12 April 2021

Pop-Up Cards

Around the same time last year, the whole world was just in the thick of a Coronavirus pandemic. Everyone was required to stay home and practice social distancing to avoid getting or spreading the virus that had no vaccine nor cure yet.

Stay. At. Home. 

That was the most basic requirement from all of us. And while we had all the comforts of home and being able to work from home, I felt helpless. And anxious.  

So I made these cards:

I tuned-out the news and made time for crafting for an entire afternoon. Doing so lowered my anxiety levels and I felt very purposeful. Because these cards were for a good cause.  

Children Cheering Seniors
My neighbor Tara sent out a request on our neighborhood Facebook Group. She was thinking of all the seniors living alone or in senior homes who might feel afraid and isolated. Maybe the kids can make some drawings for these seniors to cheer them up? 

"Count me in, Tara!"

Even if I hardly qualified as a kid, this was a worthy endeavor. I made some cards and dropped them off at the designated collection site.

Can I show you what I made?

I used card stock so they're sturdy even without envelopes. I decided not to put any ribbon or tape to seal the cards. I wanted them to open easily, considering that some seniors may have arthritis.

When we open the card, there's a surprise.

It pops-up! Each one is decorated with cardboard cut-outs, coloring book pages, paint, and positive wishes written in brush lettering...TADA!

Here are the other designs that I created:

I hope I was able to bring smiles to some seniors. I also hope to continue making more cards that I can take to senior homes, turning their day (and mine) from blah to TADA!

While we already have vaccines and many have been vaccinated, let's not let our guard down. Let's be safe and continue to take care of each other.

05 April 2021

The Art of Ikebana

Hello and Happy Easter! I'm pretty sure you'll agree that flowers are one of life's greatest pick-me-ups, whether you buy them for yourself or given to you as a token of affection. 

Over the years, I've taken some lessons in flower arranging.

Here is a very ladylike arrangement with roses, tulips, wax flowers, hypericum berries, and lavender in a simple vase.

This one reminds me of a bouquet picked from a meadow. It's composed of sunflowers, dahlias, salvia (purple), solidago (yellow), gomphrena (small red bulbs), and celosia (cockscomb flower) carefully placed in a mason jar.

This one's a spring arrangement in a soothing pink palette. 


One of the most mind-opening classes for me was when we learned Ikebana.

Ikebana ("living flowers") is the Japanese art of arranging flowers. It's an ancient tradition where flower offerings were meant for altars. Ikebana eventually found a place in homes and interior spaces, encouraging spiritual reflection and nature appreciation.

The basic materials include an utsuwa (shallow container with water) and a kenzan (flower frog) that keeps the flowers securely in place.

Of course, flowers and stems are required but in a very small variety. We're aiming for minimalism, an awareness of shape and line, balance, and a lot of open spaces.

Ikebana follows very specific rules, the most important of which is that the arrangement should form an asymmetrical triangle. The three main stems of the triangle are called Shin (heaven), Soe (earth), and Tai (man). 

To determine the length of the stems, add the width and height of your utsuwa (container). The tallest item is the Shin (1.5 to 3 times the combined width and height of the utsuwa), followed by the Soe (2/3 the height of the Shin), and the shortest is the Tai (2/3 the height of the Soe).

Angles are an important element, too. This is the basic style diagram when positioning the stems: Shin (10 degrees), Soe (40 degrees), and Tai (70 degrees). The pin-like teeth of the kenzan keep the stems at the required angle.

This is my first try at Ikebana and it was initially stressful to remember all the rules, measurements, and really limiting the amount of flowers used (the arrangements I made up top follow a "more is more approach").

Creating the arrangement should be done in silence and the meditative process results to calm and inner peace -- the union of Shin (heaven), Soe (earth), and Tai (man).

After all is said and done, I did arrive at a calm state, especially when I look at the piece I made.

And this is how I turned some simple materials from blah to TADA!

04 April 2021

Happy Easter

Hello there and Happy Easter!

Happy Easter
I found these vintage greeting cards at a used bookstore. Aren't they sweet? While some people still exchange cards, very few still do. I miss the whole ceremony of picking out a card at the store, writing on it, taking it to the post office and in return, receiving something in the mail, too.

I wish you all the beauty of new beginnings!

29 March 2021

The Golden Egg

Easter is this Sunday and I've been thinking how much of it is centered around children -- the candy, the Easter egg hunts, and the bunnies. Well, grown-ups can celebrate Easter, too! And while we're still in a pandemic, we can have a small gathering with our quarantine-TEAM or for those who've been vaccinated, a slightly bigger but still responsible soiree.

Today, I made these paper mache' Easter eggs and painted them gold. I like the imperfect finish that almost resembles gold leaf. If paper mache' is too much of a process, you may, instead, paint hard boiled eggs or plastic eggs. 

I picked up these goose feathers from a park nearby and washed them with warm soapy water and let them dry.

I gathered the eggs and the feathers into a neat bouquet (held together by hot glue and string). 

I tied it around a cloth napkin and positioned them on each place setting. 

Now I'm ready to serve Easter brunch!

And of course, I'll give away Easter treats like these dark chocolate cookies...TADA! 

22 March 2021

Today We Declutter!

Yesterday, I heard the birds chirp for the first time after a long winter. I also saw some purple crocuses, the first blooms of the season. Spring is here and on the top of our list: spring cleaning! Even if it's something that we do regularly, it can be quite daunting.  

I read a few books recently on smart ways to keep an organized home in a few, easy steps. Let me share with you some of what I learned.

decluttering ideas, spring cleaning
"Outer Order, Inner Calm" is Gretchen Rubin's book about taking control of our stuff so that we feel more in control to our lives. Here are my favorite tips:

  • Ask the questions, "Do I need it?, "Do I love it?" or "Do I use it?" when deciding what items to keep. Then ask the question, "Where does it belong?" because every thing we own must have a specific home.
  • Identify your beneficiaries when you're ready to give away your stuff like an organization that will accept toys, books, clothes, or old furniture. That way you know that there will be people who will appreciate and find use for them.
  • Make a "mock move". Pretend you're moving to a new home and determine if the things you own now you are willing to wrap in bubble wrap and take with you or if you're ready to get rid of them. Toss and recycle those things now
  • "Don't put things down. Put them away." How many times have put jackets and clothes on a chair with the intention of sorting through them later? Next thing we know the chair is covered in a pile of clothes. 
  • "Put things to good use. Spend out."  Many of us like to save our nice things for special occasions like wedding china, a fancy bottle of perfume or a candle, pretty stationery. Don't wait for someday. Use them today.
  • "Everything looks better arranged on a tray." Belongings like cosmetics, accessories, and cooking ingredients look like a collection when grouped on a tray.
  • Turn clutter clearing into a fun event. After a dinner party, fill a small table with gently used things and announce, "Help yourself!" Guests get excited over the freebies and you give a new home to the things you no longer need.

decluttering ideas
Similar to Miss Rubin's last tip, Reese Witherspoon, in her book "Whiskey in a Teacup" provides this idea that involves the family or group of friends: 

Items gathered from spring cleaning can be a good excuse to throw a White Elephant Party. Here's how it works:

You bring a gift -- it could be ridiculous or wonderful -- and put it on a table. Then you pick a number, say 1 to 20 (based on the number of guests), and then whatever number you get is when it's your turn to pick a gift from a pile. You can keep and item or give it to someone else in exchange for the gift that he or she picked.  

Or you can just do a more informal version where you bring clothes that you no longer want, put them in the middle of the table, and take something else you can use (handbags, books, houseware).

I think this is a good excuse to get together (in small groups given the current circumstances, or something to look forward to when it's safe to gather in large groups) and find a new home for your unwanted belongings...TADA!

"Minimalism" has been a buzz word in the past couple of years. In "Goodbye, Things" by Fumio Sasaki, he defines Minimalist as "a person who knows what is truly essential for him- or herself, who reduces the number of possessions that they have for the sake of things that are really important to them." He also explains, "For a minimalist, the objective isn’t to reduce, it’s to eliminate distractions so they can focus on the things that are truly important. Minimalism is just the beginning. It’s a tool. Once you’ve gone ahead and minimized, it’s time to find out what those important things are."

Below are a few more insightful quotes from the book:

  • I was thinking about what would happen if I passed away, or something serious happened to me suddenly. All my possessions would become a burden to my loved ones. Yet because I had minimized most of my belongings, I realized I had also minimized the trouble I would cause others in such circumstances.
  • Seriously, minimalists have no possessions that they are scared to lose. That gives them the optimism and courage to take risks.
  • When we let go of our possessions, our ability to concentrate improves. Why might that be? Things don't just sit there. They send us silent messages. And the more the item has been neglected, the stronger it's message will be. All of our possessions want to be cared for, and they tell us that every time we look at them.

I hope these thoughts have inspired you to begin tidying and de-cluttering. Here's hoping all our homes turn from blah to TADA! 

15 March 2021

Plain Box to Gift Box

I'm a sucker for beautiful packaging! I've seen many that are like works of art. I know that a lot of time was put into these by graphic artists, marketing folks, and printing companies.  That's why it's a polite habit to admire packaging design that we see at the store. 

Here is a gift that I received all the way from Hong Kong. The box looks very regal but the label adds some playfulness.

Open it to find individually wrapped loose tea like Puer, Oolong, Black, and Green, with a pamphlet indicating the proper way to brew each one. I love this gift because it was thoughtful (they know I'm a tea enthusiast) and I would have one every morning with my breakfast.

Not soon after, there was no more tea left. But I kept the box.

I'm going to re-purpose it.

I found this piece of scrapbook paper with a most vibrant print. 

I cut a smaller strip...

...And positioned it on the lid like a belt. I secured it in place with some glue.

It's an attractive accent but doesn't take away from the beauty of the box.

Inside, I added some shredded paper...

...And a few little gifts.

I also made a card using scrapbook paper, watercolor, rubbers stamps, and an ink pad...

...Where I'll write a sweet message.

And this is how a transformed a box from blah to TADA!

I hope this encourages more people to reuse and recycle. You'll find more ideas here, here, here and here