Monday, December 23, 2013

The Best Christmas Present

Home baked cookies аre an absolute must this time of the year. They are fun to make and decorate and actually - they are a great last-minute gift idea, too. Who would say no to a batch of sugar cookies in fun holiday shapes? I wouldn't. Dexter wouldn't. You can trust us.

This recipe makes about two dozen: there will be plenty of cookies to munch on during holidays or pack and give away. You are going to need:
1 cup softened butter
1 egg
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 
for the glaze: 3-4 teaspoons lemon juice and a cup of powdered sugar
You could always use the help of a curious dog, too. Dexter plays his part perfectly. 

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg, cinnamon and baking soda until combined. Stir in the flour until dough forms. Form a ball from the dough, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate it for a couple of hours.
Lightly flour your counter top before you take the dough out of the fridge. Roll it flat: if you prefer crisper cookies, roll a thinner layer of dough. Thicker dough makes softer cookies (me and my helper are big fans of those). Use your favourite holiday cookie cutters, place cookies on a baking sheet and bake for about 8-12 minutes. Place all baked cookies on a cooling rack once you get them out of the oven.
Lemon glaze is one of my favourite things on earth because it's the easiest thing to prepare and it gives the cookies a nice wintery look (and a great taste, too!). Just add 3-4 teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice to a cup of powdered sugar and stir until it gets homogenous. Spread quickly on your cooled cookies and leave it dry for about half an hour. You can melt a bar of you favourite dark chocolate and cover some of the cookies with it. Both choices are delicious.

If you're planning to give some of the cookies away as present, you are only going to need a plastic or cardboard box and that baking paper we used earlier. You could write down the recipe on a card and attach it or just doodle something cute. Don't get too serious about it, though - it's what's on the inside that counts. Some wise words about cookies. 

Have fun baking and packing and eating some of those sweet sweet gingerbread men. 
Happy Holidays! Be merry and bright :)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Tin Can as Pencil Holder DIY

I've always kept my pencils, markers and brushes in used candles, old (and sometimes rusty, I admit) tin cans or plastic cups. It hasn't been a pleasant experience (especially with the latter) and it didn't exactly look that good either.
It was high time I got something fancier. I collected all old tin cans and decided to give them a total makeover.  It's great what a little paint here and a simple pattern there could do.

If you'd like to try this fun and easy project at home, you are only going to need  old and empty tin cans,  spray paint in your favourite colour (white in my case) and all-purpose paint or permanent markers for the patterns. 
Start by applying a thin coat of paint to your cans. Spray paint is the better choice here, because it covers uneven surfaces more  easily. I needed three coats of paint to completely cover the metallic shine underneath and let the cans dry overnight.

After the paint had completely dried, I used permanent black markers to draw simple patterns over. I decided to keep everything in black and white, inspired by Scandinavian design, but you can always be a little more adventurous than me and add a splash of colours here and there. 

Use your new almost-designer tin cans for storing everything. Now you can be organized on a whole new *a lot prettier* level. 
Have fun! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Red Shoes Illustration #2

The mysterious lady with the red shoes and striped socks visits the town during the night. She comes in through an opened window, plays one of your favourite songs (she might even introduce you to this one, it's magical) and leaves you with the feeling you should cook a nice dinner, bake cookies (you could tell I'm into baking lately, couldn't you?), or just do something you don't usually do. She is such a nice lady, I am sure you've already met her in some way.
This is actually the first illustration I did of her. (see previous one here) I have a couple more in mind, because - well - we better know all her possible whereabouts. She's not to be missed.
If you have any useful information, feel free to share! :)

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Lego Lunchbox: tabbouleh

Lego lunchbox today:
Tabbouleh salad - bulgur, parsley, tomatoes, orange juice, onion
mint tea in my extra cute keepcup (my lunch set is growing!)
tangerines for dessert

I don't know if you guys have heard about tabbouleh salad. I hadn't up until a few weeks ago, when I tried it at a restaurant and totally fell in love with every single ingredient in it. Tabbouleh is a Levantine Arab salad made of bulgur, parsley, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and garlic and seasoned with lemon juice and olive oil. I changed the recipe a bit to match my taste: I dropped the garlic and cucumbers and seasoned all with orange, instead of lemon juice. Tabbouleh is highly nutrient, yet very light - it can be served as a salad or a meal on its own. It tastes great and looks kinda cool in a red lego lunchbox.

I leave you my upgraded version of the recipe - try it out and I'm sure you'll love it!

Tabbouleh Salad Recipe:
1/2 cup of bulgur
3 bunches fresh, finely chopped parsley
1 diced tomato
1/2 onion, diced
3-4 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Pour the bulgur with boiling water and let it sit for 30 to 45 minutes. While you wait mix the orange juice and olive oil in a bowl and add the parsley, so that it could soak in. You can then add the tomatoes and onion and when the bulgur is ready and any excess liquid is removed - add it as well. Mix all ingredients until combined and let the tabbouleh marinate for a couple of minutes before serving. 

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Red Shoes Illustration

Ah, December.
Тhe time when the cute lady with red shoes and striped socks comes to visit and leaves a trail of sweet perfume over the town.  Or was it an old man with a red hat, leaving presents during the night? Oh. I guess I've completely messed up my illustration then.
But hey, December's here (although it feels like June was only yesterday) which means hot tea, lebkuchen and an occasional run in the snow every now and again. I'm not a big fan of Christmas songs, but I've been listening to some good tunes and dreaming about a cosy house in the woods, lots of snow and dozens of home-baked cookies. Who knows, the mystery lady with red shoes and striped socks might actually exist and show up just there. I hear she smells like cinnamon and leaves a warm and fuzzy feeling of love to whoever she touches.
How about you - are you excited about December? Planning your gift lists and New Year's resolutions yet?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tangerine Season

Winter has come a little earlier this year. It is freezing cold outside and it has been snowing for the past couple of days. Which is always good news for Dexter who runs in circles like crazy every time we go out for a walk. Playing in the snow is his second most favourite thing in the world. After eating, that is.
I've taken out all winter equipment. Enormous amounts of both tea and tangerines are in stock - because it's not truly winter without the smell of freshly brewed tea and the sweet taste of tangerines. My sketchbooks are full of doodles I can't wait to see finished and a whole bunch of lovely books are waiting patiently on my nightstand. I can't be more prepared for winter than this. Oh, wait - I can. And I am, because I write lists. As in winter-to-do-lists.

Last year's ice-skating was a total failure (but enormous fun, nevertheless) so this time I need to be a little more serious about winter sports. Maybe even try skiing or snowboarding. I also have some running challenges I need to take seriously before the end of the year, so that I can start clean from January on. New recipes and learning this and that in illustrator are constantly on my list, so I'm not even mentioning those. 
What do you have in your winter to-do-list? Any brilliant ideas I could steal? I'd give you a tangerine for one. :)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Ф is for Flamingo.

Ф is for Flamingo (cyrillic f is pretty, no?), AM is for Arctic Monkeys (lovely songs in the new album, this one is a favourite) and november is for tangerines and mint tea. Аt least that's how things are around here.
I wish you all an amazing week - mine started pretty sweet :)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Read of the month: november

Мy very last read of the month post was in October. Last year October, that is. Wow. I assure you I haven't been neglecting books for that long - I just stopped sharing my current reads here for some reason. I wanted to start keeping track of what I read again - it keeps me motivated to finish books faster and I'm always interested to hear your reviews and recommendations, too. 
This month's read is John Steinbeck's Cannery Row. (Bulgarian edition here on the photo, much older than I am, as you can probably guess). A lovely book about ordinary people and extraordinary human relations; about the goodness of men.
I remember seeing my mom read this exact edition every once in a while when I was little. She loved it and used to tell me I would read it one day too, when I feel it's right, and fall in love with it as well. My mom knows best. 
Cannery Row doesn't follow an exact plot. It is a short story about a couple of unemployed men and their difficult yet very adventurous life in the cannery district of Monterey, California. It is extremely well-written, utterly funny and heart-warming. Steinbeck pays all the attention to little things in life, little gestures, small talks, sunrises, self-proclaimed artists who create crazy things, but believe they're making the world a better place. The main emphasis here is on the dignity and value of each person - be they a prostitute, a scientist, a shop-owner, a derelict. You cannot help but fall in love with the whole set of characters who are funny, witty, and most importantly - good
Тhe book is brilliant. Definitely read it if you have the chance - you will fall in love with it as well. I would know.

Dexter posing with Cannery Row. He can't get enough of the attention.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lego Lunchbox: pumpkin somethings

Lego Lunchbox today:
6 pumpkin somethings - I can eat no more than two but I have to show people around I've actually baked something, no?
Flavoured yoghurt drink - here's a secret - I only picked the strawberry flavoured yoghurt because the cap was red and it matched my lunchbox so well. But we all know forest fruits is the better choice. Just so you know.

А couple of weeks ago a colleague of mine shared a most excellent recipe for pumpkin cookies with me. Being the crazy pumpkin lover that I am, I couldn't resist trying it out immediately. I have to admit I changed it a bit (unintentionally, of course) and my version can hardly be called cookies... so i just call them pumpkin somethings. But don't let that discourage you! I promise these are the tastiest pumpkin somethings in the world!
If you want to try this recipe at home you are going to need: oat grain; oat bran; raw nuts - I used almonds, cashew and hazelnuts; apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, a tablespoon of coconut oil, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and... some pumpkin would be great, too. Roast about 3-4 pumpkin wedges until they are fork tender and let them cool. Then peel off the skin and put the flesh in a food processor. Once the puree is ready, you can add the sugar and oats.
Blend the nuts and seeds and add them to the mixture as well as the coconut oil. Grate the apples (I used raw apples, but if you like you might roast them beforehand as well) and add cinnamon and vanilla. I keep myself from giving you exact proportions, because this is more of a do-whatever-feels-right recipe - experiment, add or remove whatever you like and I'm sure it will turn out great - you might even make actual cookies, instead of somethings. But hey - no judging: somethings are pretty tasty as well.
Since my mixture wasn't exactly homogeneous (my puree was too much, I suspect), I used cupcake cups for the baking. The whole place smelled of cinnamon for so long afterwards - it didn't even matter that the whole thing came out as little pies more than as cookies.
These pumpkin somethings are great for breakfast or for in-between meal snacks. Obviously I've had them for lunch, too. They are very nutritious and have all magical ingredients for a wonderful day. Dexter says so, too. If you don't believe me, trust him - he's quite the expert.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Little Town Illustration

November has finally settled in: days are getting shorter, nights are getting colder and winter is just round the corner. I make raw nut power balls, drink lots of freshly squeezed orange juice and spend as much quality time with Illustrator as possible . Which means that - yeah - I pretty much stay at home most of the time, drawing little buildings and cloudy skies.
What do you like to do in November?

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Rubik Illustration

You can find this illustration on my Etsy shop.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lego Lunchbox

This blog has been many things: a journal, where I post pictures of whatever my camera finds interesting; a diary, where I write stories about my everyday life; an inspiration board for all things that pique my interest...  but mainly - a place where I share all the things I create. 
I've been paying a lot of attention to myself for the last couple of months. I wanted (and still want) not only to improve my skills in drawing and designing things, but improve myself in the process as well. I've taken up running. I cook a healthy meal whenever I can (cook meaning I try really hard and fail almost every time but end up eating the food anyway, a little ashamed. Which actually motivates me to do a little better next time). I read a good book before I fall asleep and watch a good movie when I find one. I try to learn something new everyday: a recipe, a new skill, a fun fact, a complicated German saying... sometimes all four things at once. I try to be a better person. Do good, be nice.
Last week I bought myself a lunchbox. I saw it in a children's toy store and fell in love with it immediately: it's a big red shiny Lego brick and it is admittedly the coolest thing in the world. I hadn't used a lunch box in my life. I hadn't brought lunch anywhere. But I knew this might just be my newest hobby. 
And it is.
I now try to prepare myself homemade lunch as often as possible. And since I have the coolest lunchbox in the world, I also want the content to look and taste just as cool. Which keeps me motivated to prepare better, tastier and healthier food. 
I've grown so fond of this idea that I decided to keep track of the things I put into my lunchbox. I promise I'm not transforming Little Birds into a culinary blog. I want to share with you a couple of lunch ideas, maybe a recipe or two that I've invented in the process, and - let's be honest - brag a little about how cool I look in the cafeteria eating lunch out of my Lego brick. And who knows - you might want to buy yourself a lunchbox too and we can all join forces and start a revolution together. In the pursuit of good homemade food. 

Lego Lunchbox today:
Rucola + Spinach Salad: rucola and spinach, black olives, crab sticks, chia seeds, mozzarella.
water (yeah yeah, I had to share a photo of my super high-tech water bottle which non-intentionally matches the colour of my lunchbox. Ok I lied. It was all carefully planned.)
pomegranate seeds for dessert.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Оctober has been nice.
Uni has started and I'm having fun attending lectures and writing homework once again. I try to eat more healthily, to run more (all about that - in a detailed post real soon - i promise!), I try to read more and draw more and, of course, learn Illustrator as promised.
Тhis is a set of illustrations I did just for fun, inspired by one of my homework assignments (the things I get inspired by, huh?). I used typographic symbols as distinctive woman features and as little free forms as possible. Let me tell you this: it is highly addictive. Now I want to transform every single thing that exists into a symbol illustration.
And I might just do it.

Enjoy what's left of October and here's a secret: November would be even better. I know it for sure.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


I have a list about pretty much everything. Some things I check quickly after writing down, others... just take a little bit longer.
Something that has stayed for waaay too long on my "To-learn list" is vector illustration. It is completely different from what I'm used to in digital drawing and to be honest - I've been afraid of it. I've been so afraid of it that it took me a couple of years to get out of my comfort zone (Photoshop) and try new things. Turns out vectors - like every single other thing - aren't that scary at all, once you get to know them. I've been watching tutorials and playing around with tools in Illustrator and I've been enjoying it so much, that I've come up with a resolution: I've given myself three months to learn Illustrator. I say it out loud so that I feel guilty whenever I watch a Regular Show episode instead of another tutorial. I'll keep you updated on my progress and let's hope this flower vase - my very first attempt in vector illustration - will look a lot better in a few months' time.
Some wise words before I leave you for yet another tutorial: don't be afraid to try things. Starting is always the toughest. It gets fun afterwards. ;)

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Paper lantern DIY

Here is a fun and quick way to turn your ordinary paper lantern into something much more fun. You only need an hour or two... and your imagination.
There are plenty of ways you could transform a paper lantern. You could apply vinyl stickers, transfer a favourite image using mod-podge or cut different shapes out of tissue paper and glue them on. I chose to draw a simple pattern using poster paint just because I rarely get to use paint and it's always so much fun. 
I started by marking the spacings and drawing light guidelines. Тhis makes the pattern a lot more consistent but it is a little tricky, because a pencil that is too sharp may damage the lantern. Try to find a softer pencil for the job - one with a rounded tip would be perfect.
The colouring is very easy and quick, because the paper from which the lantern is made is super thin and the paint dries off for seconds. I added two, sometimes three coats of paint to achieve a solid colour. 

Because the surface of the paper lantern is a bit wrinkled here and there, it's sometimes nearly impossible to come up with a perfect contour. I used a thicker brush for the colour filling and a thinner one for contouring. Don't get too serious about it, though. We go for pretty, not perfect.
An hour or two later (depending on the complexity of the pattern you have chosen) the basic paper lantern has magically turned into something much more interesting to look at. Play with shapes and colours to create the perfect lantern for your place and most importantly - have fun making it :)

Thursday, October 03, 2013

KOI illustration

This illustration is available on my Etsy shop.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bear & Fox Illustration

"To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. 
To you, I shall be unique in all the world."
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

You can find Bear & Fox on my Etsy shop

Monday, September 16, 2013

Jellyfish illustration

If you like jellyfish just as much as I do - I've got some exciting news for you!
You can find this Jellyfish illustration on my Etsy shop or purchase it on a t-shirt for a limited time only via Mister Dress-Up. How fun is that?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fridge Magnets DIY

I'm a collector.
I collect too many things all at once: old coins, stickers, notes, magnets. Ah, magnets. I get a little excited every time I visit a new country just because I get to spend some time picking the most beautiful ones. And because I'm not planning a trip anytime soon - why not creating some handmade magnets?

The materials needed are simple: easy-dry clay, paint and brushes, neodymium magnets, quick-dry glue, pencil and permanent markers for the final decoration.
First off, you need to decide what shape your magnets would be. I was lazy, I admit it, so I only cut a couple of circles out of a thin layer of clay and left them on a flat surface to dry overnight.

Once the clay had completely dried off, I started lightly sketching my designs on with a pencil. You might skip this step and start colouring right away - I just wanted to have some guides. If you use a pencil though - don't get too serious. Erasing it from the clay is a little difficult and leaves smudges on the surface that wouldn't look cool unless you cover them with colour.

I used poster paint because it is permanent and because it hardly loses its color intensity over time. I am not sure if watercolours would be a good idea, since the clay is also water-based, but play around - it might work as well. Or you could try permanent colour markers.

It takes a couple of minutes for the poster paint to dry, so by the time you've painted your last magnet (if you're making, like, more than three) the first one would be ready. You can then add outlines and textures using permanent markers. And only one more thing before your magnets are good to go - because, let's face it, they're not yet magnets. Take your easy-dry glue, dab a generous amount of it on the backside of your work and stick on the magnet. A couple of seconds later you're absolutely ready!

Have fun creating your own fridge magnets and don't forget to share them! :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Falling Foxes Illustration

"You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed"
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

You can find this illustration of Falling Foxes on my Etsy shop.

Friday, September 06, 2013

It is better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring

Long story short: I found a broken TV in our basement a couple of months ago. It looked so tiny and cute that I didn't want to throw it away. It was a freezing winter, I didn't have anything better to do (aside from studying for exams) so I took out some paint and brushes and decided to have some fun. 

I spray-painted the TV in white and let it dry completely for a day. It took about three or four coverings to hide the original color, especially the dark frame around the screen. Оnce the TV was all white, applying paint was pretty easy. I had chosen a favourite colour combination and a simple geometric texture (triangles have always been a soft spot). I used masking tape to keep the borders clean and two, sometimes three coats of paint to get a vibrant, vivid shade. The quote came last - Marilyn Monroe has said it quite well, hasn't she? It is better to be an absolutely ridiculous yellow TV with a quote on the screen, than one that has ninety-nine thousand channels and still cannot show you anything better.
Тhe original idea behind it all was to put the TV somewhere around town for passers by to see. I talked with a lot of people in order to find the best spot for it, but somehow we always ended up with nothing. We couldn't think of a place where the TV could be safe and visible at the same time. So it now resides in my room waiting to find a proper home.