Another Year of Magical Thinking

Hello, my friends! Here it is, my last post of the year, squeaking in at the very last minute. Overall, 2019 was a profound year for me. I changed a lot, accomplished so many goals. I failed and failed and failed, too.

One of the biggest changes of all: I am no longer afraid of public speaking. In fact, I might even go as far to say that I enjoy it now. That’s not to say that I’m any good at it, but I’ve stopped caring that I’m not. Just last month, I stood in front of two hundred elementary school students and all their teachers and gave one of my book presentations. Not a muscle spasm to be seen on my face, not a single drop of sweat glistened on my brow. At one point when I opened the floor for questions and answers, one of the students raised his hand.

“Yes?” I pointed the microphone towards him.

“Why did you stand in front of the projector and screen the whole time? We couldn’t see anything!”

Now, a couple of years ago I would have been mortified. This time, I laughed and laughed. I apologized, naturally, but it was so funny to me that of course I would block the view!

Herein lies the most massive change I’ve seen in myself: I’ve stopped beating myself about things that — in the grand scheme of things — matter so little.

Despite the many successes I’ve enjoyed this year, my financial goals remain unmet. This continues to be a source of contention in my family and there’s a lot of talk about how I need to go get a “real job.” Several weeks ago my well-intentioned yet destitution-fearing husband made me aware of my “magical thinking,” and how problematic this is. My daughter, lovely K, calls it “Moo Moo Cha Cha.”

I gave this some serious, weighty thought. Magical thinking…..hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I think they’re right.

And because of my magical thinking, here’s a partial list of what has happened in the last 6 years. I’ve:

  • Pitched and sold 10 book ideas without an agent. TEN BOOKS. I got four book deals this year (Thank you Sasquatch Books and Little Bigfoot, I love you).
  • Improved my health so much that I no longer have any Graves Disease symptoms, with which I was diagnosed in 2011.
  • Lost nearly 20 pounds without dieting.
  • Manifested illustration clients, magazine work, paid events and other opportunities that I couldn’t have even imagined six years ago. I modeled for a magazine, y’all. At age 48. With hyper-pigmentation and wrinkles and gray-streaked hair.
  • Sewn literally hundreds of garments and projects. I can make perfectly fitting jeans. This, more than anything, seems to blow people’s minds.
  • Become comfortable in my own skin. Most importantly, I now truly love my life and love myself. Exactly as I am, full of flaws and full of light.

Call me crazy, but magical thinking seems awesome, wouldn’t you agree?

I decided that in 2020, I’m going to keep going with the Moo Moo Cha Cha (I so love that term K coined). I’m going to experiment and try anything and everything that I’m curious about that people keep telling me are unrealistic. It’s amazing how many people tell me that I’m unrealistic — sometimes complete strangers!

I’m willing to experience discomfort on a grand scale, my friends. I’m starting now, by offering up for sale a little booklet I wrote with my thoughts on magical thinking because — why not? If it helps even one person get closer to a long-held dream or improve his or her health or aid in feeling just a little bit more okay in this chaotic world, I’m delighted. I put so much of myself in this little digital booklet, and it’s quite embarrassing in some ways. This e-book started out as a post that I shared with my Patreon group (they’re the best! I share all of the in-depth behind-the-scenes stuff with them) — I received such encouraging feedback that I wondered if it might benefit more people.

I truly believe that ANYONE can accomplish the things I’ve listed above. For six years, I’ve diligently focused on what I wanted my life to look like and lo! By changing the way I think and taking steady actions, I’m astounded by the results. This year, I’m turning laser-focused attention to the money aspect for obvious reasons — and I want to do it in a way that is with integrity, from a place of uplifting and helping others. For the e-book, I’ve added more to my original raw post and drew up some illustrations too. Included are actual, unvarnished thought processes, the struggles, and information about how much I actually earn as an author/illustrator. It’s my first iteration and I’ll be creating more products along this line over the course of 2020.

Here’s to experimentation and Moo Moo Cha Cha! If you’d like to purchase this wee digital book, click here

2020!!!! This moment at the cusp of a new year is the most thrilling for me. The potentiality is gigantic and shiny and sparkly, and I’m shaking off the difficult bits and bobs from the past twelve months. I’ve learned a lot from them and I’m ready to move on. Onwards and upwards!!

2019 Advent Calendar + Even more holiday tags!

“I wonder when this Advent Calendar tradition will end?” As K grows older, this is the question that pops into my brain every time I embark on yet another design for the holiday season. She’ll be starting high school next year and I don’t know if she’ll enjoy it quite as much.

This was a fun one, my friends. The idea first came to me when I was — as per usual — shopping at Trader Joe’s. I saw the garland with the felted balls ($8.99! What a steal!), and I immediately knew that it would be part of the Advent Calendar.

And so, a couple of weeks before December 1st, I got cracking. I wanted to include little origami-type envelopes to hang from the garland, that much I knew. What to put inside of the envelopes, though?

I started by doodling cat elves and I don’t know…the thought of painting 25 cat elves lost its luster instantaneously. It was just going to take too long, given my penchant for wanting to add lots and lots of details. Luckily, I repurposed them as downloadable tags here, if you’re interested.

Hmmmm….cats, I mulled. I hit the watercolors again and just started pumping out little cat portraits and suddenly, I had it: cats in hats. In my typical let’s-totally-overdo-it style, I also planned to paint dogs in clogs, but…well, I barely finished the cats. The kitties by themselves seemed too plain, so I managed to squeeze in painting tiny wreath frames. SO FUN.

 

The wreaths also became stickers to secure the envelopes closed AND serve double-duty as the day of the month.

I was struck with a lightning bolt of genius that magicked itself out of nowhere: using a notcher to fold the square pieces of papers into envelopes. This way the flaps overlap nicely. In case you don’t know, a notcher is a tool for garment pattern drafting. Very handy. I was manually measuring and cutting out notches at first, so remembering that I had this tool was a big time-saver.

The stickers, I have to say, were not awesome. Their adhesive power was disappointingly wimpy and the textured washi envelopes started to open up as they hung from the garland. I quickly had to reinforce all the envelopes with clear packing tape. We just happened to have some printable sticker paper on hand and I hadn’t used them yet, so it was worth a try. Note to future self: don’t use these stickers on anything other than flat, smooth surfaces.

It was, however, easy to print on the clear sticker paper and the yellow backing slipped right off. I really enjoy peeling sticker backings off. So, so satisfying!

I had just enough washi paper left from a previous Advent Calendar for the envelopes and I seriously adore the nubby surface. I punched holes in the corner for the strings that I looped and tucked in-between the felted balls of the garland. Simple.

Visually, this calendar deviates from my normal neutral color palette, but I’m pleased with how it turned out. I was able to check off all of my personal requirements:

  • Use as much materials that I already own (the garland was the only thing I purchased for the actual calendar)
  • Easy to make
  • Include a balance of giving and receiving (as usual I included giving/contemplative activities as part of the calendar).
  • A new design
  • Low maintenance for me, delightful for K

I’m happy to report the K loves it. Mainly, though, I think it’s because of this other brilliant thing I picked up from Trader Joe’s:

It has little flaps that you can open for the first 12 days of December. Each day contains a different beauty product, a mini version of existing TJ items like lotions, bath gels, sunscreen, etc. Perfect for a thirteen-year-old! She’s a little bummed that she won’t have any more to open for the 13th day and beyond, but that’s okay.

All in all, this was a good one. I always have such a lovely time planning these calendars and all the parts that go with it. Here it is in full:

So! Because I painted so many kitty cats in hats, I thought I would offer up a few of my favorites as downloadable free tags. There are some plain wreaths as well, for those of you that may not be as caught up in cat mania as I am. Simply click on the image to download — I hope they’re useful!

And here she is, the inspiration for all this feline craziness, sniffing our Christmas tree (sorry about the image quality — it’s getting dark so early these days):

It’s amazing to me that I’ve been doing this for so many years. Below are links to all the advent calendars I’ve made to date:

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Alright my friends, I’m sending you warmest, coziest wishes for the holiday season! I may be able to write one more blog post before the year is out, but we shall see! Happy Holidays!! xoxo

Happy Thanksgiving + Free downloadable holiday tags

Happy T-day to all my US friends!! Just a quick little hello today since I’m still working on K’s Advent Calendar and tying up a few other fun projects. Today, K and I had a leisurely Thanksgiving brunch, strolled around Greenlake, and now we’re getting ready to go out for our annual Taiwanese family dinner at this delicious restaurant. I have given up trying to be “normal” in any way, shape or form and love love love how stress-free our holidays have been these past few years.

Also! I doodled some cute kitty elves that I originally considered including in K’s Advent Calendar. I’ve decided against it but I thought folks might find them useful as holiday tags? I also threw in a couple of wreaths that I am going to use for the calendar. If all goes well, I hope to show you what I ended up creating fairly soon.

Click on the image below or here to download the tags. As always, I recommend printing the designs on slightly thicker paper or this textured inkjet paper, which is what I use. Download, print, cut them out (make sure to add a little extra bit at the top if you want to punch a hole) and write a little message on the back and/or use it to decorate a gift!

Enjoy!

It’s that time of year…

Hello, hello my friends! How are you? I’m flooded with relief right now since I’ve just wrapped up some major deadlines and have a few days to prepare for my mom’s visit next week (my parents are in Los Angeles at the moment to take care of some U.S. paperwork but will be returning to Japan again during Thanksgiving week).

K told me what she wanted for her costume and I made this quick sketch in Procreate today, and she said, “So pretty!” This one is looking like a relatively simple costume so I feel like I got off easy this year. Can you guess what it is? It’s K’s favorite drink: Boba (or bubble) tea. We noticed that it was all the rage in Japan too and it’s called “tapioca” there. The original bubble tea was a concoction of milk tea and tapioca balls, but nowadays there’s an infinite number of flavors and chewy bits you can choose from. In Tokyo I tried a soy milk version that was a bit funky, but K loved all the ones she sampled, especially the mango flavor.

I’ve got all the supplies ready for the costume (not pictured: the blue vellum for the extra big straw that will be magically attached to her head and the black felt for the boba):

I’m not sure how the mesh fabric will look on top of the milk-tea-colored fleece, but I’m eager to see how it all turns out. Are you getting ready for Halloween? What’s in store for you? I’ll be working on the costume this weekend and I just might actually get it done early this year. Wonders never cease…

Pre-Order Time: ANIMAL FRIENDS TO SEW!!!!!!

Hello, hello, my friends! What do we have here? It’s my newest book!!!! It’s called ANIMAL FRIENDS TO SEW: Simple Handmade Decor, Toys and Gifts for Kids and will be released May of 2020 through Sasquatch Books.

I’m so in love with this book. SO in love. It’s very much the book I would have wanted when I first began sewing for K and all her itty bitty friends, and it’s a grateful nod to the numerous Japanese craft books that inspired me to teach myself how to sew back in the early days. I remember scratching my sweaty head as I navigated the Japanese instructions, a perplexed expression plastered on my face. How amazing that I’ve been given the chance to produce my own kid-focused craft book in a language in which I have a bit more fluency. Side note: I can speak and comprehend Japanese at near native levels, but my nihongo reading/writing require assistance from Google Translate.

The folks at Sasquatch Books continue to make my book-making dreams all come true and I adore the entire staff there, but I am especially appreciative of my editor Hannah and art director Anna (we even had a photoshoot at Anna’s gorgeous house) for this book! I couldn’t have possibly pulled this project off without the magical expertise of Rachel (photo stylist) and Amy (photographer). “You guys are like unicorns,” Hannah told me and from start to finish, this book really did feel unicorn-y. Can I also mention that we have the CUTEST models in the book? Plus, I’ve got to give a major shout out to all the testers as well — I had nearly 100 testers and they were fabulous. I incorporated their feedback and did my absolute best to make the instructions and illustrations as clear as possible.

So!!! I’ve been wanting to share the cover for awhile, but since we’ve been tweaking the last details I wanted to hold off until it felt pretty much complete. As of this week, I’ve turned in my proofreader edits and we’re finalizing the back cover so it’s feeling super official now.

And hey, how about some behind-the-scenes tidbits? When it came time to figure out the cover, I created four sketches and we photographed a few variations based on the sketches. I always love to see how concept sketches turn into final execution. The ideas go through a number of approval processes (including getting the buy-in from the Penguin Random House team — Sasquatch Books is now part of Penguin Random House). My favorite version was ultimately selected, and I let out huge whoops of joy! I thought it might be fun to share the sketches:

 

 

Isn’t it cool that the final cover is so closely aligned in look and feel with the sketches?

Anyway! Did you know that pre-orders have a dramatic impact on the success of a book? The more pre-orders there are, the more exposure the book will get. Stepping up my marketing game is one of my big, big goals and I’ll be getting out of my comfort zone a ton over the next few months. I’m so excited to share this book with the world and I’ve been working on a fun bonus digital gift that I will send out on publication day for all pre-orders! There are a couple of ways to receive the bonus gift.

1. Let me know that you’ve pre-ordered at sanaeishida13[at]gmail.com

2. DM me via Instagram @sanaeishida

Yay!!!

Thank you with all my heart in advance!!!!! xoxo

Pre-order ANIMAL FRIENDS TO SEW HERE