May 30, 2014

What I Learned in May

It's hard to believe May is almost over. That means it's time to share what I've learned this month. 

Here are seven things I learned in May. Are you ready? Here we go!

* * *
1. Bee or Wasp?
image via Pinterest

Well, I'm not sure if it's just me lost in translation (in Japanese, we call both honey bees and wasps, "bees"), but I didn't quite know the differences between them. I do now. 

2. My boys sound exactly like me, when they are either being compassionate or demanding.
I wonder if those are the qualities that stand out in me? Am I a compassionate yet demanding mom?

3. The love for decorating runs in the family. Just like their mom, my boys love adding their own decorating touches to our home. 

Here are some of the changes they've recently made around the house.

This little guy hanging from the ceiling.
Well, you got the idea.
I was terrified to find this huge monkey laying on the floor first thing this morning.

4. When you have an idea and you're excited about it, you just have to give it a try no matter how crazy it seems. This is exactly what I did when I came up with the idea of making my own youtube video. I was skeptical at first, but I'm glad I followed my heart. I ended up having a lot of fun doing it.

5. Cooking french toast wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I love cooking. But somehow, I've never tried french toast until last week. I thought it was kind of a fancy breakfast and I always opted for pancakes. As it turned out, making french toast is super easy! It's also a good way to use up day old bread. 

I followed this recipe, and topped it with confectioner's sugar, fresh blueberries, and maple syrup.

Now what can be better than this? 

6. Starting a day with Bialetti's espresso is simply the best. My sister- and brother-in-law gave me this Bialetti for my birthday. I've wanted this since February, so I was overjoyed when I found out they got one for me. Thanks Elizabeth and Johan!!

My glorious Bialetti

Now combine this with homemade french toast = I'm in heaven. 

7. Walking down memory lane is a great way to uncover the shape of your soul. Looking back on my childhood has helped me understand who I truly am and what matters to me (you can read here and here).
* * *
Today, B'more Bungalow is joining me to share what she's learned this month. Would you visit her site and say hello?

*What I Learned This Month by B'more Bungalow  

I am also linking up with Emily at chatting at the sky for her What We Learned series

 * * *
What did you learn this month? Share in the comment

May 28, 2014

Me and My Piano | This is where I start

This is where I am today with my piano

You can also watch the video Here

It's been 19 years since I really practiced it. You can see I'm quite rusty right now. But I'm hopeful that I will only get better from here.

What do you think will happen if I practice 30 minutes a day, starting today? 

We will find out.

May 22, 2014

Taking a walk down memory lane part 2 | New Art

I decided to look back on my childhood again.

This time, through my art. 
* * *
My elementary school was surrounded by tall ginkgo trees, and their leaves turned beautiful golden yellow in the fall. I would look up at the blue sky and watch a gust of wind blow the leaves off the trees like golden rain.

I enjoyed walking by a field full of cosmos on the way back from school. Hundreds of pale pink flowers nodded their heads in the breeze, while some dragonflies tried to perch on them. It was a bittersweet moment, as this marked the end of summer.

Japanese Camellia:
In the early spring, Japanese Camellia blooms in bright shades of pink and white in my grandmother's garden. I used to follow her around in the garden as she clipped a few blooms off the bush to bring them home. She's always loved her Camellia.

Today, I am taking a walk down the memory lane and reliving the wonder of my childhood. 

What is your favorite childhood memory? 

May 20, 2014

Listen to the songs of your heart

I came across this youtube video the other day. It blew my mind when I saw it. 

You can also watch the video Here and Here.

This stirred something inside of me. Even though Sir. Anthony Hopkins' music was beautiful, I don't think that's exactly what moved me from deep within my heart. Perhaps it's his passion expressed in this six short minutes of performance, which created such magic.

When you share your passion with the world, you wake up others' passion that have been hibernating within them.

Because our passion is contagious.

I believe we're all vibrational beings, living with the motions of our emotions throughout the day. When we witness someone else expressing their passion, we feel our energy vibrate in the depth of our spirit. 

"Perhaps I, too, can do something like this!"

While watching the video, I felt my blood bubbling, my energy rising from within, and my fingers tingling as if they wanted to hit the piano keys right there at the moment. I closed my eyes and felt the sense of freedom that I haven't felt in such a long time. I've missed this slice of heaven I could experience right here on the earth.

So, I decided to bring our electronic piano that I put away in our storage room a while back. 

Am I crazy adding another thing to do when my plate is already full? I make art, decorate our home, craft a story for children, write blog posts, while handling all of the motherhood and household duties. 

I felt frustrated. I sometimes have to wonder what the heck God wants from me. I've uncovered all these small pieces of my passion, but they don't seem to fit together. Where am I going from here?

Then I remembered this: uncovering your true design is an ongoing process. It's a journey similar to putting together a large picture puzzle, one little piece at a time. When you need some guidance, tune into your heart and ask what makes you come alive. The whole puzzle is not going to be completed until the last day of your life. You just work on one small corner of the puzzle, one season of your life at a time. Your job is to really live that small corner, every day, to its fullest.

So, without any direction or particular purpose, I brought the piano down and hit the keys. Do I have time for this? Well, I have to make the time for it somehow. My heart sings that playing the piano is part of my true design, and I can't ignore it anymore.

When I'm playing the piano, I am free. 

Have you experienced moments like this? The moment you are filled with joy, love, and calmness all at the same time? 

What makes you feel that way? You might want to pay attention to those feelings, because that may be your heart singing a hint of your true design. 

Have you listened to the songs of your heart lately? 

May 16, 2014

Taking A Walk Down Memory Lane

I'm 36 today.

I found some old pictures from my childhood. Not so many, but some good ones. 

Yuko Kato: Born on May 16, 1978 in Chiba, Japan. I was born two weeks early and weighed about 2,800 grams, which is a little over 6 pounds. 

My brother and I were the best friends.

I was a chunky baby.

"I'm one! Now I'm walking!"

"Mommy, can you please stop shoving food in my mouth? I'm already full, really."

Bossing my brother around like that's my job.

And of course, I had to ride him like a horse.

I used to love playing in the rain. I still enjoy listening to the rain, especially at night right before I'm about to go to sleep - it quiets my mind and nourishes my soul.

I grew up near a beach. I'm in my element when I'm strolling on a sandy beach and listening to ocean waves, while feeling the sea breeze on my face.

I think this is a picture from the time when I received a big award for my artwork. Mine is 2nd from the right at the top with the pink background.

Piano recital. Another thing I was really good at was playing the piano. My Mom believed I was going to be a pianist. I loved music, but I hated to practice. 

Seijin-shiki: Coming of Age ceremony. I was 20 and lived in Kyoto, Japan. I miss Kyoto - it's such a lovely place filled with history and traditional culture. I'd love to live there again some day.

It's amazing to see many elements of who I am today were already there when I was a little girl. 

I love art and music.
I am always in charge.  
I feel most connected when I'm listening to the sounds of nature. 

I never thought quickly looking back on my childhood would give me such a clear image of who I am today. Sure, my childhood preferences don't describe my whole self, but they reveal the hints of my true design.
"The past and present are hints of the future."
                                                     - Gary Morland
Taking a walk down the memory lane. 

Have you done that lately? 

May 15, 2014

Believe there is good in the world | Art Project

Since I had so much fun working on the small arty-craftsy project the other day, I decided to attempt another quick project this morning. 

I was looking for something that would take me about an hour to complete. Now I know that I can be more creative when my supply is limited, my goals for this project were to 1) work with what I already had at hand and 2) have a lot of fun!

I've been wanting to draw a baobab tree for quite some time {perhaps because of my love for The Little Prince}. I also recently came across this quote, "Believe there is good in the world," which I instantly fell in love with. 
image via Pinterest. original source unknown.

I love the way the message, "Be the good," is embedded in the phrase. So creative!

I decided to marry them on a sheet of cardboard, which once was the back of my watercolor paper pad. It feels great to upcycle something that could have been thrown in a garbage. 

I started with black and white charcoal pencils, which took me about 40 minutes,

and added a little more personality with the washi tape (same one from my previous project) and this light blue paint pen.This is where the art project gets a little crafty in my mind. I'm not a craft kind of person, so washi tape and a glue gun is as crafty as I get! This part took me less than 5 minutes. 

I shopped the house for a mat and frame, and found a mat that has a blue gray in the inner layer. Perfect! 

I also found a shadow box that housed another artwork.

I took the rectangle piece out of the shadowbox so that I could put the artwork right against the glass. I also cut two pieces of foam board in the same size with the mat to fill the gap between the artwork and the backing of the frame. 

Looking for the mat and frame, cutting the cardboard to fit the frame, and actual framing probably took me about 25 minutes.

1 hour and 10 minutes later, this is what I came up with. It now hangs in our kitchen wall. 

It's rewarding to work on a smaller project you can complete in a short amount of time. It's also a good way to take small risks and try something new.

My new artwork in the kitchen, with the flowers from Mother's Day in the foreground. 

Hope you're having a fantastic day!

May 14, 2014

DIY | Campaign Inspired Frame


How was your weekend? We had a great time celebrating Mother's Day (and my birthday month, of course!) over the weekend.

We headed over to Lilac Festival on Friday to kick off the weekend (unfortunately, many lilacs were yet to bloom), 

and we had an amazing Mother's Day dinner over at my sister- and brother-in-laws. 

After a weekend of pampering and relaxing, I finally feel rejuvenated. I am now ready to be creative again!

Today, I'm going to share with you a super easy DIY: How to transform a retail black metal picture frame into a Campaign style frame.

It all started with this crafty art project I tried my hands on today, inspired by one of Hope*ologie's DIY tutorials. When I started this project, I had no idea I would be DIY upgrading the frame. My inspiration always comes as I work through a project.

Just in case you're curious, this Home-Hope artwork reflects my purpose statement of our home: 
I want our home to be...
      filled with our hopes and dreams.
      a safe place to take risks, make mistakes, and become who we truly are.
      a place of comfort and inspiration even during challenging times.  

A home full of hopes...

I used this oil based gold paint pen and washi tape from Michaels. I believe I purchased the feather from Jo-Ann Fabrics a while back. 

washi tape & oil based gold paint pen

After many trials and errors, I finally got it right.

Then I shopped the house for a frame. The only frame I could find was this standard metal frame I purchased from A.C. Moore a while ago. 

I guess the artwork looked OK in the frame, but I knew something was missing. It was calling for some sparkle and personality.

So, I pulled out my trusty Frog Tape, and used the same oil based gold paint pen I used in the artwork to spruce up the boring black frame. 

1) Tape each corner of the frame. I taped a little less than a 1 ½ inch from each corner for a 11½ x 9 inch frame

2) Paint the corners using the paint pen. The fewer strokes you use, the smoother the finish. 

3) Allow the paint to completely dry. 

Do you see the gold paint on the bottom right corner is a little messed up? That's because I'm impatient and I didn't let the paint completely dry before framing the artwork. I did a little touch up with the paint pen but that part remained bumpy. 

Keys to achieve a sharp, beautiful Campaign look.
1) Firmly attach the Frog Tape to the frame in order to avoid bleeding. 
2) Use fewer strokes while painting. 
3) Allow the paint to completely dry before peeling the tape off and framing.  

I've learned that I can be more creative when my supply is limited. Having less to work with pushes me to think outside of the box and reinvent what we already have in order to create something new.

Are you ready to be creative?

May 10, 2014

Why I Celebrate My Birthday Month

I'll be honest.

I've struggled to create and write over the past week. The ideas are there and I'm eager to work on them. But once I sit down with the ideas, nothing comes out right. 

Do you go through a phase like that when you're trying to be creative?

I understand it's just a phase and it will get better again. So I do my best to remain hopeful.

I also started something new this week, which took up much of my creative time: Writing a story for children. I'm still right in the middle of developing the concept, but I already have a strong foundation of the story. I'm really excited about this and I can't wait to share the process with you. 

It's a little awkward to write about celebrating my birthday on the day before Mother's Day. But this is what I got this week, and I still wanted to share it with you.

* * * 
So, I celebrate my birthday for the entire month of May.  

Does it sound self-indulging, claiming the whole month to myself? 
Perhaps so.

But there is a reason why I do this.

I grew up in a family where grown-ups didn't really celebrate their birthdays. We would say happy birthday to each other and might have cake after dinner, but they didn't make it anything special. I wonder if there was something cultural to it. Perhaps, we Japanese value modesty so much so that bringing attention to yourself even on your birthday is considered lack of modesty?

Anyway, fast forward many years, my husband and I had our first baby. As a childless couple, we made our birthdays special and celebrated in memorable ways. But once we got so wrapped up with our parental duties, we stopped paying attention to our birthdays. We made sure our kids birthdays were special, but not ours. 

When you're busy changing diapers, constantly mediating sibling fights, and tackling piles of laundry day after day, it's hard to make your birthday different from any other days. There were even times I forgot it was my birthday until someone else reminded me. But I shrugged my shoulders and told myself, "this is what it means to be a parent." This is how my parents celebrated their birthdays, after all. 

After a while, however, I noticed that I was unhappy. I felt unappreciated. I felt like a full time nanny, cook, and cleaning lady for the family who doesn't even get paid. I knew I needed to make a change. I wanted to feel special again, not just a mom who juggles daily duties.

Our birthday is special because it's the day we celebrate our gift of life. Having my own children made me realize this important truth. It has nothing to do with our achievements or performance, like many other celebrations in life. Birthday is the day we celebrate and honor us just the way we are.
"Today you are you, 
that is truer than true.
There is no one alive,
who are youer than you!"
                       - Dr. Seuss

Since I tend to forget to celebrate on my actual birthday, I thought it might be fun to dedicate the entire month to myself. This way, I can celebrate "just being me" in small doses whenever I get a chance.

I don't plan any big parties. Instead, I enjoy simple things like taking a long walk on a beautiful day with my family (they can't say no to my suggestions, because I'm the birthday month girl.) There's nothing better than savoring the beauty of the season while enjoying the company of my favorite people. 
My 26th Birthday, exactly 10 years ago.
Celebrating a birthday had a whole different meaning back then.
My 31st Birthday
Celebrating my 34th Birthday Month

I want to celebrate who I am today, without judging or comparing myself to others.  

Because I believe you will become who you fully are, only when you learn to embrace where you are today. 

I've been slowly uncovering the true design of who I am over the past several months. Celebrating my birthday is an important part of the process. 

On the night you were born,
the moon smiled with such wonder
that the stars peeked in to see you
and the night wind whispered,
"Life will never be the same."
Because there had never been any one like you...
ever in the world.
                            from On the Night You Were Born, 
by Nancy Tillman

Let's embrace our uniqueness, differences, our strengths and even weaknesses. Because we are created exactly the way we're meant to be. We're enough to be celebrated, just the way we are. 

You are special just the way you are,
for you are fearfully and wonderfully made...
                                                                          Psalm 139
And remember, you can celebrate you any day of the year. It doesn't have to be your birthday to make it special.

Would you take a moment to celebrate you today?

What's your favorite way to celebrate your birthday? Share in the comments

May 2, 2014

What I learned in April-ish

Happy Friday!

I can't believe I totally missed the "What I learned" post at the end of last month. April was over before I even noticed it! 

So here are six random things I learned in April. 

Are you ready? Here we go!

1) I am addicted to TV (no joke).
If you read What I Learned in March post, you remember how much I missed the TV show, The Office. Well, we added the show to our Netflix right after that post and I watched it for three weeks straight, every single night for hours at a time. 149 episodes to be exact.

Once I turned the TV on, I simply couldn't pick up the remote to turn it off. 

That's probably why I stopped watching TV a few years ago (it's probably a good thing). I've been spending the past week trying to recover from it. 

But the show was absolutely hilarious and I enjoyed every minute of it. No regret. 

2) Prioritizing my time was not as hard as I thought it would be.
I finally figured out how to prioritize time. Once I figured it out, it was super easy to follow and everything fell into its place. What I'm doing differently this time though, is to pay attention to what really matters to me, instead of what I "should be" doing. Should I talk more about this in another post?

3) I have friends all over the world!
I was talking with my friend the other day about how hard it is to make new friends when you're a mom. She said, "we can't even finish a sentence without being interrupted (by kids)." Very true. I've struggled to make mommy friends myself, and it's been challenging. 

College Graduation in Kyoto Japan, 2001

Then I realized I actually have many friends, who just happen to live far away. Even though I don't get to see them often, I'm still so close to them. Why don't I appreciate what I already have instead of complaining about what I don't have? 

Some of my dearest and closest ones live in Japan (my home country), Canada, France, and Austria. I can't wait to go visit them when the boys are a little older. 

4) Investing a little bit of money monthly to nurture my soul and dreams is well worth it.
I recently joined a membership site called Hope*ologie and it's been the best $10 a month investment I've ever spent on myself.

I've met the hosts, Myauillyn, Emily, and Gary at the Barn event back in November, and I knew the content was going to be great. They discuss the issues around home, family, and soul, and the site is full of articles, pod-casts, DIYs and resources. I've been savoring every bit of what they offer on the website. 
If you are a hope seeker like myself, ready to be inspired and embrace your life, you might love this place (click Here for more.)

5) There's a fine line between great work and mediocre work when it comes to creating art. When I create out of fear, I always end up making something lame.

That's exactly what happened to Japanese Magnolia. While I was painting, I was afraid I might mess it up. You know what happened? I completely messed up its background!

So, I cut out the Magnolia with a pair of scissors,

and planning on turning this into something fabulous. I have no room for fear this time - wish me luck! 

6) I spend April dreaming up how to celebrate my birthday month. 

May is my birthday month. And I celebrate the entire month of May every year, reminding my family (my husband) this is MY month. 

I don't plan big celebrations, but I try to do little things that bring me joy throughout the month. Like taking a walk with my family on a beautiful day or going to a local flower festival. 
Lilac Festival

I spend entire April dreaming up all the fun things I'm going to do in May. 
Happy Birthday Month to me! 

Are any you my birthday-month twin? If you are, happy birthday month to you! 

What did you learn in April? Share in the comments?

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

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