Friday, October 31, 2014

Thanks & Apologies

As many of you have probably heard by now via my family's blog, my cousin passed away early Wednesday morning. I already had Wednesday's blogtober post scheduled the day before so that posted  on its own but I just haven't had the heart to write anything since then. There's something that losing a loved one does to your heart---makes you want to curl up in a corner and cry and just forget about everything else. Blogging is the last thing on my mind right now. I will be back eventually...just need to take a little break for now.

Thank-you SO much to everyone who has emailed, called, texted, or commented to let me and my family know that you are praying. I haven't been able to respond to everyone so just wanted to say here that we are everlastingly grateful and thank-you from the bottom of our hearts.

I also want to thank all those of you who have emailed about other things (Blogtober related questions/ideas and also personal questions) over the past several months. There has been so much going on in my life with family + work and I am so behind on emails. I just answered one the other day that was sent to me way back in April. Please accept my apologies; I do my best to respond to every email but it often takes a while. Please know that your emails are read and appreciated and that they will be responded to eventually!

Please be in prayer specifically for Michael's family right now. They are going through so much.
My family and I are heading from Orlando (the National Bible Bee) up to NY tomorrow night-we have a long drive to make it to the funeral by Sunday. Your prayers for safety and alertness for our bus drivers is so appreciated.

Love you all.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Burlap & Lace Gift Wrap DIY

I thought I'd share with y'all this morning a little DIY tip for a fun gift-wrap project.

One of my favorite things to try to do is to THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX. 

Don't think of things the way you've always seen them done. Instead, take unique ingredients you may have on hand + brainstorm! 

This gift is one I wrapped for a dear friend's wedding recently. I used the following items:
-large brown paper bag
-part of an old ripped lace table cloth
-part of an XXL lace shirt I got somewhere
-burlap scraps
-a piece of sheer cream ribbon
-super glue
-And last but not least. That top part of the flower? (with the tulle and the little gems)
That I cut off of an old shirt of mine that I had to throw out because it got several holes in it. But I just couldn't throw out that flower! So I cut it off the shirt + put it in my "treasures" pile, to use at a future occasion such as this. =) 

I cut apart the brown paper bag and wrapped the gift. Then I put a band around the gift using more of the paper bag, a strip of the tablecloth, and the piece of ribbon. (you can see the ribbon strip on top of the lace one if you look closely)

Following that, I cut out lots and lots of different size circles using more of the paper bag, the sleeve of the lace shirt, and burlap scraps. I put my tee shirt flower on top, super glued the whole deal together, and tada! There you have it.
How about you? Do you have any unique ideas for fun gift-wrapping? Leave a comment!

And speaking of comments...thanks for all the sweet comments on the Vlog yesterday.
Y'all are so kind. =)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Boho Blogtober VLOG!!

Yay! Today is the big day for the Vlog!!
I really still can't believe we actually did this! And to think we made it through the whole thing on the first take. I am still shocked about that. 
{Boho Blogtober Vlog from Hannah Elise on Vimeo.}

Just a little disclaimer here: Please disregard any element of ridiculousness. I am completely not used to videoing myself and it was more challenging than I thought it would be. Certain elements of what we talked about were serious, but I feel like I came across like a giddy thirteen year old. {which, hey, I am. At heart} 

So this was take one, and who knows? 
Maybe Hannah & I have discovered our true life calling producing Vlogs will be back with another one sometime?

As always..would love to hear your comments! 
(not on the outfits, either...have NO IDEA why I added that part at the end!)

- Chels

Monday, October 27, 2014

Pearl Headband Giveaway Winner!

So excited to announce tonight the winner of this beautiful Lilla Rose Pearl Headband!!

The lucky lady is.....

Miss Allison Geckler!!

Allison, please send me an email with your address and I will get the headband on its way to YOU! (

And to all the rest of you who didn't win (sorry!) head on over to Joy's Lilla Rose Store to purchase your own headband, or to check out any of their other awesome products! I just bought my own pearl hairband, and I also got the jet black bead one, which I am super excited about trying out and showing on here sometime in the near future.

Congratulations, Allison, on winning a lovely headband!
And thanks so much to everyone who entered + participated!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Sponsored Giveaway||Lilla Rose Pearl Hairband!

I am super excited to introduce this fabulous hair item to y'all today! I had heard of Lilla Rose before but never really knew much about the company until a blog reader (Joy, from Artful Homemaking) emailed me about sponsoring a giveaway. I went & checked out their stuff to pick an item for the giveaway and as soon as I saw the pearl hairband, I knew that was what I wanted!

Before I tell you more about the headband, let me introduce you to Joy, the reader who is sponsoring this giveaway!
Joy (right) with her daughter, Elyse.

"Hi, I'm Joy, wife to my best friend and mom to five blessings! I love Jesus, homemaking, sewing, thrifting, creating happy family memories, and going out with my husband. I blog about family, faith, and finding beauty in the ordinary at Artful Homemaking. I'm also an independent consultant with Lilla Rose, and I love sharing this beautiful, functional, and unique hair jewelry with others! A couple of years ago I fell in love with the Flexi Clip (our best-selling item!), since it was the only product I had found that would hold my thick, naturally curly, waist-length hair up securely without a headache and without falling out! Since that time two years ago, I've also fallen in love with all of our other products. In addition to the popular Flexi Clips, we also sell beautiful hair sticks, headbands, bobby pins, and you-pins. Any of these make great gifts! If you're a new customer to Lilla Rose, you can also take advantage of my Buy 3 Get 1 Free deal! If you have any questions or you'd like to host a 30-minute Facebook party (to earn free Lilla Rose products!), please contact me for more details. {}."

{thank-you so much, Joy, for joining up with me in Blogtober to sponsor this giveaway!}

Joy sent me the pearl hairband I selected for the giveaway, and I wore it for just a few minutes while my sister shot the pictures for this post. I was instantly HOOKED!

I love the look of headbands, but 95% of the ones I've tried give me headaches, so I've almost resigned myself to the fact that I just can't wear them. Until this one. The elastic band at the back is SO COMFORTABLE! It honestly didn't even feel like I was wearing anything in my hair! The one that I am wearing in these pictures is the one I'm giving away (I only wore it for a few minutes to get the pictures so it is still basically brand new) but after wearing it for just those few minutes I knew I had to have my own so I went and ordered two more, the pearl one and then also a jet black one. I am so excited to get them + incorporate them into my outfits-they add so much! I almost always wear my hair down, and am always on the lookout for ways to dress up the "down" look. 
I think I may have found it. =)

So here are a few pictures, to give you an idea of a few of the different ways to style this item.
This was my favorite way of wearing it-boho style, with loose curls. Love love love!! Sooo comfortable!
It can also be worn typical headband-style....
 swept up in a ponytail for a more casual look...
Or you could do a more formal-looking updo, like this one.
All you need to do to enter this giveaway is just leave a comment with your first + last name!
You can enter additional times by 
1) pinning the post title picture (top of this post)
2) sharing on google +
3) sharing on facebook
4) share on twitter
5) sharing on your blog!
and then just leaving a comment for each time you share it, with the link if possible.
{You can share the post these ways by just clicking on the little tabs at the bottom of this post!}
Winner will be announced on Monday!

Also don't forget to head over to Joy's Blog and check it out! 

And now, I'm headed off to Wisconsin in just a few minutes here, for a dear friend's wedding tomorrow! This is probably my favorite way to spend a Saturday---doing bridal hair + ceremony music for an amazing wedding!

Have a beautiful weekend, friends!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Life As A Musician||Learning, Practicing, & Mastering an Instrument

It really isn't as hard as you might think.
All you need is an instrument and a whole lot of determination + good work ethic.

All this hype about "you can play well because you just have music in your genes" is exactly that: HYPE. It's just not true. Now, you can get a LOVE for music from your genes. That's what I got. My mom's family loved singing together-her four older siblings even had their own quartet and produced records together. My dad tells us stories about how his family went and heard almost every single group that ever came to their town.

So the love of music was something that definitely was passed down from the previous generations.
But the actual ability to play an instrument well? That's something that comes with practice, my friends, and LOTS of it. Hours and hours and HOURS.

Now, there is such a thing as a musical genius. They are few and rare, but they are out there. But even they have to practice to truly be accomplished with their instrument! Back when I had my piano studio, I used to joke to my family that there were four kinds of students:
1) the ones that don't have much talent, but work hard
2) the ones that have tons of talent, but don't work hard
3) the ones that don't have much talent, and don't work hard
4) the ones that have tons of talent, and work hard

Number four? That kind of student was a GEM, obviously. But so was number one. It really always boiled down to how hard they were willing to work to progress. Even if they didn't have much "natural ability", or a natural "ear for music",  a good work ethic and willingness to practice was what really mattered, and what helped them progress in the long run. In music, skill is 99% practice.

For our family, the ages we started with learning different instruments has varied depending on the person. My parents required us all to take at least several years of piano lessons. (and I would DEFINITELY recommend this! Piano is the best instrument to have as a foundation and it is super helpful later on when you are adding other instruments because you are already familiar with chords, note names, etc)

For violin, we started younger, mostly. All five of my siblings who play the violin started when they were either five or six, except for one brother who was seven. The Suzuki Method (which we used) really encourages students to start young, as the first few years in particular are focused on hearing + then playing what you hear, not so much on note reading. This is great for little people who aren't even reading yet. Find an exceptionally amazing and classically trained violinist, and there is a very good chance that they started lessons when they were 3-5yrs of age.

As we went on, we added other instruments. Mostly they were instruments we wanted to do, although there was one sibling (I won't say who =)) that did not want to play a certain instrument, so my father asked this person to try it for one year and then if they wanted to quit, they could. That was...a long time ago, and the instrument stuck! =)

Often it just takes a little time to get your feet wet, and get into it. The first few years ARE rough though, especially if you are starting at a very young age. All of my siblings and I would credit any musical success we may have to our faithful mother, who pushed and pushed and PUSHED us. Those first few years, practicing 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, was as paramount as eating three times a day. It just wasn't optional. We did it. My mom always said "we pay a lot of money for your lessons, and so as long as you take lessons, you are going to practice!"

We were blessed with great options for violin and piano teachers right here in our community. Over the past fifteen years, we have had various teachers at various times. Overall we had two piano teachers and four violin teachers. There was also a gentleman who taught banjo & bass guitar to two of my brothers for several years. With dobro and mandolin, those of us who play have mostly learned on our own. Like I said, once you have one instrument down, the second (and third and fourth!) are much easier.

For years now Allison and I have taught our five youngest siblings piano + violin. We used to each have our own studios and taught other children as well, but since our touring with our family ministry + other things have picked up, we decided to quit our studios since it was hard to keep up with all the students, as much as we were coming and going!

Some of us are more into music than others. And that is okay! My parents were always super supportive of an musical instrument we choose to try, but they never insisted that we all play 10 instruments, or anything like that. So as a result, there are some of us who play one or two instruments, and some that have almost mastered every instrument we have. =)

People ask a lot if we play by ear or if we read music. The answer is both. Overall, our strength is playing by ear, since that is mostly what we do with our family music ministry. Almost 100% of our music we arrange on our own, without sheet music. Those of us who took classical violin & piano all the way from little through high-school, read music and spent our high-school years playing pieces by Beethoven, Bach, & Mozart.

And a word about vocals! Sing, sing, and sing some more! (I asked my mom what advice she would give about learning to sing well and this was what she said =)) Practice exercising and developing your voice. Practice singing harmony. USE A HYMNAL and learn to read the notes and different parts. My five younger siblings are miles beyond where us older five were at their age, vocally. Why? Because for the past four years my mother has spent 15+ minutes every weekday morning singing hymns with them. All of them can sing harmony parts effortlessly, on their own. This didn't just happen; it came as a result of hours upon hours of singing hymns and learning to hear the harmony parts.

For teaching theory + basic music facts, I would recommend musical flashcards like these.  You can pick these up at a music store. They are one of the best inventions ever. I use them with my siblings + they are SO HELPFUL for cementing music knowledge such as note names, musical terms, etc. They are great for any/all ages. My youngest sister has been doing them for several years already and on occasion, just for fun, I even let the younger ones do them to me and see how fast I can get through the whole stack. =)

One last thing-this isn't about a formula, or a certain way you have to do it, or certain instruments you have to play, or anything like that! I still have a lot to learn and I'm not a pro at all.
I probably wouldn't even have thought about posting about how we do music, except that a reader commented a while back and asked that I do a post about it. Ultimately, it is all about honoring and glorifying the Lord through our music. Hopefully some of these tips can be an encouragement to some musician out there!

Okay, now off my soapbox, and onto the fun stuff. =)  Here are a few of my favorite music resources!

{Music Resources}

The Piano Adventures Series by Faber & Faber
I was taught using the Alfred Method but when I started my own piano studio, my previous teacher recommended that I use The Piano Adventures, since she had just switched over to them and liked them much better than the Alfred. So I did, and I used them all six years that I taught, and I still use them with my siblings. I think they are much more thorough (especially the theory books). I was also surprised at how many musical terms and different things Alfred hadn't taught me. I'd be teaching with the Piano Adventures and a student would ask me a question about something and I would tell them "Well, I don't know...I never learned this, so we will learn together!" It didn't happen alot, but enough for me to know that there were definitely some things that the Alfred curriculum missed.
When I had my piano studio (and still for my siblings that I teach) I have them each going through a set of four books from the Piano Adventure Series-Lesson, Performance, Theory, & Hymn book.

The Suzuki Method
All of us that have taken violin lessons (Allison, Denver, Elizabeth, Hudson, Rebecca, and myself) were trained using the Suzuki method. When Allison and I first took lessons way back, our teacher used the Suzuki method pretty exclusively and that was our main training. Now that Allison teaches the other four, she has chosen to incorporate quite a bit of other music, although she still uses Suzuki as a base. It is a very foundational classical method, one that focuses on children beginning lessons young and exercising lots of memory skills!

Boruff Music
Eric Boruff (the violinist) performed at our church a few months ago and he was INCREDIBLE. We were super excited when we learned that he + his mother have sheet music + music books for their arrangements! Typically we play most of our sacred music by ear and arrange our own music. But sometimes (especially for instrument parts + variety) it is a treat to just have the music there in front of you + get new ideas from someone else's arrangements! Other than Tracy Ann Collin's music, we have never used sheet music for our gospel instrumentation pieces, so we were excited to get these. We ordered several of the books and have been playing various pieces from them ever since and LOVING it. I HIGHLY recommend this music! The very fun thing is that they have arrangements for all levels. I have one book right now that Hudson (piano) and Liz (violin) are doing a duet from, and then I have another one with duets for Allison and I, and there are lots of books for all the levels in between as well. It has been especially fun for the younger ones since they aren't experienced/able yet to come up with their own arrangements. But they love to play duets together, and now they have "real" music to do it- music for songs they know + love!

Banjo Ben
Some friends of ours told us about Banjo Ben Clark awhile ago. He gives banjo, guitar, and mandolin lessons online! This is a great option if you aren't able to find a teacher of these instruments in your area. (you will find it is easier to locate violin + piano teachers, but once you get into the bluegrass instruments...teachers seem to be few + far between, especially depending on the area you live in)
Obviously I still think one on one lessons, face to face, are the best choice, but if that doesn't work for you, then definitely check into Banjo Ben's lessons. My younger brothers (Carson, Josh, Denver, & Taylor) have taken his lessons, and I have seen HUGE progress in their playing + skill levels since they started. His lessons aren't free, but then the best things in life seldom are, right? =) My family bought a lifetime membership + it has already been so worth it. He is a little on the redneck side, but a great musician + teacher. =)

Sadly this store is only an Iowa chain, although I think they sell online as well. But if you are from Iowa, chances are good that there is one nearby you, as there are six scattered throughout the state. This store is where my sister & I buy most of our music, including the Suzuki Method books & the Piano Adventures.


Does anyone have any music-related questions you'd like to ask? Or for the musical ones out there, are there any resources that have been especially helpful to you that you would recommend? I'm always looking for new ideas! Please leave a comment and share!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rebecca's Idea for a New National Holiday

 Just because I I am going to let y'all in on a brilliant idea my seven year old sister had lately. Enjoy a little peek into the mind of a seven year old.

(Rebecca) "Chels, why do we celebrate Mothers Day and Fathers Day?

(me) "Well, because they are special days set aside to honor our mothers and fathers".

(Rebecca) "Why do we do that?"

(me) "Well, because they do things for us, and celebrating them is one way for us to thank them".

(Rebecca) "So...why don't we have girls and boys day?"

(me) "Wait...what? Girls and boys day?"

(Rebecca) "Yeah. Because moms and dads do things for us, but we do lots of things for them. So we should have a special girls and boys day."

(me) "Well, we do have special days for us. We have birthdays that we celebrate. Those are the special times for girls and boys."

(Rebecca) "Yeah...but moms and dads have birthdays too."

(me) "Yes, I know...but Mothers Day and Fathers Day are just special for them because they do so much for us."

(Rebecca) "But we do a lot for them!"

(me) "I give up, Rebecca. You can be the inventor of the new national holiday, "Girls & Boys Day".

Ah, the mind of a seven year old. Gotta love their logic, flawed though it may be at times! (smile)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sister Road Trip Recap

This is the story of two sisters who were greatly missing their cousin beloved. Cousin dear lived in the faraway land of Manitoba Canada and it had been two whole years (since this time) that the three had been together, just them. 
Because the sisters loved roadtrips and loved their cousin...well, the natural thing to do was to plan a visit. 
Details came together last-minute and on October 13th, at 4:15am, they set off. 
Sixteen hours and many adventures later, they arrived in the faraway land of Neepawa, Manitoba!
And thus began the time of all times....
Meals were scrumptious, plenteous, and very relaxed.
The past years weeks had been very VERY busy + intense, so the sisters decided this would be a vacation. 
It was hard for them to transition at first to no schedule for three days, but they got the hang of things quickly. =)
On the first day they practiced hairstyle options for an upcoming wedding.
Much time was spent in cousin's lovely little coffee-themed kitchen.
this trio...such a wild group they are. =)
There were long conversations over big mugs of coffee. There was sharing of the deep + hard things in life. There were times of prayer together. There were makeovers and manicures. There was music and music and more music. There was dancing and peals upon peals of laughter. There was an abundance of quoting from all things Jane Austen + Audrey Hepburn. There was much reminiscing over old memories + escapades. 
There was lots of cooking + eating. There was joy and love and all things feminine. 
These pumpkin crepes were...well, the LAST WORD in crepes. Cousin + younger sister made them and older sister took pictures + sampled the cream to make sure it was suitable. {ahem}
Can't you almost taste them?
Ready to dig in! The cousins ate these while watching the BBC Persuasion. In the middle of the morning. It was definitely out of the ordinary for them and felt quite odd to be sitting and doing nothing profitable in the middle of the day. But it was fun to do, just once. =)
Music was played. And played. And played. Such great memories. This is what the cousins used to do all the time when they were together.
The little house rang with the piano duets and accompanying violin. Everything was played, from "Come Thou Fount" to "Jingle Bells".
One day the ladies went out and strolled around the little town of Neepawa. They admired lovely things at shops where things were way beyond their budget. Then they also visited a junky little thrift store where they were right at home and found some amazing treasures.
It was found at one of the shops. It had BONTRAGER written all over it. =) The sisters decided they were going to go home and paint this outside their house, and in their house, and on all the barns...because they really felt that the quote was written with their family in mind. =)
At another shop they found these boots. Older sister fell in love, although she did not purchase them.
And then she saw these and she really could hardly handle all that loveliness, so they had to quickly leave before she was tempted to spend waaaaay too much for two pairs of red shoes. =)
Browsing books at a musty old used book shop.
Ah!! It twas just like old times. So so SOO wonderful to be together again! These cousins have been besties for years, although they had all sorts of drama + full blown arguments along the way. =) You'd never know it.
Back at home again, there were dishes to be done...
But there was no need to stay focused. =)
And then one afternoon they all went to Tim Hortons, because the sisters had given that as their only request of things they felt they "had" to do whilest in Canada. =) And while they were there, they helped cousin set up her new blog, Loewens in Love. (visit it if you haven't already!)
This was purchased. =)
Then younger sister performed a dramatic makeover for cousin dear.
The Marissa cousin is such an amazing + lovely lady!
Perfect hostess, kindred spirit, and confidante...all rolled into one.
Older sister loved the charming little white dishes that cousin had. So much so, that she took to drinking cheddar bunnies out of them. Please, don't judge...
Diligently purusing their stack of library books about Kate Middleton + Prince William.
Younger sister made these little cheesecakes one night. They may or may not have been finished off in record time.
This is very possibly the ladies at their worst, doing face masks one morning.
Trim Healthy Mama pancakes...DELICIOUS!
One morning cinnamon twists were made.
The finished product.
And then some self timer portraits were taken

These cousins are professionals at consuming oreos. 
Healthy ones, that is. Newman O's, to be exact.
Lovely dinners were had with cousin, her husband, and the sisters. On this night, they had steak, fettichini aalfredo, salad, and fizzy raspberry drinks.
The sisters were introduced to THE BEAN GAME by cousin + her husband. They were instantly hooked...such a fun game!
They got to play by candlelight since the electricity randomly went out during the game. #memories
On the way home, the sisters drove through Lowe Farm, Manitoba and spent a few minutes with this dear friend + her daughter. The time was short but sweet and more memories were made over lattes and meaningful conversation.
In Grand Forks, the sisters stopped for lunch at Qdobas. As they were exiting, older sister heard someone calling her name. And lo and behold who should be there but this sweet friend, whom older sister hadn't seen since the friend's wedding last year, and didn't even know lived close by!! What a surprise...the world is truly small.
As they were nearing the cities, the sisters got stuck in a rather large traffic jam. Older sister took advantage of the stopped time to snap a few pictures of the beautiful scenery. 
Finally, Friday night, there was one last stop near Minneapolis to surprise a dear friend on her thirtieth birthday!!
And finally the roadtripping sisters arrived home on Saturday night, just in time for dinner with their family.
The trip was a success. Many, MANY (2,000+) miles were covered, and many memories made, to be cherished for years to come.

The end. Til next time! =)