Letters to Grandma

February 2024

I was the first in my family to go to college. While I was in school, I talked to my Grandma often. She was so thrilled to hear stories of campus life or things we did in San Francisco. Even the mundane was exciting. Everything that was new for me was also new for her. She was fascinated about my life away from home and who I was becoming. Two years after I graduated I had an idea. What if I could capture all of these things in a recurring and consistent way?

Three Things was born.

The idea was simple, every month I would send an email to my Grandma and family retelling things I ate, things I saw, and places I went. My first newsletter was sent on February 2014:

Things I learned

Consistency is key

I've sent over 120 emails. That's an email every month for the last ten years! Some months I'm late. Some months I'm on time. But every month that email is in their inbox. Some things I've done to stay consistent:

  • Prep the content as much as I can throughout the month

  • Just show up, if I can't write all of the email in one sitting then do as much (or as little) as I can

  • Designate a day to sit down and write out the emails

  • Remember your "why," reminding myself that this is for my Grandma helps me push through any procrastination

A time capsule

The unique benefit of having written down everything I did each month for the last ten years means I have a lot to look back on. It's a great moment of reflection. I can pinpoint specific situations and recall how I was feeling at the time. I look back fondly on these times and in reflection have seen a lot of growth for me and the people around me.

Write more, write better

I feel like I've developed my voice and tone throughout this project. I have more fun with writing and have become better at telling stories. This has affected my work life as well. My "360 reviews" at the end of the year are full of these vivid storytelling moments which my managers seem to appreciate reading. I suppose retelling a mundane story like "meeting with stakeholders" is much more exciting when I tell it.


The first step of any designer's side project is to name and brand the project. This is the current iteration for Three Things.

Tech Stack


Starting in the middle of the month I open up the iOS Notes app and start taking some notes on things that I've done so far. Usually in bullet points to capture the main things I've done. At the end of the month I take these notes and write out the full descriptions.

Google Photos

I use Google Photos. My photos are automatically uploaded after I take them. I find that the search functionality is a bit better than the iOS photo app and the web experience is a bit better too. I search for "Month, Year" and find the photos that match the content the Notes app.


I use Figma to resize the images and put them in square proportions.


I started this project with Mailchimp which I really liked for its customization. It was getting a bit challenging to maintain and have since switched to Substack. I have a very small group of subscribers. I like the writing experience on Substack and it's very easy to schedule posts to send later.