Thursday, December 31, 2009

Trips Home Album

Every time we take a trip back to Wisconsin, I add a few pages to my Trips Home Album. This album has a basic plan of 4 lay outs (1 opening page, 2 double spreads, 1 ending page).  Having a plan like this makes it very easy to add the pages soon after we return home, and it also limits me - even if I took 700 photos on my trip, I can only make 4 lay outs, so it forces me to choose only the photos that best tell the story.

The second thing you'll notice about these pages is the style of journaling. I started this album out with a certain style and have kept it ever since. This lends some interest to the album, not only for the reader but for me as well.

This was the first time I used digital scrapbooking for this album, so part of the challenge was to create my own templates that would be very similar to past pages.

So, here goes! Remember, you can click on the images to make then larger and then you can read the journaling.

I think that one more thing you'll notice is that many of my thoughts from my previous post also made it onto these pages. I find that using lists to brainstorm before my journaling really helps to decide which details to include and leave out.

For these pages, I used Jessica Sprague's Autumn kit along with her Crystal's September papers and elements.

Okay, that's all from me for now. Happy Scrappin' and Happy New Year to you all!

One Month in America

It's taken me a while to sit down and actually write a little about our trip to the USA. Now that the Xmas cards are done, the new year cards are sent out, new toys are almost organized, and things are getting back to normal, I suppose I should really give a brief rundown of how our trip went.

Originally, I had wanted to post one photo a day through out our trip, but that didn't work out so well. The internet connection was too slow and it became a low priority for me.

So, here are the highlights:
1. It was great being home for such a long time.
2. We took a 2-night trip to Door County with my friend Amy and her two boys.
3. Jill and her husband Bill came up for Thanksgiving and spent one night at our house.
4. Shannon came and stayed for about 4 or 5 days.
5. Sara and her husband Scott stopped by for a couple hours with their new baby on the way back to Milwaukee.
6. Thanksgiving was celebrated in full - it was my first thanksgiving in the USA in about 8 years!
7. Shopping, shopping and more shopping.
8. Luka had a dedication ceremony (like a baptism) at my sister's Unitarian church - she and her husband are the godparents.
9. Ailin went to daycare 3 times while we were there.
10. We attended storytime at the local library a few times.
11. We attended a playgroup once.
12. Ailin played with Andy's kids (Jill's brother) one day.
13. It snowed once while we were there and Ailin got to go outside and play with her cousin and relatives.

And, the happenings:
1. I had to spend every day with Ailin in a big, open house where I couldn't really keep an eye on her while taking care of a baby. That was stressful.
2. There wasn't much to do for kids and it was kind of cold so we couldn't go outside a lot.
3. I had a hard time getting both kids to nap at the same time and often had to resort to taking rides in the car until they both fell asleep and then parking somewhere until they had both gotten a good rest.
4. Ailin dumped a bunch of laundry soap (one cup at a time) into the dog food storage bin.  Needless to say, all that dog food had to be thrown out.
5. There is more, but I am not at liberty to write about it.

Okay, so what about the benefits?
1. Ailin's English did improve quite a bit.
2. I got to eat a real Thanksgiving meal.
3. The family sent me home with Xmas presents so there was minimal shipping of goods across the ocean.
4. Ailin got used to eating sandwiches every day, sort of.
5. Ailin and Luka definitely bonded more with their grandparents and other relatives.
6. There were usually lots of people to play with, lots of space to run and jump around, and someone was almost always available to hand Luka off to when I needed to do something else.

I am not going to write much more about the trip, but I did do a few scrapbook pages and will work on posting those within a few days.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Be Patient with Me

Hi there, my friends and readers. This is just a request to be patient with me. I know a few people have been asking why I haven't posted lately.
During our trip to the USA, using the computer became a low priority for me because my mom's internet connection / computer is quite slow and I didn't have the patience to work on it much. Also, once my husband left to return to Japan, I was much too busy watching the kids to really spend a lot of time on the computer.
Then, since returning, I had been so busy unpacking, preparing for Xmas, getting the house back in order, etc., and there were so many random thoughts going through my mind - many of which I wanted to write about - but I still didn't have a chance to sit down and write, or to really process all the stuff that has happened these past couple of months.
(That was the longest sentence I have ever written.)
So, I will be back very soon with some blog posts and even a few scrap pages and photos. I also need to work on an article for the AFWJ Journal along with my new years cards, so I am really not in the clear yet.
See you soon! And, Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nov 6

Today, we went to Appleton for Luka's dedication ceremony at my sister's Unitarian church. She and her husband are the godparents, so they got to choose the venue, and I was so happy with this. Not that I express my religious views on my blog, but if I did, I would explain further that this would be my choice if I lived in the Fox Valley. Anyway, it was a day trip there and back, and my mom lead the caravan of 3 cars. She is an aggressive driver, and that is putting it mildly.

We stopped at a gas station to get coffee, and my grandma got a huge ice cream cone. I guess this is her ritual whenever they drive to the Fox Valley. She is such an interesting lady.

After the ceremony took place, we did this group photo of everyone who attended. From left to right: The minister - Dottie, nephew Oliver, Yusuke and Ailin, Grandma, my mom, Godmother Michele with Luka, Godfather Christian, my dad, Aunt Cindy, my godfather Ray, godmother Rosita & me. My brother had classes that day and couldn't make it.
Posted by Picasa

A Photo a Day - Nov 4

The first morning after we arrived, the two kids were sound asleep until noon. Then, jet lag kicked in that night.

Later that day, we were tricked into going to meet my grandma at her favorite hang-out because she had something important to give us. Little did we know, it was a bar. Well, my whole famiy said that of course I should have known, but I really didn't. Notice the baby in his car seat on the bar. That is OUR baby. How much more WT can you get?

Ailin took no time at all to warm up to her grandparents that she has not seen in over a year. She sees photos, so she was excited about meeting them again, but I wasn't sure until we got here.

November 5 - Now that Ailin has no problem staying home with her grandparents alone, Yusuke and I used the opportunity to steal away and get some shopping done at Antigo's biggest store, Walmart. Again with the WT! The sun was setting just as we were leaving and took this photo with our little bear baby.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 2, 2009

October Chrono Album

These are my lay outs for October 2009. All were done digitally this time. I would have liked to do half of them the traditional way (with paper & rhinestones), but since I am leaving for the USA on Nov 3, I knew that I wouldn't have a chance to make any of those pages until I return to Japan in December. I don't like to get that far behind with this album, so I created the pages as throughout the month, either in my classes or on my own. Enjoy!

My first page of each month always showcases "the details" photos, and this month, I decided to represent some photos that I am sure will be the stuff of great memories later in life (like my mom's Sunday dinners and sleeping over at Grandma's house are a couple of my best childhood memories.) Actually, this page was done for a Monthly Challenge on an egroup that I belong to called Scrapbooking in Japan. We were asked to use a song title in our lay out. The template is a freebie from Manda Girl's web site / blog. This is from her Vacation collection. The papers are from Crystal's September 2009 kit and the buttons were also designed by her. That amazing title font is called Ma Sexy.

October had 2 main events, and this was one of them. The Sports Festival at Ailin's daycare, where we showed up, she did her two events (one alone and one with Papa), and then we left. This lay out was actually an assignment for the Up & Running with Photoshop.

Omg, can I just brag here and say that this is one of my all-time favorite pages ever? It is. I used a template designed by LivEdesigns, but I changed it up a bit to accommodate the journaling. The absolutely gorgeous background paper is from Jessica's Windsong kit. In the TW2 class, we were supposed to list 3 things each day that we were grateful for. At the end of two weeks, I had quite a list and I wanted to use it! This is a good way to show my husband how extremely happy I am in our life right now.

This was the final assignment for a class called Up and Running with Photoshop on Jessica Sprague's site. It doesn't really belong in my Chrono album, but I took the photo this in October and thought I would show it here anyway. I have an album where I put lay outs for or about my husband and me, so it will probably go in there for now.

Because I am so extremely proud of all I accomplished in the Oh Shoot! Photography with Candice Stringham class, I just had to do a lay out about. I really want to remember this experience. This is a Jessica Sprague template using all papers from her Festa kit. I love how these papers work together.

First of all, here's to my sister Michele who made this gorgeous quilt in the selective recoloring portion of the photo. How awesome is that? I made this lay out for an assignment in Now We're Rockin' with Photoshop, the 2nd in Jessica's series of Photoshop classes. I just love this lay out with the torn page look. The morning after I made this lay out, my husband comment at the breakfast table how kind & charming looks when he is smiling, and I just had to laugh. "Hey, I just made a lay out about that yesterday. I'll email it to you!"

We had the best Halloween party ever for our Bilingual Kids Club, and I whipped this lay out up that very night. I tried using some of the typography techniques I learned in TW and TW2, and rather than spooky Halloween motifs in orange and black, I chose pink colors to match better with Ailn's costume. This one is called Crystal's Sweet & Scallopy Template. Crystal is a designer who works for Jessica Sprague. The papers are from Jessica's Strawberry Lemonade kit.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Freebie Holiday Class over at Jessica Sprague's


Yusuke was calling me an otaku (a geek) for about 6 weeks because I was carrying my camera every where with me. Not just my camera, but a also a bag for my camera, a little tripod & notes about white balance, lighting, etc.

I took the much-coveted Photography for Beginners with Candice Stringham course. A little on the expensive side, hard to get into as class size is limited, but so well-worth the price and effort!

With my new Canon Powershot G10, I learned how to use it on manual mode. This camera is in between a point 'n' shoot and a DSLR - you could potentially add change the lens, but the reviews are not so positive about the lenses. I didn't bother with that, but I did learn a lot about my camera settings, what all those difficult words mean, and most importantly how to get blurry backgrounds.

Here are some of my photos that I took for class assignments. I think you have seen some of these photos in my recent lay outs.

Week One: Shutter Speed

Fast shutter speed allows you to take photos of objects in motion. The object itself will appear clear in the photograph because it was frozen in time.

Slow shutter speed allows you to take photos of objects in motion as well, but you will get a lag...sometimes you want that effect. Most of time, you would prefer the fast shutter speed, esp when photographing toddlers or sporting events.

See what I mean about toddlers?

Aperture priority mode relates to the depth of field. This is how you can achieve the blurry backgrounds in photos. I really like this style, but it took me a while to get the hang of it. The photos I turned in for my assignment (above), you could barely see the difference.

Then, I went out and practiced a lot...for a whole day in Tokyo with Ailin. This turned out to be one of my favorite photos of her.

Week Three meant manual mode! I got this shot of Max and his incredible ears deep in thought at the park. This is where we put shutter speed and aperture together (along with a couple other minor things) to do a manual shot.

Then, I practiced some more on Ailin. She was dancing at the park with her friend Yako. I love this photo also.

Week 4: Focal Point was a little challenging for me, partly because I don't have a DSLR, but I think I did a fine job with this photo.


Week 5  was focusing on lighting, particularly indoor light because we often have to take photos indoors. I learned a lot in this lesson and it was so helpful. These photos were taken with no flash...simply by messing with other settings on your camera, you will not need a flash.

Week 6: Putting it all together. What can I say? I love this shot. It has all the elements I wanted to achieve, and Ailin's personality shines through. Can anyone guess what she was doing when I took this photo?

Creative Assignments
Each weekend, Candice gave us a creative assignment that we could shoot in any mode we felt like. I only did 2 of the 6 assignments as I was just so busy at that time.

Creative #1 - we were supposed to go out for a walk in the neighborhood and take photos of things from various angles. This is one of 5 photos I took.

I have shown this one before. It is my infamous "White is the color of stress" shot.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Announcement over at Jessica Sprague's web site! FREE class!

Click on the title to go directly to her site, or read below! Take this class...I implore you!
Now, never fear, if you don't have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, you can download a free trial version and use it for 30 days. After that, you can decide if you want to keep it and pay the money or not. Elements is about $70 and Photoshop CS is about $700. Big difference, but CS is geared towards professionals. I have Elements and do just fine. Jessica shows how to do stuff in both versions via video.
Here is her announcement:
Thank you to everyone who joined in our discussion at! Or tried (hehe, we tend to crash servers wherever we go, don't we, my friends?)

As promised, here is the announcement for the final class of 2009, and best of all, it's FREE! This is one that I really hope you'll invite friends and family to come participate in!
My last class of the year will be a FREE one, and EVERYONE who has a story to tell is invited. That is everyone. Hehe. ;)
New class:
December Delight: Capturing Holiday Hopes, Memories & Wonderment
November 16-23
Registration begins Monday, November 2 at
Cost: FREE!
All are welcome! - Registration is unlimited!
More graphics, details, and so forth are coming! Mark your calendar, my lovelies!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

TW Part 5

Poetry? Yuck.

That was my first reaction when we were told we had to write a poem. The theme was supposed to be "Things I know for certain." I have done similarly themed lay outs in the past, so it's never hard to come up with "advice" for others who are younger, but still! A poem!

Our instructor, Liv, talked a lot about flow, versus, descriptive language, etc. I hadn't written a poem since high school, but once I got going, I found my rhythm and was able to produce something.

The template is cool because it it versatile. Those squares could be use for photos instead and you could have 8 photos with one journaling block, or 9 photos with a little journaling or quote on a side. I love this template and plan to use it again soon!

Since this was the 2nd to last assignment, Jessica gave very little video instruction. She gave a list of what to do and then said to use the skills we had honed from previous lessons and go with it. The gallery showed so many great lay outs with great "poetry". Who knew that we could all write poems so well?

What is one thing you know for sure? Write it in the comments.

Oh, and my very favorite lay out in the gallery was about someone's dog! What her dog knows for sure. I loved it! Great idea for a Max lay out someday.

TW Part 4

The fourth assignment for this class involved a friend.

We had to do a lay out highlighting one friendship, and I chose Shannon. The story that I chose to tell in the lay out, though, is top-secret and Shannon made me promise to black it out before showing it to anyone. That includes my blog readers! Sorry, for Shannon's eyes only. But, you can read the other parts and enjoy the lovely colors and type on the lay out!

It's so lovely to have a lay out about a friend. I could have made a whole album about all the funny stories we have created together.

TW Part 3

Type + Writer's Assignment 3 tells the story of one week of our lives. As a pre-assignment for the class, we were asked to take one photo a day for the first week of the class. We were supposed to use these photos in our One Week lay out.

In the Journaling portion of this class, we had to really work to summarize each day into a very very short paragraph. This really helped me realize what was the most important aspect of each day and then write one sparse, but descriptive sentence about it. I quite enjoyed this challenge.

Here is the lay out for One Week.

Obviously, this lay out will go right into my Chrono Album for October. Lucky me.

How has your week been so far? Could you summarize each day into one simple sentence?

TW 2 Part 2

Type + Writer Assignment #2 involved using photos of ourselves. I guess they think that scrapbookers often neglect to make lay outs about themselves.

The theme pertained to how things change or stay the same over the years. This was very fun to do. We had to think back to our teenage years, dig up an old photo, and list a variety of details about ourselves. What we liked to do, where we hung out, who were hung out with, what was important to us, what we liked to eat or drink, etc. Compare that to NOW, and then also make a list of some of the things that have not changed. I had so much fun with this one, I decided to balance it with a lay out about Yusuke. He loved getting, really.


So, my challenge to you today. In the comments, think of 3 details about your teenage self, compare that to what you are like now, and then list 3 things about you that have NOT changed! I'll be interested to read your comments.

TW 2 Part 1

Type + Writer 2 online course started right after TW1 finished.

This class, with the same instructors, takes you deeper into your writing as well as the art of typography. In terms of writing, we covered aspects such as good opening lines, endings, topic sentences, & de-cluttering. (There's that word again! In writing, de-cluttering would refer to ridding your sentences of all the extra words. For example, instead of writing, "At this point in time, I really need to use the toilet badly," you would write, "I need to use the toilet now.") Why did I just use a toilet example. Hold that thought.

Okay, for typography, we covered the how-tos of pull-quotes, masking letters with patterned paper, using type as a clipping mask, using font to create scalloped borders, and much much more. I bet you don't know what some of that stuff means...if you are curious, I really recommend this class!

Here are the lay outs I created for the class:

Assignment #1 - An Adventure
For this assignment, we were asked to look back on an adventure that we had at one time in our lives. I honestly could not come up with something that I had NOT scrapbooked about yet, so I took on a slightly different challenge. I wanted to see if I could create 4 useful lay outs at the same time on Photoshop Elements - all 4 are about different adventures I have had, and all 4 will be used in my scrapbooks. Each page, though using the same template, comes out looking quite different. I made some changes to the 3rd and 4th lay outs to make a double spread and because they will go in the same album. Here goes!

This is a recent adventure I had that will go in my Chrono album for October.

This is an adventure I shared long long ago with my husband! It will go in our Love Story album, which I have recently started.

This is a double lay out covering our Silver Week Adventures, featuring Papa, and will go in our Chrono Album. I changed it up in several ways, but it is still the same basic lay out.

Had any adventures lately? Tell me in the comments section!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Let's Talk Organizing

I have mentioned in passing about one of the classes I took called Organizing 101. This through simply 101, a web site run by Aby Garvey and her husband Jay.

Well, I have to admit first and foremost, that I love to organize things. However, I am a Cancer so this means that although I cherish my home and enjoy "making a nice home", I tend to have very messy hidden areas. Well, this also holds true for my personality - on the outside, I may seem like a goal-oriented A-type, but on the inside, I am more like a flustered mass of confusion who has many good intentions. I like the outside of me better.

Anyway, back on track here. Last Xmas, Shannon gave me the book "The Organized & Inspired Scrapbooker, co-written by Aby Garvey & Wendy Smedley. Great book! I read it over New Year's and by the end of January, I had a perfectly organized and revamped Scrapbooking corner. It is holding up very well thanks to the new habits I developed because of that book. So, I kept Aby Garvey on my watch-list, knowing she worked as a professional organizer, and in August, I noticed she was offering a freebie course through her web site.

It was a one-week course all about decluttering, and the basic idea was to de-clutter for 15 minutes a day and then report your progress to the forum. You could also put before & after photos in the gallery.

It was great because Aby was involved on the forum every day, giving encouragement, advice & answering questions about what to throw out and what to keep.

It was here that I began to tackle my walk-in closet. At that time, I was calling it "the walk-in closet disaster zone from hell." I couldn't even walk into it much less get anything out of it. I also went after my fridge, the veranda, and several other areas of my house. I had done a big de-cluttering about a year ago, so some areas were not so bad. But, you would be surprised that within one year, some areas can get really cluttered up again. It is mainly a case of things not being put back where they belong, things not really having a home to go to, and things not being thrown out even though they should be.

After this class, I signed up for her Organizing 101 class. This is a 6-week course where she releases one lesson per week and we are supposed to participate in the forum each day to report our progress on de-cluttering & on our organizing projects. The gallery had a spot for before & after photos, containers, & labeling ideas.

I know what you are thinking. Why would someone need to take a 6 week course on line to teach them how to organize their house?

I can't even begin to tell you how much I learned in this class. I got so many great ideas from Aby & from other students in the course. The forum provides a positive atmosphere for feedback, encouragement & advice. I think that when women are trying to get control of their own homes, they often feel alone, but this forum provides a way for people to share their feelings about throwing stuff out, starting over, making new homes for their items, pride over all their progress, etc....even if no one in their family cares or notices it.

I have to tell you though that my husband did notice the changes! And, he was very happy to see all the labels I made. And, I think many of Aby's students had the same experience...our family members were noticing! But, just having the forum was so want to do something because you can go and report it on the forum that night. That kind of thing works for me!



As part of the class, we were to choose one small organizing project and then follow Aby's process for paring down and organizing it. I did the top drawer of my file cabinet which sits under my computer desk. I also included my computer desk in the project. What a difference containers make!

Then, she encourages students to continue doing small organizing projects around their house using this process until we are satisfied.

While the class was still going on, I worked on organizing "the walk-in closet disaster zone from hell." The walk-in closet got a new name. It is now called a storage room and it looks very neat and tidy.

Midway through.


I also worked on my kitchen cupboards, the kids' room and the Command Center. I will explain more about that later. The kids' room is an ongoing project because I still have some stuff to do in there that will have to wait until Dec or Jan.

                                      Command Center - Midway through
The Command Center is the place in the house where all information is filtered in and out. It is also the place to keep stuff that people take with them when they go out - cell phones, ipods, watches, etc. Most importantly, it houses the family calendar, shopping lists, a binder for important information, etc. This too is an ongoing project, but in this class, I worked on decluttering it and re-organizing it a bit in preparation for my next simplify 101 class.

I am hooked on simplify 101, so I decided to sign up for her next class, "Paper Clutter."

Some of you may know that I had a huge Paper clutter mountain in my house about 2 years ago and then finally found a way to dig myself out of the mountain. I took on this mammoth project while I was on maternity leave with Ailin and had it under control by the time I returned to work. I even wrote an article about it for the AFWJ Journal.

Even though my backlog papers are under control, and I have some systems in place which keep me out of out danger paper mountain, I still felt I needed tweaking to help control the inflow of paper.

The PC class is going well, but we are only half way through. My main focus is to create the Command Center and to also create some systems for controlling inflow. So far so good.

I very highly recommend simply 101 if you are looking to organize your house and/or paper. I took these classes because I want to have a smooth-running house by the time I go back to work in April, so my goal for finishing all the projects on my Master List is set for March 15th. I am making a little progress every day.

In January, Aby is offering a class about goals which I do plan to take. Currently, she has a class about getting ready for the holidays.