January 2013

Moments of light

“Every photo has the potential to tell a story – if not to anyone else, at least to you.”

Moments of light, clockwise from the top: Waking up in the mornings at our old house // the two older boys chasing a bird at Fagan Park during sunset // our little Pete (then only sixteen months) yearning for the world outside // the mist at Brooklyn, mixing with the grey light on a rainy day…

You can read all the posts from this mini series here.

The six of us…

A day at the beach, filled with sand and water play. Belly all bare, sun in my eyes, salt in my hair – and finally sinking into holiday mode.

Can you count all six of us in that last photo?

I’ve had a few people ask me about my overall memory-keeping system, so today I’m going to share the first of a number of posts detailing my system – or framework. Having an overall framework is definitely important. It’s the big picture. The overall vision that helps determine how all the individual parts come together.

It took me a long time to work out my system. Actually, it took me a long time to work out I needed a system. But by the time Pete came along and I was drowning under a multitude of memorabilia and photos, it became pretty clear to me I needed some sort of framework – especially if we were going to keep having more children (as this would only mean more photos and more memorabilia, and I knew I would be wanting to do something consistent for each child). I remember mulling over it for ages. I kept a notebook with me for over a month, writing down all my thoughts and ideas. When I eventually worked out what I believed to be a reasonable ‘blueprint,’, I typed it up and saved it in Evernote as a way of ‘sealing the deal’ (and so that I could reference it on the go).

That was some two years ago. Since then, the framework has stayed more or less the same but I’ve made some tweaks as I’ve discovered new products/services. Obviously, the biggest change came when I discovered Project Life through Elise’s blog. Even then, I didn’t jump on board straight away as I was rather committed to my framework and didn’t want to chop and change unless I was absolutely convinced it would work for our family. Consistency, to me, is important when it comes to memory-keeping for two reasons: a) it’s easier to keep up with b) things look nicer on the shelf when they come in ‘sets’ (but that latter one could be just strange ole me). Anyway, after watching Elise’s Project Life spreads unfold for the first ten weeks of 2012, I decided that yes, it would be the right thing to do to ‘switch,’ so to speak. I simply had to work out when and how.

Because I know that not all of you are doing Project Life, I thought it would be useful if I outlined my system before I started PL, explain a little as to how/when I made the switch, and then describe my current framework which includes Project Life.

Note that this system includes everything – photos, photo albums, memorabilia, cards/letters, photo books, scrapbooks, etc. – from when I was a baby till now.

Also, it will come across loud and clear from this post that I am a chronological memory keeper. By this, I don’t mean that I have to work on projects in exact chronological order, but it does mean that overall, all my memory keeping is organised chronologically and that chronology determines how I work out what projects I want or need to tackle. I know this approach doesn’t work for everyone, but it has always made sense for me (and subsequently our family) as it takes a lot of the guesswork out and sets some clear parameters on what needs to be done.

Anyway, enough of an introduction. Let’s go:

My childhood years

My childhood photos (0-primary school) are all in one very old album which I’m planning to re-do sometime this year. And by that I mean simply move the photos to a nice, modern dry mount album and do some simple captioning. This should be quite a small job, because I actually don’t have that many childhood photos, believe it or not. I imagine this wouldn’t take me longer than a day to do.

My high school years

Photos from my six years at high school are all housed chronologically in two of these ivory Coral Coast Buckram albums. They each hold 300 4×6 photos, and I’m very happy with them. The corresponding film for those photos are all stored in a single box. And nope, I have no intention of going through that film and having it scanned digitally.

My university years

My university photos are all in two shoeboxes, organised chronologically. I used to have these university photos displayed in a beautiful set of photo albums, but when Rick and I got engaged, I decided I didn’t need to keep a photographic record of my previous relationships, so I went through the albums and took all those photos out. Then I decided the empty pockets weren’t to my liking so I made the executive decision of pulling out five years worth of photos from the albums and simply storing them in two photo boxes.

Just last week, while I was waiting for Aperture to generate thumbnails for 60,000 odd photos after I upgraded my old hard drive to a new solid state drive, I finally made some proper dividers for these two photos boxes simply by using the original dividers that came with the box as a template (they were a garish design and there were only five) and tracing them out onto plain white cardboard. Then I went through all the photos and labelled a different divider for each different event. I didn’t bother with recording the exact date but I did label separate dividers for each year. The final result is what you can see in the very first image above. I’m very happy with this and currently don’t have any plans to re-organise the photos into albums.

My graduations and 21st birthday

For my 21st celebration, I made a special album myself by choosing about 40 sheets of textured black acid-free A4 cardboard, adding a piece of A4 tracing paper between each sheet, adding a special ‘corrugated’ cardboard that was extra thick on top as the cover, and then simply having all this spiral bound at Kinkos kiosk. I liked this album very much because it meant I could customise the number of pages based on the exact number of photos I wanted to include, and I could also cut out my own custom window in the cardboard cover to display my favourite photo from the album. This album is stored in a Kikki K A3 storage box together with my 21st guestbook and the cards that I received from my family and friends, nicely tied up with string (shown on the left hand side above).

I liked my 21st album so much that I made similar albums for my graduations. I have one for each of my three tertiary graduations – each one with a different coloured cover. They are currently stored in the same Kikki K A3 storage box as the 21st album, along with the video tape that my dad made for my first graduation (shown on the right hand side above).

My post-university (pre-Rick) years

The photos from my post-university years are all organised five beautiful dry mount albums like the one above (I told you – I like things that come in sets). The brand was Greenergy and I don’t think they make them anymore, but I’m so glad I found them almost a decade ago now, because the inside pages are all Kraft like the cover and they’re just gorgeous. Again, the photos are organised chronologically with very simple event captions. The dry mount albums were a great choice because it allowed me to store panoramic photos as well as the bigger photo size that my APX film produced.

Looking back, it’s interesting how all my photos from my teens and twenties were event-orientated. Without the convenience of iPhones, the awesomeness of photo apps like Instagram and VSCOCam or the need to record the growth and development of a baby, it never ever crossed my mind back then to take every day photos. Boy has that changed!

As for all the memorabilia…

Up until I got married, I kept every single card, letter and note that I’d received from family and friends since I was little. We’re talking Christmas cards from primary school friends and sweet little letters from overseas pen pals (remember them?). Since getting married, I started culling them but it was only last year before we had to move again that I really made the drastic cut. I remembered what a friend had told me before she moved overseas: instead of keeping every single thing from every single person, she decided to choose only one or two items from each person who was important to her and based on that, she managed to reduce all her keepsakes and memorabilia to one box.

I kept this in mind the entire time I was wading through the boxes of letters, notes and cards, and the end result was that I miraculously made it to one box as well. I even threw out school yearbooks (something I thought I would never do) and only kept one or two that were extra special. It was truly emotionally exhausting to go through that process, and it is definitely hard to let go of so much sentimental material, but I’m happy that I did it. Not only do I not actually miss what I threw out, but I’m much more inclined now to go through this one box because I know that each item is valuable and worth keeping.

* * *

In my next post, I’ll write about what I did for the period after Rick and I got together, our engagement, our wedding and our early years of marriage before kids. I’ll then write about my memory keeping system since we started having children – both before and after I discovered Project Life. I might also share how I’ve approached memory keeping for our precious Cameron.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or to email me directly.

These days…

…the light in the evenings has been stunning. I have been leaving our bed unmade. I am excited by the thought of collaborating with a new friend, whom I have the utmost admiration and respect for. My body continues to ache, but yoga and stretching are helping to keep it under control. We have been enduring the heat and revelling in the cool changes at night. My holiday pedicure makes me happy whenever I glance down at my feet. Edward is constantly moving and thumping, often late at nights when I’m trying to fall asleep. The boys are increasingly excited about feeling the baby, and will often rush over as soon as they hear me say that he’s moving. We are looking forward to a few days by the ocean – a welcome respite from our daily routines and rituals back at home…

Maternity series, 28 weeks

The third trimester has officially started and the shortness of breath is back. I feel like I have to sit down every ten steps or so. It’s quite comical really. I’m also starting to have minor freak-outs about giving birth again. It seems that no matter how many times you’ve done it before, it still doesn’t sit well with one’s sub-conscious that one has to get something so big out of something so small. Yes, I tend to refer to myself as the hypothetical third person when I get stressed. That’s just the way one goes.

Do I look big to you? I look big to me. I can’t believe I still have another dozen weeks to go. One forgets how big one ends up getting. (There I go again.) The pregnant belly is truly such a beautiful thing; I’m thankful every day that I’m able to grow a baby inside of me. I pulled these maternity shorts out again recently in an attempt to beat the hot weather. They are not the most glamorous looking things around, but they suffice to get me through the summer. And nothing beats a trusty tank top that’s long enough to cover everything – even if it makes me look like a walking, talking optical illusion.

Despite the number of times I asked Rick to take and re-take this photo, I could not make myself look any less tired. Those sleepless nights have surely kicked in. And look at all that frizzy hair! If there was ever a picture of the gorgeous, glowing pregnant mum, it probably wouldn’t be me right now. No matter, it’s all part of the journey and totally worth documenting.

Love you Edward bear, can’t wait to meet you!

(Top by Soon Maternity; maternity shorts by A Pea in a Pod; sandals by Tony Bianco.)

More from the maternity series here.


“A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013.”

Jamie, Pete and Angus: Giving Grandpa a great, big cuddle.

The photo says it all. The boys love their Grandpa – perhaps the gentlest and most patient person I know. I grew up in a different country to my grandparents, and so I count it a blessing that our boys have all four of their grandparents around…

You can see all the other posts here.

(Linking up with Jodi for The 52 Project.)

This evening while Rick was putting the boys in the bath, the light in our meals room was rather beautiful, so I picked up the camera, snapped some photos and decided I would share another room tour here on the blog – something I haven’t done in a while.

This is where we eat. Every day. Three times a day. Or more if you count morning teas and afternoon teas. It is definitely the heart of our home. Not only is it the physical centre of our home, it’s where we spend most of our time as a family. If we’re fortunate enough to still be here in ten years’ time, I can see this being the place where we all gather every night to share our day with each other. What a wonderful blessing that would be!

It’s a lovely room that gets a vast amount of sun throughout the day. In the summertime, we have to keep the blinds closed in the mornings otherwise our Jamie will tell us very clearly: “Sun in my eyes.” (He makes me smile so much, that little guy.) He and Pete sit in two high chairs on the window side, while Angus sits on a booster seat on the other side of the table. I have another booster seat on order (I love these Mutsy ones) and when it does, Pete shall be ‘promoted’ to the other side, thus making room for our Edward down the track. The high chairs that we’ve sworn by since Angus was old enough to sit in one are the IKEA Antilops. They are cheap, safe, easy to clean, white (very important) and even stackable! We also love our fruit, and this bowl of fruit adds a bright splash of colour to the room. As much as I love the idea of flowers to decorate a room, it’s simply not cost effective for us to do so, and this way, we don’t need to find another place for our fruit…

We bought these replica Eames chairs when we moved into our last home, and they go so beautifully here as well. Naturally, I love that they’re white but it’s their design that won me over in the first place. Three years on, and I’m still a big fan of those legs! The table was a cheap find on eBay. We originally had plans of painting the legs a solid white, but I’ve gotten quite used to their distressed look now and don’t think it would be worth the trouble anymore. We also had a white IKEA Erslev rug under the table for most of last year, but about one or two months ago, I asked Rick to get rid of it because it was pretty far from being white and I realised how impractical it was to have to worry about the boys spilling food and drink at the meals table. This way, they can make as much mess as they want and so can our guests!

I call this chair the red lip chair because, well, it reminds me of lips. Red lips. it was another bargain find on eBay. I initially wanted to put this in our lounge room, but on the first day we moved in, Rick put this chair here so that I had somewhere to sit while I directed the removalists and here it’s stayed since. Who knew my husband would have such an eye for interiors? The deer cushion was from Etsy.

Right next to the meals room is the kitchen and it also opens into our family room. Together, we spend almost all our day in these three rooms alone. It’s pretty cool that the ‘french’ market bag which Rick bought me ties in with the ‘french’ scroll artwork (as well as the legs of the table!). Completely accidental, I must admit, but it’s a nice touch all the same. I honestly love this space and feel so blessed that we get to live here.

Originally, I was going to design something myself for this space, but then I saw this online and decided to just buy it instead! (I’m all for outsourcing if it makes life a tad easier, especially when you’re trying to set up a new home with three kids under three.) I liked that it was actually a scroll rather than a canvas, and that it had a slightly distressed look that wasn’t overly fake. To stop the metal parts from scratching the wall, WE simply added some Blu Tack on the back to provide a small buffer.

And there you have it. The heart of our home. It’s simple. Neutral. Uncluttered.

Perfect for us.

You can see my other room tours here.

Those of you who follow me on Instagram and Facebook will know that I’ve finished our 2011 Project Life album! I could not be more relieved and satisfied. It was indeed a huge (mammoth, really) effort, but it was totally worth it. I now have the entire year documented and presented in two binder’s worth of photos, ready for family and friends to flip through and enjoy. It was such a joy to go through all those photos and re-live some of the tender moments and the highlights from that year. For those of you who have been wondering and asking – yes, it is absolutely possible to use the Project Life system to catch up on past years. And yes, I will share my process here soon, in case you’re looking for some inspiration and guidance. But for now, here are the layouts for Weeks 48 to 50 of 2012. Remember you can click on each photo for a larger image…

Week 48 was when we discovered a new Thai restaurant to go to for our Thursday night family dinners. The gold leaf wall decor was pretty impressive, as was the food. I’m so glad I reached for my phone camera during the dinner, because that was the evening that Jamie decided to bust our some groovy dance moves when he heard the music come on. Seriously, at one point, he was holding his cup in the air above his head and bopping in time to the beat. I laughed so hard my pad see ew almost got stuck in my throat. Even though I didn’t actually capture that moment itself (mainly because I didn’t want to risk missing a second of seeing my little guy dance like he was made for dancing), these other photos serve as a lovely reminder of the occasion. That’s the beauty of photography and documenting life - sometimes you just need to capture a certain aspect of a particular time and it can trigger all the other associated memories. I simply love that about memory keeping.

On the right hand page are some lovely photos from our picnic dinner down at the beach that week, along with an amazing sunset that we saw later that evening as we drove through the national park nearby. I really love that photo of the boys in the top right – it captures a lot of what they’re like when they see other people: they will always hang back and watch, observing with the utmost curiosity and no partiality. There’s an innocence there that I treasure and cherish.

More sweet photos of the boys for Week 49: Jamie becoming the drummer that he was born to be; Angus’ rock star hair, and the three of them having a bit of a laugh in the bath. Fun times.

There is actually a proper photo of me on this page! (Pat self on back.) Rick captured it on our SLR during dinner one evening. There’s nothing particularly special about it – it simply captures me during mealtime, having a cup of tea as I watch the boys’ numerous antics. I like it because it’s exactly that: just a normal shot of me being me. I also love the photos I snapped when I was lying in bed one afternoon having a nap. It’s simple moments like that that make the every day special and worth celebrating.

Lots of photos of the gardenia magnifica from a funeral at our church that week. It’s amazing how such beauty can be so poignant. Looking at these photos now reminds me of the sadness of that week, when I learnt that my friend’s father had died. Yes, life is transient but memories endure forever.

That strip of photos in the middle makes me smile big time. it’s such a reflection of what the boys are like during bedtime. As you can see, they’re each holding blocks in their hands because that’s all we have in the bedroom upstairs – with Jamie ducking out of the photos at one point, most likely to swap his for a different colour. It’s all about those blocks at bedtime here at Casa Mason.

* * *

Next week, I’ll do my best to post about Weeks 51 and 52, as well as my end page for 2012. Exciting, no?

You can read my other Project Life posts here.

Materials used: Becky Higgins Design A page protector; Kodak 210gsm glossy premium photo paper. All photos printed on the Canon MP630 Pixma.

Moments in a cafe

“Every photo has the potential to tell a story – if not to anyone else, at least to you.”

It was our family holiday back in 2011. We were staying in Gerringong on the South Coast. That afternoon, Angus had gotten quite upset after his nap and nothing would calm him down. On impulse, I decided to take him out for a cafe date. Just him and me. We strolled up to the cafe by the sea and sat outside on the terrace. I sipped my quarter-strength latte, whilst he enjoyed his vanilla milkshake. It was chilly that afternoon, and I remember being glad that I’d put a jumper on my boy. We chatted, we laughed and we hugged. We even watched the sunset together…

You can read all the posts from this mini series here.

Currently working on…

Yes, I am (sadly) a little crazy like that.

I’ve had it on my radar all year to create our 2011 Project Life album. And now that we are officially on holidays, and I have a little more spare time on my hands, I am going all out to get this wrapped up and checked off my list! I will tell you now that this is no small feat. I took over 18,000 photos in 2011. To condense all that in one go into a meaningful album has been challenging and exhausting, but also extremely satisfying. More than ever, I am in awe of how flexible Becky’s Project Life system is. I am almost there. I am almost there!

A big welcome to you if you are new or visiting from Becky’s blog or Liz’s blog. It is truly lovely to have you stop by. You can read all my Project Life posts here, and all my memory-keeping posts here. And hopefully, in the next day or so, I shall have a new post up. In the meantime, I had better get back to it. Those last two hundred aren’t going to print themselves anytime soon…

What are you currently working on?