October 22, 2014

What I've been up to lately

It's been a while since I last posted, but I'm still here!

Since I publicly announced my dreams and where my heart is right now in the previous post (am I the only person who does this?), I thought this might be a good time to reflect on my goals and restructure my life in general, including this blog. 

I've been a stay-at-home mom over the past six years and I am now transitioning into a new phase: work-at-home mom! I still want to be a full time mom when the boys are around, so most of my creative work needs to be done while they are at school and before they wake up in the morning. 

I'm so excited about this transition and I wanted to make this experience the best possible. So I decided to take a blog course that will help me embark on a new phase of life, and it's been an amazing experience to say the least.

I want to blog with purpose and I want this place to be the catalyst for my creative endeavor. I couldn't ask for a better teacher than Holly Becker of decor8 to help me achieve my goals. 

decor8 e-courses

This blog course has truly been a blessing to me because I'm learning literally everything I needed to know from Holly and her fellow instructor, Fiona Humberstone. They are entrepreneurs in their own creative fields and they're generous about sharing their expertise and wisdom with us students. I love that their main focus is how to build a creative business based on your passion, instead of how to build your blog audience. Building an audience is well, of course important, but that shouldn't be the drive. 

I write this blog because I want to share what I'm passionate about with other people. And turning my passion into a career may not be easy, but I'm going to give it a shot.

So far, I've learned how to write a knock-out bio (which is coming soon on the blog!), how to brand a creative business using the color psychology and more. Later, they'll talk about storytelling for bloggers, and as you probably know I'm all about storytelling! I can't wait for the next lesson. 

I really needed to restructure the foundation before moving forward on this journey, so I'm feeling great about this extra step I'm taking right now. It's also so much fun to learn something new.

Have you taken any classes to learn something new lately? 

October 11, 2014

One in a Million

I've had this pain on the left side of my chest for quite some time. The pain used to come and go, but it has become persistent over the past few days, spreading all over my left shoulder and arm. 

I found myself sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office yesterday morning, feeling small and nervous, while waiting for my name to be called. 

I wasn't scared, but it would be a lie if I say I wasn't worried. What if I had something serious? What if something happens to me and I would leave my boys motherless. These thoughts kept circling in my head. 

Then a phrase floated into my mind out of nowhere, "It's not my time yet."

My gynecologist didn't find any lumps in my chest. But the phrase continued to echo in my mind, louder than before: "it's not my time yet." 

If it's not my time yet, what's left for me to do? What are the things that still need to be done while I'm here on earth? I started to have this quiet conversation with myself on the way back home from the doctor's office.

I discussed with my husband, too, about the things I wanted to pursue and who I wanted to become. During the conversation, Steve blurted out, "but that's one in a million. It's impossible to make a living like that." That stirred something up inside of me and I cried.  

I want to be that one in a million. 

I want to be a children's book author. I want to create stories that makes a difference in the lives of others. I want to run a creative business and financially support my family.

I want to be that one in a million. 

I want to move towards my dreams even when they appear to be out of reach. I want to believe in myself and believe in the gifts God has planted inside of me.

I want to be that on in a million. 

I want to live each day with purpose. I want to wake up in the morning excited to face the day's adventure instead of dragging the tired body out of bed so that I can cross off the never ending to-do list. I want to be the person I deeply am and live up to my fullest potential.  

When I decided to come to America to study psychology, some people tried to convince me not to do it. Some said I was being unrealistic, and one professor even refused to write a letter of recommendation for me. He didn't believe in me. He didn't think I could do it.

But if I gave into the fear and voices of others around me, I wouldn't have attained my degrees in psychology and human development. I wouldn't have had a chance to work in the field of early childhood research and found out that the path was not meant for me. I wouldn't have become as invested into empowering children and helping them unlock their potential as I am today.

Just because it's not easy to pursue and there's no set path laid in front of me, it doesn't mean that it's impossible. So I politely decline all the "be realistic" advice that comes my way. Then I turn to my dream and start taking baby steps toward my goals.

I know I can reach the stars, even from this humble and small beginning of where I am today. I'm not sure if writing children's books will be part of my career, as I know life can take a different path from your original plans. But I can't keep running from it and letting the fear hold me back anymore. I need to give it a try and see where it takes me.

Sometimes it takes a pain in the chest to make you realize what really matters. Those unexpected, not-so-lovely things can be blessings in disguise.

I believe I can be that one in a million, who lives life to its fullest.
I believe you can be that one in a million, too. 

What are your dreams?

October 1, 2014

What I Learned in September

I can't believe it's already October. I haven't even put out a single pumpkin yet!

That means it's time to share what I've learned over the past month. Here we go! 

1. I have officially outgrown all of my pre-baby dresses.
And oh, I'm not pregnant in case you're wondering. I just gained weight... unless my dresses have magically shrunk, I suppose. 

2. I have the best luck at Old Navy's clearance section.
So, I'm going to a wedding this weekend and didn't have a dress to wear. Then I found this cute summer dress at Old Navy for $16 on the clearance rack. I always find something cute at their clearance aisle. I didn't want to spend much on a dress I may not wear often, so this was perfect! 

I decided to add a belt I already had and my mother's vintage Gucci for more formal look. 

$16 Old Navy dress + belt + vintage Gucci purse

I might wear this Elie Tahali jacket for the ceremony,

With Elie Tahali Jacket

and maybe this 15 years old pashmina for the reception. Do people still wear pashmina or is it a bit too old school?

With the pashmina

3. Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle {Plato}
Sometimes people who seem to be doing well are the ones who are going through the most. I've also learned not to compare what I'm going through on the inside with what others are showing on the outside.

Would you be extra kind to the people you encounter today? Would you also treat yourself with kindness and care? Because we all have our own challenges to overcome. 

4. First grade = Lots of homework (= Lots of work for this mama)
Do your kids bring home a lot of homework? My first grader does quite a bit. Definitely more than I expected. Me no like-y too much homework-y. 

What's your experience with your child's homework? What do you think is the right amount of homework? I'd love to know!

5. Pirate's Booty is like the most popular snack among kids.
And I knew nothing about it until this month. It all started when my preschooler had it for snack at school. He can't stop talking about it ever since. Then my first grader told me that's his favorite snack, too. I guess I have a lot of catching up to do...

image via snacksafety.com

Yes, my kids are hooked on you, Pirate's Booty.

Now it's your turn. What did you learn in September?

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

September 27, 2014

When I Need Inspiration

When I need inspiration,
I create
something, anything, without a goal or purpose in mind. 

Book page covered canvas + Japanese Magnolia | still in progress

It may not be necessarily fruitful, but it's okay. This helps me slow down and take a deep breath.

* * *
When I need inspiration,
I take a long walk, alone
with my camera in my hand. 

The crisp and fresh air helps me lift up my spirit.

* * *
When I need inspiration,
I decorate 
with the things I found on my walk and in the yard. 

I like it simple, not fussy, but full of texture.

* * *
When I need inspiration,
I turn to the internet
because there are so many brilliant and generous people out there who are willing to inspire others with their gifts.

Belgian Style Living Rooms by Greet Lefèvre 
Belgian design is simplicity at its best. Greet explains how to create beautiful Belgian style in your own home. 

It's Fall Time, The Barn is ready, and I Want You to Come Here! by Myquillyn Smith 
Myquillyn and her family have turned the world's worst barn into the world's prettiest barn. This gives you hope for your home and for your still yet to be achieved dreams.

Working With : Leather Furniture by Emily A. Clark.
If you have a house full of brown furniture like I do, and still want to make your home light, airy and modern, Emily is the girl for you. 

ORC | Trademarking | Original Ideas by Linda {Calling it Home}
Linda challenges us to be original and be confident with our own ideas. She challenges us to be a game changer instead of a follower. I needed to hear this this week. 

This short video by Emily P. Freeman
Some days, as a mother of two little boys, I wonder if I need to choose either my responsibilities as a parent or my passion. There simply isn't enough time and energy for both. If you feel this way like I do, this video is for you. Watching this made me cry. 

* * *

Hope your weekend is full of inspiring moments and bright sunshine. 

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? 

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