Sunset in old Havana, 140x120cm

 

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Zurich just became a little more hip and cool…

… like it was a century ago.

Switzerland has never been known to be a magnet for the creative and literary arts in Europe. Unlike Paris, known for being the pulsating center for the artistic avant-garde, the Scandinavia for their minimalistic Nordic coolness, or Barcelona for its Picasso-Miro-Gaudi eclecticism, Zurich is more known for its staid work ethic and clockwork efficiency.

Tada!

FullSizeRender (31)It came as a surprise to me that 100 years ago, the present little bar/student cafe in the heart of Zurich old town – Cabaret Voltaire, was where the Dada movement, the predecessor of the more famous Surrealism (Salvador Dali) was born.

After World War 1 in the 1920s, neutral Zurich became the natural meeting point for many European artists and a sort of ‘anti’ art emerged – where anything in your day-to-day life can be used as a form of artistic expression. The Dada mandate became a visualized critique of the war led by Germany and nationalistic sentiments.

A series of art shows, talks, city tours and even a costume ball will be conducted throughout Zurich for its centennial celebrations from February to July. A special 165 Days of Feast will culminate in a Dada Benediction with reference to the Holy Catholic Mass at the Cabaret Voltaire. I think it is very fitting that the Mass will give the Dada blessing to Lady Gaga.

Swiss visual-arts maestro

I couldn’t help but snicker at the name Pipilotti. (Isn’t it the name of a Swiss cartoon character?) Besides the ‘Dadaglobe’ exhibition, the Kunsthaus is currently showcasing a retrospective exhibition by the Swiss-born female artist, Pipilotti Rist.

Bizarrely titled ‘Your saliva is my diving suit in the ocean of pain’, it is an entire pitch-black floor space filled with her object assemblages and video sculptures.

I like her audiovisual installation ‘Yoghurt on skin, velvet on TV’ made up of 3 big seashells and handbags with built-in LCD monitors. If you look closely inside the shell, you can see a giant moving eye peering through.

Another interesting one is ‘Little Make-up table with feedback’, with an array of jewelry, make up and knick knack casually thrown on a dressing table. If you look at the mirror, you see a video clip of someone puckering her luscious red-stained lips. It is as if the subject becomes the object, the protagonist seeing how something or some situation is seen from the ‘opposite side of the mirror’ so to speak.

The most arresting installation would have to be the large chandelier above a non-descript dining table, made up of many pairs of underwear with colored lights projected on it called ‘Cape Cod Chandelier’. These 2 art exhibitions at the Zurich Kunsthaus are definitely worth visiting. I don’t want to post up too many photos so you can experience the art in person.

In the spirit of Dadaism and experiencing the visual arts, care to buy a pair of funky spectacle frames along bahnhofstrasse?

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Unsung heroes

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face to face with a life-size hero

There’s a new superhero in town and he is white and furry, has a cute button nose and he sure looks uber-cool in his aquamarine dive suit and matching sailor hat.

Armed with his trusty compass, you can always count on Captain Barnacles and his fellow Octonaut compatriots to rescue and protect all sea creatures in the deep blue.

This is one cartoon superhero I have no worries about my boys emulating. Not only does Timmy learn about appreciating nature and helping others in trouble from the show, he and I have also learnt alot about sea turtles, electric torpedo rays, anemones, sea cucumbers, sperm whales (this is the only time he’s allowed to say the word ‘sperm’) and colossal squids with giant ‘testicles’. My son has trouble pronouncing ‘tentacles’.

Did you know there is an actual fish with a hawaiian name – Humuhumunukunukuapua’a?

Timmy and I did an ocean scene for our art & craft project recently. He had fun painting a wooden shipwreck, sticking colorful pipe-cleaners into modelling clay so they look like psychedelic seaweed, spreading colorful pebbles and glitter glue to make our beautiful seabed, and crushing pink transparent wrapping paper into jellyfish form.

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 I’ve been thinking about the myriad cartoons and TV personalities children nowadays are exposed to, especially since my son is at the age to start exploring concepts of good and evil, superheroes vs villians, what is considered cool or uncool, and what superpowers to have – typical issues adults consider on a daily basis.

It’s really sad that there is only a pitiful number of worthy superheroes that kids can look up to and aspire to be. I’m so sick of seeing every other 5 year old boy wear Batman or Superman T-shirts, don Spiderman masks for every costume/birthday party we’ve been to, consider it ‘creative play’ when they attempt to jump off chairs in restaurants, scale the narrow walls in elevators, growl at old people like they are evil monsters or try to throw wet rolls of toilet paper onto the ceiling to see if they’ll stick like ‘spider webs’.

For now, I think I can still live with Timmy saying ‘testicles’ instead of ‘tentacles’. It is by far a lesser evil than him asking me for a Justin Bieber haircut.

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Oh Mickey you’re so fine, you’re so fine u blow my mind, oh MICKEY!!!

Did I mention in my previous post that my little boy is having a little Mickey Mouse fetish at 20121017-213155.jpgthe moment?

Maybe it has to do with the cosmic fact that Timmy was born in the year of the ‘Rat’ according to the Chinese calendar. We manage to turn this cute rodent obsession into little creative works of art. It was also a good way for me to spend quality bonding time with my little guy before no. 2 comes out. And who says only girls can sit still for a good 1 or 2 hours holding a paintbrush without spreading colors on their faces and bodies? (Altho’ i must admit waiting for layers of paper mache and paint to dry is possibly the most challenging part of doing craftwork with a kid)

20121017-212437.jpgTimmy loves the storybook – Mickey’s Space Adventure. We’ve read the book to him every night for the last month and he knows almost every single line before it rolls off our tongues. I never knew the world above our ozone layer provided such a rich source of craft ideas for us to create or replicate. Making crafts based on the book makes the story comes alive. We’ve made our own space rocket (complete with fiery flames spluttering from its bottom), drawn an outer space treasure map and even made the Moon, Mars, Saturn and the ‘mystery Planet’ for the space rocket to fly to.

I’ve also bought plain black canvas shoes where I painted Mickey on one side and Minnie on the other. Alan also tried to contribute by building the Disney characters with lego. Our biggest achievement to date is a model of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, built using paper mache, clay, rubber gloves, toilet rolls and tiny lego bits!

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Wallflowered

I feel inspired to embark on a new ‘home improvement’ project with every change in season. This summer, I decided to add a personal touch to our feature wall in the lounge room.

Previously, we hung a replica, or rather, a cheap copy of the famous Chinese contemporary artist, Yue Mingjun’s work. I wanted something light-hearted and reflective of our asian roots then. Plus, the figure in the picture bears a slight resemblance to my husband, especially when he is in the shower. 🙂

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This project has been long in the making. It was difficult to find unique photo frames that complement one another. I didn’t want boring black and white ones. I found some nice rustic looking ones from an eco-friendly shop in the old town of zurich. The frames were made by a south-african artist using recycled materials. We found another 2 on our trip back to Australia. The next step involved finding interesting images. I finally decided on a few of our travel pictures and family portraits. I also blew up some photos into frameless portraits to make it more interesting and provide different textures to the project.

My wall project:

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Deciding on the perfect layout

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Final composition

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Close up of images

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What I REALLY REALLY want to do (albeit self-indulgent) is to blow up this kaleidescope-pattern as a wall paper for the entire feature wall. This was done using the different funny effects on photobooth on the ipad and we had such a blast pulling monkey faces.

These are a few of my favorite things

Oh happy days! I’m loving the early spring blooms and the endless sunny clear skies!

These are a few of my favorite things to do in Spring:

1) Changing my table setting

2) Visiting a farm and getting a warm furry welcome from these wooden bunnies

3) Making heart, star and poo-shaped(my son’s favorite) beef burgers

4) Chalk graffiti

5) Ponies on the playground



6) Happy smiling kids



7) Easter bakes and crafts

Nope, the New Year is not here yet…

Well, that’s according to the Chinese lunar calendar anyway. The Chinese New Year falls on the 23rd of Jan this year and we will be flying to Australia to celebrate this important holiday with my husband’s family.

I used to take these festivities for granted. More often than not, it simply meant having extra public holidays and that it is time for me to book my getaway to Phuket or Krabi! To anywhere in the world actually. As long as there is no loud flute/cymbals/drums/more clanging cymbals-New Year tunes playing in shopping malls and elevators. (this reminds me of the time when my husband, my 2-month old son and I were stuck in the Singapore Flyer and had to endure almost 7 hours of Christmas jingles playing over the intercom. Did I mention it was a TECHNO soundtrack that was playing in ‘loop’??!!)

Chinese New Year is typically the one time in the year you get to see ALL your relatives who never fail to ask whether you have a boyfriend, when you are getting married, when you are having kids; or compare with one another how well their kids are doing in school. In my primary and secondary school days, it was the best opportunity for my mum to hassle my relatives on my behalf to buy a raffle for my school’s never-ending fundraising drives.

I was in Singapore last year over the Chinese New Year period and met up with my cousins and ex school mates. Many of us have kids now, and the festivities seem to take on new meaning when you become a parent. I must say, kids relish in the celebrations the most. They get to stay up late on the eve of Chinese New Year because the later you stay up, the longer your parents will live – that’s according to tradition. They also get to feast on many goodies like pineapple tarts, loveletters (rolled up thin sweet wafer biscuits) and bak kwa (bbq sweet meat), and receive red packets filled with money from the adults.

Seeing our extended families come together to exchange well-wishes and the new generation of my cousins’ kids, nieces and nephews playing together, the culturally-jaded (and over-exposed to western media) me is just starting to realise how much our cultural heritage defines our identity, even if we don’t speak our mother tongue fluently or can hardly remember how to write our names in Chinese characters.

Yes, sometimes it takes living away from people similar to you in culture and language to make you cherish these traditions, and to want to teach your kids about them.

We will be having a Chinese New Year reunion lunch with a few other Singaporean families this weekend. We will be having steamboat, or what the Swiss would call, Chinoise fondue, where you dip all types of meats and vegetables into a tasty broth. Singaporeans favorite pasttime is eating, and I know we will be eating from lunch ’til dinner, and have many bottles of the spiciest chilli sauce on hand.

To get into the festive mood, Timmy and I decided to make some Chinese New Year decorations. We made some goldfish with paper plates and colored paper. To the Chinese, goldfish symbolises good luck and fortune. Hope the New Year brings more blessings to our family!

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Making Christmas cards on a rainy day

We went to a friend’s house tonight for a pizza and card making session. 3 year olds’ attention span is pretty short, so we only managed to embark on one project on our list… For 15 minutes.

Nevertheless, it was something fun to do on a rainy night when all the dads were away on business trips. My son really enjoyed using the scissors and spreading glitter glue all over his cards, and fingers. Whilst the kids lay down to watch cartoons on the television after their brief craft time, I tried my hand at making some simple cards of my own.

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An assortment of magazines, colored papers, coloring pencils, stamps, ribbons and glitter glue for the kids to work with. And also a magic pony to provide some creative ideas to Sophia.

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Keyn doing his paper collage

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Timmy using the stamp with a Santa Claus image on it before covering all his fingers with ink.

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My creations

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Kids’ masterpieces – the red and yellow upright ones belong to Timmy

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Well-deserved treat after their craft work.

Nutty ideas

Our neighbour just returned from his holiday home in Burgundy, France, and gave us a bagload of walnuts from his garden. I swear there must be at least 300 whole nuts in the shopping bag!

I was trying to get some ideas online for kiddy crafts to make with walnuts and there aren’t many innovative suggestions. I love using walnuts for baking and salads, but the prospect of cracking 300 nuts open prove too daunting a feat for me. Besides, there are only so many walnut-shelled turtles, mice and googly-eyed faces one can make.

The next best thing to do with walnuts is… to give them away as Christmas gifts! That way, I don’t have to stress out about getting turned-out fingers from cracking nuts, hordes of squirrels breaking into my house, or the potential weight gain from yummy walnut cakes! I am now seen as the thoughtful friend who bothered to make THE effort to give them the gift of luurrve…..

I’ve given some walnuts away to a few friends today. I suspect they will be having a restless night thinking what to do with those damn nuts!

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This is just a third of the walnuts we got

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Home-made gift tags using gold paint and scrunging the paper into a ball to get this effect20111207-171200.jpgChild labor…

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Timmy is pretty nifty with the scissors20111207-171408.jpgThe end product

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Aye Aye, Sailor boy!

I was inspired by our recent trip to the Italian Riveria to redecorate my son’s room nautical style. I think anyone thinking of giving their kids’ room a spruce should give this a try. It is fairly easy to find and make things related to the seaside and beaches. Kids enjoy picking seashells, learning how to tie nautical knots and paint wooden hanging ornaments too. I reckon I have another 5 years before my 3 year old decides he wants to cover the walls with his favorite rock band/superhero posters and insist on us painting his ceiling black.

Transforming the bed into a ship
Hand-painted wooden nautical motifs
Hand-sewn bunts using felt and vintage fabric
Hand-painted seagull motif on fabric to hide cluttered shelves