Thursday, December 27, 2012

Stuff I Love: Blurb Instagram books

Now that the year is coming to a close, I know a lot of you are thinking ahead for your 2013 New Years Resolutions. One of my resolutions for the past two years was to "Take a daily photo of my kid(s)" and that I did do. At the beginning of last year, I put together 2011's photos into a Blurb Instagram book and I loved it so much that I want to share it with you guys, in case you are thinking of doing something similar.

For the first year that I had an iPhone, I would just take tons and tons of pictures, but the problem was that they weren't great enough to be printed out, and yet I didn't want to lose them in the Photo Stream forever. I decided to pick one photo that I liked best every day, had it uploaded it to my Instagram account (a separate account used solely for daily pictures) and then I organized them into months. Back when I started, Instagram only had like 5 filters, so I've been using the "Earlybird" filter (with the frame, since back then there was no option to remove it) for two years, but I'll likely pick a new filter for 2013.

Right now, I'm taking a photo of the two kids together everyday, which is proving to be quite a challenge because neither kid can sit still, but I can't wait until December 31st so I can finish up my Blurb Instagram book for 2012 and send it off to be printed and bound.

I highly highly recommend doing something like this, so you can look back and see what you did every day, and it's such a great way to recap the year. Even if you don't have kids, you can still do a "daily photo" book, it's just a really nice way to see your year in 365 snapshots. Even though this book above is from 2011, P still looks though it and points out to me what he was doing in all the photos, which is really fun. Plus, putting together an Instagram book is a lot less stressful than doing full-out photo albums.

Here are some tips on what worked for me:
  1. I create a new Instagram account every year for photos, just so it's easier to manage 365 photos, than to have to sort through hundreds and hundreds of photos and pick out the ones from the year. Instagram doesn't make it easy to manage more than one account, so I just have to sign in and out of my multiple accounts.
  2. I use a Calendar app (this one) on my phone so I can see what date each photo was taken since Apple doesn't make it easy to see that information and I can't remember the exact day that most photos are taken. I usually just go in once a week or so and do 6 or 7 photos at a time, doing it daily would be tedious. I title each photo with the date so it's easier to order them properly.
  3. Blurb has two options for book-making. One is the online Bookify, which you can sign into your Instagram account and directly import your photos in, but managing the layout is pretty annoying. Two is the BookSmart program that you download to your computer, and you have more control over layout, but you cannot directly import from Instagram. I used the online Bookify interface, and uploaded the four photos into the page, and then change the layout to the four squares. They don't allow you to select the layout until AFTER you've dragged in the photos, so for the pages that only needed 1, 2, or 3 photos, but I still wanted to preserve the four square layout, I had to create a transparent .png image that I dragged into the blank squares. Does that sound super confusing? If you're doing it and need help, please feel free to email me!
  4. If you don't have a smart phone with Instagram, you can still create Blurb books from regular digital photos, or directly import from Facebook, though I really like how neat and clean the square photos look, so I'm sticking with Instagram.
  5. If you use the online Bookify, and you start your book in the middle of the year, you'll need to make sure to sign in and edit your book every 45 days, or else they delete unfinished books! I learned this the hard way, though I was able to email Blurb customer support and they were able to recover my deleted book.
  6. Since this year's (2012) book will be of the two kids together, I'm printing out two copies of the book and storing the extra copy in a safe place. When the kids are all grown up, they'll each get their own copy and be able to look back at their childhood pictures. I'm doing the same for all of our family albums.
In case you are curious, the 2011 book was around 108 pages, and it cost around $50 with the hardcover and premium paper upgrade, but Blurb is always running 20% promotions so it could be cheaper.

Let me know if you make a book as well! And of course, feel free to ask me any questions :)

Happy New Year!

This is not a sponsored post. I paid for my book with my own money, I just loved it so much that I wanted to share!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Not perfect


Plaid top: Old Navy
Sweater/Jeans: Target
Boots: Frye Carson Pull-On

I knew I should have used Fran's smooth sweater layering trick, but you can see the bumpy mess that resulted from my failure to do so.  Also, this sweater was balled up on the bottom of my closet (don't worry, it was clean) and I mistakenly thought, "oh those wrinkles will smooth themselves out after wearing it for a few hours." Nope. However, I was having a good hair day that I did not want to go undocumented. So here you go.

For you style bloggers, my question is, do you still post pictures from days like this, where it's not your best outfit? And as a reader, would you prefer to only see perfect outfits, or is it okay that some outfits are less than stellar? Like yesterday, I wore my purple Old Navy Rockstar jeans that were too big (I tried shrinking them but it did not work except to make them super crispy), and one look at the camera proved that indeed these jeans are very poorly fitting. Should I still post the pictures, or just delete them and pretend it never happened? I want my blog to be a true representation of what I wear everyday, and if I've already gone through the trouble of taking pictures, why not? But at the same time, I cringe to think of those pictures being immortalized on the internet forever. I don't know. What are your thoughts?

PS. I finally got around to doing a blog redesign, yay! :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Belting

While I don't want to ignore the tragedies of last Friday here on the blog, I feel that I'm not eloquent enough to even begin to address it. My thoughts have been echoed by others across the web, and my heart goes out to the families impacted by this thoughtless act of violence.

Chambray shirt: Gap
Cardigan: Gap Outlet
Jeans: J Brand
Oxfords, belt: Target

Having a non-stretchy belt around my mid-section makes me realize how bad my posture is when I'm sitting down. It made slouching very uncomfortable. And I'll admit I had to loosen it a few notches after lunch time.

Please don't mind my uneven sleeves, I'm not a professional sleeve roller.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lace

Lace top: Velvet (hand-me-down)
Cardigan: J.Crew Outlet
Skirt: BR Factory Store

I'm at a loss for what to say in this post, so I'll just leave you with: I wore this outfit.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Effort

Chambray shirt: Gap
Sweater: Target
Pants: Old Navy Rockstar

As I've decreased the frequency of outfit posts these past few months (or year), I've noticed an increase of blah outfits that I've been wearing off the blog. I'm not putting as much effort into getting dressed, mostly because it's hard to plan outfits or put a lot of time into my appearance these days. I'm not getting much sleep at night because my 7 month old WAS -past tense- sleeping through the night, but around 4 months old she started waking up multiple times. We thought it was just a growth spurt, but I'm pretty sure growth spurts don't last three months. Needless to say, groggy mornings are usually spent wrangling the kids, and there's little leftover time for myself.

I did notice, however, that I would spend a little more time and thought into getting dressed when I planned on taking outfit photos that particular day, and those days were becoming less and less frequent. After all, I wouldn't want a photo of unwashed hair and ugly clothes posted on the internet for everyone to see. From now on, I'm going to start treating everyday as "outfit photo day" and put more of an effort into how I present myself... just for going to work though. I'm still allowed to dress like a slob for running errands and hanging around the house.

I hope that will translate into slightly more frequent posts here on the blog. :)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Stocking Stuffer wishlist

Hi husband. I'm aware that you have no idea what to put in my stocking for Christmas, so I put together a few ideas of things that I like:

  1. Silver rhinestone necklace - $25
  2. Knit panda slippers - $5
  3. Polka dot scarf - $15
  4. Fleece lined tights - $7 (available at Nordstrom Rack)
  5. Julep Winter Collection nail polish - $34
  6. Pearl bracelet set - $30  
  7. Stacked rings - $6
  8. White T-Shirt  - $15
  9. Bobby Pins - $3
Bobby pins? Yes, these bobby pins (from Sally Beauty Supply) are the best bobby pins in the entire world. I cry when I lose them, they are that amazing.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Third Time's the Charm

Top: Target
Cardigan: Halogen
Skirt: Banana Factory
Boots: Steve Madden

Sometimes I look back at my outfit archive and am embarrassed that 1) I actually wore that out of the house and 2) I posted it on the internet for everyone to see. I do have a few favorites though, and this outfit (from almost two years ago) was one. It was simple enough with a button-up, belted cardigan, pencil skirt and boots, so I tried recreating it the other day. But after taking pictures, the camera proved the outfit was not as flattering as I had thought. Nevermind that, I tried the same formula again a few days later, this time with a longer cardigan and a wider belt, but still, nope. Something about the proportions was just "off." See evidence below:

 

OK, I guess they're not that bad, but I couldn't place my finger on why I didn't like them that much. On the third try of my outfit recreation, I stuck with a more short and fitted skirt, and I think that was it. The camel skirt and the striped skirt were just too long and rectangular, even after I slimmed AND shortened the camel one, which was even boxier and longer before. Looks like I'll need to make a few alterations on both skirts so they hit right above the knee, and are a more of a pencil shape versus a shapeless box (something I learned from Jean at Extra Petite).

And a note about my hair, I've been experiencing major post-partum hair loss, and it's just so stringy and flat these days, as evidenced in the left-hand side picture. As much as I didn't like the so-called "blogger bun" a year or two ago, it's now my go-to hairstyle that hopefully makes it look like I have some sort of volume up top, plus it keeps my hair out of the reach of little fingers, and keeps all the shedding around the house to a minimum. I can't wear bangs anymore because the front hair is too thinned out, and I'm still trying to get used to having my hair pulled back from my face all the time. Judging from last time around, I'll probably hate my hair for another year or so before it returns to normal, so that's exciting. Any volumizing or hair-loss-hiding hairstlye tips would be welcome :)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

November Budget Recap

  1. Rust colored jeans (Target) - Originally $23, on clearance for $7 - $5 gift card = $2
  2. Flannel shirt (Old Navy) - Originally $24, clearance for $18 - 40% off coupon + tax = $12
November total: $14

I resisted the temptation to shop Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, though I was SO CLOSE to placing a few online orders of things I didn't need. Thankfully I reminded myself I really don't need any clothes and that I really want to save my remaining budget ($70) for after-Christmas sales (which are waaaaay better than Black Friday anyway).

I had been looking for a pair of burgundy skinny jeans for awhile (and annoyed that the Old Navy Rockstar jeans had every color imaginable EXCEPT burgundy) and found this deep rust pair on the Target 70% off clearance that was not quite burgundy, but close enough. And the flannel shirt? A nursing mom can never have too many of those.

Also, I FINALLY got my Ebates check for the Frye boots I bought back in the summer (apparently it never made it to my account but I emailed the support team and they immediately took care of it - great customer service!) so I'm adding that amount to my budget ($50). If you don't use Ebates or any other cash back program, you're totally missing out! If you shop online frequently, the dollar here and there totally add up (I don't feel like I shop online too much, but I was able to get back almost $100 this year). You can sign up here.

Sooo... with the extra $50, I now have $120 left for the month of December, which is pretty sweet. I don't need anything but wouldn't mind a grey sweater or some new jeggings, so I'll be hunting down some good year-end sales :)

Linking up with Franish's Budgeting Bloggers.