The Beauty of Ikebana lies in its Philosophy

I spent a wonderful afternoon learning about Ikebana (the Japanese art of arranging flowers) at the Asian Arts Museum last Saturday with the President of the Wafu School of Ikebana in the California chapter, Fusako Hoyrup Sensei.

The word Ikebana means “live flowers in a container”; it allows us to enjoy indoors the charm and beauty of landscapes, the seashore, or lakeside.  The practice dates back to the 6th or 7th century in Japan as simple offerings on Buddhist altars but has now become an art form in everyday’s life.  There are now about 3,000+ schools of Ikebana in Japan.

The Wafu School, founded in the early 20th century, emphasizes complete harmony among the flowers, vases, and the environment.  Wafu style brings out the “natural beauty”, respecting the flowers and plants in their natural state.

The fundamental way of arranging the flowers is to create a trigonal pyramid (or more accurately an inverted, oblique trigonal pyramid.)  The lengths of the 3 main stems are different and can be simplified as long, medium (2/3 of long), and short (1/3 of long).  The length of the long can be determined by the height of the container + the width (at its widest) of the container.  Then, you can add complementary or supplementary stems as necessary.

Ikebana principles
Courtesy of the Wafu School of Ikebana

I love learning that these flowers and plants harmonize each other as well as with the artist and the environment.  You would know which flowers to buy or use because flowers talk to you.  Arrange the flowers and plants facing toward the sunlight because this is the natural way how plants grow!  This way gives the arrangement more depth and natural beauty.

So here is the result of my very first Ikebana lesson – ta da!

Ikebana - first
This is a Moribana (flat) arrangement of the upright pattern, using 7 major steps in a basin

Could you guess that the focal point of this arrangement is the 2 lowest-placed tiger lilies? Can you sense that the flowers are coming toward you?

Thanks to Sensei Fusako Hoyrup, I have learned some simple but very important lessons of life as well – bond with nature and appreciate it anywhere.  Here is a lovely arrangement by the master, herself.

Fusako_Hoyrup_Seiga_
Magnificent arrangement by Fusako Hoyrup. She also used some of the smaller stems to create the second arrangement, isn’t it cute and lovely?

 

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Korean, Japanese, Indonesian Cooking

nasi_tumpeng1
Courtesy of Pickles and Tea – yellow rice piled and arranged like a pineapple

Asia is very famous for its traditional and diversified cuisines.  In China alone, there are at least 12 popular regional cuisines (my personal favourite is Cantonese, Chiuchow/Teochew, and Shanghainese) you can come across.

Cooking is certainly daunting for many but looks easy for many others, too.  But I know that it is really through trial and error, lots of hard work, and talents that lead to the delicious recipes.  Here are the talents whom I learn some of the local Asian cookings from – online thanks to YouTube and the blogs!  I hope you would enjoy these as much as I do.

Korea – Maangchi.com

I first came across Maanghi (name of her website) when I was attending an Asian food demo at the local Asian Art Museum when the presenter said that this was her go-to Korean website to learn cooking.  I have felt in love with this lady and her cooking (blog and online) ever since.  And her newsletter is a bomb.  Check out one of her most popular posts – Kimchi and this very popular Korean stew dish at Korean restaurants – Kimchi Soft Tofu Stew

Japan – Nami Chen’s Just One Cookbook and her Youtube channel

With 2 million page views on her Just One Cookbook Facebook/Blog/YouTube channels, Nami is one of the most popular Japanese American bloggers on Japanese cooking and she also studied in the Bay Area (what a cool photo!).  She also shared many aspects of traditional Japanese culture and her travel experiences which are a joy to read.  Check out this simple Omurice (Western-influenced Japanese omelette rice) and my oh so favourite Green Tea Latte video amongst many others (like this Japanese cheesecake one).

South-East Asian (Indonesia & Thai) – Pat Tanumihardja’s Pickles and Tea

I have recently enjoyed reading Pat’s cookbook called “Farm to Table Asian Secrets” and am impressed by the many flavours of the South-East Asian cooking that can be replicated at home.  She also uses fresh and seasonal farmers’ market ingredients, which are always a plus.  She also write about other SE Asian cuisines (Indian, Vietnamese, etc.) You would enjoy this Yellow Rice (Nasi Tumpeng) and the Chicken Tikka Masala (which is actually a British national food and not an authentic Indian cuisine!)

 

Important news about emotions

This is another great writing by one of my favourite writers, Eric Barker.

Essentially, the 3 essence to improve your emotional intelligence are:

1. Learn to recognize emotional granuality.  

It is not just this makes me “feel good” or “not feel good.”

2. Learn new words that describe emotions – the Japanese has a word to describe the emotion you feel after you have a bad haircut!  

I think talking to more cultures and understand their special vocabulary would really help. 

3. Create new emotions – give a name to it.

All of these help your brain to figure out better what situations you are really in and to provide you with more resources or flexibility to cope with them.

Instead of being all panicky about the problem, you might feel cool about it – like the Hong Kong Chinese say: “when the sky falls, treat it like a blanket is covering you” (not always, but sometimes this works!)

Courtesy to Blazek

Cultures

Multicultual

Having lived in three continents and working in a profession investing in developed and emerging markets all day long and working with many types of nationalities, I have always thought I am a pretty multi-cultural person.  This book called “The Art of Doing Business Across Cultures” by Craig Storti is a recent favourite of mine, opening my eyes to the nuances of 10 very important cultures of the world (they tend to be the larger countries including The Arab Middle East, Brazil, China, England, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, and Russia).  Even though it is written from the perspective of Americans dealing with the different cultures, in this global marketplace, every business person will have a chance to deal with many different cultures and would find the advice of this book useful.

I love some of the writings of the book:

Germany

The Americans are culturally quite close to the Germans.  According to John Ardagh:

[they] may differ greatly in their degree of social formality, but they share something of the same business ethos, the same liking for thoroughness, efficiency and modernism, and the same fondness for litigation.”

So what are some of their differences:

Americans are more tolerant when the lines between work and personal life become blurred, perhaps because professional accomplishments comprise more of their identity.

According to Greg Nees:

[W]hen they are at work, Germans do indeed work quite effectively and with great focus.  But when the workday is finished, so are the workers.  Punctuality is apparent, not only in starting times but also at the end of the workday; employees see overtime as an infringement on their private lives…

The Germans say Dienst ist Dienst, und Schnaps ist Schnaps – duty is duty, and liquor is liquor.

Brazil

Things do get done in Brazil, but it’s in spite of the system, not because of it.

This is the Brazilian’s jeito or jeitinho – their subtle ways to circumvent difficult situations via “doing favours”.  This is quite foreign or even looked upon negatively in America as Americans do not promote “favoritism”.  As Jacqueline Oliveira said:

The primacy of family and the ingroup in the Brazilian value system often explains Brazilian behaviour, including why punctuality cannot always take priority.  

Jacqueline Oliveira said this:

[Brazilians} may forgo a business obligation if a family matter arises…

There is also a deep sense of fatalism that pervades the Brazilian culture – many things can happen outside of one’s control which therefore simply must be accepted.  Fatalism and resignation thus explain why Brazilians often tolerate lateness, while Americans are obsessed with time [Americans believe in achievements, which are effort + time.]

China

Other cultures may find the Chinese way of dealing with compliments curious.  As Scott Seligman writes:

Accepting them outright is not considered good etiquette; a Chinese is expected to deflect compliments  and pretend he or she is unworthy of receiving them…one of the common phrase [the Chinese use]…is nali…that has come to mean something like “it was nothing.” It’s as if to say the kind words you have just uttered couldn’t possibly be directed at me…

Valuing group’s opinion over one’s own, the Chinese are taught to be humble, leading to routine self-effacement and personal modesty, which the Americans inevitably misinterpret as a lack of confidence.  Americans are one of the most individualist and the least group-oriented of all cultures, and so anything that affirms, supports, or strengthens the self is valued in America.  The Americans come across as boastful because in their culture, unlike that of the Chinese, they cannot rely automatically on other group members for support and validation.

France

Americans, despite their directness, do not like to argue; in their conversations, they look for common ground and they often agree to disagree. But not the French.  As Erin Meyer writes:

French business people view conflict and dissonance as bringing hidden contradictions to light, and stimulating fresh thinking…[W]e make our points passionately.  We like to disagree openly. We like to say things that shock.  With confrontation, you reach excellence, you have more creativity, and you eliminate risk.

The Arab Middle East

The Arabs are not only exuberant, enthusiastic, emotional people – not just in their actions but even more so in their words.

This tendency to exaggerate [and overemphasize] makes it difficult for Westerners to understand how Arabs actually feel and how enthusiastic they truly are about suggestions and proposals.  A quick guide: The absence of any enthusiasm or positive comments is a sure sign of a negative reaching, especially given the fact that Arabs, unfailingly polite, rarely indulge in overt criticism.  Modest enthusiasm, a few pieces of mild praise, signals a neutral reaction.  Effusiveness, exaggerated enthusiam, and hyperbolic praise all indicate a positive response.

Russia

A standard complaint by Russians against Americans is that they lack dusha, or soul. Russians like to connect with their business partners, to have a brief glimpse of the other’s soul. Elizabeth Roberts observes:

Russians prize the quality of soul above others…they often have a tendency to open their soul to complete strangers.

Yale Richmond writes:

Russians do have a rich spirituality, that does indeed contrast with Western rationalism, materialism, and pragmatism…the rational and pragmatic approach does not always work for them.  More often it is personal relations, feelings, and traditional values that determine a course of action.  Westerners are more likely to depend on the cold facts and to do what works.

There are many more gems and dialogues as exercises in the book to enjoy and learn.

The author said, there is always a reason why people do the strange things they do, the reason is almost never to upset you, and there is always a way forward.

 

 

 

Some of My Favourite Colours

With the summer months upon us, everything looks so vibrant and colourful under the sun and the beautiful weather.

Some of the colours that have sparked joy in my life are captured here:

Beauties in the San Francisco Farmers Market
Just right along the curb in front of my apartment building
San Francisco CIty Hall at night
Stained glass in the French restaurant Jeanne D’Arc in San Francisco
The magical Bellagio Hotel water fountain in Las Vegas

Great San Francisco Food Streets

As visitors are coming to town to San Francisco, there are a couple of streets here that offer a great variety of eateries without hurting your purses or wallets too much.

Enter the graffiti-filled Polk Street, which has a great variety of ethnic and international food ranging from Mexican cocktails, Moroccan food, Indian buffets, super cheat groceries, to fine diners including Michelin-starred La Folie and the romantic Italian Aquerello.

Next is Kearny Street, which links up the financial district and Chinatown to the Union Square.

Here choices include Greek eateries, Japanese curry and ramen, Thai food, International Food Court, American Classics, Cantonese flagship (R&G), and many popular boba tea places. There is an EscapeSF outfit now, which visitors should try. It is rated the top 2 most fun games in SF by Trip Advisors.