Monday, February 8, 2016

Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy Year of the Monkey!

Papercutting - originally designed by me in 2015, but created this year in larger quantities using Cricut

I started doing more Chinese New Year papercutting last year for David's family, and ever since having the Cricut, have been trying to use it more with my custom designs. It's a slow process so far, but getting better! You can see where the cricut snipped off one of the flower petals on the large flower :'(

This year I thought I'd also try my hand at making some more traditional CNY goodies:

 Mama Hu style

One of 3 that I made! 

八寶飯 with some nontraditional fillings - banana, almonds, golden raisins, and of course red bean paste

Normally this would have things like dates, gogi, lotus seeds, etc. But this combination is tasty too! 

I didn't have time to make 汤圆 this year, but I'm happy enough with the frozen variety :)

Next time, I'll work on more of the savories!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Life is like a Teacup

...To be filled to the brim and enjoyed with friends. 

And, I might add, paired with tasty munchies like stroop waffles.

Stroop waffles and one of my favorite Anthro mugs

(This is a picture-heavy post)

One of my all-time favorite things is afternoon tea.

I first had afternoon tea while I was studying abroad in London. Ever since, I've loved trying out different places, but going out for it can be expensive. I knew that I wanted to have a tea party for my birthday this year so I figured that maybe instead of going out, I could just hold one of my own.

Well, this idea circled around in my mind until it burst, and instead of just one, I ended up having two tea parties.

Tea and teacup collection

The Spread, Day 1: Zucchini bread, finger sandwiches, Irish Tea Cake, cookies and stroop waffles, apple rose tarts, cinnamon scones by my roommate Leigh. Not pictured: cheese platter, fruits

The Spread, Day 2: Zucchini bread, finger sandwiches, cookies and stroop waffles, fruit, apple rose tarts, cinnamon scones by my roommate Leigh. Not pictured: cheese platter with more than 10 pounds of cheese that friends brought, crepe cake

Finger sandwiches: tuna salad and cucumber, egg salad, salmon and cucumber, and cucumber sandwiches

Stroop waffles and LU milk chocolate cookies

There was definitely a lot of preparation that went into both, but I think it was a lot of fun and totally worth it! During my Clinton Crib days, I had the chance to help host several festivities with my housemates including a Mad Hatter Tea Party, an Election-themed Party, and more. I think those helped prepare me for hosting on my own. I also enjoy planning and putting things together, so figuring when and how to make everything was a logistical jigsaw puzzle that I had fun solving.

Other fun things - this also gave me a chance to try out some things that I've been wanting to do for a long time, like making a crepe cake, apple rose tarts, and giant paper flowers. And I got to use the Cricut to make a bunch of goodies!

Cake 1, Irish Tea Cake 

Cake 2, 26-layer vanilla crepe cake 

Apple rose tarts with cherry preserves

Giant tissue paper flowers

Paper teacup favor

Paper teacup favors

Design a teacup-nametag

I think the best part, though, was being able to celebrate with so many friends in such a personal way. I've thought for a while about how strange birthdays can be. Isn't it so strange that we usually celebrate by having others treat us? When really our birthdays are a remembrance of how blessed we already are and of how much others have given to us, whether that's family or mentors or friends? And perhaps another natural response, then, would be to give out to others in return as celebration? I definitely enjoy receiving gifts and getting treated to nice things, and I also understand and love that someone's birthday is a time to appreciate and celebrate how much they mean to you - but for me this year, it became a challenge to give rather than to just receive.

As much fun as it can be to go out to fancy places together, it was so precious to me that I was able to serve my friends in doing some of the things that I enjoy most.

Dearly beloved friends

Far and near, old and new

They're too cute! 

Some time ago, I wrote about how my family's house reminded me of dumplings - filled with love and joy. I can't help but think of it again. I hope that this house has been a dumpling house, and I hope that I can learn to grow more and more in helping to make one so.

Thank you, friends who could make it and friends who could not but celebrated with me nonetheless!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Minimalism May - A Recap

A month ago, I started on a journey

For me, there were two main reasons:
Personal, stemming from a conviction of materialism and poor stewardship,
and Practical, since I just have so many things and really don't need them all.

Basically, for each day of May, I tried to identify the same number of things to give, sell, or throw away that corresponded with the date of the month -- 1 item on May 1, 2 on May 2, and so on -- preferably things that can reused by others.

Well... 31 days later, it's complete! 

I've gathered a total of 496 things (technically, more than that since I grouped several of those together) for giving, donating, selling, and throwing. Of those, 44 were thrown away, and the remaining 452 I've either already sold or given away, or am preparing to do so very soon.

There were some days when it was really easy to find things, and even days that I charged ahead and set aside things that would hold me over for multiple days into the future. On the other hand, there were definitely days that I didn't think I would finish because I couldn't bear the thought of breaking into my stores of carefully collected of stuff... In fact, even though I did break into those hoards, I was still not able to part with many of those crafting materials that I originally mentioned!! Definitely a defeat in that respect...

Also I originally tried commit to not buying anything new in the month of May, but I need to confess: I acquired a used window AC unit and some clothing from a Memorial Day sale and swap, and I adopted some yarn from my roommate who moved out... To be fair though, I subtracted that number from my count and made sure to make it up by giving away extra! :X

Details aside... how do I feel now? 

I definitely feel a lot lighter. My closet is more organized. I actually know where everything is (since I've torn through and rearranged everything like a madwoman). I finally vacuumed the deep recesses of my room that I thought I would never get to. And, I actually feel like I could keep going!!

As much as I feel all cleaned out, I also know there is more that I could find if I were to have another go... After doing this exercise of literally unpacking everything from every storage space I have onto the floor or table or bed and meticulously going through them piece of piece, I can so easily see how much I have, and I so appreciate the overflowing abundance that God has blessed me with. It was very easy to acquire all these things since I'm such a packrat, but it was also surprisingly easy to admit and embrace the facts that, No, I really don't need to hold onto them, and Yes, I really would be happy for someone else to enjoy them.

I wish I could show you a picture of my pristine and meticulous house now, but in reality most of the stuff is still stored in large bags awaiting their final destination, wherever that will be. So basically it still looks messy. But I think that's part of the journey! To get somewhere, we may have to trudge through a whole bunch of chaos along the way. I think it was worth it.

So, what's next? 

I'd love for friends to come and take those things! There's lots of clothing, jewelry, barely worn shoes, accessories, office supplies, trinkets, etc etc etc. I'm hoping to host a get-together for just that!

Also, in the process of cleaning out the masses, I identified several pieces of clothing that I really like but wished were just a little bit different. So, I'm hereby starting a new project that I am calling:

Alterations June 

It doesn't really have a ring to it like Minimalism May... Any suggestions for a better name?? This is also an open invitation to join! In fact, Connie has already signed up to join me! Anybody else interested?? :)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Minimalism May

Annie and I are starting something new this May! Want to join us?? (Yes, of course you do!) 

An actual corner of my closet.

Our church is going through a series on generosity, and between that, recent conversations about living with less and giving away more, and the latest trends around minimalism and Marie Kondo, Annie and I thought it was timely to welcome Spring in (because in Boston, Spring is only just beginning!) with a little challenge of our own. Starting May 1st, we will try to give or throw something away each day of the month -- 1 item on May 1, 2 on May 2, and so on -- preferably things that can reused by others.

The original challenge that inspired
Annie found this call-to-action, and we changed the rules a bit to better match our goals and circumstances. We wanted to put some of what we're learning through our sermon series into practice, so we'll try to focus on how we can be more generous with our resources rather than just throwing things away for the sake of pruning (although I'm sure that will happen too!). We also thought that the "out by midnight" rule may be unrealistic for us at this time, so we'll be tracking our progress on Google Spreadsheets to keep accountable and arrange what to do with the things later.

BTW {disclaimer}, I'm not pursuing or advocating asceticism by any means - just following a personal conviction to hold onto less stuff. Very difficult for someone like me who just loves to have tubs (literally) of stuff "just in case", for "sentimental reasons", or "artistic inspiration", or that "someday-i'll-get-to-it-craft" (confession: I held onto a "someday-craft" gallon-size bag of PS/2 keyboard keys for YEARS - which of course never happened!)... I've actually been thinking for a long time about how easily I hoard and get tight-fisted over things, and especially over my time. One of my long-term goals is to learn to be more generous and more content with less. So as much as I'm NOT looking forward to parting with those precious "someday-crafts"and the like, I AM eager to take this challenge as part of my bigger goal, and hopefully in the process, learn to be more generous in other areas of my life as well.

Your turn! This is an open invitation for you to join us! You don't have to do exactly the same thing, but if you want to join, we can encourage each other to stay on track and even add you to our spreadsheet (if you want). Don't feel pressured to make up your mind right now either - you can think about it and start at any time. :) Whatever your personal convictions are, this can be a fun and challenging exercise to live with less, not to mention get a great kick off on that Spring cleaning if you haven't started already!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

New Beginnings

This past week was a whirlwind!

I had quit my job, traveled by plane and road-tripping to three different states, saw all of my family and some dear friends in the course of one week, and now am in Maine to begin orientation at my new work. I can't believe how fast it all went by! It has been a very sweet, full, and admittedly tiring week away, and although I am plumb tuckered out from the road tripping and jam-packed days from before, I am also eager and excited to begin a new chapter. 

Sweet goodbyes from coworkers!
Lobsters for the family!
Happy birthday to dad!
Skipos Reunion! Photo by Cat
Skipos! Photo by Cat
National Aquarium
Making new friends
Birthday celebrations in Baltimore

This is probably the earliest that I will be going to sleep since last week! And surprisingly I think that tonight has been the most restful and reflective night that I've had since starting my roadtrips. (Ok, I guess it's not that surprising if I had really thought about it...) 

Looking forward to new beginnings! 

Good night from Maine

Thursday, March 26, 2015

There is 3 in tres leches!

(but there are no tres leches in this post, sorry)

This past weekend marked three years for David and me. I can't believe how quickly three years have already gone by! He had planned a really lovely day-trip, but unfortunately we got snowed out that morning (and right after the Spring Equinox too).. Nevertheless, we got to celebrate! A few highlights - we made it to brunch at Zaftigs after a recently failed attempt (they are just too popular) and finally watched Despicable Me (him for the first time). We also got some tasty plates at The Butcher Shop for dinner, including The Most Delicious Steak (that we've ever had???) and a surprisingly delicious steak tartare (which I initially thought looked like Ragu...oops). By dinner time, the skies had cleared up and we were able to walk around to get some much-needed exercise (and froyo, of course). Hooray!!

Just before heading to dinner from the garage - it was finally clear!

Petite charcuterie. Can't remember what each thing was.. but they were tasty!

Steak tartare, pickled onions, and super buttery toast

The best steak we've ever had! I think it was "Wagyu"?

David also prepared another surprise for me - a Cricut Explore! I seriously couldn't believe it when he brought it in!! The Cricut is a super cool printer-type machine that can automatically cut out custom designs (and can draw them too)! I first learned about Cricut several years ago while designing wedding invitations for some friends. Since then, I'd entertained the thought of getting one several times but ultimately decided it was too much of a splurge. I even tried entering contests to win one, but to no avail (little did I know...)

It's a lot bigger than I imagined!

He took almost 80 pictures of me unboxing it, so of course I had to make a movie
(this does not include all 80 photos)

I've done papercutting for a while, starting around middle/high school. I took a little hiatus during college, resurfacing for little projects here and there, but I recently started doing more for fun and for friends/family. I've also been doing more wedding designs for friends, and (this is a secret, shh!!) have been contemplating opening up a store sometime in the future. David has always encouraged me to keep pursuing my dreams despite my own doubts and misgivings, and this gift pointed me again to exactly that. Thank you, David, for your patient and steady love, support, and mutual chiseling through these years -- Happy three years!!!

:D :D

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Knitting season and projects talk

We're finally getting to see some sidewalk (as well as leftover doggy poo from before-the-snow-storms) and snow-meltage here! We had a couple very warm deceptively hopeful days that caused this change, but Spring is not meant to be just yet... Even so, I take the recent rain and sidewalk reveal to mean that knitting season is almost over (ok, it's never over!! It's just harder to wear the things that I knit during the warmer months).

I finished a few more projects recently!

A pair of handwarmers for my roommate's birthday (one is slightly longer than the other... oops!)
Yet another cozy for my thermos to keep it super extra warm

I still have two more on my list, one already started and the other still in the sketchbooks, but I'm hoping to finish them before the Spring sets in so that maaaybe I can get one wear out of them before storing them away! One is a scarf, and the other is a Norwegian-star patterned earflap hat - probably one of the more ambitious projects for me right now since I haven't done much fair isle before. Ok, so that one might not be done before Spring begins...

In other making-things news since my last post:

blueberry mini cheesecakes (a little squished)
juggling pompoms
with 3d lettering
brioche scarf, a la Kei! 

The brioche scarf was directly copied from Kei's scarf :) It took me so long to finally finish! I think Kei's scarf is a lovelier shade of maroon, but I like this all the same! The brioche stitch makes it SO soft, plushy, stretchy, and warm.

All in all, it's been a pretty crazy month in general and I'm pretty shocked at how quickly it's already gone by! To be fair, February is a short month. Right now, if I were a student again, it would be Spring break! Too bad we don't get those anymore though... I guess that is what vacations are for?

For now, I'll keep jotting down some hopes and dreams for warmer weather, and madly try to finish the last of these on-hold projects in the meantime!