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Posted in art, bullet journal, Bullet journaling, Hand lettering, Planning and journaling

Setting up my Bullet Journal for December 2022: Christmas trees theme

Last month, I decided really early on that I wanted to do a Christmas trees theme for December. I was debating doing a watercolour scene featuring real trees and snow for the front cover but knew this would be quite time consuming as I would have to find tutorial to help me and then I would have to paint all of the other trees throughout the month for a cohesive look. However, in the last few days of November, I took to YouTube, searching the videos for inspiration and found this fairly easy but pretty set up from Claire Marie Bee which I was excited to recreate and make my own. I’ve copied quite a few of her ideas and, although it took quite a while to sketch out the tree pattern it was simple enough to do and I love the result.

Front cover

I started the process of creating the front cover by sketching the outlines of the trees in a diagonal pattern. I then turned to the back of my bujo and spent some time practising different designs. The inspiration for the trees was taking from Claire’s video and also from images I found by typing in ‘tree doodles’ into Google. I used just two colours of Tombow ABT for the colouring – dark olive 158 and asparagus 192 and a red Pentel sign brush pen for the sparkles. The page was then outlined using a 0.,1 micron. I also used Claire’s idea of writing the word December on vellum and this meant I could practise a few times and pick the best one!

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative Blog

The monthly calendar

This is my usual 6×6 box calendar with trees dotted about in the background. I didn’t create a pattern with these two pages – I just chose some designs and placed them where I felt they would look good. Again, I wrote December on vellum, this time using a Tombow brush pen in poppy red 856. The Pentel pen and the red Tombow are very similar in colour and I don’t mind that they’re not a perfect match.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative Blog

Finances

These pages are the same layout as I’ve been using for a while now. Again, I added a title using the Pentel sign brush pen. The words income and expenses are printed on green paper and stuck on because I messed up the writing on them first time. I wish the words were central on the page, but I guess I’ll just have to put up with it!

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative Blog

Final words…

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my spreads for December. If you like finding time to do something creative each week, I really recommend having a go at doing some tree doodles. My sketches are 2cms wide by 3cms tall, but you can make them any size you want. Sitting down and quietly drawing is a wonderfully mindful activity and a great way to destress during the very busy month of December.

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Posted in bird feeding, bird spotting, bird watching, conservation, gardening, nature, wildlife

Monday Matters: The simple joy of feeding and watching garden birds in wintertime

Winter is a difficult time for birds due to the shortage of food sources, long and cold nights and shorter days. By nightfall, they need to have eaten enough to give them energy to keep warm and survive until morning when the process of searching for food starts all over again. Providing food sources in your garden is a great way to help nature and feel as though you are making a difference.

Photo credit: Amee Fairbank Brown for Unsplash

I like to think that our garden is a wildlife friendly as possible and I’m always in search of new ideas to keep visitors happy and well fed. I know that many of my readers are nature and wildlife lovers too, so this week, I thought I’d explain how feeding and observing birds in your garden helps to boost your mental health and also share my top tips for looking after birds in wintertime.

Whether you sit outside all wrapped up with a warm drink or you observe through the window, watching the birds feeding and exploring your garden can have a huge impact on your mental health and wellbeing. Here’s some benefits that we can all enjoy:

Watching the birds is a mindful and meditative activity which makes you feel calm and relaxed. Whether indoors or outside, you are required to sit very still and quiet, away from distractions such as your mobile phone (and all of the must-read notifications which constantly pop up!). If you can, and the weather allows, I recommend wrapping up in your biggest coat with hat, gloves and chunky scarf (plus optional coffee, milky tea or hot chocolate), so you can sit in your garden. This way, you can be totally immersed in nature and use more of your senses, so, as well as observing what’s going on, you can also listen to the various sounds of the birds and other noises in your immediate environment or further away. During this time, you may also become aware of different sensations such as a gentle breeze on your face, the chill of your cold ears, the warmth of your mug seeping through your gloves or the supportiveness of your choice of seat. And, because you are involved in all of this sensory exploration, you’re not thinking about your never-ending to-do list and all of the other stresses of the modern world.

Getting outdoors in the wintertime ensures you get some much-needed fresh air and a dose of vitamin D from a natural source. Fresh air can improve your wellbeing in lots of ways including clearing your airways and lungs, strengthening your immune system, improving your digestion and giving you more energy (which also helps to sharpen your mind). Vitamin D is essential for boosting your brain and immune system and strengthening your bones. Obviously, the amount of sunlight changes from day-to-day, but personally, I think getting out in nature provides a mood boost even on the dullest of days.

Bird feeding and watching can give you a real sense of achievement. From learning to identify the birds you spot and beginning to recognise their various calls and songs, to attracting different species to your garden or yard as you increase your feeding options and even developing the skills to use binoculars or take photographs using a DSLR camera. There’s so many opportunities and I guarantee it’ll boost your self-esteem too.

Something else which will make you feel good about yourself is knowing that you’re doing your bit for wildlife conservation in your local area. Creating a haven for birds in your garden and generally making it a wildlife friendly zone is a great way to help on an individual basis.

Above all, bird watching can be absolutely fascinating and great fun. When you stop what you’re doing and really look at the birds, it’s so interesting to see their comings and goings and how they behave. You might first see a little dunnock flicking its tail as it shuffles along the ground, hoovering up crumbs fallen from the feeders. A short time later, you might spot a visiting blue tit carefully extract one single seed and then take it back to the safety of their chosen branch to enjoy in peace and comfort. Watching a solitary blackbird as it traverses your lawn will show you how it tilts it head to listen carefully for worms underground and then uses its sharp beak to extract its prize from the earth. You might also see how it defends its territory by chasing away other small birds from its garden of choice. Whichever birds your garden attracts, I can almost guarantee they’ll provide good entertainment and bring you feelings of joy!

And if you don’t have a garden, watching and feeding birds in your local park is also great too – just be careful about the kind of food you provide, for example pre-mixed bird seed is a good source of nutrients for garden/woodland birds, whereas white bread isn’t a particularly health option for them. If you combine your bird spotting with a nice brisk walk you can really maximise the health benefits of your time outdoors!

Top tips for bird feeding and watching

Get a basic field guide

Whether you’re new to bird watching or have a little experience, a basic field guide for garden birds is a great resource. This will provide pictures of common and slightly more obscure garden visitors as well as information about what makes each of them unique. This might include size, body shape, plumage colours and patterns, tail shape, length and patterning, and other defining characteristics. Many of them will also discuss geographic range, migratory patterns of specific birds, breeding patterns and behaviours to look out for.

Be patient – birds are careful and cautious customers

When you first start to create a haven for birds, you’ll need to be very patient. Birds have evolved to be incredibly careful as it maximises their chance of survival. A few years ago we replaced our bird bath as the current one which was coated metal got a hole in it (we thought that over enthusiastic birds were flicking most of the water out each day!). This time we’d chosen a weighty ceramic version in a shiny mid grey which we excitedly placed in the garden in the same spot as the previous one. However, despite the fact that my husband and I thought the new bath looked smart and attractive, it was several weeks before any of our feather friends showed even a slight interest in it and at least a month before they would actually linger and have a wash in it!

Keep an observational journal

Anyone who knows me or regularly reads my blog will know I love journalling and memory keeping. I like to make my own traveler’s notebook inserts and use them to record anything and everything. However, I’ve recently picked out a garden journal for my husband to get me for Christmas and I thought it would be a nice idea to record my garden bird spots in it, particularly any unusual observations. For example, one snowy January, I saw a group of redwings perching in the ivy on our bottom fence and a few weeks later, my husband spotted a nocturnal bird poking its long beak into the snow in search of food. It turned out it to be a woodcock – our first sighting, and so far, our last! Your journal could simply be a place to record the name of the bird and when you saw it, but you could also get creative adding photographs, sketches or even watercolour paintings.

Think about meal provision for all – cater for picky eaters and those who aren’t as fussed

Some birds, such ss goldcrests, are quite picky eaters, and feed mainly on small insects and spiders. Others, such as blackbirds will include a large range of foods in their diet such as worms, spiders, berries, dried fruits, sunflower hearts, oatmeal and suet pellets. I’ve even seen the ones who visit out garden grabbing the odd water louse from our wildlife pond! If you look at different bird mixes available, they usually suggest which individuals they’re designed to attract. Over time, you could add different feeders – we have seed feeders, fat balls, peanuts (inside a mesh feeder to prevent whole nuts from being extracted) and a wooden table for birds who prefer open feeding and a place for kitchen scraps and fruit.

Go heavy on fatty foods

Talking of different types of food, birds need plenty of high fat stuff during cold winter weather so that they are able to maintain their fat reserves to keep them warm during frosty nights. This can include pre-made fat balls, suet cakes and bars or you can make your own – check out these instructions on the RSPB website. Warning: fat from cooking is bad for birds because the consistency of it makes it prone to smearing on feathers which can destroy waterproofing and insulating qualities.

Supplement with kitchen scraps

Feeding garder birds doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby. Many kitchen scraps that get thrown away can provide a suitable meal. We tend to stick with seed mixes, peanuts and fat balls but this information from the RSPB has given my husband and I food for thought!

Adjust to the demand

When you first start feeding the birds, you may only have a small number of customers visiting your garden or you may find that limited species choose to come. Always adjust the quantity of food to the demand. Also, try to put the provisions out at the same time each day so that the visitors can learn your feeding routine.

Maintain good hygiene

It’s really important to regularly clean your bird feeders, drinking containers and bird tables to keep them disease free. If you don’t maintain good hygiene standards you may be doing the visiting birds more harm than good. Check out this online resource from the RSPB which has lots of tips on keeping your birds healthy.

Provide water as well as food

Water is vital to a bird’s survival so you should make sure you provide drinking and bathing facilities for your feathered friends. This could be via a purpose-built bird bath, a water tray, shallow pot or a hanging water dispenser. For bathing, birds only need a small depth of water as the purpose it to get their feathers wet rather than drenching themselves. During the depths of winter, when it gets super cold, you might need to check on the receptacles to see if they are frozen and then gently defrost them. Be sure not to use really hot water or you might crack the container.

Consider planting for birds

Although late Autumn and the depths of winter aren’t usual time for planting, if you want to attract birds to your garden across the seasons and for years to come, it’s worth thinking about the plants you choose. Native wildflowers, sunflowers, asters, black eyed susans, echinacea (or anything else which has tasty seeds inside) dense bushes and those which produce fruit (e.g. ceanothus, privet and blackberry) shrubs with berries (e.g. cotoneaster) and trees such as birch or cherry. We haven’t got room for any trees in our garden but there are a few hanging over our plot which get plenty of visitors – I’m sure some of them sit in them watching and waiting for us to add fresh supplies.

Once your plants become established, you should find that even if they get attacked by garden pests such as greenfly or blackfly, the birds should help to keep them at bay for you. For example, we have a rose bush and every year the underside of the leaves gets covered. However, we never use pesticide on it (or indeed any of our garden plants) because a) it’s bad for ecology and biodiversity and b) sparrows and blue tits are regularly seen picking the bugs off. Also, by eliminating green and black fly (AKA aphids), you’re depriving ladybirds of their favourite meal too!

Invest in a wildlife pond

We only have a small garden but, about four years ago we decided to get a mini pond for wildlife. We have at least one resident frog in there but it’s also popular with blackbirds too – they love bathing in there and drinking the water (there are lots of water hoglouse in there and we think they pick them out of the water and gobble them up too!). Our night-time visiting hedgehogs also love to wash down the biscuits we put out for them (that is if a visiting mouse hasn’t stolen them before they arrive!).

Final words…

When I used to volunteer for the RSPB and worked with schools exploring nature, the teacher’s used to often ask me when it was important to feed the birds. My advice was that food can become scarce at any time of year, depending on the weather conditions, so it’s best to put something out all year but then ramp up the provisions to include a wider variety of options during the wintertime.

I hope today’s post has encouraged you to give bird watching and feeding a go this wintertime. If it has, let me know how you get on. One final idea is to take a few photos of your feeding provision each year so you can see how your garden develops over time. My husband and I love looking at images taken over the years – even if they’re just quick snaps of different spaces. All too often, we’ve forgotten how tiny some of our plants were when we first set them and how big they’ve grown!

Posted in art, Blogging, creativity, lifestyle, memory keeping, Planning and journaling

Top Tips for a Successful December Daily in 2022

This year, as I’m in a good place with my mental health for the first Christmas in a while, I’ve decided to do another December Daily challenge. I made a TN style journal quite a few years ago and I found it really enjoyable. The finished booklet looks great, and I have loved looking through it this month as a wonderful reminder of the things we did in December 2018. I can’t wait to get started on my 2022 album but I’m trying to make sure I’m well prepared and have everything I need to meet with success. I was amazed by the array of YouTube videos which showed people still working on their 2021 album in September of this year – some of them with pages and pages still to complete! With this in mind, I decided to write today’s blog post which focuses on my top tips to make sure that the process goes smoothly and ultimately, that the challenge is completely by the end of the holiday season (or at least by the end of January 2023).

What is December Daily?

The idea for December Daily was created by Ali Edwards who is a designer, blogger, workshop instructor and author based in the USA. She has a passion for memory keeping, capturing everyday life with photographs, words and decorative elements. On her website she has this to say about the project:

December Daily® is a December mini-album project that documents the 25 days leading up to Christmas. The simple goal is to capture the spirit of December via one story per day.

Since 2007 this project has become one of the highlights of my year and a beautiful community of memory keepers has come together to share their December stories with one another. It’s an awesome way to document and celebrate the season.

Tips for a successful and fun December Daily

As part of the preparation for my 2022 December Daily, I’ve watched lots of inspirational videos, read bits and pieces about the project online in various blogs, and collected a number of tips and ideas. As I explained earlier, I’ve seen quite a number of YouTube videos of people still working on their album for 2021, despite the fact that we’re getting close to December 2022. If I was in this situation, I would be worrying that I’m never going to get there and may have already abandoned the project part way through (and likely with feelings of guilt about all the time and money I’d spent). So, below are my top tips for success, enjoyment and a timely completion.

Start by watching YouTube videos and reading blog posts for inspiration

You already know the main idea behind December Daily but there are so many different ways to approach the project. Well before the start of the month (I began in October!), it’s a good idea to watch a range of videos and read blog posts for inspiration and composition ideas. You’ll find that some creatives prepare a mini album before they begin, leaving space for photos and journalling, whilst others use a 6×8 D rings binder and make up the pages as they go. As well as seeing different layouts, you will also find many variations in shape and sizes of journal. There are pros and cons to all of the different methods, layouts and album sizes, and of course, there is the cost to consider – the more supplies you want to use and therefore need to purchase, the more expense involved.

When watching videos and reading blog posts, I like to make notes and sketch the detail of layout ideas so I can remember my favourites at a later date and seek inspiration from them if I get stuck. I’ve also collected lots of ‘story’ and photo ideas on Pinterest and then copied out my favourites in my bullet journal to refer to throughout the month. I only chosen prompts which are relevant to me and my family situation.

Consider which supplies you want

Before you embark on the project, think about what you might need to complete it. Doing the above should have helped but you might also want to sit down and create a list in preparation for purchasing items. For example, I decided I wanted to do a 6×8 album with some of the pages inside page protectors and some just reinforced with card. I also love the idea of lots of different layouts and photo sizes so I took this into consideration too, again making notes about my ideas. I ordered my album and page protectors pretty early on as when I looked at available options, I noticed some of the ones I liked were almost sold out as they had been released last year. I chose an Echo Park white album with poinsettias, holly, berries, snowflakes and spruce stems on and I still absolutely love it!

6×8 Album from a collection by Echo Park

Other items to think about could be Christmassy papers in 12×12 size or smaller, glittery number stickers for labelling each day, journalling cards, gift tags, stickers, washi tapes, ephemera, ribbons, twine for attaching tags, sequins for shaker pockets, glue sticks and tape runners, maybe even a fuse tool for sealing shaker pockets – the possibilities are endless.

I also made sure I ordered my supplies from a company based in the UK as I wanted to make sure my items were received quickly with no chance of being stung by customs fees. There are lots of resources on Ali’s own website which look amazing, but they would end up being very costly! Although I’m prepared to spend quite a bit on the project, I did create a fixed budget, so I don’t overspend.

Choose your main items from one designer collection

If you want all of your pages to go together really well, it’s best to have a specific colour palette and style throughout. An easy way to achieve this is to choose items from a particular collection or at least from a particular designer. For example, this year, all of my supplies (ordered online using the Craftie Charlie website) are from Carta Bella’s ‘Home For Christmas’ and ‘Happy Christmas’ collections. I also purchased a few bits and pieces from Hobbycraft a few months ago but if these don’t go with my new supplies, I’ll use them for decorating my bullet journal instead.

December Daily Supplies from Craftie Charlie

Think about creating some foundation pages

Before December begins, you might want to consider making some foundation pages. These are pages which are done in advance to give yourself a head start on the project. For example, you might create a cover page which includes a title and the year 2022. You might also have a go at making particularly crafty stuff pages and elements such as shakers (containing sequins or glitter), sewn materials or multi-layer bits and pieces,

You could also create a page which explains your reason why. This is short piece of journalling which says why you’re doing the project and what you hope to get out of it. Is it a way of recording your little one’s first Christmas? Is it a chance for you to have more fun this December? Is it a way of winding down each evening by doing some journalling or is it more of a photographic challenge for you? Again, this is totally personal to you. You might want to watch videos or read about what it means to others, but you may have completely different ideas and reasoning.

This year, as one of her foundation pages, Ali Edwards created a table of contents, and this idea appeals to me too so I might give it a go. You can view her first set up video here. I’ve subscribed so I can watch all of her videos as and when she shares her creative process.

Journal your experiences and how you feel in the moment

I’m going to carry around a very small notebook in my bag wherever I go during the month of December so I can make notes about my experiences and how I feel. This means that even if I don’t do the page for that day straightaway, I’ll still have a record of the key details and my emotions at the time. You could also create a page on your phone using an app such as Notion if you would rather write things down electronically. Also, make sure you take lots of photos so you have plenty to choose from – let your family and friends know about the project so they can help with image ideas.

Above all, have fun!

December Daily is potentially a wonderful and fun memory keeping challenge to do, but it won’t be if you get yourself stressed and worried about getting everything perfect! Remember, there are no right or wrong ways to go about it – it should be completely personal to you and as simple or creative as you want. You may use lots of photos and decorative elements, or you may just do a series of simple journal entries.

The holiday season can be incredibly busy and it’s important to find time each day for rest and relaxation. This may mean working on your daily entry in the evening to help you wind down, but alternatively, it could mean that you make up most or all of your album after Christmas, when you are able to devote a few hours each day to some enjoyable and mindful creating, working at your own pace. If you want to spend most of next year finishing your creative project and this is what would make you happiest, go for it! Whatever you do, keep it fun!

Final words…

I hope you’ve found today’s post useful, and the tips have helped you with preparing yourself for doing your own December Daily project. Let me know if you’re going to give it a go or if you’re taking part in another challenge for the festive season e.g. Blogmas where you try out new and fun things on your blog related to Christmas. Although I’m not doing Blogmas this year, I’ll hopefully find the time to do a few blog posts next month as well – I might even share a few of my favourite December Daily pages as I go along too.

Posted in life hacks, lifestyle, memory keeping, Mindfulness, TN journaling

Monday Matters: An in-depth guide to Happy Memory Making and Creative Memory Keeping

This month I finished reading The Art of Making Memories: How to create and remember happy moments by Meik Wiking. I actually started it last year, but I put it to one side and picked it up again around the middle of October. I’d forgotten many of the key points and ideas, so I re-started from the beginning and spent 20 minutes each morning, reading and highlighting. This has now become part of my early routine and takes place in a super comfortable chair by the window to give myself a good dose of natural light. And, as one of my current affirmations on my vision board is ‘I use self-development books to help me grow’, I’m working hard to apply my learning and decided it would be a good idea to share some of the ideas on here too. I’m also going to talk about some of my own suggestions for memory keeping such as journalling, photography, scrapbooking, memorabilia displays and memory boxes, plus a few more ideas I found online.

Why are memories important?

Rather than provide my own thoughts on the above question, I collected a few ideas from others to share:

Happy memories are essential to our mental health. They strengthen our identity, sense of purpose and relationships.

Rangan Chattergee

There are important moments that make up our life’s narrative. We remember the defining moments in our lives, the moments that made us who we are, the moments where we became who we hoped we could be.

Meik Wiking, The Art of Making Memories

I love those random memories that make me smile no matter what is going on in my life right now.

The moment may be temporary but the memory is forever.

Bud Meyer

‘Happy memories form the cornerstone of our identity, and can help with combating depression and loneliness,’ says Wiking. ‘They influence our happiness in the current moment, as well as providing a framework for our hopes and dreams about the future.’ Nostalgia makes us happy, increasing self-esteem and strengthening social connectedness, so the more vividly we remember the good times, the happier we are overall.

Meik Wiking

Memories are timeless treasures of the heart.

So how can we create a life full of happy memories to treasure?

Following extensive research conducted by the team at The Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, Meik came up eight keys ingredients for creating happy memories whether they’re of important events such as births and marriages, everyday events such as drinking good coffee and eating delicious cake in a cafe with a friend for the first time in ages, adventures such as moving to a new city, climbing a mountain or going abroad for the very first time or struggling to finish a big assignment but then being delighted with the feedback given by the course tutor. Here’s a brief explanation of each of these elements:

Unforgettable firsts

This is the idea that the very first time you experience something is likely to be remembered much better than subsequent very similar experiences. So, for example, you’re likely to remember your first time on an aeroplane, your very first pet, your first job, your first kiss etc. A great idea then, is to seek out new and novel experiences on a regular basis, the more extraordinary the better. You might like to schedule an evening in your diary or planner to find out what’s available to you and explore different options – you might organise a holiday, choose a new restaurant for a family meal (trying a new food or dish will make it even more memorable), sign up for an evening class (I recommend beginners ceramics) or plan to visit a museum is a nearby town or city.

Make it multisensory

In the classroom, during my years as a primary school teacher, one of the important ways of ensuring all children learnt well and enjoyed activities was to create multisensory experiences. These are the kinds of lessons which stay with them for years and they can still remember well after they’ve left school. This can be applied to memory making too. Don’t just experience things with your eyes, try to make sure you use all of your senses (not just sight) to take everything in. Consider if there are any particular aromas in the air, like the smell of freshly roasted coffee, the scent of cinnamon and winter spices in a pot pourri at Christmas time. Be still and listen for near and distant sounds (either pleasant or unpleasant) such as the drumming of a woodpecker in a faraway tree, the roar of the ocean or music drifting on the breeze. Take time to explore different textures such as soft knitted blankets as you get all cosy after a chilly winter walk, or smooth pebbles on the beach and you sit on the sand. Maybe as you relax and take everything in you become aware of a range of sensations, the chill of winter on your skin or the warmth of the Sun on your face in summer or the crunchy autumn leaves below your feet. Perhaps new or favourite tastes complete the scene -succulent strawberries, crunchy, salty popcorn, the sharp tang of the lemon slice in your chilled glass of Pimms and lemonade. And, as you attend to every detail of your experience, you’re engaging in one of the key aspects of mindfulness which is wonderful for your mental health too.

Pay full attention

It should come as no surprise that experiences are best remembered if you invest your complete attention on them. So, for example, if in the summer you went on a Sunday afternoon boat trip to see puffins, but you spend most of the time thinking about all of the work you have to do on Monday, you’re unlikely to remember key details like the warm sun as it sparkled on the water, the interesting facts the captain shared as you headed towards Coquet island, the joy of spying a line of cute seals bobbing in the water making sure that the boat didn’t get too close, the thousands of noisy puffins flying overhead and diving down into the water to catch sand eels, and the hundreds more birds basking in the warmth after a busy morning fishing. However, if you remain attentive during whole cruise, you’re likely to be able to recall all of the magical trip and how you felt for many years to come.

Keep it meaningful

Meaningful moments in your life are those which are of great significance or value to you, where positive emotions such as gratefulness, love, happiness, pride, warmth, peace and often, a sense of connection with loved ones is felt. These could be ‘big’ milestone moments such as finishing college or university, starting a new job, the day you got married, the birth of a child or buying your very first house. They could also be smaller events or happenings which are really important to you and your personal values, for example, for me as a wildlife and nature lover, sitting quietly with my husband in the hide at Kielder Forest, watching and listening to the woodland birds and then suddenly spotting a red squirrel taking a snack from a feeder is one of my favourite memories which I will cherish for a very long time. As well as making exciting plans to celebrate each of our birthdays and our wedding anniversary, my husband and I also make sure we schedule in plenty of other pleasurable activities and adventures for our weekends such as visits to nature reserves, riverside walks in different parts of the Northeast, trips to the theatre, lunches in various vegetarian cafes and overnight stays in quaint villages or vibrant cities.

The emotional highlighter pen

According to Meik, emotions act like a highlighter pen so experiences involving heightened emotions will stick fast in your memory. That’s why we never forget the exact details of times when we’ve felt really embarrassed (no matter how much we’d like to). ‘An emotional reaction will make experiences and moments more memorable, so the art of making memories means making the emotional highlighter pen work for you.’ This also works for exhilarating, joyful, scary, traumatic, sad and shocking events too. Next time you’re planning a holiday, try to add a few activities to the itinerary which are bound to be emotional highlights.

Peaks and struggles

Some of the milestones mentioned above such as completing your university degree, buying your first home or getting married are highly memorable events, but the struggles, stresses and hard work involved to get there is likely to be unforgettable too. There’s so much involved in planning your wedding day that working full time and having a long to do list of preparations months and weeks before can be so stressful and exhausting that when the day arrives it’s such a relief that it (mostly!) went to plan, and you can enjoy what should be one of the happiest occasions of your life.

Meik shares these happy memory tips:

  • save the best for last – e.g., if giving a few gifts to your partner for their birthday or Christmas, save the most precious / exciting one until the end, when creating a holiday itinerary, do something with the ‘wow’ factor on the last day etc.
  • make the journey part of the experience and try taking the long route – for example, go on a gentle and relaxing boat trip along the river to the other side of the city or hire a bike for the day to cycle around the various attractions, rather than jumping in a taxi.
  • plan something for your weekend that helps it to end on a high note

Share your memories as stories and regularly have ‘remember when…’ conversations

A memory model known as The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve shows that over time our retention of memories decline, unless we take action to keep them. Knowing about and understanding the forgetting curve can be important when we are trying to learn new skills or absorb vital information but how does it help us with remembering happy memories? Well, according to Meik, regularly sharing your happy moments with others as stories can help immensely. This could involve helping loved ones to hold on to past events by retelling anecdotes, having ‘remember when?’ conversations or even sharing funny or interesting experiences from your own childhood. Regularly reminiscing has also been shown to help combat memory loss as we get older too.

Outsourcing

The final ingredient for maintaining happy memories is to outsource them. In business, as some of you may know, this generally means asking a third party to take care of a particular job or task. In memory retention, however, we can outsource memories by taking photos, collecting mementoes, keeping a diary or journal or by sharing to social media, such as Instagram, Facebook or even a blogging platform.

Most of us take thousands of photos each year which are generally stored on our phones or online using ‘the cloud’. Flicking through these images can certainly spark memories but personally, I prefer to use a range of memory keeping strategies and I especially love creative journalling.

Memory keeping ideas

Monthly memory pages

I’ve created a few of these in my bullet journal to help me to remember what happened during the month. I’ve tried to summarise each event in a few lines so I can fit plenty of memories in. Some of them are dated, whereas others are just something that occurred over time such as watching a particular TV series.

Mementoes

A memento can be defined as an object kept as a reminder of a person or past event. It can spark memories or feelings of happiness each time we see it. For example, when my nan passed away, my mum selected two ornaments from her Royal Crown Derby Cottage Garden Collection – a sleeping kitten and a cute little Dormouse, to give to me to keep. They remind me of my nan, her many ornaments which she had displayed around her home and my grandparents’ pet cat called Tibbles. Also, I like the animals which were chosen and the decor on each piece so they’re things that I’m happy to display in my own home.

Other mementoes you might consider include:

  • something from each of your holidays such as a fridge magnet
  • a photo in a frame of special occasions e.g., wedding days, child’s first day at school in uniform, the stunning view from a hill you walked up, the bespoke birthday cake that was made for someone’s 80th etc.
  • hand or footprint casts – you can even get one done of your pet’s paw!
  • your child’s first tooth
  • your child’s first artwork
  • a souvenir from some of your ‘firsts’ holidays e.g., a mini Eiffel Tower
  • newspaper clippings from something important to you that made the local news

Photographs

You’ve probably heard the adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ which basically means that one single image can often convey multiple ideas, messages and meanings more effectively than a long verbal description can. Therefore, you could write pages and pages describing particular experiences in your life but sometimes, photographs can be enough to spark your memory. Similarly, if you selected a particular photograph from one of your albums (or located one on your phone) you could use it to tell someone else the story of that particular occasion or spend time recalling the event in detail with whoever you shared the moment with.

Set up a private social media account

Many of you will have an Instagram account which features carefully cropped photos with perfect lighting, filters, captions and emojis. This is the stuff you’re happy to share with people online for likes and comments. What Meik suggests is creating another account for everyday memories which might not be Instagram ready bits and pieces you want the whole world to see but are still part of your experience and would give you pleasure to look at.

Creative journalling

Personally, I like to combine lots of different memory keeping tools and techniques in my creative journals. I use a traveller’s notebook size and like to record days out, holidays, special events, clothing, accessory and home decor purchases, craft and art projects, wildlife sightings, new dishes, snacks and sweet treats tried, anything really, but especially new and novel experiences (as per Miek Wiking’s power of firsts). As well as including journaling and photographs in various sizes I also like to stick in related mementoes such as restaurant menus, tickets, receipts, packaging, lists of wildlife or nature spots – anything that adds to the memory.

December daily

December Daily is a project idea created by memory keeper, Ali Edwards and is a way of documenting the 25 days leading up to Christmas. A few years ago, I had a go at creating a Christmas journal using a range of papers I picked up from my local Lidl supermarket making my own traveler’s notebook size insert. I made a page or two for each day

This year, I’ve bought a Chistmassy 8×8 album and a range of different pocket pages which can be filled with photos, bits of journalling and anything which will spark off festive memories. I’m busy building a collection of stickers and ephemera to use and am enjoying watching different approaches to the project on YouTube. I’ve also printed off lots of different prompts I found online to make sure I record lots of different aspects of the month of December and don’t run out of ideas.

Memory playlists

I’ve not tried this one myself, but it sounds like a really nice idea. In January, you start a new personal playlist e.g. ‘Tunes of 2022’, to which you add your current favourite songs throughout the year and tracks which evoke particular memories. When you listen to your playlists you are transported back in time, recalling memories based on music. Although I’ve not specifically done this, I know that when certain songs come on the radio I’m reminded of nights out at university, hitting the dancefloor, writing out or printing lyrics and learning every single word to sing along, wedding night songs including our first dance, favourite bands and artists we’ve been to see, trips to the theatre, movies we’ve enjoyed and many other fun times throughout the years. In fact, I read some information online this afternoon which suggested that playlists can be a particularly useful tool to create for elderly loved ones to help elicit memories of times gone by.

1 second everyday – video journalling

This is a video recording app (1SE for short) which enables users to create a video journal by recording meaningful one second movies for a myriad of everyday aspects of their lives. Each short video is stitched together sequentially to create a seamless record. So, for example, you might create a series of video during the month of November featuring a book cover of a novel you’re particularly enjoying, the crashing waves at the beach whilst on an Autumnal walk, your nails after applying a pretty nail polish, a finished craft project, coffee and cake at a new cafe you’ve tried, the smile of a friend during a good catch up, the rain lashing against your window that started just after you got home, a new recipe that you’re about to give a go and all of the ingredients lined up along the countertop etc.

Line a day journal

This can be a spread you do in your bullet journal each month which you fill in each day or you can purchase a special notebook that usually has space to record five years’ worth of memories. Whichever format you choose, it is meant to be something that you can quickly complete at the end of each day to summarise things such as events, experiences, things you are grateful for, purchases made, something nice someone said, something kind you did for a friend or a stranger etc.

Final words…

I hope you’ve found today’s post interesting and useful and that it’s prompted you to think about the different ways in which you can create wonderfully happy memories, keep and cherish them. Some people prefer to keep digital records whilst others, like myself, prefer to create tangible journals which can be flicked through and talked about with family members or friends. If you’re interested in finding out more about making and remembering memories, I definitely recommend you check out Meik Wiking’s book. He’s recently re-released it under another name ‘Happy Moments: How to Create Experiences You’ll Remember for a Lifetime’ but the content is the same. I like to buy this kind of book rather than purchasing the e-version as then I can more easily highlight parts I particularly want to remember and then flick through the pages whenever I wish to.

Do you enjoy creating journals or photo albums full of happy memories or do you find yourself flicking through digital albums on your phone and thinking about how you should really print a few of the photos off in case you have an issue with your cloud storage one day?

Posted in art, bullet journal, Bullet journaling, creativity, Planning and journaling

Setting up my Bullet Journal for November: Squashes theme

For this month, I took inspiration from seasonal eating and chose something we always enjoying trying lots of varieties of at this time of year: squashes! There are butternut squashes in the UK supermarkets pretty much all year round but once late September arrives, the mixed squashes begin to appear in the veg aisle, followed by huge pumpkins for Halloween, adding lots of autumnal colour and different shapes and sizes – some smooth and others with knobbly bits. This autumn, so far, we’ve sampled acorn, carnival, red kuri and sweet dumpling and we have two small delicata squashes lined up for this week. Each has its own unique flavour, some sweeter than others, and recommended uses include for soups, mash, risottos, tray bakes and stews.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

For this month’s spreads I used my Tombow brush pens, Pigma microns and white gel pen for the calendar, Tombow and Micron pens for the finance spread, a pencil for sketching all of the squashes and my watercolour paints to create the front cover. I used a photograph I found online to help me sketch out the cover image.

Front cover

For the front cover, I took a slightly less that A5 piece of smooth watercolour paper (hot pressed) and sketched the squashes based on the photograph. I then mixed my Winsor & Newton Cotmon watercolours to create the different shades I needed. I used the wet on dry technique and made sure that I worked in a way that meant that all adjacent squashes were left for dry before painting the next one. Rather than sticking in the watercolour paper, I scanned the image and added the November title before printing it off and gluing it onto the page. Watercolour paper is really thick and would make my notebook too bulky.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative
Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

Calendar pages

I used the usual 6×6 dot grid for my calendar, added the title using the bullet end of a brown Tombow and then sketched out lots of squashes using images that I found online. I then coloured them in using Tombows and Crayola supertips before outlining using a 0.1 nib Unipin fineliner. I also used a Gelly roll pen in 0.5 to add a few highlights. I filled in the spaces by adding leaves using the black pen again. I’m pretty pleased with how this page turned out but I wish I hadn’t drawn lines of the butternut squash – once it done, it’s done though!

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

Finances

I’ve been tracking my finances since August and it takes just a few minutes each week to update my tracker. I might identify outgoings by category this month e.g. clothing, books, hobbies, beauty products etc, rather than recording exactly what I bought. By the end of the month, this will be absolutely full!

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

Weekly plan 1

I’ve been trying out different weekly layouts for a while now and still haven’t decided which I prefer. This time I opted for vertical boxes with a little munchkin squash at the bottom. When I’m working at the university I need much more space to record events whereas on other days, I only need space for a few lines as all of my to-dos go in my running task list. I wanted to blur out the university information for privacy reasons and I found a great explanation online which was quick and easy! I love learning how to do new things on the computer.

Photo credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

Final words…

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my spreads for this month. Again, I’m late getting them finished but I had lots of life admin stuff to do last week and we were out all day on Halloween as it was my husband’s birthday (no getting dressed up or entertaining trick or treaters for us!). Also, the lighting has been pretty rubbish, so I’ve struggled to get decent photos taken of the pages. I should start making plans for December’s spreads now as during the month itself I’ll be busy doing journalling and photographs in the form of a December Daily album.