A lot of changes

This is a brief update because there have been a lot of changes since my last post, which was OCTOBER 2018. Where the heck does time go?!?!?

Since that time, I decided it was time to move on from my job and I found a new job, outside of the dental field that I had been working in for the last 17 years. I am able to use a lot of my skills from managing a dental office in my new career as an office administrator for a software company. It has been a wonderful learning experience. In addition to a new job, I got married! My husband and I tied the knot on May the Fourth, one of our favourite days. TWO days after we got married, I headed back to school. Part time. It has been so crazy these first six months of 2019, I can’t wait to find out what the next six months holds.

I took a Facebook Break

For not the first time, I’ve contemplated taking some time off from Facebook.  I find myself just randomly scroll the feeds, looking at everything that has been posted, reading the comments, looking at pages and pictures and stuff and stuff and stuff.  Knowing I spend too much time on social media and Facebook in particular.

I sometimes miss the old Facebook.  The one that used to be filled with friends with status updates about what they are doing and filled with pictures of their fun adventures.  The old Facebook where, even when apart, you could still be a part of your family and friends lives. The new Facebook has progressed so far from that old scene, with most posts made just a shared post from another page.  Is there no original content anymore?

I was also guilty of sharing posts from other pages, however, I did try to have original content about my life on my timeline.  I use Facebook for keeping in touch with friends and family. I don’t have a gigantic list of friends on there, I don’t use it for making connections, just to stay in touch with friends and family.  

The pages though, I think that’s what gets me stuck in the never ending scrolling loop.  There are so many pages that I like and follow. Between the pages and the groups there is always something new to look at, then you throw in Facebook marketplace.  Yikes! I was stuck. Help! I needed saving.

For me, I go all in, and like when cutting out desserts from my diet when I need a reset on how many sweets I’m eating, I need to go cold-turkey.  I don’t want to give up Facebook permanently, but I did need a way to reset how I was using it. So like anything in my life when I need a reset, I went cold turkey.  I figured a three week time limit on my cold turkey would work quite well.

My cold turkey is just for Facebook, not all social media.  I still enjoy scrolling pictures on Instagram (although their newer algorithms that don’t actually show you stuff in chronological order drive me crazy), I don’t find it to be the same sort of time vortex that Facebook is.  I also didn’t want to stop twitter, but I basically have twitter to enter contests, so that’s a different story.

I thought that it might be interesting to keep track of my thoughts and feelings during my three week self imposed Facebook blackout.  Who knows how long I might keep this up, but one of the things I’m hoping to achieve with my blackout is to regain some of my lost creativity, so here goes!

August 14, 2018
Day 1

Proclamation made, I’m taking time off from Facebook.  I posted my last status updated and logged off. Sanctification in every click of the mouse button, knowing I was taking a break from the social media giant of Facebook.

First Thoughts


Maybe I’ve just made a gigantic mistake.  It’s only been a couple of minutes, I can quickly log back on and delete my post before anyone sees it.

I don’t, just one of the reasons I made a proclamation, because I knew that these would be almost instantaneous feelings I’d have.  If I made a proclamation, I’d be setting myself up for success.

Maybe I should write about my three week Facebook blackout and that will help with the almost instant regret of making that post.

~30 mins later

Initial paragraph finished, feeling a little better already and relieved that I wrote out a reminder to myself why I was doing what I was doing.

August 20, 2018
Day 6

This no Facebook thing is working out pretty well.  I can already tell you for sure once my three weeks is over, I will be going back onto Facebook, but with very different intentions.  I don’t miss all the postings from companies. The ones I really want to see never show up in the algorithms anyways and the ones that I don’t really care about seem to post fifty times* a day and I get sick of seeing them anyways.  

I have been keeping up with Instagram and Twitter, so those companies and small business I like to follow tend to have a presence on at least one of these two platforms, so not having Facebook doesn’t seem to be a big deal.

What I am missing though is the connection with my friends.  There is definitely a bit of a disconnect, not seeing what they are up to daily.  On the other hand, it has made my in-person get-togethers more personal. When I am back on Facebook, I plan to un-follow everything except for my friends.  I really don’t need to see businesses posting the same thing on three different social media platforms, it’s sucking my energy away.

I do feel like a bit of my creativity has started to come back.  I don’t know why I had been feeling so uncreative and unmotivated lately, but now I do know my endless scrolling on Facebook was definitely a contributing factor.  Since I’ve logged off Facebook, I’ve actually completed a bunch of stitches on a crochet project that I’ve been working on for ages. I have also signed up for an art class Emily Carr University that I have been contemplating taking for almost two years. My house is slightly more organized and I have also done a bunch more baking and cooking at home, more than I have in a long time.  The best part was that all the baking and cooking was fun to do it and it didn’t feel like a chore (like it had been feeling).

Another thing that I’ve done since my Facebook disconnect is that I’ve finally decided on a new name for my creative side  Why I need to have multiple social media accounts for things, I don’t really understand, but I do like to have my personal daily stuff under a separate account from my creative stuff and my cats.  Sure there is going to be some overlap, but for the most part I wanted to keep them a little bit separate.

I used to post my creative stuff under the name: The Artisan Penguin.  Some time back though, I dropped this name as it didn’t feel right. I’m not a artist and I somehow felt like I was lying using the word ‘artisan’ (which actually just means a worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand).  Sure, I was making things, but I was also writing things too, and any of the writing I was doing just didn’t, to me, feel like it fit with ‘artisan’.  

In a flash of inspiration the word hodgepodge  popped into my brain. I’ve used it before to describe why my website is such a mixture of different creative things.  Suddenly I realized I had something. Now how to add the word penguin in there, since I am determined that it will be part of my creative social media stuff.  Potpourri! It basically means the same thing as hodgepodge. This was how my new social media name of Penguin Potpourri Creations was created. So far I’m really liking it, and it doesn’t make me feel like a fraud.  Anything I make or write or craft is a creation, a potpourri of creations. It feels pretty right. Let’s see how it goes.

*slight exaggeration on the fifty times a day thing, but you get the idea

October 1, 2018

Oh ya, I was writing about my time off of Facebook. To be honest, after writing my post of Day 6, I got bored of writing updates how my social media boycott was doing.  It’s now been a month since my boycott was completed. I did go back onto Facebook one day earlier than originally planned, but that was because there were some details that I needed from my snail mail group.  

After the first couple of days of my Facebook blackout, it got pretty easy to not be checking it out all the time and somehow I didn’t feel tied to my phone quite as much. Honestly it was a relief. Now that I’m back on Facebook again, I have a new outlook on how I’m using it. Once the urge to look ALL THE TIME was almost overwhelming, now I feel that I’m using it the way it’s intended, to stay connected with my friends. I pop onto it about twice a day to check things out, spending no more then 10 minuets per visit. It’s a nice balance between using it and abusing it.

Should you do a social media boycott?

I think that if you are looking at your phone all the time to see what notifications have popped up, you should take a step back from social media for a few weeks, just to reset.  Don’t think you look all that often. Do a one day challenge where you don’t look at all. You will notice that the urge to look happens a lot more frequently than you’ve realized.  

For me, the three weeks I took off from Facebook were really helpful.  I am no longer finding myself scrolling endlessly to see what new post there is, waiting for an interesting notification.  I still use Facebook, I do find it useful for events and such, but now I will pop into once in the morning and again in the evening to see if there is anything I need to know.  A much more healthy way, for me, to use it.

Probably the biggest thing that happened with my disconnection from Facebook was my creativity started to return. After years and year of thinking about it, I finally signed up for some part-time evening classes. More on that in my next post.

The Quickest of Updates

I'm still here!  I have a bunch of hand-written book and movie reviews that I need to type up.  I'm so far behind on everything!  I haven't forgotten about you dear readers.  Aiming to get back on track by September with some more consistant postings.  

Wish me luck!

Writing is Writing

The 2018 Creative Ink Festival has come to a close.  Creative Ink is a growing grassroots writing festival, for all levels of writers, that takes place yearly in Burnaby, BC.  From the first time I attended the festival three years ago, purely as a volunteer, to this past weekend, where I was hoping to learn how to write, I have grown so much as a writer.

Willow unlocking slayer potential ~ Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Willow unlocking slayer potential ~ Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Ok, that sounds really weird, calling myself a writer.  I don’t actually feel like I am a writer, but after three years attending the festival I finally feel that I could potentially be a writer.  From initial longings of “I wish I could write” to now, actually being willing to potentially call myself a writer, I have the Creative Ink Festival to thank.   I feel like the scythe in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you know the one, it contains the powerful slayer magic that would turn a potential slayer into a full blooded slayer. My potential is locked up, I just need my Willow to help unlock it.  The Creative Ink Festival is my Willow.

You might be wondering why at this point I’m even willing to entertain the idea of calling myself a writer one day.  Well at the 2018 Creative Ink Festival, not only did I help out behind the scenes volunteering, but I also attended a number or presentations, panels and even signed up for the Master Class, taught this year by C.C (Chris) Humphreys.  Chris Humphreys was one of two Guests of Honour for the Festival, a British actor, playwright and novelist, he was a wealth of information and had a lot to share with attendees about writing your first novel.

Something that Chris said during this class really resonated with me. As I mentioned, I’ve always wished that I could write.  This small thought has been something lounging on a fainting couch in the back of my brain for as long as I can remember.  Why couldn't I be a writer?  I never really enjoyed English class back when I was in school, finding it quite boring, and somehow I thought that meant that I couldn’t write.  Why those two things were connected in my brain, I have no idea. Attending the festival the past few years has slowly made me realize that enjoying English class and writing are not actually connected. Maybe I could write one day?

Do. Or Do Not.There is no try. -Yoda.png

One of the things I’ve learned at the festival this year is that even the most celebrated author had to start somewhere.  Kevin Hearne, the other fantastic 2018 Creative Ink Festival Guest of Honour, took 19 years to have his first novel published.  This novel wasn’t even the first one he wrote. His first published novel, Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles #1) was the second novel he wrote.  He wrote Hounded while waiting to find out if his first novel would ever be picked up by a publishing house. He wrote it because his excitement of writing was overwhelming and while he was waiting on his first novel, he needed to output this excitement somewhere.  He wrote Hounded and was published, finally, after nineteen years.

All writers have to start somewhere.  They have to practice again and again, over and over, before they were good, before they would be published.  If that publishing happens traditionally or as a self published novel, all authors still start at the beginning.  If I ever want this background brain thought of wishing I could write to jump up off that fainting couch and stop being a wish, I will actually have to write.

The enthusiasm and encouragement from everyone who attends the Creative Ink Festival has finally infected me to the point where I am going to write.  I have already been doing some blogging, which I have learned this past weekend is still writing, but I really want to write a story. It won’t be good, I am just starting out after all, but I’m starting.  I never would have gotten to this point without the supportive nature of the Creative Ink Festival.  It may have taken three years of attending the Festival for me to get to the point of starting to write a story, but I can 100% tell you, without the Creative Ink Festival I never would have gotten to this point. 

My new notebook, I needed somewhere to write my stories.

My new notebook, I needed somewhere to write my stories.

Never once did I feel like I didn’t belong at the festival because I wasn’t a writer, let alone author. Year after year, everyone from from guests of honour to panellists and presentators and attendees, everyone, they were all willing to stop and chat with you, give support and overall be encouraging to you to continue this craft of writing.  It is rare to find such a positive community that makes you feel like you belong, especially when you don’t feel like you belong in it. The Creative Ink Festival is like that, positive, and I am so glad to be a part of it.  I can’t wait until the 2019 Creative Ink Festival, where I will be attending for the first time as a writer (maybe by next year that won’t feel so weird to say). Over the next year I am going to write a story. It doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t have to be long, but I am committed to have written something that has a starting, a middle and an end. That is after all the first step to achieving a dream, starting.

"Writing is Writing" 
~ C.C. (Chris) Humphreys

You might be wondering what was it that Chris Humphreys said during the Master Class that made me realize that I could be a writer one day, he said “Writing is Writing”.  Writing is Writing. Such a simple phrase that I found incredibly powerful and I never would have heard this without the festival. The Creative Ink Festival takes your potential and unleashes is upon the world.

My Creative Ink Festival Experience

I am super excited for the upcoming 2018 Creative Ink Festival.  I thought it would be fun to write a little bit about the festival, and what I plan on doing there.

What is the Creative Ink Festival? The Creative Ink Festival is a weekend long event full of inspiring panels, presentations and workshops. Designed to be inclusive for all levels of writing the festival is a way for you to learn and motivate your writing, in whatever form it takes.   This year's festival takes place from May 18 - 20, 2018 at the Delta Burnaby hotel.  Just on the border of Vancouver and Burnaby, BC.

This is the perfect type of festival for someone like me.  Someone who dabbles in writing but is interested in exploring the art form more.  I've always been afraid to attend anything writing based, thinking that I would be looked down at because "I'm not a real writer".  The Creative Ink Festival is so warm and opening and welcoming and everyone who attends is there to teach and to learn.  Not once did I feel like I didn't belong.

I first found out about the festival as my good friend, Sandra Wichkam, is the brains and creative genius behind it. My first experience with the festival were so rewarding that I wanted to see the festival succeed even more than it was already doing.  I now volunteer my time to Sandra, doing pretty much whatever she asks of me.

Helping Sandra at the festival the last few years and the positive energy the festival has lead me to creating my own website, The Artisan Penguin.  I was so inspired that I jumped in head first into blogging.  Mostly I write book reviews, but I do post the occasional random musing.  I also have a few story ideas rattling around the old brain, that may one day make their way out onto the real world.  That's where The Creative Ink Festival comes into play. 

I've never taken any sort of writing class, but I've always had the thought that I wish I could write.  How am I ever going to learn how to write if I don't actively learn how? I was so scared before to attempt a writing class, but this year, in addition to my volunteering at the festival, I plan on attending a bunch of panels, presentations and even went so far as signing up for the Master Class with one of the guest of honour, C.C. Humphreys.  

With Kevin Hearne and C.C. Humphreys as the 2018 Guest of Honours, and an amazing lineup of authors, publishers and writers, I'm sure the festival this year will be even more inspiring than last year's. And if you are wondering what a Master Class is, well it's an intensive writing workshop that should hopefully help me figure out how to write a novel.  

I still have to figure out where my volunteer hours for the festival will be, and since I've seemed to fill up the majority of my time with panels and presentations, I suspect that I might not be able to attend all of these, but the following is my hopeful schedule of events that I will be attending at the Creative Ink Festival for 2018.

My Schedule


  • 09:00 - 12:00, Master Class
    C.C. Humphreys
    Write a novel - from first inspiration to final edit - then submission! Have you got a book in you? Have you always wanted to get it out into the world but lacked the confidence? Then join award-winning, bestselling author Chris (C. C.) Humphreys, for an intensive writing workshop that will help you banish the critic, release your creativity, and introduce you to the secrets of novel construction, character development and sheer storytelling fun. With plenty of exercises to get the fingers and brain moving, and a step by step analysis of what makes a successful, exciting piece of fiction, participants will leave the workshop with the beginnings of a novel and a road map to help you finish it.
  • 13:00, Panel
    Designing Character Backgrounds
    Brenda Carre, Chadwick Ginther, Kevin Hearne, JM Landels, Randy McCharles
    You have an idea for a character, now you have to figure out how to flesh out the character.  

  • 14:00, Panel
    C.C. Humphreys, Eileen Kernaghan, Susan Pieters, S.G (Sandra) Wong
    Research isn't just for non-fiction writers.  Every piece of fiction, no matter the genre, will contain details which, if not accurate, will throw a reader out of a story.  But how do writers do research?  When do they start?  When do they stop?  How do they wade through the quagmire of overwhelming information and choose just the right pieces to weave into their stories?

  • 15:00, Panel
    The Grey Side of Anti-Heros
    Michele Fogal (M), Joshua Pantalleresco, T. G. Shepherd, Bevan Thomas
    We should hate them, but we love them. They have major flaws; they sometimes do the right thing for the wrong reasons or vice versa. How do you create an anti-hero that will draw in your readers and never let them go? (Discussion of what an anti-hero is may also come up!)

  • 16:00, Panel
    Find Your Writer’s Voice
    Adam Dreece (M), Kevin Hearne, Linda DeMeulemeester, Susan Pieters
    What does that even mean? How do you find it and when will you know if you have found it? How do you make it one that stands out from all the rest?

  • 19:00, Presentation
    Creating Immersive Worlds
    Adam Dreece
    We love those types of story worlds where we are so pulled in, we feel the dampness of the air on our skin, and hear the croaking of the spider-goats in the fields. But how can we shake our imaginations loose and do that? Adam Dreece shares his lessons and thoughts from bringing his steampunk meets fairytale, post-apocalyptic fantasy, gritty sci-fi future, and other worlds to life.


  • 11:00, Panel
    Feeding Your Muse
    Mel Anastasiou (M), C.C. (Chris) Humphreys, Michele Fogal, Jim Jackson, KT Wagner
    The creative process can often be a tricky one, and it is easy to fall into ruts or hit a blank wall. Our panelists will discuss how to develop ideas, create compelling subject matter, and what do next when you find yourself stuck, not knowing what to do for your next piece of art, writing or other creative project.
  • 12:00, Presentation
    Writing Short Fiction
    KT Wagner
    In 2018 there are a lot of good reasons to write short stories. The form is enjoying a resurgence of popularity and it’s an excellent path to reaching readers and connecting with publishers. Writing short is also a way to test-drive other genres and stretch your creative muscles. More than fifteen of KT Wagner’s short stories are published or pending. She’ll share her perspective and approaches in this class.
  • 14:00, Presentation
    Practical Linguistics in the Development of Voice
    Kevin Hearne
            (I don't even know what this one is yet, it just sounds like something that I could use).

  • 15:00, Panel
    Plot or Character: Which Comes First? 
    Brenda Carre (M), Manny Frishberg, Trevor Melanson, Kristene Perron
    What is most important to a good story: a fast moving and/or engaging plot to carry you away, or characters that you can identify with, or at least care about? You can have one without the other, but when should you? And, does plot emerge from character needs and desires, or are they born to serve the plot?

  • 16:00, Panel
    Creating Believable Characters
    Krista Wallace (M), Kevin Hearne, Brenda Carre, Adam Dreece, Kevin Harkness
    How do you convince your readers that your imaginary friends are real … at least in your story?

  • 17:00, Banquet
    Keynote Speech at Banquet
    Adam Dreece
    Adam Dreece presents, "The Power of, No, Damnit, I'm Doing This

  • 19:00, Panel
    Live Action Slush - General Edition
    Manny Frishberg (M), Mel Anastasiou, Randy McCharles, Rhonda Parrish, Susan Pieters, Krista Wallace (Reader)
    Our panel of editors and publishers listen to anonymously read story openings and comment on why they would or would not wish to consider the complete work. Bring the 1st page of your manuscript (please leave your name off the page!) to be read aloud and receive comments from our panel of authors and editors. This event is both fun and educational -- don’t miss it!


  • 12:00, Presentation
    How to Build a Good Story
    John Mavin
    Good stories don’t just happen, they’re built, and as architects use blueprints, writers need sound structures to create effective emotional journeys for their readers. In this session we’ll explore the structural elements shared by all stories (from linear to unconventional), uncover the differences between plot and structure, and give you the tools to build emotionally satisfying stories again and again.

  • 14:00, Presentation/Workshop
    Improvising Into Writing
    Manny Frishberg
    I learned most of the essential elements of writing fiction (in particular) by doing improvisational theatre. Like all theatre, improv is, at heart, storytelling. As is fiction writing, so it’s not surprising to find ways they connect. In this participatory workshop, we use improv games and exercises to explore character, setting and plot in a new way. Be prepared to get up and move (with appropriate accommodation for disabilities, of course).

It's not too late to attend the 2018 Creative Ink Festival yourself.  Online registration is available until May 4th, 2018 and then you can plan on purchasing your membership at the event itself after May 4th.  Weekend passes are as low as $80 if you purchase online or $100 at the Festival.  Check it out!

Time Flies!

I'm still alive!

Let's see, where did I last leave you all?  January was my first month of my challenges, and I was challenging myself to bring breakfast to work.  It was a successful month, and I was happy to report on my last blog post that I was successful for the month of January.  That particular challenge has now turned into an actual habit, which was my main goal, and I'm proud to say that since January 1st, 2018 I have made and brought my breakfast to work every single day.

I didn't post an updated for my February challenge for various reason (see below for more details), but it was to make and bring a lunch every day to work (notice a theme here?).  I was also successful in this challenge, and brought my lunch every day.  I have also managed to turn this challenge into a habit, and since February 1st, 2018 I've made and brought a lunch to work every single day.

For March, I ended up switching my challenge.  Originally I was going to have March be a vegetarian month, but since I was having a lot of trouble with overindulging in sweets, I changed it up and made it a "no sweets month".  I mostly succeeded with this challenge.

Tongue from  theawkwardyeti.com

Tongue from theawkwardyeti.com

There were 3 occasions where I broke my no sweets challenge.  The first was because a good friend was in town, and it was going to be the last time I would see her for a while since she was moving away.  I ended up going to high tea.  It was delicious, and I felt a reasonable excuse to skip my no sweets challenge for that event.  The second time I broke my no sweets was on Pi Day.  I just had to have pie on Pi day (March 14 aka 3.14).  I sorely regretted this decision later as I crashed from an overabundance of sugar while I was curling that evening.  It was pretty terrible, I was shaky and having the sweats and no matter how delicious the pie was, it wasn't worth feeling that terrible.  The last and final time I broke my no sweets rule for March was near the end of the month.  I had purchased some Girl Guide cookies when I was done in Seattle to watch the musical Hamilton (Yes, Hamilton is just as amazing as everyone says it is and I was super lucky to get the chance to see it in person).  For Canada, we don't have as many options in Girl Guide cookies as the USA, I couldn't resist trying some of the Samoas I've heard so much about.  I ended up eating 4 of them over a few days.

All in all, March, while not 100% successful, did help me overcome the urge to eats a bunch of sweets for no particular reason.  Stopping and thinking about the sweets, did I really want that sweet?, has made me think about them differently, with my brain as opposed to my tongue.  Occasional the tongue takes over, but I'm finding that most of the time my brain will prevail.

The Hardest Thing

With three months under my belt in my monthly challenges experiment, I have to say that the hardest thing I have noticed so far is that I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about and planing my food.  Between food planing and my new exercise regime I'm exhausted.  

Exercise?  Yup!  A while back (read a few years ago), I hurt my knee.  Slowly over a few years, I gained a bunch of weight, which made the pain I was dealing with even worse.  Multiple x-rays, doctors and incorrect physio I finally made it into a sports medicine specialist who was able to help.  Part genetic and part previous injury, the specialist gave me a bunch of exercises to do and my knee is slowly starting to feel better.

Until I started having some relief in pain, I didn't actually realize how bad my knee had gotten.  I was experiencing two levels of pain, this sharp intense stabbing pain that would come on suddenly and the go away, and this low level always there pain.  Until the absence of pain, I didn't even notice that I had a low level of pain constantly in my knee.  That pain was being drowned out by the sharp sudden stabby pain.  

I have a long way to go, both with strengthening my knee and losing some weight, but after almost three years of it slowly getting worse, I'm finally on the right track...now I just have to stop getting colds and hurting myself in other ways (pulled a muscle in my leg :( ) and I'll eventually be right as rain!

Any ways, that is why my blog posting and my book reviewing has petered down to practically nothing, I have only so much mental energy in me, and at the moment, I'm spending most of it trying to get healthier.  I'll do my best to write a bit more often, but I make no promises.  

Note: I didn't bother to proof-read this post, so I appoligize for any grammatical errors.  Honestly if I spent the time to proof-read this post, posting it wouldn't happen (then mental energy I was talking about is to blame)


Two Weeks In

I am now half way through the month of January which is the very first month of my A New Year New Challenge Experiment that I created. It’s been a very interesting few weeks and I have discovered some new challenges that I am working on overcoming to be successful.

Bran Muffins & Toasted Coconut Scones

Bran Muffins & Toasted Coconut Scones

As you may recall, the first challenge to myself is to make and bring my own breakfast to work instead of buying food on my way to the office. To date, I have been successful in this endeavour.  I’ve made muffins and scones and have even packed up cereal once or twice to take to the office.  Since the first two weeks have gone so well I expanded on this challenge to also make sure that I eat breakfast on the weekends, within a reasonable amount of time after I wake up in the morning.

What I wasn’t expecting when I started my making breakfast challenge is to start bringing my lunch to work as well.  Bringing my lunch to work was going to be my challenge for February, but I started early. It seemed that if I was already concerning myself with making a breakfast to take to work, it wouldn't be that much extra work to pack a lunch as well.  I contemplated changing my monthly challenge for February.  I wondered if I would actually be challenging myself in February if I was already bringing my lunch to work.  In the end I decided to keep the challenge the same.  The whole point of these challenges is to try and create some new healthy and money saving habits and the longer I do them, the more successful I will be at continuing to do them.

My new collection of cookbooks.

My new collection of cookbooks.

I mentioned that I had discovered some new challenges so far in January and they all revolve around a previously unwritten goals of losing weight and saving money.  If you follow my Instagram, you will have noticed that lately I’ve been posting a lot of pictures of my dinners. In a future Random Musings blog post  I plan on writing, I will give you my history of my struggles with weight, but for now I will just say that I want to lose some weight.  I didn't want to go on some fad diet, been there done that, but I did want to adjust my portion sizes.  Posting my dinners on Instagram is a way to help me keep up with my smaller portions as well as remembering what I ate and who knows, maybe someone else will benefit too from my pictures.

One of the challenges I’ve experienced so far with portion control is that when I’m in charge of cooking and serving my own food (Michael cooks too, BTW, I'm not doing it all alone), I’m pretty good with the portion sizes.  If I go out to eat though, all semblance of self control seems to go out the window.  I’m getting real tired of asking myself, while I’m rolling home, “why did I eat so much?”.  

At home I started serving my meals on smaller plates.  Looking at that small plate that is filled with food is easier for me to eat less than the exact same amount of food on a large plate.  I don't know why that is,  if I eat that same amount of food off a bigger plate I still feel hungry.  There is something about not seeing the bottom of the plate because it's covered by food that makes my brain think it has had enough to eat.  

Double Chocolate Stout Brownies

Double Chocolate Stout Brownies

I’m not starving myself or depriving myself of any goodies (as you will soon see when I post the recipe for the delicious Double Chocolate Stout Brownies I made), but I am have smaller amounts of everything.  Which is putting me closer to actually eating the recommended serving sizes of various foods. Now I just have to train myself not to eat everything that’s on my plate when I go out to eat.  

So as you can read, the first two weeks of January have been quite successful in relation to taking my breakfast to work, and I’m also setting myself up for success in my future challenges.  

Have you given yourself any challenges this year?  Every post on my social media, when it’s related to my A New Year New Challenge Experiment, I’ve been using the hashtag #anynce.  I encourage you to use that hashtag also if you’d like to join in on my challenge or even make your own up.  Did you know that you can follow a hashtag on Instagram now?  It’s pretty cool.

Loki supurrvising the baking process.

Loki supurrvising the baking process.

My New Friend

I wanted to introduce you all to my new friend!  

Custom Stencil Artist ~ Phil Kwan

Custom Stencil
Artist ~ Phil Kwan

Last month, after years of procrastinating, I finally got a new tattoo.

From the moment that I got my first tattoo I knew that I wanted to get a second one.  It took me over a decade to decide what I wanted as my second tattoo, where I wanted it located on my body and who would be the tattoo artist.

Let me tell you, finding the right artist was probably the hardest part.  I knew that I wanted to get some sort of watercolour type design and after years of researching I found the perfect artist!  

Watercolour tattoo's are tricky.  They look great to start with, but over the years, as the colours fade they can really begin to look dingy and not very nice.  If I was going to be putting something on my body that I would have for the rest of my life, I wanted it to look good.  I knew that if this was the tattoo route I was going to take, I needed to find the right artist to take on the challenge.

Close Up ~ 1.5 months healed Artist ~ Phil Kwan

Close Up ~ 1.5 months healed
Artist ~ Phil Kwan

I don't remember how I found Phil Kwan, random internet search maybe?, but when I did find him, I started following him on social media and I loved all of the work he had posted on his Instagram account.  

About 4 years ago, I got up the courage to book a consultation appointment with Phil, but due to a lack of funds and some pretty high nerves, I chickened out and cancelled the consultation.

That was a decision I would regret for years because once I was ready to re-book, Phil wasn't taking on any new clients.  I lost my chance. Thankfully this turned out to be a good thing.  You see, the only thing that happens with artists over time is that they tend to get better, and Phil was no exception.

I continued to follow Phil on Instagram and was blown away by his art.  It seemed to me that every tattoo he posted was just more beautiful than the previous one.

After a few years of waiting, I decided that it was finally the right time to take the plunge and get my new tattoo.  Since Phil wasn't accepting new clients, I let if be know to a friend of mine that I was ready to take the plunge and if they knew of any other watercolour tattoo artists, to let me know.

I ended up booking a consultation appointment with a lovely lady, whose work I also enjoyed.  Her work was different than what Phil had, but she had some really nice steady lines (a sign of a good artist) and some great colour work.  I scheduled a consultation appointment with her to discuss what she could put together and see if it would fit with the image that I had in my head, that I was unable to fully articulate to anyone, including myself.

Close Up ~ 1.5 months healed Artist ~ Phil Kwan

Close Up ~ 1.5 months healed
Artist ~ Phil Kwan

This is one of those moments in life where "it is just meant to be".  Shortly after I booked the consultation appointment with the lady artist, Phil opened up his books to new clients!  This didn't mean he would take me on as a client, it only meant that I had a chance he would.  

I filled out his form explaining as best I could what I was looking for, thankfully, the design I wanted wasn't on his "I'm not interested in doing the following at this time" list.

I got in!  I was so excited.  Phil wanted to book a consult/tattoo appointment all in one.  I had so much confidence in his work, that I accepted on the spot, not wanting to pass up the opportunity a second time to have him do the tattoo I had been waiting over a decade for.

I was a nervous ball of nerves in the months leading up to my appointment.  I kept questioning my decision to actually get this tattoo done.  Why are brains like that?  This was something I've been thinking about for years and yet I was second guessing the decision.

Close Up ~ 1.5 months healed Artist ~ Phil Kwan

Close Up ~ 1.5 months healed
Artist ~ Phil Kwan

The tattooing day finally arrived!  With only a little bit of instructions from me on what I would like (a swimming penguin on my arm), Phil came up with some lovely artwork.  

My first tattoo from start to finish took maybe, at the most, 30 minuets, and most of that was set-up. It was quite small and very simple, black ink.  My new friend took just shy of two hours to tattoo onto my arm, although I was at the studio for a lot longer between the consultation and setup.  

I'm not going to lie, getting a tattoo hurts, however, surprisingly, it didn't hurt as bad as I was expecting.  I'm not sure if that was because I had built of the pain so much in my head, the location I was getting it done is less sensitive then my previous tattoo or I was just too nervous to feel the full pain.  In any case, it wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting.  Near the end of the tattoo however, my arm sure was getting sensitive and I couldn't wait until it was over.

As with any tattoo, you can see from the initial photo, taken moments after the tattoo was completed, to the 1.5 months later photo, that some fading has occurred.  This is a natural effect of tattoos.  The reason I love Phil's work is because of the extensive black-line work that he puts into his art.  When the colour's do fade somewhat over time, the black still holds everything together and keeps it beautifully cohesive.  

For a few days after getting the tattoo, dealing with the healing discomfort and itchiness, I kept asking myself, why I was putting myself through this pain and discomfort.  As the itchiness went away, and the healing progressed I remember why I did it and I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful or more "me" tattoo than my new penguin friend.  

Brand New Tattoo ~ I LOVE it!
Artist ~ Phil Kwan

1.5 months healed ~ I still LOVE it!
Artist ~ Phil Kwan

Editing Paintings

I've made two paintings recently that I was curious to see if I could try to edit and make some adjustments in photoshop.  To be specific these paintings are; Tropical Illuminati and Galaxy #1. The originals of these paintings can be viewed in my Watercolour Gallery, but as for why I wanted to edit them, well read on.

Tropical Illuminati

I've written a blog post about Tropical Illuminati which explains the reason behind this particular painting and why I painted Flamingos and Pineapples.  I had a ton of fun making this painting, but while I was painting it, in a few spots the water ran way from me which left some of the wrong colour in a few areas, especially in the legs of the flamingos. This is something, that while it bugged me a little bit, wasn't that big of a deal.  

One of my ideas for the future, is to eventually have prints or cards of the paintings I make.  I felt that colour of the water spilling into the legs of the flamingos is something that I wouldn't like to have on a print and I was curious if I could fix this very small mistakes in photoshop.

Turns out I can!  Even with my very limited skills using photoshop, I was able to do exactly what I wanted to fix the spilled water and a few other minor areas. While I was in photoshop, I punched up the colour just a tad so it was a bit more vibrant.  

One thing I've noticed now that I have a scanner and have started scanning my watercolour paintings verses taking a photo of them, is that the vibrancy of the colour tends to mute just a little bit more with a scan verses a picture.  This was something that I was expecting when doing my research on which scanner to purchase.

I went with the Canon CanoScan LiDe 220 which was on sale at Best Buy, which was an added bonus, when Michael and I went to purchase it

Original Scan

Photoshop Edit

As you can see, the original and the edited version are just about the same.  The main change being on the flamingo's legs, where in the edited version, I removed some of the blue water that had crept into the legs during the painting process.

I also "punched" up the colour's in the edited version just a tad. I feel that it still looks like a watercolour painting, just a bit more vibrant.  

Galaxy #1

With Galaxy #1, this was the first time that I attempted to paint a galaxy.  I kept seeing these lovely galaxy design on Instagram and I was curious if I could recreate on of them myself.  I have an idea for another painting that would include a galaxy and I wanted to attempt the galaxy first before I started work on this other painting.

The trees are dreadful, and something that I will work on in future renditions of Galaxy paintings.  I also found that I left too much blank space at the bottom of the painting, which makes the overall painting fall quite flat and boring I feel.  All of that being said, the galaxy portion of the painting, for a first attempt, I'm quite proud of. 

Galaxy #1 is another painting that I was curious if I could make pop just a bit more using photoshop.  At first I just wanted to crop the image, so there would be less blank space at the bottom, but while I had it in photoshop, I also attempted to punch up the colours a bit.  

Original Scan

Original Scan

Photoshop Edit

As you can see, the edited version of this watercolour galaxy is super vibrant and the colours just pop a lot more than the original scanned version.  I debated whether or not to add more stars using photoshop, but decided against it.

Is using Photoshop Cheating?

I've decided that my Watercolour Gallery will always include the original un-edited version (scan) of the painting I've created.  While I am enjoying being able to make some minor edits and colour punches to these paintings, they are not the originals.  I don't want the original paintings to get lost as these originals are what inspired whatever edits I may make in Photoshop and without them, there wouldn't be any art.

In the future, one day, I'd like to have the option to have prints made and I think that photoshop will help with that, punching up the colours a tad will, I believe, translate well to a final printed picture.  Only time will tell.

What do you think, is using photoshop cheating?

Tropical Illuminati

Centuries ago, pineapples and flamingos decided that they were not getting the recognition they deserved and they banded together to slowly install themselves in modern culture. Alright, I admit, that does sound crazy, but kind of fun to think about.  If Pineapples were sentient and Flamingos actually cared about that kind of thing, their seemingly takeover of modern arts and cultural would make a lot more sense.

Flamingos in Pop Culture can trace their origin to plastics, and the pink lawn flamingo specifically.  Pineapples have an even longer and varied history in pop culture than Flamingos, starting with their "official" discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1493.  Reading about the Social History of the Pineapple is actually quiet fascinating.

The hashtag #tropicalIlluminati started out as an inside joke with friends, that I loved so much I painted my newest watercolour with a flamingo and pineapple theme.  For the most part, it's still an inside joke, but I've had many people ask me why I enjoy it so much.

Alice in Zombieland

Alice in Zombieland

A few months ago, a friend of mine, Julia from Vancouver Crafty Geeks, decided that she wanted to decorate her deck with flamingos and pineapples and put out a social media call for anyone who had or knew where to get Flamingo Lawn Ornaments.  If memory serves, I believe that this desire stemmed from the previous summer when we saw a bunch of Flamingo floaties during a day-trip to the beach.

I actually had a few flamingo lawn ornaments I got from a yard sale, leftovers as Halloween Costume, "Alice in Zombieland", I only needed one, but I bought three, you never know when you are going to need extra flamingo lawn ornaments.  I was going as a zombie hunter Alice from Wonderland and Michael was going as a zombified Mad Hatter.  If you don't remember the context of the Flamingos in Alice in Wonderland, they were used as croquet mallet by the Queen of Hearts.   

A few weeks after the flamingo lawn ornament call to arms, during a shopping trip to the states, Julia found some flamingo and pineapple string lights that would work great on her deck.  They were pretty awesome, I almost wanted to purchase them for myself.

Following a flurry of picture message exchanges with Julia about all the crazy pineapple and flamingo stuff you can buy for bathrooms I started to see Flamingos and Pineapples EVERYWHERE.  A lot of the times, it would just be a flamingo on a cup or a pineapple on a shirt, but occasionally they would appear together.  I also started to spot it on TV, once Don Cherry was wearing a flamingo suit and on How I Met Your Mother, Ted Mosby woke up next to a pineapple.

As a joke, I mentioned on Facebook that noticing flamingos and pineapples everywhere was all Julia's fault, sometimes the best random conversations happen because of peoples comments on Facebook statuses.  

During that Facebook convo, two tags emerged from another friend who had noticed the same phenomenon, #FlamingoPineappleConspiracy and #TropicalIlluminati.  Since #tropicallIlluminati just had a better ring to it, I found it hilariously awesome and this is how the #TropicalIlluminati was finally uncovered from centuries of hiding.

The #TropicalIlluminati discovery was a classic case of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, alternatively known as the Frequency Illusion or Confirmation Basis.  This is something that everyone has experienced at some point or another.  For example, have you ever purchase a car and then started to notice that same car was everywhere?  Or when reading a book, and you discover a word you never knew before, then that word starts to appear everywhere?

While I am totally away that the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is the reason for the existence of the #TropicalIlluminati, I've still been enjoying the outcome, and it even has a longer history in my life than most of my friends are even aware.

It all started around my birthday.  I can't remember the exact birthday it was, late teens early twenties, but in any case, one year for my birthday, my good friend Katie, gave me what is to this date, the best birthday card ever.  A Pineapple.  I don't mean a card with a picture of a pineapple on it, I mean a physical pineapple, the kind you'd eat.  I don't even like to eat pineapples, and at the time I didn't even like to drink their blood, but this was by far the most memorable birthday card ever.  A fresh pineapple with the words Happy Birthday written on the tag that was attached by a little elastic to the leaves.  How many birthday cards do you remember, I bet not a one.  I have a feeling this card will be one that I remember always.

From this point on, despite my not enjoying the eating of pineapples, I've always held a fondness for them.  So when Katie announced that she was getting married, the crafty person that I am, I decided to make her a shawl as her wedding present.  

I HATED the first shawl I attempted to make.  It was a simple shell stitch, but by the time I was almost finished it, I couldn't stand it.  There was no way I was giving this hated shawl to Katie, and despite the fact the wedding was almost happening, I stopped making it.

Remembering that pineapple "birthday card" Katie gave me many years ago, I wondered if I could make a shawl with some sort of pineapple theme.  To Ravelry I went that there is a ton of pineapple themed crochet stuff and I found an awesome pattern called I Promise You Pineapples .  At this point, the wedding had come and gone and the shawl was very overdue as a wedding present.  I promise you pineapples appeared to be a pretty simple crochet and I decided to attempt it.

A year after the wedding, I finally presented Katie with a completed Pineapple Shawl. I Promise You Pineapples was a fun pattern to make and crocheted up really quickly.  I might even make another one for myself one day.  

I Promise you Pineapples

I Promise you Pineapples

Flash back forward to 2017 and the discovery of the Tropical Illuminati.  I was in a whee bit of a creative slump, having just finished my latest painting, the Alice in Wonderland Star Wars Mashup (which coincidentally also features a flamingo), and I didn't have any idea what I wanted to create next, my art supplies were sitting there, unused.

Along came the Tropical Illuminati and inspiration struck!  I knew that I had to paint Flamingos and Pineapples and give homage to the #TropicalIlluminati.

#TropicalIlluminait in Watercolour ~ July 2017, painting by Samantha Reeves

#TropicalIlluminait in Watercolour ~ July 2017, painting by Samantha Reeves

I had a lot of fun creating this painting.  This was the second time I've attempted painting water, the first time was in "C" Vancouver.  Every painting is a learning experience, while I don't think I have water "right" yet, I do think that the water in #TropicalIlluminati is a lot better than my last attempt.

If I was to redo this painting, I'd leave off the #tropicalIlluminati part on the painting itself, and add it in later on the computer.  Aside from that, I love this painting and the joy it has brought to me, my friends and hopefully the world, if #tropicalIlluminati goes viral...you never know.

Recent Tropical Illuminati Sightings


Have you discovered the Tropical Illuminati prior to reading this post?  If you have, I'd love to hear about your sightings.  If you discovered the Tropical Illuminati after reading this post, well, that's the Frequency Illusion at work again, and I love to hear about that too.

One thing I can say about all of this Flamingo and Pineapple fun, I now know how to spell Illuminati without looking it up each time.  

Update July 31, 2017 ~ I submitted Tropical Illuminati to Urban Dictionary and it was ACCEPTED!  That makes me so excited.

Update November 8, 2017 ~ My friend Julia, formerly of Vancouver Crafty Geeks has re-branded and you can now find her at Wayward Pineapple Creations.  Her newest blog post is her about her interactions with the #TropicalIlluminati, check it out!: A Conspiracy of Pineapples

Tile Coasters

Tile Coasters ~ Done with Sharpies

A Tutorial

Well, here is is, the very first of my tutorials.  I've started with these lovely Tile Coasters that you can make using tiles and sharpies.  These are a ton of fun to make and super easy, and only use a few supplies to make them.  The key to my tile coasters is Engine Enamel.  Engine Enamel is something that you would normally use on cars, to paint the engine of a car. I don't know why you would want to do this, but you can get a ton of different colours or it can be in clear.  It's the clear engine enamel that you want to purchase from your local car shop.  Make sure that you follow the specific instructions on the engine enamel that your purchase.  You want to make sure that you put enough on your tiles so that you protect your design and it won't later start to run or smudge.  I learned this lesson the hard way, so I'm hoping that you can learn from my mistakes.  Using Engine Enamel, as opposed to Mod Podge, allows you to place hot beverages on your tiles and not have them be sticky and tacky.  Mod Podge isn't heat resistant, but engine enamel is heat resistant up to 260°C.  

Group Project Setup

These tiles are so much fun to make, easy very easy to do as a group project, and I know this from experience.  They also make fantastic wedding/birthday/house warming gifts.  I have actually made some for all three events.  You can also theme them up if you wanted to.  Maybe some Harry Potter House Colours or if you know the colours for the wedding you are attending, use those.  There are so many ideas of what you can do, and the best part is because the rubbing alcohol changes everything around, you don't need to be an artist.  If you can put scribbles with a pen onto a piece of paper, you can make these super cool tile coasters.  They would also be a wonderful (supervised) project for kids.  The reason I say supervised is because you need to use sharpies to make these, so you would want to keep an eye on young kids that they don't colour themselves, the floors, the walls (as I've been told children do this type of thing)  If they do, apply rubbing alcohol liberally to the drawn on area and the sharpie should come away.  Magic Erasers are also fantastic for markings on walls.

Final Tiles From Group Project

So without further ado, here are the instructions for making your very own Tiled Coasters and if you scroll to the very bottom, you will find the instructions downloadable as a PDF for easy reference, or to give out at the end of a group project so people can make them again.  

Materials Needed

  • Tiles
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Sharpies (Variety of Colours)
  • Eye Dropper
  • Toothbrush
  • Popsicle Sticks
  • Foam Brush
  • Felt
  • Mod Podge
  • Engine Enamel



1) Wipe the dust off of your tiles.

2) Cut Felt to desired size, you want to cover the bottom of the tile with felt and glue felt to tile with Mod Podge, you can use the foam brush or the popsicle stick to spread the Mod Podge around the bottom, making sure to reach the edges so your felt adheres all the way around..

3) Flip tile over and start to colour or draw a design with the sharpies.  The rubbing alcohol will spread the ink around, so don’t be afraid to make mistakes and don’t worry about drawing pictures. 

4) Once tile is coloured, use the eye dropper or toothbrush to add or flick rubbing alcohol onto the tile.  At this point you will see you colours starting to mix and swirl.  You can use your fingers or the popsicle stick to help move the alcohol along. Darker colours will overpower lighter colours ~ experiment with your colour choices.  If you don’t like what you’ve created you can still apply a liberal amount of rubbing alcohol at this point and wipe your tile clean to start again. (Note if you use your fingers, they will get stained, apply rubbing alcohol to help remove stain)

5) Once the rubbing alcohol is dried and you are happy with your design, colour the sides of your tiles using a sharpie. Be careful at this point, your design can be scratched.

6) Now that you’ve coloured the sides of your tile with a sharpie, use the Mod Podge and apply the Mod Podge with a brush only onto the sides of your tile.  This will protect the colour and sides of your tile.

7) Once the Mod Podge is dried then you can spray the top of your tile with Engine Enamel.  Follow the application instructions on the engine enamel as each brand is slightly different.  What the engine enamel does is to protect the sharpie design on your coaster AND allow you to put hot beverages on it.  

a) If you are doing this project with kids, or as a group, you can use Mod Podge on the top of the tile to protect your design.  However, this will make hot beverages stick a little bit when you use the coaster, just be careful when you pick up your mug as the coaster might come with it.

8) Once dried, you have a lovely tile coaster that can be use with both hot and cold beverages* enjoy! 
*If you used Engine Enamel

I hope that you enjoyed the very first tutorial I have written.  If you have any questions, comments, concerns, please let me know.  If you use my tutorial to make your very own Tile Coasters, I'd love to see your final results, you can email them to me at:  TheArtisanPenguin@gmail.com.

Something Happened

Shopping for clothes is the worst and for the third summer in a row I found myself attending a wedding, as a guest this time instead of a bridesmaid.  I would be Michael's plus one as we headed off to Bozeman, Montana, this time Michael was in the wedding party, not me.    I found the prospect of shopping for a dress as a guest of a wedding almost worse than getting a bridesmaid dress.  At least buying a bridesmaid dress, my selection of dresses was somewhat limited to certain colours or styles that the brides wanted, but what should I get for a garden party wedding where I didn't know anyone?  Complete free reign, my options were endless.

Both of my amazing friends who were brides the past two years were about the furthest away from the typical bridezilla that you can find.  They both left it basically up to the bridesmaids to find dresses that we liked, only having specifics for the colour and that all dresses should be the same length.  While I ended up loving both the dresses we did choose and how I looked in them, the process of choosing and altering them, for me at least, was difficult.  

I thought that going to a wedding as a guest, and getting to pick any dress I wanted would be easier than all the hassle and frustration I went through with the bridesmaids dresses and in some ways it was, once I discovered eShakti.  In order for you to understand my frustrations of dress shopping for a wedding, I need to provide you with a little bit of background on my bridesmaid dresses so that you'll understand why I will never want to buy another dress again, unless it's through eShakti.

Dress #1, Purple

July 2015 ~ Camp Howdy, BC

July 2015 ~ Camp Howdy, BC

The Bride and I fell in love with this purple dress almost right away, so picking out the dress turned out to be pretty simple, it's the aftermath that was horrendous.  The store measured me out and told me which size to purchase and I listened to their suggestion, thinking they knew best.  I was very careful not to gain or lose any weight in the meantime, five months from ordering to delivery, as I've heard all sorts of horror stories about dresses not fitting.  

A few weeks before the wedding date, just before the dress was due to arrive, the store called my friend and told her the dress wouldn't arrive in time for the wedding despite them telling us we ordered with plenty of time.  Apparently five months in advance wasn't enough time?  I'm not sure what my friend said to the store to get the dress to arrive in time, but miraculously, it arrived, about a week or so before the wedding.  Off to the store I went, at this point the weekend before the wedding, to pick it up.  When I tried it on at the store it was too small.  Like really too small, at least 2-3 sizes too small.  The lady at the store used all her might to do up the zipper she told me it was a "perfect fit" and it would loosen up as I wore it.  I had no choice, breathing would have to be a luxury, there was no way to get another new dress in a week.  

At home that evening, I tried on the dress again.  I have no idea what kind of superhuman strength the lady at the store had, but I couldn't get the zipper up this time, Michael couldn't get the zipper up, I was screwed.  I figured I'd take it into an alteration shop the next morning and see if there was anything that could be done and worse came to worse I could just wear a shrug so you couldn't see that the zipper didn't close all the way.  

The alteration place I took it to managed to save the dress, but it was a close call.  The regular staff said the job was too complicated for them, but called over this little old gentleman to take a look at the dress.  Tearing into the dress to see how much seam allowance there was, he explained that the most he could let it out was about an inch in total, one half inch on each side.  I figured it was better than nothing and he set to work, telling me it would be ready in a week.  I begged him to get it ready sooner as I needed the dress in 5 days at this point.  Thankfully he said he would make it work.

I had a dress!  There are a lot of double sided tape involved, and a small hole on the side of the dress because there was so little fabric to work with, but I was clothed in the same dress as the rest of the wedding party with breathing was being slightly difficult.  In the end, I paid well over $350 for a dress and alterations that never actually fit but at least the dress made it through my friends lovely wedding.


Dress #2, Blue

From my experiences the year before, I thought I knew what to do to avoid getting a dress that was too small, and for the most part I succeeded.  Blue took a long time to find and after many shopping trips we succeeded.  I write this post I now realize that Blue it's pretty much the same dress as purple, just a longer version.

There were 3 lovely ladies who needed a dress for this wedding, and while the dresses didn't have to be the same, they did need to have a similar look, all the same colour and length.  Have you ever tried to find a similar dress to fit three very differently shaped lovely ladies?  It's tough.  We persevered and eventually found some amazing dresses, that we all liked and looked good in.  I wanted to make sure that I didn't get a dress that was too small this time, so in an effort to get something the correctly fit me, I explained the previous situation I had experienced regarding the sizing.  The lady at the store was very understanding (it was a different shop from the last place as I had refused to shop there again) and they recommended that we order a dress size based off my largest measurement because making something smaller is much easier then making it bigger.  She explained to me that when dresses are being fabricated in large batches, as is usually the case for bridesmaid dresses, when the fabric is cut, all the fabric is piled on top of each other and it's like a cookie cutter pressed and cuts all the fabric at once.  Because of the way the fabric is cut, the dresses on the top will actually be a different size then the dresses on the bottom, but they will all be labelled with the same size, even though they can be up to two size differences between them.  Have I mentioned before how I hate shopping for clothing?

Sept 2016 ~ Naramata, BC

Sept 2016 ~ Naramata, BC

When the dress arrived and it was HUGE.   Success!?  We ordered something bigger then needed, at least three sizes bigger then needed, but again, easier to take fabric away then add fabric.  Apparently I needed to buy a dress size in between the two sizes I have purchased.  I had decided to use the seamstress the store employed to have the dress altered.  This is what turned out to be my mistake this time around as the seamstress didn't do a correct job.    

At this point in the story you may think that maybe I'm just being too picky.  Well I get really frustrated when I'm paying for something and it isn't done correctly.  I later found out that the seamstress I was booked with was a junior at the shop and as it turned out, the job was too complicated for her.  I really wish she (and the store) could have been honest about it when she/they realized that she couldn't do the job correctly.

I'll start off with explaining about the hem of the dress.  It's a long dress, it's supposed to be long, your feet really are not suppose to show out the bottom of your dress, but it was too long.  I was literally tripping over the dress as I walked, that back section dragging on the ground.  You might be asking yourself if I word the shoes I was planning on wearing to the wedding when I did the fitting and yes I did.  Aside from the length being too long the actual hem itself was crooked.  Crooked!  If I wanted it to be crooked and not done correctly, I would have done it myself (I do have those skills), but I didn't want to do it myself, I wanted to pay someone else to do it.  I should have just done it myself.  

Secondly, the strap area was done incorrectly.  The straps needed to be shortened, but the dress was designed so the straps were supposed to sit just on the edges of my shoulders.  I didn't know this and the seamstress apparently didn't know this either as she did all her measurements with the straps sitting up on the middle of my shoulders.  When I came back to pick up the altered dress I commented to the seamstress that it was too long and that the straps kept falling off my shoulders.  I was there well over an hour trying to convey my concern with the fact the straps kept falling off and I was tripping over the dress when walking.  That entire time the seamstress was insisting that it was correct and it wasn't until my disappointment and frustration burst forward in a fountain of tears did she even try to acknowledge that it wasn't right and she called in her boss.

My disappointment and frustration burst forward in a fountain of tears

At this point I lost all faith in her abilities (and the shops abilities in general) and refused to allow her to "fix it" by adding bra straps onto the dress (for an extra fee).  The hem length was never acknowledged by either the seamstress or her boss.  I took the dress as is and headed out of the shop disappointed.  A quick stop for coffee and to look up how to make bra straps and I was heading off to Fabricland to buy supplies.  

I bought the material needed to make my own bra straps and decided to just be really careful walking so as not to trip on overflowing fabric as I really didn't want to hem it myself.  Fast forward to a few days before the wedding as I was showing the bride and the other bridesmaids the incorrectly altered dress.  Yes, it was too long, I wasn't just imagining it, AND, my friend pointed out to me that the reason the straps kept falling down was because they were supposed to sit on the edges of my shoulders and not in the middle.  I really feel that this was something the seamstress should have know as I was paying for her expertise.  No wonder they kept falling down, they were sized incorrectly.  For the dress and the ill-fitting alterations, I paid well over $300 + an additional $20 for the materials to sew on my own bra straps.  The dress still looked lovely and worked out in the end, but it caused so much stress, tears and even a little blood (I poked myself with the sewing needle sewing on the bra strap holders) to get there.


eShakti to the Rescue

June 2017 ~ Bozeman, Montana

June 2017 ~ Bozeman, Montana

After my last two disastrous attempts at purchasing a bridesmaid dresses, having them fit incorrectly, spending a ton of money, I was excited for the opportunity to purchase a dress for a wedding as a guest but was also terrified that it wouldn't fit.  I was ready to try out a new seamstress if needed to adjust a dress that I found that was close, but not quite fitting correctly.

At this point my friends of the Jedi council (the name of the group message chat we talk in) have been going on and on for some time now about how amazing and awesome eShakti is, but I was really gun-shy about purchasing something online.  I find that I really need to try clothing on because nothing ever fits correctly.  Tops are always too small around my chest or not long enough or spacious enough for my hips, and don't even get me started on shirts that have buttons.  Pants are also just about impossible to buy, trying to find something that fits my hips where I don't get waist gap is basically hopeless, unless it's made out of elastic.  The thought of buying a dress from an online store, hah!

After multiple attempts going to the shops looking for dresses I was extremely frustrated.  Either nothing fit, wasn't nice enough for a garden wedding or was well over $200.00.  Finally I decided to attempt eShakti.  I figured at this point, what did I have to lose?  It took me three weeks to decide what dress to purchase as I kept adding items to my shopping cart and then closing the browser, changing my mind.  Eventually I decided on this pretty pink dress with the red embroidery.    

Michael & I at the backyard wedding June 2017 ~ Bozeman, Montana

Michael & I at the backyard wedding
June 2017 ~ Bozeman, Montana

The dress arrived in a very nice box.  Honestly I was impressed with the box.  I figured it would be in a bag and wrinkled into as small as a package as possible, but it showed up in a nice box, and inside the dress was covered in tissue paper.  With baited breath, I tore off the tissue paper and held up the dress.  It looked even better in person than online.  The moment had come for me to try it on...it fit!  Like a glove!  I can't believe that I bought a dress, online, and it fit perfectly, no alterations needed.  I was overcome with joy and couldn't wait till Michael was home so I could show him the most amazing dress.  

Then the moment came where I was wearing the dress, to a wedding.  Meeting new people is stressful for anyone, but in this dress, that I knew looked good, I felt confident.  It was so amazing to be wearing something that took zero effort and made me feel good about myself and not self-conscious about my body.  The wedding was beautiful, the location was gorgeous and I I received multiple compliments on my dress from complete strangers.  What more can you ask for?

Once Michael and I got home from the wedding I posted a pictures of us, with me in my dress, on facebook.  The picture has turned into one of my most complimented pictures, with tons of people asking where I got the dress.  I can honestly say that I love eShakti and now have three of their dresses.  Even the cost of eShakti is awesome, after the exchange rate, duty and shipping to Canada this dress was still under $100, practically a steal.


A Final Note

I actually started to write this post so that I could enter a contest that eShakti is currently holding called Something Happened.  I was meant to write a short paragraph on why I liked eShakti and post it to social media to be able to enter.  That short paragraphed turned into this rather long blog post.  If you've ever had trouble buying clothing I guess you can understand why I was able to write so much about one dress.  Seriously, check out www.eShakti.com and you will see how awesome their stuff is.  #eShakti


PS: I never mentioned in my post how customizable eShakti is.  The dress I bought was "straight-off-the-rack", but you can provide them with your measurements and they will custom fit any of their items specifically for your measurements.  They mostly have dress, but also some tops and even jeans and all the items themselves are customizable with different options available such as sleeve type, neckline type, length.  And the best part of their dresses..THEY ALL HAVE POCKETS!

Happy 150th Birthday Canada

Canada Flag Watercolour

Canada is my home.  I was born and raised in Vancouver, BC and currently reside in a suburb of Vancouver.  I have never lived anywhere else in the world, or even in Canada, but I can say without a doubt that I live in one pretty awesome country.  Today is Canada 150th Birthday.  We are a pretty young country compared to the majority of other countries in the world, but we are pretty awesome too.

No country is perfect, and Canada has had some troubles getting to where we are, but overall, I think that we are pretty great.  There are some typical stereotypes of Canadian people.  Yes, we do apologize to the other person when they bump into us, we do sorry, A LOT (as my Australian partner, Micheal, tells me).  It IS pronounced ZED and not ZEE, unless I'm singing the alphabet, which even to this day I still have to do when I'm filing charts away at work.  Not everyone in Canada likes Tim Hortons, despite this typically heard sterotype (myself included) and Hockey is our national sport, although I prefer Curling.  (Team Gushue from Nova Scotia is the curling team I root for, in case you were curious)

Anyways, this brings me to the entire reason for this post.  I wanted to paint a Canadian Flag because I'm proud to be Canadian and we are celebrating our 150th Birthday this year and there is a lot of excitement around it (it's kind of a big one for us).  So today, I set about making a watercolour painting of our flag.  BTW Free handing a Maple Leaf is pretty hard.

Canada Flag, 150th Birthday

Canada Flag, 150th Birthday

Teaser Tutorial

Abacus Bracelet

A number of years ago now I attend an event where we learned how to make an abacus bracelet.  The idea was that it would help you keep count for any crochet or knitting projects you were working on.  I had been wanting to make another one, so finally one day I decided to attempt to reverse engineer the bracelet I did have.  I made two of them.  One was for myself, using just some pretty blue beads and the other one was for a birthday present for a friend, using Harry Potter Hufflepuff House colours.

The reason I say this is a teaser tutorial is because I haven't actually written the tutorial yet, but it is one of the many tutorials I have floating around in my brain and one day will get written about.    

Creative Ink Festival

Three years ago, the amazing Sandra Wikham had an idea.  Sandra likely had the idea a lot longer then three years ago, but I found out about it three years ago so that is where I come in.  Sandra wanted to create an event where creative people (of all types) could work on their projects in an encouraging environment, with "enforced" quite time and built in breaks to chat with other people. Thus Creative Ink Club was created.

Being a non-writer myself, I wasn't sure if I would enjoy Creative Ink.  I though it was an amazing idea, but if I didn't write what was I going to do?  However I like to encourage my friends in their endeavours whenever possible so attend Creative Ink Club I did.

It was amazing!  Everyone who attend was so encouraging, the "enforced" quite time really made you stop and think for a while and get to work and the mingle time breaks were just the right length.  I drew a picture of penguins.  I hadn't drawn anything in a long time and it was sure nice to be encouraged to do something creative.  Other people who attended worked on screenplays, writing stories, poems, blog posts and there were even a few people just doing homework or knitting/crocheting.

This event was my first exposure to the Creative Ink Festival.  I love the fact that the Festival is open to everyone, for writers, readers and artists.  I've seen other writing festivals in the past online and always felt that as only a reader that the cost of these festivals was not worth my time or money, nor would I get much out of them.  I can honestly say that The Creative Ink Festival is for everyone, writer or not, you will get something out of the festival.

Last year I helped Sandra with a bit a volunteering at the badge pick-up booth.  I hadn't purchased tickets to the event, but figured I could help Sandra out where I could.  I should have purchased tickets, everyone who picked up their badge was so nice, and very enthusiastic to be there, the energy was just amazing and I loved every moment that I was there.  All of the panels looked like they would be very informative, interesting and fun to attend, even for a non-writer like myself.  I also had a bunch of friends who attended the entire weekend of the festival, and the stories they came back to me with about how much fun they had made me really disappointed that I didn't just get tickets myself.

This year I'm not making the same mistake as last year.  I will be going to The Creative Ink Festival, for only $80 for three days of panels, I really feel that I will be getting my money's worth.  As for the my original exposure to Creative Ink (Ink Club), well Sandra has also included an Ink Club event at the Festival.  I encourage you to check it out if you can find the time.

As for myself I'm really excited to attend the Hands on Calligraphy with Barbara Gordon panel.  Sandra has been told I'm not available to volunteer during that time.


The Creative Ink Festival

2017 Programming: Descriptions of Presentations and Panels

Sandra Wickham

Musical Heart

It happened one day, a good friend sat me down and asked if I would be one of her bridesmaids for her upcoming wedding.  Of course I said yes.  Over the next few months we talked plenty of times about wedding details, mostly all the crafting the bride herself was doing.  Making soap, decorations, centrepieces.  The things she and her soon to be husband were creating for the wedding were beautiful and unique and just like the couple they are.  During all this talk the bride and I did discuss wedding gifts.  For her, just my being there and purchasing a bridesmaid dress for the wedding was enough, she didn't want any additional gift.  For a lot of months I didn't really think about gifts, figuring we had it all sorted, then one day inspiration struck.  

A little bit of background on the musical heart.  

(I completely forgot I was writing this blog originally starting it in 2015 and rediscovered it Jan 2017 while going to write a blog about the

Creative Ink Festival - more on that later )...now back to the blog

When the bride and groom first moved in together, it was during a change in my life, as I was separating from my now ex-husband.  I needed a place to live.  Turns out the groom was leaving the perfect place and it was a nice and cozy and affordable place, and I was able to move into it.  On the door of the suite, was this musical heart.  The groom loved this heart and for both the bride and groom music has been a huge part of their lives.  Personally I was never a fan of this heart being on the door and I ended up covering it up with a Penguin wall hanging I had, but I always knew it was underneath and how much it mattered to the bride and groom.

A few months earlier, before I started making this musical heart, I just started to learn cross-stitch, having only completed one project so far (with tons of mistakes).  Undertaking this new project, including creating the pattern for it, was quite the challenge.  I was so pleased how it turned out in the end, and the bride and groom loved it.

Vancouver Crafty Geeks

I have some amazingly talented friends and they have started their own crafty blog.  I get to see some amazing creations made over time by these two lovely ladies and I'm super excited for them that other people will soon get to see the amazing talent they have.  Personally I'm looking forward to the patterns they will be posting shortly.  Please check out their new blog by clicking here: