Project Life, starting Year Three

Project Life Year Three

I’m starting my third Project Life album, simpler than ever.  This year I’ve decided to use all black and white cards (Project Life Good Times kit) and do a lot more journaling.




It’s mostly a family photo album, but I want to include more stuff of my own this year, like my craft projects (still need to print a photo of the socks I finished knitting!) and I want to make sure to make it a family album — all of us, not just the kids.  (Not doing so well on that so far — oops!)



A fun weekend hike — blogged here.  This set of pages is a little busier than I would like, and I think from now on I’m going to take a page from Kathleen, one of my fav PL bloggers, and include more white space or “frames” around my photos.



I’m also embracing the iPhone camera and trying to include a lot more photos of “everyday life” — not just special occasions or big events.  (I also need to get back to using a real camera sometimes.  I have the most beautiful photos of Josiah from a few years ago, and so many blurry shots of baby Sam.  But I digress…)

It occurred to me as I was writing this post that three years is a pretty long time to stick with a hobby, especially a crafty hobby!  Do you have any hobbies that you’ve stuck with for a long time?  What are they?

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Crafting Lately

I have a lot of complaints with winter, but looking on the bright side, it’s a great time for crafting.  I’ve been bitten by the craft bug lately, and working on all kinds of projects here and there when I get a chance.  (Speaking of which — Happy MLK Jr Day!  I get the day off and it’s a snow day make-up day for my son’s school, so I have a free crafting day at home!)

KnittingParaphernalia socks.  I love this pattern, I love the gentle color changes of the yarn, and I love wearing handknit wool socks when it’s freezing outside.  I haven’t knit socks in years, but these socks + Mad Men on Netflix = my happy place.



Sewing – I joined the Scrappy Log Cabin quilt-along on Instagram (#scrappylogcabinqal)and stole a bunch of fabric scraps from my sister.  I’m loving the colors and I’m really excited about all the different layout options with this quilt block pattern.  My goal is to make one square each weekend day, although I can actually make them faster in batches, so I am probably going to shot for 4 blocks every two weeks.  I’d love to have it ready to send out for quilting by my birthday in March, but that might be a little ambitious.



Scrapbooking – I finished my 2014 Project Life album, except for a few photos I need to get from other people, and a page to remember my grandpa, who passed away on Thanksgiving Day.

wpid-IMG_4587.jpg wpid-IMG_4589.jpg wpid-IMG_4590.jpg

Do your hobbies change based on the season?  

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Catching up on 5 months of Project Life scrapbooking in a week


It can be done! Here’s how:

Step 1: Order photos


Step 2: Divide photos into weeks or months (depending how you organize your scrapbook)

Step 3: Split photos by whether they are horizontally and vertically oriented.


Step 4: Find small pockets of uninterrupted time. (I used two lunch breaks and 2 gaps between the end of the work day at 5pm and a 6:30 meeting.)
Step 5: Go go go! Don’t worry too much about what everything looks like, just get it done! (That’s the beauty of using a PL core kit, right? Everything is already color coordinated for you.)


Step 6: Order last month’s photos as soon as the month is over so this doesn’t happen again!


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Project Life Stylesheet

PL stylesheet

Whenever people ask me about Project Life scrapbooking, I tell them my favorite thing about it is that you can make it as simple or as complicated as you like.  There are people who use tons of embellishments, design their own journaling cards, etc.,  and then there are people like me who scribble in a few notes about the photos, stick everything in the photo pockets, and call it done.

I was originally inspired to try Project Life because I saw it on Kathleen’s blog.  I love how she keeps her pages simple but they still look really beautiful and reflect her style.  She recently posted a “style sheet” that she’s using for her 2014 album to keep it consistent throughout the year.  I am stealing her idea and doing the same.  

Here’s the loose set of rules for my 2014 PL album:

  • Jade core kit, using mostly the white and brightly colored cards, avoiding muted grays and browns
  • Use a mix of colors on every page
  • Include colorful ephemera like ticket stubs, kids drawings, etc.
  • Rounded corners on photos and cards
  • Grouping photos by month, not breaking it down by week
  • Journaling cards in my handwriting with a black fine-tip Sharpie
  • Lots of photos with very little embellishment
  • Smaller photo page inserts for special events, like birthdays, family photo sessions, etc.

Here is a sampling of the pages I’ve completed for January and February.

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Welcome, Danny Zuko! Let’s scrapbook and eat homemade pizza. #askawayfriday

Today I’m exchanging questions with NJ of A Cookie Before Dinner for the Ask Away Friday link-up.  She has an awesome polka dotted sweater, so that wins her some points right there.  She and I both have two kids who are almost the same ages, and she is a great writer who writes about life, her family, blogging, and whatever she’s interested in at the moment (cough cough monster cookies!!!)

NJ New Bio Pic

If you want to find out more about the link-up, head over to visit hosts: Penny from The Real Housewife of Caroline County, Amber from The Bold Fab Mom, Tiffany from Mrs Tee Love Life Laughter and Stacey from This Momma’s Ramblings.  And email or leave me a comment if you’d like to swap questions sometime!  Here we go with NJ’s questions, answered by yours truly.

NJ: I know that your blog is inspired by the movie Grease. Grease is one of my favorite movies of all time. What is your favorite song from the movie?

Sarah: I have a special place in my heart for Raining on Prom Night since I performed it in a school play once, but I think my true favorites are Greased Lightning and Summer Lovin’.

(Can we talk about all the sexual innuendos in this movie? My goodness!  I was totally oblivious to it when I watched that movie over and over when I was a kid, though.)

NJ: How is your One Word 365 going? Are you still in love with your word and focusing on it?

Sarah: My word was Welcome.  I haven’t been focusing on it that much (you know how life goes), but I still think it’s a good word for me for the year.  It’s turning out to mean more about having an open mind and being willing to welcome changes in my life, rather than more literally “putting out the welcome mat” for guests.

NJ: I have admired Project Life from afar for a really long time, but haven’t ever jumped the gun. How do you like it? Is it worth the time/money investment?

Sarah: For the uninitiated, Project Life is really simple scrapbooking system (album + photo pages + cards…just add photos and write captions on the cards!)  I completed a 2013 album and I liked it enough to buy a kit for 2014.  I really like having physical photo albums to look through, and the Snapfish photo books I used to make at the end of the year were such a chore. For some reason, I seem to be better about keeping my PL album current as the year goes along. I like bring able to capture the memories as they happen, but with the albums that I used to make at the end of each year, I really only got the big events (birthdays, holidays, family visits).

I think the price is reasonable for what you get — there are a ton of cards in the card kits, and I don’t add any other embellishments, so compared to what I would have to buy for traditional scrapbooking (papers, punches, etc etc — none of which I already have) it works for me.  I like how it looks all coordinated and nice without me having to put much effort into it.


NJ: Congratulations! You’ve got the day off and 100% to yourself. The kids are at daycare and your husband is at work. How are spending it?

Sarah:  Funny you ask — I actually have that day next week! (It’s sort of a late birthday celebration.) Here’s my tentative plan: wake up late, exercise, go get a massage, and meet my husband for lunch.  I’ll spend the afternoon at a coffee shop working on blog posts for April and drinking some tea. Then I’ll probably stop by the mall and spend my birthday money on a new spring outfit before going to pick up the kids at preschool/the babysitters.

NJ: What is on your nightstand? Bonus points for a photograph.

Sarah: Mostly books! (Actually, I gave up on having a nightstand and just put a bookcase there instead.)  This photo has most definitely NOT been styled — this is the real deal.  The middle shelf serves as my nightstand, holding my glasses while I sleep, the baby monitor, and all the earrings and hair clips that I forget I’m wearing until I’m getting ready to go to sleep.  That print on the shelf is titled “Dashshund Self Portrait.”  (Can you tell how long its legs are?)


NJ:  You’ve recently started talking more about self care. What is one thing you’ve done today that was just for you?

Sarah:  Ate my favorite dessert — carrot cake.  (I’m writing this on Thursday, which was was my birthday!  So that was my birthday cake.)  I also took 30 minutes to do some exercise over my lunch break even though a good chunk of my day was spent in meetings and I didn’t really feel like I had time to do it.  I am not always excited about exercising, but I do always feel better afterwards.

NJ: Do you have any plans to go to a blog conference anytime soon?

Sarah:  Nope.  Between working full time, having a newish baby, and spending all our money on preschool and seminary tuition, the time and money just aren’t there. That’s okay though — it’s just not the right time for me. Maybe in a year or two.

NJ: If I came to your town for the weekend, what would we do?

Sarah: I’m going to assume that we both have our kids with us, since — where else would they be?  The weather is supposed to be really nice this weekend, so after I cook pancakes and eggs for everyone, we would head out to a park to let the kids burn off some energy while we hang out and talk.  For a small city (150K people), I think Springfield has a really great restaurant choices.  I’d let you choose where we go to lunch — maybe a little Italian deli, a crepe restaurant, or That Lebanese Place (yep that’s really what it’s called)?  Then we’d walk around downtown a bit and check out a few shops.  (I’m assuming we have ditched the husbands and older kids at this point.)  I’ll make some homemade pizza for dinner and we can all watch a movie together.  On Sunday we get to sleep in since our church service doesn’t start til 11:30!  I’ll take you to hear my husband preach, then we would grab a quick lunch and go for a hike at the Nature Center before you have to head home.

Downtown Springfield, MO

Downtown Springfield, MO

Springfield Nature Center // Beauty School Dropout

Springfield Nature Center

NJ: Where do you like to hang out on social media? Is there a social media channel that you hate?

Sarah: Hmm… I’m probably on facebook more than anything else because that’s where my friends and relatives are.  (Even though fb drives me crazy sometimes.)  I also really like looking through my friends’ pictures on instagram.  I used to hate Pinterest, but I changed the types of boards that I was following and it stopped giving me an inferiority complex every time I looked at it.

NJ: How is your running going? As soon as it starts to thaw here a bit, I’m starting the couch to 5k!

Sarah:  I haven’t run that much this winter since the weather has been SO cold and I hate treadmills, but I’ve gotten out for a few runs in the past couple of weeks, and it really feels good to stretch my legs and run again.  I’m not training for any races right now, but I just found a new group of co-workers who go running on Fridays at lunch, so I’m looking forward to running with them again soon.


Thank you so much for these wonderful questions, NJ!  I really enjoyed answering them.  If you want to read NJ’s answers to my questions, go check out her blog!

I loved this question, and I want to know your answer, too:  If I came to your town for the weekend, what would we do?  


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What I learned from my first year of Project Life scrapbooking

PL first year
After doing no scrapbooking for several years, in late 2011 and very 2012 I started seeing people posting pictures of “Project Life” albums, which looked very organized and stylish, not your typical shabby-chic scrapbooking style.  I wanted to give it a try, so I bought an album, page protectors, and a “core kit” which is a package of color-coordinated cards that fit into the pockets of the page protectors (which are all 4×6 or 2×3 inches).
Pattern overload, much?

One of my first pages.  Pattern overload, much? Welcome to crazytown.  But can you really blame me? I was in my first trimester of pregnancy, we were in the middle of remodeling our house, and my husband went to Honduras for a week.

 When I first started out, it felt a lot like writing on the first page of a new journal… I didn’t know exactly what I wanted it to look like, and there were a LOT of core kit cards to choose from.  It was a little overwhelming, and this is reflected in my first several pages.  I was all over the place as far as colors, patterns, etc.  I wasn’t in the habit of taking a zillion pictures of everyday stuff, so I struggled to fill up the blank spaces.   I was also very unsure what types of things I wanted to capture on the journaling cards.  As I look back at my first few pages, I see a really random assortment of things — quotes, Bible verses, snippets of cute things my son said, and lists of activities we’d done that week.
The crazy mix of patterns continues...but at least everything is sort of Valentine's Day themed.

February. The crazy mix of patterns continues…but at least everything is sort of Valentine’s Day themed.

The great thing about PL is that it really is designed to be a simple system, but of course, there are bloggers out there who have been scrapbooking for years, have tons of stamps, punches, and other embellishments that make the pages look amazing.  As much as I’d love that, it’s just not me.  I don’t have the time to spend, nor the money to acquire all those items, and the simplicity of the system was the whole reason I was drawn to it.  Adding all that stuff was just complicating it and, frankly, kind of stressing me out.  I did purchase one round punch that is large enough to write a few words on (although I didn’t use it that much) and a corner rounder, to make the corners of the photos match the rounded corners of the cards from the core kit.  I like the look of the rounded corners, and it doesn’t take long, but I find those little corner scraps everywhere in my house after working on the album for a while.
Now we are into March (see my leprechaun beard?) and the pages are starting to get a bit more cohesive.

Now we are into March (see my leprechaun beard for St. Pat’s Day?) and the pages are starting to get a bit more cohesive.

 As I went through the year, I simplified my process a lot, choosing just one card design per page, eschewing embellishments, and working on about a month’s worth of pages at a time. Traditional PL albums give a full spread (two pages facing each other) to each week.  I ended up cutting that down to just one page per week, with the flexibility to expand onto additional pages for special events that had a lot of photos, like birthday parties, visiting family out of town, family photo shoots, etc.

April. See how all the cards match now?  Much better.

Getting photos printed proved to be a big hurdle for me, especially when I decided that the most convenient place to print & pick them up (Walgreen’s) was not giving me very high quality photos.  The color quality on photos from Wal-Mart was much better, but I dread the crowds and hassle of going there, so I would end up getting backlogged.  Towards the end of the year I settled on printing photos and creating album pages about a month at a time.  This worked pretty well for me time-wise, since it doesn’t take much time at all to round the photo corners, slip them in slots, and add a few cards with short explanations of what we did that week.
Even in weeks when I didn't take that many photos,

Even in weeks when I didn’t take that many photos, I eventually got more comfortable just using some cards as filler and using others to document what was going on that week.

Things I want to change for my 2014 album:
Only print what I need.  A problem I had repeatedly throughout the year was printing way more pictures than I really needed.  I’m not sure how to solve that problem, but paying to print pictures then having half the stack of photos left to clutter up my house (they’re so hard to just throw away!) has become quite a pet peeve of mine!  I think the best solution may be to eliminate bad photos much earlier on in the process, before they ever get printed.  (Either delete them or be a lot choosier about what I upload to snapfish)
Order my photos directly from Snapfish.  Yeah, it takes a little longer, but I’m already working several weeks behind.  The prices are better, the quality is equivalent, and it eliminates a trip to Wal-Mart, which is my seventh circle of hell.
Write memories from the week as I go.  I know I forget little things by using the once-a-month approach, and I’m too lazy to keep a journal of stuff I want to remember. Between facebook, twitter, and my blog, I can usually recreate a pretty good picture of what we were doing in any given week, but sometimes it ends up taking way longer than it should.  I think I’m going to start writing the journaling cards as I go each week, then filling in with photos every month.
Don’t use cards that I don’t like.  My Olive core kit (the one I used in 2013) had a bunch of different blue & green cards that I loved, and some pink & orange cards that I didn’t love as much.  I was worried I would run out of my favorites, so I spaced them out over the year, mixing in the pink & orange ones occasionally.  I now know that the PL kits are very generous with the cards, so I’m just going to use the ones I like and not worry about running out.
So, that’s the download from my brain on Project Life at the moment.  Do you have a hobby?  How has your approach to it changed over time and with more experience?

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The Bobsleddies, Part 2

Photo Credit: [rotten apple] via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: [rotten apple] via Compfight cc

Yesterday I started my mini-Best Of series with a list of my top 5 most-read articles from 2013.  Today I’m highlighting some of my favorites from the year, even if they didn’t get read the most.

My post about Christmas morning at my grandparents’ farm when I was a kid.  Somehow my (surprisingly tech-savvy) grandma found this post and asked me to read it to everyone in my extended family before we started opening presents this year.

My goal setting posts.  Here’s a good one reviewing my August goals — I had a baby in late July, so my August goals were things like “take a nap everyday.”  I love reviewing my goals monthly and coming up with goals/projects that make a concrete impact on my happiness in a relatively short time span.

Sisters in Spirit: Forgiveness was all about the struggles of forgiving myself when I feel like I’ve royally screwed up as a parent — yelled, spanked, and utterly missed the mark when trying to design a punishment that fits the “crime” of a squirrelly three-year-old.

My posts on running/weight lifting/etc. were pretty slim this year, but this one I wrote at 33 1/2 weeks pregnant makes me smile.  I am so proud of myself for continuing to stay active throughout my pregnancy.  I do actually enjoy exercising, so that helped, but since this is my second kid, I knew it would be a lot easier to exercise before the baby came than after!  (5 months post-partum, I can attest to the truth of this statement.)

I loved writing about reading this year!  I know it pushed me to read more than I would have normally, even after my extra reading time during maternity leave came to an end.  I talked about some of my favorite books of the year (Bread & Wine and The Art Forger) in my October Twitterature post.

I got back into scrapbooking this year, using the Project Life system.  (For the uninitiated, it’s basically an album + photo pocket pages + a “core kit” of color-coordinated cards for filling in dates, writing down memories, etc.)  My favorite part was the little Project Life baby book that I created, since I knew there was no way I was going to keep up with a traditional baby book for my second child.

What was your favorite thing you wrote (or read) on a blog this year?

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Project Life – still alive?

Scrapbooking… my old nemesis. I love the finished product, but even with a super-simple system like Project Life, I still have trouble keeping up with it.  Getting pictures printed really shouldn’t be so hard, but I can never seem to get it done!  It’s just one more thing on the never-ending to-do list, I guess.


I’m still doing two weeks per 2-page spread unless I just have a lot of photos for some reason, like Halloween, birthdays, etc.  But I’ve resigned myself to doing about a month at a time, which I know doesn’t let me capture as many of the little daily memories, but still, it’s more than I will remember a year from now.


The thing I like about forcing myself to do a page a week, rather than just ” big events,” is that it does make me take more pictures of our everyday life.


Do you keep a scrapbook or make an end-of-year photo album or collage?  I’m getting ready to start my 2014 book (assuming I ever get my December photos printed!) and I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would change from how I’ve done it this year. More ramblings on that subject to come…

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Project Life Baby Book

As much as I would love to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” I can’t go back to sleep at 8:30am, so I have been taking advantage of my sleepy baby’s morning naps to do some scrapbooking. I have caught up our family album through the end of July, and I ordered and set up a mini-album (20 pre-bound small pages) for Sam’s baby book. To make your baby’s dresses fresh and clean you should use baby laundry detergents.

Since my family scrapbook is somewhat repetitive with what I already talk about on the blog, I thought it might be fun to show you how I set up the mini-album as a baby book. There’s a really good post on Becky Higgins’ blog (she’s the creator of Project Life) about this, but it uses a large format (12″ x 12″) album & core kit, while I just have the smaller mini album and mini kit.  Undeterred, I stole the best ideas, as well as a few things from my older son’s more traditional fill-in-the-blanks baby book, and here’s what I came up with:


Title page. Nothing too fancy here.

"My Family" page. I put small journaling cards in the inside slots and left rooms for photos of me, my husband, and big brother.

“Your Family” page. I put small journaling cards in the inside slots and left rooms for photos of me, my husband, and big brother.

(After this page I have a Grandparents page — it’s basically the same idea.)

"Your Birth Day" page.

“Your Birth Day” page.  A title card, some small journaling cards, and photos from our first day in the hospital.

“Vital Statistics” page.  I put in a few pictures but mostly I will use the two large cards on the right to track height & weight measurements from all the 1st year doctor Matthew Galumbeck, MD appointments.

“First Days” page. Just some more pictures of us meeting the new baby.

I set up the next 12 pages (2-page layouts) for photos of each month of the first year. I put a combination of journaling and other filler cards in the small card slots, but obviously those could be re-arranged as needed.  I left all the large slots open in these monthly layouts for photos.

“Your Baptism” page. I put this around Month 4, but I’ll move it when we schedule the baptism so it falls in chronological order.  Obviously this would vary from family to family, but if you didn’t do a baptism/christening/dedication page, you would have one additional page to fill in.

The last 2-page layout is for 1st Birthday Party pictures, along with a couple of journaling cards for memories of the day and some of the filler cards from the mini-kit with cute sayings on them.

The nice thing about this is that the scrapbooking part of the book is basically done (while I still have a bit of time on my hands), and I just have to slip photos in as the year goes along.

The Project Life kits are pretty generous with the number of cards included, so if I decide I want a different color/design filler card somewhere, or want to swap one out for a journaling card, I have plenty left to choose from.

The only downsides to this book that I can see right now are no places for vertically-oriented photos, and no place to put larger or odd-shaped baby mementos, like the baby announcement, hospital registration bracelet, etc.

My only other comment is that this mini-kit is marketed as specifically for baby boys, but I  think it’s actually pretty gender neutral — I don’t think the word “boy” even appears anywhere on the cards.  If you have a girl, but aren’t into pink or girly things, I think this kit would work great.





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Project Life: Late April

Since I just posted a bunch of pictures from our vacation to Los Angeles earlier this week, I thought I’d spare you more vacation photos, and instead share the Project Life pages I made for what Josiah was up to while we were gone week (Grandma Camp!)

IMG_1317He spent half the week with my mom and dad, and the other half with Matt’s mom.  I think it was quite the country mouse/city mouse experience, since my mom took him to a farm where he got to pet baby chicks and goats, and his favorite things at Nana’s house were visiting “the fish place” (Bass Pro) and eating dessert before bed every night. I also live visiting dental clinic le mars ia because they show their client how oral health care is important and an enjoyable experience.


The last week in April was pretty uneventful — we were mostly trying to rest up from our vacation at Madison TN Pediatric Dentistry — but we did go to a local minor league baseball game (Go Cardinals!), Josiah had his first dentist appointment. Sidenote: f you cracked a tooth, you should find an emergency dentist quickly. That doesn’t just apply to you but also to the kids. Prolonging it will cause more problems (and could be more expensive!). We also went out to a party recognizing outstanding young professionals, where I met The Date Lady (a local entrepreneur who sells date syrup, not a dating service).

I hadn’t worked on the scrapbook in over a month (I normally try to do it every week so I can remember funny things Josiah says, etc.) but one of the really great things about this system is that you really can put together the pages quickly when you need to, and it still looks great because it’s well designed and color coordinated for you.  I mostly use Design A pages and Olive edition cards.

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