Now that we have all our wonderful wedding photos I really want to design a photo book. Being a designer, I could do this myself, but that involves lots of time and the money I save designing it myself, I’ll for sure spend in printing and binding costs. So I’ve been looking for an online solution and I thought I’d share what I found.

Here are the 5 online photo book design apps that I compared: Blurb, Mixbook, Wedding Paper Divas, iPhoto and Pinhole Press. Scroll down to see my thoughts and ratings.

Top: Wedding Paper Divas   //   Bottom Left: Pinhole Press   //   Bottom Right: Mixbook

1. Blurb // I have heard a lot about blurb over the years and was excited to finally have a book project to try them out. Unfortunately I was pretty disappointed with what I found.


– You can connect your account to Flickr, Picasa, Facebook and Instagram allowing you to have access to ALL your photos.

– I’ve seen the print quality and it’s really great.


– They don’t tell you the prices upfront. At least, I couldn’t find it. You can choose a style and a template, but without knowing how much it’s going to cost, all my hard work might be for nothing!

– They let you choose 4 styles, but they’re all very limited. Basically, do you want a white background, black background, color background or no background? Well what if I want a combination? Couldn’t figure that out.

– Once I was in the interface I couldn’t even upload my photos. It kept giving me an error message, and by this time I was ready to find a different solution

Overall Rating: 1 out of 5


2. Mixbook // I had never heard of this company before I started looking. Unlike all the other apps on this list, Mixbook only does photo books, so you’d think they would do it the best… wrong!


– The template designs they make you choose from have a lot of photos per page. This could also be a con if like me you prefer simplicity and follow the less is more philosophy.

– Tied for cheapest price: $30 gets you a square hardbound book with 20 pages (10 sheets)


– Designs are kinda cheesy… not the worst I’ve seen, but not the best. This kind of fancy script and lots of flourishes just looks cheap to me.

– Worst of all, they don’t let you play around in the software before registering! So annoying. I moved on at this point.

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5


3. Wedding Paper Divas powered by Shutterfly // This company has wonderful templates for wedding stationery, so I was hopeful their photo books would be just as good. Again, I was disappointed.


– Connect to Facebook and Instagram to access all your photos, and obviously Shutterfly.

– Gives you lots of photos per page like Mixbook

– Offers large text spaces if you wanted to write more of a story to go along with your photos.

– Average priced: $45 for 8×11 hard photo cover with 20 pages (10 sheets)


– These templates weren’t as bad, but they weren’t all great.

– The interface didn’t load the thumbnails of my images! So the only way to know which ones were uploaded was to look at the file name. Obviously this wasn’t going to work for me. Not sure if this is a bug on their end, or something went wrong with my upload.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5


4. Apple iPhoto // They started it all way back when. Unfortunately I don’t have iphoto anymore, but what I’ve seen looks pretty great.


– You can design on your ipad which is pretty awesome.

– Tied for cheapest at $30 for 8.5×11 20 page book (not sure if this is hardbound)

– Templates aren’t too cheesy… only slightly.

– The app is super easy to use, and if you’re already storing your photos there, that makes it all the easier


– Costs 4.99 to download from the app store

Overall rating: 4 out of 5


5. Pinhole Press // A great site for all kinds of custom photo products.


– By far the best user interface I tried. Fast, simple, and easy to use.

– Templates are really simple and beautiful. Just photos on a white background which lets your beautiful images shine.

– Cloth spine detail elevates this to a real keepsake.

– I’ve ordered other products from them before and the quality is wonderful.


– Limited fonts and colors. I wish I could select a slightly brighter color for the spine that would match my wedding colors. Also they have 2 fonts to choose from: their “Classic” serif and a super round sans-serif they call their “Modern” style. I don’t really like either. I wish I could choose not to have text so I could upload my own design.

– Most expensive: $85 for 8.75” square with 30 pages and 61 photos

Overall rating: 5 out of 5


Before I start designing my photo book with Pinhole Press, I think I will purchase the iPhoto app just to give it a try. Even if I don’t end up using it for this project, it’s a great tool to organize my photos and I’ve missed not having it.

Do you have experience with any of these apps? Or is there one I missed? I’d love to hear!

Oct 04, 2013

(Sorry for the bloody photo… I sliced my knuckle on a mandolin trying to make zucchini chips this week)

I don’t believe that simply saying a phrase will make it come true. However, during my coaching sessions with Kathleen, we’ve been coming up with a weekly mantra for me. The goal is to think hard about a certain phrase and dissect it. I usually journal about the statement in the morning, and ponder about it during my day.

So like I said, I don’t believe that if I just think about this certain statement long and hard enough, it will magically happen. But I do think the practice does good. For one it has opened my mind to exploring the different ways the phrase can touch my life. For example, my mantra this week was, “Work where you are.” Now this at first was specifically for building up my career. But as I continued to think about it, I realized this applies to everything right now—my marriage, my diet, my blog, etc.

The other thing I’ve been noticing is that I’m way more productive when I have these mantras in my head. When I think about, “work where you are” there’s no way I can just sit back and scroll through Facebook for an hour. I’ve been journaling about moving forward and making progress, and that momentum fuels my day.

It’s definitely been an interesting exercise and I’m interested to go back to my earlier journal entries to see if I have made any improvements in my thoughts or goals after my 6 weeks of coaching are through. And I truly plan on continuing the practice after that. Maybe I could have a mantra for the whole month, or maybe for just a day.

Do you use this kind of meditation practice? Have you found that it’s helped?


Here are some things I found and loved this week:

Our stop-motion wedding video is finished! Check it out and enter to win one of your own!

Do you know about Creative Market? Really awesome resources for designers at low prices.

Freutcamp is a new 2 day bootcamp for bloggers here in Los Angeles! Not sure if I’m going yet… are you?

Check out this Rifle Paper Co. inspired manicure!?

The new Umba focuses on empowering artists through social selling. Pretty cool.

5 simple web design tips from Skillcrush.

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Sep 20, 2013

I’m going to try a new thing where I write on Fridays a bit about a topic I’ve been contemplating over the week. I really enjoy reading this kind of post on other blogs, so I figure it’s about time I started my own discussions here. I’ll also keep posting some of my favorite links I found and loved at the end of each post.

This bub sure knows how to relax…

Busyness is a weird concept for me. On one hand, it’s a good thing. Tell someone you’re busy and they will likely say, “oh that’s great to hear!” But on the other hand it’s a bad thing… It implies that you feel frenzied or rushed or stressed. Or maybe just have a lot going on and not a lot of time for yourself. So why do we tell people we’re glad their busy? Why do we expect busyness for ourselves?

In our culture, and especially in the town I live in, Los Angeles—where appearances are social currency—I think people look down on you for not being busy. For not having a ton of balls to juggle, and not having something scheduled every day of the week. You might be seen as lazy, or not trying very hard.

In college I worked 2 jobs, was a board member of a school club, carried a full load of units every semester, and had a very active social life. I was also 19 or so, and could survive off 4 hours of sleep. But all my friends had the same kind of schedules. I felt like I had to take that extra course, to volunteer at this event and stay up late making posters for that club. If I didn’t someone else would and that person would get the recognition/promotion/kudos/grade/etc. that I wanted desperately to maintain my social status. This idea wasn’t explicitly stated by a boss, parent or professor, but it was implied in all of these communities.

(Anybody else have a similar experience? Am I alone in this? I honestly would love to know because it might just be a psychosis I have.)

So lately I’ve been trying to reject this idea. When people ask me how I’m doing, I still fall into the crutch of telling them “I’m good… busy”. It’s an easy answer to give, and people know how to respond to it. And if I really am busy, that’s a different story. But what if I tried to carve out more time for daydreaming, snuggling on the couch, doodling and long walks? And what if I admitted it to these friends and colleagues?

I think the key here is not to force ourselves to relax. Then it just becomes another item on our to do lists. Instead, maybe turn down that networking event, or postpone that meet up in order to stay in and cook dinner. Call a friend to catch up instead of planning a brunch outing. Do only the things you really want to do and get joy from. Quit that committee already and find a good book to read.

In a way I’ve already started to implement these things because I’m just so burnt out from running in the rat race for so long. Now that the wedding is over and Matt and I are starting to settle down, I think this is the perfect time to examine our busyness and cut out the things that don’t really add to our well being. The things that just make us feel important. We already are important. And if someone wants to think I’m lazy for reading a book all day Saturday, well I think that person is missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures and I feel sorry for them.

Do you have trouble over committing yourself? Anybody else relate to the “rat race fatigue”?


Here are some things I found and loved this week:

The blog post that got me thinking about busyness and inspired this post.

The Dog Goldberg machine is genius.

These kitties crack me up.

Everyone is Photogenic when you define the word as “producing or emitting light”.

Better Call Saul! So excited that my favorite character in Breaking Bad is getting a spin off!

Boo the cutest dog in the world, and Grumpy Cat have been turned into Cake Pops! Amazing.

For all you designers out there: just came across Iconic and this awesome Kickstarter campaign!

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Jul 29, 2013

(me and 2 of my bridesmaids during my bachelorette wine tasting weekend)

Hey woah, what happened? I blinked and last week flew by… As you can imagine, I’m in the throws of wedding craziness. But all in all, I’m keeping my head. I’m actually getting kind of excited, if you can believe it.

So the next couple of weeks are going to have lighter than normal blogging coverage. I’m going to do my best, but you’ll have to forgive me if I skip a day or 2.

In other news, I seem to have a bad case of “bride brain” where my mind will shut off mid thought, or 50 new ideas will hit me all at once and then disappear before I have a chance to process. Do any of you married folks know what I’m talking about? Do you have any advice on keeping it together and getting everything done?

I love to read and I’ve been wanting to share book reviews with you guys, but just haven’t found the right way. So I decided to try something new, to see how it goes. I’m going to illustrate my favorite quote from a book, and then write up my thoughts. Let me know how you like it, and if there are any books you think I’d enjoy!

(photo by me, hand-lettering by me)

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg was all over the news, blogs and variety shows a while back. I was hearing such conflicting things about it—some feminists loved it, others hated it, stay-at-home-moms were offended—I decided I had to read it for myself and make up my own mind. In a word, I loved it.

I think Sandberg brought a lot of intelligent insight into a huge problem in our leading companies. She discusses how systemic the problem is from the way we raise our children—little girls are referred to as “bossy”, where boys are called a “leaders”—all the way through to the upper echelons of corporate culture—a top executive not knowing where the ladies restroom is in his own company.

As women we hold ourselves back a lot of the time. Women tend to keep quiet in class even if they know the right answer, and think they scored less on tests than their male peers. I felt it was encouraging and motivating just realizing this harsh self-criticism is natural for me, and something I need to work on and push through.

One of the strongest points in Sandberg’s book, was the fact that we as women really need to stick together. We can be even harsher toward each other than our male associates. It really makes no sense. We are half the population. Imagine what we could accomplish if we worked together!

Lastly, this quote I chose, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” is something that really resonated with me. There are SO MANY THINGS, where do I start? I think I’ll take some baby steps. The key is to believe in yourself, your goals, your dreams, and not let you stand it your own way. There are plenty of other things that will do that.

Did you read “Lean In”? What were your thoughts?

Feb 12, 2013

I’m finally getting around to writing about my Alt experience. By now you’ve read all the re-caps and seen the beautiful cards, so I wanted to give you a more personal look into my experience and share with you some of my new blog crushes.

1. The Artful Desperado – Gabriel’s blog is a breath of fresh air in the Art blog space. He really knows what he’s talking about. I met him over a couple drinks in a saloon at the hotel. He’s hilarious, and I must say it was nice being around a guy after so much estrogen. His blog has become a daily dose of artful inspiration for me.

2. The Field Trip Company – Technically this isn’t a blog. It’s an adventure company (which I must say is even more awesome). Natalie and I crossed paths a few times during Alt. First was at a Round Table about Facing our Fears on Friday morning. She was overflowing with energy and big ideas. I really love the idea behind her company and can’t wait for them to come to LA.

3. Michelle Edgemont – Michelle actually led the Round Table where Natalie and I met (fun fact), but the first time I met Michelle was at the Hello Social Wednesday afternoon… Yes, before Alt officially started. Michelle is a floral and wedding designer in Brooklyn and has so much great stuff going on. As a bride myself, Michelle’s creative blog has given me even more reading material. Plus, she’s just an awesome person.

4. Pinegate Road – As is the case with a lot of people I meet at Alt, I met Kelsey through someone else. We were standing around, and then other people came to stand with us, and we all started talking. Kelsey is a grad student at SCAD studying design blogs and hand lettering… HELLO! Amazing… Her blog is beautiful and well crafted. A new favorite for sure.

5. The Style Umbrella – Ashley and I shared a car together to our Wednesday night dinner hosted by Citizens of Humanity. She’s an accomplished writer with a silly sense of humor. We hit it off right away. I loved bumping into her at different panels and parties. Her style blog is fun and fresh, just like her personality.


posted by Amanda // Writing

Feb 05, 2013

Like many of you, I have succumb to The Great Flu of 2013. You might have guessed from my lack of posting, that something serious has happened. Thankfully I will survive… at least that’s what they’re telling me. For now it doesn’t feel like it. To be honest, I’m not very good at being sick.

The last time I was sick was the fall of 2011. Seriously. I had a cold while traveling over Thanksgiving to Pennsylvania and then to New York City. It was uncomfortable, but the adrenaline of being in New York sustained me. This time at least I’m home, but the symptoms are a lot more severe and there are less distractions.

Because I don’t get sick very often I honestly forget how much it totally sucks. I become a big baby and whine the whole time. M has been working the past few days, which means I don’t have any one to complain to. This has actually helped me figure out how to keep myself comfortable while still feeling like shit.

I’ve come up with 5 tips to keep you saine while suffering “the flu”:

1. Mandarins. One of the only fruits M will eat, I try to keep mandarins or clementines in the house at all times. Last night he peeled me a few, and man did they taste good. Cold and juicy and sweet, and easy on my sore throat. Plus they happened to be packed full of vitamin C which is just what my poor imune system needs right now.

2. Downton Abbey. I got myself caught up today. The episodes were sad (Cybil! OMG!) but they did help distract me from my misery. If you have a favorite show you need to get caught up on, or if you’ve been wanting to start a new show, now’s your chance!

3. Bed Buddies. Dice has been such a comfort to me. Animals seem to sense when we’re not feeling well, and are always there just to hang out and offer support in their own special way. He has been by my side ever since I landed in bed. If you don’t have a real live animal, cozy up with a stuffed one!

4. Horizontal. Seriously guys, it’s ok. I haven’t gotten up to do anything except go to the bathroom and refill my water glass. Sometimes I feel guilty that Dice hasn’t been fed or that the lights aren’t on when M gets home. By all means if you can manage it, do it. But even walking 30 feet to the bathroom makes my head spin. Those guys are on their own.

5. Silly Pictures. M’s mom sent me an old photo of M doing something weird, and it totally made my day. Of course laughing sent me into a coughing fit and then I needed to rest for 20 minutes, but it was worth it. Cheer yourself up with simple things. Maybe it’s flowers on your nightstand, or looking through old photos.

I’m curious to know if anything else has worked for you? I know everyone has had this beast of a flu. What comforted you?

And with that, I’ve worn myself out again. Please forgive the sporadic posting until this thing turns around.

Jan 22, 2013

Ever since the new year started I have not gone back to my usual 50 blogs a day (seriously) reading list. I get overwhelmed when I see a blog has posted multiple times in the same day. I just don’t have time to be reading them like I used to. However, there are a handful of blogs that I stop and read no matter what is going on. I get delighted when I see them in my feed.

I wanted to share 5 of my top favorites that always keep me coming back for more. These ones in particular share a common aesthetic—lovely photographs with just a paragraph (or less) of writing. These blogs might not be new to you, but I hope you appreciate them as much as I do.

Pencil Box—Katie blogs about her sweet family life in Ohio. I love love LOVE her photographs. She always wraps up her short posts with some touching, encouraging words. I am always in a good mood after reading her blog.

Traveling Mama—Tina and her family are expats living in Denmark. They live the ultimate beautiful Scandinavian life, or at least that’s what her photos convey. Lots of soft white light and a sentence or two about something she’s been thinking about. Tina’s blog is such a breath of fresh air.

Bluebird—Another “mommy blog” with gorgeous photos. I love Miss James’ great taste, and her adorable kids. She has style and charm, but always puts her dear family first. I love getting a peak into their lives.

Saipua—Sarah is a flower farmer and owner of Saipua Soap & Flowers in Brooklyn, NY. Her photos are breathtaking—simple and dark. They look more like still life paintings. But what I love most about this blog is Sarah’s brilliant sense of humor and candor. She’s not afraid to tell you she’s had a horrible day, and that’s refreshing.

Brick House—Here we go again with beautiful images, but this time their of interiors (and puppies)! Morgan is hilarious, and I am beyond jealous of her amazing home. Stop by the Brick House for Southwest home decor inspiration, and some biting sarcasm.

Those are my top 5 blogs for quiet day reading. Which blogs you gravitate toward? Do you prefer lots of photos and little writing, like I tend to?

I started blogging in 2008 if you can believe it. At first it was just an online notebook for me to put inspiration I was finding at art school. In 2010 I decided I wanted to make something more of it so I took Holly Becker’s Blogging Your Way class from Decor8. It changed everything. I started focusing on 5 main topics—art & design, food, fashion, music, and books—and left all the personal stuff out. I started putting more effort into my posts and I took a photography class.

Fast forward to today and I’ve changed my blog name (5 points if you remember what it used to be called) redesigned my site, and moved to my own domain on WordPress. My design aesthetic has gotten cleaner, my photography has gotten better, and my content has gotten more consistent. Blogging is a huge part of who I am, and I am so grateful for it.

I’m currently taking Holly’s Blogging Your Way 2.0 class and this week’s assignment was to talk about why we blog. So I’ve distilled it down to 10 reasons I Love Blogging.

photo by me

1. I can find inspiration in so many different places—food, fashion, books, music, etc—and I love pulling it all together in one place.

2. I love that you can follow along for years and really get to know the blogger, and the blogger can really get to know her readers.

3. The blogging community is fabulous and I’m always meeting wonderful like-minded people.

4. I can show potential design clients another side of me without saying too much.

5. My blog allows me to design things I want and work on my own aesthetic without a demanding client that dictates the creative.

6. I’ve always loved writing, and my blog gives me an outlet to work on it.

7. There are so many opportunities to collaborate with other bloggers and help one another inside the community.

8. Growing up I wanted to be a graphic designer because of magazines. It’s still my dream to work for a magazine one day (or start my own), and I think curating a blog is the next best thing (if not better).

9.  Like anything hobby you put your heart into, blogging gives me a goal to constantly work towards and get better at.

10. Perhaps the most important reason I love blogging, is because of my amazing readers. I can’t thank you guys enough for sticking with me. It’s so rewarding to have positive response to what I’m putting out there. Blogging can be a very solitary endeavor at times, but then I read your responses and it completes the circle. Thank You.

If you’re just getting started blogging, or even just thinking about starting, I can’t recommend Holly’s class enough. And if you’re already into this whole blogging thing, keep with it! Your hard work and time will eventually pay off. As one of my art professors always used to say, the journey is the destination.

Dec 31, 2011

December 31: Core Story
What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world?

This is a slightly intimidating question. I don’t know if I have a story at the core of my being. I don’t think about it that way.

I’ve become more political this year. Part of it is living on the Westside and my addiction to public radio, but the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement have really touched me. I have been inspired me to think deeper about our country’s future and honestly, I am pessimistic. I feel helpless. I am a very tolerant and open person. I will accept you no matter your color, gender, religion, or political views. What I can’t tolerate is others intolerance and it is the lack of empathy and openness I see growing in our country that has me a loss. Instead of moving forward, I feel we as a nation are going backwards. I’ve always believed that America is the best country in the world, but now I’m not so sure. It seems like the Scandinavians are doing it right these days. I can’t help but think of the fall of the Roman Empire, and the fall of the English Empire and that we are next.

This isn’t a straight answer to the prompt, but I do believe that tolerance is at the core of who I am this year. I hope I share it in my everyday interactions with those around me. In my dinner conversation with my family and friends. In standing up for what I believe in and supporting organizations who are doing positive things around the world. I hope that my blog and my writing reflect my openness. Most of all, I hope that my discussions with those who hold opposing views are respectful, challenging and friendly. The freedom to think and speak is one of the greatest things about our country.

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