Shutterfly Presents Photo Story: A New Take on Photo Books

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Buckle up campers… I’m going to start talking photography again.  Well, not really photography so much as photos….and photo books.  In particular the new free app from Shutterfly,  Photo Story.

Over the last few years I’ve gotten pretty comfortable taking pictures.  I’ve taken classes, I’ve practiced and practiced and practiced.  But what I am NOT good at is getting those photos from the computer onto paper.  I can never seen to get photos printed.  I’m not talking about fancy prints that I can frame and hang on the wall (although I’d love that), I can’t even manage to get simple 4×6 prints made.  One time I thought I would be saving myself some trouble and I made SuperGirl a photo book for her birthday … “The Book of SuperGirl”.  She loved it.  It was FULL of pictures of her.  *I*  did not love it.  It took me a lot of time to put that book together.  Sifting through the photos, sitting at the computer and re-organizing and re-arranging them.   It drove me nuts.  I spend enough time at the computer between talking to my friends, editing photos and writing (just because I don’t write HERE doesn’t mean I don’t write SOMEWHERE),  I didn’t want to spend tons of time working on another project at the end of the day. I haven’t made another photo book since.

 

Until now.

 

Shutterfly just came out with this new  app for the iPad that lets you build and order your photo book within your iPad.  That sounds nice, right?  But how is it that much different than ordering from my computer?  How is this going to encourage me to follow through and put a photo book together?

Let’s start with the fact that because I wasn’t tied to my computer I made the photo book for this post during gymnastics (not MY gymnastics…SuperGirl’s).  Photo Story pulls your photos from your iPad camera roll, Facebook and Instagram as well as any photos you have uploaded to the actual Shutterfly website.  You click on which photos you want to use then drop and drag them into place.

 

drag and drop photos in Shutterfly

 

 

After you’ve picked the general design you want for your photo book you can choose a layout design for each page depending on how many photos you want to place.  There are all kinds of options from one or two photos per page with room for including text, to a collage design that will cover the entire page with your photos.  Tap the page, tap the layout then drag your photos.

 

Photo Story Page Layout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

character layout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you tap on  your picture it will enlarge and give you the opportunity to perform some very basic edits: you can pinch and push the photo for cropping, rotate, eliminate red eye and add some basic filters. Swiping your finger across the screen turns the virtual pages of your book and there is an edit setting that lets you rearrange the order of your pages if you aren’t quite happy with the layout.

 

Flick

 

 

And the book isn’t just a coffee table book.  When you order your photo book you will receive a digital copy of your book as well.  When you are building your photo book on your iPad you can add up to 30 seconds of voice recordings on each page and these are heard on the digital copy.  You can narrate your photo book! Then share it on Facebook or whatever social platform you choose.  You can even use the QR code on the back of your book to let friends and family listen to your narration while they look at the hard cover book.

 

 

 

 

Time for a Giveaway!!

 

Thanks to the good people at ShutterFly I’m giving away one 8×8, 20 page hard cover photo book created with Photo Story for one of you lucky readers!  All you have to do is visit Photo Story and then come back here and leave me a comment telling me what your favorite feature of the new app is.  That’s it!

 

 

 

The contest will end on Wednesday, September 11 at 11:59 pm CST. A winner will be randomly selected from the comments (you may only enter once!) and I must be able to contact you via email in order to claim your free photo book. If the winner does not reply to me within 24hrs of the sent email I will pick a new winner. You must be at least 18 to win.

I was given a photo book that I created in Photo Story and compensation from ShutterFly and Resourceful Mommy Media for sharing this information with you. All of the opinions are my own…I’m stubborn like that.

SFiPad2

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Back to School Lunch Notes

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Lunch Box Notes Blog

 

My English teacher mother loves to write notes.  Growing up she would leave us notes in our lunches and our backpacks, she would replace our bookmarks with a little note….all so we would know that she was always thinking about us…and that what she was thinking was that we were special…and important…and that she loved us.

 

My mom still sends us notes.

 

 A funny comic strip that reminds her of us….an article she thinks I will find interesting.

 

revenge4usxMy mom and I have always held a dislike for the plastic doll and her freak-like proportions.  She felt a small bit of vindication at this news.

 

 

She sends mail to each of the kids as well: coloring pages, jokes, cut and paste activities.

Laffs4ux

 

 

Her very creative return labels are always in the corner and when I pull them out of the mailbox….I’ve got a big grin on my face.

lettersx

 

I’ve made it a point to add some of that extra love to SuperBoy’s lunches over the last two years.  He always giggles.  I’ve heard other parents say they just don’t have time for that.  I’ve heard you can BUY notes to put in your kids’ lunches.  I take issue with this.  As is often the case with parents and kids:  parents think kids need more than kids actually do.  Kids don’t need a major production in their lunch box.  A sticker on their sandwich bag will both entertain them and make them feel special because you added a little something special to their day.

Now, if you are a masochist like me…you may like doing crafty things and you may want to put cutsie-pie notes in their lunches.  You may foster a neat idea in your head for a girlfriend party where you drink wine and make notes one night before school starts …. and it may take two years for that idea to come to fruition.  That’s okay too!

 

See where I’m going with this?

 

Yes.  For two years I’ve wanted to have a night with my girlfriends where we drank wine, gabbed and got our craft on making a stock pile of notes to send off in our kids’ lunches and school bags throughout the year.  I’ve never managed to get this done … until NOW!

Last week I had some friends over and we dumped out our collection of stickers, stamps and paper …poured several glasses of our favorite wine …. and went to work.

 

All the Stuffx

 

There are a few notes that got fancy-schmancy…. but mostly we just put stickers and googly eyes on little pieces of card stock and wrote little notes on them.  We made several that were blank so we could add a message on special days.  We had a really good time…and poured ourselves into these notes to brighten our kids’ days (and gossiped and laughed and reveled in each other’s company).

 

Notes3x

 

 

Notes2x

 

 

We spent less than $10 each on this project. I found packs of card stock that were just the perfect size at Michael’s which cost $3 for a pack of 100.  We used clearance stickers we had picked up and bought some cute scrapbook paper that was on sale.  And we had a really great time.

Like I said:  notes to your kids don’t have to be fancy…they don’t even have to be notes.  Stickers, smiley faces…even a lipstick kiss on a piece of scrap paper tucked inside their bag will make them smile.  But if you are craftily inclined….this might be a fun idea for you, too.

 

 

 

 

 

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eBay Mobile 5th Anniversary Twitter Party

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ebay-500x266

I’m not telling you anything new when I say that we have become a technology dependent society. I’m also not going to surprise you when I mention the heavy use of mobile devices to keep us connected to the rest of the world. But would it surprise you if I said that when eBay Mobile recently challenged 200 people to go without the use of apps (not their devices, just the apps) for 4 days….. 1/3 of them couldn’t do it?

 

I’d like to say I’m shocked

…..but I’m not. Not gonna lie…. there is no way I could do it. I like an “unplugged” day as much as the next person….but to me even the definition of “unplugged” has changed. It means unplugged from the world…not from my actual technology. The apps on my iPhone and iPad have become staples in my daily life.

  • Camera: Goes without saying. I use the camera app in my phone every single day to capture life with my family. SuperDad often works long hours and he struggles with missing so much of the cute that happens as our kids grow up. I try my best to snap photos and catch quick videos to share with him throughout the day so he doesn’t feel so disconnected from the every day with the kids.
  • PicTapGo: Because I’m both obsessive and some twisted version of a perfectionist I can’t do pics SOOC (straight out of the camera) very often. It makes me twitchy. PicTapGo is my very favorite editing app at the moment. I don’t have to be sharing to a social media site to use it… I like it just to boost the color or sharpen up pictures for my own viewing pleasure.
  • Mint.com: I’m also slightly obsessive about tracking our budget. 4 days without logging and tracking our spending?? I might die. Mint.com is the app I use for that right now. I can track all of our spending and see where we are for the month/year with the different categories in our budget.

That’s just the start … I find my recipes online and use my AllRecipes app at least once a week. When I’m on my game I check in with my WeightWatchers app several times each day. Pandora, Kindle, PayPal, Weather Channel (hello, Tornado Season in Kansas??!!) And then there is the shopping. I don’t shop without my apps. I compare prices, I share photos when trying to make a decision and I search online before I go out shopping to save time in the stores.

 

You get the idea. I technically could go without them. I mean…history and all…people lived without these things… I lived without these things…. up until just the past few years. But I don’t want to. I’d have to have a significant motivator like… I don’t know…. the end of civilization.

This week I’m honoring my addiction to the mobile app by working with eBay Mobile.

 

On Wednesday July 10th from 2-3pm CST Andrea from LilKidThings and I will be co-hosting a Twitter Party with Splash Creative Media and eBay Mobile to celebrate their 5th year anniversary. For the past 5 years the popular shopping site has been offering an app that makes buying and selling easier…and seamless between devices…and they want to celebrate by sharing with you! During the Twitter Party eBay Mobile will be giving away $25 eBay gift cards every 5 minutes.

 

Come Celebrate With Us!

 

To participate in the Twitter Party you will need to RSVP to Splash Creative Media. This way they will be sure that you are entered into the drawings to win those $25 eBay gift cards!

You must tweet from this page during the party to be eligible for prizes. We will be using the hashtag: #ebaymobile for the entire party.

You will have the chance to learn a few new things, win some fabulous prizes…and best of all? Chat it up with me. I’ll be there virtually running my mouth and entertaining you minute by minute!

So get yourself RSVP’d and head over to the party tomorrow.

 

What do you use YOUR apps for? Cooking? Shopping? Family?

Could you go for 4 days without those apps? Would you want to?

 

 

Disclosure time! I was paid by Splash Creative Media to share information in this post. And I’ll get some cash for chatting along tomorrow at the Twitter Party. But you knew that, right? And if you have ever read my blog before…you also know that all of these opinions were my own. They’d have to be. I just couldn’t have it any other way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring Cleaning to Prevent Identity Theft

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It is the end of April and that ominous “Spring Cleaning” is still hanging over my head.

I always have the best of intentions… I think that after a long winter inside I can’t wait for spring when I can air out the house, de-clutter my life and get ready to embrace all of the fun of the nice weather.

That is always before I look at the soccer/baseball/gymnastics/school and family travel schedule.  I’ve rescheduled “Spring Cleaning” for sometime in July, when it’s hot and I’m tired from driving all over the country with my family in our minivan….and then promptly decide it should be a fall cleanse….

You see where this goes.  It is part of the scramble I feel like I’m always a part of.

One of the biggest culprits to the mess in my house is paperwork.  School papers from the kids, bills that I need to pay and/or file away, magazines, coupons…JUNK MAIL.  We are big recyclers but I have a fear of putting anything with my name or address on it in the recycling…. and I’m just talking about normal junk mail.  Then there are the credit card offers I didn’t ask for, pre-printed checks from the one credit card we DO have, bank statements…. that list also goes on and on.  Spring cleaning at our house is not just the dusting/cleaning/change of seasons…it is also about cleaning out the paperwork.

So I start little piles, little folders…that turn into towering piles that threaten the lives of my children.  But it is because I hate dealing with them, and never feel quite secure enough with my options for getting rid of them…. so in true SuperJenn style…. I ignore them as long as possible.

After spending the last several months working with Identity Guard to reduce  Child Identity Theft I’ve got an even greater regard for the importance of getting this paper clutter dealt with …. and, frankly, not OUT of my house.  I don’t want it recycled or even shredded.  I want it eliminated.  So this year, SuperDad and I are firing up our chiminea and having a date night.  We are going to take advantage of the next nice evening we have, sit outside with a glass of wine….and burn all of our “junk mail” piles.  Problem eliminated, date night achieved!

While we have always been aware of the threat of identity theft, the staggering importance of protecting our children’s identity has become a serious concern for us this year.  If you are interested in finding out more about how to protect your child’s identity, you should check out Identity Guard kID Sure. After more than a decade of providing identity theft solutions, this is the newest product they are offering and it focuses on protecting our kids so that they can have a fresh start to building their own credit and identity….and not have it stolen from them.

  “This service was provided to me for review at no charge. In addition I received monetary compensation. All opinions are my own (but you knew that, right?).”

 

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Four Unexpected Outcomes from Disney Social Media Moms

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Castle Title

 

Last week Disney announced that it will again be hosting a Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World Resorts in Orlando Florida.  This year the date has been set for May 9-12,  Mother’s Day Weekend.

The social media surrounding this event is a little spastic if you follow along on Facebook or Twitter:  People begging to get in, others already complaining about the process of private invitations, still others reliving conferences from past years.

My mind had already begun to wander over the memories of our trip last year before this announcement came.  It is safe to say it is now flooded with those memories.

I loved the 2012 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration.  It was the first time my family got to experience Walt Disney World.  It was the first big family vacation we’d ever taken, in fact.


I think we handled it well.

Kids in the Car



The accommodations were lavish.

Yacht Club Resort, Walt Disney World Resorts, Disney Social Media Moms



The scenery wasn’t too shabby.

Disney Castle



 The events were amazing.

Disney Social Media Moms Pirate Soiree



The venue was beyond imagination.

#DSMM



The speakers were phenomenal…..

Disney Social Media Moms



Including Chris Brogan, who had been on my list of people to hear speak for quite some time.  He was great.  I sat in the front, up by the stage and literally forgot I was in a room full of people and may or may not have accidentally “heckled” him I was so caught up in his presentation.

Disney Social Media Moms, Chris Brogan, Walt Disney World Resort

But here is the thing.  Those are the things that were wonderful about physically being at Walt Disney World Resort and participating in the Celebration.  Looking back a year later I can tell you distinct reasons that being a part of that weekend changed my life.

Oooooh, I know.  That sounds so cheesy.  I try really, really hard to stay away from cheesy.

But that is the God’s honest truth.  And here is why:

 

The Invitation.

Being invited to this event is a big deal.  It was a big deal to me because it meant that I was not slipping into the void of invisibility I felt was being created by the  overwhelming demands of parenting three young kids.  Sitting in my house on my computer day after day…. somebody else saw me there…heard me there….and something I did or said made them take notice.

 

The Company. 

In those three very short days, I was able to connect with some women that had been peripherally a part of my online life.  I was able to see them, to talk to them. A bond was created by watching each other juggle our families and our businesses in real life, not just by rehashing our day on a computer screen.  And that carried forward.  When SuperBoy had a magnificent meltdown at Hollywood Studios…one tweet brought rousing support from the people I had just spent time with and whom I knew were somewhere in this giant park all around me.

 

The Learning.

  I already mentioned that the speakers were amazing, that isn’t what I’m talking about.

  • I learned something about myself on this trip:  I learned that I am stronger than I think I am and that I can, if need be, stand alone.  I used to know this but that knowledge has been lost  somewhere along the way.  I planned the trip from beginning to end by myself.  I gave the directions, I fixed the problems, and my pay from blogging footed the bill for the entire trip.  I even took all three kids into Magic Kingdom by myself…and not only survived but enjoyed it.

 

  • My children learned more about what it is I do.  They are too young still to understand what or why I’m writing.  But they saw the families of all of these other parents who , I explained, do the same thing as Mommy on their computers.  They learned that what I do holds some value, in a currency they understand.  After all, if Mickey thinks it is important….it must be important.

 

  • My husband learned a little more about what I do.  While he loves me, SuperDad has a difficult time wrapping his head around the idea of blogging.  He is not tech oriented.  He is an engineer and would prefer to never see a computer once he leaves his office.  While tolerating my passion for blogging over the years, his patience does often run thin.  In this space he saw hundreds of other families who were brought here because of the power that a parent holds in the social media space.  He witnessed for the first time a value placed on what I do that did not come from me. In the weeks and months since this trip his tolerance has turned to support and while I’m still not sure he understands what” the whole blog thing” is… he understands why it is important to me.

 

The UnExpected.   

 

seat belt pillows

In preparing for the trip I became slightly obsessed with the driving portion of the adventure.  Among other projects, I designed and then created seat belt pillows for my kids to use in the car.  Pillows that would take up less room than their actual pillows and would stay put when the kids were ready to use them and I wouldn’t be turning around to pick them up every 10 minutes.

What I never expected in a million years was what came next.  After blogging a small tutorial for the pillows I saw them show up on Pinterest.  Then I began to see more and more of them.  By the end of June that one post was receiving over 100,000 views a month.  That is a LOT for a little blog like me.  The traffic was pouring in.  I had friends and family email or call saying how weird it was that a picture of one of my children had just popped up in their Pinterest feed and it wasn’t from me…. I was experiencing in a new fashion the power of the internet.

A few months later, at the prompting of some of those same people I had strengthened my bonds with during the trip, I designed and actual pattern for the pillows and opened an Etsy store.  I’ve been selling patterns, pillows and DIY kits ever since.  The woman who hasn’t sewn a stitch in over 15 years is running a successful Etsy store.  So successful, in fact, that I’m taking the next step to hiring people to sew for me.

As hoaky as it sounds… I wouldn’t have done this before the trip to Disney Social Media Moms Celebration.  The stars aligned.  My confidence was boosted, I discovered strength I didn’t know I still had.

 

And all of that, in large part, because a mouse sent me an invitation to a party.

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Keeping Your Identity Safe Through the Tax Season

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Another year has come and gone and here we are at tax season again.  AGAIN.  I’m always torn this time of year;  the geeky wanna-be-organized part of me wants to hunker down and input numbers and organize receipts and deductions while the procrastinator in me thinks that would be awesome ….but so would season 2 of Downton Abbey.

This year I’m looking at my taxes in a little bit of a different light.  I’ve been working with Identity Guard this year to help spread the word about Identity Theft and while I thought I was well informed about protecting myself…I’m going to be honest I’ve spent a little bit of time rocking in the corner with my new anxieties.

Okay, okay.  It isn’t that bad.  But it IS a lot more complicated and a lot more rampant of an issue than I originally thought, especially when dealing with Child Identity Theft.  And tax season is no different.  In fact, it is even more pertinent to be aware this time of year.  Identity Guard has some great resources on dealing with  Tax – Time Identity Theft on their site.  Take just a minute to look through them, I feel confident you will learn something new.

Every year the IRS pays out billions of dollars each year to fraudulent filers.  Criminals who steal information from people like me and you, from our children, and then file a return with the IRS to collect funds that don’t belong to them.  When you think about that… you have to start thinking about how that happens.  How do people get that information?

Do you get your mail in a private box or outside of your house or do you have a box in your neighborhood?  Does it occur to you during this time of year to keep a closer eye on your mail to make sure that the tax documents you need actually arrive?

We live in a neighborhood where we walk down the street to our mailbox.  Our individual boxes are locked and we never give out our key.  This makes me feel confident that our mail is safe.  So confident in fact that last year when our tax forms for our mortgage didn’t show up I didn’t even think twice about it, I just called the bank and got the numbers that I needed over the phone.  Luckily there was no trouble with this…. but I’m more bothered by the fact that it didn’t even occur to me to be worried about anything other than the inconvenience when I was trying to get the taxes finished.

Keeping your mail safe at tax time is just one of many ways that you can guard yourself against Identity Theft.  Need more convincing?  Here is an article on reasons to keep an eye on your mail and other important documents at tax time.

I’ve been working with Identity Guard for several months now and I feel like I’m learning more and more every day.  There is so much to know, sometimes it can be confusing where to start….especially when we are faced with a new concern: preserving our children from identity theft. Identity Guard offers the kID Sure Program to help you get started in learning about and protecting your children from identity theft.

When you are figuring out whether you will be paying in or receiving a refund this tax season, stop and take a few extra minutes to learn about how you can better protect both your and your child’s identity from thieves.

This service and the book Bankrupt at Birth were provided to me for review at no charge. In addition I have received monetary compensation. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

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Cookie Dough Brownies for my Valentines

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Valentine's Day Treats

 

 

This is the year of me trying to keep things simple (she says with maniacal laughter).

 

No.  Really.

I’m trying to realize there are simpler ways for me to get things done and I don’t always have to go with my initial, usually dramatic, ideas.

For instance, while I would love to make chocolate double-heart cookies decorated with royal icing to look like candy hearts for the kids’ school parties next week (for those counting … that would be 50 cookies)….. I’ve decided to pare it down and go with something much more simple.

These Valentine themed cookie dough brownies are just the treat!  Last year my friend Misty shared this idea with me and after tinkering with it a little bit I came up with this Valentine version.  Perfect for school … or just for the family.  Never fear, if you have friends/family that are gluten free/dairy free like I do…. I have also included a gluten and dairy free version of the recipe!

Enjoy!

 

Valentine

Valentine

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Cream together the butter and sugar.
  • Add the milk, vanilla and flour, mix until combined.
  • Fold in the M & M's.
  • Spread the cookie dough mixture over the cooled brownies and chill until the dough is set.
  • Melt together 1/2c. white chocolate chips and 1 TBSP shortening. Drizzle it over the top of the brownies. (You will want to skip this step or substitute with Enjoy Life chocolate chips if you are making the recipe dairy free)
  • Roll out a small amount of fondant and use a small heart cookie cutter to cut a heart to top off your brownies.
  • Place the fondant heart on top, using a bit of the melted chocolate to secure it.
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