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 jen@luckybamboocrafts.com. I would love to hear from you!

Spring Festival – Year of the Ox – And the New Normal?

Hello friends,

I’m sharing my thoughts ahead of Chinese New Year, since we will be enjoying the February 12th holiday virtually, this year. When I look back on 2020 and all the fun and festivities I participated in both with CAFAM and Lucky Bamboo Crafts, I’m stunned at how long ago it seems.

Virus, politics, and the world spinning ’round…. not to mention (but I will) personal changes and challenges have made the months seem endless. The upshot has been a slowing of Chinese craft efforts, even though one would think I would have “more time” for these pursuits. Nope…. life has felt constantly arduous, and perhaps the lack of in-person event opportunities has also mellowed my motivation to get my game on. Enough whining, I know….. in the scheme of things how bad do I REALLY have it….?

So here we are in 2021 and the days are getting brighter, the vaccine queue is getting shorter, and do we dare think about late spring and summer in any confident way? You tell me. I have a college student sidelined remotely as her campus tries to pare down their numbers (shshsh that’s kind of nice for Mom!) but it’s yet another thing that feels off-kilter-ish.

A bright spot is our upcoming CAFAM Lunar New Year virtual event. It goes live on New Year’s Eve (Feb. 11th) and I hope you will check it out. Offering leadership (and crafts) to the CAFAM mix has been a good way to stay connected to my board and also celebrate the holiday! Other than that, I’m just trying to keep a positive outlook a day at a time and feel gratitude. Always.  新 年 快 樂!

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!

The Unthinkable Spring

So here we are, and as a family member said when they closed the schools seemingly ages ago, “we’re really in it now”.

After a rocky Lunar New Year season here in Maine and around the globe, I had certainly hoped by April, I would be talking about crafts in a lighthearted way, not as a survival tool for housebound families. Kind of sucks the life out of it, so I will not even attempt to spin cheery ideas in a self-indulgent way. But you know crafts are good, and I’m sure you’ve got enough junk, recyclables and art materials to do them without entering a store or buying online, so give the kids a challenge. You can start with a “treasure hunt” around the house to gather the stuff.

We of course all have zillions of project sources and ideas that were already existing and never tapped (I may finally figure out the e-lending at my local library), community and school outreach for kids, and those that are taking the opportunity to dish out some new content now, that may have staying power for their businesses after this moves on. On that last piece, I say it without judgment… even if it’s not my style during this crisis to draw attention to my own ventures. These are horrible times and people with a mob of kids under their roof need all the help they can get. Thankfully a lot of the stuff popping up now is free. Don’t forget to look on your own bookshelf too… (if you’re wondering, that’s the large piece of furniture where those dusty folios with pages live). Everyone has some long-forgotten arts & crafts books.

But of course the bigger picture…. for me, the constant bad news is very difficult to take and the chirpy celebs saying “we will get through this together” and “this is the great equalizer”…. really? Maybe I’m just in a fragile and gloomy frame of mind but enough. I just hope those celebs are paying all their service providers throughout the crisis while they are furloughed. Maids, nannies, chefs, stylists, manicurists, drivers, personal assistants, gardeners, trainers…. as I doubt those folks feel equal in their resources to cope with a pandemic.

Well, perhaps I’ve pontificated for long enough. We are all dealing with variations of this scary, uncertain, unthinkable time and the impact on our lives. Amidst all the heartbreak, I hope you stay safe, stay healthy and stay home. I’ll be back during brighter times…. J.D.

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.

Fall Foliage and Celebrating the Moon

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.

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!