September 19, 2014

How I Chose The Perfect Paint Color | Master Bedroom

I think choosing a right paint color is one of the hardest things to do when you're decorating your home. 

It's not just about which color you like. You need to understand how the light in the room changes throughout the day and which colors work together. I've tried close to a hundred different paint colors over the past several years and now I know which ones work the best for our current home. It's been a learning experience.  


Choosing the right paint color for our master bedroom has been a challenge. 

Knowing this would be the first color we see in the morning, I've been very particular about picking the right one. I usually have a cup of coffee there and spend a little quiet time alone in our bedroom before I wake up the kids. I wanted this space to be calm and serene, not just pretty and stylish. I wanted our bedroom to be a place that nurtures our soul as well as provides rest. 

I finally chose the perfect paint color for our master bedroom. Do you want to how I solve this decorating dilemma? 

I listened to my husband's suggestion.

Totally unexpected. I know. 

Wall paint color: Gray Cashmere by Benjamin Moore

My husband, Steve, rarely has opinions when it comes to decorating our home. He knows it's my thing and he just lets me do whatever makes me happy. 

When he does speak up though, I know that's something important to him. So I pay attention. 

Steve was vacuuming the guest bedroom the other day, and when he was done, he told me he wanted our bedroom to be the same color. (You can see our guest bedroom in progress here and here.)

I had a little left over paint from painting the guest bedroom, so I decided to test the paint in our master bedroom. And you know what? I really like it. 


I thought I had to paint our bedroom in a different color, or at least in a different shade of gray, from the guest bedroom. I thought it would be too boring to paint those two rooms in the same color. 

Isn't it funny how sometimes we create a silly rule in our head and stick to it? Those rules can paralyze our decorating decisions, or any life decisions.

Just trying to figure out the color scheme. The furniture won't stay there.

I'm so glad Steve joined me in the decorating process this time. I want our home to reflect my family but not just me and my style. Never underestimate your spouse's input, even though that's something you think you're really good at. Lesson learned. 

* * *

Our pink hydrangea turns into stunning shades of green and fuchsia in the fall. Every summer, I regret that I still haven't turned those blossoms into blue. But then fall comes around, and I'm glad I actually didn't do it. I'm just in love with these deep colors.

And I had to share some of my favorite pretty details in the master bedroom, just of course.

Italian Hollywood Regency gilt side table. I love the aged patina on this piece. 

Antique gilt mirror with intricate details. 


Vintage wood and brass postal balance scale from England.


Antique French ironstone gravy boat as a jewelry holder.


* * *
Have you come across any decorating dilemmas? Do you involve your family or roommate in the decorating process? 

Turning our house into a home truly has been a process. 


September 13, 2014

Why I Love All Things Handmade

I love anything handmade. 

My love for all things handmade runs deep in my blood as well as my childhood memories.  


As a little girl, I played with a doll that once belonged to my aunt. The doll came with a blue dress that my grandmother made for my aunt, and that was the only dress I had for it. My mother sewed my purple tote bag for school and knitted my yellow woolen scarf. My aunt from the paternal side used to surprise me with a gift like a handmade broach every time I went to visit her. She still sells her hand crafted items at a small cafe attached to her home.  

It was part of my childhood norm to have things handmade. I rarely had store bought character goods that were popular among other kids. I hated my handmade things as a girl, especially the ones I brought to school. They were so different from what my friends had and I didn't want to be different. Little did I know these hand crafted items were a lot more special and durable. My family was all about quality and craftsmanship, and I learned to appreciate things handmade as I grew older.

My grandmother made these little bean bags for my oldest son when he was 11 months old. 


She went out for a walk one afternoon and came home with a handful of azuki beans a half an hour later. Then she pulled out her vintage kimono fabrics from her chest of drawers and quickly hand sewed these little bags filled with the beans she just picked. Did I tell you she professionally made kimonos, long before I was born? She was the one who taught me how to sew.

When all the bean bags were made, my grandmother showed her great grandson how to juggle. My son, who was all about throwing things back in those days, giggled with delight. 


These bean bags have been well loved by my boys over the past five years. I used to put them away as soon as they were done playing with them. We've lost so many small toys in our home (they magically disappeared into thin air), and I figured these are too precious to be lost. But why don't I display them for all of us to see and enjoy? 

So, I gathered them up in a bowl and placed them in the corner of our family room. 

I think of my grandmother every time I walk pass by the bowl full of bean bags. The boys can reach them anytime they're in the mood for juggling. 


This probably explains why I value handmade goods. Their imperfections and quirkiness comfort me. They remind me it's good to be unique and imperfect.

I am so grateful I grew up surrounded by all things handmade, those beautiful yet imperfect objects. They are unique, one of a kind and imperfect. Just like me. 

And it's nice to decorate our home with something that holds special meaning to us.

September 8, 2014

What I've Learned This Summer

When I wrote the previous post, I thought that would be my "what I learned" post for August
because that pretty much summed up what I've learned this summer. I linked up to Emily's site as always do and was going to call a day. 

But I've been writing this series every month since I started this blog over 9 month ago, and I just couldn't move forward without it. So, here is my reflection from last month in no particular order: 

1. Change can be difficult at times. But it's good that things are changing because that means we are growing. That means we are living. Change is good
 
The First Day of School!

My 5-year-old started first grade last Wednesday, and today was my 3-year-old's first day at preschool. No tears have been shed so far and it's been a smooth transition. So far so good! Great job, boys!

2. I enjoy taking photos.
 

Thank you all for the kind words about my photos. I don't know much about photography yet, but I really started to enjoy capturing moments through the lens. It's my new medium for expressing my creativity.

3. Art has no boundaries.  

I came across this video by the Hungarian photographer Adam Magyar, which is a high speed video recording took place at Shinjuku station in Tokyo. This must be the coolest thing I've seen in the long time and I absolutely love it! 

Click here to watch it on Vimeo.



Art doesn't have to be limited to a paint brush, paper or canvas. Inspired by the video, now I collect eggshells for my new art project. 


I have no idea what I'm going to do with them, but I'm hoping to turn them into something fabulous.

4. Life is a little bittersweet and it's better that way.

5. I want to spend more time gardening.

After reading Janet's {The Gardener's Cottage} and Terry's {Mr. El Casco Gardener} posts about their beautiful gardens, I'm now inspired to garden more.

Their posts reminded me how much I love and miss my grandmother, who is a master gardener and at 90, she still gardens. I learned so much from her, not only about gardening but also about life, through watching her tending her gardens every day. I see myself spending more time outside among flowers in the future.

6. Now my 5-year-old corrects my mispronunciations. He is my new English teacher. My baby is growing up way too fast.  

7. Embracing your unique design is the very first step of becoming

When I started this blog to document my journey of becoming the person I'm designed to be, I knew I need to embrace who I am today, including the good and bad (see the tagline, embrace your unique design?). I knew moving forward without it is like trying to climb a ladder with no rungs. 

But I have to admit, embracing my unique design hasn't been easy. I constantly worry about what others think of me and seek acceptance from them. 

Today I'm glad to say, I finally started to make peace with who I am. I'm unique and I'm one of a kind. I don't fit in - I never did and I never will. So why do I even try? 

Image via Overstock


It feels good to be me. 

Now it's your turn. What did you learn this summer? 


September 1, 2014

At Summer's End

We spent last weekend in Adirondacks, thanks to my mother- and father-in-laws who coordinated the entire trip. We hiked, ate good food, and enjoyed a scenic train ride, which my youngest son fondly called, a choo-choo ride.

When we finally arrived at our motel after four and a half hours of driving and a temper tantrum, our two year old niece burst into our room to welcome us. My boys joined her and together they ran in a circle shrieking, hardly able to contain their excitement for our vacation together. Then my sister- and brother-in-laws followed her into the room and gave us a hug. 

I've known them for thirteen years now - my sister- and brother-in-laws - even longer than I've known my husband, Steve. Back then we studied at a small state university in upstate NY.  A lot has changed since then.

When I came to this country thirteen years ago as an international student, my future brother-in-law, Jo was the one who came to pick me up at the airport. I had no idea one day that young man, who ushered me into this foreign land, would be my family.  

I met my sister-in-law, Elizabeth, through Jo shortly after, and we quickly became friends. We took psychology courses together and talked about our families. I was surprised we shared many of the same values despite our cultural differences. And through Elizabeth, I met her brother, Steve, the man I would marry in just four years. It was love at first sight. 


Thirteen years later, we're hiking up a mountain trail pulling our little ones by their hands. My sister-in-law is expecting her second baby due this winter. Things keep changing, without halting even for a moment. 




As the first day of school quickly approaches, my motherhood anxiety is on high alert. My oldest son starts first grade and youngest one preschool in just a few days. This is the first year I have both of them in school.

I never knew what anxiety really meant until I became a mother. This must be part of our defense mechanism that kicks in the moment we hold our baby in our arms. We promise ourselves to protect our little bundle of joy no matter what it takes. Like a mother bear who tries to protect their baby cubs, we are not afraid of doing serious damage to any offender. We would do anything to protect our children. 

But once they start school, we can't be there to help our little ones. They are now on their own. We moms know their every quirk and how special they are in their own unique ways. Would the teacher see what I see in them? The special sparks they have in their heart? 


The first day of school always comes sooner than I want. It's rather ironic, because I remember huffing and puffing when the summer started. I know I just need a few more days of grace period to complete this mental shift. The moment my oldest son steps onto the school bus, I know it would feel right.


Changes aren't easy no matter what it is. Change forces us to let go of old ways and embrace new habits. But what if we never change? What if I haven't changed a bit over the past thirteen years. Still studying in college, enjoying my single life and partying? We go through different phases of life, just as nature moves through the seasons. It would be hard not to change. 

So, I loosen my grip on life and try my best to let things unfold on their own.


Steve and I have gained a few pounds over the summer from all the rich food we ate and probably from our age. As much as we'd like to shed those extra pounds off, we're not bitter about it. Perhaps it's time for us to put our running shoes on and start jogging around the neighborhood, together, while the boys are gone to school.

Change is good. 

Sometimes, I need to remind myself of this. 

* * *
Today, I'm sharing with Emily at chatting at the sky.

August 21, 2014

The Taste of Happiness

It was right before 6 o'clock on Saturday night. 

I was running late cooking dinner, sauteing chopped onion in olive oil and melted butter. I heard the sound of a lawn mower coming from a distance, slowly approaching to the kitchen window. 

Why hurry, I told myself. Stephen had just started his mower and the boys would be busy following their Daddy's heels until the last blade of grass is cut short. I took a deep breath to slow down. Summer days are easy. No homework, no getting up early the next day.

Queen Anne's Lace + my art: Contemplating in our kitchen

I glanced out of the kitchen window and saw my 5-year-old just a few feet away from his Daddy. I looked around expecting to find my youngest son, but I couldn't find him. "Where is he?" I felt a tightness in my chest. 

I flung opened the window and called my husband. He stopped the mower immediately, looked around and shook his head. He didn't know where the boy was. 

He called the boy's name loud once, twice, and three times. No response. 

My husband ran to the front yard looking for his son. I dropped the wooden spoon in the sizzling pan and ran out from the poach door with bare feet. 

Where could he be? My heart pounded hard in my chest, while running through the garage to the front yard trying to find a trace of that little boy. 

He was only a week shy of becoming three years old. He could make a bad choice without knowing its consequence. Did he follow a ball rolling down our steep drive way to the street? Could he be taken away by a stranger who came from the woods? 

"Oh no, God, no! Don't let that be!" I pleaded as I frantically looked around our front yard. He was not there. I couldn't breathe.  


I turned the corner to the side of our house, and I saw his chubby legs pushing the pedals hard on his red Radio Flyer tricycle.

I grabbed him from the bike and squeeze him tight in my arms. 

"Thank you, God, for keeping him safe," I whispered, as I let out a sigh of relief. I pressed my lips to his soft cheeks, covered in sweat and dirt. His cheeks were warm and we were safe. But the tightness in my chest didn't go away.


I have a quiet ache that runs deep within me. My heart aches for my boys every day - when they are hurt or struggle to make new friends. My heart grieves for the things I have lost over the years, too. The time I could've spent with my family who lives on the opposite side of the planet and the financial security we once had.

Every time I'm not sure if I could keep pushing forward, I would look up and capture something beautiful like a snapshot. The moment my son gave me a little shiny pebble he found in the backyard with his grin so wide and proud. The moment I wondered if I could see my grandmother again while she's still alive, then turned around and found my husband tenderly smiling at me. I savor those fleeting moments of happiness before they slip through my fingers.

When did my world come alive with all these of emotions? When did I start tasting fresh corn so sweet, a homemade blackberry pie so tart? When did I realize a handful of Queen Anne's Lace from our land is more graceful than a store bought bouquet of flowers?

Was it when I became a parent? When I moved to a foreign country by myself? When we decided to change our careers despite the financial risks? 


I once knew happiness, the kind that didn't cause any aches. The safe kind that doesn't involve any risks. I lived a sheltered life and smiled like an innocent flower. I didn't know what it meant to be stepping out of that boundary of my comfort zone and really live.

All the pains and aches I've been through over the past several years have woken my senses and given me a new set of eyes to see things in a different light. I find myself yearning to live and taste life in a way I've never done before. The deeper the ache your heart knows, the more beautiful and vibrant the world becomes. You will never know what sweetness really tastes like without knowing the taste of bitterness.

I'm not afraid of taking risks with life anymore, for now I know the taste of true happiness. Because I know life is beautiful no matter what it brings.



August 17, 2014

New Art + Our TV Gallery Wall Completed {for now}

A little over six months ago, I started putting together a TV gallery wall in our family room. I finally completed the wall this past week and I'm so excited to share it with you today.


I wonder what took me so long to complete this project. We had our next door neighbor over for dinner the other night, and that was all I needed to complete this wall and even finish up an unfinished painting project.  

I get more projects around the house done in one day before someone comes over than I do in a month. It's a sad, but undeniable truth. I guess I do my best work under pressure.

Here is some of my new artwork I framed for the gallery wall.

 * * *
Pineapple:
  
Pineapple: Pen and watercolor on paper

I'm thrilled how this piece turned out. I stopped half way done and then realized, it was already completed. It's interesting what your artwork would tell you when you try to communicate with it. 

I decided to frame it on its side, and I really like it this way.


Watercolor Lettering:

Hello Sunshine no. 1: Watercolor on paper
Hello Sunshine no. 2: Watercolor on paper


Blueberries:
 
Blueberries: Watercolor on paper

I was blending colors on paper and my son said those circles looked like blueberries. So I turned them into blueberries. How simple is that? The actual artwork is actually much brighter than the photo above, but I couldn't adjust it without changing the value and intensity of the colors.

Tokyo Tower:
  
Tokyo Tower: Pen and watercolor on paper

I did a simple Tokyo Tower drawing just because I was feeling sentimental. It's float mounted on a DIY sharpie striped mat.

* * *
 Our TV gallery wall is a collection art and objects that are meaningful to us. 

1. Hello Sunshine no. 2 {New Art}
2. My oldest son's artwork from when he was in preschool  
3. Blueberries {New Art}
4. Pineapple {New Art}
5. Gazelle Horns from High Street Market
6. The Sweetest Fig  
7. Artwork by a watercolorist and friend, Kristin Malone, given as a wedding gift.  
8. Tokyo Tower {New Art} framed in the DIY Campaign Style Frame 
9. Jesus  
10. Our Hawaii Wedding Picture
Every time I look at this wall, it puts smile on my face. The best part about a gallery wall is you can continue to let it evolve - by replacing some of the art or simply adding more to it. 
I'm looking forward to seeing how this wall is going to evolve over time. 

Do you have a gallery wall in your home? 


August 11, 2014

Summer Tranquility

During summer, my days are filled with melty popsicles, squirt guns, building forts and knee scrapes. If I'm not careful, I can easily get overwhelmed during those busiest of days.

I yearn for simple moments that help me slow down and feel centered. 

Today, I wanted to share some of those moments I've been enjoying this summer.

* * *
Baking a Peach and Creme Fraiche Pie


Watching the garlic flowers slowly dry.


Spotting a squash blossom in our vegetable garden and wondering if I should fry it.


A perfectly ripe peach and not sharing it with anyone.


Spending time with good books (or at least trying to do so).

Thank you, Linda | Creekside Ministries, for the book, Enough

A DIY art project


in the backyard while watching the boys play.


And this is how it looked like by the time I was done with my projects.


 * * *
During the midst of busy summer days, I collect those easy and slow moments that nourish my soul.

May your week be filled with many simple moments.


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