Sunday, February 26, 2012

Crafting: Quilting adventures

Here is my quilting story.

My friend S is having her baby shower next week. She is an awesome co-worker and a dear friend whom I've grow close to. She once mentioned that she really loves and appreciates handmade gifts. I felt bad when I gave her a store bought maternity wrap-around sweater for Christmas, even though it was a lovely one. I had planned on making her a Christmas gift, but who knew time flew by so quickly. I wasn't able to make anything for her in time.

I swore I would present her with at least one handmade item by me. So as the date for the baby shower drew near, I decided to try making a baby quilt for her little boy.

I went on the Fat Quarter Shop to pick out a set of cute fabrics for the quilt. There were so many to choose from, before I knew it, I had at least a dozen picks on my wish list. But I finally settled on this set.

The British Are Coming Fat Quarter Bundle, Michael Miller Fabrics

Then I cut them into 5" x 5" squares and spent the rest of the afternoon piecing the quilt puzzle together. This was the most frustrating part - trying to figure which configuration looks the best. After a while I went cross-eyed and had to step away for awhile before returning to the project.

Then came the sewing, which I thought was going to be painful. Turns out, it went quite smoothly. And I don't know what I did right, but all the rows were properly aligned! That was my worst nightmare. I was afraid after I put all the rows together, the squares wouldn't align. I think I really took special care to measure and cut as accurately as I can, and to draw out the seam lines before sewing. Sure, it took more effort, but it was worth it in the end, no frustrating out-of-line-pieces!

I added a border, then put the quilt top, batting and backing all together. That was the easy part. It's like making a coaster only 50 times bigger. :)

This is the front...

And that's the back - gingham!

I love the end result. Now I want to attempt an adult sized quilt, seeing how I ruined our quilt in the dryer (left it in too long, burned the insides, long story.... sigh).

And my awesome friend from Singapore has placed an order for a quilt already! This was even before she'd seen my first finished quilt! She just wants it to be ready by Christmas. CHRISTMAS?? Thank you for giving so much time to prepare and practise. How some people have so much faith in me I will never understand, but I really appreciate!! Love you, Shobs!

I can't wait to present this quilt. It makes me feel all fuzzy inside when I think that her baby boy is going to grow up with my blanket in hand, like this:

Thank you Nana Glo for the inspiration, and to Kim from the Fat Quarter Shop, I love your stuff!

I'm officially addicted.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Birding at the McAlpine Creek Greenway

I went on my very first group bird walk this past Saturday!

The McAlpine Creek Greenway, located on Monroe Road is one of the birding hotspots in Charlotte. Led by expert birders Sally and Sue, I saw at least 30 species of birds in a short span of 2 and a half hours! More than I can ever hope to see sitting by my window, watching my bird feeder!

The McAlpine Creek Greenway is a mix of open fields, wooded areas and marshland so there's a whole variety of birds to see! Plus Sally and Sue are so experienced they know exactly where to look for which birds. I added at least 15 new species to my life list, including the Great Egret, the Ruddy Duck, Red-shouldered Hawk and a Red-headed woodpecker!

Yes, I have a life list.

Every serious birder has a life list to keep track of the very first time he or she identifies a new bird. So far I have 48 birds on my list. I get butterflies in my tummy when I spot a new one. Every time I catch sight of a new bird, I have the urge to run and get my guide. In the beginning, I was always busy flipping through the guide, searching online, trying to find the bird that I only caught a glimpse of, without looking hard enough. As a result, sometimes I am unable to tell apart the more similar looking birds. With more experience, I now try to identify the unique markings on the bird before I feel I'm informed enough to rifle through the guide to identify the bird.

I thought I might have showed up at the bird walk a little too eager and over-prepared. I was the only one out of 10 birders to be equipped with a pair of binoculars, a guidebook, a notepad, a rain jacket and gloves! Turns out I had to use them all! Except for the rain jacket, it was a beautiful sunny day! But even Sally and Sue had to turn to my guide book once to confirm a rare sighting. I was beaming with pride at the end of the walk when they shook my hand and told me I am going to be a very good birder! What a teacher's pet! :P

I was sorry I didn't take pictures on my walk. What with the binoculars and the guide book and the notepad, I almost wished I had an extra pair of hands. Flipping through the pages of the guide was also extremely annoying with gloves on!

I started a Pinterest board for birding, feel free to look through and I hope you will pay a little extra attention to the creatures in your surroundings from time to time!

This weekend I'm dragging the J-man to the Latta Plantation Nature Preserve for another birding adventure!

Happy weekend ahead!

Friday, February 17, 2012

It's finally here!!!

Painted Bunting - Passerina ciris
I love colors on the Painted Bunting!
Check out this guy's Flickr account! He has some really great bird shots!

Finally the weekend is here! It's the Great Backyard Bird Count weekend from today Friday Feb 17th to Monday Feb 20th!! I've been waiting for the longest time. Tomorrow morning, I head out with my friend to the McAlpine Creek Greenway for my very FIRST guided BIRD WALK!

Like a very good student, I have my backpack all packed with birding essentials : my binoculars, bird guide, a rain jacket, camera and a bottle of water. It's a 3 hour walk and I hope i get to see and learn about new birds that I would otherwise not be able to see at the feeder! I think it's time to take birding to the next level! SO SO SO EXCITED!!

Are you counting birds this weekend too? Don't forget to submit your bird count tallies here! Happy birding weekend!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Found: Jonathan Adler

Lovely Jess from Avant-Garde Living sent me this link from Jonathan Adler's collection on Nordstrom.

Found a few more awesome (elephant) ones to share!!

Aren't they cute!

Salt and Pepper shakers

Light of my life!

Darjeeling Tea, anyone?

ok. no more elephants. i promise. just one more from jonathan adler

Whale bookends!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Birding: A birder's delight!

I'm so excited with my birding experiences recently.

I have been sitting at the window which looks out to my bird feeder for the past few mornings, and patiently waiting for birds to come. The usual suspects, the chickadees, the cardinals, the finches and the titmice, come faithfully.

On some observation days, the turnout's great. Some days are quiet. I know it has to do with the time of the observations, the weather and the level of activity of the surroundings. But I wished I could spot a few more different ones!!!!

I did see two new birds I'd never come across:

carolina wren
Carolina Wren

and the

Brown-headed Nuthatch
Brown headed Nuthatch

I grew a little restless. I wondered if the reason for the quiet feeder could be the fact that two doors down, my neighbor has fancy birdhouses, feeders and birdbaths. I was even considering buying a birdbath to attract more birds.

Then early morning yesterday, I, for some reason, decided to look out the window at the opposite end of the house. This window faces a field, not a particularly large one, but a decent open space. And there, to my disbelief, I saw not one, not two, but THREE BLUE JAYS squawking away, pecking at the ground! I have never seen more than one blue jay at any point. So i thought, this must be my lucky day!

I sat, uncomfortably, on the edge of my couch for a few minutes, but the effort paid off. A pair of cardinals that seldom frequent my feeder were hanging out right here. And a mockingbird scuttled by. Then, my eyes widened as 3 little brownish-black birds speckled with white flew onto the ground, right outside my window. I had turned the slats of my blinds just enough for my binoculars to look out, so I bet the birds couldn't really tell anyone was watching, unless I made a sharp movement. I am proud to say, however, I always move. ve-ry. slow-ly. when. i. bird. watch.

These birds looked like they've been splattered with white paint. I took note of a few identifying marks like color, shape of beak, size of bird and distinct markings, before running to grab my ID tools - my trusty Cornell Lab website and the book i got from the library.


This is the bird I'd seen!

A European Starling!! My starling darlings!

Then i quietly took my place back at the window only to gasp in shock!

THIRTY-SEVEN FRIKKIN' GRACKLES pottering around in the field, their black iridescence glistening in the sun! WHERE DID THEY COME FROM??? I'd seen 5 or 6 or 8 maybe, at one time, but 37??? (Yes, i did count them, and they were pretty good at staying relatively still)


I was wa--aaay excited. I was having a field day! *pun totally intended!*

I guess that's just it, i've been sitting at the WRONG window!

I think i might have to switch my feeder around. However, on this busy side of the house, there isn't a good sheltering tree for the feeder birds. They need a place to take cover if anything startles them. I don't have a good "feng-shui" feel for the feeder here, but I'm thinking it doesn't hurt to try. Anyway, I'm already seeing so many birds without a feeder. It might make sense to keep them separate. I just have to dedicate two separate sittings for my observations.

I also just found out my HR manager is an avid birder too. She has invited me to our county birding meetings. I looked on their website and had seen birding field trips on weekends. I CAN'T WAIT!!!

Eeks, I hope I don't sound like a total birding dork here, but I'm brimming with excitement!!!

Does anyone have suggestions on how to enhance a birding experience, or what should i do to attract MORE birds?

Have a great week!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

♥ A Valentine's Day special! ♥

wedding elephant ride at the zoo

My fellow crafter/blogger Joyce of Chic Noir Design sent me a link one day and said

"Hi Chewy, I was searching for weddings at Singapore Zoo and I saw yours here :D"

She sent me a link to a blog post that had pictures of my wedding in 2010! How random is that, but what a splendid surprise!

I guess this is a good time for me to recount my wedding day, I don't think I ever posted about it, not on this blog anyway!

Well, our wedding was in two parts. The first was a traditional Chinese tea ceremony (not so traditional, we had to make a few accommodations, since J's family wasn't in town) and that was held in the morning. The second part, was the evening dinner reception, which I will share with you in this post.

For those who don't know, J and I celebrated our union at the Singapore Zoo. We are both crazy about animals and having it at the zoo seemed like a natural first choice. So couples who have their weddings at the zoo will be offered two choices - to arrive on a horse-drawn carriage in a classic white Victorian wedding, or atop an elephant, Indian Maharaja style! No prizes for guessing which entrance we chose!

On the morning of our rehearsal, my family and friends who were coordinating the wedding were invited to a special breakfast with the orangutans at the zoo! While we were having our breakfast buffet at the dining area, the zookeepers brought out four orangutans who were perched atop a branch the entire time we were eating. Guests could walk up to the apes and take a picture (or five) with them. I loved how they were all so human-like. One of the apes was more intent on grooming my sister's hair then posing for the picture.

We had a theme for our wedding - Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream"...


We had about 200 guests on our list seated in an elongated dining hall, complete with ceiling drapes and fairy lights! We were going for a whimsical, rustic, woodland feel. In terms of decor, we decided on more greenery than blooms.


Our seating cards that led our guests to their tables....


...which were named after the characters of the Shakespearean play...


In the play, the fairy Puck anoints queen Titania with a love potion to make her fall in love with the first living creature she sees. Following the playful prank, we decided to give the gift of lavender buds for all guests to concoct their own love brew...


In place of a guestbook, we had the guests sign on these beautifully illustrated botanical cards instead of a guestbook. We wanted to frame these pretty cards after the wedding, but have yet gotten down to it!!

Also, our guests were invited to the zoo on the morning of our wedding, so out-of-town guests could have the time and leisure to visit one of the most popular tourist spots in Singapore and still have time to freshen up for the dinner reception in the evening. 

One of the perks of the zoo wedding was having to spend the night inside the zoo! We were given a room next to the reception area, that was complete with a bed and shower. We were very amused when we awoke to the howling of monkeys in the morning.


It was such an amazing and unforgettable day, J and I were very grateful to be able to share it with our loved ones. We've been married four years now, (I consider us married the day we signed the papers in Shanghai) and our love for each other grows stronger with each day. I'm glad I listened to my heart instead of my head when I chose this man, I love him with all my heart.

♥♥ Happy Valentine's Day, my penguin! ♥♥

If you drop by, I hope you'll share a love story too!
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