Modern Tulip Ikebana featuring FloraGUPPY

After last week’s relatively unsuccessful ikebana I was determined to redeem myself. I received this really neat little tool that I’d ordered called the FloraGUPPY and found three perfect red-orange tulips in the garden so I figured it was time.

One of the tulips had a bit of a bend in it, so I carefully emphasised that into an organic-feeling curve and then did the same to the other two, for a really nice shape and flow. I framed them with two lucky bamboo stems, and really like how sleek this feels. I’m definitely much happier with it than I am with last week’s!

The FloraGUPPY is a clear plastic two-part sphere that clips together with a number of different-sized holes. You can feed the flowers through the holes at different angles to achieve all sorts of cool arrangements. While not completely invisible, the clear plastic does look much more seamless than a heavy metal kenzan or other traditional tools. This makes it ideal for sparse modern arrangements in glass containers, exactly like this one. It’s also slightly flexible in its default state, which is ideal for putting in odd-shaped vessels. But the really cool part is that if you dunk it in hot water, it becomes even more malleable, making it suitable for pretty much any container! I can’t wait to find more uses for it.

 I purchased this item myself and chose to review it.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me. 

Tea Time – DIY Floral Tea Blend

Today I have something a little different for you guys! You all know I love tea, and I love flowers, so this nifty DIY floral tea bag project on the FTD By Design blog was right up my alley. This is a great way to make a custom tea blend that’s perfectly suited to your tastes. With Mother’s Day coming up here in North America, these would make a really unique gift!

The post has some great selections of food-safe dried flowers to work with. I actually had a harder time finding some of them than I anticipated, oddly enough. I’d suggest hitting up bulk food stores and organic speciality stores.I chose to start with a base of the wonderful organic sencha tea the lovely folks over at Tea Forte sent me, and added dried rosebuds and hibiscus blossoms. I remembered we had some dried lavender from our garden and decided to add a little of that too.

The DIY includes incredibly thorough instructions on how to make your own tea bags using items you probably already have at home, and offers some super cute printable tags. Personally, I’m in favour of loose tea, and prefer not to create more single-use waste, so I chose to print one of the adorable tags and package the tea in a mason jar. However, if you’re taking it to the office or offering it as gifts, the DIY bags would be a fantastic idea.

The tea blend I made was really nice, the florals didn’t overpower the earthiness of the green tea but they were definitely noticeable. It also turned a really pretty pink colour. I’m glad I made a bunch of it, and I can’t wait to steep myself another cup.

Thank you to FTD for sharing this tutorial. I hope you check it out and have fun as well!

Tea Time – Tea Squared Selection

Today for you I have a great selection of green teas from Tea Squared. They were kind enough to send me a variety of loose-leaf green teas as well as some flavoured matcha latte powders. They’re based in Canada, so if you’re like me and looking for new tea suppliers without having to pay through the nose in shipping and duty, they’re a great place to check out. I’ve been trying them out for a week now, and ready to share my thoughts!

First up, we have the green teas. I wanted to sample a variety of these, to get a feel for the tea in its purest form as well as how it blends with other ingredients.

Sencha Fujiyama – This is a classic loose-leaf sencha tea. I always think teas like this are the best way to tell if a company knows what they’re doing. It’s very easy to mask a mediocre tea leaf with flavours and additives, but in pure form like this the tea itself has to be good, and Tea Squared got it right here. It’s light, fresh, and grassy. The colour is lovely, a bright clear green. If you’re looking for a clean sencha tea to go with everything from meals to sweets, this is definitely worth a shot.

Ryokucha – This is a blend of  sencha  and matcha tea with roasted rice. It adds a wonderful, earthy, toasted note that pairs so well with the light taste of green tea. It’s one of my favourites, and I have several different brands floating around the house. This one compared fantastically to them all. It strikes the perfect balance between the tea and the rice, and makes a great comforting cup.

Sencha Sensation – This is familiar sencha tea with a fun and colourful blend of natural ingredients like fruit, nuts, and pink peppercorns. I was very intrigued by the combination, and very pleased by the results. I was a little worried the tea would get lost under all the strong aromatics, but it’s very well-balanced. It’s a little fresh, a little fruity, and a little spicy. I can’t wait until the weather gets warmer to try this one iced and sweetened with a little honey!

These teas were all great, and I would recommend any of them.

After the classic sencha teas, I tried a couple of their Ma-Cha line of matcha lattes. These are meant to be mixed with a small amount of boiling water to create a sort of concentrate, which is then mixed with steamed or cold milk.

Vanilla Almond Ma-Cha Latte – This one was deliciously sweet but not overpowering. Personally, I noticed the vanilla more than the almond, but that’s not to say the almond wasn’t present – it was definitely noticeable. I made it with the unsweetened cashew milk I had on hand, and it was absolutely delicious. I bet it would be even better with almond milk, but I didn’t have any on hand. Once I’ve gone through the large bag they sent, I’m definitely going to be buying the individual packet size of these to keep at work and for travel.

Naughty Cacao Ma-Cha Latte – This one ended up being much darker than I expected. It looks like a really rich chocolate milk than a matcha drink. Heck, it tastes like a really rich chocolate milk, but with those familiar earthy notes from the matcha that pair incredibly well with the chocolate. I thought the chili would be a gimmick but it’s definitely present, and you can feel a lovely warmth build up in your throat as you drink it. Nothing unpleasant or overwhelming but it definitely makes its presence known. If you’re really not a spice fan, this one might not be for you.

There is one negative with these, minor as it is. You’re probably thinking it. Yes, the lady on the packaging is a little cringe-inducing for anyone familiar with geisha and kimono in general. I suspect she’s from a stock photo site, and I don’t fault the company for using her. I do hope they find a more authentic-looking image if they redo the packaging in the future though.

If you’re looking for an authentic matcha experience, these won’t scratch your itch. However, if you’re looking for a healthy and delicious alternative to some of the drinks at your local coffee-house that has the familiar earthiness of green tea with some interesting overlapping notes, they’re absolutely worth a shot.

 I received this item from the retailer or manufacturer for honest review purposes.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me. 

Biku Designs Recycled Kimono Jewellery

I’ve been admiring the jewellery from Biku Designs for quite a while now. Owned and created in Tokyo by a lovely woman named Victoria Close, all the beautiful items are made using recycled kimono fabric and representing the values of mottainai. Between gift shopping during the holidays and making more practical purchases like tatoushi and arms for the mannequin I didn’t have much of a budget for pretty fun things. However, to celebrate the new year they released a fukurobuko (福袋), or lucky bag. This a tradition where vendors will offer a bag or bundle with a surprise selection of products available for a really steep discount.

I snatched one up right away, knowing it would give me a lovely variety of items to wear and feature, and I’m so glad I did. The items arrived well-packaged in a lovely little custom bag, emphasising the fukubukuro aspect of the bundle, which was a lovely touch. Each item inside was separately wrapped in red tissue, which made unwrapping it feel like a special event.

I kind of wish I’d waited to open it so I could take better photos, but it arrived while I was at work and I was so excited and impatient I ended up tearing into it and only snapped a few photos on my phone. Today, though, I made sure to take better photos that really show off the beauty of each item.

First was a beautiful fabric cuff, tied in a knot that reminds me of an obijime. I love that there’s a chain on this, because I’ve got very broad wrists and a lot of times bracelets are snug on me. Making this so adjustable is a very thoughtful finishing detail.

Next are a beautiful pair of stud earrings with embedded kimono fabric. You can tell Victoria put a lot of care and attention into these, as the patterns are perfectly balanced. I don’t typically wear stud earrings but they’re all my mother wears and I know she’ll love these, so I’m happy to give them to her.

The third item is a brooch, and again the attention to detail is obvious. The underside is just as well-finished as the top is, and the pattern feels balanced. This will also work very well as an obidome, and I can’t wait to pair it with an outfit!

Last up are a pair of french wire earrings with blue and white fabric under resin cabochons. These are the sorts of earrings I love and wear quite frequently, and I know these will be a cherished part of my regular rotation.

Every single item is clearly made with an abundance of care and attention. There’s not a single messy or unfinished edge to be seen, and everything feels delicate while remaining solid and wearable. If you’re looking for accessories with a bit of wa flair to add to your everyday wardrobe, or a gift for someone who loves Japanese textiles, I definitely recommend checking out Biku Designs.

I love all the items included, and the colours feel very “me” – blues and greens, like my hair! I had been in contact with Victoria before, and included a link to this blog but I have no idea if she actually selected the items for each bag or if it was just a happy accident. Either way, I’m thrilled!

You can find Biku Designs on their website, facebook, instagram, and twitter. Unfortunately the lucky bags are sold out, but there will be plenty of new stock on the website in the near future.

 I purchased this item myself and chose to review it.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me. 

Kizuna Subscription Box – Deliver Japan to your door

Today I’ve got another awesome Japanese subscription box to share with you all. This is Kizuna Box, a monthly themed box delivered right to your door. Kizuna offers a Snack box, Healthy box, and a Lifestyle box, which is the one I received. Due to a lot of complicated allergies and food sensitivities, I tend to avoid snack-focused boxes, but theirs do look like a lot of fun.

Each month there is a new seasonal theme. I received December’s box, which had the theme of Toshi-Koshi Box, all sorts of lovely items for the upcoming New Year.

The box arrived wrapped in a plain weather-resistant mailer, but the inner box had this lovely label on it so you know exactly what you’re receiving. The items inside the box are very carefully wrapped and elegantly presented. Included is a little pamphlet explaining each item – a very important touch when dealing with a box that’s not in your native language. Because this was the end-of-year box, there was an extra gift, an ema that I’ll elaborate on below, and there was a separate note explaining that too.

Let’s start with the housewares and lifestyle items.

  • First there’s a masu, or cypress wood sake vessel. It has the cutest little chidori motif, and I’m a sucker for anything chidori!
  • Because we’re coming up on the year of the boar, the next item is a charming ceramic boar, painted with gold and decorated with a little crystal.
  • A small selection of stationery, including a card, a small decorative banner, and a package of envelopes meant for gifts of money for the new year. They’d make great little personal notes to tuck into a gift or a loved one’s lunch or purse as a surprise.
  • A furoshiki with really cute toy representations of all the animals of the zodiac. This is a really nice touch, since it’s got all twelve it can be displayed every year.

After the lifestyle items come the food items!

  • Nissin brand donbei, or instant soba noodles with tempura.
  • A great rice/donburi bowl. It’s got a really versatile striped pattern, and feels great in the hands. The donbei will fit perfectly in here, and you can bet when I eat it I will be posting a photo on Instagram.
  • These chopsticks themselves are simple enough, the chopstick rest is the real star here. It’s a hagoita, decorated with tiny orizuru paper. I’m admittedly afraid to use it, since it doesn’t look particularly washable. I may put it in a display case with other odds and ends rather than risk dirtying it.
  • Kagami-mochi candy, representative of the traditional larger traditional mochi displays for the new year.

And now the bonus gift, an ema with a toy dog on it, representing the end of 2018. An ema, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, is a wooden plaque you write a prayer on and hang at your local shinto temple. This one comes with a note suggesting that if you don’t have a temple nearby, just to hang it somewhere in your house as both a wish and a decoration. I have a few goals I’d like to accomplish in the upcoming year, so I’m going to use it to bring me some good mojo. I actually have two for this upcoming year, as my friend Kansai Gal sent me one in her box of goodies too.

 

Overall, Kizuna Box is a great experience, and I definitely recommend it. It’s clear they put a lot of thought and effort into curating items to fit each theme and it’s always fun to get a bunch of beautiful surprises in the mail! You can subscribe to Kizuna Box for $34.95 per month here, along with their sister subscriptions of Kizuna Snacks and Kizuna Healthy if you find those more appealing.

Kizuna Box is approved by both Tribble and Vinnie!

 I received this item from the retailer or manufacturer for honest review purposes.If you have a topically appropriate craft, product, or service you would like me to review, please contact me.