Monday, July 18, 2016

Jasmine Gift Card Holder

Thanks for the kind comments as I post my Tokyo trip recaps. I'm enjoying documenting everything here and sharing with you.

Today I'm featured over the on the Elizabeth Craft Designs blog with my tutorial on this pretty Jasmine gift card holder I created with Susan's Garden Notes "Jasmine" die and Graphic 45 Children's Hour papers. I hope you get a moment to hop over there and check it out. The Jasmine is super easy to make.

Here's a look...

Friday, July 15, 2016

Tokyo Recap - Day 3

June 3, 2016

I was very much looking forward to Day 3 in Tokyo because we had arranged to meet up with fellow Graphic 45 designer and friend, Yumi Muraeda, who lives in nearby Yokohama. I first met Yumi at the Craft & Hobby Association Show a few years ago where we got to know one another during the Graphic 45 design team dinner. When she heard we were coming to Tokyo, she kindly offered to show us around the area. How exciting!

But first, coffee. Starbucks was near our hotel. As is the case in most big cities around the world, there are lots of Starbucks around. I had to snap this photo of the sugar packets and the creamers. As I've described in previous posts, everything is pretty in Japan. Just look a those creamers with the pretty flower print. And yes, I saved the Starbucks receipt as a piece of memorabilia. Of course. 

The weather was absolutely perfect during most of our stay in Tokyo. Sunny, breezy, and cool in the mornings and evenings. Warm, but comfortable during the day. On some days, I wore a light sweater all day. 

We sat outside as often as we could. This particular morning was a little chilly.

Yumi met us in the lobby of our hotel. I was so excited to see her and introduce her to Paul and Jamie. We asked if she would show us around a few stationery/art supply stores that she thought were worth a visit and she was happy to oblige. 

One of the first places Yumi took us to was within walking distance of our hotel. It was called Sekaido. The ultimate art store! We checked out every one of the six floors. Here's a basic breakdown of what one can find there:

1F: Stationery, office supplies, files, and formal business pens
2F: Art supplies for manga, design, drawing, drafting; computer design corner; Western and Japanese paper supplies
3F: Fine art materials & tools for Japanese and Western art, sculpture supplies
4F: Frames and prints
5F: Paintings and frames
6F: Gallery and art classes space

I purchased several things here like washi tape and sparkly highlighter pens. I highly recommend visiting this store if you travel to Tokyo. It truly was an artist's dream store. 

After that we took the train to Ginza to another fabulous store called Itoya. Nine floors of paper heaven. Very high end. Lots of unique items here. I can't do it justice with my paltry words, so I found this excellent blog post by Take Risks Be Happy which contains photos and descriptions of the fabulous things you'll find here.

Then it was time for lunch at one of Yumi's favorite spots (also in Ginza) called Tama Sushi. Excellent! One thing we discovered which we hadn't expected in Tokyo was that most people in service positions did NOT speak much English. We were surprised. I'm not sure where we got the notion that they all spoke English, but that proved not to be true. Thankfully, we had Yumi with us. And in many restaurants, they will provide an English menu. If not, we just went by pictures and pointed, not always sure of what we were selecting. But that made things kind of fun!

After lunch, Yumi took us down the street to the fabulous French bakery called Laduree. Oh my goodness, talk about pretty and delicious all wrapped into one! If you travel and love to eat dessert on vacation like we do (we rarely have dessert back home) then you must not miss this wonderful place. To see what I mean, just check out this mouth-watering post by Darin Dines. Not only are the dessert options beautiful, the restaurant itself is gorgeous.

We sat at a table which faced out onto the busy street in Ginza, drinking flavored tea and eating delightful sweets. We enjoyed it so much here, we returned on a last day in Tokyo to have just one more treat before returning to the States.

The last store Yumi wanted to show us was East Side Tokyo in Asakusa, but we had some trouble finding it and eventually gave up. (Watch for my upcoming post about East Side Tokyo, and how we discovered why we missed it before).  While in Asakusa, we couldn't miss the famous Sensoji Temple.

Here Paul is walking through the crowded market area leading to the temple. This shopping street is called Nakamise dori. This is the place to buy your traditional Japanese souvenirs, if you're so inclined. Lots of rows of vendors selling their wares and foods. A good deal? Not sure, since we didn't make any purchases here, but it appeared to be rather cheap and touristy, in my opinion.

After you get through the market, you see the famous landmark of Asakusa: Sensoji Temple.

This is a very popular visitors' spot and it was quite crowded this particular Friday. A beautiful site, isn't it? It's the oldest temple in Tokyo, founded in 628 A.D. but rebuilt a couple times since it's original. You can read interesting tidbits and the history behind this temple here.

This five-tiered pagoda is situated to the left of the main temple. It appeared to be under construction/ maintenance.

Yumi was always ready to answer any and all of our many questions we had about culture and religion. We appreciated her taking so much time with us...

...and for taking this photo of us in front of the temple. When it was time to say our goodbyes, Yumi rode the train back with us to Shinjuku to make sure we found our way, and we thanked her over and over for her kindness and generosity and hugged goodbye. This type of affection isn't common in Japan, but as I understand it they are more accepting if they see it's from a foreigner. They just aren't used to hugging like we are. Nothing wrong with it, just different. (Watch for my future post about Japanese men's reactions to me rubbing Paul's shoulders on the escalator one day. LOL!)

It was a fun-filled day of shopping, eating and sight-seeing. This is my little craft haul from the day. Washi tapes, markers, ruler, stickers, and decorative tapes in dispensers. Cute little images of fruits or birds on a frosty clear tape roll. Fun for decorating a planner or journal.

I can't thank Yumi enough for her kindness and generosity on this day. She made this one of my favorite days in Tokyo! It was great to connect with her again and spend time together doing what we both love. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

My Own Little Key West

I've been making or altering my own little houses for a long time. Birdhouses especially. Then Tim Holtz partnered with Sizzix to create the Village Dwelling and other compatible village dies. Now I LOVE making tiny houses of all kinds.

You may remember these I made last Fall...

and these for the Sizzix booth at CHA 2016...

Then Tim just announced with the newest Village-Surf Shack die and also the Tropical Thinlets die set. I knew I had to have them pronto. I also knew that I needed some cute Summer home decor for my foyer and instantly thought of making some Key West style houses. 

I've never personally been to Key West, but I'm a Florida girl so I have a pretty good idea of the style there. Plus I Googled some images of cottage style homes in Key West and got some great reference. I spent my very hot and humid weekend indoors making my own little Key West cottages. And I'd love to share how easy they were to make.

You'll need the base die "Village Dwelling" to cut the pieces for the houses. I used Kraft Core cardstock from Core'dinations for most of the cuts. I used shades of teal, yellow, coral, pinks and bright green for my houses.

You may have noticed the score lines in the first photo. Since many of the houses in Key West have a clapboard siding, I mimicked this by scoring the die-cut house pieces at 1/4" intervals.

To give it that slightly worn look and to accentuate the scored lines, I gently sanded the pieces to reveal a bit of the kraft core.

From the Village Cottage die, I die cut white windows for each house and shutters for each. I gently sanded the shutters after this photo.

After die-cutting the door from white cardstock, I loosely sketched some details to resemble a Key West house's front door using my Antique Linen Distress Marker. I used the brush tip to keep it loose and sketchy looking.

I adhered the door and window pieces to the house parts while still flat (for ease) and added a "door knob" using a tiny decorate brad.

From silver Kraft Core Metallic cardstock, I die cut the roof from the Village Dwelling die and then the "awning" roof piece from the new Village Surf Shack die. As you can see, I also scored these, but this time I scored from the kraft side so I could best mimic the look of a tin roof, which is common in the Keys.

At this point, I assemble the house and put on the main roof. I like to use Alleene's Super Thick Tacky Glue, but you can experiment with whatever works best for you. I like Super Thick because it grabs quickly and dries clear.

The porch from the Village Surf Shack die is longer than the original, fitting all the way across the house's front. I die cut the picket fence from the Village Cottage die and the two supports from the Village Dwelling die and assembled everything. (I cut the picket fence in half and used the two pieces to wrap around the porch.)

Then I adhered the porch unit to the house's front.  [Handy Tip: get some of those tiny clothespins from the craft store and use them to hold pieces while the glue dries.]

From the Village Dwelling die, I cut the base in the same color as the house, assembled it and held it with tiny clothespins.

After adhering the tin roof's awning, I folded the supports back, matching the height and gluing in place under the awning.

Also from the Village Surf Shack die are these great images like this palm tree, surfboard, and there's also a life preserver which I added later. The surfboard has two pieces (the yellow and the white in my photo), then I drew a red line down the center with a Candied Apple Distress Marker. The palm tree has a base to it and another piece so you can notch the two pieces to create a stand. Such a cute idea! I opted to trim my base mostly off and attach it to the house instead.

After attaching my house to the base, I added my tree and surfboard.

I repeated the same process for two more houses. (click on photo to view larger) The larger palm tree in the back is from the new Tropical thinlets die, as are the little flowers. 

I had such a great time making these cuties and love the way they look on my foyer table when you walk into my Florida home. They just make me smile!

I can't wait to play with all my Village dies again and create something completely different next time. That's the beauty of these dies: the possibilities are endless!

You can find all the Village dies, Kraft Core cardstock, and Tropical thinlets at

Thanks for popping in today!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Tokyo Re-cap Continues...

Hi everyone, I'm back today with another recap from our recent Tokyo vacation. I'll continue to post as I can fit it into my schedule. It's been a super busy summer and doesn't look like it's going to be slowing down anytime soon.

Thursday, June 2  2016

Meet Pepper. He was in our hotel lobby greeting and interacting with guests. We found Pepper in a popular clothing store several days later (obviously a different Pepper). You can ask him questions, and he can read your expressions and make comments based on what he perceives. One afternoon I caught him doing a sweet dance for a little boy. Here's a short YouTube video I found of Pepper if you'd like to check him out. 

We didn't get much sleep our first night (woke at 6 a.m) because we were excited to start our first official day in Tokyo. We had breakfast directly across the street from our hotel at Cafe Velocé, a popular coffeehouse chain here. They're everywhere, like Starbucks, and offer delicious coffees and baked goods and light sandwiches. We discovered this morning bun filled with red bean paste that was very good. It may sound unappetizing to come, but we're no strangers to red bean paste. Since Paul is half-Japanese he's grown up on some of this stuff and thus I have learned to like it too. It was perfect with coffee.

Coffee observation: Much to my surprise, the coffee here and everywhere in Tokyo is excellent! I would've figured lots of tea offerings everywhere rather than coffee. But delightfully not the case. I'm a bit of a coffee snob and absolutely cannot stand "regular" brewed coffee in the States, but here the brewed coffee was strong, smooth and delicious. Quickly, I stopped ordering my usual Americano and stuck with regular coffees most of the time.

For our first day out in any new place, we like to just walk, walk, and walk. We learn our immediate area (within a 5 mile radius), get our bearings, and simply explore. We found this big Shinjuku display between our hotel and the train station. A favorite photo-op for many, since there are great places to tuck your body into.

Shinjuku is a great place to stay because of its location to the city life, the train station, and shopping. We loved all the signage and the buildings and billboards. And check those platform Converse of Jamie's! She ordered those (ironically) from Japan about a month or two before this trip. She fit right into the fashion scene here.

You'll see in many upcoming photos how interesting the city's buildings are here. This is just a typical city street. I had to snap it. 

As we strolled around the city, we looked into an opening between buildings and saw Godzilla (hovering over the Deadpool sign). We observed later that he is a popular photo-opportunity to visitors, as you can imagine.

Again, walking along the busy city street, we glanced in between buildings and discovered the entrance to a small shrine called Hanazono Shrine. There are shrines and temples all over Japan, which had me wondering what was the difference between a shrine and a temple. Apparently, there is quite a bit of difference. I found a good explanation here, if you're curious like me. 

We stood back in the shade and quietly observed several people entering the shrine. Off to the left there's a washing station where people go to first to clean their hands. Most everyone carries a small hand towel to dry off. Then they walk to the main temple of the shrine, put a coin in a contribution box, ring the bell overhead, clap their hands twice, then bow. This is the time for a "prayer" for "wish" for good fortune. Jamie had read about this before our trip and was explaining it to us. And, of course, she participated as we watched from a distance.

Part of our journey today included trying to locate the place to pick up this Wi-Fi device we reserved months ago online through Global Wi-Fi. It's a pocket wi-fi hot spot, and I can tell you that this was the BEST thing we ever did and I highly recommend it if you're traveling to Japan. Although Wi-Fi access around the city is free, it requires you to sign up for an account, and it's not the same as in the States. We researched this before our trip so we knew that this would be essential for us. 

Normally, you can easily pick one up at the airport when you first arrive, however due to our delayed arrival yesterday, the kiosk was already closed. We phoned the company the next morning and found another location in an office building in Shinjuku where we could pick it up instead. As Jamie and I are big social media posters, we couldn't have lived without this device. We had unlimited data during the entire trip for about $5 per day. Well worth it, in my opinion.

On to lunch! We roamed the city and found this wonderful yet tiny noodle shop that quickly became one of our favorites during our vacation. Most restaurants have window displays with wax-figures of the dishes they offer. This was extremely effective and helpful for us foreigners who couldn't read Japanese very well. Once we visually identified what we wanted and took note of the corresponding number, we stepped inside and punched in the number and paid at a small vending machine, which spit out a ticket we then handed to the cook. Seating is limited to about 7 or 8, half of which is standing at a counter. The idea is not to linger and chat. Eat, enjoy and get out. Slurping is encouraged and appreciated, and quite common!

On the street Jamie saw this popsicle vendor, so we had to stop for one. Everything, and I mean everything in Japan is pretty. The food, the packaging, and the shops.

Peach with kiwi. She was clearly happy.

We walked some more and went back to the room to rest. The jetlag was hitting us. Sometimes we'd just need to put our feet up for a short while. Other times, an actual nap. Today Paul and I were too excited to see more so while Jamie napped he and I went for a walk looking around some more.

In the evening, we found a dinner spot where they featured pork in all its forms, and it was quite good. There are many little streets like this one everywhere. Very narrow and colorfully lit up. We just loved these! 

Eventually we returned to the busier part of the city where Jamie and I discovered a great clothing store, similar to Old Navy with an Asian flare, called Uniqlo and decided to do a little shopping. I did a quick Google search just now to see where their other locations are and discovered a Uniqlo is opening here in Orlando at Disney Springs this Friday, July 15th! OMG!! Also you can find them in major U.S. cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia. (Why do I get the feeling Jamie and I will be making a jaunt to Orlando this weekend?)

We were quite tired by this time, so it was back to the room for a glass of wine, relaxation and then sleep. 

Stay tuned for more Tokyo adventures this week. Thanks for visiting, and thanks to those who left nice comments about our adventures last week. I love sharing my experience with you and knowing you also enjoy it makes me so happy.