12/50 : Cook, eat, paint mochi

In less than five minutes with me the subject of food is likely to come up in conversation. I love how it can represent culture, creativity, tradition, and most importantly the creative mind of our Creator. Taste buds, colors, textures, variety...most of it isn't for survival but for enjoyment. What a gift! Sadly, there is no place around to buy traditional Japanese sweets. Some markets and shops have mochi but they are often unnaturally bright colored, excessively sweet, or clumsily shaped. So, if I want them, I have to make them.

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Sakura (salted cherry blossom) nerikiri with sakura mixed into red bean filling

Most Japanese confections are made of sweet rice, beans, and sugar, but there are hundreds of variations in the grind of sweet rice, bean type, sugar type and amount, and other mix-ins.

Just like sushi chefs, woodworkers, or printmakers, Japanese sweets are made by craftsmen who have learned the trade after years of training. I would love to be an apprentice! But in the mean time youtube and cookbooks will suffice. I've been experimenting a lot, and am thinking about a mochi catering business on the side. We'll see. I have too many "side business" ideas.

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In case I decide to go with this side business plan, I would need a business card. I photographed the Japanese sweets I made so I painted those photographs (since the sweets are long gone in my stomach).

Hibiscus flower mochi with red bean

Things I like to make often have Japanese and Western influences [for instance, the hibiscus flower mochi above with red bean filling], so I thought the name "Hapa Kitchen" (hapa="mixed," usually refers to mixed Asian ethnicity) was appropriate. It was already taken by a hapa supper club network.

Chrysanthemum nerikiri with lima bean filling

Candied orange peel (homemade) mixed into lima bean filling

Sencha mochi with red bean

Walnut mochi with red bean

Most likely more food paintings to come!

10/50 : "Mindless browsing" is an oxymoron

I realized something after four weeks spent recently with a smartphone that became useful only as a camera or a map. At first I thought I gained time from not browsing mindlessly on Facebook or instagram, or looking up random facts on the internet. But it wasn't time-- it was focus. I had time during breaks from grad school to paint. On weekends even during the semester, I could take a day off. So why couldn't I focus enough to paint the Japanese history that I wanted to? I'm certain I was distracted by constant input.

In Tokyo, I only had wifi access a handful of times with a painfully slow connection at a convenience store. My email loaded at a friend's home while my phone was deep in my bag in another room so I read it on the train on my way home. But I couldn't reply.  It was awfully inconvenient to solidify plans and make phone calls, hunting down the few remaining pay phones somewhere in a department store or train station. But what I gained from being semi-disconnected was worth it: focus.

Focus- that's why I sketched in Japan. Especially when out of consistent practice, it takes a surprising amount of concentration to look at something and repeat the shapes on paper. Below are some sketches from Japan:

Museum 1: Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art // Exhibition: Villains in Ukiyo-e

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Museum 2: Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum // Exhibition: Kyosai - Master Painter and his Student Josiah Conder

Museum 3: Yamatane Museum of Art // Exhibition: Maeda Seison and the Japanese Art Institute

I was both shocked and thrilled to see a painting from a series about the hidden Japanese Christians (the subject of my master's thesis) so I sketched the painting. I'll look up more about this artist!

Last sketch, not at a museum, just waiting for a friend and saw some bamboo in a hotel. Also a famous author's name whose historical narrative books I bought to read.

The day I left I went to see the underground Japanese Christian artifacts in the Tokyo National Museum, but read carefully instead of sketching the images.

I wasn't mentally distracted by 20 ways to redecorate, 50 recipes I must make now, or 10 miraculous exercises (that I'll probably never do). Possibly more significantly, I wasn't distracted by what everyone else was doing.  My life didn't suffer a bit in the few weeks of not being up-to-date in other people's business. Actually, I think it improved.

I like to be in touch with friends and the convenience of a cell phone, but I also like the mental space available when it's not glued to my hand. Now I have to consciously keep it in a separate room (with the ringer on loud), to use it for contact but not for "mindless" browsing. At least for me, I finally see that "mindless browsing" is an oxymoron. Perhaps it has to do with being a visual person, or maybe it's universal and I'm just slow to realize it. But for the first time in 4 years, I'm sketching, researching, and planning out my next painting continuing my Japanese martyrs' series.

So far I have my Japanese martyr subject (a family of 3 from an island north of Nagasaki) and the western painting parallel to work from (most likely, the Flight to Egypt).

It's humbling to realize how limited my mental capacity is! God's infinite abilities are more awe-inspiring when I see how limited I am.

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.   Psalm 147:5

But Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."   Matthew 19:26

I can't take in much at once, and it takes me weeks to even realize that! But God has no limit.

Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?

It is higher than heaven- what can you do? Deeper than Sheol - what can you know?

Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea.   Job 11:7-9