As 2020 nears its end, we find ourselves looking back at a blur of activity and meeting new challenges head-on. But this isn’t the first time you or your family faced extraordinary circumstances, experienced a milestone, or achieved something worth sharing. Why not write a memoir to tell your life story or a biographical history of another family member?
Deep down, all of us long to know where we came from. We want to understand our roots, see our ancestors’ faces in photos, learn their names and stories.
Along the way, we even uncover funny details that make our families unique. Erma Bombeck once wrote, “I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.”
You can’t lose a detail like that! We want to make sure we relish and archive as much of our history as possible.
Perhaps you’re a budding genealogist, just beginning your research – or maybe you’ve been looking into your family history for some time, and you find yourself with a growing, unorganized, genealogy collection.
Either way, we’ve got some tips in this post that will help you sort through the confusion growing inside the tangled branches of your family tree. (more…)
Most of us have little piles (or giant collections) of memorabilia tucked away in our closets.
Your memorabilia box might include:
- Your children’s (or grandchildren’s) artwork or schoolwork.
- Family keepsakes that have been handed down through generations.
- Ticket stubs, trip itineraries, or other evidence of your travels over the years.
- Letters from loved ones.
- Anything that has special significance to you.
No matter what your collection includes, it can be difficult to decide what to do with these items. (more…)
My kids are all grown up, and they’re out of the house now, but I can still remember the mountains of paintings and doodles that came home from school, Sunday school, and summer camp – plus the vast quantities of last-minute drawings my kids produced while they were waiting for dinner to be prepared.
As parents, we want to encourage creativity, and there’s something lovely about the innocence of a child’s drawing or painting – so we often feel moved to display our kid’s artwork on our refrigerators or bulletin boards.
Then as the quantity of artwork grows, we might get some boxes to handle the overflow. Before long, the piles of drawings and paintings get completely out of control, and we’re drowning in paper.
There is a way to manage the steady flow of artistic creations, while still giving your children a sense of appreciation for their hard work.
My recommendation is to carefully select what you’re going to showcase in your home. Put a few special pieces on display in creative ways, so you can show off your child’s creations and give them a place of honor in your home, without feeling like you need to save and display every crayon and colored pencil drawing he or she brings home.
You can group similar items together (sorting by color or theme, like animals, notes, or poems). Sorting things together automatically adds a bit of extra pizzazz to your display.
If you have more than one child, you might set aside an area for each child, or put siblings’ items side-by-side accordings to the groupings above. For example, you can put Susie’s blue paintings next to Jack’s blue colored pencil drawings.
Once you’ve selected some special pieces, it’s time to display them! Here are some possible display options for your home:
1. Hang on the fridge or bulletin board.
This super-basic option is simple and easy, and the only supplies you’ll need are some magnets or push pins. Just make sure to maintain your display, and swap older drawings every now and then – you don’t want your fridge to end up looking like an overloaded bulletin board on a college campus!
2. Hang in regular frames.
You can use regular picture frames to mount your child’s artwork on the wall – just buy some simple frames, and you’re in business!
Keep your eye out for discount frame sales at craft stores like Michael’s, or at your local frame shop.
3. Create your own rotating art gallery.
If you’d like to create your own do-it-yourself art gallery for your home, there are number of ways to go about it.
You can hang inexpensive (empty) frames, then mount some simple binder clips inside the frames so your child can hang her latest creations. Check out how blogger Julie did this on her site, Less Than Perfect Life of Bliss.
Or, you can mount a simple wire between two eye bolts – check out this post to see how blogger Kelli W. created her display.
Or if you want a slightly fancier option, you can create an attractive wood and wire display, like the one Liz Marie did in her home.
No matter how simple or fancy you make your in-home art gallery, you can hang your children’s artwork in your gallery with pride!
4. Digitize to archive the artwork – or make something more elaborate with your digital images.
You can also digitize your favorite pieces, to archive them and keep them long term. You’ve got two digitizing options: Scanning or photographing.
If you’re going to scan your child’s artwork, make sure the original is free of dirt or lint before you scan it. For additional scanning tips, check out my previous post on restoring old photo albums.
If you’d like to photograph the pieces to digitize them, take your photos in natural light for best results. Kate, a blogger from the site Picklebums.com, also recommends standing directly over the artwork to snap the best shots. For additional photo tips for kids’ artwork, check out her blog post, Photographing Kids Art to Save.
Once you’ve photographed the artwork, you can enlarge certain images to fit larger size frames, or make a collage with multiple creations. Jen, a blogger who writes at JenThousandWords.com, wrote about how she created photo collages of her children’s artwork for their bedroom and playroom walls. You can find additional collage and display ideas on our “Kids Artwork” board on Pinterest.
5. Make greeting cards.
You can also make greeting cards from your kids’ artistic creations! You can use part of the artwork as the front of the card (and leave the inside blank so you can it for any occasion), or you can get artwork printed onto postcards.
Looking for printing options? You can try your local photo lab — a lot of local shops will have options for printing photo cards. Or you can try an online site like Tiny Prints, which can give you customizable options for creating your own cards.
Creating a special place for your child’s artwork
Hopefully I’ve given you some options for displaying or archiving your child’s artistic creations. What’s important is that you find a display system that works for you (and for your family) and frees you from having to keep mountains of boxes full of drawings and paintings that never see the light of day.
Of course, make sure you have fun with your art display efforts! This can be a creative and enjoyable project for the whole family.
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.
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 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.
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 gathering, and you can do a quick scan of the cards or cookbooks, and give them right back – this can save you time and postage!
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.
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 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.
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 Pinterest or Dropbox. 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.
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!
“This must seem mundane to you” said a client at the end of a recent session. The statement caught me off-guard because I would have described that past two and a half hours much differently!
During her photo organizing session, we were sorting through her print collection; identifying the best and organizing them in preparation for digitizing. This phase in the process is a combination of a fact-finding mission and a treasure hunt. One of the treasures we uncovered was a newspaper clipping of her husband as a young adult during his days as a Golden Glove boxer! She was delighted to find it and couldn’t wait to share it with him. It was such a fun reminder that her retired seventy-something husband had once been a fierce competitor! And we knew he’d enjoy sharing this moment of his past with their grandchildren!
Photo organizing is so much more than the task at hand because it’s about understanding family relationships and the stories revealed through their photos. I’m the cheerleader for their stories. I’m the person they count on to share the heart of the matter. And I’m not just searching for milestone events, celebrations and accomplishments. I also look for the everyday moments that connect the pieces of their life puzzle together.
Sitting side-by-side as we sorted her pictures was actually fun, rewarding and a reminder of the importance of cherishing those mementos (like a newspaper clipping) to tell the story. If this story resonates with you and you would like some help sharing your photos and mementos, contact us. We make the process fun and easy.
As you think about which photos to keep, you’re likely thinking about sharing them with family and friends. While you can share the extra copies, we prefer sharing digital copies. This means your prints will need to be digitized. Since this is a bit of an investment, you have some things to consider: Scan now, select and organize later or Organize now and then scan the best ones. We like to organize before scanning because it’s easier to build upon this system and use it for all digital photos. And you avoid the cost of scanning photos you don’t want to keep – especially those duplicates and blurry shots.
Getting Picky – What’s Worth Keeping?
If you’re like most people, your photo collection includes some great shots, duplicates, a few blurry pictures and the ones that tell a story. Using the ABC’S as our acronym, this will be our guide for how to select our favorites. The “A” photos are the ones you like the best – typically the ones that you liked so much you ordered reprints of them. You may even have them in an album. These are the ones you want to highlight, preserve and share with family and friends.
If you have photos in albums, you will need to consider whether to keep them in place or remove them from the album. If the pages of the album are the old, magnetic sticky sheets, then it’s best to remove them from the album to avoid further deterioration. Since someone spent the time to carefully group photos together, you’ll want to pay attention to this and keep them in the same sequence. However, if you cannot remove the photos from the album, they can be scanned while still adhered to the album.
Memorabilia can and should be scanned for safe keeping. Include this in your organizing system so that when the digital versions are uploaded to your computer, you can easily locate them following the same system.
The “B” photos are those shots that are close to the same quality as the Album-worthy shots, but you don’t think they are as important to showcase. You should still digitize these for safe keeping so include them in your “To be Scanned” box. An example of a “B” photo might be a look-alike version of a pose – might not be the best one but still good for preserving.
The “C” photos are usually an easy decision. These are the blurry or under/over exposed shots. Or they may be photos of people you don’t remember! No need to scan a picture of a stranger – unless it’s an heirloom photo! Discard similar shots of the same view or pose. Then use a genealogist to help you identify it! If they are duplicates you can consider passing them along to family/friends or putting them aside to use for craft projects.
Telling the Story
Sometimes the story-worthy photos aren’t the best quality shots but the only copy you have to commemorate that event. You’ll want to keep this in mind as you select your photos to be digitized. As you think about how to group/categorize your photos, think about your preferences – chronological, themes, people and special events.
If you’re creating a life book or showcasing eras, organizing chronologically is typically the way to go. If you want to showcase interests, traditions or events then theme-based organizing works well. There’s no right or wrong way to group your photos – keep in mind how you remember events and traditions. Some folks are great at recalling dates, while others work better with themes!
As you find or recall important details such as the date, event name and location, document these on the index cards. Or you can create a spreadsheet to list them in chronological order. This is especially helpful when you are ready to put together a photo album or a slideshow. Then the process of telling the story is easier because all the pieces are organized together.
Selecting photos can feel like a huge responsibility. If tackling this on your own seems daunting, send me an email. We have a keen eye for recognizing those important story telling details.
Next Step – Securing your Photos