Category: Jamie’s Creative Life

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.


Studio Diary: Experiments & New Beginnings

Studio Diary: January 6, 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 Studio

I’m officially wrapping up holidays and ready to get back into the studio full-time. I’m excited about the season ahead and ready to return to my regular practices – starting the week with intention with Mindful Mondays, wrapping up the week with the wonderful women of Journal Club. I’ve also got a new project – a brand new class that’s all about dance: Awakening. It’s been awesome doing “research” by playing songs and moving and grooving around the house! I cannot wait to share this experience and hope that lots of people will sign up and welcome dance into their life this February!

A Clothing Challenge

Friday nights are sister time and this week Suzie, Shannon and I took on a clothing challenge. Could we go to Value Village and buy an entire outfit for just $20? I shared the experience live on Instagram Stories and am currently writing a post about the process – how we did and what we discovered. It was interesting to see how looking for an outfit changed our approach to shopping!

The Reno

This category is bound to start showing up more and more in the days ahead. On Saturday Justin and I went out to a local coffee shop with our notebooks and started exploring our plans for the house in much greater detail. Over coffee we plotted out our entire main floor from flooring to trim to lighting. Now we’re deep into researching banquettes and gas fireplaces!

We were also playing around with the idea of some additional walls (Yes, even though everyone loves open-concept, it’s not necessarily our thing) so I popped into Value Village again and bought a $4.50 King-size sheet that we could pin up as if it were a wall. It gave us a quick impression and helped us experience what it would feel like if that new wall was there. This experiment resulted in a “no” for one location and a “yes” for another. Progress!

We’re also experimenting with furniture layouts throughout the house so that we can plan based on what’s working for us. On Sunday we flipped the living room around entirely!! Couches, lighting, the television – everything was moved into a new location and lots of sweeping and dusting was done! At first the change felt awkward and I was thoroughly unconvinced but bit by bit, as we solved problems and came up with ideas, the room started to come together in a new formation.

With each layout there are wins and losses. In the new setup, we gain ease in the flow of traffic through the room (a priority for Justin), the seating is tucked away in a more private spot (I liked this a lot) and the one window we have becomes more of a focal point for everyone. On the other hand, we lose some seating (a concern for me) and too easy flow through the room might make it feel more like a hallway than a cozy welcoming space! We’ll keep it this way for a while and see how our opinions shake out. I certainly found myself liking it more than expected.

Justin has a real gift for setting up spaces and this change was all him. My contribution was honestly simply being open to the change! Now… I can’t say the cats feel the same!

Studio Diary: Winter Wardrobe

Studio Diary: January 3, 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.

Winter Wardrobe

One of my goals this holiday season was to get out and fill in the gaps of my current winter wardrobe and today was the day!  Over the past several years I have been changing my approach to fashion, inspired a bit by the concept of a capsule wardrobe.  I’ve also recently been blown away by stylist Christie Ressel‘s concept of the “module.” A module is a group of clothes that all mix and match. It includes an outer layer, 3 tops and 2 bottoms. Those 6 pieces will give you 12 outfits! You could create a “work” module and a “home” module. You could create an “artist’s” module, a “polished casual” module, whatever you like.

The main thing that both the capsule and module approach have taught me is to think in terms of outfits and to be sure that everything coordinates well. Instead of falling in love with a piece of clothing, I try to fall in love with my wardrobe as a whole! How will that piece contribute to the big picture? Will it add to it beautifully? Open up new possibilities? Sit all alone because it has no one to play with?

It helps to be clear on your colours. I know to stick with cool tones and focus on black, grey and white with a splash of metallics, sparkle, blue and pink. Each season I think about choosing a colour I’d like to focus on or add to the mix. Last winter it was teal. This season I’m just loving my greys.

I took some time to get clear on what was missing from my winter wardrobe: a pair of nice pants, a couple of sweaters and maybe a pair of rough-and-tumble short boots. A quick look at my Pinterest style board reminded me to stick with simple, clean and elegant styles – with a hint of drama (of course). I want to stay true to my style, to have clothes that fit and flatter and to be able to put together outfits for a variety of occasions with ease.

It never takes long to realize that it’s easier said than done! I tried on dozens of clothes that were a quick no (some that didn’t even make it all the way on) and some that were a “well, maybe.”  I was just about to resign myself to the latter when I found an outfit that I just loved.

It’s not that the pieces are tremendously exciting on their own; it’s that when I tried them on, I felt like me. I had that *zing* of looking in the mirror and thinking, “There I am!” I don’t mean that it felt familiar. It’s not a relaxed, leaning back feeling but a shiny, uplifted feeling. It’s what Marie Kondo calls “sparking joy”. This outfit definitely did it!

Not only did I buy the pants and the shirt but that *zing* made me reevaluate everything else I was considering. It allowed me to set a new standard. If my reaction had been, “Yeah that’s okay” or “I can make that work,” I let it go. I’ve been getting by with the clothes that I have so getting new pieces wasn’t urgent. I could take my time with the process. I learned the importance of wardrobe patience years ago when I worked with stylist Safina Khimani. She took it in stride that 98% of what we looked at wasn’t for me. Where we so often internalize that this is an indicator that there is something wrong with us, that we don’t ‘fit’ with the norm, she took it as a matter of course. We are one wildly unique diamond in the world; it makes sense that we’ll have to search for the just-right setting!

I left with five pieces, all in my colours: a cozy grey sweater, a sexy black top, a slightly dressy pair of plaid pants, a comfy pair of black jeans that fit and some flexible blue leggings. I felt so inspired by these pieces and the new standard I was aiming for that I cleared out my closet and put back only items that I loved, that fit and that I plan to wear this winter. We’ll see how it goes.

It’s all a part of taking January’s message in the Studio Yearbook to heart!

Studio Diary: Starting the Year with Focus

My Studio Diary: January 2, 2019

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.

It’s always exciting to step into the New Year, to start to feel the energy and character of the time ahead. Since celebrating this last Winter’s Solstice, something has felt different, like I have moved from one phase of my life into another. Instead of the resistance and agitation I have experienced with the changes over the past several years, now it simply feels right. What a relief!

Vision Cards & Focus Areas

This shift brought a particularly wonderful energy to my yearly tradition of creating Vision Cards between Christmas and New Year’s.  Each card is like a mini dreamboard for the Focus Areas of my life, the priorities I have actively chosen for the year ahead. My focus areas for 2019 are:

The Studio
Do Good

Most of these categories have been with me for years but for the first time in a long time there are some absolute newbies. Welcome, Enrichment and Beauty! I’m so glad you are here.

This year I also incorporated Vision Cards into the Winter Yearbook so that people could have a chance to explore their Focus Areas in this way and have a beautiful home for them too. I created mine on large index cards, as I always do, but then scanned and printed them so I could add them to my yearbook. I am already loving flipping through and revisiting these touchstones. It’s helping me feel wonderfully grounded as I build the year ahead.

My New Schedule

After all the work of Planning Day and Vision Cards, I feel very clear on 2019. I want to also be clear on how I can spend my time in a way that supports those plans and so I have been working on my schedule. I started by looking through all that I had written and pulling out the things I wanted to do on a daily, weekly, seasonal and yearly basis. Then I tried to figure out how I could make that happen. I started with the dailies. I assigned each task an estimated time and then assigned each one a time of day. I quickly noticed how full my days became and that gave me a clue that my plans might be unrealistic. I decided to work with the schedule for a week or two, adjusting as I go, until I can figure out how to get it to fit just right. Today was the first day and honestly, it was uncomfortable – and I’m not even back in the Studio full-time! The discomfort might mean my plans are overly ambitious and need to be adjusted or it might be the normal discomfort of change. I did manage to get a lot done!

Though I am not a huge fan of the word ‘balance,’ (I tend to like a little more verve and excitement than that word evokes) I do know that at the end of the day, when I put my head on my pillow, I feel best and sleep best when I managed three things: I got something done, I had time to relax and I was able to do something that I wanted to do.  For me this triad represents a balanced day of work, rest and play. I managed that today.

Constellation Cloche


The biggest project in the year ahead is our total home renovation. It looks like we finally have a date for our plans to go to committee: January 23rd. If all goes well, we should be packing and moving in February-March and starting work on the house in April.  If this schedule plays out, we’ll be moving into this just as the Studio transitions to the spring-summer season. This should hopefully allow me to set a manageable schedule.

In the meantime, Justin and I are dreaming, researching, planning and hoping. Over the holidays I created a Mood Board and that really helped us make sure we are on the same page. Two people can easily say, “clean lines” and “comfortable” without meaning the same thing! I gathered several images from Pinterest and put them together in OneNote. When I showed it to Justin he said, “Yes, that’s it exactly.” Yes!

Our overarching desire is to create a sense of “home.” What that looks like is different for everyone and we are discovering what it means for us. We know that we want it to be simple and elegant and also to feel inviting and comfortable.

As we make plans and think about our home, our lives and our things, it’s just perfect that Netflix has added Tidying Up with Marie Kondo to their schedule. I’ve watched a couple of episodes and been primarily moved by what it means to honour what we have – and what we let go of. Marie’s approach inspired me to take a seat on our landing and connect to our home, to tell her how much we appreciate her and how she has sheltered us and our loved ones. I acknowledged the limits of our care and our hope to do better and introduced the plans for our renovation and how we deeply wanted to honour her identity as a 100-year-old house. (It’s her birthday this year.) It felt good and right and I look forward to continuing to build our relationship with this house as we discover more and more how to create a sense of home.


One of the core practices of my Well-Being Focus Area is moving my body. I’m a very kinesthetic person but the majority of my work involves sitting at a desk. It’s important that I work in activities to get myself moving and grooving.  Since my gym closed last year, I have had a hard time finding the next right thing but one thing that is a definite blessing in my life is a regular “Walk & Listen”. Getting out for a walk, no matter the weather, and listening to an audiobook has enriched my life so deeply. Not only is the physical activity great, but I am finally engaged in books again! I had virtually stopped reading because I just couldn’t find the time plus I didn’t want to add one more sedentary activity to my list!  Today not only did I get out and enjoy a book but also I experienced the beauty of new falling snow and the beauty of many, many lights and holiday decorations in the neighbourhood. This activity manages to check off many of my Focus Areas: well-being, enrichment, beauty and life!


When I got back from my walk, it was time to make dinner. After the indulgences of the holiday season, it’s good to get back to focusing on healthier choices. Even though it feels like a summer meal, we made a recent family favourite: Greek Bowls with Meatballs over Couscous from Life Tastes Good. Justin was enthusiastic with the meatballs and so we had enough to freeze and enjoy another day.

That’s a Wrap

I finished my night with a hot cup of tea and some planning for what remains of the week. Though I am still officially on holidays, I am aware of how much is coming in the days ahead. I couldn’t sleep until I wrote down my core priorities: Awakenings, creating the spring Studio Yearbook and preparing for the reno hearing. Once I was clear that those were the projects that required my time and attention for the coming weeks, I felt more at ease and able to draw the day to a close.

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!