Project Life 2014 Highlights

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When I came back here a few weeks ago to see how far I got when it came to posting my Project Life 2014 pages, I was really surprised to realize that I only ever posted my January pages. And then I remembered that while I stayed current until the beginning of February, I didn’t make a single page from early February until I began my maternity leave in May. I got myself all caught up, and then didn’t touch it again until Ben was two months old… and that pattern continued until December. December was amazing, because the instant photos meant I could stay caught up, which felt SO GOOD after being epicly behind all year long. I’m determined to keep this momentum with 2015, but we’ll see how that goes. I’m switching to 9×12 albums, but they aren’t available yet. Ah well. Anyway! Here are some of my favorite pages from 2014!

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Many of my winter pages look like this, all snow and ice and blue.

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Here, I was documenting my maternity outfits each day, figuring I’d want to remember that some day. I also included this blog post, and the paper with my extended family’s guesses for Ben’s arrival and size.

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I don’t use a lot of green, but in 2015 in general, I was really trying to stick to color schemes with each spread. This is also a good example of the method that made it so possible to catch up – I made these 3×4 cards with the Collect app on my phone, and then uploaded them directly to Persnickety Prints. In 2014, I finally started ordering 3×4 prints, rather than printing two on 4×6 paper; not having to trim them really saves so much time.

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I had to share this page, because I stared at that left side for months; I made that page just before Ben was born, and then my album was open to that page until I caught up again. I included some 8×10 inserts, with one of our first photos of Ben, which is one of my absolute favorites still.

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This is the rest of Ben’s birth day spread; on the left you can see the 8×10 inserts, which include a really detailed version of his birth story, and some photos Dan took in the hospital. The right side has our bracelets, a quote I found on Pinterest while I was in labor that was SO perfect, and some photos I took in the hospital.

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This spread also includes some cards from the Collect app, plus one of Benjamin’s teeny tiny newborn-sized onesies (this one was my absolute favorite, so it’s fitting that it has a place of honor here). I’m fairly sure I saw this in Elise‘s Project Life album when her daughter was born, and it stuck in my head because it really reminds me just how tiny he was.

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Here’s a page from the end of the summer. I like it because I printed images of some of our summer favorites (the beer we couldn’t stop buying, and those frozen pizzas that I’m still addicted to.)

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On the left here is one of my VERY favorite photos of Ben; it was just begging to be printed full size. (And printing full page photos is absolutely a secret trick to catching up when you’re super behind.) On the right are a bunch of photos from one day with Ben; I had been planning to do a day in the life but I never got around to writing out what we did.

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This is my first page from December; you can see how I incorporated the daily instant photos, plus some cards writing out what we did each day.

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I love the color scheme here; I had a 6×6 paper pad with holiday paper, and it made it really easy to make things look cohesive. On the right, I used a 2×2 coin protector page to include a Day in the Life. Dan and I both did Day in the Life in March, and I’ve been wanting to do another now that Ben is here and we’re in the thick of it. It was a regular day at home together, and I took photos and wrote the journaling as the day went on, which was really fun.

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And here’s the last page of the year, with our last few instant photos, and the before and after of my epic haircut (and yes, I did totally cut all my hair off on New Year’s Eve. What better way to start the new year totally fresh?)

So that’s it! I’m really glad I started Project Life a few years ago; it’s such a wonderful creative outlet, and knowing my photos have a home and aren’t just lingering on a hard drive somewhere is SO gratifying. I’m so excited to keep going with this project in 2015!

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I have been trying to write something to introduce and explain this new photo project I’m undertaking this year, and I keep typing and deleting everything I’ve written. I feel this need to explain why I want to do this, when I spent much of the last few months trying to let myself OFF of the hook of formal projects. And I really, really didn’t want to have anything serious for 2015, other than Project Life and Ben’s baby album, just because there’s only so much creative time around here these days.

But then a few more of my internet friends (blogging friends and flickr friends alike!) have started new 52 weeks projects, and the more I think about it, the more it feels like what I really should be doing. I have stopped using my dSLR almost entirely, with the exception of Ben’s monthly photos, and that’s just not okay with me. I don’t want a project that’s going to stress me out, but I really should be taking more photos of my son with something other than my dumb phone. (And look at that, I tried to be concise and simple and I just went and wrote 200 words. Sigh.)

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And so! In 2015, I’ll be taking a photo of Ben each week with my real camera.

Books: 2014

  1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  2. Beautiful Redemption by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
  3. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
  4. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  5. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  6. Dance upon the Air by Nora Roberts
  7. Heaven and Earth by Nora Roberts
  8. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
  9. Face the Fire by Nora Roberts
  10. Great with Child by Beth Ann Fennelly
  11. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
  12. Breastfeeding Made Simple by Nancy Mohrbacher
  13. The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  15. The Search by Nora Roberts
  16. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
  17. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
  18. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  19. Coincidence by J.W. Ironmonger

I’m not sure whether to say that I read more or less than I expected I would in 2014. I certainly didn’t make my original goal of reading 30 books (although even when I chose that I knew it was totally arbitrary and quite possibly unattainable). I was keeping up a pretty standard pace of consumption before Ben was born, with audiobooks on my commute and regular books at lunch and at home. Once he showed up, of course, I pretty much stopped reading entirely for a while there. I don’t really understand how people read during middle of the night baby wakeups; I found I was too tired to concentrate on an actual book, but that if I could stay awake enough to read, then I’d be TOO awake to fall back asleep once Ben was asleep again. And now, I’m trying to read before bed like I used to, and after a few nights of reading until 1am and still having to be up with Ben at 5 or 6, really regretting it. But I feel like I’m back in a reading phase (and over the years of documenting what I’ve read, I know that I definitely go through phases in which I just don’t read at all for months), and I’m glad for that.

My favorite books in 2014 were definitely Attachments (omg I ADORED this book. I loved Eleanor and Park, which I read last year, but I was legitimately sad when Attachments was over. I just loved it.), Coincidence (which I finished on New Years Eve; very interesting and different. I really enjoy books whose timelines jump forward and back through time), and the Coldest Girl in Coldtown (which, based on my goodreads friends’ reviews, I expected not to like much, but I listened to this on audio and was pleasantly surprised).

I’m not sure how to approach a reading goal for 2015, to be honest. I’d like to think I’ll be back up to my average of 40 or so books, but life with Ben changes every time I feel like I’ve got things under control, so I really have no idea. But I’d really like to read more (and god knows I sure could use a little less mindless internet scrolling on my phone and a little less daytime tv). I’ve set a goal to read every day, even if it’s just a few lines or pages, or a book with Ben. I’d like to get to all those ebooks I bought just before we went to the hospital to have Ben (seriously, I loaded up the iPad thinking I’d read during labor. Isn’t that adorable? Reading during contractions. Haaaaaaaaa). Overall, I’m setting my reading goal at 30 books. I’m hoping I’ll beat it, but we’ll see.

In Previous Years…
Books Read in 2012
Books Read in 2011
Books Read in 2010
Books Read in 2009
Books Read in 2008
Books Read in 2007
Books Read in 2006
Books Read in 2005

 

Let’s do this, 2015

01.10.2014 :: a slippery, icy mess

So! It’s been a while. I admit I didn’t really write about my creative slump intending to stop blogging for a while, but letting myself off the hook in that regard seems to have helped quite a lot. But the year is drawing to a close, and that always makes me reflective (and itching to start new projects. There’s nothing like 01/01 when it comes to beginnings!).

01.22.2014 :: bright spot

Last year, I wrote that 2013 was the biggest year of my life, and I mean… I got married, became a homeowner, adopted a cat, and got pregnant, all in one year. But 2014, man, it was huge, too. I grew a baby. I dealt with the diabeetus. I left my job. I lived through labor and major surgery. I became a mother. I learned how to be Benjamin’s mom. I began to learn how to stay at home. I had a few identity crises. Everything totally changed.

02.11.2014 :: traffic forever

I knew at the start of 2014 that I would need to be brave and flexible. I knew enough to know that I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. And here at the end, all of that was so true. Pregnancy can be so hard. Making huge life decisions like the one to stay at home is so intimidating. Figuring out how to keep a teeny tiny little baby happy and healthy and thriving is not simple. I was tired. I felt lonely. I cried. I whined about how I don’t even know who I am anymore.

05.14.2014 :: nine and a half months

But of course, I wouldn’t trade any of it. Even the parts where my hair looks shitty and even grocery shopping feels like a success some weeks and I am constantly covered in spit up and drool and I may or may not still be wearing my maternity jeans.

08.01.2014 :: his favorite spot

When I see people I haven’t seen in a while, they say I look happy. That motherhood suits me. And you guys, it feels so good to hear that, because that’s how I feel, truly. Sure, some of this is hard, and I feel like I should have more figured out. But I’m GOOD at being Ben’s mom. He’s such a happy little guy, and that makes my heart so full. When things start to get to me, like how I should fit into smaller jeans by now, or have a cleaning schedule, or have more time to do things for myself, half the time I just want to go sit in his room because he makes me feel better. Sometimes it feels like he’s the only thing I’m good at anymore. (A friend told me the other day that I’m too hard on myself, and that he is still so little, and that I have more figured out than I give myself credit for. It felt like I got hit in the head, in a really good way.)

08.19.2014 :: at sunset

There’s always a lot of talk at this time of year in the scrapbooking world about One Little Word, in which you choose a word to keep in the back of your mind, to inspire you throughout the year. I have chosen words for the past two years (in 2013 it was moment and in 2014 it was brave), although I haven’t really done too much more than spend an inordinate amount of time in the last weeks of December stressing about having to find a word before January 1. (Have I mentioned how the 1st of the new year makes me panic and flail to find all the new projects to start neatly and perfectly on January 1?) I have been trying to find a word for myself for 2015, and finding a word that fits what I have in mind has been tough.

10.19.2014 :: fall photography

For me, 2014 was about being brave as I faced down some big, huge changes, ones that I couldn’t control or know much about ahead of time. But in 2015, I want to start to redefine and reclaim my life. I have a bit of an idea of what motherhood means to me, now, and I feel like the time for basic survival mode, figuring-it-out mode, head-above-water mode is ending. In 2015 I want to take charge, force myself out of some comfort zones, and create some space for myself. I want to embrace who this new Elizabeth is.

10.31.2014 :: benjamin bear-ito

So in 2015? I want to just start. (Inspired by Elise’s limited edition stamps because that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to get at.) Stop thinking and planning and intending and just TRY. Stop waiting for the perfect moment or the elusive, magical unicorn long nap. I want to stop saying I’m going to send that email to the local Moms’ Club. It’s time to exercise, to raise that daily FitBit step goal. I want to find some clothes that feel good (something other than my Rutgers hoodie). I want to chop off my scraggly ponytail and feel pretty again. I want to savor every snuggle with my little dude and help him learn as much as possible. I want to keep going to library story time. I want to sit at a bar and drink a beer. And maybe most of all, I want to carve out some time for myself, to write or read a book or take pictures or learn weaving or brush script. I don’t know if these are lofty goals or not. If Ben starts crawling as soon as I fear he will, or never grows out of his 30 minute naps, maybe they are SUPER lofty. I really don’t know. But I’d really like to try. I have to start somewhere, right?

A Creative Slump

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A funny thing has been happening recently… I’m feeling simultaneously eager to create and burnt out by everything I’m doing. I’ve long had a bad habit of being unable to let myself out of my own commitments to creative projects, and I’m in a bad cycle now. I feel like I’m half assing everything. Right now, I’m still slogging through my daily photos, trying to write here more, planning Project Life pages, printing photos for Ben’s baby album and updating a private blog for family with photos of Ben. I’m taking photos all the time, but I’m not happy with many of them. And then I’m using those half-assed photos over and over and over again – on instagram, in Project 365, on Ben’s blog, here, and in Project Life. I’m keeping up with it all, barely, but I’m not happy with much of it.

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I want to make time to take “real” photos again. I want to sit in my craft room and actually make some scrapbook pages with all these photos I’ve been printing. I want to finish crocheting the blanket I’ve been making for our newest nephew. I want to try NEW things. I want to make stuff to decorate our house. Oh, and I don’t ACTUALLY want to abandon any of these creative endeavors, either. I’m frustrated and I don’t know how to climb out of this rut.

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Obviously, I’m attempting to do too much (or feeling obligated to keep up with too much, for no reason other than that I started these projects and it makes me twitchy to think about abandoning them). I know that a lot of this frustration comes from the fact that any of this creating happens in ten minute bursts during Ben’s naps, or when he’s happily kicking in his bouncy seat next to me. Finding time for the “fun stuff” is still so hard, because there’s always laundry and dishes and bottles to make or clean when I have some time because Ben’s either sleeping or happy to chill for a bit.

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I don’t often allow for the fact that I’m still so new to all of this… still trying to fit the old Elizabeth in with this new one.

I know that a lot of this comes back to needing to define myself in this new role. Somehow, my brain is like “well you’re home so much now, there should be lots of time to do some crafts here and there!”. Except taking care of a little baby is a full time job, too. I wouldn’t expect to be fitting in crafts in the afternoon if I was still working in an office. So there’s obviously some sort of mental adjustment that needs to be made. And sure, I could use time in the evenings to do some of these things, but when Ben’s finally asleep, I want to flop on the couch (with a beer or two or three) and hang out with Dan.

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I’m not writing this because I want someone to tell me that my photos are still good, or anything like that. Mostly I’m just not sure how to figure this out. I debate giving up Project 365 fairly often, but I’ve got less than 100 days to go, and I’m taking photos all the time anyway. I waffle about giving up blogging (while also wanting to recommit to it). Ben’s sleeping and I’m typing when I could be putting Project Life pages together or making that fall wreath or editing photos or or or. I don’t know what the answer is. Am I looking for someone to give me permission to abandon some of these projects? Do I just need to give all of this a little more time, and be a little easier on myself? Would a weekend afternoon in the craft room while Ben hangs out with Dan help? Will it take me three days’ worth of naps to even finish writing this post? Your guess is as good as mine.

Ben’s Room

Since I left my job in May, I have been spending more time actually IN our house since we moved in a little over a year ago. Some of the rooms frustrate me, because all I see are un-decorated walls or the piles of crap in the corners. But Ben’s room is the happiest room in the house, and not just because it’s the only room I’d say was actually finished.

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I wrote about the before way back in February when I was pregnant, and we had just started painting. From the very start, I had very clear ideas about what I wanted the baby’s room to look like, boy or girl. Gray walls, white furniture, pops of bright, bold colors. It took time to collect and make and decide on all of the various pieces, but oh! am I happy with how it turned out. And even better? As Ben grows, I can tell he’s noticing things like the bold art and bright mobile (and, okay, I have to also say that the freaking ceiling fan is his favorite thing EVER) and that makes me so happy.

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Ben’s room gets great light, which helps the bright colors really stand out. We started with gray paint, white trim, and a bright yellow closet. The crib was the first thing we had in the room (other than the beloved red desk), and I like how simple it is. (I made the crib skirt out of pillowcases.) We ended up finding the dresser and night table at Target of all places, and they are made of actual wood (which is a lot harder to find – at an affordable price – than you’d think). We’re really hoping they last a long time. The glider is a bonus because it looks modern and cool but Dan and I BOTH think it’s comfortable. That orange ottoman was a last minute addition once the glider’s matching ottoman was out of stock, and I like the extra color it adds. My mom painted that tall bookcase white, and I can already tell we’ll appreciate having some extra storage. (Ben doesn’t even know toys exist yet, and they’re accumulating pretty quickly.) I spent a LOT of time trying to find the perfect rug… and this one is exactly what I wanted. (We’ve since bought two more in other colors/sizes for other rooms in our house-and so has my sister, because the price is insane for such a nice-looking, SOFT rug).

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I made the mobile using this tutorial, which I found on Pinterest. Hanging that mobile was by far the most difficult and frustrating part of this entire project, holy hell. It’ll be a looooong time before I attempt a project with fishing line again, and even longer before I’ll be able to convince Dan to help. But it looks great, and Ben loves it, which is so awesome.

bensroom-closet

One of my favorite aspects of Ben’s room is the closet. We took the doors off and painted the inside of the closet bright yellow. (I was really nervous at first that the shade we picked was WAY TOO INSANELY yellow… but in daylight it is just right.) I think the lack of doors and the yellow make the room feel a lot bigger. The two little Expedit-like bookshelves are meant to be closet organizers, which meant they were cheap (and it’ll be easy to buy new canvas boxes to hide stuff away if we want to do that). For a long time, I was trying to convince Dan that we should hang a second rod for hanging clothes. I don’t know if it’s because we had a boy (maybe girls need more hanging storage for all their tiny dresses?) but that hasn’t seemed important since we’ve been using the room.

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I think I spent the most mental energy on the art wall, if I’m being honest. Countless hours on Pinterest bookmarking artwork, DIYs, gallery walls in other rooms. And I’m SO happy with how it turned out. The big poster print is a Conan O’Brien quote that I matted with bulletin board paper. I painted the four little canvases using washi tape and blue painter’s tape to achieve stripes (what else, I mean, really?). The balloon photo is one I took for a daily photo a few years ago, the letter b is from Anthropologie, and the whale print is from an etsy shop that I think has since closed.

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I like how the little square mirror echoes the black and white of the big poster, and Ben’s initials are painted in the same colors as the little canvases. I also covered his light switch cover in washi tape, because another little pop of color can never hurt.

bensblanket

And in a way, the whole thing started with this blanket, which I began crocheting a month or so after I found out I was pregnant. I knew all along that I’d make my baby a blanket (it’s what I had in mind when I added “crochet a blanket I get to keep” on my 33 before 33 list, actually). I bookmarked pattern after pattern, and none of them felt good enough for my first baby, somehow. But I kept coming back to this pattern, and knew it would be a way to add lots of bright colors in a non-circusy way. Ben hasn’t needed it yet, but I’m hoping he’ll love it some day.

Putting Ben’s room together was really fun, and now that we spend so much time in there with him, it feels so perfect… not just because it feels complete, but because all the color is cheerful, and the gray and white are calming. It came together better than I could have pictured, and that makes me pretty damn happy.