5 Great Reasons to Keep a Reading Journal


5 Great Reasons to Keep a Reading Journal

Kelly Woods, writer

14 July 2017

A few years ago, I started a journal of the books I read.  If you have ever read a book (and I sincerely hope you have!), then I suggest keeping a reading journal, too.

I am an avid reader. Not surprised to hear that from a librarian are you?

Many years ago, when my mother was interviewed for a job at a university library, they asked her, “Why do you want this job?”  And then, followed it by the statement, “Don’t say it’s because you like to read.”

Apparently, we don’t all spend our working days with our nose in a book. 

Oh, but if we only could!

As I am currently a rogue librarian (aka: a librarian without a library), I suppose I could spend my days holed up with a good novel. If only life were that simple (obviously, there are non-fiction books to contend with, too! ha!).

In all seriousness…

I love challenging myself, expanding my mind, and seeing how other people use the written word to share their message.

A few years ago, I started a journal of the books I read. I decided to be more intentional in capturing the words of wisdom, thoughts and little snippets that speak to me as I read.

“There is something deeply satisfying about keeping a beautiful, inspiring notebook on my bedside ready to capture beautiful, inspiring thoughts.”

Here are some great reasons to keep a reading journal:

1. Your memory needs an aide. Let’s be honest, no one is a computer, and we could all use a little help in the memory department. That is, after all, why writing was invented in the first place. Keeping a reading journal helps you remember those “aha!,” moments that you would soon otherwise forget (unless you are an elephant).

2. You create your own reading archive. Beyond remembering specific words, phrases or concepts, a reading journal creates a record. If you keep one for the year, you have a record of the mental experiences you took yourself on that year. Like a photo book, it serves as a great document to flip through later, and a record of what would otherwise pass undocumented.

3. The act of writing changes your experience with the text.  It is one thing to actually have a copy of something to read over later (see point one), but the physical act of writing itself also serves as a storytelling aide. By jotting down notes about the text you are reading, you are changing, adapting and committing that text to your story. It becomes a part of you.

4. Aesthetic beauty. I believe life is enriched by beauty. There is something deeply satisfying about keeping a beautiful, inspiring notebook on my bedside ready to capture beautiful, inspiring thoughts. It is the physical embodiment of the written words I am reading, and then writing, inside it. Its beauty inspires me to use it, and raises the caliber of the words written inside.

5. Ideas! Ideas! Ideas! Writers are always needing ideas to write about, and thoughts to share. What better place than the books we read to get amazing, inspiring, awesome ideas? I believe that reading widely is one of the most powerful ways to ensure your writing grows, and you have something of value to share with the world. Capture those ideas as they come in a reading journal, and you will have fodder, connections and material for endless pieces of your own writing.

If you decide to keep a reading journal, pick a beautiful one. Keep it bedside, or carry it around with you wherever you read. Jot down those wonderful thoughts and epiphanies before they float away, and enjoy combing over them, exploring them and using them to change your life for years to come!

I’m always on the lookout for new gems. Do you have a favourite summer read to recommend?  Please do share in the comments.

Need inspiration for your own intentional life?
Sign up for our newsletter and stay in touch.


Write Your Smiles to Increase Your Happiness


The Benefits of Taking a Family Gap Year


5 Ways to Think and Grow Green

How to Use Photography to Cultivate Mindfulness


How to Use Photography to Cultivate Mindfulness

Kelly Woods, writer

30 June 2017

One of my daily rituals is gratitude photography. The practice has grown from a fledgling effort to record our days, to a mindful practice that has changed my life.

Many years ago, I read Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts, an invitation to let gratitude dictate your life. I loved the concept, and have noticed a growing gratitude movement reverberating through people’s lives ever since (at least if the the Internet is any indication).

For myself, I loved the idea of mindful gratitude, and set out to record my own “1000 gifts.” As a writer, who parleys with words, this seemed like an easy task. What I found, however, was that gratitude was sometimes a hard thing to record in words.  Sometimes I struggled to capture a beautiful moment in the written word. Sometimes I needed a different medium.

It is one thing to attempt to describe the heartbreakingly beautiful streak of sunshine on my bedroom wall. It is another to notice it, and capture it with my camera.

Sometimes you can’t capture a smile or gesture before it slips away. This is when words are useful. But other moments – a beautifully composed display, or the corner of a child’s ear, or some other random, lovely, thing – are best captured visually.

For me, the practice of gratitude photography means watching, observing and being present. I can’t be looking for beauty when I am focused inward, on my own troubles. Or staring incessantly at my computer screen. Or rushing through the grocery store.

I can’t tell you the joy that comes from discovering and capturing a random, unforeseen moment. The satisfaction that comes from having noticed a thing previously unseen.

The Victorian writer John Ruskin made a case that a person has never really experienced something until they have attempted to recreate it creatively. When you attempt to draw something, you really notice it. Every detail.

When Wordsworth composed his poems, he called them “spots of time.” They captured a moment, encapsulating it in his memory, allowing him to relive that moment, and “dance with the daffodils,” again, in the reliving.

Gratitude photography does this for me. It wakes me up to the present moment, and forces me to truly experience it. To notice the details. To revel in its beauty, and wonder in its perfection.

People often harp on photographers: particularly travellers and Instagram and selfie snappers. People are reprimanded for trying to capture every perfect moment, and told to simply live them.

But, I think it is easy to argue a different case; that photography, when used mindfully, can actually open up our eyes and souls, allowing us to experience each moment in a more full and complete way.

I don’t take photographs all day (if I did I’d probably be an obsessive bore – and some days I likely am). But, I do try to capture one or two beautiful, fleeting moments in each one. When I have done so, I feel complete. Everything around me looks more vivid. I notice tiny details. My soul fees satisfied and alert. I am a better, happier, and more alive person.

Tonight, as I prepared our evening meal, I felt blessed to have noticed the beautiful, soft light pouring through the window as my children rolled out the homemade pizza dough. I am glad I took the time to capture the moment, so that I could be present, and not just ploughing through the preparation of our family meal.

I smiled at my children, I thanked them for their help, and then I put down the camera.

And the light, thankful mood of wonder stayed with me.  It buoyed me up to write these words. And serve my family meal with thanks and grace, instead of weary obligation.

That, my friends, is the beauty of creative mindfulness. Tonight, when I record the graces of my day, I will be giving thanks for my camera.

I’d love to hear about your favourite gratitude practice, or your experiences with using photography in this way. Do you find your camera makes you more or less aware of those everyday moments? Please share in the comments.

Need inspiration for your own intentional life?
Sign up for our newsletter and stay in touch.


Write Your Smiles to Increase Your Happiness


5 Ways to Think & Grow Green


What is Green Living, Anyway?

Write Your Smiles To Increase Your Happiness

Write Your Smiles To Increase Your Happiness
Kelly Woods, writer

11 May 2017

We all think of smiling as a bi-product of happiness, a response to something that pleases us. But, what if we looked at it the other way around? What if the act of smiling, actually made us happy?

A year or so ago, I read this book. It introduced me to the concept – which I have since read about in a number of places – of smiling to improve one’s happiness.

What if the act of smiling enacted a change in our brains, and rewired our emotions, to change the way we experienced the world? That’s the question this study asked, and it turns out they were right. We can actually affect our own moods simply by smiling our way to happiness. I love this. It turns so much of what we expect on its head.

Among other things, it means that our moods don’t have to be dictated by what it going on around us. And, that we don’t have to think our way to happiness. Positive self-talk is all well and good, but if we can take a short-cut to happiness and an improved mood – why not?

“What’s more, we don’t have to stop at smiling. This is the exact phenomenon I experience when I write about positive things.”

It dawned on me the other day, as I wrote about treasuring the present, that the very act of writing about it, changed my day. My outlook was noticeably more positive, and more glowing all day. I felt acutely aware of all the beautiful little things that surrounded me: the shape of the tree blossoms out the window, the “eyes lit up” smile of my son, the gift of a day off with my kids.

I had a great day. And I know it was a result of stopping to process the positive and take notice of the everyday beauty surrounding me.

There are myriads of ways for us to harness our happiness, and affect our deep sense of well-being and positivity. We all need to find what works best for us. If you, too, are a writer, I suggest doing what you know.

Write your smiles. Don’t wait for something wonderful to strike you. Set out to create the happiness in your day, by writing it into being. Even if you don’t believe it when you start (even if you can’t think of anything positive to write about your day), start writing. Write your smile.

Happiness doesn’t have to precede the writing. Doesn’t have to precede your smile. Write your way into a beautiful day. And, when you are done, revel in the upswing of your mood, the brightness of your outlook, and the lightness of your being.

Need inspiration for your own intentional life?
Sign up for our newsletter and stay in touch.

The Plastic Purge
A Year of Inspired Living
New Habits for A New Year

Easter Thrifting & Crafting




I was so pleased this Easter to be able to participate in a few of my favourite activities: thrifting & crafting.

A few days ago, the kids & I tried wet felting some Easter eggs, and Sea and I crafted a lovely little yarn nest for them.  Then, as I’d been dreaming of gifting some needle-felting to them for Easter, I made a little rabbit to add to the nest.  Isn’t he sweet?

We also decided we’d try our hand at silk-dyed Easter eggs (inspiration care of The Magic Onions). What a simple, beautiful project to do.  I think the results are beautiful.

We picked up the silk scarf we used at a local thrift store.  It was obviously hand-dyed, which led to some very beautiful blending of colours on our eggs.  Quite different from the example we were following, but equally lovely, I think.

While thrifting, we also picked up a couple of sweet tea cups for less than a toonie.  We meant to use them for fairy tea gardens, but they are so lovely, we might save them for poetry tea time (inspiration care of Brave Writer).

Either way, it was a beautiful, hand-crafted Easter, resplendent with the perfect kind of creating – that which equally appeals to both Mama and the babes.

Happiness to you in this season of rebirth,


A Year of Inspired Living



This year, I discovered something.  This is my inspiration season.  My creative season.  For the past three years, February has been the month where I have done the most blogging.  Where I have felt the most inspired, and where I have made huge decisions to do new and exciting things.

As Spring approaches, my mind seems to need to bloom.  I want to blossom, create and dive into something with both feet.  Three years ago, it was this blog.  And the writing of my first novel.  The next, it was the purchase and building of a brand new business, in partnership with my husband.  Last year at this time, I was preparing for my third child, and making a bold decision to move to a new home and community.

This year is all about inspired living.

For me this means:

1. Writing.  Something magical happens when I record and reflect on my life.  I see things in a new way, and express myself more readily. And I find clarity.

2. Homesteading. I hope you’ll see me writing a lot about self-sufficiency and sustainable living this year.  Two over-used words, that, nevertheless, hold so much value for me. I am really excited about where this will take me.

3. Creativity. I want to flourish creatively this year. Explore new skills, and build on old ones. Writing. Photography. Carving and needle-felting. To name a few.

4. Gratitude. Follow me as I record my thanks in pictures throughout the year with “Everyday Beauty.” I want to make gratitude a habit. And train my eye and heart to see the blessings all around me.

5. Dreaming. My goal this year is to be filled with inspiration. To find beauty and wonder in life, and to move towards my dreams.

What will blossom this year?  I hope it will be something just as powerful, exciting and liberating as the last.

Time to spring ahead.

Years of Craft Hoarding Finally Pay Off

Hi, my name is Kelly, and I am a craft supply hoarder.  For years, I’ve been keeping scraps of paper, ribbons, paints, fabric and just about anything else you can think of. For rainy days that never seem to come.  Because I love stamps and can’t get enough of them.  And don’t get me started on stick-on-tattoos…

For years I’ve been saving these items for just the right time.  And it has never been the right time – UNTIL NOW!

A few weeks ago, my three-year old son, Dylan, was disappointed because he lost the tattoo he was given at a fair.  “Can’t we get another one?” he asked.  I was about to reply, “Sorry, but we can’t go back.  It’s gone,” when I realized something.  “Of course you can have a new one – when we get home!”  We were both thrilled when I opened up my box of tattoos (yes, a box of them, albeit smallish), and let him pick one (he could probably pick one every day for the rest of the year, but he doesn’t know that).

And, the other day, we were looking for something to stamp onto homemade wrapping paper for a friend’s birthday present… Wait!?  I have stamps!  Do I ever.  We got them all out, and had a blast.

Today, it was fabric.  We started sewing a bag for school supplies (as part of a charity project for Ten Thousand Villages – makes a great community giving activity for kids, by the way).  Dylan pushed the foot pedal, while I guided the fabric.  Before starting we went down to my handy-dandy (yes, I did say that) sewing box and picked a piece of fabric that was just right.

Some time last year, I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  In it she talks about spending out – or using up what you have, rather than hoarding.  I’ve been trying it with my craft supplies – and it turns out I love to share!

I can hardly wait for us to try out polaroid transfers, plaster photo frames, scrapbooking, and stickering (oh the stickers!) together.

I knew I was saving this stuff for something.  Any kindred spirits out there?