Friday, June 29, 2012

Ellie in the grass

Okay, so technically she's on a blanket in the grass. But, you know, title continuity and all that.

These are from last week. :)

Well, she's in the grass in this one. :)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ellie in the laundry basket

These are from a month and a half ago. They're a little bit blurry and a little bit dark, but they're still so cute. Ellie!



Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ellie in her car seat

These are from about a month ago. :) Also, did I tell you that Ellie can crawl? Ellie can crawl. It's the army crawl they all seem to do before real crawling. She's crawling all over the place now, like a little commando. It's great, because it keeps her more entertained. Anyway, just thought you should know!

Friday, June 22, 2012

How to make a Lulu Blog Book

Okay, first of all: this is easier than it looks. Don't get intimidated by this process because the instructions look long. It's actually really easy. Just try it.

(Note: Here's my second Lulu Blog Book!)

My Lulu blog book arrived this last weekend, and I love it. I seriously do. I totally want to do my future blog books like this. Here's what it came wrapped like:


Here's the cover (I got the hardcover "Casewrap") and what some of the posts look like in the book:



Here's a shot of the binding (which seems sturdy):



The only construction fault I can find is that in the between the cover and the first end page, a thin line of orange glue is visible:


It's not too noticeable; I didn't see it until I was taking pictures.

The picture quality is good (not amazing); it's what I was expecting for black and white on this type of paper. (The paper is what you'd find in a good quality hardback. It's not shiny paper, like Shutterfly; it's matte. But still good quality.)


The photos have a bit of graininess to them; again, it's not Shutterfly. But, it's what I was expecting and they do their job of preserving memories just fine.

Here's the back:


And that's the book! I'm a fan.

Okay, since it does take some work to put it together (it's not just a one-click process),  I'm going to go through the step-by-step process you would need to do to make a blog book with Lulu. To make a book with Lulu, you need to make a pdf file of your blog and upload it to their site.


Here's how you can make a Lulu blog book (faster and better than I did):

Before you start: Start with a computer that has both internet and Microsoft Word. This will make everything so much easier.

Step 1: Get Lulu's template.
           Go to Lulu's website (www.lulu.com), click on "publish" at the top, click "start publishing your book," sign up for a free membership, and then choose the size book you want. I did a hardcover "Casewrap" 8.25x10.75, as it was closest to what Blog2Print and Blurb both offer and seemed to be the best format for a blog. Once you've chosen the size, download the template they have for that size. Open the doc file on your computer. (For example, the file I opened was "8.25_template.doc")

Step 2: Get your posts.
           From your live blog, copy and paste each post (including date, title, and comments) to that Word document. Do this chronologically (start with the oldest post first), so that when you read the book you're reading from oldest to newest.

Step 3: Make your pictures smaller.
           If you want smaller pictures (for easier formatting and to save pages), you have two options:
  1. You can select the picture and shrink it right in Word, or 
  2. Go to the Post Editor in Blogger. Click on each post, resize the pictures, and copy and paste the post body into your document.
The first way is way easier. One important note, however: When I resized pictures from small to medium in Word, they turned out more pixelated in the blog book (even though they looked okay in Word). If you want to resize a picture from small to bigger, do it in Blogger. Big to small = Word's fine.



Step 4:  Change your fonts.
           The easiest way to do this would probably be with Word's "Styles" feature. Word probably has an explanation of how to use it in its "help section," or you could just follow these directions:
           Find where it says "Styles"on the right side of the "Home Bar." It has a few default styles, but you can create your own custom style by changing a section of text to the font, size, and color that you want it (for example, I changed the first title to the font Georgia, size 24), highlighting that section, clicking on the bottom of the three arrows on the left of "Change Styles," and clicking on "Save selection as a new quick style." You give it a name, such as "Titles." Then just go to each blog post, highlight the title, click on the style "Titles," and voila! It will change it to your custom font, size, and color.

For my titles, I used Georgia size 12. For the date stamp I changed it to MS Reference Sans Serif size 12, white, and highlighted the background gray. (I had to do the highlighting manually. You can't do it in "Styles.") I also did the same thing with the "Comments" title at the bottom of the post, except I changed it to Georgia size 16. My basic font was Trebuchet size 12. (Note: the Trebuchet size 12 looks a little big in the printed book, so for my second book I changed it to Trebuchet size 11. Now it looks great!)


           So, first highlight ALL your text and change it to your basic font. Then, make a "style" for your date stamp, title, and comments title. Go through each post and change what you want using your "style."
           If that didn't make sense, search Word's help section for "styles." It really will save you time. :)

Step 5: Format your comments. 
           Copying and pasting may have messed their format up a bit. What I did was remove all the hyperlinks (you can do this by right clicking on a blue underlined word and selecting "Remove Hyperlink"), changed the font color back to black, removed the underlining, removed the pictures, bolded the names of the commenters, and spaced and dashed their name apart from the date/time they posted the comment.



(Note: If you're somewhat tech savy, you can run a macro in Word and remove all hyperlinks at once. Just google how to do it. I did this for my second Lulu blog book, and it saved me a lot of time!)

Step 6: Format your posts.
           Space and format your posts how you want them; this is where you can space them so each new post starts on its own page.  In my own book I spaced the posts so that most of them started on their own page. Some fit together well, so I left them on the same page. I also paid attention to the page numbers at the bottom of each page, and tried to keep two-page posts facing each other on a left and right page spread. 

Most posts started on their own page, but these two fit well together so I left the second one underneath the first one's comments.


Step 7: See if you have extra space.
           Go through and see if you have any extra space on any pages you'd like to take advantage of by making some pictures bigger.  After changing all the fonts and spacing all the posts,  I went through and wrote down if I had extra space on any page. On several posts I went back to blogger and got a "medium" or "large" sized picture to replace a "small" one.  

This post was going to take up two pages no matter what, but I had lots of extra room on the second page. So, I went back and made two of the pictures large because I could.

Step 8: Create your title page.
           Create your title page on the very first page of the book. Leave page #2 empty if you'd like your table of contents to start on the right side.

Step 9: Create a table of contents.
           Time to create a table of contents!  I put my table of contents on page #3, after the title page and a blank page. "Contents"  was the title at the top in Georgia size 24, and below that I created a two-column table with as many rows as I had posts. I used Trebuchet size 12 for the post titles in the table of contents. My table of contents was three pages long, so I left the page after it (#6, a left page) blank so that my first post would start on a right page.

Step 10: Do a final check.
           Do you have all your posts? Does each one have a date, title, and any comments that were written? Do you have all your pictures and are they the size you want them? If you want them to, does each post start on its own page? Is everything spaced how you want it? Do you have a title page? Do you have a table of contents? Are the page numbers in the table of contents accurate? Go through and make sure everything is the way you want it. (And make sure you're using the template from Lulu!)

Step 11: Save your Word document as a PDF file.
           It's very important to save your file correctly, since doing so will "embed" your fonts and pictures in the PDF and make sure they print correctly. Lulu has instructions here on how to save your file as the right kind of PDF, found here.

Step 12: Upload your PDF file to Lulu.
            Go back to your account on Lulu and go through the publishing steps again, which will lead you to upload your PDF file. Go through the steps to create the interior. It will give you a preview PDF; look through the whole thing and make sure everything's good.

Step 13: Use Lulu's Cover Wizard to create your cover.
           You can either use the templates they supply you, or you can create and upload your own jpg to use for the cover. Since I wanted a bit more customization, I created a jpg for the front and one for the back, uploaded them, and stuck them on. I then customized the spine. I made it white, with the title of my blog,  "Volume 1," and the dates it covers.

Step 14: Preview and order! You're done!

If I've missed anything or you have any questions, feel free to ask.

I want to remind you what I said at the beginning of this post: Creating a Lulu book is easier than it looks. Don't get intimidated by this process because the instructions look long. It's actually really easy. Just try it.

Like I said, I'm very pleased with the quality and the price. I'm pretty darn sure I'll be using Lulu to make my future blog books, which I plan on doing annually.

Woot!

Be sure to check out these posts, too!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why I decided to print my blog with Lulu

Well, I did it! I printed my blog! I know most of you saw my other post about Blog2Print and Blurb, so which one did I go with? I went with……Lulu!


That's right! An entirely different company than the ones we were discussing last time! Why? Well, for a lot of reasons. I'll explain below. I heard about Lulu from my friend Lizzy, who had used it to make a blog book for her sister. She had a great experience with Lulu, and a several hundred page book only cost her around $40. Well, that got my attention. So, I looked into them, and I really liked what I found. So, I printed a Lulu blog book! Here's why:


Blog2Print vs. Blurb vs. Lulu

What I was working with: The first year of my blog, from May 2010 - December 2010. Sixty-five posts.

What I wanted:
  • My biggest priority was that the format of my blog be preserved. I wanted the text, photos, and photo captions in exactly the same places they appeared in my blog posts. Shockingly, neither Blog2Print nor Blurb could deliver on this (seemingly obvious!) desire.
  • Good quality hard cover
  • Good quality paper
  • Cover customization options (to be able to be able to use my own background, be able to change the font, size, and location of the title, etc.)
  • The option of starting each post on its own page
  • The comments to be included 
  • The posts to be transferred, by the site, without manual work on my part

What I didn't care about:
  • Color. I'm still planning on making photobooks for these same time periods, and since I'll have high quality color pictures in the photobooks, I don't care if these pictures are black and white. I just want to preserve my blog.
  • Picture Size. This goes right along with what I just said. Since I'm planning on having these pictures in a high-quality form elsewhere, the picture quality in the blog book can be lower as long as it's still reasonably good.

What I did:
I went on to each site and previewed what my blog book would look like. With Blog2Print, you give them your blog address and they make a preview to look at in just a couple minutes. With Blurb, you first need to download their BookSmart software. Once you've installed that on your computer, you enter your blog name and password, and they create the book in BookSmart. With Lulu, you personally make a PDF of your blog posts and upload it to their site.


Blog2Print

Things I liked about Blog2Print:
  • The ease of use. With just a few clicks, it transferred my whole blog into a book.
  • Options to include or delete posts and comments. First, it gives you the option of including all of the comments or none of them. I chose all. It then transfers the entire blog, and then you can go through (if you want) and choose to exclude certain posts or comments. I liked that you could keep only what you wanted to.
  • The book had a nice table of contents

Why I chose not to make a Blog2Print blog book:
  • My biggest problem was that even if I chose the option to "preserve the format of my blog," it didn't. Photos that had been vertically lined up were side by side, which wouldn't have been too big of a problem except that it put the photo captions in strange locations so that you couldn't tell which picture they were referring to. Big problem, and pretty much the biggest consideration that turned me off of their site. I want the photo captions to be where they were on my blog - beneath the photo they're referring to. Not on the side, not next to some other photo - where they were next to the original photo. Half my blog is photo captions. It's a big problem if you mess them up.


It also messed up the space between the captions and the text beneath - as you can see here, the caption is not only on the left (it was originally centered beneath the picture), it is also directly before the next line of text (there was originally an empty line of space). Very confusing. The caption now looks as if it's another entry in the list of birds.

  • Awkward page splits. It just gave an awkward feel to the posts when the photos and their captions were separated, which happened quite often.




  • Some of the paragraph formatting of the posts was messed up. It looked fine on the blog and on blogger, but had messed up spacing in the Blog2Print book. 
  • No font choices inside the book for post titles, dates, or text. It was all the standard font.
  • On the spine of the book, the title is flipped. By that I mean that you'd have to tilt your head to the left to read it - the opposite of all other English books. Strange? Yes.
  • Lack of cover customization options. Astoundingly, you have only the freedom to choose the text and picture that go on the cover. You can't change font, font size, or location of the title or picture. You only have 35 background options to choose from, only a few of them are cute. Most of them look like they're from powerpoint from a decade ago. Very outdated and not very stylish, and you can't add one of your own. Not cool. Not cool at all.

Blog2Print Price:

For the time period that I entered, a hardcover full color book would be 136 pages and $65.55. A softcover full color book would be $55.55. A softcover black and white book would be $22.55. Hardcover black and white is not an option. Shipping is free. I would have wanted the hardcover, so my price would have been $65.55.


Blurb

Things I liked about Blurb:
  • It transferred the blog posts without any manual work.
  • Cover customization. You could do it any way you wanted.
  • Each post started on its own page.

Why I chose not to make a Blurb blog book:
  • The main reason was (again) that it didn't preserve the format of my blog. Blurb was an even worse offender than Blog2Print. It transfers your blog over, but it REMOVES THE PICTURES from each and every post and puts them along the side of the page as thumbnails. NOOOOO!!! (shout of fury!!!!!)!#!#! Terrible, terrible, terrible! And do you know what you have to do to put them back in? Resize each and every single one, toggle between two separate screens in Blurb's "BookSmart," mess with the flowing text, put the picture in, hope you can still move it since it automatically goes behind the text and you can't grab it anymore, and basically I want to stop talking about it because it was such a painful process. I mean, terrible. If I had tried to put the pictures back into each of my posts, it would have taken me about a year and I probably would have killed someone.


As you can see, not only were the pictures turned into thumbnails, but they were also (quite commonly) with the wrong post.

  • No option to include comments. I like all of your comments, and I want them preserved with the blog. It's a serious flaw that this wasn't an option with Blurb.
  • No table of contents
  • Having to learn how to use BookSmart (their program). If I had fully made my book with Blurb, I'm sure I would have figured out the program eventually, but there was definitely a learning curve involved in learning how to use their software.

Blurb Price:

With the photos as thumbnails, the book (which was hardcover and full color) would have been 70 pages and would have cost $45.  There is no option of black and white. If I had put the photos back where they should have been, it probably would have been about 140 pages and cost $56. Shipping would have been $8. So, the total would have been about $64 (almost exactly the same as Blog2Print).


Lulu

Things I liked about Lulu:
  • I could preserve the exact format of my blog! It took a bit of manual work on my part, as I'll explain in a post tomorrow, but my blog was EXACTLY how I wanted it. The date stamp, the title, and the body of each post was exactly as it was on my blog. The photo captions were right where they should be. I was able to prevent awkward page splits.
  • Each post could start on its own page.
  • The cover was entirely customizable. I could do any font, font size, pictures, or backgrounds I wanted.
  • I could make a table of contents.
  • I could include the comments.
  • Price! Lulu was a great deal!
  • Choice between a full-color book and a black and white one. I chose black and white, as I still intend to make photo books for the time period that the blog covers, and choosing black and white greatly reduced the price.

Things I would have changed about Lulu:
  • Lulu can't transfer all of your blog posts for you. You have to do it by hand (by copying and pasting) from your blog to a file on your computer (like a word doc) and then upload it to their site. So, it takes a bit of manual work. But still, for all of the benefits? Worth it.

Lulu Price:

With Lulu, the book was 146 pages, and the price (for a hardcover black and white book) was $18.65. I found an online code that got me $3.73 off, and then the shipping was $5, for a total of $19.91. MUCH cheaper than Blog2Print or Blurb! Less than a third of the price!

Tomorrow I'm going to post a review of the Lulu book quality (with lots of pictures of my book) and a step-by-step guide of how to make one yourself. So check back tomorrow!

Be sure to check out these posts too!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ellie at Six Months


Ellie's six months old today! That's half a year old!!!! It's insane. It's hard to believe how big she's getting. She's so old! Just look at her!



She's 14 lbs 8 ounces and 25 inches long.

Here's how she's doing in each of these areas:


 

  • Sitting: She's very, very close to being able to sit on her own. She can sit on her own for short periods of time (a minute or two), but she's still working on balance.


  • Crawling: She isn't doing the traditional "crawl" yet, but she can scoot and wiggle forward to grab things that she wants. She can roll big distances and spin 360 degrees really fast, too. 


  • Standing on her own/walking: Well, she has great leg strength (always has), and can stand up while holding on to our hands (while completely supporting her own weight), but she has very little balance. If we let go, she'd fall down. 


  • Talking: She "talks" a lot. She also likes to "sing" when we're singing. We'll sing to her, and she'll start singing with us. Oh yeah! And she's started making dinosaur noises. She's doing this funny gasping velociraptor noise all day. She's been doing it especially when she's excited. It's so funny. 


  • Teeth: None yet.


  • Eating: We've just started introducing her to solid foods. She likes rice cereal mixed with breast milk (doesn't really like it when it's just mixed with water), likes cantaloupe (we gave her a piece to gnaw on), and likes apple slices (again, we've given her pieces to gnaw on) but makes funny faces when we give her applesauce. 


  • Sleeping: She's finally on a schedule! She goes to sleep at 8 at night, eats a couple of times during the night, wakes up at 7 in the morning, takes a morning nap at about 8:30, and take a nap (sometimes two) later in the afternoon. It's great!


  • Other stuff: She likes ribbons, tags, and buckles. She likes dogs. She likes spatulas. She likes sitting, standing, and flying. She loves playing peekaboo. She likes chasing people (with us carrying her) and catching them.



She also likes to be teased. We just discovered a game with her yesterday where we'll hand her something, barely let her touch it, and then take it away saying "That's not for you!" We do it over and over. She laughs harder each time.


Also, we've been playing a game with her we call "baby fishing." We'll throw the end of long ribbons to her and wait for her to put them in her mouth, and then we've "caught" her. We'll tug on the string to "reel her in." She thinks it's really funny. We think she's really funny.




Oh, we love our baby girl. So much.