Summer Sun and Chinese Dragon Fun

Jennifer DeCristoforo
Dragon Boat & Asian Festival, Hartford

Lucky Bamboo Crafts have been part of the fun over these summer weeks. Life is a little slower, the weather is divine, and what better time to enjoy sharing crafts and Chinese culture with kids.

In July I headed to the Bangor Chinese School with my daughter to lead a workshop during their Chinese Dragon Camp. We made kites and chops in one short session which was pretty ambitious, but the kids ranged up to high schoolers and were great listeners and workers. They enjoyed coming away with authentic projects to bring home and share with their families. We loved walking the hallways beforehand and hearing intensive Mandarin classes going on in room after room. Dancers practiced in every corner. The camp was so alive with culture.

Dragon Camp, Bangor, Maine

 

 

 

 

 

This month I was in Hartford, CT again for the Dragon Boat & Asian Festival along the river. This year was extra special as my good friend Alison came up from Greenwich, CT and joined me. The kids made dragon boats, chopstick cases and other simple crafts. This is always a spectacular event of races, performances, activities and food.

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Now that I’ve shared craft projects with all ages, sizes of group and types of event, I am much calmer, more confident and let each event simply unfold. But just a small “pearl”… the constant in being successful has not changed since I first rolled out Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts. Prepare, prepare, prepare. This would seem obvious, but I’m quite methodical about starting my supply list early, bringing ample quantities of the craft for a big crowd, and always throwing a little something extra in.. coloring sheets and crayons, origami paper, etc.. so there are choices for all ages. A craft session can really crash and burn if there is a whoops like glue sticks forgotten or insufficient pre-prep of a craft that makes the project too time-consuming and frustrating for the kids.

The summer has been glorious on every front for me and the upcoming autumn days will be bittersweet, as my daughter enters high school. At 14 she is a wonderful partner and helper with craft events and in life, but it’s hard not to be aware of the fleeting time that has passed since I first started developing this book. She’s a young woman and I say that with pride and astonishment. As you start corralling school supplies and reviewing team schedules with your kids, I wish you a good transition and will be back soon with education-focused ideas.

Chinese Crafts for Summer Camps

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Hello, Summer! We are enjoying the change of pace in Maine as the state swells with visitors looking for beaches, ice cream, lighthouses and relaxation. Many of your kids are also headed to summer camps in places like Maine, and camps are a great place to introduce Chinese crafts. (I think you knew where I was going with this!)

Day camps usually need quick make-and-takes while overnight camps often have a well-stocked art area where more involved projects can be done (many steps, or involving dry time in between). I’m excited to be leading a craft session this week at a local Chinese Dragon Camp through the Bangor Chinese School. It is a short timeframe since it’s a day camp with a rigorous Mandarin learning schedule, and we are making kites and chops which are both in Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts. I have modified both projects to simplify the steps and cut the time considerably. The campers are grades 4-12 so I can have high expectations of their ability to follow the steps at a good clip.

Some of my other favorite Asian culture camp crafts are fans, floating dragon boats, shadow puppets (and stage), paper making and knot tying, depending on the age level. If you don’t have multicultural or heritage camps in your area, consider how culture-specific projects can be worked in with your usual ‘greatest hits’ for camps crafts.

One other mention this summer; two wonderful bloggers that are passionate about multicultural parenting have recently posted reviews of my book. Please check them out and share their lovely work at: www.hybridparenting.org and Oaxacaborn.com.

The camp atmosphere is wonderful for teaching kids about being world citizens. Music, cooking, dance and storytelling are just some of the other activities that can be rolled into an international theme. The best part is you have the great outdoors to be your art studio and you can gather materials from nature. Happy Camp Crafting!

Lucky Bamboo Crafts- Lantern Fun

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The Chinese New Year holiday has come and gone (boohoo!), ending with the Lantern Festival on February 22nd. My daughter and I celebrated on a large scale as well as with a dinner at home.

We participated in another successful and festive event at Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA. They were such wonderful hosts to us, as we oversaw the craft area and lantern-making. I whipped up some ‘Year of the Monkey’ bookmarks from my template (linked from my website) as a giveaway to mark this particular lunar year.

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I also invited a few friends to a dinner at my home for our private celebration. The girls did monkey papercuts (we always like to include this ritual), and we had Kung Pao Chicken on the menu, along with bowls overflowing with oranges and tangerines. What made it extra special was the inclusion of a visiting kindergarten teacher from Chengdu that is a wonderful new friend. She showed me her wok cooking tips and there was some Mandarin in the air (not yet from me, however… but I’m still studying!).

I think my friend from Chengdu was happy to have lively and friendly company on the new year. It must be a hard time to be apart from her family in a place like Maine where so few celebrate the important occasion.

March is around the corner, and the milder air won’t be far behind. I hope to energize my craft activities this spring and summer and will (literally) keep you posted!

Chinese Culture Craft Kits

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Happy Spring! In Maine I should add a few more exclamation points this year… whew we have had a long wait. But I can now divert attention away from frigid weather and vitamin D deficiency and think crafts again.

I am putting up a crowdfunding campaign soon for my newest little brainstorm- craft “kits” that will be a nice companion to the book. I’m starting small, selecting a few specific craft designs and offering some materials and partial assembly so crafters can dive right in.

This is a new stretch for me… working out my goals and logistics. But my good friend and favorite business guru in Singapore is helping me get involved with Crowdtivate https://www.crowdtivate.com, a wonderful Asia-based campaign platform. The video intro seems to be my biggest stumbling block. Maybe if I hang around with my thirteen-year-old more I can pick up some camera and editing skills. I’ll keep you “posted”.

The Dragon Boat (Duanwu) Festival is coming up on June 20th. This is a great teaching point for educators and many projects and activities can tie into the celebration. I’ve signed on for crafting at the Riverfront Dragon Boat & Asian Festival in Hartford CT on 8/15-8/16 which will surely be a highlight of my summer. Here is the link: http://www.riverfront.org/events/riverfront-dragon-boat-asian-festival

Now is a good time to think about summer camps, teacher gifts, grandparent activities, end of school gifts, and all the ways Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts; Over 100 Projects & Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture can be a part of the fun!

Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts and Gift Giving

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Spring Gifting and Summer Crafting!

National Adoption Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chinese Culture Close to Home

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Chinese School dancers in Portland, Maine

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucky Bamboo Crafts joins IPG

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Just when I thought July would be a bit sleepy for book action, the most exciting step of my book publishing journey has happened. As of this month, Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts: Over 100 Projects & Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture is being exclusively distributed by Independent Publishers Group (IPG) (www.ipgbook.com) to retailers in the US and Canada. How fantastic is that?

They are a respected and huge distributor in the book industry and I was accepted through their small press division, Small Press United. What this means for me is that there will be someone else’s oars in the water along with mine, as a cousin put it so well. Actually it’s more like a cruise ship alongside my dinghy. IPG has a top-notch sales force and boundless marketing muscle.

I’m looking forward to my book having reach to so many more that can enjoy it, and now being able to focus my energies on special events and targeted niche marketing efforts. Oh yes, and also enjoying life a bit more and time with my daughter without perpetual sleepless nights and sweat on the brow. Here in Maine that means beach combing, festivals, lobster and friends. The summer is so fleeting and sweet!

Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts goes to press!

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Welcome, crafty friends!

After years of researching, crafting, writing, drawing and lots of fretting, I can finally say that Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts first edition has been printed and shipped from the factory!  It will be available for fulfilling your orders in just a few weeks.  There is a lot of hip, hip hooray going on around here and as I tackle the next phase (sharing this book with the world), I will definitely be starting the Year of the Snake with many challenges, but also a huge feeling of accomplishment.

I plan to use this blog to update you on my book-related news, offer Chinese cultural information and also share even more Chinese craft ideas and project tips that could not fit into my already jam-packed book.  I’m excited to have you along!