Resolutions & Reminders

A couple of months ago when work was extra-crazy and I was having a hard time keeping my head from exploding, I reached out to Lindsay and Rhya one afternoon and asked what tricks they both had as creative people to stay grounded.

Their answers:
"Make a checklist."
"Make lists."

I am now the proud owner of a basic brown clipboard which I got at Dollarama, and it holds several pages, organized by category, of confidently Sharpie'd lists. It's true, it does help, enormously.

And, well, swimming.

My musical-kindred-spirit Martin Tielli once wrote, "It's quiet underwater."

As we plunge into a New Year, full of hope and the promise of massive amounts of fun and beauty and creativity, I drew us a little reminder, in honour of epic to-do lists, swimming holes yet to be discovered, and remembering to pack your bag properly on your way to the pool.

Happy New Year to you all.

Don't forget your underpants.

Illustrations by Laura Wills

  • Laura
  • Thursday, December 31, 2015

Matisse's The Swimming Pool

Matisse's The Swimming Pool at the MoMA | Ruth Freemen, New York Times

I was doing research for my lifeguard novel, trying to figure out what poster Bea has hanging above her desk (Picasso? Matisse? Klimt?) and stumbled on Matisse's The Swimming Pool— Matisse’s first and only self-contained, site-specific cut-out. 

From the MoMA website:
One morning in the summer of 1952, Matisse told his studio assistant and secretary Lydia Delectorskaya that “he wanted to see divers,” so they set out to a favorite pool in Cannes. Suffering under the “blazing sun,” they returned home, where Matisse declared, “I will make myself my own pool.” He asked Delectorskaya to ring the walls of his dining room at the Hôtel Régina in Nice with a band of white paper, positioned just above the level of his head, breaking only at the windows and door at opposite ends of the room. The room itself was lined with tan burlap, a popular wall covering of the time. Matisse then cut his own divers, swimmers, and sea creatures out of paper painted in an ultramarine blue. The blue forms were pinned on the white paper, which helped define the aquatic ballet of bodies, splashing water, and light.

It is delicate and immersive and incredible. My jaw is still on the ground and I wish there was a time machine to take me back to the exhibit (that ended in February 2015). Next time it's up, we swimmers must go!

  • Lindsay
  • Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas swimming

Christmas at my grandparents was the best. Not only because they spoiled us with a ridiculous number of gifts (Cabbage Patch Kids! Gund dogs named Muttsy!) and not just because my nana put out unlimited almond bark for me, or because there were sweet potatoes with broiled marshmallows on top or because there were trays of bacon wrapped water chestnuts. It was the best, not just because we were allowed to put on all of my grandmother's rings my grandfather made for her, and look at all of her lipsticks in their decorative cases in the bathroom, or because I'd get to blow out birthday candles with my mom and dad and cousin, and ride the elevator, and call up from the intercom, and listen to the police scanner, and stand on the balcony, but because we got to swim.

Their apartment building had a pool in the basement, and the weekend before Christmas, we would pack our bathing suits and goggles along with a trunk full of gifts. The only other time we swam all together was at the cottage, but by then the lake was frozen over, and swimming altogether was a distant memory, but every December, we would do a conga line in the shallow end, practice handstands and show off our somersaults. 

My grandparents didn't know how to swim, but they loved that we did and we would open presents smelling like chlorine. Our hair would be crispy and tangled, and everything about it was perfect.
  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dive Between The Lines

How does a swim lover get through a Canadian winter, when all their favourite outdoor swimming holes are frozen–my suggestion–draw your own and then colour them in.

Colouring has been touted as a great way to relieve stress and anxiety and it's chill inducing effects have been compared to the results of meditation. These benefits also sound like the outcome of another activity I know and love... swimming! 

Obviously, I needed to combine these two activities! So out came my sketch book and pens, and next up, three pages of water world fun... with hopefully more to come.

It's very reassuring to know that I now have a little swim related activity to splash around in on our soon to come, cold and dark winter nights. The ultimate goal here will be a Docktail Colouring Party, with my fellow Swimmers, where we will get together, sip some yummy drinks and colour in these water inspired pages!

And just in case there are other swimmers out there looking for their own watery fun, I've attached a downloadable Pdf of all my colouring pages, so far. There are three in total.

(You can see the pages below.)

Dive in and download three pages of swim colouring fun now.

Bears in Swim Suits

Dive in and download three pages of swim colouring fun!
Floral Floating
Dive in and download three pages of swim colouring fun.
Diamonds Dive
  • Rhya
  • Saturday, December 5, 2015

What happens when you're a baby and you don't pass swimming lessons...

My little guy (who is 9 months tomorrow) didn't pass his first round of swimming lessons, which isn't all that surprising, given that he doesn't know what his legs are, so flutter kick is pretty much out. And he's not a huge fan of being dunked under the water, but that didn't keep me from being a little sad for him when he got his report card sans badge.

So what's a crafty-swimming mama to do? Make a badge of course!

And so, my little guy got his Master of the Inchworm Kick badge, because it really is ingenious, this kick he's worked out!

(And I've decided that no one should have to go badge-less. If you need one to commemorate a unique belly flop/dive/cannonball, check 'em out in my Etsy shop!)

  • Lindsay
  • Friday, November 27, 2015

The Aquatorium

Outside the trees rattled.
Winter bones,
A wild percussion in the wind.

Inside the pool swelled then sighed.
Pushing in and out,
Against it’s container walls.

A caged ocean of arctic blue.
Its deep end,
A swift decent into heaven.

I swam there for 50 minutes.
Lost in the lonely lanes,
And floating out to sea under a wood lined sky.

*Based on a Sunday swim at the Lindsay Recreation Complex, known to the locals as the Aquartorium. It was an A+ pool!
  • Rhya
  • Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The antidote to not swimming outdoors

It turns out my antidote to not being able to swim outdoors for more than half the year isn't swimming indoors. It turns out, it's writing a novel about a lifeguard named Bea who stands on the edge of Lake Ontario and swims every day at lunch.

One afternoon in September, I left my little guy with his first babysitter and spent hours (!) on the beach, staring at the lake, writing about the lake, wishing I was swimming in the lake with Bea.

An excerpt:

I take the ladder, rungs slippery with algae. From the sand, the lake looks blue, but at eye level, it’s a thick, dense green. I adjust my goggles and push off.

I trace a keyhole underwater and kick hard, the muted thump of my feet against the surface. Emily is a strong swimmer and I have to work to keep up. We swim along the cordoned off area, the blue and white rope slimy with algae, and turn around at the final buoy to head back the other way.

Lake swimming is so much different than swimming in a pool. Here, waves are sporadic and catch you off guard, tripping up your arm, making you misjudge how far you have to turn your head for your next breath. Here, the water gets in your nose so you taste the lake, even if you’re careful not to swallow any water.

I wonder how different it would be if this was the ocean -- if the waves were governed by tides and undertows instead of winds and boats. I’ve never swam in an ocean before and wonder if the salt really does make you buoyant.

I blink through the water leaking into my goggles, Emily’s legs glowing to my right and as we swim back and forth and back and forth, I realize how much I’ve missed this -- the rhythmic quiet, where the only thing filling my ears is the push of water. 
  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Swim Crowns!

I knew it would only be a matter of time before we three water loving creative spirits, found ourselves entangled in a swim related crafting challenge!

Our first aquatic call to action–Swim Inspired CROWNS!

It began when my “birthday” swim was foiled by a very spotty case of Roseola applied on one very fiery toddler. So no lunchtime swim for this lady, instead I stayed home from work to take care of my rash and fever ridden kid, while watching Annie, and eating Mac N’Cheese on the couch. Rash and fever aside, that’s a pretty fun day in my opinion! Ha! But I was a little bummed about missing that swim window… so I thought maybe to cheer myself up, I could make myself a birthday crown, all about swimming!

So out came the craft paper, scissors and tape! And from the flurry of snips, clips and aqua colored paper fluttering about the living room… emerged my pièce de résistance! An ode to swimming laps in my favorite red bathing suit!

I sent the image to my fellow swimmers and challenged them to each make their own. And the results were OUTSTANDING!

Laura and Lindsay of course, both knocked it out of the pool with their crowns.

Lindsay made a fabulous and nostalgia inducing swim badge inspired crown!

And Laura’s created an outstanding work of swim art, with layers of waves and swimmers towering above her head!

So I’m going to call our first Swim Crafting Challenge (which I hope will be one of many more to come,) a resounding success!

Now it’s your turn! I’ve sketched up some quick and simple instructions on how you can make your own swim crown! Really the whole idea is to have fun and meditate a little on why you love to swim yourself… and then create a crown to celebrate those buoyant thoughts! Last request… share them with us! We would love to see what you make!

How To Make Your Own Swim Crown... in three easy steps!
*Main rule... have fun and make some waves!
  • Rhya
  • Saturday, November 7, 2015

Grown-up Swimming Badges: Part One

Clockwise: Rhya's flip turn badge, Patrice's nightswimming badge, Laura's roadtrip-to-swimming-hole badge and my remembering-to-pack-post-swim-snacks (namely swim biscuits) badge.

I can still remember the last day of swimming lessons, where, after we finished the final game of frozen tag in the shallow end, Jennifer or Rebecca or Mark or Andrew would hand me my report card, towel wrapped around my shoulders, my mom waiting on the other side of the fence. I can still see the blue-ish photocopy of the girl swimming on the front of the Canadian Red Cross report card.

But even before opening it up to the the checkmarked boxes, or the empty boxes (damn treading water!), there was the thickness of the report card. If there was a badge stapled to the inside, you passed! Onto the next colour! But if it was thin, no dice.

(Now that I'm thinking about it, it's kind of like receiving grant acceptances/rejections in the mail these days...)

But badges! Rhya mentioned badges the other day on our months-long swimmers text thread and I literally dropped everything and started stitching.

  • Flip turns? TOTALLY A BADGE! 
  • Nightswimming in the nearby river? BADGE! 
  • Driving, finding a different swimming hole, missing ice cream, the finding the right swimming hole? BAAAAAADGE! 
  • And my own humble badge, celebrating when I remember to pack a post-swim snack so I don't turn into a monster on the bike ride home. 

But it's no fun to just have one badge to sew to your bathing suit! So I made docktail/rocktail badges too!

Clockwise: Caesers, Dark and Stormys, Aperol Spritz and a classic gin and tonic.

  • Lindsay
  • Friday, November 6, 2015

Kiki and Polly: Swimming art

Nightswimmer by Lisa Golightly

It is still dark out on this strangely warm November morning, but I've downed a pot of coffee and watched my little guy practice his crawl (his on-land crawl is the same as his swim-crawl these days!) and have fallen in love with the swimming art by Portland artist, Lisa Golightly

The postures and slight awkwardness of standing poolside in a bathing suit are so perfectly captured. Every piece feels like a hazy memory of my childhood swimming lessons on the deck of Parklawn Pool.

There are so many incredible pieces at her shop, Kiki and Polly, I might just have to make another pot of coffee and keep pouring through them.

All together by Lisa Golightly

You first by Lisa Golightly

  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, November 5, 2015


At Thanksgiving I loaded up the back of my car with many, many boxes from my grandmother's basement. Most of the boxes were university texts (that's what happens when you get two English degrees!) but there were also boxes of photos. Some in albums, some still in the envelopes from Blacks or Costco or Kodak. A lot of doubles. Remember when you'd order doubles, or triples, to put in the mail for friends? I miss those days...

From these albums and photos I gleaned three things:

1). I had terrible, terrible hair from 1999-2004. Like, TERRIBLE hair. Yikes.

2). I was a big fan of bizarre Value Village outfits. Enormous brown cords, sparkly 80s prom dresses, silver flared jackets with rhinestone buttons, etc.

3). I have done a lot of skinnydipping over the years. This isn't particularly surprising, given that I love swimming and don't always have a bathing suit, but there was definitely a few years in my early 20s where my penchant for skinny dipping was well documented.

An early May dip in Lake Temiskaming...just days after the ice had just melted.

Highlights include a chilly early May Lake Temiskaming dip when I was on tour with a dance company to Cobalt, Ontario, and the pinnacle of all skinnydipping events at Lake Louise, also while on tour with the same dance company. I'm not sure I've ever been so cold (and that rainy night in a soggy decidedly not waterproof tent didn't not warm things up).

Crazy? Maybe, but man, so much fun. 

I hereby declare next summer there will be more skinnydipping. Much more skinnydipping! Perhaps even tastefully documented skinnydipping!

  • Lindsay
  • Friday, October 30, 2015

That bit of necessary magic

I've been thinking a lot about learning to swim lately. In part because I've started taking my seven month old son to swimming lessons (where we chase after purple boats and he practices his signature inchworm kick) and partly because when I swim on Saturdays, there's a boy who practices his dives and straight armed front crawl with a tenacity I haven't seen in such a young person. He swims for nearly a full hour, back and forth and back and forth. It's so inspiring.

I taught swimming for years. I know that you start with bobs, that they help you get used to the water and get used to breathing out in the water, then you move on to floats (front first, then back) then glides (aka rocketships) and then windmill arms and kicking legs and the cadence of breathing every few strokes. But there is something else. Something that isn't in swim instructor manuals. There's a bit of magic thrown in there, along with some blind faith. Floating requires believing that water will in fact hold you at its surface. And it will. It does.

I don't remember the first time I floated, but I've seen others experience it and the closest thing I can liken it to is the first time your mom or dad lets go of the back of your bike. Like that, but with less speed and more chlorination. It is the closest thing to faith as I'll ever know.
  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, October 22, 2015

Swimming On Screen

A collection of swimming-on-screen snapshots, that for some reason or another, have left watermarks on our hearts.

The Graduate!
Classic example of how to win at pool life.

Stand By Me!
Umm... LEECHES! This scene is BURNED into my brain for life.

Because Olivia Pope's swimsuit A-Game!

The To Do List.
Red is a fantastic colour to swim in, and floating is everything. Here is the trailer!

Who hasn't sunk to the bottom to just get away from it all. Also Bill Murray for extra credit.

Mad Men.
Specifically The Summer Man (S04 E08). Don Draper swimming laps... enough said.

The above pool also triggered my obsession with the N.Y.A.C... will I ever get to swim there? And then after further research I discover that these pool scenes were actually shot at the Los Angeles Athletic Club! Another beautiful looking pool! So many pools... so little time!

Final note on this episode, when it first aired I read a review that mentioned how the pool scenes brought to mind John Cheever's short story "The Swimmer".... which I then looked up and read! It's fantastic, and I highly recommend giving it a go.

Romeo And Juliet!
Because ROMANCE in the water!

Plus this shot!

Garden State!
Why? Just look at this pool! And bonus points for Zach Braff's amazing and hilarious swimming performance!

Dirty Dancing!
Obvious choice: Dancing and water combined. And we mine as well add this swimming hole to the growing list, Lake Lure, North Carolina!

Honestly, this one left a "creepy" mark on my heart. Those cocoons make me shudder. But always loved the indoor pool house.

Y Tu Mama Tambien!
I've included three pics from this movie, that is chalked full of epic swimming scenes. This is also one of my favourite films. It's just so beautiful.

"Life is like the surf, so give yourself away like the sea."
This scene makes me well up inside. It captures that feeling of needing to just dive in... no matter what. I believe this is the beach at Puerto Escondido. And it is a swimming hole I have known... and it's magical.

 Where is this? I want to go here and just do endless laps.

The Affair!
This show is rife with swimming imagery and themes, including a fantastic title sequence, accompanied by a blazing Fiona Apple song. But Laura specifically pointed out the opening scene of the first episode... it's a great opener. Above... check out that image, the iconic swimmer! This is how I like to think I look swimming... not even close!

One more of The Affair!
Look at this pool! The tiles alone are imprinted in my mind forever!

I mean, come on... this is pretty fantastic... and we all imagined we were mer-people when we were younger... don't lie... you did!

Laurel Canyon!
I'm pretty sure there are a million pools in Los Angeles that are just out of this world. This is one of them. And every pool scene in this movie is so delicious! 

Take This Waltz
Shot right here in Toronto at the Trinity Recreational Centre! Probably the one movie that captures the flavour of what it's like to swim in Toronto. Also this aqua aerobics scene is an instant classic!

For the vintage swim fashion... and incredible indoor pool. This pool is located in a limestone mansion in New Jersey named Shadow Lawn.

Specifically, The Doody In The Pool scene. My husband suggested this one... he said this is one of his most memorable swimming scenes from a film. Yes, it is a hilarious and a fairly accurate depiction of what happens when someone fouls up the pool, but it's also really fabulous, don't you think? For me it evokes some nostalgic feelings of poolside parties, hot dog and Popsicle lunches and the scent of coconut tanning oil.... oh and lots of leathery bronze bodies and crazy 80's patterns! 

Turns out there WAS a pool on the roof... and it is amazing. Looking forward to booking a stay-cation here next summer in Toronto, and diving into this roof top pool

New Moon!
In my humble opinion, this is the most ridiculous water scene EVER! Good grief.

Now a request! What are you "watermarks", what swimming scenes are etched into your heart forever! Please share so we can keep growing this list!
  • Rhya
  • Tuesday, October 20, 2015


I floated tonight, in one of those sensory deprivation tanks

It was the first time my neck—
all knotted up and sharing the weight on my shoulders—
has ever really let go

if I go again
if I keep floating…
maybe my heart—
all locked up and covered in armour—
maybe eventually it'll let go too


Illustration by Belhoula Amir, another piece of swimming art that I love.
  • Laura
  • Saturday, October 17, 2015 pages: The Kid Edition

It turns out, I have a water baby, which isn't surprising, given water has always been an underlying theme to his dad and I being together, he was born a Pisces, and loved swimming, even in utero. But the half hour of chlorinated, overheated indoor swimming a week isn't nearly enough. 
And so, we read about swimming, about water, whenever we can.

Our current favourites:

Swimming Swimming, illustrated by Gary Clement

We all know the song (sorry, you'll now be singing it under your breath for days!) but this illustrated version is so wonderful. It captures the excitement of heading to the pool, complete with putting your bag in a locker, and taking a pre-dip shower. And then as the song begins, it becomes a Where's Waldo-esque swimming pool. The "fancy diving too" page really is the best!

I love the little boy has spaghetti and meatballs, and feeds his fish after a long afternoon in the pool.

Swimmy by Leo Lionni
This was a gem from my childhood (having a kindergarten teacher as a mom makes your childhood library full of incredible books!) 

I so often think about Swimmy as the eye in mass of tiny red fish, but I had forgotten about how incredible the illustrations are until picking it up again with my little guy. Makes me want to put goggles on and find an ocean...

This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
This book is amazing. In it, a wee fish has a hat that is not his. He took it from a much larger fish. The wee fish has a plan to get away with taking the's hilarious and beautiful and dark and did I say beautiful?

On a side note, there is some seriously amazing seaweed illustration in This Is Not My Hat and Swimmy:

  • Lindsay
  • Tuesday, October 13, 2015

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