two benjamins: crazy-colored and well-traveled

This is probably old news to most Americans, but I’ve been in China for the last two years so I’m not very accustomed to the new banknotes. And seriously? The new 100-dollar bill is weird. I mean … the COLORS! The blue! The orange! They’re supposed to be green. That’s what makes American money so special and wonderfully confusing to foreigners: they’re all the same size and all the same color – green.

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Can you still call them greenbacks or lettuce if they’re now multi-colored? Well I guess we call them ‘dead presidents’ even though Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin weren’t presidents, so like practically everything else with the English language … why not? I know the craziness is due to anti-counterfeit measures, but it’s still weird to see something so established change. THEY SHOULD BE GREEN! Sigh.

After calming down from the shock of color (id est, colors other than green), I noticed that the two c-notes were stamped on the back with a blue mark in Arabic. A US note from a Chinese bank with an Arabic stamp? Huh?

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After a bit of online Googling, I found out that it’s called a ‘chop mark’ and is still fairly common for currency circulating abroad, especially in the Middle East and Asia. Basically it’s a little stamp that someone (a private person or money trader, not the government) uses to indicate authenticity so they don’t have to constantly re-check if it’s real or not. Interesting, eh? In all my life in the States I’d never seen one, but then again, I never did handle many 100-dollar notes.

So I guess at some point these two Benjamins made their way through the Middle East. Ah, the curious travels of US cash.

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chandeliers in treehouses (tbt)

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Toshihiro Oki Architect P.C. with Toshihiro Oki, Jen Wood, and Jared Diganci, “tree wood,” 2013

This was a pretty cool project, and one that I almost didn’t see. The last summer I was in New York, I was living in Astoria, but didn’t explore much of my neighborhood until the last few weeks I was there. It was July (2013), and it was hot, but it was also so green and beautiful. Ah, how I miss TREES in Shanghai! Anyhow, it was my first time to the Socrates Sculpture Park, and for the most part I found the park to be just so-so – nothing wildly impressive, but a nice stroll.

This particular project “tree wood” was pretty cool, although it blended in so well with the trees I almost completely walked past it. Socrates is a sculpture park, but this was more along the lines of installation art or temporary architecture than sculpture. Basically it was a tree house structure of sorts, framed with two-by-four studs, with a chandelier, which just won the whole thing. With the streaming sunlight and the quiet tranquility of the park and the sheltering of all those leaves and branches, the project had a really interesting quality to it, natural yet manufactured, unfinished yet refined, public yet secluded.

Not sure if this is still up since it’s been over a year since I visited, but regardless, I love the idea of the project.

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And whaddaya know, the project was designed by architects … I wonder if that’s why I appreciate it so much. I think it’s true that there’s no such thing as a ‘former architect,’ because even though there are many of us who have moved on to other fields, I feel like there’s some sort of weird bond/understanding between architects (past or present) where we just ‘get’ each other. I was talking to a jewelry designer whose pieces I admired, and whaddaya know, she was trained as an architect. Maybe it’s suffering all those hours in studio that gains one entry into the imagined community of architects.

rainy starts

It’s rained for the past few days, which is kind of nice in that it has been keeping the temperatures down. It’s still warm, but thankfully not stifling hot like it probably will be in the next week or two. Earlier today I went to Yuyuan Garden and walked around. Nothing terribly special, but it was still a good while. It rained the entire time, which is probably why the place wasn’t ridiculously crowded, but it also meant that I had to walk around holding an umbrella and my feet got really nasty because I was wearing sandals.

I feel like time is moving a bit faster these days. The end of my stay in China is getting closer and closer and it’s kind of nerve-wracking. This Saturday will be my one-year anniversary of being in Shanghai and I can hardly believe it. One year in Shanghai. Wow. I’m kind of proud of myself for that. I’m excited to go home, but I really have gotten used to living here and there will be quite a few things I’ll miss. Days like today, just wandering around a rock and water garden, splashing around in the rain … that’s the kind of thing I’ll miss.

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merry xmas!

It is finally Christmas! Just past midnight over here! Kind of a sorry Christmas, but whatever. Had a nice dinner with some family. They didn’t do the whole Christmas thing, which I understand (because this is China) but it still made me kind of sad. I still have lots to do between my applications, schoolwork, and work work, but today was nice. Below picture is from one of the islands at Qiandao.

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red green

Only about a week left for my applications. OH MY GOSH. Lots of stuff going on there. On the other hand, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well, actually it’s not. There are some rather ostentatious Christmas displays out that I’ll have to take pictures of. But for the most part it’s pretty much non-Christmas.

Picture is from Hangzhou. And lookie, it’s green and red … wow, almost like I planned it. In Chinese, the phrase 红红绿绿的 literally translates to “red red green green” but translates more closely to “colorful.” Interesting, eh?

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framed green letters

I finally finished the gift I had blogged about in my last post. Here it is! I know, you’re probably scratching your heads trying to figure out what the heck it’s supposed to be, so I’ll do you the favor and explain.

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First of all, it’s art, so it’s not meant to do anything but hang on the wall and look pretty. I cut out the letters of my friend’s name in various fonts out of green card stock. Then I randomly jumbled carefully arranged said letters on another piece of green in a lighter shade, stuck it all in a frame, and voila.

Pretty simple and I thought it was rather cute. Whaddaya think?

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is reposted here for my own sake.]

creative space: green letters

My friend’s birthday is coming up, so I’m working on a little present for her. I couldn’t think of anything to get her and since she’ll be moving soon, I didn’t want to get her anything to bulky.

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I’m making her a little art piece to hang on her wall. Green card stock, a picture frame, and some funky letters. Hopefully I’ll get it finished tomorrow, but … ya never know.

More creative spaces here at kootoyoo!

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is reposted here for my own sake.]

tutorial: stuffed hedgie

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I’ve been a bit busy hanging out with the family, so I haven’t made anything recently. This project is from a little bit ago, but I’m just now getting around to posting it. It’s a stuffed hedgehog made from a car-washing mitt that I got at Dollar Tree. I posted a step-by-step here, but by no means did I think of this myself. All credit goes to Darling Petunia and her tutorial here. The only variation was that I embroidered the eyes. So cute! I named him Hedgie (’cause I’m creative like that).

First step was to get the mitt from the dollar store. I had seen the Darling Petunia blog post a while ago when it was featured on Dollar Store Crafts over here. So I had actually been holding onto this mitt since June. Snipped off the wrist and thumb and then pulled out the sewing supplies.

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I had looked for black buttons, but sheesh! Buttons are expensive. I ended up just embroidering on eyes just with black floss, just eyeballing their placement (har har … I’m so punny).

Then came the harder stuff. First up: sewing it up. After the eyes were on, the mitt was flipped inside out and I drew lines, forming a triangle to make its nose. Sewed that shut, leaving the thumb hole open. Once the wrist was sewn into a triangle (and some of the excess material snipped off), it got flipped right-side out and stuffed. Then the thumb hole was blind-stitched closed. Is it called a blind stitch? Like with closing pillows? That’s what I’ve always called it because that’s what my mother calls it … but who knows.

Unfortunately though I had finished the sewing, I wasn’t done because it looked a bit funky. The mitten shape was a little weird, asymmetrical because it was meant to fit a hand, so the poor hedgehog was a bit wonky. The square picture shows how it was, with the weird corners, and the second picture shows the hedgehog’s underside once I fixed it. I just blind-stitched a bunch around the edge to smooth out all those weird bumps, giving it a nice rounded edge. Then the very last step was to sew on a black pom-pom to serve as his nose, and voila! Hedgie is born.

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We had some family friends over today and their little boy V is about two years old. He’s such a cutie. Anyway, I had put this hedgehog in the storage room that has all my stuff from school and V, being curious, started rummaging around in there. When he found the hedgehog (although he called it a rat) … it was so cute! He played with it and this sheep that we had. Absolutely adorable. Also, I’m working on a new blog layout, which I hope to be up within the week. It’s been taking a while though because while I know HTML, CSS is a bit new to me.

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is reposted here for my own sake.]

birthday gifts

My last three posts involved food. Kind of ironic considering that I’m mighty low on food right now. I still have a lot of bread, but not much substantial food. Anyway, it was my birthday a bit ago so I got some of the most fantastic gifts that I feel compelled to tell the world about (well, if the world read this blog, that is). People know me so well. For example, they know:

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I like pretty things. From the sister: necklace with metal leaf and beads. She sent it to me in the mail, so I got it before my birthday. When I told her I had already opened it, she yelled at me. True love. Anyway, I wore it on my birthday and it’s the perfect length!

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I like crafty things. From friend X: merino blend wool yarn and glass beads. She also included red ribbon and yellow flowers because she knows that I hate the colors red and yellow. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is true friendship.

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I like glass things.From friend A: blown glass container/orb/beautiful-thing-that’s-going-on-the-coffee-table. She said it’s made from recycled glass from some specific brand of soda that I forget. Anyway, it’s fabulous and she got it from Austin Art Glass, which has some really nice pieces. I need to visit that place sometime.

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I like nostalgic things. From roommate S: DVD of “The Breakfast Club”. Sweet. This is one of my favorite movies, but for some reason I never owned it. Now I can watch it again, and again, and again! Yes.

Fantastic. I had a great birthday and the gifts, while fabulous, could not compare to the dinner I had at Kerbey Lane with my friends. I love this town.

[NOTE: This post originally appeared on a now-deleted blog and is reposted here for my own sake.]