Sunday, September 29, 2013

What We Believe - Prophets

So next week is our church's semi-annual General Conference, where everyone gets together (whether in person or through watching on TV or the internet) and we get to listen to all our leaders. And I found this video about it that I wanted to share with you, which works out perfectly because today's the day I wanted to talk to you about prophets!


As we've talked about in previous weeks, God loves each one of us individually and wants us to be happy, and wants us to return to him after this life. To help us do this, God chooses prophets to lead us. A prophet is a faithful, righteous man chosen by God to speak for Him here on earth. Apostles are prophets chosen by God to be special witnesses of Jesus Christ and His divinity.

Prophets:
  • Teach about God and are special witnesses of His Son, Jesus Christ.
  • Receive revelation, or direction from the Lord.
  • Teach the gospel to the world and interpret the word of God.

In order to speak for God, prophets and apostles must have the priesthood, or the authority to speak and act in the name of God to lead His children.

God has called prophets throughout history. In the Bible we read about prophets like Adam, Abraham, Moses, Paul and many others. We believe that God has also called prophets to lead us today. Joseph Smith was the first prophet called in the current dispensation, or generation, of the Church, and there has been a prophet on the earth ever since. The man called to speak for God and lead His church today is named Thomas S. Monson.

Thomas S. Monson
"For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?" 

By asking us to follow the prophets, God is really asking us to stay close to Him, just like when he asks us to pray often and read the scriptures. Listening to the prophets helps us learn or re-learn what we need to do to accept Jesus Christ's Atonement and become worthy of all the blessings God wants to give us.

Thomas S. Monson, the prophet of this generation, and the apostles will be speaking next weekend in General Conference. I invite you to come listen to the prophets that God has called in our day.

Here's a one-minute video about General Conference and the prophets of our day:



Friday, September 27, 2013

Captain's Log, Week 179

So, you can see that the "Weekly Roundup" I've been doing for the last couple weeks has a new name. I mentioned last time that I wanted to think of a new one, because I didn't like "Weekly Roundup." Well, as I started writing this post I decided to sit down and brainstorm and think of a new one. Here is my real, actual brainstorm:

Weekly Roundup name brainstorm:
Weekly Roundup (Boring and generic)
Weekly Wrap-up (Sounds like a news program)
Regularly Occurring Bullet Point List of Events That Have Recently Taken Place or Are In Progress (Heh heh heh. I like this one.)
Thomas Roundup (Bleh)
Around the House (Except I can't use that one, because it'd totally be stealing it from my friend Jill)
We've Been Up To... (Sentence fragment. And I hate dangling the dangling "...")
Thomas Travels (eh, we don't really go anywhere. It'd be metaphorical, and wouldn't account for the fact that half the bullet points are just my random, rambling thoughts)
11 o'clock Thoughts (I like this one because it has meaning to me personally. But it wouldn't have meaning to anyone else, and it doesn't really make sense in the context of this weekly feature. But it would have been a good overall blog name, I suppose, if when I started my blog "Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows" hadn't so easily come to mind.)
I Give Up (No. But that's how I feel right now. My mind feels empty of any ideas.)
Keep Trying (Okay self.)

Okay, time to hit up Thesaurus.com...
Captain's Log, Week ___ (Oooh, I really like this one actually.)(You might be wondering how I got "Captain's Log" from a thesaurus. When I typed in "weekly," "log" came up as a synonym, and that immediately reminded me of "Captain's Log," because of this funny note from my friend Tyler Abbott from years ago, and also because Jason and I just watched an episode of Star Trek {The first time we watched one ever. I'll can explain! And I will below.}, and using it just strikes me as very amusing.)

The more I think about "Captain's Log," the more I like it, so Captain's Log it is! And the week isn't a made up number, it's actually the number of weeks Jason and I have been married. (Which works out perfectly, because we got married on a Friday and these posts are on Fridays. Lucky coincidence.) This is officially the Captain's Log, Week 179. Here's what we've been up to:

  • Not much. I got sick this week, and Tuesday was actually a very physically painful day for me. (As in, so painful that at the worst point I could barely crawl across the floor. Thanks, kidney infection.) I got antibiotics from my doctor and I've been getting better since then, but it definitely took me out of commission. Ellie's still got her little, occasional cough, but it seems to be almost gone.
  • Ellie and I watched The Lion King everyday this week. Sometimes twice. When she wants to watch it, she starts getting excited and asking for "Animals! Lions? Lions?" It makes me really happy, because I love The Lion King. Did you know it's one of my favorite movies of all time? It was my favorite movie throughout my whole childhood, ever since I saw it when it first came out, and then when Lord of the Rings came out those movies joined it as my top favorite movies. So, those are my favorite movies of all time: The Lion King and The Lord of the Rings.
  • Did you know that James Earl Jones is the voice of Mufasa in The Lion King? He's Darth Vader! Mufasa and Darth Vader are voiced by the same person! I found that out this week and thought it was really cool. And once I started thinking about his voice, I was pretty sure he was Hercule's owner from The Sandlot, and I looked it up, and he is! It makes me happy for some reason that he's those three guys - Hercule's owner, Darth Vader, and Mufasa.
  • Ellie says some of the character's names when we see them in the movie - Simba, Zazu, some of the other ones - but I think my favorite is what she calls Scar. She pronounces the other names correctly, but she calls him "Sard." And it makes me smile.
  • Jason and I watched "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" this week. Yes, the one that came out in 1979. It was booooring. They had a ton of these musical interludes where nothing happened, you just watched spaceships float slowly around. We started fast-forwarding through those parts after a while. I mean, do we really have to watch fifteen minutes of Kirk floating from one spaceship to another, while old-timey "Wow! This is amazing! Look how amazing our computer graphics are!" music plays?
  • After we finished the movie, we couldn't figure out how Star Trek ever became so popular. So we watched an episode of the TV show (which was made ten years before the movie), and it made more sense. A lot more stuff happened in the one-hour TV show (which we also fast-forwarded through a lot of) than in the two-hour movie. It made more sense how it could be popular.
  • And to explain further, we watched both of those things (the Star Trek movie and one of the TV episodes) because we watched Star Trek: Into Darkness last week, and we just wanted to understand how the whole Star Trek following started.
  • So, all of these bullet points are about things we watched this week. I told you we haven't been up to much. :)
  • We move into our new apartment on Monday. Hopefully everything goes smoothly!
  • And finally, the General Relief Society Meeting is tomorrow! Yaaaay! It's the first session of our church's semi-annual General Conference. If you want to check it out, you can click here:
 Watch the General Relief Society Meeting

Or just come back here to this page tomorrow night!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Emily's 2nd Birthday Party

On Saturday our niece Emily had her second birthday party. :) It was in Lake Elsinore at Michael and Shelley's house, and we had a great time. Ellie loooved getting to play with Emily. (They both call each other "E," by the way. Ellie calls Emily "Emi" (or some varation thereof) about half the time, and "E" the other half, and Emily always calls Ellie "E.")

Anyway, Shelley asked me to take pictures of the party, so we have a ton! Here's Emily's second birthday party.


The last pictures are from when everyone else went hoe, and Emily and Ellie were still playing together. They were going to "sleep" in the guest bed, and then "waking up" really excitedly. Over and over and over. It's apparently a very fun thing to do. :)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ellie Yesterday

Good morning. :) We took some cute videos of Ellie yesterday, and I wanted to share them with you. 

Here she is helping Jason unload the dishwasher. I missed the first part when she was helping him unload all the cups and bowls, and would take them out one at a time, hand them to Jason, and say "Thank you Ellie!" after every single one. And he would say "Thank you Ellie!" back. And then, after the very last cup, she said Thank you Ellie and he said Thank you Ellie, and she said, "You're welcome!"



Right after that:



Here she is absorbed in Dora the Explorer. Jason was trying to capture how she answers the questions they ask on the TV show, but she didn't oblige this time. Still cute, though. :)



And here she is at dinnertime. Right before I started filming she told us she was "painting." :)



Monday, September 23, 2013

What We Believe - the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Hi everyone! Sorry it's already Sunday night, I guess I'm a bit slow this weekend. :) Time for the fourth installment of "What We Believe."

Last week I explained what we believe about God's plan for us. Today I want to expand on following Jesus Christ. How do we do that?


"We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel."

 "We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost."

- from the "Articles of Faith"/what we believe explained in a nutshell

So we believe that the basics of the gospel of Jesus Christ are: 1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, 2. Repentance, 3. Baptism, and 4. Receiving the Holy Ghost.

So, it begins with faith in Christ. We believe in him, trust him, and depend on him. When we have faith in Christ, we have a firm belief that he is the son of God and the Savior and Redeemer of the world. We accept and apply his atonement and his teachings.

This faith leads us to repent—to stop doing things that are wrong and continue doing things that are right. Our faith in him also makes us want to show our love by keeping his commandments, including baptism. Baptism is a "covenant," which is a two-way promise with God. When we get baptized, we promise to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, always remember Him, and keep His commandments. As we keep our part of the covenant, God promises a remission of our sins and the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost (which I'll talk about more in a future post).

And it's that simple! The gospel of Jesus Christ = having faith in him and following his commandments. As we do so throughout our lives, we'll become more like him and have peace and happiness in our lives.

I have definitely felt more happiness in my life as I strive to follow Jesus Christ and as I center my life around him. Jesus Christ, and his gospel, make me so happy. :)


Resources you might be interested in:
  • Jesus Christ, a page explaining what we believe about Jesus Christ (and goes into more detail about faith, repentance, baptism, and the Holy Ghost)
  • Mormon.org, a website filled with answers to frequently asked questions about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Chat with the Missionaries, where you can live chat with Mormon missionaries and ask them any questions you want. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Weekly Roundup

Hola! I know it's already late Friday night, but I wanted to get this weekly roundup post done before the end of the day. (Also, I can't decide what to do with the titles of these posts. This will be the third week in a row with a post titled "Weekly Roundup." Should I just continue to do that? Call the Friday posts "Weekly Roundup?" Or should they all have their own names? Or should I think of some clever, alliterative title like...well, something clever and alliterative I can use every week?)


This week in our lives:

  • My sister Alyse started a blog! It's called The Coleman Crew and you can find it at http://alyseandtanner.blogspot.com/. It's got some really cute pictures of her brand-new baby Ezra. 
  • Last week, Ellie was being especially cute one day when we were playing together. I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, and she kept running up to me, standing on my legs, and putting her face right in my face so that I could kiss her all over. And she said "Wuv Mommy" one time when she did it. Then a little while later, I was sitting on the couch and she was leaning back on my legs, and she leaned back and pointed at me and with the cutest smile said, "Name's Jocin." It was just so cute I can't even describe it.
  • I got my flu shot! I was picking up my anti-nausea medicine from Rite Aid last week, and the pharamacists (who are the same two ladies every time I go, and they know my name and are so nice and I love them), mentioned that my insurance covered the flu shot. But they wanted me to check with my OB before I got it. So I asked him at my appointment on Monday, and he was cool with it, so I went over to Rite Aid afterwards and got it. 
  • Ellie has a cough right now. It's not too bad; she doesn't cough very often, but when she does you can kind of hear the mucous and she says "Ew, gross!" 
  • We had the missionaries over for dinner on Wednesday. (There are five in our ward right now. Can you believe that? Five!) Jason and I bought a party-sized frozen lasagna a while ago (because it was on sale and the same price as the much-smaller "family size one," and we couldn't pass it up), and since we're moving in a couple weeks we've been trying to eat all of our random foods. And we were like, "What should we do with this giant lasagna?" And then we thought, "Feed it to the missionaries!" So we signed up to have them this Wednesday, and they came over and we all had lasagna and french bread and salad, and it was super fun. :)
  • We washed the car one morning this week. Ellie helped. :)


  • Ellie's been playing a lot with the wood blocks this week. She keeps doing things like this:

    • Jason says she's stacked them at least 8 blocks high by herself before.

    • We got a new couch! In preparation for moving in two weeks, we went out to our storage place this week (my dad owns a storage company out in Long Beach, and lets us use a space). We got empty boxes and did some sorting, and also found...mouse poop. On our couch. So, it's likely a big mouse nest on the inside, and maybe has hantavirus. So, we decided to scrap it. (Even though we really like our couch! Sad.) We got our last couch for free on Freecycle a couple years ago, and by checking out Craigslist this week, we found another free couch! Jason and our friend Evan picked it up on Wednesday, and it's great. It's in really good condition, and even has recliner seats. It did have kind of a perfumey-smell to it, so I covered it in baking soda yesterday, let it sit for a couple hours, then vacuumed all the baking soda up. I also cleaned the entire thing twice (once yesterday and once today) with Jason's mom's "Spot bot." It's super clean now.
    • My nephew Max (who's far, far away in Thailand but we get to see lots of pictures of him) was adorable, like always: 


    • My dad's birthday was yesterday! He turned...well, he probably wouldn't want me telling you the number. But he turned a very nice age. :)
    • I feel like there was something else I was going to tell you. But I can't remember. (That describes like half my life.)

    I hope you had a great week!

    Sunday, September 15, 2013

    What We Believe - God's Plan for Us

    Happy Sunday again! I'm continuing today with the "What We Believe" series of posts that I started a couple weeks ago. Today I want to talk about another basic thing we believe - what God's plan for us is. With the gospel, we understand who we are and what our purpose is. It gives us perspective and helps us feel peace and hope.

    It's easiest to look at this in three parts - where we were before this life, what we're doing in this life, and where we're going after we die.


    Where did I come from?

    Before we lived here on this earth, we lived with God in heaven. God is the father of our spirits. We are literally his children; that's why we call him "Heavenly Father." God loves us and wants us to enjoy all the blessings that he has; but we couldn't do that if we stayed in heaven and never got a body and never had to choose between right and wrong.

    So God created a perfect plan that would enable us to come to earth, gain bodies, gain experience, and return to him. We understood and accepted the plan before we came here.

    Under the direction of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ created the earth as a place for us to live and gain experience. In order to progress and become like God, each of us had to obtain a body and be tested during a time of probation on the earth. While on the earth we are out of God’s physical presence. We do not remember our pre-earth life. We must walk by faith rather than by sight.

    Why am I here?

    We are here to get physical bodies, gain experience, and to use our agency to make the choices that will help us become like Heavenly Father. In a nutshell, we are here to become more like God.

    Jesus Christ is central to this plan - Heavenly Father's plan. God knew that we wouldn't be perfect when we lived here, and we would make mistakes. But "no unclean thing" can dwell in his presence - so how could we return to him? This is where Christ comes in. It was always in God's plan that Jesus would come to the earth and live a perfect life so that he could redeem the rest of us - and he did. Because of Christ's perfect life and sacrifice, if we repent, his atonement pays for our sins and we are clean again. This is what enables us to return to live with Heavenly Father.

    Additionally, Christ's resurrection (coming back to life) allowed each of us to also be resurrected - and to live again (in our perfected, physical bodies, never to die again) after we die.

    Where am I going after I die?

    For a time, before the judgement, we will live in what's called "the spirit world." This will be a place of peace and rest for those who chose to obey God during our mortal life. Those who did not obey God and did not repent will be unhappy. In the spirit world, the gospel is preached to those who did not obey the gospel and those who did not have the opportunity to hear it while on this earth. If they accept the gospel in the spirit world, it will be like as if they had accepted it here.

    After a time, our bodies and spirits will be brought back together through the resurrection, and we will stand before God to be judged. We will remember everything we've done - both good and bad. If we've repented, we will receive mercy. Because God rewards us according to our works and desires, and everyone's not just all good or all bad, there are different kingdoms of glory to which me may be assigned after the judgement.

    Those who continued in their sins and did not repent in this life will receive their reward in the lowest kingdom, which is called the telestial kingdom. This kingdom is compared to the glory of the stars.

    People who do not accept the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ but live honorable lives will receive a place in the terrestrial kingdom. This kingdom is compared to the glory of the moon.

    Those who have repented of their sins and received the ordinances of the gospel and kept the associated covenants will be cleansed by the Atonement of Christ. They will receive exaltation in the highest kingdom, also known as the celestial kingdom. They will live in God’s presence, become like Him, and receive a fulness of joy. They will live together for eternity with those of their family who qualify. In the scriptures this kingdom is compared to the glory or brightness of the sun.

    *****

    And so that's God's plan for us - which, in the scriptures, is called a merciful plan, the plan of salvation, the plan of redemption, and the plan of happiness. God wants us to be happy, and wants us to be able to enjoy all of the blessings that he has.

    "For behold, this is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."  - Moses 1:39


    Resources you might be interested in:
    • God's Plan of Salvation, a page explaining God's plan for us
    • Mormon.org, a website filled with answers to frequently asked questions about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
    • Chat with the Missionaries, where you can live chat with Mormon missionaries and ask them any questions you want. 

    Friday, September 13, 2013

    Weekly Roundup

    (P.S. {Which I guess stands for pre-script rather than post-script in this instance} - I am listening to the Mulan song that goes "Let's get down to business!" right now to motivate me to sit down and do this blog post.)

    Hi everyone! I hope you've had a good week. We have over here, for the most part. Here's everything that happened this week:
    • Our nephew Ezra was admitted to the hospital. On Monday morning, he had a fever, and when my mom and sister Alyse measured his temperature he was 102 degrees. Long story short, they took him to the ER and he was transferred and admitted to a children's hospital. They did a lot of tests (which came back negative for meningitis and some other scary things) and put him on a lot of medicines, but his temperature got up to 102.8 that first day. Luckily, it came down the next day and the next, and they released him on Wednesday evening. He's doing much better now, back to himself, but scary!
    • I've been looking for a little play kitchen for Ellie. I've been looking on craigslist every day, but so far no luck for pieces in our size/price range. I'm sure one will come up eventually, but no luck yet. 
    • We had dinner on Wednesday night with my dad, stepmom, stepsister, and brother-in-law at Buffalo Wild Wings. Mmm!
    • I am so excited by the news that J.K. Rowling is going to write the screenplay for a series of new films about the Harry Potter wizarding world. They're going to be based on the adventures of Newt Scamander, who (in the Harry Potter books) wrote "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," one of Harry's textbooks at Hogwarts. And that's just awesome! I love "Fanastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" (which exists in both Harry's world and in ours) and I think Newt Scamander will be a fun character to follow.  More wizarding world! Yaaaaaaay!!!
    • Jason and I watched Jane Eyre this week. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books ever. It's one that I read and after I finished was like, "So that's why it's a classic!" It's just awesome. Naturally, the book has several movie adaptations. I've seen a couple, and the 2006 Masterpiece Theatre version is by far my favorite. It's the one that best captures all of the most important elements of the story. Good script, good casting, good acting. There's another one that came out more recently  (in 2011, I think) that I really don't care for. It's way too shallow; it lost what the book was really about.
    • Anyway (that bullet point was getting too long, so I'm making another even though it's about the same thing), I've been wanting Jason to watch Jane Eyre with me for quite a while. (I've seen it before; he hasn't.) He hasn't been enthusiastic about the idea, thinking that it was going to be something just like Pride and Prejudice. (Not that he doesn't like Pride and Prejudice. It's just too much talking for him, and not enough action, I think.) But on Monday when he asked what I wanted to do for date night, and I said Jane Eyre, and he (because he's awesome) consented. And he really liked it! It's long, so we actually spread it out over three nights - Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. It was wonderful. :) If you're looking for a good movie or book, try Jane Eyre.

    • I'm beginning to get caught back up on my Quiet Book Blog. I let a lot of stuff build up in my email inbox during August, but this week I really worked on getting all the new submissions into their own posts. So, new quiet books will be posting three times a week for the next month at least! It's nice to feel more on top of things.

    And that's all I can think of for our weekly roundup this week! I'd love to hear what you've been up to, too. And what you think about the new J.K. Rowling movies.

    Thursday, September 12, 2013

    Ellie Update

    I've been wanting to do a post about Ellie for a while now, but I don't know where to start. She's getting so old and so big and so advanced. I'll just do bullet points of the things I can think of at the moment.
    • She's really advanced in her language development. She has an extremely large vocabulary and uses tons of words each day, all in their right context. She's also started to talk in full sentences,  not just about what she wants or what she's playing with or eating or where she wants to go (she does all of that stuff too), but also conversational sentences that are for the sake of conversation. For example, we were at the park yesterday, and Ellie was in the toddler swing and I was pushing her. Another little girl was swinging next to her, which she liked and kept giggling about. And then as I was pushing Ellie, she looked at me and said clearly, "I like swings." Then she repeated it again. "I like swings." "You like swings?" I asked her. And she smiled and nodded really big.
    • She can count to 13. She's never gone 1-13 all in one go, but she's counted from 1-6 and from 7-13 separately on multiple occasions. She also knows a couple higher numbers, like sixteen and twenty, but she doesn't connect them together yet. We owe a lot of this one to Team UmiZoomi, which is one of her favorite shows (and is all about numbers). 
    • She knows the whole alphabet (letter names and sounds) and most of her numbers from 1-10. She loves to point them out and name them in books, on signs, and on clothes.
    • She really loves songs and to sing. She knows a lot of the words (or sounds) to the songs we sing her most often, and she'll sing along (with what she knows) to the bedtime songs we sing her. She'll also start singing nursery songs in the middle of the day (that she learned from nursery and we don't sing at home very often or at all), and we'll have to try and figure out what song she's singing so we can sing along with her (which she loves).
    • Something cute from this week was when Ellie was taking a bath, and she was naming her different body parts. First she pointed to her shoulder and said "Shoulder." Then she pointed to her elbow and said "Elbow." And then she pointed to her belly button and said "Ellie's button." And I cracked up.
    • Another funny thing from last week was when she wanted Jason's mom ("Nana") to play with her. Jason's mom had just gotten home from work and was eating her dinner, and Ellie kept coming up to her and saying "Nana, play toys?" over and over. Jason's mom would tell her "In a minute Ellie, I'm eating my dinner." Finally, after the 6th or 7th request, Ellie came over, pulled up her shirt and shoved it underneath her neck, stuck out her belly, and said in the deepest, most commanding voice she had, "Play toys!" It was so funny that all of us started laughing and Jason's mom gave in to go play toys with her.
    • Currently, one of her favorite activities is to "paint" in the bathtub. This is an idea I found on pinterest, and has been really fun and successful. How we do it is I'll fill up a cupcake tin with shaving cream (from the dollar store), mix in food coloring, put her in the tub (usually empty) with it, and let her get it everywhere. She half uses her hands and half uses the paint brushes we give her, and she loves it. Here she is "painting" a couple days ago:


    • Surprisingly, the food coloring washes off pretty easily. As long as I use soap, it comes right off her skin. If I just use water it's still there, but soap takes it right off. And it rinses out of the tub with no problem.
    • I swear she's grown two inches just this week. Her legs look a mile long to me and I keep doing a double-take when I look at her, just surprised at how tall she is. And it was so sudden - definitely a growth spurt.
    • Finally, I'll leave you with this video from earlier this week. Her Nana had just brought home some butterfly wings and new necklaces to wear, and Ellie was excited about them and was twirling around and around in them. It's long, but I'll leave the full version here for whoever might want to watch it (*cough*Hi Mom!*cough*). The first little part is cute if you don't have time to watch the full thing.



    And that's the current Ellie update!

    Sunday, September 8, 2013

    What We Believe - God


    Good morning! I hope you're having a wonderful Sunday. Today is the second post in my "What We Believe" series, and I'll be focusing on another fundamental of our faith - we believe in God.

    (I'll be quoting a little bit from this page today, because it explains a little more clearly than I can.)
    We believe in God. He is real. We believe that he is our Heavenly Father. We are His children. He has a body of flesh and bone that is glorified and perfected. He loves us. He weeps with us when we suffer and rejoices when we do what is right. He wants to communicate with us, and we can communicate with Him through sincere prayer.

    Heavenly Father has a plan for us. He has given us this experience on the earth so we can learn and grow. We can show our love for Him through our choices and our obedience to His commandments.

    Prayer is how I feel closest to Heavenly Father - I know that he listens to each and every one of our prayers. He knows and cares about us individually. I have felt his love so strongly in my life, and I feel it strongest when I am praying and communicating with him. know that God is real. I know that he knows and loves each of us individually. He wants us to be happy, and to return to him.


    There is a simply child's hymn which I think sums it all up well. It's called "I Know My Father Lives." (If you'd like to listen to the music, you can do so here.)

    "I know my Father lives and loves me too.
    The Spirit whispers this to me and tells me it is true,
    and tells me it is true."

    "He sent me here to earth, by faith to live his plan.
    The Spirit whispers this to me and tells me that I can,
    and tells me that I can."


    Resources you might be interested in:

    • God's Plan of Salvation, a page explaining what God's plan for us is (I'll talk more about this next week)
    • Mormon.org, a website filled with answers to frequently asked questions about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
    • Chat with the Missionaries, where you can live chat with Mormon missionaries and ask them any questions you want. 

    Saturday, September 7, 2013

    Shutterfly Photo Book Review

    I will never get tired of talking about photo books - I just love them. I could talk about them for hours. I think they are such a great way to get the pictures out of my camera and computer and into a format that my family can enjoy. And, lucky for me, I have a husband with infinite patience who will listen to me talk about them every day, all day long.


    I've been making photo books since 2010. I don't remember how I first learned about them, but I do know the first company I really knew the name of was Shutterfly, and they were the place I went to when I wanted to make one. The first photo book I made was an 8x8 book of our honeymoon, for Jason for his birthday. When it came, I think I liked it even more than he did. (Man, I'm like those people that give golf clubs or something to their spouse, when their spouse doesn't golf and they do.)

    During the rest of 2010 I made a few more 8x8 books, but in 2011 didn't really do anything with photo books until the end of the year. That's I got bit by the "record my personal history" bug - and I've never recovered. I decided that I wanted to document my entire life in photobooks, and I've been working on that since.

    At some point, I researched all the photo book companies (either in 2010 or 2011), and decided to stick with Shutterfly for most of my projects because they seemed like the best fit for me in quality and price. (To see the different reviews I read, check out this post: Photobook Comparisons.) In total, I've made fifteen books with Shutterfly, and I thought it was high time I finally wrote a review on them. So, bear with me for how long this post is - I guess I've got a lot to share after having made so many Shutterfly books!

    Shutterfly

    Website: www.shutterfly.com
    Number of photo books I've made with Shutterfly: 15

    Software

    For the most part,  the software is fine. It can be buggy, and there are some improvements I'd like to see made, but overall it's not at all bad to work with. You upload your pictures to the Shutterfly site and work on your book online, so you can access it from any computer (which is great). They have a large selection of page layouts, backgrounds, and embellishments. On top of that, you can fully customize each page's layout until everything is just where you want it, in the dimensions that you want it. One thing I wish Shutterfly would implement, though, is being able to save your custom layouts. Some layouts I alter in similar ways over and over again - I'd like to be able to save it so I could just select my customized layout without having to do it all over again. But, overall, the software is just fine.

    Paper Quality

    Very good. I've always liked Shutterfly's paper; it's nice and thick, and I've never noticed any bleed-through (being able to see the picture on the other side of the page). It's good paper.


    Photo Quality

    Shutterfly's photo quality is very good. In the earlier books (the ones I made in 2010), the pictures were more grainy, but they seem to have gotten better over time. The pictures are very clear and bright. With other photo companies, I've had problems with the pictures sometimes turning out too dark, but I've never had that problem with Shutterfly. With those companies, I now know I have to brighten images before uploading them to the software. With Shutterfly, I don't have to worry about that. I know it's hard to illustrate printing quality with a picture of a picture, but here's an attempt:

    Nice, bright, and clear.
    This is the first book I made, printed in 2010. You can tell (or at least my very picky eyes can) that the picture's a bit more grainy. 
    Printed earlier this year (2013) - nice and clear.

    Binding

    Shutterfly's binding is good, but it can look a little bit different on every book you get. Here's the binding on a bunch of the books compared; I'll give you the page number and dimensions.

    20-page 8x8 book:


    20 page 8x8 book:


    111-page 8x11 book:


    20-page 8x11  book:


    52-page 8x11 book:


    20-page 8x8 book:


    The binding on the four 8x11s:


    And five 8x8s:


    I have had a problem with the binding before, but it was successfully resolved by customer service. Last year, I ordered a 20 page 8x8 book. When the book arrived and I was flipping through the pages, I noticed that I could see right down to the glue between two of the middle pages. You shouldn't be able to see that - usually the pages are tight enough that it would take real effort to see down that far. But there it was. The pages seemed very vulnerable along that seem - they laid too flat and seemed like they could come off really easily. Here's a picture I took at the time:


    So, I contacted Shutterfly customer service and explained the problem - and they offered to send me a free new copy of the book, with free 2-day shipping! I was very impressed with their customer service, and when the new book came it had no problems with the binding. So my take-away message with the binding is this: in general, it's very good. And on the occasions that, for some reason, it isn't good, customer service will replace your book with no hassle.

    Cover

    The cover quality at Shutterfly is very good. I always go for the regular hardcover. They have a couple different options - softcover, matte, padded, cloth, leather - that I haven't tried and I'm not likely to. I have done the premium leather cover for my layflat wedding album, but that's something I'm reviewing next month and I'll talk about it then.

    Here are the covers of my 8x11s:


    I do wish Shutterfly offered more cover layouts in their software. You can customize the layouts - add more pictures, move things around, etc - and while I don't mind doing that with the inside page layouts, I'd like to have some more ready-made cover options for the covers available. For some reason, they don't offer the "Get more layouts" option in the software for the cover like they do for the inside pages. You either have to choose from one of their smallish selection of cover layouts, or go into customization. I don't know why they just don't offer the same, full selection of layouts for the cover that they do for the inside pages.

    Here are the spines:


    And the backs:


    And the 8x8s:


    Book Sizes

    Shutterfly offers a lot of sizes of photo books. They recently added a couple more, and now have (height x width) 5x7, 7x9, 8x8, 8x11, 10x10, 12x12, and 11x14 photo books.  I've always made 8x8 or 8x11 books. When I first started making photo books, I always made the 8x8 size because they're cheaper and Shutterfly often has "free 8x8 book" promotions. But before I made my Girls' Camp book, I did some calculations and realized that 8x11 books (which are actually 8.75x11) had 96.25 square inches of space per page vs. 64 inches per page in the 8x8 books - and that's a big difference! For a 20-page book, you get 645 more square inches to put pictures on. And ever since I made and received my first 8x11 book, I definitely prefer that size. I still make 8x8 books sometimes - they're great gifts, and they're a good size for a "single event" (one birthday, or photoshoot, or vacation) type of book. But for the types of books I usually make (year reviews and the like), 8x11s work better.

    Here's an 8x8 book compared to an 8x11 (really 8.75x11) book:


    Page Layouts

    Shutterfly offers a very large selection of page layouts, and full customization on top of that. I use the customization feature pretty often, to nudge pictures and text around or to change dimensions and sizes of pictures.

    Here are all of the page layouts in some of my 8x11 books, and the layouts of some of my 8x8 books. You can flip through the pages by clicking the buttons. (For mobile users - I don't think the embedded widget will work for you guys. I'll post a couple regular pictures of layouts after these widget things.)

    My "Girls' Camp" photo book, the first 8x11 I ever made:
                                            Click here to view this photo book larger


    Below is the book that covers my junior year at BYU, the year Jason and I were engaged. I went more "digital scrapbooking" with this book, creating my own layouts in Photoshop, using my own backgrounds, and then uploading them to Shutterfly. I like how the book turned out, but I'm still more of a just-do-it-all-on-the-website type of person:
                                           Click here to view this photo book larger


    And here's my "Freshman and Sophomore Years at BYU" book. I think this one might be my very favorite of all:
                                     Click here to view this photo book larger


    Some 8x8 layouts:
                                            Click here to view this photo book larger



                                       Click here to view this photo book larger

    For the mobile users: Here are a couple 8x11 layouts -



    And a couple 8x8 layouts:



    Page Count

    Shutterfly books start at 20 pages and can go up to 111 pages. Additional pages have an additional price per page (which is different based on the dimensions of the book you're making). When books go on sale, extra pages go on sale too.

    Here's the thickness of a 20-page 8x11 book compared to a 111-page 8x11 book:



    Price

    Shutterfly is very reasonably priced, if you buy order your books during their sales and use special offer codes. I've gotten really, really good deals by stacking special offer codes and sale prices.

    Things I've learned over the course of making so many Shutterfly photobooks:

    • I personally prefer the 8x11 size. I can fit more pictures on each page and I like the layouts better. I like the size in my hands and on my shelf.
    • In general, I prefer more pictures on a page vs. less. It's just how I like to tell the story. I made my first couple books intuitively like this, but then after reading a lot of reviews on the website Photobookgirl and her saying that she recommends not putting more than 6 pictures per page, I began to question my methods. "Maybe I should be putting less," I thought. "That way each picture will get more attention." So that's what I did with the "First Half of 2011" book that I made this year - I spaced out the pictures a lot more and put less on each page. And you know what? When I finished, ordered, and received that photobook, I liked those layouts the least of all. That's just not my style. I've learned just to trust my instincts about what I think looks good. And that's what you should do, too - trust what you like.
    • Feel free to use as many pages as you need to tell the story. When I first started making photo books, I felt very constrained about making sure I didn't go over the first 20 pages, because I didn't want to pay for each additional page. But you know what? The extra pages are worth it. And they're usually on sale, and don't cost that much anyway. Just this week, by stacking several deals, I got an 82-page 8x11 book for $18.77, including shipping. Just do it. Just use as many pages as you want. It's worth it.
    • To get the best prices: Always, always, always wait for a sale. Sign your email up with Shutterfly so that you get their coupons and special codes in your email. Search online for promo codes before you order anything. Like them on Facebook so you see the deals they post to their Facebook page. When I buy Shutterfly books, it's almost always with at least one special offer code AND during a sale, so that the offers stack on top of each other.

    Whew! That was one long review. If you have any questions about Shutterfly or my experience with them, feel free to ask! Happy photo book making!

    To check out more of my photo book reviews, check out these posts:

    Shutterfly Premium Leather Layflat Photo Book Review
    Shutterfly Calendar Review
    York Photo Photo Book Review
    MyPublisher Photo Book Review
    AdoramaPix Photo Book Review
    Collage.com Photo Book Review
    Photo Book Comparisons