My Almost-Published Love Story

Last spring, one of my favourite writers/bloggers/inspirational women Danielle LaPorte, best-selling author of The Fire Starter Sessions and The Desire Map, announced she was starting a magazine. And calling for submissions.

Danielle Mag image

This was the lowdown:

We want your stories, your wisdom, your light. This is our first round of submissions for the inaugural issue of DANIELLE Magazine. This magazine-meets-journal will be unlike anything you’ve seen or read. High-minded, full-hearted, gorgeous — both in PRINT and digital!

I immediately wanted to be a part of it, of course.

Submission categories included “The Best Thing I Ever Did”, “Kindness You’ve Encountered”, and “I Used To Be…Now I Am”, all of which evoked some cool ideas. But there was one theme in particular I felt compelled to write on…


Length Requirement: 500-750 words

Tell us your love story. Give us the hows: how you met, how you fell in love, how you feel now. And give us the real-life ups and downs, the issues and obstacles you’ve faced and overcome. Most of all, make us feel the love. We want a fresh, down-to-earth approach to the relationship subject.

At the time I was living in Saskatoon, doing long distance with Joe (who was in Portland) while waiting out our visa process. I missed him terribly. I had already written a little about how we met here on the blog, so I had a starting point. I felt our story was unique, and I really wanted to get published in the magazine. Danielle LaPorte has thousands of people reading her books, her site, her social media. (Her facebook page fan count alone is nearing 70,000). There was a lot of buzz around the magazine. Who knows what becoming a contributor could lead to?

So I stayed up until 2 a.m. the night before the deadline and completed my submission, fine-tuning it over and over to fit within the word count (750 words is not much for a love story!). I sent it in, feeling hopeful, but knowing there would be a ton of submissions, and mine getting chosen was a long shot.

Fast forward to June, when I received this in my inbox:

Congratulations, and Welcome to our magazine.

You’re in! We loved your submission to LoveLove, and we would be honoured to run it in the issue “Your true nature is luminous”.

Our art department will be in touch regarding imagery, and our submissions team will be in touch for your details.

We’re making something beautiful for the world.

With much gratitude,

Team Danielle

I was thrilled. I immediately shared the news with Joe, my dad, and my close friend Sarah. (I told Joe he had to wait until the story was published to read it—more fun that way.) The team asked for several photos of the two of us, which I sent in, imagining potential layouts in my mind.



Courtney and Joe in Thar Desert, India. Edited.

Could this be a new turning point in my career? It sure felt like it.

Over the winter, the editor of the magazine also hired me to write an article called “In the Dark”, on floatation tanks. I researched for days (I knew nothing about floating prior), and wrote the piece, plus a sidebar detailing float locations around the world. I was paid for both contributions, with the door open for writing future articles. The magazine was to launch this May, and would include my bio and link to my site.

Fast forward to last month. My inbox.

Sweet, Smart Danielle Magazine Contributors,

Creativity is change.

Can you tell I’m leading up to something?

THIS: I’ve decided not to go ahead with DANIELLE Magazine.

(I think some sighing and teeth clenching occurred at this point in reading the email.)

There’s actually no back story, no drama, no implosion-like circumstance behind the decision. It came down to a matter of focus. And lifestyle. And grace. Do I want to make a gorgeous print magazine that would lift hearts, feed minds, and rumble the publishing industry? Fuck, yes. Do I have other things that are currently soaring that I’m just as devoted to? Yes! Devotion to current reality wins.

(Want. More. Details.)

That’s all. It was an easy decision to make, actually, because I’m really really clear that I want a small company of strong and healthy women. So, we made a choice for wellness and quality — both, quality of life, and quality of creativity.

(Fair enough.)

We’re going to use much of the magazine content on my site throughout the year. Watch that space — it’s about to expand, and deepen.

Thank you for believing, for writing, making, creating. What we began will blossom, in a new garden.

Only love,


I’m not gonna lie, I was really disappointed. It felt like a huge opportunity had deflated in an instant. But I respect Danielle for making the choice that was right for and her creative path. (Check out her lessons from the experience on her post “How to Let Go of A Dream”.)

And! I have a blog. Which in essence is my own magazine, my digital world where I write, create, and express myself to an audience of readers regularly. So I decided my love story should be shared here, with you guys.

As I said, this was written last year (some of you might recognize the intro, from this post) before Joe and I got married in our wild and wonderful typhoon wedding. We celebrated our six-month anniversary last month, and the love between us just grows deeper.



Three summers ago I boarded a bus in South Korea, heading to a festival in a town called Boryeong. I wasn’t thinking about husbands. I was thinking about the beach ahead, and the beer in my bag. If one of the friends with me had said,Your future husband’s going to be on this bus,” I would have laughed; I would have bet my life he wasn’t.

My future husband sat three rows behind me. If his eyes hadn’t been as blue or if I had taken a different bus, we probably would never have met. But his eyes were blue and they were beaming. I saw them, kept turning around in my seat to see them again.

Joe is from Chicago and I’m from Victoria. In Korea he commuted 40 minutes from his apartment in Jangsan to my apartment in Yeonsan-dong, riding three subways in the winter dark so we could spend our nights together. “I don’t mind,” he said, again and again.

I don’t mind didn’t prevent me from fearing that he might stop arriving, stop standing over a pan in my small kitchen each Saturday morning, frying eggs for us to share in bed, stop writing words like tropical island getaway on the list of things we planned to do together, stop listening when I told him of my mother’s surgeries, of my brother’s addictions, of the depression that clung to me the year I turned 21. “I don’t mind,” he’d say again, and I started to believe he would continue arriving, that this man wasn’t going to walk out of my life like the other men I had loved or thought I might love.

Joe is 26. I’m 34. He was born the year I started grade three. While he was racing sticks with his brother and sister down the creek behind his backyard, I was moving out, taking ecstasy at raves, serving tables at an Italian restaurant, saving for a year away in Europe.

I have a degree in writing and Joe has a degree in biology. Med school is a mountain before us, high in the nearing distance, with a lot of dreams on the other side. Maybe we will live in Haiti one day, or Uganda. Maybe Joe will start a clinic in a neighbourhood where too many people are dying. Maybe I will write about their lives.

Our home is in Portland now, but I’m in Saskatoon. My dad and stepmom have welcomed me to stay with them while Joe and I wait for my K1 Fiance Visa to be approved, a process we started months ago. The list of things we want to do together when I return is growing: hike up to Pittock Mansion and watch the sunset; bike ride across the river to Mt. Tabor; gourmet picnic in the rose garden. Our time apart will culminate with an interview at the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver, where I’ll show photos to Consulate officials of Joe and I on a ski hill in Korea; in the Thar desert in Rajasthan; of us standing with his parents on their deck in Illinois; with my mom in her kitchen in Victoria.

I worry that the eight years between us is pulling Joe too quickly into his future, into facing the potential of becoming a father and a med school student at the same time. He worries that the demands of learning to become a doctor will force him to miss too many moments in the life of the child we hope to have. It would be easier, we both know, if I was younger. If we could wait a little longer. But eight years didn’t matter when I leaned against him on the backs of motorcycles, sun blazing our necks, winding past Land For Sale signs in Lombok, Indonesia, green, green, surrounding us all the way to the horizon. I am hopeful that eight years won’t matter when we hear the cries of a soul we’ve created, when we begin teaching a child how to embrace their tiny place in the world.

This fall we will marry each other on a beach near a forest on the Oregon Coast. When I imagine this moment I see us standing next to a row of trees. My hands are in his hands and the tide is pulling out, the sun low, not sunset, but late late afternoon when everything shifts to gold and the whole evening lies ahead, the stars preparing to glow.

(I love you, Joe!)

Thanks for reading, friends.

xx ~C.

Danielle photo credit: Taylor Allen

Wedding photo credit: Melissa McFadden

ps. Other relationship posts. Including Honeymoon Highlights and Relationship Wisdom From My Ladies


Q + A: Visual Artist Andie Nicole On Cultivating Creativity + Her Version of Magic

Last year, I was introduced to the work of a really talented Canadian artist.

Her name is Andie.


And her paintings are phenomenal.

Don't Go Jason Waterfalls

Tornado Watch

touch the moonAs some of you know, I spent three months living in Saskatoon with my dad and stepmom last spring while Joe and I were waiting out my immigration process.

One of the highlights of my time back in the prairies was getting to see Andie’s art, featured in a show at Gordon Snelgrove Gallery.

Coming of Age


Andie has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Arts from the University of Saskatchewan, where she graduated in 2013 with Great Distinction. She’s not only super talented, but a really sweet, open-hearted spirit, with a vibe you just want to be around.

I’m so happy to share Andie’s work with you all, along with her insights on the creative process. (It involves hula-hooping.) I hope you enjoy!

Q + A with Andie

What inspires you, gives you the urge to paint?

I find inspiration everywhere and in everything (typical… I know). I am observing and scanning constantly. I am fascinated by nature and curious about the lives of others whether real or imagined. Have you ever had the experience when looking at a piece of wood grain or other material – where you begin to see images… faces? I spent the first few years of my life surrounded by wood paneling (I thank my parents for their exquisite interior design or lack thereof!). Through imagination I discovered an entire colony of characters all with different personalities and histories. 

Nowadays, in addition to wood grains, I get lost within the spirit of different mediums as they tell me stories. Tools, paints, solvents, inks, and pastels effortlessly become my muses when they are poured and applied on canvas. The muse is the mythical power that creates art: the inspiration. The must in the artist’s studio is the spark that kindles creativity. Mediums reveal to me their secrets and arouse inspiration. Our relationship to each other, our game, our friction makes the sparks fly to light a new fire.

I also borrow a lot of ideas from other artists. What others have created astonishes me – so why not utilize what’s already there? I study images and techniques. I pick out things that I am drawn to, interpret what I appreciate from others’ techniques, and then approach my own work. 

What gives me the urge to paint seems like an easy question to answer, it makes me the happiest. Creative energy flows freely and my ideas and insights become a reality, in what I like to describe as magic. I get to be 100% myself and I get to learn more about who I am every time I create. It’s a beautiful thing.

Afro Diety

What are your creative habits?

I am always listening to music, dancing around my studio, getting in touch with myself – expressing the authentic me. In my senior year in university there was a focus on independent studies. I made it a priority to get to my studio and work every single day. I spent a great deal of time alone and discovered incredible value putting work in every day. Picasso said that inspiration exists but it has to find you working. This couldn’t be any truer for me as I grind away every day losing track of time. 

Pew Pew

What materials do you work with?

I love playing alongside a plethora of mediums and materials with a primary focus in painting, drawing and illustration. Mediums I most use are: pens, inks, coloured pencils, chalk pastels, oil pastels, oil slicks, watercolour paints, acrylic paints, oil paints and a numerous solvents and other mixing mediums applied to an assortment of papers or canvas. I enjoy mixed media compositions. I also have expressed creativity through printmaking, audio/video, installation, and 3D printing.

Happy Endings

What is your earliest memory of creating?

I like to think that creation is something that is not separate from me. Creating is something innate and has always been a part of my life. I knew from a very young age that self-expression and building things made me the happiest. My momma provided a very safe environment and encouraged artistic creation (she was very nifty herself). I entertained myself and got lost for hours building lego structures, craft making, picture drawing, watercolour painting, and drawing in the sand. 

Eek Oh System

How do you start a painting?

Once in a while I will work from an image such as a portrait or some animal, but for the most part the images come from my head and the medium. I believe that through colour I can communicate in ways that I simply cannot do through words. So the first step is usually playing with whichever medium I decide in that moment and applying colour through whatever method I am feeling in that moment. The process is almost always instinctual and whole-heartedly expressive. I may accomplish a type of ‘catharsis’ by scribbling with pastels, pouring paint and allowing them to mix with different solvents, or applying thick coats of paint and then squeegeeing it off leaving only a ghost of what was there. It really seems that I am playing connect the dots between my lived experiences and whatever the medium is presenting to me at the time.

Gloried Story

How does your mood impact your painting?

Well I know for certain that my mood is consistently enriched after a session. I know that I can reach a state of pure bliss when I get lost in creation. However, there are moments when I become judgmental about a piece I am working on and the work I do becomes much less confident or expressive and so I end up making what I consider at the time to be mistakes. I forget about the fun. I have found that when a mood like this develops I need to retire (for the time) whatever I am working on and start something with which I can be carefree, or have a dance party, or hula-hoop. It is at these times that playing is essential. Through this reconnection to the fun and playfulness of artistic creation, my mistakes become mere marks that I can learn from and build upon.

She Was One Hell of a Ride

What do you find most challenging about the creative process?

By not having any plan or end result in mind I run into big decision-making speed bumps. It seems like one minute I will be working incredibly fast allowing whatever to happen… and then I hit a wall. It is fun because I do like being analytical and figuring out what is and is not working in the painting (as a whole). However, I tend to become really attached to certain areas of my work and it gets difficult to alter things that I have subconsciously deemed precious.

Snuff Said

How important is the viewer’s reception/understanding of your work in relation to your intended meaning? What do you hope people come away with after viewing a piece?

There is no intended meaning in my current work. There are few recurring themes that appear, at least to me. I like to think that I have done my job if people, even for a moment, are able to get in touch with their inner child through my characters or images. This is not to say that my work is necessarily “childish”, however. I often pack some fairly “grown-up” images and references into my work. Sexuality and social norms are never far from my mind.

The process of creating is as important to me as the end result. In my artist statements at gallery showings I stress that each piece is an invitation for viewers to create their own stories. My hope is simply that I spur some imaginations and spread a little bit of playfulness and joy to my audience.

Em And Ems

What is the most freeing piece of advice or breakthrough you’ve had on your creative path? 

I believe creativity, like most endeavours, improves the more you do it. A breakthrough for me has been to return to my studio every day. Artists and creative minds alike must learn to foster and channel their creative appetites with positive working habits. To wait around for the right time, place or feeling is detrimental to productivity and creativity. I consider it a breakthrough to realize that creativity is not separate from me, it is internally present and requires constant cultivation. 

What’s your suggestion for people who have a yearning to paint or draw, but feel blocked or have a hard time getting started?

Firstly, I sympathize with these people. Most artists go through this and I too have fallen into that slump. Minds can become clouded, muddied, and discouraged easily. My advice: force efforts to continue despite this mental block and try to be creative. I don’t mean creative as in marketable or necessarily aesthetically pleasing, but creative as in the act of creation. 

I took away great value pressing onwards through these blocks. I realized that not only was I able to play and make work but also it allowed for me to mature and produce better work. Now, as I mentioned earlier, I remember to play and create any time I start to become judgmental or feel any sort of block. Try to let go of the idea that artistic passion is something separate from you.  Please know that creativity is a part of you and is always ready for expression (no matter what). 

Build A Bear

What artists or paintings have most inspired or influenced you creatively?

Wow, well this could seriously go on forever and I feel like it is impossible for me to answer. I am a sponge and I am continuously absorbing everything I see.  Here is my point form list of things I have taken away from some visual artists (and there are many MANY more…):

Egon Schiele – taught me that by using descriptive lines I can bring out the personality of figures rather than just their appearance.

Jean-Michel Basquiat - taught me about the effective use of dichotomies. He showed me playfulness and deep skill in doodling (Doodling in the highest regards of course)

Paul McCarthy – soooo beautifully grotesque… I mean butt plugs as fine art? Genius. 

Cindy Sherman – girl has got it going on. I love versed she is in sexuality, class, and gender roles.

Takashi Murakami - His work is “Superflat”  a term he coined himself meaning it is both a historical theory of visual compression and cultural mash of high and low cultures. His work brings me joy and so amusement – so vibrant… so fantastic.

Lucien Freud (later Jenny Saville) – showed me how to use brushwork in a very painterly way. 

Matisse – proved that painting could be a joyous thing. He believed in challenging himself and experimentation. 

George Condo – his work is ubiquitous and has plenty of blurred lines between oppositions. He has created his own language through his works.

Yayoi Kusama – repetition, repetition, repetition.  I become fixated on certain shapes and patterns that I repeat them throughout many different works.

Gustav Klimpt - portraiture, pattern, colour, balance, perfection. 

Alex Grey – an amazing visionary artist who has hugged my soul, danced in celebration of creativity and taking me on a journey far away from this realm. 

Vladimir Kush, Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali, Josephine Wall – strange creatures… dreamscapes. These artists have engrained in me to trust instincts and allow my unconscious to express itself. 

Letting Vertigo

Andie’s work has been featured in several art collective events and solo shows, and is currently being shown in her first post-university solo exhibition at Saskatoon’s Green Ark Collected Home. Her collection will be there (with select pieces available for purchase) until the end of April.

You can contact Andie and view more of her paintings on her site, Andie Nicole. She has original works for sale and prints coming soon. (I have a feeling I might need to treat myself to one for our apartment!)

I’m endlessly fascinated by how people create, what inspires them, and what they discover and learn along the way. Andie, thank you for bringing us into your beautifully artistic world.

xo ~C.

ps. Other Q + A Interview posts. Including Travel Photographer Peter DeMarco, author Eve Joseph, and Stars keyboardist Chris Seligman

2 Months In: Our Flanders St. Living Room Progress


It’s been two months since we made the move from our studio apartment on Northrup to our third-floor Victorian on Flanders. In distance, the two places are just eight blocks apart, but psychologically the move was big, for a few reasons.

One is that in our old place our living room doubled as our bedroom, so right beside the futon and coffee table (which we have since sold), was our bed, with no door, no separation between the two areas. Joe and I both lived in studios in South Korea for two years before moving to Portland, and that set-up can totally work—it’s liberating, even, to have everything you need for daily life in one open space. But by this fall, we started thinking how sweet it would be to have our living room, which we hang out in all the time, be just that. (Truthfully, we also wanted a bedroom with a door to stop Cleo from waking us up at 5 a.m. wanting to play fetch with her little paper balls. This totally hasn’t worked. But it’s a dream we hope to see play out in the future.)

Part of the call for change was decor driven: we wanted to go in a new direction with our colours and furniture, but when you’re trying to create two spaces with two different purposes in one pretty small room, and you know the apartment is temporary, it’s a bit of a losing battle.

We were in a holding pattern: not that stoked about the stuff we had (bought rather hastily when we first moved to Portland), but not prepared to redesign when we knew a move was inevitable. I believe your surroundings impact your mental state, and being somewhat on pause in terms of our living space and uninspired by its aesthetic was making me feel blocked.

So I was pretty happy when we found a one-bedroom we really like, sold the pieces we didn’t want, packed up the rest, and moved in.

This is our current living room, the week before the move.

Living Rm 5

Living Rm 2

That’s a whole lot of tan-coloured flooring and tan-coloured grasscloth wallpaper. If I were renovating, instead of just decorating, these walls would be stripped and painted white, and the floors would be hardwood (still light), not laminate. But we’re working with what the universe has given us here.

This is where the living room is at now:



Two months in, it’s far from done, but our vision of cozy and calm, cohesive and eclectic (with style and pops of colour) is beginning to take form.


For those of you who are interested in such things, I’ll break down what we’ve done so far. The couch is the first thing we chose, and it’s this guy, from Walmart. We needed a sleeper sofa for guests, but didn’t want to spend a ton because when we eventually graduate to a two bedroom (one day!) we’ll invest in the real deal (meaning a couch that is only a couch, and doesn’t double as a bed), and this sleeper will find itself in that second bedroom.


For now, it’s great. A touch firm if you sit in the same spot too long, but totally does the trick and looks good. It’s modern, but with soft lines. We love the grey and I’m into the subtle tufting. My best friend Melissa who came to visit in March spent three nights on it and was her usual happy morning self, every morning.

10009308_10153886598985029_1477564179_n (1)

See, she looks like she had a good night’s sleep, right? That’s us down the street at Blue Moon Tavern. This was taken in the afternoon, after a hike through Forest Park, by the way. We don’t actually drink ciders in the morning. Although that could be fun. Maybe next time.


The coffee table and jute rug we found through craigslist (they’re the same pieces I mentioned in this post). The jute is originally from West Elm. It has a few snags, but they’re barely noticeable and we got it for the half the price of what it sells for new. The sheepskin under the coffee table was my grandma Lil’s, and I am so grateful to have it, and a part of her, with me forever. It’s not going to stay there though—I see it draped over my future desk chair that I have yet to find. I’m on the hunt for a bright beautiful patterned rug to layer over the jute instead, bringing more colour into the room and breaking up all that tan shade.

Something like this rug (photo from littlegreennotebook) would be cool. Maybe not quite that bright, but you get the idea:



The green floor cushion is from World Market. It’s essential seating for devouring cheese plates with friends around the coffee table. The little round dining table is also craigslist, a $20 rescue from a nearby town called Scappoose. Its legs are getting painted a soft grey this spring because while the size and shape is perfect, its colour blends in way too much with the floor and walls.

The bookcase: craigslist Ikea (this one) for a crazy deal.


I’ve gotta say, there is a whole lot of second-hand Ikea on craigslist. And while I much prefer unique vintage pieces, sometimes a well-priced Ikea item with clean lines that requires no sanding, repainting, or restaining lures me in. One day we will own a serious solid wood bookcase but for now this hit the size and colour we were looking for.

Plus, Cleo officially approved it.


Though I think she secretly wishes we’d put one of those giant wall-size cat scratching towers here. That will never, ever happen. (We have a small one for her strategically tucked behind the couch, next to the window.) Decor trumps kitten castle. Sorry, Cleo!

6Other plans include: Replacing the green mirror above the dining table with one that’s more interesting. I’ll know it when I see it. Different dining chairs, probably. (I like the yellow but its impact is diminished next to these walls.) Switch out the big gold pillow on the sofa for a few smaller ones, possibly patterned. Some sort of cozy reading chair in the far corner, to the left of the window. And more plants, of course!

Wow, that was some major chit chat about my living room. Thanks for staying with me, friends. This space is currently doubling as my office, which is much cooler than doubling as our bedroom. I can happily write in here for hours, which I do, most days. I’ll share more progress as the apartment evolves…our bedroom and patio are also in the works.

Are any of you moving/decorating/recreating your space? I’d love to hear about it, the challenges and the inspiration. Tell me what you’ve got going on! Happy spring to you all.


ps. Other apartment posts, including manifesting our 3rd Floor Victorian, and furnishing Our Flanders St. Pad


A Portland Minute: 3 Floors of Free Books (+ thoughts on life before the internet)

A few weekends ago my friend Lesia and I hung out at a place in downtown Portland where you can borrow up to 150 books at a time, for free.

It’s a 101 year-old building on the corner of 10th and Yamhill, and walking into it feels a bit like going back in time.


Lesia brought her camera.







The sense of time travel isn’t just because the Multnomah County Central Library was built in 1913, but because…it’s a library.

The kind of place I used to go before something called the internet took over.





I’ve thought a lot over the last few years about the downside of the digital era, about the trend of advertising your location or current emotion or accomplishments on social media, about travellers connecting to WiFi while sitting on the beaches of Gili Trawangan, Indonesia, staring at their screens as the surf rolls in. About the compulsion to check your inbox multiple times a day.

I do or have done all these things, revelling in the great gift of the internet while simultaneously reminiscing about life before it.


I miss the mystery we used to feel in just wondering about something, like the distance between planets or the speed of a hummingbird’s wings, or what the name of that town was in the Kootenays where you stopped for the night in 2008, on the drive from Edmonton to Vancouver.



People are so quick to pull their phones out, mid conversation, to look up the facts of a topic that could have floated among us a little longer, a day, maybe, or a week, without being disrupted by a device.


The other day I bought a potted hydrangea at Trader Joe’s, and the woman in the line ahead of me commented on how beautiful it was, how much she loved hydrangeas. I told her it was for my patio, and asked if she knew how best to care for it.

The man checking our groceries jumped in with “Google.” Joe and I laughed, but the moment stayed with me—how I had enjoyed asking for information from a stranger, who seemed to love plants as much as I do. How quick we are to turn to a search engine for answers.

DSC_0799Lately I’ve been feeling like so much of what I do involves the computer, from my magazine work for Fine Lifestyles and marketing projects for clients (mostly done virtually with teams across central Canada) to keeping in touch with friends and family through skype and emails. As you know from my last blog, furnishing our apartment is happening mostly through craigslist. A few things on my to-do list over the next couple days are online research of the Galapagos Islands for an article, writing a dining guide for 19 Regina restaurants, combing through accommodation options on Airbnb for an upcoming trip, and learning about our new Oregon health insurance on the Moda website.

Obviously these are all great things—I want to keep connected with friends, I want to write for magazines, I want to find a dresser for our bedroom and chairs for our patio, I want to know exactly how much I need to pay to see a doctor in Oregon. And I’m lucky to have the online resources to do all of this.

It’s just a a hell of a lot of time on my laptop. My neck and shoulders are paying for it, despite walks and stretches and yoga classes. My mind is paying for it, too. I’m more easily distracted than I used to be, taking longer to settle in to the rhythm that a long bout of writing requires. I know I’m not the only one who feels the effects of web reliance: March 7-8th marked the 5th annual National Day of Unplugging, a movement dedicated to taking digital detoxes.

To be honest, an excess of computer time is part of the reason I haven’t been posting as many blogs lately. Sharing glimpses of my life, things I find inspiring, and interviews with various creative people are some of my favourite kinds of writing to do, but putting it all together is another screen activity. I’ve been feeling a bit challenged to find the right balance between my writing work and my writing hobby, both of which demand being online.

All this is to say it was a real pleasure to visit Portland’s library, to stand among the stillness of books.




The library reminds me of the past. Of days free of signing in, checking messages, searching sites, and downloading attachments.




And yet it shouldn’t be a symbol of the past, should it? What if it was a more prominent part of our present?

Most people I know love reading books now as much as they did pre-internet era. And yet I don’t often hear of anyone (who isn’t in university) borrowing them from the library. Powell’s Books, Portland’s famous bookstore, is almost always packed, buzzing with the excitement of new, old, and rare titles, visiting authors, and book signings. And while the library certainly had people cruising in and out, browsing aisles and using the computers the two times I’ve been in now, in comparison to the crowds of Powell’s, it’s idle.

Joe got his haircut on the weekend and told his hairdresser about our trip to the library that morning. She said what I imagine a lot of people think (including myself, until a few weeks ago): “I’ve been meaning to get a library card!”

I don’t know the policies of other libraries, but Portland’s allows you to renew the books you borrow up to 49 times. And as I said at the top, you can borrow up to 150 books at a time! We could all be filling our homes with borrowed books, supporting the library, saving money, and reading ’til our brains burst, in a good way.


Budget cuts in the last few years have impacted libraries across the U.S., with hours shortening and branches closing. The Huffington Post has a series dedicated to the issue, called Libraries in Crisis. I think we’re a long way from libraries becoming obsolete, but the fact that they are in trouble concerns me. It’s a place I envision taking my future child to, imparting my love of books to them, encouraging them to learn and explore through resources other than the internet. It’s a place that people who can’t afford to buy books rely on.

Lesia’s been visiting Portland’s library for the last couple years.


In her words:

“I love the library; it’s one of my favorite places to explore. We live in a country that has given us the freedom to seek knowledge and explore the worlds of the written word. We must take advantage of public libraries before they cease to exist!”

On my last visit, I took out The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp and a stack of coffee table books with names like Caribbean Hideaways and Sudan: The Land and the People. I’m looking forward to taking extra breaks from my laptop and flipping through their pages, exploring new places and ideas, sans google.


Thank you to Lesia for her beautiful photos and for suggesting the library as our first ‘Portland Minute’ collaboration.


We’ve got more city adventures and posts to come :)

You can check out Lesia’s photography on her site: Lesia Lichonczak

Thanks for reading, everyone. Let me know if the call of the library finds you.


Inside Our Flanders St. Pad

You know what’s tricky?

Bdrm Patio doors

Trying to furnish your apartment through Craigslist when you don’t own a car.

Also, focusing on work when what you really feel like doing is checking out vintage chairs and area rugs on pinterest.

After living mostly in studios (and a lot of Indian, Indonesian, and Cambodian hotel rooms) for the last four years, Joe and I are feeling pretty inspired to get set up now that we’re in our new (1 bedroom!) place. In January we sold most of the furniture we acquired when we first moved to Portland, as a lot of it was hasty Craigslist purchases that ultimately just didn’t feel right. (I’m a believer in either changing or letting go of what’s not working. This applies to life as well as home decor.)

For our new pad, the vision is to create an atmosphere that’s cozy and calm but also has a lot of style and pops of colour. Cohesive and eclectic.

We also want to find as many sweet second-hand deals as we can, so we can bring some new things into the mix too, like bedding, throw pillows, and a couple of these nightstands:

Wire nightstand

which I just discovered and which are low enough to go with our (Ikea) Malm bed. Finding nightstands under 22 inches high is surprisingly difficult. We’ve been on the hunt for the last year! Most are designed for regular beds with high headboards, which is the opposite of the Malm. Someone needs to create a line of nightstands for all the low-bed sleepers out there. This is a million-dollar idea, I swear.

But back to Craigslist. You might find an item with serious potential, like this $45 coffee table:


But realize that because it’s located in Beaverton, a suburb 25 minutes southwest of Portland, you need to coordinate with the seller a time to see it that corresponds with renting a Getaround car in your neighbourhood, with a backseat big enough for the table’s 54 inches in length.

But you’re liking that narrow mid-century look, and it’s freshly painted, says Hanna, the seller, with gold on the drawer pulls and leg bottoms. $45 is a steal, you decide. Beaverton mission must happen, before someone else nabs it. Even if the soonest you can get there is 9 pm on a Tuesday night in the pouring rain.

The coffee table is now in our living room, on top of this second-hand jute rug from West Elm. (These are the Craigslist photos, not our apartment.)


The chair on the right here was a $10 find just a few blocks away, no car needed. It’s now in a corner of our bedroom.


This is the sort of thing we’ve been up to since moving—tracking down good finds, checking measurements, visualizing if something will work, and then either passing or making it happen. There’s still a lot on our to-do/wish list, but the place is starting to come together. Especially with the recent spontaneous addition of a lavender plant on top of our fridge and a big-leafed tropical called a monstera deliciosa next to our living room window. I must admit I feel pretty wistful about all the houseplants in beautiful pots I gave away when I moved to Korea four years ago. I don’t even remember which friends got what plants, but I had vines, ferns, a massive jade and others that I’d nurtured over the span of seven years. It’s the tradeoff of living in other parts of the world, this starting over, the rebuilding after. But so worth it.

Here’s what we’re working with:

The Living Room

Living Rm 5

Top floor of a 19th century Victorian house = angled ceilings everywhere. This gives the place tons of character but also limits your useable floor space, which can make the layout a challenge. We were a little worried these crazy living room angles were going to make it feel too enclosed, but they don’t at all. Just the right amount of cozy.

That weird triangle window on the left looks out to our patio. We’re trying to coax Cleo into making the area below it into her sleeping zone, which is sort of working, until about 6 a.m. when she starts scratching at our bedroom door and crying to get in.

Living Rm 2

The wallpaper is grasscloth, which gives it a cabin-esque feel. My preference would be white walls, but we love the place, so no complaints.

The Kitchen

Kitchen 2

One of our biggest priorities when we were manifesting a new apartment was a kitchen that had a decent amount of counter space (vs. our old one, which had basically zero counters) and was open to the living room. We want to hang out and cook at the same time. If Joe’s making us roasted veggie and chipotle quesadillas, we want to be able to chat while he’s doing it, not be calling out to each other from separate rooms. Same for when we have friends over. This kitchen is open and has tons of counter space. And a dishwasher. It’s so. much. better.

Kitchen 1

The Bedroom

Bdrm Patio doors

For us having a bedroom, period, is a novelty. No more bed-in-the-living-room situation. And this bedroom is big!

The doors lead out to the patio.


Bdrm 4

That’s the door to a pretty substantial walk-in closet. Lots of floor space and a long hanging rod, but the whole thing is awkward because the back wall is so sloped. We’re making it work. (And a dresser’s on the list.)

The Patio

Deck trees

Another priority was having some sort of outdoor space, ideally private. This has it all. Lots of room for a table, chairs, planters, and a few friends. Wrought iron hooks are already hung, so I’m seeing some hanging flowers and succulents in my future. It’s partially covered too, so has a mix of shade and sun. Pretty stoked for morning coffee out here in the summertime.


The Bathroom

Bath 2

When our friend Bryan who helped us move in saw the bathroom, he said “It’s so seventies,” which I hadn’t really noticed, but I think that’s because I was so stoked, again, about the counter space. I’m sure I sound like I’m obsessed with counters, but our old bathroom had a pedestal sink with no counter, no cupboard, nowhere to put anything. This one is the opposite. There are so many drawers we don’t know what to do with them. A good problem to have.

Bathrm 4

Bath 1

This is the original clawfoot tub. As I wrote that just now I suddenly thought of how that means people have been bathing in it for a over a century, which is kind of out there. Apparently this floor of the house was originally servants’ quarters. That’s a lot of history.


And that’s a serious claw foot.

Okay, there you have it. Our new place, the bare ‘before’ pics. We plan to keep adding to it gradually over the next few months, so I’ll share a few updates and photos here as it progresses. I’ve also got some other fun posts in the works that have nothing to do with home decorating, but all involve creativity. Coming soon!

If you’re interested, feel free to check out my Apartment Colour Palette board on pinterest to see the direction we’re headed. I’ve got a few other decor inspiration boards started too.

Happy February, everyone!


ps. Some great tips on shopping for vintage on Craigslist, by one of my favourite designers

And more tricks for finding good vintage pieces in second hand stores

Both of these women are total pros and super talented. Enjoy!

Our New Home: 3rd Floor Victorian

See that window on the top floor, underneath the weathervane?


It’s the window to our new apartment, where we’re moving in 11 days.

On the right side of the house, off of our bedroom, is this magic little spot…


So if you’re looking for me this summer, I’ll be here, growing, watering, and rearranging plants, reading, sipping coffee or grigio, writing, hosting candlelight dinner parties, and trying to stop Cleo from escaping off the edge or jumping on the rooftop. (Joe’s got big plans for Cleo-proofing this space. So far they involve a lot of chicken wire.)

Okay, we also plan to do a lot of Portland summertime things like picnics, outdoor live music, festivals and farmers markets, and some road trips and camping, so I won’t be on my patio all the time, but since having a private outside space was one of the top things on our ‘Apartment Manifestation 2014′ list, I will be hanging out there a lot.

Finding an apartment in Portland is no joke. This city has one of the lowest vacancy rates in the country (everybody’s figuring out how cool Portland is and moving here), and if you’re picky about style, location and keeping within your budget like we were, it takes a serious amount of searching and a touch of alignment from the universe to get the home you truly want. Once we decided to start looking for a new (bigger) place, I signed up for alerts to be emailed to me from two different rental sites, and I was combing Craigslist a few times daily. Through December and the start of January I viewed 14 places in person, and we applied for two of them before this one, both of which we really liked, but that went to other applicants. It’s funny, but somehow both of us being employed with our current organizations for less than a year, having to explain that our previous landlords are located in Busan, South Korea, and me not yet having a U.S. social security number doesn’t exactly makes us star tenants to rent to. Especially when there’s a stack of other eager applicants. (No one actually told us this, but we sort of realized during the process that on paper, we probably don’t stand out as ‘the ones.’) Just when we were starting to feel discouraged, I saw this ad on Craigslist:

Live one block from fabulous N.W. 23rd Ave. Charming third floor 984 sq ft one bedroom, one bath apartment in totally modernized l890′s Victorian triplex. Hardwood floors, open concept kitchen w/ dishwasher, disposal, gas stove. All tile bath w/ plenty of storage and original clawfoot tub w. shower. Your own laundry room w/ washer/dryer. Brand new carpeting in bedroom w/ walk-in closet. French doors opening onto small private covered deck. Iron circular staircase leading down to private enclosed courtyard garden w/ fountain.

I mean, this was hitting A LOT of the items on our list. It’s in the same neighbourhood we’re in now, which we love. And it was in our price range. I kept reading, wondering what the catch would be…

Security system. No pets.

No pets. Joe and I joked about getting rid of Cleo for a few seconds, and then I sent a friendly and very hopeful email reply to the ad, explaining what excellent and responsible tenants we are, that this sounded like just the place we’ve been searching for, and that we would be more than happy to pay an extra deposit for our small and very well-behaved cat. (The well-behaved part was a bit of a stretch.) I asked if they would consider meeting with us for a viewing, added my phone number, and hit send. Then I closed my eyes and said a short prayer to the universe, asking for the person on the other end of the ad to respond.

It was a total long shot. But I believe in the power of manifestation. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes, it really does. (Ask me about the time I manifested meeting Ben Harper.) That evening I kept saying to Joe at random moments in the grocery store, on the walk home, back at our apartment: “I want to live on the top floor of a Victorian house.” I said, “We just need the landlord to be some nice old lady who cares that I wrote a friendly email and that we sound like good people.” Before we went to sleep that night, I said, “Can we manifest living on the top floor of a Victorian house while we sleep?” Joe doesn’t really believe in manifesting, but he loved the look of this place too, so he said okay.

Kate, who owns the house, called me the next morning. She’s a 70-year-old woman who used to be an English teacher. I was the first on her list to call, she told me, because I sounded so nice in the email. “I love writers,” she said when I told her what I do. (My occupation doesn’t always come in handy when trying to convey a stable income, so this was a bonus.) She also loves cats. The issue is that the apartment is covered in grasscloth wallpaper, and a former tenant’s cats scratched it up, so she hasn’t allowed pets since. I assured her we would train our cat not to scratch the walls. (This is the one wild card of this move.) She agreed to meet with us that evening. Long story short, the apartment is ours.

It’s not completely perfect, but it has almost everything we hoped for. Both the kitchen and bathroom have a ton of counter space, which was essential after dealing with basically zero counter space in both those rooms in our current place. The open concept of the kitchen and living room means we can hang out/entertain and cook at the same time, which is tricky to find in an older building. And it’s very, very cute. A weird coincidence is when Joe described the place and location to our friend Sam, he kept asking all these specific questions about what it looks like, because he thought he might have been there before. Turns out his friend Paul was the previous tenant, who just moved out! Weird. But not.

I’m going to share interior photos with you guys soon, along with a few details on our plans for the space. We’ve already sold most of our furniture and are starting fresh, because when we moved here a year and a half ago we had nothing, and made a few hasty decor decisions which now need new direction. I plan to show some of the progress along the way, so if you’re into home design and decor, hopefully you’ll enjoy those posts!

Last note on moving (for now): I’m determined to do it differently this time. No up ’til 3 a.m. frantically packing the night before because I’ve been too busy/not organized enough. (I have too many memories of this type of situation.) Half of our stuff is already in boxes, I’m proud to say. We’ve just got a couple more things to put up for sale, and we’ve already recruited four friends to help on moving day. It’s gonna be easy this time. I’m manifesting it.


A Portland Minute: Double Decker Dress Shop

Sometimes you’re walking down the street in Portland on a Sunday afternoon and you see a double decker bus that’s actually a dress shop.

lodekka bus

At least, that’s what happened to Joe and I. It was one of those sightings that made me say, “That’s so Portland.”

The bus is a 1965 British Bristol Lodekka from Liverpool that the shop owner, Erin Sutherland, found on Craigslist, parked in Springfield, Or. (It carted Liverpool citizens around from 1965 to 1982.) She spent six months gutting it, painting it, and converting it into a store, and opened Lodekka in October of 2010. Most of the shop’s inventory—dresses, accessories, and shoes as well as shirts and ties for the guys—comes from small-town Oregon and Washington thrift stores that Erin scours in search of vintage gems.


Pretty awesome, right? I haven’t been inside yet, but definitely plan on visiting the next time we’re in the neighbourhood.

I’m going to keep bringing more glimpses of the city to you guys with these ‘Portland Minute’ posts, so let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see or learn about…

ps. Another double decker business in Portland


*Top photo is mine. Bottom photo via Behind The Food Carts


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