A project a full school-year in the making

Cathy ZielskeScrapbooking70 Comments

I had an idea late last August. One that I really wanted to tell other parents about.

But I also really wanted it to be a surprise for my senior girl, who at that time had roughly 39 weeks of actual senior year school to complete before I could give it to her.

The idea was simple. Each week, write a short note to her and find one photo from that week to pair with the message.

A photo. A message. From a mama to her girl.

I set a calendar reminder every Monday morning at 11 a.m. As soon as the alarm popped up on my desktop, it was time to stop, drop and write. Then I snagged a photo from the week at hand and dropped it into my template.

I created a simple 6 x 6 design, knowing I would upload it at year’s end to create a small, soft-cover book from Artifact Uprising.


With a set limit on how much I could write, it was both extremely do-able but also challenging. I find I have a lot to say to this young woman. I chose my words carefully.


Nearly all of the book’s images were taken with my iPhone.


Using a basic template, each week I would open the previous week’s file, do a File > Save As… and rename the file for the week at hand. This created a lovely (and numerically ordered) set of PSD files.

Once the school year was over I spent time proofreading each file, then saved each one as a JPEG.

Next I created a simple cover design, saved it as a JPEG and uploaded it first to create the cover.


Then I uploaded all the weekly files to Artifact Uprising, in order, to create the guts of the book.

I created a final closing page using images that appear in the album.


I gave this book to her last Saturday. As of today, I’m not sure if she’s read it yet. She told me she wasn’t ready.

That’s cool with me. I’m not ready to read it again right now either. Not just yet.


I think this would be a really great project for any mama or daddy who has a senior starting that last, final hoorah in the Fall. Heck, you could do it for any school-aged child. The titles are all editable and use free fonts so you can make them say anything you like. I wanted to share this album today so those of you who do could start thinking about it before September rolls around. Whether you use my design or create one of your own, this is a very do-able and potentially meaningful memory project.

And yes, if I make a little money off this project, you can rest assured it will all be going to the University of Wisconsin–Madison come September.


Cathy ZielskeA project a full school-year in the making

70 Comments on “A project a full school-year in the making”

  1. #5
    Shawna Zervos

    What a treasure this gift will be! Although I have a few years before I need this, I know it will fly by. I will totally use this idea. Thank you! Thank you!

  2. #6

    I love this idea! My girls are a little older, but I have some ideas….. My youngest just graduated from college and is going to Chicago for her student teaching this fall. I think a note each week while she is gone would make a cool book using photos from growing up. I also think it would be cool to do,one for my older daughter the next time she is pregnant. One note a week remembering when she was growing up. Thanks for the great idea!

  3. #7

    Perfect in every way, Cathy! There is a “Modern Family” episode where Phil creates a book for his daughter as she goes off to college. As soon as I saw that episode, I thought “that’s what I’m making Caroline for graduation.” (Next year!) The book is called “Phil’s-osophy”. Hilarious and at the same time a gift that will be treasured. Thank you for sharing your treasures–the book and your sweet Aidan. It has been a joy to watch her grow and become such a lovely young woman. Best wishes to her as she continues her story at U Wisconsin.

  4. #9
    Jenny B.

    It’s beautiful! Would it be weird for me to say I’m proud of you for seeing this project through to the end? For me, it would be really hard to keep up through the whole school year (even with the iPhone reminders and simplicity of the project). 🙂 Way to go!

  5. #11
    chris s

    what a great project!! i will have 2 senior boys next fall, one in HS and one in college. i think this is something to think about doing for sure.

    good luck with college, both of you! and if you come up with a sure fire way to pay for tuition. let me know. this is something i think about daily.

  6. #13

    Love it. My oldest will be a senior this year and I’m a mess already. I think this might help me get through it. Thanks for the wonderful idea.

  7. #14
    Julie McD

    Love this! This is so up-my-alley. As my oldest is going to be a high school junior next year, and I have so much I want to say, I am definitely filing this one away in the ‘must do’s’ for a year from now! Thanks for the teary-eyed epiphany this a.m.!

  8. #15

    As the mom of a senior this upcoming year, I appreciate this so much! 🙂 Hard to crack through my son’s crunchy exterior, but this might do it! LOL.

    I’m pretty excited that Aidan coming to Wisconsin . . . and I’m totally serious about a meetup with you!! 🙂 #partay

  9. #20
    Michelle Adams

    Thank you for the excellent idea! My son will be a Junior next year and that Senior year is creeping up oh so fast! Thank you!

  10. #22

    What an absolutely FANTASTIC idea! My son is starting his senior year this fall so I’m going to create a book like this for him. I know when I give it to him he’ll be quiet about it but I know this is something he’ll really appreciate.
    Your daughter is lucky to have such an awesome mom!

  11. #23

    Wonderful gift, Cathy. 🙂 In your digital (for sale) files, is the text on the cover editable? I see there is a boy version, but I am wondering about changing the word “senior” to “Grade 12” (for Canada) or “matric” (for South Africa, if we stay long enough for our girl to graduate from a South African school).


  12. #24

    The text is set on the cover, but… the fonts I used? Theyre all free, so all you have to do is delete the layer and redo a text box for your wording!
    I include links in the PDF handout that comes with the album, and heck, Im always happy to help you create a custom title! All youd have to do is email me!

  13. #25

    Oh I get so excited when I see a full album template! Photobooks are my memory keeping sweet spot. My mind immediately raced to all the ways this could be used (since I am parent to a child of the Class of 2025).

    39 weeks is just about the length of a pregnancy. I could totally see this being adapted for that use. Though, not nearly as meaningful and writing 39 letters to a person walking into their adulthood.

    Expand it by a few weeks, and you can easily make it a weekly letter and photo project documenting a baby’s first year.

    It could also be a great way to do a simplified personal or family yearbook. One photo. One paragraph. Once a week.

  14. #26
    mary e.

    I love this idea – I’ve struggled over the past few years, because I feel like I’ve been so inconsistent with my photographing and journaling. I get the whole “I haven’t been on track, so it’s just not worth trying” mentality, and then I see hybrid pages, etc., and feel like a scrap loser.

    This, though, is simple, straightforward, and kinda like a photo diary love letter.

    I’m so all over this.

    Thanks, Cathy, for another amazing, simple idea. Remember what I’ve said about your IP? You’re givin’ it away! But I am SO GRATEFUL!!


  15. #27
    Sally Kemp

    I really love this idea. Wish I’d done this a few years ago before all of mine flew out of the nest 🙂 But I like the idea of doing this as a travel journal. I’ve always struggled with the best way to share photos and stories from my vacations – I don’t like a strictly photo approach. This idea is a great combination of both. You could even have a facing page that is just text.Thanks!!

  16. #28

    Actually, I stand corrected: Those files ARE editable. LOL! I just check the file. You just need to install the free fonts which you can find in the handout!

  17. #29

    Very very cool, Cathy. This will be something she cherishes forever. Wish I would have thought of something like that when my kids were graduating. I did get a scrapbook done for each of them, though! That was an accomplishment for me!

  18. #30
    Christine K

    Love this!!!!! My last chick is 2 years away from graduating so I will be able to complete one for her. Thanks also for the poster template. I will be using that as well for her grad party. Keep those ideas coming.

  19. #33
    Mary R

    I wish I would have done something like this for my son…but it’s not too late – he will be entering his second year at Northern Michigan University this fall. I will start then. Thanks for the push Cathy. Simple. Perfect!!!

  20. #37
    Donna Bell

    Oh snap!! My daughter also graduated this year. I would have loved to do something like this for her… I love this idea!

  21. #39

    And your additional ideas are awesome. Love the idea of one photo plus journaling for a yearly album. I did something similar as a 10th anniversary gift for my husband. Every week for a year leading up to the anniversary I wrote one thing he did that week that made me love and treasure him.

  22. #42

    What a beautiful book. This would also be a great project for military families during a deployment. The first few weeks after returning home are always spent catching up on everything that’s been missed. Your book would be a great way to chronicle each week of deployment and to let Mom or Dad know how much they were missed.

  23. #47

    This post came at a perfect time for me! My son will be starting his senior year in just a few short weeks. In fact, he played in his first soccer game as a senior tonight. This is exactly the project I need to do this year. I hope this will be something for him to take with him as he heads to college, but also therapy for me as I cope with my “little boy” leaving home.

  24. #49

    oh my, Cathy, this is so awesome! I have misty eyes … what a great thing to do for your kids and what a great mom you are! a little bit of jealousy (I wish somebody had done that for me) but mainly determination (I’m definitely doing this for my kids (when I have them ;)) and admiration (what a grand idea and what a great memory for your daughter) is what I feel right now 🙂 I’m so glad you shared this, thanks.

  25. #51

    When you said you made a jpeg from your psd file, that included the photo and copy correct?

    You know I’m on it for making this project! What a great gift to your Aidan.

    My girl is getting her senior pictures done this morning. I am definitely beginning the emotional roller coaster!

    As always, great job!

  26. #52

    Yes. When you do a File Save As… and choose JPEG (I always choose the highest quality of 12), it saves the complete file, word and photo, as a separate file, so your PSD file remains layered and editable. Good luck, mama. It is a bit of a ride!

  27. #54

    Sorry, another question, did you order the 5.5 or 8.5 size square photobook? Your templates are 6×6, so I am assuming you may have ordered 8.5 size photobook.

  28. #55
    Susanna Boyd

    This is fantastic! What a brilliant gift. Thinking this is a digi twist on Stacy Julian’s album. Love the idea. Hope I can get my son to let me take his picture by the time he’s 18!

  29. #56

    I ordered a 5.5 book. If you wanted to do the larger one, here is a tip: Size your templates up FIRST! Before you every drop in your photos so you dont lose any resolution. : )

  30. #57

    I love this idea Cathy! Thanks so much. I totally love doing this as a a first year married – or even engagement-married album. I am yet to be both, but it’ll be before children and i love the idea!

  31. #59
    Annie F

    What a great idea! I may just have to it do it but in reverse – next fall my kids will be high school freshmen and will be attending different schools for the first time in their lives. Crazy new venture for me and my son and daughter for sure!!!! Thanks for sharing your stories, family and thoughts I truly enjoy all of it.

  32. #60

    I love this idea! My daughter will be a senior in the fall and my youngest daughter will be after her. I’m not good at all that digital stuff but I will do something like this for her. Also thought about making her a PL album for that year also.

    Thanks so much for sharing this and WAY TO GO on staying with it all year. I can imagine the tears and love she will have when reading it. You are an awesome mom!!

  33. #64

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this idea! The Peanut is heading into her senior year – I am still wondering where the last three have gone!! I do have a quick question – do you need to do anything when using the templates going from the 6×6 to the 5.5 x5.5 size on Artificates site? Do I need to resize or are they good to go and they will crop/downsize them as they are loaded/printed? Just want to be sure I don’t cut off a head or something in transition!! And thank you for the templates — makes life so easy for us! 🙂

  34. #66

    Thank you for this. My oldest starts her senior year in late August. Gulp. Her top school choice is UW Madison. Small world 😉

    1. #67.1
      Cathy Zielske

      Yes! Enjoy. It’s totally do-able and the end result? You’ll love and so will your senior!

  35. #68
    Esther H

    I saw your idea, saved it in my favorites and did this last year! It was great! I ended up taking a photo every week in my daughter’s classroom, the last year of her elementaryschool, making photo’s of all her classmates. All were 11 or 12 years old. I did both portraits and pictures of things happening in the classroom while the kids were dropping in in the morning. It has become a wonderful album and I was able to order about 20 albums, for myself, the teachers and a few of the other parents of the children. Thank you for this wonderful idea!!

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