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Happy Rabbit New Year!

Chinese New Year is probably my most favourite holiday (though Christmas comes pretty close!). I’ve noticed in Western countries that Christmas is a major festivity, THE time of the year when families gather together, enjoy great food, and have fun celebrations. Some Asian families also celebrate it, but perhaps not to the same extent. It seems that for the Chinese, the Lunar New Year is to us as Christmas is to Westerners.

Celebrations last up to two weeks and it is the most fantastic time! Dragon Dances, Lion Dances, great food, yummy cookies, and for many people an excuse to buy new clothes! Then of course there’s all the visiting of relatives where you struggle to know how to address your greeting in the various dialects (especially if you don’t know who they are).

Chinese New Year Decorations

The tradition is to eat a feast on New Year’s Eve. In our family, because of Grandma, this also includes having to eat “soh mian” (this is in Foo Chow, I don’t know what it is in English) with a hard boiled egg in her special chicken soup. And I never like eating hard boiled eggs. But the noodles signify a long and healthy life, while the hard boiled egg is for prosperity. So if anyone of us grandkids say no to any part of this dish, well, we’d get quite a earful! We also have to eat this on our birthdays.

My favourite Chinese New Year food (though you sometimes find it all year round) is the Dragon Beard Candy, an ancient Chinese Emperor’s Dessert. It’s made into very sweet thin strands and sometimes filled with peanuts.

Dragon Beard Candy Stall

If you’ve never tried it, you simply have to! The only place I know to find this in the UK is London’s Chinatown. Though prices are obviously extortionate!

Dragon Beard Candy

In any case, I wish everyone a most fantastic New Year!

Gong xi fa cai, wan shi ru yi, zhu li meng en!

I love Chinese sayings. They can fit SO much meaning into just FOUR words. Same goes for their proverbs. Roughly translated it means Wishing you Prosperity in the New Year, May you have everything you wish for, and May God bless you.

Sounds much better in Chinese.

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A Manolo Blahnik Inspiration

High Street vs. Designer. Which do you tend to go for? Maybe a bit of both?

I am very much a High Street person and completely agree with Gok Wan, who is a British fashion consultant who hosts the TV shows ‘How To Look Good Naked’, ‘Gok’s Fashion Fix’ and now ‘Gok’s Clothes Roadshow’. I love this guy and actually bumped into him once when I was out one night in London! He shows women how to dress well and boosts their confidence and self-esteem. His glam-ed up high street outfits often rival its designer counterpart on his Fashion Fix Runway. So I am very much in the line of thought that if you know what clothes to buy and how to put them together (which I sometimes have problems with), you can look tres chic without burning holes in your pockets.

That said, I would be inclined to part with my hard-earned cash for designer wear IF (and only if) I think there’s something special about it that can’t be replicated on the high street. Sometimes I see a plain cardigan that costs almost £300 when I can find a similar one in Zara and you think “Why spend that money!”. So I don’t look for brand names – I look for the artistry and creativity that defines the designer. It is only for that reason I would admire any one of them.

One designer that I absolutely love for his designs is Manolo Blahnik. Walking into his store is like I died, came back to life, fell head over Heels, died again, and went to Shoe Heaven. His shoes are INCREDIBLE. I came across a couple books of his sketches in a bookstore the other day and I was in awe – the origin of his great shoes!

His sketches and drawings were amazing. Creative, artistic, beautiful – GENIUS!

Manolo Blahnik Sketch

Manolo Blahnik Sketch
Manolo Blahnik Sketches
Manolo Blahnik Sketches

You’ll definitely NEVER find such designs on the high street. What is inspiring is that he used to be a nobody. Until an editor at a fashion magazine noticed his talent and he became a somebody.

What struck me was how he would’ve been looked down upon when he first started out. How difficult it must have been to make his mark designing shoes. But having the support of people around him, he’s now one of the most famous shoe designers in the world. Being Asian, I’m in a culture where most parents exceedingly encourage their children towards scholarly achievements, which is of course important. But sometimes, their inherent gifts and abilities may be overlooked. A kid telling his parents that he wanted to design shoes for a living would be given a smack on their head and told to forget such ridiculous nonsense. So I was, in fact, quite surprised when I learned that Jimmy Choo is Malaysian! If anything would encourage patriotism for my country, THIS WOULD BE IT.

Manolo Blahnik Shoe

My point is, whatever talents you have, whatever skills you’ve learned, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant such as drawing pictures of shoes, keep doing it. Put them together, mix them around, practice all you can and you never know what might happen. You may not get results today, you may not get results tomorrow or even years down the line, but you are building something that will enrich your life in one way or another. Love working with children? Keep working with them! Who knows, you might be the next Super Nanny (you’ve seen her TV show right?)!  At the very least, you know you’ll make a fantastic mom to your own kids. Love encouraging people? You may not get much in return but who knows, you might be a great motivational speaker one day! At the very least, you know you brought some comfort and made a positive difference in someone’s life. Love playing with Lego? An architect in the making!

People may look down on you or on what you do (and there will always be such people) because they don’t SEE the potential. Why should you let that stop you? Even if you’re on the road less taken, walk it anyway if it will get you to where you want to be. Stay focused, hold your head high, keep the chin up, and strut your stuff.

And make sure to wear your “Manolo Blahnik” shoes with pride while you’re at it!





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Make Your Own Advent Calendar

I love Christmas and I wanted to do something different and memorable this year. Advent calendars are the best part but sometimes the store-bought ones can look so boring and it’s always the same kind of chocolate in them. So I decided to make my own! And I really liked how it turned out, even if it did take me 500 hours and I shall now have to eat two chocolates a day to catch up. It took me so long because everything was painstakingly hand-sewn (and I’ve never sewed in my life!). So if you have a sewing machine and know how to use it, I’d highly recommend it!

What you need

  • Felt material in assorted colours
  • Number appliques
  • Assorted ribbons
  • Cord (1 and 1/2 meters)
  • White winsonette (75cm x 112 cm)
  • Wooden stick
  • Needle and thread
  • Pins
  • Iron
  • Sewing machine (if you have one)

Method

  1. Cut out 21 squares of assorted colours measuring 8 cm x 8 cm. And cut out 21 smaller squares measuring 6 cm x 6 cm.

    Felt squares
  2. Sew the smaller squares onto the larger squares like so.

    Smaller square sewn onto larger square
  3. For the trunk, cut out a rectangle measuring 6 x 10 cm. For the pot, cut out the shape measuring 19 cm in height, top width 19 cm, bottom width 14 cm.
  4. Cut out a rectangular and square shape for the presents under the tree.

    Felt shapes
  5. Sew assorted ribbons onto the squares, presents and tree pot.

    Ribbons sewn onto squares
  6. Stitch all pieces of felt to the white winsonette to make pockets out of the 21 squares, 2 presents and tree pot. Sew on the star.
  7. Sew the edges of the white winsonette.
  8. Iron on the number appliques.

    Square Pockets
  9. Sew on a thick ribbon to make a border.
  10. Cut out 4 pieces of felt measuring 6 x 12 cm to make loops. Sew onto the top of the winsonette.
  11. Measure stick to length and put through the loops.
  12. Tie the cord to both ends of the stick to hang on the wall.
Advent Calendar

And that’s it! It didn’t really take 500 hours, just did a little bit whenever I had spare time. Of course, I still felt like dying and giving up many times in between. Especially after jabbing myself with needles countless times.

But it’s nice to have a little something different for Christmas, don’t ya think?