Category Archives: Life

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 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…

 

 

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! [CLOSED]

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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

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