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.
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!
Jing Zhang & Jen DeCristoforo
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
Happy Mid-Autumn Moon Festival! Yes, we celebrate this wonderful Chinese holiday on October 1st and yes, despite what has been a really difficult several months (speaking for myself), the moon still rises. My last post was in April. Since then, each month has seemed to deliver a new version of somewhere between lousy and tragic, not made any easier by the gloomy cloud of covid hardships and workarounds that have of course affected everyone and everything.
So where do I go from here? This holiday celebration is the first time our Chinese culture organization CAFAM has put up some virtual event content. I felt initial dread at the challenge, but it was fun and I worked with some great people. My lantern how-to video is the most basic of projects, but we partnered with our local Children’s Museum so it would be super easy for the youngest viewers. For my family, I shipped some mooncakes to my daughter at college. I hope she will gaze at the moon along with me, even though far from home.
Another bright spot is just being in Maine. No matter how tough a day I am having or how terrible the news feed gets, the change of season with both warm and cool days, and the stunning foliage is a great elixir. I’m sure by now we’ve all had enough “alone time” but I find spending time in nature is a reliable safe-distance friendship. I do hope to develop some new crafts and keep sharing Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts with new readers. Events are still not realistic, but I’m a creative person so I should be able to figure this out! Please leave a comment, check out my website, or drop me an e-mail. I could use the company!
Welcome to my favorite post of the year, when I get to reflect and share the Lunar New Year festivities for Lucky Bamboo Crafts. As I write this annual post detailing the events that crowded my schedule, my memories go to experiences more than crafts. We rang in the Year of the Rat and also the year of the coronavirus. This made for an unusual and complicated Chinese holiday season. Navigating the planning, collaborating with the Chinese and non-Chinese communities, and just the general solemn and concerned atmosphere impacted both directly and indirectly, all my events and how I handled my participation and leadership. But along with all the bad news of how serious the crisis has become, there was plenty of joy and celebration.
I think if my Lunar New Year events had started today, that wouldn’t have been the case and there would have been far more disruption and low attendance, because of how much the outbreak has grown. This was so apparent as I watched the Four Continents skating competition coverage last Sunday (figure skating is my jam) and the camera panned to the audience of thousands of white and black dots… everyone… I mean everyone with masks. And it was in South Korea, not China. I’ve worn those masks in China during both SARS and H1N1. The stress, fear, isolation, and uncertainty being reported brings back vivid memories and my heart goes out to those suffering, quarantined and displaced. Ok, well on to my chronicle…..
The Peabody Essex Museum Chinese New Year event is always such a treat! The place was packed with families eager to watch the performers and belly up for some crafts. As always, I had terrific museum folks guiding the way and offering help. I was set up in the new wing atrium; what a beautiful space with light streaming in. I can’t wait to visit in the warmer months and enjoy the new garden court. I wrapped up the day with an early dinner with my dear friend Heidi, a Salem, MA “local” before heading north.
At our after school volunteering site in Portland, my daughter and I taught a lesson to the class on Chinese New Year. This always encourages the kids to share their own rich stories of holidays they celebrate. Along with the numerous students from African countries, a lovely, young Vietnamese student looks forward to getting up each year and sharing the similarities to China of her Tết family traditions. The kids always enjoy having one of their peers help lead the discussion and compare cultures with us as a “co-teacher”.
Our local event with the Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine (CAFAM) was by far my biggest commitment. I was in charge of the entire event this year, not only the crafts. I’d say the biggest feather in my cap was bringing a top-notch performing group up from the Boston area, Chinese Folk Art Workshop as our main stage act. And just as our board thought our planning was pretty solid, we found out that two NY Chinese Consulate officials were going to fly up to attend. We felt grateful that they would make the trip and worked a small welcoming ceremony into the day. Thankfully, my Chinese friends on the board could help with the language challenges and appropriate protocol!
The day was also filled with workshops, crafts (of course), food, and demonstrations. Whew! My daughter handled the Lucky Bamboo Crafts table while I scrambled around. Good weather, hard-working people and commitment to the cultural mission of our event all were in our favor.
Chinatown! Who doesn’t love Chinatown? The day after the large CAFAM event, I shook off the fatigue and headed to Boston with my daughter/co-crafter for a day at the China Trade Center. We were lucky enough to have several friendly and energetic teens from the local Chinese community help us throughout the day, and the folks from Chinatown Main Street welcomed us warmly, now that we’ve participated in several of their cultural events. This always feels like an outing more than a workday, even with several hours spent at the tables with families passing through and enjoying the projects. The lion dancers come and see us, gobbling up red envelopes from the children. We can hear the firecrackers outside, and never leave town without a delicious meal at a local restaurant. My daughter also grabbed a bubble tea for the road, and I think Kung Fu Tea is now a new favorite stop.
The Lantern Festival on February 8th was the perfect time to wind up my activities and events. Seems I had now come full-circle, ending up at my local library with Chinese animal zodiac activities. The children’s librarian, Jill does such an amazing job, and after the previous two days of icy, inclement weather, this was a great morning for families to connect, catch up, and shake off the winter chill.
So now the lanterns have come down and the crafts are packed up. What will spring bring? Projects and craft planning. Focus on my job, causes, politics and the people and things I care about. A college decision from my daughter along with an 18th birthday. A heavy heart for her mom. And the knowledge that the future will be bright for our family, even if very different. Thanks for stopping by!
Hello, my friends and thanks for checking in to see what’s new at Lucky Bamboo Crafts. The year is winding down and many of you have already celebrated one or more holidays. I hope you are enjoying the gifts of the season with family and friends, while always remembering those that are alone, financially challenged, sick or suffering; those for which the holidays can be especially tough.
The Maine Chinese Conference in Bangor in October was a great place to network with many different factions that are committed to language education, along with introducing folks to what CAFAM and Lucky Bamboo Crafts can offer. I enjoyed wearing both hats and was lucky to have Shannon, a fellow board member spend the day in Bangor with me.
Jen and Shannon with Jing Zhang, Director
Maine Chinese Conference
Lunar New Year seems so close (January 25th, 2020), and our planning is in full swing for our Maine CAFAM celebration including a fantastic performance troupe from Boston. I have also been offered the coveted spot with Lucky Bamboo Crafts to be in charge of crafts at both Peabody Essex Museum and Boston Chinatown again this year. This always fills me with pride and just a wee bit of panic, since they are both such huge events. But I am testing out some craft ideas (yes, including rats!) and thinking about fun materials and it always comes together. Before I know it, there will be smiling little faces and scraps flying. Please check out my events calendar for the details.
This has been a challenging 2019, trying to give my best to my job, keep engaged in Chinese culture, carry the leadership of CAFAM and navigate my daughter’s senior year, along with some other family challenges. And of course the rest of life… volunteer service, friends, and even too many dentist appointments! But as we turn the page and ring in 2020, there is always an opportunity to get on a fresh track with gratitude and renewal. That’s my plan.
Now that this lovely summer feels rather finite, I’m reflecting on the Lucky Bamboo Crafts events that have made the summer even more sunny and fun.
I partnered with my local youth librarian, Jill to have a two-session shadow puppet workshop. A great group of kids from the summer reading program was very engaged in learning the Chinese history of shadow puppets and making the puppets and stage. We based them on the classic story of The Great Race and made all twelve zodiac animals from simple designs that I whipped up. But that is always just the beginning… the creativity abounded which resulted in colorful, unique puppets that could be used with either shadow or an open stage.
The Dragon Boat & Asian Festival in Hartford, CT was really an amazing day. Yes, I know I’ve raved about this festival for several years but this was the best yet. For the visitors, racers, exhibitors and vendors the weather was perfect, the river was calm, the performances of many cultures were stunning and varied, and happiness just seemed to fill the air. I offered an array of projects for the kids including chopstick cases, lion masks, lanterns and of course, dragon boats! I loved watching a few adults partake in the crafts as well. Between their dragon boat races and the busy festival events, a craft project, markers and scissors provided a relaxing oasis alongside their kids.
My dear friend Alison spent the day with me which was a huge bonus and kept me smiling. We came up in art college together so how full-circle to be together again, helping kids express their creativity!
I no longer have a daughter that needs help school shopping or lots of re-entry rituals for the new school year. She can just hop in her car and get what she needs. But this is her senior high school year so I’m buckling in for an “exciting” ride while soaking up all the “mom” time I can. And the summer has been filled with music, ice cream, beaches, friends and all kinds of fun, as Maine is always “what’s not to like?” this time of year.
For Chinese culture, my role as president of CAFAM is ongoing and I look forward to being instrumental in offering new events and meeting newcomers to Maine in the months ahead. First will be a couple of events for Mid-Autumn Moon Festival not long after Labor Day, and I’m planning some fresh crafts around Chang’e, the jade rabbit, and of course the moon!