Shiny Snack Bag

April 13, 2011 at 6:26 PM (crafts, foil, origami, recycled) (, , , , )

Oh yeah, I know — not another wreath, please!!! Sometimes too much of a good thing can just make you blurry-eyed.  But I really fell in love with those book page wreaths that I found first at Living with Lindsay .  I found other versions here and here and here

Well, I did post a lousy photo a while back of a wreath I made from the little foil snack bags but I was able to get a much better picture this time (but I saved it for almost last).  I had already made a few of the wreaths from the book pages using Lindsay’s tutorial.  Here they are:


My first Book Page Wreath: antique gold tip with red glittered floral picks



Another one with some splashes of green added


Anyway I had all these little plastic foil snack bags that I wanted to use, so I thought the bright colors would make a great wreath.   Again, using Lindsay’s tutorial as a guide, I cut the bags open then cut them into three (almost equal) pieces across the length and proceeded to heat up the glue gun.  One thing I discovered while gluing these in place was that the plastic foil gets extremely hot and you have to hold each piece in place a bit longer than with just paper.  My fingers were one major mass of tenderness for about 2 days.  It’s difficult to see in this photo, but I had enough pieces to put 2 rows around the outside edge and another 2 rows around the inside.  That left me with a big white space in between, so I filled it in with telephone book pages (probably a good thing – tone down that shiny glare from the foil) and then added some foil-lined wrapping paper that I cut to look like a tinsel garland (that’s the blue & white frilly-looking stuff in the middle).  Still needed something, so I glued in two different kusodama flowers I had laying around and splashed some acrylic bluewash onto the phonebook paper.  Not sure I like the way it looks in this photo, but it actually looks pretty decent hanging on the wall.



Plastic foil snack bags with telephone book pages


Okay, so I saved the best for last.  When I showed my friend Nik how to make a kusudama ball with the origami flowers, she played around with them and came up with this cute wreath.  It’s about `12 inches across.  I love it!! How about you?



Origami Wreath from foil-lined paper






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Sea Fan Vingnette

April 2, 2011 at 4:22 PM (crafting) (, , , )

Quite a while back,  I bought a sea fan (gorgonia) just because I found it absolutely fascinating – and I knew I could do something with it.  As you may know, these things actually have a little “rootball” at the base, so I kept trying to figure out how I could adhere it to – whatever, and still keep a bit of the root exposed.  Well, I finally decided to just do it.  I chose silver, light blue & white as the color scheme, and added a touch of gold highlights.

Undersea Trove vignette

I had an old (clean) styrofoam produce tray on hand, so after I painted it, I filled in the bottom with a bit of a glue/sand/pebble mix and secured the root of the sea fan into it.  I let that dry/cure for 2 days (so humid here in Bali!), then decided on an arrangement of seashells, some broken pieces of coral, and a little capiz shell sea turtle I had in my stash, and glued all that around the base.   It looked like a natural undersea treasure trove but unfinished, so I draped a garland of mini-shells through the fan branches and spilling over the sides of the container.  Then I sprayed on a little more silver & gold highlights.   Voila!  I think it turned out quite nicely and I’ll definitely be working more with these gorgonia in the future.   I’d appreciate your comments on this piece.

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Flowers and Foam

April 2, 2011 at 4:00 PM (crafting, crafts) (, , , , , )


Craziness!  Where does the time go?  Last time I posted here was like 6 or 7 weeks ago — guess I’ve been pretty busy.  And the only real thing I have to show for all that time is the paperwork and communications related to the order we’re shipping out tomorrow.  Oh well!

One thing I did manage to get done during that time was to get a couple of  (better) photos for some of the crafts I’ve talked about in previous posts.  Yep.  Really loving these little carved snowman styrofoam sculptures.  We had them around our display of mini Bali trees during Christmas season.

I’ve talked about my friend, Nik, in previous posts, but for new readers – she is my friend and Creative Assistant.  Her family is from the village of Mas here in Bali, known for its skilled woodcarvers.   Nik is no exception – but she carves anything.  She made these in two days.  I finished them up with the paint, glitter and ribbons.  Love that girl!


Snowman vignettes hand-carved from styrofoam

Here’s another example of her styrofoam carving – the lotus flower base of our zen sculpture .  The meditating figure is made from cardboard tube and quilled/ filigreed foil paper.  That base (including the lotus blossoms) is a single piece of styrofoam, the bottom is covered with felt


Lotus Pond Meditation


We’ve done a few other models of both the snowmen and the zen sculpture with different bases.  Someday I’ll try to get some photos of those posted.   In the meantime, let me know what you think about these.   Have you ever tried carving styrofoam?  If so, feel free to post the link.



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Dust Bunnies Revealed

February 17, 2011 at 5:37 PM (crafting, crafts) (, , , , , )

So — finally! — I’ve pretty much finished my spring cleaning.  While I was unpacking closets and cabinets and drawers – oh my! – I rediscovered some earlier creative endeavors that had long since been put aside.  Have I mentioned that, years ago, I was quite adept at macrame (oh yeah, back in the day!).  Well, about 2 years ago, I remembered how much fun it could be.  So I made a few things and this is one that I really liked:


A Macrame Belt and Bracelet


Years later, I finally acted on my love of crocheted pieces, and taught myself how to crochet.  I spent many a frustrating evening while my kids were growing up, sitting in front of the tv and trying to “make it work”.  Eventually, my efforts paid off – won a couple of blue ribbons on some delicate thread projects at local/county fairs.  Last year, I made a wood-beaded twine belt and a few necklaces, bracelet rings and earrings.



Beaded Ribbon Crochet Necklace, Earrings and Ring











Crochet Cotton Twine Belt with Wood & Gold Beads











Thread Crochet Bracelet with Faux Pearls & Crystal


Beaded Silver Metallic Thread Crochet Bracelet and Ring


I’d love to get some comments on any of these photos, so please feel free to let me know what you like or don’t like.

And these:  (my favorite is the taupe-colored one in the middle – made with upholstery thread!)

Some more expamples of my crocheted jewelry

Sorry this one is so blurry – my regular camera is still on the fritz, so I’m having to make do with my crappy webcam.  I think the larger view may be a bit better.

Anyway, so I was also taken with the idea of crocheting with wire.  I once had a really good tutorial for this in my bookmarks, but that was before my last crash — haven’t yet been able to relocate it.  So, this was my first try:

Beaded Wire Crochet with waxed cotton cording & Matching Earrings

Okay, last three, I promise.  These were all first attempts:


Paper Bead Necklaces with Fabric Flower and/or Wood Bead Accents


Sheer Toyal

Sheer Royal Blue Ribbon Crochet Choker with White and Blue Faux Pearls

Desert Gold Ribbon-wrapped Natural Cording with Amber & Clear Glass Bead Drops

Well, that about “wraps it up” for now.  Don’t forget to leave me a comment.

Next time: paper yarn heart (work-in-progress) and …

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Update on Frenzies

January 28, 2011 at 7:40 PM (Uncategorized) (, )

Just wanted to post this update to say that I have now finished the “Spring Cleaning” in our breakfast room/store room, the guest bath and the kitchen. Along the way I’ve been gathering and sorting all the recyclable materials that have been stashed all over the place. So I hope to be putting those into one nicely organized spot. Oh, and I did half of our huge bedroom suite. Only the bath and closet/dressing area remain to be tackled — oh, and the windows (ugh!yuk!). Almost forgot — had to send the PC to the shop the other day for service, so I took that opportunity to clean the office corner…as I write, the desk is clear and polished, everything is clean and fresh, I can even see the letters on the keyboard! Next up is the dining/living area. Well, back to work.

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January 27, 2011 at 6:26 PM (crafts, life, people) (, , , )

I’ve mentioned my friend/assistant, Nik, before.  But I didn’t really tell you about her.  Well, now I will:  she is absolutely amazing!  And being Balinese makes her even more so.

The first thing you need to know is how very difficult it is to find a Balinese craftsperson who actually does more than one single thing;  a woodcarver, for instance, may carve only statues of Ganesha (the Hindu God of Knowledge) — for his entire lifetime.  Why?  Well, if you were to ask him, he would tell you that is the knowledge/skill that was passed down to him by his father, and his father’s father, etc., etc., and that is what he does.  The same goes for most painters, artists, weavers, carpenters, stonemasons, etc.   So trust me when I say that to find someone who will even attempt something new is a rare treasure.  (It’s not their fault, and I’m not trying to give a negative impression about them — it’s simply a fact).  My personal theory on that issue stems from the very tightly-knit communal lifestyle of the Balinese/Indonesian cultures – but that’s another whole story which I post about in my other blog.



This is Nik. I give her materials, and she gives me creations.




So Nik is essentially a true “diamond in the rough”, just learning to spread her wings, use her imagination, and create!  When I met her two years ago, she came to interview for a job in our shop.  She was quite personable, and seemed eager to learn new things.  We knew she certainly had the potential to be special, as evidenced by the fact that she and some friends already own and manage their own shop.  The four ladies had worked together (here in Ubud) for a global brand name outfit, but opted out with the severance package when regional managers wanted to move them to a different store on another part of the island.  So they pooled their severance money and opened a shop selling traditional Balinese dress  (that shop is still up and running).   Needless to say, we hired her.

Initially, we just wanted to find out if she was interested/curious enough to learn all the background information about our products. … you know, the materials used, little stories about different pieces, how to use them, and so on.  She had it down in three weeks — she could tell anyone everything about any given product.  I started to show her how I made some of the ornaments and she wanted to try!  Her attempts resulted in successes.  After that, there was no stopping her.  Every time I’ve introduced her to a new technique, design or idea, she runs with it.  And the best thing is that she and I are on the same wavelength.  Which is not to say that we produce the same output.  Where I approach things with a Western mindset, Nik comes at it from a Balinese viewpoint.  Sometimes we meld and blend the two.  We work well together, and it gives me great pleasure to provide learning opportunities for such a wonderful and giving friend.

A bit of Nik’s personal background is in order here, too (with her permission, of course).  Her father is a rice farmer (but didn’t own his own land), so the family was quite poor.  Btw, poor in this part of the world is not unlike the poor one sees in Africa.  There were many days when she would come home from school and go work in the ricefield with her dad so she could catch some dragonflies in an attempt to stave off the hunger (this is true stuff here).  Her parents could not afford to send her to school (they must pay to attend), so at the tender age of 6 this remarkable young woman got a job to learn woodcarving.  In this way, she put herself through school and graduated high school.  (When we met her, she was working to support the family and to pay for her two younger brothers to attend and finish school).  Nik somehow always understood that she must take every opportunity to learn, and so was a voracious reader – books, magazines, newspapers, brochures, whatever .. if it was in print and she could get her grubby little hands on it, she read it.  She now speaks Japanese, Chinese, German and Dutch conversationally; Indonesian, Balinese and English fluently.

You know, I could probably go on for far too long telling you about my friend.  But the truth is, so many people  don’t understand what life is like for the indigenous peoples of third-world countries,  and Nik’s life story is not unique by any means.  What makes her so special to me is what lengths she has gone to to rise up out of the ashes of utter destitution.  She is self-reliant, incredibly resourceful, intelligent, truly caring and totally sincere.  She lacks the polish of the young sophisticate, but her gentle and loving soul positively outshines most.

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Silent Frenzy

January 13, 2011 at 4:11 PM (baking, food) (, , , )




January in the Garden - Serene and Relaxing

No posts in the last 10 days…so now I’m just checking in for  a quick update.  I have actually been taking a break from crafting, but have been applying creative energies elsewhere.

Baking.  I love to bake and the challenge here is to be able to incorporate and substitute more local products for the expensive imported foods and staples I’d grown accustomed to before moving to Bali.  A good bit of my youth was spent in Pennsylvania Dutch country, and I absolutely love wet-bottom shoo-fly pie, big ole’ soft pretzels, and sinfully gooey sticky buns (among so many other things, of course). None of which are available, or even known, here.

Well, a few months ago, I decided to just do it.  I made my own soft pretzels (Amish recipe).  They were excellent but must be eaten very soon after baking (because the tropical humidity will quickly morph your crispy crust into a molten mush).  The other option is to make the pretzels and then freeze the raw or half-baked dough until you’re ready to eat them.

Anyway, last week I really, really craved some good, old-fashion sticky buns. (Mind you, I brought all these recipes with me for just such an occasion).  I had to use gula merah (lit.: red sugar) which is palm sugar made locally, as a substitute for the typical brown sugar…a slightly different taste, and somewhat more moisture-laden in this humidity.  Oh, and of course the Indonesian archipelago is the home of the legendary Spice Islands, so the cinnamon and nutmeg are incredibly fresh and vibrant flavors.  Okay, do I need to tell you that these sticky buns were probably the most sinfully decadent buns I’ve ever, ever tasted!  Hubby and I were practically ready to eat the whole batch in one sitting.  Omg! Purely and simply addictive — it’ll be a while before I make those again, unless I make them for a crowd…just can’t chance having them sitting there waiting to inhaled.

Enough about food, I guess.  It’s just that all those little things you can just go out and buy at home can be so hard to come by when you’re in a different world.  We have learned to appreciate all those things we so took for granted in our previous life.

Another diversion I’ve been working on is redesigning our website (B2B wholesale and export handicrafts).  I am not a “tekkie”, so I got the original site up and running as best I could back in August.  But recently I discovered some newly-available options and tools offered by the host site, so I jumped back in and (hopefully) was able to make some changes for the better.  Not finished yet – never finished – but quite functional and a whole lot nicer-looking, I think.

And…there is the semi-annual spring cleaning which I just don’t even want to talk about – yet!  It’s a work in progress (slow progress) and I manage to find all sorts of little tasks to avoid it.  But it must be done, and be done it will — eventually.  In the meantime, I’m going to retreat for a brief respite to my pool and garden to catch a little r&r.  Later.

Refresh and Relax


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New Fancies

January 3, 2011 at 11:41 AM (crafts, Uncategorized) (, , , )

Happy New Year to all!  And thanks to all who have visited this blog.  It’s very encouraging and just downright nice to meet you.

We had a quiet weekend, choosing to ring in the New Year from the comfort of home.  Here in Bali, anyone can buy fireworks…and many do just that.  We were inundated with the bangs, pops, whistles and whooshes of hundreds of mini displays;  only having to look out from our bedroom terrace to witness a spectacular array of syncopated starburst sprays of multi-colored lightshows exploding all along the ridge of the gorge, around us, in front of us and behind us.  At midnight, the spectacle of the Four Seasons Resort display, below us and down inside the gorge, made for a very awesome climax.  Big and little sparkles and glitters of every color lit up our entire little world!  Must have been quite a beautiful view from an airplane flying overhead.  And that was our New Year’s Eve.

Anyway, as I was saying… a quiet weekend at home.  Gave me the opportunity to take a leisurely browse around the web.  Lots of beautiful and creative crafts to see.  But I kept finding myself drawn to the origami and quilling sites.  You  probably know by now that I am enthusiastic about paper crafts, especially the recycled variety.  And I think this year I will focus more on folding and filigree techniques.   I mean, has anyone seen The Crafty Penguin’s 3D Origami Swan ?

It’s beautiful!  And it made me start to imagine all kinds of ways to use her technique to build many different creations… now if I can just decide where to start…

Last year, I became fascinated with the idea of weaving on a cardboard loom, so I gave it a shot.  I thought a sort of shabby chic look created by weaving batik fabric strips might be kinda cool.  This is what happened:

My shabby chic bags woven from batik fabric strips

I used coconut wood buttons for the clasp.  The bags measure about 6″wide x 5″tall,  just big enough for all the essentials for an evening out.  I like the look of the raw edges of the cotton batik fabrics…like an eyelash effect.

Sampai jumpa lagi (see ya next time).

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Christmas in Bali

December 27, 2010 at 3:46 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I can’t believe I haven’t posted a thing for over a week now, but time flies… we were so busy filling last minute orders for our ornaments and decorations.  I have been keeping myself updated on weather in the States, though.  All that snow probably has many people house-bound.  Personally, I’m a bit envious of the missed opportunity for a White Christmas.  Here in Bali, in the southern hemisphere, it is now officially summer.  But the good news is that unlike our typical hot, humid rainy season, I am enjoying the unusual cooler and breezier weather we’re getting right now, while all the native Indonesians complain about being too cold.  (I’d say when the breeze is going, it feels like maybe 75F.  Go figure! ).  It still rains every day or night but at least I’m not constantly dripping with sweat.  The meteorologists here are blaming this rare blessing on the la nina system;  I prefer to think of it as my just desserts for having just endured a year-long humid rainy season from hell.  But the good news is that I survived to complain about it.

Anyway, Happy Holidays to all.  Below, I’m posting your Christmas card — two scenes from my tropical garden.  Enjoy!

These are poinsettias, about 3 meters (9ft.) tall

Zen corner of my pool & garden

So, the top photo shows the poinsettia bush…whoever knew those things got so big?  I have to prune it down to about 2 ft. tall every year.

The bottom photo is a peaceful corner of the garden where I’ve put a little Shaolin stone carving.   The upstairs view from my house looks down over the Ayung River gorge and the prestigious Four Seasons Resort here in Sayan Ubud.

Signing off til next time — Selamat tinggal (goodbye)

Selamat Hari Raya Natal dan Tahun Baru! (Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!)

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It’s All About the Box

December 16, 2010 at 6:15 PM (crafts, recycled) (, , , )


Our Handwoven Gift Boxes Made from Old Newspapers

I want to show you my new gift box.  It’s eco-friendly (made from old newspapers) and it’s handwoven.  We have these sitting under the tree(s) in the shop and they are getting plenty of attention from everyone who comes in to browse around.  They sell so quickly, we just had to hire a couple of school kids to fold a supply of  strips for us so we can just keep making them.

Okay, we’ve all seen the handwoven baskets make from old newspapers — matter of fact, that’s what got me started on this tack.  I ran across Jeffrey Rudell’s basket tutorial last year and made a few of those (much smaller versions – like tabletop catch-alls).  But I have this shop and sell handmade ornaments.  So I thought maybe I could make custom size gift boxes for them.  So, after experimenting a bit, these are what I came up with.  Of course, I also had to check them out with different colors.  They’re cute as is, but look fabulous with some ribbon and a fabric flower or other embellishment.


Testing..testing...Holiday splash on the outside - but still newspaper on the inside

What do you think?  Better with..or without?   I also tried some with a wood stain finish…(pardon the poor quality photo)

A more masculine gift box, finished in wood stain

I’d love to get some feedback on these little boxes.

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