Favourite-things Friday

This week’s Favourite-things Friday is dedicated to one of my favourite people on earth — my one and only sister. She’s graduating from university this year, and she loves clouds. So I figure I’d share some pictures of clouds to celebrate!

In the past months I have been taking lots of pictures of clouds. Our windows face west so we get to enjoy magnificent sunsets everyday, and everyday the sunset looks different, and everyday when I stop to admire the sunset I would think of my sister. She’s also introduced me to places like The Cloud Appreciation Society and Clouds 365 Project. These places are dangerous because I’d easily spend hours looking through pictures of clouds and not get any house/school work done! But then I’d feel so blessed and inspired afterward, so it’s well worth the time.

Here are some pictures that I have taken since February. I usually take cloud pictures behind one of our windows (the only one I can stand close to because it doesn’t have furniture or my clutter of stuff in from of it) so they’re mostly from the same angle. And on cloudless days I try to capture the radiant colours of the setting sun. Enjoy!

And over the years watching clouds has also become one of my favourite things to do. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my sister for inspiring me to stop and experience the simply joy of cloud-watching. I’d like to thank her for opening my eyes to the beauty (and the poetic quality of things!) surrounding us everyday; it brought me healing in times of great trials. I know that she will continue to inspire many others with her kindness and her ability to see and appreciate the everyday miracles that are often taken for granted.

Have a lovely weekend!

Getting ready for hanami!

This weekend we’re going to see the cherry blossoms at High Park! I just found out that cherry-blossom-viewing is called hanami in Japanese. I also heard that part of the custom is eating sakura mochi, and my wasashi chronicles has a recipe for it (that’s where I got this lovely picture too!). The rice is pink and it’s filled with red bean paste and it’s so cute-looking! I’d love to try one if I have a chance!

If I were more culinarily skilled I would happily pack a picnic with sakura mochi and onigiri and other cute-looking bento items (this blog post has some great examples, and bizarre ones as well…) for this weekend. But I have much more patience for crocheting than cooking, so I decided to make a sakura mochi pin to wear to the hanami!

TA-DA!

Sakura mochi is extra special because in the process of making it I actually took the time to write down the pattern. SO! This will be the first time I write up a pattern and share it (by posting it here and on Ravelry). I haven’t had time to type it out properly yet (right now it’s all scribbles and made-up charts that only I can understand), but I’m very excited! Mind you, it’s a super simple straightforward pattern. If you know how to crochet you would probably figure it out just by looking at the picture. But still, it’s a step forward — who knows what it will lead to?

That reminds me, I recently came across this website called Puricute via MEOMI (the brilliant people who created the Olympic mascots!). It’s like making sticker pictures without having to go to Pacific Mall! I even found a hanami-themed background! And there are stamps! The random sparkles and small onigiri are stamps. I know, the picture is sooo overdone — but the stamps are far too much fun, I couldn’t help myself!

Praying for good weather this weekend! The weather network said there’s 60% chance of rain :( But they’re hardly ever accurate, aren’t they? Enjoy the cherry blossoms or other blooming trees wherever you are! :D

Point & Shoot Wednesday

Last Friday was a bit of a gloomy day. The sky was grey and threatening to rain. The air was damp and cold. I was walking through a park in the east end of the city, and then I saw this shrub! It’s blooming so eagerly despite the cold weather and it’s PINK! (Have I mentioned that pink is one of my most favourite colours?) I believe it’s the same shrub that I took I picture of in last week’s Point & Shoot Wednesday. But this one is more pink.

It just brought me so much joy when I saw it. Look at all the pink flower buds!

And before the pink petals emerge the flower buds are fuzzy, so I once thought the shrub is a pussy willow. Then I looked up pussy willows and realized that they look different. Can anyone tell me what kind of shrub this is?

They really made me feel more enthusiastic afterward, not that I was in a particularly bad mood or anything. But funny how plants can have that effect on me.

And look! I found a red and white cord on this shrub! It’s the same one that we saw in a tree in our neighbourhood park, also posted in last week’s Point & Shoot! I wonder if its purpose is similar to that of the Japanese weather wishing dolls.

I love blooming shrubs and trees in the spring. There are a lot more of those on the street where my parents live. And when I used to live at home I would look out my window on the second floor and see pink trees on the side of the streets, like cotton candy. And the wind would sweep by and the petals would gently fall…

Trees are blooming in my neighbourhood park as well! I think this is a kind of maple…

Speaking of trees, I saw an article in the free subway newspaper yesterday about this company called Urban Tree Salvage. They make furniture out of salvaged wood, from trees that have suffered insect infestation, storm damage, or urban development (and of course they treat the wood to stop the infestations first before making them into furniture — the dining tables don’t come with dinner guests of beetles and worms, sorry). I’m also proud to say that they’re based in Scarborough! :D Visit them if you want to bring some trees into your home :)

I would really like to have one of these tables in my house one day. We’d be eating soup or drinking tea around it like hobbits!! :D

So! It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood — hug a tree today! Happy Wednesday everyone!

The magic of Value Village and Saturday Make-Along

Last weekend we went to Value Village, which is something that I haven’t done for ages, and I have forgotten how much fun it is to find hidden treasures and delightful surprises, like these shirts here I bought for summer, with lovely retro-looking patterns. Especially the pink floral shirt — I’ve always wanted a pink floral shirt! Bonus: these shirts are pre-shrunk so I won’t have to worry about throwing them into the washing machine and misshaping them! :D

Anyways, I really like the pink floral shirt, except when I tried it on at home I thought it looked kind of blah on me… (that’s me in my dusty mirror, feeling kind of blah in this shirt.)

Maybe it’s the sleeves? Maybe it’s the boxy shape? I don’t know. I do really love the pleating on the front and the ruffled collar though. And then I remember that recently I stumbled upon this announcement about a Saturday Make-along, hosted by Lee Meredith. The idea is to spend the Saturday (April 10) making something you wouldn’t normally make and, in Lee’s words, “to really spend some quality time with things that don’t normally get your time.”

Well, I don’t usually sew. And I’m usually hesitant about reconstructing clothing, because I’m afraid that I would cut too much off or something and ruin a perfectly wearable piece of clothing. But I mean, it’s perfectly wearable but it would probably stay in my closet for months and years because I think I look blah in it. So then what’s the point of having a sweet pink floral shirt if I can’t wear it? Take a risk, Trish, take a risk!

So then, on Saturday, after having some pancakes and some time for contemplation, I decided to join the make-along and embark on this shirt-reconstruction adventure. I wanted to shortened the sleeves (it is for the summer, after all) and perhaps put some darts around the waist area. So here’s a record of the day…


11:30 am — Cut sleeves to quarter-sleeve length, carefully removed ruffles from cuffs (because I wanted to reattach the ruffles on to the shorten sleeves). Realized that ruffles at cuff was probably too short, so I un-gathered the ruffles and added 4 inches of extra fabric from the cut-off sleeves and sewed it into a ring and then re-gathered the ruffles and evened it all out and then… there was still not enough ruffles to go around!! (see left side of photo) BAHHH! Good thing there’s still enough fabric from the cut-off sleeves to make more ruffles from scratch (the pieces on the right of photo) — should have done that in the first place!

2:30 pm — Realized that we needed to get groceries and we have company the next day and I was going to make some chili ahead of time. Was contemplating giving up because the project was taking longer than I expected, and I might even ruin the whole thing and it would be a total waste of time and I won’t even get the chili made. But Mike volunteered to make the chili and pointed out that I already have the sewing machine and ironing board set up so I might as well stick with it. So, we ran out to get groceries and some pink thread (because I only have white, black, grey and beige; like I said, I don’t sew a lot), and had some lunch, and then tackled the ruffles again.

While walking around at the grocery store, I came up with a way to attach the ruffles onto the sleeves (and bumped into a few fellow shoppers’ grocery charts and bins of vegetables in the process). I’d really like to tuck in the raw edges so they don’t fray, even on the inside of the sleeves, and I don’t have a serger, so here’s what I did:

1. With right side facing, I folded the sleeve edge 1/4 inch up all around. Ironed fold.

2. With right side facing, I pinned ruffles (which was made with a narrow strip of fabric folded in half length-wise and gathered along the long side) around the folded edge, aligning the raw edges of the folded edge and the ruffles, stitching 1/8 inch from the raw edges.

3. Then, with the right side facing still, I folded the now ruffled edge up along the raw edges, and ironed the fold.

4. I then stitched just below the folded sleeve edge all around. (Sorry that the photo isn’t that clear in terms of where I’m stitching… I hope you get the idea.)

5. Finally, I flipped the ruffled edge down, the stitches made in step 4 held the fabric in place, and I top-stitched near the edge all around.

6. The far left of the image shows the outside of the sleeve, and the right shows the inside of the sleeve. (I know the steps are not that clear… it’s kind of hard to explain in words… but please feel free to leave a comment if you’d like some clarification. I’ve never done this before but perhaps many people are already doing this or doing it in better ways…)

4–7 pm — Here’s me sewing as the sun goes down… with mugs of tea. It’s really not a lot of sewing, I was just sewing very slowly, and ironing in between steps. Definitely taking longer than expected.

So here it is — DONE! :D

The sleeves ended up being kind of wide, so I think it looks alright without putting in the darts in the body. And if I wanted to put in darts then I’ll have to rip out the hem… so it’s better to just leave it. Doesn’t it look more stylish with the quarter-sleeves? I’m rather happy about this. Now I would totally wear it in the summer. Yay, I finally have a pink floral shirt! *grin*

So, I’m really thankful for this make-along. I wouldn’t have finished this project otherwise, it would just stay in my closet for months and years and I would just be thinking about what I could do with it every time I look at it and then close the closet door — I know, sad. Yes, thankful and happy that I did it. And thankful for Mike’s chili. :)

Hope you’ve had a lovely weekend, and have a great week ahead!

Marshie made it!!

Like I said, there’s no reason why Marshie wouldn’t make it into the contest, but I was still rather excited when I got the email from the Instructables Robot. Only Instructables members can vote though, and I don’t really expect to win, not that I don’t think Marshie is awesome. I just think that not everyone likes the same things I do. I’m just excited to see Marshie in a contest, since I’ve never entered any contest before. Perhaps I will put more creatures into the Critter Contest, because making creatures is fun! :D

In the meanwhile, check out the contest entries if you like! They’re fantastic!

Have a happy Sunday!

Favourite-things Friday!

A few weeks earlier I made a bunch of prints using Styrofoam pieces, inspired by the tutorial and lovely images on Glittergoods (you must scroll down on her page to look at the wonderful framed composite of the kindergartners’ work! If I were a teacher I would totally be stealing that idea!). Printmaking is my all-time favourite thing to do. It’s such a magical process, because the print never turns out exactly the way you thought it would.

Anyways, when I saw the tutorial I thought it would be lovely to make a composite of ginkgo leaf prints. We have this large orange frame with a generic photo poster in it and we (or I) have been wanting to replace it with something more personal for some time. Ginkgo trees are another one of my favourite things. Did you know that they are living fossils? I thought that’s very cool. There’s also a certain elegance about them, the fan-like leaves fluttering in the wind.

Anyhow, this was a rather spontaneous project so I just used whatever I could find in the house. One could get foam pieces that are specifically made for printing, but I just cut out rectangles from, um, meat trays. I know. I know it sounds gross. But I did wash the trays 5 million times with antibacterial dish detergent. And I thought, don’t we use the same sponge to wash the forks and the bowl that raw meat was marinating in? I mean, we’re not going to eat the prints! Anyways, I digress. So here’s how I scratched the foam with a leadless mechanical pencil, using pressed ginkgo leaves as a guide:

The foam plates are quite interesting in themselves.

I didn’t have block printing ink (I should really invest in some), so I used blue tempera paint mixed with a bit of black watercolour. I considered using acrylic because it’s more tacky, but I didn’t want it to dry and get stuck on the brayer, because I only have one. I did try to use a brayer to roll the paint on the plates initially and be all printmaker-like, but it didn’t work out very well because the paint was too watery and slippery, so I used a paint brush instead. I think I might have improvised too much and used none of the proper tools, so half the prints didn’t turn out. But then that almost always happens with printmaking. Well for me anyways. So here I am contemplating my “keep pile” and “toss pile”.

At the end of contemplation, here are some of my favourites. The brush marks actually turned out quite interesting.

Here’s another print with the same plate.

And some smaller ones.

Trying a different view.

We decided not to put these into the orange frame because we felt that the prints were better viewed individually than grouped. But we thought of another idea for making scratch foam prints for the frame, which I will surely share when we get around to it :)

I still had a fabulous time making them though. Especially the part where I don’t have to worry about whether the plate is perfectly centered on the paper or whether the ink is rolled on evenly or whether the paper is torn on a perfect right angle or whether my fingers are perfectly clean so I don’t leave fingerprints on the paper.

I thought it would be fitting to end with this quote I saw on French Toast Girl’s Facebook page:

The practice of art isn’t to make a living. It’s to make your soul grow.

- Kurt Vonnegut

Point & Shoot Wednesday

I have a point & shoot camera. It’s digital and it’s pink. I have no training whatsoever in photography. Except the photography class in grade 12, which was rather miserable — first, despite my best effort all the pictures I took somehow turned out fuzzy (I mean out of focus, not growing mold or fur), and then I walked into a wall in the dark room and got a rather prominent bruise on my cheek that lasted for weeks.

But, anyways, this pink camera has a macro function and it lets me take pictures of small things in great detail, and in focus, which makes me really happy. I like small things, and I discovered that I do like to take pictures after all. In fact I love to take pictures. As long as I’m not being graded. So Wednesdays is dedicated to my point & shoot pictures, usually of things that are small and mundane but delightful nonetheless.

It is rainy and grey in Torontoland today, so I thought I’d put up some pictures from the gorgeous Easter weekend.

We took a walk through different parks in our neighbourhood and gave this tree a hug.

The bright yellow lichens were mesmerizing.

Then we saw a piece of red and white string among the branches, swaying to the rhythm of the breeze.

On the way home from church, field of blue flowers already in bloom, couldn’t wait to see the sun.

This shrub reminds me that cherry blossoms festival is quickly approaching! I wonder if the cherry trees will be blooming early too, because of this incredibly warm weather…

Not complaining about the rain today though. There’s a time for sun and a time for rain. If it were summery all the time, all year long, then we’d be in trouble. Rain is good. It smells all fresh and grassy outside.

Hope you are well!

Marshie the Monstermallow

Meet Marshie the Monstermallow. He’s the creature (or, as Marshie prefers, the monster) I made for Instructables’ Critter Contest. He was in the photo shoot I mentioned at the end of a previous post!

Marshie lives on the 4 food groups of crisped rice cereal, marshmallows, syrup, and butter. That’s why he looks like a Rice Krispies Square. Or a marshmallow square. Or, as I prefer to call it, a marshmallow treat. You are what you eat, I guess.

He has stubby marshmallow legs and gooey marshmallow hands. He also wants to let you know that he can snap, crackle and pop. He’s even made a video to demonstrate it.

(If you listen carefully you might hear me chuckling in the background during filming. Couldn’t help myself.)

What happened was, while I was sewing Marshie together and was about to stuff him with some scrap foam pieces, Mike was sitting beside me eating a marshmallow treat. I could hear the “snap crackle pop” when he was biting into it. I suddenly realized that the “snap crackle pop” noise doesn’t diminish even after the crisped rice has been glued together into a square. So, I stuffed Marshie with a cut-up plastic bag, so it would snap crackle and pop when you squish him.

And here he is, going out to meet some friends.

We all like to snap crackle and pop. I think we can be friends.”

Marshie wouldn’t look at the camera, he was too busy balancing. “A good marshmallow treat require the right balance of marshmallows and crisped rice.”

After indoor photo shooting, going out for a walk. “I’m so happy to be alive!”

Roar. I’m a bear.”

We both have bad teeth. I think we can be friends.

So that was how I spent my Easter long weekend, pretty much. Did lots of new things because of Marshie. Like signing up for an account on Instructables, making a video and then uploading it on Vimeo. I’ve never really put my crochet work “out there”, as my friend Kitty has always urged me to. I guess this is a first step! Entering a contest! Speaking of which, visit my instructable if you want to see Marshie in a fancy slide show! I hope Marshie gets into the contest. The Instructable Robot said it can take up to 48 hours for the moderators to review and approve entries. It’s been 28 hours and 21 minutes, and last time I checked Marshie still hasn’t appeared on the contest page… I can’t think of a reason why he wouldn’t get in though. The only requirement for the contest is that the project involves yarn. I guess I’m just being doubtful because, like I said, I’ve never put my work “out there” before. Sigh. Someone on Instructables complimented Marshie on his pictures though, so that was an encouragement.

I wonder if Marshie’s going to win…” I said.

Well, you know what you’ve already won?” asked Mike.

What?”

Marshie the Monstermallow!” exclaimed Mike.

Mike’s the best, and he came up with “Monstermallow”. I just came up with Marshie. But not to be confused with Marshie the Marshmallow.

Anyhoo. I’ll surely keep you posted about the Critter Contest. Have a happy Wednesday!

wisdom from an acorn

From this post by The Small Object Steno Pad.

It makes me think about what it means to hold my ground, and for what.

It makes me think about what it means to have faith, to be sure of what I hope for, to be certain of what I do not see.

And I thought this is a rather beautiful reminder:

We believe stories are valuable, no matter how many people read them.
We believe following your passion is more important that watching your site meter.
We believe in the handmade, the first try, the small start, and the good effort.
We believe that small is beautiful.

From The Small is Beautiful Manifesto
(to learn more click on the “Small is Beautiful” button on the side bar)

Just thinking about the small things this morning. More to come later, hopefully today. But for now, I need to get some groceries and some school work done (meh).

horchata fiesta

After listening to Horchata by Vampire Weekend, my culinarily adventurous husband Mike decided that he was going to spend the first day of his Easter weekend making horchata. Being Chinese, drinking uncooked rice water sounded a bit scary to me initially. But after trying it once while working at a summer camp last year, I have to turn my back on my Chinese roots *sigh* and admit that I quite like it.

And after contemplating for half a morning Mike decided to use the recipe by Aaron Sanchez.

First, he pulsed rice and cinnamon stick in blender, until he got very cool-looking layers of coarsely ground rice and cinnamon. And my double-jointed left thumb is equally cool-looking here.

Then, he poured the liquid (keep out the grind!) into a large bowl and let it sit on the counter for… ever. Or more like 4 hours.

After that, he sifted the liquid by pouring it into a tea infuser. Not that he was trying to be extra fancy, we just don’t have a sift.

Finally, he blended it one last time. The result looked a tad more pink than I remembered. So, I must say, as much as I love Mike, I was a bit skeptical…

After letting it sit in the fridge for another 4 hours, the moment of truth…

It’s actually quite good!

So, here we have it, horchata! If you haven’t learned how to make horchata after looking at my photo illustration, then at least you have learned that I have a double-jointed left thumb and I’m cross-eyed. On a side note, if you’re having a particularly bad morning, may I suggest toast water, and rue the day!

Anyways. On a slightly related note, I’ve decided to enter Instructables’ Critter Contest! (It’s slightly related to horchata because my submission has something to do with rice. Kind of.) Since it’s a contest, I figure I would do more than just snap a few photos of my creature on our black coffee table. So, I spent an hour this afternoon doing a “photo shoot”. Here’s what the setup looked like:

Will write more about it soon!

Hope everyone’s had a good Easter weekend!