Thursday, February 18, 2010

Personal Pages

Sometimes, I make scrapbook pages about my own stuff - things that don't really belong in the Chronological Family Album. I usually put these in an scrapbook I call "ME Album", but the pages are not just about ME. Sometimes, they are about my friends, my mom, my grandparents, my husband, our past, etc.

Today, I am going to show some of the ME pages that I have made recently, specifically those pages from Cathy Zielske's Design Your Life class.

Here goes:

Many online classes start with a pre-assignment that is optional. For the DYL class, this was our pre-assignment. It was pretty free, but the basic idea was to express WHY you love to do scrapbooking.
I used the Windsong kit from Jessica Sprague - another kit that gets pulled from a lot because the colors are so gorgeous. The quote "Creativity is Love moving Forward" is actually from Sheila Asato, owner of the blog Monkeybridge Arts, and was part of her thesis statement for her Masters degree. Absolutely brilliant, I thought, when I first heard that and it now has a place right in my field of vision on my inspiration board which sits just beyond my computer monitor.

In the DYL, one assignment a week focuses on color combinations from the real world. Cathy usually gives us the color combination - sometimes from ads, local restaurant decor, Target pillow cases, whatever. This combination was blue, orange and brown. I can't remember what the source was. Luckily, I had a photo of my mom standing in front of a background using those same colors, and I had been wanting to do a lay out about my mom, so this worked out.

This is a double lay out for Real World Color, using pink and orange. It's a little too loud for my taste, but I do love orange, and I just happened to have photos that sort of went with the color scheme. Oh, this photo from my college days - let me explain here - I came across it one day recently and thought, "This photo needs to be scrapbooked, but where? How?" I got the idea to do a Then and Now theme from the class's gallery as someone else had done the same thing. Perfect for this because these days I feel SO FAR away from that sexy 21 year old girl. And, to give credit to the other two sexy girls in the college photo: Amy O. in the gold velveteen shirt and Shannon in the argyle skirt. Yes, circa 1996, we WERE sexy, girls! 

Don't be jealous, Yusuke, but I have found someone else. What a perfect way to express my most current love. I think this lay out design is supposed to show open white space, so you can see the HUGE margins there cause your eye to focus more on what's really important.

Another scrapbook page about something I love: Decoupage. This lay out design focuses on unity. It's not just the big margins, but also the way the photos sort of flow and show a united front.

Finally, in honor of the Olympics, I made this page just for own pleasure! It is now on my computer desktop. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the color scheme of the Olympics this year. I am dying over the backboards on all the events. I am watching partly so I can see those absolutely gorgeous backboards. If these colors make me so happy, I thought why not make a ME page using them. What better way to utilize this color combo than to make a page about my Authentic Happiness results.

Last fall, I took a test on line for this web site, run by the University of Pennsylvania. Positive Psychology is a huge phenomenon and is basically the study about what makes people happy and how communities thrive. I took the survey for Character Strengths and it showed me my top 5 character strengths. I saved this list and wanted to make a page about it someday, so here it is.

By the way, there are 24 Character Strengths. Go ahead and take the survey to find out yours. You might be surprised at the results!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Check me out! Interview over at Simply Modern Mom

Tiffany over at Simply Modern Mom is doing an international theme in honor of the Olympics, and she interviewed me.

Please check it out and take a look at her cute blog too! Then, start taking part in the Date Night challenge. It is never too late to start having date nights with your spouse!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Birthday Princess Part 2

This year, I chose the the princess theme because A. there were princess-themed party supplies in the stores during my travels to the USA and B. Ailin has recently become interested in fairy tales such as Sleeping Beauty & Cinderella. One of the BKC members lent me a book that hashes out various party themes and we found a Cinderella one that we altered for 3 year olds. 

The theme colors were pink and blue as those colors often show up in the dresses of various Disney princesses, and pink and blue are both easy frosting colors for the cake. As I was printing off Disney princess clip art in order to make posters for the decorations, Yusuke commented on how adamant I was to NOT expose Ailin to all characters & character-related toys when she was born. Why did I change my mind? Well, for one thing, Disney characters are different from Japanese manga characters. And, for another thing, it can't be avoided. She found out about Anpanman but not because I taught her about him. She was bound to find out about Disney sooner or later. Better get it over with now. She is already asking for a cake shaped like a purple purse for next year!

The menu included roast beef, Island Garden salad, my own special pasta recipe & taco dip. Yoko was nice enough to make the taco dip for the party so that I could concentrate on the rest of the menu.

The guests were our BKC members. Only 2 members could not come because one is out of the country for a while and the other just had a baby. We had 6 members, including me, join the party, so it was a nice comfortable atmosphere. The kids are used to playing together and they are used to the activities we usually do.

First, Anna, who was in charge of the craft activity, had the kids decorate their own crowns. I used a template that I saw on the internet, and it worked well. I found these jewel stickers at a 100 yen shop. Each child chose her color and went to town on decorating the crowns.

Here is Ailin and Papa with her finished crown.

Some may wonder what Papa was doing during the party. He wanted to make a quick exit, but he stayed in the morning to help with cleaning, then he took Max out for a long walk, then put Luka down for a nap and left about 1/2 way through the party. He was a big help.

Next on our agenda was to teach the kids some vocabulary words. Mariko was in charge of making the flash cards and leading this activity.

Meanwhile, Ailin, being her typical self, was attacking the taco dip.

Unfortunately, I have no photos of the next activity. Yoko read the Cinderella story to the kids. This was the Usborne version from a book of several fairy tale stories. Great book!

Yusuke came back from his walk with Max, and we tied Max up to the table so he could join the party but not be a danger to the toddlers.

At some point, the fairy godmother (Grace) came out with a box of dress up clothes and invited the kids to a ball. She helped them choose their dresses for the ball. The boys were already dressed up, but they found some accessories to go with their outfits.

Then, the music started and the kids danced around the room. We played a compilation CD I found on iTunes called "Disney Princesses." Ailin loves the theme song from Sleeping Beauty because I often sing it to her as we pretend to waltz around the room. Other songs on this CD are good too, so we played a few, letting the kids have fun showing off their pretty gowns.

Here, Ailin is dancing with Yako (Yoko's daughter).

Before leaving for the day, Yusuke was nice enough to snap this awesome photo of all of us. Look at all that pink!

Then, I brought out the cake along with several small bowls of sprinkle decorations and we let the kids decorate the ball gown.

Here she is ... Miss America, again. This time, she is a bit taller as I added a fake cardboard layer to the bottom. The 2nd batch of ganache topping did not turn out as well - it was too runny and shiny because I didn't whip it enough. I had to hurry when I decorated the cake because it was running down the sides and I needed to get it into the fridge ASAP. Other than that, the decoration turned out okay and the taste was great.

How many times did I yell at Ailin for sneaking tastes of the cake frosting? I hope she remembers some of the other details of the day and not my monster face when I yelled and chased after her! But, just before cutting the cake, I let her sneak this taste so I could get a photo of it for my scrapbook.

I just included this photo so you could see the fake cardboard layer. If I had had more cake mix, I would have made a 3rd real layer. I'll know that for next time. I also should have carved the top of her ball gown a bit to make it look more realistic. I'll probably never have a need to create a princess cake again, but it sure was a fun experience.

Amy D. was a huge help and I seriously could not have done it without her input and advice. Thanks so much, Amy!

Birthday Princess Part 1

Here she is ... Miss America! We had two parties for Ailin both in the same weekend. The first was just for Yusuke's parents, so I decided to make a "practice cake" in preparation for the big "to do" that would take place the following day.

After 2 or 3 weeks of online coaching via email from Amy D., I felt confident enough to give it a try. Amy suggested making ganache for the frosting since Japanese people often complain about the sweetness of American frosting. We settled on ganache for the main topping and then typical sweet buttercream frosting for the decoration. In case you did not know (as I did not know also!), ganache is simply a mixture of heavy cream and chocolate, in this case, white chocolate. It is addicting...I must warn you of that before you try making it yourself!

I have no photos of the process of making this cake because our camera was MIA at the time, and thankfully, everyone was sleeping when I did the frosting!

I made 2 layers for this cake. The bottom layer in the oven and the top layer in the rice cooker to get that nice rounded effect. I don't have a shaped cake pan, and I wasn't sure I would be able to carve a nice shape myself. Making cakes in the rice cooker is easy. Just mix the ingredients as you normally would and pour the batter into the rice cooker pan. Put the rice cooker through 3 cycles. It varies depending on the rice cooker, so you'll have to test with a toothpick for doneness. My new rice cooker has a cake setting on it, but actually, our previous cooker did a better job steaming the cakes AND the shape of the pan was nicer.

Okay, this entry is not supposed to be about the cake I made. It is supposed to be about Ailin's birthday, so here we go.

My MIL agreed to cook the entire birthday dinner as long as we could have the party at her house, so we packaged up the cake with long skewer toothpicks and saran wrap and very carefully transported her over the MIL's house, along with the two kids, a few presents and the drinks.

MIL made an array of deep-fried foods, spaghetti, soup, salad & rice. Yes, I know. You probably didn't believe me before, but deep-fried food DOES exist in Japanese cuisine. And, why she made rice & spaghetti in one meal is a mystery to me, but this is not the first time, so I am over complaining about it.

As you can see, I am very happy and relieved that the cake turned out and that Ailin seems excited by it. Yes, she was excited and couldn't wait to get her hands on it, but once she blew out the candles, she lost interest and didn't eat much.

Her presents included things like a classic Mickey Mouse DVD set from MIL, some doll clothes from Grandma & Grandpa (my parents), a zoo lego set & a winter coat from us. Grandma and Grandpa also gave her a new doll, but she didn't open that until the next day.

After arriving home from the party & putting the kids to bed, I set to work frosting the 2nd cake. Yusuke, who was watching TV during that time, also watched the decorating process from afar. He seemed impressed, to say the least.

Birthday cakes are to Western moms what obentos are to Japanese moms. We take this art seriously, don't we? (Or we custom order it.) Japanese moms make these these works of art, but actually they are boxed lunches complete with character faces, animal shapes, etc. I have to make these obentos once a month for daycare, but I definitely don't put as much effort into them. Certainly not months planning and weeks of studying before the big day! 

Monday, February 15, 2010

December Lay Outs (Let's get 2009 over with!)

Okay, I am ready to put up my last 2009 lay outs. There are only 4 for December as we didn't do too much this year.

The main event besides Xmas was that my mom visited for one week when she returned to Japan with me and the kids. Her week here was filled with shopping, puttering around the house and my various doctor appointments. We did go and have dinner at my host family's house though, so that was probably one of the highlights. (My host brother announced that he and his gf are expecting a baby and they were planning to get hitched soon. My mom and I were all geared up to attend the wedding, but I found out later that they went to city hall the following week and tied the knot, so I guess there will be no big wedding extravaganza. All for the best though. He seems really pumped about starting a family, and his gf seems really sweet.)

Okay, so here we go! Remember that you can click on the lay outs to view them up close.

For this lay out, I used the Winter Breeze kit by LivE Designs, something that I pull from frequently because all the papers and elements are so gorgeous. This is a Jessica Sprague template that I bought specifically with this theme in mind.

A few days before Xmas, Yusuke surprised me with a trip to Korea...for himself! I was a little shocked, but then realized that we had agreed on separate vacations a few times a year. This means that he can travel to other countries in Asia (countries that I cannot and don't want to travel to with kids) and I can travel around Japan to visit AFWJ buddies without having to worry about whether Yusuke will be bored. So, I made this cool lay out for him using Jessica Sprague's Echoes of Asia kit. I love this lay out for some reason! This is a Jen Caputo template (from Studio Jen) that I picked up somewhere along the way and had in my collection. Perfect for this topic.

This is a double lay out featuring the same photos I sent out in an email to many of my friends and family members. I tried to use the same story that I wrote in the email, but it was too long and I had to edit extensively. It took me a long time to work on this title too. I was trying to give it a sticker effect but couldn't remember how to do it, and I had to go back to one of the Type Writer class videos to study the technique again. I used the Katie Pertiet Snow Fun kit for this lay out. This is a Creativity by Crystal template that I altered slightly to fit my needs.

Again, the Katie Pertiet Snow Fun kit. This lay out design was one of our assignments for the Design Your Life class, and I think we were learning about repetition during that week. I was very lucky here because Ailin's Xmas dress (a present from her godmother, Shannon) matched perfectly with this paper!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Date Night (Project 52) #4

Since Ailin's birthday parties are next weekend, I figured I'd be too busy to do anything special for Valentine's Day. In Japan, the girl is supposed to do something for her "man," so I decided to take the reigns and asked Yusuke if he would like to celebrate Valentine's a week early. He was game.

I decided on a whim to buy a little fondue pot and all the fixings for chocolate fondue. Fondue must be the in thing this year because fondue pots, chocolate sets, cheese sets, etc. can be found anywhere these days. (I had never experienced fondue before!)

After the kids went to bed, I prepared the plate of fruit and bread & made the chocolate using heavy cream and dark chocolate bars. The activity that I had planned went with this box you see in the picture. I wrote date night ideas on separate index cards and also added some blank cards. I was going to introduce the box to him, brainstorm some more ideas together and I figured this would magically lead to wonderful conversation.

I learned a few things from this date.
We had had a heavy, late steak dinner, so he was full and didn't feel much like eating fruit & chocolate. (Consider dinner menu when deciding the date menu.)

He got bored of eating the chocolate after about 4 bites. (Note that he might not be in the mood for tons of melted chocolate.)

He loved the idea of the box of date night cards, and he quickly added his own ideas to the mix. One idea he wrote down was to watch a soccer game together. Gre-e-e-at. Just what I wanna do, but let's keep an open mind. He balked at my idea of baking cookies together. (Note that his idea of a fun date may not be my idea of a fun date and vice versa.)

The conversation quickly halted when he got up to go and smoke outside and then came back to sit on the couch. He wanted to watch the DVD we had rented. Only 15 minutes had passed since the start of our date. (Make a plan B, so we can keep talking once plan A is finished.)

It was a good movie, by the way. "He's Just Not That Into You" is a relationship drama/comedy starring an ensemble cast of famous and not-so-famous actors. Just the kind of movie I like, and surprisingly Yusuke was seriously amused by it as well.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cleaning Prompts & Rewards

Yes, you should reward yourself for cleaning the house, but I'll get to that later.

And, yes, you clean freaks out there, some of us DO need prompts to remind us what we are supposed to be doing, otherwise we would just sit at the computer all day and update our facebooks.

I made this cleaning schedule last fall and after returning for the USA in December, I decided to test it out for practicality. I printed my cleaning schedule on yellow paper and hung it on my Command Center whiteboard.

It did NOT work. I think I chose to ignore it most of the time. I did check it every day to see what needed to be done, but I would soon forget about it.

Then, I remembered the Holiday in Hand class over at Jessica Sprague. I took part in this class in November, and one of the first tasks we did, was print off 31 holiday prompt cards, one for each day in December. The cards were designed by Jessica and we had to fill one or two tasks for each day - all tasks were of course related to Xmas preparations. She urged us to hang the prompt cards in a prominent place so that we would remember to do the tasks. One notable thing was that the prompt cards were so cute, and we were encouraged to decorate the clipboard from which the prompt cards hung - making the whole display very eye-catching. I couldn't help but notice my lovely clipboard and prompts every time I walked by. 

Then, it occurred to me. Why not make days-of-the-week prompt cards for cleaning. If they are cute enough, perhaps I won't ignore them. I quickly set to work on photoshop and came up with these. I printed them onto white cardstock and they are hanging on a clipboard in my kitchen.
Notice the present test. It is the direct reminder to the sub-conscious mind that you are supposed to be doing such and such. The first statement on each sheet is my goal statement regarding our cleaning routine.

Notice the fact that hot zones stay the same each day, but the part in blue changes depending on the day.

This kind of cleaning schedule is easy to divvy up with your spouse or partner.

Notice that dusting, vacuuming and mopping do not take place on the same day, but rather in the order you would do them if they occurred on the same day.

Now, let's talk about rewards. Some would say that having a clean home is reward enough. Others would say that cleaning is part of the deal and you should do it anyway reward or not. (My husband is one of those people.) I would say that you fully deserve a reward for cleaning if that motivates you.

I chose the following rewards:
If I can get through a week and do all my tasks, on the weekend, I reward myself with a DVD rental of MY choice, a restaurant outing of MY choice OR if it has been a particularly grueling week, a simple kahlua & coke. (Okay, I would do that last one whether I cleaned or not - hey, nobody's perfect.)

Now, for monthly chores, I found that ONE reward is all I need. If I can do my monthly task, then I will schedule a phone call with Shannon. Since Shannon and I talk about once a month anyway, this reward seems especially compelling to me. You can bet that I am going to do the monthly task at the beginning of the month just to get that out of the way if it means I can call Shannon.

Let me know if you've come up with your own cleaning schedules or if something like this is helpful to you!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Creating a Cleaning Routine

For those who have a spic 'n' span clean house and who seem to have no problem keeping their house looking like a photo from House Beautiful, this entry is not for you.

For everyone else, here is one way that I found to keep me on track with cleaning my house.

As part of my quest to get organized by March 15, 2010 just before returning to work full time, I devised this cleaning routine - partially with the help of the Simplify 101 (org 101) class. I am currently trying it out to make sure it works. So far so good.

A friend recently complained that he and his partner often argued about housework, and I can see how this issue comes up again and again whether both are working or not. I think that in my case, cleaning is going to come under MY umbrella of responsibility whether I like it or not - I am the queen of my own home. So, I want to pass this routine idea on to you, fellow readers, and see if it might help others like me.

Step 1: Look around your house and take note of the hot spots.
Hot spots are those areas of your house that seem to collect clutter on a daily basis. Not only do they collect clutter, but they really bother you for whatever reason. For me, it was the kitchen table, the kitchen counter, the bathroom counter & the entry way.

Another hot spot you might consider is "incoming paper", which ideally should be taken care of daily so it doesn't start to overwhelm you. You can call this "unprocessed paper."

In total, I had 5 hot spots, including the unprocessed paper box.

Step 2: Then, look at areas of your house which need to be straightened up weekly - places that don't really bother you but are well-used and could use a little tidying boost regularly.

For me, I chose 5 places - the computer & scrapbooking desks, the kids' books, the kids' toys, the bedrooms and the veranda.

Step 3: Think of 5 jobs that, if done on a weekly basis, would really help make your house seem very very clean - ready for guests at any time. Some of these jobs could be broken down so that they equal 5.

I chose the following jobs: dusting, washing of mirrors & metal surfaces, vacuuming, wiping floors. That's only four, so I added the grooming of Max and tidying of his room to the list.

Step 4: Take note of the jobs that need to get done on a daily basis in your house but are already a habit to you. For me, this was washing dishes, doing laundry, preparing Ailin's bag for daycare. (People who do not wash their dishes daily (and you know who you are) may need to put "dishes" on their hot spot list!)

Step 5: Now, put it all together into a do-able routine. Easier said than done.

You now have a hot spots list. You have 5 things that need to be done once a week & 5 more things that need to be "tidied" or "decluttered" once a week.

Decide a logical order for the 2nd and 3rd lists & pair them with days of the week.

The order I chose for cleaning & decluttering. (Note: d/c stands for "decluttering"):

1.    Max – tidy room & groom him
2.    d/c Scrapbooking & computer desks

1.    Dust all surfaces
2.    d/c toy areas

1.    Wipe mirrors, windows & metal surfaces
2.    d/c kids’ books

1.    Vacuum
2.    d/c bedrooms

1.    Wipe floors
2.    d/c veranda

Step 6: Obviously, a few things are missing from these lists. The ideal thing would be to keep your weekends free so you can have fun with your family and pursue hobbies. So, save jobs that take very little time for the weekends, and if skipped, will still allow you to enjoy a clean home.

My weekend jobs include the following:
Clean vents & filters (in bathroom and ceilings)
Do extra laundry (sheets, air out futons)

Step 7: Then there are decluttering or cleaning jobs that need to be done but on a less regular basis, say every 3 months or maybe only 1x a year. As you make your list, think about the best order for these jobs and pair them with the 12 months of the year.

Here is my list of those jobs:

Clean Stove & Filter
Clean & wash down Veranda
Declutter Meds/Shoes/Toys
Clean Stove & Filter
Clean & wash down Veranda
Declutter Books/DVDs
Clean Stove & Filter
Clean & wash down Veranda
Declutter Meds/Shoes/Toys
Clean Stove & Filter
Clean & wash down Veranda
Declutter Seasonal Decorations

Golden Week & Silver Week (May & October)
Seasonal Clothing, blankets

1. Bathe Max
2. Vacuum under couch & cushions

See my next post for Cleaning Prompts & Rewards!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

November Lay Outs on Display

These are the lay outs for my Chronological Album - November 2009. I made all of them in the first month of the Design Your Life class at Big Picture Scrapbooking. In this class, Cathy Zielske teaches about the basic principles of design, and each week we have to create 3 lay outs based on the principle focused on for that week. The lay out designs are provided by her. Many of the students are doing traditional scrapbooking, but I chose to do all digital pages for her class, just to get more practice with Photoshop. She also provides photoshop templates for people like me. Remember that you can click on each to enlarge and read the journaling,

Nature Girl or Diva?
This is a double lay out. Can you guess the design principle for this lay out? Balance.


Foodilicious was also made for the Balance week. Notice how both sides of the lay out takes up the same amount of space.

Luka's Dedication ceremony
Here, the focus was on balance too - asymmetrical balance. Pretty tricky, right?

Door County
Here again, asymmetrical balance. This is a 12x12 lay out, but the gutter (where you would have to cut it to put it in a 12x12 photo album) goes straight through the photos. We had to make sure to choose photos that would not cut anyone in half.

Here, we were focusing on repetitive elements. What repeats through out my lay out here? There are at least 4 things.

I guess that pretty much represents my month of November. You saw my lay outs for the Trips Home album a few posts ago, so the combination of all these lay outs gives a really good idea of how we spent our month in the USA last year. Wish it could have lasted longer, but I am glad to be back in my regular routine here. Routine is comfortable for me.