Tuesday, December 29, 2009

(Un)Lucky 13

aka: How to lose 7 lbs. in two days.

  • Step 1: Rush to grab a bite at the crowded mall food court. Stand in line at busy Subway Sandwich kiosk.
  • Step 2: Watch as server rapidly tears and smashes bread beyond recognition, then dumps on questionable ingredients with lightning speed to get caught up with her orders. Ignore gut instinct to find sustenance elsewhere; order the Y15 sandwich of the day.
  • Step 3: Scarf down unappetizing sandwich; rush on to scheduled appointment.
  • Step 4: Teach English small group for 2 hours. Return home with a headache.
  • Play DS to unwind. Realize that game seems to be causing some nausea. Decide to watch old episodes of Friends instead.
  • Never realized they ate so much on this show. Rachel is pregnant and having bad reactions to foods ("Does this have pickles?")... She runs to the bathroom to hurl... And I hurl with her.
Thus began my own (very un-enjoyable) personal rapid weight loss program. Even worse, it coincided with our 13-year wedding anniversary. Fancy, romantic plans, out the window. We spent our big day watching movies while I lay on the couch trying to stay hydrated. Fun times. But you know, even passed out sick on the couch, I was still the luckiest girl in the world, because I was with my guy. We've been through ups and downs, good times and bad, and in the end we're closer than ever. He's the love of my life, simple as that.

Here's to 13 more wonderful years!

(Oh, yeah, and the Subway Sandwich kiosk? Never again.)

Friday, December 25, 2009

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given..."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nine Days Till Christmas!

Just a little card I whipped up last night...

Card Supplies:
Stamps: PTI "Merry & Bright Additions" (sentiment), Martha Stewart "Clear Holiday Accent Stamps (bird);" Ink: My Minds Eye; PP: Basic Grey "Eskimo Kisses;" Accessories: Cuttlebug/Swiss Dots embossing folder, Cricut/Storybook cartridge, dimensionals, corner rounder punch, scallop scissors, white Signo gel pen.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mmm, Sushi!

The other night I was noshing on some delectable convenience store sushi in front of my tv. As I was savoring the mayonnaisey - seafoody goodness, I realized the potential absurdity of the situation. I mean, imagine walking into your local gas station in America and saying to yourself, "I'm kind of hungry. Ooh, that $2 tray of shrink-wrapped sushi looks de-lish! And I snagged the last one - SCORE!" Um, yeah. I don't think so.

But for the record, it was some pretty good sushi.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Have You Seen This?

For the past several months I've been futilely searching for a replacement for my beloved Domino magazine (RIP). It's been especially hard since I'm living overseas, where the few English magazines I can find are uber-pricey (about $8-10 an issue), thus more of a luxury than a staple. Today I stumbled across a new online mag, Lonny Magazine, launched by the former editor of Domino. It's chock-full of decorating eye-candy, and the best part is it's FREE! And we're not talking a dinky little brochure, either. We're talking over 170 pages of stylish goodness. All I can say is WOW!

Friday, December 4, 2009


When I was growing up, every year at Christmastime my maternal grandparents would get me an advent calendar like this one. Behind the little numbered flaps would be a small piece of chocolate and a Christmas image, or possibly part of the Christmas Story. It was such a fun way to count down the days till Christmas.

Imagine my excitement when I found an assortment of advent calendars last week at the import store! Of course one had to come home with me. Mine even plays a rousing rendition of "Morgen, Kinder, wird's was geben." Good times, good times.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Holiday Activity Countdown

Can you believe it's already December? I sure can't! This year I wanted a way to come up with fun little activities for dh and I to do each day of December up until Christmas. I found this adorable little cupcake stand at the market this summer, and I knew it would work perfectly for this project. I cut twenty-four 2x4" strips of holiday patterned paper and scored them to make 2x2" folded squares, then divided them between Seth and myself. We each secretly wrote down 12 activities we'd like to do, then placed them all inside the lid of the cupcake stand. Some of the activities are simple, like watch a Christmas movie or grab some Starbucks together; others are a little more elaborate. We draw one activity the night before (so that we have time to fit it into the next day's plans). It's a fun way for each person to get to do a little bit of what he or she would like around the holidays. I'm looking forward to seeing how the next few weeks unfold!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Today I'm thankful for so many things - I have a husband who loves me, a place to call home, family and friends who care about me...

I'm especially thankful that I've been learning the lesson of flexibility. Our Thanksgiving travel plans fell through at the last minute, so Seth and I were left to scrounge up a Thanksgiving meal on our own. With some trepidation and admittedly meager expectations, we decided to try out a restaurant near our house that was advertising a western Thanksgiving special - and it ended up being one of the best Thanksgiving meals we've had in China. Check out that pic - moist turkey, real mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce... even pumpkin pie for dessert! Not to mention the pumpkin soup, field greens salad, and tasty steamed veggies. Oh my, it was tummy-stuffing, heart-warming good.

Even though it was just the two of us sitting in a little restaurant in Shanghai, China, watching televised sports and listening to 80s music, it was a wonderful Thanksgiving. We're learning to make special memories no matter where we are, whether we're with loved ones or by ourselves. And I'm thankful for that opportunity.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy (Early) Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! We're heading out of town on Wednesday to spend the holiday up north. We may not get the full traditional Thanksgiving spread (Chinese hotel buffet = 1 sliver of dry turkey if you're lucky)- but at least we'll get to celebrate the season of thanks with friends. And that's what's really important, right? Not the dishes or the decorations, but being grateful for all the blessings we have. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday - eat some stuffing and green bean casserole for me!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rockin' Out with the Guzheng

Apparently, our new upstairs neighbor plays the guzheng. Just what does this mysterious table-harp-looking instrument sound like, you ask? Well, let me show you:

Not only do we have a guzheng player up above us, but our neighbor across the hall has a daughter who plays beautiful classical piano every evening. We're literally surrounded by talented musicians - makes me think twice about showing off my rusty violin skills, that's for sure!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Can You Say YUM?

I just made the most wonderful potatoes for dinner.The December issue of Glamour has an article featuring Padma Lakshmi (the host of Top Chef), and her recipe for roasted potatoes sounded so good, I had to try it. It did not disappoint: herb-y goodness that filled my whole kitchen with the most heavenly aroma. Now, I would have liked to take my own picture of them in all their roasted glory (the pic above is from Glamour), but we just couldn't wait to dig in (and who wants to eat cold potatoes, anyway?). Seth gave this recipe a big thumbs up; definitely a keeper!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shenzhen: China's Little Paris

Okay, so not really. But this picture IS of the Eiffel Tower - in miniature form, as part of Shenzhen's Window of the World theme park. Where else can you see the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, Sphinx of Giza, Stonehenge, Acropolis, and Statue of Liberty (not to mention about 124 other reproductions from around the world) all in one place? Sadly, we weren't able to partake and enjoy the wonders of WOW up close, but I at least got this shot of the Eiffel Tower from the shopping mall across the street. Ah, China. Such a weird and wonderful place.

Our trip was great, just what we needed. It was SO GOOD to see our friends. There's over a decade of history there, and it's been really cool that we all ended up in China. We were able to hang out, talk, see their adorable new baby, and just enjoy being with people who really KNOW us.

The weather down there was wonderful; warm and sunny without being too hot. Of course, we came home on Saturday to overcast, 50 degree weather that quickly changed into rainy, 40 degree weather - miserable! We've spent the last two days trying to figure out how the floor heating works in our apartment (the previous tenants who had it installed didn't leave any sort of manual or even contact information for the company who put it in). We finally got a repair guy out here today, who informed us that the thermostat controls in two of the rooms are broken, but his company only handles the water heater, not the thermostats or the pipes. So until we can find out what company actually installed the floor heating, we're up a creek. (Our management office wouldn't even send one of their handymen up to look at it; since they didn't install it, it's not their problem.) Sometimes all the hoops one has to jump through to get a thing done here can be frustrating; unfortunately it's just part of living overseas.

So, as a little pick-me-up (and to warm up) I made myself my homemade version of a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha: a packet of Swiss Miss Dark Chocolate Sensation cocoa (from the import section of Carrefour) added to a cup of coffee with a tiny little splash of peppermint extract. I wish you all warm toes and warm hearts, wherever in the world you may be!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Awesome Giveaway!!!

Check out this awesome giveaway at My Cricut Scrapbooking! Beth is giving away a $50 Oh My Crafts gift certificate to one lucky reader! Her blog is full of great SVG files and other creative ideas for your cricut. Head on over and give her some love!

On the Road (Again)

Right now we're in the middle of packing for yet another trip. Tomorrow's destination: Shenzhen. We'll be visiting some friends of ours and seeing their new baby. It's been way too long since we've seen them, and I'm looking forward to catching up. It's going to be a great week!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Moxie Fab Tuesday Trigger

I guess the creative juices have really been flowing the past couple of days, because I was able to squeeze in another challenge. The inspiration picture for this one is:

And here's my finished card:

I am loving all of these owl-inspired challenges! I've even got two new owl stamp sets on the way for Christmas. Can't wait to break them open!

Card Supplies:
Stamps: Sassafras Lass "Oliver & Friends," PTI "Shapes by Design;" Ink: Versamark, Brilliance Graphite Black; CS: PTI, Autumn Leaves, Georgia Pacific; Accessories: Cuttlebug, Spots & Dots embossing folder, clear embossing powder, white Signo gel pen, corner rounder punch, dimensionals.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Embellish Owls Color Challenge

Isn't this just the yummiest color combo? When I saw this challenge over at Embellish Magazine, I was immediately hooked. The wheels started turning, and this is what I came up with:

I cut the owl with my Slice, then embellished it with some coral buttons and rhinestones. The wing was made by crumpling up some patterned paper till soft and pliable, then folding accordion-style and gathering at the top with a needle and embroidery floss. The legs were made from silver wire. I stamped my own background paper, added a sentiment, and voila! A perfect little card to cheer someone's day.

Card Supplies:
Stamps: PTI "Friends 'Til the End," Martha Stewart "Holiday Accent Stamps;" Ink: ColorBox Fluid Chalk "Rose Coral," ColorBox Pigment "Chestnut;" CS: PTI "Spring Moss," "Dark Chocolate," "Vintage Cream," My Mind's Eye pp; Accessories: buttons, rhinestones, scallop scissors, wire, dimensionals, Making Memories Slice / Just Chillin Teen design card.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Caramel Apple-tinis

Last night I made my very own caramel apples. I've been dreaming of caramel apples all month, and the other day at the grocery store they just happened to have perfect, unblemished Granny Smith apples imported from the States. (I'm of the opinion that the perfect caramel apple starts with a nice, tart, Granny Smith.) I quickly gathered the rest of my ingredients (a can of sweetened condensed milk and some salted peanuts), and I was set. The process took a little longer than expected (caramelizing the sweetened condensed milk took forever), but the results were everything I'd hoped for.

The martini glass is an idea I saw years ago at a party (they also had red candy apples displayed this way, so cute!). I bought my glasses at Ikea for the sole purpose of recreating my own "apple-tinis," but I've discovered they're a fun and chic way to serve all kinds of dessert!

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Trip Down Memory Lane

When we left Xi'an three years ago, we couldn't imagine why we'd ever want to go back, save to see a select friend or two. The city was polluted, dusty, a little behind the times; our day-to-day life was consumed with the tediousness of language school, and all we could think about was the day we'd finally be able to move on to the city of our own choosing.

And how did we find Xi'an on our return? Well, Xi'an is still horribly polluted, dusty, and a little behind the times (especially compared to fashion-forward Shanghai). Westerners are still a novelty - we drew our fair share of glances, stares, and gestures. One local woman in her mid-30s who was walking about 5 yards away from us, met my glance with a start of surprise
then loudly exclaimed in Chinese, "Foreigners! Two of them!" as she gestured for her young son to come quickly for a closer look. We just had to chuckle.

What amazed us was how much the city has changed. Our old apartment complex, which used to be off of a quiet road at the very edge of town, is now surrounded by a busy intersection - with its own McDonalds!
A previously nondescript thoroughfare has been dubbed "Art Block" for the scores of sculptures and statues that have been erected along its length. What once was a sleepy nod to the advent of Buddhism in China in the form of a tilted, crumbling pagoda (pictured above) has been transformed into a bustling pedestrian area filled with fountains, statues, parks, and restaurants, all constructed in traditional Chinese style.

The best part of the trip was the time (short as it was) spent catching up with old friends. Of course, socializing in China revolves around food - every meal for the whole three days was spent with a different set of friends! Our bellies and our hearts were full.

It was good to see how our little town has grown up. Revisiting it not as students but as "old friends" allowed us to experience it through fresh eyes, as a place of nostalgia and not simply as a means to an end. It was just the closure we needed.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Road" Trip to Xi'an

This weekend we're going on a little trip - technically not a road trip, since we're flying, but a fun little trip all the same. We're heading back to where it all began, the first city we lived in in China. We'll be seeing some old friends, making some new ones, and reminiscing about language school days. I'm especially looking forward to the food - it's garlic-y and salty and spicy; so flavorful, and so cheap! I miss it. The food here in Shanghai just isn't the same.

We'll take the dog over to the kennel this afternoon, then finish packing and tidy up the apartment a bit. Tomorrow morning our little adventure begins!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Take That, Interwebs!

It is a happy, happy day. My dear, sweet, wonderful husband signed us up for a vpn service, which means that I have full access to all the blogs, videos, etc. that were previously deemed "unsuitable" for China viewing. I am positively giddy! The very first thing I did was head over to kwernerdesign to see how many videos I'd missed. My, oh my, I'd forgotten how much fun it is just to watch a little cardmaking video! And my blog here - all the functions are back. I can manipulate photos, change the font, add links without having to type in my own code... Yep, life is good.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Less Than 10 Weeks Till Christmas!


I spent the afternoon listening to Christmas music and leafing through digital copies of Scrapbook Trends’ 2009 “Holiday Cards” and “Holiday Idea Book.” Have you tried these things? They even have a little audio “rustling” sound as you click through the pages. I still prefer a real paper version, but there’s NO way I’m spending $185 for an international subscription – a digital copy every now and then will just have to do.

I am proud to say that I have all of Seth’s Christmas presents ordered. Every year we say we’re going to plan out our Christmas shopping early enough to order things from America, and every year we procrastinate and end up trying to scrounge up gifts for each other here in China at the last minute (not a pretty sight). But not this year! Of course, since most online stores won’t ship to China, it involves having the various packages sent to my in-laws’ for them to box together and ship here (we’ll pay them for the overseas shipping costs, of course). A tad complicated, but so worth it in the end!

Next I’ve got to figure out what kind of Christmas cards to make; I’m having a hard time narrowing it down. I also still have a couple of fall projects to finish – these end-of-year holidays all just seem to rush together, don’t they? But I’m not complaining – not one bit. This is my favorite time of year!

Friday, October 16, 2009

M's First Sketch Challenge


I came across this sketch challenge the other day, and I just knew I had to participate! Emma is 5 years old, and she designed this sketch herself – great work, M!

The flower was cut from a gorgeous tiffany blue envelope I got at the oddest of places - the visa office! When we went to pick up our passports, it's what they were filed in - I think I was just as excited about the envelopes as I was about finally getting a residence permit, lol. The card pretty much came together around the flower - once I picked the chipboard center, the rest just fell into place. Bright and cheery, and I hope Miss M enjoys it!

Card Supplies:
DCWV pp, Georgia Pacific White cs, tiffany blue envelope; ribbon (unknown); Colorbok chipboard circle; Cuttlebug; Sizzix “Flower Layers” die; Dymo labelmaker, woodgrain label tape; corner rounder punch (small); dimensionals

Thursday, October 15, 2009

China Had a Birthday


October has been birthday month around here! China had a birthday (Oct 1st - the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China); Seth had a birthday (Oct 2nd); I had a birthday (Oct 9th)…

Seth’s birthday was a quiet affair. We chose to stay in due to the crazy huge 8-day national holiday that was in progress (our city alone had over 5.8 million tourists) – public transportation would have been a nightmare! (A lesson we learned the hard way during previous holidays.) So, while the rest of the city was out celebrating, we stayed at home and had a special treat of taco salad and homemade carrot cake.

My birthday fell the day after the holiday ended, so things were much less crowded. We tried out a little Italian restaurant (it wasn’t bad, by China standards), and listened to live jazz later that evening. But I think the best part of the day was walking hand in hand around a park after dark: cool autumn breezes; city lights reflecting off the surface of the glassy lake; couples sharing private moments on secluded benches; the off-key warble of karaoke drifting on the night air. (Yes, that’s right – it’s a common sight here to see large groups of people by the side of the road, crowded around a portable karaoke machine and taking turns belting songs into a microphone. On this particular night, some of the more competitive participants had even come in opera costume – including headgear. Fun times.) All in all, it was a pretty special birthday. No fancy presents or expensive dinners, just time spent with the guy I love more than anyone else in the whole world. What more could I ask for?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Happiness Comes in a Flat-Rate Envelope


Just before lunchtime today, someone started banging on the door. Great, I thought. Probably someone here to read the water-meter in the kitchen, and the apartment is a mess – I’ve been sick, and Seth is away on business. Why does this always happen? I reluctantly went to the door, Thor (our “ferocious” miniature schnauzer) barking all the way. It turned out to be one of our complex’s guards delivering this wonderful little package from America. (Sidenote: virtually all apartment complexes in China have guards who control entry to the buildings, monitor parking, watch the grounds, etc. It adds an extra layer of safety that I really appreciate.)

Just what was in the package, you might ask? It was chock-full of crafty goodness: three new cricut cartridges (Joys of the Season, Wild Card, and Home Décor), a full set of new Studio G clear Halloween stamps, and two SEI Christmas stamp sets (Alpine Frost and Glitzmas). The USPS ships these flat-rate 9 ½ x 12 ½“ international envelopes for only $12.95; they hold quite a bit! I found great deals on everything on e-bay and had it all sent to my in-laws Stateside. They removed any excess packaging (like the cricut cartridge boxes – I don’t keep those anyway), and when it was all said and done there was actually quite a bit of room left over in the envelope.

Let me just say, clear/unmounted stamps are a life-saver when you live overseas! They’re easy to store, easy to move, cheap to ship (no heavy wood blocks), compact… When we moved back to China, I knew it would be a while before our crate arrived, so I just put a few cd cases of my favorite clear stamps in my carry-on. It hardly took up any space, didn’t add a lot of weight, easy-peasy!

Okay, enough babbling - off to go play with my new stuff!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Little Chat Over Coffee

Morning Coffee

Boy, time sure does fly when you’re … well, let’s just say it flies. Tomorrow we’ll have been back in China for four months – I can hardly believe it! Let me tell you, those four months have been anything but routine. Setting up house in a new apartment, adjusting to a new part of town (when your city has a population of over 20 million, a different neighborhood can feel like a whole new world!), getting our crate through customs, multiple business trips, multiple guests (some friends, some business), new friends, new endeavors… And of course, things aren’t slowing down for us anytime soon. Seth has a business trip next week, then we’re going to Thailand for a few days, and then there’s a trip to Xi’an in the works… It’s a good thing we like travel!

The weather here is beginning to cool down a bit; not quite fall weather, but it’s a start! Today it’s barely above 80 degrees, overcast, with a slight breeze; we’ve got the windows open and some B&BW Pumpkin fragrance oil wafting through the air. In keeping with the theme, I’ve started making some fall cards. I realized the other day that even though fall is my favorite time of year, I hardly have any related stamps! Luckily, my Slice has been a huge life-saver – I’ve been using it to cut out pumpkins, leaves, even turkeys. For example:


I’ve got a few other cards in the works, plus in a week or so I should be getting a couple of packages from the States with some crafty goodness. I’m just a TAD excited about that, in case you were wondering. Not that I’m going to be stalking the mailbox or anything…

Card Supplies:
Stamps: SU So Many Sayings; Ink: SU Chocolate Chip craft; Paper: watercolor paper, My Mind’s Eye pp; Accessories: Making Memories Slice, Fall/Back to School design card

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Live Life to the Fullest


So I just had to participate in Travelingmama’s latest Inspiration Challenge. She and her little “traveling tribe” are truly living life to the fullest in their Moroccan adventures, but what’s most inspiring to me is their new endeavor to make life better for the children of Morocco. Check out their story here.

My card design is a combination of several of Travelingmama’s pictures - the long strands of thread that stretch through the medina and the shimmering beads that fill jars and dangle from hooks. I thought that this particular sentiment summed up the idea behind the card perfectly – “live life to the fullest:” to make the most of every day, always remembering that each one of us possesses the ability to make a difference in someone else’s life. Some days we may have to look a little further or work a little harder, but the opportunities are there if we want to find them.

Card Supplies:
Georgia Pacific white cardstock; Studio G stamp; Brilliance Graphite Black ink; embroidery floss; beads; dimensionals

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Anywhere But Here


I’m having one of “those days” today. The kind of day where you can’t stop thinking about the things you’re missing out on back in the States: friends, family, the whole “back to school” flurry, your home Community… and of course that leads to missing more specific things, like going (in your own car!) to Wal-Mart, that big wall full of (English) magazines at Barnes & Noble, the $1 stamp bin at Michaels, music departments packed with every imaginable genre of English music, a Turkey Artichoke Panini & Turkey Chickpea Chili combo from Panera Bread… Even though it’s only late August, I’m jonesing for all of those iconic American “autumn” things: pumpkins and mums and scarecrows and leaves and yards decorated for Halloween. Yesterday I even bought a set of Studio G Halloween stamps on e-bay. Really, what in the world do I need Halloween stamps for?! I don’t have any children; China doesn’t celebrate anything remotely like Halloween; in fact, my family really didn’t even do the whole Halloween thing when I was growing up. But for some inexplicable reason I feel compelled to find even the tiniest way to participate in that little bit of Americana.

I think it’s just that fall has always been my favorite time of year. The crisp, cool air; the smell of burning leaves; wonderful rich colors everywhere you look; cardigans and caramel apples and warm pumpkin bread. It’s birthdays and bonfires and new clothes for school. It’s costume parties and warm soup and long walks outside. A few of those things can be replicated here; most can only be tucked away as a lovely memory to be relived over a cup of coffee. In four years I’ll have my chance at another American Autumn, and I’ll relish every glorious moment. But until then, I’ll just have to find my own little ways to celebrate the changing of the seasons.

Don’t get me wrong – I love China, and I know this is where we’re supposed to be. But life isn’t always sunshine and roses (no matter where you live), and this is just me being transparent, putting a little of myself out there. I wouldn’t give any of this up for the world; but it’s good to be able to vent a little every now and then.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009



This card is for a special friend who is coming to stay with us for a few days. We met her soon after we first came to China back in 2004, and our friendship has continued to grow ever since. I always love it when friends from out of town come to visit, as it gives us an excuse to get out and do some of the more touristy things that we always seem to put off. It’ll be a week of walking till our feet hurt, shopping, trying new restaurants, and of course lots of pictures. I just hope the rain clears up!

I followed through on my vow to use my Slice more often; I actually used three different design cards for this project (the frame/label, flourish, and flower were all cut with the Slice). I even pulled out my Cuttlebug to emboss the pink frame. And it may be hard to see in the pic, but I added some subtle Versamark stamping to the flourish diecut (it just wasn’t popping enough on its own). It actually all came together pretty quickly; I already had the basic layout in my head, so all I had to do was pick out the papers, cut and assemble. A little Gilmore Girls in the background, and it was quite the relaxing evening!

Speaking of the Slice, have you seen the new design cards they just debuted at CHA? I think my favorites are Vintage Findings and Mix & Mingle. Their designs just keep getting better and better.

Now I’m off to finish tidying up the guest room (which doubles as our office)… I can’t wait till our guest gets here!

Card Supplies:
Stamps: Friends ‘Til the End (Papertrey Ink), Bridgeport (SEI); Ink: My Mind’s Eye pigment (brown), Versamark; Paper: K & Company “Contemporary Papers,” My Mind’s Eye (pink), Georgia Pacific (white); Accessories: Making Memories Slice/Noteworthy/Basics 3/ Just Chillin’ design cards, Cuttlebug/Swiss Dots folder, corner rounder punch, ribbon, rhinestone, dimensionals.

Friday, July 31, 2009



This is my current favorite takeout lunch. We get it for about ¥9 at the little Lawson’s convenience store across the street, and it’s oh-so-yummy! Julienned bamboo shoots in a curry sauce over steamed rice, pork “lion’s head” meatballs on a bed of green vegetables, a tiny portion of savory scrambled eggs, and a gelatinous tofu (I don’t particularly care for that part, lol). But I think my favorite part just might be the cute little cafeteria tray!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

How Sweet You Are


I’ve come to the conclusion that I haven’t been using my Slice anywhere NEAR enough. It sits there within reach, right on the corner of my desk, looking so cute and compact, yet lately I hardly ever pick it up. I think maybe it’s because I’ve been so caught up in my CAS (Clean And Simple) kick that my creative juices have been flowing in a different direction. Yesterday, however, I couldn’t get owls off the brain, particularly that big owl stamp from Hero Arts (man, I wish I would have gotten that one before we left the States!). I seemed to recall that my new Just Chillin’ design card had a few bird designs – pulled out the booklet and sure enough, there was this cutey-patootey little owl! Now, you may be wondering about the little orange chipboard “wing” piece. No, that’s not just added finery, my friend. That piece was born out of necessity. See, the owl shape is supposed to have a narrow crescent cut out of the right side to represent a wing. Unfortunately, one end of the crescent tore pretty badly instead of cutting cleanly – but I couldn’t waste perfectly good patterned paper! Chipboard to the rescue! I dug out a package of chipboard shapes I found in the Michaels $1 spot; this little photo corner worked perfectly to camouflage the damage, and gussied up my owl in the process. I didn’t like the legs that were part of the owl, so I snipped them off and drew in my own with a gel pen.

Needless to say, I’m brainstorming some more ideas for my Slice (and my Cricut, too!). It’s just way too fun not to play with!

Card Supplies:
Stamps: Studio G (sentiment), Hero Arts “Designer Woodgrain;” Ink: ColorBox pigment “Chestnut,” Versamark; Paper: kraft cs, K & Company “Contemporary Papers;” Accessories: Making Memories Slice/Just Chillin’ design card, Colorbök chipboard, buttons, Uniball Signo gel pen (black), dimensionals, embroidery floss

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Calling Cards


So here it is- my very first Photoshop project! I know, I’ve been using this paper a lot – but it’s the only nice digital paper I have to work with (the rest is all freebie stuff that doesn’t really look all that great). It took me a while to figure out what I was doing, but I’m finally starting to get the hang of things (after SEVERAL missteps, lol).

I created each individual calling card as a new blank file, at 3.58”w x 2.16”h. After opening the digital papers that I wanted to use, I resized each paper from 12x12” to 6x6”, which gave a better scale for the small dimensions of the cards. I then dragged each paper onto a blank calling card, added a white rectangle and inserted my text. Once each card was to my liking, I flattened the images, opened a new 8½ x11” blank file, and dropped in my cards. A little moving around to get everything just so, flatten the image, and easy peasy! Save and print! For completely winging it, I think they turned out pretty cute.

Cards like these are great when you’re in a second-language situation and don’t want there to be any mix-ups with your contact information (like in our case where there is another street that sounds very similar to our street – better to have it written out than risk having something sent to the wrong address!). I’m sure I’ll be tinkering around with other patterns/designs in the future, but for now these will do the trick!

Products used: Andrea Victoria “Pina” digital paper pack, Trebuchet MS font, SimHei font, PSE6

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Musings on Creativity


This whole idea of creativity, inspiration, and putting form to that inspiration has been swirling around in my head for a few months now. Exactly what is it about a certain fabric/layout/picture/color/ad etc. that moves me? How can I give form to the creative ideas that are welling up inside me?

Growing up, I was always encouraged to try my hand at creative things, from drawing to papier-mâché to counted cross stitch. My mother is very artistic (she even had a private art tutor as a child!), and she had myriads of ideas for me to try. To my chagrin, I never could draw worth a lick, and as I entered the teen years my focus turned to friends and clothes and school.

A few years out of college, I began working in the advertising/promotions department of a small publishing house. One of my tasks was editing copy for an assortment of ads, promotional pieces, and catalogs. Through working with the various project coordinators, I began learning to look not just at the spelling/grammar/punctuation of the pieces, but to also look at the overall layout/design. Listening to them as they “talked through” a mockup piece, musing about colors, fonts, even photo choices, really opened my eyes. Around the same time, I was invited to my first Stampin’ Up party – finally, I had found my creative outlet!

I’ve come a long way since then (my first cards were pretty atrocious!), and I still have so much more to learn. I’m at a point now where I’m getting restless again, searching for ways to better express my creativity. It’s an almost uncontainable urge to create something lovely, something beautiful. I wholeheartedly agree with Travelingmama that as created beings we have within us the inherent desire to create – whether it’s through papercrafts, cooking, music, writing, decorating, photography, sewing, oh, I could go on and on. I look at the world around me, and I’m inspired by the colors, the textures, the people, the buildings, the food… I am amazed by the creativity in this world, and it makes me want to participate in making something beautiful.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"Ever Grateful"


I just had to make another card using this great digital paper from Andrea Victoria! I printed out a contact sheet of all the papers, resulting in little 2x2 scaled-down swatches. Then, using a 1 ¾” punch, I cut out my squares (with enough paper left over for some circle punches in varying sizes for later use). I love how I can resize the papers and just print out what I need, and even better, I’ll never run out. It’s a great option when you’re overseas and can’t just run to Hobby Lobby or Michaels to buy some new paper. (Boy, I sure do miss those trips to Hobby Lobby… sigh…)The only thing I have to be careful of when using digital paper is printer ink - it’s really frustrating to have a half-full color ink cartridge that’s useless because I’ve used up all the yellow, lol! (And ink cartridges here aren’t cheap.) Ah, well, it’s a give and take!

Card Supplies
Stamps: Stampin Up “So Many Sayings” (hostess set); Ink: ColorBox fluid chalk “Charcoal;” Paper: Georgia Pacific white cs, Andrea Victoria “Nina” digital paper; Accessories: dimensionals, 1 ¾” square punch

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shopping Bag Love


This reusable shopping bag is another one of my Hong Kong finds – don’t you just love the damask print? I got it for crazy cheap, like US$2.50 or so, and I probably could have gotten it a little cheaper but I wasn’t in a bargaining mood. It’s made of a light-weight nylon, and it folds up into a little snap-closure pouch. Bags like this are like gold for us, because here in China a law was put into place last year banning free plastic bags at stores – customers have to pay extra if they want bags for their items. We’re not just talking grocery stores, but bookstores, home décor stores, convenience stores… It’s definitely a great move for the environment (since June, about 40 billion fewer plastic bags have been given out at supermarkets), but it also means it’s essential to have a little reusable bag tucked away in your purse/bookbag at all times. For heavy-duty shopping, I recommend Envirosax; they’re really sturdy, can hold about 44lbs. each (or the equivalent of two plastic supermarket bags), and have really long straps so they fit comfortably over the shoulder even when full. We brought a set with us to China, and use them every time we go grocery shopping. And they come in a ton of cool designs, too!

(Oh yeah, that's my new polka-dot apron hanging beside the bag - gotta look cute when I cook!)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

And Darkness Fell...


Image courtesy of Sky News

This morning at 9:35 am Seth and I experienced a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon – a total solar eclipse that plunged the city of Shanghai into complete darkness for six awe-inspiring minutes. It was aMAZing!

The sky was overcast when we woke up, and it started raining minutes before the eclipse was supposed to begin, so our carefully-laid viewing plans were flung aside. Nevertheless, we stood with bated breath at the window, straining to see something, ANYTHING, when all of a sudden, darkness began to fall. Within seconds the sky was eerily black, as if time had ceased to have meaning and night had returned. I opened the window, and could hear cries and exclamations of wonder from the murky shadows as people stopped what they were doing to gape at the heavens. For those six minutes, we were no longer “foreigners” and “Chinese,” but we were all just “people,” experiencing something together that took our cumulative breath away.

It will be 300 years before Shanghai experiences another solar eclipse; today was truly "once-in-a-lifetime."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Traveler's Inspiration Challenge 3


This is for Traveling Mama’s Traveler’s Inspiration Challenge 3. I had such a hard time getting a decent picture of this card! Just when you think you have a (small) grasp on lighting/Photoshop… lol. Anyway, as soon as I saw the inspiration pic I knew I had to use this cute little swimsuit stamp. I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandma lately (who just passed away), and one of the memories that keeps coming to mind is how she used to take me to the Y to go swimming. I’d have so much fun playing around in the pool; then, after we’d changed back into our street clothes she’d put a tiny little dab of her cologne behind my ears – I always felt so grown-up and glamorous! For the card, I stamped the swimsuit with pigment ink and heat embossed with clear ep, then paper pieced with a scaled-down swatch of digital pp (love the versatility of digital!). Added a sentiment underneath, and voila! A super-easy, fun little card, with a happy memory to go along with it.

Card Recipe
Stamps: Provo Craft Simply Chic (swimsuit), Stampin’ Up “Many Happy Returns” (sentiment); Ink: ColorBox pigment “Ochre”, ColorBox fluid chalk “Charcoal”; Paper: Andrea Victoria “Pina” digital paper, Georgia Pacific white cs; Accessories: clear ep

Monday, July 20, 2009

Owl Be Thinking of You


I’m still playing around with the Cricut, figuring out the different functions and basically just having fun. Above is a quick little card I made using the Storybook cartridge – isn’t that owl just fab? As soon as I saw it in the booklet I knew I had to make a card with it. I have to say, I’m really impressed with how easy this machine is to use, and I love how many options are on each cartridge.

I’ve also been (slooowly) figuring out how to do more things with Photoshop Elements. I really want to be able to do design-type stuff like making my own hybrid embellishments, note-pads, journal/planner pages, etc. Right before we left the States I picked up a copy of Computer Tricks for Scrapbooking 3, which has been really helpful in walking me through basic functions. I still have a LONG way to go, but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it eventually (fingers crossed!).

Card Recipe
Stamp: American Crafts “Large Sentiments”; Paper: Basic Grey Offbeat dp, Georgia Pacific white cs; Ink: ColorBox Pigment Chestnut; Accessories: Cricut/Storybook cartridge, Cuttlebug/Circles die, corner rounder punch (small), ribbon, button, embroidery floss, dimensionals.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Please Come In...


So here it is – my very first Cricut project! It was so easy, and I love how it turned out. It’s the perfect “something” for our front door. It’s the little touches like this that become so important when you live overseas; even the smallest personal touch can help make a new location feel like home. For this project, I used the black adhesive vinyl from ProvoCraft and the Home Accents cartridge. I don’t have the transfer tape that they recommend, so it was a smidge tricky getting it all lined up perfectly, but not impossible.

There are so many fun, mod graphic elements on this cartridge – right now I’m especially loving the quail and the pear; I’ve got some card ideas brewing for those two! And some of the graphic elements go hand in hand with Dawn McVey’s new stamp set, Mod Squad, over at Papertreyink (just a little FYI)!

Okay, I’m off to have some more Cricut fun!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Very Long Day

Whew! We just spent 7 ½ hours riding the subway from one end of town to the other, back and forth, filling out paperwork and submitting forms at different offices to apply for our resident permits. It’s been a very long day, but in one week we should be official residents – not tourists, not students, not temporary businessmen - residents! It’s exciting, because ours are the first work visas/resident permits obtained through the company since it achieved mainland registration. It’s been a long time in the making, and we’re pretty psyched about it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

(Sort of) New Craft Toy


Man, who knew this was such a cool gadget? I know, I’m way behind the times, but I’m a Cricut newbie. My first ever die cutter was a Cuttlebug two years ago for Christmas; then last year for Christmas I was able to get the Making Memories Slice (back when Hobby Lobby still let you use 40% off coupons on the machine and design cards). I had always admired the Cricut from afar (anyone who’s ever visited Splitcoaststampers has heard OODLES about the Cricut love), but figured that 1) it wasn’t dual voltage, and 2) I’d never be able to take it overseas since we couldn’t send a crate. Well, it turns out I was wrong on both counts! We found out at the last minute that we could send a crate after all, so I did some quick internet searching and found a great deal on a Cricut Create. It arrived literally days before we had to pack our crate, so I only had time to turn it on and do one brief trial run just to make sure the parts were in working order. Now here I am almost three months later, and today is the first time I’ve really been able to use it. I am in love! This thing has so much potential. I will say there was a brief, heart-dropping moment when the machine wouldn’t turn on, but everything is running smoothly now. I think one of my first projects will be a vinyl “Welcome” decal for our front door. Hmm, I wonder if I can get it done before Seth gets home. There’s only one way to find out…

Monday, July 13, 2009

Travelingmama's Inspiration Challenge Card

One of the drawbacks of living where I do is that certain types of websites are deemed, shall we say, “inappropriate” by the powers that be, and therefore blocked. As a result, I can’t watch any videos, random images won’t load, and to access my own blog I have to use round-about means. When I do get to my blog, only the most basic functions are available, which means now I have to tinker around with html codes to try to get some functionality back. So if my blog appears a little wonky, now you know why!
I’m excited to finally be able to participate in Travelingmama’s Traveler’s Inspiration Challenge. You can view the inspiration picture at the link above. Here is my card (click on the pic for a full-size image):
I was struck by the geometric shapes that kept jumping out at me in the inspiration pic – the windows, doors, even the different levels of the building. And of course the phenomenal blue of that sky! I created my own geometric patterned paper using Versamark and a stamp from EK Success; the sentiment was created with my new Dymo labelmaker and awesome woodgrain label tape that I picked up in Hong Kong. It’s a simple little card, but I like the slightly retro feel of it. For some reason, it reminds me of childhood summers with grandparents.
Can’t wait to see what Travelingmama has in store next week!

Card Recipe:
Georgia Pacific White, American Crafts cs; ColorBox pigment “Chestnut,” Versamark ink; Dymo Embossing Labelmaker; dimensionals

Sunday, July 12, 2009

On Cameras and Such


This is one of the goodies I picked up in Hong Kong. As a child, I spent a lot of time leafing through my mom’s art books, getting sucked in by the infinite questions each picture would raise: what was the subject feeling, thinking? Were they happy, sad, hopeful? What kind of life did they lead? What was going on in the world just beyond the parameters of the picture? This book does the exact same thing to me, and it’s even more intriguing on a photography level – not only am I captivated by the story each picture tells, but I’m intrigued by the techniques used to capture each image. It makes me want to run out and photograph anything and everything, in the hopes of getting that one unique shot.

And speaking of photography, Hong Kong had Lomos for sale everywhere! I was THIS CLOSE to grabbing a Fisheye, but in the end I decided it really wouldn’t be the most practical purchase. They even had the LC-A+, which I’ve wanted for years, but it wasn’t in the budget on this trip. However, I did come away with this little beauty:


It’s called the “Black Slim Devil,” otherwise known as “the poor man’s Lomo.” It takes super-vivid, wide-angle, vignetted pictures on 35mm film. The best part is it’s WAY cheaper than any of the Lomo cameras. I can’t wait to try it out!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Home Again


We flew back to Shanghai today; it feels SO GOOD to be home! We were saying on the plane that we couldn't wait to sleep on our own soft, non-pokey-spring mattress.

Hong Kong was... fun? Different, for sure. It was hard for me to remember I couldn't just automatically speak Mandarin to people and assume they'd understand me. And the whole driving on the left side of the road scenario turned something as simple as crossing the road into an extreme sport. They have more Western products available (like Kiehls, Body Shop, L'Occitane, Mrs. Fields' Cookies, to name a few), and there was definitely more openness to Western things, good and bad. We saw lots of women smoking (which you rarely see in mainland China), and our hotel turned out to be right in the middle of the (ahem) "hostess bar" district. (If you've ever been to Thailand you know exactly what I'm talking about.) Definitely a bit jarring - you would never find anything so blatant here. I did enjoy the shopping, and an old friend of ours took us out for a traditional dim-sum meal, which was a lot of fun.

It's been a full and interesting week, but we're home, work visas in hand, ready to get back to life in Shanghai. Let me tell you, we were really glad this guy let us off the plane -


Two of our fellow passengers weren't so lucky!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


My maternal grandmother passed away on Tuesday. We knew before we left the States that it would probably happen soon, as her health had been declining for some time. We saw her at Christmas for the first time in several years, and even then she had already changed so much - the grandma I knew was no longer there.

She was one of the spunkiest ladies I've ever known. She came to America from Austria as a young woman to work as a nurse, and met my grandpa soon after. She loved fast cars (but was an awful driver), had a quirky sense of humor that few (if any) fully understood, was an infamously terrible cook, and never lost that wonderful Austrian accent. She lived with Multiple Sclerosis for the last 30+ years of her life - she was a fighter through and through.

It's hard not being there with my family during this time, but I know this isn't a forever goodbye - I'll see her again someday, for we are not of those "who have no hope."

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Live from Hong Kong...

We flew in to Hong Kong this afternoon, and right now we're sitting in a coffee shop, surfing the web and getting caffeinated. Can I tell you how awesome it is to be able to view my own blog without having to go all 'round about through a third party? And youtube - I can actually watch the videos! (It's quite frustrating how tight things have gotten on the mainland.) I've spent the last half hour catching up on some of Kristina Werners' videos over on http://www.kwernerdesign.com/blog/. Sigh. It's like a little bit of heaven, lol.

Our hotel is on Hong Kong Island, in the Wan Chai district. The first thing we did after checking in was walk down to the waterfront - we saw ferries, cargo ships, yachts, tugs... my dad would have loved it. (He was a barge-hand on the Mississippi in his twenties, and he loves anything to do with boats/ports.)

I didn't take my big camera (it looked like rain, and sure enough ended up pouring just after we sat down to dinner), but I snapped a few pics with my little point-and-shoot. Unfortunately, I left the cables at home, so I won't be able to upload any pics till next week.

First thing tomorrow we head to the visa office, then we'll head out to wander the streets - hopefully some good street food will be in order! Fingers crossed that it doesn't rain all day.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Long Move is Finally Over


It's been almost two months of limbo, but this week our shipment finally arrived in Shanghai. We put it on the truck and said goodbye back in the beginning of May, and waited (im)patiently for it to follow us half-way around the globe. Now that it's here, it finally feels like we're HOME. I've spent the last four days unpacking spices, knick-knacks, books, clothes, craft supplies, kitchenware... I'm tired but oh-so-happy.

We've been back in Shanghai since mid-May; we've been having fun getting to know our new neighborhood and revisiting some of our old haunts. Prices are definitely much higher than when we left, and with the current exchange rate we have even less buying power. But bargains can still be found if you just look hard enough!

All in all, it's good to be home.

Pudong Skyline