Monday, December 7, 2015

The One About The Quietly Cool Book

After months of planning, designing, sourcing, and producing, look what our small toyshop has made…

It’s Joujoux’s newest plaything & teachable product; our version of the commonly known quiet/cloth book.  We thought we’d add “Cool” to it because ours is interactive and, like any cool buddy, it can be relied upon to teach and entertain your little one all on its own!  So it’s like having a cool teacher and a best buddy in one tome!

The Quietly Cool Book has 5 pages of teachable concepts and skills.  Page One has a paint palette for learning numerous skills:  color identification, color matching, and buttoning skills.

Page Two is the robot page for teaching shapes.  Kids simply refer to the basic black shapes at the bottom of the page and locate the corresponding shapes on the friendly Joujoux-bot!

Page Three is all about numbers…and pizza!  Kids will have ooey gooey fun identifying the numbers and matching the pizza slices with the corresponding number of pepperoni slices!

Page Four is for little ones to learn all about the parts of the face.

Page Five is Mr. Jellyfish introducing youngsters to various textures:  smooth, soft, rough, fluffy, etc.

Isn’t it super cool and kid-friendly?  What’s even cooler is that we will be launching this product at the 15th Global Pinoy Bazaar happening this weekend at Glorietta.  

We’ll be selling a limited number of this book along with our felt food sets and lacing beads (at special bazaar rates!).  Our products make the perfect holiday presents so make sure to come by…and buy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

#LMPCEscapes to Osaka (2015)

Osaka, Japan 2015

The first time my feet stepped on Japanese soil was twenty-seven years ago.  I was 6 and my family and I visited Tokyo.  I cannot remember every single detail of that trip but I do recall colored tights, kiwi, and Tokyo Disneyland. 

The lure of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was what really pushed me to book a trip to the Land of Rising Sun again – in Osaka to be specific and with my family in tow once again.  Well, that and the Dalai Lama’s wise words:

I’m glad I gave in to the Dalai Lama – and to Harry Potter – because this trip has turned out to be nothing short of mesmerizing, authentic, and enjoyable.  It seemed that every nook and cranny of Japan’s second largest city screamed of a culture that is entirely different from mine and there was nothing I could do but marvel at its sights and sounds (or lack of; the Japanese are very quiet people).

We stayed at Daiwa Roynet Hotel in the Kitahama area.  It is a business hotel and is relatively affordable.  The rooms are clean and well-equipped (I miss the warm toilet!).  One can practically not bring a toiletries kit because everything one can need is provided by the hotel:  hair dryer, shaver and shaving cream, tall bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, facial foam, ponytail holder, butterfly clip, hair brush, and towels, towels, towels!  The breakfast buffet isn’t bad, either.  They provide a mix of Japanese and continental selections – and unlimited curry sauce!  Which you can drown your rice in!

 I can get used to this.

My attitude toward dining in a particular country is to devour its local cuisine.  I can never get my head around going to, say, Hong Kong and dining in an Italian restaurant no matter how good the reviews are.  But that’s just me.  In Osaka, I followed the travel advice I perpetually read about in travel books and blogs:  Go where the locals go.  Eat where the locals eat.  I approached the friendly hotel staff one night and asked for a good ramen place (because there was no way I was leaving Japan without diving into a steaming bowl of authentic ramen) and she directed me to small ramen place in the neighborhood which she said was popular among the locals.  Turned out following her recommendation led me to the best tsukemen ramen I still have dreams about.

Dotonbori is still, of course, a must-visit in Osaka.  Osaka isn’t the “kitchen capital” of Japan for nothing and in Dotonbori, one can have his/her fill of the famed okonomiyaki and takoyaki (which Osaka is known for) along with rows of eateries offering everything from sushi, ramen, to yakitori.  It seems to have more tourists than locals, though, but if you follow where the locals line up, your tummy will thank you for life, I’m sure.

If all else fails, the neighborhood convenience stores offer filling gastronomic options too.  The first night we arrived in Osaka was close to midnight.  We were famished and trooped to the nearest 7-11 because it was the only place still open.  There, we helped ourselves to cartons of soup, donburi, noodles, and maki – and they were surprisingly good!

 Food trucks parked inside the Osaka Castle Park

 Don Shop in Shinsaibashi

Ramen dinner at this place.  Nothing can get more authentic. There was a sake place next door.

Because we were first-timers, we did the tourist-y thing of visiting the Osaka Castle, Dotonbori, and Shinsaibashi.  And Universal Studios.  Of. Course.

 A wall full of wands

A fun thing to do in Osaka is to people-watch.  One can spend time in a local coffee shop (Japanese coffee – yum!) and watch professionals smartly-dressed as they rode their bikes to work (Osaka had me at its bike-riding culture), little Japanese children with their boxy backpacks independently walking their way home from school, and Japanese women who can pull off wearing sneakers and an electric-pleated skirt.

 Yup.  These things still exist! :)

We visited the Grand Front Osaka and only got to check out Kinokuniya Bookstore.  If you know me well enough, you’d know I hardly leave a country without checking out the local magazines they have – so I really did not mind that Kinokuniya had no English books at all.  An invisible string pulled us to the roof deck, though, where we were welcomed by a calming sight – a small rooftop park.  And you know me and open spaces.

Do walk around the neighborhood where your hotel is situated at.  Because Kitahama is at the heart of the business district, the neighborhood can be very quiet and serene during off-duty hours and it was nice to engage with the neighborhood – even at midnight when we came across a fellow who clearly had too much sake.  Cannot get more authentic than that!

 Taking cues from the Japanese

While it was fun doing the tourist-y stuff (I totally geeked out in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter), I admit the most fun I had was allowing myself to be engaged with authentic experiences – the stuff one only reads about in books or manages to get glimpses of in movies:  Japanese schoolchildren being all independent at 6 years old, neighborhood eateries, rows of parked bikes, slurping my soup, the muted colors of a Japanese wardrobe, fellows who roll their sleeves to enjoy dinner with friends after work, straight Japanese men with handbags (which they carry off soooo well), locals who read books whilst on a train ride, among other things.  And if only for these (which do not cost a single yen), I am raring to go back.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The One About the Playdough

In Joujoux, we place a premium on open-ended playthings – toys and materials that allow children to spend hours tinkering while using their imagination, creativity, and resourcefulness.  While we have nothing against one-purpose-one-design toys, we want our customers (usually parents) to realize that they are getting a lot of entertainment-and-learning mileage with each Joujoux purchase.

Playdough is one of my personal favorite open-ended playthings.  There are so many things to do with a lump of playdough.  Its malleable properties allow children’s fine motor skills to be strengthened as they make balls and coils with it.  Eye-hand coordination and concentration goals are achieved when they poke sticks and branches into it or when they emboss leaves as they engage in preschool printmaking.  Playdough is also one of the first media used when introducing a young child to cutting with scissors. 

The wonderful news is that one need not scour the shelves of toy stores for playdough.  With pantry basics, one can whip up a big batch of playdough in the comfort of your own home using the recipe below:

Playdough recipe:

2.5 cups of warm water
1 ¼ cup of salt
1 ½ tbsp of cream of tartar
4 tbsp of vegetable oil (you can add an additional tablespoon to make a more buttery playdough)
2.5 cups of flour

Mix everything in a pot over low heat.  It will look lumpy and then smooth but, given a few minutes, it will all come together into a beautiful ball of playdough.  When the dough is cooked through and does not stick to your fingers, take it out of the pot and onto a smooth surface.  Easy peasy!

Now the fun part begins!  Place a few drops of food coloring onto the dough and knead the dough until the food coloring spreads evenly throughout the dough.  I made a huge batch so I divided the dough into five parts and colored each ball of dough differently.  I didn’t want the usual rainbow colors and opted for softer tints so…

…I made playdough in the yummiest of colors:  pink, avocado green, lemon yellow, lavender, and teal.

Don’t they look dreamy???

Give it a try!  With materials such as rice grains, branches, leaves, alphabet tiles, buttons, and pebbles to play along with playdough, the creative play possibilities of playdough are endless!

Friday, September 11, 2015

100 Days of Calligraphy: Day 2

Day 2 had me doing the pressure-and-release stroke.  Quite difficult because I had to reduce the pressure on the nib just as I was about to reach the base line.  The upstroke should also be parallel to the downstroke but as you can see in some of the strokes, some upstrokes were either too wide or narrow.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wednesday Nugget (Or How I'm Overcoming My Fear of Watercolor)

Good things come to those who wait...

Happy hump day, lovelies. :)  Hustle hard.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The One About the Leftie Calligrapher

For someone who’s had nice penmanship since elementary school, engaging in calligraphy seemed quite natural.  So much so that when calligraphy boomed – with workshops left and right – I grabbed the chance to learn by signing up with one of the well-known crafter/calligraphers in the metro a couple of years ago.

Calligraphy, I realized, is rather challenging if you’re left-handed like me.  If I position my hand in a way that I usually write, my calligraphy work smears like crazy.  It did not help that the workshop I took was meh.  The instructor was highly-regarded.  However, it’s one thing to be very good at your craft and another thing to be just as good at teaching others your craft.  Several months ago, I signed up for another workshop of hers and that second session with her solidified my stand to never take any of her classes again.

So anyway, bleeding from that workshop, I took Melissa Esplin’s online calligraphy program.  It was more expensive but I took a leap of faith – to this day, I’m glad I did.  The program begins with the basic strokes until you become comfortable doing letter forms.  I worked at my own pace and uploaded my weekly output for feedback.  I became more comfortable handling a nib and writing with it using my left hand.  You don’t want to see the funny positions I resort to just to be able to write legibly as a leftie.  When the program ended, I got myself these books with the intention of doing more self-study and drills.

As always, life happens and things get in the way even in the best of intentions.  While I was happy starting a line of clothes and playthings, learning calligraphy had to take a backseat in the midst of it all.

Then again, it is true that when you really want something, you don’t find time for it; you MAKE time for it.  I have decided to commit myself to learning calligraphy all over again with a self-imposed 100-Day Calligraphy Challenge.  For a hundred days (and more probably until I become good), I shall engage in pointed pen drills and will be documenting everything in this blog – bad writing, bad strokes, warts and all.  Let’s see if I can uncover the leftie advantage people always say about calligraphy and left-handers.

Today, I end this post with Day 1:  The Full-Pressure Stroke.

Apparently, I'm still struggling with exerting just the right amount of pressure as I press the nib down.  Hence, the uneven strokes.  But hey, it's just the first day.  I'm cutting myself some slack. :)