Monday, February 28, 2011

Presentation in drag

Remember when Yasu and I were playing with a wig and a pair of huge glasses? Well, we got those in preparation for Yasu's presentation about psychotherapist Virginia Satir at school today. He's really excited about it because her work is one of the three fundamental models of NLP. And he wanted to make sure his presentation is fun and interesting for his classmates, so he's dressing up as Virginia Satir to teach a small part of a seminar as her.
He's probably doing the presentation right now as I'm typing this and I hope it's going well! Good luck Yasuhiro Satir!

Bicycle Love

Last week, Yasu’s bike got stolen... Finally! It was a terribly crappy bike which had broken down after using it less than 10 times. We didn’t have the receipt anymore and it wasn’t worth it to get fixed. We didn’t really know what to do with it, so we left it unlocked near the front door in our building, months ago. We were surprised how long it took for it to be stolen.

Anyways, ever since the theft I’ve been dreaming about our old and wonderful bikes in Osaka, and all the really sturdy and colorful bikes in the Netherlands. Alas, we'll have to make due with the one American bike we have left.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Indie Biz Portfolio

Very soon our Indie Business classes are starting, and I'm going to keep my homework and notes in this portfolio:

I'm actually a repeat student and made this portfolio for last year's class, but I still love it and have no problem recycling it this year.

The dividers are made from pretty Japanese cardboard with embroidered letters on felt tabs sewn onto the cardboard. Oh and the letters and the monkey on the front cover are made from felt as well, felt with a sticky back making it easy to attach it to the plastic binder.

I really enjoyed last year's classes and I can't wait to get started on Tuesday!

Birthday board game fun

Today Jenny turned 26 and she invited a bunch of people to her place to celebrate that with her.

She'd baked a huge chocolate cake and decorated it beautifully with delicious frosting, which we all helped her eat.

And she'd also organized some activities: board games! Yay, I love board games, especially with a large group. We played 'Cranium' and 'Apples to Apples', two games I'd never played before but they were really fun.

Yasu and I are so glad to have such a nice circle of friends here in SF. We really need to hang out with them more, lots more.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Catching up

Almost 4 years ago I moved to Nagoya, Japan and was trained to be an English teacher for AEON. And one of my fellow trainees was Eric, from San Francisco. After a year in Nagoya, he moved back home and he's still here. And tonight we met him to do some catching up!
We had dinner with him in a small Vietnamese restaurant, its interior actually made me feel like we were back in Japan, in one of its many little Asian restaurants. Or maybe it was the company, one being an actual Japanese man and the other a man I've only known in Japan.
We had some tasty Vietnamese food (which surprised me because Vietnamese in Japan tastes rather bland) and they actually gave us one of those typical paper take away boxes, Yasu and I have only seen in the movies. Which we found pretty cool and picture-worthy, and I think Eric found us a little weird. He's probably right! It was really fun to see him again.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ernie out in the world

When I was still teaching in Japan Yasufumi, one of my students, asked me what I'd given my coworker (another foreign teacher) as a going-away present. I told him I made him a giraffe and showed him this picture:

It's the original giraffe (my first creature ever) and his four bizarrely colored friends. Yasufumi loved the giraffes and immediately asked if he could buy Ernie, the green and blue giraffe. He surprised me and for some reason I told him they weren't for sale, yet. But I promised that when they would go on sale he would be the first to know. And when I opened my Etsy shop a couple of months later, Yasufumi was one of my first customers.

Even though he bought Ernie online, I delivered Ernie to him in class and he was very happy with his new felt friend. Ernie now lives in Yasufumi's home office, we he keeps watch over Yasufumi while he works.


On Friday we get this note slipped under our door from the building owner. Telling us that they're coming to inspect our apartment Sunday morning between 9:30 and 10:30 with an official inspector. It doesn't say what they're coming to inspect, which made me slightly nervous so I spent Saturday cleaning the apartment, just in case. 

We got up early on Sunday, to make sure we'd be up and properly dressed, the bed was made, and the dishes were done when they came to inspect. We waited... waited... waited... and waited... 
It was way past 10:30, but people are always late here, so we waited some more. I didn't cook proper lunch because I didn't want to make the stove dirty (I cleaned hard on it the night before) and we thought the dreaded inspectors could show up any minute. No one came, all day.

We did hear a lot of people working in the hallways yesterday, so we assumed that whatever they came to inspect wasn't necessary anymore or whatever. We didn't call to check with the building owner, because he's a slightly intimidating ex-cop.

Then this morning at 9:35 AM, when we're walking around, just awake, half-dressed, the building owner, his wife and the inspector show up, wanting to come in! 

Yasu: "We thought you were coming yesterday?"
Building Owner: "No, today! Check your letter!" 
Louana (hiding half-dressed behind door): "Can we at least get dressed first?"
Building Owner Wife: "Ok, we'll check apartment 303 first."

They left and we hurriedly got dressed, made the bed, did the dishes, checked the letter... Turned out they did write Monday, but they also wrote February 20, yesterday's date. And waited, waited, waited. It's almost 5 PM, and no one has come.... 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Intercepted ramen

Yasu received a care package from Japan today, it was supposed to be filled to the rim with his favorite instant ramen. But he wasn't the first to open it, US Customs was. And they took out 15 packages of instant noodles and 3 packages of dried snacks, making the box quite empty and light. 
[Care package from Japan, only half full]
We had no idea sending instant ramen would be a problem. Last year, when Yasu was in the Netherlands and I was still in Japan, I sent him a huge box full of instant ramen and other goodies and it all arrived without a problem. And the only thing the Japanese post office tells us we're not allowed to send abroad are things that contain milk.
[My care package for Yasu last year]
So it was quite disappointing to see that this time so much had been taken out and destroyed (or perhaps eaten by customs officials) including some of his favorites, but they did leave 7 instant ramen boxes for him and they make Yasu happy too!


Before I started working on my moose pattern, I needed some ideas so I looked around online to see how others have done it. Most of the patterns I saw consisted of hand drawn and scanned shapes, so I was going to do that, until I stumbled upon a pattern where the shapes were drawn by computer. That looked so much more professional and I wanted that for mine as well.

But I didn't know how to draw with my computer. I've always been interested in graphic design, but it is so expensive to learn, especially the software you need to buy for  such classes. I simply can't afford it. So I went on another online search, this time I was searching for free drawing software and free lessons that would teach how to draw simple things on the computer. I discovered Inkscape, an open source scalable vector graphics editor, and this blog with informative tutorials.

I've been working on my moose pattern with Inkscape, it's taking me forever, but I'm liking what it's starting to look like. For example, this is the template for an antler piece to be cut out four times from felt.

It probably doesn't look so impressive but I was ecstatic with this result. In any case, it looks much better than a scanned version of the hand-drawn template. And how about this stitch demonstation I made with Inkscape?

Yeah, I know, it looks kind of like childplay. But I'm pretty happy about it.

You can do a lot more complicated things with Inkscape. There are so many options and funny looking buttons, and I have no idea what they are for!

But I'm learning and I've already used Inkscape a lot. All the monkey logos on this blog are made with Inkscape (and a lot of patience). But obviously, I still need to learn way more about this awesome software and I know there are so many cool things one can do with the program, but often I can't quite figure out how. Well, practice makes perfect... right?

Friday, February 18, 2011


They say married people start to look like eachother the longer they are married. We've been married for a little over a year:
Seems like we're already getting there.

A day in pictures

Took the Muni bus in the morning.
With my new umbrella.
Because the rain was relentless.
Went to see my physical therapist to work on my tennis elbow and thumb tendinitis.
Had to sit up (because my low blood pressure always makes me dizzy when I lie down) when he stretched my arm, hurt my elbow to loosen the tendon, treated me with ultrasound heat (machine on the left table), and when he put a huge heat pack (on the chair/bed) on my arm.
Waited in the waiting room for a letter of recommendation for a thumb brace.
Bought this thumb stabilizer at CVS.
Hung out at Starbucks with a new book by my favorite author.
Enjoyed a view of the San Francisco rain and the movie theater while talking to my little brother (in the Netherlands) on iPhone Facetime (love the free WIFI at Starbucks).
Met up with Bradley and Hannah.
And my husband.
For a huge American dinner at Denny's.
And an interesting and slightly scary movie across the street.
Had a great day.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Juan's cooking

Juan, Yasu's Spanish friend from school, invited us for lunch today!
He made us creme de asparagus and a potato and codfish dish from the oven: 
Much fancier than I expected when I thought about lunch, and he made it all from scratch (we actually watched him do it) and it was so good! Especially the soup, and I don't like soup, was very tasty. Thanks Juan for a delicious and fun afternoon.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Taking moose pictures

I’m planning to make my pattern with a computer program, but first I need something to turn into a (hopefully) fancy computer pattern. I used that angry moose sketch to cut out some felt, sew on some details, and this is what the moose looks like so far, pieced together, ready to be finished.

I want my PDF pattern to include a step-by-step picture guide of how to turn the pattern into a felt creature, so that means I have to take a lot of pictures while I’m sewing it myself.

I hope I didn’t forget to photograph some crucial sewing event. And I also shouldn’t forget to take pictures of the materials and tools used. I’m sure that’ll be helpful as well.

Sewing one of my animals takes a long time, and taking pictures of every single step obviously makes the whole process last even longer. But it’s fun and I’m excited about creating something quite different for a change!

Early sakura

Look what I spotted today in front of my friend's house: 
Sakura a.k.a. cherry blossoms! In Japan cherry blossoms are a big deal and people celebrate these cute little white flowers with festivals and picnics, usually with lots of people, lots of food and lots of alcohol. I've celebrated the sakura three different times when I lived in Japan (2008, 2009, 2010) and it was always in the first week of April. But here in warm and sunny San Francisco cherry blossom season apparently is in early February! Yasu and I want to organize a hanami (flower viewing) party under the cherry blossoms in some park, but we're not allowed to drink alcohol in public here...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Eleven Questions

The eleventh monkey wants to interview other crafty people on a weekly basis. And I thought it would only be fair for me to answer the eleventh monkey’s eleven questions first. To set an example, to show everyone the questions and to prove that it’s really not that scary to be interviewed by a monkey with a big microphone ;).

1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a 30-year-old Dutchie, who’s always been obsessed with the States (I watched too much TV when I was a kid) and my dream to live in the States temporarily came true when I was in graduate school. For one semester, I attended Emory University's B-school in Atlanta, GA in 2004. I fully intended to find my dream-American-man there, instead I found my dream-Japanese-man there!

After our time at Emory he moved back to Japan and I moved back to Europe and we maintained a very long distance relationship for 3 years. In 2007, I finally moved to Japan to be with him, and start a new adventure teaching English to Japanese kids and adults. In 2009 we got married and last year we moved to San Francisco, where my husband is now in graduate school.

I have many hobbies. I love reading, watching movies, traveling, going to concerts, singing karaoke, blogging, taking pictures, learning Japanese, hanging out with friends, and most importantly being creative!

2. What do you make and how did you get into this?
I hand sew  creatures (mostly animals) from felt and I give them buttons for eyes. Most of them look slightly awkward, but that’s just the way I like them.

In 2009, I visited an artsy neighborhood in Seoul, South Korea. Crafty people were selling little handmade  leather monsters in street stalls and I just loved the collection of colorful creations. It was there, that day, that I told my (future) husband “I’m going to design and make little creatures like these and sell them on the internet.” I kind of thought he would laugh at me, but instead he got excited and told me it was a great idea.

So when we got home I started drawing designs and started shopping around for supplies. I couldn’t find any think leather so I decided to work with felt instead. At the time, a coworker was about to leave Japan and I wanted to make him his favorite animal as a farewell gift. I had no idea how to sew yet, but one can learn just about anything online, these days. Several tries and weeks later I finished my first giraffe. I was so proud of myself! And my coworker loved it!

3. Why did you name your shop eleventh monkey?
When I started, the working title for my shop was Buttoneyes. But what if I ever wanted to use something else for eyes? I wanted a name that represented me, not my products, just in case I ever wanted to change my craft or materials. My Chinese zodiac sign is a monkey and I’m born on the 11th of August, so I just combined the two. I am the eleventh monkey. And I decided not to capitalize the name because I don’t like the way a capital ‘E’ looks... I know, I’m weird!

4. Where and when do you like to create?
We live in a very small apartment, and my old apartment in Japan was even smaller (I nicknamed it my shoebox), so unfortunately I’ve never had space for a proper studio. In Japan, I always used to bring a bag of supplies to Starbucks, order a coffee and spend hours sewing there. I’d get a lot of stares, but as a foreigner in Japan I was so used to being stared at, that it didn’t bother me at all. I loved sewing at Starbucks.

Now, in San Francisco, I don’t sew at Starbucks anymore, simply because it’s not a clean environment to sew in. Japan and Japanese Starbuckses are all so nice and clean, I never really realized how obsessed they are with cleanliness, and kind of took it for granted. So these days I just sew at home, but it’s okay, as we’re living on a student’s budget now and we can’t really afford Starbucks coffee on a daily basis anymore. All of my supplies are stored in two drawers and when I sew I make a huge mess on our table.

When do I like to create? All the time. Whenever I’m home and I’m not cleaning, cooking, sleeping, or showering, I’m sewing!

5. What inspires you?
Things I see around me, advertisements, cartoon images, materials for sale in craft stores, blogs, people’s accessories, colorful displays in shop windows and so on. I’m always taking pictures with my iPhone to remember all the inspiring things I’ve seen. I have so many ideas swimming around in my head and drawn in my sketchbook. I wish I had the time to bring all these ideas to life...

6. What’s the best thing you’ve ever made?
A couple of months ago, my sweet mother was in the hospital in the Netherlands, awaiting surgery on a tumor in her spinal cord. I was here in San Francisco and it was very difficult not be able to be with her to help her through such a difficult time. So I created ‘Louana the Second’, and send her home for my mom to hug whenever she needed my hug.

7. When you create what do you like to drink, snack on, listen to, or watch?
When I used to work at Starbucks in Japan, I loved to drink their coffee concoctions and tea lattes while sewing. Now I still drink coffee while sewing at home in the mornings, but most of the time I just drink water. I know, boring, but it just tastes so good, especially when you’re thirsty. I don’t really snack while sewing because I need to keep my fingers clean as I’m constantly touching the felt.

I’m always watching internet TV when I sew. I’m a big fan of true crime shows (my husband thinks it’s a creepy hobby), like ‘48 Hours’ and ‘Dateline’, and I love TV shows like ‘Criminal Minds’ and ‘Supernatural’.

8. What skill would you love to learn and who would you like to be your teacher?
There are many skills I’d love to learn! Graphic design, sewing with a machine, illustrating, cooking, web design, crocheting, working with photoshop, speaking Japanese, photography. But for now I would be satisfied to learn how to properly manage my time. I’m always overwhelmed by how little time I have and how quickly it passes by. And my teacher would be Elsie from A Beautiful Mess, I’m always amazed at the amount of work that girl gets done in no time at all. She’s a true inspiration.

9. What are you working on now and what are your goals for the future?
I’m working on my first PDF pattern! I’ve been wanting to make one forever, but working on the computer always takes up so much time and my sewing keeps distracting me. But my physical therapist urged me to take a little break from sewing because it’s given me a tennis elbow and thumb tendinitis... I sew too much and too intensely, apparently. So, I’m hoping to finish a PDF pattern during this sewing break.

Goals for the future? Someday I hope to be able to generate some kind of income with eleventh monkey and turn this dream hobby into a dream job.

10. What are your five favorite websites?
Bloglovin': There are so many inspirational blogs I love to read. This website allows me to check all their updates from one well-organized place. So I don’t have to check each individual blog for updates, saving me a lot of time.

Eyes for Lies: This woman is amazing, she is a human lie detector and her evaluation of criminal cases and its suspects are fascinating. She also once read my face from a few pictures and made dozens of correct statements about my personality that just astonished me!

Facebook: I’m really bad at keeping in touch via email, it takes so much time and I procrastinate too much. On facebook I can easily keep in touch with friends from all over the world at the same time! I love it!

Flickr: I love taking pictures, and saving all my memories in one place on the web. Flickr is really great for that. It’s also a great website to find inspiration!

Hulu: Now that I live in the States, I can use this website to watch full episodes of American TV shows and even full movies. It’s great because we don’t own a TV and I always watch videos on this website when I’m sewing.

11. Where can we find you online?
Well, of course on this blog and in my Etsy shop. But also on my facebook fanpage, Flickr and Twitter.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Happy birthday Gy!

My little brother is turning 20 today! Yeah, that's right he's more than 10 years younger than me :). Oh, how I wish I was still that young sometimes. He's just turned adult, in Japan, but he's got one more year to go in the Netherlands. 
He'll always be my little brother, his nickname is actually "The Little One", but he's not so little anymore. Still, I thought I'd honor his twentieth birthday with a selfmade card with loads of pictures when he was still little. Here are two of my favorite pictures of when The Little One was actually little:
Doesn't he look adorable with his huge shovel and sitting in the kitchen sink? 

Happy birthday, Gyano!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

My Super Bowl commercial top 3

I really enjoyed watching the Super Bowl game at a friend's house yesterday. Two weeks ago she taught me all about the rules, so this time I knew exactly what was going on, when I was paying attention that is, because we were talking way too much! Girls...

I was also very excited to see the special Super Bowl commercials. I heard they are supposed to be a big deal and I'm a big fan of funny and interesting commercials. But again, we were talking too much and the gist of most of the commercials were lost on me. So tonight I watched them all again online, yeah I'm such a commercial nerd. I was pretty impressed by most of the 66 (!) original Super Bowl commercials, and I even have a top 3!

# 3: The Pug Attack by Doritos
The running pug looks cute, but I was scared the bully was going to hurt him with his mean trick. But the pug is super powerful and puts that bully in it's place and eats his Doritos.

# 2: The Saluting Beaver by Bridgestone
Oh my, that beaver is so cute. He's cute when he's almost run over, he's cute when he salutes the driver for swerving around him, he's cute when he saves the driver's life 6 months later. But he's the cutest when he does that fist-to-chest bump!

# 1: The Darth Vader Kid by Volkswagen
I even got this commercial when I saw it live on TV, because the tiny Darth Vader was so adorable  even us stopped talking to watch him in action. I love his reaction when he thinks he starts the car and how he looks back at the house to see if anybody saw him do it.

There were also numerous commercials with famous Americans in them and of those I liked this second commercial with Eminem the most (he also starred in some ice tea commercial).
I like this commercial because of the impressive shots of Detroit, the drama of the commercial and the music. Oh, and I think Eminem is cool and I love his music.

Can't wait to see next year's Super Bowl and all its commercials! What a fun American pastime.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Indie Business 3.0

Last year, I took an online class called Indie Business 2.0. I absolutely loved it, it was really interesting and informative. I feel I learned a lot but I things went so quickly and I was so busy with my fulltime teaching job. I didn't get to participate as well as I wanted, and I was totally planning on working on the classes later, in my own time, but life only got busier with my leaving Japan, my long visit to the Netherlands, and then our big move to San Francisco. 

But now it's a year later and I'm settled here in the States and no longer working a full time job, and it's time for Indie Business 3.0! The same online course, but updated, refreshed, and with a few new topics and a new teacher. I remember what a great job the teachers did last year, so I've decided to sign up again, and this time I'm going to immerse myself totally in the class.

I'm such a repeat student. But I'm not ashamed of it, I'm really excited and I can't wait to start!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Moose pdf pattern

I'm trying not to sew for a while, hoping my tennis elbow and thumb tendinitis will heal, allowing me to happily sew away once more. In the meantime, I need some kind of crafty project to keep me occupied and distracted enough not to turn to my felt and button drawers in a moment of weakness.

So I've decided to work on my first PDF pattern. I've been wanting to make one forever, but it's just so much work and I've been procrastinating myself silly with this angry moose pattern.

I guess now that I've blogged about this, it means I'm going to have to finally start and finish it properly. The pressure of a deadline has always helped me stop procrastinating, and I want this done. So it's now officially my 'What's cooking?' project for February, so I'll have to finish it by the end of this month. I can do it! I think...

Small book?

Doesn't this look like a small book?
Actually the book is a normal-sized book, the letters are just huge. It doesn't look as impressive in this picture as it does in real life, so I put a regular book with regular-sized letters next to it, so you can compare:
It's a large print edition of one of Jefferey Deaver's recent books. Yasu brought me this from the library, and it surprised me, because I've never seen such a thing. But I really like it, I can read the book from across the room and I'll be turning the pages so quickly I'll probably feel like a speed reader.

I love the library here, it's totally free and they allow you take out so many books, CDs and DVDs. Now, I've got all Harry Potter books in audio version. Of course, I've read all seven books at least twice, but you can never read Harry Potter enough, right? And now I can 'read' them while I'm sewing or organizing pictures for my blog. Awesome.