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Christy Catherine Marshall

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June 5, 2014

The Hatmaker's Heart

A few weeks ago, my daughter’s high school staged a production of Meredith Willson’s 1957 Broadway show, “The Music Man.” The story takes place in River City, Iowa, in the year 1912, so the costuming committee asked for volunteers to help make Edwardian hats for the women of the town. We showed up armed with glue guns, silk flowers, ribbon, tulle, feathers and an assortment of plain straw beach hats.

For several hours, we pretended to be milliners, designing and constructing hats that might have graced the heads of first-class passengers aboard the Titanic. I had more fun than I thought possible, despite burning my fingers with hot glue and needing lots of design help from my artistic teen daughter and other fellow milliners. When it was showtime, I was excited to see how a few hours of creative work helped transform a cast of modern teens into characters from a century ago.

So, when I heard about Carla Stewart’s latest novel, The Hatmaker’s Heart, I couldn’t wait to read it! I love books set during the Jazz Age, the roaring 20s, and this one promised to whisk me away to New York City, a welcome escape from the heat and humidity of summer in Georgia.

The story begins in 1922. Nell Marchwold has landed a job working in the Oscar Fields Millinery; she’s a rising star in the field of design, following her childhood dream of helping women realize their inner and outer beauty while wearing one of her handmade hats.

Nell’s life hasn’t been easy up until this point. The tragic death of her father in the Great War has forced her mother and younger sister to leave their beautiful estate in England and move across the Atlantic to live near relatives in the state of Kentucky. When Nell designs some hats worn by the fashionable elite at the Kentucky Derby, her talent is discovered by none other than Oscar Fields himself, and he invites her to New York to live with his niece and work as his junior apprentice.

But Oscar Fields is a difficult man to please. His constant criticism wears on Nell, yet she’s determined to learn and grow under his tutelage. When Nell’s unique designs begin to catch on, her boss holds her back from the limelight, claiming the stutter she’s had since childhood reflects poorly on his salon’s reputation.

An older, wealthy client recommends a therapist who can help Nell possibly overcome her speech impediment, and I found this part of the book interesting, as the doctor explores Nell’s past to gain understanding into why she stutters. In many ways, this reminded me of The King’s Speech, one of my favorite films, and we see how Nell’s therapy makes her even more determined as she overcomes personal obstacles.

There’s a steady source of tension between Nell and Oscar, as she’s offered the opportunity to partner with an up-and-coming clothing designer for his 1922 collection. Her boss constantly reminds her that her value comes only from him, and he owns all rights to her personal work.

Because Nell is British, publicity for her design work leads to an invitation from London to set up temporary shop overseas to possibly create hats for the upcoming royal wedding between Prince Albert, Duke of York, and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. I enjoyed reading this section of the book, which has Nell voyaging as a first-class steamship passenger, surrounded by high society and inspiration for her designs. She spends her afternoons aboard ship sketching ideas in her room. To me, she is like a novelist who spends time observing and writing, though her creations take shape not as books but as beautiful hats.

As time passes, we learn of Nell’s childhood friend, Quentin, with whom she has corresponded for years. Nell has many choices to make as far as what she wants to put first in her life: her career, her family on both sides of the Atlantic, her new and old friends, and Quentin. Through it all, she holds a Bible verse close to heart, handstitched by her grandmother: “Strength and honor are her clothing” (Proverbs 31:25).

Nell’s heart is being pulled in different directions, and she must decide what she’s willing to sacrifice for her dream, and what her dream truly is. The novel spirals deeper and deeper into Nell’s past secrets and her longings for the future. She reminded me so much of how I felt as a young 20-something, and I think this book will appeal to a wide range of readers. The Hatmaker’s Heart would be a fun selection for book clubs — the back contains a reading group guide, and it would lend itself easily to a roaring 20s themed party!

As I read each chapter, I loved envisioning Nell’s colorful Jazz-age fashions. I wondered if Zelda Fitzgerald would have frequented the Oscar Fields Millinery Shop, and I could even hear saxophone music in my head when Nell went out dancing with her flatmates. The author did a wonderful job researching so that I felt like I was there, ready to place my own order for a new hat.

Author Carla Stewart is hosting an amazing Jazzy Hatmaker’s Heart giveaway (see photo below) from her website. Not only can you win a copy of the book, she also has all sorts of goodies to share with you. Be sure to enter her contest by June 14!

Jazzy Hatmaker's Heart Giveaway

Meet the Author:

    Carla Stewart
    Carla Stewart is the award-winning author of five novels. With a passion for times gone by, it is her desire to take readers back to that warm, familiar place in their hearts called “home.” She and her husband live in Tulsa and have four adult sons and six grandchildren (with one on the way!). Learn more at

Disclosure: Thank you to Litfuse for sending me a complimentary review copy.

By: Heather Ivester in: Book Reviews,Christian Living,Crafty people and things,Faith | Permalink | Comments Off on The Hatmaker’s Heart, by Carla Stewart

May 13, 2013

ImageProxyServletWelcome to Pearl Girls™ Mother of Pearl Mother’s Day blog series—a nine-day celebration of moms and mothering. Each day will feature a new post by some of today’s best writers (Tricia Goyer, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, Beth Vogt, Lesli Westfall, and more). I hope you’ll join us each day for another unique perspective on Mother’s Day.
AND . . . do enter the contest for a chance to win a beautiful handcrafted pearl necklace and a JOYN India bag. Enter at the bottom of this post. The contest runs 5/4-5/13, and the winner will be announced on 5/14. Contest is only open to U.S. residents.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit, subscribe to our blog, and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Mother of Pearl: Luminous Lessons and Iridescent Faith to help support Pearl Girls™.

And to all you MOMS out there, Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother Ship by Melody Murray

Mother Ship (N.) – a ship that serves or carries one or more smaller ships.

Raising two boys in India is quite nice, really. We have monkeys, scooters, plenty of dirt, and mountains. The challenges are comical. I found very quickly on that if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. It’s been an excellent motto for our three years thus far, one I learned shortly after our arrival here in June of 2010.

We’d been in India for just three days when I had my first major meltdown. Our two boys, ages three and four, were sitting in big plastic buckets in our smelly bathroom, covered with mosquito bites, jetlagged as can be. I was frantically pouring cold water over them, trying to scrub off the India grime that had caked on their scrawny little bodies. I was having to hold them like puppy dogs so they wouldn’t scurry out from underneath the cold water. It was a far cry from the sweet, warm, bubbly, happy bath time we’d experienced together for the past four years in the States! Talk about culture shock. They were in shock. I was in shock. I’m sure the neighbors were in shock, too. I’m not sure my boys have ever seen me scream, cry, and stomp that much. Thank God it is just a memory now.

Somehow, by God’s grace, we’ve figured out life here. It looks much different than I had ever thought it would look, especially as a mother. We don’t go to the library, make elaborate crafts, play T-ball, shop at Target, sing in church choir, or take family bike rides. I have had to redefine my ideal upbringing for my children and have had to let go of many expectations. But I’ve managed to grasp hold of a new set of dreams.

My children are global kids. They have an incredible adventure every day. They see the “majority world” firsthand. I think they are some of the most privileged kids I know. I’ve stopped feeling sorry for myself that my kids don’t get to go to ballgames or have a huge tree house or wear cute clothes. Why focus on what I think they’ve lost, only to lose sight of what they’re gaining?


My attitude shift didn’t come easily. I can be quite stubborn. I clung to what I knew and what I thought was “normal” and “right,” as all of us moms do. I’d cry after phone conversations with friends back home who had their children signed up for karate, soccer, and swim lessons, with loads of choices for good schools, churches, and neighborhoods. I had nothing of the sort available for my kids, and I felt bitter and resentful.

But then I slowly began to change. Slowly, after months of getting over culture shock and cold baths, we began to love this place and the people we were with. We began to know them, understand them, become like them. Our community here became our family. Just this week, I’ve been sick with an awful kidney infection, and my living room has been full of my Tibetan, Nepali, and Indian friends, bringing me food, rubbing my feet, playing with my children, washing my dishes. I’ve never experienced community in this way before. My boys are loved so well by so many. And they are learning how to love back, even when it’s not easy.

My attitude shift didn’t come quickly, but when it happened, it took a 180°. I realized how wrong I’d been. These people I live with—their kids don’t have organized sports, church choirs, or fancy vacations either. Their kids aren’t signed up for after-school activities and aren’t becoming multi-skilled elementary school prodigies. Yet, in spite of this, they are content. Like none I’ve ever seen. They love each other. Like none I’ve ever seen. They have very little, yet they have so very much.
In the western world of comparisons and endless striving, I believe we sometimes lose touch of the things we actually care most about. I know most of us moms actually don’t care whether our children are the best at T-ball or whether their crafts look better than the next kid’s. But I think we all care deeply that our kids are loved, and that they know how to love. We all have a common dream that our kids will grow up to be world-changers, to strive for what is right, to love the unloved, to see the world in a different way. These are the deepest dreams of moms. So let’s not forget that the most important things we can give our kids are not the things we can buy them or sign them up for. One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is to give them sails, let them explore new things, meet new people, and learn to make lasting change in this world.

So join me this Mother’s Day. Let’s all be “mother ships,” leading our kids to new adventures, new beginnings, new relationships. Let’s serve and carry our little ones to places they can only dream of, whether it be making dinner for a neighbor, smiling at the homeless man in front of the grocery store, volunteering at a soup kitchen, or moving to India. Let’s take them with us and teach them how to sail.
“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” —Grace Murray Hopper


068In June 2010, an opportunity arose to work with a small needy community in the Himalayas, so David and Melody Murray and their two young boys packed their bags and moved to Rajpur, North India. Mel has grown JOYN, fulfilling her passion to connect artisans with western markets. They now have a diverse and growing team of Americans, Australians, Indians, Tibetans and Nepalis working together to create a community that strives to take care of each other and bring opportunity to as many as they can. Visit her website for more information.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

By: Heather Ivester in: Christian Living,Crafty people and things,Faith,Family,Motherhood,Parenting,Travel,Wellness | Permalink | Comments Off on DAY 9 – Mother Ship by Melody Murray

May 2, 2011

Welcome to Pearl Girls Mother of Pearl Mother’s Day blog series. The series is a week-long celebration of moms and mothering. Each day will feature a new post by some of today’s best writers (Tricia Goyer, Megan Alexander, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Beth Engelman, Holley Gerth, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, and more). I hope you’ll join us each day for another unique perspective on Mother’s Day.

AND … do enter the contest for a chance to win a beautiful hand-crafted pearl necklace. To enter, just {CLICK THIS LINK} and fill out the short form. Contest runs 5/1-5/8 and the winner will be chosen on 5/11. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls, please visit and see what we’re all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT Mother’s Day gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

And to all you MOMS out there! Happy Mother’s Day!

3 DIY Mother’s Day Gifts that Celebrate Family By Beth Engelman

This Mother’s Day, celebrate family with these crafty games the whole family can enjoy.  

Block Photo Puzzle
Not only does this 6-sided photo puzzle provide hours of family fun, but it’s also a great way to reuse favorite family photos.

•    9 – Wooden Blocks (Use old alphabet blocks)
•    6 – 8 x 10 Photograph Prints or Colored Copies
•    Ruler
•    Scissors
•    Mod Podge and Paintbrush

1.  Arrange blocks in a square and measure the length and width of the square.
2. Measure and cut print to the exact same size as the 9-block square.
3. Place blocks in a square on top of print. Position blocks so they’re lined up neatly and as close together as possible.
4. Trace and cut the outline of each block.
5. Glue print pieces to blocks using Mod Podge. Set aside to dry and then seal with 1-2 top layers of Mod Podge.
6. Repeat process until all 6 sides of the blocks are covered with different photographs.
Thank you to the creative folks at for sharing this idea!

 “Go Fish with the Family” Card Game

This gift is perfect for Moms who like card games. Another bonus?  There’s always room to “grow” the deck.

•    Camera
•    Double stick tape, or a glue stick
•    Several pieces of cardstock (one color)
•    Scissors

1.    Take pictures of each family member and develop the pictures in duplicates (3×5 or 4×6 is fine, just make sure all the pictures are the same size).
2.    Turn the pictures into playing cards by gluing or taping a piece of card-stock to the backside of each picture.
3.    Game ideas include “Go Fishing with the Family” which is similar to “Go Fish” but, instead of matching numbers, the object is to collect matching pairs of photos. “Memory” is another fun game to play.  Place the cards face down in a grid and try to find matching pairs of photos.

Family Bingo
In my house, Bingo is always a big hit because regardless of age or skill level, everyone has the same chance to win.  However this version is extra special because the playing boards are populated with pictures of family members.

•    Color Coordinated Game Boards (download here)
•    Images of Family Members (use photographs, drawings or clip art)
•    Bingo Markers (pennies, pebbles or buttons)
•    Glue and Scissors

1.    Create the game boards:  Download and print desired number of game-boards. Remember each player gets a different game board.
2.    Color-copy and paste images of family members onto each game board.  Remember to paste one person per square and make each board slightly different.
3.    Make “call-out cards” by writing the name of each family member in yellow, green, blue, purple and pink (which coordinates with the colors on the board)
4.    To Play: Game play is similar to traditional Bingo except the caller will randomly select a call-out card and then read the color and person.  For example, “Blue, Grandma Mary” means there is a picture of Grandma Mary in a blue square.  Just like Bingo, the first person to get 5 in a row (horizontally, vertically or diagonally) wins!

Beth Engelman is a columnist for the Sun Times News Group’s Pioneer Press. Her column “Mommy on a Shoestring,” appears in over 30 local papers around Chicago area as well as on the Sun-times website where you can also view her Mommy on a Shoestring video series. She is also a regular on “You and Me this Morning” on WCIU and is frequent contributor for WGN America’s Midday News at Noon.  Recently, Beth was chosen by a celebrity panel from NBC Universal and iVillage to become one of 15 national  “mom” correspondents for NBC’s popular website, (over 3 million visitors a day) where she reports on issues that affect moms, families and communities such as bullying, divorce and weight loss.  For more information visit Beth at

February 9, 2011

Valentine’s weekend is coming up, and if you’re like me, you’ve got multiple kids who need a million Valentines to pass out to classmates and teachers. Some years, we’ve done the Wal-Mart dash and scribbled names on store-bought Valentines. That works, and you can check it off your list.

But this year, my three crafty daughters are old enough to manage their own projects. So I’m planning to let them have at it, supplying them with colored paper, scissors, glue, and doo-dads galore. It will keep them busy for a few hours, and they’ll end up using their creativity in ways they can share with their friends.

Here’s an idea I LOVE sent to me by author and CHOCOLATE EXPERT, Beth Kimmerle. (Does she have a dream job or what?) To make these gorgeous Valentine Foil Roses, you get to use the foil saved from your chewing gum!

Thank you, Beth, for a great girly girl craft project! 😉

Beth advises, “Look for gum available in flavors with fun, floral colors. Just fold the foil into tulips or roses, secure to a stem pipe cleaner and voila, a unique floral arrangement that won’t wilt!”

*5 gum Wrappers
*Pipe Cleaners
*Craft glue

1. Cut Pipe cleaners into two pieces with sharp scissors.
2. Fold foil wrapper into half lengthwise and using pipe cleaner, pierce through folded section about ½” from end.
3. Wrap foil around pipe cleaner to create a “flower” and twist at bottom to secure. Use glue if necessary.
4. Using green foil, make “leaves”. Fold green foil twice lengthwise and wrap around bottom of flower. Twist foil to resemble leaves.
5. Repeat making flowers on end of pipe cleaners until your have a bouquet of 20 or so flowers.
6. Use a pipe cleaner and tie bunch around wrist to create a corsage or use one or two and pin on date for a funky boutonniere.

Beth Kimmerle, chocolate and candy expert and historian, served the confectionery industry as a writer and consultant. Ms. Kimmerle was the
director of the American Museum of Candy History and more recently has worked on chocolate museums in Sapporo, Japan and San Juan, Puerto Rico. She is the author of four books documenting the history of America’s confectionery industry. Beth has made appearances on the Food Network, History Channel, National Public Radio, NBC’s The Today Show and Martha Stewart Living. She has been a featured candy-making instructor and lecturer at The Ritz Carlton, Princeton University, and the New York Chocolate Show.

December 11, 2010

I’m going to be participating in the 12 Pearls of Christmas series over the next … you guessed it, 12 days! Be looking for a daily boost of inspiration as you read through these wonderful stories of how God worked in the author’s life. You can even enter a contest to win a beautiful string of pearls, bracelet, and earrings. (More on that tomorrow.)

And if I can get myself to the movie theater, I’m also hoping to see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which opened yesterday. If I see it, I’ll let you know what I think!


Did She Know?
by Anna Joujan

Mary, did you know . . . that your baby boy is Heaven’s perfect Lamb? 
And the sleeping child you’re holding is the great I AM

I am in the middle of a revival of my used-to-be-annual project of a Christmas card sketch.  For several years, with a few years missed, I have done a sketch of some image of Mary the Mother of Jesus, something that came to my mind without complete awareness of why that particular picture was needing to be put to paper.  It was originally a simple pencil sketch that, once completed, I would have printed out into a set of cards that would go out to all my friends and family.  Along with the sketch, however, I have always had a verse that came to mind to signify the meaning of the drawing in my mind.  And so I have had images such as “Be it unto me according to your word,” as well as a more enigmatic one that went with “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me . . .”  But each one was important for that year of my life.  And so I would spend the necessary costs in order to produce and mail in relatively large scales, for my general penny-pinching tendencies.

This year I did not expect to produce a card.  The fact of my life lately as a boarding school librarian/teacher in Zambia, Africa, has made such projects feel rather far-removed from the realm of possibility.
And yet, I have had an image in my head for several months now.  I started to put it to paper, and I abandoned it for a bit, figuring it was a bit frivolous with all the practical work I had to do.  But then I picked it up again, and it is now nearing the stage of completion, hopefully to be completed with printing and mailing once I arrive in the U.S. for a holiday visit with family.

What I realized is that, frivolous though it may seem, it is actually quite important.  For women [especially Western women of faith], the holidays carry with them great amounts of expectation and stresses.  So much so that we often get swallowed up with the hectic pace and forget to soak in the meaning.  What is important for each of us, I believe, is to “pick and choose.”  We must resist the pressure to do what doesn’t not bring meaning for us.  And we must cling to those traditions and activities that promote an aura of true, Christ-centered celebration for ourselves and for our loved ones.

So this year, Lord willing, I will be sending out my cards—and enjoying every bit of it; and in case you wondered, Mary did you know . . .?  will be the theme


About Anna:  Anna G. Joujan was born in South Dakota, as a Canadian citizen, and was raised in Zambia, the child of missionary teachers.  Since her family’s move to the U.S., Anna spent her childhood and early adulthood traveling throughout the world thanks to various educational and work opportunities . . . France, China, Peru, and Jamaica being some of the stops in her journeys. Her undergraduate degree in French Literature led to a Masters in Information Sciences, and to work as a college and high school librarian, and a cross country coach. She has also returned to Zambia multiple times to teach for individual families and for local schools. All the while continuing pursuing her passions of writing, artwork, photography . . . and card-production.  You can find her online at


A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year’s Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. One entry per person, per day. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog ( on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

December 9, 2010

I went to my first Cookie Swap yesterday. I don’t know why I’ve never been to one before. It was really fun and a great way to get together with other moms.

In case you’re not familiar with this tradition, every guest brings two dozen cookies, along with enough copies of your recipe to give everyone else. You place your plate of cookies on a table alongside your recipe. Then everyone goes around and collects two or three cookies, storing them in a container to take home.

The highlight of the morning for me, after visiting with everyone and sharing breakfast together, came when we all swapped “Cookie Stories.” I should have thought a little harder about what to bring because I didn’t have any exciting cookie story to share. I made those little Eagle Brand Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes, and my only story was that I’d gotten back late from a basketball game the night before so I had to make them in a hurry that morning and cool them in the freezer.

But other people shared some wonderful stories. One lady brought Chocolate Kahlua Balls that were from a recipe passed down from her best friend’s mother. Her best friend made them every year until she died a few years ago from cancer. Now they’ve become a tradition as a way of celebrating and remembering their friendship.

Other people shared tips and secrets behind favorite family recipes — or the occasional funny story about how they had a stressful morning that led to a stop by the bakery on the way to the party. One young mother with a baby on her hip confessed that she just wanted to come to be around everybody but didn’t have time to make anything. That was perfectly all right! I’m so glad she was there.

I discovered my favorite cookie wasn’t even a cookie at all. It’s called a Cake Pop. My friend, Leigh, brought these, and they were adorable. They’re made using a cake mix and cream cheese icing. You’ve probably heard of them because, apparently, there’s a whole fan world devoted to Cake Pops.

Leigh said her children helped her put sprinkles on the Cake Pops in the morning before they rushed out the door for school — so I’m most impressed. She wrapped them in cellophane and tied them with red and green curly ribbon, all before 9:30 am.

There seems to be a million variations of these Cake Pops, so I’m going to have to try them. They’re creamy inside, instead of dry, like some cakes taste. Plus it seems like something fun for kids to make — kind of like rolling up balls of play-dough. I think it would be a fun craft idea for a kid’s party — then the guests can take home their creations as party favors.

I found a wonderful video with baker Elizabeth LaBau from About.Com that offers a step-by-step tutorial on how to make Chocolate Cake Pops. (Thank you, Elizabeth! You make it look so easy!)

For me, the Cookie Swap didn’t end when the party was over. It ended that afternoon when I opened up my container of 30+ cookies (and Cake Pops!) to share with my children for an after-school snack.

While they ate, I had a ready audience to share all of my new Cookie Swap stories.

March 4, 2008

A few weeks ago, I wrote that my one goal for this new year is to bring more beauty into my world. I think my soul is truly starving for beauty. Even though I’m surrounded by God’s creation, I haven’t been actively pursuing it as a way of life.

Since writing that goal here, I’ve somehow found the courage to do something I’ve always wanted to do, but been afraid. I’ve signed up for a beginner watercolor painting class for adults!

We met for the first time last week, and I had so much fun. It was all I could do to keep my mouth shut and stop interviewing the teacher and other students! They’re people like me, stepping out to try something new, something scary. Yet even our teacher admitted that she began painting in her adult years, as a way to work through a period of grief in her life.

I remember many years ago, my mom came to visit me while I was teaching in Japan, and we spent a wonderful day hiking on the island of Miyajima, off the coast of Hiroshima. It was a gorgeous April day, and the pink cherry blossoms were in full bloom, looking like puffs of cotton candy dotted throughout the island. As we sat down on a bench near a temple, we noticed a lady dabbing watercolors onto small, postcard-size art paper.

When we remarked on the beauty of her paintings, she smiled and said, “I give them to you.” And she did! She gave us several of her lovely scenes, which I’ve always treasured. The red of the temple, pink of the cherry blossoms, and blue of the sea are now forever etched in my memory.

Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed by the beauty of white church steeples set against the pine trees and sunsets. Our yellow jonquils are blooming like mad all over our front yard. Yesterday, I was driving my kids to school and I almost had to pull off the road when I saw several rows of yellow jonquils set against the backdrop of a bright red barn. The scene was so gorgeous I could hardly breathe!

I’m not really sure what I hope to accomplish in taking this painting class. (Mainly, it’s just an opportunity to give myself a break from housework!) Yet, already I’m finding myself more aware of color, of details and shadows. Maybe this will someday work its way into my writing.

An artist looks for a story to paint with color; a writer looks for a story to paint with words.

May 10, 2007

Our last guest of this blogging season is Tasra Dawson, an award-winning scrapbook artist, personal discovery coach, and author of Real Women Scrap.

I recently reviewed Tasra’s book for Christian Women Online and loved it. It’s one of the most INSPIRING books I’ve read all year. You cannot read her book without feeling rejunvenated!

Tasra Dawson is a mother of two who loves showing women how to use key elements in scrapbooking to create the lives and layouts they’ve always wanted. She’s also the founder of Real Women Scrap TV. An avid reader, runner, and scrapbooker, Tasra lives with her husband and two children in northern California.

Hi Tasra. We’re thrilled to have you share your insights with us here at Mom 2 Mom! Why do you think scrapbooking is a good activity for moms to get involved in?

Scrapbooking is so much more than pasting photos on paper and adding a few stickers to dress it up. It’s more than being crafty; it’s about tapping into our creativity … creativity that is often dormant and undiscovered in many women, wives, and moms.

Too often we spend our days on the mundane tasks of living, the ordinary, rather than the extraordinary. Scrapbooking opens up the door to taking the plain and making it something to talk about and remember.

In a recent blog post, I answered this question with three specific reasons. Here they are:

1. Preserving Memories: I don’t know about you, but my memory isn’t what it used to be. If I’ve scrapbooked the photos and memories, I can go back and relive the moments.

2. Creative Outlet: Having a creative outlet is a source of retreat for many busy moms. They can relax, yet feel productive and have a sense of accomplishment with the pages they complete.

3. Building Relationships: Scrapbooking allows us to reconnect with family members and show them how much we love them. After a tough day with our kids, sometimes scrapbooking is the one thing that reminds us of why we choose to go to work or stay at home. It can boost self-esteem, and they can read and look at their book and realize that things aren’t so bad.

Do you have any suggestions of easy ways for moms to get back into scrapbooking if we’re … um … say, a few years behind?

Of course I do. The first thing you need to do is watch the Real Women Scrap TV episode about organizing your photos. Getting those photos organized is the first step and doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

The Real Women Scrap TV episode walks you through the process and recommends the best and easiest products to use to make it happen. You can view it online for free here.

Once you have your photos organized, you can breathe a sigh of relief and start with a simple project. Maybe it’s a small album or an ABC book that will help you get started and back in the creative groove.

The key is to enjoy the process and the product, and not allow this to be one more area that guilt takes over and robs you of the joy that scrapbooking is meant to be.

What are the long-term benefits of preserving our family’s memories through scrapboooking?

So much of motherhood involves things that are recurring: laundry, dishes, wiping noses, changing diapers. Scrapbooking and finishing a layout or scrapbook provides a sense of accomplishment because it’s something we can finish and know that we are leaving a legacy for future generations.

Most women are overcommitted and overwhelmed. We’ll never “find” time to do things that are important to us; we have to make choices about living intentionally and planning our lives so that we can do the things that fill us up in order to continue giving to those we love.

Do you know any mothers who scrapbook with their children? How do they help make this happen?

Keep it simple.

I think it’s important for mother and child to each have their own projects and let their own creative energy go to work. One thing I find is that I have to let my daughter be who she is and that means letting the paper be a little crooked or the pages be a little too busy for my taste.

But the point of scrapbooking is that it’s your personal mark or unique fingerprint on an event or person. So, my suggestion for moms is to create the space, time, and opportunity and then create together but separately.

How can we apply the techniques we learn in scrapbooking toward creating a richer, more fuller life? Can you tell us some of your personal story of what led you into writing your book?

There is an uncanny connection between scrapbooking and life, and it surprised me when I discovered it. I never would have recognized the similarity unless I had finally slowed down long enough to hear God’s whispers from the scrapbook page.

The first chapter of Real Women Scrap talks about how my life had spiraled out of control and I finally ended up in the hospital with doctor’s orders to rest for two weeks. It was during that two weeks that I let myself relax and get creative again.

Those moments of rest and silence taught me about boundaries, simplicity, focus, and comparison. As I looked more closely at my scrapbook pages and projects, I realized that the answers had been before me the entire time; I just hadn’t seen them. Each chapter in my book is a different life lesson that we can all learn from the page.

What kinds of things do you have going on over at your blog?

This month is National Photo Month, so I’m going to continue giving tips and ideas for how to improve, organize, and embellish our photos.

I’ll even be talking about the importance of keeping yourself in the picture. We’ve always got contests, challenges, tips, ideas, and inspiration, not to mention the weekly episodes of Real Women Scrap TV.

It’s fun, practical, and full of great resources. We’d love to have you join us!

Thank you so much for stopping in here, Tasra! I’m inspired to start organizing my photos and working on some simple scrapbooks this summer. You’re an encouragement to us all!

You can learn more about Tasra Dawson’s scrapbooking enthusiasm at her website, Real Women Scrap, as well as her blog, Lessons from the Scrapbook Page.

May 9, 2007

Well, I’ve gotten behind on all things bloggy, so I missed reading about Shannon’s Works-for-Me-Wednesday Birthday Edition, which was … um … last Wednesday. But since she still has her Mr. Linky up, I’ll send my tip in late.

With five children, we host a LOT of birthday parties around here. I really love entertaining kids, yet I’m not a Martha Stewart, and we don’t have a big budget for these things. What I enjoy most is getting to know the mothers of my kids’ friends. And a birthday party is an easy excuse to get people together.

The best kind of party for me is a laid-back affair where the kids run around and play outside and the parents sit around talking. I’ve discovered the easiest time to host a birthday party — for our family, at least — is on a weekday.

When my oldest children were toddlers, I usually liked a weekday party from 11 to 1. Since all of my close friends at the time were fellow SAHMs, it was pretty much like a play group, except I provided PB&J sandwiches and cake. The moms talked, the kids played. Then everybody went home and took naps. Easy.

As my kids have gotten older, we’ve opted for the 4 to 5:30 pm time slot, preferably on a Friday. That way, some of the moms who work can still attend if they can get off early. Moms with school-age kids can pick up their kids at school, swing by Wal-Mart and stuff something into a gift bag (don’t you do that?), then come over.

The reason why I like weekday parties is that there’s so much more hype and expense involved with big weekend bashes. This also leads to more stress for me — because I feel like people expect more on the weekend. Plus, I’m interrupting their Saturday afternoon plans.

Some years, I haven’t felt like hosting at my house, so we’ve had them at parks with a playground. Most of the parks have a covered pavilion, in case of rain.

For my son who has a July birthday, we’ve done a few evening cookouts, when the sun has gone down a bit. I guess our favorite one so far was a pirate party, where my husband led the kids down to the creek to search for “hidden treasure.” (We hid a cooler full of party favors and let them “follow the map” to find it.)

Yesterday, we worked on making invitations for my daughter’s 7th birthday. She asked if she could invite her whole first grade class over, including her teacher. OK. She only has 13 in her class, so I can handle this. We were going to do a tea party, but since the boys are coming too, we’ll just do a “backyard fun” party. Swingset, sandbox, frisbees, nerf footballs … maybe I’ll invest in some bubbles. And that’s it.

I really love birthday parties. Some parents have the budgets to go all out and invite entertainment and do the whole nine yards, but we keep things simple. I also prefer to invite the whole family; that way I get to know the siblings, and I can see who has kids the same age as mine. (Older siblings are great help for organizing games!)

There is really only a small window of time when your kids will want to do these kinds of parties. I remember growing up, that as I got older, I wanted to invite only a couple of friends and maybe go out to eat instead of having a party.

When we homeschooled, we often squeezed in a lunchtime birthday party, then the moms could go back home and finish the schoolday. Now I try to work around traditional school hours.

My kids get so excited about making the invitations and stuffing goody bags (though at times, we’ve just handed out bubbles or balls for party favors). This summer, we’re hoping it will work out to host a rocket-themed party, and we’ll let the kids make rockets and shoot them off in our backyard.

I’ve also learned it’s best to go ahead and buy thank-you notes along with the invitations — and get them done AS SOON AS POSSIBLE after the party. I confess, some years are just crazier than others, and we haven’t always gotten thank-you notes written, but we do try.

This works for us!

May 3, 2007

I saw this link from Sallie and couldn’t believe it. I’ve never seen anything like this.

Honestly, I don’t like it at all. There are so many people in the world who would love to read a book — and seeing people cut up books as “art” bothers me.

Plus — what do you DO with these weird papery creations? They’ll just gather dust. I know what FlyLady would say!

What do you think? I’m curious — do these people cut up books as a hobby, or is this a job? Who has time to do things like this? I’d rather read a book than cut one up as art — but that’s just me.