January 31, 2014

Why I Want to Paint The Buffet & 5 Things I Learned in January

This picture of the buffet in the previous post caused a bit of stir. Can I explain why I want to paint this piece?  

In above picture, the buffet somehow managed to look gorgeous with its mahogany glory. But in reality, it looks more like this...

It has nicks and scrapes all over the piece. And the varnish is really worn out. It just doesn't look great as is, which is hard to tell from yesterday's pictures. That explains why I only paid $75 for it. Keeping its original finish is not an option. 

So, I need to either paint it or refinish it with stain. I've done enough refinishing work, and I know this one is going to be a challenge with all the details, which are also falling apart. If I ever want to refinish this with stain, I probably need to have it professionally stripped.

There's something I want you to know about me: I am a big fan of antique and vintage furniture. I enjoy the history behind antique pieces and I respect the craftsmanship.

That helps me be very careful when I choose a piece to paint. I think some furniture pieces are okay to paint, while others should never be painted. For example, I will never, ever think of painting any of my favorite antique pieces, such as...

my Chinese plant stand, which is over 100 years old. It has all these cherry blossom details, which I love. It has a repair mark on one of the legs, and the finish is not perfect. But, there is something very special about this piece. I would never put my paint brush on it, ever

I would also never paint this antique commode in our guest bedroom from 1820s. This also has some damages (no wonder, it's almost 200 years old!), but I love the craftsmanship I see in this piece. Beautiful burled wood, all these intricate details that are very representative of the era.

I'm not done decorating here, but this is how it looks like today.

I also have a very old rustic chest of drawers in our master bedroom, which is probably over a 100 years old. That is also a very special piece to me regardless of its imperfections, and I'm currently working on restoring it.

But, I can't deny that I enjoy painting furniture too, especially now that I am getting my hands on Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. But that's only when I come across the right piece that I think will shine with a coat of paint.

And if I ever try to paint a furniture piece that's gorgeous, precious, and shouldn't be painted, Steve would be the first person to stop me. My mother-in-law taught him how to appreciate and restore antique furniture, and Steve and I both enjoy antiques. Did I tell you what awesome husband and mother-in-law I have? 

This doesn't mean that I've set my mind on painting the buffet. I think it all comes down to which suits my personal style best, painted or stained, and also what kind of feeling/mood I want to create in this room. You got me really thinking, friends. And I LOVE it! I will have to sleep on it and let you know when I decide. Well, it might take a while... because you know, I'm indecisive like that. 
Now moving onto the next topic: 5 Things I learned in January.

Last month, I linked up to Emily at chatting at the sky for "what we learned in December" and it was so much fun. I know Emily is not doing a linky this month, but I couldn't help but write down my five from this month. 

Here are 5 things I learned in January in no particular order: 

1) I really enjoy hosting a party even when my house looks like a construction zone. 
People who come over to your house don't care whether or not your house is perfect. It's more important to start living when life is not perfect (because life will never be perfect!) instead of trying to make things perfect. A big lesson learned.

2) I love becoming part of the blogger community.  
My blogger friend Stephen Andrew, and my blog mentor, Janet at The Gardener's Cottage, make me feel I am part of the blogger community. I really enjoy getting to know fellow bloggers, and establish friendships with them. Thank you, bloggers, for being so amazing!

image via so much sunshine

3) Comments from readers are what keep me writing. 
It's a lot of work to write a decent blog post, but reading a kind comment from you makes me want to write another post. I read and appreciate every single comment you have left on this blog - Thank you!

4) Every time my 2-year-old gets sick (this time, a stomach virus), he ends up getting an ear infection as well (this time, a double ear infection). 
That means, he is usually sick for over a week. Poor little guy. And he would be fussy all week long. Poor mommy.

5) Taking a good care of myself is not a luxury, but it's a necessity. 
When you look good, you feel good. Even taking a shower daily makes a big difference on our mood. It's really important to do something special just for yourself, no matter how small it is. That little kindness towards yourself gives you a break you need on a dreary day.

Emily wrote 10 things she learned in January from her trip to Uganda, Africa as part of her Compassion blogger ministry. Would you hop over there to take a look? You won't regret reading this.
10 Things I Learned in January: Uganda Edition by Emily Freeman

What did you learn in January? I'd love to hear about it.

Have a lovely weekend!

January 29, 2014

Our TV Gallery Wall Today

Our TV gallery wall this morning.

As you can see, it is still a work in progress. This is meant to be a family picture wall.

I did all the hard work of putting the frames on the wall together, but somehow, I haven't picked out the family pictures that go in some of those frames. It's been sitting like this in the past few months. 

What's taking me so long to complete this gallery wall? 

Not enough time in the day? - Well, that's true.
Design indecision? - May be. 
Afraid of making mistakes by choosing wrong pictures? Yeah, that's more like it.

When I looked around the house today to see what I can share with you, I realized our house is full of uncompleted projects. If I waited for these projects to be perfectly completed, I'd probably never get to share them on this blog. 

I'd rather share my uncompleted projects now and show you the progress I make over time. This week, I'm going to select the pictures for the frames.

Here is another shot of the gallery wall with its TV stand. 

Our TV stand is a 75 dollar craigslist find antique mahogany buffet. I believe it's from 1920's.

Look at the pretty Chippendale-like details.

I'm going to paint this piece as soon as I decide on the paint color. I have some ideas, but I haven't decided yet. I will perhaps talk about it in the next post. 

What color would you choose to paint this buffet? 

Do you have any unfinished project that is waiting for your final touch?

January 27, 2014

Kindness - Day 4 Recap

Hello friends, 
How are you? I hope you are well.

I came down with a stomach virus the boys had over the weekend. My younger son started on Thursday night, my older one on Saturday night, and then I got sick on Sunday morning. I finally started to recover this afternoon. Our washer and dryer has never been this busy. Jello and camomile tea are my new best friends. 

Today, I'm going to recap the day 4 of the kindness week

Day 4: 
I've explored the "interior" design of who I am in the first two posts of the kindness week (you can read them here and here.) On the day 4, I decided to take a look at my "exterior" design, which I also wanted to improve. 

I've been told that I've long neglected myself and my look needs an intervention. That includes my make up, skin care, hair, and outfits. I think I'm ready for a change. When you look good, you feel good, after all. Shall we go on? 

Here is the picture of me back in 2001. 

 Here's me from last fall, twelve years later. 

Wow, what happened? 

Getting married happened and raising kids happened. Studying for hours to attain a higher degree happened.

Back in 2001, I was living in Kyoto, just graduated from college. I had plenty of time to take care of myself. I always made sure that I looked flawless. 

I also had my favorite hair person back in those days. He was an amazing hair stylist. When I moved to the U.S., I found an excellent hair stylist in NYC and I used to go down there on the regular basis just to get my hair done. My hair is a typical Asian person's hair, which is very coarse and hard to style. Ever since I saw my Japanese friend got her hair badly chopped by a local hair stylist, and I'm afraid of getting a haircut at a local salon. I get my hair done every time I'm back in Tokyo, NYC, or other big cities where I know there are good hair stylists. I know I'm weird like that. Where is Stephen Andrew when I need him? (My blogger friend Stephen Andrew is a talented hair stylist).

So, I'll be on a hunt for a local hair stylist who can handle my temperamental hair. 

In the meantime, I decided to do a few things to improve my appearance. 
1) I will take a shower every day no matter what. 
I know this might sound ridiculous to some of you. But even taking a shower every single day became a challenge when I became a mother. My goal is to have clean hair every day.

2) I will put my makeup on, even though I work at home (I am a full time mom and a baby sitter to my niece).

3) I will go shopping and get a few stylish outfits that fit my style. 
I went to my pinterest board for inspiration. 

shabby apple

I obviously like stripes.


seams for a desire

Effortlessly chic.


I love this dress. So simple yet elegant.


I probably need a new pair of glasses. Something chunky like those pairs. And love this perfectly messy hairdo, too.

home and delicious

Beautiful hair. I want that hair!

image via pinterest. source unknown.

What do you think?

January 24, 2014

Happy Birthday to My Best Friend: Kindness - Day 5

My husband, Steve, turned 35 today.

We've been married for over six blissful years.

Adam A. Palmer Photography

Knowing I get to wake up next to my best friend for the rest of my life is the best feeling there is. Steve is the kindest, sweetest, and the most patient person that I've ever known. I know so because he deals with this mean, moody girl every day without complaints (ask him). 

We've been through many good times and some challenging times together. 

Steve is a fantastic dad to our boys. He puts his family first, and we know he will always be there for us.

He teaches the boys important things: 
He shares his love for nature with them. 

Our pumpkin harvest from 2011

Learning how to fish is obviously very important.

He teaches them it's important be silly sometimes and not take things too seriously.  

He shows them what it means to be loving and caring. 

 He is a supportive and loving husband, who is always willing to give more than he receives.

Steve & me at the Barn event with Emily & John Freeman

He drove all the way to North Carolina with me in a snow storm back in November, so that I could attend the Barn event. It took us over11 hours to get there and he did most of the driving. He always knows what matters to me and supports my goals and dreams no matter how crazy they seem. 

He is also an excellent hunter, 

a successful realtor
Steve Jones Homes
and a loyal friend to his buddies. 

He is a wonderful son and a big brother,

Adam A. Palmer Photography

and the best son-in-law my parents could ever ask for.

On the 5th day of this kindness week, I want to dedicate all of my love and kindness to this very special person.

Happy Birthday, Stephen! I love you so very much. 
Here's to many more happy and healthy years together!  


This is my third kindness post of the week. You can read the previous posts here and here

Have a wonderful weekend, friends.

January 22, 2014

Kindness - Day 2 & 3: Un-Voice

Hello there.

Yesterday was a busy day here at the Jones' residence. We had our little niece over and I spent my day taking care of her and my two-year-old, both of them being cranky from a nasty cold. Diaper changes and constantly wiping their little runny noses pretty much sums up the day. Oh, those poor little red noses!

But we also enjoyed lots of cuddle time with wool blankets and good picture books. We baked a loaf of bread and I managed to cook a root vegetable soup for dinner to warm up our body. Cooking and eating well always makes me happy, so that must have been the kindness of the day, I suppose. 

I fell asleep on the chesterfield sofa, curled up like a shrimp with my chin tucked to my chest. When I woke up at four in the morning with a sore neck, shivering from sleeping without a blanket, this random thought came to my mind out of nowhere.

I need to let go of the negative inner voice that keeps nagging me. 

Where did it come from, I wondered, my mind still foggy from the sleep. 

Growing up, my parents gave me many positive affirmations that made me feel good. They would tell me "you always do a great job no matter what you do" and "you'll accomplish many great things," and those messages still empower me to this day.

But at the same time, I was often criticized too, usually for the things that I could not change. Looking back, it was more of a cultural practice than a parenting choice, because Japanese mothers tend to be very critical of their daughters (please correct me if I'm wrong).

I know that's the way those mothers are trying to "correct" us daughters, to help us become a lady they can be proud of. I understand the good intentions behind that mentality. But living with those negative messages would make you feel as if you are not enough. That unfortunately becomes part of who we are, and it hurts.  

When I became a parent, I brought that negative voice into my own parenting. I often nag my boys for being fussy and difficult, and I know that makes them feel bad. I can see that in their reactions and that hurts me.

Trust me, I'm not choosing to behave that way. It's rather like a default parenting mode that shows up when I'm feeling stressed and overwhelmed. So, instead of helping them learn how to calm themselves down when they get upset, I get frustrated and criticize their behavior. How can that be helpful to them? 

The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice they carry throughout their life. 

image via The Silver Pen

During the healing circle I attended the other day, I realized how important it is for parents to accept their child for who he or she is. Children learn how they feel about themselves from early on by the way adults speak to them. Many of us carry that pattern into adulthood and that inner voice, let it be positive or negative, navigates our life.

As children transition into young adulthood, I can see the issue of parental acceptance might take different forms but it still exists. A parent might deny the child's newly blossoming identity by criticizing the career path he chose, his sexuality, the person he chose to marry to, or spiritual or religious choices he's made. 

It sure doesn't feel good to be denied who we truly are. What can we do? 

image via Pinterest. original source unknown.

Can we just accept who we are and start appreciating our unique design, including all the good and some of the faults? 

I want to feel good about myself.
I want my boys to feel good about themselves. 
I want you to feel good about yourself. 

Can we release the negative inner monster that torment us and let us just be who we deeply are?


I am enough. 
You are enough. 
We are enough. 
Just the way we are.

You may be temperamental, clumsy, messy, anxious, or (fill in the blank), but that's exactly how God wanted you to be. They are part of your unique design. And you know, He doesn't make mistakes. We are exactly how He designed us to be.

Thank you for being me, Yuko. I love you just the way you are.

Thank you for being you. I love you just the way you are.

Today, I am releasing the negative inner voice that pushes me and my loved ones around. I am going to replace that with the voice of love and positive affirmations. I am slowly learning to be kind to myself and kind to others around me as well.

Hush, inner monster. You don't belong here anymore.  

This is my second kindness post of the week. You can read the first post here.

Today, I'm also linking up to The Nester for the un-word link party. I also wrote my word for the year here and here. Please visit Nesting Place for more un-word inspiration!  

January 21, 2014

Kindness - Day 1

How are you?

I came down with the same cold my boys had over the past couple of days, and I've been spending a lot of time in bed, resting. That explains why I didn't write a post yesterday. 

I finally started to feel better yesterday afternoon. So, I went out to participate in a gathering called, healing circle, organized by my friend Shira. This was the first time I went to a group like this. There in her apartment, three of us shared the things we were grateful for and also some of our personal struggles. It was a calm and safe environment we created together, and it was nice to share and connect with others in such a personal level. Thank you, Shira, for organizing the group and also for being such an amazing facilitator and friend. 

Do you remember the word, kindness, I mentioned in the previous post? Here's the reason why I chose this word: I decided to be kind to myself for the first time in my life.

As a mom, I give so much love to everyone around me but myself. After running on the treadmill of motherhood for five years, and all the love I have given to others, I was running low on my love fuel. I cry a lot, get frustrated easily (I am a very expressive person), and I am impatient with myself, my husband, and even with my boys. I haven't been the best mother that I could be lately, and I've been feeling guilty about that. 

I also have a history of depression in my early 20s. It was only for a short amount of time and I was never clinically treated, but it was an intense experience. As anyone who has experienced depression or has learned about it would know, once you have an onset of depression, its shadow always follows behind you. When I feel down or uninspired, I just know I need to snap out of the phase as soon as possible. Being kind to myself is my proactive approach to that potential problem. 

So, I decided to slow down, take a deep breath, and be kind to myself. I realized if I want to be kind to others around me, I need to be kind to myself first. I guess this is like a refueling process. I'm fueling my love tank until it's full and starts to overflow. 

As soon as I gave myself a permission to be kind to myself, I felt warm in my chest and the phrase, thank you, came out of my mouth. I took it by surprise, but then, "Thank you for being me" naturally followed and that felt like a big assuring hug I needed for a long time. 

I'm also learning to ask myself, "what do I need?" instead of what needs to be taken care of and what does everyone else need.

Joining the healing circle last night was the act of kindness I wanted to take toward myself. Taking the rest when I needed was also just that. 

While I rested in bed, I spend some time with a book I've wanted to read for a while: Vampires In The Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. This is a collection of short stories, and I'm enjoying every bit of it. 

Well Being by Barbara Close is also on my nightstand right now. This book has many good recipes (both cooking and aromatherapy type of body care recipes) and I'm looking forward to trying some of them this week. 

After my first healing circle session, I drove to Wegmans to get some goodies just for myself: A box of organic herbal tea, coconut oil and lavender soap, and a bouquet of carnations. This was a splurge for me because I rarely buy something just for myself. After a relaxing shower with the coconut lavender soap and a cup of herbal tea, I was ready to rest again. I prayed and meditated for a while before I fell asleep. 

This may not sound much to you, but doing things just for myself felt like true luxury. 

So this week, I will continue to work on being kind to myself. I have no plans, no goals or agenda. I'll just let things unfold on their own and see where I will be at the end of this week. I am so excited about this process! 

Have you been kind to yourself lately? 
Do you have anything special you do just for yourself? 

Peace, my friends.

January 19, 2014

DWR Champagne Chair 2014 Entry & Breaking Through The Uninspired Moments

Before I forget, I wanted to share my miniature chair I made for the Champagne Chair Contest hosted by Design Within Reach. You can read more about the contest here

Are you ready? 

Drumroll, please....

Behold! Yuko's Convertible Side Rocker:

This is a chair with a television stand (?) and a coffee table that converts into a side rocker. WOW!

Okay, I was totally kidding about that wow. Even though it's a cute chair, I know there's nothing impressive about it. Definitely not a prize winning chair. If you remember from my previous post, I was feeling ambitious about making a mind-blowing chair this year so that I could win the prize, but it never happened. Why? I simply ran out of time.

That being said, I am happy with how it turned out considering I spent only three hours making this chair. I was up until four in the morning working on it and I wasn't even drinking Champagne this time! I almost wasn't going to make it this year. I want to give myself credit just for following through with my word and submitting my chair. Way to go, Yuko!

The winner of the contest will be announced on January 29th. I'll let you know if I ever win or become a finalist. Miracles do happen, so you'll never know.

Never give up hope, right? 

Now moving onto the next topic.

I've been feeling uninspired lately. I don't know if it's my hormones, the weather, or motherhood blues, but it's probably all of them. 

The boys have been under the weather over the past few days and we've all been tired and cranky. I stepped on some dried up Cherrios that have somehow remained on the kitchen floor even after sweeping. I couldn't find a pair of gloves for my 5-year-old, which we used to have half a dozen pairs neatly put away in the closet. Steve and I were supposed to have a date night last night, but our 2-year-old came down with a fever and we ended up being stuck in our messy house with two fussy kids. Didn't I just clean up the house the day before? Lovely.

I'm tired and worn out. Needless to say, sleep deprived. 

So I decided to try a few things that might help me feel inspired again.
1) I went and talked to Steve how I've been feeling low, stuck, and uninspired lately. 
This wasn't a good move because I ended up complaining how much I hate living in a cold climate like this and wanted to move to Hawaii yesterday. Moving on...

2) I went to some of my favorite blogs for inspiration.  
This usually works, but this time was different. I needed something more. I needed to take some actions myself to make things better. 

So I did the only thing I had left to do.
3) I sat quietly and prayed I needed help. I prayed that I was desperately needing guidance.
Then the word formed clearly in my head: Limitation. 
I need limitation.

I need to limit what I focus on and make it a starting point. 

When I have a house full of mess, it helps me to focus on one area of the house at a time. Like tackling the dishes piled up in the sink and start from there. Perhaps I can work on my thoughts and feelings the same way. Giving attention to one thought at a time. 

So, I chose the one word that spoke to me the most at the moment: Kindness

I will focus on this topic for the entire week and see what will unfold from there. I will tell you why I chose the word Kindness when I come back tomorrow. 

January 15, 2014

Our Dining Room Today & How I Decorate

Our dining room today, is not a dining room anymore. 

I'm in the middle of turning it into a office space/library right now. If you look closely at the picture below, you can see I haven't even finished painting the room yet. Some of the drywall tape still needs another layer of plaster, then I need to sand it down, prime, and paint. The baseboard is not even primed yet. Well, someone is not painting in the right order here. I wanted to see how the room looks like in the new paint color, Benjamin Moore Seashell, so I decided to roll the paint on the walls first before anything else. Did I tell you I am a very impatient person?

I temporarily put the room back together for the playdate we had over the weekend. This was part of my "making the house look less like a construction zone" effort. Since I put the room back together, I took a few pictures of the room and see how it is coming along. 

Taking pictures of a room always helps me see if the room is coming together the way I intended. It's like having another set of eyes that show me the things I cannot see otherwise. Do you ever use your camera for that purpose?

I like what I see here. The mood of the space is warm and inviting, which I wanted. The room used to be painted in Benjamin Moore Horizon, which is a beautiful pale gray with a blue undertone. I really liked that color too, but I think this space was calling for a warmer feeling. The new paint color definitely works better in this space. 

The frames on the wall are way too small for the space. This is something I wouldn't have noticed unless I took the pictures. I need something larger in scale. 

I need to add some colors to the room to create a depth. Perhaps a shade of moss green and some type of blue. I want more white in the room to make it feel lighter too.

I like how the dark antique desk looks against the modern and cleaner line of the white Panton chair. Blending different textures and shapes creates a drama in the space and makes the room unique. Paring the furniture from different periods is one of my favorite decorating schemes I use.

My goal is to eventually swap the antique desk for a Saarinen 48 inch round table. This way, I can use the room as office, library and dining space. I love rooms and furniture that serve more than one purpose. 

Saarinen Table. via Elle Decor

I have this antique Moroccan (or Turkish) chandelier that goes above the desk. I think this will look fantastic above my future Saarinen table once it's refurbished. What do you think?

My half painted Mid Century credenza. The gray paint looks okay on it. I might try a different color to see if I like that better...

Like a slate blue-gray on this credenza. I think I can achieve this color with ASCP Graphite with two coats of clear wax.

image via Phylum Furniture

I will change the old pulls into brass ones like this.

Home Depot

This is the other side of the room. This room is so small that I can't even take a picture of the entire china cabinet without the chandelier getting in my way. 

I recently painted the inside of the faux bamboo china cabinet (a craigslist find) inspired by the below picture. I'm going to use this cabinet as a bookshelf and style it with something like white ironstone. 

image via Pinterest. Source unknown

Again, the picture tells me the frames flanking the china cabinet are too small. So, I decided to experiment with scales using what I had at hand.

This isn't bad. Perhaps I can put a contemporary painting where the blank canvas is. The chrome director's chair is not staying here by the way. I just wanted to see how it looks like when I flank the china cabinet with two chairs. 

What about an antique gold frame? I guess it depends on what I'm going to put in the frame. The first one with the blank canvas might be better when it comes to the scale though. 

What if I place my antique french chair there? 

Is this any better? Hmmm. 

Hello real life mess in the background (train table & football = reality)

I have a long way to go with this room, but I like the general direction it's taking and I enjoy the process of putting the room together.

This is the process I go through when I decorate a room. Tweak here, tweak there, and take some pictures and tweak some more. 

What does your decorating process look like? 

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