Write Until You Meet Yourself


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I was very young when I started writing in journals. My mother, being an introvert herself, bought me my first diary, and I took to it quite naturally. I was extremely uncommunicative with people, very rarely raising my voice to talk or make conversation, but I was expressive in my writings. On paper, my thoughts were easy to pour out.

Much of writing is unpacking ourselves from the tightly-wound package of public perception and social pressures. The deliberate act of putting words on paper requires a certain measure of introspection and openness.

Perhaps more importantly, when I write, I am brave. I open doors that I never opened before. I confront my ignorance and willingly accept self-correction. I ask myself those very difficult questions, and I am able to write down and face the answers, painstakingly thought out and laid down, letter by letter. I write honestly, without trying to cover anything up, without trying to make me look better. Without judgment.

In writing, I meet a version of myself. One that’s inaccessible outside the pages of my journals. Through the years, it has  been my safe space, helping me understand and love the person I meet through introspection and quiet meditation.

“Whether you’re keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it’s the same thing. What’s important is you’re having a relationship with your mind.” – Natalie Goldberg

A Peek in My Health Journal


I opened the year 2018 with a new commitment to myself. My husband and I will turn 40 in a few years, and that has brought about a lot of realizations in my life. Our health is just one of those. He has Type 2 Diabetes, I’m pre-diabetic myself. I decided it’s time for a paradigm change and it may sound like a cliche, but there’s something great about starting a new lifestyle on a new year. It feels like you have momentum behind you. Before the new year, though, I did start a health journal. I ate what I usually ate, drank what I usually drank, and wrote them down.

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A few weeks of doing this gave me an insight on the state of my eating habits. I didn’t eat a lot of rice and ulam, but I loved my sweet treats and I enjoyed them at all hours of the day. Writing it down gave me valuable insight on what I put inside my body and what I placate my hunger with. I think gaining this insight before I plunged into a drastic lifestyle change was particularly good for me. It felt a lot like reasoning with myself.

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I planned our week’s meal, made a simple grocery list, and planned out what things I wanted to track. I decided on a few things; exercise, caffeine intake, food, and overall mood/feelings for the day. Again, a few weeks into recording these things gave me more insight on how I was faring. The first week that we started on a low-carb, high-fiber, high-protein diet, I was expecting to go through a difficult withdrawal, but that didn’t happen.

Instead, I felt clear-headed. All these years I got so used to living with frequent headaches that I think my body just accepted it as normal. Like white noise in the background that I eventually learned to live with. Several times a week, I would struggle with worse headaches, and that’s when I would pop painkillers. The first week that we changed our diet, I felt like I had more energy, I felt that I could do more things within a day and that I don’t burn out after giving the best of myself to my work. I felt like there’s more of me to give. I was also snacking less. I felt more satiated and less hungry. This didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy food anymore, I still did. Just a different kind of food, and still in healthy, generous portions.

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I documented my daily challenges and enjoyment about a more involved process of planning and preparing food for myself and my husband. It wasn’t easy, but it also wasn’t unpleasantly difficult. We tried a few things that worked and a few that didn’t work, and we learned from them.

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In my health journal, I also documented food or drink-related things that I found interesting. I enjoyed that most.

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At this point, I think I can say that I have a more natural feel for what my body needs and what we want to eat for the week. I am aware that I will not need to monitor my food intake anymore. I know that a lot of people monitor their diet by writing down what they ate, and I’m sure it works for them, but I have a very different approach to it. I like to monitor for a while to gain insight, then wean myself out of it so that it doesn’t become all about the stats anymore. My health journal will still be about my health, the food and drinks I find interesting, but it will be less about policing my food intake than enjoying the new kinds of food that I like to eat. Sort of like removing my training wheels.

So there, that’s a little peek in my health journal. I would encourage anybody who wants to change their eating habits to start one. This format or any other format that helps you make sense of your diet is going to be helpful.

Here’s to a happy, healthy 2018 for all of us.

Olds & Milner’s Rat No. 34


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I’m currently reading “Irresistible” by Adam Alter and the first part talks about the biology of addiction. Though the book is about addictive behaviors, the first part touches on addiction to substance. It’s a pretty interesting read, I’m looking forward to really getting into it in the coming days.

I often stop and write down things that I want to remember while I’m reading. Or things that I want to chew on and understand better. I find that writing helps me sort out my thoughts, like they fall into order as I write. I remember things better this way too.

From Seed to Cup


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I wrote this page on my health/food journal yesterday because Montblanc Toffee Brown ink reminded me of the color of espresso. I’ve been keeping a health journal for the past weeks and to liven it up, I add pages like this. I write about food and drinks that I find interesting. I’m gathering a bit more pages before I write about the format I use for my health journal before I share it. It has been very helpful to me recently.

I really love the color of this ink. The photo doesn’t show off the gorgeous shading it has or how it remains vivid after drying on the page. Such a beautiful color.

Cáscara


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I recently started my very first health journal. Not a diet journal or a fitness journal but a health journal. It helps me keep track of my daily physical activities, food intake, how many cups of coffee I consume, my mood for the day, general thoughts about health, etc. It also helps me plan our menu for the week. I’ll delve more into that in another journal entry. Today’s entry in my health journal is about this “tea” that I recently discovered through Everyday Coffee PH (Not affiliated with them BTW, I’m just a happy customer. They’re my main source of freshly-roasted coffee beans).

It’s called Cáscara which is Spanish for husk. It’s made of coffee cherry skin and pulp that’s dried and lightly roasted. It’s actually not at all like tea leaves but it’s called coffee cherry tea. It’s also called sultana in some places.

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A few grams of these husks are steeped in hot water for about 5-7 minutes and can be enjoyed hot or cold. I’m not an avid tea drinker but I really enjoy this drink. By itself, it tastes sweeter than other teas that I’ve tried. You don’t actually need to add any sweetener to it, but you can add a bit of brown sugar or honey if you want it to be a bit sweeter. It tastes like sweet raisins and has a subtle hint of berry. If you use honey, it tastes a bit like wintermelon tea. It’s surprisingly good, actually.

It’s also found to be rich in flavanols. This secret superfood is said to have more antioxidants than blueberries. It’s great that Cáscara gives coffee farmers another stream of income from what used to be considered as a byproduct of harvesting coffee beans. It gives an additional income boost for the farmers.

If you want to read more about Cáscara, check out: The Truth About Cascara.

Professor Pyg


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My journal entry from early this morning was about Professor Pyg. Actually, I was just thinking about how Gotham (the TV series) is one of my favorite super hero TV series so far. Recently there has been quite a lot of TV series based on comic book stories. Gotham does a great job of portraying heroes and villains as complex individuals who became who they are in the future because of a series of events and decisions that led them there.

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Professor Pyg doesn’t have a backstory, unfortunately, but it does lend to the story of Penguin and Jim Gordon. Gotham does a good job of showing how villains don’t just pop out of the woodwork, they have their own stories. In some instances, their stories converge with the stories of heroes. It’s just that they make a series of decisions that got them where they are. The origin stories are very interesting, for both heroes and villains.

Professor Pyg’s violent rampage was quite visual and visceral, it felt like something out of Criminal Minds. Oswald’s transformation from ambitious mafia small fry to criminal mastermind is also quite fascinating. The cycle of allowing himself to be emotionally vulnerable for the sake of friendship and companionship and then being betrayed twists him up more than his criminal activities do.

I hope the writers continue to do a good job on the series.

 

Test Drawings for Platinum Carbon Ink


I got my first waterproof black ink last week. The waterproof Noodlers inks are always out of stock, so I bought a bottle of Platinum Carbon Ink off a friend’s collection. I made a few test drawings on my journal to see how well they hold up with watercolors. Needless to say, I am so happy with the results.

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I love that the ink stays vibrant on the page even after drying up. Some inks become flat when dry, but this one stays shiny. It looks almost like it’s still wet on the page. It’s really saturated, so it’s best not to leave it in a pen that’s going to sit unused for too long. Smells a bit like Noodlers inks, too. The flow is pretty wet, I am very happy with it. It doesn’t seem to take longer to dry compared with most of my wet-flowing inks.

If you’re looking for thick, super-black ink that shows no shading and stays vibrant after drying, I would highly recommend this.

 

Blending Inks in Calligraphy


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Since I’ve been playing with inks for my new journal refill, I thought I’d try something I often see many of my calligraphy friends do–blend inks. I admit I’m a bit finicky about this. I like to thoroughly clean my pens before changing inks because I don’t like the inks mixing. Deliberately mixing inks for calligraphy is pretty interesting, though. I put a teeny-tiny drop of ink in a palette, dip the tip of the nib (say that ten times, fast) in the ink and write. For the photo above, the ink in the pen is Kyoiro Soft Snow of Ohara, and I dipped it in Kyo No Oto Yamabukiiro. It’s even more fascinating to see the effect in person.

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For this page above, I used a pen loaded with Kyo No Oto Yamabukiiro, dipped in De Atramentis Thomas Alva Edison to give it that autumn-y feel. It’s actually quite fun to do, and the resulting calligraphic work looks colorful and vibrant.

My Favorite Pen


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I was thinking of joining Inktober this year (and I will TRY to post as much as I can) and thought I’d try something different. Instead of using watercolors for the little illustrations in my journal entries, I’d use fountain pen ink. This was my practice entry. The pen and wash drawing is made with Rotring pen, Iroshizuku Asagao, and Parker Quink Black. I’m surprised at how vibrant the color was, especially the blue one. Kinda hard to control the flow of water and pigment, but it creates an effect different from what I’m used to with watercolors. I kinda like it.

I wrote about my favorite pen, which is a bit of a difficult question because I really love all my pens. If I really, really had to pick one, though, I think it would be this one–my Parker Vacumatic Debutante in Azure Blue. There are a lot of reasons why I love it. I like that it’s from 1941 and it still works perfectly, and that it’s one of the first azure blue vacs made.

I love that it’s really adorable. It’s a vintage pocket pen that’s only slightly bigger than a Kaweco Sport. It’s light and long enough to be comfortable in the hand. I don’t use the plunger, though, so that I can preserve the mechanism. I use it as an eyedropper, and it holds a lot of ink. It also writes like a dream. The nib is so smooth and springy, and lays down a wet line. But most importantly…it’s adorable! It’s been in my daily carry since I got it back in early 2016. 🙂

Cook Up a Storm


Earlier today we watched this movie called Cook Up a Storm and I wrote a review of it in my journal. It was a fun movie, and I like how the set was designed; a modern city slowly inching out the small neighborhoods. The old and the new buildings struggling for a foothold. Drawing people and buildings don’t come easy for me, but sometimes I manage to wrangle out something that I like enough.

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I also tried out the birthday gift my husband gave me, a digital drawing pad. I’ve never had one before, but I’ve always been curious about doing digital art. It really requires a different skill set because you’re not just drawing, you’re also puttering around a software (or two). I figured out how to do pencil drawings, but I haven’t quite figured out how to color yet. It’s so much fun doing digital drawings, once you get over having to look at the screen while you draw.

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The movie was quite fun. It’s a little preachy and cheesy at times, but it’s a nice, feel-good movie with lots of great food shots. I like the values that the  movie tries to highlight. The fact that modern and traditional don’t need to be at odds with each other, and that we can all learn something from one another. That success and fame isn’t all that’s important in life, and how food can be inclusive if we want it to be. That fame can be fickle, but failure can be the path to finding new people, better people, to let in your life. It’s a nice, family-friendly movie. 🙂

Dream Catcher 2


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A friend of mine asked if he could have the first dream catcher painting I did, but I couldn’t give it to him so I promised I would just make him a new one. Today I finally had the time to sit down and work on it. It was a pretty interesting experience, trying to recreate a piece. It resulted to different paintings, of course, I couldn’t even recreate the number of loops in the original dream catcher, but I like them both. They’re about the same subject but they’re different.

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Here’s a side by side comparison of the two. The original one on the left is in a clear folder, the light is reflecting on the plastic a bit. I like them both. Makes me want to paint a series. Maybe someday. 🙂

Beauty and the Beast


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Here’s a journal entry I wrote a couple of days ago about the Beauty and the Beast adaptation this year. I’ve been meaning to write about this but only got around to it now. I was honestly not too excited about the movie because I don’t really like the story of Beauty and the Beast. I found the animated movie to be a bit weird, but then again I didn’t like fairy tales even as a child. The animated movie didn’t make much sense to me because it seemed the basis for their “true love” was too shallow.

The movie was quite the surprise because the core of the story stuck to the traditional fairy tale plot, but the addition of Belle and Beast’s back stories made the entire thing about their “love” quite plausible. There were a lot of things about this adaptation that I liked. One is how Belle didn’t feel like she didn’t fit in to the little town’s “provincial life” not just because she’s like the odd girl out, but also because there’s a whole episode in her life that her father didn’t want to tell her about. This film’s Belle was strong, intelligent, compassionate, intellectually curious. She was also an outsider who was keenly aware of the majority of the town’s rejection of her “strangeness”. Her relationship with Beast progressed from resentment to friendship gradually, by getting to know him and his story.

Unlike the animated film where it’s almost taken for granted that it’s Belle’s affection Beast must win, the 2017 adaptation is more balanced. Both Belle and Beast needed to learn how to love each other in order for the curse to be broken. Beast didn’t automatically fall in love with Belle just because she was beautiful. He had to grow into it too.

Both found common ground with their being rejected because of how different they are from other people, both also found another common ground, and it’s probably the  best thing you can base a friendship on–a meeting of the minds. I loved those scenes where they read together. It reminded me of when my husband and I haven’t even started to go out yet. Our friendship took on a different level when we discovered that we both liked to read. We would read the same book and then spend hours talking about it, among other things. This meeting of the minds gives each other an open door, an invitation to step in and get to know each other in a deeper sense. Until now, my husband and I still love going somewhere quiet so we can sit together and read our books, and talk, and talk some more.

That kind of friendship is fertile ground for love. That kind of story goes beyond the superficiality of being beautiful or beastly.

There are a lot of other things I loved about the movie, but this part about them discovering kindred spirits in each other is my favorite. 🙂

Coffeehouse Mysteries


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Here’s my journal entry about my latest literary junk food, the Coffeehouse Mystery series. It’s a series of novels that centered around the main character, Clare Cosi, who managed a landmark specialty coffee shop in New York. It had coffee and murder mystery, so that was pretty much a no-brainer for me. It’s easy and light reading, a comfortable break from my usual books.

As a coffee fan who is just beginning to find my way around the wonderful world of coffee, this series is quite fun to read. This isn’t the kind of mystery novel that is drawn out and is an intricately-spun world on paper. This is more like a mature version of Nancy Drew on caffeine. Simple, straightforward, easy. I love all the references to food and coffee, but I can understand that other readers might find it a bit repetitive and tiresome. The coffee tidbits don’t exactly fit naturally in conversations the way it was written, and these parts tend to be too wordy. I enjoy them though. I wouldn’t call it too well-written; the main character isn’t really well-developed and isn’t too likeable, many of the characters are either cliche or trying too hard to be different, and the stories are just too short for any significant character or plot development. Still, they’re fun to read.

I’m on my 5th book now. Every time I read it, I can almost smell roasted beans. I love the combination of Yamabukiiro and Lie de The in my journal entry. An earthy yellow and the color of tea dregs. In person, the combination gives off a warm vibe, and looks really beautiful on the page because Yamabukiiro complements the yellow undertones of Lie de The quite nicely.

Autumn Leaves


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I took a short break from my Coffeehouse Mystery binge yesterday to practice a bit of watercolor. I realize I haven’t really sat down to paint for several weeks already, things have been quite busy. I’ve always found the color of autumn to be quite beautiful, so I made autumn leaves.

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This uses Sennelier 300gsm, 100% cotton watercolor block. I really love this paper. It has a way of making the color pop, the paint remains brilliant and vivid on it after it dries. I also love the texture of the paper, it makes creating textured paintings a lot easier. My watercolor block’s a bit small, though. After finishing this, I wanted to practice more kinds of leaves, so I opted for a slightly bigger watercolor block, my Hahnemühle 200gsm rough paper.

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I do like the texture too, although it looks more like lines of little squares. Sennelier’s texture feels more organic, somehow. It takes a bit more work to make the color pop. After the watercolor dried on it, the colors looked dull so I had to apply more layers to brighten it up. It was pretty difficult to achieve a result close to what I got with the Sennelier WC Block.

I still had fun with it, though, and I learned a lot in the process. Mostly about being patient and working on values.

Colors used for these paintings are all by Sennelier:

  • Indian Yellow
  • Venetian Red
  • Raw Umber
  • Warm Sepia
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Payne’s Grey
  • Ivory Black
  • Pthalo Green Light

Travelers Notebook Olive


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I knew I wanted one the moment I heard that Traveler’s Company is coming out with an olive green TN. I got this from Everything Calligraphy last month, and decided that I would use it as my calligraphy and watercolor journal.

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The color is a little hard to photograph. It always comes across darker than it actually is in person. The color is a dusky green, more like the camo green in my opinion, rather than olive green. It’s a deep color that I think will become more interesting as it ages. In photographs, it looks more like black than green. In person, the color is a bit ambiguous, depending on the light. I’ll post more photos of it in the future as it develops a patina. I’m curious how the texture and color will change once I start applying leather balm on it (maybe next month). My brown TN became shinier and the brown color became deeper and richer.

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I decided to keep it thin with only two inserts so that it won’t be so heavy. I use my brown TN as my primary journal anyway. I made those monkey fist charms and bookmarks with the elastic bands from an old TN repair kit that I haven’t used yet because I only used the dark-colored bands. I thought the bright colors popped pretty nicely against the color of the leather. If you want to know how to make your own monkey fist knots, this is the tutorial I used.

I made my own watercolor insert from 200gsm Canson paper. Here’s the cover I DIY’ed for my first insert.

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I didn’t realize that it had a rough side and a smooth side, so some pages have the textured side on the left, some on the right. It’s alright, though, it can handle light washes on both sides, albeit with a lot of warping.

Travelers Notebook Olive

Traveler's Notebook Olive

I enjoy bringing it around with me. It’s comfortable to hold and gosh, it’s so pretty in person. Next time I’ll try and find watercolor paper that’s textured on both sides, though. Overall, I’m pretty much in love with this TN. It’s a great addition to my EDC.

Coloring Pages


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I made these coloring pages for my friend’s daughter who celebrated her 5th birthday this week. This little girl already shows an interest for art, and she has recently discovered the joy of watercolors. So I made these line drawings on watercolor paper for her to use. I think it’s a great way to encourage children to paint and get comfortable with the medium. It’s also a great way to spend time enjoying art with kids. I should make some for my nephews and nieces too.

Look at that little fishy. Isn’t that cute? ^_^

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Something’s Fishy


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I find human and animal forms very challenging to paint. I’ve tried fishes before but I never liked how they turned out so I don’t often try them again. Last week I thought I’d try ink and wash for my fish paintings and I think I like how the first ones turned out.

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I used my Sennelier watercolor block for these paintings, and I’m pretty happy with it. The texture made it really easy to create the illusion of scales. It also took the ink from my Rotring Isograph pretty well. No bleeding or any difficulties sketching on it. I wish I can capture in the photos how delightful the texture of the finished paintings feel.

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Ink and wash seems to be my comfort zone, and I’m enjoying it a lot right now. I’m learning new things and discovering new techniques along the way.

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Here are the colors that I used for the fishes, in case anyone would find it useful:

  • Black goldfish – Payne’s Grey
  • Veiltail Goldfish – Bright Red, Lemon Yellow, Warm Sepia, Payne’s Grey
  • Salmon – Payne’s Grey, Naples Yellow Deep, Venetian Red, Lemon Yellow

DangerShrooms


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After a couple of paintings on edible mushrooms, I made a series for poisonous ones. They’re really interesting, I wish I had more time to study and explore them, but it was a busy week at work. Looks like poisonous mushrooms have more interesting, vibrant colors than edible ones. ^_^

Colors used: (Sennelier) Naples Yellow Deep, Venetian Red, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Alizarin Crimson, Phthalocyanine Blue, Forest Green, Phthalo Green, Vert Sapin Forest Green, French Vermillion, Payne’s Grey (Artnebulaph.com)

Paper: Global Art Materials Travelogue Watercolor Journal (Stationer Extraordinaire)

More Shrooms…


I enjoyed my first mushroom paintings so I thought I’d make a second set the next day. Still fun! Who knew there were so many varieties of edible mushrooms. I feel so deprived. I saw a video yesterday of really odd-looking shrooms, I should try those next.

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I wish I can see these in person. Especially the green one. It looks like the 1Up mushroom in the game Mario Bros.

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Colors used: (Sennelier) Naples Yellow Deep, Venetian Red, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Alizarin Crimson, Phthalocyanine Blue, Forest Green, Phthalo Green, Payne’s Grey (Artnebulaph.com)

Paper: Global Art Materials Travelogue Watercolor Journal (Stationer Extraordinaire)

‘Shrooms


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I was sick with cough and colds last week, so I wasn’t really able to sit up too long and paint anything. I’m feeling much better today, though. I thought I’d have a little fun. I had the idea while having dinner with my husband and a friend last Sunday. We had some awesome mushroom chicharon (deep fried mushrooms that taste like pork cracklings)  for appetizers and oh mah goodness. Those things are delicious! If I were blindfolded, I wouldn’t have guessed those were oyster mushrooms. I thought the little folds and textures were interesting.

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On this page, I drew/painted oyster mushrooms (yum), morel and chanterelle mushrooms.

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On this page, shiitake, enoki and porcini. It was lots of fun! I had a great time exploring different kinds of browns, yellows, and reds.

Colors used: (Sennelier) Naples Yellow Deep, Venetian Red, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Payne’s Grey (Artnebulaph.com)

Paper: Global Art Materials Travelogue Watercolor Journal (Stationer Extraordinaire)