‘Tis the season of holiday gatherings with friends, family and coworkers. I always like to take a little something to thank the host for inviting me into their home for festivities, and chocolates seem to be a traditional and crowd pleasing gift. Increasingly though, I’ve noticed that invitations specifically ask guests not to bring the hosts sweets. And I get that. For those of us trying to cut back on sugar or maintain a healthy diet, having truffles and fudge and cookies within reach all December long is the worst kind of torture! So out of consideration for my sweets-averse friends and family, I’ve been bringing bundles of these painted cork coasters to holiday gatherings instead. I made a bunch of them early in the month and have simply tied a handful together with twine as needed. Throw in a bottle of wine or a nice aperitif, and you’ve got a lovely hostess gift! They’d make a great stocking stuffer, too.
You can make the coasters any shape you like, pick any color scheme and get creative with patterns. But before you get started there are a few rules to bear in mind that will make your finished coasters look like something from a holiday market rather than a kids craft table (like my first couple, whoops!). First, skip the cork that comes in a big roll from the craft store. It’s nearly impossible to get it to lie flat, which sort of interferes with the functionality of a coaster. I used pre-cut cork tiles instead and they work like a charm. If you have sharp scissors and a careful cutting hand, circle shapes are possible to achieve but if you lack either of the above, try sticking to angular shapes like hexagons. They’re easier to cut out cleanly. Lastly, make sure to paint at least three coats. Since cork is porous and bumpy, it takes a good amount of paint before your designs really stand out. Continue Reading
Happy November everyone! It’s hard to believe we’re already halfway through autumn, and the month of Thanksgiving (and Gilmore Girls!) is upon us. Before you know it, it will be Christmas which I can’t wait for, because it means P will have two weeks off of work and my sister will be home from college. December also happens to be Bisou’s birthday month! Needless to say, I’m very much looking forward to the next several weeks. For now though, I’m still making the most of fall – even if it is an extra gray and rainy one in Portland – before all the leaves fall and it’s too cold out to go on strolls around the neighborhood. Speaking of leaves, how about this laurel wreath? The leaves aren’t technically from a laurel bush, but once they’re layered into wreath form, they look pretty darn festive anyway. Don’t you love how the wreath looks like it’s magically floating on the front door!?
I’m not usually one for seasonal decorating; I think it’s because I don’t like the idea of storing a bunch of objects that only see the light of day a month or two out of the year. I’m happy to make an exception for this wreath though, since it’s seasonally appropriate for fall and winter, and afterwards I don’t have to worry about finding a place to store it. All you need to make your own wreath is a bit of floral wire, hot glue, fishing line and any thick, glossy leaves you can find. I couldn’t decide whether to make a natural green wreath or a fancy gold one so I tried it both ways, and I still can’t choose a favorite. Either way, hanging a laurel wreath on your front door or somewhere in the house adds some natural looking autumnal vibes and holiday cheer, depending on the month. It complements our pumpkins now, and I really hope we get some snowfall this winter so I get to see it in the snow, too. Read on for the tutorial, and a look at Bisou wondering what the heck I was doing standing outside. Continue Reading
When P and I moved into our new place early this past summer, we couldn’t have been more thrilled; after a string of crummy apartments, a duplex my grandpa built for his mother and mother in law (i.e. my Chinese great grandmas) in the 1960s became available, and we jumped at the opportunity to live in one of the units. Our previous apartment was under 500 square feet, dark all day and had paper thin walls, meaning we heard everything our neighbors were up to around the clock, so saying goodbye to that place was easy. Moving into our duplex meant twice the space of our old apartment, including some miraculous finds in Portland’s competitive rental market like our very own laundry room (!) and cozy backyard.
The fact that my great grandma once lived here makes our new home feel all the more special. I feel connected to a member of my family I’ve only heard stories of, and as I cook in her kitchen and garden in her yard I like to imagine her life here. Of course, moving house also means encountering some surprises along the way. A few of those discoveries have been exciting and meaningful; for instance, while tilling the long-neglected soil of our new garden, I discovered a patch of mung beans that had re-seeded themselves and survived over three decades since my grandma raised Chinese herbs and vegetables in the garden. Discovering the flying carpenter ants shredding our wood beamed ceiling and the cat urine-soaked cabinets damaged by the previous tenant? Those were less thrilling surprises to say the least.
We also noticed upon moving in that the kitchen doesn’t have an overhead light source. We put some nails into a beam and strung a $10 IKEA cord set that we’d once used as a bedside light as a temporary measure, and intended to replace it as soon as all our boxes were unpacked. While the clunky white plastic and zig zag fabric of the cord set were fine in our very first apartment, it didn’t fit the look of this more grown up rental. After searching for a permanent solution though, we realized there wasn’t much we could do short of opening up the ceiling and embarking on electrical projects that are more homeowner than renter territory, and decided we’d be happy with the cord set if it were dressed up a little.
I’d wanted to incorporate some copper into the kitchen, thinking it would complement our honey-colored cabinets and white counters, but have resisted most of the copper utensils I’ve seen knowing that the paint will wear off eventually, and potentially get into our food. I don’t have those concerns with a copper pendant light, and having a small metallic accent warms up the look of the kitchen. Obviously, copper > white plastic in any situation! I thought about spraying the cord itself white, but ended up wrapping it in inexpensive off-white cord from the hardware store, which gives it a nicer texture and softer look than paint. The whole project took just a couple hours hands-on time and resulted in a lovely pendant light that’s a thrifty way to incorporate some trends into our home, while also fitting right into our vintage kitchen. Hit the “read more” button for the how to! Continue Reading
I’ve been looking forward to sharing this knit cat bed with you since I launched Crafts and a Cat two months ago; it was one of the very first cat-related DIY projects I came up with after Bisou was adopted. I always get questions about how to make it when I post a picture of the original bed on Instagram, so I thought now would be the perfect time to revisit it with a brand new gold leaf bed! Say you don’t know how to knit (yet), or you’re more of a dog person. Keep reading! This bed is so easy to make I promise any knitting novice can pull it off. Plus, it’s easy to make it a bit bigger or smaller, so you can customize it for a small dog or any other fur baby you live with. I’m sure there are more elaborate ways to knit a cat bed out there, but I like this method because it’s straightforward, simple and you don’t have to be an expert knitter to make it look great.
This pattern employs just one stitch – the most basic of them all, the humble garter stitch – and is knit on straight needles. In other words, it’s a large scale version of everyone’s first knitting project, the rectangle. Except this one is given dimension and purpose when you attach the ends and cinch the whole thing into a circle, making a soft and cozy cat bed! If you’ve never knit before, try searching YouTube for a video on how to cast on and knit a garter stitch. If you can figure out how to do those two things, you can knit this bed. This project is made even easier by using a bulky yarn and big needles that are easy to handle. Speaking of yarn! I wanted the bed to be plush and super comfortable for Bisou, but didn’t want to spend a whole paycheck on super fancy thick yarn. Instead, I used a technique called plying, which is simply casting on with multiple strands of yarn and knitting as though they were a single strand. The result is a bulkier, heavier knit at a fraction of the cost of luxury yarn. Keep reading for a detailed how-to; your cat (or dog) will thank you! Continue Reading
When it comes to home decorating, I’m a “less is more” kind of person. Maybe it’s due to having moved three times in two years and wondering, as I pack and unpack endless boxes of stuff, “why do we even have this!?” So in an effort to streamline, we’ve pared down on our possessions in the last couple years. Then earlier this month, we moved from a 500-square foot apartment to an 800-square foot one and found we had a shortage of things to fill it with.
Enter plants! I love how houseplants make a room feel instantly brighter and more homey. Unlike most decor items that add clutter but no utility to a room, plants are functional. They purify the air and are even said to improve focus, reduce stress and promote well-being. I’m not sure of the science behind some of those benefits, but having something green in every room makes me feel happy, and that’s reason enough for me to have lots of them around.
I picked up this staghorn fern for our bedroom, where it basks all day in bright, filtered light. Like air plants, staghorn ferns are epiphytic, meaning they grow on the surface of other plants rather than in the ground, and absorb moisture and nutrients through their fronds. Because of their shallow, rot-prone root systems, staghorn ferns kept as houseplants don’t do well in potting soil. Instead, a staghorn fern should be mounted on a plaque, which mimics its natural environment and doubles as a truly impressive art piece!