Still Here


Just thinking for a bit. A whole long bit, about who, why, what, how a lot of things. But I am inspired and convicted. I feel that in-between, of wanting to keep going forward but needing to also look back. Life is full, and I’m trying to figure out how blogging comes into play in all the fullness. 


Thanks for sticking with me!


On Gifts

It’s no secret: I pride myself on being a terrific gift-giver. Now whether that is actually true, or whether the recipients of my gifts are just stupendously generous in flattering my ego, who knows! Either way, gift-giving and receiving as one of my biggest love languages can get quite tricky.

Irenekly - On Gifts

Take this vase for example. Gifted to my momma for her 50th birthday, I was confident she would totally love it. She loves flowers, loves pretty things, and loves me – there was no room for failure. But that last bit, the loving me part, is what makes my gifts to her the most precious. More than the fact that she now had a hand-crafted Heath ceramics vase, she was ecstatic to receive this gift and every single one of my gifts to her because they were an extension of myself. This open-arms reception is something I am just barely beginning to understand as I realize the skewed ways in which I receive gifts from others.

Without going into the nitty gritty, a certain gentleman made an extravagant gesture to celebrate our two years of dating, and it was so difficult for me to fully receive it. Here he was, with an extremely thoughtful and sweet gift, and I could only say, “Oh dear me no, it’s too much!” In a subtle but real way, my inability to receive at that point became an inability to receive him – which is the last thing I intended, but sadly inflicted. Thankfully, Garrett keeps his heart and ears open, even when my flaws rear their ugly heads.

Turning gift-giving and receiving into celebrating me, twice over, rather than being able to celebrate the other and receiving the other’s love is so terrible! Though stated to be a love language, it’s not impervious to perilous selfishness that quickly shades it to become something other than love. Oh, to learn from more selfless givers and receivers like my momma (and Garrett, and wait, all my inspirational beloveds), and be willing to receive graciously and freely outside my own agenda! Conclusion: love the gift because of the giver.

To a Tea

Of all the hot beverages out there, I think tea is the one I’m least fanatic about, but certainly not because it isn’t well-deserved. Tea, especially of the barley, millet, or corn husk variety, was so comfortably in the background whilst growing up in a Korean household, that I never gave it much thought. A huge pot of it was always ready for us to have either cold or hot, largely unnoticed unless it was empty.

Irenekly - tea2

I suppose that’s why I will rarely buy tea like I buy a cappuccino or a cocktail – I prefer sipping my tea in the calm of home, during breakfast, after dinner, or in the afternoon lull. I by no means meticulously brew my tea, but coming home with this lovely mélange of colors and smells from the apothecary (yes, apothecary – this one.) made me think a bit harder on the art of steeping tea.

There are grand metaphors of making tea that is related to life and living in a variety of ways, I’m sure, but one that feels particularly relevant is the beauty of letting new flavors unfurl in completely different temperatures. Meaning: seeing the beauty that comes from being thrust into new environments, and enjoying the changes. I hope to live with great intention in the midst of all this transition, and watching and waiting for my tea to properly steep is helping me slow down and make each step judiciously.

Irenekly - tea1
To not have the most remarkably ordinary blend in with mundanity, but to have eyes to see the possibility of intention in the everyday. I hope for this!

Utter sidenote: these photos were taken with my iPhone and that’s pretty crazy.

Looking Back and Forward


2013 was a huge year.

I graduated college, set foot in new countries, and got my first “big girl” job. Last January, I remember marveling at all the milestones to be had this year and being equal parts frightened and excited. How could a year hold so much? Was it possible for everything to even happen? And yet, by the sheer grace of God, it has and more.

I learned that everything that happened at Berkeley was truly invaluable,  that my lens has been altered to ask hard questions and learn how to grapple with hard truth, but that the asking and grappling can and should never stop.

I learned that loving people is really difficult, especially when the vehicle through which my love is transmitted (my selfish, wimpy heart) needs a lot of working on.

I learned that traveling gives you unshakeable wanderlust in your feet and eyes, and that your hand will forevermore be writing new cities onto the “Must Visit” list. But even more so, I learned that planting roots in a new city, a new home, actually means more adventure and exploration.

I learned that fear–of failure, of loss–is crippling, but that there is love and freedom to be had in embracing inevitable imperfection. There is grace enough, and there will always be grace enough.

I learned that admitting weakness is asking for strength, and I learned the sweetness of having a strong hand to hold in prayer and encouragement.

And I learned that being in a posture of humble need, not petulant neediness, is how I must constantly step into the new and the old.

I’m so thankful that my wistfulness over this year already being over can actually surge into hope and expectation for what 2014 will bring, and that there will always be new life to be found. So, in the coming year, I have some small and big hopes. One of those is to balance out the levels in which I consume and produce, and to not just be sedately inspired all the time, but proactively create, too! And hopefully this blog will be a tool through which I can push myself to tackle some new projects.

I’m excited! It’s definitely an excitement that took some watering, but now it is growing and I trust that this year will be good, even if that “good” is not how I would exactly define it (read: lots of cookies, no conflict, and pretty stuff). Here’s to a full, blessed year!

City Squares| Edinburgh

I always find it difficult to manage both iPhone photos and DSLR photos, but I think I have found a solution! I will post iPhone photos via this grid format for the various trips taken while abroad, and I’m already excited about it! I love things in gridded form. Some of these were Instagrammed, others not, but here’s a short summary of my four days in Scotland:


Oh man, it was a jam-packed four days. Richmond castle and Fountains Abbey were pit stops to and from Scotland, but we spent most of our time in Edinburgh once we got to Scotland.

I loved the National Gallery (still can’t believe it’s all free admission!) where I gazed with wonder at a Seurat painting that particularly caught my heart, enjoyed the unusual cuisine (haggis = sheep stomach, neeps = turnips, and tatties = potatoes), and picnic-ed on a fine piece of grass. We all somehow had brought our sketchbooks, so we got to pen some of the sights down on paper, too. And there was quite a bit of hiking involved! My thighs and glutes felt the burn often! We climbed Arthur’s Seat to catch the last bit of sun, then trekked out to Trossachs National Park the next day. Of the many glorious memories some of my favorites were:

1. Getting our jiggy on at The Jazz Bar, where The Katet performed into the wee hours of the morning.
2. More dancing at a traditional Scottish dance party, called a Ceilidh.
3. Reading all the loving scribbles left by Harry Potter lovers at Elephant House, where JK Rowling wrote the first bits of the HP series.

At the end of the trip, I felt like there was still so much to see and do! But until next time, Edinburgh! Cheers!

Greetings from Cambridge!

Apologies for the quiet on the blog front lately. I am finally nested in Cambridge for the summer, and just got back from Edinburgh for a weekend trip! I still catch myself wondering if this is all really happening, as the sultana scones for afternoon tea, glorious stained glass windows in chapels, and the windy cobble-stoned streets all seem too good to be true. I will probably be taking a shift from my usual posts and update more on life at Cambridge, including travel posts because I plan to take many weekend visits!

Here’s a taste of photos to come:


This was at Loch Lomands in the Trossachs National Park. I’m hunching amongst the briars, avoiding the sheep poop at all costs. But! That view! Crazy beautiful, no??

Oh My Gouache

I just can’t resist the puns. Especially when it comes to goauche, a medium I’ve been exploring more of lately. It works so well on kraft cardstock and I love how the colors turn out. Here are two different projects, one newer ,one older, that I did for gifts.


Some of my favorite gifts to receive/give are journals. I made this personalized one out of the Moleskine Kraft journals  (like these ones) for a dear friend.



This was a quick, random fun one I did exploring different color schemes and patterns. I’m still getting used to using gouache, but here’s to more practicing!

Four years!


Yes. Today is officially the last day of my undergraduate experience at UC Berkeley. I feel…weird. Happy weird, sad weird. But mostly, I want to celebrate! I want to celebrate all the beautiful and great people I met whilst here, I want to celebrate all things learned and realized, and I want to celebrate with ice cream sandwiches! So. I’m hosting a little gathering and I made this little invite for it, inspired by washi tape and subway tiles. I’m excited to come back and post more photos from the night!

My Proverbs 31 Mother / 엄마에게



Probably every daughter thinks her mom is the most beautiful woman in the world, and I am inclined to think the same x200.

I love my mother’s hands. Her fingers, so accustomed to years of practicing across black and white keys, continue to play a melody on my own hands. Her music-making fingers are like magic, I hear the faint echoes of a Chopin sonata with no piano in sight. Though they have  donned the battle scars of maneuvering the kitchen for so many years, her hands haven’t lost any of their grace or beauty.

She smiles easily and frequently, and has teeth so straight and white, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she’s married to a dentist. But, you would be surprised when you learn she’s never had braces or major dental work; her grins are au natural. I’ve seen random strangers pour out their life story to her because she exudes a welcome and calm, amplified with her smile, that makes people feel at home.

Over the years, I’ve also witnessed my momma sport numerous hair styles–mostly all of them some variation of the classic Korean ahjumma perm–but my favorite is her morning look. We used to joke it was her Cruella deVil/Einstein ‘do, but I love it. She sports the look during all the mornings she’s gotten up earlier to wake the house with wafts of frying egg and rich, radish soup.

She is much more than a domestic goddess. My mother has created and nurtured life through her selfless and humble heart, and tirelessly continues to do so. When I see the many memoirs out there of daughters writing on their mothers, I’m not surprised. If I could detail every gesture of love, grace, and sacrifice my momma has shown to me, it could easily be the next Tolkien trilogy. I will continue to write more and more of how thankful I am that you have taught me what it means to have steadfast faith, to love freely, to give graciously, and to dance weirdly. 엄마, 사랑해요. I wish I could give you this card in person but because I can’t, I will live and love well, just as you do.