Tuesday, December 30, 2008

china road

I just finished reading China Road by Rob Gifford and highly highly recommend it. I started the book quite a few months ago, but took my time reading it -- there was just so much to be savored, digested, and reflected upon.

Rob Gifford was NPR's correspondent in Beijing for 6 years, and before he left China to return to the UK, he took a 3,000-mile road trip along China's Route 312 -- a road that runs from Shanghai to China's western border with Kazakstan. The book is mainly an account of his trip, but also includes numerous anecdotal insights into the state of the country, collected by him during his stay in China.

This book made me feel much the same way as Rivertown (by Peter Hessler) -- another favorite China book. I learned a lot of new information, but also came across much that was familiar. And that which was familiar was so well put, giving words to some of the complex feelings I have had about China but never fully expressed. I think during my recent trip to Yangshuo, I realized that a lot of the emotions that I felt about living in China were left unresolved when I left and moved back to Hong Kong almost 5 years ago. I guess I've always had an intense love-hate relationship with the place, and it's been good to have to sort through some of that, and also somehow comforting to find others that express similar feelings (and do so more eloquently than I ever could!).

I am about to loan out my copy of China Road, so before I do, I felt compelled to go back through and find those parts that I really wanted to share. There are many other parts that would be worth adding here, and I could have spent hours re-reading sections and agonizing over what is really most blog-worthy, but here are a few excerpts that I found to be especially poignant. Please sit back and allow me to virtually read them aloud to you.

from Chapter 5: "A Single Spark Can Light a Prairie Fire"
"Pity the poor, long-suffering Chinese peasants. This was supposed to be their revolution. They form the majority of the Chinese population (some 750 million people), and they have suffered long and more deeply than anyone. They were promised so much. They were supposed to be liberated by this great experiment in social equality called Communism, but they have ended up back at the bottom of the pile. It is a betrayal of monumental proportions, considering the roots of the Communist revolution and its original aims, and a betrayal that could end up having monumental consequences for the Communist Party."

from Chapter 6: Silicon Valley
"There are nine cities in the US with more than one million inhabitants. In China there are forty-nine. You can be travelling across China and arrive in a city that is twice the size of Houston, and think, I've never heard of this place."

from Chapter 9: Power
"The tendency is to think of contemporary China in terms of the United States, because of their similarity of geographical size. Actually, to understand China today, the best comparison by far is Roman Europe two thousand years ago: lots of people with different languages and dialects, different customs, different artistic styles, even different cuisines, all with a shared heritage, but ultimately held together by force. It makes no more sense to say you're going out for a Chinese meal than to say you are going out for a European one."

from Chapter 23: A Road is Made
"It's impossible to be neutral about China. Some foreigners hate it from the moment they set foot here. Others love it so much they put down roots and never go home. I wonder if other countries divide people so intensely in their emotions. For myself, I have always tried to retain my own unity of opposites, attempting to keep love and hate in balance."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

i *heart* hk cozy

This one's for my brother. His birthday is coming up in January (I cannot even begin to understand how he's almost 22...), but he's heading back to California and school tomorrow. He had a short trip back this time -- less than two weeks -- and we're having to celebrate his birthday early. Not sure how much he'll be coming back this way in the future, so I wanted to make him something to help him remember his roots. :)

Like all the cozies, it's reversible, and the other side is made of the same grey star fabric that the letters are made of. It's very masculine, and available for those days when he doesn't feel like walking around with a big pink heart on his coffee cup.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

holiday home

I realized recently that I never posted photos of my apartment. Here are a few of the living/dining room/kitchen area decorated for the holidays. It took my roommate and I a while to acquire furniture and get things up on the walls, but I'm happy to say that it now feels quite homey.
Notice the thoughtfully-placed television. We bought the TV second-hand before we got the second-hand Ikea wall unit, and quickly found that the nice old television was too deep to fit in the unit. So it's placed off to the side, which I must admit has started to grow on me.
The couch and radiator, which I have found myself using occasionally.
Here's the dining area and a peek of the kitchen.

I'll post some photos of my room soon, including my precious sewing table. Right now there is fabric strewn all over the floor, so it cannot be photographed.

templeton-inspired cozy

Two of my favorite things finally meet:

This is a Templeton-inspired cozy for my mom for her birthday. My mom doesn't go out for coffee much, which is why I hadn't made her one earlier. But then the other day when we were in Macau, a few of us went to Starbucks for some holiday-inspired caffeine, and my poor dear mother had to use a cardboard coffee sleeve. I'm glad that the cozy situation will now be rectified.

Friday, December 26, 2008

handmade christmas: stockings

I was inspired by Sal, and made a couple stockings this year. Here they are.

For my roommate, Rebekah.

For my friend, colleague and crafting buddy, Sal.

We were both inspired by a project by Alicia Paulson of Posy Gets Cosy, found out about here. I think I will make more stockings in the future -- it was a fun process!

handmade christmas: gifts

Gifts for my nieces and nephews. Monogrammed coloring cases for the older kids, and a bib for the smallest.
And here's my labor of love for my brother. I got the pattern from The Domestic Scientist.

And here's everything wrapped and ready to take over to my parents' place. I bought the ribbon in Sham Shui Po at the last minute, and am very happy I did.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

handmade christmas: stackable oragami stars tutorial

I saw these oragami stars on the Zen Crafting site (via Craftzine), and was immediately set on adding them to my oragami Christmas decorations. Unfortunately, I could find no tutorial. But instead of giving up, I persevered, devoting a good chunk of time to fiddling around with oragami paper, and finally got the process figured out. Turns out they're so very easy to make, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for a first tutorial from yours truly. Try it out!

You will need 5 pieces of oragami paper. Any size will do.

Fold each paper in half and then into quarters.

Now fold each into eighths, by folding down the open corner diagonally.

You should end up with 5 triangles.

Open one of the open corners, and slip the open corner of another piece inside. The two pieces will now share a fold. This step isn't as complicated as it might sound -- just fiddle around with the papers for a while until you get something that looks like the picture below.

Keep adding pieces in this way. When you get to the fifth piece, insert the open corners of the first piece into the open corners of the fifth to close up the star. You can add a dab of glue to the open corners to keep them from flapping around.