Monday, December 08, 2014

What I've been up to...

The last couple weeks I've been almost completely consumed by Minted's To Have And To Hold Wedding Challenge, but in a good way! Never have I had so many ideas swimming in my head: I only wish I started on the challenge sooner! But even still, 5 entries is still 5 times more than the first time I entered one of their wedding challenges with my Only Fish in the Sea design. In this challenge, I was determined to produce a series of bilingual Chinese/English invites after a series of failed attempts in the past. Looking back, I feel like I've come a long way since then. This time I started with 3 ideas and it quickly grew (or maybe that's spiraled out of control) into 5. I was focused on specifically Chinese/English because the wording and formatting for Chinese text is quite specific, especially when you get into formal wording. Plus I feel like I had to include the double-happiness character in there one way or another on them all. So without further ado, here are my 5 designs! Sidenote: voting has not begun yet but I will update you when it does with a look at some of my favorites from other designers. And here's a tip: if you 'like' a design, you can later filter challenge submissions by your likes so you can find them more quickly =)

Double knotted happiness - inspired by the knots found on traditional Chinese clothing. The knotted frame is shown in a rose gold foil texture, which if it gets picked to sell on Minted, would be actual foil when printed and not an illusion, in case you thought it was odd!


Knotted frame - inspired, again, by Chinese knots, but also Chinese architecture.


Neon joy - inspired by neon signs found in many major Asian cities. This bright design was a very big departure from my original starting point. How far did I stray? Well when I went to export to JPG, my AI file was still titled "Sakura", hehe. 
Painterly dew drops - after the last thing I designed, I was still feeling inspired by wreaths and the round shape of the card. It was also a fun challenge fitting all that text into such a small space.


And last but not least, Traditional Dress - inspired by cutesy things that we, Asians, love and traditional Chinese wedding attire.


I must say that no matter how many times I enter these challenges, my heart always skips a beat when I share my work with the world: it is so nerve-wracking! But in a good way =) Neon Joy & Traditional Dress were the last-minute additions to the collection. From concept to final product, most of my time was spent on tweaking the text and consulting my mom on the wording to make sure it all made sense and felt right to a Chinese parent so I have to thank my mom for all her help and patience with me. Thanks 媽媽! And you'll all be proud to know that through this process, I finally learned the keyboard shortcut to switch between Chinese & English typing =p I always knew how to switch on my Mac but on the PC I don't know why, I just never bothered to look up the keys! Working in Chinese & English kinda forced it upon to me to learn though. 

Phew. So that's what I've been up to lately, which would explain why you may or may not see a holiday card from us this year! 'Cause you know, carpenters never get around to fixing their own houses or something like that right? Well, apparently this stationer never gets around to her own stationery! nevertheless, I am going to try my hardest to get something of my own done because I'm still brimming with ideas!

Hope everyone else is feeling not as overhelmed by the impending holidays as I am and having a lovely December =)

xoxo

Ling

PS: I forgot to mention, only because they are as integral to my process as is using my computer, that I owe lots of thanks to my dearest friend Holly & my always-blunt-but-very-constructively-critical husband for all their opinions on the many iterations of these designs I spammed their chat windows/inboxes with =p








Sunday, June 08, 2014

Van Remodel - Part 4

We're getting so close I can almost taste it! A lot of behind-the-scenes work was done over the last month with plumbing, engineering a lock for the fridge slide, adjustments to the cabinet, and cutting the counter to size just to name a few. In the last few days, however, the results have been more visually impacting as the 老公 put in some intense hours of work to put the sink/faucet/soap pump in, installing the cabinet & countertop, securing my bed platform to the frame and wiring up the cabinet for a light are the big ones I can think of.
I contributed greatly, as usual, with my insulating skills. I also had the task of creating a template for the 老公 so that he could cut a panel for the back corner. Making templates is something most who do conversion van campers don't seem to deal with, at least from my searches. Most people seem to have a vehicle with straight sides or straightforwardly curved contours so they can just slap paneling on without accounting for weird indents Our van has special curves and angles and we had to make cardboard templates for nearly every part of the walls. I feel that detail should not be forgotten in this project because it is so tedious but important and many things were contingent off those templates, which is why this has all taken so long. SIGH

Speaking of wall paneling, the 老公finished the wall paneling around the cabinet, so as of this moment we have walls on one whole side of the van! Whoo! In addition to that, he installed the solar controller on that wall panel (seen in the photo below on the right above the counter) so we can easily see what our power situation is. It's the little things, people!
You might notice some scratches in the face of our cabinet (or I might've just brought it to your attention and now you can't not see it), which is one of the most annoying oversights in this venture: the plywood was scratched up in many places when we bought it, but didn't see it until we got home and started cutting & so now they're emblazoned on the front. Le Sigh. We still need to seal the cabinet with something water-protecting so we'll probably tackle how to cover that up at that point. For now, it's in our faces reminding us to always double-check!

But on to happier notes: guess how much that "countertop" cost us? $10!!!! How? Because it's not countertop material! We bought some scrap cabinet siding from Ikea's as-is section and its length was PERFECT for our purposes. The 老公 only had to trim the back edge to get the depth we needed. Given its visual impact in the space, it was the cheapest thing we bought for the van. muahahaha. I am pretty proud of the find ^.^ Granted, because it's not countertop material we need to be a bit more delicate with it. I'm thinking we'll find something to re-surface it in once we ding it up enough. Of course it would be 1000x easier if I had thought to resurface it before all the fixtures went in and it got attached to the cabinet, but we are on a time-crunch & we're just trying to get it to a usable state for next weekend, so whatever.

With ALL that said, I know you were patiently waiting for me to just show you the progress already:

Isn't it so pretty?? Ignoring the missing chunk of ceiling panel & all those tools & random bits of garbage, of course =p

So yeah!!! Front seats & one of the side door panels & handles have gone in since I started this post. While he did that, I got to work on food prep for our trip:
Homemade dried mango & fruit leather is the yummiest =) 

Lots more prep to do before we leave but for once I finally feel on top of my tasks and ready for this trip!






Monday, April 28, 2014

Van Remodel - Part 3

As many who've gone through home renovations probably know, nothing ever goes as planned and preparation is more important than the actual construction part. Our van remodel is one of those cases. To be fair, things have been mostly successful because of the 老公's diligent planning: it's just all taken a very long time because our van's many curves & angles are one heck of a building-challenge! We spent a good amount of time trying to develop a way to build window frames with curved corners and things were going well (we learned all about kerfing wood), except that it was just taking wayyyy too much time and energy to get everything precise &, well, we wanted to move things along! We ultimately decided to cover up the non-opening part and frame up the vent/opening part in a simple box frame, which we admit is much more practical given that we never really "need" to look out the windows and that they're really just a big hole in our insulation efforts.

With that said, we've come a long way and I think we're on the home stretch to finishing this thing!

7 months ago:

Today: 

What the 老公 has done:
- insulated the floors, walls, ceiling, wheel wells
- installed sound deadener in doors
- installed framing for the subfloor, walls, ceiling
- caulk the windows to waterproof (we learned this the hard way after a rain storm & discovering wet-subfloor that had to be taken out, dried, & re-insulated!)
- welded & painted the bed frame (partly installed here)
- made new door cover panels & upholstered them
- installed vent fan, solar panel, amp & speakers, winch to raise/lower half the bed, secondary battery
- re-wired the van for all the above plus lighting, fridge, water pump, accessory outlet
- recarpeted the front
- built & upholstered the header storage above the front seats
- installed floating vinyl plank flooring

*phew*

Many months were spent just plotting out the wiring and researching materials. And I'm pretty sure I'm forgetting many other little things, but as you can see: it's been a big undertaking! Minus a bathroom, this has basically been a smaller-scale whole-house renovation.

What is left to do:
- finish insulating & installing the walls
- install the remaining door panels & handles
- install the fridge frame & water tank & pump
- build & install cabinets under the bed & for the sink/fridge
- install lights
- install floor edging at the doors
- sew cushion covers for the bed
- sew curtains for the front & windows on the doors
- re-install the driver & passenger seats
- possibly cover the wall/ceiling panels in fabric? We'll see how we feel about the bare plywood first before taking on more work

Evidently the left-to-do list is almost as long as the what's-been-done list, but the bulk of the work was planning so I feel we're in good shape to see this completed in the next month =) Not that we have much choice given our City of Rocks plan for June...

This has obviously been the 老公's project but I did help out a little! I helped with the sound deadener, wall & ceiling insulation & installation, picking out flooring, & general input on the planning process :D Yup. I'm that helpful. The sewn pieces are my task as well so I'm not completely useless in all this.

老公 says he's learned a lot for when we need to convert another van, but the biggest lesson would be to start with a van with straight sides!







Thursday, October 17, 2013

Van Remodel - Part 2

A couple weekends ago the 老公 and I tackled the ceiling & the wall panels, but first we had to deal with an old leak. Back when it was raining cats & dogs over here, we discovered our windows were leaky so we sealed the windows with some silicone caulking on the outside. However, some of that water made it underneath the nice new floors the 老公 put in and made it further into the floors than he had originally treated for. So we had to take out part of the floor to get everything dried properly, which was annoying but 'tis life!

Here you can see how he insulated and built up the floor:
We then proceeded to cut 1/4" plywood for the walls. The 老公 began the process by making cardboard templates for the various pieces. Since the actual panels are much larger than any cardboard we had, he simply used the cardboard for templating the curves/grooves in the corners and measured/trimmed as needed for the other dimensions. I was on hand to help dry-fit the pieces & other small tasks but let's be honest: the 老公 is the power-tool-user out of the two of us. At one point he asked if I wanted to give the jig-saw a try, which resulted in nearly ruining one of the $20 sheets of plywood (not dire, but would be annoying to have to go back to the store and dig through the heavy pile to find another nice sheet!) Luckily the bad cut I made was in the perfect spot for another panel we had to cut later. I partly blame the person who drew the cut line though. You see, I know I'm perfectly capable of using the tools, I just don't use them with the same ease as the 老公! I'll stick to being the creative director on our projects ;)

So to summarize: the ceiling was insulated & the paneling cut & fitted for the ceiling and then wall panels cut for the back half of the van. We didn't install the wall panels yet because the 老公 still needed to run wiring for the lights and I still need to install and vapor barrier the insulation in the top section of the wall. Though after we wrapped up for the weekend, the 老公 went back and did all the wiring. =p We had put up the ceiling panel but then later took it down because the 老公 realized he needed a different gauge wire for the solar panel hook up. While he was hard at work, I researched methods to trim out the windows, which is proving more tricky than one would think! We've been lucky that many before us have converted their vans and have posted blogs/photos of their process that we can reference and get ideas for but it seems there are a very small number of converts out there with rounded windows like ours that need to be trimmed out with custom work! In my online search I came across 3 options: order custom window boxes from a place like Van Specialties, DIY our own window boxes, or mould strips of 2mm polypropylene. In the end, we decided to go with kerfing plywood to get rounded corners.

After the 老公 ran the wiring, we planned out the lighting in the van. We decided on lights for the front seats, lights near the door step well, lights underneath the bed by the back doors, reading lights on either side of the bed, and overhead lighting. The 老公 ordered LED strip lighting for the overhead lighting and we probably won't use it all so I've been racking my brain thinking of a way to DIY our own casing for the LED strip light as all the ones available are expensive and would defeat the savings of "using what we have on hand". But then it came to me! We are thinking we will assemble some sort of track for it out of wood strips. 

Anyways, here's the ceiling framework & insulated with the vapor barrier:
This is how the ceiling panel looked when we installed it and put in the vent fan trim.

Visible progress has been stalled because of the window trim issue: we need to make the window box trim first, then attach it to the wall panel, trace the opening of the window onto the panel, cut out the opening & smooth out, varnish the trim, and then install the panel with window box trim attached. We have faith that everything else will move more quickly once this window thing is figured out. 

Once the walls are up, we'll hopefully have our carpet in for the front area, put the seats back in, install the bed frame, install the water tank/fridge frame, build out the cabinets, and install the sink. We intend to cover the wood wall/ceiling paneling with fabric but when that happens will depend on when we decide to place that fabric order & how long it will take to ship in. We are OK with doing that later if it means everything else is in place & we can use the van sooner! 

Until next time =)





Saturday, October 05, 2013

Van Remodel - Part 1

As some of you may know, last month when the 老公 went to look for a space in the van for a second battery, it quickly snowballed into a full-out gutting of the van and complete remodel. Here are some before pics:


And then this is what I saw after the 老公 went out to the garage and didn't come back in over an hour.

Before any of this started, the 老公 had built a bed that fit inside the van with the back seats out. Yes, that is a queen-sized bed =) He put it in so that we could sleep in the van along our road trip move from the Sierras to the Rockies.
He had designed the bed to fold up so we could still fit the middle passenger seats in.

But after many road trips over the summer, he started thinking that we could do better in terms of insulating for better temperature regulation & more functionality of the space.
This is what our completely-gutted van looked like:

And of course he ended up finding space for the second battery underneath the van! 

The irony was not lost on him. He welded a base for the battery to sit in to be strapped to that is attached to the metal supports for the door step. So now he knows where any future batteries can go since the metal supports are along all the door steps.

The main things we wanted to put in were the following:
- ceiling vent fan
- second battery
- solar panel
- insulation in floors, walls, & ceiling
- bed that split-folds along the length
- sink

And then when the 老公 wouldn't stop saying "there's no reason why we couldn't...", the following were added to the list:
- new door panels
- re-cover the dash
- fridge
- new lights
- new amp & speakers

Needless to say, there's a lot to do! Our goal is to have it in a usable state by Thanksgiving, so at least floor, wall panels, insulation, & bed would be installed.

We are currently at the point of insulating the ceiling, installing vapor barrier throughout, and cutting the paneling for the ceiling & walls. I feel like we're at the hardest part in the process because it's the point right before we start installing the "furniture" & the flooring, which is just too exciting to wait for! But alas, the more work we put in now will pay off when everything gets installed in the end.


Friday, September 13, 2013

2013

Wow, have I really neglected this blog since last December? Oops. Sorry!

Where do I even begin with the updates?? Well after Christmas we flew the 老公's family in for a week, during which we had rented a cabin at the YMCA in Estes Park (highly recommend!). There were lots of climbing trips throughout the winter, along with a handful of snowboarding trips.


Then we got a puppy!
He came to us with mange & the name Mike, but after a month in our care he was all healthy with a nice coat of fur and officially became ours in March under a new name! We named him Enzo after a character in a show the 老公 & I used to watch called Reboot. Apparently the character's name origin was very fitting given the 老公's line of work =) And he's been growing like a weed ever since. We got him at 12 lbs and now he's over 60 lbs at 9 months! Not much of a puppy left in him now. His weight estimate is hard to pin down because he's a mixed breed and the adoption center did not know the parents so we have no idea what mix he is! But the vet guesses german shepherd/heeler/chow mix of some sort. 

Then I went to see a fabulous lady get married!

Then we went to Tahoe with some friends for a quaint little reunion, where the weather was perfect & it was evident to us where Emerald Bay got its name. 


And then we did some more climbing.

...and some more...


At some point I started a garden where watermelons grow.


Then I went climbing some more, followed by steamed bun making for the first time.

And then I went off to see another fabulous lady get married!

Followed by a trip further south to visit the sweetest baby ever

...and lunch with my best friend for her birthday.

While I was gone, the 老公 got working on our camper van.

He's since gutted it, stripped the old wiring for the lights, added a second battery that will be powered by a solar panel, laid insulation and secured a sheet of plywood on the floor, and ordered a whole gamut of stuff to outfit the van. I will be doing a whole other series to document that progress, so for now I will just leave you a link to the Pinterest board I started for the project to track valuable links I've found & pretty things I want to put into the space. This is essentially our vacation "home" so we are putting in the work & money to reflect that.

You might've heard in the news about some flooding going on in CO & I am here to reassure you we are dry and safe and should not be impacted other than having a soggy lawn from all the rain. The sun is finally out now though =) 

Happy weekend for now!







Friday, December 21, 2012

Snow

Yesterday Ian & I decided to hit the slopes for the first time this season since it's been snowing fairly consistently all week in the mountains. We decided to go to Breckenridge & were planning on just parking in the free lot, but it was kind of a hassle with the shuttle so we figured we'd bite the bullet and see how much paid parking was. Given it was a Thursday, it was only $5 AND because of our timing, we somehow got ushered up to the very front of the lot that is right next to the gondola. Totally worth the $5.
On one of the runs we ran into this tree that was covered in snow that was encased in ice, which was really beautiful.
It was an exhausting, but satisfying day out =) As for our weekend plans, we're considering doing some snowshoeing to break in our new snow shoes that we go at the end of the season last year. 

Work is mostly wrapped up for the year so I'm trying to get Christmas stuff done while I still have a little bit of time before the big day =) Other than that, I think we're planning on a quiet holiday with some possible guest-room-painting. Hope everyone has a safe & happy holiday!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Famous last words

L: I'm going to stay [clipped] on your rope so I don't land in the cactus.
Me: OK

2 seconds later...
Me, swinging into the cactus: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I was lowering L off his last climb and he was cleaning as he came down. While cleaning on the way down, it's often standard practice to clip into the other side of the rope, especially on an over-hanging route since you would otherwise swing out from the wall and not be able to reach the clips on the wall. In this particular scenario, the climb tops out nearly directly over the cactus and I was belaying between the cactus and the wall. Before L. unclipped the last draw he had to clean, he tells me he's going to stay clipped into my side of the rope so that he doesn't get lowered into the cactus. That all made sense for about two seconds before I remembered he's about 30lbs heavier in addition to the momentum of swinging out from the wall. As a result, I was pulled into that bush of cacti you see on the left. The bush was about chest high when I got pulled in. And if you know anything about cacti spines, you'd know that I felt every one of them that went in and every one of them that got pulled out. Luckily I was using a Grigri to belay L, which helped catch him during all the cactus madness. Though my whole body was so tense bracing for the impact that I don't think belaying with an ATC would've been an issue since Ian had to tell me several times to relax my grip on the break end of the rope. My climber's safety is #1, of course =p

I just can't get over how ironic the whole situation was.

On a more positive note: I led my first 10's outdoors!