Ruby Bayan is a freelance writer who likes to share her simple joys.

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    Ruby Bayan


Gifts and Keepsakes
by Ruby Bayan

One-of-a-kind journals, cards, notepads, gifts

Scrapbooking: Photo-Journaling Your First Years in the USA
by Ruby Bayan

Migrating to another country is a major crossroad, and the start of a new life among different people, under a different climate, and into a different lifestyle. Many of us want to document, maybe even immortalize, all of these new experiences in photographs that will always remind us of our first days in our new world.

We hang the most beautiful snapshots on the wall or prop them up in desk frames for everyone to appreciate. But we soon run out of walls and tabletops, so most of the snapshots end up stashed in a drawer or a shoebox hidden in the closet – defeating the very purpose these keepsakes were collected.

Fortunately, an awareness for keepsake preservation and presentation has recently emerged. Constructing and designing “memory books,” now popularly known as scrapbooking, has captured the interest of young and old alike in many parts of the world for the past few years.

The craft has gained so much popularity that the Internet is brimming with scrapbook paraphernalia vendors and online scrapbooking communities. Many neighborhoods in America have established weekly scrapbooking nights where parents and children gather together, with scissors, stickers, and sheet-protectors in hand, to design creative pages of memories and memorabilia. I, too, have become interested in scrapbooking.

As a newcomer to America, I take pictures, and tokens, of all the “firsts” I experience. I took snapshots of my first trip to the mountains, my first encounter with snow, and my first Christmas, and my first cherry tomato container garden harvest. I even took pictures of our self-move from Jacksonville to Orlando. I also jot down dates, places, people, and exciting incidents; I keep souvenir tickets, handouts, cards, and giveaways, and slip them all into a large manila envelope marked “For the Scrapbook”.

I recently brushed up on the latest scrapbooking techniques, and am gathering all the materials I need to make my “First Year in the USA” scrapbook something I will cherish for years to come.

If you’re also interested in creating your first USA scrapbook, here’s how to get started:

  1. Purchase scrapbooking supplies. You can visit your nearest crafts store, check out a stationery or cards shop, or go online for what’s available. You can get a starter kit (about $25) or purchase items individually. The word to remember when buying scrapbook supplies is “acid-free” – the acid component in many paper and adhesive products adversely reacts with the chemicals in photographs, causing the precious photos to deteriorate sooner than we want them to. So, these are the basic items to start with:

    • Binders or albums – look for a label that says the materials used are acid-free

    • Sheet protectors – to protect your scrapbook pages; these are transparent plastic sleeves that should made from polypropylene, polyethylene, or polyester; avoid ones made with PVC or polyvinyl chlorides

    • Acid free paper – for artwork and backgrounds; choose a variety of colors, designs and textures

    • Sharp scissors – for cropping photos and art paper

    • Pens – for journaling; choose those that are waterproof, odorless, photo-safe, and acid-free

    • Archival quality, acid-free, and photo-safe adhesives – to bring your artwork together; adhesives are available in various forms: glue stick, glue-line dispensers, photo splits and corners, and double-sided tape

    • Optional nice-to-have items would include fancy-edged scissors, paper punches, circle cutters, paper trimmers, stickers, rubber stamps, and templates.

  2. Organize your photos, embellishments, and decorative cutouts. Decide on a format or theme that will coordinate color, shapes, and style (how about red, white and blue with stars and stripes?). Choose a background color, then an accent color for highlighting the pictures, for example, as matting or edging.

  3. Crop photos to get rid of unwanted background or to conform to your desired format.

  4. Prepare some embellishments or designs. You can draw, use stickers or rubber stamps, cut graphics from magazines, or simply arrange different colored paper cuttings.

  5. Add journaling. This will probably be one of the most important pieces in your layout – personal notes about the pictures and events you want to immortalize. Include dates, places, names, and emotions, or anything you want to share or read about the next time you open the scrapbook.

  6. Layout all the items on the background paper and when you’re satisfied with the arrangement, glue or tape them onto the paper carefully. Allow for the glue to dry.

  7. Slip the finished page into the sheet protector and clip it into your scrapbook binder.

  8. And finally, show the scrapbook off to all your friends and family.
Photographs are time capsules – they capture fraction-of-a-second scenes of special events in our lives. We take them so that we can look back and reminisce on these special moments and important crossroads in our existence; we keep them so that we can always share precious memories with our family and friends, and so that when we have passed on, they can serve as references, maybe even inspiration, to the next generations.

A photo-journal of your first years in your new home in America will be a priceless memoir of a meaningful and historic time of your life -- preserve it in a personally crafted scrapbook.

[First published at, 2000]


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