Monday, January 31, 2011

I Spy Shoots and Snowdrops

It has been grey and raining but the sun came shining on Sunday. This got us out for a walk, bundled in fleece, mitts and toques we went searching for the bulb shoots I noticed a week ago. They're bigger now but just around the corner, a surprise on the grass, a small cluster of blooming snowdrops glistening in the light. And then on another street, more snowdrops but this time in bigger groups, slowly awakening from their winter sleep.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

China Diary Day 18 Longsheng Yao Ethnic Minority Part 1

Hello! I am so excited to share this part of our China trip today! We got up bright and early to join a local tour and headed into Longsheng. Along the way our guide Linda gave us an introduction to the day's highlights. Even though we paid extra to be part of an English speaking tour, it was mostly in Mandarin. She spoke so fast I could barely catch up with the vast amount of info, after a while I gave up translating for David. Our destination was more than an hour's drive from Guilin, so Linda instructed all passengers to nap.

We woke up as the bus began to climb its way up the mountains, the view of rice terraces out the window. The fields appeared to be harvested and on the dry side.
Further down, a pathway from the main road led to some buildings that looked like residential dwellings.
On the edge of the town by the side of the highway, a tobacco and liquor store with no customers, I wondered who buys the goods.
We ventured into areas with bigger buildings, there were lots of bamboo on the ground, to be used for scaffolding perhaps?
It must be very noisy outside because we could hear the machinery inside the bus. Workers were feeding lumber into a device that split them into planks.
On the side of the road, processed wood in various stages, timber without bark and more planks.
Past the woodworking area a row of boxes, its handles strung together with a common rope. On top sat a fishing net, now I'm really curious, what are in those boxes?
We came to the first attraction of the tour, pictured below the wooden building where visitors could enjoy a show by the ladies of Yao Ethnic Minority. This was an additional 50 RMB per person (about $7 Canadian), everyone was expecting this but we were quite surprised and felt it should be part of the tour. Linda guided everybody towards the entrance on the left corner, under the hanging bunches of dried corn.
Up the flight of wooden stairs we went into a small hall that was decorated with more hanging bunches of corn. There was not enough wooden benches to seat us all so some sat down on the floor near the front. I joined them and squatted in the corner to get a better view.

At the front, ten very pretty Yao girls stood, dressed in their traditional costumes. The one on the right with the microphone greeted the audience and explained they would be performing some songs and dance to welcome us.
Hands held together, they began to sing in the sweetest voice. Captured below a close up of the lovely singers, hair wrapped in black fabric, facial complexion young and fair. They wore bright silver jewelry, bangle earrings and bracelets with bells. I admired the embroidered detail on their skirts.
After the first song they went backstage to grab musical instruments and returned with a dance.
Two different types of percussion were used, you can see them on the 2 girls that were face to face. They were accompanied by a band that was playing loudly and joyously in the left corner, I could see a man playing the trumpet.
The dancers formed a circle and moved lively, the band that was all male continued performing. I caught sight of a different man playing yet another trumpet, there were drums too.
Moving onto a different song, the tune was sweeter, the dance movements became graceful. In 2 rows swaying side to side, the girls' expressions grew gentle, especially the second one from the left.
I was thankful for the angle shown below, the camera caught sight of the back part of their intricate costumes. We were told the blouses were handwoven, full of graphic detail it paired beautifully with the colorful skirts.
At the end of the song, they put their instruments away and formed a line, the band continued to play enthusiastically.
Remember the silver bracelets with bells? It came to good use for this merry tune, jingling loudly the atmosphere felt very festive.
Arms to the side waving vigorously, their actions faster as the music grew louder. The ladies were smiling broadly, the show was truly welcoming, everyone was having a good time. Stay tuned next week as we continue with the performance by the talented Yao girls!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Soft Trees and Time Capsule

Thank you so much for the feedback on the last post! More experimenting with shapes, the 2 trees have soft flannel bottoms, perfect for a child's room. The hanging form, a most recent development has 6 sides, it is called the time capsule.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Just before Christmas last year I started experimenting with fabric shapes. Some turned out better than others, the second one from the left was the first one. Which one do you like?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Wooden Tree

It's been several years since we gave each other gifts for Christmas, but 2010 was eventful and I've been good all year! So I decided to reward myself with a small treat. The wooden tree, a new acquisition from Crafthouse Gallery, handmade by North Vancouver artist Bruce Hodgson. Seen here surrounded with stones, sea glass and driftwood collected from our trips by the sea.

Crafthouse is having a January sale at the moment, 20% discount for CCBC members, 10% discount for general public.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Yangshuo Postcard Day 17 Bike Trip Part 4 of 4 Shops and Sights

Hello Thursday! We continue with our China trip today, sharing some notes of sights and shops on our bike tour in Yangshuo.

Apart from farmlands and construction, people and homes, there were not many shops on the route. Pictured below one of the smallest souvenir shops we came across, situated on the side of the road amongst older homes and fruit bearing trees, it occupied only a tiny table where a few hats made of straw or fabric were displayed.
Further down the road, a much larger one appeared, it stood alone in the open by cultivated fields. It also sold hats but we also witnessed bottled water.
The shop above was not the only one sheltered under brightly colored tents. The tables and chairs below, most notably the Chinese characters on the red banner indicated this to be a restaurant. Just like the other shops pictured here, there was no customers in sight.
Deep into the residential area, by the side of an empty school grounds, a convenience store. It was a small and dark room, we only noticed it because of the group of children playing hide and seek nearby. This little boy hunched over and counted while his friends searched frantically for the perfect hiding spot. Next to him a freezer with a sign in Chinese characters and English, cold watermelon would be so nice on that warm October afternoon, we were sweating profusely from biking and all that excitement.

But what was so special about the freezer was the 4 repeating Chinese characters at the bottom of the sign. It's the character for happiness, pronounced fu in Mandarin.
Restaurant, souvenir and convenience stores aside, there was also tire repair shops and boy were they plentiful! The one below sells cold water.
But here's one with no cold water, the white sign with red literature stood out brightly against the brick wall. I like the row of 3 tires on the building. Despite the large amounts of construction that went on, we were lucky our tires remained intact throughout the entire trip.
With the tire hung on the wall this looked like another bike repair shop but the handwritten W.C. indicated otherwise.
Yet another roadside washroom, the Chinese characters that said so were a lot clearer and bigger than its English counterparts. The steps led up to 2 tiny stalls, in white chalk on the left wooden door, it said 1 RMB. There was a few outdoor restrooms just like this along the way, but we did not use them.
We rode along and came to this resting point, we had stopped numerous times along the way, but only briefly to snap a picture or take a sip of water. Here by the cooling river air we stayed the longest, just look at the view, how could you not!! The refreshing mountains in the background that began on the left and...
...continued all the way to the right. A peaceful panorama, one of the most beautiful sights we were fortunate to indulge in.
Some details in the distance, 2 trees in the distance covered in pink flowers, so pretty! They looked like twins, their reflection on the water duplicated the image, doubling the delight.
The camera zoomed in on the far right, groves of bamboo on the horizon against the backdrop of faint hills, I could stay here forever, so romantic.
One of the activities along the river was cruising on bamboo crafts. It came with your personal rower like this man sitting on top of the steps. Moments before, he was seen rowing an elderly couple up and down the river. We would have love to hire him if we were not in such a hurry to get back to town before dark.
We were curious to cross the bridge and explore the other side but there was no time. One last look of the calming water from the bridge before taking off.
Just then, the sound of running steps and children's voices caught our attention, we turned our bikes around and caught a glimpse of this group of boys.
Following them came more kids, this time there were girls but they were the last ones. It was not until we returned to Canada that I noticed the children were wearing red scarves, just like the ones in Chinese propaganda posters. Some of their shoes were plastic sandals, the same footwear on the girl in green pants. I had seen the sandals and scarves in a photo of schoolchildren taken in the 70's, it was a pleasant surprise to see them in our 2007 trip.
Back in town we returned the rented bikes and ate dinner at KFC before taking the bus back to Guilin. That was the second and last time we dined at a Western fast food joint during the entire China trip. Searching for food was a challenge, at times we opted for the more familiar menu. That night, we slept soundly and rose early the next day as we explored a new destination, stay tuned next week!

* * * * *

It has been over 3 years since we were in Yangshuo but I think back to this bike trip quite often. The memories of the village and the people we saw stayed in my heart, my most cherished photo is the last one posted here. What can I say, children will always be children, so young and carefree, which sums up exactly how we felt when we were touring China. I treasure the experience and memories and am truly grateful to the fellow visitors that suggested the biking idea.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Self Portrait and Ten Questions

I did a quick sketch of this self portrait for this post! Yesterday P.K. awarded me a I love your blog prize. Thank you for this, I'm deeply honored. A lot of my inspiration comes from other blogs I visit, one of them being P.K.'s, it's nice to have my own blog to share and give back.

The rules of the prize are to do a post about the prize, answer the questions and give the prize to 10 blogs.

Here are the questions and answers:
1. Why did you create this blog?
I created my blog to share my work with friends, later I found out it's a good way to record my work and see how I progress.

2. What kind of blogs do you follow?
I visit blogs that talk about design, crafts, illustration, photography, art... content that's unique and original. A lot of creative souls out there with lots of positive energy!

3. Favorite makeup brand?
I hardly wear makeup, but I like Revlon and Burt's Bees.

4. Favorite clothing brand?
I try and shop Canadian, I like Reitmans, they have petit sizes, good quality, reasonable prices and long lasting styles.

5. Your indispensable makeup product?
Lip balm with a tinge of color and foundation with sunscreen.

6. Your favorite color?
I grew up liking blue, any shade of blue. These days I like any bright colors that make me happy, lately I'm liking yellow.

7. Your perfume?
I wear perfume only on special occasions, White Linen by Estee Lauder or Green Tea by Elizabeth Arden.

8. Your favorite film?
Hard to choose only one! I like any film that's well done, good story and characters. Blade Runner, Matrix, Silence of the Lambs, City Island and lots more.

9. What country would you like to visit and why?
Difficult to narrow it down to only one, I'd like to see Russia, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba and many more destinations before they change into generic modern civilizations. If only I have endless time and money. Taiwan would be interesting too.

10. Make the last question and answer to yourself. What was the best lesson learned in 2010?
Be positive but be realistic, if something doesn't work out, learn, take the good parts and move on.

I would like to give the prize to 10 blogs:
Okay ladies no pressure, only if you want to!

Monday, January 17, 2011

2010 Projects in Review

Wrapping up 2010 before moving on to new projects this year! Only 1 canvas painting was created, but there was some crocheting, sewing and crafting of paper wreaths, even some drawing for a mobile. I also started the China trip series on a weekly basis, this is ongoing since February 2010. Above all, my first book Her Beef Stew was published! Thank you all for supporting my work, I am deeply honored and grateful.

I also would like to thank each and everyone of you for visiting and commenting, it would not have been the same without you.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Blog Banner

I've been thinking of a new blog banner for the last little while. So far it has been photos but something more original, something pertaining to journeys or going somewhere would be more appropriate. An idea popped up, a pencil quickly sketched out then refined in pen... Voila! A little powerboat off to sea, into the great unknown, moving ahead one small puff at a time.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Guilin Journal Day 17 Yangshuo Homes and People Part 3

Welcome to the first post of our China trip for 2011! In the last 2 posts, we rented some bikes and explored some farmlands and various housing construction in Yangshuo. Today we venture deeper into the village and take a closer look at the villagers and their homes.

Down the street amongst the residences of ochre monochrome, some roads were quite narrow, adequate only for single lane traffic.
Pictured below the smallest path we came across.
I much prefer them spaced further apart, walls on all sides exposed to natural light. The little white house has a compact front yard filled with all kinds of vegetables and construction materials.
The majority of homes were on smaller plots, not all have gardens, some have wells like this fair sized adobe. Can you see it on the right hiding under the wooden cover with a bucket on top?
Its neighbor boasted a bigger front lot, one of the largest in the area, most of it was used to dry grain under the warm afternoon sun.
Some owners had protective brick fences, we peeked into a few of them as we went past, the one below was similar to many others. A typical courtyard, it contained hanging laundry, a bench and a few other daily household items.
We began to notice the couplets on the doorway. Chinese calligraphy in gold ink on red paper, they looked brand new, a bright contrast to its primitive environment.
Another duilian graced a different entrance, the paper had already faded but the message remained auspicious: May there be many prosperous and successful business dealings, may peace accompany all travels.

On a different note, the building appeared recently constructed, the bricks that lined the bottom part of the wall looked modern. The ones on the top portion were a rich brown color and had a smooth surface, unlike the older buildings.
More newer homes, the one below stood on its own with no garden and no grain sunning under the sky. Three stories high with a smart white front it came complete with rooftop solar water heater.
A few houses away, another new development at four stories high. The top three floors came with air conditioners, we counted six in total!
The vehicles by the homes caught my attention, this 3 wheeler had a canopy made of fabric, I don't think these are legal in Canada.
A motorcycle parked out front, the back of the rack proudly displayed the number 88, pronounced ba ba in Mandarin. An excellent number in Chinese culture, it symbolized good luck and fortune.
We came to this structure decorated with painted outlines. Was this a newly built kindergarten or daycare?
We rode on and saw the other side where colors had been filled in, cartoon characters happily danced along the wall under the shining sun.
A moon bridge! Until now I have only seen it in pictures, it looked ancient, a lovely compliment to its setting.
Above us loud joyful voices could be heard, a construction worker on the bamboo scaffolding was visiting with one of his comrades on the ground.
Additional merry sounds ahead, a family was playing some kind of card game. It was so intense we hung around for a few minutes before they noticed us, then went right back to the activity with more yelling as we cycled on.
By the trees, a group of women chatted away, one of them had her child in a baby carrier called a mei tai.
Back in the residential area, a lady with the blue baskets called out her merchandise while walking along. I did not understand what she said nor could I see the goods but I knew it was food because...
...this grandma replied to her call. Squatted down by a pan of water, she was busy plucking off the feathers from the chicken. It has been ages since I saw poultry cleaned this way, the last time was at a wet market in Singapore 19 years ago.
Another grandmother, seen here walking hand in hand with her grandson on the street. She took slow little steps, how old do you think she is?
Yet another grandparent walking his granddaughter home down a small dirt road, as they strolled on so did we, the China adventure continues next week!