Life

A Word for 2017.

January 6, 2017

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Happy New Year!

January is one of my favorite months of the year – the prospect of the new year holds so much promise and hope and excitement. One tradition that I’ve kept over the past several years is that of picking a word early in the year and reflecting on it as the year moves on.

In 2013, my word was SAVOR. (There are no posts to link to about this, but here’s a somewhat related post about savoring moments.)

In 2015, my word was CREATE.

In 2016, it was FLOURISH.

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It’s been so fun to set goals and a vision for a year around a chose theme and then to look back over the years through the lens of that particular word.

For 2017, my word is STORY.

Part of this is my exhaustion with our sound-bite, tweet-infested, 10-second availability-infused world. We are meant for deeper, richer, longer stories and I want my year to be about the long game, both in stories I consume and tell.

With littles (mostly, a toddler!) this becomes especially apparent. Sometimes the thing that buys me five minutes of peace or my toddler 2 minutes of attention isn’t what’s best for our hearts and homes over the long haul. As a mom, I want to focus on the big picture and do the hard work that writes a bigger story of contentment and peace and simplicity and togetherness rather than just jumping from distraction to distraction and immediate solution to immediate solution.

We’re in our home for the forseeable future, which is eternally longer than we’ve ever been in any home together. We’re generally settled, but I want to focus on truly building the story of our home and our family this year, building the traditions, the rituals, and the memories that will carry us far beyond 2017.

For as long as I can remember, my aspirations and education and career have pivoted on words. And social media, driven by words and images, has been a fun source of inspiration and creativity for me. But at some point last year, it began to feel a little endless, a little cyclical, and little hopeless. I felt, as Cal Newport puts is so succinctly, like I was trying to run “a one-person media operation”, the exact end-game of which was fuzzy at best. I need, I’ve realized, to be creating stories, not just sound-bites, to survive and thrive, and I need some time and space to create and build those stories, time and space that requires stepping away from the onslaught of every other story the internet has to tell.

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I especially want to dedicate time this year to telling our family stories through albums – my children’s baby books, our family albums, the memories Mark and I have of advenures before babies, and a few other projects that I haven’t prioritized – and more regular journaling.

Finally, the word STORY serves as a reminder for me to incoporate more stories and story-time into my children’s play (as opposed to just more books and isolated words and vocabulary). Stories are a crucial part of a young child’s development and intentionally incoporating it into our playtime and conversation is one of my goals for 2017.

Do you pick a word for your year? What is yours? I’d love to know!

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Photography

Simple Album Title Pages: A Tutorial

September 11, 2016

Simple Album Title Pages

One of my favorite aspects of this year’s family story album is the title pages I created for each month. I just love the way these capture our month’s activities at a quick glance.

 

In fact, I’m almost tempted to make an album using just these sheets. If you are searching for a way to quickly and efficiently capture your family’s year, 12 of these would definitely do the trick. Another option is to make sheets that capture each individual family member’s month of the year and then combine them for a low-stress large family year album.

I’ve been creating these album title pages using Canva, the VSCO app, and Becky Higgins’ Project Life app.

First, to maximize the time I spend on our albums, I created a style guide to use while I work. I pick a few fonts and a general layout pattern and stick to this almost entirely throughout the album.

For our 2016 album title pages, I’m using Pinyon Script and Aileron Regular. (Right now, I’m satisfied with the fonts offered through Canva, but there is an option to upload you’re own if that’s how you roll.)


First, I created the title blocks.

I created a new design in Canva by clicking “Use Custom Dimensions” and designing a 3 inch x 3 inch template.

I created two new text boxes – one for the name of the month and one for the year – and arranged them within the new design.

Here are a couple of other ideas for creating a month/year tile:

Once you’re happy with your template, download it from Canva (as a .png). I normally make all 12 at once to save time – to do this, just change the name of the month and continue saving until you’ve created and stored all 12.


Next, I selected 15 photos from the month. First, I scrolled through the folder of my Instagram photos for the highlights. If I found 15 that I liked, then I was done with this step. If I need a few more, I then open the month’s photo folder and select additional photos. (You can see a little peek of my filing process for my photo files below, if you look carefully.)

I don’t spend a ton of time agonizing over this process. Because it’s a title page, I focus more on unique shots or photos that capture emotions or special moments and memories rather than pictures that are perfectly composed. I also pay attention to white space to prevent the sheet from appearing too busy.


Next is the editing. I normally leave any photos pulled from my Instagram file alone, since these are usually already edited.

If you are cool and professional and use a desktop editing program, this next step will be quick for you. Simply edit the photos and save.

If you’re like me and you depend largely on your phone apps for quick post-processing, this will take a bit more time. Here are my editing steps:

  1. Email or Airdrop the unprocessed photos to your phone.
  2. I like to use VSCO, so I upload all of them at once.
  3. I try to use the same filter for the majority of the pictures and, for this group, I minimize how much I play with the photos. A quick touch-up or filter and I’m done. (I normally use the filter B5 for any black and white and the filter A5 turned down a few notches for color.)
  4. Save the photos to your phone and then email or Airdrop them back to the computer.

Create a new template in Canva using the custom dimensions of 5000 px. x 5000 px. Upload the 15 selected photos and the month’s title tile. At this point, I normally rely on the 4 x 4 layout grid in Canva. It allows me to simply drag and drop each photo into a square slot.

(Note: you can edit the exact placement of your photo within the layout square by double-clicking on the photo once you have dropped it into the layout, shifting the photo, and then clicking the checkmark.)

Again, I play around with the exact layout of my grid to maximize the overall look without sacrificing too much time or thought on it. I always reserve one of the most central four spaces for the month’s title tile, although I change its exact location.

Once I’m satisfied, I save the file (Note: always save the highest resolution .png version possible to your computer).

At this point, you can upload the file to your favorite printing source. I normally send it to the Project Life app because I order a printed batch of 12 x 12 sheets at once and I include these title pages with  other pages I’ve created within the app.

Once I’ve ordered the physical pages, I cover them with page protectors like these and snap them into an album.

Easy, right? Do some story-telling about this year in just a few minutes, then include a link to a quick Instagram post of your project in the comments below to share!


Products used:


Simple Album Title Pages

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Friday Links

Weekend Reading List // 12.

May 13, 2016

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It’s the weekend! What are your plans?

I’m excited to wrap up my Week in the Life project this weekend (check out #emweekinthelife on Instagram for some sneak peeks!). Ali Edwards hosts this fun photo memory-keeping project every year. I’ve never participated before, but I wanted to capture this unique little sliver of time before we all go back to work and routines and Violet outgrows her sweet newborn days.

I’ve been working hard to organize and archive our photos and put a consistent long-term system in place and I came across this great list of tips on scanning old photos in a usable way. (via Pictures and Stories)

Just in time for glorious summer barbecues, these tips on building a layer cake. (via Food52)

Some fun facts about breastfeeding and women’s health. (via the Susan G. Komen Foundation)

Raising a creative child. (via NYT)

Motivate your morning routine for a month with this challenge. (via The Everygirl)

Make these fabulous ice cream flavors with your Kitchen Aid (no churning required!). (via Half Baked)

In love with this balloon arch. (via Petite & Sweet)

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Friday Links

Weekend Reading List // 11.

May 6, 2016

weekend links 11

Happy weekend! This feels in some ways like the first weekend of summer – our pool is opening and we have been pulling out our summer clothes and sunscreen.

It’s also Mother’s Day weekend! What do you have planned? I have several dear friends that are due almost anytime, so I’m excited to see if one of them has a Mother’s Day baby!

Sometimes I think we talk a lot about how hard it is to be a mom, but not as much about how much fun it is, so one of my plans for this weekend is to remind myself what a privilege it is to be a mom to my sweet bundles. I’ll be celebrating by grilling, cuddling my baby girl, and splashing with my little guy.

Some amazing iPhone photography and a few great photography tips. (via iPhone Photography School)

The effects of wine on mood and expressions, through a camera lens. (via Mental Floss)

If the full Project Life system overwhelms you, try starting out with this simple system. (Thanks, Rachel, for leading me to this!) (via Valerie Kiensley)

The New York Times as curriculum. (via NYT)

Such a sweet photo essay. (via Twenty Two Words)

Some dining etiquette tips. (via Classy Career Girl)

Patios to get you excited about summer. (via Pottery Barn)

One of my very favorite Instagram feeds. (via Modern Farmer)

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Friday Links

Weekending.

October 24, 2015

Garden wall.

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Happy weekend! We are currently waiting out a hurricane and enjoying the much-needed rain. What are you up to this weekend?

If the weather has you home-bound, like us, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy some cozy Internet reading (or an actual book!).

Good advice from a fantastic blog about blogging. (via Autumn Leaves Co.)

 

For couples that are or have been pregnant – hilarious. (via NYMag)

What’s your style? This quiz nailed it for me. (via Cup of Jo)

On mama-hood and work, this. (via Coffee + Crumbs)

America’s makers. (via Martha Stewart)

Ideas for journaling. (via Life Captured)

100 Project Life resources. (via Rukristin)

 

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Photography

Thirteen Months: A Snapshot.

September 3, 2015

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I chronicled most of Miles’ first year through (in part) a series of letters that I’m sharing on this blog. It’s important to me to document his little adventures, his growth, and our memories of him.

I’m hoping to continue doing it throughout his second year. This post is particularly overdue and I wobbled about whether I should post it at all. But one of my ultimate goals for these posts is to print them in some kind of photo book and I don’t like the idea of always seeing the missing 13-month note. (OCD much?)

So, here, so close to his fourteen-month birthday, are a few notes about Miles at 13 months. (Take it or leave it.;-) If this bores you, jump to this post instead.)

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DEAR MILES.

Thirteen months was a crazy couple of weeks, wasn’t it? You and Daddy and I were all over the place this summer, spending time in Dallas for Daddy’s internship, visiting family, taking fun trips, and pretending like you slept just as well in a porta-crib as in your own bed. (You don’t.)

You are a great little traveler though, and you act like switching time-zones and houses and beds doesn’t faze you even a bit as long as you can still cuddle with Mommy and Daddy early in the morning.

So here a few things that I really want to remember about you at this age.

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I want to remember that you are ALWAYS ON THE MOVE. You never seem to stop wiggling. Even when you are cuddling or quietly listening to Mommy read to you, you are always wriggling.

I want to remember how much you love your books. You would sit and listen to me read for hours. You will even sit by yourself and flip back and forth through the pages by yourself, fascinated with the pictures.

I want to remember the look on your face as you watched airplanes from the front yard of your great-grandparents’ house. Once you put the quiet buzz and the movement together, you would drop whatever you were doing, wherever we were, to trace the path of the plane with your finger and make a little “buzzzzz” of your own.

I want to remember how cuddly you are. You love to snuggle with Mommy and Daddy – you love to be held and tickled and hugged and kissed.

I want to remember how excited you were when you finally met a dog that would let you pet her (instead of a cat). You frantically pet Sophie while we bribed her to sit still with peanut-butter pretzels.

I want to remember your strong little over-hand pitch when you enthusiastically hurl a ball.

I want to remember the sheer delight on your face when you empty suitcases or drawers or baskets of laundry, dumping piece after piece on your head and arms and face.

I want to remember your sheer delight when you discovered cold water flowing out of the hose on a hot morning.

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I want to remember the things you are doing and loving and learning too. I want to remember that you are

cruising everywhere. As long as you have a hand on a piece of furniture, you can move with the speed of light around a room.

trying grownup food like spaghetti, oatmeal, and eggs.

climbing down the stairs. You terrified everyone for a few weeks by hovering dangerously at the top of the stairs until you let your grandmother teach you how to climb backwards. Now you can go up and down by yourself all day long!

singing along to nursery rhymes and baby praise music. You sing very gently and rock your head back and forth to the music and it is THE SWEETEST.

playing  with wheels, wherever you can find them – your stroller, your tractors, other children’s toy cars.

using words – or at least trying out new sounds and assuming Mommy knows exactly what you mean.

I love watching you grow, sweet boy! Never stop.:-)

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Photography

Rescuing My Photos From Digital Oblivion – the #PreserveProject.

August 13, 2015

  Preserving Photos | The Orange Slate

Preserving Photos | The Orange Slate

When it comes to procrastinating, I am the worst. Seriously. When it comes to photos, photo storage, and appropriate archiving techniques, my bad habits hit epic levels.

I have always taken a lot of pictures, though arguably of varying quality. I had a little automatic digital camera in college that I used to record a lot of undergrad adventures.

In early 2012, I entered the 21st century and got an iPhone. That’s when my pictures really began to add up in quantity. I always had my phone on me and could constantly record the minute details of every meal, coffee cup, and cliche tourist jaunt around D.C.

(This is a fascinating tale, yes? Exactly what you set out to read today?)

Nothing turns perfectly sane individuals into flash-happy paparazzi like having a baby. Although I haven’t run the numbers, I am pretty sure that my photo records doubled in total size between Miles’ birthday and 6th month. Maybe they tripled.

In addition to all of this, I have all of the RAW photos from my wedding. All 3500 of them. I have baby pictures to turn into a baby book, travel pictures, honeymoon pictures, shower pictures, family pictures – on and on and on.

What is the point of all of this endless trivia? The point is: I have a lot of photos on my hard drive. A lot. And actually, they aren’t all on one hard drive. There are at least 5 computers and two Snapfish accounts holding pictures of ours. I estimated that I have close to 50,000 pictures that I need to archive or organize or *something*.

So really, the point is that 1)I take a lot of photos. 2) My photos from the last _[pick a number, any number]___ years are a royal tangled confusing unusable HOT MESS.

And I’ve had it. I’m tired of my computer being bogged down by thousands of photos that are duplicated and unorganized and undated and unjournaled and living in multiple places. I’m tired of not being able to find images when I want them. I’m SO OVER dreading taking the necessary steps to organize my photos so that I can finally turn them into well-curated, nicely preserved memories.

So I snapped and I did what every well-meaning goal-oriented woman does in a time of crisis: I found an available Instagram hashtag and set to work.

Preserving Photos | The Orange Slate

But seriously, I’ve been diving deep into my archives and am systematically organizing everything. The happy surprise? It’s taking far less time than I thought it would and the deeper I dive, the more relieved I feel. I can now honestly saw that I am SO EXCITED about this project. I’m excited about our photos again. I’m excited about preserving our stories. I’m excited to use my Project Life supplies.

And….lucky you. I’m going to publish a series on here sharing every single step of the process so that you too can rescue all of your lovely photos from digital oblivion. Because, really, don’t you want to enjoy those lovely shots, stories, and memories? They aren’t mean to wither on a hard drive. And there’s a path out of the mess.

Want to follow along as I organize and preserve our memories in a usable, meaningful way? Subscribe to the email updates using that little box on the right.

Or maybe you’re a million steps ahead of me and already have organized all of your photos into beautiful albums? I’m going to be using the #preserveproject hashtag – and I’d love to learn from you!

*Some links are affiliate. Thank you for supporting The Orange Slate!

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Friday Links

Friday Links.

August 7, 2015

Morning | The Orange Light

Baby | The Orange Slate

It’s Friday! What are your weekend plans? We have entered the deepest, most sweltering days of summer over here. My weekend plans involved air-conditioning, cool drinks, and maybe a frigid museum. Did I mention air-conditioning?

Here are some links to brighten up your weekend:

A list of culinary vocabulary for the aspiring chef. (via Darling Magazine)

An interview on teaching empathy to children, Danish parenting, and how stories can help. (via MOTHER)

These free Powerpoint templates are amazing. I downloaded them this week and they have already saved me so much time. (via HubSpot)

Why you need to write everything somewhere. (via Creative Something)

25 famous women talk about being in charge. (via New York Mag)

There is too much adorableness in this wallpaper.  (via Design*Sponge)

Some photography tips. (via Oh My Dear)

Why having a side gig could be the best thing for your career. (via Levo)

7 great podcasts. (via Balance and Blueberries)

The video on ethical fashion that may have changed my life. (via True Cost Movie)

 

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Friday Links

Friday Links.

July 17, 2015

German Mint Lemonade | The Orange Slate

Germany Outdoor Cafe | The Orange Slate

Make Someone Happy | The Orange Slate

Happy Friday! What does your weekend hold? Miles and I are enjoying a little vacation with my side of the family on the West coast. GOSH, I’m loving that I open the door in the morning to a cool coastal breeze instead of the 90+ degree-days of Texas in July.

I hit “send” on this blog’s very first baby newsletter this morning, “Over My French Press.” For those of you who have already signed up – thank you! I hope you love every bit of it.

For those of you suffering from newsletter FOMO this second, are you interested in working from home, building your freelance portfolio, or taking steps to continue your career while feeding Cheerios to your bebe? You just might love it. Subscribe here if you’d like next week’s edition.

Because the beach is on my mind, 8 Instagram accounts by female surfers that you should be following. (via The Chalkboard)

It annoys me that lip gloss with SPF is so difficult to find. What are your favorites? This is my go-to this summer, but I’d like one that lasts a little longer.

Have you seen the #decor8monday project? I love it.

Van Gogh’s favorite French village. (via WSJ)

How the light-up bracelets used by Taylor Swift on her 1989 tour actually work. (via Slate)

Hosting when you’re away from home. (via Food52)

The final word on keeping your fruit and vegetables fresh after slicing. (via LifeHacker)

A precious photo project. (via The Handcrafted Story)

Loved the comments on Facebook, Instagram, and the post about my best packing tip. The most helpful I’ve seen yet? Katy said:

“My tip — pack just 2-3 pairs of shoes. I usually pack tennis shoes and flats/sandals/boots depending on the weather . . . pack a pair of underwear and clean shirt in your carry on in case you get stuck in the airport overnight. Sometimes it might be worth packing an additional pair of shorts/pants (longer trips) This way, you have something fresh to change into if you feel nasty after being stuck.”

always bring too many shoes. Thanks, Katy! (And thanks, everyone who participated!)

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*Some links are affiliate. Thanks for supporting The Orange Slate!

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Photography

12 Months: A Snapshot.

July 9, 2015

12 Months | The Orange Slate

  12 Months | The Orange Slate

12 Months | The Orange Slate

I chronicled most of Miles’ first year through (in part) a series of letters that I’m sharing on this blog. It’s important to me to document his little adventures, his growth, and our memories of him.

My overall goal for this project has been presence, not perfection, and honestly, I’m thrilled with the collection of memories and pictures I’ve documented. Even if none of the other billion pictures that I’ve taken and edited of him are appropriately archived, these letters and the accompanying pictures will have captured important highlights of his year.

DEAR MILES.

12 MONTHS! A YEAR! You’re one year old! (I keep saying it to myself – “I have a one year old!”) I can’t believe your first grand year is behind us. What an adventure it was. I know I’m supposed to be sad that you are growing up so quickly, but I am THRILLED at every new milestone. I know every baby and every family has different challenges, but for me, for us, your first three months felt so hard, so exhausting.

But your next three months were so much better, so much less terrifying and so much more exciting and fun, and every step after has been better still. So keep growing, my wonderful little guy! I’m so proud to be your mama.

12 Months | The Orange Slate

12 Months | The Orange Slate

Here are a few things I want to remember about you at this perfect, terrific age of ONE:

I want to remember how much energy you have each day. From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed, you never really stop moving. If you do pause, it’s because you are studying something very very carefully, holding it close to your face to look at it very carefully or exploring the texture with your tiny fingers. When you are looking at something closely, your face takes on the most concentrated, adorable little frown.

I want to remember that you throw everything. Food that you are done eating, toys, food that you want to share, my clothes, your binky, sippy cups, bottles, balls…you figured out how to hurl objects and want to try out your new trick at every turn.

I want to remember how my good little eater has suddenly become picky. You definitely have opinions about food’s taste and texture now and they seem to change constantly. Meals feel like marathons.

I want to remember how you are starting to discover cause and effect – you bang on your high-chair tray to hear the sound; you love it when I lift you to play with light switches as you watch the room light up and darken; you love to push buttons and hear the resulting sound.

I want to remember how good you are at crawling up the stairs and how afraid you are to slide back down.

I want to remember how you are curious about everything – every drawer, every shut door, every device that adults around you are holding.

I want to remember how fun it is to watch you learn to use language. You try to yell for things that you want, but we’re working on asking for things more pleasantly and you’re learning how to say “please”.

12 Months | The Orange Slate

12 Months | The Orange Slate

I want to remember the things you are doing and loving and learning too. I want to remember that you are

loving pulling up on everything. My favorite is when you pull up at the piano and play the few keys that you are able to reach.

saying “Dada” for everything. 

clapping for yourself. The proud look on your face when you do a trick and then clap for yourself is hilarious.

learning to shake hands with new friends (total strangers) and to give “high-fives”. You’ve thoroughly mastered waving and wave frantically at everyone, even Mom when she comes to get you out of your crib in the morning. 

sleeping, finally, blessedly, through most of the night, on most nights.  Everyone is so much happier when a good night of sleep happens.

reading your board books with Mom or Dad – your current favorite is “Polar Bear, Polar Bear” and, of course, “Guess How Much I Love You?”

learning to love whole milk. You tried it for the first time two weeks shy of your 1st birthday and you’ll drink a little for me every day.

climbing up the stairs – multiple times, every day. It’s your little mountain of adventure!

Can’t wait for the next day, week, month, AND YEAR of adventures, my sweet boy!

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