Sunday, September 15, 2013

Simply Mad about "Rojin No Hi"

picture courtesy: Tokyo Times
Today is a national holiday in Japan - "Rojin No Hi" or the Day of the Elderly.  Created in 1966, it is held on the third Monday of September (September 2013 will have 5 Mondays by the way) and it is dedicated to show respect for older generations and to celebrate longevity.

Every Japanese tradition or holiday I have learned about since I moved here seems to be full or whimsy and imagination; a degree of charm only Japanese know how to accomplish.  "Rojin No Hi" is no exception. 

In Japanese, babies are referred to "aka chan" or "the red one".  Traditionally a Japanese person will will wear red on their 60th birthday - 60 years complete a cycle on the Chinese calendar and it is also said that after 60 you become a baby darn cute is that!?!?!  Everything Japanese do has a reason to be, a meaning or some sort of symbolism and I love that about their culture and customs.

The elderly are well respected and esteemed in Japanese society so it is no surprise the younger generations go out of their way to celebrate their lives with bells and whistles when the day comes.  Meals are delivered to their houses and school children prepare dances and performance to entertain and honor the "older folks". is to Japan's "Old Folks" on their special day; today September 16, 2013!  Cheers!

data and this picture: courtesy of "A Celebration of Women"

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Simply Mad About Summer Festivals

Unique traditions, cultural differences and charming, fantasy-filled tales like the one below is what I enjoy most about traveling and about the opportunity to live internationally.

Here is the love story of Orihime & Hikoboshi...Enjoy!

One of the major summer festivals in Japan is the Tanabata Festival or the Star Festival. This festival originated from the sad, sweet tale that stems from Chinese folklore about two stars, Vega and Altair, also known as the weaver girl, Orihime, who was the daughter of the Emperor of the Galaxy, and the cowherder, Hikoboshi, who fell in love but neglected their respected duties of weaving cloth and cowherding, thus drawing the wrath of the Emperor of the Galaxy upon them. Separated by the Milky Way, or Amanogawa, and forbidden to see her lover, the weaver girl wept, and the tears moved her father to allow the lovers to meet once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh month, but only if it doesn't rain.

In Japan festivities take place usually in early July or August, as August 7th is around the 7th day of the 7th month in the lunar calendar. These festivals, call matsuri, are exceedingly popular with locals and tourists. There are always plenty of food and beverage stalls available with music
and lots of entertainment which varies locally from spot to spot. Many local vendors put up elaborate decorations that try to outdoor the decorations of their neighbors.

Common elements in the Tanabata festivals include the display of a large, or several large poles of bamboo, with many small branches called sasatake. This is sometimes called a "wish tree," and people write wishes on colored strips of paper and tie them to the branches in hopes they will come true. Other colorful paper decorations are hung representing things like long life, good health, success in business, in one's studies or skills, and so on.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Simply Mad About Spinalonga Island

I am getting ready to list designs from my newest collection for Simply Mad Jewelry and wanted to give a little background about where the inspiration came from.  I hope you like it and I hope you get an opportunity to visti Spinalonga one day, if you haven't already done so!

This collection was inspired by a tiny and deserted Greek island, called Spinalonga.  Spinalonga is located off the northeast coast of Elounda, a charming fishermen’s village in Crete (Greece). The intriguing and unoccupied island has an ancient history, but it is the period between 1903 and 1957 which has fascinated me since the first time I saw the island.  From 1903 until 1957 the island served as a leper colony and it went on to be the last leper colony in Europe.  

I have had the opportunity to visit Elounda a few times and every time I go, admiring Spinalonga from the distance is one of my favorite things to do.  I am transported to that period when lepers roamed the streets, sick but happy to have a community in which they were accepted, love, supported and a kind of normalcy was possible.  A lot of the images that fill my mind come from a book I read after seeing the island for the first time – “The Island” by Victoria Hislop.  The book relates the story of a family whose mother is sent to Spinalonga after discovering she had contracted leprosy.  Hislop’s descriptive scenes of daily life in leprosy-ridden Spinalonga are what play in my head every time I think of the intriguing island. 

I have chosen these pictures of Spinalonga (seen from Elounda) as inspiration for the Greek Goddess of Summer Collection.  I love the soothing and summery combinations of blues and tans with a touch on gold to represent the Mediterranean sun.

I hope you will connect with some pieces from this collection that will make you go on a journey across the Aegean Sea hoping from one Greek Isle to the next including a visit to Spinalonga.

Here is a preview from the collection...

Shop Simply Mad Jewelry here
wear it & be happy!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Simply Mad About Japanese Festivals

The best of traveling and living abroad is meeting the people and learning about their culture, traditions and festivals.  And in Japan there is no shortage of any of this.  Whimsical tales abound and numerous festivals are held throughout the county all year round.  Its ancient culture, intact traditions and endless festivals make Japan one of the most fascinating countries to explore.  And I am lucky to have the opportunity to be here to experience it all first hand!

Today I want to tell you about Children's Day, celebrated on May 5th ever year.  Originally girls had their own day and festival on March 3 - "Hinamatsuri" - and boys had their own special day on May 5th - "Tango no Sekku".  In 1948 the government declared May 5th Children's Day for all children - "Kodomo no Hi" - and made this day a national holiday.  Girls still have their festival on March 3rd but is not recognized as a holiday.

Both festivals are meant to celebrate children and show gratitude for their mothers.  People pray for the children's happiness and healthy growth.

During "Hinamatsuri" family display dolls in their houses dressed in traditional Heian (period from 794-1192costumes and they offer rice cakes and food to the dolls.  Below you will see a sample display on three tiers covered with a red carpet with the emperor and empress sitting on the top tier followed by other members of the court in order of ranking.  These displays can have up to 7 tiers.  The dolls are used as charms and amulets to ward off evil.

As part of the celebrations, paper dolls are placed on rivers; these floating dolls are also believed to ward off evil spirits.  These practice is called "Nagashi bina".

During "Tango no Sekku" there are no dolls involve but carp fish instead.  Carp "flags" are flown outside every house, one carp per boy in the house.  These flags are called "Koi Nobori".  According to Chinese mythology, the Dragon’s Gate is located at the top of a waterfall cascading from a legendary mountain.   Many carp swim upstream against the river’s strong current, but few are capable or brave enough for the final leap over the waterfall.  If a carp successfully makes the jump, it is transformed into a powerful dragon.  For this reason carp symbolize strength and success.  The way the wind blows in the wind makes it look like they are swimming upstream.

"Koi Nobori"

I hope you have enjoyed reading about this tiny slice of Japanese culture and tradition.  There is so much more to what this country has to offer as far as cultural education, festivals and whimsical celebrations.  Stay tuned for more.

Fun/Unofficial Fact:  Like March 3rd (3/3) is Girls' Day and May 5th (5/5) is Boy's Day; I have been told that "unofficially" April 4th (4/4) is Gays day!  I think that's cute and funny!

More soon!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Simply Mad About Sun, Wind & Sea

A new Simply Mad collection is taking shape and here is the inspiration behind it...

Sometime ago, on a whim, I took a trip to Martha’s Vineyard by myself and stayed in a charming bed & breakfast called The Charlotte Inn in the town of Edgartown. I was in an adventurous stage in my life during which traveling alone and making last minute plans were the order of the day! Every weekend…another adventure with me, myself and I. I had never been to Martha’s Vineyard before and had no idea what to stay.
The Charlotte Inn
In the days leading up to my trip, I was reading a book called “When God Winks on Love”. It relates real-life love stories and how these couples found each other by what most would call coincidences, but the author argues that these events were God’s winks nudging these people to follow their intended destiny.

One of the couples whose story is told in the book, Paula & Gary, happened to own The Charlotte Inn in Edgartown. If that was not a wink from God to me, I don’t know what is! I immediately put the book down and called the Inn and made my reservation for my 3-night adventure.

Edgartown Lighthouse
Edgartown is a charming, charming little town where relaxed living, sailing, eating and beach going are top priorities. I remember marveling at the amount of sailboats lining the horizon and at the salty smell the air was charged with. 

There is something very alluring bout these New England coastal towns where luxury and easy living co-exist brilliantly. The casual style mixed with high-end elements make these quaint and charming feel like little piece of heaven.

I hold great memories from that weekend in Edgartown staying at a bed and breakfast I had a secret “wink” in  common with and I still smile when I remember how I came to choose The Charlotte Inn. And by the way, I did meet Paula and Gary! I have recently re-visited those memories and inspiration struck during my reminiscing and a new collection was born!
Mood Board

Sun, Wind & Sea is Simply Mad’s nautical-themed collection inspired by my weekend in this gem of an island. Reds, blues and gold tones abound in the designs evoking a sense of glamour, images of infinite and mysterious seas and the magic of a breathtaking sunset.

Sailboats and sailing are synonymous with luxury, old world elegance, freedom and romance. Let your hair loose and let the wind blow your troubles away, let the sun warm your skin and enjoy the endless sea sparkling all around you. Let these jewelry pieces take you on a sailing journey where you can be carefree and happy while you relax & enjoy the Sun, the Wind & the Sea!

Here is a preview of designs from the "Sun, Wind and Sea" designs HERE