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: 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: 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.

August 6, 2014

Seven Years

Seven years ago today, 

I married my best friend at a small chapel of Star of the Sea Church in Hawaii,

surrounded by close friends and family, who traveled across the ocean to celebrate our special day. 

It was one of the happiest days of my life.

Seven years and after two beautiful boys, career changes, many hugs and tears, we have grown closer than ever.
Love is a flower which turns into fruit at marriage 
- Finnish proverb
I can't imagine life without him.

 Photos by Adam A. Palmer

August 5, 2014

The Sweetest Fig | New Art

Thirteen summers ago, I came to America with two large suitcases full of dreams. It was a five minute decision that I made to study abroad and explore the world. Little did I know it was going to change my life forever. I was 23. 

Fast forward six years, summer of 2007, I was in Honolulu getting ready to tie the knot with the man of my dreams. While our guests relaxed their tired limbs from a long trip on the sandy beach, Steve and I drove around the city taking care of the final details of our destination wedding. Soon it was time to pick up my parents at the airport who had just arrived. When was the last time I spent time with them, I wondered. I hurried to the luggage claim with my anticipation quickening my pace. I was 29. 

Three summers ago, I knew our life would soon be busier than ever with a new addition to our family. I was getting our home ready for the impending arrival of my second son, while my mother helped me watch our toddler. The hospital bag had been packed, collecting dust by our bedroom door for nearly two weeks. "Today might be the day. Be ready," I whispered to myself. I was 33. 

Last summer, my boys and I spent six weeks in Japan with my family. It had been four years since our last visit, and it was my youngest son's first time to meet his great grandmother. 

I will never forget the smile on my grandmother's face when the boys gave her a hug. 

One morning, my parents took us to pear picking at a local farm. We filled our baskets with fragrant pears and peaches right from the trees. The boys stuffed themselves with blueberries they just picked from the bushes, with stains all over their mouths. The owners of the farm offered us to try some of their freshly picked figs. It was round, fuzzy, and fit right in my palm.  

And it was the sweetest fig I'd ever tasted. I was 35.

As I drew a picture of the figs, I thought of the sweetest fig that nourished my soul last summer. The flavor of the summer's end fruit still lingers in my memories as a reminder of the different seasons of life I've walked through. 

So much has changed since I made the five minute decision. I left my family in Japan on a hot summer day thirteen years ago, and today I'm raising my own family here in America.

My heart belongs to two countries on the opposite sides of the world. I'm slowly learning to make peace with these two separate identities that I carry.

     The Sweetest Fig: Ink pen, soft pastel, acrylic on paper

Why are summer memories always so bittersweet?

July 31, 2014

What I Learned in July

It's hard to believe July is over. 

Today, I'm going to share what I've learned this month. Are you ready for some random happenings here at northfield gate? Here we go!

1. I can eat a salad for every meal. 
I've always liked salads. But lately I found myself having a salad almost every meal and sometimes even for a snack. I just can't get enough of it. I think the combination of summer vegetables, leafy greens, and lemon based dressing is refreshing and perfect for summer.

Baby Kale + Tortellini Salad

2. When you compare generic vs. name brand pure vanilla extract, the name brand wins without a doubt.
I've been baking a lot this month and this is what I learned. The generic kind just doesn't have the vanilla scent I want in baked treats. Any thoughts? 
3. I believe in the power of packing tape.
Let me start by telling you this: I like pretty things and I love decorating our home. But not-so-pretty things can happen in our household, well, more often than I'd like to admit. This is what happened. My electric piano broke and I used packing tape to fix it. (gasp!) I know.

It works just fine for now. And yes, I'm still practicing the piano almost every day.

4. My cat loves my piano.
Speaking of piano, my cat Margo loves to sit by my feet when I practice. I think she gets comforted by the music. It's nice my furry daughter and I share the same passion. I love her to pieces. 

5. Want to discover your creative genius? I've learned embracing imperfections is the best way to unleash your creativity. You don't want your fear holding back your creative energy. You can read more about it Here.

6. Kids eating popsicles in the bathtub is not a bad idea.
My boys are not usually allowed to eat outside of the kitchen. Yes, I'm that kind of mom. But the other day, I let them have their popsicles while they took a bubble bath just because. All the drippings ended up going in the tub and I didn't have to clean up the mess afterwards. The boys were happy and I was happy. Sometimes it's good to be spontaneous.

7. The sound of rain comforts me.
It's been quite rainy here in upstate NY, but I don't wish for sunny days. I think of my mother in Japan when it rains. I think of the time she told me the sound of rain calms her mind. Listening to the rain instantly transports me to that moment in my childhood. I like it when it rains. 

8. If the blog is a car, then your kind comment is the fuel.
I feel so blessed to be able to share what I'm passionate about here on the blog. Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog. Your encouraging comments have fueled me to keep on going.

You can read more about what I've learned this summer Here. 

What have you learned so far this summer? 

 * * *
Today I'm linking up with Emily at chatting at the sky for her What We Learned series. 

July 28, 2014

How to Unleash Your Creativity

I did something a little out of the ordinary this past week. 

I took a watercolor workshop. 

I've used watercolor in my artwork (you can see them here), but I've always combined it with other media. I was never comfortable enough to use this medium alone. It was time for me to get it right and expand my creative repertoire. 

The extremely talented artist Kirstin Malone shared with me some of the techniques and experience she has acquired over the years as a watercolorist. I've learned so much more in this two day workshop than a semester long watercolor class I took back in college. You can see some of her stunning work Here

Besides the watercolor techniques, I've also learned the secret to unleash our creativity. Do you want to know what that is? Embrace the Imperfections. 

2 Ways to Embrace Imperfections & Unleash Your Creativity:

1. Let go of your control. 

Unlike pen and pencil drawing, watercolor is a very challenging medium to control. Sure, you can control some details, but in the end you have to trust the water and let it do its job. 

Doesn't watercolor painting sound a lot like life? When you know what you can and you can't control, you approach life more effortlessly. You just do your best with what you can control and let the rest unfold on its own. 

       practice no. 1 | jelly beans

This is exactly what happened when I worked on this piece, jelly beans. The two colors, orange and yellow, blended beautifully on the paper while the water settled. 

I couldn't have achieved this if I overworked with the brush. The water moved the pigments around and left me a little surprise. When you let go of your control and let things unfold of their own, something amazing happens.

2. Reinvent

Since I'm relatively new to the world of watercolor, my paintings are usually, well, not that good. But I hate to give up on something I've spent hours working on. Instead of giving up or throwing a temper tantrum (also a tempting option), I try to get creative and reinvent my artwork. I take something imperfect and turn it into something beautiful.

      practice no. 2 | tomatoes + chives + pie crust

I wasn't too happy when I finished this piece - I think it's the pie crust. My husband even mentioned the pie crust was crooked and weird. Oh well.

I really liked some of the details though. I wondered how I could make this work...

Luckily, this art came alive with a simple styling. I paired it with a white frame and a Panton chair, and somehow the pie crust doesn't bother me anymore. All I needed to do was to place it in a right setting. 

       practice no. 3 | chives

This piece was a little more challenging than the one above. I was so close to put this one in a trash can. I thought this was boring and a little too pastel to my taste.

So, I pulled out my white oil pastel and wrote "embrace your imperfections" all over the background. Then I applied a light gray watercolor wash all over it. This process gave this piece a slight sepia tint and toned down the pastel hues I wasn't happy with. It also made the message pop against the darker wash. 

Next, I made a mat using cardboard and burlap. Once the wash was completely dry, the art was mounted to the burlap mat. 

I'm thrilled how this turned out. 

When you're ready to embrace imperfections, you finally become free from fear - the fear of making mistakes. Sure, the fear will always be there, trying to find its way to enter our soul. But when you live boldly in spite of fear, your creativity comes to the surface.

And it's okay to make mistakes. Remember, you can always reinvent the imperfections and turn them into something beautiful.

Let's roll up our sleeves, embrace imperfections, and unleash our creativity.
Shall we? 

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