February 28, 2012

Photo Booking

Right around the time I was getting frustrated with our photo archival method, Young House Love did a post on making a yearly photo 'yearbook' in place of traditional photo albums. I thought this was a brilliant idea and decided to end my long-term relationship with 4x6 prints. I don't know why I was hesitant to switch over to photobooks until this point... I guess I was set on the traditional thing. But the whole process- resizing all my digital pictures to 4x6, editing them, ordering them, arranging them, buying albums- was becoming a little much. Not to mention we were going through twice as many albums since Anna was born. I envisioned drowning in a sea of photo albums down the road. This is what we accumulated since 2007 (when Ben and I got engaged):

If you are interested in this type of project I recommend going with a company that specializes only in book making. You will get a nicer quality book than using photo companies like Shutterfly or Snapfish. I recommend Blurb or My Publisher. Blurb makes professional books, and MP is a little lower in quality but still great and affordable. Like Young House Love, I went with My Publisher for the yearly book even though I was partial to Blurb who we used for our wedding album. The main reason was size- Blurb didn't have the size I wanted. I used My Publisher's Classic Hardcover size for these books and they were just the right size. So far I've taken all 5 years and compiled them into three books. Thanks to a credit and getting each one for 70% off (the "free pages" promotions), I was able to order all three! You can choose a photo wrap cover, leather cover, or linen cover. I picked the linen covers because of all the fun colors. I like the idea of having an array of colors down the road :)

(I'm kind of weird about sharing identifying information for everyone to see, thus the blackouts :)

I'm loving how much easier this process is. Now I store all my digital prints on our Dell in folders according to date (one folder for each year, a second folder for each month). When I take a new set of pictures, I open up my My Publisher's free software, drop the pictures into the layout I choose, and edit them with the click of a button. Then I add the event to the index page and save the project. No more opening up photos in Photoshop to edit them, saving them, uploading them to Shutterfly, ordering them, stuffing in photo albums, etc. My Publisher does all the editing for you with a button, and there is no uploading necessary. At the end of the year, I will just have to review the album and order it. Sooo easy. And with all the money it costs to develop a million 4x6s, it won't cost any more at the end of the day.

Watch out for the 100 page maximum, though. Go with a larger size book from MP or Blurb if you take a million pictures. We take a fair amount and hit the maximum for 2011's album. Blurb also has the option to easily important a blog into a book!

I love how our memories now take up a fraction of the space:

I really liked the index pages they did on Young House Love and made them for each album. It makes it easy to look something up by the front page:

I'll also share my experience making our wedding album for anyone interested in this project. We wanted a high quality wedding album but didn't want to fork out the dough for a professional album. We ultimately decided to go with Blurb. Great decision. The quality was amazing, the layouts were sleek, and I could do everything I wanted design-wise. We preferred Blurb over MP for this project because of the designs, size (we used the Large Landscape size which is 13x11), and no limits to the number of pages. I absolutely LOVED creating this album. I enjoyed piecing together my favorite pictures in the most aesthetically pleasing way. Yes, it took hours upon hours to get it to the point where I thought it was just right, but it was worth it.

The big bonus for us was that it ended up costing 1/10 the cost (or less) of a standard professional album. I got the final product for around $100. Since I also received one free copy, it was actually $50 each. We received our first book with a scratch on it, and when we contacted the company they sent us another one. I think sometimes the cover can be jacked up from the printer, but as long as you let them know they will replace it until it is how you want it. Check out the cover:

Here are some pages to get an idea:

You can bleed photos from one page to the next in Blurb (see above spread), giving you total control. So far this is the only software I know of where you can do this.

I added in our vows and scripture from the ceremony.

Blurb often has buy-one-get-one-free sales, so I ordered a book for us and a book for my parents after the wedding. I also ordered one for my in-laws, but I tweaked the design a bit. I replaced some pictures of our friends with more pictures of their side of the family. I love how you can customize this way!

February 27, 2012

Our Favorite Kiddo Books

I'm an avid reader and hope Anna will enjoy one of my favorite pastimes herself someday. I remember going to the local library during our family vacations and getting ten Nancy Drew books. By the end of the week I had finished them all (nerd alert). My parents had to make a rule "No reading at the table" or they would find me trying to shovel cereal into my mouth while keeping a book spread at the same time.

C.S. Lewis once said that all good children's books are equally as enjoyable as an adult. I agree. Well-written children's books have a simplicity about them that the adult world typically lacks. In counseling, a well-timed story, be it written or verbal, was a powerful tool for both children and adults.

We don't have a large collection of children's books yet, but we add to them slowly through gifts or special deals. I'm liking the board books right now because they are easier to handle with a baby on your lap. I didn't realize that most classic books come in a board book version. Here are some of our current favorites.

Anna loved the Hungry Caterpillar illustrations so I knew she would be equally as thrilled with Brown Bear. Great book with beautiful pictures. The story is fun for toddlers to follow.

This is a cute book with touchy-feely ladybugs that are fun to play with.

Probably my favorite. Written by the author of Goodnight Moon.

 The Sandra Boynton books are adorable and unique.

Another sweet, sweet one.

I love the Dr. Suess books. We actually don't have this one but it's one of my favorites.
Right now we have some of the small board books.

These stories mesmerized Anna from day one because the pictures are huge and contrasting. She still loves them.

These last ones Anna is too young for, but they are some of my favorites:

An illustration-only book. Powerful message.

We have a credit to My Publisher that has to be used this month, so I'm working on a simple storybook for Anna about her "story". More on that later.

February 24, 2012

11 Months, Remembrance, and...a party?

This post is a few days early (four to be exact), but we have a lot going on this week so I'm knocking it out early.

Anna Bean is 11 months old! One month from being a toddler. I'm not going to say much about this month except: she's fearless. She can do everything a typical baby her age can do in the gross-motor department, but with a short leg and a non-functioning ankle. She is nothing short of amazing. I have to beam for a minute from the comments I receive from the Mother's Day Out ladies- "She's so HAPPY! Is she always this happy?", "Little Anna is everyone's favorite!", and "She's unlike anyone else - always looking into our eyes, smiling, happy to be with us." Ok, ok, I'll stop beaming before I make you all sick to your stomachs. But seriously, this girl is awesome. Awesome, I tell you. I don't think God could have blessed us any more.

I took some photos of Anna's four-toed foot to remember, for this is the last month it will look as it does right now. How I love her little foot!

 Only a few shots this month:

Must have been a daddy-daughter moment. Ignore Ben's shirtlessness.

Anna eating oranges out of an empty Florida strawberry carton. Ignore my daughter baring all.
Sheesh, is this one big skin-fest or what?
I also just sent these out to our local peeps:

I know, I know. Timing. Originally we weren't going to have a one-year birthday party for many reasons, but I thought what the heck, it makes my heart happy so I'm going for it. It doesn't have to be anything big or fancy as I'm sure people understand. I just want to celebrate. Because there is so much to celebrate.

(Side note- if you are looking for sweet online invitations, check out Paperless Post- they have tons of free invites and the process is very streamlined and classy.  You also get 30 free "coins" to be used for invites that cost money. I picked these ones which were 1 "coin" apiece and sent them all for free).

To conclude this random assortment of a post, here's a snippet that spoke to me this week:

So often we mistakenly outsource our joy to another place or time. But I’ve learned, “No, it’s this life. This life I choose. This life God blessed me with. This moment right here—with silly kids, and toilets to scrub, and laundry to fold—this is the good stuff".... and even in the midst of the daily grind I see the wonders of what it means to live my soul purpose. That is the place of transformation.
Jamie Martin at SimpleMom.org

February 19, 2012

Weekend Fun

It was a fun-filled weekend for us, filled with fruits and veggies, baby thrifting, friends, and a DIY.

We started the weekend off with picking up our first Bountiful Basket. I had been lusting for a while now over Facebook pictures from friends displaying their $15 baskets of fresh produce. A big fan of fresh fruits and veggies and a despiser of grocery shopping, I signed up immediately. We love our first basket! I'm pretty familiar with local produce prices and this is such a great deal for a week's worth of stuff. I love how each week you can choose whether you want to buy. It feels like Christmas when you go to pick up your basket, and it's fun to incorporate something you usually don't buy into meals (fresh pineapple anyone?). Love it! They are trying to get an organic basket going which would be awesome and much more affordable than store prices.

After picking up my basket, I headed to our city's semi-annual children's consignment event. It's a huge thing around here. I volunteered to help out earlier that week so I could attend the sale the day before the public. I was on the prowl for a few specific things and found just what I was looking for:

This chid sized table was just a few bucks. It's hard to accurately see the colors
but they are a pretty pastel blue and green.

Birthday dress.

Been looking for one of these classic wooden toys with an abacus.
This one was still in perfect condition and I especially liked the little zoo up top.

I found a swimming outfit for this summer- was tempted to get a cutsey bathing suit
but thought this was more practical for sun coverage.

We then headed out for short trip to visit two friends, Blake and Juli. Anna met some horses for the first time. I was so proud of her- she didn't get scared at all! And they were some big horses!

It was fun spendig time with Blake and Juli. Everyone but me is in the medical field, so I enjoyed listening to all the medical discussion. We got to have some delicious wine from a nearby winery, and Juli made this awesome vegan pear bread that even Anna could have. It was so nice to be able to give her some of our food for once.

When we got home, I whipped out this chalkboard I found for a few bucks. I'm kind of obsessed with chalkboards:

I used some leftover scrapbook paper, cut out a rectangle, and taped it over the top design. Presto! It now matched our kitchen. Scrapbook paper is the best for projects because you can change it out for a mere 50 cents :)

Well, better get started on all the fun stuff now (you know, laundry, cooking, meal planning....)

February 17, 2012

Blown Away

(note to non-Southerners- stated this way, this term effectively means "oh my gosh, I can't believe what I'm about to tell you")

I received a knock at the door today, and a nice man handed me a big 'ol package. I wasn't expecting anything and had no idea what it could be.

As soon as I opened the box I burst into tears. I was so overwhelmed and felt so, so incredibly loved.

The gift was from blogger friend Sarah, author of one of my favorite blogs, Belly Babbles. Imagine how it feels for a family to express their love for Anna who have never even met her. There are no words.

Thank you to the Forbes family. I can't even express how I feel right now so I will just leave it at that.

February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines Day

                                                         From our little Lovebug!

It's hard to believe this is the fourth Valentines Day I've spent with Ben! We're not holiday-haters, but we also don't spend a bunch of money on days like today. Our tradition has been eating chocolate fondue, watching Little Women, and exchanging cards. Chocolate fondue is easier than you would think. You basically melt a bag of dark chocolate chips with a cup of heavy cream and a few drops of vanilla. The fruit I have here is a surprisingly small amount: 1 banana, 2 kiwis, 1 tangerine, 1 individual piece of pound cake, and half a strawberry carton. It's more than enough for the two of us. Other yummy toppings are pineapple, pretzals, and vanilla wafer cookies.

                      Happy Valentines Day! May you share with the ones you love...