Celebrating Chinese New Year with Friends

Our Malaysian friends returned to Malaysia for the Chinese New Year break, but after they came back to Tianjin for the start of school and work, they invited us to their home for a belated New Year’s meal.  Two favorite dishes in Malaysia are prawn and noodle soup, and Bak Kut Teh (a pork and cabbage dish served with rice).   We were also joined by a Singaporean family in our school whose daughter is also in 9th grade with Maddie.  It is always interesting to learn about new traditions and customs of others around the world, while enjoying good fellowship around the ONE who joins us together. 

Friends & Food


Baking with Little Girls

Rachel decided to teach some of her baking tips, by hosting a class for some younger girls in our school.  Sean works with the Chinese mom of one of the girls and I work with the Korean mom of the other two girls.  Rachel was very ambitious teaching them to make oatmeal cookies, and brownie bottom banana muffins topped with chocolate frosting.  Megan was so happy to join in the fun!   (Sean worked on a small project during our break installing pendant lighting above the peninsula countertop, just behind these girls…lighting makes such a huge difference in the coziness of a room!)


How To : Adobe Illustrator Geometric Art

You may remeber my  preview posts of geometric renditions of Audrey Hepburn, The Girl with the Pearl Earring, and Twiggy; well today we are going to learn how to create a geometric-art-form of any picture!   The process is quite simple if you’re willing to invest time in creativity. I practice Adobe Illustrator concepts (such as this one) while watching movies with Rachel and Maddie (just to keep my hands productively busy!).

You will need Adobe Illustrator (CS3-CS6 will do) and a favorite image of yours.  As you can see, the picture I chose was one of Wall-E.

1. First step: place your picture into Adobe illustrator.  File > Place > (choose picture).


2. Once you have your picture into Illustrator, zoom into the spot that you will be starting with.
-Choose the pen tool and make the stroke color white with a weight of 1.
-Start creating a “jigsaw” of geometric shapes on top of the picture (these shapes should surround an area of the picture where the pixel color is generally the same).
If you would like this to be a very detailed and precise rendition of the picture, then create smaller geometric shapes in order to get more clarity.  If you would like your picture to be more rustic/abstract,  feel free to make your shapes larger and cover more shades of color.

~I went for the more detailed geometric look for this particular picture.
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3. Whew!  took longer than you expected right?  Well this next part is fun!
-Now that you have all your geometric lines drawn, use the arrow to select all the shapes (make sure you do NOT include your background picture).
-(with the shapes selected) > Live Paint > Make.  Now that they are “live paint” you may fill each shape according to the instructions below…

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4. Now you need to use the Eyedropper tool and the Paint Bucket tool interchangeably to get the general shade of color from the shape’s picture underneath.
-To be more specific: For each shape use the eyedropper to collect the color (from the picture underneath). Once you’ve collected the correct shade, use the Paint Bucket to fill the shape.  Repeat this step until you have filled every shape. ( Doesn’t this just bring you back to your “coloring book” days?)
– Now delete the background image to check if you have filled every space- if not, click ‘edit undo’ and complete filling the geometric spaces.

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5. Now selet the whole picture, click Expand on the top tool bar (so it is no longer a Live Paint Object) and make the stroke color transparent (the white lines should now disappear). You have now competed you’re very own geometric design!  <Add a background and some text to “spruce it up” if you’d like>.

As you can see from my previous geometric creations I usually create the whole picture, including the background.  However in this example I only rendered the face to highlight message.  Enjoy!

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Valentine’s Day Party

Valentine’s Day conveniently fell during our Chinese New Year break.  It was a great excuse for the girls to have a party with friends.  Living in Tianjin, we don’t have the convenient Target Retail Store to run down to for party supplies and goodies.  The girls came up with some creative fun…homemade cards and fresh flower bouquets in creative vases.    Jessie scavenged my pantry for empty jars and containers, and spray-painted and removed old labels to provide vases for decorating.  Rachel made a delicious 6 layer red velvet cake, and Maddie came up with party games (the old familiar Spoons card game).  Most of the girls attending came from Maddie’s 9th grade class.  We also had 12th and 10th grade friends of Jessie and Rachel.

The cake, it was spectacular!


Flower vases, card game, cake pops and Jessie’s creative card.



From the Studio: Chinese Calligraphy Acrylic Cut

Studying architecture can be difficult at times: the work load, the hours, the complicated models and tedious drawings. I often get very frustrated, but there is one thing that I am thankful for in it all. I am so thankful for the things that architecture has taught me. Yeah, yeah, it taught me about diligence-working with others.. bla, bla, bla..

But who really cares about architecture work ethics? I am excited about the representational styles and visual communication skills it has taught me.

If I went through all of this and only learned this-I would be happy.

This is the Chinese New Year season, and a friend commissioned me for a project to do with Chinese calligraphy work. He wanted name tags for some of his friends in China. (And I decided it would be fun to make my own name as well!)

First step was to draw the outlines of the Chinese calligraphy on the computer so that we could laser cut the 5mm acrylic board. I used Adobe Illustrator and then cleaned everything up in AutoCAD.

Next step was to laser cut-I don’t have my own machine, but a local architecture supply store has machines for rent (by the minute). We grabbed a USB drive with our file and started the cut… it took 30 minutes (and at 4HKD/minute that comes out at about $15 USD).

Next step is spray paint… we used a perforated plastic sheet as the pattern for the spray paint. (Painting on the back of the character..)

My Chinese name is: 韓睿忠 (hán ruì zhōng). Above you can see the 韓 being sprayed, and below a detail of the 忠.

Here is the final product of the 睿忠.

I’m Lovin’… Food Gawker

 First and foremost I’d like to repent of beging terribly MIA on Connecting4 lately.

It’s a new year and I am super excited for all the new that is coming my way. Finally I can start a fresh with all my goals, ideas, and planning… Also, *fun fact* this is about the time we first started connecting four so… happy birthday Connecting Four!


Anyways…  Food Gawker is always the place to go when you’re either bored out of your mind, or when you’re searching for “that perfect” recipe. Below are five recipes that are officially on my “upcoming-cooking-adventure” list. Of course, Rachel will be helping me in this particular field of expertise, since the kitchen and I don’t particularly see eye-to-eye.


As you can probably tell from the selection above I am a very traditional yet snacky type of person when it comes to eatables. I couldn’t help but include a funnel cake recipe, although it may be on the unhealthy side,  the thrill and excitement of its traditional environment <AMUSEMENT PARKS!> rubs off on me.  The spinach pesto sauce is my second favorite… I am reminded of late night dinners which consist of sprawling out on the couch with a huge bowl of basil covered pasta, while watching A Cinderella Story with my sisters.

I think it’s safe to say that food gawker is perfect for food lovers- whether or not the kitchen is your playground!

Sources/*recipes*:  {one, two, three, four, five}

Biscuits n’ Snow

snowflake This morning we woke up to a winter wonderland outside. So lovely. upclose Being the sweet older sister that I am, I dragged myself out of bed extra early to bake  warm, fluffy biscuits for breakfast. Baking for my sisters is such fun; Jessie will never get tired of a sweet snack to pair with her tea obsession, Maddie won’t tell me if she’s unimpressed (which is a very good thing ;), and Megan has considerably low expectations (she’d rather have an oreo than chocolate mousse!) What will I do without these three? Anyway. While obediently washing my dishes after sticking these delights in the oven, I lost myself in the slow-paced world of morning grogginess. Thankfully, Mom saved our breakfast just in time from being baked to a deathly crisp. branch I happily enjoyed a honey-butter filled breakfast this morning while the flurries quietly drifted to the ground all around me. topbiscuit twigs

Deserted Shopping Mall

The day of the Chinese New Year Mom, Megan, Jessie and I decided to go eat lunch before returning home after church. Once we got to our destination (our favorite shopping area) we found to our surprise and disappointment, most of the restaurants closed for the holiday. After much searching and disagreement we settled for our favorite bakery,  Paris Baguette.  Although I had wanted a more “hearty” meal with rice and meat, we had fun picking out sandwiches and delicious tarts anyway.  Mom even treated us to iced lattes.  I think the best part though was knowing that the next day we didn’t have to go to school…thanks to the Chinese New Year!
Post and photos by Maddie

A Mexican Weekend

Mexico. I’ve never been but it seems like a wonderful place. While satisfying my recipe obsession, I came across this cinnamon, vanilla beverage. The element which originally sparked my attention was the rice additive. The flavor of white rice is simply delicious and the thought of it in the form of a cool fresh drink was irresistible. As you might’ve guessed, I was delightfully surprised by the outcome. The drink was unique and tasty to be sure.

Going along with this theme, I declared a Mexican weekend. Sunday morning Jessie and I prepared a batch of horchata with sweet, donut-like “churros” as a side. My goodness. Yum. We ate the entire plate for breakfast!

I hope you had a lovely weekend, spending time with family and friends.