Giving is the BEST.

I remember one Christmas years ago when I made a photo quilt for my parents.  It took me hours upon hours with babies crawling over me to make that thing and my heart was beating so hard when I finally had the opportunity to hand over that wrapped up treasure.  They adored that quilt.  It holds pictures of so many family memories and I worked so hard to carefully pick out beautiful colors that would match their house and sew them all together.  Oh I put a lot of work into that thing!  They knew it was more than the pictures…it was a bundle of deep love and adoration from their daughter.  It still hangs on the wall at their house to this very day.

Yes, they loved it.  But I still think the giver had more joy than the receiver that day.  That’s when giving gets pretty fun.

This Christmas I had a similar opportunity in giving.  Because I put lots of blood and sweat and tears into making some photo books.  They weren’t something that was asked for.  They were something made directly from my heart.  And that’s what makes the giving all the better.

First and foremost I made two volumes of mission books for Max.  One for the first year of his mission and another for the second.

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Here’s what the front of the books looks like:
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And here’s the back:
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Some of the inside pages…
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…filled with all the pictures and emailed letters he sent us.

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It took hours upon hours to put together those two volumes. 
If there is anyone out there with a kid on a mission, START THIS NOW!!
Compile as you go, and you will be so happy!
Or maybe you won’t really know how happy to be because it was so simple and you won’t really appreciate the fact that you have that gem to record such amazing things.
And maybe you’ll be missing out on that second opportunity to re-live your son or daughter’s time out there serving a mission, going through all the letters and pictures and experiences that changed that son/daughter’s life in so many ways.  
But if you’re really on the ball and do this a week (or even a month) at a time, I’m pretty sure you will still think it is pretty much the coolest thing ever.
And that way you won’t turn into a stress ball trying to do this thing right before Christmas in the midst of trying to get that same son married.
Ok, how was that for some digression??
I think I might have been the happiest lady on the whole planet when I was done and hit “order” on that website.

So what did I do?

I started another one.  Because Lucy needs a baby book you see. And also because I’m a sucker for punishment.

But really, every year when birthdays come around we pull out the baby books that I painstakingly cut and pasted together with the “cutest” papers and quotes back in those scrapbooking days.  And every year on her birthday Lucy laments that she doesn’t have one of those things.  I gave up on those by the time I got to her.  Oh I have pictures all right.  Never-ending pictures of that sweet last baby of mine.  I just have never put them together.  And I figured that right there jam-packed in between stuff in December that I should probably get going on that thing.  Sometimes I work best with a deadline.

So the special book Lucy and I have both wished we could pull out and look through became a reality:
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Check out that little beauty.
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Although I didn’t do a scrapbook for Lucy, I did write in my journal about how much I adored this child.  So I cut and pasted in excerpts from that online journal.
2019 01 19 winter 2130642019 01 19 winter 213068Took pictures of documents and keepsakes like her hospital bracelet and blessing certificate:
2019 01 19 winter 213069…and birth announcement:
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And once again, I was a pretty happy mama when that thing was ordered.  

Then it was on to wedding plans and Christmas prep, but when those things came in the mail I was pretty much dying of excitement to give them away.

Max and Abby were going to be gone on Christmas, and things were so busy before the wedding, but as luck would have it they dropped by before they left for California, and I had an opportunity to give them this early Christmas gift (it was for Abby too, of course, because hey, she wants to know about those two years her husband spent in Taiwan too!)2018 12 22 Max s wedding 210979

I was so excited to finally give away those things my heart had been yearning to give.2018 12 22 Max s wedding 210985

And I it was so fun to have their excitement match mine.

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Lucy got hers on Christmas and she loved it too.
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She has been carrying that thing around in her backpack and has read every word.

You can look up tutorials on the internet on how to make Blurb books that will be much more detailed than this, but I want to give a few little hints to get started if there’s anyone out there who is interested.  (I was so grateful my friend showed me this…thank you Nichole!!)

First you put all the pictures you want to include in a “collection” in Lightroom (see left arrow below):
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Then you select “book” in the upper menu (next to “library” and “develop”…see red arrow below):
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You can look at the book to arrange it either in a large grid to see lots of pages (above), or you can look at just one or two pages like the view below:
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You change the view by clicking on the small little icon of the one you want in the red circle on the lower left in the screenshot above.

You can add more pages by clicking on “add page” in the middle of the right column (also circled above).

There are all kinds of page layouts you can chose from if you click on the little arrow that shows up if you hoover over the bottom corner of one of the pages you’re working on…this is the same screenshot as the first one, but check out the second red arrow on the right side:
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That’s where you click to give you the options for which page spread you want.  It will pull up a blank template with the number of pictures selected, and you can drag in the pictures you want to use from the bottom row of pictures in that collection.

See where it says “text pages” in that menu up there (next to where the right arrow is pointing)?
That’s what you select if you are pasting in a letter from an email (it just gives you a blank page you can paste text into).

There are lots of pages in Max’s books where it is a full page of text.

When you’re done, you click “send to Blurb” and then you do a little celebration and wait for that precious book to arrive in the mail.  There are all kinds of deals and specials that Blurb runs, so I figure as I go forward I’ll get books made and ready to go, and then order when a good deal comes through.

And oh my goodness that right there just sounded so much like a sponsored post.  And I have to say that I wish it was!  I wish Blurb would give me all kinds of free stuff for writing about this whiz-bang program that, if practiced, could make a world of difference in my life.  But alas, they have no idea who I am.  I just want to share a good thing when I find it:)

Ok, so did I confuse more than I helped?  It is midnight so that could very well be the case.  Maybe I’ll come try to clarify tomorrow.  But for now I just wanted to share a little snippet into that world of making printed books because in our day and age, there are SO many digital pictures.  They are filling up our hard drives, our phones and computers.  And what’s going to happen to them?  Will we ever see them again?  Will our kids ever see them?

I think there are some pictures that deserve to be printed.  To have sitting on a coffee table or a night stand.  To be loved and to trigger memories of beautiful things, or of what our children are too young to remember.  Things that make them THEM.  

And if you can put those memories together in a book and give them away to someone who will love them, it will make your heart beat with love and excitement.  And I think that’s good for the soul.


  1. Hi there! I’ve considered using blurb on the past but I get kind of lost in their ordering options. Which paper type do you recommend (there are six!)? Which size and how many pages did you use in your books? Your books are so beautiful! Thanks for the tips!

  2. Photo books are my favorite Christmas gift to give too. We make them each year to send to our parents on the other side of the world. It's not only handy to ship, but a beautiful, heartwarming treasure. My son, who is on a mission in England has asked that we send these to him at Christmastime too, and I've been planning to make a mission book for him to have when he gets home, just like you've done. He's already been out for over a year–yipes! I need to get started!

    1. I love chat books too…I make one for each of my kids each year. They're just a lot smaller and can't hold a lot of text. Perfect for different things. I've never tried Apple Books so I can't compare those ones.

    2. Oh I didn't fully answer this…I chose Blurb mostly because it takes large amounts of text but even more because it's right there hooked into Lightroom where I store all my photos.

  3. We give a photo book to our kids for their birthday of pictures of them that we took thru the year. No matter how old they are, that is their favorite birthday gift every year.

  4. I have two grown daughters. Several years ago I made them each a Shutterfly photo book with pictures from their first Christmas until they went to college. They both cried when they opened them. It was a lot of work but so worth it!

  5. These are amazing! I do a Blurb book every single year for what our family did that year, then give it to my husband for our anniversary in January. I'm the same though, that I get far behind and am scrambling every December and have to spend every spare second working on that dang thing! haha totally worth it though… maybe this is finally the year I'll keep it up as we go every month 😉

  6. This post comes at such a helpful time!!! My son returned from his mission to Singapore/Malaysia last August and I have been trying to figure out the best way to preserve his mission letters and pictures. I already have most of his pictures in Lightroom, so I may give this a go!

  7. I will check blurb. I am looking for a place to print the journal of our daughters cancer journey. I wrote on caring bridge, and though it is relived in my heart and mind many times, I want it in print. I would like to add the pictures I posted on that site as well. Thank you. You might have directed me to the right source.

  8. Those turned out beautiful! Haha and yes to piles and piles of pictures that are not quite compiled. My first child you know has volumes of baby books but my sixth has some words I've gotten down in it 🙂 over the years I have LOVED your file system for each child by year – life saver. I'm a Shutterfly lover because of the easy interface. They have the "lay-flat" page options that are more expensive but SO amazing. Maybe blurb has the option too. Those hours and hours spent compiling are priceless and so worth it!

  9. What is the best/easiest way to get printed out pictures on to digital. My son is 20 and so most of his baby pictures were taken with a film camera and I just have boxes full of pictures. I really don't know much about how to get started. Thanks

  10. Love, love Blurb. I've done two books a year for the last 5 years — one for the current year and one as a catch up year. I have also made an album of all the photos from my growing up years and made a fun collage of school pictures on one page (my sisters loved seeing their school photo collage, it's fun to see each year side by side!). I am currently working on a book as a history of my grandparents and am collecting photos and memories from all my family members. There is nothing so rewarding as holding a finished book!!! I have my stack on my coffee table and they are gone through often and neighbor kids and cousins love to see when they are included in a memory in the book too 🙂 I love the idea of a missionary one, that would be such a meaningful gift for my husband … not sure I could pull it off since all his letters were handwritten …. I'll have to think on how to do that!

  11. This is a lovely thing to do.

    Can you buy page protectors for the pages? The thing that would bother me is other people touching the pages & knowing that the pages could be damaged.

    1. Julie, when you order a book from Blurb you can also pay $5 more dollars to get the pdf version of the book so you'll always have a digital copy to view and that you can easily upload again to purchase a new printing of the book 🙂

    2. I was worried about this as well, especially if you have little kids. The pages aren't overly thick. But my friend has some that have held up great with her little kids and Jessee is right, it's so great to have that PDF backup if something happens to go wrong. At this point I WANT those pages to get worn if it means they're being looked at and remembered, and that memories are being shared.

  12. What an amazing gift, and thank you for the tutorial! I'm excited for that.

    This is a little off the subject, but my husband just showed me this morning a new app called "memories book" that links into your family search account and instantly produces a pdf book you can self print of all your ancestors who have memories attached to their names. My eleven year old just tried it and there was an instant scrapbook with a sweet little index with ancestors names and the page they start on, then the pictures and journals connected to them laid out like a memory book. I think it is so new, and I would love to see more options (like an edit feature and maybe a direct link to have it printed) but how cool to have it printed somewhere and have an Ancestor scrap book arrive in the mail! (especially if I could just let it be good enough and not get too work up about perfection…) I'm not connected with this app…just thinking it would save me so much time and how fun to have something like that in hard copy!

  13. Hi. Your books are beautiful! I write a family blog through blogger and used to print our year. It's been so frustrating for me that blurb doesn't "slurp" blog posts anymore. If I remember correctly, you used to use this option? How do you print your blog now? (I've tried blog2print and I'm not thrilled with that option (not enough editing capabilities), so I'm looking for something else.)

    1. I'm still working on this. My plan is blog2print just to have hard copies, or PDFs as a backup, but eventually I'd really love to have blurb books of every year. I know there are a lot of other great companies out there as well, I just love what I've seen of blurb so far.

    2. Yes, I loved my blurb books of my blog too! Such great quality! I sure wish they would go back to supporting blog printing. Ugh.
      Good luck in your search and thanks for your reply!

  14. This is amazing, thank you! I intend to make a Father's Day book for my husband's first official one in June and wasn't sure how to easily do it. I use Lightroom extensively so this is great to know!

    On that end: Can you do a post about how you organize and back-up your photos? I take soooo very many and felt inadequate in my organizational methods with a husband and a dog. Now with a baby, forget about it. But I really want to ensure the longevity of my documentation. Most people primarily use their cell phone and it's easy to upload to a cloud service for that. But with a real camera and large file formats, I find it a bit more challenging.

    Any tips in that regard? Would LOVE to know your method since you juggle so many beautiful photography subjects!

    Thank you for your endlessly wonderful blog.

    1. Oh that's a tough subject! There are SO many pictures to file and sort and keep. I'm so lucky because my brother helps me with storage and back-up, on an external drive as well as a NAS. I don't even know what that stands for, but it's a huge storage device that can hold all my pictures. Still trying to figure out a better online backup.

      I organize everything in Lightroom…it's really great for that (also set up by my brother…man I'm so so lucky to have him!!) Some time I'll have to do a screenshot of how he taught me to do it. No matter which way you look at it, I think photo storage is a huge job!

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