Each year I make family photo books. Well, that is the goal. I started in 2007 and have books through 2012. Then, 2013 came and went. And 2014 came and went. And 2015 has come. For so long I kept telling myself I would schedule a weekend to hide out and make the 2013 book and then another weekend for the 2014 book. I never scheduled those weekends. Honestly, the books have felt like a weight. I cherish the ones we have and am so thankful I was consistent to get those done during those years. Since I had made them for so long, I felt stuck. I had to make the remaining years.

And then one day I let go of that weight.

I decided 2013 and 2014 would be the years of prints. Maybe one day I would go back and make photo books, but I was not going to just let those years sit on a hard drive.

So…we got prints. 2 years worth of 4×6 and 4×4 (instagram) prints. And it is awesome!

7.15mpix-01The prints came as sets of 25 in clear sleeves. This helps keep them somewhat organized until I put them in a photo box. I know photo boxes run the risk of getting un-organized, but I just like the ease of pulling out a stack and flipping through them.7.15mpix-027.15mpix-03Photo Tip: Name your pictures by their date. For example, “7.15Campbells-01.jpg, 7.15Campbells-02.jpg, 7.15Campbells-03.jpg, etc”. I order all my prints from Mpix.com. On the back of each photo is the name of the photo. You could name your photos by the exact date they were taken, but just the month and year works for me. This gives me so much relief knowing if I don’t ever get around to writing more info the back of the photos, at least the month and date are there. This also helps if photos get out of order. The date stamp on the back is pretty light. My plan is to write the date and a little note darker, but my plan was also to make photo books for 2013 and 2014…you can see how well that plan turned out!7.15mpix-05I order 4×4 prints of my instagram shots. Mpix has a Tap-to-Print app that makes printing from my phone super easy.7.15mpix-06I like to use different apps on my phone occasionally to create grids and add text. It is fun to be able to easily print those photos as well.7.15mpix-07When it comes to picking pictures to print, photo quality is not even close to the top of my list of factors. I pick pictures based on the content of the photo, not the quality. Some of my favorite and most meaningful pictures are grainy and blurry. Don’t delete a meaningful photo because it make not be technically good.7.15mpix-09My kids were so surprised by the big box of prints that arrived. They are accustomed to flipping pages of a photo book. It was a lot of fun watching them thumb through prints. I make photo books and print pictures for us…for THEM. I don’t care if they get finger prints on the prints. I want my kids to enjoy photos…photography…my camera. Always being uptight and worried when they handle prints will not help me towards that goal. I did ask them to keep them in the plastic sleeve stacks just so they stay somewhat in order.

Looking back through pictures is a beautiful experience…for adults and kids.7.15mpix-107.15mpix-117.15mpix-12I told them they could pull out any prints that they wanted. They like to use them as bookmarks and hang them on their walls. A certain boy pulled out all the puppy pictures of Arley.7.15mpix-13“Look Mommy! It is me and my friends!” My kids, all 5 of them, love looking at baby pictures and learning about their early years through photos. Photography is a powerful tool for telling stories and learning stories.7.15mpix-14While we were reliving memories through photos, I found some really old ones. This is me the first time I broke my foot. I did a front flip off a wooden train my dad built me. The flip was awesome, the landing not so much. It was my first broken bone, but certainly not my last. The other photo is me and my dad in Canton, Texas..below it my dad and me on my wedding day. Pictures are meant to be printed!7.15mpix-15I am not sure what 2015 will look like. I am trying to do more video this year. Right now I am thinking about printing pictures again, creating a 2015 video recap and making a couple photo books of significant events. I still really, really like photo books. There is something so amazing about seeing pictures printed in a book format. Mpix.com has a new line of panoramic books that I would like to try out using our recent family photos.

I picked this post date with great intention. I asked my friends at Mpix.com when they would be doing a print sale – I wanted to share about prints and give you a little extra encouragement to PRINT YOUR PHOTOS! Starting today Mpix.com is doing a 25% off print sale. Use that extra nudge to print some of your photos. Order a few extra to share with friends or family. My kids love writing letters and slipping photos in too.

Break those pictures out of the digital abyss of hard drives and online storage – get some prints in your hands!

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  • Jen - This is so timely, my four year old was asking just this morning where her baby photos are…On the computer was not a satisfactory answer!!

  • Southern Gal - Thank you, Ashley. A weight is what it feels like when I think of all the photos on my hard drive just sitting there and never being enjoyed. I finally took some photos of Ethan for his 13th birthday. The last one on my wall was when he was 9. Now I have to print the things!! I took them in April, his birthday was in February. I let these kinds of things wake me up in the middle of the night. I love Mpix, so today I’m making time to select some photos to print.

    Question: Do you label your photos when you download them on your computer like that? I put mine in folders, but don’t label individual photos. Or is that something you do when you load them to print?

  • Brandi - I’ve been going through the same thing–just want to get the pictures off the computer to enjoy! But I’ve been waffling between trying a sort of Project Life album again (my first one was harder to put together than I thought) or a printed photo book. Just got an Artifact Uprising sale email and thought that was the kick I needed…now I’m tempted to go with the prints–I love getting a box of Mpix prints! Ha! Decisions, decisions!

  • Katie M. - We love Mpix too! Thank you for sharing. This may be the push I needed to print a bunch of my pictures.

  • Paige E - I love this, Ashley! Way to go letting go of the weight! I’m working on doing that with a number of things in my life I’m allowing to become a burden because of an expectation I have put on myself. Thanks for the encouragement to do so! Lets enjoy today and look for God’s blessings! Enjoy those awesome memories and prints!

  • Ashley - I remember finding a link to your blog a couple of years ago with your family yearbooks, and it inspired me to make my own. I’m in the same boat as you right now though, I’m so behind and the idea of completing a couple of years in backlog is kind of daunting. Hopefully I’ll have some time to spare sometime soon, or I’ll get some pictures printed like you did.

  • Charity G. - Love it! I have some pictures sitting in que to print but haven’t done the last step. I really need to – thanks for the encouragement.

    For the dates you could get small address labels and print them and then just stick them on. Might be faster/easier than writing if you decide to do it.

  • Melanie - Oh gosh…I also have 2013 & 2014 waiting to be printed into books. For personal family reasons, those years were pretty tough and I think I have somewhat dreaded the emotional reliving of it! BUT. Photography really helps me to see how beautiful life can be even in the middle of the difficult times. I am so glad I kept taking pictures. My photos are a reminder that we made it through! You have inspired me to want to finish those books. :) Thank you!!

  • Rachel - Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m going to share this on my facebook page. Been thinking of printing and organizing photos for a while now. Such a shame to only have them in digital form. There’s just something about photos that you can touch!

  • Krystina - This might be one of my favorite posts ever. I can’t really explain exactly why or pick to one reason. It just sums up exactly how I’ve always felt about photography and printing photos and looking through photos. I just LOVE your idea about how to title photos. I’m totally stealing that idea. It will make my life so much easier!

  • Amanda - I love this post and had just gotten the Mpix email, thinking I need to get ordering! Question: what phone apps do you like to make grids or add text?

  • Rachel - Thank you! I have been doing scrapbooks for 15 years. It is getting harder to complete them and this post feels like permission to switch it up. Maybe I’ll just do chatbooks or print my photos instead.

  • Cassidy Scott - What app made the “THIS HAPPENED!” sign on the picture with the Best Blogs magazine?

  • Paige Willingham - Hey Ashley… I’m thankful for this post – like many others. I love printed photos. I too am missing many years printed or in books, with thousands on the hard drive. Wondering how this isn’t just as time consuming if you’ve got to indibidually choose and rename photos? Would you share the process of picking and naming them so I can see how you did it efficiently? I can see myself sitting there for hours and there must be a quicker way. Thanks friend.

  • Melissa - What apps do you use to create grids?

  • Cathy S. - I’m curious too, what app you use for the grids.

  • AshleyAnn - Amanda – I used the app PicFrame for the grid. For the one with the text I used the A Beautiful Mess app.

  • AshleyAnn - Cassidy – I used the app PicFrame for the grid. For the one with the text I used the A Beautiful Mess app.

  • AshleyAnn - Melissa – I used the app PicFrame for the grid. For the one with the text I used the A Beautiful Mess app.

  • AshleyAnn - Cathy – I used the app PicFrame for the grid. For the one with the text I used the A Beautiful Mess app.

  • AshleyAnn - Paige – After I take photos, I download them to my computer. Edit them in batches in Lightroom. After I do any editing, I export them all to a new folder on my computer. When I export them, I rename them at the same time. Here is a post I wrote a long time ago. My file naming process is still the same:
    http://ashleyannphotography.com/blog/2009/01/27/backing-up-your-digital-photos/

    So, when I went to select photos to print they were already all named with the month and year. I just opened my harddrive and picked the ones I wanted to print. It took a few hours because I had 2 years worth of photos, but it was WAY LESS time than making 2 years of photobooks.

  • Laurel Libby - You have inspired me! I have too many years (2008 forward!!!) that I have been *planning* to turn into yearly photo books . . . 3 kiddos in and I am no closer to making it happen! So I’m going to get them printed off, and put them into albums, like we had in my family as kids. I LOVED perusing the albums, and want my kids to do the same. I’ll be too worried they’ll tear the pages to really let them enjoy the yearly books, albums it is!

Library days are among my favorite. We are inching ever closer to having 5 readers. It is still a little ways in the distance, but I can see it coming and it is beautiful. Before we even get out the door of the library all my kids have books in hand and are flipping pages. The drive home from the library is hands down the quietest drive my car ever knows. I think we should start making it a habit to stop by the library on the way out of town for every road trip. It just makes sense.

There are certain ‘mundane’ things I like to capture over and over again. The kids reading after a trip to the library is among one of those events. Each trip the books change a little bit. The books my kids pick reflect their personalities and interests. I treasure how they stay the same and change with each visit. Looking back at old posts (like this one) reminds me of why there is so much value in capturing the seemingly mundane moments. Great stories are written in the mundane…

85mm lens, ISO 400, 1/250, f/2.8

7.15reading-0185mm lens, ISO 250, 1/125, f/2.87.15reading-0285mm lens, ISO 250, 1/125, f/3.27.15reading-0385mm lens, ISO 250, 1/125, f/3.27.15reading-0485mm lens, ISO 250, 1/125, f/2.8 – she picked craft books and Kid Pickers…we shared her books7.15reading-0585mm lens, ISO 400, 1/125, f/2.87.15reading-06My oldest didn’t make it all the way inside. I saw him get out of the car, but I’m pretty sure he just sat down on the driveway in the shade…nose stuck in a book.

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  • Mrs.T - What a wonderful post! My grandkids love the library and their moms get them there regularly. The ones from Nevada were just out here visiting us, and I do believe I detected some library books that came along in their backpacks! Thanks for sharing these lovely pictures that do indeed tell stories of their own.

  • Maribeth - I love these pictures and the moments you captured! You make me want to paint my whole house white. You have beautiful light and shots!

  • Naomi - The book choices are as sweet as the pictures. Farm Days, Buttons, and Kid Pickers!

  • Amy @thelittlefarmdiary - We love library days too! Ours barely make it to the car and read all the way home! Love it!

  • Michelle - Little One’s reading pose is killing me! I used to read like that all the time when I was younger.

  • ashley jensen - We have sometimes stopped by the library to grab books before going out of town or camping. It definitely helps on the car ride or in our down time. I always make sure to carry a little tote to keep the books in and keep the receipt to make sure we have all of the books before returning them.

  • Paige E - My boys seem very overwhelmed when we go to the library. Any tips on helping them pick out good books?

  • Cassidy - Your oldest reminds me so much of myself… my parents still constantly say, “you can’t be comfortable there!” or “wouldn’t it be better to read over here…” – and I’m 22! I just can’t be bothered to put the book down long enough to deal with getting comfortable.

  • Juice - I love this post. What a great reminder to capture these moments for posterity.

  • Lindsay Soetaert - Llama Llama is a FAVE at our house and is read on repeat. Love this blog!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - I kinda want my license plate to say Llama Mamma. Just sayin; :)

  • bethanyblntn - This is so true and such inspiring. I tend to focus on the bigger events in life but you are right, so often its the small things we will long to remember one day and what make us who we are. I will strive to learn from thins. Thank you. <3

  • Danielle - That is how our library days were also (we have since added three non readers)! My two oldest though are so quiet! I love library days! I started implementing a bring a book on every car ride just because I liked the silence while driving so much :)

  • Jenn - Last week, my four kiddos and I went to visit our great-grandmother’s home, then followed by going to the library. After minutes had passed, they all found some great findings to read. I had offered to go to the park where we could play badminton before heading home. As we packed up and drove home, the kids grabbed their books and started reading. We got home and each of them found a quiet place and dove their little noses even more. Made me smile. Still does. It was a great day :)

  • Nicole - Little One is breathtaking. The last picture of her reading. Gasp! She’s stunning.

  • Ashleigh - Love it!

    And I love the idea of getting books before a road trip!

After posting our family video here and on Instagram, I got a lot of questions about what we were cooking. Let me fill you in today!

Chris, an Eagle Scout, grew up camping. Somewhere along the way during his scouting days he learned to make what affectionately call ‘camping cobbler’. It is the easiest recipe, which makes it perfect for campfire nights. Really – it is ridiculously simple. We eat it every time we go camping. Most often we camp in cooler temps, so hot cobbler after a day outside is just so yummy. We usually eat it after the sun has gone down and we are gathered around the campfire in the dark. Food memories are apparently among our strongest and I have so many memories of different camping trips with friends, family and camping cobbler.

You need 3 ingredients:

1 can of fruit pie filling (cherry, blueberry, blackberry…whatever you like most)

1 box of yellow cake mix (you will only use 1/2 of the cake mix)

1 stick of butter (you don’t need the whole stick, about 3/4 of it)

To make the cobbler, we use a dutch oven. Dump the fruit filling in the dutch oven. Pour about half of the cake mix on top of the fruit (so it is above 3/4″ about the fruit), slice butter in thin slices and cover the top of the cake mix. Put the lid on your dutch oven, cover with coals and let it cook for about 20 minutes or until the fruit is bubbly and the butter melted.

Sometimes the cake mix doesn’t get entirely cooked in the butter, but it is good regardless.

The photos below are by Shannon Phillips of Imago Vita Photography. I just put our fruit filling and cake mix in prettier containers for the sake of pictures. Typically, when we eat camping cobbler we are actually camping…in dirty clothes, baseball hats, and unwashed hair….this is our pretty pretend camping with dresses and doilies and mason jars of fruit!

7.15cobbler-027.15cobbler-037.15cobbler-047.15cobbler-057.15cobbler-067.15cobbler-077.15cobbler-087.15cobbler-09

Shannon left before the cobbler was finished and we devoured it without taking any pictures. Then you guys asked what we had made. Poor us. We had to make it again so I take one shot of the finished cobbler…

7.15cobbler-20It would be so good with ice cream too. Ice cream and camping can be a challenge, but if you can make that happen – I highly recommend it. We make this after everyone has finished with dinner and the campfire is still hot. Being married to an Eagle Scout has some pretty great perks:)

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  • Lisa - That looks amazing! Thanks for sharing!

    Greetings and a lovely day from Germany,

    http://www.fatcatconnection.com

    Lisa

  • Southern Gal - Poor you. 😉 It looks amazing!

  • Amy - We also have cobbler every camping trip and sometimes just in the back yard. :) My husband was an Eagle Scout too. Crazy! Most camping stores have a ice cream making ball you can toss around. Perfect for your kids to make while you wait for the cobbler to finish. It doesn’t make an enormous amount of ice cream but it’s perfect with cobbler. It’s called the YayLabs! Play and Freeze Ice Cream Ball.
    Fabulous pictures! Thanks for sharing.

  • Amanda - we make this all the time! our favorite is a can of diced peaches with a spice cake mix! YUM!! 😀

  • Vicki I - We make the same cobbler when we are camping and our two sons are both Eagle Scouts!!!

  • Kimberly - I would LOVE to know more about your cooking while camping ideas!
    Thanks for this follow-up post.

  • Kaytie - My husband’s an eagle scout too and his favorite thing to make while camping is cobbler! We use a big jar of peaches vs. pie filling and it’s delicious. I love that my family will have these camping food memories too! :)

  • Amy - We call this “dump cake”! We make it in the oven and “dump” two cans of fruit cocktail (or whatever fruit you want) in a 11×13 baking pan, dump the cake mix on the top and then add the butter and bake it. And we ALWAYS have it on ice cream. We will have to try it when we go camping – thanks!

  • ashley jensen - I made this a few years back using wild blackberries I picked out near the Illinois river. So so good!

  • J - The pictures where Chris is playing the guitar are cracking. me. up! The expressions on your kids’ faces are priceless.

  • Amy Cornwell - Yummy! This looks fantastic.