T-Shirt Into Tote

This is something I learnt while hanging out in Pinterest (which is highly addictive). I only dare to go into Pinterest on the iPad after dinner and even so, I end up getting goggle-eyed and inspired by all the interesting stuff.

This is what I learnt last week and since I had an old t-shirt I didn’t like wearing (got this t-shirt free when I joined the Charis Treasure Hunt a few months ago).

You know, some t-shirts are just too awful to wear – the cutting is ridiculous, the collar’s too tight and the overall look is plain silly.

And I don’t like using t-shirts as rags or rugs either.

Here’s an idea I tried out and it worked. Although it’s much faster if you have a sewing machine, it’s ok to hand sew it too (like I did). It took some time – maybe 20 minutes or so – but I was darning a few other things (Nic’s pants with a button missing) so it wasn’t so bad. When I batch process stuff – meaning I do ironing in one entire batch, or folding a big bunch of just dried clothing, or patching up a couple of items – it’s a lot less tedious. I don’t feel so aggravated.

Also I thought a t-shirt transformed into a tote or shopping bag is a great idea for a few reasons: the cotton bag can be tossed into the washing machine if it gets dirty (unlike those non-woven bags you get these days) and it’s foldable (you can carry a few easily) and it gives you a way to upcycle your old cotton t-shirts without guilt.

And cotton is much better for us and the environment.

We always get cotton t-shirts right? When you participate in a jogathon, marathon or any sporting event, you end up with oversized t-shirts which some people use as night wear. I don’t because I love wearing nighties to bed, not huge t-shirts.

OK, onto the instructions.

First, you lay the t-shirt flat on the floor. Smooth it out nicely.

Recycle your t-shirt and make into a shopping bag

Lay t-shirt flat, prepare to cut off sleeves

Take a sharp pair of scissors and cut off both the sleeves. Leave the joint seams intact because this gives your tote added strength. Next snip off the collar. You can be precise and lay a plate to get a nice round shape but I was lazy and just snipped it off in one go.

Cut off sleeves and collar off t-shirt

Cut off sleeves and collar

Then pin up the bottom of the t-shirt and sew away. It’s faster if you have a sewing machine. I did it by hand and it still looked OK. After that just turn the t-shirt inside out and what do you know, you’ve made yourself a cotton tote for shopping! I don’t like advertising brands so this below is how the finished tote looks like. If you like the brand on the front of the t-shirt, then you can turn the t-shirt inside out and sew up the bottom part. It’s all up to you.

Sew bottom of t-shirt

Sew bottom of t-shirt and turn it inside out

If you’re really the neat sort, you can even sew up the sleeve part neatly but I wasn’t too bothered. It’s a rough and tumble sort of recycled bag, right?

It’s the kind of weekend project that takes all of 30 minutes to do.

Happy crafting!

Tips for Eco-friendly Weddings

I’m a big greenie, thanks to being influenced positively by Don and Mylene.

I love conservation and yes, I am a member of MNS (that’s Malaysian Nature Society) whereby I am privy to interesting emails about conservation and ecology, particularly on the Yahoo Group that I am on. For a minimum of RM60 per year, I get updates from MNS about the state of our country in the form of gorgeous journals. (What is RM60 to you? It’s probably a night out in the city and probably not even enough to buy a pair of stilettoes but imagine, your RM60 for MNS can help protect those who cannot protect themselves.)

Sometime ago, MNS members started giving ideas about how to organise a green wedding successfully.

Did you know that weddings often leave huge carbon footprints? With everyone flying in from almost everywhere for the big day, and all the gifts and wedding decor, I should think it’s a mammoth print.

With permission from the thread originator, Ee Lynn, below are some tips to go green and have an eco-friendly wedding (hey, even birds are considered!).

Ee Lynn has these ideas:

1. Limit the size of your guest list. Instead of obligating the attendance of family members and friends from out of town, create a wedding website they can visit and leave comments in.

2. If you have many members of the family in a particular state, say, Penang, instead of having 12 of them drive down to KL for your wedding, host a delayed family-only wedding dinner there the next time you go to Penang.

3. Don’t have organic flowers or chocolates airflown from some distant country just so you could have a pesticide-free wedding. Always choose local.

4. Help plan your guests’ transport arrangements. Have them carpool by designating meeting areas and pick-up points.

Non-travel related tips:

1. Have lots of vegan dishes, not just for the vegetarians. Go for spring rolls, sauteed vegetables and salads. It’s sad that most of us celebrate a happy occasion by taking the lives of small animals :o( We should try to limit the number of animal lives taken.

2. Practice the 3Rs: Rent, don’t buy, your outfits, the chocolate fountain, and anything that you probably will not be using again.

3. Inform the caterers/restaurateurs that you don’t want a polystyrene arch or backdrop!

4. Get your guests involved. Ask if they could bring their own homegrown flowers to contribute to the arrangements. If you have a colour theme already, do let them know. Best to encourage potted plants e.g. orchids, otherwise they’d just go out to the nearest florist, buy a big bouquet and defeat the whole purpose.

5. Or have a blank scrapbook ready with stacks of photos. Each guest brings enough scrapbooking material to decorate a page, pen a personal note and choose a photo to go with his or her dedication. Let guests know in advance via text message, e-mail or direct communication, so they can compose their poems and congratulatory notes ahead of the wedding. Each contributor can be given a token of appreciation later.

6. Instead of throwing rice and confetti, use birdseed to make a big heart-shaped pattern on the ground in front of the church or wherever the daytime ceremony is to be held. Apparently rice can swell in birds’ stomachs and kill them, but birdseed can’t.

7. You could either choose to do without wedding favours, or go for things like potted 4-leaf clovers, magic message bean plants, organic spa soap and natural potpurri in cotton muslin pouches.

8. Communicate your message: Let others know what you believe in. There’s nothing worse than taking the noble step of opting for a green wedding and then having duhhh-case friends accuse you of being mean or stingy. Remind them of the theme throughout the wedding by playing songs with a green message (“Big Yellow Taxi”, anyone?), leaving environmental literature on the reception table for their perusal or displaying No Sharks Fin Soup campaign cards on the table.

What do you think? Many of my friends have already gotten married but it’s not only for weddings. Consider these tips too whenever you organise a party or a family celebration or birthday dinner.

Reduce your carbon footprint, whatever you do. Live wisely!

Isaac’s Tips for Getting Your Own Mojo Style

I like Isaac Mizrahi simply because he’s funny and gay and not ashamed to be who he is.

It could be I adore his name, which is quite a marble in the mouth.

I think I started to really pay attention to him when he appeared on one episode of Project Runway.

I’m still very much into style and fashion and over the years, I’ve developed my own sense of dressing.

I don’t subscribe to brands just because they are there. I just want to wear clothes which fit me and look like I’m wearing them, not the other way round.

That’s why I’m really not brand-conscious at all. I can wear some pasar malam stuff, or I can wear some boutique stuff. I can carry clothes happily by turning them into a style of my own. I add some accessories and mix and match and in no time, I’ve got my own mojo. Plus I love making my own accessories!

I read Mizrahi’s How To Have Style book and loved it, just as I enjoyed Nina Garcia’s book, Little Black Book of Style. (Here’s a tip: find useful style and fashion tips from books and blogs. Don’t follow blindly but follow what makes your body shape look enticing.)

Style is really confidence – it has everything and nothing to do with clothes.

I read a quote which stayed with me over the years – this was a great booster in times when I wasn’t too sure about myself (yes, I have had a bad perm before, I have also been gangly and tall and thin and I used to wear specs!) – it goes: “If you are not yourself at 30, you will never be yourself at any age.”

We all need to learn to be comfortable with ourselves and I don’t mean physically but emotionally as well. When our foundation is strong, we can handle anything that comes our way.

Does Your Home Have Mojo?

If I have not been all together blogging much, do forgive me. I’ve been tied up with website projects and recently with all manner of stuff related to our new apartment.

Well, it’s not exactly new as in brand new but it’s finally some place we can call Home. Which is very surprising to most friends who’ve visited our present place – they think we own it because we spent a lot of time decorating this apartment as if it weren’t rented. Even the postman had to get a closer look the first time he delivered our registered mail to us!

I must say that no matter where we are, rented apartment or not, Nic and I strive to make each place as cosy and comfortable as we can even when we were on a limited budget in the early years of our marriage (let’s see, that was about 10 years ago!).

Especially when I know I married an Artist-Geek-Designer-DIY-Hobbyist.

It’s easy to take things for granted when I have had so much decor fun with the art we have at home, the knick-knacks we’ve collected from our trips abroad, our diverse hobbies and our sense of what we like, rather than what convention or styles dictate.

Nic’s art hangs on most of the walls of our current place. His Sarawak bric-a-brac and native craft (dayak parang, dayak war shield, sarawak pottery, sarawak lamps) inhabit nooks and crannies. It’s very Sarawakian, and the very ethnic look is a testament to how much he loves his home state!

On the other hand, we both love our Chinese and Buddhist roots which account for most of the Oriental leanings in the apartment – from our Kwan Kung figurine (love his fierceness!) to our very special Buddhas (one was handcarried back from Bangkok a decade ago and the other was from Burma, also handcarried by a good friend!).

We used to have a skull of a cow (a real one!) hanging above our aquarium! Yes, it scared half our friends to death. We have realistic looking plastic geckos on the wall which again scares half my gecko-fearing friends. I don’t mean to scare people but they’re crazy fun additions to an otherwise regular apartment, though rented!

But what I am getting at is this – a lot of house redesigning is about accommodating personal tastes. And since Nic and I have been poring over decor magazines, I see that half or most of the homes featured are too contemporary for our eclectic tastes! One exception though – pick up DWELL – it’s fantastic! Chockfull of practical, simple, easy home design ideas.

Like fashion togs, a home must reflect the owners and their likes. Mixing and matching is a must, something new, something old, something inherited maybe.

I don’t want my home to look like a showroom apartment! They’re too cold and clinical, too lifeless. A home must have some oomph, some pizzazz, some mojo. It has to have a soul of its own. It has to be an extension of the owners.

More to come in the next few weeks on our new home! Even Margaret’s excited!

Seeing Through Holes

Eyes.

Can’t see without them. 90% of what we get from the world we get through our eyesight.

When I was at St Nicholas Home for the Blind recently, I was truly grateful for my vision though I wear contact lenses. It’s like, sure, I don’t have perfect vision but these children are blind. Some of them don’t even know what a rainbow looks like.

Actually right about this time, we’re also involved with a new website development project for a new client from The Adventist Hospital. Coincidentally, this division deals with laser eye correction surgery or what we all know as LASIK.

As we’re also involved in producing copy for the website, I’ve been researching about laser eye surgeries from PRK to LASEK and then to the newest technology called iLASIK. I’ve read so much about the pros and cons of these vision correction surgeries that it’s eye-popping (pardon the pun).

I’ve had friends who have had this corrective eye surgery done and they’ve been raving over the results. Finally they say, they can see without glasses and what a change in lifestyle it has been!

I’ve been so tempted to try this laser surgery myself but I’ve still got so many pairs of disposable contact lenses. I would need to wait till my stock is finished.

But then Nic, who is all about natural healing, tells me to try the Bates Method. Apparently, your eyes can heal themselves. The issue is, they can’t heal if all we ever wear are glasses and contact lenses (which are like crutches for your eyes). Bates is the name of the man who popularised this method of training the eyes to heal by wearing pinhole glasses.

Bates pinhole glasses - not the most fashionable eyewear in town!

So Nic decided last week that he wanted to try the natural way of bringing back his 20/20 vision. He got out and bought the Bates pinhole glasses. They’re not cheap. A pair of this costs RM78. It’s just a pair of dark glasses, much like your plastic sunglasses, but with pinholes scattered on the area where the lens are.

I was a bit of a skeptic but I tried them on anyway (had to remove my contact lenses first). I could actually read the words on some books about 3 feet away!

I have shortsightedness and since 11, have been wearing glasses till I found contact lenses when I was 19. Although my prescription has stabilized at 4.5 diopter and I can use contact lenses now (and I don’t have dry eye problems unlike most lens users), I still want good vision. Vision without spectacles. I’ve done a lot of stuff wearing contacts lenses such as swimming and other outdoor activities but I still wished I didn’t have shortsightedness.

Back to the Bates glasses.

Can it cure my shortsightedness?

The idea is to train your eyes to heal themselves naturally. I’m supposed to wear the glasses while watching TV or reading.

The first time I wore them, it was a bit annoying. My eyes have to get accustomed to the pinholes. I have to focus correctly otherwise I will see overlapping images. Once I get the correct focus, I can actually see well! I can watch TV clearly and read the subtitles without squinting. I can see most objects clearly without problems.

The only thing I didn’t like was reading with the Bates spectacles. As I am shortsighted, I usually don’t read with my normal glasses on. I usually take the glasses off when I look at near objects like books. If I read with the Bates spectacles, it is also irritating. Maybe it works for people who have longsightedness.

I can’t bear to wear them when I work on the PC because it’s just too weird for close objects. For me it works best on objects about 3 feet or more away. Anything nearer and it makes me giddy looking at double images!

Accordingly, it is best to wear and ‘train’ one’s eyes for a few hours a day. This way, our eyes can adjust and correct themselves. I should be seeing an improvement in my eyesight after 2-3 weeks of using them.

Let’s see what happens over the next few weeks or whether I need LASIK surgery after all!

Can You Change A Life?

Medalin called me this morning, to thank me for spending time talking to her 20-something son. He had taken over the family business just a few years ago.

He’d come around yesterday to our office and we shared with him our beliefs and philosophy of running a business. Actually he had come to ask our opinion about something he wanted to do but in the end, it became more than that.

We spoke to him for almost 2 hours.

Perhaps it was the first time he met 2 highly positive people who think that business is not about making money. Business is about serving others, bringing them value, giving them a reason to buy from you. Business is about sharing knowledge, helping each other unconditionally.

Medalin called to tell us that her son was inspired by our words.

That he felt grateful for our advice.

My philosophy is simple – I am here to help other people help more people. If I can share an idea and get them thinking to do more good or touch someone’s life positively, my time on earth will be worth it.

And I’ve been lucky to have known a number of inspiring people who inspire me to work on myself so that I can play a role in creating a better world.

I know people who work tirelessly to help create a better environment by recycling and being green. They are the most hopeful people I know.

I know people who are genuinely kind and happy, willing to lend a hand without asking for anything in return. They just want to be of service.

I know a person who will travel all the way to Penang just to give a 3 hour talk so that other youths can have a chance to apply for a scholarship and lessen the burdens of their parents. Recently I was very pleased to know that 2 young people who attended this talk (which I helped put together) had received scholarships to study in the USA.

I know of people who with the handicapped and disabled, teaching them patiently. And when these teachers see their young charges sing, dance and perform onstage, it’s all worth it.

I know of a successful millionaire who was terrible at school. He used to be the last in his class because everyone called him dumb and stupid. No one cared for him. He was poor, had very low self esteem and always failed in class. His life changed a teacher showed she cared by buying him a bowl of hot noodles. In that small simple act, he felt the world wasn’t so bad after all. He decided to study hard to repay his teacher’s kindness. Today, he is a multi-millionaire and he has never forgotten that lesson.

If you care, you can change lives.

Can you change a life?

Of course you can.

It doesn’t take money sometimes. It could be a kind word, a few minutes of your time, a phone call, a letter, an email out of the blue. You just have to show you care.

Far too many people are selfish these days and will only do something for others if they get something in return. These people will never get anywhere in life with their limiting beliefs.

But when you show you really care (and it cannot be faked), you give hope to another human being.

You never know where that might lead.

The other person might go and infect others with this positive ray of light.

If we have more positive rays of light and love in our community and gradually the world, don’t you think that it could create a more peace-loving and harmonious world?

If it has to start somewhere, it has to start with me.

Look What I Bought for RM87

books from the secondhand bookstore

Didn’t mean to buy so many books but I could not help myself when I went to my regular secondhand bookstore.

If I didn’t stop myself, I would have bought more. And a few more old issues of the O magazine by Oprah. And In-Style, too.

One of the most exciting finds was this tiny booklet by Gustav Verbeek, a comic artist who lived at the turn of the old century (he died in 1937).

What’s interesting is he only drew 6-panel comics. If you read it one way, you get half the story.

If you read the comic panels the upside down way, you get the other half of the story!

His comics are mainly about the silly adventures of two characters called Lovekins and Muffarroo. Both are odd in their own way. But it is simply amazing how creative Verbeek is because once you turn the picture upside down, a totally new ‘scene’ appears!

You can take a look at what I mean by looking at this drawing of his. First you see how Muffaroo is attacked by a big fish in his canoe but when you turn the comic upside down, you see Lovekins being caught by a giant bird. How amazing is that!

And the story does make sense. And this Dutch-American man did this type of comic every week for the 64 weeks that he was drawing for The New York Herald newspaper.

It’s like the ambigrams made famous by Dan Brown in Angels & Demons. Ambigrams are graphic art where the word reads the same both ways!

Of course, Verbeek’s booklet of 6 stories were a complete steal at RM1.50. I don’t think you can get it anywhere even if you had pots of money.

The things one can get at the secondhand bookstore!

Putting You In A Great Mood

I love classical music but this has to be one of my personal favourites.

For a quiet, undemanding Sunday of Internet surfing. For a good deep breath. For a great way to relax without doing the retail therapy grind (which I have been doing for the past few days and eating myself a bit silly).

For a delicious way to wind down the year and get ready for the new one.

Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major – absolute heaven. Enjoy your Sunday!

12 Money Saving Tips… Add On Yours?

I emailed this over to a writer friend as she was preparing for a magazine article. Little did I know I missed her deadline! And as always, she only asked for one money-saving tip but I gave her 12. I know, I am a bit over-lah!

So instead of throwing it all away, I am sharing them here with you. Feel free to add on with your own tips.

Lots of people (OK, let me qualify that…lots of Malaysians) seem to have this impending fear of the global recession. Call me dumb or overly naive or too optimistic, but I think that we can all overcome this fear. I call it fear because that’s what it is. Everyone scaring everyone even BEFORE that recession hits, if it hits lah.

Read more