Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why I Love Project Life

Hey everyone!

Happy Tuesday to you! Quick post today on a little experience I had this weekend that helped remind me why I love Project Life. 

I was sorting through pictures we have stashed around the house, organizing them by year, and getting ready to pack them up so I can easily put them into Project Life sleeves at some point. And I came across this one from last year:

Our house. I took it during the Week in the Life Project I did last spring. 

I almost started crying when I found this picture. I really didn't remember taking it. It's not like I can't still see my house every day when we pull up in front of it to get our mail. But I know that won't always be the case. 

I realized how grateful I am to have thought to do this. It's the only picture of the front of our house that I have. And once we move, I'm going to miss this house terribly. It's our first home together, and probably my dream house. 

Photos like these are why I love Project Life. It was so simple for me to stick my phone out of the car window and snap a picture. I think a thousand stories when I see this picture, and have some of the best memories of my life. 

Project Life encourages me to take pictures when I normally wouldn't. It encourages me to see the little things in life. It encourages me to capture memories with photos, even if I think I'll remember them down the road. Project Life helps me tell our story. 

Are you ask hooked on Project Life as I am? Even if you're not, what's the picture in your photo album or scrapbook that makes you flood with emotion and memories? Share them in the comments if you'd like! 

Have a great day everyone! 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Menu Planning for a Year

Hey everyone,

I posted a picture on my Instagram/Facebook feed a couple of weeks ago about this year's worth of meals I was planning, and there was some interest in my process. I'll try to explain everything as best I can in this post - what my actual process was for my situation, and tips for adapting it others' situations. Warning...this is an extremely long post, but I hope an informative one. 

First up, a little background about our food situation. Every year, my husband and I join our family and some friends to butcher our own beef and pork in January. This fills our freezer through the rest of the year and we really don't have to worry about purchasing meat with the exception of seafood and poultry. We also normally have a garden {although we didn't in 2012}, and we can and freeze a lot of the fresh food we grow and purchase during the summer. 

What I was finding is that we were waiting until the drive home from work to decide what we would be cooking for dinner in the evening. That meant when we got home we'd have to thaw whatever cut of meat we were using and make do with what we had in our pantry or freezer for sides. Or we would stop in Omaha on the way home and pick up take-out because I didn't feel like eating right before bed {as would happen if we didn't plan anything in advance.}

I decided this year we would try something different - I would plan meals for the year. Because we're limited by the number of cuts we have of each specific meat, I knew I couldn't plan for just a week or month at a time. I didn't want to overuse cuts in some months and be left with one type of meat for the last few months. 

In The Beginning

The first thing I did was count and weigh all of the meat we had after we were done butchering. For things like steak or pork chops, I listed how many of each cut were packaged together. I tend to have a standard packaging system, so this is really just for reference or if I happen to question the size of the package. For ground meat like sausage and hamburger, I weighed packages to know exactly how many servings I needed to get out of them. 

Once a I had a number of how much meat we had available, I started brainstorming with my husband about our go-to recipes for each cut of meat. We made a list with all the things we normally eat {I'll talk about new recipes later} so I'd know how often we needed to rotate recipes within a cut. For example, our steak dishes looked like this:
Marinated/grilled steak

I also took into consideration how often we eat poultry, seafood and meatless dishes within a typical month, and factored them in to my rotation.

Let's Do Some Math
For each cut of meat, I had to figure out how many times per year we could use the cut. For example, we could use 1 beef roast per month, kabob meat every 3 months, etc. I made a notation next to each cut of meat how often I had to use it, and then referenced my recipe list. I checked how many recipes we had for a particular cut, and rotated them evenly throughout the year. 

Back to my steak example. We use our sirloin, rib & t-bones interchangeably more often than not. That means I had 26 packages of steak to use in the year. We could eat steak every other week. Because we have 3 go-to steak recipes, I planned to rotate them as I used steak on my calendar. 

A Year's Worth of Meals

Here's where the time-consuming work started. Because there isn't an even rotation for every cut of meat, I had to actually fill in each cut separately, rather than just figuring out one month and repeating it 12 times. 

I filled in cut by cut, using the same method I described above for the steak. I planned how often I could use a cut, and rotated my recipes within the cut. I kept it simple at first. I worked Monday through Friday and Sunday, picking a day to stick with unless it conflicted with something that was already on the menu. For steak, I used every other Tuesday. I planned for roast on the last Sunday of the month. I saved more time-consuming recipes for Sundays when I had all day to focus on them. And so it went, for all the cuts of meat except for ground beef. 

I went through and used up my allotment of poultry, seafood, and meatless dishes next. Then I started filling in with my rotation of recipes for ground beef, because we had far more ground beef available than any other cut of meat. It was during this time that I started to make some changes to how the menu looked. For example, I would see that I had three Mexican dishes in the same week, or two Italian dishes. So, I started trading in the rotation, making sure we weren't eating the same thing over and over again. I highly recommend doing this menu in pencil.


I thought about the easiest way for me to use this method in my life and decided a meal planning & recipe binder was the best option. 

For me, the style didn't really matter as long as it held all the information I needed to include. The only thing I really cared about having was some sort of pocket in the front cover for a notebook. I used page protectors for the months because I knew I'd have this around food, and after about 4 hours of menu planning, I wasn't about to have food residue ruin my work. 

Each month has it's own page at the front of the binder. I'll probably leave months in the binder as they pass for reference purposes, but I will move them to the back of the menu section. If all goes well, I'll hopefully have a much easier time of this next year. 

The middle section of the binder is a place for me to keep notes, like the page with all the cuts of meat.

The back section is for my go-to recipes. Most of the dishes I cook don't have recipes - I just throw things in a pan. But, there are some that I reference recipes for and I wanted to have them nearby. Rather than turning on my iPad to go to Pinterest or finding the correct cook book, I printed off recipes that were online and made copies from my cookbooks to go in this binder. I used tab stickers to make my recipe labels, and kept each of them in page protectors. 

Grocery Shopping
I've found that grocery shopping has changed quite a bit for me since I started this process. Because I have the little notebook in the front of my binder, I can easily make a shopping list as I'm looking through my menu at the beginning of the week. 

I, like a lot of other people, make my grocery list according to how I shop the grocery store {in my case, the perimeter of the store first, then canned & boxed goods, then frozen & bread, and then produce}. I leave extra space in each section to add items as I think of them throughout the week. I also will normally attach a second sheet to this list for price match items, items to stock up on due to sales, and items that have coupons. That's an entirely different subject, but if you're interested, I can write another post about how I grocery shop/price match/stock pile/coupon since this post is already entirely too long! 

I'm noticing more and more that my grocery list is mostly made up of fresh produce and dairy products. I'm turning to my stockpile for my main dishes and sides. Having a menu in place also helps me know how much food to purchase when there's a really good deal. {Again, I can do more on that subject if people are interested in another post.}

Since I keep my recipes so close, if I'm ever not sure what is needed for a specific dish, I can reference the recipe while I'm making my grocery list or even in the grocery store. It just makes sense to keep them close by!

Breakfast, Lunch, Saturday Meals & New Recipes
I treated weekend breakfast as an entirely different set of meals. We tend to make large breakfasts that will last us through an entire weekend, so I planned meals for both Saturday & Sunday, rather than trying to figure out something different for each day. I used the same method as above and just rotated my breakfast meets and the meals we cook with them. Our weekday breakfasts are either leftovers from weekend breakfasts {if they save well}, or breakfasts we can eat on the go, like bagels, homemade breakfast bars, etc. As I need these items, I just add them to my grocery list.

We're a 2-person household, so I've found that the majority of our recipes allow us to have leftovers for the next day's lunch. This is so much easier than trying to plan out an entirely different lunch menu. Some recipes we go to often yield more leftovers than just two lunches, so we freeze those to be used for lunches when there weren't leftovers from the night before {almost all of our Sunday dinners are good for this as well as soups and pasta recipes}. We do keep a few frozen meals on hand, and I will normally keep some lunch meat and cheese frozen if I find a good deal on them for sandwiches. I include some fillers for lunch in our weekly shopping {if they're needed}, like fruits & veggies. 

If you look closely at the February menu I posted, you'll see that I didn't plan anything for Saturday meals. I did this purposefully for a few reasons. 1.) If we have a lot of leftovers during the week that don't freeze well, we can eat them that evening. 2.) If we happen to go out to dinner that week, chances are it will be on a Saturday. If not, the meal from the night we went out can be shifted to Saturday night's meal with no major alteration to the menu. 3.) Our Saturdays are extremely busy between working at Gather, heading to auctions or sales, spending time with family and friends...we're not on a normal meal schedule. More often than not, we don't eat 3 meals on Saturday and things can be rotated around within the menu to accommodate that change. 

I love to cook and try new recipes often. Pinterest has helped with that addiction, as has being surrounded by a lot of great cooks in my family and group of friends. The most important part of this meal planning is that we're using the planned cuts of meat during the specified week, and that we grocery shop accordingly. When I want to try a new recipe, I'll substitute it in on an evening when we were already planning to use that cut of meat.

There is a tab in my recipe organization called "Try." Under that tab, I have all the recipes I'd like to try as an option to include in our go-to recipes. I like keeping them close by in case I'm getting bored with some of our regular recipes. It will also help me with grocery shopping and making lists so I don't suddenly decide to try something new and have to make an extra trip to the grocery store or {more likely} realize I'm missing a key ingredient during the cooking process. 

As an aside, I have another recipe binder that is for recipes I know will never be go-to recipes. These include things that are for rarer cuts of meat or seafood, things I make only for holidays or gatherings, or things that take entirely too long to prepare for a dinner after work. As I try new recipes, if I like them, I like to print them off and put them in that binder {assuming they won't become one of our regular recipes}. So far, I haven't made copies from my recipe books of favorite recipes to include in this binder, but that's an idea for a rainy day. I'm lucky that my memory is good enough I can usually recall where I find recipes in cookbooks. 

Adapting My Plan
Finally, I'm getting to the end of this post! Thanks for sticking with me. I know that my situation is fairly unique since we butcher our own meat, but I do know more and more people who are buying quarter, half and whole cows or hogs from local butchers, or who like to buy their meat in bulk from places like Sam's Club or Costco. There are so many ways that people acquire their food that I can't tell you how to adapt my plan to each one, but here are a few things you can do to make this plan work for you, no matter what situation.
  • Hang on to some of your grocery lists and see what items you are buying over and over again or in bulk. If you can, figure out how often you buy cuts of meat or how long a bulk meat purchase will last you. Using my method above, figure out a plan for the amount of time that meal will last you. 
  • If you don't purchase grocery items in bulk, make a monthly plan rather than one for a year. Once you have that in place, repeat it every month, allowing for seasonal changes to your eating. 
  • The best tip I can give is to be flexible with your menu - take my advice about only being concerned with using the cut of meat on the day it was planned for. You can easily substitute ingredients for a different recipe on your grocery list with a little advanced thinking.
  • Allow for changes to the plan and leftovers. Things will come up that you can't plan for. You will go out to dinner, have a meal at a friend's house, get sick, or feel like ordering a pizza. That's fine. Just don't let groceries you've purchased go to waste because you made a change in the plan {use them in next week's meal, or leave an open day for these situations like I did.}
  • Know your limits. If you love to cook and regularly cook at home, then it might make sense to expect yourself to cook every evening. If cooking is a chore and you eat out every night now, start slowly. Plan to cook at home a few nights a week to start until you learn a rhythm that works for you. 
  • Prep in advance if you can. My husband & I aren't big dessert eaters, but we might want something one night a week or for one lunch during the week. I typically make a dessert over the weekend to be used for the upcoming week {and to be offered if someone drops by unexpectedly or if I need a birthday or potluck treat at work}. If I know I have veggies that need to be chopped or meat that needs to be marinated, I'll do that on a Sunday or while I'm waiting for dinner to cook on a different weeknight. 
  • Cook in batches if that works for your lifestyle. For example, hamburgers, Mexican dishes, and meatballs have a regular rotation in my menu. I saved back quite a bit of my ground beef when we were packaging it to be cooked for specific dishes. I made enough meatballs to get me through the year, pattied and seasoned hamburgers so they could go directly on the grill, and added peppers, onions and seasonings to ground beef to be used in Mexican dishes. This will save me a lot of time when I go to cook these dishes throughout the year. If you happen to find a great deal on a specific cut of meat, you can take advantage, buy more than you need for this particular week, and do some advanced cooking for use throughout the year.
  • Keep notes of what works and what doesn't. You may be interested in repeating this plan sometime in the future {whether it's next year or next month} and you'll want to adjust things based on your notes.
Leave me a comment if you have any questions about my process or how to adapt meal planning to your specific situation. I'd also love to know if you're interested in hearing more about how I grocery shop & stockpile, plan for fresh produce preserving in the summer, etc. 

Have a great day! 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Orange Vinegar All-Purpose Cleaner Recipe

Hey all,

I talked a long time ago about some of the things we do in our household that are "green" - whether it's actually for the purpose of helping the environment or just because it happens to work better for us to do it that way.

One of the things I'm pretty adamant about is not having harsh chemicals in my cleaning products. That's the last thing I want on my food when I'm preparing it. I've tried a lot of supposedly "green" products that weren't actually all that green. I've tried other green products that just don't have the cleaning power that I need.

Vinegar is a great natural cleaning agent, it's really inexpensive, and probably my go-to cleaning tool in my household {for a number of things}. I don't normally mind the smell of vinegar, but for big jobs it can get a little bothersome. I thought I'd try infusing vinegar with orange and make my own scented cleaning solution.

Want to make your own? Just follow the recipe below. 

Orange Vinegar All-Purpose Cleaner

Orange peels {I peeled 7 small/medium oranges}
White vinegar
Jar with a lid {I used a quart canning jar}

Curl as many orange peels into the jar as will fit. If you use a different sized jar than I did, just adjust your orange peels accordingly. You want to pack them tightly in the jar.

Pour white vinegar into the jar until it is full. I left about 1/4 inch air space below the rim. Seal tightly and let sit in a cool place for approximately 2 weeks. Strain the peels and transfer liquid to a spray bottle. 

Pretty simple, right? You may need to let the peels sit a bit longer than 2 weeks. I figured they were done when the orange smell overpowered the vinegar smell. I've also heard of people steeping the orange peels in vinegar so they don't have to wait the 2 weeks, but I have no idea how well that works or how smelly that would make the house {the idea reminds me of the pickling process...no thanks!}

I would think the same method could work with limes, lemons or grapefruits...those are scents I'll probably try when I make my next batch. 

If you try this recipe out, let me know how it works in the comments below. Or, if you make other kinds of cleaning solutions, I'd love to hear your recipes! {We also make our own laundry detergent.}

Have a great day! 

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Project Life at Gather?

Hey guys,

It's a really exciting time for Gather. So many changes to look forward to in 2013! But, I need your help making the decision on one of the possible changes.

First, a little background. I think I explained this somewhere along the way, but I named my store Gather because of all the different meanings for that word or the way it could be used. One of my favorite things to do is gather memories through social media and memory keeping. I wanted to figure out some way to incorporate this love of mine in Gather, and also meet a need that isn't being met in our little community.

My preferred method of memory keeping is Project Life. It's so very user friendly, fun, easy, and stress-free. I've introduced several members of my family and friends to the system, I've given kits as gifts, and I've talked about it even more. Unfamiliar with the Project Life concept? Check out this short video from Becky Higgins' website {Becky is the creator of Project Life and a guru in the scrapbooking industry.}

Amazing right? Such a great concept that any of us can adopt into our lives...no matter how busy we are, or what stage of life we're in.

I could talk for days about my own transition to project life from "traditional" scrapbooking. I won't bore you with that. I will say that I've been scrapbooking in some form or another for 15 years. I have a room in my home dedicated to memory keeping. I've spent a lot of money {more than I care to calculate} on all sorts of supplies for scrapbooking. But, in 2011, I made the switch to the Project Life system and never looked back. To read all the posts I've written on my personal journey with Project Life, click here

Here's where you come in. I've been presented the awesome opportunity to sell Project Life products at Gather in the spring of 2013! While I'm completely on board for the idea because I love this system so much, I want to know your thoughts on the subject. Is this something we need in our little community? Is this something you are looking for in your life - a practical, affordable memory keeping solution?

Here's a preview of what you might see if we end up selling these products at Gather:
Blush Edition Core Kit

Cinnamon Edition Core Kit

Honey Edition Core Kit

Jade Edition Core Kit

Kraft Edition Core Kit

Midnight Edition Core Kit

Rain Edition Core Kit

As you saw in the video, all you need to complete a memory album with the Project Life system is a Core Kit {pictured above}, an album, page protectors, and a pen. That's it. Now, you can embellish it like crazy if you enjoy that sort of thing or want to personalize the system. That's the great thing about Project Life - it can be simple or intricate or somewhere in between. It really does fit in everyone's lifestyle. 

In addition to core kits, albums, and page protectors, Project Life is now offering Mini Kits and Mini Albums for those events that warrant their own special album - such as weddings, childhood and holidays. 

One last note - if this system is new to you {or even if it's not}, I won't leave you hanging. If I offer this product, I'll also offer free introduction seminars at Gather {that will most likely come with a discount for some product!} I'll also be holding some more specific classes on different Project Life ideas & techniques, and if there's interest, I thought it would be fun to host some working sessions where we can all sit down and complete a mini album together. Again, these things are up to you and whatever you are interested in. 

So, is this something you'd like to see at Gather in the next few months? I get a lot of feedback via Facebook, Instagram, this blog, and from my customers, but this is one of those times I really need you to leave me a comment here on the blog or on Facebook. I'm relying completely on your feedback to make this decision. If I don't hear from you, I'll assume this isn't something you want to see at Gather. If I hear from you that you love the idea and are interested, then I'll do whatever I can to make the product available. It's as simple as that. 

Thanks for your opinion!

ETA: I had to turn comments for this post off due to all the spam I was receiving {on just this post, weird.} Anyway, if you want to leave me feedback on this post, feel free to e-mail me or send me a message on Facebook {facebook.com/gatherboutique}. Thanks!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

A Vintage Year in Review

Hey everyone!

One of the things we see most often in the blog world this time of year is the Year in Review. I've done it with regard to my goals for 2012 and my favorites of 2012, but I thought I'd try a new spin on it. A vintage year in review, to be specific. This year has been filled with vintage goodness for me, both at Gather and personally. Instagram has helped me share most of my finds with you throughout the year, but it's fun to see them all in one place.

So, without further ado, my 2012 in vintage finds:

This chippy white bed frame represents my longest drive in the middle of nowhere to find a great vintage piece. I immediately fell in love with the casters and the chipping paint job, and I almost tackled the woman who sold it to me when she told me she thought about scraping the paint off before I got to her farm. 

This great filing cabinet was one of my first major purchases for Gather, easily one of the heaviest, and one of the first sales I made on opening day. I still adore it, and sometimes wish I would have kept it for myself! 

This croquet set was the first thing I saw in a sale bill for an auction and immediately wanted, no matter what the cost. I paid a little more than I wanted to, but it came home with me and I almost jumped up and down when we won! 

This typewriter definitely has the best story - the grandson of the owner told us that his grandpa had typed letters to his family during WWII on this typewriter. I have no idea whether that's true or not, but it's cool to think about. 

This bureau gets the award for my favorite painted piece. The transformation was awesome, and I'd been imaging great things for it for a long time before I actually purchased it. The hardware is still my favorite that I've ever purchased, too. 

This great shop cabinet is one of the only pieces my husband and I immediately agreed would be coming home with us. We saw it in an auction, dirty, and piled full of junk, but knew it would be a great fit at Gather. 

This little blue desk was something I sort of hoped wouldn't sell. I loved it immediately when I saw it, but couldn't think of how I might use it personally. I stuck it in Gather while I thought about it, and it sold not too long afterwards. I know it went to a great home, and I'm glad someone is enjoying it {by the way, I still can't figure out where I would have put it, so I'm glad I didn't keep it}.

This little green chest was probably the most charming piece I bought all year. I got a steal, and it cleaned up so nicely. It sold the first day I had it in Gather. 

This pie safe caught the attention of the auctioneer who sold it to us, and he made sure to tell us we got a great find. I've always pictured a pie safe in my store, but it's still looking for a good home if you're interested!

This dry sink made the biggest transformation, in my opinion. It was in good condition when we bought it, but not at all my style. It looked great after we painted it white, and it didn't hang around the store for too long. We have a distant cousin of this piece, a corner hutch, being finished up and she will hopefully be in the store shortly!

This buffet is the biggest labor of love. The shape was amazing and the hardware is original, but the wood wasn't great. I gave it a gray & white treatment, and all the detail work almost killed me. It turned out so nicely that I really considered keeping it for myself. She just found a new home last weekend though and I'm glad to see that someone else loves her like I do!

These vintage suitcases & trunks have been my obsession all year. I look for them everywhere I go, and my stack stays pretty tall most of the time. The trunk on the bottom was my first purchase from an auction, and I withstood a downpour and the threat of a tornado to make it mine. 

Finally, my vintage sled. I found this last winter, and knew I would hang on to it for my first Christmas at Gather. It sold at my holiday open house, so I'll have to be on the lookout for one for next year! 

It's fun to look back at these pieces and see the trends in what I purchased: I love white furniture, or furniture that can be painted white. I love furniture painted in non-traditional colors that would add a pop to a space. I love metal that is rusty or covered in chippy paint. I love to put things in Gather that I would also put in my home.

I don't see any of those trends for Gather going away in 2013! 

Many thanks to all of you who visited Gather in 2012. It was an amazing 6 months filled with lots of stories and new friendships and fun finds. We can't wait to see what 2013 brings!

Speaking of that, here are our hours for the first half of 2013! 
Saturday, January 12
2nd & 4th Saturdays of every month,  February through May
10am - 3pm
Or by appointment

I also have this piece of news:
All Christmas merchandise is 25% off! 

This is our only Gathering in January, so make sure to stop in and see us! 

Have a great week, everyone!

Monday, January 07, 2013

Favorites of 2012

Hi all,

I'm writing today about some of my favorites from 2012. If you'd like to see what I posted last year, check out my Favorites 2011 post. I started this post sometime last week and Blogger has not been my friend with uploading pictures. Needless to say, Blogger didn't make the list. 

Favorite Apps
{I have an iPhone 4 for the moment, which I love, but I'm also looking forward to upgrading in March}

If you read this blog or follow me on Facebook {either personally or on Gather's page}, you've heard me mention my love for Instagram. Since I post just about every photo I take to Facebook anyway, this app saves me a ton of time. You can follow me @gatherboutique

myLife Calendar
I started off the year using the Calendar app that came with my phone and it just wasn't working for me. I have 3 calendars connected to my phone and I was duplicating a lot of appointments on that app. myLife seems to work out a lot better for me. It allows me to color code appointments so I know which calendar they're coming from. It also allows me a weekly or daily view and some different reminder and recurring appointment options. Plus, it's a lot prettier than the calendar app!

Although I'm slowly phasing out my Etsy shop to launch my new Gather Etsy shop, I still access my VDC shop on Etsy quite a bit. This app has really allowed me to touch base with my customers and manage my shop much more quickly. It's also dangerously fun for shopping when I have some time to kill.

Favorite New Recipe

Source: tasteofhome.com via Jen on Pinterest

This bacon corn dip is by far the best thing I've made all year. Every time I take it to a gathering or send it to work for a potluck, I'm bombarded with requests for the recipe. It is so good, and so simple to make.

Favorite New Holiday Recipe

Source: pattysfood.com via Jen on Pinterest

Every year, I try to hunt down a new recipe for cookies or candies to include in my baking bonanza. This year, I made about 25 dozen cookies and 10 gallons of different snack mixes, and this peppermint sugar cookie made the top of my list. It's definitely added to my annual line-up.

Favorite Holiday Purchase

Speaking of the holiday, these pillow cases were my favorite purchase this year. I got them from Pottery Barn after Christmas when they were on clearance, and I couldn't be more thrilled with them. The quality is great and the print is beautiful. I can't wait to use them next year when we decorate for Christmas! It looks like they might be sold out of them now, but I think they've had them for the last couple of years, so maybe they'll bring them back in 2013!

Favorite Green Product

I'm always on the lookout for items that will simply my life and be gentle on the environment at the same time. I'm really interested in the aspect of reusable products that are typically disposable, so these reusable towels were an awesome find. I purchased mine from this Etsy seller. I don't see any in her shop at the moment, but I'm sure you could ask her for a custom listing. She customized my fabric to match my new kitchen - 6 towels in dark gray and light gray chevron, and 6 in gray with white polka dots.

Favorite Nail Color

Coral was my surprise color love in 2012. I started wearing it in March and didn't give it up until about September {when I switch to my exclusively gray & black wardrobe for winter}. So, when I found this slightly darker than coral shade from OPI - Cajun Shrimp - I was in heaven.

Favorite Snack Food

I found this salsa verde at Trader Joe's early last year and I love it. It's easily my favorite salsa verde product, and I love it on homemade Mexican food or just to snack on with tortilla chips. It's so good that I'll make stops at TJ's just to buy more when I'm running low.

Favorite K-Cup

If you follow me on Instagram, you saw the picture I posted recently of my "problem" with K-Cups. I love trying new varieties, and it helps that I know so many people who have Keurig's and are willing to share with me. My favorite find for this year is the Half and Half Iced Tea by Celestial Seasonings. It's a great iced tea with just a little sweetener. I can normally find these at my local Walmart or Target, even in the winter.

Favorite Candle

I found this one late in the year, but it's something I'll continue to burn all winter {if it lasts me that long}. This is the Cranberry Pear Bellini 3-Wick candle from Bath & Body Works. I got it during a promotion so it was about $11 and completely worth it. I'll be going back to get another one within the next few weeks, I'm sure.

Favorite Memory Keeping Tool

I found Persnickety Prints when I was looking for somewhere that would print quality Instagram photos. I heard about Persnickety through the Project Life forum on Big Picture Classes, and decided to try them out. I love the quality of the prints they sent me! They're on nice, heavy photo paper with a matte finish. You can select a ton of different photo sizes, which makes them a really great option for Project Life photo prints. And they have speedy delivery, great customer service, and my inbox usually has a great offer from them for a discount. Try them out if you get a chance!

So, there you have it! Just a few of my random favorites that made the list this year. Let me know what you think if you try any of them, or if they made your favorites list for 2012. Have a great day! 

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Project Life 2013

Hey everyone!

I hope the start of the new year is treating you well! Something I always focus on at the beginning of the year is my memory keeping plans for the upcoming year. Since I started Project Life two years ago, it's been a much simpler process for me. This year will be a little different since we are moving and I don't have a dedicated crafting space in the new home. I thought I'd share just a few of the plans I have in place for 2013.

Project Life Medium

Becky Higgins offers a few different ways of completing Project Life. The first is the physical products of the core kit, page divider & album. This is the closest option to traditional scrapbooking. She also has partnered with Shutterfly for digital scrapbooks, and with ACDigitals for digital scrapbooking elements.

I'm choosing to go with the traditional version of Project Life again this year. I've made Shutterfly books in the past {and occasionally still do}, and while I love them, it just doesn't feel like scrapbooking to me. I like the idea of feeling the layers of photos and papers and embellishments, so I'm continuing with this method again this year.

In some of the forums I participate in for Project Life, questions often come up about how albums will be shared in later years or amongst children. We don't have that issue right now, but once we do, I'm sure my methods will change. If you know me from the PL forums, then you've already heard this, but for those who are curious, here is our plan: I will use the PL Baby or Childhood editions to complete physical scrapbooks for each of our children. When they graduate high school, they will likely have several albums that are theirs for the taking when they're ready {I'm under no illusion that our children will want to take thick PL binders to their college dorm rooms with them.}. I will also complete a family PL album every year, most likely through Shutterfly. The reason behind this is that I can print multiple copies to share with our children in later years while still keeping on for myself. That was a random tangent, but I do get questions about it from time to time, so I wanted to address it. 

Project Life Design

First, what I've done in past years. in 2011, I used the Amber Edition  core kit and the Amber binder. {I still haven't completed this album, by the way.} In 2012, I used the Clementine Edition core kit and a gray binder from We R Memory Keepers {the company who makes the Project Life binders}. I'll hopefully be finished with this album by the end of January...well, that's the goal anyway.

In 2013, I'm planning to use the new Seafom Edition core kit and the same gray binder from We R Memory Keepers {assuming I can find it in stock somewhere}. Here's a glimpse of what that edition looks like:

The Seafom Edition { and the Olive Edition, which is also new for 2013} should be available sometime in early January, so I will be ordering that from Amazon as soon as it is. A helpful tip, if you're waiting for a product to appear on Amazon from Becky Higgins - she is excellent at updating her followers on Facebook & Twitter about the releases of products for sale. Follow her and you won't have to stalk Amazon.

Becky also announced in 2012 that she's partnering with American Crafts to make Project Life available in retail stores. I'll share more information on my blog once I have it - it will be so nice to have all the elements easily accessible!

Project Life Organization

I'm not sure I've ever photographed it for my blog before {probably because it's always a disaster}, but I have a table in my dining room dedicated to Project Life. It holds my printer, my core kit, my album and page protectors. Printed pictures are kept in drawers until I can get them into the album. I did a post awhile back on the Martha Stewart organizing trays that I use to corral my journaling cards, filler cards & title cards, plus some go-to tools. You can read that here. This system works out pretty well for me. The table is very close to my dining room table, so when I wanted to work on my album, I could just move the organizer over to the dining room table where there is plenty or room for me to spread out.

Since we're moving in the next month or so {hopefully}, I'm having to re-think my system. I won't have a dedicated craft room, and I'm not sure I want the clutter of all of this in our dining room like it is now. I'm currently storing all my plastics in the flat boxes they are packaged in. I need to figure out a way to actually separate them by type so I can find them easily, so that's a goal for next year.

I'm not sure I'll use this Martha Stewart organizing system again. I don't tend to journal as I take pictures, so I don't think everything needs to be out in the open like it is. The box the core kit is packaged in is probably fine, plus it will stack easier since it's the same size as the plastics boxes now. I'm looking at having more of a craft storage closet, so the more use of my space I can get, the better.

I do like the idea of having all of my go-to tools and supplies together. Most likely, I'll keep a small basket in the closet near my PL supplies with my corner rounder, Tim Holtz Tiny Attacher, date stamp, etc. That way, when I'm ready to work on the album, I can pull out my plastic box, my core kit box, and my tools basket and be ready to go.

Project Life Layouts

People do this project in any number of ways. Some do a photo a day method, others do weekly or monthly spreads. Some people keep things very simple by putting photos in their holders and journaling in there holders - that's how this project was designed. Others get more elaborate and add embellishments to their photos and journaling cards. Any of those ways are great, as long as they're working for the person completing the album!

In 2011, I did {am doing} a chronological album. In 2012, I started with a chronological album and switched mid-way through the year to make my album more topical in nature. By this I mean that I'm rearranging the photos so they are grouped with other similar photos. Some of my categories include Family, Gather, Pets, and Everyday Life. I'm still in the process of grouping photos from last year, so there may be more than that. I'd like to do a 2012 Project Life video for my blog when the album is completed, so check back for that later on this year.

In 2013, I plan to go the chronological route. This one makes the most sense for me to try out at first. I like the idea of doing 2-page weekly spreads. This doesn't mean I'll be taking a photo a day {although some weeks may be just that}, but over the course of the week, will have taken approximately 7 pictures.
The great thing about Project Life is that if I decide that layout isn't working for me, I can always go back and change it up to do something that works better with our lifestyle.

Project Life Inspiration

There is a wealth of information out there related to Project Life, but here are a few of the places I regularly turn to:
Becky Higgins - Becky has info on her products, her creative team, her blog, and links to all the ways she communicates with her customers through social media. This is the best source for staying up to date on all things Project Life. Becky also regularly posts photo ideas and inspiration for cultivating a good life on her Facebook & Twitter.
Big Picture Classes - I participated in a free Project Life forum and Project Real Life last year through BPC. I don't see anything yet for 2013 in the way of classes, but I'm a little out of the BPC loop at the moment. A great e-book resource I found on BPC is Project Dig Deep.
Pinterest - Pinterest is full of all sorts of memory keeping inspiration. I have a Project Life Inspiration board where I keep interesting things and that I'll continue to add to over the year.
Instagram - check out #projectlife for tons of awesome pictures and layouts.

If you're interested in previous posts about Project Life on my blog, you can check out my Project Life tag. I'll also be tagging future posts so they can all be kept together.

Are you planning to take on Project Life during 2013? I'd love to know who else will be completing an album and what your plans are. Have a great day, everyone!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Happy 2013!

Happy New Year!!

Happy 2013 everyone! I hope you had a great time ringing in the new year. I told you in my 112 in 2012 post that I would share some of my 2013 goals with you, so here we go!

I organized these a little differently. There certainly aren't 113, but there aren't just one or two. I'm also getting pretty specific here, because I found out that if I have a broad goal, I don't make as much progress. I'm much better crossing off smaller items as I accomplish them.

Unify the Gather Brand
  • Close Vogt Design Co. on Etsy
  • Launch Gather on Etsy
  • Develop a central website for everything related to Gather (blog, social media, online purchases, Gatherings, classes, etc.)
Grow the Gather Brand
  • Teach a variety of classes in Gather
  • Include party decor & stationery in Gather inventory
  • Expand inventory to include memory keeping tools

Make our House a Home
(We've been in the process of moving for the last 15 months - these goals apply to our new home, once we have finalized the move)
  • Utilize organizational tools to keep our household running efficiently
  • Focus on feeling comfortable with the home as it is, rather than wanting all the changes to happen at once
  • Take pride in our home
Attain a Stronger Sense of Financial Security
  • Begin couponing and price-matching regularly for grocery purchases
  • Sell existing home
  • Live on 1 income
  • Continue to plan dinners at home and to pack breakfasts and lunches
Maintain momentum with Project Life and other memory keeping projects

Prioritize the strength of our marriage

There you have it! Much simpler than last year, but still not a short list. A lot of projects that will take us the entire year to complete or that will never really be completed. Gather will still be a priority for me in 2013, but there are a lot of other aspects to my life I want to focus on. This list has plenty of room to grow and change. And you'll notice that a lot of the things that were on my 2012 list aren't even addressed here, specifically. I felt like a lot of them would naturally happen if I accomplish what I have on this list. And those that don't probably aren't the priority anyway.

Like I said in my last post, I'd love to see your goals for 2013. Feel free to leave a list in the comments or link me to a blog post about them. I wish you all a very blessed new year!