isavirtue + Nature's my Friend - Funny Punny Animal Greeting Cards

I can't even remember how I met Jessica from Nature's my Friend. Before my son was born, I asked if she would be open to creating a piece for me to commemorate the new relationship I was about to experience (a beautiful doe and fawn illustration). In early 2015 I emailed Jessica to see if she would be interested in collaborating (I even sent her this video in my early request to make her laugh). It was just one of those online relationships that somehow becomes real.

We released our first collection in the spring, another at Christmas, and the most recent in spring 2016. The series features a hilarious selection of our favourite puns, with detailed (and sometimes quirky) drawings by Jessica, and the text design by myself. Below is a selection of some of my favourites - you can find them all in my stationery shop!


so long, farewell, auch wiedersehen, goodbye

i began this blog in 2009. i met a group of women in graduate school, some of whom had blogs. i began my own in an effort to channel some of their chicness and devil may care attitude. those women are trendsetters so needless to say their blogs are long gone. but here i am, six years later.

for me, blogging was an outlet for inspiration, and provided a sense of community. but as many have recognized, that online community is changing and waning. without a huge dedicated following and commentary (as found on enJOY itcup of jo etc), writing online can feel like speaking to dead air. and that's fine for some people, but i've never been very good at keeping a journal or diary because i like the feedback - the exchange of ideas.

i think for a long time i felt that having this blog was a necessary part of my stationery business. and that's frightening to think that i might lose sales as a result of closing up shop here. although admittedly, i haven't been posting much since jack was born (over a year now!) and my shop sales have remained the same (even a bit better).

and of course, technology and social media is changing as well. right now i'm enjoying the bite-size sharing style of instagram. and maybe in a few years instagram will be something else, or it will be the same and we will be somewhere else. but for now it provides that connection and outlet that i need without being a commitment (and blogging is a commitment, posting requires passion and consistency in order to be successful).
there are many things i want to share here - links to my shop, posts about art, stories about motherhood, how to's about the crafts i'm completing. but when posting those things begins to feel like a chore then you have to know when to call it quits. despite the multitude of jobs and projects i work at, i am constantly striving to simply my life. this means saying no to new endeavours, opting out of email subscriptions and physically decluttering my environment. so now this blog will also get packed up in a little box, and placed lovingly at the top of my metaphorical closet for safekeeping.


place | home is where you are?

 A bird's landing view of beautiful Victoria, BC
I recently had the opportunity to return to the West Coast again. When I visited my adopted hometown last fall, the trip was very rushed and I felt overwhelmingly like a tourist. This time, I had lots of time and felt less like a visitor. I still didn't feel like I used to when I lived there - but I think I knew that wasn't possible. I suspect that feeling can only be gained when you have a real homebase to go to at the end of the day. But I realized that it also has a lot to do with the fact that when you live some place, you have purpose. You go to work, you run errands, you plan for events in the future.
The busy inner harbor in Victoria, featuring hotels, sailboats, float planes and tourists
Today we are moving back to our hometown. For anyone else, this might be a moment full of sweetness - and a sense of "coming home." For me it simply feels like backtracking. In addition, although I enjoyed my childhood very much, I don't feel a strong connection to my hometown. To me it lacks water and fresh air, aesthetic beauty, a voice for millenials, and the arts and culture that I crave. I found all of those things in Victoria.
The stunning old decorative details and architecture at the Vancouver Art Gallery

The funny thing is, as we prepare to leave Cambridge, I am feeling very bittersweet. Despite choosing the location specifically, I initially did not like Cambridge. But with time, the city grew on me. The beautiful old churches and buildings, the stone bricked homes, the walks along the water. Even the library and the early year's centre have become a place of comfort.

And so I wonder if maybe home is in fact, where you are. Where we are. I do hope one day to return to Victoria. Or, at the very least, to live in a beautiful house by the water. But for now, I'll just give it some time - to let the good memories resurface, and to create new ones in this new old place.


art | krista svalbonas

in two days we are moving. it's not a forever home, it's just another temporary home. i have to say - after ten years and seven apartments (plus three houses and two cottages for my parents) i am so so ready to have a home i can live in for awhile. maybe not forever, but long enough to settle. it's no secret that i am a homebody!

and so it seems an appropriate time to share the beautiful artwork of krista svalbonas. using a mixture of digital photography and collage, krista creates hybrid houses. some are a little country...and a little city too! (and in that way they would be ideal for my husband and i! he's a country mouse, i'm a city mouse).


roots | american greetings cards and crafts

I spent the morning writing cards - thank-you cards, congratulatory cards...and I even got a head start on mother's and father's day cards. and suddenly i had a strange deja vu from when I used to make cards as a little girl. Handmade, sure - but more specifically I was remembering the cards I used to create using American Greetings Crafts.

This awesome software had all sorts of projects, including greeting cards with predesigned themes, messages and images. You could mix and match and print them out! Of course, I didn't even know what cardstock was back then so I rocked it old school and folded a regular sheet of paper into four.

Now I'm designing and printing my own cards - and hope to try my hand at gold foil typography. The simplicity of my designs is a far cry from my American Greetings days. Still, it's neat to trace my love of cards, gifting and snail mail back to the beginning.

It would be fun if somehow i had a photo to share here of a card that I had made when I was younger.
On second thought, my parents are ruthless. A few years ago they found this "essay" my little brother wrote in grade two and he still hasn't heard the end of that one.


baby | working from home with a baby

This week I read a post on Elise's blog about how she spends her work days. Because she planned to write about a specific day, it gives a nice breakdown of how she works and creates. It got me thinking about how I spend my days. Elise once mentioned that getting childcare was the best thing she ever did for her sanity, her work, and her role as a mother (I'm paraphrasing). I've considered it (nanny, days with grandma, actual childcare), but we don't have the financial stability to take that idea seriously.

I thought it would be funny then (and realistic), if I write about my work days at home. I imagine my everyday is closer to Elise's Mama Days (i.e. working and parenting at the same time) Today was a good mix of all of my jobs so I'll take photos later in the week "in-situ" and add them to this post for image breaks.


8:04 am

Normally I wake every morning between 7:15 and 7:45. Today when I woke up my phone said 8:04 am. I turned up the volume on the monitor and didn't hear anything so I told myself to go back to sleep. I couldn't, and the opportunity to get ahead of the game was too tempting. I stumbled into the kitchen and started Jack's morning bottle. While it was heating I did the usual toilette - teeth, hair, housecoat. After sneaking into the nursery and watching Jack wake up, I changed him, then brought him and the bottle back to bed where Jon was just waking as well. I was invited to stay for a morning cuddle but I chose to prep for our tax appointment at 10 am.

After printing the requisite forms and checking for others (multiple jobs equals a lot of paperwork!), I dressed quickly and told Jon I was heading out. I had forgotten my wallet at a store just before closing the night before and I wanted to be the first one there when they opened at 9:30 am. Armed with a tupperware container full of dry mini wheats, I drove to the next town over and was back just in time to file our taxes.

The next two hours were somewhat stressful - I don't recommend doing taxes with a baby hanging around but it seemed a better option to us than using up yet another childcare favour!

11: 50 am

Jon left to do some work on our interim house (we're moving in three weeks) and I took Jack. He was dead tired after all that number crunching with the accountant so he promptly fell asleep in the back of my car. I drove to the storage unit where we keep the prints for the artist I work for. I wrestled with the stroller and quickly quietly transferred the sleeping baby. I rolled him inside and silently celebrated this victory. I had twelve prints to pull today and needed (wanted) him to be asleep while I did so. Of course, that's too much to ask and today was apparently the day for storage unit owners. People were rolling dollies and furniture everywhere and Jack obviously woke up crying. In order to keep him entertained, I showed him each and every print - stretching the process to (un)necessary lengths.

Remembering that we are out of milk and diapers, I stopped at the grocery store on the way home. I thought we could do the trip cart-less but Jack is prone to wander off into random aisles. Cart it is. I picked up two containers of fudge crackle ice cream because they were labelled a "great buy." I also grab two tetra-pack baby meals and let Jack suck on them while I shopped.

1:15 pm

At home - the classic battle ensued: How to bring all of the following items up to the apartment in one trip - diapers, milk bags, ice cream, prints, stroller, diaper bag, backpack, jacket and baby. I left the prints and wobbled upstairs with the baby and the meltables. I put all the items away, while simultaneously eating a block of fudge, drinking a can of coke and feeding Jack a banana. After his banana he eats some old cheerios off the floor. Thinking it might be something more dangerous, I do a quick finger sweep of his mouth - and get bitten (this is a daily constant). Then it's nap time. For him, not me (I wish!).

I spend the next hour doing work for Ted Harrison. This includes emails regarding a recent original art sale, and phone calls about print sales to new clients. I write up invoices, but can't ring them in because the POS is in Jack's room. I didn't go outside for the prints because the lobby is my limit when the baby is sleeping. Wrapping prints is too loud for nap time anyways.

2:30 pm

I'm thanking my lucky stars that Jack is still sleeping so I start pulling product and prepping packages for yesterday's isavirtue paper co. orders. I typewrite the addresses so I tap tap tap, with only one mistake (on my own address!). For lack of a studio, I wrap orders on the coffee table. I find it so satisfying when all of the envelopes are closed up and sealed with washi tape.
I add an extra envelope to the pile of mail - a thank-you note to someone who helped out at Ted Harrison's memorial the week before.

 3:08 pm

I'm shocked that Jack is still asleep and excited about what else I can get done (I see now that I've done quite a bit, but in the moment it just didn't feel like enough. It never does - when he is asleep I feel guilty for wasting even a minute of time). As I pull out my phone to check my to-do list (nothing fancy these days, just the iphone notepad, broken into category by job), the building fire alarm goes off. Not officially, just one loud piercing buzz. Enough to wake up a sleeping baby though!

I quickly prep us both for our daily outing to the post office. Now is as a good a time as any because that fire alarm is prone to go off again based on its track record. I put Jack in the bjorn carrier (it's super windy outside) and my mother calls so I chat with her while I rush around packing my bag. We just found out that Jack has a peanut allergy so I have to remember to put his epipen into my backpack. My mother makes mention about how often we go to the post office and I say that we are thinking about just living there for ease of use.

4:54 pm

I'm feeling really productive after the post office run but Jack is very whiney and that means: Dinner Time. It's a mish mash of baby leftovers including apple sauce, chopped orange slices, cheerios and rice crackers. Not really dinner and I'm feeling guilty except the fruit is going to expire soon and needs to be eaten today. I eat leftover pizza and feel guilty about that choice as well.

6:05 pm

Jon calls and tells me he hasn't left yet, which is a bit of a bummer because I'm on baby duty for another hour. He's with his dad so I ask him to confirm that his father is watching Jack while I am working at the gallery the next day (My fourth job is part-time at a gallery. My fifth job is apparently Cruise Director of this family's schedule). I hop on the desktop computer and send some Ted Harrison files to our web company because we are redesigning the online shop.

I'm slowing down now and am feeling less motivated. It's pouring rain and we both need a change of scenery so we head downstairs to the common room. It's basically the same as our apartment with a kitchen, washroom and television but the main room is bigger so Jack can run around. I put Judge Judy on in the background and review sponsorship plans for my Craft Ontario job. Jack pulls out three decks of cards and dumps them all over the floor.

7:13 pm 

Jon is stuck in traffic so I get Jack ready for bed by myself. I heat the bottle, clean his room and put his pj's on. Before I forget, I quickly ring in the sales from earlier in the day. Jack is obsessed with the POS machine (which we block off using a storage bin) so he jumps all over me while I enter numbers. I appease him by giving him the portable phone to play with - he almost calls one of my clients by hitting redial.

8:00 pm

I put some asparagus in the oven and heat up a bowl of stew (Jack's stew actually, it really should have been his dinner).

I really can't do anymore today so I get the prints from the car, take a shower and write this blog post.


baby | letter april 12.15


As you learn to walk, you're taking a lot of tumbles and I'm recalling your very first falls when you were inside of me.

One night, while living in Victoria, I took the bus home after Anne-Marie's wedding bachelorette party (Do we still know Anne-Marie? I hope so because at the time this letter was written, we have been friends for 15 years already!). Needless to say I hadn't been drinking because I was pregnant. But when I got off the bus and crossed the street to our apartment building, I somehow managed to trip over the curb and go flying! I fell so hard I actually rolled into a somersault! I sat there for awhile after thinking about you. I knew you were too tiny to have been hurt (4 weeks only!) but I was still pretty shaken up.

Two months later we moved to Ontario. Your papa hadn't arrived yet so I was stocking our new apartment myself with some necessities. On the day I'm thinking of I was carrying a few bowls, a glass water pitcher and some towels. After gathering the items from the car, I tripped over the concrete parking barrier and nose dived towards the ground. Luckily I threw the glass and ceramic dishes and mostly landed on the towels. I was so scared for you then because you were now 15 weeks! I have a scar on both my knee and my elbow from that day (ask me to see them, I am sure they are still hanging around). But you Jack - were totally fine.



minimalism | figuring out when it's time to declutter

I'm trying to pinpoint the exact moment when I became sort of neurotic about minimalism. was it last week when I borrowed five books about decluttering from the library? or was it the week before when i read forty amazon reviews on a book about organization to find out if it was "truly" the right one to purchase? (i did, and it wasn't). Maybe it was last year when we welcomed our new son and I became aware of all the things that come with having a child.

No, I think it was the year before when we moved across the country and I discovered we hadn't really used that opportunity to cleanse ourselves. We had paid movers to bring all of our belongings to our new apartment in Ontario. After much discussion, we decided that it would be cheaper than buying new things. Eight Thousand Dollars later, with a charge per pound, there I was staring at a couch that was falling apart, clothing we never wore and an endless series of electrical cords for devices that had met their maker years before.

White Dwarf by An Te Liu - this sculpture is featured at the gallery I work at.
 It's a giant death star of outdated technology so it seems appropriate to interject here.

To make matters worse, we were back in our home province where our parents had been storing things for us. More specifically, where my husband had been keeping a storage unit. Every day, he would bring home a box of antiquated belongings, including vhs tapes, knife sets, key chains, plastic binders, floppy disks, and storage containers for floppy disks! Jackson's soon to be nursery was a frightening landscape of outdated technology, unused stationery and tchotchkes.

And for that reason, having a baby is the best thing that ever happened to us. Although we desperately need an office or studio space (especially me, working from home), Jack's imminent arrival forced us to clear the clutter and create this beautiful space.

But of course, as mentioned above, babies come with their own baggage. And so it's safe to say that I've been on a minimalism spree for awhile now. I've been taking it more seriously lately (hence the research). I'll talk more about it in future posts, but for now, I see some things that need to be tossed...


snail mail | children's pen pal exchange & children's letter writing kits

I recently worked on a special project with Alison from The Petit Cadeau (french for 'little gift'). I admire Alison and her zest for gift giving - we also share a love of snail mail (and really, isn't a personal letter in the mail just like a gift?).

For those reasons, we teamed up to create a children's letter writing experience. I designed snail mail sets for kids - including three envelopes, three sheets of writing paper, and an awesome gold engraved pencil - all with an adorable friendly fox theme! Alison will connect Canadian and international letter writings and will also include postage and some helpful tips.

Learn more about the project here and purchase the sets here. For younger coldest, Petit Mail is available!