Be Merry Be Bright

It’s hard to believe there are fewer than four months left to Christmas, right?!? Yikes – no reason to panic!

But it’s a great reason to celebrate the few remaining lazy, hazy days of summer with a retro “Christmas in July(ish)” cocktail party – and you’re all invited! YAY!

PaperlessPost Invite

I found this lovely card at Paperless Post, where they just released a brand new selection of holiday cards. You can either send e-cards or customize and print your own cards through their website – very cool indeed!

Of course it wouldn’t be a real party without some funky music, so I created a swingin’ Xmas-themed playlist just for the occasion:

Now doesn’t that make you want to groove all night? Dean Martin sure thinks so!

Dean Martin RecordAll that dancing will make anyone thirsty…

And since beautiful, fragrant herbs are so plentiful this time of the year – it would be a shame not to use them. I just so happened to find several refreshing cocktail recipes using fresh basil, including Basil Lime Cooler, Basil Smash, Strawberry-Basil Martini, and more. Yum yum!




You want to make your own funky vinyl record snack bowl, you say? You can find the instructions right here. Just remember to line your bowl with wax or parchment paper before adding in the snacks!

And if you’re a little tired from the dancing and drinking, why not grab yourself a seat, put up your feet and admire a lovely little display rack filled with handmade cards. (Why yes, I did make each of these cards myself – thank you for asking!)

Card Rack

I hope you enjoyed yourself at my summer retro cocktail party – I sure had a great time planning it! Maybe we’ll see you around here again soon…Happy holidays!

The Life-Changing Magic of Morning Routines

Morning Routines

In my last post, I talked about how I eventually started getting up at 5 am (most mornings). But it’s not enough to get up earlier even when you have a great reason to – you need structure so that you don’t end up squandering your precious awake time. Hence the importance of having a solid morning routine to keep you on track.

“Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.”

Lemony Snicket

Books like The Miracle Morning and the 5 AM Miracle go into more detail about how to establish your morning routine, but a few things to consider integrating to it are:

  • Meditation
  • Journaling/Morning Pages/Gratitude Journaling
  • Affirmations
  • Visualization
  • Exercise/Stretching
  • Learning/Reading

When I first started establishing my morning routine, I was so excited that I tried adding all of the above elements into my routine. However within a few days I found that I was rushing around trying to check each item off my list before heading to work. It was becoming too stressful for me, which is the opposite of what a morning routine should be – focused and energizing.

So I started again from square one. I begin by aiming to get up at 5 AM, then only focusing on learning and reading, since those were most important to me at the time and the main reason I had wanted to get up earlier. Once that routine became habit, I started integrating meditation (first 10 minutes, now I’m up to 15 minutes) and affirmations. Then eventually I added in journaling (just one short paragraph on what would make my day great).

This spring, once the weather warms up a bit, I plan to add exercising to the mix – either a brisk walk or a run. But I’m not in a rush with this, since I know that I won’t stick to exercising when it’s still so cold and dark at 5 or 6 am. I want to give myself the best chances of succeeding.

Learning to take tiny baby steps with this process has been so important to building my routine and daily habits. I tend to be a high achiever who wants to do/fix everything at once, and when I fail I’m terribly unforgiving with myself. Be kind. Show compassion toward yourself.

Some of the benefits I’ve noticed since establishing my morning routine are:

  • I love the sense of accomplishment I feel when I do manage to wake up at 5 am (a seemingly impossible feat just a few years ago). It starts the day off on such a positive note. If I can do this, I can do anything!
  • By having a morning routine in place, I get to decide what’s important to me and how I want my day to start. Not spending my early mornings reading emails or on social media means that I am not being reactive to others’ demands and complaints.
  • I’m not rushing around anymore before heading out the door to go to work, whereas I used to sleep in as late a possible then run around like my head was on fire (sound familiar?). I can take my leisurely time getting ready, and it helps me stay calm for the rest of the day. (Meditation may also have something to do with this.)
  • As someone who despises rush-hour crowds on public transit, I can’t say enough how nice it is to take the streetcar or subway downtown with very few other people. It’s quiet and comfy and I always get a seat. Bonus.
  • Once I arrive downtown and make my way to my regular coffee shop, I spend an hour or more sipping my coffee and focusing on my personal development, either through a book or an online course. By the time I get to the office at 9 am for my pesky day job, I’m fully caffeinated, my brain has had a chance to warm up and I feel ready to face whatever comes my way. It’s made a huge difference in how I work.

Do you have a morning routine? What does it look like?

Wakey Wakey, Sleepyhead!

Wakey WakeyAbout 2 1/2 years ago, I switched from working on my personal development mostly in the evenings to early mornings. I had been struggling with staying committed to my goals, in large part due to decision fatigue (which you can read more about in my last post here). As I’ve said before, creating this new morning habit was one of the best things I’ve ever done to improve my life.

For most of my life, being a night owl was such an important part of my identity that I couldn’t even imagine a big enough reason for ever wanting to get up early.

Thankfully, age and experience have changed my outlook. Each day I get older, I have an ever-growing list of things I want to accomplish and a deeper sense of urgency to get them done in my short lifetime.

When I first started rising earlier, I went from waking at 7 am to 6 am. As I settled into this new routine, I enjoyed my new levels of learning and productivity so much that I wondered if I might be able to start waking even earlier. So I tried getting up at 5:45 am, then 5:30 am…and now I rise at 5 am most weekdays. 5 AM PEOPLE!!!

If you had told me even just a few years ago that I’d one day become a crazy early riser, I would have fallen off my chair laughing hysterically. Really. But I am telling you – if I was able to do it, anyone can.

You just need an amazing reason to get out of bed in the morning. Find that one project or goal that lights you on fire – whether it’s writing a book, starting your own business or getting healthier – and make a commitment to work on it as soon as you get up.

“It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.”


The key to waking earlier is to be gentle and forgiving with yourself (something I really struggle with). If you’re too rigid and unforgiving, you’re much more likely to give up the first time you miss your target waking time. It’s not going to be easy (especially for night owls), so you have to be persistent and just keep at it. I went from waking from 6 am to eventually 5 am over a period of about one year. And I will admit – it’s been damn hard getting up at 5 am during the dark, cold winter months. I’ve hit the snooze button way too many times, but most days I’m out of bed by 5:45 am.

A few tips that may help you as you transition to becoming an early riser:

  • Do it gradually. Don’t go from waking at 9 am to 5 am overnight. Get up 15 minutes earlier tomorrow morning, and once your body adjusts to this new time over the next few days or weeks, get up 15 minutes earlier after that, until you reach your target waking time. Give yourself as long as you need to reach that target.
  • Go to bed earlier. You can’t expect to get up earlier if you’re going to bed at the same old time. This was a hard one for me, because I was so stuck on my “night owl” identity. When I finally accepted that I needed to get to bed earlier (i.e., 9:30 pm versus midnight) in order to get enough sleep, I started having the best sleep of my life. Like, wow. This was a totally unexpected benefit.
  • If you’re a snooze-button addict like me, place your phone or alarm clock across the room so you’ll have to get out of bed to turn it off. Then don’t go back to bed.
  • Find an accountability partner. Ask a friend, colleague or someone in one of your social networking groups to take the challenge. Take turns texting or messaging each other as soon as you wake up in the morning.

A few resources that can help you on your path to becoming an early riser:

  • The Morning Miracle: Hal Elrod has a great podcast and has written a book on this topic. I haven’t read the book yet, but will be reading it this month for a book club I’ve just co-created with one of my meetup groups.
  • The 5 AM Miracle: Jeff Sanders also has a great podcast and book (which I’ve read and recommend).
  • seanwes: Sean McCabe has an amazing business podcast, and he has discussed becoming an early riser in several episodes. Like me, he was a hard-core night owl who became a hard-core early riser once he saw his productivity go through the roof. Listen to episodes #207 and #75 or read the show notes – they’re chock-full of information.
  • A Year of Productivity: A great article and tips for waking early from Chris Bailey.

Are you currently making or have you made the transition from night owl to early riser? Has it improved your life? Do you have tips to share? I’ve love to hear your story!

Learning and Willpower

Learning and WillpowerI love learning. I’ve always loved learning. And so I was frustrated with myself when time and time again, I would sign up for various online classes (paid or free), watch one or two video lectures, then give up on the classes because I never had the time or energy to complete them.

I couldn’t understand why I was never able to stick to my personal learning goals, whereas I was super disciplined at work and a productive, high-achieving employee.

It was all a mystery to me, until I read about willpower and how it works. It turns out that we only have a finite store of willpower each day. We start out in the morning, (hopefully) refreshed from a good night’s sleep. But every decision we make, no matter how big or small, contributes to depleting our mental energy throughout the day, so that by the end of the day we are often completely drained and suffer from “decision fatigue“.

This decision fatigue makes us much more likely to make bad decisions – such as skipping our workout at the gym or eating junk food for dinner – because our mental capacity is simply too depleted to make any more important decisions. We just go with what’s fastest and easiest.

This knowledge completely transformed my learning process. I finally understood that I needed focus on my most important work early in the day, when my willpower and energy were at their strongest.

This was a huge issue for me because I am not a morning person. At all. And I really, really dreaded the thought of having to wake up earlier.

But when upon further reflection, I dreaded the thought of not following through on my learning goals even more. I truly wanted to be a life-long learner.

So I made the decision to start waking up an hour earlier each morning (I went from 7 am to 6 am). I’d take a shower and quickly get ready, then head downtown to a coffee shop where I could focus on my personal development for an hour before heading to my pesky day job each day.

I have to say, implementing this new habit has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made toward improving my life. Since making the switch from evenings to mornings, I’ve been able to complete numerous classes on subjects as diverse as sketching, social psychology, happiness, behavioural economics, the French Revolution, emotional intelligence, business, and more. If I have to skip a day, I honestly feel a bit lost – that’s when you know you’ve built a strong habit!

When most individuals or most companies are talking about trying to create healthy habits, the key is to identify which habit or habits seem most important.

Charles Duhigg

If you’re struggling with implementing a goal, try focusing on your goal earlier in the day (ideally in the morning) and see if it helps. I’d love to hear your stories (good and bad) on this topic!

In my next post, I’ll talk about my path to becoming an early riser.

A Special Thank You!

As a special THANK YOU for your support in 2015 (and beyond), I’ve created these printable planner pages to help you get a head start on a super organized 2016!

If you own one of my Papermuse Designs refillable LP notebooks (5.5″ X 8.5″ format), these pages will fit once you’ve trimmed and hole-punched them.

I’ve created two designs: A pink-themed page and a grey-themed one. The two designs contain the same sections: “Today’s Top 3 Goals” and “To Do”. Feel free to use one or both of these pages!

To download, print and prepare your planner pages:

  • Click on the link below each photo to open the PDF document.
  • Print the pages on letter-size (8.5″ X 11″) paper.
  • Use a paper trimmer or scissors to cut each page in half at the 5.5″ (14 cm) mark.
  • Punch two holes at the top of each page.
  • Insert in your refillable LP notebook!

I hope you enjoy using these and find them useful. Over the next months, I am planning to create other printables to fit my LP refillable notebooks, so if there is something in particular that you’d like to see, please let me know!

Snapshot Daily Planner Page  - Pink

Click to download the Pink-Theme Daily Planner Page.

Snapshot Daily Planner Page  - Grey

Click to download the Grey-Theme Daily Planner Page.

The Importance of Artist Dates

In her book “The Artist’s Way”, Julia Cameron talks about the importance of going on artist dates once a week in order to develop your creative muscles. I’ve always believed in artist dates, but am often to busy or distracted to actually take the time to invest in them on a regular basis.

One of the best things I’ve done recently is to get a membership for the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema here in Toronto. It is one of the leading documentary cinemas in the world, and home to the Hot Docs festival every year.

Until these past few weeks, I had never really stopped to reflect on how much I enjoy watching documentary film, but since joining the Bloor Cinema I find myself wanting to see many deserving films. Since Boxing Day alone, I’ve seen three amazing films:

2014 Cannes Lion’s Awards – The World’s Best Commercials. If you ever have a chance to see these awards at your local movie theatre, I highly recommend it. I’ve seen the Cannes Lion’s Awards several years now, and they never disappoint. It’s always fascinating to see the sheer genius and creativity behind many of these commercials, especially the foreign ones.

National Gallery. Although a bit long at three hours, this was a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at the famous London gallery. Here is the trailer:

And today, I went to see Hermitage Revealed. Shorter than the National Gallery doc at a mere 1.5 hours long, it was a beautiful look at the history and the art inside this St. Petersburg gallery. It was especially interesting to me because I had recently read a few historical fiction books about Catherine the Great, who built up her collection to an incredible (and slightly insane) level. Here is the trailer to the film:

Seeing these films has without a doubt been inspiring for me artistically and creatively. What do you do to stay creative? Do you go on artist dates?

The Leslieville Flea

Leslieville Flea Winter/Spring Schedule

I’m super excited to be a first-time vendor at the Leslieville Flea next Sunday, January 18. I’ve visited the Flea several times during the summer, and it always has lots to see and do. During the winter months, the Flea takes place in Toronto’s beautiful Distillery District, inside the Fermenting Cellar. I’ve been busy these past few weeks making lots of new items, since there really wasn’t much stock left over after the holiday fairs.

In early December, I met Lynn from Lynn’s Lids at the Crafternoon Tea event, where we were neighbours. Lynn will also be a vendor at the Leslieville Flea and has very kindly offered to profile me on her blog – check our her blog post! Thank you, Lynn!

Quick Recap of 2014

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe we’re already 10 days into the new year – sheesh, where does the time go? I have to say 2014 was a pretty amazing year for me (though you’d never know it from the number of blog posts!).

A few highlights include:

    > Working at a pesky day job that I love, with colleagues that I truly enjoy being around
    > Travelling to Portland, Oregon to attend the World Domination Summit
    > Meeting AJ Jacobs and becoming involved with his Global Family Reunion project
    > Travelling to Italy with three of my closest friends – three out of four of us celebrated our 40th birthdays in 2014, so we figured we would do it in style (and with lots of wine!)
Meeting AJ Jacobs in Portland, OR

Meeting AJ Jacobs in Portland, OR

WDS 2014

WDS 2014

Il Duomo, Florence Italy

Il Duomo, Florence Italy

Me and my friend David

Me and my friend David

Beautiful Venice, Italy

Beautiful Venice, Italy

I’ve slowly been working on figuring out my goals (personal and professional) for 2015. What are your plans for this year?

New Year’s Shop Update

It’s been a busy few months, between starting a new job, hosting family at my home, and making and selling for the holidays. But after a few restful weeks filled with naps and tea and reading, I’m finally back into the swing of making new items. I’ve even managed to update my Etsy shop, which had gone neglected for much too long. Have a gander at some of the new items in the shop:

Paul McCartney LP Notebook

Paul McCartney LP Notebook

Hall & Oates LP Notebook

Hall & Oates LP Notebook

Siouxsie and the Banshees LP Notebook

Siouxsie and the Banshees LP Notebook

Depeche Mode LP Notebook

Depeche Mode LP Notebook

U2 LP Notebook

U2 LP Notebook

Peter Gabriel LP Notebook

Peter Gabriel LP Notebook

And my personal favourite…

Duran Duran LP Notebook

Duran Duran LP Notebook

This Week in Review

Reading… Just finished reading The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs. The author recounts his quest to read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica (all 14 million words of it). If you’re a trivia buff (like me) and enjoy quirky humour, this book is a must-read. I so thoroughly enjoyed this book that I look forward to reading A.J.’s other books.

Listening to… This playlist featuring covers (in every imaginable language) of Jacques Brel’s classic song, Ne Me Quitte Pas. I can’t get enough of it. This cover by Nina Simone is one of my favourites:

Watching… Old episodes of Fantasy Island on Netflix. I vaguely remember watching this show as a kid, but I couldn’t remember the premise of the show. Now that I’ve watched a few episodes, I can’t get over how creepy and badly made this series was, yet I can’t stop watching – it’s mesmerizing!

Discovering… Kid Koala all over again, after seeing his show last night as part of the Luminato Festival. I saw Kid Koala’s Space Cadet Headphone Experience a year ago, and it was magical. Although I’m not really into DJs/scratching/electronica, I truly enjoy attending his shows. He is fascinating to watch in action – his hands never stop moving, not for a moment. And he’s such an amazingly sweet, down-to-earth guy. Here’s his remix of the classic song Moon River:

Learning… To live with a neurotic cat. Lulu came into my life approximately two months ago, and although we’ve made a huge amount of progress, she still has her quirks. Lots of them. Thankfully she’s pretty adorable.

Miss Lulu (the adorable but slightly neurotic cat)

Miss Lulu (the adorable but slightly neurotic cat)

Loving… Making books, including a few new types of journals created from upcycled children’s books. I feel like I’ve got my mojo back – now the challenge is to keep it going through the summer months…

Hating… All the rain we’ve had this spring. I hope summer is on the cool side, but sunnier than the past several months.

Feeling… The need for some R&R. Haven’t taken a significant amount of time off in about a year. I’ll be on vacation in less than a month and look forward to a week-long master bookbinding class, time with my parents and family, and lots of catching up with close friends!

Wishing… I could get rid of the clutter in my apartment once and for all. I’ve made progress over the past few months, but I feel like there’s still a long way to go… I’ve got to be patient, but resilient.

What have you been up to this week?

Springtime Activities

How I felt on this beautiful spring day! (Free image courtesy of

How I felt on this beautiful spring day!
(Free image courtesy of

After an endlessly long and frigid winter, spring was finally in the air yesterday. It was perfect road-trip weather – sunny but not too hot – so I hopped in my car and made my way to Grimbsy, about an hour’s drive from Toronto. The town was hosting its annual Wayzgoose Bookarts Fair, this year being its 35th edition. For a book- and paper-lover like me, it was hard not to spend my entire paycheck on beautiful handmade paper, letterpressed cards and posters, bookbinding tools, handmade books, and so many other lovelies…thankfully I was a model of restraint and only bought sewing needles and a few cool notebooks.

My new friend Hannelore of Hannelore’s Story Works was a vendor at the fair – we met last December at the Movies and Makers show and instantly hit it off. As she and I looked around the room at other vendors, we noted that it was interesting that although we (and many other bookbinders) work with similar materials (recycled maps, vinyl record LPs, old postcards and book covers, Japanese papers), each of our handmade books come out looking completely different from anyone else’s – we each have our own distinctive style.

I also had the pleasure of meeting master bookbinder Don Taylor. I’d been debating whether or not to take a week-long bookbinding course that he’s teaching this summer, and after a chat with him about the various projects made as part of the course, I’ve decided to finally go ahead and register. Since the aforementioned course is being offered in New Brunswick (my home province), I get to stay with one of my closest friends and hang out with him for an entire week (this makes me very, very happy). Creative vacations are the best!

Here’s a great video of Don Taylor talking about the art of bookbinding and book restoration:

All these thoughts of spring, beautiful weather, road trips, and bookbinding have inspired me to make…what else…travel journals:

Accordion Travel Journal

Accordion Travel Journal

Accordion Travel Journal - Inserts and Envelopes

Accordion Travel Journal – Inserts and Envelopes

I’ve also been having lots of fun working with spring colours in my art journal (you may remember it from this post). These are a few blank pages I’ve prepared ahead of time with acrylic paint, collaged papers and washi tape, so that I can simply add text the moment I feel inspired:

Art Journal - Prepped Pages

Art Journal – Prepped Pages

By the way, if you’re feeling inspired to learn bookbinding techniques – there are a few spots left in the Coptic-binding workshop I’ll be teaching on May 4! For more info and to register, visit

Coptic Binding Workshop

Have you always wanted to learn to make your own notebooks and journals? Well, spring is a great time to learn a practical new skill, just in time for Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day!

I’ll be teaching this workshop at Wise Daughters Craft Market in Toronto on May 4. You can find more details and register here.

I love making books using this medieval-era binding method – not only is the binding very decorative, but the finished book lays completely flat – making it great for sketching and writing (especially for lefties like me). This format is also very easy to customize, depending on the materials used. Here’s another example of a Coptic-bound book that I recently created for myself – the covers are made from small canvas boards that I painted and on which I collaged printouts of the guys from Flight of the Conchords, and the inside pages are made from a variety of different papers and envelopes. I love love love how it turned out, and use it as an inspiring art journal:

FOTC Coptic Journal

FOTC Coptic Journal

I’m also booked to teach another workshop on June 6 at Wise Daughters, but haven’t picked a project yet. If you have ideas or suggestions for a bookbinding project you’d like to see, please leave a comment or send me an email at papermusedesigns [at] gmail [dot] com!

A Few Things I Discovered This Week

1. Gin + tonic flavoured marshmallows are pretty darn yummy (even if they really taste like lime marshmallows).

2. Nadège Pâtisserie makes the most adorable and treats ever invented (see item #1). Here’s further proof:

Nadège Pâtisserie - Le Marie Antoinette

Nadège Pâtisserie – Le Marie Antoinette

Those macarons were about the size of a quarter. Seriously.

3. I love oysters – the raw kind! – after an amazing meal at Oyster Boy. For years and years I resisted eating oysters because I had a not-so-great experience 15 or so years ago. Not anymore. Bring. Them. On.

4. Watching live, professional basketball games is so much fun – who knew? After seeing the Toronto Raptors vs. Detroit Pistons game on Monday night, I am hooked. This is a sport that I could totally get into. Definitely.

Raptors vs. Pistons action

Raptors vs. Pistons action

5. Being a brunette isn’t so bad. It’s definitely an adjustment from being a blonde my entire life, but I’m kinda liking it:

The not-blonde me

The not-blonde me

Did you discover anything new this week?

30 Days of Lists: Days 4-10

So I’ve been quite remiss with updating my progress on my 30 Days of Lists project. I’ve actually managed to stay on top of the prompts; I’ve just been terrible at updating my blog! To avoid creating one crazy long post, I’ve broken down the last two weeks’ prompts, and my interpretation of them, into two posts – here are days 4 to 10…

list 4

Day 04 #30Lists

list 5

Day 05 #30Lists

list 6Day 06 #30Lists

list 7

Day 07 #30Lists

list 8

Day 08 #30Lists

list 9

Day 09 #30Lists

list 10

Day 10 #30 Lists


30 Days of Lists: Days 1-3

I decided to try something new this month, by taking part in a month-long activity alongside other list-makers in the 30 Days of Lists Challenge. I’ve been focussing so much on work these past few months, that I needed a fun project to get my creative juices flowing again. This type of challenge is perfect for me because I am such an avid list-maker!

A total of 30 prompts is sent to participants (one per day). The challenge is to make a list based on the prompt, using whatever form or media you like.

In preparation for the challenge, I made a 5.5″x8.5″ mini binder to house all of my daily layouts. I used some beautiful paper featuring early 20th Century ladies’ fashions for the covers:

#30Lists Mini Binder


And now, the prompts – and my interpretation of them – for Days 1 through 3!

list 1


Day 1 #30Lists


list 2


Day 2 #30Lists


list 3


Day 3 #3Lists


So far, this one-page-a-day format is working perfectly for me. I need something that is quick, especially if I’m busy or tired or sick (like today). I’ve always been terrible at sticking through these types of projects for more than a few days – the OCD person in me quickly gets discourage if I miss a day and fall behind… I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself and focussing on just having fun (and maybe learning a few things about myself along the way)!

Are you taking part in the 30 Days of Lists Challenge too? If so, share the links to your layouts – I’d love to see them!

Bazaar of the Bizarre

I received some great news yesterday – I’ve been accepted as a vendor in the upcoming Bazaar of the Bizarre show on April 6! I’ve been a vendor at this show for the past few years, and it’s definitely one of the more unique and interesting shows out there – both in terms of customers and wares.

Bazaar of the Bizarre Spring 2013This year’s show will be held at a great new location – 918 Bathurst St. (@Bloor) in Toronto. About a year ago I had the pleasure of attending Kid Koala’s Space Cadet Headphone Concert at this venue, and it was one of the most fun and amazing experiences I’ve ever had. The following video gives an idea of what the show was like, but it really doesn’t capture the incredible magicalness of the experience :

Now I’ve got to get busy making stuff in preparation for the show – no excuses for me!