Adventure In Coloring III

More finished coloring pages! Like I said last time, I’m learning how to paint leaves more realistically, and now I’m beginning to get the hang of it. Next stop: learning how to mix colors so that they come out evenly (you can see that sometimes my leaves – in the same painting – are different shades of green), and maybe branching out from my usual subjects of flora and fauna:

coloring - seahorse by 14 shades of greycoloring - poppies by 14 shades of grey

coloring - christmas cactus by 14 shades of grey

coloring - blue hydrangea by 14 shades of greycoloring - pink hyndrangea by 14 shades of grey

coloring - maple leaves by 14 shades of grey

Adventure In Coloring II

I’ve been a little busy these past few weeks so I haven’t colored as much as I did when I first started, but I still got a few new pieces done:

coloring - lilies by 14 shades of greycoloring - heliconia by 14 shades of grey

coloring - foxgloves by 14 shades of greycoloring - bird of paradise by 14 shades of grey

coloring - peaches by 14 shades of greycoloring -sunflowers by 14 shades of grey

coloring - goldfish by 14 shades of grey

These are in chronological order, and looking back at them now, I can see that I’m definitely making progress. I’ve learned to trace more lightly so that it looks like an actual painting and less like a tracing (just compare the lilies, which is one of my earlier ones, with the rest), and I’m getting more confident with color layering too. There are a lot of mistakes, of course – for one, I haven’t quite mastered the art of painting leaves just yet – but I’ll keep at it.

Adventures In Coloring

Coloring books for adults are all the rage these days, aren’t they? It seems I can’t walk into a bookstore without seeing a dozen of them. Usually the hipster in me would turn up her nose at what is so obviously a fad. But then I began to seriously consider buying one after I realized that, to unwind from work, I would do more work – like, if I get tired of my script reading, I would translate a book, or if I get tired of that, I would translate a movie. I needed a new hobby.

For colors, I wanted to use up all the watercolor supplies left over from my art class back in college; however, the paper of these books is not suitable for watercolors, so I decided to make my own.

I went online, found a website with free printable coloring pages (Googling “[blank] line drawing” also works), printed them out, and traced them with graphite paper onto my watercolor sketchbook. It’s a bit time-consuming, but the tracing alone is therapeutic enough, and if I made a mistake with the coloring, I could always trace it again. It’s kind of like painting without having to draw (which is great for me because I can’t draw.)

tracing by 14 shades of grey

coloring by 14 shades of grey

coloring by 14 shades of grey

That one is my first try, so it’s kinda simple. Here are some more finished products:

coloring - fox in burrow by 14 shades of greycoloring - carnation by 14 shades of grey

I did print out a page from “Enchanted Forest“, but the intricate details are a pain to trace and don’t look that great with watercolors:

coloring - fox by 14 shades of grey

The realistic botanical illustrations are much more my style. I’m particularly proud of the berry ones:

coloring - tropical lily by 14 shades of greycoloring - hummingbirds by 14 shades of grey

coloring - strawberries by 14 shades of greycoloring - blackberries by 14 shades of grey

Overall I still have a lot to learn, but I really like it. We’ll see how long I can keep it up, but maybe this coloring fad is not such a fad after all.

Tutorial: Dandelion Tee

dandelion tee

Gods, it’s been so long since I did a tutorial that I had to look at old posts to see how to structure it. Anyway, I’ve been missing my graphic tees lately – both my whale tee and my feather tee are so worn out that I’ve passed them to my niece as nightshirts – so when I saw this dandelion print tee, I immediately knew I wanted to make my own.

dandelion tee tutorial

What You Need:
– A white or light-colored tee
– Fabric markers (I used two, one big, one with a finer tip)
– A piece of cardboard or magazines


1. Put the cardboard or magazines into your shirt so that it lies flat and the marker doesn’t bleed into the back.

dandelion sketchdandelion tee tutorial

2. Start drawing. Begin with the stem of the dandelion, then sketch out the stalk of the seeds, both around the dandelion clock and scattered across the shirt. I don’t draw (I wouldn’t say I can’t draw, but I’m not good), so I actually did a few sketches on paper, to get the feel of it first.

For me the hardest part to get right is actually the fluff of the seeds (Wikipedia tells me it’s called the “pappus”). I used the big marker for the stem and the stalks, then used the fine-tipped one to draw the fluff. I’m not quite happy with the shape (it doesn’t look as full as the inspiration piece), but don’t worry about being exact.

Stretch the fabric to ensure smooth lines. It still puckered a bit for me, but this actually created an almost watercolor look that I liked.

dandelion tee tutorialdandelion tee tutorial

3. Add a few seed pods here and there, and you’re done! Let the shirt dry completely, and remember to wash it inside out from now on.

dandelion tee

Recipe: Shortbread Cookies

I confess, it’s been too cold for outfit photos these past few days, and my outfits weren’t that interesting anyway. I have these pictures left over from the Lunar New Year, so I thought I might as well post them. This year we added a new desert – shortbread cookies – to our usual Lunar New Year fare of candied fruits and preserves, because my sister bought an oven for her new apartment. We had a lot of fun making them, they’re so versatile and the recipe is really simple, so here goes:

What You Need:
2 C butter, softened
1 C white sugar
4 C all-purpose flour
2 ts vanilla extract
Optional: dry fruits (we used cranberries and dried plums, random, I know, but we needed to clean out the pantry), jam, coconut flakes, sliced almonds, chocolate, etc.


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in vanilla; add flour and mix well.

shortbread cookie dough by 14 shades of grey

3. Here the recipe calls for putting the dough through cookie press and forming cookies onto baking sheets, but after one sheet of that, my sister and I got so sick of the clunky cookie press that we just put the dough into piping bags, since our dough was pretty soft. We also made a few free-form ones (mostly my niece did). If your dough is dry enough, you can also chill it, then roll it out and use a cookie cutter. Decorate them with the dry fruits or nuts of your choice, or with a dollop of jam.

shortbread cookie piping by 14 shades of grey

shortbread cookie decorating by 14 shades of greyshortbread cookie decorating by 14 shades of grey

shortbread cookies by 14 shades of grey

4. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes. Let cool. If you want to dip them into chocolate, now would be a good time before they’re all gone. Enjoy!

shortbread cookies by 14 shades of greyshortbread cookies finished by 14 shades of grey

I’m A T-Rex!

t-rex sweater tutorial by 14 shades of grey

I’m not big on trend, but one of the trends I’m sorry I miss this fall/winter is the animal graphic sweater. I mean, I’m a cat lady, it’s pretty much required that I have something like this in my closet, right? But, since it doesn’t seem like that trend has trickled down to Vietnam just yet, I’m going to make my own.

I decided to go with a silhouette instead of a full-color image because it’s less kitschy and well, it’s just easier that way.

t-rex sweater tutorial by 14 shades of grey

What You Need:
– An old sweater (the baggier the better, I found, since it adds to the whole retro vibe)
– Scrap fabric (solid color is fine, but I like the look of a printed silhouette)
– Marker (fabric or permanent, it doesn’t matter) or chalk, scissors, fray check (optional)
– Pins, needle and thread

t-rex sweater tutorial by 14 shades of grey

1. Print out your image. It took me a while to choose what animal I wanted, but in the end I was inspired by this shirt to pick a T-Rex. Who doesn’t want a T-Rex sweater?

2. Trace it on your fabric (I thought about adding an eye to it, but then decided not to because it looked a bit goofy.)

3. Cut the image out (I also added some fray check to the edge to keep it from fraying.) Pin that sucker to your sweater. You don’t want it to move around while you’re sewing!

4. Stitch. I used a basic straight stitch but a blanket stitch would look good too.

And you’re done!

t-rex sweater by 14 shades of grey

Lunar New Year: Rice Cakes

rice cakes by 14 shades of grey

It’s Lunar New Year this weekend, my first Lunar New Year at home in seven years. Back in LA, I did have some sort of celebration every year, but it could never compare to actually being at home for it – the bustling streets filled with peach blossoms and kumquat trees, the nippy cold (it’s been annoyingly warm these last two weeks, but as luck would have it, it’s going to cool down tomorrow), the smell of incense in the air, the excitement of preparing food and decorating the house… It’s better than Christmas, because with Christmas even when you’re not with your family you can still feel the atmosphere, but with Lunar New Year, you pretty much have to be in the country where it’s widely celebrated (Chinatown doesn’t count) to get the truest sense of the holiday.

Anyway, one of my favorite traditions of the Lunar New Year is the making of rice cakes (bánh chưng). It’s a cake made of sticky rice, mung bean paste, and pork, wrapped in arrowroot leaves and boiled. It may sound simple, but there are a lot of little details involved, from the quality of the ingredients to how you wrap and boil the cakes, to get the perfect rice cakes – everything tender but not mushy, the rice green from the arrowroot leaves, the bean paste bright yellow, the pork cooked through but still pink. Here is how my family makes our rice cakes (it’s not an actual recipe because everything is eyeballed, but I thought it’d be fun to share with you guys):

arrowroot leaves by 14 shades of greyarrowroot leaves by 14 shades of grey

sticky rice by 14 shades of grey

pork by 14 shades of grey

What You Need:
– Three parts sticky rice, one part mung beans, one part fatty pork (we usually do 6 kg of rice; 3 cups of rice per cake)
– Fish sauce, salt, pepper, onions or shallot
– Arrowroot leaves (you need at least four per cake), bamboo strings

1. Soak the rice and the beans up to 12 hours. Let dry, salt them well. Cut the pork into two-inch pieces. Marinate the pork in fish sauce, pepper, and onions.

2. Steam the beans, mash them into a paste (it looks a lot like mash potatoes actually.)

3. Now you’re ready to wrap the cake! There are a lot of ways to wrap a rice cake, but since the cakes have to be a perfect square, most people like to most a mold. My dad usually cuts the arrowroot leaves (carefully washed and dried) and folds them into a box. It’s a little more complicated than using a mold, but it’s easier to wrap once you get the box shape down. Put in a cup of rice, then a layer of bean paste, a couple of pieces of pork, followed by another layer of bean paste and another layer of rice. Make sure that the leaves are touching the rice on the right side, or the cake won’t be green enough. Fold the tops of your “box” down and secure it with bamboo strings.

rice cakes by 14 shades of grey

rice cakes by 14 shades of grey

rice cakes by 14 shades of grey

rice cakes by 14 shades of grey

rice cakes by 14 shades of greyIt’s much more difficult to wrap it like this, without a mold or shaping the leaves into a box first

4. You can also wrap the cakes the Southern way – simply lay down the leaves, put the ingredients on top, and roll it all up into a cylinder. But then it’s called bánh tét instead of bánh chưng.

rice cakes by 14 shades of greyrice cakes by 14 shades of grey

5. Put your cakes into a cauldron that’s been lined with more arrowroot leaves, put in enough water to cover them, and boil them. The boiling time depends on how many cakes you have, of course, but with 20 cakes, we always have to boil them for at least 12 hours. The cauldron is important too – cauldrons made out of zinc are best because they keep the leaves green (as you can see below); aluminum will turn them an unappetizing brownish yellow.

rice cakes cauldron by 14 shades of greyrice cakes by 14 shades of grey
No, that’s not some witch’s cauldron

And that’s about it. We’ve only cut one of the mini cakes my dad made for my niece from leftovers, saving the big ones for the Lunar New Year feast on Monday, but as far as we can tell, they all turned out perfectly. OK, I’m off to finish cleaning up, so have a great weekend everybody! I know I will.