Friday, September 28, 2018

Three Ideas for Connecting with Family Members

You can never have too many ways to connect with family members!  Given the likelihood of physical distance between family members these days and the tendency to feel like “connecting” means texting, it’s important to find more meaningful ways to connect.  

As the last Giving from the Heart post in this #familyhistoryfriday series, today we’ll look at three creative, meaningful ways to connect with family members.  These are sweet things you could give from the heart for a birthday, holiday, or just because.

Family Tree Canvas

Knowing family stories is the {biggest predictor of a child’s well-being}!  It has been shown to increase self-esteem, make kids more resilient, and even lower depression and anxiety.  Family stories, then, are an ideal way to create connections.  (You can find tips on creating family stories {here}.)  Seeing a family tree each day is a great reminder of those family stories.  It’s a reminder to every family member that they all belong –to the family and to each other.

I particularly love this idea for a family tree canvas because I think it makes a huge difference to see faces on a family tree and not just names.  It’s obviously perfect for a child, but if you leave out the main branch (the baby face there at the bottom), this could be made as a general family tree for all the siblings.  In the same way, it could be an extended family tree starting with grandparents, a lovely gift from the heart for cousins.  (You can personalize your own 20x20 gallery-wrapped canvas {here}, even changing the colors if you like.  Or you can see the one I have hanging on my wall without pictures here.)
"When our hearts are turned to our ancestors, something changes inside us.  We feel part of something greater than ourselves.  Our inborn yearnings for family connections are fulfilled when we are linked to our ancestors.”  -Russell M. Nelson
Family Calendars

One way I love making family connections every single year is with a family calendar.  My sister-in-law’s family had always done a very simple one that used pictures of each family member during their birthday month.  I have taken that approach with our family’s calendar.  I love that method because in the past 8 years, our little family has lost our mom/grandma and two sons/cousins.  That means we, obviously, don’t have recent pictures of any of them.  Because we focus on each person instead of recent photos, we always have pictures of every single family member each year.  It’s been fun for me to go back and find pictures of my mom as a young mom or as a college student to use for the family calendar.  She’s always there with us. 

Of course, I always use {Heritage Makers} for my family calendars because of the quality and the flexibility (no restrictions on how many pictures, how much text, etc.).  New calendar templates always come out every fall, too.  Or it’s easy to just create my own design with thousands of pieces of free digital art.  Using the software is free, too.  Plus, calendars are on sale every October, so it’s perfect for my Christmas gift-giving.

There are desktop calendars, even a Now and Later calendar, too, where you tear off the top part and keep it as a 12x12 scrap page.  Be sure you check them out at that Heritage Makers link by clicking "products" then "photo gifts" once you're there.

desktop calendar
Another idea for using a family calendar would be to have a perpetual calendar of birthdays and special days.  A perpetual calendar just lists days of the month (not days of the week, which vary by year) so it can be used over and over.  This would be a great way to remember birthdays, anniversaries, and other special days of family members.  Go back a couple of generations, too, beyond the birthdays you celebrate right now.  It’s really fun to celebrate more family members that way.  It helps emphasize connection.  One of my grandfathers was born on Leap Year day (February 29), so that’s a fun thing to always remember.  We had cake one year, too!

2021 UPDATE:  Photo and Story Treasures now uses and recommends both Heritage Makers and Forever for heirloom-quality memory-keeping and gifts.  Between the two companies, there are four platforms to choose from (from super fast and simple to ultra digital scrapbooking), which means you can choose the level of creativity and time required to create your beautiful projects. Currently, calendars and canvases are available through both companies, and board books are available only through Heritage Makers.

Family Faces Books for Kids

The closest my kids have ever lived to their grandparents was a 7-hour drive.  (The furthest was 8 time zones, but that’s another story.)  It has always been important for us to find ways to help our kids connect with their grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles.  Phone calls and letters have been great ways for our kids to get to know and connect with family members, but when they were small, they needed more.  Small kiddos have small memories.  If they went 6 months without seeing grandparents, my kids didn’t remember them very well.  I adore this idea for keeping family faces fresh to little ones.

You can personalize this sweet 6x6 board book {here}.

This {board book} is an ideal way to help young kids recognize and remember family faces.  (At that link you can also read about the special experience I had making one for my niece about my mom who had recently passed away.  It was tremendously meaningful to her!  At the link you can even see this Family Faces book shown here and click through to see it page by page.)

Every Day

Which of these ideas would help the members of YOUR family?  You can find even more family-strengthening ideas at {Gift Ideas for the Whole Family} and {Four Creative Ideas for SharingFamily Stories}.

Having something to see or hold every day really helps people make connections.  My niece {reads her book every night}!  A calendar and a family tree canvas can be seen every day.  

Remembering that we belong is {good for the heart and soul}.  Pictures do that for us.  Family stories do that for us.  So let’s share them more and do that for each other.

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This post was originally published at on September 28, 2018, by Jennifer Wise.  Find more #familyhistoryfriday posts about connection, stories, photos, memories, and family by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Think Outside the Scrapbooking Box

Pictures and memories are some of the most precious things we have.  Unfortunately, many people think that preserving them requires "scrapbooking."  Our modern-day definition of scrapbooking entails a lot of supplies, a lot of space, and a lot of time.

But think about it--it doesn't make a lot of sense that something EVERYONE needs is something doable (or enjoyable) by a very few.  

There are actually a lot of reasons that we need our pictures and memories.  They include:
  • lower stress
  • lower depression and anxiety (especially among teenagers)
  • healing benefits (as from grief)
  • coping benefits 
  • increased happiness
  • increased self-esteem (especially among kids)
  • increased sense of belonging
  • increased perspective
  • increased sense of gratitude
  • increased connections among family members
So let's think outside the scrapbooking box!!

There are lots of other ways to preserve photos and memories!!  Nobody should ever feel like they can't do anything with their photos and memories because they aren't a "scrapbooker."

Today I bring you FOUR articles I've written showing four different approaches and styles to preserving photos and memories and telling your own story.  Each of these articles includes a list called "you might like this option if..."  So explore each one at the links below until you find a solution that works for you.  There are easy, simple, creative, digital, and paper options.  There's really something for everyone.  Which one will be YOUR solution for your memory-keeping?
  • {Digital Scrap Pages} (my personal favorite--it's what I use, so this post actually includes a video tutorial so you'll see how fast digital scrap pages can be)
  • {Easy Pocket Pages and Kits} (this is totally what I would do if I didn't love digital so much and I already had pictures printed)
  • {Digital Storybooking} (Combine this post with my Family Yearbook video tutorial and plan, and you've got a really simple way to easily preserve your pictures.)
  • {Traditional Paper Scrapbooking}  (Even if you're not a paper scrapbooker, this fun post gives some very interesting information about the history of scrapbooking!  It's a lot older than you probably think.  If you ARE a paper scrapbooker, or want to be, you'll enjoy seeing some fun new tools!)
You can see more memory-keeping options at this video.  It's so important to find something you will love doing (and, therefore, DO)!  And it's vital to find high-quality ways to do it!  These are some of my favorite:

2021 UPDATE:  Photo & Story Treasures now uses and recommends both Heritage Makers and Forever for your heirloom-quality photo-storybooks and digital scrap pages.  The combination of both companies gives you more choices that will help you find a memory-keeping system that works best for you.  Whether you want simple, push-of-a-button books or fully creative and flexible digital scrapbooking (or somewhere in between), you're sure to find something that you love that fits your style and available time.  Check out that link to see videos on each method, beyond the video posted above in 2018.

As a bonus, I'll share one more article (and ebook) with you:  {What Your Pictures Have to do with Self-Care}.  It can help motivate you to turn your good intentions into something you can hold!  There's no time like right now.

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Fun New Ways to Share Recipes

Every family has a great recipe.  I’m a recipe collector myself, and my recipe mantra is that the best recipes are shared.  I wouldn’t have any –ANY– great recipes if I didn’t taste something, love it, and ask for the recipe.  

As we continue our #familyhistoryfriday Giving From the Heart series, we’re going to look at some fun ways to share recipes.  Whether you have family recipes you’d like to share or recipes from friends, sharing well-loved recipes is a great way to remember times together or even just come together.

Recipes Help You Make Someone Happy

A few years ago, I made a family recipe cookbook and gave it to everyone for Christmas.  I had collected three favorite recipes from each person, added a few pictures, and published it {here}.  Everyone loved such a fun and useful gift.  

The next summer, we all traveled to my sister’s house for a family get-together.  She used the cookbook to plan meals for the whole week!  She knew she was making one of somebody’s favorite meals every time she made something.  The kids loved that, of course, and it was fun to find out what everybody likes, too.

My husband often tells me that one of the best things I do for teenage boys is give them good food!  I’m pretty sure this applies to everyone, though.  Fast food drive throughs do the trick in a pinch– they keep you from starving –but I would be so bold as to say that “comfort food” never comes in a wrapper.

Recipes help make someone happy.  They acknowledge taste and preference, and they can even make someone feel at home.  I have a friend whose son has lots of specific food preferences.  They’re not allergies, but they might as well be.  He doesn’t eat some things based solely on texture, and he doesn’t eat meat because it grosses him out.  A recipe that’s preference-friendly for him means the world.  It means someone cares enough to notice and want him to be happy.

Would you enjoy collecting family recipes or friends’ recipes like the cookbooks above?  Would your cookbook be a way of bringing people together or capturing memories of a special event?  Whatever your goal, there are some really fun ways to share family or friend recipes.  All these styles I’ll show you can be created online and professionally published by {following the steps here}.

Traditional Wirebound and Mini Wirebound Cookbook

Both of the photos shown above are what I call a Traditional Wirebound Cookbook.  I’ve made a couple of these cookbooks before, and they are well-used and well-loved!  It’s really fun to have a collection of family favorites.  Plus, you can stop calling your mom every time you need that one recipe *again*!

The Traditional Wirebound Cookbook is a 6×9 book with a spiral binding (so it lays flat), and comes with 21 pages but is expandable to 51.  It has a wrap-around soft cover.  It’s about $17.  (Extra pages cost less than $1 each.)  In the {product list}, it’s under Storybooks and is called a 6×9 Wirebound Book.

When my son left for college, I made him what I call a Mini Wirebound Cookbook.  I wanted to give him some really easy things he could make without much experience or available time.  I mean, ramen noodles and cold pizza are “great” and all, but growing brains need a little variety.  This book pictured is obviously not the little cookbook I made him--it's with him in another state right now, and I never took a picture of it--but this is the size and style.  You can look at {the actual book I made by clicking right here to see the preview} page by page.

This mini version cookbook fit the bill for me because it’s just right for one recipe per page.  In the product list, this is under Storybooks and is called a Square Flip Book.  It’s about $14.  It’s only 5.75×5.75, so it doesn’t take up a lot of space.  This small book comes with 20 pages, and although it’s not expandable like the bigger version, I love that it’s not so overwhelming for a new cook.  

I’ve also seen this size used for Girlfriend Recipe Collections, which would also fit just right.  My favorite thing about this style, though, is that it has a clear plastic cover on the front and back.  The pages are extra thick, too.  Any extra protection from the kitchen of a boys’ apartment seemed like a good idea for my son’s book!

Unique Recipe Cards Two Ways

As much as I like cookbooks, I really like recipes written on individual cards.  Being the recipe collector I am, I often find favorite recipes one at a time.  If you’d like to do a recipe exchange, sharing one recipe with many recipients, do I ever have something amazing to show you!  Both of these ways are the clever use of a product meant for something else!

While handwriting recipes on recipe cards or printing them out with your computer does the job, I think one of the worst things about recipe cards is their susceptibility to drips and splashes and greasy fingers.  Both of the recipe cards I’m about to show you are wipe-able!  The paper is thick and has a slick surface.  I love both of these ways to share recipes with cards.

Recipe Cards from a Playing Card Deck

The first way is to use a Heritage Makers playing card deck.  I’ve done this multiple times and can’t tell you how fun and impressive these cards are to receive!  The backs of the playing cards are all the same, so you can put anything you want on the back (even a photo), and the fronts can be made all the same or made to vary.  In the case of this photo at the right, I shared my favorite potato soup recipe–54 cards of the same recipe.

Isn't this adorable and fun!? (Also, you should totally try that recipe above!  It's delicious!)

Playing card decks are about $17, which comes out to about 32 cents each!  Each card is 2.4×3.5″, which is smaller than a standard recipe card, but will fit in a recipe box all the same.

And I gave these out with my Christmas cards!  Aren't they fun??

And you don't have to create 54 of the same recipe, either!

I’ve also used the playing card deck to make several sets of recipes out of one deck.  I made a fun little collection of recipes for Quick Cakes–individual cakes made in the microwave.  I gave these recipe sets as gifts last year to girlfriends for Christmas, and they were inexpensive but so fun and impressive!  In fact, I’ll share this little video with you where I showed how exactly I created the recipe sets from a playing card deck.  (And this video tutorial will give you the basics if you just want to have one recipe for the whole deck, too.  How fun would it be to send out your favorite Christmas recipe inside your Christmas cards this year?!)

Recipe Cards from 4×6 Invitations

The second way to make clever, sturdy, wipe-able recipe cards to share is using {Heritage Makers} 4×6 Invitations.  These are bigger than the playing cards, of course, so they’re a bit spendier, but the size is great if you’re going to a recipe exchange where you don’t necessarily need 54 cards to share.  This size is also great for anybody whose eyesight isn’t what it used to be.  These recipe cards are $1.50, but they do qualify for a {Volume Discount} if you order more than 25.  (Minimum order is 10 cards.)

Since they’re invitations, they also come with an envelope.  Wouldn’t they make a fun birthday greeting?  They’re double-sided, too, so you can include two recipes or put a greeting on one side and a recipe on the other!

Aside from quality, one thing I really love about creating and publishing these items with Heritage Makers is that all that digital art (the cuteness--the backgrounds, flowers, pots, bows, etc.) IS INCLUDED.  You don't buy or download any digital art with Heritage Makers.  You pay for the product, and the art is just included.  It's pretty awesome.  There are lots of available templates, or you can always create from a blank slate, so to speak.  You can {learn more about creating with Heritage Makers right here}.

2021 UPDATE:  Photo and Story Treasures now uses and recommends both Heritage Makers and Forever for personal digital publishing.  Wirebound books and playing card decks are currently only available through Heritage Makers, but 4x6 cards are available through both Heritage Makers and Forever's Artisan digital scrapbooking software.  See a series of Artisan Quick Tips at this link to get snapshots of Artisan, or contact me for details.  

Connecting with Recipes

The ideas I’ve shown you for sharing recipes using high-quality products are really just simple ways to connect with someone.  Whether a unique gift or a way to commemorate an event, sharing recipes creates connection and memories.  I have recipes in my box that I’ve called by name– “Angie’s Italian Dip,” “Diana’s Fruit Dip,” “Kathy’s Frozen Banana Splits.”  When I pull out those recipes, I think of old friends I haven’t seen in a long time.  That comfortable {nostalgia} is a sweet feeling.  

Recipes are essentially keepsakes.

So what will you do?  How will you share a well-loved recipe with someone who will be delighted to have it?  What has fostered a great idea for you here?  Comment below and let me know–I’d love to find out.
"Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.” -Voltaire
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This post was originally published at on September 14, 2018, by Jennifer Wise.  Find more #familyhistoryfriday posts about connections, family, stories, memories, and photos by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Three Easy Halloween and Fall Decor Ideas

Sometimes it's fun to take on a creative DIY project to create fun home decor, but sometimes it's just as fun not to.  Today I'll show you three easy Halloween (and fall) home decor ideas that take little to no effort to create.

The first is a cute little magnetic countdown to Halloween.  I made this from a Heritage Makers scrap page, then cut it in pieces, attached magnets on the back, and mounted the main scrap page on a cookie sheet.  It's got a ribbon attached for hanging on a wall, pantry door, etc.

I've made these as fun group Make & Takes before (before Pinterest Nights were cool!), so although I could give you directions and a tutorial on making this, we're talking about EASY today!  I've sold these over at my {Crafts with Heritage Makers} Facebook page, and there is ONE LEFT.  If you'd like me to get this in the mail for you, it's $8 plus shipping.  Just {contact me} to snap it up.

See?  How's that for ZERO effort to create?!

This is one of my very favorite projects for DIY home decor because it's adorable AND ridiculously simple!  Plus, {this one set} gives you three seasons' worth of decor--Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Winter, all on one set of blocks!  The blocks are small enough to not take up a lot of space but just give the right little seasonally-decorative touch.

Bonus!  Not just for Halloween!

All you do is order the block set and the canvas exchange set #4.  Order them both {right here} by clicking "products" then "Anthology DIY."  From there, scroll down in the "Kits" section (I know--there's a lot there!) until you find Canvas Exchange Set #4.  

2021 UPDATE:  This is now a clearance item, so once it's gone, it's gone!

It will look like this (without the blocks):

Once that's in your shopping cart, find the Wood Block Kit (also under "Kits")  It will look like this, and includes everything you see here:

Once you receive the wood blocks and the canvas exchange pieces in the mail, all you need to do is paint the blocks (sanding them a little if needed).  Then you're done!  Exchange the pieces out during each part of the fall season going into winter.  Adorable!

Halloween isn't a gory, scary thing at our house.  It's all about the candy.  So I made this cute hanging print for our Halloween decor.  It's obviously a tame, kid-friendly Halloween decoration!  :)

Like the magnetic Halloween countdown, I've made these in Make & Take groups and sold them over at my {Crafts with Heritage Makers} Facebook page.  I also wrote up a step-by-step tutorial about how to take a print (a Heritage Makers scrap page) and make it into a wall hanging, which you can {see right here}--there are so many possibilities beyond Halloween!

I have just ONE "It's All About the Candy" hanging prints left.  This is only $8 plus shipping, so {contact me} to grab it.  I'll get it in the mail to you right away!

Easiest home decor ever, right?  It's already made for you!

All three of these options are simple and fun ways to dress up your house for Halloween and fall!  Get the countdown and the candy print before they're gone, but be sure to share those adorable Canvas Exchange Blocks with a friend!

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Friday, September 7, 2018

#friyay -- What Heritage Makers Can Do For Your Family

Does it feel like fall where you are?  The first Friday of the month at LifeTalesBooks is #friyay where hear from Heritage Makers users.  So welcome to our first fall #friyay!

First, we hear from my dear friend Cary, who has been using Heritage Makers as long as I have!  Cary truly embraces the idea of telling your story because she knows how powerful it is.  From items to encourage her children and their talents to storybooks with photos and much more, Cary knows what a Heritage MAKER is!

Next, we hear from another TRUE Heritage MAKER, Sandy.  I met Sandy about six or seven years ago, and I am always amazed with the next brilliant idea she has for publishing with Heritage Makers.  Everything she does is from the heart, and she uses her personal publishing to really make a difference.  Sandy first made cookbooks for her family, passing down time-honored, cherished family recipes and has gone on to make countless, PRICELESS gifts using Heritage Makers.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

What a Digi-Crop Can Do for Your Pictures

Do you have lots of pictures you've been meaning to do something with?  A digi-crop can help you turn your good intentions into something real!  If you're struggling to find time to do something with your pictures, try a digi-crop!

So what IS a digi-crop and how exactly does it help?

I've been holding online digi-crops for several years now, and I love how it allows me to help people no matter where they live.  The only catch is this:  you have to know what on earth a digi-crop is and how to participate.  So in this video I sit down and chat with you to explain what it is and how it works, plus answer questions I've gotten, too.  (spoiler:  Digi-Crops are free!)

Digi-Crops are my way of gifting you TIME!

So please join me at my next digi-crop from the comfort of your own pajamas!  Take advantage of this opportunity to put "work on my pictures and albums" on your calendar and then follow through to make something meaningful!  Memory-keeping can honestly change your life.

2021 UPDATE:  Digi-Crops are now Photo Rodeos!  A "Photo Rodeo: Rein in Your Photos" event is still free, and you can find information at the "our community" tab at the top of this blog, along with other events.  If you're new to memory-keeping, open a free Forever or Heritage Makers account (or both, if you like) using the link at this "how to get started" tab.