350 Letters | Month Two Recap and Lessons Learned

350 letters is a year-long project. Read my month one recap + some of the project's inspiration.

Two months down, ten to go. And I'm behind. I'm trying not to sweat it - to learn from the February slump (what is up with February?!), but I'm a little concerned that I didn't find the time to prioritize writing thirty letters in February. This is a big, long-ish term project. It requires planning and perseverance. I'm attempting to stay on track by writing 30 letters every month, and in February I only wrote twenty-three. I learned a few lessons by not meeting my goal that I'll take with me into March, so I'm sharing those today.

lesson one / buy what you need
Whatever the project happens to be, if you have what you need in the house, it's a lot easier to get a project done. I had things like stamps at the ready, but I found there were categories of cards that I didn't necessarily have (sympathy, congrats). I'm remedying that this month by making some of my own so I'll have them on hand. I knew this was an issue in January, but I didn't do anything about it last month and I came up short. Not a coincidence.

lesson two / gather supplies in one place
When I have a few minutes to myself, I want to be able to sit down and get to work immediately, which requires me having my things in one place. A few weeks ago, I organized some random paperwork in my office into simple boxes. Stationery gets one box, so now it's easy to find what I need and if I get a new card I know exactly where it belongs. I didn't have my return address stamp or postage or a pen in this box, so I found myself spending a few minutes tracking them down every time I wrote a letter. I'm fixing that this week - all my supplies will be in one place moving forward.

lesson three / bulk isn't always best
I wrote a bunch of Galentine's letters last month, which was great. I loved designing and putting them together, and that knocked out a big chunk of my number for the month. But after I mailed them I kind of dropped off the map and forgot about what remained for the month. I'd like to be better about writing letters throughout the month, rather than focusing all my energy on the process one week out of the month. I think that might burn me out and defeat the purpose of the project, which is to help me make a habit of thinking about others.

lesson four / always keep a stash of generic supplies
One of my favorite things to use for Project Life is plain white 3x4 cards - I use them all the time. For stationery, I've found I use generic cards to just send a "hello" or "thinking of you" note. I don't need a $5 greeting card to do that, just some simple cards that don't convey a specific message. I've loved using these but I'm running low. Not sure whether I'll design something myself or buy something new, but I know I'll use whatever I end up getting.

March feels like a month full of promise and change. I hope that thirty days from now I'll be able to report that I'm back in the habit and back on track with the letter-writing campaign! Be sure to follow along on Instagram (@catsaunders) and let me know if you have any lessons learned from getting behind on projects or goals.

2015 Goals Update

Time is flying. We're two months into twenty-fifteen, and I'm actually still excited about the goals I set in late-December. I've learned a few things in these two short months. I've seen the significance of writing down what I hope to accomplish, sharing it with friends and family for accountability, and then periodically checking in on those goals. It's not rocket science, but I'm not exactly great about follow-through, so it's all still pretty miraculous to me. Since I shared my goals on the blog in January, I thought I'd check in every couple of months with an update.

Goods (two thumbs up):

  • blogging 5 days a week
  • creative "stuff" - this month was art journaling and I loved it
  • more quality time with Nick - yay! we found an east coast babysitter 
  • adventures with Ben (like this
  • fill this out for the month and get through it once a week
  • clearing out and setting up the office (making progress) 
  • buy a Valentine's gift for Nick
  • dentist appointments for the kids - done and done

Others (meh):

  • mail 30 letters (only got to 23 - I have some catching up to do)
  • call someone in my extended family once a week - I forgot about this one! it's going back on my list for March.
  • read a book on parenting - on my list for the last two months and I still haven't done it
  • wake up in the 6:00 hour (i.e. before the kids) and spend some time alone in the morning (uh... not so much)

So a lot of things went well the last two months, and that's great. I'm blogging and really enjoying it, I'm watching less TV and spending more time being creative. I got some things done I needed to do (dentist, gifts, etc.). All good things. 

But some things didn't go so well. I'm behind on my letters (although by the time this is published I'm hoping to be closer to caught up). And because I'm blogging so much, I find I'm staying up late at night and therefore not getting up early. As far as not reading a book on parenting, well, I'm "completing" this one by taking it off the list - for now, anyway. Maybe I'll try again later in the year, but I'm not willing to have this un-checked for a third month in a row. I'm changing up a few things in March based on what didn't go so well.

Goals for March:
  • Wake up at 6:00 5 days / week - weekends are for sleeping in!
  • Call one of my aunts or cousins each week
  • Blog minimum 3 days / week - I need more sleep and time to meet some other obligations I have this month. I don't have plans to monetize this blog, but I have to make money somehow and sleep and take care of two kiddos, so I'm dialing it back on the blog. I'll still be on Instagram everyday, and I'm hoping that less frequency will mean higher quality. I'll reevaluate at the end of the month.
  • Mail 37 letters this month
  • Hire a babysitter to watch the kids once a week so I can work
  • Workout 3 days / week - this hasn't been on my list of priorities at all since we moved, but I miss running! Can't do it outside (too much snow), but we joined a gym that has childcare so I can hit the treadmill or take a class. I haven't trained for a race since before I got pregnant with Owen, but I feel ready and excited to get back in the swing of things.
  • Plan a little gathering for Owen's first birthday

I've been working through these to help me set and track my goals, and I can actually see progress, but I'm not great about checking them more frequently than once a month. So that's something I'm changing this month as well. My list of monthly goals is up in my office so I'll see them everyday. I'm curious to see if this helps me stay on top of them throughout the month. 

Have you made progress on some of your big goals this year? How's your twenty-fifteen shaping up so far?

Pictured: let's go journaling cards from Paislee Press

february art journal pages

My creative habit this month was art journaling, and I have to say I've loved it. This is so different from anything else I've done creatively in years, and yet it reminds me of the magazine-clipped collages I used to make in high school and college.

My journal is totally free-form. I don't sit down knowing what I'll create, which has been a huge change for me. I've learned so much about my creative process.

The biggest surprise for me is how relaxing this is. I feel like a kindergartner, pulling out my paints and experimenting with techniques. Writing in pencil. Adding washi tape here and there. Jotting down incomplete sentences and phrases. Just breaking out my art supplies and going for it, with abandon.

I've joined the Get Messy Art Journal community, which I love. It's so inspiring to see all that people are creating, and it's challenged me to thing outside the box, creatively, while still sticking to what's true to me.

Have you every tried art journaling or have you recently gotten into any creative habits?

Why I'm considering the leap to Squarespace or Wordpress

I'm approaching a crossroads with my blog (and shop - closed indefinitely for some updating) that's requiring me to seriously consider what to do next. I'm ready to jump off of Blogger (the platform I currently use for my blog) and onto another bandwagon. Why? Well, several reasons, but these are the three biggies.

I want my website to look the way I want it to look
I'm not a web developer, and while I've enjoyed learning a little bit of code, I just don't have the time to do this on my own now that I'm working a lot more and I have two little kids. There have been many times over the years that I've wanted to make my blog look a certain way, but I just can't get there on my own.

I want easy-to-navigate archive pages
The lack of simple archives is maybe one of the most annoying aspects of the Blogger template for me. I've thought about setting these up manually, but again - I do not have the time to figure it out. I created this page on my site to try to make some of my archives more readily available to new readers, but it's a band-aid solution, at best.

I need a mobile-friendly platform
I can't stand the mobile site that Blogger offers for my template. Can't. Stand. It. I've switched over to it in the past in an effort to make the site easy to view on a phone or tablet, but switched because it's so clunky and unattractive. I mean, I'm not delusional. I know people are reading on mobile devices - I am too! I do most of my reading on Bloglovin or on my phone directly on the sites I follow. The reality is that I need a site that works for mobile. This one does not. If you're a reader, and this annoys you too, my apologies. I'm working on it!

So here's my problem. I'm not a web developer and I can't fathom spending a ton of money to pay someone to create a site for me. I know what I like, and I don't mind learning a little code (or using the small amount of knowledge I have now). But I also don't have a ton of time to spend building and updating the back-end of a site. These concerns make me think Squarespace is the way to go. But when I consider expanding the scope of my blog and business, I think Wordpress may be the way to go.

I'm ready to do this (like, yesterday), it's just a matter of finding the hours to make it happen. In the meantime, I've been researching online (obviously), and I've come across a bunch of resources that are have helped me clarify the differences between the two platforms.

Squarespace vs Wordpress
A chart comparing the two platforms
The case for Wordpress (from a user / developer)
The case for Squarespace (from a user)

If you're a blogger or an online-shop owner, do you have an opinion as to where to go? I'd love to know if you're happy (or maybe not-so-happy) with your current platform. Thanks so much, in advance, for your feedback! And if you're a regular reader, I promise I'm thinking about you and your experience here as I determine how and where to make this leap.

Pictured: blog planner from Pretty Organised

How should I document my 2005 honeymoon?

Last week, I went through a big box of photos and memorabilia that's been sitting in our house for years (untouched). Some of that stuff ended up in the trash, but I divided most of it into boxes by category. One of those categories is projects. The "projects" box contains just the paper memorabilia (aka ephemera) I saved over the years that made it into the giant box. Trust me, there's more where that came from, it's just not sitting in my office.

Considering how not on top of this stuff I usually am, I was crazy-surprised to find a plastic bag containing all of the ephemera from our honeymoon. It was like opening a time capsule. We got married in May 2005 and took our honeymoon in July that year. Naturally, Nick had to be on the ship five days after our wedding, so we got married in Los Angeles, spent the weekend in Monterey and then parted ways.

I returned to my apartment and my job in San Diego the week after our wedding, and Nick spent a couple weeks on the aircraft carrier. In June, I moved up to where he'd been stationed on a jet base in central California, about three hours north of LA. We got the all-clear from his commanding officer that we could take a couple weeks in July and get a proper honeymoon. So we bought tickets to Costa Rica, booked hotels, and planned the trip.

I have all the photos from the honeymoon stored on an external hard drive, but I've never done anything with them. I think there are some pretty decent pics, although of course we didn't have smart phones or Instagram filters or anything like that. So who knows what they'll look like now? And who cares? It would be awesome to document this epic trip, even if it's a decade later and even if the photos aren't amaze-balls.

So now I have to figure how I'll document it. I have all of this great stuff I want to include in addition to the photos. I was thinking of doing a 6x8 album. I like pocket pages because the plastic sheets protect the photos from the dirt and oil on hands. And pockets would provide a little structure and give me a place to put all the little paper things I managed to save.

But what about doing something a little different? I love this concept from Kelly Purkey (after all, if you're building a travel mini-book, where else do you look for inspiration?!). But I think our trip is too big to document in such a small book. I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw this photobook by Liz. A Moleskine photo book could be interesting - I could include photos but also add blank pages throughout where I could paste the memorabilia directly on the paper and write captions. I like that they lie flat and have an elastic closure, and I like that the page numbers are limited. So that's an option.

But maybe the answer is to do some kind of mini book - a 6x8? a mix of page protectors and hole-punched paper goodness? I'm basically obsessed with every mini book Caylee and Stephanie have ever made. And I'm loving the 6x8 size for my December album. That's a thought.

As I look back over all the things that remind me of those two weeks, I'm struck by how much memory dulls the sharpness of the moment. I got a little annoyed that I hadn't yet done anything with this stuff, that I hadn't documented our honeymoon while the memories were fresh. But maybe this is the perfect time to put together an album that will document those weeks - maybe a little perspective means I'll leave out the details that don't matter and really capture the essence of what that the trip meant to us then and what it means to us now.

Or maybe, as Caylee put it, "it was a little week of magic, and magic really struggles to be captured appropriately." 

I'm so curious: what would you do with this stuff? I have a couple hundred photos to sift through, lots of great ephemera I could include. It's all just begging to be documented and I'd love to hear your thoughts! If you've been reading my blog for any amount of time, you probably know I'm embellishment-averse, so this is going to be a challenge for me, but one I'm so excited to take on. I'll keep you posted on next steps, but if you have any thoughts or ideas, please let me know.

For further reading, check out how I started organizing all this stuff or how I photograph memorabilia.

contributing at paislee press

Hi friends! Today my first official post over at Paislee Press as a member of the creative team is scheduled to go live! I'm sharing my tips for mixing color photos with black and white in your Project Life spreads (or any memory keeping, really). If you're new to the blog or if you're just in the mood to browse, feel free to stick around and check out some of my favorite posts, read a little bit about me, or come say hi on Instagram. xo, Catherine

Using recurring elements to simplify my Project Life album

I'm slowly but surely working my way through Owen's baby album, and this last week I got through December. I'm a couple months behind, but it's been easy to catch up because I'm using recurring elements throughout the album. Making some of those decisions early on and then sticking with them really speeds up the decision process for me. Here are the first couple of December pages in the album.

I do a similar title page for each month. For some of the months, I've done a large photo, but this one's just a 5x7. I printed the text on a piece of white card stock and then adhered the photo to it. I'm liking all the white space (surprise, surprise!). I save the text as a template in Photoshop, so I can just open it, edit the text and I'm done.

Here's the flip side of the "title page" insert. There's a lot of journaling in this album. I wanted monthly updates on what Owen's doing, weight stats if we have them, and milestones he's hitting. All of that goes on these two pages, and then I'm free to document whatever I want for the rest of the month. I'm not documenting week-by-week in this album, just a few layouts per month. The number depends on how many pictures I took and what all I want to include. I like the looser format, but I also like having these more structured pages. The "these days" text is from pictures + words no. 9 by Paislee Press.

Here's a close-up of the right side. I include a page like this for each month, which has photos of Owen throughout the month, journaling about what we did, and maybe a little note about what Owen's doing.

All of the word art is from Paislee Press. The "loving" text is from pictures + words no. 16. The "December" text is from month at a glance.

Having some recurring elements each month always helps me jump-start documenting, even if I've fallen behind. It's been so helpful to know which digital elements, fonts, colors, etc. I'm using throughout this album. I also love having a spot where I can easily see what Owen's doing at each particular monthly milestone. And this format is giving me the freedom to then document whatever I want in a few "monthly" layouts. December has a few more layouts to come, which I'll share here or over on Instagram.

Do you have any design elements you use week after week in your Project Life albums?

Project Life is a memory-keeping system created by Becky Higgins. You can find out more about the digital elements I use throughout my albums on the Paislee Press blog or shop.