Fall, Festivals and Cultural Fun

What an enjoyable and fulfilling season (or two) it has been for Lucky Bamboo Crafts! Back when the warm breezes were still blowing, I learned how to paddle with a dragon boat team. Yes, you heard me right, and it was special for many reasons; the expert instruction, the group of “learners” I got to paddle with, and the stunning day we took to Lake Pennesseewassee in Norway Maine. Best of all, we were in our own Maine dragon boat, the first ever to “live” in this state thanks to the Maine Dragon Boat Club.

Common Ground Fair was a September highlight. So, what does it have to do with Chinese crafts? Well along with it being my favorite day of the year, it is a celebration of community, diversity, sustainability, and most of all, makers! Whether it’s growing vegetables, spinning yarn, fermenting cabbage, carving a wooden spoon, singing an original song, or painting a landscape, this celebration of the creative spirit is a special gift here in Maine. I always come home inspired by the craft exhibitors and demos and am reminded of how proud I am to be a maker.

On to Mid-Autumn Moon Festival! I offered a lantern workshop at our local Merrill Memorial Library, one of my very favorite places. The children’s program staff was so supportive and excited to host Lucky Bamboo Crafts and the kids had so many great ideas for adding their own touches and bling to their lanterns! Some of the visitors did not know about the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival and we enjoyed educating them and sharing the legends since our event actually fell on this year’s holiday, September 29th.

Seems lanterns were big at my recent events. I even coined them a lantern “flight”, just like the microbreweries offer with their samplings. (Hopefully this comparison will classify me as not completely unhip?) One positive of having been “around” for a while, is I’ve worked with so many different designs and can offer something for everyone. Lanterns never go out of fashion in Chinese culture since they are the anchor for so many historical celebrations and are a great vehicle for creative expression so it was fun to offer many variations.

Next up, the CAFAM Mid-Autumn Moon Festival was a lovely opportunity to connect with the community over delicious food, and of course, lots of mooncakes! We heard remarks from the energized, new CAFAM president, Bob Poole, and we even enjoyed a performance from a professional Chinese opera singer in our organization.

The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine was my next stop for Moon Festival activities. If anyone local has not yet visited their amazing new site, go! The education staff there is engaged, warm, and wonderful and I had so much fun sharing Chang’e and Jade Rabbit puppets in the MakerSpace with my new designs.

I capped off my Fall events with the Maine Chinese Conference. The Bangor Chinese teaching and learning community is as active as ever, and this year they were having a special ribbon-cutting ceremony for their new early learner institute. I was invited to give a lantern-making demo session to the teens and kids that were attending which was fun and lively. The conference speakers’ messages of unity and peace while forging increased friendship and collaboration between the US and China were certainly timely and inspirational.

No sooner did I pack up my Moon Festival crafts but I started planning for Lunar New Year 2024. I’ve already scheduled some crafting events for ‘Year of the Dragon’, and although I’ve stepped down from CAFAM leadership I will likely be a guest author, crafter and help organize one of the most popular activity areas. The CAFAM organization is still the biggest Chinese cultural org in Maine, and I have so many good friends through my long association with them.

So enough about me. How are you? Amidst a world of difficult crises and a country teetering, are you finding a safe space for yourself, your family, and your friends to live beautifully? It’s a balance and a constant challenge, I know, but I find if I stay creative, remember kindness, surround myself with good people, and speak up (and do actual work) for positive solutions, I can achieve daily calm and happiness. And when it all gets to be too much, we can always take a break and make a lantern. Stay in touch!

Lucky Bamboo Crafts Celebrates 10 Years

Dear Friends,

I am so pleased to share the news of reaching 10 years (young) with my book and Lucky Bamboo Crafts activities and events. Many told me when I first published it, that one of the attributes was being “evergreen” for the user with the projects and information between the covers. Of course, that also applies to the strength and longevity of bamboo. When I originally started gathering ideas and testing crafts, my daughter was a young child. Now she is a rising senior in college, which seems inconceivable, but here we are. She continues to be my biggest source of inspiration, even if as a young adult, her world is so much wider than Chinese culture. But my theme remains evergreen… learning about and experiencing all world cultures is a wonderful way to spend our time and allows us to be the best citizens and stewards of this planet we call home.

I hope you will continue to keep Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts in your thoughts and tell others about the book. It is still available on Amazon, Nataraj Books (my fulfillment partner), and of course directly from me off my website. I also continue to schedule crafting dates at events, educational settings, and workshops.

Most of all, I want to thank YOU for being on this publishing journey with me. The people I’ve met and the experiences I have had along the way have enriched my life. And seeing a child’s face light up as a little maker….. well, you know…. it constantly recharges my passion for crafting and teaching.

As I look to Fall, the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival will be a busy time for events, friends, and celebrating the harvest season. Please check back to the calendar for details and remember to also keep Chinese crafts and culture on your radar for the upcoming school year.

For now, enjoy every drop of summer that you can. That’s certainly my game plan.

Year of the Rabbit – Time for Tranquility

Well, here we go into the Year of the Rabbit. I’ve celebrated with a New Year’s dinner I hosted for some cherished friends, and participated in wonderful Lunar New Year festivals from Maine to Boston. I decorated my home in red and gold and auspicious displays. Now it’s time to ease into a more tranquil time with the cold, overcast skies and bare trees of winter. It’s peaceful and nice. I’ve taken down the decorations and put away the craft bins. The rabbit is a year of yin, emphasizing the importance of rest. We are encouraged to tread softly, touch our emotions gently, and make decisions and actions with slow deliberation, not haste, to bring long-term success. I can get on board with that.

Our Maine organization CAFAM put on a great event after the covid hiatus of previous years. We could have done without a (-40) degree wind chill the eve and day of, but since here in Maine, we are either insane or hardy (probably a bit of both), we went ahead with plans. The highlight was a dazzling performance by Chinese Folk Art Workshop, a group of young performers and their volunteer mentors. They were exquisite. We also offered demos, Chinese food, workshops and exhibitors. I had to dust off my bins and get crafting, and was pleased to not only share Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts, but design and organize all the craft make-and-takes. Lots of rabbit fun!

There is nothing that compares to being in Chinatown during the Lunar New Year. I traveled to Boston to oversee the craft station at the China Trade Center. I had wonderful volunteer teens from the area that put in a long day of paper and glue, and I loved being part of the noise and festivities as the lion dancers game through with their clatter and shake. Afterward, I packed up my crafts and had a stroll all around Chinatown in the late afternoon, watching storefronts still being blessed, firecrackers igniting with their sparks and fragrant smoke, and lions doing their ceremonial munching on lettuce heads. The perfect end to the day was a steaming soup noodle bowl at a cozy little Taiwanese restaurant. Then I headed back up north with a happy heart and warm belly.

Now I shift to other projects and plans, but the glow of the Lunar New Year is sure to sustain me with a positive spirit. And I hope to find tranquility in each late winter day.

Pumpkins and Moon Cakes

Hello to my crafty friends and Chinese culture devotees. The Maine foliage is turning golden brown, and the mornings are frosty. But the summer and autumn have been productive and pretty darn nice. I attended lots of fairs and festivals, saw many people at long last, and started shoring up plans for Lucky Bamboo Crafts 2023. Armed with my millionth covid vaccine, I’m enjoying a somewhat more normal life while being still saddened by the losses so many have encountered.

I participated in the CAFAM Mid-Autumn Moon Festival wearing both my board member hat and Lucky Bamboo Crafts hat. We gathered with friends old and new, sang, ate moon cakes, and enjoyed the stunning location overlooking the iconic Portland Headlight. I brought an array of make-and-take crafts including lanterns and chopstick cases.

I also exhibited with Lucky Bamboo Crafts at the Maine Chinese Conference in Bangor last week. I had not gathered with this robust Chinese culture org and language school since 2019 and they offered a day of language immersion lectures and strategy workshops to educators. It was lovely chatting about integrating craft projects with language learning, and there was a delicious chef-prepared lunch in the program. I was glad to get Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts into some new hands, and educators are my favorites!

With the current tense climate between the US and China fueled by business interests, security, and the ongoing struggle regarding Taiwan, the conference was a lovely respite. It focused on collaboration, shared international interests, and strengthening our friendship and bond between the two countries. Bangor Chinese School also continues to send local American students to China on scholarship and runs a Dragon Camp every summer.

So where are my efforts pointing now? At these Fall events, I was reminded of how creativity and multiculturalism touch everything we do. There is so much that can be taught and so much to learn. I will of course start planning for Lunar New Year on January 22, 2023, as we welcome the Year of the Rabbit. But I’m also looking for smaller ways to connect with great people and exciting projects that promote Chinese culture and help my creative energies to flourish. That sounds vague, and it is. But the wide open space feels good right now.

Spring of Hope

Spring has sprung! We are waking up in Maine as the weather gradually gets milder, the grass gets greener, and we look ahead to a busy summer. Lucky Bamboo Crafts has been waking up as well.

This was a big month for our local organization, Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine, especially after the two years of curtailed activity and events. We had a lovely Dragon Boat Festival (端午节) Potluck recently at Portland Headlight. It was a foggy, cool day but our site was perfect for old and new friends to gather, connect and take part in a delicious Chinese meal. We also had authentic zongzi (粽子) to celebrate the occasion which was a special treat.

For crafts, I brought dragon boats with paddles and also incense sachets which was a new design. I loved seeing crafters young and old wearing the sachets around their necks following the tradition of keeping evil away and protecting health. This was also my last CAFAM event as president which felt impactful, but I know it is time, and was lucky to have personal friends and family attend to share the day with me. My daughter is back home from college for the summer and I am giddy with happiness to have her underfoot.

I plan on bringing Lucky Bamboo Crafts to the Riverfront Recapture Dragon Boat and Asian Festival in August in Hartford which is always a wonderful cultural event. My crafts array at the recent Portland event gives me a good head start for coming up with some fun ideas for the Hartford festival which is on a much larger scale. And the races will be back. Paddles up!

Beyond daily life, I find myself looking for hope on a lot of fronts. Since I started penning this post, tragedy has been on all our minds as gun violence over and over robs us of peace and happiness and communities across this country are destroyed in the blink of an eye. As always, I am committed with intense determination to work toward common sense gun laws. Even when it feels hopeless I need to have hope. And other top-of-mind issues of our basic rights being stripped away weigh heavily. Having a 20-year old daughter starting her adulthood in this mess is painful.

Let’s all do what we can. There are so many ways to help, join an org, be a voice, or just pass along some kindness. Yes, the darkness takes over a lot these days but I try to let hope have the main stage. Wishing you a great season ahead, exploring your creativity, embracing many cultures, and don’t forget the fun.

Good Luck Arrives

February can be a hard, icy month in the Northeast. But my heart and spirit (and stomach) were warmed on February 13th when I traveled to Boston to share crafts in Chinatown at the China Trade Center. The annual celebration was back with hundreds of excited visitors enjoying the street parade, firecrackers, traditional lion dances, and indoor activities.

How I had missed the collective energy of ringing in the Lunar New Year and being able to make crafts and “Fu” decorations with the kids to ensure good luck would arrive. The weather was fierce (as always, in mid-February) but we all braved the snow with the determination of the Tiger. And no trip to Chinatown would be complete without enjoying a delicious meal and soup dumplings at a local spot! It was perfect sustenance for the journey back to Maine.

Now that we are into our new year, I am mapping out my Chinese culture activities for the rest of 2022. I hope to bring Lucky Bamboo Crafts back to the Riverfront Recapture Dragon Boat Festival in Connecticut over the summer. I also continue to be active in CAFAM events and initiatives here in Maine, although I will be stepping down as president after being “in office” since 2018. I look forward to less leading and more doing!

Other than that, life is quiet again, but I’m amping up for an adventure to the Pacific Northwest and Vancouver BC. Oh, how I’ve dreamed of this road trip for years! Knowing me, it will basically be a food tour. I’ve never been big on acronyms but YOLO does seem to be chiming in my head. The pressures and violence around the globe are so disturbing, and I am mindful of how important it is that kindness and gratitude be a constant. Having the ability and resources to take a little vacation in April for myself feels like a real gift. Hopefully, I can pay it forward.

The Tiger’s Roar of Winter

Happy 2022! So, do we share these good wishes with mild sarcasm and air quotes or are we sincerely optimistic it will be a much better year?  How can we still be dashed by covid? How can people still not be vaccinated? My immediate family continues to be healthy, but I take it all very personally since one is a front-line healthcare provider that is regularly treating covid-positive unvaccinated people. Can you feel my blood boil?

Well, you get the idea I’m sure, and before I go too deeply into that rabbit hole I will pivot. Maine in January is a chilly, snowy undertaking but the days are gradually brighter and activities, goals and plans for the new year are underway. The biggest holiday on my calendar is the Lunar New Year. We will celebrate the Year of the Tiger on 2/1/22. I’m very involved in two in-person events with Lucky Bamboo Crafts (that will hopefully survive omicron and stay scheduled) and you can get details on the calendar. Time to come up with some new tiger crafts and get the creativity going again!

My daughter will have returned to college so I will have to send a Chinese New Year package and hong bao to campus. (I doubt she reads my blog so this might even remain a surprise!) The school holiday break of nearly a month is winding down, and as a parent, letting her out of my grip never seems to get easier.

But I will carry on with winter with a peaceful spirit. When the weather isn’t too extreme (with bitter cold or blizzard conditions) I find so many ways to enjoy and appreciate Maine each day. Working remotely certainly makes it easier, but comfort food (porridge! soup! a bamboo steamer of dumplings!), and trying to spend time outdoors daily helps me beat the winter blues.

It is also a time of renewal for my advocacy areas of focus. There are so many ways to be “a helper” as Mr. Rogers always used to point out. We are still in a difficult place, but hopefully your life involves more real hugs, your kids are active and healing from their losses, and we all have brighter days ahead.

Looking Back, Looking Ahead with Lucky Bamboo Crafts

The days are so short, dark, and cool as we head into the quiet peace of late Fall.  Along with that, it’s time to plan the festivities of a real holiday season after missing so much last year. The struggles seem more scattered now. High prices and a multitude of supply disruptions. Schools caught off-guard with sudden covid surges. Trying to live normally but still trying to cope with the trauma of what has been lost in the last nearly two years.

I talk about this first because the pandemic is still first on everyone’s minds and still greatly affecting everyone’s lives. But what gratitude I feel for having the vaccines now so available, even to children, and even to those that want a “boost”. Hopefully, by now, the naysayers have been firmly pushed into their shame corners and will stay there.

So, looking back. It was wonderful to see the CAFAM community and local friends turn out at our Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. We gathered at a beautiful venue overlooking Portland Headlight and the tasty food and warm conversation were abundant.

Just a couple of weeks later, I was one of the presenters for a CAFAM historical marker unveiling in Portland. For those from afar, you may not know that Portland…. and Maine have a rich history of early Chinese immigrants settling here. We honored one particular family for their contributions and you can read more about them here. The best part was that several of the Goon family members, some elderly, traveled to Maine to attend! As they stood in front of their childhood home, I felt our ceremony and remarks were very meaningful and we were all so filled with positive emotion.

And now, looking ahead. Lunar New Year is taking shape, and we are moving forward with a local performance and celebration. Details to come in my event calendar, and Lucky Bamboo Crafts may hit the road with some other events, as well. Hopefully ‘Year of the Tiger’ will bring lots of good fortune (and dumplings) and fewer hardships for everyone. My “empty nest” has been pretty calm, although I miss my daughter terribly as she finally gets to partake in a normal college campus experience. Time to turn some new pages in life, with projects, work, travel, crafts, new friends, and 2022 may even be the year of Mandarin. While giving thanks, for sure.

 

Mid-Autumn Moon and Maine Chronicles

Hello friends,

Well, summer is winding down, although the September weather is pretty splendid so far! Did it feel “normal” in Maine despite pandemic woes? Pretty much. I did some great activities and had a few visitors, while enjoying Portland, Boothbay Harbor, Rockland, Camden, and beach, beach, beach!

One summer outing of note was visiting the brand new Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. CAFAM board members got a private tour which gave us the opportunity to put on our thinking caps for future collaborations and events. CMTM has been a wonderful partner for years for both CAFAM and Lucky Bamboo Crafts and they are very committed to promoting cultural diversity education. And the museum itself? Wow. It is truly a gem for Portland.

I was in Hartford, CT in August for the Asian Festival and what a thrill to be back sharing crafts with kids and witnessing all the wonderful families enjoying themselves. The event was adjusted to be more festival, less dragon boats (for obvious potential close contact/ wet mask reasons) but it was a great day. Not even Ida on their doorstep could keep that festival phoenix from rising once again!

CAFAM is back in the game, as well with live events. We have our Mid-Autumn Moon Festival slated for later this month and will enjoy lots of delicious food, student performances, crafts, seeing old friends and making new ones. This year we will be overlooking the iconic Portland Headlight; talk about value-added!

One highlight of the Moon Festival will be offering homemade mooncakes prepared by local Chinese chef Chris Toy. And I can add to my brag book since he has given me a signed copy of his most recent book, Easy Chinese Cookbook: Restaurant Favorites Made Simple. I am pulling out all the Asian flavors from my cupboard (and will probably buy more) and plan to get cooking!

 

Chris Toy, Maine chef making magic

 

As I look ahead to the colder months, I continue to engage in causes I care about, and think about how I can be learning and growing. I think everyone has had their epiphany moments during 2020-21 and even though getting through the day has sometimes been all that could be achieved, the quiet stretches have allowed us to dig deep.

However, all this introspection and planning has not made me miss my college daughter any less. But I’m so relieved she is on campus and thriving, even though sophomore year probably has some freshman characteristics.

I’m also cautiously optimistic we will be able to have a full-on public Lunar New Year celebration for ‘Year of the Tiger’ like the old days. That is still TBD but CAFAM is moving in that direction.

Just another reminder that Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts is now being offered through Nataraj Books as my fulfillment partner. Of course, Amazon and other retailers still carry it or you can contact me directly! I love hearing from like-minded crafty folks that are interested in Chinese culture.

Be safe, be kind, celebrate the kids being back in school for in-person learning, get vaccinated, and enjoy this lovely time of year. I’ll catch up with you again soon!

Craftivism and Ice Cream

Aaaaaah summer in Maine and this is the time I enjoy most to take part in all the gifts of the season. As much as I feel moments of wanderlust to get on a plane or take a long road trip (just because we CAN), I seem to remain hunkered down, gently encouraging my far-flung friends to travel in my direction, instead.

News! Lucky Bamboo Crafts book sales fulfillment has now officially been transitioned to a wonderful company in VA, Nataraj Books. IPG kept my book relevant and available and was a great partner for 8+ years and I now look forward to the next chapter (so to speak)! Nataraj Books is a South Asian-owned business, and they carry my book in their catalog in addition to now handling my warehouse and fulfillment needs. Lucky me!

Craftivism! I was excited to be able to join my creativity, interests, and causes in a recent event for gun safety. During the Wear Orange weekend in June, I brought together gun sense messaging, a craft kit and online tutorial, and leadership from an Asian community activism group in Maine, Unified Asian Communities.

It was such a natural fit for me, as I often feel my personal “buckets” are too far apart and “craftivism” is a concept I am going to continue to pursue. As we’ve all been forced to think about our lives in “hybrid” mode, I’m thinking of more ways I can join my passionate volunteer work with my skills in the Asian cultural craft arena.

CAFAM! I’ve been voted in as CAFAM President for another year, and am proud to continue to provide leadership to our largest Chinese culture organization in Maine. The previous months have been intense with lots of Asian community advocacy during this climate of targeted violence and racism. Along with that, we have started to flourish again with programs, resources, and planning events for summer and fall.

I’m also wearing my Lucky Bamboo Crafts hat again for getting out to events and sharing crafts with kids which is always an elixir for me. Keep an eye on my event calendar!

It certainly feels good to finally have some “news” and be more hopeful about the months ahead, rather than totally focused on what we can’t do, and just staying safe. I hope you are enjoying the same newfound freedom, and are fully vaccinated (oh my goodness please say you are). Life will never be what it was before the pandemic, but as we try and heal and step softly into the future, let’s hope that different can be good. Very good.