Review: My-books Photo Book

Towards the end of last year, I got sent a voucher for a free My-books classic photo book. The voucher had an expiry date three months into the future. I thought to myself, “Yep, I can make something pretty awesome in that time…”, and then promptly forgot about it until about three weeks before the expiry date.

The great thing about My-books and their easy-to-use free software is that I was able to create something pretty awesome in the space of 24 hours. I’m so pleased with what I was able to make in that time, that I’m keen to see what else I can create at a more leisurely pace.

My-books photo book  Creating a Photo Book with My-books:
* the software is easy, free and fast to download, plus I like that you don’t have to be connected to create your project
* it’s simple to upload photos (in bulk) and I like that they get categorised as “unused/used” once they’ve been added to the page, making it easier to select the images you want
* playing around with layouts, themes, text and graphics was easy – there were loads of each to choose from
* there were many options to choose from when it came to style, size and orientation

My-books photo bookDetails of my photo book:
* style: classic square – simple and a good shape/size for a coffee table flick book
* pages: 20 – as specified by the conditions of the voucher
* layout: one photo per page – I like the simplicity of this layout
* cover: hardcover – as specified by the conditions of the voucher
* theme: elegant – I love the pages where the image is duplicated for the background
* text: none – I prefer the pictures to speak for themselves; I played around with inserting various texts but decided the simplicity of none was what I was after

My-books photo bookOrdering from My-books:
* the checkout process was simple, although I twice clicked on the wrong button and had to start again
* I like that I was prompted to save my project, and that there are a couple of reminders to check again that you’re 100% happy with your work
* uploading the project from the software to the My-books website didn’t take long at all

The finished Photo Book:
* the printing is flawless – no grainy images or colour differences
* the paper quality is great – a really nice weight and gloss
* the cover and binding is superb; the edging is lovely and the way the book was packaged meant no damaged corners

I have printed photo books through other sites before, and have been disappointed with the end results. However, I am thrilled with the photo book I received from My-books, and will definitely be using them again for my next photo project.

Other things I like about My-books:
* they are NZ owned and operated
* they offer a range of other products, such as photo cards, calendars and canvases
* their team are super-friendly and they often have special deals and competitions

While My-books provided me with a photo book in exchange for this review, all opinions expressed here are honest, and my own.

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FIVE

Today is our fifth wedding anniversary.

Wedding

So much has happened in those five years. We’ve travelled to 15 different countries, moved back to New Zealand from England, bought two houses, and welcomed two awesome little boys into our family. We’ve eaten at a Michelin-Star restaurant, learned how to hang wallpaper, and spent the past 1826 days loving each other as best we can.

Wedding

And every one of those 1826 days, I’ve pinched myself because I still can’t quite believe how lucky I am xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

(Photos by Sinead Jenkins Photography)

A Love Story: today

(Start with A Love Story: in the beginning, A Love Story: the dating game and A Love Story: tomorrow)

As I slowly opened one eye and peered around me, my stomach started to tingle. I fumbled for my mobile phone. 6.23am. I sat up with a jolt, a grin spreading across my face. I’m getting married today!

I said a silent good morning to my husband-to-be, and briefly wondered how he’d slept, knowing that the answer was likely to be similar to my own: brokenly.

When I heard my niece and nephew in the kitchen above, I stretched langourously, rolled out of bed and tried to wipe the smile from my face as I went up the stairs.

In the kitchen I was greeted by a chorus of “Good mornings!” and as we all sat down for breakfast, those little butterflies started flexing and fluttering their wings in my stomach, energised by the sunny glow radiating from my heart.

Wedding1Two hours before the ceremony was to start, my mother, still in her dressing gown, was sitting at the sewing machine, finishing my dress. Armed with a needle and thread, my sister, my best friend and I took turns hand-sewing little tucks in the outer layer of the skirt. The photographer commented that she’d never seen a bride looking so calm and serene with an unfinished dress just two hours before getting married.

I laughed and said, with extreme confidence, “It’ll get finished. I’m getting married today.” I felt calm. I would have walked down that aisle in a paper bag if I’d had to; nothing was stopping me from getting married.

Finally in my dress, veil securely fastened, I grinned at my dad, and clambered into the waiting car. My stomach was in knots, but I chatted away with our driver about his car, about the weather, our travels, everything but the wedding.

Wedding2As I heard the opening bars of The Lark Ascending, I suddenly felt nervous for the first time. But I was impatient, too: impatient to walk across that grass to where he was waiting for me, impatient to say “I do”, impatient to be married.

I watched as my girls crossed the grass, and instead of waiting for my favourite part of the music to begin, I suddenly urged my dad on. “I want to go now!” I whispered to him urgently. He patted my hand and held me back a moment longer, and then we were walking past the trees, across the grass, past friends and family, to where Tall stood, smiling nervously as I approached.

Wedding4

It drizzled at some point, but I didn’t really notice. My heels got stuck in the grass, but I knew my dress would hide it. I didn’t wait for Tall to repeat the vows before jumping in with my response.

There were probably a thousand other things that weren’t quite right, but I didn’t care. We were married.

And it was a perfect, perfect day.

Angela&Guy462~~~~~~~~~
Happy fourth anniversary to my wonderful husband.
Thank you for that perfect day, for all the days since, and all the days to come

xxxx

(Photos by Sinead Jenkins Photography, 2009)

A Love Story: tomorrow

(Read A Love Story: in the beginning and A Love Story: the dating game first!)

Tall’s mum came towards me holding a long velvet box. She asked if we could have little chat, and I nervously agreed, wondering if she was about to tell me that I couldn’t marry her son. Then she handed me the box, watched while I opened it, and told me the story behind the gold watch chain inside. Tall had been left a gold pocket watch by his great-great-grandfather, as they shared the same birth date, and the chain was to pass from his mum to his wife. I’d heard the story before, but to have my future mother-in-law passing the chain on to me that night was very special indeed. To know that Tall knew in those early days of us dating that I would be the recipient of that chain…well…that always gave me the chills.

When Tall and I said goodbye, I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. I clung to him, wishing time would stop for just a moment, just for us, right here, right now.

He gently pulled himself away and stared down at me with a bemused look on his face. “Why are you crying?” He asked. “We’re getting married tomorrow!”

“I know!” I sobbed. “It’s just…I don’t want you to go…and I’m tired and I’m sure there’s something I’ve forgotten to do…”

Tall pulled me back towards him, smoothed my hair with his hand and firmly whispered, “Everything is done. I’ve got to go, but I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

I sniffed in response, and escaped down the stairs to dry my tears while my fiancé – nearly husband – left for dinner with his family.

In the spare room of my parents’ house, my brother’s old room, the room we’d been staying in since arriving back in Dunedin two weeks ago, I sat in silence, hiccuping away the tears and sniffing into a tissue. I thought of everything we’d managed to get done in the short time we’d been home, and the sudden realisation hit that it had all come down to this one day – no longer months or weeks away, but tomorrow.

I looked at the pile of socks, boxer shorts and tees strewn on the floor on his side of the bed. I smiled.

Tomorrow.

(Read part four here)

Tomorrow, that mess of laundry would be my future, my forever.

A Love Story: the dating game

(If you missed the first installment, here’s A Love Story: in the beginning)

He nonchalantly invited me to his work “art exhibition”. “As friends,” he insisted. “Because that’s what we are right now.” He was treading carefully, slowly; I’d been single only a matter of days.

He picked me up, ushered me into the exhibition, nervously introduced me to his flatmates and friends, some of whom I’d met before. His best mate grinned cheekily at me, and gave me a “I’ve heard all about you” kind of look.

Wandering around the art, I asked if he’d submitted anything. He pointed out a great photo of the sun setting on Stewart Island, and said there was another piece around somewhere, but I’d have to find it. When I did, I couldn’t stop laughing, and he was relieved.

“I was waiting to see if you’d find it funny or not before admitting it was mine,” he confessed. It seemed I’d passed the first test.

After the exhibition, we went for a coffee at a local cafe. We talked, almost non-stop, about ourselves, our families, our lives. When he told me that his parents were “pretty awesome” and that he was “lucky”, my heart danced just a little.

We ordered second coffees, at 10.30pm. We were both stalling, not wanting the evening to end. He protested when I paid for them but I insisted. “This is what friends do.” And when he dropped me home, we hugged, like friends do, but there was a pause, as though we were both wondering where we were headed next.

At 3am, I was lying in bed, wide awake, buzzing from too much caffeine, and thoughts of the night. My mobile phone beeped. “I had a really great time tonight,” he’d messaged. I grinned. “Me too!” I replied.

And so we were dating.

We went to movies and out for dinner. He paid for everything, insisted on it. Having spent the past three-and-a-half years with someone who refused to spend their own money but didn’t hesitate to spend mine, this was a refreshing change. We would talk for hours, about what we wanted our futures to hold. We promised to travel together, and we discussed children.

One night he suddenly told me that his mother wouldn’t like me. I was shocked. “Um…why?” I asked, not sure I wanted to hear the answer. “Because she’ll have to give you the watch chain,” he replied. “Huh?” I was confused. “Nevermind,” he said dismissively. “More wine?”

One night, as he dropped me home, he asked if something was wrong. I’d been quiet all evening. “I’m just sad about how angry and upset she is about us seeing each other,” I said sadly. “I never meant to hurt her, and now she won’t even speak to me.”

“Do you want us to stop seeing each other then?” he asked in an incredibly neutral voice. I couldn’t look at him while I tried to form my thoughts into words. “It isn’t fair that she’s not happy,” I began carefully. “But it wouldn’t be fair to me to stop doing something that makes me happy…so I’m going to be selfish for once, and maybe I’ll be sorry forever, but that’s okay, because right now, I’m choosing to be happy.”

He took my hand and smiled, relieved. “But promise me that if you’re ever not happy, you’ll tell me.”

I promised, even though I knew there was no need. I knew that a moment like that would never come.

(Read part three here)

A Love Story: in the beginning

The night it all began, I was dressed as a wench and he wore a pirate hat fashioned from newspaper. When we arrived at the party, he was brandishing a plastic cricket wicket as a sword, lunging at us as we came down the front path.

Sitting around the brazier outside, I sipped punch and snuggled up to my best friend. Suddenly, he was beside me with a whole pineapple, daring me to take a bite. Not one to back down from a challenge – especially with the invincible cloak of too-much-alcohol surrounding me – I took the proffered fruit and took a bite, skin and all. He grabbed it back and, not to be out-done, took a bite himself. The next 15 minutes were a blur of hilarity as we giggled about how much it stung.

Then I had a fight with my boyfriend, and it was time to go home.

~~~~~~~~~
Weeks passed. Most Saturday nights, our friends converged at one of the pubs in town. I would spend my time flitting between the girls on the dance floor, and the boys at the bar; a friendship was developing that made me intensely happy. One night, I sent him a text as our taxi dropped us off outside a bar. His response that he was away made me suddenly sad; I shook the feeling off, but it stayed with me all night and I found myself heading home at an earlier-than-usual hour.

Two days later, as I was stretching at the halfway point of my daily 10km run, my best friend (returning from hers) stopped to stretch with me.

“He likes you, you know,” she said suddenly. “It’s pretty obvious.”

My heart leaped, but I laughed dismissively. “Well, he’d have to be an idiot if he thinks I’d go there,” I scoffed. “I’ve got a boyfriend, and besides, I know how she [a good friend of ours] feels about him.”

We ran on, but instead of thinking about nothing as I usually did when I ran, I couldn’t get her words out of my head.

~~~~~~~~~
A few weekends later, my boyfriend was away. I was relieved – I’d been miserable for months, going through the motions of being in a relationship, of living with someone I didn’t love. He was prone to bouts of angry depression and manipulation, and nothing I did seemed to make a difference. I felt smothered, trapped, controlled.

It was 5am, the end of a big night in town. “I like you,” he said. “I really like you. I don’t usually say things like this, but this time, I had to say something…”

“Thank you for telling me,” I replied slowly. “That’s a really brave thing to do. But it’s complicated…I have a boyfriend…” Then I found the words tumbling out of my mouth, and he was the first person I told how miserable I was.

“I’ll email you tomorrow,” I promised as we parted company.

~~~~~~~~~
I emailed my sister. I asked for her advice. Her words have stayed with me for the past almost-nine years: “Does he offer you more mentally? emotionally? physically? If the answer is yes, then I think you know what to do…”

I composed another long email and with a shaking hand, pressed send. My stomach lurched, and I tried to concentrate on my work, but I was anxiously waiting for that familiar ding of a new mail notification. I checked the volume on my computer. I reinstalled the notifier, just in case. When there’d been no reply by 5pm, I began to feel sick, and a thousand “what ifs” ran through my mind

~~~~~~~~~
I was reluctantly forcing myself to eat dinner when my mobile bleeped.

“Our stupid email was down all day, so if you sent me anything, I didn’t get it…”

I released a deep breath that I didn’t know I was holding. My face almost broke with the wide grin that spread across it.

“That’s a shame, because I did, and it was a long one!” I replied. “I had a big think about everything, and if you’re okay with it, then…I choose you.”

There was a long pause.

Then: “Seriously? That’s so cool! Are you sure? I was waiting all day for it to be fixed. This is the longest text I’ve ever sent!”

(Read part two here)