why I'm using project life as our baby album

Shortly before I had my first son, Ben, back in 2011, a friend of mine sent me this book. One of the chapters talked about baby photos. Two female pediatricians (and moms) wrote the book and basically said that you'll take thousands of pictures of your baby. Have a plan for what to do with them, or they'll live on your computer forever. I took that to heart and began doing a little research. I wasn't a scrapbooker, but when I stumbled upon project life and Becky Higgins, I was intrigued.

My sister puts together beautiful photobooks for her kids' first years. They're amazing, they're gorgeous, they're easy to reproduce (for grandparents) and they're reasonably affordable. I love designing photobooks as well (like this or this), but for both of my kids, I've documented their first year using project life. I'm not a scrapbooker, and I have a hard time "keeping up" with it. I think some of that has to do with not being able to print photos at home. I also adore the clean and minimal look of photobooks. So why do project life for this season of our kids' lives? Well, three primary reasons come to mind:

1 / I like the ability to document throughout the year, rather than all at once after everything has happened, although I guess you could take this approach with a photobook if you were pretty disciplined. I don't completely stay on top of it all, but I have been able to work on the album this whole first year, documenting things while they were relatively fresh. I think I'd be a lot more overwhelmed starting with month one and doing it all once. If I had to, I'd figure it out. But since I discovered this process, I'm happy to be documenting as we experience life (or pretty close to it, anyway). 

2 / I like being able to include "all the things" - the hospital documents and wristbands, a doctor's note or a card from a relative, little physical things that help breathe life into a photo album or scrapbook. I don't use a lot of embellishment or get super-elaborate with the design, but I do like to include little bits of life here and there throughout the album.

3 / I love that it's a tactile album, made to be enjoyed by everyone. I have no problem handing my kids a project life album and saying "flip through it!" I've never done this with one of our photobooks. I don't want those pages to bend or tear or get dirty. Maybe that's a little rigid or paranoid of me, but when I've spent countless hours and over $100 on a photobook, I don't necessarily want my toddler playing with it unsupervised. But the plastic covers on our project life albums protect photos and memorabilia from sticky fingers and well-meaning, but sometimes rough, little hands. Ben is so curious about these albums, but he's never cared to flip through a photobook. Those are for me. This project feels much more about them. It's tactile and intimate, a little more informal. 

I'm a couple months behind in Owen's baby album, and he turns one next week. I'm not stressed about it because I've made a huge dent in this project over the last year. I've automated a lot of the design process, included tons of journaling (something I wish I'd done more of in my first son's album), and kept track of all the major milestones. We're still waiting on the walking, but you'd better believe I'll capture it on my camera. I'm not exactly sure where I'll go from here with the documenting, but I'd be surprised if project life isn't a piece of the puzzle.

If you're a parent, how are you telling your little one's story? Did you do a baby album? A photobook? If you're not a parent but hope to be someday, do you have thoughts as to what you'll do?

Pictured: a January layout from Owen's baby album, project life design A pocket pages, 8.5 x 11 inch page protectors, fifty-fifty patterned card inspired by this and made with these papers, "these days" text from pictures + words no 9, "january" text from month at a glance.

a simple layout documenting winter

Hi there! I'm documenting Owen's first year using a 12 x 12 project life album. Today, I'm over at Paislee Press with a simple layout documenting all the snow we got back in January. The layout came together really quickly and totally motivated me to get this album done and on the shelf so we can enjoy it! I'll be back tomorrow with another simple project life layout right here, but in the meantime, check out my post over at Paislee Press! Happy Tuesday :)

11 great podcast interviews with women

I was in a little bit of a podcast rut a week ago, but thanks to some great suggestions from friends on Instagram and a little digging into iTunes, I'm back on the podcast train. Lately, I'm loving interviews, so I thought I'd share a few that have entertained and interested me - and they all happen to be with women. With themes like habits, simplicity, entrepreneurship, design, pop culture and discipline, I tried to include something for everyone. I hope you find at least one of these entertaining or thought-provoking - or both! I certainly did.

1. The Lively Show with Grace Bonney / I love Grace's refreshing attitude, her honesty and her take on the internet.

2. The Good Life Project interview with Gretchen Rubin / Gretchen literally wrote the book on happiness, but now she's talking about habits. Great interview that left me wanting to know more.

3. The Happy Hour interview with Jen Hatmaker / Jamie Ivey interviews her friend Jen Hatmaker, author and pastor's wife living in Austin (and now HGTV reality star). I read her book 7 a few years ago and loved it. She's funny and fun and a good time.

4. The Happy Hour interview with Jessica Honneger / Another Jamie Ivey interview, this time with the founder of Noonday Collection. It's a really interesting chat about being a working mom, entrepreneurship, and Jessica's business, which connects jewelry makers from around the world with a market in the US.

5. Here's the Thing interview with Lena Dunham / Whether or not you watch "Girls," this is a really interesting interview. I love hearing Lena's take on her show, the future of it, what makes it unique and what she thinks of the internet's impact on her generation. Really thoughtful.

6. One Part Podcast interview with Rochelle Billow / Rochelle spent a year living on a farm in New York. She fell in love and wrote a book. I had no idea who she was when the interview started, but I was completely fascinated by her candor. It made me want to read the book.

7. After the Jump interview with Genevieve Gorder / I'm a big fan of this podcast and I miss it now that Grace Bonney (the host) has moved on, but this podcast with Genevieve (of HGTV fame) was really interesting, thought-provoking and entertaining. If you're into design, this one's a must.

9. Raise Your Hand Say Yes interview with Stephanie Lee / I wasn't familiar with Stephanie at all, but I found myself really interested in this discussion about connection, distraction, procrastination and habit.

10. Elise Gets Crafty interview with Britt Alwerud / Maybe it's because my brother-in-law works in Silicon Valley, and I've been hearing about apps and start-ups for years so it's just interesting to me, but I was totally fascinated by this interview with such a savvy and ambitious young entrepreneur.

11. The Lively Show interview with Caroline Rector / Caroline's is the blog that spawned a million capsule wardrobes. This interview was my first introduction to her, and I've got it on my "listen again" list as I figure out what I'm wearing this spring. Love her simple, reassuring approach.

There are so many other great ones, but I wanted to keep this short and sweet. Have you heard any interviews recently that you'd recommend?

a peek inside my workspace

Hi friends! I spend a lot of hours every week in my little office, so I thought I'd share a peek in this space while I still have it. We'll be moving again this fall and I don't know if I'll have a space of my own in our next house. For now, I'm relishing it. I didn't have an office for the last four years, so I don't take for granted that I have a home for all of my stuff. In our last house all my work stuff lived in the sideboard under our TV and in an upstairs closet. It was a bummer. Now, I can walk away from my workspace in the evening, leave everything in place, and continue working in the morning. That definitely wasn't possible when I worked from our kitchen table.

I like filling a space with furniture, so my desk floats from a wall into the middle of the room. I have two chairs at the desk - one for me and one for a little boy who periodically sits in here and hangs out with me while I do some sketching or finish up work from the early morning hours. And occasionally, I get an even smaller visitor - an 11-month old rocking some major bed-head first thing in the AM. I learned early on that he's particularly fascinated by big spools of kitchen string. Needless to say, those have been relocated.

The office is right at the front of the house on a corner. It has two doors - one leads to the entry, one to the den. On the walls opposite the doors are two sets of big, beautiful windows. I could do without the mini-blinds, but they come in handy when I get afternoon sun in my face. Two sets of 3x3 cube shelves provide storage on the long wall opposite one of the windows, and my desk floats into the room right underneath the window you can't see in these pictures. I'm guessing the chandelier is original to the house. It's dark and bronze-y and it has two pineapples hidden in the post - a symbol of hospitality you see all over these homes in New England. I love it.

These days I use this space to work on design projects and personal creative stuff like Project Life. This week I'm working on two sets of custom wedding stationery and a project I'll be able to share more about in the coming weeks. I stepped away from doing custom work last year when we had our second baby, but it's really nice to be back doing it. Taking a break from something I'd been doing for so long (since 2008!) gave me a little perspective, and allowed me to hit the refresh button and come back with renewed energy, inspiration and creativity.

I've learned over the years that I really create best when I have no distractions. No TV, no music - just me and the sound of pencil scratching on paper or of my mouse clicking away. It's amazing to not have to do all of this in the kitchen or at Starbucks.

I love how bright this space is and I love its character: old window sills, a 70-year old chandelier, original wood floors and tall ceilings. It does its job - inspiring creativity - so I can do mine. It's also the perfect size for me - not too big, not too small. Anything larger would be overwhelming for me at this point. This is also the only space in the house that's just mine, and in a house full of boys, it's nice to have a place to put a pink flamingo, if you know what I mean.

Do you have a space that's your own? Where do you do your creative work?

creating a simple system for paper clutter

When we made this last move to the east coast, we didn't really come up with a revised system for dealing with our incoming mail. I think some of it has to do with our new space. Okay, well it's not so new almost five months in, but you know what I mean. I'll spare you the gory details, but basically our mail was piling up on the little table we have in our tiny entryway. No one claimed responsibility. We pay almost all of our bills online, but Nick was snagging our utility bills from The Pile and making sure they got paid. I was grabbing catalogs when I wanted some reading material, and that's about it. In short, we'd accumulated a massive pile of unopened mail, and the time had come to deal with it.

We still get quite a bit of paper mail, even though we've automated most of it. Junk mail, catalogs, tax documents, coupons, snail mail. It all adds up like crazy. Nick and I talked about it, and we decided I'd go ahead and be responsible for the mail. I love organizing things and throwing things away is definitely in my wheelhouse. Done and done. So that was step one.

Step two was figuring out what we had. So I took the giant pile of mail we'd accumulated and made some smaller piles by category: for Nick, for me, shred, toss, file, respond, etc. I got online and signed up for electronic bills where I could and sorted the rest.

Step three was finding a home for everything. Catalogs live in two places in our house: either on a shelf in my office or on a side table in our family room. As new ones come in, I'm pretty good about tossing the old ones they're replacing. I keep coupons in a little drawer in our entry table. It's right between the office and the front door, at the foot of the stairs, so it's a spot we pass all the time.

In order to organize the remaining mail, I got this magazine rack. It was inexpensive, and not really intended for mail, but I love that it's white and that it hangs on the wall. I already had the little silver bookplates, which I just adhered to the mail organizer. The sections are labeled shred, Nick, Catherine, respond and file. Our shredder is upstairs in the guest room / Nick's office, and while he isn't super-passionate about decluttering, the man loves to shred junk mail with our address on it. Go figure. So that section is right next to his. Periodically, he'll grab those two, take them up to his desk and go through them. You can see this thing from our family room, which makes it easy for us to remember to take things upstairs as needed.

Anything that requires a quick reply goes into the "respond" section. Our personal sections are really for things that aren't urgent or that require us to make a decision: keep or toss. Bills go into the "respond" section. Cards or information stuff go into our personal sections. The "file" section is for things like the kids' bank statements, insurance paperwork, tax documents, medical stuff, paid bills, things we want to keep but don't require a response. Our file cabinet is upstairs, so when that section gets kind of full, I'll take it all up and file it away.

I got all the mail sorted (and shoved) into this thing and then we went through the sections, one by one. Actually the system seems to be working pretty well. At the very least there's a place to put everything. And when Nick came looking for the water bill yesterday, I knew right where it was. I'll call that a success. And it actually looks a little neater now that we've got through this stuff. It helps to break it down into categories so we're not just dealing with one big pile all the time.

I kind of feel like the last person in the 21st century to have a "mail problem." How do you manage paper clutter? Do you hang onto stuff in files? Or are you strictly electronic?

A Simple Project Life Title Page

I'm still working my way through Owen's baby album, but he turns one later this month, so I decided to put together a title page for the album that recaps the year. I remembered seeing this concept ages ago on Paislee Press. Sure enough, I was able to track down Liz's original post (over three years old!) that inspired this layout. Today I'm sharing my take on a simple title page that recaps the year.

I used the Design F pocket page, which has lots of 3x4 pockets and one 4x6 pocket. I used these templates (they're free!) to lay out two photos on one 4x6 so I could print them easily. I picked a photo from each month and tried to mix up the orientation or cropping so they wouldn't be too similar. I would have loved to take the same shot setup every month, but... I wasn't that organized! You've seen the front of the layout. Here's the flip side.

Supplies were pretty simple.

Here's what I used:

  • + 12 3x4 photos: one from each month of Owen's first year 
  • + 12 3x4 journaling cards: mine are a mix of digital products (here + here) and plain white cards
  • + 2 4x6s: in the Design F pocket page, one of the pockets is a 4x6, so you have to combine two of the photos with journaling and make sure they're for the right month for that spot! (and then be careful not to cut them in half!) 
  • + a paper trimmer and some two-sided adhesive

Before I started cutting the 4x6s in half, I pulled out the two that needed to stay intact, since there's one 4x6 pocket to fill on each side. The "April" and "November" slots would fill the 4x6 on the front and back, respectively, so I stuck them together with adhesive and slipped them in the pocket to get them out of the way. I've made that mistake before - cutting something I didn't intend to cut - so I wanted to get these pics in the pockets so I'd leave them alone!

Then I got to work and cut the rest of the 4x6s in half. Some of the photos I printed contain journaling on either these woodgrain cards or the dark paper from this digital kit. I laid everything out on both sides so I knew which photos would be back-to-back in the pockets.

The journaling is really simple - just the month, Owen's age that month, and a few notes about what he (and we) were doing that month. I used two of my favorite fonts on every card: Oswald and Aleo.

One way I keep my pocket pages looking clean and simple is by matching up the cards and photos that are back-to-back in each pocket. I start by laying everything out, then using my favorite two-sided adhesive to stick the two photos or cards together. Sometimes one is a little larger than the other.

Like the crazy person I am, I'll trim that little bit so the cards line up exactly. I don't always do this, but let's be honest - I do it a lot of the time. I know it's nuts.

On each side of the layout, I included just a few of the patterned journaling cards so I could fill in the missing journaling with plain white 3x4 cards.

I added the same text format on the white cards and printed them at home.

I'm waiting to add a 12 month photo until we have a birthday cake shot, or something along those lines. For now, I just added a patterned placeholder.

And here's the finished page again on the front

and the back.

It's unbelievable how much they change in a year. I love having all these photos of Owen in one spot. It has me wanting to go back and put one of these together for Ben's baby album!

tips for updating a photo wall

As a Navy family, we move pretty frequently, and this move is definitely no exception. We'll be in our current home in Newport, Rhode Island for about one year while Nick is in graduate school at the Naval War College. It's a quick turnaround, but worth it for us. Nick's home and we get to live in a beautiful place, which is quite a change from the last ten years. Moving isn't easy, but I've found that hanging pictures on the walls helps make a new home feel like our home in no time. It makes all the difference. Today I'm sharing a few tips for updating a photo wall - something I'm usually able to knock out pretty easily.

When we moved into this house, I quickly broke out the hammer, nails and level and hung frames on the walls. The black Pottery Barn gallery frames hanging in our dining room were scattered throughout our last house, but this time I went for a simple grid pattern. I used a large level to make sure I didn't hang anything crooked, but I also used it to guide my spacing by placing it next to each frame as I hung them and using the width to mark the edge of the next frame. Unfortunately, I got these frames on the wall and then left them sitting like this for the next four months. 

Here's what the wall looked like before, with random photos that carried over from our last house and blank frames where we had vertical-oriented photos - thankfully I had the sense to remove those from the frames four months ago! This is the view from my kitchen counter.

First things first, I printed the photos. I knew I wanted a mix of color with black and white, and I wanted snapshots rather than formal photos. I figured I'd leave the color photo of my sister, brother-in-law and nephew up there until we have a new family photo to replace it this spring. I think I'm going to keep this wall just the four of us, but I didn't want the photos to be too matchy-matchy. So there are a couple of more minimalist shots of the boys mixed in with "busier" shots of the family. I laid them out on my desk before I got to work hanging.

I used washi tape to adhere the photos to the mats. The washi lifts really easily from the paper and photos without tearing.

Once I got the photos up I couldn't believe how much better I felt looking into that room. We'd moved the microwave in there when an outlet broke in our kitchen, but we've since had it fixed so the microwave doesn't have to be on our sideboard anymore. I returned it, then tidied up the table, dusted everything and felt my blood pressure start to decrease.

Here's a shot of the wall with less glare.

I couldn't believe how such a small project made such a big difference, and I'm left wondering what took me so long! Do you ever put off small projects like this? Do you have any small-ish projects you're currently putting off? Any tips for creating photo walls and collages?

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