl in high school who was taking pictures at the football games on Friday night- and not just because I was the yearbook editor. I genuinely love to take pictures of life. College was another great time for taking pictures, what with new friendships forming and an endless supply of time on our hands. Then, there were the early years of marriage. Photos from this time consists mainly of pictures of our cats and newlywed couple selfies. Whatever, they were cute (and so were we). And now, I have a family and two little girls. I have to restrain myself not to document their every breath. I know each moment is precious and fleeting, and I want to capture it to the best of my abilities. Enter my amazing husband at Christmas 3 years ago. He bought me my first DSLR camera and I've been in love ever since. Originally, he bought it for me so that I could hone my craft on our oldest daughter who was just about 7 months old at the time.  What a great age for practicing camera settings and lighting balance!

I am not a home-cooked photographer who thinks I've now gone pro because I have basic knowledge of f-stops and photoshop. I am constantly learning and have a long way to go before I would even call myself "good." But ultimately, I want to use my photography to bless others through an organization called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. You can read more about them on their website, but they are an amazing organization. That said, I have a lot to learn and truly enjoy practicing and experimenting with photography. This is why I was so excited to read Me Ra Koh's book, Your Family In Pictures!

First of all, the book is GORGEOUS. Brimming with photos from Me Ra and many other people, nearly every page showcases a brilliant photograph. If you've ever read Me Ra Koh's blog, you know what an incredible woman she is. She isn't just a photographer. She's a mother, a wife, a writer and a survivor of several painful seasons of life. One of her great passions is to empower women-- especially moms. Her genuine, multifaceted heart comes across loud and clear in this book, which is one of the reasons I love it so much. Each page is filled with not only perfect "photo recipes" (as she calls them), but with encouragement and a call to be brave behind- and in front of- the lens.

The book is full of helpful tips and practical advise for turning the most common moments into captured masterpieces.  For instance, who knew that when taking Halloween photos, asphalt can be the perfect surface for bouncing soft light off of your subject??  And that oh-so-elusive glowing Christmas tree shot? Yep, she's got a recipe for that in this book, too. But my favorite section of this book is the one about family portraits. Probably fitting, given my current season of life. She has a page where she writes about the importance of mom taking a self-portrait. If it weren't dark outside right now, I'd be setting up my camera for a self-portrait! On the importance of stepping in front of the lens, she writes, "I don't want the generations after me to simple hear the stories of who I was. I want my loved ones to see the photos that document the chapters of my story: the milestones I reached, the journey I've walked as I discovered my condfidence and love for myself, the mysteries and hardships I pushed through to experience victory and freedom." WOW! In a world that is innundated by mindless selfies, this encourages a different look at the self-portrait and encourages a vulnerable, searching purpose behind them. I can't wait to try this. 

In addition to scene-specific recipes and tips, there is a wealth of beginning photographer knowledge in this book. Everything from the best time of day to shoot to how to choose the right camera and/or lens for you. This is absolutely the most informative, engaging and inspiring book on photography I have read to date. I would recommend it to everyone I know who owns a camera-- and that includes the camera in your phone!!

You can order this book online here. Also, here is a link to Me Ra Koh's fantastic website. 

Though I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for the purposes of this review, the opinions are my own. 

And just for fun, here's a recent family pictures I took this past weekend:



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16 October 2014

What Ebola, Sermon Notes and Moses Have In Common


At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, can I be honest with you for a few minutes? Ebola freaks me out. Even when the disease was seemingly eradicated, it would cross my mind from time to time. Maybe its because I was too young when I saw "Outbreak" and the images of those bright yellow biohazard suits burned an image into my mind, or it could be that I'm a pessimistic hypochondriac (but still a really fun person-ha!). But whatever the reason, it scares me. And I almost feel silly typing that because I know the statistics. Believe me. I know them. I've read and re-read every article that comes across my home page or Zite list having to deal with the subject. Despite this knowledge, the fear remains.

I also read another news story today about the subpoenas that over 400 pastors in the Houston-area received from the City, requiring them to hand over any and all sermon/lecture notes having to deal with 'homosexuality, gender issues or the Houston mayor.' Apparently there is some new anti-discrimination law they are trying to enforce, which is really just fancy talk for advancing their liberal agenda while marginalizing and stripping those who hold differing views of their right to free speech & religion.  As the wife of a pastor, this initially made my skin prickle at the thought. If a pastor can't speak the truth in his own church, where can he? And what does that say about the society we live in? The constitution our nation was founded on? The beliefs and rights so many men and women have lost their lives for? Its happening more and more, this pressure on Christian speakers and preachers, to water-down their belifes. Pressure to fabricate politically-correct loop holes in the Gospel, to paint grey on the black and white. (And for the record-- there are no loop holes in the Gospel. Just the truth- That Jesus is the only way to salvation. It doesn't get any simpler than that.) Just looking around the courts in our country and seeing some of the rulings that activist judges have wrongly passed could frighten and discourage many Christians.

These things were swirling in my head as I put my girls to bed tonight. When they were finally down, I sat on my bed to begin my quiet time, studying the life of Moses. I had to both laugh and praise God at the irony of where I am in the study. Just starting Exodus 11. God has already sent 9 plagues on the country of Egypt and her people... water to blood, frogs, flies, gnats, livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness. And we begin Chapter 11 with Moses telling Pharoah that God is going to kill all the firstborn sons in the land, as well as the first born of all the livestock. Its strange that in all of this death and destruction in these chapters I can find peace and comfort from the Word. What I find comforting is the absolute Power that God has over earthly things... natural things like water and weather, living things like reptiles, insects and livestock. And the power that he has over things that affect his people... sickness & death. Studying these chapters have oddly reassured me that I don't have to fear Ebola. As silly as this may sound- its true! When God sent the plagues to Egypt he was proclaiming that HE IS GOD, and challenging the multitudes of gods in Egypt. Where the Egyptians prayed to their gods for rain, food, healing, etc., God showed that He alone is the One true ruler over everything. 

And then, I've been studying about Pharoah. God allowed Pharoah to harden his heart toward Him- and God even hardened Pharoah's heart Himself so that he would not let the Israelites out of Egypt. But God did all of this for a purpose-- that God's people would know He is the LORD (Ex 10:1-3), and also so that the Egyptians would know He is LORD (Ex 14:4). As difficult as some people find this set of circumstances to be, I again find comfort in knowing that God is ultimately in control of the rulers of the land. God is the same God today as He was when He was bringing the Israelites out of slavery. And Pharoah was a heck of a lot more powerful than any Houston mayor, radical judge or Obama (sorry, dude). Time and time again God demonstrated His power and sovereignty over Pharoah and I can take comfort in knowing that still today, He is sovereign over the injustices of this world. 

So is Ebola still scary? You bet. But I don't have to let it control my thoughts because I know the ultimate Healer- the One who created my temporary being and is in control of even the things that may ail our physical selves. Is the idea that a City can subpoena a preacher's Sunday sermon a bit unsettling? Sure. But its not outside the reaches of God's hands. I know that God's word never returns void, but will accomplish what He desires and achieve the purpose for which He sent it (Isa. 55:11). Perhaps someone will be moved towards Christ in reviewing all those subpoenaed sermons. Just studying these few chapters in Exodus have reminded me that God loves His people tremendously. And He is a God who has is sovereign and just and if we trust in Him, in His perfect plan, it will all work out in conformity with the purpose of his will (Eph 1:11).

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22 September 2014

What's So Bad About A Mild Hearing Loss??

Gia is doing so great with her hearing aid. The only problem is that when she really gets jumping around (like every other 3 year old on the planet often does) the aid comes off from behind her ear. We're trying to teach her to put it back over her ear, but she doesn't quite have the hang of it yet. Other than that, she's doing great.

She is in speech therapy right now, though you wouldn't really know that she has issues with speech. The ENT wanted a speech evaluation in conjuction with the hearing aid, and the speech therapist thought it would be a good idea to work on a few sounds she has difficulty pronouncing. She is also working on helping her adjust to learning how to hear with the new aid. Our speech therapist is great and she read my mind when she showed me this hearing loss simulator. I had wondered if we were doing the right thing, and wondered if a mild hearing loss was really that big of a deal. She let me listen to this hearing loss simulator and it definitely answered that questions--- YES! Even a mild loss can be a big deal!!  Click the picture below and it will take you to the website. You click on one of the scenario icons (coffe shop, outside, child's voice, man's voice, woman's voice) then click the level of hearing loss. Be sure to first listen to it with a "normal" hearing range. 



Pretty amazing, right? Its interesting in the outside scenario how so much of the background is murmurred even with mild hearing loss. And did you notice how much harder you had to work to listen to what was being said, at even the mild loss level? This was really eye-opening and helped me see how difficult it must have been for Gia (and Sean!) to live without their hearing aids. Just thought this was a really neat tool & people who loved us would be interested in seeing it!
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