Tag Archives: how-to
Image via Geronimo Balloon-Troopers, these balloons all done up with ribbon are true show-stoppers, don’t you think?
For people born on February 29, leap years must be a big deal. If you’re birthday is today, happy happy birthday! I hope you plan on celebrating in grand style today!
I’ve always thought February 29 was so special. So I was sorely disappointed to not turn up all sorts of fun traditions and folklore associated with Leap Years when I Googled the term recently. Except of course for this, by way of Wikipedia: Apparently during a Leap Year, women can propose marriage to men. And men, it turns out, have to accept these proposals or else pay the hefty fines ranging from a kiss and silk dress (in Scotland) to 12 pairs of gloves (in Denmark). This was a law first described in 1288. ”Haha” you say, “Because laws are determined by petulant five year old girls?” Indeed yes, and this five-year old’s name Queen Margaret of Scotland. The tradition entered the cultural zeitgeist in the late 19th/early 20th century. Here’s a postcard celebrating 1908:
Image via Wikipedia
But I digress… If you’re throwing a birthday bash, whether for yourself, as a surprise for that special someone, or for a little one in your life, do it in style with some these pretty party favours and decor, most of which have a fun DIY component:
Image via Geronimo Balloon-Troopers. Order these spectacular balloons online (and inflate locally) to delight someone special.
Those balloons above by Geronimo Balloon-Troopers are simply stunning. They’re also HUGE, requiring about as much helium as 30 regular balloons. The master balloon-trooper herself just wants to delight and inspire the recipients of these magical spheres, which I’m certain she must. Making people’s days, day in and out, that’s the life! If you’re in the LA area you can place a local order and pick them up. For the rest of us, Fed-Ex will have to do.
Here’s what Geronimo Balloon-Troopers did for Valentine’s Day:
I must admit I love the festivity of the silly cone party hat. Elevate yours by following these two tutorials.
Image via Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart takes you through a step-by-step guide to creating these fun party hats that truly fete the birthday babe. These would be fun to use at an anniversary party too where guests could don hats depicting the happy couple over their marriage.
Image and tutorial via Oh Happy Day
Oh Happy Day is a blog that just makes you smile. The photos and tutorials, the design and writing. Especially hearing about her family’s recent move to Paris for the year. Swoon. And here’s Jordan with a lovely how-to guide to making your own party hats.
DIY Birthday Candles
Don’t forget the candles. If you’re looking for something to tie into a particular theme, or just don’t care to do a lot of cake decorating, making your own festive candles can be great fun.
Image via Graham and Olive on Etsy
An elegant take on the traditional grab bag, why not use furoshiki wrap cloths to enclose a lovely take away from your party. Those pictured above are from Etsy Shop Graham and Olive and are oh so pretty and of course, reusable. For our own how-to on furoshiki wrapping check out Mandy’s post.
Happy Birthday to Leaplings!
Last week, I shared about the calm and serene state one can enter into while holding a Chinese brush, and doing calligraphy (see the post here). This week we’ll have more of that, only this time we use the brush to make pictures. They’re not really paintings, but drawings done in brush and ink.
There’s something about using these materials that gives the drawings an Asian flair. Or maybe it’s all in my head. But what’s real to me is a certain clarity in the picture that emerges, despite the economy of stroke that does not give a lot of detail, just general suggestions of shapes and forms. This completeness amid stark simplicity makes me feel quiet and peaceful, not just while doing it, but also while looking at the finished product.
I found a couple of how-to videos on YouTube by this nice lady Nan Rae. The first one below is on making a Chinese orchid, and is quite simple. The second one is on how to paint/draw a plum branch.
I decided to try the Chinese orchid. That light-heavy-light-heavy pressure in a single stroke takes some practice. Nan Rae makes her strokes from right to left in the video, and when I tried to do the same, the results were seriously sad-looking. When I tried making those leafy blades by starting on the left, it felt more natural, and looked more pleasing. So that’s what I did.
I wanted to try doing some animals, and so I looked to some of my old issues of National Geographic as reference. I found that if I used light paper, I could but it on top of the picture and sort of see through it, and just trace some of the elements. Since I don’t have Nan Rae coaching me through this, I just went about it intuitively. I tried to use simple, broken strokes, that just hint at the subject. I don’t think I have it down pat yet, but it’s a start.
What I learned from this whole experience is that it doesn’t have to be perfect, and that I have to be forgiving of my fumbles, and learn to embrace them, as they hold my uniqueness. What I’d really like to do someday is to be able to draw from life with this kind of mindset. I tend to be very much in my head still, and very critical and impatient with myself sometimes (i.e. most of the time). I have to remind myself often to just live in the moment with my subject and enjoy the seeing as much as the drawing. I’m reading this book about drawing as meditation, Frederick Franck’s “Zen Seeing, Zen Drawing”, and I’m finding it very helpful.
All photos in this post by Nathalie Mariano.
(Photo Jay Berkowitz, Los Angeles World Airports )
By the time you read this post I will be on a plane, half-way to Los Angeles. And as much as I love to explore new places and return to old favourites, I truly hate to fly. This feeling has only increased as security measures have gotten stricter and airlines have become stingier with what they include in their fares. While there isn’t much we can do about this, savvy travelers know that what and how they pack can help to reduce the hassle. Here are just a few ways to make your flight go a little smoother:
Not Recommended For Airline Travel! (Photo: Whimsybags via Etsy)
Pick the Right Luggage
As much as you love your hip vintage suitcase, it is time to put it away (or check out Mandy’s suggestions on how to repurpose it) and buy a bag that meets the size and weight limitations imposed by most carriers. If, like me, you tend to bring back more than you left with, chose a soft-sided bag that can be stuffed to its limits. Crumpler’s Spring Peeper duffle is an excellent option. Weighing only 6.5 lbs., it is as easy to carry as it is to pull along on its wheels and the durable canvas construction ensures that it will hold up to rough treatment if you do end up checking it.
If you are packing more fragile items, a hard-sided case is the better option. Heys makes the lightest carry-ons in the world, weighing slightly more than 5 lbs. Retailing for less than $100, the xcase is an affordable and fashionable option- there are dozens of colours and patterns to chose from, including their latest Exotic Collection.
(Photo: Google Images)
Lock your suitcase with TSA-approved locks if you are going to check it. And don’t forget to label your luggage with a sturdy tag on the outside and a card with your destination information tucked into an outside pocket as a backup.
(Photo: Swiss Miss)
Unless you are going away for months and require a great mix of formal and casual clothes there is no reason that you can’t pack what you need in a carry-on. Pick a base wardrobe of neutral colours (black, grey, or tan are good choices) and add a few colourful accent pieces; this way you will be able to mix and match several outfits. Shoe addicts be warned, you should limit your selections to three pairs: a casual and a dressy pair to pack and another, the bulkiest, to wear when you travel.
There is a heated debate amongst travelers on the best way to pack clothes so that they arrive as crease-free as possible. Some like to roll their clothes but I think this takes up too much space and prefer to “bundle” pack. This video explains the technique and includes some extra helpful hints to ensure your clothes arrive in wearable condition.
Pack Valuable Items in a Second, Smaller Bag
Most airlines allow one personal item in addition to your carry-on bag, such as a purse or a laptop bag. I choose one that is large enough to carry my wallet, travel documents, electronic items and their chargers, valuables, medications, reading material, and travel-sized toiletries. If you have to check your main bag, you will still have these important items with you. It is also easier to pull out these items for screening at the x-ray machine if they are together in one bag.
(Photo: Orla Kiely)
I also include a change of socks and underwear, in case my bag does get lost. To cut down on this list, remember that most hotels provide shampoo and condition and many will have other products such as toothpaste and deodorant on request at no extra charge. And if you travel with a lot of gadgets, consider buying a universal USB power charging cable, which will cut down on the number of cords you need to pack.
(Photo: Deal Extreme)
Know Your Airport
Have a tight connection but need to grab some refreshments? Or have a long layover and looking for a way to spend the time? Do a little research before you go or download an app like Gate Guru that helps you determine which options are closest to your gate. And don’t forget that many airports have replaced the mundane food courts with more upscale options, including wine bars and spas, to help you pass the time.
(Photo: Vino Volo)
While it is impossible to guarantee a stress-free flight, hopefully these tips will help to make the journey almost as enjoyable as the destination.
I have always been fascinated by Chinese brush calligraphy. I don’t understand anything of what the characters mean, but I find the brush strokes in ink on paper profoundly beautiful in their starkness and simplicity. And my appreciation grew when I learned how passionate and disciplined calligraphers are about their craft, practicing it incessantly so that it permeates all aspects of their life.
The clip above from the movie “Hero” — one of my favorite films ever –starring Jet Li, Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, and Zang Ziyi. While it employs a whole lot of creative license, it reflects the dedication and intensity that these word artists have towards their work.
I decided to dip my toes into this gorgeous world and try my hand at Chinese brush calligraphy. Since I don’t know anybody who’s into this, I looked around YouTube for some virtual teachers who can help me out with some demos. And I found this one by a young woman which taught me the very basics.
I used to have the impression that making those marks would be amazingly quick, like Bruce Lee’s moves. I have some friends who know Chinese, and they write pretty quickly — with their ball-point pens. I realize that it’s different with a brush. The girl in the video is so serene and so graceful when she does her thing — it’s so beautiful to watch! Every stroke is slow and deliberate; it’s almost like she’s meditating. She takes her time, caressing the paper with her brush as she marks it with her meaningful strokes, all the while maintaining great posture. I got so inspired!
I took out some brushes, and the traditional ink block and ink stone that I received as a gift some 10 or so years ago, which I ironically have used for myriad purposes except Chinese brush calligraphy. But before I could begin, I had to find a character to write, one that would be meaningful to me.
When I was learning my ABC’s the first word I learned to spell and write was my name. Why not find a Chinese name for myself? I found this awesome feature in www.mandarintools.com that helped me with this. And it gave me a Chinese name that had sounds similar to those in my own name — Mai Ning Tian.
Chinese names usually have three words: the family name comes first, and is followed by the two words that make up the given name. In my name, Mai means force, strength, and capability; Ning stands for calm, peaceful, and serene; and Tian is for day, sky, or heaven. I love it!
There are also disciplines to be followed when writing the different strokes that make up a Chinese character. Generally it goes from top before bottom, left before right, for everything in between, there’s a certain order. It all seemed rather complicated, but I really wanted to do it right, I found a site that I could refer to that has animations that show how strokes in my name go. Here’s how to write Ning.
So off I went with my ink and brush. I put a little water in the ink stone and rubbed with the ink block until the charcoal black pigments infused the water. Then I carefully loaded my brush and slid its bristles onto paper. It was indeed as relaxing as I thought it would be! It was all about being in the moment, and not sweating the flubs. How apt that I was learning to write a word that meant peace! Want to see my attempts?
I practiced on scrap paper for some time, and after a while I decided to write on nice paper. I got one of the small sheets that resulted from my foray into papermaking, and put my brush to it. The ink bled and feathered into the fibers in my paper (a learning experience about paper types). The overall effect is light-years away from perfect, but it’s my name, and I made it, so I’m blue tacking it on my wall. Haha!
All images in this post by Nathalie Mariano, unless otherwise indicated.
antique sewing machine print by Raceytay
This time of year leads many of us wanting to redecorate and reinvent our space. Sometimes this involves a complete overhaul or renovation and sometimes you can make do with a couple of pick-me-ups in the way of accessories or textiles. That’s why I’ve assembled a list of quick sewing projects that won’t take more than a weekend to complete, and won’t involve superhero-strength crafting and sewing skills. I’ve also snuck in one no-sew project for those of you without sewing machines or the inclination to pick up a needle and thread.
Sewing a box cushion requires slightly more technical skill than making a flat cushion cover but the results are worth the effort. Amanda Brown’s tutorial is detailed enough (with lots of pictures for visual learners) that even a novice sewer should be able to follow along.
An upholstered headboard is on my epic list of things I’d like to make, and this tutorial seems quick and easy with rich-looking results. You can even use your existing headboard if you don’t mind putting a few staples in it.
snappy duvet cover via purlbee
Here’s another sewing project for the bedroom that will give your bed a complete makeover. I love that they’ve used snaps for the enclosure, and that fabric is to die for. You will need to source out extra-wide fabric to complete this duvet cover, but that shouldn’t be too hard if you have access to any decent-sized fabric store.
fabric bin tutorial via Fiskars
There is no such thing as too much storage and that’s why this fabric bin tutorial is amazing. You could use just about any fabric, or combination of fabrics, that you want for an attractive and functional container. It would also be fairly easy to alter this pattern if you want a smaller or larger size.
scrap fabric potholder by lotta jansdotter via fresh home ideas
If you already sew than you know how many scraps of fabric you can accumulate over time, and while those scraps of fabric are too big to throw away, they usually also wind up being too small to be useful in most projects. Well for those of you hoarding a stash of unused fabric, this stylish pot holder is the perfect afternoon project.
Here’s a no-sew project for those without a sewing machine or hand-sewing skills. This pretty valance can be made using an iron-on tape that can bind straight pieces of fabric together. This technique isn’t great for seams that need to be functional, but for something like curtains it can give you a clean secure edge.
Sewing is a skill that I think everyone should learn, and it’s indispensable if you’re interested in home design. Investing in a basic sewing machine and learning how to sew in a straight line will allow you to make curtains, bedding, table linens and more.
If you’re looking for places to buy fabric these online stores are all top notch:
Happy Friday everyone!