DIY Annual Photo Album

Today’s post is about our annual family photo album. If you’d like to catch a glimpse of our DIY wedding album, you can see that post here.

Almost a month has passed since my last post, and while we made it through a great Thanksgiving, I think everyone in this house (ok, maybe it was mostly me) was just waiting to get to the other side so that we could start with the Christmas festivities.

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And here it is! We’ve jumped into Christmas prep with two feet. Every day a new decoration, or ten, is hung. Present lists are being written and re-written. And then there’s the Christmas knitting. I’m doing so much fun knitting in the evenings that I may not be back here until the New Year! Kidding. (hopefully)

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But before I could even start in on the knitting, I was busy putting together our annual family photo album. Every year for the past eight or so, I’ve put together an album that chronicles our year in photos. I start with the previous Christmas and end with Thanksgiving. That gives me enough time to create the book and have it printed and ready to give by Christmas morning. I also gift the book to Calder, but I think this year it’s time to say that it’s too all of the guys in the house.

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This has become such a special family tradition. When the book is unwrapped, it’s so nice to sit down together and look at it on Christmas morning – a moment of calm amidst the craziness of opening presents and celebrating. Throughout the day the book gets passed around, and one by one everyone in the house gets to look at it.

In this post I’m sharing a few screenshots from this year’s book. You can see that it’s a little bit of everything. Photos from vacations, from weekend hiking trips, from afternoons at home cooking dinner, and silly snapshots.

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I know that making a photo book can seem overwhelming, and many people get paralyzed by the task before they even start. I’ve been making these for so long that it’s become second nature, so I wanted to share some of my tips.

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Tips for Creating an Annual Photo Album

  • make it a tradition : having a set time every year when you make, give, and look at the book makes it so much easier to stick to a deadline and actually complete the task. I know that if we weren’t on an annual schedule then I’d put off making these albums.
  • pick a service : You’ll have to decide which printing service you want to go with. There are many out there, and there are also many reviews that will (hopefully) help you pick the one that’s right for you. I always go with Blurb because I like the design flexibility provided by their software, as well as the high number count for their books (some years our albums are 400+ pages!), and the options to upgrade paper quality. You should pick the service that’s right for you.
  • there’s a learning curve : If you’re using software to design your book, expect there to be a learning curve, and don’t get too discouraged when it takes you longer than expected to create your book. Now I speed through a 300 page book when it would have taken me a bit longer years ago. Hopefully you like the printing service you use and won’t have to take the time to learn about a new company in the future.
  • keep the book simple : you can see that my page layouts are pretty simple. This was one of the tricks that I learned early on. We love looking at the photos, and we don’t like too many packed onto a page, so I keep it simple with some variation if there are photos that need special attention (either because of their resolution or because they are so beautiful/awesome/absurd that they deserve a full page of space).
  • be cut-throat with your photos choices : I think this comes with time, but keep reminding yourself that you take thousands of photos every year (I know I’m not the only one). Stick to the big and special moments and pick the best photos. They don’t have to be the best from a design standpoint, but they are the best because they capture the moment, someone’s laugh, someone else’s silly face, etc. After you’ve gotten the big moments in the book, then you can go back and fill it in with second and third tier photos until you feel satisfied with the feel of the book. I think you’ll find that there’s a learning curve with the photo selection task just as there is with using the design software.
  • leave space for the things you forgot : I like to leave a few blank pages at the end of the book. These can be used for writing down memories from the year, new years resolutions for the next year, and for adding extra printed photos that didn’t make it into the book.
  • have fun! You’re doing something so special for your family and leaving them a tangible memory of life in these crazy years. Any book you put together will be better than nothing.

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Living The Tao of Pooh

“The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple: you can’t save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.”

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Hi, friends!  A couple weeks ago, I took a quick trip to Philadelphia to help my childhood friend move into her first home.  As I’m waiting at the airport, I thought of another amazing friend and sent him a quick text, ‘Hey, pick me up on your motorcycle!’ I totally expected the text to be the start of another conversation instead of actually accepting the invitation. A few hours later, I’m waiting at the PHL terminal and a shiny blue motorcycle pulls up. I’m handed a helmet, I swing my leg over the seat and we’re off, speeding down I-95 towards the city of Brotherly Love.

After an iced chai and a funny catch-up chat, we headed to his house in my old neighborhood, Fishtown. I sat down and looked over his prints from a recent trip to the UAE, Oman and Turkey. While I could have looked at them for hours, the photo editor in me flipped through them insanely fast only allowing a fraction of the photos to leave an imprint in my mind. I can still imagine them today. I’m excited to see how he uses my favorites, but also the images that I may have passed by too quickly. Photos are magical in that the way in which you use them can completely alter the image and message. Saleem has an uncanny ability to work with his photographs in this manner.

While I was shuffling through the images, I kept thinking of my childhood friend, Steph, the one I was supposed to be helping move in. I was torn in opposite directions, stay and hang out with Saleem who so kindly picked me up from the airport or rush off to Steph’s since she was expecting me. I hated the creeping feeling of guilt so after a quick pitbull play session and a few minutes of chill time in the backyard I said my goodbyes to Saleem.

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Travel Novels That Reveal Harsh Truths

While traveling, I’m always reading one, or more likely five, books at a time.  I read the following three books one after another while traveling throughout southeast Asia and while I admittedly felt extremely bummed out afterwards, I’m pleased I did.  These three works are all largely based on true stories making them all the more powerful.  Each novel features younger characters that reveal harsh realities of those living in developing countries.  If you haven’t had the chance to travel, read these novels and venture far and wide from your couch.  You won’t be sorry you did although you’ll probably be more sympathetic to those across the ocean.

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When the Elephants Dance is equal parts misery and magic, written by Urize Holthe, a Filipina-American writer from San Francisco, the novel is inspired by actual experiences of her father who was a young boy in the Philippines during World War II. When the Elephants Dance begins during the final week of the Japanese-American battle for possession of the Philippines.  Told by three distinct narrators, the novel recounts supernatural tales based on indigenous Filipino mythology and Spanish-influenced legends as told by an extended family hiding in a cellar during the last week of the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.  Alternating between the gruesome realities of rape, starvation, and torture brought on by the war, When the Elephants Dance is a multi-layered view of the history and culture of a war-torn nation.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo won a national book award for nonfiction.  This novel is based on three years of reporting in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport.  No matter how different you may seem from the characters in this novel, you’ll be rooting for them from page one.  This is a story of personal tragedy set within a city’s larger global recession that results in suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy.  As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed and one realizes the fragility of human life. 

In the Sea There Are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda is the story of a ten year old boy who is left to travel from Afghanistan to Italy on his own.  This story seems especially pertinent at a time when masses are scrambling across borders to safer havens.  Travel with ten-year-old Enaiatollah over the course of five years as he treks across mountains, rides in suffocatingly small spaces, and faces violent seas in an inflatable raft.  While Enaiat eventually reaches safety, the same is not true for his traveling companions.  If you’ve ever needed to harbor compassion for illegal immigrants read this novel.

While this certainly isn’t the most uplifting post, it’s way up there as one of the most important.  Sometimes it’s easy to feel removed from our planet’s social tragedies, but these three novels close the gap between privilege and misfortune.  Whenever I’m having a bad day, I like to remind myself of all my first-world problems, it helps me to feel ridiculous and grateful at the same time.

The image of me reading was taken by the truly talented Saleem Ahmed.

 

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