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.*

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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.

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