Sales on Ebooks and Online Classes!

Happy Thanksgiving, American friends! I hope you’ve had a fabulous holiday with people you love and food that was delicious. Canadian Thanksgiving was several weeks ago, but as you read this I’m on my way to surprise someone I love this holiday weekend. Good times.

So, let’s buy experiences and not stuff this weekend, yeah? (Or, let’s buy stuff and also experiences?) I’ve got some awesome sales for you of the experience variety – treat yourself!

(Some of the following are affiliate links. I never recommend things I don’t actually think are ace!)


Online Craft & Cooking Classes at Craftsy

All Craftsy online classes are $17.99 or less during Black Friday weekend!

First up, Craftsy’s having their biggest sale ever. Through Monday, every online class – there are well over 1,000 of them! – is $17.99 USD or less. Here are some I particularly recommend (do browse around the site – there are so many classes):


Online Classes at CreativeLive

CreativeLive is also having a sale from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, with up to 40% off classes. (Including my class: Embrace the Ugly: How to Break Through What’s Holding You Back in Business!)


My Ebooks and More!

Through Monday, take 15% off the ebooks in my shop using the code notstuff2016!

And get over 15% off the Daily Making Jumpstart + Year of Making e-course and ebook bundle. It’s never the wrong time to establish a solid creative habit. Take advantage of this deal, and you’ll already be well on your way to meeting your 2017 resolution… before New Year’s even comes!


Awesome Novels You’ll Love Reading Aloud with Kids

Click here to get a PDF of this list + 3 more great book recommendations + my 3 favourite picture books!

A list of great novels to read aloud with kids - the last couple of years, I’ve been reading novels with my currently (almost) six-year-old at bedtime. We still love picture books, but the vast majority of the time we spend reading together is accompanied by novels. New, old, fantastical, everyday – we read it all.

Soon he’ll be reading on his own, but we’ll continue to read novels together at bedtime. I’m sure of it. For now, I wanted to start a list of the books we’ve most loved together. The ones that mesmerized him and me both. The ones that were so delicious to read aloud I’ve wanted to shout from my front porch that everyone should join in immediately. (And also some that seem determined to be listed despite a lack of adoration on my or my kid’s part. Because not all books become beloved, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fun or important to read.)

(I’m using Amazon affiliate links here; I’ll be paid some change if you decide to make a purchase after clicking.)

Roald Dahl is perhaps the reigning master (so I declare) of writing books that are meant to be read aloud. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is one that’s accessible even to the youngest children, and it affords a fabulous opportunity to discuss what it means to be poor, and kind, and selfish, and greedy.

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, by Charles de Lint is a bit more sophisticated and subtle than some of the other novels on this list, and I think a fair amount of the story went over my son’s head. That said, he thoroughly enjoyed it. There are heavy themes of death and resurrection, and I found the book to be absolutely stunning.

No list would be complete without Harry Potter, and I highly recommend the illustrated versions. The Philosopher’s Stone was released in the fall of 2015 and The Chamber of Secrets a year later. I hope they keep to a yearly release schedule, so my kid’s maturity level can keep pace as the stories get more intense.

This is a short one, and a sweet one. The Pirate Pig was our introduction to Cornelia Funke’s writing, and though I thought it was merely okay, the kid loved it and insisted we read it again immediately. Three times over.

Though the story centres on travel through space and time – a concept wholly over the heads of most primary-grade children, let alone preschoolers – Fortunately the Milk, by Neil Gaiman is so delightful, and so amenable to reading silly voices, that even if half the story is lost to confusion it’s still super fun to read aloud.

There are several books in the Princess in Black series about a frilly princess who hides a monster-fighting alter ego. These are short books relative to most others on this list, but they’re terrific. My son loves them.

The Year of Billy Miller, by Kevin Henkes, is about Billy’s time in second grade. It’s a lovely family portrait that I as a parent could relate to as much as my son could as a kid. It’s a quiet book about normal life, and it’s great for sparking conversation about the everyday ups and downs of school and friends and work and family.

I loved From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler as a kid growing up in New York City, and started thinking about it when I took the kid to Manhattan for a few days last spring – and to his first major art museum (the MOMA, not the Met). We told our neighbour about our trip after we returned home, and he thought the same thing. The next day he came over with a copy of this book, and the kid loved it.

The six-book Imaginary Veterinary series by Suzanne Selfors is truly outstanding, and I don’t know why it’s not a more prominently popular series. The protagonists become great friends, and the books are full of humour, fantasy, and great problem solving. Especially recommended for kids who aren’t ready to be scared.

This one is a true delight to read aloud, and provides a solid invitation to discuss guns. Not that we all want to discuss guns with our kids, but when I discovered the role the farmers’ shotgun plays in this story, I decided it was time to discuss the power of those weapons. Also, we laughed a lot through this story.

This one is an exception, because The Hobbit is actually a total slog to read aloud. The book could have a third of its text cut out without affecting the story at all. But it’s saved by the parts with the Gollum, which are truly inspired to read aloud. And if you’re familiar with the story you can skip parts as you read.

Ok, no this is the best Roald Dahl book the read aloud. The fantastical vocabulary of the Big Friendly Giant is the best, and this was the first novel to elicit uncontrollable giggling from the kid. I suspect that when he gets older, he may consider this one of the first books he truly loved.

Is It an Emergency?

I don’t usually copy my weekly newsletter into my blog, but this week is different from most weeks, and my email provider doesn’t make copies available for linking. To give you the full newsletter experience, I copied the text in full, including the links at the end. To get my emails every Friday, sign up here.


I smelled gas this morning when I was walking the dog. It was around the same place in the next block over that I thought I’d smelled it last week, but had dismissed it as a false alarm.

I walked back and forth a few times, trying to figure out if my mind was playing tricks on me. I couldn’t figure out where it might be coming from, but I smelled it. I did.

Too big a risk, I forced myself to accept. Too big a risk.

So I phoned the city’s non-emergency line, just in case they have a way to check in on things like this that doesn’t rely on emergency services. They don’t. They told me to call 9-1-1.

Even though I knew it was the right thing to do, even though I had the blessing of the city, I still hesitated for a beat. What if it’s nothing? What if I’ll have wasted the fire department’s time? What if my neighbours feel put out?

Stop. Make the call.

I made the call.

It was the right thing to do. Even if I was mistaken, even if I felt uncomfortable that I wasn’t certain. I did the right thing.

I got a concussion once. I was in college.

It was my first year, I think, and there was an upperclassman who liked to flirt with me. I didn’t reciprocate, but he was harmless.

He was the first (of, astonishingly, several) college men who would, at one point in conversation or another, interrupt to tell me, “Your eyes are green!”

No shit, Sherlock.

I didn’t date much in college.

One day I was walking through the common area of my floor in the dorm, and he was walking by in the other direction. He asked for a hug. I said no.

He demanded a hug. I told him I had somewhere to be. He was in my way.

He said aw, c’mon.

I was like fuck it. Fine.

He swung me around during this hug, and lost his balance. We both went over, him on top. The back of my head smacked the floor and I literally saw stars.

I didn’t get to wherever it was I was headed.

I left the dorm in a neck brace, strapped to a backboard.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that stupid hug these last few weeks. And about the hug a guy at camp forced on me when I was in high school, which I met with a swift and well-aimed kick to his genitals.

I’ve been thinking about what’s benign and what’s malignant. What’s acceptable and what must be met with even uncomfortable intervention.

What’s normal and what’s not normal. And what shouldn’t be normal.

We’re in charge.

We’re the only ones who can force ourselves to do the right, often very uncomfortable thing.

To use our words to assert ourselves. And if our words fail, to use our feet.

To suspect that something’s not right, and to do something about it even if we’re not sure.

We can convince ourselves sometimes that life can be convenient, but this past week became a stark reminder that convenience is an illusion.

Let us all accept the inconvenience, for failing to is simply unacceptable. Let us get our hands dirty in the mess.

It’s the only hope we have of ever cleaning it up.


In my haze of grief and dismay this week, I finally finished my new ebook. It’s a compilation of all the emails I sent to you in 2014, including all the links. That year was a big one for me, and many of the seeds of my whole creative life were planted during those months. Grab a copy now on Amazon or in my online shop!

(Patrons at the $5 and $10+ levels, you should have already heard from me with your download or discount. Let me know if you didn’t get the info!)

Try This Once:

I’m having a hard timing coming up with the fun this week, my friends. I’m going to skip this one, and get myself into better shape to bring it hardcore next week.

Items of Note:

If you enjoy the newsletter, forward it to a friend, and support it over on Patreon!

Is it an emergency?

Small Format Bullet Journal: Trial & Error

Small-format bullet journaling –

I've been bullet journaling for nearly three years, and over that time I've toyed with straying from the format, I've experimented with different layouts, and I've tried different kinds of notebooks.

Over the summer, my friend emailed me a link to a Kickstarter that combined two of my loves: notebooks and organizers. I backed the project immediately. I'd always used a medium-size notebook for my bujo, and hadn't considered ​using an infinitely more portable tiny notebook for the job. Nothing like a fancy/functional case to make me consider something new, eh?

Something else the campaign got me to consider was whether it might be helpful to keep a separate notebook for each of the major projects I work on. The PocketDoJo organizer is designed to hold three notebooks, see, and as it happens there are three major kinds of things I do: my work, client work, and advocacy work.


I was super excited when my PocketDoJo arrived, both because new notebooks are super exciting, and also because the organizer solves the problem I always have with pens. Pens are never attached to my notebook, which means I never quite have one on hand when I need it.

I set up each of the notebooks and got down to it.


You can see in the image above that the notebooks (now sold by the company formed after the Kickstarter ended: Efficiency Supply)​ are designed well for bullet journaling – no need to make your own checkboxes.

But there's something about the notebook design that, though totally functional, doesn't appeal to me. It's possible I've become a design snob while I wasn't paying attention. ​And also? There's simply no reason to keep a separate notebook for each project I do, because my bullet journal is mostly a notebook full of to-do lists.

Small-format bullet journaling with PocketDojo and Field Notes –

Though I intended to finish each of my three ​new notebooks before abandoning that system, I bailed after only a few weeks.

But two great things came out of this experiment:

  1. I do love the PocketDojo case. I always have my pen handy (even my fountain pen!), and the case can hold other things if I need it to, like additional pens, or business cards.
  2. I don't feel like I've sacrificed anything by using a small notebook instead of a much larger (heavier) one, so it's easier than ever to have my bullet journal with me at all times.
Small-format bullet journaling with PocketDojo and Field Notes –

Having discovered that size doesn't really matter, I've bitten the bullet (see what I did there?) and signed up for the Field Notes quarterly subscription. Their notebooks are exactly the right size for the PocketDojo, their design appeals to the snob that seems to have spawned inside me, and the stories behind their limited editions are awesome (I'm in love with the lunacy notebooks they made this fall – watch the video!).

Do you keep a bullet journal? What size notebook do you use? Do you find that bigger is better, or that smaller gets the job done just fine? Any tips for maximizing the small approach?​


(Here's what it looked like when I looked up from the bench where I took the photos of the notebooks for this post. I love Granville Island so much.)

Granville Island, Vancouver. Small-format bullet journaling with PocketDojo and Field Notes –

Small-format bullet journaling with PocketDojo and Field Notes –

Participatory Performance Art?

My ongoing attempts to address the challenges of running a totally made-up kind of business doing totally made-up kind of work finally (some of you may heave a sigh of finally) have me considering that it’s quite possible my work is more an ongoing effort in participatory performance art than it is like any other kind of definable business that involves making products and selling them.

This is much of why I’m so excited about Patreon – OMG to make a living and continue doing this weird/awesome work? Yes, please.

I explain it better in the video above.

I can’t believe it took me so long to uncouple myself from the rules of capital-B business so I could finally see things clearly enough to maybe have them succeed. Holy crap!

I’d love it if you’d become a patron. Like literally and truly and deeply love it. Your patronage will enable me to continue forcing myself to see my work as a totally nontraditional artsy business, which is what makes it what it is.

And in doing that, it’ll enable me to make way more work, and I think you’ll enjoy that very much.

(I’ve just learned about a couple of very cool things that will enable some amazeballs spontaneous, interactive fun for patrons – so stay tuned for more to be added to the rewards!)

Don’t be shy if you have questions about Patreon and how it works. Ask away!

Are you a Cohen or a Dylan?

When you create, do you work quick & dirty or slow and deliberate?

I love this piece about Leonard Cohen (painstakingly slow writer of songs) and Bob Dylan (fast writer).

I’m certainly more a Dylan than a Cohen. If I can’t nail something down quickly, I’m far more likely to drop it than to spend years (or even months) getting it right.

When I started thinking about why I work this way, I recalled that I often say I do my best work when I’m angry.

This is true, but there are variations on the anger that drives me to create things. Often, I’m most motivated by a crushing disappointment that quickly turns into anger over something or another that was done poorly – so I do it better.

But though I often create great work out of anger or frustration, I also create great work out of a kind of hysterical mania. Instead of being driven by an overwhelming negativity, I’ll be driven by an overwhelming need to make something that simply has to exist in the world right this very moment. Though not an angry experience by any stretch, the urgency of it is not unlike the urgency I feel when anger pushes me to lash out.

In any case, I am certainly not a broody creator. I don’t strive for anything I make to be perfect, which is why, I think, I’m far more inclined toward quick-and-dirty. If I overthink anything at all, it’s extremely likely it’ll end up terrible.

I’d never thought about the relationship between my speed of work and the emotions that drive me to make it. I’m glad I came across this piece that led me to the connection.

So, what about you? Are you more a Cohen or a Dylan?

Source: Some People Are Cohens, Some People Are Dylans | Submitted For Your Perusal

A Day of Tapestry Weaving

Tapestry weaving -

This past weekend was the fifth annual Knit City yarn festival here in Vancouver. It’s an incredibly fun weekend every year, and people come from far and wide to buy yarn, take classes, and relish in our collective crafty love. I spoke at the kick-off of the very first one, and every year people come up to me and tell me about their crochet adventures. This year included! It’s awesome.

I picked up a couple of skeins of gorgeous SweetGeorgia yarn and a hefty skein of self-striping Caterpillargreen yarn that I’ve already cast on. I caught up with some friends from Toronto I’d love to be able to see more of, and reconnected with local friends I haven’t seen in ages because of the super intense summer and fall I’ve had.

And I took a class.

A full-day class.

On tapestry weaving.

You might recall I’ve dabbled with tapestry weaving before. Of course, I had no idea what I was doing, so I thought a class might help fill in some blanks, and indicate the places where I was totally wrong in the way I assumed it’s supposed to be done.

Janna Maria Vallee taught the class, and I loved every minute of it. We got to take home our looms, and I intend to finish my garish sampler (I obsessed a bit too much about the four colours I’d use, and chose wrong!), and see what mood will strike when it’s time to make another.

Tapestry weaving class -

Janna Maria Vallee teaches tapestry weaving at Knit City –

Tapestry weaving class -

Tapestry weaving class -

Tapestry weaving class -

Do you weave? What’s your favourite project you’ve made? What’s your favourite resource for learning?


Improvement Over Time

We’re hosting Rosh Hashanah dinner at our place this year, to celebrate the Jewish New Year. I’m so excited about it. It’s such a fun time to have family over to a house filled with food and cheer. And though Greg is the cook in our family, I’m excited to do some cooking myself, too, this time around. I’ve already made dessert, and I’ll be making a noodle kugel and challah.

It had been a few months since I’d last made any challah, so last weekend I put a loaf in the oven to get back into the swing of it before I make the special round challahs for Rosh Hashanah (at this one time of year, you make them round to symbolize the circle of time and life).

Facebook reminded me last week that it was a year ago that I made challah for the first time. It awoke in me a desire to make it more and more so I could figure out my own favourite recipe (and learn how to make it pretty). Eventually, I not only mastered the six-stranded braid, but I settled on my own favourite recipe, tweaked and nudged from many I experimented with.

Looking back at those original loafs, it’s very cool to see the result of the time and effort I put in. It’s a slow process to make a loaf of bread like this – it takes pretty much all day, though much of the time is spent waiting. I loved doing it over and over again, until I got my bread to be just right – sweet and dense and perfect with some salt on it.

Here’s the recipe I use, if you want to try your hand at it, too!

Braided challah dough –

Homemade challah (with recipe!) -

$20 Online Classes at Craftsy this Weekend!


Craftsy classes are just $20 this weekend, which is a pretty incredible deal. Every class involves hours of video instruction, downloads, and teachers who answer your questions. (My crochet classes are included in the sale, of course!)

The sale ends Sunday, so now’s a great chance to stock up for the chilly months!