Thursday, 28 February 2013

Day 367-368- First "Inside"

This is what I remembered. 

Two rooms, one of them with a beautiful mosaic flooring. 
Eastern European in design.
Ewalina, the name that popped into my head when I saw this.

A casement window that opened to the inside.
Bare dirty floor.
A beautiful wallpaper.

But it was that first room that I remembered better.

Because of the painting on the wall.

A Persian influenced wall mural. Painted using the traditional method. 

I had to leave for Taiwan almost straight after that but I remember thinking as I stared at the wall mural that day: I wish I could show this to Betsy.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Days 369-376 Taiwan With Mum & Dad

Street Performers - National Center For Traditional Arts, Luodong, 

The routine started about 5 months ago when Mum, Dad and I would spend close to an hour almost every working mornings together. Dad would drive us to somewhere for breakfast before sending me off to work at my new office building. It was on one of those mornings when I suggested that we should travel together. Just the three of us. For the 1st time.

Traditional Performance Arts- This is a one man act of an old dancing couple

This trip was very different from all my others. For one, my parents can no longer walk or climb very much. They also have dietary restrictions. I had to plan the trip down to its last detail, bus, train, where, what and everything in Mandarin because most cab drivers in Taiwan do not speak English. My dad's Mandarin is spattering at best and Mum can barely read. It was nothing like my 1st trip to Taiwan taken 4 years ago when the only thing I had to worry about was how to get to the Miniature Museum of Taiwan. 

Homestay in Yilan that reminded me of Europe

Taking into considerations all the above factors, I decided we should do a leisurely tour of small towns in the outskirts of Taipei. I picked charming places to stay, hopefully close to the cultural centers or museums.

A tool shed that is 1:48 in scale for human- Yilan homestay

Quite clearly, some of my choices were influenced by my passion for miniatures and everything dollhouse. 

Hotel in Wulai for hot spings- bowls for performance  

I also decided that we should all treat ourselves to a spa-liday and booked a crazy expensive hotel in Wulai for some hot spring baths and spa massages.

Jing Shan Restaurant- Luodong

Food was to be nothing like the weird and wonderful we had during my 1st trip. Dining was to be experienced slowly, luxuriously, like spoilt royalty; so I picked restaurants that had the words culinary art in their names.

There was to be no menus because every course was decided by the master chef. Each dish designed and presented like a work of art with correspondingly exquisite cutlery.

Even toothpicks were to be served in a little embroidered shoe for children. 

And there was poetry on the wall. No, I mean, real poetry. In this restaurant I picked, they were flashing famous Chinese poems with a projector on an empty wall to soothing Chinese world music. Eating, was what you would call, a total experience.

Temple at National Center for Traditional Arts

Of course, with old folks, there are some traditional things you will want to do in Taiwan. Prayers at a temple is a must.

 Shop selling wooden postcards

Then there are the touristy stuff like sending off a wooden postcard to loved ones from an old railway postbox.

Wooden cards with wishes-temple at National Center of Traditional Arts

Bamboo of wishes hanging on trees 

And making wishes, hoping for blessings. There are opportunities aplenty in Taiwan to be seized.

Paper Lanterns sold at shops next to railway lines

My choice was to travel the old way by the slow train to this really quaint small town where we can write our wishes on paper lanterns and fly them off on railway tracks moments before the trains arrive.

Paper lanterns flying into the sky

This is what you do:  First, pick a shop amongst 10s of them.  Then pick a lantern with the right colour/s (red for wealth, blue for health, green for good results and so on) and if you can't pick just one colour, you can opt for 4 of them in 1 lantern.  After you finally find that 1 lantern out of 1000s, you write very fervently in very bad Mandarin (by me) and scribbled English (my dad) all the wishes you can squeeze into the 4 sides of the lantern. 

And then you watch it fly. 

Ours was a sight to behold. It flew high and straight, comforting us with optimism that our future and that of our loved ones will be bright; everyone lives forever, rich and happy; with scholars for children who will never break our hearts. 

Craze in Taiwan or fashion nightmare?

So how did the trip end? Well, I can remember some funny moments.

8th course - Fish with exploded stomachs

Like how after the 7th course at the fine dining restaurant on our 1st night, we thought we were beginning to feel and look like our food.

Or how my dad fell asleep before a performance at the expensive spa-liday resort and snored louder than the music played with a spoon and bowls. Then there are the massages that made us nauseous. 

We also waited for 8 hours for a train back from Shifen where we flew the lanterns and I had to race like a hunting dog to the luggage room about 10 minutes after 8 pm because they were supposed to close by 8.

Of course, there was the food poisoning all of us suffered at different points of the trip. I will not ever forget my bout when I spent 2 days in the hotel without stepping out of bed except to run to the loo. It was so bad that I couldn't watch food even if it was on TV without feeling sick. 

But the good outweighed the bad. 

All that running to the loo helped me lose the calories I gained from way too much fine dining the 1st day.  We also avoided famous street fried food and ate way lesser in the last few days before we got home. 

Although the hot spring air in Wulai did not suit us, I will never forget the beautiful outdoor bath house where I bathed for the 1st time with  women I have never met.

And the wonderful  train rides and how one of our 2 best meals was just a simple bento rice with pork cutlet we bought for S$2 on a train. 

That 8 hour delay in Shifen? It meant I could witness lanterns being flown at night and it was magical. 

Most importantly, we have those shared moments of having travelled together. Suffering, enjoying, cursing, laughing, as a family. Now that is priceless.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Day 377-Celebrating 365

On Day 365 when I was bashing the sunflowers and dreaming Van Gogh, I was also reflecting on how far I have come. It has been 365 days worth of making, writing, travelling, museums, books and buying; all relating to miniatures. 

Of those days that I blogged about, 200 of them were about making minis. If that translates to about 1000 hours, averaging 5 hours each working day, that means I have 9 more years worth of making before I can master my craft. The sunflowers I made on that day are far from great but give me another 9000 hours, I promise you, I will get there. 

For the rest of the 365 days, I blogged a little about the countries I went to, sometimes about minis I love but mainly, they were about the friendships. The amazing, giving, beautiful relationships I have with many of you through this blog, all because I fell in love with dolls' houses that December in 2008 and decided to write about it.

Today I have 439 of you whom I have met, yet to meet or never met but who nonetheless thought my blog interesting enough and I am grateful. 

How may I celebrate my 365 with you? Can I offer you something of that day? If you wish, I will like to send you the basic sunflower kit consisting of 3 of the flowers and 3 stalks of leaves made by the Thai artisans so that you can cut and paste your own Van Gogh. It will be really fun for me to see your versions which I have no doubt will far exceed mine, in terms of artistry, beauty and craftsmanship. Some of you  may wish for my dirty or messy versions because, I don't know, you are nuts? It will nonetheless be my pleasure to make them for you but I have a tendency to take a really long time. 

So if you have been or has become a friend on my blog, silently visiting or always leaving something here to make me smile, let me know in the comment box if you will like either option. My humble gifts are going to as many of you as the number of flowers I have now. 

You know you will still make my day if all you want to do with your comments is to sing me praises or tell me a funny story or just to say I was here.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Day 365- Cut and Paste Van Gogh

I have never made a flower from scratch. To all my friends who do, you have my utmost respect because I know how much work a single stalk of flower entails. Most of the flowers I use are made by Thai artisans. Like these sunflowers, for instance. I remember not liking them very much but I bought them anyway because at one time, sunflowers were my absolute favourite flowers. 

I finally took them out to use at the end of last year. I still didn't like the original version so with a pair of scissors, I started to trim the petals by 2, then 3 and at times 4. I was thinking Van Gogh, of course, and audaciously, I wanted my flowers to be just as unwieldy , in disarray and definitely wilting. After trimming, I coloured the edges with a very watery brown acrylic and then I glued leaves on the stalk. 

When I first saw these flowers, I thought they were too big and not for 1:12 scale. The diameter of each flower is about  5/8" and about 2.5" tall. That means a flower of this size should measure about 7" in diameter and 2.5 feet in height in real life. After some research, I realise to my surprise that I was wrong.

Sunflowers are in fact huge plants. Giant sunflowers can grow to over 10 feet and the tallest was recorded to be 20 m. Regular ones grow up to 6-10 ft and what they call miniature ones, which are popular here in Asia, are usually 2-4 ft. It looks like these flowers can be used in 1:12 for the miniature version, 1:24 for regular and 1:48 for the giants.

I started making these flowers on the 30th and by the time these pictures were taken, it was in the wee hours of New Year's Eve. It was a lot of cutting and pasting and my mind started to drift to all things Van Gogh. I even remembered this movie I saw called "Mona Lisa Smile" where one of the lessons the art teacher gave was about how everyone can be Van Gogh because his work now comes in a box, paint by numbers Sunflowers! That was when I thought what I was doing must be the cut and paste version. 

One can dream,right? 

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Chinese New Year

In about an hour, Singapore will be celebrating Chinese New Year 2013. This is the most important festival for the Chinese and Day 1 and Day 2 are both public holidays here. As Chinese New Year falls on a Sunday this year, Day 3 is also declared a public holiday. That means more mini time for me. Happiness!  

The Chinese character on the red packet means snake, painted in gold because this is the year of the Golden Snake. 

Tomorrow when I visit my relatives, I will be bearing some mandarin oranges or tangerines and red packets to give away. It is a tradition to bring tangerines because in Mandarin, 桔 also rhymes with 吉which means auspicious.

And we wear red for the same reason. That's my brother's family with Nat. Only reds were allowed in this picture.

Chinese New Year's Eve however has been the more important day for us since about 13 years ago  because on this day, everyone gathers at my parents' home for our reunion meal. This is Xan helping to prepare our lunch.

As my brother-in-law is a Malaysian, this is also the day Shir and her family drive home to Yongpeng, Malaysia to be with her in-laws to celebrate the new year with them.

Right after lunch, we usually prepare ourselves for a pretty elaborate ceremony to honour and give thanks to our parents and elders. We wish them a good year, good health and good fortune. Our nieces and nephews have also been trained to wish for us, their aunts, good looks. In return, the elders hand red packets to their children and grandchildren for good luck. 

I say an elaborate ceremony because preceding all that wishing is a skit that the children and grandchildren will have to put up. This is our way of welcoming the new year with laughter. This year's skit revolved around snakes of course. The story is about 2 snakes (guess who) who had become quite a nuisance to the village. In order to tame the snakes, 2 beautiful fairies were summoned to catch these snakes and make them repent.

Here are the 2 fairies, Tasha and Qesha with their equally beautiful make-up artists, SuZ and Shir. I was tasked with inventing the story, which usually is quite lacking in substance. It is often the make up and the acting that will be the more important elements of the skit.

That was the narrator directing the snakes.The 2 snakes were tasked with three things to do before they could be pardoned. 1st, they had to find 2 oranges, then they had to find the 2 most generous, wonderful and beautiful elders and then wish them. This they did and everyone lives happily ever after. 

Happy Chinese New Year, everyone.
May we all have a glorious, golden year with
good health, good fortune, good luck and of course, good looks! 

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Day 359-360- Suitcase Garden For Rosanna

Sometimes when you think you know a person well, you make certain assumptions about her likes and dislikes that may turn out to be quite wrong. 

Not only is she a dear friend, I dare say I am also quite familiar with Rosanna's work, maybe even her style when it comes to miniatures. Precisely because I thought I was familiar, I didn't think my rusty suitcase gardens would fit with her projects or that she even liked rusty. I therefore didn't plan to make her one. It was only when we met in Europe last year that she told me she had always wanted one of my gardens. I was surprised and of course, very flattered. 

As you can see, I am still not convinced she likes rusty that much because I made her a retro flower power   luggage. It's still dirty though but it is not so rusty. 

I used roses as the theme because Ro loves roses. This garden was also meant for the roof top in the massive project she's building now, her La Casa Rossa which means The Red House. Rossa also is just an "s" away from rosa, which means rose. 

I understand that there will be a little cafe on the ground floor of La Casa Rossa. I imagine if Ro is running her cafe, she will want fresh flowers on each table of that cafe as often as possible.

Every few days, Ro will bring up a tray of old teapots which she now recycles as vases to her gazebo at the rooftop for a fresh supply of flowers.

She will walk up to wherever the suitcase garden is and carefully place that tray on the side of the suitcase and she will pick her flowers. 

Perhaps my suitcase garden has some use for her project after all? 
I hope so. 

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