Chinese Food for Summer Fun

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I have a confession to make… I enjoy Chinese and all Asian cuisine at least as much as I do Chinese crafts. Ok, maybe more. Or perhaps they are mutually exclusive?

While I was writing ‘Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts’, many suggested I add some food history, traditional cuisine content and recipes. Not only because of other books they had seen with this combo…. (I guess making is making..), but because they looked at me suspiciously when I claimed my Asian foodie obsession could be put aside. Spoiler alert- I did not include food beyond a mention with some holidays. My eating skill far exceeds my chef stylings but I have tried many simple dishes.

I have been craving some lighter fare for summer while I put the hearty stir-fries and rice on the shelf for a while and here is what comes to mind that is fast, fresh and better for the hot weather:

– Cold noodles- many types of noodles and variations can include sesame/ peanut sauce, or light rice vinegar dressing, and crisp julienned veggies; great potluck dish or pack in individual containers for the beach/lake cooler lunch

– Vietnamese cold, fresh spring rolls with shrimp or chicken, rice noodle and vegetables; serve with hoisin or a sauce recipe

– Chicken skewers (I like small, appetizer size) on the bbq- these can have Thai (satay), Japanese (teriyaki) or Chinese flavors; also beef can have Chinese or Korean marinade. Great on a small fire grill at the beach or campground

– Asian slaw- Another great picnic/ potluck dish which can include your shredded favorites- Chinese cabbage, carrot, bean sprouts, scallion, sesame seed (white or black), etc… ; the dressing can be sweet, savory, or with a hot and spicy kick

– Bubble Tea with pearls- this is easiest with a kit from an Asian market; a total hit with kids! Be careful with very young ones- as could be a choking risk (yes I always have my mom hat on!)

Check out my ‘Chinese Foods I Love’ page on Pinterest (linked from my home page); I’ve added some great recipe pins for these ideas. Keep it simple, show others how fun and delicious Asian cuisine can be… and don’t forget the crafts!

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Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts and Gift Giving

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As we all enjoy a busy spring celebrating graduations, events and the end of school, I wanted to remind you of what a perfect gift ‘Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts’ can be for those special people in your life.

Teachers, caregivers, graduates in education and international programs…. all would appreciate this unique and high quality book that they will use for years to come. Will the kids be spending time with grandparents or going on holiday with friends’ families or relatives after school lets out? Send a book along with them to get the activities going for the hopefully few rainy days.

Are your kids going to day or overnight camp this summer? Or do you have a teen that is working at a camp? How about a preemptive gesture (o.k., bribe) to be sure your family will be in good favor with the staff and your kids will get careful and positive attention! Camps are always looking for new craft ideas that don’t require a lot of costly materials.

If you want to pull out the stops, add some small items like a pack of origami paper, some decorative chopsticks, an inexpensive fan, or a simple art supply such as markers. And of course if you know anyone that is bringing home an adopted Chinese child soon, this book is an ideal introduction to Chinese culture for the child, siblings and parents.

You can purchase directly from me, a local retailer, or it is currently nicely discounted on Amazon (and can arrive or be gift shipped in a flash with Amazon Prime) and many other book retail sites. My distributor, IPG has done an amazing job getting the book out and available worldwide!

Happy Spring Gifting and Summer Crafting!

Posted in Book Publisher, Chinese Crafts, Chinese Culture, Dragon Boat Festival, Learn about China, Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts, Lucky Bamboo Craft Book, Lucky Bamboo Crafts, Multicultural Education, World Citizen, Year of the Horse | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kids as World Citizens

Map from Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts

Map from Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts

Recently my 6th grade daughter had a World Fair celebration at her school culminating from months of research and hard work. It was a gala evening where every student in her grade had a country represented with a tabletop display, interactive presentation, and oral knowledge to share with the crowds of family members. Did my daughter pick China? No, Ethiopa!

As I wandered from student to student, I was reminded again of the great opportunity parents and educators have to open up the world to kids and how eager and receptive they are to learn more, more, more. My teacher training was in elementary art and in the classroom I had it made. Each culture has such a rich history in handicraft, textiles, painting, sculpture…. the list is endless for curriculum ideas. But the bigger view of what a country symbolizes, reveres, and its unique mark on history is well within the capacity of understanding, even for young kids.

I know sometimes adults feel “art challenged” when working with kids. When you are using Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts, perhaps a good place to start is with the Gateway to China section, exploring Chinese culture and sharing the factoids…. even jumping on to your tablet to dig deeper with specific topics on China or where questions are raised.

Then you may find that selecting and starting an art or craft project will happen more organically, based on the curiosity and interests of the kids and you all will have more confidence to be wonderfully creative.

Posted in Book Publisher, Chinese Crafts, Chinese Culture, Learn about China, Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts, Lucky Bamboo Craft Book, Lucky Bamboo Crafts, Multicultural Education, World Citizen, Year of the Horse | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chinese Kites for Spring

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Here in Maine this year, I need to grasp on to something for hope that spring will arrive! There are certainly no signs of it yet as we still peek over the snow banks and shiver in the low digits.

China is the birthplace of the earliest kites in the world (yes!), and Weifang, Shandong Province is considered the area of the first designs and construction. There were many functional and interesting uses for kites before they became purely recreational, and the styles are wonderfully varied, including winged creatures, centipedes and geometric wonders.

Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts is being put to the test this week, on an all-important holiday, my daughter’s twelfth birthday. My Diamond Kite instructions (p.86) will guide the ten kids we expect at her birthday party where we will hopefully end up with ten beautiful, airborne kites! I tested and tested my prototype while writing the book, but I’m a bundle of nerves. As the mom AND the author/craft designer the pressure is on. Wish me luck and if spring has already arrived where you are, happy flying!

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Is There Life after Chinese New Year?

Don’t get me wrong… the last several weeks of festivals, crafts, dumplings and lanterns have offered wonderful opportunities to be with friends, old and new, at Lunar New Year events all around New England. I’ve also had great support and energy around my book and the craft and culture lessons that I brought to many young audiences.

The Spring Festival right through the Lantern Festival is without a doubt the most significant time of year for Chinese families, and was a perfect time for me to focus on projects and events that teach the strong history and traditions that extend into all aspects of Chinese life.

But what is a Chinese craft book author to do when the decorations come down, the phone stops ringing and the noise of drums and fireworks is far off in the distance? Time to redirect and think about arts and culture integration in the classroom, and all the other places where my fascination with Chinese culture can be shared. I’m thinking about mini e-books, learning Mandarin (in earnest), offering workshops… but for now some recent highlights from Year of the Horse fun:

Boston Children's Museum- we made noisemakers with kids and had a book signing!

Boston Children’s Museum- we made noisemakers with kids and had a book signing!

Asian Studies Academy in Hartford, CT- an amazing school and program!

Asian Studies Academy in Hartford, CT- an amazing school and program!

Horses, scrolls and origami at Portland Public Library

Chinese School dancers in Westbrook, Maine

Chinese School dancers in Westbrook, Maine

And lastly, here is my first foray into t.v. and video… it’s a cute little project done by a  very nervous author! (Click link to view)

Jennifer DeCristoforo demonstrates craft on WCSH 207 program

Jennifer DeCristoforo demonstrates craft on WCSH 207 program

Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts- WCSH 207 Appearance

Posted in Book Publisher, Chinese Crafts, Chinese Culture, Chinese New Year, Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts, Lucky Bamboo Craft Book, Lucky Bamboo Crafts, Lunar New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival, Spring Festival, Year of the Horse | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Year of the Horse 马年

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I’m finding myself at a full gallop right now! The Lunar New Year certainly brings out the revelers that have been waiting for the opportunity to display their red and gold, use calligraphy brushes and ink, and enjoy Chinese crafting fun. I’ve heard this month from teachers, parents, librarians and culture organizations; many that are discovering Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts for the first time.

First a bit about ‘Year of the Horse’. It is the seventh zodiac animal in the twelve year lunar cycle. Someone born under this wood sign is said to have traits of strength, focus, attractiveness, patience and loyalty. It is a personal favorite because my nearly twelve-year-old daughter is a “horse”.

Just to chronicle a bit of what I’m up to (you can check the calendar for details):

  • Taped a segment for a local t.v. show (WCSH207) airing on Chinese New Year, 1/31/14
  • Steering the craft tables at our local CAFAM Chinese New Year celebration
  • Making noisemakers at the Boston Children’s Museum CNY event
  • Attending the FCCNE event held during the Boston Children’s Museum day
  • Leading Chinese New Year crafts at Portland Public Library
  • Teaching workshops at the Asian Studies Academy in Hartford, CT
  • Bringing CNY crafts to a neighborhood center serving new immigrant families where I volunteer with my daughter

Please pardon my lack of crafted word and deep thought this month; I’m buried in lists, creating horse designs, craft supply shopping and coordinating the next few weeks of celebrations and appearances. After the Spring Festival winds down I’ll put away the glitter and paint, pack up the decorations, enjoy my cleaned up house (crossed fingers on that one but it’s an important tradition for the holiday!), and start looking ahead. What will be next for Lucky Bamboo Crafts? I’ve only just begun!

Posted in Book Publisher, Chinese Crafts, Chinese Culture, Chinese New Year, Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts, Lucky Bamboo Craft Book, Lucky Bamboo Crafts, Lunar New Year, Spring Festival, Year of the Horse | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Crafts for Chinese New Year

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Year of the Horse crafts for Chinese New Year

The Spring Festival (Lunar New Year) on January 31, 2014 celebrates the Year of the Horse. It’s time to start planning your craft activities for school, home, cultural organizations, grandparent time, scouts and of course for your local Chinese New Year festival, banquet or parade.

Here’s a little round up to get you started with some tips from Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts. I annually plan 6-12 kid’s crafts for our large Chinese New Year event in Portland, Maine. I’m in a nice flow of retaining some popular crafts each year, while offering some projects specific to the zodiac animal. You can start a list or spreadsheet considering these guidelines:

Quantity– You’ll need to plan for copies and materials. Duplicate designs or templates for copies on one page where possible. Estimate the number of crafters expected between 3-15 years old. Then add a few extra as some may want takeaways for a sibling at home or a teacher.

Variety– If you are preparing several crafts, include common projects such as lucky red envelopes (hong bao), and a Fu banner. Then add crafts with varied materials, themes and shapes; for example, a puppet, a fan, a mask and some origami.

Supplies– Red, red, red! Get out now over holiday break and pick up red tissue paper, card stock, ribbon, fabric and partyware. Gold is also available in the New Year’s Eve section. Grab red and gold materials while still easily available at dollar and box stores and right after Christmas they are often on sale, as well. Tools (scissors, hole punches, etc..) can often be borrowed if you make the effort. Check your markers, glue sticks and crayons… if dried out or broken, refresh them.

Preparation– Allow time to prepare masters for copies and purchase materials and supplies. Good template shapes are the key to successful crafts. Obviously I’m fond of my designs from the book, but simple project templates and graphic elements (images, Chinese characters, etc..) are abundant on the web. Play around with copies and “old fashioned” cut and paste to get them right. It’s often faster and easier than trying to make a computer graphic.

Crafts are just one piece of a successful event. You’ll want to consider food, decorations and any performance offerings (such as a dragon parade or lion dance). But crafts are often a favorite of the kids. They add collaborative fun and relaxation while teaching about Chinese culture, and result in cool stuff to bring home. Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Posted in Book Publisher, Chinese Crafts, Chinese New Year, Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts, Lucky Bamboo Craft Book, Lunar New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival, Spring Festival, Year of the Snake | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

National Adoption Month

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My daughter in China just before travel to the U.S.

“This month, we celebrate adopted children, teenagers, and their diverse families. We work to give more young people permanent families and promising futures. And we encourage our friends and neighbors to open their hearts and their homes to children in need.”

You may think these are my pithy thoughts on adoption, but actually President Barack Obama included these words in his recent official proclamation of November as National Adoption Month. For me, adoption was the only path to parenthood I ever considered. I know this is all a bit heavy for a craft book blog, but of course Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts was created through adoption just as much as my family was.

So this November I’m taking the opportunity to double back, pull out pictures and reflect on the ten years I have been mother to my daughter. The memories of bringing her home are still so fresh; the anxiety and hurdles, and the faith I enveloped myself with when the setbacks mounted.

Adoption has improved every aspect of my life, in some ways that only the wink and nod of adoptive parents can understand, and also in just the same ways every parent is forever changed by raising a child. Lucky is a word that found its way to my book and also reflects how I’ve felt every single day since I received a photo of the baby I would soon travel to China to meet.

This month we are encouraged by our President to think about the role adoption plays in our country and our culture. I marvel at how strong the U.S. policies are on allowing all types of families to move forward with all different kinds of adoption. I know this is a broad stroke statement and people do have difficulties, be they legal, with immigration or with social services support. But with millions of children needing parents in this country and worldwide, it comforts me to know that if a family wants to adopt a child, systems, agencies and resources are in place that will work hard with you to make it happen.

My perspective is not to judge but to ponder; why do so many people choose to only give birth to children when there is already such perfection in the world that they could have for their very own?

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Chinese Culture Close to Home

Chinese School dancers in Portland, Maine

Chinese School dancers in Portland, Maine

Ahhhh Fall. The crisp New England leaves under our feet, colorful splendor on the trees, apples and pumpkins. And for this family, October also brings the new session of CAFAM Chinese School (cafamchineseschool.org) on Saturdays. My daughter is eleven now and has been attending since she was a toddler.

This connection to our local Chinese community as well as adoptive families with Chinese children has become an anchor for us and my daughter has made amazing friends that are literally growing up with her. To have a place to embrace Chinese culture and hear Mandarin spoken alongside English for even a few hours a week is transforming

As an adoptive mom, I have always grappled with the fact I may never know how my daughter truly feels about her birth country and being taken from it. I can never walk in her shoes. However I have to believe that making the effort to spend time with our Chinese friends and participating in programs, events and holidays that celebrate China and give us a deeper understanding of the culture can only be good, not only for her but for me.

Chinese organizations across the country and FCC regional chapters offer many types of language schools and culture programs and I believe ours is one of the best. We offer Mandarin, traditional dance, martial arts, character calligraphy, authentic cooking, art, and often all in one morning. I’ve enjoyed creating many workshops and crafts for the students over the years which also helped me build the confidence to write Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts. The research required to feel equipped to write about Chinese history and traditional arts was immense.

Perhaps in your Chinese and adoptive circles you’ve found great ideas for making connections, family fun,  and learning about Chinese culture. These may be programs that exist or are waiting to be realized. Here in the Portland area we have a tireless steering committee president that does a tremendous amount of work to keep us on track, but we also rely on a huge amount of additional volunteers, guest authors, teachers, Chinese exchange students and people willing to offer different talents and skills.

All it takes is a commitment of time, good organization and a vision. Please leave a comment and share what you are doing in your area. Oh, and by the way, the girl second from the left in the photo is my daughter!

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Teaching Crafts and the Gift of Libraries

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Merrill Memorial Library, Yarmouth, ME- the first library to circulate the book

Recently I celebrated the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival by teaching about the holiday and sharing a moon lantern craft at our public library in Portland, Maine. I’ve done several library events to date, and once again I was met with great enthusiasm, support and flawless organization. Once again I got to spend time with a fantastic children’s librarian (thanks, Jerri!) that was incredibly intelligent, creative, inspired and full of energy.

Public libraries have been so receptive to folding Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts into their event calendars, buying it for their circulation, and getting on board with celebrating different cultures and holidays. (Actually they were already on board… just check out the collection for multicultural education in your local children’s and youth rooms!)

I know I’ve been a bit (ahem) stingy with photos in previous blog entries so here are some highlights of my wonderful library experiences over recent months. You’d think with the amount of time I spend perusing Pinterest, I’d know to offer up more visuals! I confess I’m a bit private and camera shy…. but what I think you’ll see is how “in my element” I am with the kids, the crafts and the fun. I’m not one to sit on an author pedestal autographing books… what fun is that?

Summer Reading Kick-off; Prince Memorial Library, Cumberland, ME

Summer Reading Kick-off; Prince Memorial Library, Cumberland, ME

Folding chopstick cases; Chebeague Island Library, Maine

Folding chopstick cases; Chebeague Island Library, Maine

Chebeague Island Library with head librarian Deb Bowman. This small library has a big heart and is the center of island activity and community connection

Chebeague Island Library with head librarian Deb Bowman. This small library has a big heart and is the center of island activity and community connection

Portland Public Library, Maine; making a moon lantern with paper strips and a straw

Portland Public Library, Maine; making a moon lantern with paper strips and a straw

Times are changing for libraries with the lightning speed of technology growth and the pressure to do more and do it smarter and better, often on less budget. And of course there is the issue of the book. The real one. On the shelf. Will there be a future? All interesting and a little ominous.

Keep visiting your public libraries, make donations, attend events, offer suggestions, bring the kids to storytime…. we need our local libraries as much as our libraries need our community support!

Posted in Book Publisher, Chinese Crafts, Chinese Culture, Chinese New Year, Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts, Lucky Bamboo Craft Book, Lucky Bamboo Crafts, Mid-Autumn Festival, Year of the Horse, Year of the Snake | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment