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Bring Out Your Crafty Side

I have something very exciting to tell you about.  It’s exciting for me, but mostly it’ll be exciting for the Practically Canadian followers out there.

A couple new services have been tacked on to my services menu.  And they are way fun.

Starting now.  Right now, The Art of Living Project is offering crafty classes for you and all your friends.  Now, what on earth could that mean?  Let me tell you.

I think lots of us can agree that crafting is super fun and awesome….and it only gets more awesome if you craft with friends.  And it gets even better if you don’t have to spend time gathering supplies or finding a tutorial.  And even more amazing if there was no Pinterest rage involved, because someone is there to help you complete a project that actually turns out the way it should and not on one of those “nailed-it” boards.

That’s where my crafty classes come in.  Right now I have 15 projects available to choose from–everything from Pottery Barn knock offs to wreaths-a-plenty.  Lots of others are on the way too.  Projects on the horizon include DIY mercury glass, all kinds of paper flowers, burlap runners, glass painting, lamp wiring!  So keep your eyes peeled and watch for new project postings.

class offerings

You pick a class, I get the supplies, you have fun, you end up with something awesome and a new skill.

botanical runner

The best part about this type of class is that you will leave with the understanding of how to create something.  For example, I offer a class that focuses on all kinds of burlap flowers.  You’ll leave with some cool stuff and the know-how to do it again…the next time you want to embellish a wreath, or package, you’ll be able to whip up a flower and brag to your friends.  It’s the whole teach-a-man-to-fish philosophy.  I’m really into that.


Not only is it a way fun way to spend an afternoon or evening, it’s a great way to learn something new, create unique gifts and become a DIY master.  After all…why should I be hoarding all the skills?


Oh…and if you and your cronies have found something that you are just dying to make…or have failed on before but would like to try again, all you have to do is get in touch with me and I’ll be happy to come up with a tutorial, gather supplies and plan a custom party just for you.


So, yeah.  I’m pretty excited.  And you should be too.  Because this just might turn out to be your new favorite Practically Canadian pass-time.




PS–I’m also working on an artillery of painting party designs.  Right now there is just one lonely painting in the gallery, but more are on the way!

The Gallegos Family

family portraits

This is the Gallegos family.  Aren’t they just beautiful?  The smiles, the personality and those dreamy summer colors–some of the photos from our shoot in the farm lands of Practically Canada go down as some of my favorites to date.  Their flash drive is in the mail and they’ll soon be sorting through their whole session.  But for now, I’ll share some of my favorites from the day.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Family Portraits

Sibling Portraits

Family Portraits

rail road photoOh, did I mention that this one is having a train themed birthday party??

Family Portraits

Family portraits

A Whole Book

Memorizing Scriptureimage via

I know I mentioned before that this is the Summer of Yes.  At the time it was declared, back in the beginning of June, I was feeling like that was a great idea.  I couldn’t wait to see what I could say “yes” to.


Then I had surgery.  And the yeses in my life became very restricted.  There have been a lot of forced no’s lately.  No, I can’t pick that up.  No, I can’t walk that far.  No, I’m not allowed to carry that.  No, I can’t…I have to rest for a while.


You see, as much as I had hoped to jump right back to my regular life {they say you can go back to “normal daily activities” as soon as you feel ready} I really haven’t been able to.  When I went to my post-op the surgeon explained how the disc herniation was worse than they thought, since the bulge wasn’t off to the left or right–it was right in the center.  He then went into detail about how in order to complete the surgery, he had to stretch and move all of the nerves running through my spinal cord.  All of them.  Stretched like rubber bands.  It makes me queasy to think about it.  And apparently, that kind of nerve manipulation will leave you sidelined for quite some time.  Bummer.  Especially, since my normal daily activities include tearing down walls, building things, tramping through fields on photo shoots, and jostling smiles out of stubborn children.


Okay.  There’s that.  When I started to thinking of something I could Yes my brain was taken back to a conversation I had had with a friend a few days before surgery.  She told me that her 12-year-old cousin had recently memorized an entire book of the Bible.  A whole book!  12!  I put it off and tried not to think about it.  I wanted a different Yes to happen.  But this one kept gnawing at me.  Could I do that?  Would I?  Should I?


You know the answer to that.  After all, this is the Summer of Yes.


So, finally I gave in and began trying.  I even researched a technique for memorizing large chunks of Scripture.  If all goes according to plan, I’ll be able to recite an entire book of the Bible by October 13th.


You might be wondering why I said yes to this of all things.  It sounds kind of boring, a little tedious, and definitely difficult.  Lots of reasons.  Let me enlighten you.


First of all, the Bible is the Living Word of God.  The more time we spend with it, the more we are opening ourselves up to a deep communion with Him, the easier it is to hear His voice, and understand the possibility He has for us.


Second, Scripture wasn’t written verse by verse.  Okay, so in a sense it was.  I mean every book is, in a way, is written sentence by sentence.  The books of the Bible, like most books, were written–usually–to a specific group of people, to convey a specific message, address an issue, explain something, etc.  The content of a book flows, it makes a case, a broad point.  Isolating a single verse can be dangerous since a verse’s true meaning often hinges on its context.


It’s easy to take a single verse and quote it and force it’s application to all kinds of circumstances.  It’s a  better practice to look at a verse in context by reading around it, to understand what is really being said.


And thirdly, when we commit something to memory we root it deeply in ourselves.  I still remember the lyrics to songs from a musical I was in in 5th grade.  I can recall facts I had to memorize for a science presentation in 6th grade.  While those things are useless…memorizing–gaining a deep understanding–of a big chunk of Scripture isn’t.  I believe that the more we understand our own beliefs, they easier they are to share with others, they easier they are to explain.  I don’t like to spout of a “I think it says in the Bible somewhere–but I don’t know where…” when I’m in a conversation with someone looking for advice.  I’d rather really {really} know what I’m talking about…and I think memorizing a book is a good place to start.


Oh, and this is the exciting part.  I spent days thinking and praying over which book to choose.  I finally settled on Colossians.  I’m currently only two days in, but I figure, if I tell you guys it holds me more accountable.  I’m using this method…in case any of you would like to try a big passage {doesn’t even have to be a whole book, maybe just a chapter} alongside me.  And look–so far I can quote two verses.  I pinky swear I’m going to type this next paragraph without looking at a source.  Honor code.


1:1 I, Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God and our brother Timothy. 1:2 To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ in Colosse.  Grace and peace to you from God our Father.


Don’t be too impressed, I have a long way to go.




Four Four and Under

A few weeks ago I undertook a very unique challenge.  A photo session of only children.  Four children, four and under.  I don’t know many big families…and this is the biggest group of very young kiddos I’ve ever attempted to shoot at once.  The three brothers recently came to visit relatives Practically Canada with their mom.  The little lady is a local.  The fam thought it would be a fun time to get together and get all of these cousins in some legit portraits.


Luckily they are all adorable…because it was a challenge.  A very fun challenge, but a challenge nonetheless. One would cry while the others would smile.  One was consistently facing the wrong way.  Someone was trying to dig up grass, someone was trying to walk away.  Meanwhile five full-grown adults were shouting their names, making funny faces and shamelessly bribing them with promises of fruit-snacks between clicks of the camera.  I adore this family and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.  At the end of the day, their photos might not look posed and disciplined….but it wasn’t that kind of day.  It was a day full of personality and I think that’s what came across in the images.  Here are a few of my favorites from our time together.


Park Portraits

Sibling Portrait

family portraitsThere is something ridiculously adorable about this one.  I mean, seriously…how about Mr. GQ there in the middle?

family portraits

kids portraits

Now, somebody get these kids some fruit-snacks!  They sure do deserve it.

Flat Rate Sisal Tote

Okay.  I know.  It’s Saturday evening…this is out of character to post right now.  But–I did finish the mystery project from yesterday and I just had to show you the finished product.  Look.

Sisal Tote

Remember what I showed you yesterday?  I know.  I can’t believe it either.

Mysterious Upcycle

As I said in that post, this was kind of an experiment.  So I don’t have a full tutorial for you.  But I’ll be going home to Indiana next week to visit the fam and my mom has requested full instruction on making these little gems.  So, pinky swear, a full tutorial {with detailed instructions} will be coming soon.

For those of you that just can’t wait.  Here’s the basic principle.  Get a flat rate box.  This one is a medium.  Cut out the sides.  Flip a pillow case inside out and put it in the box like a lining.  Use spray adhesive to adhere the pillowcase to the cardboard that is left of the box.

Then start wrapping and gluing rope around and around and around.  I used 1/2″ and 3/8″ sisal twine.

The straps are adhered with E6000 glue .

Again…a full tutorial coming soon!

Sisal Basket

What Could It Be?

I’m making something.  I had this idea and I’m not sure how it’s going to turn out…but I think it just might be a winner.  Here are the ingredients.


A flat rate box

An old pillowcase

Spray adhesive


Hot Glue


Here’s what I’ve got.

Mysterious Upcycle

I’ll show it to you when I’m done.  Promise.


Isn’t mysterious upcycling the best?



Chalkboard Everything

favorite chalk elements

That’s right.  When I’m not able to draw out a chalkboard full of awesome stuff by hand {like this, or this, or this…} I turn to the digital stuff.  Tonight I’m sharing all my favorites with you.  AND they are all FREE!!  So get ready to pin, because you are going to want to hang on to these sources–or immediately download them.  I use them all the time and L-O-V-E them.  Dearly.


I love these Rustic Graphics from We Lived Happily Ever After.  She is a genius.  She also shared a free chalk background.  You can get that here.  While I usually try to download things that are okay to use commercially, these are for personal use only.  So I reserve them for unpaid project for family and friends.


Next are these adorable laurels and frames from Sunflower Studio. They are under the creative commons license.  So they are good to use for commercial or personal purposes.


If you know me weirdly well, you know I have a weakness for fonts.  Here are my favorites to use against a chalk background.

Chalkboard Fonts

Adine Kimberg

Ever After

Little Lord Fontleroy





Little Days


Villa Didot

And…here are two more fonts that you should have.  They are awesome dingbats for chalk projects.

Bergamot Ornaments

bergamot ornaments

bergamot ornaments

bergamot ornamentsbergamot ornaments




Remember to check licenses before you use them commercially, but most of this stuff is good to go.  Happy chalking!



Last week I wrote about how we, as Christians are called to be different.  Originally I was going to combine that premise to what I’m writing about now–leadership.

 leadImage Via


But as I started, it all got too long and fuzzy.  So I decided to sit on this one for another week and split the two up.  Today, I’ll continue the discussion, this time focusing on leadership.


Leadership is a beautiful thing.  It’s something we all crave in one way or another.  We crave to have control and be the leaders in our own lives, over others, to bask in the glow of recognition and importance.  Or–we crave to be lead.  We want someone to focus us, guide us, give us answers and lead us.


You see, naturally I’m drawn to be a leader.  That’s why the notion of marriage was so hard for me to grasp for so long.  I hated the idea of being led.  My parents could probably tell you that that leadership quality made me a great student and a terrible child to rear.  I didn’t even like being led by my parents–I wanted to do and do my way.  Now, many years {and lots of grace} later I’ve learned that leadership isn’t just about control, or stubbornness, or doing things your way and no other way.  I’ve learned that a great leader can also be led, and a strong individual needs to understand the beauty and importance of submission.  {See how Jesus submits to the Father and the centurion–a leader himself–knew the importance of rank, and Paul describes the family order…}


I’ve thought about leaders lately.  It might be the NPR, the thought of Derek’s future with the military, my work with the youth group, or seeing brilliant teens work leading a 5-Day club in my yard.  Who knows.  So, I started to look at the Bible.  At leaders in the Bible–particularly Jesus, but a few others as well.  I studied them and paid attention to the things they had in common.  And I discovered something.  Leadership is less about control and glory and more about servant-hood.


It seems like an oxymoron.  A servant leader.


But that is exactly what all the best leaders were.  Servants.


They were most effective and at their best when they set their eyes on how to best serve, know and love people they were leading, while fulfilling their duties.  We see Jesus {our prime example} do this over and over again.  He knows the people He is leading.  He knows their laws and their boring stuff.  But He also knows them.  And He chooses to love them.  Like the famous “woman at the well.”  Or the “wee little man” Zachaeous.  Jesus knew Him, pursued him out of the tree and dined with Him.


Jesus clearly tells us to be great, to lead…we must first know how to serve.  Mark 9:35 says:


…Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.


Another thing I found about servant leadership is that great Biblical leaders, even Jesus himself are real.  They are down to earth and transparent with those they lead.  Now, Jesus had no faults.  So He couldn’t be transparent with those.  But He set a clear example of submission for us to follow.  He showed us what it meant to commune with the Father and be submissive to Him.  {John 6:38-40}.


As we lead, we should never stop considering the lives and hearts of those we are leading.  We should consider if there is a way to make their load lighter, their work more enjoyable, or a way the leader can better serve.


A leader should be wary of becoming prideful, remembering the needs of others–again becoming the servant.  See Luke 22:25-27.  Instead of loving control and importance, a great leader loves seeing his people move in the right direction.Instead of relying on his own strength and insight, we as leaders should constantly look to Christ and be humble before Him.


A great leader is always obedient to God.  Knowing that God places those in authority.  And He prizes obedience over great deeds and fame.  It’s hard, but prayerfully attempt to be content if authority is taken from you and placed in someone else’s hands.  A spirit of control is unbecoming on every one.  1 Samuel 15:22


What is more pleasing to the Lord:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices
or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.


Leaders realize the value in teamwork.  In sharing the load of a big vision with others God raises up.  Think about the calling of the disciples, how they spread the Gospel after Christ’s resurrection and grew in number and force.  {Mark 1:16-18;Acts 6:1-7; Acts 18:24-28}


I know there are lots of other good leadership qualities.  There are more that are even Biblical qualities.  But these are some that helped me those many, many months ago.  As I said last week–we are called to be different.  I believe we are called to lead.  And anyone who can serve, can lead.  In our lives, in whatever capacity we can, we are to point–to lead–to Christ and His lovely truth.  I hope you’ll dig in to some of these verses.  Heck, find some more to add to the list–then start putting them into practice.  Step up as a leader in any fashion your life will allow.  It might not be in the fanciest, most glamorous way…but we all have a platform we can use to lead–even a couple–to be different.  Different isn’t lame, remember?  It’s awesome.  It’s eternal.














Buckle Up {blueberry buckle, that is}

If you follow along on Facebook {which you totally should} or Instagram {I’m @theartoflivingproject} you probably saw that I made one of my favorite summer desserts for a 4th of July get-together yesterday.  Today I’m sharing the recipe.

Blueberry Buckle

And here’s the big secret.  It’s not some family secret, it’s not complicated, it’s not even a recipe I wrote myself.  It’s just a recipe, from my all-time favorite, go-to cookbook.  The Better Homes & Gardens cookbook.  It’s simply the best.  If you don’t own a copy, you should invest in one.

Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook

Enough of that.  Please allow me to move to a different tangent.  I hate recipe format.  My memory is so short term when it comes to reading and recipes are really a challenge.  How they list the ingredients at the start, then they just reference them through the instructions.  Like I memorized each ingredient amount?  Nah.  Maybe they are designed for people who measure everything out before hand, then just dump it in and the instructions call for it.  But I’ve never known anyone {except hosts of cooking shows} to bake like that.


So I type my recipes up a little different.  They way I’d like all recipes to be.  And here’s one for the Blueberry Buckle that I simply love to make in the summer.  {One last side note.  I actually didn’t actually do much of the baking yesterday.  Since I’m still very deep in recovery mode, Derek did most of the bowl lifting, ingredient getting and putting the pan in and out of the oven.  I was more of a mixer-supervisor.}

Blueberry Buckle

This is a two bowl recipe.  Right off the bat, get out two big/medium bowls.


Next get out a pan to bake it in.  You can use an 8×8, 9×9…or a deep quiche dish {that’s what mine was in yesterday…but the baking time will be a little longer.}  Spray your pan with cooking oil.


Preheat your oven to 350˚


In one bowl mix together:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

In the other bowl mix together:

  • 1/2 cup shortening {I use a liquid oil}
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Mix those two things for a few minutes.  Until the oil has some air in it and it starts to thicken up.  Then add:

  • 1 egg…mix it for about two minutes until the mixture is pretty thick


Now grab your bowl of flour, a 1/3 cup measuring cup and 1/2 cup of milk.

Alternate mixing 1/3 cup of flour into the eggy bowl…and a little bit of the milk.  Go back and forth until both are all used up.  Then pour the batter into your pan.


Sprinkle 2 cups of blueberries {frozen or fresh} on top.


Now make the topping.  This is where I vary from the original recipe.  Get your empty flour bowl and add the following things:

  • 1/2 cup of butter, sliced up
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Use a pastry blender {highly recommended} or two knives to cut the butter into the flour and sugar until it’s crumbly.  Then pour it on top of the blueberries.


Bake it uncovered for 50-60 minutes.  Test the center with a knife to be sure it is cooked all the way through.

Blueberry buckle

The cookbook also has an alternate option for a raspberry buckle.  If that’s more your game just sub in 2 cups of raspberries for the blueberries.







Flowers Love Soda

Preserving cut flowers

I love having fresh flowers around the house.  My gardens are finally alive with color, which has made this the perfect time to start picking lots of blooms.


Tonight I thought I’d let you in on a super easy was to keep your cut stems looking vibrant for as long as possible.


My grandmother told me this.  Actually–she wrote it to me during her final months as she battled a cancer that took away her voice box.  So when I was visiting she would communicate on little pads of paper.  It wasn’t the quickest method.  But it worked.  She was an avid gardener.  I don’t know how it came up, but she once asked if I knew how to keep cut flowers looking fresh.  {Obviously not.}


She told me her favorite trick was to pour a little soda–the clear kinds, like ginger ale, Sprite or 7 Up–into the vase.  No more than a quarter cup will do the trick.  Flowers crave sugar that they soak up from their roots and other parts of the plant.  Once cut, they lose that source of sugar.  So keeping some in the water will help them thrive in your living room.


I asked about just mixing some sugar into the water {I’m not much of a soda drinker, usually.}  She said that is a technique that some people use…but it’s better to use soda.  Granulated sugar, even when mixed in, can clog the pores in the stems.


Give it a try.  It’s an easy tip to know that will make you look like a gardener extraordinaire.



Well, hello there!

Hi. I'm Amy. Thanks for coming by. I'm in to trying new things and learning to live better. I hope you'll hang around...together we can come closer to mastering the Art of Living.

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