do not underestimate the power of a well written letter - Jane Austen

warm jam

After a very difficult day we sat in the kitchen, took our time making our dinners, and talked through big thoughts. As the light faded behind the pine trees I began to notice that H. was stirring a huge bubbling pot of jam.


She grinned, turned away, and came back around with the loveliest glass jar. It fits perfectly in two hands. “It’s the house jam jar! So few of us can eat cookies…so instead we have a jam jar we’ll keep stocked!”


It was one of the moments when I felt how beautiful this place we’re working hard to create can be.

Late that night I padded downstairs, carefully turned each dark corner, and flipped the kitchen light on. I pulled the still-warm jar out of the fridge and put a couple spoon fulls into a little dish I found for just such an occasion.

last glances

In the last three months life has changed drastically. I bought a house, we said goodbye to our tree nest, moved out of the city, and moved into a new (larger) nest with two other artists (and a fifth part-time).


The first month was intense work on the house to fill holes in the walls, get a functional laundry room up and running, and preparing for our two new house mates (so much painting). The second month was filled with learning about our neighbors, setting up house systems, and slowly knitting two households together. This third month has seen the end of the school year for me and really soaking up what we want to do with our yard spaces and digging in the dirt.


The transition has been extremely difficult to keep a handle on. One moment is sheer excitement and energy, the next is a bone-deep homesickness. I’ll be standing in the kitchen trying to figure out why my gut is hollow and aching only to realize that I miss what home used to be, that I can never go back to it, and that I wouldn’t have it change.


Now with a little time and distance (and a loving, creative, restorative home slowly growing in around me), it does my heart good to glance back at my previous home.

* For those of you wondering, I will be posting more about the house, projects in the works, our growing community, and many of our hopes and dreams for this space. Right now we’re still in the settling-in phase and learning what we want it to be. I took and collected photos when we moved in so don’t worry about missing the before/after love. <3

minimal maintenance journal layouts

In these dreary not-yet-spring days, I’ve been enjoying the simplified rhythm of a journal re-vamp I did last October. I’m so excited to share it with you now that I’m comfortable with it and have had time to tweak it here and there.

I love picking and choosing my favorite aspects of a few different disciplines (in this case Bullet Journal, Full Focus Planner, and a smidge of Level Ten Life) and weaving them together to form something new, beautiful, and ever so useful to me.

So here are my layouts!


This spread is the backbone and where I come back to again and again during the month. When I set about this refresh, I knew I wanted to scrap the daily and weekly spreads I used to do. While they were really fun and it felt like I was getting a lot accomplished, it wasn’t long before I was spending more time maintaining the layouts than I was using them. By paring down to just a monthly spread, I have one place with everything I need. Ten minutes of set-up, a whole month of organization.

I’m particularly in love with the limits that having two pages puts on me. My to-do list stays far more focused and I am continually encouraged by being able to see what I have already finished instead of constantly having to deal with and re-write what I have not done yet.

By listing the current month’s focus right front and center, I am also able to keep it in mind and tailor my to-do list accordingly.

*a note on the habits: I have really really loved limiting and then separating my habit trackers. As the month progresses, I can much more easily see how I am doing on each individual habit. That way, rather than having one habit make me feel like I’m failing at all of them because they’re all mixed up, I can instead get excited about how one of the habits has been going really well. It’s also proved really helpful as well because I can look for different “ideal patterns” for each habit. While I want my scripture and chore habits to be full every month, I don’t necessarily want my reach out habit to be full. That would mean that I spent every single day of the month with someone else which quickly leads to burn out. By separating them, these patterns are easy to see and I can adjust focus mid-month.


At the end of each month, before writing the next monthly spread, I write out a quick review of the past month. I note that month’s focus, write in successes and challenges, and then evaluate what I want to keep, start, and stop doing. From there I look back at my yearly goals (that spread is coming next) and think about what’s coming up in order to create a focus for the following month that will go right into the new monthly spread. At the bottom I write down moments to cherish to keep me from getting caught up in the do do do of planning and refocus on gratitude.


While I have used the basic elements of this spread for years, I have loved adding a little whimsy this time around. I use ten categories to separate out realms of life and then write in goals for each. Currently I am using friends and family, career, home, play, health, spirit, mindfulness, community, creativity, and finances. As soon as I start putting in goals, it’s very clear which areas I tend to skip over. As the year goes by, my goal list grows and changes. I also make sure to take extra time and thought to go back to the boxes that are empty or only have one goal in order to consider what I can add or work towards in that area. Again, the limitation of having only having four possible goals a year in each category keeps me focused on the big picture rather than getting lost in the nitty gritty. Nitty gritty is for my monthly to-do list.

The new dash of whimsy comes when I mark a goal as completed. As soon as it’s checked off, I get to draw a single branch onto that categories corresponding pot. As the year goes by, my little shelves of plants grow and expand across the page! It is ridiculously motivating for me.


At the turn of the calendar year, I also write out a reflection for the past year. To create it, I went out and looked at all of the end-of-year journal layouts I could find and snagged my favorite reflection questions. Each one became a box for me to fill with my response. I’m excited to see how it changes over time, though I really do love the questions I ended up with this year. My favorite are three words for the year, when i lost track of time, and money well spent. I also slipped in a timeline of events. I love seeing such a zoomed back view of how the year was woven together. The very bottom two boxes are grateful for and next year, which help launch me into writing my January focus!


Sometimes I want to focus in on a new habit or strengthen an old one. For this I use a habit layout heavily influenced by The Full Focus Planner. It provides structure and encouragement by forcing me to be explicit about my motivations and then constantly reminding me of them as I check in every day. It also shows an end point to the highly-focused season of developing a habit. Three months often feels like a long time to do anything every day and I always like being able to see that it will end. I also love that I have to be explicit about how I will reward myself when I accomplish the streak.

*a note on not completing a streak: I am usually intrinsically motivated by the journal itself to complete a streak because I don’t want to have to set the page up again (haha) but when I do fail (and I have…often) I’ve made it my practice to speak kindly to myself on the page before moving on. I beat myself up a lot when I fail at I’ve set out to do. I work at remembering to speak to myself as I would one of my elementary students. “Uh oh, try again” is my current go-to.


Very similar to my habits layout is the one I use for goals I am particularly focused on. The top box includes what I want to accomplish and, very importantly, when I want to accomplish it by. Then, just like the habits page, I have to write down why I want to do this thing which, again, I have to see every time I work towards reaching the goal. Goals often have several steps to keep track of so I leave a generous box to note them. It helps a great deal with forward momentum as you start. Then, again as before, the reward sits at the bottom, just waiting for you.

*a note on rewards: make sure it’s something you really do want…something a little bit extravagant that you wouldn’t usually do or get. Also, tie it into the goal. The one below is not very well written for me. Thankfully, the goal itself is VERY motivating so it isn’t a matter of not accomplishing it. Rather, the reward isn’t as powerful because it isn’t tied into the goal. A better reward could be “buy a ship’s bell for the front door.”


As needed, I include various types of lists. The ones below are a Christmas gift tracker, notes on a book I read, my want vs. need list (so so helpful to keep perspective before purchasing something), and a page to consolidate all of the random mini-lists I might want to make. These are the only pages that I put into my table of contents. Because everything else is date-marked, these are the only layouts that can get lost in the shuffle.


I use this particular layout for a great number of things from lecture notes to personal reflection. The simplicity of the flag at the top followed by whatever happens to be on my mind is flexible enough to adapt to anything and simple enough to be incorporated on-the-go.

A couple other things I’ve changed in my journal practice is a limited color pallet (four colors focusing on only two of them) and using markers instead of paint. While I still adore the look of watercolor details and the depth of categorizing one can reach when you have ten colors to work with, the paint and water and focus it takes to do that is no longer where I want to spend my energy. I still chose colors I think are gorgeous (a must) and every time I work on it I enjoy not having to make any decisions.

So there you have it! A journal chock full of structure and yet pared down so that it needs next to no maintenance leaving me the time to focus on reflection and action instead.

Do you use a journal? What have you been loving about the process lately?

thirty before thirty

Upon the writing of this list, I was six months and a quarter of a century old. With so much life happening all at once and rushing by, I took a moment to pause and challenge myself to continued growth and write a thirty before thirty list…thirty things to complete before my thirtieth birthday.

thirty before thirty | seekthewelfare

Some of these goals will take a great deal of time and effort such as saving for and buying a house. Some of them are more or less out of my control such as being taken on a date (no judgement please). Some of them I've been putting off for years like reading all of the books I own. Some of them totally freak me out (any kind of performance in front of anyone ever). But each one is possible and that is extremely exciting.

thirty before thirty

begun: june 2017
last updated: october 2018
goal date: december 2021



live in a house -- preferably my own

create a vegetable and flower garden -- i've got all of my tools, now i just need the dirt.

care for a flock of chickens

procure beautiful dinner dishes and napkins. In March 2018 I took my first ceramics class and am now using the plates I threw.



start my own business. in 2016 I opened The Sick Box, a little shop filled with handmade and carefully curated goods to nurture and encourage self-care.

earn a teaching certificate

lead-teach for at least one full year

get paid to organize someone's home. the summer of 2017 saw me designing and creating a room for a dear friend. picking the design, cleaning and organizing, and creating a quiet crafting haven for knitting, weaving, tea, and conversations. 2018 saw me working with a client working towards a clean slate after years of grief.

✓ work with a photography client.



travel solo outside of the United States -- the more I think about this one the less I like the idea...but challenge is important so the goal stays.

wild camp — july 2018 included a dispersed camping experience by the Grand Canyon…so i’m getting closer.

drive from one coast of the United States to the other

live in a  foreign country for a month or more. lived in Paris for a month in 2017 with a week in London thrown in the middle for good measure.

skinny dip

take a multi-day cross-country train trip. in june 2017 i took my grandmother on an amtrak train from Seattle, WA to Saint Paul, MN for her birthday. it was magical.

bike from one major city to another -- anyone want to go from Seattle to Portland with me?

return to Scotland -- Tentatively scheduled for 2019 or 2020.

swim in warm ocean water -- Hawaii perhaps? Or Florida? Spain could work too...

go on an overnight boat voyage. june 2017 saw me boating the puget sound from case inlet to everett. summer 2018 included explorations of the boundary islands north of the San Juans.



go 30 days with a quart trash jar without filling it up -- because I haven't yet gotten this strict with myself though I have significantly reduced my trash

have my portrait taken or painted.

read every book I own -- still making progress on this one. I would be closer if I didn’t keep on finding amazing books to add to my collection. a pretty good problem to have, I say.



✓ throw pottery. i'm now using the plates and dishes I made every day (!) and will make more as soon as I have the time to return to the studio.

✓confidently play and sing at least three tunes on the ukulele with someone to witness them. fall 2018 launched me into a new position as a preschool teacher where I now play and sing to my students daily.

accomplish a difficult yoga pose -- preferably with a balancing element

✓ try oil painting. in summer 2017 I took a five week course for beginning oil painters. i dearly loved it but haven’t been able to continue because of space constraints. In 350 square feet, I would have to choose between painting and my roommate. I choose my roommate.

BONUS: display my art in a cafe. in may 2018 I hung eleven watercolors up on the walls of nuflours bakery on capitol hill and left them there, each labeled and priced and frighteningly public. (july 2018: a few of them have sold!)



write the life story of at least one relative

✓ be taken out on an official date. 2018.

buy work from a local artist — i’m keeping my eye on Seattle Art Source.

fix someone else's flat tire

✓ BONUS: design and paint a large mural. in september 2018 I put the last strokes of paint on a five-part mural I designed and then got to paint with three other amazing artists. it transformed my school’s preschool playground from a mossy, drab, and depressing concrete backlot into an educational and engaging playscape.

Do you have a goal list going? What's your favorite one? Comment below or share with us on the facebook page.