Mickey Christmas Wreath

Since I’m currently living 400 miles away from Disneyland, I decided to add a few Disney themed Christmas decorations to my new home to keep my holiday spirits high!  The Mickey ornaments were super easy to put together, and the whole wreath cost me less than $10 to make!  I picked up everything I needed at Michaels (right now is the perfect time because all of the Christmas decorations are on clearance).  This is a simple and thrifty DIY for all the Disney-lovers who can’t be at Disneyland this holiday season!

Mickey Christmas Wreath

Materials:

Medium sized wreath

6 shatterproof large sized ornaments

12 shatterproof small sized ornaments (matching in color or design to the large sized ornaments)

Accent ornaments

Pinecones

Hot glue gun

Sharp, serrated paring knife

IMG_7906

To make the Mickey shaped ornament:

1. Measure about 1.5 cm down from the neck of the large sized shatterproof ornament.  Using the serrated paring knife, carefully drill a hole on the mark using a circular motion.  You don’t need to apply too much pressure as the serrated edge of the knife will help whittle a larger and larger hole.

2. Continue to widen the hole until it is about 2 cm in diameter (or until the hole is large enough to stick the neck of the small sized shatterproof ornament through).  Repeat on the other side directly in line with the first hole.

3. Insert the neck of the small sized ornament through the hole.  Secure with hot glue and hold in place until dry.  Repeat with other side.

Assembling your wreath:

Wreath making is very organic, and you just have to play around with what looks good to you and your taste.  I don’t have a concrete set of steps for what I do, but I generally follow this formula:

1. I first start with the main focus of my wreath (in this case my Mickey ornaments).  I arrange the ornaments how I like and secure them to the wreath by pushing the branches through the ornament hooks.

2. Next I take any foliage (flowers, twigs, berries, pinecones, etc.) and add them to the arrangement.  I tend to add foliage in opposite corners of the wreath because I like the semi-unbalanced symmetry they give.  I either hot glue these pieces onto the wreath itself, or wrap the stems around the wire frame of the wreath to secure the pieces in place.

3. I then take my accent ornaments and fill in the rest of the spaces until I’m satisfied with the look of the wreath.

I used all silver ornaments in this particular wreath and decided to leave out the red and green swirled ornaments I purchased because I wanted the Mickey ornaments to stand out more.  I hot glued the silver baubles onto the wreath.  For the smaller silver ornaments, I pushed the branches through the ornament hooks because I wanted them to hang rather than be stuck to the wreath.

And here is the finished product (complete with my mini Mickey and Minnie Tsum Tsums)!

IMG_7931

Happy Holidays!

Book Hoarding Rehab & a Totoro Kindle Case DIY

Like many other reading enthusiasts out there, I have developed into a kind of book hoarder over the years.  In an attempt to recapture my life from the towering masses of paperbacks sliding recklessly off of my bookshelves, I got a Kindle.  The initial novelty of the electronic library eventually wore off on me, and I found that I still longed to hold and flip actual paper pages.  

Things, however, started getting ridiculous.  It just wasn’t feasible for me to relocate my library anymore, and I became very mobile in the 2 years since graduating from college.  I began to seek to simplify my life, and have since tried to eliminate my dust and clutter.

Hence the re-emergence of the Kindle as my constant reading companion.

I made a cover for the thing when I first got it; one of the first sewing projects I’ve done!  Since I’ve been utilizing my electronic library more recently, I decided to revisit this DIY!

I don’t have many pictures from my process (as I was mainly improvising and bullshitting my way around the sewing machine), but I listed out the steps as best as I could!  This DIY can also be tailored to match any tablet device/anything flat and rectangular!  

Thrifty Tip: Try to find fabric in the spare scraps/odds & ends section at your local fabric store.  I found everything I needed for an even bigger discount!

Finished Totoro Kindle Case

Totoro Kindle Case

Materials:

  • Gray colored leather/pleather
  • White colored leather/pleather
  • Black colored leather/pleather
  • Gray thread
  • Black thread
  • Fabric for lining
  • Batting (for extra cushion)
  • Magnetic button closure
  • Green leaf shaped button

Preparation:

  1. Measure out your device.  You will need to add an extra 1/4 inch on each side of your fabric.
  2. Cut 2 long rectangles (1 from the gray leather and 1 from the fabric lining) a little more than double the width of your device.  
  3. Cut 2 pieces of batting, both roughly the size of your device.
  4. Cut 4 large squares from fabric lining (which will be the corners for securing your device)
  5. For Totoro’s features:
    • White Leather: 2 circles (outer eye) and 1 long oval-ish shape (belly)
    • Gray Leather: 4 rounded triangles (ears), 2 long skinny rectangles (for paw/button clasp), and 5 crescent shapes (belly markings)
    • Black Leather: 2 smaller circles (inner eye), and 1 rounded triangle (nose)

Assembly:

  1. Measure (either make a small mark or pin) midline of the largest rectangle of lining fabric book-style along the longest edge
  2. Take your 4 squares of lining fabric and fold each diagonally into a triangle.  Take 2 triangles and pin to bottom and top right corners of lining.  Take the remaining 2 triangles and pin to top and bottom midline corners.  Put aside.
  3. Measure midline of the largest rectangle of gray leather also book-style along the longest edge of fabric
  4. Pin Totoro’s features (eyes, stomach, nose, ears, belly markings, whiskers, leaf) to the right of the midline and arrange as follows:
    • Ears: Align (right sides facing out) 2 of the gray leather rounded triangles and sew edges together. Repeat for other 2 triangles.  Pin to top edge of gray leather
    • Sew/glue black inner eye to larger white outer eye.  Sew/glue eyes to gray leather
    • Sew/glue black nose to gray leather
    • Sew/glue belly markings on white oval belly shape.  Carefully sew around white oval-ish shape to gray leather.
    • Add whiskers to gray leather with black thread
    • Sew leaf button to the “forehead”
    • Note: I glued the eyes, nose, and belly markings onto my case.  I would suggest sewing these on instead because I’ve had to re-glue these on after the continuous wear and tear of taking the case in and out of my bag. Fabric Layout
  5. Insert the magnetic button closure (female end) about midway down the right side of the gray leather and approximately an inch from the edge. Put the large gray leather piece with completed “face” aside.     Completed "Face"
  6. Take the 2 long skinny rectangles (the paws) and stitch together right sides facing inward, tapering the stitch into a hexagon shape.  Leave one side open.  Flip paw inside out and add details for the paws with black thread.  Attach the male end of the magnetic button closure to the bottom of the paw (side without black thread detail) about 1 inch from the end of the paw. Set piece aside.
  7. Align the gray leather piece and the fabric lining right sides facing out and the lining fabric side facing up.  Make sure Totoro’s “face” is on the left side (facing down) and the side with the 4 triangles on the lining fabric is on the right side.
  8. Insert “paw” strap (button side facing up) on the right edge of the fabrics between the gray leather and lining fabric.  Pin in place.  Make sure the 2 magnetic button halves line up.
  9. Sew left, top, and right fabric edges together.  Make sure the ears don’t fall out between the leather and fabric lining!
  10. Take the 2 pieces of batting and insert 1 piece on each side of the midline of the case.  The batting may need to be trimmed to fit.
  11. Sew the bottom edge of the case.
  12. Finally, sew midline of case and fold closed! And voila! 

The whole project cost about $10, and I have a ton of extra fabric and materials to make a few extra cases!

I’m going to be making a sleeve version of this case and will post a better tutorial in the very near future!

 

A Labor of Love: 1000 Paper Cranes Display

The Senbazuru, or the folding of 1000 paper cranes, is a traditional wedding practice that is believed to bring good luck to the newlywed couple.  It is known as a “labor of love”, as the bride and sometimes family members undertake the monumental task of folding each paper bird and reflect on the upcoming nuptials.  

When my sister finally set the date for her wedding, she asked me to make the display for her senbazuru.  She had found a few sites online that would arrange the pre-folded cranes (sent to the crafters by the bride) into a beautiful and highly detailed display, but they were extremely costly.  She then asked me to arrange them, as a wedding present to her and my future brother-in-law.  I was hesitant at first, but eventually I conceded.  Hey, why not?  How hard could it be?

I quickly realized I had underestimated the project and how much of a dumbass I really was for thinking I could finish the damn thing a week before the wedding.

From the moment my sister plopped the large paper bag full of the gold suckers down on my desk, thanked me, and walked out of my room, I felt overwhelmed with the project.  I didn’t even know where to start!  What had I gotten myself into?  

With only days before the wedding, I settled on a design and went straight to work.

I decided to use 2 kanji characters; love and good luck.  I chose kanji because the characters are written the same in both Chinese and Japanese, a token of respect to both sides of our heritage.  I enclosed each character in interlocking circles, to symbolize the marriage rings and the unbroken bond the rings represent.

After I sketched out my basic design, I printed out the characters, cut them, and glued them to the black cardboard which I had sized to a large, black shadow-box.  I was then ready to begin the arduous task of hot-gluing the birds to the paper.  I followed my outline and glued layer upon layer of birds on the design to add dimension and texture.

In total, I spent about 27 hours working on this project.  It was one of the most intensive and challenging crafts I have ever undertaken!

Working on this display, however, allowed me to do my own reflecting.  I was able to focus on all of the memorable experiences I had with my sister and the new memories we would both share with her new husband and family.  I was happy to give her this meaningful gift (from my raw, hot glue burned, paper cut hands).  Whenever I visit her and my new brother-in-law, I am happy to see my “labor of love” prominently displayed in their living room.

1000 Cranes

Cookies ‘n Creme Cream Puffs

The past few months have been ridiculously crazy!  A new job, a new direction in life, and soon to be a new city!  For the first time in weeks, I finally feel like I have a little breathing room, and more freedom to actually spend time doing the things I love; cooking, baking, crafting, and writing!  So to kick off this new chapter in my life, I’d like to share my favorite recipe for cream puffs!

I made a cookies ‘n creme filling, but the possibilities are endless!  It’s a simple and straightforward recipe that doesn’t require a ton of technique, only a healthy sweet tooth!

Cookies ‘n Creme Cream Puffs

Makes about 12 cream puffs (depending on size)

Ingredients

  • 2 3.5oz packages of instant pudding mix
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs (room temperature)

Method

  1. Mix instant pudding mix (I used Jello-O cookies ‘n creme pudding mix) with heavy cream and milk until well blended.  Cover and let set in refrigerator for at least 1 hour.  Make the shells in the meantime.
  2. Preheat oven to 425°F
  3. On the stovetop: use a medium pot & bring water & butter to a roiling boil on high heat.
  4. Reduce to medium-low heat.  Stir in flour & salt. Turn off heat.  Continue to stir until mixture forms a ball and all dry ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Transfer dough to a mixing bowl and let cool for a few minutes.
  6. Beat eggs in 1 at a time with a wooden spoon or stand mixer until well incorporated and dough starts to pull away from the edges of the bowl.
  7. Drop batter by tablespoon onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Size depends on your preference.  I usually like to go for giant cream puffs (go big or go home!), but the recipe also works well for making miniature ones!
  8. Bake puffs for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Make sure to not under-bake the shells, as they will collapse when you remove them from the oven (something I learned from experience).  
  9. Let shells cool on a wire rack.  Once shells are completely cooled (about 20-30 minutes), fill with prepared cream mixture.  You can either cut each shell in half and fill, or pipe the filling directly into each shell. Serve (or eat them all yourself) and enjoy!

Cookies 'n Creme Cream Puffs

You’ve Got Mail! A Valentine’s Day DIY on a Budget

My love is on a budget.  Here’s a quick and inexpensive DIY I made for my sweetheart!  This DIY can be custom tailored for any significant other, best friend, or classmate!

Miniature Mailbox

Materials:

  • miniature mailbox from Target ($1)
  • felt heart 3D stickers from Target ($1)
  • lace self-adhesive tape from Daiso ($1.50)
  • printed heart scrapbook paper ($0.50)
  • glue or tape
  • scissors

Miniature “Confidential” Envelope

Materials:

  • standard 4.5×11 in. commercial envelope
  • scissors
  • glue or tape
  • “confidential” document stamp (you can also just write this directly on the envelope in red sharpie)
  • white paper cut to size for message

Miniature Brown Parcels

Materials:

  • heavy card stock (I used scrap card stock I had leftover from other crafts)
  • brown grocery bag (I used a Trader Joe’s bag)
  • tape
  • bakery string from Target ($1)
  • sharpie (black and red)
  • candy/cookies

I also made a few letters filled with some small notes and “overdue bills”.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Inconvenient Friendships and a Birthday Card DIY

My college roommate lives 400 miles away from me.  Staying in touch hasn’t been easy.  I was used to walking 10 feet to her room, lying on her bed, and talking about our day over a jar of cookie butter.  I never truly appreciated living in such close proximity to one of my best friends until the moment we hugged each other goodbye as she loaded the last boxes from her room into her car and drove away.  I was left with this empty aching in the bottom of my stomach, the same empty feeling you get when you think about a puppy being taken away from its mother and delivered into the excited arms of a child; a happy, smiling child who will be their new best friend, their new object of affection, their whole world.

I left college and the friends I made there with the naive expectation that my relationships would remain relatively unchanged with the same effortless ease that comes with living together.  When my roommate and I first started to drift apart, I blamed the distance. If only we could see each other more often.  If only plane tickets weren’t so expensive.  If only… If only… If only…  Then it happened.  We fell into the same bottomless hole that suffocates most friendships; we both got “busy”.  Phone calls stopped.  Texts grew fewer and farther in between.

How have you been?  Busy.  What are you up to nowadays?  Nothing, just busy.

Busy.  The death sentence to any relationship.  Busy.  When life threatens to outpace your capacity to juggle a career, family, and friends.  Busy.  When giving a damn about how you look/smell is no longer a high priority in life.  How are you supposed to keep in touch with someone hundreds of miles away when you can barely touch base with your own sanity?  Busy makes having friendships, especially long distance ones, inconvenient.

So, for those of us willing to add a little more inconvenience to our lives, how do you maintain a friendship throughout the “busy” stages of your life?  I’m afraid I don’t really have the answer.  I guess what I’m really trying to say, is that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing in life anyway, so I can’t really provide the solution to anything.  All I know is that I’m really trying, often failing, sometimes (not as often as I would like) succeeding, but always learning along the way.  Here are 4 little tips I’ve learned to help nourish a long distance (and hopefully lifelong) friendship.

Tips For Maintaining a Long Distance Friendship

  1. Keep a positive attitude.  Just because you’re doing long distance, doesn’t mean your friendship is doomed to die.  Long distance can be hard, but having a good outlook on your situation can make a difference in how you approach your friendship and the energy you bring into the relationship.
  2. Set a regular time to catch up.  Whether it’s a phone call, FaceTime date, email, or a simple text, set aside a little time each week or every other week in your schedule on a regular basis to update each other on current events in your life, the highlight of your week, or anything else on your mind.  Whatever you and your friend do, keep that time as sacred time between you, even if it’s just a small “Hey, thinking about you!”.
  3. Plan an adventure together.  Make an effort at least once every 1-2 years to go on an adventure together.  It doesn’t have to be a long, elaborate, or expensive adventure.  The act of planning a trip and the anticipation of having fun together will add excitement to your relationship and help to keep your spirits high.  Me and my roommate are taking a roadtrip to Oregon this spring.  I’m excited to see my roommate and spend a long car ride catching up with her!
  4. Remember important dates.  Birthdays, holidays, or special landmarks in your friendship should be highlighted on your calender!  I try to put a little extra effort into these special occasions by either mailing my roommate small packages or writing her a letter.

 

For my roommate’s birthday, I mailed her this handmade card.  She has an (unhealthy) obsession for whales.

The power of a simple DIY!

Gung Hay Fat Choy: Pork Dumplings & Celebrating Chinese New Year as an ABC(&J)

I am an ABC.  (American Born Chinese)

Well, technically I am an ABC&J (American Born Chinese & Japanese).  Like many ABC(&J)s of my generation, I have been divorced from many of the traditional customs of my parents and grandparents.  Despite my embarrassing inability to speak my grandparents’ native tongues and my sparse knowledge of their cultural decorum, I have always felt a strong connection to my heritage.

Or maybe just to the food in particular…

I recognize and observe cultural holidays, events, and seasons almost exclusively by the food my family eats; long life noodles on birthdays, cold soba during summer, osechi for New Year, mooncakes during fall, and dumplings for Chinese New Year.  Food is an amazing and versatile instrument for both cultural exploration and anchoring oneself in cultural identity.  If “you are what you eat”, then what better way is there to celebrate and honor your heritage than eating?

Pork Dumpling Recipe

Ingredients

  • Pork Sausage (I usually use Johnsonville Origianl Recipe Breakfast Sausage Patties)
  • Canned water chestnuts (sliced)
  • Canned button mushrooms
  • Soy Sauce
  • Pepper
  • Shrimp, sliced (optional)
  • Wonton wrappers
  • Cold water (for assembly and boiling)

Directions

  1. Dice water chestnuts and button mushrooms finely.
  2. Mix pork sausage and shrimp (optional) with diced water chestnuts and mushrooms by hand
  3. Add soy sauce and pepper to taste
  4. Assemble dumplings as shown below
  5. Boil the prepared dumplings, just until the wonton skins turn opaque white.  Dumplings will float to the surface of the water once fully cooked.  Do not overboil!
  6. Serve dumpling in a clear chicken stock or your choice of soup broth.

dumplings7

Enjoy and Happy New Year!

Photo credit goes to my lovely boyfriend, who puts up with much more of my ridiculousness than should be allowed.