christmas with the folks and holiday handcrafted decor
January 8, 2012 § 4 Comments
Here we are — me with mom, dad, and my older brother — posing inside the Compuware building before gorging on meat at Texas de Brazil in downtown Detroit. As you know, my parents are Michiganders and all holidays of the year are spent south of the Canadian border.
I also want to share with you pictures of the wonderful handcrafted treasures adorning my parents’ house during Christmas each year, and hope you will find some inspiration in these pieces for your own handmade decorations.
The craftiness of my culture is something I take much pride in. At your next décor jaunt to, say, Pier One for example, if you take a good look you will discover that many of the “earthy” products are crafted in the Philippines. Craft is a huge part of Philippine export and culture, specifically crafts made out of natural products such as wood and fibers. My mom has traveled many trips to Manila only to haul back luggage filled with holiday handcrafted décor.
My parents’ nine-foot tall tree is peppered with a number of unique handmade ornaments, out of molded pulp and embellished with rhinestones and large opalescent red beads. They remind me of fashion earrings, except about four times the size (I tried to wear them once for amusement, however, until oversize earrings reaching past the collarbone become fashionable, I will leave them on the tree).
My parents also have a spectacular Philippine-made crèche on their fireplace mantle. Each character is up to 10 inches tall and carefully crafted using native fibers. The material is similar to the decorative mesh bought at craft stores. However, these fibers have finer lattice and are more pliable. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the three kings, and the angel all don garments sewn out of these fibers. I love the added details, such as the ropes and tassels, and especially the fluffy feathers on the angel’s wings.
The set is a gift from my aunt who bought it at a craft show in Manila ten years ago. The following year, my uncle found a near-identical Philippine-made crèche at a boutique at the tony Yorkville neighborhood here in Toronto. He laughed after his sticker-shock — each character was being sold at $100 a piece, putting the whole set in the $700 mark. My aunt paid only a fraction at the source in Manila. If you are inspired, perhaps you can make your own this year! Sew some decorative mesh for the garments and bake some polymer clay for the faces, hats, crowns, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and you have yourself a substantial project for 2012!
paper sleeves and monograms for plastic containers
December 19, 2011 § 4 Comments
Despite all the fancy packaging choices at stores, giving away your holiday home-baked goods in plastic containers isn’t necessarily such a tacky thing (given the right accessory!).
With your favorite heavy stock cut and folded into a sleeve, your ordinary disposable plastic container is easily dressed as a pretty little package for giving away anytime, not just Christmas. Punch out a monogram and make it more personal!
I first designed sleeves like these for Christmas favors way back in 2003. That was the time I realized store-bought holiday tins and boxes (though printed and pretty) are three things: 1) lacking in personal touch; 2) pricey (if considering volume gift-giving); and 3) not exactly what I want. Since then, and every year, I looked forward to making treats packaged in my own custom (most importantly: cost-effective!) designs which I gave away to family and friends in lieu of a Christmas card. This style is most personal to me, out of all annual packages I’ve designed in the last 8 years because this is the project that inspired my need for custom Christmas packaging going forward. It also happens to be the simplest. Overtime on this blog, I would love to share with you each and every one of my past annual custom packages given to my family and friends and co-workers, however, I will start from the very beginning with this simple piece from 2003.
My “Kuya” (“Big Brother” in Filipino) thoughtfully kept and preserved the original package I gave him (down to the bits of brownie stuck on the inside lid of the container — eeew!). Seeing it after eight years is what inspired me to post this project on this blog. But for the blog, I wanted to change it up to show some patterns I currently love: plaid, cane, and herringbone.
Of course, it would be a long search to find the exact blue shades of plaid, cane, and herringbone cardstock to match the containers, so I opted out of that challenge. Instead, I quickly designed my own plaid, cane, and herringbone paper using none other than Microsoft Word (a hack job I often do…which leads me to the thought that perhaps one day in the coming year, I will have a little blog instruction on how to easily utilize MS Word as a design tool, if you do not want to spend the big bucks on Adobe’s sophisticated offerings).
You will need to measure your plastic container and cut and fold your stock accordingly. I suggest a container no larger than 4″ in diameter, such as the ones I used, otherwise you will encounter the impossibility of fitting 12″ cardstock around it.
To remedy any gaps (due to lack of length of paper), overlap a tiny strip with a greeting for an added touch.
paper clip christmas cards
December 15, 2011 § 27 Comments
So I thought (we all thought) my paper clip Christmas crafts were done with. But I realized I hadn’t crafted a single Christmas card for the blog this season. Gasp! Is Christmas ten days away?
Given my recent posts, paper clips were right here within reach and this was just too easy. I happen to have a huge tub of colored paper clips with perfect shades for Christmas shapes.
These cards can be easily crafted by little hands. Just dab the paper clips on some glue and design away.
chalkboard christmas cone
December 9, 2011 § 3 Comments
For a while I felt chalkboard crafts have grown tired, but I just couldn’t resist another! It’s been a while since my last (the 3-D chalkboard cake I made for Craft was back in July). What I also couldn’t resist (the carrot Easter basket I made for Canadian Living‘s The Craft Blog glares at me daily as it hangs by the doorway to my craft room) is another project using a dollar store safety cone…
So here it is, a chalkboard Christmas tree born out of a love affair between chalkboard spray paint and an orange safety cone. And a couple of sprays of primer (you don’t want to skip priming!).
This project has actually been sitting on newspapers on the floor for the past week, dried and unattended for days. I was so wrapped up in researching (nightly; obsessively) my own Christmas present to myself, erm, to Paper, Plate, and Plane (i.e. a new camera!), that I forgot all about it. Then this morning, amidst packing my lunch for work and packing my clothes for an upcoming weekend in NYC with O.T., I remembered it was incomplete. I hastily scribbled some designs before leaving for work. As much as I would’ve wanted to spend time on them, I couldn’t. But if and when you make one for yourself or your kids or grandkids, I wish you many hours of doodling merriment!
silver christmas tree from paper clips
December 6, 2011 § 7 Comments
Push pins. Rubber bands. And now for my final installment of Christmas décor out of office supplies. A $4 box of 1,000 paper clips made up this avant-garde tree.
I was most looking forward to creating this out of all four trees I made, assuming all four would be equally simple. I was wrong about this one. The concept is simple, but, admittedly, fussy to achieve.
First you have to create a garland of paper clips by stringing them through a thin, light gauge wire. I calculated about 2,000 consecutive seconds (33 minutes, at 2 seconds per paper clip) to finish this first and important step. However, I was also intent on having each paper clip face the exact same way and discovered it was best to string the paper clip through the end that has a smaller loop. The smaller loop acts as a lock to prevent the paper clip from shifting as much as it would had it been strung through the larger loop. And I didn’t account for several spills. Oh, also, 1,000 paper clips weren’t quite sufficient. Luckily, I had some extras stashed from when I designed my paper clip necklace last December. I used about 1,100 paper clips all in all, and the garland took much longer than the time allocated.
Then attaching the garland to a 6″ Styrofoam cone is presumably simple, too. But not. I inserted one end (at least 1-1/2″) of the wire into the side of the cone and started wrapping the garland around the cone (it really is important to use thin wire and not string, as the purpose of the wire is to be stuck into the cone). This was when I ran into the problem of paper clips bunching together. After several ineffective attempts, I managed to keep the paper clips aligned and flat on the table as I slowly wrapped the garland upwards. I made sure I formed the wire along the cone to minimize the garland from sliding down (the weight of 1,100 paper clips will slide down). Again, another important reason to use wire: so that the shape can be maintained. When that is done, then the rest is simple. I just secured the wire (at least 1-1/2″) into the top of the cone.
Despite it all, I’m glad I did this and the other trees! If you’re just tuning in now, over the past three posts I made crystal Christmas trees from push pins, a shag Christmas tree from rubber bands, and rubber-band wrapped trees. Enjoy!
rubber band-wrapped Christmas trees
December 5, 2011 § 11 Comments
I had enough rubber bands to spare from my one-pound bag to make these rubber band-wrapped Christmas trees as the third installment of my Christmas décor from office supplies.
If you’ve missed the previous two, you can find crystal Christmas trees from push pins here and a shag Christmas tree from rubber bands here. And if you’re not into shaggy trees made of rubber bands, these here are chic and just as easy.
Cover Styrofoam cone with rubber bands horizontally. Then vertically. Done! Now wasn’t that quicker than wrapping and gluing cones with sisal?
shag christmas tree from rubber bands
December 5, 2011 § 5 Comments
Now, now. We all know the 70’s have made a feverish comeback. Middle-parted long hair, wide jeans and trousers, and elevator wedges are rapidly ousting teased poufs, skinny pants, and flats. Now onto 70’s shag for some home décor!
As you know, I’ve spent the majority of my weekend making holiday décor out office supplies.
So, I reached for a huge bag of rubber bands at Staples (a pound for less than $4) to hail the big comeback of the 70’s with a quick-n-easy shag Christmas tree. No, not that kind of quick-n-easy shag. Umm. Indeed, a very quirky craft compared to yesterday’s classy crystal Christmas trees from clear push pins. But who doesn’t love quirky?
One pound of rubber bands is more than enough to make two 9″ shag trees.
1. Cut one rubber band open. Thread through rubber bands.
2. When you have enough rubber bands threaded through, tie in a knot to close.
3. Take your ring of rubber bands and place around the bottom of Styrofoam cone.
4. Cut all rubber bands open.
5. Continue steps 1-4 until you have your tree covered.
Now that I’ve stared at this craft for too long, I think I might add paper wings to the sides and a small Styrofoam ball (with closed eyes and a smile) on top of the tree and I’ve got a very unique Christmas angel! I shall try it out…
Another variation of rubber band Christmas trees to follow.
crystal christmas trees from clear push pins
December 4, 2011 § 16 Comments
So this is what my container of push pins got me. Crystal Christmas trees! Ok, not to rival Swarovski. However, an acceptable substitute for those on a dime.
These plastic push pins really shine, far better than I imagined.
One container of 500 push pins (which I picked up at Staples for $6; likely cheaper for lucky Americans with better pricing south of the border!) is enough, with few to spare, to cover one 9″ Styrofoam cone.
Up next (tomorrow), two variations of Christmas trees out of rubber bands…
plaster french macaron ornaments
November 23, 2011 § 21 Comments
Whew, enough catch-up posts from me. Now on to some serious crafting around here, as it should be!
I am in love with French macarons. Aren’t we all? They’re delicious. Divine! And so darling. Torontonians aren’t quite blessed to have the luxury of indulging in Ladurée on any given day. But what we do have is a handful of gourmet bakeries that serve these pretty pastel treats. I thought it was imperative to reward myself with three last Friday, after completing my crafts for spring issues next year. Three teeny tiny macarons for $9 is definitely not a daily splurge! And I inhaled them too quickly.
Immediately followed was the urge to craft fake macarons for this blog. If I can’t buy them often, at least I can pretend to always have them!
These are so simple and quick to make, in hindsight. But it took me two days of experimentation to figure out the right technique to make them. My challenge were the macaron “feet”. Macarons are such a simple shape, but no two circular discs would ever do! They’re not that simple. Without feet, they’d look like whoopie pies. And whoopie pies and macarons are from absolutely different leagues.
I’ve seen some faux macarons online made of molded clay. There are molds available that let you make your own polymer and paper clay macarons at home. Tempting! But I thought: $5 for a mold, anywhere between $10-30 for expensive paper clay in an assortment of colors (if I want to make plenty), shipping, handling, duty (and shipping duties in Canada are sky high)…it can be costly!
There has got to be a way to make macaron ornaments for nearly nothing! I figured how you can make dozens for about $5.
Can I say these faux French macarons are Parisian? Because I made them entirely out of plaster of Paris. And all quickly done by hand, as you would bake them. No need to spend your money on a mold, and ordering online and all the shipping fees, etc. All you need is plaster, a bit of paint, ribbon, and any 1-1/2″ circular object with an edge.
These instructions make 12 shells (6 macarons):
1. Take two sheets of cardboard. Draw 2-1/4″ circles, spaced evenly. I suggest doing 6 per sheet.
2. In a disposable cup, using a disposable spoon, mix 1/2 cup plaster + 1/4 cup water + dollop of paint.
3. Quickly spoon mixture onto carboard, staying inside the circles. Tap the cardboard against table to even out surface. This is where it is easier to do 6 in a sheet, so you can spoon and tap the first 6, then move on to the next 6. Dispose of any leftover mix, disposable spoon, and cup or clean thoroughly until there are no traces of cured plaster. You cannot mix new plaster with partly-cured/cured plaster, otherwise the combination will cease quickly.
4. Let the plaster stand and dry for about 5 minutes. When the surface is dry, but the inside is still soft, etch the surface of the plaster using a 1-1/2″ circular object with an edge (I used a hose clamp). Do not go all the way through.
5. Let the plaster dry until you can peel it off the cardboard easily. If the plaster is too dry at this stage, it will stick to the cardboard. Set discs aside to dry completely. Break off the edges of the plaster. The edges should be rough, as these will give the look of the macaron “feet”.
6. In clean cup with clean spoon, mix 1/2 cup plaster + 1/4 cup water + dollop of paint.
7. For each disc, quickly spoon a small dollop of mixture on the centre of the disc. Tap to even out surface, until plaster mixture reaches the edges. You must work quickly with each individual disc.
8. Let dry completely.
9. Cut ribbon in 5″ lengths.
10. In clean cup with clean spoon, mix 1/4 cup plaster + 1/8 cup water + dollop of paint.
11. With disc facing bottom side up, fold ribbon in half and place on disc. Quick spoon plaster mixture over ribbon.
12. Quickly place second disc while plaster is wet, sandwiching wet plaster in between. Let dry.
Et voila — faux macarons!
bt tv clips + canadian living
November 20, 2011 § 8 Comments
Ok, so a month later, finally a recap of my first TV appearance!
I had the most wonderful experience at Canadian Living Magazine headquarters and Citytv Breakfast Television here in Toronto on October 25th! It was a very early morning, which started at 3:45 when my alarm sounded, after which I immediately threw hot rollers in my hair, and loaded my car with carved pumpkins. Arrival and set-up was 5:30. Make-up 6:00. And my super short three minutes of fame slated at 7:53 am.
This may sound odd to you — in the spring months I had actually visualized being on Breakfast Television and carving my butternut squashes. A premonition? “The Secret” come to life? Ok, I’m not here to prove nor disprove the law of attraction. However, back in the spring, I had a moment of reflection after a couple of friends urged me to pitch my crafts to the show. I supposed if I would pitch anything in the spring, it would have to be for something six months ahead, in the fall. I thought, if I were to make my first crafting appearance on live local TV, I’ll carve squashes.
As it goes, I didn’t bother with the pitch. Who cares about a random blogger carving anything on live television? The end to a reverie.
Then the bizarre twist of fate. While I was in California last month, I received an email. The short of it: Breakfast Television. Me. Carving Pumpkins. Here’s to you, universe — in my hands are the fate of pumpkins, not squashes! Seriously, though, what are the chances that my first television appearance would be to carve some autumnal gourd as I had earlier prophesized?
More importantly, you’re probably wondering — how do I get a random email request such as this?
I could not be more thankful to Canadian Living Magazine. I guess I have been silent here and not been revealing much about the work I do outside of this blog, until the work manifests itself in public. This year, I have had the greatest creative opportunity to work on crafts projects with Canadian Living Magazine. You’ve read the posts I wrote for The Craft Blog earlier this year. But, I have also been busy designing some fun crafts for the magazine’s print issues in 2012. The process is lengthy for print publication, and crafts ideas and articles go through a gestation period of sorts for about ten months before they are born into the world. In fact, this month of November, I was busily crafting for the April and May 2012 issues. Yep, despite my lull online, I’m not totally a slacker (not entirely, though I should totally pick up the pace on this blog)!
So, on with the show! We had four segments filmed live inside the Test Kitchen (where the magazine prepares all recipes in-house). I joined the three amazingly talented women: Austen Gilliland (Senior Editor and Craft Editor), Adell Shneer (Test Kitchen Manager), and Rheanna Kish (Food Specialist), and we each did a segment on creative Halloween ideas.
Of course, seeing that this is a month late, I just went to Breakfast Television’s site and wasn’t able to find the full episode that day. However, I found our individual video clips. I have no idea how to embed non-Youtube videos, so please click on each image to link to the video:
Adell had the first segment and concocted a cauliflower “brain” with dip. You totally have to try this recipe out. It is packed with cheese and absolutely delicious!
Me and my hair and, oh right, my pumpkins went for the second segment. I really did not anticipate a third of the segment would become about my hair! I wish there was time to explain the “convertible pumpkins” which let your children design and paint the features of the pumpkin. The features can then be placed on the pumpkins for funny faces during the day and removed to make jack-o-lanterns at night
Rheanna had the third segment and she made some yummy sweet-salty-spicy zombie popcorn. I could not have enough! Sweet. Salty. Spicy. You would be remiss not to try this recipe out!
The fourth clip of Austen doing creepy crafts is not available. Boo. It’s really too bad, she made awesome paper packaging for the popcorn! On a good note, I did a search and found this clip from last winter when she shared cool crafts ideas from the book, “Create, Update, Remake”. How timely — these are fantastic projects and gifts for winter and Christmas! Enjoy!
super simple skulls topiary
October 13, 2011 § 2 Comments
Rather: super simple whatever-you-can-mold-from-ice-cube-trays-or-candy-molds topiary. In this case: skulls. I’ve been looking for ways to use fancy silicone ice cube trays and candy molds. I figured, with a couple of cups of plaster and some form of styrofoam (ball, cone, or ring), that a holiday centerpiece, mantelpiece, or wreath can be made with these molds.
Knowing that I’d be at O.T.’s in California all week this week, I was excited to decorate his place with a bit of Halloween, but I also had to make sure the materials could be easily packed in my suitcase. A Dollarama skull ice cube tray (which you’ve recently seen included in the giveaway; I adore it so much, I had to pick one up for myself — amazing investment for a buck), a styrofoam ball, a dowel, and some plaster barely took up any room in my luggage. The result: a modern, obscure Halloween centerpiece for O.T.’s kitchen table.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be Halloween. You can make any type of topiary with whatever ice cube trays and candy molds you’ve got. My silicone ice cube tray collection includes skulls, pumpkins, hearts, and Christmas trees. I can make one for every occasion. And again, you can use a Styrofoam ball or cone or ring to make topiaries, trees, and wreaths respectively.
You will need: mold, plaster, water, toothpicks.
1. Mix plaster according to package directions. Pour into molds. Place toothpicks, pointy side up. NOTE: I discovered later it was better to break the toothpick in half, so that it is shorter. If the toothpick is too long, it may not go into the styrofoam completely.
2. Let plaster dry. Unmold.
3. Press plaster pieces into styrofoam.
And it’s done! It is very easy to do. It’s a matter of waiting in between molding for the plaster to dry, but there’s always chores to do around the house while that’s happening (especially here at O.T.’s). On that note, back to cleaning for me…
canadian living crafts contest
January 5, 2011 § 8 Comments
This year, I have resolved to actively participate in crafts challenges. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve entered some of my holiday crafts into the Canadian Living Christmas Crafts Contest.
I decided to enter the following projects into the contest. I hope you still remember them. If you are a new subscriber, I welcome you to view my tutorials on these projects under Crafting Ideas on the left sidebar.
Peppermint favor boxes made out of two styrofoam bowls and red electrical tape.
Homemade cookie stamps created by cutting a shape out of an old plastic cutting sheet. Also, creative cookie wrapping inspired by traditional pleated soap packaging.
Advent calendar: Lego-inspired stackable treat boxes entirely made of paper and foam sheets, and of course, fully functional.
Mini stockings created by cutting and reconstructing the fingers of gloves. No knitting needed!
Paper ornaments created by rolling strips of construction paper and quilling decorative details.
A winter centerpiece made by rolling foil pie pans into rosettes, which are glued together into a papier mache ball to make a modern topiary.
And so, I would like to ask you the favor of checking out my entries and voting for your favorite(s)! Please click on your favorite project(s) above and you will be directed to the Canadian Living site where you can register/login and vote daily until January 21st.
Thank you so much for all your support!
It would be fantastic to be able to use all the wonderful crafting supplies on their prize list. In the end, if I don’t win, what’s most valuable to me is earning the recognition and nods of the editors at Canadian Living where I hope I can contribute my many crafty ideas one day…the votes from you will be a nudge towards that direction. Many thanks! 🙂
foil pie pan rose topiary
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.
san francisco gingerbread row houses
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?).