Archives for posts with tag: Craft

…on a tight budget!

At long last, our loft conversion is complete, and just in time for the Easter hols! Work on it actually started last summer, but because it was mostly DIY (apart from rewiring, reinforcements, and boarding), progress was slow.

Not taking into account the metal edging (not sure of correct terminology?!) which still needs to be installed on the carpet around the trapdoor thingy, I now have my own personal sanctuary and craft space, not to mention extra capacity for storage and (maybe-not-so-secret) snack stash. I am beyond chuffed! 😀

Even before we started building the loft, I had factored in an area for a mini photo booth with chalkboard wall. It wasn’t too difficult to set up, and the outcome was more or less what I pictured in my head. I’m now also thinking I should get a thin plank of wood to slide over the blackboard, painted white, just so I can have another background option…But perhaps that is a job for another day.

This month has also seen us celebrate our wedding anniversary, and although David and I agreed in advance to keep our expenditure to a minimum (due to the loft!), I couldn’t resist getting him a little something, complete with cheesy homemade card featuring puns related to a common interest of ours – Astronomy.

If I’m honest, it was more of an excuse to show off a gift topper rose I’d made using a few of the remaining pipe-cleaners from last year’s Halloween Spider Bun.

 

Using this helpful video, a friend put my hair up in a bun and pinned to it a pair of googly eyes that I’d stuck on a bit of cardboard the night before. I know it’s not really a costume, but still a spookily acceptable (and cute) low-cost, last minute alternative in the spirit of the occasion.

 

Although I haven’t really been experimenting on the culinary front, I did make more of an effort on this year’s Pancake Day. As it’s normally close to dinner time when we get home from work, I didn’t fancy anything too dessert-like, so I decided to make us savoury pancakes with Stilton spinach and mushrooms, topped with bacon and egg. It didn’t look like much after I made it, but was quite rich and thus, more filling than I expected.

What I am particularly proud of, however, is a classic dish that’s also one of David’s favourites. He likes to call it ‘red stuff’ (which we usually get from the takeaway), but is more traditionally known by its Cantonese name Gou Lou Yuk, or over here in the UK as Sweet and Sour Pork. That night’s meal was met with much satisfaction, with only one complaint. Apparently, I’d left the kitchen looking “like an industrial accident” had occurred in there! Luckily for me, our family has a rule I am not above exploiting, and that is…whoever cooks is spared from doing the washing up!

Whilst essentially not all that difficult to master, Gou Lou Yuk does require a lot of prep work, and some of that includes deep frying. Was having our home smell like the local chippy worth every mouthful? Yes. Would I be making it again anytime soon? Probably not! 😀

“Standing on the edge of the world with you.”

I do love weddings, though I’m not one to enjoy the fuss and attention that usually goes with them. My own marriage ceremony was extremely low-key…so low-key in fact that, apart from parents and two witnesses, our friends and relatives did not find out about it until after I became a Mrs (well, sort of…I kept my last name)!

The same cannot be said of my brother’s own nuptials last spring. The whole event was nothing short of spectacular. Two island resorts in Riau were commandeered for the celebrations and all-expenses-paid holiday for guests, which lasted several days (mostly over the weekend). Luckily, all organisation was taken care of by my rather imperturbable sister-in-law, bro and co., which left little for the rest of us to do but enjoy our time in the sunshine.

Hubby David was sadly unable to make the trip due to prior work commitments, so daughter Zhouyi and I had a whole villa to ourselves, including a large balcony over the water. The entire experience from start to finish can only be described as unforgettable, and the location could not have been more beautiful. Guests were asked to refrain from taking pictures (though professional photographers were hired) during the exchange of vows and equally anticipated fully-suited/gowned dock-jump (ok, bride’s chiffon overskirt cleverly untied to reveal a shorter lace frock), but there were no camera restrictions the rest of the time, which allowed me to compile an entire album of gorgeous memories.

Months before the big day, I came across the Ultimate Cutting Board on a facebook post by the happy couple. I did originally intend to buy it for them as a wedding gift, but the Kickstarter product wouldn’t have arrived in time for my flight. Then I noticed that my brother and his soon-to-be bride had sent a message to all guests, suggesting that presents were not necessary as it was our presence that they would treasure more. I wasn’t sure how to proceed at this point, as I really wanted to do something special…I mean, this is my little brother we’re talking about, and he’s about to reach an important milestone!!!

After much deliberation, I thought the best compromise would be something handmade (of course!). I’d seen quite a few bespoke Scrabble-inspired gifts on Etsy, and had been toying with the idea of making one. What with Gabriel and Aggie being being into geeky stuff like that, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity. I’d never done it before, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to pull it off. Plus, there were only a few weeks left to go.

I managed to order a few of the materials from Ebay, such as the Scrabble tiles, but everything else (except paper and string) was from my nearest Hobbycraft. Not the cheapest option, but taking into account possible cock-ups, time wasn’t really on my side.

The design I had in mind incorporated the Chinese ‘double happiness’ 囍 character (traditional symbol of marriage) as central focus, with the tiles forming a border around it, but I was worried about wonky positioning. Turns out accuracy wasn’t as tricky to achieve as I thought it would be. Once I had decided on the words, I just glued each section together in strips. Doing it this way instead of sticking each individual letter to the board made it less likely for mistakes to happen.

 

 

Creating the background image was probably the easiest part of the project since I was in my natural element as a Graphic Designer. A bit of sleuthing (basically snooping on facebook) was required to find out the couple’s official anniversary date (not the wedding…long story involving cultural norms. My brother lives in Singapore, and I’m from the UK), but it was pretty much plain sailing once Photoshop/Illustrator was fired up. I played with a few colourways, but eventually decided on the subtlest since I didn’t want the final product to look cluttered.

To get a quality finish, I sent the design off to Instant Print which I later cut down to size at home (with a bit of help from David who has steadier hands!). The Scrabble sections were then glued into place. I took care to leave a decent gap around the edges, and had previously done a few test prints using my own inkjet to ensure the measurements were right. The large space above the ‘heart’ was deliberate as I’d planned an extra decorative touch.

 

My first idea of a 3D heart garland (embellished with ‘Mr & Mrs’ from an alphabet stamp set I already had) did not work well. It was too large and bulky, and just wouldn’t hang right. However, my second attempt with mini paper bunting worked a dream. The floral ‘Laura Ashley’ feel wasn’t intentional, but I liked that it added a little more romance and charm to the whole effect. I can’t quite remember where I got the patterned paper from as I always have loads of that lying about, but a quick search online will probably bring up a huge selection.

Once my Scrabble gift was complete, I realised that the tiles obscured quite a bit of my ‘heart’ word cloud, which seemed a shame, so I ended up submitting the image to TShirt Studio to get a matching cushion printed. Now I was faced with the conundrum of taking two not-exactly-small presents on board a plane and ensuring that both got out the other side unscathed.

Years of long-distance travelling have taught me to pack light, so I didn’t have to sacrifice much space in my suitcase for the box frame. I simply enveloped it in bubblewrap, and surrounded it with rolls of clothing. The cushion accompanied me as hand baggage. With the logistics all sorted, the only thing I had to worry about was the weather, and that as you can see, was no disappointment either.