I used to scrapbook. A LOT. I still have a closet full of scissors, paper, punches, and stickers to prove it. When I started blogging, I stopped scrapbooking, mainly because I didn't want to drag all of my supplies out and clean up after myself after a project was done.
A few months ago, I was invited to a dinner with a group of travel bloggers, hosted by Shutterfly. They showed us a new way to scrapbook our travels, using all those photos that are held captive on our computers. I finally tried one out and made a small book of my trip earlier this year to St. Lucia. After I received the book back, I was impressed with the quality of the printing, and how beautiful and professional my photos looked. Now, I'm hooked.
Shutterfly makes scrapbooking simple. Just upload the photos you want, choose a format or theme, and the software does the work of sorting and putting photos in layouts. If you're like me, and want to customize, you can customize, cut and paste to your heart's content. You can even add embellishments or "stickers" to your pages and make them as fancy or as plain as you like.
I may have a new addiction.
Visit Shutterfly.com to create your own personalized photobook.
Disclosure: I received some free samples of Shutterfly products. All opinions expressed herein are my own and not necessarily those of Shutterfly, Inc. Photos contained in the photobook are Copyright Glennia Campbell 2011. All Rights Reserved.
When planning our December roadtrip, a stop at the Saguaro National Park was an absolute must-see for my husband Frank. Frank loves cacti of all shapes and varieties. He has kept a cactus collection for more than twenty years through moves from California to Texas and back, with only a few casualties along the way. He loves cactus so much that Alex and I teased him throughout the trip by pointing at every wilted, dried out cactus we encountered and saying, "Hey, Dad, look! A cactus! Don't you want to take a picture of it?"
We thought it was hilarious. Frank just rolled his eyes, and endured.
Ever hear of Country Inns & Suites? I hadn't until about a year ago, when they generously offered us a voucher to stay in one of their fine establishments. We were not able to take them up on the offer until our Christmas roadtrip to Austin, and I was pleasantly surprised by the accomodations they offer at reasonable prices. We enjoyed a complimentary overnight stay at the downtown location in Tucson, Arizona, during our long journey through the desert.
Like many of the better highway hotel chains, they offer free Wifi in the rooms, complimentary breakfast, and a pool. What sets Country Inns and Suites apart are the little things, like complimentary cookies and bottled water on arrival, a full hot breakfast (not just microwaved sandwiches and cold cereal, but bacon, eggs, the whole works), and a homey, charming decor. We found the staff to be friendly and efficient, as well as knowledgeable about the area.
On our December roadtrip, we left the Salton Sea Recreation Area and headed east on I-8 through the dusty California border towns toward Tucson. We were hoping to be in Saguaro National Park before sundown. Unfortunately, we arrived too late for the park. I dubbed this our "Too Late Tour," since it seemed like we always arrived at our destinations just after the sunset so we couldn't see anything. Frank said that he planned a perfect itinerary for summer, or anytime the sun stays up a little past 5:00 pm.
Anyway, we arrived in Tucson after dark and couldn't get to the Saguaro National Park on time, so we went straight to the Country Inns & Suites. We were welcomed with freshly baked sugar cookies in the lobby, a homey fireplace, and some bottles of water, which were great after a long, dry drive through the desert. The front desk staff was extremely friendly and answered all of our questions. There were some kids running around the lobby, and the hotel seemed to be extremely family-friendly.
Our room was nicely furnished and large enough for the three of us. The furnishings and decor were nicer and more traditional than some that we encountered later on our trip at similar hotels. It seems that the latest trend in hotel decor is blinding florescent lighting and migraine-inducing neon green bedding with fuschia accents and large black and white photos of doorknobs and exposed pipes in the hallway. I was happy to find the room to be comfortable and not over-done, with more muted colors and soft lighting. During our trip, we used Marriott and Hilton loyalty program points to stay at Fairfield Inn and Hampton Inn in different locations along the way. We liked Country Inns the best for food quality, service, and general ambience, although the three were pretty similar in locations, space, and pricing.
After our Best Day Ever in the Mojave National Preserve and historic Route 66, we to Arizona. We entered the Grand Canyon National Park with high hopes for more gorgeous vistas. We arrived in the afternoon, and as we entered the park, we noticed a light dusting of snow on the ground and the trees covered in mist. It was actually quite beautiful and like some kind of Christmas card with snow-dusted pines and elk standing in the forest.
As we went up higher, visibility got considerably worse. We stopped at one of the numerous visitor's center, to check out the view, and could see exactly nothing. It was as though the entire Grand Canyon had been filled in by a giant serving of cream-of-mushroom soup. The wind outside whipped through the canyon and chilled us all to the bone.
We checked into the Miswak Lodge and headed to the El Tovar Hotel Dining Room for dinner. We had a wonderful dinner, but even though we were seated near a window that allegedly overlooked the Canyon, we couldn't see a thing. It got dark soon enough, which was a blessing, since looking out at the fog was getting depressing.
On top of that, I had a disturbing phone call from my brother before we lost cell and internet service. My dad had taken a nasty fall off a ladder and broken his back and collar bone. I wanted to rush home, but my brother informed me that there was nothing we could do, so it was best to just carry on with our trip. For the next day or so, we had no internet access and limited phone service, so I couldn't do much besides worry.
The following morning, we checked out of the Miswak Lodge and visited Hopi House. I normally go nuts for Native American pottery, jewelry and knicknacks, but I really was not in the mood to shop, so we decided to try another viewpoint, but no luck. If anything, the fog was worse, only now the snow had melted and left a layer of mud everywhere.
We decided to cut our touring short, and headed toward the park exit. Frank suddenly shouted, "WHOA! WHOA!" and Alex and I thought he was having some kind of seizure or something.
"What was it? Mountain lion? Elk? Mountain lion eating an elk?" I inquired.
"No! I thought I saw the canyon!" he replied.
All I could see were trees, but I did notice that the fog on the road had cleared.
"I think we're below the cloud now," Frank remarked.
We drove about a hundred yards to a scenic overlook, and after blinking a few times, we saw it: The Grand Canyon. Alex and I clapped and shouted. Frank pulled over and we got out to take a few pictures. We didn't know how long this parting of the clouds would last, so we snapped quickly and asked someone to take a photo of the three of us. We were afraid the fog would encroach at any second and we would be out of luck.
The further we descended, the clearer the air got. We pulled into the Watchtower viewpoint, and got a pretty spectacular view of the canyon and the river below. We could look up and see the cloud above, right where we had come from.
The Watchtower is an aptly-named , tall, round, brick building that looks like a lighthouse without a light. It reminded me of a rook from some Cowboys vs. Indians chess set. You can walk up to the top, and one of the rangers told us you could walk up 80 steps to the top. Frank decided to pass on this little adventure, but Alex and I hiked up to the top.
There are actually four levels up, and each level is painted with what looks like Native American petroglyphs or early graffiti. There are some scratched-up windows of varying heights and sizes to view the canyon all around the walls of the circular ediface.
When I finally huffed and puffed my way up to the top of the tower, I caught up with Alex, who was dancing around like he was at Rockettes try-outs or had to go to the bathroom really, really badly. "Look, mom! TA-DA! The Grand Canyon! From high up!"
He was so excited, he was vibrating. He insisted that I take a picture, so I did. I have to admit, despite the scratches on the window pane, the view was pretty spectacular. I think when I was a kid I had a paint-by-numbers set of the Grand Canyon, so the colors and the shapes were familiar to me. No photo or painting could ever capture the intense beauty of the place, and words fail me. You'll just have to go and see it for yourself, hopefully on a sunny day.
Photos: Copyright Glennia Campbell 2010, All Rights Reserved.