i collect envelopes - below is a sampling from my box. i won't tell you how i've ended up with such a collection because it usually involves some selfishness, strange maneuvers, and somewhat sly questionable behaviour. but i can't help it because i love envelopes. here are all of the things i use them for:

mail art
snail mail
envelope templates
craft packs 
letter writing sets
greeting cards

i'm not quite sure what i want to do with that last group i've been collecting - maybe a journal of some sort?



one | beautiful collage work on the new artful desperado blog
two | a little insight into marilyn
three | i always find myself coming back to this shop. such workmanship.
four | makes me want to try my hand at embroidery again
five | a stunning use of an underappreciated craft material.


an impressive modern take on one of my favourite art history texts

planning to teach this to myself come autumn

a project the husband and i are definitely taking on at some point

a funny article with some things i can relate to while on mat leave



i am forever drawn to artwork which plays with multiple components such as collage, three dimensional perspective, and in the case of elly mackay, diffused light. her whimsical scenes recall fairytails and imagined faraway places. the way the artist designs each piece allows her to imbue it not only with different light, but a different atmosphere (moody, romantic, mysterious, hopeful etc).



when i think about my love for my son (something which admittedly, did not come immediately), it is too much for me to handle. and so, because the overarching concept of my love for him is too great to comprehend, i instead focus of the plethora of minutia that fill my days. these are some of the things i love about him - the "little things" as it were.

when he yawns, i lean over him in the hope that he will expel his sweet milky breath onto my face. i watch his his tongue while he inhales, his mouth a perfect little "O." he luxuriates in this inhalation, sometimes expanding it to one, two, three inward breaths. and then, mid-yawn, he decides he's finished, and his lips clamp suddenly shut into the most adorable straight line. and if i lean far enough, and listen closely, i can hear a sweet little sigh.

when wear him or hold him, i must bury my nose into his head. his fine little hairs tickle the inside of my nose but i don't even care. the smell of him is so intoxicating i find myself going back immediately for more. for a short time after he was born, he had the most beautiful scent. when i was younger, i always associated that smell with baby clothes, and johnson & johnson lotion. but as it turns out, those companies took their inspiration from the baby, not vice versa. nowadays, he smells different, but in the most delicious way. it's like a perfect combination of me and his papa, plus something very much his own. when i press my nose against him, i imagine it's somewhat like mainlining a drug.

sometimes he gets this look, and i just know he's about to sneeze. this baby is always moving and fidgeting - go go go! but when he's about to sneeze, he becomes very still all of a sudden. his eyes start to squint, his lips pucker out...and then BAM! his whole life force goes into making what is really quite a small explosion. it's not even a modicum of what an adult can do but it's so glorious i feel the need to repeat it back to him - to tell him what he's done in borderline psychotic shouts "achoo! achoo! you sneezed, achoo!"

at different points throughout the day, this baby is full of immense energy. he coos like crazy, flails about and seems very very awake. he'll keep on like this for ten, twenty minutes and then all is silent. i turn to him and there he is, totally conked out in his bed, the car, the floor, the couch.

he has these thin summer sleepers. we bought them to account for the heat of the season. they act like a second, smooth cotton skin and i love to feel him in them. the cuddles are somehow better and i want to squeeze every limb all at once. though it's only a thin layer of fabric, it blocks the intense heat we create together when skin to skin.

when he nurses, he looks up at me (like a precious moments boy). his eyelashes flutter upwards and he stares at me unblinking for the longest time. just as when he coos relentlessly, i want to know what it means. what is he thinking? what is he feeling? what is he trying to tell me?? but i settle for this small connection that says we are both content in this moment. and he resumes the busy work of filling his tiny tummy.



i wrote here about my love for quirky still life artwork. here are the key components to what i think makes the perfect modern still life:

one strange and unlikely objects (i.e. dish ware, keys and cigarettes), or fresh takes on expected objects (i.e. fruit, feathers and bones).

two a unique presentation of objects (particularly those in an impossible or analytical context)

three | a crisp clear image bordering on photorealism

four | a modern and minimalist aesthetic (unlike the overabundance of centuries past)

fivea play of light without a reliance on chiaroscuro

below i'm featuring the work of roberto rosenman. his work checks off many of the points above and i absolutely love his choice of objects - playing cards! q-tips! piles of bones!



i have a confession to make. i haven't written any real letters since i left victoria. i'm not exactly sure what my excuse it. in a way i think i was punishing myself. as in: when i left victoria i feel like i left all that is good. all the things i am passionate about, including letter writing. i've still sent mail since being in ontario - packages, gifts, work parcels and the christmas advent snail mail calendar. but i never sat down to write a proper letter.
which is ridiculous because i was pregnant, on mat leave, at home...and had literally nothing to do. but i couldn't find the motivation or inspiration.
and then of course when the baby arrived i was too busy trying to
one | keep it alive
two | keep nervous nausea at bay
three | sleep

and then in the past couple weeks i realized i can start doing things again (even though i have a child! tra la la i am so talented!).
so i wrote a letter.
and it took me five days.
but i did it...and then i wrote another, and another. and then i joined the fourteen day spread joy challenge by josh solar and it's been just the inspiration i needed. i'm not forcing myself to write a letter every day. but when i read an engaging suggestion, i'm following it. so far i've written to a friend, my husband and am working on one for my parents. follow me on instagram to see them! i've posted some images here of the letters i sent out recently.

i can't wait for my mail box to fill up! (i hope nobody punishes me by not writing back).



this june i participated in a craft show near niagara falls. it was a long day, made a bit more difficult than usual because of the new addition we tote around. but i did have the pleasure of meeting another paper goods creator. the dynamic duo behind sea & lake are from toronto and have some serious talent and a definite sense of humour. so many of the sellers i admire on etsy are from the states so it's comforting to see some canadians represent too.

i love the ones below - particularly the last image which is in the same vein as this stamp i created. oh, and this card reminds of when i was first dating my husband. i asked him what body type he liked on women (because his ex girlfriend was very thin and i am...not). he turned to me and said "you are my cup of tea.")

p.s. not based in canada, but another card illustrator that i love. plus, another amazing duo are the women i worked for here.



when we were tasked with the challenge of becoming parents, we tried to prepare as best we could. i read one thousand and one "must have" lists in order to figure out what we would really need. of course what works for someone else might not for another (case in point: we are so relieved we only spent $15 on a cute ikea trash bin rather than $100 on the diaper genie sort that requires specialty bags. it's doing the job just fine). so i took my research with a grain of salt.

most of the lists i encountered included really obvious and necessary things (like a crib! turns out, not actually a necessity), others included extravagent products (wipes warmer). some had bouncers and exersaucers (yikes plastic city!) and still more listed a rocking chair or glider as the end all be all (which, through a series of emails with a pregnant friend, it occured to me it is not).
i'll leave those decisions up to you.

what i will provide you with is a list of not so obvious baby gear essentials. i will clarify that these were must haves for us and our newborn. they may not be for you, but at least it will get you thinking beyond diapers and wipes.

one | receiving/swaddle blankets
we use these for everything! this is maybe one of the more obvious items on the list but for those women who are still pregnant i would like to emphasize how important they are. yes, they are for swaddling. they are also for keeping warm. and for supporting body parts in carseats. and laying over couches and chairs that may have scratchy material. but the number one use for us? we fold them in half and lay them length wise under baby's head. because babies spit up...a lot...all the time. we lay the blankets in beds, on couches and in cribs. this saves us from having to wash bed sheets, crib sheets or scrub couch cushions. buy a pretty one as a photo backdrop, and then stock up on cheaper ones like these.

two | twenty thousand burp cloths
ok, maybe just twenty. but for real, i mean twenty. we go through these at a rate that rivals diapers. we received a pack of three burp cloths at our shower and so i mentally checked it off my list. little did i know that three would last about half a day! three times we trekked to the store to purchase more burp cloths (and so that being said, i love these soft carter's ones but haven't tried much else). you want it to be absorbent (sometimes it feels like the baby spits up everything he just ate!) and you'll want them to be long as well. even if you don't burp your baby over your shoulder, when you're carrying him in places other than your own home, you'll want the protection because you don't have the luxury of changing five times. oh, and the reason you want so many is the smell and the wetness. one good spit up and you won't want that thing anywhere near you! that, and you need one in every room of the house each day. you don't want to have to go running to where you nursed last every time they throw up.

three | large absorbent washcloths
let me clarify: i am not referring to those teeny tiny baby washcloths that you will receive one million of (for the record, you'll need four-six of those at most. it's been three months and i haven't nearly reached the bottom of the pile we were gifted). what i'm referring to is 12 x 12 fluffy cloths like these ones. they will be used at the change station for two purposes: to clean up pee and spit up. for our little boy, we just lay the cloth over his privates while we clean his bum. it has caught the arc of pee many times! it's my understanding girls pee during changing too and although it won't be caught as neatly, you'll still need something to wipe her down with. and babies spit up on the change pad. all the time! so we use a different white cloth to clean that up.

four | boxes of kleenex
while it's probably not the most environmentally friendly, we keep a box of kleenex at our change station. sometimes we use it to catch the aforementioned spit up. but mostly we use it to create a dry bum. sometimes you just don't have all today to let it air dry. and let's be honest, you're taking a big risk with a naked baby and no diaper protection (we learned this the hard way). so after wiping (not for pees, sometimes we don't do anything during those changes), we grab a kleenex and dry him down. wetness is apparently the cause of diaper rash so the kleenex helps to solve this. also: boogies.

five | honest balm
probably any brand will do for the rest of these items but here i'm going to specifically recommend honest co. organic healing balm. it's for scratches, burns and diaper rash. it's an oily yellow cream and we have done scientific tests against sudafed and zincofax diaper rash ointments and honest balm works every time. okay, they weren't scientific. but basically we pad a white cream on and nothing happens. we put honest balm on and the issue is fixed within two or less diaper changes!

six | gel cold packs
i've tried and tried to find a super mini cooler but haven't had any luck. even the lunchbox style ones are too big. we have a version of this in the side of our diaper bag but it only holds one bottle and no ice pack. basically what i want to be able to do is pack 1-3 bottles and one cold pack in a pouch. this way i can fit it in the diaper bag and transport the liquid gold safely to grandma's house. we use a gel pack that was kindly given to me at the hospital when my jaw was acting up back in september ("sorry ma'am, you being pregnant means you can't have any of the drugs that will make you feel better, but here's an ice pack."). it's perfect because it melds itself around the bottles and doesn't take up much extra room in the plastic zip pouch

seven | dry erase marker / china pencil
i keep a stock of expressed milk in the fridge. jon uses it to give the baby a bottle, or to take to a family member's house. i like to know when the milk was made so that it doesn't expire. sometimes we also need to bring multiple bottles to the sitter's house and i want them to know which one to use first in case they don't need them all. hence, the pens. we use a dry erase for the bottles in our fridge, but since that is liable to rub off in transit, i use a china/wax/grease pencil to mark it when the bottle leaves the house. i sound like a crazy mommy here don't i? expiration dates are just very important to me - and although breast milk is pretty awesome in its lack of bacteria, it does expire (you can safely store breast milk 6-8 hours at room temperature, 6-8 days in the fridge, 6-8 months in the freezer).

eight | pacimal
my mom is a neonatal nurse and she discovered the pacimal from one of the moms in her ward. essentially it's a pacifier but with a big stuffed animal attached. i know, it seems counterintuitive right? but babies spit out pacifiers all the time - often on the floor. the pacimal can be positioned to stick around, even once it's spit out. my favourite hack is putting jackson in the bjorn baby bouncer and tucking his pacimal under the straps. there's other versions of this product but it's the same idea.

nine | a fan
there are one hundred and one reasons to have a fan when you have a baby. here's three:
cuddling and nursing babies gets hot. it helps the air to circulate in the sleeping room. it creates white noise which babies love.

ten | stain remover
rubbing the sullied clothes with water and baby detergent and leaving them to soak works too, but it's more time consuming so try this. you will find yourself using it often, especially if you want to keep those cute clothes cute.

eleven | water bottle with straw
let's just say, you will be doing a lot of things one handed. and since you're supposed to drink a ton of water after you give birth (especially if you are breastfeeding), having a water bottle with a straw component is key. some of my warmest memories of the early days are jon filling my bottle with ice cold water and feeding it to me while i tried to nurse jackson (something else he wouldn't have been able to do without the straw). because of the frustration and baby+mama heat making combo, i was boiling hot. it not only gave me the fluids i needed, it cooled me down mentally and physically.

twelve | nursing bras
i know, another obvious one right? i bought one soft nursing bra, and one fancy underwire for "going out." and those were pretty expensive! since then, i have bought four more inexpensive sports bras with "easy access." you don't have to wear a bra if you don't want, but sometimes it's necessary (leaking, snee, greeting people, the sheer weight of them!). so pick yourself up a number of these if you are breastfeeding (most of them will be in the laundry most of the time).

thirteen | patience.
oh, and a bottle brush. bottles and nipples are impossible to clean without one. 



i am obsessed with stamps. i'm not talking about postage stamps, although i love those too!
i'm referring to these:

all wooden stamps and examples shown are my isavirtue stamps

i've never done this post because i figured "stamps are easy, what could i possibly say about them?" but after participating in a few diy events where visitors were encouraged to try their hand at my craft, i realized...maybe this isn't easy for everyone! below are my tips and tricks.

i use rubber, cling foam, and acrylic stamps (though my current preference is for classic wooden rubber stamps as seen above).

acrylic stamps are made from a stretchy form of plastic that holds its form, but can be pulled, prodded, stuck and unstuck. they come unmounted, stuck to a plastic sheet. to use them, you stick them to an acrylic block (varying sizes, though my one 4 x 3 block has worked for me for five years). these stamps are usually offered in themes such as "valentines" or "christmas" and are the least expensive. there are anywhere from three to fifteen acrylic stamps on a sheet and the average price is around $15.

rubber stamps are what you might know best. they consist of a carved rubber image adhered to a foam mount adhered to a wooden block. they sometimes have a handle but i hate those because they encourage rocking (see below). they are very expensive (compared to other types) and average about $10 for one stamp.

both acrylic and cling stamp sets are tim holtz

cling stamps are just the rubber and foam mount mentioned above (though here the foam has a shiny side that sticks to acrylic blocks. i won't do a benefits list below but suffice to say cling stamps fall somewhere in the middle. they are less expensive because there is no wood, but since they are opaque, you cannot see where you are stamping.

* you can also make your own stamps with erasers, art store lino, or a predesigned kit.

benefits to acrylic stamps
cost less for more
can see where you are stamping (great for letters and precise positioning)
easier to clean (blocks are easy to clean as well)
take up less storage space

benefits to wooden stamps
resistant to heat
less likely to break and break down when well made
lines less likely to spread when pressed (you can do finer lines)
can do shading* and cool stuff like this
more special and substantial
just straight up classier

*i don't think acrylic stamps can have shading, maybe just crosshatching details etc. but don't quote me!
the inks that i use are versafine and versamark. other popular brands include color box and staz on. colourbox is fine for black (though not as dark or as good as catching details as versafine, likely because they are pigment inks, not dye) but their chalky coloured pads are sponge-like which coats your stamps in ink, and the colour is never as vibrant as i would like. staz on is good for multiple surfaces such as plastics, metals and wood (it stains your stamps however). versafine is perfect if you are working with just paper. it has a nice solid pad and stays onyx black for a long time.
*tip* always "tap tap tap" your stamps gently on the ink pad. there is absolutely no reason to push hard, or to rock and roll the stamp.

i rarely use other colours of archival dye ink. i use tons of embossing colours however. versamark is what i use for embossing but i'll save that for another post.

i store my stamps in containers like these. i used to throw them all in a box but i hated how the remnants of ink would make a mess of all the other stamps. not to mention it was hard to find what i needed. my husband saw these 4x6 clear containers at michael's craft store and literally insisted i buy them. i lined the bottoms with parchment paper and the stamps fit really well inside. i can see everything clearly too! i keep the larger outer cases tucked under the coffee table.

the types of stamps i like are very specific. when i first began buying stamps i didn't know that i could make my own or that i could hold out for cool ones like this, or this. so i ended up buying a bunch of the cutesy stamps that are ubiquitous in craft stores. now i have hundreds of stamps, most of which i don't use simply because i don't like them. there's images out there for everyone. i love 100 proof press for cool graphics, and if you want a text stamp, i'm happy to make it for you!

what not to do:

never rock or roll, we're stamping - not watching a video of the rolling stones. doing so will cause the image to repeat lines, or catch the ridges of the rubber (see below).
don't press too hard on the ink pad
don't press too hard when applying the stamp to the paper

clockwise, gentle rocking, rough rolling, hard rocking and lack of confidence in positioning. 

the result of pushing your stamp too hard on the ink pad, and also pressing too hard on the paper.

what to do:

tap tap tap your stamp on the ink pad
put your stamp to the paper with confidence, don't second guess yourself
push evenly on all areas without moving your hands
pull the stamp straight up when you are done

finally, it never hurts to practice, practice, practice.

and above all, have fun!



my mother and father have this ongoing battle: he believes artwork should be professionally framed (even if it means spending lots of money), and she believes that you should find the cheapest frame possible (think $20 at ikea) because it's what goes inside it that matters.

and me? i think that frames are necessary and should be thoughtfully chosen. but i don't think they should break the bank.

which is why i was delighted when my friend lesley from artsy forager told me about mantle art and her new curated collection. mantle art offers carefully picked prints and professional, but affordable framing by skilled framers in the pacific northwest.

lesley's collection is a beautiful one. houses situated among a sea of nothingness, women with hidden faces and themes of mist, mysteriousness and modernity permeate her picks. i've included a few below but you can view the full collection here.