October 30, 2008

Cauldron-ful of hot, black goo

Nori tsukudani
Originally uploaded by O'Chica

Halloween Post.

How do you feel about a pot of simmering black goo? It's made of sea weed.


It's "nori-no-tsukudani".
You see nori wrapping (or inside of) sushi roll. That's how nori looks like at the store. Paper-thin, dry, sometimes with seasoning. If you leave it in your pantry too long (more than a few months), it gets stale and loses aroma. But you can rescue it. Like me, found a couple of almost a year-old bags of pretty good quality ones the other day. (Yeah, I brought them to the USA this January when we spent holidays in Japan, kept them in the pantry, sent them back to Japan along with boxes of mac'n'cheese when we moved. I didn't know they are there until I unpack. Sigh.)

Tsukudani is a savory (with some sweetness, though) preserve made from almost any food, cooked with soy sauce and sugar or mirin. Nori no tsukudani is sold in bottles at any Japanese grocery store, and very popular. Japanese love it on a warm bowl of steamed rice. Store-bought one usually is not made from nori, but from aosa (also a kind of sea weed) for better aroma.
My childhood staple is this (the top one, sorry no English). They say their low-sodium, sweeter version is good on buttered toast. Sure it looks gross. Even for me.

Anyway, when you make it at your kitchen, beware of burning.  It's gooey. Hee-hee.

Happy Halloween!

October 28, 2008

mini witch

witch with wand
Originally uploaded by O'Chica

Pattern; Little Witch Finger Puppet, Free Crochet Pattern fro Lion Brand Yarn (Pattern Number; 80770AD)
Yarn; KnitPicks Palette, Black and Mint
Hook; US D/3 -3.25mm aluminum

My Halloween Project.

It looks Halloween has got a pretty good position in marketing calender in Japan. There's a whole orange and black section in every 100-yen shop (what there are looks exactly the same thing you'll find in Dollar shop in the US. - they all come from China anyway). Pumpkins on windows of cafes, doctor's offices, grocery stores and beauty salons. There's only one thing I miss - costume. You can't find cheap Indiana Jones' jacket. No Spiderman outfit. No Pirates of Caribbean beads-dangling-wig. No angel, no skeleton.
There are some cat tail clips and witches' hat hair bands, but no "real garments."

When my daughter told me "I am going to be an angel on Halloween Day!", it meant I had to make up some costume for her. Her last year's angel costume was just the right size for her. No hope she'll fit in it even just one arm. Maybe skirt part... if I sew in an elastic at waist.... I thought and thought, and came up with an idea to use my blouse (white, soft, shiny) and little sewing. I let her try on my blouse, but she didn't want to, finally declaiming "I don't want a costume."
WHAT?! What have I done to her? Did she just slip her tongue? Is it just a 4-yr-old's mood swing/ attention span? Or as she lost some of her "American-ness" ?

She can't go trick-or-treating on neighbors anyway (Halloween is not accepted in Japan to THAT level) .
There are other holiday events in Japan she would never see if we stayed in America, we can't have both Japanese and American events, whichever country we were. If we get something new, we lose something what we had. That's the way everything goes. You can't have them all. If you can choose what to have, you are lucky.

Maybe it's not a Japanese/American culture thing for her. She just didn't want to try what doesn't fit on her in the middle of her "camp out" (in our living room), just that. Maybe she demands to have it on Halloween Day, and I'll need to ust a lot of safety pins to fix it in a hurry.

Still, I feel sad (overly sad, I guess) for her that she has lost some of what she was born into.

This little witch does have a magic power to make me feel better. Her name is Hermione. (Yeah, easy. Or we can't remember all the names of the dolls we have.)

October 23, 2008


Usahana on the lap

Pattern; Blue eyes - Usahana , in 「ハローキティとサンリオキャラクターの はじめよう!かんたんあみぐるみ」
Yarn;  Hamanaka Wanpaku Denis in 8 different colors (15g most - what to do with leftovers?)
Hook; JP 5/0, bamboo

The biggest challenge about this project is, making up my mind to get all the colors of same yarn.  Since I am in Japan, and the pattern calls for Japanese yarn, finding the exact yarn is not a problem.  It's the cost.  One ball costs about 400 yen.  Although I had one color from different project, 7 balls × 400 = 2,800 yen, means this doll costs almost $30.

After all, I couldn't resist to see my daughter's smile.  I am so happy now, seeing how delighted she got her.

FYI, white with blue polka dot skirt she is wearing was sewn by her Grandma (my mom in law).  She sews, I knit and crochet.  Never crush into each other.

For the leftovers, I am thinking of making this Totoro doll with the blue (used for right ear and eyes), and white from the pink and white hat.  (Yes, the pink for the doll and the hat is the same color.  No, I had to buy a new ball, because I had used up the leftover making a small small Tawashi and needed more for the doll anyway.)  I am having THAT feeling, yes.  That feeling I, am going,  to need, to buy another ball of those two colors because I run out of yarn in the last row.

October 18, 2008

Subs, continued

I went to Yoshikawa, a craft store which has, in my opinion, the best variety of yarn within my reach (means, where I can take my daughter with me and shop and still can cook that day) this Thursday.  A little bit disappointed with yarn selection, but got 13 skeins anyway - this project needs 8 colors, and, although I have one of them, I still needed other 7, a little upset when my daughter started crying over lost (= thrown away) VHS tapes of Hamtaro (she found button collections of Hamtaro caracters and remembered how much she loved the show), bought one each of  whole 48 colors of 20cm x 20cm felt cloth for projects from this and this books.

My disappointment was not about the store, but the yarn itself, mostly.  Looked like all the yarns from Hamanaka are too soft and smooth.  I am into more wooly, sticky and (probably) itchy yarns these days.  Of course soft and smooth and merino-ish yarn has a lot of beauty itself, but, it is not what I am looking for.  Especially for fingering to sports weight yarns I would assign to stranded colorwork project.  Hmm.  

Then, last night, I noticed I looked over one thing.
Woolland 7 is pretty wooly, sticky yarn which felts beautifully.  How about finer selection from Nikke Victor Yarns?  Isn't it the same, or similar fiber and make as thicker ones?  My only buying option for them is online yarn store like here.  It's OK.  Oh, I can't wait.  I will try one skein each of white and black, making Selbu mittens and gloves

How about a double-knit scarf with the soft chu-boso (fingering-compatible) Hamanaka yarn I bought anyway (because it's so soft!  Did I say I don't like soft yarn?  I LOVE soft yarn!!)?

October 15, 2008


Before I came bak to Japan, I was nervous and worried about a lot of, well, nothing.  Like, "Can we find a good pediatrician for my daughter?" (There're two pediatrician's offices within 5 minutes' walk.  The one who happened to be open when my daughter cut her palm during obon holidays is excellent.  Very open , informative, gentle and energetic.  It's totally my daughter's problem that she have to cry every time she sees him.  Overreacting.)  Like, "Can I find good cheese or baking supplies that I got used to in the USA?"  (Except for bacon, I can find good stuff, if I pay a little more than I used to. Or have no problem with Japanese product. Oh, Texas-thick bacon, I miss you so much.  So-called "bacon" in Japan looks like Spam with fat.)
I can get Quaker's oatmeal at nearby grocery store (Kyoto Co-op. Oh, they don't have English contents).  I can't find those rainbow colored Jell-O nor Mac'n'cheese in that blue box, but I don't miss them so much.  My daughter has a different opinion, though.


Now, it's time to go and find good "To-Go" yarns.

I think I have to find a good substitute for;
1. Cascade 220
2. Lily Sugar'n'Cream
3. KnitPicks Palette
4. Good and cheap acrylic yarn that I can knit/crochet Tawashis and toys without thinking how small my budget is.

A candidate for 1. is, Woolland 7 or Woolland 9 from Nikke Victor Yarn.  7 is a little finer and 9 is a little thicker than Cascade 220, but they have OK color variation (20 or 22 each) although not so bright as Cascade 220 (but, honestly, do I need that much color choice? Not really.)  I think I can manage with proper size choosing (like, making size L with thinner Woolland 7).

The real problem about 3. is, all the Japanese yarn looks too smooth and soft for Fair Isle style colorwork.  Maybe not.  I am going to try Hamanaka Junmou Chu-boso.

4. is not so hard to find at 100-yen shop, if you don't care about colors (usually very bright and crying out "I AM CHEAP!!").  Or, I would hit some online stores to look for a bargain price for  Piccolo or Bonny from Hamanaka.  

The hardest thing to find is, to my horror, 2.  So far, I have no luck.  Every yarn on Japanese market is either too thin or too "green".  I don't say no to organic yarns, "Go Green" movement nor caring the Mother Earth.  I use my cloth shopping bag for the groceries.  I just say NO to pay $7-$8 to get 120yards (one skein of Sugar'n'Cream) of cotton yarn.  I think it's good ecologically, because I am seriously considering to tear old T-shirts into strips, knitting bath mat and others with it.  Yay to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  Thanks to Mason-Dixon Knitting.

Tomorrow, I am going to Yoshikawa (on B1 floor of Kyoto Tower - very odd place for a craft store, I would say.) to see those to-go-candidate yarns in person.  My daughter will be a good girl, because I promised to make a itty-bitty witch finger puppet for her.

Gotta make a shopping list.  Lengthy one, I am so sure.

October 14, 2008

Everything wooly

Kyoto has four seasons.

I knew that.  Yet I forgot that until I got frozen on a playground bench at 3 PM last Saturday while crocheting Tawashis, keeping an eye on my daughter.  I wore a long-sleeve and figured it would be warm enough.  I really have to remember how to get dressed in layers.

Now, I am looking at my queue on Ravelry again, rearranging it, adding Nether Garments by EZ in case I can't find leggings from UNIQRO nor MUJI.  Suddenly, I am feeling I don't have any yarn for my project. 

I am pretty sure my husband will ask for more pairs of socks.

October 07, 2008

pink and white and off

pink and white and Melonpanna
Pink and white
Pattern; Hat for an Adult by Anne Kubelik (on KnitList)
Yarn; Hamanaka Wanpaku Denis  colorway 2 (cream) and 9 (pink)Needles; JP 5 (3.6mm) 7" DPN set of 5
Made for; my daughter

My daughter started taking a swimming class this October.  She loves playing in the pool (with a floating, so far), and the Beijing Olympics inspired her.  We take JR to the next station, walk 5 minutes to the fitness club every Friday.   While waiting for a train on the elevated Tambaguchi station on the first day (rainy), I noticed she needs more warm clothes this fall/winter.  She has spent all her life in warm (too warm) Houston area, and has a whole cabinet-full of summer outfits.  Yes, she has two knitted hats and pairs of socks in wool and cotton jackets, but they are far from enough for around-freezing-temperature winter of Kyoto.  Wooly thoughts are rushing on me now.  She got two hand-me-down pullovers from her cousin.  How about leggings? Tomten jackets by EZ? 

Actually, she didn't need one more hat.  She just got hit by "I have to have this!" idea when we went to buy additional yarn for this project
log cabin on the way
and found this yarn.
hamanaka wanpaku 9
She refused to put the skein down, so I offered the easiest way to leave the store peacefully;  To make it into her hat.  Deal.
It's a 70% acrylic, 30% superwash wool casual yarn.  Not the softest yarn in the store, just was right in front of her (means; 80cm above the floor), and is PINK.
Although when asked, she says her favorite color is blue, she chooses pink a lot of times from wide variety of colors for her garments.  Girl.  I love you.

Back at home, we looked up patterns on Ravelry together and found one to fit both our tastes. The pattern was written as a text file in a fixed-width font (Courier? I love those typewriter-like look), chart and all.  I thought it was no problem.  Wrong.  I should have re-work the chart on a graph paper before CO.  Either I misread it or it is off.  The snowflakes look like they are pierced with a bamboo skewer.  Good thing my daughter doesn't care and color contrast is not strong.

I made a modification on the shape, leaving it as a rectangle and put a pompom on each corner, instead of sewing it up and make it cone-like shape.  I think I love Kitchener Stitch now.
The button on the left side is Melonpanna from her favorite TV show in Japan (next to Weather Forecast), Anpanman

Seeing I chugged it out just in two and a half days, and how gorgeous it looks on her, my husband suddenly realized that he walks 15 minutes from the station to his office everyday.  He also pointed out the fact that he walks either before the air warms up or after the sun went down.  OK.  I got an opportunity to make the chart right.  And he doesn't care it rectangle, would like it to be more conservative, toque style.  OK, OK. 

October 03, 2008

March of Dimes

March of Dimes
Originally uploaded by O'Chica

After all.

We had to say bye-bye to a lot of stuff we had in the US. Many of them went to donation, and some found a second life at my friend's. We received a little money on the course, to make things easier.

We longed to become parents for quite some time in Japan and couldn't make it, and moved to the US, and suddenly, had a beautiful, healthy daughter. We thought when we have opportunities, we would like to do something for the babies born in the US. Thus, all the proceedings of our (rather private) moving sales go to March of Dimes.

I managed to find a space for the PC desk (and our printer) last week. At last, we can print out the donation form and send a check.

I tried to hide all the personal information from the picture. Hope I did well.