Archives for posts with tag: tutorial

2018-03-18 20.34.46
The vernal equinox took place a week ago, and marking this astronomical occasion was the usual Google Doodle, which led a couple of my colleagues to remark: “I’m sure the first day of spring has already been and gone!”

They’re not wrong…Meteorologically speaking, it did. As explained by our Met Office, there are (just to confuse us) two dates – one determined by temperature, and the other by our planet’s position. Regardless of how you prefer to split up the seasons, the weather is definitely warming up, and despite freak snow flurries not long ago, daffodils here have finally gotten the memo. I actually noticed a few tentatively poking out of the ground on the way home from work last weekend, so yay! At last!

Sunny days beckon – time to banish that winter pallor and prep your skin for summery outfits by putting the radiance back in it. What better way to celebrate this period of regeneration than with natural homemade skincare?

Rounding up the ingredients to make your own body wash is relatively simple. They are available at many online stores or marketplaces. You’ll also most likely be able to buy them at your local health store on the high street.

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Three key elements are required – castile soap, raw honey, and coconut oil. You can then add your own choice of essential oils, depending on what your skin needs and/or fragrance you like. For my body wash, I have used grapefruit and rosemary. As a prelude to the recipe, I thought I’d touch briefly on the benefits of all these items:

CASTILE SOAP
Sourced from the Spanish region it was named after, this cleanser is made from olive oil, and its use can be traced back to Queen Cleopatra. Besides being kind to the environment, it is also not animal-based, which should please vegans and vegetarians. Although gentle and safe enough for sensitive skins (including those who suffer from eczema etc.), castile soap does clean very effectively without drying your skin. It can also fight acne since it possesses antibacterial properties.

RAW HONEY
The most natural and least processed form of honey is best for this endeavour since you’ll want to make the most of its skin-saving qualities. This is a staple ingredient when it comes to DIY beauty. Unpasteurised (aka raw) honey is full of anti-ageing antioxidants that can bring a glow to your complexion. It is antibacterial and clarifying as well, thus helping to unclog pores, whilst healing and soothing your skin at the same time.

COCONUT OIL
I am never without several jars of this tropical wonder because it is such a great all-rounder. Not only can you cook and bake with coconut oil, but it can also work miracles on your skin and hair. Particularly with regards to the latter, coconut oil has rescued me from more than a few tangly snags and frizzy disasters. This oil is an excellent moisturiser, and has the ability to penetrate far down into the skin to repair collagen layers. It is hypoallergenic and locks in moisture, creating a physical barrier against all sorts of harmful agents – such as pollution, harsh UV rays, and free radicals. Being both antibacterial and antifungal makes this oil an ideal deep cleanser and make-up remover (eyes included). Since it literally melts in my hands, I would normally apply coconut oil (solid at room temperature) straight from the jar. However, to make this body wash, you’d have to liquify it using the double-boiler method.

GRAPEFRUIT ESSENTIAL OIL
Just the smell of this oil alone is a good reason to add it to your beauty regime. It is a fabulous energiser and stress buster. Due to its lymphatic stimulant and diuretic traits, grapefruit oil is often listed as an ingredient in cellulite-busting and firming creams. A robust circulation booster, it can also dilate blood vessels and relieve inflammation. Combine with a carrier oil (such as coconut) and you have a nourishing salve that wards off toxins and builds skin immunity.

ROSEMARY ESSENTIAL OIL
As a natural deodoriser, this will keep odours at bay. The same characteristic, plus the limonene and camphor it contains, also repels insects, especially mosquitoes. Rosemary oil is an anti-inflammatory which aids healing, and even reduces puffiness. Rich in nutrients, it’s been described as an efficient combatant of sun damage and age spots, with fatty acids that can aid in tightening skin. Being an astringent means rosemary oil can act as a toner when mixed with a carrier. Add to that its muscle-relaxant capabilities, and you have another versatile must-have for DIY skincare.

2018-03-18 19.13.53GRAPEFRUIT & ROSEMARY BODY WASH
Moving on to the how-to part of this post, it goes without saying that you’re going to need a bottle (preferably pump) to decant the body wash once you’ve made it, along with a bowl, spoon, and the following:

100ml Melted Coconut Oil
100ml Raw Honey
225ml Castile Soap
20-25 Drops Essential Oil

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First, put the coconut oil and honey in a bowl. Give the mixture a bit of a stir, but don’t worry too much if it doesn’t come together.

Next, add all the castile soap gradually, stirring gently as you do so.

Last to go in is the essential oil…It can be just one type, or you could create a blend (like what I did with grapefruit and rosemary).

There are no hard and fast rules here. The advantage of a homemade beauty product is the wherewithal to customise it to your taste and requirements, so feel free to experiment. 🙂 If it’s your first time dabbling in aromatherapy, my advice is to start off with small amounts of oil. Some are considerably more potent than others, and you don’t want to end up with a potion that’s too overpowering!

Once all the ingredients have been combined, pour the concoction into a bottle, and that’s it…all there is to making your own body wash at home! The only thing that remains is to stick a label on. I didn’t have any waterproof ones appropriate for bathroom storage, so I just used old-fashioned DYMO (or rather, MoTEX) labels. I love that retro look; they even come in quite handy when decorating gift boxes.

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You can tell from my photos that the various elements of the body wash do separate eventually, but it only requires a little swirl or shake prior to using. Although it doesn’t lather much, this body wash will still leave you feeling thoroughly cleansed. My hubby David isn’t too keen on the fatty smell of castile soap, but all I can detect is a faint whiff of the medicinal which I do not mind. I did expect the fragrance to be stronger, but it was surprisingly mild. Perhaps more drops of grapefruit oil is called for…

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To complete this body pampering set, I also made a matching sugar scrub. It is more suitably used as a treatment, rather than a stand-alone cleanser. Natural scrubs generally need a bit of a stir beforehand, and this is no different. As with all aromatherapy bath and shower products that are oil-based, take care not to slip when using them. Your shower floor or bathtub may even need a quick swipe with a soapy sponge after you are done.

The grapefruit and rosemary infusion gives off a lovely fruity and fresh scent (slightly minty), as can be expected from a citrus and herb combo. I was initially concerned that the sugar would dissolve too quickly in the wet, but I needn’t have worried as the crystals more or less kept their form throughout, and some even had to be jetted into the plughole before I got out of the tub. As an exfoliant, this body scrub beats any other I have ever bought and, together with the body wash, works superbly well in keeping my skin soft and smooth.

So pleased with the success of this “no poo” equivalent to body care that I am now considering this sugar scrub as another DIY Spa Kit to add to my Etsy store, which will soon be re-opening. I have a few other ideas as well, so be sure to keep a lookout for new products coming out later this year by subscribing to my blog. TIA! 😀

2018-03-11 00.28.40This is what I like to call my budget basket! 😀 It’s perfect for those times when you are stuck for ideas, and have a bit of a cash flow problem. That’s how we found ourselves this Mother’s Day. Fortunately (piggybank-wise), my mum is in Singapore where this occasion isn’t celebrated until May, so for the time-being, we only had to take care of one present.

The gift you see in the photo above is actually for my mother-in-law. She’s the sort of person who likes a simple quiet life, with no particular hobbies or interests (apart from cats), which makes her a pretty tricky recipient. We often buy her feline-related paraphernalia, but wanted to get her something different this time.

Posh nosh is always a great fallback…There aren’t many of us who will say no to yummy treats! They don’t necessarily cost a lot either. The little hamper I put together actually came to less than £15 in total, and could have been cheaper had I not decided to shop in Booths. Well, I wanted it to be special, so it was worth the few extra quid. 🙂

2018-03-10 22.05.54The basket was a bargain from a pound shop, but if you can’t find one that’s suitable, you could cut up a cardboard box and stick some nice wrapping paper on the outside of it. Apart from the card (in colours to match), I didn’t buy anything else because I already owned most of the necessary materials to put this gift basket together. As you can see below, I’ll not be experiencing a shortage of patterned cellophane anytime soon!

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I also have a collection of artificial flowers I keep as props and decoration. However, you can embellish with something else if you haven’t any of those. Be inventive! I think shaped bath bombs or candles can look pretty as well, or possibly mini plush toys and beads. To cushion the items in the basket, I filled it with some leftover packaging from parcels I’d received, and paper from my shredder.

The whole endeavour was fairly quick and easy, but would have taken me a bit longer had hubby David not lent a hand when it came to taping the cellophane down. I’m really rubbish with dates and suck at time management, so this really isn’t bad for a last minute job (even if I do say so myself)! It’s a trait that must run in the family, because my daughter Zhouyi admitted she was similarly pushed for time and only got my present yesterday!

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She does know me well though…Her gifts are always the most adorablest! And that card did make me chuckle. 😀

I hope there’s much joy going round this Mothering Sunday, and that you’re having a lovely time with your mum whether or not you follow the UK tradition!

25037454_138865226896675_2036079854268448768_nMerry Christmas to you and all your loved ones! Hopefully, everyone has had as wonderful a time as I have, filled with joy (and treats). I realise this post is a little late, but maybe it could come in handy for next year…Not that advanced preparations have actually helped me in the past. Despite my best attempts (even taking time off work), there’s still always a lot of rushing around at the very last minute! I did, however, manage to get all the wrapping done by the morning of Christmas eve. Whew!

2017-12-21 22.11.31I try to come up with different gift ideas every festive season, and thought I’d have a go at something I’d been meaning to do for a very long time – personalised goody bags…or mini sacks/pouches in this case. The designs were created in Photoshop (remember to reverse them!), and then printed on transfer papers before being ironed onto the hessian pouches.

Unbeknownst to me then, my iron was actually damaged. It wasn’t distributing heat uniformly, so some of the fabric ended up with slight burn marks, and in other areas, it wasn’t hot enough for the design to transfer successfully. The result was a tad patchy, though some of my friends felt it contributed to the overall rustic appearance. I’m still getting a new iron though!

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These little bags are a good alternative if you have many friends you want to buy gifts for, but have a limited budget. I filled these with scented tealights (a bargain from any pound shop), homemade espresso truffles (recipe here), skincare/aftershave samples, poppers, and a few other party favours or stocking fillers.

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As for other presents specially for family, I made 3D Christmas Trees from origami paper, and glued them on gift tags made out of card, patterned ribbon, and gold raffia. If you haven’t got any pens with metallic ink, it’s probably best to use light coloured card instead of the burgundy ones like mine.

2017-12-18 21.51.07We normally send charity cards every Christmas, so I was very pleased to find out that Snapfish had partnered with Macmillan Cancer Support to offer bespoke merchandise, such as greeting cards. We have a gorgeous photo of our cat Magic playing with tree decorations when she was 16 weeks old, and I just knew it would be perfect for this occasion. My order did turn out a bit more expensive than previous years, but looking at the glossy outcome, you can see why I didn’t regret a penny of it!

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Speaking of tree decorations, look at these two adorable ones a friend and fellow crafter made for us! Needlework is one of those skills I never quite got to grips with, and how I wish I had…Perhaps a new goal for 2018? 😀

24274019_1970996123188841_2622979760808001536_nIt rarely snows where we live, so I’m not holding out any hopes for a white Christmas. Although the ground does eventually get mucky, there is something magical and oh-so-cosy about watching snowflakes fall outside your window while you’re sipping hot chocolate and listening to Christmas carols.

24178219_158566281426093_4703554647334322176_nInstead of waiting around only to (most likely) end up being disappointed, I thought I’d do something about it by creating my own snow globe! It might not be the real thing, but looks pretty all the same! Unlike traditional snow globes, these are dry ones since I’m not too sure how the materials used would fare long-term when submerged in liquid. I guess it would be more accurate to call them jar dioramas.

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I started off by painting the pine cones I collected way back in Spring with just plain old dark green acrylic paint, and tipped the edges with white paint and iridescent glitter. If you’d like to know how to clean and prep cones for craft, a tutorial can be found in my last blog post.

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Next step was to make the mini signposts, which involved a pair of scissors and some small ice-cream sticks. It would be more ideal to use proper wood-burning tools for the lettering, but because I have none, I borrowed David’s soldering iron (after he swopped the tip for an old one). If you are thinking of attempting pyrography the same way, I’d advise writing on with a pencil and then tracing it with the soldering iron. It took me a couple of tries, but I finally got it looking legible. After that, I brushed on some wood stain (samples can be purchased on eBay) to give it a weathered appearance.

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Assembling the snow globe took some doing, but I found air-drying clay to be the best option for the base, particularly in keeping the signpost upright. Take care to keep the clay away from the edges of the jar lid though. You need to leave a bit of room for the jar to screw on properly. After that, all you need is more glitter (I used a mix of large and small flakes), give the jar a bit of a shake, and there you go – a winter scene in miniature! 😀

24175157_385047045264235_7910478964865368064_nMeanwhile, other Christmas decorations have started going up in our house…Most importantly, the tree! This year, we have switched to an icy theme with snow animals, mainly because Zhouyi and David both insisted on having a penguin sat at the top instead of the usual star.

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Oh well, Pegwig (as christened by David) does seem quite happy up there despite having a tree stuck up his bottom!

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Everytime someone whinges “but it’s not even December”, an elf loses their sense of purpose, and gets turned out into the cold. Help save jobs in Santa’s Workshop by keeping the festive spirit alive! Forget S.P.E.W…that’s so 1994. Elves of today have a new campaign and slogan – Christmas should be forever, not just once a year. 😀

Yes, I know…I’ve gone a bit OTT, but people can bah-humbug me all they like. I’m still not going to change; I just love Christmas. I was making plans for this occasion even before Halloween had been and gone…Actually, I probably started as early as spring when I went looking for pine cones during our nature rambles.

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Early May saw us at Spring Wood in Walley which was practically covered in gorgeous bluebells. Quite by coincidence, it also had a lot of pine trees in the vicinity…The ground was full of pine cones, much to my delight. If you live in Lancashire, another great place to gather pine cones would of course be Beacon Fell.

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I wish I’d thought of bringing a bag or basket with me because I could only carry the cones in my coat pockets. They were very large and deep pockets though, so I did collect enough pine cones for craft purposes. The little branch that some of them were attached to could come in useful for another project, so I took that home with me as well.

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As it’s my first time working with pine cones, I had to do some research on how to prep them. According to various online sources, there are a number of methods. However, a vinegar bath seems to be the popular choice. Mostly because it not only cleans them, but also kills any bugs that may be hiding within. It will stink the room out as well, but that can’t be helped! 😛

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It’s advisable to grab a pair of tweezers so you can remove any visible debris before doing anything else. There’s probably all sorts of muckiness trapped in the scales. After that, put the pine cones in a bucket or large bowl. Mixing the solution is not an exact science, but it’s roughly two parts water and one part white vinegar.

Leave the cones to soak for about 20 minutes or so. You might want to weigh them down with a small dish as they tend to float to the top, and the cones need to be completely submerged in order to be cleansed thoroughly.

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As you can see, the pine cones close up when wet, but this is normal, so no need to panic. They open up again once dry. From here onwards, there are two ways you can proceed. Either lay them out on some old newspapers or a towel, and let them dry naturally, or use your oven.

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I am not certain if there’s a difference in the outcome if you opt to do it either way, but I have heard that airing cones can take a few days, whereas the oven gives a much quicker result. Plus, it has the added benefit of further bug-proofing your cones.

As I was impatient, I put them in the oven on the highest setting and took them out after about 45 minutes. It was probably a little too long as a few of the cones turned darker. I didn’t mind so much as some of them will get painted eventually, but for future reference, I’ll take the cones out after half an hour, or turn the heat down.

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When the pine cones are dry, it is recommended that you coat them with some sort of clear varnish in order to preserve them. The smaller cones were quite brittle, so the lacquer did help slightly in keeping the ends from flaking off. I am not keen on gloss, so it was a matt spray that I used. You can’t really tell from the photo above, but the pine cones that I sprayed have a smooth sheen as compared to the ones in the tin trough which have no varnish on them, since I will be painting those at a later date when making some of my Christmas ornaments.

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Pine cones fully sanitised and glazed, I could finally relax and enjoy a small batch of truffles I made earlier. What could be more Christmassy than chocolate? Truffles are a simple treat to make, whether for yourself, or friends and family.

The recipe is pretty forgiving as not a lot can go wrong…It’s basically ganache that has been allowed to set, rolled into little balls, and coated in ground nuts, cocoa, or any other ingredients you like. To make these, I used:

150gm Dark Chocolate – Chopped
150ml Double (or Whipping) Cream
25gm Unsalted Butter

Melt the butter in the cream until the mixture begins to simmer. Then pour it into a bowl with the chopped chocolate. Keep stirring until the chocolate melts and blends smoothly with the cream. If you want to add other flavours, such as coffee or Amaretto, now would be the time to do so.

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Let it the ganache set in the fridge for a few hours (it took four hours in my fridge). You’ll know it’s ready when the little balls keep their shape after you’ve rolled them in your hands. The first one I made sank into a sort of squishy blob, so back into the fridge the ganache went.

I used unsweetened cocoa and ground almonds to finish off my truffles, but you could also try dipping them in milk chocolate or desiccated coconut. After coating them, I left my truffles to chill in the fridge overnight so they could solidify further. I am not sure what the shelf life would be for homemade truffles, but that might not be much of a concern…If your family is anything like mine, it won’t be 24 hours before they’re all gone.



In other news…

Processed with MOLDIVI’m very happy to say that the relaunch of my Etsy shop is going well, and I have made quite a few sales since opening it a couple of weeks ago. As a gesture of appreciation, all customers will receive complimentary gifts of either sweets or scented tealights, along with a small discount for their next purchase. Thank you all for your support…It’s been awesome! 🙂

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…of Halloween!

I like to make the most of this occasion, because on no other day can you go around wearing a costume without anyone thinking you’ve gone a bit batty. I do sometimes wish the UK were a little less traditional (like the US) though. Americans are a lot more flexible when it comes to the characters they portray, but over here, most people don’t really deviate from horror themes.

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No Face isn’t exactly scary (unless you’re a toddler, like in the pic above!), but it’s still a supernatural entity and definitely meets Halloween criteria!

It wasn’t until last week that work confirmed we could dress up for this event, so I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. Although I am a Studio Ghibli fan, and Spirited Away is one of my favourite animated films, the main reason I picked No Face was partly down to expedience.

All I needed was a black hooded poncho, a black headband, and white card to make the mask. The interweb is full of templates for No Face’s…erm…face, but I will save you the trouble of looking for one by posting mine here!

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The mask will print onto an A4 sheet, and is a little large, but you can easily size it down. If you need it even bigger, please feel free to DM me. 🙂

I had no intention of wearing the mask over my face all day, but wanted it to stay attached to me so I’d still be recognisable as No Face. A few other female cosplayers have been wearing it on the side of their heads, and I wondered if I could devise a way for the mask to also double up as hair accessory.

This is where adhesive velcro strips come in, and they were fangtastic for this little project. You can get them in craft or fabric stores, or if you prefer to shop online, I bet Amazon and eBay will have them too.

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As you can see here, my headpiece can also be turned into a visor-mask…and it is soooo easy to do. After printing and cutting out the mask, work out how you want it positioned when on face and side of head, then stick on bits of velcro respectively. And there you have it, a fully-adjustable disguise that can be worn in two ways!

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Some girls opt to paint their faces, but that’s optional. I did it as a test run when trying on my costume, but didn’t bother with it today as I’m really not a morning person. No force on earth can motivate me out of bed early enough to coat my skin in layers of slap.

I did, however, notice that with my hood up and facepaint on, I looked like I’d gone over to the dark side in full Sith mode!

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What a truly versatile costume this has turned out to be…Now all I need is a lightsaber, and this time next year, I will be a dark lord of the empire!

Update 01/11/17 – Much as I love snacks and chocolate, Halloween treats have never held great drawing power where I’m concerned. It’s not like I don’t already stuff my face the other 364 days of the year. That said, I was inordinately chuffed to receive this little package of goodies the next day.

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These were gifts for the few who dressed up for Halloween at work, so yay us! Eye can’t see why the treats pleased me so much…Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t expecting it, or perhaps some of the sweets were old school and I can be a bit of a retrophile at times. Either case, it made me happy enough to blog it. 😀

2017-10-11 23.03.51Summer might be over for us here in the UK, but the season of sunshiny days is just starting for those living Down Under, and that’s where a friend of mine is headed. Sarah will be spending a year or more in Australia, so we had a small leaving do to give the lucky young lady a proper send-off.

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As a fellow Disney fan with Princess Belle aspirations (yes, she even looks and sings like the character!), Sarah’s not a difficult person to buy presents for. Basically anything BatB-related will go down well, so when I saw this charming makeup and toiletry bag, I knew it had my friend’s name written all over it. Ok, I’m aware it actually says ‘Beauty and the Beast’, but in our reality, that’s synonymous with Sarah!

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Heh, if I’m honest, I liked the bag so much, I almost didn’t want to give it away…But I resisted temptation and filled it with a few bits and bobs which Sarah might find useful in her travels, such as a set of mini squeezable bottles, plus a few other beauty products and tealights that I packaged in clear cellophane. Also…chocolates! No largesse is complete without it! 😛

Such pretty things require fitting gift presentation, but with only a couple of nights to put everything together, I had to make do with whatever materials I had to hand. Luckily, I did already have a small collection of seashells, and since Sarah would soon be seeing a lot more sun, sand and sea, crafting something beach-themed was perfect for the occasion.

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This card and gift topper is very easy to do, and would only need the following:

  • White Card
  • Blue Card or Paper – Various shades
  • Brown Kraft Card or Paper – Various shades
  • Ribbon – Preferably white or cream
  • Seashells
  • Guillotine, or Scalpel and Ruler
  • Scissors
  • PVA Glue

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The ‘stamp’ was designed in Photoshop, then printed on thin creamy yellow card and cut down to size, but it’s ok to use white card instead. The reason I did not was due to the only white card I had left being too thick for my Epson Inkjet.

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Although the ‘stamp’ on Sarah’s present features Australia, please feel free to download the PDF of a more generic version (with pic of a suitcase) if you too have friends going away and fancy giving this idea a whirl…Bonus if your mates also love Disney as I’ve included a line from one of the songs in BatB. Perhaps when I have a bit more time on my hands, I’ll expand on this and create a range of similar stickers with quotes from other animated films. ❤

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Awhile back, I bought some little wooden tags from a craft store simply because they were cheap and I liked the look of them. Although I didn’t get them for any specific purpose, they did come in rather useful for this project…A bit of sanding, some chalkboard paint and twine, and I got myself a reusable gift tag! If you can’t get hold of wooden tags, and aren’t bothered about reusability, thick black card works just as well. Writing on such a small surface with sticks of chalk can be quite tricky, so unless you’ve a deft hand, you might be better off with a dressmaker or chalk pencil.

sq blog pic2This is possibly one of the more straightforward cards I’ve ever made. However. if you’re not feeling confident you can pull it off, I’d advise doing a test run on some scrap paper before ripping up the good stuff. The paper weight also needs to be within the Goldilocks zone – too thick and it won’t be pliable enough to tear, too thin and you won’t get the nicely frayed edges. My top tip: Don’t stick anything down until you’ve got all your baits and pieces lined up, and are happy with what you sea! 😀

“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.