Ellie has decided the landing on the steps is the best place to monitor us when we're spread out between the first and second floors. For reasons not completely clear, we all call her "landing kitty" when she does this.
We went to the Lavender and Garlic Festival at the farmers' market in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, and bought both lavender and garlic (and some really stunning gladiolus)(a dear colleague of mine wanted us to name Maddie Gladiola when she was born)(it was a good decision to stick with Madeline).
I have stopped behind a number of entertaining vehicles in the last three weeks; not only the zombie-killer pirate bug truck, but also a Quinceanera DJ and a merchant of very large false eyelashes. At least that's what the graphics promised.
I am enjoying being back in a western library system for many reasons. We have lucked out every time we've been, discovering good books we didn't know about like Elizabite, which I will be giggling about for years. I thought I knew most H.A. Rey books, but apparently not. I think Elizabite is my spirit plant. Hee.
We went to check out Old Town last weekend, and while I took more pictures than this, this is the funniest one by far. We have never seen a parking lot pay station as quirky as this one. Matt is using the attached... money-jammer... to jam our $1 bills in one at a time.
There was a horrific spider in the house this week the size of my fist (OK, it was probably a two-inch wolf spider), and Matt wasn't home at the time so I sucked it up with the vacuum cleaner (while shrieking) and then practically threw the vacuum cleaner outside and slammed the door. Very mature of me. But spiders are to live outside, NOT INSIDE.
We checked out the volcanoes, which I like much better now that I know that a.) they are long exinct and b.) they are named "Three Sisters." We'll try to hike out to them via Petroglyph National Monument at some point.
We found a lovely ice cream shop named ChocGlitz and Cream, which makes all their own ice cream + chocolate candy counter goodies in-house. We'll be back for sure, though I might not get peach-pistachio again. It was OK, but I think I prefer plain old pistachio in the future.
We've been watching the PanAm Games with great enthusiasm, especially women's and men's gymnastics. The Canada, Colombia, Brazil, and Cuba are working hard to give the Americans a run for their money in the Olympics next year.
I have also been carrying our possessions from one area of this house to another trying to get everything put away in new locations, furiously working on some fun DIY decor for Maddie's room, holding up pictures to see what fits where, and plotting when I will repaint the upstairs bathroom (if only to put it out of its misery in its current neon yellow state). Soon, ugly bathroom, soon.
We have officially been in New Mexico for two weeks and three days, which means we're not moving anymore, but rather, moved. I'm not sure we have recovered yet from this third-move-in-three-consecutive-summers business, however. I had some things to say about moving this time around but once it all set in motion I forgot them all.
Thankfully, it doesn't look like this anymore. We're at the same point we always are at the two weeks and three days mark: only picture boxes and detritus are left. And an over-abundance of wine-colored accent walls. Nothing makes an over-abundance of wine-colored accent walls more palatable than this, though:
The walls of Maddie's bedroom when we arrived... there was more where this came from in the other bedrooms. YES, it's all gone now and YES, I will have the best before/after photos soon. We can't even.
That thing I said about how renting sight-unseen is always an adventure? Mmmhmmm.
I'm hard at work figuring out how to put the puzzle pieces back together in this new house with no attic and no basement but two of the finest master bedroom closets we've ever come across. The piano needs tuned but has an interior wall to live happily on. I got rid of enough stuff in my craft room before we moved that the new space is already set up and awaiting pictures on the walls, which is a bit of a small miracle. There are mountains and clouds and expanses of mesas everywhere, though the scary coyotes in the distance freak me out at night. The dishwasher works like it's supposed to (!) and we've already returned our first batch of library books in exchange for new ones. There is way too much driving, but there are also places to go and things to do at the end of those drives.
Which is all to say, we're adjusting slowly to make our old selves fit into this new space in ways both figurative and literal. Every single time we've ever moved to a new house, there comes a moment where I look around and think to myself "oh! This is home, and this is normal." Here's to thinking that sooner rather than later.
It's July and I didn't finish a single thing in June—unless you count the 800 million fires that have to be put out during a cross-country move month, more on that soon—but I had the foresight to invite a spectacular guest for July's interview before things got crazy: Suzanne O'Brien! Her inspiring tips and experience will have you revisiting all those photo books you've meant to tackle over the years.
Please introduce yourself and give us a little background about how you became a photographer and photo book maker!
Thanks for having me Elizabeth! I got my first camera in 5th grade and can vividly picture the shoebox under my bed stocked full of envelopes ready to mail film to the print lab. I would anxiously await the return of my prints, share the doubles, and scrapbook the others. Photo albums line my shelves beginning from that age. Since then, the quality and formats have changed (and improved!) but at my core I have always been an avid memory keeper.
My professional career path followed a more left-brained direction – BA in economics, MBA, career in finance and technology. I am lucky now to be home with my kids and pursuing this satisfying creative career. As my kids grew, so did the amount of shelf space required to house our family stories. I realized if there was any hope of my kids enjoying these memories someday, something needed to change. In 2011, after completing 2 ginormous 12×12 Project Life albums, I transitioned to primarily creating digital photo books. The small size and ability to order multiple copies are just two of the many reasons I love this memory keeping format.
As friends saw my books and shared the guilt they felt over images languishing on their computers and phones, the idea for my photo book business was born. I wanted to try to help, one book at a time! The photography side of the business grew organically from the book business as I began sharing more of my work online.
I thought long and hard about turning my hobby into a business. My decision was to pursue only photography work that I was passionate about – “Day in the Life” sessions capturing families in their everyday routines. These 3-4 hour sessions tell a story of family life and translate perfectly into photo books – making both pieces of my business complementary.
Your area of expertise—getting photos off hard drives and into the hands of people who will enjoy them—is difficult for many people. What do you think the biggest “trouble spots” are for people when it comes to finishing a photo book project?
The biggest challenge is almost always in getting started. This is the same for me as with any of my clients. In fact, my focus word for 2015 is “Start” because I wanted a constant reminder to just dig in and start somewhere!
Typically, once people get over the initial hurdle of gathering their photos and getting them into the photo book software (or handing them over to me), they have the momentum to keep moving ahead. It feels good to make progress on a lingering to-do item.
Another trouble spot is wrapping up the final details (i.e. I just want to track down that one last picture from our Hawaii trip that I know is out there somewhere) and pressing the “Publish” button. The best advice I have to get you beyond these sticking points is to remind yourself that done is better than perfect. Your kids aren’t going to miss that last Hawaii picture and no one is going to care if you used Helvetica Neue or Garamond font. Don’t leave these memories stuck on your hard drive, where no one gets to enjoy them.
What tips can you share to make these photo book projects more manageable…and by extension, more likely to get finished?
Here are 3 of my favorite tricks to help you get to the finish line…
Do you find it difficult to finish projects with your own family’s photos when you spend a good portion of your time working on client photo books?
Can you read my mind? Yes, this has been a big challenge for me since starting my business 3 years ago. Hence the reason for my goal shared below. I’ve managed to sneak in small books (tip #1 above) around client projects, but have really struggled with my Year in Review books. In fact, that last annual album I have is my 2011 Project Life album, yikes.
I have admittedly suffered from design analysis paralysis. I have so many ideas about what I want these books to look like, and these ideas keep changing, my skills keep improving, etc. I also want these albums to be consistent sizes each year so choosing the right book vendor feels like some crucial decision. Sound familiar to anyone? I’m happy to report that I listened to my own advice and have finally started on my 2014 album, frequently reminding myself that done is better than perfect.
Care to share any vague or specific (either is fine!) project goals for 2015? Do you have any lingering projects to finish up in your home or business?
Yes! I am feeling brave enough to share this goal publicly for the first time – I’m striving to complete one personal photo book a month in 2015. As I write this in June I’m on track to achieve this goal and make a serious dent in that long list of book projects! Here is a quick look at my completed projects so far…
Crossing things off the Moving List of Doom v.2015—almost done crossing, actually, which makes me afraid we're probably missing 30 things. (There are only two things left since I took this picture)(Gracie thought it said "power sleeping" instead of "power steering" and quite honestly, I should add that as a separate item and cross it off for successful completion, twice)
Dreading driving across the state of Texas.
Wondering how I could have gotten rid of so much stuff this year and yet still be so precariously close to exceeding our moving weight allowance.
Feeling glad that we decided to apparate to Hogwarts for a few days last week, even though we cut it a little close to the first day of packing.
Feeling strangely sad about leaving Alabama. Who knew we would find a corner of the south to love! Except for the humidity. And palmetto bugs. And I-85. And news out of the Alabama State Legislature. But other than that, we have many good things to say.
Feeling predictably sad about leaving the friends we made here. Siiiiiiiiiiiigh. Repeat after me: our hearts are bigger now. Our hearts our bigger now.
Feeling absolutely, positively miserable about the Cavs losing in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. We didn't miss a single playoff game and it was building up our good attitude reserves in the face of this move. Wah-waaaaaah.
Feeling ecstatically happy that we don't have to deal with another single showing in this rental house. It isn't sold, it isn't rented, and it isn't our problem anymore.
Feeling the tiniest bit excited to see our new rental house for the first time. Sight-unseen renting is... an adventure! Or something like that.
Feeling a lot, clearly. As one does in any move, and as one does x3 in a third-consecutive-move-in-three-summers move.
Angie Lucas and I were guests on this week's Paperclipping Roundtable podcast and it was like two old friends talking about scrapbooking! Actually, it wasn't like that, it was that. Ha. The topic for the week was all about making journaling more interesting and less a rattling-off of facts. We thought we'd share some of the things we talked about (you can read Angie's tips here and listen to episode 251 here).
1. Consider your audience.
Sometimes it's hard to make words seem interesting because you're not sure who they're meant for—so just arbitrarily decide and they'll start to feel more natural! Write as if you're telling a friend or relative about the funny details of an event, or speak to your loved one's future self, or write a letter, like this one. It doesn't matter if Washington, D.C. doesn't read my scrapbook page—it's just a device that helps provide focus.
2. Paragraphs are just one tool in your writing arsenal.
There is no rule that says scrapbook journaling must come in the form of a 5-8 sentence paragraph. The best scrapbook journaling tells a story, and there are many ways to do this so give yourself a break from writing in complete sentences from time to time.
3. Use the three Cs.
When I teach photography classes, I love to encourage people to use the three Cs to take the most meaningful photos without needing to take hundreds of photos. The three Cs (context, character, and close-up/color commentary) can easily be adapted to writing, too. In this page I focused in on Gracie's exploits in the mud, and used my loud inner dialogue about it as my journaling. What could have been a piece of journaling that said "Gracie loves to play in the mud, but boy, does she make a mess sometimes!" turned into a funnier, richer experience when told this way.
4. Dig deep by writing your observations/thoughts about how something—or someone—made you feel.
It's easy to scrapbook events because they're such a rich resource of information, but writing about someone's influence on you provides depth that rattling off facts simply can't achieve. I know I would have loved to read about the people who helped shape the character and perspective of my grandparents or great-grandparents, because it would have given me insight into what (and who!) mattered to them. Feelings are powerful, and are great vehicles for authentic words!
5. Don't report, tell stories.
People are natural storytellers—we want to share the funny, sad, challenging, or inspiring things that affect us. Think about when you're just talking about your day with a loved one: you aren't reporting facts like a beginning newspaper writer, you're telling a story. It's a subtle shift in thinking but it can help draw out more natural, interesting writing when you approach scrapbook pages the same way. Make pages because they tell stories, not because you want to capture every single event on the timeline in detail. There's no way you'll preserve all the stories in your scrapbooks, but writing them is so much easier when you realize what a gift they are, no matter how ridiculous they might be sometimes : )
As is custom here, I like to make a list of All the Things That Happened in May for future reference and comparison... the rocket thruster thingies seem like a wildly appropriate metaphor. I honestly don't know how 31 days can always be so packed full of stuff, but the evidence doesn't lie. As usual, it's mostly fun stuff! Enough fun stuff to distract from the less fun stuff, at least most of the time. Here's the list:
+ The month began and ended with a mad dash to Huntsville for an overnight stay (first visit to stay with my copy editor Jenny Webb and her family/pick up Angie and Keira who stayed there for a few days prior and the second visit to see our first Air Force friends from Malmstrom some 20 years ago)
+ Very fast visit to Nashville (and Franklin!) with Angie, Keira, and Wendy
+ Hosting Angie, Keira, and Wendy in Montgomery for three days which included some swimming, some attending Southern Makers, some sightseeing in and around Montgomery, some solving the world's problems
+ swimming birthday party for Bridget with girls from school
+ Mother's Day/Bridget's birthday (one and the same this year)
+ Mad dash to Birmingham with dog and typewriter (there were a lot of mad dashes this month)
+ Bridget went to the McWane Center in Birmingham (not on same day)
+ chaperoned a Bridget field trip in town
+ field day, which I wasn't able to attend but still had to fill way too many water balloons in the dark the night before to send with Gracie for the 4th grade water balloon stations
+ Gracie's 4th grade art show
+ National Junior Honor Society induction ceremony for Maddie at Baldwin
+ Honors assemblies for Gracie and Bridget at Forest Avenue (not on same day)(but Bridget's conflicted with Matt's)
+ Awards ceremony and graduation for Matt (there was a day where I needed to be three places at the same time)
+ ripped apart almost every tub/cabinet/storage bag in craft room for first phase of school papers organization while searching for missing school photos (found them, but created terrible mess in wake)
+ Maddie's 13th birthday
+ two days of gymnastics camp to learn next season's routines
+ various sleepovers and swimming dates
+ Matt went to see Rush in Atlanta with a friend from school
+ organized a huge donation of no-longer-needed scrapbook supplies (don't worry, I still have PLENTY) for a charity organization in NW Alabama
+ inordinate amount of packages sent (i.e. birthday gifts sent months in advance, Mother's Day gifts sent three weeks late, random surprise gifts to faraway friends, hand-me-down clothes boxes, etc.)
+ farewell breakfast/dinner dates with friends
+ Tomorrowland in the theater (we liked it!)
+ trip to U.S. Space and Rocket center (Gracie has her heart set on Space Camp after her second visit here—and if the planets align, it actually isn't out of the question when she is old enough (see first item on list)
And we didn't miss a single Cavs playoff game. I can hardly breathe I'm so excited about the possibility of an NBA Championship. DO YOU HEAR ME, CAVS?
This of course doesn't include the other stuff like driving so much the van rolled 100,000 miles (fitting), regular gymnastics practices, car repairs x 2 in preparation for the cross-country move, a terrible allergic reaction to something that threatened to unhinge me once and for all, moving prep/Goodwill runs, consoling some Very Sad Girls about leaving their schools/friends this year, continuing to try to have this house ready for realtor showings (to include one on the afternoon of May 10)(UGH), all while spending most of the month without air conditioning (broken, but finally fixed as of yesterday).
In other news, the packers don't arrive until June 16 so we have a little extra time to work on the Moving List of Doom. In theory.
Please join me in welcoming Elise Blaha Cripe to the blog! She's a mama, entrepreneur, and military spouse who knows how to get things done.
Q. Please give us a little background on your path as a maker of crafty things and creative entrepreneur.
I have been making things all my life and started my first creative business (handmade frames!) my senior year of high school! started my blog when I was in college and over the past nine and half years it has become a creative record for my projects and helped me launch my business which has been many things over the years. Currently, my focus is on GET TO WORK BOOK, a day planner + goal setting journal.
Q. You’ve experimented with a lot of different styles of crafts over the years; how do you decide what’s worth sticking with and what’s OK to abandon? Do you experience unfinished project guilt?
I think I assume nothing will stick forever. I have many crafting styles that I rotate through. One season I'll be super into knitting and then I'm over it for a year. Or one year I'll LOVE sewing - cannot get enough! - and then I'll drop it for months. In my mind, it's all worth trying but there is no guilt or sadness in abandoning a craft for awhile. I have done this long enough to know it all comes back around and the next time, your style will have evolved and the craft will feel totally new and inspiring again.
Q. Long-time readers of your blog will be familiar with your “just start” mindset. What keeps you motivated to see a project through during the long middle stretch?
The middle is ALWAYS the hard part. I think I tend to stay most committed when I work fast and power through a project. Quick work helps me stay on track and it keeps me from looking around and getting bored or worried that something isn't turning out how I planned. I also think sharing progress updates, on my blog or on Instagram can be fun and motivating. Sometimes that helps me push through when a process is starting to drag.
Q. You approach goal-setting in a very practical way. Do you have tips to share about your process that could help creative types reframe their to-do lists and tackle unfinished projects?
Absolutely! I think the key with goal setting is to first pick things to work on that feel fun and inspiring. It's okay if they are challenging, but it helps if you actually WANT to do the work and make the change. Next, I recommend setting a deadline for your goal. Finally, I think it's hugely important to break down your goal, whatever it might be, into small, manageable tasks. I like to say that "big things happen one day at a time." It's not a zero to sixty process. It's about taking that first step and letting that small success fuel the second step and then the third, and suddenly, you're crossing things off.
Q. Tell us a little about your biggest (nearly) finished project to date: Get To Work Book!
Hooray! I am so excited about GET TO WORK BOOK. For this HUGE project I took everything that I know and love about goal setting and packed it into a day planner. It's designed to help you do the work but it's also created to get out of your way. I think it's easy to spend time dreaming about your goals or organizing your to-do lists. The goal of GTWB is to help you turn those goals into something real and turn your organization into completion. You can read so much more about this book and the planning behind it on my blog. :)
Q. Do you have any lingering business or personal unfinished projects you’d like to tackle in 2015?
Nothing "unfinished" but a lot in progress! I plan to launch the 2016 version of GTWB in early September. I would also like to open a GTWB shop with prints and posters this fall. I've got a podcast that is always recording and a blog that always needs posts. AND, I'm having my second kiddo in November. So it's a busy second half of the year but I'm thrilled about it. All good things.
Elise Blaha Cripe is a blogger, crafter and goal setter in San Diego, California. She has been sharing thoughts and DIY projects since 2005, running an online shop of handmade goods since 2008 and this spring launched GET TO WORK BOOK, a day planner + goal setting journal. Elise also hosts a weekly podcast, elise gets crafty, that focuses on handmade business, blogging, creativity and inspiration.
Blog : Shop : Twitter : Instagram
Welcome to Unfinished, my blog project for 2015! You can read all the posts here to catch up, and please feel welcome to join in at any point!
Despite the month-long circus around here, I managed to get a Really Big Thing finished: school photo albums for the grandparents! This project is the kind this Unfinished series is meant for—something I really should have undertaken years ago but... didn't, for a hundred different reasons (HBO and laziness high on the list). Here are a few things I learned about projects like this one:
1. It is SUPER helpful to keep all school photos in one designated place, and far less helpful to keep 85% of school photos in one designated place and the rest in various secret undisclosed locations.
2. It is OK to break apart a giant project like this into smaller ones if it means someone will get an album. Because my goal was to get albums prepared and sent to grandparents, it suddenly became more manageable then committing to getting theirs and ours done, too. I still need to design one for us that includes class photos, but it will be much easier to do when the time comes because I already have done so much work to prepare (see #1).
I promise you won't understand what took me nine years to get this project off and running when you see how simple they are:
Three brag books from Michael's (x2 in this case) are the perfect thing. The first thing you want to do is throw away the cheesy cover and backing they come with and cut your own (4 1/2 x 6 1/8). I used my suddenly-dwindling stockpile of Scenic Route paper, because I didn't want anything that might seem dated in 2020, 2023, and 2025 when the girls graduate from high school. (!!)
I included preschool pictures for each of them and there is more than enough room for photos up to twelfth grade.
It took me a while to figure out how I wanted each page to look, but once I did, it was easy to print/assemble the albums quickly. I cut heavy white cardstock to fit the album pages (4 x 6) and then ran them through the printer with the little frame for the standard 2.5 x 3.5 size school photo, changing the grade/year/school info each time. The girls have attended eight different schools so far; this project would move even more quickly if you aren't a transient military family. I used original photos for each except for one year, where the school very inconveniently didn't offer the 2.5 x 3.5 standard school photo size. For that one I scanned the original and printed it out myself to fit.
They are packaged and awaiting the post office run this morning! What a relief to have these caught up and ready to add each new picture easily. It is so fun (and a little heartbreaking) to see all these pictures organized properly, the way school photos are intended to be enjoyed.
How about you? What did you finish this month? Link up here or share in comments, and be sure to stop back on Monday for June's interview!
As per usual, May is steamrolling over us at breakneck speed... the stories of interest are stacking up in a seemingly endless holding pattern. I drove to Birmingham with the dog for an hour this week (sigh, yes, that would make for a four hour trip in total—long story) and while there, I spotted this man painting in a field on the outskirts of downtown. There was something so lovely and calming about it: I don't know what he was painting, or why he chose this spot, but it made me happy to see him for the one minute I was walking the dog. It was a good reminder to pay attention even as the month screams by all around us : )