Sunday, January 22, 2012

Happy New Year Everyone!

January 23rd, 2012 begins the Year of the Dragon.  I usually don't celebrate holidays, birthdays or anniversaries, but this year I had the biggest urge to do all the "New Year" things.  It's fun to decorate the house and make all of the traditional holiday foods.  I'm feeling homesick for that "big family" culture!  It's hard to get together as a family with modern day life, especially if you live in a culture that's vastly different from your own.  Imagine celebrating Christmas or Thanksgiving when it's not a holiday... i.e. you don't get time off work and school/life goes on as usual.  The most festive thing you see is an end-cap display of wilted bak choy, ginger and yellow mums at the grocery store.  It's hard to get excited about something when no one else is.  This year I told myself it doesn't matter... just have fun, so make a batch of dumplings enough to feed 50 people even if you're the only one who will eat it!  LOL... yes I have about 2 gallons of cioppino in the fridge because I wanted some and I don't know how to make a serving for one.  I've had cioppino for lunch for the last week, I don't think I'll want to eat it again for another 6-8 months. 

I'd like to revive some traditions from my childhood.  I think the key is to make it fun and involve others who would share your enthusiasm.  Even the smallest gesture counts, like putting together a small display on your coffee table.  Happy New Year Everyone, I wish you good health and happiness in the year to come!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Paper Blossoms Tutorial for Chinese New Year

Paper Blossoms
I remember making paper blossoms for Lunar New Year decoration as a kid.  It's a symbol for Spring, luck and prosperity.  This is a fun and very simple project.  You can make your own just in time to celebrate the Lunar New Year on January 23rd!  Have fun!

Paper Blossom Materials Needed
Pink & yellow tissue paper (or whatever color you'd like to make)
Tree branches/twigs
Thread (I used brown to match that color of my branch)
Get the better quality tissue paper, usually they sell it by the sheet on racks.  This paper is stiffer, stronger and will hold it's shape better.  No worries if the only thing you can find is gift-wrap tissue.  This will work too, it's what I used for this tutorial.  One sheet is easily enough to make 40-50 flowers. 

Making The Petals
Step 1:
Cut pink tissue into 5" x 2" pieces.  They can be a little longer if you want a fuller flower with more petals.  I like to stack a few pieces together and cut them at the same time.  The tissue is so thin it's easier and faster to cut a small stack vs. one sheet.

Step 2:
Fold the tissue pieces into quarters... fold it in half length-wise and then fold in half width-wise.  Again I like to do this to 4 pieces at a time.

Step 3:
Cut deep lobed scallops along the open edge of the folded tissue.  So when you unfold the paper it will be scalloped on both edges.  Each scallop will become a petal when the flower is finished.

Step 4:
Gather the tissue by roughly pleating it.  It doesn't have to be neat, just keep the paper centered.  Pinch it in the center, don't twist.  I find it's easier to fan out the petals at the end when it's not twisted.
You've just made the petal portion of the flower!  

Making the Stamens:
The stamens are made the same way as the petals.  Use yellow tissue paper and cut it into 2" x 1.5" pieces.  Fold the tissue pieces in quarters and cut slits on the open edge creating a fringe on both sides when the paper is unfolded.  Because the sections are so small it might be easier to cut a long strip that is 1.5" wide, fringe it then cut it into 2" sections afterwards.
Repeat step 4 from making the petals and gather each sections, pinching it at the center.

1, 2, 3
Step 5:
Now you have both the petals and stamens finished.  It's time to assemble the blossom.  Take a section of string and tie a double knot at the center of the stamen piece.  Then tie a double knot around the petal piece.  You'll get something that looks like a feathery bow.

Fluffing the Flower
Step 6.
Now your flower is assembled, you just need to fluff it out!  Take the stamens and pinch them up.  You can tug on them a bit, but don't pull too hard you might tear pieces out.  Then fan out the petals and fluff them up.  A better quality tissue will allow you to manipulate the flower more without tearing.

Paper Blossom Branches
Step 7.
Tie the flowers to your branch and trim off any excess string.  Use your aesthetic judgement on what looks best. ;)  You can make bigger branches for a center piece or just small bouquets.  If the flower flops around too much on the branch you can always add a dob of glue to hold it in place.  You can also make garlands by tying them to a ribbon.

Thank you for visiting the blog!  新年快樂!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hibernating For The Winter

2011 was a crazy busy year with moving and remodeling, but we're really happy with our new home.  I felt really overwhelmed for most of the year and a lot of projects got put on the back burner.  Now that it's winter and things are slow I feel I can take some time off to recoup.  I'm hoping the Year of the Dragon will be a little less hectic.

Kitchen Nook
Kitchen nook:
I like to propagate cuttings for the Spring in case my plants don't make it through the winter.  I also started some tea plants (Camellia sinensis) that are too small to leave in the cold.  So here it is, our kitchen nook turned into a temporary greenhouse for a few months.  Luckily it's a very bright corner and I don't mind giving up this space to have some greenery through the grey winter.

Paperwhites bursting through.
I've never forced bulbs before... it's quite addictive!  They grow so quickly.  I'm hoping these will bloom in time for the Lunar New Year.  This picture was taken a few days ago and now as I type the flower buds have already made it through.  Paperwhite is a Narcissus (daffodil) and a symbol of good luck and prosperity.  It's a tradition to have them blooming in your home during Chinese New Year... or as I'd like to call it, "The Real New Year".  :P