The Great Photo Organization of 2016

Scrapbookers are, of course, known for having lots of photos and I am certainly firmly rooted in that group. Keeping the many photos in an organized fashion is a major task  One would think it would be easy to place a high priority on this essential task but I'm here to tell you that--at least for me--it's a chore and not one I can say I have managed to keep up with very well over the past twenty years of scrapbooking.

Over the years photos have been printed out of order. Some have been printed multiple times. 
Some have been organized by month, some by topic. 
Some have been put into kits in preparation for scrapbooking. 
Some are labeled with a date, most are not. 
Some are things I want to scrapbook, a few are things I'm trying to forget. 
Some are of couples who eventually got divorced and friends who came and went. 
Some are in this closet, some in photo boxes. 
Some are in albums, some are still in the envelopes that the developer put them in. Drawers, frames, hither and yon. 
Yes, this is a big chore.

As the saying goes, there is only one way to eat an bite at a time, so I've broken this mountainous task down into steps. 

Here is my step-by-step process.

Task One: get all the pictures together in one place. Beware: this can be overwhelming. If you are like me, your photos tend to run and hide all over the place. Keep your eye on the prize.

Task Two: acquire and label your sorting system. I used these awesome plastic photo keepers made by Iris, labeled for each year. You will soon discover that some years will require more than one case. That's ok. 


The inner cases fit neatly into the larger, handled case, giving the photos two layers of security. I like that. Each handled case holds 16 small photo cases. 

As you can see, I kept the labeling very simple--just Post-it Notes and a Sharpie. When the project is more complete, I will use the printer to generate pretty (and permanent) labels. 


I found these Iris Photo Storage units at Joann ($42.99) Michaels ($34.99) and online at the Container Store ($29.99) Link here.  Of course, by shopping at the big box craft stores, you could save more by shopping during a sale or using a coupon. 

I happened to be shopping during the Christmas season when Joann offers a $5 rebate through Ibotta on any purchase of $30 or more. That was fun! I used a coupon for 40% off and also claimed the $5 rebate through Ibotta, using their smartphone app. 

Task Three: sort the many photos
So there is only one way to conquer this--dive right in. I spent about eight hours total sorting photos into years. I just stacked them on top of the cases until they got to be a large stack, then I straightened them up and stuck them inside the case. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Some photos from years gone by have a code on the back, printed by the developer that includes the date. That's nice and all--sometimes very helpful--but don't forget that this feature is only accurate if you had your photos printed in a timely manner. The date indicates when the photo was *printed*...not necessarily when the photo was taken. 

I miss the days when these index prints were automatically included in a print order. They are pretty handy, even now for establishing a time line.


I gathered all the index prints, arranged them chronologically and put them on a binder ring. Most of them are dated so this was pretty easy to do. 


Task Four: Make lists of what's inside each case.

It's my goal to make lists like the one above for each case, so I can tell at a glance what's inside.  That part is going to take more time. 

Sorting photos chronologically is not particularly fun but having them organized feels very good. I did notice that even though I sometimes struggle to remember things, I have no problem remembering if I have already scrapbooked a set of photos. It's encouraging to realize that the page does indeed "remember when". 


This is what I accomplished in two days time. All the photos from 1999 to 2013, now located in  three big cases plus a few extra inner cases. Each is labeled for easy location of each year. 

Incidentally, I took a page from the book, Library of Memories and made a few very people-specific collections of pictures. These include:
--All the really good pictures of my husband and me together.
--All the pictures of my boys together.
--All the (far too) many photos of our cat, Sophia. 
--All the non-specific photos of my sister and nephew, who live with us. 
--All the cruise photos are together, especially because most of those aren't mine. 

It will be really nice to have easy access to these, going forward. 



1. Start today labeling each new photo with (at least) the year. Yes, it's completely tedious but in a few years you'll be so very glad you did. 

2. Small bites. 

3. I think it would have saved me some time if I had spent a few days gathering up the photos from their various stashes, *before* I started the big organizing project. 

4. This organizing project showed me who has the most photos taken of them and more importantly, who has not enough photos taken of them. This is good information to have, going forward. 

5. I will probably still print things randomly but I will be more diligent about keeping up with the organizing. (Fingers crossed.)

6. With technology changing every day, I am concerned about some of my photos that may still be languishing on old media formats. Can you say "floppy discs"? I am going to have to investigate how to update some of what was kept on platforms that are no longer commonly used. I am also going to investigate a common storage facility that is large enough to accommodate *ALL* my thousands of photos in one place. I don't feel secure having multiple styles and places, both online and in closets.

7. I love the uniformity of these cases. The photo below shows is just part of the menagerie of mixed up plastic goods that I cleaned out and moved on to other homes. 


One final Note: I stopped this project with the pictures from the end of 2013 because the subsequent years are probably going to require a whole big case for each year and I'm not ready to tackle that. I got an iPhone at the beginning of 2014 and the number of photos taken exploded exponentially. While that's good, (more material to scrapbook!), it's also overwhelming. I will have to come back for another round to tackle 2014, 2015 and 2016.

I hope my Great Photo Organization of 2016 has helped you get inspired to do a little bit of photo organizing if you share my struggle. If you do, I would love to read about your process too. 

Happy scrapbooking!


What I wish I had said to the man in the sandwich shoppe

So here's the truth: I blog because I'm incredibly shy and would rather take a bullet than interrupt a stranger's lunch. I'm a quiet person. I don't talk on the phone much. I'm not a conversation carrier. I'm good on paper. I write.

With this in mind...

A few weeks ago, I was over on the other side of town (a phrase that means I had made the 15 minute drive to literally the other side of town), where there is a sandwich shoppe that I like. It happened to be nearing lunch, so I decided to grab a chicken salad sandwich and dine in alone. I deeply treasure those rare times when I get to enjoy a meal alone. A. I can eat cheap. Or not. When you aren't paying for several people, you can get just what you want. B. I can be quietly occupied on my phone, and enjoy my meal at my own pace. C. If you sit there long enough, sipping on a sweet tea, you are bound to observe some interesting people and overhear some interesting conversations.

And so it was on my particular day. 

Two gentlemen sat near me. As they sat down, waiting for their lunches to be delivered, taking long slurps of tea, one says to the other "I had no idea how terrible our medical insurance was until Anna was diagnosed with Autism." 

Yes, my mannerly mother taught me that nosily  listening in on other people's conversations is the epitome of impolite but what can I say--his topic grabbed me like a magnet and while I was looking at the screen of my phone, I was 100% faking it, immediately hoping to get the rest of his story. 

He lamented to his friend that since his daughter had been diagnosed with Autism, his insurance carrier had decided not to cover much of the needed testing and therapy and he wasn't sure why they (he and the wife) should continue to pay for coverage if what their child needed wasn't going to be covered. 

Through the relating of his story it became apparent that his daughter was very young (4) and his wife was somewhat devastated by the diagnosis. He shared with his friend that it seemed that everything in their lives had become laser-focused on their daughter's needs and both he and his wife were overwhelmed and exhausted. And it had only been a few months. 

Now you are starting to see why he had my listening ears, right?

It was pretty clear that his friend had little to say but he was paying attention. For listening attentively, I give him props. I mean what can you really say. It's a hard road. 

I know it's a hard hard road because I've walked it. For 20 years. Well, technically about 8 years because Julian was not accurately diagnosed until he was 12. The path was incredibly difficult from age 3, when we came to realize that a seizure disorder was a part of our lives and that other things weren't right. A couple of diagnostic missteps led us down other roads but finally, when he was 12, a trusted psychiatrist looked at me and said "Julian has Autism Spectrum Disorder, specifically Pervasive Development Delay."

A parent doesn't forget something of this magnitude. And yes, it's certainly a life-changer. 

So on this fall day in East Texas, as I guiltily eavesdropped on this conversation, a wishful but admittedly very small part of me wanted to speak to him, even though he falls into the "total stranger" category. It was surreal. I could have hugged him. 'Cause ya know, that wouldn't be awkward or anything.

I wish I could tell you that I spoke up and we had this extraordinary conversation about parenting an Autistic child, the evils on insurance denials, the little hurdles she will eventually conquer and the obsessions that will take over. Unfortunately, my shy side won the fight and I didn't say a word. Eventually, the guys left and I did the only thing I could do--I started writing down what I could have said. 

These are just a few of my thoughts:

Don't even waste a moment thinking you are equipped to raise this child alone. You are not. Your wife is not. You will both need a big big village--don't waste time fighting that. There's a meme going around that declares "you are enough". Trust me. It's a lie. You are not enough. If you have to move to be near people who want to be in your village, do so. You can't do this alone.

And that's ok.

This is the struggle of your life. You thought you were a man before...but this...this will grow you up and make you into a serious person.  Welcome to a whole new world of adulting that you will never walk back from.

And that's ok.

You are going to mourn the loss of all the plans and presumptives that arrived on the scene when your daughter was born--those neuro-typical child achievements that you just assumed your child would enjoy, even without giving voice to them. Those are going to look very different. 

And that's ok.

What once was, is no more. You will slowly and repeatedly mourn these losses for your sweet girl, because she doesn't know to. Mourning does not pass easily so don't expect it to. It will take its grievous toll on your body and your relationships. Mourning will take up a space in your life, likely for the rest of your life.

And that's ok.

Your marriage will become more precious to you than you ever previously imagined because you share this very special child with your wife. Surely, yes, that's true for every married set of parents, but it's even more true for you because you will fight together for this child and you will fight about the care of this child more than any others. You will need each other more as you walk through this every day. 

And that's ok.

Your marriage will come under fire more often because parenting your daughter takes its toll on both of you, together and separately. Hopefully, you are already committed to your wife so deeply that this new role will not rip at the fabric of your relationship until there's nothing left. Fight for it. You can prevent this diagnosis from shredding your marriage and putting the two of you smack into the seventy percent of marriages that don't survive the title of "special needs parents". But you will have to be intentional and protective like you have never been before. And there will be times when you might need help.

And that's ok.

You will learn a new language. Therapists, doctors and counselors like to use initials and big words. Learn to write things down. It's now up to you to navigate the often choppy waters of finding what works for your girl. And just when you think you have it all worked out, something will change and you will realize that you don't, in fact, have it all worked out. So you start over.

And that's ok.

You will develop a sixth sense about people and their abilities to accept and embrace your girl as she is. Don't fight this. Trust your gut. There will be people who cross her path that you know immediately are factors of good in her life. They encourage her and bring out the best in her. Cherish those people. Occasionally, there will be a person who sets off your alarm bells and you suddenly know that they have to be removed from your daughter's world. Don't question it. There are people walking this planet who take selfish advantage of the disabilities of others. You will become well-trained as your daughter's bubble of protection against those who would treat her with contempt and as less than. 

And that's ok. 

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you will soon come to long deeply for heaven, where bodies are made new, there are no more tears and struggles are resolved. Hold tight to this truth. Some days this will be your only hope. 

And that's ok.  

Well-meaning people will say stupid things to you. There's no getting around it. They just do. Understand now that, in those moments, you may need to remember that they are woefully under-informed and their insensitive commentary says more about them than it does about you. 

And that's ok.

The other people in your daughter's life--her grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, siblings, friends and acquaintances will look to you to define what acceptance of your daughter looks like. Take this role very seriously. Be bold in your example. Learn to speak about your daughter's limits and needs succinctly and without using those extraordinarily big words that doctors and therapists bring into your vocabulary. Don't be afraid to show them what's what. Occasionally, they may call you bossy and over-reaching. 

And that's ok.

Cling to the joy your daughter brings into your life, no matter what it looks like, like a needy girlfriend. Cling. Normal is gone but the joy doesn't have to be. Grab onto joy when you can and document it in some tangible way so you can cling to it in times when it seems it has completely left the building. Your joy is now inextricably linked to your daughter and that will never change.

And that ok.

Laugh. This is probably the most important and universal directive I can give you. Don't forget to laugh. When she does something hilariously inappropriate, (and she will), laugh. When something she needs to accomplish is super hard, (there will be lots of this), laugh at it. Joke with her. Sing silly songs. When you want to cry, (this takes practice), laugh. When things feel way too serious,  (and they usually will), laugh. Because laughing will carry you through together. 

And that's way more than ok.

It's a different road you are now on, my friend. 
You didn't sign up for this, but you are going to be ok.  You aren't yet well-equipped to handle it, but you'll get there.

And it will be ok. 



It's a Cruise Scrapbook--Products and a Page Plan

It's a Cruise Scrapbook! 
A step-by-step guide to creating a story-filled cruise scrapbook.
(A new installment published every Saturday!)

Now that we've broken that big stack of photos into smaller, manageable groups, let's take a few minutes to consider the products we want to use. As I said previously, I create a great many cruise pages and beach trip books (when we travel for pleasure there is always a beach involved) so I am always on the lookout for products that are thematically related to travel, cruise, beach, water, nautical or anything that could work in those categories. I keep these items stored together in my scrap space for easy access. 

Fortunately, most every major scrapbooking company has put out at least one collection that's relevant to cruise scrapbooking so we have plenty to choose from. All the major stamp companies offer stamps that can be used for cruise scrapbooking. Shopping for products is not a chore and there are many many options out there.

When you are shopping, don't limit yourself to just items in the cruise theme specifically, especially if you are shopping online and using search features. Here's my list of associated images you may want to search with:

palm trees
life preserver
flip flops and sunglasses
surf and sand
Hibiscus flowers
margarita glass
sand castles
beach umbrellas

In truth, products you can use in your cruise scrapbook can be lurking in just about any category of scrapbook supplies.

Perhaps your design sense takes your cruise scrapbook towards all things nautical, using strings of flags, images of ships, ship's wheels, life preservers, rope, and lighthouses, and of course, featuring lots of red, white and blue.

In that case you may like a few of the following collections:

Carte Bella's Ahoy There collection (available at Hobby Lobby and 

Carte Bella's Yacht Club Collection (available at

Stampin' Up has several related sets that have been retired but can still be acquired on ebay quite often--especially Open Sea, From Land to Sea, Schooner, Ship's Ahoy and By the Tide.

Close to my Heart offered a nautical kit in their last catalog called Regatta. (You can find it on ebay occasionally.)  In an old catalog there was a kit called Seaside that I really like too. There are two stamp sets by CTMH that are appealing: Seaside Greetings and Nautical Nantucket.

Kaisercraft's Coastal Escape Collection (available at

Paper House's Nautical Collection (available at

These are just the collections that are mostly red, white and blue and traditionally nautical-themed. In future posts I will round up the products that are naturalist and beachy as well as cruise-themed.

(My list are not intended to be exhaustive and I don't receive any compensation from any companies linked here in exchange for linking.)

Of course, if you aren't planning to use coordinating products throughout you cruise scrapbook, this step is less important for you. I have done the "wild and free" method in other cruise scrapbooks and have really enjoyed pulling from every company imaginable to assemble a book that features pages of varying styles and color combinations. You don't have to limit yourself if that's not appealing to your process.


Creating a Page Plan
Don't close the door on the idea of a page plan just yet. I know it can be a tedious chore but it can also be very beneficial to have while you are in the throes of creating pages for your cruise scrapbook. Trust me on this!

Don't complicate your page plan. Take a few minutes and flip through your photo stacks. Casually make a list of pages that you know you are going to want to do. Don't can always add to or take away from the list as your make progress. If you have ideas for pages that maybe you don't have photos to go with yet, put that on the list too. (Sometimes I steal images from Google or Instagram to complete a page, if needed.)

Also, you will want to think about the five or six things that really made your cruise trip special--the most memorable things. Make sure those most memorable things are well-represented in you page plan.

It's pretty easy to assemble a list of the basics:
--the facts of your trip such as the name of the ship, travel dates and intenerary
--Glimpses of the Ship from Outside
--Glimpses of the major parts of the ship inside.
--Your stateroom.
--At least one food and drink photo.
--On-board activities
--A photo of the people you are traveling with
--Excursion activities
--The view from your room (assuming you have a room with a window, at least.)
--Formal night photos

Some additional pages ideas that might also be included:
--the art on board the ship
--anything special you had to do to prepare for the trip (shopping, hair/nails, travel to your departure port, packing, etc)
--your favorite places on the ship that are "out of the way"
--more in-depth about the foods and drinks you enjoyed on the cruise
--a study in the relationship you share with the people you travel with
--did you enjoy a little bit of luxurious living on the ship--go to the spa, have room service, sleep late, etc?
--how was the music? Did you dance all night?
--did you meet any neat people on the ship?
--did you post to Facebook or Instagram while cruising? Print and include these in your scrapbook too.

Here's my Page Plan as it stands right now:
In next Saturday's installment of It's a Cruise Scrapbook, we will begin looking at actual pages and explore some journaling ideas.


It's a Cruise Scrapbook--Before You Start

If there's one kind of scrapbooking that I know about--it's cruise scrapbooking. 

Cruise scrapbooking is perhaps my favorite kind--the pictures are good, the memories are awesome and story-rich and let's be real, I love going on a Caribbean cruise so, of course I'm also going to love scrapbooking about them as well.

I've had the pleasure of quite a few Caribbean cruises (thanks to my husband's work) and have created many pages about cruising.

With that in mind, I think it's time to share what I know about cruise scrapbooking. Welcome to It's a Cruise Scrapbook! --a step-by-step guide to creating a story-filled cruise scrapbook. 

I love a travel scrapbook that's all-inclusive! One trip, one book. I generally divide our trip memories into four sections:

1- the ship
2- the trip
3- the people
4- everything else

However, since four of our cruises have been on a single ship--Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas--I'm breaking from my tradition and putting all four cruises into one single album. (Let me tell you...this is a major departure from my usual method of organization.)

Let's start at the beginning. Before you begin creating your cruise scrapbook, you need to make a few decisions.

1. Are you going to use a certain cohesive style of page and or product throughout the album? Alternatively, would you prefer the wild and free method of scrapbooking design for this album? 

If you want to carry a cohesive design throughout your cruise scrapbook, there are many way to do so. 

One of the easiest ways is to choose a certain collection of paper to incorporate throughout the album. You may choose  a collection assembled for you by a certain paper manufacturer or assemble your own collection of papers from many manufacturers.

If you are going the route of a incorporating a cohesive design throughout your book, you may want to assemble a small kit of chosen supplies--letter stickers or alphabet dies for titles, a few colors of cardstock, brads or dot embellishments, ephemera and accents, stamps, journaling tools, ribbons or textiles, etc.

Assembling a kit for yourself to work out of will save you time (no hunting for stuff) and help you make design choices in a timely fashion. 


Don't forget to keep a few bits of inspiration close by...I like to keep this old jar of sand and shells right on my desk when I'm working on layouts about the sea!

2. What size album do you want to create? 

3. How many pages are you going to include? Choose your photos and get them printed. See where your photos take you. This will probably be a lengthy process, if you are anything like me. I admit it--I overprint. I like to have a lot of photos to choose from and I know that if a certain photo doesn't get used in my scrapbook, it can be used in other craft projects or on a page in another scrapbook. 

Generally, I choose about two hundred photos and work down from that number. Yes that includes the excessive food shots. 😀
When the photos arrive (or when you have gotten the printing done), my first step is usually to sort them into general groups.

My groups usually include:

-- Photos of the ship and all its details
-- Photos of people (us and the people we travel with that don't go into any other category)
-- Photos of our adventures and activities 
-- Photos of food and drinks
-- Photos of the sea
-- Everything else 


(These are my sorted photos.) 

I usually purchase at least a few professional photos taken on-board as well--especially the ones of our group and of the ship. Be sure to incorporate those into your scrapbook planning as well. 

And yes, there's a small stack of photos called Stolen Accent Photos. Any photos that I missed out on taking myself are collected post-trip from google or Instagram. 

I'm glad you made it to the end of part one. In part two we will begin scrapbooking!! 

If you use Instagram, please check out the hashtag #itsacruisescrapbook and use it too when you share your cruise pages! 



It's Just Scrapbooking--You can't really do it wrong!

 "It's such a waste." 

I sat across the table a little while ago from a fellow paper-crafter and scrapbooker.

When someone in our small group mentioned using a single picture on a layout, she said "I don't understand doing that. I have too many pictures. It's such a waste of supplies."

Um hi. My name is Sarah. 😬

People murmurred agreement with her and we moved on. I stayed quiet--I'm the new girl in the group. 

I made a mental note to never subject her to the "wasting of supplies" that I call scrapbooking. 

I've been scrapbooking for 20 years. I'm pretty confident in my skills and abilities and I know what I like. By and large, I appreciate it when someone says "that's a beautiful page" but I don't need anyone's approval.

Over the course of those twenty years, I have used most every technique known to papercrafters, every kind of album, and every brand of supplies. Very little intimidates me. I've taught classes, I've had my work published in magazines, I've sold products, I've been on design teams for manufacturers and websites. I've hosted crops and worked on national projects. I love this hobby and all the experiences it has brought into my life. 


And I do love a well-designed page with a single photo on it.  Judge all you want. Call it a waste. It's still what I like. 

See, here's the deal. To my eye, a good scrapbook page requires 4 elements:
-A photo. Hopefully a good photo but it doesn't have to be perfect.
-Some journaling--might be a lot, might be a little.
-A snappy title. Bonus points if the title is alliterative.
-A bit of embellishment. 

I like a page that tells a story. Newsflash: most of the time the best parts of the story can't be found just by looking at the pictures. It's true. Hence the need for the journaling. 

I like a page that is calm and includes visual resting space (I get overwhelmed easily) and has a focused message (I get distracted easily).

I don't scrapbook every photo. Not every photo deserves a scrapbook page. I only scrapbook the photos that have a story that I want to keep. Scrap the best, store the rest. That's my motto.

I take about 8000 pictures a year. There's no way I could ever even begin to scrapbook all of them, nor do they all deserve the scrappy treatment. I would have to add on to my house to store them, if I did.

This is my approach to scrapbooking and I'm comfortable with it. Craftiness makes me feel happy and helps to keep the clouds of depression at bay when life is difficult. That's never a waste. 

Creating with paper is not about efficiency. It's a totally luxurious activity to me. I don't see my supplies as things that need to be conserved or "not wasted". When I make a fantastic scrapbook page, I have given a pretty paper the life it was designed for. It doesn't have to be used efficiently to be enjoyed. Far from it! For me, the success of a page is not based on the number of photos it holds. Ever. 

If you scrapbook too, feel free to do what appeals to you in your own books. Use 34 pictures and 16 different patterned papers on a page if you want. I'm good with that too. 

There's room for all of us in the scrappy universe.



Start with the Story: When I Can't Fight These Feelings Anymore

After listening to a recent episode of The Paperclipping Roundtable with Noelle Hyman, featuring Ali Edwards, and a discussion of scrapbooking and mental illness, I spent some time thinking about the stories that go untold. 

In the scrapbooking world, there's a whole movement of "scrap yourself"...started many years ago by Angie Petersen's Book of Me series. Scrapbookers of that time were commonly the mother class and were, by and large, constantly leaving themselves out of much of their scrapbooks. There were many reasons for their omission, but most of them revolved around "I don't look good in that picture"..."I'm overweight"...and "I'm focusing on my children." 

This was obviously unacceptable and I think most people eventually got on board with being included more often, even if they felt the images of themselves would be judged harshly in the future. 

Why am I relating this bit of modern scrapbooking lore to you? I think it's pertinent that we become ok again with telling stories that reflect on us as imperfect strugglers. I'm mean...that's who we are, right? Shouldn't our pages tell the real truth? 

I have faced difficult things in my adult life and I have the scars to prove it. I stare down the twin dog of scary and difficult most every single day. Sometimes I win. Sometimes the snarly dogs win and I just sit on the porch. It's my story. 

I mean, who doesn't wish that every scrapbook-worthy moment of our lives involved uber-cute children playing idyllically on a sugar sand beach in the azure blue surf on a cloudless day? It would be nice, for sure, but that's just not where I live. 

If I scrapbook for myself, don't I owe myself the truth? If I scrapbook for the people who come after me, don't I owe them the truth?

I'm saying yes.

So this is my truth. It's not always about pretty flowers but there are pretty flowers involved. 

Here's the journaling:


With apologies to REO Speedwagon. 

Be scrappy.


Start with the Story: We Overcame

So I'm taking a class on journaling by Scrap Gal Tracie Claiborne. You can find her classes at I'm up to lesson 8 of 12 plus a bonus and I've found it to be very inspiring. Journaling is something I've done all my life and it comes very naturally for me, however, I feel like this class has helped refine my skills and narrow the focus of my sometime spastic brain. Tracie has a way of verbalizing things I have always known but have never been able to articulate. Sometimes she says exactly what I am thinking--it's the weirdest thing.

This is the first layout I have done since starting the class. One of the strategies Tracie recommends is to look past the obvious story of a photo and write about the unseen. 


Here's the journaling:
May 7, 2015
This was a monumental day for Julian and me, on many levels. On the face of it, we had overcome more than a thousand miles in the car, traveling from Texas to South Carolina, taking Grandma Bonnie to visit Great Grandma Hammond, who was in failing health. That was certainly no small accomplishment!

On a deeper level, even though this time at the beach was incredibly short--only a few hours--it was spent in peace, entirely without conflict and full of just plain fun. We walked back and forth along the waters edge, quietly taking in the sacred of the water and the sky and the sand and everything we love about the beach. That, too, was no small accomplishment.

As often happens when I'm on the beach, I was overcome with emotion and cried it all out right there on the beach. Julian and I have walked a difficult path the last two years--a single year ago he was spending time at Vanderbilt's Psychiatric Hospital, learning new behavioral techniques for coping with his anger and adjusting to new medications. I was seeing a counselor for all the same reasons. At that time, I wouldn't have even considered taking a two thousand mile car trip with him. He screamed at me often. Sometimes, I screamed back. We were not good together because we were together way too much. Anger was destroying both of us.

Spending time with Grandma and Papa saved us both. Time apart gave us healing. And life experiences apart. What a gift! Julian got a sense of humor and I learned to breathe again. Moving to Texas made us all feel less alone and brought our whole family into our lives on a daily basis. Our village got bigger and stronger and we are better for it. 

That day, Julian and I had lunch at a little cafe right on Wrightsville Beach, then we walked for a few hours before a spring thunderstorm came rolling in and dropped some rain right on us. Driving back to the hotel that night, Julian took a nap in the car and I had a little time to reflect on our newfound kind of peace and be grateful for it. It was a day of redemption for both of us--a day for which I will always be grateful. 


The 6x6 pattern papers on this layout came from last month's Simon Says Stamp card kit. I do like these papers but this is a definitive example of there being something included in a card kit that I never would have picked out for myself. This kit stretched me, for sure. 

And bonus points: I used that piece of background paper as the base--it's by Creative Imaginations. The line was from approx 2009 called Dead Men Tell No Tales. I can't even remember when I bought it. 

I do love a good scrapbook page that tells a story! Don't you?



Start with the Story: She's just a Child!

For me, scrapbooking is all about the story! My favorite pages tell a story. 

Might be a big story.
Might be a small story.
Might be an account of an event.
Might be just a thought that is important to no one but me.
But a story is a must.

I am a fan of the show, Top Chef. I always really enjoy the episodes that allow the chef contestants to show who they are as a chef without a bunch of crazy twists or requirements. Just let them cook! I like it when they say "this is me on a plate."

In that line of thinking, this layout is "me on a page"! It's clean, it tells a story, it has a title and a photo and is mostly cardstock. 


Start with the story!


One Little Tip--Cataloging Ideas

Sometimes it's the smallest adjustments that can lead to big changes in our lives, right?

After the most recent episode of the Scrap Gals brought me to realize that my photos are all over the house and in total disasterous array, I began looking for a small way to improve the situation "one bite at a time" because this is a huge problem and I am completely overwhelmed by it! Already. 

I am a huge very loudly vocal proponent of printing pictures! It's something I feel strongly about. Print your photos!! I preach about this regularly to anyone who will listen. 

I get photos printed regularly...and consequently, there are stacks of photos always hanging around my workspace, my office, drawers, get the picture! 

So it's nice to talk about organizing photos and all but to think about actually tackling the task all at once sent me into fits of anxiety. That's scary.

It did occur to me that perhaps I could start by organizing just one kind of photos--kind of embrace the "eat the elephant one bite at a time" concept. Baby steps.

So here's what I learned.

For as long as I can remember, I have been trying to accomplish being an organized idea keeper. Let's face facts: one of the major aspects of being a papercrafter  is the (endless) collecting of ideas for potential future projects. 

There is never a shortage of ideas...and over the years, I have tried several methods for keeping them organized, with only moderate amounts of success. Most recently, I have come upon a way that allows me to create a catalog of ideas and inspiration from a variety of sources and keep it fresh and easily accessible. Another factor that leads me to happiness with this method is cost: it's very inexpensive! 

While browsing Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram or Google for inspirational images, I have learned that the quickest way to capture whatever images inspire me is to do a screen capture. On the iPhone, (my primary internet tool) if you press the home button and the button on the side at the same time, whatever is on the screen at that moment gets captured and saved as a photo. It's a very handy tool and once you start using it, it will quickly become second-nature.

Screen captures can be printed as photos. Every time I upload regular photos to my local print service, I also upload 20 or 30 of my favorite screen captures of ideas. For 9 cents each, I can get a 4x6 print of an idea that I really like and want to use. (That's less than the cost of a magazine.) 

Next, when I have amassed a stack of printed images, I arrange them into categories or themes and give them a home in a traditional photo album. 

Today, I happened to realize it was time to make a new idea catalog (the pictures were piling up) so I stopped at Michaels with a nice coupon and picked up this cute photo album.

I probably should have looked in the closet for an empty album before going out but this one was cheerful and cute and ya know...I had a coupon! 


This particular catalog focuses on card designs. I grouped the images together in a way that probably only makes sense in my head...but isn't that the point? 

I think my next catalog of ideas will be Christmas themed. I kept those separate. 

Here a quick little video flip-through of my idea catalog.

There are a few open spaces left--room to improve the collection is always a good thing. Now I can go and delete the screen captures off my phone and free up some space!


How do you preserve ideas and inspiration?
Tell me!



Twenty Five Photos on a Single Page

So putting 25 little pictures on a single page layout is no small feat. For anyone. However, for a girl who's specialty is single photo layouts...well let just say this is a miracle!

For years, I have been tirelessly searching for a photo print service that could meet my long list of meticulous expectations and I have been let down so many times. Finally, quite by accident, a few weeks ago I came upon an app called Social Print Studio, available in the App Store.The planets must have been aligned because the prints that arrived on my doorstep a few days later are beyond description! The quality of the paper used to print these photos is over the top sturdy--not that flimsy stuff more often used by on-line printers. The app is so very easy to navigate. The matte finish is the softest and smoothest of any printer I have ever used. Oh my. If you love matte finish photos, you must try this.

The strip photos on this layout are one of the specialty formats offered by this San Francisco-based service. What's not to love. You get *9* strips for $10. Each strip is 1.75"x7". 

I've been focused on stamping lately and it was just too easy to coordinate this stamp from the Stampin' Up! Amazing Birthday along with Watercolor Wash to create the title/journaling block. 

 The journaling is done on Project Life cards from the Becky Higgins Project Life Southern Weddings Core Kit. I have a thing for the soft cozy color palette of this kit but have no use for the wedding I chopped them up and used them anyway. 

Twenty-five pictures. 
No small accomplishment.
And some stamping too!

It's a good day to be a scrapbooker. ;)


Using the Alphabet Punch Board

Recently, I picked up an Alphabet Punch Board by We R Memory Keepers after watching a presentation of it in HSN. I don't shop at HSN but I was intrigued by the board so I picked it up at Michaels, using a coupon. (The posted price was $34.99, with a coupon it was $20.)

The premise of the punch board is that you can create every letter of the alphabet using the punches and cutter on this one board in a large size. Every letter starts from a rectangle of paper cut to 3"x5"...which means you can cut 8 letters from one sheet of 12x12 paper. Score points for efficiency.

The board comes with an instruction booklet that shows in pictures step-by-step how to correctly punch each letter. Score points for easy-to-understand directions.

My first project with the alphabet punch board was a banner for a baby shower. The size of the letters was perfect for the chalkboard banner pieces that I picked up from Target's Dollar Spot a while back. There were eight letters to cut and I decided ahead of time that if I couldn't master this punch board and accomplish 8 letters in less than thirty minutes, the board and I would be breaking up. 


Cutting all 8 letter took less than ten minutes total. Score points for not taking "too long" and being easy to master.

I found the slicing tool a little difficult to get the hang of. It's fumbly...after about three tries, I just started using scissors for those steps. I'm handy with scissors.

I asked the peas what they thought of this tool and their predominant thought was that it wasn't really designed for scrapbooking as the letters produced are really really large. 

The letters are indeed large but I don't think that precludes the alphabet board from being a scrapbooking tool. 

The peas also noted that with so many scrapbookers now having a variety of electronic cutters, the need for a product that cuts one font in one size seems like a throwback. I can agree with that...but for the price and convenience, and as someone who has yet to dive into the e-cutter world, I can still see it as useful.

So I Took it out for a spin and here's what I came up with:



Unfortunately I haven't been able to locate many layouts using the alphabet punch board on social media. I'll keep looking. There is one video by Shimelle aka GlitterGirl that shows her use of the board for a page. 

So now you know. 

Sidebar: in the second page, you can see the small Project Life card used as an embellishment. Copier. I made a color photocopy of a PL card and reduced it to 65%. Printing on textured Bazzill just makes my day. :)



Six Things about Right Now

Right now, today...
I am all about Six Awesome Things.

1. Lego Soap
Ok so, truthfully, Lego Soap isn't really a thing unless you visit a Hilton Garden Inn. I live with four men who range in age from 6 to 44. They all have a deeply-held life-long affinity for all things Lego. My nephew is the six year old. After a weekend away that included a stay at a Hilton Garden Inn, I brought home this mini soap and put it on the sink in my bathroom. A day or two later, I told G to go wash his hands and he said "Aunt Sarah, can I use your bathroom with the Lego soap?"

It took me a minute to understand that this--to him--looks like Lego soap.
I sincerely think Lego should get right on this new product line idea. Mothers of Lego lovers everywhere will one day thank me.

Until then, I'm booking regular stays at the Hilton Garden Inn to keep us well-stocked in would-be Lego soap.

2. Painted frames
I've been painting frames for a really long time and I must say...I love them. There are so many ways to use painted frames and new life can so easily be brought to a junky old frame with a simple coat of paint. 

I love this photo stolen from Pinterest. 


3. Joann Crafts
So there's a somewhat pitiful little Joann store very near my house. I venture over the occasionally and sometimes they have things worth noting for an avid crafter. I've shopped in the super Joann stores...and I miss that terribly (the nearest one is in Dallas). The one here is shines and new, just the smaller version of the flag stores. It's hard to go back to crackers once you've tasted the whole enchilada...but I digress.

My recent discoveries at Joann were twofold.
First, this greeted me at the door.


Yes, that's a rather nice assortment of fabric swatch books being clearances out for $5 each. Oh snap. How much fun am I going to have with a fabric swatch book! 

Secondly, is a magazine called "The Simple Things". It's published in London and I found it in the Joann Crafts in Dallas. I don't usually purchase magazines but I couldn't resist this one.

4. The West Wing Weekly Podcast!
I'm very late to the podcast party but I am catching up fast. Most recently, I am really enjoying The West Wing Weekly podcast. If you loved The West Wing, (and I do) you will love Joshua  Molina's weekly trips down the walk-and-talk corridors of the Bartlet administration. It's like having coffee with a dear old friend and realizing you still share the same loves after all these years.

5. Sangria Jelly from Annie Moo Moo's
At our local weekend farmers market last year, I happened upon Annie Moo Moo's, purveyor of delightful jams and jellies made right here in East Texas. Topping my list of fine indulgences is the Sangria jelly. Just go right on ahead and dump out the whole box of crackers on a plate because the Sangria Jelly on a lightly salted butter cracker will make your day...and if you don't have any crackers, just use a spoon. That's what I do. :)

6. Social Print Studio App and Photo Print Service
I accidentally ran across an app in the App store called Social Print Studio. If you love a high-quality photo printed on a soft matte paper in unique sizes and styles, this somewhat small San Francisco-based printer is just the right fit for you. And me. The app is so very user-friendly, uses the best packaging practices I have ever encountered and the quality of the prints is off the charts. I've been deeply dissatisfied with photo printing for many years...this is a game-changer.

So now you know...six things.


Water coloring in Cabo

 So one of the things I have always wanted to do finally got accomplished on the trip to Cabo back in March.

For years, I have entertained this romantic notion that painting on the beach using water collected from the ocean would make for a more enchanting rich painting. It just seems like such a "live right here in this moment" kind of activity...I have no idea why I put it off for so long. 

I packed a very small box of watercolor paints, some brushes and a pad of paper and took them along on this journey. 

Just be quiet and reverent.
Right there.
On the beach.
Put water to paper.
Add paint and watch it work.

So as it turns out, the water in the Sea of Cortez doesn't make me a better painter but it does lend itself quite nicely to water coloring in general. I sat right here and painted for a couple of hours and it was just as divine as I imagined it would be.


 Joal snagged cups of ocean water for me as needed and I sloshed paint about happily. It made for a quiet and restful, restorative day on the beach.

Ironically enough, I was so busy painting, I totally neglected to take a picture. 

I was totally caught up.
Which was kind of the point...but I do wish I had photos of it all.

Later in the evening, we went back to our room and I sat on the balcony (fifth floor) and painted up the last of the paper with the last of the ocean water. Next time I won't bother packing all the paints--just the blues and greens and I will take a ton more paper. I could have painted every day. 





There is no real capturing of the true beauty of the ocean and the beach. You never do it justice. Only catch a momentary glimpse.

It's ever changing.
And enchanting above all else.
It's life.


I Like the Sound of That

While Rascal Flats doesn't strike a chord with me very often, I do like this song--I thinks it's well-written and I like its little twists and turns. I mean how often does Justin Timberlake get a mention in a country song, right?

The premise of the song makes me smile so, of course, I made my own list of sounds associated with my love and turned it into a scrapbook page.  And it was a good spot to use this photo that I really like (in theory) despite its less-than-lovely composition. It was taken while we were in Cabo. Joal was leading a Sunday morning worship hour for our traveling companions and I was a really lazy photographer that day. 


One design note...this is a totally random occurrence but interesting, nonetheless. Three of the cards that I used to surround the photo came from the Project Life Honey Edition Core Kit designed by Lori Whitlock. And in a totally random twist, the wood grain arrow paper on the right border, which I think is reminiscent of the guitar, is a sheet from the All About a Boy line by Echo Park, also designed by Lori Whitlock!! 

She's a pretty busy scrapbook gal... Lori Whitlock! 


Happy Scrapping!


Pretty not Perfect

I don't do perfect.

I rarely use the word "perfect".
I don't strive for perfection and in most things, I don't really believe perfection is possible, so long as members of a broken humanity are involved and heaven remains at bay. In fact, I'm drawn to imperfection and things that are on the verge of being discarded.

I'm a rescuer of things that, unless you choose to look closely, their value and beauty isn't obvious at first glance.

It's easy to like perfection...doesn't take much depth to embrace something that's perfect. Doesn't take much grace to accept something that doesn't challenge you. 

I love pretty things but my definition of "pretty" doesn't really include perfection. In fact, my definition of pretty is anti-perfection. 

Let's talk home decor, for example.
I like easy.
I don't like fussiness. 

This makes my heart skip a beat.



old...loved but discarded...crumpled...
These are my things.
I crave things that have had life before me and will probably go on after me.

I love antique malls and junk stores, especially those in sleepy little towns with a town square and a cafe that's not a franchise...where they serve sweet tea in Mason jars and biscuits made in cast iron skillets.
I enjoy the fine art of thrifting and going to estate auctions with my brother. Old stuff, out on display. Old frames, old glasses, old books, vintage cameras, Bibles that are tattered and well-read.

I love a house with years on her bones and 6 layers of paint on her walls. If she has a deck made of wood that's gray from the weather, all the better.

I love old songs, old hymns and old music.
I like the smell of old maps and faded books with deckle edge pages.
I treasure old letters and lists, notes and pictures of old people and greeting cards from decades we haven't seen in a long time.

I'm a girl with scars and I don't hide them.
Scars are proof of life.
There are scars on my body and scars on my heart.

I love a man with some gray in his beard and some years in his hands.

Yep, I don't do perfection.
I do pretty.
Keep your Pottery Barn and your Anthropologie.
Give me salt-water washed wood and faded, yellowed, authentic things.
Any day or the week.



My new workspace

In the past two years, I have moved my scrap space 7 times between two different houses. When we remodeled the Nashville house, I completely packed up my scrapbook space in the bonus room and moved it to a bedroom. A month or so after the renovation was complete, we suddenly decided to put the house on the market, so my scrap space got packed up and sent to storage (some call it decluttering)...except for a few small totes of crafty things that I used to stage the newly renovated craft room downstairs.

I think the fantastic craft room staging contributed to the sale of our home **in three days**. I'm jus sayin'.

In the new house in Texas, I started in a large walk-in pantry, moved to a small bedroom, moved to a different bedroom, and now I have finally come to create in the sunroom.

Empty, the sunroom looks like this: 



It's a long skinny space that is at the back of the house. It's off our dining room and kitchen (the French doors connect the sunroom to the dining room) and it overlooks the back deck.

I love the Windows!!

So my husband took a few days this week to work from home and he so generously provided the needed muscle to get this space transformed into my new (and hopefully final) scrap and stamp workspace.

I love the light from the Windows!


I'm taking up a little more than half the sunroom and using the small bookcase as a divider. In the unused part of the room is the treadmill (folded up) and the access to the deck.


The best part of this space plan is that I can work in this calming relaxed area while retaining the bulk of my supplies stored in the walk-in pantry. 

I really like a space that can be kept clean and organized easily and that won't make me feel like I should be embarrassed at the state of my crafty crazy, if/when others see it in use.

Mind you, I'm not denying that I do, in fact, have plenty of crafting crazy...just that its stored in a closet and not out in the open where everyone can inspect it. 

I have three rolling Raskogs for transporting certain tools from the closet to the work space easily and for quick clean up of the work space. Each Raskog is dedicated to a certain task--stamping and embossing, die cutting equipment and the last is the punch center.

My Stampin' Up stamps are stored in the corner on this rolling shelf. This stamp collection is arranged alphabetically and makes me very happy. 


When we have company or family dinners, I can easily roll the carts to the closet and slide the table out from the corner and have seating for four extra people! 


The view facing the opposite direction. 


And finally, the Gayla Pugh art that hangs in my window. 


I think I'm going to be happiest creating in this bright sunny space...I hope so because pretty much the only remaining space in this house that I haven't tried is the attic. :)