SYW132 – My Way with Lesley Vander Waal

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She came for the fun supplies, but stayed for the stories. Lesley Vander Waal stays connected to her crafting through a passion for documenting the big and little stories of life. In this episode you’ll get to know our September featured artist! We translated her heart-focused approach to our newest collection of sketches and templates.

Links Mentioned

Lesley Vander Waal 0:00

That evolution from moving from kind of a glorified photo album like a very pretty page to including more of our stories and feeling like I'm developing kind of like this family history or a library of our family stories is really how it's changed.

Jennifer Wilson 0:16

Welcome to Scrapbook Your Way, the show that explores the breadth of ways to be a memory keeper today. I'm your host, Jennifer Wilson, owner of Simple Scrapper and author of The New Rules of Scrapbooking. This is Episode 132. In this episode, I'm interviewing Lesley Vander Waal for the My Way series. My Way is all about celebrating the unique ways Memory Keepers get things done. We're excited to have Lesley as the September featured artist at Simple Scrapper.

Jennifer Wilson 0:47

Hey Lesley, welcome to the podcast.

Lesley Vander Waal 0:49

Thank you so much, Jennifer, this is fun. Thanks for having me.

Jennifer Wilson 0:53

Yes, I am looking forward to our conversation. But can you kick things off and share a little more about you?

Lesley Vander Waal 0:59

Sure. My name is Lesley Vander Waal. My husband Brad and I are living in mid Michigan kind of right in the middle of the mitten. We're not native Michiganders, but we have been here, nine years, which is the longest we have been anywhere since we've been married. So that feels pretty great. We have three children, Drew, Reed, and Ruby. And I have been a stay at home mom since our oldest was born. And he is 14 and a half now. So I've been raising them and volunteering as much as I can at their schools and at our church. A couple of years ago, my daughter, Ruby, she went off to kindergarten. So with all of my kids in school full time, I was trying to figure out what was next for me. And while I said that I would never ever, ever do daycare, that's what I ended up doing. I got my license to do daycare out of my home. And so I do primarily do care for students or for kids at the elementary school that my daughter goes to before and after school care. So it's just a part time gig and it's working for now. So that's what I'm doing.

Jennifer Wilson 2:15

Oh, super fun.

Lesley Vander Waal 2:16

Yeah. In those kind of off times trying to try to just figure it out. Like what's next for me. And that was a good first step anyway.

Jennifer Wilson 2:25

Oh for sure. And I think the older we get, the more we realize we're always going to kind of be in that like, okay, okay, here we are now, what's next?

Lesley Vander Waal 2:34


Jennifer Wilson 2:35

And you know, when you're, when you're young, you feel like, Okay, this is, this is the plan, and this is what life is gonna be like, and we soon recognize that it's not always perfect, there's changes, there's bumps in the road. And we're always kind of constantly evaluating. Okay, now, what's what's important right now, and I think COVID shined a light a lot for us on what's really important, what our values are, and maybe shifted for people what we want to do next.

Lesley Vander Waal 3:02

For sure, absolutely. And I feel so lucky. I know how lucky I am to have been able to be home for this long. And some of that just comes with some some of that, honestly, was because I never really felt like I knew what I wanted to do career wise.

Jennifer Wilson 3:19


Lesley Vander Waal 3:19

I am 41 and I still kind of feel that way. But that's okay, you know, we're having fun and and like you said, we're just kind of making decisions as we go. So...

Jennifer Wilson 3:30

100% All right, so what's exciting you now inside of scrapbooking?

Lesley Vander Waal 3:35

This was a fun question to think about. And at the risk of kind of sounding sappy, or a little lovey dovey or mushy about it, I really am loving the community that surrounds this hobby. I have been a scrapbooker for years, I've been in the hobby for years, and I'm a member of a few Facebook groups, you know, for particular brands or, or different leaders, kind of throughout the industry. I have followed some favorites on Instagram, you know, but not really kind of more of a sideline lurker. And I don't know if it was because of COVID because of kind of the isolation or because of what exactly it was about it. But I, I got brave. And I started my crafty Instagram profile just at the beginning of this year at the beginning of 2021. Really because I was looking for connecting and connection with people who are like minded in this memory keeping hobby. And I tell you what, it did not take long to feel welcomed and supported and encouraged, and almost immediately started cultivating some friendships like these weird internet online friendships. Like oh, she's my friend, his takes on a whole kind of sort of different mean meaning with social media but and even something like This Jennifer, like you reaching out to me and kind of like, pulling me out of this abyss, like I'm just a mom hanging out in my basement playing with paper, like, you know, like, like, there's such a celebratory, and like, I don't feel like there's a competition. I don't feel like there's this scarcity mentality. There really is enough for everyone. And I hope that's what people get from me too, you know, as I communicate and reciprocate online, but I know that Tazhiana Gordon, she always says that this community is magical.

Jennifer Wilson 5:33

Oh it is, yes, yes.

Lesley Vander Waal 5:35

I think that that's true. And I think that maybe sounds silly to people outside of the crafting community. But I just have found it to be this really remarkable sort of place where people are women, I know that there are men, some lovely men, too in this community, but primarily women who are just really celebrating and lifting each other up. And it just has been really, really awesome. And I'm so so grateful for it.

Jennifer Wilson 6:01

Well and I love how it seems like it was one small decision that maybe it felt like a big decision to put yourself out there with a crafty Instagram account. And say, I'm going to deliberately and intentionally share my my ideas, my pages, my projects, my stories, and you know, my advice from my experiences. And how that resonates with people and can help not only fulfill something that you need, but fulfill something that they need as well.

Lesley Vander Waal 6:30

Yeah, that's totally true. And when I really sit and think about it, I think it's because you know, we're not just sharing our creativeness or how we can, you know, bring stuff together on a page, we're sharing our stories. And a lot of those stories are hard and vulnerable. And, you know, sharing your life with people, like that's a big deal. And we just kind of all jumped in headfirst to do it. And it really makes that connection meaningful.

Jennifer Wilson 6:56

I think that's part of the that special magic, though, is because it's not just a craft or a hobby, and I don't want to diminish, like quilting or woodworking or sewing or whatever you do. But because this is so personal. I think that's part of why it's something that people tend not to maybe put down for a year, a decade at a time. And though they do, it's really something we feel so deeply ingrained into our lifestyle because we're telling the stories we're living.

Lesley Vander Waal 7:28

Absolutely, for sure.

Jennifer Wilson 7:30

So speaking of stories, we love to talk about what are the stories on your memory keeping Bucket List. So these tend to be maybe a little bit bigger, maybe a little bit deeper. They're not always super serious, but they feel important to get told. So what would one story on your memory keeping Bucket List be?

Lesley Vander Waal 7:48

So the one that came to mind right away kind of not a specific story but some memories for me. My, I have two brothers. And we have been I guess we've been feeling nostalgic lately and we have been reminiscing the last few times we've been together about our grandparents. These are our mother's parents and they have been gone for a while but we have just a lot of memories around them and their house especially and kind of our traditions and the things that we would do with them. And my brother shared one memory and it's just the quirkiest little thing about my grandparents house. So they lived in a really old kind of a larger home but it was really old years ago. So it's it's old. And their basement. It was more like it was more cellar like you know it had a low ceiling. It. It was dark, it was kind of moist, kind of wet down there and cold. And it was primarily just used for food storage. Like there were freezers and refrigerators and my grandmother canned from her garden. So lots of canning shelves. And he was he was talking about that basement and about how when you when you walked down these stairs that kind of curved you open the door and you had to duck because of the low ceiling. But right on the threshold on the ground was this piece of plywood like a thin piece of wood right at the on the ground right as you entered through the door. And the reason it was there was because there was always the small puddle of water. And so in order to not step in the water, that board was there to step on. And he and he brought this memory up and it's just the silliest quirkiest little detail but in that moment I felt like I was completely transported back to that little stairwell standing there opening the door ducking my head I could smell like that musty smell. I could see my grandmother like opening the freezer and reaching down into the like, it sparked like this moment for me and and it just reminded me so much of these tiny little details. Yeah, we have like these big grand memories of gathering at the holiday is in the food that we ate and the traditions that we have. But this little tiny detail, I was like, oh, what else have I forgotten what else? What else is there, especially about their house. And so what I would love to do, and I haven't done it yet, but get like a group chat or a group email going with my brothers and my cousins. There are 10 of us, 10 grandchildren, and just start reminiscing and eventually put all those memories into some kind of digital memory books so that we could make multiple copies, you know, and share them. And, you know, using photographs and just words, just something really simple, really basic and easy. Just to kind of capture kind of our group memories about our grandparents in their house and our time with them. They really are some of the the moments like the best moments of my childhood. And I've never really, I've told little stories here and there, but I've never really had like a full, comprehensive kind of book about it. And I would really love to make that happen.

Jennifer Wilson 10:57

Oh, that sounds amazing. And I love the idea that you've kind of tweaked the format to make it more accessible and reproducible to share it with others. I think we, we have that conversation a lot. Whether you have multiple children or multiple siblings, or cousins, or whoever's involved in your family that you want to share these stories with, that's going to influence the types of formats we choose. And fortunately, today we have all the options at our disposal. So it's just picking the one that really works best for the project.

Lesley Vander Waal 11:26

Right? Exactly. Yep.

Jennifer Wilson 11:29

All right, let's dig in more to your story and scrapbooking. So this is a My Way episode where we peel back the curtain on your hobby. Because you're our September featured artist at Simple Scrapper.

Lesley Vander Waal 11:41

That's exciting. Thank you.

Jennifer Wilson 11:42

Yeah, we are so thrilled to have you. So can you talk a little bit more about how you got started and why you became a scrapbooker?

Lesley Vander Waal 11:53

This was a tough question for me. Because I can't really remember. I know that when I was young. You know, I had, I had the sticker collection. And I loved stationery and cards, like Hallmark was my favorite store to spend my money in. I at some point got a camera and I'm, I'm thinking it was Middle School ish. You know, like 11, 12, 13, somewhere in there. Got a camera, I'd love to taking the photos, I loved having them developed and you know, the excitement of going and picking them up and seeing what came out and making the albums. I always wanted my photographs in a photo album. So it seems kind of logical for me that the paper crafting and the scrapbooking seems like a natural sort of progression for those sorts of interests that I had when I was young. But I really, I cannot remember for the life of me how it came about. I had a friend in college. So this would have been right about 20 years ago, who gave me a scrapbook an empty blank scrapbook for my birthday, probably my junior or senior year in college. And I don't know if she and I had had a conversation about scrapbooking, like this would be something I would like to do. I'd like to try it. I don't think that she was a scrapbooker, not to my memory. Maybe if she was just intuitive enough to know that this would be something that I would like but she gave me this scrapbook. So I have this, is a spiral bound 12 by 12 album, it had just cardstock like white cardstock pages. And I used it and put my first scrapbook together. I created a memory book of the summer prior where I was a camp counselor. And the supplies that I had were that book. And I had it was not cardstock but it was just like copy paper weight colored paper like the colors of the rainbow color paper. I had all of those scissors that cut those fancy edges like the pinking shears, the wavy shears, I probably had, I don't know 10 or 12 pairs of those.

Jennifer Wilson 14:06

I think I only just decluttered those last year.

Lesley Vander Waal 14:08

I still have them. I still have that my daughter uses them. So I'm hanging on to them for now. But I still have them. I don't, I don't use them anymore, but we still have them and a glue stick. I don't even know that I had any stickers to put in it. But I hacked those pictures up with those terrible scissors and I cut like geometric shapes are something out of that colored paper for I don't know to make my own embellishments or to add color to the page, I guess and it is just the ugliest, worst, hideous, like book of joy. I think that I have ever made.

Jennifer Wilson 14:48

It sounds practically identical to my first scrapbook. Yeah.

Lesley Vander Waal 14:53

Yeah, I was like classic scrapbooking, I guess in the early 2000s. But that was kind of the starting point. I was in to it, I loved working with my hands at some point shortly after that, I know that I started subscribing to the Creating Keepsakes magazine. So I was definitely, I was definitely interested in the craft. I had started, my husband and I got married right after I graduated from college, and I had started an album for us, kind of, you know, walking through our relationship and things and had gotten up to our wedding day in the book and lost a little bit of steam for it. I think I was just in the face of wanting to learn, you know, I was still getting that magazine, I was consuming a lot of information about how do you do this? And what supplies do I need. And you know, all that sorts of things of when you start something new. But when our first son was born, he was born in 2007. And at that point, I knew that this was something that I wanted to do, I wanted to make albums for him. I had played around enough I had learned I was motivated. I picked up a 12 by 12 album, I think at the time, you know, 12 by 12, and 8.5 by 11. Were maybe the sizes we had to choose from. So I went big, and I went 12 by 12. And it's really just an album filled with the like the the traditional sort of milestones and celebrations and traditions and stuff of his you know babyhood and toddlerhood and it sort of has just, I've been doing it ever since. So...

Jennifer Wilson 16:25

So how has your hobby changed in that time, since maybe, you know, from 2007 to now? What kind of evolutions have you seen?

Lesley Vander Waal 16:35

Yeah, I think that the biggest change for me personally has just been this idea of storytelling and telling the stories, you know, those early albums for my son, they're great. I mean, I enjoy looking back on them. But it definitely lacks the storytelling aspect. There's a lot of pictures, there's a lot of pretty stuff. There might be a few words, here and there about what the event was your first birthday or whatever. But that evolution from moving from kind of a glorified photo album, like a very pretty page to including more of our stories and feeling like I'm developing kind of like this, you know, a family history or a library of our family stories is really how it's changed. In, so our first son in 2007, and then our second son was born in 2009. And somewhere in between those years, I started a blog. And we have always lived a distance from family. And so I wanted a way to share specifically photographs of our new children with extended relatives. And so what started it even there is just really kind of sharing photos with a caption here or there really developed into writing our stories. And so for several years, I kept that blog and, and became kind of a storyteller first on the blog. And then when Becky Higgins, you know, started Project Life, and that whole pocket page system of scrapbooking, and really kind of the everyday life everyday stories, that weekly format, kind of spurred me on even more. I loved that, the storytelling part of that. And then of course, I have followed Ali Edwards since her, I believe she was a contributor and Creating Keepsakes. And kind of picked up, found her again online and picked up her philosophy of storytelling. Using those words and photos has really just sort of propelled me past these, let's keep our photos in a pretty album to that more deeper, meaningful sorts of sharing our stories kind of memory keeping.

Jennifer Wilson 18:48

Sure, sure, yeah, no, it's so awesome that you've just kind of it's almost like an organic evolution, even going back to the childhood, like every little every little step was a seed planted for what you were going to do next. And it's just kind of unfolded for you. And I think I want to celebrate that you've just been open to those changes in those shifts in the possibilities of what, what I could achieve or what I could create if I just explore this one angle or try this new thing. So that's really awesome.

Lesley Vander Waal 19:17

Yeah, yeah, it's definitely been thinking about it. It's kind of interesting seeing all those puzzle pieces sort of come together for me for sure.

Jennifer Wilson 19:27

So how would you describe your style? Maybe someone, we're going to include your your link your to your Instagram inside our show notes, but if someone's never seen your pages before, how would you describe what they look like?

Lesley Vander Waal 19:39

I have definitely tend to be more of a linear and clean maker of pages. I'm definitely drawn to a grid. I love a good grid. I will always fall back on that design option. If I feel like something is not quite coming together. They just make makes sense to me. I, I will use I've, I've mainly taken to using white cardstock, that empty white space is always appealing to me. Although in the past, I used a lot of colored cardstock and a lot of pattern papers. So I have a good stash and I have been having fun trying to incorporate those in a meaningful way and in a purposeful way back onto my pages just to use up, you know, use up those supplies, but I definitely like a cleaner look, less cluttered 90, probably 98% of the time, 99% of the time my journaling is typed, not necessarily because I don't like my handwriting. Actually, I've been trying to use my hand writing more because I, I understand the value of preserving that. But it just goes back to those clean lines like seeing that clean line typed journaling. Plus, I can say more. You will find a lot of journaling on most of my, most of my pages. Clearly I have a lot of thoughts, and I have a lot of things to say.

Jennifer Wilson 21:12

I really found that because like life today is so type written.

Lesley Vander Waal 21:17


Jennifer Wilson 21:17

I only, like can I say more because of the just the physical space of what typed words can do. But I do say more, because I'm much more comfortable elaborating in a type format than I am in handwriting these days.

Lesley Vander Waal 21:30

That's true. And you can go back and you can edit and you can delete, you can move things around and have it make more sense. You know, that, that sort of thing. That's my very like, my English, I guess that I like to, grammar and stuff. I'm likely a little bit more hybrid, but it's never my first inclination to describe myself that way. I really enjoy digitals especially with, with, you know, typing the journaling, it's a lot easier to just type on a digital journal card and print it out than to feed that physical card through. Although I do feed that physical card through all the time. But I'm still learning a lot in the digital department. So I always hesitate to be like, oh yeah, I'm a hybrid scrapbooker. I love embellishments. I love the idea of embellishments, I guess I should say, I love the size, the variety, the texture, you know, the fun that they add to the page. But more often than not, I feel like I don't know what I'm doing with them. If there's not...

Jennifer Wilson 22:27

Oh interesting.

Lesley Vander Waal 22:28

Yeah, it just if it feels like there's not a clear space for them or spot for them. You know, I can follow the rule of thirds. I try to do that. Because that makes sense to me. But sometimes that sometimes it's it's difficult for me to find. I don't know. And maybe that's because I do lean a little bit more to the simple. I'm not really sure. I mean, I have plenty of embellishments I keep buying them. So I like them. But I do struggle to use them on occasion. So...

Jennifer Wilson 23:04

Well, I think there's there's a couple different things here. So I know that when I was really focused on pattern paper, it was about more of the structure of the page than I would like agonize over, okay, where where are the embellishments going to go so that I can have the visual triangle and all that and make it look good. But the more that I started using pattern paper kind of sparingly, just for a particular attribute. And to make it more intentional, the more I was able to then select those intentional embellishments. So in looking at your pages, I'm like scrolling your Instagram, I wouldn't say that you have a problem with embellishments because you use them very, very well. But maybe you're just like you're selective or you, you take the time to figure out okay, how do I want this to go? And how many do I really need? Because when you do have a lot of whitespace it's not this, you know, overly layered full page. It's, you know, way to make decisions about Okay, what's going to go where, so that it all feels balanced.

Lesley Vander Waal 24:03

I think that that's probably true. And I think too, that when I do make a page my focus and my intention really is on the words and the photos. Like the embellishments are fun and they definitely make the page look fun but that's not you know, if it works, it works if it doesn't, it doesn't. Yeah, I think people would be surprised, really, to hear me say that, that that I find it difficult. But I do and I think it's just my just my own hangups with like, I don't know if that's right. I don't know if that feels right. I don't know if that looks right. And that's when I usually just have to clear the page and be like, okay, it's done. That's enough.

Jennifer Wilson 24:39

Yes, no, I mean, I definitely have feel that similar kind of awkwardness of, you know, it feels so, it looks it looks so easy for others, right. So you're seeing the finished result, the final choices, not all the 20 places they tried that embellishment before they made the decision, you know,

Lesley Vander Waal 24:55

Right. And really the bottom line is is that not every page that I make, do I love, right? Like there are pages I make that I'm just like, Oh, well, that's fine. It's done moving on. And I've, I've come to be more okay with that, you know, I'm not performing brain surgery over here. So just letting some stuff go.

Jennifer Wilson 25:15

Yeah, there's definitely going to be ones that we appreciate more than others and others that like, I didn't like it at the time and then I look back at it and I'm like, Oh, that's pretty cool. I, you know, I really like that I did that, even though in the moment, I was like, Oh, this is, you know. There was one like, purple and black Halloween layout that I did. And I really struggled with those colors. And I look back out and I'm like, that layout is fine. I don't know why I agonized so long about it.

Lesley Vander Waal 25:39

I know why do we do that?

Jennifer Wilson 25:40

I don know why I though it was terrible.

Lesley Vander Waal 25:41

I know. I know.

Jennifer Wilson 25:44

Okay, so how do you stay motivated to create? Is it something that comes easy or naturally to you? Or do you have to, you know, work at it and kind of facilitate your own motivation?

Lesley Vander Waal 25:57

I would say it comes fairly easily, especially, well, it's seasonal, for sure. Right? So it's summer, and I've just had more time. And when I have the time, it's, it's definitely easier. And of course, the more I create, the more creative I feel. I think, is sort of a natural tendency for most people. But if I had to narrow it down, I think that two major ways that I, I feel like I stay motivated. The first one is that I'm, I'm a pretty goal oriented person, you know, I like to make my lists, I like to crossing things off the list. And so I'll try to make goals for my memory keeping, of course, I want them to be achievable. I'm not trying to make them impossible, but you know, so I can cross it off my list, if you will, you know. And the second way that kind of pairs really well with that is going back to the community aspect of this hobby is participating in community projects or community challenges. So one example I can give is the Story Kit Crush Challenge that Krystal Idunate and Taziana Gordon started last year or the year before. Where they take one of the Ali Edwards Story Kits, and they will crush it or try to use up the kit, tell as many stories as they can over the course of the month. And then on Fridays, we are all invited to post the layouts that we have made using those kits or any kit or whatever we're doing. And so one of my goals would be well, every Friday, I want to have a layout to share for Story Kit Crush. Or like during December Daily using that momentum of the community. Those community projects are some of my favorite because of the community, right? The inspiration is hot, the motivation is there, because everybody is doing it together. I am not one of these that can work on my album, or I should say I can't I don't complete my album during the month of December, it's just not really feasible for me. But what I will do is I will set a goal, like I want to work on it daily, whether that be writing my story, at the end of the day, picking the cards that I want to use for that day. What else will I do, I will you know, choose the layout or edit my photo. So that when the end of the month comes like I've put some work into it, and that motivation will kind of keeps moving me forward, like I've got this part done. Now I just need to do this part. So like those little goals paired with the community aspect of it with other people kind of working alongside you and working towards the same thing helps a lot. And then of course, there are times when I don't feel motivated at all. And I just have learned to acknowledge that a break, it's time to take a break. And I'm a person who really likes to keep my hands busy, I like to stay busy, I don't sit still very well. So I'll just do something else. You know, I'll get back into reading, right now I'm working on a couple of cross stitch projects. So when I just don't feel like sitting at the computer and editing photos, I'll go sit somewhere else and cross stitch. Knowing that that motivation will come back. It always does. But sometimes you just have to acknowledge the break.

Jennifer Wilson 29:13

It does. And I love how you've really you've recognized what type of accountability you need. And what kind of really triggers your your motivation and your mojo for your hobby. Because I think when we start paying attention to that we can lean into it more and set better goals and expectations for ourselves. Because if you're not, if you're already meeting your goals, then great don't listen to anybody else or anything else we're saying. But if you aren't reaching your goals, then maybe you need to set different goals or find other ways of supporting yourself to achieve them. We talked a lot about Gretchen Rubin here on the podcast and whether you're an upholder or obliger or one of her othefour tendancies. And you know understanding your personality quirks is so important for tweaking your hobby in that little way, so that you're finishing more projects and having more fun along the way.

Lesley Vander Waal 30:08

Yeah, yeah. And really, for me, but there have been times where I have to kind of re evaluate my goals, because if I'm not reaching them, then obviously they're too lofty or to, you know, whatever, whatever. You have to have goals.

Jennifer Wilson 30:21

We all can sometimes fill our plate too full at times to, especially with fun, creative things.

Lesley Vander Waal 30:27

There have been moments where I've been too motivated, and I'll be down in the basement, that's where my craft space is. And it'll be like, my family will be like, Mom, what's for dinner? And like, Oh, right. Oops, sorry, I'm coming. Yeah, yeah.

Jennifer Wilson 30:43

Yeah, my daughter made a comment the other day, and of course, we've been home together for what, 18 months now. And she's like, um, you're in your office an awful lot. And so it's hard when your office is where you work, and where you have your hobby. And so, you know, yes. It's hard to defend.

Lesley Vander Waal 31:02

That's true. That's true.

Jennifer Wilson 31:05

All right, so speaking of projects, what project are you most proud to have completed?

Lesley Vander Waal 31:12

This is also a very interesting question, because I feel like I value finishing, like I start a project, I want to finish a project. But I feel like historically, I'm a really great starter. Not so great at the finishing, although I would say that I have gotten much, much better with that, with age. And again, it kind of goes back to what you value. Like if you if you value this, and if it matters to you, like, finish it up. But as a whole, I would say that I'm I'm most proud of my collection of Week In The Life albums and December Daily albums. I started doing both of those projects in 2013, it was the year that my daughter was born. And it just felt like the right you know, like we were completing our family. I wish in hindsight, you know, it was something that I would have picked up years prior because those, those albums have so much value for me. But having that collection of I have eight Week In The Life albums, I have eight December Daily, I have albums all together on the shelf. And they're done. Like there's no catching up with those. And there's a lot of pride, I think that comes with that because of the intensity, kind of of both of those projects, right? Week In The Life is very, you know, it's only one week, but it's very intense. And what you are, you know, documenting all of the things trying to cover all of the, you know, all the ins and outs of daily life. And then there's a project like December Daily, which is also very intense, and it lasts a month, or however long you want it to last for. But that though, they're both very intense, but they're both very different, where one captures daily life and one captures, for me captures the holidays, which is my most favorite time of the year. And so for both, both the value of having finished and also the value of what those you know, it's like this little treasure trove of our life, what they mean to me, I would say that, that those, those are the ones I think that I'm most, most proud of.

Jennifer Wilson 33:12

This morning, I had another interview that will appear later in our series from one of our creative team members. And we were talking about Week In The Life and and December Daily and how they're similar and different, but the intensity of these projects, but how they are so rewarding. And I know that I've almost had to kind of shift my perspective on, you know, filling my plate for the year. For a while. I was like, gosh, I never, I'm doing so much, I don't feel like I have enough time for these projects. But what if you flip that and say, Okay, if I know I want to do these projects, because they always spark or they're, you know, my storytelling or my crafty interests? How can I then, you know, make those the big rocks? And how do I fill in the sand around that with my other projects, knowing that these are going to be on my plate? So yeah.

Lesley Vander Waal 34:01

Yeah, that is a super perspective. Like, I love that so much. You know, if something matters to you, kind of goes back to that whole idea of values. You know, if it matters to you, how are you making space for it? For sure.

Jennifer Wilson 34:12

Yeah, yes. All right, let's dig more into the things that you are loving right now. We talked a little bit in the beginning, about the community. But what are the formats and sizes that you're enjoying creating with right now?

Lesley Vander Waal 34:26

So I would say that I'm still, I still feel like and I still feel like I operate in kind of a traditional sort of scrapbooking mode. I still keep and make pages for a 12 by 12 album but I, the page sizes within that album vary greatly anything really from 6 by 8, 6 by 8, 6 by 12, 9 by 12, 12 by 12. There's a variety of sizes within that large album. I like that. I like, I like being flexible and being able to really choose the format that works best for my story. I also really love the the 6 by 8 pockets, 6 by 8 albums and the pocket pages in there. Those are the two sizes, I think that I work in primarily. I am doing a 9 by 12 Project Life, I'm kind of falling out of love with Project Life right now, I'm struggling with it a little bit. And I don't know if it's the format. I don't know if it's I'm not sure what it is right now, because I loved it last year, I did a 9 by 12 for the first time last year, a monthly format. I loved it. It's one of my most favorite albums. It's a completed album. I just am really struggling and not feeling it this year. So I'm re evaluating and, you know, for next year going forward in the spirit of finishing, I'm going to finish it. I'm going to finish it for this year but, but reevaluate for the future. But I have done like a couple of 3 by 8 album projects. And I started getting the, I wanted to try something different. That's kind of how I've been feeling this this year is kind of, oh, let's just try something different and try something new. I was interested in like the Traveler's Notebook or just the notebook format to be whatever size, and the Everyday Explorers Mini Book Club. I started subscribing to that for two reasons. One for the mini book and two, because I wanted to start a small collection of stamps. And I really love Christine's stamps. So I did get a short sub to that. But so I'm dabbling with that a little bit. But I do really consider myself still like, you know, a 12 by 12 album kind of girl.

Jennifer Wilson 36:42

Well, I think, particularly with talking about your Project Life, that it's important to acknowledge that our interests are going to shift. And that I don't know, the idea that the way we're going to scrapbook is going to be the same throughout our entire scrapbooking life is going to just be the same, that's kind of almost an antiquated idea, because then we're going to be missing out on so many opportunities to feel creatively energized. And to tell I think even more importantly, tell deeper, richer, better stories.

Lesley Vander Waal 37:14

Absolutely. And that actually jumping way ahead to the last questions about lessons learned I won't, that's what I wanted to talk about was that idea of like, being flexible and what you just said pretty much just nailed it on the head.

Jennifer Wilson 37:27

Yeah. All right. Well, let's revisit that in a little bit.

Lesley Vander Waal 37:30

Yes, yes.

Jennifer Wilson 37:31

But so ok, one more thing on those formats and sizes, because you talked about different album sizes. How are you feeling about that 10 by 8 December Daily album?

Lesley Vander Waal 37:41

I think that it's interesting. And I think that it's not for me.

Jennifer Wilson 37:46

Okay, okay.

Lesley Vander Waal 37:47

I, I part of it, I think is because I'm slow to change. You know, like, I'm just I hang on to what I know and to what I love for a really long time, like, I can't even remember with digital photography. When we switched from film to digital, it took me a long time to come around to it because I was like, I want my pictures. I want them in my hand. I don't, I don't want them on my computer, you know. So just those kinds of changes take me a long time. If it is something that she continues to produce that that 10 by 8 album is, you know, goes forward and people love it. And I see inspiration using it. And I feel moved by it. I could change my mind. But right now I'm like, oh fun for someone else, but not for me.

Jennifer Wilson 38:34

I love that. And I totally respect that as well. And I think it's important to run through the pros and cons that are unique to you. I was attracted to the fact that you can put the three by eight and the six by eight page protectors in it as well.

Lesley Vander Waal 38:47

Yeah, that's brilliant.

Jennifer Wilson 38:48

It has different page sizes.

Lesley Vander Waal 38:48


Jennifer Wilson 38:50

Because I of course, I have a giant stash of those all with the six holes. But at the same time, I know I will have more success if I continue my version of Project Life right now, which is in a photo book. And that's where I even put my Week In The Life. I didn't do anything separate. I just did special pages inside my photo book. And I'm like, I've now I'm feeling this tension between, you know, creative, shiny object and doing what I know is going to be most successful for me. So...

Lesley Vander Waal 39:19

Yeah, yeah, it's definitely a balance for sure.

Jennifer Wilson 39:22

Yeah. All right. What about your process? What is typically inspiring a new page when you get started?

Lesley Vander Waal 39:31

Yeah, well, probably based, you can probably guess based on what we've talked about, but it's definitely the story. I feel like that's why I do this anymore. I love the craft of it. Of course I love playing with paper. I love using my hands and making something. But I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't have a story to tell. I don't think I would, I don't think I would be still doing this hobby if I was still just kind of slapping pictures on a page with without any context to go along with it. Definitely photos can spark a story that I want to tell. And the products that I use will definitely bring stories that I never would have thought of telling. But it definitely the story is my foundation and where I typically start.

Jennifer Wilson 40:15

That's what I was curious about, like when you're doing Story Kit Crush, how is that experience feel with using the products to shape and inform and inspire stories versus, are you just having a story ready?

Lesley Vander Waal 40:30

Yeah, it's, for me, it I. That's a good question. I know that I would not be telling the kinds of stories, the depth of stories, the variety of stories, without that subscription. I've been subscribing to the Story Kits for maybe five years. I think I just passed like the five year mark. So not from the very beginning. But you know, close? And it's, it's really hard for me to articulate exactly. You know, I feel like I have a good process, I go through a good, you know, brainstorming like what, what, what stories could I tell with this kit, and it's really important for me to for those stories to be meaningful. Like I don't, I don't want to tell a story for the sake of putting a page together. So but they do, definitely, sometimes I'll have ideas, you know, just based on my own brainstorming, and then I'll pick up ideas from the community and from the creative team, and from the story chats they're now doing on Instagram, for sure. And then I'll get the product. And I'll kind of lay all the cards out in front of me. And I'll see what products fit the stories that I know for sure, I want to tell. And then there's usually at least one if not a couple more stories that just based on the quote or the sentiment or an embellishment that will spark a different story that I hadn't thought of. But I know I I find a stories so much more readily being sparked by those Story Kits than I do just like living my life.

Jennifer Wilson 42:12

Oh, yeah, for sure.

Lesley Vander Waal 42:14

You know, so I do kind of keep a running list. Like if I see somebody make a page. I don't know about, like an Around Here story or a Currently story or a one of the ideas I had earlier this year was like, What are the signs of summer? How do I know that summer is on its way? Well, like I start seeing garage sales, you know, pop up, I start seeing, I don't know more people out walking their dog, I start saying so like, that sort of idea can come but they don't come as readily as the story ideas I get from these prompts out of the Story Kits.

Jennifer Wilson 42:53

Maybe there's a clue here with your Project Life conundrum or your your shift in your passion for it. Because Project Life is fundamentally very photo driven of what we did and what we took a picture of some of the things we didn't take a picture of, whereas you're very deep into story first creating right now. And so maybe that's the mismatch for you.

Lesley Vander Waal 43:19

I think that that is part of it. For sure. It's interesting that you bring that up. My and there have been a few years where I haven't done Project Life. You know, shortly after my daughter was born, there's a few years missing. And I would like to go back and just put those photos like in a photo book. So that I have like when I talk about having those tangible photos in my hand. You know, like I don't want those to live on my computer. I want to see them in a book. But I don't have the energy or the memory to write stories for six, five, six years ago. But I want those photos. And so when I think about it now it's kind of like I wouldn't have a problem, I don't think, not doing Project Life. Like I have not done it in the past. And I don't think I would have a problem not having an album like for 2022. My difficulty and kind of giving it up is that story like that everyday story. I still value it so much. But it's like you said it's not. It's not as exciting to me right now. I don't even know if that's fair to say. I don't, I don't even know when I really think about one of the issues for me is time. Like I only have so much time. We all only have so much time to invest in this hobby. And when I sit down to work on something Project Life is not the thing that I want to work on. You know, I want to work on these other layouts, these Story Kit layouts or, you know, a different project. And yeah, it's an interesting point. I'm not, I'm not sure because I like both kinds of stories. And there's a little bit of worry or fear that's not really the right word of losing those everyday stories because I do value them so much.

Jennifer Wilson 45:02

Yes, yes.

Lesley Vander Waal 45:03

So I don't know. I don't know. I'm in a bit of a fix right now about it, but I'll figure it out. We'll figure it out.

Jennifer Wilson 45:08

Yeah. No, I mean, you have time and it's Yeah, it's always okay to marinate. I remember when Project Life first came out, like when it really started becoming hot. And we started getting kit clubs and all these different things for for pocket pages. I was like, this weekly format I know is not for me, but what is for me. And so I just had to sit with that, and wrestle with the indecision. Until, you know, I found something that I thought I could even try. And of course, that's evolved over time. So but yeah, marinating is sometimes what we need to do. And just some some point, it'll become clear.

Lesley Vander Waal 45:43

Yep. Yep. And I'm not real stressed about it. I'm just kind of letting it be for now. And we'll see.

Jennifer Wilson 45:47


Lesley Vander Waal 45:48

We'll see what happens.

Jennifer Wilson 45:50

All right. Before we go here, I want to talk just a little bit about organization. Are you a super tidy, or are you kind of a little bit in chaos?

Lesley Vander Waal 45:59

I like to consider myself a tidy person. Or in some areas of my life, it's better than another. But yeah, I definitely I am fortunate enough to have a space in the basement, dedicated to my craft the craft room. I'm on team like IKEA products, right? I have the shelving systems and the drawers and the boxes and things like that. I have learned, I've always known I think that I'm a visual learner. But that has translated into having to have I'm one of those that has to have my product visible to use it. So I have a table and on my table, I have those wooden boxes from IKEA. My supplies are sorted by type, you know, chipboards, all together, cards are all together. You know, a stack of word phrase stickers are all together, like rubber embellishments together, acetate pieces together, that sort of thing. My tools are all handy right there. Yeah. So you know, having the space is nice. I feel really grateful for it. But yeah, I like to keep it tidy. And I like to keep it you know, out so I can see it.

Jennifer Wilson 47:13

Are there any like particular solutions that you want to recommend to others or things that you changed and now something that wasn't quite working was is now really working for you. And it could really be any aspect of your hobby.

Lesley Vander Waal 47:28

I think one of the things that is working for me, at least I don't know when it kind of came about accidentally was album storage. So we like I have these big 12 by 12 albums. And I have quite a few 6 by 8 albums like eventually over time, they take up quite a bit of space space. And they used to be on that Kallax, IKEA cubing system, you know, shelving system because they fit perfectly in there in our basement. Well, unfortunately, in May of last year, in May of 2020, our county experienced what they call a historic 500 year flood. Two of the dams in our area were breached, and they flooded, like our entire city. And gratefully, gratefully, our house remained dry. But it had it gotten wet, had we flooded. I mean, people's homes were filled with water, like halfway up their main floor, like we would have lost everything in that basement, which means I would have lost all of my scrapbooks. And that would have been devastating. And so that was kind of our immediate response to that was we need to clean out the basement. And anything that we do not want to lose up here needs to be moved to higher ground. And so what that has done both like, you know, to save the scrapbooks, but also when they're in the basement, nobody looks at them. But I have brought them upstairs, they're all there. So many of them, there's quite a few there's some in my closet, there's some in the in the kid's closet, it's just where I have found space to store them. But there are some in the living room. There's some on the bookshelf in the dining room, like they're out. And so people can look at them. Granted, I'm the one who looks at them most of the time. But there's value in keeping our books out. Like right, that's why we make these things is for people to see them. And, you know, if they're stored away in the basement or or in a room that nobody goes into, they're not really going to be looked at. So I think about you know, both from a practical standpoint of, you know, putting them where they're safe, if you will. Just having them out to be viewed has come to be really really valuable here in our house anyway.

Jennifer Wilson 49:45

Did you have to adjust any of your storage solutions on your main level in order to accommodate the 12 by 12 albums?

Lesley Vander Waal 49:52

Well, I have, I do have one shelf that is tall enough to hold some of them and like I said, a lot of them are in, our kids have extra spacious closets. So there is room up there, I did have to move other stuff around, it was kind of like that hole. If you give a mouse a cookie scenario, it was like, Okay, if I want to put these books in this, like there's a curio cabinet in our dining room, if I want to put my six by eight albums in here, okay, where am I going to put what's in there now, you know, and it's kind of, Okay, I move those there. Well, I'm gonna move them there, then I'll take that stuff out. So it was a little bit more like that. But those, I do have a couple shelves that will already accommodate the 12 by 12, which was nice. But like I said, most of the older, old old stuff is, is still tucked away kind of in a closet upstairs. So not everything is super hands on accessible, but a lot more is than what used to be.

Jennifer Wilson 50:52

Welll and certainly it's more safe than it was before.

Lesley Vander Waal 50:54

Yes, yeah. So it's certainly something for people to think about. Of course, my oldest son was like, Well, you know, Mom, everything is well and good until the roof leaks. Like, honey, that's not helpful. Like, you can't help everything. Right. Like, we can't help natural disasters, we can't help. We're not gonna, you know, whatever. But it's just kind of like, yeah. I mean...

Jennifer Wilson 51:18

We can make smart decisions, smart decisions for you know, right. The most likely worst scenario.

Lesley Vander Waal 51:24


Jennifer Wilson 51:26

It's important to think about,

Lesley Vander Waal 51:27

Yeah, yeah, for sure. So anyway...

Jennifer Wilson 51:31

We've been talking a lot about photo management as of the time of this recording inside our community. And just this idea of storing your photos, your recent ones and your older ones in the climate controlled areas where you live, not in your basement, not in your garage, not in the attic, because that's what's going to give them their best longevity, and make sure they're safe. And particularly when you do have an extreme event, it's more likely they'll be okay, so yeah,

Lesley Vander Waal 51:58

And even the idea of spreading them out, you know, like they were all on the same shelf in the same room. You know, if if something unfortunate happened, they're still kind of fairly good odds that maybe that room won't be touched and those albums will be okay. You know, I don't know, it's all you got to do what you got to do, but...

Jennifer Wilson 52:17

All right, let's dig back into that biggest lesson learn from your scrapbooking experience.

Lesley Vander Waal 52:23


Jennifer Wilson 52:23

What do you want to share?

Lesley Vander Waal 52:25

I just, you know, I think that it's just so important to give ourselves room to break our own rules. You know, like you mentioned about how we how when Project Life came along. And for me, I know, I know for sure that I made some kind of mental declaration that I love this. I love this pocket page. I love this weekly documenting I love the everyday stories, this is how I'm going to do it for the rest of my life. Like, I am sure because I'm just that kind of person, I guess that that was kind of my mentality around it. Well, if that's, that's my perspective, it's going to be very, very hard to change when something different comes along, because this is the way I've always done it. Well, if I'm not excited about it anymore, or if it's not serving me anymore, you know, it's kind of time to look look bigger and broader and try something different. And I think that that's been the biggest thing for me is to be okay, trying something new. And if it doesn't work, you know, it didn't work. Like I said, we're not we're not sending people to the moon. We're not like performing brain surgery. Like let's keep this hobby, fun and light and meaningful. And you know, tell your story like that will always be number one for me, despite what kind of format or page configuration or product or whatever I have. So for me, it's just been learning how to be flexible learning how to try, learning how to keep it fun and light, and kind of being okay breaking, breaking the old rules that I've made up in my head that don't mean anything anyway.

Jennifer Wilson 54:00

Very well said. Thank you so much for your time.

Lesley Vander Waal 54:03

Thank you so much. This has been so fun.

Jennifer Wilson 54:06

Can you share where we can find you online, anything fun or new you have coming up?

Lesley Vander Waal 54:10

Well, like I said, I'm just a mom in my basement. Playing with, playing with pretty paper. I'm just on Instagram, my handle over there is scrapandtelll, kind of a little take on show and tell and telling stories. So it's scrapandtell over on Instagram.

Jennifer Wilson 54:27

Al lright, sounds great. We will include that link in our show notes. And again, thank you so much for your time.

Lesley Vander Waal 54:32

Thank you. Thank you, Jennifer.

Jennifer Wilson 54:34

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