How to Create a Family Recipe Book

How to Create a Family Recipe Book

My husband Tom and I got married 33 years ago, and to this day, I treasure one of the gifts we received at our wedding.

This gift was a recipe book – compiled by my sister, in her beautiful handwriting – that includes recipes of favorite dishes from both sides of our family. This book contains everything from appetizers to holiday meals, and it’s become one of my go-to reference books during our 3+ decades of marriage.

My sister called it “The Keepsake Recipe Collection,” and it is one of my most special (and most treasured) possessions.

How to Make a Family Recipe Book

How to Make a Family Recipe Book

Back in 1983, the year we got married, recipes were primarily shared using recipe cards, which were kept in a little box with index tabs marking each category: Appetizers, Breads, Salads, Soups, etc.. Knowing my need for uniformity and order (no big surprise there), she found a small binder especially designed for this purpose, and used it to house this special recipe card collection.

Over the years, I have added new recipes that have become favorites, too – so our “favorite recipes” book has grown and expanded over time.

Recipes are a special and completely unique part of our family heritage, and for many of us, the thought of losing them is heartbreaking. If you’ve ever watched the show “Friends,” you’ll know how tedious (and in Monica’s case, funny) it can be to try to recreate an old family recipe from memory.

But I’ve got a simple solution for you, to make sure you never lose your favorite recipes: You can gather, restore, and protect those family favorites by creating a simple, sharable recipe book.

Here are a few simple steps for creating your very own keepsake recipe collection.

How to Create Your Own Family Recipe Book

Step One: Decide on whether or you want to do original or re-created recipes.

First up, you need to decide if you want to use the original recipe cards, or recreate the recipes in your own text (whether handwritten or typed).

There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods. There is something wonderfully nostalgic about seeing a relative’s handwriting and their older recipe cards, if you decide to use the originals – but sometimes it can be a little hard to make out certain ingredients or instructions, if the cards were written quickly or in a shorthand script you no longer recognize. It’s completely up to you, and you may need to do a little mix of both.

If you do choose to type out some (or all) of the recipes, you might want to choose an old-fashioned or vintage font, to lend your recipe book a little extra character. Picture This Organized can help you design and create an album to include all of the elements that are important to you such as additional photos, captions, and customized page layouts.

Step Two: Request the cards from your family members.

Get in touch with your family and friends, and ask them to send their recipes to you for your special project. You will make digital copies of the cards or cookbooks for your book later, so make sure to tell people they don’t have to give up their written recipes for good – you just need to borrow them for a little while, and then they’ll be returned.

If your relatives and friends are tech savvy, you can ask them to digitize their cards or cookbook pages by scanning them and send them to you via email or Dropbox.

Since the holidays are coming up, you can ask the friends and relatives you’ll be seeing in person to bring their cards to family dinners or other gatherings, and Picture This Organized can help you scan and digitize each of these cards or cookbook pages.

How to Make a Family Recipe Book
A recent Kessler family Thanksgiving!

Step Three: Re-create or gather the recipes.

Once you’ve made your requests, make a copy (or get an original) of every recipe you want to include in your book.

You’ll likely need to use a variety of methods to acquire your recipes (scanning, recreating, etc.) – just make sure you keep a checklist of everything you want to include and make sure you acquire each recipe on the list.

If the keeper of the recipes isn’t interested in sharing his or her originals, for instance, you can easily recreate the recipe by simply typing the ingredients and instructions yourself. We can also help you scan the recipe if you don’t want to take the time to type out each recipe.

Once you’ve got all the recipes on your list, gather them all in one place.

Step Four: Create your book.

Once you’ve got all your recipes, compile them all into a recipe book.

To personalize your book and include special memories, you could include:

  • The original source of the recipe, if you have one. It’s fun to see how certain recipes are passed along! I have some from my mom’s bridge club friends, and just seeing their names reminds me of when I’d come home from school and see the whole group sitting at card tables, scattered all over our house, each table holding a candy dish. Fond memories.
  • Photos of the cooks next to their recipes. This is a great way to honor the chef, and it’s particularly poignant if the original cook has passed away.
  • Visual examples of the process by including step-by-step photos – especially if the recipe is being prepared by a super-capable cook!
  • Funny failed attempts (try before and after photos, just to keep it real!
  • Favorite family sayings, or stories of gatherings where these recipes were a staple. We can help by interviewing the cook to include their stories in your album.

Step Six: Make copies of your final book.

However you decide to compile your book, consider making copies of the end result.

Your recipe book is a family keepsake that a lot of your family members will want, and you can digitize your copy to share it with members of many different generations. This can make a terrific gift idea!

You can share physical photocopies of your book, stapled or bound together in a nice way, or share your book via an online sharing site like SmugMug. Online sharing isn’t quite as personal, but it’s a useful and fast way to distribute your book, especially if you are trying to get this completed in time for the holidays. Recipes are often a theme in our clients’ collections, and we can organize the collection in a way that helps everyone access those recipes easily.

Hint: You can also use online sites and tools like these as a way of collaborating if you’re making your book a group project!

It’s your turn!

However you decide to gather and compile your recipes, creating a family recipe book is a great way to protect and save your family’s culinary memories.

Have fun with this process – and make sure to actually cook some of your wonderful recipes, too! If you want some help creating your recipe album, contact us to schedule a consultation.

How to Make a Family Recipe Book

How to Make a Family Recipe Book

9 Questions to Ask Before You Pick a Company to Convert Your Home Movies

9 Questions to Ask Before You Pick a Company to Convert Your Home Movies

A few years ago, I unknowingly made a BIG mistake with my home movies.

I was looking for a simple, inexpensive option for converting my family’s home movies. I wanted to go through the conversion process myself, so I could make educated recommendations to future clients who needed to convert their own movies.

I recruited a college student who purchased some basic scanning equipment from a local store, then gave him instructions on how to do the conversion. I paid him to convert our home movies and copy them onto DVDs.

Boy, do I wish I had known what I know now! Our video tapes were converted, but unknowingly, I paid him to convert them to a compressed format that didn’t give me a high quality outcome. At some point, we’re going to need to pay to have all our movies re-converted. Next time, we will definitely use professionals with high quality scanning equipment!

In our previous blog post, we talking about some of the basics of converting your home movies to a more modern format — including different types of home movies and what to think about before you get started on your conversion project. 

In this post, I’ll let you know everything I learned from my big home movie conversion mistake. We’ll talk about the best way to convert your videos, and I’ll give you my best advice on how to pick a company who can manage this entire process for you.

Let’s get started!

9 Questions to Ask Before You Pick a Company to Convert Your Home Movies

The Best Way to Scan a Digital File

When you know you want to convert your home movies to a digital format, what’s the best way to do the actual scanning, so you can turn your treasured memories into digital files?

First things first – you want to invest in the best conversion option. Not all scanning solutions provide the same outcome, and you don’t want to end up making the same mistake I made! You’ll need to do your research and get the best possible conversion that you can get.

Secondly, it’s important that you convert from the original movie (whether the movie is on film reels, or on tape). This will give you the best possible chance to create a high-quality digital file when you do the conversion.

For example, if you’ve already converted the movie once (say, from movie reels to a VHS tape), use the original reels to create your digital file – not the VHS tape. If you use the VHS tape, your digital file will be lower quality.

Working from the original movie format is important, because when you’ve already converted your movies once (from VHS tapes to DVDs, for example) the DVD is now in a compressed format that is different from the original, and is of lower quality. If you take the DVD and try to convert it to a digital file, you won’t actually have all the data you need to create a great quality file.

Converting from the original format might be more expensive, but you will be much happier with the end result.

9 Questions to Ask Before You Select a Scanning Company

I recommend using high quality equipment to scan your home movies, which means you’ll need to hire a scanning company.

Before you select a company to work with, I recommend you ask these 9 questions:

1. Is the staff trained on how to handle the film and tapes? You need trained employees handling your movies, so make sure to inquire about whether or not the staff are properly trained in film conversion techniques.

2. Will the film or tapes be cleaned before they are scanned? Any dirt or dust on your movies will be converted over to the digital file, so it’s critical that the company cleans your reels or tapes before starting the conversion process.

3. Will the staff check for integrity of original, to make sure there aren’t any tears or broken splices on film? Also, if there are tears or broken splices, can your company provide a repair as needed?

4. Can your equipment handle sound? Sound capability was only added to film between 1967 and 1977. The staff should know how to identify when sound has been recorded in the video, and convert both the audio and the video when they create the digital file.

5. What type of equipment will you use to scan the movies? It’s critical that the company you hire to do the conversion works on the best possible equipment. Here are few things to keep in mind:

When you’re converting from film, a “sprocket” scanner can sometimes damage fragile reels. Request that the company uses sprocketless reels, if possible. If the company uses both sprocketed and sprocketless types of scanners, I recommend asking how they determine best option for your film.

When you’re converting from tape, ask if the scanning company needs the video camera to do the conversion. Sometimes using the original camera will ensure the tape is properly seated which will get you a better result.  

6. Is color correction available? If the company can perform color conversion, will it be during the conversion process, or post-conversion?

Some scanning equipment can correct color while converting. This is typically more expensive as it is a longer process. Some scanning companies will provide this service after the conversion, for an hourly fee.

If you’re willing to do some editing on your own, Apple’s Final Cut Pro software has color correction features, so you can do your own color correcting when you get the final digital file.

7. Is dead space converted? If there is dead space in your home movies (and it’s at the beginning or end of your tape or reel), many companies will convert it along with the movie footage. However, if the dead space is in the middle of the footage, you will need to have the company convert the entire tape, then pay them to edit out the dead space in the middle during the post-conversion process.

8. Can you make clips from the original? If you want to separate out the digital file into specific sections, you may be able to have the scanning company do it for you. Creating clips is a service that some companies offer during post-conversion.

Once the file is converted, you can preview the footage, note where you want clips to stop and start and they can create smaller, individual clips for you. This is usually an additional fee, often based upon the number of hours it takes to customize the digital file for you.

If you’d like to create clips yourself, you can use iMovie software to separate out your individual movie files.

9. Can you make both a digital file and a playable DVD after you scan the originals? Many scanning companies can do both, and it’s a great idea to get your movies in both formats. This is a good solution if your family members have a mixture of older and current equipment (like DVD players, high-definition televisions, and laptops/desktops/tablets).

Your relatives with standard TVs and DVD players can use the playable DVD, and the folks who prefer to view from their computers or view the videos on their high-definition TVs can use the digital files. You’ll also have a digital master you can keep backed up in a safe place.

How Picture This Organized Can Help

If you don’t want to manage this process yourself, or would like some help in selecting a company to hire for home movie conversion, we can help!

I am a home movie certified professional. Last year I went through an 8-week certification program from Pro 8mm to educate myself on best practices to help our clients make the right choices when they’re deciding how and where to convert their home movies. 

Converting your home movies is a complicated process and a considerable financial investment. We feel it’s important that you make the right choices during this process, so we can:

  • Assess your footage and help you talk through your goals, including taking stock of the people who want to view your home movies.
  • Make overall recommendations for the conversion process, based on whether or not you need our help in coordinating the process (from conversion to editing, backup, etc).
  • Help you find scanning companies based upon your preferences and location, if you’d like to have someone else manage the process for you.
  • Edit digital files removing unwanted footage or creating individual clips

Our goal is to help you with your home movie process, so you’ll be able to enjoy your home movies with the peace of mind, knowing they will be available for current and future generations.  

Would you like to discuss your home movie conversion project? Contact us here to get started

What You Really Need to Know About Converting Your Home Movies (Part One)

What You Really Need to Know About Converting Your Home Movies

Viewing home movies can make us feel like we’ve got access to a magical  time machine.

Home movies can help us remember some of our very earliest memories, and let us recall the great characteristics of loved ones who are no longer with us.

Movies play an important role in our family legacy by giving us visual AND audible reminders of our memories. In many ways, they’re even more powerful and personal than still photographs, because they help us relive moments, and remember the most vivid details of those events.

In her book Get “Reel” About Your Home Movie Legacy – Before It’s Too Late, author and blogger Rhonda Vigeant writes:

“Home movies are a slice of everyday life captured through the lens of people documenting moments in time that they wanted to record….They capture us in everyday moments in a real way unlike photos that tend to be staged moments where we prepare to look our best…The truth is, home movies are like a time machine. All we have to do is watch and we are transformed into a nostalgic place that our memories alone cannot access.”

Powerful, right?

But unfortunately, many older home movie memories are in danger. Recording and tape technology (in its many different forms) is fragile, and the passage of time can degrade or destroy our precious home movies.

In this two-part article on home movies, we’re going to talk about what we should think about when we’re consider converting our beloved home movie footage, why it’s important to convert your home movies to a flexible and durable format, and how to get help with the conversion process.

Let’s start by talking about the three most common home movies formats.

The 3 Types of Home Movies

Home movies are almost always in one of three common formats: Film, tape, or digital files.

Film movies are on movie reels that are wound into a projector and viewed on a screen. Many of us viewed educational movies in school that were on these traditional reels, and our teacher had to lug around a gigantic old film projector and clunky projector screen to show up these movies.

Tape movies are on cartridges that fit into a video camera. We play these tapes from a device (like a VCR or other player) and usually view them from a television. The player connects to the TV via specialized cables or cords.

Digital file movies are typically recorded from smartphones, tablets and video cameras. We can view them on desktop or laptop computers, or on televisions. This is the most flexible and durable file format for our home movie memories.

Why It’s Important to Convert Your Home Movies

As I mentioned above, our home movies may be in danger due to the ongoing passage of time (and all the problems that come with time ticking on).

It’s important to convert your home movies sooner rather than later. It’s critical because:

1. Replaying movie film on projectors makes it fragile, and you can damage your movies when you watch them. Unfortunately, film degrades quickly, and every time you run it through a film projector, you risk permanently damaging your film reels. And remember – once those home movies are damaged or destroyed, they’re gone for good.

2. If your films haven’t been properly cleaned or stored, they may disintegrate. Even if you’re not playing your home movies on a projector, your film reels might be getting damaged if you’re not storing them in a dry, temperate location. If you’ve got mold damage, the disintegration might be even worse.

3. Video tape equipment (for replaying your videos) is disappearing. If you have home movies on VHS, do you still have a VCR to play those tapes? If not, you might not be able to play your tapes at all, because VCRs are no longer sold in regular stores – you can only get them in specialty shops. And there are fewer and fewer technicians who can repair old tape players!

If you’ve got video tapes in another format (like Beta Max, Betacam SP, DV, DVC-Pro, DVCAM, Mini-DV, 8mm, Hi8, or Digital 8), you can probably view the movie by connecting the camera to your television. But do you still have the camera and the cables for playback? Even if you do have the playback equipment, technology is changing rapidly, and old cameras aren’t always compatible with new televisions.

4. Technology keeps changing, so old media formats aren’t compatible with current technology. Home movies on film reels and tape aren’t in the same format as digital files, so you can’t play them on your present-day tablets, computers and phones. You can’t play a movie tape on a DVD or BluRay player, and you can’t play movie film or tapes on anything modern.

5. You can only identify who’s in the home movies while certain relatives are still alive to share those details. Want to identify everyone in your home movie of a family picnic that happened in the early 1970’s? You need to talk to the people who actually attended that event, and those people aren’t going to be around forever!

6. You will need to convert your home movies if you want to share them with the important people in your life. If you want to share your movies with friends and family who belong to many different generations, and you need to convert to a file format that everyone will be able to access.

3 Things to Consider Before You Begin Converting Your Home Movies

Now that you know you need to convert your home movies, what do you need to think about next? Here are 3 things to consider:

1. You should start with a present AND future-minded format.

Think about the technology trend right now, and think about whether or not that trend is sustainable and likely to stick around in the future.

For example, many people want to view videos from a DVD right now. DVDs are a playable format now, but the format is rapidly becoming obsolete. We’re already seeing that DVD players no longer come standard in new computers and laptops. We don’t necessarily need to buy movies in DVD format because they can be streamed from online sites, satellite and cable channel services.

So is converting your home movies ONLY to DVDs really the best option? There may be a format that is slightly more “future proof,” so perhaps converting to two different formats is your best bet.

2. What viewing options do you have?

How would you like to view your movies? You need to factor in your viewing technology when you’re deciding how to convert your files. For example, if you want to view the movies on your TV, and you don’t have a DVD player that connects to that television, you might be out of luck — so think about your viewing preferences before you begin the conversion process.

You might want to view your movies on your:

  • HD flat screen TV
  • Computer
  • Standard definition TV with DVD player
  • Internet connection
  • Smartphone or tablet

3. Who wants to view your home movies?

Are you the only one who wants to view your home movie footage? Most likely, you’re not – so you need to consider your audience before you convert your old movies.

Will your entire family be watching at one time (and would they prefer to be gathered around the TV, rather than around a computer screen)?

Do you have friends and family who aren’t in your local area who want to see the movies? If so, you’re going to need a quick and easy way for those folks to access the footage.

I know these are complicated questions, but they’re important issues to think about before you decide how you’re convert your home movie memories. Rhonda Vigeant said:

“Each time we upgrade to the newest format that hits the market, we must also think about how we can watch media that we shot (or that was shot) in the previous format.”

My Heartfelt Recommendation for Home Movie Conversion

Given everything we’ve talked about so far, I highly, highly recommend that you convert each home movie into a digital master file.

Your best bet is to create (or have someone help you create) a digital file for each reel or tape that you have – that way you’ll be able to name every file appropriately and know exactly what’s in each one.

Why is this my recommendation? Let’s briefly discuss the advantages of turning your home movies into digital files. When you convert your movies to digital files, they can be:

  1. Turned into high quality, high resolution file formats, like .MOV or .AVI
  2. Easily edited on a home computer.
  3. Shared with friends and family via social media or online sharing site.
  4. Accessed by anyone who wants to create their own copies. You can make copies for your family and friends, or you can duplicate for organizational purposes (like dividing single events to individual digital files). You can even save the large files into small format, for online viewing. If you want to upload your movies to a sharing website, for example, you might be required to upload a more compressed version of the video.
  5. Backed up and kept safe for a long time, because you can keep one master copy that is backed up on an external hard drive.

What to Do Next

Hopefully I’ve got you sold on the idea of converting your home movies to digital files. But once you’ve decided you want to convert your old movies, what do you do next?

In our next blog post, I’ll explain the best way to convert your videos and give you advice on how to pick a company who can manage this entire process for you. I’ll even give you a list of five key questions you absolutely MUST ask before you hire a scanning company to convert your home movies.

Want to make sure you don’t miss that next post? Make sure to sign up for our list by clicking here. You’ll get all our new posts delivered directly to your inbox, AND get our free report, 8 Ways to Tell Stories with Your Family Photos.

The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions

The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions

Most of us have our own unique family traditions, like gathering at the holiday table, taking annual vacations together, or watching special sporting events.

Family traditions help us form our identities (as individuals, and as a larger group) and they’re a critical part of creating a positive family culture.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what traditions are, why creating and honoring them is important, and the best ways to document our family rituals so we can pass them on to future generations.

What Are Family Traditions?

The official definition of “tradition” is handing down of information, beliefs or customs from one generation to another. Traditions are behaviors you engage in time and time again, often at the same time or in a similar fashion.

Family traditions can be large (like a holiday dinner attended by 25 people) or small (like a good luck ritual performed before a big game). To be a tradition – as opposed to a daily routine – a ritual has to been done intentionally, with a specific thought or purpose in mind.

In “The Book of New Family Traditions,” author Meg Cox defines a family ritual as:

“Any activity you purposefully repeat together as a family that includes heightened attentiveness and something extra that lifts it above the ordinary ruts.”

When they wrote about family rituals, bloggers Brett and Kate McKay said, “Traditions, when done right, lend a certain magic, spirit and texture to our everyday lives.”

What Are the Benefits of Family Traditions?

We often celebrate events, holidays, and occasions with traditions – and sometimes our family traditions are the only time we get to reconnect with certain relatives. Our lives are busy and packed full every day, so family traditions allow us to slow down and take notice of the things that are most important to us.

Traditions and rituals provide us with a number of important benefits, including:

1. Traditions give us long-lasting memories.

My father was an avid Green Bay Packer fan. He would watch every game while comfortably ensconced in his Lazy Boy chair, and he always dressed in head-to-toe Packer fan clothing.

The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions

Anyone interested in watching the game with Dad knew the rules: You could only talk about the Packers when the game was happening, and if you wanted to talk about anything else, you had to wait until a commercial break. As soon as the game coverage resumed, you had to circle back to talking about the game.

Even though I have moved out of Wisconsin and I don’t usually watch football, I’ll always be a Packer fan because of my dad’s devotion to his team. And thinking of him in his Packer gear is a fond memory. When you think back on your childhood, you probably have happy memories involving your own family traditions.

Family traditions – both large and small – can provide your child with happy and positive memories that can have major long-term benefits. Recent research has shown that positive childhood memories can actually make your children happier and more generous (even as they grow into adults).

2. Traditions strengthen family connections.

In their article, The Importance of Establishing Family Traditions, bloggers Brett and Kate McKay wrote, “Researchers have consistently found that families that engage in frequent traditions report stronger connection and unity than families that haven’t established rituals together.”

If staying close to your family is important to you – or you feel like you want to do something to draw your family closer together – family rituals could be important tools in your toolbox.

One year, my mom organized a friendly team competition during Memorial Day weekend that included multiple generations of my family. We had lots of fun playing games throughout the weekend.

The competition allowed me to feel closer to all of our extended family members, and the invitation and team hats are now silly reminders of that special event.

The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions

The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions

3. They remind us who we are.

At a high level, our traditions teach us where we came from and let us learn about our cultural and religious backgrounds. They remind us of our family genealogy, and the cultural traditions of our ancestors.

In my family, we always said a specific Swedish table prayer before sitting down for our Christmas meal with my father’s family. We even made a plaque for our grandmother to commemorate that tradition that featured the words of the prayer.

Years later, when I met a first generation Swede, I learned our grandmother had accidentally omitted a few lines of the prayer! Nonetheless, we continued saying our own version of the blessing, and kept the plaque without changing a word on it. After all, that slightly modified Swedish prayer has become OUR family tradition!

On a smaller scale, our family traditions also act as reminders of the events that have shaped us into who we are today. Some families send their kids to the same summer camp they went to as children, and that ritual bonds the family together and remind them of many happy summer spent canoeing, horseback riding and singing songs around the campfire.

Every year when I was a child, we would spend the entire month of July at a cottage in Wisconsin. Having a second home was a luxury that my parents worked hard to afford and maintain. We no longer own that cottage today, but those memories are a reminder of the hard work my parents put in to provide a fun, summer vacation for our family.

The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions

4. Rituals offer comfort and safety.

At some point, we all feel a little harried and stressed out from our increasingly busy and fast-paced lives. Our family traditions offer a few important constants in our lives – big and small rituals that give us a little space of sanctuary in the midst of all the craziness.

When I was in college, my family stayed connected via the telephone. Because a call home was long distance (and I didn’t have a long distance phone plan at school), my family figured out a ritual that allowed us to chat on a regular basis without racking up a big bill.

On Sundays, I would call and let the phone ring three times (because I was the third daughter), and then I would hang up. My parents knew that was the signal to call me back, and I didn’t get charged on my phone bill because my initial signal call didn’t connect.

Now technology has changed and we can stay connected with our out-of state children via a video conference call. Every couple of weeks, we set up a call using an app called Zoom, and we can all see each other on our computer or tablet screens. For me, it’s the next best thing to having everyone here in person, and we all get to share news with the entire family at one time. 

The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions

Traditions can also help us during times of change, grief, or emotional turmoil.

A few years back, my husband Tom and I had to move our family multiple times in a short period of time. To give our children continuity, we tried to continue our holiday traditions – even if it became logistically difficult. One year we moved shortly before Christmas, so we invited Tom’s family to visit us, instead of traveling to visit them. Our relatives happily gathered together among the moving boxes and slept on air mattresses so we could share the holiday together!

5. They reinforce family values.

One of the most important purposes of family traditions (whether they are religious or secular rituals) is that they allow us to impart and reinforce our values.

Brett and Kate McKay wrote:

“Through daily family prayer, the importance of faith is re-enforced: through nightly bedtime stories, the value of education, reading, and lifelong learning is impressed; and through regular family dinners or activities, the centrality of familial solidarity is instilled.”

In our family, our Christian faith is part of our values, so attending church on our religious holidays is one of our major traditions. For Christmas, we typically attend our home church, but if we’re out of town, we will find a local church. This tradition gives our family a sense of spiritual grounding.

We’ve also got secular traditions at Christmas. Before we are turn in on Christmas Eve, Tom reads the poem “The Night Before Christmas” to our whole family.

The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions

Maintaining your traditions (and passing them down to future generations) is important, too – that’s why documenting your family rituals is a critical part of this process. When you document your traditions, their evolution become richer and more distinctive.

Documenting Your Traditions

What are the best ways to document your own family traditions?

  • Write them down and take pictures. Writing down the details of your traditions (who does what, and when) is a great start – and then you can supplement your written descriptions by adding photos of your regular rituals.

Taking pictures as a tradition unfolds – such as preparing a holiday meal or decorating your house – can be a great way to document a beloved ritual.

You can take the documentation process one step further by gathering a book of traditions, too. I started keeping a scrapbook of Christmas traditions and memories the year Tom and I became engaged, and I add to it every year. My book includes photos, Christmas correspondence, and even our kids’ letters to Santa – but your scrapbook can include anything you want to document and remember!

  • Use Pinterest. You can use Pinterest boards to document your traditions by pinning ideas and suggestions, and uploading your own photos of your family rituals. For example, I like this idea for creating a Thankful Pumpkin.
  • Create a keepsake. You can also create a keepsake out of a collection of things. While helping a client sort through memorabilia, I found this neat idea for a birthday card book. 

The Importance of Establishing and Documenting Family Traditions

  • Create a video. Videos are also great way to capture the details and memories of your traditions. Video gives you the opportunity to replay the exact sights and sounds of a tradition – which really helps you bring the memories back to life and document the nuances of your traditions.

Creating Your Own Memories of Important Family Traditions

We’ve talked a bit about the benefits of creating, maintaining and documenting your family traditions and rituals, and how they can help you build and maintain family bonds and connections. I’ve also shared some of my favorite family tradition memories with you.

Now I’d love to hear about your family traditions! What rituals give you your fondest childhood memories, and what traditions have you started to implement with your own families? Tell me about it in the comments below.

How to Rescue Old Photo Albums

How to Rescue Your Old Photo Albums (and Keep Them Looking Great for a Long Time)

If you were born in the 20th century (like me), you probably have some old photo albums that are not in such great shape.

Unfortunately, many of your old photos may be in danger of getting seriously damaged. If you used “magnetic” pages in your album – the ones with sticky pages that you could cover with clear plastic – your photos might already be in rough shape. Photos on old black paper pages, even with photo corners, might not be faring well, either.

Your photos might be deteriorating, yellowing, or falling out of your albums. None of this is good for your sentimental prints!

You painstakingly, carefully, and lovingly created these albums. Is there anything you can do to rescue these precious memories?

I’m happy to report that there is a solution! You can still enjoy viewing the heritage photos in an album, sharing them with family, and preserving them for generations to come.

The solution is to digitize and archive the photos and the albums. Let’s talk about what those terms mean, and how to do each of them – and I’ll also tell you the story of a photo album that my husband and I “rescued” a few years ago.

How to Rescue Old Photo Albums

What Do Digitizing and Archiving Mean?

Digitizing is the process of using a photo scanner to capture a photo print as a digital file.

Archiving is labeling your photos properly and storing them in an album or a box that is constructed of materials that will protect them from deterioration or loss.

Old photos can lose their meaning if their stories don’t get documented, so you should store your photos in a safe container and put them in a safe place, but also label them so that if they are discovered by future generations, the finder will know their relevance and significance in the family’s heritage.

A few years ago, my husband’s elderly aunt allowed my husband and I to take possession of her extraordinary heritage photo album, which documented her family’s life in Haiti and Germany during the First and Second World Wars.

We offered to digitize her one and only copy of the album, and gave her our sworn promise that we would return the book in its entirety. I think she was nervous, but she trusted us to take care of this priceless album and its contents. The purpose of a heritage album is to pass the book on to future generations, and wanted to make sure the photos and captions in this album didn’t get so damaged that she couldn’t pass them on!

Upon closer inspection, we realized the album and the photos were quickly deteriorating. The materials that her family had used to display the photos in the book weren’t archival quality, so the photos were starting to deteriorate and become discolored.

We developed a plan to upgrade her traditional album to an archive quality album while maintaining the original design, layout and captions. We also planned to digitize all the original photos, so that they could be easily secured, backed up, and shared with future generations.

How to Rescue Your Old Photo Albums

Here are the steps we followed to digitize and archive her historical album:

Step One: Document the Original Version and Remove the Photos.

Before we removed the photos to scan them, we numbered and took pictures of each album page. These images would be used to re-create the album in its original form in traditional and digital formats. We are careful to follow these steps with every heritage album we restore.

Once we had pictures of every page, we went through the album, page by page, and removed each of the photos.

As we removed all the photos, we organized them into groups based on page numbers, and placed each group sequentially into a photo-safe box. We separated each group using index card dividers labeled with the page numbers. This organizational system made the scanning process easier and more efficient.

When a photo was stuck tightly to a particular page, we used unwaxed dental floss to ease it off the page by sliding the floss between the back of the photo and the album page. It did require a bit of patience and care, but most of the photos detached easily using this process.

When it became too difficult to detach the photo from the album page, we scanned that image while it was still attached to the album page.

How to Rescue Your Old Photo Albums

Step Two: Scanning the Photos.

Next, we scanned each of the photos and turned each one into an individual digital file. We set our scanner setting to 600 DPI, since most of her photos were small.

All our photos needed to be dusted off before scanning, since the album hadn’t fully protected them, so we used a very soft microfiber cloth that wouldn’t leave lint behind on the prints. You don’t want dirt or dust to get onto the scanner, because they will be included in the scan and leave a mark on the image.

As we scanned the prints, we gave each image a file name that matched the album name and the page number.

If you’d like to scan the photos from your own older albums, you can use an all-in-one printer, if you have one. You also should make sure you keep the scanner glass free of dust, and use gloves so you don’t transfer any dirt or oil from your hands onto the prints. If you don’t have an all-in-one printer, there are a number of inexpensive scanners you can get on Amazon.com, at office supply stores, or at BHPhotoVideo.com.

Consider your ultimate goals when deciding on your DPI settings. The DPI setting typically means “dots per inch” and determines the clarity of the photo as you enlarge it.

For most projects, you’ll want to use at least 600 DPI. If you want to enlarge your print photo (digitally, or by getting a larger printed version), start with 600 DPI and consider raising it if you know you want to create a really large version of the photo.

Some quick examples: If you’ve got a 3×3 print, start with 600 DPI – this will be sufficient in most cases for regular backup purposes. Use 1200 DPI if you want a really large version of the original print, but be aware that you will be enlarging everything on the print, including any imperfections or discolorations in the image. If you have a larger print (like an 8×10), then 600 DPI will be just fine.

Step Three: Archiving the Traditional Album and Creating a Digital Copy.

We wanted to create a digital copy of the album, and recreate the original album in its original physical format – this was important so that his aunt could still have a physical album that she could hold in her hands and show to guests and family members. This process of recreating the original album in a safe and protected way is called archiving.

For the traditional album, all the original prints were placed onto archival-quality paper using photo corners, then slipped into page protectors. We scanned each caption with her handwriting to keep the album feel personal and original, and added printed-out versions of those captions to the album in the appropriate spots.

How to Rescue Your Old Photo Albums

If you’d like get your own archive-quality paper and photo corners, you can get both at Hobby Lobby, ArchivalMethods.com,  or Michael’s.

Once we completed the recreation of the traditional album, we finished off the entire process by scanning each page of the album. Once we were done with that step, we also had a digital version of the album to share and backup.

The once-deteriorating album is once again a family heirloom that is proudly displayed and shared with friends and family!

Protecting and Backing Up Your Albums

If you’ve got old albums sitting in closets or on bookshelves, you may want to archive and digital them using this process. It does require a bit of patience and organization, but it is totally doable for any family.
Of course, if you’d like some assistance with keeping your albums safe and intact, we’d love to help! Just contact us for a consultation.

Should You Delete (or Throw Away) Your Photos, Videos or Mementos?

Are your closets and file cabinets overflowing with duplicate, blurry prints of old photos?

Is your computer hard drive bogged down by enormous video files you’ll probably never watch again?

Do you struggle with letting go of sentimental items when you’re trying to declutter your home?

If so, you might need some help figuring out what photos, videos and mementos to keep (and which to get rid of) so you can clear out some much-needed space in your home and get clear on what is most important to you.

This article will discuss why we hold on to these items and why it’s important to separate the treasures from the junk. Then I’ll give you my best tips for choosing what to keep and what to let go.

Should You Delete (or Throw Away) Your Photos, Videos, & Mementos?

Why Do We Have This Stuff?

Most of us have a large collection of items like photos, videos, and mementoes, and many of these items are special to us in some way.

Our collections usually include a lot of physical items, like photo prints, old VHS tapes, or paperweights our kids made in their kindergarten art classes. And now our collections include a lot of digital items, too, like video files and digital images.

There are a number of reasons we hang on items like these. Theses videos, photos and mementos might:

  • Capture a memory or a moment that we want to remember forever or pass down to our kids.
  • Help us keep track of important bits of information.
  • Have a historical purpose, like a chart that shows your family’s genealogy.
  • Remind us of someone important in our lives, like photos and videos of grandparents or other loved ones who have passed away.

Our “stuff” is important, and often serves many purposes, so it’s no surprise that we have trouble figuring out what’s important and meaningful and what’s not. Sometimes it feels like it all seems important and meaningful!

Why It’s Important to Delete or Throw Away Some of These Items

If you don’t have a process for occasionally purging your less-important photos, videos, and mementoes, your stuff can start to take up a lot of space in your home, on your computer, and on your devices (like your phones and tablets). Having too much “stuff” makes it difficult to get around, both literally and figuratively.

As human beings, we navigate the world better when we’ve got a little breathing room – so don’t let a huge mountain of undefined stuff start crowding out what’s really important in your life.

Clearing out our junk items can also help us identify our most prized treasures! For example, if your closet is overflowing with old, blurry, damaged, or duplicate photos, it makes it awfully hard to you to locate the one perfect family photo you took on your recent trip to Jamaica!

Getting rid of your photographic or sentimental “clutter” can also help you figure out what needs to be preserved, digitized, backed up and organized. Don’t underestimate the importance of this step. if the unthinkable happens (like a flood, fire or other unexpected disaster) you could potentially lose everything – so it’s critical to have a backup of all of your important memories.

Locating Your Photos, Videos, and Mementoes

Your first step in this process is to find all the items you’d like to evaluate to see if they go on the “keep” pile or the “toss” pile.

Look for physical items in closets, storage units, file cabinets, shelves, and drawers.

Find digital items by looking on the drives of all the computers in the house (including all desktops, laptops, and tablets). Then seek out more digital “stuff” on camera cards and phones.

Time for a Treasure Hunt – How to Judge What’s Important and Choose What to Keep

Before you decide what needs to go and what should stay, you need to develop your own set of evaluation criteria. This is a personal decision, and your criteria will likely be different than other people’s.

To decide whether or not an item is a “treasure” to you or not, ask yourself if the item:

  • Commemorates or illustrates a special moment, like a family trip, reunion, holiday, or other milestone.
  • Has any kind of historical significance.
  • Contains important Information that you don’t have recorded anywhere else, like dates, locations, names of participants, or stories.
  • Is valuable, artistic, or a gift from someone.
  • Reminds you of someone important, and helps you remember that person’s personality.
  • Is an original item, and in good condition.

Once you’ve established your “treasure” criteria, use them to sort each item into one of these three piles:

  1. The “A” Pile: These are items that are of the highest quality, are original, and meet your “treasure” criteria, above.
  2. The “B” Pile: These items are of second-highest quality. They might be nearly an exact duplicate of something you already have, but these items are probably still good enough to keep.
  3. The “C” Pile: These are poor quality items. They may be duplicates of other items, or they could be blurry. These items have no storytelling value.

A couple of other things to consider when you’re sorting items into piles:

  • Prints are often a backup copy of a digital image – but you don’t need multiple backups! If you know you have the original digital image, and you’ve got two print copies of the same photo, consider putting the second print in the “C” pile. When I’m organizing my photos and deciding what to purge, I often keep one print and one digital copy of each photo, just to be on the safe side.
  • Memorabilia can be historic – a digital copy isn’t the same as an original – so don’t be too quick to put historically significantly items in your “C” pile.
  • When you’re sorting videos, make sure to keep the original tape or reel (you can use this to convert the video to the most current format). Overall, digital copies of videos are usually best, so if you have the original, you don’t need to keep an “interim” version (for example, VHS tapes or DVDs).

Once you’re done sorting, you can toss (or delete) everything in the “C” pile. Things in your “A” and “B” piles should be organized, backed up, and preserved.

Time for Your Own Great Purge

When you’re ready to tackle your own purge, dig in! Do your gathering, evaluating, and sorting in blocks of 1 to 2 hours at a time. Shorter work blocks will help you be realistic about what you can tackle and avoid losing focus or getting overwhelmed.

Then start looking for your items, and begin making your piles. If you get bogged down at any point in this process, remember that you’re going to feel better when you have room to move (both literally and figuratively).

Dig in, and start shedding that extra clutter!


Note: After you sort and purge your items, your next step is to preserve, archive, and back up everything you’ve decided to keep. We’ll dig into how to manage that process in an upcoming article, so look for that soon.

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The 4-Step Process for Creating a Meaningful Photo Guest Book for Your Wedding

The 4-Step Process for Creating a Meaningful Photo Guest Book

Our daughter Molly recently got engaged to her boyfriend Michael. We are thrilled for both of them, and can’t wait to officially welcome Michael to the family!

As we start to plan the wedding, I started thinking about different ways to create a guest book for their wedding. I’ve focused my business on telling stories with photos (and it’s one of my favorite things to do), so I’d like to design a book that focuses on Molly and Michael’s relationship, and on their guests. After all, their guests are the people who are most important to them, and they will all be gathered in one place for their big day!

michaelmolly_engaged-53
Photo credit: Grace Adams, GraceKAdams.com

Here are four tips for making your wedding guests the stars of your guest book:

Step One: Finalize Your Guest List.

Start the process by making the final decision on your wedding party and your overall guest list. It’s important to finalize this list as your first step, because it will make your guest book design easier from this point on.

Then take a look at the names on your list, and think about why you’ve decided to invite each person. There will be some key players, like your wedding party, your immediate families, and your closest friends. These key players are the folks who will be highlighted in your guest book.

Step Two: Gather Your Photos.

Next up, it’s time to gather photos of all your closest family members and friends – all the people on your “key players” list.

When you’re looking for digital photos, make sure you have a full resolution copy of each image. If you don’t have a full resolution version of a particular image, you can always ask your friends for help.

If you have print versions of any photos, you’ll need to scan them to put them in your guest book. Make sure you scan at 600 dpi for good reproduction resolution. We can help with the scanning process if you need assistance!

As you gather photos, put all the digital copies in one folder on your computer – this will make your life easier later, when it’s time to compile your guest book.

Consider including photos of:

  • The people who introduced you to your fiancé (if you were introduced by friends of family members) or pictures of moments in that friendship related to bringing you together
  • The first time you met each other’s families
  • Childhood photos of you and your fiancé with friends and family members
  • Childhood photos of long-time friends
  • Older photos of your family members – your guests will love looking at the hair and clothing styles from other eras!
  • The moment you asked your wedding party to be your attendants, if you had a creative way of asking them

Remember, you’ll know of your guests better than others, so don’t worry if you don’t have photos of everyone. You can simply include a guest list at the end of the book and include everyone that was invited.

Your friends and relatives can also provide the stories of how you met, and their favorite memories of your relationship. It will be fun to go down memory lane and recall your shared history, and you’ll need these stories for one of the upcoming steps in your guest book creation process.

Step Three: Add Stories.

To create a really personal guest book, leave plenty of room in your book for your guests to include a short story or caption about your relationship.

For those guests who are more connected to your parents, you can ask them for stories of how they met your family, and how that relationship has grown. It might also be fun to include first impressions from your family when they initially met your fiancé.

If you plan to finalize the guest book close to the date of the wedding, your guests’ stories can be submitted along with their RSVPs, and you can put them in the book when you compile it.

Step Four: Compile Your Guest Book.

Once you’ve collected all the photos and stories you want to use, it’s time to put them all together into a printed guest book.

You can use a service like Shutterfly, Mixbook, Picaboo or Artifact Uprising if you’d like to do this yourself. If you’d like someone else to manage this for you, let us know – designing and publishing guest books is one of our specialties!

When you compile the book, you can include all the stories you received ahead of time. Also make sure to leave some space for other folks (anyone who didn’t submit a story ahead of time) to write something on the day of the wedding.

Time to Get Creative!

Creating a personalized guest book for your wedding is a fabulous way to honor your friends and family on your big day. It also gives them a lovely way to share their favorite stories and anecdotes about your relationship.

Your customized guest book will be a treasured keepsake that your fiancé and you can cherish for the rest of your lives.

Have fun with this process, and if you need any assistance with gathering your photos or putting your book together, contact us here at Picture This OrganizedWe’d be happy to help!

If you’d like some additional ideas on creating a guest book for you wedding, check out this board on our Pinterest profile!