ORCA trip: our honeymoon in the Pacific NW & Yosemite


This has been sitting in my draft folder for much longer than I care to admit. BUT Chris and I just booked tickets to New Zealand for this June (he's been on deployment the last 6 months). I'm calling it our "Second Honeymoon"...so I figure I better talk about our first one. 

We spent a wonderful week last September hiking and camping throughout Oregon and California (ORCA, get it? I thought it was clever). From Portland we headed down the gorge to --> Hood River --> Mt. Hood --> Bend, OR --> Crater Lake --> Redwood National Forest --> and ending in Yosemite (oh...Yosemite. All my love forever). 

We also binged listened to the first season of Serial, annndd I'm torn, but my heart of hearts tells me Adnan was framed. Oh, also try camping in the woods when the only thing that's thats been on your mind for the last 8 hours is a gruesome murder in...the woods. 

Anyways, back to the point. It was such a great trip for both of us. I love that I get to go through life with this man. We were off the grid, and sleeping on the earth; I didn't wear a touch of makeup, and my Danner hiking boots were my go-to's. In those moments, I couldn't have wanted anything else. 

Life is simple and life is beautiful. I can't wait for the adventures to come.

Lani Tomatoes - finding our green thumb

I'd say, as of this fall my thumb is a pretty strong olive-y green color; enough brown to still question myself at every turn. Are those aphids? Is my soil lacking calcium? Oh no, I over watered again. It's still a toss up if I inherited my mother's gardening talent. But today I can say this - I've grown tomatoes from seeds. The statement doesn't really sound that profound, but to me, it's a first. And any "firsts" if your life feel pretty special.

From egg cartons to solo cups, we utilized what we had around the house to start the tomatoes.

The tomato plants were then transferred to buckets. The buckets were designed to draw water up from this gutter system they were sitting in.

The whole gutter and bucket planters were Chris' brain child. There was lots of online research, trips to the hydroponics store, and trips to the hardware store. I'm not going to lie, I may have had a little meltdown after I saw the neon orange buckets lined with mesh Wal-Mart bags. I have this weird obsession with everything looking pretty.  I let him know on multiple occasions that the whole project was looking like a trash heap on my lani, but in the end, the sheer fictionality of the planters won me over.  It was all about the tomatoes, after all.

Look at those plant beasts! The Hawaiian sun really sets you up for success here. We had to continually prune back the tomatoes.

Some great herbs and basil were the perfect addition to our tomato plants. We enjoyed wonderful caprese salads and margarita pizzas this summer. 

And yes,  the people are right - it really does taste better when grown and picked from your hand. 

I'm really looking forward to the things we get to grow as soon as we have some actual soil beneath our feet...

but for now our apartment lani will do.

Lush Inspiration

Do I even need to say it? No one can deny the beauty of these islands. Everything is lush, vibrant, blooming, fresh. It's what motivated me to create my Etsy shop, and it's really no surprise why so many people are inspired by this place. Hawaii has pushed me to try new things, to face my fears. embrace chaos.

Below are some recent pictures I took around the island. I hope wherever you are, whatever you're doing, you feel the sublime beauty and inspiration nature has to offer.

I wake up at dawn these days. Living on the Eastern shores of Oahu means my house is flooded with beautiful peachy light around 5:45 am.  I excitedly get my coffee and sit on my roof and enjoy the slow and magnificent start to the day. With every sunrise I feel renewed and inspired again.

"The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

A Rose by Any Other Name: thoughts on identity

Changing your name is a weird, unnatural process to go through. I catch myself doing double-takes whenever I see my new last name attached to the name I was given at birth a quarter of a century ago. 

It's almost as if I were walking by a mirror and spot myself wearing a purple wig. It just feels a little alien even after 2 months of marriage. 

As much as I love my new last name (man, I love it!) I decided to hold onto my maiden name by legally changing my middle name to Helligso. 

Katherine Helligso Paulson. bam. 

The reason behind this is pretty simple. I identify with Helligso a heck of a lot more than I ever did my middle name...which was Meghan, if you were wondering.

I didn't want to cast away the name and the family and the culture that raised me; that built my bones and blood; that taught me fish was the superior meat, and that days were best spent in the midnight sun with dirt under your nails. nope. can't just cast away that part of me. I wont do it! 

Also, as an Art History major, and overall complete romantic, I spend a lot of time thinking about the past...specifically in respect to where I come from and what makes up my family's story. I could sit for hours just listening to these oral histories. 

I daydream about my great grandmother cooking at remote logging camps in Oregon, bouncing a baby on her hip. I can't even image giving birth in a logging tent, but man, if anyone could do it, my Grandma Neva could. And it's here, in this daydream, that I find strength and resolve for myself.

Knowing you come from honest, hardworking people makes the present a little less daunting. 

I come from strong people. 

I am strong. 

Going back farther, I was fortunate enough to travel to Denmark in 2007 to visit relatives and explore the country. We were even able to make the journey to the small village of Helligso nestled on the Northwest coast of Denmark. While visiting the small church in the center of the village, I learned that as a family, we were brick makers, and that our last name used to be Jensen, but after having lived in the town of Helligso, we soon adopted it as our name. It was here that my great, great grandfather left with his wife and children and moved to Astoria, Oregon.

I was only 17 when we went to Scandinavia, and it was my first time traveling out of the United States. Being able to see, touch, and feel my heritage was an incredibly moving moment in my life. I will forever be grateful for that trip. 

Traveling is the most humbling and beautiful experience I've been afforded.

I have big plans for "Kate Paulson" in the future, but reflecting on where I've come from makes the present much more satisfying. I can't wait to see where this new name takes me next!

- Kate

Friendship under the Hula Moon

The week I got married

I don't really know how to begin this post other than staying it was a completely magical week...

but doesn't everyone say that about their wedding? Is the sky blue? Do bears crap in the woods? The answer is most definitely yes. Regardless, I want to record as much as I can from our wedding before it quickly slips into hazy, distant memories.

Disclaimer - these are not wedding photos. I have another 11 days 8 hours to wait for those! ;) not like I'm counting or anything.

And also, the photos below only show a tiny fraction of the sheer joy, beauty, bliss, and chaos I was wrapped in during my wedding week. Looking back, I wish I had more time to pull out my camera and capture all the small ways I found grace during those 10 very busy days of my life; the way the Maui sun moved through the sugar cane fields, or the way the horses ran alongside the road on the drive to Lahaina.  Or even still, how amazing it was to watch humpbacks breach in nearby waters - the same whales that migrate back and forth to Kodiak every summer.

I stood there at the waters edge the day before my wedding - I was at my rehearsal run through at our wedding venue - just watching these magnificent whales breach. I wondered if I had seen any of those same whales during my childhood in Alaska, and I found peace as I thought about how I was connected to those creatures in a round-about, poetic sort of way.

That night Chris and I had our rehearsal dinner. It was there that it hit me that 60 of our closest friends and family had migrated to the pacific just to support and celebrate us - really not all that different from those beautiful humpbacks. I first visited Maui when I was a baby myself, and now here I am, wrapped in love and ready to begin my own journey. 

So with that, I thought it fitting to show photos of the fierce friendships I was blessed with during my time in Maui. It's what made the week perfect in my eyes: 

My parents and sister made a pit-stop to Oahu before we all flew over to the "Valley Isle". Although I was more "hot-mess" than "gracious hostess", we were still able to get out and explore the island a bit. Only means they'll have to come back and visit again, STAT.

How can people so small have such large personalities?

This was running through my head all week. Literally one of my top 10 favorite wedding memories was being able to play and swim with my niece and three nephews as much as I did. 

My parents rented a great house that all 18 of us were able to share. As crazy, loud and messy as it sometimes got, I couldn't think of a better way to spend my last week as a single woman.

An ice cream sundae party on the Sunday after the wedding for my favorite little gal's birthday. 

Note her finger pointing to exactly where her mom needs to place that waffle cone bowl. The girl knows what she wants - and I love her for it. She's spunky and lively, and I'm so happy I was able to celebrate with her.

My bridesmaids arranged the absolute best lei making + hula dancing party I've ever been to (ok, the only one). My heart bursts when I think about all those girls traveling from all over the country just for Chris and I. 

Mani-pedi's with my moms (I have 2 now!) and bridesmaids also happened. We ended up all crammed in a van, sitting on laps, stuck in Hawaii traffic on the way back -- but honestly, looking back, it was such a fun memory for me. These girls are my rocks.  

After the crazy van ride from Kihei, we had our rehearsal dinner with all our wedding guests. Such good food. Check out Leoda's next time you're in Maui!

The week I married my best friend, I was constantly reminded of how many other fun and loving friends I have. I'm a lucky gal.

I can't wait to show you some of the other loved poured into our day (in the language of my life: DIY and art projects), but for now I'm going to go enjoy my new husband while he's still above water!

Being newly married is so sweet. I recommend it to everyone! I'm telling ya - everyone on this planet deserves this kind of love.


- Kate H. Paulson (eeeee!)

Kailua Weekends

It's Aloha Friday and today also happens to be the one year anniversary of our move to Hawaii!

It doesn't make any sense to me, but most of the time the enormity of the universe doesn't make sense to me either, so I'm just going to try and not dwell too much on the whole "Where the heck did the past year go?!" thing. Sometimes it's just better to not overthink things, ya know?

To mark the occasion, I thought I'd show you a glimpse of how I've been spending my last 52 weekends.

Lazy Sundays are usually started at the famers market at Kailua's elementary school in the heart of town.

With a rigorous submarine work schedule for Chris, a lot of our weekend time is spent staying in our sleepy beach town. 

And I'm totally ok with it. I love Kailua.

I think the main reason Chris wanted to live on the windward side of Oahu was so that he could kite board every weekend. I quickly had to learn how to help launch and land these massive things...which is part terrifying, part really awesome (we've only landed the kite in a tree once and it was so not my fault, by the way).

Chris gets to play in the water all day, and I usually set up a spot on the beach to sketch and listen to music.  It's a hobby of his I can definitely deal with. 

Some weekends we drive over to Kaneohe and go sailing and snorkeling. They're some of my favorite memories so far.

And of course the weekend wouldn't be complete without strolling around town. I'm never self conscious to pack my camera around anymore because the place is usually swarming with tourists.

And I kinda like them! Not just for their sheer entertainment value as I watch them take pictures in the grocery store, but also because they remind me of how lucky I am. I'm living in paradise, and the happiness of all the people surrounding me is always thick in the air. It really is hard to not be filled with the aloha spirit 24/7.

Breakfasts here are filled with lilikoi and macadamia nut syrups, fresh mango and papaya, and you can most always find sides of rice, Portuguese sausage or spam on the menu. It's so different than what I'm used to, but I love this culture. 

Just a few steps from our apartment is one of my favorite places to get crepes. If you're visiting Oahu, check out Crepes No Ka 'Oi. (No ka 'oi is Hawaiian for "the best", so it's gotta be, right?)

I'm blessed to live here, but of course sad it's flying by as fast as it is. People fall in love with Hawaii everyday, but to me, I see these islands as the place I start my family. Because of this, Hawaii is starting to feel less like the best vacation ever, and more like my home. I'll always hold these islands close to me, like precious stones in the palm of my hand. 

Happy weekend friends!


Northwest Coast Crawl

It's new to me still, that I have to travel east to get to where I want to go. As a lifelong north and northwestern gal, it just feels natural to be migrating west. 

But last week I left Hawaii and set out on a whirlwind trip back "east" to Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, BC. The trip was filled with dear friends, quality parent time, glorious pacific seafood, and so much wedding talk! 

I'm savoring this time in my life, and I'm happy I documented the trip. Get ready for a lot of pictures!

Portland feels like home now. With so many ties  (my sister and nephew live there, as well as a good chuck of wonderful friends and bridesmaids), it always feels great to be back in the foggy, funky City of Roses.

After Portland, my parents and I headed north to Canada, but first we made a pit-stop in the grand Emerald City (I sense I'm going a little over-board with the town nicknames...they're just too fun not to use. Case in point: I just looked up Honolulu's - The Big Pineapple! How fun is that? Apologies if you're already mildly annoyed..).

Ok time to move on.

Canada. My father was attending the International Pacific Halibut Commission’s annual meeting (My dad is a halibut fisherman if you couldn’t guess), and my mom and I found it a good excuse to tag along to Vancouver. 

I’ve only driven through Canada once on a fast and furious road trip up the Alaska-Canadian highway one summer returning home form college. The trip unfortunately ended in a car crash, so I just knew I wanted to get back to Canada on better terms. 

And this was the sweetest deal of them all – to spend a week with just my parents in a huge international city two months before my wedding. I’m so glad it happened.

Any big city with sailboat and floatplane docks at its water's edge followed by beautiful mountains jutting out across the bay is pretty ok in my book. 

More than just shopping for wedding stuff and hanging out in a cool city, this trip made me look inward more than I anticipated. Travel just does that, I suppose.

Coming from a large, entrepreneurial family, my house was always loud - filled with noise and paperwork, smelly rain gear and lots of fishing talk at the dinner table. As the youngest it sometimes bothered me with how busy my parents were. I'll be the first to remind my mom that my birth certificate was probably lost the moment it came home with me. But sitting in Vancouver, I was reminded of all my parents have built for themselves. This very trip was a product of my dad's blood, sweat and tears. I am countlessly inspired by the passion he has for his fishing career. 

Everything else seemed pointless and I was embarrassed for ever whining about their livelihood. The fisherman's daughter pride was strong that week, and I felt happy to be related to them (I also felt like a bit of a marital mediator and an IT specialist at times...but thats another story).

Granville Island was the first thing my dad told me I needed to do in Vancouver, and yeah.... he know what makes my heart sing.

We traveled over to the south end of town (thanks to our trusty GPS circa 2003 -- I say that ironically) to hit up this unique little bubble of art and commerce in the middle of Vancouver.

This old warehouse district was turned into a thriving arts center in the 1970's with artist co-ops, public markets, performance spaces, local boutiques, restaurants and more. I especially loved these {still functioning!} industrial silos painted by Brazilian street artists during the Vancouver Biennial. Give me public art and I am the happiest gal ever.

The market was of course a huge highlight. I had such a fun time getting a few meaningful gifts for my bridesmaids here. 

I'm not exaggerating when I say I ate seafood everyday. I was probably subconsciously stocking up on all the salmon I could eat before I headed back to Hawaii. Also...prawns on pizza. It's a good thing. 

Our view as we were eating said prawn pizza. If you're in Vancouver you have to check out The Sandbar on Granville Island. The interior design nerd in me was completely obsessed with their Northwest fisherman meets utilitarian modern decor.

The trip was short, but just what I needed. Thank you Canada - I've never met more friendly city folk, and your culture is inspiring. I'll be bringing Chris back with me next time - hopefully soon!

Whenever I travel, I always try to pick up one pice of art. Sometimes it's only a postcard, but it's the way I prefer to look back at my travels - through the art I'm able to find there.

I'm very familiar with the vernacular imagery of Northwest Coast native art. So much so that I usually took it for granted growing up. Now that I'm thousands of miles away, I'm drawn back to feelings of home. This little copper-foiled Haida salmon felt like the perfect piece to bring back to Hawaii, as well as serve as a sweet reminder of a great trip.

Now back to this snowballing wedding! I apologize now if I'm a little absent from blogging in the weeks to come. My mind is off floating around the 3rd week of March.

xoxo Kate


W H O   T H E   H E C K   A R E   D O T  &  M A R G O ?

I get this question a lot. So I'll do my best to break it down, but I'm hoping my brand speaks for itself! The way art can communicate moods and emotions is important to me, and I try my hardest to communicate my aesthetic through my work.

OK, back to the question.

The meaning behind my shop/blog name is pretty straightforward. 

Dot is someone I love very much. What’s that saying about the love you gain when your love is divided?

I’m not talking about children or husbands though….

I’m talking about dogs.

Dot is my 7-year-old Corgi.  As weird as it sounds, I see a lot of myself in her – METAPHORICALLY, people. I have much taller legs than she does.

She’s sweet and quiet. Not the best at extra-curricular activities like long distance running or swimming. She only barks when she needs to, and as long as someone is there to receive her love, she is so happy.


To be perfectly honest, I know no one named Margo. To me, Margo is an alter ego of sorts. She’s who I’m striving to be.

Margo is confident and creative; secure with herself, but not pompous about it. No one likes a big head.

She can hang with the cool kids without getting sweaty palms and knows a thing or two about old school rap. She’s totally not bothered by thrift store dressing rooms – the reason she has such an eclectic and vintage wardrobe.

Of course you’ll find she’s happiest at home in her studio, or out building tree forts with her tiny nieces and nephews.  She lives her life full of kindness and love, purpose and drive. She knows in her heart that these traits belong together.

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.”     - Kahlil Gibran

W H A T ' S   Y O U R   S T Y L E   &   I N S P I R A T I O N ?

Dot and Margo was started in my tiny apartment here in Kailua, Hawaii. The color and beauty found in the Hawaiian Islands inspired me to create art and accessories that reflect the laid back and simple way of life here in Hawaii. 

Island life with its natural beauty and simplicity is core to the Dot & Margo brand; my art has always been greatly inspired by my Kodiak Island, AK home and Scandinavian heritage. 

You'll soon learn that I'm a serious fangirl of Danish design. I love juxtaposing my experiences growing up in a small rural fishing town with my love of all things Scandinavian modern. I'd say my overall style is warm, eclectic and modern.

My #1 goal for Dot & Margo is to have fun. As a result, you'll always find whimsical, simple, and kindly made goods in the D&M shop. 

Do small things with great love.

Dear 2015,


I have waited for you my whole life. Which in 40 and some odds days will be 25 years. I didn't know I was waiting for you, specifically, when I was younger, but I knew you would someday come.

Cheers to you, 2015 - the year I get married. Because of you, and this huge development in my so called adult life, I plan on living this year fully and strongly in love. I don't believe in making New Years resolutions, but a yearly theme seems doable in my book. So there you go - like marsala is to Color of the Year, so is love to my year ahead.

However, this year I want to love a little bit differently - purposefully and with conviction. To follow my passion, and live with drive. To not be a wallflower but to speak up for what I want. After all, I'm about to embark on this new chapter as a wife...what a strong word. Anyone out there want to help me figure it out? I'm a little scared - I really don't take that title lightly.

I didn't know what it entailed to be a wife when I got engaged 8 months ago. Ignorant and in love, like I assume most of the world is. But as the months rolled on (filled with family gatherings, wedding planning, and fully soaking in the "bride" title), things began to shift. I began thinking about every woman in my family and Chris' family and the journey they've walked. I think of these women as matriarchs; such loving people with such a legacy. And now it's my turn to assume a similar role.

Cake topper from MelaboWed (Etsy), signature wall calendar from Artifact Uprising

I never met my grandmother on my mom's side. She died when my mom was a teenager. But as a little girl, I worshiped that picture of my Grandma Gerry in her wedding dress. It was displayed in the hall leading to my bedroom. Every night on my way to bed, I would trace my finger along the bottom of her skirt. It might as well have been a picture of The Virgin Mary for all I knew. She was my hero.

So now here I am, baffled that it's my turn to be the one in the white dress. Most of the time I still feel like that 4 year old girl staring up at that wedding portrait.

2014 was full of adventure in my life. I moved to Charleston, SC, I visited Boston, New York and Connecticut for the first time, I lived out of a suitcase for 3 months, I moved to Hawaii, I got engaged while swimming in the ocean for pete's sake! I can't complain one bit; I am so blessed.

This year, I feel, will be different. I will be experiencing some of my best days (and arguably THE BEST day of my life), as well as some of the hardest day's with a new husband deployed for a good part of a year. I'm sure  these highs and lows will only help me become that strong, loving woman I'm trying to cultivate. But to give myself some credit, I know I've grown quite a bit from the person I used to be.

Loving out of comfort and giving yourself completely to the wants of others, because it's easy and habitual, is something I used to do. I'll be the first to admit that I'm a people-pleaser. But then I leaned that love requires risks, and true, healthy love between two people helps you grow as an individual. I started doing things solely because I knew they were right for me. While risks can be painful and scary, they have resulted in the happy place I am at today. I am proud of the path I am on. Everyday I am filling my life with small acts of love, because I have the self-worth to do so. Just as Saint Therese of Lisieux said, "Do small things with great love."

So with that, I'm excited to be reopening my shop today with a collection of love-inspired handmade goods for the new year. To be creating these pieces with such peace for where I'm at in my life has been unexpected therapy these last few weeks. I hope they provide you with a bit of joy as well.

So I welcome you, 2015. I'm getting married this year to someone I can't wait to share a life with. I'm going to keep chasing my artistic dreams, and I'm going to keep loving the best way I know how.

- Kate


Northern Home

Chris and I spent the last week of 2014 in Alaska. With Chris unsure of the next time he'll be able to visit home, we made use of his week off by flying back to Kodiak to spend New Years with our two families. Three days of fog and rain followed by four glorious, sunny winter days were just what this Hawaiian transplant needed.

Here are a few things I loved about being home:

Shiny, non-frizzy hair. You don't know what you have until it's gone...

Chatting with all my family and Chris' family about our wedding plans. It's becoming so real now. I'm ready for the day to come (and some of the anxieties to be behind us (Ok...it's just me. Chris is totally chill about everything. I'm hoping some of that rubs off on me soon).

Driving around town just for the fun of it. Pretending to be in high school again. Lots of coffee dates, harbor views, and a few more brewery visits this time around.

Seeing my siblings and nephews and nieces. Hands down the hardest part of moving away from home is missing out on watching those little people grow. Who would have thought that I'd be so excited to babysit for free these days.

Hanging with my main pup, Dot. It's hard not having her with us in Hawaii, but she's a lot better off roaming the mountain top where my parents live, than here, panting in our 800 square foot apartment. We'll be reunited soon, little dog.

Celebrating the beginning of a very big year on top of the world with the man I love the most. New Years Eve almost felt euphoric (although, it may have been all that champagne). This week home provided many sweet reminders of the new, wonderful life we are building together. Hooray for 2015!

And now back to work and back to life if Hawaii! I'm working on getting the shop reopened the end of this week, and mentally prepping for all the fun wedding chaos that is about to resume!

- Kate

Winter 2015 Shop Inspiration / thoughts on my first tropical winter

I know it's not even Christmas yet, but I have my eye on the year ahead. Its a big year in my life, and to say I'm excited is an understatement (Our wedding is 94 days away - ahh! The terror/joy/excitement!).
Plus, January and February have always been some of my favorite months - seriously!

The quietness; the white; the darkness. Winter personifies peace and grace to me. The busyness of the holidays are over, and the distractions of spring and summer are still far off on the horizon.

Winter is a time of reflection and stillness; nothing but you and the company you surround yourself with. As an Alaskan, it's imperative to make your peace with the dark and the cold. When I think of January, I think of cozy meals, full glasses of wine, and the way a home's warm glow breaks the darkness of night.


I live in Hawaii,

so this was my view yesterday:

Regardless of where I'm at, making art is a way for me to feel at home. Being away from family for the holidays always makes people a tiny bit homesick - right? I'm sure I'm not the only one. I live in the textbook definition of paradise, but lately I find myself daydreaming of those cold, foggy days.

Case in point: last week I decided to walk to the beach even though it was pretty overcast.  I just missed being outside in undesirable weather.  I made it down to Kailua beach just as the skies open up. Everyone ran for cover and I took shelter by a tree.

I thought back to Alaska, where our usual beach gear are boots and a rain jacket. I had neither. As I huddled under the tree to protect my camera from getting wet, I tried to figure out why rain felt so much more inconvenient here. I only stayed at the beach for a few minutes (I think Hawaii is turning me into a softy).

The next day at the art museum, I had the pleasure of listening to a Native Alaskan guest speaker talk about a parka the museum had recently acquired. The seal gut parka was made as a wind breaker. I thought about how it would have come in handy down at the beach yesterday.

I was mesmerized as he spoke in his native Yupik language (Yupik's are Native Alaskans on the western Bering Coast of Alaska), and I was totally thrown off guard when I began to tear up while he performed a traditional native dance. I studied Yupik masks while at college, and because I grew up in Kodiak where there is such a thriving Alutiiq culture (Aleut Native Alaskans from my home island), I instantly felt at home as I listened to him describe the seal gut parka.

He talked about what each color of beads sewn onto the jacket symbolized to the Yupik people: black for the darkness of night, white for the heavens, red for the blood that unites us all, and blue for the fleeting sky.

That last part stuck with me "fleeting blue sky".

I'm sure people who live in any northern region realize what a cherished thing that blue sky is. And yes, it is always fleeting. You're in an environment where building a wind breaker is necessary for survival. That's just not the case here.  I almost take the sunny days for granted now. I'm living a beautiful summer day on repeat, and my cold-climate self is trying to figure out how to adjust to this new way of life.

While I can't change my location (I do love living here, just to clarify), I can daydream of those fleeting northern days.

That's really where my winter inspiration for Dot & Margo is coming from. It may be 80 degrees out for the next 100 days, but painting these folk patterns and using washed of familiar colors brings me back to those warm & happy hearts on all those cold winter nights. Thats the power of art for ya.

And just like a Christmas miracle, Chris and I will be home in Kodiak next week! I'm excited to ring in 2015 on familiar ground with tons of family around. I'm excited to wear jeans, to feel cold, to hug my baby nieces and nephews. Life is good.

And as 2015 rolls around, be sure to see what Dot & Margo has in store for the new year. The shop will be closed starting the December 27th and open back up with a few new goodies on January 9th!

Have a wonderful holiday,


Festive & Frugal - Our First Christmas Tree

This will be Chris and my's first Christmas together. In the years we've been dating, we usually spend Christmas eve/morning at our respective houses in Alaska. But this year we'll be in Hawaii together.

I was SO giddy as we brought home our first Christmas tree. (ok, it's from Target and it's no...Noble Fir, but it's perfect for this stage in our life) That excitement soon dissipated when I pulled out the only 2 ornaments we own, stuffed inside an old Christmas lights box...

Ceramic ornament from mb art studios (etsy)

They pretty much sum up our relationship. Love and hot sauce.

but back to the matter at hand. I have no decorations.

Ideally, I'd like to slowly collect and curate my holiday decor.

From a very young age I knew I would someday have a "rustic, classic Scandinavian Christmas" collection. Oh yeah, I was that little girl glued to the HGTV channel. Forget weddings. I was dreaming of interior design projects and holiday party planning.

So needless to say, at 24, I'm itching to get started on that dream.

via the entertaining house                                 via skimbaco lifestyle                                        via vibeke design

But we have a problem:

Decorations are expensive! And (love him to death, but) the fiancé is frugal.

I just have to put my creative thinking cap on.  Because...look at this tree.

(Note the sad little Sriracha ornament)

I'd like to think I have a lot ingenuity and resourcefulness by nature. No, I was never a girl scout, but I did grow up on a rural island with no mall, no department stores, no Michaels.

Just as you learn to protect yourself from a bear attack...

(Wear bells or sing and make a lot of noise. Carry bear spray. If you see a bear do NOT run, and for God's sake, do not climb a tree! If you get attacked put your arms behind your neck and play dead..)

...whoah, I forgot what I was blogging about there for a second.

Anyways, just as you learn to survive in the Last Frontier, you also learn to make do with what you have; to be crafty and resourceful.

So without further adieu - here's how we decorated our tree for free using only pantry and closet goodies we had on hand.

Chris is hardly a crafter, but the threat of me having to rush out and buy a truck load of decorations at Target (Let's be honest...I have no control when I step in that place), seemed to be reason enough to help...a little bit.  I threw in a bottle of wine to sweeten the deal. It was a fun night!

Here's what we had on hand:

And here's the handmade goodness. I was really determined to have decorations that felt natural and earthy. This fake tree needed a lot of life! Below you'll find a breakdown of what I did, along with some tips.

And glory hallelujah,  a much improved "after" Christmas tree picture.


Let's get started.

These little ornaments were a last minute idea I had.  I'm so glad I went forward with them, because...look how cute! They're my favorite ornament in the bunch.

All you do is cut out the center of the coffee filter. The larger you cut the hole in the middle, the smaller of a rosette you end up with. Basic adding and subtracting there for ya.

Then simply accordion-fold the inside edges a bit more (use the filters natural ridges to guide you. Be careful not to fold the outside edges though! You want those to remain curvy and ruffle-y.  Like a beautiful woman in a Rococo painting:
Fragonard, The Swing, 1767
(Can't turn off the Art History nerd..sorry)

Anyways, here's a little demo picture. 

Sometimes it's easier to finagle the coffee filter into the rosette shape if you cut the filter in half, glue one half at a time, and then glue it back together, but you certainly don't need to!

Just a dab of hot glue in the center to completely bind the hole together, and some baker's twine for a hanger, and you're ready to go!

I finished mine off with loads of white glitter, because I never know when to stop/ have no self control.  Bonus: the glitter definitely made the pieces a lot sturdier.

Ok, moving on. That explanation took far too long...

These are a fun and simple project. We used Martha's cinnamon ornament recipe (find it here). Our whole tiny house still smells so good.

We didn't have a rolling pin, but we found that beer pint glasses work just as well...can you tell what our priorities are? ;)

I used this recipe for making these dried fruit ornaments. Simple project, and again, the house smelled so lovely as we were drying these.

The only thing I'd suggest is to make sure to cut the fruit thin and to leave enough time to dry. Living in Hawaii, I don't think they'll ever dry out completely, but they look and smell wonderful right now.

My family is Danish, so I grew up making these wonderful little Christmas hearts. Just seeing one reminds me of home.

Now I happen to have metallic gold & polka-dot red scrap paper laying around because I'm just that kind of girl (don't open up my closets, they're scary).

But you could do this with kraft paper, white copy paper, old books, pretty magazine images, photocopies of pictures, etc. The woven pattern makes it really fun to mix types of paper. There's lots of great tutorials out there like this one, or this one!

This was also a last minute ornament idea. If you check out the Dot & Margo shop you'll notice I love bentwood pieces.  These orbs are a popular Scandinavian bentwood ornament, so I wanted to try my hand at making them from paper. The larger orbs are made from 4, 8 inch strips; the medium orbs are 6 inch strips; the tiniest one is made from 4 inch strips.

So, so easy. I really loved them even more when I hung them on the tree. They take up a lot of visual space, but are still sweet and delicate.


These two are pretty self explanatory. If you're not the commitment type, I'd think long and hard about whether you really want these on your tree. They do take a bit of time, but it's time well spent. The garland gives such a vintage and homey feel to the tree.

  • Floss is your friend with the popcorn garland as the kernels move easily along it. And surprisingly, the popcorn kernels are not as fragile as they look! I even stepped on the garland and only one kernel broke (Ya..no spacial awareness/ coordination over here...)  
  • I wanted the newspaper chain to be delicate and not overwhelm the tree, so it was important to make the paper chain small.  I cut 1/4 " thick strips that were roughly 6" in length. I used a glue stick to bind the ends because I thought tape would be distracting.
  • If you're going for that natural, vintage look, try to avoid a lot of color or images on your chain links. I wanted my paper chain to look as if it was from a vintage book, so I made sure to choose strips that were primarily filled with text:

Now all I had to do was load up the tree!

Ahhh, basking in that crafter's high while gazing lovingly at our first tree.

So that's that. None of these projects are new or revolutionary, but I'm really pleased with how our tree came together with stuff just laying around the house. Proof that you can have a special & beautiful holiday celebration without all the cost.

Now all we need is a tree topper. You can rest assured I've already got a project rolling around in my head for that...

Mele Kalikimaka from Oahu! 

xoxo kate

Settling In

I'd hate to get all deep and emotional on my first ever post. So I'll try not to.

That's 3rd post behavior. 
(I don't want to come on too strong and scare you off!)

I will start with this:

I'm happy to be here and I'm scared to be here.

I generally don't make a lot of noise in public.  That is, unless I've had a few glasses of wine or you're asking me about horses, corgis, or any of the Impressionist artists.

So making a lot of noise on the internet is a weird feeling for me as well. 

For example, I can type "holla" and seem really hip - right? But if pronounced in person I'd accidentally say "hall-ler" in a weird semi-Minnesotan accent. And I've never even been to MN. I just get really awkward when I'm trying to act cool. So I don't try anymore.

Well, I mean I DO still try - just not to be cool. I try to follow what's in my heart. 

And its led me to all the right places so far. 

So here's where I try my hand at this. 

I've been living in Hawaii for 9 months 23 days. I'm settling into this new island, new town, and new apartment. This is my eighth move in the past six years. To me, the term "home" is very relative at this stage in my life. That's why creating and art making are so very dear to me. When I'm making things with my hands, my heart is at home. A welcomed feeling for this accidental rolling stone.

So here goes nothing. I'm taking a big ol' jump into the unknown world of running a small handmade business. I predict I'm going to have a lot of fun. Check out my About and FAQ's tabs to learn more!

Welcome to Dot & Margo.


Photo 3 by Wendy Laurel. Remaining images by Kate Helligso


H I   T H E R E !

My name is Kate Helligso...
...very-soon-to-be Kate Paulson (My heart still does flips just thinking about it!)

I'm the girl behind the Etsy shop  D O T  &  M A R G O 

Thanks to my fiancé's career (aka my beloved Naval submarine officer), I get to call the island of Oahu home for the time being.

And boy, is Hawaii every bit as magical as it sounds. We're getting married this upcoming March, but it honestly feels like I've been on my honeymoon since moving here last year. Life is simple, enchanting, and different. Those qualities are what inspired me to create Dot & Margo.

A   F E W   M O R E    T I D B I T S

I'm no stranger to island life. I was born and raised on Kodiak Island, Alaska, and a large part of my heart is still up there, floating around the North Pacific.

I'm an artist. I've been the creative type since I can remember. High School athlete? Nahhh...more of an Art Club gal over here.

I received my bachelors in Art History and Sculpture a few years ago, and since then I've been trying to answer that ever-elusive "what is art?" question.  Dot & Margo is one way I'm exploring that question...more about that in my FAQ's section. 

I'm an introvert by nature; I spend a lot of time lost in my own head; often pondering the human condition, or how long the world will have to wait for a Friends reunion. 

If my younger self wasn't so riddled with fear of failure, I would have gone to school for interior design. But no fear hear anymore! (at least that's what I chant to myself as I'm about to do something scary) The 20's are for taking risks, and I'm whole-heartedly embracing those obstacles and opportunities.

H E R E   O N   D O T   &   M A R G O

You'll find lots of Aloha along with my artistic practice: art creating, home making, food baking, wedding partaking. . .all from scratch of course. I'm no Susie Homemaker quite yet; I'm seriously lacking the kitchen gadgets for that title.  I am, however, a 20-something gal excitedly beginning the whole "grown adult" chapter of life. 

Step one: getting through every day with a bit of grace and purpose. 

I am a woman, and I want other women to feel lifted up, inspired, supported, and cared about. When we put down a fellow lady, we put down the rest of us. Ready to live an artful life? Come say hello on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram - I'd love to meet you!

                                                     xoxox kate

Images 1,2,3 & 6 by Wendy Laurel.  Remaining images by Kate Helligso