Monday, July 29, 2013

Project Life 2013: Simple as Cherry Pie

I got sidetracked by making "real" scrapbook layouts and put off this Project Life spread for a while.  I had a little crafty time to myself this weekend, thanks to hubby and I trading off. He got a motorcycle ride and car show with some of his buddies and I got a couple of uninterrupted hours in the craft room all by my not-so-lonesome. Bliss.

A few months ago, I came across a Craigslist ad for a Project Life Cherry Kit, including binder, page protectors, dividers and most of the cards for a screamin' deal. M and I went to pick it up while Big Sister T was at preschool. I think it was one of the older style Project 365 kits, as the cards are smaller than in the newer kits. 

This week I wanted to use my *actual* Project Life cards instead of matching and cutting down patterned paper, so I decided to stick with that Cherry kit, and mixed in a few coordinating cards from a Clementine set I bought from someone who was splitting her kit. So the color palette ended up yellow, red and orange, which is great for mid-summer.  Click for larger photos.

July 1 - 14: Phone photos, holiday, baby photo shoot

July 1-14: Card made just for me by T & assorted Instagram goodness 

I also went through my stash and reorganized everything, and found a couple of sheets of rub-ons from my friend J, with whom I exchange cast-offs and extras. Something I've realized from making non-PL layouts is that I like a lot of repetition to bring disparate elements together. So I tried to use a LOT of the rub-ons, not just one or two like I'd normally do.  

Rub-ons are also *fantastic* embellishments to put directly on photos. I don't like manipulating them in Photoshop to add funky text or digi stamps, so I can get a similar effect this way.

July 1-14: Magformers (best toy ever!), phone photos, tons o' journaling

I am all about the stories, and am often too long-winded even for all the slots in Project Life.  This week, using the Design F page protector with all those 3x4 slots was super fun - enough for lots of little photos AND lots of journaling.  I also embraced the photo collage this week, and just used Lightroom to create my own templates.

You saw it here first: Pom pom bullet points

I did my usual "bullet point" summary for the week.  (You can take the girl out of Microsoft, but...) This time I used tiny 1/4 inch craft pom poms to add a little dimension. So if this becomes a huge trend in scrapbooking, remember you saw it here first. Hah.  The words on the flower are from those rub-ons I mentioned earlier. It was a Thanksgiving set, but there were plenty of non-holiday words to use.

And I didn't have to mess around with wet glue, I just used my favorite Micro Glue Dots. They are awesome for every tiny embellishment, including sequins, beads and now tiny pom poms!

I've got lots of interesting photos this month since I'm taking the BPC Phone Photography class. It's been great inspiration to really *see* what's around me as I go about daily life and not wait for some dedicated photo time that may never happen. I'm looking forward to starting the layout for the second half of the month with all these fun mobile phone photos!

Here's a slide show of all my 2013 pages, including close-ups.  If you can't see it, click here to view my entire 2013 Project Life gallery.

Project Life @ The Mom Creative

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Like I was poison in your mouth

I live in a crunchy city on the "Left Coast". Mamas routinely breastfeed in public without covering up. (I high-five them in my mind, because I'm not brave enough.)

BabyM flat-out refused to nurse in public around 5 months old. Life was just WAY TOO INTERESTING to worry about milk and definitely not under cover. Trying to wrangle a wiggly baby and not flash my fellow diners in a restaurant was good times.

So I stopped breastfeeding in public. I had a giant stash of milk stored up for my return to work (which didn't happen) so we had plenty when she *finally* deigned to accept a bottle around 6 months. I had nearly given up hope of anyone else feeding her at that point, so hooray for small victories.

But we kept nursing at home and she became super quick and efficient. She outgrew needing to be nursed to fall asleep and in a stunning turn of events, I can put her down in the crib in the mythical state of "drowsy but awake" and she actually, amazingly, puts herself to sleep.  This was unheard of 2 months ago and the cause of much despair around here.

The only constant with a baby is change.  At almost 10 months, BabyM is apparently ready to do everything at once - in the last 3 weeks she's learned to sit up from lying down, rolls around in both directions, *crawls* and is growing 3 new teeth at the same freakin' time.

The one thing I didn't expect to change - our easy, efficient "nursing relationship" - did.  I'll spare you the details, but it started to hurt a lot.  I was dreading her feedings. This was all new, since this amazing baby showed up on Day 1 knowing exactly what to do. 

My best guess is that her new teeth are affecting her latch, *and* she's growing like crazy and really hungry. When we give her a bottle, she drains 5-6oz in just a few minutes. She wants to eat and get on with her day. She also eats unbelievable quantities of solid food - actual person-sized amounts.

For a couple of weeks I've been pumping and feeding her, but I hate it.  One of the awesome benefits of not working anymore is not having to pump several times a day and feeling the stress of "do I have enough?". 

The freezer stash is dwindling - we have 2 weeks' worth of occasional bottles left.  I know I could spend time and $$$ getting a lactation consultant to diagnose what's going on. Lord knows I've used Dr. Google to self-diagnose as well.  I could drink the tea and take the supplements, which I've done in the past for T.

Or, I could supplement with formula for the next 1.5 months until we can introduce regular soy milk and use this as an opportunity to slowly wean her so I don't quit cold turkey and become Hormone-Crazed Angry Mama.  

It's taken me weeks to come to terms with this, thanks to the propaganda machine. I know logically that formula != "poison" (like some would have you believe) and that whole generations were raised successfully on formulas less nutritionally advanced than what's available now.  Big sister T was essentially prescribed formula by her doctor at 9 months since she was so low on iron and it was better than holding her down to force the nasty iron supplement into her mouth.  

BabyM isn't allergic to anything as far as we can tell so our options are wide open, unlike with T.  BabyM eats *everything*, including carpet lint, so the term "exclusively breastfed" means nothing at this point. 

But that little voice inside my head is telling me I'm being lazy and not trying hard enough to fix the nursing issue.  It's telling me I should breastfeed BabyM *exactly* as long as I did for her big sister, which would mean continuing in some form for 4 more months (ouch!).

It shouldn't be this complicated or guilt-inducing, right?  So today I took the first baby step. I wanted to make sure we had a backup option for M when our freezer stash of breastmilk runs out. I can't pump enough to get her through a day.

I found the "just in case" formula I bought before M was born. It expired in February so I threw it out. I wondered if it was a sign.

Then I realized I had a can of the same brand powdered stuff as well, likely a free "gift" from somewhere. This was a new experience for me - we always used the ready-to-feed for T. I got my chemistry on and made up a bottle very carefully as per the instructions. 

And she drank it down like it was sweet candy juice from heaven. Seriously, I think she drank it faster than any bottle of milk she'd had before. Well, then. I feel good that we have options.

I've given myself a couple more weeks to figure out the nursing stuff and see if there's an obvious, easy solution. I'm disappointed at how much internal angst I'm having over this. I know logically everything will be fine, but there's that nagging doubt when I consider taking a different path than I did last time.

But that's the crux of parenting, isn't it?  You have no idea whether or how any one decision is going to affect THE FUTURE. You just take a breath, pick a path that you think is right, and get moving. Kind of terrifying and kind of awesome all at the same time.

I feel like I should end this post with something uplifting, like "Go forth and conquer."  So, um, yeah!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Scrapbook Obsession Continues

Last year I started an 8x8 album for scrapbook layouts of favorite photos. I got the idea from (of course) one of Cathy Zielske's books.  I started with a cheap post-bound album I found on clearance somewhere. I soon realized I prefer the 3-ring binders, so I bought a gorgeous WRMK bright blue fake leather one from Target. It makes me happy every time I see it, and now there are 3 layouts in it!

Click for larger photos.

I was flipping through Clean and Simple Scrapbooking: The Sequel and found this layout I wanted to "scraplift":

p. 91 in Clean and Simple Scrapbooking: The Sequel, by Cathy Zielske

I loved the simple bands of color to the right of the photo and the small strip of patterned paper.  I started trying to copy this one with different papers, but it wasn't working for me.  After a lot of shuffling, cutting and trying different things, this is my result:

T at 10 months.

I learned that I *can* use a 12x12 layout as inspiration for an 8x8 as long as I'm cognizant of how much less space there is.  In this case, my photo was only 3.5x5", I made fewer "stripes" on the right side, and I used a thin strip of silver Martha Stewart tape instead of another piece of cardstock at the bottom.

I'm still learning about layering, but I love that the black and yellow papers are both subtly patterned, yet still seem to match even with that crazy hot pink floral strip.  (Others may beg to differ.)  

Acrylic star and Simple Stories SNAP! sticker
Star sequin (love them!) and Amy Tangerine Yes Please roller stamp

My journaling is often long-winded, like this blog, and I knew I couldn't get by with just a simple caption like in the layout above, so I turned the right side of the layout into a "pocket", a trick I learned from making a LOT of mini albums.  The journaling card is a cutout from my current paper obsession, Amy Tangerine's Yes Please 6x6 pad, so it's pretty small.  I made sure that the paperclip to pull it out is easy to get to from the top of the page protector.  My pet peeve is interactive elements hidden underneath a page protector - I definitely don't want people taking my layouts OUT of the album.

This photo is a favorite of mine, not just because it's cute and T is wearing an AC/DC shirt, but because it's the first time it occurred to me to do an impromptu "photo shoot" with her.  This was before my fancy DSLR camera, when I was using my Canon S90 point and shoot exclusively.  

While doing this shoot, I learned about making sure the background doesn't have anything distracting, seating her near good light, and understanding that small babies don't have infinite patience so I'd better get that photo quickly before she slithered off the chair and fell on her head. That was a pretty important day in my journey to becoming a decent photographer for my family and I was rewarded with a couple of awesome shots of my girl.

I'm realizing that I work best in stages instead of one long session. The first night I chose the photo, papers and a few embellishments and laid them out roughly together then went to bed. My brain was working on it overnight, apparently, because the next morning I had some good ideas. I finished this on the 3rd day, with the journaling, stamping and the lone star sequin. Next time I'll do the stamping *before* assembling the layout, so I don't have to hold my breath hoping I don't mess up the whole thing at the end.

Obviously I'm having a lot of fun with this, and I'm looking forward to filling up this album with more 8x8 layouts of my favorite photos.  (There are a LOT.) Sorry, non-crafty blog readers!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sanford: 8.5 x 11 Scrapbook Layout

After making that last scrapbook page, I wanted to do more.

I had a story to tell about Sanford, our little fox friend from IKEA who was purchased to be T's lovey (and solution to her sleep problems). Alas, that didn't work, but she liked him. He came to Ireland with us last year and became my first ever Instagram photo subject.

T gave him (well, all 3 of "him") to BabyM earlier this year to help her sleep. M loves chewing on his nose as she's falling asleep and I got a great picture of her sleeping with him.

Click to see larger photos.

Sanford, 8.5 x 11 layout

I had a vision of putting the three photos in a strip but the orientations wouldn't quite allow for that. I tried to create visual triangles with the gold items and the black accents.

Tab cut from American Crafts gold foil cardstock

My favorite Dear Lizzy paper makes another appearance!

I like playing around with the elements on the pages - it's like solving a puzzle about where things should go and what should be added or removed. I don't always know why I'm doing it, but I have a Spidey-sense of what looks right or wrong.

This started with the bright and lovely Citrus Twist May scrapbook kit along with a few items from my own stash - the black and white script washi tape to match the awesome Snippets Thickers letter stickers, and the gold foil "hello" tab and paper doll strip I cut on my Silhouette Cameo (love!).  I also used the cute Blinks of Life gold-foil journaling card from the June Studio Calico Project Life kit.

Learning to layer was my goal here, and I had to consult some online galleries to see how different people approached it - what do you do when everything starts looking too square and blocky, or what happens when corners don't quite match up.

I don't love this as much as my previous scraplifted layout. I'm discovering that I like a lot of whitespace and repeating elements. I have trouble with asymmetry and things not being straight, though I need to work through that to avoid making really boring pages.

But the cool thing is I'm starting to figure out my preferred style. And the only way to get there is to practice, aka, make more.  Yay!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Three chords and the truth

I have come to terms with the fact that my current musical taste is embarrassingly mainstream.  I don't seek out new music actively, so what I get comes through the radio when I'm driving around. And obviously what's played on the radio is what The Man wants us to listen to (and buy).

As uncool as that is, I'll share three songs I'm loving right now.

Of Monsters and Men, "Mountain Sound".  This song reminds me of where I live (you know, Puget Sound, mountains everywhere, blah blah blah), and I noticed this weekend when driving east on I-90 that it's called the "Mountains to Sound" highway.  The whole album is fabulous and fun.  I downloaded it last summer after hearing "Little Talks" on the radio, so I guess I was ahead of the game since they're only playing Mountain Sound on the radio now.  Again, another band who doesn't look like I expected.

Justin Timberlake, "Mirrors" . I know, horrifying. But there's something about this slickly-produced song I love SO MUCH. I hate to admit it. It's very sappy, but kind of different. It's on the radio all the time, to the point where T hears it and says "Why AGAIN Mirrors?" Uh, because I like it?  I thought I should get my money's worth so I bought the longer version, but I think I like the Radio Edit better.  (Shudder.) And no, I have no idea what's up with the video. I like the Mountain Sound one better.

The Lumineers, "Stubborn Love" . I know, I'm jumping on the hipster bandwagon with this one, but I knew when I heard "Ho Hey" that I'd probably love this album, and I was right. It's got a Paul Simon vibe and satisfies my inner 1990s singer-songwriter love. Also, it reminds me of a line I read in my senior year "marriage" class (Catholic high school, yo).  "The opposite of love is indifference."  That's deep, man.

So that's what I've been listening to lately in the car, when I haven't given into T's request to listen to the Spanish kids' music I sometimes regret downloading. I need more music in my life, so I'm open to your suggestions on new stuff to listen to!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Milestone: My First 8.5 x 11 Scrapbook Layout

I've had "make scrapbook layouts" on my list of goals and dreams for a while. Obviously I'm doing it with Project Life, but I wanted to challenge myself to make "real layouts" that start with an empty sheet of paper and don't have the convenient constraints of all those little pockets to fill.

I've been intimidated by that concept and unable to get started. Finally yesterday, when T was on her first-ever "sleepover" with my parents, I decided to Just.Do.It.  I grabbed Cathy Zielske's most excellent book Clean and Simple Designs for Scrapbooking and started to read. The book is 9 years old, so some of the papers and embellishments look a little dated, but overall her design is so clean and classic that I knew they'd translate well to current papers and color schemes that are my style.

Click any photo to see a larger version.

Here's the design I "scraplifted":

Cathy Zielske, Clean and Simple Scrapbooking, p 37

Here's mine:

My first 8.5x11 layout!


It's obviously a copy of the original design, but I love how it looks updated and more my style, with colorful patterned papers (Amy Tangerine Yes, Please and Sketchbook 6x6 pads) and color photos all taken on my phone.  The squares are 2x2 inches, which is small enough to make a nice grid, but large enough to *see* the photos and add some journaling.  I didn't use the slide mount "pockets" as she used, and just arranged the photos on the page directly. I added a date stamp to the bottom.  I started with the heavy white woodgrain embossed cardstock I've been hoarding - that stuff is truly lovely.

The title block is up on thick foam dots, higher than the ones I used for a few of the grid squares.  The letter stickers are from Kelley Purkey's collection at Simon Says Stamp and the enamel dot is from the super-cheap-on-sale Kathy Davis packs at Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts.  I had to restrain myself from using a ton of little sparkly things and stamps - I wanted to retain the clean look of the original.

On a side note, if you have any tips on getting tiny letter stickers straight, I'd love to hear them.  I used a ruler, and they're STILL not perfect.

I usually HATE journaling in the second person ("you") like you're writing a letter to your kid, but I couldn't figure out what else to do on this spread.  Using third person ("she") seemed too impersonal, and using first person from T's point of view ("I") seemed cheesy and contrived.

While I adore the look of computer journaling, it would have taken way too long to format, print, cut and paste it here. It's also important to me to have my handwriting on my layouts somewhere - I think that makes it more personal and "handmade"-looking. I know, this is just my own quirk and laziness mixed in and that's why Cathy Z is a professional and I'm just copying her work :)

But this was REALLY fun to work on.  Once I got past the block of the blank page and just decided to lift someone else's design, I felt free to make changes to "make it my own".  Baby steps, I guess!

Now I can't wait to make more.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Project Life 2013: Someday We'll Find It

Since starting the Phone Photography class last week and exploring different apps for photo taking and editing, I realized my workflow to process photos went all crazypants. Now the photos are in multiple directories *and* there are different-sized duplicates, thanks to Instagram resizing photos when uploading.

I sat down to sort it out this weekend and realized I need to pick a path and stick to it.  So for now, I'm taking photos with Vignette and editing them in Pixlr Express, which allows me to save large files.  I may or may not share them on Instagram, but I'm no longer using it for images I want to print, since I haven't yet figured out how to save those photos at a good resolution for printing larger than 4x4.

After I got all the photos on my computer, I used my usual workflow within Adobe Lightroom to select and print images for this Project Life layout.  And as usual, I had more photos than would reasonably fit, but I got creative and combined some in a single pocket.  I got all but one to fit on the spread, but that meant I didn't have as much room for journaling as I would like.  (As you know, I'm long-winded.)

Click on a photo to enlarge it.

June 17-30: T's dance recital, zoo trip, park GPS roulette

Jun 17-30: Preschool picnic, swimming lesson, outings with sisters
Old & new together

Studio Calico PL kit card + Elle's Studio frame, artistically askew

I didn't use a specific kit this week.  I had one precious sheet of gorgeous rainbow polka-dot paper I was hoarding from the We R Memory Keepers 2010 line called "72 and Sunny". I used every one of those 144 square inches on this layout. Ever since I rediscovered it while moving everything out of my leaky craftroom, I've wanted to use it for Project Life, and it's perfect for summer.

The spread came together fairly quickly. After selecting and printing photos like I always do, I grabbed the special paper and pulled out a small set of coordinating stickers, cards, letters and embellishments from what I had nearby on my desk. I only chose things that were cream-based because I have a real issue mixing white and cream, which someday I'll overcome. Maybe.

The paper coordinated nicely with the cream-background hexagon journaling stickers from Jillibean Soup that I've also been hoarding since last year.  I found a couple of chevron cards in my recent Studio Calico kits and threw those into the mix.  The random die-cuts came from the mystery bowl on my desk. I love flipping through it to find perfect little surprises.  For a bit of shine, I grabbed two packs of the tiny round Heidi Grace adhesive metal accents which I keep buying at Jo-Ann when they go on sale.  I love those little things and they fit nicely with the polka dot paper.

And now the year is half-over and I'm still on track, so yay for that. I'm trying to figure out how to incorporate all the photos I'm taking for my photography class.  Maybe just a couple of extra pages for those, or I'll make a 12x12 grid and get it printed professionally for the album. I can't tell you how happy I am my photos are actually printed and physically available to look through, rather than trapped on our server, languishing in the digital abyss.

Here's a slide show of all my 2013 pages, including close-ups.  If you can't see it, click here to view my entire 2013 Project Life gallery.

Project Life @ The Mom Creative

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Look at this photograph

I've been very surprised to find the transition to becoming a stay-at-home parent has been somewhat difficult. I know I'm privileged to be able to choose this life for a few years, and it's what I've wanted since T was born in 2009.  I don't miss the job I left.  

What I do miss is the automatic structure that working outside the home provides - these hours are at work, those hours are at home with kids awake, these hours are mine all mine after the kids have gone to bed.  When working part-time, each of those "buckets" was precious and precariously balanced. I did a decent job at making those hours count, with a lot of hand-wringing in the process, of course.

Now my days are very different. Time has definitely slowed down, which I love. While T is at school or with my parents, I can spend an entire hour in the bed lounging around with BabyM, making her giggle, watching her practice her newfound mad rolling skills, and squeezing her delicious baby fat rolls. I don't feel guilty about lingering chores, checking work email, or doing something more productive like bathing her or clipping her tiny fingernails.  Or T and I can spend over an hour with her new Spirograph toy, and do it again the next day because school's out and we don't need to be anywhere at a certain time.

I have an extremely low tolerance for "busy".  I need a lot of space in my schedule, rather than a packed day of dashing from one activity to the next.

But without *some* structure, things fall apart for me.  I kept some time logs when I was on maternity leave and TJ was also off.  Laura Vanderkam, the author of 168 Hours, one of my favorite EVER time management books (and I have read many - it's a sickness), was kind enough to analyze them and give me some great advice.  On a side note, I met her in person (squee!) a few weeks ago on a fun trip to the zoo. I have taken her advice of making an extremely short to-do list each day and it's been helpful.  

But even with that great advice, I was floundering a bit.  So I created our Summer Schedule, which has been a hit. I'm extremely lucky that both girls nap well, so I have at least 1.5 hours mid-day all to myself.  And the Internet sucked up every last minute, making me feel like I wasted a precious resource.

On a whim, I signed up for the Big Picture Classes (BPC) Phone Photography course online.  For once, they included Android phone owners in the description with specific content just for us, and that's what sold me.  (Every other class I've heard about is iPhone-centric.)  

I have a history of signing up for online classes and not following through.  I love having the materials and reading through them at my own pace, but this means I miss out on the "community" created during the class.

So on July 1 I read the first assignment and played along.  At first I rolled my eyes about taking a photo of my feet (I mean, really?!) but then I realized that the prompts had a lot of flexibility and room for creative interpretation. The point is not to just complete the assignment and check it off, but to really THINK about how I can do it creatively and make an image I'd want to include in our Project Life album.

Assignment 1 - Where I Stand

Part of the class is a "photo scavenger hunt" with a list of 7-8 open-ended prompts.  I've been working on those as well as the daily assignments and having a great time with it. I've loved seeing how the other students around the world are interpreting the same instructions.  I'm learning more about how to use Instagram and related tools, plus several new camera and photo editing apps for my Android phone: PhotoGrid, Pixlr Express, and Vignette.

And I'm fired up. I can't wait for new assignments to be posted.  I'm looking out for opportunities to cross off more scavenger hunt items.  I want to spend some time with the documentation for my camera app, which I paid $5 for 6 months ago and never learned how to use properly.  I've rediscovered how freakin' awesome my Galaxy Nexus phone camera really is.

And what I've realized is that I need to be learning new things.  Just crossing tasks off a to-do list isn't enough for me.  One of the valuable things I got from work, and didn't realize until now, was the constant learning curve of new challenges.  The culture of my old workplace was that you never got to "just do your job well" - you always had to take on new work and "do more with less". I used to grumble about it, but it turns out that I *need* that sort of challenge to stay engaged.

Don't get me wrong - I am learning new things about parenting and my kids each day, but that is a very different process for me (and often an exercise in frustration as we all learn how to grow together!) - it's all that squishy interpersonal stuff I've never been very good at.

So this Phone Photography class is exactly what I need right now. I'm thrilled to have a place to channel this energy and regain what I lost after not being at work for so long!  This is making me really, really happy right now.

If you want to follow along with me as I take this class, I'm anandirc on Instagram and will be posting my class photos with the hashtag #BPCphonephotographyproject.

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