chinese love, black dolls, and racist friends

Growing up, each Chinese New Year, my parents held a potluck, inviting their friends to bring their most treasured dishes from their favorite Chinese restaurants. Maybe they didn’t do it to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Maybe it was a New Year’s thing in general. Either way, I love this idea. Plates full of favorites, marked and labeled, everyone discussing, comparing, and complimenting.


fortune cookies de (Cookie Cards, via Country Living)
I brought this idea up to The Suitor, who thought our throwing a Chinese New Year potluck was a bit off color. "You know, because we’re not Chinese and all." It might come off offensive. I hadn’t even thought of that. I’ll pretty much celebrate any holiday, as long as good food’s involved. I adore learning about traditions and sharing with people who have that same lust for life. I hadn’t thought of it being hurtful. In fact, it kind of felt like a tradition of my own, given that I had grown up with Chinese potlucks in my life. I still think it’s a fun idea, but it might look weird, you know, a dining room full of white people eating homemade fortune cookies, dressed in red, with a tablescape to match, lychee martinis at the ready. A little creepy, very Sandra Lee. Still, I love the idea. And love to love that the Chinese New Year falls on Saint Valentine’s day this year.

Speaking of which, I’ve been wanting to bring in small valentines to the kids in Lucas & Abigail’s class at the J, but I wonder if that’s just bad form. It is, after all, SAINT Valentine’s Day, and I’m not sure it will go over well at Jew School. I might still do it: clear cellophane bags, each filled with a banana (so the parents don’t bitch about sugar), with a card attached that reads, "I’m bananas about you." I started making them last night, printing them, then cutting them out with my Silhouette Digital Craft Cutter. (They’re in the Ladybug room). I might also print out a small monkey with the "I’m bananas about you" note, then tie both cutouts as gift tags to the bags with coordinated ribbons. It’s not work; it’s a sick twisted joy.


I don’t know if I enjoy anything as much as I enjoy themes. Themed parties, themed gifts, clever details. I do know that I enjoy people who enjoy it as much as I do. I’ve made a new friend here in Austin who might just be as compulsive as I am when it comes to such crafty loverliness. And she likes to drink. So there’s that.

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She’s invited me to join her at a Black Apple Doll party. At first I thought she was being a bit racist. But after some research (read: Googling), I discovered that they’re Marsha Brady dolls, where you need to, in fact, go out and purchase some hippie-looking "vintage rags" and felt, or just buy one on etsy. Yeah, see, if I’m going to sew (at all) never mind something funky/odd/a bit ugly-kitsch, it’s going to be to sew a quilt of all the baby clothes with which I can’t part. Something like this ugly-kitsch quilt (left), just for the memories (ew, but I’d never use orange. That color should be yanked from color wheels everywhere).

Okay, this denim dress pumpkin quilt is actually too ugly to replicate, even if the clothes are replaced with hand embroidered smocking. There’s just too much going on. It would make any room feel cluttered. If I were to make two quilts, one of each of their baby clothes, it would have more white space, but it would still tell a story. I favor this one I found on flickr.

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14510170 60cf272148 o Now then, I either learn to quilt, or I find someone who can do this for me, while I get back to work. In the meanwhile, I need friends who can sew for me. Or I seriously need to take a sewing class, where I at least learn how to make a proper Halloween costume. BTW, how cute is this bi-racial couple? So dear. I bet they would come to my Chinese New Year dinner party.



  1. Oh please! Having a Chinese party to celebrate Chinese food and customs isn’t racist. My boyfriend and I went to China (both of us are Whitey McWhiteBreads) and were so blown away by the food there that when we got back to the states, we had a dinner party and made all the great dishes we had in Shanghai and Beijing for our friends. We had a handful of Chinese friends over to the dinner and they weren’t in the least offended.

  2. Every year my sister-in-law had a Chinese New Years party but with a twist. Each couple was in charge of either an appetizer, main meal (meat, chichen or fish)or dessert. Karen, the host, would cook the “fill-in’s” like eggrolls and pot stickers. She would also decorate to the nine and make her own “joke” fortune cookies. Each couple (husband and wife) had to go in the kitchen and prepare their dish when they were “up” while the others sat around drinking sake martini’s. The men really got into the cooking part, must have been the alcohol… Needless to say, we started about 1:00 in the afternoon and didnt get done till midnite. All day of eating and drinking-the perfect day! One year i was dead set on making shark soup! It didnt materialize, but i tried! P.S. No one liked drawing the dessert assignment-by the time that rolled around, we were all stuffed and sick!

  3. Jewish Day schools do not celebrate Halloween OR Valentine’s day. You can really piss off a large chunck of your parents that way! Our school is so explicite about the rules, that your blase, “oh I’m just gonna do it” attitude just actually gave me a stomach ache!! When the kids were small we would drop the valentine’s at the kids homes instead.

  4. “I am bananas about you” – LOVE. But at our “jew school” this would not fly. Even though half the kids aren’t Jewish. I would give the teachers a heads up.. Please post pictures of the finished bananas!

  5. Thank GOD my mom loves to sew, so my kids always had the best costumes…I had the glorious original prom dresses and hand-made wedding dress. I would rather gouge my eyes out with chopsticks than sew. Or quilt. Or make Valentines. But I do like to drink, so maybe all is not lost.

    Interestingly enough, the crafty gene went directly from my mom to my sister to my eldest daughter without touching me. Eldest daughter simply loves all things crafty. You can wave a skein of yarn in front of her, and miraculously, a beanie creature appears. You can put duct tape in her general vicinity – poof…a prom dress! Clay, beans, pasta, cloth, yarn, embroidery thread, stickers, paper, twigs…she can make anything out of anything. Amazing.

  6. Stephanie,
    I’m obsessed with making Black Apple Dolls, and will be at the Black Apple Party on Thursdsy. My little girl has so many, I’ve decided to start making and stockpiling them for children in Haiti. So, I was even thinking of making some dolls with darker skin, but wasn’t sure if it was p.c. to make black black apple dolls.

    You should definitely join us on Thursday. Not only do we adore the little dolls, but, as luck would have it, we also make quilts. We all have big plans for our own baby clothes memory quilts and are constantly combing the fabric stores looking for the perfect fabric combinations. We have plenty of fabric and doll making supplies, and I’m 100% sure that someone there would be more than happy to sew for you.


  7. I love how crazy you are about themes and can’t wait to see/read about your themed nights, days, parties! You inspire me! Coming to this blog is very comforting. As always, thanks.

  8. Eek, wearing orange today! Have to say, I love the way you just throw it out there, not caring what readers will think about your random judgments. I love when you write things like that! Even when you go against everything I stand for, like loving the color orange.

  9. What kind of school forbids valentines? And halloween? I am F*** flabbergasted. What a messed up over the top PC world we live in if little childhood joys like that are forbidden.

    1. it’s not pc, it’s logical. they are religious holidays–that’s why a non-christian religious school would not celebrate them and i would doubt that a catholic school celebrates purim. a non religious secular school likely celebrates tons of holidays,including haloween, valentines day, chanukkah, and easter.

  10. I love the V-day card idea but giggled because of all the fruits, bananas are among the “worst” in terms of sugar, but you’re right that it will trick the parents, who are more focused on evils like candy and juice.

    If only the anti-sugar police actually understood concepts like “nutritional content” and “critical thinking.” Sugar is sugar is sugar, whether it’s corn syrup, sucrose or fructose.

    1. Author

      Well, it’s better than sending them home with a bag full of mangoes. Yum. Ooh, or a whole juicy pineapple. Forget it. I don’t want to get in trouble. No Saint Valentine’s Gifts for the kids at school.

      1. That kind of sucks :( How about making them for friends of the family or friends of theirs outside of school. Used to have such fun making homemade valentines for with my kids..

        1. Author

          Yeah, confirmed it today with their teacher, who said, “Yeah, big no-no around here. Better not.” Sooo glad I asked. Thanks to those who suggested I do so. AND, um, just for the record, I see nothing wrong with calling their school at the J, “Jew School.” If they attended a school in a church, I’d call it “Jesus School.”

  11. for years my hubs’s biz acquaintance threw a chinese new year’s party. in fact it turned into an “a” list party. i stalked my postman every january hoping, hoping that we made the invite list. no one really dressed in chinese attire, more stella mccartney vs. yves st laurent however, the food was cheffed in-house by chinatown. what a party those were as after throwing these wonderful shindigs for a decade, the gracious hosts decided to retire and move to the bahamas! tsk.

  12. “Jew School”?? I am almost 50 years old and have never, ever heard a Jewish person refer to a Jewish preschool or Hebrew School as “Jew School.” I am Jewish and about half of my friends are. It’s incredibly derogatory, and as a writer, a person with Jewish family and a thoughtful human being, you should know better.

  13. Some of us look fantastic in orange. Take a gander at the tanned blond coeds in burnt orange mini-dresses at the next UT Football game.

  14. I, too, LIVE for a good theme! I love this Valentines idea of yours. Honestly, most JCCs aren’t all that religious so I think you’re safe!

  15. Why would it be racist? Doesn’t everyone celebrate St. Patrick’s Day – at least everyone that loves to drink?
    I love your Valentine idea. When my kids were small, I loved, loved, loved making goodies and decorating for their holiday parties – I volunteered to be room mother every year. I loved staying up till 3am the night before a party making sure everything was ready. It was a sickness, but I loved it.
    Have fun with yours!

    1. Hey Barbara, I love to drink, and I love to drink Irish (a Bushmills girl) but I don’t celebrate St. Pats and I live in a big St. Pats city. It’s not a decided political move or anything, but I’m not Catholic or Christian, wasn’t raised it, and it’s just not interesting to me. Maybe if I had made friends who were into it I would but it’s not my thing culturally or socially, and I can drink Irish with my friends whenever I want (yay adulthood!) so there is nothing to draw me to that holiday. I mean, I like parties and celebrations and spring and color but I don’t celebrate Holi either. The thing about being in the majority (and I’m white and middle class so it’s only with religion that I experience being fundamentally different than the majority) is that you are part of it, so you don’t automatically see that what’s culture to you is not to someone else. This Aziz Ansari clip is hilarious and expresses this so well!

      1. Thanks, Ubers. I guess the clip didn’t come through, but I understand what you mean. I’ve always been interested in other cultures and customs. I was lucky enough to work for a while in a microcosm of different races, religions, etc. and I loved learning about all of the different celebrations. But I shouldn’t assume everyone would find that interesting.

  16. It’s really a pleasant surprise. I think this is a great article. I’ve read some of your posts here and they are pretty good. Hope to read more of it.

  17. I’m Chinese American and I don’t think non-Chinese people getting together to have Chinese food for Chinese New Year is racist at all. My family and I celebrate Thanksgiving every year with a big turkey, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. I certainly don’t think anyone has a problem with that. Like yourself, I love celebrating holidays- any reason to come together with family and friends for good food and drinks is fine by me. Bon appetit!

  18. I do really love Chinese cuisine, though some are too salty or too spicy, but nonetheless, its very delicious!

  19. I really don’t think there is anything racist about it. =/ I love Chinese and I recall one time that my grandparents had the whole family over after they returned from China and we ate nothing but Chinese food. It was amazing and I can only imagine how well the food tastes in China!

    If I knew that many people and lived near my family I would definitely have a get together with Chinese food!

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