Category Archives: Gouache

Poppies + Distractions


It’s good to be back. Taking a week off of blogging was rejuvenating without a doubt, but I also discovered how much my days are anchored by creating my posts, buoyed by the interactions I have with you. Beyond Tuesday of last week, I was completely in a time warp.

Spring break was amazing. So good, so good. Because many of our friends were out of town, K and I spent the bulk of the week with just each other (M made guest appearances in the late evenings and on weekends, but he works a lot). I’ve been on an athletic kick these last few weeks, so we played tennis, went running/biking around the local lake and practiced handstands. Okay, K practiced handstands and I sat on the porch, trying not to look at my ipad. We had some lovely downtime of painting and picnicking and reading books too.


Surprisingly, all this one-on-one time was difficult for both me and K at first. I didn’t realize how accustomed I’d gotten to her being in school for six hours a day, and even on non-school days, she spends a massive number of hours with friends being the extrovert that she is. And poor K: mama time is awesome until the realization hits that there are no friends around to come up with crazy games, because mama’s not so hot with crazy games. It felt a little like we were learning a new dance together — awkward and toe-stepping at first, and gradually, we found our groove.

More than anything, I found it incredibly challenging staying device-free. It was one of the things I promised to uphold (at least for myself) for the week, and I failed miserably. In lieu of blogging, I instagrammed a little, and quickly found myself getting sucked in, newly obsessed. Whenever K would be busy with piano practice or watching a show, I jumped on my laptop like a drowning woman to a floating log.


I tried so hard to unplug from the digital chatter and acutely felt withdrawals — have you ever experienced this? I keep hearing and reading about how all this connectedness and flood of information is shaping our society into a giant ball of ADD-ness and I’m definitely exhibiting attention deficit symptoms. As an experiment, I monitored myself one afternoon and found that I incessantly clicked from my email to Instagram to Pinterest then back to email, then oh! I need to research summer camps so I start surfing the internet and next thing I know, I’m watching some ridiculous (yet undeniably entertaining) youtube video about a man who invented an Oreo cookie separating machine. I have the attention span of a gnat, and this has been creeping up on me in the last year. And it’s not lost on me that I’m contributing to the digital chatter.

I want to regain focus. To cut down on this scattered, stimulus-seeking, device-addicted behavior. I’ve been pretty good about curtailing internet usage before bedtime, though ebooks are my downfall because as soon as I have my ipad in hand, the email-pinterest-instagram carousel begins. I find that painting and crafting helps. I painted quite a bit last week, and I’ve been loving the proliferation of poppies in our neighborhood, which inspired these little gouache/ink sketches.

What about you? Do you ever feel like the interwebs is swallowing you whole? How do you whip it back into submission?

Unusual Creatures


This is a leafy sea dragon. There really is such a thing! I got so excited when I saw it in a book I checked out from the library a few weeks ago – it’s the sort of unexpected, delightful and unnecessary information I gobble up.

I was pondering this lovely creature in the back of my mind, and then when I was running errands at a bookstore yesterday, I saw the same book in the bargain sales section. I’m not sure why, but I took it as a sign to paint the sea dragon. You can see that I took some creative liberty as the real leafy sea dragon is much leafier.

As I put this post together, I thought of how — if I weren’t in the know and was reading this — I might envision that these illustration posts come together quickly, without breaking a sweat. I might assume that I spend leisurely afternoons painting with a steaming mug of green tea and some homemade (healthier, quinoa-filled) sweet by my side, wearing one of my self-made loose maternity-esque tunics and gently contemplating my insecurities. And I might surmise that I’m generating a “body of work” from which I occasionally pluck a drawing to share. Free-floating and unusual, much like the leafy sea dragon.

The reality: After a day filled with prosaic tasks (scheduling car repairs, grocery shopping, helping out at K’s school), the clock strikes 6pm and in between chopping onions and potatoes for dinner, I quickly pull out my paints, brushes, paper and library book. Then K wails about needing help with homework so I beeline for her room. In the middle of deciphering elementary school math, I suddenly remember that I am boiling water and dash back to the kitchen. Crisis is averted so I return to my painting, spend two minutes painting the sea dragon body, then hear the wailing from K’s room again demanding to watch something on the ipad. I tell her to practice her piano or read a book and try to paint the leaves while jumping up every couple of minutes to sauté vegetables, waiting for M to come home.

Over the course of an hour, finally, I have a somewhat edible dinner, haphazardly completed homework, a grumpy child, one leafy sea dragon painting and an olive oil and paint-stained ratty sweater. The scanner is on the blitz and I have no natural light to take photos, but somehow, the scanner reboots and I get images loaded up, this text typed, and whew, we’re ready to sit down to eat. I think about painting another unusual creature after dinner or maybe squeezing in some sewing (it is KCW Spring after all) and decide that I need to reserve my energy for the tumult that is bath and bedtime.

Ah, so glamorous, no?

Giving Back


My first job out of graduate school landed me in jail. The brisk and humiliating body search. The clang of the barred door. “What have I done?” I thought, numb and disoriented.

I’d committed no crime, at least none that I knew of, and certainly none that would put me in the slammer. Somehow, though, at age 27, face covered with adult-onset acne, I stood toe-to-toe with glaring, orange-clad inmates.

What I had done was find employment with an arts non-profit in the Bay Area. I’d been accepted into Peace Corps, but at the same time, I got a job offer as a director of operations for a theater company that had made a name for itself with innovative collaborations involving the San Francisco County Jail and at-risk youth, and I just couldn’t pass up the offer. The pay was the pits, the benefits laughable. But I’ve always been a dreamer and overly idealistic, and I convinced myself that I could help more in my own country than in Central Asia through the Peace Corps. And truth be told, living in San Francisco was on my bucket list, and I rationalized that I could go dig ditches in third world countries when I retired.


In retrospect, it was probably the most character-building experience I’ve ever had. Its uniqueness came in multitudes. The non-profit organization was housed in the Center for African and African American Art and Culture (CAAAC as it was known back then, but they’ve since modified their name slightly). The center was in a part of town where people instructed me to never walk alone at night. I was one of three non-black people in the entire building. Clearly, my new employer was hell-bent on diversity, as his other employee was also not of African descent (a Caucasian Yale grad with an amazing knack for grant-writing. A super nice guy, by the way). The vibrant environment resonated with music (including a lot of rap) and dancing and glorious art.

It was also the only workplace in which my boss would show up in a zoot suit. He favored metallic blues and purples, though my personal favorite was the gold one. He wore many hats — sometimes literally — as executive director, theater company head and father figure to masses of displaced children, but most notably, he was a saxophonist and tap dancer. And he performed both simultaneously. In contrast to his wild outfits, he was a reticent and quiet man, pragmatic and kind.


I actually had two bosses, and the other one was a firecracker who kept me on my toes. She invariably burst into rooms, her red hair glowing, commanding attention with her gravelly voice and dramatic turn of phrases. A stage actress by training, she was fierce and bold and inspiring – a lioness. Legions of young actresses sought her out to train under her. Her life mission was to work directly with female inmates, extracting and crafting their stories, then teaching the women how to perform these stories and to heal themselves.

That in and of itself was pioneering, but what raised the stakes was that the performances were held outside of the prison cells at a public venue. The shows starred the incarcerated women themselves, and some of these women had committed murder. Not a group to be messed with. A large part of my role was to coordinate all aspects of this public performance from booking the venue, working with the Sheriff’s department to ensure maximum security, dealing with city ordinances and endless bureaucratic red tape, and interfacing with the women in the jails.

High stress. Funnily enough, one of the hardest tasks for me was to organize the post-performance gala. We had no budget so this required soliciting for pro-bono help and free food. Basically, I had to beg. I begged one of the moms of the afterschool program I oversaw to cater the event. She looked at me dubiously and asked, “Did you say 200 people? How you gonna pull this off with $100?” Somehow I convinced her, and I went around imploring restaurants, shops and bakeries to donate food. I beseeched stationery stores, florists and party shops to lend us decorations and platters and champagne flutes. My love of Trader Joe’s started then because they provided almost all of the ingredients and beverages for the gala, gratis. I am a woman filled with pride and begging is antithetical to my nature.

In the end, the performance culminated in success. Many tears were shed, excellent reviews written up, and all the rest. But the gala was my pride and joy, a thing of pure beauty. I remember taking all the foodstuffs to the caterer the day before the event. ”Girl,” she said with a look of wonder, “You NICE, but you ain’t a pushover.” Very few words have made me as happy as those. I hold them dear, as a personal motto. The caterer did a phenomenal job with all the TJ supplies, whipping up mini puff pastries, pint-sized crab cakes, crudites, dips and an enormous array of mouth-watering food. She even made a gorgeous cake and the whole set up was fit for an exquisitely tasteful wedding.


I wish I could say I had a thriving career as an arts administrator, but I didn’t stay at the organization very long — I lasted about a year. Mostly it was because my heart couldn’t take it, and I was burnt out. I was too young, too naive, too disappointed by the injustice. Yes, the organization and programs helped many people, but it was such a small percentage compared to the constant recidivism, of the endless revolving door of crime, despair, abuse. Mothers addicted to crack would stumble into my office to randomly drop off young malnourished children, barely stringing together a coherent sentence. It broke me seeing and taking care of those kids. I lingered many, many extra hours in the office for them.

I also don’t think I was whole enough myself to withstand the sorrow and distress that my job entailed. At the same time, I was afraid that I would become desensitized, which was something of a commonality in that line of work. Even after I quit, I continued to volunteer for literacy groups and assisted homeless shelters and substance abuse programs, but I knew that these were under the umbrella of “safe” volunteerism, the kind that kept me at arm’s length, away from direct involvement and emotional commingling. I could put in my couple of hours, paint a wall for habitat or tutor a kid once in a blue moon and call it good. The sort of charity work I observed the well-heeled doing when I lived in Los Angeles: the auctions held at four-star hotels, the sunny afternoons spent picking up a few pieces of litter while wearing designer gloves. I’m not saying it’s wrong and I’m not trying to judge, because I think any form of a helping hand is admirable and necessary. In fact, growing up with immigrant parents, my family had very little money and though I didn’t know it at the time, I was a beneficiary of those well-heeled folks on many occasions. And I am grateful.

I guess I just felt like I wasn’t doing enough to be of service after I left the non-profit. Defeated that I couldn’t handle the hard stuff. I’ve been thinking about those days at the theater company a lot lately; I faced adversity and joy and hope and hopelessness and foibles and strengths. Oftentimes all at once. I want to give back again — the dreamer and overly idealistic self is still there and I’ve noticed the void of service acutely these last few years. Sure, I’m trying to juggle family and regaining my health and cobbling together some semblance of work, but I sense that I’m presenting this weird life in which all I do is sew pretty clothes and draw cute pictures and compose dorky haikus and talk endlessly about myself. Can I contribute something worthwhile and do those things? Well, wouldn’t that be grand? I’m not sure how to make it happen yet, but the idea has lodged into my thoughts…


P.S. If you’re curious about the organization I worked for, it’s still around! Idris and Rhodessa are amazing!

Criticism and How I Got a Book Deal

birch-treesI started and stopped several light and easy posts for today, but I’ve been stuck on this idea of criticisms so I decided to just go with it even though it’s neither light nor easy. It’s also not a short read, so I’ve inserted random illustrations I’ve been painting these days to break up the text.

When I was in my early twenties, I quietly mentioned to someone I respected — a much older woman — that I might want to be a writer or a “creative” of some sort. She leveled her world-weary eyes upon me, and told me in a matter-of-fact way that I should never try to write or make art as a living because I cared too much about what other people thought. She meant to be kind, and was certainly honest. I’ve always been a people-pleaser and overly sensitive to external input and it struck a nerve that she called it out so bluntly. “People will try to crush you, you know,” she said, and I nodded meekly. I tucked that information away in the recesses of my mind, and applied for graduate schools that year. As much as I hated to admit it, her words had resonated. Oddly enough, I didn’t take her statements as a putdown about my thin-skinned-ness. I had grown up with an artist mother; I knew the uncertainty of that life intimately and because of that I’d fought hard against my artistic grooming. Even though a part of me wanted very much to make things, a bigger part of me wanted to be responsible and I was accepted into several graduate programs — I felt smug that I had evaded the tortured artist’s life, that I was carving out options of the practical variety.

I also remembered that when I first started this blog, I was at a coffee shop as usual and ran into an acquaintance who is a marketing guru. He accidentally got a glimpse of my screen and asked what I was working on. At the time, I only had about four posts, and I was pretty embarrassed, but I admitted that I started an illustration blog (sewing was still a few months away). “Huh,” he said, “it’s very…accessible.” Not a criticism per se, but definitely not an enthusiastic response and I almost shut down my WordPress account. It was very uncomfortable to see such a lukewarm reception to something I’d put so much care and thought into.


Last week, I remembered these words as I worked feverishly on the cover art sketches of my book that is slowly taking shape. I tentatively showed the sketches to M, and though I was proud of them, I was also scared.  His job description as my husband requires that he be encouraging, of course, but he was also curious. “What are you going to do when you get criticism?” he asked. That nerve twanged yet again. I don’t handle negative comments well, but I’m not sure that anyone would say “I love me some criticism!”

Criticism is unavoidable. Someone’s gonna hate, no matter how much heart and soul you pour into your…whatever. Graphic design. Music. Sewing. Your faith. Your new pet grooming business. Whatever you identify as your truest you. Sometimes the harshness won’t even be about you, but what the other person is going through (inadequacy? jealousy? a bad taco causing an upset stomach and foul mood?). Sometimes the criticism will be genuinely constructive, given from a compassionate place. And sometimes all you’ll get is indifference, which is horrible in its own way. I’ve been incredibly lucky that so far, I’ve been floating on positive and supportive vibes here in this space and with all the new ventures I’ve been trying of late. I’ve found the sewing and creative community to be warm and accepting. But the flip side is coming. I know it. And I am ill-equipped.

As a preemptive measure, I started googling articles and watching a lot of youtube self-help videos on how to handle criticism. I’m a little bit ashamed of this. I’ve always been wary of the whole “self-help” genre, despite my obvious love of the topics commonly covered in the self-help section. I guess I feel like I should know how to deal with this sort of thing by now, since I’ve been on this earth a long time. That I should blast forth my sunny, unshakeable belief in myself and poo poo the naysayers without catchphrases and “experts” telling me what to do.

I think it’s safe to say everyone wants to be healthy, financially comfortable and fulfilled in their work (however you define work) and relationships. And most of all, we want to feel okay about ourselves. No one likes to be reminded of their shortcomings or mistakes or general uncoolness (very few people, I’ve discovered, actually think they’re cool). Because of these very basic human wants, there is a thriving and explosive “personal development” industry. My goodness, there seems to be a direct correlation between life coaching and yelling — I had to keep turning the volume down. Most of the videos left me feeling puzzled or confused, though I did find a few that I liked.

In my helter skelter research method for how to deal with criticism, I came across this series by Jonathan Fields called the Good Life Project. I saw that he interviewed Brené Brown, who is fabulous, and I wound up watching about 15 GLP interviews. Not all of them hit the mark for me, but I loved the basic premise of his project. Don’t we all want to live a good life? And what does that mean? Jonathan Fields talks with people deemed successful in various fields, though he’s partial to entrepreneurs with a spiritual bent. From fashion designers to venture capitalists and artists and writers and bloggers and academics, the stories were eclectic but all involved overcoming a personal struggle and taking some sort of risk. He always closes his interviews with the question, “What does a good life mean to you?” He assumed that he would get the same answers repeatedly but discovered that everyone defined a good life differently — and that made me evaluate what I consider a good life.


So what does all this have to do with getting a book deal? I’ll get there, I promise. I’ve been trying to figure out how to talk about it because it’s the number one question I get when I mention I’m working on a book. “How did it happen?” And the subtext is, so often, “How can I get one too?” Because I’ve been there. I’ve thought the unasked question.

The short version would be: I knew someone who became an editor for a local publisher and she asked me if I was interested in publishing a book. How lucky, some might think. How unfair, others might mutter.

But that’s not the whole story. I’ve known the woman who would become my editor for over seven years. T, I’ll call her, is friendly and vibrant and absolutely lovely. She worked and still works at a small independent book store, and through the years, she became my go-to bookseller — her specialty is in children’s books, but she reads everything. Her house is filled to capacity with books. Every Christmas I send books to my in-laws, and every year, I would roll into the store during the holiday season, seeking her out for recommendations. T has never failed me and her recommendations are always spot-on. With her help, I selected the first books with which K learned how to read. We gushed over young adult novels (a deep love of mine), and T and the shop represented everything good and right about a local book shop.

Now, I keep yammering on about how little I talk about this here blog to people in my day-to-day, but back in the old days when I had my first blog (RIP), I barely told my family. Very few people knew about it. It was truly out of character for me to tell T about it, but she’s the sort of person you can tell these things to, so I did.

The store, sadly, closed in 2012, a couple of months before Christmas. I was bereft (who would help me choose books for the in-laws??) and remember desperately and ridiculously buying 10 books at once in the small hopes that it might help the store keep their doors open just a little longer. But it was the fate of independent bookstores everywhere; big online retailers gobbled them up left and right. The writing was on the wall. However, in a stunning reversal of fortunes fit for an inspirational Lifetime movie, the neighborhood rallied and found new owners, re-hired the employees and the doors re-opened in 2013.

I didn’t know this. I had gone through my traumatic job loss, I had finally gotten my health under control, and I was on a mission to save money so had cut down on buying books. But one day, I passed by the store and saw the new sign and how could I not go in? T was there, and she said, “I’ve been thinking about you!” She told me about her new job as editor and asked if I’d be interested in illustrating books. Then she asked if I had any book ideas of my own to write and illustrate — I nearly fainted.

It wasn’t as though I automatically got a book deal though. I still had to go through the proposal process, create a storyboard, and work with T to pitch the book idea. There was no guarantee that the idea would be accepted. It took many months. It was hard work, and I didn’t sleep much while working on the storyboard. When I finally got the email from T with the multiple exclamation marks, it felt as though I had been working on the book for years already.

So at the face of it, it seems simply serendipitous and yes, there’s a bit of that. But I think it’s important to remember that I went out of my comfort zone to share my old blog (which literally had two readers) with T many moons ago, and that, for my fragile, criticism-averse nature, was a huge risk. Also, for years, I’d been dreaming and secretly accumulating ideas for children’s books, and I had been unwittingly preparing. I was ready for the serendipity. And every day, by posting something personal and wholly about me or made by me on this present blog, I am continuing another kind of risk – of collective public eye-rolling or criticism or who knows what other terrifying things. It is also a training of sorts for me, a new kind of preparation for projects I haven’t even dared to articulate yet.

What’s that quote everyone always cites? The Nelson Mandela one: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” After all the awkward self-help videos and myriad of articles I read about coping with criticism, it essentially boiled down to realizing that I will never handle criticism well. I’ll always want to please people and will care too much what others think. Yes, there will be dream-crushers and hope-killers. But there are also people who will buoy and uplift you, providing the balance and support you need. Unlike my younger self, I’ve stopped ignoring the part of me that wants to make and make and make. Most of all, my fear of criticism doesn’t mean I’ll stop plugging along, or stop putting myself out there or stop seeing if I can make unimaginably wonderful things happen. In my own way, I am trying to create my version of a good life.



Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! Mid-winter break is about to end, and K and I have been having a grand old time. It’s been a great blend of relaxed lounging around, quite a few impromptu playdates, tons of arts and crafts, and a couple of bike rides thrown in. I tend to dread these school breaks without any structured activities planned because I’m type A like that, but this time, it was no problemo. Because I had to do a lot of painting, it was a handy excuse to keep K occupied with assorted art supplies. I’ve been playing around with gouache so I can mimic the textures in digital format — I’m thinking that some of these would make some sweet fabric designs. What do you think? I’ve also been pondering trying my hand at more fashion-y illustrations…



While I was cleaning the basement, K found my unused dress form (it’s one of those cheapie ones that I could never get adjusted to the right size) and asked to use it. It’s the cutest thing; K and her friends love to drape fabric and sew up “party dresses”. Two days ago, this happened:

K: Mama! We made a dress for you. It’s SO fancy. You have to model it!

K’s friend: It’s so cool, you’ll love it.

[I squeezed myself into a sarong type garment with a ribbon sash, accidentally pulling free a few stitches]

K: Come down here, Mama!! Do the runway!

[I sashay down the length of the living room, the dress starting to unfurl. K is snapping away on her toy camera]

K’s friend: [on a pretend microphone] ladies and gentlemen, we have here a beautiful dress, made out of….fabric. Yes, fabric. Oh…no….uh, K’s mom? Your, um…back….

[Let's just say our budding fashion designers could use a few pointers in basic construction. It turned out to be a very sexy dress]


We are off to get four of K’s teeth pulled. Yikes. I’m to give her a valium tablet an hour before the extraction, so this is going to be very interesting…I plan on having a lot of soft foods at the ready. Wishing you all a happy and pain-free weekend!

Four teeth seem a lot
Ever the pragmatic girl
K expects moolah*

*K is very excited to collect some serious dough from the tooth fairy

Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! This week I’ve been diving in full force and working on my book, and I’ve just made a happy discovery. I love painting with gouache, but with the kinds of illustrations I want to create I need a lot of control and the flexibility to change things on the fly. The beauty of traditional painting is the lovely unintentional effects that can happen. The not so beautiful part is the permanence of a painted line when mistakes are made — no undo button! Enter digital watercolor painting. Can you tell which one was done digitally above? Okay, you can probably tell (it’s the one on the right), but pretty darn close, no? It’s my first attempt at digital watercolor painting, so things can only improve going forward.

As I was sketching, I realized that watercolor brushes are available in Photoshop and after watching hours and hours of youtube videos (what did we do before youtube?), I’m starting to get the hang of it. It’s so much fun!!! And the best part: no mess, no accidental water spillage, no washing of brushes, and — this one happens way too often — no dipping brushes in my tea. Definitely my kind of painting. There are tons of free brushes available for download, and I’ll try to assemble a list of brushes and tutorials after I’ve tried several out, more as a reference for myself.


How about this one? Can you tell which one is digital? I’ll let you guess…


Secret Valentine Exchangers! Gifts should be shipped by today, if at all possible. I’m getting so excited to see all the teaser photos in the Flickr Pool. The always astute (and hilarious) Lightning McStitch requested a list of all participants, and I’m working on it. Not everyone has a blog, but I hope all participants will be able to post photos of received gifts on Valentine’s Day and I will feature the photos here on the blog (for some international shipping, the gifts may a take a bit longer to arrive). Fun!


K on my cooking:

Mama, I love everything you cook! Except for this thing today. Blegh. What IS it*??

* It was a miso-ginger noodle soup I made up. And that first sentence is a lie — she dislikes almost everything I cook unless it involves copious amounts of cheese!



Have a relaxing weekend, all! I’m off to make myself a piping hot cup of tea and practice more digital painting…

Brrrr….such arctic temps
Seattle is not immune
to polar vortex

Valentine’s Bookmarks Download


Still not indestructible in spite of the wonderful soup. However, I’m feeling more human and I’ve been procrastinating using some paints and doodling with Valentine’s Day on my mind. And what do I like to do when I have a bunch of sketches? Make bookmarks, of course. How are these different from the tags I’ve made before, you may ask? They’re not, but I thought they would sound fancier as bookmarks. They’re multi-purpose (case in point: K insisted on wearing one as a necklace)! Plus, maybe you’re not as scatter-brained as we are, but we’re always losing bookmarks around here — which is very inconvenient in a book-obsessed home — so it’s handy to have multiples.


This one’s my favorite, mainly because I love the wreath with the leaf ribbon. I’m also pretty darn smitten with all the food ones. I know, I know, watermelons are so not Valentine’s, but they’re fun to paint. And who can resist a little e. e. cummings? Just for kicks, I tried out different ribbons and leather cords:


I hope you like them! There are even more designs/colorways. You can see the full sheet below, and if you click on the image, you can download the tags. Oops, I mean bookmarks.

2014-valentine-bookmarks-buttonOkay, back to sewing – enjoy the download for personal use!

P.S. The book up there is Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and so far, it’s awesome.

P.P.S. How are your Secret Valentine gifts coming along? Let us know if you have any questions or would like us to communicate anything to your partner!

Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! I’m guest posting over at the KCW blog today, hope you check it out. I had fun painting some illustrations and talking about color inspiration. As per usual, I had technical difficulties, but fingers crossed that it’s all been sorted out.


Remember my tolerations post? I missed my pre-2014 deadline, but I spent time yesterday going through the house listing everything that belonged on my tolerations list. The list is looooooong. Knowing me, I would quickly forget about my paper list, so I transcribed everything into my new favorite to-do app called todoist. I created a project titled “Tolerations” and then broke it down by each room in the house. I also have a “Misc” subcategory that includes things like “renew passports”, “return library book we thought we lost” (we paid for it, then found it in the basement – good thing you get a refund if you return it within a year), etc. Over the next few days, I’ll work on scheduling each task, and I like the idea of focusing on one room at a time that some commenters mentioned. Would you like to follow along? I’m still trying to figure out how to incorporate this Tolerations project on the blog in a way that would be helpful. I’m excited!


On talent:

K: Everyone has a special talent, but I don’t know mine yet.

Me: You have so many, sweetie!

K: Yeah, but it’s about finding your one real talent — I might find mine when I’m eight or ten. It’s something you really like doing that you’re good at. Like growing hair.

Me: ….?


Have a fun-filled weekend – our first in 2014! See you Monday!

These silly haikus
I’ve kept them up for so long
Is it time to stop?


Holiday Tags Downloads


I’m trying something new today…a download! Or, downloads, to be exact. I was doodling with my favorite gouache paints, and thought these illustrations might make some usable holiday tags — what do you think? If you do end up downloading, let me know if anything goes wonky, yes?


I printed them up on thicker inkjet paper, and I love them!

Here are close-ups of the animal tags:


The ones you see above are more Xmas-y and I am especially fond of the deer and the scarf-clad fox. And you figured out that the feline animal is a snow leopard, right?


These are the same size as the animal ones, and I don’t know why I shrunk them down for this visual. Anyway, you get the idea. I took inspiration from traditional Japanese indigo pattern motifs, and these could be used as non-holiday gift tags too — bonus!

Now, I attempted to get all fancy and made download buttons, and by clicking on the button, you’ll get a hi-res file – I initially tried to make a PDF file, but it was humongo, and I don’t think I have enough bandwidth for it, if that means anything to anyone. These can be printed on 8.5×11 inch standard paper, and I would recommend heavier paper like cover stock or nice matte inkjet paper.


There you have it, free tags for personal usage. I’m getting into the holiday spirit, friends!


Happy Friday + Randomness


Castle of Sleep – watercolor and gouache 12″ x 16″

Happy Friday! Whew, this week was a bust: my total creative output was one pair of mittens. That painting above is from eons ago – I just shamelessly dig through my old stuff whenever I don’t have anything fresh. Oh well, there have been a few pleasantly surprising turn of events because of my flu/bronchitis/whatever-this-is.

- I’ve been using this contraption with menthol inserts, and the price of indignity rewarded me with amazing skin. It’s like getting a steam facial every day, so I’m practically incandescent. Combined with the insane amounts of water I’m consuming, I’m getting ready to throw out all of my blemish creams. This thingamabob is also the only thing that’s made me feel significantly better.

- Since I wasn’t able to do much, I got to cozy up with some good books (while using the above contraption), and let me tell you, it’s been glorious. I used to be such a bookworm, but with the arrival of my ipad, my bibliophile indulgences have been few and far between this last year. As a result, I have more Pinterest followers than I ever expected, but I am definitely dumber. And my attention span? Nil.

- K and M have been very appreciative of me. They even did the dishes together. This, my friends, is epic.

- I’ve had a lot of time to think. For someone who already thinks too much, I discovered that this may not necessarily be a good thing, but it did raise some interesting questions about what I want to do for next year. More on that later.


Some of you have asked me about the measurements of the infinity scarf I made here. It’s approximately 1.5 yards (about 1.37 meters) long with a 28-inch (about 72cm) circumference opening. It’s the length that gives it such fullness, and I really love this scarf. The key, I think, is to use a thinner knit jersey.


On the first night that I was terribly sick, I was shaking with chills and fever, and pretty much writhing in bed like I was possessed. K sat perched on the edge, patting my foot. And from very, very far away I could hear her little voice:

“Mama? Are you okay? Sweet Mama? I want you to know, you are SO important to me. So important…I hope you feel better (sob).”

It nearly broke my heart, she must have been so scared. And I must look a lot healthier now, because yesterday she stopped listening to me.


Signing off for the weekend, wishing you a spectacular one!

Nothing like the flu
To make you appreciate
all the simple things

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