Fun with Photo Books: The Lost Art of Real Live Albums

DSC00727b

When it comes to the latest in reading technology, I have the Kindle, an iPad, an iPhone 6 Plus. But nothing will ever replace the feel of a hardcover book in my hands.

I crave the intimacy of holding a book, its weight, an unbroken spine, the smell of fresh pages or of an old book, its antiqued pages rendered almost transparent by time, the satisfaction of anxiously flipping the page to see what the next will hold.

These are the things I can’t give up.

But photo albums are a different beast, right?

It’s nothing short of revolutionary to have all of your photos available in just a swipe or a keystroke online. Years of photos are stored in chronological order on Photobucket, Flickr, Facebook, or Instagram, out there in the ether for eternity…never to be lost to fire or flood. Plus you can share them instantly, in real time, with everyone you know, plus strangers, too.

Then last week, I ordered yet another camera online. It was Best Buy’s Deal of the Day and it was an offer too good to pass up! To my surprise, because it wasn’t advertised, I got a FREE Shutterfly 8×8, 20-page, hardcover photo book with my purchase (a $30 value.) A digital download just appeared in my cart, which was really nothing more than a link to the Shutterfly site where I could create my book.

I’d just gotten a new puppy in December. I had literally 100s of photos sprinkled liberally throughout Facebook and Instagram. I decided it was worth my time to sit down and create a book.

The fact that Shutterfly let me upload all of my photos directly from Facebook was a huge time-saver. I didn’t have to hunt through all the December folders on my PC to find the photos from my Puppy Shower. All my best (no outtakes, blurry images, etc.) photos were stored by event in Facebook.

DSC00729

Yes, I had a puppy shower. What? You mean everyone doesn’t do that?

Having created a couple of photo books in the past I knew that I wanted to pay the up-charge for glossy pages, and no black backgrounds. Matte, black pages show fingerprints! However, I did like the matte cover. So I paid an additional up charge for that.

Before I started laying out the individual pages, I uploaded all of my best photos to Shutterfly first. Once you start a project in Shutterfly, it creates a gallery for you to upload photos to, and as you use each photo, it disappears from the gallery. That way you don’t leave out any of your favorites.

Then rather than simply inserting the photos chronologically, I tried to tell a story from beginning to end. As you can see from the title page, the photos are somewhat chronological, newborn puppy, the puppy shower, the first day home. But I also used specific photos that lent themselves to the template I chose. All the photos fit a square format. And the colors complemented each other.

DSC00730

My little fashionista – her big fashion spread.

After that, I had pages that were themed, Weezy playing in the snow with her brothers, Weezy’s favorite toys. Weezy’s most adorable outfits, sleepy puppy, and so forth.

Once I was finished, the book was so cute, I couldn’t help but pay for expedited shipping. So the whole project ended up costing me about $20.

The end result, however, is PRICELESS! I love it. I have to admit, I swooned a little bit when I opened the package, removed the plastic and smelled those fresh glossy pages.

Unlike old-school photo albums, I now have a thin, hard-cover book, that’s no thicker than a children’s book, and sits neatly on my bookshelf. Nothing cumbersome, like the Mead Trapper Keeper of yore, with photos falling out, or flimsy cellophane pockets. Plus, Shutterfly also supplied an electronic link to the entire book, including front and back cover, so I could share it electronically by email, or Facebook if I wanted to.

There are a number of photo book sites available online. I’m just very pleased with the quality of Shutterfly’s. I think a lot of people think photo books are just for baby pictures, wedding albums or family vacations. But they’re not!  I love creating photo books for out-of-town guests when they come to visit. I send the book to them weeks later after they’ve returned home. And I know how much it’s appreciated because a fabulous friend of mine chronicled our entire trip to Louisiana in a gorgeous photo book, capturing everything from my face covered in powdered sugar from my first beignet, to our up-close and personal encounters with alligators roaming Avery Island. I cherish it! I can relive the whole adventure.

DSC00728

Gnomes and other little creatures frolicking in my fairy garden.

If you’ve ever fancied the idea of publishing your own book, whether on a hobby, like gardening, birding, embroidery, or writing a children’s book, creating a photo book is a great way to get your feet wet. For instance, I love needle-felting and creating little gnomes and other creatures, and placing them in miniature vignettes. My friends look forward to seeing my posts on Facebook, (or at least they pretend to) so last year I put together a photo book of my miniature scenes as a personal holiday gift.

If you have online folders full of photos from your garden, or your hikes through the woods, or boating adventures, take an hour or two and drop them into a photo book. You’ll be surprised at how quickly a book comes together, and how satisfying it is to see your memories come to life in a story, one that you can pull down from the shelf and relive again and again.

For more ideas on using your favorite photos in the real world, be sure to visit www.smartperks.com next week for tips on decorating your home with your photography and personal artwork.

-Melanie

When she’s not blogging for Smart Perks, Melanie is staring glassy-eyed at Pinterest, her Pin It finger splinted from overuse. Besides crafting, gardening, shopping and cupcakes, the loves of her life include her three naughty terrier pups, the smartest and best-looking dogs in the world, and her husband.

 

Addendum: I received this information on the duration of the free photo book promotion from Best Buy Customer Care.

After research, I would like to let you know that most of the cameras we carry come with a free shutterfly photo book. Best Buy regularly includes Shutterfly Photobook codes as promotions for purchases of Digital Cameras, DSLR, Computers, and other products. These codes are a great value to the customers, and are extremely popular. If a specific camera comes with it, the free shutterfly photo book is marked as free bonus item however, we are not certain when this promotion is going to last. This is a partnership between Best Buy and Shutterfly and, I believe the promotion is continuously good until advised by Shutterfly otherwise.

Displaying Collections at Home: Telling the Story of Who You Are

10848627_1099435510082619_7377652284800130638_o

To paraphrase the lyrics of one of my favorite songs from Brandi Carlile, The Story, “All these collections that I have, tell you the story of who I am, so many stories of where I’ve been, and how I got to where I am.”

I am collector of many things.

An unapologetic sentimentalist.

Most of the things I collect are tied to people that are no longer with me, the things they were passionate about. Their enthusiasm was passed on to me during my childhood.

11021520_1099435600082610_5646987664593063313_o

For instance, my lifelong love affair with Scottish Terriers can be traced back to my Grandma’s mother, Agnes McPherson, an immigrant from Scotland in the early 1900s. Grandma had three Scotties, when I was growing up; Maggie Mae, Molly, and Katy, as well as many treasured Scottie collectibles. Now that I’m an adult, and my Grandmother has passed, I not only have Scottish Terriers of my own, but I also participate in Scottie rescue events, and collect Scottie cookie jars and other vintage Scottie pieces. 10999751_1099436016749235_8500138522877573280_oMy Scotties not only provide me unconditional love, but remind me of  my beloved Grandmother and my heritage. I am comforted, consciously or subconsciously when I am surrounded by my dogs, or walk into my craft room and see a line of Scottie cookie jars smiling down at me.

I love to see what people collect, because it says so much about who they are, what they value, what their dreams are, what they consider beautiful.

I feel that someone really becomes a true friend when she invites me  into her home, and I can see the objects she chooses to display, from books to children’s artwork, stacks of fabric,  salt and pepper shakers, vintage furniture, a bowl of wine corks inscribed with dates, or treasures brought home from her travel adventures. The more eclectic the collection, the better!

Unfortunately I think that collecting has become synonymous for many people with hoarding. And that is SO wrong. Hoarding is a disorder. A compulsion that you can’t control. It’s cluttered. It’s too much. Certainly, it would be easy to impulsively snatch up anything that even remotely resembles a Scottie for me. But my home is not that big! 10842196_1099435850082585_3079311481449000304_o Besides, if objects are packed too densely together, it’s hard to really appreciate each piece individually.

So stop and think before you buy…

  • Is this piece truly unique? Do I already have something like it?
  • Does it speak to me, in its singularity, in its beauty, in a feeling it evokes?
  • Is it simply a like item in the group of objects I collect? Don’t buy it if you’re not crazy in love with it.
  • Will it complement other pieces I already have?
  • Where will I put it?
  • Do I have a specific room, dresser, shelf, table in mind where I can display this piece and it can be enjoyed, and seen regularly, by both myself and my guests.
  • Does it complement my home decor? If my color palette is muted grays and blue, I don’t want a piece that’s neon green.
  • Does the scale of the object fit the space I have to work with?

Color and size are really important in creating a harmonious, or visually pleasing display. Group like or complementary colors and textures together.10403226_935878583104980_6204714097999486948_n

I have a friend who groups all the books in her built-in bookshelves by the color of the cover. At first I thought that was a little nuts. I like mine by genre. But my books (I’m a Lit major, can’t part with them) are on display in my living room and all those colors and jackets jumbled together were a kind of visual assault on my peripheral vision. Grouping the books together by color really helped make the room look more organized, improved the visual flow, if you will, so that the eye moves over the books like a wave.

Make your collections a conversation starter. Although matchbooks are becoming an anachronism…like the rotary-dial telephone, if you collect restaurant matchbooks, a colorful collection of matchbooks in a clear glass bowl on your cocktail or end table, might spark a conversation of a restaurant you and your guest both love, or a favorite vacation destination.

IMG_6380

Check out controllingmychaos.com for a how-to on recreating this display

Another discovery that I made on Pinterest revolutionized my life. Okay, a little bit of hyperbole…BUT – I am an avid crafter. And I love to collect craft supplies. There are literally entire boards on Pinterest devoted to taking your craft supplies out of the cupboards and drawers, and making them part of your craft room decor. Best of all, no more frantically searching for your favorite spool of ribbon, because there it is, hanging on a peg board, right in front of you when you need it.  Most of us have heard the story about how multimillionaire television producer Aaron Spelling’s wife had an entire room in her mansion devoted to gift wrapping, and scoffed at the luxury.  But deep down I was thinking, “Ohhhhhh, that would be so convenient.”

If you’re interested in seeing more, I’ve created a Pinterest board with a bunch of really cool ideas for displaying collections of every sort imaginable.

I hope you check it out, and become inspired to take your collections out of those boxes you’ve squirreled away, and put them on display to be enjoyed every day.

And just for fun, I thought I’d include my neighbor Marty’s collection of Allis Chalmers tractors. We all have our passions.

1512465_888072827885556_2670659915468574685_n

-MB

When she’s not blogging for Smart Perks, Melanie is staring glassy-eyed at Pinterest, her Pin It finger splinted from overuse. Besides crafting, gardening, shopping and cupcakes, the loves of her life are her three naughty terrier pups, the smartest and best-looking dogs in the world, and her husband.

Ta Dah! Welcome Our New Baby…

10480163_1087358014623702_3200225794387421877_n

Meet My New Puppy Eloise!

Okay, so I did get a new puppy. Weezy is a Cairn Terrier, and almost 5 months old now. She looks very sweet, and has a keen fashion sense, (especially color-coordinating her stylish ensembles with her accessories, aka toys,) but don’t let the face fool you. Little Hannah Lecter will bite your nose off, if given the chance, which is why she started obedience training on Saturday.

But that wasn’t the new baby I was referring to. Last week we launched the new Smart Perks website with a bright, bold design, fun new features, and, of course, what Smart Perks is all about, great money-saving offers on merchandise and services.

Smart_Perks_screenShot

I don’t know if you’ve ever launched a website before, but months of planning goes into it. And not just the fun stuff, like making color choices, developing logos, artwork, and fun features; such as games, weather-bugs, and weekly merchandise deals.

There are also wire-frames to be created (don’t ask,) and seemingly endless discussions of navigation to make the site user-friendly and intuitive, so that ultimately site visitors can get to the deals that much faster.

The whole Smart Perks team got together and brainstormed content ideas, like the featured tips from experts, on everything from electronics to home improvement, decorating and organization, whatever we thought our Smart Perks audience could use to make their lives easier, using less of their precious resources – time and money, and help them work smarter, not harder, so they can simply relax and enjoy the good life!

After that came the coding, coding, and more coding from our brilliant tech team. And testing. Weeks of testing on every browser and mobile device we could get our hands on.

Finally the day came last week with much fanfare and a mostly pain-free labor, as we launched our new baby out into the world.

Pinterest_-_2015-03-10_11.24.30We’re proud of the new SmartPerks website, our Facebook page, Twitter feed, Pinterest boards,  and this blog. Our team consists of creative, passionate people with a wide variety of interests, hobbies, and talents, and we want to share them with you. We want you to look forward to more posts like the ones you’ve seen so far, including what we hope will be helpful information, tutorials, and inspiration. Maybe even some tips on training your new puppy – Miss Weezy has provided lots of hands-on experience.

So I hope you’ll stop by the new SmartPerks website, say “Welcome to the World, Baby,” and take a look at what we have to offer. There are over 35 new offers in the Spring Smart Perks mailer. If you’ve never received a Smart Perks mailing, visit the new site and sign up. There’s also a great offer for a free $25 gift card, when you receive your first free Smart Perks mailing. Smartperks.com – see you there!

-MB

When she’s not blogging for Smart Perks, Melanie is staring glassy-eyed at Pinterest, her Pin It finger splinted from overuse. Besides crafting, gardening, shopping and cupcakes, the loves of her life are her three naughty terrier pups, the smartest and best-looking dogs in the world, and her husband.

Spring Home Decor Trends, Pinterest Envy, and Delusions of Grandeur

m.style-Bloom-Polyester-and-Cotton-Shower-Curtain

Source: Shower curtain from Wayfair.com

It’s been two years since I invested in my computerized Janome Magnolia 7330 Sewing Machine.

I guess I imagined that by computerized, Janome meant the machine would magically do the sewing for me. Like Cinderella’s birds and mice, I would simply push a button and my magical new sewing machine would instantly produce adorable throw pillows, darling handbags, charming rag quilts, and new Roman shades for the whole house.

Sadly, however, this did not occur.

janome_7330

So these past few weeks, after completing project declutter, and inspired by my good friend Yvette, who’d recently made some really fantastic curtains from Pinterest Tutorials, I decided to pay my friend to sew curtains for me!

Luckily Yvette is a non-judgmental friend and  agreed to help with my project, which I assumed meant she would sew them for me, and I got to bypass all the measuring, ironing and cutting, and go straight to the fun part -Shopping for fabrics!

First stop; the place I always go for inspiration, Pinterest.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” John Lennon once said, prophetically referring to the advent of Pinterest.”

Pinterest is chock-full of beautiful photographs of the recipes we hope to prepare, the clothes we hope to wear, the parties we want to throw, the exquisite gardens we want to grow, and the bathrooms with the freestanding tubs of our dreams, even if we’re shower people, born and raised.

f9e3d780fc0cb783cefed45ac681bb71

Source: hellobrielle.wordpress.com 1. Target 2. Premier Fabrics 3. Bedbuggs 4. Pottery Barn via Real Simple 5. Amy Butler 6. Colorbee 7. She Likes Purple

My friend Yvette and I created a shared board on Pinterest that we could both contribute to, and pinned all the fabrics we found that matched the current color and pattern trends. Bright! Bold! Big! paired with soft neutrals. 11046403_1084724708220366_2618078523814373780_n

We searched Google, Etsy, and other boutique fabric stores, and pinned all of our favorite fabrics to the shared board, writing down the names of the ones we liked best.

Then we visited onlinefabricstore.net, where you can typically find the yardage you need of the fabric you want, versus some of the smaller boutique shops that have limited quantities at a higher price. Plus, shipping is free on orders of $50 or more.

And finally when it was time to get down to brass tacks,Yvette found a great step-by-step tutorial on Pinterest from Midwest Magnolia, that she followed to make new drapes for her dining room, living room and bedroom.

1924704_10152674317673589_5414340233889026763_nOf course she got a lot of help from her beagle, Lucy.

Here are two of the completed sets. 10957760_10152674523588589_6307927056989610494_nzBold, clean and fresh with a slight nod to mid-century modern.

The big splashy prints are perfect for Spring. 10608568_10152376386808589_6530551657542804450_oz And then Yvette broke the bad news to me…she wasn’t going to sew my curtains for me. It was time to dust off that brand new Janome, and conquer my fear of sewing. Time to quit my Pinterest-day-dreaming and just do it. Sigh…that’s what friends are for, I guess, pushing us to do the things we think we can’t do. Wish me luck!

For more great decorating ideas, visit the Smart Perks Spring Decor board on Pinterest. No sewing required.

 

-MB

When she’s not blogging for Smart Perks, Melanie is staring glassy-eyed at Pinterest, her Pin It finger splinted from overuse. Besides crafting, gardening, shopping and cupcakes, the loves of her life are her three naughty terrier pups, the smartest and best-looking dogs in the world, and her husband.