My name is Lisa and I'm a crafty girl with wanderlust working as an engineer by day. My blog chronicles projects in my home as well as pictures and stories from my travels.




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2013 Holiday Cards

I am finally starting to get some of my holiday cards in the mail today. This is the first holiday for Frank and me to send a card together since it is our first Christmas married and I had a lot of fun making these cards for our friends and family.

To make the card I started with some blank cards that I had found a while back that had two folds with a cut out at the top. Since I have friends from a variety of religions I decided to make the card saying "Wishing you joy this season."

I thought it would be cute to have the "joy" pop out from the back of the card through the opening so I used my Silhouette Cameo to cut out circles with the word "joy" from red textured cardstock . I attached the circles to the center of the opening with some foam tape so they stood off from the card 1/8".

I added the rest of the words using my Silhouette Cameo to cut "wishing you" and "this season" from black vinyl and used transfer paper to add them just above and below the circle on the innermost part of the card. To make it all stand out I used some white polka dotted black washi tape to frame around the opening on second page of the card. 

I like how the card turned out. It was simple enough that I could make a bunch of them in a day (thank goodness I am on vacation this week!) but they are unique for Frank and I to send to the special people in our life.

Happy Holidays!


My Japanese Christmas Tree Decorated with Orizuru (Paper Cranes)

When I was living in Japan I was set on having a small Christmas tree for my apartment. Most Japanese people are not Christians but due to Western influences some Christmas customs like exchanging presents, particularly between couples on Christmas Eve, have become popular. As a result I was able to find myself a little table top tree with all the trimmings after hunting around for a bit. I found my little set-up at Nittori, which is home goods store kind of like a Japanese version of Ikea. My options were quite limited since the trees were sold as a package set including the lights and decorations, but at least I had a small Christmas tree plus it was a great deal at only ¥999 (about $10 US) for everything.

After taking the tree home and setting it up in the corner of my living room I thought it looked a little plain with just the silver balls and lights since I wasn't so keen on the red bows and garland that also came with my set. After thinking for a bit I decided to make some paper cranes to add to the tree's decorations. Orizuru (折鶴, folded crane) is a classic origami design and the paper cranes are symbols of peace, good fortune and good health among other things. It seemed like the perfect fit for my Christmas tree.

I pulled out a few sheets of red origami paper as well as some special red foil paper that I had and made about a dozen cranes to grace my Christmas tree. I nestled them in the boughs and loved the way they looked incorporating a bit of the Japanese culture from where I was living with my personal tradition of having a Christmas tree. 

When I moved back to the US I didn't have unlimited space to ship things back so I got rid of my little Christmas tree but I did save the menagerie of orizuru that I had made for the tree. While my Japanese Christmas tree wasn't the largest or most beautiful of the trees that I have had over the years it is definitely one that has a special place in my heart.


Fresh Coat of Paint for the House (Plus New Gutters!)

When I first got my house back in 2007 one of the first things I did was replace the rot on the house and get some paint on the exterior. The back had never been painted when the wood clapboard had been replaced and I was afraid of further rot if it didn't get painted before the winter came. It was pretty scary! Here's what it looked like when I bought it.

At the time I originally painted the house one of my neighbor's homes was white and one was blue so I thought that yellow would be a nice color so I picked a scheme with Valspar's Oatlands Yellow for the house with Chef White for the trim. For some added a color I painted the accent a teal color with a bright turquoise for the ceiling of the porch. Here are how things looked a few years ago after painting.

Fast forward a few more years and things have been looking a little sad. The paint had faded and some issues with the gutters caused some rot that needed to be fixed. It was time to repaint and give the exterior a little TLC.

First up I needed to figure out my new house colors. In general I loved the color scheme that I had but I wanted some deeper, more vibrant shades of what I already had. I picked up a few test colors from the paint store and tried them out on the garage.

On the left was Benjamin Moore's Concord Ivory and the right was Marblehead Gold. Based on swatches I had been leaning toward the Concord Ivory but once it was on the garage I knew the vibrancy of Marblehead Gold was the winner. In the end to go with the Marblehead Gold on the siding I choose Soft Chamois for the trim and Narragasett Green for an accent. I also decided that to paint the concrete foundation a dark grey color, Cromwell Gray. For the porch ceiling Frank really didn't like the bright turquoise that I had originally painted it since he thought it was a bit feminine so I chose a more subdued dusky color with Aegean Teal.

Time was running out fast to get things finished before the cold weather hit so Frank and I decided to hire a local painter to complete the wood repairs and paint. We chose the painter that we did because he was going to sand by hand and paint with a brush which would be more gentle on our wood siding and be in keeping with the period of our 1800s house. He also painted our neighbor's house and did a beautiful job, plus he gave us a great quote for the job.

First up our painter sanded and primed all the spots with loose paint.

Our painter started by painting the front of the garage so we could make sure that we liked everything before he continued. Here's a shot of the corner so you can see the old and new colors together. Needless to say we loved the difference.

As time went by and more and more paint went up we knew we had made a great decision about not only the colors but also our painter.

After the painting on the house was complete our painter painted the concrete foundation. Below is a picture before and then after the foundation was painted. As a side note this access door was used to bring produce into the basement when the side wing of the house was a local grocery store.

With the painting wrapped up at the beginning of November the gutters needed to be addressed. Not only were they undersized but they had seams, didn't slope properly toward the downspouts and had unneeded bends all of which you can see in the picture below.

Frank got a few quotes for seamless 6" gutters with 4" downspouts before we settled on a contractor. Amazingly they got installed at the end of November in just one day.

In the few weeks since then I haven't had much of a chance to get some pictures of the house during daylight hours (that whole engineer thing takes up a heck of a lot of my time) until now when we have seven inches of snow on the ground. Here is what it looks like today.

I love how the colors turned out and it really gives the house a facelift. My favorite part is how vibrant the new yellow is. In the past the pale yellow really looked bleak in the winter but this yellow is so bright and cheerful in the snow. Nothing exemplifies this more than the way the garage looks in the snow filled back yard.

I think Frank's favorite part is the new porch ceiling color since he absolutely hated the bright turquoise (which I loved!) that I had painted it before.

This project wraps up our outdoor projects for the season, but upcoming I would like to add shutters to the house, a wood fence to replace the chain link one in our backyard plus we really need to stain the pergola. To 2014!


Beginning the Master Bedroom Closet Makeover

Since we got married and Frank moved in with me this summer he has been hanging up his clothes on a standing clothes rack in the bedroom. Originally our plan was to use a beautiful antique armoire to convert into a closet for him. It is enormous so we checked the measurements for everything to make sure it could get through our front door, the bedroom door and fit in the bedroom itself. What we didn't account for was the headroom in the stairway which is just a smudge too short.

So apart from figuring out a long term solution for the armoire on the first floor Frank needs some place to hang his clothes which is bringing about this closet makeover.

The old closet system doesn't work for a few reasons. Originally it had only one bar on each side with the shelves above. The shelves are largely useless and just gather my junk so I want to hang the rods higher. I hung a second rod on one side of the closet but because the top rod wasn't very high it works for my clothes but not for Frank who is a foot taller than me. All in all if this closet was going to work for us I needed to completely rework the organization to maximize the space for both of us.

To start I set about cleaning out the closet (no easy feat with my pack rat ways!) and then demoing the existing organizers last weekend. I was as careful as I could be but the walls were pretty scuffed up and had a number of holes in the walls from where the old shelf supports were attached.

Using a putty knife, I filled all of the holes plus a few small dents the closet had acquired with some joint compound. After it had dried I applied another thin layer and then sanded everything smooth once it was dry.

While I was at it I wanted to paint the trim white so a little prep work was required there as well. I applied a bead of paintable, sandable caulk in all of the gaps and then smoothed it with my finger.

If you don't use a caulk gun very often one thing I'll mention is that right after you are done applying caulk hit the release on the back otherwise when you set it down it will slowly keep oozing out. I learned my lesson about this several years ago with a construction adhesive mishap. In case you are wondering construction adhesive is very tough to get off your hands and will turn them black. It made for a slightly awkward few days at work.

Anyway, back to the closet! With a coat of primer and two coats of Benjamin Moore's Simply White on the trim followed by two coats of Valspar's Oxygen White on the walls my closet was a fresh blank slate.

Next up I have some fun plans for the ceiling and closet light plus I'm going to build organizers that maximize the space for our needs. I can't wait to get the clothes back in the closet!


Michigan Tailgate Cake: Beat Ohio

Saturday was the last Michigan football game of the regular season playing against arch rivals, OSU. For the tailgate cake I baked a chocolate cake and iced it with buttercream icing that I tinted maize. I kept things simple and decided to decorate the top with the phase "Beat Ohio".

To make the words I rolled out some blue marshmallow fondant and traced around a bowl to make a circle just smaller than the cake. I then cut away a line across the middle to make the top and bottom lines for the words. I then trimmed away three vertical lines leaving me with eight blocks for my letters. I then cut each block into a letter to spell out "Beat Ohio". I finished up the cake by transferring the fondant letters onto the cake and piping a border of blue stars along the base of the cake.

Kickoff for the game was a noon so we had a short but fun tailgate. As is tradition for the last home tailgate of the year we ate filet mignon provided by Gus and grilled by Frank. Frank also made an awesome crab bearnaise to accompany the steaks.

For the week prior to the game everyone had Michigan pegged as a huge underdog. Ohio was undefeated and ranked #3 in the country while Michigan's season had been lackluster. The game, however, ended up being very exciting as opposed to the blowout that had been predicted. Michigan scored first and at the half it was tied 21-21. Things looked a bit bleak in the second half when Michigan was down by 14 but they rallied and with less than a minute left they scored a touchdown to bring the score to 41-42. Michigan went for a two point conversion but it was intercepted basically ending the game. It was a great game, but I wish that things had worked out a little better for Michigan.

My Duke Blue Devils had an exciting day on Saturday, beating rivals UNC. The Duke-UNC game was at the same time as Michigan-OSU so the whole game I was continuously checking my phone for Duke updates. With the win Duke ended the regular season with their best record, 10-2, and will head to the ACC Championship game this Saturday against Florida State. Go Blue Devils!


Decorating the Front Porch for Christmas

Now that December is here I am starting to get into the Christmas spirit. I started my decorating this year with my front porch swapping out my summer accessories for more festive things. 

I swapped out my multi color rug for an inexpensive solid teal rug that matches the accent trim on my house. On my accent table I placed some greens in a metal pitcher from Ikea. In front I had a little red pail that I got from the Target One Spot that I filled with pine cones. I picked up several of the red star pails a few summers back and love how versatile and festive they look.

I swapped out my pink pillows for red outdoor pillows layered with small burlap snowflake pillows I found at Target.

Just to the right of my front door I put a small Christmas tree in the planter I built this past summer along with an outdoor lantern that I used in the backyard this past summer.

It only took a few minutes but it makes me so happy and puts me in the Christmas mood when I walk up to my front door.

This weekend Frank and I are going to get a Christmas tree and hang Christmas lights on the house and I can't wait. Have you started any holiday decorating this year? 


Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

I hope that all the Americans out there had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday! Frank and I spent the morning making food, he smoked the turkeys and I made desserts, and then we headed over to his sister's house for dinner where she made the sides and appetizers with her girls.

We ate way too much delicious food and had a great time hanging out. Frank's two youngest nieces showed me how to make bracelets on their rainbow loom as they made bracelets for the whole family. It reminded me of being their age and making embroidery floss bracelets.

All in all it was a nice, relaxing day and I feel very lucky that Frank's family has taken me in like one of their own. 

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday weekend! Let the Christmas preparations begin!


10 Pictures From Halong Bay in July 2013

When I was visiting Vietnam two years ago I spent a few days in Hanoi. My time was limited but I squeezed in a day trip to beautiful Halong Bay. A bus picked me up a little after eight in the morning and three hours later we were at Bay Chai Wharf.

As we pulled out on the boat I was a bit bummed that it was a miserable rainy morning but in the hour that it took to get out to the islands the weather cleared a lot.

Our first stop was a small floating fishing village nestled in the water below towering limestone cliffs. It looked straight out of a picture book.

Floating Fishing Village in Halong Bay

As we got closer to the village we could see several traditional bamboo boats filled with produce for sale.

When the boat docked we had the option of renting a kayak or hiring someone to take us out to Luon Cave in a bamboo boat. I was traveling alone and was in the mood to relax so I chose to go out in a bamboo boat.

Me on Bamboo Boat on Halong Bay

Luon cave has a height of only 2.5 to 4 meters depending on the tidal level which necessitates using a small boat to see it. In the bottom right of the photo below you can see the entrance at the bottom of the cliffs.

Entrance to Luon Cave Through Limestone Mountains in Halong Bay

Approaching the cave it was much bigger than it first appeared at 4 meters wide and 60 long. It was so peaceful paddling through and listening to the soft echoes of the lapping water.

Paddling Through Luon Cave

Passing through Luon Cave was a lake enclosed by limestone mountains. The water was a beautiful emerald green and combined with the beautiful cliffs it was truly idyllic.

Woman Rowing Bamboo Boat on Lake Beyond Luon Cave

All too soon I was back at the dock and then back on board the boat setting off for other spots in Halong Bay.

Boat Among Limestone Cliffs in Halong Bay

We sailed past Ga Choi Islet (or Trong Mai Islet), the two white rocks in the bottom left in the picture below. The rocks take their name, either fighting cocks or kissing cocks, based on the fact that at a certain angle the two rocks look like birds leaning in to touch beaks.

Ga Choi Island (Fighting Cock Island) in Halong Bay

We next docked to visit Thien Cung Grotto (Heavenly Cave). After a bit of a climb we entered an amazing cave complex illuminated with different colored lights. My favorite part was a spot where there was an opening in the cave roof allowing natural sunlight to stream in.

Sunlight Streaming Through Thien Cung Grotto (Heavenly Cave)

From Thien Cung we headed back to Bai Chai Wharf arriving at dusk. It had been a lovely day and my only regret is that I didn't have more time to explore the islands of Halong Bay.

Boats docked at Bai Chay Wharf at Dusk


Wedding and Honeymoon Pictures 

After waiting for three and a half months I finally got our wedding photos from our photographer. Apart from the long wait I am so disappointed in the quality of the photos which for the most part look like snapshots from a friend instead of professional photos. There are a handful of photos that are great, particularly the three I've posted but overall there is a lot of poor composition, visual clutter and bad lighting in the photos. The thing that makes me the saddest is that there aren't any formal photos of Frank and I on our wedding day that I love.

As someone who loves photography I've been pretty bummed about the wedding photos, but Frank being the awesome guy that he is helped me put things in perspective. We had an awesome wedding day that was relaxed and fun and I wouldn't trade one bit of that day to have better pictures. I had been waiting for my professional photos to include them in my posts about some of my handmade wedding details on the blog, like my flowers and favors, but as it turns out I shouldn't have bothered waiting and I will start posting those soon.

While we don't have the greatest wedding photos we did luck out in the honeymoon photo department. The resort we stayed at for the second half of our honeymoon, Iberostar Grand Hotel Bávaro, had a professional photographer and he would take people out for half an hour to take some pictures. Frank wasn't so keen on doing it but I talked him into it and I think in the end even he will admit it was a good idea. I love all of the the photos and have posted a few of my favorites below.

Now I just need to figure out which one of the honeymoon photos to frame for our house...


10 Pictures From Milwaukee in Summer 2013

This past summer I got to spend five days having a little reunion in Milwaukee with my friends, Trisha and Dani. We met when we were living in Japan and the last time all three of us got together was in New York four years ago. Dani, who is British, has spent the last year on a work assignment in Portland so we took advantage of her being state side to visit Trisha in Milwaukee.

We decided to go at the end of June/beginning of July so that we could go to Summerfest. With eleven stages and lasting for eleven days it is the world's largest music festival. We went every night while we were there seeing a crazy variety of acts including Pitbull, Cake, NKOTB, Far East Movement and Boys II Men. It was a great atmosphere and we had an awesome time dancing and enjoying the performances.

View of Summerfest from Marcus Ampitheater

We spent a great deal of time relaxing in restaurants and chatting. We made an art out of eating brunch as well as making frequent stops for afternoon appetizers. I definitely did not go hungry while we were there.

Bloody Mary Trio at The Comet Cafe

While we were in Milwaukee the three of us decided to go skydiving at Skydive Milwaukee. Trisha and her husband had done a Level 1 AFF jump recently and Trisha was excited to go again so Dani and I went with her to do tandem jumps while she did a Level 2 jump. I had never gone before and it was a really neat experience. I couldn't believe how beautiful it was to look over the landscape with an unobstructed view. It was very surreal.

Me Tandem Skydiving Over Milwaukee (picture from Skydive Milwaukee)

We stopped at the Milwaukee Public Market twice while we were in town. We headed there a for wine tasting at Thief Wine which was a lot of fun. We each got a different flight of red wines and tried each other's selections. While we were at the market for the wine tasting we saw the $13.95 lobster dinner special at St. Paul Fish Company so we decided to head back there for dinner a few days later. Delicious!

Milwaukee Public Market

Since Harley Davidson was founded in Milwaukee we had to stop at the Harley Davidson Museum while we were in town. Starting from the power cycle that William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson built in 1903 the museum traced the company's history through the decades. Not being a motorcycle rider I learned a lot of interesting things while I was there. One if the coolest unexpected things for me was that a lot of the very early motorcycles had white tires.

Dani, Me and Trisha at the Harley Davidson Museum

No visit to Milwaukee would be complete without taking a brewery tour so we headed to Lakefront Brewery. Started in 1987 by the Klisch brothers, the brewery has grown over the past twenty-five years reaching a production of over thirty three thousand barrels of beer last year. The tour was very relaxed and fun and we really enjoyed the beer as well.

Filling Kegs at the Lakefront Brewery

On not one, but two afternoons, we relaxed in the sun at Bradford Beach. The beach had a tiki hut with drinks and food and lots of volleyball courts as well. We rented chairs and a cabana and had a great time soaking up the beautiful weather, taking naps and reading. I wish Ann Arbor had a beach! (and a tiki hut!)

Bradford Beach on a Sunny Day

Trisha and I felt it was our duty to have Dani try some classic things that she as a Brit had never tried before like Wisconsin fried cheese curds and PBR. Isn't she lucky to have Trisha and I as friends?

PBR Tall Boys

One of our afternoon stops was to visit the Milwaukee Art Museum. We saw a great special exhibit, 30 Americans, which featured contemporary African American artists and then wandered around the permanent collection. My favorite thing was the Quadracci Pavilion itself. From the outside with its moveable, wing-like sunscreen to the inside with 90-foot-high glass ceilings and lovely views of the lake, it is really a stunning piece of architecture.

Quadracci Pavilion's Windhover Hall at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Although all the sights were awesome we really enjoyed the city itself. We walked all over the place clocking between six to nine miles each day. The Historic Third Ward was especially lovely with its beautiful brick buildings.

Mural on the Mercantile Building in the Historic Third Ward

All in all, the three of us had an awesome time together. It's no wonder that Trisha loves living in Milwaukee. Now we need to make some plans to visit Dani in Portland before she is done with her work assignment!

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