Wednesday, February 27, 2013

MyMemories Review and Giveaway

The good people at MyMemories recently provided me with two free copies of the MyMemories Digital Scrapbooking Suite - one to review, and one to give away. I had read plenty of rave reviews of MyMemories before, but I've never been much of a scrapbooker. (At least, I thought I'd never been much of a scrapbooker. A few months ago, while looking for some old Art History notes to lend my sister, I found 3 separate scrapbooks dating to 2004. It appears that around the time I graduated high school, I was actually quite the scrapbooker.)

This offer came at the perfect time, though, when I'd begun thinking about creating a more personalized blog header, and wanted to create a banner for my Zazzle store, Wear You Came From. (That one is still in the works.)

I started out trying to create a banner from scratch, using my own creativity. My own creativity wasn't up to the task, and I found the the album templates provided by MyMemories were better for a beginner. The result, which you can see above, was exactly what I was looking for.

This weekend, in honor of the 5th Anniversary of my first date with Ben, I decided to open up MyMemories again and scrapbook some of the pictures from a trip we took to St. Lucia last year for our first wedding anniversary. This time, not being such a rank beginner, I decided to get a little more creative. I used one of the templates available, but removed the embellishments that didn't fit the mood of our trip, and added my own photos from St. Lucia as custom background papers.

Quite frankly, my favorite aspects of these pages are the backgrounds, because St. Lucia itself looked a lot better than Ben and I did. In several of these pages, we have just finished doing things like climbing large hills, and we look it. But even when we were sweaty and haggard and had flyaway hair, the beaches, jungles, oceans, flowers, and pineapples of St. Lucia were gorgeous. (Seriously, did you know how pineapples grow? That one you see there was growing right in front of our cabin, out of a bush right on the ground!)

One of my favorite things about MyMemories is the versatility. You can pop your photos directly into the spots provided and call it a day, or you can move things around and personalize the pages with additional embellishments, photographs, and text. You can showcase historic family photos of your ancestors, or you can create visually interesting layouts for the pictures you took with your iPhone or digital camera last year, or last week.

Now, here comes the part you're interested in, the part where you get a chance to win a copy of the software yourself!

How do you enter to win? It's easy!

First, visit and take a look around. Choose the album template you like most, or would be most likely to use. (I see a family-tree themed template, and they have a whole category called "heritage," which I'm sure would interest my readers!) Then, come back here and leave a comment on this post, telling me which one it is. Make sure to include your e-mail address in the comment if you'd like to be eligible to win.

A winner will be chosen at random from those who comment in the comments section of this post. E-mails do not count. The contest will be open for 1 week. No entries will be accepted after 11:59 PM EST on Tuesday, March 5, 2013.

[Disclosure: I received a free copy of the MyMemories Digital Scrapbooking software to review from is also providing a free copy to give away.]

Monday, February 25, 2013

The importance of heirlooms

A few months ago, my sister asked me to bring an old piece of furniture back to my parents' house when she was rearranging her apartment. It was a small end table that had belonged to our 2x great-aunt, Mary Rose Mulvaney Daniels, or Auntie Mae.

Although Auntie Mae died before either of us was born, she looms large in our family's collective consciousness. She had no children, and her husband died young, so she spent a lot of time with her nieces and nephews and their families, and stories about her are told frequently to this day.

Auntie Mae would end each dinner with "Thank God and the O'Haras for another good meal."

Auntie Mae would compliment you on what you were wearing when it was something you'd received from her as a gift.

Auntie Mae would drink Presbyterians, and remark on my grandfather's bar tending skills: "You make a strong drink, Bill O'Hara."

Auntie Mae would send my dad $5 in a card when he was in college, with an admonition not to spend it on beer. (It was always spent on beer.)

Auntie Mae and her good friend, Sally, would go for a "constitutional" around the block in the evening. As they got older, the ritual moved into the backyard, and consisted of a stroll around the pool - but it was still their constitutional.

As Laura loaded Auntie Mae's end table into my car, she asked me to put it in the attic at my parents' house - "unless you want use it?" 15 seconds of considering the limited space in my apartment and the table's small size and concealed storage capability, and I was in. It was only later that I realized how fitting it was: Auntie Mae had lived for years in the small Queens neighborhood where I've lived for 18 months. After a detour through our childhood home in the suburbs and my sister's Brooklyn apartment, the end table would be going home.


I'm sure Auntie Mae never kept a PlayStation3 on top of this little end table, or had it filled with bad movies and TV on DVD. Still, there was a certain sense of continuity, of relationship, of her being a real person and a part of our lives, when my husband asked me yesterday - he was preparing for a boys' night of watching said bad movies -  "What happened to our copy of The Room?" and I responded "I think it's in Auntie's Mae's end table." It was as natural as if I'd said "I think it's in the bag your mom gave us" or "Check under my sister's books." And it was equally as natural that he responded a few minutes later, "You were right. It was in Auntie Mae's table."

Ben has a hard time keeping my ancestors straight (meanwhile, I know some of his very well), but a tangible object - a whole piece of furniture - the thing that holds our DVDs - sitting right in our living room is hard to ignore, and hard to forget. Ben had never heard of Auntie Mae before 5 years ago. I had always known about her, but never known her. But being privileged to have this heirloom in our home allows us to keep her memory alive, in some small way, in even the most mundane parts of our daily lives.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Stuff My Great-Grandparents Said

I recently mentioned having found my paternal grandfather's responses to one of those "Story of My Life" books full of writing prompts. Pop had answered the first prompt, and then proceeded to ignore the next ones in favor of making a list of "Quotes from my Parents, " which I'll share here, verbatim.

The phrases within the quotation marks are my great-grandparents' actual quotes, with context provided in my grandfather's hand.

MOM: Growing up in the city + off from school in the summer, we had to be back in the apartment after the sun went down because:
"There is no good on the streets after dark."

DAD: When I didn't think I could handle going to Regis High School (a scholarship school):
"If the other kids can do it, you can do it."

DAD: "Don't take yourself too seriously . . . if you do, no one else will take you seriously at all."

"Laugh every chance you get, there will always be occasions to cry."

MOM: "Get as much education as you can. No matter what happens in life . . . that is the one thing no one can take away from you."

MOM: On raising babies:
"Get them before they are two, or they will get you."

As I type these out, I find that they're a lot more revealing than I realized on first reading them, and I hope to do some more in depth posts unpacking some of them in the future.