Thursday, December 14, 2017

Decembers to Remember - stories 1-7

Rather than make another traditional December Daily project this year, I decided to try something a little bit different. I thought it might be fun to tell a series of stories about Christmases from when I was growing up. I'd never scrapbooked any of these stories before, so having them in a single location seemed like an interesting variation of the DD project that so many people make. I'm calling my project "Decembers to Remember" and plan to tell 31 stories about the holidays leading up to my senior year of high school. Hopefully, these stories will be a great way for me to share my childhood and my family's holiday traditions with my daughter and maybe even her children someday.

One of the things that was always challenging to me about December Daily was working on the project every single day and feeling guilty if I got behind on it. My variation of the project completely removes that sense of time guilt. I've only told seven stories, and it's already December 14. I guess that I'm a week behind schedule technically, but I don't really see it that way at all. I like being able to work on it a couple times a week and seeing real progress without feeling worried that I won't "catch up." 

My process was pretty simple. First, I made a list of stories that I might want to tell from the holidays during my childhood. Next, I scanned, edited, and printed the old family photos I was able to locate that seemed to match the season, event, or age of each story I'd listed. Even though the picture quality isn't fabulous, I'm grateful to have located as many of them as I did. I edited them as best I could, but some are still a bit dark and blurry, and others just have wonky colors that couldn't totally be corrected. Of course, I had some missing photo spots; I looked for online photos to fill in the gaps of pictures I couldn't locate. The next step was to print those photos in different sizes. I did this randomly because that's how I roll. I don't really like dealing with photos and printing, but this process wasn't too stressful since I worked on it a few different days rather than all at once.

I thought I had an album already to use for this project, but I was wrong. After picking up a plain kraft 6 X 8 album at Hobby Lobby and some page protectors, I started laying out the order of the pages. I didn't want to have the same kind of page protector right after each other in the album. Then, I started matching the photos I had printed with the page protector formats in the album. It was all pretty random and fluid, but I was enjoying the process. At that point, I separated all of my Christmas supplies into a basket I could keep on my desk and began matching up printed paper with the photos. The paper and photos became place holders in the album and could be moved around if needed.

On Monday of this week, I actually made the pages for the first two stories in my album in just under two hours.  I'm printing out the journaling, and this adds quite a bit of time to the overall time it takes me to make a layout. While I don't prefer this approach, I think it allows me to tell much longer stories than if I were using my handwriting.  I also worked on my album on Wednesday and completed a couple more pages in another couple of hours. Tonight, I told three stories in less than two hours; that means my speed is improving.  Take a look at the pages I made, and perhaps you'll be inspired to tell some of your own childhood stories.













I'm really loving this project and am already looking forward to telling more of the stories.  Now, I'm wondering why I took so long to make such an important album from my childhood.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Selfies 101 -Available now!

My brand new class, Selfies 101, is now available for purchase!  Please watch the short promo video attached here and purchase the class by clicking the shop tab above if you're interested in learning all about taking selfies that you love. :) 


This class contains the following information:
  • 10 individual lessons that include video discussion and examples
  • Dozens of selfie examples from my own photo collection
  • 15 or more of my layouts in various formats that feature selfies (some have never been shared publicly)
  • Opening and closing videos about how I began taking selfies and why I think they matter so much
  • Access to a private facebook group to share your selfie successes, to ask for tips/tricks, to share your layouts, and to chat with others about scrapbooking selfiesAccess to five different selfie challenges that will be posted weekly in the private facebook group beginning Friday, December 8, 2017 and continuing for five weeks

  • After you take this class, you should be able to:
    • Take a selfie you can be proud of
    • Access several tools at your disposal for taking a variety of selfies
    • Feel comfortable taking different kinds of selfies
    • Feel more confident when you’re having your picture taken by anyone
    • Document your selfies in your scrapbooks using some of my layouts as inspiration

  • Click HERE to purchase
  • (Note: You should receive an email with the link to the class within 24 hours of purchase; if you do not, please leave me a message here or email me at alowderlife@gmail.com.)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

My Grown-Up Christmas Wish List - *not stuff

I thought it might be fun to document what my Christmas list looks like at this point in my life. Sure, there are some things that I want, but I find these days that most things on my list aren't really those that can be purchased in a store. Besides peace on earth and an end to want and all that good stuff, there are some specific things I wish for the people in my life and myself. Take a look at my list and consider making one of your own.


My Grown-Up Christmas Wish List (the first two are pretty personal, but the others more broadly apply to my friends and family and my wishes for them)

1. I wish that Kelsey will be able to snag a job that uses her skills/degrees, sparks her passion, and compensates her fairly.

2. I wish that Jake will finish his degree this spring as planned and find a position with a company that treats him well.

3. I wish that my friends who are battling illnesses are healed and that their pain is diminished.

4. I wish that my friends who are suffering loss and grief find peace and comfort in the memories of their loved ones.

5. I wish that my friends who are lonely reach out to someone upon whom they can depend for emotional support and company.

6. I wish that my friends who are searching for meaning and purpose in their lives find something that fulfills them.

7. I wish that the people in my life treat each other fairly and with kindness, even when they disagree.

8. I wish that a spirit of giving and helpfulness permeated every season in our hearts and not just Christmas.

9. I wish that those of us who are too busy take some time to rest and recharge and breathe.

10. I wish that those of us who tend to be negative would opt for the positive slant instead, to allow ourselves the gift of hope, to jump to the kind conclusion, and to give others the benefit of the doubt.

11. I wish that we all spend our time as carefully as we spend our money. And if we need to do better, then I hope that we will.

12. I wish that we all work on being more present in the moment and appreciating our lives at this moment.

What are the things on  your Christmas list that aren't really things at all?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Big Happy Memory Planner Pages - October 2017


Week 1 - October 2-8, 2017



Week 2 - October 9-15, 2017

October 16-22, 2017

October 23-29, 2017

October 30- November 5, 2017

Is this the closing page of October or the opening day of November? I'm not sure what I want to do here, so right now it's blank.  I'm open to any ideas that you might be willing to share. :)

I'm really enjoying memory keeping in my Big Happy Planner; I think it's going to have a big impact on the kinds of stories that I choose to tell in more traditional layouts. Tracie and I have a podcast planned to discuss memory keeping in a planner in January, so I hope you'll tune in to the podcast if you're interested in this style of documentation.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Holiday Stitching Fun - Vintage Santa

If you've followed my blog for very long, you know that I absolutely love hand stitching. While most of my experience has been with cross stitch, I've begun to branch out into different kinds of hand embroidery as well. To that end, I had planned to work on several different kinds of stitching projects for the holidays. I still have some stitched pendants in the works as gifts and maybe as items to sell, and I'm also working on some ornaments right now as well. This embellished stitch vintage Santa is a little bit too big to be an ornament, but I think he would be adorable as decoration on my mantel or on a shelf/table.

Here's the finished piece. I haven't decided if I'll attach a thin ribbon to the screw at the top of the piece to hang it or if I'll add a loop to the back of the piece. I think either option would work just fine.


 I wanted to photograph a couple of detail shots for you too. I used French knots on the holly berries and on Santa's eyes.
 The rest of the stitched are mostly just backstitch or a couching stitch. There's a small wrinkle on the bottom left of the hoop where I didn't pull it tightly enough through the hoop or where the fabric puckered a bit as I worked the stitches around the ball of fur on the hat. I think that's something I'll get better at managing as I continue to work with this weight of fabric and these stitches.
 That metallic thread was a bear to work with, but I think the effect of it is really cool. I've read a few tips/tutorials about working with it, so I'm hopeful that the next project won't be fraught with such difficulty. That metallic thread is definitely challenging.
 And here's a shot of the piece propped up against a frame on my mantel. I think this one is in a 6" or 7" hoop, to give you an idea of the finished size.

If you're interested in making your own version of a hoop like this, here's where I bought my supplies --
     Michael's craft store: silver tassel ribbon roll, wood embroidery hoop, metallic silver dmc floss, hot glue sticks
     Hobby Lobby craft store: printed Santa fabric, regular DMC floss (black, red, green), white felt for the backing
     Supplies on hand: glue gun, scissors
     Total materials investment - approximately $5 (This is an estimate because I have extras of all the supplies left over and could make other projects out of the initial items I purchased.)
     Total time investment - approximately three hours

If you decide to make one of your own, I hope you'll share it with me, so I can see your work. I'm considering doing something similar with ornament sizes of hoops that are about 3" or 4" to hang on a Christmas tree. Would anyone be interested in purchasing that kind of thing? I'm not sure if I'll have time to make these to sell, but I'm open to the idea. I'd love to hear what you think about that.

Don't mind me, I'll just be over in the corner stitching. I have to say, this whole stitching thing makes me happy, and this little vintage Santa makes me giddy.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Kroger's ClickList - a Review

Another review - that's like two in just a few days. I can't help myself; when something works well, I want to tell people about it.  Read on!

Have we talked about how much I hate grocery shopping? I think I've mentioned in the podcast a few times that I even get road rage INSIDE the grocery store with my cart. I mean, I dread going to the grocery for lots of reasons, but the human interaction factor is really the biggest problem. I also get distracted easily and spend too much money and hate the way it smells and don't want to make small talk and resent the time it takes and... Well, you get the picture. 

Given all of my anti-grocery shopping sentiment, it's probably no surprise to you that I FINALLY tried Kroger's new ClickList service. (Okay, maybe it's not new to anyone but me; it's definitely a new thing in my book.) Anywho, I tried it a week ago this past Saturday, and I'm definitely SOLD on this option. I also just placed my order for this week yesterday and plan to pick it up on my way home from the gym today. I'm loving this grocery service option!

The process is actually pretty simple. To create your shopping list and place your order, follow these steps. Seriously, all of these steps took me like 15 or 20 minutes on my phone. I made my list for this week while wearing my pjs and enjoying an adult beverage. ;)
Step 1: Login to your Kroger app on your phone (I guess it prob works on a desktop too)
Step 2: Choose the ClickList option and your store (not all stores in my area offer this yet)
Step 3: Create your grocery list using the info already stored in your Kroger plus account for what you've recently bought
Step 4: Check the sale items for that week and add to your shopping list as desired
Step 5: Search for any non-recently purchased items that you need and add to your shopping list as desired
Step 6: Review your number of items and leave any special instructions (ie: only green bananas please)
Step 7: Enter your payment information (which can then be stored for future reference if you wish)
Step 8: Choose a day and time for pickup (these are listed in one hour increments and are available roughly 4-5 hours after you place your order)

When it's your day/time to pick up your order, follow these steps:
Step 1: Drive to your Kroger location and park in the designated parking area (evidenced in the photo below)
Step 2: Call the number at your parking spot and tell them your name and the number of your spot
Step 3: Wait for the worker to bring out your items
Step 4: The worker will tell you if any items weren't available or if there were any issues/questions with your order
Step 5: Wait for the worker to load your groceries in your trunk
Step 6: Drive home secure in the knowledge that you only have to touch your groceries the one time you bring them into your home and put them away. Cue an angelic choir singing right about now!


Here are some things to know about the ordering and pickup process:
-You can insist on a certain brand/size if you want to do so, but you're more likely to get what you want if you are willing to accept brand/size substitutions. There's a box for each item that indicates whether you'll accept a substitution or not. For me, no subs on cokes or ketchup, but pretty much everything else is fair game.
-Using the items you bought recently as a starting point works really well for me because I have a tendency to make the same kinds of things every couple of weeks. Why reinvent the wheel each week if you don't have to?
-For fresh items like produce or meat, you can be very specific in the instructions. I could request a 4 pound pot roast, for example. Or three soft pears if I wanted.
-Digital coupons and deals are automatically credited to your order total using the Kroger app. I'm not sure how it would work if you use print coupons. Since I don't, that's not really important to me.
-There's supposed to be a $4.95 service fee to use ClickList, but my first order was free. I figured that's to lure you into the fabulousness. I fully expected to pay for this second order, but it was marked out and listed as free as well. Let me tell you, less tress and half the time to take care of grocery shopping is definitely worth the service fee when they make me start paying it.  I wonder if you'll ever be able to pay with your Kroger fuel points...hmm...
-Because of the wait time between ordering and picking up and because of the potential fee involved, this is not a good service to pick up just a few items. For me, this is only worth it for my weekly shopping. If I need just a tiny something, I'll run in to a local Walgreen's or to Meijer's for it.
-My first time using ClickList, I had to wait about seven minutes for my order to be brought to my car because there were two other cars ahead of me. I didn't mind it because I just waited in my comfy, warm car and played on Instagram.
-There is a little pressure to keep my trunk clean because other people are putting stuff in it, but I see that as a good thing. It's one more reason for me to keep my car neat. :) 
-Some cities/stores offer delivery, but my local stores do not.
-Not all stores in smaller cities offer this service; my "corner" Kroger (like two minutes from my house) doesn't have it, but one of the ones "across town" does offer it. (I say that with the full knowledge that "across town" is literally like an eight minute drive at most, even at peak times, in my city.)
-Door to door, this process took me 25 minutes on a Saturday in the late afternoon - about 6 minutes of driving each way + 7 minutes of wait time + 6 minutes to load my car and check my order with the service guy. I call that a pretty good deal considering it would have been at least an hour or maybe an hour and a half if I had gone in to do the shopping. I'll be interested to see what my timing looks like today on a Monday as I head home from work and the gym at prime "rush hour" traffic for my town.

A few other tidbits:
-One of my friends told me that WalMart offers a similar service for free. I'm not familiar with it and wouldn't pursue that because I choose not to support WalMart's business practices, but you should check it out if you shop there regularly and want to try a similar service.
-I know that Amazon pantry works in a similar way and can be great to have grocery items delivered if you're a Prime member like I am. What has stopped me from ordering this way there is getting cold items? How can they be left safely on your doorstep, or are they even offered in that service? If I still had a family at home, I might really be interested in the Amazon service for items I'd buy in bulk like toilet paper or laundry detergent. I'm still open to trying Amazon's service for sure.

This is an amazing time to be alive! What I would have given when my daughter was small to have a service like this for my grocery shopping. Can you imagine how much stress we could have all avoided? And what about needing groceries when you're sick and don't feel like going inside? Or needing groceries when it's 112 degrees or 12 degrees or raining or snowing or whatever? Plus, I really like the idea that this service is likely creating the need for a few more jobs in our town for people who might not be trained in other areas. I think this ClickList service is a win-win for lots of reasons. If you decide to give this service or one like it a try, I'd love to hear about your experiences. Peace out, my friends; I've got some groceries to pick up on my way home tonight!

**Disclaimer: this review is not sponsored in any way. Kroger only knows me as the lady with the shopping cart aisle rage who buys way too many cokes and peanut butter based products. :) :) :)  Seriously, I'm just a random customer of Kroger who isn't being compensated for my review.






Thursday, November 9, 2017

HP Sprocket - A Review


For my birthday a few weeks ago, the fella surprised me with an HP Sprocket mini-printer. I had casually added a few of those tiny printers to my Amazon wishlist with the plan of watching which one might be majorly on sale for Black Friday shopping. I didn't expect anyone to actually get one for me for my birthday. Needless to say, I was thrilled.  Since I've had a bit of time to play with it now, I thought I'd share with you my thoughts about the printer in case you have one in mind for yourself. 

Side note: HP doesn't know I'm alive and has not sponsored this review in any way.

The good:
-The size is perfect; it's just a tiny bit wider and heavier than my iPhone 7+
-I like that the printer and the cable are black; I think other colors are available, but I like the sleek look of the black
-It seems sturdy enough to carry around in your purse without worrying about breaking it. I bought a little canvas bag for mine and its supplies - see photo above. (I bought that canvas bag on clearance at Michael's for like $4 last week, just FYI.)
-I LOVE that the prints are stickers and find the backing very easy to peel off while I'm working on a layout.
-The prints fits the Big Happy Planner large planners pretty perfectly.
-Printing from your iPhone is pretty simple once you download the free app.
-The print sizes (2" X 3") are great for smaller forms of memory-keeping and just incredibly cute. (Almost everything is better in miniature...)
-The usb charging device is small and easy to use with your laptop or iPhone charger; it also doesn't take very long to charge up the device.
-Printing is pretty quick, maybe 30 seconds per photo although I didn't officially time it.
-It is possible to edit your photos in the Sprocket app. I haven't really used that option, but I think it's nice to have in case you want to tweak your pics a bit more than in the separate photo apps you already have. You can even do things like add fun borders to your photos in their editing software.
-I love being able to sit down with my phone at my desk and make a two page memory planner spread in much less than an hour including printing my pics.
-There are some cool options like mosaic tile printing and photobooth printing available in the app, but I haven't tried them yet personally.
-It's easy to update the app and the device via wifi.
-I love that there's no ink to replace! This printer works kind of like the old Polaroids did in that the photo is "printed" via a chemical reaction rather than with ink.

The bad:
-The price is still a bit steep at $129.95 right now on Amazon
-I haven't found any stores locally that carry the paper, so ordering it online is my only option.
-The paper packs are reasonable but not a bargain at $24.99 for a package of 50 or about 50 cents each.
-The print quality is really good but still not as good as a professional printer or my Canon MG7720.
-The prints have a tendency to look just a bit washed out, but I prefer that to the very dark and oversaturation that seemed to be common in my Instax camera prints.
-Once you print 3 or 4 photos, I get the message that my Sprocket needs to cool down before it continues printing. This is kind of a hassle when you want to print a week's worth of pics at once. Now that I know it, I can work around it; I guess it overheats easily because it's so small.
-I notice a little bit of vertical lines show up in some of the light areas of the photos, but you'd have to be looking at them pretty closely to see them. For the projects I'm using these photos in, that doesn't really bother me.
-I'm not sure about the archival nature of the prints and whether they will stand the test of time. I prob wouldn't print my most important pics with this device for that reason.

The ugly:
-One pack of my prints won't work in my Sprocket for some reason. After reading about troubleshooting issues, I can only infer that they must have somehow gotten too hot or too cold or too damp or something. Basically, the machine can't "read" that the paper is inserted because the edges have curled a bit. I plan to call HP to see if they will replace that pack for me.
-My Sprocket "loses" the connection to my phone kind of frequently. Then, I have to kind of turn flips or something until it magically begins to work again. Chances are this is user error of some sort, but I've been a bit frustrated on occasion.
-The top of my Sprocket doesn't really pop up for paper insertion like the picture shows it should. I kind of have to slide it all the way off and then pop it back into place. That's probably a user error issue too, but it worries me that I'll jack it up somehow and it won't fit properly the next time.

There you have it. That's my review of the HP Sprocket printer. I'm super glad I have it, but you have to be prepared for a few glitches and/or drawbacks with a small device like this. I'd recommend it for people who want to be able to print easily on the go, people who scrapbook in traveler's notebooks or planners, and people who love electronic gadgets. I also think it would make a great gift for teens because they could print and stick their photos immediately by using their phones to pair with the printer. I'm really glad I have the printer because I think it will make my memory planning go much more smoothly than if I had to print on my home printer and then cut down the photos. Plus, I do love a fun gadget. :)

If you're interested in purchasing your own HP Sprocket for yourself or a loved one, here's my Amazon affiliate link for the printer and the photo paper. Purchasing through this link gives me a small commission at no additional cost to you.