What is the challenge?

A look back on your year. A time for reflection. A chance to make new friends.

__________

Sign. Me. Up.

I live for that stuff.

So I recently found a website called gwenbell.com. And though I am 18 days late, I LOVE the idea of taking time during each day in December to look back and highlight all of my 2009 notables. There is a prompt listed for each day, but since I didn't get in on the ground floor, I'll be taking some liberties so that I can fit it all in.

*** 

December 18. Shop. Online or offline, where did you spend most of your mad money this year?

My name is Sarah Hood. And I am addicted to Shutterfly. I honestly can't imagine that you haven't heard of it, but I suppose stranger things have happened. From Shutterfly's About Us page: We are a leading Internet-based social expression and personal publishing service that enables consumers to share, print and preserve their memories by leveraging our technology-based platform and manufacturing processes.

Translation: A big pile of awesomeness.

I think I knew of Shutterfly before but I experienced my first Shutterfly project last Christmas when my sister-in-law Lynn made Jeff a photo book of his trip to Washington to climb Mt. Rainier. It is really cool and something we still look through from time to time. I loved that you could put journaling and photos together in a professionally bound book – and putting it together is SO easy. Everything is online so there are no scrapbooking supplies to buy/store/sort, you can make endless adjustments until you order, and you can work on multiple projects at once — I currently have 6 open projects!

So. It's my new favorite thing. I did our Christmas cards with them this year and several Christmas presents for family. And! My most favorite! Colt's baby book. It starts the day I found out I was pregnant – October 1, 2007 – and runs through his entire first year. Shutterfly photo books start at 20 pages and max out at 100. His book is every bit of 100 pages and holds several hundred photographs. But honestly, if they had an option for a 700 page book…

I started it over six months ago. And working on it the last several months has all but permanently shifted my bedtime from around 10 to around midnight. I have stayed up after the boys are asleep, playing with backgrounds and fonts and cropping/editing photos until I just can't keep my eyes open. And I'm almost sad that it's all done. Though – never fear – I have already started his Second Year book!

Shutterfly is definitely a favorite new hobby – and not free (what is?!) – but it has truly been therapeutic. Looking through old photos, reading through old blog entries. I can't get enough. Jeff has been teasing me – saying I actually made the book for Colt's (someday) wife, which is probably somewhat true! But I hope that Colt and his family enjoy it someday, reading through his first year of life and getting a strong sense of where he came from.

I thought about posting the link here so you can see my handiwork, but I don't want to spoil the surprise for grandparents and family when they see it next week at Christmas. I promise to post a link after that. And as a consolation prize – and so you can see the photo book concept in action – you can feast your eyes on another recently completed project – my Africa trip.

Click here to view this photo book.

And if that doesn't work, try THIS LINK.

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