Autumn Bucket List · Projects

Fall Bucket List: Halloween Needle Felts

Happy Monday! After a weekend of being sick, I managed to get my haircut and attend an hour workshop and not a whole lot else. I was really worried today was going to be a terrible start to the week after a very restless night (runny/stuffy nose, sore throat, being uncomfortable from my changing body, having to pee all the time…), but it was a surprisingly good day at work. At the moment I’m waiting for some rice to finish in our rice cooker so we can enjoy some takoraisu for dinner, so I thought I’d show you the needle felts I finished over the last week or so while I wait!

The last needle felting I did was a while ago: a little bee, and a bit before that a cute little onigiri. Both of those were not kits, but the ones I chose for Halloween this year were! I think there are some pros and cons to choosing kits rather than making things on your own, so I’ll tell you about the kits I got!
Photo 10-26-15, 6 38 55 PMFirst of all, these were both purchased at a 100 yen shop. That’s right: for 200 yen total (less than $2), I got several hours of stabbing fun. Included in each kit was a needle, assorted felt for the project, eye parts, a round jump ring and a ball chain . Things I needed to prepare were glue, scissors, and a mat to work with (the kit also suggested an awl for poking holes for the eyes, pliers to insert them, and a ruler, but I just poked holes with my needle and inserted the eyes by hand. I also didn’t measure anything, but in retrospect probably should have!).
Photo 10-26-15, 6 39 47 PMI was a little disappointed my bear and ghost didn’t turn out as cute as the ones in the pictures, but I think part of that can be chalked up to lack of experience, part to not having the natural Japanese talent for making everything ridiculously cute, and part to not measuring *ehem, ehem* I was also a bit frustrated at having a limited amount of felt–I wanted to make my bear fatter (and thus cuter), but ran out of brown felt, and I wanted to cover the ghost with more of the black so less white showed through, but ran out of the black felt.
Photo 10-26-15, 6 40 39 PMSomething cool I forgot to mention is that each kit came with a “recipe” written in both Japanese and English. This would be awesome if you were trying to study Japanese, and in my case (since I have been really naughty and haven’t studied at all lately) if you just want the English.

I think if you just want to try needle felting, a nice cheap kit like the cuties I got are a good way to go. Plus, once you’ve got a needle, all you really need is felt, a styrofoam mat and your imagination and you can do quite a lot!

Well, dinner is calling! Hope you have a nice start to your week, too!
xx Caitlyn

Seen

Setsubun Fun

kodomomame_softToday is a rather fun holiday in Japan called Setsubun, in which you throw beans at ogres and eat large sushi rolls. That’s a pretty basic explanation, but more can be found in a post I did all the way back in 2011 on my former blog. Pretty amazing how different I look now from then!

mamemaki_fumira_softSadly, I haven’t been able to get the videos to work from that post. It’s really a bummer, because I remember them being quite clever (at least in my opinion), and now they may be lost for all time.IMG_0112At the very least, I’ve got an Asahi to drown my sorrows, and I had a pretty delicious dinner. Also, I had fun watching my students at school. We made several fun crafts for the day: Chad made cute ogre hats for the kids to wear, one of our teaching partners helped students make little ogre cups to hold the beans, and our other partner helped the kids make Eho-Maki, the special Setstubun sushi.
IMG_0107                                                                     We had Eho-Maki for dinner

I hope we were able to drive out the oni, or ogres, today with our bean throwing, and that good fortune is on its way! Have a happy day!
xx Caitlyn

P.S. Isn’t the clipart in this post freaking ADORABLE!? It also happens to be free, which is amazing. Find the pictures in this post and more on fumira.jp (it’s in Japanese, but if all else fails, I think the google translate version should be able to help you if necessary)!

Learning

Capuchins & Cute Cappuccinos

I have started training to become a coffee master at my workplace, and so far a lot of the things I’ve read have been review from Uncommon Grounds. However, I have been learning lots of extra little interesting tidbits that I can add to my coffee knowledge, one of which is about the origin of the term “cappuccino.”

In Italian, cappuccino means “little cap,” and this term represents the “hood” of pretty foam that sits on top of the espresso. People surmise the beverage was also named for Capuchin monks who wore coffee-colored, hooded cloaks. (A separate monk-related speculation regarding coffee: the monks rumored to drink the first coffee claimed it was a gift from God because the caffeine helped them stay awake during their prayers!)

While trying to imagine the Capuchins as…well, cappuccino’s, I decided to look them up in the google search box. I was surprised to find the first thing that popped up was about the Capuchin Crypt in Rome, a place Chad and I visited when we went to Italy a couple years ago!

capuchin cryptWe weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but you can find a few creepy ones online like this one from wikipedia.

With the memory of the Capuchin Crypt lingering in my mind, I decided I would much rather picture cute cappuccinos, and I found this:

cute rilakkuma cappuccinoI can’t really say for sure why I don’t own this Rilakkuma cappuccino stencil, but I can be sure that this situation needs to be remedied quickly.

I also want to experience this cuteness in a cup:cute rilakkuma

And lastly, I want to stare at this adorable picture while drinking–you guessed it!–a delicious cappuccino:rilakkuma cappucino

I found these kawaii cappuccino pictures on google images, but I would love to make them a part of my real life. In the meantime, I suppose I’ll just have to stick with delicious, standard cappuccino’s.

Have a good weekend!
xx Caitlyn

Projects · Seen/Heard/Tried · Tried

Summer Bucket List: Make/Decorate Pottery

I’ve been telling Chad forever now that I really want to paint some pottery at Your Plate or Mine in Muskegon,. Leave it to beer to be the answer to my plea: when we finally joined the Mug Club at Odd Side Ales in Grand Haven we got to paint our own mugs! (Yay for crossing off an item on my bucket list!)IMG_0688We arrived at Your Plate or Mine feeling a bit nervous about making our mugs, but full of inspiration. I decided to go with my favorite character in the whole world, Rilakkuma, and Chad went with the creepy Kobito Dukan (pronounced “dzoo-kahn”).IMG_0691The staff member at Your Plate or Mine was extremely helpful; she explained everything very clearly and was available the entire time we were there to answer all of our littlest questions. She even provided us with carbon paper so we could trace our designs if we wished (and as this mug would be getting a lot of use, we did wish to trace our designs–just in case!).   IMG_0692I was really impressed with Chad’s artwork, as there was a lot of shading involved. I think there are two things that are really difficult about painting ceramics: ensuring your colors are the actual colors you want (since they look totally different once fired), and getting smooth lines.IMG_0693It was super relaxing, and time just flew by. At the same time, after a particularly tricky section, you could hear both of us let out an audible sigh. Phew!  IMG_0695Above you can see my mug before firing. At first I was a bit frustrated with the difficulty of getting my lines exactly the way I wanted, but I realized that this is an art in which you have to just “give it up,” so to speak. You have to go into it knowing you’ll make mistakes, and decide you don’t care. And, when it comes down to it, it’s pretty impossible for Rilakkuma to turn out as anything except kawaii. IMG_0696I painted a little suitcase on the inside of my cup, and on the bottom I wrote out “Nomichatta!,” which means, “I accidentally drank all of it!” (Story of my life.) **Edit: Apparently I need to start studying Japanese again! It should say “Nonjyatta,” but hey, perhaps by the time I drink it all I won’t remember my mistake… 😉 IMG_0694On the bottom I wrote “Kanpai,” which means “Cheers,” though that Japanese has a translation right next to it on the cup 😉 In this picture you can also see the yellow birdy before firing. IMG_20140628_125951_907 (2)We could hardly wait to see how our cups turned out, but we had to wait a week for them to be fired. I am so in love with them! Chad’s turned out as creepy as we imagined, and I just want to squeal at the cuteness of my Rilakkuma.

IMG_20140628_130017_676IMG_20140628_130134_746Chad’s (left) says “Nonde,” the command for “Drink.”

IMG_20140628_130314_081

IMG_20140628_130413_421Yay for fun mugs! We spent a few hours on them, and I had so much fun that I went back with my mom yesterday to paint some more. We spent over five hours working on our creations, and I am going CRAZY wanting to see how they look once they’re fired!!

IMG_20140628_201021_048In the meantime, I’ve got this precious mug to drink delicious beer in! 🙂

Have a good day darlings!
xx

Bookspiration · Projects

Bookspiration & Onigiri Needle Felt DIY

I recently read a book recommended by one of my sisters-in-law called A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. I really enjoyed the writing style in the novel, which goes back and forth between a woman living in Canada, and the found diary of a Japanese girl. I think what I appreciated most about A Tale for the Time Being was the way the novel reflected not only the cutesy parts of Japan or the importance of tradition and ritual, but also the darker sides, like suicide and severe bullying. As you could probably guess from the title, the novel touches a lot on the idea of time, and on several levels. For example, in one part of the Japanese girl, Nao’s, diary, she writes about temples:

The temple was a special place. There was the smell of moss and incense, and sounds, too–you could actually hear the insects and birds and even some frogs–and you could almost feel the plants and other things growing. We were right in the middle of Tokyo, but it was like stepping into a pocket of ancient humid air…that’s the way the temple felt to me, like a core sample from another time…” (46).

And later Nao writes about the past:

The past is weird. I mean, does it really exist? It feels like it exists, but where is it?And if it did exist but doesn’t now, where did it go?” (97).

She also writes about the present:

Life is fleeting! Don’t waste a minute of your precious life!

Wake up now!

And now!

And now!” (63).

As I read the novel, I felt like I could relate to so much of what was written–I’ve felt what Nao describes whenever visiting temples in Japan, I’ve wondered about how the past sometimes feels like a dream, and I often try to “wake up” and be a positive part of the world.

I decided to use A Tale for the Time Being as inspiration for a needle felt project after making my first one over the weekend There is a scene in the book in which Nao goes on a picnic with her grandmother at the beach, and they talk about the nature of existence:

A wave is born from deep conditions in the ocean,’ [Nao’s grandmother] said. ‘A person is born from deep conditions of the world. A person pokes up from the world and rolls around like a wave, until it is time to sink down again. Up, down. Person, wave” (194).

On their picnic, one of the things they bring along to eat is onigiri, or rice balls. So, I made an onigiri needle felt!

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Let’s Make a Needle Felted Rice Ball!

IMG_0317Gather your supplies: a foam block, 36 and 38 gauge triangle needles, and felt in white, dark green, black and pink. Then set some white felt flat onto your foam block before rolling it into a triangle shape and poking it with your 36 needle in every direction as you go.

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When you reach a thickness you like, spread out the felt so it can be blended in with your needle so that no lines are showing. Keep poking all around to make the triangle an even shape.

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Once you’ve gotten a seamless shape that you like, you can adjust as necessary with your needle to round the edges more to make them cuter. Then go over the triangle with your 38 needle to smooth it out.

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Next you’re going to add nori, or seaweed. Pull off a piece of green foam about half the width of one length of the white triangle, and long enough the wrap around the triangle with room at the top on either side. Then use a toothpick to wrap the edges of the green foam so they are clean and not fraying, poking the felt with your needle as you go to keep the felt in place (and pulling out the toothpick each time). After “cleaning up” all four sides of the nori, it’s time to attach the seaweed to the rice ball!

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Position the seaweed so that there is enough room at the top of the triangle to add the face, and then poke with your needle all around to secure.

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Next, cut off two small bits of black felt and roll each one into a tiny ball. Secure the little balls to the rice ball to create eyes.

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To make the mouth, cut off another piece of black felt, and roll it into a thin line. I rolled it tightly and secured one end of the felt with my 38 needle while poking the felt all around (twisting as I did so) with my 36.

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Secure the mouth to the rice ball, adjusting over several minutes to form it into a smile. Lastly, roll two small balls of pink felt and added them for cheeks.

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After going over my rice ball and tucking in flyaways with my 38 needle, I put him next to the radish I made for company!

IMG_0341And voila! A cute onigiri needle felt friend! Who wouldn’t like poking something repeatedly until it became something cute? 😉 xx

*I’ve decided to start a bookspiration series sporadically throughout some new posts that use books as inspirations for crafts and recipes. I hope you enjoy the posts!

Projects · Tried

Random Enjoyment this Week

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Random things about my week:

1. I tried a new recipe called Black Bean Smothered Sweet Potatoes from the cookbook I mentioned in my last post, and it was FABULOUS. Yum, yum, yum, yum…

2. I got a new Gratitude Journal that I’ve been filling out daily. I loved looking through the one I did throughout 2013–I have so much to appreciate! I also bought a Q&A book that asks a different question every day. You can see how your answers change over five years.

3. Chad and I have been trying to have creative time together every day, even if we’re super tired! He started working on carving some nice soapstone he got for a Christmas present.

4. While he worked on his carving, I did my first WhimseyBox craft! To be honest, in high school I hated working with clay, despite loving pretty much every other art medium. But working with dry clay to make this pretty little dish was easy and fun. Plus, I have lots of leftover clay and am inspired to make other pretty things!

5. I made banana bread and it turned out super yummy! I took the first picture mainly to show my amazingly adorable Rilakkuma oven mitt.

6. I took the second banana bread picture to show you the lovely moist texture of the bread. Served warm with butter? Delish!

7. Last but not least, one of my friends in Japan sent me a care package that included cute socks! I am wearing the ones pictured above right now and they’re super comfy. Ahhhhh 🙂

What are some random things you’ve been enjoying this week?

Food & Cooking

Fruit Cuties & Blueberry Pie (recipe!)

I was really missing summer today because the weather in Michigan was hideous. As I longed for the warmer season, I decided to look for some pretty pictures I took back in August when I went blueberry picking with my mom and nephew, and to share them with you here!

….Then I remembered I lost nearly all of my pictures from the summer *cries*

Here is the bright side to horrid weather and losing pictures: I had an amazing conversation with a friend who I am very lucky to know today, as well as a day filled with shopping fun. Also, although I don’t have my pretty blueberry picking pictures, I discovered Fruity Cuties!

167-cartoon-blueberries-jokesI started off looking for images of blueberries and summertime on google, and then I wandered off into a land of cuteness. I found Fruity Cuties, a website with cute games, wallpapers, a shop and even a blog!

asian-pear-wallpaper-preview

radish-santa-xmas-wallpaper-previewAren’t these two wallpaper examples above adorable?

Cute things always make me feel a little better, but sweet things do, too. With all of this talk about blueberries, I thought I’d share our family’s blueberry pie recipe (with permission from my mom, of course!). I’ve always been told that this pie recipe is “the best” because it isn’t runny like many blueberry pie recipes. We luckily had frozen blueberries left from picking back in August, so I felt like I was bringing a little summer out in the midst of the snowy winter when I used the recipe on Thanksgiving 🙂

Too-Too’s Blueberry Pie Filling

1-1/2 cups blueberries
1-1/4 cups water

Boil 1 minute.  Add:

1-1/2 cups sugar
3/8 cup cornstarch stirred into 1/4 cup water until smooth
3/8 tsp salt

Boil until thick.  Add:

1-1/2 tsp lemon juice
1-1/2 cups blueberries

Pour into crust.  Bake at 375° for 35 minutes.  (For two pies, it’s an exact double of all ingredients.)

blueberry pie

Although I didn’t take any pictures of the filling, I did manage to take a picture of a completed pie I made using this recipe on Thanksgiving. What sorts of things cheer you up on gloomy, bad-weather days? Hope this delicious pie filling brings a little cheer, at the very least! 🙂