Friday, June 23, 2017

Studying Scripture: Adding Art to a Non-Journaling Bible

In my last post on Studying Scripture, I shared all the details about how I have been reading, color coding, studying, and filling my new Bible with notes.  Because there is not (yet) a journaling Bible with wide margins or interleaved pages in an approved Catholic translation, I had to get a bit creative about how to include everything.  I also wanted to be able to add in art and handlettering to my Bible as part of my prayer and study, so I thought I'd share some of the techniques that worked for me.
Here are the supplies that I have been using over the past year and half and am very, very happy with:
(My suggestions in this post contain affiliate links, meaning that if you decide to make a purchase through me, I make a small percentage at no cost to you.  Thanks for supporting my little blog!)
1. I have this version of the New American Standard Bible (mine is navy, also available in burgundywhitehunter green, brown, and black)
2. These colored pencils (supplemented with a few Crayola colors)
3. This pencil sharpener (sharpens both large and small colored pencils)
4. These pencils (the only kind worth having!)
5. This eraser
6. These fine tipped pens, brush pens, and bolder pens.  I also love these pens, but they are likely to bleed through Bible pages- I recommend them for art done separately
7. Washi Tape like this
8. Vellum like this or this or this
9. Various sizes of blue post it notes (I do not recommend Post-It brand Super Sticky notes- they can damage the delicate Bible pages if you try to move them)
10. And a pouch to hold it all in like this one or this one or this one.
(You can also see the whole supply list on Amazon here.)

*Holy Cards
Taping in my favorite holy cards with washi tape is a perfect way to add in holy art.  It does nothing to damage the page- you simply lift or turn the flap to access the text.  I love that it easily provides beautiful images to meditate on while reading corresponding Scripture:

*Post It Notes
In my other post, I mentioned that I use tons of post its to compile notes from talks, homilies, and books I've read that I want to have close at hand in my Bible.  Post its also work great for adding art to my pages. Little lettering on post its of various sizes also works great, and the post its can be lifted or removed:

Sometimes I'll create art over the footnotes.  They are still able to be read, but I have the added beauty of color, lettering, and sketches without covering the actual text.  I know that some people have created room for art and journaling in a non-journaling Bible by painting the footnotes with white paint or covering them with a large white label sticker.  If you are looking to create just a Bible for art, with another Bible available for study and prayer, that is a valid option.  My Bible however serves for studying as well, so I want to make sure the footnotes are still legible:

Probably my favorite way to add art in my Bible is using vellum.  Transparent paper that allows you to see Scripture behind it, using vellum is also super easy and fun because you can trace your designs from a pattern, prototype, or other work and then easy add them into your Bible.  Here are a couple of examples that I created by tracing verses that I had previously lettered in a notebook but wanted to add to my Bible:

*Tracing & Computer Fonts
This technique makes it easy to add lettering even if you don't consider yourself an artist or don't like your handwriting.  First, I highly recommend you go read my post called Your Handwriting Matters, because if there was ever place to use your handwriting, your Bible is it.

However, if you want to try a different lettering technique you can easily do that.  Using a program like Word or Publisher, type your verse in a font you like.  I recommend doing this as a piece of word art or in a text box so it is easier to manipulate.  You can set the text fill to white and the text outline to black creating a font that can be colored in.  Print to a size that you can trim and fit in your Bible.  Then color and decorate and add it to the matching page:

Or you could use that font as a template.  Here I printed the verse, taped a piece of vellum over it, and then used it as practice using a brush pen:

Then I taped the vellum art into my Bible.  This is a great technique to help you develop your own lettering style.

*Coloring Pages
There are a lot of really pretty adult coloring books with Scripture and Tradition as themes (like this and this and this).  You could put that beautiful coloring to good use by trimming your final art work and adding it into your Bible as a flap by taping it only on one side.  (Bonus- the back side can be used for notes or prayers!) Here, I added in one of my favorite coloring pages I've created, the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  You can find that coloring page here, and I have tons of other printables listed under the tabs above that could be used for the same purpose. 

Another option is to create your art or lettering in a separate, special notebook just for that purpose. I've been doing that with my Sunday Readings Scripture Doodle using these notebooks for the past two years.  They give me just enough room to letter a verse.  I add the reference in the corner, and I know some people also make a notation in their Bible as well (a great use of washi tape for example) that they have corresponding art in a journal:

There's a few of my ideas for adding art in your Bible!  You might also like this post with tips on adding notes, color coding, tabs, tools, and more:

So, how do you use your Bible for art and prayer?  What has worked for you?  What stumbling blocks or challenges have you faced? What new techniques would you like to try?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Studying Scripture: Tips, Tools, & Ideas

"In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them."  ~Catechism of the Catholic Church 104

How do you spend time with your Bible?  I am a tangible, visual, hands on kind of learner, so the main Bible that I have been using for almost fifteen years is covered in notes, filled with items stuck between the pages, and literally held together with duct tape.  I decided a couple of years ago to upgrade to a new Bible where I was a bit more systematic in my study and organized in the conversations and notes that it held.  I've been carrying this Bible around with me for a while now, and after lots of questions, thought it might be time to share some of the study techniques that have helped me spend more time in Scripture and gain a greater understanding of God's Word.

What: Last January, I finally got a new Bible, new supplies, and printed out a 365 day reading plan.  I spent the last days of my Christmas break and into January transferring alllllll of the notes in each book into the new Bible; notes in margins, on post its, underlining, etc.  I also started to transfer verses that I had underlined or highlighted, but realized I was underlining so much they tended to run together. I also wanted to keep myself from speed-reading, as well increase my comprehension.  I decided to color code my highlighting looking for themes.  What started as a few colors quickly evolved into twelve colors that symbolized Christian topics.  Using all those colors made me slow down and soak in Scripture as I read, and also acted as an accountability tool to keep moving forward.  Since then, I love going back and rereading and studying using the color coding that is already there.

Why: As people have seen my Bible in person or in pictures, some have commented that they have never felt comfortable (or even have been told not to) writing in their Bibles.  I totally understand; this is the inspired Word of God, after all.  So if this seems disrespectful to you or detracting, then don't use this technique.  I know that it has helped me learn and grow and spend more time in God's Word, so it is something I will continue to use, but this also isn't the only Bible I own.  I think a great compromise is to have one Bible for study- you can underline, highlight, cover it in post its, stick in notes and cards, etc.  Then have another Bible that is more for prayer and reverence in your home.

How: I would have loved to have been able to do all of this with a journaling Bible complete with wide margins or interleaved pages.  However, there is not currently a Catholic journaling Bible available in an approved translation.  (C'mon, publishers!) So until then, I've figured our some ways to get all of my notes (as well as some art- I'll have a followup post about that on Friday!) using a regular, non-journaling Bible.

Here are some of the ideas, tips, and techniques that have worked best for me:

Favorite Supplies:
First of all, here are the supplies that I have been using over the past year and half and am very, very happy with.  Having good materials to use that have been consistent as I work my way through the Bible has made a big difference in my continuity and how my Bible looks as a whole.
(Contains affiliate links)
1. This version of the New American Standard Bible (mine is navy, also available in burgundywhitehunter green, brown, and black)
2. These Bible Tabs (or if you know the Great Adventure Bible Study Program, you could also get this color coded version)
3. Bible Verse Cheat Sheet (not pictured above, but I have had this laminated sheet folded and taped in the back of my Bible for reference since college. It proves to be very useful!)
4. These colored pencils (supplemented with a few Crayola colors)
5. This pencil sharpener (sharpens both large and small colored pencils)
6. These pencils (the only kind worth having!) and this eraser
7. These pens (I used various sizes, but mostly the 01 when copying notes)
8. Washi Tape like this
9. Various sizes of blue post it notes (I do not recommend Post-It brand Super Sticky notes- they can damage the delicate Bible pages if you try to move them)
10. And a pouch to hold it all in.  My zipper pouch happened to be a free gift from Fossil that I totally reworked (it used to have large neon gems...I took it apart and added small metal brads.)  It happens to be the same color AND size as my Bible, so it is perfect to travel with.  If I needed to buy one myself, I might consider this one or this one or this one.
(You can also see the whole supply list on Amazon here.)

*Follow a reading plan.  I really like the reading plans Meg from Held By His Pierced Hands has created.  I printed off the One Year Chronological and taped it in the back of my Bible.  However, being honest, I kinda fell off the wagon and got behind.  I was able to keep up with the Psalms/Proverbs and the Gospels...but the Old Testament that I love so dearly was a little harder to maintain pace with.  That is what I am working on finishing up. :)  So even if you aren't able to finish in 365 days, it is still really nice to have a plan to keep you moving forward, as well as have some guidance in not reading Genesis straight through to Revelation.

*Create a way to "check off" books as you finish them.  Here you can see that I have been coloring in the name of the books as I complete them on the table of contents (above).  You also can see my original color coding list and symbol list.  This summer as I am trying to finish the last few books, I made a chapter checklist on graph paper (below) to keep me accountable.

*Color coding and notes: On this page, you can see that I've color coded sections of text using colored pencil and written short notes, symbols, and references in the margins using fine tipped pens.  The notes could be from Bible Studies, books I've read, talks I've listened to, sermons, personal reflection, etc.  I chose colored pencils for highlighting within the text because pen and highlighter can often bleed through either right way or over time.  Colored pencils are easy to work with, are semi-erasable if you make a mistake, and don't dry up, allowing you to use them for a long period of time for consistency throughout the entire Bible.

I used Staedtler Jumbo Colored Pencils for my main highlighting, and I cannot recommend them enough.  The lead is appropriately soft- I don't end up denting the page as I highlight, which happens with other colored pencils.  I'm able to shade in lightly so the text is easy legible through the color.  And, I seriously have never broken one of these colored pencils- after 18 months of use, including hauling them with me every where, letting my toddler niece and nephews play with them, etc. the lead has never broken.  How often do you pull other colored pencils out of the sharpener and the lead is already cracked and falls out?  That has never happened, and that alone makes them worth the price.  I also supplemented with a few colors from a box of Crayola colored pencils- lime green, pink, and dark red. (There's a free printable key at the end of the post that you can print and use if you want to start color coding your Bible by highlighting or underlining. One option follows the colors I used, but there is also a blank one where you can create your own color choices.)

*Post Its: I also consolidate notes from Bible Studies and talks onto post its and stick them on the corresponding passages.  Post it notes are great because you can lift them up and still read the text or remove them completely to see the whole page.

*Washi Tape: I've also added washi tape tabs to the top of pages I want to reference frequently by taking a 2" long piece of tape, taping it on the edge of the page, folding it over with about 1/2" hanging off, and then smoothing it down on the other side of the page.  I also ran tape along the side of a few pages for some of my very favorite stories.  I usually use wider washi tape for this purpose (the example on the above left page was 1" wide), run it along the edge of the page with half of the length of the tape hanging off, turn the page, and fold over flush with the edge.

A few places I add washi tape:
-favorite verses for encouragement and prayer
-favorite stories to reread
-verses that I have claimed and pray for specific people
-verses that I pray for my class and CCD program each year

*Post it tiers: Layered post it notes in staggered tiers can create a lot of space for information. Here I've layered 4"x4" post its on two facing pages creating a spot for references on each of the Sacraments.  I can lift up each layer and write without covering up any of the notes.

*Blank space: I also used the very few blank pages (ahem, publishers, more blank pages for notes please!) to organize collective notes about a topic- this page shows references about our Blessed Mother on one side and post its about covenants on the other.  I also add in notes from study, favorite quotes, and references wherever I can find room.  These pens were my favorite, and using the 01 size makes it easy to squeeze in lots of info and also doesn't bleed through the paper.

*A few ideas I have seen but did not use in my Bible:
-taping in full blank pages to copy notes.  I made do with large post its.
-using gesso/paint to cover up the foot notes to create an area for notes, journaling, or art.  I don't like this option because I frequently use the footnotes and cross references. 
-creating art over top of the Scripture text.  My whole purpose was to add to my experience of study and prayer with the text of the Bible, so I am not a fan of covering it up.  I could see maybe having an extra Bible dedicated just to art if you were going to try this method.

Click here to print your free Studying Scripture Bible Study Color Coding Guide:
It is only a half page in size, perfect to tape to the inside cover of your Bible.
The option on the left has the colors filled in based on the way I studied, and the option on the right lets you fill in the colors (or symbols) of your choice.

On Friday I'll be back with a second post about adding art into a non journaling Bible.  Check back for more ideas and tips!

You might also like:
Lectio Divina Bookmarks
Women of the Resurrection Bible Study
Way of Light Bible Study
Virtues and Saints Bible Study, Part One
Virtues and Saints Bible Study, Part Two 

So, how do you use your Bible for study and prayer?  What has worked for you?  What stumbling blocks or challenges have you faced? What new techniques would you like to try?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Learning Through Play: The Mass

Children have different learning styles- some learn through listening, some through seeing, some through music, and some through movement.  Even with specific strengths like these, I think we can agree that all children benefit from skills learned through doing, practicing, modeling, and acting out- in essence, through play.  Even though my students are 10 and 11, this is no less true for them as it is for their younger peers.  As I tweak things in my classroom over the summer and make room through growth in student centered instruction plans, I am on the look out for Catholic resources that allow for hands-on interaction and learning.

Meeting all of my expectations, I have fallen in love with these Mass play sets from Wee Believers.  Part of the Wee Discover series of faith filled toys, the My Little Church Magnet Set* and My Pop Out Mass Kit* have both received a Seal of Ecclesiastical Approval and are wonderful faith centered toys that help kids play, pray, and learn.  The Wee Believers Sr. Mary Clara and Fr. Juan Pablo dolls and Vocation books were among some of my first purchases as a new DRE years ago and they remain a favorite addition to my Faith Corner in our classroom, so I am excited to add these to our collection of resources.

After trying out these play sets (lots of pictures and details below), I can easily see how these could become a favorite toy for kids at home.  I wanted to think about some practical classroom adaptations as to how these sets could also be used as a resource in Catholic schools and CCD programs.  I love how they are child friendly while still being uniquely Catholic, accurate, and beautifully made.  Here are a few ideas:

For Younger Students (5-8 years old):
  • Practice setting up the church  or altar for Mass (maybe limiting the number of Mass articles at the beginning)
  • Playing Mass by moving the priest/people/Mass articles for each main part of the liturgy
  • Pray the parts of the Mass alone or with a "congregation" using a Mass book like this or this. (affiliate links)
  • Practice the steps and prayers during Mass, especially in preparation for receiving First Holy Communion 
  • Work on memorizing and using the correct names for the Mass articles and their use
For Older Students (9-11 years old):
  • Practice correctly setting up the church and altar
  • Know the names of each Mass article and their purpose
  • Match objects to name cards 
  • Understand the difference between setting up for Mass or Adoration or another liturgical celebration
  • Note differences inside the church during various liturgical seasons
  • Talk through the Mass parts and movement of people and things in the church 
  • Discuss prayers and responses from Mass and Adoration and their meanings
  • Tour church Sacristy or invite a Sacristan or Priest to join the class and show the students the parish's real Mass articles
I plan to use both of these sets in my classroom with some of the the above ideas during our Sacrament unit on the Eucharist.  They'll work great along with other content activities for stations as well as enrichment and choice work.

Here are some close up views of these two play sets along with what I like about each:

First up, the My Little Church Magnet Set- It comes with a tri-fold magnetic church interior, 38 magnetic pieces, and an instructional booklet:

The church tri-fold stands on its own and the magnets can be arranged in tons of different ways:

Different magnets feature the priest sitting and standing (and facing backwards for Latin Mass) as well as different colored chasubles.

It includes Mass articles:

And Sanctuary furniture:

And people for the congregation:

I love this little booklet that has pictures that match the magnets and great explanations about the Mass articles and their uses.

All the pieces of the magnetic set stick easily to the trifold board even when standing (no sliding!) and even with the pieces in place, it still folds easily for storage.  Everything fits perfectly in the clear storage pouch so no little magnets are lost for next time.

Next up, the Pop Out Mass Kit:

It comes with a heavy weight "altar", 14 Mass articles, and an explanation/set up sheet:

I popped out all the pieces and am super impressed with the heavy cardboard and sturdy stands that can be removed easily for storage and then reused again and again:

The set comes with an info sheet with instructions for how to set up for Mass:

And Adoration:

I really like how each item is clearly labeled on the back:

The other side of the info sheet also has matching pictures and short descriptions of the purpose and use of each item.  I'll definitely be laminating this sheet for longevity and keeping it with the set for student use:

All of the pieces easily store back in the clear storage case, or they fit well in  shoe box sized container which is how I'll store them in my classroom, eliminating the need to un-assemble and assemble each time.

While for younger children this set would be great for pretending and playing Mass, for my intermediate students this set will be very useful for emphasizing the names and purposes of Mass articles.  Instead of using just pictures, the students have the advantage of touching and interacting with the objects first, and then could use the same objects for an assessment.  I could definitely see setting up a table like this where the student have to match each number with the name of the Mass article and what it is used for, either on a recording sheet or using vocab cards.

I really love both the My Little Church Magnet Set and My Pop Out Mass Kit and know that they will make a great addition to my Sacrament focused curriculum.  My students will benefit from the hands-on method of these learning toys and the examples and explanations they can relate to.  I know that they would be a wonderful toy for any Catholic kid- whether at home or in a classroom.

Have you ever tried these products or other play Mass sets?  How have you used them with your children or students?

*Wee Believers provided me with a free set of My Little Church and My Pop Out Mass Kit in exchange for an honest review.  I only recommend things that I have used and love, and these opinions are entirely my own.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

32 Days: The Girl Who Inspired Fulton J. Sheen

One of the most well known and inspiring aspects of Fulton J. Sheen's life was his daily Holy Hour.  No matter his busy television schedule, world travels, and demands as a bishop, Sheen prioritized his time to include at least an hour each day in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  He credited his success in writing and speaking to this time in prayer, and he remained devoted to this promise for his entire priesthood.

While Sheen's daily Holy Hour has been an inspiration to thousands, he said he himself was inspired by an unlikely hero.  A young Chinese girl during a time of persecution witnessed the desecration of a Catholic Church and saw 32 Consecrated Hosts lying on the floor.  She bravely snuck back into the closed Church, made a Holy Hour, and received Jesus in the Eucharist.  Despite great danger, she returned for 32 days to receive each of the 32 Hosts, but on the last night she was caught by the guard and killed. 

This story is always connected to Sheen but has been difficult to pin down in origin.  Some say that it happened during the 1911 Republic Revolution in China (or earlier Boxer Rebellion), when it could have been heard of by Sheen before he was ordained in 1919 and made his promise to make a daily Holy Hour.  Or it could have happened during the Communist Revolution in the 1940's, serving as a further inspiration for Sheen to continue his promise.  Regardless, this unknown girl and her devotion to our Eucharistic Lord has had an amazing ripple effect during the 20th and 21st centuries.
(This post contains affiliate links- meaning that if you make a purchase through me, I earn a small percentage at no extra cost to you.  Thanks for supporting my little blog!)

You can read more about the story of the Chinese martyr from other sources:
  • A summary of Sheen's connection with this story can be found on p.30-36 in his book St. Therese, A Treasured Love Story.
  • The Cardinal Kung Foundation (Underground Catholic Church in China) relates the story here.
  • You can read about Sheen's resolution to make a daily Holy Hour in an excerpt from his autobiography  Treasure in Clay here.

I share with my students the story of this little Chinese girl during our Fulton Sheen unit and despite the lack of hard facts, they are always inspired by her courage and conviction, especially over things they often take for granted.  So when I found out that Pauline Books & Media had published a new kids' book called 32 Days: A Story of Faith and Courage* telling the story of the Chinese martyr and her connection to Fulton Sheen, I knew that I had to share it with my students.  

I used this book as a read aloud with my class without previously telling them anything about the Chinese martyr.  This book by Ellen Lucey Prozeller begins with a scene of Fulton Sheen being interviewed on television and being asked about who has most inspired him.  We then travel back to 1948 China and meet Pei, an 11 year old girl who witnesses the Communist Revolution and becomes the heroine of the story I related above.  The end of the book cuts back to Fulton Sheen in the television studio and then closes with an afterward sharing info on the research and facts behind the story.

The fictionalized life of Pei shows the realistic struggle and success of a young girl striving for holiness as well as family catechesis shared from the wisdom of her parents and grandparents.  We are given a child's perspective of the historical events of this time and place, helping young readers to begin to grasp the depth of the atrocities of the past.  We also glimpse the possible story of one of thousands of martyrs whose lives are known only to God.

A few of my opinions as a teacher:
  • I really liked how solid church teaching on prayer, the Eucharist, virtue, and more were woven naturally into the conversation of characters. 
  • A lot of time is spent on character development, showing that Pei's holiness was more than just her final actions, which is so important for kids to understand- we are called to sanctity in both ordinary and extraordinary circumstances.  However, as a result, it felt a bit long as a read aloud.  I definitely think that it would work better for a small group or individual reading.  I would LOVE to see this as a graphic novel (hint, hint Pauline!) or shorter edition more geared as a read aloud. 
  • Some of our best conversations were about Pei's persecution and losing things my students take for granted- attending a Catholic school, receiving the Sacraments, being known as Catholic.  It was great to hear them reflect on what it would be like to lose those freedoms.
  • The provided discussion questions at the end of the book were well written and incredibly useful in the classroom to continue discussions, make kids think, and bring the important aspects of the story together.  They would be equally valuable to an individual reader.
  • Honestly, my students' biggest disappointment was at the end when we read the afterward and they found out that this story was fictionalized and not a biography.  We have read too many stories of heroic people from the past for them to disregard this one as untrue.  The discussion that followed about the value of oral tradition being written down, the themes of the story being shared even without facts, etc. was very valuable and helped develop critical thinking skills.  
I also asked my students their opinion after finishing and discussing the book.  Some of the things they shared included:
  • disappointed to find that it wasn't factual- maybe should have told in the the prologue
  • liked how it went from Fulton Sheen back in time to China and then back to Sheen
  • would like to see it as a picture book that is a shorter version or a graphic novel
  • appreciate the details the author created based on what she knew and her research
  • wanted to know about Fulton Sheen's actual interview- can we find it and watch it?
  • really would love to know the real story
  • I thought it was a little confusing to find out that it was a legend
  • even if it was a legend, it was still a good book, and an example of bravery and martyrdom and people can learn from it
Overall, I think that 32 Days is a valuable contribution to Catholic literature for 9-12 year olds.   Next time, I will probably begin with the end and preface the origins of the story to my students.  Reading with that lens will help them accept the story as it is and be able to learn from the sacrifice and witness of those whom we will only know the names of once we join them in heaven.

Connecting activities:

*Pauline Books & Media provided me with a free copy of 32 Days in exchange for an honest review.  I only recommend things that I have used and love, and these opinions are entirely my own.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Sacred Heart Novena {Color-a-Novena}

The month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  This year, the Feast of the Sacred Heart is on Friday, June 23rd with the Feast of the Immaculate Heart on Saturday, June 24th.  To prepare, you can pray the Sacred Heart Novena during this month or on the nine days leading up to the feast.

Click on the image below to print your own Sacred Heart Color-a-Novena:

You can also find several versions of Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary Coloring pages and prayer cards here or by clicking on the images below.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on Us!
Immaculate Heart of Mary, Prayer for Us!

Friday, May 19, 2017

This Happy Teacher

I'm a happy teacher.  I love my school, my coworkers, and my students.  I also love some of the tools I get to use as a teacher- shelves of books, new school supplies... and teacher bags.  We carry around a lot of stuff, therefore a good tote is important.  So even though it might be nearly the end of the school year, I 'm super happy that I found the perfect teacher bag and I have to tell you about it!  (Don't worry- this post isn't just for teachers- this bag would be perfect for college, as a carryall, the office, for a diaper bag, travel, etc.)

I'm picky about bags and purses and will look for a long time (ahem...years) before finally deciding and making a new purchase.  My former teacher bag had been looking fairly worn (and sad and threadbare and had a broken strap) and needed replaced.  I had some specific expectations that I was willing to wait for that included:
  -tall enough to easily carry file folders, notebooks, etc.
  -wide enough to fit my ancient & big 16" laptop
  -be able to carry my laptop AND all the papers I need to grade- not one or the other
  -slightly structured with some flexibility in the loads it could carry
  -zippered closure so I don't dump student work all over my backseat
  -large main compartment without separation and a few pockets for pens, etc.
  -leather.  I knew it would be pricey, but I was ready to invest.  I know leather will last, will age well, can be able to be repaired, and is timeless.
  -I originally wanted a cross body strap, but realized that was a little impractical and probably not as good on my back considering the weight I was going to load in it.

And guess what?  I found my perfect bag!

After looking and looking and not being 100% committed, I stumbled on this beauty on a site I had already been perusing.  She's called the Meles Leather Carryall and is from an awesome company called Fashionable.  Not only am I super happy with my bag, but I love that I found a company that is working to make local and global change to employ women around the world.  They carry totes, purses, jewelry, and shoes.  You can read more about their mission to impact those in poverty by providing empowering jobs on their website.

The leather is just so, so lovely.  It is thick and sturdy while also being soft and gently distressed and still has a rich true leather smell.  I know with care and conditioning it will look beautiful for a very long time.  I chose the cognac color (this bag also comes in black, pewter, and chocolate), which is complimented by the brass hardware and sweet rose lining.

I love that my bag stands solidly on its own when it is loaded up.  Originally, I was unsure about the cutouts on the corners, but they actually help the bag adjust to carrying wider or longer loads, which is really nice.  Since I gave up on finding a good cross body, I was super pleased that the nice long straps (an 11" drop) sit and stay put on my shoulder.

Pleeeeennnnnty of room for my laptop, cord, planner, lesson plan book, papers to grade, books to read, and approximately 28 pens.

Well, maybe not 28, but there are a lot of colored pens and Ticonderoga pencils and some Saint stickers for grading.

And there is one nice sized zipper pocket for all the little things I like to keep with me as I go back and forth to school.

Isn't it cute!  I often have buyers' remorse, but not with this bag.  I did snag a sale and free shipping, so that helped, but I am so happy with the quality  and their mission that I plan to keep Fashionable in mind for my next bag purchase.

Aaannnnd... if you've never purchased from Fashionable, go visit and sign up for $10 off your first purchase!  Here I am, teacher lanyard and word wall and all, to prove that this teacher is very, very happy with her purchase.

FYI- This post isn't sponsored- I purchased my own bag and those are my honest opinions.  Fashionable does offer an incentive for referrals, so if you make a qualifying purchase through my link, I earn a small referral rate at no cost to you.  Things like this keep us little bloggers going, so if you are looking for something special for yourself or as a gift, I'd love for you to go check them out!