spring critters

Found two snails in a bush with pink buds on my way to the subway.

 

Went with my mom to her neighbourhood park last weekend. Saw lots of geese. Can you spot the koi fish? They were giant! People must not be heeding the “Don’t feed the fish/geese” signs very much…

 

Come on now. Get up! Quit dancing! We need to finish crossing this road!”

 

Not critters, but equally delightful — mushrooms!

 

Ground covered in pink petals (and I wish I could capture the petals falling from the trees…)

 

They fell from this blooming tree.

 

Saw these exotic-looking flowers in someone’s front lawn.

 

And one of my favourite flowers in another front lawn.

 

And one day, we walked past this blooming tree with tiny pink flowers, each looked like an orchid. Wish I know what the tree is called…

 

Another one of my favourite flowers — forget-me-not bushes as far as the eye could see! (well, I’m exaggerating a bit — but there was a lot of them!) At a historic house museum we visited yesterday. (I’ll write about it in a few days!)

 

Spring is full of happy encounters :D

Hope you’re enjoying the warm weather and all the new life that it brings!

 

 

favourite things + sunday video

Since I posted the teacup project on Friday, and I’ve got tons of favourite things saved up for the favourite-things post, I figure I’d post them on… Sunday! I promise next week we’ll be back on schedule… though I doubt that anyone but me cares what day I post what. But I still think that it’s good to be consistent… it doesn’t really matter in the end in terms of the blog, but it’s good practice for me, I think. A kind of self-discipline, I guess, in preparation for other endeavours…

Anyway, I digress. Moving on to crafty things! :D Since school’s out in less than a month, let’s start with a few summer vacation projects!

 

I imagine this would be lovely quiet activity for a rainy day. And I think kids wouldn’t get bored of it too easily, since there’s so much detail in the fabric and it would take a while for young kids to figure out all the difference between them. And good news for grownups — since they’re made of fabric, they’re washable! From The Purl Bee.

 

Pretty self-explanatory idea but a good idea (or, more properly, a good thing) nonetheless. Vacation memory jars from the Martha website.

 

Got leftover CD cases after the music’s been stored on the ipod or phone or whatnot (I can’t keep track of these devices)? Don’t throw them out — make a labyrinth for the road trip / train ride / line-up for the roller coaster ride / long wait at the doctor’s office! How-to on Bloesem Kids.

 

I love craft projects involving egg cartons, because they’re so easy to find. And these tiny pirate ships are so cute! For a summertime pirate-theme party, perhaps? From The Celebration Shoppe.

 

Beautiful “stained glass” window made with pressed flower petals and contact paper! What a wonderful way to showcase those summer blooms. From The Artful Parent.

 

I’ve never really seen aluminum tape at the store before, but I’ve also never really looked for them… these garden markers make such a lovely addition for the herb garden (and a very resourceful use of recycled plastic cutlery!), I’ll have to keep an eye out for this awesome tape if I do plant a container herb garden this year! How-to on Aunt Peaches.

 

More edible plant harvesting! I never knew that dandelion flowers are edible (and actually taste like honey)! I knew that dandelion leaves are edible because I’ve seen them at the grocery store, and my mom actually tried to cook with them after seeing how it was done on a cooking show. But our overgrown dandelion proved to be really tough and fibery and difficult to eat :S Anyway, spotted this on Lil Fish Studio, which includes a link for the recipe! :D When I first saw the post I was so ready to head out for a dandelion harvest, but then I realized that I had no canning jars :( Now all the flowers have gone to seed, so I’ll have to wait for the next blooming.

 

The pearly discs on this necklace were made from bubblewraps! That’s right, bubblewraps are not only good for popping when one’s bored. Instruction on Craftzine.

 

No sewing was involved in the making of this zipper pouch! How, you ask? Well! You’ll have to see the how-to on Instructables! (It’s pretty incredible!) (Sorry, lame rhyme, I know. Couldn’t help myself.)

 

Love this braided headband from Ruffles and Stuff! And it does seem really simple to make. I’m sure I can find faux leather at a fabric store, but I wonder if I could find a substitute… possibly at the thrift store…

 

And more braids! I do like braids very much — they create visual interest in a very simple way and the look is so versatile. Braided belt tutorial on Sew, Mama, Sew!

 

I think I squealed when I saw this — a carrot cake toilet paper cozy, from The Blue Crab Stitches! I’m partial to carrot cake, and the icing carrots are so cute! I don’t really use TP cozies but I can see it being a great TP dispenser with some modifications. I grew up using TP from a TP dispenser (like this one that looks like a cup noodle, for example) for runny nose instead of boxes of Kleenex around the house, and most of the Chinese families I know do the same. Because we’re frugal, I guess.

 

These hot chocolate cupcakes are magnificent! They’re from Diary of a Ladybird, with some instruction on how to make them, for those skilled in cake decorating. As for me, I’m going to have to wish for someone to make them for me, because I know nothing about cake decorating :P (via Inspire Me Now)

 

And finally, because it is Sunday, here’s this week’s Sunday video! As someone who habitually talks to inanimate objects as if they could understand me, this definitely pulls on some heartstrings… Remember, you too can be the creator of many happy endings — please recycle!

Happy Sunday! :D

a quick cup of tea

 

Today I present to you — a teacup bookmark, with a hanging tea tag! :D Possibly a father’s day gift for a tea-drinking, book-loving dad?

Or for anyone who enjoys a good cup of tea. And a good book. At the same time.

So! Instead of favourite things Friday this week I’m going to share how I made this teacup bookmark, because one can only do so much in a week, and I’ve had this idea in my head for a while now. It was something that Mike has seen somewhere and told me about it, and I was inspired by the Victorian Tea we had at the Tollhouse.

It may look like there are lots of steps, but it’s actually a pretty quick project. It probably took me under an hour to make all three, and that’s with my picture-taking.

So! It’s time to get out the glue and scissors!

… and a bunch of other stuff… here are all the materials and tools I used.

  • Used gift bags (one could use other kinds of paper as well, but I thought gift bags would be a good idea because it’s coated, so it’s slightly heavier and more durable than, say, construction paper, and they have nice patterns. And because I save them when people give me gifts and I have tons on hand)
  • Cotton thread (I used crochet thread because that’s what I have, but thin yarn or kitchen twine should work too).
  • A glue stick
  • A marker (or pen)
  • Scissors
  • A thick tapestry needle
  • A utility knife
  • White glue
  • A ruler (if you want to be precise)
  • A cutting mat (or something to cut on, like old magazines)
  • Teacup templates

I made up this project partly to learn how to use Illustrator, particularly drawing simple shapes and curves. So I made this set of templates with different teacups and a tea mug. Just click on either the image or the link above it and it will bring up a PDF file. Print it at 100% and you’ll get the same size teacups as the ones I made (each is 3 inches wide).

First, I cut out a template. It might be easier to cut out the part inside the teacup ear with a utility knife. (Or teacup handle? It’s “cup ear” in Chinese and I’ve always called it that…)

Next, I traced the template on a part of the bag with the pattern that I liked. (I used a Sharpie for this so it’s easier to photograph, but one could use a pen or a pencil)

Then I removed the side of the bag where it’s folded, so it would be easier to cut out the teacup.

Then I cut along the top edge of the teacup, and the general area around the teacup through BOTH layers of the bag.

So now we have two pieces, with a straight edge at the top.

I then cut a piece of cotton thread, about 5 inches in length.

I tied a knot close to one end of the thread. Then I placed a drop of white glue on the back of the piece that doesn’t have the teacup tracing on it, about 3/4 inch from the top edge. I then put the end of the thread into the drop of glue, with the knot just below the glue, like so…

Then I cut out a scrap piece of paper (from the cut-off of the template) about 1/2 inch tall and 1 inch wide. I glued this piece of paper on top of the thread and glue dot, with the knot sticking out, like so…

The thread is now locked in and won’t get pulled out easily.

I then slather a generous amount of glue from a glue stick onto the back of the piece with the teacup tracing on it (not white glue, or the paper will buckle), and then pressed it onto the piece with the string, lining up the top straight edges of the two pieces (it’s OK if the other edges don’t line up, as long as the top edges are lined up).

Wait a moment or two for the glue to dry completely, then cut out the teacup shape. Again, it’s probably easier to use the utility knife to cut out the inside part of the mug ear (aka mug handle).

Ta-da! We’re almost done!

Now for the tea tag. One could do lots with it, like write a message (like happy father’s day?), make a monogram (cut out a letter from the magazine?), or just leave it blank. But here’s what I made…

I salvaged the folded side of the bag that I removed earlier, and cut out a 1“x2” rectangle, then folded it in half, with the white side facing out.

I then cut out some tea leaves on one half with the utility knife (free-hand too! I was pretty proud of myself).

I then used a tapestry needle to poke a hole through the middle of the fold.

Then I threaded the end of the thread (with the other end already attached to the teacup) through the hole. I then slather a generous amount of glue with the glue stick on the half of the paper with the leaf design. I placed the thread end on middle fold of the paper, so it lied along the fold, then I put a drop of white glue on the thread.

Fold the top down and… ta-da! A one-of-a-kind paper-cut tea tag!

And guess what? The bookmark is ready to mark those pages! :D

I also made a pink one, with a flower tea tag, for an herbal tea kind of day…

 

Now I’m going to make myself a nice cup of tea. Thanks for stopping by! Have a great weekend!

 

tea at the tollhouse

The invitation was nailed to the tree and the neighbourhood was welcome to come for tea on Victoria Day :D

We had been wanting to visit the Tollkeeper’s Cottage Museum for a while now, and the Victorian Tea gave us the perfect excuse to finally make our way there on the long weekend (I’ve always wanted to try scones with clotted cream!).

We drove by it a number of times (well, riding in other people’s vehicles, since we don’t own a vehicle) and I never realized that it was a museum until we saw its brochure at another museum. This tollhouse was built around 1835, and the entire structure was built from one local pine tree! The original planks are displayed on the side of the museum.

It was originally located on Davenport Road, one of Canada’s oldest route. The history of the road itself is actually pretty fascinating. It came into being when the First Nation People used the route to travel from Montreal to Niagara at the end of the Ice Ages. It’s now about 6km from the lake, but it was once the shoreline of Lake Iroquois (now Lake Ontario)! It blew my mind to think about how all of that land (and all the sidewalks and streets and subway stops that I frequent) was once submerged.

In the 1800s tolls were collected by companies that built and maintain the roads. This is the little window where the tollkeeper collected tolls, from about 1835 to 1895.

Alright! Enough with the history for now, though I do enjoy it very much, but tea and delectable pastries await us! Look at this spread, and the silver teapots! No Toll House cookies, though :P  (Did you know that Toll House cookies were invented by a woman whose family operated a tollhous an inn that used to be a toll house? Anyway, I digress…)

And the teacups were so beautiful…

And finally, home-baked scones, with clotted cream!

We’ve heard lots about clotted cream but have never had it. Mike thought it would be kind of like cottage cheese, and I thought it would taste like buttermilk, but it actually tasted more like really thick whipped cream, which was absolutely delicious and makes me want to have it every morning with toast.

Unfortunately, we forgot to ask the museum staff where she got the clotted cream. I later tried to see where one could buy clotted cream in the city, but apparently because it’s made with unpasteurized milk it can’t be sold in Ontario. Though I did find recipes for “mock” clotted cream, like this one involving sour cream, and this fancier one involving mascarpone  cheese and lemon zest, which were quite intriguing. I might make some for a tea party one day!

We did more touring after we had some tea and scones. I won’t bore you with all the photos I took, but the more notable ones include this apple peeler, a nice, sculptural piece of machinery.

There were certain sections in the wall that showed the original brick and plaster wall. The staff docent told us that the plaster was made of horse hair, earth, and ox blood, because ox blood congeals quicker.

Happy birthday to Queen Victoria!

The staff docent also let me hold one of the chickens for a picture on the front porch. The one I was holding didn’t have a name, but the one sitting on the table is called Bostune (I think that’s how it’s spelled).

And yes, I even wore my garden party outfit for the occasion :D

Before we left we wandered into the backyard (which is actually a city park, I think), and I spotted a giant mushroom growing on a piece of chopped wood!

At night, we enjoyed some lovely firework displays on our balcony.

Twas a lovely weekend :D

I like to visit historic houses and loiter in their living/kitchen area and pretend that I’m living in the past, and we’ve had a lovely visit at the Tollkeeper’s Cottage. It’s a quaint little house but rooted in so much history, and the museum staff were so friendly and extremely knowledgeable. Plus after visiting the Tollhouse one could wander over to Casa Loma and Spadina House and enjoy their beautiful spring gardens… Oooh! This coming weekend is Doors Open Toronto and one could get into all of those museums for free! Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the neighbourhood!

Have a wonderful Wednesday, everyone!

adventures of avocado finn

Meet Avocado Finn, my new plush friend! :D

Avocado Finn is no ordinary fish. When I first met him, he didn’t quit look like himself…

He was a maki roll.

 

A maki roll with… a tail?

 

Ah! Flippers!

No fish has ever gone to being a piece of sushi and come back perfectly intact. Avocado Finn is truly an extraordinary fish. And a rather friendly fellow, too. His goofy smile puts everyone at ease…

… and makes you forget, that as a fish, he shouldn’t be able to survive out of water. But look, here he is, chatting away, and Mike doesn’t even seem to notice the difference…

And I was completely enchanted.

And then I remember this cartoon I used to watch when I was a kid, called “Gold Fish Warning”, about a pink gold fish that not only could live outside of water but also fly.

(Yes, huge sparkly eyes and pink hair. Classic girly anime.)

Whether Avocado Finn has anything to do with that pink goldfish is a mystery, as Finn himself hasn’t given me any clue about his personal history. But he’s made himself quite comfortable on our couch, and made a new friend.

He’s even able to make Filbert the cat believe that “fish is friend, not food” (at least when it comes to Avocado Finn).

Don’t need to feel bad for Filbert though, he’s in heaven just having those balls of yarn around, and he always loves a new friend.

To make your own extraordinary fish friend see genius fish-to-sushi crochet pattern from Irka! While you’re at it, be sure to also check out the awesome egg-to-chicken pattern!

Happy Tuesday! :D

 

 

from seaweed to mussels

Remember this cardigan?

 

I called it “the seaweed cardigan”. It came from this pattern, and I took a fun photo of it, with me attempting to imitate the severe look on the model’s face, because I had a similar haircut and used a similar colour yarn, see?

 

Well, I unraveled it.

I tried “blocking” it (and wrote all about it here), but who am I kidding, it’s acrylic, it’s not going to make a difference no matter how much I soak it and how long I stretch it. I tried anyway and to my surprise it did stretch to a shape that fit for a moment — enough time for me to take a photo. And then when I took it out again after a few weeks I realized that it had shrunk back to its sad, misshapen self.

It doesn’t fit me properly so it’s really unlikely that I would wear it; I might as well use the yarn for something else I want to make. The cardigan is really a clever and beautiful design, I just didn’t use the right yarn. Perhaps I will try again using a yarn with better drape.

So here’s the new mussels dress! :D (because the pattern is called “tunic with mussel pattern”)

 

 

It works for warmer weather too!

 

The pattern itself is pretty straightforward but the way it’s written is a bit difficult to follow. I had to unravel and restart several times to understand its structure. But after that I just kept trying it on as i went (a nice thing about a top-down pattern!) and made up my own stitch count, increases, etc.

Anyway, I’m quite happy with how it turned out :D Definitely something I would wear often.

Sometimes (or, more often than not) I’d make a garment simply because I’m intrigued by the pattern, and once I made it I’m not that interested in wearing it. So, instead of keep buying new yarn I’ve been checking my closet to see if I can harvest any yarn for making new things.

So! Next week I’ll show you how a yeti turns into a hippie. Stay tuned! :D

 

sunday video

A promo for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival! The actual festival has come and gone (will have to watch out for it next year!), but it’s really lovely how this clip illustrates the relationship between the artist and his/her tool, and that’s timeless. Enjoy!

 

 

 

favourite things friday

This week we have a wide assortment of favourite things from bokeh to unnecessary quotation marks — great fun! :D

 


I’ve seen cupcake gift boxes being sold in the bookstores, but here’s how to make your own! It even comes in three lovely flavours: ruffled, twisted, and shaved chocolate. Very pretty tutorial at Little Birdie Secret.

 

This is so cool! A thumb-controlled watering device (water stops streaming out when one places thumb over the hole on the lid) made with a recycled jug. According to the maker, ‘the original earthenware “thumb pots” were used in 17th and 18th century English gardens’. I would so make one if I have a yard. How-to on Fun in the Making.

 

Filing is no longer a chore with this vintage-book-turn-expanding-file! Can it spark motivation to finally sort those recipes / receipts / renderings of a time traveling machine? Very detailed instruction on Just Something I Made.

 

For those back-of-the-napkin sketches and scribbles that are too brilliant to simply file away (it’s true, the most brilliant compositions are almost always done on scrap papers), or those precious drawings from the kid who thinks you’re the coolest aunt/uncle/teacher on earth, here’s a simple yet stylish way to make them part of your decor and everyday inspiration. From Creative Jewish Mom.

 

Craft meets office! Great for when one needs a break from the 2056-page document, or when one wants to leave a thank-you note on someone’s desk, or when one’s cubicle is in need of some decoration. Simple origami flowers made of post-it notes, how-to on Sensible Living.

 

I was never really a Lego fan, but I like to wear necklaces and I love the bright colour and simplicity of this Lego necklace. I wonder if my parents still have the bucket of Legos in the basement… how-to on The Long Thread. (Speaking of jewelry made out of game pieces, I also like the idea of a Scrabble tile necklace — also very simple to make, and personalized!)

 

It’s like my Hong Kong pendant, but on canvas! Make wall art with fun fabric and places we love — tutorial on Crafterhour.

 

We don’t have an SLR, but maybe it will work on Mike’s super camera… Tutorial to make your own bokeh shapes (to fit on a camera lens and turn out-of-focus points of light into shapes, like the flowers above) on How About Orange.

 

 

I never knew that plastic buttons can be dyed! Apparently with this particular kind of dye it works wonderfully. How to on Rit Dyes.

 

Sew a terrarium! I love the quaint mason jar, but the sculptural quality of this clear vinyl version is also interesting. Tutorial on DesignSponge.

 

This is genius — a wallet, that can also turn into a tote! (the zipper on the top is the wallet part, and the tote is folded and closed into the side zipper) Perfect for grocery shopping, trips to the park (to collect leaves and wild flowers for pressing!), or trips to the beach (to collect beach glass and fossil-embedded rocks!) A very clear and detailed tutorial on Sew Mama Sew.

 

More sewing transformation — turn a sweater into an infinity scarf! (also called a circle scarf, which is essentially a long cowl) I prefer circle scarf to regular scarf because the ends of regular scarf tend to get caught in my coat zipper. Wouldn’t it be cool to make this with t-shirts for the summer, with patches of different colours and graphics? Hmmm… How-to on Adventures in Dressmaking.

 

Kathreen of Whip Up shares a recipe for making tea ice cream, which can be substituted with one’s favourite kind of tea, plus a great list of other tea ice cream recipes. It looks so lovely in the dainty tea cup, perfect for a summer tea party.

 

And finally, Mike suggested one of his favourites — the blog of “unnecessary” quotation marks! It is one of “those” blogs that I visit “periodically” for some “good” laughs. (Here is another “example” of one of “those” blogs) He also borrowed the book from the library, which we read together over dinner and I tell you, it was definitely a choking hazard. So please, if you do check out this blog or book, put away the food and drinks first. (Another example of this kind of books is Chinglish — my sister, Mike and I read it together in a bookstore in Hong Kong and we fell over each other LOL-ing. But I think it’s especially funny if one were Chinese or if one knew Chinese people really well.)

 

On this note, I will end with a favourite quote of the week:

The creative adult is the child who survived.
— U. LeGuin

 

Happy Friday, friends! :D

stamp a little joy

Last week I was making some greeting cards and thought they would look nice with some stamped letters. I don’t own any letter stamps, but I thought I could make just the letters I needed with my collection of corks and a glue gun.

 

The stamps themselves looked better than the imprints they made. It was just difficult to get an even surface. Writing with hot glue was harder than I thought! And the letters turned out rather squiggly. It was alright, but not quite what I had in mind…

 

Then I remembered that Mike has a collection of metal types. To stamp these, I made a makeshift ink pad with a wad of paper towel and some acrylic paint.

 

But are there enough letters to make up a greeting phrase? Or even just a greeting word? It’s time to put my Scrabble skills into good use.

 

elm…
loft…
globe…
norm…

Ok, greeting words…

Aha.

 

The little joys in life, are stamping letters and socks with cherries on them.

 

Have a happy Wednesday!

 

 

toppers at work! :D

Yay! Customer photos!

The snow mushrooms were a custom order from a lovely bride, to serve as cake toppers at her wedding, and one of the wedding guests kindly forwarded some photos to me (thank you so much!).

Here they are standing on top of the lovely cake, so very happy to be able to help celebrate this beautiful event…

Cheers, to the newly-weds! :D

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