beautiful book,

smallest forest,


after leaf…

–Pablo Neruda’s Ode to The Book

My name is Nat. I’m Filipina-American. I live with my Russian husband—a writer and adventurer of epic proportions—and our fat cat, Dude, on a fishing trawler in crocodile-infested Darwin, NT, Australia.

two cats on a lazy monsoon morning

Hanging around just below me...in case I feel like going for a swim?

Born a dreamer, though life has taught me to balance that with a dark brand of cynicism. If I had a “super power” I think it would be my sense of humor. Oh, and cleaning is my secret talent.

I’m a bookbinder, mainly, though I will frequently dabble my fingers in a dozen other pies, besides.

I feel compelled to articulate living and loving with my hands, love the challenge of learning something new or figuring out how to turn my imagination into real things, and I love the singular quality of  the handmade, creative, and self-reliant life.

“And I said, with rapture,

here is something I can study all my life,

and never understand.”

—Samuel Beckett, Moloy

157 thoughts on “About

  1. This looks wonderful, am looking forward to spending some more time browsing your site. I spent a year in Darwin and still have a connection to the place – hanging around Dinah Beach Yacht Club included! Nice work.

  2. I’m so happy I stumbled upon your blog. I love it. You are living the life my husband and I are dreaming of…but a sailboat instead of a trawler for us. I’m so looking forward to exploring your blog. Well done!

    1. Best of luck chasing the dream, Kelly!
      We have a sailboat, too…we sailed to Australia in a 30-footer. In a few weeks I’ll be back on that one for, oh, about five years! We got the trawler when we decided to stay on in Darwin, because I needed more space (I was renting a studio, it’s expensive to rent here) but Kris HAD to live on the water. So we compromised, and got a boat the size of a two-bedroom unit. :) I’m going to miss my SonOfAGun…sailboats are great for travel, but no room for all my stuff!

      1. Hi Nat! I’m a new blogger here (and am also new in Oz) and I stumbled upon your blog. I am very inspired! Ang ganda ng blog mo.. paborito ko yung post mo about your mom and the unlocked drawers. Thank you for the inspiration. I’m officially a fan of @smallestforest

        1. Hi, just arrived in Brazil after 40 days in the Atlantic Ocean, will get back to you when we hve found our feet in this new country (ang hirap kumilos when you don’t speak Portuguese!) and I’ll get back to you in a few days’ time. Thanks for the enthusiasm! Sayang we’ll not be in Oz for a few years, where are you based?

          1. Hello Nat! Happy to know that you have finally arrived. That was a really long journey and without internet connection for that long? I can’t imagine how you survived it. I’m based in Sydney. Looking forward to reading your kwentos! A few years can be just a short time, ang bilis lang ng oras. And besides, I can always read about your adventures and artist’s musings until then! :)

  3. Just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award.
    You’ve been doing an awesome job and I truly enjoy your thoughtful and fun posts!

  4. Hi,
    I found your site when I was looking for ‘spool birds’.
    Have been looking around a bit and love it! Very inspiring in so many area’s. Keep it up!
    Will be visiting again regularly,

  5. Hello,
    Kind of stumbled upon your blog just now. What drew my immediate attention was your header image: magnificent!
    Then the writing style. Then the creativity. Then the colours.
    Well done! I will try to visit often and explore more of your artistic world.

    Best wishes,
    Natalia from GreenLakeBlue

    1. Wow, thank you! The banner image was just a standard painting to which I applied the setting “Ripples” on Picnik.com, before Google bought them out. I have since transferred my loyalties and affections to PicMonkey but they don’t have the ripple effect there. Picnik, in the meantime, has changed its name to Ribbit or something like that.

      1. Hellooo! Sorry for my late comment back. I’ve been very busy with work etc and not spending much time online.
        Yes, I will check out those names (Picnik/Ribbit/PicMonkey…), as I too love photo effects and whenever have time I like to play around with images.
        All the best! :)

  6. Nice work. I’m on my sixth or seventh journal. Given up a bit and use my old iBook G3 Clamshell, until it got full. Sigh. I am a bookbinder, too. Retired now and only making a few to keep my fingers busy in my retirement. Enjoy…

  7. What caught my eye is the “singular quality of the handmade, creative, and self-reliant life” that you are pursuing – so very much against the stream of this highly over-commercialized world. In my own way, that’s what I am after here on the other side of the world, in the mountains of Virginia, USA. I did meet a lovely woman from Darwin this last summer while we were both in Scotland for a writer’s retreat…. the world is even smaller than we think :-)

    1. You know, that’s a quote from somebody, I think, I must try and remember who said that…it’s too good to have come from me, originally. ;)
      You met a “Darwinian”? A homegrown one? They’re a rare breed. Most Darwin ‘locals’ are from elsewhere in Australia, few call this place the town where they were born. I, on the other hand, have a much-loved youngest brother in Virginia. (Besides an aunt, and some cousins.)

      1. always knew the world is small… my friend is a teacher and told me there are a lot of single women in Darwin recruited for teaching and similar positions; not a particularly intellectually challenging area, but she’s hanging in there…
        Where are your relatives in VA and will you be visiting at some point?

  8. Love your blog and your books are beautiful! I totally agree with you about living a life of “less.” I look forward to reading about your adventures and seeing what you have been creating.

    1. Thank you! Acquiring stuff seemed to take so much energy…eventually one was working for one’s things, and re-arranging life to accommodate all those things. Giving it all away or leaving it behind caused such a wonderful lightening, and finally allowed me to ask questions like “Where would I like to go, now, since I don’t have much to pack or carry with me?” 8 years in Darwin has started a slow accumulation, again, of stuff, but we are leaving soon, and will shed whatever we don’t need, love, or want to carry. :) Cheers for the visit!

  9. I just LOVE Dude. That could possibly be because he looks just like my cat, Lui Stringer – the first marmalade tabby I’ve ever had, and I got him when I was 63! It must be wonderful to have such skill: I do envy you … but with pleasure

    1. Thank you! He’s a sweetheart, our bestest cat, ever. He doesn’t meow or whine at all, very quiet, even when he’s hungry (he prefers to pat us on the knee to tell us it’s time to feed him) and he is attached to me like a shadow…always at my feet, or clambering into my lap, or curling up on my pillow at night. I think he thinks he’s human.

  10. Wow, what a life. On a boat, in Australia of all places. Married to a Russian (understand this my wife is Russia) Doing what you love. Now that is what I call life. What more could you ask for?

    1. It’s true, it’s a wonderful life. Interestingly, it does not require ‘more’ than what you would call a ‘normal’ life…on the contrary, it requires LESS. Less attachment to creature comforts, less possessions, less dependence on so-called modern conveniences, less status anxiety. Most of us are not forced to live the ways that we do…except, perhaps, by our own fears and compulsion to conform. I would ask for less. Less is more. :)

      1. I have found this to a degree here in Russia, but desire to be less attached and more engaged. Removing the fetters isn’t easy but necessary. I’m finding this deep need to walk the planet to understand the true nature of who I am and share it with others. The lies we have been told are nothing more than society’s rules. Letting go give so much freedom.

  11. I love your blog! Or rather, I love all of the things you put inside it. My only problem is that reading it creates a dilemma: do I lay somewhere and let all of the ideas marinate, or do I fling everything off the table and start making things immediately? Tough decisions. Thank you for taking the time to share your work and thoughts.

    1. I say start on something…anything…now! The energy and ideas for creating are born of the act itself, too much planning is anathema to getting something done. :) Don’t strive for perfection…aim for prolificacy. It gets easier, the more you do it.
      Carpe diem! And thanks for the comment.

  12. Wow, so excited to have found your amazing blog. I happened to be looking for inspiration for a travel journal, and had this other thing going on about wanting to make my own stencils. Crazy thing, trawling your archives gave me ideas for both. Look forward to keeping up with your fabulous projects and musings. Thank you, Miranda from Melbourne (which must have better Asian food than Darwin, who’d have thought!)

    1. Thanks, Miranda, Stoked to hear tht you’ve found something you can use! The NT’s a tiny 100,000-person territory of miners, army jerks, aboriginals and some unhappy government employees on “hardship postings”…hardly a population for great food culture! ;) Melbourne’s got more people, at least, with more diverse backgrounds (one hopes).

  13. Wow, your work is so inspiring! Thank you so much that you share your thoughts and experience with all of us.

  14. I’m really glad I found your blog. I just love your work. The colours are gorgeous. I’m going to go back to your archives and have a good look.

  15. Can you tell me about the gray dress you are wearing in your photo? Where you got it, made it? Labeled brand? It is lovely, and not simple to make, judging by the pocket design, and band across the front.

  16. Hi Natalie, I’m so glad to have found you. This blog is great. Remember Primex? We had your dad as a consultant for about two years. I want to get the journals you make with wooden covers. You still have them?

    1. Hi, Margot, Of course, of course! And your mom bought one, once, how could I forget? How are you? Kris still makes those, pero baka masyadong upmarket na sila? He now sells them for AU$200 each, that would come to quite a lot in pesos. But, who knows, maybe you’re still interested? Email me if you want to discuss further… nat(at)smallestforest.net

  17. Видимо, сама судьба позволила мне не только познакомиться с Вами и Вашими прекрасными увлечениями, но и возможностью общаться на родном языке :) Передавай привет и наилучшие пожелания Вашему мужу, надеюсь, он поможет с трудностями перевода ))? а также Вашему очаровательному коту! Я как раз решилась изменить свою творческую жизнь и способна на большее, поскольку всегда любила книги и рукоделие… и (О, чудо!) нашла Вас – “ищите и обрящите”, я этому счастлива. Спасибо и удачи!

    1. Здравствуйте, Елена! как вы предложили, мой супруг помог мне с переводом, но я использую программу для ответa. Пожалуйста простите страшный язык! Я благодарю вас для содружественного комментария. Удачи в ваших творческих расширениях!

  18. Just discovered your blog when I clicked on a link to your travel journal article. Haven’t been able to stop reading posts since! Love the blog, you really inspire me!
    Crippled crafter x

    1. Thanks, Iris! There’s quite a fun and sizable Pinoy community on WordPress, as I’m starting to discover, slowly. Lovely of you to comment, I must come visit your blog sometime!

    1. Thank you, Robert! I think I can remember when I first got a visit from you…when one of my posts was Freshly Pressed. Thank you so much for visiting again, it means so much to me to hear this, the greatest reward (better than an award!) ;)

    1. Thanks! I don’t do the chain mail blog award thing, simply haven’t the time, nor the patience to answer so many pointless questions, hope you understand! But I’m flattered you thought this blog was worthy of one. Cheers!

  19. I’ve awarded you the “Beautiful Blogger” award. Check it out if you’re interested! I love your blog!! Your embroidery is crazy awesome!

    1. Thanks, Sarah :) I might pass on the round-robin blog awards, hope you don’t mind, just so busy and if there seem to be so many, if I started with one I’d have to do all of them, to be fair. But I’m delighted you think I’m worthy!

    1. Thank you Ania! I’m flattered that you think this blog is worthy of any awards. Bear with me, though, I don’t want to even start on these blogger chain-award things, or I’d have to do them all, and I am just sooo busy. Also, if I want anyone to know anything about my life, it will appear in the posts over time. :)

    1. Hee, thanks, we inherited him, so I’m glad he wasn’t named after food…caramel, coffee, crinkles, pudding, or what have you. I’m even more relieved he wasn’t named after a Harry Potter character.

      1. *shudder* My mum’s cat was called Rascal when she got him. We decided this had to change. After much thought – he needed a BIG name, to suit his personality – we called him Maximum Cat. Max for short.

        1. LOL Maximum Cat is a good name. I tend to give corny, pretentious, overly intellectual names to cats, and then spend the rest of the cat’s life explaining what the name means to visitors. So I’m glad someone named Dude for me. :)

  20. Where’d you learn to bind books? I like alot of your interests… I read tons but I’m a huge book-binding geek, love embroidery, quilting, sewing, watercolors and so on.

    Love your blog!

  21. Every once in a while you come something that inspires you. Your blog is one such. From the name to the words you choose to describe yourself, convey a special something about you.

    Your journals are lovely. I love books and I love gifting (others). But more often than not when it comes to book journals, I find them so pretty that I decide to keep them for myself!

    1. Sarita, what a sweet thing to say, so beautiful of you to gift me, a perfect stranger, with these warm and happy feelings! Thank you so much for visiting and taking the time to write. It is most rewarding to keep this blog when a visitor like you pops by!
      I was so crazy about journals and handmade books that I taught myself to make them, and now I can keep as many as I want! ;) After a while, though, the hoarding ends—there are only so many uses for a blank journal, and I think I have a book for most of them—and then you must release the things you make into the world, rewarded enough simply by seeing others use and enjoy them.

      1. Nat, I think you are doing a marvelous job and I wanted to convey that to you. I had a tiny collection of journals that I didn’t use because they were so pretty and I just didn’t have the heart to spoil them.

        Now I have just one that I use (using my neatest and best handwriting possible) to jot down any ideas or thoughts that pop randomly in to my head:-) The rest I gave away as gifts.

        It’s a good thing you are releasing yours into the world…a good way to share the beauty.

    1. Cheers! Unlike you, though, I’m not learning any Russian. ;D We’re studying Spanish together, instead. LOL
      I have been following your feed for a while now, btw…enjoy your life philosophies!

  22. I’m completely obsessed with your blog/art. Your projects are gorgeous and the exact combination of art and books that I adore and am energized by. Keep up the great work!

  23. Everything about this blog is Awesome!! I love the handmade crafts <3 I might wanna try them someday.

  24. nat…this is a wonderful blog. i wondered if you ever happened to see my blog of you which was written long time ago. glad you have established yourself in Darwin and continue to draw from your creative hemisphere different genres to express yourself. hear from you soon..always looking for you in the web to see what you are up to.

  25. I knew you would find that niche and make a marvelous life from it. Proud that I am that I stood in front to teach and saw the tall long haired adolescent was unique, bohemic and so so so talented. No one I know can nor will be so precise and masterful in her words and artworks. I wish to say more Nat…but the space is too limiting. I will always look for you..and am always happy to find you.

    1. Hi, Augustine! Love polymer clay things, I don’t use it myself, so I’m always impressed. Thanks for visiting! Looking forward to seeing more on your blog (keep it up! It takes some time!)

      1. Thank you! I’m currently working on my little brothers birthday present, It’s a Majin Buu figurine from Dragon Ball Z. I can’t wait to show you (and everyone who reads me) ^.^

  26. Ok Nat so here now is a piece of my mixed-up mind. Nalito! I think I was lost and you found me. You have no idea how hard I’m laughing at this moment. You’ve just made my @#!*+! Monday great. And it’s already 5pm. Next time brighten it up a little earlier. And i’m shouting Thank You like a rockstar now. Thankeeeeeeewwww.

    1. Elmer, The Queen of Rock and Roll does not get out of bed before 5 p.m., anokaba! But fine, I will try to get my Flower in The Sun to you in time for merienda. I said try.
      Try oh yeah (just a little bit harder)
      Whoa I gotta try some more,
      I said try yeah, aw I said try,
      I said try try try try try try,

  27. Good morning .. such a lovely artistic and inspirational blog! And thank you for visiting mine. You have a very interesting lifestyle, living on your boat, surrounded by crocodiles! I look forward to following your blog!

    1. Thank you! the lifestyle looks better from the outside…it’s an inconvenient life, in many ways, and uses a lot of energy. Some mornings I wake up tired. But I couldn’t go back, now, to life on land, surrounded by the ‘burbs…especially not here in Darwin. And there is much that is beautiful about the life, too. It certainly saves us a heap of money, living this way!

  28. Hello, I’ve just discovered your blog. I work in the rag trade myself, and love the craft you’ve immersed yourself in. I’ve subscribed, but I’m finding that your script is really faint. Is this something to do with your font or is there something I can adjust on my computer?

    1. hey terri-anne, thanks for subscribing and the visit, but I’ve no idea about the font, it’s a fairly normal wordpress template, they all use a dark grey font, rather than black. Try upping the magnification in your browser? Maybe it’s just too small. Sorry about that. :) It’s okay, you’re not missing anything, the pictures are eye-candy enough! Cheers, N.

  29. The Smallest Forest is a blog after my own heart. Your words are so lovely and your visions are stunning. You’ve filled me with inspiration – which is the nicest way to start an otherwise dull Canadian winters day. Congratulations on being FP’d. It is well deserved. And now, thanks to you, I have just been catapulted into a desire to embroider.

    1. You have a gorgeous blog, yourself, and as I’ve commented over on yours, I envy that you do design and art and all those pretty things for a living.Amazed that someone with such entitlement comes to my blog for inspiration…you’re too kind. Thank you so much. Embroidery is easy, and with a natural flair for color and line and all those groovy aesthetic things, you will do something amazing, I’m sure.

  30. What a pleasure to see your work! Such imagination. Such talent.
    Would you send me just a tiny bit, PLEASE?
    Joking – but I wish it were possible.

    Anna in Maine, US

  31. Sorry it has taken me so long to look at your blog… but now that I have, I’m so glad I dropped by ‘cos I love it. Are you still in Darwin? I will be going over there soon! It’s my home town.

    1. Hello! No problem, we’re all a bit busy, I often don’t/can’t reply, either. Yes, still in Darwin, looking forward to the wet! We’ve had a few days rain, but mostly just hot steamy build up weather, no doubt familiar to you! :)

  32. I came across your amazing blog thru ‘cut n keep’…so glad I found this blog! truly inspirational! love from Malaysia – pc

    1. Thank you, pc! I am lightly embarassed that you think it amazing, but okay, I will try not to discourage you! So nice of you to leave a comment, and to make the visit from co+k. XX Nat

    1. It’s late and I am a bit slow, but I thank you for your comment and I have enjoyed a quick scan down the first page of your photo blog…scenes so familiar to me because I am half Filipina and grew up in Manila, and we are not so different from our other Southeast Asian neighbors. :) The “Alteration Specialist” was a great deja vu image for me!

  33. Natalie: I am Teresa Bragg from Nashville, Tennessee! :) I have loved looking at EVERYTHING on your site and would like to ask you if I could commission you to create a journal that I would like to buy. You see…I would like to purchase your 1000th journal and if you could agree then I’d like to discuss this with you and pay $100 US for this journal. I know it could be many months until you reach your 1000th journal and if you think such a wonderful journal would be worth more than $100 US then I totally understand but $100 is most likely my limit. :) Just let me know what you think. I would totally understand if such a “landmark” journal could be sold for far more than $100. I can be very patient for such a wonderfully constructed journal so you can just let me know your thoughts. :) Cheers, T.

  34. just thought I would ask how your going with the storm, cyclone and RAIN
    Rain came under my daughters door last night… She is doing a double shift at the hospital because people have called in sick , so they are really short of staff. the hospital is so full tonight ….
    It seems Darwin has shut down….breathing deeply waiting to see what Carlos will do to them.
    keep safe guys

  35. I just clicked on the “about” link and man I am glad to have read this beautiful description. :) mmmm… smallest forest, I second Mimsy on making my heart sing!

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