December 31, 2013

DWR Champagne Chair Contest is ON!

Are you celebrating New Year's Eve with some champagne tonight? Well, then I have a great news for you. This year's Design Within Reach Champagne Chair Contest is on, and I am thrilled!

What's the DWR Champagne Chair Contest, you might ask? It's simple. You use the foil, label, cage and cork from no more than two champagne bottles and turn them into a miniature chair.  The winner of the contest will receive a $1,000 DWR gift card. I really like the idea of crafting a chair using just a few simple materials.  

image via

Here is my entry from last year. 

Well, I know. My chair was cute but not so original. It's like an Eames' molded plastic chair and the lounge chair got married and had a futuristic baby (the base). I remember I decided to enter the contest in the last minute, and this was the best I could come up with after two bottles of champagne (drinking involved) and a sleepless night.  

I know I need to be more innovative this year and invest more time and champagne into it in order to create a one of a kind chair that appeals to the judges. I want to win the $1,000 DWR gift card, people!

Here are some of the delicious chairs DWR offers.... 

Easy Chair.  Love this, but this is out of my price range even with the Gift Card.  image via
Tolix Chair.   image via
Classic, Wishbone Chair in Oak.  image via

The last day of entry is January 14th, so we still got some time.  

I'll be sharing my champagne chair here on the blog when I'm ready. If you are entering the contest, wishing you the best of luck!  

Cheers and Happy New Year!

December 30, 2013

5 Things I Learned in December

Today I'm linking up with Emily at chatting at the sky to share what I learned in the month of December. I thought it would be a fun short post that might help you get to know me better. 

1. Our house gets the messiest in December. With all the holiday preparation and many other things happened this month, our house had reached the messiest it's been in a long time. If you know me in person, you know how much this bothers me. It's a good thing we don't host any holiday parties at our house. Despite the cleaning effort on Saturday, it's still far from being in a good shape. Now you know what I'm doing for rest of the day. 

2. My son goes to a local Catholic school, and they go crazy with school events and charities in the month of December. When I say crazy, I mean crazy! From stuffing Christmas stockings for a local charity to the Christmas pageant and everything else in between, the school sure kept the parents busy. It was great for the kids. I was worn out by the end of the month. 

3. Taking actions instead of sitting, thinking, and planning what I want to do takes my happiness to a new level. It's not that I have produced anything meaningful or income-worthy, but doing something I truly enjoy gives me hopes and visions I need. It puts the wheel in motion and if I keep going, you never know, I might eventually create something meaningful. Now I believe in art of doing things, but not in planning things. 

4. I'm not a big fan of red meat, but I actually enjoy some lamb. It came as a surprise because I'm a veggie and grain kind of girl. Lamb was never my choice of meat especially with its distinct flavor. But I have to admit, I really enjoyed the lamp we had for Christmas dinner. I am going to get the recipe from my brother-in-law so that I can share that with you. It was that good.  

5. Little kids grow fast. Much faster than I thought they would. Last night, I was going through some picture from this year's Easter egg hunt, and I realized how much my younger son has grown in the past nine months. Now his cheeks are less plump and his eyes portrait his intentions. I need to cuddle and squeeze my boys more often to remember their childhood.   

I think that's about it.  

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

December 28, 2013

2014 - CREATE

We spent Christmas over at my in-laws and we had a great time.  We opened our presents, the kids played with their new toys and with each other, and my brother-in-law cooked the best lamb entree I've ever had for dinner.  He is a fantastic cook.  I don't usually care for lamb because of its distinct flavor, but it was so good that I ended up having three servings!  No wonder my pants are getting tight.  

After all the fun and hustle-bustle of Christmas, I like to slow down and reflect the year.  I cleanse our house from top to bottom, and bring everything to a clean slate for the new year to come.  I'm one of those people who needs clean and uncluttered environment in order to think clearly.  I think it goes back to my Japanese roots though, for my family always cleaned the entire house on December 31 to prepare for the new year.  Yes, we clean our house instead of going to a party on new year's eve.  It may not be as fun but it really helps me clear my mind and start a mindful new year.  Our house has been neglected for the past two weeks, so much needed deep cleaning is in order for tomorrow. 

2013 was a great year.  It sure was full of challenges, but it was the year of connecting with new friends and re-connecting with the old and dear.  It was the year I recognized my fear, overcame it, and decided to move forward with my dreams.  Attending the Barn get together was a total game changer for me.  

Right before the Barn event started.  Do you see how excited I was?
It was inspiring to be with like minded people, who were willing to open up and support each others dreams.  Emily Freeman and her family were the most amazing people I've ever met, and I am waiting for them to adopt me into their family some day.  Seriously. 

From that day on, I haven't looked back.  I now only focus on my dreams and who I want to be, instead of what I can do and cannot do.  My fear doesn't have much power over me anymore.  It's still a daily struggle, but I am winning the battle so far.  It is just liberating. 

At the Barn event, Gary Morland (Emily's Dad) suggested I read Steven Pressfield's The War of Art.  He said it would help me conquer my fear.  My in-laws gave me the book for Christmas and I'm savoring every page of it.  

Most of us have two lives.
The life we live, and the unlived life within us.
Between the two stands Resistance.

Resistance has no strength of its own. 
Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us.  
We feed it with power by our fear of it.
Master that fear and we conquer Resistance.  

Excerpts from The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield

I was feeling particularly inspired earlier today, after reading Layla's "Word Of The Year" post.  I like the way she sums up her new year's inspiration in one word.  It's simple and makes more sense than coming up with a page long list of resolutions I can't even follow through.  

So what would be the word for me in the year of 2014?  After a few minutes of fidgeting, tapping the desk, and a few gulps of cold coffee, here's what I came up with.


2014 is going to be a year to be creative.  Instead of thinking what I want to create, I will sit down and actually work on it.  I want to make things happen this year.  I will make my creative side blossom.  

I will create a beautiful home for my family.  

My in-laws also gave me the Porter Cable Upholstery Staple Gun and the Spruce Upholstery Book by Amanda Brown for Christmas.  I totally got the gift ideas from Miss Mustard Seed Marian's this post.  I can't wait to get my hands on that stapler!  

I am blessed to have such wonderful in-laws who understand my creative passions.  Thank you, Mom and Dad Jones!
My creative supplies for the new year
So you can see there will be some upholstery projects coming in the new year, and I'll share all about it when that happens.  I haven't sewed in the last 25 years, so it will be interesting how it goes.  

I will create stories for children.

I don't talk much about this here, but I will continue writing stories for children.  I just haven't figured out how I can integrate that side of me on this blog.  Sharing my personal stories on the blog really helps me understand life in general, and I'm using that as the core of the story I write for young readers.

And last but not least,

I will create a blog that nourishes the soul, not just mine but yours too.  

I want this blog to be the place for inspiration, the place where we can be honest and take risks and uncover who we deeply are.  I share some of my personal stories in hopes that someone out there might be in the same shoes and need to know they are not alone.  I want to share my dreams and hopes and successes and failures with you.  I want this blog to be a gift to you as well as a gift to myself.  I know I'm aiming high here, but I need to be honest with what I want.  I want this blog to be more of a community rather than my own personal journal.  

I want to thank all of you for visiting my humble blog.  Your comments encourage me to keep going.  I am so happy to be finally part of this blog community.  

Would you take a moment and share your New Year's resolutions in the comment section?   I'd love to hear about them. 

December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

December 24, 2013

Unwrapping The Gift

Today we are going to Christmas Eve mass at our church, and then will head over to my in-laws for a family gathering.  My husband's family is rather large, so it'll be a fun time with lots of uncles, aunts and cousins (and their babies!).  I'm so looking forward to it. 

I wanted to slip out for a moment though, to sit quietly by myself, before moving into the busyness of the day.  

Last night, while I was wrapping the last bit of our Christmas presents, I thought of what happened at a local grocery store the other day: 

After finishing up our late lunch at the store's upstairs cafe, our two-year-old was willing to walk down two flights of stairs on his own.  Daddy held his right hand tight, not willing to let go of it no matter what.  Together they slowly started walking down the stairs one step at a time. 

A few people quickly rushed down the stairs.  The dad and son pair didn't seem to care how fast others were passing by them.  They were taking steps with a great focus and that was the only thing mattered at the moment.  Holding hand in hand, going down one step at a time.  

Then all of a sudden, the boy missed a step.  

I gasped.   

Daddy held on the boy's hand tight and he was hanging in the air just by his arm

And something unexpected happened.  The boy giggled.  He giggled with delight, his life hanging by a thread and yet fully savoring the thrill of the adventure.  Does he know If daddy let go of his hand, he would fall down the stairs all the way to the bottom?

The boy finally regained his balance and resumed walking down the stairs again, very slowly.

The boy knew his dad loves him and was not going to let go of his hand.  He knew as long as daddy was with him, he was safe and there was nothing to be afraid of.  He trust his dad and in his unconditional love.  


This makes me wonder, if I have this much of trust in my heavenly Father.  Do I trust Him or am I afraid of falling down the stairs?

When the boy went down the stairs gripping his hand tightly on his dad's, his wasn't focusing on his fear, but on the given task. 

How often do I focus on my fear, the fear of unknown, the fear of failing or making mistakes, instead of trusting Him guiding my way?  

I want to be like my toddler son, to be able to choose joy even when life takes unexpected turns.  His heart light and filled with hope, the boy doesn't get scared or disappointed when he misses a step.  His unwavering trust in his daddy makes him brave.  I too want become who I fully am in the light of love. 

Love came down to us at Christmas.

Today on Christmas Eve, I unwrap the gift of love.  I unwrap this great gift and know that I am loved, and you are too. 
No matter where you live, where you are in life, what faith you may or may not have, may you find the light of hope shining through the darkness of night.  May you find the slow, quiet moments to unwrap the gift of love.   

Merry Christmas, friends. 

December 21, 2013

Have a wonderful weekend.

What are your plans for this weekend? 

I will be baking my all time favorite, Oatmeal Cranberry & White Chocolate Chip Cookies (This is my friend's recipe and it's divine!),

I might even try my hands on  Martha Stewart's Lemon Icebox Cookies....

image via

... just because I enjoy baking.  I always baked as a little girl, even though I've never been a big sweets eater.  But don't worry, the cookies won't be wasted.  My husband is a cookie monster and he'll gobble up every crumb that comes out of the oven.   

What's your favorite things to do during the holiday season? 

May your weekend be filled with slow moments that nourish your soul. 

If you are traveling this week, hope you have a safe trip.

December 20, 2013

Brick Fireplace Makeover

This is how our family room looked like when we first moved into our house six years ago.  I was in love with the general layout of the house - it's nothing fancy but a good solid house.  I wanted to change some of the details though, to make it our own.  Like this family room...

The room was way too dark for my taste and we needed to brighten it up.  We spend a lot of time here as a family and we also use this room as our kids' play area (at least for now).  We wanted the room to be light, airy yet cozy. 

I painted the paneling Simply White in eggshell and the trim and molding Waynesboro Taupe in semi-gloss, both from Benjamin Moore.  I loved the way it turned out, but there was one problem.  The brick fireplace looked redder and more dated than ever against the freshly painted white walls! 

I needed to do something to the fireplace quick and without breaking the bank.  Painting or whitewashing the brick were the only options with our teeny tiny shoestring budget.  

But I wasn't quite ready to paint the whole brick white (what if I didn't like it??), and whitewashing seemed tricky when it comes to controlling the amount of wash.  So I came up with my own way of treating brick: Painting the mortar joints using my trusty Annie Sloan Calk Paint (ASCP).  

What?  Did I say Calk Paint?  Yes, I used exactly the same cans of ASCP I used for my Trumeau Mirror Makeover.  ASCP is a bit pricy (about $37 a quart), but you can paint on almost any surfaces and it creates such a beautiful chalky texture.  Since I used the paint and rags I already had at hand, this project didn't cost me a penny. 

You will need 
- ASCP in Paris Grey
- ASCP in Old White
- A plastic container
- A paint stick for mixing paint
- Paper rags 
- Drop cloths 

I used Old White as a base (it is a creamy white), and adjusted the color by adding Paris Grey until I got exact the shade of white I wanted.  As you can see, my "white" ended up more like a light gray in the plastic container.  

This is what I did.  I wrapped my index finger with a double layered rag, and dipped it in the paint and traced the mortar joints.  I made sure to cover the entire concrete part, but I didn't care if the paint went over the brick. 

I smeared the extra paint that got on the brick to have sort of a whitewashing effect.  I used a clean rag to do this task.    

I worked a small section at a time so the paint won't dry before spreading.  It required some time and finger-strength to complete this project, but it was all worth it in the end.  

Did I tell you we took that ugly mantel down, hoping there would be brick underneath, and ended up with a huge hole?  Oy!  

It's okay.  We temporarily covered the hole with my $75 Craig's List nautical painting.  Nobody would notice the hole unless I tell them, right?  Some day we'll fix this problem but covering it up will do the job for now.  

It's been six month since I treated the brick fireplace, and it's held up well. 

I hope you find this tutorial helpful.  

Wishing you all a cozy weekend filled with hot cocoa and good naps!

December 18, 2013

Slowing Down

It's Friday and it is one of those days.  No matter what I do, everything goes wrong.  All so wrong.

I am worn out after an exceptionally busy week.  It was filled with my older son's school events and spending time getting ready for them, accommodating to my husband's demanding work schedule, and undertaking another responsibility as a baby sitter to my 18 months old niece.  

I took care of everything and everyone and all the needs were met, except my own.  

I'm used to bathing my kids every night even when I don't have clean hair myself.  I'm a mom with little kids and I'm okay with that.  I often forget to feed myself because I'm too busy feeding my babies. 

But when I don't feed my soul, the core of who I am, I starve.  I get impatient.  

I'm a born "maker" and I need to be making something using my own hands every day, let it be art, stories, or cooking.  I make something so that I can come alive.  So I push hard to get my projects going.  I let the kids watch extra TV and I may not sleep much at night.  But sometimes, it just doesn't happen no matter how hard I try.  The kids get sick, or I get sick.  I fall down the stairs or rear end my neighbor's car.  Unexpected things happen, one after another. 

I need a moment to breathe. 

Should I just give it all up? 

I am so frustrated I kick the garbage can in the kitchen at full force.  It falls down, slides across the floor, and scatters bits and pieces of scrap food all over the place.  Did I tell you the garbage can was full?  

I just stand there, astounded to see the scale of the mess I made.  It is much bigger than I thought it would be.  I am standing there feeling awkward, not knowing what to do next.  I just kicked the garbage can.  I can't pick up a broom and clean up the mess like nothing ever happened.  

My two year old runs into the kitchen, stars at the mess.  

"Mommy, big mess.  Big mess here."  He tells me pointing at the floor.  "Big mess."  

Is he talking about the messy floor, or is he talking about me?  Am I a big mess?

I sit on the floor, cuddle my knees and weep.  I bury my face in the knees so the kids won't see me crying.  I don't even know why I am crying.  Do I want someone else to pick up my mess?  

Am I a big mess?  

Am I waiting for someone else to pick up the pieces of the mess that is me and glue them back together so I can somehow stand up straight?   

Why can't I even get a single project going for myself?  Why can't I even write a blog post?  Why do I have dirty hair and a messy house after working so hard all week long?  Is this God's way of telling me I'm not ready yet for anything beyond motherhood?  

Should I give it all up? 

My life was filled with joy just a few days ago.  How could I forget that feeling and going back to the square one?  How is it possible my cup was overflowing yesterday, and now it's half empty and desperately needing to be filled?  

Later in the afternoon, the boys decorate our Christmas tree with a little help from Daddy.  They are proud, looking up the decorated tree, with a smile on their faces.  The bulbs are clustered at the bottom dangling from the branches.  The cat is busy batting the bulbs.  Everything is crooked but I have to say, this is the most beautifully decorated Christmas tree I've ever seen.  So imperfectly perfect.  

I take a deep breath and slow down.  

It's Monday afternoon, and beef stew is simmering in the oven, warming up the house with the expectation of a hearty dinner.  I decided to try Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon after watching the movie, Julie and Julia.  It's not a hard dish to cook, but it takes time to prepare and you need to pay attention to the details.  It bubbles in the oven all afternoon long and comes out perfectly tender and brown, the meat and juice and all.  I'm pleased with the result and I grin.  

But the moment I take a bite, I notice the meat is a little dry, and I know why.  I was rushing through the cooking process while the kids took a nap, and I didn't take the time to brown the meat before simmering it in broth and wine.  Browning seals the juice in the meat and keeps the meat moist.  

I take a deep breath and slow down. 

Sometimes good things cook slowly.  That's how the meat gets tenderized and absorbs all the tasty juice.  You shouldn't skip any corners or you pay the price.  Slowing down and working on it, step by step, is the only way to make it good.  

Perhaps life is just like that.  

I need to slow down and savor every bit of the given day instead of rushing through the process.  It may unfold slower than I want it to be, but that's where I can absorb all the experience that makes my life richer.  

So I take a deep breath and slow down, try to let things unfold on it's own. 

This is my offering to you, with all of my doubts and weaknesses.  It is scary, but I am doing it anyway.  This Tuesday, I started unwrapping the story and finishing up a day later.  Sometimes, it takes time to unwrap a gift, and it is okay too.  

Today, I'm linking up to Emily at chatting at the sky for her Tuesdays Unwrapped series. 

December 13, 2013

Decorated Mantel-less Fireplace

Yesterday we finally went to pick out our Christmas tree at a local farm and got some Christmas decorating going.  Here is the picture of our decorated fireplace. 

We took down the mantel last summer so we don't have a good place to hang our Christmas stockings this year.  We'll see if Command Clear Hooks hold up well enough on the brick to hang the stockings.  These hooks usually work great, but not the best on brick.  

This is how the fireplace and the walls looked like when we moved into our house.  

I painted the walls in Simply White, and the trim and molding in Waynesboro Taupe, both from Benjamin Moore.  I couldn't be happier with the way it turned out. 

I also treated the brick to brighten up the space.  I considered whitewashing or painting the brick white, but I was afraid that would make the brick look flat.  I wanted to replicate the texture of old brick similar to this...

Old Chicago brick with extra mortar rubbed on top, by Urban Design Interiors

After much thinking and research, I came up with my own way of brick fireplace facelift.  I will share how I achieved the look some time next week.  

Have a wonderful weekend! 

December 10, 2013

There's Something About Giving

It was 11pm on a snowy day in February, 2013, when I stared at the computer screen and warm tears ran down my cheeks. "Thank you," I said. "Thank you for letting this happen." The door to the garage opened and my husband returned from a grocery shopping, carrying bag after bag of groceries to support our hungry family of four. He asked me what was going on, seeing my wet cheeks, and I smiled. 

That winter, I was facing the hardest time as a mom and as a person. I was afraid of going outside of our house and seeing people. The thoughts of changing my clothes, putting some make up on, and faking a smile I could barely manage anyway, daunted me. Every time I thought of going outside, I felt tightness in my chest. I was feeling vulnerable. I was literally crumbling into pieces. It hurt my husband as much as it hurt me; he was really concerned about me. Once a social butterfly, this was not an acceptable reality. What's happening to me? What went wrong? 

The truth is, I've struggled with motherhood. Day after day, I drag myself out of bed so that I can take care of my two babies while my husband works. "Five more minutes, I'll stay in bed for just five more minutes." I love my boys so dearly, yet I can't fully be there to enjoy them. My mind wanders and I'd find myself saying, "I'm not cut out for this. I'm not good at staying at home with the kids." 

If someone asks me how I like staying at home with the kids, I feel pressured. Many experienced moms have told me that staying at home while the kids are young is the best thing to do. Despite how I was feeling inside, I always responded, "I absolutely love it! It's the best thing in the world!"

The reality is... it is so darn hard. 

Looking back now, I realize I was trying to keep up with the image of who I thought I should be instead of who I am. I pretend to be a good mom and wife who could run my household like nobody's business. In reality, the dishes were piling up in the sink, the laundry room was full of dirty clothes, and dust bunnies took shapes in the corner of the kitchen. The kids took turns and kept on fussing, and the best I could do was to cover my ears. I felt like a failure. 

All the pretending I was doing finally took a toll on me and I slowly started to withdraw inside my house after our second son was born. I felt safe in here. Our house was my little cocoon that protected me from the outside world. 

Every night after kids went to sleep, I read all of my favorite blogs for inspiration. I wanted to turn our house into my sanctuary, somewhere I could truly relax and be myself. One evening, while I was reading The Lettered Cottage, I came across something called Chalk Paint. The furniture Layla finished with the paint looked amazing, and I wanted to try it myself. 

But I knew it would be hard to get a paint like that where I live. It would be too expensive for me to get the paint shipped. We didn't even have Trader Joe's until last summer, after all. 

I was overjoyed when I found out I could buy chalk paint at a local retailer. It was a sign for me, the sign that everything will be alright from then on. A raft was thrown into the stormy ocean and I grabbed onto it for dear life. I was saved. A few days later, I drove 45 minutes east in the frozen cold, and got my first can of chalk paint. That purchase wasn't just a can of paint. For me, it was hope. 

Fast forward to last month after the Barn event, and we had 11 hours of driving ahead of us. We decided to stop at a chain restaurant to take a break and fill our stomachs. 

As soon as we took our seats at a small table, an elderly couple sitting next to us gave us a five dollar coupon for the restaurant. The woman smiled, "I thought you could use this." 

Her kind gesture made me want to do something similar. Feeling blessed and connected from my experience at the Barn, I wanted to do something fun, generous, and spontaneous to keep the momentum going. So I decided to anonymously pay for someone's meal in the restaurant. My husband reluctantly agreed to go with it. He thought I was crazy. Our waitress, Julia, graciously agreed to help us execute our plan. Her voice was showing the strain after a long day of waiting on customers. 

I chose a gentleman who was sitting behind me. He reminded me of the dad from Fraiser, but that wasn't the reason I chose him. I just knew he was the one the moment I saw him. 

The long story short, when he found out his check was taken care of, he was thrilled. This made me giggle with excitement, because this is what I expected to get out of this. Offering something small to a stranger just to brighten his day. It only cost me $15, including the tip.

Then something else happened that was totally unexpected. The man told Julia that every time he sees a law enforcement officer at a restaurant, he pays for the bill. Julia replied, "Well then, sir, today is your 'pay it forward day' for your kindness." 

I picked a random stranger to bless, and that person had always given to others. 

Giving is contagious. 

Julia and I, two complete strangers until half an hour before, gave each other a big hug as we parted company. We exchanged well wishes, and she gave us two cups of coffee to go. But more than a hug and cups of free coffee, we shared something special neither of us could quite articulate. 

I think both of us needed this, to be able to feel there's good in the world, and that goodness is contagious. The coffee was warm in my hands. 

Giving is contagious. 

That evening, I received more than what I gave, and that was not something I planned. 

Some bloggers gave me tremendous amount of hope and inspiration during my hard time. I just received the gift they offered and took it all in. Their gift lit my darkness with hope and that hope pushed me to the surface.

I wanted to say thank you to all of them. I may not have commented much on your blog, but I appreciate all of the generosity you have offered through your stories. Thank you... 

Emily at chatting at the sky
Myquillyn aka the Nester at Nesting Place 
Gary at Gary Morland
Catherine at In The Fields
Lauren at Pure Style Home 
Marian at Miss Mustard Seed 
Layla at The Lettered Cottage
Joan at For the Love of a House
Jenny at My Favorite and My Best 
Brooke at Velvet and Linen
Sara at Gitzen Girl
Courtney at Be More With Less
Janet at The Gardener's Cottage 
Ann at A Holy Experience 
Lecia at A Day That Is Dessert

It was during that time I promised to myself, some day I will write my own blog to give back to the community.  

Giving is contagious.   

image via

I also want to thank all of you for offering your gift to the world, no matter what shape it takes and how big or small it seems: Writing, teaching, healing, guiding, cooking meals, changing diapers, tucking a child in the bed, giving a hug, holding hands... the list goes on. Thank you... 

This Tuesday morning,  I am struggling to string my stories and thanks together. We are the threads and together, we weave one big piece of beautiful tapestry.  

I am finding peace in this ordinary day.

Today, I'm linking up to Emily at chatting at the sky for her Tuesdays Unwrapped series.  

December 9, 2013

I need your help!

Hello friends, 

I need your help. 
image via Pinterest

Yesterday was my one week blog anniversary and so far I am having way too much fun spending time here.  

I just found a major issue though with my Blogger account over the weekend.   Blogger doesn't provide any technical support, which I also just found out, and this is not something I can fix myself.  

The part I'm having a problem with is the "subscription" section, which I will have to remove from this site until I figure out the solution.  This is not the best thing to do when you just started a new blog and had a pretty good start.  But I hope you understand.  

After much thinking this weekend, I wonder if I need to get my own domain name and publish my blog through wordpress. 

Here's what I need your help with.  I understand I probably need to hire a web designer to design my blog, and get a web host.  I found a pre-made template made by this web design company, and they can tweak it to the way I like it.  It still costs $500 for the service though, which is pretty steep for us to pay right now.  

This is all new to me and I am willing to learn.  If any of you could share your experience with publishing through, what you did with your web design, what company you use for a web host etc., I'd really appreciate it.  Thank you so much in advance!!


The butternut squash soup I cooked Friday night turned out to be great. 

In this recipe, they use both olive oil and butter to saute the vegetables, but I only used olive oil.  I like this recipe because you can easily make it into vegan by omitting butter and heavy cream (or use earth balance in place for butter), and it'll still turn out great.  Or if you're a butter lover like my husband, you can enhance the flavor of the soup by using a good quality butter.

The key is though, to use just enough amount of broth to cover the vegetables, so it won't be too thick or too thin.  I also added two bay leaves to the recipe and it worked fine.  

Okay, enough of the soup talk.  I hope to come back here tomorrow to write another post to link up to Emily's Tuesdays Unwrapped.  We'll see what is going to come out of me this time - stay tuned! 

Hope you have a great start to the week!


December 6, 2013

Have a lovely weekend: My kind of holiday gift guide

What are your plans for this weekend?  

I'm cooking this butternut squash soup for dinner tonight, and have a movie night with my husband after the kids go to sleep.  Do you have any movies you would recommend?  

Are you getting tired of the holiday frenzy?  If you want to take a break from going to the mall to find the perfect holiday gifts, here is an idea: Great gifts don't have to be things.   

My husband and I have been simplifying our holiday shopping in the past few years by giving the "gifts of experience" instead of the ones wrapped with a bow.  Yes, we still give kids toys and books, but not too many.  We usually give adults some gift certificates they would actually enjoy the experienceLess time spent shopping means we have more time to do things as a family: Baking, sledding, and playing games to just to name a few. 

Courtney Carver offers her "gift" to the world by sharing her expertise on these topics on her blog, Be More With Less.  She talks about simplifying your life and really living.  Reading her blog makes you feel as if you're taking a nice quiet walk on a beach.  Would you like to take a look at her simple gift ideas?: Gift Ideas to Support Simple, Healthy, Creative Life.

I don't usually give myself a gift.  But I might consider treating myself to these simple hand crafted beauties.  Something I can really use and beautiful at the same time...

Wouldn't these gift tags make a beautiful holiday table setting? 

 Monogrammed Christmas ornaments for each family member.  
This also makes a great "baby's first Christmas" gift. 

Diptyque Baies Candle.  Someone buy this for me please?  I want to live in a heavenly scented home.  I consider this a gift of "experience," no?  

We can also give to people who really need our gifts this holiday season: Compassion International Gift Catalog.

We don't need many things to create something beautiful.  Sometimes less is more... 

image via

May your weekend be blessed with laughter, rest, and good food.   

December 5, 2013

Trumeau Mirror Makeover

Hooray for my third post!  I wrote about facing my fear in the last two posts, and it's liberating just to be able to put the honest self out there and just be me.  

I'm overwhelmed with your kind comments and encouraging words - Thank you!!  I'm also excited many people are visiting my humble blog from all over the world (!!), and getting to know me post by post.  It's a great feeling to be connected and becoming part of the whole.  

With the love and support under my belt, I am ready to show another side of me.  The creative side that is.  If you are ready, I'm ready to dive in!  Here we go!

Interior design has been a passion of mine for the past several years.  I decided to put my passion into practice when we purchased our first house six years ago.  It's been a lot of fun trying to create a home for our family!  But we are a young family with one source of income (I am a stay-at-home mom), and our budget is very limited.  As much as I covet beautiful designer furniture, I can't just go out and buy what I like.  I mostly shop at our local craigslist for furniture and spruce it up with my own hands to get the look I want.  Here is my recent creation, "French Inspired Trumeau Mirror": 

I did this project before I started my blog and unfortunately I don't have a before picture to share.  But I managed to find a similar one on ebay. 

image via

I found this La Barge trumeau mirror from 1940s on our local craigslist and fell in love with the details.  It was gold with cream color instead of black, but it looked just like the one in the above picture.  Instead of keeping the mirror as it was, I decided to turn it into something more like this...

Antique French Trumeau Mirror:
image via

 I also wanted to the mirror to compliment the antique french chair I already had. 

my antique french chair, and no, I didn't paint this one

My goal was to recreate the 1) pale gray color with light blue undertone and 2) uneven "crusty" paint finish that you see in French and Swedish antiques.  After much research, I came across Miss Mustard Seed's dining set makeover.  

image via

I basically followed Miss Mustard Seed's tutorial for this project: Two coats of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (ASCP) in Paris Grey, followed by a wash of ASCP Old White and water mixture.  

I mixed equal parts of Old White and water in a plastic container, applied the wash with a paint brush, then wiped it off with a dry, lint-free cloth (I used an old t-shirt.)  It didn't quite create the "crustiness" I wanted, so I added a little more Old White to the mixture and let the wash sit for a couple of minutes before wiping it it off.   

When the paint had dried, I used some sand paper to distress the piece.  Then I finished it off with one coat each of ASCP "clear wax" and "clear wax & dark wax mixture" to create a protective surface and some antiquing effect.  I ended up adding just a teensy bit of dark wax to clear wax for the second coat to achieve the right amount of antiquing effect.

Here is the mirror without the Christmas wreath. 

and the details...

Do you see the uneven crustiness of the paint I was going after?  ASCP does some amazing things you can't achieve with regular latex paint. 

One last time, my new vintage trumeau mirror in its Christmas vignette.  

ahhhh... much better! 

I hope you enjoy the mirror makeover.  Happy holiday season everyone!!

Today, I’m linking up with Miss Mustard Seed for her Furniture Feature Friday.  I’m SO excited to be part of it!! ox
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