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December 17, 2008

Happy Holidays

Mom in sweater and snow - Vintage Tokyo

I hope that my sense of calm and preparedness doesn't dissipate, but it's this exact feeling that I'm hoping to keep through the holidays. I'm looking forward to some time after all the gifts are opened and the festivities are winding down -- that's the time I want to spend revisiting some of my knitting plans. This past Saturday, I purchased Noro Silk Garden (249) to knit another Sursa; some Kaffe Fassett DK-weight sock yarn to knit some "replacement" socks for a pair that has gone traveling (without feet in them, unfortunately). I also have several ornament patterns in my queue that I'm hoping to knit while our tree is still up. They'll get packed away when we take down the tree and I hope to sigh with delight when I see them again in 2009.

As I reduce my expectations and stress each year, the enjoyment of the holiday increases. And I'm learning to enjoy the cozy feeling I get when I wake up on a cold morning without a long list of things to do. However I did let an anniversary pass without blogging about it -- five years knitting. Five years ago, when I asked my mom what she'd like for Christmas, she asked for cotton dishcloths -- and I knew what kind she was talking about because I always picked some up for her at craft fairs and church bazaars. This time, I decided to try to make them. Five years later, I'm still knitting dishcloths . . . and much more. The raw materials and supplies have changed a bit, but I'm glad to know that at least one person I know still loves getting them.

Yarn - Knit Picks CotLin in Moroccan Red

Happy Holidays to my friends and family far and wide. May peace reign in your hearts and minds and may you enjoy lots of cozy handknits throughout the New Year.

Here's one more holiday greeting card for my sisters (click to view larger). I hope it makes you smile:


December 12, 2008

Secrets of My Mother's Tokyo Kitchen (Book Review)


Although it's not a knitting or fiber-related book, I wanted to share this book review with you. The title of the book was a bit off-putting to me; it's the subtitle that caught my eye, so that's what I'm using for this blog entry's title. Chizuko (the author's mother) is the most engaging thing about this book. The author's promise to reveal Tokyo "homestyle" cooking was fulfilled. "Homestyle" japanese cooking was what I was exposed to in my Japanese mother's suburban Oklahoma kitchen. Most people don't realize that homestyle Japanese food doesn't involve raw fish, sushi rolls or a hibachi grill (restaurant food) -- or even "fish heads" as some disparaging remarks have suggested.

A typical Japanese meal at home features steamed rice ("sticky rice") at nearly every meal, including breakfast. When I was a guest in my Aunt Kazuko's home many years ago, she fixed a traditional Japanese breakfast for me every morning -- I was served miso soup, rice, pickled vegetables, green tea and a salad. Even though several options were offered and presented, I chose to eat a Japanese breakfast every day. Ask any Japanese daughter or son what their mother fixed them for breakfast and it was probably similar. There's seasonal variety, of course -- but there is always rice.

Whenever I used to mention steamed white rice to an American, they'd invariably mention butter and/or sugar as ingredients in THEIR favorite rice dish. I've never violated a bowl of Japanese steamed rice (gohan) in that way and probably never will, so I'm sure to them that my eating rice and seaweed (nori) sounded odd. Now that I'm older and I know better, I can embrace the way I enjoy something and not try to convince anybody else otherwise. For another thorough treatment of authentic Japanese cooking, please read Harumi's Japanese Cooking and Harumi's Japanese Homestyle Cooking (although the links take you to Amazon, I've been purchasing most of my books through Powell's).

After reading these wonderful books and cookbooks, I'm so glad I paid attention and asked my mom questions while she was cooking. Although she no longer cooks, she loves a well-prepared Japanese dish and can instantly detect when something is wrong or unbalanced. My sisters and I used to think she was a bit of a diva, but after reading these books, I realize that she was expecting umami ("deliciousness") -- her palate was prepared for that -- and instead, she was disappointed because things didn't taste the way she was expecting.

She also tried to describe to me the taste of a fresh vegetable or fruit, for instance -- how RIGHT it was when it was fresh and how WRONG it could be if it wasn't fresh, or in season. It wasn't enough to just like a vegetable or fruit but to have the expectation of how it SHOULD taste. Believe me, she wasn't that spiritual about it back then, but looking back now, I realize that it's really difficult to describe to a child whether something tastes the way it should.

Here's another review of the book. I was glad to read that somebody else was a bit taken aback by the title.

December 04, 2008

How things get done

The way we plan our home improvements is to put them on a list. Then wait. And wait some more. Perhaps we wait six years until we're able to afford to get it done and we actually begin to believe we'll be living here a while. Case in point - our front door has needed refinishing since we moved in. We were able to get it done last week.

We also got new door hardware and matching door knobs for the rest of our doors on the first floor. While it's a small touch, it makes a huge difference. We were already prepared for how we would feel about the small improvements and we knew it would lead to wanting more, so those things have been added to the list and if it's still on the list six years from now, it might even get done!

See the door?



But you also need to see what it looked life before (with the old hardware pictured):


For those of you who asked about the pattern I used for the blanket, here's a link that will take you to Jimmy Beans Wool - Ann Norling #35.