Monday, January 30, 2017

Lunar New Year Numbers

Happy New Year  - I am sure you haven't missed the beginning of the  Lunar Year  - 2017 , the Year of the Rooster , in fact the Fire Rooster. I have in the past written many articles about celebrating the Chinese or Lunar New Year  in this blog - Year of the Monkey, Year of the Sheep/Goat, Year of the Snake, Year of the Dragon, Year of the Tiger.
 I have often discussed lucky foods, family activities, the Do's and Don'ts of New Year celebrations and traditions. However, this year, how about some numbers? 

The  official number of  public holidays for the New year Festival  although many workers have 7 days leave. 
8  is considered to be a lucky Chinese number. Besides all of the other delicious foods created for the New Year celebration, it is customary to offer friends who visit during the two week period, a 'tray of togetherness' - a  snack platter. This platter has 8 separate divisions with 8 sweet and savoury snack foods chosen especially for their symbolism .  

10  The Rooster is number 10 of the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals ... 
12  The animals are in order - Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep/Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.  People born in a specific year are said to have unique personality traits associated with the animal of the year. For example, if this is your year , "Roosters are always active, amusing, and popular within a crowd. Roosters are talkative, outspoken, frank, open, honest, and loyal individuals. They like to be the centre of attention and always appear attractive and beautiful.
Roosters are happiest when they are surrounded by others, whether at a party or just a social gathering. They enjoy the spotlight and will exhibit their charm on any occasion.
Roosters expect others to listen to them while they speak, and can become agitated if they don't. Vain and boastful, Roosters like to brag about themselves and their accomplishments."

15 The fifteenth day after the New Year  marks the first full moon of the year and is known as Lantern Day - another day of celebrating with family - lots of food including oranges and red lanterns. 
60  Fire Roosters will turn 60 this year. Here are some famous fire roosters who will have a significant birthday in 2017. -  Dawn French, Donny Osmond, Martin Luther King III, Stephen Fry, Hans Zimmer, Dolph Lundgren, and Jools Holland.
119  countries  host festivities to celebrate the Lunar New Year, as registered by the China Cultural Agency.  Interestingly both London and Sydney claim to have the largest Chinese New celebrations outside China. 


10 million messages were sent via WeChat ( Chinese messaging service ) in only two hours 10pm and midnight on New Year's Eve. 

814 million people watch the Chinese New Year Festival gala , a  government sponsored variety show on TV. 

3.6 billion ( 3.2 billion in 2014)   passenger trips ( approx 3 trips per Chinese citizen) are taken during the festival . This is called  chunyun , the world's largest mass holiday migration, as Chinese people pay respects by visiting their families .The breakdown of the  2-14 statistics show the numbers of trips via various means of transport. 

31 billion text messages were sent and received during last year's Lunar New Year Festival 
100 billion ( US$)  are spent on food and entertainment during the Lunar New Year Festival in China. 

And ... There are also countless millions of lucky red packets containing money  given during the festival to children, younger members of the family, and even by employers to their employees. 

 All these large numbers are too much to comprehend -  our own family celebration numbers are enough to cope with and enjoy! 


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Lilly Pilly

Today is Australia Day. I chose a photo of some Lilly Pilly berries as a celebratory image for this national day. Lilly Pilly is  a common name for a plant, Syzygium smithii which grows mostly in Eastern Australia, from the northern  rain forests of Queensland, throughout NSW to the southern Wilson's Promontory in Victoria. In New Zealand it is called "monkey apple, but other names used in Australia, besides lilly pilly, are Eungella Gum and Coast Satinash. The largest Lilly Pilly recorded was found in Dingo Creek Flora Reserve, near Tenterfield where I once lived.  The tree now growing in my garden was once a small seedling which I was gifted when I left Woolgoolga, a small coastal town in northern NSW. Its name  is said to come from the Aboriginal word 'weelgoolga' describing the lilly pilly which grows in profusion there.

It is probably no surprise that the lilly pilly berries are edible as bush tucker, and make a beautiful jam or jelly. I have even seen recipes for lilly pilly crumble, but possibly a popular choice for Australia Day might be Lilly Pilly Champagne . The recipe is on this site.
One of the Lilly Pilly varieties, Syzygium luehmannii, has more elongated and darker berries, and these have become a culinary favourite - riberries. 

The Lilly Pilly ( seen featured on an Australian Bush Tucker postage stamp series) has even been named a new  "super food". However, for thousands of years, Aboriginal people on the east coast, relied upon riberries as a core food source. The fruit was usually picked and gathered by women and children. While children thought of the berries as delicious sweet treats, adults commonly referred to them as “medicine berries”. Riberries provided essential vitamins and minerals to keep the immune system healthy and strong. The pulp was also used to treat ear infections. - See more at:

Lilly Pilly is also a character featured in the Australian  Snugglepot and Cuddlepie stories written by May Gibbs. The Gum Blossom, Lilly Pilly, is a famous actress and stars in her father, Mr Pilly’s, movies shown at the Lilly Pilly Picture Palace. She adopts Little Ragged Blossom and brings her to live in her home and be her little sister. ( from 
Lilly Pilly and Little Ragged Blossom from "The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie" 
You have probably guessed by now  that the Lilly Pilly, is one of my favourite plants in my garden, and I try to feature it whenever I can, even in my art. 
Lilly Pilly Art Tag from the series A-Z Australian Plants. - Wilma Simmons

Happy Australia Day! 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Clean Off Your Desk Day


The second Monday of January each year recognizes National Clean Off Your Desk Day.This day is an opportunity to begin your new year with a clean and organized workspace. Whether your desk is in a private or shared office, cubicle, home or a make-shift desk on the counter, having your workspace uncluttered, organized, refreshed and clean will help you work more efficiently and give you a sense of serenity. from

This is not easy when you have projects continually half finished on your desk - I am referring to myself. The photo above shows my "Winter" book still there on my desk, when today - we are in the middle of summer with soaring temperatures. Then, I haven't shown the other parts of my desk(s) with half finished dolls, tags in progress for Tag Tuesday, clothes waiting to be mended, half assembled kits for a workshop on Friday.and  that's the top layer! But my 2017 approach is to look for the positives, so I have cleaned off a "section" of my desk , just in time to start a new project tonight. I am reassured by the question posed by Albert Einstein .... 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Entomological Elements - Mixed Media Sculpture

Entomological Elements hung in Timeless Textiles Gallery. 
My latest big piece of work is "Entomological Elements" - let's call it EE ... It is a mixed media sculpture in response to the theme "Elements" for a current exhibition by the Newcastle Creative Embroiderers and Textile Artists. If you a regular reader of this blog or and Empress Wu Designs Facebook follower, you probably know that my thing is "stick dolls".... dolls made with sticks. EE is just an extension of those , with a piece of local driftwood as its base.

EE is also  a celebration of the natural elements depicted by insects from different parts of the world.
 EARTH- Common Black Ground Beetle (Pterostichus melanarius) - Europe/Eurasia
AIR - Blue Ulysses Butterfly (Papilio Ulysses) - Australia
WATER- Golden winged skimmer dragonfly (Libellula auripennis) - Central/North America
FIRE - Scarlet Fire Beetle (Pyrochroa coccinea)- Europe

Common Black Ground Beetle - close up : Wilma Simmons 
Blue Ulysses Butterfly - close up : Wilma Simmons 
Golden winged skimmer dragonfly - close up : Wilma Simmons 
Scarlet Fire Beetle- close up: Wilma Simmons 
Materials: Paper, paper clay, found driftwood and twigs, fabric, thread, wire, paint and sealant.

The head is sculpted from polymer clay and paper clay and twigs. As shown, I sculpted a fairly basic head in polymer clay and cured it before adding features and the twigs from the skull with paper clay. Once the whole piece was dry, it was then covered in cheesecloth ( or kitchen muslin) and painted with acrylic paint and attached to the drift wood. I prepared the driftwood, first by washing it, and then placing it in the freezer for about 48 hours (to get rid of any of the real bugs and beetles).
The beetles were made from foil armatures covered in fabric and bound with sewing and embroidery stranded cotton , with thread covered wire. The butterflies are machine stitched with wire as are the dragonflies although their bodies are a similar construction to the beetles.
The fabrics used are both commercial and hand dyed cottons

 “Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood. 
Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain.” 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year : Love the moment

The last time I wrote about New Year resolutions was in 2014 - in this post  . I still think that the five simple guidelines for happy living  is a wonderful way to reflect on behaviours for the year, and to continue every day of every year...

I hope, this year, we will all try to be kinder to one another, expect the positive and judge less.  I am not so serious about  resolutions  and how to achieve them. I am aiming for doing the best I can each day.... There are so many websites which discuss the behaviourist theories behind successful  New Year resolutions. According to these experts, my approach is far too vague and should be more specific  and realistic  so if I were to translate this into action - a random act of kindness at least once a week, wake up each morning thinking of one positive thing which could occur in my day, hold my tongue when a quick judgement looms - this sounds ok for me. However,  I think it's so reassuring that when really high fliers, the super successful  in global business corporations were asked about their New Year's resolutions  they did not mention career and financial success so much. They mostly responded along the lines of improving communication and empathy with others, for example the behaviours listed included, having the humility of seeing strengths in others; more 'face to face" communication - fewer emails;   mentoring of  young women and assisting the global refugee crisis.  from Business Insider . 2017 is looking great! 

Happy New Year - Relax and love the moment!