R aise your hand if you’re a millennial and own a camcorder. Yep, that’s what I thought. Zero hands raised. If we get technical about it, almost all of us have a video recorder that we keep in our pockets at all times – the magic of smart phones, right? But gone are the days when you see people whipping out bulky video cameras and filming birthday parties or dance recitals or special picnics in the park.

A couple years ago, I started to realize this was a problem for my little documentarian heart. Some of my favorite moments of adulthood have been looking back on home videos from when my siblings and I were little.

My parents were great about lugging out the big camcorder for various holidays, special events, and just everyday life (those moments of slipping on shoes and toasting bread as Hafiz says). My mom and dad captured a lot of great moments and looking back at that footage is a treat. If there was extensive video footage of my parents when they were my age I would be crowing from the rooftops about it. There’s not, unfortunately, but it would be SO FUN to watch if it existed.

But therein lies the rub: I don’t own a camcorder that I use to capture special moments and, although I have the capability of recording video on my phone, that takes up a lot of space. Plus, I’m simply not in the habit of taking long chunks of video for various events. On top of all this, I DO think there is a fair amount of video footage my parents took that was just plain boring. You have to sift through a lot to get to the gold. I’m not complaining, I just think there’s a way of getting wonderful snippets without recording 10 minutes at a time. One solution to this has been the One Second Everyday app that I wrote about awhile back. I still love that but I wanted more.

Enter: Snapchat and Instagram Stories. I’ve come to realize that these two mediums are my generation’s version of home videos. We DO capture moments on film but just in a different way than our forefathers did.

Here’s the thing, though: if those small snippets aren’t consistently saved to the film roll on your phone, they disappear into the ether. And even if you do tend to save some of the snaps or IG stories to your phone, there’s a high chance they’re just left there or eventually saved onto a computer without a great way to sit down and watch them like you would with a home video from the 80s. (All the best home videos were filmed in the 80s, right?)

So here’s what I started doing over a year ago. I began to save literally EVERY SINGLE Snapchat or IG story that I filmed. Some people may shake their heads at that. “Isn’t the whole point of these apps that you’re just sharing throw-away little moments that aren’t that significant? They’re cool for 24 hours but then you move on to the next thing?” Not in my book.

I love the fact that my quick, 10 second videos of everyday life are just that: fun peeks into exactly what life is like right now. A glance at the insane moving process we take every 6 months or so. A peep of Bobby and I snuggled on the couch with a cocktail. A look into Graham’s total adoration of squirrel chasing (the other day in the park he whipped past the basketball court in pursuit of a squirrel and a kid said to his friend, “Dang, that dog is dedicated.”). I love that I’m able to capture these everyday shots of our lives right now and I want to preserve them for the future.

Here’s the process I’ve developed:

1) Save the video to my camera roll. For Snapchat I push on the little download, arrow button. For Instagram Stories, I changed the setting to automatically save each story to my phone.

2) Periodically, transfer these 10 second videos into the iMovie app on my iPhone. (If you have an Android, there are plenty of alternatives to iMovie if you just do a quick Google search.)

3) Mash them all together so that I have a 30-60 minute video of all these little snaps.

4) Upload to my computer and to Youtube for future viewing.

Maybe this isn’t’ revolutionary. Maybe everyone is basically doing this and I’m not some life-documenting genius. But if you haven’t been saving your snaps then I know you’re probably blown away by this idea and are sending applause my way. You’re welcome. You’re welcome.

I think I might take more snaps than the average person, so my videos tend to be hilariously long once they’re all inserted into iMovie. Like, I mashed together everything from January through September of 2016 and it was just shy of one hour and twenty minutes long. Then I created another one for October through December and that one was 50 minutes long.

Sure, there are some embarrassing/ridiculous snaps in there (which makes sense, seeing as the whole premise of these apps is that things don’t have to be polished because they disappear quickly…unless you’re saving them like me, ha). There are more than a few where I’m talking directly to the camera and I’m sure it will look like I was really vain and full of myself and trying too hard to be funny…but I don’t care. I’m not planning to shove these long montages in front of new acquintances who come over for dinner (although how hilarious would that be??) – they’re just for us and any future kids. (When I upload the videos to Youtube I set them as private so I’m the only one with access to them – they really are there for posterity’s sake and nothing else.)

Basically it comes down to this: HOW COOL WILL IT BE to sit down when we’re 80 and remember what 2016 was like for us? SO cool, that’s how cool.

If you’d like to thrill the pants of your future 80 year-old self, too, here are a few tips I’ve learned through trial and error…

  • Don’t worry about the time frame from all your snaps – ideally, it would be so nice and tidy to have a single large video for each year. However, I quickly realized that it made more sense to just wait for a large quantity of snaps, put them into iMovie, and then erase them from my phone. As I mentioned above, my first video chronicles January-September and my second video was October-December. They’re not like bookends but it really doesn’t matter in the end.
  • iMovie allows you to create a title page which is where you can denote the timespan that the snippets cover. Simply scroll to the beginning of the video snippets and click the + sign to add a photo. Then layer text on top of it. I’ve been titling them “Snippets of Life. G + B + G, (appropriate dates here).”
  • I prefer to wait until I have a large amount of snaps and IG stories saved before I import them into iMovie instead of importing them in small batches. Why? Because the very first time you go to create a video in iMovie, it allows you to easily click on all the videos or photos from your camera roll that you want mashed together. It’s a relatively painless process. However, once you’ve created your “main” movie, it gets more tedious to add additional clips. It’s still possible, but it takes more clicks. Here’s what I mean, via photo examples. Let’s say I wanted to add more clips after doing my big import. My screen looks like this:

I click the plus sign on the left to add in a new video and then click on the “Video” category. From there I can click on “All” whereupon I see all of my videos lined up like this:

Once I select the clip I want to add to the movie, it will highlight in yellow.

From there, I click the little plus sign and it will add it to the end of my movie. But in order to add additional clips, I need to repeat that process for EVERY SINGLE CLIP. It’s a huge pain. It takes so much time. So just trust me that you’ll be a happier camper if you import the vast majority of your clips in one swoop when you initially create the video in iMovie.

    • In order for your video to be chronological, you’ll want to scroll to the beginning of your camera roll and start clicking on the videos in order from earliest to most recent. iMovie will take you to the most recent clips on your phone first, but if you highlight those clips first, they will be the first ones to populate in your final iMovie compilation. So unless you want a Benjamin Button vibe going on, you’ll need to override that.
    • If you’re like me, you probably film the majority of your snaps and IG stories vertically. When you put them into the iMovie app, it will automatically crop them into a square – this may cut off some important parts of the video (and often crops off any text if you’ve added that into the snap). The first time I created a long video, I failed to catch this and all of my snippets were cropped to the square size – I had already deleted all the videos from my phone and hadn’t saved them individually to my computer so I was unable to fix the error. (Sad violin plays.)  WHOOPS. I still have the most important part of course, which is the basic video. With that said, it’s rather annoying to watch and I’ve since figured out how to prevent that automatic cropping from becoming an issue in future compilations. In a nutshell, you have to click on the individual video segment and then hit the tiny magnifying glass near the upper lefthand corner of your screen. It will then say “pinch to zoom video.” From there, you can squeeze the image with your fingers to make it smaller so that the whole frame is in the screen. Basically, it will go from looking like this…

…to this:

Scroll through each video clip and repeat this process, making sure that all your vertical videos are fitting in the frame.

  • I think it’s nice to have the finished videos saved in a couple different places. As I mentioned before, I save them both to iPhoto on my computer and to YouTube. If you have the YouTube app on your phone, it shows up as an option when you click the “upload” button on the final video. From there, decide on your privacy settings and add in a description. Then you’re in business. So slick. If this takes too long or if your video seems too lengthy to put on YouTube via your phone, just click on the download symbol within iMovie and then click “Save Video.” From there it will export into your camera roll. You can then get it onto your computer and, from your computer, put it onto YouTube. (Forgive me if this all seems so basic – I just wanna make sure our slightly tech-scared friends can figure out how to make this magic happen without pulling their hair out.)

So there you have it! In case you’d like to see an example of how this all comes together, I compiled a week-long sample of my snaps and IG stories from this past week (I mean, I could show you the two hour-long compilation from last year but let’s be real, ain’t nobody got time for that). ;)

This whole process is much easier and more painless than this lengthy post may make it appear, I promise. I just wanted to be super thorough so your learning curve isn’t as big as mine was when I was muddling my way through this the first time.

Let me know if you try this and if you have any questions that I didn’t address!

W ell, I feel like I’ve been through a war, but Bobby and I have officially made it through another move. We packed up absolutely everything from the cute little cottage we were renting in Connecticut and made our way down South. We towed the Prius behind our Land Rover and both cars were STUFFED to the brim with, well, stuff. Thankfully, Bobby is a road warrior and handled the driving like a champ. This marks our 6th move since we left New Orleans 3 years ago. (For those of you who are new here and thinking, “What in the world?!? Are you running from the law?” I have three words of explanation for you: the golf industry. Until Bobby gets a head pro job at a course, we’ll be chasing the sun to wherever people are having a golf season. There are honestly a lot of great things about this set up so you needn’t feel totally sorry for us, though the moving part is never ever fun. Never.)

Thankfully, memory is a funny thing and I usually forget how painfully arduous the moving process is until we’re back in the thick of things. Once my wits return and I remember what a massive task/pain in the butt it is, my brain is like, “WHY ARE WE DOING THIS AGAIN?!?!?!?!? ARE YOU ABSOLUTELY INSANE?!?!?!” But we always push through, somehow. Bobby and I are both sick with colds and coughs, our bodies are sore from hauling box after box, and we want to be useless blobs for at least the next couple weeks…but we’re spending time with our families for the next stretch and feel like we’re getting handsomely rewarded for a job well done.

Given this whole moving saga, hopefully it’s understandable as to why this November blog post was neglected. I’m going to make it up to you, though. Are you ready for a DIY project to make your romantic heart go pitter patter? Just take a look at these plates I made. BOOM.

You can make them, too! I think these could make the coolest wedding gift. I already know they make a good Valentine’s gift and anniversary gift because I’ve used them as both. (I initially made my first set of poetry plates as a Valentine’s gift for Bobby. I gifted him a picnic backpack that had square, white plates. They were plastic and I took four of my favorite love poems and wrote each on a plate with permanent marker. It was an awesome idea…until I realized that plates need to be washed after you use them unless you want to venture into new realms of the disgusting and sordid. Even with the gentlest of scrubbing, the permanent marker started to smudge and erase. Whump whaaaa. I had spent SO MUCH TIME on those plates. I didn’t have the heart to re-do them for quite some time but I knew that I would tackle the project at some point. It only took me about 3 years but I finally undertook the task – and I’m really happy with how they turned out. Now, I shall bequeath my hard-won knowledge upon you.)

First, I found some salad plates that were porcelain, not plastic. Important first step. These plates from World Market did the trick. Make sure your plates are microwave safe because you’ll be putting them in the oven in order to make the paint pen set permanently.

Next, you’ll need a porcelain paint pen that is a BIG step above the staying-power of permanent marker. I discovered Pebeo Porcelaine 150 Fine Tip Markers that work like a charm. These also come in colors other than black if you want to get wild and crazy. (Oooo, this could be such a fun party activity for kids! They could each decorate their own plate and then take it home…) These markers are pretty amazing. They glide on the plate quite nicely and the color is a satisfying black. There were points during the process where the ink had some grit-type particles, which wasn’t ideal. However, I did have the paint pens sitting around for awhile before I used them so perhaps the blame can’t be placed on the product? Basically, maybe you shouldn’t expect absolute perfection with these pens – but they’re still pretty darn great.

I came up with my layouts for each poem and went for it! The paint dried after a few minutes but each plate needed to air-dry for 24 hours before going into a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes.

After the plates cooled down, the ink was set and I was good to go.

I wrapped them up and gifted them to Bobby for our 4th anniversary this summer. The porcelain is certainly heavier in our little picnic backpack but infinitely better when we clean up after a picnic.

These pens also work on mugs – I’ve made some great birthday gifts in that arena!

I still try to be gentle when I wash them. The official instructions on the paint pens say that once they’ve dried and have been heat-set that they’re dishwasher safe…but after you put such love and care into creating a piece (or several pieces), it’s hard to thrust them in a dishwasher and hope for the best. So I gently wash with soap and water by hand – but you could be daring and go the dishwasher route if you’re feeling feisty.

Now go forth and make some plates (or mugs or bowls or huge platters) that will be cherished for years to come!

B ack in August when my family came to visit us in Connecticut, my mom brought a book along titled: Read for Your Life: 11 Ways to Better Yourself Through Books by Pat Williams. When we ventured into New York, I decided to take it along for a subway ride. I quickly ended up reading the book in a few days and was so captured by the author’s main challenge to readers: commit to reading one hour a day for the rest of your life. Right then and there, I decided to take him up on that challenge. I was a reader when I was little and it seemed high time to get back to it. When I was younger, I devoured books. I spent my allowance on buying the entire collection of Roald Dahl stories one by one. I was a READER.

I kept reading through high school, albeit at a slower pace since I was so focused on being basically as perfect as I could be in all realms of academics and extracurriculars. (Yeah, high school was pretty intense for me.) College brought about lots of reading for classes but very little reading for the sake of reading – I feel like many people fall into that bucket, yeah? Then I moved to New Orleans and started teaching 1st graders. Most of my reading consisted of books that were AWESOME for 6 year-olds but not many that were satisfying to my 20-something brain. Trying to be a good, effective teacher took up a ton of time and effort on its own and I simply didn’t choose to carve out much time for outside reading during my down time.

After Bobby and I moved away from New Orleans though, I suddenly had more time to read. But did I? No! TV shows are just way too intoxicating! I mean, to reference Roald Dahl, we’re no family of Wormwoods (Matilda, anyone?!?)…but we certainly have a long list of shows that we’ve watched and loved. Netflix or books? I think it’s a trade-off that more than a handful of millennials are making.

It’s not as if I haven’t read a book for pleasure in 10 years. I wasn’t burning books in the fireplace. (All you book burners out there – shameful!) Still, I was far more apt to save reading for a vacation instead of incorporating it into an average day. During the times when I could have picked up a book, I gravitated toward SO MANY other tasks and distractions: Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, blogs, podcasts, talking with friends on the phone, YouTube. It reminds me of a quote from Aziz Ansari which I heard during a Freakonomics podcast. (Podcasts! Here we go again!): “I spend so much time on the internet…I feel like I’m a million pages into the worst book ever, and I’m never going to stop reading.” If that’s not straight up TRUTH I don’t know what is.

Whenever I did read, though, I would be SO INTO IT. I mean, deep down I’m a reader through and through. It’s crazy how easy it is to lose parts of yourself like that to shiny distractions. So as I sat on the subways of New York and poured over Read for Your Life, I just got more and more convinced that I needed to get this habit back in my life. There are a million compelling reasons and statistics the author sites for why a hungry reading appetite will serve you well; by the time he issued his challenge for people to dive into a book for 1 hour everyday I was like, “YES, Pat Williams, yes. I am totally going to do that. From here on out, I am never again abandoning reading.”

So that’s what I’ve been attempting for the past couple months.

Full disclosure: have I actually been 100% successful with this new goal of mine? No. (I mean, have you SEEN the show Billions?!?!?!?!?!? It sucked Bobby and me in like the world’s most effective vacuum cleaner.) But have I read infinitely more since establishing said goal? Completely. Just having the bar set there has me reading infinitely more than I was before.

Reading for an hour a day lets me CRUISE through books. My mind has been swimming in so many ideas over the past few months because I feel like I’m inhaling non-fiction, self-improvement type books. Time management, money, vulnerability, morning routines – it’s all up for grabs. I tend to read those types of books in the morning for 20 or 30 minutes. Then at night before bed I try to read either a lighter non-fiction like a memoir or a fiction book.

Right now I’m re-reading the Harry Potter series so that I can actually read the seventh book and Rowling’s new stage play. (Gasp, I know, how did I read the first six books of the series and then stop right before the very end? Sheer madness. This summer my sister was talking about Harry Potter with my little brother and I was like, “DON’T SAY ANY SPOILERS, I CAN’T KNOW WHAT HAPPENS IN THE LAST BOOK!” And Leah was like, “Uhh, the seventh book came out nine years ago…how have you gone this long without any spoilers? Maybe it’s time you read it?” Okay, sister, okay. You’ve got me there.) Last night I spent some time with HP and his crew and then dreamed about meeting a friend’s baby for the first time and was thrilled to cuddle her little baby octopus boy. Books will do trippy things to your brain, man.

When I set this goal for myself, I wanted to establish some way of documenting each book I finished. My mom has been trying to get my 11 year-old brother to write book reports each time he finishes a book. He tends to resist this wildly – but he’ll appreciate them someday! I thought I should do some type of book reports as well. Having an artistic element to go along with the goal seemed to fit with my M.O. so I’ve settled upon an artistic book journal – what could be more literary and fitting than that?

I had stumbled upon this cute little vintage book while thrifting and was just waiting for the perfect project for it – and now I’ve found it with my book reports! The llama on the cover has my heart.

Now, each time I finish a book, I dedicate a page in my journal to it. There’s something about layering text on top of text that I love. My book reports might not always be the easiest to decipher but I’m okay with that. I include the title, author, date I finished reading, and either a summary, my thoughts, a quote I really loved…anything to try and capture the spirit of the book.

Here’s my report for the book that started it all…

And some others I’ve read since August:

Some of these turn out more beautifully than others but I’m just trying to be loose and free with them. Completion over perfection.

Sometimes I basically riff off the book cover, like I did for this gem of a book:

(Glennon is one of my absolute HEROES. So much courage and truth shines from that woman. You must read both her books if you haven’t yet.)

So there you have it! My new life habit. If you’ve fallen out of the habit of reading – or were never much of a reader to begin with – it’s never too late. Start today, even if it’s just setting aside the phone for 20 minutes and trading it for real pages that you can run your fingers and eyes over. (Or read on a Kindle – I won’t judge. Just start!)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do. :)