Wabi sabi is a Japanese aesthetic that is really more of a feeling than just an expression or description. It is beauty that is simple, unrefined, natural, ephemeral. It is the feeling you have when you find a leaf in fall that is shades of red and orange and yellow and maybe even has a little hole edged in brown; or holding a piece of handmade pottery in your hand and taking that first sip of warm tea in the morning that stirs your senses and warms your soul; or when you look out and see in the distance a peaceful gray mountain with a foggy mist clinging to the top and hear unseen geese honking. Many of tea’s designs evoke a sense of wabi sabi. That is probably one of the reasons I was initially drawn to tea clothing for my son. I appreciated the colors, softness and straight-forward designs that are uniquely tea and uncommon in the world of children’s clothing.
On a recent trip to our local, very rural library, I unexpectedly discovered a children’s picture book called Wabi Sabi written by Mark Reibstein and illustrated by Ed Young. In the story, a cat named Wabi Sabi tries to find out the meaning of her name. She asks all her friends what wabi sabi means, and then she ventures out further in the world to find someone who can explain the meaning. Everyone she asks replies “That is very difficult” and gives her a tiny piece of the answer in the form of a haiku. She finally discovers the meaning of wabi sabi by experiencing it. And in reading the story you and your child will do the same.
The book has beautiful art collages. Each page has a haiku in haibun form (a short prose passage sets up the haiku). Japanese calligraphy is written in the margins. These are actually haiku that are translated in the back of the book. This is not your ordinary children’s book. But nevertheless, my almost 3-year old was completely absorbed as I read haiku after haiku. Sometimes I mistakenly believe that complex thoughts and art are beyond my toddler. But really I think if we as adults could appreciate art and words like a toddler must, we might have an unanticipated deep understanding of truth. That is, in one sense, the beauty of wabi sabi.
The best way to arrive is to take a train from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. I recommend the sleeper train, it’s a bit cozy but you get amazing views as the train passes through rice fields and vast flatlands with water buffalo.
The people are charming and less likely to upsell foreigners. There are abundant tailor shops and art galleries that won’t break your budget. One of my favorite shops is Hoai Ngap (Reaching Out )Handcrafts, a gift shopped filled with fair trade crafts made by artisans with disabilities.
The cobble stone streets make it a pleasure for walking or biking amidst the ancient Japanese and Chinese style architecture. Kids will love drinking fresh fruit shakes on the beach or even taking a lantern making class in town. At night, the town is picturesque with several outdoor cafes and strings of colorful silk lanterns illuminating the streets.
The women at the market place will tempt you with fresh marigolds and lotus flowers and even offer you fresh slices of mangosteen and sweet lychees.
Officially Hoi An is listed as a UNSECO heritage site. Unofficially I can tell you this place has a lot of heart. Look for my auntie and grandmother who make banh mi (baguette sandwiches) with a slammin’ secret sauce. Their stand is near the south entrance of the marketplace on the river. Grab sandwiches to go and hop on the ferry for a breezy tour of the scenic Hoi An River.
Back in the days when there was just my husband and I, we took turns with “cooking” dinner and by “cooking” dinner I mean walking to the kitchen drawer where we keep the take-out menus. “I’m cooking tonight. Do you want Thai food?”
Nothing like a baby to make you behave in oh so many ways. Luckily for baby Olivia, our granola-Berkeley friends sent over an amazing book called Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. Initially I flipped through it and it looked too complicated and utterly impossible to follow so I put it aside. Somewhere along the line I picked it up again for a quick reference. Our pediatrician told us that she was not getting enough iron so I referenced “the book” and found good food sources. I then found useful information after more useful information. This book is like having an elder at your fingertips. It is chock full of knowledge which ranges from how much should your baby eat, what should a 5 month old eat, a crash course in nutrition, play ideas, homemade silly putty and toddler (and grown-up) recipes…to name a few. Tonight I pulled out “the book” because I couldn’t remember how long to microwave corn on the cob while in the husk. Viola. 3 minutes and turn halfway through. Today, Yaron’s food index is the most valuable part of the book for me at this point in my 5 year olds life.
In the end, I never bought baby food from the store. I followed Yaron’s suggestions to puree, pour into ice cube trays and freeze. It was easy, it felt good and I saved money.
When I thought about the inspiration destination for our Spring 2009 collection, I was still stimulated by the beauty of the Norwegian fjords (our Fall 2008 inspiration) … scenes of the dramatic mountain & beach landscape in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil elated me as a warm interpretation of similar voluminous silhouettes. With its innate colorful, celebratory culture I was thrilled to seek out treasures for translation.
My only previous exposure to Brazil were tales from my mother. She had spent 6 weeks traveling all over South America when I was 10 years old … and for the next few years I heard plenty of stories about her experiences and the sounds of native flute players from a 12’ vinyl.
Laura’s husband – “Matt the architect” – joined us to see Oscar Niemeyer’s famous buildings.
We visited Sao Paulo first – a metropolis, similar to New York. All 3 of us once lived and loved New York (and still do), so we were excited to get a glimpse of this urban jungle.
We visited modern art museums, walked the streets of the Jardin district, and discovered the Liberdade neighborhood during a Sunday flea market. There is a huge traditional Shinto tori gate and Japanese lanterns lining the main street.
Brazil is a beautiful chaos of cultures.. with influences from Europe, Africa and the indigenous people of South America. Together they create the vibrant lifestyle that Brazil is famous for.
It was interesting to learn that the first Japanese immigrants arrived by ship in 1908 to work on Brazil’s coffee plantations. We combined the Japanese aesthetic with nautical notes, reflecting on the long voyage the immigrants traveled for a chance at a new way of life.
One evening we found the Shimo Sushi restaurant – the sushi quality fish is fantastic in Brazil. The walls are covered with incredible graphics using motifs often found in Japanese art. We were in awe – it inspired our printed French Terry pieces: Izumi Dress, Taiyou Hoodie for girls, and the Waves Hooded Pullover, Waves Long Shorts for boys.
In Rio, you can easily understand how essential it is for Brazilians to express themselves through music, dance and art – as much as eating and sleeping!!
This photo of the lawn and Sugarloaf Mountain is taken from the top of the Contemporary Art museum in Rio, one of the first buildings designed by Oscar Neimeyer in Rio, looking over Flamingo Bay. The Rio Dress was inspired by this beautiful place.
We stayed in a bed & breakfast run by an artsy Brazilian couple. Situated in the Santa Teresa neighborhood, the house overlooked a valley populated with aging colonial homes. We spent a few afternoons wandering along the cobblestone streets and took the trolley into the city.
You cannot miss the extraordinary sidewalks in Rio – they are famous. We used the tile design to create the Goncalo Sweater Polo.
Laura and Matt were captivated by the street art. We loved this one for color – inspiring our palette for the Spring Collection.
Together, we spent a late afternoon on the Ipanema beach and watched the sun set … it was gorgeous.
To really take in the Niemeyer phenomenon, we flew to Brasilia, the capital city located in the driest region of this enormous country. What’s incredible is that this carefully planned city was built in 5 years under the direction of President Kubitcheck in the 1950’s … it was meant to symbolize the “city of the future.”
The most stunning structure of all is the Cathedral Metropolitana – a glorious thing made of concrete and glass, draped with abstract shapes of color. We interpreted the glass into a graphic print, and the shaped of the dress came from the structure. Our Catedral Dress is a perfect style for summer.
And no one can escape flora and fauna in Brazil … from the Botanical Jardin of Rio to the immense rainforest, tropical plants and flowers flavor the landscape of Brazil. The beautiful landscape inspired our summer Jardin Halter Dress and Jardin Crop Pant.
My 2 year old daughter, Lizzie, is just starting to become interested in what she wears every day. It was so much fun to put her into the Izumi Dress, from the new Tea East Meets Brazil collection, and watch her animated reaction to the beautiful graphic on the front. I spent a few minutes with her telling her the story of the Japanese Fan Festival, and told her about the “pretty girl” on her dress. She loves to point to the girl on her dress! I love that the dress is soft, comfortable and easy to wash!
My son, Jude, developed a fun (and challenging!) game that involves reading an imaginary story. He holds up an imaginary book (his hand), and his father or I get to make up a story while he turns the imaginary pages. Sometimes we use familiar characters like Thomas the Tank Engine or something he is interested in like dinosaurs, but inspired by Emily Meyer’s post last week about Brazil, I decided to use one of these opportunities to make the “foreign familiar”.
I re-created a story about Barney going shopping with two pals. Barney Goes Shopping isn’t exactly my pick for great children’s literature, but this is currently one of my son’s favorite books mostly because it is an interactive book which asks questions and has a little car at the top that the child drives to each destination.
In my story, I changed the characters to Isadora, Danilo, and Lia (Brazilian names). I described the rich scenery of Brazil including the highland mountains providing a dramatic backdrop for the city and the open-air market or feira. Isadora, Danilo, and Lia shop at various stalls to buy fruits, spices, and pastels (meat and cheese filled turnovers) for a party. We used our fingers to imagine our new friends walking through the narrow paths between stalls that sell all sorts of handmade items, clothes, baskets, and natural medicines.
Of course, this would be easy to do with any culture. And if your child was older you could make the story more elaborate and have them help create the story. An easy way to get started is to pick a story that you know well, you know the one you have read a hundred times, and use that as a starting place like I did. Change the characters’ names to ones that are from another culture, change the scenery to a less familiar part of the world. Insert activities or objects that might be customary for that part of the world. Try to use some words from the language that is spoken by this culture. Ask your child questions as you go through the story to get them to use their imagination and to keep them interested.
Using the imaginary book game to enlighten your child about other cultures will stimulate their imaginations and help them appreciate differences and similarities between their own lives and those of children living in other parts of the world. Believe me it is definitely more fun on my end as a parent, when I can offer an imaginary book as an alternative to the 123rd reading of Barney Goes Shopping!
Who says San Francisco is only for DINKS (Double Income No Kids)? For those of us with little ones there’s plenty to eat around town during our staycations. For a low-budget foodie tour, follow the itinerary below, it’s been kid-tested:
Little Saigon, Tenderloin—If you can handle the gritty neighborhood, the Tenderloin is the place to visit for authentic, healthy, and cheap Vietnamese food. For a $2 lunch, stop by Saigon Sandwich (560 Larkin St.) for hearty and fresh banh mi (viet-style baguette sandwich) At dinner time, I highly recommend Pagoloc (655 Larkin St.) Back in the 80’s, only local Vietnamese knew about this delicious family run restaurant. Now everyone will wait in line for a table. Try the seven courses of beef that includes making your own rolls with grilled beef. No worries, there’s plenty of veggie dishes too.
Clement St. (between 2nd and 9th Avenue)—Considered the mini-Chinatown of the City, this charming street is full of good treats minus the tourists. Look for Good Luck Dim Sum (736 Clement St) with all their tasty dumplings and baked goods displayed in the window. Kids will love the coconut buns, sticky rice, and shrimp dumplings. To satisfy a sweet tooth, walk a few blocks and visit Genki’s Crepes at 330 Clement St. The store offers made to order dessert crepes, Japanese snacks and toys, and international drinks.
May’s Coffee Shop, Japantown—Sure you can visit J-Town for sushi, but there’s something sweeter waiting for you. Only locals know about the fresh baked Taiyaki offered at May’s Coffee Shop (1737 Post St). It’s basically a pretty fish shaped waffle filled with sweet azuki bean paste. Hot ones come out every 10 minutes and they sell out before the end of the day.
Joe’s Ice Cream, Inner Richmond.—I grew up around the corner from this classic family owned ice-cream parlor located at 5351 Geary Blvd. It’s complete with hot dogs, grilled cheese, waffle cones, and chocolate covered bananas. Any scoop of ice cream can be hand dipped in chocolate. Joe’s is unpretentious and made for kids. Be sure to take a seat on the stools along the windows and people watch while enjoying a sundae.
*This is actually written by my husband, David. Capoeira is one of his great loves.
One of the most amazing imports from Brazil to the U.S. in recent years has been capoeira, an athletic game that is part sport, part dance and part martial art. Capoeira academies are springing up in most major cities, and offer a fascinating glimpse of Brazilian history, music, and culture, while at the same time providing a fun way to get in shape and also learn self-defense.
Capoeira is “played” when two people enter a circle of on-lookers, and engage in an unchoreographed dialogue of movements. As the circle sings in Portuguese, and plays traditional instruments, the two players move to the rhythms in a fluid interaction of kicks, swaying torsos, and amazing acrobatics. At times the music is slow, and the game is playful and low to the ground, at other times the music accelerates and the interaction becomes more martial and can appear quite dangerous, although in fact movements are exquisitely controlled and violence is not the goal.
Capoeira was developed by African slaves in Brazil, and may have some of its origins in African traditions. The way that martial elements are concealed as a dance may also reflect the conditions under which the slaves trained for self-defense.
How does one “win” a capoeira game? On the one hand, the game is played for the sake of beauty, and also communication, just as two ballroom dancers communicate with each other in a conversation of subtle and dramatic movements. On the other hand, capoeira introduces an element of treachery in the midst of the dance; players are looking for a chance to tug at a supporting leg with one of many different techniques, so that the other player lands sitting on the ground. The most important rule in capoeira is to avoid sitting, and avoid having the other player sweep your legs. A well-executed leg sweep is perfectly timed, so that someone lands softly. Both players, and the crowd, recognize the skill of the player who is successful in sweeping the other. Mastery can also be demonstrated by complicated acrobatics, or by catching the other player with a kick; it is good form to pull the kick at the last moment to avoid hurting the other player, and good form for the other player to acknowledge being caught.
Capoeira is also an ideal activity for children. Many academies have special children’s classes, for children as young as five years. The combination of music, athletics, and culture is sure to be a blast for little ones. If they can play, then they are ready to start playing capoeira.
I love her attitude and perspective, and BTW, I loved her choice of designer for her Inauguration Day outfit – citron wool lace dress & coat by Isabelle Toledo. I’m so exited to watch how she evolves the role of the first lady and the perception of the White House.
So I was elated to read this today on style.com:
Just as Hillary Clinton took Chelsea along to Europe and Africa when she was off from school, Mrs. Obama anticipates traveling with her own daughters during school breaks. “I’ve been grateful that my girls have been able to see parts of the country that I’m just seeing at the age of 44,” she says. “It’s not only seeing Paris, London, and Rome. It’s also the remote places…exposing them to what we hope all kids will have: a feeling that they are citizens of the world.”
- Michelle Obama in Vogue, as reported by Andre Leon Talley
She so eloquently expresses what we want for every child wearing Tea. It’s so powerful to witness the creation of global awareness in the next generation.
The rest of the article: http://www.style.com/vogue/feature/2009_March_Michelle_Obama/?mbid=sn