Everyone's got skeletons in the closet. Some people's rattle more than others. Mine's pretty quiet, but it's there, literally in the closet: piles and piles of photographs, still in those multi-pocket envelopes you get from the developer. We're good about recording significant moments on film here at Chez Kelly. And we get our stuff developed the old-fashioned way -- no digital shots run off on a printer for us. But I've been married ten years, and not even my wedding shots are in a proper album. The click of the camera has become a prick to my conscience, and I'm going to do something about it before the year's out.Gena Barney of Cool Scrapbook Stuff in Poway ( 858-679-9100; www.coolscrapbookstuff.com ) was there for me. "Scrapbooking is basically putting photos together in an album and then labeling them," she said. "That's the most important thing. Telling who it was, where it was, when it was, and why it was. You want it to be such that someone ten years from now who you don't know can pick up the book and know exactly what was going on."

As usual, I was late to the party. "Scrapbooking started to grow in the late '80s through Creative Memories, which is a home-based business like Amway or Mary Kay. But it was in the early '90s that it started to pick up commercially. I think it's popular because it has to do with your family. People treasure those memories about their kids, their life with their spouse, and the trips they've taken. Also, it's a wholesome activity. There's no real complaint to make against scrapbooks, other than spending too much money. It's not immoral or illegal, and everybody's doing it now. We have teens, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers come in. We have male customers from their 20s to their 60s. The area high schools are having the kids scrapbook their lives for their senior project." (Cool Scrapbook Stuff holds marathon crop sessions that run late into the night. Some people show up and scrap nonstop; some people stop by after work, chatting and scrapping, comparing their efforts, trading tips and advice. "It's the modern-day quilting bee," Barney said. There are even scrapbooking cruises.)

And there is a scrapbook for every sort of scrapbooker. "Some people are not going to scrapbook every event in their life. But maybe they do a Christmas book, and every year, they add the year's Christmas photos. Then they pull it out at Christmas and use it as a coffee table book for the holidays. Some people see scrapbooking as an overwhelming task, but something like this might be more manageable."

Cool Scrapbook Stuff offers a wide variety of classes, catering to various levels of skill and/or commitment. I liked the sound of Scrapbooking 101. "It's broken into two parts. The first is a lecture in which the teacher talks about terms. What does acid-free mean? Or lignin-free? What does it mean to be archival-safe?" Well, what does it mean? "When you scrapbook, you want your products to have a neutral pH, so that they don't yellow over time. Newspaper is very acidic -- that's why it yellows. Lignin is a by-product of the paper-making process that can also yellow your pictures over time."

After the lecture, the teacher shifts into doing mode. "Instead of just telling you about adhesives or trimmers, the teacher lets you try some out. With adhesives, there are hundreds on the market. Removable. Permanent. The basic glue stick to the high-tech Cheetah, which dispenses little glue dots in four-inch-wide patterns. To buy 100 adhesives and try them all for yourself would be expensive. Same with trimmers -- trimmers cut paper in a straight line. Doing that with scissors is a myth."

Continued Barney, "We want you to work with the teacher and walk out with something completed. The one thing that it's critical for you to bring is four to six photos of one event. We'll help you choose one picture, leave another out, crop one a little bit -- things like that."

A more advanced scrapbooker might sign up for something like the recent class for the Bohemia Babe book ( $28 ). "That was based on a line of products from a company called My Mind's Eye. It's an interactive book with accessories. 'Interactive' means there might be a pocket with something in it that the reader pulls out or a foldaway page with some sort of closure. 'Accessories' means that the Bohemia line includes paper, transparencies, and die cuts, and they all match and coordinate. Everyone who came to the class got a kit, and they followed the teacher, step by step, to create the book. They learned techniques such as how to distress paper and altering paper. Distressing might mean inking the edge to give a sheet a darker look or roughing up the edge. Altering might mean painting, adding papier mâché, or collage and découpage."

Upcoming classes at Cool Scrapbook Stuff include Scrapbooking 101 (December 9, $12 ) and I Love That Book (December 16, $22 ). The latter is "a kit book, like Bohemia, but a little easier. You learn painting and distressing techniques, as well as how to sand off letters and use three-dimensional products."

The price for all this memory making looked pretty flexible; as with most hobbies, you can spend a little or a lot. "There are books for as little as $10 or as much as $75 . Some books are just two pieces of very dense cardboard with paper fasteners." Trimmers occupy a similar price range. "We recommend a mid-range trimmer at $25 . Pens run $3 each, or you can buy a set of double-ended Bics in 48 colors for $112.50 ."

Other sources for scrapbook supplies and classes (call for schedules and prices): Scrapbook Your Life, Sports Arena, 619-298-7871; Memories in the Making, Inc., La Mesa, 619-589-8868, and Santee, 619-562-8946; Scrapbook Sensation, Alpine, 619-445-5963; Ever After, Carlsbad, 760-433-9313.


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