Chinese red envelopes

My husband’s business partner and his wife are having a baby this month.

They are Malaysian Chinese so I thought it would be nice to give the baby a red envelope, also known as ‘hongbao’. 

When visiting relatives in Singapore as a little girl, I knew them as ‘ang pao’ but it’s all the same thing.

You've probably worked  out that the red envelopes contain money.

In terms of etiquette:

  • An even sum is favoured
  • Avoid giving an amount with a 4 in it
  • Give notes of a single denomination, not coins. 

The tradition of giving red envelopes comes from the story of the evil spirit, Suì (祟)

Suì, a black form with colourless hands, tormented a village by sneaking into children’s bedrooms, touching them on the head as they slept leaving them ill or disabled. The parents of a boy from the village gave him coins wrapped in red paper to play with, to keep him awake for the New Year. Everyone fell asleep, including some fairies who came to protect the boy. When Suì entered the room and reached out to touch the boy’s head, the coins shone brightly, frightening Suì away. Words spread that the coins scared Sui away, and so parents put money in red paper.

My mum has a stack of them at home. If I’d planned a little better, I could have swiped one when I last visited.  Thieving ang pao is probably highly inauspicious so I looked for envelopes online. They all looked fine but I had no idea what the characters meant.

Remember when Chinese character tattoos were popular in the nineties and then it turned out that the Chinese characters which were meant to say ‘Wisdom’ or ‘Courage in the face of adversity’ actually said things like ‘Rice fried in pork fat’ and ‘Window Okay Beaver Tears’? 

I wanted to avoid a faux pas so I sent a picture to my Aunty Yian who checked that the envelope was appropriate.

The one I bought, at the top of the post, says happiness/good fortune. I was safe to proceed.

I thought it could be a fun craft project to make your own red envelopes, so here are my recommended supplies. I know the leather Aspinal envelope isn't part of the art and craft supply kit, but it was too cool an idea not to include. 

 

Baby's first gift

Alex is the first one of my friends to birth a child.

In the run-up to the delivery, I frequently experienced internal fireworks of excitement so extreme that I had to sit down.

This gift quest would be a doddle. All baby clothes look cute, all the toys are colourful or so soft that you want to rub your face on them. Plus anything in miniature is a novelty.

I was almost at the cash register of Trotters, a very nice baby store, with some tiny rabbit booties when I decided not to proceed with my purchase but to wait.

Although I loved the bunny booties, they weren't exactly Alex's taste. 

Also, after about a month, the baby wouldn't be able to wear them. Alex would probably just end up using them to polish a small mirror. One bunny bootie per finger. It would be a slow task.

Because she wanted to keep the gender of the baby a surprise, people bought her lots of grey, white and yellow gifts. She requested something colourful so I came up with a list of items:

  • mobile for the cot
  • baby crockery and cutlery
  • baby gym mat for tummy time
  • bath toys
  • wall stickers for the nursery

I decided on a Fisher Price baby gym mat with a kick piano. It's awesome.

Fisher Price piano gym | £44.99 | Argos

Fisher Price piano gym | £44.99 | Argos

Nothing like this was available when I was a baby. My mum probably just plonked me down on the floor with a Bible and some dried rice to play with and look how well I turned out!

Alex gave birth to Baby W in June and he is perfect. I have witnessed baby W on the mat. I beheld his intelligent eyes, so full of wonder and his teeny baby toes playing the notes with delicacy.

Baby W is going to be a genius with this level of stimulation.

Gift Ideas for Babies

(Visit my Pinterest board for more)

Wedding gifts & British brands

We went to Italy last weekend to celebrate the marriage of my husband’s university friend.

Dolce, Gabbana and Tornatorne made it a long-term ambition of mine to attend an Italian wedding. I had a vision of myself in a full-skirted lace midi-dress twirling down a narrow street. Thanks to a dress on sale from Whistles, I made it happen. 

When we got married, the happy couple gave us some Lisa Corti table linen (similar below) which is awesome. You can’t find it in London, the colours are bright and beautiful. It showed that they put in some thought.

I was informed by my husband that there was ‘no way’ the couple would have a gift list. So I spent hours coming up with ideas for gifts that were made in the UK. The bar was set high.

After a good few hours of brainstorming, I visited their wedding website and discovered that they did have a gift list (contributions to their honeymoon).

So that my ideas aren’t wasted, here are my top five British brands:

SMYTHSON

This 125-year-old luxury brand was favoured by Winston Churchill, Sigmund Freud and the Maharajahs of India. The products are elegantly designed and well-made. Gift options are abundant: from leather-backed notebooks to jewellery boxes, all in beautiful colours, 

WEDGWOOD

I remember learning about Josiah Wedgwood in history class and thinking that this would be as interested in ceramics as I'd ever be. How times have changed. Wedgwood isn't just about blue and white china. The recent collaboration with Jasper Conran is supreme and worth marvelling over. The plates from the Butterfly Bloom collect (pictured below) are also awesome. 

JOHNSONS OF ELGIN

I dare anyone to find a better Cashmere shop. 

CHAPEL DOWN

The UK isn't generally known for it's sparkling wine but it should be. Award-winning Chapel Down is based in Kent and produces sparkling and white wines, beer and cider. The CEO says on their website: 'I passionately believe that there is no point in just trying to be the best. We have to be the only people who can do what we do.'  

LIBERTYS OF LONDON

Liberty prints are unique. I can't find out if they produce table linen, but I'm sure it wouldn't be a big job to buy and hem some of their material to make a statement tablescape. The range is enormous. The range of styles and colours is vast.

What brands would you recommend? Comment below!

Check out my Best of British Pinterest board.