Happy Friday + Randomness


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

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


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

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

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

Happy weekend, all!


Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! Have you checked out the Instagram hashtag #2016sve? Beautiful, beautiful stuff. Ute and I were joking that the sneak peeks make us want to steal all of the gifts for ourselves! We’re excited that quite a few of you opened an IG account to get into the spirit of sharing the progress. Be forewarned newbies, you’ll get hooked! The photos are pouring in, and I’ve tried to comment on as many as I can, but I’m a slowpoke when it comes to IG — how do you guys all stay on top of the zinging and zooming comments? To say a collective thank you and to marvel at the tantalizing show-and-tell, I’ve created a collage of the Instagram snaps so far.

It looks like so many of you have already shipped your gifts, and I’m in awe. Does no one procrastinate like I do? Wait, do as I say, not as I do. Remember to ship by February 7th if you’re shipping domestically (or to Switzerland — last year I was amazed that my package got to my partner early)!

I finally decided on the fabric and pattern for my partner; that’s always the part that takes me longest. I’m going to get it all done this weekend and off it goes. This year, I don’t have an international partner so it feels like I have ample time, but I better get moving! So looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

Time to buckle down
Get the lovely gift sewn up
I hope she likes it…

Have a spectacular weekend, my friends!

SVE Prep


I’m “shopping” through my stash, looking for Secret Valentine Exchange inspiration. My partner, like me, favors blues and neutrals and linens, so I’ve got an abundance of choices. Ute has already completed and shipped her gift!! Isn’t she amazing? By the way, if you haven’t been following Ute on Instagram, it’s a must. She takes breathtaking photos of nature and her projects are impeccably made and presented. I often gasp at the beauty she creates.


Totally inspired, I’m plotting and planning and scheming about what to make for my own special Valentine. Are you making progress? Have you already shipped your gift? If so, I’m beyond impressed!

Everyone should have their assigned partners by now, and our final count is 177 participants (I wrote 179 before, woops). That’s almost double of last year!! Ute and I are very excited and grateful that so many women are taking part in this special celebration of Valentine’s Day and handmade goodness. Please let us know if you have any questions, issues, etc. at secret.valentine.exchange [at] gmail.com. If you’re on IG, don’t forget #2016sve!

Time for me to wade through some more fabric!

Last Day to Sign Up for 2016 SVE!


Hello! Just a quick note today with one last reminder that today’s the deadline to sign up for the Secret Valentine Exchange. We’ll stop taking sign-ups tonight, around midnight-ish my time (PST). We have nearly 150 participants!! Ute and I can’t wait to pair everyone up – there are over 20 countries represented, making this the most internationally diverse SVE yet!


I, of course, am planning, planning, planning. Last year, Ute made a stunning constellation mini quilt for Elle (scroll down a bit through all of Ute’s amazing Kollabora projects) and received knitted and sewn loveliness from Monika, and I received gorgeous tea towels and sachets from Mirta of Modern Botanics — much adored and used — and made this. You can see more of the swapped gifts from previous years at our Flickr pool as well (since Flickr isn’t used quite as much, we’ve opted to focus more on IG this year).

I feel remiss without giving Ute major  props for being the most generous and kindhearted partner in this annual collaboration we’ve stumbled into — Ute’s idea, naturally. We are very much a simpatico team, and it’s one of my very favorite things to do every year. We hope you’ll join us in this celebration of intercontinental friendships through handmade goods! Sign up here!




2016 Secret Valentine Exchange!!


It’s happening: the 3rd annual Secret Valentine Exchange!! Ute and I are teaming up as per usual, and we’re thrilled to be hosting this unique and all-around creative event. Based on the Scandinavian Secret Santa tradition called Julklapp, our first SVE brought 40 participants together and last year we had a whopping 100+ participants!

Essentially, you sign up and Ute and I assign Secret Valentines (we’re part of the gift exchange fun too). We’ll send you the info about the person for whom you’ll be making a gift, but you’ll be in the dark in terms of who’ll be sending you a gift.

The key points to keep in mind are:

1. Gifts should be made with materials you already have on hand (we encourage recycling and repurposing). This is not meant to be an expensive project for anyone.

2. You must be willing to ship internationally.

3. The gift should fit into a medium to large envelope to keep shipping costs down. There are no expectations to send more than one gift, but in the past couple of years we’ve noticed that folks love to include multiple small gifts, and that’s wonderful too.

4. Keep it fun and easy! No need to stress about what to make, although I know from personal experience that it could feel a little nerve-wracking to send your handmade creation if it’s not something you do regularly. Trust me, the gift will be received happily as many, many participants will attest. I know that quite a few tears of appreciation have been shed (I’m raising my hand high up here). There’s something magical about opening up a handmade gift, don’t you think?


Now, things have gone pretty smoothly these past couple of years, but with so many participants in far flung places on the globe, there were some delays with a number of shipments. If you’re sending to a particularly remote place from where you live, it’s a very good idea to build in extra days for shipping. We may try to assign folks in similar regions, but we also want this to have the full international effect.

Please use hashtag #2016sve on IG to get into the spirit of the event and for sneak peeks, but remember, it’s not necessary to have any kind of online presence. The idea was borne out of a desire to connect people in a way that no digital medium can accomplish, and we’ve learned that many friendships emerged from the Secret Valentine Exchanges. This makes Ute and me indescribably happy.



We’ve selected swans for our Secret Valentine’s graphics this year because Ute’s love of the beautiful creatures is well documented, and we feel they’re a fetching representation of this non-traditional tradition we’ve created. Here are this year’s gift tags (you don’t have to use them, but it’s a nice option I hope – I made them in two sizes), and the process is as easy as can be:

1. To sign up, fill out the questionnaire below by Wednesday, January 13th.

2. We’ll take care of assignments and send out the Secret Valentine info to all participants by Monday, January 18th.

3. Make something fabulous and ship it by February 7 (if you’re shipping internationally, you might want to add a few extra days). The tags are here! And don’t forget the Instagram hashtag #2016sve

4. Receive your Secret Valentine gift!

We can’t wait to see who signs up!! Are you in? Please feel free to contact me or Ute with any questions here in the comments section or at secret.valentine.exchange[at]gmail.com. We’ll also announce the exchange on instagram and you can find us there too (@ute_ig @sanaeishida). Hooray!!

Here’s the form – make sure to scroll all the way down if the form looks cut off :-):


UPDATED 1/14/16: Sign ups are closed! Thank you!!