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Archive for January, 2012

Happy New Year! Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) is the most important holiday for the Chinese people. It is a season for celebration, food, visiting family and friends.

According to the traditional Chinese calendar, this is the year 4710.

As a child growing up in New York City where a few of my relatives from our village in Toy Shan ( a rural town in Guangdong Province) lived, the new year meant endless days of dinners and visits with relatives. Our laundry home was extra clean for the occasion. Plates or bowls of either oranges or tangerines were placed throughout our humble but spotless home . Tangerines are symbolic of good luck, and oranges represent wealth.

On New Year’s Eve my mom made a huge dinner—fish, chicken, seaweed soup, squid, abalone, roasted pig, vermicelli noodles, tofu, various vegetables, and of course rice. The meal had at least 12 to 15 dishes. Each dish was symbolic of the good wishes for the new year. The chicken had to be complete with head, neck, and feet to symbolize completeness. A form of noodles was server to symbolize long life. A whole fish was symbolic of never lacking, you’ll always have since the pronunciation for the word fish in Chinese sounds similar to the pronunciation of the word to have. Enough food was made for the new year’s eve dinner to make sure there would be leftovers, a symbol that you had an abundance of food.

One of the favorite foods for my sister and brothers was a sesame ball my mom and dad made during Chinese New Year. In my Cantonese dialect, Toy Shan, they are called  tee doy. Mom made these for the family and took them to the relatives during our new year’s visits.

I can remember my mom starting the process after the dinner dishes were washed the day before new year’s eve. She liked to make them undisturbed through the night. I can still remember the aroma of hot sweet potato and brown sugar wafting through the cold laundry air as she stirred the mixture over a two burner stove as we slept.

In the morning, we’d awaken to the smell of hot oil and the gentle sizzle of the tee doys cooking, our alarm clock. We were eager to taste these once a year treats.

Mom’s recipe changed through the years. When were children, the filling was crushed peanuts, sweetened shredded coconut, Chinese dried dates, and chunks of pork fat. Our job was to crush the peanuts with a glass bottle that served as our rolling pin. Eventually pork fat was given up for a healthier filling—freshly ground organic Valencia peanut butter and lotus seed paste.

The outer skin, made of glutinous rice flour and Chinese brown sugar, varied with the addition of sweet potato or no sweet potato depending upon its availability. Today I use as much sweet potato as the dough will allow me to increase the nutrition and fiber to these sweet golden jewels. When these are made right, the skin is crispy, thin on the outside and chewy on the inside. The filling is creamy and flavors the neutral glutinous rice flour skin. If crunchy peanut butter is used, there is an added surprise crunch as you chew.

To enhance your enjoyment of the Chinese New Year, may I suggest you complement the celebration with the viewing of my painting, Still Life with Tangerine, Ceramic Pot, and Grape.

新年快乐!(xin nian kuai le) Happy New Year!

Copyright 2009-2010 by Nurturing Wisdom

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I’ve been pondering about the source of creativity and what enhances its growth.

Creativity often feels like a river welling up within me. I only know the realness of this power when I’m practicing my craft, painting; but even more so when I haven’t painted for a while, when I’ve been without. I can’t go for too long without holding the implements of my craft. Just putting my brush to paint allows the flow of this spirited river. Some of my artists friends have felt this same energy when they cook a special meal, compose a song, write poem, paint a painting, perform a dance, play an instrument, or create a design. They too, have felt out of sorts and are about to burst, when they haven’t practiced their craft for a while.

I have had the tremendous honor of repeating this creative process over and over again as a painter. The times when I’ve been satisfied with what I’ve painted, I step back from my painting, look at it from different angles and say to myself, This is good.

I feel an intimate relationship with chefs, composers, writers, poets, painters, dancers, musicians, and designers who have shared their talents with me and others by allowing this river to flow through them. Whether I view a museum painting, experience fine dining, read a poem, examine the intricate details of a design, or listen to a symphony; I sometimes say to myself, This is good.  The art has taken my breath away. It has touched my spirit and lingers in my mind. I can’t forget it. I want to go back and experience it again and again. The art resonates within me, and I’m willing to purchase it. It lingers in my mind so much that I’m willing to pay a price for it. I say to myself, This is good.

My ponderings on the source of creativity have taken me back to the beginning:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… and God saw that it was good… . God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them… . God saw all that He had made, and  behold, it was very good… . (Genesis 1: 1, 25, 26, 31 NASB)

These verses show me a creative and intelligent God who has created me. Since I have been created in His image; I too, have this creativity. He is the source of my creativity. It’s really all His. I’ve also noticed the words used to describe God’s observation of His creation each time He completed a part of it, and God saw it was good; and the words of His final observation that punctuates His satisfaction and contentment, God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good when He completed His entire creation. I too, have found myself saying and thinking similar words about my art or the art of others, This is good.

My ponderings on the beginning from Genesis have led me to conclude that ever since the beginning, God hasn’t been able to take His eyes off of His creation, me… us. He lingers and stays with me… us. He just can’t take His eyes off of me… us; in fact, when Adam and Eve disobey God, He offered mankind redemption in His Son, Jesus. God as a loving, compassionate God who offers His Son as a substitute for our misdeeds—a pardon, freedom:

All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. (Isaiah 53:6 NASB)

When I align myself to God and submit to His plan, I’ve found the source of my creativity and the power that will enhance its grow.

God can’t take His eyes off of what He has created, you… and me. We linger in His mind so much that He was willing to pay a very high price for you… and me. In the same way a patron may pay for my art, God has paid for us, His masterpiece. We… I linger in His mind, and He was willing to pay a very high price for you… me, God saw all that He had made, and  behold, it was very good… . 

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