Friday, December 30, 2011

Photo Organization Challenge: December

I'm continuing my simple challenge of organizing photos for just two hours a month.

The Memory:

Christmas trees of the past.  Every year we get a real tree, and every year we save a piece of the stump. I think at one point I had this great idea of making all the pieces into ornaments.  Maybe I should seek some Pinterest inspiration. : )  But for now, we just have pieces of stump hiding in random places throughout our house, and I came across a few today in my organizing.  The big piece in the back is actually from this year's tree.  There's kind of a sad, funny story behind it.

Usually we go as a family to cut down our tree.  The day after Thanksgiving is the best day to go, otherwise the best trees will be taken.  But this year we were in Denver and Portland over Thanksgiving week, so we didn't get to pick out our tree.  The next weekend Anna had a swim meet, so we still weren't able to go as a family.  But we needed a tree.  So we ditched our annual outing and Marc planned to go with Ryne and Grace and just get whatever tree he could find.  He went to the same tree farm we usually go to, but it was pouring rain.  So instead of tromping through the mud and getting wet and cold, Marc opted for a pre-cut tree.  Turns out it was a little bigger than what we usually get.  Okay, make that a lot bigger.  He had to cut almost a foot off the bottom, and we had to trim quite a bit off the top to get it to fit in our living room. So that's why this year's piece of stump is a little bigger than the others.  I'm thinking it would make a great candle holder. : )

I guess I'm cheating a little by telling that story.  It's a new story, not something I uncovered during my organizing.  Maybe I should have just told you that our first Christmas tree was named Potifir. {Get it?  Fir?  Potiphar?} Nevermind.

The Progress: Goal met! {sort of}  

I spent about four hours this morning sorting through boxes of stuff instead of photos. {That's why I have to show you pictures of Christmas tree stumps.} I started with four large boxes and ended with . . . four large boxes.  Want to cry with me?  It's not quite as bad as it sounds.  One of the boxes is very organized and I did get rid of a lot of stuff.  A new box is headed to Anna's school, full of greeting cards for the art classes to use.  And some unforeseen benefits arose from my organizing session:

1.  The kids are richer.  I found a card that said Happy Birthday Great-Granddaughter and inside was a ten dollar bill.  I felt horrible, because I didn't know if it was for Anna or Grace, so I figured I'd just give them each five.  But then a few minutes later, I found a duplicate of the card, also with a ten dollar bill!  And later I found two cards with money for Ryne, totaling seven dollars.  And Marc was reunited with a gift certificate (yes, it came from before the days of plastic gift cards) that a Bible study student gave him.  {hanging my head in shame}

2.  My husband doesn't need to get me an anniversary card for our 19th today, because I just found about ten anniversary cards he's given me over the years. {Happy Anniversary, Honey!}

3.  I found my creamy turkey soup recipe. 

4.  I found all my planners/calendars from at least the last fifteen years.  Now I will be able to look up the dates for special trips and events. 

5.  I found the baby's-first-year calendar for Grace.  Since she doesn't have a completed baby book, this is the only record I have of her first milestones.  I was finally able to tell her what her first word was: duck!

So I continue to plug along, hoping for better progress in 2012.  This mess is taking up a good portion of our school room right now, so progress needs to be made sooner rather than later!

Happy Organizing!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

'Twas the night before . . .


. . .  the night before Christmas -- or as Grace calls it, Christmas Eve Eve.  I decided I'd try to give my neglected blog some love tonight, but I keep getting interrupted by creatures still stirring about. Since I've been absent for most of the month, I'll give you Twelve Things that May or May Not Be Related to Christmas.

1.  It is not looking good for a white Christmas at the Blue House.  We have not had more than a few flurries all month.  I love the snow, and the kids are anxious to do some sledding.  But until then, God has replaced the beauty of snow with some spectacular sunsets.  This picture needed no editing.


2.  Something I haven't shared here is that Marc and I have been following Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover for almost a year.  We started by cutting up the credit cards and have paid cash for everything this year.  While it's taken some getting used to, we are so glad to be going down this path.  In the past we never really budgeted for Christmas, but this year we set aside some money each month so we'd be all set in December.  I set the number a little low however, because I kept reading how all these bloggers used Swagbucks to earn Amazon gift cards.  One blogger said she was able to earn enough gift cards to pay for Christmas.  I knew I'd never be that successful, so I just planned on supplementing our Christmas budget a little.  Well guess what?  I hate Swagbucks.  The auto-fill feature on their search bar drives me coo coo, and the search results aren't as good as what you get from Google.  So I stopped using it for more and more of my searches until finally I just forgot about it -- until December, that is.  I was encouraged that we had money set aside, but when I started adding up costs for gifts, a tree, treats, cards, and so forth, I realized the $5 Amazon card I earned was not going make up the difference between what I wanted to spend and what I had available.

3.  I solved the problem by cutting out one of our biggest expenses and by getting creative.  Sadly, it was our Christmas cards that got the axe.  We didn't get them sent out last year either, so we'll probably get dropped from some lists this year, which is really sad because I LOVE Christmas cards.  Even the ones that people love to make fun of -- no Grinchiness from me when it comes to Christmas newsletters!  So I apologize for not sending you a card or at least posting it on the blog.  {sniff}

And the creative part?  My Pinterest addiction served me well this month.  I made many of our gifts this year and tried out several new recipes.  The peppermint bark rice krispy treats in the top photo were a life saver when I found out last minute I needed a treat to bring to a party -- so easy!  Another great find was this Christmas popcorn recipe that we used for gifts for our Sunday School kids. 


I'm telling you, you need to join me in Pinterestland!

4.  It's been a great month for my Baylor Bears!  Our first Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III (RG3), is a real class act -- he's smart, humble, and obviously a gifted athlete.  We celebrated the news by hanging our Baylor flag.  (How nice -- our school colors work nicely with Christmas decorations!).  Sic 'em Bears!


5.  Despite all my great planning efforts, things still got a chaotic this December.  The problem was that my planning didn't allow for health related problems and a misdiagnosis that rendered me useless for a week.  It was not fun and I had more than a few crying fits, from pain and the frustration of not feeling well and having a million things to do.  But God is good and there were blessings in this trial, just like any other.  One of the greatest blessings was having an awesome husband step in and help with so much.  He even took Ryne and Grace to their homeschool Christmas party.  Love you, Honey!  Another blessing was that because I did do a better job of planning this year, I was still able to get through most of my to-do items.  Except for the baking -- that will be our Christmas Eve project!

6.  December has been heaven for our attention-loving Grace.  First, she got to ring some bells on stage with the symphony orchestra.  Marc was invited to a reception for corporate sponsors and their families, and after the reception they got to watch the rehearsal for the symphony's big Christmas program.  Marc and the kids had a wonderful time, especially when Grace was asked if she'd like to go on stage.  I stayed home because I was feeling awful but wish I had sent the camera with Marc.  Grace also sang a solo at our church Christmas program (maybe I'll have time to post the video tomorrow), and wrapped things up by showing us her best ballerina moves at the ballet school open house.


7.  I changed my Christmas mantel for the first time in more than a decade.  Do you ever read the blogs that have mantel parties for every season?  That's so not me.  I find something I like and then stick with it for a good. long. time.  But even I was itching for some change this year.  I just used stuff that I already had on hand, and it turned out nice and simple.  I'm still tweaking decorations -- today I found these little gnomes I brought back from my childhood home in August.  My sister thinks I'm crazy, but they were some of my favorite decorations when I was a kid.


8.  I had the best gift wrapping session ever this afternoon.  Marc took the kids out to do their Christmas shopping, so I had the whole house to myself.  I spread everything out on the kitchen table, popped in a favorite movie I should have mentioned in my list of favorite movies, and nibbled on some chocolate between wrapping.  So much better than in the middle of the night before Christmas!

9.  When I was done wrapping gifts I took a few minutes to play on the computer.  I read this post by Pioneer Woman and laughed so hard I cried.  Actually I cry just about every time I laugh, but I'm talking tears rolling down my cheeks, laughing out so loud the dog got scared. It was a great afternoon.

10.  We're staying home for Christmas.  Just our family.  Enjoying having Marc home for two weeks of vacation.  Looking forward to some of our favorite traditions like gingerbread pancakes on Christmas morning (although we might change it to brunch after church), finding our Dutch wooden shoes filled with treats, and singing Happy Birthday to Daddy and Jesus after a dinner of prime rib.

11.  Usually we are with Marc's mom for Christmas and she makes the prime rib, so I'm a little nervous about trying to pull this off on my own.  I'm also nervous about the birthday cake recipe I'm making for the first time.  If you follow me on Pinterest, you might be able to figure out what kind of cake it is. I repeat: You really need to join me in my pinning addiction. : )

12.  I always end my Christmas newsletters (on the years when I do actually write them) with the following:

As always, we find joy in our crazy, everyday life, but we remember the real reason for our joy: the baby in the manger who grew up to die on the cross that we might be “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8).  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I hope you have a blessed Christmas day, bloggy friends!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Photo Organization Challenge: November

I'm continuing my simple challenge of organizing photos for just two hours a month.


The Memory: Thanksgiving 2006

In honor of her 50th wedding anniversary, Marc's mom treated the whole family to a vacation at an amazing tropical resort in Turks and Caicos. It was bittersweet, since Marc's dad had passed away a year and a half before, but it was a trip of a lifetime. Our kids still talk often of their precious memories from that trip. I, for one, will never forget walking on a beach, holding hands with my honey, asking, "So we're really going to do this?" We announced at dinner that night that we were becoming a homeschool family. : )

The Progress: Goal met!  

I snuck in a few hours of sorting loose photos before we left for Denver last week.   I probably only have a few more hours of sorting until I have them grouped by event.  It was mostly the baby pictures of Anna and Ryne that got so messed up, primarily because I actually did stuff with them. Grace's baby pictures mostly stayed in the envelopes because they were never put in albums or shared. Boo!

The bad news is that I've discovered the bulk of what's causing my clutter problem isn't the photos -- it's all the other stuff that I'm genetically prone to save: hospital scrubs stamped with baby footprints, casts from broken arms, drawings and art projects, invitations and announcements, event tickets and programs, heat sheets and end-of-season stats for swim, VHS and DVD videos, and EVERY SINGLE CARD we've EVER received!

There is some irony in this. Every Christmas I put all the Christmas cards we receive in a ziploc bag and write the year on it. That way, when I make my Christmas card list the following year, I can look through the cards to make sure I didn't forget anyone. Nevermind that I don't have a set location for these ziploc bags, so sometimes I can't find the bag the following year. The irony is that without too much trouble, I could put together a collage of Melanie's family Christmas photos from the last 9 years (because she's one of those organized people who gets her cards done early every year -- love you, Mel). But could I put together a similar collage for my own family? Not a chance.

There's nothing I can do about the past, so I will continue to plug along with my organizing and make sure I get our family's cards done this year. But you could really help me with this next step. Tell me in the comments what to do with all this stuff. What do you keep; what do you toss? Please give me permission to throw away the thank you note from a preschool teacher I haven't seen in a decade. And if you keep some of this stuff, what do you do with it? Here are some ideas I'm considering:

  • Scan artwork
  • Donate most of the greeting cards to Anna's school (they sent out a request)
  • Store Christmas photo cards on a ring 

Once I get past this step, I should be ready to start putting photos in albums -- yea!!!

Happy Organizing!

P.S.  As if I needed further proof that I need to get these photos organized, Grace just sat down by me and asked, "Whose family is that?"  Maybe I should schedule more than two hours this month.  ; )