Crop For Haiti - Calgary results!!

Before I even begin, I need to say a


to everyone who made this event a success...

My team (Jennifer Reynard, Brenda Bedard, Marlene McCook) who so willingly jumped in to help out in so very many ways (and especially in the kitchen which is NOT my forte!). Michelle King, Heather Rambow and Jennifer Reynard for designing and teaching, and ALL my volunteers that helped out during the day including the "carriers", my hubby, sister-in-law Cindy and 84 year old parents!! And to all who donated Raffle Prizes, items for the Spin to Win, food and more!! And then of course, all our 54 attendees!!!

Our motto for the Hope for Haiti project to raise $20,000 for the school in Haiti with Creative Scrapbooker magazine and Live Different is

"Together we can do this!"

Although there are still some final receipts, etc. trickling in, TOGETHER we were able to raise


We spoke with Live Different this week and found out there are some immediate needs at the school they are currently working on (finishing the kitchen, obtaining a water supply, etc.) that might be part of the building project in July when Brad and I are planning to go (we also might start the art room too!!). So we will donate the majority ($4000) from our crop specifically to the Art Room fund and will reserve the remainder ($1779) for the immediate needs and building projects at the school during our trip in July (hopefully including some more ART supplies to teach ART again while there!!).

They also sent me a couple photos showing an update on the school and it was so very exciting to see and hear about some amazing progress since I was there last year... 

On top of the roof of the first classroom (on the front left of the photo) is where the new "Art room/open area classroom" will eventually be built. The unfinished building on the right of the photo is the new kitchen/feeding area where they plan on feeding the children at least one meal each day so that they are better prepared to learn :)

This is the view of the school from behind over looking the ocean and the city of Cap Haitien below. As you can see, there is still a LOT of work to be done, but such progress is so great to see!!

And one of my favourite photos of Cole who works for Live Different and lives in Haiti... sitting inside one of the finished classrooms surrounded by the students captivated by something on his computer :)

And finally, I leave you with a shorter version of the video we showed at the crop...

Again, from the bottom of my heart and overflowing out my eyes...

Thank you.

Crop for Haiti - Calgary

Join us for this year's annual "Crop for Haiti" event in Calgary on Saturday, January 30, 2016!!

Cost is $75 and includes a light breakfast, lunch, supper and snacks, a Crop and Cruise Tote Bag with special gift ($25+ value), "Hope for Haiti" flag to decorate including techniques ($35 value), volunteers to carry your supplies to and from your cars, start and sweep snow off your car (priceless!), raffle prizes, games and more!!

Event will take place in the gymnasium at Grace Baptist Church located at 2670 Radcliffe Drive SE from 9am-9pm with plenty of space to crop! This crop is part of the "Crop for Haiti" events taking place across Canada to raise funds for the school in Haiti we are helping to build! Space is limited so register soon!!

Bible Art Journaling - How to get started!!

Christy: (while chatting on the phone) I keep forgetting to tell you about Bible Art Journaling!
Allison: What's that?? Sounds interesting!!
Christy: People are doing art journaling right inside their Bibles. Google it.
Allison: (Googling) This is soooo cool!! This is so me!!
Christy: I thought you'd like it! And I thought we could do it together... you know the Bible and I know art!!

And that's how it began.

We (Christy Riopel and I) bought journaling Bibles from Amazon (ESV Journaling Bible published by Crossway) and did our very first pages together (above)... Proverbs 3:5... "Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and do NOT lean on your own understanding." I can't begin to explain how many times this verse has helped me through my life.

(Prima Bloom Girl stamp designed by Jaime Dougherty who is also an avid Bible Art journaler!!!)

And I can't begin to explain how my heart is captivated by this new obsession!! Imagine... I can combine my faith with my art and recording my thoughts and life lessons all within the pages of one precious Bible!!! And I can even add photos!!!

It's like my entire heart all in one place!!!

And Bible Art Journaling is growing around the world!! Some call it "illustrated faith" or "documented faith" or "creating in faith" (google those!!) and they can't seem to keep the Journaling Bibles in stock!! I think it's because so many of us are finding ourselves driven back into our Bibles in a new and creative way with this!!

So tons of you are asking a TON of questions so I thought I'd answer a few here :)

Q&A about Bible Art Journaling

Q. What sort of Bible do you use for Bible Art Journaling?

Ideally you want a Bible that has "margins" down the side of each page (mine are 2") and slightly thicker pages. The translation is up to you. I bought an ESV Journaling Bible published by Crossway from Amazon. You can also order direct from Crossway or other online Christian book stores. Here is the one I use...

Q. What supplies do you need to get started?

Once you have your Bible, you can honestly begin with just a pencil!! Most also use pencil crayons and gel highlighters and journaling pens that don't bleed through (I like Faber Castell Pitt Pens best and bought a set at Michaels). For this page I took a photo of myself, changed it into a drawing on the computer then replicated it in my Bible using pencils, added the tears (and fake eyelashes cuz I can!) and then journaled. I LOVE it!!!!

For scrapbookers like me, I'm finding a TON of use from my scrapbooking supplies (stamps, inks, gelatos, stickers, rub-ons, stickles, glitter, stencils, etc.) and have developed a new fetish for stamps!! Because I can't usually draw super well, I find stamps are puurrrrfect!!!! Some companies are now even creating stamps just for Bible Art Journaling or illustrating your faith like Stephanie Ackerman's from Unity Stamps :)

Q. Don't paints, inks, colours and pens bleed through to the other side of the thin pages?

Depending on what you are wanting to do with your page, you might want to prep the page with gesso or a clear matte gel first (buy at any art store). This not only seals the page and prevents bleed, but it also allows certain mediums to be better applied, blended and worked with.

I did a video of Christy demonstrating how to use gesso to prepare a page so I will be sure to post that real soon!! It's always better to be able to watch someone else do it and learn that way especially someone as talented as Christy :)

Well I think that's enough for today, but you HAVE TO get the Fall 2015 issue of Canadian Scrapbooker Magazine where Christy and I wrote an entire article that has 20 different page samples and explains in even more details how to get started with Bible Art Journaling and illustrating your faith right inside your Bibles!!! You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram (click button on top of page) to see more work!!

And if you have any more questions, please don't hesitate to ask!!!

Save the Date - Sat. May 9

I am excited to announce that I will be involved in an ART SHOW AND SALE on 
Saturday, May 9th!!

"Art from the Heart" will feature several local artists with a wide variety of products that will be perfect additions to your home or gifts for Mother's Day!!! These include:

  • Mixed Media
  • Glass Fusion Jewelry
  • Oil Paintings
  • Metal Art
  • Photography
  • and more!!

AND... you will have the opportunity to support a great cause... Hope for Haiti ART ROOM Building Project through a Silent Auction of items and the purchase of ART made by the actual students attending the school in Haiti! Come to the show to pick your own custom piece of ART!!!

What I want for my 49th birthday

So I've been celebrating turning 49 for at least a week and I don't want it to stop. In fact, I think I'll just go all year in anticipation of a SUPER BIG celebration next year when I turn 50!!

Yes 50!!! WOW!!! When did THAT happen?!?!?! Well it hasn't yet, but it's coming God willing! And I am going to PARTY!!!! But perhaps not how you might think...

Sure I'd love to have a huge celebration with family and friends, but on my wish list of things I'd most want to receive is another experience like Haiti again... there is nothing else that comes close to feeding my soul to the depths...

You see, going to Haiti puts ALL of life into perspective... and as I'm aging, I'm finding real clarity in what I want to do with my life and how I wish to spend my time, my energy, my strengths and talents, and my money. 

And high up on that list is continuing to help these precious children and the entire community in Haiti by continuing to build their school and bring water and food and healthcare and ART to them!!

I've got some ideas for this next year and I CAN. NOT. WAIT.

Meanwhile, know that my birthday plans involve YOU!!! Because together we can change our world.

Short Haiti Story - "The Tarantula"

We are home from another trip to Haiti building a school there for some of the neediest people in our world. I have so many stories and photos to share so I'm going to break them into "short stories" from Haiti over the next several weeks. Enjoy!!!

"The Tarantula"

Last year in Haiti we worked with a group of construction workers at the school who didn't speak our language which made it difficult for us to connect. It wasn't until the end of our trip last year when they challenged us to a soccer game that we finally felt we made inroads into relationships with them... and then we left.

Well this year, many of the same construction workers were there and we recognized each other and right from the get-go, there was a much warmer reception! So the very first day we were working, I had tried to speak some Creole with a few of them while working and was moving a pile of rocks (there were a TON of rocks to move!!!) when we uncovered a TARANTULA!!!

A big hairy live tarantula!!!

Well despite being terrified of ANY spider-type creature, the photographer in me jumped immediately into action as I ran to grab my camera and returned to take a photo of this super creepy specimen!! So as with all photos of creepy things, I started further off capturing photos and then slowly moved closer as I felt safe to do so. So I was getting in nice and close when one of the construction workers reached in, grabbed the tarantula and


What happened next is quite the blur, but I remember leaping in the opposite direction to where I thought the tarantula landed and have been told there was some screaming involved and I apparently hit the construction worker a few times!!! Oh and all the while I was desperately reminding myself to NOT DROP MY CAMERA as I jumped on top of loose rocks especially as I had NOT taken the time to put the strap around my neck.

And you know what??? 

This was the highlight of my day and one of the best moments of my trip this year!!!

You see, it was such a sure sign to me that the local Haitian construction workers welcomed us foreigners with open arms... what you need to understand is Haitians are used to being exploited by foreigners and strangers... they don't trust easily... they don't understand why "rich white people" would come to their country to work and pay to do it!! But because we had come last year and returned to do it again this year, they trust that we really do care... and they trusted us enough to have some fun and throw a tarantula at us (or me... but I like to think of it as "taking one for the team").

And that incident set the tone for the rest of the week... their acceptance of us was evident and it was pure joy to work along-side these men who work so very hard building this school for this community (part of our trip expenses goes towards paying their wages to work on the project with us). 

And for those wondering, the construction worker insured that we would be safe from the tarantula. After analyzing it (check out this photo of the underside of a tarantula!!!), he safely removed it far away from our construction site (ok he smashed it a couple times with his shovel and then drop-kicked it down the mountain!!). And for those of you on Facebook who were more worried about the tarantula than me... sorry to say he did NOT survive... (but I did :)

Stay tuned for more stories!!!!

So much HOPE!!

I'm sitting here with tears streaming down my face because I am just so full of HOPE right now.

HOPE is something that I don't always feel… I watch the news and lose hope. I see so many of my friends suffering struggling and I lose hope. I see disease taking away loved ones and I lose hope. I walk into my laundry room and see mountains of clothing and lose hope (yup some days it is sadly just that simple).

But this week I am full of HOPE.

Live Different is the organization that I use to go to Mexico, Dominican and Haiti to build with and help change lives. I love them. They are Canadian. They are determined to help meet the most basic needs of some of the neediest in our world. WestJet is one of their biggest sponsors and this week a video has been flying around the internet… WestJet's "Blue Santa" went to the Dominican to the same community I was there building with and I recognize so many of the children!!!

And WestJet has definitely built a LOT of homes in this community and now a playground I plan on playing on in February when I go back to visit… but I need to give a special call-out to Live Different and the people who have dedicated their lives to helping those in our world struggling to even have the basics in life… they along with companies like WestJet give me hope.

So I am heading back to Haiti in February (we fly into Dominican so that is why we get to visit the above community again). And because I am NOT a large organization like WestJet, my "offerings" are smaller, but having been there and seen first hand, I fully understand the difference even $1 makes…. sadly it is shocking… but seeing how many are willing to get involved gives me hope :)

There are 3 ways you can help me "multiply my offerings"…

1. My good friend Jennifer Reynard (who has a heart of gold), is hosting one of her infamous crops here in Calgary and donating the proceeds to the trip in February where we will continue to help build a school there. This fills me with hope as this crop fills up. There are limited spots available so register ASAP if you would like to join us Jan. 24.

2. I am also doing an ONLINE AUCTION of mostly scrapbooking and crafting items, but also a few other goodies thrown in!! It started this past week and will pretty much run until it is either all gone or the Jan. 24 crop… whichever comes first!! 100% of all proceeds will go towards the Haiti trip and school so build generously and please SHARE!!!  It is on Facebook HERE.

3. If you would just like to donate money, you can do that too!!! Anything over $20 is tax receiptable and the link to do that is HERE.

And one more thing that just put a smile on my face this week and HOPE in my heart… I photographed a special lady… she wants to give her children the gift of a legacy portrait this Christmas… her and her husband have been married over 55 years… she understands that one day these photos will be precious… we had so much fun!! We added eyelashes and lip gloss and dressed her up in beautiful lace and sparkly jewels and we talked for hours about everything from marriage and how she met her husband to her favourite perogy recipe and fashion. I know her children will see the beauty of this portrait and now I just pray that she will also see it as she is truly a beautiful lady inside and out.

In case it isn't already obvious… I love what I do.

And because my heart for photography and helping others go hand in hand, I have another way you can help support the school in Haiti… 100% of proceeds from my photography this Christmas is going towards the funds for this trip AND I created a Christmas Special...

So with the purchase of a Deluxe Photo Session ($175), you receive a BONUS GIFT worth over $175 ($350+ value for only $175). And it all goes towards the Haiti school building trip in February. But HURRY as there are only 5 left!!!

Oh my and ONE more way to help with Haiti… I am now a Mary Kay consultant and am also donating all my proceeds towards the trip from now until I leave in February so if you would like a catalogue or would like to put in an order, please let me know!!

Killing Creativity

So as my teenaged kids are exploring assorted options for their future lives (especially Justin who is graduating this year), so I am re-visiting what I know to be true in life in attempts to help them make some important decisions on their journey… and I came across one of my favourite TED talks ever!!! I had seen this years ago, but it is worth rewatching (over and over again).

AND… it just so happens to also reinforce why I am so passionate about helping the school in Haiti build an ART CLASSROOM!!!  "ART" encompasses actual art, but also music, dance and all things creative… which we know to be vital to for so many children, but so poorly understood or encouraged. Anyways, I love one of his final quotes in his talk...

"We need to see our children for the HOPE that they are… our task is to educate the WHOLE being so they can face the future and make something of it."

So despite our world screaming that academics, education, money and status is what "success" looks like, I'm trying to be the voice in the wilderness proclaiming something different… and the most critical piece of advice is an ancient piece of wisdom and truth… spoken by a really wise man centuries ago who knows even more about the future than Ken Robinson… Jesus said...

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your strength,
and with all your mind;
and love your neighbour as yourself.
Do this and you will live."
Luke 10:27-28

So what do I REALLY want for my children on this earth? 

1. I want them to love God with all their heart.
2. I want them to love themselves.
3. I want them to love others with as much passion.
4. I want them to find joy in a life of service to God and themselves and others.

And so with that base firmly established, now the task is to discern how this will play out in the specifics of what they choose to do! Justin is graduating and Lindsey is in Grade 11 so some HUGE decisions are being made over the next short while!! 

Both have strong academics (especially in the maths and sciences… clearly not MY genetics!), but both also have strong creative sides (I will lay claim to these genetics however) and strong athletic interests (from both Brad and I)!! So they could each go in so very many different directions!! But I'm excited to see where they end up and the last thing I want to do is kill their creativity in any way!!

And speaking of creativity, I have some other exciting news!!! I found a NEW creative passion!!! Well, it's not a passion yet, but I sense it will become one!!! More later on that, but meanwhile here is a hint!!!

NEW Photography Class!! Join me this Saturday!!

So if you've ever been intimidated by your camera, THIS is the class for you!!!

It is a new class that is based on the concept that we learn BEST through PLAY!!  And so I have a bag of "tricks and toys" that we will use to learn how to move off auto mode and into a little bit of creative play with our photos!!

At this point, this Saturday is the only scheduled class, but if you can't make it and there is enough interest, I will consider teaching it again :)

Meanwhile, click HERE to register for Saturday!!!  I would  LOVE to play with you!!

And while you are there, you may as well join us at the Great Canadian Scrapbook Carnival!!!  There is shopping and creating and sooooo much fun to be had with our Canadian Scrapbooker Magazine team and readers!!!!  Wooooo hoooooo!!!!
CS14 - cover

September 26-27, 2014
Friday 9am – 6pm
Saturday 9am – 5pm
Admission Tickets:
2 Day Adult Pass:  $18
1 Day Adult Pass:  $12
2 Day Senior/Student Pass:  $15
1 Day Senior/Student Pass:  $10
Children 6yrs – 12yrs:  $2
(under 6 no charge)
FREE Shuttle from Somerset-Bridlewood Station

Announcing: Hope For Haiti Project!!

Okay so THIS has been on my heart since standing in Haiti at the school after helping to finish the 5th classroom and talking about the vast needs still to be met for these precious children…

As we stood looking across the rugged property of this school built on the side of the mountain, they mentioned that one day they hoped for an outdoor Art Room to be built on the rooftop overlooking the city of Cap Haitien below.

I smiled as I could so easily envision the students creating beautiful art and music in such an inspiring space… perhaps for just a small part of their day while at school, they could forget the difficult conditions that come with living in the slums at the base of the mountain.

I got to spend part of the day with the family of one of the students and help them cook a meal and clean their home… this is the mom in her kitchen (I vowed I would never again complain about anything in my own home!)

What really hit me is it takes so little to do so much for their lives in Haiti… and I'm not just talking money (although that helps too!).  I will never forget the look on this little girl's face as I indicated that I wanted to pick her up… it was like she won the lottery that I chose her to hold in that moment…

Anyways, back to the Art Room… I informed Frantzo, one of the many who has dedicated his life to helping those in need in both Haiti and Dominican, that I would see if all my Canadian artist friends back in Canada would be willing to help make this dream a reality. BTW… Canadians are mostly the ones who have helped build the school from the start so they LOVE us!!!

Once home, I emailed Canadian Scrapbooker Magazine whom I have worked with for almost 10 years to see if they wanted to join forces and within minutes I received a resounding YES!!! So we are partnering with Live Different who hosts trips to Haiti (and other locations to do humanitarian work).

And we are now calling on all our readers and all artists from across Canada to participate in this project!!

There are 3 ways you can participate!

1. Hope for Haiti Flags: for donations $35+ if you would like, we will send you a blank canvas flag that you can decorate and send back to us. We will then join them all together to create a beautiful banner for the new Art Room in Haiti!

2. Hope for Haiti Events: Host an art day, hold a garage sale or dinner or come up with another creative way to raise funds! Be sure to take a picture at your event and send it to us so we can share it with others! Every dollar and every gesture is precious to us!

3. Hope for Haiti Donations: We have set up a link where you can donate directly to the building of the Art Room!

Thank you in advance for your support and we invite you to watch closely how artists from across Canada can come together to make a difference in the lives of these deserving children in Haiti… what a beautiful picture of artists in Canada helping to bring art and hope and support to so many in Haiti.

Finally sharing

Ok… finally time to open up my gut and share about my trip to Haiti…

I wrote the below the week I returned (I was supposed to share in church, but had lost my voice)…

Every time I visit a new country, it seems I leave a little bit of my heart there.
This time, I left a huge chunk of my heart in Haiti.
I'm not exactly sure why… I've been processing to figure it out.

Maybe it was the blatant poverty that is apparent as soon as you cross the border into Haiti.

Maybe it was the sea of yellow ribbons on all the students I finally got to meet in real life after watching so many videos of them from my comfortable home in Canada. Those kids were almost like celebrities in my mind!

But I do know that God pretty clearly showed me how my teacher's heart, my passion for photography and my involvement in the art industry could all come together to help some of the most needy I've ever seen.

On the final day in Haiti, the school had a farewell party for us… this is something they only do a few times each year as there are sadly not a lot of Live Different groups that go to Haiti… it is expensive and far more physically demanding than other trips.

As we arrived to the party, the Christian principal and teachers led the students in singing "How Great Thou Art" in English for us… it took everything in me to not go into ugly cry while listening and knowing how harsh their lives really are living in the slums of Haiti.

Following a bit of a presentation (they LOVE Canadians by the way!), we were given the opportunity to serve the children a huge plateful of rice, beans and a small piece of chicken.  As each child ate, I walked around taking a good look (and some photos) of each and every student… saying a silent prayer for each one that God would somehow help them meet their daily needs of shelter, clothing, food and yes, even education.

I will never forget those beautiful children, their smiles and their hugs… nor do I want to. So now I'm figuring out what is my "do something" that I can still do for this vast need in Haiti.

So since writing the above, I have processed even more and am excited to say I have come up with some ways to further to help this school in Haiti as they struggle to continue building their school (we helped build the 5th classroom while there) and offer education to more and more needy students!!! So be sure to watch for the details for that and see how YOU can also get involved :)

Meanwhile, here is a short video of our trip to both Dominican to build a home and Haiti to build the school.  While watching, I challenge YOU to think about… "What is YOUR do-something"???

Going to Haiti!!!!

It's finally arrived!!!  

We leave this week for our trip to Haiti and Dominican to help build a school in Haiti and a home for a deserving family in the Dominican and we were just introduced to the family!!!!

This family of four consists of husband and wife, Jose (33) and Juanemilia (21), and their two children, Luis (3) and Wisnalyn (6 months). Jose has been living in the community for 25 years, and his wife recently relocated there 2 years ago. Jose works at a local car wash, and Juanemilia, who was only able to complete elementary school, stays home to care for the two young children. They are excited to be receiving a new home, as the one they are living in currently is unsafe, with mold problems, and rain that comes through the walls and roof.

Check out the baby girl and little boy!!!!  Better go empty my camera memory card cuz I've got a feeling it will be FULL of these two by the end!!!

Then we get to go help build this school in Haiti… 
it's up on a mountain… 
I should have worked out more to prepare!!!

I have to say this whole trip has somewhat snuck up on me!!!  Even though I've done a fairly good job of planning ahead and started gathering things for the trip months ago, I'm still finding myself suddenly frantically packing and creating last minute shopping and "to-do" lists!!  

I blame it on this past long weekend… it took away my Monday and I was counting on that day!!  But it was sooo worth it!!!  I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE watching my kids play soccer and I LOVE LOVE LOVE taking photos of the action (outdoors especially)…

Justin is in his last year of "regular" soccer and will need to play on a men's team next year if he wishes to continue (ACK!!!  My baby boy is growing up!!!!) so I'm desperate to not only watch every one of his final games, but to capture the memories as well in photos… 
it's a happy sad sort of thing… 
I envision myself scrapbooking after my kids have left home and laughing and crying as I relive it all.  But I'm going to stop now, because if I continue with this line of thought, I will end up in tears as I type!

Back to Haiti… I cannot wait.
I cannot wait to experience again the deep inner joy of making a difference in our world.
I cannot wait to experience it with so many close family and friends.
I cannot wait to capture images that will forever preserve it all.
And I cannot wait to come back and share with you all I learn and see and do.

What Moms REALLY want...

Mother's Day is this weekend...

I'm the first to admit that I love and eat chocolate and thoroughly enjoy beautiful flowers… but if you asked me what I REALLY want for Mother's Day, those things would be so far down the list (in fact I really DON'T want them on "expected days")!!

So when my son asked me awhile ago what I'd like as a gift "that wasn't too expensive" as he doesn't have a lot of money right now… I knew immediately…

"There is nothing I want more right now than a beautiful photo of me and you".

"I think I can do that", he replied.  "I'm beginning to see why they are important".

You'd think as a photographer I'd have thousands of me and my kids… but I don't.  I'm usually the one behind the camera so I have to be more intentional with this.

And when I think about what if something happened to them or to me, I fear I don't have enough photos!!!

Yup, even my son is starting to recognize that life as we know it today won't be the same as tomorrow and isn't what it was yesterday… 
we grow, we change, and sadly…

we lose loved ones sometimes unexpectedly… far before "their time"…

like the 5 university students here in Calgary recently…
like the niece my friend lost this week...

and suddenly photos are immensely meaningful, and precious, and coveted. 

And so that is what I as a Mom REALLY want for Mother's Day this year… some beautiful photos of me with my kids.

And I'm guessing many other moms out there would say the very same thing and so I have a special gift offer to give you what I want for myself… buy it for yourself or for your mom or a new mom or show it to someone who will buy it for you!!! 

And I've committed to giving 25% of the certificates bought towards helping moms and kids and families in Haiti when I go in 3 weeks…  what could be more special this Mother's Day?!?!?!

Oh and meanwhile go hug your loved ones and let them know you love them.