We're Off To See the Wizard

I'm glad I have a forced rest right now. (See the post about the whole stupid foot-in-an-inflatable-cast thing.)

I'm happy to be able to catch up on some photo organization and scrapbooking. In going over my stuff I realized I had never printed the photos from the Spring Musical that my son, Jonathan was in. (Working on the scrapbook now.)

King of the forest

Jon played the Cowardly Lion in his high school production of The Wizard of Oz.

Captured by witch

I was in charge of designing and costuming the show (as usual). And, if you recall, I dolled up a pair of Ruby Slippers that looked pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself. Click here for my step-by-step tutorial on How to Make the Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz. Also, "Dorothy," who just happens to be our next-door neighbor and friend, Tessia, wore the Ruby Slippers at graduation. Made me so proud.

Ruby slippers

This kind of "work" is such a delight for me. It reminds me of the hours I spent as a child dressing Barbie (don't judge). I spent most of the semester frantically searching, begging, borrowing, and stealing every green article of clothing I could get my hands on for the Oz Citizens.


Oz citizens costumes

Of course there were also Munchkins to dress.

Munchkins totally know how to celebrate. "Ding-dong, the witch is dead!"

And witches, bad and good.


And the Wicked Witch of the West's enslaved Winkies. (I didn't know they were called Winkies either, until I started working on this show, but that's not important right now.)


In the stage version of the Wizard of Oz, there are also Talking Crows and Singing Trees (they were actually my favorites, but I'll deny it if you tell the rest of the cast).

Wizard of oz trees

The fantastic makeup was done by some of the talented students, themselves.

Oz friends

And there were Flying Monkeys. Of course.

Flying monkey

My job was basically to "style" the show and make everything and everyone look pretty. It's a lot of hard work and I invested a ton of hours along with an incredible group of parent volunteers.  It was a bit of stress getting the kids to rehearsals and shopping thrift stores and brow-beating my seamstresses.

Why do I do it?

Off to see the wizard

1) Because I think the kids deserve for everything to look amazing if they're going to give their best performances. (Which they totally did.)

2) Because it's usually a family affair with Lucy doing the stage lighting design and cheering on her little brother from up in the sound booth. So, it's a lot of fun for us as a family.

3) Because I get to appreciate Lucy's lighting artistry. The yellow brick road was done with a light. It's called a "gobo" in stage speak. You're impressed now, right?

Yellow brick road gobo

4) But I do all this mostly because of this guy...


Here's Jonathan, as the Cowardly Lion, singing his, "If I Were King of the Forest" song. (Get popcorn.)


5) And because I'm always amazed at just how much courage it takes for him to do this. (See what I did there?)

Lucy & jon

Project Life (or How I Scrapbook My Real Life)

I have been an avid scrapbooker for years.

In fact, I still have my original high school photo albums. You know which ones I mean. The magnetic kind with the fading 70's Kodak Instamatic photos with the captions typed out on a real typewriter. The ones we later found out are the very worst thing you can do to photographs because of the high acid content but were too conflicted to actually dismantle because how cute is it to still have something created by your teenage self?

Exhibit A:

Photo Album from 1971

When I started blogging five and a half years ago, it was primarily a vehicle for telling my stories and sharing my photos. An online scrapbook, if you will. Sometimes those captured stories made it into my physical scrapbooks, but many didn't. Yet it's still an efficient way for me to document my family's life and adventures.

As my blogging evolved, I realized that I still wanted some of those stories documented the old-fashioned way, in a physical album that can sit on my coffee table. But I had now moved on to doing everything digitally. While I'm a huge fan of all things digital, I found it a little pathetic to have to pull out a computer to share my photos. I know we all do it, but frankly, I thought it was a little lame. Especially considering all the cool home printing technology that exists in 2012.

Not all, but many, of our photos should be printed and the stories behind them told. And I don't think those stories are all necessarily best shared on this blog or on Facebook, yet I still wanted to document our lives. Not for mass-consumption, but just for us. What to do?

Last year I started something called Project Life which is the brainchild of the lovely and talented Becky Higgins. She created a system of page protectors, title and journaling cards in the yummiest colors. The project design was so easy and flexible and customizable that I managed to capture our entire year in a week-by-week format almost effortlessly.

The album size is 12 x 12. The 4 x 6 slots are perfect for the printed photos and the pre-printed title cards. The 2.75 x 3.75 filler cards are ideal to make quick notes about the photos or for printing the vertical iPhone photos or for adding receipts and other ephemera.

Project Life 2011

For years I have taken photos every day either with my big, digital Olympus camera or more recently with my iPhone. And because Project Life is so idiot-proof, I have a finished album from 2011 that pretty much captures everything we did last year. A FINISHED ALBUM, people. I know. Shut up.

Each week got it's own two-page spread. The week that I got my iPhone 4 last year happened to be the same week that Jonathan attended his first formal dance. I love this project because it puts the events of my life into a real timeline perspective. And I don't feel like I'm missing anything.

Project Life 2011 dance

Some singular events got a few pages of their own. This was from when the boys went on their Hawk Walk Adventure which I blogged about, so the journaling is just the printed blog post. (I also burned those videos to a dvd which is also contained in the book. Genius, right?)

Project Life 2011 Hawk Walk

The different sized page protectors are fun to insert when I want to add more photos or tell more of the story. I love this photo of my boys and it makes a nice "surprise" on the back of the journaling.

Project Life 2011 Hawk Walk part 2

The rule book has gone out the window when you scrapbook in this format. And I love it.

I was so thrilled with the project that I couldnt wait for 2012 to get started on Project Life 2012. (These title pages were a direct scrap-lift from Design Genius, Cathy Zielski.)

Project Life Title Page

Project Life 2nd Title Page

The coolest thing for me is that I've managed to keep up with it week after week. *takes bow*

(We're now on Week 12 of 2012 in case anyone was interested, but that's not important right now.) This year I'm doing a hybrid version. My journaling and title cards are created using Photoshop CS5.

Project Life 2012 week one

I'm pretty fearless about adding extra pages when I want to include more photos or tell more of the stories.

Project Life 2012 week one 2

I'm using the Clementine Edition Full Collection available through Jessica Sprague.

I make it a point to make notes all week using the Day One app for iPhone (again, thanks to Cathy Z. for the tip), which is like a mini-diary.

Project Life 2012 week 2

I sort my photos in Smart Albums (using iPhoto) by week, and I then decide which photos to print. Sometimes I take photos of text messages or engaging Facebook exchanges as documentation.

Project Life 2012 week 3

Because of Project Life I've become much more intentional about the photos I take. I remember to document my real life for my own pleasure and posterity.

Instead of creating an entire scrapbook for my document-worthy trip to Nashville, I'm just adding multiple pages and adding the ephemera into the pockets. This is the only thing I'm "behind" on. But I'm completely un-stressed about it and really enjoying the picking and choosing of the photos and telling the stories I want to.

In my extraordinarily ordinary life there are shopping trips and regular pedicures. There is laundry and lots of dirty dishes. I read the news on my iPad with my morning coffee and I interact with friends via my smart phone and on Facebook or Twitter. My mom visits every few weeks and I put regular meals on the table.

Project Life 2012 Week 6

Even on Facebook, the status updates eventually get lost. The photo albums buried. The "why" of what's happening in my life regularly gets trumped by the "what."

I "do lunch" with friends and we often go see live shows. I'm in the throes of decorating my newly painted kitchen. My husband and I occasionally manage to get away. Our kids do things that make us proud.

Project Life 2012 week 6 part 2

I collect quotes that inspire me and I go on a big grocery shopping trip to Costco every two weeks. In between the "big stuff," like birthdays and holidays, my real life goes on day by day. Week by week.

My real life is full of the rich and complex and crazy and happy and sometimes even sad and overwhelming events that make up, well.....a real life.

Project Life 2012 week 6 detail

Project Life has made me pay attention to the beauty in my everyday moments.

I found this very inspiring quote a while back on Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project blog. (Yes, I included it in my scrapbook!)

It reads like this:

"The days are long, but the years are short."

Having lost a lot of my childhood when we left Cuba, I'm extremely passionate about documenting my life now. It's why I blog. It's why I am so serious about this project.

I encourage you to jump in to Project Life at any time. No, this isn't a paid endorsement.

It's just a really good idea.


Project Life, created by Becky Higgins, is a flexible, easy-to-use, highly customizable way to save your memories in a fun, stress-free way. Learn more about getting started with Project Life by clicking here.

A Week in My Life or Why I Love Mondays

I often wonder how my Cuban grandmother spent her days. I wonder what she cared about and how she decided what to have for dinner. 

I have stories, of course, from my mom, about how she would make desserts every night. Homemade desserts EVERY NIGHT, people! Doesn't that just sound glorious?

I know some things just by word of mouth. She had an old coffee can that was the perfect size for a flan. She kept chickens. The lights in their tiny port town would be turned off at 9 o'clock, but she would continue to read late into the night by candlelight.

Perez puelles fam106
Perez-Puelles family. Circa 1930. My mom, Luz, is the 15 year old in the 2nd row on the right, with the Wilma Flinstone pearls.

How I wish I knew more about their lifestyle. I am absolutely fascinated by the minutia of those lives that came before mine.

I know this intrigues my kids, too. I tell them about rotary phones and curb feelers and they have a hard time believing I was actually alive and survived those barbaric times. ;-)

This is one of the reasons why I blog. I know my kids are fascinated by how I grew up and so I write "now and then" type stories. But more than that, I know that my own ordinary days will be important for them to remember. So I write about the real things we do and the places we go and the people we do them with.

Last week I decided to take up the challenge by Ali Edwards to document A Week in the Life. The idea was to take photos of all the activities we did, what we ate, where we went, what we bought, etc. And then make notes about each day. And finally to compile all this information into a photo album.

Can I just tell you that I really enjoyed and got into it.

So this week I am sorting through the hundreds (!) of photos I took last week.
The observations I made about the week were nothing eye-opening, but I'm glad I stopped and paid attention.

I love the familiar rhythms and routines that make up each day in particular.

For example, every Monday I change the sheets on our beds and put up fresh towels in the bathrooms. This particular ritual makes me profoundly happy. I have such a sense of accomplishment. If nothing else gets done for the rest of the week, on Mondays there are always fresh sheets on our beds and all is right in my little world. =D

So, I documented the process and made notes about each thing I did and the places I went and the people I love.

I took photos of my bed looking all fresh and inviting with the clean sheets that, of course, you can't see, but I know are there and which make me so happy.


And I found that we drink a lot of coffee.


2 coffees

And I did a lot of driving. (Don't worry! Jon took the photo.)

5 north 

And I admit that we occasionally eat fast food. (Well, if you can even think that the perfection that is an In N Out Burger could possibly be in the same category as other fast food places....)

In n out

Some days I pumped gas (which, by the way, I totally hate, but that's not important right now).


And witnessed drama. =D


Here are Lucy and Jonathan in the high school drama classroom playing a spirited Improv game of "Playground Dis."

I tended to my garden.


And I worked out. (Actually, I try to get out of this as often as my conscience will allow, but that's not important right now, either.)


I made phone calls.


And of course, I blogged. (Here's a screenshot from last week.)


Laundry was a constant.


As were dirty dishes.


And we also had a house guest. =D



I documented grocery shopping.


And took photos of my people in their natural habitats. ;-)



Those are just a few of the random snippets of my days.

I'm working on the album this week and I've decided to put it together digitally and upload it to Shutterfly for printing.

In the album, I will include my meal plans for the week, grocery receipts, bits and pieces of conversations, and even a look at the weather (from my iPhone app).


Each day's photos will be spread over four pages. I've only just started, but this is what the general layouts will look like with photos and words.


To keep it simple, I'm using Ali's Week in the Life Layered Templates from Designer Digitals and pulling the book together using Photoshop Elements. I used digital papers - Manchester, and Laurel.

I'm quite pleased by how it's all coming together.

My own grandchildren will not have to wonder how we spent our days. Or wonder about the things I cared about and why.

And the feeling of what I'm contributing to that continuity feels almost as good as fresh sheets every Monday. ;-)

Picture perfect

Eric & me
Okay. So I know this photo is completely out of focus.

And I know my hair looks witchy-weird (it actually was performing really well, but you can't tell from this picture. *sigh*)

But in spite of all that, I love it.

I love that we were caught by our neighbor practicing our salsa dancing on the front lawn.
("Those Darbys are at it again!")

I love the look on my husband's face that totally shows how much fun wewere already having as we prepared to go to the Cuban Festival thing.

I love it because it so perfectly captures us and our perfectly imperfect life.

(Oh yeah. I'm sooo framing it. =D)

Now and then

I love making connections with my photos. 

This is why I don't scrapbook chronologically. I just like to tell my stories.
I like it even more when my photos tell a story on their own. I don't even care if the photos are blurry. I figure it's the story that is more important.

Such is the case here.

Here are Jonathan and Eric admiring the amazing fish tank at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas.
(This one was taken a few weeks ago.)

Fish tank 2
Mirage Hotel. Las Vegas. 2009.

As they stood there, I kept thinking that this particular scene looked familiar somehow...

So I searched my older photos and I found this one (taken with my crummy old phone, but that's not important right now).
Fish tank 1
Eric and Jonathan. Birch Aquarium. La Jolla. 2006.

Wow. Just wow.

Making Christmas

"Making Christmas" is usually the mom's job.  At least it's always that way at my house (I'm guessing it's that way in most homes).  I do a lot of stuff anyway, but in December I kick it up to Warp Nine.  =D

This year I was especially busy because I took the time to make some special homemade gifts:

1) The Quiz books.  (Remember the quiz about the Best and Worst?)
Well,  I did it. I sent quizzes out to each member of the family.  Then I took their responses and created a page for each person. The quizzes varied from person to person.  I was very pleased with how they turned out.  Here's a sample page:

I made them for both sides of the family.   The 12x12 I bet you didn't know book for the Darbys.  The smaller 8x8, Family is something everyone can relate to  for my big, fat, Cuban family (it had to be smaller to keep the cost the same - that book had 43 pages, which means between the two books I created almost 70 pages, but that's not important right now).  All were created using Photoshop Elements 6 for the Mac. I saved the pages as jpg images and uploaded each page to Shutterfly.

The small one on the front left, 2008 - The Year of Improv was for the friends of Lucy and Jonathan who have been here every week of 2008 playing Improv games with them. I created that in iPhoto using their drag-and-drop-into-a-cute-little-book feature with short captions on a handful of pages.

They were all a huge hit. (she said modestly, polishing her nails and then admiring them.... =D)
Gift books

2) Homemade Cuban egg-nog or Creme de Vie.  You can find my recipe for that right here.  Or go visit my friend, Adriana, for the Puerto Rican version which involves a coconut flavor and is called Coquito. (In fact, just go visit Adriana and educate yourself on what a Cuban-Rican Christmas looks like. =D)

The bottles are just empty wine bottles we picked up at a local wine bar (they were happy to have us recycle them).  Michael's craft store had clean corks (which made me wonder what exact craft one uses bottle corks for, but that's not important right now).  The labels I ordered from Wonderful Graffiti (I will post another day on all the writing that I have up on my walls). 

I just loved that my bottles were so decked out with those fabulously 80's looking butt-bows.  ;-)
The hanging tags I also made using Photoshop Elements 6.

Creme de vie

3) Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies - that recipe can be found here.

We made dozens and dozens which we packaged and gave away. But we also kept a few dozen which we froze so that in January when I get post-New-Year-Christmas nostalgia we can thaw and enjoy. =D

Peanut butter kiss cookies

4) Of course, we (Amy Kikita and I) made a 20 minute film (part of which you saw yesterday) and I duplicated 17 dvds and created the cover art (again using Elements) - we had to make copies for everyone and ship a few to Texas and Miami.

De todo un poco dvd cover  

The very best part of all this Christmas-making activity (which is a lot! I realize now as I'm writing this):

I didn't have to do it all.  =D

Okay, well...yes, I did do all the graphics for the books & dvds. But because I was occupied with creating those books, my kids all stepped up and did the baking and creme-de-vie-making and packaging.  Which I thought was very cool.

They all helped bake and mix rum and condensed milk and wrap packages and make tags and all the other things that are usually Mom's domain.  I don't think I ever stopped and said specifically, "this is how you make Christmas happen..."

But obviously my love for all-things-Christmas was catching.

Which is cool because I believe that "making Christmas" is more caught than taught.  ;-)

Celebrating Summer

We So Cal people don't really "do" weather. We just don't know how.

When the weather cools a bit, (which it really hasn't considering we are about a month into Fall, but that's not important right now) we pull out socks to wear with our flip-flops and exclaim "Fall is here!" (you think I'm kidding, don't you?)

Even now, the days are the ones that are flip-flopping in their inability to commit.  The mornings will start off cool until the sun comes out around noon and then the day gets hot, then it cools off again when the sun sets. 

It's not really "Fall" around here by anyone's standards, but we like to pretend it is.

"Isn't it great that the seasons are changing?"

No.  (I will not even point out that we are still wearing shorts and flip-flops, but that unfairly, the water is too cold for swimming. sigh)

I miss summer.

(Yes, I say it in a really whiny voice.)  We had such a fabulous summer. 
In fact, the thought kept going through my mind that we had a lot to celebrate.

So, I made a photo book called, appropriately, "celebrate Summer, 2008." 

Summer album page

I used a Designer Digitals template designed by the amazingly talented Ali Edwards, but I put my own spin on it using Photoshop Elements 7 and my own digital brushes. 

Usually I like to tell my stories in my albums in much more detail, but I figured since I have blogged about pretty much everything that happened this summer (and God knows I'd hate to be redundant =D) I chose to make the book more artistic.

I uploaded it to shutterfly and just got the finished copy in my hot little hands.  Oh, baby!

The format is a nice, big 12x12 and I am absolutely delighted with it.  

Here's the table of contents page:
Celebrate summer pg 1
I decided that creating this book digitally was totally worth it for me because:

a) It really does capture everything we did this summer beautifully into one place and in a format we can all enjoy (with nice BIG pictures, too).

b) I probably would have bought an (expensive) album and spent tons of money on getting the photos enlarged (because the bigger the photos the happier I am) and made dozens of trips to my local scrapbook store for paper and embellishments and still be stressing about how I don't have enough time to scrapbook and then I'd feel guilty for having spent all that money and not using every last sticker and scrap and then I'd have trouble sleeping, and really, is that worth it, I ask you? But that's not important right now. =D

Instead, I have this wonderful big, fat, coffee-table-worthy book that I am happy to share with anyone who sees it on my coffee table, which, of course, kind of forces them to ask, "Hey, what's that?" And then, after they see it, they usually say, "Wow!" 

And I try to have the decency to blush a little when I say, "It was nothing..."  ;-)

Anyway, if you're interested, the entire album is up on the Photo Album sidebar to the left.

It was nothing. (blush, blush)  ;-)

Celebrate silliness pg 12

All that, to say this:  I. Miss. Summer. (sigh)

dan•ger•ous (adj) - able to inflict injury or harm.

Okay, so now I know just enough to be dangerous.

I've been taking some online classes. Specifically, I'm learning how to scrapbook digitally using Photoshop Elements 6. I'm still just doing the assignments from class, but I'm all proud of myself and I wanted to share....

The journaling is from a blog post I did about a year ago. (journaling my thoughts for later scrapbooking was the reason I started blogging in the first place, but that's not important right now.)

How cool is this?
I'm all stoked and happy now that I know how to create layers so I can pull color out of a picture and I'm going a little loony stamping with those swirly brushes. Seriously, I'm having a blast.

Heck, I'm getting so good at this....
I could Photoshop the bearded dictator into some fun and humiliating poses!


My life and my time are way too valuable.  ;-)

What about my needs??

Mountains (not kidding here!) of post-vacation laundry are done, folded, and put away.
The kids are at the movies with friends, which means that the house is blissfully quiet.
My to-do list has all tasks neatly and very satisfyingly crossed off. (Ahhh!)
I do have two more weeks of final school stuff coming up plus plans for a recipe I'll be trying out later this week.

So, I'm kind of in need of some personal refreshment, which means I. Must. Do. Something. Creative.

I have Beny telling me "Como Fue" on iTunes, and Photoshop Elements 6 humming along, and I'm feeling pretty creative and clever and beginning to feel positively refreshed. (and relieved to have finally caught up on my assignments for my digital scrapbooking class, but that's not important right now....)

Here are the creative fruits of today's labor:


Finished this one late in the day:
This last layout has a long (and nicely complicated) story attached to it. I think I'll save it for another blog post. ;-)

Thanks for letting me share. Now I can return to my regularly (OVER) scheduled Life. =D

NOTE: Online Digital Scrapbooking class is taught by the lovely and talented Jessica Sprague.

I scrap, therefore I am


On  the heels of that Super Blogger post I have to laugh because I'm sooo resisting blogging today.  I don't feel like I have one original thought to share.  In fact, I decided to shut off the Mac and scrapbook a page that I had originally blogged on the 18th of April. But since I am, of course, a blogger, the page I made becomes fodder for the blog. (See how I just tied it all back together? There's that whole circle of life thing again - and everything is fair game these days.)  ;-)

You remember that I had a post a few weeks ago and I titled it Listmania? Well, this is an example of how I would turn my blogging (journaling) and photos into a scrapbook page - I titled it "In 3 weeks."  Don't get me wrong, I love my Mac, probably more than is appropriate for polite society, but that's not important right now. =D

It's just that sometimes it just feels so good to physically hold all the elements and lay them out and pick out photos and stickers and glue and rubber stamps and lots of ink and even felt flowers with bling! Ah! And actually, in this layout, the journaling is really the most important part and the photos are there as supporting characters.

I moved the photos around until I was satisfied and had totally exhausted my (noisy and bossy) inner critic, then I just glued it all down and called it Good.

What do you think?

I'm going to be scrapbooking today and tomorrow - because, in case you didn't know, Saturday, May 3rd is National Scrapbooking Day and seriously, I must do my part. =D