Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Have a merry season

Free printable from Simple as That

Just a note to wish all my friends and readers a Merry Christmas! Hope you are enjoying the holidays. I surely am.

Talk to you again, after the new year.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

All set for the invasion?

Found an old IKEA commercial on the "terror" of holiday guests descending from out of town. Nice one.

I'll be going away to be with family and much needed r&r from tomorrow till the year end. I imagine there will be loads of eating, talking, laughing and cooking. Love that! How will you be spending your Christmas holidays? 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pretty gift box toppers that are so easy to make

It's a small miracle: I am almost done with Christmas shopping and am starting to wrap the gifts. Woot! No more mad rush and paper cuts the night before Christmas.

Seriously, it does feel good to get the shopping done and not fight with the throng of last minute shoppers. And now that I've started prettying up the gifts, I realise I don't hate gift wrapping as much as I thought I did. I must admit that it feels good to give (and receive) a pretty gift, not a "what's that mummified thing in gold paper?"

So for the 3 of the most darling women in my life, I sure hope they'll enjoy receiving these.

Sweet, aren't they?

The gift toppers are made from cupcake liners I have left over from the Christmas ornaments project

In the boxes are these adorable jars of hand cream from The Face Shop. Cute as pie.

Friday, December 7, 2012

I made my Christmas ornaments from cupcake liners

I have a tiny tree, about 2 feet high and it is made of wires. Not quite like the live trees in IKEA but for my small apartment, an unconventional tree works much better. I was getting rather bored with the gold ISIG ornaments I bought a few years ago and was contemplating getting some new ones. IKEA's Christmas range this year is very tempting (which is fast running out, a little bird told me) but I wanted to do something different.

Then while searching for inspiration, I came across this gorgeous wedding pom-pom garland made from cupcake liners. I thought, surely the idea will work for ornaments too. So the experiment began.    

- Cupcake liners: I used the JULKUL from IKEA (RM9.90 for 200 pieces in 2 different sizes. They have it in grey too) You will need about 12 - 16 liners per pom-pom, depending on how dense you want it to be.
- Ribbons or other embellishments
- Craft glue
- Nylon string (I used a thin fishing line)
- Needle
- Scissors

Flatten each cupcake liner and fold it in half, with the wrong side facing out. You should end up with fan like thingies. Then apply glue on one half of the liner and paste a second liner on top of it. Do try to get the frilly edges to match up but if they don't, it's not a big deal. It won't be too noticeable when you fluff it out.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

My review of the ODDJob tool + Giveway

I do quite a bit of tinkering around the house. Nothing major. Just a nip and tuck, here and there which may not require me lugging out the big guns aka my power tools. So I was pretty happy when I was sent a set of the Odd Job tool by Crescent for review.

It's touted as 11 tools in 1. Needless to say, I was excited about this nifty little thing because ever since MacGyver and his Swiss Army knife, I've always like multi-tasking tools. Besides, I had just the "odd job" that I could apply the tool to.

After fighting with the plastic packaging for about 2 minutes, I held this baby in my hand. It felt heavy and sturdy, which is a good thing. Not flimsy or plasticky. Definitely looked more expensive than the $19.97 price tag (as found on Amazon).

Read the rest of the review and details of the giveaway after the jump.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The start of Christmas shopping at IKEA

There's no such thing as a white Christmas where I live. Brown is more likely. Most days it will be green. Scorching hot. Then a thunderstorm. Like now. That's the formula for high levels of humidity, I tell you. Heavy and sticky. It turns you into a hog. And not a cute one.

But a few days ago, I had as close to a white Christmas as I will ever get living near the Equator. At IKEA. Where else? Every year, I do make it a point to check out their Christmas ornaments and decor because they always make me feel happy. The promise of peace, joy and good tidings to all men.

On that trip, I was lucky enough to not fall for every bauble and bling, and inflict myself with lots of painful ka-ching. I escaped almost unscathed except with a poinsettia (I can't resist red, did I tell you?) and some goodies for handmade ornaments, (which I hope to share with you next week.) 

The IKEA blue bag (it is usually called FRAKTA but I don't know why the small one says BRATTBY on the label) makes a good wrapper for the poinsettia plant, if you're planning to give away a "green" gift. The blues does make the red leaves pop up so much more. Tie a ribbon round the base to tuck the excess material and there you have it.

You could add a small card with a special message for the recipient and "care instructions" for your little bloom of a gift.

December is just a bend away. I wish you days of love, good company and lots of wise shopping.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Japan top 5

It's been 12 days since leaving Japan but I am still missing the Ohaiyo Gozaimasu's everywhere I turn, the crazy labyrinth of subway and trains, and the waterfall 'music' in the lady's room. A friend remarked when I was gushing over my trip, "You've really fallen in love with Japan, huh?" Yes, I admit. Hard.

There is so much to say about Japan but let me just list 5 of my favourite spots from my trip.

1. Nakamise Street, Tokyo
It is one of the oldest shopping areas in Tokyo, with a eye boggling array of stalls from mobile phone trinkets to kimonos to ice-cream buns, all the way leading to the Sensoji Temple. But what caught my attention were the small streets off the main thoroughfare. Definitely a quieter, less crowded area to browse, with more interesting material, and a lot less tourist souvenirs. Love the drawings on the some of the shop front grills too.

2. Gion, Kyoto
It's the most famous of geisha districts. We had an amazing time walking its streets, peeking into houses and just soaking in the elegant, traditional atmosphere. With the high concentration of traditional wooden machiya merchant houses, no wonder Gion is a hit with tourists and shutter bugs.

At first, I thought the houses were really small, judging from the slim entrances but later learnt that due to the fact that property taxes were formerly based upon street frontage, the houses were purposely built that way. A narrow front but it could extend up to twenty meters in from the street. Small mouth, big belly.

In Kyoto, you must also visit the celebrated Kiyomizudera (Pure Water Temple).

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ohayo Gozaimasu Tokyo!

Photo: MADDUX99

Yes, for the next 9 days I will be in the land of sashimi and pachinkos. Can you tell, I am super excited? Japan has always been on my bucket list, probably ever since ... Ultraman. The hours of my childhood spent watching him trounce bad asses in lizard rubber suits with terrible fit, motor skills and a super long zip at the back. How fun! It was so uncomplicated then.   

Anyways, the reality is that there is just too many awesome places/things to go/see/do in Tokyo and I only have two full days in the city that kisses the sun. (Before I make my way to Kyoto and Osaka.) What are the absolute must-sees? If you have any suggestions, please, please let me know. Arigatou gozaimasu.

Photo: h185555
Photo: m24instudio

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday yellow and blues

One of the best things about running IKEAHackers is that when others go to work, I go to IKEA. And I always prefer to go on a Monday. Why? There are a gazillion times fewer people. No queue at the cafe or the wee room. Just peace and quiet. On Mondays, it is almost therapeutic to be at the "yellow & blue".

The mission of today's outing was simple - to spot any hacks at IKEA. This was inspired partly by the new 2013 catalogue where I saw a few "hacks" of sorts. So I was itching to see if they did any at the store.

It started at the cafe. Needed the coffee (and a meal, which was a rather unsatisfactory fried rice with chicken wings. Okay, the wings were tasty - tender and juicy but the rice, meh. Stick to meatballs.)

I was happy to see the new PS range. Interesting but nothing in this year's range caught my fancy. Except maybe the bench. But a big maybe.

Then, hah. I see a hack. A BILLY with fabric backing (see my tutorial) and magazine holders made pretty with fabric. I must say that I am quite infatuated with the TRÅDKLÖVER fabric. Looks lovely in a frame too.

Next. Spotted LOBBO shades in new clothes. What's interesting is the use of different fabrics on the outer and inner sides of the shade. Gives a touch of surprise when you peek under.

Lastly, saw a smart use of the BYGEL rail. Makes a slim "shelf" for things you need to reach for all the time. Love the idea.

And that's it. A very short round-up of hacks at the store. Did you spot any at your IKEA store?

Friday, September 21, 2012

A taste of Peranakan decor

A trip up to Penang island last weekend rekindled my interest in Peranakan design. I've always been a little intrigued by the Peranakan, or Straits Chinese, lifestyle. The Peranakan seem to have squeezed the best out of the Malay-Chinese-European culture and blended them into a unique identity - with their own customs, dressing, jewellery, furniture and amazing design sense.

A little about the Peranakans...
They are found mainly in the countries of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. In Malaysia, the Peranakan community started in the early 15th century in the trading ports of Malacca and Penang. Men from China who came to trade soon began marrying the local women and began incorporating some of their culture into their own. In time, they came to be know as the Peranakan, a Malay word which means, "to give birth to". A Peranakan man is often referred to as 'Baba' and a lady as 'Nyonya'. So if you see a restaurant with the word "Nyonya Food" - it means they serve Peranakan cuisine. But that's another story. We're here to peek into gorgeous Peranakan designs and why I am starting to love them more and more.

1. Geometric designs
In Peranakan houses, the default flooring is tiles - as it is cool under the feet, very suitable for the hot humid tropical weather. But you'll not see any boring homogenous tiles. Peranakan tiles are aplomb with colour and motifs.

In the above 3 photos, the tiles are recreated Peranakan tiles by a Malaysian company called Terracotta. Very nice. I would love to have a tiled splashback for the bathroom.

[Arthur Zaaro]
Arthur Zaaro gives it a modern twist. If you have the tiles, give it a try on a Lack side table.

Friday, September 14, 2012

My 10 minutes

The Malaysian Women's Weekly wanted to feature me in their story about women with quirky hobbies. "Quirky? What do you mean quirky? Doesn't everybody hack their IKEA?"

Nevertheless, the vain pot in me couldn't pass up the chance to be in a glossy mag. So I said yes. I've done a number of press interview ever since IKEA Hackers started, but photo shoots ... well, I've only done one.

I wished I had read Danielle La Porte's "how to look hot in a photo" tips before the flash lights went off. It is hard work to smile. For like 100 shots. Really. To pose like I'm not posing. And. Suck. In. Tummy.

I wish, but no, this isn't me.

I'm on page 185, the September issue!
Here I am in my apartment, with my trusty Bosch driller thriller. And beside me is a Frosta side table I hacked, based on this one, spray painted red.

Thanks Zai, Raymond and the crew for making it a fun day for me.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pear soup for a blogger's soul

When I first started working from home, I used to get so wrapped up with my work that I would forget to eat. Then I would get so hungry and grab whatever junk I could find in my larder which most often is a packetful of excitotoxins like instant noodles. Evil stuff.

But I've learnt to take better care of myself now. So when I know I have a heavy schedule coming up, I make soup. As my mom always says, "even if you don't eat, you must drink a few spoonfuls of soup." Soup, to me, is nourishing and oh-so-yummy. And for a lazy "chef" like me who doesn't want to spend too much time dicing and slicing, making soup is cinch.

I made a potful of Pear in Snow Fungus soup today. Just slurped it for dinner and I should have enough to last me another 3 meals, at least, if I can resist gulping it all down.

I know the name 'snow fungus' is a turn off. Like some bad case of mold in the basement. But, it is actually quite a pretty coral looking thing. (Note to self: I must remember to take photos of ingredients) It's been used by the Chinese for more than 2,000 years and is believed to nourish the Qi and remove dryness and heat from the body, specially if you have a dry cough or chapped lips. Wonderful for hot summer days! (Or in my case, after a weekend of curry and sunshine). When paired with ingredients like pears or papayas, it turns into a flavoursome delight. Read on for the recipe.

Friday, August 31, 2012

How to hide your cutting mat in 30 minutes

I work with paper quite a bit. And the cutting mat is my best friend. While I love how useful it is, it doesn't look pretty. Thus far, I've always just left it on my craft table because I loath having to search for tools when my DIY bug bites. After rummaging through boxes and drawers and getting hot and bothered, my motivation nose dives and I'd rather be sipping a latte instead. When tools are accessible, it just makes it so much easier to start, don't you think? A place for everything, as Momma always said.

Then there is the problem of my craft area - looking kinda sad. Bare and forlorn. It's still a work in progress, slowly progressing ...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lampan lamp gets a retro shade

Photo: IKEA.com
The Lampan lamp.
At less than $5, it's one of those things that you just mindlessly stuff into the blue bag. It's just too cheap to pass over.

I don't deny the Lampan is kinda cute and I like its simplicity quite a bit. My only gripe is it doesn't offer much flexibility. You only have the base in white, black or red and white cone shade, black cone shade, red cone shade. Cone shade. You're stuck. Unless you're handy with a drill or like to mess with fabric and glue.

I didn't like either.

So, I created a new paper shade for it. Part of the inspiration struck when I saw this paper shade and I thought its onion shape would make a bulb look fab. (Onion, bulb, get it? Or is it a lotus?)

Only teensy problem was there wasn't a template for the shade. Not one to give up once the DIY bug got hold of me, I got into cutting mode and used up a stack of recycled paper before I finally got the right cuts. (Let me know in the comments if you'll like the template. If there is enough demand, I'll put it down on a pdf.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Billy, I've got your back

Tic toc.

It all started with a clock. An old wind up clock my father left me. I've never really found a place to properly display it. But finally, it's time has come and it softly chimed to me that it FREAKING WANTED ITS OWN DISPLAY SPACE. DONG DONG DONG DONG. Okay, okay, I got it.

So, I shook off the inertia and bought a short Billy bookcase. I already have a tall and short Billy, both almost 10 years old. This new one will go on top of the old stumpy one. And since I was going to fuss about my Billies, I decided a new back might do the trick to update them. Ironically, it was to be an update to make the new one look old, if that makes any sense.

The goal was to give the Billy an old world charm to match the clock. I went through all of IKEA Malaysia's range of textiles, twice over, including bed linens, curtains and anything I could put a pair of scissors through. This really was the hardest part - deciding on the fabric. Should I go for something uniform like the TVÅBLAD CIRKEL or free flowing like the MALIN VÅG? Should the colours pop or be muted? Would the back be too loud and clash with the display items? You can picture it in your mind but it never comes out quite 100% the way you imagined it.  

Finally, in the third round of the fight of the fabrics - the BRITTEN NUMMER won me over. It seemed appropriate. It had the whole words + books thing going on and handwriting reminiscent of pre-email days. I bought 1.5 metre of fabric and got to work.

First, assemble the Billy bookcase frame, leaving the back out. I draped the fabric over it just to eye it before I commit. It looks like its going to work. Yay.

Then, iron the fabric. You don't want a crinkly looking back.

Set the fabric right face down and place the Billy back on top of it. Make sure the words are facing the right way. The Billy back has an arrow pointing upwards. Cut the fabric with about 2 inches of excess.

There are many ways to adhere the fabric to the Billy back board. You could use glue or staples but I decided to do it the super easy way - masking tape. Duct tape would work too.

Then it's just like wrapping a present. Tape down the right side of the fabric. Pull the fabric taut and tape the left side. I cut out the excess and made envelope corners. Tape down the top and bottom.

Carefully slot the covered back board into the groove for it. The groove is rather narrow. So if you're using a thicker fabric, it may be a problem. As you push it in, the fabric may bunch up a little, so jig it up and down slowly to ease it in and minimize the fabric bunching up. Nail the bottom, as per the Billy assembly instruction. And the back is set.

Then, place the two shelves in the Billy. I replaced one of the wood shelves with a glass one and clipped on an OLEBY battery operated light to give the clock some lime light. 

Stand back and eye it. Little fabric, big difference.

Lastly, the decorating fun begins.

Two short Billies become one tall one. I've intentionally left the plinth out of the assembly to create a narrow space between the two Billy bookcases. I will probably slot two trays into it to stowaway craft materials and tools. Another yet to-do is to lock the two Billy bookcases together with brackets. That's for another day.

I am still curating the items on the bookcase. It's not quite working yet but for the sake of shooting some photos (before I put it off), I just threw together some stuff. I'm learning that it is not easy to achieve the perfect balance. The Centsational Girl offers an analysis of a well-styled bookcase. Good stuff. And did you know there are 7 ways to stack your books? I didn't.

Hope you liked this super easy way to update your Billy's back. Besides fabric, you can also use lace and a can of spray paint or wallpapers too. And if you have excess fabric, the BRITTEN NUMMER makes a pretty wall art too.

What have you done to update the look of your Billy bookcases? Tell me in the comments below.

P.S. I took some of these photos before I set the Billy back into the groove, just to be doubly sure the fabric work with the items. You'll see the groove towards the back of the Billy.

Disclosure: I was not compensated by IKEA Malaysia for this post but was provided with the fabrics to complete this tutorial. The choice of fabric and what to do with it was entirely up to me. Their range of textiles are available here.