Tag Archives: Japan

Summer Book Report, Part 2

summer reading, a good man is hard to find, we have always lived in a castle, a country doctor, consequences, convenience store womanI gave myself until the technical start of fall to finish my goal of reading ten books, and I’m going to call it complete. I finished my last book on Tuesday, and one of my choices is technically a short story, but…it’s all good. I’ve been reading up a storm, finishing all of these this month. (Don’t be too impressed…one book was a layover from August and the others are quite short!)

A Country Doctor by Sarah Orne Jewett (1884): This was for book group and it was kind of meh. The writing is really lovely, but many parts were too verbose and I didn’t feel the same connection to the characters that I have in other books. Oh, and it’s another single woman, finding her way in the world, struggling between career and marriage…I’m not complaining. I love those books. This just wasn’t my favorite.

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor (1953): It’s a short story that I can’t believe I’ve never read. I can’t tell you anything. Don’t read about it. Just get it and read it. It’s perfection.

Consequences by E.M. Delafield (1919): Another spinster novel…I loooooved this. It took me almost a month to read it and I had to take a break from reading it to read for book club. But, every time I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. It is a tale of a misunderstood child turned single woman who makes many bad choices in life (a life constrained by society’s expectations and restrictions) and has to live with the consequences.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (2016): Oh look! It’s a book written this century! Naoto’s sister recommended this book to him a couple years ago and it was the book that got him back into reading. He read the Japanese version and I was a little bummed because it wasn’t available in English when he told me about it. Then, I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Work Over Easy, and I was reading this post thinking “huh, this book sounds like that one Naoto read!” and sure enough it was! I immediately ordered it from the library and read it in one day. I loved it so much, but it’s hard to explain why. Weirdly enough, it’s another book about a single woman who has made some “non-traditional” choices. I loved the main character and I loved how the author paints the perfect picture of life in a convenience store. (Sidenote: convenience stores are way better in Japan…perhaps I need to write a new Japan Does It Better post.)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (1962): I haven’t read enough Shirley Jackson. “The Lottery” is one of my favorite short stories ever. This was the perfect introduction into my spooky October reading. The book was creepy and captivating and funny…and the first paragraph is one of the best ever written:

My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.

For book club next month, we are reading Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and I just started Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto, another Japanese book that I read about in the New York Times review of Convenience Store Woman. Perhaps I’ll be back with a fall review soon! In the meantime, here are some of my favorite book club reads from October!

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Tanabata Time Again

tanabata, cats watching fireworks, japanese postcardsIt’s Tanabata time again! Naoto and I are throwing another mini Tanabata party, complete with Japanese picnic foods and sushi. And I’m making spumonis for the first time all summer. The weather is perfect today for another summer celebration! Hopefully I’ll have some pictures to share next week. Have a good weekend!

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12th Anniversary Gifts

japanese paper gift wrap Every year, Naoto and I exchange gifts based on our anniversary year. (I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before…) We use this list as our guide, just to keep it consistent. Some years, we are spot on, and other years we leave things open to interpretation. I follow the modern gift guide for Naoto and he follows the traditional for me. The modern gifts for the twelfth anniversary are silk or linen. So I bought Naoto a linen shirt and a chef’s hat. I wrapped his gift in some paper from a shop in Kyoto. (It’s their shop paper that they wrapped our purchases in. It’s been in my paper hoard since…2015?) There was a Kyoto link in our gift-giving this year, as you will see. I think this proves that we are both itching to go back to Japan again. chef's hat, naoto's 12th anniversary giftSadly, the chef’s hat was too small…even for me! But the shirt fit nicely and there’s a new, larger hat on its way. vintage brooch, blue stones, fireworks brooch My gift was supposed to be pearls, but Naoto found this vintage “fireworks” brooch and I love it. Pearls are lovely, but really, I have some pearl earrings (from our wedding) and a necklace (from Naoto’s Hawaiian host mom) and I think that’s plenty of the most fragile “gems” on earth, so this was a good substitution. kyoto gin, ki-no-ri distilleryAnd he gave me gin from a distillery in Kyoto! We’re finally opening it tonight so I’ll have a full report soon. Stay tuned.

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Story Corps

Story Corps, Story Corps Chicago, Chicago Cultural Center

Last month, Naoto and I did a Story Corps interview! Do you know Story Corps? If you listen to NPR, you’ve probably heard some of the many Story Corps gems from everyday people all across the US. Their mission (according to their website) is “to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” They have a few booths throughout the States and also a booth that travels. There is one in the Chicago Cultural Center and my book club friend’s daughter, Lauren, just got a job there so we signed up to be part of her training. Story Corps, Story Corps Chicago, Chicago Cultural CenterSo on a rainy Thursday afternoon, we went to the Story Corp booth and chatted about Naoto’s experience coming to America, his eventual journey to Chicago, and how we met. (Forty-five minutes–the time they allot to each conversation–is a really long time to talk! Story Corps edits things down to the best parts for a short radio and podcast snippets.) The room is very small, and dark (as you can see from our picture,) and intimate. To chat, you sit across from your partner and you both have giant microphones to speak into. The Story Corp facilitator sits in with you to do the sound check and to help keep the conversation going if you get stuck. We got stuck quite a few times because Naoto didn’t remember a lot about his first days in America and I wasn’t prepared to ask more questions, so it was nice to have Lauren guide us back on track. I thought it would be weird having someone sit in with us, but it ended up being fine. We didn’t know Lauren before we met her in the booth, so maybe that helped?

We haven’t listened to our recording yet (it takes 3-8 weeks to get it back) but I’m sure it will be fun to listen to in the future. (We are not exciting or profound enough to make it on the podcast or the radio, I’m certain!)

Here’s a link to some of the most recent stories. This one was a particular tear jerker for me. And on the Podcast, there’s a great conversation with Officer Clemmons from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Do you have a favorite Story Corp story? I’ve been listening to the podcast, but often miss them on the radio, so I’d love to hear what I’ve missed.

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2018 Calendars

Adami-Hasegawa 2018 calendars, Heather McAdams Everything Country Calendar, Hobonichi, Word Notebooks Standard MemorandumThe Adami Hasegawas are staying organized this year! Last year Naoto joined Forest Park’s Diversity Committee. Between his two jobs and his meetings and our social lives, I was afraid he’d start double booking himself, so I forced a calendar upon him. I think he liked it, because he used it a lot more than I thought he would. For Christmas I got him the Standard Memorandum. It’s really tiny. Perfectly pocket-sized with enough room to write his work schedule and maybe one other note. I also introduced him to the wonders of the Frixion pen for calendars. Hobonichi, Hobonichi Techo, Japanese calendarI am on my third year of using the Hobonichi Techo. I love it. For me, it’s the perfect size. I like the daily pages for list keeping and just writing random things about my day. I always decorate the monthly spreads, and the daily pages are more utilitarian. (I can’t believe I’ve never blogged about my love for Hobonichi…) I ordered my Hobonichi from Jet Pens. In the past, I’ve ordered directly from Japan, but this year, Jet Pens had everything I wanted now that they are an official Hobonichi shop. A lot of their Hobonichi offerings are sold out by now, but this post is great for going over all the different options, sizes, and accessories. Hobonichi, Hobonichi Techo, Japanese calendar, cover on cover, TokyoThis year I treated myself to a new cover-on-cover. In previous years, I just had a clear cover and I put postcards and stickers inside to personalize my book. The Tokyo themed cover, with its whimsical drawings of ramen and cats and sushi and donuts won me over. Hobonichi, Hobonichi Techo, Japanese calendar, cover on cover, page keeperI also ordered this handy page keeper. Hobonichi, Hobonichi Techo, Japanese calendar, cover on cover, page keeperIt tucks into the back pocket of the cover. Hobonichi, Hobonichi Techo, Japanese calendar, cover on cover, page keeperAnd then the elastic holds the daily or monthly page of your choice. It’s pretty handy. Heather McAdams, Chris & Heather's Everything But Country concertA few years ago, I told you about the Heather McAdams Everything But Country Calendar and Show. This is only our fourth year of owning this calendar, but this year marked its 25th anniversary!  Heather McAdams, Chris & Heather's Everything But Country concertWe just love the drawings and the birthday and facts for each day. Since we don’t write on a big communal calendar at home, this one works perfectly for our kitchen.

How about you? Are you a paper calendar and planner person? Any favorites?

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My Putz House Settlement

vintage Putz housesLast year, I told Naoto about vintage Putz houses, the tiny Mid-Century glittered paper houses. I’ve always wanted a Christmas village but the newer ones never struck my fancy the way these old beat up ones did. They’re almost impossible to find with the glitter still shining and it’s a rare gem that still has its vellum windows and doors in tact. (Mid-century children must have loved to punch those things out!)

He surprised me at Christmas with two Putz houses–BOTH with all of their vellum in pristine condition! The green one has sweet little details like the curtained window and green door and the red one is so glittery and also has a really special door. He also got me a cast iron Santa riding a sled. I was so excited to pull the village (more like settlement) out this year!    Putz houses, vintage paper houses, christmas villageThen, during the Forest Park Holiday Walk, Karen and I found this blue gem. The windows, as you can see, have been repaired, but its color and two-toned glitter roof really sold me. plastic nativity, christmas villageI also picked up this teeny plastic nativity for the village, because every town needs one. ceramic christmas tree ceramic christmas tree, after Every settlement also needs a town Christmas tree, so I painted one at Creativita. Have you noticed ceramic Christmas trees are making a comeback? I highly recommend painting your own! It was such a fun activity!   Putz houses, vintage paper houses, christmas village

The flocked deer are especially fond of the new tree. Putz houses, vintage paper houses, christmas villageI had to put the village on the sideboard this year because Presley has been napping on the wine cabinet lately. I like it better on the sideboard because the wine cabinet was too high to appreciate the village anyway. Putz houses, vintage paper houses, christmas village, putz churchThis year, Naoto added to my collection with a tiny Putz church!! And again, he struck gold with intact windows and doors!! It has some faded trees, but I love the little gate and the blue walkway! This one hardly has any glitter left so I may add some…but I hesitate to mess with its worn charm too much.

Here’s a little video of the complete village…

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Origami Chopstick Holder

I’m the worst you guys! Thanks so much to Susan for reminding me in the comments to post the chopstick/pen holder! I took these pictures back when it was still summer, but then didn’t love the lighting so I figured I would take more, but then the busy-ness of October caught up with me. And now that I’m more free, we’re hitting a rainy spell in Forest Park, which isn’t helping with bright pictures! So, I’m posting these today with hopes of a sunny morning soon so I can update with some brighter, clearer pictures. I really love how easy this project is and I’m trying to find long, skinny objects for all of my friends so I can wrap their gifts in fancy paper holders.

You can use any kind of paper for this project, but I find handmade papers to be most forgiving. (This section at Paper Source is a great place to look for types of handmade papers that work well for origami projects. Steer clear of anything that is flocked or may be too thick to fold well. If you have any questions, I’m happy to answer them!)  When I made Karen’s pencil holder, I used a lokta paper and I’ve used Japanese washi as well. Both of those fold beautifully. Wood based paper will work just fine though, so you can use wrapping paper or anything pretty you have on hand. It’s just not always as easy to manipulate and tends to show mistakes more.

You’ll need to cut your paper to an 8×8 inch square. I used a ruler and scissors for this since the paper is too large for my paper cutter. Do your best to get nice straight lines since origami is a pretty exact science. My paper had a deckled edge so I placed that at the top to add some interest to the collar of the pencil/chopstick holder. You could also cut the deckled edge off and just have clean edges all around. A bone holder (that thing on the right) is helpful to smooth your folds, but if you don’t have one, you’re fingers will work just fine.
Flip your paper over so the pattern is facing down. Fold the paper in half. Open and fold the right half to meet the center fold. Then fold the left half to meet the center fold. Unfold and now you should have four equal sections in your square. Fold your left corner down to meet the first fold (from the left.) Fold your right corner down to meet the center fold. Now fold the left side over to meet the middle. And fold again in the same direction. It’s kind of like rolling it closed. One last turn and this is what the back should look like. Flip it over and this is what the front should look like. (But turn it back over because we need to finish the back part.) On the back side, fold the bottom up about a quarter of an inch or so. This will be the bottom of the holder. Use some clear tape to hold it closed. I know washi tape would be cuter here, but most of it won’t hold securely on handmade paper. Clear tape gets the job done.
Stick in some chopsticks, pencils, pens, magic wands…and you’re done! I made a bunch for my birthday party this year and for Hasegawa Tanabata. All the different patterns make a pretty table (or picnic!)

Let me know if the instructions are confusing and I’ll try to clear them up! And please send me pics of your finished origami pencil holders!

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First-Day-Of-School Pencil Pack

pencil gift, first day of school, CW Pencil enterprises, folded chopstick holder, pencil paperKaren started a new job last week teaching a class at University of Illinois at Chicago. We wanted to give Professor Karen (I’m sure her students call her something more formal.) a little good luck gift to send her off on her first day.Frixion pens, Japanese pens, CW Pencils, editing pencil, highlighter pencil, combo pencil, pencilsLike me, Karen loves Frixion pens, so I pulled a .05 from the “Japanese vault” and added it with a couple of pencils from C.W. Pencils. The Editor looked like a perfect pencil for grading and planning. (Are papers still graded on…paper?) And the Graphite/Highlighter combo seemed perfect for planning and note taking.  I folded a little origami pencil holder for them out of my new favorite pencil paper. I’ll post a quick tutorial for the pencil holder next week. It’s so easy and they have so many uses! (They’re actually chopstick holders!)

P.S. Thinking of our friends (and family!) in Florida and the Carolinas this weekend as another hurricane heads for the US. The devastation on the islands in the Atlantic is just heartbreaking. And still thinking of our friends in Texas who are cleaning up after last month’s hurricane.

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Chalk-Full of School Supplies

Chalk pencils, Chalkboard tape, Japanese office supplies, Hester & CookI think my husband’s punning is rubbing off on me…

I have a little chalk theme going on today. I am old enough to remember chalkboards. Our school transitioned to white boards during my high school years. Mrs. Petersen kept her blackboard though. I always appreciated that about her. I always found the marker to be so slippery on the white board. It didn’t have the same feeling as writing with chalk. And the sound! Normally, chalk sounds so pleasing scraping across the board. But then there’s always that one moment when the chalk makes that horrid high-pitched squeak that catches everyone in the room off-guard. I wonder if that sound is why white boards were invented. I ordered this Hester & Cook “Midtown” white pencil because I’m always looking for a new way to write on dark papers, especially this time of year as I gear up for Halloween mail. I was pretty skeptical about it because colored pencils usually don’t show up well on dark papers (in my experience.) But the pencil was really good! I thought it looked very chalk-like and it writes sort of like a cross between a crayon and a colored pencil. It was a little waxy, but it wrote smoothly, and like I said, covered the dark green paper well. (I smeared it a little bit…) Hester and Cook chalk pencilI plan to use the pencil to decorate the table and black place cards for our next Phantom Flight Night. Though I really like the classic green chalkboard look, too. Nihon Rikagaku chalkboard tape and chalk set, bunbougu cafe, chalkboard tape, Japanese office suppliesI picked up this Nihon Rikagaku black chalkboard tape set at bunbougu cafe last year. (The green tape in the top picture is also Nihon Rikagaku. I found that at the Paper Source Warehouse Sale, though it is not carried at Paper Source.) Nihon Rikagaku is another old Japanese company. They’ve been making chalk since 1937 and since 1960 they’ve hired adults with cognitive disabilities to work in their factories. (I didn’t know this at the time of my purchase, but it makes me want to look for more Nihon Rikagaku products on our next trip. You can find their basic chalk on Amazon!) Nihon Rikagaku chalkboard tape and chalk set, bunbougu cafe, chalkboard tape, Japanese office suppliesThe tape is made from Japanese washi paper and it’s coated so chalk can be erased easily. I’ve only used this on gifts (like it shows on the tiny package label) so far, but I think it would be a fun way to label things in our pantry.

 

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Washi Weekend: Back to School Edition

washi weekend, MT tapes, sparrow notebook, school suppliesI’ve been in 100% neon mode for my mail and my planner this summer. I’ve been using all of my neon washi tapes, pens, pencils, stickers and papers. It’s been fun, but I’m ready for a change, a change to school supplies. Even though I’m not going back to school, I ordered myself a few pencils from CW Pencil Enterprises last week. Those new pencils got me in the mood to refresh my desk space and break out some back-to-school treats from my washi and Japan stationery hoard. I have a “Japan drawer” in my desk that holds a bunch of washi tapes and backup pens. Since we most likely aren’t going to Japan this year, I’ve been dipping into my stash more and more. It’s like having my own little store to visit. washi weekend, MT tapes, sparrow notebook, school suppliesI bought a few limited edition washi tapes during our last trip that fit the back-to-school bill perfectly. The top two are collaborations between mt and two iconic Japanese brands, and the bottom one was a special tape created by bunbougu cafesparrow notebooks, sparrow washi tape, japanese office suppliesThe first tape (similar) comes from the Tsubame Notebooks in Japan. These notebooks are iconic in Japanese schools, kind of like composition notebooks here in the U.S. Except, as usual, Japan Does It Better! The paper is high-quality and works really well with pencils and a variety of pens. (This JetPens video shows it all nicely!) Tsubame Notebooks have been hand-bound since the 1947 and have remained unchanged since then. I just love the graphic sparrow logo. And here’s a little secret: I bought the notebook after I bought the tape. Fueki glue, Japanese glue, washi weekend, MT tapes, school suppliesFueki glue is another popular Japanese school supply. Fueki-kun, the little yellow mascot, is a pot of glue. It’s made from 100% corn starch and is safe for young children. Fueki has been around since 1925 and offers a large line of products, including (grown up) glue sticks, India inks, paper supplies, and even cosmetics. I’m a bit older than the Fueki-kun market, but I thought the little pot was so cute and it was only sixty cents so I bought a few. The little dog makes such a cute tape, don’t you think?

bunbougu cafe, tokyo office supplies, tokyo stationery, washi tape, pencil sharpenerAnd lastly, a little bit about the bunbougu cafe tape. It has drawings of pencil sharpeners, pencils, and pencil marks. Next to the pencil sharpeners, it says, “gari gari” which is the onomatopoeia for “grate grate.” (Things sound different in Japanese–all of their animal noises are different too!)

presley with Fueki nori on her head, things on my catI’m looking forward to some back-to-school mail this week!

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