paper suitcases from t-shirt boxes

June 27, 2012 § 24 Comments

Hours and hours flew by as I made our wedding favor boxes: paper luggage.

At first I thought: it’s just a t-shirt box and I only need to repeat the process a dozen times, it’ll be a cinch.   I didn’t consider the hours alone on painting each side of the t-shirt box into our wedding colors.  Nor the time to contemplate and execute the paper details like the corners, straps, handles, and Velcro enclosures.

What was most important is these need to be compact.  These suitcases will be traveling from Toronto to New York to Las Vegas afterall and, well, they have to fit in our big suitcase before they are given away to our guests and vendors the morning of the wedding.  So I made sure to maintain the ability to fold and unfold these in the same way they came when they were t-shirt boxes, but also have the ability to attach and detach items that easily convert them into luggage.

We’ve called them our “Keep Cool” kits, as they will contain relief from the Vegas and Grand Canyon heat.

Tutorial to follow after the wedding!  Keep posted!

no-sew color block suede cushions

June 27, 2012 § 3 Comments

Aaaah, where did the time go?!?  I feel like I have been DIY’ing at all hours of the day, everyday, only to pause for work and sleep.  I get home from the office, inhale dinner, craft until midnight, wake-up, and repeat.  That’s been my schedule for the past two and a half weeks and I’m still not done and the wedding is now less than a week away!

What have I made since the handpainted Turkish rug-inspired straw mat?  Color-blocked cushions to match!  The camel and apricot micro-suede applied on our boxed invitations have come to further use as cushions for our upcoming Grand Canyon wedding picnic.  I went off and bought black micro-suede to add more to the color blocking.

I wish I had the time to do the tutorials now, but I still have a bunch of mini projects to finish.  So for now, I’ll post the pictures and will have tutorials ready after the wedding.

Using Stitch Witchery, I managed to make these without any sewing.  More on the process when the tutorial is posted in a couple of weeks.  Next: our fun favor boxes that took days to complete!

straw mat turned kilim magic carpet

June 11, 2012 § 3 Comments

So the previously mentioned straw mats have had a backbreaking 8-hour makeover this weekend.  I sewed four together to create a massive mat on which I painted on a number of kilim patterns.  This once blank large mat is now packed with bright colorful prints (in our colors, of course!).

It’s convenient that the kilim has reached mainstream global fashion in the year O.T. and I are wed.  I have caught sight of the patterns on tops, bottoms, and bags in ways antique kilim-makers never dreamed.    Of course kilim rugs are from varied origins, however the most prolific kilim-makers are the Turks.  Creating a Turkish rug-inspired mat for our Grand Canyon picnic was another seamless way to incorporate O.T.’s culture into the wedding and to give a big welcome to his parents who are flying in from Istanbul (apart from the Turkish ebru handmarbled papers on our wedding stationery).

Before busting out my acrylic paints and cutting out stencils from plastic chopping sheets, I studiously researched the types and meanings of kilim patterns.  It’s amazing what kilim.com has to offer on the topic.

It turns out, there is a lot of symbolism behind kilim motifs, apart from looking cool and tribal.  What’s even more amazing is the relevance of these to our wedding.

To start, we chose the most common symbol of Turkish superstition — the eye.  The eye wards off any harm caused by an evil glance.

On our kilim magic picnic carpet, I also painted on the tree of life, which is the hope of life after earth.  It cannot be a Turkish carpet without the comb, which is a symbol of marriage and birth.  (To me, that pattern has always been a ‘dentil’, as used on a frieze.  But hey, we’re not talking architecture).   Of course, on our mat, there is also love and unison, the harmony between man and woman, the yin and yang.  Or as O.T. sees it: two Pacman ghosts gettin’ it on.

Then there is the star to signify happiness.  It couldn’t be more perfect

terracotta clay succulents

June 11, 2012 § 2 Comments

As soon as I posted the wedding invites and saw the overall concept through a computer screen (not on my desk as it had been evolving for weeks), I automatically felt the urge to perpetuate the evolution.  The box shouldn’t be square, it should be an octagon.  The concave corners should have a larger radius, to be accommodated by the octagon box.  The green border shouldn’t be an invisible tint of honeydew, it should be a vibrant pistachio (a shade of green that would be noticeable through a camera lens!).  The rounded variety of terracotta succulents should be used, not pointy (I made both types).  It doesn’t end.  It drives me mad.

The urge was more rampant over the weekend, with the further progression of our wedding crafting.  I thought of another hundred different ways to make our invitations.  But better.  More unique.  Last night, I asked O.T. for the umpteenth time “Do you like how our invitations turned out?”.  His reply: “Well, it’s classic.”  What I hear is: boring, predictable, ordinary, aren’t you capable of more creativity?  For someone who used to own a company called out-of-the-box ideas and make invitations as contemporary as this fairytale castle, our own invitation design is perhaps not anything anyone expected of me, not even myself.  Suddenly, as though out-of-body, I want to shake myself for not going out-of-the-box.

I’d like to believe when I went to the drawing board after booking the wedding a month ago, that I had a purpose (and very little time).  The terracotta succulents were intended for the invitations, yes.  But they were ultimately designed for the bouquet, which I have since made and love far more than the invites.

I used self-hardening terracotta clay.  Not just “air dry” — that stuff crumbles (I tried and failed miserably).  Heart shape cookie cutters.  Rolling pin.  Garbage bag.  Paper floral stems.

To start, I rolled the clay between a folded sheet of garbage bag to a thickness of 1/8″.  I allowed the garbage bag to wrinkle, which left a leather-like texture on the surface of the clay.  Then I cut a number of heart shapes using two sizes of cookie cutter.  I further split the hearts into two halves.

For the invites, the terracotta succulents are pointy and flat-bottomed.  I placed halves of the larger hearts to form a 6-pointed star shape and placed a second layer, with halves alternating to cover gaps.   I continued by placing halves of the smaller hearts in the same manner until it reached a full bloom.  I guess “bloom” is not exactly the word.  Succulents have leaves, not petals.  I pinched each leaf to create a point.   Then I set it all aside to harden.

For stemmed terracotta succulents, I started from the inside out by pinching three small halves around the tip of a paper floral stem.  I pinched additional layers, with halves alternating to cover gaps.  I used three layers of small halves and proceeded with another three layers of large halves.  I made two varieties using the same heart halves — pointy side up and rounded side up.

For the bouquet, I have a combination of terracotta and artificial succulents.  Realistically, there won’t be any time to prowl around Vegas nurseries for fresh succulents the day before the wedding, so we purchased artificial succulents and cacti at qualitysilkplants.com with a $100 splurge.  Real succulents and cacti would’ve cost us far less.  However, given the time-frame, this was most efficient.  My bouquet is made well ahead of time and I can’t wait to show you.   Let’s hope the terracotta survives the trip in my carry-on!

suede-boxed invites with hand-marbled papers and terracotta succulents

June 4, 2012 § 5 Comments

I didn’t think this would be so hard!  Especially after designing handmade stationery for over 150 weddings in my designer days.  I discovered, amidst the arduous task of making my own invitations, that it is a million times easier to design for someone else!

The problem was I wanted to design in every style possible.  In one brainstorm, I’d want classic and sophisticated.  The next, I’d want graphic and whimsical.  Then after more thought, I’d want minimal.  It was a harrowing process to narrow down to one decision only.  I’m not used to this!  Clients did all this decision-making for me!  But for our own invitations, I felt like I could’ve made a hundred different versions to satisfy my fickle fancies.

It was a challenge to clear my mind of all the invitations I’ve made in the past.  One thing is for sure: wedding invitations are about tactility.  The product is entirely about texture and touch.  So how could I make something classic, sophisticated, graphic, whimsical, and minimalist at the same time?  Well, I tried.  Really tried.  And it hit me: all of my fickle fancies could be relevant and cohesive.

For a classic style: a square shape with concave corners.  The invites are printed on my favorite stock of all time — leather-textured paper, which reminds me of old books.

For an air of sophistication, the inserts are carried in a handmade micro-suede box (color blocked in apricot and camel), with personalized dust sleeve made of the same leather-textured paper used for the inserts.

For something bold and graphic, I knew ebru, the Turkish art of paper marbling, would be relevant by today’s trends and significant by O.T.’s culture (apart from conveniently resembling the Grand Canyon walls).  He was really impressed that I went so far as to learn how to make my own marbled papers.  He would like to take credit as supervisor of this process.

For a bit of whimsy, I sculpted succulents out of terracotta clay to complement our earthy desert venue.  I mentioned in a previous post that terracotta will have a significant part at our wedding and the invites provide this sneak peek.

For the minimalist architect grad in me: a monogram of our future family initial with a simplified and very architectural hatched illustration of the Grand Canyon.  O.T. and I heavily considered helicopter silhouettes, but later decided the oversize “T” emulated helicopter rotors reaching to the bottom of the canyon, in a very implicit way.

This whole project was an ordeal, more time consuming than I expected.

The boxes took the longest time to make.  I cut and glued millboard before covering the surface with the micro-suede material I showed in my previous post, and affixed a monogrammed transparency as a window.

The terracotta succulents took a long time to dry (3 weeks) and they still don’t look entirely dry, but I am quite liking the darkened tips.  I will post a tutorial on how I made the terracotta succulents next.

The ebru marbled papers were the quickest to make (without considering the hours upon hours of researching how ebru is done).  I was at odds about the marbled papers for two reasons.  They can be bought online, but it was really important for me to make our own in the colors and patterns that unify the project.  The materials to make ebru are pricey, so there was a point where making ebru was difficult to justify.

I found sites recommending shaving cream.  I tried.  What an awfully imprecise way to make marbled paper!  Then there are sites which recommend methyl cellulose (very pricey considering I could only find it online and shipping fees to Canada are enormous).  But I wasn’t going to give up.

I happened upon this amazing blog, Knit One Quilt Too, on easy paper marbling using liquid starch.  It was decided.  I will embark on the adventures of my own hand-marbled papers.  And for super cheap!  Sta Flo Liquid Starch sells for $2.97 at Walmart!

It was a painless process.  I placed half a jug of liquid starch in a shallow tray.  Then I gently drizzled watered-down acrylics on the surface of the starch.  And marbled away using a bamboo skewer.  I carefully dipped my paper on the surface of the marbled starch and immersed it in a water bath for a few seconds to rinse the starch, then laid the paper flat to dry.  I was impressed with the level of control the liquid starch provided and couldn’t be happier with my first paper marbling experience.

Insane, these invitations made me.  And I only had to make four!  I have never put so much thought and time into invitations for anyone else, nor will I ever.  I am pretty happy with the results!

terracotta, suede, apricot, champagne, honeydew, moss, straw, capiz, onyx, and gold

June 2, 2012 § 3 Comments

They have something in common!  They will all belong in our wedding ceremony and “desserts in the desert” picnic reception on the bluffs of the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  Hooray, it’s all coming together!

We didn’t just want a color scheme.  We wanted items that are beautiful in their natural color, tactile in their form, and above all, significant in their purpose.  Alas, we found a theme that meaningfully bridges our two unique cultures and our spectacular venue.

Given the earthy surroundings, there will be plenty of terracotta.  These items were first to be purchased, as they are the focal point of our picnic.   Conveniently, minimal crafting is required with our plans for these ready-made pots and saucers.  However, I also picked up 5 pounds of self-hardening terracotta clay and have been busy sculpting away.  More on my terracotta sculpting in another post!

The culture of the Grand Canyon considered (we are getting married in the lands owned by the Hualapai Indians), suede is a must!  O.T. is a fan of camel suede (and not afraid to wear it in blazer form).  I love camel suede just the same (and also wasn’t afraid to wear, with great frequency, a pair of camel suede pants in my college years).  I struck luck when I found camel micro-suede on sale for $12/m.  With even more amazing luck, I found a beautiful apricot sorbet shade of micro-suede on clearance for $4.75/m (I could not love it enough!).  Lots of items will be made with these.  Some are already done, which I will be showing soon!

What’s a picnic without straw mats?  Equally important, straw is such a significant part of Philippine craft and export.  But to bridge our cultures, these mats will don a Turkish persona!  Big things (Turkish things) are about to happen to these modest dollar store mats.

The pride of Philippine craft, the capiz will make some appearances, too (thanks, Mom!!!).  These flat, thin, opalescent shells will give a sparkling contrast to the terracotta, suede, and straw.

Of course, apricot, honeydew, and champagne are beautiful colors, but they’re meant to be eaten and drunk.  This will be, afterall, a desserts-in-the-desert picnic!  I have planned my best to use the apricot and honeydew in creative and edible ways (among a list of desserts I plan to develop and make, because I’m crazy like that).  And to swallow it down?  Champagne.  O.T. and I are actually not much of drinkers, but our helicopter service happens to come with champagne — so who would refuse?  I’m sure someone in our small party would be happy to drink it all down (namely, my brother)!

grand wedding plans

May 15, 2012 § 14 Comments

Finally.  PLANS.  Plans as small and grand as small and grand can be.  Plans that absolutely make me the happiest bride-to-be!
It took a while to get here, as you’ve known.  A lot of options, opinions, and operatics (that, mostly from me).  Now all is clear (dare I throw the word, opacified?).  O.T. and Iwill be getting married at the bottom of the Grand Canyon on the 3rd of July!  It will be small — our parents and my brother only.  And it will be kept that way — the only way to the bottom is by helicopter and O.T. and I have arranged for two private helicopters to take us and our small party there, along with a minister and photographer.
It’s miles away from the San Francisco City Hall wedding I initially wanted, isn’t it?  I’m glad we got here.  The process was worthwhile though prolonged.  Nothing was making anyone happy.  The prospect of City Hall dampened most of everyone’s celebratory mood.  But the grand plans expected of us were not catered to us, and definitely not to me.  I don’t care, never cared, for the big party and will not be throwing one.  One day in March, O.T. suggested we get hitched in Las Vegas, where we met for the second time after our serendipitous meeting in San Francisco.   Then it hit me — we can get married in the Grand Canyon!  Afterall, our first road trip together was to the Grand Canyon from Las Vegas back in 2008.  It all makes sense.  And this is so much more exciting than City Hall!
 
For the first time in our year-long engagement, EVERYTHING makes sense.  The past month has been one big happy DIY brainstorm.  And what’s great is O.T. is letting me do my thing (which, to a chronic crafter like me, is a relief!).   I’ve started to make all the little items that will make our wedding the best the Grand Canyon did see!
Over the next 7 weeks, I will be posting all the tutorials of our wedding DIY, in unfinished pieces, of course — you will see the big picture when it is all put together in July!
It’s crafting time!

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!

recycled packaging for cupcakes, cookies, and macarons

September 25, 2011 § 66 Comments

It’s bake sale season!  And soon enough, our kitchens will be converted to cookie factories come December.  So here is an almost-free approach to creatively packaging all of your yummy treats!

This is a fantastic way to repurpose all of those plastic water bottles, as well as to use up scraps of cardboard.  And it’s an opportunity to consume your collection of washi tape or pretty ribbon that have been patiently waiting at the bottom of your craft drawers for the day they are given purpose.

I picked up my 3-pack of washi tape at Daiso for $1.50 back in August when I was in California.  A combined 48 yards!  What.  A.  Steal.  Hundreds of these little packages can be made with a $1.50 inventory of washi tape.  What’s sad is that our households may actually go through that many plastic bottles in a year.  At least this project grants the plastic bottles another calling in their lifetime before they hit the landfill.

For use of two water bottles (ideal for a row of homemade cookies and macarons):

1. Cut off the bottom of two plastic bottles to preferred length.  Fill with treats.

2. Attach the plastic bottles together with tape.

For use of one water bottle (ideal for one mini cupcake, but also great for a smaller serving of cookies and macarons):

1. Cut the bottom of one plastic bottle to preferred height.  Trace on cardboard.  Cut cardboard circle.

2. Place cupcake on cardboard circle.  Cover with bottom of plastic bottle.  Make sure the plastic bottle sits on top of the cardboard circle.  Affix tape around the plastic bottle and cardboard circle.

If you do not have washi tape, you may use double-sided tape covered with decorative ribbon.

Make sure to bake your cookies, macarons, and mini cupcake to fit the diameter of the water bottles.  I haven’t endeavored in baking macarons, so I splurged on half a dozen for the sake of this post.  Really.  Sweets for blogging’s sake!

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.

D-I-Y engagement photos: part 2 of 3 — napa valley, california

August 6, 2011 § 8 Comments

Here’s the second installment of our self-taken engagement photos, this time in the verdant vineyards of Napa Valley!

Just like the first set of photos, these were taken with a camera on a tripod and softened with a heavy dose of photo editing, all of which I will explain with more depth in the next and final post of this three-part series.

If you missed the first set, please have a lookie here for part 1.  I admit I am a lot partial to that previous set now that the pictures are up for comparison.  They express much more dramatic flair than this set, what with the tall brown grass on the knolls of Ed Levin Park, and the wind blowing through my curled hair and chiffon dress.  The sheer effort of hiking up hills in a dress as my curls fought for their survival is, in my mind, the clearer winner.  However, O.T. is not fond of days when I actually make an effort (a lot of it) to look made-up.  This seems to be true for most men.  They prefer women in jeans, hair undone, without the slightest trace of powder, and maybe just a smidge of lip gloss.  So, these here pictures — a version more plain and less panache — are for O.T.

Though both sets of pictures display props I’ve made to highlight our long distance love, I do favor these airplane props in this set over the red tin can telephones in the previous.  For one thing, as most of you have already read, our fateful love story began at an airport and in an airplane.  Secondly, I used the logo I designed for this blog (with a few changes in theme).  Third, I wanted to make use of paper, I am obsessed with paper afterall.

We went into Napa without a single plan of what to see.  Neither being wine drinkers (a cardinal sin in Napa), we knew we were visiting to take pictures.  From downtown Napa, we drove up and down the Silverado Trail searching for the perfect spot.  There are plenty of beautiful spots, though not what we were seeking.  Most vineyards are fenced in and close at four o’clock in the afternoon.

We diverted out of the Silverado Trail and headed southwest to Carneros and discovered a beautiful spot right at the entrance of Cuvaison Estates.  We had gotten there well past 6 pm.  Despite the gates being closed, we were able to walk through rows of unfenced vineyards to take our shots.  The gates were far from the main road, so we drove further in to discover a pond waiting to be photographed.

Other cars had driven in, one driver paused a while to watch us take our pictures as we made our poses in front of the camera and tripod.  He waited around after we finished one set (we were doing pictures in threes) and gave us the thumbs up from his seat.  He drove past us on his way out, rolled down the window, and asked if we needed his help taking the pictures.  We thanked him for his thoughtful offer but happily explained that we had undertaken the exercise to conduct our own engagement session.  He smiled, puzzled, and disappeared past the vines.

I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as we enjoyed taking them!  Feel free to click on each set for a larger resolution.  Up next: D-I-Y engagement photos part 3 of 3: beyond the camera and tripod.  Stay tuned!

D-I-Y engagement photos: part 1 of 3 — ed levin park, california

August 4, 2011 § 10 Comments

I’m back from sunny California with sets of photos I couldn’t wait to show you — our very own engagement session!

For my pocket’s sake, I never considered engagement photos.  Not until my inner frugalista decided it would be a great DIY project to tackle on this blog.   Yes, believe it or not, all these quasi-pseudo-professional-ish photos shown here were taken by us, the way self-portraits are best taken: with a seemingly ordinary pocket-size digital camera on a tripod.  And, well, without denial, a lot of post-processing.

I admit, it was a wee bit of an exhaustive ordeal to acquire these shots.  First, the convincing.  When I broached the subject of taking our own engagement photos (and I had never once broached the subject of wanting any engagement photos to begin with), O.T. thought my DIY streak was out of control.  I understand, there are certain things left to professionals.  When I told him how much wedding photographers cost, he happily conceded.

As I talked (and talked) about all the DIY details, such as props and shots I planned for these DIY photos, he became more excited (he’s a fantastic listener, can you tell?).  I talk. He listens.  It’s perfect.  We are on the same page.

He, in fact, conjured up a lot of the frames and I gave no resistance (as much to his credit as mine).  He truly has a lot of creative input and, yes, I do my share of listening, too!

I will talk more about the inspiration to undertake this project and the behind-the-scenes details including a photo editing tutorial, but I will wait until part 3 of this three-part series (I did mention exhaustive ordeal, didn’t I?).

We took these shots on the magnificent hills of Ed Levin County Park in Milpitas, California.  We had visited this park two years ago, taken some beautiful shots during our hike, and were familiar with the scenery.  In fact, when I decided we would do our own engagement session, my first and only thought was Ed Levin.

We made sure to come in the late afternoon when the sun was low.  We arrived at 6:00 pm and fumbled along as we posed shot after shot.  After much fumbling and retakes, we had well over 200 shots, during which time the sun had waned in the distance.

There were brief moments of frustration (entirely due to our inadequate understanding of photography and light, and consequential thump of reality that this stuff isn’t as easy as we thought), but we had much more fun than we ever imagined.  So much so that we decided to take more pictures later that weekend, in a different scene — the vineyards — with different props.  Up next: DIY engagement photos part 2 of 3: Napa Valley, California.  Stay tuned!!

I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as we enjoyed taking them!  Feel free to click on each set to zoom in for a larger resolution.  If you missed our fateful love story and the wonderful way he proposed, you can find that right here.

wedding woes

June 12, 2011 § 21 Comments

I will say it.  I think I have the blues.  I spent an entire Saturday afternoon wallowing in bed.  Forty-two days into engagement, most women are thrust by mystical powers into planning their fantastical, magical day.  Nope.  Not I.  I wallow in bed.  The big question is why.  And here’s a very itty bitty, whispered, modicum of an answer that no one wants to hear — I just want to elope.  Plainly, simply, I do.  No amount of crafting can cure this ailment.

One very distressing reality is becoming more apparent as the days progress — having any type of wedding would cause a lot of people to feel excluded.  So, if I cannot choose who to include, I want to exclude everyone (I’m an all-or-nothing type of gal).

This is the obstacle we face — the important people in our life are spread across the globe.  I am in Toronto.  He is in California.  My parents are in Michigan.  His parents are in Istanbul.  Only a handful of my relatives are in Toronto, less than 20% in Michigan and scattered across the US, the majority in Manila.  100% of his relatives are in Istanbul.  All of the friends I’ve made over the past two decades are in Toronto.  His friends are across Turkey and a small handful in the US.

It is a logistical nightmare.  Where in the world would be fair?  How do we choose to have a wedding in Istanbul only to have the bulk of my relatives feel excluded, or a wedding in Toronto or the US or Manila and in turn make his feel excluded?  How do I oblige anyone, family or friend, to travel across the globe (including all neutral ground) merely to watch us get hitched?  The request is so unwarranted.  And that is precisely why I don’t want to do any inviting, and why I have spent the entirety of a Saturday afternoon feeling decidedly miserable.

No matter the contrary, almost all weddings are a people-pleasing production.  The truth is, O.T. may likely never be forgiven for eloping.  For this reason, he is up for the challenge of pleasing and of having two weddings, in Istanbul and Manila.  But, not only would that be a financial nightmare, that would mean we would have segregated weddings for our respective sides of the family and in many ways, that option is more alienating than choosing one city over the other.  What other choices do we have left?

What makes the decision process even more arduous is I cannot stop my mind from rampantly wandering off to a fantasyland of wedding DIY.  My mind has somehow dispelled my compulsions to craft for craft’s sake on this here blog.  Instead, my mind has been inundated with countless crazy cool ideas for world-travel-themed wedding invitations, favor boxes, centerpieces, and crafty décor — everything I long to make with my very hands — all of which I cannot really accomplish unless we have a wedding.  I have poured my creative soul in designing all forms of paper paraphernalia for brides for nearly the past half a decade — how could I not do my very own?!? And am I left to fashion a big white dress within the confines of a bridal store??

Wearing White by Vera Wang at David's Bridal (a great dress for US$1,400, however, not quite what I would wear, whether or not I elope).

mehndi-inspired illustrated card

June 10, 2011 § 8 Comments

I’ll be heading to a henna party this evening for one of my friends who is a bride-to-be.  In some Middle Eastern, East and West Indian cultures, it is customary for women to apply a decorative design with henna, called mehndi, on hands and feet before a wedding — a bridal shower of sorts.  Last night, I decided to design this congratulatory greeting card for her, made in the likeness of mehndi.

I had a lot of fun creating this design, which is composed almost entirely of hearts (fit for a bride-to-be) with some added swirls and lines to keep within the typical style of mehndi patterns.  The flower and leaves are nothing but a repetition of hearts.

All I used were: kraft card stock, light purple card stock, purple rhinestones, pencil, black felt pen, double sided tape, and 2″ circle punch.

1. I made a 5″ x 7″ card, with a sleeve made of kraft cardstock.  The folded sleeve has a final measurement of 6-1/2″.  I made a 1/2″ allowance on two edges for double-sided tape.  I punched the center of the edge of the sleeve where I want a design to peek through.

2. I cut a sheet of light purple card stock to a final size of 5″ x 7″, so that 1/2″ would peek through the sleeve.  I doodled away with my pencil.

3. I went over my design with my black Sharpie felt pen.

4. I added the rhinestones for some sparkle.

5. I applied double-sided tape to the 1/2″ allowances I made and folded the sleeve shut.

I have never attended a henna party before.  I am excited to see the designs the mehndi artist will create for my friend and her bridesmaids.

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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