Archive for October, 2011

Our First Halloween

Smith and I are celebrating our first holiday together as a married couple, and since he knows that Halloween is my favorite holiday, he offered for us to carve pumpkins together.  Technically, we were married prior to Independence Day, but we both dislike crowds, humidity, bugs, children, and staying up late, so we forwent the fireworks. 

I have fond memories of my parents making each holiday special for me and my three brothers, and I am excited about starting new traditions with Smith.  My dad was creative and artistic, and he took us each year to the farmers market or pumpkin patch to carefully sort through all the gourds to find the perfect ones for carving.  He enjoyed helping us gut our pumpkins, carefully drew designs on their faces to our liking, and proudly displayed our masterpieces on the front porch of our house.

Smith and I first picked out a couple of pumpkins from the grocery store.

We love analyzing the personality types and interpersonal dynamics of the characters on “Family Guy,” and we recite lines from the show as a part of our daily conversation, so Stewie and Brian seemed like natural choices for our pumpkin carvings.  I drew a couple of stencils for us to use.

I made sure the stencils fit our pumpkins.

We scraped the guts out of our pumpkins.

Yum.

We attached the stencils to the pumpkins using toothpicks. 

Using a pointy plastic tool, we punctured small dots through the stencil into the face of the pumpkin.  This gave us the outline for the areas that would be carved out.  Smith preferred to use a metal dental pick to make the dots, as it was sturdier than the plastic tool.

Stewie is fully carved.

Brian is almost ready.

We put candles inside the pumpkins and turned off the lights.  Voila.

Stewie and Brian together and all aglow.

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Sweet Memory Albums Review

I often read bloggers reviews of products prior to purchasing them, particularly when I buy online.  I recently got married and received beautiful digital images of our wedding from my photographer.  I envisioned having those pictures displayed in a flush mount wedding album, with hard pages, photo quality paper, and a journalistic style layout. 

I had a difficult time locating a company that would produce the album I desired; many companies only sell to professional, credentialed photographers.  I came across Sweet Memory Albums, who offers flush mount albums to the amateur individual, and I was instantly impressed by the photos and layouts displayed on the website.  I could not find any blog reviews of the company, so I hope this review will be helpful to those who may be looking for a high quality photo album.

As a first step, I took advantage of the site’s offer to send a few sample layout pages.  I uploaded several photos, and Fritz Duchardt, who I assume is owner, operator, and designer for Sweet Memory Albums, quickly emailed me back with two sample pages in PDF format.  The layout was beautiful. 

I was somewhat skeptical of the site at first because I could not find any reviews online, other than the reviews on Qype, a European review website, to which the Sweet Memory Album home page offers a link.  I tend to question everything and wondered if the consistently glowing reviews could be fake (I now realize they are not).  While Sweet Memory Album’s risk free purchase guarantee was comforting on one hand, it was also a bit unsettling, because I wondered how Fritz could offer such a great deal.  If I did not like my album, I could send it back within 15 days without paying anything.  I wondered how he was protected in case I absconded with the album.  I was also wary of the fact that the company is located in Germany, and I live in the United States.  I have never ordered online from overseas.

However, I could not find another company who could produce the album I wanted, and I was impressed with my interaction with Fritz via email and the sample pages he sent, so I proceeded to place my order.  I uploaded about 70-80 wedding photos.  I chose to order an 11.8” x 11.8” album and included the design service, for a small extra fee.  Fritz included nearly all of the photos I sent in the final design, and I ended up with seven full two-page spreads, as well as two single pages (the very first and the very last page of the album). 

My husband emailed to ask how Fritz was protected in case of shenanigans on the part of the client, and he explained that because you agree to the terms and conditions when you order, he would be able to sue the client if it came to that.  However, he indicated that it had not been a problem for him.  Per the terms/agreement, I could terminate the process at any time without paying any money, so ultimately I felt comfortable proceeding.

I was highly impressed with the design Fritz sent back within a day or two of placing my order; he emailed me a proof in PDF format.  He then worked with me to produce the exact layout I wanted as I gave feedback on a few details.  I owe all the artistic ingenuity of the design and layout to Fritz, but I had a couple of suggestions to switch some photos around or use color photos instead of black and white.  He was happy to oblige and quickly responded with updated proofs.

Fritz was highly professional and prompt in responding to all my emails.  Once I approved the final design, about a week after placing my original order, Fritz told me it would be 4-5 weeks until the album was printed and shipped.  He shipped my package via Fed Ex, and sent me a tracking link, just less than 4 weeks from the date of final approval on the proofs, and I received it two days later.  Once I received the album and looked it over, I had Fritz send me the payment link.  I paid via Pay Pal, which is a safe and secure payment method.  The payment went through with no problems.

I am amazed by the quality of my album; it is lovely.  I was touched by the care that was taken in packing it for shipping.  The album was carefully wrapped in brown paper, with plain white paper in between each of the pages.  It came in a cloth bag, which I will keep to protect my album from wear.  It was then wrapped inside several layers of bubble wrap and cardboard, and then placed in the outer box.  My husband is my greatest earthly treasure, and this album will always remind me of the tender and excited feelings I had on our wedding day, so the care that was taken to package the album meant a lot to me.

The album itself is gorgeous.  While Sweet Memory Albums offers very competitive prices, the album was much more expensive that what I would normally spend.  For me personally, I would consider it a luxury item, as I am extremely frugal.  But it was worth every penny.  (Prices are listed on the Sweet Memory Album website.)  The photos in the album are gorgeous, owing in part to our talented photographer, and in part to the photographic quality of the album’s pages.  The album is constructed very well and I imagine it will last a lifetime. 

I have included pictures of our album throughout this post as a reference.  Any issues with the images I posted are the sole fault of this writer and my complete lack of photographic skills and technique.  The actual photos in the album are as crisp and clear as the high-quality digital images we received from our photographer.