Monday, July 06, 2015

Thoughts on 9 Years of Blogging, a blog book review, and a gift!

Yes, I checked - my first post was on 19 June 2006. This was the first layout I posted - look how tiny Jared was then! He was doodling in the sand on the ground, I remember, and was always creating even then, wherever he would be, oh how precious this layout is!

It's been nine years that I've been adding posts on this humble blog. I would never have guessed, that night when I caught onto this blogging bug that it would last this long, and that it will be a precious place I call home on the web. 

As I look back over the years, I find so many posts that are especially meaningful, or memorable for me. Some captured 'currently now' or thoughts and sentiments that are not anywhere else in my scrapbooks or journals. Some posts just make me happy! It's a good time to share some of 

my Favourite Posts 
(from the early years)

my Choice

I started a blog as a place to share my layouts and my designs, but it quickly became a place where I also shared my life though pictures, reflections, anecdotes, and stories. And through this place I have made so many wonderful online friends and even built a store. Blogging is a hobby unto itself, even a career for many, how cool that I've kept it going too!

In recent years, though, I have had to re-think this blog a lot, as the children became teenagers, when their privacy and feelings about that became a priority. I am very careful about what I share now, some pages are never posted online, though I think trip layouts and everyday life are usually okay to share, so that's what I do a lot of. That's why these days I tend to post about techniques or how-tos, anything to do with scrapbooking, of which I can never run out of things to share, :) It's a little sad to become more impersonal here, but it's a choice I am glad to make. I also want to focus more on my own scrapbooking, while posting on the blog and store takes a lot of time. So I'm re-thinking how I share here. As long as I'm still scrapbooking I don't think I will ever stop blogging but it may take on different formats or slow-down, we'll see!

my Blog Books

In any case a few months ago, I decided I will make a more permanent physical copy of my blog in the form of a blog book. For the longest time I have thought about using Blurb who I think has the most flexible and dynamic software for downloading and printing a blog into a book. But because I didn't have the luxury of time (think how much I will want to customise and beautify the layout of the book!) I went with a much simpler option of Blog2Print. Their software and options are limited, the advantage though is I could get a book uploaded and sent for print in an hour. 

my Blog2Print Review

I made three books! They cover my blog from 2006-2008, 2009-2011, 2012-2014 in 3 volumes. Okay I know, it felt over-indulgent, but also felt really great when I received them! 

At over 200 pages each, they were quite heavy, bound in hardcovers. The only option are 8.5"x11" books. The covers are glossy, and I chose the simple completely black option. You can only select from their covers, and insert a picture, but not able to completely customise your own covers. The pages are of good quality fairly thick white paper which feels good to the touch. The paper is not photo paper, but is matte and smooth in feel. I like it!
As you can see you can add your own titles on the front and spine of the books

For each book, you can also add a dedication, or introduction. And all your blog posts will be listed in a Contents page like they are chapters, with the pages listed accordingly. Quite cool! However, I just want to point out, as you can see, from the photo on the left of the dedication pages of my books, that the binding seemed tight, and the papers a little crumpled when I try to open that page. This is a minor issue though, as it does not affect the actual pages further on.

What I'm very happy with is how the colors were presented in the book! All my layouts were beautifully and accurately printed, in vibrant colors even though the paper was not photo-paper quality.

Because I had so many pages to print, (nine years!) I tried to reduce the size and pages to save costs. For my books, the printing options I chose were: 
  • No page breaks between posts (each post starts where the last post ends on the same page)
  • Medium sized images 
  • Not to show comments
The software will arrange the images and centralize them on the page, and put two images side by side because I chose 'medium' sized images. Every page has the post title and page number printed at the bottom corners. Just like a real book :)

The main issue I faced is that you can only select which posts to include or not, but are unable to edit anything within the post that you chose to include. So I could not edit out the 'view cart' button on this page. It was rather irritating, but a small problem that I could live with. 

Lastly, my books cost about US$90 each, after 15% discount, which is quite costly in my opinion, I'm not sure how much it would cost if printed with Blurb though. I went ahead and bit the bullet, over the course of a few months.

Most importantly, I've got my books in print in my hands, and I've been happily flipping through every now and then, it's so great to read some of the old posts and so to me, it's worth it! Hope this review helps anyone who is contemplating this.

my Layouts

Scrapbooking our memories will always be  my priority over the blog and the store, and here are my layouts for May Project 365.
Credits: ribbon by DisasterPiece Studios, blue tab from QuirkyHeart's Currently, blueplaid from TheDaily Digi's MylifeofHappines, paint, arrow, word circle, and alpha by DreamBigDesigns's Downtime and Surprise kits, wordart by LittleButtleflyWings, ribbon, arrows, twine, fabric tab from pink reptile designs' Its a Zoo, ink element by Rosey Posey Studios, Paper from At the market by Mari  Koegelenberg Creations, splatter from playful by Ninigoes Digi, and chip heart from StandTogether by Ponytails

Credits: Paints from ALittleBitQuirky's artsy bits and 
MayaddGroot's InTheGarden, and from TDP's Hello I Love You kit:
gold tag from StudioBasic, heart byAmanda Yi, tags by Mari
 Koegelenberg Creations, alpha by Scooty Gril Design.
Oh my button and Paper by Dream Big Designs, 
Heart and wordstrip by Kaye Winiecki's Electicmoments,
Banner by Mommyish, flower and wordart from Life's Good by RedIvy
and word art from SugarFancy's enjoylife

my Project Life 
May was fun with a lot of family and friend gatherings. We got to play at one of those escape from 'locked room through puzzle solving' games, I got to watch a pre-taped show at our local TV station, Our family celebrated Mothers' Day and received news from two new mothers-to-be, we will have two new grand nephews in November!

I also did up a page of 'Stories from the Weekend; using One Little Bird's At Week's End kit. We spent a lot of time on weekends at home and I loved capturing these routine moments.

Then there is this page which Ryan brought home one day! He had done this page in one of his school's after-school activities! He said he signed up for it since he thought he had seen so much of it at home he thought he would try it himself. I was thrilled!! Not bad huh? He chose all the cards himself, choosing colors of a similar theme, and used a photo of Jared he had snapped with his phone off the picture hanging on our walls. haha! 

my Taiwan Layouts
Journalling reads:  What can we say? Food is glorious in Taiwan! From live seafood selected by us, to market ‘small eats’, to the ‘ChiDaoBao’s, to the yum local shopfare, we were spoilt and fed beyond satisfied!

Journalling reads: We said we must have entered Touhouland! The highland resort park above the ULai water-falls were nostalgically quaint. That old-fashioned haunted ride, haha! the bumper cars, paintball shooting range that were aimed at cute wooded targets! Surreal! and such fun!!

Journalling reads: this quaint little town has the railway running right through it! There was a museum and the remains of a coal mine to explore, we sent a postcard to ourselves, had coffee in a ‘stone’ cafe, and discovered a church!

Journalling reads:  Shopping Anime, doodle for hotel, the LOOT!   More shopping, even at the night market! Digital book, Biffy, vending goodies! gum ball! drawing for girls, puffer fish! night at museum, LTK lookalike! Moulds! cup display, happy train-riding, accident! (note: that last photo was indeed a minor traffic accident we were in on our first day in Taiwan - thankfully no one was hurt, we got to see how the town and village leaders, traffic police and locals act in the situation)

Journalling reads: It was awesome that we found the lantern ‘shifu’ (master) and got him to teach us to make our own sky lanterns! He told us so much back-stories to how this tradition came about. The boys and us did a lantern each, we wrote blessings while they drew manga. Then we lit some sheets of joss paper, stuck them on the bottom, and they were off! What fun watching them lift off, swirling and flying so quickly up until we couldn’t see them anymore.  

my Gift

Nine years is something to celebrate, and I have bundled up these Taiwan page layouts into templates, as a gift for my newsletter subscribers. Find it in the newsletter I will send out soon! Thank you subscribers! It is a great way for me to reach out to you in case I am not posting so regularly, to keep you informed of happenings here :)

Not a subscriber? Go here (or click the image below) to sign up 
and receive the gift in the next newsletter

Or you can download this sample (posted last month) to try out this linear styled template (I've added the PNG and .PAGE files in this new link). 
Thank you!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Inspiration Post

Today's post is all about sharing awesome inspiration! Each one is so beautiful, and I do love that they all focus on fabulous photographs! Love memory keeping this way!

Here are layouts by the talented Tawn, these layouts are all from her blog : Homemakin'Girl. Check out her amazing photography site here: Thanks Tawn!

And here are more beautiful layouts from Kim (fiveseventeenCreations). Kim has been sharing layouts with me for a few years and they are always such wonderful creations - these are from her family's Florida adventures. Thanks Kim!

And don't you love these colorful layouts by Marlyn Raminez? Marlyn is from the Philippines and her layouts always feature her great family. Marlyn blogs at Grateful for life's little blessing. Thanks Marlyn for your constant encouragement!

An absolute eye-candy treat, aren't they? Thank you ladies!
If you have layouts to share with me, I would be thrilled. Email me at 'yindgs (at) yahoo (dot) com (dot) com. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The quickest trip album ever!

Last week I shared how my husband lost all his beautiful photos of our Taiwan trip when he lost his camera. And how my layouts on the Project Life app saved our memories.

I still wanted a Taiwan photo book, but since I have less photos then usual, I wanted to do this differently. And quickly. This is how.
digiscrap trip album template

First I decided to make these pages in the linear collage style like last year's Bali album. I will save a lot of time from not making the mats and shadow for each individual photo. The most important time-saver is the Pre-selection of papers and elements to be used on all the layouts, and sticking to them! I also decided not to use alpha for the titles, which saved me 30 rounds of alpha-search, so there!

I streamlined my process by batching the tasks:
  1. Select the photos for all the layouts all at one go. 30 photoshop files were opened to house the photos sorted by days or places we visited.
  2. Pre-Select the background papers ( only 2 black papers) and about 100 elements (word strips, tape) based on the few main colors I can see in the photos and save them to a special folder. These were reused and repeated through the layouts and saved time and provided a consistent theme to the album. 
  3. Color process all the photos at one go - brightening or sharpening using the levels tool only.
  4. Next, resize and arrange the photos to form each layout
  5. Add elements to all the layouts 
  6. Add Title and Journaling to all the layouts (font used was Return To Sender for title and Calibri for journaling)
  7. Done! I love it!
And here are the accompanying templates - currently 20% off in the store. Thanks for looking!
digiscrap trip album template

digiscrap trip album template

In case some of you want to follow our adventures, I will share our journaling for each day/place here. These are the first twenty layouts, I will save the rest for other projects to be shared later (wink)

Journaling reads: Our first stop was the YeLiu national park, it was our first shock and experience with the hordes of China tourist!! You can’t tell here because we had walked  so far away to escape them! Still the place is quite interesting and everyone has a right to see it! Then on our way to the Sculpture Museum, we took a detour to the tomb and memorial to Theresa Teng.  It was quite moving that her songs play 24 hours a day here, and lots of people still come everyday to lay flowers twenty years after her death. The caretaker kept saying to us, “such a pity”. Surreal experience in the fog and rain and all!

Journaling reads: This was the most amazing sculpture museum ever! Everything is life-sized and bigger. And all of it by this one sculptor Ju Ming , who was made famous by his giant stone statues of people doing Tai Ji. How did he do it? So cool that the massive stone shapes look like a TaiJi master in action! We loved posing with them!

Journaling reads: More superb life scenes from the sculpture museum. We especially love the life-like ones of mummies carrying babies and children, scenes from everyday life, and even stone people taking up the space on rest benches outside the cafe!!! Jared also tried his hand at drawing at one of the four art galleries and installation museum scattered in this giant space

It was the most lovely hike we had, at BiTou, near the cape at the northern end of Taiwan. It was sunny and awesome for a winter’s day! You can see for miles out to the sea and around the coast, really reminds us of Hawaii. We passed the ‘most scenic elementary school in Taiwan’ perched high up on one of the look out points, and also lots of tiny ‘houses’ perched all over a part of the hills. What are they? We found out they were family graves, so interesting, but I guess eerie at night!

More of the fantastic and dramatic coast on the fine day where we drove, stopped, hiked, took it in!

This was an old gold mine! Also a very scenic area. We went up to the old mining town, with Japanese offivers’ quarters, old workers’ quarters, offices and so on. Then we climbed up to the old mine museum, where you can enter the mines if you would don the helmet (with hair protector!) We also tried to do an Indiana Jones moment with the carts, and tried to lift a 220kg gold brick!! The staff says you can take it with you if you can carry it away! Haha!

Jiu Fen is a must-visit for everyone! An atmospheric bustling market street. Full of all sorts of delicacies, dessert, foodstuff, souvenirs, though touristy, but still a wonderful taste and see it all and soak it in kind of place! Dad bought grape concentrate(!), we tried peanut ice cream popiah (yummy!), the boys even ventured to speak mandarin and bought lots of crackers and the like on their own. We crashed in a cafe for some grilled cuttlefish and taidi. Missed the beautiful scenery due to the rain, will definitely come back if we are in Taiwan again.

It was a day out to the hot spring town of Bei Tou. It was too hot for hot springs unfortunately, haha! But so fun to see folks bathing in the public baths and just soaking their feet along the streams! Later we wandered the town of DanShui old town for more markets and temples. We ended the day at BaLi for a nostalgic and fun bicicar ride along the coast. Teamwork in our family is just hilarious with trash talking and all fun!!!

We arrived in HuaLien and checked into our lovely apartment and immediately went to Li-Yu Lake. It was beautiful and not crowded, a definite plus. It looked like a scene out of a chinese painting, and had the usual lakeside activities. We cycled around it, took the ducky paddle boats, and again had such fun just being us, scenic taidi and all!

Taroko Gorge is a huge place! There was the very chinese entrance area that make it seem like we are in some scene out of a chinese gungfu movie. Steep cliffs surround us every corner we turn! We love the hike cut into the walls of the gorge. We also  crossed two suspension bridges, fun! There has been a lot of falling stones landfalls from erosion recently, so some parts are closed, and others require us to wear helments. Look how small we are in comparison to this grand display of God’s handiwork!   

The waters in and around Taroko Gorge make it all the more awesome. Turquoise or dazzling blue depending on the sunlight and time of day, it beautifully sets off the stone and cliffs and makes for breathtaking views everywhere you look ! We did another scenic four-times points taidi here in one of the caves. As good as it gets!

The Hualien coast is rugged, beautiful, and with history for history buffs like us! We started the day visiting the former  japanese military headquarters , which in WWII served to send off kamakazi pilots to the US in the pacific war. We read  touching letters by these pilots before their final flight that will haunt us forever.  For the rest of the day, we hiked, climbed, checked out various out of this world scenery, black sand beaches, and more.  

Shitiping is as rugged as it gets. The waves were crashing relentlessly against the coast. It was too cold for the rest of us so we stayed back while daddy goes to get his pictures. Which, eventually were all lost with the camera, of course. By staying far away from the tourists and being out there just the four of us, was a great feeling! 

At Hualien there is not much to do at night except the markets, and we are not that keen for streetfood after a while, so we took to trying all their carnival games as well as those toy grabbing machines. Gave us lots of laughter and fun! There was even an ingenious angry bird pig slingshotting booth - Clever!!

This was probably the most impactful day in our trip. No matter how much we had read beforehand, we were in shock the moment the crumbled buildings came into sight amongst the residential houses. The impact of the earthquake on the school was devastating, and it has been preserved in this museum. We had never seen anything like this, the running track was lifted several feet up and displaced, and the swimming pool too, the school buildings were worse, mostly collapsed. Thankfully it was a Sunday and no one was in school! The museum was quite good, it had a room where they simulated the quake that happened on 921, at the same intensity and duration. Cool experience. Didn’t seem that bad in a cushioned padded room, haha. There was also simulations of various anti-earthquake buildings includng the Taipei 101. But it seems that it just has a greatly lowered chance of disaster!

The cold and rainy day only added to the mood of the day here. It felt out of this world. The cruise was amusing because of the commentary, we saw Chiang Kei Shek’s summer retreat with a pavaillon on the water that has a bomb shelter beneath! Beautiful views from the cable car too and then off to a huge temple that had statuette plagues for your ‘purchase’ so that your name will be preserved here. wow who knew!  The Prayer “wishes” ornaments that were hung everywhere are really though!

Lu Kang is surprisingly fun. A quaint old town with some touristy temple sights and food markets. But as we wandered the streets, it was the old houses, with the old doors and doorways that really interested us. Then there are these new futuristic buildings mushrooming up in the middle of them all! Sigh. There was the mandatory (for mom) old home we visited that was just like my dad’s old home in Pasir Panjang. At least the layout was the same! We also went to the folks art museum which was brilaiant. Full of artefacts from daily life of chinese folks, including the tiniest bound feet shoes, one pair was in leather boot style! Too bad dad’s photos are lost. There was also furniture from that era, like this matrimonial bed for fairly rich folks, I bet!

It was such a great hike! Up and up we went, so many steps and people,but everyone was in good spirits on such a fine day, and the sight of Taipei 101 kept looming so we were greatly motivated. What a view! We chose to do this free climb rather than pay to go up the tower itself. Great choice! At nearly dusk, dad got himself a spot kneeling at the railings since he didn’t have a tripod. And did it to take pictures for an hour till it turned dark! Alas the photos are all lost :( We didn’t know this then and were exhilarated at the beautiful view! 

The last stop on the Ji Ji line is Che Cheng - literally car city. Besides the train terminus, it was a logging town with a very interesting logging museum from those days. Showing how they logged brought the timber down on the river and hoisted it up here for cutting. There is also a reseroir and dam which we hiked up to see. Photos lost! Great fun was had playing a very old pin ball machine in a very old uncle’s very old provision shop! He said he played it when he was a kid so it must be 70 years old! At the evening we ate at this cool timber themed restaurant serving bucket rice like the workers had in the old days. They let us take the buckets home as souvenirs! 

Ji Ji raliway line is quaint and slow and had fun stops where we tried to cycle to some scenic stop but failed utterly and got lost, tried archery which was fun, and ended up at Che Chen the last stop which was an old rail terminus and had cool trains parked for us to explore and provided great photo opportunities!

Wu Lai was an unexpected joy to visit! It’s a hotspring town that has developed into a quaint weekend retreat town. There’s lots of bath houses, or you can just go down to the river turn over some stones and soak in the hot springwater! Lots of locals were bathing and swimming and enjoying themselves! Or as dad did, soak your feet only. It was hot!! Up the mountain we went in an oh so fun crickety ‘train’ converted from old mining carts. They started as hand-pulled carts and every family used to work hard for one, and we even saw photos of brides being married in one of these! Up the waterfall by cable car is the old-fashioned resort featuring to-ho-like scenes everywhere. 

Free Download
And for your playing pleasure, here is a template based on one of the layouts. Enjoy!


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