Greetings from leaf peeper season here in New England. It passes so quickly but never disappoints as we enjoy cider, pumpkins, and country fairs. And did you know chrysanthemums have a rich Chinese history?
I got to celebrate two Mid-Autumn Moon festivals locally. The first was our CAFAM celebration and potluck. As president, I had a bigger role and needed to MC the event… not my comfort zone but nobody threw tomatoes (or dumplings) so I guess I pulled it off. We had such a wonderful array of performers, I wanted to be sure and give them proper introductions.
The second was at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine and my daughter participated as well. We offered a lantern craft with the educational director and enjoyed seeing all the young faces in that great kids’ environment. By the way, the museum is breaking ground on a new Portland location and I can’t wait to see the growth of what is already a wonderful destination for local families and tourists alike.
I’m looking forward to exhibiting at the Maine Chinese Conference later this month in Bangor. This is the only annual Maine conference completely devoted to Chinese language, education and culture. But honestly, the focus of life now is my high school senior and her college admission process. I can hear the collective groan… it’s a hectic and stressful time. There’s so much positive hope and excitement for the future but man-oh-man I’m exhausted and I’m not even the prospective student. And the bittersweet emotions are already kicking in… this is “it”.
When I post again, Halloween and Thanksgiving will have passed as will some college application deadlines and I’ll be turning to Lunar New Year planning. But for now, I will try my best to enjoy these days with my daughter, even the tough ones.
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!
Greetings from Vacationland, Maine. We’ve been pretty cranky around here with the months of chilly, rainy weather but skies are finally brighter and the parkas and boots have been stored.
I’m brainstorming on new craft ideas and have a few events on tap for the summer. I’m joining a local library summer reading program for a shadow puppet workshop based on the traditional Chinese zodiac story of The Great Race. I love collaborating with their skilled and enthusiastic staff.
I’ll also travel to Hartford again in August to lead the crafts for the Dragon Boat and Asian Festival. That is always a long, non-stop day outdoors in the park where I meet great people, offer tons of crafts, and enjoy celebrating the wonderful and diverse community in that area. I may never step into a dragon boat myself but I sure love watching them compete!
This spring has been a busy time for our local CAFAM (Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine) organization offering some great events. As the president, I’ve been learning the ropes of this new leadership role, while trying to freshen up our website and reach out in new directions. Thankfully, we have a wonderful, active board to support these efforts! A couple of recent highlights have been…..
…. a musical performance and talk by a Chinese rock group that got embroiled in a fight to the highest court to keep their name, The Slants.
…. our annual CAFAM picnic to celebrate friendship, food, and to vote in our board for the upcoming year.
Well, that’s what’s happening here. My teen daughter (now a rising senior) drifts further away with her summer freedom (sniff, sniff), but I am so proud of her independence and maturity. And she now has her own car, a true sign that my value is waning since shuttle service is no longer needed. But I still manage to wrangle her for some of my cultural events. We’ll be close to home this summer… but who knows… we may take an impromptu short trip in August if we can stand to leave Maine during the best month of the year. It’s all good!
Recently I attended a citizenship ceremony at my daughter’s high school. She sang with her choir to welcome sixty-six new citizens from thirty-five countries that call Maine their beloved home. So many emotions washed over me as the oaths were being recited and American patriotic songs filled the air.
There was nothing but joy being expressed in that auditorium… from the families themselves, from the students and teachers seeing democracy and American values unfold before their eyes, from the immigration officials, and from people in the community just like me that simply wanted to attend this life-changing occasion to congratulate them on completing their long paths to bright futures in this country.
This was an obvious reminder of our own family experience. We immigrated our child from a foreign land. Her life in America is a happy, full and positive one, and she is every bit as entitled to grow up and live her life here as I am, having been born in Massachusetts.
We all hear the venom being spewed from our POTUS. “We’re full”. Randomly deporting people that have lived their lives here for decades and raised families. Separating parents and children with no humane consideration. I’ve even heard from other international adoption families that there is a renewed urgency to get additional documentation and citizenship verification for their kids that are now in college. Just in case.
These are dark times for America. I don’t often use this platform to take a position but this issue is undeniably intertwined with my family story as well as what I try and promote with my crafts and teach about world culture. We are all thinking about the immigration issue. Today I just needed to say something. And in our little town in Maine, for a few minutes, I had some hope.
If you follow the lunar calendar as I do, you know today is Lantern Festival, the 15th and last day of the Chinese New Year holiday. What a perfect time to review the amazing weeks I’ve had partaking in celebrations for ‘Year of the Pig’ all across New England and sharing Lucky Bamboo Crafts. Most of the events included my daughter’s help and company (and driving on her permit) which was the best! I know this is a long post but I’m proud of the great attendance and cultural education at every one of these events and wanted to include as much as possible.
Sure, I put a lot of work into designing and planning the crafts, but also had enthusiastic and incredibly professional, welcoming hosts at every event. I loved meeting inspired parents, grandparents, educators and hundreds of excited kids, ready to roll up their sleeves and make some crafts. Many children even wore Chinese attire, hairstyles and accessories to show their (adorable) passion for the culture and holiday.
Ok so let’s get started! First was the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine. CAFAM and the CMTM have been mutually hosting some cultural events and it’s been a great partnership! We made mini-lanterns and offered tastes of Tang Yuan. A local Korean organization also brought some wonderful displays and snacks since the museum wanted to highlight the connections of different Asian lunar celebrations.
Next came our local CAFAM event. I was invested heavily in the months of planning all aspects of the day with our board members including numerous craft tables. Whew! We had a wonderful celebration and even hosted a special guest erhu musician from Boston.
Our volunteer site, LearningWorks was the perfect place to share some cultural fun since the children from many countries that are in that after school program are always teaching me so much about their own cultures. The teachers were so kind to turn over their busy classes to us to make dragon puppets and talk about this time of year in Asia.
Merrill Memorial Library right here in town hosted a small event through their children’s library program. Although they’ve had my book in their stacks for years, this was the first time we’ve been invited to offer activities, and it was a great opportunity to meet our local neighbors!
Peabody Essex Museum is always a beautiful venue to host Lunar New Year and build upon their great collections of Chinese art and many Asian-themed activities throughout the year. They have a huge maker space that is equipped for the crowds. The fan project we offered was perfect for toddler through teen, and kids (and parents!) got really creative with the embellishments. They had a fun lantern riddle hunt throughout the museum too!
How we love our Boston Chinatown friends! Bringing crafts to the Chinatown Main Street celebration was a perfect way to round out the holiday. Our craft table in the China Trade Building was a popular hub, even with all the action going on around us. And our young Chinatown friend CG comes and finds us every year and loves helping out. Once we wrapped up, we made sure to linger in Chinatown for a nice meal while the firecrackers popped and the lions munched on their offerings outside the restaurant.
And in other news, I have recently accepted the president position for the Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine. I look forward to new and exciting events, initiatives and working with wonderful people both on the board and in the community in 2019. Along with that, I’ve been updating my website with new links and projects so do check back from time to time. Now that I’m back in Maine, I’m tidying and storing the sprawl of craft projects and supplies around here as we still dodge snowstorms every few days. But spring will come.
As we enjoy the holiday season in Maine, I find reasons for gratitude at every turn. I try and give where I can, be compassionate, and reflect on what was a good year. This hasn’t been an easy time to peddle kindness in this country. But perhaps the holidays will bring out the best in people and also offer a fresh start for anyone that feels their selfish, divisive or small-minded behavior in 2018 didn’t really work for them.
So where else is there rejuvenation? Well, right here at Lucky Bamboo Crafts! My redesigned website is finally launched. It combines the essentials from the earlier version with a whole lot more to explore. My hope is for this new site to constantly grow and change as I add content, have new adventures with my book, and offer usable Chinese culture printables, ideas and instructions just for you!
As always I’m looking forward to the Lunar New Year festivities in February and have many craft events on the schedule for ‘Year of the Pig’. Please check out my calendar for details and come join in the fun! Wishing everyone happy, healthy and joyful holidays and I’ll see you in 2019!
As I look out my window at the New England postcard of blazing autumn color, the events of late summer seem long passed. But I did want to recap the Dragon Boat & Asian Festival in Hartford, CT. I had a great day of crafting with the kids and had a dear friend helping out (thank goodness!). I also made a new friend that offered paper folding and was amazingly skilled. She was a math teacher and also runs the origami club at her school.
In September I helped lead crafts for the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival at The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine here in Portland. This was extra-special for three reasons; I had never partnered with the dynamic outreach director at the museum but had wanted to after floating ideas with her for years. Also, I participated as part of our CAFAM organization so had some other crafty board members by my side. And lastly, it’s always more fun when my daughter participates! She had a great time and remembered being a small child there herself, climbing on the firetruck and shopping for play food.
Mandarin classes are underway and I’m already experiencing the huge positive difference in working with an excellent teacher rather than tackling it on my own. This is what she does! It feels odd to have homework, a text and workbook, and be on the student side of life, but since my daughter is currently looking at colleges(!) I guess I’m serving as a fine example! Well, we’ll see…..
Next post, I’ll be ballyhooing my updated website and will have ‘Year of the Pig’ planning in the works. New crafts, for sure. For now, get out and vote!
Summer camps and programs are right around the corner and whether you are planning for overnight campers or a day program, I’m sure that “arts & crafts” are an important part of the mix. Why not give your crafts an Asian twist or have an international celebration where you teach about many cultures while having fun? Here are some project ideas for Chinese crafts from my book to help you along:
Scroll painting has a long history (literally!) in China. You can get a roll of butcher paper (brown will look ancient!) or cut a large, narrow section of a sheet and paint or draw a group scroll. Think of a banner turned on its side. You can use a specific story for the art or be more general and just have the kids come up with some Chinese themes and/or simple calligraphy.
Performance crafts will get kids more invested in larger activities since they are used as part of a show. Ribbon sticks (for Chinese ribbon dances) or shadow puppets (and they can also make the shadow stage) are both loads of fun. You can see my Lunar New Year post from February for some shadow puppet ideas.
Paper folding is a wonderful social activity and quite addictive! Have a good supply of origami paper available all the time. You’ll soon discover your secret paper folding masters! Instructions are easy to find online, and if you find you have some awesome crane folders, create group chains and mobiles to decorate the camp. Use a basic napkin holder with a top weight or arm to keep your paper organized and safe from breezes.
Kite making is an activity I’ve offered many times in summer programs. It seems “old school” that kids would know how to whip up a simple diamond kite, but not the case! And if you want to dig into the rich history with older kids, you can explore more complex designs, and artwork can be painted on the surface with basic craft paint. Happy flying!
Dragon Boat Festival races are popular worldwide on the June 18th holiday and extend right through the summer, especially in the United States. Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts includes a reproducible template and instructions to make a kid-sized version. And if you make the boats water-worthy, you can have your own races! I’m attending the festival in Boston this weekend and look forward to all the Asian fun to kick off summer.
Every few months my loyal readers (please say you are out there) may notice my post is less thematic and more a grab bag of thoughts and stories. Well, here we are! First, the photo… let me explain, or perhaps it needs no explanation. I resist the temptation to use this blog as a political forum, but I will admit I’m absolutely rabid about increasing gun sense and safety in this country. I’ve always valued connection, but am now more than ever making sure my efforts extend to issues that really matter and (in my opinion) really need to change to have a civilized society.
Learning about world culture and teaching kids the value in that through crafts has always been my focus while sharing my book. But now with the (longstanding) out-of-control access and abundance of guns in this country causing a lack of safety for students of all ages and their educators, I’m forging a stronger relationship with the gun sense community. I feel it’s an obligation, not a choice, and my daughter is on board too. I do this while having friends and family from all political walks of life, and heck, I live in Maine where rural gun ownership and hunting are the status quo. So I am respectful of all (well er, most) views. But one thing we can surely teach our kids is that there are times when we owe it to ourselves and others to Take a Stand!
In other updates, my creative side feels satiated right now, even though I’m not currently making lots of kid crafts and running around with bins of materials. I’m taking small opportunities to connect with people about China and crafts in a multitude of ways. I recently exhibited at FLAME, a foreign language educator conference, and was able to spend the day with mostly secondary teachers that offer Mandarin in their schools and go quite in-depth with their curriculum.
I met a visiting teacher in Portland from Jiangxi, China (my daughter’s province) recently and am enjoying getting to know her. I’m so impressed when educators come to Maine, never having been to the US, and put down temporary roots as they try and learn the customs and city. She actually found me through my book that a colleague had gotten for her as a gift. She makes beautiful, artistic flowers from wire and silk. We instantly felt connected by our passion for Chinese crafts.
My last news of inspiration is the “under construction” re-design of my website. You may see a few changes that cross over into this blog as well, as I likely will move the whole shebang to WordPress. So this is the part where I tell you I’m finally going to take a course and get nimble with my blog and site, right? Why do that when I have the wonderful and talented webmaster Lisa Montagna available to help? I’ll still have my hands full deciding on content, rewriting copy, and updating the design and styling with scribbled layouts. (Yes, I’m old school!) My vision is for the website to be much more than a landing page for my book and have images, instructional videos, resources, and lots to explore. It could very well take me on a new path.
Welcome back! A highlight of this Fall was my California Bay Area trip in October. Although I had a heavy heart for all the suffering in the North Bay as the fires were blazing, I was able to enjoy my smoky travels and saw several wonderful friends. And oh my, we found the most amazing Chinese homemade noodle and dumpling restaurant in Oakland Chinatown!
Back home and to the Maine Chinese Conference in Bangor. I got to exhale this year and be an exhibitor only. Mingling and taking part in the workshops was much less stressful than being a keynote, as I had done for the last two years. Of course the small detail of much of it being presented in Mandarin was daunting but motivating. At least I got to train my ear, but I can’t accurately relay the high points, sorry! I did get to present a copy of Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts as a gift to the visiting Consulate General of China from New York.
Then Thanksgiving came along… the kickoff to the long, multi-culture, multi-faith string of holidays. A wonderful board member from our local Chinese friendship organization described her blend of cultures at Thanksgiving, growing up Chinese-American which I thought was so interesting as we all consider what we include in our own family traditions.
“Growing up as a Chinese-American kid in Ohio and Maryland, we did not have the usual Thanksgiving meal. My mom always said that turkey is “too tough” and had no interest in making one for Thanksgiving, so we would have a big Chinese feast, with duck and soup and dumplings and a million other dishes–which was all delicious, of course. The only problem was going to school and having teachers talk to the class about eating turkey and stuffing and all of that, and feeling like the only kid who did not do that. It didn’t bother me terribly (in part because I was quite happy with what we ate instead), but it underscored the feeling of not being entirely “American.”
Now, with my own family, my kids are very, very into the full-on American Thanksgiving meal, and they love to help cook the various side dishes. For me it sometimes feels a bit like I’m just imitating a tradition, but I do see how we’re in the process of creating our own tradition. We do sometimes insert a bit of Asian influence into the meal, such as a sticky-rice stuffing that’s basically a Chinese dish. Either way, sitting down together for a big, festive meal is certainly a wonderfully universal tradition.”
Maybe my friend’s words echo your own experience. Even as I wrap presents and plan for the Christmas break, the upcoming ‘Year of the Dog’ is on my mind. Our local Lunar New Year planning is well underway and I better start thinking up some awesome crafts that bark! Please check my event calendar as craft dates get set. I’ll also use this time of year to step out of my busy routine to not only think to the future, but reflect on all the people, places and experiences that made my ‘Year of the Rooster’ a good one.