Author Archives: Andrea R Huelsenbeck

About Andrea R Huelsenbeck

Andrea R Huelsenbeck is a wife, a mother of five and a former elementary general music teacher. A freelance writer in the 1990s, her nonfiction articles and book reviews appeared in Raising Arizona Kids, Christian Library Journal, and other publications. She is currently working on a young adult mystical fantasy novel and a mystery.

15 Ideas for Blog Posts with a Christmas Theme

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15 Ideas for Blog Posts with a Christmas Theme

Bloggers, it’s December already. Have you planned some holiday posts for your blog? No ideas? No worries! You could write about:

  • Other December holidays your family observes. Do you celebrate Kwanzaa or Hanukkah? Write about the history of your holiday (for readers who might not know) and share what it means to you.
  • Organizational tips for Christmas. How do you get everything done? Do you do a little bit all year long? Do you set goals and give yourself deadlines to achieve them?
  • Memorable holiday celebrations. Whether it was the Christmas you got your dream gift or your first one as a married couple, your followers will love reading about it.
  • Favorite traditions. Do you always go to midnight Mass? Do you eat latkes? Go caroling? Would it not be Christmas if you didn’t eat candy canes?
  • Ideas for family Christmas photos. Whether you get special cards printed up or just post them on Instagram. Wear matching outfits or sit on the staircase. Give us your best poses. Here are some ideas to get you going.
  • Christmas gift suggestions. Themed lists are great: gifts for teachers; gifts for the man who has everything; 25 gifts under $25.
  • Advent ideas for families. Maybe you’d like to draw attention away from the commercialism of the season and proactively focus on the religious aspects. What are some meaningful ways to deepen your spirituality?
  • Christmas crafts that kids can make. Decorations, cards, ornaments, gifts, wrapping paper.
  • Favorite Christmas ornaments. Take pictures of some of yours, and tell the stories behind them. Were they given to you? Did you buy them as souvenirs of trips? Were they handed down in your family?
  • Favorite Christmas recipes. If you’ve got one, share it. Here’s a Christmas breakfast recipe from the ARHtistic License archives.
  • Favorite Christmas books. I like to read a new Christmas book every year if I can, and sometimes I revisit old favorites. Here’s an article about Christmas books from Doing Life Together.
  • Favorite Christmas carols. This could be a simple list, or you could embed YouTube videos. I love this article about “Breath of Heaven” from MyOBT.
  • Favorite nativity scenes. Maybe you have one. Maybe you love the one at your church. Maybe your friend has a collection of them. Here are some lovely nativities from Parenting with a Smile.
  • Favorite Christmas movies. Clue your readers in to the best ones to watch. Here’s a review of several Christmas movies from the ARHtistic License archives.
  • Activities to occupy children over winter break. Your readers will thank you on December 27 for this one, whether you suggest writing old-fashioned thank you notes, drinking cocoa with marshmallows, or skating on a frozen pond.

Okay, bloggers. I hope this gets your creative inspiration going for some fabulous December blog posts. Feel free to post your links in the comments below so we can see what you’re doing.

Creative Juice #320

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Creative Juice #320

Lots to read this weekend.

Video of the Week: Louise Penny on First Drafts

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“You need to thank the critic; you need to bless the critic; you need to show the critic the door.”

Wordless Wednesday: Peeking Over the Wall

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Peeking over the wall

9 Books I Can’t Wait to Read

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TBR

My name is Andrea and I’m a bookaholic. I have between one and two hundred books in this house waiting to be read, and I try very hard to restrain myself from buying more until I finish reading at least some, but somehow I accidentally acquire more and more. I usually have five books in progress at any given time.

I have several TBR (to be read) piles in the hall closet. I keep opening the closet and peeking at them, because I just can’t wait to start these:

  • The Library of Afro Curiosities: 100-Word Stories by Ran Walker. I recently wrote three flash fiction stories for a contest, and discovered that I like the form. I read that Ran Walker is a master.
  • Rezzies Revolt by Carlos and Crystal Acosta. This is the first book in the GeriAntics series by a husband and wife team who are members of a critique group I recently joined. It’s about the residents of an active independent living community of senior citizens and their adventures. I’ve read snippets of book three (their current manuscript in the works) and it’s hilarious.
  • Something to Live Up To: Selected Poems by Benny Andersen, translated by Michael Goldman. I recently read a wonderful article about Michael Goldman and his work, particularly with the Danish national treasure, Benny Andersen.
  • Going Rogue: Rise and Shine Twenty-Nine by Janet Evanovich. The Stephanie Plum series is my guilty pleasure. I’ve read the twenty-eight previous volumes.
  • Every Reason We Shouldn’t by Sara Fujimura. I love Fujimura’s young adult novels. This one is an ice-skating romance.
  • Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel. I’ve read three others of her novels and loved them all. This one is about a colonist on the moon.
  • The Boys from Biloxi by John Grisham. I’ve read almost everything he’s written, and I’ve loved almost of all them.
  • Carravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane by Andrew Graham-Dixon. A biography of the great and tragic late-Renaissance painter.
  • Keep It Moving: Lessons for the Rest of Your Life by Twyla Tharp. The dancer and choreography explains how and why movement is a huge part of aging well.

Don’t these books sound fabulous? And I know there are many more in my collection that will also enrapture me. So many books, so little time!

Now it’s your turn. What’s in your TBR pile? Share in the comments below.

Monday Morning Wisdom #390

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Monday Morning Wisdom #390

“If you’re not failing now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.”
—Woody Allen

From the Creator’s Heart #378

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For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.  For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17 NIV)

First Lessons in Quilting with the Moxie

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I have now taken five of my six one-on-one introductory lessons with a Handi Quilter educator, Cheryl, via Zoom. (Apparently that was a Back-to-School promotion that I didn’t even know I was eligible for.) The manuals that came with my machine only go so far to tell me how to actually quilt with Moxie. The manuals are supplemented by series of videos on the Handi Quilter website and on the Pro-Stitcher website. Plus, many quilters post their own video tutorials on YouTube.

Having the live Handi Quilter educator is great, because I can ask Cheryl my questions and get a direct answer. I love Zoom. Cheryl lives in Ontario, Canada, and I can see her sewing room, and she can see mine. Magic!

The best way to get to know the machine and the software is to use ALL of the resources. I started out by reading the materials, then watching the videos in between my sessions with Cheryl. She would cover her lessons and my questions, but the real learning came when I actually tried things out under her supervision and on my own. She stood by while I threaded the machine by myself for the first time and watched while I loaded my practice quilt onto the machine. But I’ve done my first stitching explorations on my own.

e's and l's

I first tried free motion quilting. The Getting Started guide suggested stitching cursive e’s and l’s for practice. That should be easy, right? But not for me. I did about five rows, right side up and upside down, and they look like chunky baseball bats. I tried to make them more slender, and more rounded at the top, but I just couldn’t. I see a lot of practice ahead of me.

Then I tried stippling. No. I have corners instead of curves. I think I’m moving too fast, too jerky. I think I have to go slower and concentrate on moving smoothly. Like I said, practice.

Stippling

Then I tried the robotic sewing. There are lots of steps in setting things up on the tablet that holds the program. I watched some videos again and made step-by-step notes. Then when I tried it out, it wouldn’t work, so I watched the videos some more. There are so many icons, so many steps, that I missed small parts of the processes when the demonstrator talked fast or didn’t exactly stop and show which button she was pressing on the video. But after about three hours of studying and attempting, I was able to make a feathered wreath.

Much better than what I can do by hand.

Feathered wreath
Feathered wreath detail

On another day I tried a continuous line pattern, a connecting spiral, but I couldn’t find the video that shows how to repeat a design a few times (as opposed to setting up the whole quilt to be done), so I tried to figure it out myself. I decided to set up a rectangular area that I would quilt with two connected spirals. I thought I sized it perfectly. I lined the first up with the left hand side of my rectangle, and when it was done, I moved the design to the right hand side of my area. As it turned out, I did NOT size it up perfectly, and the second spiral overlapped the first. Oh well. I learned one way that doesn’t work. I asked Cheryl to explain the process to me, and I think I understand better now.

spirals

Clearly I need a lot more practice before I attempt to quilt an actual quilt that I want to use or give away.

Loading the quilt on the smaller frame is harder than I expected. It’s hard to get it straight. On the loft frame, you just ratchet it, and it rolls smoothly. With the smaller frame that I have, you remove the clamps, reposition the quilt, and reattach the clamps.

Maybe I’m too old to do this. This machine is expensive—what if I never get good enough to use it properly? Greg really encouraged me to go for it—he even gave me most of the money for it.

They say that one of the best ways to exercise your brain is to learn new things. Hopefully I’ll be continuing to exercise my brain in the coming years and actually get good at quilting.

Creative Juice #319

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Creative Juice #319

The Thanksgiving weekend edition. I’m thankful for all the creative artists who inspire us.

Kammie’s Oddball Challenge: Gentle Reminder

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Gentle reminder

More Oddballs.