Friday, October 26, 2018

How to Increase Happiness and Relaxation

Two things that seem to be in high demand and short supply these days are happiness and relaxation.  Stress seems to be taking their place. Today I’m going to show you how to find increased happiness and relaxation in some surprising places from some unexpected sources.  It’s funny how easily they could be had but how elusive they are until we get a few hints.

The Surprising Sources for Happiness

Something we all have (and sometimes have too much of!) is pictures.  They’re on phones, cameras, computers, and social media.  I believe this leads to an all too common way of thinking about pictures:  big deal.  But pictures and memories are a much bigger deal than we think.

In fact, pictures have been shown to increase happiness!  Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project,” says {pictures make us happy for many reasons}, including:
  • They help us remember people, places, and activities we love.
  • Pictures help us remember happy times from the past, which makes us happier in the present.
  • A photo can sometimes replace a thing we love.  (Think about something that was broken or old or impractical to keep–a photo lets it live forever with you.)
  • Taking photos increases {creativity}.
Dr. Peter Naish did a study on {how viewing photographs lifts your mood} when compared to other common ways to do so like eating or drinking.  Looking at photos increased mood by 11%, whereas eating, drinking, watching TV/movies, or listening to music increased mood only 1%.  He found, too, that looking at pictures even helped people relax more!  After viewing photos, people reported a 22% increase in relaxation!  (Incidentally, drinking wine came in at 14% and eating chocolate came in at 8%.)

And it’s more than just pictures–it’s what’s behind them.  In the mid-1990s, Dr. Marshall Duke from Emory University took a close look at the American family.  Dr. Duke’s wife, Sara, had noticed something about the children she worked with:  the ones who knew a lot about their families did better when challenges arose.  

So Dr. Duke and a colleague, Dr. Robyn Fivush, decided to further examine this theory.  Through their {“Do You Know?” study}, they found that kids who were connected to their families by knowing family stories were more resilient and had higher self-esteem.  They also had a greater sense of control over their own lives, {even in the face of crisis}.

Another thing that working with our photos and memories does is develop a stronger sense of self, more gratitude, and a sense of purpose.  Our perspective gets better.
"The secret to having it all is knowing you already do." -anonymous
The Trick to Tapping Into Happiness, Relaxation, and Strength

The only trick to using photos and memories and family stories for increased happiness, relaxation, connection, resilience, and strength is that you have to have a way to access them.  If I sit back and try to remember family stories, none come to mind all that quickly (especially when I need them).  When I brainstorm (either alone or with others) and then write them down, I have a place to go to when I need my family stories.  Same goes for pictures.  If they’re unorganized or in too many places, they’re just overwhelming–they’re not useful for happiness, relaxation, or strength.  But if I put them into a book or scrap page and write my memories with them, they’re there the instant I need a lift.

Many people don’t do much with their photos these days because of {overwhelm} and {too little time}.  There’s also a pervading false notion that you have to be a scrapbooker in order to do something with your photos.  

I’ve been a memory-keeper, preserving my photos and memories and stories, for as long as I can remember.  Since 2005, I’ve been helping other people do the same.  So today I’ll share with you the best time hacks I know of for making time for your photos and memories so you can get all the fabulous side-effects of memory-keeping.

Before I share my three favorite time hacks, here are two helps: 
  • If disorganized and cluttered photos makes getting started difficult, there are several {photo organization tools and resources (including a video)} right there at that link.
  • If the idea of doing anything at all with your photos is overwhelming,  you might want to try {Scrapbooking For Hire}.  This service can be anything you want it to be, from basic tips on where to even start to helping you with photo organization or the actual creating of {digital books or scrap pages}.  Sometimes you just need ideas and directions, and sometimes you need a partner.

My Three Favorite Time Hacks to Make Memory-Keeping Doable for Increased Happiness and Relaxation

One requirement for memory-keeping is time.  That’s true of everything, right?  Learning something, helping someone, Christmas shopping, reading, cooking.  Everything requires time.  Because of busy schedules as well as {the pervading sense of and idealization of busy-ness in our culture}, it’s more important than ever to make time for something as important as our photos and memories.  

I have a whole collection of {ideas and time management helps from experts} at that link, but one of my favorite ways to “find” time for memory-keeping is called a Digi-Crop.  I’ve been doing this for years and years.  Here’s what a Digi-Crop is and how it can help you:

2021 UPDATE:  Digi-Crops are now called Photo Rodeo: Rein in Your Photos.  All information for Photo Rodeos and other events like them are found in the our community tab along the top of this blog.

Another great time-saver hack for getting memory-keeping done is to ask for help!  If you’re writing a family story, the fabulous gals at {} can help!  If you’re trying to get some photos and memories preserved in books or scrap pages, check out {Scrapbooking For Hire}.  

My number one favorite memory-keeping time hack is shown in this video.  The idea of a Yearbook broken down by month means that you already know where all the photos go!  (Halloween 2015 pictures go in the 2015 book on the October pages.)  These beautiful templates make your yearbook come together so quickly!

If you'd like more flexibility than the templates offer, I highly recommend Artisan digital scrapbooking software.  It's what I use because I love the flexibility and creativity.  Learning the Design & Print platform (above) takes about 2 minutes, so it's much simpler to use, but I know a lot of people who love all the design capabilities in Artisan (below) even though you do have to learn the program.  (Plus, I have a whole bunch of Artisan Quick Tip videos for you!)

There’s No Time Like THIS Time

Pictures seem to be one of the easiest things to put off.  They pile up on cameras and phones, and before you know it, you’re {swimming in them} But memories fade far faster than we think they will, and digital photos left in digital form are always at the mercy of technology.  

If you’re serious about increasing your own happiness, relaxation, strength, and well-being, there’s no time like this time.  Why on earth would you wait?  Take advantage of the hacks I’ve shared, or {contact me} with your specific needs and questions.  

Whatever you do, #dontletyourbabiesgrowuptobejpegs  {Get started here.}

Who do you know who needs more happiness and relaxation?  Share this post via
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This post was originally published at on October 26, 2018, by Jennifer Wise as part of the #familyhistoryfriday series that ran for a year and a half.  Although this is the last post in the series, you can go back and find many, many more posts about family, photos, memories, stories, and connections!  Just click the #familyhistoryfriday hashtag below next to Labels.  This entire blog is dedicated to the same theme, so explore and enjoy!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Unique Christmas Card Ideas (and an Invitation to My Annual Online Card Party)

If you want to step up your Christmas card greetings a little this year and go beyond the usual family picture inside a store-bought card, do I have a treat for you!  Yes, there are lots of online companies where you can choose a template and print up your Christmas greetings, but if you'd really like to stand out, Heritage Makers is it.

I've been creating Heritage Makers Christmas cards for at least 10 years, I think, and one of my favorite things is that I can be SO creative with it!  My cards aren't always cards.  I mean, yes, you can create ultra-personal greeting cards with Heritage Makers, but you can do so much more!  One year I made regular cards and then made notepads to match so I could add a personal note in with some of the cards.  This year I'm going to be creating what I call "Christmas news on a notepad" using Heritage Makers 5.5x8.5 notepads!  (My Christmas letters will come to 19 cents that way and be full-color, professionally printed.  Can't beat that!)

Would you like a sneak peek?  I normally make my Christmas greetings at my Enjoy December Card Party in November (keep reading to find out what it is and how you can join me), but I got so excited about this Christmas News on a Notepad idea that I have already designed it.  If you can keep a secret, here's my greeting this year--well, one of them.
This is just a screen shot, so you see the cut marks and guiding lines
from Heritage Makers' editor, Studio.  They won't show on my printed
notepads.  And neither will the "blued-out" names.  ;)

For me, cost and quality are a big deal, but I ABSOLUTELY LOVE how creative you can be with any Heritage Makers product.  Everything, from cards to letters to what I'm about to show you, is truly personal and unique.

As if that Christmas News on a Notepad weren't clever enough, I'm making one other thing for my Christmas greetings this year.  I call it an "add-in."  It's basically just something small to throw in the card/letter.  Almost like a tiny gift.

My add-in this year is going to be a recipe for my favorite gingerbread cookies!  I'll be making it at the Enjoy December Card Party in a few weeks, so you'll have to use your imagination for now.  For this project, I'll use the playing card deck, creating the same card 54 times.  (You can add cards individually, too, so I can get just the right amount for my Christmas card list of 112.)  On the cards I'll type up the recipe--similar to these that I made for another purpose last year:

Only I'll use the gingerbread digital art collection like someone used for these cute bookmarks made from a 12x12 Heritage Makers scrap page.

So if you can envision a combination of the playing card deck and the gingerbread digital art, you've got the idea.  That's what's going to be the fun surprise gift inside my Christmas cards/letter this year.

UPDATE:  Here's my finished project!  I love how they turned out.  I hope my friends enjoy my favorite soft gingerbread cookie recipe.  :)

By the way, you don't buy digital art with Heritage Makers!  Everything you see in this post is using Heritage Makers digital art (except the top header and bottom Pinterest graphic).  And I don't download it or pay one cent to use it.  It's pretty darn awesome.

Here's one more fun add-in idea using a playing card deck--these are mini lay-flat nativities!  I haven't submitted them for printing with Heritage Makers yet, so you'll have to use your imagination again.  This image below is just a screen shot of the preview.  The playing cards will look like the photo above, but the backs will have that Bethlehem scene you see at the left.

This little nativity scene will be three cards tied together with ribbon.  They'll stand up like a little triptych.  The shepherds will be at the left, the stable scene in the center, and the wise men at the right.  And, of course, these are playing card size so it will be a small nativity.  And it stores flat, so it hardly takes up any room.

UPDATE:  I got these back in the mail yesterday and created them in no time!  I love how they turned out.

I actually have few individual sets for purchase for $3.50 over at my {Crafts with Heritage Makers Shop}.  OR if you would like to create your own sets, I can actually transfer this Mini Lay-Flat Nativity Playing Card Deck I created from my Heritage Makers account to yours!!  (Another Heritage Makers bonus.)  Just {contact me}.  Then you can submit the deck for publishing with Heritage Makers and put these little sets together on your own.  One deck makes 18 sets.

Now isn't all this CREATIVE, CLEVER, AND UNFORGETTABLE?  What amazing Christmas greetings (or gifts) would you like to make?

You can always create on your own following {these steps}, but I'd love to have you join me at my Enjoy December Card Party to make it extra fun.  I hold this event every year online during the first week or two of November so we can get our cards DONE and then enjoy December!  They'll take about 7-10 days to be professionally printed at Heritage Makers then shipped to your door, so I always get them before Thanksgiving.  Which rocks.  (Or you can always choose the direct ship option, if you prefer.  Don't even lick an envelope!)

So join me for my "Enjoy December" Card Party!  It's a public Facebook event, and you'll find lots of card/greetings ideas and video tutorials there.  Trust me--there's some cool stuff posted over there already.  And there's information on how this (free) online party works, too.  You can check it out from now through November 8, then set aside an hour or so of your choosing on November 9 to show up at the Facebook party and make your gorgeous, clever, Heritage Makers-made Christmas cards, letters, or recipe card "add-in" gifts like mine!  Join the event right here:

Once you've joined the event, you'll want to be ready to use Heritage Makers by November 9, so if you don't already have a (free) account,  just follow {the basic steps here}.  There are also some videos at that link so you can familiarize yourself with the Heritage Makers program, Studio, if you want.  It's a drag-and-drop system, much like Canva, and all Heritage Makers products are top-notch.  Let me know if you have questions, too.  My contact information is at the top of this blog in the "about me/contact me" tab.

Join the Facebook party, then share this post with everyone you know who is looking for unique Christmas greetings this year!

I can't wait for the Card Party!  It's my favorite way to ENJOY DECEMBER!

If you want to be invited to the Card Party next year, too, {join my Facebook group}.

NOTE:  I do hire out to make any Heritage Makers project, so if you'd like me to do the creating for you, contact me ASAP.  Details are {here}.  Keep in mind that the last day I will make Christmas projects is Dec. 1.
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Friday, October 12, 2018

What Do You Tell Yourself about Preserving Pictures that Isn't True?

Everyone has pictures!  Unfortunately, not everyone preserves them.  In the “olden days” as I like to call them, we would take a pictures on film and not see them for weeks or months until we printed them when we got the film developed.  We’re in a funny place now where we take pictures and see them immediately but don’t print or preserve them, so we often never see them again.  

What happened?  Why the disconnect?  What is it about digital photos that has made us forget to preserve them?  I find that there are several myths surrounding memory-keeping that are preventing the majority of us from preserving pictures.  What do you tell yourself about preserving pictures that isn’t true?

So What Do You Mean, “Preserving?”

My quick answer to this question is usually, “Preserving a photo means getting it out of digital form into a place where it can be seen and loved, complete with its story (your memories).”  While I stand by that definition, I think it’s important to look a little deeper.  

“Preserving” means “saving.”  So if you’re preserving your pictures, you’re saving them.  Saving them from what?

Now that’s something to think about!  Digital photos come with a whole set of potential problems:  computer crashes, corrupted files, phones dropped in water, etc.  Another problem with digital photos is that they don’t leave us a place to write thoughts or memories or details about the photo.  (Unfortunately, this will eventually make them worthless.  I know that’s a hard pill to swallow!  #truth)

Digital photos also come with an even bigger problem:  overwhelm.  Digital photos are so easy to take that many people just amass them instead of mindfully taking them.  With thousands upon thousands of digital photos, it’s no wonder that preserving them can be daunting.  

If you’re overwhelmed with just the amount of photos you have, help yourself out by reading {When Photo Overload Becomes Photo Overwhelm}.

Why You Should Care

Photos, memories, and family stories have been shown to increase self-esteem, lower rates of depression and anxiety, foster a sense of purpose and belonging, reduce stress, increase present happiness, and contribute to greater resiliency, healing, and coping.  As time goes on, we are in more and more need of the things that memory-keeping provides:  connection, grounding, peace, comfort, and happiness.  We need to take time to process life, and there’s not an easier way to do that than sitting down with your pictures and writing a little something about them.  Reminiscing is powerful for the mind and the heart.

If you’re still not sure why preserving photos even matters, read {The Secret Ingredient to Self-Care and Wellness} as well as {The Importance of Memories toPersonal Growth}.  There is some astounding research and information there!

Start there and then you’ll be ready to tackle the four common memory-keeping myths.  I’ve busted them all for you, in fact!  (Click to read each one.)

How to Actually Do It

We tend to make things complicated with too many pictures and visions of Ultra Creative Scrapbooking.  It doesn’t need to be that hard!  Here are my three favorite suggestions to help you go from suffocating under your photos to enjoying them and letting them be {the best kind of retail therapy there is}!
  1. {Declutter and organize yourphotos} (or use this {video tutorial on organizing digital photos}).  Either way, organize then just choose your favorites to preserve so you’re not overwhelmed.
  2. Set aside time.  Here’s a suggestion for {making it a family tradition} instead of an item on Mom’s to-do list, and {here’s a HUGE collection of ideas for making time for yourself and getting together with others for memory-keeping}.  (I even have an online group you can join–it’s free, and you can find the information at that link.)
  3. Do what you love.  Whether you like printed pictures or digital ones, there’s something for everyone.  This is {the easiest way I know of to preserve pictures that are already printed}.  (I mean, ridiculously fast!)  {I personally am in love with digital scrap pages}–and that link is a video showing how I do it and why I picked the company/method I have.  Digital scrap pages are literally the reason I’m caught up preserving my memories and photos!  No joke.  And for people who are really overwhelmed with the amount of photos they have, digital yearbooks are my go-to, hands down!  This video, {How to Stop Being Overwhelmed by Your Pictures: a yearbook tutorial},  shows you the yearbooks but has an extra bonus of some quick decluttering tips to make your photos manageable.  And one last suggestion–{here’s an extra simple way to preserve your photos in a digital book without any fluff (but higher quality} than run-of-the-mill online “photobooks”).
Whatever you do, #dontletyourbabiesgrowuptobejpegs !  Don’t tell yourself anything about preserving pictures that isn’t true.  Let pictures and memories and life’s stories be the therapeutic benefit they can be for your heart and soul.

Find many more tips for catching up on your photos {here}If you need a memory-keeping buddy, {contact me here}.  I can even collaborate with you, working to make parts or all of your digital books or scrap pages {for you}!

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This post was originally published at on October 12, 2018, by Jennifer Wise.  You can read more #familyhistoryfriday posts about photos, memories, stories, connections, and family by clicking the hashtag below next to Labels.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Thanksgiving Table Ideas to Make Your Holiday Memorable

Will you be the host of Thanksgiving dinner this year, or the guest?  Either way, I have some unique ideas to share with you today to make your Thanksgiving table memorable.  I'll show you the DIY way to have these items at your table as well as the "just let me order one" way, too.  It's nice to have an "easy button," right??

I love this first idea because it is both fun and meaningful.  It's great to have at the table if you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner, but it also makes an impressive gift for the host if you're a guest!  

These Thanksgiving Dinner Conversation Cards are so much fun to use to spark conversation around the table.

There are 54 question cards in the deck, and they come with a plastic case.

I made this deck using a Heritage Makers template, but I adjusted a few things to my taste before submitting for publishing.  I ordered a few of these decks (as shown here) to sell at a craft fair I did last year.  I HAVE ONE LEFT, so if you'd like to skip all the steps and just have them shipped to you, it's $20 + shipping, so just {contact me} and I'll get them on their way to you.  These are SO FUN.  And darling.  

If you prefer, you can personalize the deck with a name, photo, etc.!  In that case, just go to and login or open an account.  {Contact me} for details on making this deck (such as the template ID number for this deck), or you can get more information at my {playing card deck video tutorial}.

Another fun idea for Thanksgiving table decor using Heritage Makers is "napkin rings" and matching place cards.  And, yes, I have "napkin rings" in quotes for a reason--this is clever!

First, let me show you the place cards.  These are made from business cards, so they come in a pack of 50.  They're double-sided, so everyone at the table sees Give Thanks while the person at the seat sees his/her own name.  

I have 1 set of these left from my craft fair, too, although I split them up and sold them in sets of 25.  If you'd like to skip all the steps and just have them shipped to you, it's $4 + shipping, so just {contact me} and I'll get them on their way to you.  Aren't these cute?  And you can do "napkin rings" to match!

The napkin rings aren't rings--they're stickers!  Address labels, to be specific.  Address labels come in a set of 54. Just roll up paper napkins and wrap the sticker around it.  So cute.

Although, if I did it again, I would choose plain colored napkins.  The design is a bit distracting, and you can't even see what it is when it's all rolled up.

See??  It's just address labels.  So clever.  It's one of my favorite things about the Heritage Makers Template Gallery--I get to use other people's creativity!

And, yes, I have one set of these left from my craft fair, too.  Like the place cards, I split them up, so I sell "napkin rings" as one page of 27.  If you'd like to skip all the steps and just have them shipped to you, it's $3 + shipping, so just {contact me} and I'll get them on their way to you.  

If you prefer, you can personalize these labels with a name, photo, etc.!  In that case, just go to and login or open an account.  {Contact me} for details on making this deck (such as the template ID number for these labels).

I love the fun things available through Heritage Makers to make my Thanksgiving table unique, and I love what a special gift I can give to the host as a guest.  Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away, so this is a great time to do one or all of these neat ideas.

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Friday, October 5, 2018

#friyay -- Why You'll Love Heritage Makers

I can't believe this year's #friyay feature is wrapping up!  On the first Friday of each month during 2018, we've heard from Heritage Makers users to find out what they love about it.

This month we hear from Cindy, a gal who found me through an online search.  She had started a Heritage Makers book as a gift for her husband but ended up hiring me to finish it up for her.  It was fun to be able to provide that service for her and see how thrilled she was with the finished product.

We also hear from Dina who has probably made as many Heritage Makers projects as I have (and that's saying a lot).  I loved seeing the book she made about her Grandma after she passed away.  It's a priceless treasure!  She has her beautiful Heritage Makers canvases, prints, and books scattered throughout her home.

Create your own heritage home at the "how to get started" tab along the top (at the right).

Thursday, October 4, 2018

11 Reasons Preserving Your Photos is One of the Most Important Things You Can Do

I recently came across some meaningful words about memory-keeping that I think could be summarized as "11 Reasons Preserving Your Photos is One of the Most Important Things You Can Do."  This statement was shared by Rhonda Anderson, the retired co-founder of Creative Memories, and now the founder of Heritage Makers' sister company, {Our Memories For Life}.  This is the very real experience of Tiffany A. Parker.

Before I share her words of wisdom, I have to say that the question Tiffany answers, "Why do you scrapbook?  Don't you know eventually it will be thrown away?" is something I've never heard before.  I was actually quite stunned (maybe even horrified) to think that anyone would ever consider throwing a scrapbook away.  I'm a really quiet, non-confrontational person, but I'd fist-fight somebody over this!  ;)  Scrapbooks are some of the most precious things you will ever own--for all the reasons Tiffany mentions.

And please be sure when you read her words of wisdom that your definition of "scrapbooking" is broad enough to include all memory-keeping, whether digital, paper/traditional, or simply putting photos and their stories in store-bought albums.  In fact, {here are four excellent options}, each one different from the other, all with the same meaningful end result.

Here are 11 reasons preserving your photos is one of the most important things you can do.

"I've been asked a million times:  'Why do you scrapbook? 
Don't you know eventually it will be thrown away?'
Well, I finally have an answer:
I scrapbook because people break into houses and steal flash drives with your whole 10 year relationship on them.
I scrapbook because computers crash.
I scrapbook because technology fails.
I scrapbook because flash drives can get lost.
I scrapbook because life is precious.
I scrapbook because sometimes you lose an important person and a picture is all you have left to hold.
I scrapbook to remember.
I scrapbook to preserve stories that my brain doesn't think are important, when my heart knows they are.
I scrapbook so I can introduce my future children to someone they may never have gotten to meet, or can't remember, that loved them so deeply.
I scrapbook to help focus on the positive when the depression and PTSD start their lies again.
I scrapbook so that during the worst parts of my life I can look back on the best.
So the next time someone belittles, degrades, or find fault in your "waste-of-money," "silly," or "pointless" hobby, tell them why you scrapbook.
Because these albums are the only pictures that remain of my entire marriage, the only pictures of grandma, the only graduation photo that I have, and the only thing so "worthless" the robbers didn't steal-- that meant everything to me."
-Tiffany A. Parker