Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tokyo Recap Day 4

Hello everyone. I'm back again with more from our Tokyo trip this summer. It's a slow process sharing the trip with you. Each post takes me about 2 hours, and it's quite a busy time with my work right now, so thanks for your patience.

Sunday, June 4th

I guess our bodies were still getting use to the time change, or maybe it was the excitement of being in Tokyo, but Paul and I were having a hard time sleeping very late in the mornings. On this particular morning, around 3 a.m. it went something like this:

Paul: Are you awake?
Me: Yes
Paul: Do you think you'll go back to sleep?
Me: I don't think so
Paul: Wanna go for a walk?
Me: Sure!

So we got up, brushed our teeth, put on a ball cap and headed out the door. (Jamie was sound asleep in her room.) Once on the street, Paul and I picked a direction and started walking. We headed toward the government building and found a very nice area called Chuo Park. The sun begins to rise at 4:45 there, so the birds began chirping and only the small sounds of morning could be heard. (It's my favorite time of the day, even here at home.) We strolled the park, arm in arm, and enjoyed the peaceful quiet.

The architecture here is so varied and artistic. I snapped this photo on our walk through the city on our way to breakfast. This is only one of so many unique designs around Tokyo.

After collecting Jamie for breakfast, we decided to walk to Shibuya Crossing. On our way, we stopped for water, as we often did on our travels. Vending machines like these are everywhere right on the sidewalks of most busy streets. The have beverages like water, tea, coffee and juices, however there are some which contain beer and sake too! This was very handy for us, as we did so much walking and were constantly thirsty.

 I can't seem to say it enough: we were so lucky to have such nice weather. It was perfect!

It was sunny, so definitely a ball cap kinda day. Jamie and I are standing at the entrance to Meiji Jingu on our way to Yoyogi Park. Meiji Jingu is a Shinto shrine nestled in a beautiful forest of tall trees with a wide walking path carved through its center.

Here's an aerial view, courtesy of the Meiji Jingu official website

We didn't visit the actual shrine, only passed by. Instead, we continued on our way and came upon these barrels.

I love the graphic nature of them stacked together like this.

At the end of the long row of barrels, we found a sign that explained what they were.

On our walk, we encountered so many beautiful flowers. Hydrangeas were the most common.

This one looked so unique to me, I had to snap a picture. I sent it to my friend and flower expert Susan Tierney-Cockburn and she easily identified it as a Lace Cap Hydrangea. I'd never seen anything like this before. (Not too common in Florida, apparently)

At the end of the wide walking path, we eventually came upon Yoyogi Park. As a memory keeper, I always snap photos of signage along the way as well as keep a journal at the end of each day's events, in order to remember the details of a trip that can be easy to forget otherwise.

After passing through Yoyogi Park we entered Shibuya. This area is a popular and busy shopping area surrounding Shibuya Station, one of the busiest railway stations in Tokyo. I snapped this photo of another unique building because of its dark, steampunk/gothic appearance, with its contrasting entrance to a Disney store. (click on the photo to see the detail.)

Shibuya Crossing is a famous spot for watching the "scramble" of people making their way through this major intersection. Here's an evening shot I found here: Photo courtesy

and this video is perfect.

We couldn't pass up real Japanese taiyaki. Remember when we found these in London two years ago? You can read all about taiyaki here, if interested.

We headed back to Shinjuku via the train and stopped at our favorite little spot for noodles. I got buckwheat soba, fried tofu, egg and crab this time. Excellent! Lots of slurping going on.

After a rest in the hotel and a cold bath (some days my feet were screaming for a cold soak), we headed back out to the Times Square Mall for a trip to the ever-popular and awesome Tokyu Hands store. Six floors of everything you can imagine from luggage and sports, to cosmetics and crafts, and so much more. And tax free to tourists! Simply show your passport. I purchased some hair products to try to tame my frizz and some foot scrub which was put to good use throughout the trip.

After shopping, we explored the basement of Shinjuki Station and found an incredible food market where one could find anything and everything they desired; the most beautiful desserts, fish, meats, salads, and of course sushi. Just check out this video of the sushi area alone.

We grabbed a few things for dinner and ate in our hotel room, then finished off the night with a small load of laundry in the basement which consisted of three small washers and dryers, and was quite busy this particular evening, so we had to keep a watch on the time so as not to hold up anyone else.

I'll be back again soon with more on our Tokyo travels. Thanks for stopping in.

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 SimonSaysStamp.com

Thanks for popping in today!