Friday, February 26, 2016

Local Inspiration

I belong to a Rotary club and unlike many of the public misconceptions about Rotary being a bit stuffy, my club, the Rotary Club of Wallsend-Maryland is lots of fun and its members are great - generous community-minded people with hearts of gold and  tremendous senses of humour.
Christmas 2015 meeting 
 However, we do have a serious side, and some of our projects are based in the local community - graffiti removal, supporting the homeless and needy, the local school's gifted and talented students' program and supporting local charities and other volunteer groups with catering for fundraising.
Some of the catering team  enjoying a break.... 
(We also have other projects we support which are district, national and international) 

This week we celebrated the 111th birthday of Rotary International but at a local level.  Being a club which enjoys any excuse for a celebration, we are having a whole month of bringing our Rotary club into the community. On Tuesday morning, we had a birthday cake - not unusual for a birthday celebration, but this was with breakfast and at a meeting where we all learnt that you are never too old or decrepit to exercise, even at age 111! Birthday cake, and exercises with beach balls, ribbons on sticks, bean bags and swimming pool noodles, and lots of laughing - that just about sums up a Rotary meeting for our club!

Our birthday celebrations continue with a colourful display at the Wallsend Regional Library about Rotary in general and what our club does.
Library display 
 Last night, my club hosted the Community Awards which recognizes the achievements of other volunteers who make our community a better place in which to live, work and play. There were sixteen amazing recipients of these awards and each one of them has a story which is inspirational. Congratulations to all of you!  I nominated a very special young woman, Sarah, who in three years  has raised over $66,000  locally for the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, after suffering her own personal tragedy of losing her husband to this disease and is also a volunteer with SIDS and KIDS after losing a baby at 32 weeks. I think Sarah epitomises our club's  mantra  " ordinary people achieving extraordinary things " .... and while I would never take for granted the wonderful work which Sarah does, there are so many "Sarahs" in our community who are, in their own quiet ways, going about supporting and helping others and we don't even know about them. If you know them, please say "thank you".
Sarah (on the right) with her friend another recipient, Kim 
It was also wonderful to see my friend, Wendy (a Rotarian from another club)  receive an award for  putting her creative talent for dressmaking to support others in the community, Wendy is always at the Hunter Homeless Day mending and altering clothes, and she makes tiny baby clothes for Angel Gowns for stillborn infants, reusable sanitary hygiene items for Days for Girls,  and  "dressy" clothes for Dress for Success, especially for  homeless  and underprivileged women seeking employment or for appearing in court.
Not all the recipients were individuals. It was great to see a local business, Local Hearing Aid Specialists recognised for their exceptional service and care of their clients , but also for their compassion, empathy and  friendship. Great to hear in these days of  commercialised health care! 
And there's more.... as a final part of the celebration of "Rotary - Serving the Community" , our club will be hosting a free Community Breakfast at the Rotunda in Wallsend  (NSW, Australia) on 15 March at 7.15am. Join us for a fun- filled morning.  Invitations will soon be in your letterboxes if you live in the Wallsend area. If you would like  an invitation, please contact a member, or  message via our Facebook page  
Happy Birthday, Rotary International and keep celebrating, Rotary Club of Wallsend-Maryland! 

Friday, February 12, 2016

More 29 Faces : Worldly Women

Martha from Ayala Art is the creative artist behind the 29 Faces Challenge and this was her message at the beginning of the month." Can you believe we have come full circle to the last leap year? 29 faces is 4 years old!! yaay! I have met so many wonderful artists, and so many people finding out and discovering that practising every day for a full month, even the smallest of months! They can grow so much better as artists! Thanks for participating and making faces with me ♥. " .... 
I am not sure that I am becoming better as an artist, but I am thoroughly enjoying researching the noteworthy women I am drawing inspiration from .... These are all pen and pencil sketches done on used tea bags. 

Day 5 : Marie Curie, French physicist and chemist, first female Nobel Prize winner. 

Days 6-8 : Mother Teresa, Human rights worker  and Nobel Prize Winner; Sojourner Truth, African-American abolitionist and human rights worker; Jane Austen , English novelist and social commentator 
Day 9-11 Susan B Anthony, American social reformer and feminist; Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani female education activist; Germaine Greer ( as a younger person) , Australian feminist and activist 
Day 12 & 13 : Sister Elizabeth Kenny, Promoter of unconventional approach to the treatment of polio; Coco Chanel, French  fashion designer and innovator. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

How to Celebrate the Year of the Monkey

Happy Chinese New Year! 

Gong xi fai cai!
Kung hei fat choy! 
Welcome, Year of the Fire Monkey. Like Korean Seollal​, Vietnamese Tet, Mongolian Tsagaan Sarand Tibetan Losar​, Chinese New Year  in the northern hemisphere farewells winter and the year gone by and rings in spring and the fresh year. Making wishes for luck, prosperity and good fortune and warding off evil spirits are central to many celebrations, which vary across China and Lunar New Year cultures.  Many of my friends ask me how they can celebrate the New Year... I usually say, lots of delicious food with family and friends .... but there are some little customs which I follow - not sure whether they are just things I remember from my childhood or things I have read about or heard from others. 

Things to do for Chinese New Year: 
1. Clean  your house before New Year's Day - symbolic of cleaning away any misfortune, and preparing for the good fortune of the new year. 
2. Give lucky red packets filled with money to children. These are called hong bao /lai see

3. Decorate with red lanterns, and Chinese sayings ( usually gold writing on red paper) at the front door.

4. As mentioned before, prepare special New Year food - we love all sorts of dumplings, red bean cakes, fortune cookies, red pork buns, noodles, lettuce cups with meat, noodles, spring rolls, fish and  chicken - well, any sort of good food, really. However, some foods are symbolic for good fortune and good health  : spring rolls represent gold bars; the Chinese word for 'carp" (fish) sounds like good fortune; dumplings shaped like old Chinese currency; noodles for long life; lettuce to signify new life; 
5. Wear the colour "red" and it is also said to be good luck if you wear new red clothes!
6. Stay up to welcome in the New Year, and make lots of noise ( firecrackers)  to frighten away any bad spirits. 
While these are a few things recommended for good fortune, there are consequently practices  to avoid. 
 Things to Avoid for Chinese New Year. 
1. Cleaning/sweeping/vacuuming - you do not want to sweep away the good fortune which arrives with the New Year. 
2. Similarly, washing clothes and hair. The first two days of the New Year are dedicated to the Water God, and also the character for hair has a similar pronunciation for becoming wealthy, so you do not want to wash away your wealth. 
3. Clothes that need mending - clothes in disrepair should not been worn during the New Year 
4. Rice porridge  - especially not for breakfast on New Year's Day. Just as with new clothes, you should start the year off as you would like it to continue. Rice porridge or congee is considered poor person's food, so should be avoided during New Year, even if you love it, like me! 
5. Debts. All debts should be paid before the New Year. 
6. Breakages . Try not to break household items during the New Year as this could be a negative omen for the rest of the year. 

If you really want to know about some more dos and don'ts ...
Today, the Sydney Morning Herald published an interesting article including a  list of dos and don't s for the Chinese New Year.... Here's the link 
While I follow a few of the customs when they suit me ( like the one about not cleaning or washing!), I think the best "dos for Chinese New Year are
-  to have fun by joining in some festivities in your own town... 
We will be participating in the Lantern walk here in Newcastle

- cook and share your favourite food ... home made is best! 

- spend time with your family , even if at times, they are a little crazy! 



Thursday, February 4, 2016

29 Faces 1-4

What is 29 Faces? 29 faces was originally created in 2012 to celebrate the leap year with art, 29 faces in 29 days in February. It was so much fun, we had to do it 3 more times though the year! We start the 1st of the month, and it's all about a face. Any medium, surface, size and techniques are welcome. Canvas, paper, wood, digital, journals, mixed media, acrylics, oils, pastels, clay, rocks.... you name it!

I have done the challenge before and always enjoyed this challenge and the discipline of completing some art each day.It took me a day or two to decide a direction for this month... Inspired by the amazing tea bag art of Ruby Silvious ( who created art on tea bag for 365 days!)   and with International Women's Day soon on 8 March, I decided to do a tea bag art series inspired by famous women "who have made a difference". I have called this series of sketches "Worldly Women" and each is a quick felt tip pen drawing, coloured with pencils and paint. I may add some stitching later.  I am not trying to do exact copies of the portraits of these women as I don't have that level of skill, but I hope they are reasonable interpretations. Here are the first four .... 
1 February - Empress Wu Zetian , Tang Dynasty China

2 February - Queen Victoria/Empress of India , 19th Century , England 

3 February - Nefertiti, Ancient Egypt 

Eleanor of Aquitane, 12th Century, France 
Here is a link to one of my  previous blog posts about 29 Faces. 
29 Faces, 2013 - art tags by Wilma Simmons