Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Learning Modern Calligraphy!

For months I would look at Pinterest to find beautifully addressed envelopes and elegantly written bible verses and yearn to possess the skills these artists had with pointed-pen. For weeks I would tell my mum that I'd start learning once my exams would finally be over and finally the day came where I visited my local art store to buy some supplies.

After searching through various blogs, video tutorials, and Skillshare classes, I started creating mental notes of calligraphy techniques I would need to employ and physical notes of the supplies I would need to find. Needless to say, I became pretty anxious with wanting to begin. After approximately two weeks of practicing, I want to share what tools and resources I've used that have helped me develop my skill. Hopefully some of you will find this blog post helpful!

Pictured from left to right:

  • Rubbing alcohol - used to clean nibs when I'm ready to pack up. I've been quite diligent with cleaning my nibs after practicing and this rubbing alcohol ensures that the nib dries completely to prevent rusting.
  • Higgins Eternal Black Ink - a staple of many calligraphers, this works well on different types of papers.
  • Sumi Black Ink - the first ink I used when I first started calligraphy, I prefer it a little bit more than the Higgins because it's thicker and more opaque.

There was one time where I was writing and a substantial amount of ink decided to splatter all over my white acrylic table. I panicked and started wiping it with a kitchen towel (worst idea ever) which spread it around before quickly starting to dry. It only decided to give after I used two Dettol disinfectant surface wipes and a paper towel drenched in rubbing alcohol. Needless to say I don't want to ever re-live that. So I stole my dad's drawing board

I found it especially hard trying to find the nibs most calligraphers recommend (Brause Blue Pumpkin, Nikko G, Zebra G), but after looking through some Pinterest posts, I saw that a calligrapher recommended the Hunt Imperial 101 (nib on the left) and the Hunt 22B Extra Fine (nib in the middle). These are also the nibs that Melissa Esplin recommends for her istilllovecalligraphy class

The Hunt Imperial is great for making thick downstrokes, something I find useful for larger works, while the Hunt 22B creates thinner downstrokes, which I use for smaller written quotes. I bought these two nibs at the Takapuna Art Supply Store, along with the two inks, nib holder, and Canson pro layout marker paper (not pictured).

The marker on the right is the Tombow dual-ended brush pen, which I bought before my nibs and have used sparingly since then. I haven't touched my Tombow in a while since I'm not actually good at brush calligraphy (sigh, one day) but I have used it for bolder-looking works a handful of occasions. I bought my Tombow at Gordon Harris

Resources I find helpful:
  • Pinterest: There are so many great calligraphy examples on this website, I can pin for hours on end! I've found it especially useful to look at how other calligraphers construct their letters (I've found that the letters p, q, z, f and b frustrate me!). As I've gotten more confident with my own calligraphy style, I've started to look at practicing other 'fonts', and Pinterest provides great examples of these too. Searching the "quotes" tag lets me practice different letter combinations and helps me add to my favourite quotes collection!
  • 'Calligraphy I: Writing in Modern Script' Skillshare class by Bryn Chernoff: This class is fantastic and was what I watched before picking up my nibs. Bryn's Skillshare classes are conveniently split up into different learning blocks which makes it easy to re-watch. I do have to admit, I haven't watched all videos that Bryn provides (Skillshare has a limited freemium streaming time), only until 'constructing letterforms' but I do plan to watch them all in the future, and maybe even contribute to the Project Gallery. 
  • Instagram: There are so many calligraphy pros out there in the Instagram world and I love it when I see a post from any of them on my feed. Scrolling through their profile gives me a little bit of hope that one day I'll be as skilled and creative as them. 

After this equipment talk I really want to start talking about how I've found learning calligraphy. In short, I'm loving it and it has been so much fun! Growing up (and even now) I've had an interest for writing - in notebooks and spare pieces of paper, so much so that I have a ridiculous collection of notebooks that I have but don't necessarily use. It's a bit of a problem, and my mum hates it when I step into a Kikki K but I would buy stationery over clothes any day.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Black Velvet Cupcakes

You've all heard of red velvet cupcakes, but have you ever heard of black velvet? If Darth Vader were trying to convince you to come to the dark side, he'd be holding a tray of these. Made from a mixture of Equagold Black and Dutch Processed Cocoa, the darkness of these cupcakes is achieved without any food colouring! This recipe is taken from my aunt Jane's blog (Jane's Kitchen) with permission.

Black Velvet Cupcakes
Yield: 36 regular sized cupcakes


  1. Preheat oven to 160°C.
  2. In a bowl, combine all dry ingredients and sift.
  3. In a mixer bowl, combine all wet ingredients (eggs, buttermilk, oil, coffee, vanilla paste). Using the paddle attachment, beat ingredients until well combined at slow speed for about a minute.
  4. Add in all of the sifted dry ingredients and beat at medium speed until well combined and no traces of dry ingredients for about 3 minutes.
  5. Transfer and divide mixture into cupcake liners set on muffin tin pans.
  6. Bake for 18 minutes or until cake springs back when touched. It's a moist cake and inserting a toothpick or cake tester is not advised.
  7. Cool on a cake wire rack until ready for icing. When the cupcakes are completely cool, ice as desired. 
Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing

  • 100 grams butter, softened (we used Whitestone unsalted butter)
  • 250 grams cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped off
  • Zest of 1 mandarin

  1. In a mixer using the paddle attachment, cream the butter, cream cheese, mandarin zest and vanilla seeds until smooth.
  2. Add in icing sugar and continue mixing until fluffy and light for about 5 minutes on medium speed
For toppings:
  • For this cupcake, we garnished the top with mini chocolate chips and freeze dried raspberry powder.

My aunt Jane has a blog of her own where she posts food-finds, recipes and articles! You can find her recipe index here, of which my favourites are the Red Velvet Crinkles, Momofuku-inspired Corn Cookies, and the Savoury Cheese Cookies.

Make sure you comment down below if you give these cupcakes a go, they are mighty delicious!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Wonderful Internet Finds: TED Videos

I have a plethora of links that I've bookmarked in my browsers from wonderful things I find on the internet. They vary from lifestyle blogs to Buzzfeed links to makeup tutorials to how an amateur can improve their photography game - the list is endless. What I've noticed recently is that I have a bunch of wonderful internet finds that I forgot even existed and I refuse for them to get lost in the depths of the internet so I'm going to start a new blog category where I share a few of these things.

I'll start with my favourite TED: Ideas Worth Spreading videos. I'm yet to find a TED video that is less than intriguing and doesn't provoke deeper thinking so my first recommendation would be to go to the TED website and watch whatever your cursor lands on first. However, if you need a kick start, here are four videos that I love:

This is the number one TED talk to currently exist, and greatly altered the way I communicate when I speak and share stories. "People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it, and what you do simply serves as the proof of what you believe."

2. Ziauddin Yousafzai: My daughter, Malala
The father of an iconic figure, Malala Yousafzai who fights for the rights of children and women, talks of patriarchal society in developing countries, the effects of 'Talibanisation' and the power of education.

3. Kakenya Ntaiya: A girl who demanded school
An incredibly brave woman who agreed to undergo a traditional Maasai rite of  passage of female circumcision as a condition to allow her to attend high school. She talks of her journey for higher education and how her story has influenced and changed the lives of many from creating a school in her community.

4. Monique Coleman: The Path to Purpose
Feel free to skip the first six minutes of this talk, as she gets to the meaningful conversation after this. Monique discusses service as a path to purpose and how young people can truly make a difference. "The first act of service is recognising the intention to serve, acknowledging the burning desire to do something bigger than yourself and to make a difference in the world"

I hope you find great sources of inspiration within TED talks, the four that I've linked are only to get you started. From these, my eyes have been opened to truly incredible people who have lifetimes worth of stories and knowledge to share!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

What do I carry in my pockets?

Just in case you ever wondered what 100 people carry in their pockets, my friend Marsha has taken the '100 Days Project' challenge by documenting what people carry on them through photographs. Recently I met up with her at a friend's birthday party, and she snapped this picture of me:

  • The rings I'm wearing on my right hand are by Pandora, one (mine is in the blue enamel but I've been told that it is discontinued now) and two.
  • My lipstick is Too Faced in the shade Spice Spice Baby.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Tune in to...

I really want to share with you all some of my music favourites of this month - not all of them are new, but I can guarantee that you will find a tune or two you will love. Most of these things have been on repeat for hours on end and I was sure to include a little bit of something for every sort of mood!

I'd also love to talk about one song in particular that made it to the top of the list (although it's actually in no particular order), Falling Angels - Tiki Taane. A popular New Zealand artist who topped the national charts with his fantastic hit, Always On My Mind, I am excited to share with you all that Tiki is joining World Vision New Zealand for this year's Live Below the Line. 

Saturday, 26 April 2014

How I beat my fear of Public Speaking

Left: 2012, speaking at a World Vision event of around 50 people. Although I look slightly overenthusiastic, I was more than nervous - my school principal was in that room. Right: Speaking at Southern Easter Camp on Tour in front of 700, sharing the story of the beautiful Malawian people.

Last year I read an article that found that women fear public speaking more than they fear death. This fact seems dramatic to me now, but a couple of years ago I would have been in the exact same boat. Here's the (very long but very condensed) story of how I beat my fear of public speaking and a couple of tips on how you may be able to beat the fear, too.

During my junior years of high school I was your typical shy kid, the person who would sit silent in class without making a peep because I was simply just too nervous. It didn't help that I was short, gangly (sort of still am), had glasses, braces and a bob cut that didn't suit my face. During my first year of high school, we were assigned to present a speech in front of the whole class as a marked assessment. I worried for weeks and even had to re-print several copies of my cue cards because my clammy palms kept running the ink when I practiced at home. Throughout the days we were presenting, I sat nervously in my seat and hoped the speaking list would be pushed back so I had one more day where I wouldn't have to embarrass myself in front of the class.

The day where the teacher called out my name, I stood up, walked to the front of the class and looked at my already-crumpled cue cards - it was one of the worst days of my life. So I began, screwed up on my first sentence and asked to start over, so I did. I restarted, making minimal eye contact, laughed, then sighed, and only after the second cue card did I remember to breathe, I continued, looked up and immediately scanned my eyes down again after noticing the camera they were using to record us. It was probably one of the fastest speeches I had ever delivered, I knew people were clapping at the end out of pity. That was the day I knew I would never be good at public speaking. It didn't help that I decided my topic was going to be 'Inside Jokes', I mean, what the heck? What was I thinking? I had a lot to learn. It surprised me that I somehow passed (barely) and my best friend failed because our teacher thought that her topic, dumpster diving, wasn't "legitimate and appropriate." Who gets to validate these decisions, anyway?

The year after we had to do the same assessment, I remember that one being marginally better because by then I knew a lot my classmates. Even though a lot of the people in my class were friends, it didn't change the fact that they were sitting down and watching me and I was standing up and presenting making a fool of myself. Thirty seconds into presenting, I looked up to make the eye contact I hardly remembered to deliver and spotted my friend in the front row who mouthed 'slow it down'. Only after that cue did I remember to take a breath whenever I saw a full stop.

Things only changed in my second to last year of high school, when I involved myself in the 40 Hour Famine at school as a leader in the World Vision Club. At the beginning of the year I learnt about a little girl in East Timor called Lily, who didn't have enough food to eat every day because of the food crisis. Lily became my little sister that year, and something sparked inside me like nothing I had ever felt before - a passion to fight for Lily and the children around the world in similar situations. As a leader, I had to stand in front of year group assemblies and tell her story in front of 200 students around three times a week. In one of the first ever assemblies we booked we had Devon, a Schools Relationship Coordinator from World Vision, come and speak for the first time at our school. I asked her, "Devon, you do this as your job, speaking in front of assemblies and inspiring high school students, don't you ever get nervous?" She replied, "Of course I get nervous, the day I stop getting nervous before speaking in front of a group is the day I will quit my job because that's the day I stop being passionate." I didn't want to stop being passionate, three years later, this is the mindset I come back to when I get nervous before talking.

A video: Lily's story.

So I presented at my first year group assembly, videos ready to show, script in hand and the attitude ready to change the world. I stood behind the lectern and presented. I didn't mess up once. For the rest of the year I presented in assemblies, shared stories, told students about how we could help our friends overseas who are living in such hardship and I found so much passion in being able to tell people that we can make a difference. I got an excellence in my speech assessment that year (which is the highest grade you can get, for those of you unfamiliar with NCEA) and I forgot about the days where I felt nervous about standing in front of a group of people.

But it doesn't end there. My passion and love for World Vision and the 40 Hour Famine took me to Malawi as a Youth Ambassador, and I came back with tears that could fill a thousand buckets and stories I could tell for the rest of my life. Talking about the 40 Hour Famine was different for me now, I was no longer speaking to crowds about children I had seen through videos, but about children I had met, played with, conversed with and opened my hearts to. My fear of public speaking briefly returned as I began to doubt how confidently I could express my experience. But then, Devon came to my rescue once again and told me I didn't have to figure out my stories straight away but reminded me that people aren't necessarily going to remember what you say, but they'll definitely remember how you say it. After she said this, I just always remember to open my heart and say whatever I was going to say as genuinely as I can possibly say it.