Category: Jamie’s Creative Life

Celebrating My Birthday

I had a truly wonderful birthday celebration this year and I want to remember every minute! Justin and I continued our regular tradition of taking our birthday’s off together and making a whole day of it. In fact, we start our celebrations the night before by going out for dinner.

This year we went to Woodlot, which is down in our old College Street neighbourhood. It’s a cozy place – dark, warm, welcoming – and has wonderful food. It’s just perfect for celebrating a winter’s birthday. I even tipped my hat to the season by ordering a cocktail called an Ice Dragon.

In the morning we headed down to the Beaches. It’s been our birthday tradition almost since we first moved out to the east end of the city and discovered that with a short bus ride or a long walk we can make it to this wonderful area of the city.

The cold has rarely held us back from our waterfront visit. In fact blustery snowy days have created some of our best memories! This year it was the dazzling sunlight on the lake. Spectacular!

Then we headed to Shannon’s for one of my favourite birthday celebrations ever. We booked a Pet Party with Pawsitively Pets. Though this event is generally for children, they were happy to celebrate with us. They bring a wide range of rescued exotic animals who enjoy being social for an interactive and educational hour of utter joy.

First we met Caesar, the Sengal Parrot you see on Shannon’s hand. He was a charmer, sitting on each of our shoulders! Parrots can live to be 75 years old and so are a very long-term commitment as a pet. They are smart, social and also particular. Just like people, they don’t take to everyone, though clearly we didn’t have that issue with this beauty!

Next we met Pearl, a miniature angora rabbit, who was gentle, sweet and so very soft.

photo by Shannon Ridler

Then we met Rosie the albino hedgehog, who seemed a bit nervous to see us. We were amazed by her and her protective spines. She can curl up into a ball to keep herself safe.

Have you ever heard of a sugar glider? We hadn’t until we met Peppermint. These marsupials are tiny and happy to be carried around in a cozy little pouch. They have a membrane that runs between their wrists and their ankles that allows them to stretch out and glide through the air! Amazing!

Then there was Kevin, the bearded dragon. Do you know that many lizards find they need new homes when they are about 8 years old? Parents often buy them as pets for their 10-year-old sons. Then those boys generally keep their lizard until it’s time to move out or head off to university – when they are about 18.  That’s what happened to Kevin.  We were so glad to meet him. He had such a lovely presence and his stillness created such a sense of calm in the room, giving me a new appreciation of lizards. Thanks, Kevin!

Many people have ferrets like Libby for pets. Apparently they behave a lot like cats – they can even use the litter! Though they will also crawl into any little nook or cranny in your home! They can get into just about anything. They also have a very distinctive smell. In fact, we each got to take a moment to smell the musky, earthy, slightly sweet scent of a ferret. How many people can say they did that for their birthday?!

Then there was Romeo. Honestly, what can I say about Romeo, the 40-pound python?! I almost didn’t put him down as an option for the party but I thought, when are you going to have an opportunity like this? I was sure to ask everyone if they felt comfortable with encountering a snake and I’m so glad we all said yes. Romeo opened my mind to the beauty of snakes. He was all grace and muscle. I honestly feel transformed by being able to hold this magnificent creature.

We ended our visit with the gregarious George, a double yellow headed Amazon parrot. What a beauty!! She was quite a talker throughout our entire visit but held back her big number until right at the end. Just as she was heading out the door she sang out the last line of This Little Piggie, “Wee wee wee wee all the way home.”

What a glorious celebration! I am so thankful for this experience. I will remember and treasure each moment forever.

Sometimes Adventure Find You

When I sat down to make my weekly plans on Monday, I sure didn’t have anything in there about “building a cat shelter” or “buying a bale of straw” but that’s exactly what I did! Because somehow, as we shift from the beauty of yellow leaves cascading against a blue autumn sky into the dull grey darkness of November rain, a cat has found her way into our backyard.

At first we spotted what looked like a furry egg on our deck furniture. A mostly white cat was curled up in a ball, sleeping. Other than “how sweet,” we didn’t think much of it. If a neighbourhood cat wants to nap in our backyard, they are welcome. But the next night, a quintessential “November in Toronto” night (i.e. cold, dark, rainy),the kind of night when all good kittens should be tucked in and cozy, she was there again. All night. Was she lost? Abandoned? Wild? We put one of our cat beds out to help her stay warm. She liked it.

I posted a picture on Facebook and eighbours said it was an outdoor cat that lives on the street behind us. The next day we discovered that no, this little boo as not Tallulah. So, we built a shelter. We snagged the last two Styrofoam coolers from the hardware store and cut into one of our bins. We lined our cozy fortress with a thick towel. It was the best thing we had on hand, though straw is recommended.

Homemade Cat Shelter

The next day promised snow so I was determined to find some straw. Apparently it wicks away moisture that the cat might bring in, keeping them drier and warmer than fabrics. Thanks to a lead from a local stray cat volunteer, I headed to the garden centre, confident I’d be able to carry a bale of straw on the bus. Not a chance! The bundle was half the size of me! Luckily a kindhearted taxi driver agreed to take me and the straw home. When he heard what I was using it for, he said, “God bless you.” “You too!” I said. “You are helping this happen. I was about to give up hope!”

My sister Suzie helped me fill the cat shelter with hay before the snow fell. Thank goodness! Though I’m not sure it matters because apparently Boo, as we’ve decided to call her, really likes the cat cubby.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with this little one. I can’t bring her inside because of our three. I’m not sure she could be convinced anyway. When I open the back door she still runs and scrambles up the fence. But I do think we’re building a relationship, bit by bit, and as long as I can figure out a way to help her, I will.

I didn’t know that I had a covenant with cats but it seems that I do. They keep showing up on my doorstep.

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.