GoodReads and an Update

I love to read.

I love that I have a family of readers.

There are, however, a few problems in my world of reading:

1) I am prone to ‘losing myself’ in a book and either ignore all other responsibilities like laundry, dishes, or preparing food to feed my family or I stay up until the wee hours of the night vowing to “finish just one more chapter.”

2) I read ridiculously fast.  Seriously.  I’m a borderline speed reader.  In school, teachers constantly questioned my comprehension because of it.  Why is this a problem?  Well, in our digital age, where I can instantaneously upload the next book I want to read, I can blow through cash at Amazon at an alarming rate.

3) Because I live in a foreign country, in order to easily access books in English, I now read almost all of my books on my Kindle or iPad.  On occasion I forget to charge everything every night, and will suddenly find myself out and about on the train with zero charge and no more book to read.  Major bummer, dude.

I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions.  I don’t really believe in them {not the idea of vowing to make changes in your life, but the notion of only doing it once a year – I think we should be empowered to enact changes in our lives whenever we feel the need}. 

However, this year, I want to be better about turning off the TV, shutting down my laptop, and reading.  Reading things I want to read, reading things my husband recommends {he’s also a voracious reader; one of the many things I adore about him!}, and reading more with The Cuties.

So I have added a GoodReads button to the blog, and will chronicle what I read this year.  Sometimes, you’ll be able to tell it was clearly, a book I chose ~ like Gone Girl that I read in a day at the beach this past week.  And sometimes, you will be able to tell I’ve read a book with one of The Cuties.  They are both well beyond wanting to be read to anymore, but over Thanksgiving, all four of us read R.J. Palacio’s amazing book, Wonder and discussed it {fabulous book, by the way ~ I recommend it for all ages!}.  It was such a great experience, that I’ve promised myself I will continue reading books along with them and discussing them to hear their thoughts and ideas about characters and the conversations that spin off of from the plot.  So that’s why you’ll also see tween books like The Black Stallion pop up every now and then, as well.

I’d love your book recommendations and to hear what you’re reading, too.

On a different note, after a brief hiatus, we are back in Japan, and I hope to get the blog back on track soon.  

To give you a brief glimpse of our craziness ~ we had my in-laws here visiting for almost three weeks and traveling with us, and then two weeks later I took The Cuties to America for ten days solo to see all seven of my nieces and nephews and all of my and my husband’s siblings in Chicago and Washington, DC.  Then we flew back to Japan, and less than 72 hours later were on a plane to Cebu, the Philippines for a week-long family vacation for the four of us.  We’ve returned, and now my parents arrive tomorrow for two weeks and in the middle of their visit we are moving to a new apartment and I’m throwing Little Cutie’s birthday party for 20 children.

At this point I think I’m going to pretty much survive on chai lattes, cocktails and chocolate!

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Blog News Around the Internet

It’s been a fun few weeks at Felt So Cute!

First, I heard from Huffington Post, where they featured my Sneaky Centerpiece on one of their “What’s Hot on Pinterest” pieces.

geltvase

Then Seventeen.com included my Yarn and Felt Wreath Tutorial in their DIY Holiday Craft article {look for slide #6}.

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And now just this morning, Earth911.com has my Mantel card display up as an environmentally friendly decorating idea for Hanukkah from reused materials.

hanukkahmantel

As exciting as this is for my little blog, I’m most excited that Hanukkah is being included in the crafting world for the holidays, and that it was done in such a timely fashion!

{ I added buttons to easily follow me on both Pinterest and Facebook and if you’re interested in receiving an email whenever there’s a new post, be sure to follow the blog as well!}
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Winterfest Hodgepodge

This past weekend was our school Winterfest.  It was one of those absolutely beautiful late fall/early winter days that was crisp and sunny and just delightful on which to be outside.  Especially in contrast to last year, which fell on one of the rainiest, coldest, nastiest days of the year.  I imagine the chairs woke up and did the Dance of Joy.

The highlight of the day as parents was getting to see Big Cutie’s 5th grade Choir performance and Handbell Show.  I admit my expectations for the Choral performance were moderate, and boy was I wrong.  We were totally blown away!  This was serious singing, with four-part harmonies, and even some very adorable, well-coordinated choreography.

choir

arms

After the Choir concert, Big Cutie and several of her classmates stayed and performed a Handbell Concert.  This is an extracurricular activity offered by their music teacher every week after school since the beginning of the year.  They have learned to read music, make sound out of the bells, and perform, all in a few short months.  Not bad for eighteen children who had never before touched a bell!

handbell

Following the concerts, The Cuties ran around campus with their friends, playing games while us adults sampled all of the food.  One of the greatest pleasures of a community filled with Expats from around the world are their culinary delights, and so there were booths a-plenty and we did our best to be sure we could praise our friends’ hard work!

Our last big activity of the day was the Kimono Booth.  I’d seen several friends’ portraits from previous years and knew this was something we’d want to do during our time in Tokyo.  I went back and forth whether I’d include myself with The Cuties, and finally decided to go for it, figuring when else would I have the opportunity to have my hair and makeup done in the traditional style and be professional dressed in a real kimono.

Our group consensus was that it was awesome.

Here’s Little Cutie simultaneously getting her hair and makeup worked on

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Big Cutie had more elaborate makeup as the traditional style for girls her age in formal portraits or on special dress up days is to wear red lipstick.  Very exciting stuff.

powderpuff

Here are the girls with finished hair and makeup waiting to be dressed~

finished
And me?  Well, the poor girl working on my never-ending pounds of hair {the staff are all students at the largest Kimono College in Tokyo} worked very hard on my decidedly non-Japanese hair to get it to stay up in the traditional “mother” up do {of course, the reason I never ever wear  up dos is because of the arsenal of pins and spray it requires to hold my massive locks into place}.

updo

Here’s our sneak peek {professional photos are sent to us}.

kimono
And these are the many students and teachers who all worked behind the scenes to get everyone ready.  Once again, I point out that I clearly need staff!

staff

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I Almost Didn’t Come Back

You haven’t heard from me for a while because we went away on vacation to Bali, Indonesia.  I seriously considered not coming back.  It’s just that lovely there.  But the whole work, school and not enough clean underwear thing, convinced me to go ahead and get on the plane.

Wouldn’t you be a bit grouchy about leaving this view?

Even better, we managed to snag one of these every day, and scooted the pillows into the middle so half of us could lounge facing the Indian ocean and the other half could face the pool.  As a result I believe at last count there were at least a dozen books read amongst us!

Several nights, we were entertained with different styles of Balinese dancers.  The Cuties liked that we received handouts explaining the story behind the traditional dances and seeing if they could find the message in the actual dance.  But the hair and costumes were of course the best part!

Dancing was such a hit that they decided to take a little lesson; especially when there was a full dress up opportunity available!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think they look like they were having just a wee bit of fun, don’t you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stayed in Nusa Dua, but spent all day one day in the town of Ubud touring temples and art galleries and seeing the sites and eating local food.

The carvings at the local temple we stopped at were absolutely amazing.  Stonework and wood carvings are truly an elevated handicraft in Indonesia, and we stopped and watched any time we happened upon a craftsman at work.

 

{do you see the turtle shape above?}

Can you imagine how long it took artisans to carve all of this by hand?

After we ate a traditional Balinese lunch we stopped to visit the rice terraces.  {FYI – despite a usually tender Crohn’s Disease tummy, I rocked the Balinese spicy food all week long without a single problem.  Yummy, yum, yum!}  The terraces were so unbelievably cool and The Cuties played a little game of “I Spy” finding people actually working the fields.

The Balinese people were so kind and gracious everywhere we went.  I really hope to go back some day.  Maybe even with only my husband next time! ;-)

So now, while I’m sitting in my way too chilly Tokyo apartment, bundled up in yoga pants and a big scarf, wondering what the heck I’m going to make for dinner tonight, I’m going to pretend I’m there instead, with a waiter coming around asking me for my order and bringing me a cocktail.

And in case Bali wasn’t fabulous enough?

They had Diet Coke!  Swoon.

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Packing Accessories

I know I’ve shared with you how I pack my carry on for long trips before, but I thought I’d share some of the cute accessories I use when organizing my bags.

I should start by acknowledging whole-heartedly that yes, I know I have a Lilly Pulitzer problem.  And no, they don’t pay me to endorse them.  And yes, my husband thinks they should.

These are my makeup and toiletries bags.  The largest holds all my toiletries.  The medium-sized one has my makeup and the small one {which is actually a pencil bag} holds my makeup brushes and lipsticks and lip glosses.  I find my brushes stay in better condition when I keep them separate.

While most hotels have hair dryers as standard fare now, I still always travel with my own flat-iron.  Because I’m often packing soon after using it, I love having a pouch for it that’s lined in a heat-resistant material so it can go right inside.  I found mine years ago at Marshalls, but here’s a cute one that’s also a bargain.

Part of my general packing philosophy is to separate and organize like things for ease of finding what I need in an unfamiliar setting.  So the thin bag on the left holds my hair “stuff;” things like ponytail elastics, headbands for working out and the clips I use to pull back my hair while drying it.  The pink bag on the right holds all my medications.  Remember, it’s important to always pack your medications in your carry on bag in case your luggage is lost!

I’ve mentioned this before, but I always carry my own pens when traveling internationally so I have them accessible to fill out customs forms and don’t have to wait for the flight attendants.   And just like my medications, I always bring my jewelry in my carry on bag, too, so that’s what’s in the pink striped pouch.

Whenever I put shoes into my suitcase, I prefer to put them in shoe bags so my clothes don’t happen to get dirty by accident.  So whenever a new pair of shoes comes with one, I stash away in the bin where we keep all of our travel things.  Of course that means my poor husband is often stuck with a lot of flowery and pink shoe bags to choose from, but free, is free, right?

Another good Marshalls find was this large lingerie bag that I pack empty so I can put my dirty unmentionables inside throughout the duration of a trip.

These two bags go from my carry on to my purse upon arrival.  First, can we discuss how absolutely adorable they are?  You can find tons of designs at Cheeky Leopard’s Etsy shop.  I love so many of her bags, that I think I will be buying more and more and more…The elephant bag is my “everything” bag; it holds a lip gloss, band aids, ponytail elastics, disposable o-shibori (wet wipes), nail file, tissues, spare contacts, and a compact mirror.  The mini damask bag holds my headphones so they don’t get tangled with everything else.

My feet are always chilly on airplanes and I find I can’t sleep in the slippers often provided, so I found these little slippers that fold up into their own pouch.  They are very soft and cozy and just stay in my carry on.

Because most of our flights these days are long electronics are fairly important.  For everyday use, the basic cover on my iPad is more than sufficient, but when I travel I prefer to have the additional protection of the padded sleeve, so I use both.

The last of my travel accessories I think are “must haves” are brightly colored luggage tags and suitcase belts.  I used to see these on the baggage claim belt and ignore them, but I randomly bought them after moving to Japan because everyone here had them and I figured they must know something we didn’t.  Well this past summer we lost two suitcases to the airlines and if we hadn’t used belts I can’t even imagine what would have happened to our clothing!

So that’s it.  Our bags are packed and we’re ready to go.

Hopes this helps you be organized in your travels.

The beach beckons!

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Rock the Vote

Growing up in Washington, DC, electing a new President was a really big deal.   I’ve been attending Election Night Returns Party since I was about four years old, falling asleep on the sofa, occasionally lifting my head to ask “did someone win yet?”

So I was actually pretty excited at prospect of watching election returns in the daylight hours from Tokyo, and of course had to throw a Brunch for my girlfriends after we sent the kiddos off to school.

I moved my dining room table up against the far wall for the potluck brunch so we could use all the chairs for our television viewing.  That left a very blank wall above the table, so we needed some sort of back drop.  I made some quick and easy card stock medallions with The Cuties, by folding paper fans, snipping my ends and some hidden staples.  I added in some paper punch centers out of leftover papers, and we were good to go!

{runner from Pottery Barn, and loaned from Cute BFF!}

Flowers are both exceptionally seasonal and expensive in Japan, so there were no red, white and blue bouquets to be found nearby.  I improvised with a glass vase, red and blue M&Ms and some American flags.  Little Cutie has been dying to dig in!

One of my favorite things on the buffet were the animal crackers.  The other night I started with an enormous container of assorted cookies, and carefully picked out all the donkeys and elephants {after washing my hands, I promise!}.  I then dipped them in chocolate and added red, white and blue nonpareils while still gooey.

No party is complete without a bar set up.  In addition to coffee, tea, water and soda, we had mimosas out for celebrating/drowning your sorrows.  I found these adorable straws at our local grocery store in their party section and ordered these donkey and elephant stirrers from this Etsy shop.  I love them so much I think I need animal-topped stirrers year ’round, don’t you?

{Can you spy how I put some leftover washi tape to good use after the big washi tape birthday extravaganza?}

But the most important thing I did to get ready for my Election Party?

That only took a few minutes.

But I missed the whole “go into the booth and pull my lever and get my sticker” part of voting in person, so I made these up for all of us wear today.

And in case I wasn’t pleased enough by the day’s events, Little Cutie arrived home just in the nick of time to sit with me and listen to the President’s acceptance speech.  And every now and then stopped to share with me exactly what she’d do if she were President.  I love hearing my kid’s view of the world, and right and wrong.

Little Cutie totally gets my vote in 2040!

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High Tech Couples Halloween Costume

In the midst of my constant whining about not getting to make The Cuties’ Halloween costumes this year, the husband and I received an invitation to an adults-only costume party.  Half paralyzed with fear about the prospective of dressing up in my 40s and half excited about potentially getting to bust out my glue gun after all, we sat down to brainstorm ideas.

And promptly stalled.  For starters, there’s no Party City or pop-up costume stores in Tokyo, so our resources are limited.  No real rummaging through Goodwill or vintage clothing stores for cheap and chic inspiration either.  So we were starting to think it had to be really creative or really lame.  And then you throw our own personal baggage about what each of us does and does not want to wear into the mix, and well….it wasn’t pretty.

After many false starts, I arrived at a stroke of brilliance {work with me here, people} one afternoon and got to work.

As  always homemade costumes in the Felt So Cute household have to adhere to my Costume Making Manifesto in that there is minimal to no sewing, no patterns to follow, cocktails can be consumed while constructing them, and an abundance of felt and hot glue can be utilized.  And most importantly, it can’t cost much to make at all.

I literally started with a four-inch by four-inch square of card stock and rounded the edges as my template.  And cut twenty of those in assorted colors.

And a few scraps of felt and movies later, I had these little guys I could hot glue onto one long piece of black felt with a circle cut out for my head.

For those of you who don’t live in Japan, there may be some unfamiliar apps ~ The yellow circle at the top is the train app {terrific for plugging in a starting and ending station that will tell you which connections you need to make} and the big blue wave is our earthquake and tsunami app {unfortunately, a reality here}.

Here are some close-ups of the family favorites:

Angry Birds

Facebook:

and Maps {thankfully, I’ve avoided doing my upgrade and they’ve been saved!}

And a view of the iPhone costume from the back, complete with camera! {it’s a little hard to tell in the sunlight, but the apple icon is actually a mylar silver fabric to reflect}

But even the best of technology can falter at times, so of course every iPhone needs an Apple Genius to accompany her around town!

{I downloaded the apple logo and cut it onto white fabric backed with fusible web using my Silhouette machine.  The lanyard is made from some elastic cord and a plastic pocket}

The apps were made almost entirely from my scrap box, so I’d estimate the two costumes were under $20 in total, including the blue t-shirt and the length of black felt.

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