Saturday, February 14, 2015

I Sure Didn't See This Coming!

Today started out pretty blah for various reasons, but when I came upstairs after exercising this morning, I noticed that Ian had left me a paper on my desk, right on top of one of my crocheting patterns where he knew I'd see it. When I didn't say anything right away, he asked if I had noticed the Valentine he left me, so I stopped what I was doing and read the paper. I laughed and laughed because it is just SO IAN. When I finished reading, I asked if he had done this all by himself, and he said yes. He also said this was his 3rd draft!  Considering that Husband didn't manage to give me the present I picked out for myself and gave him to give me today, and the fact that none of the other children did anything, I'm certain Husband had nothing to do with this.

Here is what he wrote, just as he wrote it:
Dear Mom,
Java Script is red, Blackboard collaborate is blue**,
If I get bored in class, It's because of all that I learned from you,
Einstien was smart, Oppenhimer too,
But neither of them are as smart as you,
Louis Armstrong reached high, the Wright Bros. did too,
They must have had mothers like you,
Nephi was brave, the Stripling warriors too,
And they owe it all to mothers like you,
Plumbers are red, Hedgehogs are blue, If i'm intrested in
something, I can count on encouragement from you,
Shakespeare wrote well, Longfellow did to, I can punctuate this
poem so well because of all the help from you,
Robin Hood shot well, Little John did too, I'll bet that they had
mothers like you,
Cargo pants are awesome, Safari vests are too, and you told me
yourself that I got that from you, :)
I like to do origami, and I can draw pretty well too, But only
because of all the support from you!
Happy Valentine's day! 
Love [Ian]

                                              *Blackboard colaborate is blue+red.

IAN, you guys! IAN. I am FLABBERGASTED! If you had told me years ago that he would ever do something like this, especially it being his own idea, I would have thought you were CRAZY.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

20 Years Ago

Twenty years ago this week, I flew to the Far North to be with Beloved Friend during a very difficult time for her. I was 17 1/2 (which felt VERY grown up at the time), in my 3rd semester of college (I had taken a semester of summer school after high school graduation), and the future seemed exciting and full of happy possibilities! I had recently discovered email, which was SUCH an improvement over sending a written letter in the mail and waiting a week or so for a response! Flying was still enjoyable: friends could be with me at my gate while I was waiting to board, the flights weren't jam packed, and I didn't have to pay for my suitcase to come with me. Although the trip was the result of something sad, and although I had TONS of make-up work to do for the classes I missed, it was fun to have an adventure; to do something so out-of-the-ordinary.

I did not have a cell phone to text Beloved Friend while I was waiting at the airport or boarding my flights or take pictures while I was there (I packed an actual camera). No MP3 player; in fact, I may have brought my CD walkman (discman?) and some CDs to entertain me. No tablet to play games on or watch movies during the flight, but I did have my trusty crocheting and books!

I thought February in the Far North was FASCINATING! There was so much snow everywhere! It was so cold that many of the trees were bending over so that their tops touched the ground, and people had to plug in their cars when they parked so the engines wouldn't freeze. It was a harsh climate but so beautiful.

Today, when I realized which week it was and how long it's been, I wanted to call Beloved Friend and exclaim over the passing of time. But I can't.

A lot has changed in 20 years.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Crappy Day P*ck*ge Exch*nge #1, 2015

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.
Okay! Let's try this again!

Hurray =)! Registration is OPEN for the first CDPExch*nge of 2015!
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 Saturday, February 14th if you want to join! Also, I will 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) February 14th 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 February 14th with the information for your person.
Please send your package no later than March 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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Update On the Dilemma!

Thank you all for your comments! My biggest worry in this situation was that I was protecting David (and the other kids) too much from the disappointments of life (and maybe I worry about this so much since my kids are homesch00led and, by virtue of that, miss out on a lot of the crappy life lessons they would learn at school), so I was relieved to find out that so many wise women didn't think that was the case!

I encouraged him to contact the teacher because one of his issues in dealing with life is a distinct reluctance to communicate...much at all, really, and I was trying to give him a chance to practice that in the least threatening manner possible: over email, which gives him a chance to think carefully about what he wants to say instead of it being necessary to think quickly, which happens in person or on the phone. In the online school program he is in, he receives frequent emails from this teacher and his other teachers, and all of them end their emails by encouraging the students to contact them if they have any problems or questions. He has previously emailed this teacher and she has always been friendly and helpful in her responses.

He was having another steadfast and immovable day today, so I emailed the teacher. She first responded that she had sent the card on the 1st but would check the address and get back to me. It turns out that that letter, and some other important ones, were give to her HUSBAND to mail, and we all can guess how THAT turned out. So now I have great hope that it will arrive by the end of the week, phew!

While I was waiting for the teacher to respond to my email, I talked to David about counting chickens before they're hatched, and told him that $20 was a lot of money, I appreciated his hard work, I was proud of him, I was sorry that his gift card hadn't arrived, and that I was glad that, in this instance, which would not always be the case, I could make this right for him.

Really: THANK YOU to all who commented! Ever since the dentist and orthodontist appointments when Joseph was so shocked at the news that we have to do things that are unpleasant, I've been worried that I was doing something wrong. I appreciated the discussion today!

A Parenting Dilemma (edited)

Right before Thanksgiving, one of David's teachers had a contest for her students. Whoever completed the most of a certain kind of assignment would win a gift card, and the 2nd and 3rd place people would win smaller gift cards. Let me just say: I now know what motivates David! At the end of the first day, he had completed 23 assignments and the next closest person had completed 4. He continued working on these assignments until the deadline, and I was nervous for him: how many times do we work as hard as we can and do our best but we miss the mark anyway? I was so happy for him when it turned out that he DID win 1st place! He was thrilled and planned to use the $20 gift card to buy Christmas presents for his siblings (we have the kids draw names so that they aren't obligated to buy for everyone, but he wanted to shop for more than the one name he drew), which freed up the other money he'd been saving all year to buy a Christmas present for a family we know and love.

He carefully shopped the sales around Thanksgiving and managed to find what he wanted to get for that family for just under what he had saved ($85!!). He was so excited to wrap it up and send it off. (I helped him with the postage since there had been something I was going to send at some point anyway, and he was out of money.)

But now the gift card he worked so hard for hasn't arrived (and it should have, by now), and I worry that's it's been lost/stolen in the mail. $20 is not an insignificant amount of money around here--
and it brings to mind the time a few years ago when my mom made some comment about wishing that Husband and I would carry $20 in our wallets all the time, just in case, and I laughed at the thought of having that much money available to just be in my wallet--
but my instinct is to sacrifice somewhere so I can give him the money and tell him that I'm sorry that his gift card got lost after all of his hard work, and here's the money so he can do his Christmas shopping.


Am I shielding my children too much from the disappointments and unpleasantries of life?

We went to the dentist recently and Joseph refused to open his mouth because he didn't like the taste of the fluoride treatment; a few days later he refused to open his mouth at the orthodontist when he was supposed to be getting his braces on because he didn't like the feel of the tooth polishing stuff. Have I somehow missed teaching my kids the VERY IMPORTANT lesson that often we have to buck up and do things or experience things we don't like? It SEEMS like I spend a large portion of each day saying, "I'm sorry you don't want to/like to ______; you have to do it anyway", but maybe that's not enough?

Also, this may or may not be TOTALLY IS the stubborn mule child who gives me so much trouble by refusing to do school assignments and chores he doesn't like, refusing to get out of bed until the last possible moment in the morning, refusing to communicate clearly, telling half-truths or twisting things around to seem the way he wants them to be, should I really be going out of my way to do nice things for him when HE KNOWS what a stinker he's been and continues to be? But we also try to teach our children to do unto others the way they WOULD have others do unto them (as opposed to doing unto others the way others HAVE done unto them), so...I just don't know what to do.

Any words of wisdom for me?
Edited to add: Sorry I wasn't clear before! I'm fighting Dementors again and my mind is a little fuzzy.

For Joseph, I spent the week in between his first orthodontist appointment and the next one, telling him over and over, "Sometimes we have to do things we don't like. It won't taste good, but you have to open your mouth anyway. It might hurt a little and you have to open your mouth anyway. It isn't fair of us to waste everybody's time by making this appointment if you aren't going to cooperate." (I didn't make the 2nd appointment until he assured me that he understood and would cooperate.)

David DID contact his teacher a week ago to find out if the gift card had been sent, and she said it would be sent the next day. I have asked him to contact her again (trying to teach him life skills and problem solving here), but I'm trying to decide what to do in the likely event that she HAD sent it and it is lost.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ice Cream Report

Months ago A while back, a Lovely Person sent me a gift card to the wonderful, local ice cream place, so I felt it was my DUTY to try a variety of flavors and report! Most of these flavors are from Graeter's, but I discovered other delicious brands and flavors in the time I've been working on this post, so I included those too.

A couple nice things about the chocolate "chips" in Graeter's ice cream:
1. They are varying sizes and often large.
2. The chocolate melts in your mouth instead of sticking to your teeth!

NOTE: I *STRONGLY SUGGEST* that you have a delicious pint of ice cream in your freezer before you read this post.

Because I was too busy enjoying the deliciousness Somehow, I didn't take any pictures of the ice cream that turned out to be my favorite in this report. BROWNIE MOOSE TRACKS!!! Vanilla ice cream with the WONDERFUL fudge ripple throughout and lots of pieces of CHEWY brownies! Moose Tracks ice cream is sold under a variety of store brands, so check your local grocery store for their many yummy flavors. Unfortunately, my local grocery store's brand doesn't make the brownie flavor, although it does have 3 or 4 of the other Moose Tracks flavors, but the store carries a brand called Dean's that has it!

Some of the contenders

Graeter's Toffee Chocolate Chip
*Vanilla ice cream with pieces of toffee and chocolate chips
*Toffee is PERFECT: easy to crunch and doesn't stick to my teeth
*Milk chocolate chips

Graeter's Coconut Chocolate Chip
*This is what I usually choose because they only have my ABSOLUTE favorite, Mint Cookies and Cream, for ONE MONTH OF THE YEAR *sob*
*Sweet, creamy ice cream; not sure if it's vanilla or coconut flavored
*Lots of coconut flakes
*Semi-sweet chocolate "chips"
*I imagine a Mounds Bar turned into ice cream would taste like this

Ben and Jerry's Scotchy Scotch Scotch
*Butterscotch flavored ice cream with a slightly crunchy butterscotch ripple throughout
* SIXTEEN grams of protein in one container! I don't remember other flavors having that much; I guess I'll need to buy them again and check more carefully! (After checking: The other flavors have that much protein too.)
*Ian is quite sad that this is a limited edition flavor

Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Peppermint Crunch
*First bite tastes like a nice, cold peppermint patty
*Chocolate ice cream with a thin mint ribbon (a thicker mint ribbon would be nice); the description says there are fudge swirls, but I didn't notice those very much
*The "Crunch" is mint chocolate cookie balls that taste like Th!n M!nts or Grasshopper cookies!

Graeter's Cookies & Cream
*Nice cream flavor
*Very light on the cookies: 2 good size chunks, a few smaller pieces

Graeter's Butter Pecan
*Nice buttery flavor in the ice cream
*Nice amount of pecans throughout

Graeter's Salted Caramel
*Very nice caramel flavor with just enough of the salt to keep it from being to sweet
*Smooth ice cream; no chunks of anything

Graeter's Buckeye Blitz
*Chocolate and peanut butter flavored ice cream
*Dark chocolate "chips"
*Little pieces of peanut butter cookie dough (bigger pieces of cookie dough would be better!)

Graeter's Strawberry Chocolate Chip
*Varying sizes of melt-in-your-mouth (instead of stick-in-your-teeth) semi-sweet chocolate "chips"
*Natural strawberry flavored ice cream, no food coloring, smallish pieces of strawberry
*Somewhat sweet, but sweetness is balanced by the semi-sweet chocolate

There were some SERIOUS chocolate chunks in this one!

I hit the jackpot!

Piece of strawberry

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 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).

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.

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.