Lantern Festival

Today is the Lantern Festival, as well as the last day of Lunar/Chinese New Year.

Flour Figurines

"'Flour Figurines' are a type of popular folk art [that] can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (206 B.C to 24 A.D). Made from a sticky rice powder and strong flour, the figurines are shaped with scissors, combs and bamboo needles. Most figurines are historical characters from operas and legends or they reflect local customs and traditions." Via Spotlight on China.

Knitted Fortunes

What you see above are awesomeknitted fortune cookies from Indigomuse at She links to her blog on the post, but not the pattern which is here: Felted Fortune Cookies.

Chinese New Year Good Luck Bags

More Lunar New Year goodness coming up! Here's a tutorial for an embroidered Chinese New Year good luck bag from Purl Bee: "This fun embroidery project makes a great...small token of good luck in celebration of Chinese New Year. Fill the bags with favorite candy, incense, lucky coins (maybe chocolate ones!), or a special greeting."

Mmmmm...Lucky chocolate...A ninja's best friend...

New Year Cupcakes

Every crafty ninja needs a healthy dose of sugar now and then. And what's a better way to get your dose than with some super-cute Chinese New Year cupcakes from Cupcake Momma? I am seriously in love, here. I've always been a stickler for cute sugar cookies, so I might just be her next customer.

Chinese Paper Cutting

Another Lunar New Year's tradition is to decorate doors and entrances with intricate Chinese Paper Cuttings (in red, of course) to bring more good luck.

*beezy* has some stunning photographs of paper cutting gifted from friends in China at her Flickr acccount. Sadly, her photos are licensed so I can't include a teaser. But I'll forgive her since she graced us unworthy souls with such gorgeous pictures.

I'm becoming more and more fond of Chinese art, especially after watching numerous performances of the dragon dance while in the International District during Saturday's New Year's event. I find the Chinese style to be a detailed mix of whimsical and enthralling--a rich tapestry of history that is lacking from American iconography and folklore. As I grow older and am exposed to more bits and pieces of other cultures, I'm beginning to see exactly why Americans have always been fascinated by Asian motifs. Chinese (and Japanese) textiles, motifs, and palettes have consistently cropped up in popular fashion and home decor in one form or another from the Noir era on. I'm pretty sure it's all in the deceptively simple forms that dictate such a complex and winding history that spreads far beyond the American past. To pack so much information and importance in one single brush stroke goes beyond comprehension in a Western-based culture, and therefore is enthralling to us Westerners.

That said, don't take too much stock into my discursive nonsense. I practically failed all of my Art History classes before realized that I was a better English major since I had always focused more on writing than anything else.

Hong Bao Bag

About a year ago, Craftster user the_mullet posted this gorgeous purse made from Hong Bao—red packets/envelopes used to give money during Chinese New Year celebrations.

There's no tutorial included, but the_mullet covered the envelopes with Duraseal contact paper and used duct tape to hold the seams together. I'm sure there is a way to add that extra "professional" touch to the purse by fusing the paper to fabric and sewing it, or by using something like contact paper to reinforce and protect the packets and then in turn sew that. Might be something to add to my ever-growing list of projects...

More About Red Packets

Feast of the Boar

On Chinese New Years Eve (today), families will hold a reunion dinner where members near and far celebrate together. The majority of foods eaten are homonyms to words relating to prosperity and wealth, symbolizing the positive hopes for the new year.

A traditional dinner includes chicken and fish. Only part of the fish will be eaten, the remainder saved overnight to symbolize a wealthy coming year. This practice comes from the Chinese phrase nián nián yǒu yú, meaning "may there be surplus every year." The phrase sounds similar to "may there be fish every year." Via Wikipedia.

Other foods that might be found on the dinner table tonight include Buddha's Delight, a vegetarian dish that contains anywhere from 10 to 35 ingredients. For the new year, a version of this dish called Luóhàn quánzhāi (made from 18 ingredients) is served. Much like curry, each family has its own unique recipe.

Another dish might be dumplings, as it is believed the shape resembles ingots (gold Chinese money from the past). Oranges are also popular during the New Year as they are plentiful in China during this season and symbolize wealth and good fortune.

If you wish to join in on the festivities, below are more resources on foods to feast on.

Chinese New Year Eve Dinner:

Organic Flowers

To get those beautiful blooms you see in florist shops, the floral industry literally dips each flower in a concoction of pesticides. While there's no strong evidence that organic flowers are healthier for the recipient than flowers grown with pesticides, there is the questionable labor practices and environmental impact to take into consideration. The majority of these flowers are grown in Latin American and African countries that have lower chemical standards than the U.S., resulting in the use of nearly 20% of the chemicals banned in the U.S.

Organic Flower Retailers
Please note that I have not purchased from any of these retailers and cannot verify their validity.

Bibliography and Further Reading

Fair Trade Valentine's

Treehugger, a blog about anything and everything green, recently posted about a Fair Trade Chocolate Activist Kit from Global Exchange. While I've seen more attention paid towards sweatshop free clothing and fair trade coffee, the fact that the chocolate industry still relies heavily on child labor appears to have been swept under the rug.

The kit is $15 and includes a box of heart-shaped chocolates (milk or dark), fair trade themed Valentine's cards with a retro theme, an "amore" banner, and an "I love fair trade" iron-on. If you hold a fair trade activist close to your heart, then it would make an excellent gift.

Global Exchange is a company dedicated to fair trade goods and thus has a number of other fair trade items available for purchase—including chocolates and crafts. For gifts, recycled gift packaging is also available. I know where I'm shopping for V-Day gifts this year.

Halloween Menu

For me, the best part of a party-prep is the food. I love food. I adore food. There's nothing better than a warm raspberry pie with a large dollop of ice cream after a hard day fighting enemies with my special knitting ninjutsu. And to combine my love of food with the creativity of preparing for a party—well, that's just ecstasy.

And forget All Recipes when it comes to finding recipes on the net (those people wouldn't hire me, much less interview me). No, my favorite recipe site is Epicurious. The recipes I've gleaned from them are mouth-watering compared to the bland community-based recipes from All Recipes. Strange, I know; you'd think it'd be the other way around. Surely recipes from real people would be much better than those from the culinary snobs who contribute to yuppie gourmand magazines. My only explanation is that the average American doesn't appreciate flavor when it comes to food. And yuppies do. Or something....

For Epicurian Halloween munchies, I'm eyeing their Brandied Pumpkin Pie and their Curried Pumpkin Seeds. Of course, I'm not such a devotee that I'm planning a menu based solely from them. Also in the mix is pumpkin bread (recipe to be determined), my mother's Cranberry Streusel bread, and Jell-O shot eyes (if I can find a round ice cube tray). If the Jell-O shot eyes are successful, I'm thinking of floating them in a spiked punch ala the Witches Brew from Kraft.

Lastly, check out these awesome food ninjas and their Halloween Supper. Truly a force with which to be reckoned.