memories

The Circle of Life

IMG_1997When we got married almost ten years ago, I slipped a champagne cork from the wedding breakfast into my husband’s pocket as a memento of the day. A year later, I did the same on our first anniversary, and then again when we raised a (very small) glass to toast Harry’s arrival into the world.  Slowly, unthinkingly, I began to assemble a collection of corks from the most memorable events in our lives.  Be it great dinners with old friends, Christmas and birthday parties, new jobs, reunions and celebrations big and small; whenever I remembered I’d scribble the date and event on the cork and stash it in the kitchen drawer.

But joy has no place in a drawer, so last weekend in a sentimental mood I tipped it out and began to create a huge circle – a wreath of corks – to hang on the wall in the kitchen and remind us of all of the magic that’s happened, and all that’s yet to come.  Tucked in the drawer now instead is a small tube of glue so that we can easily add the next cork, and the next one; layer upon layer…

IMG_2023To make this cork wreath….

I drew and cut a big (about 70cm) circle out of grey board, and then sprayed it with a copper-colour paint in case the card showed through between the corks. I deliberately cut a narrow ring so that the corks would appear to ‘float’ and the background would be invisible; the inner ring of corks are glued to the cardboard, but the outer ring(s) are simply glued to the corks themselves; their weightlessness makes this easy.

IMG_1902I used wood glue because that’s what I had to hand, but gorilla glue or any strong adhesive will work; I built this on the kitchen counter over the course of an afternoon and used glasses and cups to hold the corks in place whilst the glue set.  Position each ring as offset to the one before, so that the corks nestle between each other; this gives it strength.

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IMG_1917To hang on the wall, simply add a loop of thin wire around the ring and hang on a hook.  Consider it an ongoing life project which should never be considered finished, and whose gaps are to be filled as soon as a new occasion for celebration presents itself…

IMG_1951p.s.  from the archives: another use for those champagne cork-cases (scroll down), and two fun ways to wrap a bottle.

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The Archivist

Yearbooks together

Welcome back! and Happy Easter (almost) ..I’m looking forward to the chance to catch breath once again after a frenzied few weeks at work, and the chaos of the end of term at school for Harry.  The weather looks grim, but we are undaunted; it is as easy to eat vast amounts of chocolate in the rain as in the sunshine (easier! No risk of melting).

One thing that has been a lovely distraction in recent evenings has been completing last year’s Family Yearbook; an annual project to document all the best bits of the year before, and to translate the thousands of odd photos on my Mac into something physical that we can all flick through and talk about.  I began when Harry was two, and we now have four books in a nook in the Snug, which are regularly taken down and explored all over again..

Family Yearbooks

The biggest part of our yearbooks is always the family photographs, but it’s also a place to capture stories, passions, events and moments in time, like the time last year when the Tooth Fairy made her grand entrance…

Capturing the tooth fairies visit

And my brief flirtation with gardening in 2014 which produced an intense flurry of of interesting botanicals over a period of about 8 weeks before I got bored and forgot to water anything…

Gardening yearbook

And the funny things that you want to remember, like the time when Harry was just learning how to write, and was frustrated by the number of adult conversations that seemed to go on FOREVER without a long enough break for him to interject.  These notes were passed to us in the kitchen one evening by a stony-faced Harry, and were too good not to capture for posterity..

Notes

And I’ve also documented our gradual renovation of the house, like the guest room last year;

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Inevitably, the design and format of the yearbooks has changed over time, and it’s fun to look back on that too, as my own style has evolved and my comfort with the camera increased.  In some years I’ve grouped the book by season…

IMG_0187  Memory book seasons

And in others, by month..

January

Some things remain constant; in each book I have a section at the back for a gallery of Harry’s projects from the year; it’s fun to see the difference (and the things that stay the same; my thigh gap will never reduce; I am reconciled to this now..)

IMG_6479kids art in a yearbook

2013

I use a software programme that allows to you to choose different designs for the front and back covers (these below are the paper fruit we made in 2014, which miraculously have survived 18 months in the playroom without incident, beyond mild denting);

Yearbook back cover

Family yearbook back cover

I’ve learned the hard way that the best way of building a yearbook is to do it as the year unfolds (sitting on New Year’s day staring down the barrel of 3,426 photographs and a blank book template is no fun at all), so this year I am finally ahead of myself and have the 2016 book saved permanently as a work-in-progress that I add to every couple of weeks; my goal is that on New Year’s Eve I can just click save for one final time and press the Order button..

If you’re tackling a project ike this for the first time, I shared some thoughts on what to include here.  But I’d love to know other ways you use photographs and preserve memories – all tips welcome in the Comments section.  We have the Memory Jar, and hidden in the loft, the Time Capsule, and of course the blog itself; but I’m always looking for other ideas…

Have a wonderful long weekend!
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Winter Projects: The Family Yearbook

Making A Family Yearbook



How are you;  are you having a lovely weekend?  Mine began with a delivery I’ve been feverishly anticipating; a copy of the family photo yearbook I’d assembled and ordered, capturing all of the best bits of 2013.  Creating it was a labour of love which filled the long evenings between Christmas and New Year, but the result is 132 pages (count ‘em!) documenting the big and small things which together made up what was a wonderful year.  It was the first time I’ve done this even slightly methodically; here are a few thoughts and learnings I picked up along the way…

1. Don’t worry too much about chronology

It doesn’t matter if you get the exact sequence of events right (was our day at the seaside before or after Auntie Jean’s birthday?) – no-one will remember anyway.  Instead, I grouped pictures according to season, using photos for each section that I’d taken during the year and which I felt captured the essence of the months ahead; snow for the first quarter, then nests and eggs for springtime, and so on… it creates a feeling of the passing of time without you losing sleep over chronology…

Memory book seasons

Christmas was such a fun and activity-packed time it warrants a section of its very own…

Family album DIY

2. Capture the little things as well as the milestones

Whilst holidays, birthdays and events of course feature, some of the loveliest moments for me were the little things; growing sunflowers, racing scooters, feeding ducks; the minutiae of the everyday at this time in our lives – and the ones most likely to make me sentimental in the years ahead!

Family yearbook sunflower race

3. Think about your year in the broadest sense; memories don’t have to have people in them

Regular followers will know that we are gradually renovating our house (very gradually; it is the archetypal money pit…), so at various stages of our book I added pics of completed projects like our bathroom below;

Family album house renovations

4.  Flex your layouts to make the most of the pictures

On some pages of the book, I’ve used a myriad of pictures which reflect the pace and busyness of our lives at that point, like the run-up to Christmas below.  At other times, I’ve used a double-page spread for a single photo, like this one of Harry on a beach in Newport, when it felt like the horizon was infinite and we had the place entirely to ourselves.

Family album christmas crafts

Family album holidays snaps Family album holiday photos

5.  Think beyond photos and use the yearbook as a family archive too.

Possibly my favourite section is at the end, when I’ve added a miscellany of things which were very meaningful to us, whether or not they came with photos.

Family album things to remember

…like a letter my father wrote to me on my birthday, saying how ‘at this landmark time, I am incredibly proud of you’.  A letter so special that it warranted capturing in my book of the best bits of the year…

Contents for a memory book

…and on a different note, cuttings from the 50yr old newspaper we found in a cupboard when excavating an old shed; comically politically-incorrect and charming at the same time, it gives a lovely insight into another era.

Family album newspaper clippings

This post back in October generated some lovely reminisces of children’s sayings, and I couldn’t miss recording some of Harry’s in our yearbook – immortalising them to remind us just how fleeting the magical pre-school years are;

Family album quotes

The archive section also contains  a gallery  of Harry’s artwork from across the year, which  allows me to be a little more ruthless about what I throw away;  we now have a permanent record without needing to store boxes and boxes of artistic efforts in the loft.

Childrens artwork gallery in a family yearbook

5. Use your completed Yearbook as a one-stop shop for Grandparents (and everyone else…)

I was slightly astonished when I watched my book upload to the server to find that it contained 756 photos.  I struggle during the year to keep up with sending interesting family pics to relatives without either overwhelming them or having them miss out.  Now, I can sit them down with a glass of wine and our family yearbook and get them to stick a post-it note on any they want copies of; rather like viewing your wedding photos after the event and choosing only the ones you love!

6. Order a copy or two..

Photobooks, particularly thick ones, can add up financially, but I’ve ordered an extra copy to begin to build a set for Harry that I can give him when he leaves home.  For my generation of pre-digital childhood snaps, the only way of looking at pictures is by visiting your parents and going through their albums; I want Harry to be able to have a copy of each of our yearbooks and not have to wait to inherit them.  It also gives us a back-up copy in the event that we lose or damage this one (and with the country currently shoulder-deep in floodwater, it’s a very relevant thought…)

Finally, in the category of I-wish-I’d-thought-of-this-earlier; I wish I’d archived photos as I’d gone along, choosing the best each month and putting them in a folder (I use iPhoto, for Mac).  Sorting and sifting an entire year’s worth of photos was painfully slow, so my New Year’s resolution is to exert a little more discipline and order for 2014; I now have a folder for each month and am gradually dropping photos into it for January as the year unfolds.

Do you make photo yearbooks or do anything similar?  I’d love to hear (and learn ideas from those who have been doing it longer).

And now with Monday looming I will allow myself one more wander through the pages before firmly setting it aside and focusing on the week ahead; I hope that you have a good one.

Kate

Family yearbook spine

p.s. I used BobBooks software to make our yearbook, which I chose because I’m familiar with it – but shop around for good deals and the formats you like.

 

The Memory Library

memory library

I come from a bookish family, enjoying an upbringing where reading was considered to be the ultimate sporting pursuit, and where every household nook and cranny was crammed with a life-history of books, from the trashiest novel to the most highbrow doctrines of Greek philosophy (our shelves were nothing if not egalitarian, and we relished them all).

Thus I learned the facts of life mostly from Judy Blume novels, and yet was extremely well-read about world history from our travelling-salesman set of Encyclopedia Britannica, the 90′s print forerunner of Wikipedia. Sadly, volume 12 vanished without trace at some point meaning that anything listed under ‘M: Malachite – Mycenae’ will forever be a gap in my knowledge.

It’s perhaps no surprise that Harry is showing signs of being a book-lover, who delights in being read to (and in pretend-reading to us). At 3yrs old he already has a small but precious handful of books which have marked the various stages in his life and which have been transient obsessions, and I wanted to capture those memories before they fade and get swallowed up into the general joyous mayhem of childhood.  I designed some simple bookplates to stick in the cover papers of his favourite books, recording the memories associated with them, so that he (and we) can look back on these in the years to come…

bookplate1

Harry’s first ever book was a picture book by the inimitable Emily Grevatte, whose simply rhyming and repetition tickled the then 6-month old Harry and produced a chortle which turned into a full belly-laugh, and culminated in such hysteria that in time I only had to pick up the book for H to start giggling.  Any new mum will tell you that whoever can make their babies laugh is a friend for life, so Grevatte’s books will always have a special place in my heart.  The Gruffalo was another hands-down favourite..

bookplate gruffalo

The bookplates themselves were printed onto standard white paper and I then used a glue stick to paste them into the dog-eared and well-loved books.  If you want to do this and don’t have the time or inclination to make your own, there’s a downloadable version below which you can simply print out and fill in (minus the picture of Harry, of course!)

my library bookplates

printable bookplates

Download by clicking on the attachment; I’ve saved this a PDF with 6 labels per sheet; these should fit most books.

Printable Bookplates

As I pack Harry’s old baby books into the loft for the next generation, it’s lovely to think that the family stories behind the storybooks themselves are captured and waiting to be rediscovered.

bookplates from katescreativespace.com

Other things… it’s been a snowy week here in Britain, with a huge blanket of snow falling thickly for several days.  Nurseries and schools closed, fires were lit, and we took to the fields and hills to make the most of it.  We decided to go to the local park (Windsor Great Park; home to the Queen and some stunning landscapes) just as dusk was falling, and we had the place to ourselves; it was indescribably beautiful..

a walk in the woods

We came across this couple, absorbed in the beauty of the winter landscape…

a snowy romance

..and obviously in the early stages of a great romance…

snowstruck lovers

We taught Harry the art of the snowball fight – something I’m sure we’ll regret before long – before heading home for crumpets, tea and to admire how beautiful everything looks in our snowy garden, including Harry’s new playhouse – a secondhand one which I spruced up with curtains, carpet and a weather vane; it was Harry’s 3rd birthday present and he’s very house-proud; even delivery men get invited in for a cup of tea and a story…

playhouse in the snow

Neat Feet

Today Harry elected to wear his red rubber wellington boots to nursery.  Yes it is June, and they were accessorised with shorts and a t-shirt, but H is a firm believer in following one’s fashion impulses regardless of season or peer pressure. (I say peer pressure; we were greeted by an eclectic cluster of two-year olds dressed as fairies, superheroes or simply sans clothing altogether, so perhaps conventional dressing is the only taboo at Harry’s age…)

I love Harry’s feet, and always have… as a tiny baby they, like his chubby starfish hands, seemed impossibly small and in constant motion as they flexed, explored and sensed this new and strange world.  One of my favourite pictures I took in those first few blurry months was this one of H&A’s feet, which hangs in the kitchen.

Since then, Harry has developed a keen interest in footwear, albeit each new sized shoe leads to a comic day of tripping and dragging as he learns the extra clearance required for walking in longer shoes.  This morning Harry opted to try on my husband’s shoes for size; a moment I had to capture…

I’ve kept all of H’s shoes since his first slippers at a couple of months old, and often ponder what to do with them; they currently hang on nails along my office wall, waiting for inspiration.  The most recent favourites are these battered silver trainers below, now immortalised as the footwear du jour at age 2  - I did the same for him at age 1 and will keep going over time.

What were your favourite shoes as a child?  As a tomboy I lived in trainers apart from the obligatory school shoes, a notion incomprehensible to my husband as he now surveys my overflowing shoe rack and row of killer heels of a height which makes him wince. Now that my home-days are spent in sandpits and muddy fields,  I have to confess that trainers are once again enjoying a revival in my daily life, and the heels mostly just a reminder that somewhere deep inside me is a footloose glamazon in temporary hibernation…

A Moment in Time…

At 2 and a quarter, Harry finds it utterly incomprehensible that he was once a baby. ‘You soooooo funny, Mummy!’ he chortles, with patronising affection,when I venture to suggest that he was once small enough to fit in a Moses basket and slept for 20hrs a day.  The notion that he once came from inside my tummy is met with stunned incredulity.  I pretend that this is because my stomach is so flat it seems impossible, but this hypothesis in turn causes my husband to giggle with incredulity so I swiftly move on.

Anyway, I digress; the thing is that at some point between about 6 and 9, (esteemed studies show), children are at their most intensely interested in stories about how they used to be and what they did, said and liked to do. I anticipate this phase with mild trepidation because my memory is very unreliable and I know I will fall short when it comes to detail, despite the vividness with which I feel I’m storing the memories away now.  So today, Harry and I built a Time Capsule to be hidden in the loft and ‘discovered’ again some wet Sunday when he is about 8yrs old.  Packed with photos and information about exactly who Harry is today, it should prove interesting, especially as it contains some challenges and a few pieces of treasure as well.  It does, of course, depend on his father and I remembering that it’s up there, but hey, we can at least hope…

Here’s a selection of the stuff that Harry and I put inside….the possibilities are endless.

1. A list of all the things he loves the most right now; foods, friends, toys and games

2.  A load of shredded tissue (gotta have something to throw around..)

3. His favourite toy character, at Harry’s insistence (don’t worry, we have another one….)

4. The current brochure and newsletter from the school he’ll eventually go to at 5yrs old, so he can see what all the teachers looked like back in 2012
5. A picture of us – though with some hesitation as I know this will provoke a later critique along the lines of ‘Dad, where did all your hair go? Mummy, what were you wearing??’
6. Footprints and handprints to compare and contrast with then and now
7. A note of his current height, and a challenge to find the marker of this that is shown in the photo (a small carving on a tree in our garden), and to make a new one…

8. And best of all, treasure: a small, corked glass bottle with clues as to where to find £20 of his 2011 Christmas money, which I’ve hidden somewhere in the house… I’m just hoping he works out the clues because I’m sure I’ll have forgotten…