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plant potions.

I’ve taught classes at Rare Bird but can you believe I’ve never taken a class here until recently? What? I know! I signed up for Plant Potions with Tracy Chocholousek, co-owner of Rare Bird and founder of White Sage Wellness. It was so fun to join class here as a student. And Hubby joined me, too!

The space was set up with a beautiful plantscape. It looked like we were going to sit down for a multi-course meal with wine pairings. Yum.

Tracy started class with a brief lesson in scents and we participated in an herbal ally meditation. I enjoyed this – we had to experience a plant, it’s scent, how the scent made us feel, and what it tasted like. I chose rose geranium – the leaves had a subtle sweet smell and made me feel calm.

After the exercise, we got to smelling! We smelled all the essentials oils available for mixing, working our way through scent groups and taking notes on if we liked the scents or not.

Tracy had a worksheet for us to help guide our blending. What do we want to use it for? What scents are we drawn to?

I realized I like more food-like smells like vanilla, mint, or coffee (which wasn’t actually an essential oil option, but was the nose palette cleanser, ha!). I ended up making something that smelled like you just baked something sweet. So I named it Pie. Hubby made more of a fresh citrus minty blend; he named his Grounding Spear. (Much more sophisticated.)

Thank you Tracy for such a great class! My home will smell like freshly baked pies for the next few months. What are your favorite scents? Share below!

coffee, tea, treats.

For someone who doesn’t drink coffee I had my share in Japan. The coffee scene is on fiah and the attention to detail makes the experience so much more special. A few coffee (and tea!) explorations to follow. My favorites were the spots with coordinating tiny treats.

& Coffee by Maison Kayser was one of our first stops. Hubby had an espresso; I had a lavender milk tea. We also ordered a pain du chocolate and our beverages came with little chocolate treats. It was quiet when we arrived (before 8AM on a Saturday). This was our in-between spot after sushi breakfast and before Itoya shopping.

We heard about the Toyko Coffee Festival from a local magazine ~ I like to pick those up from airports; sometimes you get lucky with ideas. En route, we ran into a cousin-in-law who at the time lived in San Diego – so random! So we all tasted cups of brew together. There were over a dozen coffee vendors, mostly from the Tokyo/Kyoto area, but also a few international brands. We chose the ‘mini cup’ tasting which came with four tastings of choice plus the mini cup souvenir. Hubby and I teamed up so we tried eight tastes all the together. I didn’t get jittery – it must have been the jet-lag neutralizing effect. (That’s a thing.) There were also food vendors, chocolate shops, and a mobile book store.

On one of our neighborhood explorations I spotted a tea shop. (Or did the tea shop find me?) Yifang Taiwan Fruit Tea (which I later learned has locations all over the world including one within five miles of my apartment!) has some tasty beverages! We tried the oolong tea (50% sweet) with grass jelly. It might have been my first time having grass jelly – I am hooked.

We hung out at Camera Coffee while waiting for our inks. It’s a cafe plus leather goods shop. How fun! (Also, did I mention how much I love the Kuramae neighborhood in Tokyo?) Hubby had mango juice; I had a green smoothie because I don’t get enough veggies on vacay. Camera even had gashapon surprise balls – I love surprises! Of course I got one. Inside: a leather key cover. Fancy! Fun fact from Wikipedia: “gashapon is onomatopoeic from the two sounds gasha for the hand-cranking action of a toy-vending machine, and pon for the toy capsule landing in the collection tray.”

Then the tininess of Japan continued at Beck’s in Nagano. We shared an iced matcha latte and an iced royal milk tea. Hubby is pictured for scale. One slurp and done.

Also in Nagano, Hubby spotted Maruyama. It’s a small cafe with an old/classic cafe vibe. Hubby had an espresso and cappuccino set. I had the flower hamming seasonal blend made with a French press and served with a lump and a half of brown sugar and a splash of milk. It was the best tasting cup of coffee I’ve ever had! We bought a bag of the beans so Hubby could recreate the experience for me at home. Thanks, Hubby!

With our beverages we also had the maple nut tart and a mochi treat. We had been looking for mochi treats and this was the most amazing one I’ve ever had. It was tiny and delicate and just the right amount of sweet, with the right amount of tender chewiness. Perfection with my coffee.

% Coffee was another one of our in between places place. I picked this cafe for after the bamboo grove and before our tofu adventure. I love it so much here! It’s a tiny shop that overlooks the Katsura River. There’s bench seating on the lower level and a private patio you can rent by the half hour. Heck yeah! Gimme some of that private patio! I convinced Hubby we should rent it because YOLO. It was so peaceful. It was lovely to sit, enjoy the view, sip on bevvies, and do some journaling. I want one.

We both tried iced caffe lattes – his with soy; mine with almond milk. For round two on the patio he tried the espresso macchiato and I had a sparkling lemonade. Hubby enjoyed watching the barista’s precision when making coffee.

We initially tried to have Ippodo in Tokyo, but they didn’t have snacks so we left. Also, they are originally from Kyoto and I’m big on experiencing brands in their home cities, so we went to Ippodo HQ in Kyoto!

Hubby got a lesson on how to brew sencha and each of our tea orders came with a tiny treats. Hubby ordered the kuki sencha with the ‘hard’ treat and I had the kyogoku-no-mukashi matcha with the ‘soft’ treat. The hard treat was a trio of cookies; the soft treat was mochi. The treats paired perfectly with our teas. And we felt rejuvenated after some time in the tea house.

We stayed at Moxy for our last night in Tokyo. They had a fancy coffee menu. I tried the chocolate matcha macchiato. OMG so good. Also, I had it at night and I was fine. I think maybe there is no caffeine in Japanese coffee. 🙂

Other assorted finds: a burger shop served iced Earl Grey with itty bitty simple syrup and milk containers (Yes we got burgers in Japan because we missed fries), Family Mart milk tea with tapioca from the drink aisle, a green tea shop’s iced matcha latte and matcha jelly things, Wendy’s boba (which was probably just milk with flavored syrup – don’t do it!), and airport cafe bevvies….

How do you coffee abroad? Share your fave international coffee encounters below!

ggc.

I kicked off my Feed the Fish co. summer crafty events with the Girl Gang Craft June Market. There were over 120 makers, a live DJ, food trucks, and a raffle.

This venue though. The event was held at the Oakland Scottish Rite Center. I’ve attended some work conferences here so I was a little familiar with the space and how grand it is, but I didn’t realize how many vendors you could fit in there! Some images from set up…

My booth! I was super excited that I got assigned to a corner booth with a wall! Double special. I brought a new sign holder (my letterboard has been knocked down too many times) for my felt flower crown bar sign and we were allowed to hang things on the wall with painter’s tape so hang I did. It all came together nicely.

It was a long show (six hours!). My squad brought me snacks to keep me alive. Spicy tuna bowl and shrimp nachos from Bonito Poke (Thanks, Hubby!), iced chai by Bhakti (Thanks, Angel!), and this massive doughnut from City Garden Doughnuts (Thanks, Rebecca!).

So…I made a pennant for the occasion and made my friends take photos with me. This show felt like a fun crafty reunion. Thank you to everyone who came to hangs with me and to new friends, too!

Also always fun – maker trades! This time I traded felt delights with Jeannine of Tangleweeds (for neck candy!), Roberta of Rennie (for arm candy!), and Gill of Gill D. (for paper candy!). So. Good.

Thank you to Girl Gang Craft for having me for this event. What a fun start to summer! How did you kick off summer? Share below!

gouache.

I’ve been so curious about gouache paint, but hadn’t come across a short workshop until recently. How do you use it? Is it watercolor or is it acrylic? How do you even pronounce gouache? I had so many questions.

Lucky for me, Cleo Papanikolas (painter, author, and illustrator!) taught a three-hour gouache techniques class at Handcraft Studio School. (This was my first class in the ‘new’ studio!) Also lucky for me, the class focused on paining flowers and I’m all about nature painting!

Our stations were filled with Cleo’s painting diagrams, little floral bouquets, a paint palette, water, a selection of papers to test, brushes, a fan to help dry our paintings, and a water spray bottle to rehydrate our paints as needed. Also, her business card is a travel-sized paint palette; there’s paint on the inside and it comes with a brush – so clever, so cute!

Cleo walked us through different gouache (like squash!) techniques and we dove in. We used Miya brand gouache paints, which she says are the best ‘cheap’ paints for beginners. She also had ‘nicer’ paints to try, but I was too scared I’d like them and would need them so I ended up not testing them out. (PS I totally ordered a set of Miya paints after class.)

For brushes, I used both a thick and thin brush – the thick to get more water on the paper and the thin for more detailed work. Gouache is ‘opaque watercolor’ and can be used like watercolor paint (with more water) and like acrylic paint (add less water to get a heavy cream consistency). I personally love the creamy look and how you can layer the paint without it blending or picking up color from the first paint layer.

My problem is waiting for layers of paint to dry completely before adding more layers. Now I see why people tend to work on multiple projects or pages of paintings at once.

Current favorite things: painting flowers from the underside and adding petal details.

After two and half hours we were all warmed up and finding our groove with gouache. I went for the bouquet!

I used both the watercolor and the acrylic paint techniques, highlighting just a few of the petal details. What do you think? I’m super proud of it; I might actually frame it. 🙂

Thank you to Marie of Handcraft Studio School for always curating wonderful classes. I have my eye on melon basketry next! (I see you, baskets!)

And thank you for Cleo for teaching us all the gouache secrets and unlocking the gouache mystery for me!

bamboo.

One of my favorite outings in Japan was our Arishiyama adventure day! We got up early to visit the famous Bamboo Grove!

There is the main path with crazy tall bamboo – the one that is highly photographed. I wonder how old the bamboo is here.

It seems they preserve a lot of the bamboo grove, but there are also areas where they grow and harvest the bamboo for building and craft material.

We took our time taking it all in; it was so peaceful. You know us and crowds though – we left as soon as it got hard to take a photo without a photobomber.

But not before having a panda photoshoot. 🙂

Ahh, where do you like to explore on vacay? In the natures? Share below!

red, white, and mew.

Not quite an Independence Day post, but…kittens!

KitTea is a cat cafe in San Francisco. There’s a small shop with cat related goodies, a cafe that serves small bites and teas, and the kitten hang out area.

There were two spots left when my friend and I arrived – lucky us! There are 15+ kitties at this venue. You can pet them and hug them, and play with them if they’re awake. Most were sleeping during the hour we were there. Ah, cat life. I wanted to take a nap after this visit, too. Here’s what my Instagram feed would look like if I had a cat.

Yay kittens! And yay independence! Hope you and your furry friends stay safe tonight!

bookbinding.

I received a freebie ticket to a Paper Source workshop (Thanks, Craftcation!) so I took a bookbinding class. There were only two of us in class ~ semi-private class for the win! We were quick to finish too, so our instructor shared some bonus fun things we could add to our notebooks.

Paper Source provided all of the materials and tools, plus a handy “book sewing” guide. I chose different papers for my front and back covers, and copper sparkle cord to bind my project.

The most time consuming part was punching the sheets of paper for the notebook. Someone create a five-hole punch with 1/8 inch holes, please!

We used binder clips to hold the stack of paper together while we added bookbinding tape to the corners.

Then we glued on the front and back fancy papers using a liquid glue. Next time, I’ll try using glue stick – maybe it’ll dry faster.

Then, bookbinding! Using the sewing needles made the process easy.

We finished our projects in under an hour, so our instructor taught us some bonus additions – ribbon bookmarks and envelope pockets. I added scallops because I’m extra.

I want to make more! I have some ideas for future projects — like adding bookbinding tape to the whole spine and using a thicker paper for the front and back covers. Plus, finessing the inside of the front and back covers to hide the flaps and the bookmark.

Regardless, I’m super pleased with my notebook! I bought a few fancy papers after class so I can practice some more.

Thanks to our instructor Conie of Paper Source for sharing her love of journals and paper with us!