New Lunar Year, Who Dis? Baking pineapple tarts, and dressing me and my home for the Year of The Rat

January 27, 2020
Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year):  Baking pineapple tarts, and dressing me and my home for the Year of The Rat - Posh, Broke, & Bored

GRAB LIFE BY THE BALLS ORANGES. CARPE CITRUS, BABY.


恭喜發財 
鼠年大吉.  
新年快樂!

Wishing you prosperity and wealth in the Year of The Rat. Happy New Year! 

While many of you were making (and breaking) your Gregorian New Year Resolutions in the first days of January, this not-so-delicate flower has had weeks to prep and decorate for the only New Year that matters to me - Lunar, naturally - in order to start the Year of the Rat on a high note. Oh - I also taught myself how to bake pineapple tarts. I am mouse, hear me roar.

#PBBxCNY



Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year):  Baking pineapple tarts, and dressing me and my home for the Year of The Rat - Posh, Broke, & Bored

On Chinese New Year, we pose with mandarin oranges. This petite fruit carries connotations of bringing good luck - the name in Chinese and Cantonese sounds like the word "auspicious".

Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year):  Baking pineapple tarts, and dressing me and my home for the Year of The Rat - Posh, Broke, & Bored

Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year):  Baking pineapple tarts, and dressing me and my home for the Year of The Rat - Posh, Broke, & Bored




GILDING THE JASIMINNE:  NEW YEAR, NEW TRADITIONAL DRESS  

New clothes are a given for Chinese New Year. However, the significance of a new dress for the new year has long since lost its lustre. Thanks to the advent of fast fashion, the developed world has long moved on from the days when the average person couldn't afford new clothes but for once a year. Ironically, it's this disposable culture that has renewed my appreciation for slow and even inconvenient consumption. Now, rather than thoughtlessly snatching several red dresses off a shop rail; I now carefully select a bolt of red brocade silk, and complementing frog buttons, piping, and trim. A visit to a trusted seamstress (the contact details of which are fiercely and jealously guarded) follows. Sketches are drafted and finalised. Measurements are taken and compared to previous years', a yardstick of my discipline and self-control. Spoiler - 2019 has been extremely prosperous for me, if you know what I mean *pats belly*. Then, the weeks of waiting while my garment is created. Fittings ensue. A seam may or may not have to be let out *guiltily hides jar of pineapple tarts*. And then, the finished product. A silk cheongsam (qipao in Mandarin), made to my measurements, coaxed from imagination and paper to life by a deft hand and skilled eye. A traditional dress that evokes the halcyon days when every purchase was thoughtful, considered, and meaningful.





YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT ELSE WAS A PAIN TO CREATE FROM SCRATCH? 
...THESE HAND-PAINTED PRESS ON NAILS. 

Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year):  Baking pineapple tarts, and dressing me and my home for the Year of The Rat - Posh, Broke, & Bored

Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year):  Baking pineapple tarts, and dressing me and my home for the Year of The Rat - Posh, Broke, & Bored

Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year):  Baking pineapple tarts, and dressing me and my home for the Year of The Rat - Posh, Broke, & Bored

Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year):  Baking pineapple tarts, and dressing me and my home for the Year of The Rat - Posh, Broke, & Bored

About 1/20th of the food gifts we receive on Chinese New Year - biscuits, chocolates, wine, ginseng, etc are popular. 
I lay out the sweet confectionaries on the coffee table for guests, and donate the rest.

Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year):  Baking pineapple tarts, and dressing me and my home for the Year of The Rat - Posh, Broke, & Bored

PINEAPPLES - A CHINESE SYMBOL OF PROSPERITY. KEEP READING TO FIND OUT WHY.
DRESSING THE HOME FOR CHINESE NEW YEAR 

The usual tributes of floral arrangements and food baskets arrive, taking over side tables, sideboards, and coffee table. I reupholstered the 20-something year old sofa, armchairs, and pouffe in the drawing room in rich burgundy and gold velvet. Spring Festival couplets, paper cutouts, red lanterns, and more make their annual appearance from the dusty depths of the decorating chest. Otherwise, there's only so many new ways one can decorate for Chinese New Year. I did, however, build an artificial cherry blossom tree using mostly upcycled materials.

A chipped terracotta pot found on the grounds was spray painted gold and filled with 'gold' ingots - decoration items saved from the hundreds of food baskets we've received over the years. Likewise, the tassels used to adorn the blossom branches: more tat designed to be throwaway which we hoarded for an occasion just like this. God knows where the fairy lights wound around the tree trunk came from, it's probably older than I am. The only new items were the artificial tree trunk and the dozens of red silk cherry blossoms on branches. About half of day of painstakingly attaching all the floral branches later, and the result is a 10 foot-tall 'cherry blossom tree' growing from a 'pot of gold'. A prosperity symbol any superstitious Chinese person would welcome in their parlour for any occasion, what more this most hallowed of celebrations.

Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year):  Baking pineapple tarts, and dressing me and my home for the Year of The Rat - Posh, Broke, & Bored

Forget Christmas trees. In this house, we do Chinese New Year trees.

Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year):  Baking pineapple tarts, and dressing me and my home for the Year of The Rat - Posh, Broke, & Bored

Which we adorn with accessories rescued and upcycled from the scrap heap they were destined for. 
I'm talking about you, food basket suppliers...

Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year):  Baking pineapple tarts, and dressing me and my home for the Year of The Rat - Posh, Broke, & Bored

...and also with ang paos (red envelopes) that retailers give away by the bulk.

ANY LEFTOVER TASSELS MADE THEIR WAY OVER TO SMALLER...
...BUT NO LESS TREASURED FLORAL ARRANGEMENTS.

Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year):  Baking pineapple tarts, and dressing me and my home for the Year of The Rat - Posh, Broke, & Bored

MAKING PINEAPPLE JAM FROM SCRATCH - A MADWOMAN'S ERRAND.

MAKING PINEAPPLE TARTS AND PINEAPPLE JAM FOR THE FIRST TIME

If one wanted to flex their wealth in 18th - 19th century England, one would rent a pineapple to display at dinner parties. Nothing screamed "Mr Worldwide" more than an exotic New World fruit (the likes of which many had never even see in the flesh) as a centrepiece. These days, pineapple is far less difficult and expensive to acquire. But pineapples remain a Chinese symbol of good feng shui because its Chinese name sounds like "good luck coming your way". That's one reason why pineapple tarts are so popular during Chinese New Year - as snacks and also as gifts to friends and family.

Unfamiliar with Chinese New Year and its customs?
 

Read more -  CHINESE NEW YEAR, EXPLAINED

Far less popular is the actual act of making pineapple tarts. But I like to make life difficult for myself, so...

"WELP - NO TURNING BACK NOW."
BY THIS POINT, SEVERAL HOURS AND STEPS HAVE ALREADY PASSED.
Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year):  Baking pineapple tarts, and dressing me and my home for the Year of The Rat - Posh, Broke, & Bored
THE FINAL PRODUCT - HOME MADE PINEAPPLE TARTS WITH GOLD LEAF.
...I taught myself to make pineapple tarts from scratch - including the sweet pineapple jam in the centre of the buttery, flaky shortbread-like pastry. It's an extremely labour intensive process: about 5 to 6 hours per batch of 100 tarts. I baked over 4 batches - that's 400+ tarts. I even adapted the recipe for the pineapple jam - eschewing the traditional yellow colour for a deep caramel brown to provide a contrast for my Midas touch: edible gold leaf.

To top it all off, I put my graphic design degree to good use by designing the labels for the containers - jars with gold-coloured lids, naturally. I agonised over every detail, from the packaging (even the paper doilies layered between levels of tarts) to choosing coconut sugar for the jam's alluring brown hue. Which (I hope) makes my homemade pineapple tarts, gifted to a lucky few, a tad more special than the store-bough variety. That intoxicating and unique flavour in the pineapple jam? That's the salt from my tears.

For my pineapple jam and pineapple tart recipe, go to my Instagram Stories - it's saved in the Highlights Reel 'CNY'.

LAYERED BETWEEN PAPER DOILIES AND PACKED IN JARS...
...BEARING LABELS I DESIGNED AND PRODUCED MYSELF.

Suffice to say, I'm exhausted from the lead up to Chinese New Year...
...so you'll excuse me for putting my feet up. Happy Lunar New Year, all!

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