Thursday, 31 January 2013


- Morinaga Greek yoghurt with raspberry sauce
- new pjs (from Uniqlo!)
- workday lunch dates with friends
- people wearing my knitting!!
- trying (and succeeding with!) new yummy dinner recipes

What are you loving this Thursday?

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

A Tale of two Tassels

Maybe it is the cold weather, but I've been knitting quite a bit lately - making scarves to warm the necks of friends and coworkers as fast as I can. I've also managed to start using up some of the yarn sitting in my cupboards that has been given to me by friends and coworkers. Choosing the yarn, however, is just the first step. Then I have to choose a pattern, and then, with scarves, whether or not to add tassels. 

But sometimes it isn't just a decision about whether to tassel or not, but what to call those tassels... Are they tassels? Or a fringe? (Or just a really good way to use up the very last bit of the yarn?) 

I give you two takes:

Triangles and tassels (to warm the neck of a certain nomadic South African)

and cabled tassels (to warm the neck of a male coworker)

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Tuesday Then & Now - Nikko Cedar Lane

I recently discovered Nagasaki University's Metadatabase of Japanese Old Photographs. There went a few hours of clicking through to photos and comparing them to what you can find now! So I decided to see if I could find my own photos of some of the places in the Nagasaki U database.

Here goes number one - of course I have to start with Nikko!!

The Nikko Cedar Road, the old approach road to Nikko.

Sometime in the late 19th or early 20th centuries:


January 3, 2013

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Cross-lingual Miscommunication

I'm putting on my make-up this morning as U is shaving, bot of squeezing into the small space in front of the mirror. He looks at me with an adoring smile and says,

"I look at you sometimes and want to put you into business!" (shobai - a word which is often used for a certain type of... ah... business!)


He repeats himself, mumbling around the razor, "invitation!" (shokai)

"Huh?!" Now I'm just confused, and pretty sure I'm just not hearing him properly.

Finally he puts down the razor and starts poking my cheek, "chokai!" He says, with a smile.

My Japanese lesson for the day: "chokai," which apparently means to annoy the hell out of your partner and dawdle over morning preparations while half asleep but be adorable about it all so your partner can't get angry (or at least stay angry) with you. Either that or it means to poke somebody repeatedly. Yes, there is a word for that.

At least he wasn't trying to say that the sight of me in the morning made him want to sell me off into a life of prostitution, eh?!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013


I knitted both of these back in early 2011, but they've been sitting in a box ever since as I didn't know who to give them to. But they have both finally found homes!

Both are cowls, and both were made with a single ball of yarn. The darker, a lightweight lacy cowl in a traditional feather and fan pattern, will be decorating the neck of a amazing woman I met my last visit to Vancouver - kind and gentle, beautiful, and amazingly awe-inspiringly strong.

The lighter cowl is smaller and simpler - a basic cable pattern. I gave it to the lady who runs the towel store near work. I was introduced to her a year or so ago by a coworker, and every day when I walk to or from work we exchange greetings and random comments on the weather / her friend's daughter who has moved to Canada / seasonal happenings / etc. This summer she gave me a bright pink towel as a midsummer gift, then last week she gave me a new year's towel with a snake design and ever since I had been trying to figure out how to repay her kindnesses...

Monday, 21 January 2013

Jello - not just for children any more!

I like umeshu. I REALLY like umeshu. I'm not picky about it - I'll drink the cheap stuff with soda, I'll savour award winning umeshu on the rocks (a bottle U's father bought, from Wakayama and made with honey instead of sugar - WOW! really really really good).

So when I found a recipe for ume-shu jello I was intrigued to say the least.  I made up a batch, pouring it into two glasses instead of five as the recipe suggested as only two of the nice glasses were clean, the others were in the dishwasher.

A friend came over for dinner and after we ate I brought out the desert, and my friend and I each  had one glass. "Funny," I thought to myself, "I don't usually get tipsy on one glass of umeshu!". Of course, I don't normally down an entire glass of straight umeshu in under 5 minutes either... Really really good.

Really good.

The recipe was one I found on Cookpad (original cookpad recipe), so was in Japanese, but I've included it here in translation.

Ingredients (for 5 servings - or two if I'm cooking!)

5 g   gelatin
2 tbsp  water
150 cc  umeshu
50 cc  water (or skip the water and up the umeshu to 200 cc - what I did!)
300 cc Mitsuya Cider / Sprite (I went with plain soda water and was very happy with the flavour)
50 g   sugar (I don't remember exactly, but I think I cut the amount of sugar)


- add gelatin to first amount of water, mix and set aside
- add umeshu, second amount of water, and sugar to a pot, heat on low heat until sugar dissolves, turn off heat
- pour gelatin/water mixture into pot with umeshu, mix until gelatin has completely absorbed into umeshu mixture
- add cider/etc and stir very gently, pour into cups and cool in fridge

I had a bunch of ume in the bottom of the bottle that I fished out, pitted, and cut up. The were a nice textural addition, but I'm not sure if I would put them in again. But the desert itself? Oh yes! Definitely a keeper!!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Skytree in Nikko!

Photos I promised a few weeks ago... Skytree as spotted in Nikko at New Years!

Happy, Rurousha? ;)

Sorry about the crap quality - planning to upload them immediately I took them on my phone, and didn't realize how bad they were until I went to upload them today...

Sunday Buddha

Last Sunday was a gorgeous sunny warm day (giving no hint of the snow and cold that was to hit the next day). I went to Kamakura with a British friend visiting Japan with her family. Despite the hordes of people we managed to meet up, see the major sights, go souvenir shopping, and have a lovely lunch in between. My favourite day trip from Tokyo will always be Nikko, but Kamakura is a strong #2.

Thursday, 17 January 2013


- coworkers who know how to cheer me up and make me laugh
- making new professional contacts
- good multi-disciplinary academic discussions
- umeshu! (see #3 above)
- sunny days and SNOW!

What about you? What are you loving this Thursday?

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Snow falling on Rainbow Scarves

With the weather getting colder I've turned to making things to keep people warm, and have been working on scarves. This one ended up turning out very differently than I had expected, and thus is going to U's middle sister instead of the coworker I had started it for. It is soft and cushy and bright and colourful - all good things in a winter scarf, especially when it goes and snows, which is rather uncommon in this part of the world!

Monday, 14 January 2013


After spending yesterday with friends in Kamakura - wandering around in gorgeous sunny weather I woke up this morning to a whole different world. Heavy wet white snow is covering everything and every once in a while comes sliding off the roof in a long loud avalanche. Today we're tucked under a knitted afghan on the heated carpet studying - a way we feel is perfect to spend today, but somebody in the garden seems to disagree...

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Dangers of Face Masks

It is winter in Japan, which means face masks have sprouted everywhere, like bright white mushrooms in the underbrush of a forest. People wear them to avoid passing their germs to others, to avoid getting germs from others, or to hide the fact that they overslept and didn't have the time to shave or do their makeup.

But face masks don't eliminate exchange of all dangerous germs and in fact they can cause problems of their own…

Problem 1 – Cold-medicine induced zombiness. Case in point: the hordes of salarymen bombarded by tv commercials reminding them that no matter how sick they get, no matter how cruddy they feel or how many germs they are oozing, they CANNOT TAKE A DAY OFF! Instead they must pump themselves full of cold medicine and gaman-on (gaman – persevere, soldier on). The result is hordes of drugged and foggy salarymen lurching through stations as they transfer, and dozing even while they stand on the train. Although they are normally nothing more than a nuisance, beware of getting stuck behind one of these guys on a flight of stairs or walking along the platform as the snail's pace shuffle they adopt will be sure to ensure you miss the transfer you want.

Problem 2 - Deep throated snorting. Case in point: the salaryman sitting beside me on the train one morning last week, mask firmly over nose and mouth, snorting and snirking away with much vigour. He had no way of brining whatever was bothering him out, so it had to be pushed further back in. He would make vile noises in the back of his throat every few seconds and every minute or so one of the other salarymen standing around us would chime in with his very own counterpart. A not so musical and deeply disgusting symphony.

Problem 3 – Facial obstruction. Case in point: the woman standing in front of me the other day. I blearly opened my eyes part-way through my commute to figure out where we were and saw a woman standing in front of me. Her down jacket puffed out around her, but her stomach area looked particularly puffy. I glanced to her bag, looking for the telltale "baby on-board" tag expectant mothers here are given, but couldn't spot one. As I was trying to decide whether my guess was correct or not, and whether I should offer her my seat, I noticed a stubble-covered Adam's apple peaking out from below the mask on the woman's face… Since, despite the puffiness, it was rather unlikely that he was pregnant, I decided I could stay in my seat in good conscience, but still felt a nagging worry as I surveyed the sea of masked faces standing around me.

Bring on spring! Oh wait, spring means even more masks with the onset of allergy season...

Saturday, 12 January 2013


Who said you can only post about things you love on a Thursday? Why not Saturday? There is so much more to love about a Saturday anyways (especially since my days off are Sunday - Monday and thus Saturday is the last day of my work week and an easier commute to boot).

So here goes, a few things I'm loving this Saturday.

- electric blankets - snuggling into a warm bed in an unheated room at night is the best feeling ever
- making a big decision about my next (professional) step and knowing it is right for me
- being supported in that decision by coworkers, bosses, and best of all, U
- (almost!!) finishing a big project at work and knowing (and having my coworkers and boss appreciate) that while it was a first time attempt for me and isn't perfect by far, it is a useful an important contribution and one that would not have happened at all had I not been there
- making a warming winter dinner largely from my own creation (cabbage gratin - yummmmm!) and having U literally scrape out the bowl to get the last drop!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year!

U and I escaped Tokyo for a few days - studying and onsen-ing.

Oh, and visiting Nikko Toshogu in the wee hours of the morning to ring in the new year!

Happy New Years to you and yours. Wishing you the best for 2013!