Category Archives: Life

Monday Outfit: The Scarf Sweater (by Bachan)

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Good morning! We had such a lovely, lovely weekend filled with friends and good times, but alas, that meant I couldn’t squeeze in any sewing. However, the Guy Fawkes party alone was well-worth the sacrifice (I have a good friend who is a Brit), and I indulged in a little mulled wine and quite a few “Sticky Parkins”, which tasted a little like gingerbread. A cozy group of us bundled up in winter gear and gathered round a fire pit with techno colored flames. Fun, fun.

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So instead of a sewn project, today I’m sharing this clever little sweater that K’s wearing. My mom made this last winter, and it’s got its own built-in scarf, which I think is brilliant. She knitted it during her visit along with this other one I featured before, and you can see the similarity. At the time, this particular scarf sweater was much bigger than the one with the button, and now K is nearly outgrowing it.

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After last winter, my mom stopped producing her normally outrageous amount of knitted and sewn objects. In fact, when she came to visit this past summer, she didn’t make a thing. Sadly, this is because her eyesight has been steadily declining, and by October, her left eye was significantly compromised and her right eye was nearly blind.

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It turned out to be cataracts, and after a successful surgery last week, her vision is back to 20/30! She’s still recovering from the procedure, so we’re not sure if she’ll be able to make it out to Seattle this winter, but it’s looking promising.

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It’s been a wake-up call, bringing to the forefront the realities of aging parents. Surrounded by the youthful energy of K and her friends as I am every day, it’s easy to forget the other end of the spectrum. And it makes me treasure my mom and all of her creations that much more.

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The good news is that as part of a preliminary check to make sure she was fit for the surgery, she underwent a full physical exam — something she hadn’t done in 35 years! My mom is a big believer in natural healing and she’s avoided hospitals and doctors like the plague. Well, she must be doing things right, because her results were pretty stellar. When we see her next, I’m planning on grilling her to get her healthy living secrets. You better believe that I’ll be documenting her methodology.

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So for today, a little tribute to my amazing Mama. I hope there will be many, many more clever sweaters and handmade delights!

Happy Friday + Randomness

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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!

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! On Wednesday, after K’s orthodontic appointment, we stopped off at a fabric store to see if they had any orange felt or knit for her requested pumpkin costume. Then she saw that Southwestern style print and immediately changed her mind about the pumpkin. Soon, a maroon fringe ribbon was added along with silver lace. “What do you want me to make?” I asked her. She shrugged and said, “I dunno, some maid-fancy-girl”. Hmmmmmm…..I am awaiting design specs with some trepidation.

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On alliteration:

K: Mama! We’re learning how to come up with nicknames using the first letter of our names. For you, I thought of “Sanae Superglam”. Or, how about this? “Mama Megabucks”?

We laughed heartily at the irony of those nicknames.

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I’m off to have coffee with a friend I haven’t seen in over seven years! She’s in town for just a few days, and I can’t wait to have a good catch up session. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

I am so loving
all the giveaway answers
so cool to find out*

*I had this secret theory that a lot of sewing folks would have science/math backgrounds, and I think my theory is holding pretty true! And can I just say that it’s awesome that some of you answered the question just to answer the question even though you already own the book. Thank you, I love getting to know you all better!

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! I am extremely lazy at heart, and when several friends told me about the easiest bread to make, I was in. The no knead bread has been around for a while, and I’ve seen various versions of Jim Lahey’s original recipe around the web and I suppose in a vague sort of way, I’d been curious about this wonder bread. My first attempt, sadly, was a bust. Though the crust was amazing, the glutinous, uncooked middle was disgusting, and the bottom burnt to a crisp.

I’m not easily put off by failure and have since tweaked the recipe to get the best result from my decrepit oven. It literally requires no kneading, and yesterday I stirred up the dough in the morning, and by dinnertime, I had a bubbled mass that easily rolled into this loveliness ready for some baking:

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Which came out like this:

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It’s so delicious that it makes me salivate just looking at the photo. Look at that beautifully crackled artisanal beauty! K has been cramming her mouth with the stuff, generously slathered with butter. Nothing beats freshly baked bread with butter.

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In order to have an easy reference for myself, I’ve written down my own version of the no knead bread. Perhaps you’d like to give it a try too?

No Knead Bread adapted from the Sullivan St. Bakery

3 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon rapid rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water (room temperature)

1. In a large glass bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.

2. Add water and mix just enough to combine. Don’t mix too exuberantly, and scrape off dough from sides of bowl to create a gloppy, singular mass.

3. Cover with plastic wrap (I ran out of plastic wrap so I used a slightly damp towel instead – worked great). Let sit at room temperature for 10 to 18 hours. I’ve tried 1o hours and 20 hours and both times the bread came out wonderfully.

4. When you’re ready to bake the dough, check to make sure it’s full of bubbles. These bubbles will give the loaf those airy holes once baked. Sprinkle a generous amount of flour on a surface and scrape out the dough onto the floured surface. I like to also sprinkle a thin layer of flour on top.

5. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. My oven runs hot, and I had tried it at the recommended 500 degrees first and the loaf was disastrous. You may have to play around with different temperatures. Place your dutch oven with lid in the preheating oven for about 30 minutes.

6. Gently fold the dough once or twice — remember not to knead — and shape into a ball with seam side down. This is optional, but I like to put the dough on parchment paper.

7. Place parchment paper with dough into preheated dutch oven. I’m a little OCD so I trim the parchment paper to the edge of the dutch oven opening. Put the lid on.

8. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes with lid on. Remove lid and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until crust is an achingly beautiful golden hue.

9. Slide loaf onto a cooling rack and wait a few minutes if you can to cut into it. We haven’t been able to wait.

That’s it! I’ve already baked four loaves and plan on baking another one tomorrow. It’s gluten heaven, I tell you.

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The winner of the Kyuuto book is Max, congrats!

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Full of emotion, M told me this week:

“Man, it’s such an honor to be K’s father…guess what she said the other day? ‘Daddy, you know what I love about you? You really listen to me.’

They’re a good pair, those two.

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Happy weekend, friends!

Fall weather is here
Crisp air and rain aplenty
The crunch of apples

 

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

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This is the view from my doctor’s office. A muddy shot I took with my ipad while I was waiting — that building in mid-construction hadn’t even broken ground when I first started seeing my doctor almost three years ago. I had an appointment on Wednesday, the quarterly one for my thyroid condition called Graves’ Disease. Every three months or so, I get blood work done, and my Harvard-educated physician and I go over the numbers while we sit next to this view from the seventh floor.

This time, the prognosis was a mixed bag. My condition hinges on the levels of three types of hormones: TSH, T4 and T3. I’m not going to delve into details, but basically two of my numbers are heading in the right direction and the other one is decidedly ambling the wrong way. My results shift around with each lab test. Last quarter, two different numbers were looking better and the third one had held steady so I was definitely improving. I’m not in critical condition now but I’m not really out of the woods either.

I often feel like we’re conducting an experiment together, my doctor and I. Every quarter, I report on my stress level, my diet, my exercise regimen and we examine how they correlate with my numbers. I am an anomaly in that I refuse to take medication and my doctor — who I love and if she weren’t my endocrinologist, I’m certain we’d be hanging out as friends — tells me I’m “so fascinating”. I take zero medications, and the nurse who checked me in (blood pressure, weight check, etc.) marveled that my medication list was empty. “I never see that,” she told me. “Even eighteen-year-olds have a laundry list of meds these days.” That surprised me, though I suppose anyone who needs to go to an endocrinologist has some predilection that should or could be controlled with drugs.

For the first time in nearly three years, I was intensely curious about the specifics of my thyroid hormone levels. I didn’t really know what any of those numerals meant. I talked in-depth with my doctor about my test results. I asked her to show me the numbers when I was at my worst, and though I knew I had been in a seriously dangerous state, I hadn’t known or had forgotten that I was “off the charts”. My thyroid was producing nearly four times the normal amount, which as I understand it is the equivalent of shoving every known black market amphetamine down my throat. So sick and haggard and mentally deranged was I at the time, I hadn’t paid close enough attention — hadn’t really needed to pay attention since I was obviously in a downward spiral. I had so much thyroid hormones pumping through me, I could have easily had congestive heart failure. My ticker could have literally jackhammered itself to death. I’m actually surprised I didn’t have a dozen goiters on my neck. My doctor told me that she couldn’t believe my refusal of medication at that stage (she had actually pushed for surgery to remove my thyroid at the time), and that she is still consistently amazed by how much I’ve improved via simple lifestyle changes. I think she may view me as an experiment of her own too, but in a good way. I’m grateful that she stood by me as I learned (and am still learning) how to trust my instincts and listen to my body.

What we know is this: I’m highly susceptible to stress, and I risk shutting down my immune system if I try to revert to my workaholic ways. This is terrible news for me, because it drives me crazy when I can’t get a lot done and a lizard brain part of me believes that I thrive on stress. My version of relaxation makes the President of the United States look like a sloth. But this has also been an epic blessing. I had been steadily killing myself for years with my need to push myself, and now I’m forced to stop. To breathe. To take stock of what’s really important. It is hard for a chronic people-pleaser and productive-aholic like me. In this culture that celebrates doing astronomically more with less, in which the national anthem is “I’m too busy” — in this culture that I used to represent wholeheartedly wearing my workaholicism like a badge of honor, I’m compelled against my will to say “I can’t.” Or more accurately: “I won’t”.

The good news is that I have a fabulous liver of a 25-year-old, according to my doctor. Which doesn’t help with my thyroid, but still. So I will continue my experiment. I think incorporating meditation in earnest might be next…I will record my results here come January 2015, and maybe by the time that building is completed, I’ll finally be able to say I’m in full remission.

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It was so heartwarming to read all of the comments for my giveaway — the winner is Danijela, congrats!

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K on improving skills:

Mama, I’m not comfortable singing in front of people and I love singing. I think I need voice lessons to get better…it’s time for me to man-up!

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Have a lovely weekend, all!

At the end of it
My health is what’s most vital
Sleep, eat well and move

 

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! It’s been a productive week – I’ve been sewing furiously behind the scenes and getting a lot done. This was the kind of week that made me extra appreciative of the friends I’ve made in the last few months through sewing. For example, I got a photography lesson from the lovely Michelle, who shot the cover of my book. She’s a consummate pro and probably one of the kindest, sweetest people I’ve ever met. We had so much fun, and she even let me use her fancy 100mm macro lens. I got a close up of oregano flowers (which she also brought for me from her garden along with some heavenly scented verbena – she’s just fabulous), and I can definitely tell that the quality is several notches above the unimpressive line-up in my photo toolkit. I’ll have to start saving up to get this lovely lens. Michelle is a very patient teacher, and we went over how to look for optimal light, setting white points and how to use this big ole reflector I got for photo shoot purposes:

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I’m feeling pretty legit and my living room looks almost like an authentic photo studio now. It’s time to start improving my photography for real since I’m supposed to shoot all the interior photos for the book.

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I finally visited the new Drygoods store in Pioneer Square after a delicious and laugh-filled lunch with a compatriot in the land of sewing obsessed and wow. I mean, just wow. It’s a stunning historic space situated on a pedestrian-only, cobbled street. The ceiling soars up to eternity and gigantic windows let in copious amounts of light. Everything about the place feels airy and bright and with Keli’s flair for interior design (and the drool-worthy fabrics, naturally), you can’t help but be lured into the shop. Of course, it helps that they have a mega-clever window display:

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They’re like little state-shaped pillows. I think it’s genius. You can vaguely see the two talented ladies that help run Keli’s shop, Margaret and Julienne, and it’s so funny because they all know my taste so well. “This made me think of you,” they’ll say, and invariably, it’s something I love in the grey/black/indigo/ivory color scheme. I was overwhelmed by how pretty everything looked and forgot to take more photos, but I’ll see if I can get better ones later. Oh, while I was snapping this one above, a gentleman paused next to me and said, “What a nifty looking store, eh? Makes you want to get crafty.” Exactly.

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A conversation from this week:

K: Mama, I want a training bra.

Me: What? Why do you even know about that?? No, you don’t need one.

K: That’s the point, Mama — hello, training bra?*

*She won’t be getting one any time soon, but it did make me start thinking about making one…hmmmm…I bet I could make super cute ones and they would be so easy…

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I’m off to go practice some photography! Have a wonderful weekend, all!

Getting back my groove
I will be sewing like mad
this week and beyond

 

 

 

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Upstaged by K’s first day of school, my wedding anniversary skulked quietly in the background this past Wednesday. M was way more on the ball than I was and presented me with a fragrant bouquet. Realizing my slacker ways, I struck a deal with some friends and scored a sleepover for K so that M and I could have a proper celebration involving a fancy dinner and entertaining movie at the cinema tonight.

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I often wonder if I would have made my own wedding dress if I’d gotten into sewing earlier. It was an arduous process, the finding of my dress. M and I were pretty much eloping (only parents and a couple of siblings were in attendance), so I didn’t want to invest heavily in a garment that I would (hopefully) only wear once. I was, as ever, extremely picky, and knew that the dress couldn’t be pure white. Nor did I want it sweeping the floor. No ruffles or petticoats or lace for me, thankyouverymuch. Simple. Classic. That’s what I wanted.

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After weeks of fruitless searching, I entered a boutique I’d never dared to browse before — too many temptations, too out of my price range. It’s the kind of place that has on display only one or two sizes of each item. And there it was: my dress. A creamy ivory silk number, the straps delicately filigreed with sapphire blue beads and minuscule pearls.

I eagerly slipped into the fitting room and shimmied myself into the whisper soft layers. Not bad, not bad, the waist hit at just the right spot. But oh, when I reached to zip up the side, the zipper teeth refused to meet. I tugged gently, afraid to tear the tissue thin lining. No. It was too small. I was heartbroken, but I convinced myself that it was a good thing since it was ridiculously expensive, though not in the astronomical range.

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A few more weeks passed, and I still couldn’t find a dress I liked, much less loved. I couldn’t get that silk dress out of my head. I was running out of time, and I was desperate enough to consider a slightly weird polyester sheath from Marshall’s since I figured I might as well seriously downgrade if I couldn’t get the dress I wanted.

I’m a masochist and decided to look at the silk dress one more time. Just a look. Nothing more. But it wasn’t there and doubly crushed, I was about to leave, but something made me stop. “Do you still have the ivory silk dress with the beaded straps?” I asked the kindly looking staff. “Oh! We just put that on sale — here, let me get it for you.” My dress, with a beautiful red slash on the price tag — half off! I had been dieting as brides-to-be tend to do, and maybe, just maybe…the zipper slid right up. I mean really, it seemed too good to be true. Not one to kick a gift horse in the mouth, I snapped it up, and nine years later, I’m still certain that it was the perfect dress.

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It’s a Wyeth by Todd Magill (from the Spring 05 collection), who is now a menswear designer. Too bad, his dresses were ethereal and so lovely. This is probably the only designer frock that I’ll ever own, and it was worth every penny (35,000 of them to be exact). Maybe next year, I’ll show you what it looked like on, and I might tell you the whole wedding story. It’s pretty hilarious. Spoiler: M wore jeans.

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Me: What kind of person do you want to marry, sweetie?

K: What? Why?

Me: Just wondering…I mean, you don’t HAVE to get married or anything (getting flustered that I’m imposing societal pressures on my 8-year-old)

K: [rolling her eyes] Someone like you and Daddy. Now can I please go back to reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid?

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Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Nine years of marriage
It feels like just yesterday
when I said, “I do”

Happy Friday + Randomness

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My mom left Tuesday, and we’ve been off kilter  – it’s how we always get after her visits. K’s emotions spiral out of control, I get flummoxed with having to cook again (yes, my mom cooks the entire time she visits. It’s her thing) and after speaking so much Japanese, I tend to get thrown off for some reason. M laments that we can’t have impromptu date nights and is disappointed that I’m back in charge of meals.

This visit was slightly different in that we took a number of little trips and had big events: K’s birthday bonanza full of drama (more on that another time), a 24-hour Portland tour via AmTrak, a day spent at a nearby island. The photo above was taken at KVI Beach on Vashon Island. We loved it. On the ferry over, she challenged K to a fierce arm wrestling match:

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My mom is eccentric and she wears her eccentricity proudly and boldly. Maybe it’s because she’s an artist, but she’s incapable of being anyone but herself, and when I was a kid, this was a source of constant embarrassment for me. Our house was the only one I knew where innumerable completed and in-progress canvases obscured furniture and we literally had to leap over her artwork to get from one room to another. Her daily uniform was (and still is) a paint-splattered t-shirt and polka dot shorts.

She rarely abides by rules, especially when she doesn’t think they make sense. I remember traveling through Europe when I was about eleven, and my mom maddeningly wanted to picnic in off-limits areas. Undaunted by watching eyes, she plunked herself on a grassy field that was clearly closed off and busted out a camp stove to boil water for instant miso soup in the middle of Spain (or at least I think it was Spain, it might have been France. Either way, I was mortified). She did this while munching on rice balls that always seemed to magically appear at picnics.

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As I grew older, I began to appreciate this almost complete disregard for other people’s opinions. I used to think it was because she was an immigrant and didn’t understand the Western cultural subtleties, but no, from the stories she tells me of her youth in Japan, she’s always been this way. Sure, she had her insecurities and probably still does, though she doesn’t show them to me. I believe she possesses a rare sort of self-confidence and comfort with herself.  It’s the reason that I’m drawn to people who are like her: settled in their uniqueness, even oddness – the kind of people who don’t try to hide who they are. Because let’s face it: we’re all weird.

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She has strong opinions. Above she’s imitating my poses when I take photos of my handmade clothes. “Why are you always looking down? Stop standing pigeon-toed!!” She’s not one to mince words, and when I was super sick a couple of years ago, she told me that I looked like death threw up all over me. She was right.

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Though she’s lived in Los Angeles longer than she had in Tokyo at this point, she still retains many distinctly Japanese traits – like covering her mouth when she laughs (not always, but often) and wearing stiff slippers made out of a strange, cardboard-like substance when indoors. She teaches K so much. Not just the Japanese language, but how to live, how to observe the colors and textures and shapes and the very essence of the world. She shows K how to enjoy each day, because no one can celebrate the simple pleasures like my mother.

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My mom has a whopper of a life story, and my hope is that one day she’ll let me tell it in full. Her tale has everything: love and loss and romance and scandal and adventure and rollicking humor. And a lot of instant miso soup and rice balls.

For a woman who barely stands five feet tall, she can leave a gargantuan hole of emptiness when she leaves.

Ba-chan has gone home
Three weeks slipped away too fast
I miss all the laughs

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Happy weekend, everyone!! Thank you for all the stress-relieving ideas; I loved reading every single one and found myself nodding enthusiastically and making mental notes to incorporate many of the suggestions. The winner of the giveaway is Anita. Congrats!!

 

Birthday Boy

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July always seems to be the busiest month for us. Some sort of travel is usually involved, and the birthdays! It’s one celebration after another and today, it’s M’s turn to blow out the candles.

“Why did you marry Daddy and not someone else?” K asks me a lot. Partly to tease M, but also (I suspect), because she wants to hear about M’s best qualities over and over. The first answer that pops out is, “Because he made me laugh more than anyone else.” M has a very particular brand of humor and to be honest, I didn’t get it at first. He can deliver the funniest lines completely deadpan, and there’s a lot of sarcasm involved (I’m not too sharp when it comes to sarcasm — too earnest, he tells me). He’s on the raucous side and peppers his quick wit with sharp social observations. Whenever my mom visits, she comments on how we’re always laughing together, and that’s how I know I’ve married the right guy.

In so many ways, we’re polar opposites. I like neutrals and minimalistic designs; he loves bold colors and a mashup of aesthetics. He’s an outdoorsy guy who would defy logic and sleep on his bike in the wild if he could; I can barely manage glamping and truly adore civilization and orderliness. I’m obsessed with planning and have a to-do list at the ready at any given moment; he’s…well, he subscribes to the fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants school of thought. He’s addicted to books and shows about finance and economics, and nothing sounds less appealing to me. Despite our many, many differences, we work. I remember when I was still very young — teens, maybe — someone told me that I should make sure that I enjoy talking to my significant other. That it’ll be the saving grace and the key to a successful marriage. M is almost unfailingly interesting and entertaining (the exception is when he talks about finance. Even he can’t make the topic riveting for me), and thank goodness I listened to that wise person so long ago.

Happy Birthday, Honey. You still make me laugh more than anyone else — I actually think you get funnier with age!

*That’s K’s handiwork up there. I love that she calls his lids “eye curls”. M does have some nice eye curls.

Spools, spools everywhere

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Ba-chan made it in one piece to Seattle yesterday, and already she and K are thick as thieves. One of the benefits of having a mother who collects everything is that I can ask, “Hey, do you have any vintage-y thread on wooden spools in assorted colors?” And she brings me this:

spools2(one errant plastic one snuck in there, I see). I love the faded, peeling, cracked labels, the silk threads with saturated colors. Sometimes, multiple hues are wound onto one spool, and I can envision someone carefully saving every bit of thread decades ago. Back in the day, thread cost pennies. Nowadays, though, I find thread to be on the expensive side at close to five dollars a pop at some places, and that’s not even the nice stuff. She also brought me a bag full of empty wooden spools, and they are as charming as can be.

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The silver “anything thread” and the icy blues and greys are my faves, naturally:

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As always, she also brought me some lovely vintage fabric, but they’re in the wash now so I’ll have to show you another time. When I was little, I would ask my mom for impossible things like a very specific velvet hat or spindle and wheel (after reading Rumpelstiltskin) and always, always, she would produce my requested item somehow. Some things just never change, and my mama’s still working her magic…

 

 

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