GF in Print + a New England Wedding

I found out about Snowmaggedon 2015 when I dropped Ben off at school on Monday morning. I guess we need to watch more TV! Fortunately, I had enough warning to hit the grocery store and stock up on supplies. In the event that we lost power, I obviously needed some reading material, so I browsed the magazine rack at the market. I picked up Vanity Fair, an old fave, and the Spring/Summer issue of The Knot New England. I'm not planning a wedding, but one of my custom wedding clients is in the issue - and guess what? So are her invitations! 

I met Heather a couple years ago and was so excited when she asked me to design her wedding invitations and save-the-dates. It all coincided with my (very, very challenging) pregnancy, so I feel really fortunate to have been working with such an incredibly thoughtful and patient bride! The pictures from Heather's wedding blew me away. The lovely couple got married just a few miles from where I'm living now, at Mount Hope Farm in Bristol, Rhode Island. The feel was a bit rustic, but mostly really elegant. She chose letterpress for her invitations with simple black ink and a combination of simple type and modern calligraphy. She incorporated a lot of DIY projects and items from small businesses, which made the whole thing feel organic and lovely and unique. Plus, she's simply stunning!

I was so happy for Heather when she told me her wedding would be published, but we didn't know which photos would make the magazine. I was definitely excited to see a pic of the stationery, but the whole event was just smashing. You can check out a bunch of pictures from the wedding on the Knot's website and let Heather know if you love the pics via Instagram. Also, if you ever want to talk wedding stationery, please feel free to email me!

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How to design a no-frills Project Life layout

This month, I'm spending a lot of creative time documenting. I'm doing a lot of catch up this month on our little guy's baby Project Life album. Rather than making sure I document every day or every moment, I'm just including photos and journaling that I love, that reflect our life this year, and that show what Owen's doing these days (since technically it's his album). The biggest change with this approach is that if I have a group of photos I love, I go ahead and include as many of them as I want, even if they're all from just one day. Case in point: these shots from a random afternoon at the park with Ben back in November. I loved the photos and used them to put together a really simple layout. Here's how I did it.

Choose a group of similar photos 
The thing I love about Project Life is that you can make it whatever you want, and that can change from page to page. I mostly create layouts with photos from different days, events, etc. So they're not all matchy-matchy. But for a really simple layout, try choosing photos that have a similar look, feel, exposure or color scheme. If you took a bunch of pictures while, say, the kids were playing in the snow, pick six of them and call it good. They'll have the same light and backgrounds, which will keep the look really simple.

Crop your photos before printing
I don't print my photos at home, so I crop them in Photoshop before uploading them to my photo printer of choice. You can do the same thing using the photo software that came on your computer. iPhoto allows you to crop to custom or standard sizes. You can do the same thing in Windows Photo Gallery if you're using a PC. Why crop before uploading? Because you can control precisely what's in the shot, which means you'll get rid of excess background, or more effectively emphasize a close-up. If you're using the same pocket-page that I'm using in this layout, then you'll need some 3x4 photos, or at least a place to cut a 4x6 in half and not splice someone's face! If you crop your own photos, you can ensure that your cuts will be in the right places. When I'm doing a photo-heavy layout like this, I like to make sure I have a mix of close-ups and more distant shots. It helps keep your eye moving around the layout and adds some asymmetry to the page.

Add a little bit of text or embellishment
Because I'm able to type directly on photos before I send them to print, I just added some text to the left side of the two photos I knew I was going to cut in half. But you don't need Photoshop or a fancy program to add a little text. Simply swap out those two pockets with simple journaling cards. I use cards from the Midnight Edition, but my my go-to journaling cards are just plain white. Cut a little white or kraft card stock to 3x4 inches, add the date and you're done. Or if you're into embellishment, add a little something to one of the 3x4 cards or photos. Keep it minimal, and this layout will be done and in your album in about 5 minutes.

I hope these tips help you do some quick and simple memory-keeping!

Products used | Paislee Press pics + words no. 6 / Project Life Design A pocket page
Resources | cropping tutorial for Windows / cropping tutorial for Mac

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My Dad's Legacy of Letters

Five years ago today, my Dad passed away. It's hard to explain the significance of the loss of a parent, but let's just say it changed my life in ways I never expected. I'm not heart-sick about it anymore, in the way I was in the immediate aftermath and in the year following. But if I think too long about his absence, I get a pang in my gut that lingers for a little while. I no longer pick up the phone thinking I'll call him about something, like I did in the months after he died. But every once in awhile, I come across a book or a problem or a history-related question and I wish I could run it by him.

I don't have any regrets with regard to our relationship, something I know is a gift and a blessing when one experiences a pretty sudden loss. There's nothing I wish I'd said or done differently. But I do regret (and realize it's completely beyond my control) that Dad never met my kids. He never knew my little sister pregnant or me. Fortunately, he knew my two beautiful nieces, my older sisters' kids, so I'm comforted by the knowledge that he became a grandfather in this life. Still, there's an empty space in my own children's family tree. They'll never meet "Grandpa Owen," who's warm smile and crinkly eyes gaze out into the room from a wall in our den. And yet, they will, on some level, know him. That's because Dad, in addition to leaving an indelible impression on me, which I'm determined to share with my boys, left behind a collection of artifacts that have helped me understand him better, even since his death.

You see, my Dad wrote a lot of letters. When he wrote letters to me, he had a knack for dropping them in my lap in the most nonchalant ways at the most monumental moments. As I walked on the plane, bound for my study-abroad experience in Australia my junior year of college, Dad handed me a thick envelope, stuffed with page after page of his thoughts on international travel and what awaited me on the other side of the Pacific. 

He'd done the same thing a couple years earlier as he and Mom dropped me off at college. I remember holding back tears as they drove away, headed home to California, my heart thumping, my hands clutching a letter Dad had just handed me. I waited until that night to read it alone, five or six pages of musings and advice on college in Dad's unmistakable handwriting, and sobbed with homesickness. 

The letters weren't always so dramatic (nor was I, I think). One email I received in the midst of a rough Navy move back in 2008 contained just a few sentences, but concluded with the words "Nick just wants you to be happy. So... BE HAPPY." 

I think I knew before Dad died about his Navy letters, but I didn't start combing through them until more recently. A little background: I had an old Dad. He was forty-nine when I was born; it was his second marriage. So, he was old. When, in second grade, my teacher asked us how old our parents were, I - very confidently - said "fifty-six!" She said "No, not your grandfather." My folks got a kick out of that one. Anyway, Dad had a whole life before I arrived on the scene, and that life included a stint in the Navy during the Korean War. He flew jets off of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown. During his years in the service, he wrote over seven-hundred letters to his parents. And thanks to my Grandpa Owen's meticulous record-keeping, we have every single one, numbered and in order of their receipt. Sidenote: Have you picked up on the fact that there are a lot of "Owens" in this family?

The first of the 700+ series is dated 13 July 1952, 0930. I love that Dad had already adopted the military way of dating a letter! He was surely embracing the culture only a few days into flight school. Dad was twenty-one years old at the time. He goes on about the details of life in Pensacola, when he'll get his uniform, how his psychological tests have gone. He writes, "the one thing I'm proud to report is that I haven't been the least bit homesick. I've been trying to buck up all the guys who aren't in the best of spirits yet." And then he promises to write again soon.

When I found out about the letters, but before I'd read them, I remember asking Dad if he'd written them because he was homesick. He said no, he wrote them because his parents wanted to hear from him. They missed him. And so Dad wrote to ease their worries, to keep in touch, to reassure them, even though he didn't need to write for himself. He wrote for them, because he loved them.

And so, these letters are a legacy in many ways. The Navy letters give me insight into a very young version of my father, and they remind me that sometimes we ought to reach out because even if we have nothing we need to say, someone else may need a bit of encouragement, love or reassurance. The letters he gave me, many decades later, are filled with the wisdom of a guy who'd experienced quite a bit, and was willing to pass it on to me whether I wanted to hear it or not. His advice seems to be pretty timeless, so far. So my kids will know Dad, though they'll never meet him, because he took the time to reach out to someone else who needed to hear from him. His tender heart and patience and wisdom fill those envelopes. What a legacy, indeed.

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favorite handwriting inspiration

Did you know that today is John Hancock's birthday? Did you know that it's also National Handwriting Day? We literally have a day for everything in the States. Well, this is one I can get behind, for sure. I've kept a hand-written journal since I was in elementary school, and this year I'm writing a lot of letters. So in celebration of handwriting, I thought I'd share some of my fave handwriting and lettering inspiration from around the web. 
1 / Emily McDowell / Emily started a whole movement in the stationery industry back in 2013 with her hand-lettered Valentine's card. She's the perfect mix of snark and sweet. And her handwriting is pretty awesome, too.

2 / Lindsay Sherbondy / Also known as Lindsay Letters, this woman's work just blows my mind. The photo styling on her site is gorgeous, and the products are thoughtful, unique and artistic. Hers is some of my favorite modern, scripted lettering.

3 / Vanessa Perry / I discovered this lovely lady on Instagram last year (her feed is stunning) and now consider her an internetty friend. She's beautiful inside and out (and so is her handwriting!).

4 / Trisha Harrison / I love how she embraces her own handwriting in her Project Life albums. Trisha introduced me to the concept of writing directly on photos with a Sharpie. Love that.

5 / Chelsea Petaja / Chelsea of Oh My Deer does amazing work. Think... lots of white space, gorgeous photography and unique, stylized hand-lettering. Beautiful, modern. For sure a fave.

6 / Liz Tamanaha / The artist behind Paislee Press has such an eye for minimalist design. If you see a scripty word in my Project Life album, 9 times out of 10 it's hers!

Who are your favorites? Happy Friday!

Images for the round-up were sourced from the websites linked
throughout this post. Paislee Press image by Carly Robertson for Paislee Press.

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Project Life | Early November

I'm so happy to be back to working on Owen's baby album, which I'm doing using Project Life. Would it be too lofty a goal to be done with it right after his first birthday? Maybe, but one can dream! 

Each month has a similar "title" page, which is just a piece of 8.5x11 inch card stock. I print a few milestones or things that happened that month at the bottom of the page and then attach a photo. This month I went with a 4x6 instead of a larger photo. I'm liking all the white space.

Here's what the flip side looks like.

Rather than document each week with a full layout, which I did for Ben's baby album, I'm documenting each month with a few layouts. The number of photos and layouts just depends on what we had going on and how many photos I managed to take. On the flip side of each monthly "title page," I'm including a page of journaling. 

I've been using this space to write about what happened throughout the month in some detail, what Owen's doing these days, notes about his personality and what's happening with our family. Let's be honest: it's basically a brain dump. I love it because those thoughts are out of my head and on paper - no need to try to remember everything. 

For each month, I'm also including a 3x4 card with the happenings that month in chronological order. Can you tell that more journaling is a theme in this album? Not exactly subtle. In Ben's album, I wish I could easily figure out when things happened. Since I documented each week individually, the milestones are scattered throughout the album and they're not easy to find. This time, I wanted to keep track of all these stats more consistently. I just think it's fun to look back and see what happened when.

This album is technically Owen's baby album, but it contains lots of photos of the family and life in general. However, on this page, I included pics of just the little guy doing his thing at seven months. It's kind of a snapshot of his life in November. In short, he's hungry, sleepy and smiley. I'm living with three dwarves.

I love the look of hand lettering, but for some reason I prefer just about anyone else's to my own! On this page, the handwriting is all from Paislee Press. I really think it adds something. I've loved getting back to documenting over the last couple months. Here's to hoping my January creative challenge will be motivation enough to get on top of this album. 

Project Life is a memory-keeping system designed by Becky Higgins. Products used // Design A pocket pages / 8.5x11 inch clear sheet protector / 3x4 journaling cards  Digital elements by Paislee Press // digital month stamps / pictures + words no. 9 / pictures + words no. 11

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january creative | photos + words

One of my goals for twenty-fifteen was to spend more time flexing my creative muscles. I don't have time to do this everyday, not reliably, anyway. And I don't want the pressure of projects to complete or things added to my to-do list. I have enough of that going on this year. So each month, for the next six months, I'm focusing on one creative skill or practice for the month. I'm not putting any time constraints on this or setting any specific goals. I'm just picking something and working on it when I have spare time in the evenings or during nap or whenever. This month, I chose "photos and words," or documenting.

With the chaos of the move at the end of last year, I just got out of the rhythm of working on Project Life. And don't get me started on documenting December - I shared last month my sad track record on that project. I've really missed working on this stuff, though, and it's super important to me. I don't want to get five years down the road and wish I'd started (or continued) now. And that pile of stuff Ben's bringing home from preschool isn't getting any smaller. I got back into the habit this month and I'm loving it. It's fun, creative and useful. 

I have a few things I'm working on, all having to do with documenting, each taking a little bit different form. In progress right now is Owen's Project Life album and my December mini album. In the back of my mind, I'm wondering what to do with Ben's school stuff (Project Life?) and possibly putting together a family yearbook through Blurb (like this one). 

The variety is nice because I can work on what I feel like doing, depending on location (desk = the baby album or mini-album, couch = photo book or photo editing). I may not be "caught up" (whatever that means) by the end of the month, but at least I will have made some progress and gotten back in the habit of downloading photos and doing something with them. 

Are you working on anything specific creatively these days?

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My Big Project for 2015

For me, having a couple of kids in a couple years was an experience that was both communal and isolating. I have such a wonderful group of friends and family, but I definitely spent a lot of time focused on myself: my needs, my big dreams, how I want to raise the kids, what kind of mom I want to be, etc. As I thought about goals and resolutions for twenty-fifteen, I realized I really wanted to look outside of myself this year. I wanted to participate more fully in the world, engage with my friends and family in a more conscious way, encourage, support and love the incredible people in my life with more care and intent. Basically, I wanted a goal or a project that would force me to think a lot less about myself and a lot more about other people. But I also needed something that was doable, given that I live far away from most of my friends and family and my days as a work-at-home-mom are pretty full.

So... how best to do it? I decided I would write letters. A lot of letters. 350 letters, to be exact. I'm writing to my mom, my grandma, my friends and sisters, my husband. Old friends, new friends, blog friends. People I admire from afar and people I admire up close. I want to celebrate their triumphs and birthdays and anniversaries (things I've never been great about remembering). I want to write more thank you notes. I want to cheer others on, get out of my own head, make some good habits and spend a little time every week thinking about other people - with no technology to distract me, just pen to paper. And repeat. For me, there's something about writing a note or a letter that requires more focus than just an email. It's an exercise in attention. There's postage required. There's forethought required (for birthdays and such). In addition to wanting to cheer others on this year, I think this will also help me practice some discipline, organization and writing skills.

Why 350 letters? I like the number for a couple of reasons. This year we'll celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary and in November I turn thirty-five. 35 times 10... well, you get the picture. It's also a good amount for me: not quite a letter a day, but a big enough number that if I fall behind, it won't be easy to catch up. So I'm motivated to stay on top of it. The first couple weeks have been so much fun. Even though this is technically supposed to be a challenge, I've been enjoying it so much that it doesn't feel like it. The project has also been a creative catalyst for me. I'm back to designing stationery, which has energized and excited me more than I expected. I can't wait to share more about all of it. 

So this is The Big Project I mentioned a couple weeks ago when I shared about my goals for this year. And now that it's underway, I'm realizing that's it's not big in the sense that it's impossibly challenging. I think it's big in the sense that it'll take a whole year and it's forcing me to do something outside of my norm (even though it's something I enjoy). I'll check in throughout the year on the blog with my progress and I'll be sharing the nuts and bolts of how I'm doing this and how I'm tracking it in the weeks to come. I also have a way for you to get involved so stay tuned for that!

In the past, I haven't been great at following through on things like this, which is why I'm putting it all out "there" for you to read. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Are you taking on a "big project" this year or have you done anything like this in the past? Let me know if you have any tips for staying motivated and organized! And if you want some accountability for a project of your own, email me and we can encourage each other. xo, C

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