How to create a connected story

A few days ago I logged into my account at to look up something in one of my previous classes. While I was poking around, I peeked at a class which was the 4th installment in a 2016 yearlong effort I was calling The 20% Club. Clearly, I didn't finish the series. But, this last class, which showcases the process involved in creating a connected story is a good one. The page is titled, "The Truth About Birthday Cakes" and I'm going to share two of the videos posted in the classroom along with the journaling.

If you've been scrapbooking for a while, or perhaps even better you haven't been scrapbooking for a while, you are well poised to create a page/story like this one. You simply start with a photo from your childhood or a photo taken years ago and then you think about what it represents to you now. What other memories might be packed away in the same "box" that memories associated with this photo are packed away in. What other people, places and events are "connected" to this photo(s). 

The great thing about pages like this is how they relieve a TON of guilt or remorse that you might be harboring in relation to what you haven't done, because you can cover so much ground with a story like this. I LOVE that on this page, you see a photo of both me and my husband as kids, with a birthday cake. On the opposite side, you see a photo of each of our children with a birthday cake. Tucked behind the left page is the story. In a way, this page represents most if not ALL of the birthday pages I haven't yet created, because you get a little background/context and a sense of our take on birthdays—at least from the perspective of cake, ha!


I LOVE mixing old photos with more recent photos and the permission that these mingled images gives you as a storyteller to bridge the gaps. Anyway, have a watch. If you like what you see, this class is HERE

This first video is mostly a sped up version of assembly with commentary at the end and the second video is more about the story and then shows how I added the final decorative touches!

click on this image to make it bigger.

I think my FAVORITE little touch is the pocket journaling and the photo of me on my 50th birthday with my cake. See time marker 2:09 in the second video!

As you saw in the 2nd video, the longer story is tucked behind the left side of the layout. You certainly don't have to read this LONG journaling, but I'm SO GLAD I wrote it. It really is very satisfying to broaden the scope of our journaling from time to time, so that we're not just documenting one event. When we back up and look at the past through the lens of one little thing, ie. birthday cakes, we can have a LOT of FUN writing and we can reveal some very unique aspects of our lives. 

Here's the journaling ...

To: Clark, Chase, Trey, Taft and Addie,

Long before YouTube or Pinterest, my creative mother set an expectation for creating shaped birthday cakes. I remember a few of these cakes vividly. There was a giant strawberry, a baseball mitt w/ball and a Disneyland castle. I do not know when Mom made and decorated these cakes—this most likely happened when I was sleeping or at school—what I do know is that every year on my birthday, there appeared a totally unique cake that was shaped to represent some aspect of my life or interests. Naturally, I began motherhood never doubting that I would follow suit and magically master cake ingenuity and design. I assumed that personalized, homemade cakes were a given.

Dad’s story is different. He doesn’t remember traditional birthday cakes. What he does remember is a Jell-O brand boxed cheesecake—every single year. Since Grandma Valerie is gone, we’ll never know exactly how this tradition began, but we can assume that the first time she prepared it for Dad, he LOVED it. In fact, after we were married, Dad told me that is what he wanted on his birthday, cheesecake from a box. How easy is that? You might even remember these cheesecakes, with bright, red canned cherries on top.

The early years with Clark and Chase must have been smooth sailing, as I don’t remember any particular cake hang ups, although I didn’t make cakes that were particularly original or difficult. Clark got a Superman cake with a big “S” on it when he turned three. When Trey turned one, we had recently moved to Lewiston, Idaho and I wanted to create my best cake yet. I found an idea in Family Fun magazine and spent the better part of a day creating a bright yellow dinosaur cake. We had a party with some new friends. After dinner I enthusiastically placed the cake in front on Trey, who was sitting in his high chair. He stared at it for a few moments and then began to cry. Despite our encouragement, his sobs were soon inconsolable and he became angry. He stood up and tried to climb out of his high chair—not quite the reaction I had hoped for! And, on top of that, I forgot to take a picture of my finished cake before it was devoured. After moving to Spokane, I continued with the tradition of homemade cakes, but I also began working full time. When I took one or more boys shopping to Safeway, we almost always pushed the cart by the bakery to look at the decorated cakes on display. You ALL loved to do this! As Trey’s fourth birthday party approached, I experienced an epiphany one day at the Safeway bakery counter. It was like a lightbulb turned on or a voice spoke to me and said, “You can buy those cakes!” I was like, “What?” Truly, it had never occurred to me, that I didn’t have to make a birthday cake. I could in fact, buy one and doing so would make everyone happy. I wouldn’t have to spend hours baking and decorating and you loved the idea of a store-bought “fancy” cake. We could still celebrate with a theme, because I could order something custom ahead of time and simply pick it up, ready to serve the day of the party—brilliant! Our first store-bought cake featured Spiderman and it was a hit.

Since then, we’ve enjoyed a mix of homemade, handcrafted and store-bought birthday cakes—cupcakes work too! We especially like ice-cream cakes that you can order at either Baskin & Robbins or Dairy Queen.

More recently, Dad and I have stopped eating gluten and sugary desserts. But I have found some recipes we like (dark chocolate coconut cake anyone?) and Dad has done a good job of ordering special birthday cakes from a gluten free bakery for me. The truth about birthday cakes is that it doesn’t matter what the cake is or who made it or what it’s made of. What matters most is that it is designed to make the birthday person feel special. It’s people we celebrate!
— Journaling tucked behind the page.