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Completion > Perfection {an honest video review of Chatbooks}

I’m aaaaaalive.  And by that I mean that I am finally taking the time to sit and write one of the many blog posts I’ve been composing in my head for, oh, several months now.  So here’s a quick review of the photo book company Chatbooks:

Since Hadden was born I’ve known that I needed to start collecting and printing our family photos.  I had this intense guilt over all the wonderful photos we had that were just hanging out in The Cloud.  I wanted to do something with them, but I was paralyzed by a need for them to be perfect.  As my reserve of pictures grew so did my guilt.

When I heard about Chatbooks I was skeptical as to whether I’d like it or not.  I still had the idea of an intricate scrapbook (a la Creative Memories) but with no desire or talent to actually MAKE that scrapbook.  So while I was waited for my first Chatbook to arrive, I had some serious reservations.

After several months of trying out their products I can now highly recommend Chatbooks.  The convenience and price simply cannot be beat.  And I’ve been happy with all the items I’ve received.

As I say in the video, I would NOT use Chatbooks for, say, your wedding album.  The quality just isn’t on par with other photo books I’ve made even on the pictures I’ve taken with my “good” camera.  I have liked the books I’ve received enough that I am working on six other books and plan to have all of them printed once I edit the captions and add Caleb’s photos.

I also love the fact that at any time I can go on and order another copy of a book.  If we ever lose them during a move or if we decided to print copies of our family albums for our kids, it will take me just a few clicks before a new album is on its way to our home.



A few additional things:

  1. Chatbooks contacted me in the spring and offered to send me a free book.  However there was no mention or obligation of writing a review in exchange for the product.  I had a frustrating experience at the beginning of working with them and the book that was offered never actually came.  Instead I was given a credit and with that I made my own book (again, .  Even after the rough start, I’ve since fallen in love with this company.  I chose to do a review on my own because I wanted to share it with people.  All opinions are my own.
  2. I am THE WORST on video.  And I know it.  So if it sounds awkward to you, don’t worry: I’m aware. But I wanted to actually show the products and knew that filming would be much faster than trying to describe each thing.
  3. What you can’t see in this picture is Adelaide sitting right next to me in her highchair trying to figure out what the heck I was doing!  I was waiting for her to make some noise, but she was perfectly quiet the whole time.

If you follow this link, you can get your first book FREE!  That is a referral link so if you follow it and make a Series book (rather than a Custom), I receive a small credit to my account.  If you’d prefer not to use the referral link, you can usually find other deals around the web!  Try it out!

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I used to think… (a reflection on Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey)

I used to think the best faith was unwavering and unquestioning.  That in 20 years I’d still hold to the exact same beliefs and values.

But that was before.

Before life happened.  Before sh*t happened.  Before I grew up and realized that world can’t be clearly divided into black and white.

I spent time shoving down my questions and doubts.  When I couldn’t reconcile what I saw and experienced in the world with my rigid beliefs, I faltered.  It seemed easier to deny that I had any questions than to open the floodgates of doubt.

It’s a few years down the road now and those feelings have flip-flopped.  I’ve come to believe that my faith can’t be very strong if it can’t withhold any scrutiny.  Instead of being skeptical of doubt, I’m skeptical of those who haven’t doubted.  Instead of having answers and certainty, I am now certain that I will always have questions.   And while it is absolutely contrary to everything that I was taught growing up, I’ve discovered that there is beauty and freedom in not having all the answers.

I used to be certain.  Now I am not.

What happened in between these two places?  Well, I fell out of sorts.


Few of us follow a straight line in our spiritual story: we squiggle and wiggle, stop and start, progress and regress, rest and recoup, charge ahead recklessly and take sharp turns or stumble into ditches that turn out to be portals.  This isn’t a bad thing.  On the contrary, I think it’s the thing that makes your story special and beautiful.  -sarah bessey (out of sorts)


Sarah Bessey’s newest book is for people like me, people who are “making peace with an evolving faith.”

Out of Sorts feels a bit like an older sibling guiding you through adolescence.  If you’re at a point when your faith feels awkward and you’re despairing because you’re sure that nothing will ever be the same again, Sarah’s words comfort like an arm wrapped round your shoulder.  Sarah assures you that while things won’t go back to the way they were, they can actually get better from here.

As always, Sarah’s writing is gentle and gracious, but still marked with fervor.  She brings her own questions about religion to the book to assure you that your experience of questioning isn’t isolated.  But she also shares her story of going back to Church, to the Bible and to Jesus.  Her words are hopeful without being sanctimonious.

With so many people I know feeling disillusioned by the church or by the simple answers they were given growing up, this feels like an especially timely book.  However it’s one that I wouldn’t give to just anyone.  I’d wait until you were ready for it.  Until you needed it.  As much as I loved this book, it’s one that I think could be misunderstood by someone who hasn’t struggled with their faith, just as I have been misunderstood by those same people.  Rather than reading this book prematurely and risk misunderstanding Sarah’s message and misunderstanding where others are struggling, I suggest that you wait.  Wait until you’re a bit out of sorts.

**I was privileged to be part of the launch team for Sarah‘s book which meant that I was given a copy of the book to review.  All opinions are my own and I’ve since purchased a second copy of the book because I loved it so much.  Buy your own copy here!

A reflection on Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

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Frivolous Friday: AUGUST FAVORITES



Even though it’s NOT the end of August quite yet, it feels like it around here.  Both of my “boys” are getting ready to start school and I am itching for some routine (and, honestly, a bit of time to myself).

When we entered August we were in the very first days of Caleb’s return from deployment.  Then we went right into birthdays (Hadden’s is the 3rd and I’m the 11th).  The following weekend we took a quick road trip to see family and since then we’ve been solidly stuck in school prep and in-processing to Wright-Patt.  Mixed in between were dinners with friends, an amazing date night, and a whole lotta normal.

Today I thought I’d share some new things that I’ve discovered (and fallen in love with) this month.

August Favorites

1.  Dry Shampoo

I’m trying to cut down on my morning routine by washing (and thus drying and straightening) my hair every other day and using dry shampoo on the alternating day.  Right now I’m using Pantene and liking it far more than the first one I tried.  It’s definitely helping me get out the door faster in the mornings!

2.  Video Monitor

As I mentioned on our house tour, we have a downstairs master bedroom, but Hadden’s room is upstairs.  When we decided to rent the house, I made the stipulation that we HAD to buy a video monitor.  Thankfully my husband agreed.  I love being able to see Hadden when he’s in his room and it’s saved me countless trips upstairs…

3.  FitBit

…but if I DID walk up the stairs eight times a night it would be okay because I’m counting my steps with a FitBit.

I’ve been contemplating getting a fancy pedometer for a couple years now.  I read reviews and did my own research.  And I finally decided to add a FitBit to my Amazon wish list (which is how my family purchases birthday and Christmas gifts) even though I wasn’t really expecting to get it.  But my mom surprised me with it a couple of days before my birthday and I’m SO GLAD that she did.

Each day I’ve been hitting the goal of 10,000 steps (and most days I’m reaching the other goals too). There are many nice things I could say about having a FitBit, but I’ll just say that my favorite aspect is that I can get steps in while playing in the backyard with my kiddo or going on a family walk.  It’s EASY and FUN to get steps in once you start challenging yourself.

4.  Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

On my birthday date, Caleb took me to a bookstore so that I could browse on my own time without a toddler.  I haven’t done that in years and I spent so much time just walking up and down aisle to see what new books were out.  It’s so much more fun to pick a book off a shelf than to just read the reviews on Amazon (although I will admit to wishing I could read the reviews a couple times!).

This was the book I ended up buying and I (mostly) loved it.  It grabbed my attention and I can’t wait until my computer scientist husband picks it up since there were so many nerdy references.

(One caveat:  I didn’t love the way the author dealt with female characters.  But maybe that’s just me.)

5.  Eyelash Curling Technique 

A couple of years ago I stopped wearing mascara.  I was really happy with my natural lashes as long as they were curled.  But the problem was that I couldn’t get them to stay tightly curled for longer than a few hours.

Enter this new technique: heat your eyelash curler with your blow dryer for about 5-10 seconds.  Wait until it’s cool enough to touch your skin comfortable and then use as normal.  The heat keeps my eyelashes curled all day and now I have even less reason to use mascara!

(I was absolutely positive that I’d found this technique on Cup of Jo.  But when I went looking for the link, I realized that it wasn’t mentioned in the post I was thinking of.  So…my apologies for not providing a proper reference.)

6.  doTERRA oil combination

Since I started casually selling doTERRA oils a couple months ago, I’ve been experimenting while more scent combinations.  My current favorite way to use oils is to diffuse three drops of Wild Orange with one drop of Cinnamon Stick.  Try it and I promise: YOUR HOUSE WILL SMELL AMAZING and it really improves my mood too.  (I’m writing a post on diffusing oils soon!)

7.  Hape Memory Game

Hadden’s little friend from Nebraska sent this as a birthday gift and we are having so much fun with it!  Hape is one of my favorite toy brands and this little set is a great example of why I love their company so much. The wooden pieces are smooth and the animal pictures are adorable (see the piece with the lion that I left on top of the bag?  They’re all that cute!).  It gives us a good chance to practice animal names and sounds.  Hadden adores this game and Caleb and I enjoy playing too.  Plus it comes in its own little bag which makes clean-up and storage a breeze.

What’s something new that YOU have discovered this month??


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