Well hello! Please forgive my month long sabbatical. This seems to happen to me every year. I have a hard time coming back to the blog after disconnecting for the Holidays. This time I just went with it and let myself have a break. Overall, I think this year is going to be a bit lighter on the posts, but hopefully a bit deeper in the content… Quality over quantity you might say.

Even though this blog has been quiet, life has been moving full speed ahead. I got introspective in January and read The Desire Map by Danielle Leporte. Holy wow. This book blew my mind. I took a couple weeks to really dive deep and set my goals for this year. It was an awesome journey, and I feel so refreshed and energized moving into February. This is where in the past, my goals for the year have gotten sabotaged, or I forgot, or I gave in. I’m still feeling that pull, but I’m way more on track this time.

Not sure what I’m talking about? Quick, watch this awesome video interview with Danielle Leporte. She breaks it down quite nicely.

So what else have I been doing this past month? Glad you asked. I lost 16 pounds. I started a UX design class, and I’m turning into a gym rat. Seriously. Work has been lacking, and I’m taking this slow start to the new year to focus on health. That’s one of my core desired feelings, and one of only 3 goals this year… to be healthy, fit, and free from addiction (sugar, carbs, caffeine). Addiction to the gym is OK. Quite an exciting January if you ask me!

That’s enough for now. I’ll keep coming back to fill you in just how I lost those 16 pounds, and my class, and my gym routine, and the other goals for the year. As always, thanks for reading, for following, for your support. Love you all. Happy February!

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Tis the season for lots and lots of holiday parties. This weekend we had two back to back white elephant gift parties, and the weekend before that was tamale making and cookie exchanging. Throw in the obligatory ugly christmas sweater and it’s been quite a merry time. I love all the cooking and baking and rushing around though. It’s hectic, and we can’t always do everything, but it’s worth it to see old friends and eat tasty treats.

I’ve always been fascinated by Nelson Mandela and South Africa. Any book, or movie on the subject I’m instantly drawn too. That’s why a few years ago I picked up Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. It wasn’t until his passing that I finally got it off the shelf and started reading. It’s fascinating, and very long. I’m only half way though Book 1 (of 2) but I definitely recommend it to anyone else who’s interested in the history of South Africa and this amazing person.

Our wedding was featured on Green Wedding Shoes last week! It’s pretty cool since that was a blog I started following years and years ago… probably before I even met Matt. In the post there are some pieces I wrote about our design inspiration and some tips for other brides. And of course the brilliant photos by Jasmine of Let’s Frolic Together and the fun video by Stephanie Collins.

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A couple weeks ago I reviewed 5 Online Wedding Photo Book Apps and my favorite choice was Pinhole Press. I got some really great tips and feedback from some of you, and a couple of you mentioned Artifact Uprising. So before I created my book, I took some time to play with Artifact Uprising, and really liked their app. However, I still went with Pinhole Press, and I thought I’d share my findings and what ultimately swayed my opinion.

I set out to design my photo book on both systems at the same time. This way I would see exactly how the products differ and if one had more problems in one area over another. Practically right away I encountered a HUGE problem with Artifact Uprising. They would not allow me to upload any photos larger than 12MB. Yes, 12MB is a very large file size for upload, but Pinhole Press didn’t have this road block. They allowed me to upload as  many huge files as I wanted and the upload time was pretty fast. So I was forced to resize my photos if I wanted to use them on Artifact. Now, I know how to do this because I know photoshop really well, but I would wager to guess that the average user does not know how to downsize their pictures, and would give up at this step. Please tell me if I’m wrong.

Going through photoshop to downsize photos not only takes a long time, but also might compromise the quality of your pictures. For print, you always want to use the highest quality, largest files possible. So obviously it made me nervous to downsize my precious photos (saved as copies of course) not knowing how the print might turn out.

As far as features and general usability, the two systems are very similar. The Pinhole product is lovely white and minimal which I like, and the Artifact layout is a dark interface and has a lot more buttons, weird double click edit tools that I found slightly cumbersome. Overall, they’re pretty similar, and I did like the font choices Artifact gives you.

Major problem #2 was the ability to have a photo span a 2 page spread. This creates a visually stunning layout and was something I was adamant about having in my book. But alas, Artifact Uprising doesn’t allow you to do this. At Pinhole Press, you have to choose the “Panoramic Book“, which gives you a flat inseam on the binding. It’s a bit more expensive, but definitely worth it to me. We had so many beautiful, wide photos I wanted to show off. This is when I stopped using Artifact Uprising, and finished my project with Pinhole Press.

Now, if you don’t care about the 2 page photo spread, and you don’t have super large photos over 12MB, then I really think Artifact Uprising is a great tool—probably better because of the different color cloth bindings, the interesting book jackets, and the font choices. Also, they’re slighly cheaper.

An 8.75 x 8.75 inch photo book with 61 pictures at Pinhole Press is $84.99.

An 8.5 x 8.5 inch photo book with 50 pages at Artifact Uprising is $69 with the ability to add a pages for $1 each.

For those of you who don’t know, I actually get hired to design these kinds of complex creation tools, so it was really interesting for me to dig deep into the usability of these 2 great products. And, I actually know what I’m talking about when I rate them!

I hope this helps you choose the right product for making your next book project. Photo products like the ones Pinhole and Artifact offer are amazing holiday gifts, and as you may have guessed from my timing, that’s exactly what I used them for! But no more, or else I’ll ruin the surprise…

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Happy Monday! And Happy Veteran’s Day! I’m so thankful for the brave men and women who have served our country. I am also thankful for no traffic today on my commute to the office which only took me 30 minutes (instead an hour). God Bless America.

I spent the entire weekend obsessively consuming posts from Buzznet blogger Mark Oshiro who reads all 7 Harry Potter books and posts reactions and summaries after each chapter. It is so amazing. I started reading Harry Potter years ago, and have re-read all the books multiple times. I keep going back to these stories because I love the characters, the ongoing struggles, and find them a great escape even though I know what’s going to happen. Mark reads them as an adult for the first time with no background or previous knowledge. Everything is new, suspenseful, dumbfounding and exciting. His reactions are hilarious, and his insights are spot on. He approaches the books with childlike wonder (Diagon Ally! Hermione saves the day AGAIN! Dragons!!!), and also a heavy dose of intellectual analysis of larger themes (racism, classism, bigotry, etc.). If you’re a fan of the books, I highly suggest checking out the archive. I’m starting the 6th book tonight—reading the Half-Blood Prince, and following up each chapter with Mark’s reviews.

Ok, did you guys know about Land Girls? I came across it because Netflix (rightly) suggested I would like it. It was a show on the BBC that spanned 3 seasons from 2009-2011. Made in the same artistic and story-telling vein as Call the Midwife and Downton Abbey, Land Girls tells the story of the Women’s Land Army during World War II stationed in the rural English countryside. I looked into it and the WLA was actually a real thing! Women signed up and were sent all around the country doing the work of famers and farm hands who were off fighting the war. Which totally makes sense because the country had to produce even more food than usual to feed it’s citizens and troops. Kind of like Rosie the Riveter, but these ladies worked the fields instead. It’s absoluetly amazing to me that I didn’t know this. The show is admittedly not as good as either Downton or Midwife, but I just really love the idea of women pitching in for the war effort by digging ditches and planting potatoes. It’s a short series—only 5 episodes for each 3 seasons—so it isn’t a huge commitment.

Our internet and cable has been out all weekend. Because of the holiday today, it won’t be fixed until tomorrow morning. So I’m working from one of my client’s offices today. I take my high-speed connectivity for granted. So much of my life in online and not having complete access to it 100% of the time totally throws me for a loop. At first I thought it would be the perfect excuse to make sizable dent in my wedding thank you cards, but no! I use Google docs to organize our wedding gifts and address book. So then I thought I’d work on some of my personal projects—wrong again! I have been using Google Docs and email and Evernote and Wunderlist to do all of that. Are we too reliant on the web? Maybe, but it really does improve our lives when we have it. Or maybe I should just make sure to sync my Google Drive and Evernote desktop folders.

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Austenland is a new movie that just came out. My friend and fellow Austen-nerd showed me the trailer and we just about died in hysterical glee (you know I love Kerri Russell). Then we saw it was a book first and immediately had to buy it. I just finished the short novel, and it was great—charming and funny, albeit slightly predictable. Can’t wait to geek out and watch the movie next.

Most people do crazy diets before they get married and then relax and eat what they want after… well, M and I just couldn’t handle dieting before the wedding. I put the scales away and let myself eat what I needed to get through all the wedding planning. Now that the craziness is over, we both feel we need to clean up our diets and get healthy. So we’re going to try the Paleo Diet. I’ve been reading a lot about it, and will hopefully have some fun recipes to share soon. If you have done this diet, or are currently eating this way, send me your tips and recipes! (This photo was taken at the Portland Famer’s Market. I LOVED this market so much.)

It’s been great being home and getting back into our routines. Last weekend we clean up and started to organize all the gifts. I found some room in our tiny kitchen, but we’ll be moving most of it bit by bit from my parents house. I can’t wait to try out some of my new gadgets like my Kitchen Aid mixer (swoon) and my pressure cooker (I admit I’m kinda scared of that thing)! We’ve been married for 2 weeks, and it gets me every single day :] (This photo was taken when we got home from our week long road trip)

I just started a new book, Evening Class  by Maeve Binchy, one of my mom’s favorite authors. So far I really like it. Binchy I hear is a master at character development, and I can see why. I’m only a chapter in and totally transfixed. It’s a long book (almost 500 pages), so should take me a while.

Electric Guest has become on of my favorite new bands. I know I say that every month or so, and it’s true this time too. If you pay attention to my mix tapes, they should sound familiar. Their sound is a mix of current pop styles, and old school R&B vocals. The new single, The Bait, puts me right in a dancing mood… only wish I could dance as well as these guys in their video.

M and I are really bad about cooking… I never know what he wants, and end up buying the same old things at the store. We get tired of it so we go out. It’s expensive and so unhealthy. So we’re challenging ourselves to not eat out until the wedding. It’s going to be hard. I’m going to have to get organized and plan ahead, but it’s worth it. We’ll learn some new recipes and save a whole lot of money. I would love to hear about any easy recipes or meal planning tips you have! (photo)

Ok by now you’ve realized Google Reader is no more. Say hello to your new best friend: Feedly. I was VERY reluctant to give up my Google Reader. I only started looking for a replacement last month. First I tried BlogLovin, and never got the hang of it. They sent me emails at night, after I had already read all my blogs, and the layout seemed disorganized. I couldn’t figure it out (and that’s saying something since interface design is kinda my thing). So I looked at Feedly. Immediately they import all your feeds from Google—seamless! And they let you choose how you want to view your posts—Title view, Magazine view, Card view or Article view. It remembers how you like to read different blogs, so they automatically show up the way you like them. They have a “back to the top” button that’s great when you decide a post has gotten too long, and a “mark all as read” which is also handy. I have to say, I think Feedly is better than Google Reader, and I’m so glad I made the switch.

The West is experiencing a heat wave. Thank god we have air conditioning. It’s been running 24/7 just to keep up. Our house has no insulation, so in the morning it feels fine, but come in the evening when it’s pleasant outside, it’s still sweltering inside. We spent all weekend at my parent’s pool. Their AC gave up and quit working, but at least they have a lukewarm body of water to dip in. I hope we get a break soon, but it’s only July 1st, so I really doubt it. Looks like we’re in for a hot HOT summer.

Maya Angelou is one of my favorite people (not to mention authors) in the world. I’ve decided to pick up her autobiography again. I read the first book, I know Why The Caged Bird Sings a couple years ago and it’s now one of my favorite books. Not sure why I didn’t continue with the series then. Probably because I didn’t own the next book, Gather Together In My Name, so I’m reading it now. I highly suggest any of her works if you’re looking for a book this summer.

(photo by me)

I loved The Shoemaker’s Wife. It’s long, romantic, and transports you to the Italian Alps and New York City in the 1890s—a very exciting and interesting time of American History, at least in my opinion. I came across the passage above and thought it was such a beautiful description of love and commitment.

Enza is contemplating love and marriage on her wedding night as she and her new husband, Ciro, move from all they’ve known of America—New York City—to Minnesota where they start their new life together. What would be a scary and unstable time is only pure and wonderful because of the “practical and durable” love they have for each other. The excerpt was getting too long, so I didn’t include the next part in the graphic above, but I wanted to post it here anyway.

“There was something constant and reliable about Ciro Lazzari. He made her feel no harm would come to her as long as she loved him.”

I like the way Enza described her love as “practical” and something that gets “lovelier with age”. Not to get too sappy, (forgive me, you know I’m getting married in a couple months), but this is how I knew I loved M. This is what separated it from other crushes or boyfriends.

Do any of you feel this way? Do you understand, like me, the kind of love Enza is feeling here?

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I started a new book last week, The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani. I’m not very far into it, but I can already tell this one is going to be romantic. It’s a love story between two young people set in the late 1800s starting in the Italian Alps and immigrating to New York City. So far it’s wonderful. Trigiani writes beautifully and really transports you to the frosty northern Italian villages, carved out of the mountainside. It’s a long book too—over 400 pages—so perfect for a summer vacation!

We spent all of yesterday working on wedding DIY projects, and by we I mean me, M, and 2 of my bridesmaids (best friends/bridesmaids in the world). We glittered 87 mason jars of varying sizes, and sanded and stained about 55 wooden boxes. Phew… I’m tired, but feeling so accomplished and grateful for getting so much knocked out in one day. Of course we still have plenty to do, but I’m checking those 2 items off the list. Look out for the mason jar DIY next week!

As we were working yesterday my friends and I were discussing the very real existence of June gloom here in Los Angeles. I personally kind of like the break from hot weather, and as you know, I really dig cold gloomy weather. I’ve been waking up and craving somber tunes and hot coffee, and then by noon my whole mood lightens and it’s time for upbeat music and iced coffee! Anyone else enjoy June gloom? And I’m curious, does this phenomenon happen in other parts of the country?

I’m not sure what prompted me to buy this book on Amazon a couple months ago. I think I just wanted to know more about Coco Chanel. She’s such an icon, and I didn’t know anything about her. This short book was the perfect introduction.

I love the way Karbo structured the book. It’s broken up into 12 chapters, each explaining Chanel’s philosophy on a single subject—On Style, On Femininity, On Love, etc.—spanning her entire life. It really painted a broad yet detailed portrait of a very complicated lady.

I really love reading biographies. I love the way they can trasport you like a novel, but you learn something real and factual at the same time. While reading this book, Chanel more than once reminded me of my maternal grandmother. She was petit, principled, and fierce—also a big Chanel fan I learned later. I love making those kinds of connections.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Any biographies you recommend?