Saturday, April 26, 2008

Meet Sokka

Yep, we finally got a second car. The first one we got, now *my* car (YAY!!) is a green Toyota FunCargo that we named Kitara after a character on the cartoon Avatar: The Last Air Bender, so we decided to stick with the theme and name this one Sokka after Kitara's brother. We had been looking at a white FunCargo and if we'd gotten that, I woulda had to name it Appa after the big white air bison. And most of you have probably never seen the cartoon and thus have no clue what I'm talking about :)

Anyway, we've spent the last two weeks going back and forth from the lemon lot to the used car dealers in the area trying to figure out what we wanted to get. Ok, so really, LEE was the picky, picky, PICKY one. He kept flipping back and forth between getting a piece of junk for him to take back and forth to work, or else getting a nicer car like the one we already had and then not having to worry as much about maintenance and such. Back and forth, back and forth. Well anyway, we ended up getting this one much cheaper than any of the ones we'd been eying at the used car lots. So now this is Lee's car and I get Kitara and I can go to the gym and the post office and the commissary and anywhere else I want to go!

I had mistakenly told my parental units that we were looking at a Toyota Celica rather than a Honda Civic. If we had, in fact, gotten a Celica, then we would have had to name it Tom. Tom...Celica! Bwahahahahahaaa! Ok, I crack myself up.

And yes, I name my cars. The last ones we had in the States were Tony the Tahoe and Sally the Saturn. I had Sally for ten years...I hated to let her go. My first car was this huge land yacht Buick that we named Lucy for the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." Then I had Sally for ten years, and now I've got Kitara. So I've had three cars since I started driving twelve years ago, and in that time, I think my dad has had more like TEN different ones. :) If we hadn't moved here, I'd probably *still* have Sally.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

More Shikina-En

Ok, I picked out some more pictures so it wasn't all close-up flower shots. Here's another building on the Shikina-En grounds. They didn't have a lot of signs telling you what particular things were so I can't tell you anything about this building. You can see the wooden wall thing I talked about on this though, if you click on the picture you'll see a larger version of it. Look on the right side of the picture--see the hedges on the far right, and then the little railing immediately to the left of them? Look right above the railing and those are the wooden panels all pushed to one side since the weather was nice. Those are the ones that can slide down to cover the house.

Like I said, a big part of the garden was the pond. Several bridges crossed the pond at different places, so here's a picture with two of them. I thought it was interesting how whoever built the bridge didn't smooth the stones they used or anything, they were left in their natural state. Course, that does sound like it would jive with a Buddhist or Shinto world-view, to interfere as little as possible with nature. The steps are smooth, but they're also angled rather than being flat.

Here's another view of both bridges.

Here's a pagoda! Yep, that's all I got for this one.

Ok, that's it for Shikina-En and Shuri-Jo Castle. Hope you've enjoyed the pics!


Ok, I'm later than I said I would be in posting these pictures from Shikina-En. I've been procrastinating...and we've been busy looking for a second car so I can actually have WHEELS during the day! Yay! I may actually get to start going to the gym on a regular basis.

Anyway, here are some pictures from Shikina-En. I may post some others later when I go through them more, I just realized almost all the ones I'd picked out where kinda the close up shots of flowers and stuff, which is apparently something I gravitate towards. But this first one is me and my Sexy Hubby in front of the banya, or guard house. This building was right at the entrance to the garden; there was a smaller building on the other side that was much smaller but kind of the same style. It had those sliding door/walls that have the rice paper inserts (like what Lee thought we'd have in *our* house, silly person) so pretty much the whole wall moved. We looked closely at it and realized that in addition to the door panels, they had a whole wall of solid wood panels that could be closed outside of the fragile rice papery ones. It was really neat how it worked, each panel was about the width of a doorway and they slid in a track. They were all on the right side of the "wall", one in front of the other--the track is shaped like an L with a really long top piece and a really short bottom piece. So to put up the "wall", you just slid one of the panels down the track all the way to the left. Then you could move the next panel into place, and so on and so forth until you had a whole wall of wood panels. Awfully handy when a typhoon hits, I can imagine the damage that a typhoon could do to all that fragile rice paper. Pretty ingenious.

In case you're curious, the Disney character on my purse is Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. :) She's my personal favorite Disney villain, although Mom likes Cruella DeVil better. Anyway, I digress. This garden didn't have a whole lot of flowers really. It was mostly a lot of trees and a big pond with turtles and koi in it. But they did have a lot of these, in orange and yellow and some that were pink and white.

I have no idea what this big spiky flower thing is but I liked the looks of it. I tried to take a close-up picture on one of those blooms, but it turned out real fuzzy. Lee and I are thinking we need to get a better camera...both a DSLR and a better point-and-click. It'd be a shame to be living in Japan and not have a great camera to capture it all!

This dragonfly was perched on the top of the spiky thing, and he just didn't move the whole time we were taking pictures. I think it took us at least a half dozen to get one that actually focused on him, and he just sat there like "I'm ready for my close-up!" We did have to get the camera pretty darned close to him to take the picture.

I saw several butterflies and some bees, but this moth was the only one who would sit still long enough for me to take his picture. Still, I think I got four pictures of him, so not so bad. Hey, even the insects are cooperating with me!

More pictures soon.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Shuri-jo Castle

I've been a little slow in getting some Shuri Castle pictures posted, but here they are! Shuri Castle is in Naha, the capital of Okinawa. No one knows when the first Shuri Castle was built, but it's been destroyed and rebuilt several times--at least three times due to fire and once due to earthquake. The current Shuri Castle was built after the last one was burned to the ground in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II, and they made an effort to build the new castle as closely as possible to the older one, using pictures and paintings as reference.

This first picture is taken in the main courtyard of the castle. The doors in the middle open, and up on the second floor is where the king's throne is and where he would sit during important ceremonies. If you think that this looks kind of Chinese, you're not wrong--for centuries, the Ryukyu Islands were a separate kingdom and Naha was its capital. The Ryukyu Kingdom had close ties to China for most of that time, and they sent tributes to the Chinese emperors and traded extensively with them. They were kind of a client-state like Tibet, but Okinawa *wanted* to be a client-state of China, unlike Tibet. Anyway, that's why a lot of Okinawan art and architecture is heavily influenced by the Chinese, and not as much Japanese as you might expect. Do I sound like the History Channel yet? ;)

There are shi-shi dogs (aka shisa) flanking the two dragon pillars. Here's a picture of a female shisa with a baby. Drive anywhere on Okinawa and you'll notice statues of various sizes on rooftops or on either side of doorways, and those are shisa. The one on the left is female, and the one on the right is male. They're meant as good luck. The female usually has a baby with her, and her mouth is closed to keep good spirits inside the building they guard. The male has his mouth open to scare away evil spirits. Anyway, the following picture was one of my attempts to be all artsy and make the shot more interesting than just having the shisa in the center...I think Lee figures I just didn't line it up right, :p

Here's a picture inside the castle, in the living quarters. Lee says this is what he'd imagined when we found out we were moving to Okinawa--the sliding door panels in the walls with the rice paper, and the tatami mats on the floor with no furniture. Guess I'm not the only one who'd watched Karate Kid II too many times :) Really, most of the buildings here aren't all that pretty as they're all concrete blocks of various shapes to withstand the typhoons that come every year (we haven't been through one yet, but I bet we will before the year is over). When you go inside the building, they'll make you take your shoes off to tour the inside of the castle. It's a sign of respect...and I can see why they'd make you take your shoes off in Japanese houses, considering you spend so much time sitting on the floor and sometimes sleeping there too. Who knows what your shoes have been through? And those tatami mats are pretty expensive from what I understand.

This is the gateway where you exit the castle grounds. Pretty neat looking, huh?

So there's a quick overview of Shuri-jo Castle. Tomorrow I'll post pictures from Shikina-en, which was the royal family's summer home and garden.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Fabric Inspiration

Man, I am in a chatariffic mood today, this is my third blog post in the last 8 hours! Anyway, after we got home from the spring bazaar, I saw the inspiration challenge on Splitcoast. One of the inspiration pictures was this:

See the stripey pattern, the fifth one down? That's what I used for my inspiration. The colors kind of reminded me of this Cuppacakeabella image that I stamped and colored when I was at Amber's house a few weeks ago, so I thought I'd make a striped background for my card and use that image. Here's my card:

The colors are totally off, I think I might have to try to take the picture again tomorrow when it's light out. To do the stripes, I put some drops of Marigold Morning and Cool Caribbean ink refills in a plastic palette, and then used a blender pen dipped in the ink to make an instant marker. I just used my regular Pretty in Pink marker and drew on stripes in all three colors. I wasn't at all trying to get them to be straight, I wanted the whimsy of crooked stripes.

The image was colored in with Prismacolor pencils, and I could wish that the pencil I chose matched better with the Marigold Morning cardstock. I used the one that's supposed to coordinate with Apricot Appeal which is really similar to Marigold Morning. Ah well, I suppose the way it is it looks like it's just a lighter shade of the cardstock.

Lee just called me for dinner, so I'd best get downstairs to go eat. Mwah to the Bella-lovin' sistahs who read this blog!

Spring Bazaar!

Lee and I went to a Spring Bazaar today to do a little shopping. We weren't sure what they'd have but I wanted to go anyway, so he was kind enough to indulge me. We've decided to start looking around for some local artwork to hang on our walls since our house is kind of institutional with all the plain white walls...we left a lot of our decorations at home, like all my cross-stitched pieces. At any rate, back to the bazaar.

They had quite a bit of furniture, which was a bit of a surprise to us. Some of it was American furniture, some of it was local stuff, and they had a fairly large selection of Korean antiques and such. There was this one piece that I thought was just the coolest thing, it was about 5 feet tall and painted with bright colors. The front looked like a totally solid piece, but if you pushed on the side of it, the thing swiveled and it had some shelves on the other side. SO COOL! Wish I'd gotten a picture of it. But I did get a picture of this:

Don't you just love it? I love the color and the carving, it's just so cool. Lee says that if I like *that*, then I'm no longer in charge of decorating our house and he's contemplating the need for a psychological evaluation on me. But what's not to love about this? Lee says it looks like it's all beat up and about to be tossed out, I totally disagree. I think this was painted kind of like some ceramics I did when I was a kid, where you put all the paint on and then wipe it off the portions that stick up. Gives it more depth and interest than if the whole thing is painted one flat color. And you know what makes this little piece of furniture even cooler? It's meant to hold all your SHOES!!! I mean come on, it looks that cool and it holds shoes?! Awwwwwwwessssooooomme!! But Lee wouldn't let me get it.

They also had quite a few obis, which is the sash that goes around a kimono. There's an art to how you fold them so you can use them to decorate your house--some hang up on the wall, and some are meant to display on a table. Lee was surprised at how expensive they were, from about $40 on up to $100, but they're silk, so I wasn't too surprised by the price. Some people had jewelry for sale too, but nothing I absolutely had to have.

There were three or four different people selling photographs or paintings of scenes from around the island, which was more in line with what we were looking for. We spent a lot of time at one table and eventually bought this:

It's three closeup pictures of cherry blossoms. (Next year we are so going to that festival! We missed it this spring because all our stuff got here from the US and we spent that weekend unpacking.) The photographer, Nichole Gonzalez, was most helpful and friendly. She had pictures from all around Okinawa and some of the surrounding islands, Kyoto, Vietnam, and Thailand, plus Spain, Rome, and some other places in Europe. There was this gorgeous shot of two white pillars with blue decorations on them from somewhere in Spain...if I'd ever actually been there, I would have bought it. Anyway, Lee mentioned something to Nichole about how I wanted to learn how to take pictures like that and guess what? She teaches photography classes at the local craft store. So after we left the bazaar, we went and signed ourselves up for the next one. I'm so excited!! Now I just need to figure out where to hang up this beauty with the cherry blossoms...we also got two 5x7 photographs from around Shuri Castle but we need to get some frames for them.

And for tomorrow's adventure, we're going to Shuri Castle itself! Better make sure my camera batteries are charged :)

Orchid Opulence

Lee and I went to lunch yesterday with a group of people at this restaurant that's up on top of a hill on a golf course. I got Lee to take this picture, it's so much prettier in real life...we'll have to go back to the restaurant so we can take some more and try to capture the beauty a little better. We were in a little bit of a hurry since Lee had to get back to work after lunch.

Here's a closeup shot of one of the flowering bushes lining the sidewalk...what is this, an azalea? Or am I making that up? Whatever it is, I like it! I love bright pink, and it's pretty cheerful around here with all the flowers. I love flowers, I just don't know too much about what they're all called and how not to kill them. :p

Speaking of flowers, look what Lee brought home for me last night! Kind of an icky picture I know...

Some of those orchids I did so love at the Make Man store!! Lee said that the ladies at the commissary where he got this were giving him grief and talking about how sweet he was to be buying flowers for me and that if he weren't already married, then they'd marry him. Lee seems to get picked on and teased by the older English-speaking Japanese ladies that work in the stores around here, which I think is funny :) But they don't do it as much if I'm there...

A closeup of one of the flowers. I love how the bottom of it curls up like an old man's beard...

I'm having a Georgia O'Keeffe moment here! I'm going to have to look up orchids online and figure out how to care for these so I don't kill them...and just in case I do end up killing them (I leave behind me a long trail of dead plants) I'm going to have to take these flowers outside somewhere and take lots of pictures of them. Are they not the gorgeousest-most flowers you've ever seen?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sushi Zen One, Snapdragon Christy Zero

So, the sushi place did *not* have egg sushi, or pork sushi, and precious little non-fish sushi. I did TRY some sushi, I tried a California roll. The first bite seemed kind of okay, but I was hard-pressed to keep from spitting out the second one. Mostly it tasted of rice and soy sauce, which was fine, but the texture of the stuff in the middle was just.....eeewwww. Squishy. In an unpleasant fashion! I also had a salad and the ginger dressing they have here is fabulous, but I didn't finish the salad because I just wasn't spectacularly hungry in the first place. Good thing I wasn't too hungry or we might have had to stop by some cheap American restaurant to get me some food.

Lee ate the rest of the California roll and he ordered two other types, one that had shrimp and one that had tuna maybe? I forget. He swapped some pieces with the couple that took us to the restaurant, and he said his favorite is the plain sushi that's not rolled up. He had some that was just rice, a teeny bit of wasabi slathered on top, and then a piece of either salmon or tuna on top--he really liked that. So he was more successful with the sushi thing than I was, maybe I just can't get over the fact that it's raw fish.

The restaurant was pretty neat though. They had some Japanese-style tables, which means they come up to about mid-shin height and you sit cross-legged on a woven mat. The table we had was more what you'd think of as a normal height, but it was set into a hole in the floor so that it came up to the same height as the Japanese table. What you had to do was sit down on the mat and then wriggle around to get your legs under the table so you could sit like you were in a chair, but of course there was no chair back to lean against. And when you wanted to get up to leave, you had to kind of squirm around to get your legs out from under the table first. There's just no graceful way to get up from there I think... anyway, maybe we'll go back and try it again, I'll try the stuff that Lee liked so well. If I don't like it after that, then I shall return gratefully to my seafood-hating diet.

I think you guys are so funny who commented that you'd be freaking out about the gecko. It's just an occupational hazard of living here, and really, they're pretty cheerful looking little things and they eat bugs. They can eat all the bugs they want, that will make me perfectly happy since then the bugs won't be around to bug me. And the geckos don't bite people. Once you get over the freaky-looking eyes, they're good neighbors :) If you look at the enlarged version of the picture I took, it comes out *much* larger than life-sized. He was about four inches long for his body, and his tail was maybe another two inches. Not exactly some city-devouring monster lizard.

Pumpkin Cookies

I'm starting to get a little famous at Lee's work for my cookies...I have lots of practice making them :) Anyway, this is my favorite cookie recipe, and since it's pumpkin it's different than what everyone else makes for potlucks and such. So here it is!

Macadamia Nut White Chip Pumpkin Cookies (or Pumpkin Cookies for short)

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom or cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup pumpkin puree (look for Libby's solid pack pumpkin, NOT pumpkin pie mix since that already has the spices in it)
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups white chips
2/3 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts, toasted (I don't toast them, I'm lazy)

In a small bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, cardamom, and baking soda; set aside. In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, and brown sugar until creamy. Beat in pumpkin, egg, and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in flour mixture; stir in white chips and nuts.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto greased baking sheets. Flatten the cookies slightly with the back of a spoon prior to baking at 350 for 11 to 14 minutes, or until centers are set. Allow them to cool for 2-3 minutes on cookie sheet, and then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

You can also make bars with this recipe; mix it all as above and then spread into a greased 11x15 glass baking dish, and bake at 350 for 18 to 22 minutes. The ground cardamom is fairly expensive, $10 or so for a bottle, but substituting the ground cloves for cardamom doesn't really affect the taste any. I've made them both ways. These cookies will stay nice and moist for days if you store them in an airtight container with wax paper between the layers; they stick together if you don't use the waxed paper. If you try the recipe, let me know how you like it!

World Fabulous Lasagna Recipe

There was a little fundraiser thing at Lee's work on Tuesday, so I made a lasagna for it (they were selling lunches and the theme was Italian). I know there are a ton of lasagna recipes out there, but this one is MINE (ok, my mom's....) so here it is!

2 lbs. lean ground beef
McCormick Thick & Zesty Spaghetti Sauce packet (find it where you find the envelopes for gravy and such)
2 (15-ounce) cans of tomato sauce
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon season salt
lasagna noodles to cover bottom of 9x13 pan
1 large container of small-curd cottage cheese
2 eggs
4 cups grated mozzarella cheese, divided (unless you're me, in which case it's 8 cups)

Brown the beef in a large skillet; drain the fat. Add in the tomato sauce, garlic powder, pepper, and season salt; cover and simmer at low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook the lasagna noodles according the the package directions; when they're done, leave them in cold water. Mix together the cottage cheese, eggs, and about half of the mozzarella cheese in a large bowl.

To assemble lasagna, spray the bottom of a 9x13 glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Spread half the meat on the bottom of the pan and top with the noodles, cutting the noodles to fit if necessary. Layer on the cottage cheese mixture, the remainder of the meat, and top with the rest of the mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes; let stand for 5-10 minutes before cutting.

You can halve this recipe to make it in a 9x9 or 8x8 pan. The 9x13 will be full almost to overflowing (ok, so I really like cheese...) so you can also use 2 1/2 pounds of meat and prepare this in an 11x15 pan, which is what I did for the fundraiser. It's also most excellent reheated in the microwave the next day. :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

That's GECKO, Not Geico

So, it took me a while to go to bed after Lee pointed out the gecko last night. Not because I was scared of it or anything, it just took time to blog about :) So I finally decided to go get ready for bed and went to take my contacts out in the master bathroom. I was just putting the lids on the contact case when I noticed the gecko was on the shower curtain just six inches away from me. Since he was so close, I took the opportunity to study him pretty closely and he didn't move a muscle for the whole time I was watching him.

He has amazingly teeny-tiny claws on each toe, I suppose just enough to help him climb all over walls and shower curtains with alacrity. Also, geckos will sometimes detach their tails if they get scared; they run off while whatever scared them is distracted by the tail they left behind (strange, but true). I could see the "seam" where it would detach if I scared him. I've heard that sometimes their tails don't come all the way off, but a new one grows in anyway, so occasionally you'll see a two-tailed gecko. I haven't seen one like that yet, actually I haven't seen a whole lot of geckos so far but maybe that's because we got here in winter.

When I started looking at him, his eyes were totally black, like mouse eyes. I turned on the overhead light to get a really good look and all of a sudden his eyes were slit-pupiled like a lizard or snake's. I don't know if it was an eyelid or iris or what, but it made him look kind of freaky all of a sudden and he quit being so cute. Maybe it's just an atavistic mammalian reaction to reptiles. When I took the picture of him earlier, he was up near the ceiling and I couldn't see the freaky lizard eyes then. At any rate, I decided to just leave him alone so I turned off the light, closed the door (not like that was going to hamper his movements any, I'm sure he could go anywhere he wanted to) and went to bed.

He's a pretty brave lizard for running around this house with two big dogs who would, I am sure, just *love* to have him for a plaything. Too bad he likely wouldn't survive that experience...but so far they haven't seen him.

Ev'rybody's Got a Laughing Place

It's sketch challenge Wednesday! Yay! Actually it took me longer than usual to produce a card for the sketch challenge, but today I ended up with two.

All supplies except black ink by Stampin' Up! I had been wanting to use this raspberries/flower stamp with this color combination for *weeks* and I was just waiting for a sketch that would work with it. I had to turn this week's sketch on its side, but I'm allowed to do that :) I chose the thank you sentiment just because it's always helpful to have thank you cards laying around. I really like how this one turned out; I don't often use Blush Blossom and I've only recently started to even like Always Artichoke, so it's nice to do a color combination that's a little different than my norm. Of course, it is an old color challenge, so that's one more down, 41 to go!

I thought I would do a horizontal card since that's the way the original sketch was faced. This apple crate stamp is from the "For Father" stamp set in the Occasions mini catalog, I just loved it. The set also has a puppy with a big ol' pair of work boots, and the puppy looks kinda like my kids, so of course that just sealed the deal. I must have been in a watercoloring mood today...this one took me *forever* to paint. I was trying to make the apples look like those ones that are both red and yellow, not sure I really got that across but I gave it a shot. I can always use more practice watercoloring.

Lee just hollered at me that tonight I'd be sleeping with one of the famous Laughing Geckos over my side of the bed. I took a picture of him (and Lee says I prolly blinded him with the flash) so here he is:

I bet he's the same one I saw in the bathroom the other day. Hey, as long as he doesn't fall on my head or crawl across my face in the night, I don't mind him being here. Eat all the bugs you want, buddy! Wonder if he'll wake me up laughing tonight? Hmm.

At first when Lee yelled about a gecko being on the wall, I thought he meant this ceramic gecko that Mom gave us for Christmas. It's meant to be hung up on the wall but we haven't figured out where to put it yet; I wondered if he hung it up somewhere after all. But nope, tonight it was a real live, breathing, laughing gecko. (By the way, "Ev'rybody's Got a Laughing Place" is the song that plays in Splash Mountain at Disneyland. I figured it was an appropriate theme for my friend up on the wall.)

Tomorrow we're going out to dinner at a sushi restaurant. Um, yeah...wish me luck on that one, me who doesn't eat it if it came out of the water...Well, I suppose I couldn't live in Japan for very long without getting dragged out to eat raw fish. Although another of Lee's coworkers said that they have (cooked) egg sushi that she really likes, so maybe I can do that! Baby steps, y'all! I hope she meant chicken eggs and not fish eggs....also tomorrow, I shall share my famous lasagna recipe! And if you're really lucky, my even more famous pumpkin cookie recipe!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Lost in Translation

Lee and I went to Subway for lunch today (which we've been doing a lot lately...but it's probably the healthiest option for eating out at least). They couldn't toast subs today because, according to the sign on their toaster oven, it was "Out of Control." We got a giggle out of that, so I thought I'd share.

I just went in the bathroom to wash my hands (Lee thinks I'm OCD about hand washing, but at least it's something healthy to be OCD about) and I saw a gecko that was at least 4 or 5 inches long. I screeched a little just because it scurried and it's always startling to see something scurry when you don't expect anything to be there, but I relaxed when I realized what it was. I don't mind having geckos in the house since they eat bugs! They also laugh--it's an odd noise, kind of hard to explain, but I hear them fairly often especially in the evenings. At least they're cheerful!

Remember the Ugly Card? The one I hated? Well, I gave that color combination another shot since it has the indecency to appear TWICE on the official Color Challenge List, and this is the result:

I like this one a whole lot better than my previous attempt! I've figured out the secret to this color combination...use as little Bravo Burgundy as possible!! It's just so dark that it's hard to work with and it makes things ugly. Not like black, a lot of cards are all the better for a little pop of black. BB is just ugly. But I like my heavy-on-the-Pumpkin Pie card. That's the name of the color, Pumpkin Pie...although I'd like it to be the name of my dinner...I didn't get any pumpkin pie last Thanksgiving and I looooove that. :)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cow's it Going?

This week's inspiration challenge was to look at the Cow Parade pictures and then choose a cow to use as inspiration for a card. The first cow I chose was Hulacow:

Apparently I'm still in a hula mood even though I've already done one Hawaiian card this week, but anyway I made this:

All supplies are Stampin' Up! I love that retired stamp set, Do the Hula...when (if) I ever get around to doing a scrapbook from our honeymoon I'm going to use this stamp set for it. We went on a Disney cruise to the Caribbean :)

Anyway, apparently these cows are like potato chips because I couldn't choose just one. I loved the colors on this one, Muu Nica Alada (what's that mean anyway?):

So I made this card. I liked the iridescence on the cow but I couldn't find the marker I needed to add a bit of shine to my card, so it just had to stay the way it is. All supplies on this one are also by Stampin' Up!

I managed to knock out two more color challenges and two more sketch challenges with these cards :) So now I have 45 color challenges left and 27 sketch challenges left. I'm working at it! And I only have four of the twelve CC52 challenges left, which is good--I can't wait to be done with those.

Back to the cows. When Lee and I were in college at Baylor University in Waco, TX, they had a bunch of cows around town kind of like the Cow Parade, only I think these were all longhorns (it IS Texas after all). We used to call them the Wa-Cows, aren't we clever. :p I know there was one out in front of Cameron Park Zoo that was painted all cool, Lee and I had our picture taken with it when we went to the zoo with some friends. That's not the dorky outing it sounds like, the Waco zoo is actually very cool--it's probably the best one I can remember going to. Waaaayyyy better than Pensacola's and we never went to one in North Carolina.

We went to Kitty Hawk in NC twice, and all around the Kitty Hawk/Nag's Head area they have statues of horses in front of a lot of local businesses that are all done up and decorated like the Cow Parade. If we get to go back there, I'm going to make Lee stop at every single one I see so I can take a picture of it. They had at least one pegasus that was gorgeous, and I remember one that was decorated with a mosaic of small mirrors, which made it kind of hard to look at in the sunlight. Some of them are beautiful and some of them are just a bit silly. Since I've been a horse lover since I was five or six, I think I like the horses better than the cows, but that's just me :)

I hope we get to go back to that area, I can't imagine how we lived in North Carolina for three years and didn't go check out the lighthouses all along the Outer Banks. We did buy a cool little map that has the locations of all the shipwrecks off the coast of North Carolina, the "ghost fleet" which includes a fair number of pirate ships, arrrrgh! We put up pictures around the house yesterday and we just haven't figured out where to put the Ghost Fleet yet. We left a lot of that kind of decorative stuff in storage when we came out here so we need to get some local flava in here. When Amber and I went to Market Day there were people selling prints of some drop-dead gorgeous photos taken around the island. I want to buy them all and then I want to have someone teach me how to take drop-dead gorgeous photos like those. We'll see what happens.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I've Been Tagged!

Thought I'd split today's post into two so it didn't look so long...I know I'm a little wordy :) I've been tagged by Deena at A Necessary Creativity so now I have to divulge seven random facts about myself. And since, as I said in the last post, I don't hop on other people's blogs on a regular basis, I shall refrain from tagging anyone else. But here's my seven facts:

1. I have eleven toes. I'm so just kidding! Hehehe. Ok, how about this? My blog name, Snapdragon, is all thanks to my high school band director. When I was a senior, besides being obsessed with music he was obsessed with his garden, and he'd compare us to plants. I got compared to a snapdragon, which was actually a lot better than some of the other comparisons (skunk cabbage, anyone?) Anyhow, I liked it, so I've used it for screen names and such since then.

2. I am more than a teensy bit AR...all of our DVDs and CDs are arranged in alphabetical order. No, really, they are. I also have a list of all the stamp sets I own and how many times I've used them for cards that I've posted on Splitcoast...then I know if I got my money's worth out of the stamp set. Yes, I realize that this passes beyond "slightly AR" and into the territory of strange and disturbing behavior.

3. My mom taught me how to cross stitch when I was about eight so that I would stop complaining of boredom all summer long when I wasn't in school. It's strange to think I've been doing *anything* for twenty years...other than things like breathing. Hah! I even made cross stitched presents for my bridesmaids when I got married, and each one was different.

4. Despite the fact that I am not interested in having kids at this point in my life (and why everyone is so interested in my procreation plans or lack thereof is beyond me) I have a rather large and extensive collection of Disney movies and assorted other kid-friendly movies. My three favorite Disney cartoons are Sleeping Beauty, Mulan, and Robin Hood. And I watched Beauty and the Beast last night--the commentary on that movie is hilarious!

5. I took bellydancing classes for more than a year when I lived in Texas and absolutely *loved* them. I'm not sure what made me want to do that, but it was soooo much fun! What's not to love about swirly skirts and sparkly hip scarves that jingle when you move? I know that they have bellydancing classes here on Okinawa so I need to go find out when and where so I can get back into it. I also want to learn how to hula; maybe the dance classes will help with my innate klutziness.

6. I am a sci-fi nerd. I have actually been to a Star Trek convention, but I did *not* go in costume; I got to meet Marina Sirtis (Counselor Troi) and Majel Barrett (who played Troi's mom and did the computer voice, there was an episode where she as Mrs. Troi talked to herself as the computer voice....ok, I'm such a nerd!!). I like Star Trek: The Next Generation but my hands-down favorite is the original Star Wars trilogy. I own all the soundtracks and I have the movies in two versions on VHS and another two on DVD. I don't have Episodes I or II on DVD yet, I'm holding out for the boxed set. C'mon George, where's the boxed set? And did you hear that they're going to make a new animated movie and cartoon series set in the Star Wars universe? Here's hoping the dialog is better than it was in Episode III...

7. I really, really, REALLY wanted to use the Imperial March from the Star Wars movies as the processional at my wedding. You know the Darth Vader theme that goes dum, dum, dum, dum da dum dum da mother wouldn't let me. I told Lee that for our 10th anniversary we're going to get remarried in Vegas and I'm going to have that music as my processional. And Elvis is gonna do the ceremony, because if you get married in Vegas it's like a law that Elvis has to do the ceremony. Oh, guess what song just came up on my iPod!!!

So, do you now know more about me than you ever wanted to? -wink-

Arte y Pico

Ok, wow, the comments on my last post seem to have proliferated in my absence :) I just haven't been in Blogland much of late, nothing really been going on here other than I've gone to the gym several times this week and I feel like someone has been beating me with a 2x4 all over my back. It's that kickboxing class...I'll be back to do it again as soon as I can move!

But on to more interesting things than my aching muscles...I got an award! Julia has awarded me the Arte y Pico Award, which is given to bloggers who share their art and creativity making their contribution to the blogging world.

The rules say that I'm supposed to pick five blogs that I think deserve this award, but to be honest, I don't spend a lot of time in Blogland. I will occasionally stop by others' blogs, but I spend far too much time on the computer (as my mouse-hand arthritis/carpal tunnel keeps telling me) so there are only a few I visit regularly. So I'm just going to hand this award off to someone who deserves it more than I, and that would be my homegirl and fellow islander Amber! Click on her name for a link to her fabulous blog site. So for Amber's benefit, here are the rules:

1. Pick five blogs that you think deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also contribute to the blogging community, no matter what language (whoops, I only picked one...)

2. List the names (whoops, *name*) of the people you chose to receive the award on your blog and link to their blogs. Then go comment on one of their posts to notify them that you have given them this award and link to the post on your blog.

3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name of the person who gave them the award and link to their blog.

4. The award winner and the one who has given the award have to show the link to the Arte y Pico blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award (it's in Spanish, and I only speak some French which does no good in this instance, but go look anyway!)

So have fun Amber! :D

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Yep, That's My Girl

My little girl Sadie (aka Miss Bee) likes to get into things. Now, really, she's usually a pretty well-behaved dog, but occasionally....

I caught her doing this a few months after we got her, she's just going to town on the TP in the guest bathroom. The funny thing was, she *knew* she shouldn't be doing it since she gave me the biggest "I'm so busted" look when I first caught her.

Then she decided that chewing up the TP was enough fun that she'd rather just get in trouble than stop, so she went back at it!

I was laughing so hard I'm amazed I could find the camera to take these pictures. This is the only time Sadie has ever done this--she's smart enough she doesn't try the same trick twice :) My mom tells me that when I was a toddler, she came into the bathroom to find me perched on the toilet with a huge box of pink Kleenex in my hands. It had been full when I found it, but by the time Mom caught up with me, it was mostly in pink Kleenex drifts all around the toilet. So I guess Sadie comes by this hobby honestly :) Anyway, it was Sadie's fun with the TP that prompted me to buy this stamp from Whipper Snapper, and here's the first card I've made with it:

Isn't that the funniest stamp ever? I cut out several parts of the TP, including the two rolls and the bit on top of the puppy's head, and put them up on pop dots so they stick up a bit for dimension, wish you could see that in the photo. The inside says "Trouble has a way of finding me." Yep, that's my girl! I made this puppy yellow instead of black like Miss Bee because it's hard to color in a black this way I knocked out another color challenge :)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

East Meets West

Have you ever wondered where, exactly, east stops being east and becomes west? Maybe it's just me. Anyway, East Meets West was surely the theme for the wedding reception we went to this weekend. First of all, check out the bride and groom:

Wow, huh? I can't imagine wearing something like that...I know it's heavy because it's layers upon layers upon layers, especially the bride's formal kimono. She had to take teeny tiny steps, not even the length of her foot, to move around at all in that outfit. And as I told Lee, just because an entire nation wears socks with sandals that doesn't mean he's allowed to. Anyway, I was also impressed with the bride's reminds me of all the super-fancy coiffures on the miniseries Shogun with Richard Chamberlain (he did not have a super-fancy coiffure, he had a beard). Those are gold combs in her hair and each one has beads that dangle from it.

This was a really, really, *really* fancy wedding reception. I don't even know how many courses there were to dinner, but I can tell you that most of them were fish. That's a bad thing for me since I absolutely do not eat seafood. The shrimp were staring at me! Seriously, they had *eyes* on them!! Well anyway, I know from longstanding experience that my dislike of all things seafood is seen by others as just plain weird, but I don't like the way fish smells so I won't eat it. Lee can eat all he wants of it as long as it's downwind :)

Since half the guests were Japanese and half American, they had a bilingual emcee who had to say everything twice, once in each language. I guess that it takes roughly twice as long to say something in Japanese as it does to say it in English :) She did a good job though, that's the first time I've ever seen a Japanese woman with blond hair. They had all the usual things like toasts and things like that, but there were a few differences. Instead of a bouquet toss, they had a bouquet PULL...there were ribbons wrapped around the handle of the bride's bouquet, so each eligible young maiden picked a ribbon and when they all had one, they each pulled. Only one ribbon was actually attached to the bouquet, so the owner of that ribbon got the bouquet. The garter toss was funny, I gather that is NOT a Japanese tradition as all the young Japanese men seemed rather confused at the whole idea. At least one of them actually did grab it, although he didn't have much choice since it thudded right into his chest. Somewhere along the way, my brother got the idea that it was bad luck at a wedding if the garter hit the floor instead of someone catching it, but of course none of the guys actually *wants* to catch it...I think Adam got the garter at least four or five times, sometimes with an impressive dive and slide across the floor. Hehe!

To get back to *this* wedding, they had some entertainment as well. The bride's sister and daughter performed a traditional dance for good luck and longevity, both wearing kimonos although not as fancy as the bride's was. Do you remember Kimiko on Karate Kid II and the dance she taught Daniel-san? Yeah, this was kind of like that, fan and everything. Then they had a drum troupe perform and that was totally *amazing*. They had music and the drum troupe added to it with their own hand-held drums as they danced in red, gold, and black costumes. For their second number, they had a DRAGON!

Here's the dragon right in front of me, I wish we had gotten a better picture but this one was the best out of a half a dozen. There were two people in the dragon costume and how they coordinated their movements so well together is just beyond me, because they were dancing and leaping and all kinds of crazy stuff. They did come out into the audience and wind their way among the tables, and one time even "bit" one of the guests.

These larger drums were set up to one side of the stage; they're covered in a teal silk with a dragon pattern on it. Most of the performers had smaller hand drums that they carried with them and danced with.

And here they are dancing! :) They were an awesome group, I'd love to see them perform again only this time I'd like to be up closer so I could see everything that was going on. This might sound odd to say, but it reminded me of bellydancing, with all the highly percussive music. Yes, I used to be a bellydancer, I need to get back into lessons, it was loads of fun. But I digress!

Towards the end, they invited everyone up to dance, I got this picture of two of the guests in their kimonos. Aren't they gorgeous? They have photography studios around here that have costumes, and they'll take your picture in "traditional Japanese clothing" like this; Lee and I are so totally going to have to do that while we're here. I doubt I'll ever own a kimono; the fancy ones are thousands and thousands of dollars. But they are gorgeous...however, they are totally different from Western garb in that one of the main objectives is to disguise the feminine form. The Japanese are a highly modest culture; you can see that the sash pretty much conceals all hint of what the woman's figure looks like and there's an ornate tie on the back to further disguise the silhouette.

At one point, the emcee told everyone to form a line and go decorate the wedding cake...I didn't do the cake decorating, but it looked like they were putting on strawberries and chocolate pieces and such. The bride and groom did the cake-cutting thing and I didn't realize until later that they were the only ones who actually ate any wedding cake. They served dessert as part of the meal (and no, the dessert was not fish) but it wasn't wedding cake. That just seemed kind of funny to me, to decorate the cake and then not eat it. But hey, what do I know?