Saturday, April 25, 2015

Blurb - More Reasons To Love It

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking through my links.

So last week I shared a bit of the Blurb story and how they came to unleash the power of self-publishing. But Blurb is actually way more than a self-publishing platform. They are really a tour de force of creativity that strives to help give your story – your inspiration – a stage. And they provide some really incredible tools to make that possible. 

Here are a few of my faves:
  1. Free book making tools – This one may be obvious, but there’s more here than meets the eye. Blurb offersmultiple easy-to-use bookmaking tools and templates to give you complete creative control and customization:
    BookWright: The only desktop publishing software built for creating professional-looking print books, magazines, and ebooks. It’s super simple to use, which means you won't need to hire a fancy designer, know a line of code, or buy expensive software. BookSmart: A user-friendly book-making tool that allows you to create beautiful, professional-quality photo books, notebooks, and planners.
    Adobe InDesign Plug-In: If you use Adobe® InDesign® then this Blurb plug-in is for you. It lets you create and lay out books and magazines directly within InDesign and output in both print and digital formats. It also includes free professionally designed starter templates for photo books, cookbooks, portfolios, and magazines.
    Adobe Lightroom: This book creation tool is fully integrated into Lightroom, so users can make a gorgeous photography book without needing to leave the Lightroom workflow. It also includes 5 paper choices, including high-end photo-quality paper from Mohawk Fine Papers®.
  2. Online photo books – With this tool, you can create your very own online photo book in less than an hour. The online templates and layouts are gorgeous. All you have to do is drag & drop your photos from your computer, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.
    Instagram Photo Book: Blurb allows you to make a little 7 x7 book that’s as unique as your Instagram feed. You can start with up to 60 images and go up to 240 pages! It’s like a tiny museum devoted to your style!
    Facebook Photo Book: Now you can turn those favorite socially-shared memories into a book-store quality book! You just curate your photos and any Facebook comments you want to include and voilĂ ! You’ve got a beautiful 60-page book of shared experiences.
  3. Step-by-step Tutorials & Webinars – If you ever get stuck on how to do something or just need some creative inspiration, you’ll definitely appreciate Blurb’s interesting and informative Webinars and Tips and Tutorials sections. So helpful.
  4. Free Tools to Use - Not sure what size book you want? Blurb shows you what a 10 x 8 book would look like versus a 13 x 11 with their creation and layout tools. You can also see what different paper types would look like, such as Premium Matte or Proline Uncoated and what makes them different.
  5. Pricing Tool – Blurb’s Pricing Calculator will save you from pricing surprises. You just select your book type, number of pages, type of cover, and paper you want and this tool calculates what your book will cost. They also have special pricing on large orders (e.g. 300+ books).
I encourage you to take some creative time for yourself and explore Blurb’s unique and valuable book-making tools. And remember that from now through 4/30 you can get 20% off any book you create, just use code: APRILLIGHTS! If you are thinking of self-publishing or starting a fundraiser use code: BIGAPRIL and get 20% off 20 or more books! 

What are your favorite Blurb tools? 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

5 Reasons Why I Balance Our Checkbook

Call me old fashioned, but I still regularly balance our checkbook.

I know, you are probably thinking that it is a complete waste of time considering that most banks now have online banking. Don't worry, I utilize that resource just as much! So why double up? Remember the days of being able to pay for something with JUST cash or a check? I realized that since we switched to online banking a few years ago, I actually have a better idea of where our money goes, when I balance our checkbook. We are not "official" budgeters. We budget in the sense that we do not spend money on what we do not need. It's as simple (or maybe as complicated) as that, but we have found through the years, that it has really worked well for us. When something comes up that we need, we discuss it, and if it's needed, we buy it. If we discuss it and realize it can wait, we wait. I am thankful to be married to someone who is like-minded! We also do not make oodles of money, which is a lifestyle we actually really enjoy! So seeing in a checkbook, where our money goes, is very helpful for our lifestyle.

Whether you keep track of your money in a checkbook or not, I want to share some reasons why I balance our checkbook. Some of these reasons are more preventative than experiential, but nonetheless, important to me:

1. The bank could be wrong. Believe it or not, the bank could transfer your funds into the wrong account; or even enter the wrong amount! I am a "give them the benefit of the doubt" person, but you never know. We are all human - even bankers. That is why I like comparing our checkbook AND online statements, to make sure they match up.

2. Prevents overdrawing. Thankfully this is something we do not struggle with (because I balance our checkbook), but the overdraft fees of $25 or more, just aren't worth my money!

3. The automatic deposit or general deposit may not be posted yet, causing insufficient funds. I am sure you have witnessed the scenario. Someone tries to use their bank card, but it says declined. The person says "but I just deposited my check". That may be true, but it may be "pending". Know when your bank posts their deposits!

4. Automatic bill payments, though I love them, I feel you still need to keep track of where your money is. If you just spent a lot of money at the grocery store, but again, it's not posted yet online, and then an automatic bill payment has to go through, you could end up with insufficient funds. With balancing our checkbook, I put those amounts in right away, so that even when the bank does not have it posted, it is posted in my checkbook, as money spent.

5. Budgeting. Like I said earlier, we aren't big on budgeting, but what I do enjoy about balancing our checkbook is seeing where our money goes. If I see 5 restaurants listed that month, I know we may have gone out to eat too often (though we are lucky if we eat our more than once a month) Being conscious of where your money is going, helps you save money in the long run as well!

For me, what it comes down to, is that as much as I enjoy online banking, it can give you a false sense of what you really have. Yes, it'll balance itself out in the end, but for the time being, I think keeping a balanced checkbook is a safe way to go. With all the different ways to pay for something, such as checks, ATM, online payments, and debit cards, all those different options are just more ways to spend money. Choose a way that is right for you and always know where you are taking money out of, where you are putting it in, and how much you are spending!

Do you balance your checkbook? Why or why not?

Photo Source

Monday, April 20, 2015

52 Places In 52 Weeks: Organizing Your Storage Areas

How many storage spaces do you have in your home? How many cupboards or closets are designated as storage places? Maybe the better question to ask is how many storage places do you WANT and how many do you actually HAVE?

The thought of storage spaces may be overwhelming. You may think of that ONE spot that is just hideous - an eye sore. The place where you will take NO ONE because you are embarrassed at the sight of it and you know if YOU are embarrassed, you wonder what others will think of it then!

Storage spaces can have such a negative connotation because that means you are storing things you do not need for the time being. Storage spaces are a catch all - the "I don't know where else to put it" space. It is often the place you can put things and not have to think about them again, until you open up that door.

That is why I feel organizing storage spaces is so important. They can become so unsightly so quickly, if they are not kept up on. Because storage spaces and places are all over your home and they store so many random items, how do you even begin to organize such a place? Think about these questions:

1. What could you GET RID OF? What haven't you used in years and probably will never use? What is collecting dust?

2. Is this item STORED in the right space?

3. Do you even like the item?

4. How are you going to use this item (what is it's purpose)?

5. Would someone else put this item to better use?

6. Is this storage space too full? (if so, you MUST get rid of things!)

If you are keeping items for the wrong reasons (because of fear of letting go, hanging onto the past, excuse of I will EVENTUALLY need it), do it another day. Make sure you are READY to get rid of things and organize your storage spaces. If you are in a "keep it" mode, this process probably is not worth your time. Start with one at a time too - it will be tempting to move from one room to the next, without keeping your focus on the first, as you are putting things away. Stick to one area!

We have 2 spaces in our home that we have designated for storage, both in the basement. We a shelf or two with items like pictures, computer paper, etc, but all things we do not use on a regular basis, go into our storage areas. One small room is just that - a storage room and we know exactly where to find things because they are all in bins. For example, I have all of my fabric in one bin. My sentimental items in another. My Christmas decor in another. You get what I am getting at. Find a PLACE for everything! Make sure you know where to find an item when you need to find it, so you aren't spending an hour trying to find something you know exists.

Start small and you would be surprised at what your storage spaces will look like after you are done!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Welcome, Mazy Grace!

This past month has completely flown by! I realized the other day that I never did an official post to welcome...

Mazy Grace

Our daughter was born on a March 17 at 6:52pm, weighed 8 pounds and 2 ounces, and was 22 inches long! The delivery really could not have gone better and we praise God for a healthy little girl! We arrived home a few days later and that is when I started to have some complications. I went to the doctor and they discovered that I had retained an incredible amount of fluid. The number was supposed to be around 125 and mine was in the 2000s. As a result, I was experiencing shortness of breath, was lethargic, extremely tired, weak, and had heart palpitations. They gave me a diuretic to try and rid my body of the excess fluid, and within days, I was a new person! I lost over 25 pounds of fluid in just 4 days, which then made me feel a bit lightheaded because I had lost it so quickly; though I felt incredibly better. It took my body a bit to adjust, but with a week or 2, I was back to my old self.

It was an interesting and trying first few weeks, but Mazy has been such a gift! She has made this journey completely worth it and we can't imagine life without her! She is now almost 5 weeks old and loves to play, be talked to, and soak in her surroundings. We are so humbled by this gift that God has given us! I wanted to share a few pictures with you that I have taken throughout the past few weeks. Maybe we are a little biased, but we think she is such a cutie!

So many emotions tied into one moment!

 Love at first sight!

First picture as a family of 3!

Proud daddy!

Showing off her long legs

On our way home...

 Easter Sunday

Love her big smile!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Why I Love My Hobbies

What do you do during your free time? If you had 2 hours to spare, what would you choose to do?

Hobbies are something that almost everyone has - whether it be reading, crocheting, walking, fishing, or even DIYing. We all have something that we enjoy doing when there is a lull in life. Now the time spent doing that specific thing may vary greatly, depending on your life situation. But I feel we all have some type of leisure activity that we enjoy doing when we get the chance.

First of all, I want to talk about all the hobbies I have given up. Seems odd to give UP hobbies, but over the years, I was way over my head in the number of projects I had going on. You see, I enjoy DIYing - to the point that I wanted to make EVERYTHING. It wasn't just Pinterest that got me trouble. I am not an obsessive pinner, but I found that when I saw a good idea, I wanted to do it right then and there. So I would head out to JoAnn's with my coupons in hand, and buy the supplies needed. At one point, I was huge into scrapbooking, crocheting, knitting, cardmaking, sewing, and had ambitions to make a quilt. Baking, cooking, and canning were high on the list too, as I did a lot of cooking and baking for larger groups. Before I knew it, I had shelves filled with cookbooks that I never used. I had craft supplies bursting at the edges of my bins. I had more projects that I had supplies for, than time to do them.

I found myself feeling guilty over not being able to accomplish them all. I felt this pressure (solely put on by my own self) to be this susie-homemaker type. I maybe knew how to do all of these, but did I need to be doing them all at once? All during THIS season of life? What if I waited to get into these hobbies until I had more time to do them (if that ever happened)?

It took moving to another state to realize that all of these ideas for DIYing, really weren't as pleasant as they used to be. When I had to pack everything up, I wondered why I had so much stuff? So, I started to work on making the projects that I had supplies for and finishing what I had begun. I decided that if I did not love doing it as much as I thought I would, that I would put that hobby aside for awhile. This especially came true when it came to scrapbooking. I had lost an interest in it. I had piles and piles of pictures that I could never keep up on, so I would hurry and try to get a few pages done, without really enjoying it. That is when I figured out that what I love about scrapbooking is the creating a design, but I could accomplish that through cardmaking. I started to research different digital options for scrapbooking and that is when I switched to, and now put all of my pictures into a digital book. It is the perfect alternative for me!

So here are the hobbies that I enjoy doing:

Crocheting - I haven't picked it up in a little while, but that is something I will always enjoy doing. I enjoy making baby blankets, dish clothes, and really anything that isn't too complicated! Plus, it's a great hobby to do while in the car!

Cardmaking - as I said earlier, this is something I really enjoy doing even MORE, now that I am not scrapbooking. I can use all of the same supplies - the only difference is not having to print all of those pictures! I try to keep ahead, like make multiple birthday, thank you, and anniversary cards, each time I take my "stuff" out to make them.

Organizing Blog - I would definitely consider this website a hobby, though it became much more than I originally intended! When I first started this organizing blog, I wasn't quite sure the direction I wanted it to go, but I knew I wanted to share my love for organizing on a broader scale. To be honest, it became a little more time consuming than I imagined, but that isn't to say that I haven't enjoyed the process. As you may have noticed, I do not post as often as I used to, but that is because I am soon to be entering into a new chapter of life - motherhood! So while this blog is something I hope to continue, I know that it will add a new dynamic having a newborn!

Fishing - this is the hobby that my husband and I share together. Fishing is our "thing". Those summer days or nights spent out on our fishing boat, just talking and catching fish, are irreplaceable. Those days have created some of the best memories and that is something we do not want to give up!

Walking/Jogging - I would call this a hobby because it is indeed, something I really enjoy doing! Being active is something I have always enjoyed - not just because I feel better, but because I so enjoy being outside. If it's raining out and not freezing cold, I can sometimes still be found out there. Getting fresh air, time to think, all while exercising, is definitely worth my time!

Miscellaneous - and then of course you have the random DIY project, sewing idea, Pinterest meal, you name it. If a shirt needs to be mended or if we need curtains in a room, I still enjoy pulling out my sewing machine. Same with cooking and baking - I don't do it all the time, but enjoy doing it when I can.

How about you? What are your hobbies? What hobbies do you currently have, that you would maybe rather not be doing anymore, but would feel guilty giving up? 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Why I Switched From Scrapbooking to Blurb

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking through my links.

As you may remember, I decided to retire a hobby that I had been doing for years and years - scrapbooking. There are many reasons why I decided to stop scrapbooking, but one of the main ones being I did not have the time to invest into this hobby as much as I used to. That is when I discovered Blurb, which was the best decision. I still wanted to organize my photos into books, with the ability to customize, and Blurb was the answer. If you are not familiar with Blurb, here is a bit more on what they are all about!

Like many great companies before it, Blurb was actually started by accident. In the early 2000s, Eileen Gittins, Blurbs' Founder, rekindled a passion for photography while trying to figure out her next career gig. 

She wanted to compile her photos into a nice coffee table photo book, but she only wanted to print a handful of copies. The conundrum was that every publisher was quoting her hundreds of dollars for each book! She found this curious – and frustrating. So she asked herself, are there other people like me who want to affordably create their own high-quality book from their photos? The answer, of course, was yes, and it changed her life – and book publishing – forever. 

In 2006, Eileen launched Blurb, a simple book-designing platform and a publishing process that could quickly produce beautifully made books at game-changing price. 

Everyone from award-winning photographers, to couples wanting to commemorate the birth of their child started using Blurb – and they continue to do so today. Even after almost a decade, people are still blown away by Blurb’s user-friendliness, quality, and affordability. People trust Blurb to create every kind of book imaginable, including:
Blurb doesn’t just help people make books and magazines, they also help market them by providing publishers with their own dedicated sales page. Blurb’s dedicated sales pages allows authors to:
  • Make their book or magazine available to the public or by invitation-only
  • Write a compelling book description
  • Customize a preview of their book
  • Share their book with others on social media
Blurb also created their publishing platform to work seamlessly with Amazon and Apple iBooks Store so authors would have even more options for how they sell their books. 

There are so many remarkable things to share about Blurb – too much for just one post! So keep an eye out for next week’s post because I’ll be sharing some of my favorite Blurb tools and tips -- which, if you’re like me, will leave you thinking … “I didn’t know Blurb could do all that!” 

Oh! And I almost forgot to mention that now through 4/28 you can get 20% off any book you create! Coupon code is: APRILLIGHTS. Can’t wait to see what kind of book you create! 

Monday, April 13, 2015

52 Places In 52 Weeks: Organizing Your Pots and Pans

When you are needing a pot or pan, do you open the cupboard or drawer wondering how in the world you are going to be able to get it out without them all crashing or falling out? Do you find yourself using the same pans over and over again, while rarely using others?

For me personally, I used to have more pots and pans than I ever needed. In fact, I found myself using the same few over and over, while rarely using my bigger pots and smaller skillets. I wasn't sure I wanted to completely get rid of them, but organizing them in such a way where they didn't get IN the way.

Whether you keep them in the drawer below the oven or in a cupboard, pots and pans can be a frustrating mess. Here are a few ideas on how to organize them:

1. Take all of your pots and pans out, from wherever you store them.

2. Lay them all out so that you know what you are working with.

3. Ask:
  • Do I use it? When was the last time?
  • Do I have a duplicate?
  • How many of each do I need?
  • Do I have something else that will work?
  • What is it's purpose?
  • It is worn out? (peeling, scratched, etc.)
  • Is it deformed?
  • Do I have a lid to correspond with the pot?
  • Does it need to be fixed?
  • If your non-stick pans are flaking or peeling, get rid of them - you probably ate what is missing!

4. Store the pots and pans that you only use on occasion in another spot, if space is tight (such as large casserole dishes or large cooking pots).

5. Organize! You can organize by type of use - baking pans together, bowls together, and so forth. Find the best way that works for you, maximizing the space you have. You can also use a wire rack or hang them, if that is easiest for you.

6. Do not stack too high - one of the biggest hassles with pots and pans is stacking them so deep that they are a pain when you have to use the middle pan.

7. Try a few different systems if needed, to get the result you are happy with. The biggest thing is to not keep pots and pans for when you "might" use them someday - you probably won't.

I used to have so many different sized pots and and pans. I realized though that it was pointless to store them all because I NEVER used them all. In fact, if a recipe called for an odd size like 9x10, I would just use a 9x13 and guess what? The food still tasted the same. Granted there is a difference between an 8x8 or a 9x13, but you can always double the recipe if you are going to use a 9x13 (been there, done that)! Work with what you have and do not clutter your home with things you never use!