the bag strap project

i have a gray, patterned canvas tote bag that i instantly fell in love with the first time i saw it. it was the right size, was affordable, and all in all, almost-perfect. my one complaint was that its white canvas straps could be an inch or so longer, so i bought it with the thought of replacing them, thereby sealing the bag’s perfection.

as with most of my diy projects though, this one got shelved for a bit in favor of more urgent day-to-day things; the straps’ length wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t unusable, i reasoned. when i plopped the bag in the machine for a wash a couple of months ago though, the straps emerged with a light pink stain, which i took as the universe’s way of prodding me to make good on my promise to replace them.

so how do you replace a gray, patterned canvas tote bag’s pink-stained straps? just follow these four easy steps.

1. find a gray, patterned canvas tote. make sure its straps are pink-stained.

the bag with the stained straps

the bag with the stained straps

2. find new straps to replace the old ones with. i was initially looking for a black leather belt to use but i lucked out because i found this white one at the first thrift store i went to. i like to think of it as the universe’s gentle way of telling me to replace white with white. in case i still didn’t get it, she even added extra motivation: it was on sale so i only paid 84 pesos for it! real leather for 84 pesos equals really happy jona. πŸ™‚

textured leather belt from the secondhand store

textured leather belt from the secondhand store

3. have handy husband remove pesky buckle. measure and cut the belt into your desired length.

the would-be bag straps

the would-be bag straps

4. remove old straps and sew in new ones! i wanted to do this myself but, unfortunately, i didn’t have the right tools for it so i had to ask mr. quickie for help. finally, step back and admire your ‘new’ bag with its upcycled leather straps!

ta-daaa!

ta-daaa!

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oplan linis tindahan

besides a-ko, the one other constant in my life, growing up, was her store, or tiam lay in fukien. my child’s mind substituted tiam with our surname cham though, turning the phrase into a more familiar and personal one. πŸ™‚

i can’t remember a time in my childhood when a-ko’s cham lay didn’t exist, and rare was the day when i didn’t step foot inside it.

i remember afternoons spent helping a-ko count her chiz curls and chippy deliveries, lining up bottle after bottle of johnson’s baby cologne and baby oil and baby powder inside the glass display cabinet, weekends spent inside the store doing homework and studying for tests.

i have memories of rows and rows of nescafe instant coffee bottles filled with treats like serge football, bazooka bubble gum and stork candy, of stealthily stealing a colorful coat or two from the caronia and caress nail polish bottles and hastily wiping the evidence off before it dries, and later, of freezers filled with magnolia ice drop, pinipig crunch and the much coveted drumstick.

i also remember resenting having to sit inside the store day after day after day, waiting for customers who come just when i was at the exciting part of a book or a tv show.

i grew up inside that tiam lay, had my first neighborhood crush behind its counter, received my first love letter across jars of hi-ro biscuits and rebisco cream sandwiches.

over the years, while life went on, the store slowly and silently fell into disarray. old inventory got buried under knick knacks, random pieces of paper and bits and pieces of everything. then everything got further buried under newer inventory and even more knick knacks, random pieces of paper and bits and pieces of everything else.

it got so bad that i literally felt weak every time i got a glimpse of the store’s state during visits to a-ko.Β the thought of her navigating through all that clutter everyday made me feel so helpless i would cry out my frustration at alvin during the drive home.

i’ve been wanting to clean up the mess for years but could neither find the strength nor figure out how to. i toyed with the idea of hiring a professional team of cleaners just to be done with it but had no idea where one finds such teams.

finally, the recent super long weekend arrived and i thought, this is it, this has to be done *now*! so i enlisted alvin and joyce’s help and we somehow got the humongous job done in three days! we freed up so much space a-ko can even lie down for an afternoon nap if she wanted!

next project, her various closets and cabinets. maybe during the christmas break, when we get our collective strength back, haha. πŸ˜€

before: over a decade’s worth of accumulated junk and forgotten store inventory

after: 3 days, 4 dead rats, and almost 20 giant bags of trash later

oplan linis tindahan is officially a success!


friday night project

our friday nights are usually very exciting; alvin and i would hurdle the friday night traffic, veg out in front of the tv and watch whatever movie or reality show was showing on cable. we’re especially suckers for cooking shows and cooking show permutations and could watch one after the other for hours.

some friday nights, like this one just past, we push the level of excitement even further.

while we were in vietnam, alvin, who has a budding hat addiction, insisted on buying himself a fedora off of a street vendor. the hat itself was beautiful; made of evenly-stitched strips of some kind of natural fiber and light milky brown in color. circling the base of the fedora’s crown was a faux leather band.

the band looked okay from afar, but i kept wanting to pick it apart whenever i got within a foot of it; there was no hiding its fauxness if you were that close.

i brooded and schemed and plotted. finally the idea came: replace the band with fabric from an old tie! easy, cheap and funky!

and so last friday night, alvin and i sacrificed the cooking shows, buckled down and spent a few hours transforming his fedora.

take a bangketa fedora and rip off the offending faux leather band.

dig out an old tie from the baul, rip off the stitches, iron out the folds and then cut into desired width and length.

prep your trusty sewing machine.

if said trusty sewing machine breaks down, take a moment to vent. then call your trusty husband to fix it. snack while he does so.

if repair job fails, bang used-to-be-trusty sewing machine on the wall a few times, grieve, then proceed to plan b: iron in folds instead.

'who needs a sewing machine when you have a hot iron?' i always say.

fedora for him and for her.