Category Archives: Life

Happy Friday + Randomness


Our little black 2001 Honda Civic died nine days ago. RIP. It chugged along with so few complaints and problems for almost a decade (we bought it used), but it expired ignobly by overheating repeatedly, becoming unfixable. It had seen better days, sure, but it never felt precious — not once did I feel the need to admonish clumsy hands attached to kid bodies for spilling a few morsels/drops of eats and drinks and we gave muddy shoes little thought. It was a no big deal kind of vehicle. Car thieves bypassed it with upturned noses, not even deigning to steal it for parts.

We have been living without a car for nine days. The funny thing is, we’re thinking of going carless for the time being because we’re finding that it’s really not so bad. In fact, I’m walking about 5 miles a day, and my legs feel like pipes of titanium alloy and may even start to look sculpted and svelte if I keep this up. I love walking. Carpool options seem to materialize effortlessly at every turn whenever necessary, and the only area of concern is grocery shopping but I’m looking into delivery services. Even that may not be necessary though, since we live within a mile of two grocery stores. With choices like Über, Lyft and Car2go — not to mention public transportation and cycling, which is M’s favorite mode of transport — we have alternatives to owning a car…it’s tempting. No insurance, no gas or maintenance costs, no putrefying of the environment or adding to the already jammed roadways. We drove less than 8,000 miles a year anyway, so yes. Tempting.


The image is not of our deceased car, obviously, but of my Secret Valentine gift!!!!!! Or at least the unopened gift. I did peek at the beautiful card, but I’ve been a good girl and mentally shackled my hands and feet to avoid tearing into it before Sunday. I’m beyond excited just from the packaging. I’ve used that very same Nani Iro loveliness for a miniature dress, and the fact that she adorned the present with that particular fabric already elates me. Side note: I purposely hadn’t checked who my partner was (Ute and I split the pairing of partners and she did the portion that included my name) and I had unknowingly commented on my partner’s IG sneak peek, “My favorite colors!!” Sonja was probably thinking, “Well, duh…” I’m dying to open it, Sonja!

I will report more fully on the gift and do a general final round-up of the Secret Valentine Exchange soon! Remember, many of the gifts are coming from way yonder so quite a few may not make it to your doorstep by this Sunday. Thank you for your patience, and thank you, thank you, thank you for all the wonderful exchanges we’re already seeing on Instagram with hashtag #2016sve! Our hearts feel full.

I may have no car
But the Secret Valentines
are fuel for goodness

Happy weekend, all!


Are You Proud of You?


K often runs up to me to show me something she’s made: a song, a story, a drawing. “Are you proud of me?” she asks.

I ask back, “Are you proud of you?” As someone who grew up needing a lot of external validation and knowing how hard and fickle and endlessly dissatisfying that can be, I do what I can to plant little seeds of self-approval in my little girl. I like to watch her glow, nod, and say, yes, yes I am. I’m so proud of me. I might be naive to think that this will instill a lifelong habit of creating a sense of worth that doesn’t depend on others’ feedback, but one can always hope.

Incidentally, K did that painting above at an art camp last year. The campers studied and imitated impressionists, as you can tell, and this is her interpretation of The Manneport, Cliff at Etretat by Monet. Kids are amazing.

Happy Friday + Cleanse


Happy Friday! Yesterday, I met up with a good friend for coffee and received this mouth-watering book as a gift. The Food Lover’s Cleanse by Sara Dickerman — a chef turned food writer — is exactly what I need right now. I can’t wait to dive in! Although I didn’t indulge that much in junk food during the holidays, I was under the weather much of the time, and my body is feeling a little run down and in need of a reboot. It’s a stunning book with photography by Michael Graydon and Nicole Herriot. I’ve been a fan of Herriot Grace since the beginning of time and I’m eager to immerse myself in Sara’s writing and food concoctions.


There are 140 recipes divided into seasons, and I love that it comes with a menu and shopping list for each seasonal cleanse. Originally an online series in Bon Appétit magazine, it became so popular that the idea has been expanded into a full book. Brilliant!

I’m going to try it…I might crash and burn because my track record for these types of declarations isn’t exactly stellar. I recently tried to incorporate the Korean 10-step skincare with much fanfare and enthusiasm, then quickly abandoned the routine because it was just too much. I’m way too low maintenance for such an elaborate system.

Food shopping will happen this weekend, and the cleanse shall commence Monday. I figure that either way (success or failure), it’s sure to be a learning experience.

Alright, I’m off to peruse the book. I hope you all have a fantastic weekend, and see you next week!

It’s body cleanse time
Can I do it? I’m not sure…
Let’s see how this goes

P.S. SVE update: we are fine-tuning some final details but it looks like we have a grand total of 179 participants!!! Woo-hoo!! Are you getting excited and planning your makes?

Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! I’ve had an eventful couple of weeks, what with my car overheating and billowing smoke all over the highway and then losing my ipad — which is like an appendage of mine — so I was rather discombobulated. We’ve ended on a high note, however, because the car’s been repaired, the ipad returned (I left it in a cafe bathroom and someone was kind enough to turn it into the staff) and holy wow, the Secret Valentine Exchange!!!! We clocked in with over 180 participants!!! We think there may be a couple of dupes, so we’re cleaning up the list and are going to start matching folks up. It’s all very exciting.

I was also very happy to have completed a belated gift for a friend who had a little baby girl a few months ago. I painted a mini portrait and how cute is this panda fabric?

panda-blanket1It’s a lusciously soft cotton gauze from Japan, though it’s not Nani Iro or Kokka. The selvage didn’t give me much in the way of information other than COSMO TEXTILE CO. I checked out their website and was highly amused by their tagline of “Turning freshness into affluence…” At any rate, I got the fabric from here and all that really matters is that it’s darling. I got a yard and half and made it into a swaddling blanket.


I even busted out with some mitered corners (a bit wonky, yes, but still proud). I hope Baby E likes it!


Off to get my weekend started — there’s a basement in need of some purging. I’m all sorts of wild and fun. I hope you have a lovely weekend that has nothing to do with basements!

Secret Valentines
Ready and get set, we will
send you your partners*

*Expect to receive emails on Monday, January 18th. Due to some time differences, a few may carry over into the 19th.

Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! I may have mentioned this before, but in my family we had this sacred tradition: on the morning of New Year’s Day, my mom would plop a few pairs of new underwear on all the kids’ beds, and the three Ishida offspring knew that it was mandatory to don one of them to bed the first night of the year. Just to clarify, the new undergarments are worn on the first evening of the year, and not on New Year’s Eve. I have no idea if this is a traditional Japanese thing, or if it’s some weird ritual my mom came up with. Most likely the latter.

Anyway, I continue to carry on this tradition because I think it’s funny, though M hasn’t gotten fully on board with it. Because I was in the throes of puffer jacket making, I decided it would be okay to buy a few pairs for K and myself instead of sewing them up. So on New Year’s Eve, K and I found ourselves at the mall, sipping hot cocoa at a Starbucks and armed with a fresh package of undies for her (I realized I’d gotten some for myself from Fred Meyer a while back and still had a couple of pairs that were unworn). Since we had some time to kill, I asked her to write down all the things that she liked about 2015.

She did so, and without me prompting her, she also wrote down what she’s looking forward to in 2016. I’m especially smitten with her 2016 list which you see up there. I implored K to give me permission to post it — it’s so dang cute.

You can see that though she has slight reservations about 5th grade, she’s mostly happy about it. A couple of her closest friends have been out of the country for the last few months, and she can’t wait to see them again when they return. And “nengajoe” (I usually spell it nengajou, but I like her spelling better) is a Japanese New Year’s postcard; her school had a special nengajoe art contest that she entered — there’s some trepidation there, I’ve noted. I remember how nervous I used to feel whenever I entered any contest. And how sweet is it that she’s counting down the days for my mom (bachan) to visit? Last year we missed seeing M’s side of the family due to some scheduling issues, so we’re doubly excited about the mini-reunion we’re planning in Michigan this summer.

I’m writing up my own list of Awesome Things That I Hope Happen. There will be book stuff on there. Traveling. Earning a living. Being comfortable in my own skin (I’m getting there). The usual hopes, I guess. What would be on your list?

How is your new year
starting out so far, my friends?
Let’s make it awesome

Happy, happy weekend to you! See you next week!

P.S. Update on 2016 SVE: WOW! We already have almost 90 people signed up and it’s only been a couple of days. Ute and I are over the moon!! Remember, sign ups end January 13th – hope you’ll join the fun if you haven’t signed up already!

Mishmash of Thoughts on 2015 + Happy 2016!



2015 is about to end, and I’m full of nostalgia already. This has been a year of so many magnificent firsts — I’ve mentioned them relentlessly at this point, so I will spare you the replay. Will 2016 top the surreal awesomeness that was this year? I can’t wait to find out.

The rose illustration you see up there is one of my favorites that I’ve done in the last 12 months. It’s a departure from my usual style, with more dimension and a botanical painting vibe. I want to do a whole lot more with the series that I created (there are about 10 flowers in total).

Ah, but that “want”. It’s one of the things I noticed as a recurring theme this year. I publicly announced so many things I hoped to accomplish, and don’t get me wrong, I got a lot done but I left far more than I was comfortable with undone. That was my biggest challenge — to find peace with incompletion, to not beat myself up. I hate hate hate not following through, and I feel like so many of my promises to myself and others fell to the wayside. Things like my grand aspirations to sew up jeans and a stylish grown-up wardrobe, to devote serious energy into an online shop (I’ve sold 2 items to date and have stalled on adding more items), completing the custom illustrations (it’s been over a year, for shame), providing monthly income reports, etc. etc. These are not mission critical tasks by any stretch of the imagination, but few things feel worse for me than letting myself and others down.

It’s made me a lot more cautious about what I declare as goals. And I’ve also learned that I have to be careful about talking about money issues here on the blog. Not everyone on the interwebs is kind as I was sad to discover first-hand, and I need to beef up my emotional armor a bit more should I choose to resume sharing financial information. I’ve been very open and in-depth with the Furoku members about the behind-the-scenes aspects, where it feels like a very safe arena. I think we all need spaces like that. Even though I’m always riddled with self-doubt, I believe that little membership is one of the best things I’ve come up with. It’s pushed me to become more honest, to try new illustration styles (the rose illustration at the top was created for one of the monthly offerings), to get out of my comfort zone and attempt new things. I feel like I’m a slightly better version of myself as a result.

I’m aware, however, that the blog is getting the short shrift since I’ve been pouring so much of myself into the membership and books. I keep hearing that blogs are dying — do you think so? I feel like I’ve asked this before, but at the time it still seemed like blogs were thriving. Because I didn’t want to become too influenced by anyone while I was working on my books, I stopped visiting other blogs for a good year. Now that I’m starting to pick up where I left off, I’ve noticed that many of my favorite bloggers have either stopped or dramatically reduced their content. Or they’ve become much more commercialized. Or just…different. I suppose the same could be said of mine, and really, change could be a good sign.

I very much wanted to give myself a lovely new handmade wardrobe and had pumped myself up that this would be what the blog would focus on for 2015. But I made a total of 7 items. 7! And I’m sort of cheating because I made one of the tops (Renfrew) in 2014 but had never blogged about it. Almost everything I made was blue, and I didn’t count the muslins for my jeans. I suspect there are some psychological reasons I’ve resisted sewing for myself, because I somehow managed to find time to sew for K even when it was sure to result in sleep deprivation. A sure sign of commitment. The good news is that almost every single thing I made for myself has been in heavy rotation — the Nani Iro stripey top in particular (4th from left) is starting to look threadbare from constant wear:



Linen Top

Renfrew Bamboo Knit Top

Nani Iro Top #1 and Nani Iro Top #2

Romper and Strappy Tank 

Knit Dress with Keyhole back

Anyhow, onto 2016! I don’t have any sweeping or specific goals for this shiny new year. I still love to blog, I still love to write and sew and paint and make stuff in general, and I hope I’ll be able to do all that and more for the foreseeable future. The intrinsic rewards trump any insecurities I may be experiencing and it’s my answer to the ubiquitous Mary Oliver quote I keep bumping into: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I’m not much of a poetry gal, but I got her latest book, Felicity, and the last line in her poem “Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way” caught my attention recently: “The point is, you’re you, and that’s for keeps.”

So simple, yet so true. Brava, Ms. Oliver! I love how unpretentious and relatable her language is.



I’m wishing you all a 2016 in which you get to be spectacularly you!


P.S. Furoku members! The next edition is aimed to hit your in-boxes at 11:59pm tonight (or, you know, possibly on New Year’s Day).

Happy Friday + Randomness


It’s that time of year when I go through all of my photos to assemble a calendar for my extended family (I’m using Artifact Uprising again since I loved their wooden clipboard calendars last year – they delivered within three days even though I chose the 7-10 day option, which was a nice surprise). Wading through my picture archive is no small feat since I take thousands and thousands of photos a year, and because I’m so sentimental, I get caught up in nostalgia. I may have even shed a tear or two from particularly intense memories. I came across the image above from Pike Place Market that I took last December and remember thinking, “I’m so glad I looked up — I never knew there were pigs up there!” I tend to get focused on whatever’s in front of me, so it’s refreshing to notice other perspectives.

It’s getting down to the wire…how are you all doing with holiday preparations? K is out of school for the next couple of weeks, so postings may get spotty as we plan on fully immersing ourselves in the holiday spirit.

Have a wonderful weekend, my friends — I’m off to gather baking supplies for some serious cookie concoctions!

Only a week left
for gift wrapping, sweets-making
‘Tis a good season

Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! Thank you so much for all the comments from my last post!! I’m overwhelmed by the kindness! Slowly, slowly I’m decompressing after months of chasing deadlines. The upside is that the holidays are going to be a piece of cake – I’ve vowed to really (really!!) keep it simple this year and I’m not ashamed to admit that most people are receiving gift cards. Even kids. Maybe next year I’ll wow you all with an array of handmade presents, but not this year. Now that the Advent Calendar is in full swing (it’s sweet how K puts the flowers in a vase each day) I feel that my elf duties are done. Incidentally, the glitter washi didn’t hold up the flowers all that well, and we kept finding them strewn about the floor, so I had to re-tape them all with not-so-glamorous painters tape. Oh well.



I’m not sure what the illustration is up there — I’ve been doing this funny thing lately: I take my art supplies with me to coffee shops and paint for a little while. I was sketching the top portion of a coffee grinder at one of the cafés, and then thought of gramophones, and added a few hearts. I like it.


Have a cozy weekend, all! I’m making my holiday list, checking it off, and reading some books for the sheer pleasure of it. Can’t wait.

Are you making things
for this holiday season?
If yes, then good luck!


The Puffy-Coat-To-Be


Good morning! As Christmas approaches, our weeks feel stuffed to the gills and as much as I’m enjoying the socializing, I keep punting sewing out of the to-do queue.

We’re diving headlong into winter, and alas, K somehow lost the Alpine coat I made her which would have lasted another season. I loved that coat, so it’s a bummer. Which means, I’m now trying to find my sew-jo for stitching another one up.

All this to say, this is a cheater of a post since I don’t have much to show you other than the fabrics I’d like to make the puffy coat out of (the black is water resistant and the aqua is a velour/minky type of soft loveliness for the lining), and I’d really like to add a zipper this time, but I need some hand-holding in the form of detailed illustrated instructions.

I’ve been doing a little research online and there seems to be a lack of kids’ hooded puffy coat patterns that are fully lined with a zip closure. I might Frankenstein the Alpine with Heidi’s Spring Showers Jacket, but wanted to see if anyone out there has other suggestions?


On an unrelated note, we got our Christmas tree this past weekend and we started trimming it last night. That little painting is by my mom, and I’ve carted it around with me for so many decades now…I don’t even know when she made it. We just got sad news that for the first time in 8 years, my mom won’t be coming to visit for Christmas due to some health issues. K is especially distraught by this news. There’s a chance she might be able to come up a little after New Year’s so we’re keeping our fingers crossed. Christmas without Ba-chan is hard to imagine.

Okay, back to looking for a puffy jacket pattern….

2015 Advent Calendar


Sometimes I think to myself, “Good God, woman. Don’t you have other, more pressing and practical things to do??” And the answer is yes, I do. However, I’ve never claimed to be practical and when my child is waiting with bated breath for this now annual tradition, I rise up and deliver.


Admittedly, I did scale back quite a bit from my original “vision”. I wanted to add garlands and branches and berries — basically, a massive wonderland-on-a-wall. It started with curiosity: what would happen if I painted Swedish tracing paper? After all, I have a ton of the stuff, and it had just the right texture, pliability and sheerness I was after.


I was very, very pleased with the painting experiment. Then I dug around my basement and found some white paper-wrapped floral wire and had just enough to produce 24 stems. 25 would have been nice, but the last day is all about the presents under the tree time spent with family and not about the Advent Calendar, so I proceeded with the 24 stems. I cut out dozens and dozens of Swedish tracing paper petals, gave my glue gun an excellent workout, and I sighed at how the pretty these looked:


Notice the bit in the center? I inexplicably started creating loops at the top of the stems with a vague idea of using the loop to hang each flower. A flash of inspiration prompted me to make them holders of little rolled slips of paper. More on the paper later.

2015-adventcalendar6 2015-adventcalendar7

I simply wrote the date number on a leaf for each flower, and using glittery washi tape, stuck them on the wall. I like the way the look upside down, though K suggested that I turn them right side up. What do you think?


So the slips of paper, as per usual, have instructions. On odd days, she must hunt down a book, using clues from the paper. On even days, she gets a small “treat” (aka sugar) and a directive for some sort of family or giving activity. Things like, “craft day with Mama,” or “donate old toys”. 12 books and 12 activities and a little bit of sweets — I think it’s a good combo.

2015-adventcalendar10 2015-adventcalendar12

Yesterday, she got a book (I met the most voracious pre-teen reader at the author event last weekend and he gave me so many stellar recommendations. The number of books he’s read was mind-blowing). She’s already deeply lost in it and Christmas 2015 is off to a running start.

Although I question my sanity a bit every year as I giddily assemble a new calendar, I can’t deny that it’s one of the most rewarding projects for me.


I have a feeling this holiday season’s going to be extra special.


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