st. patrick’s lucky card

February 27, 2011 § 4 Comments

I like designing cards for all holidays, and although St. Patrick’s Day isn’t one when greeting cards are the expectation, I think we can all use a little wish of luck sent our way.

So, here’s a simple idea for a St. Patrick’s greeting: a 5″x7″ playing card with a rainbow back and a shamrock ace, “Wishing you the luck of the Irish and an ace up your sleeve”.

*Update: The free printables are ready for downloading: card front and card back.  The card is double-sided and I’ve horizontally centered the crop lines on the page, but you may need to play around with your printer’s alignment to ensure they line up exactly.*

vanishing venice

February 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

While crafting my bean-by-number venetian mask the other night and while masquerades transpire at the Carnival of Venice today, I wistfully went back in time to revisit my Venetian experience three Februaries ago, in 2008.

I had actually just missed the Carnival of Venice by a few days, though enough masks were on display throughout the small city, an outsider could easily assume the Carnival of Venice was at hand.  But no matter the day, all throughout the year, you are greeted by these fantastic (albeit freaky) faces at most shops and stalls.

Venice is really such a small place, you can explore most of its splendor in a day or two.  The dense labyrinth of streets, alleys, and canals all seem to lead to the Rialto Bridge and Grand Canal, where most people are headed.

St. Mark’s Square is one of few large open spaces on Venice’s plethora of islands.  There you will find the three most notable architectural sites of the city: St. Mark’s Basilica, its bell tower (the Campanile), and the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale).  I wasn’t thwarted by the long queue to climb up the Campanile and, after a patient wait, was rewarded with the best views of Venice and the Adriatic Sea.

The pink and white marble façade and the pink lamps of the Palazzo Ducale are sights to behold, but the wonderful surprise was a pink-haired street performer doing some tricks with the pigeons.  Nearly every square foot of St. Mark’s Square is covered with pigeons.

Although there are open spaces like St. Mark’s Square and the Grand Canal, it is hard to overlook the very compact fabric of this city’s infrastructure.  As romantic as Venice is, there is a haunting melancholy about this old, cramped city.  It’s a bit of the forlorn.  Most walls are peeling with age, and within a day’s stay, it is clear that the tourists outnumber the locals, many of whom are making an exodus out of the city.

What is considered as “streets” on maps are in fact alley ways, a lot of which are as narrow as three feet.  The Bridge of Sighs (the bridge that led criminals from interrogation to imprisonment, with a last view of the world through tiny windows) is a reminder of that sense of lonely abandonment experienced by Venice.

By day, Venice is a bustling hub for tourists guided around town by gondoliers.  But as the sun sets, there is a piercing silence descending into the city.   By night, the streets are deserted and pitch black, the tourists are settled indoors, the shop keepers have left the islands, and it is as though the mask was lifted to reveal the city’s very desolate fate.  And as we know it, the 117 islands that make up the city of Venice are all very sadly sinking into oblivion.

bean-by-number: venetian mask

February 25, 2011 § 4 Comments

Lent and Mardi Gras are right around the corner, always preceded by The Carnival of Venice beginning this weekend.  Although I’m nowhere near that side of the world nor am I going to a masquerade, I just had to fulfill the urge to craft a Venetian mask.

Back in November, I mentioned my big aspiration to design a series of bean-by-number crafts, and started with the bean-by-number Turkish tiles.  Well, it’s been long overdue, but I finally have a second to add to the series.  This Venetian mask is embellished with black-eyed peas and black turtle beans.

You can download the bean-by-number: venetian mask template here. I designed the template with the intention of using a third bean, but I decided to stick with only two types in the process.  Of course, you can use whichever beans and as many varieties as you’d like.

On a related note, I often burst out in song, the likelihood of which is Broadway.  It’s in fact not a rare occasion that I’m repeatedly singing the most catchy line from Phantom of the Opera: “Masqueraaaaade, paper faces on parade.  Masquerade.  Hide your face so the world will never find you… ”  🙂

Travel Crafty Toronto

February 24, 2011 § 2 Comments

Head over to Craft to explore Toronto’s many crafty offerings in the article Travel Crafty Toronto by yours truly!   Enjoy the magnificent crafty scene in this beautiful city.  I hope you will come visit us one day soon!

cn tower building blocks

February 23, 2011 § 7 Comments

This week on Iron CraftChallenge #8: Hometown.  The challenge is to craft something representing your hometown.

This week is for you, my Toronto!  What a significant coincidence that I’m also writing a Travel Crafty article on Toronto for Craft tomorrow.  It’s all a great reminder for me just how spectacular this city is.

We, Torontonians, have had the greatest pride and fortune of being home of the tallest tower in the entire world, the CN Tower, for thirty four years.  Only recently (in the fall of last year) was this title replaced by the Canton Tower in Guangzhou, China.  From 1976 to 2010, the CN Tower held the world record with a height of 553 meters (1,815 feet) — that means the tower stands half a kilometer high into the sky, or a good one-third of a mile!

So I thought it fit to craft building blocks of Toronto’s most famous icon with simple permanent markers, 1″ cubes of wood (pre-sealed with a coat of clear polish to avoid bleeding), and an abiding love for architecture.

Here are a couple of views of Toronto’s skyline showing off the incredible height of the CN Tower.  To the left, O.T. and I took a shot of downtown Toronto from across the lake in Centre Island.  To the right is a view of the CN Tower at night from a regular city street.  Every night, the tower is lit up with changing colorful lights.

These are views from right beneath and atop the tower when we went up two years ago.  The CN Tower offers a fantastic 360-degree view of Toronto, with views as far as Niagara Falls on a clear, sunny day.  What you see here is the view of Toronto’s financial core (most of those skyscrapers are banks).  Notice that O.T. and I are lying on a glass floor on the observation deck.  Yes, about half a kilometer or a third of a mile directly below us is a combination of grass and pavement!

If you love heights, Toronto is waiting for you!

Stay tuned for more on Toronto on Craft: Travel Crafty this week!

cardboard cuff bangles

February 22, 2011 § 11 Comments

Cardboard is one of my favorite things ever invented.  Anything made of cardboard has guaranteed character.  And what’s fun about cardboard is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, even with a little spray of metallic copper.  Like this pair of cardboard cuff bangles.

Wide cuff bangles are all over the runways, and I thought to whip up a quick and fun little project with what little time I’ve had recently.  The unusual angle of the photo combined with my bird-bone arm makes the bangles seem remarkably oversize.  But I promise they’re actually reasonably wearable in person, if you’re a cardboard enthusiast like me.

You will need a mailing tube, X-Acto knife, cardboard, scissors, white glue, and spray paint.


1.   Cut the mailing tube in any length desired (I cut 1-1/2″ and 2″).

2.  Cut cardboard along the grain the same size as your section of mailing tube.  Cut cardboard in 1/4″ strips against the grain.

3.  Apply glue on mailing tube in small sections and affix the strips of cardboard.

4.  Spray paint in desired color.  Rose gold is very trendy these days and Krylon’s metallic copper gives a comparable hue.

going the distance. out-of-the-box ideas. and keeping the faith.

February 21, 2011 § 19 Comments

Last night was one of those sad drives from the airport — a recurring event in my life.  O.T. flew back to California and I’m in withdrawal.  For two and a half years, I’ve coped with a long distance relationship by repressing the matter from my consciousness.  But there are times like today when all worries are rampant.

It dawned on me: I have not seen California in five and a half months!  That is a record.  O.T. has been making the sacrifices to come to my neck of the woods.  He has spent a total of a month’s worth of time in Toronto over the past four months alone.  It adds up to a lot of time away from home.  Come to think of it, last year in the nine months between January and September, I spent a combined three and a half months in California.  In all of 2010, between the two of us, we spent nearly five months combined of being away from our own respective homes.  Five months out of twelve!  In the past two and a half years, we’ve probably spent nearly a combined ten months on vacation.  THAT is how we go the distance.

But things are changing.  Back in the fall, I put my wedding stationery business on hiatus indefinitely, due to a combination of an expired business license, a feeble economy, burn-out, and a dying dream.  As of last month, I terminated the website for good.  It’s been a big decision and a long time coming.

I look back and my eyes well up.   Four and a half years ago, shy of my 27th birthday, I gave my two weeks’ notice at my steady job at a civil engineering firm.  I was armored with the hope that I would beat the odds (what is it — 99% of small businesses fail?).  Well, it wasn’t going to happen to me.  And not to out-of-the-box ideas (it stings to mention the name now, which I admit I’ve deliberately avoided since starting this blog).  Within eighteen months, I suffered burn-out and slowly and surely lost my will, but continued with numbness for three more long years.  In hindsight, I understand how I met my failure.  I was good when things were good, but I was an utter disaster when the littlest things were awry.  I simply didn’t have the maturity to trudge through hardship at the time.

The beauty is I went through some of my most creative moments while steering the course of my own ship. I know I had great things to offer, but I also know I still had a lot of growing up to do.  One day, I’ll be back and I’ll do it right.

I am blessed with good graces.  And I rest assured the higher powers-that-be are watching over me and making sure of my survival.  Just days after I closed down the website for out-of-the-box ideas, three weeks ago I got two important calls from two unrelated companies (a school and a civil engineering firm) with offers of employment. The real miracle is that I didn’t seek them out.  (Have faith that when the time is right, things do fall on our laps).  Even more miraculous is that both companies are willing to work around my current part-time teaching schedule (which I’ve had for almost three school years).  So for now, until further notice, I juggle three jobs, a blog, and small steps towards a sideline in freelance writing.  I am blessed and ever grateful.

Now with my life drastically changing, how do we narrow the distance between me and O.T.?   As I have done all my life, I am keeping the faith.

fig and feta phyllo pockets

February 21, 2011 § 10 Comments

There wasn’t time to craft with O.T. in town for over a week, but he most certainly inspired me to get caught up on my baking.  The kitchen is always bustling with activity when he’s around (though he’s often found elsewhere in the house until it is time to eat!).  It never fails, he always requests a batch of savory phyllo pastry, either filled with eggplant or ground beef.  To break the routine, I decided to make some modifications by eliminating the eggplant and ground beef altogether.

O.T. regularly snacks on dried figs and I was tempted to sneak a few from his stash as filling for the phyllo, along with some goat feta.  It was scrumptiously savory-sweet!  And laughably easy to make.

1.  Cut dried figs in half and fill with a small slice of feta.

2.  Cut phyllo sheets in half.  Take one half-sheet and brush with butter.  Place the feta-filled fig on the bottom right corner of the sheet, with about an inch of space beneath and to the right.

3.  Fold the bottom over.

4.  Fold the right over.

5.  Continue folding the bottom and right edges until you are left with a small 2″ square pocket.

Place on parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until golden.

I usually buy a round package of dried figs (containing approximately 20 pieces) for less than $1.50 at the grocery store.

golden chocolate sponge toffee nuggets

February 16, 2011 § 14 Comments

This week on Iron CraftChallenge #7: Midas Touch.  The challenge is to turn any item into gold.

Chocolate sponge toffee rocks are ones I’ve been eager to create for this blog  (I’ve specifically slated them as a treat for Earth Day in April).  The original intent was to paint the chocolate as realistically as I could portray the surface and texture of rocks.  Despite this post today, I am still determined to create that specific project in April as originally intended.  But I simply couldn’t resist making some alterations to those plans when I saw the images of gold leaf chocolate and gold leaf decorated rocks on Iron Craft for this week’s challenge.  Who could resist the combination of edible rocks made of chocolate, sponge toffee, and gold?

O.T. flew into town over the weekend to spend Valentine’s week with me here on my side of the continent.  An aside: I’d like this to be the explanation on record for my inexistent posts over the past seven days.  Aside aside, while shopping this week, coincidentally, we came across bricks of sponge toffee.  He had never seen them in that form before, so I was given an extra reason to pick them up for him to try.  His being here is my waist’s saving grace, otherwise I’d eat this all up on my own  — I’ve granted him jurisdiction over half of the lot.

You will need: sponge toffee brick (for Canadians, I found these for $0.99 at Giant Tiger, but they are also sold for $1.49 at Bulk Barn), chocolate, and edible gold dust (dilute with vanilla extract).

Using a knife, chop the sponge toffee brick into 1″ to  2″ chunks.  Dip in melted chocolate and set.  Paint with edible gold.

“you maki me happy” sushi card

February 9, 2011 § 7 Comments

If you share the love of sushi with the love of your life, this greeting card craft is designed for you!

Sushi is one of those foods for which I acquired the taste quite late.  I remember my first experience of sushi as a child, around the age of seven, an era long before sushi catapulted into trend status.  I was impressed by a plate of such pretty and colorful food.  But one big bite had me wondering if there was a tragic mistake!  My then seven year old palate assumed it was to embark on a gastronomy of pure candy and had little ability to equate an appealing sight with the taste of fish.  I wonder now if my parents explained what it was made of (I’m pretty sure they did), but I failed to listen, mesmerized by the prettiest food I did see.  I remember deviously pretending to wipe my mouth with a napkin in which I tucked away my half-chewed maki.  I avoided sushi for nearly fifteen years until one afternoon in the Toronto subway, a friend insisted in sharing her packed deli sushi for the long commute.  I declined repeatedly as much as she insisted repeatedly, and I now thank her for it.  My life just wouldn’t be whole without sushi.

To create the sleeve of this card:

1. Cut a 7″ x 9-1/2″ piece of cardstock.  Score and fold at 3-1/2″ and 8-1/2″.

2. Print the chopstick holder template I whipped up for you here.  You may superimpose a message using a photo editing program.  Cut the shape.  Score along the length, 1/4″ from each edge, and fold the edges up, printed side down.

3. Using double-sided tape, affix the top of chopstick holder to the bottom edge of the 3-1/2″ section of cardstock.

4. Fold the sleeve and affix the bottom of the chopstick holder to the top edge of the 1″ section of cardstock.

To create the inner card:

5. Print your greeting on a 7″ x 9-3/4″ piece of cardstock.  Score and fold at 3-7/8″ and 8-3/4″.

6. Punch out six 1″ circles of each: black cardstock and white cardstock.  Trim the white circles by 1/8″ using a pair of scissors, creating a more organic shape.  Cut small squares of pink and green cardstock.

7. Arrange the circles and squares on the front of the card to make six maki.  Break apart a pair of disposable wooden chopsticks.  Using white glue, affix the top of the chopstick along the top seam and the bottom of the chopstick along the bottom seam.

Insert the inner card into the sleeve.

Now go and maki someone happy this Valentine’s Day!

peek-through valentine vases

February 8, 2011 § 2 Comments

Today you will find me crafting over at Canadian Living‘s The Craft Blog.  Remember those see-through hearts I posted in a sneak peek two weeks ago?  Well, they are actually peek-through Valentine vases made of plastic recyclables.  Head right over to Canadian Living’s The Craft Blog to read my super simple tutorial.

dim sum steamer lantern: circus carousel

February 2, 2011 § 13 Comments

Yay for snow days!    So how many of us here have been stranded at home because of the storm?   Toronto was delivered a foot of snow today, and I was blessed with an entire day off, allowing me the opportunity to finish the circus carousel version of my dim sum steamer lantern.

Of course, you can opt for your colors of choice.  I wanted to make the most of the gold that I already used on the previous Chinese New Year dim sum lantern, which I have since taken apart to make this version.  The carousel turned out almost as well as I hoped, with a slight oversight — I didn’t do a color test of the horses and only realized after the sticks were glued that they didn’t print as intended.  If you have a photo editing program, you can alter the colors as needed.  I’ve already designed the horses in a template for you to download here.

You will need:

a. 7″ bamboo dim sum steamer.

b. 12 wooden stir sticks.

c. Battery-operated tea lights.

d. 2 sheets of white vellum and sheets of colored cardstock.

e. Acrylic paint and a paint brush.

f. Hot glue gun and white glue.

1. Paint the steamer.

2. Paint the stir sticks.

3. Print two copies of the template on vellum.  With white glue, affix the stir sticks at 1-1/2″ intervals across both copies, connected.

4. Place the vellum in the tray, with the stir sticks facing out.  Using a hot glue gun, affix each stir stick to the inner wall of the tray.  When you reach the end, trim off any excess tissue paper and affix the seams together using white glue.

5. Cut cardstock into diamonds and circles and glue in a pattern around the tray.

6. Cut a 10″ circle and fold into 16 segments.  Cut out 5 segments.  Using a second color of cardstock, cut additional segments to use as an alternating color.

7. Fold the circle into a cone and glue to the top of the lid.

8. Punch cardstock into 1″ circles and affix in alternating colors to the inner wall of the lid.

Place the tea lights, cover with lid, and no one will ever guess your carousel lantern is made of a bamboo dimsum steamer!

valentine tic tac toe

February 2, 2011 § 7 Comments

This week on Iron Craft: Challenge #5 “Be Mine”. The challenge is to create a Valentine craft.  After harvesting keyboard keys to create framed Valentine messages, I thought the X’s and O’s couldn’t be more perfect for a pocket-size Valentine tic tac toe game.

You will need to make customized keyboard keys (you can find the previous tutorial here).

You will need the above pieces of cardstock to make the box.  The final box measures 3″ x 3″ x 3/4″.  The pink sleeve is 3″ x 8″, with score lines at 3″, 3-3/4″, 6-3/4″, 7.5″ (there’s a 1/2″ allowance for double-sided tape).  The black pull-out box is shy of 4.5″ square, with score lines at 3/4″ from all edges.  The red tic-tac-toe board is shy of 3″ square, and each white square is 7/8″.  You may decorate however you like.  I used a simple 1″ red strip with white hearts with x’s and o’s.

1. Fold the black pull-out box.

2. Turn the box upside down.  Affix the red tic-tac-toe board.

3. Affix the white squares to make a grid.

4. Decorate the front of the sleeve.

5. Add embellisments.

6. Fold the sleeve and affix with double-sided tape.


Don’t forget to check out Iron Craft for many creative Valentine crafts made by so many talented crafters!

x o x o

“keys to my heart”

February 2, 2011 § 60 Comments

Here’s the key to expressing your fondest feelings this Valentine’s Day.  Why not harvest the keys of an old, unwanted keyboard to devise a message filled with warm words for your loved one?

This simple project allows you to customize the color as well as create duplicates of keyboard keys.

You will need:

a. Keys from a keyboard.  You can easily pry out each key using a flathead screwdriver or a letter opener.

b. Spray paint for plastic.  I used Krylon in Fairytale Pink.

c. Letraset dry transfer letters.   I used 3/8″ Helvetica.

Paint the keys with two to three coats of spray paint.  To seamlessly adhere your letters, make sure you cut out separate letters from your sheet of Letraset.  The keys are curved and if you transfer directly from the sheet, parts of the adjacent letters will be transferred to the edges of the keys.




dim sum steamer lantern

February 1, 2011 § 8 Comments

Crafting with a bamboo dim sum steamer has long been on my list and this week’s Chinese New Year gave the nudge to do finally do so.

If you don’t already have an old bamboo dim sum steamer to repurpose, you can go to your Chinatown or Asian superstore and pick a brand new set (a tray with lid) for as little as $3 or $4.

You will need:

a. 7″ bamboo dim sum steamer.

b. 12 wooden stir sticks.

c. Battery-operated tea lights.

d. Red tissue paper and a pair of scissors.

e. Gold acrylic paint and a paint brush.

f. Hot glue gun and white glue.

1. Paint the steamer.

2. Paint the stir sticks.

3. Measure the circumference of the inner wall of the steamer.  Although my steamer was sold as 7″, it actually measures 6-1/2″ in diameter.  The inner wall is 5-3/4″, giving it a circumference of about 18″.  That measurement is the length of tissue paper needed.  Cut the height of the tissue paper slightly less than the height of the stir stick.  Using white glue, affix each stir stick at 1-1/2″ intervals.  You only need the left edge to have a stir stick.

4. Place the tissue paper in the tray, with the stir sticks facing out.  Using a hot glue gun, affix each stir stick to the inner wall of the tray.

5. When you reach the end, trim off any excess tissue paper and affix the seams together using white glue.

6. Place the battery-operated tea lights and cover with lid.

I realize there are endless ways to decorate a dim sum steamer.  After seeing the end product, I was inspired to create another variation of this lantern for those, like myself, not celebrating the Chinese New Year.  I’m hoping to make a golden circus carousel lantern!  Hopefully it works out and I’ll have it posted in a couple of days!

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Update: I’ve completed my circus carousel lantern and you can find it here.

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