January 8, 2012 § 3 Comments

After Christmas with the folks in quiet suburban Michigan, I was so eager to loudly ring in the new year last weekend at the world-famous countdown in Times Square, now that O.T. has officially moved to the Hudson Valley in New York.  Well, this is an experience only worth attempting once — and the operative word is “attempt”.

We made the clever choice of taking the subway into Manhattan and arrived in Columbus Circle by 8:00 pm.  From here, there isn’t glaring evidence of the mess that is Manhattan on New Year’s Eve, until we turned the corner and started walking south along 8th Avenue…

Nearly all streets were closed.  Crowds were being corralled like cattle.  Seriously.  Our walk along 8th, from Columbus Circle to 53rd (where we missed a dinner reservation because the street access had closed), and redirecting ourselves back to 59th to be able to cross to 7th — took an hour, including a ten-minute pizza break to calm my nerves (p.s. New York City has the best pizza in America…so sorry, Chicago).

At 9:00 pm, the time we made it to 7th, we found our line of sight on Times Square.  We were sandwiched between the Wellington and Park Central Hotels at 56th.  With a crowd this large, this was the absolute closest we could be to Times Square — a whopping thirteen blocks away from the festivities and with three more hours to spare,  standing still like grazing cows, except without the open green pastures or the elbow room.

Maybe, the 7-footer man standing directly in my line of sight was the deal-breaker.  The view of his head, though shiny, was not an ideal replacement of the New Year’s ball.  O.T. and I decided on a recourse…

Back to 8th Avenue.  9:30 pm.  It wasn’t so bad.  The crowded coral on 8th had a huge TV screen with semi-audible sounds.  remiding us to “Don’t Stop Believin'”.  When I looked up, we were at the foot of the beautiful blue Dream Hotel, under a clear message.

O.T. and I left long before the clock struck midnight.  We were in his car, driving north on the Taconic, when the ball dropped and he honked the horn and flickered the lights and we could not be happier.

NYE in NYC provided me with early lessons in 2012.   Always be prepared.  If things don’t go as planned, it’s okay — take alternatives.  Always find some fun out of the journey (at the least, find a pizza joint).  At the end of the day, no matter how rough, the most significant are those you love.  And, always look up higher and dream (big, like New York City).

cn tower building blocks

February 23, 2011 § 7 Comments

This week on Iron CraftChallenge #8: Hometown.  The challenge is to craft something representing your hometown.

This week is for you, my Toronto!  What a significant coincidence that I’m also writing a Travel Crafty article on Toronto for Craft tomorrow.  It’s all a great reminder for me just how spectacular this city is.

We, Torontonians, have had the greatest pride and fortune of being home of the tallest tower in the entire world, the CN Tower, for thirty four years.  Only recently (in the fall of last year) was this title replaced by the Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China.  From 1976 to 2010, the CN Tower held the world record with a height of 553 meters (1,815 feet) — that means the tower stands half a kilometer high into the sky, or a good one-third of a mile!

So I thought it fit to craft building blocks of Toronto’s most famous icon with simple permanent markers, 1″ cubes of wood (pre-sealed with a coat of clear polish to avoid bleeding), and an abiding love for architecture.

Here are a couple of views of Toronto’s skyline showing off the incredible height of the CN Tower.  To the left, O.T. and I took a shot of downtown Toronto from across the lake in Centre Island.  To the right is a view of the CN Tower at night from a regular city street.  Every night, the tower is lit up with changing colorful lights.

These are views from right beneath and atop the tower when we went up two years ago.  The CN Tower offers a fantastic 360-degree view of Toronto, with views as far as Niagara Falls on a clear, sunny day.  What you see here is the view of Toronto’s financial core (most of those skyscrapers are banks).  Notice that O.T. and I are lying on a glass floor on the observation deck.  Yes, about half a kilometer or a third of a mile directly below us is a combination of grass and pavement!

If you love heights, Toronto is waiting for you!

Stay tuned for more on Toronto on Craft: Travel Crafty this week!

cityscape chalkboard boxes

January 7, 2011 § 20 Comments

As it goes with new year’s resolutions, most of us are trying to get a little more organized this year.  Some of you may be the lucky alpha breed who has everything in absolute order.  I know a few of those people, one of whom I call dad — his organization is so precise, he stores his golf clubs at equidistant 30-degree angles.  But maybe you’re a little like me, the “creative type” (I hate to use the term in the pejorative way, unfortunately common these days) amidst a workroom of cluttered materials.  I have all sorts of bins, drawers, and shelves, but they never seem to be enough.  I’m always bringing in new supplies that require space and many things get displaced.

For the month of December, I decided to forego placing my recycling bin by the curb and saved up enough recyclables to create these fun chalkboard boxes.  I’m a doodler and an architecture devotee, so buildings are naturally the things I love to doodle.   After drawing these, I really don’t want to erase them…yet.  Well, how convenient that the boxes have four sides!

I drew a stylized cityscape using a second side of the boxes to discover I want to use these as planter boxes instead.  What a way to hide those unsightly plastic pots!   I was hoping to tackle another resolution  — grow my indoor herb garden, since fresh herb prices are through the roof.  However, potted herbs are not in season and I wasn’t going to invest in seeds that will die before they have a chance to live.  I know myself enough, I have a miscolored thumb (I’ve killed a bonsai plant which could’ve lived to a hundred years had it been under another’s care).  So I opted for succulents.  I love succulents!!!  They live off of air or nothing.  They just live.  But even so, I hate to admit this…these are artificial plants.  Even caring for succulents is beyond my abilities.

These cityscapes are as easy as cutting open juice and milk cartons, washing them thoroughly, covering them in adhesive chalkboard or chalkboard paint. and doodling away!

san francisco gingerbread row houses

December 15, 2010 § 6 Comments

I sorely miss the eccentric, eclectic, and colorful city of San Francisco.  So much so that I decided to make gingerbread row houses as an ode to the city’s iconic Painted Ladies fronting Alamo Square Park.  These are not your usual gingerbread houses, they are ice cream sandwiches.  And not just any  ice cream — mango ice cream.  Given that the Bay Area accommodates the largest concentration of the Asian-American populace, I thought exotic ginger and mango couldn’t be more perfect flavors to make these fun treats.

I’m in the Bay Area several times a year, considering it’s where O.T. is currently residing.  This year, I spent a combined three months there, but still can’t help but feel that time could be extended.

The above is a shot of us from the summer of 2009.  I seldom go to Alamo Square Park, but always get a good chuckle out of the audience each time I visit.  I’ve always been confounded by the intent crowd watching the houses (perhaps they’re expecting Bob Saget or the Olsen twins to come out on the porch?).

inspiring istanbul

November 5, 2010 § 13 Comments

I went a little crazy with yesterday’s corn kernel and pasta craft.  I had forgotten just how much fun it was to do those things.  An idea occurred to me that, over time, I should do a series of crafts based on childhood art techniques.  But I was so inspired, I couldn’t wait for the next time.  My enthusiasm caught me going wild with another bean art project before the day ended yesterday.  Before I show you the product of that adventure, I want to first show where the inspiration and adventure originated: Istanbul.Iznik Tile Topkapi Place

I had the privilege of visiting Istanbul with O.T. in August.  I had gotten adequately acquainted with Turkish culture long before planning the trip.  O.T. has schooled me on Turkey’s rich history, splendid sights, tempting culinary fare, and exotic language .  Even with all that homework, I was wide-eyed in awe as I witnessed it all firsthand. Iznik Tile Topkapi PalaceWhat took me most by surprise were the İznik tiles.  I had previously read about them in preparation for my trip, but reading books can no way  allow one to gauge the opulence and scale of these decorative works of art.  They are lavish!  There are buildings covered in every inch with these tiles, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling.  I was so awestruck, I wanted to take pictures in front of every İznik tile pattern I crossed (to O.T.’s dismay who had gotten tired of taking pictures of me and tiles).  Here’s only a few of what I had seen at Topkapı Palace.  Now if you can imagine these tiles being multiplied a thousand fold, pattern after pattern, everywhere you look.  If these beauties do not inspire, I don’t know what would!Iznik Tile Topkapi PalaceIznik Tile Topkapi Palaceiznik tile Topkapi Palace

when in rome

October 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

Last night’s dinner of spaghetti al nero di seppia is a good segue to showcase some of the marvelous sights I saw in Italy.  Of course, when in Italy, you must do the holy trinity of tourism: Rome, Florence, and Venice.  I admit, I dabbled in a fair ration of classical art and architecture history some time ago, so Rome was the seat of the world to me.  Unexpectedly, I fell in love with Florence instead, perhaps because I hadn’t studied it with such diligence and it took me by surprise.  What’s even more surprising was Venice didn’t leave me with an impression of being as romantic as it is perceived.  I found it was beautiful in the day, yet so dark and mysterious at night.  Whenever I visit Italy next, I plan to see more of Tuscany.  The striking views of endless lines of cypress trees along the route from Rome to Florence really called to me.  My trip to Italy was definitely an endeavor in architecture.  More on my perspectives of food and culture to follow.

italy rome colosseum

In Rome: the colosseum in its grandeur.

italy roman forum

In Rome: the ruins within the ancient Roman Forum.

italy rome pantheon

In Rome: the Pantheon from beneath its oculus and from the exterior.

italy rome st. peter's

In the Vatican: St. Peter's Basilica's arm and dome.

italy florence

In Florence: the Duomo at dusk and an afternoon view from above.

italy venice

In Venice: gondolas in a canal and a gondolier in the Grand Canal passing the Rialto Bridge.


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