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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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In the pantry: Glass jars & chalkboard paint

As I get older, I find myself becoming more and more like my mother and grandmother. Do you feel the same way? I’ve begun taking on some of their habits—even habits that used to annoy me!

One such habit is my grandmother’s penchant for saving and reusing discarded things. Every Christmas, Nanay would open her presents at an agonizingly slow pace, carefully peeling off tape, salvaging ribbons from the pile of wrapping on the floor, and neatly folding gift wrap to be reused the following year. It drove us all a little bonkers. We always told her to just rip off the paper and toss it—something, having lived through the scarcity of wartime, she was simply incapable of doing.

My grandmother also kept empty glass bottles and jars for purposes unknown. A few months before she died, I sat by her bedside one afternoon talking about the wedding with my mom and Marlon. She was 91, bedridden and feeding through a tube by this time.

She apologized for not having anything to give us as a wedding present—except four empty glass jars of Lily’s Peanut Butter (the kind with flowers painted on) that she’d asked her nurses to save. The nurses were embarrassed to bring out the glasses, but I barely held back my tears as I took them and thanked her. Even thinking about it now makes me cry!

Maybe Nanay was just ahead of her time. Today we call my grandmother’s habit by new, hip names: upcycling, repurposing. I now save bottles and jam jars, and use them to organize our kitchen pantry.

Our pantry is a huge drawer that’s about 1.2 meters wide and 30 cm deep (a little less than four feet wide and a foot deep). It can get messy, so I put loose things—like nuts, spices, and lentils—into recycled jars.

Kitchen pantry drawer

To make things easier to find, I labeled all the lids. Initially I used washi tape, but I scrapped that in favor of some leftover chalkboard paint from Tala’s nursery. Painting all the lids a single color helped unify the entire assortment.

Kitchen organization repurposed jars

I wrote the contents of each jar on the lid with a chalkboard marker…

Kitchen organization chalkboard jars
and the pantry drawer looks all the better for it!

Saving jars is an ongoing project, and not just because it helps me organize my kitchen. Each time I steam the label off a pasta sauce bottle or wash an empty jam jar, I think a little bit about my grandmother. I’m pretty sure she would have been pleased.

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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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!

Before & after: Ikea Brimnes bed

Moving into a smaller apartment with less closet space, Marlon and I agreed that under-bed storage was a must. We looked at a couple of (mostly expensive) options until we settled on the affordable Ikea Brimnes bed, which has clean lines and huge drawers underneath.Ikea Brimnes bed with storage

Because our bedroom has limited space, we also bought the Brimnes headboard, which features a ledge and hidden shelving that we could use in place of bedside tables. Ikea Brimnes headboard

Confession: I wasn’t totally onboard with this purchase. I agreed the storage was practical, but I had an irrational, possibly hormonally-fueled distaste for those two rectangles on the headboard and footboard. “Can we please do something to cover them up?” I grumbled as we paid for our purchases at Ikea. “Okay,” Marlon said. Smart man—never disagree with a pregnant woman.

With Little Mango on the way, neither Marlon and I were in the mood for elaborate DIYs. Our solution? Wallpaper!

Piet Hein Eek headboard

Check out our quick fix and finishing touches, after the jump!

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Knit it: Chunky ribbed cowl

This time last year, I was running around like a headless chicken. If I wasn’t traveling, I had some kind of class or activity on an almost-daily basis: watercolor, sewing, Dutch, a blogging e-course. This autumn, I’ve made a conscious decision to cut down on activity and slow down. With a baby on the horizon, I know our quiet nights and lazy weekends at home are numbered, and I want to enjoy them while they last.

So, while Marlon putters around the kitchen or bonds with his Playstation after work, I blog, surf, read… or knit. One of the easy knitting projects I finished this week is a chunky ribbed cowl in electric blue alpaca wool, based on this pattern from Knit & Bake.

To be honest, it was supposed to be for me, but it didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted it to! I’m still a knitting newbie, so I’m awful at estimating gauge (yarn weight vs needle size) and all that. In fact, if you look closely, it’s pretty hairy from all the times I found myself stuck and bewildered, and just had to unpick and redo it.

Thankfully, Marlon was happy to have it. He says it’s soft and cozy, and keeps the wind out while he’s cycling. Yay for low-maintenance husbands!

Who wore it better?

After knitting a very long scarf that I didn’t like very much, I finally completed a knitting project that I actually like. I found a pattern for and thought it would be a nice way to learn new techniques, like increasing and decreasing stitches. It’s not perfect, but it’s been getting a lot of use, and I’m happy with the color.

Now, my question is: who wore it better? Me or Rogue?

P.S. I’m frowning because I attempted to take this in a narrow cobblestoned alley that suddenly turned into a wind tunnel. Narrow alleys here have a way of doing that in the winter.

MangoJuiced: Style steals from an Istanbul apartment

I stayed in this Istanbul apartment last October—and I loved it so much, I “stole” something to take home with me. Can you guess what it is?

Go style stealing with me in this week’s post on MangoJuiced. And leave a comment to congratulate me on my newfound sewing skills. Consider that your hint!
MangoJuiced is a webzine for anything and everything that interests women—from fashion and family, to pop culture and beauty, to travel and lifestyle. Follow MangoJuiced on  and … and don’t forget to check back in for a new post from me every week!

Christmas chandelier

Remember the wineglass chandelier that we got in April?
It recently became the target of my Christmas decorating frenzy. I had something in mind, but before I could put my idea to work, all the wineglasses had to come off. Yes, all 36 of them. 

While the glasses received their first wash in months, I strung up a few new ornaments: a set of four very shiny silver ones from Ikea, as well as some fresh picks from De Bijenkorf. All of the ornaments I chose were either silver, gold, transparent or some kind of combination of the three. All the better to let through, or reflect, the light from the central bulb.

Marlon and I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures while working. Shiny things are just too much fun to play with.

After throwing in a few of our pre-loved ornaments to fill in the gaps, and draping some faux greens over the top, our chandelier revamp was complete.

Voila! Presenting our Christmas chandelier.

Just looking at it all lit up in the evening gives me the warm-and-fuzzies.

It’s just as pretty in the daytime.

I’ll be sad to take it down after the holidays. But for now, I’ll enjoy it as much as I can.