April Project: Complete 2017 scrapbook

I’m going on a 30 day odyssey to scrapbook an entire year! Here is my game plan, the process I’ll follow, and links to pages I’ve shared.

Have you ever piggybacked on a “get stuff done” event for encouragement but what you’re working on is a total tangent from the intended “stuff”? That’s what I’m doing this month.

Every November NaNoWriMo runs a 50,000 word novel writing challenge. Two other months each year they run a “camp” for other writing projects. I decided to hop on board the April camp to get my 2017 scrapbook finished. I have about half of our vacation in August done, and that’s about it. My numeric goal is 52 pages, giving me 4 pages a month plus a couple extra for more intense months (like August), but my real goal is to have something ready to print by the end of the month. It’s a super ambitious target and I already have my doubts, but no matter how far I get I’ll still be that much closer to having the year documented, which is significantly better than I was at the start of the month!

My plan and process

I’ve set a goal of having one month finished every 2-3 days, aiming to have June finished by the 15th and everything done by the 30th. That’s going to leave the second half of the month a bit more intense with both our three week vacation in August to finish and December to summarize (I did December Daily in 6×8, but I want to include some of those stories/photos in our annual album as well).

Last summer I figured out a workflow that seems to do well for me.

  1. Set a time interval. On vacation this was a single day. For this project it will usually be a full month, but I may break some of the more photo intensive months (like the kids birthdays and December) down into smaller chunks.
  2. Copy photos onto my iPad. I’ve already gathered all our photos together on our home server (ah, the joys of being a couple Comp Sci grads, we’ve set up a network for our house), so I just grab all the photos from the time period I want to deal with. I use FileExplorer in combination with the Photos app to do this without needing to connect to a computer.
  3. Pick my favourite photos. Using the Photos app, I scroll through all the pictures and “heart” the best ones (I often take several of one “pose” and this is also an opportunity for me to prune down from 20 photos of an event to one or two). Because I’m telling the story of the month in a couple pages I don’t need 20 photos of a family dinner at my parents’ when one will highlight what happened.
  4. Edit the favourites using PicTapGo. I usually stick to “Lights On”, “Auto Color”, and “Orange You Glad”, sometimes applying “Simple BW”, “Salt + Pepper”, or “Milk + Cookies” to turn it black and white.
  5. Open the Project Life app and go. I think I’ll try to stick with Design A for most of the book to keep it simple, but we’ll see.

2017 month-by-month

I’ll update this section with links as I share posts of my progress.

Books! March 2018

My first non-fiction book of the year, a classic, and the easiest reads yet brought me to five books this month.

** Unless otherwise specified, most of the books I read are audiobooks from the library while I’m commuting.

March was an interesting dichotomy of true classic literature against fluffy primary novels. All the books were super enjoyable and completely addictive.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

I don’t think this was my favourite Austen, but it certainly shows her mastery of character. I can definitely identify with sweet, innocent Fanny – it would be interesting to see how she developed as an adult. It was a total 19th century soap opera and I didn’t want to stop listen even though I had a strong suspicion of how everything would work out (and I was totally right). Austen is no longer original in her plot resolutions (if she ever was), but the how and why of getting there is an enjoyable journey.

Unicorn Chronicles Books 1-3 by Bruce Coville

I’m going to lump all these books together because they are such quick, easy, related reads. I read the first book in the series when I was in 5th grade and it stuck with me. I was never able to find the other books, but they popped up in the “related reads” on Goodreads for me earlier this year and I decided to give them a go. I’ve had to suspend reality and continuity on some things, but I think that’s pretty common in novels targeting this demographic. I had to do the same with Princess Diaries. The plots are fun hero quests with typical challenges along the way. Not a whole lot of character growth, but enough intrigue to keep me engaged, and a super quick pace.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson

I enjoyed this book substantially more than Marie Kondo (who I couldn’t finish), but this felt more like an encouraging memoir than instruction manual. She was certainly less “I’m the best thing since sliced bread” and more accepting of excuses, but had logical responses for them. It was far less patronizing and felt much more practical for a family (or post-family, as the intended audience is empty nesters/grandparents). While I wasn’t the target audience I took comfort in the thoughts she shared knowing one day I’ll have two households to “death clean”. It was reassuring to hear some of the statements about getting rid of deceased loved ones’ objects in the most efficient manner and with as little remorse as possible. I may revisit this book when the time comes to use it.

In progress and on hold

Last month I did a big book grab which resulted in one book being read and the rest were left to expire. My holds on Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen), Little Women (Louisa May Alcott), 1984, and Animal Farm (George Orwell) all came up and I had to let them expire while getting through other books as well. I’ve renewed my hold on a couple and will see about coming back to the others eventually.

I still need to read The Last Hunt by Bruce Coville. While it will only take me a couple days to get through, I decided to wait for it until I finished Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I also have Deathly Hallows out right now, but I don’t think I’ll finish HBP with enough time to get through it. I’ve already placed another hold on it!

What else I’ve read in 2018

February 2018
January 2018

2018 Garden plans

Winter is going! I’m super excited for spring to arrive and to get out in my garden. I’m far from a pro (I’d barely call myself a hobbyist), but I have many plans for the 2018 season.

As the weather warms up and the snow starts to melt my mind is turning to my garden. There’s still a couple months before I can plant anything (oh the joys of living so far north!), but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming and scheming.


Two weeks ago my favourite “nursery” open up pre-orders for tomatoes and other plants, so I had some quick choices to make. I’ll have to write more about these kids in another post! I order all my tomatoes from them as well as some herbs and peppers and their list kicks off my garden plans.

This year my self irrigating planters will be loaded down with tomatoes. 13 feet long by 3 feet deep the back row will have sun sugar cherry tomatoes, Polish Linguisa paste, Orange Wellington beefsteak, Mortgage Lifter beefsteak, and Lemon Boy slicer. In the front row I’m planting some peppers (sweet bell from the kids and I’ll pick up a spicy plant or two on clearance in June), a Whippersnapper cherry and trying out a Latah cherry.

Also in the back yard, I’m hoping to put in a 1×8′ raspberry bed along the south-east side of our garage and transplant a couple plum suckers from my inlaws’ yard to start an espalier along our west fence. I’d like to put a 1′ deep strawberry bed at the base of this fence, but I don’t think this will be the year for that.

In the front yard I need to see how everything survived the winter. I did a bunch of transplanting late last summer and I’m hoping things took. I plan to start a bunch of pansies inside in mid-April for ground cover (crossing my fingers that I don’t kill them from neglect before they make it into the ground – I’ve never been good with indoor plants!). In my railing baskets I’m planting a tumbler and tumbling yellow tomatoes, thyme, basil, mojito mint, and peppermint. Depending how the sage and rosemary fared over the winter I’ll be planting some in my wood planters.

Construction and maintenance projects

I’m still building! This year I want to build some obelisks to try and support the tomatoes better. They will also give me a place to use the antique green I’ve been lusting over but have no where in the house it would work. I also need to build beds and supports for the raspberries and plums. We also have a ton of painting/staining to do this year as the fence needs a second coat, and the deck, picnic table, and all my planters need a fresh stain. There is some grass in the front yard that needs to be repaired after last summer’s garden bed changes. Finally, I’m hoping to get a couple rain barrels set up; one by the front door on the east side of the house and one by the garage for my planters and the plums, but they may wait until 2019 while hubby focuses on other projects.

I’m trying to keep my garden plans simple, but I love having fresh produce and a yard that is useful (even if it’s the size of a postage stamp). It’s a constant struggle to find balance.

Books! February 2018

Revisiting some classics and finishing up with Meg Cabot saw me finish off five titles in February.

** Unless otherwise specified, most of the books I read are audiobooks from the library while I’m commuting.

For a short month I blasted through more than a book a week. I kicked off February with two Harry Potter books on the go and a couple Meg Cabots in the wings. I finished all but one, and grabbed some new content.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

The classic! It has been so long since I re-read this series and I’m loving re-visiting it. I was trying to get through both GoF and Order of the Pheonix, but ran out of time about half way through on my audiobook loan for OotP. It will be a long wait to get it again as it’s still super popular at the library.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Somehow I missed this book when I was a pre-teen. It came up in discussions in a few places recently, and I decided to finally see what it was all about. While it definitely isn’t the normal sort of thing I’d read I’m glad to have experienced it and will happily share it with my daughter when she’s around that age.

Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot

Mia again. This was the first Princess Diaries book targeted at adults, but I found it only marginally questionable for a teen to read vs truly adult oriented. There was enough allusion to smut, but nothing juicy.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Oh Terry Pratchett. Why do I always end up stopping and starting your books? I enjoy every one of them, but I can never seem to finish them in a single run! I’ve checked this particular book out from the library at least three times. It’s fairly popular, so I’ve always needed to put a hold on it, and it inevitably comes just as I get into another book. So it waits. And I only get through part of Good Omens. Three freaking times! The last time I got it out I had 30 minutes left to listen to. Yep, 30 minutes! I loved it. All the lovely tongue in cheek British humour that is still relate-able to a North American audience. And now I can watch miniseries without spoilers.

Royal Crush by Meg Cabot

I am DONE with all the Princess audiobooks my library has! Which is a good thing because I don’t think I could take another book about the Renaldo family. This was cute but Grandmere is insufferable, the plot mediocre, and I’m just done with all the non-drama drama.

In progress and on hold

I did a classics grab at the end of February and have A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens), A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett), and Mansfield Park (Jane Austen) checked out at the moment. I’m working my way through Mansfield Park and doubt I’ll get to the other two. This isn’t unusual for me – I’ll often go through a “100 books you must read” list when I need something new and grab what’s available before picking one.

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning came up, so it’s sitting there for me to decide if now is the time or not. I’m leaning towards not, mainly because…

When I posted my review on Goodreads for Royal Crush I discovered a series I had started as a pre-teen (and LOVED) but couldn’t find sequels for actually was finished, and my library has the audiobooks! I have Into The Land of the Unicorns and Song of the Wanderer by Bruce Coville checked out and plan to start in on them once I finish Mansfield Park (because Jane Austen does not get interrupted).

In my Holds I have the last three Harry Potter books, Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen), Little Women (Louisa May Alcott), 1984, and Animal Farm (George Orwell). The last three have been on my to-read list for years. While just about everyone has a general idea of what 1984 and Animal Farm are about, I’d like to actually have read them. And then I’ll probably need to grab the Coles Notes to grasp all the allegory.

What else I’ve read in 2018

January 2018

Books! January 2018

I completed four books in January, all of them fluff, and I enjoyed it! Read on for the list and an equally fluffy take on them.

** Unless otherwise specified, most of the books I read are audiobooks from the library while I’m commuting.

The first half of January was a pretty fluffy for me with books. The second half was a mad rush to try and get through several longer ones before they were due back at the library. No written words for me this month.


From the Notebook of a Middle School Princess by Meg Cabot

I needed something, anything!, to listen to after finishing my last book, and this one showed up in the “we recommend” on the home screen for the library. I had enjoyed previous Princess books by Meg Cabot so I figured why not?! While Olivia is several years younger than her half-sister Mia was when the whole “princess thing” was revealed to her, she appears to handle it a lot better than Mia. There is a fair amount of naivety, but in a much different way than Mia. She seems way more level headed, too.

Royal Wedding Disaster by Meg Cabot

Wait, is this the same Olivia from the last book?? What happened to the level headed kid? Has she been spending too much time with Mia? This book got weird. I’ll give the third book a shot, but I think I need a break, first.

Princess on the Brink by Meg Cabot

I ended up reading this more because it was available than interest, and I kind of wish I’d taken a pass. Suddenly Olivia seems level headed again. If I have to hear about the “Precious Gift” one more time… OMG. Definitely taking a Meg Cabot break. Good thing the library doesn’t have Princess Mia or Forever Princess available as audiobooks.

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

Oh book hangovers. I don’t know if it’s Riggs’ writing or Kirby Heyborne’s reading, but all three books in this series totally drew me in and were so hard to put down. The conflicts in this one were tied up WAY too perfectly, but that’s YA for you, and, honestly, it’s how I prefer my stories! I like happy endings.

In progress and on hold

Through some frustrating “books on hold/now available” timing, I currently have Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in progress and I really hope I manage to finish them both before they’re due back. I also have Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot checked out (I did a big Meg Cabot grab when I picked up Middle School Princess) but I’m not sure if I’ll bother with it right now or not.

After an interesting Houzz article I put The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning on hold, but after reading a bit more about it I’m not sure it quite hits what I’m interested in. I’ll probably give it a try when it comes up. Maybe I’ll be able to tolerate it more than I could Mari Kondo.

I was thisClose to finishing Good Omens when my loan expired, so it’s sitting in my holds so I can listen to the last 30 minutes and mark it complete.

Now that I’ve gotten Harry Potter GoF and OotP to listen to (fingers crossed I’ll get through them before they disappear!) I’ve placed holds for Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows. It looks like it’ll be several months before those come up for me, though.

One little word 2018: Thrive

I’m a bit late to dig into this, but I’ve used the month of January to kind of stew over what this word really means to me and our household.


Our home’s One Little Word for 2018 is Thrive.

Ali chose this word in 2014, and there have been many other bloggers and scrapbookers who have used it over the years. We’ve tried to focus on something for the last couple years (2017 – DONE and 2016 – Organize) with limited success. Pregnancy and an infant didn’t really help us go far, especially with such lofty, specific word choices. Continue reading “One little word 2018: Thrive”

2018 memory keeping goals

This is going to be a busy year, so I’m going to try and keep my scrapbooking goals simple.

2018 is going to be a busy year for us. Ryan and I will be celebrating our 10 year anniversary, and our eldest starts kindergarten in the fall. When did she get so big?! I’m trying to keep scrapbooking simple this year. I don’t have much space or time for scrapping right now, and even the time I do have feels like it’s being stolen from other things I “should” be doing.

  • Yearly album: I don’t think I even touched our yearly album in 2017, so I know better than to make big plans for one for 2018. I don’t want it to become another unfinished project. I had come in to 2018 thinking I’d do a weekly digital album. We’re now three weeks in and I have done nothing. I don’t want to be playing catch-up already, so I think I’ll switch this goal to monthly, aiming to do 4-6 pages (2-3 spreads) each month. I’ll keep it strictly within the Project Life app to make it simple.
  • Journalling: This is my secret to catching up on the yearly album! I don’t make it pretty like all the fancy planners you see, but I write in it daily (or I try to, anyway!), which helps when I re-visit a month’s worth of photos for the yearly album. I use a Recollections personal planner sized binder with my own custom pages.
  • FIT 2018: I’ve worked a lot of the repeated monthly prompts into my journal, and I’ll put the creative prompts into my yearly album. Ryan is joining me on this adventure.
  • Kids’ albums: I bought 12×12 Baby Girl and Baby Boy Project Life albums with corresponding card kits in 2015 and have barely touched them! And I’m not going to try and get a lot of stuff done with these this year, either. I will create a template for a main school year page, since our daughter starts kindergarten in the fall. To keep it simple and easy to just GET IT DONE for all the years to come I will use the same layout for all 13+ years for both kids. And if I don’t do it now I know I’ll look back and kick myself for the missed opportunity.
  • December Daily 2017: I want to get this album finished and ready to be printed by the end of February. I’m doing this as a 6×8 Project Life app project using the Merry & Bright mini kit.
  • Summer Vacation 2017: Also on my to-do list by the end of March. I’m half way through Day 8 of a 15 day trip. This was started within the Project Life App using the Wander core kit, but may include a little bit outside the app and some other kits.

I have several other projects sitting on the back burner that I’d love to work on, but I’m trying to not over-commit myself when I know we have small kids, a basement to finish, and some major fitness goals for the year. One day I’ll get to the kids’ albums, our honeymoon album, finish December Daily 2016, and everything else I want to do, but I don’t think it’s going to happen in 2018, and I’m okay with that.

Adventures in fitness tracking: Picking a tracker

Finding a budget friendly fitness tracker that works for my sports of choice – swimming and stationary bike – has been a years long process. But I finally ordered one!

Do you use a fitness tracker? Do you have to hit those 10,000 steps?

A couple years ago my company kicked off a big fitness initiative. They gave everyone the choice between a FitBit Flex or One and ran a “walk across the country” team based challenge. We all started strong but as the gap started to widen between the lead teams and everyone else (only the top 3 teams of 60+ got a prize) consistent use dropped off. And off. And off. Four months after we got our FitBits maybe 1 in 10 were still using their trackers. Gamification and peer pressure is great, but once it’s gone what keeps you going?

image1 (1)

FitBit doesn’t work for me. The only metric my One tracks that I even remotely care about is sleep (and then it’s a question of “how little did the boy let me get last night?” not “how can I do better?”). Until recently they didn’t even have a tracker that I could wear doing my favourite activity – swimming. They still don’t support my #2 activity of the stationary bike or my reluctant participation at Strong Lifts with hubby (but I love the results and time with him, so I do what works – plus I don’t have to leave the house since we have the rack in our basement). So I’ve been looking for something new off and on.


Swim trackers are hard to find and expensive, guys! There were a bunch of new products hitting the market in 2014/2015 and I was getting excited… then I got my FitBit and felt like it was an extravagance to spend my money on something I already had (and didn’t really like or use). But every so often I’d hunt down reviews to see what was considered “the best”. There are a few that consistently showed up on the lists. Garmin always had one or two at the top, and I was excited when the news came that Apple Watch 2 could be used for swimming. But man, that price tag!

Confession time: I’m a gift card hoarder. I’m terrible at getting out and spending them. As a result, I have three Christmases worth of gift cards sitting in my wallet, plus one from my work. With that sizable chunk of change that I’d been told to spend on myself I started to look at trackers again. And I was surprised to see one making lists for both swimming and biking… and under $100. Guess where my money has gone?


I’m now waiting for my new Moov Now to arrive and can’t wait to start using it. Instead of tracking steps it focuses on Active Minutes, which I think is way more important anyway. (Plus, in our tiny house the 50 steps most people get walking from the couch to the kitchen is only 10 for me, so I never come close to 10k! I’m happy to eliminate that disappointing metric.) It tracks swimming, cycling (both stationary and outdoors), and has a bunch of other features. And it coaches you! I’m going to have a little voice in my head telling me how to do better. Not at swimming, but for everything else. SO COOL!

Watch out world, this girl is getting her butt in gear. (And man, does it ever need to find a higher one.)

DD2017: Day 1 and 2

The first couple days of December are a total whirl of activity, which made me super thankful for having already planned out what those pages where going to look like! All I had to do was add in some journalling and photos.

The first couple days of December are a total whirl of activity, which made me super thankful for having already planned out what those pages where going to look like! All I had to do was add in some journalling and photos.

I also figured out why I was having so much difficulty photographing our elf’s arrival! I had the ISO on my dSLR set to 200 for a bright, sunny day. Oops!


December 1st was all about advent calendars. These photos were super quick to grab, a quick edit in PicTapGo, and into the pages. The hardest part of this was writing the journalling, and even that came together quick and easy.


December 2nd was the first Saturday of the month, which means tree decorating day! Ryan decided to re-arrange the living room so we could bring out the big tree, and it was so nice to put up all our glass ornaments for the first time in three years!


I took ten minutes and had a bit of fun grabbing photos of some of our favourite ornaments and playing with bokeh. This page came together so fast as a result. Since I shot in manual, all the photos had the same white balance and ISO, so I was able to edit one, save the “recipe” and apply it to all within PicTapGo. I didn’t worry about small variations in brightness if I was on a better lit side of the tree or not.


I love these two cards from the Merry & Bright mini kit. They’re a big part of why I picked this kit, actually!

I’m kind of kicking myself for missing taking a photo of the specific ornament I mention in the journalling, but with the chaos that is the first several days of December, I’m not going to fuss over it. Done is done. Time to move on!