December 30, 2010 § 4 Comments
I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! How have you been celebrating the holidays? I have been off the grid these past nine days, celebrating in Michigan at my parents’ with family and O.T. It’s been the longest stretch without crafting or blogging since I got this thing started.
I started this blog shy of three months ago (I guess this is really more loosely three months in review). This blog has given me an even stronger resolve that my purpose in life is to create for others.
I would like to give you the warmest welcome and biggest thanks for being my reader, for inspiring me to keep on creating and to keep bettering my craft as I journey with you on this site. I appreciate all of your wonderful comments (keep ’em coming)!! I am equally delighted and grateful that many online editors have been gracious and open to my ideas by featuring my projects on their sites and publications, despite my infancy in the blogosphere. To my astonishment and thrill, my DIY cookie stamps made it on blogs.com’s “Bloggers’ Best Holiday Cookies” short list of nine bloggers a couple of weeks ago — to be on a “Bloggers’ Best” list is more than I imagined at this early stage of blogging! It motivates me to make even better projects.
It’s been a magnificent time giving this blog its life, the most inspired I’ve felt in a while. A business in wedding invitations coupled with an economic crisis is a combination that can strip even the most assured of optimism, so I put my mind on the projects you find here. I’ve found hope and renewal in myself. More importantly, I found all of you who share these passions with me and give me the nudge to keep making something day by day.
Keep creating! And keep posted — I have pages of to-do’s and cannot wait to get those projects started this new year when I get back to Toronto. And yes, contact me — I’d love to hear about you and your creative interests and I’d love to see any of the crafts you’ve made from the tutorials you’ve found here! Many thanks!
Happy New Year to you and yours! All the best in 2011!
December 21, 2010 § 19 Comments
For those moments of “Eureka!”, pin up your bright ideas with these adorable push pins in the likeness of 1” miniaturized light bulbs. I made them from materials I found in my crafting drawers, a couple of items from the hardware store, and a simple, bright idea.
I was motivated to make these in time for the New Year — isn’t it always our collective resolution to work harder and strive for better each coming year? I hope these little pins will push forth forces of creativity in 2011. I made and packaged this set for O.T., who is always brimming with bright ideas himself.
You will need:
a. If you don’t have a miniature light bulb (they’re hard to find now that everything is LED), you can use a marble and a 16×3/8″ socket set screw (it’s a screw that has a socket instead of a head).
c. Plaster, a sandwich bag, and a disposable spoon.
1. Glue together the marble and the socket set screw to create a light bulb shape.
2. Roll out the Play-Doh to about 1/2″ thick and cut into ten sections.
3. Press the light bulb shape and pull carefully to create a mold. Repeat on each section of Play-Doh. You will notice that pressing the light bulb causes distortion in the shape of the dough, which is why it is best for the dough to be cut in sections for individual molds. This prevents distorting the previously pressed shape.
4. Place three spoonfuls of plaster and one and a half spoonfuls of water into the sandwich bag. Mix together by kneading the bag. You may need to add a couple of drops of water to make sure the mixture is smooth and creamy and can be piped easily. Cut the tip of the bag.
5. Pipe the plaster into the molds, working quickly as the plaster dries quickly. Make sure to carefully tap each mold on the table several times to even out the plaster and to ensure there are no air bubbles. Do not overfill.
6. Press a thumbtack into each.
7. Pipe a small amount of plaster around the tack. Once more, carefully tap the mold on the table several times to even out the plaster and to ensure there are no air bubbles.
8. Let the plaster dry for an hour. Remove the plaster from the molds and wipe away any residue of Play-Doh using a paper towel. Make sure to get all the tiny spaces along the threads of the bulb.
9. Using an emery board or sand paper, carefully file away any uneven edges.
10. Paint the bulb using yellow acrylic paint. I prefer using the tip of my fingers to paint so there are no brush strokes left behind. Let dry. Paint the screw with silver paint or broad-tip silver marker. Let dry. Seal with Mod Podge for a glossy finish.
Of course, if you don’t have a cork board and prefer to use a magnet board or the fridge for notes, simply skip the part about the thumbtacks and, after the plaster has dried, glue on magnets instead.
December 19, 2010 § 62 Comments
If you’re still considering what to use as a centerpiece this holiday, here’s a very stunning project you can easily do: make silver rosettes out of the edges of foil pie pans and glue them together into one very marvelous and modern topiary.
This is one of those ideas I wish I had conceived earlier in the season. The belated idea only dawned on me last weekend as I was making my floral stamped clay bangles, which I baked on a couple of foil pie pans. I’ve been saving them for purposes like that and this. I always knew my small collection of foil pie pans could be used for something really wonderful. However, I was kidding myself — I could barely make a topiary out of the handful stored in my cupboard. This project requires a good bundle of them — eighty in total. I bought much, much more from the dollar store and managed to pull off this décor masterpiece for less than $15 (and that includes a whole pack of glue sticks, also from the dollar store).
You will need:
a. 30 of 9″ pie pans and 50 of 4″ pie pans.
b. Hot glue gun and glue sticks (I used up a pack of 16 glue sticks).
c. Balloon, strips of newspaper, and some white glue or papier maché paste.
1. Papier maché your balloon. I use a simple 1:1 ratio of white glue and water. Let dry and release the balloon.
2. Paint the papier maché ball. I chose an apple green color that I imagined would give a funky dimension to the topiary, however, in hindsight, I wish I had chosen black.
3. Cut away the flat bottom of your foil pie pan.
4. Roll into a rose. Please BE CAREFUL as the edges are sharp. Only touch the uncut edges.
5. Continue steps 3 and 4 for all 80 pans.
6. Using a hot glue gun, randomly glue the roses on the papier maché ball.
The result of this project turned out so much better than I had conceived in my mind. I had the fear that it would look cheap, but it’s in fact no easy guess that this topiary is made from foil pie pans! I intend on using this topiary for several holiday seasons. What’s best is that once I’m done with it years from now, it will go straight into recycling. The foil pie pans are 100% recyclable, so is the papier maché ball I used as a base.
P.S. If you’re having a modern winter wedding, I think this might be the diva-on-a-dime décor item for you.
December 15, 2010 § 6 Comments
I sorely miss the eccentric, eclectic, and colorful city of San Francisco. So much so that I decided to make gingerbread row houses as an ode to the city’s iconic Painted Ladies fronting Alamo Square Park. These are not your usual gingerbread houses, they are ice cream sandwiches. And not just any ice cream — mango ice cream. Given that the Bay Area accommodates the largest concentration of the Asian-American populace, I thought exotic ginger and mango couldn’t be more perfect flavors to make these fun treats.
I’m in the Bay Area several times a year, considering it’s where O.T. is currently residing. This year, I spent a combined three months there, but still can’t help but feel that time could be extended.
The above is a shot of us from the summer of 2009. I seldom go to Alamo Square Park, but always get a good chuckle out of the audience each time I visit. I’ve always been confounded by the intent crowd watching the houses (perhaps they’re expecting Bob Saget or the Olsen twins to come out on the porch?).
December 14, 2010 § 37 Comments
There’s still time to make handmade holiday gifts!
These floral stamped bangles were inspired by an old, forgotten object in the kitchen: an outdated glass plate with rose embellishments. I have always marveled at the embossed pattern on the bottoms of glass plates and was stricken with the idea of using them as stamps on polymer clay. After a celebrated return in fashion, there’s no better time to wear floral accessories.
I admit, I had moments of contention with this project. After a shattered first attempt and a frenzied call to my good friend and polymer clay expert, Karen at Subtle Details, I learned the medium is too brittle to form into a bangle without applying it on some type of reinforcement. Given the purpose, the reinforcement has to be metal to withstand the clay’s baking process, as well as provide strength and durability to the final product. I mulled it over for some time before it occurred to me — cookie cutters — they’re metal, already round, and require no further shaping or cutting. What may be the shortcoming of the cookie cutter is its predetermined size. I was restricted to the thickness of the cookie cutter and wish for a much wider bangle to showcase more of the rose pattern I’ve come to love. And even with my bird bones, I could use a diameter that’s about 1/4″ wider (I used 2-1/2″).
To make this project you will need:
a. Oven-baked polymer clay in your choice of colors.
b. An embossed glass plate or any object embossed with a deep relief.
c. Cookie cutters, 3″ or 4″ in diameter.
d. I have not invested in any clay glazes and thought it was a great opportunity to use up some nail polishes, as they never seem to run out. Use a color that is a close match to the clay, but not lighter than. You can leave the clay as it is, but I felt it needed a glaze to finish it off. *Edit: Elaine commented below that not all polymer clays can be glazed with nail polish. Please try on a sample piece before applying on your project. Thanks for the tip, Elaine!*
1. Condition the clay and roll out about 1/8″ thick, making sure the strip is long enough to cover the whole perimeter of the cookie cutter. Stamp the pattern on the flattened clay.
2. Using a knife or a pizza cutter, cut the clay with an extra 1/4″ on each side of the cookie cutter.
3. Roll the clay on the cookie cutter. Carefully trim and merge the seams.
4. Fold and flatten the edges onto the inner side of the cookie cutter. Bake according to clay’s package instructions. Let cool.
5. Glaze and let dry. Using super glue or heavy duty double-sided tape, adhere the ribbon along the inner side of the cookie cutter.
This post is participating in Today’s Creative Blog:
December 13, 2010 § 5 Comments
1. Cut your gift wrap with an additional 1-1/2″ on each side of the box. Make sure the you can fold the gift wrap twice around your box.
2. Using double-sided tape, fold and adhere the bottom third of your gift wrap. Insert the box.
3. Fold a triangle on the top third.
4. Using circle punches and hole punches, punch two large circles and two small circles with a hole punched in the middle. Adhere the smaller circle on the large circle.
5. Using mounting tape, adhere a 12″ length of ribbon onto the back of only one of the circles.
6. Adhere the circles as shown and spool ribbon to close.
December 12, 2010 § 5 Comments
1. Take a full width of gift wrap and cut to approximately 18″ long. Find the center and make creases about 2″ apart to center the pattern.
2. To the left of the centered pattern, fold under and over to create 1/2″ pleats.
3. Repeat to the right of the pattern.
4. Turn over. Using double-sided tape, adhere a thin sheet of cardboard or chip board along the center to create a base. You can make the base as wide as you want. Place double-sided along both edges of the base as well as both edges of the wrap on one side.
5. Fold, adhere, and shape into a flat-bottomed fan.
6. Tape ribbon along the inside edges for use as handles.
7. Your pleated gift bag is ready to fill!
December 11, 2010 § 2 Comments
December 10, 2010 § 5 Comments
1. Wrap your gift without using any tape, making sure to center your pattern on the top of the box.
2. Unwrap and turn over. Using a pencil, stencil the mirror image of the letter in the center of the area that is designated as the top of your box.
3. Using a craft knife, carefully cut out the letter.
4. Adhere mounting tape along the edge of the letter. I used two layers of mounting tape to give a more recessed illusion.
5. Carefully align and adhere the top of the box to the designated area.
6. Wrap the gift completely.
Tip: You will be left with a letter cut out of gift wrap. Use this letter to monogram the card envelope or to make a greeting card. A great match to the boxed gift.
December 10, 2010 § 2 Comments
If you’re looking to wrap your holiday presents in unique and, importantly, achievable ways, look no further. I’ve been compiling a few of my gift wrapping ideas — none of which require the dexterity of an origami aficionado, as some other ideas out there may oblige.
Starting today and over the next few days, I will post the full photos and tutorials on each of the above:
Enjoy your holiday shopping and gift wrapping this weekend!
*Edit: I hope you’ve all had a great weekend of gift wrapping. To sum up the past four days, I’ve provided the link to each individual post directly from here. Just click one of the gift wrap ideas listed above to go directly to that tutorial.*
This post is participating in:
December 9, 2010 § 1 Comment
There’s no better time of year to make red and green themed sweets. Having missed an opportunity to devour desserts in Japan with O.T. this week, I proceeded with making a Japanese-inspired red bean and green tea dessert here at home.
After discovering the black rose and French vanilla tea-ramisu (served in chocolate tea cups, no less) conceived by the young and talented Tammi at Insatiable Munchies, I was motivated to give my own take on tea-ramisu.
If you frequent Asian bakeries and bubble tea shops, you are likely no stranger to the conventional pairing of red adzuki beans and matcha green tea. Both flavors are quite distinct, yet with delicate subtlety. This sensational pair offers a quite exotic, albeit peculiar, flair to the much-loved Italian coffee-based dessert. In the end, I’m really pleased with the risk taken.
1 tbsp green tea powder dissolved in 2-1/4 c hot water, cooled
4 c water
2/3 c adzuki beans
3/4 c sugar
2/3 c heavy cream
1-1/2 c mascarpone cheese
18 savoiardi fingers
In a saucepan, boil water with adzuki beans until beans are softened throughout (approximately 45 minutes). Add sugar and continue boiling until all liquid is dissolved. Cool. In a food processor, process beans with the heavy cream until it forms a creamy paste. In a bowl, fold the adzuki bean paste into the mascarpone cheese until combined.
In a large tea pot, arrange 6 savoiardi fingers. Slowly spoon 3/4 c of green tea over the savoiardi fingers, allowing the tea to absorb. Layer a third of the mascarpone mixture. Repeat with two more layers. Cool. Serve in tea cups.
December 8, 2010 § 10 Comments
Having Japan on my mind this week and not being able to wait for O.T. to bring me some authentic Japanese mochi, I decided to make my own version using coconut milk and shredded coconut, shaped into jolly snowmen.
If you haven’t tried mochi, it is a chewy confection made of sweet rice flour. There are many variations of mochi and most are filled with paste like red bean and black sesame.
I’ve done my bit of experimentation with making mochi this year, feeling obliged to do so considering they are priced no less than $2 for 6 tiny pieces at Asian grocery stores here in Toronto. I was stunned to discover it is such a cheap and simple thing to make. Most recipes I’ve come upon call for a microwave method.
To make these adorable coconut snowmen, mix together in a microwave safe bowl: 1-1/2 c of mochiko (ground sweet rice flour), 1-1/2 c of coconut milk, and 3/4 c of sugar. Then cover most of the bowl with plastic wrap, leaving a small opening. The plastic wrap allows the mochi to be steamed while in the microwave for 6-7 minutes, on high. You will know it is done when the surface looks smooth and glossy. If it is matte, it means that it is overdone and will be tough. Let it cool briefly until it is manageable to the touch. It cannot be too cool, otherwise it will be difficult to shape. Remove from the bowl and place on a cutting board covered with shredded coconut. Slice into cubes. With some shredded coconut in your palms, quickly shape into balls. Use a toothpick to stack three and decorate as you wish.
If you want authentic plain mochi, simply use water instead of coconut milk.
December 8, 2010 § 4 Comments
O.T. is in Japan this entire week. He was given a personal invitation to provide a talk on his research in semi-conductor technology. For the second time this year, he’s been flown in, shacked up, and exploring all sorts of temples and onsens, and feasting on fresh sushi in his spare time. Oh, am I ever green as a Christmas tree! He knows how badly, terribly, achingly I’ve always wanted to go to Japan. He knows it so well that he was on the brink of purchasing my flight so I can crash his stay. I imagine I could be blogging a much different post today from an executive suite in Kyoto. But I, regretfully, declined. I’ve got several classes left to instruct before my programs are over and I want to be there to bid my students farewell with their completed projects.
Technically speaking, I was actually in Japan last summer. And, adhering to that form of technicality, I can say I’ve actually been to Japan a handful of occasions. Of course, those times were just dismal hours spent while in transit at the airports of Tokyo-Narita, Nagoya, and Osaka, unable to step outside of the gates. At best, I surveyed all the corners of the airport terminals, clenching on to any remnant of quirky Japanese culture at the shops and food courts.
One day, Japan, I will see past your airport gates.
December 7, 2010 § 10 Comments
I’ve had a pewter-gray jumpsuit stashed away in my closet, in want of a statement accessory. My parents’ early Christmas party this weekend was the ideal occasion to don the outfit and motivation to make my own crafty diva-on-a-dime jewelry. I decided on making a statement necklace out of less than $2 worth of paper clips from the dollar store and some leather string I’ve had stored in my craft drawer for years. Quite timely, my old leather string is a very current, trendy shade of burgundy (wines are making quite a reappearance in the fashion scene, as is every trend from the nineties).
So there I am, striking a no-nonsense pose in front of my parents’ beautifully adorned tree, boldly wearing my homemade necklace, which no one seemed to guess was fashioned out of paperclips until I pointed it out.
You will need 280 paperclips and 3 strings or chains of your choice material, each being 2″ shorter than the next. If you are not using chains with clasps and opting for strings, as I have, make sure they are cut 1″ longer than the preferred final length.
1. Thread 50 paperclips through your string. Throughout the project, make sure to thread through the end of the paperclip that has the smaller hole. This prevents the paperclips from being misaligned.
2. Arrange your strings into tiers. Use the shortest as a top string, then a middle string, and the longest being a bottom string. Thread 30 paperclips through both the upper and middle strings. The 50 paperclips threaded in step 1 will be the bottom-most tier.
3. On the left side, alternate threading paperclips through the top and middle strings, one at a time, until each tier has 10 paperclips. Repeat on the right side.
4. On the left side, thread 20 paperclips through both the middle and bottom strings. Repeat on the right side.
5. On the left side, thread 20 paperclips through both the top and middle strings. Repeat on the right side.
6. On the left side, thread 10 paperclips through both the middle and bottom strings. Repeat on the right side.
7. On the left side, thread 10 paperclips through the top and middle strings. Repeat on the right side.
8. Tie the strings together in a knot.
Of course, there are endless patterns to create using as many tiers as preferred. There is a wide variety of strings and chains to use, as well as different lengths. I think I’m ready to start a daring paperclip jewelry collection just for fun!
December 6, 2010 § 4 Comments
It is certainly December! I drove back to Toronto to be met with a generous dusting of snow (oh, a good half a foot deep), after spending the weekend down in Michigan at my parents’. They threw a sizeable party for 50 people for a late Thanksgiving and early Christmas celebration. I’m utterly exhausted. I took on two experimental Asian desserts as well as prepared and packaged 50 favors — a small dent in an extensive party spread. I really can’t comprehend how mom hosts such big parties. I’ve got a lot to learn.
My idea for the party favors evolved quite, hmmm, favorably. About two weeks ago, I made a random visit to my local packaging supplier and found individual gold truffle boxes and miniature poinsettias on clearance for bargain-basement, jaw-dropping, only-a-fool-would-resist prices. The boxes were 25 for $1 and the poinsettias 36 for $1. For 50 people, $4 on all this beautiful packaging is beyond a steal.
Keeping things frugal and fuss-free, I thought of filling the truffle boxes with chocolate-covered roasted chestnuts. It’s the season for chestnuts roasting on an open fire, afterall. But there’s an easy substitute to buying fresh chestnuts for roasting. These days, Asian grocery stores sell packaged roasted chestnuts all year long, and they are just as good as fresh roasted chestnuts. A package will run you about $1.50, containing anywhere between 15-20 roasted chestnuts (already peeled), depending on quality and size. As luck would have it, I found packages of delicious chestnuts for $1 each. Three packages were enough for 50 favors. It took no more than half an hour to melt down a couple of dollars worth of Ghirardelli dark chocolate and dip the chestnuts.
The creamy texture of the chestnuts is comparable to very firm ganache, with some grit. In fact, I could’ve gotten away with calling these chestnut truffles, as they have the air and luxury of truffles. But at under $10 worth of ingredients and packaging for all 50 favors, there’s simply no putting up pretenses!