the unnatural mother

embracing mother-ing and all its glory – from wet diapers, spit-ups, tantrums to first smiles, hug-a-bugs and sweet cuddles

Lessons learned from my 1st Photobook layout October 31, 2011

I finally got it! Very quick turnaround, I might say. I uploaded my file Friday night and by Wednesday, it had arrived.

It was packaged very well – plastic outside, thick cardboard box and bubble wrap around the whole album. I didn’t get to take a picture of the packaging because I was too excited – I almost tore the packaging apart.

So how was it? Awesome! but not to overate it – you get what you put out there. If you have great pictures, you’ll end up with great pages as well. My advice, take great pictures with the highest or medium setting in your camera so you have room to crop and edit. Also, it’s your layout – so whatever layout you make, they’ll just print it – all with your flaws and errors. The key is to check, re-check, validate and verify your pictures and layout!!! I used a template with design and because I was cramming a whole year of my son’s life into 3 nights working on this album, there were many mistakes (even if I had my husband check it).

Couple of my mistakes:

  • failing to “send to back”. As I said in the previous post, picture boxes can overflow so if you have a large picture that can fit into 3 separate picture boxes, it will overflow (i.e. show in all 3 picture boxes instead of just 1). The trick there is to “send to back” or edit the picture in a separate photo-editing tool. This is good if you actually meant it (just like below) but if not, you’ll end up with the edge of your picture in another picture box. Boo!
Photobook printed material

The upper right picture is actually occupying 2 picture boxes. This is intentional.

  • white spaces! The picture in my picture box did not fill up the whole box so there were white spaces on the edge. Check, re-check and check again! Zoom if you have to! Actually, I encourage it because some pictures seem like there were no more white spaces but wen I zoomed it, there still was – much like photoshop when flattening.

On the other hand, I think they did a pretty good job – can’t really compare as this is my 1st photobook. Print quality is above average (excellent is my highest) and paper quality is something like that of our local magazines (I ordered the default which I think is 170 gsm Premium silk).

Cover:

Debossed cover

The picture on the cover is not that sharp. The color of the cover is lighter than what I expected/chose during the order process.

See some samples pages below:

Photobook sample

Colored picture on 1 page (picture taken 1600 x 1200 pixels, 180 dpi)

Photobook sample

Multiple pictures in 1 page.

Photobook sample

Lots of layout to choose from

Photobook sample

Black & white pictures

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Preserving those precious memories October 26, 2011

As a mother, there’s always that longing to stop time and just watch your children as they are at that moment. Sometimes, you’d even wish that they wouldn’t grow up so fast. If you’re that kind of mother (like me), the next best thing is to capture them in pictures. And in this digital age, that isn’t too hard and too expensive – vs. using film. I, for one, have always been into capturing moments even as a child and now, with children and all, the digital camera is my best friend.

And so I’ve taken the pictures, uploaded them in my pc, organized them by month, backed-up on DVDs… it’s the album-making step that’s really a hassle. Though its fun and one of my stress relievers, finding time to sit down and be on my own is the hard part.

I thank the heavens (and my cousin-in-law) for introducing me to Photobook Philippines! Unlike most photobook makers in Manila, this one gives you the option to actually MAKE your own album – you choose the pictures, you lay them out, you edit, modify, change to your heart’s content, you order and pay for the album, you receive it in your doorstep. No more going to the developing center, cutting out pictures, buying scrapbooking stuff… It’s as easy as opening your pc and starting on you project. For me, its the ideal alternative when you don’t have the time to make your own albums.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR PHOTOBOOK WITH PHOTOBOOK PHILIPPINES (steps outlined):

  1. Download the free software. This took me more than 3 hours at home on a wifi network.
  2. Scan the downloaded software with your anti-virus software
  3. Run the .exe to install the software.
  4. Open it and follow the wizard to create your album.

USING A READY MADE BOOK / TEMPLATE:

pre-requisite: you must have downloaded the free software above

note: ready made books do NOT have additional charges when ordering/paying for your photobook (at least, at the time of this post)

  1. Download the ready made book you want to use. Note that file is OS specific (i.e. either MAC or Windows). This takes about 30-45 minutes in my home wifi network.
  2. Scan the downloaded template with your anti-virus software
  3. Run or double-click file to install
  4. Once install is complete, open the Photobook Designer
  5. Select Existing Project and navigate your way to the name of the ready made book/template. Note that you cannot save this project using your own file name.
  6. Click on Open
  7. Follow the wizard to create album.

FRIENDLY TIPS ON USING PHTOBOOK DESIGNER AND READY MADE BOOK:

  • On the left panel, click on the plus (“+”) sign to add a folder of pictures. Use the icon next to the “+” sign to categorise your pictures by folders
  • From you windows explorer, organize pictures by different  folders. Add only the pictures you intend to use. Having a lot of pictures in one folder will slow down the application.
  • You can rotate the picture in the picture panel by right clicking
  • Use only high resolution pictures – 300 dpi and dimensions of at least 1000 dpi for length and width – especially if you are using the Large sizes of books
  • When you are using templates, a picture can overflow between picture boxes
  • When using templates, you can change the template of the page by deleting it and copying another page’s template
  • You can add text, frames, shadows to your pictures
  • You can add more pages to your album. If I’m not mistaken, its about P42 (at this time) a page for the default kind of paper
  • Payment is made via credit card through paypal (though you do not need to be registered with paypal)
  • Upload of album takes 30-35 minutes (for 60 pages) depending on your network speed. There is a test button that you can use to estimate how long it will upload.

Can’t wait for my album to arrive. I will let you know my feedback as soon as I get it.

 

Cooking mama 101 October 17, 2011

An introduction to baby food preparation 🙂

For someone who doesn’t cook (ME!) – either can’t, won’t, don’t have time – making baby food can seem like a daunting task. First, because you’re preparing food for your precious little one – you want it to be perfect. Second, you have no clue where and how to start.

Let me to tell you first hand that it’s EASY and coming from me someone whose cooking skills go as far as frying eggs and canned goods, that’s a LOT of confidence!

Here are some ( of my) trade secrets on preparing and feeding homemade baby food:

1.Read up! There are a lot of cooks in my family and they’re not the modern type that relies on quick and easy recipes – they prefer waiting for the real thing rather than giving in to bouillons or prepared mixes and sauces. So I’ve asked my mom how to make food for baby but all I got was the usual “you just cook it and mash it”. DUH! She makes it sound so simple but the real question is “HOW DO YOU COOK IT?”. Since I couldn’t get the answer I needed, I turned to READING – something I love doing. I started with the free-est resource available to mankind – the INTERNET. There are many recipe sites out there but only handful that really caters to infant food or baby’s first foods. Here are a couple I frequent:

  • Wholesome baby food. This one is really informative. It gives you a description of the food, its nutritional value, when to start it with baby and some side effects (if any), how to buy them (what to look out for, signs of ripeness), best way to cook them and then proceeds to list down recipes that includes this particular food. What more could you ask for! It also has useful links on storing, freezing, thawing baby food and articles on baby allergies and diarrhea. You can also easily find your “food” of choice since the menu posts categories for Fruit, Vegetables, Grains, Meat & Dairy
  • Homemade baby food. Though not as organized as the first, it also tells you HOW to prepare the food – if you should peel them, steam them, bake them and in what manner. And aside from the usual articles on food allergies, baby-led weaning and tips, I like the baby food chart section. Though your pediatrician will always tell you what foods are recommended at a particular age, the chart comes in handy for introducing variety to baby – just make sure you get the go signal from your doctor. Somewhere in that section is the link for a baby food planner – it’s just a simple calendar to keep track of what baby has eaten.

2. Confidence is KEY. A baby is basically tabula rasa (“blank slate’) when it comes to taste – at least this is what I believe in my experience.  This belief makes it easier for me to introduce new flavors in healthy foods to my baby without the  doubt that “he might refuse it”. Though, there are studies that a baby might prefer one taste over the other, this may only be true when the mother consumes a certain flavor everyday. If you were a pregnant mother who had a varied diet everyday then I probably can guess that there is no need to worry about taste preferences at 6 months.

My SKY ate the normal baby foods as an infant – brown rice, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, misua – but I was also keen to introduce the not so usual flavors of eggplant, red bell pepper, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach before he turned 1. He ate them without so much fuss I should say.

Once you have that confidence  that your baby WILL eat what you’ve cooked, it’s time to get down to the actual cooking.

2. Cleanliness is next to godliness. Be sanitary (with your tools) and hygienic (with yourself) at all times!

  • Cutting boards should be specially labeled for the kind of food they are used for. Boards for cutting meat should only be used for meat while boards for slicing vegetables should only be for vegetables. This is to prevent cross-contamination. As for the kind of cutting board (wood or plastic), I really have no preference as long as they’re clean. Here is a helpful article on the considerations between wood or plastic cutting boards.
  • Wash your hands conscientiously with soap and water. You need to scrub in between the fingers, the palms and the back of you hands. If you have long nails, make sure you remove any debris from under those nails. And after washing, dry with a clean towel. If you’re a bit of a germophobe like me, dry with a paper towel  and do not touch anything else after washing.
  • If you have cough or colds, use a face mask.
  • Sterilize or wash the food storage thoroughly. I used baby food bottles to store my homemade baby food. Why do I have baby food bottles if I make my own food? Let’s face it, I don’t always have the time and some flavors are hard to get by – like peaches, zucchinis, prunes. I sterilize the bottles with our baby bottle sterilizer, drip-dry and its good to go. Other storage containers I use are freezer ziplocks for the freezer, ice cube tray with cover for freezing, and glass leak-proof containers in the refrigerator (i.e. Lock n Locks, Biokeeps, etc). At one point, I used a breastmilk bag when I just made to much broccoli.
  • Use distilled/filtered water. If you live in a place where the tap water quality is not good (or there have been floods recently in your area), be safe and use filtered water to wash the vegetables/fruits. If you’re mixing the food with water, use distilled water.
  • Wash baby’s eating stuff with a dedicated sponge or brush. Need I say more?? Imagine all the oil and leftover in the common household sponge!

3. Know what foods are appropriate and when. Now that you’re all clean and confident, the next question is, “what should I feed my baby and when?“. Take your cue from your pediatrician. Most babies start “solid feeding” at 6 months. However, some may be ready earlier or later – that will be another topic. WHO (World Health Organization) calls this stage “complimentary feeding” and recommends 3 qualities of food in addition to breastmilk – timely, adequate and appropriate:

Complementary feeding should be timely, meaning that all infants should start receiving foods in addition to breast milk from 6 months onwards. It should be adequate, meaning that the complementary foods should be given in amounts, frequency, consistency and using a variety of foods to cover the nutritional needs of the growing child while maintaining breastfeeding. Foods should be prepared and given in a safe manner, meaning that measures are taken to minimize the risk of contamination with pathogens. And they should be given in a way that is appropriate, meaning that foods are of appropriate texture for the age of the child and applying responsive feeding following the principles of psycho-social care. (see full article here)

I guess that’a all I have in the bag for now. Hope it helps anyone out there!