Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Single Girl's Guide to Project Life

Photos are a big deal in my family. Growing up, the walls of our home had hundreds of frames with family snapshots, from backyard candids by the pool to perfectly styled portrait sessions. But really, I wore a red plaid riding habit once. I will never forget watching my friends roam the halls of each house we lived in, marveling at the number of pictures and always noting how I looked the same at four, fourteen, and now almost twenty-four. 

It wasn't until middle school that I discovered a way to artfully collect moments and memories in not just photo albums but in scrapbooks. It was love at first sight. 

I hoarded stickers, die cuts, scissors, photo corners, and glitter and made friends with the sweet little old ladies that ran the local scrapbooking shop. They held crop and craft nights to which I was a regular attender (with my fancy scrapbooking suitcase), and the shop pets, two Westies named Bella and Scraps, made their home beneath my feet whenever I stopped by.

Stamps (Target), Washi tape (TJMaxx), Cards + Albums + Banners (Studio Calico)

The scrapbooking continued into high school, documenting dances and dates, my bouncing baby brother (who was only 6 when I left for college, sweet thing!)and everything in-between. But somewhere in undergrad the hobby fell to the wayside. My schedule could no longer maintain this side-gig while also allowing time for homework and rehearsal. Therefore I pushed the pause button until after graduation. Once I had donned my cap and gown, crossed that stage, and moved across the country, it was then that I discovered Project Life

Project Life is scrapbooking made easy. It uses pocket pages with cards of varying sizes that can be inserted on their own or embellished to your heart's desire. I have been using Project Life for over a year now and I don't see quitting any time soon!

At first I was overwhelmed and almost deterred by what I found when I went on the hunt for inspiration (see my Pinterest). Everyone was documenting play dates and date nights, five children and fur children, and I began to wonder, Do I have anything really worth documenting? I'm not married, I don't have toddlers or terriers, and most of my photos consist of food, flowers, and random finds. Why would I even try this? 

Well, insert my favorite phrase and current motto here: SAVOR YOUR SEASON. Simply because I'm single doesn't mean life is on pause. There is plenty to celebrate, and documenting it in a creative way cultivates excitement over the every day and contentment in your current circumstances. So what if it consists of selfies and shots of my journal? 

This is what my life looks like and it is worth celebrating!

Organizing Tray (Simplicity), Polkadot Binders (Target), Desk + Hutch (Pottery Barn)

After a year of using this system, I have learned a few lessons I thought I'd send your way. I call these: 

The Single Girl's Guide to Project Life

1. Find what works for you. There are so many different ways to get started with Project Life. The albums come in all shapes and sizes, spreads (the combination of side-by-side pages) can be organized by week or month, standing alone or coordinating, and you can find PL kits in all sorts of themes and colors.

I bought one of the original sizes, a 12x12 album, and stocked up on pocket pages, but I did not make a single spread. It was too large, too much to handle, and not practical for my season. My 2014 albums are in the small 6x8 albums from Michael's which I LOVED! This year they debuted a 9x12 that is really starting to grow on me. Maybe someday I'll be consistent ;)

2. Don't break the bank. You don't have to spend hundreds of dollars to start your storytelling with Project Life. Make use of coupon apps for Hobby Lobby and Michael's to gather the basics/higher priced items. They almost always have a 40% coupon available that can cut an album down from $20 to just over $10 with ease. Also, the Target dollar section is your friend. It is my go to for small storage containers.

I would also recommend considering a monthly subscription. I found that $20 a month for a carefully curated kit from Studio Calico or A Beautiful Mess kept me from wandering the aisles and spending wayyy too much at a craft store when I knew I had goodies coming in the mail. The kits are usually themed, season appropriate, and color coordinate quite nicely. I also use the boxes from previous kits for storage of mementos, pages in progress, and embellishments.

Project Life Cards (Studio Calico + Hobby Lobby)

3. "The best camera is the one you have with you." I first heard this from Ashley Ann's photography classes and I have found it is SO TRUE! I have a fancy (aka bulky) Canon Rebel which takes great pictures, but my iPhone is always on me. Even when traveling abroad I took my DSLR in hopes of capturing the great views but it was more cumbersome than convenient. For documenting my day to day, I stick to my phone and it has made such a difference! I take so many more photos than what I share on Instagram or Facebook, and into my album they go.

There are dozens of apps out there that can edit your photos while on your phone without the need for the more expensive Photoshop. My favorites include Pic-Tap-Go, VSCOcam, and Afterglow. I use PicStitch and the Canon iEPP apps to print my photos straight from my phone to my Selphy photo printer. The quality is somewhat lacking and the resizing isn't perfect, but it suits my needs and this season. If I'm patient, I'll wait for the e-mail from Shutterfly to come in offering 101 free prints. In fact, that's how I printed all of my photos for my 2014 albums and it only cost me a few bucks in shipping!

4. Little moments matter. Out for brunch with a friend? Snap a shot of your french toast and berries! Off for a jog around the lake? Capture those sneakers on a well-worn path! Movie date (alone or with friends)? Tuck your ticket stub in your pocket! Nothing is too little to document in my opinion! I include images from the web on whatever shows I'm watching, typically with a journaling card detailing anything special that happened that week or that episode, and since I am a list loving gal I include "eating, reading, thinking, hoping, wearing" on the regular. It's the little day-to-day moments we will forget, so keep those written down!


There is so much I can say on this topic, and I hope to share more soon including my favorite products and current PL spreads.  Have you tried Project Life? Why or why not? If you have any questions/suggestions, feel free to send them my way!

Monday, April 20, 2015

In My Bag: On the Go

Some people collect tea cups or rare coins. Others collect seashells, vintage cameras, and the like. I collect bags. Sort of.

My mom calls me a bag lady and it is absolutely true. When I was younger I could not wait to carry a purse, and now I rotate between three different ones almost weekly. In college I became obsessed with Vera Bradley and picked a new pattern each year. Any time I walk into an Anthropologie and I either head straight for the candles or the weekenders.

And recently on Instagram I got a request for a "What's In My Bag" post, so here you go :)

The bag itself is from a shop at First Monday Canton Trade Days. They do custom monogramming in-house, so it has become our routine to stop there first to place our orders and we pick them up on our way out of the market. I have searched every First Monday sight and directory and I have yet to find the name of the shop. When I do, I will be sure to let you know! They carry all kinds of leather goods, clothes, too.

  • The teal (turquoise? I can never get the two straight) wallet is from the same shop as well. It came with two straps and can be worn as a wristlet or a cross-body clutch. 

  • The top notebook is a prayer journal by Val Marie Paper. I won credit to her shop in the fall and picked up a set of the journals for 2015 and have been working my way through the first one. There are a variety of sections to make lists in: friends, loved ones, personal, scriptures and quotes. The giant paperclip is from Target.

  • The book behind it is If You Find this Letter by Hannah Brencher. This girl has a heart of gold, and this book is her memoir about her journey to find God and to leave electors to strangers all over New York City. 

  • Next is a birthday card for my dad. I couldn't make it home to celebrate with the family, and I do love to write notes, even though I am the worst pen pal ever. No really. I should be better as words of affirmation and thoughtful, handwritten notes make my heart sing, but I have tried it and simply cannot keep up with it in this season. Which makes me sad. But it does make me happy to know that I'll be home in a few short weeks to spend quality time with my family.

  • Above is my Young Living Essential Oils travel case. It holds 8 mini vials with samples of my favorite oils so I can keep them with me when out and about. Stay tuned for more information about my journey with Essential Oils, coming on Wednesday! But if you want to go ahead and sign up for your own Premium Starter Kit, go here.

  • The miniature mascara tube is Lash Domination by bareMinerals. It's a rare day that I get all dolled up for class, but I almost always put on some kind of mascara. 

  • I carry this gold polka-dotted compact usually when I'm traveling, so it's been in my bag since spring break. I have been guilty of the selfie-shot makeup correcting, but it doesn't serve me very well when my contacts freak out. The compact is from Forever 21 a couple of years ago.

  • I can never keep up with lip balm, and I have half a dozen Chapstick tubes floating around my house and car, so it's a miracle that this one has survived. It's Smith's Minted Rose Lip Balm I picked up at Anthro around Christmas. 

  • Lastly, the earbuds that came with my iPhone. I listen to music practically 24/7. In the car, on the way to class, doing homework. From movie scores to musical soundtracks, classic swing and contemporary country, I have a playlist for almost everything. 

There you have it friends! My most recent pursonality if you will ;) I may make this a series and revisit it now and again, especially since I rotate bags so often. I hope you enjoyed, and pick up some of those pretties for yourself! Happy Monday, friends.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Viva Las Denver | Part 1

Remember that one time I scheduled this for the Friday before spring break and I had forgotten to finish it? Oops! Oh well, these things happen when offline life spins into a frenzy in prep for spring break. Then school picks back up and you forget... again. 

Now, where was I?

Oh, glory be! Spring Break 2015 is upon us has already come and gone! I am was perched in the Denver airport, listening to the Cinderella soundtrack, people watching my heart out as I wait for a flight home to Texas the first (second?) time I worked on this entry. Three weeks later I cannot believe that much time has passed since my spring break adventures! But better late than never, right?

Boy, it was a full week! I spent my spring breaks in college doing mission trips to the Texas/Mexico border (and it was so strange not to go again this year!) so this was my first jet-setting spring break to date!

When the week finally arrived, I packed my bags for sunny Las Vegas to visit Hannah, one of the Three Musketeers from my time at Baylor. I knew Denver then Dallas would be in my future, so packing for a myriad of climates and adventures was rather tricky. I learned so many lessons along the way. 

I was so eager for the trip that I packed on Wednesday. All of this (and so much more!) fit tightly into two carry on bags. On Friday I got a text from Hannah asking if I wanted to hike through Red Rock Canyons to which I said "Sure, why not!" so in went a pair of tennis shoes, a t-shirt, and athletic capris. I grabbed a lightweight rain jacket for the weather we are supposed to face in Denver and called it a done deal. Apparently the rain let up right before I landed so it wasn't even necessary.

And if I'm being honest, I only wore about half of the above since I had a chance to do laundry mid-week, so my next getaway will be even lighter packing-wise. Plus I did a little shopping while out and about with the gals, so I should have left more room ;) I took the shot above because initially I was going to share packing tips, but that's a post for another day.

I flew in to Vegas on Saturday afternoon after spending plenty of quality time at Dallas Love, reading a few magazines, catching up on blogs and the like. I had a brief layover in Houston then made the final leg to Nevada. Hannah picked me up at the airport and we headed home for the evening. That next morning we attended her church then went exploring in the shops near her neighborhood. 

It should come as no surprise to anyone that we ended up at Anthropologie. They must have some kind of magnetic pull on me that I simply cannot ignore. I end up at one in every city I visit... so, yes, that does mean I stopped at the one in Denver, too. You know me too well!

Monday was our day to hike through Red Rock Canyon. I am not outdoorsy in the least, but it sounded fun and we wanted to take her brother's senior pictures, so why not kill two birds with one stone? Well, there were lots of stones, and this trek through the park was not what I expected. I assumed there would simply be a path to follow around the rocks; never would I have imagined rock climbing to follow the "path". At one point on our way back we got so turned around that we sent her brother scurrying ahead trying to find a safe way back to the beginning, abandoning our initial path altogether. It was a day for the books, and we celebrated a safe return with a trip to In 'N' Out Burger.

I'm pretty sure I ate my way through the spring break trip. SO. MUCH. GOOD. FOOD. Of course, we justified all of our splurging meals by eating at home several times during the day and walking thousands of steps (according to Hannah's FitBit).

Tuesday was St. Patrick's Day and also the day we decided to tour the strip. We wandered through shops and casinos, watched the water show in front of the Bellagio, had dinner at Container Park, and weaved our way through the crowds decked in green for the day.  I also took Hannah's head shots while we were out and about (and I was spit on by one of the crazies in the crowd... not my favorite moment...). We finished the day at Serendipity 3 where we split the Forbidden Broadway Sunday which was positively divine.

Isn't she gorgeous and so stylish? Hannah is quite the trend-setter and one of the sweetest and most creative souls I've ever met. It was such a delight to get to spend the first half of the week with her since I hadn't seen her in almost two years (what?!). We managed to survive St. Patrick's Day/Spring Break in Las Vegas (crazies upon crazies, I'm tellin' ya) and on we went. 

We spent one day exploring antique shops and the arts district, and another we kept low key around the house with a brief expedition to Barnes & Noble. I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up in one sitting and picked up If You Find this Letter for my flights to Denver and Home. I had already ordered Shauna Neiquist's Savor and it would be waiting for me in Texas but I decided to peruse it anyway. Lastly I found the most beautiful edition of Les Miserables but it weighed half a ton and is certainly not something I have time to read while school is in session, so back on the shelf it went.

On Wednesday night we had a painting party with Hannah's mom, and we each painted our own set of birch trees. I went for a bright background with spring blooms and now I want to paint all the things! Or at least all the birch trees ;) My sister and I are hoping to do this with Mom soon, so I'll let you know how it goes.

My time in Las Vegas came to an end all too soon, and on Thursday evening I headed for the airport to make the second leg of the journey to Colorado. I'll share about that side of the adventure sometime next week.

For now, what do you think of the new Brave Love look?! It was so spontaneous. My old template was only eight months old but I needed a change. Something crisp, clean, and simple to get me going again. There are exciting things ahead for Brave Love and I think this look will propel us into the future. But right now I need to be propelled off to finish my homework, so this is where I leave you.

Have a blessed day, y'all!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Making April Happen

To be honest, this is one of my least favorite days of the year. April Fool's Day brought me so much grief in elementary school. You might call me gullible but I'd prefer the word trusting. And this trusting nature of mine made me a prime target for many a joke. But I had my share of fun on this day, too. Without fail I would either visit or call my grandfather and tell him "Pop! There's a cow in the kitchen!" and he'd shuffle down the hall to check. It's our little routine that's still going strong.

You could also call my goals for March a bit of a joke. Yikes! I did not make the progress I wanted to, but I still count it as a successful and FULL month. April has the potential to be the same, and as it's the last month of school for the semester I'm determined to see it through/finish strong.

I still can't get over the fact that Hope Spoken came and went in such a flash! Last weekend was absolutely incredible and I cannot wait for next year's conference! Tickets are $385 and they go on sale May 1st at noon EST. It was such a surprise and a blessing to win the first ticket for Hope Spoken 2016, and I hope to see you there!

March Goals:

1. Attend Hope Spoken. Just in case you missed it, I shared about my incredible weekend in Monday's post HERE. I made sweet friends and met a few from the blogging world, and I left so encouraged by this gathering of women. You don't want to miss next year's conference!
2. Visit Hannah + Micah for spring breakOh, what a week! Spring Break was delightful and spent jet-setting to Las Vegas and Denver to see friends. We ate our way across these cities, shopping and exploring, and it was simply so sweet to spend time with these gals I haven't seen since graduation.
3. Read 3 books. Hoorah! I did this one! I finished Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet on the flight to Las Vegas, started Longbourn and finished it last Saturday, and I've been listening to The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet on Audible during my long drives. It is a continuation/expansion of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries series on YouTube (which I loved and highly recommend!).  I picked up If You Find This Letter while in Denver and it's on my list to finish this month.
4. Follow the She Reads Truth Lent study. I followed the study for a while but found myself piecing together my own scripture study. I spent a week in Proverbs then danced through Romans and Matthew. I got Shauna Niequist's Savor in the mail and hope to dive into it more fully, along with 31 Days of Prayer for the Dreamer and the Doer.
5. Get caught up on Project Life. With all my travels and homework I have to say this did not happen...
6. Visit a community group. This didn't either. It is truly a struggle for me to find time to go since my schedule changes so frequently. 
7. Purge my closet/insta saleYes! I pulled 50 pieces out of my closet during a spontaneous evening purge, and I sold quite a few items during a blogger Insta auction two weeks ago. I continue to rummage through my things little by little and toss items into a Goodwill box in the living room. The excess has to go!
8. Finish the wall collage behind my TV. Nope. Didn't even touch it.
9. The Contentment Challenge. Yeah, this one didn't happen either...

It was one of those months where half of my PowerSheets were left untended to, giant question marks over days I don't remember and tasks uncompleted. But His mercies are new every morning and there's another month ahead! Woohoo

April Goals:

1. Celebrate Easter + Pop's 80th birthday at homeI have made the drive from OSU to Dallas for the past three weekends in a row but never spent more than one night with my parents. This weekend we are celebrating my grandfather's birthday as well as Easter, and I'm eager to spend the time with my family.
2. Continue to clear the clutter. I have accumulated SO MUCH JUNK over the years, and this process of simplification has felt so good. I've made progress but there is still so far to go.
3. Read 3+ books. On my agenda for this month are the following: If You Find This Letter, 100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write, Writing in the Margins (to finally finish!), and The Artisan Soul which was a gift from my Hope Spoken small group leader.
4. Make progress on Project Life. Crafting brings me so much joy and I want to be on top of my assignments so I can schedule time to work on my 2015 album.
5. Attempt the 21 Day Fix routine. I love the workouts on my DVD's but have not been dedicated to them. April is another chance to give it a go!
6. Finish the semester strong. May 1st is my last day of class for the semester, and I want to tackle upcoming progress early and with all of my attention. Let's do it!

I want to keep this month pretty simple. I've been battling overwhelm and anxiety like nobody's business lately, so now is not the time to complicate things. Time in scripture, finding rest in Jesus, and being diligent in my studies is my main focus.

What about you? What are your goals this month?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hope Spoken 2015

The Lord continues to blow me away by how well He knows my heart and exactly what I need exactly when I need it. As many of you know the Hope Spoken conference was this past weekend. It was a gathering of 250+ women who want to own their unique, God-given stories while celebrating those around them. I think that same phrase could be said of the blogging community I've found, too. When I bought my ticket almost a year ago, never could I have imagined what was in store for me!

The ticket-buying experience in itself was such a God thing. I happened to be awake at 3:30 in the morning Seattle-time, horribly sick. Somehow my mom and I began texting (she was up getting ready for work in Texas) and I was scrolling Instagram, waiting for the pain to pass. It was then I saw that Hope Spoken tickets were available and flying fast! My generous mother gave me the green light and I snagged a ticket; they were sold out within a few short hours. I've never been so thankful for a stomach bug ;) 

Fast forward to March 2015. After a tumultuous, beautiful, and often stressful seven months of grad school, I was feeling spent. I have been given many opportunities here at OSU, but my heart was tired and in desperate need of rejuvenation and vision for what was to come. I needed my people. I needed more of Jesus. And I still do. Hope Spoken arrived in all its glory and simply swept me away in the best way possible!

I drove home Thursday night to stay with my parents, and snuck in a mani/pedi Friday morning. Around noon I met up with Rachel of Rachel Rewritten and Rachel of Oh Simple Thoughts, two dears I had formed a friendship with through the internet but had never met in person. We squealed and hugged and made plans for lunch, including the sweet Sera Beth of Edna Grayce and a handful of others, and zipped off to Chuy's. I had to get these Mississippi girls some Tex Mex ;)

Me and "The Rachels". I actually introduced myself as "Not Rachel" once during part of the conference, and I couldn't have been more thrilled to spend the weekend with these two! Why does Mississippi have to be so far away?!

Things kicked off officially Friday night with an opening session, a meeting with our small groups, delicious dinner + time to shop the market, and finally a POWERFUL word from Jen Hatmaker. Y'all! That needs an entire blogpost on its own. What a hilarious and anointed woman! 

Our small groups were randomly assigned when we registered and picked up our name tags, and I somehow ended up in a different group than the roommates I was registering with. I say somehow and randomly but I really mean that God orchestrated even these tiny details! My small group leader was artist Jeanne Oliver who I knew immediately was a God-send, and the women gathered in my group were all there so purposefully! Fellow artists, actors, even another Baylor Theatre grad (?!?!); y'all, none of this was by accident. 

The incorporation of small groups into such a large conference made such a difference, giving us the opportunity to connect deeply with others instead of feeling like one in a sea of faces. I am so grateful to have met these women!

Saturday brought another full day --after an entirely sleepless night :( -- with more time to gather as a small group, hang out with friends, and hear from inspiring women on a variety of topics! I finally got to hug the neck of sweet Teresa of Hugs and Punches, and together we listened to Lynsey Kramer share her "Story of Seasons". The idea of savoring your season and cherishing the life stage the Lord has you in is something so dear to me, so I was all about this! 

I also got a chance to listen to Ashley Ann of Under the Sycamore tell her "Story of Adventure;" Ashley was the first blog I ever followed (six years ago!) and it was so refreshing to hear her vision behind it all. I vividly remember finding her blog one summer day, and it was also the day I found Pinterest, so you know all I did was *scroll scroll scroll* through both of those for hours on end.

Okay, now I have to take a minute to brag on a few random parts of the conference:
1. THE DECOR. Oh goodness, what a beautiful sight! From the succulent table centerpieces to the giant balloons with tissue paper tassels, everything was gorgeous! Paper flowers and pretty hand lettering sent me swooning, and the fashion of all the ladies in attendance wasn't a bad sight either ;)
2. THE SWEET TREATS. We were well fed this weekend in more ways than one. Tables full of cake balls and flavored cotton candy (salted caramel and coconut were my favorite!) as well as a candy bar and cookies galore were placed throughout the conference, giving us something to nibble on between the incredible meals. 
3. THE SWAG. Yes, I just used the word "swag" in a blogpost. Who am I?! Well, I'll tell you. I am a HUGE fan and grateful conference attendee for the generous "swag bags" we were given. They were full of prints and jewelry, knick knacks and notes from the speakers and shops, too. Jeanne gifted our small group with a book The Artisan Soul which I've been wanting to read for a long time, and a few other goodies. 

Lastly, we had an Oprah moment during one of the giveaways. Hope Spoken and hinted over Instagram that they would be giving away a Whitney English Day Designer (planner) to one of the attendees. Everyone held their breath hoping for their name to be called as a slip of paper was pulled from the bucket. The winner?  EVERYONE! Squeals erupted as we looked under our tables and found BOXES FULL of planners! Each attendee got to take one home! Now don't get me wrong, I love my Simplified Planner, but I have been struggling with it in this season. It wasn't the right fit. But now? Oh, my new planner is swoon worthy! What a treat!

Another highlight of the trip was a surprisingly large Baylor family in attendance! Amanda and I met through a mutual friend a few years ago, and it was a joy to room with her! I also got to meet Wynne of Gloriously Ruined, a fellow Bear, as well as several other gals invoked in Antioch (the church I went to in Waco) and other similar groups! Sic'em!

Saturday night was set up a little differently, ending the evening in "Share Groups". Each of these had a title: Young Moms, Seasoned Moms, Small Business Owners, Adoptive Moms, etc. When they announced Singles, my friend Megan and I laughed thinking we might be the only ones. But we went to meet our small group leader anyway. It turns out that we were wrong! Out of 250+ women there were.... twelve of us.

A great discussion was had as we shared the highs and lows of this season, our struggles and hopes and experiences being single and being in the church, being single in our jobs, and even being single in a conference such as this where it seemed everyone had a ring on their finger and a home full of little ones. I left that night feeling so encouraged, and more determined than ever to savor this time of my life. Yes, I have hopes and dreams and desires that are unfulfilled as of yet, but I have a season with SO many possibilities and adventures for the taking!

 I could go on and on about this weekend, and I probably will in the near future. And next year too! I ended up leaving the conference early Sunday morning to drive down to Waco, but I lingered in the main room through the last round of giveaways. And what happened? I won the FIRST ticket to HOPE SPOKEN 2016! AHHHH! 

Since tickets sell out so fast, I had thought to myself that I might skip next year so someone else could go, or that the Lord would need to make it very clear that I should go again. Well, I'd say He hit that one out of the park! I would love for you to join me there! Tickets should go on sale in May and they sold out in 12 hours last time, so be prepared. It's a weekend you don't want to miss!

What were you up to this weekend? Did you go to Hope Spoken? 
If so, what were your highlights?! I'd love to know!