Thursday, December 18, 2014

Click to Watch the New Trailers for ONCEKids' Animated Books, "Green Hamster and the Quest For Fun" and "Red Penguin and the Missing Sushi"

Here at ONCEKids we could not be more excited following the release of the trailers for our first two animated books; Green Hamster and the Quest For Fun and Red Penguin and the Missing Sushi. Thanks to the very talented Ryan Mawhar, the previews for the two animated books are completed and ready to be viewed! Click the videos below to watch and be sure to visit our website to read more about our animated books as well as the rest of Eileen Wacker’s Fujimini Adventure Series collection. 

Click below to watch the trailer for Green Hamster and the Quest for Fun 

Click below to watch the trailer for Red Penguin and the Missing Sushi

Saturday, December 13, 2014

ONCEKids Gets Ready For Christmas By Donating Over 1000 Books To Children in Need

At First Book, a national nonprofit organization, they believe that one of the most important factors and issues affecting literacy is children’s access to books, which often times can be quite limited. Since their inception in 1992, First Book has distributed over 100 million books to children across the country and raised $32,000. 

The staff at ONCEKids wanted to help First Book work towards their goal of providing books and the gift of reading to kids in need, so for the holiday ONCEKids author Eileen Wacker generously donated 300 brand new children’s books. Six cases, one case for each book, was shipped to the organization December 4th. Six of the seven books that make up the Fujimini Adventure Series, made up the 300-book donation, including Green Hamster and the Quest For Fun, Pink Hamster and the Birthday Surprise, Rainbow Panda and the Firecracker Fiasco, Black Tortoise and the Dynasty Dragon, Red Penguin and the Missing Sushi, and Silent Samurai and the Magnificent Rescue. 

ONCEKids CEO Wacker also wanted to make sure all the children at Seattle Children’s Hospital have books to love and cherish in time for the holidays, so over 350 books were donated to the hospital. All of the books donated go directly to into the hospital to be used for the comfort and entertainment throughout the duration of their stay, or for the hospital to use any way it sees fit to comfort children, especially in the holiday season. Random acts of kindness can have a profound effect on others, and Wacker hopes that more organizations might feel inspired to give as much as they can. A gift of literacy is appreciated, a gift of kindness is unparalleled. 

ONCEKids also gave 300 books to Barrett Russell Kindergarten. Santa will be handing the books out to children as they exit school for winter break so that every kindergartener will have a book to read for the holidays. In this school, 84% of kids get free breakfast and lunch and most of the children have few or no books at home.

Reading is one of the most essential and enjoyable parts of childhood, and every child deserves to know the love and joy that can come from a book. Eileen Wacker and the other dedicated members of the ONCEKids staff wanted to help organizations like First Kids and Seattle Children’s Hospital as well as schools like Barrett Russell Kindergarten give children the gift of reading this holiday season.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Accomplished Composer and Musician Alexander Tovar Contributes His Talents For ONCEKids Animated Book Music

Alexander Tovar wears many hats. Besides being the amazing composer of our animated books, Mr. Tovar is an accomplished director, producer, screenwriter, musician, editor, AND actor. Wow, that is quite a list! 

The talented artist began his long and accomplished career when he wrote his first opera at the age of just ten years old. He continued exploring his love of writing and music through high school when he studied the trumpet, piano and the guitar. Following high school, Tovar moved to New York to study and work with Philip Glass. After returning to his roots in the West Coast, he studied philosophy and graduated from USC with a BM in music composition. 

His music has been played all over the country including on the public radio and in front of Disney Hall. He has worked with a variety of other talented artists including Van Dyke Parks and Roger Neil. His recent works include writing the book and music to the musical “Mr. Genius” and the production of his very first film, “Nothing in Los Angeles”

The film, “Nothing In Los Angeles”, describes an aspiring artist who becomes romantically involved with an older woman and soon finds himself falling in love with his best friend’s wife. It been the winner of several awards including “Best Narrative Feature”, “Best Filmed Screenplay”, “Best Actor”, and “Best Actress” as well as being the official selection of the Cinequest Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival. 

We could not be more proud and excited to have such a talented addition to our books and look forward to his many accomplishments to come! 

Turn Your Smartphone Into a Polaroid Camera With This New Case

Most phone cases are designed and purposed for protection or fashion, but small French startup company Prynt had something else in mind with their new phone case design. They have developed a case that instantly turns your smartphone into a polaroid camera after working on it for almost an entire year. The design works by sending the photo to the case via Bluetooth and then immediately printing it by heating paper filled with ink. 

Their current version takes only 50 seconds to turn the digital photo into a printed picture and holds one piece of paper at a time. But Prynt is not settling, they say they plan on developing a model that can hold 10-30 pieces of paper at one time and print the picture within 30 seconds! To make this possible, they will have to come up with a design that has better hardware integration and a direct physical connection between the phone and case.  

Prynt CEO Clement Perrot says the case will only cost $99 when it is made available early next year and will be able to support all phones with a $4.x inch screens. So if you are looking for a Christmas present or birthday present for someone who loves taking and printing pictures than this is the perfect gift for them! Preorder it for a Christmas surprise and it will be available for use in early 2015. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Celebrate #WalmartWednesday With ONCEkids and Receive a Free Book Signed By the Author

Every week ONCEkids celebrates #WalmartWednesday with amazing deals on books and related products that make the perfect gifts for the holiday season. This Wednesday only, buy one book and receive a second book free! All you have to do is visit the website, send us your receipt and you’ll receive your second free book, even autographed by the author. 

Click on the link to view and purchase one of our 
family-friendly books at an unbeatable price:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How These 3 Entrepreneurs Changed Their lives Through YouTube

Over the last few years, YouTube has changed the game for countless aspiring musicians, bloggers, entrepreneurs, actors, comedians and more. Providing a platform for advertising your products or skills for millions of people all around the world to view creates a powerful tool for young dreamers trying to get their names out there.

Although it started mostly with musicians, including Justin Bieber, it has since become popular for entrepreneurs just starting out- and many of them have found great success thanks to this social network. Ordinary people start by simply posting videos online of themselves doing what they love to do, such as Jenna Marbles, who now has over 13 million subscribers doing comedic skits and humorous rants. 

Thanks to YouTube, thousands of young people have gotten attention they never would have been able to get before. For three entrepreneurs in particular, YouTube has completely transformed their lives in a way they never thought possible.

The first, Rob Chapman, transformed his life from a struggling musician to a UK rock star through his YouTube channel. His channel has 198,000 subscribers and is growing at a rate of 10,000 a month and his videos receive millions of views. In addition to his online success, the once unheard of musician sings and plays his guitar for packed venues, endorses products, and owns his own guitar company. Often when enough YouTube success has been achieved, it is not longer just about the attention. Chapman says if he wanted to he could live off of what he earns from his YouTube career. When speaking about his success, Chapman says he considers himself just “a dude who plays guitar in his flat” and had no idea that it could be like this, but couldn’t be happier. On advice for aspiring YouTube stars he says the title, description, and tags are extremely important in getting people to notice you. 
The second, Leonardo Pereznieto, was also a struggling artists before creating his YouTube channel. In 2009 the full time artist was struggling to make ends meet. Despite receiving international awards and showing his work throughout Europe and the United States, times were tough for the 45 year old artist. So he created a YouTube channel in hopes of getting more views of his artwork. He found this method to be relatively unsuccessful so then Pereznieto decided to record himself demonstrating how to properly sketchy and see if that generated any responses- and it did. He then began giving art lessons via YouTube and the views were piling up. By 2013, his YouTube channel, called Fine Art-Tips, was enough to live off of. Now with 763,000 subscribers and 2 million monthly visits, Pereznieto lead a life free from financial worries, thanks to ad revenue. 

Betty Givan began her YouTube career with the mission of keeping traditional southern cooking alive. In January 2009 she created a channel, called Betty’s Kitchen, featuring recipe demonstrations and even trips to local grocery stores. Since then her videos have generated over 36 million views and more than 110,000 channel subscribers! Her online popularity even allowed her to create two mobile apps and publish two successful cookbooks. Givan said when she first started making the videos she did not think of it as a business endeavor, but rather a fun way to share her family recipes and keep her mother’s cooking alive. She says social media is the smartest way to grow viewers and it is always important to be consistent when trying to develop a following. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Researchers Create an Adorable Chick Rover to Observe Emperor Penguins in Their Natural Habitat

Emperor penguins are notoriously shy creatures, which poses a problem to the scientists trying to research the health and behavior of these birds. Whenever any of the researchers would come near the penguins they would become quite fearful and back away, causing rapid heart rates and other fear-induced responses. This makes it very difficult for any person trying to record resting heart rates and other “penguin parameters.” Another fear of many researchers is that penguins’ wariness of people causes them to change their behaviors when being observed, thus preventing researchers from being able to record normal penguin behaviors in their natural settings, affecting the accuracy of the studies. So how can researchers observe the penguin behaviors without being present?
Yyvon Le Maho of the University of Strasbourg in France came up with a solution to create a small rover disguised as a penguin.
The initial rover; made up of fiberglass, scared the penguins and proved to be unsuccessful. After five tries, researchers have come up with a rover that successfully interacts with and observes the penguins without scaring them or causing changes in their typical behavior. And I must say, resembling a real baby chick with gray fur, black arms and a little black beak, this rover is pretty cute!
Not only did the penguins not react fearfully to the little rover, they actually interacted with it like a real penguin, singing it special songs and including the rover in their huddles. After observing disappointment in the penguins when the rover did not sing back, Le Maho says they plan to create the next rover with the ability to sing songs.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Watch the Difference in Responses Between Children and Adults When Asked One Thing They Would Change About Their Body in this Eye Opening Video

When fifty adults and children were presented with the question, “If you could change one thing about your body what would it be?”, the responses from the adults were dramatically different than the ones from the children. 

Without fail, every adult had an answer within seconds regarding the “flaw” they wish they could change, many offering more than one. The children, on the other hand, either struggled to come up with an answer or they feature they would give themselves was a supernatural one, like a mermaid tail or super powers. 

The differences in these answers should be a wake up call to people everywhere. It raises the question, when do we start learning to not love ourselves? When do body images portrayed in the media start affecting our children’s self esteem? Once we can answer these questions, we can all start working together towards teaching our children to grow up being comfortable in their own skin and happy with who they are on the inside out. 

Click below to watch the powerful video:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Chinese Parents Plan Conception and Birth to Avoid Having A Child During the Year of the Sheep

Each of the 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac comes with its positives and negatives, strengths and weaknesses, but somehow over the years, the Year of the Sheep (also known as the year of the ram or goat) has developed a bad reputation. This bad rep is taken so seriously that couples are planning their conception or delivery of a child around avoiding the upcoming Year of the Sheep. 

People say that some children are born lucky, but many Chinese parents believe that luck comes from the year that their child was born. The luckiest year of all to be born is the Year of the Dragon, but no other years are frowned upon the way the Year of the Sheep is. But why? The sheep is thought to be passive, kind, and generous. All qualities that are thought highly of in a person. But in a cutthroat, competitive world those qualities can be a disadvantage. Chinese tradition believes that a baby born during the Year of the Sheep will be followers rather than leaders, are destined for heartbreak, and will not find success in the business world. There is even a folk tale that says only one in ten people born during the Year of the Sheep find true happiness. 

While many people are working hard to debunk these superstitions, it has proven to be difficult. Some parents have even inquired to medical professionals about having a Caesarean section to ensure their child is born during the Year of the Horse, and not after February 2015, when the Year of the Sheep begins. Health professionals have also reported that last spring, fertility consultations spiked and since the window for conception and delivery during the Year of the Horse closed, they have declined. Professionals in the medical field have expressed concern that as fertility consultations rose during the Year of the Horse, abortions will rise during the Year of the Sheep. 

Even as these assumptions present as unfair and outdated to many, it is a difficult mindset to alter. The traditional beliefs and superstitions of the Chinese Zodiac calendar are deeply ingrained in Chinese culture and provide an explanation for phenomena that is otherwise difficult to understand. But as of recent years, other factors (such as political and economic conditions) have greatly influenced birth rates and begun to overshadow the effects of the Zodiac calendar. But regardless, it will be interesting to see how the upcoming Year of the Sheep affects birth rates in comparison to this past year, the Year of the Horse, which is the third luckiest year in the calendar. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

How Countries in Asia Celebrate Halloween

Halloween is the most popular holiday in the United States, but did you know that other countries celebrate it too? Countries around the world have ways of honoring and remembering the dead during this time of year. Even different countries in Asia like to celebrate Halloween, but not in the traditional costumes-and-pumpkins way we might think. 

Each October 31st, people across China celebrate Halloween, or Teng Chieh, by offering food and water to the dead. They also light lanterns with the belief that they will help to guide deceased loved ones as they make their visit to the "land of the living" in Halloween night. 

The Japanese also utilize lanterns for their Halloween customs. The lanterns are traditionally colored red and are hung in every house. These red lanterns are also placed on boats and float through rivers to guide the spirits of the dead back to the homes of their families for the night. It is also traditional for Japanese families to clean the gravestones of their ancestors and prepare special dishes to honor and remember them. These customs and traditions are all referred to in Japan as the Obon Festival. 

Halloween is not big in Korea, but offerings of food and flowers are still made to their ancestors to show respect. 

Hong Kong remembers their lost loved ones through a traditional festival known as the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. During this time, pictures of fruits or money are burned with the belief that these images will reach the spirits of the dead and provide comfort. 

Although many of the Halloween traditions in Asia are different from those in the United States, certain countries are beginning to pick up many Western Halloween traditions. For example, Halloween recently arrived in Japan. Now around this time of year, decorations such as jack-o'-lanterns can be seen around town of in shop windows and every year Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan puts on extravagant Halloween shows and events. Trick-or-Treating is still not a common practice in Japan, but costume house parties aren't that uncommon. 

Besides the traditional and culture-rich Festival of the Hungry Ghosts, Hong Kong also likes to celebrate the more commercialized side of Halloween. Each year bars all across Hong Kong are decked out in Halloween decorations in an attempt to increase local interest in the holiday. Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park also host a Halloween Bash each year to promote and celebrate the holiday. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Get Your Hands on the New Nintendo 3DS Along With New Scary Games Just in Time For Halloween

Designers have heard your requests and officially come out with a redesigned Nintendo 3DS, very cleverly named the New Nintendo 3DS. Although the name isn’t all that impressive, the new features it comes with are. The new 3DS is not just a simple redesign, but includes a larger screen and a variety of powerful hardware. Instead of having to hold your head in a certain way to get the 3-D effect, the new onboard camera tracks head movements and adjusts accordingly. 

And one of their best new features is something Nintendo players have been requesting for years- to improve the controls and include a second stick. Well, designers have answered requests and included two sticks to go with the directional pad on the New Nintendo. 

Along with the New Nintendo 3DS, you can purchase a variety of new games that have been released exclusively for this more powerful model- even a few spooky ones for Halloween!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The 10 Costumes You Can Expect to See the Most this Halloween

Halloween is right around the corner and that means countless couples, teens, families, and kids are busy planning out their perfect costume for the upcoming night of trick-or-treating and parties. There are always the classics that make an appearance year after year like witches, vampires, zombies and so on but the top ten, most popular costumes of each year are always subject to change based off of the movies that came out that year, most popular animated characters of the year, and overall current trends. For halloween 2014, Google has put together a list of the ten costumes you can expect to see the most on the 31st based off of Google search trends. 

This year’s top ten trendiest costumes:

1. Elsa from Frozen

2. Olaf from Frozen 

3. Maleficent 

4. Ninja Turtle

5. Anna from Frozen

6. Black Widow from Avengers 

7. Captain America

8. Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy 

9. Dog Spider (Don't think this one is for the kids...)

10. Assassin's Creed 

It's no surprise that three characters from this year's most beloved film, Frozen, made it into the top five most searched costumes. But what about the other seven? Were you surprised by the other costumes listed in the top ten for 2014? 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Malala Yousafzai Becomes the Youngest-Ever Nobel Prize Recipient at Age 17

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for children's education. She known globally for her human rights advocacy for education for children as well as for women in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of northwest Pakistan, where the local Taliban have, at times, banned girls from attending school. Malala’s work is truly inspiring and amazing but what is also amazing is to learn that this strong, determined woman is just 17-years-old. 

On October 10th, Yousafzai became the first and only Pakistani to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her fight towards all children having the right to an education. Today, Michelle and Barack Obama released a statement in TIME congratulating Malala for her work and expressing their eagerness to join alongside her in “unlocking the extraordinary talents and potential in all our children.”

Her work began at age 11 when she started blogging under a pseudonym, revealing the grim details of life under Taliban occupation as well as her views on education. This got attention from many people, but what truly sparked the revolution was when Malala was shot in the face and shoulder by a gunman from the Taliban. She miraculously survived the attack after spending a lengthy recovery period in Birmingham, England. Her actions followed by the assassination attempt inspired a UN petition in her name, which demanded that all children be in school by the end of 2015 and eventually led to Pakistan’s first Right to Education Bill. 

Since she first began her blog in 2009 Malala has been, and continues to be, an inspiration to us all. Her strength, resilience, determination, and courage is far beyond admirable and I have no doubts that she will continue her work until it is finished and encourage thousands around the world to join in with her. And as a teenager who has accomplished more than many adults have, she is a true demonstration of why children everywhere have the right to be given a voice and provided an education. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

China Honors their History and Culture Through the Celebration of National Day and Golden Week

In China, the arrival of October doesn't only mean autumn weather and color changing leaves, but also the widespread celebration of their country with National Day and their annual fall Golden Week, lasting from October 1st through the 7th. 

The seven day length makes this the longest Chinese public holiday after the Spring Festival, so people love taking this time to travel. It is also a very popular time for tourists to come to the country to witness the display of patriotism, so if you ever want to visit during this week make sure to plan ahead! The much anticipated week is purposed to commemorate the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. 

Although the People's Republic of China was technically founded on September 21st of 1949, the ceremony to celebrate this revolutionary formation was held in Tiananmen Square on the first day of October, passing the "Resolution on the National Day of PRC" the following day. Curiously, even though National Day was not declared a holiday until 1949, the term appears within writings and the Chinese language as far back as the Western Jin Dynasty, which lasted from 265-316 AD.

Today, people express their national pride through spectacular parades and parties. The Military Review and Parade at Tiananmen Square is held every five years- with the 5 year anniversaries being smaller parades and the ten year anniversaries very large and more heavily celebrated.

For people across China unable to make it to Tiananmen Square, many of the towns will host their own celebrations. Across China, people participate in flag-raising ceremonies, dancing, watch firework displays, and go to art exhibitions. For lovers of bargains and discounts, the 7-day holiday is one of the best times to shop, so get your wallet ready!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

15,000 Fans Pack Ko Olina to Hear Japanese Idol Group Arashi

People in Japan are well acquainted with the Japanese band known as Arashi, but not many people in the United States have ever even heard of them before. But that may all change after their recent performance in Oahu

Around 15,000 fans jammed Ko Olina to witness the concert, waiting patiently for hours on their folding chairs. Line up for the 5:30 pm concert began at a whopping 9am. Finally after much patience and excitement, the helicopter flew overhead and the fans knew the moment they had long waited for had arrived. But the band’s popularity that night was not just limited to Ko Olina, an estimated 160,000 fans attended showings in theaters across Japan. 

Fans from the mainland knew the concert was going to be a big deal, Arashi is not just any band in Japan, but even they were shocked at the incredible turn out. 

Arashi is a five member Japanese idol group that has been performing since they officially formed in 1999. Their first few years proved to be a slow start but after the release of their 8th single, “Love So Sweet”, they gained a significant amount of commercial success. Not long after, “Love So Sweet” became the fifth top selling single of 2007 in Japan. Since then the group has seen a lot of success, becoming the first group to place in the top two on the Oricon singles chart for two consecutive years and the third group in Oricon history to monopolize the top three best-selling singles of the year. In 2010, their list of achievements grew even longer as all six of their singles made it to the top ten chart and their album was dubbed the best selling album of the year in Japan.

After their recent performance in Ko Olina, their success and popularity is bound to stretch beyond Japan. Even those in the crowd who were not as familiar with the band were blown away by their performance. Promotor Tom Moffatt reacted very enthusiastically saying, “These guys! What performers! And the costume changes! And the audience is-wow! Just amazing.”

The concert had such a good turn out and so much positive feedback that Arashi will surely return for another incredible performance sometime in the not-too-distant future. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

How Japanese Honor the Elderly Each Year on Respect For the Aged Day

Every September the Chinese recognize and celebrate their teachers, but in Japan this holiday comes with the arrival of November. In September, the Japanese celebrate a different group of people, highly regarded in their culture. 

Each year on the third Monday in September, Japan celebrates Keiro no hi, or Respect for the Aged Day. This year the annual holiday falls on September 15th. The holiday is purposed to respect, honor, and appreciate the elderly citizens of Japan. It is the duty of the younger generations of Japan to express gratitude for their endless contributions to society and most importantly, celebrate their long lives. 

Due to improvements in healthcare, Japanese people are living longer than ever before. Within the next month, the number of Japanese citizens over 100-years-old is expected to reach around 32,000! This revelation makes the holiday more relevant and significant than ever as well. 

The holiday began in 1947 when September 15th was dubbed “Old Folks Day”. However, the holiday began to grow in status as well as popularity until 1966 when it was renamed “Respect for the Aged Day” and added to Japan’s list of national holidays. It was also eventually moved from September 15th to the third Monday of September as part of Japan’s Happy Monday System. 

Since becoming a national holiday, families all over Japan have celebrated their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents in a variety of ways. Many communities will get together and throw large parties for all the elderly in their community. The younger generations will bring special gifts to present to the older generations to encourage longevity to their lives and thank them for the wisdom. 

In addition to large parties, volunteers distribute free “obento” boxed lunches to the elderly in their neighborhoods. Younger generations and school children prepare and perform dances at the keirokai ceremonies that are put on in the older generation’s honor. Elderly attendees are treated to lunch, tea, and sweets as they watch the special performance.  

The media also plays a role in the annual celebration, using this day to feature the elderly and their accomplishments as well as highlighting and recognizing the oldest people living in Japan. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

People All Across China Celebrate their Teachers on National Teacher's Day

In China there are special days each year set aside to celebrate parents, children, grandparents and ancestors, so it only seems appropriate that they would have a special day to celebrate teachers as well. 

Most people would argue that educators play the biggest role, other than families, towards the creation of a generation of children that grow up to become successful, happy, intelligent, and productive people in society. A teacher can have the power to influence a child to reach their full potential and find success far beyond the walls of a classroom. This alone is reason enough to have not just one day be set aside towards appreciating teachers, but every day.
Across the world, countless countries have a day or week dedicated to celebrating teachers. In the United States there is a teacher appreciation week each year in May. In China, September 10th is the annual day where the country recognizes teachers.

Each year come September 10th, children celebrate their teachers and let them know how much they care by presenting them gifts like flowers and cards. Many former students will return to their old high schools to visit their favorite teachers and bring them gifts as well.

The People's Republic of China announced the national celebration of Teacher's Day in 1985. They never clearly stated why September 10th was the day they chose, but none the less, you can expect hundreds of Chinese children and young adults honoring the national holiday and showering their teachers with gifts and praise all day tomorrow.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

How the Chinese Celebrate the Moon During their Second Largest Festival: the Mid-Autumn Festival

This weekend people all over China were celebrating one of China’s biggest festivals, the Mid-Autumn Festival. Only second to the Spring Festival in size and grandeur, the annual Mid-Autumn Festival spans over several days and attracts thousands of participants. Several of the elements of the holiday that creates this enormous attraction, other than the numerous legends associated with it, are the rich history and deep traditions behind it. For centuries the Chinese people have celebrated the fall season and the cycles of the moon, making it all the more special. So this weekend how have the Chinese been celebrating their beloved Mid-Autumn Festival? 

Beginning during the Zhou Dynasty (which lasted from 1046- 256 BC) sacrificial offerings to the moon were a major part of the holiday tradition. The people recognized that the moon cycles played a role in the changing of seasons and thus, affected their autumn harvests. They felt in order to continue having good fall harvests it was necessary to thank the moon for its part. Fast forward to today and sacrificial offerings are a less widespread part of the celebration, only being continued in certain rural areas. 

However, in modern times people still use this time of year to express appreciation of the moon and all it does for us. Family members sit around a table while talking about the wonderful things the moon does for us and why they appreciate its presence. Although it is a more relaxing and less serious custom, its roots are derived from the ancient sacrificial ceremonies of the Zhou Dynasty. 

The offering and consumption of certain foods also has its place in the Mid-Autumn Festival weekend. The food most well known and associated with the holiday is the moon cake. The origins of the moon cake can be traced back to the Yuan Dynasty when messages were passed between army leaders using notes baked into moon cakes. One of the leaders began giving the cakes to his subordinates as gifts around the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Since then it became a ritual for families to give each other moon cakes during the festival to signify reunion and the beginning of fall. 

Other foods including watermelons cut into the shape of lotus flowers, grapefruits, soybeans, oranges, and wine are commonly consumed during this special time. 

In addition to appreciating the moon and eating moon cakes, the Mid-Autumn Festival features many other fun traditions and customs. Some of these include burning of incense, traditional Fire Dragon dances, releasing of festival lanterns, stealing vegetables in hopes of finding “Mr. Right”, and many many more. Certain customs differ depending on what region you are in but there is no doubt that they are all equally interesting and exciting. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The History and Legends Behind China's Mid-Autumn Festival

Beginning this weekend and lasting through September 8th is the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. This festival is one of China’s most widely celebrated and “grand”, only second to the Spring Festival. Also named the Moon Festival, the holiday revolves around (no pun intended) both the movements of the moon as well as the beginning of the fall season. 

The annual three day celebration of the moon dates back thousands of years to the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC). The ancient Chinese people began to notice a relationship between the movement of the moon and the changing seasons. And with the changing season came the harvests. This connection sparked the beginnings of custom moon sacrificial ceremonies. A practice where the people would make offerings to “thank” the moon during those critical autumn days. 

During the Tang Dynasty the ceremony began to morph into a more widely celebrated folk festival. While still making offerings to the moon, the people would praise and celebrate the harvests too. 

Due to the length of time this festival has been celebrated and the time in which its celebration began, there are many myths and legends associated with the holiday. One of the most well known of which is the story of Chang E flying to the moon. 

The legend says that during ancient times there where ten suns that surrounded our planet, creating extreme heat and making life on Earth very uncomfortable for those who lived here. But a courageous man named Hou Yi wanted to help the people so he shot down nine of the ten suns. Shortly after his heroic act, he met a woman named Chang E. They fell in love and were happily married until his wife was forced to drink a potion that caused her to float away from the earth and towards the heavens. Hou Yi was devastated and cried her name out into the night sky. Upon looking up, he was amazed to see a figure who looked just like his wife standing on the moon. After this discovery, Hou Yi began to pray and make offerings to the moon in honor of his beloved wife. After the other villagers found out the fate of Chang E, they began to do the same until it became a widely spread custom. 

Other popular legends behind the Mid-Autumn Festival include  Wu Gang Chopping Laurel Tree, Jade Rabbit Pounding Medicine, and Zhu Yuanzhang and the Moon Cake Uprising. 

Keep a look out for part two of the Mid Autumn Festival Series to learn about the traditions and celebrations surrounding the exciting holiday! 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Chef Roy Choi is Revolutionizing the World of Food by Creating a Healthy Fast Food Chain

Every year for the past four years, chefs from around the world have gathered in Copenhagen to attend the MAD Conference where lengthy discussions of the future of food take place. Ideas range from progressive to wild but generally something amazing comes out of the unique gathering created by chef Redzepi. But that is no surprise seeing as it is a room full of some of the top chefs and food industry professionals in the world. 

This year, it was Roy Choi who produced a revolutionary idea. He intends to design a fast food concept to compete with famous fast food chains Burger King, Wendy’s, and McDonalds. But this concept doesn’t involve just burgers and fries. Named Loco’l, the chain will offer a range of healthy food options all priced between $2 and $6. Food options will include burgers made with a beef and grain mixture, salads, rice bowls, tacos, falafel, and more. Choi stressed the desire to have cross-cultural foods available on the menu. 

According to Choi, the intention is to “go toe to toe with fast-food chains and give the community a choice.” Loco’l would give people those choices by providing the low-income communities nourishing, healthy food without the financial burden. 

The idea first began developing in Choi’s head at last year’s MAD Conference when the chef’s were discussion food deserts and the hunger crisis. But he hasn’t just talked about it, he has already started to take action. 

Since that conference, Choi has opened 3 Worlds Cafe in South Los Angeles serving fresh fruit and smoothies “amid a sea of liquor stores.” 

Choi has paired up with famous chef Daniel Patterson to make this idea into a reality. In addition to Choi’s 3 Worlds Cafe, Patterson has been working with the Larkin Street Youth Clinic providing services to homeless youth.

As Patterson says, “It’s not that chefs aren’t making the effort. What I question is how our efforts are being used.”

But if more chefs and other food professionals get on board with Patterson and Choi, the food industry will begin to see some serious changes, for the better. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Latest and Greatest in 2014’s Apps, Gadgets, and Toys (Part One)

The last decade has seen some phenomenal advances in technology and 2014 was no exception. Companies all over the world are busy trying to create the coolest and most popular new technological devices and listed below are 8 of the most awesome ones that I came across from this year.  

1. Century’s “Floe”
So many women, myself included, love ending a long, stressful day with a nice, relaxing soak in the tub. Often that includes bubbles, music, maybe even candles. Personally, I think the music is one of the best parts of the bath experience, but it can also be the most challenging. Dragging in a clunky docking station or blaring speakers from the other room serves as such an inconvenience for what is supposed to be a relaxing occasion. Enter in Floe, Century’s latest bluetooth speaker. It is a small, cone-shaped speaker that can play music from your smartphone or tablet via bluetooth, no cords required. The LED lights can be switched to a calming blue and the battery-charged speaker actually floats on water like a mini buoy. 

2. Takara Tomy’s Decora Palette
We live in a digitalized world and kids are some of the biggest consumers (and sometimes it seems, the most knowledgable) of modern day technology.  If your child loves taking pictures but you aren’t ready to commit to buying them a smartphone, this is the perfect gadget for you. It is not just a device that snaps photos but it also comes with various fun features such as the ability to alter images and add decorative stamps and frames. Cool features and it looks cute coming in blue, black, or bright pink. 

3. Aeropress
Are you a coffee drinker? If yes then you might consider this the #1 invention of the year. The Aeropress only costs about a week’s worth of coffee and saves you tons of money in the future. All it requires is a spoonful of your favorite coffee grounds and some hot water, then you press down and fresh, hot coffee comes out. It is way cheaper and less wasteful then making a whole pot for one or two cups or spending all that money on Nespresso cups. Did i mention its easy to clean?

4. Philips Norelco QT4070 Vacuum Beard Trimmer
Speaking of cleaning, finally someone has added a clean up system to one of their electric razors. Philips has created a vacuum to go along with one of their powerful electric razors so when you’re done giving yourself a stylish trim you can have a quick and easy clean up. I’m sure your spouses will appreciate it too! 

5. Logitech Powershell
For anyone who has gamers in their family, this gadget will be a favorite. The Logitech Powershell is a gaming controller made specifically for the iPhone. It works by sliding the iPhone directly into a built-in slot in the controller, allowing the phone to retain its independent functions while being attached to the controller. Another great feature is that the headphone jack stays open so your child can listen to music while they play. 

6. Mophie Space Pack
If you aren’t worried about adding a little bulk to your iPhone, then the Mophie Space Pack can serve as an awesome memory-adding addition to your mobile device. The 3-in-1 gadget includes a case, a charger, and a storage provider. 

7. Misfit Shine
Anyone interested in fitness or getting healthy should look to the new Misfit Shine. It is a stylish gadget that provides a new take on the typical fitness tracker. It can be worn in a variety of ways and is small, making it unintrusive and practically unnoticeable. Not to mention you only have to change the batteries every four months, so you don’t have to worry about it dying on you.

8. Nest Learning Thermostat
Control the heat from anywhere in your home with a click of a button on your smartphone and save on your heating bill with the Nest Learning Thermostat. Not only can you control the heat, but the device also comes with a humidity sensor that you can hook up to your dehumidifier and set to three temperature sensors. And we can’t forget the wifi radio! It also looks way cooler than any other thermostat you’re going to see in someone’s house.