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Today, I choose to focus on what’s wonderful in my world. Just like all of us with homes and clothes and food to eat and family and friends, I feel blessed with abundance. Over and above that, there are those little things in everyday life you seem to take for granted, and suddenly one day you realize how fabulous they are? Maybe only in a tiny way, but it all adds up. Here’s my list of things that were fabulous from this week. 

#1  My markers! Restarting my creativity is moving along, part in thanks to this Color Your Year calendar I picked up at our local Barnes and Noble. Half-off after Christmas, of course because that’s how we do it. Hubby and I both use digital calendars, he Outlook and me Google Calendar, but we like having a paper calendar hanging in the bathroom. Sounds weird, but it is helpful. (Also in the bathroom, a wall clock, sticky notes, and a pen. Essentials.) Meanwhile, back at the calendar, I’m using my art markers, and I found both my Tombow Dual Brush pens (markers) and my Memento Dual Markers make the job extra fun because they are brush markers that actually act as a brush. Both are water soluble, but the Memento dries water resistant almost instantly, and they mean resistant; I’d call it water-proof. Both are widely available; remember to support your local businesses before you click that Amazon add-to-cart button, just sayin’ :) 

#2  This gardener! She’s cheery, she’s smart, she’s cute, and she can talk as fast as I can. And as for creative… well, you have to watch a few of her videos to see the amazing things she does with plants big and small. Laura of Garden Answer is not hesitant to heft the biggest shrubs or finesse the tiniest baby succulent into stunning planting beds, containers, and other less obvious choices! I especially like some of the fairy garden creations. Plus, she does stuff like this… 


A photo posted by Garden Answer (@gardenanswer) on

#3  All the new stuff announced around the end and beginning of the years! Tuesday is the Housewares Design Awards, and this video of the nominated products shows some cool stuff. There is a Roomba-style automated mopper that definitely caught my attention. The awards are announced during the Las Vegas home furnishings market. You really do want to scroll to the bottom of that page and click on that “First Look” pdf. Wow!

#4  The Kitchn in my Facebook feed! I have clicked through to more articles of The Kitchn’s than any other page I follow and that’s saying something because I’ve been unfollowing things right and left for irrelevant postings. The Kitchn is on trend without being extreme, offers great ideas without being impractical, and the writers are like … real relatable people! Look — there’s a Weekend Prep for Whole30 Meals article. The Kitchn is part of the Apartment Therapy group, only it’s all kitchen

photo Gina Eykemans, What I Prep on Sunday for Whole30 Meals

#5  GREEN! Specifically, Pantone’s 2017 Color of the Year, Greenery! I imagine that almost anyone would guess that I approved of this year’s choice. I mentioned my love of green in my blog bio (which needs some updating, but not the parts mentioning green, haha!) “Green is nature’s neutral” is what they state, and I totally agree. Although their color pairings don’t make a lot of sense to me, I can tell you that almost anything looks terrific with it — it’s almost the same shade as my family room. Aaah, how I love the room being this color :) Remember this? It’s a bit more lived in, with curtains and wall decor now though.


#6  This graphic gem! If you are thinking about painting any rooms in your house, here is a special blog post from a UK store, Farthing, that I would love to visit. Until I can, I’ll content myself with looking at (dreaming about … ) their tempting vintage home decor finds … Hmm? Oh, yes, the graphic! Heaped with color psychology and guidance for matching paint color with a room’s function, it will prepare you for that trip to pick up paint chips. How about an orange exercise room? Hey, look! My green family room is right on point!

#7  Snow!!! Did you know I’m crazy for snowfall? Although I have had quite a few snow events in my area as compared to the average year, only one of them might have required snow boots. But it was rain-washed away before I needed to 1) errand, or 2) snowman. I really wanted to snowman this winter. I’m looking at these snow boots in case we have more fluffy white precipitation instead of the eternal liquid falling from the skies. Kinda spendy, but since I made my last pair last almost 20 years, I’m due. The boots come in green, but no thank you this time *shock!* I know, I know. My parka is purple, lavender, and white, and I’d likely be wearing jeans or crazy LuLaRoe leggings. White seems wisest. 



#8  My breakfast! After searching for my favorite Cream of Wheat — the 10-minute cook kind ONLY please — with little success, I decided to look into whole-grain options. This is way more my vibe these days anyway. I am in love with whole grain Kamut hot cereal from Bob’s Red Mill. It is ground like the steel-cut oats you might be familiar with, so the cooked cereal is less smooth than I was looking for, but it tastes delicious. No raw whole wheat taste (yuck!) and I was able to pick it up at my local grocery store. Kamut is an ancient wheat (read about it here) and many people who have non-Celiac gluten issues can tolerate it. This morning I had it with fresh ground almond butter and Ironbark honey from Australia. Delish! 

I hope your days are full of ordinary items, sights, and activities that give you joy and make you smile. If you get to feeling stressed, remember that time spent outside amongst the plants and birds — nature — makes everything better. Well, maybe not everything, but it helps a lot — check it out!

Spread the happy! 




This isn’t going to be the most refined post I’ve ever written, but this is me attempting to make a post even amidst a week of sick kiddos who require #alltheattention. In fact they are currently sitting in my lap. No joke. If my hair was brushed I might throw up a selfie as proof, but it’s not so you are just going to take my word for it. So while they are tucked cuddling together watching Dinosaur Train, I’m holding phone above heads and attempting to post! 

Let’s talk books. Mom and I both have goals this year to read more! I’ve definitely started out strong! Three done, two more underway. I think they all fit in Modern Mrs Darcy 2017 Reading Challenge categories we are using to expand our horizons.

A book with a reputation of being un-put-down-able: The Girl on the Train. Yes, it definitely fits that category. I had this book finished by January 3rd. I loved that it was told from three different perspectives. And I honestly have always loved stories where so many story lines weave together in unexpected ways as the book wraps up. Also, as a person who is a natural observer (yes, I love people watching) just the fact that this story stems out of an observation of people the main character doesn’t even know was an intriguing plot line. I think the hype I heard about this book was true; definitely worth the read!

A book set somewhere you’ve never been but would like to visit: The Magnolia Story.  Do you like the show Fixer Upper? If so, this book is awesome, and also a super quick read. Even better, if you like audiobooks listen to this one as it is narrated by Chip and Joanna themselves! (And yes, I am counting audiobooks as books I’ve “read” this year). I read this last weekend, as I will be traveling to Austin, Texas in a couple weeks and I’m hoping we get to take a day to visit Waco and Magnolia Market. I was seriously laughing and crying off and on all day as I listened and read. The way God worked through their lives and the faith they had is incredible. And the hilarious stories that just stem from Chip being Chip, well… you just can’t help but laugh along. 

A book about books or reading: The Well of Lost Plots. This is the third or fourth book in this “comic fantasy, alternate history mystery”series about a gal named Thursday Next. In this book she is living in the Well of Lost Plots and works for Jurisfiction which is basically the policing agency for all of literature and how it is written.  This author’s imagination is incredible. Just super super creative. I think if I tried to explain further it wouldn’t make sense (it probably already doesn’t), but I’d recommend reading anything written by Jasper Fforde!

Next up, I’ve started reading The Wonder which I got in my Book of the Month Club box. And Daring Greatly which was recommended to me.

Cheers to many more books in 2017!




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“She designed a life she loved.”

That was my only take-away from the Erin Condren planner website last fall. That saying.

Sam loved EC planners so much, long before she ordered this year’s, and had encouraged me to look into them. They are beautiful and exciting and usable. If I had ordered one, my cover would definitely have had that saying on it.

Somehow though, I knew it wasn’t THE planner for me. Maybe being so very lured by the fun colorful extras raised my suspicion. It just didn’t feel effective for me, for now. It was likely at that moment that I started to realize I didn’t really know how to navigate my way from 2016’s stuck me to “a life she loved.” 

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(Settle in. This gets long. See the post title? I promise I will make many short posts in the future, but this is my life changing, so it’s huuuuge!)

2016’s me needed help getting off the couch, help figuring out what to do first, and help figuring out just where she was headed in the future. I talked about her in last week’s post here.  I’m very glad that 2016’s me finally felt like moving forward, and I’m very glad she kept looking for a planner with the right fit. 

I had NOOOOOOO idea that I would find a planner that would revolutionize my whole future view. That is no exaggeration. And from the sound of things in the associated Facebook group, I am not the only one that was struck with that feeling, that change of view. 

I found the Rituals for Living Dreambook + Planner.

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(This is where I start hopping around from planner-infatuation, to how-to, to planner-infatuation, to my experiences with it, to planner-infatuation, to how I am finally putting my 2017 ducks in a row three weeks into the year. Maybe you caught a clue that I LOVE THIS PLANNER! Isn’t that pure white debossed cover beautiful?)

Did you notice “Dreambook” in the name of the planner? That’s where the revolution happens if you need it. This is not just a planner, or even a goal-setting coach within a planner. It is a unique planner plus a workbook that guides you through all aspects of your life to discover your core values, your purpose, and to dream up your perfect life three years (and further) into the future. For those already headed where they want to be headed, the dreambook portion would expand, update, clarify, refine that vision. 

Needless to say, 2016’s me was feeling pretty STUCK. But eventually she, I, got started on answering the Dreambook questions. Having owned my Dreambook + Planner since the first week in December and browsed through it a few times (thinking, WOW!), I wisely began the written exercises five days before Christmas. I have such good timing that way.

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After digging deep and often surprising myself in my vision/forecast/dream responses, I moved on to pages with beautiful central mandalas to use for mind mapping your 1-year, your 3-year, your 10-year, and even your Lifetime goals based on that envisioned future. Mind mapping feels so much more complete and creative than just writing out a list of goals! Having the chance to sort my thoughts into those different time frames — focusing in and out on my dream in many ways — showed me just how powerful this year’s work could be. (I admit to writing out an exhaustive list of goals extracted from my writings, plus projects and goals already on my mind, before mind mapping. You cannot take the list maker out of the engineering mind, no matter how well you help her dream.)

Suddenly I realized I simply wanted all those overdue projects done now, so I could get on with the rest of everything I had mind mapped, get on with my unburdened life! Gimme that dream future!  I was feeling pretty UNstuck! 

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The next step, of course, is taking those mind maps and breaking them down into goals and projects. (Hey, look, there’s a place in the book for a goal list! And for scheduling all of them!) Then there’s the work of breaking those goals and projects into tasks, and then scheduling those tasks onto your week’s planner pages. 

And then doing them. Ruh-roh. 

I tried. And stalled out on the doing. Second week, I tried again, stalled out again. All that in 11 days. ACK! Oh no! 2017 is trickling away! My mind wanted it all — I was trying to get all the projects started, but I could not get myself to do any of the associated work. Talk about feeling quite REstuck. 

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A timely excerpt from  the book, “The Well Life” was posted in the Facebook group by its co-author Peter Borton (Briana and Peter Borton are co-creators of the RFL Dreambook + Planner as well as that just-released book.) The article was about the expansions and contractions that happen when we make changes in our lives, how our ego is not so quick to expand sometimes, that we have contractions back to the familiar. It gave me an understanding, and a flexibility in my thinking to wait out this contraction, coax my poor little ego along, adjust and be ready for the next expansion. I wrote myself a message for the future, about expecting and allowing for these expansion and contraction woes, and included my own current thoughts that helped me adjust and understand this particular time. I hope that it helps me through the next time!

*insert cartoon panel of woman on a long shallow staircase, kindly but determinedly pulling a sad-faced, crying blob, dressed in tshirt labeled “ego” up to the step she is standing on* (I can’t cartoon or this would actually be an image.)

Needless to say, The Well Life is on my reading list this year.

It is sure to fit one of my Reading Challenge categories.  I have a project planning page made up for it!

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And then, yes, I went back to my plan and delayed starting some of those goals, staggering the start weeks; it was just too many new balls to juggle. Now, it is time for the third try! Third time’s a charm, right? Through all of this, I never once, not one little pico-second, had the thought of giving it up. An awesome change. 


Now, about the planner part! The planner of the RFL Dreambook + Planner guides you through structured weekly planning sessions. Planning with this system is more than just putting items on your to-do list! Each week’s 2-day spread has a place to write down your week’s Focus inside one of the beautiful mandalas used throughout the book. Each day’s time schedule is bookended by blocks to write in your Intent for the day at the top, and your Gratitude at the bottom. Seeing these three declarations every time you check your planner keeps you focused and motivated. It is a complete and workable planner arrangement, but of course one could always customize it. I’ve done the planning sessions twice now, and except for hardly actually doing any of the goal work, I love it. A lot!

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An unusual aspect of this planner is the concept of Ritual in daily life and how to use it. Ritual doesn’t mean any kind of religious ceremony here. The definition of ritual includes “a series of actions or type of behavior regularly and invariably followed.”

The first and most important ritual is the weekly Ritual of Planning! Also, you can ritualize small actions, big important changes or celebrations, daily routines, even a move to a different mindset. You don’t have to make any at all, but since ritualizing something is intended to make it special, important, more worthy of your honoring it, it can be very helpful. I see it as one of the key features that makes this planner different and effective. I have several now, and love it.

Most fun of all of the ritual ideas is the list of Rituals for Thriving on each and every weekly spread. Rituals for Thriving are a range of activities “to feed your body, mind, and spirit.” During your weekly planning, you’re encouraged to sprinkle choices from this list throughout your days — dancing, reading for enjoyment, socializing, and many more.

You may also choose to do that week’s Ritual for Living Challenge, a tiny gem in 1″ x 1.5″ of space on the page that will shake things up, maybe something practical, maybe enriching, maybe involving others, maybe anything!

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To help you with keep track of new rituals and your already well-established routines, there are two more blocks per day on your planner pages — kind of an a.m./p.m. arrangement — to write them into. Yay! No more routine and repetitive stuff cluttering up the to-do lists and appointment slots!

One of the rituals I made is a very brief “Changing Hats” ritual. Since I have always resisted moving from one activity to another unless it was at my own whim, this seemed a perfect chance to try the ritualizing. I have had the seed of this ritual for a few years now. You’ve maybe heard me speak of changing hats, taking off my Project Planner hat and putting on the hat of an unquestioning worker-bee as a way to compartmentalize the hard tasks.

Here’s my new, ritualized version: I close my eyes, breathe and relax, see myself deliberately taking off ball cap A, willingly setting aside A’s activities, then putting on ball cap B, assuming the mentality of a motivated accomplisher of B’s activities. The hats are embroidered with the name of the activity they represent. Breathe deeply again, open eyes, and get busy. 15 seconds, boom! Kind of dorky, but I’m ok with dorky … as long as it works. I haven’t practiced my new official Changing Hats Ritual many times yet, but I am pretty sure it is going to prove more useful and effective than the previous 2-second movie that only came to mind in cases of severe task-dread! Side note: I think I found the source of this particular Failure to Adult that I can deal with later.

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I mentioned earlier that I’m a list loving, engineering-brained, obviously word-loving dreamer and planner. I even have a dedicated composition book just for brainstorming ways to get this all working together. There were a few things in the weekly planning sessions that I personally needed to expand upon. Since two things had worked so well for me in the past, I added them in: the methods for project management and for “inbox” processing from David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” book. My “basic black” project management notebook is pictured further up; so sophisticated and professional, doncha think? Hey, function over form right now.

Do you realize how many types and sources of “inbox” information we have? Snail mail and email, of course, but what about that agreement to take the cake stands to Sam done through texting, and the promise to send Becca a website address done in Messenger? That quote I want to use someday in an art project that I copy/pasted onto a Google Keep note, or a name and phone number scribbled onto a physical sticky note? Yikes! 

I took the bones of Getting Things Done’s inbox-processing flowchart (flowchart! color me giddy!) AND the RFL Dreambook + Planner’s weekly Ritual of Planning tasks, and I created my own expanded, detail-catching, exhaustively thorough agenda: Gail’s Weekly Ritual of Planning Agenda. Ta-Daaaa!

My planning agenda undoubtedly seems way overdone, and I’ll tell you that I made it that way on purpose! My intent is to be able to use it to carry out my weekly planning even in the worst of my sleep-disturbed, fibromyalgia brain-fogged forgetfulness and slow thinking. Life with Gail means putting coping mechanisms in place before they are needed, as many as I can! 

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You’d think I was managing big business. LOL Whether I’m busy or not, the process can be used, and that’s what I want.

What are my other tools?

I use Google Calendar to keep ALL my appointments, immediately entered — I never take an appointment card. That’s also where I keep my weekly housekeeping routine, listed by day as a repeating event. Brain-fog back-up, remember!

I make notes to myself almost always digitally now. Google Keep is my newest love, thanks to my sister April. I occasionally use Evernote for quick notes, or especially for longer project ideas. I have other stuff going on in EN anyway, and my default EN Notebook is called “Idea Catcher.”

My address book is my phone’s contacts — immediately entered. Must remember to back it up more often! 

But here’s an issue with this planner — any planner. I’m not really supposed to carry a weighty purse around. No matter how awesome the bag, how convenient the stuff, it’s not a good thing for me. Taking a full tote bag to the car and back is not a problem, but heading into a store to shop, walking through a mall, and other places you actually carry a purse, I need to limit what I carry to a lightweight collection of necessities. I don’t plan on carrying my RFL DB+planner around with me, but will use my phone with Google Keep as its stand-in.

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Ah, I love Google Keep! Getting Things Done says to sort the tasks that have to wait until you can talk to a particular person, or be at a particular place, onto  specific lists called agendas. They are headed with “@person” or “@computer” etc. I keep a few basic @gendas ready to use in Google Keep, and then I make/delete others as needed.

How about a GKeep note titled @Shopping? So useful! I use my @Bob (hubby) list when I tell someone I will talk to him about something, and @Sam for blog ideas. On errand day, I will load up my @Shopping and @Errands lists with the stops I need to make and the lists of items and tasks that need to be taken care of. There’s no “Save” to hit/click with Keep, and therefore no inadvertently lost entries. There’s no paper list to lose! *win!* There’s no trusting my memory! **Double Win!** I can enter things quickly at home from my computer with full keyboard. I can cross off list items, leaving them lined through in shadow print on the note — best memory back up ever LOL Plus, who doesn’t enjoy the reward of seeing the list items getting crossed off! Once home, I can cross them off for real when reviewing the planner.

Some days, though, I like to use my sticky notes. Errand list. Shopping list. And Quick-Stickies: brief sets of simple to-dos to accomplish within the next 15-30 minutes, no thinking required. Quick to make, quick to accomplish (intentionally so,) quick gratification. My Quick Stickies help me focus on the here and now of my tasks rather than constantly seeing — rethinking — the big picture in my planner. Sometimes blinders are good. 

I really wanted this beautiful Week-at-a-Glance planner to fit in to the final process somehow. For someone like me — green! — green + pink! — patterns! — it was irresistable on discount from a closing office store. I think I will make it into a health record for the year because I can’t bear to not use it!

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I already have a Ritual for Menu Planning! Check this post out! Instead of printing recipes nowadays, I’m using my Pinterest board “It’s on the Menu Plan” to transfer pins to, or pin directly onto when the they will be used soon. My wifi-only tablet is dedicated to kitchen use. In its stand on the counter — this bamboo one from Pampered Chef rocks! — we cook right from the internet.

Let’s go way back to the beginning of this post, and my concern over being lured by the Erin Condren planner’s colorful and exciting appearance. In all these photos, have you noticed how perfectly black and white, how perfectly ready to decorate, the pages of the RFL Dreambook + Planner are? All those mandalas call out to be colored. And I need bookmarks and some index tabs for it … :)

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Once I know it won’t be procrastination, stalling, any kind of avoidance activity, you can bet that my markers and colored pencils and my washi tape — eeeep!– will meet planner pages in an explosion of COLOR! You’ll probably see some fun results through the year on our blog Facebook page

Today, Sunday the 15th of 2017, I planned out my upcoming week in my Rituals for Living Dreambook + Planner for the third time, using my own Weekly Ritual of Planning Agenda for the first time. I made myself a deal to use it 2 more times before making further changes. Less playing around with planning, more doing.

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This week, I’ll be giving my tasks and projects another run using my “Changing Hats” ritual. My focus will be mucking out my garage since the temperatures will finally be above 33F for a few days!

In case I have tempted you, you can order an undated RFL Dreambook + Planner, or just the RFL Dreambook (which includes week-planning instructions) any time of the year from thedragontree.com/lifestyle (no affiliation yadda yadda.)

Sending success vibes to all! 





It’s funny to me that I ordered this planner long before my word for the year (SEEK) appeared.  As I talked about in my last post, seek seems active to me… so chasing my dreams instead of following them seems so very appropriate!  

Plus when choosing a planner, how could I resist a cover like this… with cool chalkboard lettering and TEAL accents!  Ok.  So, I did my research and decided on the Erin Condren Life Planner as a new way to organize my stuff.  I’ve used the same hourly-schedule based planner for years.  And even though I was used to it, it really didn’t work all that great for me.  There was no way to separate work/life tasks.  No functional way to organize the things or activities I wanted to do in a day that didn’t necessarily have a time attached for them.  Plus, it was just kind of boring.  I’m a creative at heart.  I wanted something I could be creative in!  Enter the first project of the year: set up new planner!  Put those goals down and get moving on them!


I don’t have it all figured out yet.  As much as it wasn’t working with my old planner… because I had been doing the same thing for years, organizing differently still feels pretty foreign.  But I’m excited at the prospect of dividing and conquering… and yet still having it ALL contained in one place.  I’ve got my normal appointments and activities section, a blog and work task section, my “whole healthy life” section.  And then I have these sweet little inserts for meal planning, running to-do list, morning and evening routines I’m trying to implement… and tons of space I still haven’t figured out what to do with!


And honestly, the best part of this whole system is… if it doesn’t end up working it is SO easy to change! None of the sections are labeled, they are just as I assigned them, so I can re-assign them!  Maybe the running to do list insert isn’t working well, I could have that written on the list area I’m not currently using.  Maybe I need to separate blog and work tasks.  Maybe I don’t need so much room for appointments… what else can I use those boxes for?  (PS… if I need ideas, reference the thousands of pins on pinterest specific to these life planners or similar systems!)

I love that I can use post it type notes.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned it somewhere in this blog before… but I LOVE sticky notes.  Love, love, LOVE them!  And here is a super fun place to use them!  And if I’m not feeling the post-its, maybe just some fun colored doodling to make my creative heart happy!


And in the very back, on three separate pages… I’ve listed out my “30 Things by 30” list!  They are sort of divided by daily, weekly, one-time or set-number-of-times tasks.  And again… the beautiful part of this whole system.  If in a month I find it’s not working I can easily switch it up!  


I’m chuckling to myself under my breath right now.  This really was the perfect project to start of the year, and a perfect planner for me.  It fits the whole new years resolution idea… getting organized, planning, making goals.  And I love setting goals and making plans.  But if I’m being honest with myself, plans for me have to be adjusted frequently.  I like doing spontaneous things, I have two toddlers and with that stuff just comes up.  And I’m a glass-half full optimist who dreams big, but I’m also a realist who often realizes too late that my plans may take a little longer to get to that end dream.  And the flexibility I think this planner is going to allow me to have with those two sort of opposing sides of me should be good.  One project down, and it looks like the next one is on my to-do list for tomorrow!  ;)

And with that, I’m going to go literally chase some dreams right now.  


  • Sarah - Love it Sam! I had that planner two years ago and loved it! Good luck with everything! You are encouraging me to get going more! Hope we can see each other soon.01.10.2017 – 12:45pmReplyCancel

    • admin - Yes!! And thank you Sarah!!01.10.2017 – 1:30pmReplyCancel

    • admin - She is encouraging me, too! –Gail01.11.2017 – 12:42pmReplyCancel


my family

The changing of years.  I love it.  I’m one of those crazies who loves all the things that mark new beginnings.  Heck, I even love Mondays… I mean, you can’t beat a fresh start every single week!

So a new year?  Bring it on.  This year especially.  

I’ve been sitting here a full 20 minutes typing and deleting, typing and deleting.  Last year was rough.  I weaned my last baby and with that triggered some late-onset postpartum depression.  Spring and summer are a blur, we did fun things, but I felt so disconnected from the life that was happening all around me.  And by the time the holidays hit, even though I was feeling better, I was playing catch up to the 8 billion things that had fallen behind thanks to that dark season.  And its hard to play catch up amidst the busiest work season of the year for a photographer, and well.. the normal holiday craziness!

But we made it!  Hello 2017!  Goodbye 2016!


So where am I at right now? My desk, writing.  HA.  I make myself giggle guys.  

But really.  I’m still married to this really awesome guy I’ve known for what I can now say is more than half my life! We adore these crazy, stubborn, giggly, ACTIVE girls who are 3 (and almost a half) and 20 months.  They are soooo sweet, and they are sooooo good at pushing all of our buttons.  Life lessons all around, we can just leave it at that.  ;)

Aaron rides a lot of bikes, I’m training for another triathlon.  Abbi is in preschool.  Ella knows so many words.  We love the outdoors.  We all spend a bunch of time with our church family.  I co-coordinate for MOPS, Aaron is a youth boys small group leader.  Work for both of us (it’s weird… it only took me 5 years to finally be comfortable calling my photography business “work” which it definitely is, but I still LOVE it!).  It’s a full life.  Busy, but in the best possible way.


The next logical question… where are we going?  (insert me resisting telling another lame joke about going to bed…)

As a family?  Much in the same direction.  More time outdoors, more family adventures in the land cruiser (see the soon-to-be-more-developed #thecruisernamedpearl), more time with our framily, more time in pursuit of the things that really matter.

For me? I’m really looking forward to the things this year is going to hold.  Enter the meat of this post (and why it’s called Hello 30):

I turned 30 a couple of months ago!  And was/am super excited to reach the next decade.  But much of my enthusiasm got lost in the holiday shuffle.


There… enthusiasm!  :D  

And realistically, I know I’ve been a grown up for a while.  You can’t really deny it when you own a house, are married, have two kids, a dog, a business… the whole deal.  But there is something that I feel like I’ve been arriving at anyway, that feels appropriate to be feeling in my 30th year of existence.  Some sense of responsibility.  Of owning up to where I’m at, and where I want to get to.  I still have SO much life to live.  30 is young.  I used to think it was old… like when i was 12, but man was I wrong.  I feel like I’m just coming in to my own, figuring out who I am… it’s a good thing!


Which sorta brings me to my goals for the year.  Ok, so that wasn’t a good segue, but deal with it.  

My word for this year is SEEK.  Seek God, seek life, seek adventure, seek connections and relationships, seek whole (mind/body/soul) healthy living, seek intention in actions.

This year is not going to pass me by.  I’m going to LIVE it.  I’m going to SEEK it.  It is a year of action.  It is a year of intentional restoration, not mindless laziness.  

There are some big things on the horizon and I don’t want them to sneak up on me, I want to be prepared.  This, my 30th year (plus a couple of months), will be my year!


Seek and Intention: when I think of New Years resolutions, that about covers it.  

Don’t worry though… if you thought I didn’t make a list, you don’t know me very well.  :P

I didn’t make firmer New Years resolutions because I had already made a “30 Things While I’m 30” list.  And because, as I said, my enthusiasm for 30 got lost in the holiday shuffle, I figured I’d just keep SEEKING that list with INTENTION.  So in no particular order and with notes in parentheses both for you and for me, here’s my list…

30 Things While I’m 30

  1. FLOSS every. damn. day. (or every other at least if we’re being realistic)
  2. read 30 books
  3. do 30 random acts of kindness
  4. blog weekly on 2create and Snapdragon
  5. consistent work routine that doesn’t leave editing until last minute
  6. consistent morning and evening routine (take care of your mind and skin better!)
  7. good big-camera photos of my kids regularly
  8. eat intentionally
  9. write 30 letters
  10. apply for seminary (this is THE big one, I don’t talk a ton about my Jesus loving heart on this blog, but if this doesn’t clue you in I’m not sure what will.  If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask!)
  11. do something active everyday (you bought yoga and zumba dvds for a reason… the girls would love to join in!)
  12. go on a backpacking trip
  13. do a triathlon
  14. lose 30+ pounds
  15. give everything in our house a home
  16. get up with Aaron in the morning
  17. do one hard thing every day (the task you’ve been putting off, the conversation you’ve been avoiding, the effort you’ve been slacking on)
  18. print and hang more photos
  19. surprise somebody with a “just because” gift every month
  20. spend more time outdoors
  21. do lunch and a movie by myself
  22. say no or delegate more (don’t spread yourself too thin!)
  23. read more stories with the girls
  24. journal weekly at a minimum
  25. do something everyday that adds to a WHOLE (mind/body/soul whole) HEALTHY LIFE
  26. finish a project you started a while ago
  27. do something generous with snapdragon income
  28. stick to your budget… be a grown up dammit
  29. family dinners at the table, no phones, at least weekly
  30. use social media intentionally (read: no mindless scrolling)

You’ll see there is a range of small to big (hello flossing vs. seminary), there are one time tasks and habits I want to form.  There were no rules when I made this list, just a lot of things I’ve been mulling over for a long time.  Things that seem appropriate for a year of stepping one step closer to the person I want to be. 


And I think that about sums it up! Complete with recent photos, including my beautiful family and this GORGEOUS double rainbow we saw driving back from our latest snow adventure… the photo does not do its brilliance justice!

Cheers to seeking everything 2017 has in store for us!


  • Diane Johnston - Sam, I have so much admiration for you (and your mom) heading into this new year with such a sense of purpose and determination to have a wonderful year of accomplishment and adventure. God bless you with His help to do all that you want to do on that list.

    I am 75 and wish I had learned to set goals when I was your age. I am still so hesitant to set goals because of the fear of failure. My hubby and I have some really big challenges for this year. We have to trust God to guide us and help us make major changes. I will be praying your you…especially for that goal of attending seminary.
    Diane01.07.2017 – 12:38pmReplyCancel

    • admin - Thank you Diane! Fear is a big stumbling block for me too, I actually got “faith over fear” tattooed on my arm last year as a reminder that we were never meant to be perfect… Failure is just part of this world, and the beauty of God’s perfect plan keeps me striving for the things I’ve come to believe He wants from me. Thanks for rooting for me and Mom. I’ll be praying for peace and assurance in your transitions this year. :) -Sam01.07.2017 – 1:00pmReplyCancel

  • A Year in a Week » 2Create in Color - […] by a couple of friends, my embracing 30 project, and mom’s and my decision to do a yarn post early on this year I decided to dive into a […]02.12.2017 – 6:14pmReplyCancel



Inktober-Lettering-2015 Your life will be no better than the plans you make and the actions you take. You are the architect andbuilder of your life, fortune, destiny -- Alfred A Montapert

Is your 2017 off to a good start? I hope so! And yes, you read that title correctly. I’m focusing on setting myself up for a very different 2018 during this year. 

Sneaky changes over the last couple years had me feeling that my sense of fun and my willpower went on a vacation without me. This is Gail speaking, mom to Sam who is my blog partner, creative buddy, and oldest of my three kids; grandma to her children Abbi and Ella; bogged-down creative person, and on-the-upswing-now sufferer of chronic depression.

Story. Stick with me; there’s a happy ending :)

Chronic depression really is a sneaky thing. A person can often be “on”, feel “on” when amongst a group but underneath that and when alone, it is a different story. Lack of physical energy. A “just don’t care enough” mentality about pretty much everything in spite of often having great plans to conquer … well, everything. I manifest this in a gigantically successful Tune Out technique: take a nap, read a book, games on computer, facebook (because that’s just thinking and typing, not requiring the changing out of pajamas. I’m great at cheering *you* on and googling stuff.) A few things break through and energize me — getting together with Abbi and Ella being my favorite frequent one.

To enrich my world, in 2017 I will read some books that are not pop fiction! Our house

I know I live my life on cycles of up and down. I have had to balance my energy since my 20s, not overdoing it when riding the top of a wave in order to conserve the ability to keep going when in the bottom part of the shorter term energy cycles. Most of this is from the fibromyalgia I suffer from, but part is the chronic depression — longer cycles, and there’s probably a part that’s “just me” and/or normal. When Sam and I started this blog, I can see that I was at the top of a less-depressed cycle, and had been for quite a while. Having gotten used to it — taking it for granted — the downswing snuck up and sucked me down big time. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past 18 or so months working hard at Tuning Out in the ways listed above. And know what?


Yay!!! Three cheers! Woohoo!

An interesting doctor appointment mid-autumn for a medicine switch, where I was a firm and repetitive advocate for my need to sleep well every night, has begun to have payoffs. #1 payoff being Sleep! Every night. Aaaaah, waking up and not feeling the need to take a nap all day long. Going to bed, and feeling sleepiness that transforms to sleeping through until morning. I have energy! I feel hope in being able to get on with long-undone tasks! My innate optimism isn’t reduced to just a tiny core part of me, but is slowly repermeating my thinking.

Remember this Studio redo I was working on? Yeah, not done, and I haven’t done much creating in all that time, either. Most of the time I didn’t even have the urge. But now, not only am I noticing that spark of creativity and nurturing it into a flame, I have plans and a timeline in place for finishing that redo along with a few other big projects and to-do list items that are very overdue. And I can see beyond the difficult tasks to the payoffs. I can see beyond the work of 2017 and into the reward of 2018.

Mucking out my studio -- it has begun!_0003

Just after that appointment with my doctor, God (the Universe, whatever higher power you want to attribute serendipitous things to) threw a few opportunities my way and I accepted.

The first: Susannah Conway’s “Find Your Word” series of emails. Five emails, a clear process, worksheets even. I now have a word of the year that is meaningful, inspiring, and exactly right.

The second: the Rituals For Living Dreambook + Planner from Dragontree. Oh yeah. Big time life changes can be dreamed of, organized, and made into reality with this system! I’m both terrified in a good way, and excited to have all aspects of ME marching in the same direction toward a future that *I* dreamed up, dream of, have written down with the help of questions and exercises in the Dreambook. 

(c) The Dragontree, used with permission

(c) The Dragontree, used with permission


This year, 2017, is all about “Shed” as a command word. Shed the too-much-stuff that’s been hanging around, increasing and getting messier and being a huge black cloud on my horizon. Actually, that cloud has been parked over the top of my head for a while.

Next, Shed some weight, not by dieting per se, but by eating the way I want to always eat — implementing my dream of being a healthy person by feeding myself properly. And not just for a day or a week, or even a couple months at a time; but always. Because: not a “diet.”

Which brings us to: Shed old habits, some new, some old, that are not serving me — sitting on the couch too much (and as a catch phrase for all the other Tune Out list items); eating poorly because the “will today make any difference?” attitude was entrenched; not valuing my own goals and plans enough, and more.

Shedding stale dreams also has to happen. It’s kind of FREAKING ME OUT, but being honest with myself I can admit in my heart and head that there is no way I can ever master every creative thing I want to do in the years remaining to me. Prioritizing and cutting the bottom of that list away will free my mind to celebrate and anticipate the accomplishments, projects, and skills I plan to develop over the next 10 years (written!) and beyond (still dreaming.)

Inktober-Lettering-2015 What

My major goals this year are from two categories, Accomplishments That End, and New Habits in Place. I will finish up quickly with my list, a thank you for sticking through to the end of this … what should it be called? statement of self? statement of self! … and a wish for you to have an amazing year!

  1. Declutter (muck out) and make functional three main areas of my house: garage, studio, and the miscellaneous dumping spot of master bedroom suite.
  2. Blogging regularly, meaning at least once a week, to reinstill my habit of creating.
  3. Read 12 books that aren’t pop fiction off of the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2017 Reading Challenge categories.
  4. Eating well and wisely day after day to become the healthier person I really want to be.
  5. Exercise using an increasing plan with a goal marker of easily, safely, walking a 5K late this summer or in the fall.
  6. Stick with daily planner use, and with weekly, monthly, quarterly planning sessions as described in the RFL Dreambook. Acronym SNIP: Stick Nose In Planner.
  7. Begin learning Italian in preparation for a tour. 

In summary, SHED what doesn’t serve, and find out what that dreamed-of future is like in reality. 

Look out 2018, here I come! 


  • Diane Johnston - Hi Gail! I’ve missed you…on FB and your Blog. I am so impressed and also jealous of your ability to set goals and plan out your future…for a whole year. Wow! It sounds great. I need to do something like that too. Big changes coming this year for me and my hubby. I will pm you on FB. I will be praying for your success and for your health.
    Hugs, Diane01.04.2017 – 4:32pmReplyCancel