19/50 : Take advice! [Lessons from a new job, part 1]

A few weeks ago, back-to-back interviews seemed to go well with all 5 people so I went home and immediately painted personalized etegami ["painting-letter"] thank you notes, recalling something specific, (mostly) something funny/fun, from our conversations ("interviews"). The next morning I went to the post office right when it opened to send them off. 

I started this job about a week ago...never heard anything about the cards, but I didn't want to be pushy. A few days in I asked if they had received their cards, and they didn't know what I was talking about. Turns out snail mail goes to a floor inbox that nobody checks anymore since everything is done by email! Well, good to know I got the job for other reasons. Also, thank you to my friend Emilie who recommended sending emails AND thank you notes- at least they got the emails!

Lesson #1: follow practical advice from experienced, smart friends!

To the GAP Japan website designer

To the GAP Japan website designer

Each person seemed really pleased with their card, and seeing them smile made me happy. It was certainly worth the effort, even if the rushing-to-the-post-office part was unnecessary. The delay wasn't bad afterall since I got to see their surprised & happy reactions! It was exciting to see that they all put their etegami up on the wall by their desks.

Lesson 2: My ideal timing isn't necessarily God's ideal timing.

To the marketing director, whose mom recently sent her a picture of brushes she didn't know what to do with.

To the marketing director, whose mom recently sent her a picture of brushes she didn't know what to do with.

So far I love the job. The people, work, building, environment...all of it together is FUN. Some people would instantly fall asleep thinking about Japanese translating/copywriting all day, but I love it! I work on a computer but since I'm also interacting with people a lot it's the perfect balance for a social introvert.

If I go in early, I get off early enough to come home and keep up with painting (plus chores and daily life responsibilities, I suppose). It's quite an adjustment not being around to cook, clean, and spread chores/errands out throughout the day. Thank God (literally!) for kindness and patience from my husband. Needless to say, our home has seen better days.

For now, the emotional roller coaster of a job hunt is over. Jobs that I thought were good for me were not good in God's eyes because:

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. {Psalm 84:11}

Lesson 3: My idea of a "good thing" isn't necessarily God's "good thing."


[Part 2] to come about funny surprises at work. Then more on an etegami painting class and a future art exhibition in SF! Whew, what a week!

 

18/50 : "Never try, never know, honey!"

Mini-Thailand series continued! Fruits and herbs not even available at 99Ranch??

"Never try, never know, honey!" 

(The motto of our Thai cooking instructor)

Ah, music to my ears, the motto I live by but couldn't articulate so clearly. 

The variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs in the markets was beyond my imagination! I think I've seen a lot from exploring all the local Persian, Indian, Afghan, Mexican, Korean, and Japanese markets in addition to spending hours (cumulatively) browsing grocery store aisles in every country I visit. I've collected some random things like a 25 lb. bag of "the best" basmati rice and Portuguese salted cod, hoping to someday make some special dishes. They're still in the cupboard. 

Of course there are disappointments that come with this "Never try, never know" motto. Some things I've learned: 

  • Orange Mocha Frappuccinos are terrible. Orange+Coffee should never be.
  • Greek yogurt is NOT a suitable substitute for heavy cream in Chicken Tikka Masala.
  • The leg-lengthening effect of high-rise pants does NOT justify the horse-butt effect.
  • Street seafood in 80% humidity weather in Thailand WILL taste fishy. 
  • Layering oil-based paints over water-based paints works, but NOT vice versa.
  • Painting WILL improve observational skills.

I often don't notice unique details about objects until I paint them. In this case the detail was the two-tone color, green at the stem shifting to light orange on the opposite end. Water-based Japanese pigments are the best for two-colored gradations! 

With a handful of these freshly picked, our cooking instructor said to us, "never try, never know, honey!" They were delicious. They had a thin but tough skin like avocado, and the inside was jelly-like, similar to lychee, and very sweet. 

Though there are some risks with constantly trying new things, the benefits have always exceeded the disappointments! 

"Never try, never know, honey!" I'm grateful for these wise words. 

 

 

17/50 : "Same-Same" (but different) & Fool-proof Method to Cook Rice

Anyone who has been to Thailand has heard "same-same" from street vendors. For example,

  • Is this Gucci watch real? Why is it only $30?    "Same-same."
  • Is Adidos like Adidas shoes?    "Same-same."
  • Red soup curry or red curry rice?    "Same-same."

Fun fact: It's never the same-same.

"Similar but different"

"Similar but different"

We took a cooking class and learned that they make rice the same way as Japanese (and many other asian) people, using a finger to measure how much water to use. The teacher asked, "who knows how to cook rice without measuring?" All 3 asians (including me) in the class raised a hand with our thumbs at our first finger joint. 

 Somehow it's a universal measuring system regardless of the length of your finger. I haven't figured out how it always works but since it does I don't question it. Here it is:

  1. Rinse rice until water is mostly clear
  2. Drain rice
  3. Put rice in rice cooker bowl and add water
  4. Check water level: with your fingertip at the top of rice, the water level should meet your first finger joint (distal interphalangeal joint, in case "first" is unclear) 

I had to double check and look up "finger joint" because I've only ever referred to "first finger joint" in Japanese- always to cook rice!

That was a fun memory for me, especially the three asians from different countries learning the same method of cooking rice from our moms. So, it deserved an etegami painting. I took this photo of our rice draining during the cooking class. They use colanders essentially made of a plant, but different- not bamboo colanders like in Japan. They cook white rice but it's jasmine rice, not sticky short grain. Same-same but different.

Try out the finger measurement sometime. You'll never have to measure white rice again. (disclaimer: not for brown/black rice!)

Without painting, I wouldn't notice the 100 shades of brown weaved into one basket! Any natural fiber basket has intricate colors that synthetic weaves don't. While brown is my least favorite color, the variety of tones is a feast for my eyes and a welcome challenge as a painter! I can't begin to mimic the breadth of colors, much less come up with them. The Creator's color capacity blows my mind!

16/50 : Found some buns in Thailand

Here's an etegami (picture-letter) from a photo I took in Thailand. 

I was thrilled to find a steamed bun shop in Thailand- an entire store, like a cupcake shop, with a lovely glass display case with rows upon rows of steamed buns. 

IMG_0590.JPG

A bun-lover's dream. 

The standard flavors at dim sum places are custard, red bean, meat/veggie fillings, but there were fantastic options like Thai tea cream custard, Pandan, Chocolate Banana... It took a while to decide. I mean, maybe 25 minutes to pick a bun. I finally settled on one: Taro Bun with Red Bean filling.

More Thailand-themed etegami to come!

15/50 : A Rainbow in Thailand

A repeated theme that I keep going back to when I find myself envious of other artists' work: IT TAKES PRACTICE! I can't expect to paint once a week and magically have tons of incredible art. It has to be a daily discipline to improve any skill.

So here I go, practicing etegami (picture-letters, Japanese folk art style):

I took photos in Thailand of things to paint later. A lot were based on color, texture, or shape.

"I saw a rainbow in Thailand"

"I saw a rainbow in Thailand"

I saw this one day during one of the travel days when we were waiting for a ferry for a couple hours at a ferry stop. Aside from the heat, the beautiful scenery made it a pleasant stop. The colors of cloth tied to the side of this little fishing boat were vivid and eye-catching against the grey water and green mountains behind.

13/50 : Picture-letter (etegami) painting

One day last week, mentally I was 150% over my summer cold/flu and ready to paint in the morning and apply to a job in the afternoon. Then my throat was dry, my head started to pound, my eyes got squinty from the "bright" light (shaded window)... But I was determined so I made a few attempts:

  • Dayquil for cold symptoms [but acetaminophen doesn't work for migraines, oops]
  • Hydrate, push through, it'll go away
  • Massage stiff neck
  • Do a yoga flow to increase blood flow and reduce migraine pain

Result: Nausea from the yoga inversion, migraine persists. Apparently it's time to lie down. Clearly my soul is DENSE and I need physical reminders of "let it go, you're not in control."

A family I met when I lived in Tokyo (2012-2013) has become closer than relatives, and are firmly planted in my heart as family. They welcomed me in as a stranger and have been the most hospitable people I've ever met. We eat together, talk about food, go to museums, look at art books, talk about life, God's goodness, culture... I look forward to every minute with them! I tried out "e-tegami," translated as "picture-letter," which is popular in Japan.

My formula to paint an e-tegami:

cropped image + ink + watercolor + words + signature

Each one is from a specific and memorable activity we did together while I was visiting.

I brainstormed painting one for another person I wanted to write a note to but since I'm not as close and have far fewer memories, I ended up opting for a traditional thank-you note. Interesting how that works. [These e-tegami were a special case, I've never done this before so please don't take it personally if I don't paint for you!]

There are classes on e-tegami in Japan but I've never seen them offered here and would love to do it! It's simple enough for anyone to try and the stylized strokes that are characteristic of e-tegami are what make each one unique so it's BETTER not to be a professional still life painter to make these! Most importantly, after a class they're still useful since they're personalized, seasonally-themed postcards.

Clearly I am indecisive in my interests [beyond wanting to eat 9 things on a menu at restaurants,] and am swayed between studio art, publishing companies, universities, and mochi-making in my kitchen! But my foundation is secure like the quote at the top of the page,

"I know not the way God leads me but well do I know my Guide."

Thanks for keeping up with this journey!

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.

nerikiri sakura small

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.

all small

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!

11/50 : Rust called for a double take

I just learned the basics of Japanese painting this summer at Japanese painting stores in Tokyo (about 5 years late).

  • how to make sumi ink with a pressed charcoal instead of pre-made liquid sumi ink
  • different types of Japanese brushes
  • rice paper vs. kozo paper (both of which I've used a lot!)
  • price of natural Japanese minerals for color. yikes.

Here's my favorite find that I had been searching for (at a reasonable price)- what a beauty. It's hand carved and even comes apart! [Clearly I underestimated the number of brushes-- double hanging isn't the norm.]

One of my jet lag projects at 2am was attaching purple string to the ends of the brushes. All come with an indent on the end, but not all with string attached.

Now moving on from drooling over new art supplies...

I made a list of 10 Nagasaki paintings to paint in an earlier post. I wasn't up for detailed architecture today so I painted #6.

IMG_0846

I never pinpointed the connection between the very different subjects I choose to paint, from Japanese martyrs to mossy Italian walls, until last night: I'm drawn to less-noticed parts of history. Maybe I relate to feeling insignificant and small, but still having something to say and hoping to make a significant impact somewhere. [I'm definitely not consciously thinking all these things every time I paint!] In the grand scheme of things, [each] "man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow" (Psalm 144:4).

But at the same time,

"Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?...Consider the lilies of the field...even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" (Matthew 6)

So yes, it's simply a rusted fence. But it pulled me in for a double take. It reminds me to look back. Some things look better with age- time and natural elements caused those contrasting colors (red rust on light blue paint!) and varied textures.

"Stop and smell the roses" or admire the rust.

I'm telling myself to be patient, most things take time.

Even though I pretend otherwise, I actually can't control every circumstance!

"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain." (Psalm 127:1)