No English? No Problem!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Reflections on December and 2016

It being the second last day of 2016, it's now or never that I finally get to writing my reflections, I guess. Like any other year, there has been ups and downs and sometimes, things start to look better in retrospect.

Family Life
After a couple of years of trying, I'm finally going to have a baby! I was pretty down in the first half of the year when the first try didn't work out but later on, it did and now I'm expecting to pop in March! I would admit that I have had slightly mixed feelings, loss of personal freedoms vs family life after hearing from so many people about how "it changes your whole life". 

But then I realized a couple of things from some mothers I follow on social media:

1. There are a lot of mothers who have continued doing what they love while having children. I follow a couple of bloggers and Instagrammers who do great writing and art and I used to think they could only do all these because they were childless. I was slightly surprised when I read that some of them had kids, 2 or more in some cases! And they could still update their blog or Instagram account or run their businesses on a regular basis! This taught me that passion helps you find a way. I may have to cut back on some personal goals (no more recitals!) or become a scheduling wizard as long as I can find some small way to do what I love. Which leads me to the next...

2. Be kind to yourself. It's ok if I screw up. It's ok if I don't reach my goals. It's ok if I don't write a new e-book every month, play the violin at Carnegie Hall, become an award-winning artist, become a famous blogger, speak fluently in French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese, raise a successful kid who can do all the above and more, and maintain a full-time job. Even if I make small steps towards just one of my goals, it's ok. No one is judging me except myself and mistakes are acceptable for anyone who is not perfect. (Preferably my mistakes should not involve death or injury though...)

3. For all the complaints I read from new mothers, no one has ever wished they never had their child. And you do hear plenty of complaints, from leaky diapers to full out explosions, screaming tantrums, nights in the hospital. Despite all this, I've not read about a single mother who would give up her child to take back her single life. This gives me hope, that while there will be plenty of crap to clean up, in the end, it's not a rose-coloured vision that everything really does work out in the end. 

So I'm going to follow no.2 when it comes to my kid and take it easy on myself and my future child. He may not become the next President's Scholar but as long as he turns out to be a kind, wise human being, (not a serial killer) that would be all I would ask for.

Blogging Life
Looking back at the posts from January till now, I'm pretty proud that I managed to revive my old blog and I did a lot more writing than I thought I was capable of. This is something new I've learned about myself. Funny thing is that I always thought I had a flair for art more than writing because I was such a visually-oriented person, but in the process of writing, I learned that actually I had more of a flair for writing. Given the right prompts, the ideas flowed more easily on the keyboard than on the drawing pad. 

I'm a bit hesitant to make plans for 2017 because of the kid coming but if there's one thing, I would like to continue blogging as much as I can. The focus may change and I may write a lot more about life with a baby, but I would still want to keep this blog alive to remind me of the writing I completed in 2016 and to spur me on to other creative projects in the future. 

Creative Life
I'm also pretty proud that I dabbled a lot more creatively this year. I did a lot more journalling and in December, I even managed to organize some material into my own e-book. I also managed to do some watercolour painting and make some journals. I also take pride in performing on stage in my first violin recital! Although I played terribly off-key, (-_-!) I take pride in actually mustering the guts to go up and do it, something I'm not sure many 5-month pregnant ladies can claim to do! In some months, I also managed to up my French by learning some grammar. I probably can't order a cup of water in France, but it's still a bit of progress from knowing nothing to knowing something.

When you read the paragraph above, it all seems pretty random but I've come to accept that that's the kind of person I am. I like a certain degree of novelty and variety so I tried several different things each month. What worked for me was listing down all the activities I wanted to try and then making some goals each month, plus making myself accountable by blogging as much as I could about the steps I made. Being a Jack of all trades seems to work better for me than being a Master of one. 

(These techniques I learned from 7 habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin.)

I also read, read and read. I had a personal goal at the start of the year to read at least one non-fiction book each month, which according to my Goodreads account, I've achieved, so yay! I didn't hit the upgraded goal I set for myself, which was 48 books, but on average, I've completed 3 books each month. I think with the baby, this could be the easier goal for me to reach next year......

With all I've done this year, I think in 2017, I would take a creative break and concentrate on how to take care of my kid. I might still do some light reading and a little bit of doodling here and there but I also think it's prudent that I don't set major goals for myself until I've settled the domestic arrangements with my in-laws and my kid. I also suspect that I may have to resume my fitness goals next year to lose all the postnatal weight! So in 2017, the focus here might be to take it easy and do it for fun till family life becomes more stable. 

In a nutshell...
I guess 2016 wasn't too bad and in retrospect, some of the things that seemed really bad at the time now look very far away. I suppose with distance and reflection, life on the whole really has a lot that we can be grateful for if we choose to see it that way. If there's anything to hope for in 2017, I can only hope that by December 2017, I can look back and see all the good stuff and be filled with the same hope for 2018! Happy new year, everyone and here's to a great 2017! 

Junk Journals Tutorial 1a: An alternative to bookbinding staplers

It's been a great break during Christmas, hope everyone had a good time because I'm back with an extension of the previous tutorial!

I realized that for many people, the bookbinding stapler may be difficult to find. Today's tutorial may then be helpful, because I'm going to show you how to achieve the same effect with ordinary stationery you can find anywhere. 

Before I found the stapler, I was experimenting with other methods, eg, using tape, but they didn't produce the nice clean result I wanted. Then one day, I was stapling posters to a notice board and it hit me: I could use this to staple pages together as well!

Tutorial 1a: Rough and Dirty Journal - Alternative Stapling Method

You will need:
- A stapler (Find one which can open, eg the type you would use to staple posters to a wall)
- An eraser
- Paper clips or binder clips (Optional, but I find it much easier to do it with clips)

And here I've also used the following for this tutorial:
- Scissors
- Paper
- Cardboard (for the cover)

Step 1: Get the pages of the journal ready. (Here, I've had to cut the pages to size) Then position the pages on top of the cardboard and fold the edges of the cardboard down to size.

Tip: Leave some cardboard around the edges so that your pages will fit nicely inside the journal and will not stick out.

Tip: Use the handle of your scissors to press the cardboard down and create a neat fold.

Step 2: Prepare the pages and cover for stapling. Open the blank pages to the centre and clip the left and right side pages to the cover with the paper clips. Open the stapler as shown.

Place the eraser directly under the centre fold of the journal. If you can't notice it well in the picture, I'm pointing to the part of the centre fold where the eraser is. 

Place the top part of the stapler so that the pages will be stapled exactly (or as best as you can) on the centre fold. Press the stapler.

If you got it right, the result should look like this from the top. Your pages will now be stapled to the eraser.

Step 3: Do the finishing touches. Flip the journal over and remove the eraser. You should see the staples sticking out. Don't prick yourself!

Use the stapler to press down the staples.

Once you are done, your pages will look like this! (Oops, I didn't quite fold the pages correctly...)

Now repeat on the other side and your journal is done!

Here's what it looks like from the outside:

So there you are! A simple hack that anyone can do with some ordinary stationery and your journals will look like professional zines! Try it today!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Junk Journals Tutorial 1 (easy) : The Rough and Dirty Journal

In my past 2 chapters, I covered the why of making Junk Journals and what materials and tools you'd need to get started. Now let's start with an easy tutorial. 

This journal is one of the easiest to get started with, especially if you have the bookbinding stapler I mentioned in Tools and Materials. (If you don't, you can substitute it with other tools. I'll explain later in the post) It will also give you a peek into simple bookbinding. I call it the Rough and Dirty Journal because here we are not so concerned about making it look nice and polished yet so it's going to look a little rough around the edges. However, it's one of the easiest to do if you want to just get started.

Tutorial 1: The Rough and Dirty Journal

You will need:

Bookbinding stapler 
(If not, needle and thread or tape)
Adhesive ( I like to use the adhesive tape shown in blue but you can use a glue of your choice )

Junk paper (Ensure you have an even number of pages)
1 brochure (For the cover)

Step 1:
Arrange the junk paper together so that the written sides face each other.

Step 2: Use your adhesive to stick both sides together. You should end up with a slightly thicker sheet of paper that is blank on both sides.

Step 3: Arrange your pages together with the brochure on top. Here I have chosen an old programme sheet. Get your stapler ready.

Step 4: Fold everything in half to get a centre fold. Here, you can roughly see what your journal will look like.

Step 5: This is where the beauty of the bookbinding stapler comes in. Open the pages again and flip out the stapler. Then align it where the centre fold is before stapling.

This is a close up of the centrefold. You can see that after that is done, the pages have been stapled very nicely, like a magazine.

Repeat with one more staple on the other side and you are done! Very easy, isn't it?

This journal is still blank, but if you want to see what one looks like after I wrote in it, you can see this previous post on a Rough and Dirty journal that I already did and filled with writing.

Questions! Questions! 
So I know there will be some questions and comments on your mind, let me try to answer as many of them here.

- If you don't have the stapler I used, you can also use a needle and thread and do a basic stitch along the spine to achieve the same look. Also, you can use tape to tape the pages together. 

- If you want a more finished and polished look, you can also trim the edges of the white paper so that they don't stick out of the cover. (But hey, it is a rough and dirty journal after all...)

- For a hardier cover, use a brochure that is made of thicker cardboard or thicker paper. Alternatively, stick the brochure onto another piece of junk paper. 

More questions? Comments?
Leave them in the comment sections below and I'll get back to you as soon as I can! (Be nice, be constructive and I will do the same for you)

Did you try it out? 
I would love to see what you did with your own journals too. If you would like to share, email photos of your journal to me. Remember to include your name, country (optional) and email address so that I can credit your work here!  

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Junk Journals, Materials and Tools - What would you need to get started?

In the last chapter, I talked about Junk Journals and why I started making them. In this one, I'm going to talk about the materials and the tools I use, and what you would need to get started.

Of course, you would need paper. Paper can be salvaged from a number of sources, those which I've tried are listed below:

Magazines. Some magazines come printed on good quality paper. After reading it, you can tear out the pages you like. For magazines which are printed on glossy paper, you may have to do some pasting with other writing paper or you may have to paint it with gesso. I'll talk about these later.

Brochures and flyers. Every week, 5 of these get put into my mailbox. I don't think the company intended for me to use them in journals. However, the glossy paper that some of them are printed on means that you may have to do some pasting or painting so that you can use them.

Statements from banks, credit cards, insurance. Word of CAUTION first: Make sure the statements are outdated before you do anything with them! These are also typically printed on good quality paper but you do want to make sure you pay off your credit card bills before you paint over them and forget about them! Also, in the case of bank and insurance statements, make sure all financial affairs are in order before putting them in the junk pile. I would usually have my husband help me to check if the statement needs to be filed before I do anything with it.

Work. Like I mentioned in the introduction, we use tons of paper at work. This is my favourite source of paper because all our work documents get printed on good quality printing paper. If only one side of the paper was used, that means the other side will be gloriously blank. Another word of CAUTION: Make sure you absolutely do NOT need the document anymore before doing anything with it! My practice is to collect the paper in a pile and only use it at the end of the year. 

Free notebooks, notepads and diaries. These may be given out by the banks or sometimes as gifts. I love them because it's easy to change their appearance by wrapping them in a design I like. By now, my friends know of my hoarding instinct so they save any free writing material they get for me. Score one for friendship!

Other advice: Collect paper in a variety of thickness. Soft paper can be used for painting and writing, stiffer and thicker paper can be used to make journal covers. Stiff cardboard can also be cut into strips to bind paper together. (More on that later)

Wow, that's a ton of paper up to use! If you already have all these lying around, what else would you need to transform them into books?


Basic tools would be:

  1. Scissors for cutting
  2. Glue to stick pages together and pictures on pages

For a more finished look, you can also use:

  1. Needle and thread for basic bookbinding
  2. A bookbinding stapler
  3. Duct tape or bookbinding tape

Now No.2 may sound a little strange but it's a great tool to have to give your journals that really professional zine look, so it's my great pride and joy! They are usually expensive and can't be found in your normal stationery store, so when I found out that Daiso (a $2 shop in Singapore) was actually selling them, I bought one right away! 

This is what my bookbinding stapler looks like: 

 The unique part about it is the white part. It holds the staples and it flips out, as shown below:
 All the way to a right angle.
 This allows you to staple paper right in the middle, and your journal will open very nicely.

This stapler is my pride and joy, considering it only cost $2 but it made my journal-making so much better! I'm tempted to buy it every time I go to Daiso just in case this red one breaks one day!

Then there are other stuff also, that make your journal a whole lot prettier. There are places where you can buy great paper or washi tape to give your journal that extra decorative touch. However, before you go there, you have to read the following:

Crafter's Anonymous - Hi, My Name is...
Personal confession: I don't only use junk paper but I also have a crazy load of craft paper, notepaper and notebooks, some of which I have had for a few years. -_-!!! When I first started scrapbooking, I went a bit crazy and bought almost every paper I thought cute. Then I hoarded them because I became afraid to use them. What if my project turned out ugly?? 

After a couple of years of this, I had the following epiphany:
What it reminds me is that I am here to DO things, not buy them. The paper I buy is meant to help me accomplish and achieve journal-making goals and I would never get anywhere near those goals if all I'm doing is accumulating paper. (Unless your goal is to set up a paper museum) Once that clicked in my head, I decided to throw caution to the wind and just use what I had.

It makes me proud to say that I haven't bought any new paper since but I've been slowly chipping away at my hoarded pile. If you feel like buying some nice paper just to spruce things up in your journal, I wouldn't stop you, but if you are going to spend the money, make sure you really like the paper and make sure you do use what you have. 

But if you really want to spend money on nice stuff...
Now you're done with the warning, here are some of the places I've been to:
(Note: These stores are all in Singapore but some also have websites for you to purchase online)

For paper and scrapbooking materials:
Kikki.k sells all kinds of wonderful stationery and sometimes it takes all my willpower to walk out of here without buying anything. and Typo Stationery have a great range of notebooks and to-do lists and notepads.
The Paper Market is a dream for me and a nightmare for my bank account. Everything to do with scrapbooking can be found here, like paper, washi tape and stickers.
Daiso sells a good range of craft materials, every one of which can be bought for $2, so if you are on a budget, this is the place to go. (Unfortunately, a Google search only brings up this online store which only allows you to buy in bulk. Singaporeans can find the outlet nearest to them via a quick Google search)

For inspiration and paper:
I also buy some of these magazines for inspiration and er, paper.
Flow Magazine is one for the paper-lovers and those who want life to go a bit more slowly. They sometimes include free gifts for paper-lovers (like journals) and they also release a Book for Paper Lovers every year, which is a thick tome full of beautiful paper.
Frankie Magazine is an Australian magazine full of quirky creative inspiration. They take interesting photos which I sometimes cut out to scrap and they are also printed on good quality paper.
Daphne's Diary is beautifully designed and also comes with paper goodies to cut out. 
Cloth Paper Scissors focuses on art techniques and mixed media and they also have a section on their website on art journalling and handmade books. It's a great source of inspiration.
In Singapore, all these magazines can be found at Kinokuniya or Basheer at Bras Basah Centre. I do recommend calling the stores before going down because they don't get released every month and I have made a few wasted trips before. -_-!!! 

Ok, now you know what you need to get started! Next time, I'll talk about a few easy techniques to start off with!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Junk Journals, an Introduction: What are they and Why Make Junk Journals?

I recognize that the term 'Junk Journal' is something I created so others may not know what I'm referring to. Here's an easy definition:

Junk Journal:
A journal made out of paper (or other materials) that would be considered junk and thrown into the trash.

I've written a few tutorials on making these Junk Journals, so I thought it was time to put everything together in an easy to-do guide on my blog. Now that I had the chance to make a few, it's easier to compile what I've done and hopefully it will serve as an inspiration to you out there.

I guess the first question would be:

WHY? Why make a journal out of used paper, or even why journal at all?

Why keep a journal?
There are many reasons for this, depending on the individual, so I'll start with my personal reasons. 

1) For Organization
This is the main reason for my work journal, which I use to pencil in meetings I'm supposed to attend, and my all-important to-do list. I do this so that I remember all the tasks I have to complete and the deadlines I have to follow. 

Example from my work journal, made from an old notebook.

2) For Reflection
I also use my journals to reflect on the day and what I have to be grateful for. A gratitude log comes in handy for this and it can be as easy as just writing down one day during the day that you are grateful for. 

Example from one week in my junk journal.

At this moment, some of you may think, "But you can buy gorgeous planners and journals to do all of that! Why would you spend so much time and energy to make your own??" This is answered by the following 2 reasons:

3) For the Environment
Ever notice how much paper we use? At the end of the work year, I cleared my cubicle of all my unwanted documents and I ended up with a pile of paper a couple of inches thick. This is after I already threw out some stacks of paper. Not all the documents were printed by me either. Some were handed to me by well-meaning colleagues who wanted me to know the content of the documents. Obviously by end of year they were all obsolete. 

Usually, we'd just throw the paper into the recycling bin and I had to do that for a lot, but then I realized how many documents were single-sided. That left the other side of the paper blank to do whatever we wanted.

That's how much single-sided paper I 'rescued' and it's a small fraction of the paper I had to throw.

This got me thinking about the amount of paper we use despite living in an electronic world. Even though much of our work has been delegated to the Internet, it seems we still cannot do without paper. What if I extended the life of these documents further, by using them for just one more purpose, before chucking them?

And so, the paper helped me to serve my next purpose...

4) For Creativity
It really all boils down to this. I like to be creative. I like to see possibilities where others see junk and I like making those possibilities come to light. So where others see paper that's bound for the trash, I see paper that can be written on, drawn on, folded, cut, painted to anything I wanted. I like working with my hands that way, which is why online journals haven't quite cut it for me. Plus I really like it when the outcome turns out good. 

Yes, I like this layout and I'm quite proud of it, I'm not ashamed to say.

Is it hard? Yes. Some journals were a complete flop and I had to throw them.
Is it rewarding? Also, yes! Once I got the hang of a few basic skills, I realized how easy it was to give old notebooks a new lease on life and to decorate junk paper into what I wanted.

Are there drawbacks? Well, yes too. These include:

The need to buy some art materials. 
I use a lot of washi tape and stickers which I buy from scrapbooking stores. Yes, I do recognize that there's a certain irony in having to buy more materials to recycle some materials -_-!!! though it does serve the creative side. However, if you really want to keep costs down, all you would really need is a set of coloured markers and writing pens. 

The need for time. 
If you really want something that will earn 10K likes on Instagram, I hope you have the time in your busy schedule to work on that art piece! If not, you can also do simpler layouts with just your coloured markers that will still look good. Most of the time, I take a few minutes on a weekend to do that and then once in a while, when the mood strikes me, I do something more Instragram-worthy.

The need for ideas.
Sometimes you just stare at the blank page and you have no idea what to do with the blank pages staring back at you. You can take some ideas from the Instagram accounts I follow who post dazzling planner layouts. These include:
Inspiring Instagrammers

Phew! I didn't realize the list was so long! There's no way you can't have a few ideas from some of these talented planner ladies! 

Have I got you inspired? The next step is to just start and try one! I'll be talking more about the materials you would need and where you can get them from next! 

Friday, December 09, 2016

Time for a New Way to Live

Over breakfast today, I found myself reading 2 things with seemingly contrasting ideas.

First, over my daily dose of Facebook news, I read an article about Singapore being the new Sick Man of Asia. The main points of the article were that Singapore's growth was slowing down and this was likely to be the 'new normal' for us, as other SEA countries played catch-up. We would not likely see the kind of growth that our parents experienced ever again and indeed, our millennials expressed more worry at their financial future.

Then, I switched to more analogue reading material, in the form of Thrive, by Arianna Huffington. (This is the Goodreads page on her book) Huffington's book talks about how stress and overwork are taking its toll on us and that it was time to redefine our life on metrics other than money and power. 

After reading the more pessimistic article though, you might think that Huffington's views seem to come from a privileged tower of wealth. She is already swimming in money and power, after all, by our humble standards. It's easy for her to be telling us that we shouldn't be working so hard and that we should take time off to spend on the things we love. She doesn't have to worry about falling growth, falling employment, and her CPF retirement fund possibly being locked away even after her death. 

I thought a bit more over my teh tarik and I had a startling idea: Maybe this period of slow growth is exactly the right time to put forward some of these ideas. It has been clear for a while now in Singapore that the old ways of success, namely money and status, have not been as easy to reach as in our grandparents' era. Where before you could be assured of both if you practically sold your soul and maybe even your firstborn, it is becomingly increasingly difficult to do so now. You could expend all your energy into your work till the day you die and when crisis strikes? Left without a word of thanks.

Our private sector has already seen rounds of layoffs and one of the hardest hit segments have been middle managers, who typically are already in their 40s, have families with young children and yet find it the hardest to secure employment. No honour among companies, it seems. 

So why do I think it is a good time for the Third Metric? If the old ways are not suiting us well in the new economy, then it could be time for a new way of living. The main reason: Money and Power are masters that do not reward. We have already seen that the more we pursue money and power, the more we do so at risk to our own well-being. Also, unlike the old days, Money and Power are fickle mistresses. They do not reward like they used to and are all too willing to dump us when it suits them. So is it time to ditch those goals and find others that do? 

We are already seeing this in various sectors. There are already people who have left high-powered jobs to open cafes or Carousell accounts to make a living off their hobbies. They readily admit that they do not make as much money as they used to, and some are even busier than they used to be, but most are satisfied that they took a step to fulfil a dream. 

See, here's the idea I'm trying to drive at: If by selling your soul to pursue Money and Power, you are not able to catch them anyway, why even bother? Instead, could it be more worth to pursue other goals like well-being and happiness and in the process, earn enough money to sustain yourself? 

For us Singaporeans, this might require several rounds of rewiring. For one, the idea about our BTO being our investment that we can sell off after 5 years has to change into it being our home that we can live in for a great many years. The idea that our children have to be in enrichment centres to 'keep up with the rest' has to change. The idea that we need to be in certain schools, certain jobs, have a certain level of high income has to change. Simply because that model is no longer the guarantee to success like it used to be. 

For us to survive in the New Normal Economy, we really have to ditch the old ways of thinking about success and redefine what it really means to live a successful life. 

[PS, the Internet being what it is nowadays, I am aware that there are some trolls who will sneer that I am only able to write these words because of my privileged class status and that I don't know what it really means to suffer like they are doing. If you hold such views, then this is not the blog for you.]

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Film Can Pen Holder

I've been a bit on an organizing binge, because 1) the mess on my desk was getting to me and 2) I had too many materials all over the place. That tells me it's time to do some upcycling and make some good out of the stuff that I have!

I had this idea for the pen holder because I have a few small markers which needed a good home and I also had tons of empty film cans from photography. Why not combine the two?

This project is super easy and I can see even small children doing it. It took me less than 10minutes to complete each holder.

Film Can Pen Holder

You will need: 
Empty film can 
Washi tape
Adhesive of your choice ( I used double-sided tape )

Step 1: Cover the film can with the washi tape of your choice. Here, you can see I chose two different kinds, one a solid colour and one with holiday scenery on it.

Step 2: Stick your adhesive to the top of the cover of the film can. I used double sided tape because that's what I have, but you can use any adhesive you like.

Step 3: Stick the cover to the bottom of the film can to form the base. Then put your markers inside and admire your craftiness. 

Easy right?? I love this so much because the steps are so easy and yet the results are so cute to look at! Craftier people than me can try the following variations:

- Decorate the can with paint instead of washi tape.
- Make the can taller by cutting the bottom out of one can and then sticking it to another can.
- Cut the can in half and use it to store small items like paper clips.
- Fill the completed film can with uncooked rice or beans, then stick pens into it. 

Those are just some wild ideas, completely untested! Let me know if you tried any of them and whether they worked!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Junk Journals

I've been making recycled paper journals, since it's that time of year where we have to move cubicles at work, and inevitably, there are tons of paper we have to throw or recycle. I sometimes feel a bit of a heartache when I have to do this, because I'm a paper junkie and I always felt like there was more I could do with the paper. Also, there were worksheets were I didn't use both sides of the paper and the blank side always held so much... potential. Yes, paper junkie >-<!!! 

Then I had the idea to try making recycled paper journals, or junk journals. Not that I put nothing but junk inside, but to use the paper which would have been junked, to make journals. At least if I managed to get one more use of the paper, I would feel *slightly* better about the environment and also maybe I won't have to buy any more notebooks for the rest of my life! Lastly, I would also be able to exercise some creativity in decorating the notebooks and *finally* depleting my stash of craft paper materials. 

Making the junk journal was easy. I planned a daily journal for November as a trial, then I chose some junk paper and stapled them together. After that, I decorated the pages with the layouts I wanted and finally, I filled in my daily entries.

Here's the result for November: 
(Note: Where possible, I have tried to include the sources for my materials, but unfortunately, I can't remember all of them, so if anyone recognizes them, let me know and I will put the sources in!)

Cover: Flow Book for Paper Lovers

Credits: Kikki.K 3AM notepad and to-do list

Credits: Ameba stuff My really busy week memo mousepad

Credits: 3M washi tape, Flow Book for Paper Lovers paper. Calligraphy stickers I bought from a flea stall but unfortunately, lost the lady's contacts -_-!!!

Credits: Paper on left from Daiso, on right from Kikki.k. 

Overall, I am pleased with how the results turned out, but I am also aware that it's not really recycling in the truest sense. I only managed to make such nice layouts because I had the nice paper in my house all along. The next step in this challenge for me, thus, is to make one without nice paper and to start from scratch. 

Still, if you are a paper junkie like me, and you also have a sizable stash of craft paper, this is something easy you can do to use your stash for a worthy cause. If you just have to have nice paper, Daiso sells a good range and for SGD$2, you can buy enough paper for a month. For a year's worth of journal entries, that will cost you around $24, which is cheaper than a Moleskine but you might still get cute diaries cheaper than that, so weigh the costs and decide if it's worth it for you. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Reflections for November

A photo posted by Aki Tan (@khelath) on
A little art journalling for myself today, to congratulate the fact that I made it through another school year! 

I still have a kind of nagging feeling that somehow I lost 2 months of my life because of the hectic exam season, but I'm still glad that I got through it *relatively* smoothly somehow. I guess there are just some points in one's life where life events just derail you and somehow you have to find a way to get yourself back on track with your own mission in life once again.

That's how I feel, now that the holidays have started. I feel like this is the point where I'm slowly building my life back on track again. Compared to previous years, I would say it's better because at least this time I managed to recognize the signs earlier, where in previous years, everything just seemed to fly off the rails until December -_-!!! This year I managed to recognize the signs in October and I started doing some journalling and blogging to feel 'human' again. 

What I learned from this is that reflection and recognition are important. Keeping a personal journal and calendar helped, because seeing all those blank spaces where things are supposed to be done reminded me that nothing was being done! I don't know how possible this is yet with baby on the way next year, but that might lead to the next thing I learnt, which is to...

Always be kind to yourself. It's normal and natural that things in life get in the way of, well, life. We cannot always control the curveballs that come at us and it's only normal that dreams have to be put away for a period of time while we deal with them. For me, it was exam season, because I had to make sure that I revised all the work with the kids. Then it was pregnancy and the feelings of fatigue I had during the first trimester. What is important after this, then, is to...

Climb back whenever you can. I'm hoping to snatch pockets of time during my maternity where I can do a little bit of journalling and reading because these are the most convenient to climb back to, given that the materials and books are all in my possession. Other activities that take up more time, like the violin, the piano, language learning, I would have to wait till I see what baby's schedule is like, before I can plan again how to slot them in. I definitely won't be able to spend the same amount of time on them the way I did during my 2 months of leave, but I still hope to make whatever progress I can. 

I'm guessing there will still be people out there, who will either tell me this is not possible, or that this is wrong because I should be spending all my waking time on my baby. To the first, nobody will know if it's possible yet if it has not been attempted. To the second, if it works for you, fine. It doesn't work for me because I am a whole person who is not defined solely by one aspect of her life. I am not just a mother, I am a person with loves, hates, fears, joys and I want my son to grow up to the same and I know no other mother who is not the same. So let me try living life my way while I let you go your way. My successes and failures will be my own.

Here's to the holidays then! I'm glad of the life I've revived into this blog this year and hopefully there will be more to come!

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Art Journalling - Chinese Thoughts

Recently, I have been trying out a new journal I made. With me on forced sick leave (cough, cough) and no more reruns on TV to watch, I thought I'd have a stab at filling up some of the pages with some art journalling.

Why Chinese Thoughts? There was no particular reason or rhyme to this one. I started out with the image of the mask on the left, then I thought the dragon would make a nice accompanying piece and then one thing pretty much led to another. -_-!!! Maybe chalk this one up to pure inspiration, yah? I was really just too sick to think of anything more profound than "Oh, this would look interesting like this......"

I wasn't trying to string together any profound meaning from the Chinese characters used either. The only unifying factor is probably that they all have something to do with thoughts. Thoughts that come from our dreams, from fantasies, from delusions, from other thoughts. I'm too sick to really think so I also relied on pure inspiration for this one and tried with my brush pen any character and idea that came to mind. 

Any profound thoughts? Well, that maybe I'd like to improve my Chinese brushmanship, hahaha... Some of the characters look downright ugly and clunky. My old Chinese teacher would have flunked me and made me rewrite them a hundred times. 

Also, that trying this made me think how much meaning there was in Chinese characters. A whole pantheon of cultural meaning can lie behind even one character and its placement in a piece of art. Where Western words take a few letters to be expressed, one Chinese character chosen wisely can speak volumes. All this was lost on me in my school days, of course, but now being more mature (and hopefully wiser) I can start to appreciate the finer nuances of my mother tongue. 

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Reflections on September/October

I had to put these 2 months together for this reflective post, because I realized October just whizzed away under my nose just like that. 

What caused it, I suppose, was exam season, and the vague feeling that there were a lot of stuff I should be doing to be more responsible. So I buried myself in my work for those 2 months. 

What resulted was that I totally forgot that I had to be responsible to myself. I brought work home at night, over the weekend, and generally neglected my own plans and self-development over that period. I managed to read but journalling and everything else pretty much took a back seat.

Some would say that was necessary, in order to well, get the work done, that one has to put one's nose to the grinder. 

I would say it became a soul-killer and I really questioned myself many times about whether this pile and pile of paper was really what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life. 

From reflecting on the past, I would say this year I was lucky. I caught myself in October and started journalling a bit more, which helped. I made a couple more journals for the fun of it and I also wrote more inside my existing ones. That made me realize that while responsibility was necessary, it also didn't mean that it had to take over the whole of my life. That even if a few minutes to do one journal page was all I had, then even those few minutes were enough to restore my humanity once again.

One good thing was that I love to read, so I read. I managed to stick to my habit of reading a couple of pages of any book before I slept so there were stuff I still managed to learn. This proves that this habit is a real keeper.

I guess this point about self-reflection is becoming a bit more poignant, because with the baby coming next March, I'm not sure just how much time I will have for myself anymore. I have more than enough reading material for whatever free time I can snatch during my maternity but beyond that, when I go back to work and it's back to the grind...? 

That's why self-love is necessary on a regular basis, I suppose. To remind ourselves that other than the various roles we play through life of spouse, partner, employee, mother, daughter, there's one role that underpins them all, which is that of Me. That our character and personality are the foundations of all that we do and if the role of Me is flourished with love, then that love can only spread to all the other roles we play.

Experiences, not Acquisitions

Hi, I'm Aki Tan and I'm a hoarder.

I hoard books, not bears, by the way...

The above picture is a small fraction of the burgeoning collection of books and magazines that is threatening to bring down my bookshelf. I have a box of craft materials that is not very used. I have rolls and rolls of washi tape and files of scrapbooking paper. 

Why do I have so much stuff? Well, partly it's GAS = Gear Acquisition Syndrome. The term is more commonly used for tech gear but in this case, I think the same applies to the books, magazines and craft materials that I have.

Which is why I read (and re-read) the articles in Flow Issue 5 with interest. There were 2 articles which I felt spoke directly to hoarders keen for rehab. In one of the articles, "How Great Small Can Be", Alain de Botton wrote:

"Why, then, if expensive things cannot bring us remarkable joy, are we so powerfully drawn to them?... Because expensive items can feel like plausible solutions to needs we don't understand."

So it becomes easier to buy something than to do serious soul-searching to find out what is it we're missing. After all, it only takes a walk to the store and an opening of the wallet. And research has also proven before that impulse buys can indeed bring a high level of satisfaction. (A Google brings up a list of research, I have chosen to link this one: Effects of Impulse Purchases on Consumers' Affective States.) 

This is true for me, for the craft materials at least. When I moved into my new house, I had a whole room which I used as a study/studio. With all that space to play with, I suddenly found myself able to buy and store all the paper I ever wanted, and paper being paper, of course took up space. I couldn't bear to use all the stuff I bought, though, 'cause what if I wanted to use it for another project? What if I used it and it didn't turn out right?

I acquired and acquired and one day, I realized, they become 'plausible solutions to needs' that I didn't understand fully yet. I wanted to Make Good Art, and so I bought all those things thinking that I would some day. But my real need wasn't to buy materials, it was to actually do stuff with them.

It took a lot of acquiring before I realized that the only thing I was doing was collecting materials but yet I had nothing to show for all the buying I was doing. At some point, I told myself, that's it, now it's time to start making

And when I started making, this led to another kind of satisfaction, which was the kind that authors Botsman and Rogers (What's Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption) referred to. 

"We want to fulfil our needs with the material or experience that these products offer." Yes, the experience from the products, not the products itself. 

This is a good reminder every time I am tempted by something new. I ask myself: Am I more interested in buying the book? Or reading it? Do I want to make art, or buy paint? The reminder here is that what we are really interested in is the experience that comes from the product. If the experience can be had with something already in possession, then further purchase is unnecessary. Even if acquisition is necessary, sites like Carousell can help one to buy something secondhand and usable instead of buying a new items.

Nowadays, I let myself be a bit more free when I use the materials, since it's clear that I have nearly a lifetime of craft materials hoarded away. Do I get tempted now and then? Of course I do, and I do end up buying some more stuff. The difference is now I give myself more permission to use and misuse the things I buy, so as to continue to gain the benefit of experience rather than the short-lived one of acquisition. There were times when I wasted some stuff by making some real fugly things, but I was also rewarded at many other times with something that just looked good. It is those times I look forward to, because those remind me what life's experiences are all about. They are about experiences and not products.