Indonesians Believe Each Person Is An Artist. If You Can Follow A Recipe You Can Make A Toy

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Chinese New Year Crafts for The Year of The Horse

Happy New Year
恭贺新禧 Gōnghèxīnx
My eldest has been waiting a long time for The Year of The Horse.  Everyday she asks to do a horse themed craft and I always struggle to come  up with a good idea. Well she finally got her wish. These were just cheap unicorn masks from a local store that I altered and painted.  My girls decorated them with glitter and sequins.  There are now sparkly "things''all over my house, Once glitter is released into the environment I don't think it truly ever goes away. 

We have a lot of horse coloring books in my house. To be honest the only thing my kids will play with comes from the equine family. I xeroxed a "front" and "back" image onto some red construction paper and my daughters cut the images out and decorated them. I  accordion folded a body. By adding some popsicle sticks we were able to make some really fun puppets that would make festive party favors. Able to twist, dance, and jump as well as any dragon 

May your wealth come to fill a hall.
金玉滿堂 Jīnyùmǎntáng
It was my goal to buy the least amount of supplies and use things I already had in the house. That was the inspiration for many of these craft projects including this felt "red envelope". I used a cookie cutter as the stencil and a sewing machine on stiff felt. The girls were excited to get a new variation of the traditional New Year's gift for children.
We started doing lantern walks for the Mid Autumn Moon Festival and it has become a popular request for all other Chinese holidays. I had these red paper gift bags left over from my trip to China. They make perfect lanterns. Again I used an image from a coloring book for the template to do the paper cut. Of course we will use tea lights one of these evenings when the snow melts and it is a bit warmer. I think they will look quite magical.

This is one of our favorite book to read around the Chinese New Year. I always try to make a traditional Chinese dish and this year it was Nian-Gao, a cake made of rice flour and dried fruit. This book has a great recipe. I decided to do the baked version as I feared a steamed rice cake would stick and that my family would not really eat it. Normally I would write the recipe for you but I think that you really have to read the  book and then make the cake with your kids. Otherwise it has no meaning for them and there are certainly better tasting cakes. I was pretty impressed with how well the cake turned out. Nice texture and pleasing taste. I halved the recipe as I think a whole cake is too much for a smaller family.

Happiness, Prosperity, Longevity
福禄寿 fú lù shòu
Really simple napkin rings made with, pipe cleaners, air hardening clay and rubber stamps. My four and six year olds were able to do most of the craft themselves.

Place cards made with card stock and painted clothespins. I am sure a bit of glitter was an unplanned ingredient in our take out Chinese dinner.

Too much snow for firecrackers this year, so we will be making a lot of noise with this horse gong made of an aluminum pie tin and cardboard paper towel roll. For something scrounged from the recycling bin it has a pretty authentic sound. Loud enough to certainly scare away bad luck and spirits.

Some more ideas for celebrating The Year of The Horse with your children...
Visit a horse rescue center and make a donation
Go horse back riding on a nice day
Visit your local library and check out books on Chinese culture, traditions and history
Attend your community's Chinese New Year celebration
Learn a new thing this year like Mandarin, bamboo brush painting, or cooking a Chinese dish
Try out acupuncture
Enroll your family in a martial art like Tai Chi or Kung Fu 

Oh and here are some crafts we did last Chinese New Year that could be done this year as well

Well there had to be a lion dance...

Best wishes for the Year of the Horse
马年大吉 Mǎ nián dàjí
from our family to yours!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mid Autumn Moon Festival 2013

The Mid Autumn Moon Festival is September 19th
This post will be short and sweet because I have more than my hands full right now. This is one of my favorite celebrations. If you want a full description of the festival and more ideas on how to celebrate it go to my post from last year LINK:                                                                .
This will explain all the symbolism around the Jade Rabbit, the moon, and round fruits.

This lovely lantern with a Jade Rabbit and full autumn moon was made by decoupaging small squares of white tissue paper onto an empty jar. We always do a lantern walk on the night of the Moon Festival.
You can use a battery powered tea light instead of a candle.

Hand drum with Jade Rabbit and Moons

Decorate two small paper plate.
Paint a few wooden beads.
Paint two popsicle sticks
Punch two holes into each paper plate, making sure they match and line up. 

Line up your holes and glue your paper plates together.

Thread your beads onto one length of ribbon, insert end into one set of holes and knot both ends. You want the ribbon to be long enough so that the beads hit the center of the plate. Repeat on the other side and with the other plate.

Glue one popsicle stick to the bottom of the plate. Repeat on the other plate making sure to match up the sticks so that you can glue them together later.

By rotating the wrist back n forth quickly you can make the beads play the drum. 

Paper Orange

Cut about 15  1/2 inch strips from colored paper. Each one should be about 4 inches long.
Align and stack all the strips together in order to punch a hole at the top and bottom of each one.
Keeping the strips stacked thread a pipe cleaner into the holes like the picture shown above.
Cut some leaves from colored paper and thread them onto the pipe cleaner at the top.
Twist the excess pipe cleaner into a "stem" at the top and a knot at the bottom.
Separate out the strips of paper into a fan shaped ball.

Several oranges can be used to decorate a table or strung as a garland.

Our family hopes you enjoy making these few art activities and that you have a very special evening celebrating the end of summer and blessings of home. CND

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Where is Kazakhstan

I came across this video clip today. I thought I would post it because many of my readers have no familiarity with Kazakhstan, the country where my eldest was born. I just feel the tears come to my eyes when I watch this and think about those 9 weeks. This advertisement is enough to make me want to sell everything we own and move to Kazakhstan. Such an amazing place!

Monday, March 18, 2013

It's All About Apples, Crafts and Recipe for Nauryz

March 21st is Nauryz.
Let's cook and create with our kids!

It is the time of year when new baby animals are born,

Chicks are cuddled by children,

Honey Bees take cleansing flights,

Shoots struggle to break through the earth,

And apple blossoms appear on the trees.

 A celebration of the end of Winter's isolation and the appearance of Spring with all that it symbolizes. Birth, Hope, Growth and New Beginnings. Like the animals around us we bring forth, clean, and gather once again with our community. We prepare and check in with our environment to insure the survival of future generations of children.

Apples were first cultivated in Kazakhstan. So in honor of this countries gift to the world we focused solely on this simple fruit for our family's version of the holiday this year.

An apple garland that even a preschooler can help make.

Cut an apple in half making sure the cut surface is as flat and level as possible.
Coat the cut surface with a thin layer of paint.
Press your "stamp"onto a piece of white paper.
Add details like a stem and seeds.
Cut out the apple shape.
Punch out two holes.
String onto a length of pretty ribbon.

Apple napkin ring

Use a cookie cutter to cut an apple shape from air dry clay.
Make a leaf and attach it to the stem.
Punch a hole in the center with the end of a pencil.
Let dry overnight.
Knot the center of and thread both ends of a pipe cleaner into the hole and twist around your napkin.

Apple Sun Catcher

Coat the clear lid of a takeout container with glue.

Cut about 2 dozen small squares of tissue paper.
Layer the squares on top of the glue.
When dry punch a hole in the top.
Insert and twist a pipe cleaner to make the stem, create and glue on the leaf.
Tape to a window.

 Apple tree place card for the table

Make a treetop template

Fold a piece of construction paper in half.
Place your template as shown above and trace the shape.

Cut out as shown above.
Leave about an inch uncut along the fold at the top.
Draw on some branches.
Cut out about 2 dozen small squares from tissue paper.
Place the end of a pencil eraser in the center of one square and crush the paper around it to form a flower bud. Glue it on to the tree. Make and glue more buds.
Write the name of your guest on a toliet paper tube.
Cut slits in the top of your tube.
Insert your tree top into the trunk.

Every holiday needs a homemade present if you have a child.

Kazakh sewing cards-girl in traditional dress, camel, yurt.
I used colored Sharpie markers to trace simple shapes onto the plastic mesh used for cross stitch.
The colored thread with plastic on the ends found in bead stringing kits is perfect for small hands to use.
The thread is used to match with and color code the design so that the child knows how to create the image independently.

I saved dessert for last.

Walnut Filled Apples (a traditional Uzbek recipe)

Peel and core four apples
Cut out a good portion of the center of each apple without puncturing the bottom
Place 1/2 tsp of butter and 1/2 teaspoon of honey in each apple
Place in a steamer and cook for twenty minutes

Chop  1/2 cup of walnuts
Soften in hot water 1/3 cup of dried currants. Remove from liquid and set aside.
Mix currants and nuts with 2 TBSP of sugar, 1/8 tsp of ground cinnamon,  and 1/8 tsp of ground star anise.

Take the hot apples out of the steamer.
Remove some liquid from each apple making sure to leave them only half full.
Stuff and fill to the top with the nut and currant mixture.
Serve immediately with vanilla ice cream.

If you want a more detailed explanation about the holiday of Nauryz you can click on the label marked  "Nauryz" on my sidebar. There you will find all the past posts that discuss how it is traditionally celebrated in Central Asia. You can also find more recipes under the label "Silk Road Recipes". Our family wishes you all the best for the seasons to come and I hope you enjoyed this post.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Crafts and Recipes for the Year of the Snake

Happy Chinese New Year!
Dressed in her New Year's Outfit and sporting her big "owie"

I have always celebrated Chinese New Year but this year it took on a special significance since we now have our own Chinese Empress at home. You may not have any Chinese family members but this holiday is so much fun for children that you might want to try a few traditions out and learn about a new culture.

Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar. It can vary from the end of January beginning of February depending on the year. For 2012 the date falls on February 10th.

Examples of typical Chinese family housing-apartments (background), townhouses (middle), farm with fields (foreground)

What is Chinese New Year?  Well only the biggest holiday in most of Asia. EVERYBODY takes two weeks off from work, often traveling hundreds of miles back to their "home", to celebrate with family and community. It is a time to honor the coming of spring and reunion with those we love. All traces of the old year are removed as homes are cleaned and repaired, debts paid, relationships mended, new clothes bought, and there are lots of very special traditions like.....

The  Red and Gold Door Banner

This tradition is probably as old as paper and writing in China.
Our family banner was made of joss, scrapbook and origami papers. 
I carved  the backside of styrofoam meat trays with pencils.
 I rolled on black acrylic paint.
I stamped the symbols on the paper.
Dragons, horoscope animals, melons, bats, butterflies, the kitchen god and chubby toddlers are all commom symbols  found on door banners. Chinese characters are done in caligraphy for good luck and
 blessings in the new year.

Door Banners stay up all year only to be replaced by new ones when the next New Year comes.

Red Envelopes
are given out as gifts especially to children. They contain real or chocolate coins and are thought to bring good luck and prosperity to the person who receives them. They are also used to "feed" the lion and dragon dancers.   

I picked these firecracker decorations up on my trip to China. They came in handy since we had a ban on firecrackers in our city this year. Normally we would have set off real ones near our front door.You can make your own string of firecrackers with painted and decorated toliet paper tubes strung together. Hundreds of firecrackers go off in January or February in Asia to scare away evil spirits and welcome the 

 .....dragon and lion dancers.
Drums, cymbals and the Buddha leads a team of martial arts practitioners dressed in costume through a loud,colorful, parade down all the streets in a community. The dragon can be up to 40 feet long and require several people to lift and move gracefully. 

I also bought this mini lion in China so the girls could do their own lion dances.

Maybe snakes are more to your taste for a dance partner.

Using glasses or jars- trace and then cut out lots of circles in a variety of sizes

Create scales by coating bubble wrap in gold paint and then pressing it onto the paper

Here is the head and tale.

Glue the head, tail, and spinal segments on a long piece of ribbon.

Attach 3-4 dowels or sticks to the ribbon so that the snake can be carried by several children and made to dance.

We made lots of snakes 
since it is this animal's year on the Chinese horoscope.
This one is made from red and gold paint, paper, and egg cartons

This one is made from cardboard toliet paper tubes.

By cutting the ends into triangles and attaching overlapping tubes together with brads,  you can make the sections articulate and your snake slither along.

are considered to be just as lucky for the New Year as the color red. A guest or traveling family member might grab a few in the street market as a gift for the hostess. Most families will have a least one special bowl on hand just for goldfish.

Our goldfish was made by melting shaved crayons between two sheets of wax paper to make a sun and wind catcher.

Here is the template I used to cut the fish shape after an iron was used to melt the wax paper together.
I used tissue paper to make the lips and fins.

are the most popular dish served on the first day of the New Year. It is considered very lucky to stay up until midnight and have dumplings as the first thing you eat.

Dumplings with Peanut Sauce Recipe

Dumpling Filling

In a large pan saute
2 -4 cups of ground meat of your choice (beef, pork, turkey or vegetarian protein like Korn)
1 bunch of green onion finely chopped
3 gloves of garlic finely chopped
1 inch of fresh ginger finely chopped
1tsp of Chinese Five Spice (if you can find it)
Salt to taste
Set aside
2-4 cups of napa cabbage
1/4 -1/2 cup of herbs of your choice (basil,mint,cilantro, etc.)
Mix in what you set aside

You could also add mushrooms, bean sprouts and other vegetables

How to shape the dumplings
Take a circle of wonton or gyoza skin (you will need to buy 2-3 packages)
Lightly wet the entire circle with water
Place 1 TBSP of filling in the middle
Fold into a half moon shape, pinch  the edges together tightly, and pleat.
Boil or steam until done. Steamed dumplings are less likely to fall apart

Children love shape dumplings!
This recipe makes about 100 dumplings which is just right for a family of four.

Peanut Dipping Sauce 

In a food processor combine
1 cup of chunky peanut butter
2 TBSP of soy sauce
2 TBSP of Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar Dressing
1 TBSP of Worcestershire sauce
2 TBSP of sugar
2 TBSP of toasted sesame oil
1 TBSP of fresh minced ginger
2 minced garlic gloves
1 tsp of red chile flakes

Blend until smooth adding a small amount of water to thin into desired consistency


Here are some great books for reference and fun reading

Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats by Nina Simonds and Leslie Swartz
Holidays and Festivals-Chinese New Year by Nancy Dickmann
A New Year's Reunion by Yu Li-Qiong
Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan
A Gift by Yong Chen

You can find all of these at the library or through the inter-library loan system

The New Year holiday ends on the last day with the Lantern Festival.
On the 15 day of the first moon which is actually the first full moon of the year, everybody takes to the streets for a big party full of fun and entertainment. Lanterns can be made of any kind of material from paper to glass. They come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Imagine hundreds of these lighting up the streets for one special night.

Fold a piece of red paper in half.
Starting at the fold, mark and measure some lines about one inch apart.
Leave 1-2 inches of space at the edge of the paper
A large sheet of scrapbook paper seems to be the best size and is more sturdy than construction paper.

Cut along all of your lines.
Reverse you paper so your marks don't show.

Roll your paper into a cylinder.
Staple, tape, or glue both edges to form a tube.
Push the ends together to get the middle to flair out along the folds.
Decorate with streamers or tassels.

Punch two holes at the top.
Hang with pipe cleaner or string.

Here is another lantern style that is quick and easy to make.
Cut a large circle from scrapbook paper.
Use stamps and gold ink to decorate.
Use a plate to draw some curved lines to create the illusion of it being round and three dimentional.
Using glue add some gold rectangles on the top and bottom.
Punch two holes in the top rectangle.
Thread a string or pipe cleaner into the holes for hanging.

This would look so pretty as several lanterns hung together in a long line. 

Happy New Year. May it be full of health, happiness, and prosperity for you and your family!
(I will be adding a few more photos to this post as our family celebrates over the next few days)