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  1. For the love of cafes (Kyoto edition) part 1

    Kimono-clad ladies in the cafe of Doshisha University

    One of the upsides of living in a shoebox is that you have to get out! If you want somewhere lovely to read, or write, or think, you have to metaphorically ‘get up off the sofa’ (although we don’t have a sofa!) and find somewhere. And Kyoto is the perfect place for this – I think it might just be a city of cafes to rival Paris. I am on a mission to discover all the hidden gems while I am here. I thought I would share a few pics of those I have discovered so far…

    Coo Cafe (above and below)

    Les Freres Moutaux boulangerie and cafe

    Iyemon Salon (more on this later – I am in love!)

    Meet me there?

     Where is your favourite cafe?

  2. *Shared stories* (63): Jen Slutsky and Paula Joerling


    Today’s *shared stories* come from Jen Slutsky and Paula Joerling


    Jen Slutsky

    I absolutely love being creative whether it’s making art, shopping for supplies, visiting blogs, baking cookies, decorating my home, playing with my girls, etc.. But I don’t “make a living” from being creative. I have a not-so-creative career that I “locked” myself into at a young age when I still didn’t “know” myself, especially my creative self. And with student loans to pay back and a family to support, that’s probably not going to change anytime soon.

    Over the years I’ve dreamed of a more creative existence. I’d follow countless artists on their blogs and wish that could be me. I’d read the stories shared here on Do What You Love and wish I had a great creative “success” story to tell. I would always focus on the fact that I had a not-so-creative career that stole time and energy from living a creative life. But then things changed. Did I change careers? Nope, I still have the same “day job” and I still struggle to find extra time and energy to be creative as I juggle work and family and household chores, etc. But what has changed is my outlook. I do have a creative “success” story to tell.

    Last year I realized that I have a choice. I can choose how I view my world, my life. I can choose to focus on the fact that I’m not “making a living” being creative OR I can choose to focus on all that I do have: two precious little girls, a loving husband, a supportive family, good health, and a beautiful home. I can choose to wait for the perfect job to be happy OR I can choose to be happy right now. I can choose to look to the future OR I can choose to live right now. This “simple” realization gave me the power to love my life, creative dreams and all.

    So I may still be working the same “day job” and be juggling the same commitments, but each day I do my best to celebrate all that I do have, including all of my dreams. And rather than plan for happiness and fulfillment when I’ve “achieved” my dreams, I have now found happiness and fulfillment in the process of dreaming and chasing after those dreams. 

    [All images courtesy of Jen Slutsky. Find out more about Jen on her website here.]


    Paula Joerling

    I am a freelance illustrator living in Atlanta Georgia. My designs are primarily used for the gift and tabletop industry. Typically, I work in watercolor and collage and enjoy incorporating fabric, stitched paper and found objects in my art.

    This obsession to work for myself probably started in grade school. I hated that I had to be there between certain hours and on certain days, I didn’t mind the work, it was the schedule that got to me. At some point, deep within my little sub-conscious, I must have realized that a life of regulation wasn’t for me and I better figure out how to keep my freedom. Fortunately I was creative and recognized that this was a possible outlet.

    It is very difficult to put into words what it means to get up in the morning, walk the 10 steps to my studio, and create all day. Although there are deadlines and I work pretty much 7 days a week, I am in charge of my schedule. There’s no time clock, no office politics, no cubicle and no one telling me that I can’t sing out loud. It is pure heaven, it really is, just typing these words puts a smile on my face.

    Coming from a long line of creative types, I come by my abilities naturally. My grandfather taught me to paint and my grandmother taught me to sew and knit. When a holiday rolled around my sister and I were commandeered by my mother to make a plethora of decorations, cards and gifts, some of which I still have. 

    I don’t think it ever occurred to be in anything but a creative field of some sort and although I have always freelanced in creative jobs; I got started rather late in life as an illustrator. Sometime around my college years I began to suffer from anxiety and had a horrible lack of confidence. Thinking back on this always saddens me and I wonder if things would have happened a little faster had this not been the case. If I could go back in time and give myself a gift it would be a big basket of confidence. Confidence and faith in yourself are really the two most important things that a person needs in this field. I am happy to report that I now possess these two gifts in abundance (perhaps at some point I did time travel).

    The most difficult part of being a freelance artist is financial. You are never quite sure when or how much money will be coming in so you have to be pretty frugal (my husband is also an artist so neither of us has an unvarying income). I would choose this creative lifestyle over financial stability any day.

    Everyday I learn more and get better at my craft. I hope that I can keep doing this on my own terms and that my best days lie ahead of me. My hope is that I can find a way to inspire others to take a deep breath, move beyond the fear and do what you love doing.   

    [Images courtesy of Paula Joerling. To find out more about Paula visit her website here]


    See here for more inspiring *shared stories


  3. The ring!

    And here it is… my lovely engagement ring!

    My man decided to let me choose which one I loved the most, and we got it made here in Kyoto.

    I think it is just perfect and can’t stop looking at it.

    Seven sparkly diamonds!

    What do you think?

  4. Role reversal

    In the months leading up to our trip away I was working like a crazy thing. 14-18 hour days, and weekends, trying to get everything done before we moved, not to mention packing up the house. At that time my man really took care of me, cooking all our meals, doing most of the cleaning, running me hot baths, giving me foot massages and making me turn my computer off if it got past midnight.

    Now we are here in Japan, there has been a complete role reversal – of course he still looks after me in his lovely way, but especially these first few weeks it has been up to me to pay bills, order food in restaurants, read maps etc, simply because everything is in Japanese. He is picking up the language at an astonishing rate, but it has been a very new experience these first few weeks for me to be the one who sorts everything out. I want him to learn quickly and get his independence, but I kind of like being able to help him this way…

  5. Stuff, or a lack of it

    No rucksack space for accessories like these…

    When we headed out East we put our entire house in storage and travelled with just a rucksack and a small piece of hand luggage each. Not bad for more than half a year away! This obviously meant we had to clear out or leave a lot of ‘stuff’ behind, much of which I don’t miss at all. I have been thinking about all the stuff we surround ourselves with just because everyone else has it, and wondering about what I actually really miss.

    There are a few things I do miss, being in a tiny matchbox of an apartment out here…

    * Sofa (means I go to a lot of cafes)

    * Oven/hob with more than one ring (means we eat out a lot)

    * Garden (means I gravitate towards any public green space)

    And a few things I brought that I am grateful for:

    * iPad (because I get lost all the time)

    * Decaf teabags

    * Marmite

    But there are also some things we don’t have that I don’t miss…

    * Mobile phone

    * TV

    * Car

    (* I still haven’t decided whether or not I miss my GHD straighteners…)

    Can you imagine life without them? Maybe you could try it one day? I wonder what you would miss if you went away for a long while?

  6. *Shared stories* (62): Tracy Brandt and Jane Davenport


    Today’s *shared stories* come from Tracy Brandt and Jane Davenport


    Tracy Brandt


    For some, doing what they love is a simple straight-line process. “I love to paint” + I find a way to paint = I do what I love.

    For me, I honestly don’t love much of what I do.

    I do what I do because I love the outcome.

    Let me explain: for me, having a dream and doing what I love requires being inside the stringent and often corrupt parameters of a chaotic third world country. You see, in 2005, I founded a home for orphan children in Nepal, called Rising Lotus Children’s Village.

    Although I realize nothing worthwhile in life ever comes easy, I have to say that nothing could be more difficult than trying to create and effectively run a program and policy in a third world country when you live halfway around the globe. Every tiny step in this process is a lesson in frustration. There is never enough money. There is never enough time to get it all done. There is always some glitch or delay in every transaction. It’s enough to make you want to pull your hair out … to just give up! … to say “Screw this!! Let someone else do it. Let someone else care.”

    And that’s when you remember: “Oh wait. I care!”

    So I keep trudging forward. Why? Because though the work itself is anything but loveable, I love the possibility of changing the life of an orphan for the better. I love the possibility of helping a child escape the horrid cycle of abject poverty, to give that child a chance! Because an orphan child is as deserving of love and opportunity as any other child on the planet, including my own,

    I don’t know when I first realized that I wanted to do this and/or that this work is what I love. I only know that the moment I first stepped foot in Nepal, I knew I was meant to be there forever. And that when I saw the hundreds upon hundreds of orphan children literally discarded in the streets, I knew I had to do something to help.

    Have I started a global powerhouse organization? No. Some revolutions are quiet ones. I founded a small, grassroots children’s home with a handful or orphans. Over the years, we’ve grown to 12 kids, then to 20. We have a waiting list of nearly 200. Those truly needing services like ours number in the thousands. It’s enough to knock you down the need is so great.

    How did I make this a reality? I tempted fate. I told everyone who laughed at me to go to hell. I carried on. I continue to carry on. I refuse to give up.

    I don’t know. My “Do What You Love” story isn’t very glamorous. It’s filled with a lot of stress and frustration and worry. It’s filled with no time for myself because managing this work, along with two boys, and a husband with his own complex company to run (who gets to his wits end with the time and energy running Rising Lotus takes from me) … there just never seems to be much time for me that’s just mine.

    But, I carry on because in my soul I feel called back time and time again to Nepal: to these children and to the people there and to the country.

    I don’t love it all. Does anyone ever love ALL of the aspects of doing what they love? Is it only worth loving when things go smoothly and right?

    We do what we love because we love what comes out of our love. We love the product of our love.

    For me, the product of my love is that a child that was entirely without one … now has a positive chance! Not a guarantee, but a chance! Now that’s powerful.

    So, I’m sticking with it. Sometimes doing what you love means finding your rainbow and sliding down it. But for others, doing what you love sometimes means staying true to your dream, come hell or high water.

    The impossible only seems so until you do it.

    [All images courtesy of Tracy Brandt. Find out more about Rising Lotus Children’s village here, or support Tracy’s work by donating here.]


    Jane Davenport

    I took the leap to be a “Professional Artist” in 2000. It was a monumental decision and seemed very sudden to the outer world.

    I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t possible for me to NOT do what I love…

    And what I LOVED doing was looking at ladybirds.  So I ditched a burgeoning fashion photography career in London and Paris for taking photographs of bugs. I even came up with a term for what I do : Artomology. ( yep,  I swapped photographing the human type of stick insect and social butterfly for the real thing!)

    Over the past 12 years I have built my reputation as an internationally exhibited Photographic Artist,  prize-winning Author and gallery owner. I have also work with fantastic companies who license the rights for my images to create calendars, stationery ranges, textiles and homewares.  

    I discovered Art Journaling 2 years ago, and for the first time, really felt the creative dots within me connecting. I have since become a bit of a journaling evangelist! I know what a joyful transformation untangling myself in in Art Journal has had for me, and I am rather gung-ho about sharing the benefits of creating a dedicated space for artistic outpouring!

    I was asked to teach in an collaborative online workshop about Art Journaling called “21 Secrets” last year and nearly said no, I was too busy with my Gallery, writing a book, painting etc etc… but I adore and respect the person who invited me, so on a whim I said “yes”… then nearly melted with panic!

    I created a mini online workshop called ” Draw Happy”, which focuses on the bizarre fact that drawing seems to terrify people, even incredibly creative, arty ones! And as soon as the doors to the class opened, students rushed in and BANG! ! Joy for teaching and empowering women through harnessing their creative potential absolutely exploded in my chest. Serious volcano!

    Once I discovered I had a superpower for teaching people to draw from their imagination, the rest of the world kind of dropped away, as my attention turned to this new adventure. I gather so much fun and love from my students and I become ever more creative as a result. To say we have a love inferno going on, is a bit of an understatement!

    I run my workshops on two of my own School sites now. They have been a huge success and the results my beloved students get for themselves are amazing quite frankly. A day never goes by where someone makes me feel like jumping on the table and doing a can-can at their creative progress. To help grow another persons confidence is an amazing gift to both parties. I ‘get’ teaching. I heart it.

    My big dream now is to continue growing as an Online Creativity Leader. I have so many ideas for workshops! I am also working on some of my own art products, things that are missing from my art supply arsenal – and let me tell you, if I don’t have it as a degenerate art supply junkie, it doesn’t exist!

    I also had the immense pleasure of teaching my art heroine, Teesha Moore at her Artfest Annex earlier this year, and I want to combine more  live workshops with travel. I have the first of my Escape Artist retreats in Bali this year. Next July will be Paris. The future holds many more fun, juicy events…

    [Images courtesy of Jane Davenport. To find out more about Jane visit her website]


    See here for more inspiring *shared stories


  7. The 1000-gated shrine

    I decided to take my man on a magical mystery tour to introduce him to some of Kyoto’s most famous sites. Despite being a tourist myself I really don’t like touristy places, but most places that have a lot of tourists are swamped for a good reason, and Fushimi Inari is no different. We opted to go on a weekday, when everyone else was at work, and had most of the mountainside to ourselves.

    Fushimi Inari is quite an extraordinary place. A few miles south of Kyoto, it is home to over 1000 red torii shrine gates, which weave around the mountainside.

    ‘Inari’ is the name of the god of rice, a diet staple and fundamental part of Japanese life. There are thousands of Inari shrines across the country but the one at Fushimi is the most famous.

    It was founded twelve centuries ago, and remains an active part of the community. Nearly every single one of the 1000+ cinnabar red shrine gates are ‘sponsored’ by local businesses.

    But when a company’s name is written in beautiful flowing kanji lettering, it somehow doesn’t feel commercial at all. Each of them offer prayers for prosperity – and some of them pay as much as $150,000 for the privilege!

    I visited with my parents many years ago and we purchased a tiny red model gate from the shrine shop and hid it in the forest, off the mountain path.

    We searched for it but couldn’t find it this time round – I like to think that a cheeky wild monkey moved it and uses it as the entrance to his little house in the trees…

  8. Silent city

    One of the paper lanterns hanging in the restaurant garden

    The other day I went out for dinner with a couple of lovely creative ladies visiting from Tokyo. Lynn, Diane and I shared a delicious dinner at the exquisite Garden Oriental Kyoto in the Eastern Mountains. We were the last to leave the restaurant… and then the last to leave their equally gorgeous bar!  Housed in a wooden structure which beautifully merges the traditional and the modern, the Garden Oriental is a stunning, private space in the shadow of the Yasuka pagoda. The extensive Japanese garden is the perfect place to spend an afternoon sipping tea.

    Glowing kimono display snapped at night on my way home through the streets of Kyoto

    After much lively conversation, laughter and wine, I got onto my bicycle and pedalled off. Through the geisha district of Gion (where kimono-clad women bowed deeply as their clients made their way home through the dimly lit cobbled streets), across the river, sparkling in the moonlight, and along deserted streets back ‘home’. I felt completely elated – possibly partly to do with the wine(!) but mainly because I had an incredible sense of happy freedom at that moment. Here I was in this city I love, flying through the streets on my bicycle, warm Spring evening wind in my hair.

    I must go cycling at 1am more often (but don’t tell my Mum!)…


  9. Last call to board the Do What You Love train!

    [Image: Tiffany Kirchner Dixon]

    The Do What You Love the e-course has begun and is already promising to be very juicy… If you want to join the participants who have gathered from across the globe, this is your last chance to do that. Registration closes at midnight GMT tonight and this course won’t be run again for a long while. Join me for a very special adventure…

    As you travel this path expanding your comfort zone, nurturing your playful spirit and feeding your creative soul, I will be sharing snippets of my big adventure out East. Join me and others all over the globe to identify your passion and make it a greater part of your every day life.

    The Do What You Love e-course has been described as ‘life changing’, ‘transformational’ and ‘awe-inspiring’. It will make you think. It will make you question things – sometimes not in a comfortable way. But it will help you realise that YOU GET TO CHOOSE the life you lead.

     Find out more and register here!

  10. Photostyling


    When we decided to come out to Japan to spend a few months, I knew that one of the things I wanted to do was take some lessons in photography/styling. Out here they call it ‘photostyling’, and they even have a formal association for it.

    I found a teacher here in Kyoto who lives out west, among a green expanse of paddy fields. Once a month I have to take a sweet little train for 20 minutes or so, away from the city, past a stunning gorge and out to the beginning of the countryside. I love the little adventure, and the prospect of learning more about my beloved camera (as well as learning how to take better photos of all that lovely stationery…) 

    This month’s theme was flowers – and in an attempt to understand more about the different settings on my camera, I took a lot of shots of the same thing! It was interesting to see how the light and shadows changed between each image. Can’t wait to find out more…