Home Improvement

If you’ve been with me on this blog for many years, you might remember that I used to love home projects. I love ripping out carpet, painting walls, upholstering furniture,  I’ve even stripped and refinished original baseboards (although I can’t say I particularly loved that one). Even my three rentals that followed were lovingly decorated with lots of unique furniture and artwork. Having a home filled with pieces that bring me joy has always been important to me.

However, when I moved to Bermuda, minimalism became my new mantra. I was loading a crate onto a cargo ship headed for a tropical island, remember? Plus, we’ll probably only be here for a few years. So anything that couldn’t stand the humidity, that might break during the journey, or that added too much weight to my crate had to go. I sold all of my well-curated furniture, gave away a few special decor items, and put the rest in storage in my parents’ basement. Unfortunately, this made for starker surroundings than I would like. So I did a little soul searching a few months back, and investing my energy into a few small decor projects was one of the things I decided could be easily accomplished and make a big impact on how I feel about living here.

I’ve got a few bigger projects in the works, but right away I’ve added a few small decor pieces. I’ve brought a few things from home and bought a few things when I’ve been back in the states, but the things that make me the happiest are the pieces I’ve made!

12717958_1123524741020732_1256405991863931753_nFirst up, I got my ever-growing collection of embroidery hoops arranged and hung up in our guest bedroom. I love how they look grouped together and I’m sure will be adding to them consistently!

I also hung this pomegranate stunner solo in our kitchen. This hoop took hours and hours, so I wanted to give her a special spot—at least until she sells! Want her in your own home? Available here.

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The other project is one I’ve been thinking about for a little while now. At any given time, I have a fairly good stock of paper flowers in my studio, but I’ve never really made a bouquet just for me. One of the areas in our home I’ve really wanted to do something with is our upstairs landing. There’s a funny little nook that’s not really big enough to do anything with, but looks a bit odd when it’s empty.

I recently moved a side table there, and now I’m working on creating the perfect collection to top it, so of course this was the perfect place to create a bouquet just for me! I wanted a loose, free-form arrangement that looked natural, so I created these poppies with extra long stems and just a few small leaves.

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I’ve also been wanting to experiment with some new techniques for more botanically accurate flowers for a while now, so this was a great opportunity.

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I mastered the curly stamen effect, and on this bloom above experimented with a bit of hand-coloring in the center. wild_poppies_1364

I’ve also added the criss-crossing strips of contrasting colored paper, to give the pleated effect of the poppy center. In this bloom above, I also tried bleaching the centers of the petals, to varying success. It’s a technique I’ll try again with a more saturated paper!wild_poppies_1360

I’ve also seen other paper artists add a bit of confetti to the ends of their stamens to give the effect of pollen. I like how this turned out, although I really need to find a bright yellow paper for it to look real. wild_poppies_1365

After a few tries, I also created a poppy bud I like! Although now after looking at the arrangement again, I’m feeling like I should go upstairs and bend the bud down, as that’s more typical than facing up. Either way, I’m loving how these turned out and super excited about my latest addition to my home!

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Swimming in Stars

Last weekend I had what will perhaps turn out to be the most incredible experience of my time in Bermuda. We had spent the day out on a friend’s boat, and since there’s a good chance it would be the last boat day this year, we wanted to make the most of it.

After a day of calm water and clear skies, the sun set early—it is November after all. We were nestled between some of the smaller islands so trees blocked the lights from town and millions of stars were visible in the sky. At one point, silence fell as we marveled at the site over our heads.

Eventually the idea of a night swim came up, and when we jumped in, we discovered bioluminescent plankton in the water that lit up as they were disturbed. As we kicked our legs and moved our arms through the black water, it sparkled. Trails of tiny lights following our fingers and toes. Stars above us, stars around us, swimming in stars, reminding me how magical this world is.

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!

A real live vacation!

Right now, I’m on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico—without wifi! Thanks to the magic of WordPress, you’re reading what I wrote a week before we left.

We’re headed on a cruise to various islands, which seems a little silly since we live on an island… We’ve booked some “excursions” that promise to be fun and make some great memories, but really the thing I’m most excited about is actually that bit about no wifi! I can’t wait for the chance to unplug and reconnect with my partner—no online poker (him), checking social media stats (me), mindless facebook cruising (both), or any of the other things that allow us to miss out on really being with each other, even when we’re in the same room.

After we return to dry land, several house guests arrive and basically round out the rest of June! So you’ll probably hear less from me in the next few weeks, but I’ve got not one but TWO exciting announcements set for 622 press’s birthday on the 22nd, so make sure to stay tuned!

 

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!