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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Entries in Travel (607)



Frank and I got home Monday from a wonderful two and a half week trip to Scandinavia. My maternal grandparents have Swedish and Norwegian ancestry so this was a particularly special trip to me. With my combination of jet lag and long days  to start catching back up at work I thought I would just share a few favorite pictures from the trip today. I look forward to sharing more in the future!


Sanibel Island Lighthouse Beach

While Frank and I were in Florida this past weekend we stayed at a hotel in Punta Rassa with a view from our room looking out over the Sanibel Causeway and Sanibel Island. Being so close we decided we had to visit the island for a bit and headed over on Monday morning.

We grabbed a quick, delicious breakfast at Over Easy Cafe (Frank got the Crab and Asparagus Omelet and I got the Sanibel Shrimp Benedict with Grits) and then drove out to Sanibel Island Lighthouse Beach. From the parking lot we walked out to the lighthouse on a trail over a wooden boardwalk.

The lighthouse was built of iron in 1884 with a central cylinder tower surrounded by an open skeletal structure. The design was thought to be able to withstand hurricanes by allowing the high winds to pass through. In 1949 the lighthouse was automated and then electrified with the lens replaced in 1962. The 98 foot tall lighthouse is still operational today, flashing a white light.

Walking along the white sand beach we had a lovely view across the water of Fort Myers with Bonita Springs and Naples in the distance. Prior to a causeway being built in 1963 the only access to the island was by boat or ferry. The current causeway linking the island to mainland Florida was built in 2007 as a replacement to the original.

One of the neat things about visiting the beach was the abundance of birds walking along the shoreline and roosting in the nearby trees.

Rounding the point we came across the T-shaped fishing pier. The pier was packed with people fishing and by the looks of things many of them were having quite a bit of success with their catches. We walked out on the pier for a pretty look back at the island and lighthouse before walking back to our car.

We had a lovely morning at Sanibel Island Lighthouse Beach which wasn't hurt at all by the perfect weather and sunshine. My only regret is that we didn't have more time to relax there.

To get to Sanibel Island Lighthouse Beach from Fort Myers take the Sanibel Causeway to Sanibel Island and head east on Periwinkle Way until you reach the end of the road. At the time of this writing parking is $2 per hour and the cost to cross the causeway is $6.


An Evening in Charleston

Last week I had a very short trip to Charleston for work. It has been ridiculously cold in Michigan this winter so I welcomed the chance to escape the polar vortex even if was just for a day. I left on a early morning flight with the wings of the plane getting de-iced before take off and arrived in Charleston to beautiful, warm, sunny weather.

After our meetings finished my colleagues and I had an hour and a half before our dinner reservation so we headed to downtown Charleston and took a little detour to drive over the New Cooper River Bridge.

I hadn't been to Charleston in nearly fifteen years so I was looking forward to having a chance to see the town again. We started off at The Battery and walked south along East Battery admiring the beautiful homes along the palmetto lined street.  

We next wandered around White Point Garden located at the tip of Charleston peninsula. The area's important history as an artillery battery to protect Charleston Harbor is reflected by the military relics throughout the park. My favorite part about the park was the beautiful old live oak trees that lined all the paths. The early evening light filtering through the leaves was quite lovely.

Leaving the park we wandered through the nearby neighborhood admiring the gorgeous homes. The architecture is amazing and as a lover of old homes I was in heaven. I particularly loved that several of the old lamps continued to use gas.

It was getting close to time for dinner so we drove up to the market district and had a chance to walk by the historic market on the way to the restaurant. The Market Hall was built in 1841 but the historic market dates back over 200 years. By the time we were there the vendors had packed up for the evening but I remember enjoying wandering around when I had visited before.

For dinner we headed to Hank's Seafood Restaurant which is housed in a lovely renovated turn of the century warehouse. We all shared a tower of seafood which was amazing. My favorite dish was a relish of green tomatoes and sweet corn topped with blue cheese and fried oysters. Being down south, I also couldn't resist a slice of pecan pie.

After dinner we walked around a bit enjoying the warm evening and then went to the rooftop of the Market Pavillion Hotel for a nightcap.

The best thing about the rooftop was the view over historic Charleston, particularly of the Customs House. Designed by Ammi B. Young, the Customs House was begun in 1853 but not finished until 1879 due to a hiatus in construction during the Civil War. The building was restored in the 1960s and is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The next morning I was up before dawn to catch an early morning flight and was back to my office before 10 AM. The trip was all too short but it was a nice escape from the bitter cold and I hope I have a chance to visit Charleston again for vacation.


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



The image of gold clad Kinkaku-ji reflected in the waters of Kyoko-chi is one of the most recognizable in Japan so I thought it would be a great place to take my friend from work, Cassie, on her first trip to Japan while we were in Kyoto a month ago. I actually visited Kinkaku- ji on my very first trip to Japan and thought it would be fun to visit again over seven years later.

After the third Shogun of the Ashikaga Shogunate, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利 義満), abdicated to his son he purchased the site from the Saionji family in 1397 to build his retirement villa which he called Kitayama-den. Kitayama-den was converted into a Zen Buddhist temple of the Rinzai sect upon Yoshimitsu's death in 1408 per his wishes. The official name of the temple is Rokuon-ji (鹿苑寺, Deer Garden Temple) after Yoshimitsu's posthumous name, Rokuon-in-den, however the gold pavilion became so famous that it is more popularly known as Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺, Temple of the Gold Pavillion).

Although the rest of the buildings in Ashikaga Yomitsu's complex were destroyed through war and fire, the golden pavilion stood the test of time until 1950 when it was burnt down by Hayashi Yoken, a 22 year old monk. The current pavilion was built in 1955 as a replica of the original and was restored with thicker gold leaf in the late eighties. In 1994 it was registered as a World Heritage Site.

Kinkaku-ji was our first stop of the day in Kyoto and as Cassie and I walked through the entrace gate we could see the first initial signs that the some of the leaves were just beginning to turn color.

The disc shaped end cap tiles, called gatou, on this building near the entry displayed the 5-7-5 leaf paulownia kamon (家紋, crest). Emperor Godaigo conferred this crest on the Ashikaga family in the 13th century during the Ashikaga Shogonate. In modern times this kamon, known in Japanese as go-shichi-no-kiri, is used by the Office of the Prime Minister of Japan and is a symbol of the Japanese government.

Soon we approched the lovely golden pavillion which serves as a shari-den (舎利殿, reliquary hall) to enshrine relics of the Buddha. During Ashikaga Yomitsu's time the pavilion served as a guest house where he met with foreign dignitaries and Japanese aristocracy.

Each of its three floors of the pavilion are designed in a different architectural style. The first floor, Hosui-in (The Chamber of Dharma Waters, 法水院), was built in the Shinden style used for palaces in the Heian period. With white plaster and unpainted wood it is the only floor not covered in gold leaf.

The second floor, Cho-on-do (The Tower of Sound Waves, 潮音洞), was built in the Buke style of samurai houses.

The top floor, Kukkyo-cho (Firmament Top, 空竟頂), was built in a Zen temple style with beautiful bell shaped windows. The tiled roof is topped with a bronze statue of a phoenix leafed in gold.

Set within Kyoko-chi (鏡湖, Mirror Pond) are several beautiful islands with pine trees.

These Jizo Buddha statues in the temple's garden are a popular place to toss coins for good luck. 

Built during the Edo period the Sekkaitei (夕佳亭, Place of Evening Beauty) tea house is perched on a hill with a lovely view of the golden pavilion and is currently the oldest building on the temple grounds. Inside features a famous pillar made from nandina wood.

After seeing Sekkatei Cassie and I stopped in the visitor's tea house so that she could try matcha for the first time. Matcha is finely milled green tea that is used for Japanese tea ceremonies. Because of matcha's bitter taste it is traditionally served with a wagashi sweet which you eat prior to drinking the tea.

Our last stop before leaving the grounds was to visit Fudo-do (不動堂). The small shrine houses a stone statue of the Buddhist deity Fudo-myo-o. Although it is normally not on public display the statue can be seen during Setsubun in early February and on August 16.

Kinkaku-ji is a truly beautiful spot and definitely a great place to visit while in Kyoto. Located in northern Kyoto you can get to Kinkaku-ji by taking the 101 or 205 bus from JR Kyoto Station and getting off at the Kinkaku-ji machi stop. From the bus stop it is a three minute walk marked by signs. Kinkaku-ji is open from 9 am until 5 pm every day with a 400 yen cost of admission for adults and 300 yen for children.



Things have been a little crazy for me lately. In a forty day span from mid-September to late-October I spent only fifteen days in Ann Arbor. Honestly, I am a bit exhausted and looking forward to being back home for a bit.

The traveling kicked off when Frank and I flew to New York for a few days. We ate some wonderful dinners at Blue Ribbon and Mission Chinese and had a decadent brunch at Norma's. We visited the Whitney Museum to see a wonderful Edward Hopper exhibit and then paid a somber visit to the 9/11 Memorial. We also snuck in some time to visit the Feast of San Gennaro and pick up spices at Kalustyan's. One of the big highlights was that we got to see my favorite play, The Glass Menagerie, being performed at the Booth Theater starring Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto. It was really quite amazing.

That Saturday we then drove to Connecticut to see Michigan play U Conn. It was an ugly football game but thankfully Michigan pulled out a win.

After being back home for two days I flew out to Japan for work. That weekend I had time for sightseeing and started my Saturday morning by going to the Osu Kannon flea market and picking up a few fun items.

I then took the Shinkansen south to Himeji to visit Himeji Castle. The main keep has been under restoration since April 2010 continuing through March 2015. I had previously visited the castle in September 2008 before the restoration began when I was living in Japan and my sister came to visit. I decided to visit the castle again so that I could see the restoration process. I also spent a little time at the nearby Japanese style garden, Koko-en.

On Sunday I spent the day in Kyoto. I was with my friend from work, Cassie, who had never been to Japan before so I took her to see a few lovely temples and shrines. We visited the gorgeous golden Kikaku-ji followed by the amazing rock garden at Ryoan-ji. We then visited the sand gardens at Ginkaku-ji and ended the day by visiting my favorite place in Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Taisha, to wander through the brilliant crimson torii.

After a long work week I was ready to head home that Friday. I went to the airport to see if I could get on the non-stop flight to Detroit, but unfortunately I was stuck with my connections through Honolulu and LA. I had some time before my flight so I headed to Arimatsu which is known for its special technique of tie-dying fabrics called shibori.

I finally got on my 8 pm flight and after a three hour layover in Honolulu (where I got breakfast at Nico's Pier 38 and wandered the airport gardens) and LA (where I grabbed dinner at Encounter in the Theme Building) I finally got home at 6 am on Saturday morning.

The following weekend Michigan was playing Penn State so off we drove to Happy Valley for the weekend. We had a fun day tailgating but lost the game in the fourth overtime.

After a week at home I was out in Arizona this week past week for work. It was very busy with long work days but I did get to see some friends who live in the area in the evening and satisfy my fix for In-N-Out Burger. Also, when driving to work one day my co-worker and I saw some hot air balloons and one even landed near the road we were on.

As you can imagine, not too much has happened on the home front with all this traveling going on. There are two items of note, however.

First, right before all of the traveling started all of the rough inspections for my bathroom and laundry were approved. Now I just need to get some time to start closing the walls up!

Second, the house paint was looking a little faded and there was some peeling that needed to get addressed so we hired a guy to paint the house. We are keeping the same basic color scheme but going with bolder, darker shades. Below is an example of the new paint on the left and the old paint on the right. It makes a world of difference and I can't wait until it is done.

Anyway, that's what I have been up to lately. I'm looking forward to some time at home to get going on finishing up the laundry and downstairs bathroom. On top of that I have a bunch of apples and sugar pumpkins that I bought yesterday that I plan on making into applesauce and pumpkin puree.  Have you been doing any traveling or working on any fun projects this fall?


Picture of the Day: Books For Sale in Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic


Picture of the Day: Longhorn at the Fort Worth Stockyards

Fort Worth, Texas


Picture of the Day: Lemons For Sale in Palermo



















Palermo, Italy


Picture of the Day: View Out to Lake Michigan

Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan