Friday, April 30, 2010

Last Call - Who Do You Think You Are?

Running hard at the National Genealogy Conference that is being held on my home turf in Salt Lake City this week. Have much to share, but will have to wait until next week as we're running out the door to get back to the conference.

In the meantime....

Don't forget to set your VCR, DVR, TIVO or whatever wonderful contraption that you use to record TV shows for your watching convenience. Tonight is the LAST episode for this season's "Who Do You Think You Are?" series. Spike Lee's will be sharing his family stories. Personally, my favorite episode was last week's journey with Susan Sarandon. It was a good lesson that every story has at least two sides to it. It was also a powerful reminder that we need to know our past to truly appreciate our future.

My kids are even hooked on the show!

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Face Bracelet

I can't wait to share my follow up to the post Giving Gifts that Tell Stories. I've been meaning to try this project that we found at Another Day in the Life for months now. If you're faster than I am, you can easily get this done in time for Mother's Day!

While I absolutely LOVE the sweet vintage artwork, I just knew this was the perfect way to share my cherished photographs of those people most important to me! I had plenty of pictures, I just needed to gather a few supplies...

1. Shrinky Dinks for Ink Jet Printers
. You can buy them online, but I was able to find a package at my local Michaels Craft store for about $10.00 for 6 sheets. (Be sure to use an INK JET printer. The instructions implicitly state NOT to use your laser printer as it gets too hot, but always the one to test theories, I sent a sheet through and can personally confirm that laser printers will not work for this project!)

2. 1/8" hole punch.
I can never find my tools when I need them. You can be the most organized person in the world (WHICH I'M NOT) ...but if you have kids that abscond your equipment for their own random art projects, you'd better be familiar with their hiding spots!

3. Corner rounder punch. Ugh! I have one of these too. I gave up trying to find mine and just curved the covers using a pair of scissors.

4. Clear Acrylic Sealer. I have boatloads of this...and the real miracle is that I know where it is!

5. Charm Bracelet with jump rings
for attaching charms.

6. Scrap paper and Mod Podge glue
- This is optional, but I felt like the white back of each charm was PERFECT for some fun scrapbook papers that I could attach with my ever handy bottle of Mod Podge glue.

7. Oh yes, you'll need an oven too!

8. This project also requires a computer with some type of photo editing software
(i.e. Photoshop Elements) and an ink jet printer.

Pictures need to measure approximately 1.5 x 3". Once the material shrinks your final charm will measure a mere .6 x 1.2" so photographs of individuals with simple backgrounds work best. You'll still need to make some cropping decisions. Notice that I cut off a few tops of heads and even an ear or two. Using Corel Draw, I started with a grid (5 across, 3 down) that I could use to place each picture. Once the picture filled the rectangle to my liking, I cropped it to its final size. I am showing the final page using all black and white pictures, but color pictures worked well too.

This next step is VERY IMPORTANT. You must decrease the opacity of the pictures to accommodate the shrinking process. Here are the pictures at 50% transparency. The original color / intensity will return after baking. Also keep in mind that the Shrinky Dink sheet measures slightly smaller than the standard Letter size sheet. Make sure that your pictures will fit on the 8 x 10 sheet.Print the sheet and cut out each picture using a pair of scissors. If you want, round the corners using the corner punch.

Use the 1/8" hole punch to punch a hole in the top corner of each charm.

{I like a vintage look, so I antiqued the edges of each charm with a quick rub of
Jim Holtz Distress Ink. I LOVE the color Vintage Photo on EVERYTHING!}

Instructions for baking your Shrinky Dink charms come with the packaging, so I wont go into too much detail here. Just be prepared for the edges of the charms to curl. I used two flat pieces of metal to flatten each charm AS SOON as they came out of the oven. They cool quickly, so only shrink a few charms at a time.

After the pieces have cooled, add some coordinating scraps of paper to the backs of each charm. You could also add names / dates of each person. Spray the charms with the sealant. Allow the sealer to dry completely.

{At first, I was regretting this extra step because it added so much time to the project. Now that it's finished and dangling from my wrist I am OH SO glad that I took the time.}

All that's left is to add a jump ring that will let you attach the charm to your bracelet.

I've been wearing my face bracelet for about four hours now. I LOVE everything about it. It's the perfect weight...very light! It has just the right level of tinkling sound...not too loud, but just enough to notice it! I'm going to be careful not to let it get wet as I don't think water will be kind to it.

The best part is staring at the bracelet and thinking of the stories that accompany each picture. Right now I'm practically carrying a library on my wrist!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Prom Story that Involves the Cat... and a mouse

Last week was my son's Senior Prom. It brought back memories from one of last year's dances. Can't imagine that we'll ever forget this story...

The kids had decided to have a formal dinner at our house before the dance. We moved all the furniture out of the family room and set up five round tables to accommodate the 15 couples who were coming over. The house was clean and the dinner was smelling heavenly. Most of the kids had arrived and they were busy admiring each others attire and making small talk in the moments before the dinner was served.

In sauntered Trent's cat. T rescued her as when he was a sixth grader and she's been our house cat ever since. She really is a sweet kitty. The entire neighborhood loves her because she's such an amazing mouser. Ah, but I digress from the story (or do I?)

As I was saying, the cat sauntered in as only a cat who owns the building dares to walk. She looked around the room at all the kids in their fine outfits and then with great drama puked all over the family room floor. But wait...it get's better! It turns out that the cat had just eaten a mouse who's contents are in the mess now spewed all over the floor where said dinner is moments from taking place. I really couldn't ask Trent to clean up given that he was wearing an $80 tuxedo rental. I grabbed the mess and ran for the door. Really quite heroic of me given the fact that I'm terrified of mice.

Teenagers are quite an amazing species. By the time I had returned from my errand they had moved on to eating dinner and the events that moments earlier had been under foot had been completely forgotten.

This same kitty brought hubby and I His and Her gifts to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary last week. Lucky me found not one, but two dead mice on the porch on our special day!

Our pets are important threads in our life stories. What stories are your pets telling?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Giving Gifts that Tell Stories

Mother's Day is still a few weeks away. This year, it's May 9th. At least, it is here in the US. The UK's Mothering Sunday or Mum's Day happened on March 14. So, depending on where you live, you might have a few weeks still to pull it together.

I have the BEST intentions of paying proper tribute to the important women in my life, but life usually has a way of marching forward with me always racing to keep up! I thought I'd share a couple of meaningful gift ideas that are sure to be remembered and talked about for years (and years)! Be sure to leave a comment with your own favorite gift idea as a way to inspire other readers or maybe just get the creative juices flowing!

The first gift idea is one that I received from my deceased mother. Mom died in 2003. She had been sick for years, but all of us planned on having her around until she was an old lady! She didn't have time to wrap up loose ends or make final arrangements for who got her earthly possessions. Unfortunately, many of her cherished pieces of jewelry were given away to strangers... there's a HUGE, juicy story there, but I'll try not to deviate from the story at hand. My sister was the hero who got her hands on this bracelet and gave it to me as a way to remember Mom.

It's a simple idea. Just take a silver charm bracelet and add charms that 'tell your story.' Mom spent years deciding which charms were 'worthy' of her bracelet. It's an easy story to read. She LOVED gardening, and more importantly, the garden LOVED her as was evident by the bushels and bushels of food that she shared with the neighbors throughout the years. (For some reason, I didn't inherit the green thumb, unless you count growing weeds!) The hummingbird was her favorite of the feathered variety and she always kept a feeder at the kitchen window for her viewing enjoyment as she worked at the sink. Mom was a big fan of saving money. When I saw the silver piggy bank, complete with little coin, I knew that she was coming back from the grave to remind me to be more careful with my money. As kids, we ate TVP (most people wont even know what that is) and drank powder milk to save money. We didn't appreciate the stories that Mom told of the Great Depression. We would roll our eyes and ask her how could she remember considering that she was an infant. She told the stories anyways and always ended with sayings like "a penny saved is a penny earned," "a fool and his money will soon part" and "the best things in life are free."

As you work your way down the bracelet, each charm tells a precious portion of my mother's story that she wanted remembered.

Several years ago, I was introduced to a darling story called Nana's Charm Bracelet. This Grandma loved each of her grandchildren and wanted them to always be with her. She created a bracelet featuring a silver silhouette of each grandchild. She distinguished each charm by engraving the child's name and birth date on it. The story was told through the eyes of one of the grandchildren. The author remembered how much she loved to sit next to Nana and find her special memory among all of her cousins. It was easy to recreate my own bracelet. Mine is a little sparse, but with time I'll be able to add charms as our family grows.

I have another bracelet idea that I'm working on...but once again, I'm running to keep up. I'll have to save that story for another post. Check back, the juices are flowing here and more ideas are coming!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Deal of the Week!

Look at what I stumbled across. EVERY reason to pack up the kids and make some family stories that will be remembered for many years!

Top Pick! National Park Week - For FREE! Of course, a new paragraph in our story is the fact that we paid $80 to see the sights the week before. No worries. It was worth EVERY penny!

Learn from someone elses' mistakes: don't try to visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It's closed for at least two more weeks.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Three Days, Three National Parks

We have lived in Utah for ten years and yet, we still have a mile-long list of sights to see and things to do within the state. Somehow, having having a graduating senior has caused us to kick it into high gear and start checking things off the list.

Our story begins with the fact that we had three National Parks to visit and three days to do it in. We have three boys, so we decided to assigned each a day and location to be in charge of. This meant figuring out the best route, best activities and of course, the BEST places to EAT!

Day One, Park One: Bryce Canyon

We had heard that Bryce Canyon was incredible. The sights took our breathe away! So did ALL the snow. We had planned for leisurely hikes and outdoor time, but it was COLD...much too cold for the dummies who only packed shorts!

We stayed at the historic Ruby Inn. The kids have decided that historic is another word for OLD! Honestly, they are spot on. All the snow meant that nothing was open. We had two dinner choices: eat at the Inn's only restaurant, or go hungry. In hindsight, I should have packed more snacks. The pile of snacks that I thought would last three days were eaten on the four-hour car ride to the first destination.

See what I mean about breathtaking sights? Every direction was equally spectacular!

The only problem with the vast expanse of scenic beauty is the lack of cellular coverage. Remember, this is DAY ONE and already our first born's head is ready to explode from lack of air time with the important relationships in his life. Big clue to where we rate on the food chain!

This was a notable highlight of Day One. Kid in charge read about a mossy cave that was said to be worth the hike. It was!

Day Two, Park Two: Zion National Park
After our visit to Bryce Canyon, I was convinced that there was nothing more beautiful on this earth. I forgot about Zion National Park. It was a different kind of beauty, but equally breathtaking!
Kid #2 planned the events of the day. He was kind enough to let the brothers take off to hike Angel's Landing...not for the faint of heart. Supposedly there is a stretch that involves a narrow ridge with support chains that you can hang on to in an effort not to fall 1500 feet down the canyon. Somehow, that didn't sound even remotely fun to me...but it was quite the party for two adventurous boys and their dad. Kevin froze up halfway across the ridge and had to turn back. I'm just glad that I didn't know about the five people who have died trying to hike this trail; the most recent one being just last year.

While Dad and brothers were off being adventurous, Kid #2 and I saw the sights through the eyes of a camera lens. No thrill-seekers here. But give me a IMAX screen (and a bucket of popcorn) and I'll live vicariously through someone much braver!

Whenever we are on vacation we inevitably run into our neighbors while we are 100's (and in one case 1000's) of miles from home. For us, "What Happens in Vegas, will NEVER Stay in Vegas." A very good reason to ALWAYS mind our manners!

Day Three, Park Three: Grand Canyon
We did it! We breezed through the first two destinations and were heading into day number three when we found out that the 18-year-old in charge hadn't done his homework. Of course, who would have thought that the Grand Canyon could possibly be closed. Not us!

Uh oh!

We found accommodations at a quaint Inn on Jacob's Lake. Oh, and might I add, quite historic. Kids will tell you that a motel using the words quaint AND historic to describe it means that it is OLDER than the hills! Kevin and I cracked up because everything about this motel brought back memories of the family vacations of our youth.

Our room wasn't quite as old as these out-buildings, but not by much! Thankfully there was one available cafe. The dining room wouldn't open for a couple more weeks, but we were able to huddle at the counter (along with the other stranded family and two employees) and enjoy a decent meal. The peach pie was actually worth the trip.

Here's where we had some decisions to make. We could admit defeat and return home. Two out of three ain't bad, right? But we were way too close to give up now. We took a vote and decided to take off early the next morning (and by early I mean before 9 am) and drive the three hours to the south rim. Yes...a six hour detour. Thank you dear 18-year-old!

Here's a sight to warm any mother's heart. Kids were too far away to hear me yell. They tell me that it was safer than it looked.

I easily have another 70 - 80 photos that I'm happy to share, if you're interested. The point really isn't each stunning picture. It's the story behind the picture. Kevin and I are betting that decades from now the kids will look back fondly on these photographs and the stories will be even grander than the one just told!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Enough Already

What's wrong with this picture?
And this one?How about the fact that it's April 6th. We want Spring! Winter was supposed to be over March 22nd. Enough Already!!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Judging a Book by its Cover

I love a good book. Who doesn't? I needed a book that would share our family stories in a manner that would appeal to my family members. I knew that the books had to be simple if I was going to get them done. They also had to be short and sweet if I wanted my kids to actually pick them up and read them.

What I came up with isn't a new idea, but maybe these versions will help you see how easily they can be reproduced. Hopefully they will inspire you with some additional ways of preserving your own stories.

Each book starts with the same basic supplies. I tried a couple of different methods for creating the pocket pages. First effort used envelopes covered with scrapbook paper. Cutting open one end of the sealed envelope created the pocket that I used to store little mini stories. It didn't take long to realize that this method was TOO MUCH WORK! Next, I tried coordinating scrapbook paper (look for the stiffer cardstock). After folding the paper to create a folder, I cut each page to the necessary size and then sealed the sides with a straight stitch using my sewing machine. BETTER. I decided that the third method was the easiest. I simply found a box of coordinating cards (already matching, already cut to the perfect size, AND already folded!). All that was left to do was stitch up the sides.
I used a heavier top-stitch thread for sewing the edges. Also make sure that you back-stitch at the beginning and end of each run, otherwise the stitching can unravel.

After I stitched all of the pages, I rounded the corners on the pocket side using a simple paper punch.

I like a vintage look, so I aged the pages with a quick rub of distress ink on the edges.

The cover is just book-board covered with scrapbook paper. Each cover is unique and matches the story on the inside pages. The binding is super simple too. The pages are held together with metal book rings.

Now comes the fun stuff.... what to put in your book!

One of my books documents all the houses that I've lived in throughout my life. It was an amazing journey to record (try to, anyways) all of the locations. It also makes a great time line for remembering the sequences of other life events. My sweet hubby sent me (and BGF) on a picture-taking vacation back to California to get images of houses that I had lived but never taken pictures of. Think about it. Do you have pictures of the outside of your house? I loved seeing pictures of my grandparents houses... I just never thought that maybe my future grandkids would like to see where I lived.

Here are portions of my Home Sweet Home book:Pockets contain brief memories of each location. SHORT and SWEET means it gets done...and gets read by anyone picking up the book!

I printed addresses and dates that I lived at each address (sometimes they are just guesses, taken from dates written on the back of the photograph and from my mother's written history.) This information was printed to clear stickers. I found that it made it easier to place and kept the pages clean looking.

This is my family history book. This one helps my kids understand who belongs to who and how we are all connected.
The next one is a slight variation that includes the immigration of our ancestors to the United States and ultimately to the Utah Valley. This books gets a lot of attention during our July 24th (Pioneer Day) celebrations.

The pockets hold cards that detail each family members personal journey. It records dates and company names. It also shares personal memories and hardships that our ancestors endured in their quest for a better life.

{I happen to LOVE playing with photographs so I took the time to Photoshop each family members face, removing any distracting backgrounds. This gave me a digital image that I could use on a multitude of projects. I faded the face and included it in the background of each fact card. As you can imagine, it was a bit of WORK!}

And this is our service book. I originally made a copy for our nephew who was going to serve a two-year mission for our Church in Mexico. I wanted him to know the legacy that he shares and the many family members who had gone before him setting the example of dedicated service.

As you can see, the possibilities are as endless as the stories that need to be told!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Crazy is now the norm

What a crazy week...but hey, it goes with the crazy month, so it's all normal here. Can't believe that it's April. Of course, March and February also came as shocks.

This Saturday night will find us at the Fort Union Deseret Book's Ladies Night. We LOVE participating at this event and are amazed that this will be our third year there. I'll never forget the first time we showed up having no idea what to expect. Suni and I were blown away by how many women could cram into one store. The energy level is at about ceiling level. We can't wait to be part of it again!
We'll be sharing our two newest projects. We just shipped the Family Charts and Mom Letter Blocks. These blocks are the same concept as the Family blocks that we shared in March. Go here for instructions to make your own. We designed some MOM papers for anyone who doesn't want to print their own. We might be a bit partial, but we LOVE how they turned out. This set features my hubby's sweet cousin and family. She is an amazing photographer. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have six gorgeous kids!
Did we mention that everything is 20% off during Ladies Night? If all the giveaways and entertainment isn't enough to get you into the store...surely saving 20% off EVERYTHING will make it worth the trip!