Cliff Goes North

So this morning, I am stuck on my laptop, electricians poking holes into my walls, and I thought what better time then to finally tell the ‘Clifford Goes North’ story as per the many requests for more Clifford :) So let’s start with the preface that my dog has had an interesting life. Not like that cat who went from California to Guelph for 4 years, but he’s had A LOT of shit happen to him, or rather, he’s done a lot of shit to others. Hence the nickname Shit Pump. It fits.

A few things come to mind, but man, 12 years is a long time to be a Shit Pump and he’s managed to pack a lot in. Like the time he leaped on a woman in High Park, wearing a full length white wool coat, with mucky feet, or when he ate my leather shag rug and shit it all over Toronto. Or when I tried to cut his nails, hit the quick which caused a panic, and he ran through our entire condo, bleeding like he lost a limb, all over my beige carpet, white couch and new duvet until I finally caught him.

Or when he ate my hard wood floor and baseboards. Or maybe the time he tried to jump through a chain link fence and got stuck. Or when he ran through a burr bush, gathering so many thistles on his face that his eyes were sealed shut from his hair.

Or maybe the time he fell through the ice at Earl Rowe, which I obviously was equally as stupid, leaving Finn in a baby carriage and launching full boar towards the half frozen lake to rescue him…like I said, my life has been utterly un-boring since he came into my life. But I’m getting sidetracked. Let’s jump back to about 10 years ago…

So this one particular summer weekend, we had to go north for my friends wedding in Bracebridge. We, as amazing dog owners are, scoped out dog kennels and found a great spot on the east end to leave our dog. I dropped him off on a Friday and we headed out. A great weekend party plus we packed in buying our current house in Alliston. We had a lot to celebrate, so Sunday was rough.

At the kennel pick up, it was a little odd. I mean, he had on Clifford’s collar, but his hair was all short. He ran to us and it appeared to be our dog but doodles have a weird thing about all looking like twins and let’s preface again that both Troy and I were VERY hungover. But they passed us a dog and we took it. The entire way home, I kept looking back at him in confusion as our conversation went like this:

Why did they cut his hair? Why didn’t they tell us?

Maybe he got really dirty and had to shave him down?

Can we stop at Mc Dicks, I’m dying for grease.

Why didn’t Clifford jump in the car himself?

Maybe he’s tired?

Maybe he got hurt?

I need a nap.

Ok so when we get home, let’s let him lead and see if he knows his way into the condo. Yes! That will explain it all…

Again, let me say, we were both VERY HUNGOVER.

So we took the dog out of the car, and proceeded to our condo, which he completely went right to. So obviously we were like, oh of corse it’s Clifford. Let’s go nap.

But then this dog came with us upstairs and jumped on our bed.

Clifford never ever jumped on our bed.


So we went to sleep, brains not functioning, but all through the night this dog (who still lay on our bed) stared at me. I recall waking and telling the dog to stop being a creepy stalker but it was weird.

The next morning we felt better, and were way more equipped to deal with the situation, so cue the tests. Could this dog perform all of Cliffords’ tricks? He fucking did. Then we took him for a walk and still, he KNEW WHERE WE LIVED. But the uncertainly remained so we called the kennel. The conversation went something like this:

So Clifford is acting sorta weird….

Right, so why did you cut his hair?….

Ok well, this dog’s hair is short…

Um, ok, I’ll try that….


(Dog named Bear, jumps up and runs over to Troy on the phone)

Oh shit.

So the next few minutes panic ensued. Where was Clifford? Is he ok? We are the WORST DOG OWNERS IN HISTORY.

Troy hung up and I freaked out. Poor Bear was like finally someone has figured out that I DON’T LIVE HERE.

Phone rings up a little while later from the Kennel. The conversation went something like this:

Oh thank god, you found Clifford…

Why did someone switch his collar with another dog?…

Oh, the other owner didn’t realize it wasn’t her dog either?

She’s up north?

She picked up Clifford right after I dropped him off on Friday…

So we were, in fact, driving up the 400 in our car while our dog was in another car behind us going up the same highway to Bracebridge too?

So he’s been at a cottage all weekend running off leash, swimming, and living the life at her swanky spot?

She’s not bringing him back until the next day?

Right ok.

Needless to say, this woman didn’t know the difference either, but to give us a little cred, our excuse was the hair…Bear was shaved down so it’s plausible that it still was our dog but cut by the kennel. She never once questioned that her ‘new’ dog had a big shaggy coat after just a few days.

We laughed, we exchanged dogs, she told us that Clifford never went outside the property line, that he enjoyed all the holistic treats and meds she gave him, that he swam and had the best weekend ever. I mean, he seemed happy to be home with us but I could tell he was a little annoyed to come back to city living.

Clifford turning 12 last week has had us reflecting on all his adventures and all the shit we’ve gone through with him (or put him through…cue prop photo shoots). We know his time is short, his limps are tough to watch, his attempts at getting up are harder, and his days are spent mostly sleeping, but he will always be the first ‘kid’, my co-worker for the last 12 years and my very best friend :)

(The best part of this story is the kennel not once saying they were sorry or refunding our money even though our dog only ‘technically’ stayed there for an hour.)

Clifford and Photoshop are my favourite pairings…

Always the good sport…I mean, you have to be to live with Wren.

My morning reminder that he wants a walk…cue the sock bandit.

Judgey is Sucky

So this morning I finished reading a book…and it was utterly unexpected.

The cover was naked and racy, the title mimicking the photo on the front so I thought it would be a silly sexy read that I really do love. I crave the escape of books in this genre. The easy push and pull of a new relationship, the heated looks, the whispers of touches that immerse you into their world with the awkward excitement of a new lover. It’s easy to be sucked in.

It’s not crazy intense, it’s not multiple books about middle earth in which you require a guidebook to figure out what the hell is going on. Sometimes you need a simple escape and book covers typically say a lot about what you’re getting yourself into.

But sometimes I am taken by surprise.

It wasn’t like that at ALL, well maybe a little, but once I was finished I stared at the cover for quite a bit. A whole bunch of thoughts tumbling into my busy brain at once and that is when I knew I had to write this out in a blog.

In the end, the book was a love story (plot shocker I know), but not a typical one that I was expecting. It was real and interesting and it took the entire book with years of friendship to happen. I realized that the cover was in no way reflective of how the book looked to me after I was done.

I’ll be honest, a lot of the books I read are smutty and I use that term with absolute endearment. I love the authors I follow, I think they are brilliant and I applaud the way they put themselves out there.

Christina Lauren, Penny Reid, Emma Chase…just a few that I count down to book release day. They mix humour, with characters that are flawed, but interesting. There is sex, but also relationships that are real and honest and not simply ‘Hey I like your boobs, I’m in love with you!’.

These are super smart women who love to write about love and sex and I am always in awe of the worlds they create. In real life Penny Reid works as a biotech researcher and Lauren from the Christina Lauren duo has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience…so like I said, they are SMART women.

Books provide my escape. I want to fall in love, I want to laugh, I want to read witty discussions and I want to be entertained. I don’t want to think about soccer practise, work deadlines, or the endless to-do list. So this book surprised me…and it also made me think.

To be honest I’ve been on the fence over whether I should still continue to write at all. Unsure whether I could let myself pursue it unabashedly and without fear that I will fail. Or knowing that judgement will happen regardless.

I know graphics, I know design, I have succeeded in this life, and I love it still. But when I write I feel inspired and excited. So much so that I would rather write then sleep. I would happily jump into another world that I can completely control for hours at a time. But I haven’t written in months. I sat down to write the second in the ‘Off Limits’ series, and I just felt blocked. I started to doubt. Began to tell myself to smarten up and maybe this is a waste of time.

I forgot about that feeling I get when I write.

I began to think that what I write is crap, so I held back. I stopped talking about it. I didn’t put it out there for anyone but close close friends to read. Friends, who I knew would like it. I started to think that I would be judged by my words or the cover. Like that book I just read.

I finished writing ‘Riley’ in November. I love this book. The few people who have read it, also loved this book. But I still hold back. I sit on it and start the cycle of depression that perhaps they were lying, perhaps it is a dumb thing. Perhaps I should make better use of my time.

I obsessed over how people would react to the book cover. Even though I designed it to be blurry and, I thought, pretty tasteful in relation to others that have naked dudes with girls’ legs wrapped around their bodies.

Would people start to think that it was something that I wrote about from experience? How I definitely must have had an affair with a young guy because that is who my main character is. Or maybe that I secretly want that to happen? I think about male authors and know that this would NEVER HAPPEN to them. No one would ever condemn a guy for writing a sex scene with a younger chick, not ever.

But this isn’t a feminist rant…not today anyways.

Would people make fun of it? Make fun of me for writing it? Would they say good job Kel, but then judge me as a silly mother who had better grow up and adult. It’s these thoughts that have silenced my blogs, my writing, as I continue to sit on something that maybe someone would actually like to read had they known about it.

It’s that line in the sand, that once I cross over, it’s out there. I mean, Finn happened to casually mention to his teacher, last year, that his mom was a writer and god love her, she googled me and found and bought my first book. I had no idea until she emailed me the most fantastic email to tell me how she loved it, that it was not her normal genre to read but loved it regardless and finished it within days. Now, this would be my young adult paranormal series, so it was out there, but again, it has no sex, no openly graphic scenes. So I stress thinking, what if his current teacher were to read my new book, holy fuck, what would happen then?

Someone once told me that I shouldn’t write things I’m embarrassed by and I am most definitely not embarrassed. I’m proud that I wrote it and I love my book characters. So much so that I have 2 more stories floating in my brain, waiting to be processed. But putting yourself out there, crossing that line. It’s a scary place.

I’ve never really cared what people thought of me before and I still don’t. I mean, not really. But this is the most ‘naked’ I have ever felt in sharing some of my art. Naked is a great word really. It’s vulnerable. It’s out there. I mean, my mother in law could potentially read this one day! The thought makes me sweat. But how else do we remain on the right path? And what is the correct path?

I’ve felt thrown off these last few months. I wasn’t sure I wanted to get back on that path. But when I think of my most happy moments, one of them is without a doubt finishing each of my books. Punching that last period and nearly crying with excitement. I think it would be a tragedy if I didn’t continue just for those gratuitous moments that I recall with perfect clarity. Even if no one but me loves them.


This is me.

Standing naked.

Book in hand…and being proud of it.


Kobo + Amazon


Yes, I Do Actually Work

So normally this blog is home to rants and fun shopping lists and I have to say that when I decided to finally update my portfolio, I realized it’s been almost two years since I’ve done it. Whoa… The age old saying, too busy designing for other people to design anything for myself. Well, I don’t think it’s an actual saying, but it’s my truth.

There many projects I can’t showcase on my site, things that I do for big wigs that have copyright hoo ha and all that jazz, and while I’d love to show you everything, these smaller projects are what keep me going as a designer. The brands are never boring and they continuously put a smile on my face. I can whip up a mean proposal but it’s the cool innovators that keep my devotion to my job.

A lot has happened in two years so check out my port’folio’ page for a full run down.

I want to first give a HUGE shout out to a few amazing ladies that I work with each month. My regulars if you will even though there is nothing regular about them :)

First is Karen from Citrus Silver, who has been a client for many years. Her hand stamped jewelry is both beautiful and meaningful, plus I’m really digging her new Canadiana collection made from pennies. She offers great deals all the time hence the ever changing lovely ads I design for her site (ahem, Valentines day is fast approaching guys…). I can’t include all that I do for her, you’ll just have to bookmark her site and check it out :) Karen’s ads are always colourful and fun and continuously brighten my day.

Second is Mary from…Lavish, to She Who Dares to ME&Co. to The Wedpreneur…you name it, this woman can do it. I’ve known Mary from way way back (side note: we’ve never actually seen each other, and dare I say speak on the phone even?) Anyways, she is the most incredible wedding planner/organizer/designer. I used to update her site and drool over the beautiful weddings she’s cultivated. I do a ton of co-lab work with her, branding her own businesses as well as assisting her clients with their brands. She is a marketing specialist in all things wedding and I love love love the work we do together. Distance aside, she gets me and I get her and it just works!

Third is Janet from The Story Co., who I ‘think’ might be my longest running co-lab partner – I think 14 years? Ok I’ll shut up before you all figure out I’m actually 65. Janet is from the lovely Regina, SK so we began working together sight unseen and for the life of me I can’t recall how we even found each other, but a simple phone call and we knew it was going to be a perfect fit. She is a brilliant marketing and brand builder, her vast client list speaks for itself, but it’s also the work she does to give back to her community which always amazes me. Our co-lab work is truly effortless, she provides the big picture, the plans, and I formulate the designs based on her envisioned aesthetic. It’s a true and incredible co-lab that uses both our strengths to shine. The years have produced great work, but also a great friendship.

So I think you can gather that yes, I’m a recluse, but also that the distance doesn’t matter in the least when you work with people this amazing :) Gushing over! Let see the goods…


I’m So Mad

This week I am having an angst ridden week, and there are many reasons for that. And before you assume, no, it isn’t ‘that time of the month’, which makes me SO mad in itself that immediately people think that if a woman is upset, she is crazy period chick. Sigh, let me continue…

Firstly, I’m angry about Trump. I’m mad for so many reasons I can’t even go there right now. I’m angry that woman still have to have massive protests to be heard, to demand wage equally, equal rights as human fucking beings. I’m mad that men are still making decisions about our bodies. So fucking mad about that.

I’m mad that my mom likes Trump.

I’m mad that both my parents chemo schedules are so complicated and rigorous they need special calendars to keep their meds and appointments straight. I’m so mad that there isn’t a damn thing I can do to help them.

I’m mad that my kids think yelling at me all day long is acceptable. I’m mad that they have no clue how freaking lucky they are. I’m mad that my son had a mental break on the weekend. A melt down so violent that I had no idea how to handle.

I’m mad that even though I’ve been self employed for over 10 years, sacrificed work success to be a mother (which I never regret), I still feel ‘less than’ next to people with lots of money and amazing careers.

I’m mad that my daughter will start thinking about body image way too fucking young. I’m mad that every day that passes I still hate my own body.

I’m mad that I’m still shy about a book I wrote (and loved to write) because I wanted to talk about sex and not be judged because of it…but judged is exactly what people are doing.

So yeah, I’m mad.

There are so many things I can expand upon from my rant, but this post started with a specific topic in mind and so I will jump back to the whole body image thing. What pushed me to write this was my little 5 year old girl telling me she has a big belly this morning and that she shouldn’t. Which was most likely her innocent way of tell me she needs to shit, but it made me think. And get mad. My brain is on the protests, the marches, the incredible women out there fighting to be heard, and yet it ALWAYS runs right back to how we look.

I’m no different, I mean, I’ve starved myself, worked out constantly, I’ve compared myself to everyone I know, always feeling like the ‘fat’ one in the group. No matter my size, I’ve looked in the mirror daily and mostly hated what I saw. I’m not looking for sympathy, or encouragement that I look ok. It’s not about that. It’s the fact that I’m 99% sure anyone who reads this will feel the same way. Maybe not to my extent, but it’s constantly shoved down our throats that we are imperfect and need to be better. It’s constantly shoved in our faces that in order to be a success as a woman, you have to be pretty and skinny and (this one makes me so mad) quiet.

Last summer I posed a question during a girls weekend that still sits heavy with me. Let me preface that these are all beautiful women. I love each one dearly and I asked ‘What’s your favourite body part?’ So immediately they laughed at me, like the question was so ludicrous. They made jokes which we must do :)

But no one gave me an answer.

No one could think of a damn nice thing to say about their amazing bodies. Well except for the fantastic answer of ‘my vagina!’ You know who you are who said that and I love you :)

So even though I didn’t like what was in my mirror, I had an answer and none of my friends did.

So that has sat with me, and I’ve tried really hard to be less hard on myself, but it’s a daily struggle. Now, this brings me to a more current conversation that I had with my better half. His response to body image issues with women was simply this and I would assume that a lot of guys would agree with him.

‘You could weigh 40 pounds more then you do right now, if you still wanted to have sex with me and show off your body, that would be incredibly sexy and I would still find you amazing’

So I thought about that a million times since then. The media is one thing, stop looking at it, it’s toxic…seeing yourself the way others see you and actually believing it, is absofuckinglutely the hardest thing you can do, but you must try. For the sake of this next generation of kids who look to us, we have to figure this shit out, and stop being so fucking hard on ourselves.

In February, a doc called Embrace is coming to iTunes Canada, and I think it’s worth a watch for all of us. The trailer resonates with me unbelievably. So while I feel less angry after writing this (whew) what matters above all the hate I feel about the world, is making sure my kids don’t feel the same way I do when they grow into themselves. I’m still not sure how to do this, but I will always be trying.

Ok rant over, thanks for listening :)

PS. In case you were curious to know my answer for my fav body part? Obviously it was my hair :) and my butt in jeans :)


How do you Curate with Minimalism?

Wow that intro title sounds super complicated. Let me back track. So on the weekend I watched the doc called Minimalism on Netflix which has been recommended many times over and I was struck. Struck with so many ideas and answers to my long internal debate over my living situation.

Screen Shot 2017-01-18 at 11.36.04 AM

My wee house is just that, so we’ve toyed with ideas over expanding, building back and down. A basement and a large back room with vaulted ceilings, huge windows and my only wish list item – a scandi style fireplace in the middle of the room. Sounds great right? Well let me stop you there. It’s expensive. Big time expensive. It will disrupt our lives for an extended period of time and I work from home. There are a lot of negatives but we made the decision to start on it this year.

Until last weekend.

When I watched the doc they touched on a study of how much of your home you actually use…

40%…yes you heard me. I mean, that is like half your house. So when I thought about our new living space, and how it would be used, I really feel that it would become simply a grand room you pass through to get outside. Our kitchen is way smaller then our living room which sits right beside it and NO ONE ever goes into the living room unless they are watching TV and when you are entertaining, NO ONE walks past that line. It’s like an invisible wall separating the two.

Honestly, my footprint in this house is my kitchen and my bedroom and a small corner for my office. My kids hate going upstairs so they are in the living room always. Troy tries to escape us all and spends all his time at work…lucky guy…

I know for a fact that people will still converge around the peninsula, and that is where they will stay no matter how large the house becomes. From May until October we have options of hanging out in the bunkie which is my favourite place to be, the hot tub or back deck. Or we can meander to Chez Ivison next door for a swim. Our great back yard is our little private forest and we love it. It’s only the winter months that we struggle.

So on that note we made the final decision not to expand. I do not want to be ruled by a house and things and once we made that decision a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. If I expanded I’d have to decorate, buy more stuff which is exactly what I want to avoid. Getting back to minimalism, the whole concept of buying only what you use. How many t-shirts does one need? How many bottles of shampoo? How many dishes? Cups? Why do I have an entire bin of light bulbs taking up valuable shelf space when I haven’t changed a light bulb in god knows how long.

I love this explanation of the concept:

Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.

That doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with owning material possessions. Today’s problem seems to be the meaning we assign to our stuff: we tend to give too much meaning to our things, often forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves. (Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus)

So on that thought, we have a small space yes, but we love it. I don’t want another room to clean, I want to sit outside on my ass and read a book in my hammock. I don’t want to go into debt over one extra room and sacrifice finally taking my kids to Europe. I don’t want to be 65 with a house full of shit that I have to stay home and clean and maintain. I want to be free of all of this.

So we made a few plans.

I get my wood stove, we fix the floors finally, we remove everything we don’t use daily, and reconfigure each living space we have to be highly functional and free of crap.

Sounds simple right? But how do you let go of all the kids art you’ve kept? How do you pare down your favourite book collection? How many sheets does one really need? That quilt you got as a gift – how do you part with it? That’s when you start to doubt your decisions. You think maybe I should keep that extra 5 sweaters just in case you feel like wearing them twice a year. That just in case will kill the project.

The whole concept of minimalism I’m on board with. I don’t want excess. I want life to be simple and open for experiences and not stuff. I’ve always felt this, but the issue is how far one goes in this. It’s a completely personal choice and I love to decorate so I won’t ever be that ‘one chair in a room’ type person and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I’m cheating or not living simply.

This morning a good friend nailed my personality to a tee. She was inspired by me because I curate my house to satisfy my need for visual inspiration.

Another friend always does a walk through of my house when she visits to see ‘what’s changed’ and it’s true, I am constantly evolving my surroundings. I work in my living room and need that constant adjustment to keep me sane.

So I need to find that balance. To keep what’s important to me, but let go of all the rest. If I buy something new, it has to have a purpose, or it has to replace something that I want to change. I will focus on quality clothes and ditch the ‘just in case’ wardrobe. I always tell my mom you don’t need a physical reminder to keep a memory alive. Keeping a picture you want to display on your wall is great. But perhaps you can get rid of that dish that Aunt Flo gave you 30 years ago that you never use.

Keep your footprint small, simple. Don’t buy that fancy car because your friends have one. Own the beauty of a car that is paid off even if you have to start it in neutral…it builds character! My kids don’t need an ipad, they need to learn how to climb a tree, and build a kick ass blanket fort. We surely would love a second bathroom…obviously…but my parents grew up with an outhouse so I think we’ll survive. I mean, 50% of our house pees outside in the summer anyways so who cares.

So there’s my new years social rant. Blah, do what you want with it :) Anyone want a bunch of furniture?