It Just Hit Me

Rachel

Dear Rachel:
Today it hit me that next year I will be sleeping next to an empty bed – that when I wake up you won’t be in the kitchen making me a tea latte – that our tea parties will be short one very important person. I cannot imagine life here in China without you! I must admit that I did not fully prepare myself to say goodbye to you in China. Now that the reality is settling in, I don’t want to look at your baking drawer, or your bed, or your closet because they just remind me that next year you will not be here.

Rachel you have blessed me in so many ways. The Lord knew how much I would need an older sister – and He gave me the very best one! I know that you will be just as much a blessing in Carnegie Mellon; I envy all the new friends you make – that they will get an encouraging, pretty, cake-making, faith-filled friend like you!

Love You!
~Jessie

“A Few of my Favorite Things”

At our house, Birthdays are filled to the brim with special treats, family time, and unique celebrations. It is a day to stop and  enjoy everything and everyone that you love.

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The theme that Rachel and Maddie chose for my birthday this year was ‘Favorite Things’ (originally from the song “These are a Few of my Favorite Things” in Sound of Music). They set up such an elegant and whimsical day for me, I was quite overwhelmed by it all.

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I enjoyed biscuits & eggs for my birthday breakfast (the perfect way to start any day). Then, while Rachel began baking cake, I hurried on to a soccer tournament, where I lost my voice cheering for my friends.

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On returning home, my sisters surprised me by sweeping me away to the Astor, one of Tianjin’s most historic hotels, for high tea. A whole picnic of delicious snacks had been prepared to accompany our tea: cookie pops, cream-cheese tortilla roll-ups, decadent chocolate and nut mixes, meringue cookies, and maple blondies. They knew that one of my favorite things is tea time (and the snacks that accompany it)- so they were sure to provide me with plenty throughout the day.

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Rachel baked a chocolate layer cake filled with Biscoff buttercream for me ūüôā

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Getting Some Perspective

To my fun loving sister, Maddie: I have really enjoyed the past few days that we have spent together. Ice cream, rockin’ music, the Revolution TV series, house keeping… the list of activities we shared this past week goes on and on. I love how you bring so much freedom and excitement into what we do together (even our failures at home-making have been fun!).

I want to share two desktop wallpapers with you that I made. These wallpapers remind me of this stylish, sweet, energetic girl who would totally have these on her tumblr blog, Tall Buildings. Hope you enjoy them! Love you, Maddie!

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Download the wallpaper size here: Widen Your Gaze, Escape the Beaten Path

Counting Stars

To my music-loving brother: I made a delightful discovery on Spotify yesterday that I just had to share with you! The song is called “Counting Stars”, by OneRepublic. I can’t think of a song I enjoyed so much since “Good Time” by Owl City. The song is part of OneRepublic’s new albums named Native, depicted with Native American cover-art. Honestly, I didn’t really like the cover art at first, but it grew on me! It reminds me of Rachel’s “Dream Catcher” pyjamas from Cotton On… This is wonderful conglomeration of Native American Style – and I’m loving it!
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OneRepublic’s cover-art reminded me of this a illustrator expedition I made with an owl picture awhile back. It’s not my best work, but I still like the little flourishes I added. The picture was tucked away in a folder, destined never to see the light… So I hope you enjoy it!
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The Sketchbooks Have Arrived!

Last summer, as Michael and I were searching around for ways to develop our personal artistic style and technique, we stumbled upon The Sketchbook Project. This organization caters to individuals wishing to showcase their creativity and artistic ability; they send out blank sketchbooks to people all around the United States, who then paint, collage, draw, or sketch in them (returning the completed books to The Sketchbook Project a few months later). All of the sketchbooks are taken on tour around America and eventually uploaded onto the computer to be personally accessed from their digital library.

Long story short, Michael and I each ordered a blank sketchbook last summer, and unsurprisingly it sat comfortably on my shelf, untouched until January. While on Christmas vacation, I received a reminder, alerting participants of the fast-approaching deadline in one month – what a shocker! Would I let my money go to waste and pass up the opportunity to participate because of my procrastination? Never!

I had essentially one week remaining to fill the sketchbook and return it to The Sketchbook Project¬†. Hence, for the next 5 days, I woke up, bussed to and from school, put together a tea tray for myself, and sketched until bed time (my perfectionism certainly heightened the pressure). I finished it by the end of the week, and was very proud of the “rushed” outcome.

I¬†learned¬†several things about myself through the completion of my sketchbook…¬†1.) When I persevere in something that requires daily attention, and reach the definite “finish line,” I find myself missing the work that caused so much stress!¬†2.) In this project I had no time to second-guess my work or ask for constructive criticism… being forced to go with my gut, I learned to be confident in my ability. Indeed, I do not wish to discredit input from others, I am just glad for the opportunity to swim whichever way I please in this great ocean of creativity.

Thanks, Michael, for making me do this; I loved it!

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How To : Adobe Illustrator Geometric Art

You may remeber my ¬†preview posts of geometric renditions of Audrey Hepburn, The Girl with the Pearl Earring, and Twiggy; well today we are going to learn how to create a geometric-art-form of any picture! ¬†¬†The process is quite simple if you’re willing to invest time in creativity. I practice Adobe Illustrator concepts (such as this one) while watching movies with Rachel and Maddie (just to keep my hands productively busy!).

You will need Adobe Illustrator (CS3-CS6 will do) and a favorite image of yours.  As you can see, the picture I chose was one of Wall-E.

1. First step: place your picture into Adobe illustrator.  File > Place > (choose picture).

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2. Once you have your picture into Illustrator, zoom into the spot that you will be starting with.
-Choose the pen tool and make the stroke color white with a weight of 1.
-Start creating a “jigsaw” of geometric shapes on top of the picture (these shapes should surround an area of the picture where the pixel color is generally the same).
If you would like this to be a very detailed and precise rendition of the picture, then create smaller geometric shapes in order to get more clarity.  If you would like your picture to be more rustic/abstract,  feel free to make your shapes larger and cover more shades of color.

~I went for the more detailed geometric look for this particular picture.
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3. Whew!  took longer than you expected right?  Well this next part is fun!
-Now that you have all your geometric lines drawn, use the arrow to select all the shapes (make sure you do NOT include your background picture).
-(with the shapes selected) > Live Paint > Make. ¬†Now that they are “live paint” you may fill each shape according to the instructions below…

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4. Now you need to use the Eyedropper tool and the Paint Bucket tool¬†interchangeably¬†to get the¬†general shade of color¬†from the shape’s picture¬†underneath.
-To be more specific: For each shape use the eyedropper to collect the color (from the picture¬†underneath). Once you’ve collected the correct shade, use the Paint Bucket¬†to fill the shape. ¬†Repeat this step until you have filled every shape. ( Doesn’t this just bring you back to your “coloring book” days?)
– Now delete the background image to check if you have filled every space- if not, click ‘edit undo’ and complete filling the geometric spaces.

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5. Now selet the whole picture, click Expand on the top tool bar (so it is no longer a Live Paint Object) and make¬†the stroke color transparent (the white¬†lines should now disappear). You have now competed you’re very own geometric design! ¬†<Add a background and some text to “spruce it up” if you’d like>.

As you can see from my previous geometric creations I usually create the whole picture, including the background.  However in this example I only rendered the face to highlight message.  Enjoy!

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Autumn Fest 02 (Jessie)

<Before I begin… RACHEL, thank you for creating this amazing calendar for us! I cannot imagine enjoying this season without you! >

This particular day is especially fun for me because now-a-day I don’t get the¬†luxury¬†of browsing pictures online. I had so much fun finding these photos and collaging them into pinterest-like boards for you two!

1.¬† Maddie, this looks like a place where you would travel — I can imagine you (with a rich husband ūüėČ driving around Europe in this vintage, blue BMW Bug.
2. When I found this picture I instantly thought that these feathers, in a clip or headband, would look fabulous in your short hair!
3.¬†I imagine this as the view from your future city penthouse — very elegant.
4.  This is definitely the Asian version of you!  I can totally see you biking through a city in this outfit!
5.¬† You may not be a big fan of cookies, but this cookie dough is so you; it completely encompasses your PINK style. I can imagine you making a whole bowl of this dough and eating “raw.”

1.¬†I debated including this photo in the top 5 at first, but now I’m confident that this photo illustrates your style to the max ūüėČ
2. This collection would not be complete without a picture of coffee! Alas – the good old days when we drank tea together are gone ~
3. This is your dream home – it has everything you desire for a country home: a white victorian-style house (with plenty of kitchen space I’m sure ;), lots of GREEN land, and horses!
4. This photo represents your love of Hong Kong and family vacations — How can we ever forget those late nights in Hong Kong sitting around chatting with HKwaffles and bubble tea in hand?
5. Your love of photography and Asian kids are combined in this photo – adorable!

Love you two (and this challenge)!

Air Quality Monitoring

Michael and Rachel:

Maddie and I have been hard at work on our air quality monitor! Our goal is to use an Arduino board and low-cost gas sensors to monitor the quality of our air. We definitely met challenges with the technical part of this project; and lets not even get started on calibrating the sensors! After it all, however, we have made some interesting “discoveries” and our hard work is really seeming to pay off!

Take a look at this magazine of all our research!

Take a Look: Engineering Notebook!

Michael, Rachel, and Maddie:

A huge part of this semester for me has been this course in Robotics! Among all the construction of our actual robot, we are also expected to keep an engineering notebook. We were taught that every “true” engineer keeps a notebook to protect their ideas. I have really taken advantage of this notebook to express my artistic side.

Hope you like how my notebook is turning out so far!

As of Late

As of late, we have all been caught up in the whirl-wind activity of a new school year! Personally, I feel like I have jumped on a boat that I am trying in vain to steer through churning waters, (Anyone else?).¬† So what’s been so crazy about the beginning of this school year? – the real question is what hasn’t been crazy about the beginning of this school year?

For starters, my dad, Maddie, and I had our annual Fall Camp, a high school retreat, last week!¬† Maddie is discovering the “joys”of a high school homework load, and I am discovering the “joys” of three AP classes.

Over in Hong Kong, Michael just returned from a church retreat which was very encouraging for him as he begins his sophomore year at Hong Kong University!

Rachel has been busy as a bee at home. She’s our “sweet little fairy,” baking delicious desserts, working in the blog room on her goals, and supporting us in school. Rachel too has been unusually busy this week; it seems that the news of her baking skills are getting around.¬† This week she has baked 2 layer cakes, pavlovas (tonight to satisfy me and Maddie’s meringue craving :), and biscotti. Sadly, the only above dessert we get to try is the white fluffy cookies in the oven now. The birthday cakes were made for a friend and a client!

On top of ALL of that, add the usual homework load, dentist appointments, student council work, and time spent with friends then you’ve about nailed down our lives as of late!

Me and my Fall Camp team during the stew competition! ~Smokey~

Maddie posing with her team after the Fall Camp Skits!

The 3-layer Lego cake that Rachel baked for a boy in our community turning ten. It is a vanilla cake with multi-colored layers (red, blue and green), meringue buttercream filling, and marshmallow icing on top!

Michael’s Church retreat – seems like he had fun!