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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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

A Secret Ingredient for Health

Bone Broth reasons
Courtesy of revivalistkitchen.com

One has probably heard about bone broth (made from beef, pork, chicken, fish) and veggie broth, but Heather Dane really explained well why we need bone broth, especially after age 40!  The star in bone broth – collagen – supports, strengthens, cushions, provides structure, and holds the body together like glue, according to Heather.  If your body starts to lose collagen, no wonder you can feel more aches and pains, have wrinkles, thinner hair, and eye problems, experience loss of muscle tone, have digestive issues, etc.  Bone broth is also the key ingredient to many tasty Chinese soups such as this wonton soup (Hong Kong-style) and this 5-minute veggie soup (add animal protein if you like).  I have personally experienced really really tasty Shanghainese wonton soup in the streets of Shanghai – the secret is no doubt their long and well-simmered bone broth!

What do San Franciscans Do on a Beautiful Sunday

A couple of weeks ago during Sunday lunch, I attended a University alumni function at the St. Francis Yacht Club in the Marina district, described as the most prestigious yacht club in the Western U.S.

While the club is no doubt very nice, what captured me the most that day was the surroundings and the leisurely San Franciscans on a sunny, beautiful afternoon by the Bay in San Francisco.  I ended up walking back home from the marina – about an hour of leisurely walk! What a feast for the eyes and goodness for the body!

Right outside the San Francisco Yacht Club

 

Great Angle of the Golden Gate Bridge
Strolling along the marina

 

The Palace of Fine Arts – oh so fine!

 

Colourful Marina district houses

 

Great park for many Sunday activities

 

Resting in front of the beautiful St. Peter and Paul Church, Washington Square Park

 

Happy New Year and Favourite Recipes (Simple)

Wishing you all a blessed, happy, and healthy New Year.

How about some healthy and simple recipes to kick off the New Year?

Here are some gluten-free and gut-healing recipes from one of my favourite functional doctors, Dr. Axe – his best ones from 2016!

No-bake coconut cookies with cacao nibs – yum!!  From: Dr. Axe

Total Time: 20 minutesServes: 18 cookies

INGREDIENTS:

2–1/2 cups gluten-free rolled oats

1 cup unsweetened, flaked coconut

2-3 tablespoons cacao nibs

1 tablespoon flax seed (whole or ground), optional*

2/3 cup honey

1/2 cup coconut oil

1 cup almond butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 tablespoons cacao powder or dark cocoa powder

coconut sugar to sprinkle on top

Himalayan pink salt to sprinkle on top

DIRECTIONS:

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix the oats and coconut flakes well and set aside.

In a medium pot over medium heat, combine the honey, coconut oil and almond butter, cocoa or cacao power and stir continuously until the mixture is melted and mixed evenly.

Remove from heat and add in the oats, cacao nibs and coconut flakes stirring continuously. Add the vanilla extract and continue stirring until mixture becomes thick.

Drop heaping tablespoons of the mixture onto the cookie sheets. Lightly sprinkle coconut sugar and sea salt on top of each cookie. Place the cookie sheets in the freezer for at least 20 minutes, or until you’re ready to serve.

Take the cookies out of the freezer and allow them to thaw for 5 minutes before serving. Store any leftover cookies in a sealed container in the freezer.

Charming Victoria B.C.

After spending almost ten days in Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, I decided it is one of the best places to have a relaxing vacation.

Victoria, the capital of B.C., is actually on the Vancouver Island not Victoria Island and is famously known as the City of Gardens and, if I may add, the City of Bikers, as 10% of residents bike to work! The city was named after Queen Victoria and was established as a Hudson’s Bay fort in 1843. The first Chinese in Canada settled in Victoria due to the gold rush. Its food scenes are not only British but also very diverse, and locals and visitors enjoy cuisines with the freshest ingredients including seafood, veggie, and fruits.

Although it is on an island and has a population of about 350,000, there are direct flights from its international airport to cities such as Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, Seattle, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Cabos and also Cancun. The airport is extremely friendly.  There are more cool facts about the City here.

What I enjoyed the most is its natural, untouched beauty, its relaxing pace, friendly faces as well as its Britishness. I was fortunate enough to stay with my Dad’s high school friend, who lives a 10-minutes walk from woods, park, and beach! Compared to Vancouver, Victoria has milder temperature and less than half of the rain with precipitation falling between November and February. No wonder it is popular with retirees.

Here are a few moments that I have treasured:

Ferry ride (1 hour 40 minutes) from Vancouver to Victoria
Rock and sand at Mount Douglas Beach
Beautiful flowers with the Parliament in the background
The tourists’ favourite – Empress Hotel and the Inner Harbour
Strolling in Downtown
Sunset in the Harbour
Along the Oak Bay Marina
Horse carriages all over roads lining the Inner Harbour
Rural beauty along trails in Mount Douglas Park
Breathtaking Ogden Point Breakwater – 1 mile to the lighthouse at the end – photo credit to Melichard at Tripadvisors.com

  
The Galloping Goose Trail, running on the previous Canadian National Railway, weaves through rutal, urban and wetlands