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.

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.

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.

Support Our Asian Communities

Jen DeCristoforo, president with CAFAM friends

 

 

 

 

 

Greetings from Lucky Bamboo Crafts! I’ve been trying to push through the stress and exhaustion (sound familiar?) so I could share some updates…. about both what has been happening and what is to come. While other parts of the country seem to be enjoying very warm weather, events, travel, and many trappings of normal life, Maine is still very quiet. This is a result of a cautious governor and strong CDC state leadership (thank goodness). And spring, as always, is slow to arrive.

Lunar New Year ‘Year of the Ox’ was very uplifting and successful for the organization I lead locally, CAFAM. We did an entirely virtual celebration, but that did not mean we cut corners! We offered dazzling performances, traditional stories, a marketplace, lectures, and even a live cooking class with a fantastic local Chinese chef, only requiring registration to participate. I wouldn’t say planning and hosting it was “easier” than our in-person annual event, just different. (But the clean-up was MUCH easier!) You can still access and enjoy the entire event from the CAFAM website and it includes my 2021 craft video!

Just a mention about my merchant side; Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts has been distributed by IPG for many years and our relationship is winding down. They have been a wonderful partner, making my “selling” tools so easy and doing all the shipping and tracking, but now it makes more sense to have it back on me. So please spread the word and check out my website for buying options. I am also transitioning the Amazon store to do the fulfillment for those purchases from here, although the Amazon order process should be identical. I always love being in contact with folks that buy the book, so hopefully this will get me more engaged again with getting books out of my warehouse and into eager hands!

I plan to resume offering Chinese craft activities at some events this summer and beyond. Keep an eye on my calendar. I really miss visiting festivals, camps, libraries, and packing up my bins with great crafts to travel to all kinds of fun places. I’m ready!

I would be remiss to not say a few personal words about the current anti-Asian atmosphere in this country. I had hoped the climate of hostility toward China, and fear-mongering, discrimination, ignorance and racism would move on with the last administration that did so much to incite all of it. But sadly, as covid has continued to ravage the U.S., our Asian and Asian-American communities have been easy scapegoats, leading to tragic and painful consequences. I never thought I would have to worry about my 19-year old adult daughter needing to be careful about where she goes and who might try and victimize her, just because she is Chinese. I am sick, sad and very, very angry.

Here in Maine, our Asian groups, organizations and communities have been partnering in solidarity and communicating with lots of other groups that suffer from the same dangers and attacks; other minorities, LGBTQ, new immigrants, etc…. It has helped a little, just recognizing we have good people around us that will watch each-other’s backs and we’ve organized rallies, vigils and panels. But that is far from enough. I hope you will think long and hard about what small or big actions you can do in your own communities to move us all in a better direction.

Please feel free to leave a comment and let us know how you are doing with planning activities and crafts with your families, campers and students, while you try to help them understand the country and the world right now. I hope you are looking ahead as I am, to a more hopeful, safer, kinder day when our worries will be few. If you would like to know more about Lucky Bamboo Crafts or get in touch with me, please e-mail me at [email protected]. I would love to hear from you!

The Moon Still Rises

中秋节快乐

Hello Friends,

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!

Gratitude in the New Year

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.

Dragon Boats and Sunshine

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!

Lucky Bamboo Crafts Summer Fun

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!