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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Picture of the Day: Canal in Bruges

Bruges, Brussels


Hand Rubbed Sage Holiday Gifts

With two weeks until Christmas I've been in full swing with holiday preparations. I thought I would share a holiday gift that I made for some friends and family last year.

At the end of the summer I had huge quantities of sage left in my garden. I didn't want it to go to waste so I harvested it and dried it by hanging it upside down in a dry location using twine.

To turn the dried leaves into hand rubbed sage powder I placed the leaves in mesh colander with a bowl underneath.  Using my fingertips I rubbed the leaves through the collander which turned it into a fine, fluffy powder. 

For storage I found cute plastic containers at Target and filled them with the hand rubbed sage.

To make the labels I used a picture of sage from my garden as a background. I added "sage" and "from Lisa's garden" using word art and then printed it out of matte photo paper. I trimmed the prints into circles and attached the labels to the containers with craft glue. 

The sage containers went over well with the recipients and it turned out to be a great way to use up my over abundant supply of sage before the frost set in.


Picture of the Day: African Elephants

Kruger National Park, South Africa


Centrair Airport Bath

Bathhouses are very popular in Japan and while I was living there I loved going.  I didn't have a chance to go earlier on my trip, but Centrair Airport has a bathhouse so I decided to take a bath prior to catching my flight home.  

Japanese baths are a little different than what I was used to back in the US, particularly that you wash before getting in the bath so that the water keeps clean for everyone.

Upon paying I got issued a key for a locker in the ladies changing room.  Typically there are seperate bath facilities for men and women.

After undressing and stowing my things in my locker I went out to the washing area. A typical washing area consists of mirrored stalls equipped with a handheld shower head and stools to sit on.  Additionally, shampoo, conditioner, and body wash are provided along with a bowl that you can fill with water and dump on yourself for rinsing.

Once I was squeaky clean I went to soak in the hot bath and enjoy the view.  It was really relaxing and I could watch the planes taking off over Ise Bay. I had the bath to myself so I couldn't resist sneaking a few pictures. 

Unfortunately I had to catch my flight home so all too soon I was rinsing off again and heading back into the changing area to get dressed and dry my hair. After a long work week and with a twelve hour flight ahead of me that hot bath was just what I needed.

If you are interested, check out the rest of my December 2011 Japan Trip here: Visiting Hieizan Enryaku-jiKobe: Luminarie + BeefAutumn in KyotoFavorite Eats in Toyota-shiCentrair Airport Bath


Picture of the Day: Silk Tree Growing Over a Temple



















Ta Prom Temple



Favorite Eats in Toyota-shi

One of the fun things about going back to Japan for work is that I get a chance to eat at some of my favorite places in Toyota-shi. There's a great Taiwan Ramen shop a block south of the train station that will serve up seconds of noodles for practically free.  Masu Masu is a great izakaya (Japanese pub) with wonderful food, especially the grilled pork belly with leek.

For something a little different there is a wonderful Indian and Vietnamese restaurant on the top floor of the T-Face building which serves a cheese naan that is so enormous you have to see it to believe it.

Hanabi is another of my favorites.  It is a yaki-niku restaurant where you choose nice cuts of meat and then grill it yourself on a little charcoal brazier set into your table.

Unfortunately there is never enough time to visit every place that I would like to go but there is one restaurant that I make sure to eat at on every trip, Tsubasaya. It is a fun izakaya that has good, inexpensive food and a wonderful, lively atmosphere.  They are famous for their tebasaki, which are chicken wings with a sweet and spicy sauce covered in sesame seeds.  I'm also partial to their ebi mayo, fried shrimp dressed with a sweet chili mayonaise sauce. Absolutely delicious!

If you are interested, check out the rest of my December 2011 Japan Trip here: Visiting Hieizan Enryaku-jiKobe: Luminarie + BeefAutumn in KyotoFavorite Eats in Toyota-shiCentrair Airport Bath  


Picture of the Day: Istanbul Sunset

Istanbul, Turkey


Wedding Album for Ryan & Tsukasa

At the end of this summer two of my friends from my time living in Japan, Ryan and Tsukasa, got married in Nagoya and I was honored to be able to attend and be a part of their special day. Being back in Japan this week was the first time I've been able to see them since they were married and have a chance to give them this this album I made with pictures I took at their wedding.

To create the album I started with a small album that had a chipboard cover and 4-1/2" x 6-1/2" accordian pages. I removed the rings from the covers and adhered grey patterned paper to each side using an X-acto knife to cut out the holes for the rings. I reassembled the album and tied a dark grey bow of satin ribbon to the rings.

To decorate the front cover I added a strip of white pearlescent paper and finished it with a rub-on swirl embellishment and Ryan and Tsukasa's initials in grey chipboard.

For the inside of the album I wanted to keep it simple to keep the focus on the photographs so I just added grey patterned paper to every two or three pages. After adding the pictures the album was complete.

I am so happy for Ryan and Tsukasa and I hope that they have many years of happiness and joy ahead of them. 


Picture of the Day: Coastline of Roatan

Roatan, Honduras


Misadventures of Lisa & Trisha: The Great ATM Debacle

Going to the To-ji Flea Market this past weekend made me reminisce about the first time that I went there.  I had been living in Japan for a little over a month and it was cherry blossom season.  Over lunch one day, Trisha, another ex-pat, and I decided we should go check out the blossoms in Kyoto that upcoming weekend.  I already had plans on Saturday but Trisha wanted to go for the whole weekend, so I met Trisha early Sunday morning at Kyoto Station.

I had read about the flea market at To-ji that is held on the first Sunday of the month and since it was happening that day and To-ji is not too far from Kyoto Station we decided to start our day there.  We had an awesome time looking through all the fun items and finding treasures.  We happened upon a lady selling a wide selection of beautiful scrolls and Trisha found one that she loved.  It was expensive, however, and Trisha had already used most of her cash to pay for her hotel room the night before so we set off to find an ATM.

We asked directions to the nearest bank, but despite trying a few times, Trisha's bank card didn't work. There was another bank right across the street so she tried there with still no luck.  She then tried an ATM in a convenience store but got denied there as well.  As it turns out, her bank had a holiday that day and in Japan that means you cannot access your money in any way, including ATM withdrawls.  Being Americans, Trisha and I were completely caught off guard because ATMs are always available in the US. Since my bank was the same as Trisha's I was stuck in the same situation of not being able to withdraw any money.

I had headed off to Kyoto without much cash planning on taking some money out when I got there so  between the two of us we had only about ¥3000 ($30 at the time).  In the US that wouldn't be a big deal since you can use a credit card for just about anything.  Cash is king in Japan, however, and you can't use credit cards in a lot of places.  Luckily, we could buy our shinkansen train tickets home using a credit card but we had to make do with cash for everything else.  With entrance fees for our planned stops running ¥300-¥500 each we were on a tight budget for the day and buying anything else at To-ji market was out of the question.

We went back to scroll stand to explain that Trisha would not be able to buy the scroll after all.  The lady seemed to indicate that Trisha could still have the scroll. "What is she saying?" Trisha asked me.  "I think she is saying that if you give her your address she'll send it to you and you can pay then," I replied, "but I could totally be misunderstanding her."  Trisha figured it was worth a shot and after writing down her address we were on our way. 

For the rest of the day we scrimped by walking everywhere and eating a lunch of America Dogs (Japanese for corn dogs) from a convenience store.  We went to Nijo-jo castle to wander through its famous cherry tree groves and then headed to Maruyama Park (free!) to see its huge famous weeping cherry tree.  Maruyama Park also turned out to be great for people watching with thousands there for hanami (blossom watching) parties with food and drinks spread out on blankets beneath the trees. We splurged on a yatai (food stall) snack at the park and headed up the hill to Kiyomizu-dera.  The sun was low in the sky at this point and we had picture perfect views of the sunset over Kyoto and the temple ringed by blossoming cherry trees.  It had turned out to be a great day despite our morning mishap and we headed back home happy but ready to get some money out first thing on Monday.

A few days later Trisha's scroll showed up in the mail as promised and this time she was armed with the cash to pay for it.  As for me, from that point on I always made sure to have plenty of cash on hand because you never know when a bank holiday can creep up on you and catch you unawares.