Friday, August 8, 2014

PSA: Comparing Photo Books From Shutterfly and Blurb (Edited at the end)

I recently ordered 2 photo books from Blurb after having used Shutterfly for years. I wasn't sure how the finished products would compare, but now I know, so I'm writing this post to help me remember and to help anyone else who is wondering.

I make photo books for 2 different things: 1) Photo books that *I* will keep once the children move away, that tell the story of our entire family, and 2) Photo books for each child, containing mostly pictures of that child, which the child will take with him/her when he/she leaves the house.

I've been using Shutterfly for....well, since we got a digital camera...so for 12? 13? years. I was hesitant to move to a different site because so many years of my pictures are stored there and it's always such a hassle to upload lots of pictures. But, inevitably, when I would have 5 or 10 or 18 minutes here and there to work on photo books, I would have problems uploading my pictures or getting my project to load because of some issue with the site. Also, Shutterfly continues to add to their layouts and other options, so one of the books I was working on became obsolete, I had a hard time learning the new system, and there are now SO MANY options for backgrounds, layouts, and embellishments ("stickers"/decorations) that I became paralyzed with indecision. (But mostly it was the rage from the loading problems that did me in.)

A Lovely Person recommended Blurb to me, so I looked into that site. One thing I liked about Blurb right away was their program, BookSmart, that can be downloaded onto your computer, allowing you to work on your photo book offline. Another thing I liked was that the kind of photo book I was interested in could have 240 or 440 pages, depending on the kind of paper I picked. I was a little sad that there weren't any embellishments offered, but they had a variety of customizable photo layouts,  85 patterned backgrounds (whose colors can be changed to pretty much any color there is) and any color of solid background you could possibly want. Lack of embellishments, although a little sad, simplified the process for me and saved me A LOT of time.

Now for the detailed comparisons!

Kinds of paper
Shutterfly offers one kind of paper.
Blurb offers Standard Paper, Premium Paper Lustre or Matte, Proline Uncoated, or Proline Pearl Photo.

*I wasn't sure which of Blurb's papers would compare to Shutterfly's. If I used Standard Paper, I could get up to 440 pages in a book, but if I used Premium, I could only get 240. Since I am expending so much time, energy, and money on these books, and I want them to last FOREVER a long time, I decided to try Premium Paper Matte for my photo book and Premium Paper Lustre for Jeffrey's, so that I could see what the difference was between the two, and so I could compare the Premium papers to Shutterfly's standard paper.

Results: Shutterfly's standard paper is equivalent to Blurb's Premium Lustre Paper. It's a nice thickness with a little bit of shine. I think I will use the Premium Matte Paper from now on because I prefer to not have a glare on the pictures.

Types of Covers
Shutterfly offers leather, silk, linen, cloth, padded, hard matte covers for their premium or upgrade options, and hard or soft covers (with pictures and/or text printed on) for their standard option.
*Jeffrey's first photo book has a standard hard cover; the cover has a shiny finish (which is easy to wipe off if it gets fingerprints or something sticky on it).

Blurb offers a softcover, hard cover with a dust jacket, or hard cover with ImageWrap (meaning, no dust jacket and pictures/text printed on the front and/or back of the cover).
*The Family book and Jeffrey's second photo book have a hard cover with ImageWrap; the cover has a matte finish (which does not seem to wipe off quite as easily).

Sizes
Shutterfly offers books in sizes: 8x8, 8x11, 10x10, 12x12, or 11x14.
*Jeffrey's first book is 8x11.

Blurb offers books in sizes: 7x7, 7.75x9.75, 10x8, 13x11, or 12x12.
*The Family book and Jeffrey's second photo book are 13x11.


13x11 book on the left, 8x11 book on the right

The top book contains 101 pages (and has been well-loved).
The middle book contains 112 pages.
The bottom book contains 182 pages.
I am terrible at visualizing what size something will actually be, so I was pleasantly surprised today when the 13x11 books came and I saw the size of the pictures. For some things, like birthdays, where there are 40 pictures of the same event, I like to use the 9- or 16-picture layouts to keep a lot of the pictures but not use up a lot of pages with them. I always worry the pictures will turn out to be too small, especially with the 16-picture layout, but they were perfect!

Design Options
Shutterfly offers 2 book-making options: Custom Path (1-25 pictures per page, you design the book yourself, including backgrounds, text and fonts, and embellishments) or Simple Path (1-4 pictures per page, the computer organizes your pictures onto pages according to the dates and you can go through an adjust some things). In Custom Path, there are LOTS OF OPTIONS. LOTS. OF. OPTIONS. Backgrounds, page colors, embellishments, fonts, picture layouts, and now you can "customize" the picture layouts, which means you can change the size of the picture box, add or delete text boxes, and move things around on the page.

Blurb's BookSmart offers 85 patterned backgrounds with colors that can be changed, all sorts of solid colors for backgrounds, a variety of picture layouts (and the option to save layouts that you've designed), the option to "edit" the layout by changing the size of the picture boxes, adding or deleting picture and text boxes, and moving all of those things around on the page, and a variety of fonts.

Verdict: If you love designing things, having LOTS OF OPTIONS, and scrap booking, Shutterfly is what you want. If too many options make you feel overwhelmed and unable to make a decision, and what you want is a basic photo album with pictures and some text talking about the pictures, you want Blurb's BookSmart.

Note: Blurb has other book designing options, besides BookSmart, but I haven't used those.

Uploading Things
For Shutterfly, you add pictures to your book from your computer, your Shutterfly account, your Facebook, or your Instagram. You have to be online while you do this. I have had problems with uploading taking A LONG TIME. Once your pictures FINALLY load After you have your pictures, you make your photo book online, at the Shutterfly website. I have also had problems with this site refusing to load or loading very slowly. When your book is finished, you order it from the website, which is pretty quick if the program isn't running slowly/refusing to work that day.

For Blurb, you add pictures to your book from your computer, Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa, or Smugmug. I only got pictures from my computer, which was fast, and did not require me to be online. I never had any problems using BookSmart to work on my pages; the program never froze or worked slowly. When I was ready to order my book, I uploaded it to the website, which took over an hour (it was a VERY large file), but I was expecting that, wasn't in a hurry, was able to do other things online at the same time, AND it never froze and had to be restarted, so that didn't bother me.

Prices
Shutterfly: Jeffrey's 8x11 book, without sales, would cost $39.99 for the first 20 pages, plus $1 per page for additional pages. His book has 101 pages (ultrasound pictures to 18 months old). I can't find the information on their site after 5+ minutes of looking, but I think 101 was the maximum number of pages I could get at the time; that may have changed.
Total for this book, with no coupon codes would have been $120.99+shipping (which, AGAIN, I have looked and looked for on their site and cannot find, but it ends up being a moot point because they usually have a coupon code that gives you free shipping).
From Blurb, as similar sized book would have cost $61.01+shipping.

Blurb: The Large Landscape (13"x11"), Hardcover ImageWrap would cost $60.81 for the first 20 pages, plus $0.50 per page for additional pages. The Family book has 182 pages (January 2011 to the end of July 2013).
Total for this book, with no coupon codes would have been $141.81+shipping.
From Shutterfly, the similarly sized 11x14 book would have cost $312.99+shipping.

*The price of the basic 20-page book is the reason I put so many pages in my books; most of the cost is the initial book, so it's cheaper for me to make fewer books with more pages than to make more books with fewer pages. But if you're making a smaller-sized book for grandparents or for one event (for example: a certain family vacation or family event) then this is irrelevant.

Coupon Codes
*Shutterfly's shipping price depends on the amount of money you are spending, but they often have a free shipping if you spend $30+ code. They usually have a 30% off photo books coupon, often have a 40% off coupon, and sometimes offer a 50% off coupon; the coupons sometimes specify a certain size of book. Also, I am signed up for Shutterfly's emails, and will receive a "free 20 page photo book" coupon a couple times per year, so you could sign up for emails and try making the free book to see how you like their system.

*Blurb: I have only been signed up with them for about 2 months. A couple weeks before that 2 months was up, I received emails from them offering 20% off if I spent one amount or less, or 30% off if I spent more than that before it had been 60 days since I signed up with them. I've also seen 15% and 25% off codes from them. I have not yet seen any free shipping codes.

Final Thoughts
For me, the biggest downsides to Blurb were that I would like a few more decorative options, and I would REALLY like to be able to copy an entire page layout and paste it into another book project, but that isn't possible at this time. (The Shutterfly site isn't cooperating with me again tonight, but, from what I can tell/remember, I can't copy pages there either.) Everything else was a positive for me: ease of use of the website and program, price, and quality.

I was happy with Shutterfly's quality, and I enjoyed the decorative options before there were so many, but my frustration with their site is a HUGE downside.

Also, there are MANY places out there that make photo books, so GOOD LUCK choosing one!


*Edited: I forgot! Blurb sent a card in my book package with a code for 15% off any order until August 31, 2014. The code is: SUMMERSAVINGS.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Crappy Day P*ck*ge Exch*nge 2014, #4

For those who are new here, a p*ck*ge for this exch*nge usually consists of a box containing a few (or many) wrapped CDPs. If I'm sending out of state, it's very cost efficient to use a flat rate box, so I try to fill it up, and I think about what sorts of heavy things I could send that I wouldn't usually think to send. Treacle Fudge comes to mind. Or brownie mix. Or books (after all, the postage will be the same no matter what is inside =)!). If I'm sending IN state, I can send a giant box of my own and pay about the same amount of money using Standard Post instead of Priority. If you aren't sure what an appropriate amount of things to send is, click here and look through the different links of examples of Crappy Day Packages to get an idea.
*******
Hurray =)! Registration is OPEN for the next CDPExch*nge!
Please read all of the information below in case it has changed since the last time you read it all the way through, and then be sure to email me by August 15th if you want to join! Also, I will have to close registration once we reach 46 participants, so sign up soon!

Items of note:
  • Remember to go to the registry post (this is NOT the same information you send me for registration) and leave your answers in the comments (or email your answers to me, if you'd prefer). If you have previously left a comment answering the registry questions and your answers have changed, leave a new comment, and delete your old comment, or email me, and I will delete your old comment.
  • In order to help your person get to know you even better, either google "getting to know you questions" or go to one of these sites (which I found when I googled), copy the questions, and put your answers either in a blog post (or two or three...), or email the questions and answers to me, and I will forward them on to your person.
  • If you want to SEND a box (either to someone specific or someone random) anonymously (er, anonymously to THEM; *I* will still need some information from you to make sure that you are somebody *I* would be comfortable giving *my* personal information to if situations were reversed!) and not RECEIVE a box, email me, and I will be able to arrange that for you.
  • For the price range issue, we will continue to take the advice of a very wise Swistle who once said:
    • "As for price range, I think it's "whatever is still fun." If you start getting stressed about the cost, that = not fun. I think a prize (or, in this case, Crappy Day Package) can be something you go out and buy, or it can be half a batch of cookies, a couple of used paperbacks, and a bottle of moisturizer that wasn't right for you." Do your best! Make the kind of package you would like to receive, and try not to feel bad about having limited resources!
  • If you do not live in the USA and want to participate but are worried about postage, email me anyway; if there are others from your country/area who want to participate, I will match you up.
  • If you do a blog post about the box you receive, send me a link, and I'll add it to the Other Examples of CDP post.
  • If you want to be anonymous if your recipient does a blog post about the package you sent, let the recipient of your box know that!
*******
If you would still like to participate after reading all of this, email me, by 9:00pm (Eastern Time) August 15th at: stilldoingmybest (at) gmail (dot) com.
  • In your email, copy, paste, and answer these questions (if you've signed up recently and none of your information has changed, just let me know what your sending and receiving preferences are):
    • If this is your first time signing up, how did you find out about this exchange? (Since I will be giving out personal information, I want to make sure I know you or someone I know knows you so we can keep this safe!)
    • What is your internet name, (real) name and address? (This information will only be used for CDP purposes!)
    • If you have social media accounts (blog, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, etc...), please list the pertinent information so I can pass it on to your person. (These can be a good source of inspiration for presents!)
    • Is there anything important about you that I should tell the person who gets your name? (Life-threatening allergies, need for anonymity, etc...)
    • Is there anyone you WANT to send a package to? (List people in order of preference, and I will see what I can do! If the person hasn't signed up, I will be happy to send her a no-pressure email, telling her she's been requested and inviting her to join!)
    • Is there anyone you DON'T want to send a package to? (For example, perhaps you've already sent a certain person a CDP outside of these exchanges and want somebody new to stalk get to know?)
    • Do you want to be assigned...
      • A person you already know? (I tend to guess about who knows who based on blog and Twitter comments, but feel free to enlighten me if you do have a preference =)!)
      • Someone you don't know?
      • No preference?
    • Do you want me to assign your name to...
      • Someone you already know?
      • Someone you don't know?
      • No preference?
    • Is there anyone who has joined the registry that you do NOT want to have your address?
    • Are you willing to send a package to Canada or the United Kingdom (It appears to cost around $45 to send a flat-rate package to either of these places from the USA, unless you can keep your package under 4 pounds, and then it's more in the $20 (Canada)-$30 (UK) range.)?
  • If you have any questions for your person, and you are aiming for the element of surprise and don't want to email your person directly, email me your question(s) and the name of your person, and I will take care of that for you =).
I will send an email to you as soon as I can after August 15th with the information for your person.
Please send your package no later than September 15th.
*******
I think that's everything important, but let me know if you still have questions that I haven't answered and I will edit this post with your questions and the answers.
*******
What Are Crappy Day Presents
The Rules for the Opening of Crappy Day Presents
Crappy-Day-Present-Receiving Etiquette
The Master List for the Exch*nges
Ideas for Crappy Day Presents

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Oatmeal Experiment

So, after days, weeks, months, and years of complaints and declarations of ingratitude and entitlement, and a few days of certain hormones I had finally HAD IT, and declared that we would be eating oatmeal (made with milk, for added protein), fruits, and vegetables for every meal and snack FOR A WEEK to help us remember how blessed we really are to have our needs met and a variety of food easily available to us.

Day 1:
Ian is resigned; I've been his mother his entire life. He knows I am serious.
David is refusing to eat. (He thinks he will survive just fine on his secret stash of candy.)
Marie is resigned; I've been her mother her entire life. She knows I am serious.
Joseph and Jeffrey are happy; they LOVE fruits and vegetables and don't mind oatmeal.

I go grocery shopping and want to WEEP WITH JOY at how simple it is! No agonizing over what to buy (Is it healthy enough? Is it filling enough for hungry, hungry boys to justify the price? Is it chemicals disguised as food? Should I buy it when I can make it for less money? Shouldn't I try harder to incorporate more beans into our diet since they are healthy and inexpensive? If I buy this will they refuse to eat anything else?)! No hunting through coupons (fruits and vegetables don't usually have coupons and I bought store brand regular oats)!

Later that day, I decide that people can make things like apple crisp or carrot cake. So far, nobody is feeling desperate enough to put forth the effort.

Day 2:
I told the boys they may take hot dogs on their camp out if they do their chores without complaining or being reminded. One child is refusing to do a part of his chores that irritates him. 3 others: forgetful. (Final total: 2 boys can have hot dogs, 2 bitterly pack oatmeal. One package of candy is confiscated on the way to the van to leave for the camp out.)

Joseph and Jeffrey are getting a little tired of apples and strawberries, and so they try salad with dressing for the first time as I am unconscious on the floor from the shock. Joseph decides he doesn't like it; Jeffrey does.

At 3:00pm, Ian asks if he can eat waffles if he makes them (from scratch). Unfortunately, he is having a very busy day and doesn't have time to make waffles before they leave for the camp out.

In time-honored tradition (the boys all go camping about once a year twice if we're really lucky), Marie and I have ice cream and pizza for dinner.

Day 3:
Boys have pancakes and sausage for breakfast at the camp out.

5:25 Jeffrey, after asking for a treat and being told no, says, "Can we PLEASE go back to what we usually eat?"

5:53pm Ian BEGS (because I told him that when a person is going to cook dinner they need to start cooking at 5:00 and not at the last minute {due to bedtime and various things}) to be allowed to make waffles. Every child, except 1, happily and GRATEFULLY eats waffles for dinner. One child complains that he can't find a waffle crispy enough and is pointed to the oatmeal, fruits, and vegetables.

Day 4:
I am very much enjoying the lack of stress about meals! Nobody is whining in the morning or at lunch about not knowing what to have, and I don't need to keep checking the calendar to see which person is supposed to be cooking dinner and remind that person 4 or 5 times throughout the day.

Since today was Mother's Day, Husband made sausage, eggs, and biscuits for me for breakfast. The children eagerly ate their share with many proclamations of thanks.

Entirely unprompted and without one sound of complaint, David made pizza (from scratch) for dinner for everyone.

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
I hope my possible future DIL appreciates all of the effort that went into this ;-)!
Day 5:
I am sick, and it is WONDERFUL to not have to worry about what people will be eating all day because: OATMEAL, FRUITS, OR VEGETABLES!

Day 6:
At ~3:00 a child remembers that, in times like these, popcorn is considered a vegetable. The child makes popcorn for snack time and there is much rejoicing in the land!

Husband, Jeffrey, and I have salad for dinner, Marie has oatmeal, the other boys opt not to eat dinner.

Day 7:
Children practically LEAP out of bed in order to work on their chores, since the oatmeal experiment ends when the weekly chores are finished.
*******

Since the oatmeal experiment has ended, I have had a lot less stress about dinner times. If the child in charge of dinner doesn't start cooking dinner by 5:00, I happily announce another meal of oatmeal, fruits, and vegetables! I do not worry about who is in charge of dinner and repeatedly remind that person to get cooking! For the most part, the children have HAPPILY and GRATEFULLY eaten whatever food someone has prepared. There has also been an overall decrease in the amount of complaining surrounding the daily and weekly chores. All in all, I call it a SUCCESS and will do it again if needed!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Crappy Day P*ck*ge Exch*nge 2014, #3

For those who are new here, a p*ck*ge for this exch*nge usually consists of a box containing a few (or many) wrapped CDPs. If I'm sending out of state, it's very cost efficient to use a flat rate box, so I try to fill it up, and I think about what sorts of heavy things I could send that I wouldn't usually think to send. Treacle Fudge comes to mind. Or brownie mix. Or books (after all, the postage will be the same no matter what is inside =)!). If I'm sending IN state, I can send a giant box of my own and pay about the same amount of money using Standard Post instead of Priority. If you aren't sure what an appropriate amount of things to send is, click here and look through the different links of examples of Crappy Day Packages to get an idea.
*******
Hurray =)! Registration is OPEN for the next CDPExch*nge!

Please read all of the information below in case it has changed since the last time you read it all the way through, and then be sure to email me by May 15th if you want to join! Also, I will have to close registration once we reach 46 participants, so sign up soon!

Items of note:
  • Remember to go to the registry post (this is NOT the same information you send me for registration) and leave your answers in the comments (or email your answers to me, if you'd prefer). If you have previously left a comment answering the registry questions and your answers have changed, leave a new comment, and delete your old comment, or email me, and I will delete your old comment.
  • In order to help your person get to know you even better, either google "getting to know you questions" or go to one of these sites (which I found when I googled), copy the questions, and put your answers either in a blog post (or two or three...), or email the questions and answers to me, and I will forward them on to your person.
  • If you want to SEND a box (either to someone specific or someone random) anonymously (er, anonymously to THEM; *I* will still need some information from you to make sure that you are somebody *I* would be comfortable giving *my* personal information to if situations were reversed!) and not RECEIVE a box, email me, and I will be able to arrange that for you.
  • For the price range issue, we will continue to take the advice of a very wise Swistle who once said:
    • "As for price range, I think it's "whatever is still fun." If you start getting stressed about the cost, that = not fun. I think a prize (or, in this case, Crappy Day Package) can be something you go out and buy, or it can be half a batch of cookies, a couple of used paperbacks, and a bottle of moisturizer that wasn't right for you." Do your best! Make the kind of package you would like to receive, and try not to feel bad about having limited resources!
  • If you do not live in the USA and want to participate but are worried about postage, email me anyway; if there are others from your country/area who want to participate, I will match you up.
  • If you do a blog post about the box you receive, send me a link, and I'll add it to the Other Examples of CDP post.
  • If you want to be anonymous if your recipient does a blog post about the package you sent, let the recipient of your box know that!
*******
If you would still like to participate after reading all of this, email me, by 9:00pm (Eastern Time) May 15th at: stilldoingmybest (at) gmail (dot) com.
  • In your email, copy, paste, and answer these questions (if you've signed up recently and none of your information has changed, just let me know what your sending and receiving preferences are):
    • If this is your first time signing up, how did you find out about this exchange? (Since I will be giving out personal information, I want to make sure I know you or someone I know knows you so we can keep this safe!)
    • What is your internet name, (real) name and address? (This information will only be used for CDP purposes!)
    • If you have social media accounts (blog, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, etc...), please list the pertinent information so I can pass it on to your person. (These can be a good source of inspiration for presents!)
    • Is there anything important about you that I should tell the person who gets your name? (Life-threatening allergies, need for anonymity, etc...)
    • Is there anyone you WANT to send a package to? (List people in order of preference, and I will see what I can do! If the person hasn't signed up, I will be happy to send her a no-pressure email, telling her she's been requested and inviting her to join!)
    • Is there anyone you DON'T want to send a package to? (For example, perhaps you've already sent a certain person a CDP outside of these exchanges and want somebody new to stalk get to know?)
    • Do you want to be assigned...
      • A person you already know? (I tend to guess about who knows who based on blog and Twitter comments, but feel free to enlighten me if you do have a preference =)!)
      • Someone you don't know?
      • No preference?
    • Do you want me to assign your name to...
      • Someone you already know?
      • Someone you don't know?
      • No preference?
    • Is there anyone who has joined the registry that you do NOT want to have your address?
    • Are you willing to send a package to Canada or the United Kingdom (It appears to cost around $45 to send a flat-rate package to either of these places from the USA, unless you can keep your package under 4 pounds, and then it's more in the $20 (Canada)-$30 (UK) range.)?
  • If you have any questions for your person, and you are aiming for the element of surprise and don't want to email your person directly, email me your question(s) and the name of your person, and I will take care of that for you =).
I will send an email to you as soon as I can after May 15th with the information for your person.
Please send your package no later than June 14th.
*******
I think that's everything important, but let me know if you still have questions that I haven't answered and I will edit this post with your questions and the answers.
*******
What Are Crappy Day Presents
The Rules for the Opening of Crappy Day Presents
Crappy-Day-Present-Receiving Etiquette
The Master List for the Exch*nges
Ideas for Crappy Day Presents

Friday, February 21, 2014

Crappy Day P*ck*ge Exch*nge 2014, #2

For those who are new here, a p*ck*ge for this exch*nge usually consists of a box containing a few (or many) wrapped CDPs. If I'm sending out of state, it's very cost efficient to use a flat rate box, so I try to fill it up, and I think about what sorts of heavy things I could send that I wouldn't usually think to send. Treacle Fudge comes to mind. Or brownie mix. Or books (after all, the postage will be the same no matter what is inside =)!). If I'm sending IN state, I can send a giant box of my own and pay about the same amount of money using Standard Post instead of Priority. If you aren't sure what an appropriate amount of things to send is, click here and look through the different links of examples of Crappy Day Packages to get an idea.
*******
Hurray =)! Registration is OPEN for the next CDPExch*nge!

Please read all of the information below in case it has changed since the last time you read it all the way through, and then be sure to email me by March 15th if you want to join! Also, I will have to close registration once we reach 46 participants, so sign up soon!

Items of note:
  • Remember to go to the registry post (this is NOT the same information you send me for registration) and leave your answers in the comments (or email your answers to me, if you'd prefer). If you have previously left a comment answering the registry questions and your answers have changed, leave a new comment, and delete your old comment, or email me, and I will delete your old comment.
  • In order to help your person get to know you even better, either google "getting to know you questions" or go to one of these sites (which I found when I googled), copy the questions, and put your answers either in a blog post (or two or three...), or email the questions and answers to me, and I will forward them on to your person.
  • If you want to SEND a box (either to someone specific or someone random) anonymously (er, anonymously to THEM; *I* will still need some information from you to make sure that you are somebody *I* would be comfortable giving *my* personal information to if situations were reversed!) and not RECEIVE a box, email me, and I will be able to arrange that for you.
  • For the price range issue, we will continue to take the advice of a very wise Swistle who once said:
    • "As for price range, I think it's "whatever is still fun." If you start getting stressed about the cost, that = not fun. I think a prize (or, in this case, Crappy Day Package) can be something you go out and buy, or it can be half a batch of cookies, a couple of used paperbacks, and a bottle of moisturizer that wasn't right for you." Do your best! Make the kind of package you would like to receive, and try not to feel bad about having limited resources!
  • If you do not live in the USA and want to participate but are worried about postage, email me anyway; if there are others from your country/area who want to participate, I will match you up.
  • If you do a blog post about the box you receive, send me a link, and I'll add it to the Other Examples of CDP post.
  • If you want to be anonymous if your recipient does a blog post about the package you sent, let the recipient of your box know that!
*******
If you would still like to participate after reading all of this, email me, by 9:00pm (Eastern Time) March 15th at: stilldoingmybest (at) gmail (dot) com.
  • In your email, copy, paste, and answer these questions (if you've signed up recently and none of your information has changed, just let me know what your sending and receiving preferences are):
    • If this is your first time signing up, how did you find out about this exchange? (Since I will be giving out personal information, I want to make sure I know you or someone I know knows you so we can keep this safe!)
    • What is your internet name, (real) name and address? (This information will only be used for CDP purposes!)
    • If you have social media accounts (blog, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, etc...), please list the pertinent information so I can pass it on to your person. (These can be a good source of inspiration for presents!)
    • Is there anything important about you that I should tell the person who gets your name? (Life-threatening allergies, need for anonymity, etc...)
    • Is there anyone you WANT to send a package to? (List people in order of preference, and I will see what I can do! If the person hasn't signed up, I will be happy to send her a no-pressure email, telling her she's been requested and inviting her to join!)
    • Is there anyone you DON'T want to send a package to? (For example, perhaps you've already sent a certain person a CDP outside of these exchanges and want somebody new to stalk get to know?)
    • Do you want to be assigned...
      • A person you already know? (I tend to guess about who knows who based on blog and Twitter comments, but feel free to enlighten me if you do have a preference =)!)
      • Someone you don't know?
      • No preference?
    • Do you want me to assign your name to...
      • Someone you already know?
      • Someone you don't know?
      • No preference?
    • Is there anyone who has joined the registry that you do NOT want to have your address?
    • Are you willing to send a package to Canada or the United Kingdom (It appears to cost around $45 to send a flat-rate package to either of these places from the USA, unless you can keep your package under 4 pounds, and then it's more in the $20 (Canada)-$30 (UK) range.)?
  • If you have any questions for your person, and you are aiming for the element of surprise and don't want to email your person directly, email me your question(s) and the name of your person, and I will take care of that for you =).
I will send an email to you as soon as I can after March 15th with the information for your person.
Please send your package no later than April 15th.
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I think that's everything important, but let me know if you still have questions that I haven't answered and I will edit this post with your questions and the answers.
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What Are Crappy Day Presents
The Rules for the Opening of Crappy Day Presents
Crappy-Day-Present-Receiving Etiquette
The Master List for the Exch*nges
Ideas for Crappy Day Presents

Friday, January 31, 2014

Recipe for Caramel 'N Chocolate Pecan Bars

I found this delicious sounding recipe on the inside of the butter box some time ago, and I finally tried it!

OH MY.

Caramel 'n Chocolate Pecan Bars (with my changes in bold and parentheses)

Crust
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 Cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 Cup salter butter, softened
1 Cup pecan halves (In an effort to not skimp on the health benefits of pecans--protein and so forth--I did not measure these; I spread a nice, solid layer over the entire crust.)

Caramel Layer (Caramel is one of my favorites and this didn't look like much, so I doubled it. GOOD CALL.)
2/3 C. salted butter
1/2 C. firmly packed brown sugar

Chocolate
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I was suspicious that the strong flavor of the semi-sweet chocolate chips would overpower the more delicate flavor of the caramel, so I sprinkled the full amount on half of the pan.)

>Heat oven to 350*. Combine all crust ingredients except pecans in large bowl. Beat at medium speed until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Press onto bottom of ungreased 13x9-inch baking pan. Place pecans evenly over unbaked crust.
>Combine 2/3 cup butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar in 1-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until entire surface of mixture begins to boil. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, 1 minutes. Pour mixture evenly over pecans and crust. (I really don't think this would have adequately covered the pecans and crust if I hadn't doubled it.)
>Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until entire caramel layer is bubbly. DO NOT OVERBAKE. (I checked at 15 minutes and there were bubbles around the edges; when I checked a few minutes later, the entire caramel layer was bubbly.) Remove from oven. Immediately sprinkle with chips; allow to melt slightly. Swirl melted chips over bars leaving some whole for marbled effect. Cool completely. (This is a great way to take advantage of the unusually cold temperatures and a nice, chilly garage!) Cut into bars.

Right out of the oven

TIP: You can use a combination of your favorite nuts or flavored baking chips for variety in these bars. (I am SORELY TEMPTED to try them with butterscotch chips...but that might be too sweet.)

With chocolate chips on the left, without chocolate chips on the right


Mmmmm. I was right: the chocolate does overpower the caramel flavor, but maybe it wouldn't have if I had only used half of the called-for amount. SOMEONE SHOULD TRY IT AND REPORT BACK =)! With the chocolate chips, I think it tastes like a delicious chocolaty treat. Without the chocolate chips, it reminds me of Butterscotch Squares or the delicious, gooey part of Swistle's Mom's Pecan Rolls.

So! You try it and come back and report on any changes you made and how they turned out!

PSA: What Happens When You Go To the Doctor Because of a Smashed Toe (or Finger) (Updated)

WARNING: This post contains pictures of a purple toenail and swollen toe.
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On Monday afternoon, I was walking past Jeffrey with my arms full of things to put away, when I noticed he was messing around with a bar stool, tipping it back and forth. I paused on my way and said, "Please don't do that; you're going to get..." *WHAM* Bar stool to the toe.

Not even 5 minutes later
His toenail immediately turned purple, and he cried for quite a while and didn't walk around much for the rest of the day. I asked around, and the consensus was that the way to treat this sort of injury was to have a little hole drilled in the nail to release the pressure. Given the amount of screaming that occurred at Jeffrey's last shots, I knew I did not want to try this at home. Also, I wasn't sure if this was one of those things that, if I took him to the doctor immediately, they would just roll their eyes at me and say we needed to watch it for a couple days, so I decided to skip that experience and just watch it for a couple days. I did give him some ibuprofen for the pain.


EDITED TO ADD: If he had broken the skin/nail, I would have taken him in right away because foot wounds like that are notorious for getting infected.

I tried to go to bed early that night but, a couple hours later, I got out of bed when I heard heartbroken, frantic sobs of, "I don't want to die! I don't want to die!" coming from the hallway. It seems Joseph a helpful brother had matter-of-factly commented how sad it would be if Jeffrey died from his toe injury 2 days before his birthday. It took an hour or so to calm him down. It took me a LONG TIME to get to sleep.

Thank you, helpful brother.

The next day, the purple had spread, the toe was definitely looking a little puffy, and he said it hurt to wear a sock.

The third day, his toe was so swollen that I expected his toe nail to pop off at any moment from the pressure.
The picture doesn't do it justice; it was really bad.

But it was his birthday, and I didn't want to ruin his birthday with an unpleasant trip to the doctor, so we went in the next day.


While we drove, I told him a little bit about what would happen when we got to the medical clinic. I tried to explain things to him a little ahead of time so he would know, generally, what to expect. I presented a calm and unworried face so he wouldn't become alarmed. (I truly wasn't worried; by boy #4, I'm pretty resigned about these things.)

When we checked in, a couple people made comments about this having happened DAYS ago and what did I expect them to do about a broken toe AT THIS POINT. I told them I was worried about the swelling, not the possible break.


While we were waiting for the doctor, I told Jeffrey that the doctor was going to need to look at his toe, and that he was probably going to do something to it to make it feel better. He asked me what the doctor was going to do, and I told him I didn't know, which was true! I didn't know...exactly...what he was going to do. As soon as the doctor came in the room, I told him it would be best if he did NOT tell or show Jeffrey what was going on. (At his shot appointment, Jeffrey was so terrified about the shots that there was no reasoning with or bribing him, so I knew it would not go well if he had a specific idea of what was coming.) The doctor looked a little puzzled but he followed my lead. He went to get some back-up and whatever the tool was that was going to burn a small hole in Jeffrey's toenail.

When he came back, I laid Jeffrey on the bed and leaned over him, pinning his top half down and blocking his view. He asked what was going to happen, and I told him that the doctor was going to do something to his toe to make it feel better. He asked what they were going to do, and I told him I would tell him that after the doctor was done. The other guys held his legs while the doctor did his thing. Of course, the first tool broke, so the doctor had to go get another one. Jeffrey looked a little apprehensive, but stayed pretty still and did not scream! When the doctor used the 2nd tool to make the little hole, Jeffrey didn't know exactly what was happening but laughed nervously and said it tickled. It hurt a little bit when someone pressed on his toe gently to help the fluid come out, but it was quick, and then it was finished!

The doctor had made a tiny hole in his toenail, about the size of a pin head. Since Jeffrey wasn't screaming or flailing around, it was VERY FAST. His toe IMMEDIATELY looked and felt a lot better! 24 hours later it isn't draining and still looks good.
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UPDATE:
4 months later, the toenail fell off to reveal a new, bumpy toenail that had grown in about halfway; I assume it will keep growing until it covers his toe again.