Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The end is finally here!

At last, the final day of February. It's over and there are only three more weeks until the Spring Equinox. I realize that living in Cleveland means it will probably be three more months until actual warm weather, but at least I know it's on it's way.

We celebrated by making cake. I used the recipe on the side of the Hershey's cocoa can. I substitute butter for the vegetable oil and cut the sugar in half--the sweetness level seems fine to me, and the girls never noticed. I think the frosting makes up for it, and is a better balance than if the cake had been sweeter. For todays cakes I cut the recipe in half. I used three miniature Wilton baking pans. They came as a set and I think they measure 4 inches across. I had some leftover batter so I used the tiny bundt cake pan that came in a child's baking set from Magic Cabin--which I don't see on the website anymore.

We frosted them with buttercream frosting and an assortment of sprinkles left over from Christmas and Halloween. The letters are alphabet cookies--the M is for Matthias and the C is from Cluny, two characters from Redwall.

I went out for a walk tonight, it's still cold but I was able to just wear a sweatshirt and feel fine. There still is muddy slushy snow piled up on the treelawns and sidewalks, but soon it will be gone (I hope). While I was walking, I heard a screech owl. I guess they are becoming more urbanized, but that's the first time I heard one here in the city. They really sound beautiful. It was a nice treat.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Oh, For Cryin' Out Loud

I was checking the tracking on my much-anticipated Yesasia order--when I realized that someone my old address was still on account and the package was going to the wrong place. It's probably going to arrive today or tomorrow--I don't think the mailman will forward it since it was posted third class. I left a message with my neighbor, asking if she wouldn't mind letting the new tenants know the package was coming and would they please just give it to her to hold. But now I am worried maybe that wasn't an entirely appropriate thing to ask, she really doesn't know the new tenants--they've only been there a couple of months, and it's been so cold and snowy no one's been outdoors much. There's a fine line between quirky and an annoying pain in the ass, and I suspect I often cross the line into the latter--that she's listening to her messages and saying "she wants me to do what? I don't really know what will happen to the package--forwarded, returned to Yesasia, lost forever in the postal system. And I really want my books! They are a couple of Japanese pattern books to make kids clothes, I've been putting off starting on any Spring clothes until they arrive. I feel so frustrated and stupid for not paying attention to the address, there must have been numerous times to review it.

I finished a spring outfit for Ivy, a jinbei and matching pants:

I lined both the jacket and the pants, the fabric was really lightweight. But lined it seems almost too heavy for Spring. Fortunately (or not so, depending on you look at it) Spring takes a long time to come to Cleveland and weather tends to be cool well into May, so it will probably be nice to have a Spring fabric outfit that is actually kind of warm.

This was my lunch today, inspired by the jdorama Lunch Queen. Doesn't it look deliciously unhealthy 8-)

It's rice with a hamburger on top, covered in gravy and topped with an egg. Although according to the guys at Kitchen Macaroni, it should be demi glace sauce rather than gravy, but that's all I had. And tiny cucumbers on the side for some green color.

And with this post I have now broken one of the rules of successful blogging-- No One Cares What You Had For Lunch. Although according to this list of rules (which really do make some valid points) what I am doing is not blogging at all. Links! I must have more links! and commentary! and stop writing "I" sentences!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

I just reread my last entry and wanted to make it clear that the Satsuki and Mei book at Yesasia includes the original blueprints and plans for making the original full size replica, not a dollhouse. I just think it might be easy to scale it down to dollhouse size.

Gray and rainy, but not too cold today. We're debating whether to go to the Metroparks to see maple sugaring or to the downtown library for a Chinese New Year Celebration. The rain makes the maple sugaring not so attractive and and I am not terribly enthusiastic about struggling for downtown parking. MIranda is still sleeping so maybe we will just hang around the house today.

I've been exploring some ideas for a Japanese doll house--of which very few show up online, surprisingly enough. Surely there are other people who've made Japanese dollhouses? I did find that there was a model of Satsuki and Mei's house (from the movie Totoro) at the 2005 World Expo. There are actually a few pages about it in one of my Totoro books, but I didn't understand the Japanese well enough to realize what it was. There is also this book, which includes blueprints and plans for constructing the house. Wouldn't it be great to build a Satsuki and Mei dollhouse! I wish I had known about the book when I placed my most recent order--which should arrive sometime next week. I am trying to pace myself with Yesasia orders and really should wait a few more weeks before placing one, shouldn't I?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Phone Phobia

I have a tendency to think that some of my quirks are experienced to a far greater degree than most people. For instance, I hate using the phone. Talking on it isn't so bad, although I will avoid that if I can. Making phone calls, however, can send me into such fits of anxiety that I put them off forever, sometimes just emailing people or coercing my husband into making the calls. I tell people about my phone phobia and let them know that in all likelihood it may be impossible to reach me by phone.

I read this post recently: tips for making phone calls and realized maybe there isn't anything special or bizarre about my phone phobia, that apparently many people experience anxiety over phone calls and just aren't unable to avoid the phone to the degree that I do. So, following her tips, I sat down today and made dentist appointments for the girls--which I have done before, but it still gives me fits of anxiety, and I still put it off--and called the eye doctor to see about ordering new frames.

The biggest accomplishment of the day may not seem like much--but it was. Two years ago I transfered the balance of one of my credit cards over to another one with a lower interest rate. I now had a zero balance on the Capital One card, but I still needed to close the account since I payed a yearly membership. Which I put off and put off until I got charged the membership fee. And I moaned and berated myself and paid the fee--and then put it off again, until last Spring I got charged again because I waited so long and not only that, forgot to pay it so was charged a late fee on top of the original fee. Talk about a Stupidity Fine.

That was back in June. Finally, I was congratulating myself on making the other calls when I remembered the credit card. Called them up and in less than five minutes the account was cancelled. It was pretty stupid of me to let it drag on so long but I am feeling pretty overjoyed and relieved that I finally took care of the darn thing.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Today was warm enough to open windows. Well, that may have been a bit ambitious, but the fresh air certainly felt nice. And there was that cold muddy smell that means Spring may not be far off. Later in the day it started pouring rain, which means all the snow is a gray muddy mess right now. It's probably going to get cold again tomorrow, but the hope of better days is here 8-).

I accomplished some rather trivial tasks today, but they were ones I wasn't looking forward to so it felt good. We took Miranda's cat Bella to the vet--just a check-up, but she had also somehow chipped her upper left canine. It isn't exposing any root, so the vet said no worries and she's healthy--I didn't have any real concerns, but it was good to have her health confirmed. I also took a package to the post office that should have been mailed last week, and had to go to the downtown branch since the one by me was so crowded there was no parking. Downtown was crowded as well but the girls were well behaved and the line moved quickly. I also squeezed in a trip to the Chinatown grocery store--I've been craving leafy greens. We've been using mostly frozen vegetables the past few weeks and those never taste quite as good to me. And it was a bonus for me that the grocery store got new registers that print out exactly what you bought--before the receipt just read "produce"--so now I have the proper names--shanghai cabbage, tong ho and yu choy-- for the produce I bought and can look up recipes.

I followed through with my vow to complete several projects with the fabric I bought the last time Joann's had a big sale and rewarded myself with another trip (actually, I got the coupons in an email, thought "I must go to Joann's this weekend" and it was only after leaving the store with my bag of fabric that I remembered I wasn't going to buy anymore, and then recalled that I did complete the kimono for Ivy and Hello Kitty, as well as completing two jackets and four jinbei. So clearly I deserved more fabric)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Lately Ivy's been bugging me to use the sewing machine, insisting that now she's four she's big enough and she'll be "really, really careful." Teaching her to hand sew hasn't been much of a consolation, especially when she decides on projects such as "a stuffed cat" or "clothes for Miranda". Last week, someone bought a felted mouse from my Etsy shop (which I still need to ship, thanks to the weather and now President's Day...) I couldn't find the one I had made, all my Etsy merchandise is in two large bins but no little felted mouse. So I got out some wool and my felting needles to make another one.

Ivy wanted to make one as well. If you have ever used felting needles, you know that not only are they very sharp, they have tiny barbs at the end. It's not recommended that children under 10 use them. But Ivy's getting pretty tired of being told no to everything she wants to do, so I came up with a solution. I gave her a lump of wool and a tapestry needle and told her to start poking at it the way I was doing. Every so often I would ask if I could have a turn and shaped it a bit with the felting needles. Eventually we ended up with a little mouse she was quite proud of.

9 more days until the end of February. I suppose it's probably a bit ambitious to think the snow might be over with the arrival of March. And it hasn't even been that bad this year, it didn't even get really cold until January, and the snow has only been here for a few weeks. But I am finished with Winter.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Lunch Queen

I've started watching a new dorama, Lunch Queen. Delicious Japanese meals are a central focus of the show, and I am so hungry everytime I watch it. In particular, the restaurant is known for it's demiglace, and there is usually a shot at some point of dad stirring the large pot with thoughtful contemplation. Now I want try and make demiglace. I found a recipe here that seems fairly easy. I just need to get some beef bones at the grocery store--which sometimes can be hard to find, I've had better luck with the inner city grocery stores rather than the suburban ones.

I've been working on some more little jackets for my Etsy shop. I'm using one of my Japanese books to make jinbei, a sort of kimono top that ties at the top. Similar to the baby ones I was making, but these have a set in sleeve.

dragonfly embroidery on back

This jacket is called a chanchanko, I got the pattern from this book
Making Kimono & Japanese Clothes (which I need to get back to the library, it's overdue...)

I'm thinking about moving my blog somewhere else. I'd really like to be able to respond to people's comments through email, and blogger doesn't offer such a feature. However, I am lazy about changing, so we'll see.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I have a new doll taking shape in my head and I just can't get her to come out right. I've been using the pattern and instructions at Runo Dollmaker, which I've used before but I am having problems this time. I'm using an old t-shirt dyed with tea, a medium she recommends, but I am not happy with it. I am thinking I need to splurge on cotton knit fabric, which is what I used on the three dolls I made before. But I am also thinking of going in a different direction. For me, I think there is a fine line between a doll that is not to simple and not to elaborate. I want a doll that is clearly defined as a doll, but I don't want it to veer toward grotesque--something that seems easy to do when you are trying to make a doll to realistic. I want a child doll, but not too cute. Something like what Molly Chicken did with this doll. I really need to order that book.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Birthday Kimono

This is Ivy in her birthday kimono. I used this book

I think she is trying to look "fancy" here

This is the back

The pink vest type thing is called a hifu. It's sometimes padded and worn as an extra layer of warmth. They can be worn by anyone, but now it seems to be traditionally worn by young girls--maybe to eliminate an elaborate obi?

Here she is at her party, as a Japanese cowboy.

Friday, February 09, 2007


Well, I really haven't been contributing much to Soulemama's photo challenge. I guess I am just going to have to show you homeschooling at its finest:

3PM, undmade bed and everyone in their pajamas. We are all involved in some long, drawn out game meshing Redwall and The Great Mouse Detective.

This was made from Making Kimono and Japanese Clothes. The book indentifies it as a Chan-Chanko, but I can't find anything online regarding this particular jacket for kids so I am not sure if that's really what it's called. I need to stitch down the collar and the sleeves and then it will be ready for my Etsy shop. It turned out a little bigger than I expected, I had some requests to make jackets in a one-year-old size and I think this is more of a 2 year old size.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Cat Food Sushi for the Gourmet Feline

We discovered that Bella liked seaweed when she jumped up on the counter one day and snatched a piece of nori. Miranda wanted to try and make her some sushi--so we did.

Gathering the ingredients--rice, cat food, nori and a bamboo rolling mat.

Assembling (I realize this looks like a really bad practical joke)

All rolled up

On the plate. There is some furikake sprinkled on top.

Our server is ready to deliver the meal

Bella appears to be enjoying it, although I think she was just licking the furikake off the top.

I am not sure how much of a success this was, she left most of the rolls after eating the filling out of one. Maybe she will finish them later. Still, it was a fun experiment.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

We just got the exciting news that we have the opportunity to be a host family for a week to a 12-year-old Japanese girl. One of the moms in my homeschooling group used to teach English in Japan and a friend of hers is coming to the States for a visit. Yoshimi teaches English in Japan as well and is bringing four of her students with her.

I'm really nervous as well. My Japanese is still embarrassingly poor, and whle I realize most host families don't speak Japanese at all, I'm ashamed of my faltering attempts. I'm also already having anxiety over doing something rude unintentially. One of my less desirable traits (although I suppose sometimes it can be desirable) is obsessing with minute details. What should I tell her to call me? Would it be rude to ask her to call me by my first name? What if she's really bored? What if she thinks it's weird that I have so many Japanese things, watch Japanese television, use Japanese craft books? What if we aren't American enough and she's disappointed with her American experience? And the biggest one--how are we going to keep family arguments to a minimum for a week? Because honestly, I am a shouter.

Wow, that's quite a list, huh. Pretty funny when I read it over. I'm still nervous.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Happy Imbolc!

It's halfway to Spring, and apparently Punxsatawny Pete didn't see his shadow, so Winter should soon be over, right? February has got to be one of my least favorite months, it drags on forever. Fortunately, I now have a daughter with a mid February birthday so planning for her celebration helps quite a bit. It seems I am not the only one who finds February difficult-- Soulemama has proposed a challenge for avoiding the February Funk. Simply post of picture everyday of something you do during your day. Of course this means we have to actually do something that warrants picture taking, otherwise you are going to be treated to parade of pictures featuring us lolling about in pajamas.

For now, here are some little shoes--some for Etsy, some for gifts: