**I am not being paid or perked by Typepad for this post. **
People frequently ask me questions about blogging, specifically about how to get started. I feel like there is a lot of good information on the internet about finding your voice, blogging regularly, and blogging your passion. What there is not a lot of information about are the platforms. Toss this question to any group of bloggers and the general consensus will be,
"Start on blogger 'cause it's free, then when you're ready you should move to self-hosted Wordpress."
May I offer a different alternative? Typepad. I've been on Typepad since the very beginning, so I can't give you an educated list of pros and cons, but I can tell you why it's worked for me, and why I recommend it to everyone who's starting.
Thanks to L'Oreal for sponsoring my post about my favorite beauty looks, tips and tricks! Check out Makeup.com for beauty advice from the experts.
As I've gotten older, my eyelashes have gotten skimpier. I've had false eyelashes applied for special events - my wedding, red carpets - but always by a professional. When they're done well, they look great! But I do my own makeup most of the time, and would love it if I could achieve the high eye drama on my own.
I decided to try it out before girls night dinner this past weekend, confident that with a little practice I could be sporting "come hither" lashes for all this season's holiday parties.
I purchased these beauties at Sephora. They were $8 and came with their own adhesive.
After I wrote about my insane nesting spree last month, several readers requested that I give a more detailed account of how I organize and store my digital photos. While I don't consider myself an expert in this arena, I am pretty anal about it and over the years have devised a system that works for me.
Since I take hundreds and hundreds of pictures each month (of my babies, and for this blog, or because I'm bored and holding an iPhone), if I didn't stay sort of on top of it I would be drowning in digital images. For that reason, I upload photos from both cameras and my phone at least once a week, but usually more than that.
They upload directly into my iPhoto library, where I immediately sort them and do a quick run through deleting the blurry/bad/duplicate shots. My sorting process is a mix of actual events (Halloween, Birthday Party, Hawaii trip) and time (Pigtail at 15 months, Lake in July '11). Sort them in a way that you can find something when you need to, but don't over sort. "Hawaii Vacay, Day 4" will just clutter your photo library and isn't necessary.
Immediately going through and deleting the obvious bad shots will also keep you from feeling overwhelmed. I also take a few minutes to fix red eyes and whatnot, but I don't do any serious editing. I'm not ruthless with my delete button, but I don't ponder over each shot, either. Go with your gut and when in doubt, keep it.
The uploading and sorting process may seem overwhelming if you're starting from scratch or way behind, but once you make it a habit, it's very quick. I spend no more than a half hour (and sometimes much less) each time. If you don't take as many pictures as I do, I would just try and do it after every picture-worthy event so you don't get too far behind.
At least once a month I back up my photos to a hard drive and print out hard copies. I back up photos three different ways. This sounds a little obsessive, but of all things I don't want to lose these memories.
First I manually drag and drop to an external hard drive. Since my photos are already sorted in my photo library, this takes just minutes. On my hard drive I already have general folders where most fit, but if I need to create a special folder, I do. Try not to get bogged down in the organizational tree, what matters is that you're backing them up and that they're listed in a way that makes sense to you. My hard drive back up folders are more general than my computer's photo library folders. I use "Family 2010" and "Good Times 2010," etc. I've found that when I'm looking back for something, I'll generally remember the year but don't need to know if it was Spring or Winter or whatever.
I also back up my entire computer using Carbonite. I highly recommend online backup. Carbonite is $50/year and it backs up your computer online constantly. I like this backup-in-the-sky idea because physical hard drives fail or would be lost in a robbery or fire, but online backups would not. Years ago, my husband lost his external hard drives in an office theft, so we're especially sensitive to this.
Lastly, I print all my photos and store them in photo boxes. I print my photos on matte paper with a thin white border (see where and how I print my photos here) and store them in black Milano boxes from The Container Store. (Strangely, after years of using them it appears that The Container Store is no longer carrying the Milano series and possibly that they're no longer making them. Bummer.)
My categories within the photo boxes are also pretty general. "Summer 2010," etc. I don't go through these actual photos much, they're mainly a third way to ensure I have them should the internet ever fail us and in case I need something right away. When I print pictures, I get duplicates of the best ones for the grandparents. This satisfies everyone and are fun to send periodically throughout the year.
I used to make photo books more than once a year, but I happen to be behind on this step since my daughter was born (go figure!). I compare the different photo books sites I've used here, but I'll be honest that as I'm catching up on them right now, iPhoto is just the easiest and most user friendly for me. If you're not using iPhoto, there are tons of other options for user-friendly photo book making.
Whether you're the kind of person who just makes one large photo book documenting the year, or the type of person who makes a photo book for every individual event, they're such a good way to display your memories. And since they're relatively inexpensive, they're also a fantastic and personal gift. After our girls weekend at the lake last year, I made a small, soft cover photo book for all the attendees. It took me less than two hours to put it together, and they loved it. Now everyone has a little keepsake.
In short my digital photo organization tips can be summed up like this:
1. Upload frequently
2. Sort Immediately
3. Backup Often
4. Print In Batches
I feel like I get the most out of my pictures this way. And again, once you start doing it, it's very quick. If you did all the steps every time, it would be less than an hour a week. Similar to any other regular cleaning or organizational task, but in a way more important. Much more satisfying than, say, vacuuming.
If you've got questions or your own tips, share them in the comments!
I've been meaning to do this experiment forever, since I couldn't help but feel that my default picture printing at Costco was the less-than-desirable route for memory keeping. Then last week so many of you responded to the photo organization element to my frantic nesting.
In the next couple of weeks I'll lay out exactly how I manage the hundreds of pictures I take each month, but first I wanted to figure out the best way to print said photos. Since storing them on your computer is nice, but holding them in your hand is better.
Here was what was important to me:
-Ease of website (uploading, ordering)
-White border option
-Matte/Lustre finish (as opposed to a glossy finish)
-Auto Correct option on or off
EXPERIMENT: I chose 8 photos that had been taken in the last year. I chose pictures taken with different cameras, three of them from non-amateurs so that I couldn't blame myself for any strange color or focus issues. I ordered the same 8 prints from these places on a Friday night, and selected the cheapest option for shipping. Here's how it stacked up:
I was really impressed with the speed and ease of Snapfish. I had a coupon, so I uploaded a huge chunk of pictures as a separate order from the experiment order. We're talking 200 prints and they went up quickly and easily.
Autocorrect: Yes it let me turn it off
White thin border: Yes
Cost: $.09 each, my total with 3-5 business day shipping was $1.48
Shutterfly was equally easy and quick to upload.
Autocorrect: No, or I couldn't find it if it was an option.
White thin border: No
Random pro: Gave me 30 minutes after I ordered to cancel
Cost: $.15 each, but it automatically applied a first time user credit. Total with 3-7 business day shipping was $1.79
The uploading process at Costco photo seemed archaic in comparison to Snapfish and Shutterfly. Once navigated, they loaded as quickly (under 2 minutes) but it was definitely not as smooth or intuitive.
White Thin Border: Yes
Arrived: I picked them up at the location just a few minutes from my house. So it was immediate (well, within the hour).
Cost: $.13 each, but without shipping charges. My total was $1.10
MPix was definitely the most professional site I tried, recommended to me on twitter by several photographers I trust, including Miz Booshay.
Not quite as user-friendly as Snapfish and Shutterfly, but easier than Costco. At least it was after the upload plugin failed three times.
White thin border: Yes
Arrived: Friday (a full week after ordering)
Random pro: Gave me 30 minutes to cancel after ordering
Cost: A whopping $.73 each ($.44 of which was the lustre coating)
Shipping ranged from $3 for 1st Class USPS to Next Business Day for $10.75 (reasonable). I chose the cheapest (and clearly slowest), so my total was $8.84.
And now for the proof of quality:
Right away, Shutterfly was out for two big reasons: no white border option and the colors looked significantly different than from the other places. You can see it best in the black and white, where it has a yellow tinge that borders on light sepia.
So that left the other three. I could see (but just barely) that the colors from the Mpix prints were the most accurate.
After weighing all the pros and cons, I had a clear winner for my everyday printing:
It was the cheapest, hit all my major points, and I liked the web interface the best. It also offers frequent coupons (the one I took advantage of at the same time was 200 prints for $2!) This outcome really surprised me.
For something immediate, Costco stood up just fine, so it will remain a decent option for me.
For large prints, gifts, or things deemed precious, I was glad to discover Mpix. But for daily prints, the price difference is just too much to be ignored.
Consider me a newly converted Snapfish customer!
Whenever I get around my mom, it's like my body says, "Oh good, now someone else is here to take care of things," and it promptly falls apart. I swear her plane lands and I immediately get sick.
I am not any kind of a food blogger. I don't even cook all that much. But when there is something this good to be eaten, then it must be shared.
A few weeks ago we had our fun and wonderful Chinese friends (along with a hoard of other guests) to the lake house and Penny - a Chinese mom of two and entreprenuer extraordinaire - cooked for us the most fabulous dish. I'm a picky eater in general, but this was so up my alley I asked her for explicit instructions. Thankfully, it's easy to make and she found all the necessary ingredients at Wal-Mart. (When she makes this at her home in San Francisco with authentic spices from the Chinese markets, I can't imagine how good it must taste.)
It's that time of year again. This weekend the league will get together for their annual weekend of nerdery and memory-making. I can't help but re-post. I also can't help but mention that the weekend will be minus a few crucial members this year. They are missed, and in our thoughts.
My husband is a fantasy football nerd. It's very serious. He has been playing since 1991. I have no idea how that is possible, maybe back then they used stone tablets?
His current league, made up of his closest college friends and a few family members, has been around for 19 years. They have named it after some guy who drove a tank through downtown San Francisco. Inspiring, I suppose.
When we have the whole extended family at the lake each July, we each take a night to provide dinner, because otherwise trying to coordinate dinner for 25 people every evening is too arduous. This year my sister-in-law did a make-your-own-pizza dinner and it was so genius that I blatantly stole the idea and had one of my own over the weekend.
It's so easy, and great for groups. Here's how I did it:
After rolling out a big 'ole sheet of butcher paper onto my kitchen island, I plunked all the ingredients right on top and wrote the instructions on the paper. (I actually used painters paper from Home Depot because that's what I had in the garage.) This meant that we dirtied almost zero dishes and the clean up was a cinch!
We grilled the pizzas instead of baking them, saving tons of time and mess. And the taste was the same as pizza dough! Better, even. I bought three kinds of naan from Whole Foods (original, garlic, and wheat).
I'm not a very adventurous cook, but my mom is the type who just whips together whatever is in the fridge and it tastes great. This weekend at the lake we had some friends over for dinner. She made a great summer meal with this as the entree.
I wanted something to brighten up the chicken breasts for company, so I sautéed about half a red bell pepper and half a green bell pepper in butter, added less than a cup of store-bought fresh mango salsa (it was just raw mangos, red onion, cilantro and maybe a couple of tiny pieces of jalapeno), then added maybe a half cup of a prepared sweet and sour sauce and a little water. I had to season it up with some garlic and salt and pepper to overcome the vinegar in the prepared sauce, but it turned out OK.
The chicken was sautéed in butter and oil (about half and half) and seasoned with a prepared spice for grilling chicken plus garlic salt and pepper. The breasts had been pounded first, but they were still pretty large and thick, so I cooked them long enough (at least half an hour) to get pretty brown. Because they were so large, I sliced them thick, maybe 1 inch slices, and poured half the mango sauce over them. I put the remaining sauce on the table for individual use. The presentation was really pretty and colorful.
The cook time didn't make it exactly quick, but it was delicious and we had a lovely dinner with friends and strawberry shortcake for dessert.
Sometimes I think I prefer heavy winter food to eat, but nothing beats a true summer meal.