Saturday, July 14, 2012

New Blog!

Due to complications I've had with Blogger and it's user interface, I decided to move Li'l B's Ramblings to my website, Li'l B's Works.  The new website is  Please stop by to see what new adventures I have as the years go on.  I look forward to seeing you there.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Seoul, South Korea-2012

Not long ago I went to Seoul, the capital of South Korea. I only had six hours in Seoul, since we were part of a tour from another area of Korea, and it had been a hectic week at work so me and my buddy decided to see where the bus dropped us off and figure out what to do from there. Turned out that the bus dropped us right off the Itaewon International Market Street. We got to Seoul at lunch time and were hungry after a few hours on the bus so we found a cafe that served Italian with a Korean twist. I got a pasta dish in a rose water sauce that was kinda spicy but really good and an apple juice that was awesome before starting walking again. Ever on the lookout for good jewelry or bead stores, I convinced my friend to go to the “fashion road” first. I was disappointed to learn that all the stores were merely boutiques of ready-made outfits by lesser known designers. My friend told me a fact that made me a little less disappointed at not finding beads. She said that she had looked on Google to see what was said about this street and learned that many designers try out new ideas in Korea before sending them out on the shelves around the world. I hadn’t known that and found it rather interesting. By now we had been walking about an hour without seeing anything worth buying and were slightly grouchy but once we got to Itaewon Street, we found an underground “market” and bought some souvenirs at good prices that got us in better moods. The underground markets on that street are large rooms with a number of stores but no walls. The stores are established there all year round, so it’s not like a market with stalls, but there are walking paths separating the stores and they are designed to be different shops that complement each other. Many of the markets sold jewelry and clothes but the one we went to had jewelry, souvenirs, blankets, baseball hats, and mens suits. We walked around for a few more hours and got souvenirs as well as seeing the International Food Street with restaurants like The Guinness House in Seoul, the Taco House, The Moon Club, My Thai House, Scrooge Pub, and Buddha’s Belly.
After a fun afternoon of shopping and window shopping we got back on the bus for a long ride back to our beds that night. I can’t say that I saw a lot of Seoul, but what I saw was what I needed that day and shopping therapy can be awesome some days.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chocolate Making Fun

No, I did not pick the cacao seeds and grind them to powder before adding milk to make paste that hardened into chocolate. I melted already made chocolate and poured it into molds. However, due to technical restraints I have right now, I wasn't able to upload pictures here or to Flickr so you can read all about my afternoon and evening of fun on my new craft blog and there are a few more pictures on my page about the technique of molding chocolate. Enjoy. (I do beg your patience on my color scheme. I'm still deciding what my background will be.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sapporo Snow Festival 2012

After seeing the Chocolate Factory, as I posted about last weekend, we got back on the train and went back to downtown Sapporo, Japan to see the 63rd annual Snow Festival. There are three sections to the festival: one parkway has huge ice sculptures with smaller snow sculptures in between that get judged at the end of the week, a boulevard of smaller ice sculptures that will get judged as well, and a park outside the city that had a huge slide for tubes, a maze, and other things designed to entice international travelers. This is my second time at the festival and I've yet to get to the third place but I'm not upset. I seem to have gotten less used to cold weather so I've never pushed to explore Sapporo. When I go out we usually stick to the plan and don't stay out too long. :)
Once we got to the festival, we walked as much as we could and took a lot of pictures, which are on my Flickr page, and tried to enjoy the afternoon. Unfortunately the air pressure, cold air, long work week, and long day of sightseeing got to us both and we both got headaches. Luckily mine was less than my friend's was so I still got a lot of pictures but we headed in as it got dark. We wound up eating supper at a German bar that had very little German food but the Japanese food was good and either being inside the mall or eating basically got rid of my headache while it was too late for my friend. She slept off her headache on the train and bus before we got ready for bed and she seemed better the next morning.
It was a fun visit to Sapporo, I just wish the weather was a little colder. As much as I was cold and my fingers were numb from taking pictures on my Ipod (that's what I get for forgetting my memory stick), it was rather annoying that we were there on the second day of the festival and the sculptures were already melting. A mermaid on a guy's back had lost her arm at the shoulder, we passed a freshly fallen bust of a girl the police were circling, and there was a sculpture labeled "Raising Dragon" that I would have loved to see but it was only a set of legs by the time we got around to it. However, the huge Disney scene, the animal scene, and the huge buildings were still lovely so I can't really complain.
All in all it was a fun trip and am not surprised the Snow Festival made it into my book on where to visit before you die. It is definitely an amazing place to be.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Chocolate Factory: Sapporo, Japan

Last weekend my friend and I went up to the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan and visited the Shiroi Koibito Chocolate Factory in Sapporo, Japan and the 63 Snow Festival. To get there we took a twenty minute bus ride from where we’d slept to the train station and a seventy minute or more train ride up to Sapporo, passing Hiroshima on the way. By the time we got to the Sapporo train station it was lunchtime and we were hungry. I remembered from last time I was here that there was a shopping mall on the floor under the train station so we went hunting for lunch and found a pasta place. Neither of us spoke Japanese and they didn’t have an English menu so we went to the entrance and pointed to what we wanted to order. Now, try to picture this: there are about ten dishes of pasta and rice in three rows at the bottom of the display case, all on the same level with two shelves of drinks and desserts above them and two American women who don’t speak Japanese are trying to point at our dishes and drinks to two Japanese people that don’t know English? Are you laughing? We were by the time we were done ordering. Luckily we got the dishes we’d ordered but I got a lemon-ish soda instead of the blueberry shake-looking drink I’d tried to order. Oh well, the seafood pasta covered in slightly spicy ketchup with extra salt was rather good and there was miso soup and the complementary water to wash it down with.
After a little more navigating (the nice way of saying maps can only get us so far) we got to the Chocolate Factory. It turns out the factory is part factory, part museum. It seems they gathered a lot of collections from collectors, such as chocolate tins, hot chocolate tea kettles and cups, and Columbia themed things and arranged them in exhibits relating to the history of chocolate candies before showing how chocolate is refined from the cocoa beans to usable chocolate. Then they explain how their famous cookie, a thin square of white chocolate inside two thin butter cookies, is made and large windows show the actual production line in a large room beneath us. After that we went upstairs where we could have baked and decorated the butter cookies, bought sugar-craft items (such as a lady in a hoopskirt made of sugar), or had hot chocolate and cakes. The next floor held more exhibit rooms they didn’t bother to connect with chocolate such as the gramophone gallery and a few themed rooms full of toys from before the 1990’s or so.
After stopping at the store to pick up some of their famous cookies, we went outside in time to see the Chocolate Carnival. “A parade of jolly singing and dancing mechanical dolls,” as their brochure says, occurs every hour on the hour that the factory is open. The courtyard is a village of children’s houses and roses (covered for the winter when I went) and everywhere I looked something was moving to the music. A parade of mechanical animals circled the clock tower, chefs were singing and dancing on one all while other mechanical chefs across the courtyard played trumpets and birds swayed to the music. The three little pigs from the nursery rhyme peaked out of their houses and a dog stood up every few minutes.
After we toured the small village of play houses it was time to get back on the train for central Sapporo to see the Snow Festival, but that story and all those pictures will come out next weekend. If you want to see more pictures of my trip through the Chocolate Factory, check out my Flickr page.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Birthday Weekend

Last weekend was my birthday weekend and I couldn’t figure out how to celebrate it. I finally decided that I would spend it trying various crafting techniques I’d wanted to learn for a while. I have about five main techniques I’ve picked up supplies for over the last few months that I have been putting off: Viking knit, kumihimo braiding, various clay projects, origami, and chain maille, as well as some necklaces for my sister that just seemed like such big projects I didn’t want to start since they would take so long to finish. What better way to celebrate my birthday than to stop the research, writing, and basically spinning my wheels on internet work and to just be creative for a few days? My plan for Saturday was to call home and talk to my parents before going out to Yokohama and the mega-store called Tokyu Hands. I had planned to let myself take out about a hundred fifty dollars for craft supplies or whatever really caught my eye and lunch out there. It was a good hour train ride from my place, or so I thought, and I figured I’d leave midmorning and get back to my train stop about supper time. The problem was that I forgot to get yen out the night before and for some reason my cash card wasn’t accepted at the ATMs around my place. As I was walking to a number of ATMs, I passed a store I went in once before. I had gone in and left with the feeling that it was kind of a boutique where cool Japanese things were sold for decoration and a few craft supplies were thrown in. Um, yeah. I had only been in one floor. This time I realized there were four floors. The street level was mostly kitchen goods, the lower level or basement had stamping, gel pens, and scrapbooking things. So far I was interested and had a few ideas but wanted to check out everything before deciding on anything. The second floor was basically school or office supplies. Again, I had some ideas but not much I needed at the moment. The third floor was all origami and paper with paintbrushes, paint, clay, and rows and rows of paper in all lengths, colors, textures, and styles. That got the ideas going but I still didn’t have yen. Finally I settled on about twenty dollars worth of paper goods and an extra bit of Japanese modeling clay to add to the bit I already owned. I had an idea in my head of creating a clay sculpture, maybe not that weekend but soon and needed some extra clay. I picked up a small lunch at the convenience store and was back in my room by 3 pm ready to start my projects. I hadn’t gotten to the mega store, which looks awesome in its multilevel floor-plan for do-it-yourself and souvenir items but it was bordering on rain outside, I wound up saving a lot of money, and I found myself an awesome craft store about ten minutes from my place. (It even sells metal clay I can practice with before spending lots of money online to get things shipped to me.) Tokyu Hands will wait awhile as I get a better idea of my preferred craft techniques and make money to spend at the mega-store.
The weekend definitely did not turn out the way I had hoped. I finally finished two necklaces that had been sitting around for a while. They were ones my sister had requested based on characters from her story and I really liked the design ideas but had never gotten around to actually finishing them and putting clasps on them. I got those two done and started on another simple design I decided to complicate some once I got the components in front of me. I also set up the kumihimo loom so I could start the next day. I also tried to work on Viking knit only to realize the wire I was using was too thick so I’ll have to find thinner wire in the stores around here.
All in all my birthday weekend was relaxing but not as productive as I had hoped. Oh well, that’s what weekends are for and I did manage to finish those two necklaces. (And it turned out my card problems were really just ATM problems. Apparently some Japanese ATMs don’t like foreign cards. Oh well, lesson learned.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tokyo 2011, Day 2

The next day we again had trouble leaving the room on time and got to the restaurateurs’ street less than an hour before we had to be at the theater. This street, which I forget the name of, is full of ceramic dinnerwear, pots and pans, and fake food made to look like real food which people buy to use or display at their restaurants. In Japan most restaurants have a visual menu outside the main door as well as the written menu inside. The visual menu is plastic food created to tempt the taste buds of passersby and look very realistic. My sister really wanted to buy a few pieces but when they’d gone during the week things had been closed. This time we found one store open in the first block and she got something and I picked up a keychain of a small crepe. (Trust me, you should not come to Japan without trying one of their crepes. Hm, my favorite is the strawberries and banana slices with cream and chocolate sauce topped with whipped cream and wrapped in a thin French-style crepe. Delicious)
Our next stop was the Japanese National Theater to see a traditional kabuki play. Unfortunately I have no pictures of that as cameras weren't allowed. The traditional theater of Japan, it is based on the acting, not the story. Coming from the Western idea that the acting complements the story, it was hard to see a play where the story complemented the acting, which was the real art. It was also impressive to see a “Living National Treasure” on stage as one of the actors. It was also hard to follow the story as the day only showed three parts of a ten part story, which is typical. Counting two twenty minute breaks, we were in the theater from a few minutes before it started at noon to 4:15 when the third part ended. It was a good experience and was interesting to see a number of Japanese patrons wore the basic kimono to the traditional theater. I felt a little under-dressed in my good jeans and nice shirt but other people were in less formal wear and no one commented on my outfit so I guess I wasn’t doing anything wrong. After a trip to a Christian bookstore where I finally found The Screwtape Letters and a good trip to Mcdonalds, in which we each tried the local sandwiches not offered in the States, we went back to the ryokan. They were going to stay another night and fly down to Okinawa that Monday but I had work the next day and gathered my things before saying ‘bye and taking the train back to my place. As usual, got started later than hoped as we took a while to finish our conversations and I got back to my place at ten but it was a good weekend and I had a lot of fun with my sisters.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Welcome, 2012

As 2011 comes to an end I look back on a good year. I saw a lot of things, did a lot of things and got more stories to tell my possible children or nieces and nephews (or just neighborhood children if those two possibilities never happen :) ). I’ve learned a lot of things and can now rather clearly see two paths my life can take. I can see myself still taking the path I saw myself on in high school or I can see myself on a rather different path I discovered this past year. I’m not sure yet which path I will pursue or which one I will eventually end up on. I may yet find another path to follow and who knows where God will lead me. All I know is that the world is a huge place and the possibilities are endless as long as we keep our minds open and see the world as it is, not as we think it should be. I know there are problems out there, threats that may harm my family, friends, and anyone reading this but I truly believe that, as the card my mom has somewhere with two bears comforting each other like friends says, this too shall pass. Another great sentiment (and probably a quote somewhere) is that after the rain comes a rainbow. May 2012 be full of more rainbows for you than thunderstorms and may you look back on it with more fond memories than sad ones.
May God bless us all in the new year. Welcome, 2012. Try to go easy on us. :)