Project Life- Or why I love pocket scrapbooking

October 25
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Project Life- or why I love pocket scrapbooking. All about my experience with Project life and why it is a great scrapbook and memory keeping system for me.

A few months ago I decided I wanted to start putting together a physical photo album.  I have years and years of digital photos but they are difficult to go through and even harder to enjoy with others.  I had tried scrapbooking in the past and always felt it was way to much of a creative item versus being a memories storage device.  Although beautiful, I knew i didn’t have the time or energy to come up with creative spreads for everything.  I wanted a streamlined fill in the blank system and I found that with Project Life.  Project life is a pocket page system with preprinted cards to help you decorate your pages based on a season, theme, or emotion.  As soon as I saw the system at Michaels I knew it was perfect for me.  It gave me the creative license to use my photos however I’d like along with the pre-made cards to help guide the pages and keep everything together with matching cards and color schemes.

This is a spread from my Husband's album

 

Project life is most often used with a 12×12 binder.  Most of the pockets are both vertical and horizontal 4×6 and 2×3, as well as some 2×2 pockets.  This gives lots of options for photos and cards on a two page spread.  I went with a smaller 6×8 book as I enjoyed how the smaller book felt in my hands.  Although I love the large spreads of 12×12 binders, I didn’t love their large size to hold and work with.  The company also makes smaller binders as well.

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This spread utilizes the Seasons core kit.

 

 

Many Project Life users (Project Lifers)  Like to do a spread for each week.  This is a great way to keep up with the day-to-day doings of your family but was too much for me.  I went ahead and have my albums grouped by event with the intent of one or two small albums per year.  Currently I have 3 albums. One for from 2011-2014, one album for wedding events and them my wedding, and one for 2015.  Once every few months I go through my Picasa albums and my phone album and order prints for my book. I always check Snapfish, Shutterfly, and Walgreens.com for deals.  Some have special offers for photos ordered with your phone.usually over-order on photos and then decide with I get them which ones I actually want to use.  The prints are cheap enough that I am fine with this. Next I  go through the prints and place them in my album how I want them. Project Life makes many different styles of pocket pages so I go though and see what layout works the best for the photos I want to use. I  After I have the prints situated in the pages then I start adding Project Life cards and embellishments to my pages.  I started with one Project Life Core Kit for my cards.  Core Kits are lager card sets with 3 rows of 2×3 cards and one row of 4×6 cards.  I picked the seasons core kit for my first one because I liked how it would work all year and give a great seasonal feel to all my photos. I highly recommend this kit for new project lifers.

http://www.shopbeckyhiggins.com/

From http://www.shopbeckyhiggins.com/

 

One of my favorite aspects of Project Life and the pocket album system is journaling cards.  These cards can be used to write down information about the photos or the day they represent including how you felt, as well as details about who was there or where you were.

http://www.shopbeckyhiggins.com/

From http://www.shopbeckyhiggins.com

 

Project life also sells smaller kits for holidays, babies, wedding, ect.   I have the Southern Weddings card pack which I used in my wedding album.

The pocket album idea is done by other brands as well.  A popular one is We R Memory Keepers.  Many of the items by the brand and other similar brands are compatible and you can always cut other items or scrapbook paper to fit the pockets.

Here are a few of the embellishments I use in my albums.

Here are a few of the embellishments and supplies I use in my albums.

 

Overall, I really enjoy the Project Life product line and the way it has made scrapbooking and memory keeping  doable for me.  I love going back and looking at my albums  and reading the cards knowing that I will always have these.  I also throughly enjoy the creative process.  It is almost like putting a puzzle together.  What goes where?  Does it fit? Does it match? What if I try this?  Its kind of like creativity for the analytical mind.  I do have to give a warning though; Once you start you will want all of the super cute embellishments, cards and albums.

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10 Tips for visiting Chicago on a budget

October 23
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CHICAGO

Earlier this month, my husband and I had the chance to spend a few days together in Chicago. I was excited to see a city I’d never been to and he was excited to enjoy their style of improv.  As an improvisor here in Florida, he has a few friends that way who had shows while we were there. We wanted to enjoy this trip, but at the same time we wanted to keep within our budget as we are planning a trip to Europe in the spring and didn’t want to go overspend in Chicago. Although I am by no means an expert on the city, I was able to pick up a few tips I’d like to share.

 

airbnb_logo_fons_blanc1.Airbnb

Due to the high cost of lodging in Chicago we chose to try out an Airbnb for this trip.  We ended up renting a bedroom and bathroom about a 20 minute train ride out of the city for less than the cost of a sketchy motel an hour outside.  The host and room were great, and even though we hit a snag before the trip the host was great and getting it figured out.  Interested in trying out Airbnb? Here’s $20 off your first trip.

 

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2. City Pass

If you’re looking to do the big attractions in Chicago (Art Institute, Willis Tower, Sci and Tech Museum, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium) then go ahead and get yourself a city pass.  this $100 ticket gets you into all 5 attractions and has a fast pass feature at several of them.  They claim to have a 50% or so savings, which is a little high because you don’t necessarily need the most expensive ticket to each attraction, but in the end if you’re going to do them it really is the easy way to go.  We arrived in Chicago early on a Friday morning and I wanted to go to the Willis (Sears) tower that evening.  Being that it was a Friday evening the place was PACKED and had a 2+ hour wait just to get to the elevator.  We were able to skip both the ticket and elevator line and get up within a few minutes which  is usually $40 ticket itself.  Find out more about CityPass here.

 

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We found someone to take a photo of us with our custom message

3. Willis Tower

Speaking of Willis Tower- I wanted to share a tip I picked up.  If you contact Willis Tower at least  2 days before your trip the will put up a custom welcome message up to 60 characters for free.  I gave them a two hour window of when I planned to arrive and then didn’t tell my husband about it.  He was so surprised to see that they knew we were coming!  To set this up simply send an email to sales@theskydeck.com.  For more information go to: here.

 

IO Chicago

4. Improv

Interested  in taking in a show while you’re in town? We enjoyed a few improv shows at iO Chicago. You can check out their schedule here.    While you’re in that part of town be sure to grab a bite and a craft beer at Burger Bar which is right outside the Clybourn subway station. Shows at iO vary in cost from $8 and up.

 

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Chicago CTA station

5. Mass Transit

Speaking of subway stations, we used mass transit for every single trip except one.  It was so simple getting on the train from the airport.  Both the airport and our Airbnb were situated off the same train so we had no problems getting into town.  The trains come very frequently and many lines run 24 hours a day so even on the late nights we had a ride home.  We chose an airbnb that was less than 5 minutes from a station because we knew we’d be using it alot.  This was a great decision.  We purchased the 7 Day Pass which was good on all CTA trains and busses for only $28 each.  Find more information on transit here.

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6. Uber

The one car we rode in was an Uber.  This was our first time using Uber so we had a ride credit which made it free!  Using the app was super simple and our driver was friendly and professional.  Due to the mass transit available Uber isn’t a necessity in Chicago, but It was nice to have the app and credit ready in my phone if we needed it.  In case you’re wondering, we used used it to bar hop.  Classy, I know.  Want a free ride?  Click here for a free $20 credit for your first ride.  Also, Uber is so much cheaper than cabs so $20 actually goes a long way.

 

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The view from Cindy’s

7. Chicago Athletic Association

While on our trip we met up with a friend who introduced us to the recently reopened Chicago Athletic Association Hotel.   This 125 year old building once was a popular athletic association full of famous faces but closed its doors in 2007.  It reopened this year as a hotel with several locally owned bars and restaurants inside.  Although we didn’t get to check out the rooms, the public spaces were lovely and we thoroughly enjoyed the view from Cindys, the rooftop bar and restaurant. The building faces Lake Michigan and Millennium Park and is a great place to grab a cocktail and enjoy the view. Although the drinks are pricy, it’s worth it for view, and is much cheaper than staying the night at the hotel.  We visited on a Sunday night and the place was busy, but not crazy and totally not a tourist trap. Eat dinner elsewhere and enjoy a drink and a view without breaking the bank.

 

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The view from the door of our “chamber.”

8. Virgin Hotel

On the last night of our trip we stayed at new Virgin Hotel in Chicago.  This trendy new hotel is located on the loop right in the middle of everything.  The hotel is in a renovated bank building with 250 guest rooms or “Chambers.”  They tried to keep as many parts of the old architecture as possible while also adding tons of swanky new updates.  One of the awesome perks of staying at this hotel was the complimentary happy hour from 6-7pm.  We were offered free drinks during this time in their 2nd floor bar/restaurant. This was a great opportunity to try out some fun specialty cocktails which we usually pass on.  There was also a cute rooftop bar, but we didn’t get a chance to really try it out.  Overall, if your interested in a fun hotel in the city I would definitely  recommend this one.  Because they are new, their rates are fairly low for the area. Read more about them here.

Enjoying a free happy hour drink

Enjoying a free happy hour drink

 

 

insidechicago

9. Inside Chicago Walking Tours

Whenever we visit a new city we love to do a walking tour to get to know a little about the history of the city and really get a feel for where we our.  The small group settings and knowledgeable guides are great for learning more about a city. Often times they can be a little pricy for an hour or two, but we stumbled upon Inside Chicago Walking Tours via Livingsocial and tried it out.  We loved our tour with Hillary and it was totally worth her rates!  Although this is a new company the guide has done her research and only gives information she has verified as well as awesome notes she has come across during her research.  She is also an entertaining speaker so even if history isn’t your thing you will enjoy what she has to say.  Check her out,  you won’t be disappointed.  There is currently a deal on Livingsocial where new accounts get $10 off their first purchase of $20 or more.  Click here to get that deal and then here to get 2 tickets for $20!

 

10.  Lincoln Park Zoo

Although we didn’t get a chance to visit, the Lincoln Park zoo is worth mentioning in any post about cheap things in Chicago.  This FREE zoo is located north of the city, but is easily accessible via CTA busses.  Parking is expensive, so really consider taking the bus and not having to deal with the cost or traffic.  It’s a great place to spend the day.  Find out more here.

 

I hope you find these tips helpful.  Please let me know if you used any of them or, if you have suggestions of your own please add them in the comments.  We plan to return to the city at some point and will need new ideas!

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Simple Smoothies

October 20
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Simple Green Smoothies

 

I get a lot of questions about the smoothies my husband and I make so I figured I’d make a post about our system.  Because it’s so easy we have no problem whipping them up before work in the mornings.  We blend in a Ninja blender with the personal smoothie cups.  This is mostly because someone broke the large pitcher and blade by blending a spoon while sick.  We won’t name names of course.  Anyways, we hadn’t used the personal cups much before so when we switched to them it was new.  Personally, (heh) I like them better as they seem to get a smoother blend.  Basically though, use whatever blender you have, I am not going to go tell you to spend $300 on one.

All of our smoothies are green smoothies.  This means we start with a hearty base of mixed greens.  Our favorites are spinach and kale.  We also use collard greens from time to time.  The kale is a little tart so we do a half and half ratio with spinach.  We purchase these in large bags pre washed and then stick them in the freezer.  You are also welcome to use fresh. The recipe we are going over today is for one 12 oz smoothie.  We use 1 cup of spinach and 1 cup of kale as this green base.

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We then add 1/2 to 1 cup water.  After adding the water you will notice that the greens kinda smoosh (yes, this is the official word) to the bottom.  This is good.  Now you have room for everything else. Make sure you put in enough water to smoosh them and almost cover the greens.  This isn’t a science to you may have to play with it.  You can always add more later.  Now this is always where I get asked about why we use water.  The simple answer is I’m lazy.  Water is free, its right next to the blender, and its 0 calories.  Why not use water?  I mean really.

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Next is your banana.  We use a whole banana in each smoothie.  You are welcome to use 1/2 or less, but this is what we like.  The banana gives the smoothie that good thick texture and its a great source of sweetness next to that kale.

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Now comes the fun part.  This is where you add your extra fruit for flavor. Today I used avocado and mango.  Strawberries, blueberries, peanut butter, and apple are other ingredients we enjoy regularly.

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We use chia seeds in all our smoothies as an extra umph.  Curious?  Here is a nice article explaining the benefits.  Around 1 Tablespoon is good. Whatever you do, don’t add these first if you’re using a small blender cup.  They will get stuck on the bottom and never get into the smoothie.

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Now we put on the lid and buzz!  Make sure you run your blender for long enough to get a nice fine blend. This is a smoothie, not a chunky.  Also, if your greens are bunching up at the top of the blender, go ahead and shake them down (with the lid on.)

 

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After you are done blending pour into your favorite up and enjoy!  If your smoothie is too thick add a little water and blend again and you’re good to go.

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So what do you think?  Do you make smoothies at home?  If so what do you do differently?  Any great ideas I need to try?

 

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Free contacts sheet- Happy Planner printable

October 11
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Contacts printable
Contacts pages:

Print these pages on regular 8.5×11 printer paper or cardstock.  Cut along gray lines and then hole punch the gray circles.  Using scissors cut from the holes you punched to the end of the page. You may want to cut 1/8 in slits from the holes to the left side of the paper so that it slides better in the rings.

Viola!  Enter wherever you’d like in your planner.

 

Contacts version 1

Contacts version 2

 

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