Category Archives: Watercolor

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! I’m dragging my feet on the girl-transforming-into-werewolf costume for K and my pleas for her to wear the ninja costume tonight are falling on deaf ears. I obviously need to re-evaluate who’s the boss here.

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A random comment on the age-old game of tag by K:

I’m not that into being “it” these days. I’m totally over it.

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Alright, I better see if I can muster the energy to focus on assembling faux fur…Have a great weekend, friends!

Happy Halloween!
Will you trick or treat tonite?
Chocolate’s my fave

Happy Friday + Randomness

birdsandbees

Happy Friday! “Mama?” K asked the other day, “How is it that I have both your DNA and Daddy’s DNA? I don’t get it.” I gulped. At her eight-year wellness check during the summer, our pediatrician warned me that the questions will start. Not MY little girl, I thought smugly, I still have all the time in the world. But here we are, just two months after the warning, and K has been peppering me with some variation of this question almost every day.

So I ordered a book recommended by the pediatrician. Because let’s face it, I know myself and I will end up using weird, untechnical cute-sounding terminology (e.g. “weenis”) and completely botch up the explanation. I am utterly unprepared and unqualified for sex education for kids. My parents never even tried to broach the topic with me. I remember when I was about 11 and had some vague notion of reproduction, I genuinely wondered whether people took off their underwear. A German friend tells me that it’s such a non-issue in her native country, kids know all about the birds and the bees practically from birth. Ditto with a Dutch friend. It makes me want to move to Europe to soak in that blase attitude toward a subject that causes me to squirm when discussed publicly (being of Asian-descent raised by immigrant parents in the US exacerbates this, I think — I have never seen my parents hug, much less kiss. In their homeland, people bow to each other and celibacy is a hip and happening trend, for crying out loud).

The book arrived yesterday so I’m working up the courage to go through it with K this weekend. So awkward. Then again, if you think I’m bad, you should see M. He won’t touch the topic with a 1000-foot pole and has insisted I would be better at enlightening K. He’s got German roots so I don’t know what his excuse is.

Anyway. I’m subsisting on cough drops to avoid the usual bronchial infection I tend to get with every cold and I’m going to go binge-watch Game of Thrones season 3 (thanks for reminding me of the show, Greta!) as I build up my nerve to dive into the it’s-not-the-stork story with K.

Oh, the winner of the giveaway is Lacey, who studied linguistics. Congrats! I absolutely loved reading everyone’s favorite classes, areas of study, etc. So fun!

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Have an un-awkward, relaxing weekend, all!

No Monday Outfit
We’re switching thing up next week
Stay tuned for Friday*

*I’m featuring a cool indie pattern on Friday – I think you’ll like it!

 

Third Grade!

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Today is the day. “I’m so nervous and excited, Mommy,” K has been telling me every few hours for the last week. Third grade! Somehow, this seems major in a way even kindergarten wasn’t. Time is stampeding away, and I am helpless and doddering in its wake. But the start of school brings with it the sensation of a fresh sojourn, renewed energy and extra time. I for one, could use all three.

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I made a dress. And last night I furiously worked on a cardigan she requested, because the weather’s been capricious lately. She’s equipped with a backpack from the GAP, a bento-style lunch box, aqua sneakers. We have a tradition to measure her height on the first day of school, and I can’t wait to see how much she’s grown.

I get so emotional on the first day of school…maybe even more than K.

P.S. I’ll show you the dress next week! K picked out the fabric and everything.

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! Lately, I’ve been making a concerted effort to make sure I do all of the things that I know put me in a good mood. Aimless painting is one of those things. I grab a piece of paper, and just paint whatever I see or am thinking about.

kaizen3I appear to think about clothes a lot. And flowers.

I have to confess that I’m not loving the Mon-Wed-Fri blog schedule. It’s throwing me off and I don’t know why. I used to get a tingly, energized feeling every day as I pondered, “what will I write/draw/sew/photograph for tomorrow?” The daily schedule (with a little breathing room on the weekends) kept me on my toes, forcing me to think of variety. I thought that by reducing the days, I would focus on quality versus quantity and free up much needed time, but I feel like I’m becoming too predictable and rote. I’m having difficulty describing it — I love routine, and clearly don’t mind doing the same thing over and over, but I don’t like things to feel stale and stuck. Sometimes when I’m writing my posts, I pause and wonder, “Wait, have I written this before?” Is this what a rut is?

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Recently I found out about this Japanese word, kaizen. I must have been listening to a podcast, or maybe I read an article online. It translates to “good change” but is more about incremental improvements. Baby steps. Slow and steady progress. It’s a bit like beginner’s mind but with a sense of purpose to continually improve. I stopped dead in my tracks when I heard the word, and realized that I’ve been standing still mentally — worse, I’ve been a hamster running on an ever-dizzying circular treadmill, going nowhere. Not that it should always be about striving and goal-setting and achievements, but what I thrive on is learning new skills, being okay with mistakes and just plodding along reveling in the process, chortling to myself at my ridiculousness the whole time.

This second book I’m working on is hard for me. Not in the way it’s hard to go to yoga or eat a salad instead of pizza — something you know that if you do it, you’ll be better off. Hard in a Oh-God-I’m-totally-sucking-at-this-and-feel-like-I’m-rehashing-blog-content-and-they’re-going-to-ask-for-my-advance-back-except-I’ve-already-spent-it-on-my-supplies-and-summer-camps-and-maybe-I-should-use-a-pseudonym sort of way. Every time I hint that this whole book business isn’t all kumbaya, I feel horrible and that I ought to be extolling how lucky I am and how great it is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a dream actualized, but I’ve done and am doing a few things I don’t recommend for anyone else.

For one, I agreed to produce something in a timeframe that I knew was super tight, ignoring that I’m not twenty anymore when I could churn out 50-page papers without sleeping for days. Starting in the summer was also a terrible move – camps aren’t cheap. Then my perfectionist self started to weasel itself into everything I did, and the joy of creating steadily leaked out, leaving an engulfing sense of ennui. I began comparing myself to everyone who’s ever written a book, and let me tell you, that’s a buzz kill in every way. I was riddled with this need to prove myself and then my brain would shut down from feeling inadequate. Basically, I’m taking myself way too seriously. And that’s never a good idea.

Luckily, my editor seems to have telepathic powers and offered me an extension on my first major deadline and a little extra time in general. I was so grateful as I was panicking that I was going to turn in something I wasn’t at all proud of, and that would have sent me over the edge. I glommed onto this gift of time and decided I needed a major shift. I had to get back into my kaizen mode again, which is what made blogging and sewing and everything else so fun and gratifying. The thing is, when I’m disgruntled while making something, I can pretty much guarantee that it’ll be fit for no one.

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So I’ve been enjoying the last days of summer with my family and friends, hanging out in coffee shops writing, painting/drawing, reading, exercising, sewing and organizing. This little reference sheet is something I’ve been yearning to do for months. I cut out the little labels that the watercolor pans come wrapped in, stuck them on cold press paper and added little painted splotches so I can match up the colors with their names. It pleases me that it’s a little wonky and uneven, but it’s functional and (I think) beautiful. The set itself is gorgeous. The watercolor half pans come in a wooden case with a ceramic mixing dish. I feel extra fancy when painting with this set filled with a whopping 70 colors.

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After neglecting my tolerations list for several months, I finally tackled quite a few items this week: fully rearranged and streamlined the master bedroom closet; K and I finished painting the living room trim that I left half-undone 12 months (!!) ago. Ticking these items off of my list makes me breathe easier, inches life forward in small measured improvements.

I’m working on the book too, and not just cavorting in the sunlight or busying myself with freewheeling and unessential projects, but I can tell that pairing the book-making with tried-n-true activities that add a dose of kaizen is helping me slowly but surely regain the enthusiasm that was waning. I heard this quote by Brené  Brown the other day: “Don’t puff up, don’t shrink, just be yourself”. It’s her mantra, and I just might have to steal it. I was trying to puff up in trying to act as though I know what I’m doing with this behemoth book project (or at least it feels that way to me), then I shrunk into a puddle of excessive self-doubt, but all I can do is be myself and hold onto what I know to be worthwhile.

Why is that so hard to remember?

In lieu of a haiku, here’s a poem K wrote for me this week. It just about sums everything up:

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Our minds are as wide as the universe

Our thoughts will come and go. The sun may rise
The wind may whisper but love is deeper than the ocean below.
The song of heaven the angels sing.  good Things
The future will bring. I feel Love. My heart is touched
I have a person Loved.*

*I took the liberty of editing it just a touch.

P.S. I’ll continue with the M-W-F schedule just a little longer, but you just might see me back here daily again soon…

 

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! First, thank you so much for all the kind comments last week, I’ve read them all multiple times!! I was delighted by how many people liked things as they are, and I also appreciated the suggestions. I will work hard on incorporating them! The four randomly chosen Drygoods gift certificate winners are: Dottie, Jing, Beccy and Grace. Congrats!!!

Second, the photoshoot was a blast! Keli generously allowed us to use her Drygoods Design studio (did you hear that they’re moving to a new gorgeous space?), and we were productive and tried a variety of ideas and time just flew — like that random bird illustration I have up there. Can you tell that I’m scrounging to come up with a relevant reason for that image? I just liked it.

Michelle (the photog) and Tristan (the stylist) deserve accolades of the highest order. In fact, they’re both exceptional at both photography and styling and organizing, and I found myself taking a lot of mental notes to improve my own skills. I really really love working with them. It made the photoshoot feel even more legit and lively having the editor and art director and an intern there as well. I learned so much. Tristan did a fun post on part of the cover shoot prep process and you can get some sneak peeks, though we’re all very careful about not revealing what the cover will look like. Day two at the light and airy Studio 207 today!

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K: Mama, when can I get my own ipad?

Me: When we think you’re ready, sweetie.

K: Aw man, that means, “never, and don’t even think about it”*…

She’s awfully bright, our little one.

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Happy, happy weekend! I have something a bit unscheduled for you on Monday and will push out the usual K outfit to Wednesday, when K turns – holy cow – eight!!!!!

We’re taking the train
Portland, we’re headed your way
Fun plans in the works!

 

correspondances estivales

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Some months ago, Isabelle of Lathelize invited me to be part of an utterly charming annual project of hers. She calls it “correspondances estivales”, which Google Translate mangled into “summer match”. Basically, it’s a handmade postcard exchange. Over an eight week period starting in early July, we are each assigned a different person for whom we create and mail out a postcard. The one you see above  I received from lovely Isabelle (a different Isabelle from the organizer, I’ve been informed, but no less lovely). Délicieux, no?

I don’t know about you, but I lament the decline of handwritten missives. I recently found a box of saved letters from my youth and was instantly transported to the past, emotions running high. One particular card from a dear, dear friend — the card was a Valentine’s Day one with a primitive illustration of two stick figure friends talking — lurched me into a state of unstoppable tears. She sent me the card while I was living in Japan, teaching English to high school students. She and I were roommates just before I left for my teaching position; we were actually roommates for almost six years. We’d met our Freshman year in the college dorms and immediately knew we were kindred spirits. People talk about chemistry in romantic situations all the time, but friendships have definitive chemistry too. We became good friends with two other girls and for the next three years the four of us lived together in various apartments. After graduation, she and I continued to live together in Los Angeles when the other girls moved on to other parts of the country. Our last shared apartment was ramshackle and disturbingly close to a strip club, but it was all we could afford at the time and oh, the adventures we had!

The card was filled with her signature hilarious escapades, but the words were tinged with sadness. I remembered how I sat in my little Japanese living quarters in the middle of a rice field reading her card from L.A., how viscerally I missed her and that rare kind of friendship in which you know you can be completely and unabashedly open with each other. As I get older, I find that it’s harder to find and keep those friendships, caught up as we are with marriage or raising kids or work or all of the above.

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All this to say, I’m so glad Isabelle is hosting this wonderful exchange of old timey communication. I sent a quick watercolor postcard to France (above), and I’m preparing to send my next one out:

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Thank you for including me, Isabelle! I think it would be fantastic if everyone spent a few minutes sending out a handwritten note to someone, anyone every once in a while. I love to see how people shape their letters, the quirks of their penmanship, the crossed out words. It connects us in a deeper way than any text or email or facebook comment, I believe. And connection…well, nothing quite measures up to authentic connection.

 

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Fourth of July! We’re celebrating with our neighbors as is our annual tradition and I can’t wait to watch the fireworks. The city closes down certain streets in our neighborhood for fireworks-viewing and throngs of people spread blankets on the road and settle in to watch the sky show held above the lake. That exciting, mildly illicit feeling of getting away with something courses through us when we sit smack dab in the middle of the street.

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Random.org tells me that the Skirt Book Giveaway winner is Ginger, congrats! Lots of introverts with a sprinkling of extroverts, it turns out.

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It’s been an eventful week. I’m always a little torn when writing about encounters with blogging friends and readers I’ve gotten to know through this blog space…it ends up feeling a little gloat-y, but at the same time, I can’t stop marveling at how genuine friendships have developed with people from around the globe. Not a lot of folks understand this obsession with sewing and crafting, so when I have the chance to gab about seam allowances and indie patterns and stitching tips and tricks, well — it’s pretty magnificent. This week, I was delighted to meet the awesome Lucinda (lucky duck, she just won the Japanese hoodie sew-along hosted by Elsie Marley and You and Mie), who is enormously talented and has been a bedrock of encouragement and support from almost the very beginning of my blogging shenanigans. She happened to be in Seattle for a family reunion, and just as I imagined, it was as though we’ve known each other for years when we found ourselves face-to-face (or at least it was that way for me). That gorgeous plant cozy is her handiwork, naturally, and she is unfailingly generous. She even brought a gift for K! Thank you, Lucinda – I had so much fun!!

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K on body hair:

Mama, it’s not fair. I wish I looked more like you and was less hairy. Man, Daddy DNA strikes again*.

*Poor M, he’s such a good sport and able to laugh at himself that he’s often the brunt of jokes. Anytime anything goes wrong or is weird, we have a habit of yelling out “Daddy DNA!”

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Wishing you a lovely, lovely weekend, friends!

Fireworks tonite
The sky will glow wondrously
Punctuates summer

Happy Friday + Randomness

summer-wonderings

Happy Friday! Today is the first day of summer vacation, and I thought this illustration I painted evoked that sense of anticipation. I can’t believe it — second grade is done!

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K: “You know what my gift is, Mommy?”
Me: “What?”
K: “I can sense guilt – I can always tell when you’re lying.”
Me: “Me?? I never lie!”
K: “Oh yes you do…your eyes twinkle when you’re lying and your face looks puffy when you feel guilty.”

++++

K: “Mama, you know what my other gift is?”
Me: “Hmmm?”
K: “Boys don’t usually like to tell me things, but I can make them laugh and then they SPILL THE BEANS.”

Huh. You learn something new every day. I think she might have a future as a killer detective.

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Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Summer vacation!
Family fun time galore
Heading out of town*

*We’re going on a mini road trip this weekend – excited!

 

Street Style Sketches

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Keepin’ it snappy today as K just informed me that I’m supposed to be making her an outfit for her and a friend for “twin day”. I guess it’s part of spirit week at her school and it strikes me as an odd theme (I worry that some kids will be excluded), but it is what it is. I have exactly one hour to do this, and I’m racking my brains for the easiest possible pattern.

Anyway, as an incorrigible creature of habit, I frequent coffee shops daily to write in my journal. One of my favorite things to do is surreptitiously sketch people wearing outfits that catch my fancy. I have notebooks and notebooks of them, and yesterday, I took a few moments to render a couple in watercolor when I got home.

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I noticed a trend of perfectly matching accessories yesterday. One woman I saw was wearing a navy shirt with white anchors (love), and in her hand she held her phone that sported a dark blue case with white anchors. Another stylish woman sashayed by me in a long cardigan with a geometric pattern, and she carried a tote with near-identical geometric motifs. I loved her ankle boots and floppy hat too.

Do you notice other people’s outfits? It’s something I’ve always done since I was a little girl: mentally storing different color and clothing combinations, then drawing and jotting them down later — I guess it’s not surprising that I’m obsessed with sewing clothes now! Speaking of which, I better get moving on those twin outfits…

[Update: the twin outfits were a hit! Obviously the fabric wasn't my choice, but these dresses literally took 15 minutes each since I didn't hem them at all. I went to K's school for an end-of-the-year performance today, and folks had no idea they were handmade and asked me where I got them. Sorry that the photo is icky -- how dare the school not have better lighting, don't they know I have important things to post online?]:

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Overwhelm

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I’m not sleeping much. I lay awake at night, wondering how I’m going to make a dent in my eternally long to-do list, how to keep the many people in my life from getting too upset with me, how to keep perspective.

I drift off to sleep around 3 or 4am, none the wiser.

For two years since I’ve started this blog, it’s probably been obvious I’ve been on a kind of quest. A seeking of a better self? A digging and clawing from the depths of an unhealthy lifestyle to one that resembles normalcy? Even better than normalcy to something that could be (lord help me) like self-actualization?

I think I’ve done pretty well, all things considered. I eat vegetables now, I exercise regularly, I am carrying out days that probably seem — from the outside — idyllic. I get to write and draw and sew every day. I’m publishing a book! These are all unquestionably amazing.

You see, I’m terrified.

Grateful, but scared out of my wits. And I had a little meltdown last week, the kind K gets when she’s had too much sugar and too little sleep.

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A few weeks prior, I had lunch with a friend that I hadn’t seen in months. Technically, she was my old boss from my most recent corporate job. You know, the one I got fired from. Ironically, she asked me if I would consider coming back. Not on a full-time basis or anything, but short-term. The money would be fantastic. The project, she assured me, would be easy. This was actually the second time they’ve asked me. The first outreach was about a year ago and back then I couldn’t say no fast enough. This time, I hesitated to decline, even though I knew that the project would turn out to be crazy-making and time-sucking and soul-draining.

I get to do what I love every day. But in exchange, I open myself up in uncomfortable ways, and I risk face-planting in a big pile of humiliation. My blog isn’t hugely popular, and that’s fine with me because I realized early on that professional blogging is clearly not my cup of tea. I’m quirky and what I have to offer is not for everyone, and I spend hours crafting these posts because I find it fulfilling. I can’t claim that what I’m currently doing is considered a career — books are notoriously hard to sell. I don’t have a lot of illustration clients. I make less money than an average textile worker in Bangladesh (book advances don’t amount to much when you’re an unknown first-time writer/illustrator). And I probably work about the same hours as the Bangladeshi though my working conditions are luxe in comparison. We’re not rolling around in mountains of dollar bills (we often joke that we hope to be hundredaires one day, because we’ll never get a shot at becoming millionaires), and M’s job situation is one of instability.

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I worry that I’m being selfish by not getting a “real” job. I know that I want K to see that it’s possible and more than okay to strive for meaningful work that lights you up, regardless of what others say. But as I’ve been pondering lately, I don’t want her to feel entitled and unrealistic either. I know that I’m beyond fortunate to have this time to pursue what feels right. Then the practical side of living rears itself toward me. Bills, food, shelter, fabric. The essentials, obviously.

Two years ago, when I found myself with no job and too much time, I made a list. On it I wrote down everything I wanted to do, things I thought I might enjoy as a “career” — no one was going to see it, so I went all out, tossing reality out the window. I found the list a couple of months ago, and had forgotten all about it. The main items on my list included the following:

- Start a blog
- Write and illustrate a children’s book
- Contribute to magazines
- Teach a sewing workshop
- Have an art show
- Get illustration clients
- Design clothes

I’ve accomplished almost everything on my list in 24 months. I’ve learned so so much. The positives have far outweighed any negatives, but here’s the thing: some aspects are heart-breaking and hard, no matter how many goals I achieve. I’ve been surprised by people who became resentful or competitive or distant; disappointed by the disproportionately meager monetary rewards; embarrassed about feeling like I’m bragging when I’m just so shocked and delighted that my list is materializing; wondering about getting paid to do what I love — would I start feeling like it’s drudgery? And I’ve been side-swiped by the crushing self-doubt and emotions of fraudulence. That’s probably the biggest one…that feeling of “who do I think I am to publish a book? to cast out my ramblings in a public realm like a blog?” I get sad that we have crappy health insurance and that M and I have the same anxious money discussions over and over and over. That job offer was so tempting — maybe I can do the project while maintaining everything else, I thought. But I know myself, and I would get immersed in the corporate world again, become unhappy and unhealthy and push out all the wonderful things I’ve painstakingly and slowly built these last two years.

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So I’m a little overwhelmed these days. Maybe it was that lunch that reminded me of the bad days. Or maybe it’s because I’ve crossed off one more thing from my list, which I’ll share soon and I fear I may have bitten off more than I can chew and there will be even more uncertainty. Or, and this is probably the best explanation, maybe it’s because I’m not sleeping. I always have to remember that I have a health condition that responds in toxic ways to excessive stress. I’ve kept it in check for quite some time now, and I try to be diligent about taking care of myself, but sleep has never come easily to me.

After giving it a lot of thought, I decided not to accept the job offer even though it might make things easier (or not, who knows). It’s funny, one of M’s favorite books is The 50th Law. Whenever I get discouraged and tell M that maybe I should just go and get a regular job, he vehemently tells me, “No, you gotta go for it, this is definitely your thing. You’re the 50 Cent of the sewing world — you have to see it through.” I’m not sure that the drug-lord-turned-rapper analogy works, but I’ll take it. I’ll continue to figure out edible dishes from canned tuna, and I’ll hold onto the supportive people and ride out the discomforts of change and the evolution that comes with it, and I will see if I can continue to show K that yes, this whole making-dreams-come-true business is possible. It’s not easy, it’s messy, and a lot of sacrifices may be required. And often, it doesn’t feel exactly the way I thought it would. But it feels real. Like I’m being the most genuine version of myself. And for me, that is worth everything.

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