card making :: bloomin’ love

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I have to admit that sometimes I don’t like all of the stamps that are included in a stamp set. If I’m lucky there’ll be a couple of components that stand out to me enough to make it worth buying the entire set, and in this case it was the little flowers and banner that caught my eye. I used the flowers to do another one of my favorite techniques: creating a stamped background image on a card.

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card making :: heart outline card

IMG_5424bHere is a simple card design that can be put together in minutes using pretty patterned paper, a dab of paint, and Q-tips.  Craft stores usually have shelves full of pretty paper adorned with all sorts of patterns, colors, and textures.  Most of the time they are in a 12″ x 12″ size which is ideal for scrapbooking, but here is a way you can use one sheet to create two different cards.

Many card making tutorials start with cardstock as a base, but that may not be practical for everyone especially if you aren’t planning to invest in a large amount of supplies for this hobby (or if you’re only making a few cards for a special occasion).  Using patterned paper (or any paper sold by the sheet vs. in bulk) is an alternative and you can create some really pretty card bases.

For step-by-step instructions, click here.

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card making :: dollar bin finds for making valentines

You know what I’m talking about.  You stroll into Target thinking “I’m just going to get x, y, and z and zoom out of here.”  Said nobody ever, right?!  What’s worst is they put those dollar bins right in the walkway so you have to look because they’re right there, right?!  Well I’ll be the first to admit that occasionally you can find some really good deals there, and for things that are actually useful.

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For example, they’ve got some super cute crafting supplies for a mere buck that can help you make some pretty cute valentines.  And even better?  You can use the cards beyond Valentine’s Day for other occasions such as a birthday, an anniversary, congrats-on-becoming-engaged, and so on and so forth.  Here are three quick and easy designs you can pull together with some dollar bin finds and just in time for Valentine’s Day (which, by the way, is on February 14th!).

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it’s all about love

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day after all.  Here are some gift ideas for that special someone in your life … for tomorrow or any day.  🙂

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samurai boston for sushi

We had dinner at Samurai Boston last night before heading over to see the Monterey Jazz Festival All-Stars show at the Berklee Performance Center. We scored a parking spot right on Boylston Street near the restaurant (thank you, parking angel!) which was awesome because I was stupidly without a winter hat and gloves that night. This was the third time I have been to the restaurant (read about our previous outing here) and I was really looking forward to the yummy sushi to be had.

We decided that this was our Valentine’s Day outing, so we splurged and got a little bottle of Sayuri Nigori sake ($17) to share. It is a cloudy, cold sake that is nice, sweet and refreshing. It’s also dangerously easy to finish the whole bottle in a short amount of time!

Then we shared an appetizer called Hamachi Kama Yaki ($10) which is lightly salted, grilled yellowtail collar served with a deliciously sweet ponzu sauce. It was so yummy!

The portion was much bigger than I had anticipated which is always a nice surprise. It seemed so simply cooked and seasoned but tasted amazingly good. We both really like yellowtail as sushi, so having it cooked was a nice way of enjoying it too. I have to admit, I was sucking the last bits of fish off each of the bones, it was that good!

Tony had the rainbow roll ($13) and the negihama maki rolls ($5.50), which were very good.

I decided to get the chirashi ($19) bowl of rice with sashimi on top, one of my favorite things to get when we splurge on sushi. I love the sweetness of the sushi rice at the bottom of the bowl and the freshness of the fish on top. They also put a little mound of ikura (salmon roe) on top which doesn’t always happen when I order the dish elsewhere, so I was super psyched.

It was delicious and as always, quite filling, but I have to say that I don’t care for imitation crab meat. (What is imitation crab meat anyway, dare I ask?!) The best part was that I had Tony eat a piece of eel (unagi) and he liked it — of course, he didn’t know what it was until I told him afterwards!

We ended dinner quite full and content, although they were out of the green tea mochi dessert so were a little disappointed (probably better for our cholesterol levels though). I like this restaurant because they serve consistently good sushi, the atmosphere is fun, and the people that work there are so nice. It might not be a place to go to for sushi everyday, but for special occasions and special guests I think it’s well worth it.

making valentines

My coworker came up with a great idea: making valentines at work! So we both pulled together some of our crafting supplies, booked one of the conference rooms last Wednesday, and let our coworkers drop in anytime during a three-hour period to make valentines. It was such a great success! We work with some really creative folks, and it was fun to see what people came up with.

I divided up some card bases, envelopes, stickers, glue, ribbon, and decorative scissors amongst three tables and set aside some rubber stamps, ink pads, paper scraps, and foam self-adhesive conversation hearts (found those at Michael’s) for people to use.



Here are some of my coworkers busy making their valentines …


And here are some of the beautiful cards that people made (click the photo to enlarge it so you can see the pretty details) …

I found one on my desk later that afternoon, pictured here next to Pistachio …

And speaking of my desk, there’s been a new addition (see the cute striped fella) … Gus Gus. He’s made friends with Spike.

It’s funny because I feel like we’re so much more festive around this holiday than we were back during Christmastime. I guess there’s a lot of love to be shared right now, which is a good thing. 🙂

shabu ya + grafton street in harvard square

We normally don’t make plans to go out on Valentine’s night because a) they tend to jack up prices at restaurants; b) there’s usually just a prix fixe menu; and c) it gets crowded wherever you go. But since we were already out and about in the area and getting hungry, I suggested that we have dinner at this place called Shabu Ya. My boss and I had gone there the day before for lunch and I thought the shabu-shabu experience was something that Tony would enjoy. Plus the sushi I had was quite delicious, too.

Top: Elissa’s shabu pot; bottom: my sushi rolls

We walked in around 5:30 pm and it wasn’t that crowded yet. Tony got the beef sirloin shabu which came with a variety of vegetables, and he chose the Thai tom yum broth. He said it was kind of too spicy, so he’ll probably just go with the regular broth next time. You can get the whole pot of the one broth, or split it two ways. We split it two ways and asked to keep one half with just plain water so that I could try the beef, too. They give you a really yummy ponzu sauce to dip the cooked meat in, but I tasted it and it seemed more like a finadene to me. It’s amazing how quickly the meat cooks up since it’s sliced so thinly (like one minute – seriously!).

I ordered the chirashi sushi dish instead of the same rolls I had the day before. It was good, but next time I think I’ll go back to the rolls, or split the shabu dish using the plain water option.

The nice thing is that they have a liquor license and they offer beer, wine and sake. The decor is quite colorful and retro – quite different from the Malaysian restaurant that used to be there. I found this You Tube video that someone made of it back in December:

Afterwards, we walked over to Grafton Street for dessert. We decided to sit at the bar and luckily found two seats as another couple left. I had a glass of Malbec and Tony had a Muscat, and we laughed when we sized the glasses up to one another. We wanted to split the raspberry cheesecake and asked the bartender to ask the kitchen to put the raspberry sauce on the side after explaining how I am allergic to them. When it arrived, we realized that they actually baked the raspberry in the cheesecake so I ordered their chocolate cake as a substitute. Both desserts were really good and we were both quite embarrassed by the fact that we managed to clean our own plates. 🙂

sage + daedalus

We’ve decided that we’re not going to do Valentine’s dinner at restaurants anymore. For one, they usually have a prix fixe menu which means you can’t really try their usual dishes. Plus, they tend to charge you more than usual. So this year I got to pick the place (we alternate each year) and we went to Sage in the South End. We had been to their old location in the North End so I wanted to see what this new location was like, plus we know the chef/owner’s sister, Rita.

Right away when we walked in, both Tony and I thought that we recognized the restaurant. Sure enough, it used to be Caffe Umbra. It has a nice atmosphere and seems like they did something to it to make it larger and roomier. Fun photos on one of the walls.


We enjoyed a half carafe of Bordeaux wine with warm bread and butter before our Kobe carpaccio with arugula, shaved parmesan, and truffle vinaigrette came out. It was absolutely delicious.

Tony had the rice smoked duck breast with sautéed spinach and squash puree. It was really good – probably the best duck he has ever had. It was that good.

I had the striped bass with grilled arugula, mashed potatoes, and a beet puree. Yum yum yum!

Sadly, the desserts disappointed us … again, almost all of them had nuts in them. So we decided to skip out and drove over to Daedalus in Harvard Square. We had the Chocolate Explosion dessert – warm flourless chocolate cake with creme anglaise, chocolate sauce and then we substituted the vanilla bean ice cream for coconut ice cream. Wow. It totally hit the spot.