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

Setting up my Bullet Journal for August: birthday themed month

It’s my birthday next month and I will be sharing my special day with my niece, Lexi. On the 3rd August, I’m going to be 43 (and still thinking and behaving like a kid) and Lexi will be 9 years old (and probably feeling really grown up). So, for August, I chose to do a Happy Birthday theme and include cakes, presents, balloons and banners in my decor. Here are my spreads for next month:

Cover page

As I’m still developing my drawing skills, I was keen to have a go at a hand-drawn birthday cake so I took to Google and found a simple cake tutorial. It was really easy to follow even for a beginner like me. The tutorial came with a YouTube video but on this occasion, I just followed the pictorial and written instructions. I also added bunting and a banner as well as the word August in brush lettering, then finished it off with some party popper paper ribbon pieces (I’m sure they have a name but I can’t think what it is!). The banner is painted using some Winsor & Newton watercolour and the rest of the illustrations are coloured in using my Tombow ABT brush pens.

Image credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Month at a glance

My monthly calendar has the same structure as usual with 6 by 6 dot boxes. Although I don’t have things to write each day, I do like to have plenty of room for when I do make entries so have stuck with doing a two page spread. I’ve also just started a distance learning course run by my local college, Mental Health Level 2, and so I have assessment deadlines to meet each week so I’ve recorded when I have to submit evidence of my learning. Again, I’ve decorated the spread with birthday related items.

Image credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

Exercise logs

I’ve kept my steps tracker the same but will be using colours from my palette for the month. I’ve changed up my log of different workouts for this month, so instead of a calendar style that I did in May, June and July where I recorded the minutes I spent on each workout, this time I’m going to be creating bars which show how many workout minutes I’ve done each day and what type of exercises I’ve done. This will help me to see how active I’ve been on a particular day. Another change, is that I’ve split up fat burning and cardio as this is shown on my Fitbit tracker and so is easy to record. This will enable me to see when I worked a little harder during my walks and my Zumba workouts. I’ve included an example I made on MS Word to show how it will look when it’s filled in.

In hindsight, I wish I’d done the key on the right hand page to make it easier to use but it’s done now and I’ll be able to alter it next month if I choose to use a similar spread.

The Get Fit stickers are actually a shiny gold colour but they look black in the photograph above so I took the bottom of the page at a different angle.

Image credit: Laura Jones for Keeping It Creative

Habit Tracking

For August, I’ve also decided to go back to using a habit tracker. I previously used one but tracked so many things on it, I’ve found it really overwhelming to fill in and often got behind. This time, I’m just tracking six things which should make it a bit easier to keep up with. I want to make sure I study regularly as there are a lot of reading materials for my course and written activities to complete. I also want to make time to meditate each day. I currently do a mindfulness meditation set up by my local recovery college but this is only twice a week so I want to use my Calm App and my Fitbit App where I have a premium membership trial on the go. I have free trials on both of them and I’m currently not making the most of them so hopefully the tracker will help me.

Image credit: Laura Jones for Keeping it Creative

The rest of the habits are related to my Etsy shop, my blog and creativity. I want to make sure I do some blogging and shop work each day so I wanted to track when I do blog related research, reading, post writing and checking out blogs of the people I’m following. I also want to squeeze in a little creative task most days such as drawing, painting, journalling and papercrafting.

As I’m a leftie, I got absolutely covered in Tombow ink whilst working on my spreads and managed to smear some on the bottom of the habits page. I tried to cover it up using white gel pen, Tippex and my white Posca paint marker but it didn’t really work. The mark will annoy me for the whole of the month. Maybe I should have included a habit where I try to embrace imperfection in my spreads!

That’s all of my spreads for this month. I hope they have inspired you to get creative in your bullet journal. Let me know what your theme is for August and if you’ve featured your pages in your blog I will definitely go check them out.

Happy bullet journaling!

Posted in Bullet journaling, compassion, mental health, Planning and journaling, wellbeing

Monday Matters: 8 wonderful ways to practise self love and some supportive BuJo spreads for you to create

There are lots of articles around at the moment about reaching out and being kind and supportive towards other people but it also really important to be good to yourself too. Self love is essential to our mental health and wellbeing and it should also be made a priority if we want to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Today’s Monday Matters post features a collection of eight ways in which you can practise self love and includes some ideas for bullet journal spreads with this focus in mind.

Start and end the day in the right way

No matter how busy you are, try to find the time to check in with yourself first thing in the morning and last thing before you wind down for bed. Tell yourself something positive before you start your day. Look in the mirror, and say something encouraging, for example, “you are awesome and don’t you forget it!”, “let’s do this!”, “today is going to be a great day” – I guarantee it will make you smile. In the evening, when reflecting on your day, think of something you did well that makes you proud – better still write it down in your bullet journal so you can look back at it some other time. Celebrate your wins whether big or small.

Stop comparing yourself to others

You are completely unique. There’s no one on earth that is quite like you, so stop comparing yourself with other people and appreciate how special you are and be grateful for everything you have. Take time to think about all of your qualities and if you find yourself struggling and in need of some help, ask your friends and love ones to tell you what they like about you. And remember, what you see on social media, is just the best snippets of someone’s life, an edited version that doesn’t show their bad hair days, the massive mistakes they made in their bullet journal before they developed their IG worthy spread, the times when they could barely drag themselves out of bed and the days when everything went wrong and they could have cried and probably did.

Practise self care

In my Wellness Recovery Action Plan series, I talked about making a long list of all of the things that you can do that you enjoy and that make you feel good. I came up with a list of over 100 activities including painting my nails, going out for dinner, looking at photos from happy times, flying a kite and going for a walk along the beach. Some of the ideas take minutes, whilst others are great for an hour or an afternoon of ‘me time’. I try to make sure I do at least 1 thing of my list each day and often do several. It’s not self indulgent, it’s just one of the ways I look after myself and keep myself mentally well.

Forgive yourself

Things can and will go wrong for you at times and you will make mistakes. You might do something that makes you feel really embarrassed or you might say something unkind to a friend or loved one in the heat of the moment. Accept that you are only human and that no-one is perfect, including you. Show the same kind of compassion to yourself as you would to someone else who got something wrong or is ashamed of their behaviour. The best thing to do is forgive yourself and then reflect on and learn from your mistakes in a kind way that enables you to use them to help you grow as a person.

Watch how you talk to yourself either out loud or in your head

On the subject of being kind and considerate towards yourself, be mindful of your inner critic. We can say some pretty awful things to ourselves at times, for example, I often find things slipping from my mouth such as ‘you idiot’, ‘I don’t believe you’ve just done that!’, well that was a stupid thing to do wasn’t it’ – and I bet I’m not alone? If you find yourself being downright horrible to yourself at times, think about how you could be more supportive and encouraging or what you would say to a friend or loved one in the same situation. A key technique used in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT for short) is to spend time focusing on (and writing down) your critical thoughts, reframing them or analysing how much you really believe them. If you find yourself being really unkind and negative towards yourself this will most certainly have a negative impact on your self esteem and self worth. It may even be helpful in the future to think about finding a professional who can work with you to develop strategies that you can employ for making changes.

Look after your body

Pay special attention to what you need and treat your body in the way it deserves. Keep yourself hydrated throughout the day and eat food that makes you feel good such as plenty of fresh fruit and veg. Create a good skincare routine for your face and body and have a make up free day at least once of twice a week to keep your skin looking young and healthy. And if your body is craving rest or a change of scene, listen to it and give it what it needs. Encourage yourself to have a lie in, enjoy an afternoon nap, go for a nature walk, have a relaxing bath or simply go and sit outside in the sunshine and do absolutely nothing.

Explore your creative side

Spending some time being creative is a wonderful way to express yourself. There are so many different ways to do this such as drawing, painting, journalling, poetry or even some interior decoration (when was the last time you treated yourself to some new cushions or a few pretty ornaments to display on a shelf?). There’s no right or wrong way to be creative so leave your inner critic behind, immerse yourself in whatever it is you’ve chosen to do and really enjoy the process. You might surprise yourself with the results too!

Examine your relationships

We all deserve to be surrounded by people who love and care for us so think about the quality of each of your loving relationships and friendships. Does the person accept you for who you are? Are they they for you in good times and bad? When you see or speak to them, do they make you feel happy and alive or completely drained and stressed out? Do they meet you half way or are you always the one that reaches out to them? Are they happy for you when you meet a goal or achieve something new? Do they really listen when you have something to say or do they turn the conversation back to themselves?

Recognise those people who you feel don’t have your best interests at heart or make you feel less than great when you see or speak to them. You might not be able to remove some of them from your life completely (especially if they’re a family member or a work colleague) but you can try to limit the time you spend with them or work on changing your approach to dealing with them, e.g. setting firmer boundaries and learning to say no.

Bullet Journal Self Love Spread ideas

  1. Things I love about myself

Spend some quiet time sitting and thinking about what makes you special and what your best qualities are. Try to come up with things related to your appearance, your relationships with others, your work ethic and your skills.

I really enjoyed creating this spread and it made me see that there are so many things that I love about myself. And of course, friends and family are likely to love these things about you too.

A simple spread using Tombow dual brush pens and a 0.3 pigment liner

2. Self love motivational messages

For this spread, I took to Google and typed in phrases such as ‘self love’, ‘self kindness’ and ‘self care’. I then clicked on images and selected a range that were visually appealing to resize and paste into an MS Word document. To make it easier to build my spread, I printed the pages on A4 sticker paper ready to cut out and stick in. I also tried to have a basic colour scheme of purples, pinks and greens to create a cohesive look. I found so many wonderful short texts and images that I was able to do two double page spreads which are so beautiful to look at. I added a few stickers and a little bit of washi to the blank spaces to complete the look. I’m so pleased with how they turned out and I’m sure I will find myself visiting the pages regularly.

Self care ideas

This is the kind of list I’ve created before as part of my Wellness Recovery Action Plan but I thought I’d do a similar one in my bullet journal with slightly less ideas so that it would all fit on a single page. Most of the ideas are completely free or cost very little (except maybe the retail therapy if I see lots of nice things!).

An amazing resource for self love encouragement

If you loved the ‘self-love hedgehog’ in my bullet journal spread, you absolutely need to check out the amazing website https://chibird.com/ where you can find many more self love, mental health and wellness related graphics. The website owner Jacqueline Chen’s art work in so wonderful and just looking through the resources can be part of your self love practice. She’s even produced a book which you can pick up on Amazon.

Final thoughts

Well done for taking the time to read this blog post as it shows you think self love is important! I hope it’s given you some fresh new ideas on how to be compassionate towards yourself in ways that you would be to others that you love. Let me know in the comments what the first thing is that you’re going to do this month to be all kinds of lovely to yourself.

Posted in Bullet journaling, lifestyle, Planning and journaling

Monday Matters: How I’m keeping the pre-holiday excitement going despite our trip being postponed until next year

My husband and I were meant to be going to Vienna in Austria in August of this year but we’ve made the decision to postpone our trip until 2021 as the restrictions in place due to Coronavirus are likely to spoil our holiday somewhat. However, I refuse to get upset about it and instead I’m keeping myself excited and doing some extra preparation for when we eventually get there. In today’s Monday Matters post, I’m going to share some of the ways that I’m keeping the excitement going so that I’m still really looking forward to our trip. Hopefully, this will give you some ways to minimise the disappointment you may be feeling if your plans have been put on hold for the time being.

Checking out Pinterest

I’ve recently created a Pinterest board called ‘Vienna Trip‘ and pinned lots of ‘best things to do in Vienna’ ideas plus information about the city in general. This is great for keeping all the webpages in one place and it will help me to create planning spreads in my BuJo nearer the time.

All of my research in one place!

Vienna Photo collage Bullet Journal Spread

Whilst visiting various Vienna related pages on the web, I came across lots of stunning photographs of places within the city. I saved mini versions of these on my computer and have printed them off on photograph paper to create a two page collage for my bullet journal. I typed out the names of the places using MS Word and my favourite font of the moment which is Tox typewriter. I used Pritt stick to attach everything as the double sided tape that I have takes ages when you have lots of little fiddly bits and pieces to stick on.

Educating myself about the country

This is something I used to do with the children in my class when I was teaching. We would do a mini geography topic based on a particular place and learn everything we could about it including where it was in the World, the capital city and other popular tourist spots, the flag, traditions, weather, food etc. The information collected would then be used to create a fact file either electronically in our ICT lessons or in our topic books. I’ve been doing the same sort of research to create a spread in my bullet journal. I typed in search terms such as ‘Austria facts for kids’ etc into Google as I only wanted to know the basics and this made an easy starting point for further research. This website was a gold mine of information and has stuff on other countries too.

Before creating my BuJo spread, I set up an MS Word document in which to put random information about the country in no particular order. This helped me to decide on the sections and headers I would need for my bullet journal so I could make it as well organised and logical as possible.

Immersing myself virtually

There are some amazing views in Austria as I discovered during my research online. I’m not sure how much of the wonderful scenery we’ll get to see with us being in the city so I’ve chosen a stunning view for the desktop of my computer and I’ve stuck some beautiful photographs in my BuJo of some of the images I found. And according to Lee Bacon, head of digital at the BBC’s Natural History Unit, “Even viewing nature digitally has been scientifically proven to help peoples’ mental wellbeing” so yay for Google images!

Learning about the city

I usually do most of my reading about the city we are going to on the aeroplane on the way over or in a mad rush a few days before we travel. This time, I’m going to be super well prepared about the layout of Vienna and what to expect when we get there. This will help us make the most of our time as we will know how spaced out everything is and how we can travel around the place on foot or using different transport systems. So far I’ve done one page but I shall be continuing to add information each week until I have everything I want written down. By the time we go on our trip, I’ll have moved into a new BuJo but I can photocopy my pages to take with us.

I found a great site that has comprehensive descriptions on the various tourist attractions and also has a number of maps that you can download as PDFs. I printed one today on sticker paper, backed it onto some coloured paper and then laminated it. Now I just need to find somewhere to keep it until next year so we actually remember to take it with us.

What about a pre-trip virtual tour?

Whilst checking out a variety of websites, I came across this site which enables you to preview different sights around the city. It’s really useful for photographs of the different tourist activities and you can look on a map to see where things are located. I expect there are similar websites for other cities across the world too. I know Sunderland have created virtual tours of popular places across the city for people to view during lockdown.

Checking out the eateries using Happy Cow

My husband and I are both vegetarian and I’m particularly strict about what I eat too. I need to be sure that if I eat cheese, it doesn’t contain animal rennet and I also like my drinks to be veggie friendly too (vegan if possible). Therefore, when we go abroad, we choose to eat in vegetarian or vegan eateries, as unlike in the UK, cafes and restaurants don’t usually label their dishes with a V or Ve symbol. Before we go anywhere, we do extensive research on Happy Cow. I actually chose Vienna for our holiday as I know that vegetarians and vegans are well catered for there. I haven’t created a bullet journal spread of places to eat at yet but this is definitely something I intend to do nearer the time. The information will include if the café or restaurant is completely vegan or veggie with vegan options and I’ll also add the location and how far away it is from our hotel. As you can see, there are plenty of options for our stay!

Final thoughts

I know the lockdown and coronavirus have caused so much worry, disappointment, anxiety and general upset, but hopefully this post has given you some ideas on how to keep the pre-holiday or trip excitement going for a while longer. Obviously, re-arranging travel dates and accommodation present their own difficulties but once things have been sorted out, you can hopefully do some extra planning to ensure when you do eventually get away, you have the best time ever!

Posted in bullet journal, creativity, gardening, Planning and journaling

Setting up my bullet journal for July: Meadow flowers and grasses theme

This month, my husband and I went to a local place called Rainton Meadows which is a nature reserve run by Durham Wildlife Trust. It’s somewhere we go regularly for walks and to spot the variety of flora and fauna there. There’s so much to see, including a variety of water birds on the wetland areas, woodland birds from the new hide, ponies grazing on the grass, dragonflies around the water, along with butterflies and stunningly beautiful wild flowers in the meadows. For my July BuJo spreads, I decided to take inspiration from my visit to the reserve and the flowers and grasses we saw. I did want to take some my grassy and wild flower finds home with me so I could do some observational drawing but unfortunately, it started to rain heavily just before we left and we had to run back to the car. I had, however, taken plenty of photographs and was able to find line drawn images online to help me with my sketching. So, here are my pages for July. I hope you like them.

During lockdown, I’ve been addicted to watching plan with me videos on YouTube and I came across a vlogger who had done something similar to the idea I had in my head for my meadow and I took inspiration from her layout for my cover page. I had intended to have a go at creating a watercolour painting but I liked the effect of her designs with felt tip markers and fineliners so I decided to have a go.

For my calendar page, I stuck with a two-page spread as I like plenty of room to write down when I have published as blog post and any appointments or birthdays. I did a mini meadow in the bottom right hand corner and used one of the grass colours to for my boxes. The ‘make it work’ sticker is from a Happy Planner sticker booklet and I thought it finished that side of the page off nicely, whilst reminding me to keep going and find pleasure in life despite the restrictions due to Covid.

I kept my exercise trackers the same as June but changed the colours and added floral decoration to my workout chart. I found they worked really well for me last month and I was motivated to keep up with filling them in each morning and night.

Finally, I created a Garden Jobs for July double page spread so that I know what to focus on for the next month. I used the Gardener’s World and RHS websites for this as they both contain really helpful advice.

I would love to know what theme you have chosen for your bullet journal spreads for July. Let me know in the comments and add a link to your blog if you have one so that I can take a look.

Wishing you a wonderful July,

Posted in bullet journal, gardening, Planning and journaling

Useful gardening spread ideas for your bullet journal

As I was setting up my bullet journal spreads for June 2020, I decided that I would really like to begin to record key information about our garden including new plants, veggies we’re growing this year, plants which are thriving and which are not and why, plus sketches of our front and back spaces. I debated creating a separate garden journal but in the end I decided just to dedicate some pages each month within my planner so that everything about my life and our home and garden is all in one place. Before deciding on some layouts for my gardening spreads, I trawled Instagram, Pinterest and various websites for ideas. I found some really great spreads and took inspiration from them to set up my own.

I decided that over the next couple of months, I would like to create the following:

  • Jobs for each month – split into general tasks, flowering plant care, veggies and notes.
  • Information cards for new plants and our potted herbs
  • Photos of our actual plants in flower each month
  • Gardening quotes and motivationals
  • Wildlife spotted in the garden – with sketches
  • Plants to encourage wildlife
  • Birds in the garden – sketches and info
  • Aerial drawings of our different planting / garden areas

Garden tasks

There are lots of jobs for us to do in June but we’ve ticked off quite a few of them already. We certainly won’t be needing to water the garden or mow the lawn right now as it’s very wet out there because we’ve had rain showers for the last week or so. I intend to create one of these spreads each month using information collated from various websites.

I finished off the information cards for all of the plants that we’ve bought so far and also created some for our garden herbs. I’m hoping to get a few more different herbs soon so I’ve left some room for those on the spread too. The layout of these pages was inspired by the work of Emma at http://emusing-emma.blogspot.com who shared her houseplant information cards which she produced in her BuJo (direct link here). Make sure you check out her website if you love looking at ideas for your own bullet journal.

Information cards for different plants

I showed the beginnings of this type of spread in my June plans but I have since added some more drawings and information. I’ve also created some cards for the herbs we have in our containers. Again, my inspiration for these layouts was from Emma over at http://emusing-emma.blogspot.com/ The specific bullet journal spreads can be seen if you check out this link but I think all of her blog is well worth a look if you are like me and enjoy using a bullet journal and also love to get creative.

Garden related quotes and motivationals

I’ve recently written a blog post about the health benefits of gardening and the opportunity to practise mindfulness whilst you are spending time in your outdoor space. As part of the article, I included some quotes about gardening. I found some more quotes whilst I was perusing the internet so I decided to handwrite some of them in my BuJo. These were written with my lovely left handed Lamy fountain pen which flows beautifully!

Wildlife friendly planting

We’re really keen to encourage wildlife into our garden and already have a bird feeding station, two bird baths, a bug hotel which my husband made and a small pond. We also like to have lots of plants which attract bees and butterflies so I decided to create a spread of wildlife friendly shrubs and flowers. We have some of these already but I have red valerian on my wishlist for the front garden.

Bird’s Eye View’ of our garden areas

This is the first of my aerial view sketches of areas of our outside space. Just this one section took me a while to draw and add some colour and it’s not even to scale! I decided to use coloured pencils to shade around the outside of the shapes denoting our containers so that I could remember which of our pots we used for each of the plants. I’m going to aim to have all of my garden sections drawn out in my BuJo by the end of next month – let me know if you want to see the rest and I’ll do my best to take some decent photos when we have some brighter weather.

Wildlife spots

These pages are going to have little sketches of minibeasts which have been spotted in our garden and key information about them collected from a variety of sources. My spread is completely blank at the moment as I want to capture the bugs with my macro lens and at the moment, it’s too wet and drizzly to go out!

Birds in the garden

We get plenty of birds in our garden, particularly in the Springtime so I thought I’d create some pages in which to include sketches of our visitors and some information about them. I decided to do the actual drawings in my sketchbook and then transfer the pictures over to my bullet journal by scanning them on my scanner and then printing them off. This has lots of benefits – it means I can make several attempts at them if necessary, I can use decent quality drawing paper and I won’t end up getting pencil smudges in my BuJo. I’m yet to start my sketches yet but hope to be able to share some soon. As I’m typing a goldfinch has just landed on our sunflower seed feeder. It’s the first one I’ve actually seen visit our feeding station this year. We have two seed feeders containing niger seeds and a tiny seed mix specifically for finches and typically, it hasn’t gone for either of those – maybe collecting tiny seeds is too much effort in the pouring rain!

Do you keep a garden journal or do you just keep the little plant label information things from the pots like we’ve done previously? Have you got a dedicated notebook or do you prefer to produce spreads in your main planner? I would love to hear about the kinds of records you keep and if they’ve particularly helped you with your garden.

Happy gardening!