Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chicago for the Weekend - A Travel Vlog!

I had so much fun making my Toronto travel Vlog that I decided to take my camera and a better SD card along to a weekend trip I took with my mom in Chicago.


We checked out a cupcake ATM, looked at Christmas Decorations, went shopping, and went down to China Town! It was a great, but short, visit to a cold city!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Travel ABCs

I don't really post long blocks of text very often on my blog. I prefer pictures, (or a video these days!) and a couple of paragraphs. But, when I saw this on Yalanda's blog, Laugh Anyway, I couldn't resist. I try to make a dedicated point of remembering things - I'll actually sit there and it'll look like I'm doing nothing but I'm actually conjuring memories and re-enforcing them and the details of things in my brain. And some of my favorite memories are travel memories. This was a great exercise in pulling up some long forgotten, rusty memories, and it allowed me to dig through pictures of some of the trips I've taken in my life that I haven't peeked at in a while!

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Canyonlands National Park, Utah, 2012
(a)ge you went on your first international trip: When I was 18 months old my family moved to the Philippines! I don't really even remember it! I do remember lots of flying later in my childhood, though - Philippines to London, via Frankfurt, back and forth between the states and the Philippines, and so on. This was back in the day when your friends could wait with you at the airport gate and you could peek into the cockpit and chat with the pilots halfway through an international flight if you were a bored child.
(b)est foreign beer you’ve had and where: I wish I could drink beer! Celiac can be kind of a bummer...
(c)usine [favorite]: I have to say I love Thai food above all other cuisines. After that is Korean, Japanese, and then Philipino, in that order. Clearly I spent my formative years in southeast Asia...
(d)estinations- favorite, least favorite, & why: Of the places I've gone to I have loved Paris the most. I know everyone thinks it's over rated and expensive and the Parisians are rude and all that but my trip to Paris with my sister was a dream. A perfect 1860's apartment with carved marble fire places, parquet floors, and corniced ceilings near the St. Michelle, a generous host, and the entire grey City of Lights and the Eiffel Tower and the wet streets and the street lamps reflecting and the fashionable ladies with drivers getting out of their town cars and scarves and coats and kids sitting in front of the Notre Dame at two in the morning breakdancing and watching and yelling and bottles of champagne to finish the trip off with. To be young and to be there... Paris is indeed the movable feast.

Now my least favorite...that's a hard one. I don't think I haven't liked anywhere I've gone. Some places have surprised me more than others (I did not, for example, expect to fall in love with Japan hardcore when we were there in 2009 because I had written it off as the land of anime) but there hasn't been a place I haven't liked.

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Singapore, 2009
(e)vent you experienced that made you say wow: There have been so many because I am easily awestruck. I think maybe some of the strange things out in the desert and maybe the stars at night in the middle of Utah and that warm, inky blue darkness and the Meteor shower coming down in all directions, tiny scattered stars blazing their way across the sky, flaring and dying against the background of the milky way splashed above it, bleeding light in every direction. 
(f)avorite mode of transportation: Trains. With Internet. The most civilized way to travel distances these days. 

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Somewhere outside of Anchorage, Alaska, 2013 (This photo was taken at 2:00 AM!! This was the darkest it got our whole trip!)
(g)reatest feeling while traveling: I think that feeling of just being somewhere different, and in everything, learning. Adjusting, and changing as a person. The best trips are the trips where you are better because you've gone.  
(h)ottest place you’ve ever traveled to: Manila, the Philippines, in the summer. Oooh yeah, equatorial countries in the summer sure know how to make you suffer! 

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Point Reyes, California, 2010
(i)ncredible service you’ve experienced: I've been to some outstanding hotels - there was one in New Orleans that sticks out in my brain, The Roosevelt, as being a terrific place with impeccable service. We always stay at the Hilton Garden Inn outside Toronto and the front desk staff know us by name and are incredibly nice and always hold our luggage on Sundays so we can walk around the city unencumbered. The true gold star service award goes, without a doubt, to the resort we stayed at in Peurta Vallarta, Casa Velas. The resort is amazing to begin with. The staff are wonderful and took care of everything. Beyond that, though, while I was staying there I got stung by a sting ray and needed to go to the Emergency room in Mexico. I was at the detached beach and the cabana boys, bartenders, and beach people dropped everything to help me. They phoned the main resort and got me a driver, a car, a translator, sent the hotel manager along with me and my friends, and helped me negotiate the medical system in a country where I did not speak the language. They waited at the hospital while the nurses dealt with the sting ray sting, helped me get the two prescriptions I needed (antibiotics, because the stingray barbs carry bad bacteria), and made sure I was doing OK for the rest of the stay because my mobility was limited with the stingray barb. Truly top notch service. I've never experienced anything like it anywhere and we've stayed in some super pricy places!

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Ouray, Colorado, 2012
(j)ourney that took the longest: Milwaukee to Manila. Via LAX, usually. 
(k)eepsake from your travels: I always buy wearables. Repeat places tend to get things along a theme - Santa Fe and Moab each have a piece of Silver and Turquoise Jewelry. Major cities like Paris and Tokyo get major wearables - a winter coat in Tokyo and a dress in Paris, an evening gown in Singapore and Penang. I also buy cosmetic wherever I go... but that may be more of a compulsion and less of a keepsake. 


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Penang, Malaysia, 2009
(l)et-down sight, where & why: I can't think of any place I've ever been let down by. Maybe Marseilles? But it was more just a rough interaction with a person and unfortunate timing because they were rioting in the suburbs and the ones we had to get through were on fire than the actual city being terrible. 
(m)oment when you fell in love with travel: I think travel was such a normal thing when I was a kid because of how much we moved. It was like breathing for us for many years. I think the moment I realized I needed it was when I stopped doing it very often. I took it for granted, that's for sure, because it was a way of life for my family. When I got married, though, I realized my husband wasn't much of a traveler. I think I had assumed everyone who was adventurous like traveling but I realized it wasn't like that. He liked adventuring but what qualified as an adventure was different for him. He likes activities that involve the risk of breaking his neck. I like getting lost in new places where I don't speak the language. So...I guess I realized I was in love with it when it was gone. We've come to a compromise - I just go by myself or with friends now but it took many years of being married and trying to negotiate him coming with me to get there! 
(n)icest hotel you’ve stayed at: I've stayed at some nice hotels but truly some much nicer houses, among them a privately owned tutor era hunting house in the UK, that Paris Apartment I mentioned above, and several other lovely private homes of people who have opened their doors to me and my family as we've gone around the world. 
(o)bsession- what do you take photos of while traveling: People. I want people in the pictures because often, at the end of the day, it's not where you were, it was who you were with. 
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Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Tennessee, 2009

(p)assport stamps- 32, in all four passports. 
(q)uirkiest attraction you’ve visited & where: Dollywood. The Dolly Parton Theme Park in TN. There's truly nothing else like it in the world. I love it so much. Every time we visit relatives near it we try to make time to stop there and ride the roller coasters. 
(r)eally frightening- a place where you felt unsafe or uneasy: Marseilles. My sister and I were followed by a crazy man who was grabbing at us up and down the streets of that city until we went into a bank (the first open building we could find) and explained to the guy at the front desk that we were being followed. He went outside and chased the old coot away and then we decided to go home because we had had enough of Marseilles. On the ride home we were stuck in terrible traffic - the suburbs were rioting at the time and they were burning things down so the smoke from the buildings on fire was floating over the interstate and making it hard to see and creating a terrible traffic jam. Just a rough travel day, but we had gone to try to see the ocean and oh, that Mediterranean Sea. She sure is beautiful.


Rust and the Desert
Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2011
(s)plurge- something you have no problem spending on while traveling: Clothes. Jewelry. Because I'm going to wear it again and again, and again. I don't buy souvenirs that are little decorative things because I like minimalist looking homes, but my closet is ever-expanding. 

The Second San Fransisco Day
San Francisco, CA, 2010
(t)ouristy thing you’ve done: There are so many. JR and I love touristy things. We went whale watching in Prince William Sound in Alaska on one of those dinner cruise boats, except we brought our own dinner because I read the boat dinner was terrible (totally the way to go!) 
(u)nforgettable travel memory: JR and I randomly went to an old temple in Japan. Totally unexpectedly because he had a very, very long layover (almost 24 hours). After we got some sleep in a teeny tiny little hotel we started wandering the outskirts of Tokyo. The garden of the temple we visited had been cultivated for over a thousand years. I had never been to a thousand year old garden before and the whole thing was so beautifully landscaped and fresh, timeless but also old in a way that I hadn't experienced before. Everything was purposeful, nothing was wasted. It was tranquil and serene and hushed and I couldn't believe that the people who lived at the temple were doing the same work someone had done a thousand years earlier. I think that visiting Japan was a completely pivotal moment in my life in a lot of ways, and the garden had a lot to do with it. 

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Arches National Park, Utah, 2011
(v)isas- how many and for where: six for the Philippines since we lived there for seven years (and a declaration card from traveling there the 90s, too, shoved in one of my old passports!), one for Japan. 
(w)ine- best glass while traveling: I don't really drink much so I don't really remember! 
e(x)cellent view & from where: The Eiffel Tower - the lights of Paris at night are no joke! A band called Geographer sings a really great song about it and it has a line that goes, "The roofs of the city like an ocean spread for miles..." and even though the song is kind of sad it's really lovely to have it help me remember that view! 
Also, instead of going to Canyonlands National Park in Zion, UT, go to the nearby Dead Horse Point State Park. Even though the name is more ominous, the view is more incredible and it's way less crowded (and has super nice bathrooms!). This is one of my many Moab ProTips. I should probably get my Moab City Guide up and running soon! 

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Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado, 2011
(y)ears spent traveling: Always. My whole life, I guess.
(z)ealous sports fans and where: Hmmmmm... this is a really hard one because I don't pay too much attention to sports besides the equestrian disciplines and generally adults who watch equestrian events are quite subdued (unless their children are competing. Horse show moms are a whole different story. Oh, and Kentucky Derby watchers, too.). 

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Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2012

Monday, November 10, 2014

Toronto For Fall



Toronto in November

We went to Toronto again this weekend. It was a really nice, calm trip. The weather was a little grey and quite cold but we found some new places to eat, had some wonderful conversations with each other, and saw a few more corners of the city. I've updated a few of these places in the Toronto City Guide so if you're interested you can head on over there to check it out! 

 As a treat for you all I decided to take a few clips as we were walking around and also bring my camera in for a little peek into the Design Exchange's Fashion as Politics exhibit. I really, really loved the Comme Des Garcons lineup in the center of the exhibit since Rei Kawakuboas has long been a favorite designer of mine. She seems to have a quietly determined personality that I admire and does many things well.

There were also a few Alexander McQueen dresses on display mixed in among the political fashion and dresses from Canadian Politicians. The exhibit did a great job of merging the timeline of how people have used clothes to represent their own personal politics as well as  fashion choices major politicians have made through the years.

Toronto in November

Toronto in November



Thursday, November 06, 2014

Work Wear

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Workwear

When we moved to Michigan I decided to take a break from teaching and it's turned out to be a very good thing for me. The districts here are tricky to navigate and the really good ones where I could make a sustainable go at it are very, very competitive. Right after we chose to move I realized I missed the hiring window in almost all of the districts and was going to have to either settle for a less than desirable teaching job or do something else. I decided to take this time to do something else while I had time.

Now, for the second time in my life, I'm sewing professionally. Right now I'm working in the sewing department of a  museum - my official title is "seamstress" which really just means I sew whatever I'm given to sew. I'm really thrilled that I get to work at the museum for a while. It runs at a much lower intensity than the Textile Restoration Firm I used to work at four years ago and the expectation of the quality of the work is much higher - and we are actually given time to complete it well. The community in the studio I work at is fantastic and I've really met some creative, kind, and talented people and have learned so much about construction techniques. My own home sewing has truly gone up two or three levels because of what I've learned while sewing outside of my home.

Sewing is such a huge change from teaching - the hours are better (no more late night report card comment sessions or fretting all night about lesson plans), it's very quiet (I can listen to tons of music or podcasts on my phone during the day), and I can use the bathroom whenever I want, but I still do miss the kids! To try to get my teaching fix, at least a little bit, I've started doing literacy tutoring which has been great! I just wish I could make it more frequently to do that.

I snapped these pictures right after work yesterday - I'm sure if it would have been in the morning before work my hair would have looked better and my makeup would have been perfect but this is pretty typical for what I wear to work in the studio. I'm really enjoying getting dressed for work in the morning lately after so many days of being at home and dressing only for myself! Also, there's so many inspiring people, objects, and places around me right now and as a result I've been trying to step outside my comfort zone. I have been playing with texture, color, and proportion as I get dressed in the morning. Some days work and some days don't but I enjoy all of them!

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WorkWear2

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***

Shirt: H&M (Madewell makes a good chambray tunic - this H&M one is out of stock!)
Scarf: Gift from a former student
Jeans: Madewell
Shoes: Ariat
Bag: Talbots (Somewhat similar flannel style here)


Saturday, November 01, 2014

You Should Know: How To Draft Your Own Tote Bag

I should have given you some advanced warning on this but I didn't make up my mind to cross post this over to my blog until just now! I'm co-hosting a sew-along on Reddit and have been working hard to make all the materials for everyone to follow along with in October so they'd be ready to post in November. 

For those of you who are curious about what a sew along is it’s an activity where a bunch of people get together and sew a similar item, generally doing the same steps in the same time frame and communicating successes and frustrations with the community. At the end we all share what we made!
I'm spending the month making the project with a new instructional video each week. Here's the basic info you need to complete the overall project:

This Month's New Skill/s: Inserting a lining into a bag, creating a loop and button closure

Materials Needed: *
.5 yds material for outside of tote and handles (I will be using a #8 Cotton Duck because I have it sitting around and I like a stiffer tote bag!) 
.5 yds material for lining tote (I will probably be fishing through my scrap bin for this and looking for something that'll work with my cotton duck! This will likely be a thicker cotton but I'll show you what I come up with later.) 
Thread that matches the fabric
A button

Suggested Supplies 
A large piece of paper (craft paper, architect's paper, even a paper bag cut open and laid flat or wrapping paper) to draft the pattern on 
Something to write on the paper with 
Something to mark your fabric (tailor's chalk or even a simple pencil or pen will do)
 Paper scissors 
fabric scissors 
sewing machine 
A ruler or measuring tape 
A quilting square or grid is helpful to make square corners but this can be done with other things as well!

Schedule
Week 1: drafting the pattern, cutting the pieces
Week 2: Sewing the bag, lining, and handles 
Week 3: Creating the loop for the closure, installing the lining, finishing with a loop and button closure 
Week 4: Showing it off!
Feel free to ask any questions you have here and I'll try to help wherever possible!


If you're interested in joining here's the first video:





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