Dec 29, 2008

Guilt-Free Resolutions

Happy New Year! I can’t believe 2008 is gone. It’s been a year of major changes for me, and I’m glad to put it behind me. I always love the feeling a new year brings. I like having a fresh start and the chance to look back on the previous year and make goals for the new one.

I have a whole list of resolutions, most of them not related to scrapbooking. My scrapbooking goal for the year is to learn more about digital scrapbooking so that I can start doing more of it myself, as well as be able to share more tips and techniques with all of you.

Scrapbooking may not be a high enough priority in your life to even make it on your resolution list. And you know what? That is perfectly okay with me. I’ve done my share of making resolutions that are sure to do nothing but make me feel like a failure and pile on the guilt. I’ve decided I don’t need that. Believe me, I’m good enough at the guilt thing, I don’t need to make goals to achieve it.

This year, as you make resolutions, scrapbooking or otherwise, be sure to pick ones that are realistic for you, your timeframe, and your current situation in life. Scrapbooking is somewhat of a paradoxical situation. When you have a young family, you take lots of pictures and want to scrapbook them, but don’t have the time. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling guilty for not being able to keep up on my children’s scrapbooks. I’ve finally decided, It’s okay. If I don’t have the time, there’s no purpose achieved by constantly feeling guilty about it. Once I came to grips with that, I decided the best I could do for now was to keep the pictures that I take organized so that when we are searching for a picture, it’s easy to find, and then when I do have more time to spend scrapbooking, the pictures will be sorted and labeled.

So with that said, here are a few ideas for scrapbooking resolutions. Many of them are designed to produce less guilt about not being able to do more. And some are just fun ideas I ran across that I’d like to incorporate when I have the time:

• Worry less about scrapbooking. The pictures aren’t going anywhere.
• Spend time journaling. The details will then be available when you have time to scrapbook.
• Start a Blog. Blogging is a great way to record the simple details of life that make it so interesting.
• Use up the supplies you have. Don’t purchase more supplies just to store them on the shelf.
• If you have products you know you won’t use, sell them. Ebay is a great place for this.
• When making cards, make two instead of one. It only takes a little more time and will save you time when you need a card in the future. Or you can use the extra cards to give away in a set as a gift.
• When making your own layouts, make an extra one to have “Just add pictures” scrapbooking pages you can give as gifts.
• Complete one layout per week.
• Hold a monthly scrapbooking party with friends.
• Learn one new digital technique every month.
• Attend one scrapbooking weekend retreat this year.
• Submit a layout to a scrapbooking magazine.

I wish you a very happy New Year and I hope this year will be a great one. I look forward to sharing ideas with you and learning right along with you as we discover together the amazing world of scrapbooking. If there are ever any topics you’d like me to cover, please leave me a comment.

Return to the Neighborhood.

Dec 27, 2008

New Blog

I've been selected by Prevention Magazine to try out, and blog about, a new diet plan. Perhaps you've heard of it--The Flat Belly Diet. I submitted a writing sample and was excited to be selected out of hundreds of applicants.

My Buzz Blog (Prevention's blogging terminology) is located here. Come on over and bring all your friends. I'll have free carrot sticks for everyone who visits. :) I'll give you the scoop about the diet and my honest opinion about what works, what doesn't, and how I've made adjustments to tailor it to my own personal dieting style. (Yes, sad to say, I've been dieting long enough to develop a personal style.)

So far it looks pretty promising. I've been doing the diet for three weeks today and have lost 15 pounds so far. Seven of those were during the initial four-day jumpstart. So come on over and follow my progress. To learn more about the diet, click here.

Dec 26, 2008

Scrapbooking Calendars

Now that the Christmas hustle and bustle is over, it’s time to start thinking about the new year. I love this time of year and the opportunity it gives me to reflect on the year ahead and organize my life again. I have a large family, so when I think of organization, the first thing that comes to mind is our family calendar. We use it to keep track of everyone’s activities. I’d be lost without it—there’s way too much going on to remember it all.

So, on that note, today I’m going to give you some ideas on making calendars for the new year. Scrapbooking calendars are fun to make and also make great gifts. You can create a calendar using traditional scrapbooking methods, or design it digitally. There are many digital websites that have calendar templates available. Some even have the design done for you and you can just add in your own birthdays, anniversaries, and other important dates. Here is one created for your computer desktop for December. Just do a Google search for digital scrapbooking calendars and you'll find lots, and most of them are free!

For this blog, we are going to stick with making calendars using traditional methods. First, make a calendar template on your computer using any calendar software. There are a variety of templates available in Microsoft word. Add in special dates such as birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. If you use a calendar program such as Calendar Creator, it will carry your dates over from year to year. If you don’t have a program you want to use, check out or

After making the calendar at home, you can save it on a disk or thumb drive and take it to a copy store such as Kinko’s and have them enlarge it to whatever size you want. I like a 12x12 size. This gives me a full 12x12 space to scrapbook on for each month. Kinko’s can also add a spiral binding. Another, even simpler, option is to purchase a blank calendar from your local craft store. They are available in a variety of sizes. The only disadvantage to this is you have to handwrite details on the calendar pages.

Now it’s time to decide what you want on each page. One fun idea is to use pictures taken during that month from the previous year. Make sure they are themed, such as snow pictures for winter, swimming pictures for the summer months, and maybe pictures in leaves for the fall. Another idea is to include pictures of family members who have a birthday or anniversary that month.

Now for the fun part, create your pages just as you would create a scrapbook page. Cover your design area with patterned paper. If you are using a 12x12 calendar you can use a whole sheet, otherwise trim it to the desired size. Add photographs, matting, stickers and embellishments. Pretty much anything you would put in a regular scrapbook can be used on a calendar also. You don’t need to feel like they are wasted, because when the year is over, you can cut off the binding and put the pages in an album.

I hope this has given you a few ideas for making your own scrapbook calendar. Have fun with it. In a few short hours you should be able to create something you can use and enjoy all year long. Once you make one, you will keep your eye out this year for fun photo opportunities for next year’s calendar.

Return to the Neighborhood.

Dec 22, 2008

Scrapping Christmas Traditions

When you think of the word tradition, what comes to mind? The first things I think of are family traditions centered around the holidays, particularly Christmas. Often traditions have roots so far in the past that you may not even think of it as a tradition. As you're running around in all the holiday hustle and bustle, take some time to think about your Christmas preparations and which ones you traditionally do every year, then contemplate which would make an interesting scrapbook page.

For example, the tradition of opening presents. Some families open presents on Christmas Eve while everyone is gathered, some open one present on Christmas Eve, and some wait until Christmas morning. Pictures taken while opening presents and a blurb about why and how you do it, would make a fun page.

Decorating the house is always an important Christmas tradition, and an easy one to scrap about. Have you ever considered taking pictures of the decorating process, from carting the boxes up from the basement, to mom holding the ladder while dad climbs on the roof to hang the lights? These activities are not often considered traditions, but they typically are done the same way every year, and therefore constitute a tradition.

Christmas firsts are always important and fun to scrapbook. For example, baby’s first Christmas, the first Christmas in a new home, or your first Christmas as a couple. Of course, decorating the tree is a tradition in most homes. I gave some scrapbooking ideas for ‘trimming the tree’ in my last blog. You can read it here.

To come up with scrapping ideas of your own, ask yourself, “What is it that our family does every year at Christmas time?” It could be something simple like watching a movie after dinner. Or it could be something very unique. I know a family who hides a special ornament on Christmas Eve, and whoever finds it on Christmas morning gets a special present. Traditions such as these are what make your family unique. Preserve them by creating a scrapbook page, so the tradition can be remembered and passed down through the generations. I like the idea of creating separate Christmas albums. Then they can be placed on the coffee table as part of your Christmas decorations where everyone can enjoy them year after year.

I hope this Christmas season brings you all the hopes and wishes of your heart. Take some time to tell the people in your lives how important they are. As our beloved prophet, President Thomas S. Monson said, "Stresses in our lives come regardless of our circumstances. We must deal with them the best we can. But we should not let them get in the way of what is most important—and what is most important almost always involves the people around us. Often we assume that they must know how much we love them. But we should never assume; we should let them know."

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Dec 19, 2008

Trimming the Tree

For years, I've wanted a fancy Christmas tree, with matching ornaments, perfectly placed and not meant for touching. But recently, I look at my small tree, with its twisted branches and all of the homemade ornaments we've collected over the years, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Our tree ranges from the fancy ornaments Grandma purchases for each of the children every year, to the homemade bows and gingerbread men we made the first year we bought our tree, but didn't have money to buy ornaments. After all these years, most of the gingerbread men are missing an arm or leg, and the bows have long been smashed and misshapen, but the kids still insist on putting them on the tree.

Since I have a large family, every year I get new ornaments the kids make at school. My favorites are the ones that include their picture on them, that way I can remember which year they were made and which child gave them to me. In fact, the angel on the top of our tree, was made by one of the kids in school. It is made from a paper plate folded in the shape of an angel. Over the years, I've debated about buying a fancy angel for the top, but I can't stand the thought of replacing that paper plate angel.

We also have many ornaments we've made doing the Christmas activity that comes in the Friend magazine each year. There are cutouts of shepherds, sheep, Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus. We have popsicle stick mangers covered with hay, and candy canes made from twisted pipe cleaners.

While trimming the tree, our time is spent listening to the kids saying, remember when . . . or I made this one in 3rd grade . . . and this one I got the year we went to grandmas. Each ornament has a special memory attached to it, and listening to the kids recount them each year is one of the best parts of Christmas.

Now, this blog is supposed to be about scrapbooking. So, here's my idea. This year, as your children recount the story of each ornament, write them down. Take pictures while you trim the tree. You can even take closeups of the ornaments, and then write the story of each one. It will give you something to look back on when your children are no longer around to tell you the stories. It would make a great Christmas gift to give your grown-up children, so they can share it with their own children and say, I remember when . . .

Return to the Neighborhood.

Dec 15, 2008

Gingerbread Houses

If you want a creative and impressive centerpiece during the holidays, nothing is better than a homemade gingerbread house, and they are not as difficult to make as you might think. It's also a great way to get your children involved. Just be sure to buy extra candy, because for every piece that goes on the house, invariably one goes in their mouth as well.

The first thing to decide is what type of house you want to build. You can always use the traditional square house, but don't limit yourself. Pretty much any type of house could be built out of gingerbread. I've seen farmhouses, victorian, and even an igloo. You could even build something other than a house. One year, we built a gingerbread train. It was darling and a fun change of pace.

I found some ready-made templates you could use, or design your own. These are from Bob Vila, the home improvement guru: A-Frame, Colonial, Saltbox, and Side Gable houses. Or here is a simple, traditional square house from

Next, prepare a base for your house. The size of the final structure will determine how sturdy the base needs to be. Keep in mind that you may want to move the house from place to place and pick accordingly. You can use plywood, a cookie sheet, or a sturdy piece of cardboard. Layer several sheets of tinfoil over the base.

There are many recipes for gingerbread available on the internet. I've included one here, but feel free to try a different one:


1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1-1/3 cups molasses
4 eggs
8 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 pounds confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 egg whites


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the molasses and eggs. Combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour, baking soda, salt, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger; beat into the molasses mixture. Gradually stir in the remaining flour by hand to form a stiff dough. Divide dough into 2 pieces.
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes. Place pieces 1 inch apart onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

In a medium bowl, sift together confectioners' sugar and cream of tartar. Blend in egg whites. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat for about 5 minutes, or until mixture is thick and stiff. Keep covered with a moist cloth and plastic wrap until ready to decorate.

While assembling, keep in mind the following tips:

- Roll dough to 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out windows, doors, etc. before baking.
- Allow the gingerbread to cool thoroughly before assembling.
- Adjust the consistency of the icing by adding more egg whites if the icing is too dry or more powdered sugar if it is too wet. It should be thick and stiff.
- Use canned goods from the pantry to stabilize the walls during assembly; remove them before adding the roof.
- Apply icing-glue to the bottom of your pieces for more stability; adhere them to the foil/plywood base.
- Allow 30 minutes for the front, side walls and back of house to dry and firmly set before adding the roof.
- Allow house to dry completely before decorating: a minimum of 4 hours, preferably overnight.
- Apply candy decorations by putting a small dab of icing to the underside of the candy and hold it in place until set.
- If you do not have time to do the baking, you can use cardboard or graham crackers and still show off your decorating skills.

Don't worry if you make a mistake. You can cover gaps and even cracks in the gingerbread with icing and candy. There are tons of fun ideas for decorating. You can use coconut for snow, upside down ice cream cones for trees, pretzel squares for shutters, tootsie rolls for logs, zebra stripes gum for shingles, marshmallows for snowmen, you get the idea. Check out the candy aisle at the grocery store and you'll come up with all sorts of ideas. Don't forget the bulk food bins, so you can buy just a few pieces of many different candies for more variety.

Most of all, have fun! Building a gingerbread house can be a family tradition your children will look forward to and always remember.

Return to the Neighborhood!

Now for a self-indulgent side note:

My daughter went on a blind date on Friday. It was fun watching her get ready and wonder about if her date would be cute and what he was like. When she came home, she said he was kind of shy, but she had fun. They built gingerbread houses and drove around to see Christmas lights. I thought that was a pretty creative date idea for boys to come up with. Here's the house she and her date made. Isn't it cute?

Dec 12, 2008

Easy Neighborhood Christmas Gifts

Well, it's started. Almost every night, the doorbell rings, and some child is at the door with a Christmas treat or present to share with us. I'm not sure where the tradition of giving neighbor gifts began. I wonder if it's an LDS only phenomenon, but nevertheless, when I get gifts from my neighbors, I feel like I need to give a gift in return.

I decided to share some easy, crafty, gift ideas with you. I've picked things that will be easy on your wallet, but are still fun and creative.

For any family who has toddler's, I'm sure you've heard of the game, "Don't Eat Pete". My kids love it. Even my bigger kids play--okay, so maybe they are humoring the smaller ones, but I think secretly they still like it.

Laminate the Don't Eat Pete game. You can get a color or black and white copy here. Attach the Christmas M&M poem, with a bag of M&M's.

Go to the Dollar Store and purchase a small cutting board, oven mitt, and a 6-pack of candy bars. Wrap a ribbon around them and attach the instructions for this fun candy bar game.

Purchase an ornament and then attach a card explaining the legend or meaning behind the symbol. You can find examples here. See the examples of tags below.

Add a baggie of Reindeer Food to the front of a gift as an embellishment.

You can also use Candy Grams which are super easy and fun. Here are a few ideas. Click on this link for tons more!

-Candle: Thanks for letting your light shine.
-Measuring Cups: Wishing you joy beyond measure.
-Bubble Bath: May your holidays bubble over with fun.
-Chocolate Orange: Orange you glad it's Christmas?
-Cookie Dough: Here's a little extra dough this Christmas.

You get the idea. They are kind of corny, but fun. I hope these ideas will help get your imagination started. If you know of a fun idea, I'd love to hear about it. Have a happy holiday!

Return to the Neighborhood.

Dec 6, 2008

Organized Christmas

Well, the season is upon us. No matter what we do, or whether we are ready, Christmas is coming. Lists to make, gifts to buy, cookies to bake, decorations to hang, presents to wrap . . . you know, you've been there. I have to consciously be aware of my state of mind throughout the holiday season, or I quickly find myself slipping to the side of commercialism and leaving the true meaning of Christmas behind.

In my quest for being organized this Christmas, so that I have time for the things that matter most, I found a very cool website you need to check out. It's called Organized Christmas. It has daily tips and inspiration for keeping your Christmas organized and under control.

It also includes ideas to cut the costs of Christmas. Check out the following links for some unique ideas:

Make a holiday budget.
Print a holiday budget planner.
Understand the unwritten rules of gift giving.
Save money on holiday meals.
Beat the holiday grocery game.
Deck the halls with frugal holiday decorations.

It also has a section on Christmas crafts, which includes thing such as gingerbread houses, (including a printable template), gifts in a jar, and a magic elf tradition. You will find a daily holiday tip, and fun things to print, such as gift tags, calendars, poems, and more. There's a Christmas Countdown calendar telling you exactly what you should be doing every day to get things ready. They are simple things like, plan holiday baking, make room for new toys, create a Christmas card list--all things you would likely do anyway, but in an organized system.

Please don't be overwhelmed, thinking you need to use all the ideas available on this website. Remember, the goal is to eliminate some stress, not increase it. I wish you luck, preparing for Christmas. Never forget the real reason we celebrate.

Return to the Neighborhood.

Dec 5, 2008

File Folder Albums

I was looking around on the internet the other day, looking for something new I could share with you. On the Two Peas in a Pod website, I ran across a project which I think is totally ingenious and very cool—File Folder Albums. Be sure to go to the link and check it out. You can look inside the above album and see all the pages. It's totally amazing!

Basically, you take several file folders, 3-hole punch them, and then use the fronts, backs, and insides as your scrapbook pages. The really useful thing is you can also label the pages on the file folder tab that sticks out.

I haven’t made one yet, but I’ve got tons of ideas and can’t wait to get started. It would be perfect for a scrapbooking Calendar. Turn the file folders horizontally. On the inside of each folder, print a simple calendar and attach it to the bottom. Then decorate the inside top with the name of the month and a scrapbooking layout including pictures, journaling, quotes or anything you want.

You could either decorate the outsides of the file folder now or save them for later, decorating them with photos of activities you participated in that month. If you don’t want them plain in the meantime, you could cover them in a patterned paper applicable to the monthly theme, which you will use later for the background of your layout. If you don’t like the Calendar idea, you could still use twelve file folders, label the tabs with each month and just create scrapbook pages for each month of the year.

These would be a super fun activities for kids. They could make them as a memento of the school year, including their favorite artwork and assignments they are particularly proud of. Of course, being a writer, I’d encourage you to include a sample of their writing. It is fun to look back at their handwriting as well as the way they put words together.

Older kids could create one file folder for each of their friends, put their name on the tab, and create layouts about their friend and fun things they’ve done together. As a parent, you can use this same idea and create one tab for each child.

It could become a family tradition. Every year after Christmas, together as a family you could create a file folder for that year’s Christmas, including photos taken, family recipes, Christmas cards you received, etc. Then just write the year on the tab and add it to your album.

This brings up the idea of binding. There are many ways you can bind the file folders together. Since you three hold punched them, you could even put them in a hardback binder that has three rings.

Another possibility is to use metal clasp rings that open and close. There are many s sizes available to allow as many folders together as you’d like. There are many fun metal hinges on the market that can be used, or you could simply use ribbon.

Regardless of the type of binding you decide to use, it’s a good idea to reinforce the holes, so the folders don’t eventually tear through. There are clear round stickers made for reinforcing punched holes available at any office supply store. It also helps to glue your paper down before punching the holes, to give one extra layer of reinforcement.

One other binding option, if you aren't creating a very bulky album is to open all the file folders, lay them on top of one another, and using a sturdy sewing machine, stitch several times up and down the spine of the folders.

I’m going to make one of these during Christmas break. I’ll be sure and post some pictures on my blog.

Return to the Neighborhood.

Dec 2, 2008

I Did It!!

Well, it's done. I finally submitted my first manuscript today. It's scary and exciting all at the same time. I know on my blog it said my goal was to submit in September, but December is kinda close, isn't it?

The manuscript was short about 5,000 words and I struggled to add them. But I think the additions make the story stronger overall, and I'm glad they are there. I also ended up rewriting the first chapter. It originally included a lot of telling, so I revised it to show a dramatic scene rather than tell it. I hope it's enough to make an editor want to read past the first page.

The submission process was rather involved. I spent many hours slaving over the items required. Thanks to Josi Kilpack for her amazing advice on writing a synopsis. I used the information she presented at the 2008 LDStorymakers conference as well as a blog she posted at Writing on the Wall.

So, cross your fingers for me! I'm sure the waiting will kill me. I'm hoping submitting during the holidays won't slow down the process, but it likely will. Thanks to all of my writing friends for your help and especially my amazing critique group!

Here's a little blurb about the book to hopefully get you all excited about reading it:

Stephanie Roberts didn’t realize the day she met Jared Wakefield they had met before. Running from an abusive marriage and trying to safeguard her children, she turns to Jared for support, not realizing he might need more from her than she was capable of giving. With an abusive husband and their own insecurities standing in the way, the difficulties they need to overcome to be together seem insurmountable.

When Stephanie walked out on her husband, she vowed to never look back, but as she begins to rethink her decision, Jared feels as if his life is spiraling out of control. Will Stephanie realize her mistake before it’s too late? Will Jared recognize she’s the one he’s been looking for all along? And, in the end, is it possible for love to conquer all?

“I’ll Know You by Heart” is a timeless romance. It explores the possibility that relationships can span the entire realm of eternity. It is a story about abuse, hardship, betrayal, and ultimately the power of everlasting, true love.

Dec 1, 2008

Altered Art: Clipboards

I've had lots of feedback that people are enjoying the altered art projects I've posted, so I've got another fun one for you today. Did you know you can turn an ordinary clipboard into a work of art and a perfect gift? They make super cool room decorations and are great for simply holding notes.

The first step is to choose a patterned paper or two and then a paint color to match. Lightly sand both sides of the clipboard then paint it using a foam brush. Let it dry well. You can also use crackle compound to give the paint a unique distressed look if you want.

Attach the paper to the clipboard using Mod Podge or another decoupage adhesive. To keep bubbles from forming in the paper, apply a thin coat to the clipboard underneath the paper. Apply the paper then smooth out any bubbles using a flat object, such as a ruler. Add any other flat embellishments you plan to use, the apply a thin coat of Mod Podge over the entire surface of the clipboard and allow it to dry.

Then simply add any three dimensional embellishments, such as metal doo-dads, 3D stickers, paper flowers, buttons, and ribbon, chipboard, etc. There is no limit to how they can be decorated and the many fun uses you can find for them.

Here are a few ideas:

-Decorate only the clipboard and then rotate pictures for variety or change them seasonally.
-Create a Christmas countdown calendar or advent calendar.
-Make a clipboard for a teacher gift. Avoid bulky embellishments so it is still functional.
-Paint with blackboard paint so it can be used as a chalkboard.
-Attach a magnet to the back and hang it on the refrigerator or in a locker.
-Create a Calendar and rotate the picture each month.

As always, the possibilities are endless . . . Have fun!

Return to the Neighborhood.
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