Thursday, December 19, 2013

Jump ring bracelet - 100% thrift store inspired!

linmakingthings, beads, bracelet, jump ring, jewelry, eco-friendly, thrift store, DIY, accessory, Value Village

I have to credit my favourite thrift/beading supply store for this clever and incredibly simple DIY. I bought this cute blue ombre plastic bead necklace from Value Village for $1.99, which is a steal considering how many beads there are on this one necklace. On my next visit I saw this interesting little bracelet made all out of jump rings. I didn't purchase the bracelet because it wasn't entirely to my taste but I took a picture of it so that I can replicate it with my own choice of beads. The project was so much fun and easy to make that I made several in one sitting!

linmakingthings, beads, bracelet, jump ring, jewelry, eco-friendly, thrift store, DIY, accessory, Value Village
This is, by far, the easiest jewelry I've made; it didn't need any chains, wires, or crimps. All I used were jump rings in 2 sizes, clasps and beads. If you're a beginner, I would recommend starting with this project to get a hang of handling jump rings and tools like pliers.

Check out the tutorial on how to make this jump ring bracelet.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Puzzle trinket box - from repurposed photo frame protective corners

linmakingthings, photo frame, cardboard, DIY, toy, puzzle, trinket, upcycle, repurpose, washi tape

Here's a quick little DIY you can make in about fifteen minutes or less. I repurposed 4 cardboard corners and decorated them with some washi tape and dollar store alphabet stickers. As usual, I've had these photo frame cardboard corners in my scrap box for a while before I discovered what I can do with them.

linmakingthings, photo frame, cardboard, DIY, toy, puzzle, trinket, upcycle, repurpose, washi tape

The four corners fit into each other quite nicely like a puzzle, but one simple enough for my five-year-old niece Zara to solve. Plus, since the puzzle forms a box, I decided to store a little surpirse in it for her!

linmakingthings, photo frame, cardboard, DIY, toy, puzzle, trinket, upcycle, repurpose, washi tape

I added the alphabet stickers so she can disassemble the puzzle and spell her name.

linmakingthings, photo frame, cardboard, DIY, toy, puzzle, trinket, upcycle, repurpose, washi tape

Check out the photo tutorial if you'd like to see how I made this quick but ingenious little DIY!

P/S: I also made a trinket box for my little niece Dina with a used plastic box. Here it is:

linmakingthings, photo frame, cardboard, DIY, toy, puzzle, trinket, upcycle, repurpose, washi tape

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Miso udon - a warm and hearty noodle soup, Japanese style!

linmakingthings, miso, udon, vegetarian, recipe, Japanese, oyster mushrooms, Asian, umami

As I've warned you before, my udon obsession has just started. I had this miso udon at a cafetaria a while back and I thought it was the perfect comfort food - vegetarian, warm broth, hearty noodles and rich umami flavour. As with most of my recipes, this one takes less than fifteen minutes to cook with minimal preparation.

There are different types of miso - white miso, red miso - and it's made by fermenting soy beans. Miso is relatively salty with a rich back-of-the-pallet flavour which I can best describe as umami. Miso has also been claimed as a superfood; it's rich in protein and the fermentation process fills the miso with live, healthy bacteria. As such, miso shouldn't be overcooked; rather, most recipes I looked at required turning off the heat before finally adding miso.

linmakingthings, miso, udon, vegetarian, recipe, Japanese, oyster mushrooms, Asian, umami

I postponed making this for over a week because I forgot to buy kombu flakes, which I need in order to make dashi stock, which I need to make miso soup. But then I took a closer look at the packaging and I realized that the miso paste I bought already had dashi in it. According to one website, dashi type miso is the best way to make authentic miso soup. Problem solved! So, if you're a beginner like me, I would advice getting dashi type miso and save yourself the extra step of making dashi stock.

linmakingthings, miso, udon, vegetarian, recipe, Japanese, oyster mushrooms, Asian, umami

Miso udon is generally served with just some nori, spring onions and tofu. I wanted to make this into a proper meal so I added some oyster mushrooms and kai lan. If you've never seen oyster mushrooms, this is what they look like:

linmakingthings, miso, udon, vegetarian, recipe, Japanese, oyster mushrooms, Asian, umami

Gorgeous, right? Of course, you can include any kind of vegetables you like but remember to adjust your cooking time to make sure everything cooks evenly. I would recommend leafy greens like spinach or broccoli rabe, and enoki mushrooms and bean sprouts.

Continue reading for the full recipe.

Tea towel jumbo tote bag - 100% repurposed materials!

Hang on to your pants because today's DIY is a triple threat!  This tea towel tote is made from three fabrics that all repurposed/recycled: a tea towel, an old bedsheet and some leftover fabric.

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I love tote bags for the obvious reason that it's the environmentally friendly alternative to plastic bags. They can also be easily folded and stuffed into my purse when I'm hurrying out the door. Plus, having all your shopping in one bag is so much more convinient than hefting half a dozen paper or plastic bags! I used to feel weird when I started refusing plastic bags during checkouts but now I feel quite confident telling the cashier, "I don't need a bag, thank you,"especially when I whip out my well-worn canvas tote bag. The one I'm using right now is at least 3 years old; it's tremendously gratifying to think about all the plastic I've avoided using with just one single bag!

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I must have browsed a dozen tutorials on how to sew a tote bag. I got even more excited when I realized I have materials I can repurpose into a bag. The tea towel is a mystery in that it's one of those things that's been laying about the house and no one in my family is 100% sure where it came from. We believe my brother bought it on an impulse (albeit, a weird impulse) during one of his trips to downtown Toronto, but we have yet to confirm that. The bedsheet is an old one from my own bed. The colour has gone from pale blue to even paler lifeless blue so I replaced it with a new one (in the exact same colour, I now realize...); but still, I couldn't bring myself to simply throw away all that fabric so I decided to dice it up and use as lining material. I wanted a jumbo-sized tote bag so I extended the height of the bag with some fabric, also from my scrap box. The extension fabric is actually from an old sarong and the tartan-like motif happened to match my tea towel quite perfectly.

tea towel, tote bag, DIY, tutorial, upcycle, repurpose, linmakingthings

Note: I took the extra step of sewing box corners for this bag; box corners give the bag dimension and a flat bottom, which I think is necessary for a bag this size. But it is optional and you can skip it if you like (Sew4home has detailed instructions on sewing boxed corners here).

tea towel, tote bag, DIY, tutorial, upcycle, repurpose, linmakingthings

 Read on after the jump for the full picture tutorial.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Jazzed up veggie sandwich

honey mustard, pickled ginger, Japanese, vegetarian

Toasted fresh veggie sandwich with honey mustard and pickled ginger. How does that sound? Delish, I know. I love fresh veggie sandwiches because they're easy to make and can be quickly customized to suit your tastebuds. There's an infinite number of ways you can tweak the flavours with different breads, spreads, vegetables and relishes. My mom bought pickled ginger a while ago - the type you get with your sushi - and I've been experimenting with it as a topping. I found that it complements the mellow mozzarella and sweet honey mustard perfectly.

If you love sandwiches (like me!) and you're looking to try new flavours, give this combination a try!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Easy stir-fried udon, udon, stir-fry, vegetarian, Japanese

Confession: this may be the start of yet another food obsession. I had udon in miso soup at an Asian supermarket's cafetaria a few weeks ago and I was absolutely smitten. The broth was simple and loaded with rich umami flavour and the fat udon noodles did a great job of carring the flavors. Plus the weather was pretty cold that day so some warm noodle soup felt just perfect!

Udon noodles are made from wheat and they come in several forms - dry, partially cooked or frozen. I opted for partially cooked udon, which can be thrown in straight into the pan without prior cooking or thawing. I whipped up an experimental batch with beef and oyster mushrooms when we had guests last week - which was quite a gamble! - but they turned out great. So tonight I decided to make some with egg tofu and gai lan (Chinese greens which resemble broccoli rabe but not at all bitter). I added the egg tofu for protein but it's optional - you can substitute it with regular tofu or skip it altogether. I must warn you, though, that egg tofu is quite delicate so handling it might take some extra effort., noodles, recipe, vegetarian, Japanese
As usual, this is a really easy dish to make. You can customize the veges and proteins according to your liking and no special skills are required besides chopping. With only a handful of ingredients,  you'll have a hot plate of noodles in less then 20 minutes!

Read on after the jump for the full recipe.

Easy stir-fried udon with egg tofu and gai-lan
2 packets of cooked udon
1 tube of egg tofu, cut into 1/4" pieces
1/4 cup shredded cabbage
1/4 cup sliced sweet bell peppers
5-6 stems of gai-lan
1 tbs light soy sauce
1 tbs sweet soy sauce
pepper to taste
2 tbs oil and extra for frying tofu, Japanese, udon, vegetarian, recipe

1. Wash and drain gai-lan. Separate the leaves from the stems. Place the leaves in a stack and chop in half. Slice the stems into 1/4" lengths.
2. In a small pan, heat about 1/2" of oil over medium-high heat. Fry egg tofu slices until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.
3. In a medium skillet, add the 2 tablespoons of oil and bring to medium-high heat. Add all vegetables except gai-lan leaves. Stir-fry until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes.
4. Add noodles, gai-lan leaves, light soy sauce, sweet soy sauce and pepper. Stir well to combine for about 3 minutes. Turn off heat, adjust seasoning if necessary, add fried egg tofu and stir gently to distribute. Serve hot.

Serves 2-3 people.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Woven Ribbon-wrapped Bangles

linmakingthings, ribbon, woven ribbon, ribbon wrapped, DIY, jewelry, accessory

I'm not over the craze of upcycling thrifted plastic bangles, apparently. I usually go to thrift stores to get my fresh supply of vintage beads but, nowadays, plastic bangles are the first things I see. Like my Embroidery Thread Wrapped bangles project, this one took only three materials and about fifteen minutes to make.

linmakingthings, ribbon, woven ribbon, ribbon wrapped, DIY, jewelry, accessory

I already had a duo-toned ribbon on hand but you can opt to use two different coloured ribbons. The bangles came in a set of three for just $1.99. Altogether, I estimate the cost of these bangles came to about $5.00. Awesome, right? Check out the full picture tutorial if you'd like to give this a try.

linmakingthings, ribbon, woven ribbon, ribbon wrapped, DIY, jewelry, accessory

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fennel au gratin

Winter is here! Well, the first snow fall is, at least. I woke up this morning to a flurry of snowflakes and immediately thought, "Comfort food time!" Although it's now bright and sunny again, I could still use some cheering up and there's a fennel waiting in my fridge, so fennel au gratin it is. Nothing says warm and comforting better than something cheesy and baked. Anything au gratin is fine by me but - and this might not be everyone's cup of tea - I personally love fennel because it's slightly fiberous and aniseed-y in flavour. This dish takes a little bit of effort and TLC but I always feel it's worth it by the time I'm bundled up in a blanket on the couch with a warm plate of gratin and hot mug of tea. Mmmm.

Read on after the jump for the recipe!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tomato Salsa with Calamansi Orange


I've been told that this is pico de gallo, but after researching various ways of making pico de gallo, I can assure you that this isn't pico de gallo. I'm not sure how this came about but my family calls this "salsa" although, after researching various ways of making salsa, this is certainly not salsa either. Nevertheless, it is one of my family's favourite side dishes. I first came across this recipe in a food/travel show on Discovery channel hosted by Padhma Lakshmi. She was visiting a papadum factory and at the end of the show, they served this concoction as a simple way to enjoy papadums. 

This recipe is exactly the same one I saw in that episode - it's so easy and simple that I didn't even need a pen and paper to write it down. All it takes is prepping the ingredients, chopping them and mixing everything together.

I used calamansi oranges because they're a little sweeter and more fragrant, but you can use any kind of lime juice you have on hand. This salsa is also really dynamic - you can serve it alongside savoury rice dishes like biryani or pilau, or as dips for papadums, chips or nachos.

Alternatively, you can spoon the salsa onto nacho chips, sprinkle grated cheddar overtop, place them under the broiler for 3-4 minutes and serve on a platter.

Continue reading after the jump for the super easy recipe.

Zucchini Fritters with Dill Yoghurt Dip

So my obsession with zucchinis continues! If you don't know already, I LOVE zucchinis (see proof here and here). It's been a month since I last posted a recipe with zucchini, so this recipe is inevitable.

This time around, we're going Greek. I love the idea of vegetable fritters for the crunch factor. Research has shown that crunchy food makes our brain perceive them to taste better. That's why potato chips are full of air pockets and are always too big for a single bite - that way you'll always need to break them into smaller pieces to fit into your mouth and hear the crunch. Do you ever notice how it's hard to stop at just one chip?

Anywho, crunchy chips aside, there's no way I can stop at just one zucchini fritter either. If you take care to make really thin fritters, they'll come out beautifully crispy. It's also important to get rid of as much moisture as possible. You can simply squeeze the shredded zucchinis in a tea towel or take the extra step - salt them, let sit for about 15 minutes and strain well. Most zucchini fritter recipes I found didn't require feta, so that's a personal preference. Just remember to adjust how much salt you use depending on how salty the cheese is.

Get the full recipe after the jump.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Oktoberfest and birthday cards

October is always special for my family because my niece, my brother-in-law, my dad and my brother all have birthdays one after another in this month. That usually calls for an abundance of birthday cards and presents to make in October and I'm always in search for fresh ideas. I always believe that presents don't have to be expensive, shiney and flashy to be meaningful; something made personally and marked with imperfections are worth more than anything to me because they come from the heart. Browsing through craft blogs is a great way to get your creative juices going, but this year I found my inspiration in the very people for whom I'm making these cards. Here are the two birthday cards:

Since my niece Dina is only three, I wanted to make something that she could identify and relate to easily. According to my sister, one of Dina's favourite movies at the moment is Up. I came across a card with a picture of the famous flying house from "Up". It had a pretty close representation of the house, with intricate architectural details of the windows, doors, verandah, etc. I don't have the tools or the skills neccessary to replicate such details, but I figured a tilted house with balloons coming out of its chimney is close enough.

Since this a really small collage, most of my materials came from remnant cardstock. The bonus part is the balloons - I didn't have cardstock in the colours I need, so I punched them out of colourful magazine pages. Pretty nifty, right?

My brother-in-law, on the other hand, sports a mustache and a pair of geeky glasses, so this is what I made for him:

I Googled images of glasses and mustaches (most of which came with a nose) and scaled them to size in a Word doc. Then I printed them on plain paper, pasted them onto cardstock and cut out the shapes. To get the faux-3D effect, I simply layered foam double-sided tape for extra height.

For the letterings, I simply typed them up in a Word doc and estimated their location on the card. It would be a good idea to test-print them on paper to make sure you're happy with the location before printing on your cardstock.

So there you go - two simple greeting cards inspired by the people I'm giving them to. Who needs Hallmark, right?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Vanilla Coffee Granola

I was going to start this post with a little rant on how crazy busy I've been for the last few weeks, but let's just skip ahead to the good stuff, shall we? Question: what does coffee-vanilla-granola spell? Breakfast, of course!

I used to eat a lot of Uncle Toby's granola bars as a kid and I've recently become a fan of granola of again. They're really great for breakfast on the go because I can just pop a few chunks in a ziplock bag and munch on them during my commute. All that crunchy fibrous oats tell me I'm getting a good start to my day. If you use complex sugars as sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and dates, you'll get a slow release of energy throughout the day, which is perfect for those I'm-too-busy-for-long-lunches days. Plus, you can custom fit your granola recipes to fit your palette by using your choice of grains, nuts, dried fruits and even chocolate! Finally - and here's the part I like most - granola recipes are almost fail-proof. There are no complicated maneuvers or skills necessary; all you do is measure, mix, bake and break.

This recipe was inspired by Vegetarian Ventures' Vanilla Bean Espresso Granola recipe. What I've made is basically a poor-student-on-a-budget version of that recipe: I used vanilla extract instead of vanilla beans and instant coffee mix instead of espresso. Out of personal preference, I opted for olive oil rather than coconut oil, which I'm sure has a higher cholestrol content. I also used dried shredded coconut from a Middle Eastern grocery store which is a little darker in colour and still has bits of its brown husk. I like that better because it's less processed than the pristine-white (possibly bleached) shredded coconuts you get from giant supermarkets.

If you like loose granola with your milk, yoghurt or ice cream, then you need to bake for 15 minutes, stir and bake for another 10 minutes. To make chunks like mine, press your mixture down firmly to make a compact layer in your pan, then bake for 25 minutes straight. Be sure to let it cool completely before breaking the granola into chunks. Otherwise they'll crumble into little pieces and you might burn your fingers (duh!).

I experimented with using egg white to help the granola clump better but it took a little bit more work to get everything sufficiently crispy. The granola turned out just as chunky without the egg white so I'd suggest skipping the extra work.

My favorite way to enjoy this Vanilla Coffee Granola is by making a yoghurt parfait. Simply layer yoghurt, granola and fruit or berries. I didn't have either on hand so I dolloped some jam and drizzled some honey for sweetness. The tangy bite of the yoghurt, the deep hum of coffee, the sweetness of fruit/jam/honey, the crunch of grains and nuts - seriously, that's a heavenly mix of flavours and textures!

Get the full recipe after the jump!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Personalized Tees

Got some plain ol' tees? Want to give them some personalized touch? Well check out what my sister a.k.a. crafty-momma Nani did with her little girls' T-shirts in her first guest post. With just five things, she added a personalized design to mark their ages and jazz up a couple of plain T-shirts. No special skills required!

Full DIY after the jump.

Personalized Tees

Plain T-shirts
Acrylic paint - white or a contrasting colour to your T-shirst

Sponge brush
Design template
A pice of cardboard

1. Print and cut out your choice of design to be used as a template. I chose a leaf shape with the number three cut out of its center and a 12-petal floral shape with the number five.

2. Place the piece of cardboard inside your T-shirt to stop the paint from seeping to the back layer of the shirt.

3. Place your T-shirt on a flat surface. Position your template on your T-shirt and press down firmly to set it in place. Optionally, you can pin the template to your shirt with a few straight pins to stop it from moving around while you paint.

4. Dab your sponge brush in a little paint, remove access and dab it onto your T-shirt. Fill in the areas on your template accordingly.  Remember NOT to use too much paint or your design will be stiff and crack once it's dry. Use just enough paint to cover your design areas.

5. When you've filled in the areas of your design, remove your template but keep the cardboard piece inside the shirt. Let dry for 24 hours.

6. Turn the T-shirt inside-out, iron on low heat to set the paint and voila, it's done!

*Alternatively, you can pre-wash your T-shirts before painting them or chuck them in the washer after setting the paint. I washed mine after I was done because I was too excited to get started on this DIY!


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Family heirloom - restored!

I think this might be the best birthday present we have ever given to my dad!  He's been loving the tablet my brother and I got him for his birthday last year, so we were a little hardpressed to come up with something better. Then I remembered these ancient weighing scales.

According to my dad, these scales have been in the family for over forty years. My late grandfather, Dada, used it in his trading business in 1960s colonial Penang. I imagine him sitting at his desk in a crisp white shirt and dark tarbus, ledger on one side, scales on the other, thick plastic-rimmed glasses perched firmly on the bridge of his nose as he puts pen to paper. Those were moments when I wished I could travel through time and see what my Dada was like in his prime.

Anywho, I remember seeing these in tangled heap in a box when I was a teenager. About a year ago, owing to my penchant for crafting, my dad finally asked me to restore them so we can put them on display. It then stayed in a tangled heap in my collection of odds and ends because I couldn't find a proper stand to hang it from. Then I saw this bamboo banana hanger (of all things!) at Winners and I thought, "Bingo! Just what I need"

A banana hanger - who would have thought, right? The rest just came from my pile of crafting supplies. I'm not an expert brassware restoration so I simply brushed the plates with some toothpaste, which did the trick and brought back some of their shine.

Next it's all a matter of hooking the plates to the chains, the chains to the arm, and the arm to the banana hanger's hook with a total of nine jumprings.

As a finishing touch, my brother got a personalized plate from a local engaraver to mark the occasion for posterity's sake.

The bamboo-and-not-quite-shiny-brass combo gave the ensemble a rustic quality, which, I think, perfectly suits this "family heirloom". My dad was visibly moved when he saw this - just the reaction we were aiming for! I'm really glad we didn't head to the mall to find my dad a birthday persent.