Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Strawberry Jude HandGrown Stamp Set Review & Giveaway

When I first started my Etsy shop years ago, I met fellow seller Jewel Charsley of Strawberry Jude HandGrown. She made a gorgeous painting inspired by my shop name and designed graphics for my shop for web and print use. She is a very talented artist!

Jewel recently released a cling stamp line in her shop. She decided to fill a need she noticed in stamping designs and came up with these three unique sets so far:

"Joy to the World" (Christmas)

"Don't Forget Church" (church planner)

"Note It: Conference" (LDS general conference)

I received the Conference set to review.

*I love the words and symbols she chose to represent the theme.
*The set came with directions, which I appreciated since it was my first time using cling stamps.
*The stamps come out clear, clean off easily, and maintain their stickiness.
*The set is packaged nicely and shipped Priority Mail to ensure it reaches you quickly and safely.
*The stamps are versatile and not limited to their theme.
*Jewel is a pleasure to do custom orders with. She is very accommodating and patient.


One of you lucky readers will get to win a stamp set of your choice! This giveaway is open to the U.S. only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 2, 2015

Little Victoria Design Jewelry Review

A few months ago, I featured the Etsy shop Little Victoria Design. The seller, Carol, sent me some jewelry as a thank you. I meant to review it shortly thereafter, but it never happened. Well, what she sent me worked great for Halloween, so I wore it a lot last month!

I received the above necklace with a matching bracelet, as well as two wide elastic hair ties/bracelets, one neon orange and the other baby pink. I wore the set with my "Nothing scary 'bout the Holy Ghost" shirt from The Covenant Gear.

*Carol is so sweet and generous! You can tell she puts a lot of thought and love into her pieces.
*The style is simple and classic.
*The jewelry is comfortable to wear. I usually avoid bracelets because I have a small wrist, but this one didn't bother me.
*I like that the hair ties double as bracelets. So much cuter than wearing a regular elastic band!

*Not a huge fan of bright/neon colors, but there lots of other lovely colors in her shop.

Check out Little Victoria Design for more darling and unique pieces!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

"Papa's Book of Mormon Christmas" Book Review

Are you looking for a new addition to your collection of children's or family Christmas books? If you are, then you will love Papa's Book of Mormon Christmas by Emma Rae Parker. It's about a loving grandpa sharing with his little granddaughter his special appreciation for and connection to the Book of Mormon, especially during certain Christmases in his life.

*The story is very cute and touching, and the characters are charming.
*The illustrations are colorful and adorable.
*It's an easy read and just the right length for both young and older children.
*It balances the secular and spiritual sides of Christmas.

*When I first read it, I thought it was based on a true story. I was disappointed to find out it was fictional. It's still a beautiful story, though, that brings the Spirit and focuses on the amazing gift the Book of Mormon is to us.

I recommend making this book a part of your holiday traditions! (Note: I didn't read the story yet to my kids, ages 5 and 2, because I want to save it for Christmas, but I know they'll love it.)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

"From Baptist Preacher to Mormon Teacher" Book Review

If you don't know me, I love to hear people's stories: where they came from, how they met their significant others, what their talents and hobbies are and where they learned them, etc. As a Mormon, one of my favorite stories to listen to is people's conversion stories: where they first heard the gospel, what touched their spirits and made them want to learn more, what was difficult for them to accept, etc. Therefore, I was excited to review From Baptist Preacher to Mormon Teacher by Wain Myers (with Kelly Martinez). Brother Myers candidly and humorously shares his journey to becoming a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and progressing in the gospel.

*Brother Myers is honest and real. You can feel his personality through the book so it seems that if you met him, you wouldn't consider him a stranger but a friend.
*The book is very engaging and easy to read. Sometimes it read like a novel and sometimes like a compelling church talk (which he says he practices all the time, so maybe that's why it showed in his writing, too!).
*I learned some things about the Church and gospel that I didn't know before. I won't tell you what they were, though--you have to read the book yourself!

*The last quarter felt a little disjointed to me, bouncing from topic to topic and reading more like a sermon than a story line (I guess his preaching days haven't fully left him, lol). I would've liked it organized differently.

If you enjoy a fresh and funny story about a real person and their spiritual journey, I recommend you read this book!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

For Keshia: My Latest Articles

Keshia, you asked that I share the articles I write, so here are the ones that have been published since my original blog post. I am now a regular contributor to these three sites: Skirt Collective, a liberal feminist site (though that one unfortunately has stopped paying); Well Cultured, a men's online magazine; and Baby Gaga, a pregnancy and baby site. Enjoy reading them and thank you for caring!

5 Myths About Female Modesty (this one got a TON of exposure!)

How Not to Teach Modesty to Young Women (my LDS version of the previous article)

How Lammily and Others Are Breaking the Period Taboo

When You Should Act Like a Gentleman

Belts: The One Accessory Every Guy Should Have and How to Wear It

Words You Don't Want to Get Wrong at Work

Messenger Bag or Briefcase?

7 Bodily Fluids You Deal With During Pregnancy

Friday, September 25, 2015

Caden's First Weeks of School

Caden became a kindergartner this school year! I was worried about a few things; namely, the long school day, going potty at school, and his sensitivity causing him to cry often. On the first day, Caden woke up excited and ready to go.

We all walked him to school. Gabe was mad he couldn't stay, too. When I picked Caden up afterward, I could tell he loved it!

On the second day, he told me not to pack him a sandwich, and I haven't since then. He survives on just snacks, which surprised me, because at home he is always hungry. I'm not complaining though--it means less money spent on bread! When it was time to get him, it was raining hard. It settled down but then picked up again on our way home. It made me reconsider my decision to skip the bus. I chose not to use it because Caden wouldn't get home until an hour after school is over and he gets car sick.

The third day was Welcome Night, and Caden showed us around his classroom.

The fourth day ended the first week of school. Caden did very well behaviorally and academically, no surprise. He's made new friends, particularly the next-door-neighbor girl who's in his class. He loves all the specials (library, gym, music, and art). Each day he tells me who got in trouble or cried, who he played with or sat next to, who had classroom jobs, and what they did and learned.

I called the transportation office the next morning to clarify the bus situation. Turns out I can use it whenever I like. Caden was very excited to hear that he would finally be able to go on the bus the following Monday! He takes it every morning to school, and then I pick him up in the afternoon. I haven't decided what to do yet come winter.

As for all my worries, Caden has adjusted amazingly to the long school day, as have Gabe and I. Gabe is actually much calmer and more manageable with Caden gone, although Gabe is usually the instigator of trouble. We now have one-on-one bonding time, and I can get more done while he naps since Caden isn't home to interrupt me.

Caden didn't use the potty at school the first week. I thought it was because he didn't want to wipe himself, but turns out he was afraid the flush would be loud. He's gone pee a couple times since, but saves the rest for once at home. However, he does all the wiping himself now. He's cried a couple times at school, twice when physically hurt and once because the fire drill alarm scared him (he hates loud noises). Each time he recovered quickly, he said.

Yesterday he got his first yellow, which is the first warning for misbehavior. Previously, he had all "green/green" days. I asked him if he cried for getting in trouble. He said no. In fact, he was smirking while telling me. Apparently, he still thinks what happened was funny (a certain boy in his class who seems to have taken on the role of class clown has not been a good influence on him, lol). He lost his after-school TV time and that was that.

Overall, Caden enjoys school very much. He still gets excited to go every day and is bummed he can't go on the weekends too. The bus ride has still retained its novelty. It's so cute seeing his bright smile as he waves goodbye to us from his window. I love my little kindergartner!

Friday, September 18, 2015

"Understanding Your Endowment" Book Review

For those of you who are LDS, have you ever left the temple feeling the Spirit yet also confused about certain aspects of the ceremony? I'd be lying if I said I haven't. Whether or not you have felt that way, I highly recommend you read the book Understanding Your Endowment by Cory B. Jensen. As described on the publisher's blog:
For many members of the Church, the temple endowment remains something of a mystery. Yet when understood, the temple can function in our lives as a modern day Liahona, giving us our bearings in our mortal journey back to our Father. Understanding Your Endowment is packed with insights and keys, which can help you unlock the temple’s purpose and meaning in your life. It will help you understand the blessings the Lord offers His children through His temples and will enrich your personal temple worship.
Understanding Your Endowment examines topics such as covenant ceremonies, the initiatory ordinances, the endowment, and temple sealings in a manner that is plain and easy to understand while still respecting their sacred and confidential nature. Whether you are preparing to enter the temple for the first time or already attend regularly, your temple worship will be enhanced by reading this book.
*It definitely increased my desire to return to the temple often and put more effort into letting the Spirit teach me the deeper meanings behind the symbolism and their applications in my life.
*It discusses temple covenants and ordinances thoroughly and helpfully without divulging sacred information.
*I appreciated Brother Jensen's frequent reminders that symbolic interpretations aren't limited and are very personal and we should discard anything he says that isn't helpful to us. He doesn't pretend to know all the answers or assert that only his views are correct.

*Although it can be read by members preparing to enter the temple for the first time, it is best for those who have been at least once so they can follow the discussion. However, there are still sections that members should read beforehand to help them have a better experience.
*The background on covenants made me glad I did not live before Christ's Atonement ended the need for sacrifices and other gruesome rituals! It did explain a lot of modern practices, though.

I think all members should read and apply this book and use it to teach others preparing for the temple so they can have more meaningful first-time experiences and learn how to make the most of future visits. For a more spiritual review, go to my Mormon Light blog.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Caden Is Five!

10 days old

I remember thinking when Caden was born, "Before I know it, he will be five years old and going to kindergarten!" That time has finally arrived. Caden turned five last week and will be starting school next week.

Park trip on his birthday

Caden is quite the character. He just keeps getting better with age; maybe that's why he's so cheesy (bad joke, I know).  He has the most creative imagination. He loves to play pretend and turn everyday objects into props. This boy is definitely my son! He also enjoys being outside, whether it's playing at the park, picking up sticks on a walk, or riding his bike.

His current favorites:
  • Movie: How to Train Your Dragon 1&2
  • TV show: Curious George
  • Music: How to Train Your Dragon 2 soundtrack; before that, it was big band swing and upbeat classical music
  • Book: changes every week
  • Color: blue
  • Food: spaghetti and meatballs or lemon chicken and "spaghetti rice" (rice pilaf)
  • Drink: apple juice
  • Toy: cars and stuffed animals (Although he doesn't sleep with Elmo every night anymore, he still calls Elmo his baby and wants him whenever he's upset.)
  • Friend: "all my friends love me!" was his answer, lol. 
Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon

Toothless the dragon (notice Elmo has a costume too, lol)
Hiccup's wings from How to Train Your Dragon 2

Some funny things he still says are packpack, repartment, and tomato for potato (but never the vice versa). He finally figured out how to say spaghetti correctly. He still pronounces his r's as w's but no longer confuses y and l. He can read basic words and write pretty well. He's still obsessed with poop, farts, and bums, and he's going through an annoying copycat phase.

I love my Caden so much. He is so silly and sweet and smart and sensitive. I try my best to nurture his spirit so he grows confident in himself. I see many of my weaknesses in him and I want him to overcome them so he doesn't continue to suffer from them as an adult as I do. I can't wait to see how he continues to progress! 

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Boys' Combined Birthday Party

This year we did a combined birthday party for the boys, the last year we can probably do so. It was Cars themed but simple and laid back. We had it at the park so the kids could run around (and I wouldn't have to clean my house before or after).

I painted the kids' faces as we waited for everyone to arrive and had Cars pages for the kids to color. We had pizza and snacks for lunch.

Instead of spending more money on Cars-themed cups, I printed out a Cars picture with each child's name and taped it to a plain cup.

After lunch we did a water balloon toss that turned into a fight and then everyone ganging up on Justin. It was awesome.

Next was cake and ice cream. Again, instead of spending extra money ordering a cake or making my own from scratch (I didn't have the time, either), I found a chocolate cake at the store and replaced its butterfly decorations with my own Cars ones.

Unfortunately, the wind prevented the boys from being able to blow out the candles.

Presents followed, and the boys were thoroughly spoiled with lots of thoughtful gifts.

Bubble bath so no more soap fiascos! Also, Gabe would not let go of that last water balloon, lol.

Everyone got a Cars favor box before leaving; we ran out of time for balloon animals.

My boys had a great time, and I hope everyone else did, too. I may not put much effort in decorations and such, but I always try to make parties enjoyable and fun for my guests, particularly the kids.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Featured Seller: June from Threshold Paper Art

This week's featured seller is June from Threshold Paper Art.

I was born in Scotland and immigrated to Canada while very young. Interior design was my main occupation. I have a passion for all that is unique and handmade. I have always been on a quest for beauty doing whatever possible to enhance my surroundings and those of my clients. My love of interior design and craft was born. My craft repertoire included batik, decoupage, faux painting interiors, and mosaics. I was dubbed the glue gun queen by my friends.

Ever since my daughter brought home colorful notices home from school, I have been recycling them into homemade paper to produce unique cards. After several years of card making, the themes I was drawn to exploring required a larger format. I recycle paper and other organic material and transform it into art. I cast, embed, and collage the paper with a variety of materials such as metal, found objects, thread, mica, and text to create dimensional imagery. Hand-spun art fibers add a rich textural component to some pieces.

My design sensibility embraces both the old and the new. I explore themes of antiquity and faith, including biblical symbolism. Antiquity is created both by the rich textural properties of the paper and the symbols of the past.

The recurring theme in my art is transformation. Even the paper I make goes through the process of being destroyed in its original plant form, only to be transformed into a work of art. Inspiration is drawn from many sources including nature, ancient times, instrumental music, as well as contemporary design. The transcendent aspect of nature has a strong impact on my work. Much time is spent contemplating the majesty of nature. My sincere desire is to inspire and uplift others.

Check out Threshold Paper Art for more unique artwork. You can also follow the shop on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Gabe the Babe Is Two!

Taking a walk on his birthday.

Gabriel turned two last week. Weaned and already potty training, he is no longer a baby, nor looks it. His vocabulary has increased much the past few months, and especially the last few weeks, though his pronunciation is still adorably atrocious. For example:
  • Any word that ends in p he adds an f to, like cupf.
  • Share and sure sound the same.
  • Duts is nuts, sis is light, oh is hole, dutch is bread/lunch/bridge/truck, dirch is church, bff is balloon, bb bb is booboo, goodgy/goody is cookie, dye is bye, siohwy is silly, and ahk is rock and sidewalk.
  • Da is still ball. I try to get him to say it right by coaxing, "B, b, ball." He repeats, "B, b, dah!" Reminds me of the time I tried teaching Caden how to say book.
  • He makes a growling sound for broccoli. I still haven't figured that one out. 
  • All letters of the alphabet are G.
Some of his favorite words that he can say correctly include car, corn, dirt, go, golf, gone, guy, hi, home, off, on, pop, salsa, sauce, see, some, sorry, stop, turn, wall, whoa, whoo whoo (train sound), yay, yeah. He says oi for anything he thinks is gross (Daddy taught him that) and fans the air when someone stinks. He still calls all monkeys George, and now all snowmen are Olaf (aff). He makes the cutest monkey and penguin impressions.

Taking a ride on his friend's scooter

He likes to read books, draw, and play with cars, in the bathtub, and outside. He enjoys digging in the dirt and stepping on bugs. His favorite show is Curious George and he also likes the Signing Time videos. Sometimes he stomps around the house and roars like a dinosaur. He knows how to give kisses correctly and will say sorry and kiss you if he hurts you. He loves fruit, some frozen vegetables, raw mushrooms just as Caden does (and me too), pasta, nuts, and cereal.

Pretending to be No Noggin from the Halloween Curious George movie

He still loves to snuggle and be worn in the baby carrier. He sleeps with a blanket and stuffed animal (or five). He transitioned to the toddler bed about three weeks ago. He sucks his two fingers all the time. He was using a pacifier during the weaning process, but when I found it after it was lost recently, I threw it out.

A dirty diaper is a rarity. He goes on the potty and thinks it's fun to wipe (he just scrunches the toilet paper and taps his bottom, and repeats this several times) and flush the toilet. Then he claps and says "yay" afterward.

He is very silly and stubborn and loud. He screams when he doesn't get what he wants but knows how to calm down when I ask him to. That was an accident, actually. He learned that from watching me teach Caden.

11 days old

I can't believe how big he is now. His first year of life seemed to go by so quickly, but his second did not, so it's harder this time to accept the fact that he's growing up and not a baby anymore. I love my little Gabe so much, even though he drives me crazy most of the time!
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