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 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