Teaching children Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging)

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The art of Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) is one of my favorite classes to teach- after all, who doesn’t love flowers? This is always a favorite activity for the kids to do. Their excitement about flowers (especially for the girls) is really fun to see. The beauty of ikebana is it’s personal expression of the individual, yet is created for all to see. They have their own idea about how it should look, what flowers to use, the placement of those flowers, how many/how little to use. It is a gift to see how much thought is given to each flower- the attention and intention when placing each. It brings many smiles and lots of happiness!

A great starter book is Ikebana: by Shoza Sato (enter here). The book has very simple instruction with color photographs, materials list and so on. There are other very beautifully illustrated books on ikebana, but start with the basics.

I bought floral foam from Joann’s and shallow aluminum baking pan from the 99 cent store. The flowers were purchased from Trader Joes and some even came from my own yard. I have authentic Japanese hasami (Ikebana scissors), and I purchased a class pack of scissors at our local school supply store. It really is that easy to get started. I gave each student their vessel (aluminum baking pan), floral foam and scissor. Then they each chose their flowers and added water to their vessel. I like to show them beforehand what to look for and keep in mind that balance, texture, color, contrast, movement and lines are all important. A great deal of thought goes into each. Once the demonstration was over they were free to make their own beautiful ikebana.

Modern Kanzashi Hair Ornament

kanzashi DIY

French clip style

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Kimi’s pretty kanzashi hair ornament

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alligator and french clip style

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bunny comb

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kanzashi and jewels

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detail of kanzashi

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Hannah’s lovely hair ornament

Today, we made beautiful tsumami kanzashi hair ornaments. This style (folded flowers)- are usually made out of silk.

Our version has a modern take on this traditional craft. We used a variety of card stock paper for the base- there are so many types to choose from. Next, we glued our card stock (I suggest making templates to use) and placed it carefully onto our alligator clip and french clip barrettes. Lastly, we chose kanzashi flowers and sparkly gems to glue on. We had so much fun making these hair ornaments. Each girl had so much fun with this craft for our Summer Camp. Many told me they can’t wait for next year! As a teacher, this makes me so very happy. :-)

Great Wave of Kanagawa Watercolor

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The Great Wave off Kanagawa

The Great Wave off Kanagawa is probably one of the most iconic pictures in Japanese Culture today. Produced between 1830-1833, Katsushika Hokusai was a very famous Ukiyo-e woodblock print artist in his time.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that Hokusai first started to paint at age 6. It was stated sometime years before his death (at age 89) that he once said:

“At the age of five years I had the habit of sketching things. At the age of fifty I had produced a large number of pictures, but for all that, none of them had any merit until the age of seventy. At seventy-three finally I learned something about the true nature of things, birds, animals, insects, fish, the grasses and the trees. So at the age of eighty years I will have made some progress, at ninety I will have penetrated the deepest significance of things, at a hundred I will make real wonders and at a hundred and ten, every point, every line, will have a life of its own.”

We had a great time re-imagining our own interpretation of The Great Wave. Many chose several shades of blue that really made each picture unique and special. Japanese arts and crafts are rarely taught outside of Japan. Even in today’s Japanese culture, arts and crafts are taught as a way to preserve and understand the past.

I believe it is a beautiful sentiment to carry on traditions of the past to future generations to learn and appreciate the beauty of it’s culture. I am so lucky to be able to share these wonderful arts with children.

Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens

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Love of Lotus Pavillion

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Beautiful Bonsai

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Natalie and Philip at the karesansui garden

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Tea Room

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Ladies dressed in kimono for Tea Ceremony

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Inside Japanese house- Love the bunny!

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I love everything about this picture- (except the guy standing on the other side )

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Lovely rose in the rose garden

Here are some pictures from our latest trip to the Huntington. On this particular visit,  there was a traditional tea (chado) ceremony. The picture of the women in kimono in tea house was a special capture. I wish I would have brought my larger lens, but I really love this picture!

Our family has been members of the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens for many years and we visit quite frequently. If you are a lover of plants, art, culture and beauty, this is the place to go. You could probably spend more than a day exploring, considering its massive size (120 acres to be exact) and more than a dozen different theme gardens to enjoy. The Japanese and Chinese are our favorite by far, but the tropical gardens and cactus gardens are special too. If you are a lover of art, this place has no shortage of it. There are several houses throughout to go and admire all the works of art.

 
If you can make arrangements ahead of time, I highly recommend enjoying the high tea room- fresh fruit, tiny sandwiches, desserts, salads and of course tea! Please visit http://www.huntington.org/ for more information. They are located in San Marino, CA

 

Bento Box Lunch

 

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heart shaped cucumbers

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Some Bento box materials

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Flower shaped carrots (we cooked them first)

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Some of the “fix-ins” for the Bento box

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We used small bread loaf pans as our Bento Boxes

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A Bento box creation

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Another Bento box example

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Do you see the face on the crackers?

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Beautifully crafted Bento boxes

Every Summer I teach a Japanese Arts and Crafts Camp for kids (age 8-13). This year, we created Bento box lunches. If you do a quick Google search you will find many fine examples of Bento box lunches.

 

It is said that the Japanese “eat with their eyes”, so it is important that the meal be visually interesting and fun. Our girls had so much fun creating these special little lunches. We used mostly fruits and vegetables in our bento, but fish, lunch meat, cheese and so on can be used as long as it can be refrigerated. Have a good time and try making your own Bento box the kids will enjoy eating!

 

Strawberry-Cucumber Relish over Wild Alaskan Salmon

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This Strawberry-Cucumber Relish is a Summer staple in the Greenwood household. With the bounty of berries in Summer, there is no reason just to eat them plain (though my kids love them!)

What I love about this relish is its super light, full of flavor and the perfect addition to nearly any kind of seafood (salmon, shrimp, mahi mahi, and more). You will not be disappointed with this Relish. For the vinegar I used this from Trader Joe’s http://www.traderjoes.com/fearless-flyer/article.asp?article_id=1653 though you could use balsamic vinegar and add a little honey for sweetness.

What you will need:

Fish of your choosing (I used Wild Alaskan Salmon)

2 cups fresh, rinsed and chopped strawberries

Handful of fresh mint, rinsed and chopped

1 medium purple onion, chopped small

1 large cucumber (I like the english variety), peeled, de-seeded and chopped

1 tbsp. Olive oil

2 tbsp. Trader Joes Pomegranate Vinegar

Make Relish first. You will want the flavors to settle a bit (marinade). Next, Season fish with salt. Set aside. I grilled the salmon on my indoor Staub pan and made some jasmine rice along side, topped with Gomashio (black and tan sesame seeds and sea salt). You could also use any kind of rice you wish. Enjoy!

DIY Japanese Garden

Backyard before November 2013

Backyard before November 2013

Grass and concrete removed

Grass and concrete removed

Mapping out

Mapping out

Lumber staining

Lumber staining

Heavy lifting done by Philip, Tony and Brandon

Heavy lifting done by Philip, Tony and Brandon

The work has just begun!

The work has just begun!

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Getting ready to lay the decking

Getting ready to lay the decking

Decking installed

Decking installed

Decking done!

Decking done!

Lattice work

Lattice work

Landscaping begins

Landscaping begins

My little helpers!

My little helpers!

Nearly there!

Nearly there!

The mound

The mound

Ready!

Ready!

Last summer, my husband and I were debating what to do with our backyard. When we moved in nearly three years ago we knew we didn’t want to tackle the backyard right away. I spent many nights, up late at night, scouring Pinterest (addicting I tell you!) for fresh ideas for our future space.

We decided that we would take out all the grass (big water save) and remove a lot of the existing concrete-it was just a giant sea of concrete that really had no purpose. We wanted to create a back yard that reflected the simple character that our Craftsman style home has. Having a love for the simple, Japanese aesthetic, we followed our hearts and decided on a traditional Japanese garden.Truthfully, we modified our plans over and over again. Did you know how many different kinds of gravel there are? Choosing one plant over another. Researching which bamboo is not going to be invasive…and so on and so on. My handy husband built the wooden pergola, installed the decking, and built the fire pit/seating area. I was in charge of the landscaping design and finishing touches. After 6 looooooong months of working on our project (literally every weekend) it’s completed! We are so pleased with how it has turned out. We just hosted a baby shower with 40 people over and it is a wonderful place to have a party! Now that it’s finally Summer, were hosting a movie night with friends!