Happy New Year!

The last weeks of 2013Happy 2014, dear friends!

2013 was a crazy whirlwind. I traveled, friends traveled to see me, I lost friends and grieved and traveled to be with people who were grieving too. And at the end of it all I threw everything we owned into boxes and moved back Stateside, with only a few weeks’ notice. I am tired just thinking about it again, though it was all worthwhile when we arrived in the US for a holiday season filled with family and fresh snow. We found an apartment in Brooklyn and were semi-settled before the Times Square ball drop. Thank you to everyone who carried a box, unpacked a box, or listened to me talk about boxes. I couldn’t have done it without you!

The new year holds many changes, no doubt. So cheers to us! To you and me and all of us on our journey through 2014. Here we go!

2014!

Giveaway winners

Thank you everyone for your kind notes regarding my move. It makes me a bit emotional to know you are all out there, cheering me on. Right now my suitcases are piled in the genkan for delivery to the airport, and it feels good to have them all packed.

But on to other important things: the giveaway winners! I added everyone’s name to a big list, numbered the list, then used a random number generator to choose 4. The winners are Tasha, Monique, Donna, and anneolinick from Instagram. Please send me your mailing addresses so I can send you my your stuff. Thanks so much!

Now that packing is done, on to the cleaning … anyone want to help me with that, too?

I want to give you my stuff. (A craft kit giveaway!)

- – This giveaway is now closed. – -

Things are getting crazy here my friends. In less than one week I’ll be leaving Tokyo. We are sleeping on the tatami floor and our apartment is filled with half-filled boxes and suitcases. I’m trying to balance my days packing with adventures around town, but struggling. I still have many karaoke songs to sing. It is happening way too fast.packing sucks.Most of my time this past week has been dedicated to making our belongings disappear. Between the two of us we are allowed 106 kilos in luggage, which may seem like plenty but I assure it you it is not. I have been begging everyone I know to please take my hangers/toasters/fabric bits I can’t bear to throw out.  

And now it is your turn. Of the six boxes I am shipping overseas, three are filled with craft supplies. *gulp*

These didn’t make the cut simply because I already have a set. (O_O) It is best not to ask why I ended up with duplicates (craft happens, people!). But my craft closet tragedy is your gain … let’s do a giveaway!

Win these kits!Kits #1 and #2 are cell phone charms. They have bells and pretty Japanese fabric. Each kit comes with supplies to make 3 clown or owl charms. They could also double as cute holiday ornaments.Win these kits too!Kits #3 and #4 are “cute key holders!” made from beads. I have no idea how they come together, so you’ll have to tell me how it goes.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment here, on Facebook, or on Instagram. Each comment is an entry, I’ll compile the comments, do a random selection, and ship four lucky winners each a kit. Comments close in 36 hours! (At midnight Nov 19th.) I’ll mail prizes on Wednesday Nov. 20th so winners, after you hear from me, please send me an address ASAP.

Thanks everyone! Now please, take my stuff.

Sweet Sayonaras

One of the things that transpired while I was on holiday was the final step in our plan to leave Japan.

It was a difficult decision and I struggle to explain why it suddenly feels like the right time. But, our jaunt in Tokyo was always meant to be temporary. I can’t express enough how grateful I am for the opportunity to live in and explore Japan, to have met so wonderful people, and to have spent my time doing things that I love: I started my own business and this blog, I learned how to sew my own clothing and how to speak Japanese, I now eat fish guts, play roller derby, and sing karaoke in public. I remember when I was on the plane flying to Tokyo — for the first time, to remain indefinitely — and I was served green tea. It tasted like dirt, and I panicked as I realized I couldn’t say more than arigatou. But I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Living outside of my element these few years has helped me to become more myself.

Shimokita side streets

And though I love my life here, the future awaits.

So I head westward! Toward the great city of New York to seek my fame and fortune resume my career in museum work. I’ll continue to embroider and sew and craft, so though the nature of this blog may change slightly, I’ll continue to share things that interest me, like sashiko, Japanese craft books, and the occasional bowl of ramen. Looking ahead, I’m excited to tap into all of the amazing resources New York offers, like the garment district and tacos.

There we have it. In 3 short weeks I’ll be on to my next thing. I hope you’ll come along!

To Tokyo, お世話になりました。本当にありがとうございました。

* * *

ps, I’m having a moving sale in my shop – use the coupon code SALE35 for 35% off your purchase ($10 min). Thanks!

Orange Dress

arijit in orange

On March 22nd I lost my dear friend Arijit. He battled colon cancer for two years in a very public, very honorable fight.

He was 32 and a PhD candidate at the School of Sustainability at ASU. He was feisty and passionate about the environment, food, and music. He liked to challenge me to think about why I do the things I do. I taught him about hotdish and we talked about our feelings and swore like sailors during rowdy impromptu dinner parties. The world is definitely lonelier without him.

Ari’s favorite color was orange and when we gathered with friends to celebrate his life, I wanted to be blazing in it. I made another Elisalex in linen, and dedicated the time I spent sewing my orange dress to reflecting on Ari, our friendship, and his life’s journey. Spending a few days alone with my sewing machine was the best way for me to honor him and to grieve the way I needed to. My heart was full and my hands were busy.

orange dressSo the blog takes a somber tone today to match the somber mood I have been feeling these past few months. I wanted to share about Ari because he constantly reminded us of how beautiful and interesting the world is and I am working to focus on those things rather than the sadness. But also because Ari loved thoughtful handmade things and making a dress or a cake or a hat, or whatever it is we make, are all ways to show our love for one another. It is a testament to how close you can feel to someone so far away. So I’ll keep making his tomato chickpea recipe, hand-stitched neckties for my husband, embroidered wedding gifts, and strive to show people how much I care about them.

Ari’s photo courtesy poopstrong.org.

Late afternoon

afternoon sun, stitching, teaToday I have been quiet under the kotatsu. I stitched up a hankerchief and played with the idea of a new spring sashiko kit. The sun shone brightly and Tanaka-san went out for a ride. She, too, has been quiet so I was happy to see her in the sunshine, wheeled away in a bright purple hat but with her face to the sky.

As the late afternoon sun dwindles from my apartment I think about where I was two years ago when the Tohoku earthquake hit Japan. That leads me to think about where I was five years ago, and then 10. Life changes suddenly sometimes.

My heart aches, so as the afternoon sun dwindles I sit quietly on the tatami and I stitch.

Let’s get to know each other.

Last month I posted a survey and asked you to tell me a bit about yourselves. Many of you responded and left notes that were a delight to read. Thanks again to all of you for taking the time!

When I sat down to look at the answers the first thing I saw was the comment “I love you.” I scrolled over to see it was from a male in his 50s… gah! Gross. I scrolled a bit more, it was someone from the United States, from the same town as my parents … Oh. Thanks Dad, I love you too.

After recovering from that initial gut drop, I was excited to read the results. Something you may not know about me — I am a data nerd. I love spreadsheets and in my pre-Japan life I designed databases for money. And for fun. So these survey results are my bag, baby. Don’t worry, I will spare you the dirty little database details and share only the hits.

Of those who responded, most of you identified yourselves as female with ages ranging from  their 20s to those in their 60s.

who are you?

Together you come from 17 different countries and speak 18 different languages.

where are you?

Most of you did not want to hear my knock-knock jokes. Your loss, folks.

Turns out that many of you come to Saké Puppets to hear about Japan or crafts, or both. This wasn’t too surprising since my most-clicked posts are about sashiko, Japanese craft books, and my reaction to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake.

sashiko kits

Only 42% come here to spy on my life. Or only 42% admitted they come here to spy. I honestly thought that number would be much higher, since spying is the only reason I read blogs. I am nosey.

I was also surprised to hear that so many of you are interested in hearing about travel escapades around Japan (76%) and the food we are eating (65%). If I have to sacrifice myself to more trips to the mountains for ramen, then so be it!

ramen

Lastly, many of you asked for more sashiko (64%), which is where I am headed in the very near future. I hope to bring you more projects featuring my own unique style and also provide access to traditional pattern resources. I have some very exciting things to share.

Thank you again to everyone who responded! And if you didn’t but are lurking there in the shadows, that’s cool too. Thanks for stopping by! ☆彡