Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why You Must Read The Mitford series by Jan Karon

I know this isn't the newest edition but it's what MY copy looks like... :)

The Mitford series is, hands-down, one of the best series of stories I've ever read throughout my entire life. I can't fully describe how much I love them! The books have been part of my life for so long that I can hardly remember what it was like not to have read them.

In fact, I've thought about reviewing them before and then shied away, afraid of not doing them justice! (silly, right?) :) This will be a short review, for more information, try looking the books up on :)

The small town of Mitford and its (HUGE) cast of lovable, realistic characters completely immerses you and you fall in love with every single bit of it as you step from book to book like stones across a stream. The setting is pastoral and peaceful, but delightful humor pops out at you from around every corner and there's plenty of drama among the townsfolk. The books definitely fit in the 'cosy fiction' genre but they always kept me turning pages.

I hunted around on Pinterest until I found faces for some of my favorite characters... (because that's a thing I do) ;)

Father Tim - a beautiful old-soul, wise and gentle, with a wry sense of humor and a love for wordsworth poetry. I wish I could meet him in person!
This is actually an early picture of Jan Karon, the author, herself, but this is always how I have pictured Cynthia Coppersmith, a whimsical and vivacious next-door-neighbor to Father Tim.

Dooley Barlowe is a boy with a difficult past (also he's got red hair, just use your imagination) and from the first page he enters he instantly tugs at your heartstrings. :)
Lace Turner has also had a hard life, poor thing, but a more determined, intelligent girl you'll never meet - think Anne Shirley with much rougher edges.

Have you read the Mitford series? (I cannot WAIT for the next one coming out in September!!) If not, you should. Right away. Really. :)

Don't forget to check out Victoria's Companion Post with her perspective! :)


Thursday, August 13, 2015

DIY Vintage-Style Flower Pendant

Hi Lovely Readers!

I've got a tutorial for you today! I couldn't get pictures of ALL the steps because our camera tripod is out of action (cracked) but I'll make sure to describe it clearly for you, because I know you're gonna want to make one of these necklaces. :)

Also, be sure to hop over to Victoria's blog, Ruffles & Grace, to check out her DIY Notebook Recovering tutorial! I'll definitely be using that one on some of my old, boring notebooks to give them new faces!

All right. Here are the steps to make a vintage-style pendant necklace.

First, get your materials ready. You'll need:

  • A chain and a clasp (you can find these pre-assembled in craft stores, or you can attach the clasp to the chain on your own with pliers and a jumpring.)
  • E-6000 glue (better than supergule! Sold at Walmart and most craft stores)
  • A metal pendant disc (Or any thin flat piece of something that has a hole at the top that you can use to hang it on the chain with a jumpring)
  • Stuff to glue onto your pendant - I used plastic molded flower cabochons (Find those on Etsy or Ebay) and glass rhinestones (Hobby Lobby, Etsy) And leftover beads and buttons I had lying around. :)

Let's get started!
Make sure your pendant is hanging from the chain...

OR you can glue your goodies on it first, let it dry, and THEN attach it. Whatever floats your boat. :)

Decide what you'll be gluing on it, arrange the design however you like...

Make sure the placement looks nice on the actual piece...

 Get out your glue... (Note: when using E6000, be sure not to breathe in the fumes from the glue. Noxious stuff! I usually do gluing projects on the porch or out in a well-ventilated area)

 There are two ways you can glue things and they both have their uses. Either put a dot of glue on the metal and then drop your item on top of it and press it in, or put a dot of glue on the back of your flower...
...and then press it to the pendant's surface. Use whatever method you feel most comfortable with!

There you have it! Let it dry - E6000 glue dries quickly and will be permanently fastened in about 15 minutes, although I usually let it sit for half an hour or so.

Now isn't that beautiful? :)

While you're at it, feel free to go crazy like I did and make beautiful, vintagey, scrappy-style pendants with anything you choose. This is an AWESOME way to use up leftover little bits in your bead boxes if you happen to make jewelry. :)
Which one is your favorite? Mine is the upper right with the mauve rose... keeping that one! :)

I hope you enjoyed that tutorial! Thank you so much for all the comments on my post asking what kinds of things you'd like to read on Julia's Journal! :) I can't wait to get started on all those ideas. :D

Love & Blessings,

Monday, August 10, 2015

Stop. Pause. Rewind.

Do you ever feel like you wish you could just PAUSE life and rewind it a little bit? Not just when you do something silly or embarrassing and you wish you could fix it, but when things are beautiful and time is going too fast - and you want to let it just be a little longer?

Maybe I'm the only one. ;)

For instance, I'm thrilled that my childhood best friend is visiting me this week on her way home from a vacation in North Carolina. Then I tried to figure out the last time I actually saw her in person, and my mind went all wibbly-wobbly. It's been at least NINE YEARS. *jaw drops* Wow. It doesn't feel like that long - but at the same time it's been ages. Time is weird.

Anyway, aside from hosting one night this week, I also want to get some more written on Smoky Mountain Serenade. And then plan a tea party. I don't know, something wild and crazy like that. *giggle* While Summer's still here, anyway...

Although the idea of autumn is sounding rather nice. The heat does get a little old after awhile. And I have some beautiful sweaters, boots, and scarves waiting longingly in my closet. Can you believe they're already putting holiday stuff in the stores?! It's barely August, people, not October... :) Maybe it's strange because I'm located in the south. Perhaps seasons change more swiftly up north. Do you think that's the reason, or are shops just hungry for the commerce the holiday season brings?

Okay, blog-readers, I want your input here. What kind of posts are you interested in seeing the rest of this month? Aside from the companion series I'm doing with Victoria, (Book review, DIY, and Fashion coming up)
would you rather read...

  • A post filled with pictures of vintage teacups I recently found at an estate sale
  • A post about the characters in my upcoming novel
  • A post about my experience of being on the Trim Healthy Mama Plan since January, OR
  • A post topic that you shall suggest in the comments section

Please tell me, if you're reading this. I see all sorts of interesting visitors on my live traffic feed from places all over the world, so I know SOMEBODY's out there! ;) Don't be shy, say hi! :D I don't bite. much. ;)

Love & Blessings,

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

5 Very Useful Writing Tips

{This is a companion post to Victoria's post on Outlining!}

So, before I begin today's post, I have to thank you. YOU, my readers, for sticking with me through all the years of Julia's Journal, since I began blogging in June of 2008. I missed celebrating my blog-iversary this year, but yesterday I had to go through and remove a bunch of images on past posts I'd used from Google due to possible copyright issues (learn from my mistake, dear ones, and just use your own pictures and photographs, or ones that are in the public domain!)...

In the process, I skimmed through years of my writing. Blogging blossomed my writing into something that felt as natural as breathing, and I loved seeing the overall bird's-eye-view of how friendships formed through this platform.

Facebook has stolen some of the shine (and definitely heaping amounts of my free time) and left behind the glory days of blogging, when we participated in ENDLESS "tags" and swapped blog awards and we actually commented back and forth with amazing frequency. But I'm not going anywhere, and maybe, if I am very consistent, I can grow my blog back to the way it once was.

This month, my darling friend Victoria and I are doing a series of matching blog posts, and this week the topic is WRITING.

So here are Five Very Useful Writing Tips, if you go in for that sort of thing. :D

"Don't tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass." 
-Anton Chekov
This is so crucial! Your story will be bland and lifeless if you lay everything out for the reader like a game of hopscotch. Steps 1 through 12, there you have it. Yawn! Give us the details of the surroundings, the sights, smells, tastes, feelings, aura, atmosphere. Plunge us INTO that story until it's more vivid than a movie could ever hope to be. 

For a great explanation of this, check out this really awesome post by K. M. Weiland.

This one is sort of two-part. Part one: if you happen to have a wondrous idea that strikes you breathless, do yourself a favor and write it down RIGHT AWAY. Do not be embarrassed if you need to dash out of the room and find some paper and a pen. If you're in the shower, keep repeating it to yourself until you can dry off and grab a pencil in your still-damp fingers. :D You may think you'll remember it until later, but 90% of the time... NOPE-A-RAMA. Brains are silly things. So take copious notes, dear. Fill up notebooks with your ideas.

Part two: You must write to get writing done. Profound, I know. Ha. (Preaching sternly to myself on this one) If you never sit your fanny IN that chair (sidenote: make your writing space organized and welcoming, it will energize your writing life) and actually WRITE, nothing happens. One page at a time adds up. Do it.


I don't know how many books I've started that had stale, insipid, ordinary, boring characters in them. They lacked life, they had no detail, they had no flaws or quirks and were about as personable as a mannequin in a shop window. Yuck.
Love your story and your characters enough to really dream up every detail about them. Write down their backstory - but don't use it in the book. Let it bleed through into your tale and give it untold richness. Ask yourself how you can make this character DIFFERENT from all the other people in the world. What do they love/hate/enjoy/long for? Steal quirks from people you know! (but not all at once. Pick and choose like you're shopping for produce in the grocery store.) :D

Also read this inspiring post. So much goodness there.

You've heard the expression "write what you know", right? If you haven't, you just did... :D I believe this saying was invented before Google and Wikipedia, but it holds true. If you have been somewhere and soaked up the essence of a place, you'll be able to write it in a way that your readers can fully grasp the feeling of it. But the next best thing is dedicated research. 

For a TON of information on that, read this. :) Oh and also this. Basically, you need to read Kristen's blog, She's Novel, because it's stellar. End of story. (Haha - but there are always more stories!) 

[insert fifty million exclamation points] I cannot stress how important this is. Victoria's post today is all about her experience with Outlining and how it's changed her writing for the better. I know it's certainly rocked my world and made my books so much better. DIAMOND was way easier to write (especially in the dreaded middle) than ASHBURN and my other previous novels - which shall remain hidden until I can blow off the dust and bring them back to life - and it is making Smoky Mountain Serenade a breeze. Every time I sit down to write on it, I know exactly where I am in the plot. It practically writes itself! :)

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND: Outlining Your Novel, by K. M. Weiland. SO worth the price.

But for a wonderful, comprehensive, slightly-less-about-why you should be outlining-take on the subject, a condensed version... read Kristen's blog post here, for free. :D

That's all for today! Chime in below in the comments section! :)

Monday, August 3, 2015

August Goals | Before Summer Ends

Hey lovelies!

Okay I was just reading a blog post somewhere that said "Summer's nearly over" and I was like - WHAT? Already? Does it feel like 2015 is galloping past to anybody else, or is it just me?! :)

All right, here in the middle of the Deep South, I think we're safe for at least another two months. August and September will probably still be quite warm. Autumn doesn't properly begin until October. So I can breathe a sigh of relief. :) I love Autumn, but Winter is another story. I need a sweater that says "My favorite part of Winter is when it's over". :D Side effect of growing up as a beach babe! :)

But anyway, I don't plan to let August slip away from me without getting some wonderful stuff done. Time is precious!

Here are my main goals for this month:

  • Pray first thing in the morning and last thing at night. 
  • Achieve a powerfully effective daily routine (streamline it!)
  • Write the first draft of Smoky Mountain Serenade (about 40,000 words to go at this point)
  • Blog post every Monday & Wednesday, and do a 4-part series with my friend Victoria on Writing, Books, DIY, and Fashion!
  • Try new trim healthy recipes and keep doing Ballet Beautiful Exercise routines
  • Plan both family activities and friend get-togethers (including a tea party)
  • Launch my secret project (Shhh! Coming soon!) 
  • Soak up as much sun as possible (While Summer's still here!)
  • TIME my facebook usage - only 15 minutes MAX at one sitting!
  • Finish various Graphic Design projects for church and our home businesses

Whew! I think if I can manage all of that, I'll be doing well. :) I'm glad I shared that now, so you all can help keep me accountable. :)

Stay tuned for a post coming soon all about writing - what's worked for me and why I do it. I'm excited to be talking about that!

What are you hoping to do before Summer ends?