bad blogger. bad.

April 13, 2012 § 2 Comments

Slap on the wrist.  Make that two.  I have two hands for typing afterall.  Apparently, I’ve been blogging since the early 1980’s at the age of 2… Image

Updates are to follow!  I want to share the verdict about the wedding once it’s written in stone — hoping to have it booked by next week.  I have my fingers crossed! There better be no blotches in the fine print, otherwise my super fantastic wedding of a lifetime will have to be put back to the drawing table.

Thank you SO much for all of your support and thoughtful replies and wonderful emails since my last post.  I have started to reply to comments from the previous post, but my eyes are now drooping.  1:00 am here and I am driving a whopping 750 km to New York tomorrow afternoon directly from the office (not the first time I’m doing this crazy solo drive since I last blogged).  I will continue with my replies when I’m back from New York.

Have a great weekend and enjoy my catch-up crafts coming right up!

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christmas décor from office supplies

December 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’ve been busily crafting some chic (and unique!) Christmas décor out of office supplies.  Yup.  Office supplies.

I went to Staples and splurged on a box of 1,000 paper clips for $4, a container of 500 clear push pins for $6, and one hefty one-pounder bag of rubber bands for $4.

Out-of-the-ordinary Christmas décor coming your way over the next few posts…

breakfast television!

October 24, 2011 § 8 Comments

Good news!!!  I will be making a TV appearance tomorrow on Citytv’s Breakfast Television here in Toronto.  I’m excited!  I’m so honored to be invited by the team at Canadian Living to join them in presenting some fun Halloween ideas.  If you’re in Canada, you can watch Citytv live (from 5:30 am to 9:00 am Eastern Time) or online.

What will I be doing, you ask?

Well, I’ll be presenting some pumpkin carving ideas.  I’ve carved all these pumpkins here between yesterday and this evening.

I had a great time picking the pumpkins at Front Step Farms.  The owner Michael and his daughters graciously helped me with the picking.

Now, I’m off to bed at this early hour of 9 pm.  I must be up at 4 am and be on set by 5:30 am!  Wish me luck!  I’ll see if I can have the permission to post the video on this blog at a later date.

D-I-Y engagement photos: part 3 of 3 — beyond the camera and tripod

September 23, 2011 § 1 Comment

At last, Part 3!  It has been too long, here are reminders of the two D-I-Y engagement sessions that O.T. and I had back in the summer (is it really officially fall?!?).

Part 1: Ed Levin Park, Milpitas

Part 2: Napa Valley, California

As mentioned in the previous posts, we used a regular pocket-size digital camera, a tripod, and a heavy dose of post-processing.  In this part, I will discuss the challenges you’ll encounter as well as the techniques of achieving a “dreamy” soft focus to any of your regular pictures, even if you don’t have the most up-to-date equipment (as neither do I) and even if you don’t have Photoshop!

My modest little camera is an old Canon PowerShot SD870 IS purchased at the time of its release in 2007.  I really loved this camera when it came out; its performance outdoes most others in its category of compact digicams.  I am still quite happy with it after four functional years, however, lately I’ve become aware that it doesn’t successfully serve the purpose of this blog.  I do hope to retire it soon for a DSLR (*hint, hint, O.T* :p).  Regardless, this little gadget didn’t stop me from taking our own engagement photos or all the photos you’ve seen on this blog thus far.

I must forewarn: the set-up of shots takes the most time, more so than we anticipated.  We took turns setting up the shots.  While setting up the camera, one would tell where the other should stand, before bolting to take their place in the shot.  The timer was set to 20 seconds (which was sufficient time to bolt and freeze) with three consecutive shots at 5-second intervals.

The challenge of doing your own photography session is that no one will tell you that his hand is totally cropped out of the picture.  Or that your belt is not perfectly centered in the shot.  Or that your sweater is a bunched up hot mess. Or that your cupcake liner flower necklace (tutorial next!) has been turned over backwards by the wind.  You may be disappointed by the number of times you will have to run back and forth from the tripod (though exercise is good for us all).  But all in all, the efforts will be worth it!

We took 15 shots just for the scene with the “love at first flight” airplane props, until we both got annoyed and decided we’ll use whatever is “best”, even though there was none we were truly happy with.  Over the two days (a Friday at Ed Levin Park and a Sunday in Napa Valley), we took a combined 337 shots, out of which we were happy with about 60.  A more discerning photographer would likely be happy with about 6.  A professional photographer would likely be happy with none.  But we’re easy to please!

For post-processing, I found some helpful Photoshop tutorials online at: www.photoshopessentials.com.  I mainly used the techniques in the tutorials:

http://www.photoshopessentials.com/photo-effects/soft-focus/

http://www.photoshopessentials.com/photo-effects/soft-focus-lens/

The technique for a soft focus effect is incredibly simple:

1. Duplicate the layer, then choose Overlay as a blend mode,

2. Apply a Gaussian Blur filter to the overlaid layer, then adjust opacity, and

3. In most cases, a mask is required to remove the soft focus on parts of the photo that should be sharp, such as the face.

The above Photoshop-edited version has 30 pixel Gaussian Blur with 50% Overlay.

This is the unedited version:

I realize that not everyone has the access to Photoshop, so if you require a free photo-editing program, GIMP is available online for free download.  GIMP is a really impressive imitation of Photoshop, for the fact that it is free.  It offers the same filters (such as the Gaussian Blur that you’ll need) and blend modes (such as the Overlay that you’ll need).

This is the GIMP-edited version:

Of course, cropping provides impact in the composition of shots, as in the final chosen edit for the scene above:

There is also a trick you can do by adding lens flares in the photo-editing process, such as in these shots.  The tutorial is found here: http://www.photoshopessentials.com/photo-effects/lens-flare/

Just to give you an idea of how post-processing can change the life of your photos, here are some raw shots and their corresponding Photoshop-edited shots.

Play around with the blur and overlay to adjust the softness as you’d like.

Remember: a bulk of what you pay photographers is to compensate for the enormous time they spend on editing photos.  Some refuse to believe this fact: most award-winning professional wedding photographers heavily edit their work.  Plenty of photographers, professional and amateur, invest in add-on actions and presets, such as those found in Totally Rad!, in order to jazz up Photoshop and Lightroom photos in a few clicks.  I am so impressed by the things you’d find in Totally Rad!

If you already have a great camera, you are already half way there (even more ahead of me in these pictures I’ve taken with my PowerShot).  I suggest taking the time to study the work of your favorite wedding photographers.  Look at style and composition, such as subject placement, angle, perspective, frame.  Especially look at wedding photography trends.  Did you realize the more current wedding photos are composed with a lot of room above the head?  And that often the subjects are cropped in ways that aren’t conventional, such as the cropping of feet or of bodies?  After you analyze your favorite works, with a bit of help from Photoshop or Gimp, you can mimic the styles and save a lot of money.  They are not going to be perfect, but you cannot beat the personal touch of D-I-Y!  How many people have said they took their own engagement pictures?  Now you can!

Click on any of the above to enlarge.

calla lily tuile cookie with lemon ricotta

May 4, 2011 § 17 Comments

 The Iron Craft Challenge  is one of those things I wish I had time to accomplish since my recent life change.  I have set out ambitious plans for each of the weekly projects, but time has shuffled those ideas to the back burner.  However, this week, I had a couple of flower-making ideas slated for the blog in time for Mother’s Day and thought it was fitting for this week’s Iron Craft Challenge 18: April Showers.  The challenge is to bring May flowers, crafted any way you like.

As I have a penchant for crafting with food, I made bouquets of cally lily tuile cookies filled with lemon ricotta.  How?  Well, your simple fortune cookie batter just got reshaped into these spring flowers.

 

I had my first attempt at fortune cookies over ten years ago when my best friend shared her discovery of Martha Stewart’s recipe.  This was right when Martha catapulted fortune cookies into trend status.  Since then, I have made hundreds of fortune cookies for friends and family over the past decade.  I have also taken Martha’s trusted recipe to make my own creations from the batter.  The calla lily is one that I’ve been proud of creating, as well as a very simple and perfect food craft for this time of year.

 

To make your template, you will need: a 4″ x 4-1/2″ cut sheet of paper, a plastic cutting sheet (or similar flat plastic item), pencil, scissors, X-Acto knife, and cutting mat.

a. Fold your sheet of paper in half lengthwise.

b. Cut into a spade shape.

c. Trace on plastic cutting sheet.

d. Using an X-Acto knife, cut a hole through.  Insert your scissors through the hole, and cut on the marked line.

 

You are welcome to use your favorite tuile or fortune cookie recipe.  Here is the link to Martha Stewart’s fortune cookie recipe  that I’ve counted on for years.

Make the batter as instructed.  For this particular recipe, substitute with lemon extract and add a few drops of yellow food color. 

1. Spread a thin layer of batter over the stencil.  You can fit three in one cookie sheet, which is also the ideal number to get through the next step.

2. Bake until golden (with my oven, it takes three and a half minutes with a timer).  Quickly remove cookie from the pan with a spatula and roll up each side as shown.  Fold the sides with a slight curl.  You will need to work quickly while the cookie is hot, and quickly repeat for the remaining two cookies on the sheet.

3. Place on a cooling rack.

4. Pipe the lemon ricotta filling.

 For the lemon ricotta filling, you will need:

One package of stovetop lemon pie

2 cups of milk

1 cup of ricotta cheese

Yellow food color

Red food color.

Prepare the pie filling according to package instructions, however, substitute the water with milk.  Let cool.  Combine ricotta cheese.  Add a few drops of yellow food color and one drop of red food color for a light orange tint.

Once the lemon ricotta filling is piped, the cookie must be served immediately to maintain its crisp texture.

 This single recipe yields 4 dozen cookies — there’s enough cally lily tuile cookie bouquets to share with everyone!

Enjoy!

gold bean bangles

April 28, 2011 § 8 Comments

Yes, a few strips of paper, a small handful of beans, and the golden touch of paint can make quite some fashionista cuff bangles.

 

I was hoping this would be my third installment of my bean-by-number series (the first being the Turkish tiles back in November and the second, Venetian masks, for mardi gras in February).  However, the concept is so simple, there is no need to bean-by-number.  Just a few straight lines of beans do the trick.

You will need some beans, a sheet of cardstock, white glue, self-adhesive velcro (I got mine at the dollar store), and gold paint.  PLEASE NOTE: I wore my gold bean bangles to work today and small parts of the paint have chipped off.  If you are going to use spray paint, as I did, perhaps the problem would be negated by a bit of primer.  Or, what I would best suggest: use acrylic paint and a paint brush instead.  The finish would be quite different, however, the end result would look like brushed metal, which has as much impact.

1.. Cut cardboard to preferred width and length, taking into account the extra space required by the velcro.  Adhere velcro.

2. Bean away.  You don’t have to follow the straight patterns you see here.  You can create all sorts of shapes and curves, which I’d like to try, too.

3. Paint one side.  Let dry.  Paint other side.  Let dry.

I’d love to hear if you try this out and how you’ve managed to negate the issue of paint chipping.

sneak peek!

April 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Tomorrow, I will be crafting on Canadian Living‘s The Craft Blog and of course, I would like you to be the first to have a peek here.   Clue: it’s a basket for your Easter eggs, however it’s crafted using a rather unlikely craft item I picked up at the dollar store.  You’ll find the project on their site tomorrow —  stay tuned!

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