Why Templates Are a Girl’s Best Friend

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

I’m a scrapbooker from way back, but I haven’t been keeping up like I used to or taking many photos that don’t correspond to a blog post. To commemorate this last year before the wedding (and remind me to take pictures of the fun stuff), I’ve been putting together a layout per week for our Wedding Year scrapbook. Now, working full time, planning a wedding, and blogging about it are enough to keep me plenty busy–adding in scrapbooking might seem like adding more work rather than some much-needed relaxation.

For me, it all comes down to 3 things:

  • Digital scrapbooking
  • Project Life
  • Templates

The Digital Approach

While I do absolutely love paper and creating with it, physical scrapbooking was becoming less and less convenient with all of my photos being digital for the last several years. That love of paper that had me scoffing at digital scrapbooking 1o years ago has since enthusiastically embraced the digital approach for both the ease of integrating my digital images but also the fact that once a digital paper or embellishment is purchased, it doesn’t get “used up.” As someone who has more than once hoarded those last few sheets of a favorite paper, this is quite freeing.

And you can always print your pages out yourself or upload them to a photobook site and end up with very professional looking albums.

Just about any photo software that will handle layers can be used for digital scrapbooking and there are some programs out there specifically for it. I learned on Photoshop Elements (PSE) 3, “back in the day” with tutorials from ScrapGirls. While I’ve upgraded to full-on Photoshop for other projects, I still use PSE (version 9, now) for scrapping for the simpler interface.

Project Life

Project Life is a system devised by Becky Higgins that is meant to make saving photos and memories easy, streamlined, and low-pressure (though it’s but one of many pocket-style scrapbooking systems out there). By using divided pocket pages–like baseball card pages but more varied–and 2 sizes of inserts (4×6 and 3×4) all you have to do is slip in your photos and write on the journaling cards and you’ve got a scrapbook in no time flat.

I’d heard about it a couple years ago (and mentally kicked myself for not trying out a similar idea many years prior) but didn’t want to go back to paper scrapping. Behold, the official Project Life digital kits are available at ACDigitals.com (though I bought my kit and template when they were still partnered with Jessica Sprague). What’s even better is that with the popularity of Project Life on the rise, several sites have similar products available. ScrapGirls has their Pocket Life line, and several designers over on The DigiChick (my 2 favorite shops) have Project 52 offerings that are compatible.

Of course, with digital scrapbooking, anything can be used with the Project Life base system, especially if you use the templates.


Just like writers who stare at a blank page/screen, feel anxious and can’t start writing, scrappers sometimes have a similar block. Recently I’ve become a total template convert as all I have to do is pick my photos, papers, and maybe a few embellishments and start clipping them to the template layers and, boom, there’s my page! Of course, when you scrap digitally you can turn and flip the templates to get a bit more variety (there are only 7 basic page layouts with Project Life, but you can certainly branch out to other templates, too).

But the Project Life-style templates, based on 4×6 and 3×4 spaces, are perfectly suited to both digital camera images as well as those cell phone shots we’ve all been taking. And if you take a lot of photos, then the simple grids are going to be your best friends.

To show you just how easy it is, I took screenshots while I put together this layout, week 9 of our wedding year album:

Week 9, Dec 29, 2012 to Jan 4, 2013

Week 9, Dec 29, 2012 to Jan 4, 2013 (all photos personal)

Step 1: choose your photos

First I pick out my photos to see what I’m working with. Lots of photos mean a template with more spots, fewer photos mean bigger spots to take up more space.

Step 2: Pick your templates

Then I look through my templates to see which ones I want to use. In the back in a Project Life template and in front is a template from eNKay Design’s Project 365 line. Then I decided which would be the left side of the layout and which one the right.

Step 3: Start placing your photos

I rotated the 365 layout to get the photo spots in the orientation I wanted them, then added my first photo to fill the large, vertical block on the page, sizing it up to fill the space or maybe a little bigger. Make sure the photo is above the layer you want the photo to fill and clip it (Ctrl+G on a PC, Mac is Cmd+G, I believe) to that layer. This makes the photo (or whatever) show only where the template shape is “active” so it trims it to shape without actually cutting the image, and you can nudge it around to get the best view.

Step 4: Finish putting your photos in place

Place your photos wherever they best fit so you can see how much space you still have to work with.
You can combine different layer elements by merging them, like I did with the 4 3×4 slots in the upper right, then clipping the image to the merged set. It’s a nice little trick when you want to use larger pictures in smaller slots for effect. And it’s so much easier than cutting and corner-rounding 1 picture into 4, right?

Step 5: Save your work!

Right about now is a good time to do a “Save As” and name your file something other than the template name (you don’t want to overwrite your original template files with the changes you make, since you might want to use them in their original form sometime later).

Step 6: Pick out some papers and embellishments

Then I pick out some papers and embellishments to clip to the background and blank template spots

Step 7: Add your papers and embellishments to the pages

Now the fun part! Clip the papers to the template areas and start to place your embellishments on top of them. For efficiency’s sake I like to merge layers and them clip the paper file once, unless I need some of the elements overlapping others. The more layers, the bigger the file size, you know? But embellishments just need to be positioned above the layer you want them to rest on, they usually don’t get clipped (again, this is a bonus of digital–not everything had to fit exactly in the “pockets”).

Step 8: Add journaling spaces

I like using a mix of patterns, but patterns aren’t always great for journaling on, so I use the shape tool to make “clear” areas filled with a lighter version of one of the colors already in the layout (and then added a texture fill to it because I have issues with flat colors). Remove any layers you don’t want in your final layout (like journaling place-holders and title bits).

Step 9: Add the wordy bits and additional embellishments

Use your words! Add journaling to the open areas, titles, and then any additional embellishments to finish out the layout. That’s it!

And that’s just how simple it is.

Whether you’re saving the wedding planning memories, putting together a photo-book of your engagement photos, or even scrapbooking your honeymoon pictures, templates can make the process much smoother. Templates (Project Life or otherwise) are also great for learning composition skills and branching out of your usual style.

So, have I swayed you over to the digital template side of scrapbooks?

ICC: Kara Sev


It’s the 15th of the month so that means it’s time to share another adventure courtesy of the Indian Cooking Challenge! This month we made Kara Sev, another snack food and another round with the fryer. Unlike last month’s Pani Puri which turned into a several-hour ordeal with mixed results, this month was easy as fry–

Kara Sev

Kara Sev

Kara Sev


2.5 cups Gram Flour
1 cup Rice Flour
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Salt
1 pinch Baking Soda
5 Tbsp ghee
2 cloves garlic, minced
Water, as needed

My Notes:

*Gram flour is ground chick peas, you should be able to find it in your local organic foods section or you can make your own by drying out canned chick peas and processing in a blender or food processor until smooth

*I increased the chili powder x4 and could have actually gone up more, feel free to spice it up a little more

*I doubled the amount of ghee and could probably use more—you want a breadcrumb-type consistency and for that you need more fat to rub-in

If you’re not familiar with ghee, perhaps you’ve heard of clarified butter? They’re the same thing and if you’ve got unsalted butter, a saucepan and a ladle you’ve no need to hunt it down in a specialty food shop.

Clarifying Butter

Clarifying Butter

Over low heat, slowly melt the butter (for this recipe you’ll need about a stick) until it’s completely liquid. You’ll see a bit of white stuff come to the surface–those are the milk solids and you want to skim those off. The water has sunk to the bottom (in small quantities you have to be careful not to disturb that bottom layer, too) and the pure butter sits in the middle. Ladle off the clarified butter, leaving the water behind, and use as directed.

Now, onto the Sev!

Steps of the Kara Sev

Step-by-Step Kara Sev

1 ) Sift together the dry ingredients. I like to put half the flour(s) into the large sifter, add the seasonings, the finish off with the rest of the flour so that when I sift them together they get more evenly distributed.

2 ) Make a well in the center of the sifted dry ingredients and add the minced garlic and the ghee. Mix together the moist and dry (fingers really work best for this) until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Clumpy ones, sure, but bread crumbs just the same.

3 ) Sprinkle water over the mixture until a dough starts to form. In truth, it was more like shallow handfuls at first, just to get things to hold together, then it tapered off to sprinkles until the dough was fairly solid and no longer sticky.

Let me tell you, at this point the dough smelled fantabulous–the bean flour and the chili powder were activated by the water and if the finished sev smelled this good we were going to be very happy.

4 ) Divide the dough into 4 balls. This is just to keep it manageable.

5 ) Heat canola oil to around 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

6 ) Push the dough through a sev ladle or maker into the hot oil.

Okay, here’s where we reach a bit of a cultural divide–what in the world is a sev maker? Turns out it’s a perforated ladle that you use as a die to create little strings of dough for frying. Not having one of those around I found some pictures of what a sev-maker looked like and they look an awful lot like my potato ricer (that’s it on the left). This is what I used for most of the kara sev (press out strings about 2 inches long then cut off with a knife into the oil–watch for splashing!).

Someone else suggested using  a cookie press and I thought that was an inspired idea. Unfortunately, in the handful of moves since I last used mine, only the tree-die remained with the press. Still, I gave it a shot.

7 ) Fry until just barely colored. The first batch I fried until it was a golden brown and it didn’t have a lot of flavor. Each batch afterwards I fried a little less and the flavor increased. Turns out it only takes a moment or two in the oil for them to cook through so get ’em in, let ’em bubble and get ’em out!

8 ) Drain the finished sticks on a piece of paper toweling.

The batch I tried through the cookie press (don’t forget to spray it with something to prevent sticking!) turned out fine, too, in wider strips, but I only did the one batch of those–the ricer worked best.

Todd really enjoyed snacking on these crunchy strings, I would prefer a little more flavor in the finished product so more salt and more chili powder would not go amiss.

Store the drained sev in an airtight container or plastic bag.

I’m still looking for the perfect dip that goes with these (maybe hummus?) since I’m not a huge fan of a lot of dry snacks but these are pretty addicting once you get started on them.