Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Better than Hallmark ...

Just had to share my birthday cards from my family tonight, which they presented after Jacques & I had returned from a nice dinner out at The Mint ...

First, from 12-year-old Kody:

And we all had a good chuckle reading the card from my hubby ...

Now what could possibly top that??? :)

How about this cake secretly baked & decorated by 14-year-old Karstin? First attempt and no one to ask for help ... tasted pretty good, too!

Apparently it took a few matches to light all those candles... LOL.

Throw in a nice little envelope of spending money for my upcoming "girls weekend" with my mom and sister and it all added up to a very nice 40th birthday.

Couldn't ask for anything more. :)

Favorites @ 40

1. quiet, uninterrupted mornings with my 3Cs ... hot Coffee, Carbs and my Computer!
2. new inspiration and ideas

3. great photos that really show the heart & personalities of my kids
4. tortilla chips with a mixture of fresh avocado with sour cream, fresh tomatoes and salsa
5. chicken and artichokes at The Mint

6. Cherry Zero
7. watching 14-year-old Karstin perform on the drums
8. Facebook
9. the Internet
10. watching 17-month-old Danica break into spontaneous dance whenever she hears a strong beat

11. my black Clark's slip-on shoes
12. Ali Edwards
13. real life scrapbooking
14. having found the right business for me ... finally!

15. Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Rosenthal
16. the Today Show
17. Brothers & Sisters on Sunday evenings
18. online shopping
19. Barbara Delinsky

20. playing with the Loving Family dollhouse with 3-year-old Skylar
21. working for myself from home
22. a clean house
23. listening to an enthusiastic 12-year-old Kody share a story
24. digital scrapbooking

25. rising book sales
26. a clean, organized desk
27. giving away free books and more free books!

28. the movie "The Proposal"
29. cheesecake
30. unsolicited offers of a dinner out with just my hubby (just got one!!!)

31. my Kindle loaded with my biz blog, the entire Twilight series just waiting to be read & a couple great new business books!
32. the click of a great D-SLR
33. brainstorming new projects
34. Christopher & Banks

35. our flowering crabapple tree in the spring
36. Adobe software
37. french vanilla lattes

38. a very supportive hubby
39. banana chocolate chip muffins from Crabtree Coffee
40. this quote: Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Time for a shift of focus

I have blogged every single day since officially launching Log Your Memory on October 8th, yet since that time I have only done one post here on my personal blog. That seems like a pretty good illustration of why I've chosen this particular word as my "word" for 2010.

If you recall, I blogged and scrapbooked not quite a year ago about choosing one word to serve as a mantra of sorts for the year. This particular practice was inspired by scrapbooking queen Ali Edwards, and thousands of us have adopted it for ourselves. The act of choosing a word kind of lodges that thought into the back of your mind, serving as a pretty consistent reminder as you go about your day. Almost like your conscience.

Last year was my first year doing this. As you might recall, my word was "begin." It proved to be a pretty effective word, particularly in the scrapbooking realm. I went from calling myself a scrapbooker, but not really ever doing it, to BEGINning what turned out to be a scrapping frenzy. I've created just short of 300 scrapbook pages since last January, which includes two complete theme albums and tons of other pages for our family and individual scrapbooks. The number would be even higher, however, if I had managed to continue my scrapping after BEGINning my new business this fall. Since that time, I've only created a handful of pages, and they've all pretty much been driven by something I wanted to illustrate at Log Your Memory.

Hence my new word.

Finding balance has always been a struggle for me. When I get interested in something, I tend to have a very difficult time focusing on much else and it becomes something of an obsession. A more flattering word might be "passion," but whatever it is, it does a good job of throwing the rest of my life a bit out of kilter.

Granted, there are generally good reasons for this focus - at least that's what I tell myself. It's pretty tough to get a business up and running and make it successful without a lot of time and attention. All of that focus has paid off, too ... Log Your Memory is quickly becoming known throughout the online scrapbooking realm and I have a very steadily growing membership base on the site, as well as continually growing book sales & customer numbers. We're getting the attention, and hopefully the respect, of some pretty well-connected scrappers. Best of all, it's been fun and I feel more strongly every day that this is the right biz for me... finally.

But as my husband pointed out early on, this level of attention is simply not sustainable over the long run. You can only put in so many long days and short nights before it will catch up to you. My house could use a pretty thorough cleaning - and not just right before company comes. If I don't get my butt out of this desk chair and get some exercise and do a little menu planning instead of throwing less-than-healthy meals together at the last minute every night, I'm going to need to squeeze in time to shop for new clothes - literally. And if I don't take time to just sit and actually scrapbook once in a while, I'm going to lose touch with that which prompted this whole thing in the first place. It's been at least three months since I updated our family's photo site at Shutterfly because I haven't taken the time to process our photos. I haven't even touched my jewelry-making supplies, crochet hooks or other hobbies in almost a year. And at some point, I need to go through the girls' closet and sort clothing so maybe they can wear clothes that actually fit for a while before they've already outgrown them.

I need to find a balance between my online pursuits and the rest of my life.

How am I going to do this? I'm not real sure. As I mentioned, this is something I've struggled with my entire life. Looking back on my younger years, I can remember many "phases" where a particular interest consumed my every waking moment. When I would read a book, I would read it start to finish, pulling it out of my desk at school at every little opportunity and barely pausing to eat once I got home. I could literally sit for hours drawing imaginary floor plans or devouring dollhouse catalogs or designing Lego houses. As I got older, these obsessions were replaced with new ones - new jobs, new babies, new (short-lived) diets, new homes to decorate ...

So now by choosing balance as my word for 2010, I'm hoping to make it my new obsession. And if I'm successful, it will be one "obsession" I can sustain. If you have any good tips on how to achieve this goal or examples of how you maintain balance in your own life, I'd love to hear them! And if you're curious about my progress, keep an eye on this blog. It seems to be a pretty good indicator of where my attention lies!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

An amazing first 10 days ...

Wow! What an amazing first official 10 days I've had since the official launch of my new business, Log Your Memory. I can't tell you how excited I've been, except that I've found it nearly impossible to sleep for the last week ... and now it's catching up a bit. I'm a bit groggy today. It wouldn't have hurt my feelings a bit if Danica had wanted to sleep in today. But she  was raring to go first thing this morning, so here we are.

Anyway, it seems like I spend a lot of time looking at numbers related to my Web site, a little bit for information but largely for fun. It's just amazing to see everything coming together ... and exciting to watch these numbers grow. I'll probably create a scrapbook page about it (you know me....) but for now, I just want to get some of the numbers documented.

In our first 10 days, we've ...
  • Logged over 60 new member registrations... (I enjoy thinking of this as a 600% increase!)
  • Had guests from 12 different countries (US, Canada, Australia, UK, Israel, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Spain, Europe, New Zealand, Singapore, Germany, and 1 unknown)
  • Welcomed visitors from at least 36 of the 50 states in America.
  • Sold almost five times as many books already as the last little datebook I published.
  • Officially enrolled six members in our Book Club ... and others are waiting for their books to arrive so they can join, too...
  • Announced my first two Creative Team members ... and received applications already from more than a dozen very attractive candidates interested in filling out the remaining slots.
  • Had over 100 scrapbook layouts posted in our gallery.
  • Hosted as many as 20 visitors at once in our forum.
  • Received my first offer to review my book - and it was from an amazing lady well-known in the online scrapbooking world!
  • Posted almost 150 messages and replies in the forum.
  • Had more than 30 Facebook friends join our official Friends of Log Your Memory fan site!
  • Showcased a dozen amazing "real life" scrapbook pages in our first Story Board and another fantastic page in our first "Layout of the Week."
  • Had several people at least start an entry in our Kickoff Contest. It's a three-step process, so we have a few folks that need to finish up a step or two.
  • Lined up several great sponsors for our Grand Opening SPOOK-tacular to be held at the end of the month.
  • Almost finished planning our first online workshop, which I'll announce on Thursday.
  • Had our CT call mentioned in one of the popular online industry newsletters.
  • Introduced two scrapbooking challenges, both of which offer a prize.
  • Arranged for free product giveaways on three different blogs in the next month.
  • Enjoyed seeing my teeny, tiny little ad on the blog of one of my all-time favorite scrapbookers ... with plans for it to appear on that of another in the next month.
  • Had about a million new ideas for things to do in the coming months, thanks to all of this creative energy swirling around the blogosphere!
On top of all that, I found out this week that a two-page layout I submitted a while back was chosen to be featured next week in Scrapbook News and Review! :)

Whew! I get tired just thinking about it all ... and energized at the same time! It's all just so much FUN! I have to keep reminding myself it's only been just over a week, because it feels like so much longer.

And I suppose I'm going to have to move away from my computer pretty soon to make sure there's food in the fridge and clean clothes to wear ... I've had a hard time tearing myself away the last several days! It's worked out okay, though, because I've been home with just Danica for the past several days. Jacques, Kody and Skylar will be home this afternoon after a hunting trip to North Dakota, and Karstin just got home last night after his trip to Butte for the Divisional x-country meet. So "real life" is about to interject itself anyway, whether I'm ready for it or not!

Speaking of Karstin, he did pretty well at the meet yesterday - his time was 21:21, so I don't want to wake him up to ask...). He competed at the JV level, but he gets to go to State next weekend in Missoula as an alternate for the Varsity team. He's excited, because chances are good he'll get to go and have all the fun - and not have to kill himself running! But he does have to practice this week, including a 6 a.m. run on Monday, so it's not ALL fun and games. He's had a great first year and was telling me last night just how much he's enjoyed the season. I'm so glad ... it's fun to watch him when he's excited about something.  He's also started getting busy with a couple other extracurriculars at school - now he's gearing up to do a humorous duo with his buddy Jacob for the Speech and Drama team, plus he's practicing every week with the Science Olympiad team. So cool to watch...

I just found out this week, too, that I'll be representing Skylar's Head Start class on the Policy Council, which means I have a four-hour training to go to later in the month and then a meeting every month. Add that to my monthly visit to her classroom to volunteer and it gets pretty busy. She's LOVING Head Start, though... it about drives her nuts to have to stay home Friday through Sunday when there's no class!

Would you believe Danica is 15 1/2 months old already? I'm finding it hard to believe... she's a total crackup right now - and is trying to talk all the time. Most of the time, I don't have the foggiest idea what she is saying, but sometimes I can make out a word or two. She can also point to her nose - and mine - and I catch her dancing to the kiddie videos on TV all the time. She just LOVES the music in Veggie Tales. Of course, she's also playing with the VCR buttons all the time ... I took this picture after I found her yesterday parked in front of the TV. She had started a Blue's Clues video all by herself AND hauled her Bumbo seat in from the other room.  She was just sitting there watching, like it was no big deal. Ha-ha. She's also sprouting teeth left and right, which I think is why she's been a bit fussy at night. But overall, she's been her adorable, sweet self most of the time.

And Kody, I'm sure, will be FULL of hunting stories when he gets home. I guess he shot his first flying pheasant this week ... and scores of other flying objects, which I don't recall the details about ... so I'll have to update more on him later. Between talking to him and to Skylar on the phone, I'm not quite sure what either of them really said, except that they're having a blast! So that's good...

More later... now I'm off to find out what's Dani's been up to while I've been jabbering away... ;) If you haven't checked out my Web site yet, please do!! And spread the word... the more, the merrier! :)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The time has come!!!!!!!

Lots of excitement, loads of creative energy and a little fear all wrapped up together. That's how I've been feeling the last several days leading up to the launch of my new Web site ...

It's been all I could do not to share it with everyone before it was completely ready.

First, a little background... This little venture has taken about two months ... and FIVE YEARS ... to become a reality. For a long time now, I've had a real desire to work from home. And the more I scrapbook, the more I want to ... scrapbook. Obviously a job gets in the way of that. So how about a "job" that allows me to spend tons of time scrapbooking ... and hanging out with scrapbookers ... and researching lots of great scrapping ideas ... and reading about scrapbooking ...  and creating great stuff for scrapbookers ... and be at home with my kids?!?!?

That's been what I've been on a mission to find ... and after many, many trials & errors (my husband refers to me as a "serial entrepreneur"... LOL), I have finally found my niche. And once the whole concept came together, it's amazing how quickly everything fell into place ... for me, that's a real sign I'm on the right path. I've been working steadily on getting this ready to share since late August and everything really started to come together in the last 2 or 3 weeks or so. As the final details have come together, I've been just dying to share... but making myself wait until the the was right.

Well, the time is finally right and I'm very exciting to introduce ...  Log Your Memory!!

Log Your Memory is my new offshoot of Spring Creek Design, that little freelance graphic design biz I've been dabbling with for the past two years. Log Your Memory is dedicated to helping busy scrapbookers make sure they get their memories documented ... NOW, not when they "get around to" getting them scrapbooked. Because face it, very few of us really have the time to scrapbook everything we'd like to remember. So I've created a book and a supporting online community to help myself and everyone like me who is ready to drop the guilt and start doing something very, very constructive (and FUN at the same time) to make sure those memories are recorded.


You should have seen my "happy dance" when my book proofs came back from the printer!!

This book - the Scrapbooker's All-In-One Memory Logbook - is really a 2010 calendar, planner, journal, idea book and sketchbook all wrapped up in one. It's meant to take the place of all those different calendars you might be using to record your daily "stuff," plus the notes, the half-filled notebooks, the sketchpads, and the rest of that stuff that you're just keeping in the back of your mind for later.

I don't know about you, but I don't trust myself to remember all that ... my memory just isn't what I'd like it to be. My kids & my family do so many things that I want to remember. And I get a ton of ideas all the time that lead to scrapbook pages I'd like to do. But even when I'm scrapping like crazy, there's still a million things I don't get scrapped ... but hope to someday. This book is how I'm going to tackle that problem from now on... and the Web site is how I'm going to help others like me through the process - and let them help ME, as well.

I could go on and on about this, but I'm not going to right here... I would much rather have you check it out for yourself and see what you think. I really hope you'll take a minute to stop by and visit... run on over to my site and let me know what you think!!!

Whew... much better. So good to finally have this out there!!!! :)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Can you feel the excitement???

So anyone who knows me pretty well will probably tell you that I'm generally pretty even-keeled. I don't get terribly excited about a lot of things ... or at least not that you would probably notice. In fact, my husband is forever telling me to smile more because apparently I often look a bit, eh, cranky.

But those who have known me forever also know that when I do get excited about something, I can hardly conceal it and tend to become a bit obsessed with whatever it is. I guess the word for it is "passionate."

Well, that's where I've been for the past month or so. So much so, I can hardly sleep and it takes everything in me to drag myself from the computer to tend to the rest of my life.

Why, you ask??? If you're one of my Facebook friends, you've probably already guessed because I haven't been able to keep myself from dropping hints left and right. (I promise not to bug you guys everyday with business stuff after my launch ... if you want to stay in the loop, though, be sure to join my Fan site!!)

For those who still have no idea what I am talking about, I am getting ready to launch a new online business that I am TOTALLY excited about. In conjunction, I have also just finished putting together a new book for scrapbookers. It is already available for sale through the bookstore on my new Web site. Better yet, I expect it to be available through Amazon.com by early December! Exciting, eh?!?!? Let's just say I did a little happy dance when my proof came in the mail last week!

I am going to hold off for a couple more days to share any more details. Thursday is my official launch date, at which time you can anticipate hearing much, much more about my new venture. Keep an eye on this blog or connect with me on Facebook to be the first to hear all the details!!

Can't wait to share more!!!! :)

Happy Birthday, Mom!!!! :)

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Crop, er CHAT, till you drop ... and other fun news

I'm slowly sneaking back to the computer after more or less taking today off. Yesterday I woke at 5:45 a.m. with Jacques' hunting alarm and immediately realized that an all-day scrapbooking chat at Designer Digitals was set to start at 6 a.m. Do you think I could go back to sleep knowing that? Nope ... not a chance. So I settled in with a couple hot cups of coffee and chatted away, all the way until 10 p.m. last night.
The last time I did this, I could not figure out how people chatted AND scrapbooked at the same time. But this time, I took little mini breaks from the chat screen and in the process, completed five layouts in response to the various chat challenges. It was tons of fun, even though my eyeballs were sore, sore, sore by the end of the day. Here are the layouts I did for the challenges & a little info about the "rules" of each little contest...
First challenge: Use the word art provided in a layout. Here's what I came up with...

Next: Cassie's 30 Minute Masterpiece Challenge
The rules: 1) Use only one photo; 2) Use at least 3 of the items provided in the freebie download; 3) Use punctuation elements as part of the title; 4) Use a non-frame element as a frame; and 5) Tell a story about the photo ... all in under 30 minutes!!! Here's my result ...
Next challenge: Template challenge
The rules ... use the template provided in the freebie as a starting point for a layout. Here's mine...
Next challenge: Use the word art provided in conjunction with a photo of my hands. This took a little brainstorming first, but here's my page...
The last challenge I did was probably the one I was least excited about the result. The task was to take the template provided and use a scrapbook page by someone else that was based on that as inspiration for my own page. I think by this point in the day, I was too tired to feel very "inspired," ya know? This isn't my favorite layout, but it's okay ... and I do like the photos!!
All in all, it was a fun day and I'm already looking forward to the next all-day chat, which is scheduled for early November.
My other fun news is I have recently been given the opportunity to do something I've been wanting to do for a while now and that is be a member of a digital designer's Creative Team (CT). Even better, I have been asked by not just one, but THREE individual designers to serve on each of their CTs! That means I have full, free access to all of their digital scrapbooking products - including their newest releases before they are made public - in exchange for helping to promote their products by creating scrapbook pages featuring those products and then posting them in various online galleries.
Fun, fun!!! I have spent the last several days downloading lots and lots of goodies. Now I get to poke through my new wonderful stash and make lots of new scrapbook pages to share. I am already enjoying this immensely, as you can imagine. Here are the first couple layouts I did in this new role, creating almost entirely of products by "my" three designers ...
All three designers that I am a CT member for sell their products at Two Peas in a Bucket. Check out their individual products and/or blogs by clicking on their names below...
Mary Ann Wise
Jen Allyson
Carina Gardner
I'm excited about this new opportunity ... and you can expect to see lots more pages here and everywhere else I post as a result!! :)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day weekend wrap-up

This weekend ended up being a very productive one for me & a fun one for the campers, judging from just how dirty Skylar was upon their return!! Let's just say candy suckers & lots of dirt are not a great combination for a 3-year-old!!
The crew got home early this afternoon and got busy cleaning up, then it was time to get ready to return to "real" life. Karstin had x-country practice & Kody had flag football practice this evening, so they ended up going back to their dad's a little earlier than usual. Judging from how sleepy Jacques was all evening, there was not much sleeping done on the camping trip and he & the girls hit the sack soon after 9 p.m.
My weekend went well, too. Karstin & I had lots of time to hang out together with Danica. We ended up taking a couple nice walks, one of which was spent getting some nice local photos of the downtown area & the very ripe chokecherry bushes.
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We also watched a movie (17 Again), as well as spent a fair amount of time on the computers chatting with friends & playing around online. With the relative calm in the house this weekend, I also managed to get several pages scrapped, as well as lots of progress on my business planning.
I was thrilled to discover this morning when I checked my inbox that a layout I did yesterday highlighting how Karstin likes to spend his free time was featured at Gallery Standouts. This website picks a handful of pages from around the virtual scrapbooking community to feature for various qualities they think are worthy of mention. Here's the page of mine that was featured (click on the image for a larger version) ...
And here's the link to the page & comments at Gallery Standouts.
I made another exciting decision today regarding my scrapbooking and an opportunity that recently presented itself, but I need to wait a day or two until the details have been worked out. More on that later... :)
Another page I did yesterday was one I've been planning in one way or another all summer. I made a concerted effort to take photos of each type of flower in our yard as they came into bloom. I then featured these photos in this two-page spread...
Now I can't take credit for anything beyond the photos. We are fortunate to have some great perennial gardens that basically came with the house when we bought it five years ago, plus a great flowering crabapple tree & lilac bushes. The few annuals we have were planted & cared for by Jacques, so if anyone gets credit, it would have to be him. I'm just glad I remembered to take photos this year, since I really hadn't done it any of the summers prior to now.
Now I'm thinking about calling it a night, so I can get some "real" work done tomorrow after sending Skylar on her way back to preschool and be ready for another busy week. Karstin has his school open house on Thursday, as well as his second team x-country dinner. Kody's first flag football game of the season is also on Thursday. Kody's busy taking hunter's education classes this week, too, and it's school & team photo time again already... then the annual Chokecherry Festival is next Saturday, as well as an all-day chat at Designer Digitals. Lots of fun on tap ... and lots of memories to scrap!! :)

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