Year One

Well kids, today is my Bermuda-versary! To clarify, in case you’re not sure what that made-up word means, I moved here as a resident one year ago today.

It’s a strange thing, doing a complete upheaval of your life like this: Sometimes it feels like I’ve been here forever (in a good way), sometimes it feels like I’ve been here FOREVER (in a bad way), and sometimes it feels like I moved just yesterday, especially when I go home.

I spent most of August in the Midwest and it was so good to be home for so long. I thought the visit would have a more relaxed pace than it did (hence the lack of blogging this month—sorry!), but as it turns out, there are still a lot of errands I need to run and people I need to see in Wisconsin. Reflecting on the trip, I just feel grateful to have friends that I miss so dearly when I’m here, and yet when we’re together, despite not having seen each other for 8 months in some cases, it feels just as comfortable and close as ever.

I’m also so grateful for the perspective of moving away to make me realize how wonderful all the places I call home really are. I know wonderful sounds like an exaggeration, but really—simple things like the sun shining on a cornfield in the early morning, the quaintness and safety of little old Milton, the down-in-your-bones goodness of locally grown food just took my breath away at times.

IMG_8314But back to the point—this post is supposed to be about Bermuda, remember? It’s been an interesting year. Quite honestly, if you had asked me six months ago how I liked Bermuda, I would have either lied to you and said “fine,” or if you were really lucky, I would have told you that I hate the monotony of doing the same things with the same people week in and week out, and the weather is shit, and have you ever had a scooter as your only means of transportation when it’s 50 degrees and rainy every damn day? And also, it’s hard to meet new people when you work from home, and relying too much on your significant other for human interaction puts a huge strain on your relationship and I will most likely never get a full time job or be able to realize my dream of opening my own business while we’re here.

To sum up, it was hard at first. Even in an “island paradise” it was hard. One of the things that helped me through that period was finding people who had gone through the same thing; just finding out that I wasn’t alone in my feelings. So, if you’re in the dark part of the big overhaul, I hope this makes you feel less alone, less like something is wrong with you. It’s hard. That’s ok to admit. And if my ranting doesn’t help, maybe these other tips will:

Don’t leave your passion behind. As you may have guessed, shipping a 400-pound antique printing press and all the accouterments is not the most practical thing in the world. For me, it was easier to justify because it brings in income, but mostly I knew I would be sad if I wasn’t able to print. Seek out the things that make you happy. In Bermuda, not too many businesses believe having a website is important. I had to own my nerdy passions and ask around. Another expat who I never thought would be into sewing told me about the basement of a local department store where they have bolts of fabric, notions and an awesome yarn selection. I found the island’s only proper art store by happenstance—I drove by and saw a little mall area I’d never explored, so I went in. It’s an adjustment (from an American point of view) not to have everything you want conveniently available, so you’ll have to explore. It’s worth it.

Put yourself out there. I know, so cliche, right? I’m pretty introverted. I don’t usually love meeting new people. I hate being in circumstances I can’t predict, especially if I don’t know anyone there. Seven years of art directing photo shoots has made me better at small talk, but there are definitely still times that I run out of things to say and questions to ask. Andrew has some great friends who have welcomed me with open arms, but I knew it would be important for me to have my own tribe as well.

I’m not sporty, and there aren’t a lot of other organizations to be found—I looked for book clubs, etc. but found nothing. But, because it’s such a transient community, most people are really friendly. About a month after I moved, I accepted an invitation from another ex-pat I had met only once or twice to be on her mini-golf team for a fundraiser. It was so out of character for me, but the event sounded fun and since it’s Bermuda, everyone would be pretty boozed up—how bad could it be? I’m still so grateful I went out on a limb on that day—that team ended up being the foundation of my own friend group here and it wasn’t hard—when you find your people, small talk becomes less small and a lot less painful (for me anyway!). Another expat who has recently joined our group struck up a conversation in the airport over nail polish. Put yourself out there, people, it’s so worth it!

Don’t keep it all in. One of my biggest regrets while going through my divorce was that I didn’t talk to anyone about how bad things were until after I had already decided to leave. Do I think the relationship would have worked out? Uh, no. But I probably could have gone about things in a much healthier way.

This time around I’m lucky to have a very good friend who had been in a similar situation—new country, no job, husband works—just a few years ago. I could dump all my emotions on her because she understood—no judgement, no telling me how living here was supposed to be awesome all the time. Nothing is awesome all the time. I’m also really lucky that my partner is a good listener, will hold me while I cry, and even when he doesn’t understand it, even when he’s the source of my displeasure, doesn’t tell me I’m wrong for feeling how I do. I know how lucky I am to have these people in my life.

Recently, I woman I had just met dumped all her big-life-change emotions on me, and I was happy to help talk her through it. You need people like that in your life—even if you just met! And if you don’t, you can write to me. No judgement here, my friends.

Stay in touch. One of my dearest friends moved halfway across the country about five years ago. We really lost touch for the first year or two—we’d send emails and snail mail, but one of us would always get busy and we’d lose touch for months at a time. Then we started setting up Skype dates. We treated them just as you would meeting a friend for dinner (sometimes we actually ate dinner too!)—sign on at a certain time, make sure you have at least an hour to devote to the other person, don’t flake out. I’m not sure if I would be as good at keeping in touch with family and friends back home if I didn’t have that experience. Text messages etc., can only do so much—sometimes you just need to see someone’s face!

Cut yourself some slack. It’s not easy adjusting to a new country, a new lifestyle, new food, new places, new people, etc., etc. I don’t think I realized how stressful things like never knowing where I was going, not being great at driving a scooter, and meeting new people every day were until those experiences eased up. Some stresses I was able to simply change or remove from my life—definitely recommended—and some I just had to practice or get used to so they weren’t stressful anymore. Treat yourself gently. Eliminate negative self-talk. Be physically active—it really does dissipate a certain amount of stress.

Are you tired of reading my advice yet? Good, I think I’m just about out of wisdom for one year. Goodbye from beautiful Bermuda!

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Cup Match Party!

It’s Cup Match weekend here in Bermuda! Though technically the holiday commemorates the day of emancipation for Bermuda slaves (surely something to celebrate!), it’s better known for the two-day cricket match between opposite ends of the island. Since everyone has Thursday and Friday off from work, that means lots of boating, drinking and parties!

cup_matchAndrew has hosted a cup match party every year since he moved, and this year I helped him up his game with a fancy invitation. It’s funny how even though it was a digital project, the old school letterpress aesthetic I’ve been using for some recent 622 press projects comes through!

Travel Guide: AMERICA!

Ok, you guys, I fooled you. This really isn’t a travel guide per se… but since most of you readers are American, it’s really just a reminder of how great  having access to EVERYTHING YOU’D EVER WANT OR NEED really is.

I just returned from a long weekend in Atlanta, where my youngest sister lives. It was my first time off the island since January (my longest stretch yet!) and boy, could I tell.

We decided we would eat in the first night, since we’d be out and about the rest of the weekend. So, on the way home from the airport, we stopped at her local grocery store for provisions. You guys! Do you realize how amazing American grocery stores are? First of all, the produce department alone in her smallish neighborhood shop was nearly the size of the entire store closest to our house. The variety! I usually have to go to two different stores if I really want to check everything off my list (and even then, I haven’t been able to find sweet potatoes anywhere in months). Plus, you can pick up flowers, houseplants, specialty kitchen gadgets, any kind of booze or beer or wine you might desire… the list goes on.

And the best part was, nothing was rotten, wilted, or so far away from ripe it barely resembled the end product. I could have happily taken a bite from anything on display and it would be juicy and flavorful and perfect.

Second, the prices! I ended up picking up a few extra items simply because they were less than one-third of the prices they are here. I understand nearly everything in my grocery store has to be shipped here, but seriously. I spent the same amount on sandwich supplies the day we got back on island that my sister did for very fancy dinner ingredients.

The next day, I dropped my sister off at work so I could borrow her car. I spent the entire morning at Target! Dear readers, I support shopping local. I do it every chance I get—I’m always buying handmade gifts and supporting local makers. But when a giant, corporate one-stop-shop is not an option, simple errands become a rather large undertaking. The fact that I can get a couple cute tanks, work-out wear, makeup, razors, a new purse, SodaStream flavors, coffee and a mango smoothie (which is what I got), plus shoes, housewares, sporting goods, electronics, etc. all in one stop is just about the best thing ever.

And again with the prices. Clothing, like everything else here is a little pricey, but the real problem is the quality. A top that’s Target quality is marked at Bloomingdale’s prices… and there’s nothing you can do about it. There are really only 2 department stores and a handful of smaller shops here and they each have several outposts throughout the island.

And then, I got to stash my bags in the car and walk next door! I love my scooter, and it’s really the most convenient thing for Bermuda roads, but it’s such a luxury to be able to throw something in your back seat, lock your doors and know that no one’s going to nick it.

Lunchtime. I’ve been dreaming of this… pushing aside cravings for months… Qdoba. I actually had to settle for Chipotle since the only Qdoba in Atlanta is in the airport, but it still did the trick. (Also, America, you have TWO of essentially the exact same restaurant and they’re both thriving!) I know fast-casual is the latest buzzword in dining, but man, do I miss it. We’ve got three basic levels here: total crap fast food (It’s not even good! Knock-off KFC or greasy burgers from a truck.); bar food, which will still set you back around $20 a plate, plus you feel pressured to order at least one $7+ drink; or a sit-down restaurant with varying levels of fanciness (and price, but all expensive). Oh, and they do Mexican food TERRIBLY here. Don’t even try it. A couple bars have mastered nachos, but we all know that’s actually American.

So, burrito, chips and guacamole—check! I stopped at a mall. It was glorious! And then I did do a little shopping local, in well-merchandised stores with very high quality wares. They were organized, they were charming. They were all on the same street. I bought myself some letterpress stationery (of course!) and a gift for my mom, and just barely managed to resist buying a BUNCH of handmade jewelry.

That night we went out for barbeque (again, something they do very poorly in Bermuda, plus I don’t even want to know how much a restaurant would charge for that much meat!), then grabbed a few drinks at a rooftop bar closer to my sister’s house (and they had live music that was actually good!).

It was a fabulous weekend that reminded me how good we had it back in the old U.S.A. So my dear Americans, you may feel uncultured, corporatized (made-up word), and stuck in a dysfunctional political system, but remember how great things are too! Capitalism! Infrastructure! National parks! A melting pot of food and culture! Burritos!

 

A Watercolor Revival

When I first made the decision to move to Bermuda, I made a list of goals for my time here to stave off a small (ok, giant) panic attack that went a little something like this: I’m going to quit my job. What if I don’t get steady freelance work? I’m not going to have a steady paycheck! What if I get bored? What am I going to do all day? What if I get all clingy and totally ruin the relationship because I’m so bored?!… etc. etc.

So, to pause that downward spiral, I started making a list (it’s still the best way I’ve learned to get a grip: somehow tasks look more manageable when they’re written down with a little check-able box in front of them) :
• Redesign the 622 press logo (check!
• Grow 622 press social media (check!)
• Start blogging again (check!)
• Reshoot all merchandise (check!)
• Grow wholesale market (first round of catalogs are out—fingers crossed!)• Submit my work for blogs and editorial features (working on it!)

And lots of other business-oriented goals like that plus lifestyle goals that I hadn’t been able to do with my very full-time job and my part-time letterpress work…
• Learn a new language/brush up on French (does downloading Dualingo and never opening it count?)
• Volunteer (check and check! I should write about that some time…)
• Work out (hitting the gym 2-3 times a week lately, plus tennis lessons!)
• (And the point of this post…) Draw every day

As it turns out, I shouldn’t have been so worried. For the first three months here, I was so busy with both freelance design work and getting my new life in order—guiding my crate through customs, getting my license, buying a bike, etc., that I actually felt like there weren’t enough hours in the day more often than not.

Now that the holidays are over and I’m smack in the middle of my longest on-island stretch yet (three more months until we have any travel planned!), I’m starting to tackle more of my Bermuda to-do list. To-do is perhaps a bit too hard of a word, as all of these activities are things I enjoy, but have simply fallen out of practice with. Throughout my childhood and into college, I kept dozens of sketchbooks and made art—crafts, paintings, calligraphy, pastel drawings—nearly every day. But even though I’ve been in a creative profession since, there was usually just one day a month—if I was lucky—when inspiration flowed and I got to create something that felt closer to art.

ombre_watercolor_5341It all started with watercolor—for 622 press actually. I experimented with letterpress printing over watercolor, then started with production in earnest not too long after. First, abstract washes of color in the background of these invites and then employing paint as the main source of color in these prints.

quotes_5502Then, one Friday when I gave myself the day off from “real” work, I started painting in earnest. First succulents, which I ended up finishing with colored pencil in the smaller details. Then poppies made with pastels, and wet with a paintbrush for a smoother effect.

succulents_5663 IMG_5664Then, coincidentally enough, a dear friend asked if I could create some art for her new house—she even had some inspiration: feathers, abstracted a bit. So I painted feathers for her.

IMG_5661And then, since I feel bad when I monopolize the dining room table for too long, I cleaned up my paints and transitioned to my sketchbook. My trusty set of Prismacolor colored pencils made the trek to Bermuda with me, but I’ve been sticking with plain old pencil as well. The textures of nature have always spoken to me (my photography professor had to force me to shoot anything else in college), so that’s what I’ve started with: poppies, seed pods, more succulents.

It’s not quite a drawing a day, but it is flexing my creative muscles and waking up a part of my brain that has been dormant for a long time. I feel like my skills in seeing and translating form still need some work, but I’ll keep posting work here—hopefully that will help encourage me to keep at it!

“I’m trying to grow stuff again”

That was the warning I gave my roommate/boyfriend last week after digging around in possibly-cockroach-filled potting soil out on our porch. You may remember at the beginning of my adventures in agriculture, I had a whole living room and porch full of lush green plants. The living room plants have fared pretty well, statistically speaking, the outdoor plants, maybe not so much.

So let’s start with the good news: Remember the avocado plants I grew from a pit? After months of growing in water (because I didn’t have a container for them yet), the healthiest one is thriving in a small pot. Despite the Jack-and-the-beanstalk perspective of this photo, it’s actually only about a foot tall.

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The tillsandia and my other no-name house plant are both thriving, despite forgetting to water them for weeks on end pretty consistently. Thank you 90% humidity!

My beautiful little succulent grew to monstrous proportions—so much so that it was top heavy and tipped over its ceramic pot—and then I accidentally dropped our blinds on it while it was sitting in the window, minding its own business. Shit. I was hoping its broken leaves might grow back, but instead, they sprouted roots! So I did a little research on propagating succulents (and by that I mean I looked on Pinterest, obviously), and apparently that’s how you do it! I planted the new babies from the blind-dropping incident, picked off the rest of the leaves and did away with the damaged overgrown mama plant altogether. Stay tuned.

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…And then there’s the porch inventory:

Cilantro: Dead

Chives: Dead

Thyme: Dead

Parsley: Thinking about making a comeback, but mostly dead

Basil: A little yellow, a little thin, but holding on!

Mint: Who knows! It wasn’t doing well at all, so I transferred it to a different pot where it thrived for a bit but now looks all spindly. I think the real problem is that I don’t use enough mint to trim it enough to encourage it to get bushy. I’m going to start paying attention to it though… Gotta get it healthy enough for mojitos in the spring!

Carrots: Sprouted, eaten by an animal just before the hurricanes. Also I’d like to clarify these plants are not in the ground, they’re on a second story porch. Who is taking bites out of them? Are there Bermuda winged rabbits no one has told me about?

Lettuce: Met the same fate as the carrots

Strawberries: This was perhaps the fruit I was most excited about. Homegrown strawberries! At Christmas! Obviously the little berries got eaten before they were even red and I didn’t get to taste the fruits of that labor at all! The plants are still holding on though, maybe they’ll try again?

Tomatoes: Ok, actually maybe this was what I was most excited about. I hate hothouse tomatoes. None of the plants I grew from a seed made it to adulthood, but the plant I purchased struggled through weather and critters to produce one beautiful little tomato for me while its leaves shriveled and died. And it was the most wonderful, most beautiful, most delicious little tomato I’ve ever eaten!

So the outdoor track record is not so great… and my neighbor’s thriving container garden does nothing but emphasize what a bad caretaker I am. I’m trying again… maybe I’ll get two tomatoes this time!