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So December flew by.  Ridiculously fast.  And suddenly as if without warning January is here.  Oh, dreaded January.  I won’t even sugar-coat it.  I really hate this month.  Doesn’t seem to matter what I do, it’s just not a month I care for.

Here in Utah it is frio.  That’s Spanish for insanely cold.  I think it’s like 2 degrees outside right now.

On to the point of this post.  I inadvertently really stepped up my reading game in 2016.  I read.  A lot (for me anyway).  It wasn’t really anything intentional–no goals on how many books I was going to read.  I just really needed to read.  So I did.

Thought I’d share some of those books with all of you.

This image has the screen covers of all the books (the ones I could remember–I think I got them all) that I read this year.

good books to read

Fifty-two books.  It’s almost like I planned it.  But I really didn’t.  Just ended up working out to be a book a week.  Some I read in a few days.  Some took me several weeks.  Chasing the Scream was a hard book for me to get through, but I’m so glad I stuck with it.  It’s a book about the war on drugs and it definitely has me pensive about the drug war and it’s ineffectiveness.  If someone you love suffers from a drug or alcohol addiction, I highly recommend that book.  It’s controversial but he has some good, valid points.  Food for thought.

I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I’m sometimes reading up to 5 or 6 different books at a time.  Just depends on my mood to decide which one I’ll read on which day.  Does anyone else do that?

In 2015 I read a TON of business type books (and really liked the book Will it Fly this year).  This past year I laid off the business books and did more easy pleasure reading.  I’m drawn to memoirs, historical fiction, or anything based on “truth” (that’s in quotations cause we all know memoirs are based on memory–not necessarily truth–but they’re still really, really good).  I also read a few more novels this year than I usually do.

I like almost all of these books.  A lot of really really good ones.

There were just a few I wouldn’t recommend to a friend (Room being one of them–I really did NOT like that book).  And I didn’t include any books I quit reading (there were probably 5 or 6 of those).  I’ll give a book about 100 pages and if I’m not in to it, I’ll quit.  I’m fine being a book quitter.

Some of my favorites in no particular order.

  1. Shoe Dog.  This is a memoir by the creator of Nike.  I didn’t know any backstory to Nike so I was completely fascinated by this book.  Seriously SO good.  I was already a fan of Nike–I’m an even bigger fan now.  It’s amazing it has become the company it has become.
  2. The Sound of Gravel.  One of very few books in my life that I honestly couldn’t put down.  I read this in one day (which is crazy fast for me–I’m not a fast reader).  This is a memoir of a woman who was born in to a polygamist family.  It’s crazy!  And riveting.
  3. The Orphan Keeper and A long way home (now made into a movie called Lion) are both eerily similar and both super interesting.  One is a novel (based on a true story) and one is a memoir.  Both are about young boys who have a family but end up in orphanages and get adopted in another country.  Then as adults they track down their families in India.
  4. A Man Called Ove.  I actually bought this book a few years ago and tried a few different times to read it and couldn’t get in to it.  Sometimes I think it’s just timing.  I tried again this year and ended up LOVING this book.  Love love love.
  5. For the Love.  I’ll read ANYthing Jen Hatmaker writes.  She’s easily one of my favorite authors.  I really wish she was my neighbor.  We’d get along.
  6. The Magnolia Story.  I’d never heard of Chip and JoAnna Gaines or their show Fixer Upper when I started reading this.  I loved their story, their personalities and now I’m a huge fan!

Those would probably be the books I’d recommend first.  But there were SO many good ones this year!

Right now I’m reading “My Grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry” and “QB: My life behind the spiral” (Steve Young’s memoir) as well as “Dot com secrets”.

What good books did YOU read this year (or any year for that matter)?  I’m always looking for good books.

If you want some more book recommendations, check out these thirteen books that inspire better, more meaningful living.    Or you can read more book related posts in the Worth Reading section.  I also post about books I read on Instagram.

Here’s a question I get asked a lot–What online backup company should I use?

We’re going to get to that in just a second.  But first, if you haven’t read the post “7 mistakes you’re making managing your photos (and how to fix them)” I highly recommend you go read that first!

 

{Stick with this post to the end and you can get a free month of backup service for your computer}

On to the question.  The reason this gets tricky is because every single persons situation is unique.  We all manage our photos a little differently just like we all clean our house a little differently or have different systems for doing laundry or meal plan (or don’t meal plan–why is that so hard?) and cook dinner differently.

But.  There are some questions we can ask ourselves and a list of things to look for to help us make the decision of what online company to choose to backup our computers and photos.  A pretty important decision if you ask me.  My memory is so bad that if I lost all my pictures, it’s basically like I never existed.  I remember nothing.  Which is why taking photos and printing photos are so so so important to me.

My first question:  If you got on your computer one day and realized ALL your photos were missing, how much would you pay to get them back?

I’m just guessing your answer is “a lot”.  You’d probably pay a LOT of money to get all those photos back.  Now keep this in mind when deciding what online backup system works for you.  Instead of having to pay a lot of money to try and retrieve lost photos (I payed over $1000 once to recover photos from an external hard drive I didn’t have properly backed up), paying a small monthly fee won’t seem so bad.

Also keep in mind that even if we’re willing to pay a lot of money to try and recover photos, those photos won’t always be recoverable.  I think we sometimes have a false sense of security hearing the stories of people whose photos were recovered.  For each of those, there’s a story of someone who lost years and years of photos and memories. It’s far better to get them backed up in a reliable way than hope that some smart tech person can recover them for us for a pretty hefty fee.

Here are some things to look for when deciding what online company to use:

  • How much is the monthly fee
  • Is it unlimited
  • Is there a file size limit
  • Are images compressed at all (quality reduced)
  • Can you also back up external hard drives or just main computer hard drive
  • How is their customer service
  • What’s their reputation for recovering lost data

I did a lot of research and reading and comparing and debating (and more debating and more research and more comparing) when I was trying to decide what company to go with and it can be overwhelming to say the least.  I know a lot of people get so overwhelmed they end up not choosing anything.  Please, please, please don’t do this.

For me, I wanted something affordable, unlimited, no compression on my photos (you never know when I may need to print one of those babies billboard size), no file size limit, and external hard drives had to be included (I have several external hard drives I need backed up as well).

I also wanted somewhere that I knew someone who had actually used the system to recover something.  It’s one thing for a company to say they’re properly backing up your computer.  The proof comes when you actually have to utilize it and recover something.

There are several really good companies that would meet all these requirements.  In the end, I chose Backblaze (I’ll tell you exactly why below).  I have several photographer friends who were already using Backblaze and two of them had used the recovery program to retrieve lost files.  That was important to me.  Knowing they’d actually recover the data should it be lost (my luck of hard drive failure is ridiculous).

Backblaze features include:

  • $5 a month (so so so worth it)
  • unlimited file storage
  • no compression of your data (quality not compromised)
  • includes any hard drives you want backed up (note you have to plug them in at least every 30 days and go on the system to say you want them included in the backup–they can help you figure this out)
  • great customer service
  • NO cost for restoring data (I’ll explain this below)

I’ve been using Backblaze for a few years now and during that time I had my iMac hard drive crash.  At the time I wasn’t using Time Machine (first preference now for data retrieval of the main hard drive) so I used Backblaze to recover ALL the data.

what online backup company should i use

A few months ago my main external drive (the one with ALL my photos) also crashed.  I had most of the photos on Dropbox, but a few files weren’t so again I used Backblaze to restore ALL the lost data from that 3 terabyte external hard drive.

To recover photos, you can do them file-by-file and download a zip file from Backblaze.  Or, if it’s a big recovery, you pay $189 for them to send you an external drive with all of the data on it.  You can keep that drive OR you can put the information on your own external drive, mail the Backblaze drive back within 30 days and they’ll give you a full refund.  So data recovery is essentially completely free.

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Side note.  Sometimes people complain about having to pay for backup storage.  Are there free services out there?  Yes.  But.  Free is never free.  Keep in mind that if you aren’t paying for something, the saying goes–you’re the product not the customer.  You get what you pay for.  And paying for backup storage is worth it, especially at $5 a month.

 

Now, I don’t recommend ONLY relying on an online Backup company to keep your photos safe.  I have a checklist of the process I recommend (which you can access on this post).  But.  This is where I would start RIGHT NOW.  Your photos don’t need to be organized.  You don’t have to DO anything.  You just sign up for the backup company, it starts automatically backing up your computer (which can take several weeks), and then continues to backup your computer without you ever having to do anything again.  You don’t have to remember to do anything or do anything manually.  It just does it all for you.

Get this in place and you can definitely relieve some of the worry about losing all your photos.

If you use this referral link, you can get a free month of service.  Anyone can sign up for a free trial period.  Then, if you decide to buy (have to use this link to sign up in the first place), you can get 1 free month.

If you choose not to use Backblaze, totally fine too.  There are plenty of good companies out there to choose from.  Just choose one of them.  Today.  Trust me on this one.

  • Susan

    Thanks Lindsay!!! 🙂 Very helpful!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel

    Does Backblaze just allow you to back up files from one computer, or would my family also be able to back up to my account?ReplyCancel

    • ltross17

      Rachel, you can get it for multiple computers but I think you have to pay for each computer.ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie

    Does Backblaze backup EVERYTHING on your computer, including documents and downloads or is it just for photos?ReplyCancel

If I’m being totally honest, I’m kinda sick of buying things just to buy things.  Presents that don’t mean much and will quickly be forgotten.  Gifts for my kids, my husband, my family, my friends.  I’d much rather give them something that they’ll care about.  Something useful.  Something they’ll want to hold on to.  Something I won’t regret buying and they won’t regret getting (who else is insanely tired of clutter?).

So in the spirit of giving, I thought I’d share a few ideas of meaningful gifts you can give to those you love using Photographs.  Because who doesn’t love photos?!  It’s one of the rare things on this earth everyone loves to look at and something people want to hang on to.

ONE.

We’ve really tried to cut back on buying our kids things just to buy them things.  They don’t need much and honestly, they don’t ask for much these days (maybe because I never take them to the store and toy commercials are a thing of the past–sweet mercy).  Now each year for Christmas, we give them a stack of photos and supplies to make their own photo albums.  Or you can make the albums together.

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You can read all of the details of how we pull this together HERE.

This year I’m going to do it a little different for my girls and get them these “All About Me” books they can fill out and mix in photos with the pages.

 

TWO.

Parent gifts can be tricky.  And I try real hard to think of things that will matter to them.  If we can make my mom cry, we know we did good.  A few years ago for Christmas, I had all my siblings print off 150-200 photos of their family, we combined all the photos and made a few photo albums for my parents.  They rarely get to see the day-to-day photos we take of our families or even the vacations we take so this was a fun way for them to get to enjoy those photos.

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You can read all the details of how we pulled this all together HERE.

These ended up being really fun for the whole family to look through.  And it’s a gift that can continue through the years and just add more photos and albums each year.

 

THREE.

I love these mini-clipboard calendars from Persnickety Prints.  They’re different.  They’re small so you could put them anywhere in your home or office.  And they’re cute.  You could use photos you have, screenshot photos from a friends or family members Instagram account or take some from Facebook and use those.

(photo credit–Persnickety Prints)

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FOUR.

Make a quick photo book for a friend or family member from a vacation you went on together or an event you participated in (or they participated in).  A race, a one-day adventure, a birthday party, etc.

I ran the Spartan race with my husband and several friends and put together this Photobook using Snapfish.  I let the software auto-fill the photos so it didn’t take very long and used a coupon code to get a huge discount on the book.

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You could also make a small Photo Book through Persnickety Prints with photos from an event (or any photos for that matter):

Funboothsession2 Funboothsession

 

FIVE.

Take a screenshot of a friends photos on Instagram and make them a little album, book, or prints.

A small 4×4 album filled with square prints:

(photo credit Beckyhiggins.com)

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A set of square prints from Artifact Uprising to keep in a little box and display:

(photo credit Artifactuprising.com)

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Or make them a display with the photos to put on their wall (details on how to do this HERE):

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SIX.

Give the gift of Chatbooks.  If someone has an Instagram account and isn’t using Chatbooks, this is a GREAT gift. But.  You don’t have to have Instagram to use this service.  You can link it to your “favorite” photos in your photo albums and once you hit 60 photos, the book comes to you automatically.

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You can read all about Chatbooks HERE or visit their website here.

 

SEVEN.

This isn’t exactly photos (but you take photos to create it so….), but a book with all your favorite recipes would be a great gift!

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All the details on how to create this are HERE.

 

EIGHT.

If your kids or someone you’re gifting to have an Instax Mini Camera(or you’re getting them one), these albums and accessories for Instax photos are AWESOME!!  They take the Instax photos, then they can slip them right in these albums and use the Instax Project Life cards to finish the album off.

(photo credit Beckyhiggins.com)

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Some of these will obviously take a little work, but anything worth doing usually takes some effort.  I am not sponsored in any way for any of these products.  These are just things I personally do and think make excellent gifts.

 

**If you want some ideas for the person in your life who loves taking photos (aka the photographer in your life), you can find some ideas HERE.

**If you’re interested in improving your photography with your phone OR your dSLR, definitely check out THIS!!!  (This would also make a great gift for someone wanting to make their photos better).

**Want to display more photos in your home?  Here are some photo display ideas I’ve done in my home.

 

If you haven’t already, come find me on Instagram (@ltross)!  I share lots of stuff there too.

 

We’re all taking photos.  And my guess is we’d like our photos to look as good as we can.  But sometimes improving our photos can feel incredibly overwhelming.

I try to provide a lot of content on here about photography, improving your photography, taking better every day photos with my Every Day Photos Guide, and what to do with the photos once you’ve taken them–the backend of photography.

I continue to get a lot of people asking if I teach a course on how to take better photos.  Or how to use their dSLR camera better.  Or their phone camera better.  I used to teach an all day course but have found there are a lot of resources out there to improve photography.  But there aren’t a lot of resources out there for the backend of photography (what to do with and how to manage the photos once we’ve taken them).  So I still do some posts and content on improving photography, but I’ve really switched my focus to helping people with what to do with the photos after we take them.

But.  I still HIGHLY encourage people to try to improve their photography.  Telling stories through our photos is, in my opinion, one of the best things we can do for our family and for generations to come.

Because there are so many options out there for learning to improve, it can be overwhelming trying to decide where to look for information or what course would be a good fit.  Some can be really confusing.  Some are super expensive.  Some just aren’t that good.

I’ve finally got one I feel I can recommend 100%.  It’s called Snapshop by Ashley Ann from the Under the Sycamore blog.  Ashley is an incredible photographer but she really focuses on telling stories with photographs and capturing the every day moments of our lives.  The ones that make up the bulk of our existence and our stories.

Learn to Capture Your Days

Ashley has an online membership course.  I know the course is good because I paid for the course and worked my way through the entire course.  I’m already a photographer.  I know how to shoot in manual.  And I know the “rules” of photography, but I still learned a lot from the course.  She has a unique way of looking at things through her lens.  She also has an incredible talent for simplifying the explanations.  And I love that her focus is on capturing the every day moments and stories of our lives.

If you want to take better photos of your kids, better every day photos, learn your dSLR camera better, take better photos with your phone, and/or learn new ways of telling your story, this class is for sure worth it.

The cost of the class, for what you get, is WAY under-priced (way way under-priced).  Small one-time payment and then just $5 a month to keep access to the class and the new lessons that are added each month.  For the content that is in there, she easily could charge hundreds of dollars and it would still be worth the price.  Once you pay the registration fee, you get access to ALL the material in the course.  And you can cancel at anytime.

I’ve been following Ashley’s blog for a long-time now (the only blog I read on a consistent basis) and though I don’t know her personally, we’ve communicated a few times.  And I’ve taken her course.

If you want to learn your camera, take better photos, this is the course for you.  You won’t regret it.

To sign up or get more details, CLICK THIS LINK.

If you’re interested in learning more about photography, check out all the photography related posts I’ve done in the “Photography” tab above or by clicking HERE.

 

 

 

(This link is an affiliate link–helps keep this blog going.  I only recommend this product because I’ve personally paid for it and been through the entire course.  I ONLY recommend things I’ve used, tried, and LOVED.)

 

  • Thank you Lindsay for enrolling in the SnapShop courses and sharing it here with your readers! One of these days I am going to make it back to Lake Powell and experience it with your crew!ReplyCancel

    • ltross17

      The ONLY way to do Powell is on a speedboat. Your kids would LOVE it!!! Let’s do it!ReplyCancel

If you’ve been around here much, you know by now my heart bleeds for the homeless.  I don’t care what someone did or didn’t do to become homeless.  No one should be without a home.  No one.

Last year I took a tour of our local homeless shelter (so interesting and I learned SO much–especially about the families that live in the shelter).

And I’ve written about the period of time my own brother was homeless (and whether or not we should give money to people begging on the streets).

And I’ve done clothing drives for the homeless shelter in the past.

It’s my husbands 40th birthday this week and my birthday at the end of the week as well.  And it’s Thanksgiving.  So for birthday/Thanksgiving week, we thought it would be the perfect time to do another drive for the Homeless shelter.  Best birthday gift anyone could give me.

I would LOVE LOVE LOVE if any of you would be willing to participate.  If you don’t live by me, I would so appreciate if you take things to your local homeless shelter and e-mail me to let me know or leave a comment (most shelters have a list of things most needed on their website).

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Here’s what we’re looking for specifically (but we’ll take just about anything)–these are the current URGENT needs at the Road Home in Salt Lake City and Midvale, Utah:

Pillows (new)
Towels
Coats & Jackets (all sizes)
Jeans & Warm clothing (all sizes)
Boots & Shoes (all sizes)
Socks (all sizes)
Underwear (new, all sizes)
Blankets (twin, full, & queen)
Diapers (sizes 3-5)
Baby Bottles & Formula

Please make sure anything you donate is in GOOD condition.  It doesn’t have to be new, just make sure it’s still wearable and something people could use.

The Road Home also has a program called “Candy Cane Corner” that is stocked full of NEW things so parents can “shop” for their kids for Christmas.  This is a list of things they need for Candy Cane Corner:  Click this link for the list.  If you donate new things for the Candy Cane Corner, please put a note on the outside of your bag so I know that’s what it’s for.  This would be a good opportunity to take your kids to the store and have them pick out a few new things to donate to the homeless shelter kids.  When I took a tour last year, there were 50 families and close to 200 kids living in the shelter.  I can’t.even.imagine.

 

We will be taking donations starting today, November 21st until Monday, November 30th.  We’ll be taking the things to the homeless shelter with our kids on December 1st to participate in the Worldwide Day of service (all the details in the video below):

 

If you know where I live, you can drop your donations on my porch.  If you don’t live by me, please consider donating to your local homeless shelter.

Most of the people living at the shelter are NOT the people you see on the side of the road begging for money.  Many of them have had incredibly difficult lives filled with circumstances and decisions I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  My guess is most people reading this have things in their home they aren’t using.  Clothes they’ve outgrown.  Towels and blankets that collect dust in our closets.  Toys our kids no longer care about.

Will you please take 30-60 minutes sometime this week and go through your home, pull out anything you can spare, and donate it to those who don’t have a home?  Or take a quick trip to the store and buy a few new things that would make an incredible difference in someone’s life?  Or a monetary donation would be a great as well (you can give the money to me or pay online).  It would mean a lot to me.  It will mean even more to them.  Everyone wins.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes and one I think of often by my girl, Jen Hatmaker:

“It’s almost like Jesus meant what He said. When you’re desperate, usually the best news you can receive is food, water, shelter. These provisions communicate God’s presence infinitely more than a tract or Christian performance in the local park. They convey, “God loves you so dearly, He sent people to your rescue.”

I guess that’s why “love people” is the second command next to “love God.” And since God’s reputation is hopelessly linked to His followers’ behavior, I suspect He wouldn’t be stuck with his current rap if we spent our time loving others and stocking their cabinets.” Jen Hatmaker

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