Category: Jamie’s Creative Life

Love What You Love

Years ago, my dear friend Christine Mason Miller sent me this box full of treasures: a dried hydrangea bloom, a metallic skull, a plastic goat, a seed pod, a tin whistle, a tiny notebook, a brocade pouch filled with lavender, a smattering of seashells and more. I cherish this box of odds and sods. Every now and again I open it up and, one by one, I take each item out and admire it closely. Then, with gentle reverence, I put each piece back and close the lid.

It reminds me of the ‘memory box’ I’ve been keeping for years. The blue box itself is from a gift I received when directing a show for a Turkish youth drama group. Inside is a translucent bow that crowned a gift from my mom, knitted bells made just for me by my childhood babysitter, a pink plastic squirt ring, a Mr Dressup button, a Latvian ribbon from my grandma. Every now and again I open it up, take each treasure out to admire it and then, with gentle reverence, I put each one back in.

This week was the first time I became aware that I do this, that I love this.

In a doll-making assignment in Carla Sonheim’s yearlong art class, Carla pulled out bits of ribbon and fabric and buttons and lace, I got teary. What was that about? During our recent renovation, I had let go of supplies like this. I decided to simplify, to focus on the arts that speak to me most: drawing, painting, photography and collage. I let go of fabric and buttons and wire and yarn and any number of some such things.

It was good to let them go but in that moment I missed them, not because I wanted to use them but because I enjoyed them for their own sake. I love opening up a box of buttons and seeing the array of shapes and colours, hearing them click against one another as I run my hand through the pile. I love the extravagance of ribbons, how they feel as they pass through your fingers. I love old pins with coloured pearls on their tips arranged around a plastic circle or stuck in a satin cushion. Treasures all.

In that moment, I recognized this love and all the ways it shows up in my life.

The top drawer of my writing desk is full of miscellany: a “My 2 Cents” change purse full of coins from travel destinations, a cat toy Shibumi loves but is too noisy to bear, the key we accidentally brought home from our hotel in Nice, an address stamp that stamps my mom’s address, a kaleidoscope and, believe it or not, a piece of wood from the famous Bluenote schooner from Nova Scotia.

And what about jewellery! I open a box and find my pink plastic triangle earrings circa 1984, my mother’s green and gold necklace (which I will never wear but will also never part with), my grandmother’s old watch, a pair of linen gloves, a unicorn necklace from my high school boyfriend, a broken sodalite ring, a moonstone a friend gave me for our wedding.

How did I not know I do this?

This gathering, this love of objects and artifacts is me through and through. I see it right back to the days when I was little and loved to pull things out of my mom’s purse – her wallet, her lipstick, her keys – and then put them all back in again.

Did you do that too?

I think we creatives are gatherers by nature. This is perhaps why we consistently long for order and simplicity while also delighting in abundance and ‘stuff’. We are sensitive to the beauty of things, the simple sensory joy of loving what we love – a shot of colour, a coolness to the touch, a bit of sparkle or softness, a bit of mystery or memory. We read or add in layers of meaning. We see the connections in collections. We understand the autobiography in things.

But no matter the reason, no matter the why, the simple truth is this: we are allowed to love what we love.

This week I discovered my love for little collections. What love is calling you?

PS My sister Shannon hooked me up with a supplies for the class – a box full of love and treasures!

The Value of Sketching It In

It’s been over a month since we moved into our newly renovated house and it’s been quite a journey. The first few weeks were really about adjusting, getting used to how things work and, honestly, trying not to ruin anything! When we found our bravery and started settling in, it quickly became apparent that making ‘home’ was going to take time. It’s going to take time to become familiar with our new home, to figure out how we want to live in it and what it wants to be.

As we make a start, one of the most helpful things we’ve done is to use an approach that’s rather like sketching in a first draft.

For example, let’s look at our dining room. This is what it looked like when we first moved in.

As we imagine how we’d like this space to be, there are many considerations. We don’t own a dining room table or chairs yet. We have a limited width to work with and a sideboard we’d really like to use. We’re also thinking a rug might work well but we’ve never had one before so we’re really not sure. To help us decide, we’re sketching it in using what I’m calling ‘placeholders’ to figure out how things might work, look and feel.

With curiosity and no attachment, we sketched it in.

We put the sideboard in place. We added the one table we happened to have to give is an idea of proportion and placement. My sister Suzie had a rug that a friend had given her so we put it in place to get a feel. Suddenly it was much easier to get a sense of what’s possible.

So often we stay stuck in our heads because we can’t quite see the possibilities before us.

We spent a lot of time thinking and talking about what might work in this room but as soon as we sketched it in, the picture became clearer. Now we know that we don’t want a table any wider than this one. In fact, a little thinner would be even better. We’ll probably need to escape the grip of the strong sense of centre in the room and scooch everything over to the left. Maybe we’ll save some space with a bench under the windows instead of chairs. And even though the rug isn’t what we’ll end up with, using it as a placeholder sure let us know that a rug works in this spot. It immediately warms up the space and adds a sense of welcome.

Putting something in place, sketching it in, taking a bit of action, all of this can make the picture clearer. Sometimes that’s all you need to find your way to the next step.

Where might ‘sketching it in’ offer some clarity to you?

My Strategies for Handling My Biggest Project to Date

This month we are moving in with family, moving all of our things into storage and, at last, our renovation begins.

Oh, July, you will be an adventure!

During several recent events, people asked me how I was managing it all and whether I’d be sharing more about the renovation. In terms of sharing, I’m doing a lot of writing and picture taking behind the scenes but it’s all pretty raw. Perhaps that’s why the place I’m doing the most sharing right now is Instagram stories. It’s a quick place for me to share a photo and go, “Ack! Is this storage place going to be enough?” or “Omg, look at Scout on top of all those boxes.” I’m really loving being there and sharing. So if you want a daily dose of cats, the garden and the move, be sure to visit me on Instagram and check out my stories.

As for how I’m handling it all, I feel like I’ll have much more to say in a month but for now…

My Current Strategies for Handling My Biggest Project Ever

Be Devoted to Sleep. With so much on the go, it’s easy to become exhausted. I’ve been fiercely committed to getting to bed at a good time and trying to get 7 hours of sleep, no matter what. If I need a nap, I take it. If something on my to-do list needs to get cut, it’s cut. Sleep matters.

Eat Nutrition-rich Rood. I always find this is the hardest thing during busy times. This time I’m going to try and make sure that the fridge is stocked with simple and healthy choices all the time. I found this food prep video very inspiring and it’s exactly the approach I hope to take. (Yep, I’m just starting work on this one)

Drink Lots of Water. When things are demanding and I’m tired, it’s super easy to make one more cup of tea or drink one more cup of coffee. It’s all too easy to rev myself up while depleting my fluids. Not to mention that the heat has hit and I’m doing lots of lifting, shifting and moving. I’m reaching for water more often then not, maybe even with a few lovely berries for colour and sass.

Logs & Check-Ins. I start each day with going over the state of all of my projects, including the reno. I remind myself of what has been achieved and also what needs to get done. Throughout the day, I keep a journal page that lists not only my plans and tasks but also things that have happened and information I need to record, for example, “Building inspector called at 10:40 and said… Remember to email him about…” At the end of the day I review my page, noting in particular what didn’t get done so I am ready to tackle it the next day.

Communication & Relationships. Not only are there lots of moving pieces to a big project like this but there are also many people involved. I try to make sure that each communication not only moves the project forward but also deepens my relationship with the person involved, whether that’s a member of the family or the renovation team.

Remember the Dream. There have been many (and no doubt will be many more) reasons to stress and worry. There will be hard work and a thousand decisions and who knows what else. It’s easy to get caught up in it all and forget that above all else this is a blessing, an opportunity for us to create our home and make it a place we love. On the hard days I will remind myself that I believe it is worth the effort.

Remember What’s Important. From early on in our relationship, Justin and I made a decision that has served us well. If we ever feel ourselves getting edgy over something or other, getting a little heated about what colour to paint the walls or whether the couch should be on this side of the room or that, we stop immediately and remind one another, it’s not that important. It’s a colour. It’s paint. It’s a couch. It’s not us. What matters to us is each other. All the other choices will be just fine. It’s love that makes a home.

Remind me I said that when we’re picking lighting fixtures ;)

Studio Diary: Packing, Planning & Art

I am so thankful to start my weeks with Mindful Mondays. Our practices and the group energy root me into my self, my community and my dreams. It helps me prepare powerfully for the week ahead. When we finished this week’s session, I felt like I had been immersed in a pink cocoon of love lit by twinkie lights. With so much going on in the studio and with the renovation, it’s precisely what I need.

In preparation for the reno, we’re getting ready to move. All of our things will be put in storage while we stay with family for the spring and summer. Packing has been an incredible exercise in focus and self-knowledge as we figure out what to bring and what to store. For me, this has been particularly true with art supplies.

I recently faced my big white bookcase that holds everything from paper to paint to chalk pastels. What did I need to bring with me? What could I safely put away? What was it time to let go of? What principles would guide the way?

Three things helped me decide what to keep with me:

  • What do I use all the time?
  • What doesn’t make much mess or take up much space?
  • What will I need for the class that I am taking (Year of the Collage)?

This gave me clarity as I put aside collage materials, basic drawing and colouring supplies, papers, watercolours and a few acrylics. Everything else,  I packed or let go of. Of course, in our very next class, what did we need? Oil pastels!

Art Day

Luckily, Shannon hosted Art Day and she had plenty to share.

Transparencies on Tape

We also needed packing tape. Funnily enough, that was something I had plenty of! It’s amazing how creative you can get with such a functional material! Here’s what I made…


It’s not just art supplies that are being assessed, packed and parted with. This past weekend, I worked on books! Oh… books, how we love you.

I’ve already packed plenty of boxes of books but was down to more difficult choices. I sat on my bed, looking through each one carefully and calmly, wondering how I was ever going to decide. It made all the difference when I decided to let my current reading practices guide the way. I spoke about that on the BTS and hope to write more about it later.

As I continued clearing and packing, I came across the binder I had created when we first moved into the house. It was full of our hopes, dreams and plans. My favourite thing was the collection of paint chips of the colours we chose. I still love the names: celadon, quahong, batter bowl green, hydrangea blue and French blue. Why do they ever just use numbers when the names hold half the appeal?

Favourite Chicken Recipe Card

I also went through my recipes and was delighted to discover this recipe card I’ve had since forever. This sesame chicken came to be known in our family simply as “Jamie’s favourite chicken” and I love it to this day. You cut chicken into little pieces, dip it in this simple batter and fry it up. The last time I made it, everyone was sneaking bits of chicken each they got something out of the fridge. It’s that good!

And speaking of delicious food, one of the things I am trying to do as we go through this intensive process is stick with making nutrition-rich food. It is so easy to let this go when you are working hard and tired. It’s so tempting to pick something up or pop something prepared in the oven – and I know we will do that – but, as best I can, I’m going to focus on vegetables. This week we had Pinch of Yum’s Bangkok Coconut Curry Noodles and wow! I just loved them! I seriously can’t wait to make this again. Pinch of Yum never steers us wrong!! Everything recipe we have made has been stellar.

As I write this entry, I realize the through-line of trying to stay grounded during a period of major transition. My intention is to keep my roots strong and to keep myself (and my loved ones) nourished as best I can as we go through the biggest creative project yet!

Studio Diaries: Schedules, Home & Cats


Studio Diary: Friday January 11, 2018

My Studio Diaries gather raw and real inspirations and insights of life in my studio. They are not finished pieces but works in progress intended to let you in to the world of this one creative heart.

Cat in the Hood

Just when I thought I was scaling the mountains of busy-ness, it turned out I was a mountain to be scaled! In the midst of a very full and demanding week, this magical moment happened. I was out for a walk delivering some important letters to do with our reno when I met this sweet tabby. Just as I was kneeling down to get closer, he walked right up my back and settled in! It was as though he were thoroughly ready for me to take him for a ride! What a joy. This was truly one of the most memorable “cats in the hood” experiences ever!

The Studio Yearbook

It’s hard to believe but it’s already time to start working on the spring edition of the Studio Yearbook. Now that we’ve completed our first year’s cycle, we’re making some changes – not to the yearbook itself but to how we share it with the world.

Every season since its inception, we’ve chosen one growing edge to focus on with each yearbook. For example, in the fall season I learned how to print postage from the studio instead of having to take boxes and boxes to the post office in my granny cart. That was particularly good for the winter edition!

We’re always trying to improve and we’re always trying to grow. There are a million things on my list of possibilities for what we can do to nourish the yearbook and its community. It’s hard to not try to do it all at once! But one thing I’ve learned from plate-spinning is to get one thing going smoothly before you add the next.

The Reno

As we prepare for the reno and, like everyone else, as I binge watch Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, I am focusing on the things that are truly near and dear to my heart, like Otis.

On one of our early anniversaries, Justin and I walked into a toy store and each bought one thing. He ended up with little red binoculars and I fell in love with a sweet bunny puppet I named Otis. He accompanied us on the rest of our date. He talked to kids on the streetcar and had his own seat at dinner. Now I even have a portrait painting of me and Otis. (Thanks, Shannon!)

He’s a little worse for the wear but he’s a keeper for sure.

And speaking of the reno, I am just so happy right now! We’re a few weeks away from the committee meeting which will determine whether we can go ahead with the reno in the way that we would like to. One thing that can impact our chances greatly is letters of support from neighbours – and we got one!  I hadn’t been too hopeful, honestly, but now I am beaming with gratitude. Thank you to our neighbours and to the Universe too – and maybe even to that little tabby who blessed my letter-delivery outing!

My Schedule

Ah… writing that makes me realize how often I use that strategy, including moving into the season. This week was my first full-time week in the Studio, including returning to the BTS. Next week, I start working with my coaching clients. The next week Mindful Mondays and Journal Club begin. The next week the Studio Yearbook should be available and Awakening begins. Throughout all of this, I am trying to work with a new schedule, one that puts my priorities in focus and makes sure I include my practices in the mix.

Already I see what’s most likely to get dropped (my writing) and what things are fairly established (basic home tending).  I also see how often I want to veer away from the schedule. Most times it’s simply habit that tries to pull my attention away.  I have some things built-in to the schedule that are helping. Let’s say I want to check my email or social media. I know I have two times during the day that are dedicated to that. It’s easy to say no when I’m really just saying, “Not yet.”

Even though I’m still experiencing the discomfort of trying to adhere to something new and rigorous, I am also feeling the benefits. I was very productive in the studio this week – plus I did get to my meditation, yoga and writing way more than I have in ages. I also managed to have a couple of lovely quiet nights, getting to bed early and even *gasp* having a bit of time to read.

It’s still an adjustment but all of these things seem to suggest I am on the right road.

Feel the Love

And nothing caps off a Friday better than cat videos and Sarpur Duman’s YouTube channel and/or Instagram feed is a rabbit hole that I am more than happy to explore.  The joy is never-ending!

Studio Diaries: The Day that Got Away

Studio Diary: Tuesday, January 8, 2018

My Studio Diaries gather raw and real inspirations and insights of life in my studio. They are not finished pieces but works in progress intended to let you in to the world of this one creative heart.

The Funny Shape of Productivity

The overarching theme of today is getting bumped off track. This morning after filming the first BTS of the season, I discovered a technical problem with all of my domains and had to go down the well of tech support in order to get it resolved. Just like that, the rest of the morning was lost.

Then we got an email rejection letter from the city for our reno and were sent in a tizzy!! Luckily it turned out to be simply a revision of the original refusal letter but, just like that, my focus was lost!

Those bumps and bruises continued to arrive and by the end of the day, I felt a pummeled. It seemed that I had gotten nothing done. I have two practices that revealed to me that this was simply not true: daily check-ins with a friend and my “Day in the Life” file.

Every morning and evening I have a daily text check in with my dear friend Kim. We tell each other what we plan to get done in the day ahead and then share what we actually managed to do. We each give the other gold stars for every accomplishment.

I also keep a running file called “A Day in the Life” where I note all of my activities during the day. I originally called this practice “My Day at Work.” I set it up when I became an entrepreneur so that I could have some perspective on what the “right” amount of work was to get done in a day. It was instrumental in being able to declare my work day complete. With the upcoming reno and some other new priorities, I’ve decided not to limit it to work activities but to record life stuff too.

Today both the check-ins and the A Day in the Life practice helped me see that despite not accomplishing what I had set out to achieve, I did get a whole heck of a lot done.


Last night right before I went to bed I had two big thoughts, one about Studio Diaries and one about blogging.

Studio Diaries: I’ve been wanting to come back to Studio Diaries for years and make them a regular part of my practice. I’ve had all sorts of different ideas about how to approach this and many different reasons to be unsure of how to start. As I sit down to do this writing and sharing I realize once again, you can’t know what something wants to be until you start creating it! That moment of inspiration has just enough juice and info to get you started but not enough to provide a blueprint. You must start and try and experiment and listen and it will slowly but surely become what it is meant to be. You have to be willing to risk, to get messy and to be in process. As the creator, your job is to listen to the inspiration, get into action and step-by-step follow the path as it lies before you. I am here.

Blogging: Many times and with many people I have lamented the loss of the early days of blogging, the days when people were sharing from their heart not from their marketing strategy, when bloggers were actual people not influencers, where we could be a community of creatives finding one another around the world. Yesterday my perspective shifted from mourning to blessed when I realized how lucky I am that I found blogging when I did, that I was able to experience that unique moment in time, a time when blogging was raw, real and a lively frontier, where everyone was making it up as they went.

As with so many things, I’m realizing the key is to be filled with gratitude for the experience without trying to hold onto it or resenting its departure. Life moves on. Things grow and change. It’s natural and inevitable. Blogging (or anything else, for that matter) cannot remain stagnant – nor should it!  There are blessings in its new iterations too! Instead, what can serve as a constant, is the love we have of the qualities that made that time or that thing special – in the case of blogging: sharing from the heart, creative community, the realness and risk of being on the frontier. All of that magic can (and will) simply take new form.


So, in the midst of a wonky day, there was still insight and productivity. There was even an actual rainbow! Even better than that, I was able to yell downstairs to my sister Suzie that she should come up and share in this beautiful sight. It reminded me of when she was just a little girl and someone named “Mr Rainbow” phoned her and asked her to step outside and say hi to him, which she promptly did. I wonder who that might have been?

I guess there are some things that don’t change.


Studio Diaries: Back in the Studio

Studio Diary: Monday, January 7, 2018

My Studio Diaries gather raw and real inspirations and insights of life in my studio. They are not finished pieces but works in progress intended to let you in to the world of this one creative heart.

In the Studio

Today was my first full-time day back in the studio with the out-of-office message officially off.  It was a busy day but the beautiful thing was that at several points throughout the day there were affirmations about some core ideas I have moving forward. I always trust those synchronicities and let them guide the way. It’s great to come back and feel on-target and on-mission.


As I sat down to get clear on my priorities and plans for this week, I found myself pushing a little bit. I stopped and simply returned to our Mindful Mondays practices of starting with meditation and journaling, imagining the week that I want to create and then building my plans around that. Much better! I felt instantly more grounded and, in fact, that inspired my touchstone word of the week: grounded. That’s exactly what this week is about for me – getting grounded in the studio, my schedule and my practices so that I can build a beautiful and successful year on that!


I’m continuing to work with a new daily schedule, trying to refine it until it feels just right.  Today I did not get my morning writing in and I felt its absence. This affirmed for me an earlier wake-up time is important. Holidays are over :)

But even though the holidays are over… I did have a gingerbread man to enjoy with my tea!


And speaking of food, one of my goals this year is to establish a lovely set of nutrition-rich, tasty recipes that work for our household. Everyone’s needs and tastes are different but I hope to get a good roster happening and have been doing some experimenting. The best resource by far has been Pinch of Yum. Every recipe has been a hit, including tonight’s Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo.  It took about the estimated 45 minutes to prepare and was quite straightforward. Tempering the egg mixture was the only tricky bit but, honestly, it was just a matter of taking it slow and steady. The result was a delicious and creamy soup that would be a win for anyone who likes lemon-dill flavours.


I am so excited by Carla Sonheim’s one-year course for 2019: Year of the Collage!! It’s being taught by Carla, Lynn Whipple and Ann Marie Grgich. I have studied with and learned so much from each of them. I can hardly wait to get started. Just one more sleep.