Favourite-things Friday

Shrink plastic!! :D

I’ve been wanting to make these shrink plastic flowers ever since I saw the tutorial on Just Something I Made some weeks ago. I have one sheet of that plastic left from a long time ago… I think an auntie bought that for me from Honk Kong when I was in elementary school. I really liked working with it when I was a kid. I found it quite magical how it works, and not a lot of fume (that I could tell) during the baking process, unlike Fimo. Anyhoo, I’ve only ever made things that are flat, and I thought it would be quite an adventure to make three-dimensional shapes, like flowers!

The tutorial mentioned using a flower shape punch, but I didn’t have one, so I just drew a template by hand. I figure it wouldn’t matter if the shape is wonky anyway, since it’s going to shrink and be reshaped. I wanted the flowers to look like the pink ones on those blooming trees. Not sure what they’re called but this is what it looks like…

Pretty huh. Also like a cherry blossom, except more pink.

So, anyways. I didn’t have a pink marker, so I sanded one side of each flower and coloured them with a pink pencil crayon, which I have plenty of.

I do have a broad-tip green markers, so that went on the leaves. Now they’re all coloured — ready to bake! :D It only said on the package to bake it at 130°C, didn’t mention for how long… so I just sat in front of the oven to watch them shrink, which was kind of a cool process to watch, and didn’t take very long, about 2 min each time.

The flowers needed to be baked individually, and then immediately pressed with the end of a paintbrush on a stack of craft foam once it’s out of the oven. The first flower cracked when I pressed it :( because I was too slow getting it out and it had already cooled. But the rest worked out brilliantly. And what really helped was the popsicle stick I mentioned in my last post! It’s a perfect shape to scoop the flowers directly from inside the oven. I didn’t get pictures of that in action because I needed to move quickly, but here’s me using the popsicle stick to scrape the leaves off the baking sheet…

I liked how the leaves turned out, coloured with markers. Very lush-looking. The pencil crayon flowers, on the other hand, looked like they were coloured with a pencil crayon. Oh well. Can’t see that from far away and I do like how it looked kind of frosty.

I also didn’t have headpins, to attach a bead in the centre of the flower. But I do have jewelery wire, so I made my own headpins. Sort of.

And part of the reason why I was so excited about making these flowers, is because I thought it would go so well with the blue beach glass necklace I made last summer.

See? I knew the colours would look so pretty together.

And then I also made earrings to match my pink shoes, which I’m planning to wear to a wedding in a couple of weeks :D

I still have 3 flowers and many leaves left, can’t decide what I’m going to do with them yet… I might save them to make Christmas presents with, or make a brooch with them. The tutorial has a picture of a bouquet pendant, also very pretty, so I might end up making that.

But anyways, it was really fun. Now I might need to find a store where I can get more shrink plastic… I came across Klutz’s Shrink Art Jewelry book some years ago and there are tons of lovely ideas as well.

Have a great weekend! :D

Being resourceful

Often I find myself thinking of ways to make things that I want to buy. It’s not so much about the money, I don’t think, because I can usually buy books and yarn without much hesitation. But for certain things I think it’s the gratification of coming up with a solution and enjoying the result of it that motivates me to think rather than just going out and buy. It’s not just about being frugal neither, although frugality has a lot to do with it. I think my parents taught me well. But I don’t think my parents are just being frugal. I like to call it being resourceful. And I think creativity and resourcefulness can bring joy to life.

I visited them last weekend, and saw interesting and delightful things around their house.

Yes, it is a roll of toilet paper. In a CD canister. Having a box of Kleenex is of course much more presentable than having a roll of toilet paper on the coffee table, but for the everyday sniffles toilet paper would do just fine, and it’s much cheaper than facial tissues in stylish boxes. This may seem strange to North Americans but growing up in Hong Kong that’s what most households would have in place of boxes of Kleenex. They even make all kinds of dispensers for toilet paper rolls. For example, here’s one that looks like cup noodles.

And you dispense the toilet paper by taking out the cardboard tube in the centre (squashing it on its sides a few times helps). Anyways, I never thought of using a CD canister and it actually fits perfectly :D Perhaps one could even make the CD canister look like a cup noodle. Now that’s an idea for a new project.

And then in another corner of the house I discovered this…

Dried mandarin peel! My mom uses it mainly in soup. It’s supposed to be good for you in some ways, especially if you have a cough, and phlegm. One can definitely buy this at the grocery store (especially the Chinese ones), but it’s actually not that hard to make. Peel mandarin orange. Eat mandarin orange. Save mandarin peel. Lay on plate/tray to dry. It takes patience though, because I think it needs to dry for months before it can be used. But definitely not difficult. I actually took the picture mainly because the orange peel looks rather striking on the blue tray.

And finally, I found a popsicle in the freezer.

It has nothing to do with resourcefulness, I just thought the colours were pretty. It’s cotton candy flavoured. Didn’t taste as good as it looked (it basically tasted like frozen sugar water), but the popsicle stick has a nice shape.

Two nights ago I was looking at this stick at my messy desk and was wondering what I can make with it. I thought of making a cotton candy fairy so I took apart a fake fabric rose for it. But then I left my glue gun at work and PVA glue is just useless for porous materials, and I wasn’t too thrilled about the cotton candy fairy anyways. So I set it aside and thought perhaps I will come across other things that I can use the stick for… and I did! And you will see that project in the next post, tomorrow! :D

And just looking at the picture of it now I think it would make a good burnishing tool, or bone folder. Will have to try that out.

Cheers!

Point & Shoot Wednesday

I have this African violet that blooms all year long. Well, almost all year long. It rested between December and February this year, I think, then began blooming again when the day became gradually longer in March. I don’t really know what makes it keep blooming; I don’t even give it fertilizer. This plant is just lovely and is such a gift. I put it beside my desk where I spend hours upon hours tapping on my computer writing reports and papers and all those mind-numbing stuff.

Anyways, here are some pictures I took of the new flowers in March.

You see, I tried to be creative with my point & shoot. Mainly by increasing the exposure. I love the bright sunlight streaming in through the window and through the translucent, ruffly petals.

These are ones I took recently, they’re in full bloom now.

Have a lovely Wednesday!

Magnolia

One day, I thought, magnolias are so generous. They bloom, and bloom, and bloom, until they’re all spent. Freely they receive from nature, freely they give — lavishing street corners and front yards and parks with magnificent blossoms, and then the fallen petals give life to plant life yet to come.

I painted this while listening to Gonzales’ solo piano.

May your day be filled with kindness.

A great start with coddled eggs

Was reading a recent issue of Martha Stewart Living and saw a recipe that I could actually picture myself making — coddled eggs in teacups! Don’t they look cute?

(I was looking for the recipe to link on the Martha website, but couldn’t find one with these pictures of the cute teacups, so I had to take a photo of the magazine.)

So I decided to give it a try on Saturday. I was surprised to realize that, given the amount of tea we drink, we actually don’t have those typical short teacups with handles. But I guess at the same time I shouldn’t be surprised, because given the amount of tea we drink, we usually prefer tea mugs. Anyways, we don’t have those teacups pictured, but we do have those Japanese teacups. So, following the recipe, I buttered the inside of the teacups really well so the eggs won’t stick, and cracked an egg into each.

Then Martha said heat one inch of water in a pot to a “gentle boil” and then immerse the teacups into the water…

… and cover the teacups with a piece of parchment paper before putting on the lid.

Martha also said let it heat for 8–10min, so I figure I’d set the microwave timer to 9min.

… tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…

TA-DA!

Turned out perfectly! :D It was more cooked than Martha’s picture but Mike doesn’t like his eggs runny so I think it was great, and it was really easy and really quick! I didn’t have those fresh herbs pictured in Martha’s magazine so I put some salt and pepper on it. I think I will make this often!

Mike: you know, Martha didn’t actually write those recipes…

Me: what?! She doesn’t? You mean she doesn’t actually make this at home?! Then why would she say it’s a “good thing” if she hasn’t tried it herself? How would she know?

Mike: Sigh…

Have a great start of the week everyone!

Favourite-things Friday

Windowsills.

Two years ago we planted some marjoram, among other herbs, and it thrived on the windowsill. I think I might plant more this year.

Napa cabbage is a staple in our home. I was finishing one up one day and was fascinated by what I found at the core of the cabbage. I thought it looked like some kind of deep-sea creature. And I thought it would make a nice picture with the filtered sunlight on the windowsill.

And yesterday, I was feeling rather thankful for the earth beneath my feet. As I formed the earth in my hand it turned into a container. And I contemplated the idea of the earth as a container. I thought about all the creatures and the things it has been containing through the ages. I wondered what stories it would tell of these things and creatures, if it could tell stories. I wondered how it feels about all these things and creatures, if it had feelings. And then I took a picture of it basking in the sun on the windowsill, with the peeling paint.

I like windowsills.

Go Marshie!! :D

The Instructables Robot told me today that Marshie is also featured in the crochet section!!! :D

*tears*

I had a particularly stressful, emotionally draining day, so I’m really thankful for this encouraging news. I don’t know what I’d do with myself if I don’t know how to crochet. I’m especially thankful for my mom who taught me this life skill when I was 8. (I made a coin purse. I think I lost it.)

Anyways, happy Thursday everyone!

Point & Shoot Wednesday

Finally! Pictures from last Saturday’s cherry blossom festival!

There isn’t really an official festival in the city, I don’t think, thought I might be wrong… either way, I just like to call it a festival, because it’s such a great celebration of spring! Even though it was a rather cold day there were still quite a few people at the park. Lots of cheerfulness and excitement despite the grey sky and raindrops!

Tree hugs!

This is what I would see without my glasses… makes an interesting picture actually. I’ve been taking more of these blurry pictures lately. Patches of light and colour, soft edges blending into one another.

I think the flower buds look like sakura mochi :D

The tradition of hanami (cherry blossom viewing) involves eating sushi and drinking sake under the cherry trees. I thought about packing a picnic as well, but it was too cold so we visited the cafe in the park instead. I did bring along a crocheted sakura mochi though :D

I was amazed to see blossoms growing out of the tree trunk.

Hello friend! :D

Uh… hello, friend.

It was such a magical time; I was sad to leave at the end… but I’m sure we’ll be back next year though!

Enjoy the spring flowers in your neighbourhood!

Mudpie breaking out of the bubble!!!

GAAAAHHHH!!!!! I’m FEATURED!!! :D :D :D

My slideshow and critter contest entry “Happy Together” is featured on Instructables!!! :D I’m so happy I might burst!!!

I wasn’t going to post about Happy Together because… well, it’s a secret. But I realize I need to post this now before they rotate my slideshow out of their list of featured items!

So if you visit in the next few days you can see Happy Together in the front page (!!!), the Living section, and the Crochet section :D

Happy Together deserves its own post, and I will write a more detailed post when it’s safe to do so…

So happy… sniff… tears…

The critter contest is one of my attempts to try to participate more in the crafting community. I started to read lots of craft blogs recently and realized that I’m missing out on so much fun and really lacking motivation when I just make stuff in my own bubble. It is a bit of a risk, because what if people see the stuff I make and think they’re silly or ugly or something? But the encouragement from friends and family certainly helped me take that step, and so far I’ve met quite a few nice and encouraging people on the web and it’s been so much fun!

Anyways, another thing I participated in was Leethal’s Saturday Make-Along. You can see the Saturday Make-along results on her blog post (look for genuine mudpie!). It’s really cool to see what everyone made and I’m so thankful for all the work the host has done to put the whole event together!

I’ve also posted the pattern for Sakura Mochi on Ravelry — my first time writing a pattern! It’s a really simple and straightforward test-run, but it’s a rather magical feeling when I see someone makes the pattern and post a picture of it… it’s like Sakura Mochi is able to spread the joy of crocheting somehow…

And I’m always thankful for your visits :)

The making of a Sakura Mochi

Earlier this week I mentioned that I was writing up a pattern (for the first time!) for sakura mochi — a Japanese dessert made with pink, cherry-scented rice granules, stuffed with red bean paste, and wrapped in a cherry leaf. After going to see the cherry blossoms today (pictures to come soon!) I figure I better get the pattern done before sakura season is over!

I apologize in advance if this is ridden with mistakes — please let me know if you see any. This is the first time I’m writing a pattern and I’m not sure if I ‘m doing it right… so any advice/help/comment/feedback/constructive criticism will be greatly appreciated!

Yarn: worsted or DK/Sport weight in pink and green

Hook: if using worsted — 3.5mm; DK — 3mm

Note: for the sakura mochi pictured, I used Bernat Satin (worsted) for the mochi and Mary Maxim Mellowspun (DK) for the leaf, because that’s just the colours I have in my stash. So I think if the same weight of yarn is used for both the mochi and the leaf, the leaf might look relatively bigger, but not significantly, I don’t think. In fact I would like my leaf to be bigger, so it would stand out more and look more like a sakura mochi.

You will also need: 2 round black beads for eyes (I used 4mm), pink embroidery thread, stuffing, tapestry needle, sewing needle.

Here’s the pattern:

Mochi:

6 sc into magic ring, don’t sl st to join (6 sc), pull ring closed.

Row 1: 2 sc in each of the 6 sc in ring (12 sc).

Row 2: *2 sc in each of next 2 sc, 1 sc in each of next 4 sc*, repeat from * to * once more (16 sc).

Row 3–6: 1 sc in each sc (16 sc).

Row 7: *2 sc tog twice, 1 sc in each of next 4 sc*, repeat from * to * once more (12 sc).

Stuff mochi.

Row 8: 2 sc tog six times. Leave a 5 inch tail and fasten off.

With tapestry needle, weave tail through the top of the remaining 6 sc, pull top of mochi closed and fasten off.

Note: I ended up using the bottom of my mochi (i.e. the magic ring side) as the top, because it looked better and I could hide the loose ends in the leaf.

Cherry leaf:

Row 1: ch 4, 3 dc in 4th ch from hook, turn.

Row 2: ch 3, dc in first dc, 2 dc in each of next 2 dc, 2 dc in top of turning ch, turn.

Row 3: ch 3, 2 dc in next dc, 1 dc in each of next 4 dc, 2 dc in next dc, dc in top of turning ch, turn.

Row 4–5: ch 3, dc in each dc across, dc in top of turning ch, turn.

Row 6: ch 3, 2 dc tog, dc in each of next 4 dc, 2 dc tog, dc in top of turning ch, turn.

Row 7: ch 3, 2 dc tog three times, dc in top of turning ch, turn.

Row 8: ch 3, 4 dc tog. Fasten off, weave in tail.

Before attaching leaf to mochi, sew on beady eyes and embroider cute smile with pink embroidery thread. If you like you can also do this before stuffing the mochi, but I find that I usually have a better idea of where to place the eyes and mouth after the amigurumi is stuffed and shaped. Plus, for this particular amigurumi I can hide the thread ends at the back in the leaf. I also like to find placement for the eyes with these pins first, as the pin head happens to be similar in size to the 4mm beads I use most often.

Finally, sew the mochi to the leaf with the some green yarn. And here you have it, a sakura mochi to celebrate the cherry blossom season!

I wanted to make mine into a pin so that I can wear it to the hanami (have I mentioned that making special pins to wear on special occasions is one of my favourite things to do?). I just used a safety pin and attached it with small pieces of felt (I actually got this idea from my friend, who makes brilliant flower pins).

SO! here I am, enjoying the sakura with sakura mochi~

Don’t want to wear it as a pin? I suppose one can also attach a magnet on the back for a fridge magnet to keep all those take-out sushi menus in place? Or, if one is adventurous and has good eyes, one could make it with embroidery floss and  perhaps a 2mm or smaller hook and make a cell phone charm? Or zipper pull for a backpack?

Ayhow, my crocheted sakura mochi has definitely added a touch of sweetness for me on this rather cold, rainy, grey spring day. I hope you enjoy the pattern!

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