Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The horror that is parallel parking

I can drive. I like driving. I can’t wait for the day I get to own my first car. Yes, I’m 32 and I’ve never owned a car. But I’ve driven all over the world in rental cars and borrowed cars since 1998, and I loved it.

I can’t parallel park. I don’t like parallel parking. I successfully did it to pass my behind-the-wheels driving exam in Belgium, and then managed to never do it again. Who needs parallel parking? I don’t.

But if I ever want an American driver’s license, I’m going to have to be able to do it again. Because they won’t allow me to simply swap my Dutch license in for an American one.

What? Why not? I got my Dutch one by simply handing in my Belgian one... But in America they’re going to make me take the written exam and behind-the-wheels driving exam before they’ll give me a California driver’s license. Damn.

I don’t really need one right now, since my Dutch one is valid till the end of 2016, and I’ve had no problem renting a car with it in America. But what if I ever need an American license? This may be my last time in Europe before that happens. And they have those nice traffic squares in Belgium where you can practice those pesky car maneuvers in peace.

So last week Guido and I drove to Belgium and found the traffic square I used to practice on as a teenager. Guido took on the role of teacher and assistant and together , after a few slight panic attacks and general freak-outs, we got me parallel parked!

As you can see in the picture, the traffic square doesn’t provide real cars to park in between. After a while I had gotten pretty good at parking in between those high steel fence barriers, but doing it on a real street with other cars waiting impatiently behind me still made me extremely nervous. I tried on a few occasions that day in Belgium, but the giggling onlookers or the high volume of traffic just send me into a cold sweat and made me give up.

Today we tried again, in the Netherlands. Guido knew some quiet neighborhoods where I could practice. It was already dark so I have no picture to prove it, but I did it! Again, and again, and again, and a few more times.

People were nervously peeping out of their windows, wondering what the heck was going on. In the Netherlands, you’re not allowed to practice driving on your own, without an official driving school car and instructor, like you can in Belgium and America. I wondered if anyone was going to call the cops, which would have been funny, since I actually have a Dutch license so it was totally okay for me to practice parallel parking, over and over again. Weird, but legal.

No cops came and I took my parallel parking teacher out for some Döner Kebab. He deserved it, after being brave enough to let me practice in his car and being so patient with this parallel-parking-phobic. I just hope I remember how to parallel park when that American exam comes around. I may just freak out all over again.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Decorate your ears!

Plush creatures are cute, but what does one use them for? 

Well, why don't you use them to decorate yourself? Let's hang some from your ears! That way these cuties can keep you company throughout the day.

On very magical days they will tell you how pretty you look when you are in front of a mirror, give you pep talks before important meetings and exams, and whisper fairy tales into your ears when you’re waiting for the bus. Or does that only happen to me?

Sewing tiny things like these on a machine is quite the challenge, but they turn out so darling it's definitely worth the effort. 

Go on, go check them out on Etsy, you know you want to.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Harry, thank you!

Owls are popular.

I blame Harry Potter for this.

Or rather, I thank Harry Potter for this, because now I get to create many version of this cute animal in different colors of felt, upcycled upholstery fabric, and buttons.

I've put these in the shop, and now I kind of want to make some more. Maybe soon.

The Grand Plan

I am a perfectionist.

It's a blessing, but mainly it's a curse. It just takes so much time to do things perfectly, so I'm always behind and perpetually trying to catch up. This blog is the perfect example! No pun intended. Will I ever catch up? I mean, I still have to blog about my trip home from Japan in 2009, and all the other ones that came after that.

My husband thinks the easy answer is to just stop being a perfectionist, but I just can't not try to do things perfectly. It's an obsession that's been with me since I can remember. As a teenager, I was constantly rewriting entire pages of homework, just because of one little mistake. Sure, I had Wite-Out, but I really hated the look of it as it was still obvious there was some mistake under it. So it needed to be redone, completely. It should come as no surprise that I was always behind on my homework.

Thank goodness for computers, word processors, and delete buttons! These have made my life so much easier, if it weren't for these, I would never have finished my Master thesis.

I can't give up my perfectionism, I'm addicted to it. Yet, there's nothing perfect about my time management, and that can be painfully overwhelming.

With the help of my ever supportive hubbie I came up with the Grand Plan in the picture. This is supposed to help me feel more in control of my time. I really hope so.

Coupons for nerds

My friend Rita from Mochi Studios works at a San Francisco internet startup called NerdWallet. NerdWallet provides indie sellers with an online coupon tool to help promote your shop for free. It's still in its Beta stage, but it already looks really promising and interesting. 

So I signed up and created some coupons for nerds, or anyone else that chooses to make use of them.
And today I got featured on their blog! It's a really nice interview which makes me look way cooler and more interesting than I feel!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Spooky but cute

This year I will be on a plane for Halloween, I'll be flying to the Netherlands to go home and celebrate my mother's 50th birthday. So, I may not be around to celebrate Halloween this year, but I love holiday traditions and seeing all the spooky things appear on shop shelves this season. And on my virtual Etsy shelves a bunch of spooky but cute ornaments have also appeared:
Besides the screaming ghosts the handstitched skull ornaments have made another appearance this year as well:
Happy Halloween everyone, maybe I'll wear my horns on the plane...

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mouse pdf pattern

I finally finished another pdf pattern, more than a year after the first one. Of course, it takes rather a long time to put one together, I knew that, but almost 17 months is a tad ridiculous. I'm trying to promise myself to quicken things up a bit and have at least one more finished before the end of summer.
I started working on new pdf patterns at the beginning of this year. I got out my markers and started drawing out some steps and ideas. My first pattern was basically a step-by-step photo tutorial with some vector images of stitches and of course the actual pattern. I still like that pattern, but my colorful drawings made me imagine a whole new comic-book-style-look for my new pattern tutorials.
I knew turning marker drawings into actual vector images on my computer would take an insane amount of time (since I basically have no idea what I'm doing and learning just by trying things out) so I was procrastinating. Then one of my lovely customers actually requested a pattern for one of my mice, so I decided to go for it. I spent nearly two months trying out different stitches on a mouse (as I had never hand stitched a mouse before), and creating vector images on my computer.
When I finished my wrist and elbow were sore from hand stitching (which I'm not supposed to be doing anymore) and my fingers were sore from pushing down so hard on and dragging them over my mouse trackpad for hours and hours on end using Inkscape. But I was happy, because I love my new pattern! Here's a little sneak peek:
My patient customer was happy too, and was so kind to send me pictures of the adorable creatures she stitched together using my patterns. Such pictures make my heart feel light and happy!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A new record for the Netherlands

Yasu is on retreat with his practicum group so he wasn't able to join me at the Dutch Consulate to see the last game of the Netherlands in the Group of Death. And because Yasu wasn't there this morning to keep me sane, I totally lost my mind and left for the game an hour early. Oh well, better too early than too late, right?

Jenny joined the European football viewing fun instead. There were a lot less people than at the other two games, I wonder if most had already given up hope, and unlike the other games almost everyone was watching the game on the smaller TV screen in the living room setup. Jenny and I watched the action on the large screen though and she really did her best to cheer on the Dutchies and curse at the Portuguese with us. 

While we were watching the Netherlands-Portugal game on the big screen, we kept an eye on the Germany-Denmark game on a small Mac screen, after all it was important that Germans beat the Danes in order for us to even have a chance to advance to the next phase.

Well, the Netherlands scored in the first 20 minutes and we all exploded with cheers and claps and little dances on the spot, but soon the Portuguese took over and basically destroyed the Dutch team. The Germans won and the Portugese won, and the Netherlands broke a new record: losing all three games in the group phase of a championship. 
I really enjoyed cheering on the Dutch team though, and I'm definitely doing it again at future championships. I just really hope to see them win once, I still haven't watched a game they won, and they're usually pretty good at winning.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Dutch versus the Germans

Today was the day the Netherlands was going to beat Germany in the European Football Championship. The mother of all football games, because of the longstanding football rivalry between the Dutch and the Germans

Every time there is a big championship funny commercials pop up of the Dutch making fun of the Germans, and the other way around. This year it's McDonald's using the rivalry to promote its burgers, this was the Dutch commercial:
And this was the German reaction:
So not only did we need to win this game to progress from the Group of Death to the knockout stage, but we also needed to win to beat those Germans. Problem was that those Germans are good, but the Dutch are good too, so we were full of hope.

We went to the Dutch Consulate again. We were the first to arrive in the patriotically decorated space and were soon joined by a crowd of orange-clad supporters.
We were all in orange spirits, not just in San Francisco, also at home in the Netherlands. I learned through iMessage that my family was all gathered around the TV to watch the game as well, and believe me that is unusual, especially for my mother and brother. So we all watched the game 'together' and we all moaned together when Germany scored twice, out loud and through iMessage.
My mom was getting bored and when she announced she was going to bed (it was early afternoon here, but evening in the Netherlands) the Dutch suddenly scored! An unimaginable roar of cheers and cries of happiness went through the Consulate, it was an awesome moment and it made everyone hopeful again. Even my mom, who decided to watch the rest of the game after all.

To our dissapointment, no more goals were made and the Germans won this game. It's hard to believe that our national team has lost two games, but we're not giving up hope yet, we'll just have to beat Portugal on Sunday with two clear goals and hope the Germans beat the Danes... It's going to be hard, but not impossible.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Orange cheering

After a great Koninginnedag in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park with a surprisingly large gathering of Dutchies, I've been wanting to go to another Dutch event with an orange dress code.

Right now, the European Football Championship is in full swing and of course the Dutch national team is competing as well. The Netherlands Consulate General in San Francisco invited local Dutchies and friends to come watch the game at the Consulate, and we were happy to attend! We brought with us Yasu's boss March, who is Dutch-American and very interested in anything Dutch and the Euro Cup.
The Dutch Consulate has really beautiful offices on the 31st floor of a building downtown, so it had an awesome view of San Francisco and the Bay.
But we were not there to enjoy the view, we were there to watch football - more commonly known as soccer in the States - and to cheer on the Dutch team. I never really used to care much about my country's favorite sport, but there's nothing like celebrating your nationality and cheering on your fellow countrymen when you've been abroad for so long.
I've only ever watched a few football games in which the Dutch national team were playing and so far I've never seen them win, including today. I kind of feel like their unlucky charm! Even during the last World Cup I didn't see them win, even though they won all games, except the finale, which is the only one I saw (in Japan on a Dutch TV screen through Skype).

Today they lost against Denmark, so now I'm hoping they'll beat Germany on Wednesday. We'll be watching the game at the Consulate again, because it was such a nice place (it kind of felt like being in a Dutch living room) and it was so much fun to root for your team with so many other orange-fans!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Robin's House of Art

Ever since Robin first told me about how she makes her beautiful pins, I've been so curious about her workspace, so I was one happy camper when I got to visit her today at her house/art studio. She lives in such a cute mazelike house, with so many rooms and so many things to look at. There's color everywhere, and it feels like such a happy, creative and inspiring place.
She explained to me all the steps of creating her pins, and she warned me I might get bored, but of course it was super interesting! I can never get enough of looking at her pins, they always make me feel joy. They are all little pieces of art people can wear and carry with them everywhere. She has so many different ones, and so far it has been impossible for me to pick a favorite. 
Robin is a painter and besides her pins, earrings and necklaces she also creates the most amazing paintings, and they are all over the place brightening up the house.
Robin has so many interesting tools and supplies at her house, and she has many more creative skills besides painting. I can't wait until next time when she going to teach me all about the art of stained glass!

Saturday, June 02, 2012


It's already June, it's already summertime. The older I get the faster time flies. In my country, summer starts at the end of June, but here in California summer weather seems to have arrived ages ago, I got my first severe sunburn weeks ago. In the Netherlands students are still in school until sometime in July, but here school has been out for summer since the beginning of May. It's time for some cool drinks in the sun. Happy summer!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Carnaval in San Francisco

Today was the big day, the day of the big Carnaval Parade in the Mission in San Francisco. I know actual Carnaval took place in February this year, but in San Francisco they shift the event a couple of months to be able to take advantage of better weather.

King Theo has been encouraging everyone in class to participate in the parade, and even though it sounded like fun, I didn't feel quite confident enough after just four classes to dance with all the others in the parade. Instead I opted to cheer on everyone from the sidelines, and so did Jenny.

We took Yasu and David with us to admire all the beautiful Carnaval dancers and floats. SambaFunk! was the most impressive contingent in the parade, and yeah I realize I may be biased, but just look at them:
After the parade the party continued on Harrison street, where SambaFunk! performed on one of the stages and afterwards took its drumming and dancing party to the street.
It was so much fun, it's hard to describe. It's actually quite addicting, and I really regret not signing up to participate in the t-shirt section of the parade. Now I have to wait one whole year for Carnaval to come back to San Francisco. Thankfully, samba classes continue twice a week!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The chicken or the egg

Just before Easter I made some plush eggs and plush chickens. I don't remember which I came first, but I do know that I listed the eggs first on Etsy and that I've only just listed the chickens on Etsy this month.
No matter which came first, the chicken or the egg, I know that in between came the cute little baby chicks. And my colorful clutch of chicks is now happily clucking away on Etsy as well.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Loulogue + 11th monkey = eleventh monkey

I have had my personal blog called the Loulogue since 2006. I used it as an online travelogue to keep my family and friends at home up to date on my daily adventures in Japan. After eleventh monkey creatures started making a more than regular appearance on the Loulogue, I decided to devote a whole new blog just to them.

Which was a bit of a silly decision for me, because I'd been having a hard time keeping my one blog up to date, and adding a second made it even harder. Oh well, lesson learned! Time to merge my blogs back together.

Since I am the eleventh monkey (I chose the name because I'm born on the eleventh in the year of the monkey), I'm combining all blog posts (about my creatures and about my personal life) under my new blog name "eleventh monkey". And Blogger has finally made that webaddress available again so it's perfect timing.

So from now on this is the place to be if you want more eleventh monkey shoptalk or see what Yasu and I are up to in San Francisco, and don't be shy, I love comments!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Finger Puppets

When I was at the craft fair on Yasu's campus last year, one of the students suggested I make finger puppets for therapists to use with clients. I thought it was a fun idea, so I got to work and created a bunch of finger puppets without expressions, so they can be used with any voice or emotion during therapy.
I also made a bunch of chickens, chicks and bunnies for the Easter holiday:
I must say, I really enjoy the voices and stories that come out of my customers' mouths when they try on these puppets and start role playing with them!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Decorating Easter eggs

Not much longer until it's Easter. My favorite part of Easter has always been the egg hunt. My mom and grandmother would hide chocolate eggs all around the house and garden for me and my brothers to find, divide and then eat!

Last year, I hid some eggs and a chocolate Easter bunny around the apartment for my Japanese husband, so he could go on his first egg hunt ever. He enjoyed it but I'm not going to do it again this year, there's only so many places one can hide an egg in a small studio apartment and I used them all up last year.

Instead, I decided to decorate some eggs. As a child I decorated real eggs with special markers or with paint by using a little apparatus like this:

But this year, I've decorate felt egg creatures with colorful ribbons and listed them in my shop so that other people can play Easter Bunny and hide these eggs around their house for their loved ones to find on Easter Sunday.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A faux furry and funky surprise

At the beginning of this year I joined the Etsy Plush Street Team, just in time to sign up for their plush swap. This year in honor of Leap Day. And last night I received my Leap Day Swap Surprise from Green Elevator in a large box with some promising decorations:

I excitedly but carefully opened the box and something furry started climbing out:

I squeeled with delight when I met this funky monkey in one of my favorite color combinations, Dunkin' Donuts' pink and orange:

Oh, and check out his fabulous tail:

He is so stunning, incredibly well made and really soft. I couldn't stop hugging and touching it. He's made of some amazing faux fur fabric that's making me want to get some for myself and start creating with it! But first I have to get ready for next week's tiny on campus craft fair at my husband's school, then I'll hunt the city for some faux fur to experiment with.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

In a pink Valentine's mood

It's almost Valentine's Day so I'm in a pink mood! A customer requested a bunch of pink tiny owls and I made some more for the shop, because I want to put everyone into a pink mood this Valentine's!

While still in that pink mood, another customer requested a black rottweiler dog, so I also made a pink rottweiler. Wait, a pink rottweiler plushie is not a typical Valentine's gift? Well, it should be.

Besides pink, I love to see hearts on Valentine's day, in any color and everywhere, especially on handstitched skulls. Because nothing says "I love you" like a skull, right?

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

My family in felt

Another project I spent a lot of time on in the last weeks of 2011 was this family of felt dolls:

It's not just any family, it's my family! For Christmas I decided to gift all my family members a felt doll that looked like him or her, so everyone could have their own "mini-me" and feel powerful like a giant, you know when they needed it.

First, I had to come up with a satisfactory human doll design, so I practiced quite a lot on a high-bunned redhead:

Then I had a little poll on Instagram (find me, I'm @eleventhmonkey) to see if other people agreed with me on the winner. They did.

So I started drawing designs for everyone, which was probably the hardest, because I wanted people's typical hair and clothing styles to be reflected in their dolls. I wanted each and everyone to be unique and recognizable. Yeah, I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so sometimes I make my life harder than it needs to be.

Then the craft fair suddenly made an appearance in my schedule and my Christmas present project got put on hold for two weeks.

When the craft fair was over and done with, I quickly returned full force to my little army of felt dolls waiting to be put together. It was two weeks of no cleaning, no laundry, and no cooking (thank you my lovely husband for putting food on our table every night), instead I kept myself busy with cutting felt and sewing these babies:

Three of the human dolls weren't actually for family members, they're going to need to find other homes, and they finally made it to my Etsy shop yesterday:

All the others were giftwrapped and hastily sent to the Netherlands on December 16th. I didn't have much hope that these dolls would make it to my family in time for Christmas, because the birthday gift I'd sent my mom in November had taken almost 3 weeks to arrive. Still I was hoping for a little Christmas miracle...

Then on the 24th, when the husband and I were vacationing in Las Vegas, I received an iMessage from the homefront informing me the dolls had arrived that day! Right on time for Christmas Eve! I was so happy! All the hard work and rushing had paid off.

My family loved their dolls, and they told me it was very obvious which doll belonged to whom. Score! 

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Happy 2012!

It's a new year, and so I feel like organizing! The last few months of 2011 were very busy and I kind of made a mess on my computer, file-organization-wise. I made so many tiny owls for the craft fair, and even though I did squeeze in a little photoshoot before they got packaged, I never got around to editing the pictures and showing off all their adorable little faces on the blog.

Most of the tiny owls were adopted by friendly people at the craft fair, but these four are still looking for a hug-happy home:

If you want to adopt any of these hop on over to Etsy, or stay here to see more pictures from the tiny owls' family album.

These guys are the boldly colored cousins, I made only one in each color of felt:

I used jeans-y blue embellished eco-fi felt to make these six guys:

I really like the effect of the embellished felt and made a bunch of brown brothers:

I used beige-colored embellished eco-fi felt to make these lovely ladies:

These uncles are made from black embellished felt:

And these feisty looking aunties are made from embellished bordeaux felt: