Viewing: Creative Projects

Party DIY: Hand-lettered balloons

Did you see the hand-lettered balloon garland I made for Tala’s first birthday party? I wanted to write a separate post about this fun little DIY project because I enjoyed doing it so much.

DIY hand-lettered balloon garland

Aside from the balloon garland, I also hand-lettered individual balloons and floated them around the cafe. Tala is already used to hearing English, Filipino and Dutch, so I used a combination of fun party words from those three languages.

Hoera! Party balloons DIY handlettering

Hoera (pronounced hooh-rah) means hurray!

Leuk! Party balloons DIY handlettering

Leuk! is Dutch for nice, fun, or cool. The Dutch say it so often, in the beginning I was paranoid that people were being sarcastic with me.

Yehey! Party balloons DIY handlettering

We also had Super! Yay! and Yippee! And of course, I couldn’t leave out our very own Yehey!

This was so much fun for me. I’ve always loved hand lettering—just ask my high school classmates and look at my old textbooks. Plus, it’s easy! Anyone can do it and it doesn’t take much time. Here’s how to DIY your own hand-lettered party balloons.

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Party prep for the weekend

Tomorrow is Tala’s first birthday, and all I can say is: I’m so glad I live in a culture where the approach to birthday parties is practical and laid-back.

It’s a good way for me to ease into the world of kiddie birthday parties. I have quite a few friends with babies Tala’s age, and recently my Facebook feed has been a parade of glittery fairy costumes, elaborate theme parties and fancy home-baked birthday cakes. It’s a bit intimidating, but I have to remind myself that motherhood is not a competition, and the most important person in this equation is literally incapable of judgment.

Mama might not have a fat bank account or know how to bake, but she has pretty handwriting and is great at finding things on the Internet. That should count for something, right?

Babies and bacon!

Our plans are simple: we’ve invited friends to a “Babies & Bacon” birthday brunch for Tala at a neighborhood cafe. The cafe is very typical Dutch, so the process of “educating” them on the elements of what would be considered an American-style brunch—with bacon and Bloody Marys—has been… interesting. I’ve had to yield my ambitious plans of fluffy pancake stacks to the reality of flat, crispy Dutch pancakes; however, I’ve been assured there will be Mimosas, so I guess you win some, you lose some.

I’m off to run a few last-minute birthday errands, but I’ll be back next week with some snaps from Tala’s first birthday party. Wish me luck, and think a happy thought for Tala on her first birthday!

2014: First quarter goals

I’ve never been the type to make New Year’s resolutions. I tend to associate them with forgetting and failing, which is probably not the best way to start the year.

Goals are different. I don’t think I set goals as often as I should. When I do, I end up pleasantly surprised for having achieved them somehow, even when I haven’t been all gung-ho and determined.

In setting my goals for 2014, I’ve divided the year into quarters. I find this helps to keep me from feeling overwhelmed. It also gives me the flexibility to change my plans and be open to opportunities.

I have three things I want to accomplish in the first three months of the year. I wrote them on my window in pink window marker, so I’ll always have my goals in front of me!

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Hand lettering project: Sketches to final artwork

Yesterday, I blogged about the hand lettering class on Skillshare that’s been my main creative outlet this fall. I shared the inspiration behind the phrase I chose to work on, which was a song lyric from the ’80s fantasy film Labyrinth.

Today I want to show you how the inspiration I gathered evolved into sketches, and eventually, into a final inked drawing. Letterer Mary Kate McDevitt goes through these steps in detail and packs lots of tips and tricks into her video lessons. So I highly recommend signing up for the class if you want to learn more about the whole process!

After soaking up visual inspiration, it was time to prop up my mood boards in front of me, put pencil to paper and warm up by trying out different styles of lettering.

Lettering warmups

I hadn’t drawn anything in months, so my first warmup (on the left) was painful. Personally, I found my first attempt quite atrocious. “Que horror!” I thought to myself in dismay while rubbing my aching hand. “Maybe hand lettering isn’t for me?”

But soon I discovered why it’s called a warmup—muscles need to loosen up and get used to producing letters. If you look from left to right, you’ll see my succeeding warmups improved. After a few tries, I was able to start playing around with elements from my inspiration boards, like gems, jewels and floating or tumbling letters.


The next step was to sketch small, quick thumbnails to try out a few possible layouts. At this point, I decided to contain the entire phrase in a tilted globe to convey the idea of a turning world.

Rough sketches

Then I chose the most promising thumbnails to refine and develop in more detail.

Refined sketchThis was my first detailed sketch. Patience is not one of my virtues, so it still shocks me to think I spent almost three straight hours working on this—drawing, erasing and redrawing, over and over again. I like to obsess over little details (something my watercolor teacher hated), so drawing all these tiny jewels felt almost therapeutic for me.

Final pencil sketchOnce I reached a refined sketch that I was happy with, I laid a sheet of tracing paper over it and retraced it (no way was I going to draw the whole thing from scratch!). Thanks to feedback from Mary Kate and my Skillshare classmates, I knew that everything south of the banner was pretty solid—I just had to work on the top half of the globe to make the words more readable and fit together better.

After lots of trial and error, retracing and redrawing, it was finally time to commit—to do the final inking.

Oh you turned my world you precious thing final

And here it is: my final inked hand-lettered quote! I want to print it out and put it up in Tala’s room, so I’m eyeing Mary Kate’s class on how to add color, texture and finishing touches.

It all seems easy when I sum everything up in one post, but this took more effort and time than I expected—an hour here, two hours there, carved out and compounded over weeks. I wouldn’t have been as patient if I hadn’t watched the videos of Mary Kate developing her own artwork with such care and attention to detail.

What do you think of my attempt at hand lettering? I’d love to know!

Hand lettering with Mary Kate McDevitt on Skillshare

One of the things I got most excited about this fall was getting creative again. With Tala at the gastouder twice a week, I could finally carve out some precious time to reactivate the right side of my brain and work on a new project after a six month-long creative dry spell.

I thought about reviving my interest in calligraphy, but while browsing classes on Skillshare, I got sidetracked by The First Steps of Hand Lettering with freelance letterer Mary Kate McDevitt.

Reading the class description triggered flashbacks to high school, when I was obsessed with hand lettering. I would copy letters from Bibles and calligraphy books with my Pilot Tecpoint 0.5 pen. I would write out the names of my teenybopper crushes (Edward Furlong! Leonardo DiCaprio!) in my textbooks in various styles, ink staining my fingers, nose practically pressed to my desk. I knew everything about my classmates’ love lives from all the “monthsary” cards (how very high school!) and love letters they would ask me to decorate.

Lettering was fun, I was good at it, and I had totally forgotten about all of that—until now.

Turned text1

The objective of the class was to hand letter a favorite quote or phrase, and choosing one was the starting point of the entire project. I chose a lyric from Labyrinth, an ’80s classic and my favorite movie of all time. It’s from the final scene, where Sara (Jennifer Connelly) must rescue her baby brother from Jareth, the Goblin King (David Bowie! in tights!).

In eight words, this phrase captures exactly how I feel about becoming a mother. Ever since Tala came into my life, nothing has been the same. Life as I know it has changed forever; this little girl, this precious thing has turned my world.

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Giveaway winners + survey results!

Thank you to everyone who took the time to participate in my first-ever reader survey!

When Marlon, who works in market research and helped create the survey, said we should aim for 50 responses for a valid survey, I was doubtful—it’s a long survey with many open-ended (a.k.a. essay) questions. But we got 52 awesome responses. Hurray! 

As promised, I drew two winners at random to receive this bag of goodies from a few of my favorite shops.

Birthday giveaway

Congratulations to… JL and Jeni Villaraza! I’ll be in touch soon to arrange shipping.

Aside from announcing the winners, I also wanted to share a bit about the results of the survey.

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What’s in the box?

I’ve been trying to fight it, but the takeover of our home by baby stuff has begun. Recently it became apparent that I needed somewhere to put Tala during the day that wasn’t the couch, floor or bassinet. Enter The Box.

Tala's box

The box, or playpen as it’s known elsewhere, seems to be a Dutch baby essential. After being offered several boxes, I finally gave in and took one sight unseen. Luckily, it fits in nicely with the warm wood and eclectic style of our living room. Sigh of relief.

Confession time: despite my resistance to baby stuff outside Tala’s room and ours, I actually had fun furnishing the box.

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Chalkboard drawings in the nursery

Marlon and I finally got to do the one thing we’d been itching to do since painting the chalkboard wall in Tala’s nursery: draw on it! It only took one rainy afternoon (lots of those in Amsterdam) to turn our blank “canvas” from this…

Nursery chalkboard wall-before

into this.

Nursery chalkboard wall-after

Want a closer look at the details?

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DIY mobile with paper ornaments

Tala’s nursery is a work in progress, and it’s finally starting to come together. When I have a bit of spare time and energy I work on little touches here and there. And I’m having fun!

I’ve been looking for ways to help Tala develop her visual acuity, so one of my recent projects was a DIY mobile to hang over her changing mat, for her to look at during nappy changes. After window shopping for baby mobiles online, I realized that many of them are made for adults to look at—that is, pretty from the side but not from below, which is the baby’s perspective.

Luckily, one of my baby shower gifts was a pack of pop-out paper ornaments by Dutch designer Jurianne Matter. Putting together a DIY mobile with these was super easy. I simply popped out the ornaments, folded them as per instructions on the package, and strung them with varying lengths of embroidery thread from a wooden embroidery hoop, which I then wrapped with washi tape.

Paper mobile for nursery

Not only are the ornaments cute, colorful (love the touches of neon!) and graphic, but they also fold out into 3D shapes, making them interesting to look at from the underside—not just for mommy, but for baby too.

Paper ornaments Jurianne Matter

The ornaments are still pretty thin and low-contrast for Tala at this stage, but she’s started looking at them more and more. I blow gently at the top of the mobile to get the circles moving and draw her interest. I love seeing her try to focus on the shapes, knowing that they are getting clearer as her vision develops.

Tala and mobile

I have a few other projects in the works, so more nursery details to come!

Hanging up the duyan

A while back, I blogged about my desire for a traditional Filipino duyanor hanging bassinet, for the baby. My mom presented me with one last Christmas, and after lots of plastic cling wrap and two plane rides, our duyan arrived safely in Amsterdam.

Plain rattan didn’t quite go with our baby room’s color scheme, so Marlon and I decided to give the traditional duyan a bit of a modern makeover. Inspired by the ombre trend, Marlon and I used leftover paint from our baby room bookshelves to create a gradient effect. We applied three shades of powdery pink, starting with the lightest shade then and blending them as we went along.

Ombre bassinet DIY

After revamping the duyan, we had to find a place for it. I wanted Tala to sleep in our room in the early months, but we didn’t have enough space to hang the duyan by the bed.

Since we had found a great deal on a second-hand Stokke Sleepi, Marlon and I decided to make that her main crib and install the duyan on the balcony instead. Luckily, our apartment’s previous owners used to hang a hammock on the balcony, and they’d left a few heavy-duty hooks in the ceiling. Marlon tapped into his inner Boy Scout to rig the rope and secure it with a few well-placed knots…

Tala sleeping in her duyan

… and voila! One fully functional duyan, ready for gentle breezes and sunny days.

With the arrival of a long-delayed spring, we’re finally getting to use the duyan. We had great sunny weather last weekend, so we put the mattress and beddings from her Stokke crib in it and put her down for a nap while we enjoyed our first al fresco lunch of the season.

Baby sleeping in duyan

So many of my baby essentials are from home. The makeshift sun shade is one of our dozens of bird’s eye cloth diapers from Landmark, and it’s secured with pastel bull clips from National Bookstore. This is a Filipino baby, after all!

Tala in her duyan

Now that we’ve managed to import and install a traditional Filipino duyan, I’d love to get more use out of it. If only it was as easy to bring over some Filipino sunshine!