What I’m actually doing

…is writing out words in Mandarin Chinese again and again.  And again.

I’m normally pretty skeptical when Chinese teachers (or Japanese teachers) tell you to learn the characters just by writing them out, many times over. I assume that’s how they learnt as a child (all my teachers, so far, where born overseas). It might(!) be OK advice for a child, but I’m really doubtful it’s applicable to adult learners, who don’t have the reinforcement of hearing the language around them, everyday.

I much prefer to make up stories about the characters, to help me remember them. And understand their origins (pictograms) and components.

But this exam, we have to answer everything in Chinese (the questions are in Chinese, too). We even have write down, in characters, the conversations we hear in during the listening test. So I’m practicing speed writing – I’m thinking it’s like muscle training.  And yes, my writing is a bit messy.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE writing the characters.  I think they’re beautiful.  They’re a big part of the reason I wanted to learn Japanese, then Chinese. But wow, there’s a lot of them! Over 2,000 just for daily use. I know around 600…

Simple, simple Christmas decorations


Because it’s Twelfth Night tonight (at least the way I count it). Time to take down the tree. And you (or I) might want to make these decorations next year.

Christmas trees and kids

You see, if you have young children, say aged 2 & 4, Christmas decorations are always a dilemma. Do you:

  1. use the decorations from before-you-had-kids, but insist you are  THE ONLY ONE ALLOWED TO TOUCH THEM, rather dampening the Christmas spirit; or
  2. use those gorgeous decorations from before-you-had-kids, screaming silently each time your helpers shatter them; or
  3. decide that all decorations have to be kid-friendly, preferably cheaply homemade?

This year, my kids were both old enough to ask. As you might guess, they voted number 3. They put the decorations on the tree themselves, the tree didn’t need a barrier and I didn’t even freak when they went to play jumping on the bed with various new “bracelets” … although I did insist all decorations be returned later.

How to make

They’re so simple, I’m sure you know how to make them just by looking. But, well, Christmas can be a little stressful, making even the easiest tasks seem hard …

  1. buy some foiled card from, like, Kmart (scrap-booking section), or find any stiff paper really;
  2. use a clean mug to trace circles, a ruler to trace sets of 6 strips, and cut;
  3. fold circles in half and staple each one to the next in groups of 3 (husband’s preference), 4 (kids’ preference, I think?) or 5 (mine);
  4. arrange 3 strips in a star-like shape, turn over, and wrong sides facing wrong sides, arrange 3 more strips in the same star shape. Staple in the centre;
  5. staple folded curling ribbon to hang.

Actually, I love how they turned out: they feel so Christmassy to me. I’ve since realised that my absolute favourite decorations as a child were foiled paper, in the exact same colours: gold, silver, red, blue, purple and green … ah, so nostalgic.