Category: Jamie’s Creative Life

Confident Traveling: A Little Break – Stratford (The Return)

Even though it was just a couple of days away, it did us the world of good to have a little break. Gentle new adventures and time together was just perfect.

We woke up early on our last day not only to catch the train but also to…

Get to the Honey Tree right when it opened to indulge in one more irresistible treat. The day before the baker had told us she made these sugar buns out of croissant dough and we simply had to try them. This was my very, very favourite.

Coming home, we felt so contented, so happy we’d given ourselves the gift of some time away, and already imagining the next time!

As I looked out the window I kept thinking, this is so Ontario. I grew up looking out windows and seeing sights like this.

The sight had I never seen before, however, was one I didn’t catch with my camera. Out in the fields, standing still and staring at our train as we passed – a coyote. I sat back and smiled at the gift.

No matter the adventure, it’s always wonderful to come home, this time to a cup of tea in the mug that I did indulge in at my much-loved store, a fox to keep me company this fall.

It’s such a good feeling to sleep in your own bed – though clearly Escher was not very happy about relinquishing it!

Confident Traveling: A Little Break – Stratford (Day 2)

Air BnB

One of the gifts of Stratford as a getaway is that it is quiet and lovely but there is still quite a bit to do – all within walking distance! Our beautiful Air BnB was on a lovely tree-lined and quiet street. We slept easily and well and then were off for our next adventures!
Stratford Cat

And what’s an adventure without meeting a #catsinthehood! We met this lovely girl while she was drinking from a restaurant’s water feature and we were on the way to a bakery we had seen on our street. Like cordial neighbours we stopped along the way to say hey and hello.

The Honey Tree


Best Cinnamon Bun

After our friendly visit, we found our way to a treasure trove of delicious goodness – The Honey Tree. Everything looked so good that it was difficult to choose but we settled on the cinnamon buns.

We were so glad we did! We both agreed these were truly the best we had ever had!

All that sugar inspired us to take another walk. The weather was crisp and sunny and the river walk called once again!

Though there are always plenty of ducks and swans to see along the Avon, there was some magic in the air this morning. They poured onto the banks as though sure we were there to deliver their breakfast. We were sorry to disappoint but so glad to get this close to these beauties.

Alongside the river there is also the great beauty of trees. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen willows this big. As a girl I grew up with one in our yard and spent hours upon hours up in her limbs, a treasured hideaway.

Seeing how small I am next to this majestic willow made me feel like a little girl again!

After another long walk, we took a break for lunch. A local barista had recommended the York Street Kitchen for fresh and delicious sandwiches so that’s what we did. We felt like a wonderful old married couple when we ordered our two sandwiches, asking to give each of us one half of the others so we could both try more flavours!

We don’t do a lot of shopping when we travel, our remembrances are usually our photographs, but I can’t resist Watson’s in Stratford. I could occupy myself in there for hours looking for the just right thing!

I do feel a slight ounce of regret for not picking up this crazy plate. It just makes me laugh!

Before we knew it, it was time for dinner. An early meal is inevitably a part of the schedule when you’re going to the theatre. We’d heard great things about The Red Rabbit and so gave it a try.

Delicious. Memorable. Special but not pretentious. Well, except when the waiter scolded me for Googling something on the menu!

After our meal, we walked through the gentle rain to the Festival Theatre to watch The Tempest.

The whole day had been so wonderful that a night filled with stories of magic felt just right.

The Journey Home

Confident Traveling: A Little Break – Stratford (Day 1)


A short while ago, Justin and I rather spontaneously decided we would take a little break together and go to the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario. It’s just a 2-hour train ride from Toronto and gives us the opportunity to visit a lovely city, see some theatre and have some time together.

2018-09 Union Station

I love taking the train. It’s such a gentle way to travel. On the way, our train had only 2 cars and we boarded right at the front, giving me a view into Union Station that I’ve never seen before! The conductor was patient as I quickly took a picture but I also realized how difficult it is for me to slow down, breathe and take a moment for me when someone else is waiting. I vowed to practice this, to learn what it is to hold my space, take my time and have my moment.

It was grey and cool when we arrived in Stratford and very few of us got off the train. We were definitely coming to the festival at the end of the season and that’s just perfect for us. We love traveling in the shoulder seasons, knowing that things will be quieter, more spacious, even if also a little grey and chilly!

After finding our lovely Air BnB and grabbing a bite of lunch, we did what you do when you go to Stratford, we walked along the Avon River. We were amazed by the lack of people on the path – but there was certainly no lack of ducks, swans and Canada geese!

tratford Ducks and Geese

Stratford Duck

The swans are so big that when they stood up fully, I suddenly realized they are almost as big as me!

We walked all the way to the Festival Theatre and made our first acquaintance with Mr. Shakespeare.

Stratford Water Lily

The beautiful gardens include a little pond for water lilies that just makes me swoon: the darkness of the water, the shapes of the pads and oh, those lilies.

Stratford Fish Pond

The shapes and the colours inspired me to take my camera out again and again and again.

Stratford Poppy

After our long walk, we grabbed a quick dinner and headed out for a night of theatre.

Stratford Coriolanus

We saw Coriolanus at the Avon Theatre – stunning, riveting and relevant! This was truly one of the best pieces (if not the best piece) of theatre that we have ever seen. Thank you to the director, Robert Lepage, whose vision brought this play to life in such a dramatic and impactful way.

Watch the following video(s) to get a glimpse into the magnificent staging that brought this story to life!

A spectacular way to end a wonderful first day.

Continue to Day 2

Studio Diaries: Moments from this Week

Studio Diary: August 31, 2018

Though fall is still weeks away, the transition is in the air. Luckily that has meant a slight drop in humidity and the chance for open windows! The kittens are thrilled. This spot at the back of the kitchen has been their favourite place since we rescued them years ago. They slept under, climbed on and hid behind the piano that is right under the window. It was one thing I didn’t need but also couldn’t bear to part with when my mom passed away. With our reno approaching, it is going to finally go. I wonder what the kittens will perch on in the kitchen’s next iteration.

Our house continues to be in disarray from our rush to get ready to move out for a reno and then our abrupt stop as we realized that wouldn’t happen for months. Boxes are everywhere. Papers, piles and projects abound. That didn’t stop us from having a family get-together on the weekend. Good company, fruit and cookies and suddenly the focus isn’t the space we’re in.

I’ve been pulling a tarot card a day from The Wild Unknown deck but this is my first full reading. Some strong warnings but also some great promise. This gave me lots to think about.

For me, the two best ways to think something out are to take it to my journal or to go out for a walk. This week the walks have won. I love noticing what’s going on around me as I pick a direction and head out. This week, the birds have been close and plentiful.

I even saw a unicorn. Thanks, Cindy!

Though it’s been an incredibly busy week getting The Academy ready to go, I did manage to get a little bit of creative time in. I had fun making a very random pocket/envelope from scraps and ephemera. I so appreciate the patterns on the inside of our bill envelopes!

I also continued to work through a class I’m taking. I’m letting go of judgment while holding onto assessment. I don’t want to be hard on myself for not liking the results – that just shuts things down. I do want to continue to assess what I like and want to build on and where I think things could be shifted so I will like them more. It’s very freeing to let go of the angst and just find your way through. Some days I’m better at it than others.

My sister Shannon brought me this button from the library. Yes, yes, yes! Wonder starts with me. Wonder starts with you. I hope we can all have more wonder in our lives this fall.

No matter how many times I watch this video, it cracks me up. It’s so subtle but it’s as if someone told Escher that when a cat blinks it means, “I love you” so he’s trying it out. “Like this?” “Is it like this?” “Am I doing it right?” You’re doing great, Escherpants. You really are.

Studio Diaries: Justin’s Birthday

Studio Diaries: August 30, 2018

One of the greatest traditions that Justin and I have ever started was taking one another’s birthday off and celebrating the whole day. It’s like our own personal holiday and it is a delight!

This year we started Justin’s celebration by getting out to The Stockyards on St. Clair West for the best Chicken and Waffles you could ever imagine.  It’s the  chili maple citrus glaze that makes this wildly unique and memorable. I have a feeling we’ll be back every year!

After a meal like that, we were ready to do some walking! We found a fun and fabulous vintage store that was unfortunately closing for retirement. Justin was kind and let me do some exploring.

I love stores where there are unexpected treasures everywhere you look. I could have stayed there for hours but it was Justin’s birthday after all!

We decided to do a good long walk and had a great time taking in the neighbourhood sights.  I just love this bunny on a city utility box!

Of course, we made friends with a cat in the hood.

Amazingly we even saw a woodpecker! (Sorry the picture isn’t better – we just couldn’t believe we saw him at all!)

We walked through some beautiful neighbourhoods.  I had this idea that I’d love to get a map of Toronto and fill in all the streets that we’ve walked along. Walking the city is one of our very favourite things to do!

We came across an equipment rental place but we couldn’t help but notice that from this angle it looked like we were at the CNE (the Canadian National Exhibition) looking at a ferris wheel!

We were curious about the construction that’s going on now that Honest Ed’s is gone. We were worried they were taking down this lovely little row of Mirvish Village. It turns out they are refurbishing the entire street. Amazingly, people are still living in some of these houses while they do construction.

Of course everywhere we walked we looked around with the eyes of people about to renovate their home. We’re currently really focused on windows. This is very much what I’m thinking of for the extension of the studio.

We wandered through many neighbourhoods and saw a number of houses that are just dreamy to us. This house, for example, would be just perfect for our family! Can you imagine coming to workshops through that corner door? There’d be well enough room for the studio, us and my sisters!

After over 22,000 steps, we headed back to the east end of the city, which is where we live. We managed a good neighbourhood walk there too, coming around to a local brewery called Left Field to pick up some unique and interesting beers to try.

 

 

Our plans for the evening were to head out for a fancy dinner at a restaurant we’ve been dying to try. We ended up postponing that for a day where we were fresh and our tummy’s not so full. Instead we got nostalgic and went to a restaurant that we used to go to all the time when we first moved to this part of the city. Back then there were almost no options and Sarah’s was a haven for us. Unfortunately the food quality and atmosphere diminished over time and we haven’t been for years. On a whim, we decided to give it another shot and had a lovely night sitting on the patio in perfectly temperate weather celebrating this man, who is my joy and the best gift the Universe ever gave me. I feel like the lucky one on Justin’s birthday.

Studio Diaries: Out and About

Studio Diaries:  August 22,  2018

In these few days of quiet, when the summer season in the studio draws to a close, I try to take time to breathe, rest and check in with my spirit. Even though I have often scheduled myself out of these days, I know that they are crucial. I’ve learned that without this time it’s easy to keep moving forward and forward and forward without being sure I’m on the right path.

So this time, I’ve been starting the days with some journaling and with amazing synchronicity, my sojourn arrived just as Kim Klassen was running a free 5-day Write Now challenge about journaling our way to our dreams. Perfect. (It led into this course.) I’ve found myself writing about our home, my work and personal transformation. It’s been just what I needed to tune my inner compass. Thank you, Kim!

The Beach

One thing I knew I wanted to do during this time was to get down to the Beaches neighbourhood. I used to do this quite often in the summer, bringing my work down to a coffee shop and also taking time to sit by the boardwalk and watch all the dogs walk by as I enjoyed the breeze from the lake. I haven’t done that once this year and so I made sure today was the day. My plans were almost thwarted by rain but I reminded myself that I wouldn’t melt, as my mom would say, and headed out.

I think the location change of the Starbucks has been one of the reasons I don’t go as often. it used to have a wide front full of glass windows, big cozy leather couches and a fireplace. People gathered there, read their papers, had meetings, sat in the stools by the window and watched life go by. The new location is slick and less inviting. I’ll look for another local spot but for today, I was glad to get a secluded little set up by the window. Perfect.

Reading 

Along with my journals and beautiful Spirit Cat pencil case, I brought a book: The Artist’s Journey by Steven Pressfield. It’s quick reading and I was devouring it. I found it compelling to think of the artist’s journey as something one experiences after your hero’s journey – and it’s a journey you are on for the rest of your life.

Some notes:

“The gift you bring is the works you will produce.”

“I had no choice as an artist except to follow this subject and serve it, as it revealed itself and evolved over time.”

“Everything in her not-artist life falls away.”

“Seeking herself, her voice, her source, she enters the dark forest. She is alone. No friend or over knows where her path has taken her.”

Walking

Afterwards, I walked about, letting my mind wander and absorb all that I had written, all that I had read. I held all of those thoughts lightly as I took in the beauty around me. These flowers by the library surprise me every year. I simply don’t expect to see these colours all together in one flower, certainly not in different little buds. What a surprising delight!

And wherever I go, I am obsessed with looking at houses, especially now that we’re renovating. These black framed windows are all the rage right now and we’ve spent hours discussing whether to head in this direction – never mind thinking about casement versus sliders versus single- or double-hung windows. So many decisions!

Of course, it wouldn’t be a day at the beach if I didn’t actually make it down to the beach itself! I found my way to this iconic building, its familiarity in stark contrast to the surprising boat, which was of a size I have never seen on this part of the lake before. Interesting!

Food

I finished the day by picking up groceries to try a new recipe, Tex-Mex stuffed peppers. I took a photo of how they turned out but I am definitely not a food photographer! They were yummy but in the future I would switch to crushed tomatoes or add a second can of tomato paste to thicken up the sauce.

These days I am continually working on creating a meal plan that tastes good and feels good for everyone in our home – one recipe at a time.

Studio Diaries: The Drop

Studio Diary: August 21, 2018

After 10 straight days of work, including production week for the Studio Yearbook,  I decided to take a couple of days to myself. I was looking forward to some reading, writing and art-making. I’d been wanting to get to a class I’d signed up for and thought, now is the time.

After laying down some lines and collage pieces, I quite liked the watery face that was emerging. I took a picture and thought I was off to a good start. But then, quite quickly, it turned into a familiar experience, one that I have seen clients go through again and again, one that stops us cold.

Let’s call it “The Drop.”

There you are, all excited to finally be painting, thrilled to have some creative time. You start working on something, full of excitement and anticipation. This is going to be fun! And suddenly, DROP, it turns hard. You hate what you’re making. In fact, it embarrasses you. You can’t figure out what’s wrong with it or how to make it better. You just know it sucks. Pretty soon you’re telling yourself that YOU suck. Why even bother? Clearly your 6th grade teacher was right – art is not your thing!

I was so disappointed when the drop hit me. I was frustrated and even kind of angry. Why didn’t I know what to do next? Was there an instruction that I had missed? Was there a missing instruction?  I honestly just wanted to throw my painting out and walk away.

But how would that help? What would I learn from that?

Just that I am a person who gives up on my art.

Not me. Instead I’m going to look for any little thing that I do like about my painting, no matter how small…

like this character’s right eye. Okay, that’s something.

Wait.. What about her left eye? I kind of like it too, the way it looks like a reflection of the moon, just like the symbol on her forehead.

Okay, what about what I don’t like? Anything in that category is fair game and can be painted over, eradicated, transformed or erased. No sense being precious about things that don’t work! Instead I’d just try something else and if it didn’t work either, well, at least I was experimenting and learning.

I didn’t end up getting the piece to a point where I liked it but I did make sure to actively gain insight from the painting and the experience of creating it.

I continued to ask myself, “What elements of the painting please me?” I looked for clues about who I am as a painter.  I liked any part that glowed.  I loved the way the orange looked against the purpley blue. I liked purple and blue and red. I loved the sense of the moon and mystery. I enjoyed the look of layered collage. I liked the scribble in the hair and in the shadows but not on the face.

Yes, I looked at what I didn’t like too. I didn’t just go for a big dismissive “I hate this” moan!! Okay, I started there. You know I did. But after some time, I got analytical. What was it that wasn’t working? I might not know how to fix it but being able to identify it would be a step in the right direction. I didn’t like the proportions. The head seemed too big. Could I make it smaller? What if I looked at it from far away? Did I feel differently?

Most of all, there was something about it that just didn’t feel like “me.” It wasn’t my style. Of course this makes perfect sense. I’m working with another teacher’s approach and I am just learning. It will take many paintings before my hand starts to shine through.

I learned and then I left it.

Later that day, simply to capture the moment, I decided to draw the simple outline of the face I had painted in my yearbook.

The unexpected thing was that I loved it! Suddenly this ‘character’ was more my own. She felt like she came out of my imaginative world (probably because I have done way more drawing than painting) and that felt good. And the truth is that if I hadn’t found my way through the drop, if I hadn’t stuck with it, I wouldn’t have landed here.

On top of that, I am confident that in sticking with a painting that I didn’t love I am that much closer to being able to create one that I do.

In fact, I’m well on my way!