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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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!

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Adventures in babywearing

One of the highlights of my week was learning how to carry Tala in a wrap. Babywearing, the practice of carrying a baby on the body in a sling, wrap or carrier, was something I really wanted to try.

While I was pregnant, I made my own DIY wrap inspired by the Moby Wrap. This popular brand-name wrap is basically a long piece of fabric that enables you to carry the baby close to your body, distributing weight over your back and freeing up your arms.

Making my own wrap was as simple as buying five meters of cotton jersey for €3 per meter. I didn’t even need to hem or serge it because this type of fabric doesn’t unravel. A slightly stretchy fabric like cotton jersey is suitable for wrapping newborns up to about 15 lbs; after that, more supportive fabrics like linen or cotton are recommended.

After a few false starts and many Youtube videos (this tutorial was the one that finally did it for me), I finally succeeded in putting Tala in a wrap. From then on, life with our newborn just got easier.

DIY stretchy sling for newborn

There are lots of reasons to try—and love—babywearing. According to this article, babies worn in a sling or carrier fuss less—apparently, 43 percent less than babies who aren’t.

At this age, Tala can’t handle too much stimulation; facing inwards against me, she’s less likely to be overstimulated by the outside world. Instead, she’s comforted by things she knows: the sound of my heartbeat, the smell of my skin, the closeness of my body.

She can sleep for hours this way, and sleep can only be a good thing for both mother and baby. She’ll even sleep past feeding time, only waking up for a feed if I take her out of the wrap. Bonus: she doesn’t wake up ready to attack the boob like a ravenous barracuda. That’s happened before and believe me, it’s not my favorite thing.

After nearly three weeks of having my arms full, it’s awesome to use my arms again. I’ve vacuumed, cleaned the kitchen, blogged, put on makeup, even cooked and ate meals, all while wearing Tala. Okay, I did have to pick rice out of her hair a few times. But she never seems to mind… she’s always conked out, asleep!

Finally, I just love to have her this close to me—”close enough to kiss” is the rule of thumb for front carrying. To me, it’s the closest thing to being pregnant again. It’s instinctive and natural, to be able to go about my day without having to think about how to take care of her.

Mommy and Daddy babywearing stretchy sling

As for Daddy… well, Marlon loves it! I think he was sold when using the sling gave him a few precious hours to catch up on UFC and wrestling after dinner one evening. He says we’ll keep her in it until she’s 15.

So far, I’ve only used the wrap at home. My next babywearing adventure will be stepping out with Tala in it, and getting things done in the world beyond our door. Stay tuned!

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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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From school gym to work table

At the start of the year, I decided I needed a desk. All my activities—writing for work, blogging, painting, sewing and calligraphy—took place on the dining table, and that wasn’t working for me anymore. The dining room was hard to heat in winter, so I would end up taking my laptop with me into bed… and not getting anything done! A proper desk would give me a place to build a routine around and would be great for my productivity.

I knew what I wanted: a desk of at least 1.5 meters, longer than it was deep, with space to do more than just one thing at a time. It had to have a tabletop that I wouldn’t mind staining with paint or ink, made of a warm material (no metal, no laminate). It had to have character—possibly used, preferably vintage—but clean lines. It had to be something we could repurpose as a console or buffet table if we ever needed more space. Finally, it had to be something I would want to take back with me if we ever moved back home (so no Ikea)

So I started looking around—thus the trips to Van Dijk en Ko, the IJ-Hallen flea market, and more. I constantly referred to my collection of home offices on Pinterest to keep me on track. I saw a lot of desks—too deep, too low, too short, too expensive.

Then my friend Karyn, who shares my love for old and repurposed things, drove me to the little town of Baarn, 20 minutes out of Amsterdam, to visit J. van Ijken Oude Bouwmaterialen. Oude bouwmaterialenmeans old building materials, and that was exactly what Mr. van Ijken had for sale: an entire hectare of old floors, doors, windows, tiles, tubs, gates, knobs, bricks, fireplaces, you name it. All of it reclaimed from homes, ships, churches, schools, bridges, train stations and more, waiting to be found by odd people who love old things with character. Like me.

Walking into a warehouse filled with old floorboards, I was seized by a wild thought. If I couldn’t find my perfect desk… should I just build it? These are the kinds of thoughts you have after living over a year in a country and culture where everyone does everything themselves. You hear about people building their own houses from scratch and you start to think, it can’t be that hard. Can it?

This old herringbone floor from Hungary reminded me of a beautiful herringbone desk I had seen on Pinterest, and inflamed my confidence. “Yes,” it whispered. “Just build it.”

Then I saw them: old hardwood planks from a Dutch school gym, for €60 per square meter. Pops of color. Lots of character. Perfect.

Finding the wood spurred me into action, and I bought a pair of clean, shiny chrome Vika Moliden legs from Ikea for €25 apiece. I got Marlon on board (you didn’t think I was going to build this all by myself, did you?), and we agreed to rent a car and come back for the planks.

The following weekend, the owner himself, Jan van Ijken, helped me select the pieces that had this old colorful tape. I’d hoped I could have the tabletop built there and just cart it home in the car, but he was very clear about that not being his business. “I supply the wood,” he said firmly and gruffly (but not rudely). He did help me cut the planks into my desired length of 1.5 meters, so thanks, Mr. van Ijken!

After purchasing some wood glue and a small power sander, it was time to build my work table.

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