Where does inspiration come from?

It’s been a while since I wrote anything. I’ve been quite busy with thinking. Ah, thinking; the pass time I’ve been trying to banish. Everyone needs a break from thinking.

I’ve been thinking a lot about inspiration and where it comes from. Like anyone else, I go through long bouts where I can’t come up with anything new. It’s frustrating; I sit at my desk and pull at my hair because just yesterday I was brimming with ideas, and today I have nothing. The ebb and flow of creativity is natural, but when creativity is your job (self-inflicted or not) it’s important to be able to conjure some form of inspiration, even when you feel uninspired.

deskThe above photo is the main way I do this. Wait – what? On the left is a blog post by A Flower for Athena – it just happened to be on the screen when I took the photo (you should check her blog out – it’s lovely) and on the right is a photoshoot I’m nearly done editing. My main source of inspiration at my desk is the tiny print of a detail of a painting by Maria Pace Wynters that has sat there for the past couple of years. I love this painting. I came across it one day in a free monthly that I picked up on my way out of yoga and I wanted it, and went to her Etsy store and bought this tiny print and framed it and here it has stayed for years now. Every time I look at it, I smile. I completely fell for this specific piece because it reminds me of my daughter. When I look at it, I am reminded of the things I love about her – her creativity, her energy, her stubbornness (yep, I love that), her ability to see the beauty in things that I miss (I’m thinking ice cubes here).

I stop. I try not to think. I concentrate on this beautiful picture of this happy, free little girl. And I come back to the place where I began, and mostly it leads to, if not a whole new stream of creativity, at least the peace of mind to begin to let new ideas in. This small reminder means a lot to me.

My company is called Concrete Oyster, the logo containing an anchor. It’s all very nautical. I live in the prairies. I have to take a plane to get to the nearest ocean. It’s all very backward. I wish I could just walk to the beach and stick my toes in the water and be inspired. But I can’t. So when I need that nautical inspiration, I go back to my wedding and honeymoon photos, I put myself back into the place that I was.

But sometimes, inspiration just needs a whole new direction. Allow me to share with you the things I’ve been working on recently:

cross stitch

I got into cross stitching when I was quite little, and have done it on and off ever since. Back about 6 or 7 years ago I discovered software that allowed me to design my own patterns from photos. I did one of Marilyn Monroe (no idea where it is any more) and another of my husband’s face (can’t find that one either). I habitually will dive into a project that’s far too big, and never finish it, so instead of doing that again, I decided to start small. I’ll post more photos as this comes along (I need to get out and buy more embroidery floss).

poaching eggMmm breakfast. Poaching eggs – the best project ever.

Knitted infinity scarfI’m working on this infinity scarf for my friend Lisa. I’m a bit jealous, because I made one for myself without thinking at all about how scratchy the wool is. Hers is nice and soft. She’s going to be very comfy, whenever I finish it. Things are slow moving lately.

Off to find more inspiration – Sleeping Beauty is playing in my livingroom right now. Maybe  I will find it there.

– Jen McLeod, Concrete Oyster

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I can’t crochet

I’ve always wanted to crochet, but I suck at it. The extent of my body of work in the crochet world is one hat and a bunch of misshapen granny squares that realistically will never amount to anything. It always makes me jealous when I see my friends pick up this skill effortlessly. I have tried. Books, online tutorials, YouTube videos. I suck.

So, when my daughter asked for a “knitted sheep” for Christmas, I cringed a bit, because I knew that the chances of me finding something that she liked – meaning fairly large – in a knitting pattern, then somehow finding the time and patience to do it were slim. Knitting complicated shapes is hard. I knew that crocheting them was somewhat easier, but I suck at crocheting.

So I located a nice crocheting pattern, and enlisted my friend Natasha to take the project on for me. Natasha is amazing. The first time I saw her crochet in person, at a book club meeting last summer, I was in awe. She just pumped out these things without even really looking at her hands. I was inspired. I went home and tried. I sucked.

So, a HUGE thanks to Natasha for Lilac the Sheep.

crochet sheep crochet sheepcrochet sheep

– Jen McLeod, Concrete Oyster

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This is getting old

Am I old enough to start complaining about “kids these days”? At 30, for sure I am. OK but I’m not really here to complain, or talk about kids, directly. This is more about my dismay over the state of media and literature. I’m probably about to make myself sound very old and miserable, though I will try not to. Here goes.

I’m tired of shock-factor mom blogs. There, I said it. I recently read a blog by a mom who likened her post-partum genitalia to an animal that I’ve only seen in real life at my local zoo  and once along the side of the road on Koh Phagnan. Prior to reading that blog, I’d already been getting a bit tired of the “real side of motherhood” blogs that I’ve been inundated with since joining Team Mom more than three years ago. One of the things that bugged me about moms long before I became one myself (and one of the things that I swore I would never allow myself to become guilty of) is how self-absorbed moms and pregnant women appeared to be. Example: I was at Ikea with a friend once and a woman with a large belly and cart full of wares was in front of us in line. We were talking, and the woman shifted her cart. Something long and pointed that stuck out of her cart whacked my friend on the side of the head and caught in her hoop earring. The pregnant woman  looked, saw that it was caught, scowled and jerked the cart away without saying a word. When I mentioned the incident later to coworkers, I was advised that “pregnant women have a lot on their minds” and that was the reason this chick was so rude.

The conclusion I came to was that pregnant women and mothers of young children believe the world revolves around them, and I still find this to be true everywhere I go. You hear it again and again; “motherhood is the hardest job in the world”. Wrong. Totally not the hardest job in the world.  “My vagina has wings that flap in the wind”. Gross! For me this raises a couple of questions. 1. Who cares? Obviously, these posts garner a lot of attention, so clearly a lot of people care (question 1a. Why?) or rather they can relate to this, or it makes them feel better about themselves – it has something to do with them, as moms, reinforcing the idea that the world revolves around them, as moms. Question 2. What happened to self-respect? Am I bit of a prude for finding this comment grossly inappropriate? Maybe…no. No, I’m not. That is inappropriate.

You see this stuff everywhere – it’s got that self-deprecating, “please like me”, “they can’t make fun of me if I make fun of myself first” sort of quality that just makes me sad. Yes, you became a mom, it wasn’t what you expected, no one handed you a trophy. Surprise! So people deal with this disappointment by writing blog posts about things like the horrid changes that happened to their bodies, the intent of which seems, to me, to be to shock people into sharing it all over Facebook so they can get lots and lots of attention from people they don’t know and feel validated that their efforts and what they went through earned them some respect. But attention and respect aren’t the same thing, and you’ve “earned” it at too high a cost for me. Exploiting your motherhood and body is a bit too much for me.

So many new-ish moms seem so angry. I see letters to their pre-child selves, open letters to people without children, and other passive-aggressiveness. It was entertaining the first time. Then it got sad when people started copying it, talking passionately about it, taking it too far. People without kids don’t really read stuff like that, so it’s not going to solve any problems. To sum it up, my problem with the momblog world is that moms (yeah I’m making a big, offensive blanket statement here, but understand that I obviously don’t mean EVERY mom) are so self-involved that they think that they’ve achieved something spectacular by being a mom (not entirely untrue) and that they deserve recognition for it (there’s the catch). From everybody. And they’re going to lengths to which they should be ashamed and embarrassed to get that recognition.

So, what is the moral of the story? It’s not a moral – it’s an appeal. PLEASE, moms, can we get our dignity back?

African-Bush-Elephant-3 (1)

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I, the reader

Earlier this week I posted about the new case I ineptly knit for my Amazon Kindle. Then I read a post on my book club Facebook group, where another member recommended we try a book on Chapters’ Heather’s Pick list. Apparently if you buy a Heather’s Pick and don’t like it, you can return it. Great! But I never buy physical books. I love my Kindle.

There was an article in a local paper last year about the birth of the electronic book and the death of the physical book. I’m a bit too lazy to dig up the original article, but the gist of it was that the physical book will never die because, in the omniscient opinion of the writer, real readers like the smell and feel of actual books.

Well, I went to the paper’s website to disagree and take some offence, and saw that, of course, lots of people wholeheartedly agreed, and then the commenting was incompatible with my browser and I kind of forgot about the whole thing. Until now.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I like books. If I see a beautifully bound book at my local Chapters, there’s a chance I will buy it. I’m currently coveting this edition of The Great Gatsby:


Books are cool. But…the part of me that likes trees thinks that books are a bit wasteful. So does the part of me that is tired of being weighed down with so much stuff. And I love being able to prop my Kindle up on my knees and lazily turn pages with just the push of a button. I don’t have to hold a book open!! It’s awesome! Oh, and it fits nicely in my purse. And if I forget it, I can pull up the app on my phone. And last July, I finished my book while sitting on the beach and 30 seconds later I’d downloaded a new one. And with my waterproof case, I can read in the bath without worrying about soaking a book or otherwise destroying it.

I get it – my husband, who bought me the Kindle, loves having physical books. He’s a bigger fan of things than I am. But between the two of us, I’m unarguably the reader. I read a lot I read for hours daily. So I thought the article’s blanket statement that the title “book lover” is so literal.

Kindles, Kobos and eReaders are awesome and I think everyone should have one.

Our over-stuffed book shelf.

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It’s an octopus sort of day

I live with two artists – a little one and a big one. They both amaze me. I wish I could draw or paint, but I can’t, so I make do with what I can do. One thing I am good at doing is asking my  husband very nicely to execute my occasional artistic ideas. This weekend I asked him very nicely if he would mind drawing me an octopus – I had an idea for an octopus birthday invite. He delivered – he drew me two! Here’s the first one, which I had an opportunity to work on today:

Blue Octopus Birthday Invite


This invitation is customizable and available in my Etsy store. The other tomorrow? Maybe!

Jen McLeod, Concrete Oyster

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Sew good

I love sewing! I’m not very good at it, but I do enjoy it a lot! I’m not patient enough for it, for the most part. When I figured out that I couldn’t just “wing it” with sewing (I spent my early 20’s making a lot of things that did not fit properly if at all) and that there was so much to know, it opened my eyes to the fact that I am not very good at it and should stick to using patterns…but naturally, I still don’t. I don’t sew often, and when I do, it usually takes forever and results in something highly unappealing.

I’ve had a piece of fabric for months now and have been meaning to do something with it, so this morning I finally got around to making myself another case for my Kindle (one day, let’s talk about the advantages of Kindle over other electronic book tablets, ok?) and it turned out not too badly.

Nautical Kindle Case

Considering the utter simplicity of this project, it took me a very long time. I originally had a flap and was hoping to use it to make the thing closable, but I buggered it up and it was not to be.

Nautical Kindle Case

That’s ok though. I really just wanted something that would offer a bit of protection – I don’t think it’ll fall out. I think I will Scotch Guard it so that it doesn’t get too dirty. Good idea?

Nautical Kindle Case

I have a little more of this canvas – what else should I make??

Jen McLeod, Concrete Oyster 


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Lazy but surprisingly productive Mondays

I’m at Starbucks. Usually, when I’m at Starbucks, I’m writing with pen and paper. See?


Today is different. Instead I’m writing a blog post on my iPhone, which has recently, unexpectedly regained some of its old lost functionality (namely all the physical buttons). People probably think I’m just text or facebooking, but I’m not! I’m writing!

As I’ve been feeling nautical recently, today I thought I’d wear one of my favourite sea-inspired pieces. See?


It goes well with my Vanilla Spice Latte. Right?


Does this seem like a pointless post? It’s not. Life is so often so hard, but we should enjoy it in spite of the difficulties it presents. Take pleasure in simple things. Enjoy quiet moments as the present themselves. Be happy. Its your life and you only get one of them. Don’t waste it with worry.

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