Sunday, May 31, 2009

Healthy Yards Event

Last week, I attended the Richmond Hill Healthy Yards Event where I got to pick up a Small Native Tree & Plant Kit. I was quite excited because for less than $25, I received a Kit consisting of an edible Black Raspberry Bush, a Red Dogwood Bush and assorted native wild flowers. Just like last year's event, there was a spot where you can pick up all the free mulch you can take back with you, as long as you bring your own shovel and containers. There were gardening experts on hand if you needed any gardening advice. There was even a Games booth where you can play assorted nature games.

Last year, I was initially disappointed that I had placed my order too late to receive a Small Plant Kit, but I decided to attend the Event anyways. It was a good thing too because I ended up playing a game where you had to match up pictures of leaves to pictures of the trees they came from in order to win a prize. I managed to match up all the leaves to all the trees correctly and I won myself a great prize! I was so ecstatic because I ended up winning the White Birch Tree that I had wanted to order. I was so very lucky that I won the White Birch because it wasn't even available on the order list this year.

This year, Dick helped me plant the bushes in our backyard while I transplanted the native flowers into my front garden. After several weeks of growing veggies and herbs from seed and transplanting them into our backyard, I think my garden is finally complete. I just need to see whether any of the flowers will bloom and if there'll be any goodies to harvest later on in the season. Stay tuned.

Here I am sitting in an Industrial Plough with my Native Plant Kit

A lotta folks helping themselves to the free mulch. Some brought garbage bags while others brought garbage bins or blue bins to fill'er up. There was even one guy who filled up the entire back of his pick-up truck. He must own a farm or something.
Here are the garden experts giving out some gardening advice to novice gardeners

Here's the Games booth where I won a prize last year

Here's the Red Osier Dogwood bush. It's suppose to bear tiny white flower clusters and white berries in the Spring and Summer. I may have to wait til next year to see that. The leaves will turn a maroon red in the fall and the branches will remain red, making for an attractive winter plant against a snowy backdrop.

This is the Black Raspberry Bush. I can see buds forming already. I hope we'll get some raspberries later this year!

Here are some Blue Vervain (the 2 largest plants), Showy Tick-Trefoil (the 2 small plants on the left, and some Harebell, the small plants on the right. Because these are all plants native to this region, they should grow very easily here.

According to the Fact Sheet I got with the kit, the Blue Vervain plant will produce beautiful electric blue flowers on the candelabra shaped flower head every year from July to September. The Showy Tick-Trefoil will produce magenta flowers in mid-summer and will attract butterflies and other pollinators. The Harebell is the classic bluebell flower that looks delicate but is a very hardy plant that tolerates drought very well, blooming from July to October. Now, that's my kind of plant. It won't readily die on me even if I forget to water it, has a long flowering season and has flowers in my favourite hues - blue and purple.

Here are some Ox-eye Sunflower (top), Spotted Joe Pye Weed (middle and some Dense Blazing Star (bottom).

The Ox-eye (false) Sunflower is an easy to grow butterfly plant. It's a tall plant producing sunny yellow flowers. It won't be my favourite, but I threw it into the garden anyways.

The Spotted Joe Pye Weed is another tall butterfly plant with clusters of magenta flowers.

The Dense Blazing Star is also a butterfly plant with spiky purple flowers. I like the colour but I'm not sure I like the shape. Looks like I may have a Butterfly Garden forming soon.

This one is a Wild Bergamot. This is Dick's favourite of the lot because it produces the scent of Earl Grey Tea. He loves that scent. I like it too because it is generally an undemanding plant and will produce showy lavender flowers in its second year.

These are the plants I didn't get around to transplanting. They are just a bunch of Prairie Ornamental grasses and some more yellow flowers. I may have to give these away or Dick might find a spot for them seeing as how he likes yellow flowers and grass more than I do.

Here's the White Birch tree I won a year ago. It was a short little thing back then.

This year, it has grown as tall as me. No white bark yet. In fact, it is not advisable to remove the bark from the tree until the diameter of the tree trunk is at least 6 inches. Even then, this can damage the tree unless it is harvested carefully and at the right time of the season, that being between mid-June to early July. So it looks like it will be a good long time before I can get my hands on any home-grown birch paper to use for my paper crafts.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Celebrating a 90th Birthday

We celebrated my dad's 90th Birthday today. Because my dad has trouble moving around, it wasn't possible to have the celebration at a Chinese Restaurant. Instead, our family gathered together to have a Chinese Banquet catered in at a Party Room of the Seniors' Home. I liked it because it was uncomplicated and still very festive and it was nice to see the Fong Clan all gathered together again.

Here are some select pictures to commemorate the day.

Mom & Dad

My sister Cathy's family and my family (Both Setos, by marriage)

My oldest sister and her family

My second oldest sister and her family

My oldest brother's 2 daughters, son-in-law and mother-in-law

My third oldest sister and her family

My family

Some of the seven siblings and some of the spouses and a cousin

Two of the Great-Grandchildren helping to blow out the candles

Here's the Pop-up Card I made for my Dad's 90th birthday

... all our names are signed in chinese characters

I also made a Mother's Day Card for my Mom

It's another Pop up card filled with "Spring" Flowers. The flowers are attached to paper springs for a fun interactive card. Boing, boing, boing.....

I thought the 3 flowers were too lonely, so I attached a few more for extra fun!!!!!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pop-Up Cards

I just found another distraction to pre-occupy my time. Making Pop-up Cards!

It all started because Connie, our summer student returned to the workplace. I was quite excited to see Connie back because she is an amazing worker. I can give her a pile of work and she'll complete it in less than half the time expected and she's always eager to do more. The other thing great about Connie is her love of card making and cartooning. You can check out one of her artwork here. She's delighted a lot of people with many of her offerings like Birthday Cards, Christmas Cards and even cute little personalized Chinese Takeout baskets containing candy treats on her last day of work last summer. So of course, I wanted to return the favour by creating a Card made especially for Connie.

Anyways, I was always fascinated by Pop-up Art. I can spend hours browsing the Kids Book section admiring all the pop-up and peek-a-boo illustrations and pictures which can slide in and out in the kiddie books. They make reading so much more fun. So, here are my first three attempts at making Pop-Up Cards. They are not as polished or professionally looking as the Hallmark Cards, but they are all unique and can be personalized!

Here's Connie's "Welcome Back" Card

... which opens out into a Birthday card. It's a "Welcome Back/Birthday" Combo Card. I have to give some credit to my son, Derek, who showed me how to properly fold the nose part to make it stick out the right way. If you close and open the card, it looks like the Beaver is talking.

Here's a Mother's Day Card I made for my Mommy-in-law.

I goofed already because I forgot to cut out a connecting section on the top part of the Orchid Plant to make it stay in place. Fortunately, my hubby, Dick made a really good suggestion. Can you see the pink spring-like paper tab I stuck to the back of one of the flowers?

Here's a Birthday Card I made for my Dad.

I don't know what Dick was thinking of, but this is not a "Happy Goth" card, it's a "Happy 90th" Birthday Card. I sort of messed up this card a bit too with some smudges. But again, Dick came up with another helpful suggestion. He said I should draw a couple of pandas waving around some bamboo to cover up those smudges. That was a great idea and it really added more cuteness to the card.

Yes, I had to cover up another smudge on the back of the card with another panda waving bye-bye.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Two for the Price of One

I was browsing the internet recently and stumbled upon a Craft site with a pattern for sewing a Peasant Blouse. I remembered I had sewn one of those back in my high school days and I absolutely loved it. It was one of my most favourite blouses but ever since I moved out of my childhood home, I forgot all about it until a couple of years ago when I longed to make another just like it.

As luck would have it, I found this pattern for free on the internet. My next step was to find the right fabric. Since I haven't had the opportunity to browse freely in a fabric shop, I decided to raid my closet to see what old fabric I could reuse. So here it is, a hand-me-down dress that I never did wear. It's an April Cornell dress too. I like the style but I didn't like the length as the hemline fell right around the mid-calf for me. I prefer dresses to be either just a little bit above the knees or right around the ankles.

So I decided to take a chance and try to make two outfits out of one by cutting the dress in half. The top half was easy. I just had to re-hem it and I easily made my self a cute little blouse. That left me with the bottom half to fashion myself a peasant blouse. Can I do it? Well, I gave it a shot and even though it was a bit of a tight fit, I managed to do it. It didn't even take that long as it only took me half the day to complete both blouses. Two for the Price of One! Actually, since it was a hand-me-down, I really got Two for the Price of Free!

For anyone interested in making their own Peasant Blouse, please click here.

Have fun!

After strategically cutting apart the bottom half of the dress, I came up with this design. There was even a small strip and a bunch of buttons left over for some other future project(s).

Here are my 2 finished projects.

My April Cornell Dress just became a Short little blouse. I'm pretty sure I will wear it more as a blouse rather than as a mid-length dress.

And here's my tight fitting Peasant Blouse. Now that I experimented with the pattern, I'm going to make my next one a looser fitting one.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Coconut Bun or Chicken Bum Bun?

Here's a map of China. As you can see, China is a very large country with many regions. So you can imagine how diverse China's population can be. With the exception of regions like Tibet and Mongolia, I was always under the impression that most Chinese people either spoke Mandarin, Cantonese and other assorted local Chinese village dialects. Besides local food specialties, climate and topography, I figured that was the extent of Chinese diversity. Boy was I surprised when I recently learned how truly diverse China really is.

For some reason, I thought that people in Southern China spoke Cantonese and people in Northern China spoke Mandarin. I myself am of Cantonese descent as both my parents came from Hoiping, a village in the Province of Guanding (Canton). So when I befriended 2 people from China whose first lanquage was Mandarin, I just naturally assumed they were both from Northern China. I was somewhat right since one of them hails from Liaoning (the brown province located at the head of the Chicken) and the other came from Fujian (the green province located at the belly of the Chicken), just north of Guandong, my ancestral home. The Map of China has often been referred to as a Chicken.

Here's the part which surprised me. I had asked the girl from Fujian to go out for "Yum Cha" one day and this reminded her of a funny story about "Yum Cha". She said that when her family first came to Canada, her mother's friend invited them to go "Yum Cha". Her mother thought "Yum Cha" meant to simply "Drink Tea" which is what "Yum Cha" literally translates to. They are thinking what's so special about drinking tea? It sounded rather boring, so they kept politely declining the invitation. But the family friend persisted and finally they relented and they went out to "Yum Cha" for the first time. And this was when they learned that "Yum Cha" wasn't just "Drinking Tea". It was more like a brunch where you drank tea while enjoying "Dim Sum". "Dim Sum" literally means "Touch Heart" but really means assorted yummy little light dishes served alongside tea, to be shared with friends and loved ones. Now they love going to "Yum Cha".

Here I'm thinking every Chinese person would know what "Yum Cha" and "Dim Sum" was but it turns out that this is purley a Cantonese tradition. Even the girl from Liaoning did not know what the Dining Experience of "Yum Cha" or "Dim Sum" was when she first came to Canada.

Here's another funnier story. I had asked the girl from Fujian if she likes Guy Mei Bou, a cantonese word for Coconut Bun, and she made a face saying she couldn't eat something like that. So, I'm thinking, which person, Chinese or otherwise, doesn't like Guy Mei Bou (Coconut Bun)? She told me that she can't eat chicken bums. I started laughing so hard because now I have this image of a bun stuffed with chicken bums inside. She told me seriously, she couldn't eat chicken bums. I had to explain to her that Guy Mei Bou was really a Sweet Coconut Bun which resembles a Chicken Tail, not a Chicken Bum. At least that's why I think it's named that way. I had to show her what it looked like and believe me, it took quite a bit of convincing before I could get her to take a bite out of it. Yes, the girl from Liaoning thought the same thing too.

Can you believe that these people who lived in the same country for up until their teen years, (even the one from Fujian which just borders Guandong on the North side) didn't know of these foods until they left their homeland and only found out about them when they were on foreign turf? Maybe if they came from the tail end of China, they might have known what a Guy Mei Bou is. Nahhhhh....

Here's a Guy Mei Bou (Chicken Bum Bun) or Sweet Coconut Bun. Does it look like a Chicken Tail?

Here's a five-pack. (A plate of Chicken Tail Feathers)