Archive for the ‘reflections’ Category

Perhaps you have heard of this new-ish trend in Bible journaling?  Creative people draw, letter, and color in their Bibles as they reflect on the passage they are studying.

I’ve been intrigued by this idea, and now that summer is starting, I thought that I would give it a try.  During the academic year, I participate in Bible Study Fellowship, which is a wonderful, in-depth, and disciplined study.  I very much appreciate the structure and schedule to BSF, but for summer break, I decided to try something a little bit different (and way further out of my comfort zone).

I thought a lot about whether I should share my devotions on my blog, and while I still don’t know if I will post about all of them, I thought I would at least share this one.


I’ve begun the summer by using the BSF prayer guide for the John Bible study that will begin in the fall.  The guide gives Scripture from the book of John and suggests prayer prompts based upon that Scripture passage.  As I read through the first few pages, I was struck especially by John 10:10.  Jesus came that I, Natalie, might have life in Him, and have it abundantly!  A joyful life.

For the past few months, I’ve felt like I’ve been overshadowed by clouds.  It didn’t help that the weather itself was literally cloudy, rainy, and cold.  I was discouraged, frustrated, and sad.  And I didn’t like it.  But I just couldn’t shake the clouds.  I decided that I should really study this idea of a joyful life– a fullness of joy from and through Christ, not my circumstances or accomplishments.  In Christ alone, my joy is complete.  A completeness of joy.  What does this mean?

I used my concordance to do a bit of a word study on the word “joy.”  Several verses struck me, but the one that really kept echoing in my thoughts was Nehemiah 8:10.  A little bit of context: The Babylonian exiles have returned to Jerusalem and have rebuilt the city wall, amidst much opposition.  The wall is completed, and all the people gather to hear Ezra read the book of the Law of Moses.  The people weep as they hear the words of God and have them explained to them.  Nehemiah and Ezra tell the people not to mourn, for “the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

Cross-referencing this verse led me to passages in the Law about different feasts in which the people were told to rejoice before the Lord.  The feasts were in celebration of the blessings that God had given to the people– they were to celebrate and be satisfied in the abundance of God’s provision.

All of this leads back to that abundant life in Jesus Christ.  His blessings have overflowed upon me– most importantly through my salvation, but also in the everyday blessings I see, well, every day.  I should be celebrating them.  This reminded me of one of the memory verses my kids and I sing together, “Rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you.”  Deuteronomy 26:11.  I find my strength in what God has done, in His abundant blessings.

So the idea of thankfulness and joy in gratitude for God’s blessings is absolutely not a new one, but this personal series of devotions was instrumental to me, at this moment in my life, to begin to drive away the clouds that were crowding in on me.  I used colored pencils to create a sun-filled sky above lush grass.  You can see the clouds being pushed away, by God’s strength, at the bottom of the picture.

My joy is in Him.  Thank you, Lord.

artful devotions: Nehemiah 8:10

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Here is a recap of April’s goals:

  • make and finish a simple Disney scrapbook for B : no progress.  I need to print a few more photos and I’m questioning my paper choice.  I got stalled :-p
  • make more cards & send them : Done.  I’ll blog some of them soon.
  • work on the December Daily 2015 album : I finished the first five days and I worked on a few more days’ worth, which I will blog later.  I wish I’d completed more, but it is what it is.
  • a couple sewing projects : Done!  I’ll share them later, though, since they are gifts!  But it’s hard to wait to show them to you.  😉
  • keep up with my photos and videos :  Fail.  I caught up March, at least, which was a big month, journaling-wise, and so it ended up being a bigger job than I’d anticipated.  I’m going to try to power through April before we get too far into May!
  • work out at least 3 times per week.  do a 30-day thighs challenge (+arms/abs alternating days) : Done.  I ran a LOT this month– mostly with both kids in the stroller (what a workout!!) and a few times by myself.  I also filled in the gaps with rowing if it was chilly or rainy.  I am pretty happy with myself for following through on the thighs challenge– I only missed one day.  I’m not sure how big of a difference it made, though…
  • continue shooting photos in aperture priority and get more confident :  I spent a day+night gloriously alone at a B&B, and I think I figured some stuff out while I was photographing some of the beautiful flowers on the property.
  • make at least 2 scrapbook layouts for my traditional scrapbook albums : I made one.
  • prioritize Bible study and prayer : yes.  Thank you, Lord.
  • Bonus: I caught up on a lot of blog posts that I’ve been meaning to write!!


In May, I would really like to finish some of these projects that seem to be languishing on my goal list–specifically the mini-albums.  I hope that I can make more progress this month.

  • make and finish a simple Disney scrapbook for B
  • make & send cards
  • work on the December Daily 2015 album
  • catch up and keep up with my photos and videos
  • work out at least 3 times per week
  • make at least 1 scrapbook layout for my traditional scrapbook albums
  • prioritize Bible study and prayer
  • make a lap quilt for myself (birthday gift!)

and on the wishlist for May– projects that are on my mind but I can’t prioritize quite yet:

  • make a new bag for myself (purse-sized)
  • start the finishing process for B’s project 365 album
  • make a photo book or two (a simple one to display shots from a family photo shoot; Day in the Life 2015)

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Considering we had another month of lots of sickness for our family–including the hospitalization of my daughter!!– I think that I did pretty well with my March goals.  To recap my March 2016 goals:

  • make and finish the simple princess scrapbook for V : Done!!
  • make and finish a similar simple scrapbook for B : photos chosen for sure, album purchased, and tentative selection of patterned paper.  But otherwise, no progress.
  • make more cards : Yes!  I will be sharing some in the future, but I am also revisiting old designs that I love to make birthday and thank-you cards, so I won’t be blogging them all.
  • work on the December Daily 2015 album : Yes, I did work on the album.  I got all of the photos placed in the page protectors (not a small task!) and I’ve started embellishing, but I’ve only gotten a few pages finished.  I’ll have a post about planning the album coming up  on the blog next Friday.
  • make activity books for V and B for a trip : Done!  Somehow I managed it at the very last minute 🙂  And they were a hit!
  • catch up and keep up with my photos and videos : Yes, I caught up February and I’m on track for March.  My computer was out of commission for about two weeks, but I think I’ve managed to recover from that setback.  I’m also working hard to get blog content prepared in advance, especially to document projects that have been completed for a while now!
  • reupholster a small bench : Done!
  • work out at least 3 times per week.  do an arms/abs regimen to keep myself toned : I worked out as much as I could between sickness, staying at the hospital with my daughter, and travel.  I feel like my fitness/weight has plateaued, which is a bit frustrating, though there were a number of warm days in March when I got out to run with the kids in the stroller!  I’m looking forward to more consistent warm weather!
  • continue shooting photos in aperture priority and get more confident about what all the numbers mean :  Well, I did continue in Av mode (with a couple exceptions, like an indoor egg hunt when my kids were moving so fast that I had to switch to auto or I’d miss it all!  I will admit that even though I LOVE how my photos are coming out (when I get the aperture right, and also because I know how to manually bump up the exposure in Av mode), I am a bit lost on what any given number actually means.  More practice for me!
  • make at least 2 scrapbook layouts for my traditional scrapbook albums : Oh yes, I did!!  I made three!  (1, 2, 3)
  • prioritize Bible study and prayer : Yes.


My April goals are going to look fairly similar to March’s!

  • make and finish a simple Disney scrapbook for B
  • make more cards
  • work on the December Daily 2015 album
  • a couple sewing projects
  • keep up with my photos and videos
  • work out at least 3 times per week.  do a 30-day thighs challenge (+arms/abs alternating days)
  • continue shooting photos in aperture priority and get more confident about what all the numbers mean
  • make at least 2 scrapbook layouts for my traditional scrapbook albums
  • prioritize Bible study and prayer


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Well, February was kind of a hard month for me.  Not because anything major happened, but because I and/or my children were sick for almost every single day of the month.  On top of that (or because of that), sleeping through the night was a thing of our dreams…  I spent the entire month literally sick and tired.  This meant that I didn’t quite meet my goals, which were already fairly lofty.  However, the time that I did take to craft saved my sanity.

To recap February: I wanted to…

  • make a basic princess scrapbook for V: This didn’t happen, though I do have photos printed!
  • make a basic photobook of our favorite Disney photos for V and B to look at: DONE!!  I will write a blog post about this soon; I ordered the book on Feb 29, so I’m hoping to have it in my hot little hands very soon!  I really feel like this was my big victory in February.
  • finish planning my December Daily 2015 album, and order the prints: DONE!! I managed to get the planning done so that I could order the prints during the Persnickety Prints Super Bowl sale.  Yay!  (the prints are beautiful, just like the Disney prints) I have not done any assembly of the album… hopefully in March!
  • make a plan for my Disney World trip scrapbook. nope.  Not yet.  I’ve thought about it a bit, and I have decided to use a 3-ring album with page protectors (this is pretty earth-shattering for me…), but other than that, I’ve done no official planning.
  • make cards : Actually, I did!  I will soon have a blog post about the ones I made.  I really like how they turned out.
  • keep up with my photos : wop, wop.  Big fat, epic fail on this one.  Not only did I not keep up with February, but I didn’t finish the last few days’ worth of January photos yet.
  • work out at least 3 times per week.  do an arms/abs regimen to keep myself toned : I kept up with this goal as much as I could, given all the sickness.  I was better with my arms/abs challenge than the actual working out, though.
  • prioritize Bible study and prayer : my prayer journal and Bible study have been fantastic tools to keep me disciplined!  I have learned a lot.
  • photography–shoot in aperture priority : I shot in Av mode all month!  I’m pretty proud of this, and I am amazed at the difference it has made in my photos, even though I must admit that I’m still not exactly confident in what I’m doing.
  • Bonus!  scrapbooking : I made four scrapbook layouts (one, two, three, four)!  I’ve been playing along with Shimelle’s weekly challenges and finding them very inspiring.  Plus, it motivates me to get-it-done by having a deadline.


You know, I was feeling pretty down on myself regarding my February goals… but having written out that recap, I think I can feel pretty proud of what I accomplished, especially considering how crummy I felt for the whole month!

I’m excited to start a new month– and I’m feeling healthy and motivated again (we’re still hoping and praying for uninterrupted sleep at night…..)

Here are my March 2016 goals:

  • make and finish the simple princess scrapbook for V
  • make and finish a similar simple scrapbook for B
  • make more cards
  • work on the December Daily 2015 album
  • make activity books for V and B for an upcoming trip
  • catch up and keep up with my photos and videos
  • reupholster a small bench
  • work out at least 3 times per week.  do an arms/abs regimen to keep myself toned
  • continue shooting photos in aperture priority and get more confident about what all the numbers mean
  • make at least 2 scrapbook layouts for my traditional scrapbook albums
  • prioritize Bible study and prayer



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Let me start by giving an update on my goals for last month.  In January 2016, my goals were to:

  • finish sewing one last princess dress for our upcoming Disney trip: DONE!  (Project Princess Dress posts are upcoming!!)
  • make some memory keeping journals for my upcoming Disney trip: DONE!  (Look for a post about these later in the week)
  • plan my December daily 2015 album:  Only partway done.  Add this to my goals for February.  I think it was a lot to ask to add this to my to-do list with our huge trip on the calendar for January!
  • in addition to working out 3 times per week, complete a 30-day arms challenge: I kept up with this really well until our trip to Disney World.  Not only did I get thrown off by the trip, but I got a bad cold while we were away and am still trying to bounce back from it.  I definitely miss exercising and I want to get back to it as soon as possible.
  • keep up with my photos (though I am giving myself grace for our trip photos. That is going to be a whole ‘nother ball game): DONE!!  I am so excited about this.  I was completely caught up with my everyday January photos the night before we left for our Disney trip.  Since we arrived home (with a very large number of photos, which should surprise no one!), I have been working hard to get them into a presentable form, since I want to share them with family and friends!  As of January 31, I have gone through all of my own photos, with the help of my wonderful Husband, and I just have the PhotoPass and photos from others to go through.  I will talk more about this soon!
  • prioritize Bible study and prayer: God is good!!  He has given me a desire to study His word, and it has been a blessing.  I am thankful for a woman at church, who gave me guidance and encouragement to begin a prayer journal that really fits my personality, and it has made me even more excited about spending dedicated time in prayer.
  • BONUS: I made a scrapbook layout!  It felt so good to get back to traditional paper scrapbooking.  Plus, we tried a new recipe from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook (post coming soon).


As we begin February, I’m setting (and re-setting) some more goals.  They keep me on track!  In February 2016, I hope to:

  • make a basic princess scrapbook for V.
  • make a basic photobook of our favorite Disney photos for V and B to look at– as soon as possible, so that their memories of the trip won’t fade.
  • finish planning my December Daily 2015 album, and order the prints.  If possible, begin assembling album.
  • make a plan for my Disney World trip scrapbook.
  • make cards.
  • keep up with my photos.
  • work out at least 3 times per week.  do an arms/abs regimen to keep myself toned.
  • prioritize Bible study and prayer.

On Saturday, I went to a free photography workshop with some friends.  While it wasn’t the highest level of photography education out there, it did get me thinking about how to improve my skills with my camera.  I’m going to make a more concerted effort to learn the manual functions on my DSLR starting this month.  I’ll be starting by shooting only in aperture-priority mode for at least a week to force myself to truly learn the settings!


What are your goals for February?

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2015 in review

Wow, what a year!

I thought it would be interesting to do a little recap of what projects I accomplished in 2015.  Recently I was listening to a (new-to-me) podcast, and the interviewer asked the interviewee the inevitable “how do you do it all?” question, which is so hard to answer (I have many thoughts on this, but that’s for another post).  And then the interviewer said something that sort of blew my mind, because clearly she gets it.  She said something along the lines of, “from the outside it looks like you’re accomplishing an amazing amount, but then again I’m not inside your brain.  I’m sure that you have so many more ideas and projects in there that it feels like you’ve hardly scratched the surface, and it doesn’t feel like you’ve done enough.”

That’s how I feel.  I have so many projects in my brain all the time that I forget what I’ve actually accomplished, and it kind of stresses me out because I’m only thinking of what I haven’t done yet.  I think that writing this post might help me celebrate what I’ve done so that I can take a deep breath, grin a huge smile, and forge on in the new year.

I made…

27 PhD ornaments in four months.  (28 if you count the one I re-made before I sent it because the glass ball was all weird and cloudy.)

2 traditional scrapbook layouts.  I wish it were more, but I am happy that I did those two.  I also made 12 scrapbook layouts with V, which is completely awesome.

3 monograms and a shadowbox photo gift

12 cards, plus I did the digital design for our photo card at Christmas.

1 digital photobook

a LOT of sewing projects (in no particular order):

  • 3 princess dresses for V.  One of them still needs one little detail to be attached, but it’s 99% finished, so I’m counting it.
  • 1 queen gown (and it won a costume contest!!!)
  • 1 prince’s jacket
  • 4 fruit slice pouches
  • 2 bathrobes for my kids
  • 1 enormous camera/travel bag that I designed myself
  • 1 padded camera insert to fit in the bag mentioned above
  • 1 jacket
  • 1 dress
  • 2 jersey-knit infinity scarves
  • 1 set of pajamas
  • 9 capes (8 of them with superhero star monograms), and one sword belt
  • 2 tops (even though one was a FAIL)
  • finished a quilt (this was HUGE, literally and figuratively)
  • finished a hand-stitched pillow project (huge in a different way)
  • 1 backpack that I designed myself
  • 1 stuffed squid
  • 1 stuffed dinosaur
  • 2 pairs of baby shoes
  • and a few other small projects for around the house

20 new recipes, 19 of which were from the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook, and 1 from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook.

I took two cake decorating courses and made a lot of buttercream and royal icing!

I set up my craft room, and a small “creator space” within it for my kids to make art.

I also started teaching V to sew, and she has now sewed 2 small pillows.  I entered my blog post about her first sewing project into a contest, and it won the grand prize.  Seriously.   That’s another post.

I finished taking daily photographs and writing journaling cards for my son’s one-year album.  It’s not finished, but the main body of work is there in the albums.  I’d like to add in some special inserts in 2016.

I have pretty much kept up with my photos.  Each month, I cull, caption, select favorites, edit favorites, and share them with friends and family on Flickr.  I may not have them all finished by the end of the month, but the farthest behind I’ve been is just a month.  And right now, I’m almost finished with my December photos!

I got myself into shape.   Now I have to keep myself in shape.   I like love to eat, so it’s kind of hard 🙂

I planted a garden and harvested tomatoes and a TON of zucchini.  The cucumbers died, which was sad.

I wrote 86 blog posts, and stuck fairly close to my Monday+Thursday posting schedule.  I liked posting twice per week, but the system broke down a bit when I got swamped with PhD ornament orders.  I’m hoping that I can get back to a regular schedule this year, and maybe even keep it up the entire year!  Plus, I wrote my 1,000th post on this blog (and didn’t even realize it until after I’d posted it!).  Speaking of blog posts, I’ve got a lot to share– if you look closely at the list above, you’ll see that I definitely need to show you some more sewing projects!

Looking back at the list of things I’ve done, it looks like I did pretty well at meeting my 2015 goals.  Yay!

Thanks for reading this post.  I truly don’t post it to brag, but to boost my own confidence in myself.  I love to create.  I love to set goals and meet them.  But mostly, I love to create, because it makes me feel like me.

~ ~ ~

P.S. I should link all the projects in this post…. but I am more interested in getting this post published, so that might come later.  



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At our final class, we worked on piping letters, both printed and script….


At tonight's class (the last one), we worked on piping letters, both printed and script.

At tonight's class (the last one), we worked on piping letters, both printed and script.

At tonight's class (the last one), we worked on piping letters, both printed and script.

Boy do I wish I’d had this information before I attempted Husband’s birthday cake!  Remember, Natalie: lift the piping tip during the strokes–only touch it down at the beginning and the end.  Go slowly!  Use thin consistency frosting!

And last but not least, we made roses! Oh what fun!  I was so pleased with the way my first one turned out, and of course I took a lot of photos.  I will certainly be looking for excuses to put frosting roses on things, haha!


At the end of class, we decorated the cakes that we’d brought.  But I’m not going to show mine to you just yet!  😉 I used this time to work on my idea for my son’s first birthday cake–and so I will write a separate post about the cake(s) I made for our celebration of his one-year birthday!

~  ~  ~

Some musings on paying for a live, in-person class:

At first I wanted to take a class (any class) because I just wanted some truly “me” time away from the house and my responsibilities there. The Wilton class seemed like a good opportunity, because my friend and I had talked about taking a cake decorating class. However, I wasn’t sure how this particular class would be more worthwhile than say, watching YouTube videos.

I can say now that I am really happy that I took the live, in-person class for several reasons

  • Specific, directed content. Taught in a logical order, without me having to strain out extraneous information or spend (waste?) a lot of time looking for the exact tutorial that I needed for a particular technique.
  • Dedicated, hands-on time. The class is a reserved time where I “have” to practice. If I were just watching a video, I’m personally not necessarily self-motivated enough to attempt and practice all the techniques on my own, over and over again. Plus, in class, our instructor came around and showed us a technique up-close, or corrected our form when necessary,
  • Camaraderie. The other ladies in the class made it so much fun! I loved getting extra time with the friend I came with, and I felt like we all became friends with each other during the class. Obviously this would not have happened if I were working on my own!

I am really looking forward to taking more cake decorating classes in the future!

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Goals 2015

I love beginnings.

I love the freshness of a new year, a new month, a new week, a new day. At the beginning, the possibilities seem possible. At the beginning, I have a new start.

I also love setting goals (which anyone who has read the blog knows!). Goal setting naturally comes at the beginning, so at the beginning of a new year, I absolutely itch to set goals.

Right now, though, I am still trying to get a handle on my “new normal.” My days are still unpredictable enough that I have trouble making a to-do list for myself in the morning that I can actually finish by evening (sometimes it seems like everything is a stretch goal, haha!).

That isn’t stopping me from dreaming big about the new year! However, I’m trying to keep it in check. I am going to set some goals here, goals that I think are completely achieveable in the next 12 months–or less! I don’t want to stress myself out, so I am officially giving myself a year. I hope that I will be able to accomplish more than this, but these are the goals with top priority.

In 2015, I will:

  • Finish a quilt.
  • Set up my new craft room.
  • Get back to my pre-pregnancy fitness level (both in weight and “athletic endurance”).
  • Plant a garden (and manage it better than last year).
  • Finish my son’s Project 365 baby book.

Some are broad. Some are basic. They are all quantifiable, and I think attainable! I am still using my old methods to try to break tasks down into manageable sub-tasks.

Switching gears a bit (it’ll all connect in the end, you’ll see)… It was really interesting to read the year-end blogging report that WordPress compiled and sent. It was fascinating to learn that my most-viewed posts are ones from my very first year of blogging about my garden! All of my top five posts were from previous years. I’m not sure what this says about my blog now, but it’s nice to know that my old content is still relevant.

Another part of the report included this fantastic graphic showing my posting pattern throughout the year:


Note that it is showing the months “on their sides”–Sunday along the top row to Saturday along the bottom row.

I am proud of myself for how (fairly) consistent I was for the first half of the year. Mid-year, something happened! Haha. It’s pretty obvious that I took a bit of a blogging break.

Connecting this back to my 2015 goals: I would like to try to get back to a more regular posting pattern. I’m not going to commit to a schedule, but I’d like to try to post here once or twice per week.

To kick it off, I will be posting for the next few weeks about recipes and projects that I worked on or finished at the end of 2014. I’m excited to share, and excited for the projects to come!

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Happy New Year!


Happy New Year from our family!

 When I look back over 2014, I am astounded at how much we did and how much we changed.  I feel very blessed and excited for what is ahead in 2015.  May the LORD be with you in the coming year!

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I’m back!


July was a month full of new experiences and adventures as a family of four!

This month (August), I’ll be getting back into blogging more regularly (not sure how frequently yet, as we continue to adjust), and I thought I’d start by sharing that my pink ombre card was featured on the Paper Crafter’s Library blog in an article about the transparency trend!


I also have learned in the past couple weeks that I can’t stay away from crafting projects!  Even though my life seems extra full at the moment, I have still been sneaking in some craft time for myself– whether it is working on digital or physical projects.  These projects help keep me sane, and help me to feel like “Natalie” when my mommy role is extra strong at the moment!  I hope to be sharing some of the projects in the coming weeks.


P.S.  This is my 900th blog post!! Wow!

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