Creating Travel Scrapbooks on the Road

I have boxes and boxes of vacation photos and memorabilia that I always plan to put in a scrapbook someday when I have the time.  On trips in more recent years, I have promised myself that I would translate my digital photos into a beautiful Shutterfly album as soon as I returned home.  It really shouldn’t be that hard to preserve our memories in these ways but somehow life always gets in the way once we return home.   That is why, when I saw a Pinterest photo of a school box with enough supplies to create a scrapbook while still on the road, I knew that I had to try it!  I immediately created my own portable scrapbook studio in a small pencil box.  Unfortunately, my motto in life sometimes seems to be

Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.  

That is why, before long, I had instead purchased a larger, deeper box with adjustable compartments (14 x 9.1 x 2.8 inches) and my kit looked like this:

Portable Scrapbook Supply Organizer Kit for Road Trips and other Travel

Supplies.  Does one really need all of these supplies to make a travel scrapbook on the road?  Not even close!  All that is really needed is a book or binder with paper and a pencil box with scissors, adhesive, and a pen or marker.  Still, I had a lot of fun having all these extras. Here is a list of what I took in my portable scrapbooking studio.

EPSON MFP imageWhere to buy.  Most of the items on this list can be found at hobby stores such as Hobby Lobby, JoAnn’s, and Michael’s.  However, I also found some items at Amazon, Wal-mart, or Etsy.  While searching for travel journals on Pinterest, I saw the cutest “You are Here” stamp.  I looked absolutely everywhere for a similar one, but they were completely sold out.  I was thrilled that the nice folks at Simon’s Stamps were able to custom make a similar one for me for a reasonable price.

Binder.  After looking at some different Smash Books and Scrapbooks, I ultimately decided to go with this customizable 3-ring binder that I ordered on zazzle.com.  I then used a three-hole punch to punch holes in some Kraft paper cardstock to use as the pages.

binder.JPG

I actually found that I was able to be much less of a perfectionist creating this book than I am creating more formal scrapbook or Shutterfly albums.  I didn’t work on the book everyday, I would just catch up whenever I felt like it, sometimes that was in the hotel if my husband  was watching something that did not interest me.  Mostly, though, I worked on the road which was a nice distraction since we were sometimes on the road for several hours per day.

first page

My biggest splurge was definitely this Instax printer which was a birthday gift from my husband.  I initially wanted this completely adorable pink Instax camera, partially because it is the PERFECT shade of pink.  In the end, I decided to go with the printer instead because it is a lot smaller.  Plus, when you take a photo with the Instax camera, that is the photo that you are going to get, good or bad.  The printer gives you the option to choose a photo from your iPhone and even edit it before printing, if you want.  I had an instant camera in the 1980s, I wanted every shot to be good and choosing the printer helped me to do that.

instax
Instax printer, cord and film in a pencil box

You need to have a Wi-Fi connection, so I always printed my photos in the hotel at night.  It is actually quite simple to use.  You will need to download the Instax Share app onto your phone and insert the batteries and film into the printer.  Here is how to print a photo from your phone:

  1.  Crop/edit the photo that you want to print and save it on your phone before opening the Instax app.
  2. Turn on your Instax printer.
  3.  On your phone, choose Settings->Wi-Fi and choose Instax when it comes up under “Choose a Network”.  You will need to repeat this anytime the printer has turned off, even briefly.
  4. Open the Instax Share app on your iPhone.
  5. Select, “Choose from Photos”
  6. Select the photo that you want to print
  7. If preferred, choose edit to rotate the photo, edit text or apply filters (optional)
  8. Select Connect and Print.

The phone will tell you how much film you have left.  The power shuts off pretty quickly after printing.  The quality is fairly good, but not perfect, it definitely has that old retro vibe, as you can see in the upper right of this layout.

Maryland

 

The washi tape came in handy for a variety of purposes, but I especially loved using it to make pockets with a half piece of cardstock.

Jamestowne

My husband was not happy about my decision to buy a selfie-stick, but we usually come back from vacations with almost no photos of the two of us together.  It’s important to me to have photos like that because the memories are the best part of a vacation!

Cape Cod

I brought along a manila envelope and, as we visited different places, I would put brochures, maps, and  other scraps into it until I could cut them up and glue them onto the pages.

blue ridge mountains

I was going for an old-fashioned, retro vibe in this book, so I found a lot of old blank postcard printables on-line before we left and printed them on cardstock to use as journaling cards.  To go with them, I searched google images for retro postcards of the places we would be visiting and then printed those out to use on my pages.  I also like the look of these a lot more than the overpriced postcards that we found in shops along the way.

I probably should have spent more time journaling, but these postcards that I wrote out were more journaling than I have ever taken the time to do on a vacation, so this was an accomplishment for me! If you are reading these journals, you might want to know that I am a genealogy nut and we were stopping at some of our ancestors graves along the way.  Or, as my husband joked, visiting my “dead kin”.

Connecticut

I also had fun using my “You are here” stamp, old school embossing label maker, and the fun embellishments that I brought along to enhance each page.Lexington

I hope that you found some ideas to help you preserve your memories, even while you are in the midst of making them!  Happy travels!

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Simple Stir-Fry Suppers

 

Simple stir-fry suppers 2

I fell in love with Asian food the first time that I ate it. And by first time, I am not referring to the canned chow mein that moms like mine served in the 1970s. No, I fell in love with real Asian cooking at the homey Asian restaurants I could not afford to visit very often during my years as a poverty-stricken university student. So, I decided that I would make my own. How hard could it be? I added chicken, a ton of different vegetables at once, and doused the pan with stroke-inducing amounts of soy sauce before eating the whole mushy mess over Minute Rice. Let’s just say, it was a bit disappointing.

Once I finally learned how to properly make a stir-fry, I realized that it is not so hard once you understand some very basic steps.  Once you master those basic steps, the options for a successful dinner are endless. We have a stir-fry at least once a week and every one is at least a little different than the last. Additionally, stir-fry is a fairly healthy cooking method of cooking. It can be accomplished with minimal fat and you can include a large portion of vegetables in your final dish.  This post is not a recipe for stir-fry, but rather a general description of the method, so that you can pull together a stir-fry from ingredients that you have on hand.  Here are some ingredients to keep on hand:

Stir Fry Ingredient List
Some ingredients that are useful when concocting a stir-fry.

A stir-fry also does not require any special equipment. I recall a college classmate who was from Asia laughing at the idea of using a wok. She said that she just used a large skillet. You will also need a knife, cutting board, measuring cups and spoons, and a wooden spoon.

If you are going to make rice or noodles with your stir-fry, start preparing that first because you want it to be done before your stir fry. As long as you drain the noodles or keep the rice covered and off-heat, they will not be ruined while you finish your stir-fry.  Your stir-fry, however, will be ruined if you are waiting for your starch to cook before you eat it. One final note, I beg you to use a delicious rice like basmati or jasmine, or at least brown rice.  I deeply regret all the years that I wasted eating tasteless Minute rice.  I stock up on a large bag of basmati rice at the Asian market about an hour from where we live, but I have also seen these rices at our small Wal-mart.

Step 1. Prepare all of your ingredients BEFORE you start cooking. Once you start cooking, things move quickly and you will not have time to quickly chop some more vegetables without ruining what you already have in the pan. You can choose from a lot of different proteins, but our favorites are chicken breast, shrimp, steak, pork chops, and tofu. All of these will brown best if you dry them out with some paper towels before cooking. You will also want to chop up your vegetables into bite-sized pieces. This is probably the most tedious part of preparing a stir-fry, but there are lots of options to avoid this. For instance, you can buy pre-cut vegetables in the produce, salad bar, or frozen section of your supermarket. There are even some canned options to keep on hand like water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, and baby corn.  One of my favorite strategies is to buy vegetables that are already bite-sized, like sugar snap peas. It is usually best to use only 2-3 types of vegetables.

Be sure to go ahead and mix your sauce at this time, as well.  Please see the end of this post if you need a sauce recipe.

Step 2. Heat 1 TB canola oil over medium high heat. Watch this very carefully and add your protein IMMEDIATELY when you see a tiny bit of smoke coming off the pan. You need to add right away when this happens because letting your oil smoke for too long could lead to a fire. It’s important to have a really hot pan, however, if you are going to get a nice sear on your protein.  Once you add the protein, wait at least a couple of minutes before stirring; it is ready to stir when it isn’t sticking to the pan too much. Then, stir every 1-2 minutes until the protein is just cooked. You will then need to remove the protein from the pan to keep it from being overcooked and to give the vegetables a chance to cook evenly. I skipped this step for years because I didn’t want to dirty another plate, but that was a big mistake. Now, I just use one of the plates that we will be using for dinner.

Step 3. Heat another 1 TB canola oil until you see it shimmer in the pan and then add your vegetables. This part can get a little tricky because you don’t want to add all of your types of vegetables at once. If you do, then some will be overcooked and some will be undercooked. There are also individual differences in how crisp people like their vegetables, but hopefully this chart will be a good starting point.

How long should I stir-fry vegetables before adding a sauce

Step 4. Use your wooden spoon to create a well in the middle of the vegetables. Add 1 tsp. canola oil or sesame oil and then immediately add your aromatics. Aromatics include garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, and the white part of scallions. If you aren’t sure how much to use of each aromatic, I recommend about 1 TB minced garlic, 1 tsp minced ginger, 2-3 scallion whites, and/or a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Mash this mixture around in the well for about 30-seconds-1 minute until the ingredients become aromatic (see what I did there?). Then, mix all of the vegetables in with the aromatics.

Step 5. Give your sauce a quick stir, making sure the cornstarch is incorporated. Then, add the sauce and protein into the pan. Stir for about 1-2 minutes, just until the sauce slightly thickens.

If desired, you can add a garnish such as chopped scallion greens, bean sprouts, herbs, nuts, or seeds to your final dish.

Do you need a sauce recipe? There are so many interesting and complex sauces out there, that I almost hate to share this one because it is quite basic.  However, it is a good sauce to start with because it is versatile, and has just a few easy-to-find ingredients.

  • 1 cup chicken broth (Better than Bouillon soup starter is an acceptable substitute)
  • 1 heaping TB cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup soy
  • 2 TB brown sugar
  • 1 TB rice vinegar

Kicking it up a notch:

  • Use peanut oil, instead of canola since it tolerates a higher temperature.
  • Use sauce recipes with more interesting ingredients like rice cooking wine (e.g., sake, mirin), oyster sauce, fish sauce, curry powder or paste, coconut milk, hoisin, or chili sauce.
  • Learn how to “velvet” your protein with cornstarch and egg white.