Thursday, January 31, 2013

Here I Go Again: BlogHer Book Club Review

When I read the summary of Here I Go Again by Jen Lancaster, I knew it would be a "fluffy" book so I went into it with the appropriate expectations.  

I finished it in a couple of days, only reading while I was nursing BabyM.  It's not the kind of book that requires intense concentration, and the story line was simple and fairly predictable.

This wasn't one of my favorite BlogHer Book Club books. I'm not a fan of time travel books in general, but this one also lacked substance and originality.  The writing was competent with a few funny lines, but not remarkable.  I couldn't drum up any sympathy for Lissy, the "queen bee" main character, even after her 'amazing transformation' at the end.

The 80s heavy metal references made it more likeable since that was the music of my teenage years and like Lissy, I lamented the transition to the grunge era in the 90s.  There were tons of current pop culture references sprinkled throughout the book, which was amusing now but in a year or two will seem terribly dated (or just confusing).  The funniest parts were the texting conversations between Lissy and Deva, but clearly those were inspired by Damn You Autocorrect.

I love a happy ending, but this one was way too neat and tidy for my liking. Reading this book was like eating a Twinkie - tastes okay while you're eating it, but you quickly regret its sugary fakeness when it's over.

Nearly all my friends lament their lack of reading time.  I definitely would not recommend this book as there are better candidates out there, even in the "chick lit" genre.

I was compensated for this review by BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

We are (not) the champions

So last Friday's tech-free day was... ok.  It forced me to work more on my 2013 Planning Workbook, which has been neglected since I got sick a few weeks ago.  I also did some miscellaneous clutter cleaning.  I made some progress reading Scott Kelby's Adobe Lightroom book.

There were no fewer than 15 times where I wanted to check my email, Facebook or my EBay auction.  It was so hard to stop reaching for my phone when I saw all the new message notifications piling up.

T was in preschool that morning, and I had the first meeting of my monthly papercrafting club at our local craft store.  In the afternoon we all went out for an early family dinner.  It was pretty low-key.

We caved around 8:30pm, after the girls were in bed.  I was shooting for 24 hours, but couldn't take it anymore.

Unplugging = more mindfulness

But even though it was shorter than intended, I did learn something. It was clear how much time I waste on checking email and Facebook multiple times during the day, not to mention mindless Internet surfing because I'm already at the computer.  Not doing these things made me feel like I had a LOT of extra "free" time.  Unplugging definitely helped me practice my 2013 One Little Word, 'mindfulness'.  I was more deliberate about choosing my activities, and it seemed like the day moved a little slower.

TJ was not a fan, since he has few non-computer-related hobbies.  But he gamely played along until the girls were asleep.

I plan to unplug at least once a month, and will definitely change my Internet-time-wasting ways as a result.  So I'd say that was a successful experiment!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Keeping the (tech) Sabbath

Tomorrow TJ and I are doing an Internet-free, device-free day. I wanted to see what that's like, because we are always, and I mean *always* near our connected devices. Between the two of us we have 3 desktops, 1 server, 2 laptops, 2 tablets and 3 phones.  My big math brain will tell you that's 11 devices between 2 people, all of them pulsing with fun Internet energy.

We don't have live TV - we ditched our DirecTV subscription in 2009 to save money before T was born and I haven't missed it at all. TJ only misses it during football season. But we've essentially replaced our TV time with other "screen time" so we can't really say we're taking the high road. 

After both kids go to bed, TJ and I sit in front of our respective screens until we go to sleep.  Not exactly quality time there either, though as introverts, we both desperately need quiet alone time.

We do limit T's screen time - she has DVDs we let her watch, but usually not more than 30 minutes a few times a week. I think it's only fair that we make an effort to limit our own screen time as well.

Maybe we'll paint.

So tomorrow we'll read books, exercise, talk to each other (OMG), do some crafty things, and eat dinner together, hopefully something we cooked ourselves. 

In my ideal world, we wouldn't use our devices while the kids are awake and with us, but that's a pretty drastic step. As part of my One Little Word, mindfulness, I am trying to limit my own device use during the day when T is home.

It's hard - my laptop sits on the counter in our kitchen.  My phone is always handy since I Facebook and surf the web while I'm nursing M. The Internet, with its nice asynchronous "social" qualities, is always beckoning. Somewhere in the world, at least one of my friends or "friends" is awake no matter when I'm online.

I've read about people doing this every week, and that may be too much for us to do right away.  So we'll start with just one day.

See you on the other side!  Is this something you've done, or would consider doing?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tuesday Lovin': Canon Pixma Pro Inkjet Photo Printer

On the scrapbooking message boards I read, a common question is "What photo printer should I buy?"  The Holy Grail is a printer that isn't crazy expensive, doesn't run through gallons of ink, and produces great quality photos that will stand the test of time.

Hands down the number one reason contributing to me finishing Project Life in 2012 (yes, I'm really proud of that!) was buying a photo printer so I could print all my pictures at home. 

Prior to buying my printer in May, I was sending photos to weekly using their in-store pickup option.  I spent a fair amount of time on their website, uploading photos, making sure they were cropped correctly, and going to pick them up.  Not to mention Target's online system would send a message saying they were ready, yet they were not once I got to the store.  With a 2-year-old in tow, it's not like we could wait around for the hour or more it would take to process them, so I had more than a few wasted trips and a LOT of frustration.  I also didn't love the photo quality - it was fine, but not fantastic. (And I'm no expert, for sure.)

I've had a really hard time with all the printers in my past. I never found the right one for me.  My last two printers have been Epson inkjets that blew through ink like nobody's business, would clog constantly and had only so-so photo quality.  Not to mention I had to fight with Epson to replace one that died literally a DAY after the warranty expired.

So I knew when shopping for a new printer that it was NOT going to be an Epson.  I knew I wanted a color inkjet for good photo printing and consulted reviews on CNET. I searched on Amazon, filtering on those color inkjets that had great reviews (4+ stars) and were less than $500. Even that seemed like a ridiculous amount of money for a printer since all my previous ones were less than $100. But I was willing to pay for quality this time, in the hopes I'd get better results.

Fate (and customer reviews) led me to the Canon Pixma Pro 9000 Mark II.  (What a mouthful, huh?)  The reviews were great, though the price was a bit higher than I'd hoped for. Not only was it a great photo printer, but it also prints large format, up to 13x17". So if I ever wanted to print 12x12", a common scrapbooking size, I'd be all set.

We have an email list at work for people to sell household items and I had noticed a few ads for this particular printer.  Turns out that Canon was offering a BIG rebate when buying a DSLR camera, which basically included this printer for free. Many photographers were buying both the camera and printer, then selling the printer new in box after getting the rebate.  When I was ready to buy it, I did a search on Craigslist.

I found several ads for it, and made a deal with a guy to buy it for $160. It felt a bit sketchy to meet him in a grocery store parking lot with a wad of cash in exchange for electronics, but for that screamin' deal, it was totally worth it.

I came home, set it up quickly and easily, and the rest is history.  I printed my photos for Project Life starting that week and never went to Target Photo again.  I've gotten great results from all kinds of photo paper: Epson, Ilford Galerie, and Canon, though not HP paper, oddly. 

Another crafter told me about Epson Matte Premium Presentation Paper for printables, and O.M.G. The print quality is amazing. Colors are bright, saturated and graphics are knife-sharp.  It's not quite as heavy as cardstock but is heavier than regular printer paper.  I've found Amazon has the best price, unless the office supply chain stores are running a buy one get one free deal.

The Canon USA site also sometimes has great deals on photo paper, and I bought 6 packs of 4x8 paper which is great for printing 2 square Instagram photos.

I stick with the Canon ink, and the best deal has been for the multipack on Amazon.  In 8 months of regular use, I've only had to replace 4 of the 8 ink tanks.  I don't want to ruin my expensive printer, nor do I want my photos to fade or run, so I don't take any chances with off-brand inks.   This printer consumes nowhere near the amount of ink as my previous Epson inkjets, and I print far more with it than I ever did with those.

The bundled Canon software - EZ Photo Print - has a cheesy name, but works really well for printing photos in many configurations.  I use it to print two 3x4 photos on 1 4x6 page, as well as 2 4" Instagrams on a 4x8" page, and it's effortless.  You can also print tiny photos on one sheet, add text, and print large borderless photos as well.  I haven't had to tweak any settings to get the colors to come out "true".  (But again, I'm not an expert.)

The drawbacks of this printer are few:  it's HUGE so it takes up a ton of room, it's pretty loud when it's printing, it doesn't print over wireless, and the ink-empty warnings start REALLY early.  On the bright side, it doesn't force you to change the ink until it's really, truly, out and does give you a message when you get to that point. 

Canon has released a newer version of the same printer, which looks identical, the Pixma Pro-100. If you want to buy one new from an authorized retailer, this is the one to get.  Otherwise, check out EBay, Amazon or Craigslist for deals on the PIXMA Pro 9000 Mark II - you will not be disappointed.

Do you have a photo printer you love?  Share it in the Comments please!  I'm also happy to answer more detailed questions about the Pixma Pro.  I love, love, love it, and I never imagined I'd achieve such a healthy relationship with a printer :).

Monday, January 21, 2013

Project Life: A New Year!

I am really excited to make a Project Life scrapbook again for 2013, after actually finishing 2012 on time.  It definitely fits my needs:
  • I can work on it 15 minutes at a time
  • The focus is on the photos
  • There's as much opportunity for craftiness as I need (or I can skip it entirely)
  • The finished album is pretty darn cool to look at
I'm using a very cool Amy Tangerine woodgrain chevron album.  I'm sure 10 years from now it'll look horribly dated, but I love its trendiness right now.

I wasn't planning on buying a Core Kit with all the little cards in it this year, since I still have plenty of last year's Cobalt Kit left, not to mention *tons* of patterned paper and kits I can use. I probably have enough for 10 years of Project Life, seriously.  But then Studio Calico came out with a monthly Project Life kit, and I am powerless when it comes to their lovely kits, so I signed up.  (I'm embarassed to say how quickly I signed up after I received the email from them.)

I used some of the lovely neutral paper I've been hoarding to make 4x6 title cards for each week in white, cream, grey and black so I could match them to the papers I'll choose each week. I stamped "2013" on all of them and added a label for the date to keep a consistent look, but left the rest blank so I could add bullet points and tidbits about our weeks like I did in 2012.

Fellow crafty gal (and tech company nerd!) Allison contacted me because we're both taking the Studio Calico Project Life class this month and she also lives in Seattle.  Well, let me rephrase that.  We're both signed up, and likely *she* is actually doing the lessons and following along.  I'm drowning in things I want to do and haven't done much with the class content yet. Fortunately I can access it anytime, so there's no deadline.

Anyway, she and I were chatting over email and she talked about wanting the Seafoam Core Kit, but she already has the Baby Edition, because she's, you know, *with child*.  I love the graphic modern style of that Seafoam kit, but can't justify yet another Project Life kit, so we decided to split it, which is the perfect number of cards to add into my existing stash of stuff.

So let's just say I'm well stocked, and leave it at that.

Here's my 2013 cover page.  (Click for larger versions.)

2013 Creath Family Project Life Cover Page
2013 Creath Family Project Life Cover Page

Most of it is from the Studio Calico kit and a few bits are individual cards I bought from the Photo Freedom line late last year when I realized I had very few "filler" 4x6 cards.  I'm drowning in 3x4 sized cards (and on a related note, why oh why are they all portrait orientation?!), but have very few cards to fit in the 4x6 slots.

There's a blank spot in the middle, because I'm waiting to get the photos back from our last family photo shoot. I'd like to put a photo of M and T together in their Halloween costumes.

My 2 page layouts are biweekly, running from Monday to the following Sunday.  I like to keep weekends together, which is why I start my weeks on Monday.  Since the new year started on a Tuesday, this first spread is from Jan 1-13.

Jan 1-13: TJ's parents visit, Museum of Flight, walk in the park

Jan 1-13: Fun at home, M's mad skillz, One Little Word

I had a lot of fun with the 'MINDFULNESS' card.  I used the super cute wood veneer alphabet letters from Studio Calico and stapled them down with my beloved Tiny Attacher stapler. If there were ever a stapler to incite love and devotion, it's this one, hands down, with its adorable tiny staples.  

I didn't buy it for ages because I thought it was stupid. What's so great about tiny staples?  But I finally caved after a friend raved about it. 

It's very nice to use - it just feels good in my hand, but more importantly, the staples are STRONG.  I stapled those little wood pieces to the paper and they hold really well. The length also lets me get pretty far into a page, unlike my regular little stapler.  The tiny staples are cute and unobtrusive, and also cheap.

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

So, my new PL-ing friends, how's it going?

Friday, January 18, 2013

30 Days of Thankful Mini Album: All Done

I'm showing you my finished 30 Days of Thankful mini-album from November. I know it's January and you've moved on. But in the name of finished craft projects, I need closure.

I actually completed this album AGES ago, in the first week of December. But with all the holiday fun, I didn't get a chance to photograph it and post about it. So here we are. I figure I need to show you this before I show you my completed Holiday 2012 album, right?

If you can't view the slide show, click this photo to view the whole gallery.

30 Days of Thankful Mini Scrapbook Album
30 Days of Thankful - FINISHED!

I bound the album using my Zutter Bind It All tool.  I love it - once I watched a couple of YouTube videos on how to use it, I realized it's very easy and makes a nice looking finished book.

The 1-inch binding wire I used was a bit too small for the number of pages, though they turn easily enough.  The pages are so thick because they're two layers of cardstock plus another piece for the journaling and all the photos and die-cut numbers.  I think a 3-ring binder might have been a better choice for something this thick, but I didn't want to invest more money in an album since I had all the supplies to bind it myself.  And I do like the wire-bound look.

I love, love, love the 6x6 inch page size.  It was just big enough for me to play around with some stamping and embellishments, but not so big that I was intimidated.  It also means I could leave the journaling side very simple and it doesn't look empty like a bigger page size would.

It was really fun to finish this up using both new and old photos.  I didn't force myself to do a daily photo - for some reason I can handle daily writing, but not daily photo-taking. That feels like too much pressure.

I also noticed I'm getting better at showing restraint when embellishing pages. I aspire to a fairly clean and simple style but my love of shiny new papercrafting products gets in the way...

I probably won't do this again for 2013, but may consider adding a few "gratitude" pages to my Project Life album instead (just not all 30 days worth!).  Since I'm doing PL biweekly, I'll have more room in the album than I did in 2012 and using the Project Life page protectors in Design E with the 4 6x6" slots would be perfect for a project like this.

When TJ's parents came to visit this week, my mother in law looked through this album, and T saw it this morning and asked to see it, so my job here is done.

And if you're curious about what I was thankful for in November 2012, here's the full list:

T, M, TJ, Spike & Peanut, my parents, Starbucks, the Sleepy Wrap, Mondo Beyondo, cute hats, CKC Scrapbooking show, T's restaurant behavior, TJ as a baby pillow, Mexican food, Hobby Lobby, iced tea, Target, Portage Bay Cafe, Project Life, papercrafting, Sushi Me, Google+ Hangouts, low key Thanksgiving, Black Friday at home, sleeping in, friends, getting ready for Christmas, online video crafting, mama friends, T's preschool, and my new laptop.

I'd love to hear about any daily projects you're tackling, and how you manage to stay on track, especially when taking photos!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

We are never ever getting back together

i made this. and liked doing it.
Two posts I read this week inspired this one.  Laura wrote about the decision to give up her photography business, and OilandGarlic wrote about her lack of movement on one of her New Year's goals.

There's a common thread here - one that we don't often talk about when dreaming big dreams, making life lists or thinking about our yearly goals.  We often couch it in terms of "I didn't make any progress on that" or "I dropped the ball" when the real reason is that we re-evaluated our goals and decided that one was no longer a top priority, or our current state is better than making a change. 

While writing and posting these dreams and goals publicly makes me more accountable, it often feels like I'm "locked in", that I have to do it now that I've said I was going to.  And if I don't, it's because I failed. 

What I love about Laura's post is that she articulates her decision-making process.  She put her business on hold for a bit to think.  She talked it over with her husband.  She clarified her personal priorities, and figured out that this big dream of hers didn't mesh with those. 

At my job, we do this formally as part of our performance reviews and mid-year check ins.  We set "commitments" at the beginning of the year, which are our goals and how we plan to achieve them.  We're encouraged to keep this list as a living document, revisiting them and updating as priorities change.  We formally make the changes at a mid-year review, but can update them any time.

At work, it's not a failure for me to drop a project if the business needs change. In fact, clinging to that project would be a sure path to a bad performance review and get me pegged as that inflexible person who can't deal with change.  (Like the guy with the stapler in Office Space.)

So why is it so hard to accept change in our personal goals? 

A few things on my original Mondo Beyondo list are things I no longer want to do (or have): a second home, living in Ireland, writing a successful book.  I wrote that list in 2011. A lot of things have happened since then - our "business needs" have changed, so to speak.

Yet that little voice in my head is telling me I'm taking the easy way out.  That I should be working hard on all of those things on that list.  That other people do harder stuff, with larger families, so why am I bellyaching about priorities and time. Sigh. 

When I read over that list, the things I really want still jump out at me: taking some responsibility for the girls' schooling, doing something creative daily, figuring out meal planning and healthier eating.

What about you?  Do you have goals you have shelved due to changing life priorities? Do you feel bad about it? 

Monday, January 14, 2013


When I got really into papercrafting last year I started reading a bunch of new blogs - one of them is Kristin's.  She's got a new project called "Currently" where she writes about what's going on right now, each week.  It also makes a great entry for Project Life pages and she's got some really cute downloadable printable journal cards for exactly that purpose.

Since I know myself, I won't commit to doing this weekly. But I liked the similar "right now" prompt I did back in September (and what a momentous "right now" it happened to be!).

Since I'm sick and my brain is full of goo, this is perfect.

Nothing. Haven't watched any TV in weeks.  I'm sure we've got episodes of Glee, Grey's Anatomy and The Mindy Project to catch up on.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. You know when that comes out we're having sleep troubles. Also on a lighter note, I just started Here I Go Again for BlogHer Book Club.

Whatever's on the radio. I'm not driving enough to plug in my phone and listen to good music.  Sad!

Starting Project Life 2013, finishing 2012 holiday album. Super excited about both! Also, taking custom orders in my Etsy shop so I'm making some One Little Word necklaces and Valentine's Day gifts.

Sick, sick, sick. Horrible sinus infection. Very tired and icky, but getting better.

Just getting started doing my 2012 business taxes and need to finish by the end of the month. Trying to do a little at a time. Also starting to think (just a little) about the end of maternity leave which is in about 6 weeks.  Sigh.

Fabulous husband taking over 3yo duty as well as keeping the household running while I lie uselessly in bed. Also thankful for the in-laws who are here and willing to hold a baby or drink "tea" with the 3yo.

OK, your turn!  Link up your 'Currently' in the comments.  I'd love for you to play along.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Six things they don't tell you about babies

Despite my extensive reading and research, there are still things I didn't know about babies until we had one (and now two) living in our house.  Mysterious creatures, babies.

1. They don't arrive knowing how to eat
I read a lot of articles about breastfeeding, and had honest friends who shared their struggles, but I didn't pick up on one important detail.  It's not just about the mama learning the "womanly art of breastfeeding". The babies don't know how to do it either. They need to figure out how to latch, how to suck, and how to eat and breathe at the same time.  The same is true about drinking from a bottle, which is a different set of skills.  All those Sesame Street videos of people feeding baby animals with bottles made me believe that it was something babies just knew how to *do*. Not so much.

2. A baby is not a function box
When I was learning middle school math, our book had a photo of a "function box" to get us to understand inputs and outputs of algebraic functions.

Function box, courtesy of
One Mathematical Cat

I imagined a new baby would be like this function box and it was my job to figure out the right input to get the desired output.  Baby crying?  Maybe it's a messy diaper.  Deliver clean diaper, then baby should stop crying right?  HAHAHA. Not really.

Sure, sometimes it worked, as I figured out the baby's patterns for hunger and sleep.  But many times, she cried for no reason at all.  Friends of mine have graphed and journaled sleep patterns for weeks, and found no useful correlations.  The function box doesn't cover that.

3. Each one is a special snowflake
This is a twist on the previous lesson. We've had two newborns, and even with our tiny n=2 sample size, I can tell that babies are born with different preferences and personalities.  Again this was something I had simply not considered prior to becoming a parent. I just figured babies were mostly alike until they got older.

BabyT loved the pacifier and drank happily from a bottle.  BabyM says no to both.  BabyM really prefers to be held or at least talked to when she's awake, while BabyT was happy to sit in her bouncy seat and amuse herself for long stretches of time.

Keep that in mind when helpful friends and relatives tell you what to do that "always worked for their babies". Yours may hate it, and it's not because you're doing something wrong.

4. Physical development takes a top down approach
Our awesome pediatrician mentioned this in passing, and I think it's so cool. I never thought about it that way until she brought it up.  First they learn to use their mouths to eat, then get control of their head/neck, then their arms and hands, then they can roll over, sit up, crawl, stand, and finally walk and run.

Obviously not every baby will do it exactly this way (see special snowflake, above) but it's a rough guideline and a neat, logical pattern.  So much is illogical in the world of babies that I latch onto what I can.

5. Photoshop is your friend
Everyone thinks babies are born all cute and cuddly. Not so much. They have weird skin issues like baby acne, cradle cap, and birthmarks that disappear in varying amounts of time. They spent 9+ months squished inside someone's belly.  They are also skinny and take several weeks to plump up.

see how this was taken from really far away?
and artfully blurred?

Photoshop and Instagram filters will save you in these uncertain times.  Around 3-6 months, babies usually deliver the goods and get really cute as promised.

6. Oh god, the laundry
So people do talk about how babies exponentially increase the amount of laundry they do.  Especially those folks who launder their own cloth diapers.  And I do find myself always behind on laundry these days, but it's not the baby's clothes that are piling up - it's mine.

Sure, we have the occasional diaper blowout or spit up incident that requires a full baby outfit change and maybe also the changing station covers. In general, though, babies who don't move don't get dirty so ours tend to wear outfits for more than one day.

The biggest increase in laundry is MY clothes.  I've still got a limited wardrobe because I didn't lose all the baby weight in 3 weeks as advertised.  Breastfeeding means I need to wear easy-access clothing, and I don't have many nursing tops.  Not to mention all the reusable nursing pads that need to be washed and every last thing the baby spits up on.  Most of my shirts meet their demise that way - I put on a clean one, and 15 minutes later, the baby spits up on it. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Maybe there's someone out there who benefits from this list, and remembers it at 3am when they're feeling like a failure because the (fed and diapered) baby just won't stop crying and go to sleep already.  Or maybe that person will cut herself some slack when she has to decide whether to wear the sweatshirt with the milk spot or the spit up on the shoulder, because nothing else is clean.

It definitely gets better.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Project Life: 2012, OMG Finished!

I did it!! I completed our 2012 Project Life album. I honestly can't believe that I stuck with it an entire year, though it was so enjoyable that it really never became a *chore*.  Because really, if this kind of crafty thing is a chore, it really shouldn't be on the to-do list.

I say that to mama friends all the time who feel bad that they are not doing "enough" for their kids' baby books.  I think the baby book is more for the parents than the kid. And if you don't enjoy making one, then don't do it.  Really. Read a couple of extra books to your kids instead if you feel you need to do "penance" ;)

Last night I worked on the spreads, and the final page until 2am. It was already 11pm by the time I sat down with my printed photos and my December Studio Calico kits. This month, I received the main scrapbooking kit, the Murray Hill Add On Kit and the card kit, and put them all together in one Cropper Hopper paper file so I could use all the coordinating things together.  It's a great system to store my monthly kits.

Since I'm covering so much of the holiday stuff in my December-ish album, I didn't want to repeat a lot of the photos. But I also didn't want to pretend like Christmas didn't exist, so I put in a mix of photos from our trip to Leavenworth (WA, not the prison), Christmas gifts, and our post-Christmas Holiday Open House party.
(Click the photos to see a larger version).

2012 Project Life
Dec 10-31, 2012: Friends, Leavenworth, the Dentist

2012 Project Life
Dec 10-31: Holiday Open House, presents, school

Since every spread is 2 pages, at the end of the book there's one empty page on the left side. I made a closing page using some of the insert cards I had been saving from my Project Life Cobalt Kit. I also included some recent pictures of us (except for Spike, sorry little guy!) and wrote some thoughts on completing the album. I also added some bling, because what project is complete without it?

Project Life 2012 Closing Page
2012 Project Life Closing Page - hooray!

I was motivated to really and truly finish this album last night, which also meant affixing a book plate (thank you Martha Stewart Office for your wonderful adhesive ones!) and printing the inserts for it and the "window" on the front of the album.  I used Microsoft Publisher to design and print them - super easy.

the Creath Family Project Life 2012 title window text

While I was designing and printing the labels for Project Life 2012, I completed the ones for 2013, so that album is ready to go!  I also added a bookplate to Trillian's toddler album so everything looks uniform on our shelf.  Yes, I'm weird like that.

Creating order from (relative) chaos
I am SO happy and proud that I was able to complete this entire album. I got several weeks behind in March/April but caught up by mid-summer and stayed on track through the end of the year, even during those first few weeks with a newborn in the house!  

What made this possible was switching from 2 pages/week to 2 pages/2 weeks (or sometimes even 3!).  It took the pressure off, and I looked forward to getting to work on those spreads when the time came.  I also learned to be ruthless about our photos - I deleted everything that I didn't love so I had less to wade through when choosing what to include.

I'm definitely doing this again in 2013, and have my supplies ready! I've subscribed to the Studio Calico Project Life Kit.  For Christmas, TJ bought me some of the plain 4x6 grid cards and the dividers for the binder so I'm ready to go, and can't wait to start our first set of pages in a new album. I'm learning how to use Lightroom to catalog, edit and export our photos quickly so I'm hoping to streamline the process a bit.

Tell me about your PL experiences! Did you finish 2012?

Friday, January 04, 2013

Personal Performance Review and Goal Setting

My Type A, project manager self loves, loves, loves the idea of doing a personal performance review at the end of the year, and setting goals for the new year.  A few years ago, my friend G pointed me to Chris Guillebeau's post on conducting an annual review. (Gotta love Facebook!)

Every year, I vow to do this and have downloaded his Excel template several times, and just haven't ever gotten around to completing it.  Partly because December is a busy month, especially if I'm taking custom orders in my Etsy shop.  And on the heels of that is January, which is my small business tax month, where I have to reconcile all my money in and out and pay my state sales tax collected.  On the bright side that means I don't need to do anything else for April and our regular income tax.

Anyway, back to goal setting. I never seemed to get it together to do it well. I always have a half-hearted "lose weight" goal, and maybe a vague "spend less money" one, but by June I've eaten my weight in pie and have stuffed seventeen more boxes of scrapbooking supplies into my craft room. First world problems, I know.

But this year, I think it's going to be different.  I've had an entire year to absorb the magic of the Mondo Beyondo class I took, and realized that writing down my dreams and thinking about them actually has made many of them materialize. (cue Twilight Zone music here)

I thought about taking it again - there's a session that starts on Monday.  

But I have a habit of signing up for lots of online classes (ooh shiny!) and not following through.  I am currently signed up for a Project Life class at Studio Calico, and have yet to do more than download the class materials.

This year would be perfect for me to get off to a roaring start on that weight loss goal.  I'm currently on maternity leave, which means I have some time to plan my meals and cook. I'm breastfeeding, so I've got that extra calorie burning boost. I'm no longer getting paid, so it would behoove me to eat more simply, and at home anyway. I know that the Paleo diet works well for me so I don't even need to "experiment".

But the other goals?  Still kind of fuzzy for me.  I was looking around for some way to structure my "personal performance review" and do some detailed goal setting for 2013.  Like you know, actually writing stuff down. Having a plan. Not having too many things to focus on at once.

And thanks to AskMoxie, I read about this amazing planning workbook thingy called Creating Your Incredible Year 2013.  It's a PDF download for less than $10 and has close to 100 pages in it.  As a crafty person, I love the hand-drawn pages and all the sparkly bits  in the drawings.  

Create Your Incredible Year 2013 Workbook Review

Yes, it's definitely geared towards women, and yes, it looks totally fluffy and hippie. But the cool thing is the content - it's solid and asks the right leading questions to get me to my goals and more importantly, HOW I'm going to achieve them.  Leonie Dawson, the gal who created this tool, calls herself a "hippy who gets shit done."  I can get behind that!
Here's a peek at some of the pages (click image to see a larger version):

2013 Incredible Life Planning Workbook

It starts with a review of 2012 and then moves into the 2013 planning.  It's very detailed and long.  I've had it for a few days and have completed about 10-12 pages so far.

The best part is that it's something I can do on my own time, and in bits and pieces, which is about the only kind of time I have these days.  I just printed it at home on the "toner saving" setting and it looks great.  I'll either bind it myself with my nifty binding tool, or stick it in a binder.

I got the Life version and am debating also downloading the Business one for my crafty stuff.  But I wanted to complete one first.  I've recommended it to a few friends and would love to find other folks I know who are interested in working on it together!

If you click on my link, I'll get a tiny bonus for referring you. But like my other reviews, I'm honest about what I like. I definitely dig this and am looking forward to completing it! Let me know if you end up getting it too!

Thursday, January 03, 2013

15 Minutes of Email

I know I'm revealing my age (late 30s) when I tell you that I rely on email for most of my personal communication. I hate talking on the phone and realized that a mobile phone plan with 100 minutes was more than enough for me, and we don't even have a home phone. I don't even use those all up.

But I'm not young and hip enough to rely on texting or Facebook entirely, though I use those too. I text people I'm meeting up with re: plans, and use Facebook for folks whose email address I don't have.

I first got an email address in 1991 when I started college. It was long enough ago that not every student entering Caltech got an email address - only those who were taking a computer science class.  I think they changed the policy within a year or two and issued one to everyone.  But at first the only other people I knew who had email were folks at my school, and a few friends at Carnegie Mellon who were majoring in Computer Engineering.

By the time I graduated in 1996, even my parents had email. I currently have at least 6 email addresses (most of which route to my main personal Inbox).  I get a manageable amount of personal email, but still need to work to keep it under control.

I think it was Laura Vanderkam's 168 Hours that made the bold statement that clearing one's email inbox was not a worthy use of precious time, since you can just search for the messages you need. 

BabyM is alarmed by email clutter

I get that, but seeing a full inbox even with all messages marked as "read", gives me the willies. To me, it's electronic clutter, and just as unsettling as seeing our kitchen counter covered in mail, toys, and miscellaneous utensils. Yeah, I'm one of *those* people, who needs to see clean surfaces.  Even if everything is stuffed willy-nilly into a drawer below, the clean surfaces calm me.  But eventually I tackle those junk drawers too.

My new project is to tame the email demons, both work and personal. Work is easy right now - I'm on maternity leave and simply unsubscribed to all mailing lists and have a rule set up that deletes everything that's not addressed directly to me. Sadly when I go back, I can't keep it that way. But work email is a whole different species of monster and requires it's own process which I'll detail later.  I know you can't wait :)

I was seriously inspired a few years ago by Merlin Mann's Inbox Zero idea. I love the idea of not using my Inbox as a to-do list. A girl can dream, right?

So I'm tackling my personal email, in no more than 15 minutes a day. I have a timer. I got hardcore about this because I tend to linger and then completely fall into a hole where I start checking and responding to email, and end up idly surfing for things I might want to buy someday. Then it's 2am and I need to be up to feed the baby in either 1 or 4 hours.  Not a good situation.

It's such a simple process.  I close everything else but my GMail window. I start the timer and work for exactly 15 minutes. When I'm focused like this, it is CRAZY how much I can get done. Today I whittled my Inbox down from 145 messages to 83.

And then I'm done. No guilt for the rest of the day about "getting to email". No pressure to try and respond on my tiny phone keyboard while I'm nursing BabyM. No frenzied quick email sessions interspersed with spending time with T or M.  I can easily find 15 minutes to do a "lightning round" of email that will actually be productive.  And heck, it doesn't even have to be 15 consecutive minutes. 3 rounds of 5 minutes works too.

Yay for New Year Motivation. What about you? Got any email-related goals?

sharing is nice

Related Posts with Thumbnails