February 28, 2014

There was a mother who couldn't let go & Weekend links

There was a mother who couldn't let go...
of her control that is. 

And I'm talking about myself. 

I'm an overprotective mom (just so you know, I'm not proud of it) and I was afraid of letting go of my boys. I always felt that I need to be "protecting" them. 

I am not an anxious person. But I have to admit, motherhood makes me anxious. I still remember the first time I held my older son in my arms. I promised myself to protect him from anything in the world.

Even though I've learned to loosen my grip on my boys over the past five years, I still have a lot of growing up to do as a mother. Yesterday was a turning point for me, and I wanted to share the experience with you. 

I was feeling quite nervous yesterday. Steve and I had a meeting with our 5-year-old's kindergarten teacher to discuss if he would be ready for first grade next year. My son is a November baby and he is the youngest in class. We decided to go with whatever his teacher was going to suggest, having him stay in kindergarten for another year or move him up to first grade. His teacher is the best we've ever known, and we completely trusted her judgement. 

            The First Day of Kindergarten (and School Bus!!!) last September.  
He didn't quite know what do to when the door opened.

Why was I anxious, then? Well, here is the thing. The boy believed he was ready for first grade, and he was really excited about it. We told him he might have to stay in kindergarten for another year, but that didn't change his mind. If we decided to hold him back, I didn't want to see his heart break. 

But if we decided to let him go to first grade, I thought that would make me nervous, too. Will he be able to catch up academically as well as socio-emotionally? His classmates do and say things that are more "mature" than he is. 

The meeting went really well. The long story short, my boy will be in first grade next year (gasp!). His teacher doesn't believe holding him back will benefit him in any way. He is academically thriving, and the social aspect of his development will catch up when he is ready. He will be one of the youngest in his class (insert me crying here).

It is time for me to let go of my control as a mom and let the boy blossom into the person he is meant to be. I want to give him enough room to grow.

I need to believe in my son that he is resilient enough to thrive through challenges. I also need to trust God and His plans for us. I'm often scared for him with things he is not even scared of. You know what though? He continuously amazes me with what he can do only if we let him.

Another important thing I learned yesterday: Having a teacher who truly cares for your child really makes a difference. I'm impressed how much attention his teacher gives to my son and all the other children in the classroom. She knows her children so well and approaches each child differently depending upon his or her needs. I am so grateful for her, and all the wonderful teachers around the world!

Moving on...
* * *
I am still working on styling my kitchen walls. It's not quite "me" yet. I'll keep tweaking this corner until it feels right. I just wanted to share the mid process with you.

The kitchen corner before...

and after... 

and still continues to change...

* * * 
Before I go, I wanted to share with you a few inspiring blog posts I came across this week.
I know. You're welcome. 

Arrows :: A Secret Weapon In Decorating by The Nester

How to Accessorize a Console: Step by Step by Lauren Liess

A Letter from a Working Mother to a Stay-At-Home Mother, and vise versa by Dr. Carolyn Ee (Every mother needs to read this!)

Have a lovely weekend!

February 27, 2014

DIY Modern Art

Do you remember the framed art that hung in our office/library space?

Our office/dining space (still) in progress with the framed DIY artwork on the left.

 It was a quick and easy DIY, and I wanted to share how I made them.

Things you'll need:
- Paper (I used watercolor paper)
- Paint (I used Benjamin Moore's Waynesboro Taupe 1544)
- Paint roller
- Acrylic Paint (I used Golden Heavy Body Iridescent Acrylic in Bright Gold)
- Radish 
- Matted frame (I used this frame from Target.)

A radish
Yes, I used a radish to create the round imprints.

image via Pinterest. original source unknown.

You can also use any other vegetables or anything that creates the shape you desire. I cut the radish in half to make a round stamp. 

This is the acrylic paint I used. I think any heavy body acrylics would do the job. 

1. Paint the paper using a paint roller. 
I used latex paint for this, just because I had some left over from painting our family room. Let the paint on the paper dry completely. 

2. Dip the cut radish in the acrylic paint and stamp, stamp, stamp! 
I used a generous amount of paint to create the uneven, 3-D effect that I was going after. I also re-dipped the radish in the paint for each stamping. Do you see the uneven, vein-like effect? I love it! And remember, it doesn't have to be perfect. 

3. Let the acrylic paint dry and you are ready to frame and display your artwork! 

It's super easy, isn't it? 

I like the way this artwork reminds me of the framed intaglios that I adore. I think it looks particularly good when you group a multiple frames together and create a gallery wall.

image via Pinterest. original source unknown
Amy D. Morris Interiors

What do you think?

February 24, 2014

5 Things I Learned in February

Coffee Lego Block

You know you drink way too much coffee when your toddler son brings you a Lego block with a picture of coffee on it and says, "This is for you, Mama!" I was, of course, sipping my morning cup of coffee when this happened. 

The way I enjoy coffee has changed over time. When I was in my early 20s, I used to have my coffee black, then I started adding some milk like cafe au lait right around when I moved to NY. After my first pregnancy though, I couldn't have my coffee without both cream and sugar anymore.

But this has all changed yesterday when I was invited to a brunch at my brother- and sister-in-laws. My brother-in-law made amazing espresso using this. And I'm telling you, this freshly brewed espresso was the BEST thing ever!

Bialetti Moka Express Stovetop Espresso Maker

The flavor of the coffee was so rich that I didn't want to add any cream or sugar to it to conceal the bitterness. 

Today, I'm sharing the five things I have learned in February (can you believe it's almost March?), and my newly found love for espresso is the first one. 

1. My new favorite way to drink coffee is freshly brewed espresso without cream or sugar.

2. Cut flowers can grow in a vase, even without much sunlight. 
I brought home a fresh bouquet of tulips last Friday, and somehow they kept growing in a vase over the weekend. When I first arranged the flowers, only less than an inch of green stems were showing, and this is what you see today. 

They grew at least a few inches since I put them in a vase. How is it possible for something to be growing and dying at the same time? Or is this something not that uncommon I just didn't know about? 

3. I'm so bad at writing comments on blogs.  
This is probably the main reason why I rarely left comments on blogs when I was just a reader. I wish I could leave witty and hilarious comments like Stephen Andrew does. At least something witty... or hilarious.

4. I've been working on refining my decorating style and this is what I found out this weekend (and I'm pretty excited about it): I enjoy various patterns and textures as in fabrics, rugs, and tiles, and I like layers of them. I also prefer warm tone over cool. 

I asked Lauren Liess of Pure Style Home her process of refining her decorating style and this is what she said:
I'm always trying to analyze spaces I love to figure out why. Each time I have a little "aha" moment, I just sort of bank it for later.
I'm a big fan of Lauren's design work, so I was excited to get her advice. Thank you, Lauren, for kindly answering my question! 

I used the images from my Pinterest boards and went on analyzing what speaks to me.  

Mary Evelyn McKee

Lauren Liess

Tom Scheerer

image via My Paradissi

These rooms are full of patterns and textures and the soft green hues from natural elements make the rooms feel relaxed. 

Look at this beautiful kitchen Loi Thai of Tone on Tone designed. I can't get enough of the Moroccan tiles he used for the backsplash. This kitchen is a work of art!

Loi Thai, Tone on Tone

I also enjoy simple, minimalistic interiors like this. I'll save this one for my future dream house.

Alexandra and Michael Misczynski, image via Veranda

Do you like the images you see here? If you do, you can follow me on Pinterest for more inspiration.

5. Art is part of who I am, and it's impossible to separate myself from it. 
I seem to sleep and breathe art and design. That's pretty much all I think about throughout the day. I have visions of different shapes and colors with my eyelids still closed when I'm waking up in the morning.

I don't think I can work on oil painting right now just because I don't have a studio to paint (oil paints are stinky), but I'm going to explore other mediums like watercolor and acrylic. 

In the meantime, if I come across any art projects that are easy to do, I would like to share them here. I think it's best when you can make your own artwork to decorate your home. 

I think that's about it for today.

What did you learn in the month of February? I'd love to know! 

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

February 21, 2014

Love and Hate Relationship: Part 2 & a weekend link

I've had a love and hate relationship with art, as long as I could remember. 

When I do art, I feel free. I feel like a hawk soaring in the sky. 

But when the artwork is done, I'm not usually satisfied with what I've made. I'd either put it in the trash can or put it away in a closet so I don't have to see it again. I get frustrated wondering why my artwork doesn't turn out the way I imagined. It's like my art has it's own life that I cannot control.  

Nude oil painting: a project I did in an oil painting class, imitating the work of Salvador Dali
I actually like this one so I kept it.

I don't get along with my own creations. 

I wonder if this is how God feels about us sometimes.

So, I did the most reasonable thing to do. I decided to pursue my career in research and forgot about art. I spent years studying psychological research and landed a job that let me work on an exciting project, only to find out research was not my calling. It was devastating.

Watercolor painting I did for a charity auction. I think it's pretty, but this is not really me.

I've recently started to make my way back to art again. I felt awkward at first because I hadn't done any artwork in a while. I didn't know where to start and what to paint. The thought of pursuing art also scared me. 

Am I running away from art again this time?  

I'm now trying to change the love and hate relationship I've had with art. Perhaps, I haven't refined my style yet. The only way to find out is to practice until I get it right. 

I probably should focus more on the process - the joyous process of creating art rather than the outcome itself. I should perform art just for the sake of performing it. 

I also figured I can decorate my house with my own artwork for free, and that is always a plus.

Here is the newest additions to my art family:
Venus (yes, I named them)

and The Rebel (doesn't he look like The Rebel?)

I've never done an abstract drawing or painting before, but I enjoyed the process very much.

And you remember my nude drawing. I haven't yet decided if I like this one.

I believe my ability to create art is one of my God-given gifts. 

So, I stopped running away from my gift. 

If I keep running away from what I'm called to do, who is going to be me and do my job?

My friend Jenn Nahrstadt has just published an article that taps deeper into this topic. She is one of the first readers who has ever commented on my blog. She also revised one of my earlier posts, There's Something about Giving. The post had some grammatical issues that needed to be corrected (as you know English is not my first language), and Jenn generously offered me her gift of writing by revising it. She now shares her gift with the world through her brilliantly insightful article. If you are trying to find your way in life like I do, you won't regret reading this. 

You can read Jenn's article, here.

When you offer your gift to the world, everyone wins. (Emily Freeman & Gary Morland from At the Barn)

What is your gift? 

Are you running away from your gift or living it?

February 19, 2014

Love and Hate Relationship

I have a love and hate relationship...

with hanging plates on walls, that is.

These plates hung on my kitchen wall. Some days I love them. Other days, I can't stand them and take them all off. 

I haven't yet decided if hanging plates on walls is a brilliant thing to do or simply lame.

A corner of the kitchen as of this morning. My nude drawing stays here for now.

In my opinion, the only person who can hang plates on a wall and make them look amazing is Phoebe Howard. And I'm no Phoebe Howard. It's just so hard to get it right.

Phoebe Howard

I also have a weakness for blue and white wares.

image via Veranda. Interior by Lisa Luby Ryan

Grant K. Gibson

Hanging plates on walls - yes or no?

February 17, 2014

Friendship Vase & My Weekend Project

Isn't this vase gorgeous with white tulips? 

My friend Stephen Andrew has just sent me this beautiful marble vase. After seeing my post about the alabaster lamp, he thought I might enjoy his marble vase he actually had never used.

I've enjoyed getting to know Stephen through his blog. He is a beautiful person inside and out, and his talents and creativity are shining through what he shares on his blog. Thank you, Stephen, for such a thoughtful gift. I'm blessed to have you as my friend.

Speaking of good friends, there were some concerns regarding my previous post. I guess my goal for this blog was a bit too ambitious considering how little time I have outside of motherhood. I really appreciate your honesty and kindness (Thank you, Stephen and Gam!). After some thinking, I decided to take it easy and not to pressure myself. I've been spending too much time in front of my computer lately, anyway. I think I was anxious to let my creative side blossom, but I have to remember that my family comes first. 

This blogland is filled with so many wonderful people. I really enjoy being part of this community. 

* * *
On Saturday, I spent some time on the art project I started last week. I added a nude drawing to the coffee and tea stained paper. What do you think? 

This is an antique frame my mother-in-law picked up from a garage sale for $5. The frame was covered in dust and was quite dirty. So, I gave it a good cleaning with a damp cloth and touched up with Rub n' Buff to bring out the details of the frame. I still need to do some more repair to it, but it already looks much better than it was!

I enjoy restoring antiques, especially once beautiful pieces that have been long forgotten and left behind. I think many of those old pieces deserve a second life. 

While I was putting my artwork together, my 5-year-old was also working on his own artwork in his bedroom. He told me he was "decorating" his room. 

I wish I could be as creative as he is!

I hope you had a wonderful start to the week.

February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day & Some Random Things

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! 

Our little Valentines from Last Year

Before I go off to celebrate Valentine's day with my family, I wanted to share a few things.

* * *
I've really enjoyed blogging in the past few months. I am grateful for all the comments you have left here (thank you!) and for the new friendships I started to establish. But I also have to admit that it's been challenging to post on a regular basis while I try maintain my life with two little kids. It seems the harder I try, the more things get in my way. Trying to accomplish something while surviving motherhood is more challenging than I expected. The lack of time is what I struggle with, both during the day and at night. 

That being said, I'm not giving up on this blog. This is my creative outlet, and I am following through with what I decided to do. When I came to this country twelve years ago, the only way I could pursue my Bachelor's and Master's degree was through my determination. I was determined not to give up. 

I am now determined to continue this blog. So, here is the plan. I want to write three posts a week, ideally Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. But some weeks, the best I can do may be two posts per week. I want to give myself and this blog a year to see where it takes me. 

* * *
This is what I did yesterday while the kids munched on their afternoon snack.

I used a 14" x 17" heavy weight paper for pen and ink drawing, and did a wash using a tea and coffee mixture. I have stained paper with coffee before and this time I wanted to try it with tea, which ended up being too weak for a wash. So, I added instant coffee granules to the still warm tea water. 

While the paper was still damp, I applied a light wash of red paint (I used Cotman's cadmium red watercolour paint) and then splattered the same paint with a brush. I did like the splattered effect, so I repeated the same technique using the ultramarine blue. It only took me about 10 minutes to do the whole thing, and I like the way it turned out. 

I think I'm going add either a pencil or pen drawing to this. What do you think? 

* * *
Last of all, I baked this dessert this morning, and it was divine. (note: I like my dessert tart and not too sweet.)

This is Martha Stewart's recipe, called Cranberry Clafouti. You can find the recipe, here. The only thing I added to the original recipe was some maple syrup to the whipping cream. This is a trick I learned from a maple syrup baking class I took a while back. Adding a spoonful or two of maple syrup (I used Grade B, dark maple syrup for this) to heavy cream gives the cream richer flavor than just using granulated sugar. The sweetness in the cream will also counter balance the tartness of this dessert. 

My plan was to celebrate Valentine's Day as a family with this red cranberry treat. But I just peeked into the kitchen and the half of the dessert was already gone! I might have to bake something else. 

Steve and I are not going out tonight. We will try to have a date night at home after the boys go to sleep though, only if we don't fall asleep with them. Wish us luck.

Wishing you a Valentine's Day full of hugs and kisses! 

February 11, 2014

What is your personality type?

I noticed that some personality tests are going around on facebook lately, at least around my circle of friends. Those tests typically confirm what you already know, but I couldn't resist taking them. Why? Well, I've been trying to figure out the true design of who I am and what makes me come alive (you can read about it here and here). So, I'm open to anything that gives me insight on that matter. You'll never know. Those test results might surprise you in a way you never expected.

This is the first test I took: What career should you actually have?

image via Buzz Feed

And the test result says,  

Interesting. I'm not sure if I am an architect type of person, but there's some truth to it: I am a creative being and as long as I get to create something, I am happy. And oh, just so you know, I also have a perfect artist's temperament (expressive and explosive). Now, do you want to be my friend? 

And this is the second test I took: What door would you walk through?

Connection To Creative

I'm not going to tell you which door I chose, just in case you are going to take this test. But based on the door I chose, this is what they say.
It is obvious you are a quirky individual and very interesting to the people that you let into your life. You are good at many things... a “Jack or Jill of all trades”. You are an artistic individual that expresses yourself in many ways. You can make something out of anything and are not a stranger to your local thrift shop. You can basically make vintage “new” again. It is easy to get stuck inside the house or inside your urban bubble; but remember that you have to get out and connect with nature. It is time to come down out of the clouds and get grounded!
How do they know I am a "Jack of all trades," not stranger to my local thrift shop, prone to get stuck inside of my little bubble? I guess it's about time for me to get out of that bubble and connect with outside world. I'd have to say this test result is more accurate than I expected. At least it was for me.

Last but not least, I took this famous personality test, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), from this book: Do What You Are by Tieger & Barron-Tieger

You can take a free online MBTI test here. 
Do What You Are

One of the major factors you have to decide is if you are Extraverted (action oriented) or Introverted (thought oriented).  Now this was a tricky one for me and I honestly could not decide which one I am. I think I am more thought oriented, which is an Introvert. But according to the test, I qualify more as an Extravert. Let's take a look:  

Extraverts: Introverts:
Are energized by being with other people
Are energized by spending time alone Yes
Like being the center of attention Absolutely avoid being the center of attention No
Act, then think No Think, then act Yes
Tend to think out loud 100% Yes Think things through inside their heads Yes
Are easier to "read" and know; share personal information freely Depends
Are more private, prefer to share personal information with a select few Depends
Talk more than listen Yes, and I'm not proud of it Listen more than talk No
Communicate with enthusiasm Yes Keep their enthusiasm to themselves No
Respond quickly; enjoy a fast pace Yes Respond after taking the time to think things through, enjoy a slower pace No
Prefer breath to depth No Prefer depth to breath Yes

I tend to think out loud, and talking with others helps me clarify my thoughts. Interacting with like minded people gets my creative juice going and gives me the inspiration and ideas I need. But, I'm also a deep thinker, and I need plenty of alone time to indulge that part of myself. The quiet time alone helps me reflect on the ideas I get from interacting with others, and I prefer working by myself when I am actually creating something. And yes, I am an attention hoarder. I am enthusiastic. I talk fast, loud, and respond quickly.

Which am I? I think I am both of them. I think I am a deep, quiet thinking Introvert with some strong Extravert qualities. So I decided I am a cross between ENFP and INFP.

image via CPP, Inc

image via CPP, Inc

 Personality facts by The Sixteen Types

And here are some occupations from these personality types that I can resonate with. 

Personality Type
Documentary filmmaker
Television producer
Interior designer
Clinical Psychologist

The top three are the type of jobs I wanted to get right out of college while I was still in Japan. The bottom two reflect my former life before motherhood (I was in the field of early childhood developmental research). Interior design and art is something I am currently interested in pursuing. It's fascinating to see how my job preferences have transitioned from ENFP to INFP to ENFP/INFP in the different stages of life.

I think my ideal is to have my own studio where I can focus on creative tasks alone (INFP), while I have plenty of opportunities to mingle with like minded folks for inspiration, bouncing ideas, and organizing my thoughts (ENFP). 

How can I satisfy attention seeking side of myself? I have no idea. I will figure that out as my life unfolds. In the meantime, hand me that microphone and don't even think about taking it away from me! 

Which personality type are you? 

Do you find taking personality tests helpful?

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