Sunday, August 18, 2013

Looking Beyond the Baby Book: How to record memories in the 2nd year & beyond.

I will forever be grateful that I found Tiff's post over at A Day In My Life. If it weren't for her post about the photo book she made as an alternative to a traditional baby book, I can pretty much guarantee that all the photos I took of Elsa over the past year on the 1st of each month would STILL be stuck on my computer waiting for me to catch up on 6 years of blog books.  Instead I was motivated to get 223 of my favorite images into a book for me to publish using my favorite bookmaking site. When Elsa turned one I was at a loss as to how to keep recording her milestones in a way that didn't require a lot of effort. I knew I would have plenty of photos, but I didn't know how to tie all the text together or even what exactly I would be able to blend together into a cohesive book.  I searched for a 'prompt' so to speak, and what I landed on is so simple yet so full of information about Elsa each month of her second year.

All I have to do is complete sentences that begin with the word "You". I jot notes on our family calendar and in my daily journal so it's really easy to pull everything together. Despite my best intentions it wasn't possible to keep up with making new monthly pages so that task was left for the end, BUT it wasn't hard because I had all the information in only two places.

Opposite the page with text (I make those in Photoshop almost the exact same way as Tiff), I placed a full bleed photo of Elsa with her white chair.  Like the basket series I did every week for 52 weeks, I used a consistent prop to show her growth. Granted she's so wiggly the chair was off in the background sometimes!

The colors for the numbers were chosen based on whatever outfit she was wearing for her photo shoot. Knowing this ahead of time was good motivation to mix up the colors she wore. I didn't realize how much dark pink she has!

 After the initial spread for each month the layouts vary depending on how many photos I was able to get that month. All but a couple of times I did her mini sessions on the 1st of each month since her birhday is July 1st, but the information for each month covers the entire month. What that means is that below she's exactly 14 months old in the photo, but all the milestones happened over the course of the month she was 14 months old. Make sense? I wanted the 14 to go with the things she did at 14 months, not by the time she turned 14 months. Confused yet? I know I had to stop and think a few times as I sorted out the months, milestones, & photos so I was consistent! Have you noticed that's something very important to me yet? :)

I was able to sneak in a dear photograph spread which I loved! Julia was a little younger than Elsa when her photo was taken next to the same tree, but with birthdays in October and July this was the closest I could get of them in the same dress.

The very last 'you' on every month is 'you' are loved! and so that's what I titled the book.
I hodge podged a font to make the 'you' fit my needs. I'm too cheap to buy a font so I altered one to get the look I wanted. I simply enlarged it for the cover.

I'm still on the fence about whether I'll use the same format for her 3rd year. I think it would be great to go back and make a page a year for Sam and Julia with some highlights of the year, but I think it might be too late :( Besides, they have Alphabitty Moment books to remember their younger years. Eventually they'll have blog books too. What have YOU done to record milestones for your little ones?

If you want to see all of Elsa's book you can click here. Enjoy!

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Low Sugar Zucchini Muffins

The first day of school is just around the corner for us so I've been trying to brainstorm ideas for making the transition to a more structured routine & busier schedules as smooth as possible. One area that needs to be addressed is breakfasts. I find that making lunches the morning of makes them taste better so I don't have the luxury of time when it comes to making breakfasts - even if I do get up at 5 or 5:30 most school mornings! I needed something that didn't require me to stand over a stovetop so I Googled Best Zucchini Muffins ever and found this recipe. Then I went to work making some adjustments to cut sugar & increase nutritional value. While not as low sugar as this recipe, the taste is better & there is more zucchini. The reason I chose this particular recipe is that it has three cups of Zucchini for 14 muffins which is a cup more than my old recipe. Nice!

I baked up a batch for the kids the other day and the declared they were stuffed after only one. They came back for seconds later when they had cooled and gobbled those up as well.  I declared my adaptations a success & will go ahead and freeze 3 cup bags of zucchini from our garden for the rest of the season. It will be super easy to take a bag out the night before.

Do you have a favorite fast and easy breakfast recipe you'd like to share? leave a link in the comments! I'm sure I'm not the only one who'd like school mornings to send their kids off to school with something healthy in their bellies!

Zucchini Muffins

(makes 14 regular sized muffins)

2 cups organic whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1c sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3c grated un-peeled zucchini

Whisk together, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg; set aside.  In a separate bowl, beat together sugar and eggs until creamy.  Add the 2/3 cup melted butter, vanilla, and mix well.  Add the shredded zucchini and mix to combine.  Last, add the dry ingredients and mix just until blended.  Batter will be very thick.  Use Coconut Oil to coat muffin tins or muffin cups. Distribute batter evenly between greased muffin cups, filling completely full. Bake at 350 degrees for 21-23 minutes for regular muffins or 30-32 minutes for jumbo muffins.  Muffins will be browned and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.   

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Alphabitty Moments Meets Instagram

As most of you know I have been designing book for other people for a while now. When time permits I also make books for my own family. Sometimes it's a photobook from a vacation (that I used as a pregnancy announcement!) Other times it's a book from our Summer Series. (I can't believe we're on our SIXTH summer here already!)

But my passion, when it comes to photos books, are Alphabitty Moment books.

Don't know what an Alphabitty Moment is?

Let me explain...I'm sure we all agree that the big events of childhood - the firsts we all photograph and document are important, but Alphabitty Moments are about the ordinary moments that fill in the gaps. Using the alphabet to tie those things together weaves a story unique to each child. They are the little moments that might go unnoticed until they are no longer part of our daily life. I wrote in the front of Elsa's book the following reminder to myself....

Don't let milestones overshadow the fleeting moments that make up childhood,
                                for it's the ordinary moments of every day life
                     that define childhood & become our most treasured memories.

A quote that's popular on Pinterest goes something like this, "Some day we will look back on all the little things and realize they were actually big things"

My personal favorite is this Winnie the Pooh Quote I added to Elsa's book:
I'm so passionate about this project that I've published four versions so far and have two more waiting in the wings. Elsa's baby book was based on the Alphabitty Moments theme, but was much more elaborate than Sam's and Julia's. What can I say? Technology has made things much easier than when my first two were born! THEY got 30 minute DVD slide shows of their first years so don't feel too bad for them.

This year when I made Elsa's book I used mostly pictures from my phone that I posted on Instagram (I'm 4MamaBear) at some point, but that wasn't always the case. I set up the layouts so no matter the Instagram border or size of the original photo, they will all be consistent and mesh well together.

I made a couple of other design changes so I could include MORE information without compromising the simplicity of the book's theme. Now instead of only a letter, word, and photo in each spread an explanation is included along side the photo.

I use a special section in the back of the book to include the date and location each photo was taken & use a custom designed key to fit all the information together seamlessly.  

Now here's the fun part! I am going to offer my design services to YOU so your photos and little moments can be preserved as well! My kids LOVE looking through their books and hearing stories of when they were little.

For the first five clients who put down a $25 deposit I am offering an introductory price for a 62 page hardcover 7x7 book with up to 105 photos for only $100. This offer is only valid for the Instagram book format like you see in this post, but is customizable as far as number of photos per page, font, & color scheme & includes the ability to see a digital copy for editing purposes.

Please contact me at if you have any questions! I think you might be surprised at how quickly you can scroll through your photographs & come up with 26 words & photographs that describe your child! And if you want to stick with a general A-Z photobook without a focus on the little things, I am still more than happy to offer my services.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Alphabitty Moments - The letter M

In a couple months when I'm knee deep in book design, homework, soccer, piano, & karate I'm going to kick myself for not being a better blogger during the summer months, but the truth is we're busy all.the.time. It is my goal to punch out a couple more personal photo books before the end of the year - potential Christmas gifts for the kids perhaps? We're trying to downsize significantly so we don't have so much STUFF. I was able to finish one for Elsa in time for her 2nd birthday party which we held on the 3rd of August. Now that I have that project under my belt I don't have any excuse to not post an Alphabitty Moment on Thursdays!  I had been posting on Instagram for a while, but I've gone back through old posts to find where I left off on the dusty 'ol blog. It looks like the letter 'm' was next. For us, "M" means McDonald's playland. I get a large coffee with five creams, the kids get to play & burn off some extra energy, and I get a few moments of peace.  Score!

A few design details on how I put together this particular book.... It's different from my others in that I used mostly Instagram photos & tied them all together by zooming in passed the Instagram borders in order to make them all borderless other than the rounded corner 'border' that Booksmart offers. I moved the text to the same spread rather than putting it at the end like previous editions.

Some spreads have 4 photos like this one, but others have only 1. Whenever I can I can mix continuity & flexibility I feel like I've hit the jackpot. The icing on the cake is that the simple layouts combined with the 'ittybitty' detail section in the back packs a TON of information. I'll share how I put that part together another time.  Until then, feel free to link up your own Alphabitty Moments post in the comments below.

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