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Posts Tagged ‘family history’

The holidays can bring such joy — families gather together to share specially prepared meals, exchange gifts, and savor the particular magic that seems to permeate the air. Frosty windowpanes frame displays of trees and candles whose lights dance about merrily. The cold makes noses jauntily pink, and hot cocoa and spiced cider warm everyone back up. The scents of cinnamon and pine waft through the air.

Of course, that’s the ideal, what sparkles in our memories of favorite holidays. It’s also possible, with busy lives and the demands of work, kids’ last days of school before the winter break, and just trying to get ready for the expectations of what the holidays should be — grocery shopping, endless treks to the mall to get the toys and gadgets on the kids’ wish lists, getting lights strung around the house — to lose sight of the true meaning of the holidays.

Here are a few ideas for ways to bring back that wonderful feeling that can be the hallmark of this special time of year.

Get ideas from Grandma.

Ask an older member of your family, such as a grandmother or great-uncle, to share a tradition from his or her childhood and incorporate that this year. Grandma may tell you how when she was little she put her shoes outside the front door to have them filled with goodies from Santa Claus, instead of in a stocking next to the fireplace. This might work particularly well if you don’t have a fireplace and the children worry how Santa can get to their stockings without one!

Shake the family tree.

This free land of ours is a melting pot of many countries with their own unique practices surrounding the holidays. Your family may be a mixture of Russian, British and Norwegian, for example. Look up Christmas traditions that are common in Norway, perhaps, and pick one or two to incorporate this year in your celebrations. Christmas Eve dinner there usually features pork or lamb ribs or even cod, according to visitnorway.com, followed by the opening of gifts waiting under the tree. Get a recipe for Norwegian-style ribs and try that as a main course, and do the same for the traditional cookies — goro, krumkaker or berlinekrans.

Plan to volunteer or give back somehow as a family.

Depending on your family’s size and the ages of your children, it may be easy to find some way to give back to your community in some way or it may be a bit more challenging. Little ones won’t have a long attention span or may not be old enough to help out at homeless shelters or places that provide free meals, for instance. But anyone can find some way to serve others. Donating cans or boxes of nonperishable food items is a simple option; children can help Mom pick out vegetables they like and want to share with others. Take a box or bag full to your local food pantry. A more one-on-one way to brighten someone’s day is to visit a nursing home. Share your talents, such as music, or just sit and visit and ask an older person about his or her life. Ask him or her about long-ago traditions or holiday memories, even.

Re-emphasize your faith.

lightOur holidays are based on religious events, after all. Find a way to focus more on “what it really is all about.” Make an advent calendar that takes the whole month of December leading up to Christmas Day to remember miracles Christ performed. I’ve been enjoying the LDS Church’s #lighttheworld initiative this month so far, which gives an idea of something to do service-wise every day of the month leading up to the 25th, based on what Jesus did in his life.

Gift a memory.

It can sometimes be difficult to find just the right gift for a loved one. This year, try “throwing it back” by finding an item that reflects a favorite toy or experience the recipient had as a child. Children of the ‘80s had Atari game systems; try giving him a classic video game set in the form of an app. Maybe your grandma misses the beautiful farmhouse she grew up in; give her a framed photo of it or an ornament that harks back to it. Or try a charm for a bracelet or necklace. Have some fun!

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I’m presenting a class for a family history workshop on how to preserve various family memories: audio, video, documents, and photos. I thought some of my friends online might appreciate the information I’m sharing, so here are the basics:

Video

You can use a service to transfer film or VHS/Beta tapes to DVDs or do it yourself. Services are certainly easier but they’re costly.

First, the services I’ve found: Mail your materials in to MyMovieTransfer.com, ScanCafe.com, DigMyPics.com, iMemories.com, LegacyBox.com, or YesVideo.com.

Or go to Costco, Walmart, Walgreens, or CVS (these all use YesVideo service) to drop off your videos for transfer.

Next, DIY methods:

For VHS tapes, you can use a VHS-DVD burner combo player, an analog-to-digital adapter for your computer, or a separate VHS player and DVD recorder. These require various levels of know-how and equipment that might be pricey, but it might be cheaper even with pricey equipment if you have a lot to transfer. Plus, you can re-sell the equipment when you’re done to recoup some of the costs.

Digital Trends provides a nice online tutorial for DIY methods.

Once you’re finished getting your video onto DVD, then you can move on to getting it onto your computer hard drive in MP4 or similar format. For the future, it looks as if everything is going digital, so just go ahead and do it now. This also means you can have all your memories in one place. You can store on your computer and also keep a copy on a backup hard drive for safekeeping, along with all of your other digital copies of photos and audio, etc. I’ve used Xilisoft’s DVD Ripper and it’s fairly simple if you have some computer experience; standard version is $39.99. Other software includes Wondershare Video Converter starting at $39.95.

Digital Trends provides instructions for some free options.

Audio

Transferring cassette tapes onto your computer hard drive and into MP3 or similar digital audio formats is less complex than transferring video. It’s also pretty inexpensive. You just need a cassette player and an auxiliary cord to plug it into your computer, as well as software. The primary software I’ve seen (and used myself) is Audacity. Bonus: it’s free! Here are a couple of online tutorials:

http://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-turn-a-cassette-tape-into-mp3s/

http://www.wikihow.com/Transfer-Cassette-Tape-to-Computer

Photos

If you have photos in slide format, you can use a service, which can be quite expensive if you have a lot of them, or you can do it yourself. DIY is pretty easy and just requires a slide scanner, which can be purchased for around $80 to $120.

Loose photos or photos in albums are easy to scan with a regular scanner. Many of us now have combo printer/scanners. If you don’t have one yet, you can purchase a good-quality one for as little as $50. Only drawback is it’s time-consuming. If you’re trying to scan in photos that are still in old albums, you’ll have to scan in each page, make copies of the image on your computer, then crop down to each photo. Afterward, you can use your favorite photo-editing software to clean them up.

There are also apps for this project, such as Pic Scanner, which can be downloaded from the iTunes app store. It’s free for the first 10 scans of album pages and $2.99 after that. Pros: Makes it easy to just “take a picture,” and it isolates the separate photos for you without you having to copy and crop. Con: I liked the quality of my scanner better.

If you do want to use a service, there are lots out there, such as ScanCafe.com, DigMyPics.com, FotoBridge.com, iMemories.com, LegacyBox.com, and YesVideo.com.

Documents

Don’t forget to scan in old family documents as well. Same process goes here for photos. Use a scanner.

Now, going the other direction: many of us have photos from the past 5 to 10 years strictly in digital format. That’s great for storage, but you’ll also want to have some actually in hard copy form. I’ve found it’s nice and pretty easy to make photo albums on my computer using various photo-album services and then just have them printed and bound for me. No printing of individual photos and then assembling into albums. I’ve used Shutterfly, MiniBox, and MyPublisher and have been satisfied with their products. There are also a number of other services I haven’t tried: PhotoBook America, Peggy Bank, and AdoramaPix, for a few examples.

Deals

If you’re going to do any of these projects with services available, make sure you get the best deal you can! Groupon and LivingSocial are handy for this. Sign up for their emails and you’ll get heads-up on the various deals that might involve these kinds of services. I’ve gotten good ones from MyPublisher and am up to date on all my family photo albums thanks to them.

I also like to use Ebates to get cash back and coupons for services. Create an account and you can search for all their participating merchants.

Some current deals (local to my area in California):

ScanMyPhotos.com

Digital media services from Southtree

Video and image digitization services from Peggy Bank 

Groupon for 40-page photo books from PhotoBookAmerica

Groupon for photo books from AdoramaPix

 

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