Category Archives: Life

Happy Friday + Sewing for Me: Really, More Grey?


Happy Friday! To the question, “Just how many grey dresses do you need?” I respond, “You can never have too many grey dresses”. This is dress “q” from the book that I’m giving away (there’s still time!), and it’s unusual in that it is fully-lined. Most Japanese patterns do away with linings for some reason, and it’s always been a mystery to me.


This is the same charcoal chambray I used for my first Tova, and for this somewhat vintage-y dress, I cut the size 11 without any modifications. It looks pretty good from the front, right? Love that pleat detail. Like the pleat, the subtle gathering of the sleeves surprised me. The pleat and gathers really don’t show up much in the book’s photo.


The front may look decent, but the back tells another story. I obviously need to add a few inches to widen the bodice, and I seriously thought K wouldn’t be able to pull the zipper up. Said zipper is straining mightily as you can see, and there’s a bit of digging happening under the armpits.


The tight bodice does keep everything tucked in nice and secure though. This is what floating in nothingness in a too-snug frock looks like:


And really, if I’m able to nimbly dodge an on-coming, crawling-at-the-speed-of-light kid, I’d say this dress is more than adequate in the fit department.


(I need to point out that it was school pictures yesterday and she managed to find the two things that I haven’t sewn to wear – sigh. They’re from a couple of years ago…).

So I’m trying something new. For almost two years, I have been diligently posting pretty much every week day, and I’ve been loving it. Sometimes, however, I think it’s important to take a break and I’m going to do just that. I’m taking all of next week off to spend spring break with K (M has to work all week) and to get going on my piling non-blog to-do list. I have been trying to sew for KCW and I’ll share some outfits when I get back!

Have a wonderful weekend and I’ll see you back here on the 21st, when I will announce the giveaway winners! In the meantime, I’ll keep it open. I love all the comments!! I can’t believe I didn’t include reading as part of my list of things I’d never get bored of. Some of you asked some questions, and I’ll address them either directly as an email or as a post, depending on the question. Stay tuned.

Have a good one all!
Though a week off will be weird
It’s time to recharge

dress-q5The camera caught me blowing a kiss to K… 




Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! Just a quick tolerations update: March was on the lackluster side. I accomplished the easiest possible tasks such as “Donate bags in car trunk to Goodwill”, “Eliminate K’s shoes that don’t fit” (which were in the bags in the trunk), “Organize pantry” (it’s a tiny pantry), “Clear off bedside tables” and “Move yellow art cabinet to basement”. I’m down from 75 tolerations to 70. Ah well, progress, right?


K’s take on dreams, which I love:

Mama, dreams are like games in a playfield in your mind. The great thing is you get to wake up when you have a bad one.


Also, yesterday K’s class went on a field trip to The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation…

Me: How was the Gates Foundation, sweetie?

K: Awesome!! We learned about toilets*!

*Apparently, state-of-the-art, cutting edge and sustainable toilets are in the works for developing countries and that was the highlight for the second grade field trip. Those Gates Foundation people know their audience.


I’m keeping it short and sweet today – have a wonderful weekend, friends!

My weekend respite
will include quiet moments
to dream some good dreams


Instagram + Green-Eyed Monster


Instagram! Are you in on the action? I just started (@sanaeishida) but I don’t know what I’m doing at all. I couldn’t load it on my iphone for some reason, so it’s on my ipad, which makes picture-taking a rather awkward ordeal. I took a profile pix of myself when I was trying to do something else, and “liked” one of my own photos by mistake. And what’s a private user? I’m basically a mess.

I tentatively selected a few folks to follow and then had to stop and ask myself why I wanted to plunge myself in what seems like another time-robber. I love Pinterest for the visual inspiration that floods me, but I often have to step away from all the prettiness to dial down the expectations of how my own life should look. I’m digging the idea of capturing photo-based moments easily in a communal way. But I think what could make Instagram dangerous — much like any social media — is the feelings of inadequacy it can generate, more so than blogs or Pinterest because IG posts are supposedly instantaneous, real-time depictions of one’s day-to-day. It’s easy to forget that it’s another way of curating our lives for an audience. For example, I started following Alice Gao, the it girl photographer with talent oozing out of her pores. And then immediately, my little sewing-drawing-blogging-writing existence paled in comparison to the beautifully composed shots of her jet-setting, glamorous life. And is it my imagination, or are some of the photos from DSLR cameras? They look too perfect.

On the flip side, I’m also fabulously inspired – the woman creates art with photography whether it’s with a mobile device or fancy camera, there’s no question. It totally makes me want to up my photography game. That initial feeling of “why is my life fuddy duddy and why do my ipad images suck!!??” made me ponder the whole notion of jealousy.


Have you ever wondered why jealousy and envy are associated with the color green? Some posit that Shakespeare coined the association through The Merchant of Venice and Othello, others cite Greek origins of the feelings inducing bile, hence the hue. To break up the text because I’m blathering on and on yet again, I went around the house taking photos of green and green-ish household objects…


Lately, K has started to remark, “I feel jealous!” about certain things. When we go buy a gift for her friend’s birthday, for instance, or if I pay more attention to someone else. It’s actually one of the reasons I wrote my “enough” post, but the green-eyed monster is a big subject. It all falls under the same general topic I’m aware, but there’s something particularly taboo about jealousy, don’t you think? In many ways, I find it so refreshing that K openly declares her feelings because we all feel it.

Okay, so technically, coveting a friend’s birthday present would fall more into the envy arena, where as jealousy is often defined as a fear of having something we value taken away (e.g. a romantic partner or a parent’s attention). It could also be the fear of being replaced, as in “she’s a much better version of me and people will like her more”. Be it envy or jealousy, it’s all coming from a place of lack.

I remember when I was about six-years-old, I used to draw princesses all the time. It was an obsession. Crowns, gowns, sparkles and more. It was the only thing I could draw well, which is why I did it over and over and over. And I had this friend (also age six), who one day decided she wanted to draw princesses too. Swiftly, she wielded her pencil and produced a princess remarkably similar to mine, and I was mortified. Princesses were my thing.  How dare she draw one so well without any practice (at least I didn’t think she had practiced)? I worked so so hard on my princesses. My six-year-old self couldn’t have possibly articulated the feelings in any mature way, so I refused to speak to her for days. Jealousy. I was threatened by her natural talent, annoyed that I wasn’t special, worried that I could be easily replaced should there be a need for sparkly princess illustrations.


On the envy side, I distinctly recall a period from about 2007 to 2008 when it seemed like everyone I knew was buying a house. We, on the other hand, were bopping from one apartment to another, each one more dismal than the one before, and florescent green coursed through my blood. I pestered M about buying a house because we could have certainly scrounged up enough for a down payment, and thank goodness for his financial savvy because he had predicted the bubble and recession eons before (I call him “Muffy” – a play on my nickname for Warren Buffet: “Buffy”). I was thoroughly operating from that thing people call the “scarcity mentality”. I would troll real estate listings, drooling over turn-of-the-century Craftsman homes completely updated with charming details intact, and bemoan how awful our apartment was. M turned a deaf ear to me.

So a couple of interesting things happened in relation to those two tales. Once I got over princess-gate, I realized I needed to expand my artistic repertoire. I started to practice drawing animals (wearing princess gowns, but still). I practiced sketching anything and everything that caught my eye. I also thought about what else I could be good at despite my tender six years. I explored, and it was fun. It turned out that I was good at many things, like telling stories and mopping and creating pretend make-up from plants.


In 2010, we found our current house through a series of mishaps, which I might tell you about one day, but it was a pretty depressing time and it’s not very interesting. Our house is a rental, but it’s just right for us. Sure, it could be spiffied up a bit as I’ve mentioned, but we love living here. The envious feeling? Poof. Completely gone.

It’s not breaking news that the envy and jealousy we feel has everything to do with what we perceive to be missing in ourselves. There was plenty of room for multiple princess-drawers in our neighborhood when I was six; what I intrinsically felt was that without that particular skill — if anyone could do it — I wasn’t unique enough. Because deep down, I was and am afraid that I am unremarkable and forgettable. I know that’s not true and it’s not true for anyone, but believing in oneself has got to be the hardest human task out there.

As for the house-envy, it was never about owning a house or keeping up with friends (at least not much). It was about feeling settled and free and part of a community. In our prior residences there was an inherent sense of impermanence and restrictiveness, so I was untethered and stifled, if you will. K’s cries would bother neighbors and I tiptoed around, feelings of resentment building. We still rent, yes, but we’ve landed on a spectacularly unusual situation in a great area – here we feel settled and free and part of a community.


Essentially, I’d love to be like K — so open and accepting of her feelings. “I feel jealous,” she says, in the same breath as, “I feel hungry” and then she just moves on. Jealousy and envy frequently invade my emotions and my reactions to them are more complex. Over the years — through hits and misses — I’ve been working on trying to identify what’s missing in me when the feelings take over. What is it about the other person that I want? What’s the need in me that is coming up empty? It’s tough work because sometimes the answer isn’t straightforward, and it’s so very unpleasant to feel the emotions, but it can be a propeller of positive actions too. Perhaps with instagram the green-eyed monster will take up semi-permanent residence, but I’m already seeing the potential for magnificent inspiration. I’m excited by the prospect of using technology and connectivity to share my own unique perspective .

Jealousy and envy — they are teachers that ask the important questions: What do you really want to pursue? Who do you truly want to be? What do you need to do to make your life better? And perhaps the most important questions is, What can you be grateful for?

And it’s my job to answer them.




Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! I sketched this illustration while thinking about the poem K wrote below. I have it taped above my sewing table, and she also made that “I lov u” note for me using a stencil book.


Wondering by K

I wonder about the sky
I wonder how birds can fly
I wonder as I watch the world go bye

I wonder about stars
and the planet mars
I wonder how I last
and the wonders of the past 


Isn’t she a wonder? I love that she included that little rhyming aside, “Have a good time with rhyme!”. KCL are her initials, by the way. I know I am repeatedly posting these little notes by K, but I’m just in awe of her developing writing skills.


Relentlessly, the topic of my chest keeps coming up. As I leaned over to tuck K in the other night:

Mama, I don’t want a perfect view of your boobies. Put them away.


Have a wonderful, wonderful weekend, friends! On our agenda: lots of snuggling, our weekly brunch at the local cafe, an American Girl Doll birthday bonanza for one of K’s friends.

It’s the final phase
I need to complete my book
Diving into it*

*So I always say that I might be scarce here, but I just like to put it out there to make me feel better in case I do miss a post here and there. If there’s one thing I love more than creating picture books, it’s blogging.


Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! More digital painting fun: I got this visual dictionary of plants from the library and have been admiring the shapes of leaves. So many variations exist, and I love examining the details.


On the way to piano lessons yesterday:

Mama! I absolutely want to be a singer when I grow up no matter how much stage fright I get. I love it! Listen to this song I made up:

“We want to be wild and freeeeeee // Please don’t bother meeeeeee….”*

*one of the first songs that K composed which we think would be a runaway hit went something like this: “go away, go away, never, ever, come back…”. Judging from the lyrics, I wonder if she’s feeling oppressed?


Just a very short note today to wish you the loveliest weekend. Cheers!

Deadlines! Deadlines! Ack.
Why am I painting plant leaves?
Must get back to work


Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! With daylight savings beginning this weekend, it feels like summer will be rapidly approaching and this, of course, turns my thoughts to vacation planning. We don’t actually take very many vacations. Mostly it’s because M’s work schedule is unpredictable and this makes it tricky to plan trips. One of loveliest family vacations we took was to Roche Harbor on San Juan Island with M’s parents a few years ago. We rented a cottage that K called the “trip house”, and the atmosphere as a whole was a lot more upscale than we’re comfortable with — it sort of felt like the Pacific Northwest version of the Hamptons. Despite the nagging sense that I wasn’t clad in appropriate designer brands, it was wonderful to spend time truly relaxing with loved ones. During one of our treks, we explored a nearby beach and encountered a small red fox. It was a scrawny thing, wild and famished. I found it beautiful: the shaggy auburn fur against the grey backdrop of the San Juan straits. K wanted to pet it, but we feared rabies and held her hand down. The fox gazed at us for a few moments, and disappointed that food scraps weren’t forthcoming, it turned and loped away, its tail held high with dignity. I thought of that fox while drawing the one above.

The trip house looked a little like this, but I think it was yellow. Mmmmm….vacation….



M and K continue to come up with weird nicknames for each other:

K: I love you, Buffalo Burger.

M: I love you too, Buffalo Chips.


Have a fantastic weekend, friends! Here in Seattle, cherry blossoms are blooming.

We’ll lose an hour
This means longer days to come
So so excited


Happy Friday + Randomness

elephant-ballard1Happy Friday! This painting above was not done by me, though I wish it was. It’s one of the countless charming things about Seattle. One minute you’re rounding the corner onto an unfamiliar street, then the next minute you’re met with an expertly painted elephant (Bell Boy? Doorman?) on the side of a building. And the trunk is a drain pipe! People’s creativity always amaze me. I wish I knew who the artist is so I can credit him/her properly.


It’s been a productive week! I met my first big book deadline for cover art sketches and now I’m gearing up for the next book deadline. I’m scouring the web for time management tips because the deadlines are multiplying and my tried-n-true methods are coming up a bit short.


It’s interesting to see how your child handles situations involving money/gifts/rewards. Have you ever heard of the marshmallow project? It was a psychological experiment conducted in the 1960s to test whether children’s ability to delay gratification correlated with future success. The test has been reproduced numerous times since with hilarious results (here’s a cute video).

When K got four teeth pulled last week, I was curious whether she would try to get a bulk sum at once, or would parcel it out with the tooth fairy. It turns out she’s more of a delayed gratification kind of gal and put one tooth per night under her pillow. For her final tooth, we had some detailed correspondence:



Yes, K actually gave the tooth fairy money. She was pre-paying for toys, though she was willing to donate the cash ($1.36) for other purposes. This made me want to leave her extra toys. She’s either destined to be voted Forbe’s most powerful woman, or will lead an altruistic life of abject poverty having given all her funds away for tchotchkes. The tooth fairy left a note as requested, though she forgot to leave a time stamp, which was what K wanted for some reason:



K received a vintage-looking whistle, a lime-shaped bar of soap (she’s weirdly obsessed with soaps), and these fancy mints for her last tooth. By the way, the reason K wanted the tooth fairy to give M the money is because he’s frequently lamenting that we have none.


Weekend time! Have a lovely one, and see you on Monday!

Trying something new:
K is going skateboarding 
Kinda sorta scared*

*We live close to a gigantic skate park, and they have lessons for kids. K and her friend are going to give it a shot on Sunday. I’m not embarrassed to say that I’m an overprotective mother – the girl hardly has any more teeth to lose!



Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Valentine’s Day!! My goodness, with the way I kept going on and on, you’d think it’s the only holiday that matters to me. Case in point: I can’t seem to stop making bookmarks, though my excuse is that I’m practicing my digital painting. So these are the ones we ended up assembling for K’s class (K helped punch holes, though she quickly lost interest; she did, however, write out all her classmates’ names for each bookmark bundle).

vday-bookmarks-dino1 vday-bookmarks-dino2

K said that the animals looked too girly and was afraid all the hearts would make the boys in her class think that she’s in love with them so I whipped up the dinosaurs. I’m pretty smitten with these dinos. I found these little glassine bags in our kitchen drawer and they’re perfect. Each classmate got four bookmarks and a handwritten note from K, and done and done! We’re all set. If you are a last-minuter or if you might want to use these for future v-day cards, feel free to download below! (I didn’t include a download for the “i heart books” tags though -sorry).





So today is the day!! Ute and I hope that the Secret Valentine Exchange gifts have arrived safely and soundly around the globe. If you’ve received your gift, it would be lovely if you have time to upload photos of them in the Flickr pool in the next few days, if you haven’t already. Or, if you don’t have an account, feel free to email photos to the secret valentine email and we’ll post the photos for you! I’m planning on doing a big wrap-up post next Wednesday and would love to include as many photos as I can on the blog. If you haven’t received your gift yet, please kindly let us know by emailing us at secret.valentine[at] So far it seems like the majority of you have had a successful exchange!

I literally just received my gift from the very sweet Sonya, and I am incredibly touched by the care and consideration that went into the gifts. Thank you!! I need to take some photos, but it will all be part of the wrap-up next week.


In the meantime, in addition to my SV parcel, I opened the door to another unexpected package this past week. My partner in crime, Ute, delivered the most gorgeous scarf wrapped in an equally gorgeous handmade pouch. Friends, this exchange would not have happened without Ute. She did ALL the heavy-lifting while I squawked away on this space. All those emails signed “Sanae and Ute”? Almost all of them from the kind and generous Ute, making it all work smoothly and effortlessly. Three cheers for my wonderful friend!


I loved that we got to celebrate creativity and the joy of handmade among like-minded women for Valentine’s Day. I had the most delightful time, and I hope you did too! I am forever talking about how amazing this community is, but it keeps getting reinforced. Thank you.


Overheard K telling M:

Come on dude, listen, or there will be coincidences*!!

*aka”consequences” in K parlance.


Divisive it is
this day of saccharine love
But I am a sap

Have a fabulous weekend, everyone! My Monday post will probably be a little late – K is on mid-winter break next week, but I have something in the works to show you!

And Then There Was Love

constellation-loveIt’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow and I have love on the mind. Let me start by saying that I’ve always been a late bloomer. I didn’t have my first kiss or boyfriend until I was seventeen (I somehow managed to miss out on the requisite pre-adolescent spin-the-bottle games). The other stuff came much, much, much later.

I was angst-y in my twenties, and I’m certain that I emitted a “stay away from me” vibe for most of that decade. It was terribly confusing to me that I sailed through my prime dating years without anything resembling a real boyfriend. My friends were befuddled as well and tried to set me up with their male buddies. I adamantly refused, citing extreme pickiness. Of course, I had a short-term relationship or two, but they were of the forced variety and I found true amor elusive.


Then one day, as my twenties were coming to a close, I had a revelation. I discovered that I had this soundtrack in my mind that kept repeating, “no one is ever going to love me.” It was so ingrained, I hadn’t noticed it nor had I realized how I was making it come true. I don’t know how it started, but it was there all right. How uncomfortable to see self-fulfilling prophecies in action. How sad. So I did something that was radical for me: I decided to throw away my impossible criteria for a mate, and just be open. If someone was foolish enough to ask me out with all my baggage and crazy self-talks, I would go out with him, dammit. I figured that at the very least, I’ll have a good yarn to spin.

And you know what? It was nuts. I clearly had a neon, blinking sign announcing “available” on my forehead, and guys started to ask me out on dates non-stop. One man actually ran after me in the streets of San Francisco, panting out a request for a get together. I said yes. And I finally agreed to be set up by those well-meaning friends (disaster, disaster-er, and disaster-est). I even took the plunge and initiated the asking on a few occasions. There was the investment banker, the lawyer, the writer, the sous chef (a fabulous tale I’ll have to share some time). The New Yorker illustrator, several businessmen, the co-worker, the academic, the buddhist who decided he was gay after dating me — my resolve faltered a bit after that one. There was a particularly sweet, much younger engineer who was so romantic and effusive in his sentiments for me. I thought he might be the ONE. Even a woman invited me out to a non-platonic rendezvous, and I considered it, but I decided that would be misleading since I’m decidedly heterosexual.

It’s a phase I think of as my “Rom Com period gone wrong”. The comedy of errors kept my friends in stitches during the recaps. I spent one date riding the bus aimlessly with an artist even angst-ier than I was. Think Before Sunrise with less attractive people and really boring, totally unphilosophical conversations. Another man kept telling me I had beautiful ankles.


These men were far more than their job titles, of course, but it was the way I thought of them. In most cases, I went out on only one date with each man. Chemistry is a pretty obvious thing, and not a lot of sparks happened. Over a period of about one year, I sampled amazing food at various restaurants and went to more bars and movies than I had in all the prior years combined, and though these dates were often uncomfortable, they were also undoubtedly fun. I suppose I should have been more cautious — given my uninhibited free-wheeling policy, one or more of them could have turned out to be a murderer. That would not have been fun.

In the midst of my harem-building, I met M. It’s one of my favorite stories. I was at my regular coffee shop haunt in San Francisco, writing in my journal as usual. It was a bustling and busy Sunday at the cafe, and I sat cozily next to a young-ish couple. After about an hour so, the woman asked if I would be around for awhile. “This guy,” she said, “he asked us to watch his laptop while he made some phone calls, but he’s been gone forever. Would you mind watching it?” I agreed, and they left. The laptop sat unattended for several minutes longer, and then the guy came back. He slid into the seat next to me looking annoyed that the couple was gone. Clad in a bright red floral hawaiian shirt over a yellow Che Guevera t-shirt, he was a muscular, good-looking man. Ken doll on steroids. I immediately dismissed him as batting for the other team; besides, I favored skinny, awkward, Jewish men in general, so I went back to my journal after informing him that I had been guarding his laptop. My suspicions were confirmed when one of the baristas, a friend of mine who happened to also be gay, solicitously started to wipe Hawaiian Shirt’s table, hitting on him in an oh-so-obvious way.


As it goes in coffee shops, Hawaiian Shirt and I began to talk, and I found out that he was an art major turned graphic designer turned start-up business owner opening up a new office in S.F., expanding his Seattle-based operations. This was during the dot-com era and everyone was opening offices everywhere. He was funny, but in a sarcastic way I wasn’t accustomed to. He talked ceaselessly of his business partner, who I assumed to be his boyfriend. So when he asked me for my phone number, my first thought was, “oh hooray, we’ll go shopping together.” I shopped a lot with my gay BFFs, and this being San Francisco, I had many. Imagine my surprise when we had our coffee date a week later. The rest, as they say, is history.

This is — in a rather convoluted way — a love letter to my husband. Who knows if our encounter was destiny or some star-crossed affair? Most likely not. All I know is that if I hadn’t decided to recklessly accept all incoming invitations at that very specific time in my life, I wouldn’t have learned what it feels like to unconditionally love and be loved. To see beyond the assumptions, to leap! Because that’s the life we’ve created together: one based on jumping into the unknown and trusting that we’ll turn out all right.

I hope you, too, have someone like that. It doesn’t have to be a spouse, but it could be a friend, a child (whether biological or adopted), a mentor. It doesn’t even have to be one person. I’m lucky to have several unbelievably kind people in my day-to-day that fill me up with goodness. Because love comes in all shapes and sizes, doesn’t it?

P.S. I’m liking my quick and dirty illustrations of constellations (practicing away at my digital painting!). Obviously, the love one is made up…

P.P.S Sewing is slow-going these days. I hope to have fun projects to share next week!

Happy Friday + Randomness


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

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


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


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


K on my cooking:

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

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



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

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

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