Friday, January 22, 2016


Today is my little sister's birthday!! Happy Birthday, Muts! (Pronounced moots, for Mutsumi) If you noticed the date on the art, you'd know that I painted this last weekend. That's because I wanted to send the card to my sister for her birthday.

My sister and I are very close. In fact, she's my best friend...someone I confide in, laugh or cry with. There aren't many pictures of us together because we weren't together until she was 8 and I was 12.

My parents divorced when I was 4 and my sister was a few months old. My father took my sister and I stayed with mom. I did get to visit my sister but she was never allowed to spend time with us at mom's. Mom tried through the legal system but as a single mom, it was difficult to convince the judge that my sister was better off living with us than my dad and his new wife.

My mother remarried to an American soldier and about a year before my dad (I've always called my stepdad, dad) was transferred back to the states, we found out that my sister was living with her aunt. My biological father had divorced and no one wanted to take care of my sister so she was sent to his sister. Once we found out, we finally got the custody. It was hard at first. She didn't really know mom and dad didn't speak Japanese. And for a few years, she clung to me. 

My dad had adopted me before we left Okinawa and did the same with my sister. She went to the American school on the base but she spoke no English. It was a tough adjustment for her.

I remember at the end of the school year, I was to attend a week long camp to a neighboring island with the 5th grade class. My sister begged me not to go, but my parents though I should go. When I boarded the ship, I could see my sister hysterically crying. It was probably the hardest thing I had to do. Mom told me later that my sister didn't go to school the first two days but was fine enough to go to school on the third day. It also gave mom and dad and Muts to get to know each other.

I think because of the past, we are very close. My kids can't believe that my sister and never fought. It's not that we didn't annoy each other, it was that it never was important enough to "win." For the longest time, she was my shadow, always wanting to hang out with me. And it was in middle school that she began to really hang out with her own friends. It was a little sad for me, knowing that she had others that she could rely on.

Muts is a beautiful person inside and out. The quote I found is meaning for so many reasons. We've been through so much, but we've gotten through them all together. And even today, we still hold hands when we are together. I'm sharing a little bit of our story for my kids to read at some point.

Yesterday, I drew my kids hugging as this was probably the last time they all hugged each other. Lol. And though they fight all the time, I know that they confide in each other. I hope that as they get older, they will support each other and be there for one another. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Baked Brie and More..

Are you ready for some football? "What?", you might be saying.. What does baked Brie have to do with football? If you follow the NFL, you'd know that the conference championship games will be held this coming weekend. The AFC Championship will feature the New England Patriots, our family's team and the NFC Championship will feature our home state, Arizona Cardinals. So for my boys and me, we will be glued to the TV. But the girls, not so much. 

I'm thinking that if I want to see my girls at all on Sunday, I'd have to get creative with football snacks. Boys would be happy with chips and salsa or wings. But my girls need more than that to entice them downstairs.

That's where the baked Brie comes in. I have made baked Brie before wrapt the entire wheel of Brue in puff pastry and bake. But I'm thinking that individual pastry cups with Brie and topped with various things might be more conducive to football watching. Brie has such a mild nutty taste, it would be great with sweet or savory toppings. I'm thinking maple glazed bacon crumbs, olive tapenade, macerated berries, candied nuts.. Yummy!

At least I'll get to see my girls for a few minutes of preparation and eating. Lol.

I am taking a Craftsy Online class called "Liminous Watercolor Mixing" with Kateri Ewing. She shows how to use a limited palette to create color harmonies in your painting. And though she has me creating color mixing charts and other charts that I've already done, she provides me with more insight about using those color combinations.

You may know that on last Black Friday, I purchased a couple of watercolor sets, one with 24 colors and another with 30. And I love color but using these colors sometimes produce disjointed results when colors clash or one color stands out too much. So the theory here is that if you mix your own colors with a limited palette, all your colors will coordinate. So I've been trying this concept out. You've already seen my MLK painting which was done with two colors.

For today's painting, I used Quinacridone gold, quinacridone burnt orange and ultramarine blue, all by Daniel Smith. 

Yesterday, I drew this..

For this, I used Pyrrole scarlet, phthalo blue and new gamboge (yellow). 

I think having a limited palette trains you to learn what color combinations work so that if I pick up another color, I will be able to think about what colors produced it and use those colors in conjunction to create a more harmonious painting. The key here is to practice mixing colors so that it will become more intuitive when I want to match a color. And for me, the browns are always difficult to coordinate, like in the puff pastry so having the tools to create various shades of browns is really cool.

So, do you have a favorite game-day treat? 

Monday, January 18, 2016


I have used quotes by Dr. Martin King Jr. in my art before, but I had never seen this one before. It seems so fitting today, with fear driving some of the presidential campaigns today. 

Fear certainly is a powerful motivator. Kids certain know it, and people who abuse power knows it too. And though I think a little fear is good to get you motivated to do the right thing, it shouldn't be the primary motivation. People in the position of power, whether you're a parent or a leader of a group or country who use fear to "control" others cannot sustain loyalty or command respect. People will follow only until the threat of fear is gone. So the leaders create more fear, more lies to sustain their power.

And who will help us build our dikes of courage? 

Yesterday was Tikkun Olam day at our synagogue. Tikkun Olam roughly translates to repair the world. It is a day for our congregational community to get together to give back to our community at large, do some charity work. Girls and I particles in making mats for the homeless out of plastic grocery bags.

This is not a quick job. It took us two hours to make one panel and it takes 4 panels to make a mat! We brought home two looms so the girls can continue to make them throughout the year. And I'm going to crochet a mat whenever I can. I just have to do the prep work of creating strips of plastic and making a ball of "yarn." I feel like we have a lot to be thankful for. Even with all that happened last year, we never worried about not having a place to live or be hungry. I think this is something our family can do..

So for today's art, I sketched MLK using only two colors, pyrrole scarlet and phthalo blue. It's amazing what two colors can create!

And over the weekend, my prompt for Saturday was "how I relax" and for Sunday it was "favorite shoes." So here they are..

I often read and listen to music on my phone. I have my phone with me all the time and I love to read. It just makes sense.

Other than flip flops, I love my Dansko clogs. These are shoes that many nurses and doctors wear because they are so comfortable. They aren't the prettiest pair of shoes but they are definitely comfortable!

My girls and I are going to watch MLK's "I have a dream" speech on YouTube. It's our MLK day tradition. And maybe work on the mats.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Okinawan Hat

I must be feeling nostalgic. When I saw the prompt for today, a hat, I immediately thought of the traditional Okinawan hat called the hanagasa. It represents the hibiscus flower that can be found on the island. The blue sections with the white waves represent the ocean surrounding Okinawa. 

I wrote about Okinawa before in this post. But just comparing the two drawings makes me pause. Here is the drawing from June 19th, 2015.

It's not bad.. But looking at my drawing from today, I really see a change in my technique..

I love seeing the growth..

I'm also working on something special for my sister for her birthday next week. I was thinking back to our lives back in Okinawa. Well, that's for another post. 

I hope you have a wonderful weekend! 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The last few days..

Here is today's prompt... My pet. We found Vince at the Humane Society in Houston. We had looked at other dogs in various shelters and in fact, we had picked another dog. But after thinking it over, we decided that the other dog was too small for our family. After looking at, my oldest daughter wanted to look at this funny looking dog at the Humane society. So the three kids and I went to see him.

This was 8 years ago. There was something about him that connected to us. So we adopted him. He was and still is, a very timid dog. He doesn't play with toys and though he wants his family near, he doesn't like to cuddle. He gets very upset when there's dancing and he especially gets upset when I hug my kids too long.. Lol. 

He is like my fourth child and he truly is my dog. When I'm sick, he stays with me, not even eating if I'm not downstairs. He looks for me when I'm away. And he gets very upset if I spend anymore than a minute in the bathroom! 

Well, I'm must have been in a nostalgic mood because yesterday's prompt was rubber ducky and I immediate thought of my daughter's 2nd birthday party.

I was 8 months pregnant with my third and I was baking and decorating a ducky cake! It took hours!!! And I probably will never do that again.. Jess and her friends played outside where we set up several play pools with duckies while rubber duckie themed children's songs played. 

I used to love planning themed birthday parties that were a bit over-the-top.. Not in expense but in labor.. Mine! They were all time-consuming projects for me, but I don't regret one second of it.. Fun memories for sure!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tu B'Shevat Art

Now that I'm teaching Sunday School at our synagogue, I'm thinking of arts and crafts I can do with students that relate to what I'm teaching. And I seem to have more ideas for art than I have time for in class. So I'm going to share them here on my blog for others to try and for me to archive my ideas.

Tu B'Shevat is a holiday all about the tree. And one of ways we celebrate it is to enjoy fruits and nuts from from trees. And our class certainly did that by making a treat made from matzah and white chocolate with dried fruits and nuts. And don't waste the shells of the nuts!

I love using pistachio shells in my art. Here is one I did several years ago.

My idea is to use pistachio shells as leaves for a tree.

To make the tree pictured above, you need:

Pistachio shells from about 25 pistachios
Paint (blue and green and two shades of brown, various colors for the background)
Molding paste (you can purchase this or make it your self, recipe below)
Gesso (optional)
Small paint brushes
Sharpie (if you want to put a quote)

If you notice in the picture, the tree trunk and branches are textured. This is done with molding paste. You can purchase molding paste at a local craft store. It's not cheap and if this is the only time you'll use it, it's worth the price. You can totally omit the texture and just paint the tree trunk and branches.

If you want to make your own molding paste, it's easy. You need:

1/2 Cup Gesso (Walmart sells a cheap brand)
1/4 cup Mod Podge (matte)
1 1/2 cups Baking Soda
Small bowl or ziplock bag

The consistency you want is a thick paste, loose enough to spread around but firm enough to maintain texture.

I put the mixture into a ziplock bag and cut a small opening at the corner to pipe the paste.

I used en end of a paint brush to add streaks and other texture. Let this dry overnight.

While that is drying, I prepped the pistachio shells.

I began by applying gesso to the shells. Gesso is an acrylic base coat that can be used so that paint will stick. You don't have to use gesso but you will have to paint them more than once. If you made your own molding paste, you will have plenty of gesso left.

I then painted the shells with metallic green and blue paint.

The next day, I painted the tree trunk. I just squeezed drops of paints onto the tree and used a brush to move the paint around. I would also recommend painting the background now before putting the shells on.

Glue the shells on. I used Mod Podge Ann's don't be afraid to add more glue around the shells so they will stick. Glue will dry clear. You can also use a hot glue gun (adults only). 

I used Inktense blocks and gesso for my background but you can use any paint you'd like!

I found a quote I wanted to use and write it with a sharpie and a brush marker. I also added a bit of charcoal to the grooves in the tree truck for depth. 

This can be used to depict the burning bush by painting the shells with yellow, orange and red. The shells can be used to create flowers and other fun things. Peanut shells would be fun too. The molding paste can add so much texture to your art. I've used them with stencils. You can do leaf impressions too.

This was a quick, fun art that can be done with kids 3rd grade and up with supervision. If you're using acrylic paints, make sure to protect your clothing and furniture. Have fun!!

Monday, January 11, 2016

My Desk and Weekend Art

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. Mine was a bit busy as I got ready to teach my first Sunday School class of 3rd graders. It was fun to be with students again!

The prompt for Saturday was "weekend plans." I drew my daughter and I on my bed catching up on Supernatural on Netflix. This sketch looked a whole lot better before I colored it. I think because I wasn't really working off a reference photo, I over-worked it. We did get to watch one episode in Sunday as we had errands and homework and well, basically life.

Sunday, the prompt was "weekend dinner." 

We usually watch football on Sunday's so tonight, I made Lemon Pepper chicken wings and fries. We watched a bit of Golden Globes too.

Today's prompt was "my desk." I work at the end of my dining table and it's usually quite messy. But I did clean the area before sitting down to draw.

This is the actual photo. As you can see, I left out a few details. And I was not going to color all those markers! And if you noticed that jar that says, "garlic", I'm not eating garlic as I paint. It's just my water jar. Today, I used the Lyra watercolor crayons. It was perfect to lightly color with the crayons and then use my aquash water brush to activate the color. I left the bottom portion blank so I can journal. 

I think my "desk" is too clean. Time to mess it up. I had an idea to make my own molding paste and use pistachio shells... Hmmmm... Have a great Monday!

Friday, January 8, 2016

A Bubble Bath

I must admit I'm not a big fan of bubble baths. But today is National Bubble Bath day so I am pretending I enjoy it. The idea of a relaxing bath, drinking wine, listening to Chopin appeals to me. You're surrounded by warmth and floating in a sea of bubbles.

Unfortunately, I keep thinking about all the bacteria than can be present, especially in a tub with jets. Lol, that certain kills the mood. 

Starting this Sunday, I'm teaching 3rd grade Sunday School at our synagogue! I'm really excited to work with kids again! Whatever you have planned this weekend, I hope you have a good one!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

National Bobblehead Day

I love bobbleheads. My dad had the hula girl bobblehead but it was not stuck to the dash of his car. It would totally be a distraction for me as I could stare at it for hours.

It seems that bobbleheads are popular among sports fans as my son has several of his favorite ball players. They are fun.

And in honor of National Bobblehead Day, I drew myself as a bobblehead on my table as I get ready to journal. My bobblehead would be carrying a journal and a sketchbook and of course, coffee. And lately, my hair is in a side braid because I'm too lazy to blow dry it or style it. And I'm always in yoga pants with an oversized shirt. Ha! I used Daniel Smith Watercolors and my Platinum Carbon pen.

What would your bobblehead look like?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Hump Day Cure

Hope you're having a great Wednesday! I'm a bit late getting my daily prompt done because I had quite a todo list this morning including getting my dog, Vince groomed.

He is such a cutie. After all my errands, I stopped at my local Starbucks for a Skinny Vanilla Latte. I don't go there often as it is a very expensive habit to maintain.  But what is nice about this particular one is that the barista knows my name. I don't have to spell it for him nor do I have to make up a name like "Ann" so that I don't have to hold up the line while they figure out how to write it. 

It was extra nice this morning because it's still raining here in Phoenix and it has been since Monday. Like the theme song says, sometimes you want to go where everyone knows your name.. I used Kuretake Tambi Gansai Watercolors today.  

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


Happy Tuesday! Today's art challenge prompt is a bird. And because it's also Tangle Tuesday, I wanted to use a zentangle pattern in my drawing. So I decided to draw a peacock using the zentangle pattern "pea-fea". 

I had drawn something similar previously using pastels.

This was my inspiration. And keeping my promise to myself that I would try to use art supplies I have, I used my Sakura Koi Watercolor Sketch Box set. The colors are vibrant but the paint is a bit more opaque than my other watercolors so I painted first before I inked it. And yes, I should have kept the pea-fea pattern in mind when I painted the peacock, but I didn't. So the colors don't really match the ink work. Lesson learned.

If you would like to try the pea-fea pattern, visit here

Monday, January 4, 2016


I'm not sure what I was thinking when I chose "spaghetti" as my prompt for today. There are certain foods like rice and pasta that are so hard for me to draw and paint. It felt like doing a zentangle pattern, trying to draw pasta weaving in and out of each other. I'm trying to use some of the supplies I haven't used in awhile so I used the Windsor and Newton field box of half pans.

One of the things my husband and I committed to last year was to adopt a low carb lifestyle. So one of first things we got rid of from our pantry was pasta. Instead of pasta, we've added various squashes. 

I bought this gadget that allows create strings out of zucchini, yellow squash, daikon, etc. If you don't over cook them, these faux pasta can be quite good. But my favorite is the spaghetti squash. 

I usually roast this in the oven for about 50 minutes after slicing it half and removing the seeds. You can also microwave it but I just like the roasted flavor. 

(Image from

Once cooked, you can take a fork to get strands of "spaghetti". We've added meatballs and red sauce and pesto and even Alfredo. But I just like it with a bit of olive oil, bacon bits, Parmesan cheese and parsley. And even though today is National Spaghetti Day (who comes up with these?), I'm sticking with my spaghetti squash!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Chocolate Covered Cherries

Happy National Chocolate Covered Cherries Day! Chocolate covered anything is usually good but I love the tartness of the cherries and the sweetness of the chocolate. And since today's prompt is "chocolate", it was perfect!

I usually start with a loose pencil sketch of what I want to draw. And I usually ink my drawing with the Platinum Carbon Pen but I decided to go directly to watercolors today. And I decided to use the Holbein palette.

For the chocolate, I used burnt umber and burnt sienna. I also added ultramarine blue for shadow areas.

I love the "black" you get from burnt umber and ultramarine. And since I was using ultramarine for the plate shadows, it made for a more harmonizing palette.

The cherries were done with vermillion and Crimson lake, with a bit of ultramarine added in the shadow areas. For the most part, I remembered to leave white areas for highlights. But I still had to use my Posca paint pen for white in some areas. 

I'm very happy with the results. It's a little more intimidating for me to not to ink before adding watercolors and I had to leave a bit of white space between some edges. I enjoyed the process, though it was not the loose style of painting that I'm used to these days.

Changing topics, my youngest is involved in a program called Better Together sponsored by NFTY (National Federation of Temple Youth). It teams 7th and 8th grade students with seniors living in a retirement community once a month for fun interactions. They meet once a month. The kids are organizing a bingo night for the seniors and we were asked to bring some goodies for prizes. So I made these bookmarks using homemade ink sprays. I used acrylic letter stamps for the words and tied a ribbon. I'm really happy with the way these turned out because I'm usually stamp-challenged. I'm just not very patient and usually smear the ink or misalign the stamp. But these turned out okay.

Now, my daughter and I are off to bake some cookies for the seniors. Hope you're having a wonderful Sunday!