Monday, April 30, 2007

our new toy

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Our lives seem to be getting more exciting my the minute around here these days! We bought a lawn mower on Friday night and proceeded to assemble it and mow our lawn shortly thereafter. Forget raging parties to go to, we've got a lawn to mow!



Jon is so geeked about this new gadget! He's been wanting one of these ever since he found out that they still exist did all of the research and price shopping to get us a good deal on this. Here's to many more gas-less, fume-less, noise-less, energy-saving lawn mowing times this summer!



Sunday, April 29, 2007

our Dutch weekend

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We took a quick trip out to Grand Rapids this weekend. Didn’t have many plans in mind when we left, but it quickly turned out to be the quintessential Dutch outing.



• we scored a great deal on a cheap hotel with priceline.com ! We paid $45 for a one night stay in a king bed suite at Springwood Suites by Marriott. This hotel was brand new…it still smelled like carpet and everything was in perfect condition.



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• we had dinner at the ever-authentic Russ’ restaurant. Among the items featured on the menu are the “Big Dutchman” hamburger. I had wanted to show Jon the back room Russ’, where you don’t have to pay a tip to the wait service because you phone in your order, but alas, that section was closed.



• we went to a free concert at the Calvin Fine Arts Center …we even scored free Calvin cookies and punch at the reception afterwards…can never have too many of those yummy cookies (much of the cause of the freshman 15).



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• on Sunday afternoon, after church , we went to Holland and ended up window shopping and tulip watching, because all stores in Holland are closed on Sunday.



• and we ended up at the Veldheer tulip farm in Holland, MI, where we toured the wooden shoe and Delftware factory, and saw the famous 5.5 billion tulips and bison (no idea how those are related).



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Here’s where the Dutch part of our trip ended…



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We paid $7 each for entrance into the tulip farm and were promptly handed a four page handout for us to pick out the types of tulip bulbs to purchase after touring all of the different types of bulbs in bloom. Sounded like a good idea to us…pick out some tulips and have them mailed to our house in October. We toured the tulip farm, saw the bison and then ordered 100 authentic Dutch tulips (Oxford red - seen above) for our garden next spring. To top off our splurge, we picked up some peony, astilbe, and dahlia plants in the garden center afterwards. They definitely made some money off of these unsuspecting tourists!



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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

tea cozy

While we were in Tokyo, we had tea at a cute little tea shop in Roppongi Hills. We were each served a cup of tea along with getting a tea kettle and cozy filled with extra tea. Both Jon and Joel requested that I make tea cozies for them when we all returned home.



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Joel and I had completely different visions for this tea cozy. He wanted to use his printed Mt Fuji fabric on the inside and a plain white fabric on the outside and he wanted a tea cozy large enough to fit over both his japanese teapot and a standard kettle, but didn't want it to be too big.



I followed his instructions as best as I could, but well...this project turned out to be a bit of a dud...



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I really like how the quilting pattern that I used worked out and I like the bias tape closure at the bottom...but other than that it's just blah. Joel claims that it's just too big, but I did follow his specific directions that it fit over both a japanese teapot and a standard kettle. Here are some adjectives that were used to describe this puppy: HUGE, a bishop's hat, gigantic, big enough to fit two kettles and a cup of tea, etc.



Well, I've learned my lesson and next time I work with Joel I'll be sure to ask for design approval during each step of the process. In the meantime, Jon's requested that I make one just like it for us to use ... with a patterned fabric on the outside instead. :)



Tuesday, April 24, 2007

wee kitty

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I started working on this stuffed wee kitty from a wee wonderfuls pattern last fall and it's taken me about 6 months to finally finish it. I kept putting off the hand sewing, because it's just not as fun as using my sewing machine for things.



I scrapped the idea of making shoes for the kitty because I think she looks done enough and I'm not a fan of extending a project any longer than it absolutely has to take.



I think she's cute and I like all of the fabric and buttons that I picked out, but I just don't think stuffed animals are my thing...I like looking at them and seeing all of the fabric and color choices everyone makes, but it just takes too long to finish them by hand. Now I have a new found appreciation for all of the hard work that goes into making a softie and I have something finished to finally cross off my to-do list!



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Monday, April 23, 2007

my room

In this new house, we are each blessed with our own creative spaces. Jon's got his edit suite in the basement that he and my dad built, and I've got the extra spare bedroom for all of my endeavors (and, seriously, what hobby haven't I tried in the past 5 years?).



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I finally put the finishing touches (curtains) on my room and wanted to show the after pictures. When we moved in this room and the guest room were both painted a light grey. The first thing we did was paint the walls green (Benjamin Moore Dill Pickle).



Here's the room, entering the door and moving counterclockwise around the room:

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shelves for knitting stuff, and storage boxes for photos, stationery, stamps and other art supplies



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Jon's reading chair and/or the cats' perch and the new curtains



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my beloved expedit shelf that holds books, magazines, photo albums, fabric, sheet music, office supplies, stationery, misc computer and camera cords, and my in and out box. and the right half of my sewing/computer table - I just move the stuff around depending on the project I'm working on



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the rest of my work table and a dresser holding my printer that's filled with office supplies and paper



All of the furniture, except the white dresser is from IKEA...as with most every piece of furniture in our house...



I use my little closet to hold extra fabric, notions, thread, patterns and other quilting supplies. I like that I can close the door on this room whenever it gets a little too messed up or when I'm in the middle of a project. It also helps that I can close the cats out of here when I'm basting a quilt - the always know how to spread out on a quilt and get it all wrinkled!



happy birthday and more...

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Happy Birthday Jodi! And, here’s a little purse I knitted for her. I was able to improve on some aspects of my first knitted purse with this one. One extra cable to make it wider, a reinforced magnetic closure and a larger handle for carrying on the arm. I love how it turned out, but I also was so excited to give it to Jodi – my good friend, faithful blog reader, and fearless promoter : )



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Jon’s last day of work in Detroit was last Thursday (that's his old building with the arrow over it). We saw his old building from Woodward Ave as we were leaving church last night. He’s sad to see it go, but is looking forward to the updated space in Dearborn where his company relocated. He’s got some more unpacking to do at work today.



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Jon spent some time this weekend sprucing up his bonsai plants and we both think they look wonderful now. He removed the stones that surrounded each plant and added transplanted moss from our backyard into each of the pots. I have a feeling he’s going to be tinkering with these things all summer – our trip to Japan really inspired him to play with these plants again.



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We started tackling the huge project that is our yard this weekend - we bought a house that had previously been rented out for five years, so the yard wasn't in the best of shape. We have big plans for this place, but after working for a few hours yesterday morning clearing out leaves, branches and nasty plants, we had a bit of a reality check - maybe our to do list won't get done in a few weekends?!? : ) Why do we always seem to bite off more than we can chew? Oh, yeah, that’s right, we’re an oldest child-only child couple…that could be it!



Our summer plans this year include sprucing up the lawn, adding a perennial flower garden to the front yard on either side of the entry deck, painting the garage, building a picnic table,



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cutting down two obnoxiously large arborvitaes,



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and adding in a large vegetable garden in the backyard behind the garage. We’ll have to wait and see just how much of this we’ll be able to accomplish.



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We are definitely holding off on putting in a brick paver patio to replace the aging patio we have currently, though. Hopefully there will be many more after pictures to show throughout the summer!



And, it seems I've caught the reading bug again this weekend...either that or I reserved too many books that came in all at once at the library. I finished reading Eat Pray Love this weekend. An interesting, funny and quick read, but I'd recommend it with caution - it might be just a little bit too much chic lit meets bitter divorcee. Next on the list (in order of due date, of course) is The Memory Keepers Daughter.



Sunday, April 15, 2007

vinyl handbag and wallet

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I picked up this vinyl fabric on a whim as I was headed out the door of Tomato in Japan with all of my purchases. I wasn't sure what I would use it for, but I loved the design, so I bought a meter to play with. After looking at Denyse Schmidt Quilts, I realized that this would be the perfect vinyl for her zig zag bag and wallet. I purchased some black vinyl locally and got to work on this.



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I had a bit of trouble sewing two layers of vinyl together at first, but after switching to my walking foot it totally fed the top and bottom layer easily and didn't cause any other alignment problems. I whipped up these two bags in a few hours and I love how they turned out. I especially love the font for the numbers on the measuring tape.



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And...I finally conquered my fear of sewing zippers...I even shortened the zipper, because I couldn't find a 6" yellow zipper at the store. I see more of these little pouches in my future!



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Saturday, April 14, 2007

patchwork handbag

I'm on a little crafting roll right now. I saw a lot of cute craft stores and fabric stores in Japan and picked up a few idea books and now I've got lots of ideas swimming around with my head, not to mention a lot of new fabric to play with, too!



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I found this tutorial for making a patchwork handbag and officially completed my first sewn purse yesterday afternoon. This bag was made with fabric from my recent hancocks order and with some fabric that I bought in Japan.



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Now that I've got the kinks worked out in the construction of these things, I'm excited to try making some different styles of bags. This project is next up for me...a turtle totebag with bright red handles. The turtles in this fabric just cracks me up! It's made by Cosmo Textiles. I could not believe how cheap all the fabric I found in Japan was...this linen printed fabric was only around $3 a meter!



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Friday, April 13, 2007

baby quilt for andrea

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I just finished up this gender neutral baby quilt for Ryan and Andrea the other day. I love the fabrics that she picked out and was so excited to get to make something for someone else and to play around with some new techniques. I adapted the pattern from this site and just changed up the dimensions and square sizes. This is my first quilt that I've made where I didn't do free motion stippling to quilt it...sewing straight lines inside each square wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. And this time I made the quilt without binding it because I thought using a binding on this would ruin the striped border.



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I love how it turned out and I'm so excited to see the finished baby room!



Monday, April 9, 2007

japan recap

We made it back safely from Japan last Thursday and were extremely thankful to have Easter weekend to recover from our jetlag. We're both going a little crazy here, waking up before 5AM and falling asleep around 2PM. But, we can't complain too much because we had a great time in Japan.



I've uploaded all of the photos that I've taken to our new flickr account. You can see all of them (450+) here if you like. I also added a flickr link to the right side of my blog for future photos. Jon has his first teaser video done and you can see it here. He hopes to sort through his hours and hours of footage and come up with a longer video in the next few weeks too.



Here's my 20 second recap...



the good

• getting to visit with our long, lost friends Joel, Mike and Chikage: this trip totally wouldn't have happened if they all weren't living in Japan right now. We were very blessed by their hospitality (and language skills).



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• the food: we loved loved loved most everything we ate...japanese curry, yummy eel, onigiri, great sushi at Tsukiji Fish Market, excellent vegetarian meals at some Zen Buddhist temples in Kyoto and more. We made a run to our local Japanese grocery when we returned and have been attempting to recreate some of the meals we had.



• the combinis: 7-11 and other 24 hour stores were great for breakfast or an afternoon snack, and even late night packing tape runs for all of Joel's boxes



• the polite workers: we could not get over how friendly all of the workers at each place we travelled were! It makes Americans look so rude. And they all totally seemed to really enjoy their jobs.



• the heated toilet seats: available in almost every building we visited. We need to get one of those in our bathroom now...



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• the beautiful temples and shrines: the architecture is just so unique and ornate...we loved looking at each new shrine or temple



• 100 yen store: this store totally puts dollar stores to shame - nothing is cheap or plastic or junky. They have everything at the 100 yen store! Kitchen utensils, dishes, office supplies, stationery, bath and body products, gift wrapping, slippers, ties, picture frames, food, gardening supplies, etc.



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• seeing the cherry blossoms in Tokyo: we planned our trip at the perfect time and all of the blooms were gorgeous!



the bad

• not knowing the language - I felt/was illiterate most of the time. Thank goodness Joel was with us to read signs and translate. It is so nice to be back home where I can read signs and get around easily without having to rely on someone else!



• cold bathrooms: the japanese don't have central heating and usually leave the windows open in the bathroom, therefore, the bathrooms are always freezing...thank goodness for heated toilet seats!



the ugly



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• the crowds in Tokyo, especially Harajuku: way too many people...way too claustrophobic. It totally felt like we were in a crowd leaving a stadium after a sporting event all the time. not too much fun for me.



• stone paths around all the temples: I'm still totally kicking myself for only bringing my not so good walking shoes to Kyoto! Most of the temples have stone paths, stone staircases and gravel trails...sturdy shoes are definitely in order for these!





We definitely got a well-rounded tour of Japan thanks to Joel and Chikage...we hit most of the major cities and sites in central Japan and then some...Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya, Nikko, Nara, Mt. Fuji, and Yokohama. Again, you can see all of the photos here.