Category Archives: Life

Indy Menagerie

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It’s a bit of a departure from my usual topics (though do I really have a set of usual topics?), but we spent a lot of time at the Indianapolis zoo a couple of days ago, and I have to say, I loved it and went crazy with my camera. I’ve gone to the Seattle zoo a fair number of times, but I’ve never been able to get decent photos of the animals. I think they might be introverted.

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Not so at the Indy zoo. I felt up close and personal with so many creatures, sometimes it was disconcerting. For example, you can touch dog sharks in the aquarium section:

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“Do NOT touch their fins or mouths or you will get bitten!” the booming speakers warned. The penguins were fabulous and though my photos may not be National Geographic contenders, they turned out way better than I expected:

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And I love this shot of the polar bear:

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And then there was the other kind of bear that spent a good deal of time sniffing its own excrement, and I had to patiently wait for a picturesque moment:

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I tried to coax the meercats to pose in a group, but they ignored me:

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The snakes gave me the heebie jeebies, but I was enamored with their textures:

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On the other hand, I thought the iguanas were super cool:

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Who knew that rhinos were cuddly?

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And oh, that baby elephant stole my heart:

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The flamingos were feisty, and this was the first time I was able to look at their eyes up close:

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A swimming turtle! So darling.

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The big draw was a new orangutan facility. Check out how high it’s climbing! Apparently, it knows how to make coffee (at least that’s what my nephew swore up and down, but so far I’m coming up empty in my attempts to verify this claim):

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But the wildest ones were K and her cousins:

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Have you been to the zoo lately? Sometimes I feel sad for the animals, but mostly, I find them fascinating and beautiful (except for the bats. I don’t like bats).

 

2 years + News + Giveaway!

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Twenty-four months is how long I’ve been blogging and you know, if I didn’t have an archive of all the posts, I wouldn’t believe it. My life has changed dramatically since I started this little online notebook of mine where I collect and share ideas and experiments.

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I’ve talked about this before, but I began this blog with the intention of building an illustration portfolio. I’d been through the ringer with my last corporate job, and the concept of leisurely working with pens and paints and papers appealed greatly to me. I also wanted to explore other things that I thought would add more joie de vivre to my every day because things were bleak. So bleak. Eradicating the bleakness was at the forefront of my mind.

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And so I started to draw. And to take pictures. And to write (though I’ve always written, just not so publicly). In doing so, I’ve been fortunate enough to check off that long-time dream of writing and illustrating a children’s book. Which I’ve not been very good about highlighting here, but you’ll see why soon.

2years-4And then the sewing started. I think the sewing — more than anything — catapulted this blog into something far beyond anything I could have ever expected (admittedly, I had zero expectations since my old, now defunct blog had no readers. It would have taken very little to far exceed my previous attempts at blogging). I hate to sound like a broken record with how grateful I am that you stop by and read my ramblings and view my images, but it’s true. I’m amazed every time someone leaves a comment or asks me to participate in a blog tour, or to write a guest post or to get more information about a technique — as if I know what I’m doing.

I’m a one-woman show, making do with whatever I have on hand. Whenever you see that light wood surface, I’ve cleared off the console in the corner of our living room to take the photos. There’s a window right next to it and the light is lovely:

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And all those selfies? On the opposite side of the living room, I’ve scooted my “work table” to the wall and use a remote to take a gazillion shots of myself so I can get maybe five passable ones (normally my laptop and an explosion of art supplies and books live on top of that table). K will often heckle me or will want to use the remote:

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Over the course of time, we transitioned from K’s cramped room to my slightly less cramped room to take photos of K’s handmade clothes. We have the photoshoot process down to about five minutes now — any more than that and tantrums threaten to erupt.

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This blog has been a game-changer on so many levels. A children’s book deal. Opportunities to collaborate with many, many talented women in the sewing sphere and beyond. Friendships. More than anything, it’s a place that’s all mine, to play and explore and create and muse and be myself. The learning process has been phenomenal. I’ve even contributed to a craft book that’s coming out in a few months — you can see one of the prototypes below (the final project is a little different). I’ll tell you more about it when it’s closer to the publication date.

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But that’s not my big news. Friends, while working on my children’s book, I’ve also started a second book. I’m publishing two books next year (!!!!), and it’s nuts-o, I know. I still can’t say much about it, but it’s all official-like so I’ve been told it’s okay to mention it. It’s a sewing book! And I need to have everything done by December, which is not a lot of time. I’m thrilled and overwhelmed and pretty much in a state of permanent disbelief.

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I have to give a shout out to my closest and dearest M and K. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to spend all this time on what started out as a whim and a hobby. M keeps the food on the table and tries really hard not to complain too much about the mess and my lack of income and all the hours I devote to my projects, and K has turned out to be a knockout model and indispensable partner in crime.

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Another person who has been nothing but pure awesomeness is Keli of Drygoods. She’s like my sewing fairy godmother. She was one of the first people I ever revealed my blog to, and not only did she commission me for an illustration, she also invited me to be part of the Ballard Artwalk, gave me the chance to teach workshops, and continues to be the most supportive and wonderful friend. Those cool vintage wooden spools in the very first image above are, in fact, Keli’s and may be a prop in the new book. I love her shop, and she has an impeccable eye for textiles.

As part of my 2-year celebration of blogging (and still loving it!), I have a fun giveaway: FOUR $25 Drygoods gift certificates which is redeemable online as well. The four winners will have a field day trying to choose from the beautiful fabric and product selections. I wish I could give every one of you a gift card, but this is the best I can do at this time… Perhaps I’ll be able to in the future!

I’ve been thinking about how to make this a better space for you to visit, my dear readers. Of course, I create my posts primarily for myself, but I’ve come to learn and appreciate that a two-way street is going on here. To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment with any suggestions for improvement and/or what you’d like to see more of. More kids’ sewing? Adult sewing? Tutorials? Behind-the-scenes info about the books I’m working on? Something else entirely? I’m looking forward to reading the comments! I’ll keep the giveaway open until Thursday, July 24th, and will announce the winner the next day. International entries are no problemo. Good luck!!

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Adieu Seattle, for a week! Hello Indianapolis! Must rush to get about a jillion things done, so just a short haiku today:

Have a great weekend,
I’ll be out of town next week
Spotty postings, yes?

I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to post next week. I did, of course, have plans to schedule posts in advance, but the best laid plans…well, they weren’t laid out so well. At any rate, I’ll try!

And whoa, look who got a sleek bob:

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She’s looking very chic, especially with her new sandals that we found on sale:

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Bring on the Midwest humidity!

Grit

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K is not in love with tennis camp. At least not in the way she was with skateboard camp. See that up there? That’s from this past weekend, and when she first started skateboarding about a couple of months ago, she could barely get a few inches up that ramp. Now she’ll glide all the way up and swivel turn down. She wants to go to the skate park whenever possible, and I might be biased, but I think she’s a natural. I wish I knew how to do stop motion with all my photos because she’s improved by leaps and bounds and can do tricks I couldn’t have even imagined.

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We kitted her out with her very own board and accoutrements, and she’s looking legit. She even wants to cut her hair short so it’s easier to skate (she says her longer hair distracts her). As an overprotective mother, I wish she’d chosen something less heart-stopping to fall in love with. Things like this make me want to swaddle her in bubble wrap and to scatter foam blocks all over the place:

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She tumbles over and over and over and over. Sometimes she’ll cry, but mostly she’ll sit it out for a while, contemplating how to do it better.

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It’s called grit. And perseverance.

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Falling is part of the game, and if you can get up and past it (safely, unbroken, please please please), you can reach higher and farther and better than you thought possible.

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I learn so much from my little girl. I, for one, could use some grit.

P.S. She’s decided that the matcha shorts are cool, and now she has five handmade things she’s willing to wear. That green knit top is in serious heavy rotation.

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

Summer Reading List

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I’ve always had an insatiable appetite for reading, but up until the third grade, I only read Japanese comic books outside of school assignments. Japanese was my first language, and I learned to read it when I was itty bitty thanks to my mom’s ardent training. She made these crazy felt animal letter books and a giant phonetic sound board — under my mother’s tutelage, learning Japanese was a lot of fun. In fact, even though I was born in the heart of L.A., I had very little command of the English language until I started kindergarten.

My parents would take me to the Kinokuniya bookstore in downtown Los Angeles at the beginning of every month, and there, waiting in shrink-wrapped glory were my beloved “Ribon” and “Margaret” comic books. They were girly publications, each about the size of a phone book (remember those?). Bursting with sweet and innocent illustrated stories of romantic love and friendships and rivalry and the occasional martial arts or bizarre alien tale, it took a good two or three hours for me to read through the entire tome. I learned a lot about Japanese culture and history and gained a skewed perspective on heterosexual relationships (females should be subservient and wear mini skirts at all times; no one was ever gay, though cross-dressers were plentiful). What made them extra special were these things called “Furoku”, which were essentially swag bags of cuteness overload. Stationery, stickers, pens, little illustrated recipe books…each month, something different came with the books. I’ll never forget the style how-to book that confidently stated that lace ankle socks should be worn with cropped jeans. I treasured the furoku and read the books over and over and over.

In the third grade, it all changed. Mr. Noble — my teacher —  called me forth one day, which scared me to no end. I was a good student, but a quiet one, never one to raise my hand to answer questions unprompted. Whether I knew it or not, I had swallowed whole much of the Japanese comic book female stereotypes — except for the mini skirts. My mother would have killed me.

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“Do you like to read?” he asked me. “Yes?” I squeaked, unable to tell him that I didn’t actually read much in English. He looked at me gently and said, “Try reading more at home, your world will open up in unimaginable ways. Books are magic.” I already knew that, of course, and I wasn’t sure why he was telling me this. I still can’t figure out why he took me aside that day to tell me specifically that, but teachers often took me aside so I’ve never questioned it. I worshipped Mr. Noble and hoped to marry someone like him one day. If he told me to go shave my head and tattoo a question mark on my scalp, I probably would have done it. Nowadays my memory of him is vague: dark hair, glasses, a rotund physique. A deep, comforting voice that made me feel like everything might turn out okay. He provided a sense of ease — a foreign concept to a child of immigrants attending the fourth school in the same number of years. He laughed a lot, and I liked that.

A few days later I went to the local library and filled out a form for a card. Back then there were no electric barcode scanners and librarians still stamped the due date on the little manila-colored, lined sheet of paper glued to the inside cover. Wooden card catalogs lined the walls and people actually used them. I remember feeling self-conscious about my book choices as the librarian stamped away (preteen horror and Sweet Valley High) , but once I settled into my bed at home surrounded by my new hoard of borrowed books and well-worn comics, I felt that ease and knew everything would turn out okay. And as Mr. Noble promised, my world opened up.

Books are magic, even the bad and scary ones, and decades later I still read every day. In the past couple of years I’ve stopped buying books, except on my birthday. To celebrate my birth, I stocked up on a few new sewing books and the ones above: Goldfinch, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, The Hidden Child and Wildwood Imperium (Carson Ellis is one of my favorite illustrators). Surrounded by books: my idea of paradise. Do you have any good book recommendations? I’d love to know. I’ll add it to my to-buy-list for my next birthday (or check it out of the library)!

Happy Friday + Randomness

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Happy Friday! A week ago, M, K and I piled into our intrepid car and drove an hour and a half east to Central Washington. Destination: Roslyn, WA. A former coal mining town, it became a surprising tourist draw when the 90s hit show Northern Exposure was filmed there. They even have a Northern Exposure festival every year.

This was a big deal for us because we really don’t take very many vacations.

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We stayed in a most charming Bed and Breakfast called The Huckleberry House. M and I used to drive up to Roslyn from time to time pre-K. Sadly, the owners are thinking of closing the business, so we feel lucky that we squeezed in before the closure. Temperatures were hot but not scorching and we biked, swam and read books:

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It was a little magical — maybe even more than a little. We slept in a king-sized bed all together, squished like polar bears. We had lots of coffee shop breaks, because that’s what we do. When we went to rent bikes, the store owner didn’t have a small enough bike for K, so he called upon the towns folk, and several people rallied and rustled up a battered pink two-wheeler. Community spirit, it’s still alive. We got lost on a gravel trail while searching for the way to the river, then cut across farmland and got lost again. We never found the river, but ate trail mix near the Suncadia resort. On our way out of town, we meandered through the Farmer’s market and I got a bag of my favorite Rainier cherries.

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We have no travel plans this weekend, and it took me all this while to unpack the small amount of luggage we took with us last week. I’m enjoying memory bursts from our little getaway as I store toiletries back into the closet, fold laundry, place the books we read on our shelf.

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K could not get enough of skateboard camp this week – I’m shocked! She skated for almost 6 hours per day! We promised her very own skateboard if she still liked it at the end of the week, so we’re off to go shopping.

Mama, I want the kind of wheels that glow in the dark. Or wait, maybe the ones that make cool sounds. I hear they’re only two or three dollars.

I wish. I had no idea that there were all these specialized wheels…it’s a whole new world.

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Have a delightful weekend, friends! I plan to sew and sew and sew…

Another trip planned
We will head out to Indy*
Must sew summer garb

*M was able to get a week off from work, so we’ll be visiting family in the midwest in a couple of weeks!

Happy Friday + Randomness

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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.”

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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!

 

Happy Friday + Randomness

cardsHappy Friday!

Over the last few months, I’ve received a handful of unexpected mail. It’s all the more surprising and especially sweet to receive handwritten notes and packages in this digital age (I’ve been guilty of texting birthday messages to friends). You can see a sampling of cards above — I’m smitten with the Coco Chanel quote card — “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous” — from an insanely talented woman, a relatively new friendship that’s one of those instantly familiar, comfortable ones. The beautiful flower card is from a fabric guru extraordinaire and all-around cool friend. We had coffee just the other day, and I love how much I can geek out about fabric content and textile prints and sewing notions with her. So fun! I just found the whimsical and lovely illustrated card in my mailbox this week. It’s from a dear freundin (“friend” in German — is that right? You must check out her amazing Anna dress. AMAZING). There have been other generous postal gifts and I get extremely sappy and blubbery with happy tears each time.

And these friendships have all been through this little blog. The internet is a powerful place. I also realized today that each comment I get feels like a piece of unexpected mail every day. I appreciate every comment, but I am particularly blown away by the overflow of kindness to my rambling, insomniac thoughts earlier this week. Thank you. I’m working on getting more sleep and I’m incorporating the sage advice and tips I received.

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Use your head and root for red,

White may fight but we’ll beat them instead

Give me an R – E – D

What’s that spell? RED!

Go Red! We’ll fight till the end!!

It’s field day at K’s school and there will be a lot of ball-tossing and three-legged racings going on. This annual event signals the end of the school year (even though there are four more days left), and spirits are high, if a little primal and gladiator-like judging from the chant above. Time for me to go root for K’s red team! Wishing you a weekend filled with cheer and celebrations of fathers!

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Today’s my birthday
The years have crept up quickly*
Filled with gratitude

*I’ve been reading this book, enjoying the lessons from centenarians — I have a ways to go before I reach 100, and it’s good to have some guiding posts.

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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