Hey friends! It’s been a reeeeallly long time since I’ve hung out in this space. If you’re not really a scrapbooker, I’m sure you think this is straight up crazy talk, discussing Christmasy stuff in September. But if you ARE a scrapbooker, then you KNOW… this is when it all begins! Over the next few weeks, I’ll joining some of my Ali Edwards Creative Team friends to work on past (aka. unfinished) December Daily albums, and I thought this might be the perfect spot to share my 2019 album as I work on it. Our goal is to get our albums done before December. My plan is to approach this from a “Start to Finish” perspective and share it with you all here, including process videos as I work on my album, and photos of the spreads as I complete them. You can also follow along with our progress every Monday on Instagram, where we’ll post under the tag #donebydecember .
Before I get started on my album, I thought it might be fun to share a bit about my experience with this project. Context is everything! Back in 2018, I had the opportunity to spend a weekend in Eugene, Oregon, for the first ever December Daily Prep party. (It was an “in person” experience that year, but it’s since evolved to an online “prep party” day that will be taking place again this year! Check out Ali’s December Daily schedule for 2020 dates and info here.) My creative team friends and I each shared a bit about our past projects, including some of our favourite pages.
If you’ve never heard of it before, December Daily is a scrapbooking/memory keeping project started by Ali Edwards as far back as 2007 (you can read more about it here). The idea is to document a story every day in the month of December leading up to the holidays, and in doing so capturing some of that holiday magic! The project has definitely evolved over the years and there is really no “wrong” way to participate. Some people choose to document the entire month of December, some people get an early start (just after the American Thanksgiving in November), and some people do a pared down version with perhaps 12 stories in December. Some people really focus on the crafty part of making cool and creative pages, some people focus more on the photos and words, and some people do a combination of all the things. Some people work in 6×8 albums, some people incorporate their stories into their Project Life albums, and some people use journals or traveler’s notebooks. Like I said, no wrong way to do it. The goal is to tell your stories in whatever way works best for you!
Here’s what I shared about my December Daily Experience:
My First December Daily attempt, 2010…
My first December Daily attempt was also my first attempt at scrapbooking! I had discovered Ali Edwards just before Liam was born through a Creating Keepsakes magazine, and I totally fell in love with her style of memory keeping. I spent that first year as a new mom learning how to take pictures, figuring out Photoshop Elements, and reading allllll the blog posts and magazine articles I could find. When December rolled around, I was ready to officially give this whole scrapbooking thing a go and my first project was December Daily.
I didn’t have a kit or a scrapbooking stash to work with, so I made everything with really basic supplies as I went along; thread, glue, glitter, printer, and a few letter stickers and patterned paper from Michaels. I didn’t prepare foundation pages in advance. I found an 8×8 chipboard album (first time in a scrapbook store!). I took lots of photos throughout the month (a habit I had started to develop), and made a list of the days + the stories/events of the day on some blank paper. I completed 3 pages. Yep, just 3. When I look at these 3 pages, it’s clear that my focus at that time was on the photos and “craftiness” with limited journaling. But this was not a “failure”. This was a new beginning! I started Project Life in 2011, and that’s when I’d officially say I became a “scrapbooker”.
In 2011 I tried again, my second attempt at December Daily (with a full year of Project Life under my belt) and I successfully completed an entire album! This time, I was prepared.
I followed along with Ali’s blog and made foundation pages in advance with transparent dividers. I printed the templates for each day in advance, and had them ready to go in my album. A major difference between the first album and second album = waaaay more journaling. So thankful for that!
I love the stories that were captured in this album! And I was so PROUD to have completed it!
And then…. 2012-2016…
2012-2016 = “In progress” with varying degrees of “completeness” (as you will see)
My approach for each of these years was slightly different. I didn’t prep pages in advance because I wanted “flexibility”. I had the intention of working on the project throughout the month of December, meaning I have some pages done most of these years, even though I didn’t get the album finished. I DID take lots of photos, saved ephemera, and wrote the stories. Some years I have full journaling for all 25 days, and other years just a few notes for each day.
So why do I do this every year if I rarely seem to finish an album?
Because being in the “December Daily” mindset reminds me to pay attention! And when I do that, I feel like I’m living my life more fully rather than simply going through the motions of moving from one place to the next. It allows me to be more present in my day to day life, making me a better mom, partner and person.
It reminds me to look for magic in ordinary moments and brings joy to my life. It fills me with gratitude and hope and understanding and love. It’s magic! And who doesn’t love feeling a little bit of magic, especially at Christmas time 🙂
Here are a few of my FAVOURITE spreads over the years…
My favourite spreads are the ones that tell a more “complete” story. To me, that might mean it includes a variety of elements that each tell little stories, and when they’re together, they tell a much bigger story!
This spread tackles December 2nd, 2014. It was the day we mailed our letters to Santa, so I’ve included scanned copies of the actual letters (shrunk down to fit the 3×4 pockets). I’ve got a photo of Liam and Emily at the post office – Liam’s holding the flap of the mailbox open for Emily to put her letter in. I found an online image of one of our Canada Post mailboxes and used it for my journaling card.
My journaling says: “Today, we made it our mission to mail our letters to Santa. Liam was such a good guy, holding the flap on the mailbox open for Emily to put her letter in… and as we were on our way out, I realized that Emily wasn’t wearing any shoes. She had taken them off in the car. And I kind of loved hearing the chit chat from people around us reminiscing about how their kids used to do that too. It makes me so happy in the moments I recognize the joy Liam and Emily bring to everyone around them. Love those guys so much!” The journaling here is a good example of including both the facts and the feelings. So many different stories captured in this spread! That’s what makes it one of my favourites 🙂
This spread is another favourite, documenting December 9th, 2017. Emily and I went to the Nutcracker ballet with my Dad for the very first time. The combination of photos and words with just a few embellishments sprinkled in work together to tell a more complete story of the experience.
The left side of this spread includes photos of us getting ready for the event. I especially love the combination of the selfie and detail photos here. The journaling introduces the “who” and “what”, but the real story is about Emily’s personality at this point in time. I used some of her own words to help capture that detail.
The right side of the spread includes photos from the event and more detailed journaling about our experience… “what she really wanted to do was dance like the ballerinas up on stage. So that’s what she did. I tried to get her to stay in her seat, but it was an impossible task. It was also impossible to keep a straight face when I saw her sprawled across the arm rest of the seats in front of us, on her belly, with her arms stretched out and her feet in the air, as if the chair was her dance partner executing a perfect lift.”
Paying attention to the details with photos and words in this spread is EVERYTHING! Multiple little stories that come together to create a more complete whole.
One more example of a variety of elements coming together to tell a bigger story. This spread documents December 4th, 2013 – Our family Christmas card. On the left side of the spread, I’ve included the “list” I was working with when I was preparing to send out our Christmas cards (trying to figure out how many I needed to make). I added a piece of vellum overtop with journaling about our card for that year, along with a stamp that says “TRADITION”. I also included the card, mounted onto an envelope with tabs to add it into the album.
On the right side of the spread, I added a series of photos to show to process of making the cards and Liam helping to seal and stamp them. There’s another little spot of handwritten journaling talking about what a great helper he was. That’s three (or more) small stories in one spread that combine to tell a bigger story of what life looked like on December 4th, 2013: 1) the tradition of making Christmas cards and who we send them to, 2) the Christmas card for the year, 3) Liam embracing the role of “helper” for the day (and I love that his bunny makes an appearance in one of those photos!)
I like including pieces or ephemera from real life in my albums, especially when they have their own stories to tell! Here’s a few of my favourite examples of “paying attention” to, and including the details.
December 11th, 2011; A couple of stories here about shopping for our holiday baking supplies, and Liam’s “helpfulness” at the grocery store. I included the shopping list and I made sure to note the details of Liam’s teeth marks from the bottom right corner of the list and his additional scribbles. Perfect little details of life at that moment in time.
December 5th, 2013; Multiple stories here as well. 1) Welcoming “ticklish goofy” into our house – a surprise from our Elf, 2) Liam’s show and share at preschool, and 3) journaling about being a “helper mom” in his classroom that day. I included Goofy’s tag and some of Liam’s artwork from school that day to support the details of the stories. I love how they work together to create a bigger picture of the stories that day.
December 8th, 2011: The story of this day was about the greeting cards we had received in the mail and how they helped decorate our home for the season. I saved the return addresses from the envelopes the cards had come in. Having them in our album is a fun way to include a story about the other people in our lives that we celebrate the season with! (And it’s a fun textural element in the album design wise 🙂 )
When your stuff has a story but you can’t put it in your album, include a photo! I photographed a collection of my husband’s Grinch shirts for December 2nd, 2016. (prompted because he had just added another one to his collection) The journaling goes on to tell the story of my daughter’s love for these Grinch shirts and how putting them on always makes him think of her.
The stories of our new ornaments in 2017: I love how this page turned out with a large photo of the “collection” on the left side, and some simple journaling on the right side to tell the story of each ornament and why it was chosen for that year. These are great stories to keep in mind for days when you’ve “paid attention” but you STILL don’t know what to write about.
When the “stuff” isn’t tangible… Christmas music is such a big part of my Christmas experience each year, but it can be challenging to figure out how to include it in my stories. This was a page I made with the Cheer Story Kit, using the lyrics from “Christmas time is here” on a 6×8 photo. Love this combination of the photo with the lyrics to capture the spirit of the season.
Storytelling tips: 1) Look for new perspectives on the “same old stories” (aka. Pay attention!)
This is a very non-traditional “going to get our Christmas tree” page from December 6th, 2014. Every year, we go to IKEA to get our Christmas tree. I’m sure I could make a page every year about going to get our tree with the same style of photos and the same sort of “who, what, where, when” details. And that’s totally okay!!! But for me, the purpose of this project is to embrace the opportunity to see joy and capture moments of magic. I have to actively look for it. I have to pay attention. And sometimes I have to put some work into reframing a challenging moment to see it. As exciting as it is to bring home our Christmas tree, the story I found on this day was witnessing the joy my kids were bringing to strangers as they laid out faux fur carpets and rolled around the floors of the IKEA aisles. (Thank goodness for Christmas spirit and the people who found this funny!)
Again…going to get the tree. December 3rd, 2017. Again, there were bad attitudes and whining and crying and fighting on this day. And there was also laughter. And that’s the story I told on this day. I included photos of our “tree selection process”, but the journaling, which focuses on all the laughter instead of picking the tree is what makes this spread a favourite for me.
The journaling says: “We made our annual IKEA outing today to pick out our Christmas tree. While much of the experience was stressful (you just can’t make everyone happy), the thing I want to remember most is the laughter. It started in the car with a conversation that went something like this: “Francisco!?” “What?” “You’re telling me your new boss’ name is Francisco?” “Yes” (insert 5 straight minutes of me laughing and a confused/annoyed look on Brett’s face) “FRANCISCO! THAT’S FUN TO SAY!” just ask Buddy the elf J It continued with enormous belly laughs from Liam and Emily in the back seat. Brett put on the Straight No Chaser – 12 Days of Christmas song for them for the first time. They thought it was hilarious 🙂 There was crazy uncontrollable roars of laughter overheard in the living room while I made dinner. They were running over little Lego guys with the train. And who can resist laughing when little singing chipmunks are tickling your arm? Just ask Emily 🙂 Laughter. Lots and lots of laughter.”
Pay attention! Look for new perspectives on the “same old stories”!
Storytelling tips: 2) Embrace the opportunity to “reframe” less than magical moments
December does not equal perfect, happy, magical days everyday. Some days are just hard. And I admit to having to take a step back to manage my own expectations at times. I think there’s value in being honest about those challenging moments and embracing the opportunity to get a bit of perspective. December 2nd, 2016 was a good example of that for me. The journaling says: “Dear Santa, I can explain. You see… with December already here, we realized we hadn’t written our letters or wish lists for you yet and thought we better get on it. The thing is Santa, it was 6:45 pm (almost bedtime) on a Friday night at the end of a very long week. And the frustration threshold was very low. A few little spelling mistakes and well… it was not a good scene. So we’re going to set it aside for now, regroup, and try again later. But JUST IN CASE we don’t get back to it, Liam would really like the Lego City Fire Station, Beyblades, Pokemon cards and a Yo-Kai watch. Emily is asking for “a little bunny like Liam’s”, a dolly, a birthday smile, and a stuff. Thank you so much Santa! Hope you’re having a good December so far! Love Pam”
Storytelling tips: 3) Include conversations in your stories!
One of my favourite ways to tell a story these days is to document conversations. Including the words of others adds a whole other element to my memory keeping because the perspectives I’m recording aren’t just mine! This page from December 1st, 2017 includes Liam’s story about telling his teacher about our elves. He went on to share detailed memories of them and how important they were to him. I was able to elaborate on our conversation and share my own feelings about the moment as well. I just love this story and the reflections that came out of it! The key for me in capturing these kind of stories is to write them down right away. Any scrap of paper will do 🙂
Storytelling tips: 4) Get “unstuck” with a letter
There are days that writing comes easily and naturally for me, and other days where I stare at a blank screen for an extended period of time, writing and deleting and writing and deleting. One of my favourite strategies for getting around those blocks is to write a letter. I started my December 2017 album writing a letter to December, sharing my hopes for the month ahead.
Storytelling tips: 5) When you don’t know what story to tell, OR when you have TOO MANY stories to tell… make lists with repeated word prompts!
There will be days when you can’t decide which story to tell because none of them feels like the right one, or it doesn’t feel “special” enough. My favourite strategy to get around this situation is starting with a prompt and repeating it over and over again to get the little details out. On the super ordinary/uneventful day of December 5th 2017, that’s exactly what I did, and this might be one of my favourite pages. I started with the “around here” prompt and went on to share little bits of life at that time. Always love this strategy!
Storytelling tips: 6) Do what you love 🙂
The most important thing to remember when your bringing your album together is to simply do what you love!! I love big photos, typed journaling, and minimal embellishments that carry a big impact. You do you 🙂
So thankful for the perspective and joy this project brings!
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be working on my 2019 album and sharing my progress here every Monday. My goal is to share my process from “Start to Finish”. Follow along with the #donebydecember tag on Instagram to see the AWESOME work of my creative team friends too! I’d love to hear your questions or comments below 🙂 Thanks for stopping by today!