Celebrating Christmas with Glass Harp!

OBT - Nutcracker 2015When you first hear this music without watching the youtube, you would not have imagined this is how the sound is produced.  Simply amazing – really, it is crystal clear music.

This type of instrument might even have originated from China in the Middle Ages.  These days, special types of wine glasses are used and the glasses are without water – only played by the musician’s entire hand rubbing the rim of the glasses with her wet finger tips.  You can find more about the origin of this music here.

While you are preparing your Christmas presents or hosting your own Sugar Plum Fairy tea party, enjoy a taste of the Glassduo’s Sugar Plum Fairy!

Adding my favourite from their recent performance in Hong Kong playing a very famous Chinese classical song – Clouds Chasing the Moon (hear how it resembles the flute!)

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A day in Sai Kung

For those who are not familiar with Hong Kong, you may think that Sai Kung sounds like some cities in Vietnam. In fact Sai Kung is the country side of Hong Kong and is located in the New Territories, the area that is attached to Mainland China.  Sai Kung is for the whole family – rural, delicious (great seafood and cafes), sporty (lots of water activities and cruising), fun, and relaxing.  

On the day of my Dad’s Big Birthday, we have planned a day in Sai Kung, breathing in the refreshing air and doing something different.  No wonder why HK people, with their daily life stretched to their max, love to hang out in Sai Kung with its beautiful pier, beaches, neighboring islands, and wonderful cuisines.

Let’s take a look at what we did:

Photo courtesy of Venue Hub, HK

Wow, a Polynesian-style bowling alley called Tikitiki Bowling Bar was our first stop. How fun to combine bowling with the entire family with brunch next to the alley! Because of the gates erected along the gutters, even a 6-year old can play bowling and score well!  We had so much laughter.


Then we strolled in the village market near the Sai Kung pier and had a great time discovering all sorts of local street food, fruits (durian), coffee places, and even great fashion!  I highly recommend this if you want to venture beyond the famous Stanley Market.


Along the water, you will take in quite a lot – the beautiful pier, lots of sampans (boats), a local museum, and of course lots of seafood restaurants (the famous Seafood Street.)


Zooming into the Sampans a bit, one can see they don’t just carry people as a great way for transportation or touring (one can check out island hopping in Sai Kung – many people will want your business at the pier), they also carry lots of seafood (dried especially) for sale!

What I enjoy HK the most is that while it is probably the most convenient place in the world for conducting businesses, is a city that almost never sleeps, has the most amazing places to eat and drink, its serenity is also just less than an hour away.  Check out Sai Kung next time!

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?

 

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!)

 

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