Saturday, February 21, 2015

[diy] Christmas Photobooth with Your Ipad

It might be February, but this post is definitely, "better late than never"!  Last Christmas, my sister had the honor of hosting our family party at her home.  I wanted to try making an  economical DIY photobooth for everyone to enjoy.  After a bit of strategic thinking and brother-assisted jerry-rigging, we were able to fashion our own photobooth area in the entry way.  The location was perfect!  Everyone could take pictures on the way in or on the way out, and it was certainly a conversation starter.


  • Festive background ($4 roll of decorative burlap runner from Michael's)
  • Assorted Holiday Props (hats, headbands, bows, santa beard, necklaces)
  • iPad
  • Tape (painter, masking, or duct) to hang background
  • String
  • Instruction Sign (created on

Gathering the supplies was a sinch-- most items I already had on hand from my Christmas stash, SF's Santa-Con event from the previous weekend, and even a few items from my company holiday party.  The only things I purchased was the burlap runner, a reindeer headband, and the giant golden bow, all for less than $10 at Michael's Craft Store. I could have spent even less by using an old roll of wrapping paper as the background!

Setting up the iPad:  I downloaded a free Christmas "Santa Claus" image application that let you put themed stickers on your photos.  But, we really ended up primarily using the good ol' default camera app.  Make sure you have the new iOS update, which includes the option to take a time lapse photo on the right hand toolbar.  We set the time lapse to 10 seconds to give everyone enough time to pose for the picture.  

From here, we needed to figure out how to hang the iPad at an optimal level.  My brother suggested hanging it from the upstairs landing area and suspending the iPad below to face our backdrop wall.  The screen was about 4 feet away from the background, but you'll really just have to do a bit of trial and error to figure out what works well in your space.  I hopped on to whip up a quick photobooth sign, and even an instruction sheet (not shown here) to instruct our guests on how to operate the iPad.

Can you tell we had a blast?!  All of the photos were stored on my iPad, so I synced my Facebook account for the night and created a "Family Holiday Party" photo album so we could upload and share right away.  I think this photobooth may have to become a permanent holiday party fixture for all future events...

Monday, January 12, 2015

[travels] Purse and Carry On Packing List

I thought it could be helpful to share the items I brought along in my purse and carry on bag (backpack).  Everything worked out quite well!  It felt that every item served it's purpose, and there was very little wasted room.  You'll notice from my previous posts, that many of these devices and items are part of my usual travel accessory roundup.

Purse with crossbody and handle straps
This Marc by Marc Jacobs 'Ligero' Leather Satchel lasted only 1.5 weeks before the side stitching fell apart.  I was so disappointed by the poor quality!  Luckily I bought it from Nordstrom and was able to return it when I got home with no hassle.


  • Anker Charge Stick
  • Mobile Hotspot Device (rented from Japan-wireless)
  • iPhone 5s
  • Chargers and cables (USB/2 Prong, Micro USB/USB, Lightning/USB)
  • Bose Headphones... they are worth every penny.  Meltyourfaceoff music quality.

Everything else

  • Chapstick (Eos smooth mint)
  • Tinted chapstick (Fresh sugar lip treatment)
  • Pen
  • Slim wallet with coin component
  • Pack of tissues

Carry-on Backpack

Main read:  Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

In my eyes, Japan is a place of consuming any and all food that comes across your vision. What better way to ante up for the trip than to read this book?  It's witty, humorous, slightly grotesque, and facinating.  Perfect.

Other downloaded books:  Where'd you go, Bernadette and When You Were Older

Everything else

  • Plastic folder of travel documents
  • Thin notebook for writing
  • Extra pen
  • Granola bars (Kind bars, of course!)
  • Deck of cards
  • Makeup Case (discussing this would be a blog post of it's own...)
  • Neck pillow
  • Sleeping eye mask
  • Sunglasses in case
  • Fuzzy socks for the plane

What didn't I use?  Two granola bars and the deck of cards.  But I'm still glad I brought them-- you never know when you are fighting off a bout of insomnia due to jet lag, and you want to play a game of war with your travel mate.  Or when you buy an economical plane ticket that has a layover conveniently placed so the airline isn't required to serve you a complimentary meal...  a grumbling stomach will make for an unpleasant flight.

For more Japan trip adventuring-- see my "Travels" page!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

[travels] Japan Female Packing List -- Winter 2014

Ahhh yes... it's that time again!  Somehow by a miraculous twist of fate and nudging from my friend, I find myself headed to Japan again this winter for 10 days.  I am now armed with a bit of experience, fond memories, and the desire to up (even if slightly) my style game this year.  We'll be staying mostly in the Tokyo and Kansai region this time, so no need to pack for snowy weather.

Here are a few of my must haves for female travelers!  These items are all truly in my suitcase-- none of that wishful outfit arranging image nonsense.  I'll do a recap when I get back to let you know how the pieces worked out. Updates in green.

Accesssories:  Scarves, gloves, and head peices are absolutely clutch.  It's likely you'll be spending a lot of time outside checking out shrines, so make sure you are warm enough to travel comfortably.
  • Grey slouchy beanie -- perhaps a little too slouchy, hardly worn
  • Teal knitted headband
  • Grey / black knitted headband
  • Black scarf
  • Grey / white / black scarf -- adored by my travel mate!
  • Grey checkered scarf
  • 2 pairs of iphone touch gloves

Bottoms & Shoes:  For a 10 day trip, I'd reccomend bringing 2-3 pairs of pants.  2 pairs of comfortable walking shoes should suffice, and long pants to sleep in.  Fleece-lined tights and leggings can also go underneath pants to add extra warmth.
  • Black heeled riding boots
  • Tan suede ankle boots
  • Grey, green, and blue skinny jeans -- perfect amount of pants with enough outfit variety
  • Collegiate sweat pants
  • Yoga Pants -- best all around sleeping pants

Tops:  You can't go wrong with a bunch of sweaters!  Pick a few in patterns and colors that will easily match.  Throw in an extra jacket or cardigan for layering, and camisoles to wear underneath everything.
  • Grey crewneck sweater -- my main "go to" sweater
  • Sea Foam v-neck sweater
  • White striped sweater
  • Brown chunky knit sweater
  • Red and white striped sweater
  • Black motorcycle knit jacket
  • Burgundy open cardigan
  • Sleeveless black lace top -- the only thing I didn't wear, because we didn't go to any nightclubs.
  • 3 longsleeves - black, white, grey
  • 4 camisoles - assorted colors

Outerwear:  You'll definitely want 2 or 3 outerwear peices.  Try to select different styles so you can mix and match to your daily agenda.

  • Khaki short trench coat
  • Grey Patagonia zip up fleece -- worked well by itself or layering underneath khaki trench coat and pea coat if needed.
  • Navy blue and black pea coat

Of course don't forget about the usual suspects (electronic devices, jewelry, make up, and a couple extra granola bars for the flight).  Need another packing list?  Check out this post from last year's trip.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

[diy] Wax Seal Stamping

I created my own Vietnamese engagement ceremony invitations by printing on white cardstock at home.  The colors used are red and gold-- a traditional "lucky" color combination. I wanted to keep this project fairly simple with a unique detail, so adding a wax seal was the perfect solution!


The process is easy as pie... are you ready?  
1.  Adhere your printed text onto the cardstock background with rubber cement before you begin.
2.  Prepare your work area.  (I used a silicone mat to catch catch the drops, and a few sheets of computer paper underneath the entire project.)  Heat up the glue gun with the sealing wax until it starts oozing out. 
3.  Squeeze a "slightly smaller than nickel" sized wax directly onto the paper where you want the seal to go.

4. Carefully position the stamp directly over the wax and let go.  Gravity will squeeze the wax around the seal for you-- no need to press.  
5.  Notice that if you place the seal directly over the wax, the seal edges will come out fairly even.  If you approach it at an angle, it'll come out skewed.
6.  Lift off the seal after 3 seconds or so.  The wax seal will harden in 60 seconds or less.

Once you have a few of the wax stamp supplies (gun, sealing wax, handle) it will be very easy to create other seals!  My sister did some wax stamping on her wedding programs, and they turned out lovely with her monogram seal.  Happy crafting!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

[diy] Palo Alto Area Crafting Classes

As a Palo Alto citizen, it is my duty to share with the makers, crafters, and tinkerers of the world about places where one can exercise the creative mind.  Here are a few of my favorite spots!

Palo Alto Adult School
These enrichment classes run on a quarterly system at a great price.  Most courses are taught by local enthusiasts and are attended by everyone and anyone.  It's a wonderful, safe environment for even the shyest of beginners.  I've taken a pastry cooking class here (one time demonstration) and two quarters of woodworking.  I highly recommend taking the woodworking class, since you are taught to use powerful machines in a safe environment.  The instructors are incredibly friendly, quirky, and all around awesome.

The Makery
If I were to describe my heaven, this place would be it.  They have a storefront filled to the brim with inspiring handmade products, kits, and all the bits and bobbles you might need to create a little masterpiece of your own.  They offer workshops, venue buyouts, and have a super friendly staff.  A little succulent shop shares the same space-- bonus!

Paper Source
One of my go-to spots for my crafting supplies.  They sell all sorts of tools, paper packs, gifts, and stationery.  I can go in that store and look around at every shelf, corner, and bin and will always stay intrigued.  I've gotten the heat embosser tool, wax seal kit, and many cute calendars from here.  They make it easy to make cards because they sell card packs in various sizes, shapes, and tons of colors! You can sign yourself up for a workshop here since they host several a month between $25-$35 per class.

West Elm
Did you know they host free DIY workshop nights?  Um... yes!!  Sign up for their email newsletter and you'll be informed when the next class is coming up.  These are typically offered around the holidays.  In fact, I just went to one this week where I made a festive little garland.  

Michael's Craft Store
This place is my mecca for supplies.  If you need it, it's more than likely they've got it.  It might be harder to sift through, and not as "etsy-esque" as The Makery or Paper Source, but it's much more economical.  They have sales and coupons ALL the time, so find a coupon on your phone before you check out at the register.  They really do have everything, from scrapbooking, cake decorating, framing, toy kits, to plastic florals.

Happy Crafting!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

[eats] Japanese Grocery Store List

Shopping at the Japanese Grocery store is simply one of my favorite activities out there.  There's just something about winding your way slowly through the aisles and squinting at the packaging to see if it will help you translate the Japanese characters into English.  Everything here must taste good because the ecstatic cartoon character on the front looks extremely excited... so yes, you should be excited too.

I want to share a few of my favorite Japanese grocery store buys with you:

Momoya Seaweed Spread

A little jar packed with a LOT of flavor! Momoya Seaweed Spread is a seaweed jelly mixed with soy sauce.  It is absolutely heavenly over rice.

Soba Buckwheat Noodles
This is a pantry staple of mine.  I've seen restaurants charge $7 and more over "zaru soba", which is simply cold soba noodles accompanied by a soy-based dipping sauce.  If you make it at home it'll cost you a little over $1, and super easy to make.


Tsuyu for the dipping soba noodles
You must get Tsuyu in addition to your soba noodles!  I like to hack mine by mixing even ratios of tsuyu + water, then adding a few dashes of Maggi seasoning, garlic chili paste, and sesame oil.  If you want to go all out, top your soba with shredded nori and sesame seeds.

Ramen noodles

Many of the Japanese grocery stores make their own brand of fresh ramen noodles and miso, tonkotsu, or shoyu broth flavoring.  Keep your eyes out for tan tan men ramen broth at Nijiya-- it is just the right amount of spicy deliciousness!


  Kewpie Deep Roasted Salad Dressing
Many years ago on my first trip to Japan, I was introduced to this amazing dressing at obachan's house.  It's sesame flavor is rich, unique, and tasty on everything.  This may just change your life.

Frozen udon noodles

Another great alternative in case you are graving something more glutinous than buckwheat soba noodles.  Dipping udon in tsuyu is just as delicious.  It's also easy just to whip up a chicken broth soup with veggies and udon noodles if you need a quick meal.

After I got back from Japan last year, I bought these two cookbooks:  Japanese Soul Cooking and The Just Bento Cookbook.  Reading though these two books never cease to inspire me into a mouth-watering, Japanese grocery-store-shopping frenzy.  Now that I'm planning another trip back to Japan in two months, I've been thinking seriously about what I'll be eating first.  My fiance suggested I document my ramen addiction with a new series called "The Noodle Diaries"... hm... the wheels are turning...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

[musings] Wedding Flower Creative Options

Flowers are oh-so beautiful, but they can most certainly break the bank.  It's actually quite shocking how much people can spend on flowers.  I've been looking high and low for different companies I can use for my wedding.  Sure, they may not match my theme perfectly, but if you can say "I do" without having a $300 designer, Pinterest-board bouquet, then I think you'll find these options useful.  

This is so inspiring! Found on 100 Layer Cake
I'm hoping to spend $500 or less on a bridal bouquet, bridesmaids bouqets, boutonnieres, and adding on a few centerpieces (re-purposing the bridesmaids bouquets too).  You can absolutely save quite a bit of money if you move or re-use your flowers from the ceremony to the reception.  No need to toss perfectly good blooms!  Here are a few options to consider in lieu of going to a traditional flower shop/design company.

A relatively new start-up company based in San Francisco.  They'll deliver a beautiful arrangement within a few hours lead time.  The delivery fee is already included in the price and all of the flowers are sourced locally and wrapped in recycled burlap.  I could imagine this being the perfect solution for courthouse wedding or as a a bright/rustic table centerpiece.  There is no minimum purchase, and they deliver via bicycle in the Bay Area.  I'm sure they'll be expanding their service area as the company grows.  And if you just want to send a friend (bridal party?) some flowers, they are absolutely perfect for that too!  Have I mentioned they write handwritten messages and also have an app?  If you are considering eloping, this just makes it that much easier to live on the fly ;)

The Bouqs
A hip flower delivery company based in Los Angeles with vibrant bouqets.  They have a wonderful selection of bouquets all at $40 with shipping included.  Insane, right?  There is also a premium collection priced a bit higher, around $60 too.  I can definitely see these as table centerpieces, and perhaps even hacked as a bridesmaids bouquet (reshaping and wrapping ribbon to the stems).  Their service area is mostly in southern California, and they send out coupons all the time if you are on their email distribution.  They also have an app, so ordering flowers are as easy as pie.

A fun and fresh approach to DIY wedding flowers!  This company is based in Los Angeles, and they specialize in putting together kits to create a pre-designed piece (bouquets, centerpieces, corsages, boutonnieres, etc.) at a reasonable price.  You can order as many components as you need, and they'll ship the entire kit to you, including all of the supplies and instructions you'll need to finish the project.  Each piece has an estimated "build" time, and most of the bouquets can be built in 10-15 minutes.  This is so do-able, and could be a fun project for the bridal party, mothers, or relatives who may want to get involved.  They have floral themes designed by professionals, and you can get everything you may need in one spot.  I am leaning heavily on using Bloominous for my wedding next year...and yes, they do deliver to Maui!

Bloom By The Box
A flower wholesale site that sells by the stem, bunch, or box.  This is great if you want total autonomy of your flower design and have the capacity or resources (creatively gifted friends) to help you.  While there are definitely pluses to having a customized look, there is also the downside of stressing yourself out the night before the wedding if your arrangements do not look right.  I would only recommend this if you are a maker, tinkerer, or just very familiar with flower arranging.  Having a team of helpers is also a realistic estimate if you plan on getting it done within a few hours.  They offer several video tutorials on their site and they do have an impressive assortment of flowers... maybe this could also be a good option if you plan on keeping your arrangements simple with just one or two flower varieties.  Other websites similar to this:

  • Fiskars Pruner -- Just in case you decided to order a flower box and you need to prune the leaves off the stems
  • Cut Flower Food Floralife -- Good to have any time!  Your flowers will last longer and look better with a little food in the water.
  • Crowning Glory Flower Spray -- Geez, read the reviews!  It is a magical sealing agent that make your flowers stay fresh throughout the entire event.
  • Green Floral Tape -- It may come in handy if you plan on ordering a flower arrangement and reshaping it as a bridal bouqet.
  • Vases (I would definitely buy at garage sales or through craigslist) -- Consider spicing up the vases or adding color by color dipping, spray painting, glitterizing, or even nail polish marbling it!  
  • Ribbon that matches your wedding theme to cover the green floral tape that wraps around the stems.
  • Flower pins to add a "finished look" and give just the right touch of sparkle.
With all of these options, it's hard not to get excited about all the different options that are out there!  As long as you are flexible, you can re-work a bouquet design to make it your own.  Flower power on, my friends.