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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Finally, some downtime...

My friends would know that the reason why this blog has been quiet a while was because of a major life-changing event. This was the birth of my first child, whom I have nicknamed #hamstercheeks for the Internet. 

Everything they have ever said about how much it changes your life has turned out to be true in some ways and not in others. It is true that I paid a lot more attention to what I did and ate just before and mostly after birth, because of breastfeeding. It is also true what they say about Mummy-brains. Maternal instincts kicked in strongly and I was Googling websites like Baby Center and What to Expect for all kinds of baby info, much to the consternation of my husband. (I have been dubbed Tigress Mum for that matter)

It is also true that there no such thing as a Super First Time New Mother. I learned this the hard way after the confinement nanny left and was giving myself all sorts of mental breakdowns thinking of the work that had to be done to keep Hamstercheeks alive, clean and healthy. I also learned the hard way that there is no shame in shamelessly asking for help whenever you need it. I do not need to compare yourself to others nor care about their opinions. 

So making decisions now boils down to answering 2 questions:
1. What is good for #hamstercheek?
2. What is good for me?

For example, take the hiring of a maid. I had all kinds of doubts and questions about hiring a maid at first but it turns out some very major ones had to do with what I thought of myself and what others would think of me. Am I a weaker, less capable person for hiring a maid to do things that I could do myself? Would others think I was a weaker, less capable person for doing so? 

In the end, I decided the mental breakdown and physical exhaustion was not worth it. One, yes, I am a weaker person because I am not SuperMom and nobody is. I cannot simultaneously hold multiple roles of Mother, Wife, Cleaner and Person all at the same time and it is not to mine or my child's benefit if I play a lesser part in each role. So chuck out the role of Household Cleaner and outsource it. 

And in a funny way, once I accepted that I was not SuperMom and that I (like every New Mother) needed help, the universe went out of its way to give it to me. A maid arrived in record timing and so far has turned out to be a good learner with a pleasant personality and also able to handle the baby much more patiently than me. The grandmothers adored their new grandson to bits and were quick to take on babysitting duties. So in fact that week after the nanny left was a relatively painless one since most of the work was done by Grammie and maid. 

Was the move good for #hamstercheeks? I think it did him no harm to be spoiled by Grammie for a week. Also, he can now count on always having clean laundry and bedding thanks to the maid. Was it good for me? I would think so, since now I can focus on his cries for food and attention without fretting that the house would fall apart. Also it's good to have some company in the house other than the baby. 

We do have our good times and our bad ones. On good ones, I find myself able to read, write and watch TV in relative peace and quiet, and even blog a lengthy entry. On bad ones, his cries drive me bonkers and the husband will return from work to find me almost in tears. And since this is a good time, I can say, well, that's life with a baby. Or rather, that's just life. :) 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Myths of Happiness I’ve Learned

Once upon a time, it was my goal to be happy. 

I decided that I just didn't want the usual dream of a house with a husband and 2.5 kids. I wanted to be happy. That for me meant that when I was finally on my deathbed, I want to look back on my life and decide that it was a good life and I did a lot of stuff and at the end of it all, I was happy. 

To reach this, I had to read a lot about happiness and try a lot of stuff for myself. Over time, I realized a few things about happiness that was true so I put it in my Happy Journal and now I'm sharing on my blog. Hopefully, some of these apply to you or help you think a bit more about this grand notion called Happiness.

1.   It’s not always the big stuff that makes you happy.
When asked what would make them happy, people may think of a lot of big stuff. Things like a tour of Europe, winning the lottery or quitting their job to pursue their dreams. While any of those 3 would make me very happy as well, I have found that this poses difficulties in more ways than one. For one, if you don’t achieve this big thing, does that necessarily mean you are unhappy? When we set up big and lofty goals for ourselves, (especially those like the lottery, which are out of our control) and we don’t achieve them, we could be setting ourselves up for failure. That’s where we end up telling ourselves, “I’m miserable in my job and I would be happy if I quit but I can’t because I need the money.” Maybe another approach would be better.

2.   Small stuff can make you happy too.
There are plenty of small stuff that can also make you happy. A short list of mine includes: reading a favourite magazine, having a slow cup of tea in the morning, a friendly hand helping me, a seat on the subway, a blue sky with clouds and the smell of rain in the wind. They are not big things like the lottery but whenever I encounter any of these, they put a smile on my face and I feel happy. Certainly they are also easier to come by than winning the lottery!

3.   The hard stuff can also make you happy.
Crafting is hard. Playing an instrument is hard. Even thinking of what to write for my blog is hard. Getting through some of the hard stuff can involve a lot of blood, sweat and tears and a fair amount of cussing as well. If you saw me trying to practise a scale on my violin, you wouldn’t think I was very happy at all.
But the hard part of getting through trying to do something can also make you happy. You see progress being made and you can see yourself improving at a skill you wanted to learn. You persevere and finally at the end of it all, you get through the hard part. After all the effort you put in, you do feel a deep, strong sense of satisfaction that is also a kind of happiness.

4.   You can choose to be happy.

No one is responsible for your happiness except yourself. On a rainy day, some people will see wetness and misery at being stuck at home. Some people will see warmth and comfort at being stuck at home. Same situation, totally different viewpoints. You can imagine who feels happier. Choosing to be happy is not about putting a fake smile on. It is about acknowledging the situation as it is and actively finding the good in it.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Loving My Curves

Usually, I like to blog about creativity, craft or art but today, a different kind of article caught my attention in the January 2017 issue of Real Simple Magazine.

This is Rosaliz Jimenez, 42, photo director at a celebrity fashion magazine. You would notice that she’s not a supermodel, in fact, she’s considered plus-sized in the US.

Her story is the one that caught my eye. Like all fat people, she struggled with her weight and her self-esteem. Then one day, she noticed a strange lump on her neck. The diagnosis turned out to be cancer and it progressively got worse, till even after all the cancer treatment was over, she was hit with gallstones and her gall bladder had to be removed. 😱

Why did her story attract me? For one, having been fat nearly all my life, (with one brief respite during puberty) I can identify with her when she says “no one bullied me the way I bullied myself”. It sucks when you can hardly shop for clothes because none of the shops carry your size. Or when you are surrounded by visual reminders everywhere that people should look like supermodels. Even walking on the street reminds you that there are plenty other ordinary people who are not fat.

Worse still is your inner critic, convincing you that all this is your fault and that you are a failure for being this way, a lesser being than all the other size-0s out there. Even if you are already dieting and exercising, you are still a failure because you are still not a size-0 after all that effort. It seems to doom you to being a fat slob for the rest of your life.

I struggled with that inner critic like every fat and skinny woman on this planet but made peace with my body and self-image a long time ago. But, as life went on and I did more interesting stuff and met people who wanted to befriend me despite my size, I accepted that I had many other strengths to define me as a person other than my figure. ( Plus that I wasn’t willing to give up chips for the rest of my life in exchange for the perfect body 🍟) Her story though reminded me how important self-love for your body is.

Let us love ourselves, body and soul before such a medical calamity befalls us. Cancer (or other debilitating illnesses, for that matter) does not differentiate between S, M, L or XXL. Does it have to take such a diagnosis before one realizes that there are a lot more important stuff than whether you can fit into a bikini or not? Even if you are lucky never to get so ill, it is important to appreciate that there are other things your body can do regardless of fat or not.

Thinking of this made me think up this list:

Why I Love My Fat-Ass Body

1.   I’m fat but strong
I know this from the weight-lifting routines I’ve done at the gym. I also know this whenever I lift a backpack full of stuff or a load of students’ books. I’m strong enough to do all this when other slimmer women would have faltered.

2.   I have good shoulders
There are dozens of ways women have come up to beautify their bodies. Hair can be cut. Makeup can be put on. Facial features and even height and weight can be surgically changed. As of yet, though, I’ve yet to see a surgery that can give a woman a good, solid broad set of shoulders that makes all the difference when wearing sleeveless tops.
We pay so much attention to our waistlines we forget there are other parts of the body to be appreciative for. Our shoulders. Our legs which lift us up every time. Long fingers and nails. A wide smile and a hearty laughter and eyes that twinkle in sincere delight.

3.   I’ve recovered fairly well from past illnesses and traumas
I wonder if science will ever prove that fat can act as a padding against minor flus and colds. I’m very blessed that I don’t get sick that often and when I do, I know that it’s only a temporary phase with some medication before good health comes again. I'm also blessed that I've never had serious illnesses or injuries apart from a sprained ankle. 

4.   I’ve had a fairly good pregnancy
Before getting pregnant, I had heard plenty of horror stories about morning sickness, cravings, hormonal horror changes, bleeding… Then when I finally got pregnant, I had… none of them. Yes, I’ve had the usual aches and pains but I haven’t had anything so serious that I couldn’t function in normal everyday life or that made me fearful for the life of my baby. I can only thank my fat ass for that. My recovery after birth was also quite good and by the end of the confinement month I felt back to normal with no complications. I even regained my pre-pregnancy weight.

Are there things about my body I would want to change? I still would like to fit into an M at Zara and one day wear a bikini without people gacking, but then I look over this list I’ve written. I’m not sure I would want to give up all this just to look good in clothing. 

I do have days when I think of putting a bit more effort into my clothes and shoes and sometimes I do think about putting on a touch of makeup. Then I think of the time it would take to choose and put on the makeup, plus the time and money needed to shop for nice clothes and shoes. With the stuff I want to do, I would rather race out of the house earlier to live my life than spend it on makeup, regardless of how short a time it takes. Beauty truly is skin deep after all. When I die, I would want people to celebrate the things I’ve done, rather than just look at the nice makeup and clothes on my dead body. 

If you are inspired and curious about Rosaliz, you can read the article and watch a video on Rosaliz by clicking the handy link here.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

What do we learn?

It's been a good long break since the last post, during which there were medical appointments and Chinese New Year preparations, so I've been busy, sorry! Now that everything is done and work is settling down, I finally found some time to do a simple book cover with a greeting card.

The process of doing this is easy enough because all you really have to do is wrap the greeting card with a cover paper of your choice, so while I was making it, I had time to do some musings over the whole idea of crafting.

This particular occasion, I remembered a line I heard a parent say to a child over the taking up of music in school:

"You don't pursue music all the way unless you want to become a musician. If you don't, then there's no point in pursuing it in school to this extent."

That made me a little sad. We don't pursue a craft just to earn money from it, surely. Yes, it would be great if we did and we could live off what we loved. But, even if we don't get to, even if we have to keep our 9-5 jobs, does that necessarily mean there is no use for the craft that we love to do? 

(Here when I write craft, I refer to a interest that we work at for a sustained period of time in order to gain mastery of it. This could include art, craft, playing an instrument, photography, writing etc...)

What then, do we take away from our craft? Do we do it so that one day we could quit our 9-5 jobs? Do we do it just for the end product, to have something pretty to hold in our hands? To have something useful that will serve a meaningful purpose in our lives? 

Then what do we gain when we don't achieve what we set out to do? When we fail at it? When we don't make money or a living out of it? Does that mean our craft becomes useless or hopeless?

Think of your craft then not in terms of the material products it produces. Think in terms of the values and skills you learn and then it becomes clearer.

Real life example: When I volunteered for the violin recital, many people thought I was nuts. Even on the day of the recital, after all the practice I did, I still played nearly half the song off key. It would seem like a total bomb, but I still took away several lessons from my recital attempt:

Persistence - To keep trying even when our first attempts bomb. I thought I knew what persistence meant till I volunteered for this and to my horror realized at the start how far out of my depth I was. I had to keep practising and practising to reach a semi-acceptable level and then I realized what real persistence meant. 

Mindfulness - To reflect on our mistakes, think of what went wrong and what to do about it in the future. Mindless practising would have seen me playing the song wrongly a hundred times a day. I have to learn deliberate practice, in which after each attempt, I thought about the parts that went wrong and concentrated on making those parts right before going on to the rest of the song. Each time I practised, I had to keep a mindful eye (or ear) out for those parts to make sure I got them right.

Ability to withstand failure - To stand with grace under pressure even amidst total failure. When I finished the recital piece, I knew it wasn't good. But more importantly, I learnt that it was ok that it wasn't good. Life still went on, my family and friends were still around me and I could still continue playing the violin (badly). Whether the rest of the audience thought it was good or not didn't matter because they were so temporary in my life, which would go on even long after they had forgotten my performance.

When I looked at my violin playing this way, then it didn't really matter how well or how badly I played. I still learnt and continued to learn these lessons, which would follow me in other areas of life. And when I looked at the rest of the crafts that I pursued, I could see other values that I had learnt:

Meticulousness - To be exact and deliberate in your activities. My first few crafting and painting attempts were very haphazardly done and it showed. Paper stuck out at the wrong angles, paint jobs were done poorly and I felt it was because I tended to rush through my actions without thought for measurement or precision. Now this works well in some instances, but since I wanted a finished job that looked close to professional, I had to learn to be more meticulous and precise in what I did. Now when I make a new journal, I have learnt to be more exact in the way I cut and paste the paper and I'm a lot more proud of the products I produce. 

Patience and self-forgiveness - Things will still go wrong, no matter how hard or often you try. Songs will still be played wrongly, paint will be applied wrongly, paper will be cut or pasted wrongly. At times like this, when I want to throw everything into the rubbish chute in despair, I learn to tell myself to cool down and more importantly, forgive myself for my mistakes. It's ok to make these kind of mistakes and there's always a way to bounce back from them if we are willing to learn. That's important because I also learnt to apply this when I mess up in other areas, like work and tell myself it's ok in the long run, I will bounce back. 

So maybe in a way, this is a practice for when my own child faces the same reactions when he wants to pursue his own craft. There will be people who will tell him there's no use or money in it and that he's better off pursuing his career or his job. When they do, I hope I will remember this blog entry so that someone will tell him, "No, there is purpose, life and love in doing what we love and this is how I learnt it."

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Make Useful Stuff

Following up from the last post about how Creative Output must = Material Input, I managed to do a few more little projects with my junk, er, creative supplies. I happily cut and pasted to make some more art journal pages to my satisfaction. Then I wondered why did some of these make me feel so contented? Well, one reason of course is that I was starting to make some pages which I felt happy looking at. I liked the messages that I was writing and I liked the way it turned out so nicely.

This brought me to another thought, that when we make something creative, we should also


Now, some would interpret this as "It has to serve a practical purpose" but my definition is a bit wider than that. How would you know if something is useful? Ask yourself the following:

👍 Is what you made useful? Does it help you to do something or achieve a goal? 
One example of this would be the pen holders I made from old film cans. I needed something to hold small pens and the holders fit that purpose perfectly. It helped me to achieve the goals of organizing my desk, and being creative.

👍 Does it make you feel good, or 'spark joy' like what Marie Kondo describes in her book? Here as examples are 2 old art journal pages I did. They don't have any practical purpose. They don't act as storage, they're too big to use as bookmarks and too light as paperweights. I can't even write on them because they're no longer blank. Yet when I look at them, they remind me of important messages that I should carry through life. One is the obvious message that they carry and the other is that I am capable of making beautiful pieces if I just try. Certainly, when I look at them, they 'spark joy' in me. 

👍 Does it teach you something? Do you learn something out of it? This is one of my first attempts with watercolour painting:  
You can tell it's not good at all and you find any redeeming feature in it, you are a good, kind friend and I thank you. By all appearances, this particular painting does not serve any practical purpose. There's no inspirational message and in fact, it's kind of gloomy. Plus the technique really sucks.

But it did lead on to a later piece, which is this:
This is still not a fine piece of art but isn't it miles above the first in technique? That's the useful purpose of the first piece, not as a piece of art on its own, but as a stepping stone to a better piece. 

It was hard to grasp that some of the uglier stuff I did early on could serve any useful purpose at all. At times, it seemed impossible with the skills I had then that I could produce anything marginally useful. The key for me was not to dismiss my early attempts as proof that I totally sucked, but to see them as small steps to a bigger thing. Then it was easier to continue, because I saw myself en route to bigger things. 

This can be hard. Especially when you are faced with the shrapnel of all your failed attempts and a trash bin full of paper, the inspirational quotations about learning 99 ways how not to build a light bulb seem pretty shallow. Be kind to yourself and accept your own shortfalls and failures. Even if you don't churn out anything remotely useful or beautiful at the end of your life, you still would have learnt something you didn't before. That also makes it useful. 😉

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Creative Output must equal Material Input

Today, I started on one of my Big Hairy Audacious Goals, which was to clear and organize the journals on my table. This was an important and urgent goal, because

1. They were a disaster waiting to happen. 
The journals were in a precarious pile on the table and every time someone breathed near them, an avalanche occurred.
2. They were not in a convenient location. 
I wanted them arranged in a more accessible way that made sense for me. They were arranged in a huge stack on top of one another, and that certainly made it 'convenient' when the one I wanted happened to be, oh, right at the bottom.
3. They were mixed up with too much other junk. 
There were other stuff mixed up with the journals which I was not using. This included stationery, stickers, random pieces of paper, name cards, other homemade journals... 

All combined, the pile was long overdue for a decluttering a la Marie Kondo. As I started to clear the pile, I uncovered even more bits of paper and trash, resulting in another small scrap heap that I had to clear other than the journals. 😖 Some were easy, like outdated insurance letters dating back from 2008. Some were more difficult, like Christmas cards from close friends. *sigh*

One thing became clear though: My creative output was not equal to the material input that I had accumulated. For all the paper, stickers and junk I had kept, how much of it had actually turned into actual artwork? I had kept a lot of paper, thinking "This would come in handy if I wanted to...*insert craft project here*" but for work or some reason or another, I never got around to doing it and the materials just stayed there. Or I would buy new materials, thinking "I can use this if I... *insert new craft idea here*" but again, the materials stayed there. 

Even the things I used were also existing in surplus. I did more journalling in 2016 so I told myself I would allow myself to use whatever I had bought, without fear of failure. I wrote on my nice notepads, I tore things out of my Flow Book for Paper Lovers, I shrugged away the numerous mistakes I made, resolving to be more careful the next time, I gleefully tore out metres and metres of washi tape. 

And I still had tons of those materials. 😱 The things in my room seem like a neverending black hole of paper, washi tape and stickers. Made even worse by my seemingly bright idea to do a couple of projects with junk paper, which meant that I had also accumulated a small stack of junk paper from work...... 

I think I'm not the only person this has happened to. How many times have we bought something with good intentions, thinking that it will come in handy, or that it will help us to achieve some goal? Hands up all the guilty ones who have books unread (me), paints unused (me), clothes unworn, exercise equipment being used as clothes hangers and other things bought with good intentions in January only to be covered in dust by March. 

For me, the bottom line is clear. I bought these supplies to be creative, so be creative I must. That is,


Everything I have now must be used, used and used even for what seems like the most frivolous of reasons. It doesn't matter even if I don't churn out the Mona Lisa from my supplies, what matters is that I use them to the best of my abilities and use them to improve my creative skills in whatever way possible. That also means that I will make mistakes and end up chucking away some hard-earned material. Take it as a lesson learned rather than a wasted failure. 

The funny thing is that during this month when I was doing that, somehow I started to improve in small ways. My brush lettering improved because I now had oodles of junk paper to practise on. My journalling started to look better when I used my coloured markers to write with and my washi tape and stickers to decorate. I even found some of my markers running out of ink, which was sad yet gratifying at the same time. 

So if there's one thing you have to remember:

This can be found on my Instagram (@khelath) 

We are not put on this earth to buy and accumulate things. We are meant to DO things. So if there's something around you that's accumulating, (like my craft materials) ask yourself why, and just DO something with it to get started. We are not buyers of life, we are DOERS. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Personal Thoughts

I realize it’s been a while since I last blogged and maybe some of you are thinking of calling the blog police to make a Missing Bloggers Report (Ha, I only hope!) so I thought of doing a Personal Thoughts entry as an update.

It’s the end of February 2017 and I’ve been on leave the past 2 weeks at home, waiting for the birth of my first baby! After all the walking around at work, it was a relief to finally stay at home and relax before baby comes out and creates a new round of havoc.

I enjoyed the first 3 days of leave just slacking around, doing some art journaling, reading, watching TV… and then I got bored.

You see, it is relaxing having no obligations or deadlines to meet, but after a while, life becomes very aimless. I felt like I was just floating around without a purpose, other than waiting around for baby to be born. I also felt like this was a waste of my precious leave.

So I took out the To-Do lists again and started giving myself some aims. I didn’t want to make my whole life full of deadlines again but I could commit to doing some ‘work’ in the morning and then keep myself busy in the afternoon with art or photography projects. In that way, I could also write enough articles to keep the blog alive even after baby came out.

Now I realize I made myself into something like a freelance writer. -_-!! I can’t complain that it’s a bad life, seeing that I wake up at any time I feel like and I’m actively doing something I’m good at, but most of all, I appreciate the sense of purpose it gives me. That now, instead of my identity revolving solely around being a mummy, I also have other things in life to work and develop towards. Treat it as a kind of school holiday, I guess.

And what happens when baby comes? Well, then I switch to taking care of him then. Just like during the school holidays, I also have to understand that this period of freelance writing is temporary. I’m not in it to make money or build a career (though it would be a bonus if I did!) but rather to create a sense of purpose and identity. To help me see myself as a more rounded person, more than just being a teacher or a mother.

Whether this continues or not still remains to be seen. But after all, this blog has seen a few years’ hiatus and has weathered it through to be better in the end. I may take it up again after I have kids or I may end up neglecting it until the kids get married and I have Empty Nest Syndrome -_-!! More importantly, for now, I feel I’m working towards something and even if I leave it aside, I have something else waiting for me to take up again later in life.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Happy Birthday to Me...

Today is my birthday. I woke up early to have breakfast with 2 good friends, splurged on books and magazines at the bookstore and had a hotdog and fries for lunch. I went home full and contented and stuck myself in my study to journal, draw and now, blog. :) 

Years ago, when I was much, much younger, I wanted a big party. The kind where I could invite all my classmates with fancy invitations. We would play party games on the day itself, (where presumably I would be allowed to win all of them), eat a ginormous birthday cake and I would open lots of great presents. 

Well, my folks were broke though, so that never happened for me. I did get the cake and some presents though.

When I was older, I outgrew the idea of party games, birthday cakes and eventually, presents. I didn't need the whole shebang, but I did like the idea of having all my friends with me. We would eat dinner at a special place, you know, not the kind we usually ate at, but somewhere nicer and fancier than usual, and it would still be a special kind of day. I still look on the memories of those days fondly on photos and Facebook. 

Now at this grand old age of 36, I find I'm not even interested in that. I just wanted to have a slow, comfortable day consisting of the big loves in my life: books, fries, friends and family. So I arranged to have a breakfast date with friends, I decided I would have fries for lunch (oh, what a decadent treat at our age!) and I would splurge on books. After that, I would stay home, eat chips and watch TV. 

It's a very simple plan and I'm fine with that. In fact, with work and all its obligations being what it is, having the time in the whole day to be able to do all that without any shred of guilt feels like a decadent, luxurious treat. More so than any fancy restaurant or present I ever received.

Because now, I'm learning that happiness is not just about the big grand parties in life. A stronger, more lasting form of happiness can also be found in the smaller pieces of our everyday lives and in everywhere that we are. I am grateful that I have found some of those small pieces of happiness and they are enough for me for now. :) Happy birthday to me, and here's to more chips and fries. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Story of 2 Journals

This is the story of 2 journals. 

The one on the right, labelled "It's gonna be okay", was bought when I was going through a low time of my life. I seemed to be screwing up all the time at work, even when I was trying my best, and I felt like I was alone and had nobody. I bought the journal to rant, basically, to release all the excess toxic thoughts and to help me think a way through. 

The '16' journal on the right has a different story. It was given by a friend who had no use for me and ironically came a year late. (It really is a 2016 diary.) I loved all the cute illustrations inside and I thought it looked so happy, it ought to be a Happy Book. I started writing about happiness and all the little things that made me happy. 

After I started in it, I remembered the other journal and I took it out. The person who wrote those words inside seemed so far away from the person writing inside the Happy Book. I couldn't help but wonder: which journal would fill up first? Perhaps only time and my own efforts can tell. 

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Junk Journals Tutorial 2: Part 2: Making a Book Cover

Hi all, sorry for the long break! We've been celebrating Chinese New Year here in Singapore and now that it's nearly at an end, it's time for me to finish up this tutorial too!

Today's tutorial covers how to make a cover for your journal and is very useful when you are making journals of your own. Once you have some simple steps mastered, the technique can be applied to making any kind of journal.

Making A Book Cover

You will need:

Tools and Materials
Paper (This would become your cover)
End Paper (Any kind of coloured paper, for the inside of the cover)
Bookbinding stapler (Or ordinary stapler and eraser, if you are following my alternative stapling method)

Here, for this tutorial, I have chosen a page out of Frankie magazine as the paper for my cover. The paper from this magazine is quite sturdier and after the end paper is pasted, will become strong enough to act as the cover.

Step 1: Fold the top and bottom edges of the magazine page to your required size. To gauge the size, I've put the paper from Part 1 on top. Leave a few millimetres allowance at the edges.

Step 2: Fold the right side down but cut the corners away. You should have something that looks like the picture above.

Step 3: Take away the notepaper. Stick the right side down. Then do the same on the left side. 

We're almost done. By this point, the top picture shows the inside of the cover and the bottom picture shows the outside after I folded it in half. 

Step 4: Open the cover and stick the end paper of your choice on the inside. Here I chose a piece of white paper to keep a clean look. This will also cover any ugly folding marks you made.

Step 5: Open the cover and open the notepaper to the centre. Clip the notepaper to the cover as if it were a finished book. The clips will keep the paper in place and make it easier to staple.

 Step 6: Turn the whole thing over and staple the paper to the cover.

Done! Here is the finished journal when closed and the tools I used!

Like I said, this tutorial is handy for making covers for any kind of journal or notebook, so save it and keep it handy!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Junk Journals Tutorial 2: Part 1: Free paper is great!

Today's junk journal tutorial makes use of a free notepad I received from some sale or exhibition. ( I totally don't remember anymore, sorry! ) I love to get these because, er, I'm a bit of a paper junkie, but I don't always like the advertising that comes with it. However, it is always easy enough to use the paper to make a journal that you would like and the best thing is, it came free!

This is useful because at times, I come across lovely stiff paper in pamphlets or programme booklets. Although I would just love to make them into journals, I can't, because of all the words on them. So I keep (or hoard) free notepads and notebooks for this reason. 
This is a very easy tutorial to do and even if you have just one free notepad, it provides enough paper to make a number of journals.

The green and white notepad is the one I'm using. It comes from a property website but I don't want to be reminded of that whenever I use it. 

Using Free Paper

You will need:

Bookbinding stapler 
or Stapler and Eraser combo (As written in Tutorial 1a)
Adhesive of your choice (I'm using glue tape which I bought from Daiso)

One free notebook/notepad
Old brochure (Choose one with hardier paper)
Paper (for cover. I used a page from Frankie magazine with a photo that I liked)

1. Tear out your chosen number of brochure pages. Fold the brochure pages into half. This would form something that looks like a small book, on the left.  

2. Tear out a page from the free notepad and stick it on top of each page. You're done! 

Ok, obviously you would be expecting a bit more than that. Now chances are, like me, your free notepad paper will not fit your brochure paper and you will see some words or pictures sticking out the top. To counter this, I explored a few ways to decorate the pages. If you used a brochure with nice pictures, you probably won't have to read the following (but please do, anyway). But if you used one with boring words like me, then here's some decorating ideas:

(Note: Where possible, I have included links to the companies that produce the materials I used. If I didn't, it means I either bought them cheaply or I have totally forgotten where they came from.) 

Most cheapo method: Use marker pens to colour a design at the top. Here I opted for a simple rainbow design. You can also substitute the marker pens for other art mediums of your choice, like watercolours. 

Washi tape: Stick your favourite washi tape over the uncovered parts. Tape bought from MT tape.

Use a stamp of your choice and stamp it repeatedly. Here I used an awesome one from Typo stationery

Cut scraps of paper from previous scrapping projects and paste them at the top. This paper was from a Flow Book for Paper Lovers while the one below was from a paper pad from Popular Bookstore. You can also use scraps of pictures from magazines or newspapers or brochures. 

When you are done, staple the pages together using a bookbinding stapler or my alternative stapling method.
When you are done, you will end up with a nice set of stapled pages ready to be journalled in! But nice pages need a nice cover to hold them all together, no? We will cover that in the next tutorial! See you then! 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

#outofthepagesiread - 3 Steps to Mastering Any Subject

It's been a heck of a hiatus after Christmas and New Year, but now that it's officially 2017, time to get working again, especially on the blog! Maintaining the blogging habit has become even more important to me now since we are expecting the little chick to hatch in about a month or two. If I can (hopefully, desperately, crossing my fingers) maintain this blog even during my maternity, I have better hopes of maintaining and even growing it till my chick grows up. Till then, I will just do what little bit I can!

So I'm starting again with #outofthepagesiread and the article I have chosen is apt for anyone who has a new year resolution to learn something new. 

The original article was published on Quartz and I have included a handy link for it right here. What it describes is the Feynman technique, named after physicist Richard Feynman, and on first read, it seems ridiculously easy. 

In a nutshell...

To learn anything, you would need to do three steps:
1. Teach it to a child
2. Review your learning
3. Organize and simplify
(Don't be lazy, read the original article for more details. It's not that hard, trust me)

Does it work? I tried this method last year when I was learning French on my own. Step 1 seems easy but ho boy, try explaining French verbs in a child-like manner @_@ tres difficile! This took some cracking of brain veins because in order to do this, I had to read the very-adult-jargon-like explanation in my book several times before I could rephrase it to myself as if I was a seven-year-old. The hard part about it is that even when I could do so, I wasn't sure I had explained it correctly after the rephrasing. 

This is a powerful step, to be sure, in understanding any subject, but to be really sure of yourself, I think you would need some kind of mentor or study buddy to make sure that you are on the right track. 

It worked more when I was learning photography though, because that was a concept I was more familiar with. For example, when I was trying to make myself remember the concept of apertures, I imagined the light beaming through small circles and big circles. Putting it in the form of a visual aid that I might have drawn on the whiteboard to a class of kids worked better for this. Also, because I understood what an aperture was and I had seen it many times on my camera, it was easy to rephrase this concept. 

So the key to the first step is understanding. A solid understanding of what you are trying to learn will help you in teaching it to someone who doesn't. If you learning something with a lot of technical jargon, you can try reading a simpler version of it to build your understanding first. Also, you might want to consult someone who is already very knowledgeable about it.

Steps 2 and 3 are much easier and puts me more in mind of how we used to cram for our final exams. Methods may vary, though. I found it easier to put everything on a colourful mind map to see the big picture. Others may prefer other forms of organization. Plus, I realized that I learnt better by writing stuff down on paper while other people may prefer Evernote or other note-taking apps. To each his own in this and you will have to explore a bit to find out what works for you. 

So overall...

I find the method easy to remember and doable. It might work for some subjects better than others, but you should still be able to apply it to most things you want to learn. Good luck with your New Year resolutions! 


I read about this method through Jocelyn K. Glei. She writes about creativity and productivity and she produces a weekly email newsletter with great content. This is a link to her website and you can sign up for the newsletter there too.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Starting Afresh... Over the old memories...

Those who have been reading my blog know that from the last entry, I had decided to reuse one of my old journals and I had torn out the pages with bad memories in a kind of purging exercise. 

I didn't manage to do this with all the pages I wanted, though. There were some pages which had better memories on the other side, or other pages that had nice journal entries that I wanted to keep. For the sake of those better ones, I kept those 'dark' pages in the journal.

Yet, I didn't want to keep reminding myself of them every time I turned the pages. So I hit on a plan with an old calendar. 

I had bought this calendar from Workman Publishing in early 2016.

It's a beautiful calendar with an inspiring message for every day of the week and for months, I kept it on my desk, flipping to see the next message. 

Well, obviously the calendar I have is out of date by now, but there were many pieces of artwork inside that I liked very much. So I thought of doing some art journal pages with them over the 'dark' pages in my journal. Why not? Now the pages with the stuff that was better forgotten would be papered over with some better-looking art. 

And so the first page I did in this style is as seen below:

(That's my weekly journal on the right, kindly ignore 😅)

I guess you could call it cheap craft therapy, a way to be creative, forget the bad and replace them with better new messages for the future. It's easy enough to do with the calendar but if you don't, there are tons of inspirational messages being shared freely on Facebook or Pinterest. You can always print one out and paste it down and decorate it with washi tape or the embellishments of your choice. 

And trust me, definitely cheaper than therapy. 

Workman Publishing prints other calendars besides this one and they also have a selection of books too. You can check them out at this handy link here.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Starting Afresh...

First off, Happy New Year 2017, with all its bright hopes! 

I'm proud that I managed to revive this blog as much as I did in 2016. (Every blog post is an hour I didn't spend watching more TV!) 

I know that traditionally, this is the time to be setting NY resolutions, ie, to blog more, to write more, to do more. Usually that is what I would have done as well, but considering that next year is full of flux with the baby coming, I thought I would do something a bit different.

The journal on the left is one that I kept from 2015-early 2016. I'm opening it again for 2017 because I still have some pages left in it that I would like to fill up, maybe with simple reflections about each day. 

The pages on the right are another story. They are a mix of pages that I did in 2015. Some, like the one on top, are project ideas that I had. Some were weekly diary entries for 2015 and I decided to make a fresh start by discarding them.

Other pages in the pile carry heavier meaning. See, 2015 was a pretty bad year for me, work-wise. I had a lot of frustrations and setbacks at work and at times when it all got too bad for me, I journalled them down. So in that pile are also pages with a lot of negativity. 

2016 became a little better because some of the things dragging me down were taken off and also, I became a bit more mindful and organized so I could be a little more chill about work. When I opened the journal and looked at those pages though, the unhappiness in those words became fresh in my mind again. 

As I read through them, I thought, Do I want to carry these around with me? 

I decided not. I ripped out the pages and tossed them. 

In life, there are lessons that we learn that we can carry through life. Those lessons we can carry with us as we live. Bad memories and emotions, however, are a different thing. They drag us down with their negativity and make us relive them over and over again. They keep us in the past instead of carrying us on to the future. 

In this way, I suppose, I'm carrying out the opposite of a resolution. Instead of making plans to step into a bold new future, I'm tossing and burning the past behind so that it doesn't follow me anymore. I'm still not sure enough about the future to make plans or resolutions but I am certain enough about my power over my past, to make sure it doesn't haunt me any longer. And I guess that's as good a start as any. 

So Happy New Year everyone, may you start the year afresh and leave it all behind.