A Bag with a Dragon

Sometimes it is difficult to find time to craft or sew. I love sewing! There are so many ideas and techniques I want to try. I don’t want my skills to deteriorate. I decided to force my brilliance out. I mean, make me make stuff.

One of the many things I do is run contests for my sister-in-law, Colleen Houck. She is an author. Her fourth book comes out in September and is called Tiger’s Destiny. If you haven’t read these books yet, start with Tiger’s Curse, the first book in the series. There is an audio version for those of you who like to listen to books.

Anyway, contests.

This year we made the switch where I also started handling all the prizes for these contests. It has been a rocky start but is almost going smoothly.

Some prizes are themed prize packs and I get to choose what goes in. January had a dragon theme and I was struggling with finding items within my budget. I found this iron on dragon but didn’t like the bags (or the price). So I made a bag. It was pretty easy (I’ve never made a bag before) and I think I did a pretty good job. I enjoyed myself so much that I decided that each prize pack would get something made by me!

See? Two birds with one stone. I get to craft and people get a prize.

Let me show you the bag I just sent off to the winner for the dragon contest in January.

I mostly followed a tutorial because I’ve never made a bag before. Unfortunately, I can’t find it again. I was sure I had saved it! I can’t even find it on my Pinterest boards. I really wanted to give a shoutout to whoever it was. Because of that, I didn’t take pictures meant for a tutorial.

I started off by making a pattern. I used a brown paper bag. Olive Garden, anyone? Jared never knows why I keep crap certain things. This is why. Something free so I don’t have to worry about messing up a pattern. And sturdy. I tapered the top in but if I ever make a bag like this again, I would not do that. For a bag as long as this is, the tapered top made it a little awkward to get into. For a shorter bag, I don’t think it’d be a problem.

After cutting out all my material, I ironed the dragon onto the right side of the front piece of material. I read all the instructions. Twice. Maybe three times. And then when it didn’t seem to completely work the first try, I read them again. It turns out that I just needed to iron longer than the instructions said to.

The other thing I had to make sure I did was that each and every edge (look at how many of them there are with all those curls!) was sealed. Otherwise, removing the backing wasn’t easy. Oh! And remember to go S-L-O-W-L-Y when you remove the backing. You don’t want to rip anything off. Luckily, I didn’t. Rip anything off, I mean.

Fast forward and I finished all the sewing. This bag is lined with an inside pocket!

And look! The pocket is lined too. See how I even cut out the lining o the pocket to be different from the lining of the bag? Just wanted some variety in there.

I love how this bag turned out! I wasn’t sure how it would go. I thought I would have to buy material because I didn’t think anything I had would go. Then I found this blue in my stash. And decided the patterned blue and green would be PERFECT. I called my sister to make sure I could use it. It has, after all, been sitting in my house for a few years.

I love how I turned the bag strap over so the blue/green pattern is showing! Not only is this bag lined, but it is actually three layers. Between the outside and the lining, I put a really thin batting (quilt batting, not polyfiberfillohemgeelittletuftsofwhiteareeverywhere batting).

Rather than clean my house and take pictures on a nekkid dress form, I waited until family came over. Then I dragged my sister outside so I could take pictures.

I told her I would be cropping her face off so it didn’t matter what face she made.

This is me not showing her face.

Desk Makeover: Part 2

Over a month ago I posted the first part to the makeover to my desk. Would it surprise you to know that for three or four (or five?) weeks, the desk sat in our living room disassembled with the first half all primed and the second half waiting to be primed?

No? I’m not surprised either.

I’m going to skip the part where I took it all apart. I took pictures of the process so that I could remember what went were. I put parts in bags that I labeled so that I knew which part was what. I’ll also forego telling you how some of the screws stripped and were a huge pain to get out which means I have to go search for some replacement screws. Tiny, tiny screws. I’ll also skip the part where I primed everything.

Just know, I primed it.

Actually, I primed half of it weeks ago. Last Saturday I primed the second half. Go, Suki, go! I’m pretty certain Jared was excited that I worked on it. He just didn’t show it so much. :)

I used Zinsser primer. The GOLD label. This is important if you don’t want to sand/are painting laminate/whatever. You get to skip the sanding part and go straight to priming and painting! (And not priming and painting for weeks…) The one sad thing about this primer is that it is oil based. Meaning, it doesn’t clean up with water. If you don’t have any mineral spirits on hand, use throw away gloves! And when you still manage to get a bit on your hair and arms, ignore it and it will come off in a day. Or a week.

Because I dreaded the priming SO MUCH after the first go-around, I decided I’d spray paint the desk. More expensive, but it would happen much quicker. The problem was that it’s February. A weird sometimes mild, sometimes cold, sometimes snowy, and sometimes a balmy 60 February. So I prayed for good spray painting weather. Or maybe I just hoped.

I didn’t expect to get my wish so soon! Today’s weather was super promising and in the 50s. Except I didn’t have the paint yet. I hadn’t even decided how I was going to paint it. Scratch that. I had decided how I was going to paint it. I also decided that I wasn’t sold on that idea. So I went to three hardware stores looking for adequate spray paint selection (I’m so so sorry, my faithful and trusty orange store–I will go to you first and save myself time!!). Kaelyn went too. She was a good sport throughout most of it. And the employees all thought she was adorable. She drew quite the crowd at Home Depot while I was agonizing over which color(s) I would buy.

I didn’t take a picture of how my decision process worked. But I should have. I chose some of my considered colors and lined them in a row. I had 8 or 9 out. A few pinks (yes, I considered pink!), some yellows, blues, and even briefly a brown. Jared suggested the brown when I was looking at colors last night. Then, I told Kaelyn that she was doing an awesome job as she walked across the spray paint cans (you know, with her feet on either side of the cans…). Then I talked to some employees who gave me some suggestions like (these two that you have picked out look really nice together). I narrowed down my selection. Kaelyn wasn’t happy that I was taking away cans.

Until finally! I had three colors. But which was going to be the main color? The yellow or the aqua? Definitely not the teal. It was too dark. So I called a sister up that I knew would be available. (Thanks, Lindey!) We figured it out. Aqua as the main color. Except we talked about how to do the teal and the yellow and then I totally changed my mind since then. But I’m pretty sold on my current idea. :)

Have I talked enough? Let’s spray paint!

Oh wait. First some “before” pictures. Here we are with a layer of primer. Remember, I used the Zinsser GOLD label so no sanding! And actually, on the first half of priming, I did two layers. On the second half, I did one layer. Call me lazy. This was just one layer.

Yup, I’m on my driveway! Hi everyone driving down the street!! I’m just painting on a lovely day! With wind! I propped the desk up on scrap wood so that I could get down to the bottom of the desk easily. I taped off parts I didn’t want painted.

When you spray paint, use a face mask! Especially when it’s windy. Oh hey, like my haircut? (For anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.)

I bought Rustoleum brand spray paint. I have always had good luck with their paint. I bought five cans and had one on hand of this color (pure coincidence!). So far I have used 3 and a bit. I think I got just enough! The handle you buy separate. I highly recommend it!! It makes spray painting so nice and easy. Much easier on the fingers. Jared bought it for me a long while back and so I don’t know how much it costs. Well worth the cost, whatever it is! Like I said earlier, my main color is AQUA. It is a Satin finish.

Do you know the best way to spray paint? LIGHT layers. Keep the can moving and expect to do more than one coat. I did two full coats and one or two touch up coats. If you do heavy layers (aka, leave the can spraying on one location for too long), you will get drips. You don’t want drips usually. Keep the can moving.

This was just one layer of paint. You can still see primer! That’s okay.

But look! After the second layer, we’re looking much more solid aqua.

Another view of the desk after two layers of spray paint. After finishing this portion of the desk, I painted some drawers and doors. No picture… but they look like aqua.

Our driveway got a bit of a facelift while I was at it. Too bad it won’t last once it rains! Hehe.

Remember when I said it was windy? My EYEBROW and EYELASHES got paint on them. Yup. And my left arm reminds me of oompa loompas with a sheen of blue paint. Why am I posting a picture of my eyebrow?

How Much We Love Our Rug

We bought a rug a few weeks ago. Yup. I’m behind in showing it off. And I’m not even going to do that today!

Did I remember to mention that our couch was delivered a few weeks ago as well? Just before we bought the rug… yup, also not showing that off today.

I’m holding off until more of the family room is completed–so expect a post about it all in a few months! (If you could see my face, I look duly chagrined.)(Or maybe not.) I’m here today to tell you how much we love our brand new rug.

Once upon a few weeks ago, we bought a brand new rug and set it up in our family room with our equally brand new couch. We sat on the couch and looked at the view, deciding if we really liked it or if we wanted to return it and try another one (we didn’t purchase this rug completely loving it–a story for when I truly show off our rug). Kaelyn was oohing and aahing over the rug. She quite enjoyed it. She brought some books over so she could sit on the rug. Since then, she loves jumping on it. And doing downward dog (yoga pose) while hopping on one foot. Oh! And the cutest of all, she does somersaults!

Okay, you got me. This story isn’t really about how much we love and adore our rug. This is really a story of how much our cats love and adore our rug. Kara immediately sprawled out as only Kara knows how. She’s like a rug on top of a rug. You know those animal rugs that are shaped like the animal is just splayed out? Yeah, that’s how Kara looks… Except much more of a 3D effect.

The very next morning, one of the cats took the opportunity to sink their claws into our brand new rug in a two minute period that no one was in the room (and we had my siblings over so that was three additional people for them to avoid). We now know that both of the cats do this.

Do you see those loose rug fibers?? It’s not supposed to look like that. I was so very displeased with this turn of events. At least they hadn’t been scratching the couch which was twice as expensive but that doesn’t mean that I was okay with them scratching the rug. I didn’t purchase them an expensive cat scratcher pad!! (Jared keeps saying “at least this scratcher will last a long time”. …. Let me give you a moment of silence to change what you said.)

Not having time to do anything else that morning, I laid some blankets and pillows on top of the rug so they wouldn’t scratch. Yes… I’m glad we bought this rug so that we could look at an old blanket that we’ve had for a long while.

At first opportunity, Kaelyn and I bought one of the cardboard cat scratchers that we could put directly on the rug so they could scratch there instead of our brand new rug. (Have I mentioned it was brand new???)

Lucky for us, they adore it! Kara lays on it for fun. Kara immediately loved on it while Jaeden waited her turn. When Kara finally gave it up, Jaeden spent almost an equal amount of time loving it. Then Kara loved on it again. It doesn’t always stay on the rug but that’s okay. It’s easy to move back.

Unlucky for us, they still sink their claws in our rug. Just not as frequently.

Also, once the rug is vacuumed, you can’t tell that their claws had any sort of contact with the rug. Given enough time, I am convinced that this will change.

But really, cats…. really?

How To Make Chinese Lanterns

Far too long ago, I promised a post about how to make Chinese lanterns. Okay, so maybe it was only a week ago but not only did I not post a tutorial, I didn’t post anything. Fail!

Ahem.

GATHER YOUR MATERIAL

  • Two different colors of construction paper (or cardstock or regular paper but I had this lovely marbled construction paper on hand–I like me a free project)
  • Glue stick (Elmer’s wet glue would probably have worked as well but the glue stick dries faster which means a faster project–I like me a fast project)
  • Scissors
  • Tissue paper cut into strips

STEP ONE

1.a — Pick which color you want to be your outside color. This is the body of the lantern.

1.b — Fold that paper in half length-wise. On my paper, one side had more prominent marbling so I chose that to be the outside.

1.c — Starting at the folded edge, cut strips into the paper but not all the way through. I left about an inch at the top. I used a paperclip to make my strips even. My sister said that was far too meticulous for her. But it’s my craft so I used a paperclip!

STEP TWO

2.a — Take your OTHER paper and cut off about an inch length-wise.

2.b — Cut that strip down a few inches. The first lantern I didn’t do this step and the handle (which is what this strip of paper will be) looked too long for me. Cut it or don’t. Your choice!

2.c — Put some glue on the paper and give to your daughter because she’ll want to help. Maybe only do this step if you’re using a glue stick… I didn’t have to worry if she stuck it on furniture or walls or floors this way.

STEP THREE

3.a — Open your first paper and decide where the placement of your handle should be. I chose mine by folding the paper into a circle and then marking where opposite sides of the circle was. Sorry… no picture of that.

3.b — Glue your long strip down on the INSIDE of the cut paper like the picture shows.  I chose to put the marble side IN this time so it could contrast with the outer marbling of the body of the lantern.

STEP FOUR

4.a — Take strips of tissue paper and glue them to the bottom of the lantern–this is OPPOSITE the handle you made in step 3. I chose three different colors. I glued them on randomly.

4.b — Mine are all different lengths. If too many of them were the same length, I cut ‘em. Your choice!

4.c — Notice  that I didn’t put any on one side. That’s because later on, we’ll be making a circle and that part will be overlapping the opposite side so I didn’t want the tissue paper doubling up there.

STEP FIVE

5.a — Take the remaining piece of your secondary color–the one that we cut the handle strip from.

5.b — Glue it along the bottom of the lantern. Bottom = the side with the tissue paper. Remember the part where we didn’t glue any tissue paper? Don’t glue right there.

STEP SIX

6.a — Glue the top of the second paper to the top of the first paper. It’ll look like this.

6.b — Remember to not glue the top where we haven’t been gluing anything. It’ll make sense during the next step.

STEP SEVEN

7.a — Wrap the paper to make a circle. Cone… uh, that shape up there.

7.b — Put the glued side (you know, with the tissue paper and everything) INSIDE the unglued side.

7.c — Glue. (I think I only glued the outside paper because the inside paper stayed just fine without needing anything.) This was probably the hardest step because the outside paper bends and I didn’t want to create another crease.

HANG AND ENJOY

Actually, you probably want to make more. I made a total of five. All different color combination! It took me maybe an hour once I figured out the quickest technique. (My first lantern was NOT the quick way to do it.)

My first thought at hanging them was strung across some windows in my family room. I quickly discovered that I did not like that. They were just smooshed against the window and looked weird. Maybe if I had a curtain rod up that would give the lanterns some space, but I didn’t. And don’t. So plan b was to hang them from the ceiling somewhere. I had a few different spots in mind but ultimately settled on a corner in my kitchen. That space always looked lonely and I thought some artwork on the wall would fix it up. Well, I still don’t have any artwork up and I still think something on that wall would be great, but for now, I’m enjoying some hanging lanterns.

Another confession: I didn’t hang them. When my family got there that day, they were sitting all ready to be hung… but not hung. So my brother in law gave my brother a lesson on how to figure out where to drill into my ceiling. I knew where I wanted it to be (center in this corner–see where the window is?) and I just needed a hook on the ceiling. NOTE: We installed a cup hook. No anchor or anything. That means whatever I hang here can’t be very heavy or else I will have a hole in my ceiling.

I skipped a step in here. I tied yarn onto all the handles and then hung them from the inner loop of an embroidery hoop. I spaced them how I wanted and then put the outer loop on so the yarn couldn’t move around. My sister actually tied the yarn so that it could be hung from the hook that my brother installed in my ceiling.

Family affair, people.

We are still enjoying these lanterns! And since I love something in that corner now, they will probably stay up until I decide what else to put there. Any guesses on when that will be? Christmas?

——————————–

Chinese New Year 2011

Welcome to the year of the dragon! As I said in my last post, we celebrated a little late but within the 8 day traditional celebration so it’s all good! And boy, was it ALL good. Until I was preparing my pictures for this post. My computer ate 9 or 10 of my pictures. Good thing I had made the collage already but it should not have happened and I have no idea how it did. Lame.

We always think we’re going to have an appetizer or two and then a meal. That would require the food to be done at roughly the same time. That rarely happens. We just graze. When something is done, we eat. And we make more food.

These little crab rangoon appetizers were delicious! I’d point you to the recipe but I didn’t find it. Or make it. I just bought the wrappers. I heard they were a little on the crispy side at first but when they sprayed them with olive oil before baking, they turned out super yummy. I had one of the sprayed ones. I only got one. They didn’t seem to stick around very long! That’s how good they were. Thanks to Valerie & Reed for these! (Reed is the one in the photo.)

The other appetizer were spring rolls. There isn’t even a recipe for me to point you towards. This is where you have food to roll in a wrapper that has been soaked for 30 seconds (or so) in water. (You can also fry them but they are lovely like this. So fresh tasting! Our options were peas, mango, carrots, cucumber, lettuce, chicken (I think!) and two types of sauce (plum and chili). My dad made me one–so yummy. I only had one of these but that’s okay because I got the leftover wrappers and had some for lunch today.  Thanks to Jamie!

The first year I made bow (pronounced like bow & curtsy, not the type of bow that goes in your hair), it was interesting. Very dense. Good, but not proper bow. The second year I made it (last year), I used a different recipe and it came out so good. Still not perfect and steamed but I guessed what the problem was and this year I confirmed it (my steamer and tons of condescension). Also, my dough didn’t want to stay closed (see the bottom left picture so I did it the quicker way and used a calzone press to easily cut them and seal them. Some of them still puffed open but not too bad. And they were still yummy even if my husband was sad about not having the traditional shape.

Remember when I was soaking the red beans? Funny (not really) story about that… I put the pan on the stove to boil. It wasn’t a rapid boil and I made sure there was plenty of water in the pot before I went upstairs to put Kaelyn down for a nap. 15 minutes later, I come downstairs and the pan is boiled dry. Not just a little bit either. It had burned my pan and I had to throw it out. I started to soak more beans and asked my husband to buy another pan on his way home. So much for getting the beans cooked the day before.

The red beans were for the baked nian gao which is basically glutinous rice flour and red bean paste. It looks like a brownie. And it shouldn’t. I have extra flour AND red beans (although yes, I have to cook them again), so I’ll be making this dish again because it was good despite the over-done outside part. Two things to remember for next time: use a bigger pan when cooking the dish (I used my 8×8 because it was available but the recipe called for a 9×9) and don’t refrigerate the bean paste.

I had a bowl of oranges out which the kids loved and had several of them.

We made baked egg rolls. The bowl is only part of the filling. There was meat in another container.

I don’t have a picture of the tomato beef chow mein which my parents made (but it was good!) or the wontons (which we prepared and then ended up not cooking them until the next day when it was only two of the four families around for dinner because we already had so much food from everything else) or the vegetable dish (because we had so much food we didn’t put it together) or the almond curd junket (I think that’s the right name–it was good and was a nice light dessert with some fruit).

Oh! And then there was my one single decoration. It’s kinda five decorations in one… I didn’t get the chance to hang them beforehand so my brother got a lesson in how to drill a hole in my ceiling in the spot I wanted. I have more pictures and a tutorial coming up for those Chinese lanterns. I’ll be keeping them up for a while because 1) I like them, 2) they’re colorful, and 3) I LOVE having something hung in the spot I chose them to hang in. Like I said, more pictures for another post.

All in all, I was standing in the kitchen with brief rest periods for about seven hours. Many thanks to my family who all came and had a good time! Preparing the food is such a huge portion of the celebration for us. Everyone helped. Except the little girls who watched Kung Fu Panda part of the time.

gung hay fat choy!

Soaking Red Beans

Did you know my family celebrates Chinese New Year? I know that it is really the Lunar New Year and that more ethnicity’s besides the Chinese celebrate it, but since we are part Chinese, we call it Chinese New Year.

This is how we celebrate. Find a day that works for everyone. Make food. Eat food.

Oh yeah, it’s an epic celebration!

So to up the ante this year, I decided to have a craft for the kids and some Chinese-type decorations. This post is about neither. We’re celebrating this Saturday and the decoration isn’t up yet. Yup, decoration singular. It’s a good start, right?

We went to check out one of the Asian markets. We hadn’t been yet (in two years!) and it was definitely time to. We walked the entire store and looked at everything. We’ll definitely be back.

Why we like Asian markets:

  • We can buy the rice we like for much cheaper than we can anywhere else.
  • We can buy a humongous thing of soy sauce (this was our first time–Jared said that now we’re really Asian)(if you don’t know Jared, he’s 100% white meat).
  • They had six different types of bok choy.
  • If I ever need a present for my family, that is where I will go.

But let’s move on to the topic of this post. Soaking Red Beans. I haven’t even mentioned red beans yet.

One of the items on my list was a can of mashed red azuki beans. If you are familiar with Asian food, you would know this as bean paste. Or the beginning of bean paste. I’m not actually certain if you can call it the same thing straight from the can. We couldn’t find it. But I did find dry red beans. I’ve cooked beans before. Once. Twice. Maybe twice… I do want to cook dry beans more so I can be comfortable with the execution. So I grabbed up the bag. Plus, how am I going to make the dish without the beans?

And so now I have a bag of red beans. I guess I’ll be cooking lots with them throughout the year. Why not? We like bean paste. This is just my first time trying it.

So I started with the first VERY difficult step. Soaking the beans.

Whew! That was hard. I need a break. (This picture makes them look the color of kidney beans–they are much more red in person)

Tomorrow: Make the bean paste. Prepare the pork. Two different dishes. I’ll have pictures next week!

Searching For The Perfect Rug

A few months ago, Jared and I started talking seriously about buying a couch and a rug for our family room. We have never purchased a rug before and furniture purchases isn’t much higher. We’ve bought some mattresses (no frames or headboards) and a glider (which I love). Which has been okay with us up to now. We rarely have people over. We can deal with broken and mismatched furniture. But after 4 1/2 years of marriage with broken and mismatched furniture, we are ready to take the plunge.

I can’t wait to see how the couch we picked out looks in our family room. I’ll tell the whole story about it when I have pictures to show you. We are waiting anxiously for the phone call that says they can deliver it. Anytime in the next week!!

But this post is about rugs.

Oh, rugs…

Ever since we decided to move forward with the big spending, we’ve looked at rugs. Sometimes together, sometimes separately. I was thrilled when Jared called me upstairs to his office to show me some rugs that he had found. He took an interest instead of the backseat! That’s when I knew that we really would be buying a rug. So exciting.

After looking over hundreds of rugs on several websites plus doing some looking in stores (while pacifying Kaelyn in the cart or letting her run free with her aunt), we were beginning to think it would take a long time to find THE RUG. That one is too gray. That one is too dark. That blue probably won’t match. Too traditional. Too stripy. Too… you get the picture. One of us didn’t like something and neither of us really loved any of them. Oh, the drama!

You feel that way too, right? If you’re going to spend money, let’s make sure that we love it. Especially because it’s a lot of money to not like something.

Tonight was the first night that I found a rug that I love. Super heart love! And Jared really likes it too. I thought he would dislike it on account of the color. He only commented on the color but once I assured him that it fit in with my whole vision for the room, he confessed that he really liked it too (even if he still doesn’t see how how it will all tie together).

And then I decided to keep looking and found another one we both really like but not quite as much as the first. I figure that we’re not actually ready to purchase it (but we can next month) so why not give us a few more options.

I know you’re dying to see what sort of rug I love with a super heart love. Check it out!

Isn’t it lovely?! It is light and bright. We haven’t been overly fond of these patterns but we really like this one and I couldn’t tell you why!

And here is rug #2.

Ha, totally different colors, right?? Yellow is another color I want in the room but I haven’t been too fond of the yellows I have been seeing. Jared usually doesn’t like geometric patterns and while he said “it is busy” he likes that it is light. And it doesn’t bother him too much.

Well, I’m off to look at some more rugs! Don’t you love it when you find something that just clicks for you?

UPDATE: I am sooo sad! I wanted to see some reviews for the green rug. Know what I found? The rug everywhere else is green & beige which is so dark looking instead of the wonderful bright green & ivory that I first saw. I have a question into the original site to confirm but my heart is already broken.