Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Visa Woes

I was finally able to apply for my Visa so that I can stay in Japan longer than 90 days. This has been a somewhat frustrating experience. First of all you have to figure out which Japanese Consulate takes care of your area, so in my case it was the one in San Francisco. Then you have to fill out a fairly complicated application that asks about why you are going to Japan, where you are staying, who your contact is and a lot of other questions. Thankfully the USAC program provided me with a sample answer sheet so it was a lot easier to fill everything out than it could have been. Then you have to attach a photo, copy all the documents, include your flight itinerary and then ship it to them.

But here is the kicker! You have to send your actual passport to them, and include a self addressed stamped envelope. This is a big deal because without my passport I can't even board the plane, and with only a month to go before I leave that is totally freaking me out. But of course there is no information on any of the paperwork or website about how you are supposed to mail your documents, or what kind of return envelope to include.

I did give them a call and the lady I talked to was really nice about giving me information. But I still managed to send a USPS Priority envelope instead of the Express envelope they require. Needless to say I got a call today telling me that they can't return my passport until I mail them the correct envelope...sigh

So, the moral of this tale: If you are applying for a visa, call and make sure you know EXACTLY what you are supposed to send and how you are supposed to send it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fairy Tale with a twist

One of my most recent Audible audiobook finds was a wonderful book called A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce. At one point on the Audible site there was actually a button that said something like "books for knitters" which totally thrilled me. This was such a great find for me since I've be learning to spin as the story takes place in a wool mill.

A Curse Dark as Gold is the story of Charlotte Miller, the daughter of a long line of wool millers, and her challenges running a struggling mill. The story is a retelling of the fairy tale Rumplestiltskin, and the author does a wonderful job of creating a unique and interesting storyline.

The book is full of fiber references, most of them based on historical research. Like the detailed description of  Jack Spinner (Rumplestiltskin) using a drop spindle and a loom. Although in the disclaimer at the end the author admits that some of the technology is a little forward for the time period in the book. She goes into a good deal of detail about the textile process starting from the raw wool into the woven cloth and the cloth dyeing process, which is really rare for a fantasy novel.

All in all this was a wonderful book, with a strong heroine and lots of wool. It had elements of fantasy, historical fiction and even a bit of suspense woven into a fantastic tale.

Monday, February 27, 2012

In My Craft Room Pt.4

I like using fishing tackle boxes for my craft tools and larger supplies. I've found that a lot of these type of containers are just as nice as the ones specifically made for craft supplies and they are often a lot less expensive and durable. Tackle boxes are also fantastic for portability, when you need to take your tools to a crafting get-together or host a crafty party. They are generally customizeable and can fit a wide range of tools and supplies.

I usually use the one in the pictures for ribbons, punches and little tools. The little devided containers that came with it are great for my gromets, brads and craft wire. I have another that has big removable plastic containers with deviders, and they pull out like drawers and are big enough to fit all my rubber stamps.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

In My Craft Room Pt.3

Another awsome type of conainers I like to use for my craft supplies are containers that are normally meant for fishing or tools. My mom had one of these containers that she was using for her beads and she gave it to me when she didn't need it any more.

These bins are made for tools, things like screws and bolts. I purchased one of them at a hardware store and they are super handy for storing little things like buttons, brads and other embelishments. My husband helped me secure them to the wall so they free table and drawer space by utilizing the empty walls. They also give me a place to stack small things on top which is even more storage space. The drawers come out of the container so I can pull one out and put it on my table while I'm working. It can be very handy.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

In My Craft Room Pt.2

This is not exactly an organizational tip, but one of the things I've found that helps inspire me in my craft room is a cork board. I've read a lot of articles about starting an art journal or board for keeping things you come across without being quite so cluttered.

My board consists of postcards I've received from friends, small pictures or crafty things I love and clothing or other fun things from magazines and catalogs. I still have plenty of room to add things at this point, but I fugure when it fills up then I will just remove what no longer inspires me, layer on top of it or move it around.

Just looking at the board makes me happy and represents who I am as a crafter. It also gives me a place to put keepsakes where I can look at them rather than shoving them in a drawer or box.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

In My Craft Room Pt.1

I am lucky enough to have a designated room to keep all my craft materials in, but one of the hardest things for me to do is keep everything organized. I am a really visual person so a lot of clutter completely turns off my creative inspiration. So I've come up with a few ways to keep my masses of materials in order so I can have a pleasant crafting experience.

One of my favorite ways to store my crafting materials is to buy decorative boxes. Often made specifically for holding scrapbooking supplies or for home decoration they make the perfect storage containers. One of the best things to do is to scope out your local craft stores for sales, I was able to score many of my containers for 50% off or more at Michael's, Ben Franklin's and Joanne's during various times of the year.

Originally I was using clear or opaque plastic stackable containers, but I found that they either looked very impersonal (the opaque) or you could see the supplies inside which often looked messy. One of the advantages to using multiple smaller colorful boxes is that you can break up the craft supplies by type. So, due to the varied appearance of the boxes, it is easier to determine where you put something. Most of the time I am able to just grab one box and put it on the table where I am working, rather than dig through larger containers.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Finally!! A place to stay

35 days to go until Nagasaki and after months of waiting we've finally got all our study abroad information. (except the visa) Part of the issue has been that I am studying abroad with my husband, which seems to have everybody stumped. I guess that makes sense because most college students who join USAC are young, single or going by themselves.

So I was really excited to discover when we got our packets that they managed to find a family who would be willing to host both of us. We were told that this was a possibility but that it was really unlikely. I can't tell you how relieved I am to know that things will be going much smoother from now on. It is much easier to coordinate two people when they are staying in the same place.

The family we are staying with consists of an older couple and their adult son. It's not unusual in Japan for a son to live with and take care of his parents, so I'm not surprised by this family structure. Supposedly the son speaks decent English and the parents speak a little as well. But I'm not really worried, I'm determined to communicate no matter what even if I have to use my little bit of baby Japanese.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Que Sera Sera

37 more days to go before I fly out of the country. I have to admit that my stomach has been full of butterflies a lot lately. Not because I'm afraid for my safety or anything, but because this is an experience that is way out of my normal comfort zone.

I keep having dreams at night that I've forgotten to do something or take something with me that was really important. But then I step back and realize how all I really need is food and shelter and the rest isn't really all that important. I'm putting my faith in God that this will be a positive and incredible experience. So I'm enjoying my free time at home and trying to adopt a que sera sera attitude.

Que sera sera - Doris Day

When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother what will I be
Will I be pretty
Will I be rich
Here's what she said to me

Que sera sera
Whatever will be will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera sera

When I was just a child in school
I asked my teacher what should I try
Should I paint pictures
Should I sing songs
This was her wise reply

Que sera sera
Whatever will be will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera sera

When I grew up and fell in love
I asked my sweetheart what lies ahead
Will there be rainbows day after day
Here's what my sweetheart said

Que sera sera
Whatever will be will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera sera

What will be, will be
Que sera sera...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Spinning Royale

My most recent spinning project is this lovely blue-green wool roving I got at a Renaissance faire a while back. I was going to use it on a drop spindle but I haven't quite gotten the hang of that yet, and I'm really enjoying my wheel. This wool is lovely and soft and is spinning up beautifully.

The wool I'm spinning was dyed by Karen Emrey from The Royal Hare. She has some really pretty hand dyed wool roving, silk hankies (for spinning), and some neat sparkly fiber called firestar, as well as some of her own handspun yarn. It's also a plus that she's faire folk, so I'll definitely be ordering some fiber from her in the future. Her website:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Video Blog Test

I'm attempting to learn how to use my IPhone to take videos. I still have a bit to learn about video blogging but I think it might be another fun way to document my trip to Japan.

Here's a test video I made on the University of Nevada , Reno Campus. It isn't very exciting but it's a start. :)

YouTube Video

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Austen Insider

A new knitting magazine has recently come out which I am in love with! Jane Austen Knits by Interweave, is a compilation of Austen inspired patterns, historical articles and general Victorian whimsy. It's really lovely to look at and if you are a Jane Austen fan then definitely worth a read, even if you aren't a knitter. Some of the articles give great insight into the world of Jane Austen, as well as enlightening us about the author herself from a crafters point of view.

The patterns are generally frilly and feminine, which is right up my alley. And while not all of them are practical for everyday wear, some of the garments are really charming. I have to say that my favorite pattern so far is the Scarlet Capelet:

(c) Interweave Press

(c) Interweave Press

Friday, February 10, 2012


I'm grounded enough to know that my trip abroad won't be perfect. I would never assume that I won't suffer from at least some culture shock. But when I see a video like this one of the place that I'm visiting, I really am getting excited. I've developed a love of the ocean and the coast by going to Monterey and San Francisco over the years and I can't help seeing the connection between the beauty of the California coast and that of Nagasaki.

I know that the weather will probably be different, Nagasaki is a more tropical climate. I will be getting there just in time for hanami which is when all the sakura (cherry) trees bloom. Since this is one of the the things I have always wanted to experience I can hardly contain my glee at the fortunate timing.

As the date for my trip draws closer, it's been getting harder and harder to distract myself with my normal everyday life. I have been devouring every travel guide, blog and video I can find about Nagasaki and I am bursting with anticipation for my upcoming trip.

Anyway, here is the fabulous travel video I found if you are curious about the charms of Nagasaki. The beautiful landscape alone is enough to ignite my imagination.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Japan Quirk - Sock Glue

As I get closer to my trip to Nagasaki, Japan I find myself more and more interested in Japanese culture. I came across a cultural movie clip which I found really interesting so I thought I'd share.

As you might know, most school girls in Japan wear pleated skirts with knee high socks. But did you know that they use a special type of glue to keep their socks from falling down?

Here's a link to a video so you can learn more about it: Erin's Challenge - Sock Glue

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dyeing to Spin

Here is the continuation of my yarn creation process, in a previous post I showed how I dyed the roving with food coloring. So here's the finished product which I am calling "Night Candy" because it reminds me of cotton candy.

Night Candy 3ply
This is a Peruvian highland wool roving from Knitpicks, acid dyed with neon and black food coloring and then handspun on my Kromski spinning wheel and 3plied.

Spun Singles
Close-up of the 3ply

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Simple Lunch

I was feeling hungry for Japanese food the other day so I made this simple lunch:

Sticky rice with furikake seasoning, sliced SPAM and boiled quail eggs. A fresh salad of mixed greens, snap peas, carrots and avacado. With sesame dressing and furikake seasoning. And a mug of green tea.

This is by no means a real Japanese meal, I was just feeling creative and inspired. :)

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Yesterday my husband remembered our first date anniversary and I didn't realize it was already February 4th. It's so crazy how fast time flies as you get older.

Is there anything better than flowers, chocolate and a kiss from the one you love?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Crafty Craftsy

Craftsy is a wonderful crafting tutorial website. The premise of this website is to offer video classes for various types of crafts. From sewing to knitting to painting there are a plethora of great classes to choose from. They aren't free classes, but most of them are really reasonably priced and the quality is usually well worth the price. Also, if you join their email list they often send out special offers on their new classes.

So far I've tried a couple sewing classes, and although I haven't completed any of the projects yet I am really happy to have this as a resource. The videos are generally very professional quality (unlike sites like Youtube) and all of the project resources or supply lists are available for download. The best part is that these are actual classes with teachers and students so at any time you can ask questions of the teacher or have a discussion with the class. Once you pay for a class you always have acess to it, you can watch and rewatch the videos as often as you want.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The O'Ttories

Today I've had the profound revelation that I am truly blessed. It is such an opportunity for me to live my dreams by going to Japan and I'm making such wonderful friends in the process. I've realized that in order to really enjoy life I have to put myself out there and be a part of something bigger than myself.

In my quest for connections with Japan I have established a friendship with a really wonderful resident of Nagasaki. Koshiro and I have connected through our love of Celtic music and I would love to share this with everyone. His band the O'Ttories play traditional Celtic tunes using a variety of traditional instruments. It is a really lovely blend of cultures and I hope you get as much pleasure from listening to them as I did.

O'Ttories Youtube Channel

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

On a Roll

The other day I was feeling hungry, and also creative. I was hungry for Japanese/Hawaiian style Spam masubi (I know spam sounds weird, but I like it) which is sushi rice with fried Spam on top. But I was also hungry for Vietnamese style spring rolls (the soft ones, not the fried ones). So I decided to combine the two and see what happened.

Spring Roll Wrappers

Normally when you make spring rolls you use a rice wrapper filled with vermicelli noodles, shrimp, carrots, cucumber, sprouts, lettuce and mint.

But I didn't have all of those things handy, so here is what I did instead: A rice wrapper (dipped in water to make it soft, sushi rice, SPAM (fried in sweet unagi sauce), romaine lettuce, and red cabbage.

Forgive the messy wrapping job, but it was yummy
 The dipping sauce was my husbands creation based on one we had at a restaurant. It's a little water, hoisen sauce, almond or peanut butter, and soy sauce melted together in a sauce pan.