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: Seagulls on Miami Beach




















Miami Beach, Florida


2011 Season Michigan Wolverines Tailgate Cakes

In honor of Sunday night's announcement that Michigan is going to the Sugar bowl, I thought I would share a few of my favorite cakes that I made over the course of the season for the tailgate that I am a part of.

I already posted the Ohio State cake for the final game of the regular season, but here are the rest of the 2011 home game cakes.

The picture to the left is from the Eastern Michigan game.  The tailgate theme was Far Eastern so I used fondant to cut out the Chinese characters for Michigan to put on the front of the cake. To top it off I made a fondant fortune cookie and used a food write to write "Michigan will beat Eastern" as the fortune.

For the collage below I'll describe the cakes top to bottom, left to right.  For the Nebraska game I decorated the cake around their mascot by making corn stalks out of fondant and writing "Beat the Huskers" across the top of the cake.

The Minnesota tailgate had a Mardi Gras theme so I made a doberge cake and decorated it with a harlequin pattern and a mask.

The first ever homegame at Michigan Stadium played at night was the Notre Dame game and there was a lot of memorabilia being sold with the "Under the Lights" logo emblazoned on it.  I thought the logo looked neat and recreated it out of fondant for the top of the blue velvet cake.

The Purdue game was on Halloween weekend so I made a pumpkin cake shaped like a pumpkin. I used some brown edible glitter to give the cake some dimension, made the stem and leaves out of green fondant and finished it off with a big block M on the front. 

For the Luau themed tailgate for the Western Michigan game I made a pineapple cake with coconut cream cheese icing. I completed the cake with a block M on the top and a border of blue hibiscus flowers made of fondant.

The San Diego State game had a Mexican theme so I cut my cake into a block M shape and wrote "Vamos Azul" across the banner (Go Blue in Spanish).  

Making the tailgate cakes is a lot of fun for me and gives me a nice excuse to bake.  I'm sad that the regular season is over but I am excited about heading down to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. Go Blue!


Picture of the Day: Mucha Stained Glass in St. Vitus



















St. Vitus Cathedral
Prague, Czech Republic


Autumn in Kyoto

Although I've been to Kyoto several times, I've never been during Koyo (colorful leaves) season so I was happy to have the chance to do so today.

First things were first, however. To-ji in Kyoto has a wonderful flea market on the first Sunday of every month so I stopped there before venturing out to see the autumn leaves.  

I always have fun when I go to the To-ji flea market and this time was no exception.  I ended up buying a small abacus (¥500), five glass balls (¥2000), an old milk delivery box (¥2000), and a set of enamel ware soup spoons (¥500). I can't wait to bring my newfound treasures home.

After getting my fill of browsing and bargaining, I headed to Tofuku-ji and Kiyomizu-dera which are Buddhist temples in Kyoto famous for viewing their autumn leaves.  The temples were swarming with tourists so moving around was slow, but the inconvenience was more than made up for by the beauty of the vibrant colors.  My favorite part was the view of the leaves from the bridges over the ravines at Tofuku-ji.  

North American maple trees in the fall are beautiful but there is something especially lovely about the tiny, delicate leaves of the Japanese maples. 

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


Picture of the Day: Roofline of Wat Xieng Thong

Wat Xieng Thong
Luang Prabang, Laos


Kobe: Luminarie + Beef

After spending the day at Hieizan Enryaku-ji I headed to Kobe to see the Kobe Luminarie.  I had been to Kobe before but never had the chance to see the Luminarie so I was excited to be able to do it on this trip.

The Kobe Luminarie is a light festival that began in 1995 as a way to commemorate those lost in the Great Hanshin earthquake.  Held for a few weeks every December, the Luminarie has now also come to celebrate the rebuilding of Kobe.

I had heard from a friend who went last year that the line to get to the Luminarie was very long so I thought that if I arrived at 5 when the lights first turned on the wait would be a little less.  Unfortunately, I was wrong and it took an hour to make it through the line.  Luckily for me I had a companion while I was waiting.  When I left the Sannomiya train station and was trying to figure out how to get to the Luminarie I asked a girl for help and she said that she would just show me since she wanted to go, too.  Unfortunately, my Japanese is not as good as I would like so our conversation was pretty superficial but I learned that Satomi-san lived in Kobe and was in school studying how to make Japanese sweets.  She even gave me a sample sweet that she had made that day in class which was very kind.  It was fun to practice my Japanese and made the wait seem much shorter.

Finally arriving at the lights was impressive.  Huge illuminated gates arch over the street so it looks like you are walking through a tunnel of lights.  The end of the street opens up to a plaza which is decorated with more lights and is ringed by yatai (Japanese food stalls).  Normally I love eating at yatai, but I was in Kobe so I had other plans.  After thanking Satomi-san and saying goodbye I headed to Moriya for a dinner of Kobe beef.

I'm the kind of girl who buys her clothes on eBay and doesn't hesitate to stay in hostels to save money, but I love food and am willing to splurge for nice meals. I chose Moriya because I had read some good reviews and it was conveniently located by Sannomiya station.  I got a 130g A5 Kobe tenderloin that included a crab appetizer.  The server brought out the steak to show me before it was cooked and then I got to watch the chef prepare it.  It was absolutely delicious and made for a wonderful cap on the end of my day. 

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


Visiting Hieizan Enryaku-ji

Whenever I come to Japan for work I usually make the most of my weekends by traveling around and this trip was no different.  I decided to spend my Saturday by visiting Enryaku-ji, which is a Buddhist monastary on Hieizan (Mt. Hiei) overlooking Kyoto. Founded in 788, Enryaku-ji is home of the Tendai sect of Buddhism and one of the most important monastaries in Japanese history.

To get to Enryaku-ji I took the train to Sakamoto and from there caught a cable car up Hieizan.  When I first arrived it was a little misty, but within about 15 minutes a steady drizzle began and a heavy fog rolled in.  On the one hand I was a little dissapointed because you had to be nearly on top of something to see it, but on the other hand the fog lent a serenity to the mountain top and drove away some of the other visitors.  It was enchanting to be walking along and see a gorgeous, ancient temple materialize from the fog as I walked toward it, almost as if it appeared from thin air.

My favorite temple that I saw was Kaidan-in, which is where aspiring Tendai sect priests are ordained by receiving the commandments of Buddhism. I was particularly struck by the beautiful but simple doors and I loved the worn patina that the paint had developped over time. No one else was in the grove where the temple is located when I visited which made it even more special. 

On a side note, the walk through Sakamoto between the train and cable car turned out to be a beautiful, unexpected surprise.  The main road was lined with lovely Japanese maple trees that were at the peak of their color making it a lovely walk and adding to my trip.

If you are interested, check out the rest of my December 2011 Japan Trip here: Kobe: Luminarie + Beef, Autumn in Kyoto, Favorite Eats in Toyota-shi, Centrair Airport Bath


Picture of the Day: Tropical Orchids



















Golden Rock
Nevis, St. Kitts & Nevis



At Home in the Kandacho Corporus

Everytime I come back to Japan I take a walk by my old apartment building, the Kandacho Corporus.  It's a non-descript greyish-brown apartment building that could be anywhere but it was the place that I called home for a little over a year. It had a great location close to a train station, shops and restaurants and was very spacious for a Japanese apartment.

I didn't ship much over since I wanted to buy things in Japan and have space in my shipment home to bring everything back. I had fun furnishing my place and it ended up being an ecclectic mix of Japanese and Western that worked well for me.

For my living room I bought two couches at Nittori (kind of like a Japanese Ikea) and found some Japanese chests at recycle shops (Japanese second hand stores for home goods).  I hung up some of my travel photos and displayed some of the items I picked up during my travels to make things homey.

I had a galley kitchen without too much storage space so I bought an open shelf storage unit for easy access to things that I used often.  For storing food items I picked up the large jars at recycle shops and the small ones at a hyaku-en store (Japanese version of a Dollar Store).  I bought my dishes in Seto, which is a Japanese town famous for ceramics and pottery. One of my favorite things in my whole apartment was my Nisshin Flour Milling sign which I picked up at the To-ji flea market in Kyoto. I have it hanging in my kitchen back in the US now.

I didn't want to buy a Western mattress so I decided to try sleeping on a Japanese futon and loved it.  I read before bed most nights so when I found this little table at a flea market in Kakuozan I knew it would be perfect for a "futon-side" table.

Since I had extra space of course I had to have a craft room.  I bought the table at a recycle shop for ¥1000 (about $10 at the time) and it was great for spreading out lots of projects.  I had started collecting old globes when I would stumble across them in the US so when I found these two old Japanese globes I had to have them.

Back home in the US, I have several of the items from my Japanese apartment incorporated throughout my house.  They are full of great memories of the time I spent at the Kandacho Corporus and seeing them everyday brings a smile to my face.


Picture of the Day: Boat Woman on Halong Bay

Halong Bay, Vietnam